Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Taking a break

Prospect House in London

Hello Friends!  At the beginning of the year my husband retired from his career as a mail carrier.  It was an early retirement and one that we weren't actually planning for quite yet.  For several years, we have been maintaining a small online resale business and have been growing that business in the last several months as well.  These two things combined have led to quite a bit of change in our home and in my schedule.  All that to say, I am struggling to find time to write book reviews.  When I do have some time, I would much rather read a book or visit one of your blogs 😊.  So, I will be taking a blogging break for a while to get settled in to this new routine.  I'm sure you will see me around as I love visiting your blogs.  

~ Gretchen


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Book Review: The Story of Love by Beth Wiseman


The Story of Love (The Amish Bookstore #2). Beth Wiseman. Zondervan (2022). 336 pages. Genre: Women's Fiction, Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction.

First Line of Prologue: "Yvonne locked the door of her house in Houston for the final time, then slipped the key under the mat like she had promised the new owners - a young family with two small children."

Summary (Goodreads): When Yvonne Wilson’s Amish friends, Jake and Eva Lantz, offer her an opportunity to run their bookstore in Montgomery, Indiana, Yvonne jumps on the opportunity for a change of scenery. She leaves her home in Texas to take on her new job as manager of the bookstore. A spark is rekindled unexpectedly when the move brings her back into contact with Abraham Byler. But Abraham is now dating a woman named Brianna, and the last thing Yvonne wants is to interfere in their relationship.

Abraham grew up Amish, but he chose not to be baptized, eventually entering a career as a sheriff in the hopes of bringing justice to his community. But when a high-stakes situation on the job arises, he begins to question his decisions and contemplate a return to his Amish roots. Meanwhile, he finds himself drawn to Yvonne—casting doubt on his current relationship with Brianna. Brianna herself is keeping secrets . . . and some of those secrets might be dangerous.

As tensions rise, both Yvonne and Abraham will have to choose the best path for themselves—even if it puts their romance at risk.

My thoughts:  This second book in the Amish Bookstore series picks up several months after the first book ended.  We met Yvonne in the first book and I was glad to pick up with her again. 

Yvonne and Abraham met in the first book, but Yvonne wasn't ready to begin a relationship so soon after her fiance died.  As she is starting a new life in Indiana, she would be happy for Abraham's friendship, but feels a little funny about it considering he is dating someone.  Yvonne doesn't have to wait long to meet Brianna, Abraham's girlfriend.  She presents herself at the bookstore and introduces herself as Abraham's girlfriend.  Yvonne is gracious even though she is a bit surprised.  Brianna stands out with her expensive clothes and well-coifed hair-do. 

Abraham Byler was raised Amish, but chose not to be baptized into the faith.  He became a police officer and is serving the community he grew up in. Because he chose not to be baptized, he is still able to see his family and does so often.  This is why it is surprising to Yvonne that Abraham would be dating Brianna.  She is certainly attractive, but she seems to be the opposite of the Amish.  

This is a unique storyline in that the main characters aren't Amish.  There are some really difficult topics presented in the story - mental health, anger, revenge, abuse, use of firearms, deception.  Fortunately, the author does a great job of keeping the story from becoming too heavy.  Some of the positive themes are friendship, love, serving others, honesty and family.  

There is a mystery to solve, just like there was in the first book, which led to some suspense. I was surprised by the way things worked out.  

This was an interesting story that held my attention.  It could work as a stand-alone, but reading the first book introduces you to the bookstore, Yvonne and Abraham, and the Amish community.  Yvonne has grown quite a bit since the first book, which I loved.  And I loved the ending.  Now, I am eagerly anticipating the third book in the series which comes out in April.


"As she pulled out of the driveway, she took a deep breath, determined to keep at bay her anxiety over this big change and instead embrace the new adventure."

"The dog didn't get up.  She tried to coax him inside a couple more times, but he didn't move.  'Okay, well, I tried.' She was opening the door to go back inside when the dog stood and slowly walked to her side.  The animal looked at her but quickly cowered and lowered his head."

Other books in the series:

Monday, March 6, 2023

Book Review: All That is Secret by Patricia Raybon


All That is Secret (Annalee Spain #1).  Patricia Raybon. Tyndale House (2021). 400 pages. Genre:  Mystery, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction.

First Lines of the Prologue: "November 1922.  The little baby was four hours old.  Still unwashed.  Barely crying."

Summary (Goodreads): In the winter of 1923, Professor Annalee Spain--a daring but overworked theologian at a small Chicago Bible college--receives a cryptic telegram calling her home to Denver to solve the mystery of the murder of her beloved but estranged father.

For a young Black woman, searching for answers in a city ruled by the KKK could mean real danger. Still, with her literary hero Sherlock Holmes as inspiration, Annalee launches her hunt for clues, attracting two surprising allies: Eddie, a relentless young white boy searching for his missing father, and Jack, a handsome Black pastor who loves nightclub dancing and rides in his sporty car, awakening Annalee's heart to the surprising highs and lows of romantic love.

With their help, Annalee follows clues that land her among Denver's powerful elite. But when their sleuthing unravels sinister motives and deep secrets, Annalee confronts the dangerous truths and beliefs that could make her a victim too.

My thoughts:  This is a great start to a mystery series.  Annalee Spain grew up in Colorado, mostly raised by her alcoholic father.  She never knew her mother.  When her father wasn't around or incapacitated, the ladies in the neighborhood looked out for her.  Annalee was determined to rise above a life of poverty.  When she went to college and became a professor, her father was so proud of her.  In fact, they were mending their relationship.  Joe Spain was planning a trip to Chicago to visit Annalee.  But he never showed up.  They say he fell from a train.  Annalee suspects he was pushed and is determined to find out the truth.

There is lots of action and suspense intermixed with quieter times.  Unraveling the mystery isn't easy, but there are threads to pull.  Everybody knows something, but most aren't talking.  Unfortunately, the city of Denver is run by the KKK.  Everybody is under their thumb including the police.  Annalee does put herself in some dangerous situations in order to learn things, but they are not unrealistic.  Mostly she learns things by listening.  She is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and each chapter starts with a quote from one of his stories.  

The collection of secondary characters is great.  Mrs. Stallworth, her landlady, is the closest thing to a mother she has.  Eddie, an orphan with no home, is completely loyal to Annalee after she gives him some dinner when he would have gone without.  Reverend Jack Robert Blake, current pastor at Mount Moriah AME does all he can to help and protect Annalee.  And then there is Sidney Castle who seems to be helping Annalee, but she is not sure why.  

I really got a feel for Denver of the 1920's.  The atmosphere was tense.  The neighborhoods segregated and favor given to whoever had the most money.  The KKK members had their hands in everything, even the churches.  The author includes a note at the back of the book indicating that she grew up in Colorado along with some of the history she incorporated in the book. 

She says, "The Ku Klux Klan's 1920s revival, meantime, was legendary in Colorado, where membership was the second largest per capita in the United States (after Indiana) - claiming between 55,000 and 75,000 members, including women.  The Grand Dragon of Colorado's Klan was not Eddie Brown Sr. (my fictional name), but a homeopathic physician named Dr. John Galen Locke, who engineered a hate campaign against Jews, Blacks, Catholics, and immigrants, declaring that only native-born, English-speaking, white Protestants were 100 percent American."

There is a strong faith-thread in the story about trusting God and not trying to do things on your own.  

Overall this was an absorbing read that kept me turning pages.  I am so glad this is a series and look forward to reading the newly released second book, Double the Lies.


"Of the arrogance it took to believe she could study God or comprehend who God is in a world that rarely makes a lick of sense, because it's so God-forsaken and desperate and crazy."

"She'd been walking in circles.  Moving and going. Aimless.  Distracted. Letting life happen to her.  Never planning it.  Or deciding clearly where she was going.  That's how she ended up at the Bible college.  It was only one of seven, after learning she was colored, that would take her.  But what did she learn there that mattered now?  Finally this: God is visionary.  Tactical.  A planner.  A builder.  Laboring with detailed plans."

Thursday, March 2, 2023

February Reading Wrap-Up


While this is the February Reading Wrap-Up, I didn't get around to doing a Wrap-Up in January because my husband and I did some traveling.  Part of our trip included a seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean and Mexico.  The picture above is me standing on the beach in Roaton, Honduras.  That is our cruise ship you can see docked there.  

Back at home, the month of February has been an icy, snowy one.  Many days I have either had to skip my daily walk or drive to the mall and walk there because of the ice.  

February was a great reading month for me though.  I read 10 books, with three five-star reads.  

Here's the breakdown:

Historical Fiction: 2
Romantic Suspense: 1
Cozy Mystery: 2
Classic: 1
Non-fiction: 2
Contemporary Romance: 1
Mystery: 1

The link will take you to my review.

Historical Fiction: 

Romantic Suspense:

Cozy Mystery:

Murder in Moscow (Murder, She Wrote #10) by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain



The Silhouette Solution by Brenda Cooper

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Bennan Manning

Contemporary Romance:


All That is Secret (Annalee Spain #1) by Patricia Raybon - 5 stars (review coming soon)

Hope you all have had a great February! 
~ Gretchen

I am linking up with The Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.