Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

 

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia–compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?

 

My Review:

I was surprised at how this book sucked me in considering that the topics of ghosts are not something I would gravitate to.
The history with mental institutions, family issues and all that, takes this barely from three stars to four. I loved that the author was not afraid to address the reality of what they did to people that struggled with mental illnesses.
I also thought it was wonderful how she had the comparison with someone struggling with anxiety and another that was autistic in modern times, and what they faced as well. For those of you where you will not read a book because of the mention of ghosts, know that there is nothing that you would have an issue with in the end here.
The spiritual message is strong in this story and kept me up reading past my bedtime!

 

 

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The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

 

My Review:

If you are a book lover, a book that features other book lovers warms your heart. This book is totally that way.
The author takes a story of friendship surrounding books that will make you wish the bookstore truly exists somewhere. One thing that is unique about this story is that none of the characters have it “all together”. They have messed up, some more than others. They were not really destined to be friends, until life throws them together.

Love, forgiveness and finding what is truly important in life are the themes of this novel. It is published as Christian fiction, but it is more for the thread of hope, love and forgiveness throughout the novel than for sermons, bible verses and quotes.

I found myself wanting to highlight portions of the novel and remember what was said. I would highly recommend it.

I obtained this book through the publisher and NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

This book is available for preorder now, as it releases May 14th from Amazon and other book vendors.

“The Printed Letter Bookshop” 

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Top Ten Reads of 2018

It is cliche to be sure, but it is hard to even narrow it down to the top ten, so I decided to go with top twenty and then changed my mind and went back to top ten. When you have read about 214 books, it is easier that way.  I figured I would put a synopsis of my review on each one and if you click on the title, it leads you to how to purchase or add to your wish list.

#1

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Running From Monday by Lea Sims

“I read “Running From Monday” by Lea Childers Sims last night, while I was without sleep from having to deal with business issues without the internet. It was amazing. I will tell you, if you have not added this book to your wish list, TBR pile, and move it up on the list, you will be sorry. You want a real story that moves you? This is one. It does discuss some hard trauma topics, but I loved how it was done, in such a well written story.

I am not someone that is drawn to churches, especially in a story. However, in this one, the church with how it was set up, made me wish that churches patterned their ministry more after this one. Even though I related more to the older characters in the book as far as music taste, I really loved how even that was told in the story.

The characters were flawed, which makes this a tougher read, but so real and you could relate to them. I found myself tearing up a couple of times.”

#2

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The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart 

“I never quite know what to expect when I pick up a book by James L. Rubart. This one really had me stopping, setting the book down and thinking before I could pick it up again.
There is never a book that touches everyone. For me, this genre is not my normal genre. I love women’s fiction and historical. This is nowhere near either of those genres. For me, this story is a tale of a man that allowed the evil to control him, the evil that is within many, and it nearly destroyed his life and his family. It is the story of the journey that he takes to conquer it, which when done in your own strength is impossible.
I was deeply touched at certain parts of the book. Some of the thoughts were so deep, it made me have to wrap my mind around it.

If you read this book with the mindset that you are just going to read a nice story, you may not get the meaning of this one. It is much more than that. But if you are reading this book to see what true love and repentance can look like, this one does share that.
Very unique story, that I highly recommend.”

#3 

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No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

“In the times we live in, this book struck a nerve that I think everyone should feel deeply.  From racism to attachment issues with adoption, this book hits some strong points. I have come to expect not just hard topics, but a well written novel by Ms. Ganshert. I was not disappointed. This will be one that I would recommend as a book club read, book group or anything like that, as you will want to talk about it with someone.

You won’t want to miss this book. You know how you can’t stop thinking about a book after you read it? This is one of those.”

#4

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Pandora’s Lunchbox 

“You ever want to read a book that confirms everything your mother taught you? This is the book.
While a little deep maybe for some people, this is one I was pre-reading for a high school required reading science class I will be teaching. This is a book that will confirm to you that likely most of the issues that people have with food, is not actually with food at all, it is with the preservatives that are even often in what we think of as “healthy food”.
It has been something that has fascinated my boys and they have gotten a tiny bit obsessed with, so I think they will really enjoy this book and learning what can make you feel better. From overloading our bodies with vitamins that is not from food to additives in meat, this book covers it all. I would recommend it!”

#5

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

“You ever read a book and think, “Wow, that is why this is a classic!”

That doesn’t happen terribly often for me, but it did with this book.
You like stories about strong, brave women? This is for sure one of those stories. From Sissy, who “didn’t believe in divorce” and all her heartbreak to Francie, the main character, I found myself savoring every word picture.
They were painted so vividly, you just wanted to soak it in.

I had remembered liking this book at the age of 17. More than twenty years later, it was even more enjoyable.”

#6

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The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

‘I read this book last Friday and I cannot stop thinking about it. In fact, I have likely referenced it several times this last week.
The storyline, while nothing unique, brings completely flawed characters that judge one another as being something they are not in the beginning.
I loved seeing the journey of the raw characters, woven throughout the story, while still leaving you with a few unanswered questions, just as life tends to do.
I am not an artist, have never really gotten the appeal of tagging, and yet, I was able to relate to both characters, in totally different ways, and yet, get the heart of their pain.

Please note, it does discuss foster care, drug use and a few other key elements, but nothing is graphic. It is a Christian fiction book, so while one of the main characters is proclaimed atheist most of the book, it also discusses the problems that are front and present in Christianity.
I would recommend this book to those that enjoy a read that will challenge them and make you think.”

#7

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Violence Among Us by Brenda Branson

“This important book is good for anyone in ministry, but really for anyone that is around people. If you attend church and have people around you, read this book.

It gives you key points on what to do and what not to do when supporting those that experience different forms of violence, whether it be physical, mental, financial or other types of abuse. With a well laid out way, it gives you the tools to be the hands that heal instead of the hands that harm as so many Christians and churches are.”

#8

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Jesus Feminist  by Sarah Bessey

“I know, I know. The title is going to be off-putting to many people, but try to see past that and read this incredible book of freedom in Christ for both men and women.
I don’t often read a book where I set it down and think, “I need to buy this book.” when I have gotten it from the library. I also don’t read a ton of books that bring me to tears multiple times. This one hit both of those. I wanted to buy it so I can quote from it. There were lines that were just so powerful in here. I loved when she said someone asked her what kind of feminist she was, and she said, “I am a Jesus Feminist.” While I may not agree with everything 100% in this book, as it always is in most books, this is one that was a breath of fresh air of freedom in Christ.

It is not anti-men or any of the stereotypes you think of, but lives up merely to the definition of what feminism is. I loved the biblical viewpoints throughout, but also the Church Ladies chapter was my favorite. Think outside the box and read this book, even if you think you will hate it.”

#9

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Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels 

I found this book to be a refreshing change from some tales similar to this. It addressed the topic head on without skirting the huge issues.
Adultery and infertility were two key topics in this book. I loved the mention of doulas, grants for those in need of their services and found that especially wonderful as a doula myself.
The writing style is excellent and touched on many key phrases that would be said to a Christian woman in a marriage that is falling apart. My only complaint would be that it left me many questions in the end, which again, is real life.

This women’s fiction novel is a breath of fresh air, speaking truth and reality, without giving pat answers that suddenly fix everything.

 

 

#10 

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Where Hope Begins by Catherine West 

“It has taken me awhile to write this review. It was not because I didn’t know what to think. It was because there were so many feelings when I finished this book. I am not someone that cries. If I tear up in a book, it means that it deeply touched me. This book was one that deeply touched my soul.

I know many people that avoid books that might make them feel or deal with pain. Please don’t avoid this book. The well written prose from this amazing author, will not only cause you to dig deep, but I would also hope you would find yourself changed by it. She is one of my favorites and I never miss a book written by her.

Grief. It is a tough topic. It is not one we ever want to talk about, and may not want to read about. Sometimes people might avoid a book that talks about it, because they are afraid they will relate to it. Again, please don’t do that with this book. This book is filled with hope, healing and just a passion for discovering life after loss that I believe it will be a read that most people will not only enjoy, but benefit from. I loved the greenhouse in the book and the quirky secondary characters just warmed my heart.

I can’t wait for her next book and this one is not even quite released yet.”

 

There are so many more favorites that I did not mention! I was trying to give a bit of a variety! If you want to check out all of them, check out my Goodreads “Martha’s Year of Books”

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Searching For You by Jody Hedlund

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

 

My Review:

I enjoyed this conclusion to the Orphan train series quite a bit. I loved how she told the hard parts, but had happy stories too. I found myself saddened for the wives, stuck in abusive marriages and realized how little things have changed at times.

I only wished there was more time spent with the sisters reconnecting. I kept imagining some of the issues these little orphans faced after everything. It probably didn’t help with seeing some of the issues with the foster system and the trauma kids face now.

The story was a happy one, but tainted with the reality of the hard facts. This author does an amazing job to make the story realistic and yet make you want to read more.

I obtained this book from the publisher through NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

This book is available for purchase in your local bookstores or through Amazon.

Searching for You 

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Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description:

Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain–and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . .

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn’t who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.

Don’t miss this romantic, stirring conclusion to Tales from Ivy Hill.

My Review:

I totally enjoyed this final conclusion to the series by Ms. Klassen. It had, as the others, a feel of the Austen type era. The story had several characters, and if you were not careful, you were lost for a second and had to refresh where you were.
I found myself rooting for one family, and then another when a new character was introduced. It was one of those winter evening type books that you just want to savor.
If you enjoy a good story, fairly accurate seeming to the time period, you should pick up this whole series. It is quite enjoyable!

This book was recently released. I totally enjoyed it.

 

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The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

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The Butterfly Bride by Vanessa Riley

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Frederica Burghley wants to be married by Yuletide. Or else her father will set her up with one of his friends. The bonbon-loving illegitimate daughter of the duke wants to choose her own husband. Advertising in the newspaper seems like the way to go. But a sinister response, with threats against her life, leads her to enlist the help of her very handsome, dear friend Jasper Fitzwilliam, Lord Hartwell.

A father and widower, Jasper is not only tasked with keeping Frederica safe but also with helping his vibrant friend choose a suitable husband. The more he tries to keep the ever-surprising woman alive and find her a good match, the more Jasper realizes he cares for her. The two friends risk their lives for each other, so they should be able to risk their feelings for a chance at a deep and true love together. But he’s not looking for marriage and she’s not looking for convenience.

My Review:

I loved it! I don’t know what all to say, but Vanessa Riley knows how to tell a story. I have to maybe say that I have a new favorite. I loved seeing some of the characters come in from previous books, and she even did a birth scene which I loved!
I totally wanted this book to never end.

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My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge by Pepper Basham

 

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the Book:

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

My Review:

I love this author’s books. I just have to say that right off the bat.
From her lighter ones to her heavier ones, each one makes me want to keep reading and buying more and more of her books.
This book is kind of a Christy feel with hints of humor intermixed. There are a few heavier topics such as alcoholism brought up, but overall, I would say this is a lighter read for one of her books.

When you go to look for a book with truth and good story, I would say pick this one up. It will warm your heart!
I wished it were a tad bit longer as I wanted a little more of their story, but I guess it can’t go on forever!

I obtained this book from NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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Shelter of the Most High Connilyn Cossette

Reviewed Martha Artyomenko

 

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About the book:

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?

My Review:

A story set in ancient times, I found myself totally enthralled with it from the first few pages. I wanted to just keep reading, but I also didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much.
I found the setting so intriguing, as well as the people, possibly ancestors from Sicily that found themselves intermarrying with the Hebrews.
This author does such a great job of weaving a tale, you will want to buy every book she writes as it comes out. I know that is my plan!

I obtained this book for review from the publisher. The opinions are my own.

You can purchase this book from any booksellers or Amazon.

Shelter of the Most High

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Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description

Auschwitz Lullaby brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann—a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.

On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.

After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.

Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.

Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.

My Review:

While this story breaks a lot of the rules of what a successful book must have, it truly is an incredible story based on truth, to give us insight into the experiences of people inside the camps. It is successful in its own right because of that!

I found it especially heart-wrenching as you see so clearly that the guards, doctors and others didn’t really believe they were doing anything wrong. In fact, they believed they were doing right. It reminded me of many of things I see in our society today, where people defend treating others with inhumane treatment simply because others agree with it.

While not really a book to read for a happily ever after story, it shows the bravery of those that went before us and teaches such valuable lessons. I would say even if you are one that likes to pretend bad things do not happen, this is such a valuable piece of history, while being an easier read than some placed in this time period, I would recommend it.

 I review for BookLook Bloggers

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