Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley

Miranda Hunt an operative for Pinkerton National Detective Agency and Jeremy Taggert an operative for Wells Fargo are both working undercover to capture the Phantom, the leader of an outlaw gang responsible for many train and bank robberies.

Gunpowder Tea
by Margaret Brownley
Thomas Nelson
October 2013

Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley is a most delightful story that begins in New Orleans in 1897 and then moves to the Arizona Territory. Miranda Hunt is the only female operative working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. She is being sent to the Arizona Territory to capture the Phantom, a very elusive outlaw who is the head of a group that rob trains and banks. It is believed that the Phantom is hiding on the Last Chance Ranch and when Miranda sees an ad for an heiress for the ranch she knows that she has found the perfect cover. To add to her cover she has assumed the name of Annie Beckman. Unknown to Annie, Jeremy Taggart, a detective with Wells Fargo, is also working undercover at the ranch in the hope of capturing the Phantom. His undercover name is Branch. They are attracted to each other but their lives and careers depend on the case being solved so they avoid each other as much as possible..

The author did an excellent job in the development of the plot. There were many twists and turns that kept me guessing from page to page as to what would happen next. I don’t think I have ever read a novel in which the suspense kept me guessing until almost the very end of the book. I was really surprised when the identity of the Phantom was revealed. Margaret Brownley definitely has a knack for writing mystery/suspense novels. All the characters simply came to life on the pages of the book and I felt as if most of them were my friends by the time I finished the book. Dialogue was very realistic and scenes were well developed and I felt as if I were right in the middle of the action taking place. The “words of wisdom” that began each chapter gave me a lot of good laughs. I had never heard of gunpowder tea but after reading this book I would like to find some and give it a try. The story had a good ending and I hope that the author writes a sequel to let us know what happens to Miranda and Jeremy.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great western romance with lots of suspense and action.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Star Wars: Razor’s Edge by Wells

razorsedgeLeia as we’ve never seen her, but as we always knew she was: kicking butts and taking names!

Razor’s Edge
Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion
by Martha Wells
read by January LeVoy
LucasBooks / Randomhouse Audio
September 2013

After the events of Episode IV A New Hope, Princess Leia is still reeling from the destruction of her home planet while working with the Rebellion to build a base on Hoth. To do that, she will need to procure supplies so travels to a region of space overrun with pirates to meet with a consortium who may be willing to sell. On the way, she comes across pirates attacking another ship; not just any pirates, but pirates flying an Alderaanian ship! Unable to allow the blasphemy she gets involved quickly setting off a series of events that get her, Han and her crew in serious trouble with a local pirate stronghold and ultimately the Empire.

I loved this book! It is exactly what we knew about Leia but never really got to see. She is in charge, decisive, and makes gutsy decisions to do the right thing no matter the cost. We also get to see the budding attraction between Han and Leia without all the other main characters of Star Wars getting in the way.

(Pre-Jedi Luke and Chewy do show up but don’t play a large role in the story.)

This is one of many new books that fill in the gaps between the movies of the original trilogy (along with Kenobi and Scoundrels in 2013) and I love every minute of them. I like the universe, but I fell in love with these characters as a kid and revisiting them now is a joy I didn’t realize I was missing until I read these books.

A note about the audiobook: Star Wars books are always a treat. They feature sound effects, background noises and music, and usually readers that can mimic the characters well. With original characters like Leia and Han this is especially important to fans. Unfortunately, January LeVoy – who is an amazing reader, like on Star Wars Into The Void, also from 2013 – wasn’t up to the task to read many of the characters. Han is gruff but doesn’t remind us of the real Han. Leia is feminine but isn’t Leia either. It didn’t detract too much, but it didn’t add to the book either.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Something Italian by Suzanne D. Williams

81ePTqjmFTL._SL1500_Patricia Fanning is single, pregnant, and scared and when she goes to her car to leave Dr. Marco Bottari’s clinic, she finds a dead man in the trunk of her car. The dead man just happens to be the father of her baby.

Something Italian
by Suzanne D. Williams
Self Published
November 2013

Something Italian by Suzanne D. Williams is a great feel good love story that also contains lots of mystery and even a murder. Dr. Marco Bottari has a heart of compassion for all his patients but he has learned to keep himself from getting involved. His last patient on this particular day is Patricia Fanning and she is very different than most of his patients. Not only is she single, pregnant, and scared by everything that is happening in her life, she is also very beautiful.
As Marco is leaving his clinic, he sees Patricia at the back of her car and he goes to see if she needs help. What he finds is a dead man in her trunk and the man just happens to be the father of Patricia’s baby. From this point on the story just gets more and more interesting with enough mystery to keep you reading and turning pages to see what is going to happen.

Suzanne did an excellent job in the development of all elements of this story. The characters are vividly brought to life on the pages of the book and all the dialogue is very realistic. All the scenes are so well described that I was right in the middle of whatever was going on. I really enjoyed the closeness of the Bottari family and how they were so willing to help Patricia. The Christian principles that determined the way the Bottari family lived were refreshing to read in a novel. I was disappointed in Marco in the way that he handled one situation in which he found himself. But he sought forgiveness from God and his family so I had to forgive him too. I began reading the book late in the evening and I could not put it down until I had finished it for I just had to know how the story was going to end. I must say that I was happy with the ending.

I highly recommend this book to everyone that loves a good romantic story with a main character who lives his life following the teachings of God.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the author as a review copy.

Reunited at Christmas by Debra Ullrick

91SN81ZQjDL._SL1500_Shelby’s heart was broken when Ryker, her fiance, called three months before the wedding and said that he could not marry her. He is now back in town and is hoping that he can win her love and trust again.

Reunited at Christmas
by Debra Ullrick
Self Published
November 2013

Reunited at Christmas by Debra Ullrick is a wonderful story of love, trust, and forgiveness. Shelby Davis is slowly rebuilding her life after her fiance called three months before the wedding and said that he could not marry her but gave no explanation. Her work as a trainer of search and rescue dogs is helping her overcome her heartbreak. When she receives a call for her rescue dog, Max, and her snowmobile, she learns that the missing person she needs to find is Ryker Anderson, the man that caused her broken heart. She never wants to see him again but she is a professional and it so happens that it is her dog that finds Ryker. He has finally returned home to Grand Lake, Colorado, and is hoping and praying that he can win Shelby’s love and trust once again.

Debra did an excellent job in the development of every element of the story. She made the characters so real that I was shedding tears with them or laughing with them. The plot had a few surprises and was so well written that sometimes I was holding my breath to see what would happen next. There was also a good deal of suspense in the story. The scenes were so real that I felt as if I were right in the middle of what was happening, I was even feeling the cold of the snow. I especially like the way the author has God as a vital part of the story. She shows that He is with us on the mountaintops and in the valleys. Learning to trust again was well covered in the story and this also showed the love of God. In my opinion, Debra has written a book that is a must read for the Christmas season for after reading you will have a smile on your face and love in your heart.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great romantic story set during the Christmas holidays and that also has the love and forgiveness of God throughout the book.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the author as a review copy.

NIV Ragamuffin Bible by Brennan Manning

ragamuffinFans of dc Talk will remember the famously spoken word opening of What if I Stumble, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle… That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” That’s Brennan Manning and his writing is all over this NIV.

NIV Ragamuffin Bible
by Brennan Manning
Zondervan
November 2013

There are hundreds of quotes, devotions and reflections taken from the life works of Friar Manning included in this 2011 version of the NIV. Those who are familiar with Manning’s focus on grace (as seen in his most famous book, the Ragamuffin Gospel,) and accepting people will find a treasure trove of quotes to help with their daily reading.

I’m a fan of the newest NIV and think it remains one of the best translations available. I’m not a big fan of adding a little bit of content and coming out with a completely new Bible. Sure there are hundreds of included quotes and works but there are over 1400 pages in this Bible so we are talking about a quote or reflection every three pages and many times there are a couple Manning quotes on the same page and there is definitely a skewing towards the New Testament. So what we get is quite a bit of “regular” Bible and then a few quotes.

Also, many of the 150 quotes are short questions without clear answers, like, “How would you respond if I asked you this question: Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?” (p 693). Fortunately, the reflections and devotionals are much deeper and include some theology that may be difficult for newer Christians.

One thing you can’t get away from is the criticism in some circles, especially Evangelical circles, of Brennan Manning himself. The fact that he was a Roman Catholic tends to immediately set people back. That he was so focused on accepting people as they were tends to cause some to complain that he is too focused on grace and not focused enough on sanctification. I’m not sure what to think. But the quotes used in this NIV tend to be non-controversial and thought provoking.

This is an NIV that is full of contrasts: it’s light on new content but the content it has is useful; it focuses on a controversial figure but does a great job highlighting commonalities. In a phrase: it’s a mixed bag. For fans of Brennan Manning, though, this is a no brainer.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The First Christmas Night and Giveaway

christmasIt’s Christmas time and nothing makes more sense than reading about the reason for the season.

The First Christmas Night
written by Keith Christopher
illustrated by Christine Kornacki
Ideals Books
October 2013

This version of the Nativity is set to the song the Night Before Christmas. Instead of the “Night before Christmas and all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” we get “Twas the very first Christmas, when all through the town / not a creature was stirring, there was not a sound.” Normally, I wouldn’t go for what some may consider a knock off, but Christopher, the writer, does come up with some endearing – and original – lines that make it worthwhile. Consider, “He had not a crib, but in a manger instead / the tiny new baby lay down his sweat head. Mary looked down at his cute little nose / and silently counted – ten fingers, ten toes.” As a father, this resonates.

The illustrations are lush and full of life; vibrant and colorful. I liked that the characters seemed to be a-racial (if I can make up my own words) – the character’s seemed to not be any or to be all races. So we don’t worry about a blond, blue eyed Jesus here. I also like that one of the Wise Men was black, even though that may not be historically accurate. It is inclusive and I liked it.

Speaking of Wise Men, though, I didn’t like that they were in the story. This is the story of Jesus’ birth and these guys were definitely not there at the time. What I get is that this story is based more on tradition than the Bible, which I’m not a fan of. I’d have preferred we not propigate the traditional errors but instead correctly tell the story.

Overall, though, this is a very well done, colorful, engaging, and easy to read book about the birth of Christ.

Thanks to the publisher we have a copy of this beautiful hardback book to giveaway! Enter below. Note: You may only win one giveaway per 30 days at BookGateway.com.

Congratulations to Anna E. of Anza, CA for winning a copy of this book!


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Dawn of Christmas by Cindy Woodsmall

8163J2hcnBL._SL1500_Sadie and Levi have both been hurt by the actions of others and because of this she does not trust men and he does not trust women.

The Dawn of Christmas
by Cindy Woodsmall
Waterbrook Press
October 2013

The Dawn of Christmas by Cindy Woodsmall is a wonderful story dealing with second chances and learning to trust. Sadie was engaged to Daniel and shortly before the wedding she caught him kissing her cousin but he tried to convince her that she did not see what she thought she saw. In fact, most people in the community did not believe Sadie. Her family decided that it would be best if she moved away and this gives her the opportunity to spend time in Peru as a missionary. After four years, Sadie is ready to go back home and her family welcomes her back. Soon after Sadie arrived back home she is out walking and finds Levi lying in the snow seriously injured after being thrown from his horse. He distrusts women after watching his brother suffer when his wife left him with a young son to rear alone. Their families and friends begin to meddle in their lives by trying to get them romantically interested in each other. To keep the peace, Sadie and Levi decide to pretend that they are courting and this leads to lots of interesting situations..

This story was very well written and all the characters were so well developed that they came to life. Through the dialogue of the characters I could feel their pain and sorrow. All the scenes were so descriptive that I was right in the middle of the action. Both main characters had suffered from the actions of others and I really liked the way the author had them turning to God for guidance and for the ability to forgive the ones who wronged them. It was interesting to follow Sadie and Levi in their journey of learning to trust again.

I definitely recommend this book to all readers who are lovers of Amish fiction that involves a great romance.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

1 Girl Nation CD and Giveaway

1girlnationThere are a ton of kid’s music out there. Songs by artists that are influencing our children through catchy lyrics and music. Now there’s a Christian alternative. Is that a good thing?

1 Girl Nation
Lauryn Taylor Bach, Lindsey Ciresi, Carmen Justice, Kayli Robinson, Kelsey Sowards
Reunion Records
August 2013

I’ve got two daughters and can’t get away from their music. (Cue sad I-must-be-getting-old moment here.) When they were preteen and “tweenagers” it was all Disney pop music and now as they move to Junion and Senior High School it’s country music (thankfully they seem to have skipped over the former Disney singers) with some pop. This kind of music is all catchy, synth music with danceable beats. And there really is nothing like it on the Christian station (which seems to play mostly towards earnest life growth focused songs).

Enter 1 Girl Nation. Yeah, it’s a cheesy name, but it’s exactly right in line with younger girl expectations. It sounds exactly like Cheetah Girls and similar Disney pop music. On the solo songs, this CD sounds indistinguishable from current synth pop music. Except for the words – which can be overhanded at times – that clearly mark this as a message for Christians.

My younger daughter (11) took this CD and hasn’t given it back. My older daughter (14) said of the music, “I don’t want to call it cheesy… but.” And then sang along with it. (If you have a teen you know that tension that exists between wanting to grow up and still enjoying the “kid” stuff.) Interestingly, my sons (both younger than the girls) love the music and dance and sing to it regardless of the female focus. From my perspective, the music is very cheesy but it’s also very needed. Kids are going to listen to music and they are going to sing along. I’d rather them singing these lyrics than Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana, of which we have several CDs in the house).

Isn’t that the point though? This is not music for parents – we have enough of that. This is music for the missing demographic: tweens and teens. And it is just right.

This is an enjoyable, simplistic, Christian version of pop synth music that everyone in my family enjoys (even if they don’t admit it.) Listen to the CD a few times and you’ll be singing along too.

Thanks to the record label, Reunion Records, we have a giveaway! Enter below.

Congratulations to Paris R. of Glendora, CA! Your CD is on the way!


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This CD was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs

91k9goHHX+L._SL1500_The participation of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna in the Christmas story are presented through scripture verses from the Bible and the narrative of the author.

The Women of Christmas
by Liz Curtis Higgs
Waterbrook Press
September 2013

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs is a wonderful book for the Christmas season or for any time of the year. The book covers the lives of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna in the months before the birth of Jesus and a few weeks after His birth. Each woman is presented through Bible scriptures and the narrative of the author. Mary is newly betrothed but she is pregnant, Elizabeth is old and barren but she also becomes pregnant, and Anna is old, widowed, and lives in the Temple waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. Of course the story also includes Joseph a carpenter who is betrothed to Mary, Zechariah a priest who is the husband of Elizabeth, and Simeon also a priest and living each day waiting to see the promised Messiah. The one thing that all three women have in common is that their hearts belong to God. And Mary and Elizabeth are blessed to have husbands that love and obey God.

Liz Higgs does an excellent job in presenting the story of these three women and showing the involvement in and contribution of each of them in the Christmas story. The style of the writing made for easy reading and enjoyment. Liz wrote a paragraph or two to introduce each woman and then a verse of scripture was given and Liz would then give her interpretation of that verse, another verse was given, Liz would interpret, and this style of writing was continued throughout the entire book.. This form was also used for the three men in the story. This style of writing made the Christmas story so easy to understand and brought new thoughts to mind even though I have been hearing and reading the Christmas story for decades. A study guide is presented at the end for individual or small group study. This is a small book but it packs a big punch.

I definitely recommend this book to all who would like to know more about Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna and their participation in the Christmas story.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

+This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Unforeseeable by Nancy Mehl

81xx3W7RtvL._SL1500_Callie Hoffman is happy living in the Mennonite community in Kingdom, Kansas. A murdered woman is found on the road on the outskirts of Kingdom and then the life of everyone in the community is effected in some way.

Unforeseeable
by Nancy Mehl
Bethany House
September 2013

Unforeseeable by Nancy Mehl is a great murder mystery that takes place in modern day Kingdom, Kansas, in a Mennonite community. Callie Hoffman is engaged to the new Mennonite pastor, Levi Housler, and works in the restaurant owned by his sister-in-law, Lizzie Housler. Life is good and then a murdered woman is found on the road on the outskirts of Kingdom. It so happens that the murdered woman has been killed by a serial killer and it seems to be the same serial killer that was murdering women twenty years ago. With the new county sheriff questioning everyone in Kingdom, it is only natural that everyone in town is upset and on edge. Callie is troubled for it seems that Levi knows more about the murder than he should or is telling. The story is filled with suspense and near the end when Callie is threatened, then the suspense really gets scary.

This story is very well written and all the characters simply come to life on the pages of the book. All the action scenes are so realistic that I was holding my breath many times as I read what was happening and I was right there in the middle of whatever was taking place. I especially liked the way that the author had the people of the town putting their faith in God and being forgiving of others. Callie was especially working to become closer to God and praying for guidance so that she would do God’s will and not her own. The author keeps the reader guessing until the end of the book when the revealing of the murderer is quite a surprise, at least it was to me. I was very happy with the way the story ended.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of a good murder mystery with a twist, it takes place in a modern day Mennonite community.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 75 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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