©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It Is Well

When I read that this book was about illness, chronic pain, and aging; I knew I had to review it. It took me a while to read it and I found many good things in the book, but I didn't find all that I was looking for. In 2003, I went to a conference on deepening your prayer life. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that cannot be cured, but can be lived with. Since then, I've had three surgeries, four treatments that required sedation, and numerous monthly treatments.

It was intriguing to read of the struggles of Shelly Beach and others with whatever debilitates them. I was significantly interested in the hurdles that had to be overcome, especially in attitudes and healing of the heart. It did get tiresome to only read stories of struggles and hurdles. That is the only criticism I have of the book.

A solid four stars.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finding God in the Hobbit

I have always loved imaginative stories. I loved "A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeleine L'Engle as I was growing up. As I matured in my reading, I read the rest of that series and fell in love with the not-as-widely-known "Many Waters." When I was in high school my Algebra II teacher recommended the Lord of the Rings series. It wasn't until after I was married that I read The Hobbit and the others, but both my husband and I loved the books.

The opportunity came for me to review Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware, and I jumped at the chance. While JRR Tolkein wasn't writing an allegory, there is much allegorical substance to the book, and Jim took the time to find it and bring it to our attention. When I am reading serious books--books for my own edification--I am usually riding my stationary bicycle. I like multi-tasking that way, and reading while I ride helps me get my exercise in. I read most of the book this way, except for the last several chapters, I was reading in the car.

I am going to excerpt the one passage of the book that really spoke to me: "Once upon a time, something happened to someone, and he decided that he would pursue a goal. So he devised a plan of action, and even though there were forces trying to stop him, and he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as things seemed as bad as they could get, he learned an important lesson, and when offered the prize he had sought so strenuously, he had to decide whether or not to take it.

This is how writing instructors Gary Provost and Peter Rubie sum up what they call 'the plot for 90 percent of the stories you've ever read.'"

Jim has taken great care to demonstrate how this fit with Bilbo, but also how the challenges and trials Bilbo faced parallel our own. I loved this book, with snippets of the Bilbo's story and then the spiritual applications that go along with them. I will pass this book around to my family, for sure! Definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a chat with Bilbo on his front porch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I am so far behind I think I am ahead--so this one will have three reviews. Here goes:

The One Who Waits for Me by Lori Copeland is the story of Beth and Joanie Jornigan and their escape from an abusive uncle and an untenable situation at the end of the War of the Northern Aggression (ya gotta be from the South to understand this one). As Beth and Joanie are running away, they set fire to their shanty, but it unexpectedly catches their uncle's cotton field on fire.

On the way Beth and Joanie and their friend Trella meet up with Pierce, Grey Eagle, and Preach--three veterans returning from the war. The ladies strike a protective chord in the men and they do all they can to save them from the uncle. So many things happen to keep the book moving, it is hard to put it down. Like other Lori Copeland books I've read, this one is definitely a five star, two thumbs up, and a cotton boll book!

Lovelier Than Daylight by Rosslyn Elliott continues the Saddler's Legacy series and brings it to a satisfying conclusion. Susanna is going to live with her Uncle Will and Aunt Ann as she goes to Otterbein College, but on her way, she goes to see her sister Rachel and Rachel's children. She finds Rachel's husband drunk and with the news that Rachel has put her children in an orphanage and run off.

This book takes place during the time of the Temperance Movement, and while Susanna is trying to figure out how to get Rachel's children back, the town of Westerville, Ohio, is dealing with an unwanted saloon. Life just gets more puzzling as time goes on--Rachel wants to take custody of her nieces and nephews, and she begins a confusing relationship with the son of a beer brewer. Rachel's husband shows up and wants money in exchange for his releasing the children to her. Before she can gather the money, he dies, again leaving her with almost no recourse to rescue the children.

This book, as well as the whole series, is well worth your time--Five Stars, two thumbs up, and a baby!

I finished Queen of the Waves by Janice Thompson late last night/early this morning because it was too hard to put down. Jacqui Abingdon's father is trying to arrange a marriage for his daughter that will be advantageous to him and his business. Jacqui's mother wants her to marry for love and arranges passage for Jacqui on the Titanic so that Jacqui can go to her grandmother's in America. Jacqui wants to marry Peter, the gardener, and convinces Peter to get his sister to stand in for her on the ship.

Tessa is happy to escape her drunken father's "rock prayers," where he makes her kneel on broken rocks to confess sins she never committed. Her knees bear the scars of his frequent attempts to cleanse her soul. But, Tessa is a reluctant to trade identities with Jacqui. She follows through but she can't keep up the pretense forever.

On the ship, she meets Nathan and Jessie. Nathan is a man who is intrigued with Tessa's pure beauty and Jessie is the niece of a preacher who points Tessa to the true knowledge of God and His perfect love.

Again a book worth five stars, two thumbs up, and no shipwrecks!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Captain's Bride

I am so far behind on my blogging, I may never catch up. However, that is the life of one who reads constantly.

I just (and I do mean "just") finished The Captain's Bride by Lisa Tawn Bergren and found it to be a book full adventure and unexpected.

Elsa and Peder begin their married life on a ship with other friends from their community emigrating to the United States from Norway. When they are out to sea, they find that Elsa's little sister has stowed away on the ship. Tora is impulsive and selfish, to say the least. She thinks of no one but herself and her own desires and doesn't mind who she hurts in the process. Elsa tries her best to rein Tora in, but Tora resists with everything she has. Tora does acquiesce to caring for the babies of a widower for six months after they land in exchange for her passage to America.

Throughout the book, you will engage with Elsa and her friends in all their troubles and trials: Kaatje raising two babies on the prairies of North Dakota while her husband Soren is off working with the railroad; Elsa and Peder learning to live as husband and wife while beginning a ship-building business; Karl fighting his love for Elsa and leaving his partnership with Peder because of it; Tora being Tora.

Lisa Tawn Bergren writes an engaging story that grabs your attention and never lets it go. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a ship christening.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Something Blue

I have read many Amish novels and enjoyed them, but from time to time I need something different. This fit my bill. This is the story of Megan, a conservative Mennonite woman who works for a charter flight organization that also specializes in missions flights. Her boss is on a short sabbatical and his brother, Chance, fills in for him. Chance tries as hard as he can to get Megan to like him, while the new pastor of Megan's church does the same. Micah, the new pastor, went to college with Megan and wants to renew his friendship with her, and maybe go beyond friendship. Megan's head whirls as the two men vie for her attention.

Something Blue is a great read: light, funny, and at times heart-breaking. It's a story of self-discovery, of persistance, of standing firm. Megan has to discover who she really is, what she really wants, and where she will find what she wants.

This is my first Dianne Christner book, but it won't be my last.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Patchwork Christmas

This is a collection of four short novels all centered around Christmas and quilts. That alone caught my attention. The other attention getter for me was the authors--some of my favorites.

Seams Like Love, by Judith McCoy Miller, describes the life of Karla Stuke--who had been jilted by her fiance--in the Amana Colonies during the late 1800's. She is working on her sister Antje's wedding quilt and has no time for courting, or so she thinks. Her childhood friend, Frank, returns to her village to work with the apothecary after finishing pharmacy school. Frank desires to renew his friendship with Karla with hopes of courting her. Karla doesn't believe that she is worthy of courtship after her last disastrous one. Frank has his work cut out for him to change her mind.

A Patchwork Love, by Stephanie Grace Whitson, tells the story of Jane and her daughter Molly who are traveling by train to meet a man who wants her for a mail-order bride. On the way, the train becomes stuck in a snow bank and since they are the only passengers remaining on the train, Peter Gruber and his mother offer them a place to stay until the train is able to move again. Little Molly has become ill on the train and needs Anna Gruber's healing hands to help her get better. Anna is hoping Jane can look beyond the scars on her Peter's face to see the man he is and com to love him.

In The Bridal Quilt by Nancy Moser, Ada is the daughter of social climbers and they desire for her to make a socially and financially beneficial marriage. She loves Samuel, who wants to make the lives of orphans and street children better. He feels that Ada can't accept what he wants to do, that his grandfather won't approve, so he moves to the orphanage. While running errands for her family, Ada sees Samuel and calls to him, and he looks back at her and becomes the victim of an accident. Ada brings him to her home and nurses him back to health. Now all she has to do is assure him of her love.

Oh my goodness, these books are all well written, all intriguing stories and all endearing. Definitely five stars, two thumbs up, and a patchwork quilt to keep warm while you read.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Come Home to the Mountains

Rani Martin is a young lady who has grown up in Cades Cove and loves her Cove with such an overpowering emotion that she gets "all het up" about the timber company that is razing all the trees in the surrounding areas. She can't stand the thought that it could happen to her beloved Cove, so when she meets Matthew Jackson, who once worked for the timber company, she feels she can't trust him, even as attractive as he is.

Mountain Homecoming is a delightful story that takes place in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, and is the second in the Smokey Mountain Dream Series written by Sandra Robbins. Even though Rani is young (only eighteen years old), she carries a wisdom that not many girls her age have. She has witnessed her best friend marry a man she didn't love and Rani vows never to settle for second best. Rani comes to love Matthew, but he won't let go of his past, nor of the guilt that eats at him all the time. Rani goes to stay with her uncle for a while to get her mind off Matthew and to learn some new pottery methods. She considers her own pottery to be rather primitive in appearance, partially because she pit fires it instead of kiln firing. She meets David Brann through her uncle who takes her under his wing and teaches her all he knows about throwing clay and making pottery. Even though her friendship with David grows, she still can't get Matthew out of her mind. . . . I am not going to spoil the rest of the story for you, you'll just have to get the book and read it. It's well worth your time and effort to do so.

I give it two thumbs up, five stars, and a hand-thrown, pit fired bowl!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ashton Park

I have never encountered Murray Pura before, but his book, Ashton Park, is a great introduction to his works. This is the story of a family during and after World War I. The Danforths have three sons in the military and four daughters to watch over. While two of the sons are fighting on the continent, one son is fighting in Ireland. One daughter is married to a minister who had lost an arm in the war, one daughter is married to an Irishman watching over the shipping interests of Sir William, two daughters are at home.

There are several flies in this family's ointment:

Norah, the maid who liked to spread malicious gossip
Albert, Catherine's husband who cuckolds her
William's prejudice
Edward's bitterness
Victoria's love for a "mere" stable boy
Kipp's broken engagement with Caroline

This book is a fascinating read and surely will be a hit for every fan of Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an armistice.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Mother's Promise

By joining several "blogging for books" sites, I am introduced to many new and new-to-me authors. Anna Schmidt is just one of those "new-to-me" authors, but I found her work well worth my time.

A Mother's Promise tells the story of Rachel Kauffman and her son Justin. Rachel and Justin are Old Order Mennonite, and while not shying away from technology as the Amish do, they still live a separated life. Rachel and Justin have lived through the death of Rachel's husband James, James' brother taking over the family farm, and Rachel losing her job when they decide to move to Florida for a promise of a job there.

Rachel promises Justin that life will be better in Florida and works hard to make that promise come true. In taking the job at a new hospital as the assistant to the chaplain working primarily with children, Rachel becomes wrapped up in her work and Justin seems to take a back seat. He falls into a bad group of friends who delight in bullying a girl who has spent the past year in treatment for leukemia. When Rachel finally realizes what is going on, she decides to make some changes--they move to a Mennonite neighborhood and school, Rachel quits her job to look for something to allow her more time with Justin, and they join a group going on a missions trip to Costa Rica all in an effort to get their feet firmly back on the ground.

There are many positives about this book. Rachel knows how to stick to her guns, stand for what she believes, and protect her family--whatever it takes. Rachel is a strong woman, but not so strong as not to be believable. She loves her family fully, and takes all of her responsibilities seriously. There is a bit of romance between Rachel and Dr Booker from the hospital, and the romance has its ups and downs that require Rachel and Dr Booker to work through them. This is definitely a five-star, two thumbs up book that brings you into the characters' lives. Extremely readable book!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Trouble With Cowboys

According to Annie, cowboys are Trouble with a capital T; especially good-looking, personable cowboys like Dylan Taylor. Dylan sees in Annie someone to spend the rest of his life with. Annie would rather run far, far away in the opposite direction whenever Dylan is near.

Annie is supporting her sister and her nephew while her sister finishes school, and she does this by training horses and writing a column in the Montana magazine. Dylan has a horse that has gone blind and needs Annie's help with the horse. Annie can't turn down a horse in need, so she takes on Dylan's horse in spite of her misgivings.

Denise Hunter has written a hum-dinger of a book that has a bit of mystery, a good dose of humor, and the antics of an unpredictable sister. The Trouble with Cowboys is that they are soooooo hard to ignore.

It's a great book to read on a cold, rainy afternoon when you are snuggled under a cozy blanket. Five stars, two thumbs up, and a bale of hay.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Confessions of a Bible Thumper

I rarely quit reading a book before I finish it, but once in a while it happens. This time I had to quit for my own sanity. I cannot disagree with Michael Camp's premise more, and the longer I read, the angrier I became. Michael's Confessions were not totally baseless, but instead of seeking to understand more than to be understood, he missed what were to me some obvious points. He wants God to be a god only of love, but not a god of justice. I will not disagree that there are abusers, misusers, and twisters of the Bible, but taken in and of itself, it will speak volumes to us, if we only let it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lady in the Making

My parents despaired of me ever growing up, but even more, they despaired of me being a lady--and I haven't made it yet. Susan Page Davis wrote an entertaining novel with a bit of mystery, a bit of adventure, and a whole lot of humor.

Millie wants to make restitution for wrongs she had done to David Stone. She had no hopes of ever seeing him again, but ends up sharing a stage coach with him for a trip east. She wants forgiveness, she wants to repay the debt she owes, and she wants to prove to him that she's changed by the grace of God. She gets her chance when the stage coach has an accident and David breaks his leg. She nurses him until he is able to complete his trip and during that time, well, . . . I won't spoil the story for you.

Susan has written a story that so completely explains redemption, forgiveness, and grace. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a stage coach ride.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Strong and Stubborn

Kelly Eileen Hake is a chip off her mother's block. They both write with a healthy dose of humor and a modicum of suspense. Strong and Stubborn certainly fits this bill. Naomi is the last of the brides in Hope Falls, CO, from the advertisement to hire a husband. The rules the ladies have made among themselves is that they will all get married on the same day and the other two must approve the choice of groom.

Now, enter Michael Strode and his son Luke. Michael enters town to find a collapsed mine entrance and people trapped inside. He jumps in to help free Lacey and Dunstan, whom he doesn't know from Adam. Before the rescue party leaves for the mine, he stops to offer prayer for a successful rescue. This one action sticks in Naomi's mind for the rest of the book.

The romance in this book isn't as syrupy as in some books, but it's still there. The mystery is not easily solved or resolved by the reader before the end of the book, and the story comes to a satisfying end. This book definitely earns Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a clear mine entrance!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hot Pursuit of Lucy

Lucy Banning is a woman during a time when women were mostly ornaments. She wanted more--to pursue a college education, to help orphans, and to live out a true faith. Her parents want her to marry Daniel, the son of long-time friends, and Daniel wants her to be his ornament and nothing more.

Lucy's brother, Leo, runs into a friend he met in Princeton, Will Edwards, who is an engineer working for an architectural firm. Leo introduces Will to Lucy and a friendship grows between them. Daniel becomes jealous of the friendship and does everything he can to thwart the growing relationship and discredit Will.

A Pursuit of Lucy Banning is such a good read--it only took me one day to complete it. I have a bad habit of reading way past my bedtime and this book fed my habit. This is my first book by Olivia Newport but it won't be my last.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a good alarm clock.

A Wreath of Snow

Liz Curtis Higgs is a special lady who lives to encourage. She's been a favorite author of mine for quite some time. When I picked up A Wreath of Snow, I read it with great anticipation.

Meg went home for Christmas from Edinburgh to Stirling, but left in a hurry because of the atmosphere her brother creates. Her brother had been injured by a wreckless man throwing a curling stone, and his bitterness since the accident has only grown over the years.

On the train, she meets Gordon Shaw, the one responsible for her brother's condition. He's waited for years to make amends for the injury, but the family has never allowed him past the door, much less allowed him to speak.

This is a sweet story about forgiveness, mercy, and grace all woven into one. Liz knows how to tell a story and tell it well, and that is the recipe for a good Christmas story.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Sometimes I read so much so fast, I can't keep up with the reviews I need to post. That's the case today. So you get three reviews in one post!

The Reunion by Dan Walsh

This book is one of the best I have read in a while. The book revolves around Aaron Miller, a Viet Nam vet and Congressional Medal of Honor winner. He is also the caretaker for a trailer/RV park. He's a quiet, unassuming man who does his job, reaches out to hurting people, and does what he can to be the best he can be. He also doesn't care for limelight very much. In Aaron, Dan Walsh has built the quintessential hero--he saved three men in Viet Nam who would have been killed without Aaron's intervention; he saved Heather from an abusive boyfriend; he saved Billy from himself; and he saved Irene from her trailer after a tree limb crushed it. Little did Aaron know but there are three men who are looking for him--the three vets Aaron saved. They want to thank him for what he did.

The Reunion will take you through the jungles of Viet Nam, the trailer court in Florida, and the minds of Aaron's children. Aaron's story isn't all that unusual--vets often come back home without being able to cope after all the trauma they have seen in battle. While this book wasn't based on any one particular vet, it does have inspiration in two World War II vets--Bobbie E Brown and Bill Crawford. After finishing the book, I had to look these men up. It amazes me that two Medal of Honor winners ended up as janitors/custodians at two of our military academies.

This book gets five stars, two thumbs up, and a medal.

A Home in Drayton Valley by Kim Vogel Sawyer

This is a book about living in tenements, getting out, and making a life up out of poverty. Mary and Joss have two children: Emmy and Nate. Mary wants nothing more than to leave the New York City tenement where they live and make a life where the children can run free with grass under their feet, but most of all, Mary wants her children to have a Daddy who cares about them and doesn't drink their groceries away. Mary has a friend Tarsie who wants to help them move. Mary, Joss, and Tarsie make their way to Kansas for a fresh start in life, but on the way Mary passes away. Joss and Tarsie "marry" to create a family for Emmy and Nate. This book does more than tell the story of Joss and Tarsie falling in love, it tells the story of Joss learning life's hard lessons and learning to see the way God sees.

A great read, two thumbs up, and two beautiful children.

A Hidden Truth by Judith Miller

I finished this book last night and it was a quick read. I have enjoyed every one of the Home to Amana books Judith has written, an this one is just as good as the others. Dovie Cates wants to find out why her mother left the Amana Colonies, so she goes to East Amana to stay with her mother's cousin, Louise, and Louise's family--her husband George, and their daughter Karlina.

Judith has done her research to make the Amana Colonies come to life, with how the people lived, with how they were governed, with how they made their money.

Dovie is no flibberty-gibbet, but she can drag Karlina into her activities and into trouble. She does not intend to cause trouble, it just happens because she doesn't always think things through.

One thing about the Amana Colonies is that everyone in the villages works together for the good of the community, and Karlina works with her father with the sheep. Anton comes in from High Amana to learn shepherding. Dovie and Anton arrive at the same time--both to live with Louise and George. Dovie rooms with Karlina and Anton takes the spare room. As Karlina teaches Anton what he needs to know about the sheep and the business of growing sheep. In the meantime, Anton is learning patience and anger-control, as well as falling in love with Karlina.

While Dovie is searching for answers, she develops an ever-deepening relationship with Berndt, who delivers the bread to the East Amana kitchens.

Every book in this series is worth the time to read it. This one gets five stars, two thumbs up, and a bale of wool.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Living the Lord's Prayer--a Challenge

I've been studying prayer and its meaning since 2003, and this book changed everything I ever thought about a specific passage in Matthew 6. Verses 9-13 say: Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

​​​ Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

​​​​​​​ Give us this day our daily bread,

​​​​​​​​and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

​​​​​​​​And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Father Albert Haase says this is not just a prayer, but a vow to fulfill, and a lifestyle to live out. First, the word "Our" is inclusive. We have to realize there is more than one of us. "Father" is a word of relationship, so this is a family life and we have obligations to live as a family. The rest of the prayer requires similar action on the part of all Christians--who else is going to hallow His name? Who is going to make His kingdom come or see that His will is done on earth? It requires initiative, it requires being hospitable, it requires caring more for others than ourselves, and most of all, it requires listening to Our Father to hear what He wants us to do.

Father Albert writes with an easy-to-understand manner, which makes it tough to ignore what's being said in this prayer. Like Mark Twain said: It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sagebrush Knights

I go from one book to the next, barely taking a break between them. This book offers the perfect opportunity to do just that, but in a seamless way. Four stories about four sisters as mail order brides to four men who got exactly what they needed whether they knew it or not.

Knight and Day: Evelyn and Gareth have to blend their two families into one. Evelyn's son, Jamie, is portrayed as a bit prissy and Evelyn is overprotective and uptight about him. Gareth's daughter, Maddie (or Mad Dog, to some), is a wild hoyden who ropes and rides with the best of Gareth's hands. Gareth wants to toughen Jamie up while at the same time, he wants Evelyn to teach Maddie to be a lady.

Lady in Waiting: Jane considers herself to be the plain sister amongst a bouquet of beauties. Harrison is working hard to make his ranch a success so that he can thwart his father's plans. Jane wants to earn her husband's love and be worthy of him.

Shining Armor: Gwendolyn's husband-to-be died just a few days before her arrival and his grandson, Matt, is not exactly welcoming. Matt's sister, Betsy is an invalid with a progressing disease and needs special care. Gwendolyn opens her heart and her arms to Betsy and allows Matt to join the spring round-up. It's a rough road for Matt to trust and only feels that Gwendolyn is trying to take advantage of him.

On a White Charger: Emmeline has stars in her eyes of the romantic cattle rancher who is to be her husband, but he turns out to be a sheep rancher. As she reaches Joe's place, she finds his house burning to the ground, so she spends her first months living in a sheepherder's shack with her new husband.

The four ladies have obstacles to overcome on their way to love and they undertake the challenge with humor and skill. Erica Vetsch has truly written a winner. Five Stars, two thumbs up, and four sisters to boot!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Bartered Bride

This book is a collection of novellas about arranged marriages, marriages of convenience, or marriages that have a rough and rocky start.

Each story is a well-written, sweet story of romance after the wedding.

The stories are:
Joie de Vivre by Lynette Sowell
Button String Bride by Cathy Marie Hake
The Wedding Wagon by Cathy Marie Hake
From Halter to Altar by Cathy Marie Hake
From Carriage to Marriage by Janelle Burnham Schneider
From Pride to Bride by JoAnn A Grote
From Alarming to Charming by Pamela Kaye Tracy
A Vow Unbroken by Amy Rognlie
Finishing Touches by Kelly Eileen Hake

Some of these stories have been previously published and I have read them before, and still enjoyed them on the re-read. Cathy Marie and Kelly Eileen Hake are mother and daughter authors whose work I absolutely adore. They have never disappointed and don't disappoint now.

There will always be stories a reader will enjoy more than others or less than others, but all of these stories will touch the reader in some way. This book is excellent for a rainy day escape with a blanket and a cup of tea.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a cozy reading nook.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Promise to Love

While my husband and I spent some time on the Oregon Coast in August, I read my first book by Serena B Miller--The Measure of Katie Calloway. It was a wonderful book but that's not the one I am reviewing here. A Promise to Love takes place in the thumb of the Michigan mitten.

Ingrid Larsen is looking for her brother Hans but she doesn't hold out much hope that she can find him because she hasn't heard from him in a year, and she is so poor she cannot afford her own shoes. Joshua Hunter is a widower with five children whose wife died under suspicious circumstances. After an inquest into the cause of her death, the judge rules that Joshua cannot take care of his children unless he has a wife. Ingrid stands up and volunteers to marry him. Even after marrying Ingrid, Joshua cannot get his infant son back from his in-laws. Ingrid proves her intrepid spirit by taking the children in hand, by sewing for them, cooking for the family, and making the house a home. Ingrid is even able to keep her head in the face of catastrophe.

Serena takes us through the ups and downs of marriage, especially a marriage that began out of necessity rather than love. I read this book through in one day, it was that good. Definitely five stars, two thumbs up, and a new pair of boots.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Season for Tending

For a while I read every Christian Romance I could get my hands on and a lot of them were Amish Romances. Then I got tired of everything Amish and quit reading them at all. I got A Season of Tending and I think I am going to have to read everything Cindy Woodsmall has written. My only complaint with this book is that I think Cindy ended it too soon. I need to know what happens with Rhoda.

Rhoda Byler is an herbs and vines "farmer." She has an acre of various herbs and berry vines. She cans and sells her berries in various products--pie fillings, jams, preserves, etc. She uses her herbs for medicinal properties as well as in cooking savory things.

Samuel King is an apple orchardist trying to find a way to keep his family's farm above water. His brother, Jacob, has secrets he is not willing to tell; his brother, Eli, is wanting more money and responsibility but seems too lazy to keep up with the work necessary to earn the money he wants; his sister, Leah, is taking rumschpringe too far and ends up drunk and asleep in Rhoda's garden.

Because of Leah's actions, Rhoda meets Samuel and his brothers, and they decide they want to hire Rhoda to can their apples to sell on the same markets where she already sells her berries. It takes some talking to get Rhoda to agree, but she eventually does.

This book is not your average Amish romance. These people demonstrate real emotions with real foibles in real relationships. This book is a definite Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an Apple Orchard.

You can read the first chapter here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wish I May, Wish I Might

Flora's Wish is a fun read with lots of misadventures, intrigue, and humor interwoven into the plot. Flora Brimm and her cousin Winthrop have been pitted against each other in their grandfather's will for their family estate, Brimmfield. Flora wants to keep the home in the family, so she is trying to marry and have a baby before her cousin turns thirty. She wants to provide her sister Violet with a home for as long as she needs it. In her quest to find a husband, Flora has had four fiances die on her and she's worried about the fifth one making it to the wedding on time. Will Tucker is wanted by the Pinkertons and a few others. Lucas McMinn is the Pinkerton on Will's trail, wanting to bring him in for the thefts Will has perpetrated against unsuspecting women.

Kathleen Y'Barbo is nothing if not consistent in her books, her characters have real foibles, they are funny, and they care deeply about their friends and family. I have read several of Kathleen's books and have been thoroughly entertained every time. The antics of her characters keep you on the edge of your seat as you read, yet have you chuckling and wondering what thought processes brought that character to the current predicament.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a Pinkerton agent.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Tutor's Daughter

Since I have discovered Julie Klassen as an author, I have read every book she's had published and loved every single one of them. The Tutor's Daughter is no exception. Emma Smallwood is trying to find a way to help her father make ends meet. He runs a small boarding school for boys and their last pupil has graduated out of their school. Emma takes it on herself to write to former clients who have younger sons to see if they would be interested in their school again. The family responds by asking Emma and her father to come to them to tutor their younger sons. This is the catalyst that starts a chain reaction of events to lend to the air of mystery, intrigue, and romance with a bit of high-jinx thrown in for good measure.

Rowan and Julian are the twin sons of Sir Giles and the boys that the Smallwoods have come to tutor. Henry and Philip are their older half-brothers who were once pupils at the Smallwood's boy's school. Both Henry and Philip remember Emma and the friendship she offered while they were living with the Smallwoods. Henry played pranks on Emma at every turn, it seemed; while Philip genuinely enjoyed her company. When Philip hears that Emma is now in residence at his family home, he comes home from Oxford to see her. Julian, especially, and Rowan, to a lesser degree, join forces to pull some pranks on Emma but with a less innocent motive than their older brother.

Julie Klassen develops her characters in such a way that you know immediately there are people you shouldn't trust, some you question their trustworthiness, and some you feel an immediate empathy for. Her settings are incredible in their detail and they invite you into the book so that you can see where the story is taking place to the point that you feel you are there.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Chess Set.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

To Whisper Her Name

There are not many books by Tamera Alexander I haven't read. Her newest offering is one that lives up to Tamera's high level of quality writing.

Olivia Aberdeen is a widow with no means of supporting herself. Because her husband was hanged for a traitor to the Confederacy, she is shunned by Society and so was invited by her mother's dearest friend, Elizabeth Harding to come and be the head housekeeper for the Belle Meade Plantation. When she gets there, after a calamitous carriage overturning, she finds the position she was hoping for has been given to a relative of the Harding family. Instead, her "Aunt" Elizabeth's husband, General William Giles Harding wants Olivia to be Elizabeth's companion because her health is failing and the doctor has told her husband she is terminally ill.

Ridley Cooper came upon Olivia moments after the carriage accident and helps her escape the carriage. He is on his way to Belle Meade to find a job working with General Harding's thoroughbreds and the hostler entrusted to their care. Ridley has his own secrets to hide because he fought for the North even though he was from South Carolina.

To Whisper Her Name is one of those books that hooks you in quickly and doesn't let you go until the very last word--and even then, you just don't want to put it down. You just can't wait to see what's going to happen next. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Thoroughbred Horse!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Glorious Ruin

Tullian Tchividjian has written a book about suffering and it might raise questions about why I would choose to read such a book. Life has enough suffering already, doesn't it? To some degree, I want to understand my own suffering.

I am going to give a bit of my history here. In 2003, I went to the doctor for a regular check up and mentioned indigestion that my doctor interpreted as possible gall stones. She scheduled me for an ultrasound that ended up turning my life upside down and backwards. During the ultrasound, the technician made inane comments about what he was seeing until he came to my right side. Then he got up and got another white-coated person to come and look at what he was seeing. Then I heard the words that make any "sane" person shudder, "We found a mass." I was scheduled for more tests and a biopsy. It took two weeks for me to hear the final words that made changes I would live with for the rest of my life. I have Neuroendocrine Tumors consistent with Carcinoid syndrome. I have a two clinics of doctors in two states to keep my disease in control, because it is not curable.

I had a certain pride because I never asked, "Why me?" and it took a while for God to bring me to my knees about my pride. It's ironic to think there is pride in suffering, but I had it--I was proud of how well I accepted my situation, and it swelled every time someone asked me how I was. Oh my.........

Tullian made so many important points in Glorious Ruin, it's hard to know where to begin to choose which ones to include in this review. I believe the most compelling thought I gleaned from this book is a quote from Steve Brown: "When pain comes, run to it and you will run straight into the arms of Jesus. Then you will laugh and dance in the freedom and reality of God's sufficiency and the power that becomes awesome in your weakness." It's true. More than God's sovereignty is God's sufficiency--His grace is sufficient, He is ready to supply all of our NEEDS, and He stands ready with open arms for us to cry "uncle," so that we will cry "Abba," and reach for Him.

This books is a definite MUST-READ because if you are not suffering right now, you will be. It's just part of living in this imperfect world.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Twice A Bride

When I finished reading Mona Hodgson's "The Bride Wore Blue," I figured the next book would have Miss Hattie Adams' love story with the girls' father. But, I miscalculated. Twice a Bride is that story but it's more.

Willow is Tucker Raines' sister, introduced in "Too Rich for a Bride." She is a widow, but she's more--she's an artist with a desire to sell her paintings. She finds a help-wanted listing for someone to colorize photographs and paint portraits from them. She applies for the job and meets Trenton Van Der Veer, the town's new photographer.

While none of these four characters--Miss Hattie, Harlan Sinclair, Willow Peterson, and Trenton--were looking for romance, they all end up in love. With unexpected twists and turns, the whole story still comes together seamlessly and the four books become united in a way that leaves the reader with a completely satisfied feeling. Mona has done an excellent job in bringing these two couples together.

The four Sinclair girls: Ida, Kat, Nell, and Vivian have been expecting their father to come to Cripple Creek, Colorado, where they all live. When their father arrives, he brings a surprise, an eight-year-old orphaned girl from France.

In the meantime, Trenton and Willow are trying to find their way as employer/employee, but both want more. Susanna comes to town to throw a wrench into the works, because she wants Trenton's affections.

Mona has written an entertaining series of books and this one is just as good as the first. Five stars; two thumbs up; and a large, happy family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Irish Healer

I have begun to love books that have been written by "new" authors. I guess I can pick what the good ones will be. The Irish Healer is one of those good ones. Rachel is a healer fleeing her homeland because she was accused (but acquitted) of murder. She never wants to go back to healing again. She must take a job with a doctor who is leaving his practice and needs someone to catalog his library and prepare it for moving. This is just a stop-gap job for her. Ultimately she wants to teach. But, there are always hiccups along the path to our dreams, just like in real life. Rachel and James, the doctor, have just such hiccups, and find more than they bargained for.

One of the lessons I have had to learn the hard way is not to take guilt trips booked for me by someone else. And sometimes I have to quit booking my own guilt trips. It's just that simple. Rachel and James both have had to learn this lesson. I love when I can relate to the characters in a book I am reading. It's more than entertainment; there is usually a lesson for me to learn, relearn, or even meditate on.

Nancy Herriman has done an excellent job in writing this book. I give it five stars, two thumbs up, and a healing herb garden.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

There's Power and then There's Power

I have been a fan of Jennifer Kennedy Dean's writing for a long time. I have read a few of her books and I am hungry for more. That's why I jumped on the chance to review her study, The Life-Changing Power in the Name of Jesus.

She begins the study with explaining how important our names are to our own identities and the power our names carry--hearing our names from our parents with exasperation, hearing our names from our loves, hearing our names from the voice of the One who knows us best--they all carry different meanings, and they all bring different emotions to the fore when we hear them.

So this is the point--Jesus' name carries power for us, in how we use it, in how we allow it to change us, and ultimately, in how we allow it to change our own destinies. The one point Jennifer made in this study resonated with me so much and will be the hallmark of my journey from here on out: "Jesus is the destination." (emphasis mine)

Five stars, two thumbs up, and three steps forward on the journey to real power!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Who Is This Man?

I just finished this book by John Ortberg and it wasn't a quick read, but it was an incredible read. It helped me to understand the Man I call my Savior, the Man I call my Lord, and the Man who changed the course of the world, single-handedly.

John is definitely a scholar of Jesus Christ, but he's more than a scholar, he's intimate with the Man whom he researched. John poured his love for Jesus out on the pages of his book, and in pouring it out, he hopes that the reader will come to love Jesus as much as he does.

I found out some pretty incredible things about this Man. As much as the world would like to ignore Him, Jesus' impact cannot be denied--take a look at any calendar--it is based on when Jesus was born. Wherever Jesus went, He either had great popularity or great opposition; but no half-way, namby-pamby, wishy-washy opinions about Him. He attacked money-changers in the Temple, He healed people who were considered less than human, He walked with confidence into enemy territory and confronted false ideas with temerity, He sought out times to be alone with His Father and recharge His soul, and He took the time to enjoy the company of those He loved.

Jesus came at a time when all of Israel wanted freedom from Rome, they wanted a political takeover. Jesus came to bring life, and a freedom they had never imagined. And when Jesus didn't deliver what they wanted, they turned on Him and delivered Him to face the death penalty as only Rome could deliver it--crucifixion.

John Ortberg definitely has influenced my opinions, my faith, and my whole life with this book. It gets five stars, two thumbs up, and a pair of walking shoes to put feet to my faith.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Raising Rain

I read an interesting book by Debbie Fuller Thomas called "Raising Rain." Four women who were roommates in college meet again to plan a Celebration of Life for one of the four who is dying of cancer. I've read a similar book to this before, but this one had something special about it that brings it out from the rest. Jude was the unprecedented Women's Libber, militantly for women's rights, militantly against the Viet Nam war, militantly militant. Bebe was the ingenue, Toni was a glamour diva, Mare was the conscience. Then there is Rain. Rain is really Rainbow Star, Jude's daughter born in this turbulence of college life in the early 1970's. All four women had a hand in raising Rain, in being her family, and in saying good-bye to Jude.

Debbie is a talented writer who brings "real life" to life. Her characters are not syrupy, but seem to take on lives of their own (I would hope to shout!) in the real, nitty-gritty throes of daily life.

For something new and different for my blog, I am going to list the reasons anyone should read this book:

1. Debbie doesn't allow her characters to mince their words. They speak their minds clearly and without apology.

2. The characters are not scripture-spouting do-gooders with a verse for every situation, but people with faults and foibles that are visible for all to see.

3. God is alive and active in the characters just like He is in our own lives--not in a pushy way, but only as we allow Him to be.

4. Debbie's writing is relatable, and the overarching facet of any reading is whether or not I can learn anything. From this book I learned that reconciliation is a vital to our lives.

This book deserves five stars, two thumbs up, and the love of a good friend.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Though Waters Roar

I've read many of Lynn Austin's books and all of them captured my imagination from the very beginning all the way through. She is a writer who understands her plots, her characters, her themes, and her settings; and she knows how to bring them all to life in vivid pictures in your mind as you read them.

Though Waters Roar chronicles Harriet's lineage from Hannah to BeBe to Lucy to Harriet; from the Underground Railroad, to Prohibition, to Women's Suffrage, to a desire to live out a legacy of brave women and be all that she was meant to be. With BeBe narrating most of the story and Harriet listening, the story unfolds bit by bit. As it unfolds, the reader gets to watch how it shapes Harriet.

Harriet's journey to find her place in the world is on a bumpy road that takes unexpected twists and turns, but each twist and turn has its own lesson for Harriet to learn.

This is a five-star, two-thumbs-up, and a get-out-of-jail-free-card book!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Band of Sisters

I have never read a book by Cathy Gohlke before, so this book was a fine introduction to her writing. Band of Sisters chronicles the journey of Maureen and Katie Rose O'Reilly from Ireland to the United States, from homelessness to security, from loss to love.

Maureen holds a letter to her father from a Colonel Wakefield, promising sponsorship should he decide to immigrate to the States because of her father's aid to the Colonel during the Civil War. She goes to the Wakefield's home to find that, like her father, the Colonel has passed away. Maureen has to find a place to live and a way to support her sister or be deported, but Maureen is turned away from the Wakefield home. She is basically on her own, with the temporary help of Mrs. Melkford.

A man, Jaime Flynn, meets Maureen after she has passed through the labyrinth of Ellis Island and gives her thirty dollars and a name of a department store where Maureen could get a job.

There is an understory to the story Cathy is weaving in this book--the story of human sex trafficking. Jaime and Drake are both involved, while Olivia Wakefield and her sister are trying to enjoin with other like-minded women to put a stop to this deplorable practice.

Band of Sisters is a well-written, engrossing novel. I was touched by the plight of Maureen, Katie Rose, and even Maureen's coworkers. One thing I look for in reading Christian literature is what I can take away from the book besides entertainment. I found mercy, I found grace, I found what it really means to look at the heart instead of looking at appearances. Thank you, Cathy, for a job well-done. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and I'd claim you in my "Band of Sisters" any day!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Love's Reckoning

Laura Frantz doesn't have many books out, but what she does have is HIGH quality reading. I finished Love's Reckoning yesterday morning at 4:30, it was that compelling.

Silas Barryntine is the apprentice to Liege Lee, the blacksmith in York County, Pennsylvania. Liege has decided that Silas is to marry one of his daughters, but the daughter Liege has chosen for Silas is not the one Silas would choose. Eden and Elspeth Lee are as different as night and day; and Elspeth tries every trick in her cunning little book to discredit and ruin Eden, especially in Silas' eyes. Because of Eden's tender heart, it's easy for Silas to fall in love with her in spite of Liege's and Elspeth's desires to the contrary.

Love's Reckoning is the kind of historical novel that gives you a great glimpse into life during the late eighteenth century without interfering in the story. Silas and Eden's road to marriage was rocky at best, just like real life. There is just enough of mystery, romance, and drama to keep you fully involved in the story. Sometimes I can read and do other things at the same time, it's not possible with this book. Five stars, two thumbs up, and a lot of wrought iron nails!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

With Every Letter

My parents met shortly after the end of World War II. My dad had several more months in the Coast Guard before he was to be discharged. While Daddy was deployed, he and Mama wrote letters to each other frequently. Mama was still in college, finishing her degree, and getting ready to teach. When Daddy was discharged, he came home to gather what money he could to buy Mama an engagement ring. If Mama refused his proposal, Daddy was going to go to South Carolina to take a job on the railroad. He had had a small herd of cattle he left in the care of his parents when he went into the service. He had a cow, a heifer, and a yearling calf remaining in his "herd." He sold them all and took the money to Mr Finger's jewelry store to buy the best ring he could. He got the clearest, prettiest 1/4 carat diamond his money could buy. His money could have gotten a bigger diamond, but he went for quality over quantity. Mama was his one and only.

When I read Sarah Sundin's new World War II era book, I could totally relate to Melly and Tom. I understood Melly's desire to fit in with the other nurses, her desire to do the best job she absolutely could, and her willingness to enter into an anonymous correspondence.

With Every Letter rises to and surpasses Sarah's writing quality. I've read Sarah's books and have enjoyed, nay, loved every single one. She writes of an era that intrigues me, interests me, and speaks to me of my own history because of my father's service. But I must say I have never been so drawn into a book. Melly grew up feeling out of sync with her world, and had a hard time fitting in. Tom was the same way, but for different reasons. Their anonymous pen-pal relationship made it possible to reveal their true selves to each other, encourage each other, and fall in love. Melly's job as a flight nurse on medical evacuation flights hinged on her ability to fit in with the rest of the nurses--Tom was able to advise her on building friendships. Tom's job as an engineer building airstrips for the moving bases depended on his ability to motivate his men to do the work and not just be one of the guys--Melly encouraged him to find the leadership she felt he had within him.

Sarah consistently makes her characters real, with real feelings and real emotions. They are incredibly relatable and I found myself rejoicing with the triumphs, tearing up at the tests and trials, and anxiously watching these characters grow. Sarah, kudos--you've done it again. Five Stars, a Medal of Commendation, and WOW!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Which Way Do You Read?

“...Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.” John Steinbeck in East of Eden

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Be Still My Soul

I have so many books waiting for my attention (it's all part of my addiction), but this book jumped into my hands and called me to read it. What could I do? I had to obey!

Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof is a story about Lonnie and Gideon, a couple who are victims of Lonnie's father's delusions. He takes what he thinks he sees to manipulate Lonnie and Gideon into marriage, and then they have to learn to find their way into a lasting relationship.

I've not read any books by Joanne Bischof before, so this was a pleasant surprise. She weaves a quite a gripping story. While no specific era is mentioned, the story seems to have taken place in the mid- to late-1800's. Shoe leather express is the mode of transportation used most often because Gideon and Lonnie don't have the resources to own horses. Joanne has painted a real picture of life as it was "back then."

I loved this book so much, I'd read late into the night until my eyes could no longer see, and my brain could no longer process what I was reading. This is a great read, ranking five stars, a new pair of shoes, and a lack of sleep.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Threads of Red

This Scarlet Cord by Joan Wolf is an enjoyable novel that tells a story of a young woman in Jericho before the Israelites took it. Joan did her research into the times and customs of the day. She uses these facts and ideas to weave a story of young love in a turbulent time.

Joan tells the story of Rahab, Sala, their families, and the Israelite conquest of Jericho. The book chronicles Rahab's childhood, growth into young adulthood, her desire to know Yahweh. There is enough action in the book to keep your attention, enough intrigue to keep you wanting more.

As Joan says in her notes at the end of the book, there are only five paragraphs about Rahab in the Bible and she had to rely on her research to make the story. She does this well and makes an incredibly readable book.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Hard Path to Take

Over the last week, I've taken a short vacation, visited one of my many doctors, and read a few books. One of the books is A Path Toward Love by Cara Lynn James. Katherine Osborne is between the proverbial rock and hard place. She needs money to meet the expenses of her late husband's orchard, her foreman is leaving, and her mother wants her to come home and get married as soon as possible. Her father is willing to lend her the money provided that she come home and let her mother reintroduce her to society. All Katherine wants is to live a quiet life and to take care of her citrus orchard.

Katherine has to live through her mother's machinations in trying to arrange a marriage for her, the demands of her late husband's lover for child support, and the lethargy of the summer. Her mother sees her desires to work as unreasonable and wants her to make a suitable to society marriage match. Her father would only listen to her but then back up her mother as an unwitting ally in her manipulations. Katherine's only friend throughout all this is her father's employee.

This is one of those books that is easy to get lost in, Katherine was a "real" woman with real struggles that many people even today can relate with, and the scripture in the book was woven in seamlessly. I related so well to Katherine because I hate being manipulated, myself. Just ask my daughter.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Guest Book

When I was in college, I loved hearing Jim Croce sing. I had one of his albums and played it over and over and over and over again (ad nauseum). One song made its way into my memory "Time in a Bottle" and that song is key to The Guest Book by Mary Beth Whalen. Macy is a single-mom with a five year old daughter, Emma. She is also a daughter to Brenda and a sister to Max. She grew up going to the beach every year for vacation and spending it in a cabin named "Time in a Bottle." Her father encouraged her to draw a picture in the guest book every year when they visited the cabin. After the first time, she came back to find a picture drawn in response to hers. It became something of a correspondence between Macy and some anonymous boy. Ten years after her last visit to the cabin, Brenda, Max, Macy, and Emma return to the cabin to put some family ghosts to sleep and to enjoy one more vacation. Macy begins a journey to find the anonymous respondent to her drawings in the guest book. The journey takes the whole vacation to find her mysterious correspondent, but along the way, Macy makes some life-changing discoveries about herself.

I've never read anything by Mary Beth before, but I really enjoyed this story. She uses flash-backs creatively without disturbing the flow of the story. The journey of self-discovery as well as God-discovery Macy embarked on is real, something similar to one of my own.

I give this book a real five stars, with a bottle full of time.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Feed Your Soul Some Good Nourishment

Feeding Your Soul has been on my bookshelf for quite some time. I am doing a more in-depth study on prayer for the purpose of potentially teaching an adult study on it. I have found this book to be a most valuable resource for my own personal growth as well as for the teaching purposes.

Jean Fleming defines what quiet time is, why a quiet time is needed, how to fit your quiet time to you for your best growth with your loving Father, and how to make the most of your quiet time. She does this in such a loving way that you never feel judged for inadequacy, but you feel inspired. The whole purpose of the quiet time is deepening of your relationship with God.

I gave a copy of this book to my mother a number of years ago, and she had me order her a few more copies because she wanted to give them as gifts. She felt this was one of the most important books she'd ever read. I do too.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Glamorous Illusions

I've read a few of Lisa Tawn Bergren's books and truly enjoyed them. This one has me confused. It ends in the middle of the story, or so it seems. I understand this is part of a series and I love reading serial novels. I guess my expectations are that each novel will tell a complete story, and this doesn't deliver my expectations.

Glamorous Illusions begins in the early 1900's with Cora returning home after a year at Normal School. She comes home to find her father ill and the farm in disarray. She takes over the farm chores as her father recovers from a stroke. When he suffers a second stroke, it sets in motion a series of events that throw her world totally upside down.

The man she believes to be her father (and he is her father in every way that counts), is of no biological kin to her. Her natural father is a wealthy copper baron who desires to claim his kinship to her and debut her into society and send her on a grand tour of Europe.

The book is endearing, exciting, and pulls out all of your empathy for Cora, or at least it did for me. I could relate to her discomfiture, to her feeling out of place in this world of glamor.

I will anxiously await the rest of the books in this series because I want to know if Cora finishes her education and gets a teaching job, or if she falls in love with Will or Pierre.

Solid 4 stars.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Harvest of Rubies

​​​​​​Who can find a wife of noble character?
For her value is far more than rubies (Prov 31:10 NET)

Sarah is a young Jewish girl living in Persia during the reign of Artaxerxes. She is also a cousin of Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer. She's an anomaly because she can read and write in several languages as well as cipher. It was unusual for a girl to be educated. Through her cousin's influence, she becomes the scribe to the Queen and later the wife of Darius.

This was my first book to read by Tessa Afshar--I was amazed at the depth of her research into the culture and daily life of Persia, and her ability to seamlessly weave it into the story she's telling and make it an essential part of her story.

One of my favorite characters in the book is Bardia, the gardener at Darius' Perseopolis estate. He is the picture of the husbandman Jesus talks about in John 15 when He tells us to abide in Him because He is the True Vine. Pruning is one very important technique in growing good fruit, and Bardia knows it well. When Sarah sees the fruits of Bardia's labor, she calls the beautiful fruit a harvest of rubies.

This book deserves two thumbs up, five stars, and a cluster of the tastiest grapes you've ever eaten.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Wedding Dress

I haven't ever read a book by Rachel Hauck before, but this first foray into her novels has me wanting more.

2012--Charlotte Malone is about to get married, but her heart is unsure so she goes up to Red Mountain to pray. When she gets there, she finds an auction in progress and while not intending to buy anything, she ends up buying a trunk with unknown contents.

1912--Emily Canton is about to get married, but her heart is unsure--she has doubts about her fiance and can't decide if he truly is the one for her. In the meantime, her mother wants to get Emily's dress made and wants to use a highly touted dressmaker. Emily wants to use a "colored" woman on the other side of town.

More than the story of these two women 100 years apart, it's also the story of the dress and the four women who wear the dress. It's about the courage to make the right decisions instead of the popular ones.

I usually read for a bit before going to sleep at night. It only took two nights to finish The Wedding Dress, and I must say, Rachel writes a compelling story. Two thumbs up, five stars, and a diamond tiara!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shadow on the Quilt

Juliana is married to Sterling Sutton and lives with his aunts in the largest house in Lincoln, Nebraska. Sterling is building an even larger house on the outskirts of town and Juliana calls it a monstrosity. The first heartbreak to Juliana is finding a locket among Sterling's things--a locket engraved to another woman from Sterling. The second heartbreak is when a fire breaks out in town and Juliana hitches up her buggy to find out where the fire is. The building ablaze is the local "house of ill-repute," and Sterling's body is brought out with one of the soiled doves, both killed in the fire. Now Juliana has to put her life back together and find the wherewithal to carry on and take care of the estate Sterling has amassed. There are several people who come into Juliana's life to aid her in her heartbreak.

Stephanie Grace Whitson is a great author with many titles to her name. Everything she's written that I have read has taught me something. The Shadow on the Quilt taught me forgiveness. Juliana had to come to a place where she could forgive Sterling, his lovers, and several others including herself. The other thing I learned from this book is how to live my Christian walk. Juliana set aside her mourning to continue to work on her philanthropies and to take care of her late husband's aunts. I give this book a two-thumbs up, five stars, and a twirl!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Next Level

I read Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and A Day with a Perfect Stranger and I was fascinated by the allegorical message. I have recommended them to friends and have had various members of my family read them. Last night, I finished The Next Level, which really made me think about how I live my life and what my purpose is. David Gregory's way with words and his writing style make a person think.

Logan is a college graduate without a job. His father encourages him to find a job, any job, just so he gets out and works. Logan applies for a job with Univeral Systems, gets in to see the Director immediately, and is given his dream job--an Organizational Analyst. He is assigned to diagnose the problems within the organization, level by level. He takes on his job with fervor and zeal, but with increasing frustration as each level seems better than the previous one until further investigation reveals no difference in problems, just differences in how they appear.

Like I said, this book causes the reader to think, to examine, to discover one's self in the process. Sit down with it, read it, take it to heart. It's well worth your time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Shape Is Mercy?

I have read a few of Susan Meissner's books and have found all of them compelling, and with each one, I've learned something that has deepened my spiritual life. A better recommendation I cannot give. The Shape of Mercy is just that kind of book, compelling, teaching, and commendable.

The Shape of Mercy's cast includes Lauren, Abigail, and Mercy, chiefly. These three are the most important to the story. Lesser characters are Cole, Raul, Clarissa, and Lauren's parents. Lauren is a college student hired by Abigail to transcribe Mercy's diary. Mercy lives near Salem in 1692 and writes of the horrors of the witch trials, especially from the perspective of knowing that many of the accused are innocent. Ultimately Mercy is also accused, convicted, and sentenced to hang. Mercy is in love with John Peter, the son of a neighbor, and cannot stand for him to watch her be hanged.

This is the story in a very small nutshell with many of the plot lines omitted. There is much to be learned from this book--about judging people from appearances, about false accusations and the depth of the hurt they can cause, about judging yourself rightly. Susan writes well-researched, deeply moving books and I recommend this one highly.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Kettle's On!

Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson teamed up together to make a wonderfully tasty delight in their book, The Potluck Club. I had some time between appointments the other day and since my appointments were "out of town," I took the time to visit the local Hastings book store. The Potluck Club caught my eye and jumped into my arms as one of the purchases of the day. I had to finish the book I was reading before I could get into this one, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

There are six friends who meet once a month to pray about needs in their church and in their world. Evie is a middle-aged, single woman whose very pregnant niece shows up on her doorstep needing some heart-healing love from her aunt.

Goldie is about at the end of her rope with her philandering husband. His peccadilloes have mostly been out of town and not so much in her face, but he moved them home to have an affair with a coworker.

Donna is the daughter of the sheriff and one of his deputies. She still hurts from her mother's desertion of both her and her father and doesn't really believe God hears her or cares about her.

Lizzie is the local librarian and everyone's friend. When the pastor's wife, Jan, is diagnosed with cancer, Lizzie puts all of her research skills to work to see if she can find any help for Jan.

Vonnie is a woman with secrets that she doesn't even know she holds. Once she finds out about it, it will change her life forever.

Lisa Leann is the last member of this group who has wormed her way in without invitation and thinks she's going to take over its leadership.

Each woman brings something needful to the group, and each woman needs the group for her own reasons.

I loved the book and each chapter is headed with a tasty recipe that may find itself into my repertoire. This book is well worth your time to read, especially because these ladies will remind you of very close friends.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Read to Me

I haven't done many reviews lately because I've been reading "fluff." While there is nothing wrong with fluff, it's just been mindless entertainment. I'll be back to my regular reviews soon.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Bride Wore.....

I have a facebook page and one of my likes is the Goodwill Librarian, who daily posts pictures concerned with books and reading. Today's picture fits the book I am reviewing today that I have to post it:

The Bride Wore Blue by Mona Hodgson is a book of grace in its purest form. Vivian is the youngest Sinclair sister and she's the sister with a "past." Like so many of us, she cannot let go of her past to see her future. She comes to Cripple Creek, Colorado, to join her sisters as her father wished for her. She meets Carter Alwyn because she encountered some bandits on the train ride to Cripple Creek and she needed to describe them for the authorities.

The theme throughout the book is Vivian's feelings of unworthiness to have the lives her sisters have. Mona's handling of Vivian's feelings teaches us to lean on the facts of God's love as explained through scripture instead of our feelings.

I adore when an author can teach a spiritual truth while being entertaining, and Mona does this very well. The Bride Wore Blue is not only a fun read, it's engaging and instructive. Well done, Mona.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Appointments Are Divine

I recently reviewed Charlene Ann Baumbich's Finding Our Way Home, book three in the Snowglobes Series. Last night I finished her Divine Appointments. I am reading this series in backwards order, but all three books can be stand-alones. Not knowing the information in the first book did not detract from the other two.

Josie Victor Brooks is an efficiency consultant currently living in Chicago working to help streamline Diamond Mutual. She is known as the hatchet woman among other nicknames among the DM employees.

Her snowglobe is a scene of a creek with trees around it. While she doesn't understand why she was drawn to this particular snowglobe, it does have an impact on her life. Josie is not a woman drawn to knicknacks or dust-catchers. She moves nearly every year and desires a simple life. Her art has to speak to her or it's not worth her time. This snowglobe, at times, gurgles and "bubbles" like a brook, drawing her attention and perplexity time and again. Because of her nomadic life, Josie doesn't have many friends. But the realtor who sold her the condo where she lives has reached out in friendship. Amelia becomes Josie's sounding board, her confidant, the one she can pour out her heart to. Amelia is only one of Josie's divine appointments.

The divine appointments don't end with Amelia and Josie, there are others all through the book and they lead the readers to look for the divine appointments in their own lives. This is a truly enjoyable book with a deeper theme than just entertainment.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's the Buzz?

I just finished reading Bees in the Butterfly Garden and I must say it was incredible! I don't think I have read anything by Maureen Lang until now but I like her style.

Meg Davenport has lived at Madame Marisse's school for young ladies in Connecticut since she was nine years old. She's now eighteen and her life has taken a turn--completely upside down. She is told her father has passed away, so she journeys to New York to attend his wake and find out why he never wanted her to live with him. What she finds out serves to steel her resolve to become her father's daughter, a shyster and a cheat. She desires to partner up with Ian Maguire, the man who was her father's partner before he passed away, but Ian knows this isn't the life her father desired for her. He tries everything at his disposal to to disuade Meg, but she is firm in her quest.

Meg chooses not to go back to Madame Marisse's but instead writes to an acquaintance she met there, Claire Pemberton, and offers to come build a butterfly garden for Claire's mother. Claire invites Meg to come and stay the summer not knowing that Meg is there to find out where the Pembertons keep their gold and then feed the information to Ian.

Maureen has written a tightly woven novel that will keep you intrigued until the very last page. It's hard to put down a book that is so well done. I absolutely LOVED it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's In C S Lewis' Library

James Stuart Bell put together a topical book of writings that influenced C S Lewis, a well-loved author from the last century (it feels so odd to say that. This is not the kind of book you want to sit down and read through like a book on Christian life or like a novel. It just doesn't read that way. This is the kind of book you read when you need a reference for a specific topic on your mind and you need specific wisdom for it.

First, I was surprised to see how many authors on my own shelf that were also on C S Lewis' shelf.

Second, I was thrilled to read thoughts that met a specific need of my own. Receiving this book was timely because of research I am doing to prepare an adult Bible Study series on prayer. I gleaned much from this book and will use it as a reference for years to come!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Apples and Peaches and Pears, Oh My!

Deanna Nowadnick asked me to read her book Fruit of My Spirit: Reframing Life in God's Grace. It was a quick and simple read but it had some very hard-hitting concepts. It is a memoir of Deanna's spiritual life in the context of Galatians 5:22-23.

One of my personal hobby-horses, soap-boxes, tinder-box-issues is what people commonly refer to the "Fruits of the Spirit" and then mention the nine characteristics of these verses. These are not the only "Fruits of the Spirit," but only ONE fruit. But I digress. This was not Deanna's intention--she was telling a story of how God had developed these characteristics in her own life and this book is an able vehicle for that.

One of the most important concepts in this book is detailed in a conversation between a pastor and music conductor. The music conductor asked the pastor, "What is your business?" and the pastor started in on a litany of activities and duties associated with his position. The pastor, in turn, asked the conductor, "What do you do?" and the conductor said, "There is a difference in what my business is and what I do. My business is to bring others to Christ. To do that, I conduct music."

My business is to bring others to Christ. To do that, I write this blog, I pray, I read, I participate in a small group, I have cancer, and I give.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own.”
- John Berger

The little book of hours of Amiens Nicolas Blairie, carefully written on a thin Ruling rose, but modestly decorated with some original illuminations in ink has the curious shape of an almond when it is closed. When it opens, the two halves of the almond bloom to fit the contours of a heart, concrete evocation of the heart of the person praying the prayer that opens.