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On the night her 2 sisters died in a horrible accident Marianna Sommers was born. Raised in an Amish community in Indiana Marianna has tried her entire life to make up for the loss of her sisters.

Marianna is almost 20 and starting to think about having a home of her own. Aaron Zook has been taking an interest in her. He is building his own cabin and has dreams of one day living in it with Marianna.

Marianna’s brother Levi has left the community. He has caused embarrassment and heartache for his parents. When Uncle Ike comes to visit he talks about his life in Montana and how the Amish community there is not as strict as Indiana. Marianna’s father decides to move the family to Montana for a year to see what it is like. This causes Marianna great heartache at the thought of leaving Aaron and her brother behind. Her parents ask her to go with them for just 6 months as her mother is pregnant and needs Marianna to help with the younger children.

Marianna is determined to not like Montana. She is only there for 6 months to help her mother and then she plans to return to Aaron and her more strict Amish community. What she doesn’t count on is meeting Ben. He is not Amish, but he is a good friend to the Amish community. Hearing Ben talk about God as if he is a close friend raises all kinds of questions for Marianna. Marianna slowly learns to love the community of people, but she also realizes that she is coming to care for Ben and that cannot happen.

Meanwhile back in Indiana Aaron has tried to forget Marianna by trying to learn to love another girl. Naomi is heartbroken over Levi leaving, she too is trying to mend her broken heart. Will the two of them find comfort and love in each other’s company?

The story and characters grew on me as I progressed through the book. The second book in the series comes out in October and I am determined to get it so I can find out what happens. I am not normally an Amish fiction fan, but I did enjoy Beside Still Waters.

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We Be Big is the story of two “sexy fat guys” that do a morning radio show in Alabama. Their story is told in alternating chapters between Rick and Bubba. They tell how they became the successful morning show stars that they are today. The premise of their success throughout their career has been to “keep it real”. They share their lives on the air. In the book they share about their successes and failures leading up to the Rick and Bubba show. On the air they have shared humor and heartache and even when it is not popular with their sponsors or bosses, they share their faith. Throughout their story they share how God has brought them every step of the way in their success. They give Him the glory.

I really enjoyed reading their story. I have never heard the Rick and Bubba show but it sounds like it would be very entertaining. There is something about them sharing their lives that draws people in. Their stories brought a smile to my face and at times tears to my eyes.

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Ariella was sold into slavery as a young girl to an evil Roman politician. She escapes him by disguising herself as a young boy and joins a gladiator troupe. They arrive in Pompeii to entertain the citizens who’s boredom and debauchery has turned into a demand for more and more bloodshed in the arena’s.

Cato has escaped to Pompeii after his failed political career in Rome. He is determined to live a life of leisure as a winemaker. What he doesn’t count on is the corrupt leadership of one man who is determined that Cato will not usurp his authority in Pompeii.

When Cato chances to meet the young “lad” Ari and discovers her secret he is determined that she will no longer fight in the arena. Sparks fly between the two. Ari’s heart has been hardened by years of abuse and she is determined not to let this Roman into her heart. When Cato’s sister is wrongly sent to jail he is determined to end the corruption that has been governing Pompeii. What he doesn’t count on is the evilness of this ruler, the support of local Christians, and the simmering mountain of Vesuvius. Will Cato find faith in the Christian’s Messiah or will all be lost to evil?

I have said before that I am not usually a fan of Historical fiction. But T.L. Higley writes in a way that captures and holds my attention. I loved her novel Guardian of the Flame and Pompeii City On Fire did not disappoint me. The characters and story have stayed with me even after the exciting ending of the book!

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Mona’s dreams of opening a coffeehouse/bookstore are about to be realized. She has just purchased an old Victorian house with every dime she has saved up for the last 10 years. Mona is stubborn and determined to do all of the work herself. She realizes after her first look at the place though that she is going to need a handyman to help her in order to get it ready for the opening of tourist season in 6 weeks.

It is not easy for Mona to hire Joe. Mona is independent and does not need any romantic entanglements in her life. Plus there has yet to be a man who meets all of her requirements. She has only found that man in Jonah, a character in her favorite author’s books. He is her ideal man and she refuses to settle for anyone less.

After she hires Joe several things happen to make her realize that someone is trying to sabotage her dream. She feels that she does not deserve to realize her dream. She feels that God could not possibly want to bless her with granting her dreams because of the deep guilt that she is carrying around.

Joe has his own secrets to keep. He has been wandering around for most of his life. He can’t afford emotionally to become attached to Mona. From the moment they meet though he is drawn to care for her. Unable to forgive the father who left him and his brother and mother when he was 15 he can’t seem to grasp that he has become just like him. Always running away from his troubles.

Joe has come to Deep Haven to visit his brother that he hasn’t seen in years. He feels guilty about that but soothes his guilt with the fact that he has paid for his brother to stay at a group home. Even when he realizes he has feelings for Mona he cannot reveal to her the true nature of his brother’s handicap. But he is keeping another secret from her that may even be more damaging than that.

For the most part I liked the characters of the book. I did get a little tired of the constant battle that both Joe and Mona had within themselves to keep their “deep dark secrets” and to deny the attraction that they felt for each other. Also there seemed to be a lot of teary eyes in this one. I’m not a fan of a character that constantly cries. It seemed like both Joe and Mona were always welling up. It got kind of old. Not only did Mona and Joe keep secrets from each other, it seemed that the author wanted to keep these secrets from the reader too. Maybe if some of Mona and Joe’s reasons for keeping secrets had been revealed sooner in the story the tears and fears would have been more understandable to the reader.  

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Brianna Stone has the perfect beach life. She has the perfectly hunky/lawyer husband, the perfect son, the perfect home on the beach and the perfect job. Things seem to be spiraling downhill though.

Bri’s perfect husband Douglas is working long hours. When a snide remark from one of her acquaintances points out to her that maybe her life isn’t so perfect, Bri begins to feel that maybe she needs to make some changes in her life to keep her husband interested in her.

Bri embarks on a mission to change things. She takes her mother-in-laws advice to remodel her livingroom to make it more presentable for Douglas as a rising lawyer. She buys a new wardrobe to make herself look more dignified instead of the beach/comfortable that she normally wears. She has her hair streaked with new color. She even takes some cooking classes so that she can present home-cooked meals to her family instead of the take-out fare that they are used to.

Things are not rosy at her work either. Bri loves her job as a tour guide. When the owner of the company decides to leave the business in her son’s hands things start getting weird there for Bri. She tries setting the son up with her best friend Gaby. She thinks that Gaby and Ty are hitting it off, but Bri misses the subtle hints that Ty is more interested in her.

Bri realizes finally that she needs to be who God made her to be. She needs to be herself. Bri’s spunk and sarcasm had me smiling and laughing throughout the story. I even shed a tear at a tender moment between Douglas and Bri. I especially enjoyed the sailing off into the sunset ending!

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Little Mercies is a collection of inspiring true stories that the author has experienced throughout her lifetime. This book could almost be used as a daily devotional except that there aren’t 365 stories, just 16. Each story has its own inspiration that the author then relates to stories that are in the Bible and verses that uplift and encourage. Four of those stories stood out for me.

Night Music tells about a friend that moved far away. The friend missed the sounds of the south and asked the author for a tape of night sounds. A beautiful story of friendship and appreciation for God’s Creation.

Singing Behind the Plow tells of the authors visit to the John C. Campbell Folk School where she took a class on canning produce. One of the things that she talked about was how God honors our hard work. Also how important it is to pass on to our children and grandchildren skills that are becoming extinct like canning or even making homemade bread or biscuits.

Forgiven tells a story about when her father was a young boy. He was punished unjustly by his father for an incident he had no control over. The author talks about forgiveness being a gift and that we must forgive others.

Streetlight Dog is the story of a stray dog that the author tried to befriend. I loved how she compared her efforts with trying to be friends with the dog to how Jesus is alway pursuing a relationship with us.

I picked a few of my favorites out of this book, but really each story had something that spoke to my heart and reminded me to watch for those “Little Mercies” in my own daily life.

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Andie and her mother Jenna are flying in their plane home to Alaska. They are giving a ride to a man named Cole. When they see Hank their pilot and Cole struggling together they are confused and scared. Hank has sabotaged their plane and set them on a crash course for one of the highest peaks in Alaska.

After the crash Andie awakes first and realizes that she must help her mother and Cole stay warm in the freezing elements. Also she must take care of her own needs as she has a rare disorder that causes her to feel no pain and her body to be unable to maintain a proper temperature.

Jenna suffers a severe cut on her leg and has lost a lot of blood. When she comes to her first thoughts are for her daughter. Since the death of her husband she has been the sole caregiver for her daughter. She is very leery of Cole and his desire to get them away from the crash site. She also is struggling to understand why Hank who has been their friend for years would sabotage the plane.

Cole had made a promise to Jenna’s husband before he died. He promised to take care of his family. He intends to do that no matter what. Battling his own demons of losing his wife and daughter he is determined to never let his heart care again. What he didn’t count on was spunky Andie.

In an effort to escape other bad men that are after a secret that Jenna’s husband never talked about to her, the 3 start hiking higher up the mountain. Their hope is that the bad men will think that they died in the crash. While spending harrowing days battling the elements Jenna’s leg becomes steadily more infected. Andie’s disorder proves challenging and Cole is in constant battle within himself about his softening heart towards “his girls”. Andie gets under his skin with her straight-forward talk of God’s love and forgiveness.

Danger is still just around the corner once they are rescued. Jenna is devastated when she learns about her husband’s part in why they are in danger. Andie is disillusioned about her “hero dad.” Both must learn to give their fears to the Lord and trust Him. Cole needs to learn that he is not in control of all situations and he must put his faith in God.

This was a fast-paced, heart-stopping mystery that I really enjoyed. You get the feel for each character as the story is told from Cole, Jenna and Andie’s points of view.

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