“Loving” by Corin Hughs

Hannah Mattox has Pulmonary Hypertension, a heart disease that prevents her from safely bearing children. Karla Valez is a homeless prostitute who despises the “thing” growing inside her and hopes to kill it in-utero with the drugs that have ruled her life—and buried her painful past—for nearly five years.  Gabriella Greene, founder of the Sanford Crisis Pregnancy Center, finds herself the bridge between these two women.  A time when questions far outweigh answers, there is one most pressing: why would God allow this?      

 

Weaving together the lives of three very different women, Loving will take readers on an emotional journey that reveals one common thread: they each need to surrender to a God who loves.

 

Loving will grab you by the throat from the very first sentence and it won’t let you go.  After a few chapters you’ll be able to catch your breath, but you’ll be hooked on these characters and their situations long before then.   Each one has a traumatic backstory that keeps you personally involved in their lives.  With Hannah, you’ll be fascinated with her bravery and her mother’s fight to give her a normal life.  With Gabriella you’ll cheer on the underdog and want to congratulate her not only on her ability to help others today but on overcoming a difficult Karla is different, for while there is little to commend now, she’ll help you understand how drugs can draw you in, one hour at a time.

 

Loving is incredibly well written.  The words flow as the plot twists and turns, some foreseen, some not, but all fascinating in their drama and emotion.  I love the way that Hughs starts with a loose cast of characters and draws them tighter and tighter into a cohesive group of players in a major miracle.

 

I must say that I disliked the ending as much as I loved the beginning, but not because it’s not well written, because it is.  The ending is poignant and precious and will bring you to tears – but it finishes only one character’s story.  Hughs writes with such depth and detail throughout the book, especially in the way that she begins with one character and ends with a different one, that the story feels unfinished to me, but again, not in a bad way.  While I spent several days wondering what happens with those other two major characters, I’m not sure what Hughs intends.  Does she mean to leave you hanging?  Are you meant to determine what you feel would have happened?  Or is there a sequel coming that will continue the stories of these characters?

 

Personally, I think any of these possibilities would fit.  They are characters on the fringe, and maybe you’re just meant to wonder about them, and maybe even be spurred to action to help the many people in our society who live like that every day.  Maybe Hughs is the next o. henry, skilled at making you debate and question.

 

Or maybe Hughs is just beginning a series designed to make us aware of health conditions and portions of our society that we rarely think about unless we are forced into contact with them.  These problems may be largely unknown, but the people are people – valuable and in need of help.

 

Personally, I’m hoping for that third option.  I’d love to have some binoculars to see into Hannah and Grace and Karla’s future.  I’d love to continue this walk with them as they make strides along their journey into forgiveness, redemption, and love.

“Love in the Balance” by Regina Jennings

 

Molly Lovelace dreams of a life without cares in Lockhart, Texas. She also dreams of handsome wrangler Bailey Garner, her ardent but inconsistent beau. The problem is, with Bailey’s poor prospects, she just can’t fit the two dreams together.
 
Then mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont sweeps into town-and her life-and for the first time Molly wonders if she’s met the man who can give her everything. But he won’t be in Lockhart long and while it certainly seems like he talks about their glorious future together, she can’t quite get Bailey out of her mind.
What’s a girl to do with all these decisions when love is in the balance? 
 
 
 
Love in the Balance contrasts begs the question: does forgiveness, does grace exist for those who make mistakes?  I’ve often thought that part of our society’s problem stems with everyone’s unwillingness to call others to the carpet when making immoral decisions; isn’t that how we end up voraciously watching celebrities’ personal drama play out on the evening news?  Yet Molly’s circumstance isn’t right, either – we shouldn’t judge others based on our perceptions of their actions, without having the whole story, or be unwilling to offer grace.  Love in the Balance forces you to consider what you might do with an uncertain future, family pressure, and limited options for providing your own livelihood.
 
At times reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter, many parts of Love in the Balance seem harsh.  Molly’s circumstances aren’t fair.  Her parents are cruel.  Her co-worker is catty.  The dramatic love triangle in which she’s snared may be pleasing others, but it’s confusing her.  Honestly, it sounds rather depressing, except … Jennings throws humor in at just the right time – a sweet glance, an amusing circumstance, a strange reaction from another – the perfect touch to lighten the mood and keep you guessing as to which suitor Molly chooses.
 
You will guess.  You will be wrong.  I never would’ve predicted this ending, and yet it was the perfect one for Molly.  It’s one that our society needs, too:  our mistakes do not define us forever.  They are mistakes, and if we are wise, we can use them to deepen our faith, strengthen our witness, and move on.  We can be forgiven.  Grace exists.
 
I loved Molly’s story because, sooner or later, for one reason or another, we all need it.
 
 
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her husband and four children. 
 
Find out more about Regina at http://www.reginajennings.com/.
 
For more reviews of this book, go to the blog hop landing page here, or, strike out for your own balance and purchase the book.
 
I received a free copy of Love in the Balance from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska” by Tricia Goyer & Ocieanna Fleiss

 
Singer Ginny Marshall is one signature away from the recording contract of her dreams-a deal that would guarantee success for the former foster child, who still struggles to bury the memories of her painful childhood. But Ginny needs advice from the one person who will look out for her best interests-her former fiancé, Brett Miller. She travels to the remote town of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the town’s colorful characters and stunning scenery provide respite from LA’s pressures.
 
In Glacier Bay, Ginny discovers a box of old letters and is swept up in the love story between Clay, an early missionary to Alaska Territory, and Ellie, the woman who traveled there to be his children’s governess. When Ginny is reunited with Brett in Glacier Bay, will she discover-as Ellie did-that healing and love are sometimes found in the most unexpected places?
 
Goyer grabs you from the very first scene with Ginny’s unhappy, secretive past.  You can’t help but be nosy and want to know what she’s not telling her wanna-make-you-rich boyfriend.  Her discomfort with him makes you cheer for Brett’s clean-cut, love-you-forever image from the get-go.  
 
The word pictures of the Alaskan countryside painted by Goyer and Fleiss are breathtaking.  These two women excel at setting the scene.
 
As you may know, however, my very favorite kind of story is one in which a history mystery comes to life in modern times, and this is one of those.  When Brett’s grandmother gives Ginny some mysterious letters to read, she brings to light a local mystery that might well impact Ginny’s plans for the future.  Ellie is a determined, faithful woman stuck in an impossible situation, and her story will keep you turning pages even faster than Ginny’s.  
 
I really loved the way that Ellie’s story dovetailed with Ginny’s.  Both women struggled with finding love, healing from the past, and the faith to step into the future with confidence, and readers will be able to pull from the lessons in the story and make them their own.
 
Before reading this story, I didn’t realize that there were so many titles in this series.  With an incredible love story set in a fascinating locale, I’m now hooked – I can’t wait to travel around the country with the authors of the Love Finds You in ____ series!  I’m definitely seeking out more of these.
 
To read other reviews in this blog hop, check them out here.  If you’d rather just can purchase Love Finds You now, go here.
 
Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of over thirty books including Beside Still WatersRemembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

Find out more about Tricia at http://triciagoyer.com.
 
 
Ocieanna Fleiss is a published author and editor. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area.
Find out more about Ocieanna athttp://ocieanna.com/.
 
I received a free copy of Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Lillies in Moonlight” by Allison Pittman

Lilly Margolis escaped from her domineering mother’s household to exert her independence and find the acceptance she lacked at home.  A beautiful flapper, she finds her security in all the wrong places until stumbling upon the forgetful society matron Betty Ruth Burnside.  A twist of fate convinces Betty Ruth’s son Cullen to take Lilly in temporarily, but this wounded war vet is locked in his own world of past regrets and doesn’t want to risk damaging his mother’s fragile memory further.  In the end, will Betty Ruth’s proposed cross-country journey grant them all the forgiveness and acceptance they’ve desired?

Set in the 1920s, Lillies in Moonlight is rich with historical detail.  Pittman creates lifelike characters in such a realistic world that you can’t help but cheer them along.  The story’s twists and turns add to the suspense of the ending.  The messages of forgiveness, love, and acceptance come through loud and clear through the story of Lilly and Cullen in a natural, non-preachy way.

I enjoyed reading this book.  I’m definitely going to seek out Pittman’s other books!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

“The Letters” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Rose Schrock is a plain woman with a simple plan. Determined to find a way to support her family and pay off her late husband’s debts, she sets to work to convert the basement of her Amish farmhouse into an inn. While her family, especially her cranky mother-in-law, is unhappy with Rose’s big idea, her friend and neighbor, Galen King, supports the decision and he helps with the conversion. As Rose finalizes preparations for visitors, she prays. She asks God to bless each guest who stays at the Inn at Eagle Hill. As the first guest arrives and settles in, Rose is surprised to discover that her entire family is the one who receives the blessings, in the most unexpected ways. And she’s even more surprised when that guest decides to play matchmaker for Galen King.

With her signature plot twists combined with gentle Amish romance, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites readers back to Stoney Ridge for fresh stories of simple pleasures despite the complexity of life. Fisher’s tale of God’s providence and provision will delight her fans and create many new ones. Welcome to the Inn at Eagle Hill.


I couldn’t put The Letters down.  I love the story that Fisher has crafted.  It’s full of love, loss, and new beginnings.  I’ve never heard of an Amish family running a bed-and-breakfast, but the premise of what might cause this type of intense interaction with the outside world is fascinating.  

I appreciated Rose’s positive outlook in the face of extreme disappointment.  That is a true gift, and she shared it – not only with her family, but with others that she encountered.  Her wish to have her inn be a blessing to guests instead of merely saving her family financially is amazing.  

Rose is not the only interesting character in the story.  Lydia also faces major problems, and with Roses’s help, she climbs out of bed to face another day.  In her situation, I’m not sure that retaliation, or at least some shouting, wouldn’t be on my list of immediate reactions, but Lydia remains a lady throughout her ordeal.  Her resilience teaches a wonderful lesson.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the Inn at Eagle Hill series.  I can’t wait to find out what sort of new mischief Mim finds herself in or to read the next part of Galen’s story.  These characters were loveable and real – and their situations, while maybe not loveable, were certainly realistic.  

My favorite type of story is one in which the main characters get knocked down and figure out how to get back up.  The lessons those characters learn are often ones that we all  need to learn – well, me, anyway.  Everyone in this story – except perhaps notably Anna – grow and do so with grace.  

This is another Fisher winner – but then again, is there any other kind?

You can read other reviews on this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy here.


Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, includingAmish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your iPhone or iPad! Download the Free App! http://bit.ly/134r55G

Learn more about Lily at http://adventuresoflilylapp.com/


I received a free copy of the Letters from LitFuse publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Lesson” by Suzanne Woods Fisher


 In her wildest dreams, spunky and impulsive nineteen-year-old Mary Kate Lapp never imagined herself behind a schoolteacher’s desk. A run-in (literally) with the schoolteacher compels her to act as a substitute teacher, just as her restless desire to see the world compels her to apply for a passport . . . just in case. The only thing of interest to M.K. in the sleepy Amish community of Stoney Ridge is the unexplained death of a sheep farmer that coincided with the arrival of a mysterious young man into the community. Frustrated that no one takes the crime seriously, she takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, as tends to be the case for M.K., she jumps headlong into trouble.

The Lesson has more twists and turns than a rabbit hole, keeping readers turning pages in total suspense.  I loved it!  With a wide cast of familiar characters who become totally intertwined in some really creative and zany ways, this book is both heart-wrenching and fun.


M.K. is almost grown up, nearing twenty years old and still feeling restless.  This translates into adventures for the readers as she careens around on her scooter and takes quick action on snap decisions.  Because this carelessness is balanced with true heart, M.K. makes a loveable lead character as well as a fun one.  


These adventures and side trails translate into what makes Fisher’s books so wonderful.  With each character innately involved in advancing the plot and putting their own spin on M.K.’s antics, the Stoney Ridge series is unlike any other Amish book that I’ve read. With meaningful spiritual lessons wrapped in a fun package, The Lesson is unique but packed with realistic action.  Simply put, The Lesson is captivating.

To learn more about The Lesson, purchase it here.

 

Suzanne Woods Fisher lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has one husband, four children, one son-in-law, a brand new grand-baby, and a couple of dogs. She graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.  Suzanne has contracts with Revell for six more books about the Amish, both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the host of “Amish Wisdom·” on toginet.com, a weekly radio program featuring guests who are connected to Simple Living.

Find out more about Suzanne athttp://suzannewoodsfisher.com/. 

I received a free copy of The Lesson from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Journey of Josephine Cain” by Nancy Moser

When a socialite from the nation’s capital embarks on a journey to the Wild West, her life is changed forever.A setting populated by hundreds of laborers, outlaws, and Indians is hardly the place for a wealthy general’s daughter. But Josephine Cain is determined to visit her father, who supervises the day-to-day work involved in the grandest ambition of post-Civil War America: the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Life with the railroad is far from the proper life Josephine is used to, and she faces deadly gunfights, harsh weather, and vigilante uprisings. She is torn between the West and the East; between her privileged upbringing and the challenges of a new frontier; between the pull of the suitable beau her parents approve of and an attraction to a rough but charming Irish railroad worker. But if Josephine is willing, she just might find a new life, a unique purpose . . . and true love

The Wild West has always been my era.  It’s the time period in history that has fascinated me since I watched Little House on the Prairie with my parents and grandparents.  There’s just something about the independence and the undeveloped, wild beauty that draws me – and apparently I’m not the only one, because it drew thousands during the frontier era.

That very rawness is what captivates in this story.  You can’t help but wonder what the suitable beau has up his sleeve, because it’s obviously not just his elbow, and Josephine’s developing maturity is worthy of a cheer.  It’s the sheer possibilities of the story that delight.  In Washington Josephine is shuttered into following her mother’s expectations of a proper young socialite, but in the West anything is possible.  She can throw her sensibilities to the wind and dare to dream, and it’s the hope for a fireworks-shooting romance that will keep you turning page after page.  

I loved the real history tucked neatly into this story.  The tidbits are relatively unknown but real and add a distinct flair to the plot.  These new characters and stories keep the reader on her figurative toes, which must have been how Josephine felt when venturing off into this wild new land.  

Whether you come down on the side of the immigrant pulling himself up by his bootstraps or prefer to read about princesses strong enough to tough out the proverbial pea, you’ll find what you’re looking for in The Journey of Josephine Cain

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

 
Nancy Moser is the best-selling author of more than twenty novels. She is a winner and two-time nominee of the Christy Award, and her latest novel was named to Booklist’s “Top 10 Romance Novels of 2011.” Nancy and her husband have three grown children and three grandchildren, and they live in the Midwest.

Learn more at Nancy at: http://nancymoser.com/.
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“It Happened At The Fair” by Deeanne Gist

A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

 
Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’sFair with his most recent invention. But the noise in theFair‘s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.
The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?
 
It Happened At The Fair is a spectacular look at the underbelly of the Chicago World’s Fair.  If we think anything at all about these historical expositions, it’s usually of shiny new inventions and gleaming innovations, but rarely do we think about the hard work or the dangers that accompanied this major event – or of how people’s lives were changed because of the successes or failures they found there.
 
This story will change all that.
 
In a last-ditch attempt to save his family’s farm, future, and livelihood, Cullen convinces Della to teach him to read lips.  I know next-to-nothing about lipreading, but I studied sign language in college, and I think it’s a beautiful way to express oneself.  I was fascinated to learn through this story about the stereotypes and indignities that people with hearing disabilities used to have.  Imagine being deprived of this now-common, beautiful language because others thought you mentally imbalanced!  
 
As always, I loved Gist’s descriptions.  I feel as if I’ve been at the fair myself.  I can picture the beautifully faux buildings, the fountains, the people from all over the world, and the danger that lurked beneath every dry building.  I can see the crush of the crowds and the awe in the eyes of children in a city for the very first time.
 
Gist is also a master at building suspense.  She does so in a myriad of ways in this book – by escalating the fear of a great fire on the grounds, by increasing the danger to Cullen’s family farm, with flying sparks between Cullen and Della.  It Happened at the Fair is one book you won’t be able to put down until you’ve turned the very last page, because until then, you’ll devour each one like the very fires that Cullen fears.
 
To read other reviews in this bloggy tour, click here; or, if you’d like to purchase your own copy now, click here.
 
 
Deeanne Gist—known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee—has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very fun, very original historicals. She has received numerous RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, and rave reviews. Deeanne has a background in education and journalism and a degree from Texas A&M. She has written for People, Parents, and Parenting. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and has four grown children. She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/DeesFriends. 
 
I received a free copy of It Happened At The Fair from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Inescapable” by Nancy Mehl

Lizzie Engel is used to running away. At eighteen, she left her Mennonite hometown, Kingdom, Kansas, with plans never to return.
 
But five years later, the new life she built is falling apart. Lizzie knows she’s being followed, and she’s certain the same mysterious stranger is behind the threatening letters she’s received. Realizing she’ll have to run again, the only escape Lizzie can manage is a return to the last place she wants to go.
 
Once she arrives in Kingdom, Lizzie is confident she’ll be safe until she comes up with a new plan. In reacquainting herself with the town and its people–especially her old friend, Noah Housler–she wonders if she judged her hometown and her Mennonite faith too harshly. However, just as she begins to come to terms with her roots, Lizzie is horrified to discover the danger she ran from is closer than ever. 
 
No longer sure who to trust and fearful for her life and the lives of those around her, Lizzie finds she has only one place left to run–to the Father whose love is inescapable. 
 
I really liked the premise of this book:  How might a former Mennonite handle worldly trouble of the dangerous variety?  I’ve never encountered this idea in any other Mennonite or Amish book, and Mehl used this idea to create a storyline reminiscent of the old-timey villain movies.  You know the ones – where the damsel-in-distress runs, screaming, from the dark-haired villain, up the steps and straight towards him?  You know where he is, you can see her mistakes, but you can also understand why she’s making them, and you’re sadly unable to help her.  Mehl also pulled in church disagreements and large doses of grace, which we all need, and created a story of love, suspense, and redemption.  You can’t help but cheer Lizzie on – and you’ll be unable to put down the book while you’re doing so.
 
Ultra-conservative sects are sometimes misunderstood in our society, but like the rest of us, they are people finding their way.  I love how Mehl depicted them individually as people who don’t always get along and struggle to determine God’s path for them, just as the rest of us do.  Just as the characters in Inescapable had to learn how to give grace and work together, so our world needs a big, heaping helping of this.
 
If you’ve ever felt the need for grace, that a mistake you’ve made separates you from the faithful around you, or you just want to know about how other people live, pick up Inescapable.  You won’t be able to put it back down.
 
To read other reviews on this blog tour, visit the schedule here.
 
I received a free copy of Inescapable from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for a free review.

 

“Indivisible” by Kristen Heitzmann

Chief of Police Jonah Westfall typically fights only small-town crime in Redford, Colorado, but a series of animal mutilations and a rising drug problem bring about new challenges for his small  force.  Westfall struggles to hold onto his sobriety while he continues to make peace with his past, which includes Tia Manning – a childhood friend with whom he shares a stormy history.  Can Westfall restore peace to his beloved town – before someone gets hurt?

I LOVE the way that Heitzmann weaves this story!  The cast of characters grows slowly, as do their connections, which truly brings to life each person and their own personal story.  The characters each have his/her fatal flaw, which serves to make them seem real, instead of packaged and plastic.  Each one has his or her own well-developed style and story to tell, yet all cause the reader to ponder one main question: how do we deal with the pain of being hurt?  Each character in the story reacts in a different way to past pain, and seeing the consequences of each can be eye-opening.  Past mistakes are not glossed over or seen as ‘acceptable’ sins, but are viewed for what they are – dark problems with far-reaching consequences.

For a Christian book, there is very little so-called Christian ‘stuff’ here.  There is no preaching or outright teaching, but the faith of the author – and the characters who have it – is evident in the twist of the story.  Manning and Westfall do discuss their faith a few times, but those discussions are used more as a springboard for solving relationship issues and understanding the choices they had made in the past few years.  Someone looking for a Bible verse on every page should, perhaps, look elsewhere; but for someone who wants to read an incredible, suspenseful, realistic story about people who have faith, this is the book to read.

I received a free copy of this book from Multnomah’s Books for Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review.