Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Blown Away By Nancy Mehl

Blown Away: A Curl Up and Dye Mystery by Nancy Mehl is the second book in her series about a hairstylist for the dead. Hilde is back and her boyfriend, Adam Sawyer is in the center stage in this book. Hilde goes to check on a grave at the cemetery and finds a dead body in a grave. Adam is accused of the murder. Hilde and her friend from the antique store, Gabe work to help prove Adam’s innocence. A lot of other things happen like a tornado, but why wouldn’t you add a tornado to a book with the name Blown Away. We also learn about Gabe’s background. Hilde has a lot of issues in the book that go back to her father leaving her family at a young age. She has to learn to trust men and especially Adam if their relationship is going to survive.

I thought this book had more to it than the first. I was hooked at trying to figure out who did it. I did have a few problems with the book. In the book, we learn that Hilde is scared of clowns. She learns it was from her stay in the hospital. Somehow though she magically puts that fear behind her and attends two clown funerals and is dating a clown. I also love inspirational books. The religious stuff in this book seemed very forced at times. There is also a lot of fluff stuff in this story to get to the heart of the story. While this stuff is sometimes cute it does get old after awhile. Finally, I really did not like the ending again. Like in the first book, Hilde says she knows who the murder is and then we go to a point in the future where they are talking about how it all went down. As a reader I felt like I missed something big and that was the big climax of finding out who the murder was in the action of the story not at a table with others when it is all done and said. Hilde is at it again in this book with her SPAM recipes. The reader is also given another recipe which I thought was kind of nice.

If you have not read the first book, Missing Mabel you will probably be okay reading this one on its own. The author does a really good job filling you in on what happened in the first book. I really enjoyed the first book though so you might want to check it out too.

Even though I had a lot of issues with this book, I still really enjoyed it, except the ending which was a letdown. I thought it was a pretty good cozy mystery. This book also says that it is part of the Hometown Mystery series. I really have not figured that out yet as there are a lot of hometown mysteries but they are not all about the same town. I’ll have to read another one on my list and see if I can figure that one out.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy cozy mysteries. I would like to thank Barbour Books for allowing me to read this book through NetGalley. This book comes out February 1, 2011.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Fang of the Vampire and Blood of the Witch

I reviewed some books at another site I write for called Busy Mommy Media.  These books are for 8-10 year olds.  You can read my review here. Go check it out. They make great Halloween books.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book Review: Missing Mabel

Missing Mabel by Nancy Mehl is the story of Hilde Higgins, a hairdresser for the dead. Hilde goes to the funeral home to do Mabel's hair when she is told that person is not ready. Hilde sees the body and the hair. The next time she comes to the funeral home to do Mabel's hair she knows from seeing her before and the picture given by the family that this is not the same body. Hilde tries to tell the funeral home director, but he does not believe her. She sets out to make things right for Mabel and find her. We met several other interesting characters in the book. Adam is a friend from her childhood that she does not have good memories about. Gabe is an antique store owner across the street from her boarding house who becomes friends with Hilde. These are just to name a few that stand out to me, there are many more. Hilde and her friends try to find out who took Mabel and Hilde uses her friends to help her.

I have to be honest here, I did not read the description of this book before reading it. I had recently read Simple Secrets and Simple Deceit by the author and loved them and thought I'd give this book a try. After reading the first chapter, I really thought I would not like this book. The thought of reading a book about a hairdresser for the dead just did not appeal to me. I am glad though that I kept reading. The book seemed to me to be more about the other people in Hilde's life. I love reading books about women sleuths. Hilde is such an interesting character I wanted to read more about her. I really liked that she loved to read mysteries and that she loved to cook with SPAM. The author even includes a recipe using SPAM at the end of the book. I also liked how the reader finds out that Mabel and Hilde had a lot in common. I also like the subtle hints of religion throughout the book. I never guessed the who done it part, until it was revealed. As a reader, I was a little confused at the end. We are left with Hilde saying she knew who done it and then the reader is moved to a new chapter where almost all the characters attending a dinner and learning about how she found out about it. It kind of downplayed the figuring out part in my opinion. All in all I really enjoyed this book. I also really like this author's writing style. Missing Mabel is available now and I would recommend giving it a try. I plan to read the next book in this series called Blown Away: A Curl Up and Dye Mystery. I love the way the author uses the title to link to hairdresser words. That book comes out February 1, 2011. Look for a review of that book on my blog soon.

I was given a copy of the book by Barbour Books through NetGalley for this review. I was not paid for this review and was not required to give a positive review.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: A Simple Amish Christmas

A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman is her first novel. It is the story of Annie Weaver, a young Amish girl who has lived in the city with her aunt during her Rumschpringe. She becomes a nurse at a children’s hospital. She receives a phone call at the hospital one day that will change her life forever. Her mother calls to tell her that her father has had an accident and they need her to come home and take care of him. They do not know that she is a nurse though. Annie ends up coming home and getting baptized and helping her community by using her skills as a nurse to help them. She immediately dislikes the town “doctor,” Samuel. Samuel is older than Annie and lost his wife and child in a buggy accident. We learn about other people in the community through her medical calls. One woman experiences a hard birth and another teen girl is pregnant possible by rape. Along the way Annie begins to fall in love with Samuel and learns her place in the community.

I really enjoyed this book. This is a perfect read for the winter. It made me want to pull out the blankets and drink some hot chocolate. I really enjoyed learning about the unusual characters. I would love to see this as a series. There was so much left to the reader’s imagination as to what happens to Samuel and Annie and the other characters. I wonder why the author picked the tile of, A Simple Amish Christmas. None of the plots seemed simple and neither did the romance between Samuel and Annie. I also was left wondering about the store in town. We seem to learn something is going to happen to the ownership, but we never really learn anymore about that, which lead me to believe the author may be planning a sequel. I definitely would read another book by this author and highly recommend this one. This book came out October 1, 2010. You should really check it out for a great fall/winter read. I received a copy of this book from Abington Press through NetGalley and was not paid for this review.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Simple Deceit

Simple Deceit by Nancy Mehl is the second book in her Harmony series. I was given an advance copy of this book to review through NetGalley and Barbour publishers. Grace Temple is returning to Harmony, a small Mennonite Commuinty after finishing her job and moving out of her apartment to live in the house her late Uncle Benjamin left her. She also going back to work on a freelance project her boss has given her. She is working for a group who is trying to build a retirement center close to Harmony that is anticipated to bring lots of needed customers for the small town of Harmony. Once again, as soon as Grace enters Harmony she is dealt with conflict, as she sees a mother leaving her baby on the steps of the church. That starts lots of conflict going on in Harmony. The community members start to blame Grace for what is going on in Harmony. Gracie and her boyfriend Sam also get into a fight and Gracie thinks the relationship might be over. The people in Harmony also get caught in a huge blizzard and once again the community comes together to help each other. Once you thought nothing else bad could happen more awful things happen to the community. At the end, we learn of the deceit that had been going on the entire time. We also understand the secrets and mysteries that the reader has been trying to figure out are finally revealed and just when you think they have all been revealed we learn of another secret that I feel sure the author will deal more within the next book to the series.

This is the second book that I have read by this author and I really enjoy her writing style. I just can’t seem to put the book down. So much happens in one day in the story and in the few days that the story is happening that the reader is trying hard to guess or find out who did it and what the real story is behind the things that are happening. I would highly recommend this book, but read the first book in the series first. That book lays a lot of groundwork for the second. This book would be a perfect read during a winter storm. I felt like I was right there with the characters in the storm. Simple Deceit comes out December 1, 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Review: Simple Secrets

Simple Secrets by Nancy Mehl is the first book in her Harmony series. I was able to read this book through Net Galley and Barbour Books and was provided with a digital copy for this review. I love Amish fiction and after recommendations from friends, I decided to read this book. While it is not about the Amish it is about Mennonites, a close relative of the religion. The Simple Secret in the book really is not so Simple! The story starts off introducing us to Gracie Temple, a graphic designer who loves her job in the big city. Gracie gets a phone call at work from her dad telling her that her uncle Benjamin, who has placed the Bann on his family, has died and left her his house, land and everything in the house. She decides to take two weeks off from work to go to the Kansas Mennonite Community of Harmony and collect some family heirlooms and sell the property. When she gets to the house, she discovers a letter her uncle left her about a secret he has been keeping. The secret told her that a man was killed and he buried the body on his land to protect Gracie’s father who he thought killed the man. Gracie and a neighbor, Sam Goodrich, who befriends her and introduces her to the town and then later helps her try to solve the mystery of who is the real killer. Gracie finds out that Harmony has a lot of secrets and someone even tries to scare her out of town. Will they find out who the killer is? Will the town secrets come out? Read to find out how the story all comes together. Sam and Gracie also seem to be falling for each other after only knowing each other a few days. How will they act on those feelings since Gracie has her dream job in the big city and Sam has no plans of leaving Harmony?

I was drawn to the story from the first chapter. My friends were right. If you like Amish fiction, you will love this book. This book had mystery, romance and even suspense. Sometimes I felt like the day in the life of Gracie and Sam went on forever since so much happened in one day. Overall, I LOVED the story and can’t wait to read the second book to the series called Simple Deceit. Simple Deceit comes out December 1, 2010. You can find Simple Secrets in stores now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: A Time to Love

A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron is the first book I have read by this author. I was able to read this book though NetGalley and Abingdon Press. I was given a copy of the book for this review. The book is about a young woman named Jenny King. Jenny has been serving as a reporter in the war zone. Her goal was to bring the story of the innocent children to the people back home. As she is doing her job, she is involved in a car bombing. She is badly hurt and rushed back to the states for medical care. Jenny wakes up with a quilt on her that brings back memories of summers she spent with her Amish grandmother. Jenny’s dad left the faith and Jenny was raised as an Englisher. She has a lot of memories from the times she spent with her grandmother. She decides to go heal at her Amish grandmother’s home. Jenny has speech, memory and walking problems. As she spends time healing, she is able to reconnect with a love she found one summer visiting her grandmother. Matthew is now a widower and has three children . His sister, Hannah, lives with the family to help with the house and kids. Jenny goes through a painful recovery and finally finds love. Will she leave the work she loves behind and become Amish for love? Find that out in this book.

I really like this author’s style of writing. It reminds me of classic Amish fiction and I really like those kinds of books. The one thing that is not so classic though, is how the author added in the aspect of war and war victims and the problems the children in a war zone face. That was really unique and something I have not seen in a lot of other Amish fiction books, especially since the Amish do not believe in fighting in wars. The book gives you a look at the next book in the series and I have to admit that I wish I had not read it because it will now be hard to wait for the next book in the series. There is also a recipe at the end of the book. The cook in me likes the novels that include recipes for me to enjoy. I also enjoy reading about the food in the book. I stay hungry reading Amish fiction. This book left me wanting tea, hot chocolate, and friendship bread to name a few.

I think that Barbara Cameron will be added to my authors I love list. I highly recommend this series. A Time to Heal comes out November 30, 2010. You won’t want to miss it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Murder in Plain Sight

Murder in Plain Sight by Marta Perry is a book that I recently read through NetGalley. I was given a copy of the book to review for the publisher, Harlequin Books. The book centers on a teenaged Amish boy named Thomas Esch, who is accused of brutally murdering a young woman named Cherry. The town of Springfield has already decided he is guilty before he even has a trial. Geneva Morgan believes in his innocence and decides to hire a lawyer from a big firm in Philadelphia. Jessica Langdon, a young lawyer who has not made her employer happy is told she must go represent the boy or lose her job. Jessica decides to go and represent the boy. She finds trouble all along the way such as not knowing enough about the Amish, trying to get run off from people in the community and even being put in physical danger. Jessica decides she will not be run off and fights to find evidence to get Thomas freed. Jessica meets Geneva’s son, Trey, who tries to run her off from the beginning. They seem to hate each other in the beginning. She starts to trust Trey to help her. The two begin to fall in love as they are putting together the clues. But when the clues start to come together, Jessica wonders if he’s lied to her the entire time. Will they figure out who actually killed Cherry? Will Jessica be able to trust Trey and be happy with him? Find out the answers to all these questions as you read the book.

This book is not like the normal Amish fiction I usually read. The main characters are not Amish and you don’t get to look in the Amish lives very much, but I still loved this book. The characters were very easy to fall in love with and the” who done it part” of the story kept you guessing to the end.

I like the “Plain Sight” in the title. It’s catchy and describes the book being in a Plain or Amish setting. I recently read another book of this author and it was called Hide in Plain Sight, but it is from a different series. From what I understand, Murder in Plain Sight will have other books to make it a series, and the others will probably have the “Plain Sight” titles too.

I highly recommend this book. It will be released in December 2010. I like how the book ended with lots of things look forward to in the next in the series.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Grace: A Christmas Sisters of the Heart Novel

Grace written by Shelley Shepard Gray is the fourth book in the Sisters of the Heart series. I was able to read this book through NetGalley and HarperCollins publishers.  I was given a advance copy of the book for this review. This book gives us a look back at the characters in the series and takes place at the Inn. I have read all of the books in the series, but I think this book could be read without ever reading the other books in the series because it is more about the new characters. I will warn you though that lots of information is given away about the other three books, so if you should decide to go ahead and read those you may know more than you want to know.

Grace gives us a look at where the characters from the series are now. I really liked seeing how they were doing. Katie and Jonathan had a 3 month old baby now named Eli. The other "sisters" in the series, Winnie and Anna, are happily married. It was really nice to get to see these characters again but the book was not really about them.

In the novel, the family is excited about Christmas and the fact that all of them will be staying for a week at the Inn to celebrate Christmas as a family. Just as they are getting ready to start the holidays, they get an unexpected piece of mail. That letter had gotten lost in the mail, so they did not get a man's reservation for his stay during the Christmas holiday and he is expected that day. We soon learn that this man is named Levi and he is also Amish. They also get another guest a young Amish woman named Melody who is almost nine months pregnant. Melody's boss gave her a gift certificate to the Inn to get away. During Levi's and Melody's visit to the Inn, they both came there to get away from unhappy events in their past. As they come to terms with those events, a friendship is formed between them that soon turns into a little more than friendship. Katie is so upset that they came and ruined the family's Christmas. She has to learn to accept them being there during the book. We also meet Melody's Englisher friend, Leah. Leah also decides to come to the Inn to be with her friend because she does not want her to be alone for Christmas. Leah takes a long time to get there, as the roads are bad from the winter weather. She meets Zach, a highway patrolman, and they instantly are attracted to each other.

God's Grace was a central theme in this book. I believe that things happen in life for a reason. You see God's hand in a lot of things going on in the book. While meeting a police officer on a road trip who you end up having a relationship with and being the only two guest at an Amish Bed and Breakfast and you find yourself falling for each other seems unlikely, I think that all things are possible with God's help. You see this theme in a lot of the books in this series too. Events seem to happen to bring people together or people just being in the right place at the right time. I really liked this central message in the story. I also like the fact that some of the events mirrored the Bible story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Shelley Shepard Gray got my interest in the book from Chapter one. I like books like that! I could not wait to see what was going to happen next. I also love reading books about Christmas. The story was described in a way that you felt like you were at the end during Christmas in the middle of a winter storm. You could see Christmas themes throughout the story, love, togetherness, and family. I also like that a lot of the recipes in the story were added to the end of the book.

I highly recommend this book. It would be a great read for the holiday season. The book comes out on November 1, 2010.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Forgiven

Forgiven written by Shelley Shepard Gray is the third book in the Sisters of the Heart series.  This book focuses on Winnie.  Winnie lives with her brother and one night their barn catches on fire. Winnie is hurt and taken to the hospital.  It is that barn burning that sets her on the road to finding someone to live the rest of her life with.  Anna and Henry also finally get married in the book.  Winnie’s brother also has to learn to forgive the person who burned his barn and almost caused the death of his sister. I really liked how this book brought all of the sisters Anna, Katie, and Winnie together at the end of the book.  I loved the characters and the stories in this book.  I did get a total different view of Winnie.  I did not like her very much in the second book, but she seemed so sweet and lovable in this one. I thought this was the end of the series, but it seems like Shelley Shepard Gray is coming out with a Christmas novel that takes place with all of these characters. I loved the whole series and can't wait to read the Christmas book.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Wanted

Wanted by Shelley Shepard Gray is the second book in the Sisters of the Heart series. The first book of this series, Hidden, focused on Anna coming to hide out at her friend Katie's Family Amish Bed and Breakfast. I knew that I enjoyed the first book so much that I wanted to read the second book. My library had a copy, but it was on the bookmobile. I asked them to keep an eye out for it and then one day, I found it on the shelf. Wanted is the story of Anna's friend Katie. Both of them like sisters now, hence the series title, Sister's of the Heart. Katie has a lot of secrets from her Rumpringa that she has to deal with and learn to forgive herself before she moves on in life. Those secrets that she thought she had put in the past finally come back to haunt her. She deals with them in this book. She also has taken a fancy to a widower named Jonathan. She started having eyes for him soon after his wife was killed in a buggy accident. Now Jonathan sister, Winnie, who has been taken care of Jonathan’s two daughters, wants to go meet a man she has been writing to and thinks he's her future. Jonathan asked Katie's family to let her come and help out for the two months that Winnie is out of town. It will be so hard on her to go and live with him when she has feelings for her he appears not to have any for her. Will she go and will she find the future she dreams about. All of this unfolds in this book. Katie really seems to grow up more during this time and let God help her figure out her future.

I really enjoyed this book. Shelley Shepard Gray is one of my favorite Amish fiction authors. I missed the inn setting in this book, as it was what I feel in love with in the first book. There is however still glimpses of the inn in it. This book reminded me of the importance of prayer in making important decisions in life. I can't wait for the next two in this series.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My October Top 10 Wish List

I have 141 books on my to read list on Goodreads.  These are just books that I found online or someone told me was good and I decided I wanted to keep a record so I could remember which books I might find appealing.  I don't ever know when I will get to all of them.  So, I decided to post my top 10 that are on my wish list right now. I plan to update these every month.

1. Wanted- Shelley Shepard Gray
2. Forgiven- Shelley Shepard Gray
3. Grace- Shelley Shepard Gray
4. The Thorn- Beverly Lewis
5. Anna's Return- Marta Perry
6. Sarah's Garden- Kelly Long
7. A Promise for Ellie- Lauraine Snelling
8. The Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins
9. The Sister Wife- Diane Noble
10. Down to the Bone- Karen Harper