Review of A Refuge at Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

I've had the opportunity to read the first two books in Carrie Turansky's Edwardian Brides series. A Refuge at Highland Hall is the third book in the series.

Set in London and the English countryside during World War 1, A Refuge at Highland Hall is a Christian historical fiction read. Although it refers to characters and story lines of the previous books, you can read it without having read the other books in the series.

Historical, Christian fiction review

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In this installment, Alex Goodwin is a soldier heading off to be in the RNAS. He's going to be a pilot whose goal is to shoot down German bombers before they can do damage. It's a very risky job. While in London recovering from an injury, he meets the sister-in-law of his friend Jon.

Penny is a character from previous books. She's living with her sister and brother-in-law helping them to care for the orphan children they've taken in. She's drawn to Alex Goodwin and wants him to know that there's someone waiting for him and thinking of him back home when he goes out to serve as a pilot. The two begin a communication even as Penny follows her sister's family to a refuge in the English countryside, away from the London bombings. The story follows the effects of the war on each of the characters and relates the growing relationship between Penny and Alex.

As with the previous books, I really enjoyed this one. The author does a great job developing the characters, and I felt as if I really got to know them. She continues the threads of stories from previous books as well, and it is interesting to read and find out what's happening with the characters I got to know in those stories.

This book, like the others, isn't a simplistic story. There are several stories going on around the main story of Penny and Alex. This keeps the book interesting. There's a good portrayal of what's going on in the war and the effect it has on England. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the book.

There are a few times when the story is predictable. But even with that, I definitely enjoyed this book as I did the first two. I can recommend this one. I give it 4 stars and a PG rating for content (because of the references to the war and death). You can find the book on Amazon here.

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Review of The Golden Braid: a Rapunzel Story by Melanie Dickerson

The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson is a spin off on the fairy tale story of Rapunzel. The book's description intrigued me, so I was interested to give it a read.

Fairy tale adaptation of Rapunzel

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Rapunzel lives a lonely and strange life alone with only her mother in a Medieval setting. Although she's nineteen, her mother won't let her talk to men at all, much less think about marriage. She also has some strange rules about not letting Rapunzel show her beautiful golden hair or sing around other people. If anyone gets too close to the two of them, they move to a new town.

When they find themselves on the move again, they're headed back to the town where Rapunzel was born. She knows that she was adopted by her mother as a baby or small toddler but doesn't know anything about her life before that.

The women are headed down the trail through the forest when they are attacked by robbers. A knight comes to their rescue. Rapunzel is drawn to him, but her mother is typically rude and standoffish. Her mother finally agrees to help the knight who has been wounded when his horse fell on him.

When Rapunzel and her mother reach their destination, Rapunzel will begin to learn some things- about her feelings for the knight- Sir Gerek- and about her birth and her adopted mother.

The story has elements of the Rapunzel fairy tale, but there are some added bits that make it seem like historical fiction read- although it isn't real history. There isn't any magic or fairy dust. The characters have been changed into real people with real lives and real loves.

The story idea is interesting, but it was often predictable. The characters weren't deeply developed, so it was hard to really feel drawn to them. All in all, I liked the idea; but the story itself just didn't grab me.

If you're looking for a light, easy read and like the fairy tale twist, you may enjoy The Golden Braid. I give it 3 stars and a G rating for content. You can find the book on Amazon here.

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Review of Ashes to Ashes: a Medieval Mystery by Mel Starr

I read the synopsis for Ashes to Ashes and was very intrigued. Although I love historical fiction and especially enjoy those set in the Middle Ages, I'd never really read a Middle Ages mystery novel. In Ashes to Ashes I was introduced to Master Hugh de Singleton. He works as bailiff and surgeon for a medieval Lord, and he's apparently very good at stumbling into adventures because this is book eight in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon.

Review of Ashes to Ashes, a medieval mystery

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In this installment, Hugh sets off to investigate the death and potential murder of person whose bones are found in the ashes of the Midsummer's Eve fire. His investigations send him off on a few tangents, and he eventually stumbles into a mystery surrounding the missing bailiff of a close village. Hugh faces danger and the threat of violence or death to continue pursuing the answers and discover the truth about the bones found in the ashes.

I have to say that I really loved this book. I was pleasantly surprised. As I said earlier, I've never read a medieval mystery, and I've never read this author, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Hugh is a very likable hero. His character is well-developed, and I enjoyed getting to know him. The story is told in first person from his perspective, but from his relationships with those around him, we're introduced to a great cast of compelling characters.

Hugh's adventures unfold with suspense and humor in turns. This was a true whodunnit read, keeping me guessing about the outcome throughout the book.

I'm sure to look for other Hugh de Singleton adventures. I was able to read this fine as a stand alone, although there were a few references to previous events. I give Ashes to Ashes 5 stars and a PG rating. You can find the book on Amazon here and on Kregel here.

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Review of The Peacock Throne, Historical Fiction by Lisa Karon Richardson

The Peacock Throne is set in Victorian England. It's a story that includes suspense and intrigue as well as a bit of romance.

Review of The Peacock Throne, historical fiction set in Victorian England

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Two murders take place within a short amount of time. Lydia Garrett's guardian, her uncle, is murdered. And Lord Danbury, father of Anthony Danbury is murdered. Lydia and Anthony find each other and realize that the two men served together in the navy. They find correspondence that links the men's time in the navy with the murders- and a reference to the Peacock Throne, an Indian treasure. Marcus Wiltshire is also interested in the murders. He's a British intelligence agent who has heard rumors that Napolean Bonaparte wants to return the throne to India and cause trouble between the English government and India. The three end up together seeking the throne and attempting to find out who has been behind the murders.

I liked the premise of this story. It's a different scenario than one I've read before. But, although the book was interesting, it wasn't my favorite. I never felt as though the characters were well-developed. I found myself wanting to get to know them more. There was more action and dialogue and less introspection on the part of the characters.

Another thing that made the story one I wasn't as taken with is the historical setting. I don't enjoy the very formal, stilted interactions between the characters. Although I know that it's probably historically accurate, I think it makes it harder to connect with and understand the characters- especially if there is supposed to be a developing romance.

All in all, this is a story that is different enough to be interesting, and it can be enjoyable if you like the time period. I give The Peacock Throne 3.5 stars and a G rating for content. You can find the book on the Kregel site here and on Amazon here.

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Review of I Hope You Dance: Fiction From Beth Moran

Last year I read and reviewed Making Marion by Beth Moran. This was a new to me author, and I really enjoyed the book. Now I've had the opportunity to review another of her books- I Hope You Dance.

Review of I Hope You Dance, fiction

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I Hope You Dance is set in the same small English town that Making Marion takes place in. Ruth, after the death of her partner of many years, is coming back home to the small down with her teen daughter Maggie. Ruth left the town in distress years ago when the boy next door that she'd always thought she's marry left her.

Now Ruth is back. And, although she didn't expect it, she begins to actually build friendships and to enjoy her relationships in her old hometown. But will she have another chance with David- the boy next door?

I love the setting. It's one thing that especially grabs me with both of these books by Beth Moran. Beth's great descriptions of the village and the people there make me want to be transported to England. It's a setting that readers can relate to.

The characters in I Hope You Dance are also especially compelling. The author does an excellent job of character development, and so I find myself truly liking the characters and wanting to get to know them. Ruth is a heroine who definitely isn't perfect, but she's relatable. She's real enough that I don't feel intimidated by her perfectness- like characters in some stories I read.

I Hope You Dance is filled with the hope of second chances. It touches on all of those relationships that define us- good relationships and difficult ones. And it leaves the reader with a hopeful expectation of good things to come.

I give I Hope You Dance 5 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find the book on Kregel here or on Amazon here.

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Review of Redeeming Cade, Inspirational Romance by Susan Crawford

It's no secret to my readers that I enjoy good inspirational romance. I like the short, easy to read novels that make for a quick read in a couple of days but that have a little depth, some good character development, and something that is going to edify and encourage my own faith. Redeeming Cade by Susan Crawford is a good one that fits this description.

Review of inspirational romance from Redbud Press

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Cade McGuire is an ex-convict that now is the assistant director of a downtown rescue mission. God has worked in Cade's life mightily, and he is thankful for the opportunity he's had to become a new person. When he learns of a downtown development project that is going to close down the rescue mission as part of the "progress", he's determines to stop it from happening. But the head of the downtown project- Darby Phillips- is running for a city council seat , and this is part of her campaign. The two butt heads immediately, and Cade invites Darby to come to the mission to see for herself how things work and meet some of the residents. Darby has a good heart, but she's caught up in the political machinations of her mother- her campaign manager. The two build a relationship as they deal with the situation with the mission and Darby's campaign.

Redeeming Cade isn't a deep or thoughtful novel. But it has likable characters and a compelling story that isn't too predictable. The message of Cade's redemption and new life in Christ is woven throughout the story as is Darby's realization that she can make decisions on her own- and verify that she's deciding based on God's plan- and not just follow along with what her mother tells her to do.

If you're looking for a light, easy romance, Redeeming Cade is a good one. I give it 4 stars and a G rating for content. You can find the book on Amazon here.

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Review of a Biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Young Readers

I have long been interested in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His life, lived out in Germany during World War 2, the reign of Hitler, and the persecution and killing of many Jews, is an inspiration and encouragement. He took a stand against Hitler's regime when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so. Just a few months before the end of the war, he was executed for playing a part in a plan to assonate Hitler.

Review of a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for students

I had the opportunity to review Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. This biography of Bonhoeffer is written for middle grade students. I love to read biographies aloud to the kids because reading about the lives of great men and women can be inspiring and can lead to some great discussions. So I reviewed this biography to see if it would be a good one to share with the kids. I was very impressed.

The book opens with a memorial service for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The author then begins at the beginning of Dietrich's life and follows his life so that readers can see the events and forces that shaped him into the man he became, the man who was determined to stand against the evil of Hitler and the treatment of the Jews.

There are some great extras throughout that make the book a good one to use for the kids. There are charts, maps, the Bonhoeffer family tree, and other visuals throughout the book. At the beginning of each chapter there is a timeline section to show readers when the events of Bonhoeffer's life occur. Throughout the book there are highlighted vocabulary words that are defined at the end of the book. In the Kindle edition, you can click on each word to see the definition/explanation as you read. At the end of each chapter there are some thinking/discussion questions. These review what was read in the chapter and give opportunities for talking through the information in the chapter.

The book is written in a style that younger readers will understand. Although the age recommendation I found says ages 11-14, I think my younger girls will understand it fine if we read it aloud and discuss. The author writes in a conversational style and occasionally adds in explanations or questions directed towards the reader.

This is one I definitely recommend as a good biography for kids. It could easily be read aloud by most middle school-aged kids or older, and younger kids could it enjoy it read aloud. You can find Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas here on Amazon.

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