Friday, July 28, 2017

My Daughter's Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould

Image result for My Daughter's LegacyMindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould successfully end their three book Cousins of the Dove series with MY DAUGHTER'S LEGACY.  With each book telling dual stories, one historic and one contemporary, that's a total of six captivating stories.  One of the strongest points for me was that I was able to read all the novels within a four month period - no dredging through the crooks and crannies of my memory to fit the pieces together.  All the stories revolve around the Talbot family, paper makers who first leave France in the 17th century for religious freedom.  The contemporary stories focus on a small group of female cousins who even though adults bear the scars of a bloody discovery they made over twenty years ago.  While I always found the historical story in each novel to be a bit more interesting, the modern female characters were well developed, each with her own talents, but also a struggle.

MY DAUGHTER'S LEGACY features Therese, lifelong friend and neighbor to the Talbots, who has been raised by her northern father, a staunch abolitionist, and her genteel mother, a product of Southern plantation life.  When her father dies, quickly followed by her grandfather, Therese pushes her mother to free her grandfather's slaves and when she does not, Therese leaves for Richmond to work as a governess.  The contemporary story re-introduces Nicole, the youngest of the cousins, and the one whose life has been most tumultuous since that long ago discovery.  Now clean and sober, Nicole has returned to Virginia for the summer, just when a story surfaces about an illuminated scripture rescued by a 19th Century Talbot that may have a bearing on a crime in 1995.    Could new evidence implicate their grandfather?

These novels led me to think about our own ancestors and our connections to them.  Sure we share ethnicity, country of origin, and a family tree -- maybe even a few photos or heirlooms.  If we are lucky, there may be some oral history to latch onto.  But think how powerful it would be to know how our personalities, our beliefs, our life struggles lined up with those of our ancestors?  Well, that isn't exactly what happens in the six stories that make up the Talbot saga, especially since the contemporary day Talbots never quite get the full stories of their other century counterparts, but we readers are privy to more information, making it clearer for us how the stories intertwine.  Bravery driven by faith and the moral code born of that faith, strength of family, and love are the themes in each of these intriguing stories.  I can't recommend THE COUSINS OF THE DOVE series enough.  I received a copy of this title from Litfuse.  I was not required to review this book, and all opinions are mine.

By the way, right now the e-copy of this book is on sale!!  And the authors currently are hosting a giveaway of a $75 gift card.  Just follow this link.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A NAME UNKNOWN by Roseanna M. White

What do political intrigue, a pending war, identity fraud, and  the need for family and a sense of
belonging have to do with each other?  In Roseanna M. White's finely crafted novel A NAME UNKNOWN all these elements blend into a delightful story.  Rosie has been part of a band of pick pockets and thieves (think David Copperfield) since she was left without parents at a young age.  Now a grown woman, her "jobs" are more sophisticated, bordering on espionage.  The start of WWI threatens and the British are questioning everyone's loyalty. Even the king is considering changing his German-rooted surname to a more English sounding one.  Likewise Peter Holstein is seeking a way to squelch the rumors about his ties to Germany.  Can he prove his British loyalty despite having a German paternal grandfather and a German mother?  Hindered by his constant stutter, Holstein hopes that proof of allegiance lies in the family's huge, but vastly disorganized library.  What he really needs is someone to help him sort out the immense mess.

Rosie, although an accomplished thief, will charm you from the first pages.  Maybe it will be the way she cares for the younger members of the "family" or perhaps it will be the humorous challenges she exchanges with her brother.  For me, it was the description of the skirt she so carefully created, copying the latest fashion magazine, ending up with an outfit that rivaled the work of London's best tailors. Then there is the way she tackles a new assignment, even learning another language and spending hours of study in libraries and museums.  All the subterfuge and assumed identities may have you remembering classic art theft/spy movies.   And we know that those movies relied on a spark of romance, and A NAME UNKNOWN will not disappoint in that category.  I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Celebrate Lit.  All review opinions are mine.

If you are interested in other people's reviews of this novel, check out the following bloggers and their take.  Special note, my blog date was changed to today because of a conflict.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

July 20: Genesis 5020*
July 21: Pause for Tales
July 22: Bigreadersite*
July 23: Vicky Sluiter
July 26: God1meover*
July 26: Carpe Diem*
July 27: cherylbbookblog
July 31: Cafinated Reads

A bit more about the book
She’s Out to Steal His Name.

Will He Steal Her Heart Instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets—now they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary’s challenge of a lifetime comes when she’s assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

As Europe moved closer to World War I, rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the Crown—so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.
When danger and suspicion continue to mount, though, and both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth—about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

DEATH ON THE PRAIRIE by Kathleen Ernst

Kathleen Ernst, Death on the Prairie book   Kathleen Ernst first came on my radar when I became our school district's librarian.   After teaching secondary students for 15 years, I had to quickly catch up on children's literature, which I had not studied much since college.  Of course, I had kept up with my own kids' taste in kid lit.  In those first months as librarian, I really immersed myself in all the levels and genres. With fourth graders expanding their reading to include more genres - mysteries, historical fiction, Wisconsin history, fantasy,  I soon found that they also liked series books.  Among the popular series for this age group (for girls at least) were the American Girl books that accompanied the dolls. Kathleen Ernst, a Wisconsinite, wrote some of those novels and also some of their special history-mystery books. Like I still do, back then, I always gave special attention to Wisconsin authors, so more than a few times I booked talked Ernst's history mystery titles.  A few years ago, I stumbled upon her adult/young adult mystery series featuring Chloe Ellefson.  DEATH ON THE PRAIRIE, her 33rd book and sixth in the Ellefson series,
all revolves around a trip Chloe and her sister take to see the sites which preserve the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

There are so many reasons for me to like Ernst's gentle mystery series.  First of all, Chloe Ellefson works as a museum curator/archivist for Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, WI, a living history museum which features re-enactments and a whole preserved village.  One of those buildings - a town hall, I believe, is the actual building where my mother and her students would hold their Christmas program.  Eagle itself is about 35 minutes from the community where I grew up, and my father's family settled in Eagle in the late 1800's. And then Chloe's choice of job is similar to what my daughter does, although my daughter's work as an archivist is for the Catholic church, not for a public museum.  I also love that this series is set in 1980's so there are no cell phones or internet to mess up the mystery.  I found it refreshing, especially in this book about Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, to remember the 80's and the first wave of Little House on the Prairie television viewers.  If you read Ernst's biography, you will find out that she actually worked at
Old World Wisconsin in the the 1980's, so her take on that historical site and Chloe's job is based on
experience, not speculation. 

This particular story features an inherited quilt (could it really have been made by Laura), a road trip between adult sisters (everyone knows that families create their own drama), and some mysterious ominous happenings.  Meanwhile back in Eagle, Chloe's boyfriend, police officer Roelke is trying to decide whether to make a career move or buy his grandfather's farm to preserve that heritage.  By the time I had finished the novel, not only had a series of mysterious happenings been cleared up, but I had vicariously visited the Laura historic sites (in real life, I have only visited Pepin's cabin in the woods) and had learned many interesting true facts about her, her daughter and the Little House books.    If you like history and the world of museums, give Kathleen Ernst's writing a chance.
Check out her to learn more about her life and the books.
I obtained my Chloe Ellefson mystery book through the Winnefox Library System.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Image result for high as the heavens breslinKate Breslin is again taking readers back to WWI and the ordinary people affected by the War to End All Wars.  For this novel, Breslin patterns her main character Evelyn Marche on three real Belgian heroines, one who was a Red Cross nurse like fictional Evelyn.  The real women, Gabrielle Petit, Edith Cavell, and Marthe McKenna worked as spies after the Germans invaded and took over neutral Belgium.  Two of the three women eventually faced firing squads.  In the novel, HIGH AS THE HEAVENS, Evelyn leaves Britain after learning that her husband's plane has been shot down and travels to Belgium to be with her mother and siblings there.  When the Germans invade, Evelyn must fight to survive, and three years later, although she has been accepted by the Germans as a neutral Red Cross nurse, she bears many internal scars and guilt from her actions when the Germans first invaded. Now in Brussels and separated from her siblings, Evelyn and her mother play an important role in the Belgian underground.  As the book opens, Evelyn travels by bike to meet a Brit parachuting in.  But something goes wrong and the plane crashes.  Evelyn finds only one survivor -- her husband.

This novel alternates in both time and viewpoint, but all pieces fit together in a cohesive, compelling story of love, resistance, survival, and faith.  HIGH AS THE HEAVENS joins a number of well
written historical fiction books about civilians who lives are forever changed by war that I've read in recent years.  Each one adds a bit more to my historical knowledge but also to my understanding of how civilians suffered and survived.  One of the lasting images I will take away from this book is the necessity to live among the enemy that those people in occupied territories had to accept. I received a copy of this book from Bethany House.  All opinions are mine.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cover Art

 A few months ago, I  read and reviewed Kate Breslin's World War II novel FOR SUCH A TIME and back in 2015 I read her World War I title NOT BY SIGHT.  When given the opportunity to read an early copy of her second World War I novel HIGH AS THE HEAVENS, I was delighted to accept.  I wish I could say that I devoured the book the moment it arrived, but like many of my reading obligations, it had to take its place in a stack of other books.  Well, it was worth the wait.  Breslin creates characters with not only depth, but with moral character.  Her details about the war and civilian life broaden my understanding.  Knowing that the book is worth the wait, I am setting up a bit of a teaser. Fellow historical fiction lovers,  read the publicity below about Breslin's latest title.  Then in a couple days I will post my personal review.  I am hoping two postings about her latest works will send you right to the library or the book store.

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a caf├ę . . . or so it seems. Eve's most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she's en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?

". . . Breslin creates a tale difficult to put down until its touching, soul-satisfying ending."--RT Book Reviews on Not by Sight

The Author

  1. Kate Breslin
    ©Samantha Panzera Photography

    Kate Breslin

    A Florida girl who migrated to the Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin was a bookseller for many years. She is the author of For Such a Time and lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. Find her online at
    Continue reading about Kate Breslin


"Breslin's latest has non-stop action and intrigue set in the fascinating time period of World War I. The characters are detailed and realistic, reflecting emotions that speak to a broad audience in any era. The storyline is intricately plotted and filled with incredible detail that will keep readers engaged and desperate to know what will happen. The romance is tender and the historical events are captivating, making this a book that is not to be missed."
RT Book Reviews Top Pick

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


A Family Shaped by Grace: How to Get Along with the People Who Matter MostA FAMILY SHAPED BY GRACE by Gary Morland is subtitled "How to Get Along with the People Who Matter Most," an apt description of the book's major theme.  As the author details, those people who we love the most often are the most difficult for us to deal with.  Whether it is "old baggage" or simply the fact that we save our best manners and behaviors for work, we often are less than our best at home.  For Morland, family dynamics were also influenced by an alcoholic, distant father and then his own alcoholism.  He credits his acceptance of Jesus as the turning point.  Using a flowing river as a visual device, Morland has written a how-to book about avoiding the rocks of disharmony and discord.  The main message that seemed to resonate with me was the call to be caring and patient and giving.  As he shows, we have been extended grace, and we are called to offer grace. He also made clear that we should each and every day be considering what role model we are being.  Without realizing it, we daily influence other people's lives.  Now a grandparent, Morland sees what an influence he can be for his grandchildren, and that really calls to me, too.  Our 6 grandchildren are growing up so rapidly and what place we have in their lives is also changing. What we do with our time and money, how we express our faith, the way we treat others or talk about them -- these are aspects of me that I want them to see in a positive way.

I received a copy of A FAMILY SHAPED BY GRACE by Revell Reads.  All opinions are mine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Squeezing in time to read

Whew, this may be the busiest summer we've ever had, and here we are supposed to be retired with no responsibilities.  We always take four of our grandchildren, two at a time, to our little cabin in the northwoods, and with the kids' schedule of Bible school, summer school, summer ball, church camp, family trips, band camp, football practice, etc, we have not found any suitable dates.  It would be terrible to give up those precious days with them, so I am still hoping we can manage some days in late August.

Over the next three weeks, Russ and I will take a short trip to our cabin by ourselves, mainly to retrieve stuff we need for our Canada trip later in July, then we head to my class reunion (a multi-day event).  Hope to see some relatives while we are back in my hometown for the reunion.  Then our daughter and her little girl will visit us; we plan to camp for two of those days.  Right after they leave, it will be time to clean and repack the camper for our trip to Canada with our oldest son's family.  In there, we need to keep the garden weeded, lawn mowed, meals cooked.  You all know the drill.  And I thought I would have time to quilt this summer -- funny!!  If it was not for sleepless nights, I am not sure I would get my reading done!!  Blogging long reviews just is not going to happen, unless it is an obligation to a blog tour.

That said, I am going to do a quick review of three books I recently read.  All of them are ones that either were e-book special sales or ones I saw recommended somewhere.  Before I buy, I always check the library system.  When none of these were owned by any libraries in my Winnefox Library System, I decided to check the Wisconsin State interlibrary loan system before I parted with my money.  I could get all three books -- libraries are so great.

I chose these three books because the subjects are so diverse and stand out from the typical Christian contemporary series.

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy is a story of two families and the daughter/sister they share.  Lily, aka Joy, was adopted from a Chinese orphanage by a Texas couple when she was about 6.  Now ten years later, she feels like she does not belong anywhere and rebels against the god of her preacher father. With no one who looks like her at school, Joy feels friendless and useless.  Little does she know that she still has a Chinese family, and her older sister, now a doctor in Boston has spent years searching for her.  When the sister learns that Joy may suffer from a debilitating kidney disease, she ramps up her search and finally finds the teen.  Patti Lacy shares at the end of the book the research about Chinese adoption and also kidney disease she put into this book.  I enjoyed this story of mixed cultures, shared love, and a teen who finds a second chance.

As I have Loved You by Nikki Arana is an unusual love story.  Leigh, an overprotective single mother, of a college aged son, does not approve of his recent girl friend.  When he puts aside his pledge to wait until marriage and decides to move in with the girl friend, Leigh is heart broken.  Tensions build among the trio, and readers will likely agree that Jessica is bad news.  Bounced checks, late rent payments, Jessica's absences from work, failing grades -- Jeff tries to hide it all from his mother.  But he remains by Jessica's side because he sees that she needs a human example of Christ's never faltering love.  In Jessica, we can see the mess that abuse and failed foster care breed. While it is easy to turn away from those who seem to be failing at life, we can learn much from Jeff's attitude.

Of Stillness and Storm by Michelle Phoenix tackles a topic that I never thought would be book material, but I am so glad I read this book.  Sam and Lauren worked for ten years preparing for their mission to Nepal.  Only a young boy when the plan began to take shape, their son never wanted to travel away from his home.  Now a teenager, Ryan has not settled into their new life, except for the hours he plays soccer.  His father, who travels into the remote mountains for three weeks out of every month, is basically absent from his life.  When Sam is home, he cannot see what Lauren sees -- that Ryan is slipping away behind a facade of teen rebellion.  When an old friend connects when Lauren on social media and another friend offers the money for a sabbatical home, but Sam refuses; Lauren takes a painful look at her family and what they have become.  Michelle Phoenix, herself a child of missionaries, works with those children who are often caught between cultures and their parents' dreams.  This was an eye-opening book to read.  We would like to think that all missionaries are guided by God's hand, but clearly as Lauren discovers, one's version of God's plan can go awry.