From the author of Daughter of Australia comes a sweeping, heartfelt historical novel that follows a family of German immigrants who trade city living for the harsh realities of Pennsylvania farm life.
In 1914, Andrew Houghton’s family is one of hundreds eking out an existence in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Though he longs to be a veterinarian, he’s fated for a life underground, picking rock alongside his father.
That destiny changes when his aunt, Eveline Kiser, arranges for her husband to secure Andrew an apprenticeship on the railroad. Wilhelm Kiser, a German immigrant, has found his American dream in Pittsburgh, with a well-paying job as a brakeman, and a secure pension. But on Andrew’s first week, an incident goes tragically wrong, leaving him severely injured, his dreams shattered. Wracked with guilt, Wilhelm finally agrees to his wife’s pleas to leave Pittsburgh’s smog behind. With Andrew in tow, they swap their three-story row house for a rough-and-tumble farm.
Life in rural Pennsylvania is not as idyllic as Eveline imagined. The soil is slow to yield and their farmhouse is in disrepair. But there is one piece of beauty in this rugged land. Lily Morton is quick-witted and tough on the outside, but bears her own secret scars inside. Andrew’s bond with her will help steer them through all the challenges to come, even as anti-German sentiment spreads across America with the outbreak of World War I.
Beneath the Apple Leaves is a vivid, deeply moving portrait of family—its hardships, triumphs, and passions—and a powerfully authentic evocation of life on the land and the hearts that sustain it.
My Review of Beneath The Apple Leaves
Harmony Verna weaves a raw and emotional tale of love and loss in her latest novel Beneath The Apple Leaves.
After losing his father in the mines, Andrew Houghton leaves his dreams behind and resigns himself to a life underground to provide for his mother and his self. Andrew’s mother, dismayed and disillusioned from her loss, is determined to save her son from a life of misery and back breaking work. Without Andrew’s knowledge she secures a position for her son as a railroad trainee under the supervision of her sister’s husband Wilhelm Kiser. Out of time and options Andrew accepts and is determined to make the best of his new job and a family he has never met. Leaving the coal patches behind Andrew heads to a new job and a new life in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Beginning this new existence is hard at first. The city is different from the coal community he left behind and Wilhelm is nothing like his father. Determined to learn fast and work hard Andrew is just starting to get comfortable when a catastrophic train accident severely injures his left arm leaving him an amputee. Guilt, distraction and anti-German sentiment due to the WW I leave Wilhelm unable to perform his job competently. When Wilhelm is fired he buys a farm and packs up Andrew and family and heads to the country in hopes of a new life.
Unfortunately difficulties abound on the farm in rustic Pa. The house has seen its better days as well as the land they hope to farm. Supplies are low and Wilhelm is forced to spend most of his reserves to buy animals, equipment and supplies. Andrew is frustrated with his body once strong and must learn to change and adapt in order to pull his weight and accomplish tasks. However, despite the fears and predicted failures not all is pain and drudgery. As the Kiser’s settle in Andrew meets and is immediately smitten with his neighbor Lily Morton. As time goes by Lily proves to be an asset to the Kiser family and a balm to Andrew’s heart. But Lily harbors secrets of her own. Secrets she fears could destroy any chance she and Andrew have of finding love.
Harmony Verna has created a novel full of raw emotion in Beneath The Apple Leaves with memorable characters the reader won’t soon forget. Andrew, whose heart was easily given was by far my favorite character. Sensitive, strong and caring Andrew gave all that he had to everyone holding nothing back. His love and devotion to Lily was pure and strong. It was a joy to watch their relationship grow and develop. Lily was my second favorite character with a heart as big as Andrew’s. The secrets she carried may have bent her, but they never broke her. Her love for Andrew and her sister Claire was sweet and delicate leaving me privileged to see it develop and unfold. And through the good times and bad, the Kiser family grew and developed into the people they needed to be in order to survive all the challenges rural life threw at them. Last, but not least is Frank Morton, my least favorite character. If ever a despicable character was created, it lived in the likes of Frank Morton. From the moment he appeared in the book I knew there was going to be heartbreak and trouble. Aside from memorable characters and a strong storyline the book did contain some cursing and some sexual content. Something to note for the reader.
Beneath The Apple Leaves by Harmony Verna is a powerful and impassioned story of love and loss with memorable characters that will stay with you long after you turn the last page
I would like to thank Kensington Books via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Beneath The Apple Leaves for a fair and honest review.
In bestselling author Holly Chamberlin’s poignant new novel, a mother and daughter escape to a beautiful coastal town in Maine to find healing in the wake of heartbreaking loss.
The journey to Yorktide, Maine, was always a happy one for Frieda and Aaron Braithwaite and their two daughters. Frieda loves her mother’s old farmhouse, and the girls have grown closer there, sharing a bedroom and spinning stories into the night. But that was before—when tragedy was something that happened to other families.
Since the car crash that claimed the lives of her husband, and their younger daughter, Frieda has struggled emotionally and financially. Bella, now seventeen, is withdrawn and wary, and Frieda fears losing her too.
At her mother’s urging, Frieda decides to return to Yorktide with Bella for the summer. Bella gets a job in a local shop, and little by little edges her way back into the world. But it’s the unexpected connections they make—with a former schoolmate, a troubled teenage girl, and Frieda’s estranged father—that will spur them to find healing amid bittersweet memories, and discover if their bond is strong enough to guide them back to hope once more.
My Review of Home for the Summer
Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin is a moving story of love and loss and the importance of friends and family. An idyllic vacation in Jamaica to celebrate Aaron and Freida Braithwaite’s eldest daughter Bella’s birthday turns to unexpected tragedy when an automobile accident takes the lives of Aaron and their youngest daughter Ariel. Returning home to Massachusetts Freida and Bella are left to deal with the devastating loss of their loved ones with very limited success. After making small strides with a grief counselor, Bella at the anniversary of the accident becomes sullen and withdrawn. Desperate for a change in scenery and a way to help her daughter, Freida accepts her mother’s invitation to spend the summer in Yorktide, Maine.
As the summer progresses events take shape that begin to change everyone’s lives. Freida is once again reunited with her father and Jack, an old school friend that opens her eyes and heart to the possibility of finding love. Ruby, Freida’s compassionate and gregarious mother determined to assist her small family to heal, finds a way to let go of the broken marriage of her past to trust again. And Bella, through the pain of a new friendship with a girl named Clara and her grandmother’s best friend Phil, discovers how much she is blessed despite the tragedy she endured. With a new found love for her family and a determination to live fully, Bella once again sees the value of her life and all that it has to offer.
Holly Chamberlin always writes about the beauty of family and relationships and Home for the Summer doesn’t fail. I really liked the compassion shown to each other in this novel even in the worst and the most painful of circumstances. Freida and Ruby both learn they need to let go and trust. The male characters are all different, but caring and patient which I found particularly found endearing. Bella, was the most complex of the characters and showed the most change throughout the novel. It took the patience of her loved ones and the dysfunctional friendship with Clara to show her what she had in her life was worth living and fighting for. The changes in Bella were gradual and believable and I love a happy, realistic ending.
Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin is a heartfelt and moving story of family and love and finding your way home. Pack it up with your sunscreen and beach towels and settle in for a tender and ardent read.
I want to thank Kensington Books for an advanced copy of Home for the Summer by Holly Chamberlin for a fair and honest review.
When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.
Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.
Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.
But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.
As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?
My Review of Sweetbriar Cottage
Sweetbriar Cottage is a delightful Christian romance by Denise Hunter sure to lighten your heart and leave you with a smile. Noah Hunter, a handsome local contractor in need of a haircut enters a new barber shop in Copper Creek, Georgia where he meets owner and operator, Josephine DuPree, and his life is never the same. Completely smitten and wanting to spend more time with her, Noah offers to help Josie expand her new shop in order to add stylists and encourage more clientele. As time goes on, their work relationship takes a personal turn as each begin to fall in love with the other. Noah wears his heart on his sleeve and is completely head over hills despite his family and friends’ reservations. Against their advice Noah asks Josie to marry and plans to live happily ever after. But Josie is harboring a dark secret of her own and in time it ruins her marriage.
No longer wed, Noah begins to settle into a life without Josie. His failed marriage and his unresolved feelings still haunt him and Josie who is unable to deal emotionally with her past. And if things weren’t complicated enough an unexpected letter arrives from the IRS where the couple discovers the divorce was never finalized. Seeking to resolve the matter and make amends Josie files new paperwork and takes it to Sweetbriar Cottage to rectify the error and free Noah. But Providence seems to have another plan as Josie’s car will not start and a snowstorm bears down on the area leaving them alone and stranded. With only each other to rely on, Josie and Noah are forced to battle the elements together, but battling their feelings proves much more difficult.
I really liked this book. It was lighthearted, but sincere enough to tackle serious issues. I liked the way Denise Hunter wrote her characters, major and supporting. My favorite character was Noah. He was sweet and sensitive, but conflicted. I especially liked his ability to change and adapt to any given situation. Because of Noah, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Josie. Noah appeared genuine and forthright while Josie remained hidden, a little too saccharin. However, as time went on, I love the way the author began to expose her vulnerabilities. It allowed me to understand her false bravado and the loneliness Josie harbored all through her life. It made me cheer to heal their broken relationship and hope for a brighter future.
Sweetbriar Cottage is an easy and lighthearted read perfect for a warm summer day. If you are headed for the beach or pool, pack this along with your sunscreen. The characters are engaging, the storyline compelling and the ending sure to please.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter for a fair and honest review.
A LITTLE ENCOURAGEMENT CAN BE A BIG HELP.
Jesus never promised that we would be free of difficulties in this life, that neither suffering nor hardship would cause us pain. What he did promise was to be with us no matter the situation—“even to the end of the age.”
Sacred Space: A Little Book of Encouragement offers seventy short chapters to comfort us with God’s presence in the midst of life’s challenges and to remind us that Jesus journeys with us step-by-step. Each entry—which includes a Gospel reading, a short reflection, and a prayer—is given a descriptive title so that readers can easily find the encouragement they need depending on their situation at the time.
Lovingly compiled by Vinita Hampton Wright using select material from Sacred Space (the online prayer site that serves millions of spiritual pilgrims), this inviting and reassuring little book gently reminds us of the compassion, care, and calm that God provides in our moments of need.
My Review of Sacred Space:A Little Book Of Encouragement
What a beautiful book of prayer and contemplation to be had in Sacred Space: A Little Book Of Encouragement by The Irish Jesuits. Vinita Hampton Wright has selected material from the Sacred Space website and has given us seventy abbreviated chapters of wisdom, love, confidence and hope in each and every section of this little book. Each chapter speaks to the heart to give comfort and support no matter where you are in your personal life’s journey. Each chapter contains Scripture, a reflection and a prayer. You are encouraged to look at the table of contents and select a reading that pertains to your situation at any given moment. There is nothing that is not covered in this book. From happiness, confusion, fear and suffering, this little book has it all.
What I really liked about this book is the ease in which material can be read and accessed. I was able to look through the chapters and select any section that pertained to how I was feeling that day. Once I selected what I wanted to read and contemplate, I was able to spend as much or as little time as I wanted. It’s a beautiful way to pray. It’s also a wonderful way to practice Lectio Divina, (contemplating and praying through the Scriptures). It’s impossible to go wrong with this book. I found it a comforting way to start and finish my day.
In addition, this little treasure also negates the excuse of “I’m too busy to pray” or “If I only had more time”. Each chapter is short taking only minutes to read, meditate and pray leaving one with a clearer and more favorable perspective for the day. Give this little book of prayer and Scripture serious consideration. You will not be sorry you did.
I want to thank Loyola Press via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Sacred Space: A Little Book Of Encouragement by The Irish Jesuits for a fair and honest review.
The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a warm, wise, and wonderfully vivid novel about a mother who asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.
Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.
As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother’s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London—and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.
But now the Sunshine Sisters are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy have never been close, their mother’s illness draws them together to confront the old jealousies and secret fears that have threatened to tear these sisters apart. As they face the loss of their mother, they will discover if blood might be thicker than water after all...
My Review of The Sunshine Sisters
Jane Green’s, The Sunshine Sisters is the emotional story of a three estranged sisters coming home to be with their mother during her final days. Ronni Sunshine, a movie actress has had some limited success in her career. Recognized and adored by many, Ronni loves the spotlight and the adulation of her adoring fans, but all of this self-absorption and egotism comes at a cost. Her marriage eventually dissolves due to countless affairs and her daughters become adept with coping with her mood swings but not without a price. Nell, the eldest has learned to hide her feelings and cuts herself off to others emotionally, Meredith learns to swallow her feelings with excess food and Lizzy, a wild young version of her mother, practically raises herself. Trying to please their mother while avoiding her wrath, the girls eventually grow up, grow apart and in due course leave home.
As time goes by the sisters live successful lives, but remain distant from one another. Nell manages a large farm while raising her son solo, Meredith becomes an accountant while engaged to a man she doesn’t love, and Lizzy now a mom, becomes a famous chef, but is unfaithful to a spouse she claims to love. Soon the sisters’ world comes crashing down with a phone call from their mother asking them to return home. Once reunited she reveals she has ALS and is dying, but plans to hurry the process and desires her girls by her side. In the time she has left Ronni hopes to make amends to her daughters for all the years of neglect and hopes with all her heart the Sunshine sisters can become reacquainted and learn to love each other again. With time running out for their mother, the sisters are forced to confront the past in order to forgive their mother and embrace a bright new future together.
What I liked about Jane Green’s The Sunshine Sisters is her strong female characters. Ronni is a formidable woman that made me scream one minute and cry the next. Nell made me want to shake her to elicit emotion while Meredith made me weep with her lack of self-worth and untapped potential. Lizzy though beautiful and talented made me want to shake some sense and sensitivity into her because she was too much like her mother. I was pleased that despite their regrettable upbringing the sisters forgave their mother and accepted her shortcomings and found their way back to each other and connected like they couldn’t growing up. What I didn’t like about The Sunshine Sisters was the excessive coarse language and occasional racy scene. I don’t feel it added anything to the storyline and at times was excessive and took away from the characters and the emotional drama of the story which stood on its own.
The Sunshine Sisters is a story of love and forgiveness in the most difficult of circumstances. It’s a story of what it means to be family during good times as well as bad.
I want to thank Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Jane Green’s The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green for a fair and honest review.
In this gripping conclusion to The Alliance, nearly six months have passed since Leora Ebersole’s Old Order Mennonite community fled to the mountains for refuge after an attack destroyed the power grid and altered life as they knew it. Since then, Leora has watched and waited for news of Moses Hughes, the young Englischer pilot who held off invading looters long enough for everyone to escape. Unsure Moses even survived, Leora has begun to warm to the affections of Jabil Snyder, who has courted her patiently. But she struggles to see herself as the bishop’s wife, especially when she learns that Moses is alive and has now joined a local militia.
An unexpected encounter in the woods deepens Leora’s crisis, as does a terrifying new threat that brings Moses’ militia into the community’s shaky alliance with the few Englischers left among them. When long-held beliefs are once again put to the test, Leora wrestles with the divide between having faith and taking action. Just how much will her shifting landscape change her?
My Review of The Divide
The Divide, a dystopian novel by Jolina Petersheim, is the stunning sequel and conclusion to The Alliance, a story about a Mennonite Community living a peaceful life in Mt. Hebron, Montana when an EMP destroys everything they have ever known. Leaving Moses Huges behind to defend the last of their community, Leora Ebersole flees with longtime admirer, Jabil Synder and her family into the mountains to build a new life that will hopefully sustain this small but devoted Mennonite community.
With love and devotion to one another, the Mt. Hebron Mennonite’s begin to build a new life for themselves, but all is not easy. Hunger and cold test the best of spirits and sickness begins to take its toll, especially on the young and elderly. Leora is persistently wooed by Jabil, but her heart remains with Moses, who she believes she may never see again. As time goes by, Leora has almost given up hope when Moses returns and reignites her lonely heart. But all is not as it seems and a growing evil menace threatens this new found community and all that they have built with their blood, sweat and tears. With lives at stake, this peaceful Mennonite community must now decide to maintain their peaceful ways or defend all they have strived to build.
I absolutely loved The Divide. After reading The Alliance, I wanted so many of my questions answered and Jolina Petersheim has delivered on every one of them. The characters she created in The Alliance remain true in The Divide. Leora remained brave, resolute and loving, Moses, my hero found the courage to trust his heart and Jabil remained stoic and unyielding even in the face of losing everything he loved. I loved her new characters, (there are good guys and bad guys a plenty), in particular Josh who lent credence to an already great storyline that kept me guessing and surprised to the very end.
If you have read The Alliance, The Divide is a must read. It will keep you turning the pages as there is never a dull moment. If you have not read The Alliance, do yourself a favor and purchase this book and its sequel The Divide. You will not be able to put it down and the characters will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
I want to thank Tyndale House Publishers via NetGalley for an advanced copy of The Divide by Jolina Petersheim for a fair and honest review.
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