Review of The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir by Dikkon Eberhart

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I love to read memoirs. There's something about "hearing" someone's story in his own words that I really enjoy. A really good memoir helps me to relate to the author and find similarities between his story and my own- aha! moments where I realize that I'm not the only one who thinks or feels a certain way.

The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told appealed to me right away because (1) it was a memoir and (2) because that title just begs for the story to be read. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the author- Dikkon Eberhart, who has published some fiction- or his father, a poet of some renown. But I did investigate both of them more thoroughly after I read the memoir. I found information about and some poetry of Richard Eberhart here. And I found more about Dikkon Eberhart here (along with great photos that help me visualize the events in the memoir). Dikkon has a blog, by the way. I also found Dikkon Eberhart's Amazon page with this book and his two works of fiction.

From the book's description:

Review of The Time Mom Met Dikkon Eberhart
He was predestined for literary greatness. If only his father hadn’t used up all the words.
As the son of the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Richard Eberhart, Dikkon Eberhart grew up surrounded by literary giants. Dinner guests included, among others, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, W. H. Auden, and T. S. Eliot, all of whom flocked to the Eberhart house to discuss, debate, and dissect the poetry of the day. To the world, they were literary icons. To Dikkon, they were friends who read him bedtime stories, gave him advice, and, on one particularly memorable occasion, helped him with his English homework. Anxious to escape his famous father’s shadow, Dikkon struggled for decades to forge an identity of his own, first in writing and then on the stage, before inadvertently stumbling upon the answer he’d been looking for all along―in the most unlikely of places. Brimming with unforgettable stories featuring some of the most colorful characters of the Beat Generation, The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told is a winsome coming-of-age story about one man’s search for identity and what happens when he finally finds it.
Dikkon seems open and honest in his memoir. He grew up living in the shadow of his father, a great poet. He had a difficult time establishing his own identity. It's a feeling that many of us have- even if we are born to different circumstances. This made the book quite easy to relate to.

The author is an awesome story teller. And his life has held many great stories. Because of his father's literary renown, Dikkon's life has been an interesting one- filled with great poets and authors and others that most people only dream of meeting in person. As he narrates through his life, the reader is entertained, moved, and inspired by these stories. My interest was definitely held throughout the book.

But the greatest story in the book- in my estimation- is the story of Dikkon's personal journey to salvation. As the son of a poet and an actor and author himself, Dikkon had what some may call an intellectual's view of God and religion. Throughout his life- his triumphs and struggles and his journey to find his own identity, Dikkon is seeking- for what he isn't sure.

I loved the story of Dikkon's faith journey. Often salvation stories are purely emotional. And it's true that coming to Christ is an emotionally moving event. But Dikkon examines the truths of God and the Bible in an intellectual way. Throughout his life he's moving ever in that direction- through a distant belief in a distant God, through Judaism, and finally to acceptance of Christ as his Savior. And, even though he describes the emotions of the moment of salvation, he also relates the intellectual impact of the event and the follow up of the decision on his wife and children- already grown.

All of Dikkon's stories, throughout this memoir, are well worth reading. They entertained me and sometimes touched me. They motivated me to seek out new knowledge and to become aware of the poetry of Dikkon's father. And Dikkon's faith story especially touched my heart.

I give this read 5 stars and a PG rating. You can find the book on Amazon here.

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Review of As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti

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There are times that I pick up a book from a new to me author, expecting great things from the book's synopsis, only to be disappointed by a predictable, simple story. And then there are moments when I read a new to me author and discover another favorite. As Waters Gone By definitely falls into the latter category.

Review of As Waters Gone By by Cynthia RuchtiFrom the book's description:

Emmalyn Ross has only a few months left to figure out if she and her husband, Max, can ever be a couple again. In prison for actions that ensured his wife could never be a mother, Max is now scheduled for release, and Emmalyn wonders how she can let him back into her life after all he’s put her through. During his five-year incarceration, Emmalyn moved to the beautiful, but remote Madeline Island in Lake Superior. With the help of a circle of misfit town residents, including the exuberant owner of the Wild Iris Inn and CafĂ©, Emmalyn begins to restore her heart while refurbishing her very own island cottage. She learns what it means to love unconditionally and finds that her dream of a house and a home filled with God’s love might become a reality, but only if she and Max can find a way to rebuild their marriage…and win the fight of their lives in the process.
The story in As Waters Gone By can only be described as beautiful. But it isn't always sunshine and roses. Cynthia Ruchti deals with some heavy and deep emotions, and I'll admit that it was sometimes difficult to read about Emmalyn's dark and burdened soul. The book is very introspective with complex character development, and books written in that way tend to make me introspective as well.

But throughout the book, in a way that's not at all preachy or judgmental, Emmalyn learns about hope and new starts and forgiveness. I found myself crying through quite a few parts of the book: the sign of a truly good book that touches my spirit.

This is definitely an author I'll be looking for again. I give this one 5 stars and a PG for content. You can find As Waters Gone By on Amazon here.

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Review of Twisted Innocence by Terri Blackstock

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I've long been a fan of Terri Blackstock's novels. She writes many suspense/thrillers with a dash of romance. And she has the ability to she God's light onto the dark stories of crime, leaving readers with the comfort that while evil does exist in the world, God redeems.

Twisted Innocence is in the Moonlighters series of novels. I haven't read the others, but, as with most of Terri Blackstock's series novels, it's pretty easy to jump in and figure out what's going on. There is reference to other story lines, but readers can understand the book without all the background.

A review of Twisted Innocence by Terri Blackstock
From the book's description:

When Holly's secrets backfire, is the mess too big to unravel?

Holly Cramer has worked hard to keep the identity of her daughter's father a secret, shamed and embarrassed by the one-night stand. But when the police knock on her door searching for Creed Kershaw, she realizes his identity isn't as hidden as she thought. The fact that Creed is a person of interest in a recent drug-related murder only increases her humiliation.

When Holly's and Creed's paths cross, Holly is unsure whether to be terrified of him or trust him. His tenderness with their daughter makes her want to believe his story that he had nothing to do with the murder. Then she discovers that Creed has a connection to Leonard Miller-who killed both her sister's fiancé and her brother-in-law, and kidnapped her nephews-and things only become more complicated.

Will Creed lead them to the man who has plagued her family, or become another of his victims?

This was an interesting, fast-paced read. I like the short chapters and quick moving action and found myself moving through the book quickly. Because the chapters often end with something suspenseful, it's not easy to put down, so I found myself anxious to keep reading.

This book- as with many of Terri Blackstock's books- didn't have very deep character development. There is more action instead of glimpses inside the heads of the characters. Despite this, the characters are likable and compelling. They are not perfect. But, throughout the book, we get glimpses of their spiritual growth.

I really like the way that Terri Blackstock can always seem to weave the message of God's redemption into her stories without giving a "preachy" tone to the book. Throughout Twisted Innocence we're reminded that God is in the business of giving second chances, and only He can truly give us pardon and wipe our slate clean.

I can definitely recommend this one. I give it 4 stars and a PG-13 for content (violence, crime, and the drug world). You can find Twisted Innocence on Amazon here.

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Review of The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren

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Susan May Warren is arguably my favorite Christian fiction writer. She not only can tell a great story, she has the ability to inspire and encourage readers to grow in faith while not sounding the least bit preachy or forced.

Beginning two years ago, I've had the awesome privilege to be on the launch team for much of Susan's newest book series- The Christiansen family series. Each of these feature one of the Christiansen family's five children and their romance story as they mature and learn how to look for what God has in store for their lives.

One of the awesome things about the books to me is the fact that while each story ends with a resolution in the romantic area in the lives of each Christiansen, there isn't an unqualified happily ever after. Instead, throughout the subsequent books we see the continued story of each couple. I think in so many romantic books, writers- even Christian writers- set up young, unmarried readers for an unreasonable view of romance. In my own life, I am very happily married. We have a great relationship. And our love really is still, at times, that mushy attraction sort of love. But real life doesn't live happily ever after. We aren't always happy. We do sometimes argue. Sometimes we're tired and snappy. I love that Susie May shows that throughout the Christiansen books.

Review of The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren
Now, off my little soapbox and on with my review of the current Christiansen family book- The Wonder of You. This book features Amelia Christiansen who happens to be the baby of the family- much doted on and protected by her older siblings. From the book's description:

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance―even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

Each time I read a new story in the series, I say it's my favorite. I was gushing that again as I sat in tears finishing the reading of it last night. I can relate to Amelia. She wants to spread her wings, but she's afraid. And she's also bound by the expectations of others. The spiritual theme throughout the book is one of learning to trust in Jesus to brave the unfamiliar- not in ourselves and not even in the strength of the man that God my bring our way.

These books have some excellent character development. I've traveled this road with the Christiansens and have read all of their stories now except for Owen, the next to youngest. Because Susan May Warren does an excellent job of developing the characters in each book and spilling on to the following books, I feel as if I know this family.

I've mentioned before that Susie May has the ability to write words that speak to my heart without preaching at me. Through The Wonder of You- as in every book- I'm brought face to face with my own relationship with Christ and challenged to think about it and to strengthen it.

I can easily give The Wonder of You five stars. I give it a PG for content. You can find The Wonder of You on Amazon here.  Below I'm linking to my reviews of the other Christiansen family books (in order) and their Amazon page.

Review of Take a Chance on Me- Darek Christiansen (on Amazon here)
Review of It Had to Be You- Eden Christiansen (on Amazon here)
Review of When I Fall in Love- Grace Christiansen (on Amazon here)
Review of Evergreen- a novella about John and Ingrid Christiansen, the parents (on Amazon here)
Review of Always on My Mind- Casper Christiansen (on Amazon here)

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Review of Firefly Summer by Kathleen Y' Barbo

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Kathleen Y' Barbo writes light-hearted Christian romance. I've had the privilege of reviewing several of her books before, and I'll link to those at the end.

Firefly Summer isn't a deep, emotional read. But it is an enjoyable romantic story. From the book's description:

A review of Firefly Summer by Kathleen Y' Barbo
Artist Sessa Chambers may never recover from losing her prodigal son. Even as she grieves the tragic decisions that led to his death, and left her with a toddler to raise, she’s asked to work on her dream project—restoring carousel horses for the Smithsonian. But she can’t do it on her own…
Dr. Trey Brown can't pick up a scalpel again. Yes, he acted in self-defense, but the events of that awful night haunt him. He was trained to save lives, not take them. When he goes to the young man's widowed mother to apologize, she’s not at all what he expected. For one thing, she’s not as alone as he thought—not with the fearsome ladies of the Pies, Books, and Jesus Book Club in her corner. For another, she’s beautiful, and being in her presence is more jolting than any eight-second bronco ride from his former rodeo days. Before he knows it, she’s captured his heart as easily as they capture the fireflies gracing Sessa’s Texas ranch.

Firefly Summer is a simple read. There isn't deep character development. But the premise of the story is a very interesting one- a man convicted of murder and the mother whose son was killed. It's a story that has forgiveness and second chances- despite bad decisions made.

The people and situations in the story are messy. No one is perfect, and the things they do aren't always right. But there is a theme of trusting God despite the circumstances. The book isn't preachy at all, but the characters do have spiritual insights and grow in their faith throughout the story.

As a simple, easy read, I give this one 3.5 stars and a G for content. You can find Firefly Summer from Redbud Press here or on Amazon here.

Other books from Kathleen Y' Barbo:

The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck

The Rocky Mountain Heiress Collection

Millie's Treasure

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Review of Kiss the Cowboy by Julie Jarnigan

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Kiss the Cowboy is inspirational romantic fiction from Redbud Press that is a light, simple read. It's not very long. And I'll admit that it's twaddle. But every once in a while I do enjoy these not very thought-provoking easy reads.

From the book's description:

What if your competition for your dream job…was your dream man?

All Lucy Pickett needs to become executive chef in one of Dallas’s finest restaurants is to pull off the high-profile wedding she’s catering. So what if she’s forced to share duties with Dylan Lawson, a modern-day chuck-wagon cook? So what if he’s got rugged looks and cowboy charm? None of that is going to knock her off her game. Until she learns the restaurateur is considering Dylan for the position she wants. Game on–and it’s a winner-take-all event!

Dylan Lawson finally has the opportunity he’s been waiting for to prove he can do more than just be a ranch hand. The only thing standing in his way is the fiery chef fighting for the same position. Will the heated competition scorch any chance they have for love?

There isn't much character development here. The story is pretty predictable. There is the typical pattern of short romances- boy-girl meet, love each other secretly, have some sort of conflict or personal problem that keeps them from accepting their feelings, and finally resolve to live happily ever after. Although the story line is pretty redundant, it works in a romance. And Kiss the Cowboy fits this typical pattern.

If you're looking for an easy summer read and enjoy a clean romance, Kiss the Cowboy is one you may want to look at. You can read more about the book at Redbud Press and find the author- Julie Jarnigan- here. You can find Kiss the Cowboy for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (for Nook) and iBooks.

I give this one 3.5 stars and a G rating.

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Review of The Broken Blade by Anna Thayer

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Often the best allegories are books which aren't meant to be allegories at all. I don't know if Anna Thayer intended her series- The Knight of Eldaran- to be allegorical, but with every book I've been strengthened and encouraged in my faith as I've noticed parallels between the hero- Eamon- and the path I walk as a Christian living in the world, waiting always for Christ to return and make all things new.

I recently reviewed book 2 in this series- The King's Hand. The entire fantasy series features Eamon Goodman who chooses from his youth to become a member of The Gauntlet, the famed military might in the lands ruled by one that some call Master and some call the throned- a usurper. The series follows Eamon's rise to power, his dedication to a new King he recognizes as the rightful ruler of the land, and the struggles he faces as he attempts to live in the king's name while still outwardly living to serve the Master.

The Broken Blade is the final book in the series, and, while this one didn't have me sobbing at the end as The King's Hand did, I did love this one as well. From the book's description:

Eamon Goodman is now the Master’s Right Hand. But despite being the second-in-command to the ruler of the River Realm, Eamon becomes the victim of vengeful plots engineered by the other Quarter Hands. Eamon finds himself powerless to stop them and the people he cares for are under threat.

Eamon then discovers that the Nightholt―the book he long ago delivered to the Master’s Hands―holds the key to the Master’s power, which will become absolute upon the death of the King.

Thus the stage for the final battle is set. Eamon rides out at the head of the Master’s army and must finally decide where his true allegiance lies. His choice will determine the fate of the River Realm . . .

As in the previous books, the characters throughout the story are very well-developed. There are favorites from the previous books as well as a few new characters who are introduced. The action moves along well, not lingering too long or rushing through what needs to take some time.

The books is long- as are the others. It's about 588 pages. I love a thick, wonderful book that I can hold and submerse myself within. Because it's lengthy, there is time to develop the host of characters- There are many.- and the story that has been taking the reader ever onward to the return of the King.

The book is published by a Christian publisher, Kregel. Although it never mentions God or anything at all about Christianity, I can say that this series has been a great source of inspiration to me in my Christian walk. As I mentioned above, I'm not sure the series is intended to be allegorical at all, but great books encourage great thoughts and can motivate the reader to great deeds. The Knight of Eldaran series are truly great books. I'm sad to be finished with the series, but I'm made better by having read them.

I give The Broken Blade 5 strong stars. The book has some great violence and bloodshed, so I'm giving it a PG-13 rating. You can find The Broken Blade on Amazon here.

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