Guide Me Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer – Book Review

Guide Me Home  by  Kim Vogel Sawyer

Published By  WaterBrook & Multnomah   August 02, 2016

Genres:  Historical Fiction, Christian

Pages:  352

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Working in the massive cave might allow
Rebekah the chance to bring joy back to her family.
But will it claim more than it gives?

After tragedy leaves its mark on Rebekah Hardin’s family, she plans to help her parents and six siblings honor her beloved brother’s memory and alleviate their poverty by working as a guide in the dangerous cave system. Kentucky’s renowned Mammoth Cave presents profitable opportunities in for hardworking, capable men. But Rebekah is determined and if it means presenting herself as a himself, then she’s up to the job.

Under the wing of experienced guide Tolly Sanford, “Reb” begins to learn the complexities of the cave and the two are joined by an aspiring young cartographer, Devlin Bale.

The university student has traveled to the hill country to map tunnels—not to fall for a girl in disguise. Can the God who designed miles of underground astonishment shape Devlin’s ambitious plans and free Reb from the weight from the past?

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Story Notes

Kim Vogel Sawyer’s latest historical romance is a lovely story of redemption, sorrow, and healing found through God’s grace and mercy.

This wonderful story was somehow lost in my device for over 2 months before I discovered its presence in a little used app – quite a sad thing as it turned out to be a really engaging story that I would have hated to have missed. Ms. Sawyer is a favorite writer of mine and I hoped this latest would be up to the mark as well. I found this story to be a little different than those previously written, but not in a bad way. On the contrary, I really enjoyed the way she had multiple main characters rather than one and that each one’s story was told in completion. Ms. Sawyer tells the story of how past tragedy has drastically effected the Hardin family through the eyes of the two oldest daughters and neither story is the same. Rebekah Hardin is the oldest child and carries the guilt of her brother’s death in Mammoth Cave with her daily. She believes that Andy would not have gone into the Cave if she had not told him to leave her alone one afternoon as she read her latest library book. Wanting to help her family purchase a stone marker for Andy’s grave, Rebekah will become a guide for the Mammoth Cave Resort company that takes travelers on tours through the Cave – a job that requires she dress and work as a man. Cissy Hardin, on the other hand, views helping her family as a life of true drudgery. She has become convinced she is not loved by her parents and that the only way to be happy is to find a way to make money and go to the nearest large city in search of a rich husband. Cissy despises the daily work of her family farm and cannot stand the cloud of sorrow that continually hangs over them. Her jealousy over Rebekah’s job and consuming desire for money will lead her to a job helping a photographer on the Mammoth Cave Resort grounds – a job that will give her the money she needs to escape her “terrible” life. With these two drastically different views, Ms. Sawyer creates a story that will leave the reader laughing out loud, feeling deep frustration and, perhaps, crying a few tears of joy over the redemption of the characters involved.I really enjoyed the journey that Ms. Sawyer set her characters on. She was careful to give them each distinctive personalities but also showed that they all had a similar problem – they lacked the forgiveness and joy that is to be found in Jesus. I also found it interesting that she used Rebekah, who was so burdened by guilt, to be a “light” for Devlin in more ways than one. She, along with Tolly, was able to show Devlin that what truly matters in life is not what money or standing you have before others, rather what standing and value you have before God. And, in turn, Devlin was able to help her see that Andy’s death was not her fault, rather it was the will of God. In Cissy’s case, Ms. Sawyer used the several heartbreaking experiences to help her learn she was not unloved by her family and that money would not bring her the peace and joy she was seeking. Ms. Sawyer brought her to the point of ultimate fear in facing death to show the error of her belief in going her own way to have the best life. I enjoyed seeing that Ms. Sawyer also had the Hardin family offer total love and forgiveness to Cissy in an effort to point her to the true Forgiver of her sins. My only issue with this book was that the ending felt a little rushed. Decisions and plans were made by Rebekah, Devlin and the Hardins in a quick fashion that did not exactly fit with the rest of the story. I would have liked to have seen a few more pages added to add details or time that would have rounded out the story better. But, other than this, I found the story to be one of complete development and truly enjoyed reading it.I hope Ms. Sawyer will make a series from this book as I would love to read more about the Hardin family members. I will most certainly recommend this book to others and will be looking for Ms. Sawyer’s future works.

I received this ebook free of charge from Waterbrook/Multnomah via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

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Semi-Precious Christmas by Jan Elder – Book Review

A Semi-Precious Christmas  by  Jan Elder

Published By  White Rose Publishing   December 01, 2015

Genres:  Romance, Christian

Pages:  81

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

On a bright, crisp December morning, jewelry store manager, Peridot Keaton-Jones, arrives at work expecting to find her beloved uncle Marty. Instead, she’s greeted by the muzzle of a gun pressed to her temple. When thugs assault her, threaten her life, and steal thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, Peri can only pray her uncle is late to work for the first time in his life. Christopher Lane is a TV news cameraman in the right place at the right time. He witnesses the heist, calls the police, and offers help when Peri needs it most. She can’t deny her attraction, but is he really her hero, or is he just after a story? And with Christmas right around the corner, can Peri and Chris avert a holiday disaster?

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Story Notes

Jan Elder’s novella in the Christmas Holiday Extravaganza series is a sweet little romance with enough thrilling action to make it a wonderful holiday treat.

The clever cover of this book grabbed my attention and when I saw it was a bit of a ‘thriller’ as well I knew I had to read it. Ms. Elder throws her readers right into the action with the jewelry store robbery that begins this fast paced story. Her main character Peridot is the niece of a jewelry store owner who is looking forward to a full day of Christmas sales when she finds herself at gunpoint upon entering the store. The two thieves proceed to wreck the store and grab thousands in merchandise, injuring Peri when she hesitates to help them. A “good Samaritan” manages to catch a photo of the thieves in action and further calls the police. And so begins a great story about finding love and trust again. Ms. Elder’s hero, Chris is the good Samaritan who helps Peri in more ways than one. When Peri’s uncle is discovered in the back alley badly beaten, Chris makes it his personal mission to ensure that Peri will stay safe until the thieves are caught. And when the thieves also break into Peri’s home, Peri decides being alone anymore isn’t the best idea. Still grieving over her husband’s tragic death four years before, Peri hasn’t been willing to put much effort into finding love again. And although she and Chris have just met, she is quickly sensing the attraction sparking between the two of them. Chris is also a bit wary of love, given his ex-wife left him and his daughter for someone else “who had more to give”. But Ms. Elder brings them together through all their experiences and shows that there is no time requirement for love. I believe one of the best parts of Ms. Elder’s story was the way in which it was told – from Peri’s point of view. I loved the look into her thoughts and feelings and laughed out loud at her phrase “He kissed me again….and then I kicked him out because I wanted him to stay”. I’m not always a fan of first person since I often find the many  *frowns* and *smiles* to be annoying; however Ms. Elder had a good balance between what her character thought/did and the actions of others going on around her. I especially loved her way of having Peri and Chris “know” each other without having actually met  – Peri had been the reading companion and friend of Chris’s late aunt Margaret. This had given both of them the opportunity to know a lot about each other and their families before they met. And when they both realize that Peri had been praying for Chris and his family for years, including that he would find Christ, they discover the hand of God was preparing them for a life together. It was really nice to read this modern story in which the characters were able to fall in love with each other without falling into bed. I loved that family was important to everyone in the story and a welcoming kindness prevailed in each home. I will most certainly recommend this lovely Christmas time story to my friends and family looking for a good read.

I received this E-book free of charge from White Rose Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

The Missing Matisse: A Memoir by Pierre H. Matisse – Book Review

The Missing Matisse: A Memoir  by  Pierre H. Matisse

Published By  Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House Publishing   November  01, 2016

Genres:  Biography

Pages:  352

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Nazi planes were bombing Paris the day a lifelong, more personal war began for Pierre. It was the day he lost his identity.

Born into a famous family, Pierre Matisse grew up immersed in the art world of Paris and the French Riviera, spending time with some of the most famous artists of the twentieth century. The man he knew as his grandfather, legendary artist Henri Matisse, encouraged Pierre from a young age, creating a strong desire in him to become a great artist in his own right.

Being a Matisse was an important part of young Pierre’s identity. So he was crushed and bewildered when, at the outbreak of WWII, that identity was suddenly snatched from him with no explanation.

So began Pierre’s lifelong search to solve the mystery of who he really was, a quest that forms the intriguing backdrop to this memoir of a fascinating and adventurous life on three continents. Spanning the insider art world of 1930s Paris, the battles of WWII, the occupation of France by the Nazis, Pierre’s involvement with the French resistance, his post-war work restoring art and historical monuments, and his eventual decision to create a new life in North America, The Missing Matisse is a story of intrigue, faith, and drama as Pierre journeys to discover the truth―before it’s too late.

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Story Notes

The real life story of Pierre H. Matisse’s journey to find his true identity is one that leaves the reader pondering their own identity what it means to belong to your name.

This book became a love/hate story for me as I read it. The description of the book was very intriguing and I really looked forward to reading this real life story of a France native/ American citizen. However my enthusiasm waned quite a bit as began reading this book. I felt like Mr. Matisse dropped me right in the middle of his childhood and bombarded me with the many names of his family and the places they lived with little reference before they were mentioned. I think this was done to show how a child who has many relatives might feel if they had to got visiting all the time. I found this to be a bit off-putting for me personally because it showed in glaring detail Mr. Matisse’s lack of writing ability. Understanding that Mr. Matisse is an artist and first time author mollified me somewhat but I felt his editors could have done better helping him piece the story together. It took me until the 200th page to really feel like the story got going enough to where I was curious to see what would happen next. Until then I found the chapters to be awkwardly put together and too much emphasis placed on the ordinary and uneventful moments of Mr. Matisse’s childhood. This is not to minimize or trivialize the many experiences that Mr. Matisse had that made him the brave and adventurous person he was and is today. I really enjoyed reading of his efforts to help free his country from the grip of Francisco Franco’s troops and later the Nazis. His devil-may-care attitude most certainly made him take more risks than others might but it also kept him alive through many dangerous situations. It tickled me to read of his outspokenness to those he didn’t like and I laughed at his childish rants filled with foreign profanity he thought made him tougher – though Mr. Matisse was smart enough to leave out the actual texts of these rants, earning my applause. It was quite heartbreaking to read of his family trying to give him an alternate last name to protect him from the Nazis. The circumstances of his birth were not spoken of openly and later in life, Mr. Matisse would learn why. His mother Louise had been previously married to Camille Leroy and it was during their separation and before their divorce that Louise fell in love with Jean Matisse. Their affair led to Mr. Matisse’s birth shortly after their marriage in 1928. In their efforts to protect him from harm, they gave him the name Pierre Leroy when he went to boarding school. This caused Mr. Matisse no end of confusion and doubt as to his real name and family. He would learn the truth many years later from his “grandmother” Leroy and eventually change official records as well in his later years to reflect this truth.   To read of his later life as he moved to Canada and later America was really interesting as he and his family endured much to earn their way. I loved how he was able to return to his love of art as an older man recalling the encouragement of his grandfather, Henri Matisse, and having “visions” of him telling him to remember how to create the best art through simplicity. And to see how God used his art to bring him to faith in Jesus Christ was really wonderful. How lovely to read of how a project Mr. Matisse thought he was doing to make his wife happy brought him to the greatest Source of happiness there is. And to further read of his desire to tell the story of Jesus’s Crucifixion showed work most certainly inspired by God. It was really wonderful to also read of Mr. Matisse’s third and final marriage to Jeanne, whom his calls his life partner, at the age of 67! Life and marriage had not been very kind to him and I was glad to see he was able to find joy at last with Jeanne, and eventual reunion with his children from his first marriage. And to hear of their connection to the Robertson’s of Duck Dynasty fame was an unexpectedly interesting ending to this memoir. What a wonderful passage it was to read of Mr. Matisse’s baptism by Willie Robertson when he went to visit this sweet family his wife had come to love through their show. So, although this wasn’t the most polished of memoirs it did entertain me fairly well. I would have preferred that the editors trim the excesses a little more and make the chapters more connected but perhaps they wished to keep those elements to make the book more authentic. I will share this book with others I know who enjoy reading memoirs but will offer a word of caution as to the awkward formatting and connectivity.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green – Book Review

Spy of Richmond  by  Jocelyn Green

Published By  River North/Moody Publisher   March 01, 2015

Genres:  Historical Fiction, Romance

Pages:  432

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Trust none. Risk all.
Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slave-holding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can’t do it alone.
Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie’s home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city’s fortifications.
As Sophie’s spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father’s position as newspaper editor and a suitor’s position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.
Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?

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Story Notes

Jocelyn Green’s fourth and final book in the Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War series is a gripping account of what two couples are willing to do to help bring about the end of the war and the end of legal slavery forever.

Being a great fan of the history of the Civil War and the many accounts of those involved I was excited to read this fictional account of the activities involving Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew. The story does not actually follow Van Lew, rather it is a story of fictional characters around her who contributed to the information she would pass on to those who brought about the end of the war. I was both impressed and intrigued by the amount of research and dating that went on in Ms. Green’s excellent book. Knowing this book followed three others I knew there would be gaps in the story that were to be found in the previous books, but this only marginally decreased my understanding of the characters  and their circumstances presented here. I enjoyed this book in a different way than I have other historical fiction/romances I have reviewed before – seeing very clearly the raw, ugly, truthful way that this war affected the people of our nation. We often hear about the terrible tragedy of slavery and its evils, but we rarely hear of the tragedy that the prisoners of war – both black and white – were treated as less than animals and fed garbage that was not fit to send to the troops. They prevailed, however, as this story shows, by planning ways to escape through hand-dug tunnels and on carts that carried corpses to mass military graveyards. Ms. Green wrote of these truths and I was glad to see that she did not try to romanticize the plight of these men who suffered so greatly. Ms. Green did not leave out those who were prisoners in another way – those who were not allowed to enter the actual military fighting of the war. Women, children, slaves and freemen/women all fought on the home-front to bring comfort to the injured, care for homes and property that were often empressed for army use, and find ways to sent any possible extra materials to those on the front lines. Into this world of tragedy and loss Ms. Green wove a story of courage and love that would face the greatest challenges and still come out intact, if slightly tattered. The thrill of the espionage that her main characters Sophie, Harrison, Bella and Abraham  engage in made this one of the best “thrillers” I have read. I knew a real sense of anxiety as I watched Sophie begin her ciphers of the information she gained from her “relationship” with Rebel Captain Lawrence Russell of the ordnance bureau. Each message passed on to Elizabeth Van Lew increased the chances that Sophie, Bella and many others could be put in prison or hanged for treason. And with Harrison walking the fine line between deception and truth as he seeks out newspaper stories the danger of being caught was made very clear throughout the entirety of the story. I further enjoyed the fact that Ms. Green had her characters keep their faith and convictions throughout the story. Though tested with imprisonment, horrific lashings, slavery, and many other humiliations each of her characters held fast to their faith as their greatest strength and refused to give up their convictions of freedom for all and an end to a war that was slowly destroying the nation. And Ms. Green also had her characters be very human in their momentary doubts, anger, and despair, allowing the reader to identify with each of them. It was in these many challenges that each character found their purpose and grew their faith. The end of the story brings about the best of outcomes for all – Bella and Abraham are reunited, Sophie and Harrison are free to be together now the war is over, and the city of Richmond can rebuild without fear of constant destruction. Ms. Green leaves the reader with a look ahead 25 years ahead as well, following Sophie, Harrison, Bella and Abraham as they visit Libby prison in Chicago that has been rebuilt as a war memorial to those who were held prisoner or died there. By finishing her series in this manner, Ms. Green shows that hope was not lost in spite of the many trials endured and that much good can come from the experiences that one might have in life. I will highly recommend both this book and series to my friends and family as this is definitely one to share.

I received this book from RiverNorth/ Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.