Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Traitor's Wife

Book Review

In elementary school I learned about Benedict Arnold. I remember at various times in my life hearing someone say, “Why you Benedict Arnold!” The infamous Arnold has become part of our cultural literacy. However, I have never heard anyone mention his wife, a popular Philadelphia socialite.
Allison Pataki has taken care of this matter. The Traitor’s Wife is a novel about Margaret (Peggy) Shippen Arnold. The story is written through the eyes of Clara, Peggy’s ladies’ maid. The book is 457 pages and covers several years during the Revolutionary War.
I felt that in the beginning the book moved rather slow. Reading about endless parties, beautiful gowns, and flirting did not hold my attention. As the book progressed, it became thought provoking. Even though I knew that Arnold was found out the story became exciting.
Pataki has wonderful, well-described characters and she has done a good job of portraying their personalities. Peggy who began the book as a thoughtless, self-centered girl developed into an evil, conniving woman with absolutely no morals. Through Clara’s eyes the reader watches her become a frightening villain. Oddly, I found myself feeling sorry for Benedict. Realizing the book is historical fiction; I felt that without Peggy he never would have turned traitorous. The Arnold’s servants formed a wonderful, caring family and Clara, an orphan, found a home with them. The story was also Clara’s love story.
The story showcased a fascinating time in American history. It also showed the complete depravation of a soul. It depicted Benedict Arnold as an excellent but flawed general who allowed bitterness to take over his life. It showed the tenacity of the servants and their ability to make life bearable in the worst circumstances through caring about each other.
This book has much to like. It fleshes out a well-known period in American history.  It is an in-depth study of the human experience. And even though it is common knowledge that Benedict Arnold was not successful the story became riveting. I highly recommend this book.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the Book

Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold's documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as Military Commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

About the Author

Allison Pataki graduated Cum Laude from Yale University and has spent several years writing for TV and online news outlets, including and The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison was inspired to write The Traitor’s Wife based on the rich Revolutionary War history of her hometown in New York State’s Hudson Highlands. The Traitor’s Wife is Allison’s first novel. She lives in Chicago with her husband, David.

A Promise Kept

Book Review

Robin Lee Hatcher is a well-known, popular author of Christian fiction. A Promise Kept is an extraordinary book because it tells Hatcher’s personal story. She and her husband were divorced because of her husband’s alcoholism. God restored this marriage and Hatcher used her protagonist Allison, to tell this story.
The book is also unusual in that it seamlessly switches between two women. Allison’s story, set in contemporary times is juxtaposed with Allison’s great-aunt, Emma, set in the 1920’s and 30’s. Both of the narratives of these two women gripped me, so much so that I forgot about the winter weather going on outside.
Hatcher skillfully explored themes of betrayal and loss. But she also described redemption and healing. I loved Emma’ story – the story of growing up with a beautiful sister who had boyfriends galore, while she “faded into the wallpaper.” Emma did get married but she had a loveless marriage with an unfaithful husband.  She finally found independence and freedom.
Allison’s story was uplifting. It shows the journey from bitterness and avoiding God to a strong, forgiving woman, transformed by the grace of God. Her story reminded me of how God’s time is often so different from our time. Allison “waited on the Lord” and her marriage was healed.
I actually hated being done with this book. I wanted to spend another year in King’s Meadow, Idaho – the setting for the story. The descriptions of the beautiful surroundings were inspiring – even the parts about the snowy winter. I longed to be a part of Allison’s new church community and the story of her growing friendship with Susan was lovely. I also enjoyed Emma’s beautiful sister, Elizabeth. The story showed “Liza” had more than just a beautiful face.
I received this book from the publisher in return for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the book

God was going to save her marriage, Allison was sure of it. But neither her husband nor her marriage had been saved.

What had become of His promise?

Tony Kavanagh had been Allison's dream-come-true. They were in love within days, engaged within weeks, married and pregnant within a year. Her cup bubbled over with joy . . . but years later, that joy had been extinguished by unexpected trials.

The day Allison issued her husband an ultimatum, she thought it might save him. She never expected he would actually leave. She was certain God had promised to heal; it was clear that she'd misunderstood.

Now, living in the quiet mountain cabin she inherited from her single, self-reliant Great Aunt Emma, Allison must come to terms with her grief and figure out how to adapt to small town life. But when she finds a wedding dress and a collection of journals in Emma's attic, a portrait of her aunt emerges that takes Allison completely by surprise: a portrait of a heartbroken woman surprisingly like herself.

As Allison reads the incredible story of Emma's life in the 1920s and 1930s, she is forced to ask a difficult question: Does she really surrender every piece of her life to the Lord?

Drawing from her own heart-wrenching story of redemption, A Promise Kept is Robin Lee Hatcher's emotionally charged thanksgiving to a God who answers prayers---in His own time and His own ways.

About the Author

Robin is the author of 65+ novels and novellas. Her home is in Idaho, where she spends her time writing stories of faith, courage, and love; pondering the things of God; and loving her family and friends.

Learn more about Robin at:

A Road Unknown

Book Review

 A Road Unknown by Barbara Cameron is the first book of a new series, Amish Roads. The series explores how contemporary society has changed Amish young people. In this book, Cameron looked at Elizabeth, a young woman who was the oldest of nine children. She had the heavy responsibility of helping her mother and caring for younger siblings with no time for her own interests. The author examined the issues faced by Elizabeth in a culture where young women stay in their parent’s home until marriage. The story was about Elizabeth’s struggle to identify who she was and who she hoped to become.

There are many books written about Amish life and culture today. This one is somewhat different in that the protagonist leaves her home and moves into a condo with an Englisch roommate. Elizabeth learns to live with an electric coffee maker, a dishwasher and an electric sewing machine. She supports herself by working in a store that sells Amish handcrafts. Some readers may be disappointed because the setting is not typical.
I thought that one of the best parts of the book was Cameron’s description of a real friendship. Paula, Elizabeth’s roommate was instrumental in helping Elizabeth figure out what she wanted and she was a wonderful friend. The stern Bishop and Elizabeth’s cold, uncaring grandmother were easy to dislike and fortunately were a contrast to the new Amish friends who accepted Elizabeth into the community.
The book was easy to read and does offer a contrast to the usual Amish fiction. I do recommend it for the reader who enjoys this genre. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the Book

When you come to a fork in the road, how do you decide where to go when your heart tells you to go left but your head says right? Barbara Cameron takes readers on a journey of new experiences, uncertainties, and faith in the first book, A Road Unknown, in the Amish Roads series. 

Although set in a quaint Amish backdrop, we've all faced the same dilemma as Cameron's lead character who feels as if she is being pulled in two different directions. 

Elizabeth is at a crossroad. She's been given the chance to experience life outside of her community, away from the responsibility to care for her eight younger siblings, but Elizabeth Bontrager can't decide which road to take. Goshen has its charms and pressures, but Paradise, Pennsylvania, sounds . . . well, like paradise. And it's also home to her Englisch friend, Paula. Decision made. Elizabeth is Paradise bound.  

But will the small town live up to its name? When Elizabeth meets Paula's friend, Bruce, she quickly learns he wants more than a friendship. And the same might be true of Saul Miller, her new boss at the country story that sells Amish products to the Englisch community. As the two compete for her attention, Elizabeth is surprised to realize she misses her family and becomes even more uncertain about where she belongs. She has a choice to make: return home or embrace this new life and possibly a new love?

About the Author

Barbara Cameron is a best-selling author who has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the author of more than 38 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Barbara is a former newspaper reporter. Some of her non-fiction titles include the Everything Weddings on a Budget Book and Her Restless Heart: A Woman's Longing for Love and Acceptance. Cameron currently resides in Edgewater, Florida.
Learn more about Barbara at:

The Thief

Book Review

There have been many books written about the events that occurred during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. I have just finished reading one that has affected me profoundly. The Thief by Stephanie Landsem, is book two in her Living Water series.
The story is written with the viewpoints of two very different protagonists. Nissa, is a poor Jewish woman and Longginus, a Roman centurion. Their parallel lives are inextricably linked and tell the story of the last days of Jesus in Jerusalem. In the end, their lives come together dramatically.
Landsem does many things well. First of all, this is an excellent story, meticulously researched and builds up to the climatic finish. I did not want to put the book down. Also, Landsem uses sensory rich prose to give the reader a view into the life of the underclass in Jerusalem. In Nissa’s neighborhood I could smell the vile odor from the tannery. I was able to feel Nissa’s hunger pangs. I could sense her exhaustion as she carried her heavy water pitcher home. The contrast with the lives of the elite religious class was striking. It gave me a new perception of the poor people that Jesus ministered to and the arrogant wealthy and uncaring religious scholars. The author also showed through the character of the Roman centurion how subjective the rules were for this class – how easy it was to fall out of favor. Longginus was a good man. He gave up everything for trying to do what was right.
Lansem also has been able to describe the suffering of Jesus in a way that has affected me forever. We become so accustomed to the story of Calvary and what Jesus has done for us. This book gave me a new gratefulness and a new understanding. I recommend this book to be read before Holy Week. It is a powerful story of redemption and it gave me a new appreciation for what Jesus did for me.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, he’ll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?

The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love.

About the Author

Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.

Smitten Book Club

Book Review

Smitten Book Club is the third book in the Smitten series. Like the previous volumes the book is a collaborative project with authors Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter. The setting is an idyllic town, Smitten, Vermont. Indeed, Smitten sounds like the number one place on “the best places to live” list.
Four women, member of a book club are the protagonists in this novel. Each author has written the story of one of the women, Heather, Abby, Lia and Molly. Together they have many adventures, help each other out and each find the love of their life. If that sounds formulaic, it is. Not only do they find love and happiness, but also each of them has an incident happen where they jumped to conclusions and almost lost the love of their life. I honestly began to give advice as I read, “Just talk to him. Don’t make this huge assumption.” It was painful.
The thing is the book is still very enjoyable, in spite of being predictable. I love Smitten, Vermont and it is fun to read about such a perfect small town. Somewhat like Garrison Keillor’s Minnesota community of Lake Woebegone, the people in Smitten are all kind, help each other out, and have wonderful traditions. Unlike Minnesota they live with gorgeous mountain views. The book is relaxing and fun and frankly, realism is highly overrated.
So, I do recommend this book. If you like romance it is a shoo-in. It is a fun book and as stated – you will want to move to this town. The book takes place over a year’s time and Smitten is beautiful in each season. Think fall color; perfect Christmas with snow, spring with wild flowers and an idyllic summer.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the book

The century-old Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!
The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title; it was also written by Smitten, Vermont native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back.
Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends' romantic exploits.
When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives . . . for better or for worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.
What's more, a handwritten inscription indicates that the arcane book might hold the only extant clues leading to buried gold---exactly what one of the members needs to keep her house. How could they not go treasure hunting?
In this remarkable collaborative novel, besties Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt tackle the tale of the Gentlewoman's Guide by writing for one book club member apiece. Smitten Book Club is a hopeful, hilarious story of friendship and healing, written by friends for friends.

Purchase a copy:

About the Authors

RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including Tidewater Inn, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.  

Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include A Billion Reasons Why and What a Girl Wants.  

Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including A Cowboy's Touch and Sweetwater Gap. She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana. 

Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate. Diann lost her courageous battle with cancer in December 2013.

Friend Me

Book Review

John Faubion, a former missionary to Asia, has written a wonderful suspense story for his first published novel. Friend Me is a story that reminded me of the 80’s suspense film, Fatal Attraction. Rachel and Scott Douglas are a Christian couple with two children living an ordinary middle-class American life in Indianapolis, Indiana. Out of boredom they both sign up with a company that offers a virtual friendship where they can design their own friend. Rachel designs her best friend, Suzanne who died a few years earlier. Scott designs a woman that he can talk to about problems with work and at home. From this point on the story takes off and does not let up until the end.
Like a rollercoaster, Faubion’s story picks up speed, rushing to an ending that will surprise you. Early on there is a sense that something is going to go very wrong and that this will not end well. The suspense builds and builds to a crescendo and the ending did surprise me. There is definitely a sense of foreboding all through the book.
Faubion has written an excellent suspense novel but he also explored the idea of how quickly an individual can be sucked into doing things they never dreamed they would do. The author looked at how a seemingly innocent act – signing up for a virtual friend – could escalate into a war between good and evil. Friend Me will not only keep you reading – it is a page-turner – but also offers much to think about in a time when social media is such a ubiquitous part of life. I recommend this book – especially for someone who enjoys being absorbed by a novel that demands to be read to the end.
I received a copy of Friend Me from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the book:  
When a lonely wife and her frustrated husband each secretly pursue companionship online, neither dreams that a real woman is behind their virtual creations, threatening their marriage---and their lives.

Scott and Rachel's marriage is on the brink of disaster. Scott, a businessman with a high-pressure job, just wants Rachel to understand him and accept his flaws. Rachel is a lonely housewife, desperate for attention and friendship. So she decides to create a virtual friend online, unaware that Scott is doing the exact same thing. As Rachel desperately tries to re-create a friendship with a friend who has passed, Scott becomes unfaithful and is torn between the love for his wife and the perfection of his cyber-girlfriend. But neither realizes that there's a much larger problem looming . . .

Behind both of their online creations is Melissa, a woman who is brilliant---and totally insane. Masquerading as both friend and lover, Melissa programmed a search parameter into the virtual friend software to find her perfect man, but along the way she forgot to specify his marriage status. And Scott is her ideal match. Now Melissa is determined to have it all---Scott, his family, and Rachel's life.

As Melissa grows bolder and her online manipulations transition into the real world, Scott and Rachel figure out they are being played. Now it's a race against time as Scott and Rachel fight to save their marriage, and their lives, before it's too late.

In today's digital age, the Internet presents all kinds of opportunities to test our personal boundaries, and this exciting and suspenseful story raises important questions about the ethics of virtual relationships. Friend Me will open your eyes to a new---and terrifying---moral dimensions and how they play out in the real world.

Read an excerpt and purchase a copy: 

About the author: 
John Faubion has spent many years in Asia as a missionary with his family. Since returning to the United States, John has worked as a senior software developer for a large appliance chain. He teaches an adult Sunday school class and enjoys writing and driving his 1949 Packard automobile. John lives near Indianapolis with his wife, Beth, and their daughter.

Learn more about John at:


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