©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

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.