Thursday, August 28, 2014

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer



ABOUT THE BOOK:
When Chet, a local coach, agrees to help Lula with her new teaching responsibilities, she'll learn more than she ever expected about life and love.

MY THOUGHTS:
I really enjoy books set in the late 1800's, early 1900's. I can picture in my mind the scenes and fashions of 'Meet Me in St. Louis,' and Anne writes this time period well.

The early history of basketball, though not something I'm particularly interested in, was still very interesting! Definitely a fresh and unique subject, that's for sure! Anne is also very good at portraying people's emotions, and Playing By Heart had many heart-tugging moments.

Playing by Heart is written in a style that I rarely enjoy and usually only tolerate: two main characters, both in the first person, alternating point of view every other chapter. After the first few chapters, I was able to focus and get in 'the groove' of the style. The two main characters are male and female, so that helped in keeping them straight as well. I did find that the story seemed a bit choppy, though. It may have been that the kindle version I read wasn't formatted quite properly, but some of the transitions seemed awkward – big gaps of time or changes in places from paragraph to paragraph.

Overall, I liked the story of Lula and Chet. Their struggles of family responsibility and duty versus personal ambitions and desires were easy to relate to and evoked a few sniffles from me.

Another good historical by Anne – though I think her very first is her best (well, it's the one I've enjoyed the most!): Wings of a Dream (only 4.99 for your Kindle)!

Thank you to Anne and Bethany House through NetGalley for sending me a copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Safe Haven by Anna Schmidt



Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read and review book 3 in Anna's Peacemaker series: Safe Haven.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
When journalist Suzanne Randolph hears about FDR’s plan to bring a boatload of displaced WWII refugees to America, she knows it may be her last chance to redeem her flagging career. Suzanne follows the story to Oswego, New York, where she meets Theo Bridgewater, a Quaker dairy farmer from Wisconsin who has come to reunite with his uncle and aunt and cousin. Theo’s fight to spare his relatives the return to Germany becomes Suzanne’s fight as she does everything that the “power of the pen” can muster to help win public sympathy for the cause.

MY THOUGHTS:
I love discovering new things I hadn't known about during WWII! Safe Haven was an interesting read about a (true) camp in Oswego, NY for a small group of invited 'guests' (refugees) near the end of the war. I wasn't sure how Safe Haven was tied into the other two books of Anna's Peacemaker series, as I didn't recognize names on the back cover blurb.

But as I began to read, I recognized several of the characters! Theo's aunt and uncle, who have come to live at the camp, are Franz and Ilse Schneider – Beth's aunt and uncle from book 1 (that means: Beth is Theo's sister)! And, Gisele, the French actress from book 2 who helped Josef, Beth, and Anya escape, is also residing with the other refugees.

Even though the focus is mostly on Theo and Suzanne's story (new characters), I wouldn't read Safe Haven as a standalone. You should really know the history of the other characters – especially the mysterious POW outside the camp walls.

I loved learning about the camp – especially that the US was never planning to let the refugees stay, but had them sign documents promising to return to their home countries when the war was over). I even had to do a little research online on my own! As for the rest of the story, I felt the romance of Theo and Suzanne fell a bit flat and that disappointed me (although their ending was sweet, and I applauded Suzanne's decision). I enjoyed Anya and Peter's story from Simple Faith much more (it -and All God's Children- also had more of the action and intrigue that I prefer in my WWII settings)!

I'm not sure if this is Anna's final book for these characters – but, I hope not! The ending didn't leave me hanging, but I do wonder about Gisele...and Marta...and especially the next chapter for Herr Buch and his wife?

Also, a note to some of my readers: the main characters in each of these books are Quakers. The theology and practice of the Friends are written throughout the books, mainly their belief that 'the Light,' as they call it, resides in everyone...it's just up to each person to acknowledge it; and the practice of their 'worship,' which is sitting in silence, palms upward, waiting for 'the Light.'

In most books, I skim over these references, because I know that, according to the Bible, these beliefs are not correct. However, I've given up the Amish genre because I got tired of reading that 'being good' is the way to heaven. So, if this is something that bothers you, please be aware that although the stories are good and the characters are religious, their beliefs are not biblical.

Thank you to Anna and Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press through NetGalley for sending me a digital copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Friday, May 23, 2014

Daisies are Forever by Liz Tolsma



ABOUT THE BOOK:
Gisela must hold on to hope and love despite all odds in the midst of a war-torn country.

Gisela Cramer is an American living in eastern Germany with her cousin Ella Reinhardt. When the Red Army invades, they must leave their home to escape to safety in Berlin.

However, Ella is a nurse and refuses to leave, sending her young daughters with Gisela. During their journey, Gisela meets Mitch Edwards, an escaped British POW. She pretends she is his wife in order to preserve his safety among other Germans, especially one wounded German soldier, Kurt, who has suspicions about Mitch's identity. Kurt also has feelings for Gisela and tries to uncover the truth about her "marriage."

Their journey to Gisela's mother in Berlin is riddled with tragedy and hardship, but they strive to keep Ella's daughters safe so they can reunite with their mother. During the journey Gisela and Mitch begin to develop feelings for one another beyond friendship. They reach Berlin, but their struggles are far from over. Gisela and Mitch must learn to live for the day and find hope in the darkest of circumstances.

In this moving, historically accurate portrayal of WWII Germany, the characters learn that, even with destruction all around them, some things last forever.

MY THOUGHTS:
I'm afraid I didn't like Daisies are Forever as well as Snow on the Tulips. I wasn't able to connect very well with the characters (too many at once to get to know anyone...and I never could figure out exactly why Kurt and Audra continued to hang with the group, even before their ulterior motives were revealed, nor why Mitch seemed to move so effortlessly through Germany without a disguise...and didn't work harder to get back to his unit).

I also felt like some of the story wasn't edited well. For example: Gisela and Mitch enter a house and two blondes hug Gisela's legs (the little girls she is taking care of), but in the next paragraph or so, Mitch asks Audra (who watched the couple come into the house) where the girls are. She replies that they are napping, and Gisela says she will go lie down with them and sleep.

Another: during a confrontation with Mitch and a German soldier, Mitch looks over to see that Kurt is just standing by with his arms crossed. I apologize if I'm being insensitive, but I thought Kurt was missing an arm? Even if just a figure of speech, it didn't make sense.

Strange misses like this caused me to often shake my head or flip back a few pages to see if I'd missed something...or double check to see who was supposed to be speaking.

I was really impressed with Snow on the Tulips, so my reaction to book 2 (which is a complete standalone) surprised me. The writing style seemed totally different and the story more far-fetched (although Liz's note at the end says the inspiration was combined from the actual stories of two different ladies).

Eh, sometimes that happens with a book. Unfortunately, Daises are Forever just wasn't much of a page-turner for me. If you want to read an exciting, couldn't-put-down book of Liz's, pick up Snow on the Tulips.

That's what I thought! Click HERE to see what other reviewers are saying!

Thank you to Liz and Thomas Nelson through Litfuse for sending me a copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Simple Faith by Anna Schmidt



ABOUT THE BOOK:
After losing her beloved husband and daughter and surviving Hitler’s Sobibor death camp, Quaker widow Anja Steinberg dedicates her life to helping others and keeping her son safe. As a member of the resistance, she helps displaced Allied airmen get back to their units in England. The journey is rigorous and filled with danger and there is no time for romance. Then American Peter Trent parachutes into her life. She must face facts—her heart did not die with her late husband and true love could be hers again. But will a romance hurt Peter’s chance of escape from the Nazis—and endanger her life as well?

MY THOUGHTS:
I did have to refresh my memory a bit, as I read book one, All God's Children, quite awhile ago. Although Simple Faith is not a true continuation of Josef and Beth's story from book one (they play a large role, but aren't the main characters any longer), and Simple Faith could be read as a standalone, I would suggest reading All God's Children first. It is helpful in knowing the characters of Josef and Beth, along with Anja and her history.

Trying to get downed fliers back to their units was exciting, and I especially loved the addition of LeClerq, the master of disguises! Peter was a likeable character, and I enjoyed the 'Sound of Music' feel of the nuns and the priest at the funeral (remember when the nuns pull out the missing car parts from under their robes...haha)! I've always enjoyed characters who performed 'innocent' sabotage whenever possible!

Ultimately, I enjoyed the story in this second book of Anna's 'Peacemakers' series!

Thank you to Anna and Barbour Books through NetGalley for sending me a copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**
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