“Giants in the Land” by Clark Burbidge

 

There are giants in the land.
 
And it has always been so as far as anyone can remember. They work side-by-side with the people, and whenever there is a job too difficult or a threat too great they are there to step in. The giants’ presence gives the townspeople a special confidence about life. But they have become much more dependant on the giants than they realize. One morning the people discover the giants have mysteriously disappeared. Fear and panic grip the town. Someone must find them and bring them back! 
 
Thomas, a young farmer, volunteers and sets out alone on a great journey of danger and discovery. Thomas learns the true nature of giants and what it means for him and his people. Join Thomas in his timeless rite of passage and learn what it means to become something more than you have been, why it is necessary in life, and how to do it.
 
Learn more about Giants in the Landhttp://www.giantsinthelandbook.com


Giants in the Land  is a neat spin on what our lives would be like if the intangible were tangible.  If our idols could walk among us and our fears plunder the earth, what would our lives look like?  How would we react to everything we would see around us?

That is Thomas’ dilemma.  As Thomas journeys to help his family, facing his fears along the way, we can clearly see what each ‘giant’ represents in his life – and just how we might apply his wisdom to our own life.

At times the prose begins to sound almost … well, preachy, but Thomas’ journey is so difficult and the lessons so wise that I really didn’t mind.  The story is super short overall and the action really holds one’s attention.  As a general rule, I’m not a fan of short books because the book tends to end at about the same time I become really fond of the main character, but Thomas’ honor and integrity shone through from the very first page, making me want to champion his cause even as he considered leaving home to help his village. 

There is a sequel to this book, and I’m most interested to learn what wisdom Burbidge has to impart next.  If you’d like to shake your reading material up a bit and go for something that is quietly, contemplatively thoughtful, then this is definitely the book for you.


About the author … 

Clark Burbidge’s path to becoming an award winning author had distant beginnings. He received an MBA degree from the University of Southern California and a BS Degree in finance from the University of Utah. His career spans 31 years in banking, project finance, investment banking and more recently as Chief Financial Officer of three separate companies. He has been actively involved in community and church service, including lay youth and adult ministry, for over 35 years. 

It has been his long-term dream to write and publish several works that have been kicking around in his mind for many years. His first book, “Life on the Narrow Path: A Mountain Biker’s Guide to Spiritual Growth in Troubled Times” was released nationally in March 2011. His second book “A Piece of Silver” was published in July 2011 and is currently entering its 2nd edition. Clark enjoys life in the foothills of the Rockies with his wife, children and three grandchildren. He looks forward to this next phase of life’s wonderful adventures.

Learn more about Clark by visiting www.clarkrburbidge.com.

To buy Giants in the Land, visit here.

I received a free copy of Giants in the Land from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“House of Mercy” by Erin Healy

Beth is a healer.  She seems destined to become a vet and help her family run the cattle ranch when an accident takes it all away.  In a bizarre series of accidents, Beth tries to make amends, but misfortune continues to follow hard on her heals.  Can she find a way to heal her family, or will one tragic mistake wipe it all away?

House of Mercy


House of Mercy is classic Healy – if there is such a thing already.  So outlandish it’s realistic but with a touch of the supernatural, you won’t be able to put House of Mercy down.  Just as Beth races against the clock in an effort to fix her mistake before the damage multiplies, so you’ll turn the pages faster and faster to reach that final, hopefully happy conclusion.

You won’t find what you’re looking for, though – you’ll find something better, and not because Healy wrote a poor ending, because she didn’t.  I’m not sure she could.  Healy wrote so many twists and turns into this plot that the ending, when it comes skidding into sight, is nothing I could have predicted.  It’s much, much better, and this surprise kept me thinking about Beth’s plight long after I closed the back cover.

You can’t help but like Beth.  One night of indecision, one night of trying to help a friend, one simple poor choice and years of dreaming are erased.  This would be difficult for anyone, but in Beth’s shoes it’s made worse by the events following that compound it – and so you feel for her, and yet she never gives up.  I admire that determination, and it’s that spirit that makes the story feel so personal and alive.

House of Mercy isn’t easily classified.  It’s not exactly a romance, though it has an element of that; it’s not exactly a mystery, though there’s some of that, too.  It’s not what I consider to be a fantasy exactly, either, though it has a supernatural element.  Maybe fantastic would be a better term.

Maybe you should read it and decide for yourself.  It’s definitely worth the read.

I received a free copy of House of Mercy from B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest review.

“Hopeful” by Shelley Shepard Gray


Miriam Zehr has worked at the Sugarcreek Inn longer than she cares to admit. The restaurant is a favorite of town residents as well as the many tourists who come to taste the famous Amish fare. Though she always tries to have a smile for every customer, deep down Miriam knows something’s missing: a family of her own.

 
Miriam has never felt particularly beautiful, especially because she’s always been a bit heavier than other girls her age. When Junior, the man she’s pined for all her life, suddenly seeks her out, she’s thrilled to be noticed . . . until she realizes he’s only asking her to help get the attention of Mary Kathryn Hershberger, her pretty friend.

 

If Miriam helps Junior court Mary Kathryn, she’ll get to spend a lot of time with him, but she might lose him in the process. Are these few stolen moments worth a lifetime of sacrifice? Is Miriam right to even hope for the life she dreams of?
 
What would you do if you were in your mid-twenties, single without prospects, a bit restless, wanting to lose the proverbial ten pounds, and tired of watching all of your friends marry and start families?  That’s Miriam Zehr’s life.  Though always kind, friendly, and gracious, her life hasn’t gone exactly as she hoped.  She’s even more disappointed when the man she’s been crushing on for years asks to come over to her house – so she can give him advice on getting a date with her friend.
 
The very best thing about Hopeful is that any of us could be in Miriam’s shoes.  Sure, you’ve always got the head cheerleader or high school quarterback, but most of us aren’t them – and we all get disappointed at one time or another.  Miriam doesn’t handle her disappointment well in the beginning of the story and stumbles for a bit, trying to learn how to handle her changing feelings; but her triumph and ultimate hope and assurance are well placed in the end.  She learns just Who and in what she should hope and decides to make small changes in her life where she can, and this, indeed, is hopeful.  To know that you’re not solely at the mercy of your circumstances but can play a part to change them is empowering.  
 
Where these circumstances intersect with others is especially challenging, and those places are the toughest in which to find balance.  These were the best parts of this story, though.  Smoothly written and with a generous dose of humor, I was giggling out loud as I read about how Miriam evened the keel with Junior.  It was fun.  It was real.  It made me want to be Miriam’s friend – and ask for her advice about doing the same thing.
 
And yet the story was not all lighthearted and fun.  Stalkers and fear and abuse are very real, very big problems, and Gray gave them every ounce of weight that they deserved.  The relevant scenes were written with appropriate seriousness and foreshadowing of what was to come, and they were written from more than one perspective, allowing you to see the emotions from every angle.
 
I really enjoyed reading this first installment of The Return to Sugarcreek series.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!
 
 
 
Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
 
Learn more about Shelley at: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com
 
I received a free copy of Hopeful from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Homeschool Experiment” by Charity Hawkins

Julianne Miller and her husband John have agreed that homeschooling is the best way to educate their three little ones, and having survived the first year of kindergarten with a newborn, Julianne is ready to tackle Year Two: with one active son in first grade, a precocious four-year-old fashionista ready to learn, and toddler Michael, who just wants attention.  Between meltdowns and blow-ups, projects and housework and doubting relatives, is homeschooling really a viable option for this family?

 

I LOVED this book.

 

If you’ve ever homeschooled (I’ve only homeschooled for preschool thus far), thought about homeschooling, wondered what it might be like, then you MUST read this book.  Not only does Charity write about homeschooling adventures in a completely realistic (I’m assuming much of this was real) fashion, but she does so with humor and Biblical wisdom thrown in. 

 

It’s rare that I want to take notes when reading fiction, but this book made me want to pull out my highlighter.  Charity ponders the homeschool vs. public school vs. private school debate openly, honestly, and logically, giving fantastic advice to others who might be struggling with this decision.  The mentors from whom Julianne seeks advice do the same: they are able to help Julianne find strategies and resources to solve the problems that she’s having, providing valuable insights to any of us reading the book.

 

In the back Charity includes a study guide for homeschool groups, making this a fantastic possibility for your next book club meeting or Mom’s Night Out get together.  My favorite part of this was that along with questions, she includes resources relating to issues in the book, so if something resonates with you, you are then able to seek out more information on that topic easily.

 

Charity shares about how the decision to homeschool is about more than academia:

 

If I teach my children nothing else, I want to teach them to recognize true treasures – not jewels or palatial mansions, but this amazing world God created, the precious people around us, and His eternal Truth.  For where my children’s treasures are, there their hearts will be also.

 

Though this computer addict hates to admit it, technology now plays a major role in most people’s lives – and that’s drastically changed the way that families relate to each other and to the outside world.  After being around others who are more “connected” than her little family is, Julianne decides that:

 

I want to raise children who know how to be still, how to sit, how to think.  I want my children to have hearts for people, not things, and to live to serve, not to be entertained.  And, ultimately, I want them to learn to listen: to family and friends, to their own hearts, and to that Voice that doesn’t beep and flash, that doesn’t always thunder in a whirlwind or burn with fire, but that comes in a gentle Whisper. (p. 116)

 

Of course, along with being a voice of wisdom and experience, this book is flat out funny.  From fire trucks and hotel visits to who-can-amass-the-most-McD’s visits per month, Julianne’s story will definitely tickle your funny bone.

 

And who doesn’t need some more of that?

 

New author Charity Hawkins generously provided a second copy of this book for me to give away – for which I’m very happy, as I’m not ready to release my hold on my copy just yet.  If you want to win your own copy, signed by Charity Hawkins herself,  do any or all of the following by noon on April 24th (leave a separate comment for each):

 

  • Leave a comment on this post sharing whether you homeschool or not.
  • Follow this blog in any form (GFC, Networked Blogs, etc.) and leave a comment for each.
  • Share about this giveaway via your favorite social media.  Leave a comment for each.

 Please be sure leave a contact method.  Winner will be responsible for replying within 48 hours of contest ending or a new winner will be chosen.

 

I received a free copy of “The Homeschool Experiment” from Charity Hawkins in exchange for an honest review.

“Hide and Seek” by Maj (Ret) Jeff Struecker & Alton Gansky

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Krygystan: Foreign Affairs’ Officer Amelia Lennon is trying to negotiate the continued leasing of an airport by the US government in this country.  The president’s daughter is against the idea – and is the target of kidnappers immediately after a meeting where she makes this clear.  Lennon steps in to save her, but the women must go on the run as rebels take over the capital city’s streets.  Master Sergeant JJ Bartley is sent in as a Special Operations team leader to save the women – unofficially, as no US troops are allowed to leave the base, and under cover of darkness, lest they be spotted and captured themselves.  Can the Spec Ops team – with two new, untried members – save two women on the run, without the help or support of their own government?
 
Struecker and Gansky couldn’t pack any more action into this novel. Not a page is turned without something being shot, smashed, blown up, or, at the very least, followed.  For a civilian, Gansky has an incredibly grasp on military life and is able to pour drama and emotion into every action – both for those in the field and for those waiting for them at home.  The story feels incredibly real as you read it – as if you’re right there, seeing the fighting on the streets and seeing the terror in the faces of the Krygystani civilians who are just trying to get home safely.
 
I know virtually nothing about military life – but I feel as if I do now.  I have a greater respect for those serving and even more so for their families.  Hide and Seek is educational without being obvious and, lucky for me, Gansky is able to teach the military terms and phrases without leaving me in the dirt or making me feel stupid.  Both are frustrating, but the story is so well written I felt neither.
 
I love when I can read a book and hand it to my husband, and that’s just what I did with this one.  The relationships between the men and their wives soften the harsh edges just a bit, but the story is really all about the men on this mission and the decisions they must make to succeed.  I couldn’t put it down, and I’ve never seen my husband fly through a book as fast as he did with this one.
 
If action stories are your favorites on any level, be sure to check this one out.
 
I received a free copy of Hide and Seek from the B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest review.
 
 
Alton Gansky is a Christy Award-nominated and Angel Award-winning author who writes to stimulate thinking about spiritual matters. He served as a pulpit minister for twenty years and has published nearly thirty books.
 
Chaplain (Major, Ret) Jeff Struecker is a decorated member of US Army Rangers, the Army’s most elite fighting corps. His personal experiences in Mogadishu, Somalia were documented in the New York Times bestseller and major motion picture Black Hawk Down. During his thirteen years of active duty, he also fought in Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait. As a chaplain Jeff has done multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now retired from military service, Struecker currently serves as the associate pastor of ministry development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia.

“Here Burns My Candle” by Liz Curtis Higgs

Lady Elisabeth Kerr has a secret – a secret practice that could get her ostracized by the entire capital city of Edinburgh.  Her husband, Lord Donald, has a few secrets of his own, secrets that do not endear him to rest of titled society.  Lord Donald’s mother, Lady Marjory, is not fond of her Highlander daughter-in-law and struggles to protect the reputations of everyone living under her roof.  When the Jacobite rebellion brings thousands of Highlanders to their doorsteps and the Kerr family loyalty to the throne is questioned, will their secrets be exposed?  Will their relationships survive the war – and it’s messy aftermath?

Here Burns My Candle will immerse the reader fully in the culture of Scotland in 1745.  The attention to historical detail is amazing, making this book far superior to your average historical novel.  Higgs weaves real characters and events into her plot in such a way that without doing a bit of your own research, the reader can’t tell the history from the fiction.

A fictionalized version of Naomi and Ruth, Here Burns My Candle challenges the reader to rethink previously held views of these Biblical characters.  This story continues in the recently released Mine is the Night.  Forgiveness and faithfulness are both important themes in the book, asking the important questions, “To whom am I faithful?  Do I forgive readily?”

Here Burns My Candle is a wonderful story of changing relationships and the focus on what is truly important.  I will definitely be reading more of Liz Curtis Higgs’ work.  If history makes your heart race, don’t miss this series.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program.

“The Heiress of Winterwood” by Sarah E. Ladd

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything.
Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word-even to the point of proposing to the child’s father-a sea captain she’s never met.
When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting at her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.
Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she’s forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.
Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.
Both must learn to have faith and relinquish control so they can embrace the future ahead of them. 
 
At the beginning this book reminded me of one I read from this era when in high school:  a book in which a simpering female desperately wanted to catch a man.  I soon decided that the only thing these two books shared was the time period!  The Heiress of Winterwood is much, much better, and Amelia Barrett is no greedy, conniving husband hunter.  Willing to put her life, her own future, and her fortune at someone else’s mercy to keep the child she loves nearby, she epitomizes a strong and loving character.  
 
Graham’s no slouch, either.  With demons in his past and an uncertain future, he needn’t bother with acquiring a wife, running an estate, or dealing with a crazed ex-fiance, but he takes it all on willingly to provide the best future possible for his daughter – whom he has just met.  Graham puts aside his own feelings and makes the best choices that he can for those around him.  He makes a fabulous male lead as he is a great leader.
 
I couldn’t put this book down.  It’s a great love story with a bit of adventure and suspense thrown in for good measure, all swirled around with wise faith lessons.  Relationships are key in this book – those between husband and wife, parent and child, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, mentor to mentee, even master and servant.  Ladd writes each one with wisdom and drama by turn so that each interaction provides action to the plot.  While in some books this type of ‘action’ makes for a dull read, in The Heiress of Winterwood it is these very relationships that provide both the action, the suspense, the drama, and the lessons learned.
 
This is definitely a top book of 2013 so far.
 
To read more reviews in this blog hop, click here, or purchase your own copy here.
 
 
 
Sarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Heiress ofWinterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.
Find out more about Sarah at http://www.sarahladd.com.
 
I received a free copy of The Heiress of Winterwood from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Heart of the Country” by Rene Gutteridge and John Ward

One would think that Luke Carraway had it all.  Born into an uber-wealthy New York family, he was denied nothing.  A deep restlessness kept him discontent, however, and after marrying Faith, he left the family business and struck out on his own.  When his new dealings go sour, however, his marriage fractures along with every other aspect of his life.
 
When Faith leaves New York, she heads home to North Carolina, unsure of how to handle this next stage in her life.  What she finds there shocks her, however:  an angry sister, a sick father, and the ever-present memories of her mother, who died tragically.  With both families in turmoil and their marriage on hold, can Luke and Faith find their way back to each other?
 
Heart of the Country is a twist on the story of the Prodigal Son.  With Luke and Faith fiercely in love but with a both of them having a history of running from their troubles, how can their marriage survive?  It is hard to forgive others for hurting us but even harder to recognize the pain that our actions cause others, and yet in this story that’s what Luke and Faith are both asked to do.  
 
Told in first person from several different characters, this is not a fluffy beach read but a snowed-in by the fireplace tearjerker.   Once begun, you won’t want to stop – the Carraway story is completely compelling, though I must admit to being more attached to Faith than to Luke.  
 
The history of this novel is an interesting one – John Ward originally wrote it as a screenplay, and Rene Gutteridge wrote that as this novel.  Rarely am I interested in seeing a movie after reading the book, but this will be an exception.  I can’t wait to see how all of this emotion is symbolized on-screen.
 
Heart of the Country is available now as an e-book.  If you purchase it for $2.99 by March 15th, you will receive a code to enter the “Star for a Day” Contest. The grand prize winner and a guest will be flown to the set of the Heart of the Country film, stay in the cast hotel, and get the full movie-set experience with all the other cast members. They will have a star trailer, go through wardrobe, makeup, and hair, and have a speaking part in a scene of the movie Heart of the Country!   Read more about the contest here.
 
If you’re interested in seeing the other viewpoint in things, in forgiveness and redemption, in becoming a man and staying faithful to the one you have, in horses and love songs and glittery views, don’t miss this book.  
 
I received a free e-copy of Heart of the Country in exchange for an honest review.

“Heart of Ice” by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

  

The Triple Threat Club is once again put to the test as they attempt so solve seemingly random crimes crimes across their home city of Portland.  Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce works to solve the murder of a local news intern, while FBI agent Nicole Hedges works to prove that murder suspect Colton Foley was indeed responsible for the deaths of women around the city.  News reporter Cassidy Shaw seeks to boost ratings and secure her position by being the first to scoop the other anchors – and by following the life advice of her captivating new friend, Elizabeth Avery.  With murder, arson, and drownings making the headlines, can the trio put aside their own health issues and relationships in time to find the killer – before one of them becomes the next victim?

I was worried about reading this book before the others in the series, but Wiehl does a fantastic job of catching the reader up at the beginning.  While I knew I was missing backstory, the author rapidly and smoothly fills you in on the highlights and keeps the plot moving right along – and it does move!  This story is a terrific blend of murder mystery and everyday life – which makes it seem very real.  From health scares to family problems and weight gain, Wiehl puts the reader in the middle of a believable and fast-paced tale.

As soon as I finished this book, I went in search of the first two – and you will, also.  This page-turner is not to be missed!

I received a free copy of Heart of Ice from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

“A Heartbeat Away” by S. Dionne Moore


When a band of runaway slaves brings Union-loyal Beth Bumgartner a wounded Confederate soldier named Joe, it is the catalyst that pushes her to defy her pacifist parents and become a nurse during the Battle of Antietam.

Her mother’s mysterious goodbye gift is filled with quilt blocks that bring comfort to Beth during the hard days and lonely nights, but as she sews each block, she realizes there is a hidden message of faith within the pattern that encourages and sustains her. Reunited with Joe, Beth learns his secret and puts the quilt’s message to its greatest test—but can betrayal be forgiven?


A Heartbeat Away is an intense look at the emotions of the Civil War from an angle rarely considered: those caught up in the blood of battle as civilians who want to help the wounded.  Never have I read a fictional account that dwelt on the hope that comes from the ashes of war like this one does.  The semi-graphic accounts will make your heart dip into your stomach just as your fingers grasp the straws of hope that Joe points out to Beth.

Beth learns amazing spiritual truths from her grandmother as she’s faced with the carnage of war and witnesses violence all around her.  Several of these lessons cut deep and are readily applicable to us, too, as we live and learn to trust and forgive just as Beth does.

This book isn’t going on my bookshelf of other historical fiction novels; instead, it’s getting a special place among my Civil War books.  I really enjoyed this fresh perspective and the way that Moore makes this era not just about love or slavery or North-vs-South but about people … people who are hurting and afraid, people who love, people with disabilities and families and have dreams for their futures.  When my children are old enough to study all of these aspects of this war, they’ll read this book.

To read other reviews in this bloggy hop, click here.  If you’d rather dig into this book sooner rather than later, click here to purchase your own copy.

 
Dionne Moore is a historical romance author who resides in South Central PA with her family, surrounded by the beautiful Cumberland Valley and lots of fun, historically rich locations. She is a weekly contributor to “The Borrowed Book”, a blog for book-lovers and “Cozy Mystery Magazine”, for all things cozy mystery. 

Learn more about Dionne at http://www.sdionnemoore.com.
 
I received a free copy of A Heartbeat Away from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.