©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Outcast

Rachel Stoltzfus has secrets and her secrets have cost her her standing in her Old Order Mennonite community--they have caused her to be ignored, to be displaced, to be all but shunned. She has a son, Eli, whom she loves more than her own life, but she refuses to tell anyone who Eli's father is.

Rachel was living with her twin sister, Leah, and her family--husband, Tobias, and their children--including Jonathan who was born a few months before Eli. Leah had a hard time with the pregnancy and needed Rachel's help. When Leah falls down the stairs and ends up in the hospital, Tobias forces Rachel to move out.

Never before has Rachel felt like the Outcast that she has become. She moves in with Ida Mae, the owner of a store that sells Amish and Mennonite goods, and offers foot massages to Ida Mae's customers. Ida Mae also gives rides to the community when they need to get somewhere farther than their buggies will take them.

When Eli gets sick, all the secrets have to come out--he has non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and he's only a baby. He needs a bone marrow transplant, preferrably from a sibling. This is when reckoning time comes for Rachel, Eli's father, and Leah.

Part of the story is told from Rachel's perspective--where the reader gets an inside perspective on Rachel's struggles to raise her son alone, to rise above the gossip that surrounds his birth, to make a way for an innocent little boy in a harsh world.

Part of the story is told from the perspective of Amos--Tobias' father--who is dead and looking down on events from a more neutral perspective. His understanding of everything that has happened fill the story in and make it fuller and richer.

Jolina Petersheim has made her debut as an author with a home run of a novel. It's hard to put down.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a wonderful foot massage.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

California Romance

Colleen L Reece has put together three interwoven novellas to make a complete book that not only entertains, but also does the one thing I love to find in my reading--it teaches.

Romance Rides the Range: Sarah Anderson has watched her step-father bury her mother and now he wants her to marry his "friend" to settle his gambling debts. Sarah can't stomach the thought of marrying Tice Edwards and makes her move to go to California where her brother is working for a rancher. Sarah's brother, Seth, has shown pictures of her to his boss, Matt, and pictures of Matt to Sarah in a clumsy attempt to bring them together. Sarah uses the scripture she has learned at her mother's knee to sustain her throughout the trials that come her way, from her abusive step-father to the man he owes money to the man they hire to kidnap Sarah.

Romance Rides the River: Matt has a sister, Dori, a girl who is hard to describe. She likes to ride horses full out, she rides bannisters, she refuses to conform to anyone's idea of normal, and because of this, she gets expelled from the finishing school where she is completing her education. When she returns to California and her brother's ranch for his wedding to Sarah, she meets Sarah's brother, Seth. Seth's loyalty to her brother makes an impression on her and while she initially denies her attraction to Seth, she eventually succumbs to his charms. Of course, there is an attempted kidnapping involved, a man who thinks he'll tame her and make her the perfect wife, and an assortment of adventures.

Romance at Rainbow's End: Ellie and Tim are Sarah's step-siblings, and their father has determined they are too much of a burden, so he puts them on a train and sends them to Sarah and Matt. Sarah and Matt go through all the legal hoops to adopt Ellie and Tim and raise them up in love and security. Now Ellie is grown and the town gets a new pastor--one who has found in Ellie the woman God has planned for him to spend his life with, a woman of faith and with a beautiful voice. Josh, the pastor, has come to Madera at the protest of his mother and twin brother. Letitia, his mother, has hired a private investigator to see what kind of people her son has become involved with. Edward, his twin, suggests that they go to Madera and see if Ellie is all she's cracked up to be and bring her to San Francisco to be professionally trained to sing. Ellie senses that God desires for her to go but doesn't know why. She's not altogether comfortable with being in San Francisco, but she's obedient to God's voice to trust Him. While she does let the fame go to her head for a while, she finally succumbs to God's pull and makes her way back to Josh as well.

There is more than entertainment value here, there is spiritual value here. And while there's joy in reading a fictional character's romance, the joy in finding something to learn to aid your spiritual walk.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Horse to Ride

Plantation Christmas Weddings

Sylvia Barnes, Lorraine Beatty, Cynthia Leavelle, and Virginia Vaughan have teamed up together to create a book of four novellas about romance in Natchez, Mississippi, mansion weddings. All four are very entertaining stories and, for the most part, don't follow the typical romance novel formula.

Christmas at Dunleith: Marilyn's daughter, Constance is getting married at Christmas at the Dunleith mansion, but Marilyn flies from Denver to Natchez the week of Thanksgiving to help with some of the details of the wedding. She meets Constance's fiance's father, Beau, when they have to stay in the same accommodations while planning. Between the chip on Marilyn's shoulder and Beau's desire to be in control, they have a lot to overcome to find their road to true romance.

Christmas at Longwood: Meredith needs to do some research in her hometown to figure out what her next series of novels--she needs to send her publisher a proposal for her next novels. She runs into her old high school crush, now a history teacher in that same high school, who offers to help her with her research. The only fly in the ointment is Bobbi Lee Cox, the woman who tries to keep the handsome teacher for herself.

Christmas at Brandon Hall: Devon and Sandra are separated, but their twins think there is something still worth building on in their marriage. Devon's sister is getting married and the twins connive to get both parents to the mansion to try to rekindle the spark of their marriage. While at first the twins' plan seems to backfire, eventually Devon and Sandra are able to put the strife behind them and make a new start.

Christmas at Monmouth: Wreath is a wedding planner whose former fiance left her at the altar. Micah is the new manager of Monmouth and once the best friend of the former fiance. Wreath has planned many weddings and is able to make them everything the brides and grooms ever dreamed of. Micah has loved Wreath for a long time and to a degree feels responsible for Wreath's heartache, but mostly, he just loves her. All he has to do is convince Wreath that his love comes from deep within and not from his feelings of responsibility.

This is a solid four star book, and maybe even edging upward.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shades of Mercy

Anita Lustrea and Caryn Rivadeneira have joined together to write a compelling story of civil rights, racial equality, and coming of age in 1954 Maine. Mercy Millar lives on a farm where she helps with all the farm chores. In fact, her father calls her the "son he never had." Her father often hires Maliseets (the local Native-American tribe) to help with farm work and pays them well for their work. One of the Maliseets is Mick, who is in love with Mercy. This is their story as told by Mercy to her granddaughter Laurel.

An assortment of townspeople round out the story as it unfolds. Mercy's best friend Molly Carmichael has a sister who has run away with a Maliseet, and this makes Molly's father hate the Maliseets to the point that he seeks revenge by falsely accusing Mick of murder. Mercy's father calls his attorney-brother to come and help Mick out, but it takes two weeks for the whole episode to straighten itself out. In the meantime, Hurricane Edna hits the town, and Mick's brother pulls Molly's father out of his store when he becomes trapped.

There are so many intricate points to the plot of this book that they keep the reader involved LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG after bedtime. These two authors have collaborated to bring about a book that will not leave readers after they finish it. This book fits in a class with Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.

You can find an interview with the authors here.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and farm fresh produce. I cannot recommend this book enough. No reader will regret it.

Route 66 Reunions

This is a compilation of three novels that all meet together on Route 66, and each novel includes a reunion of former loves. First in the book is Facing Tessa's Past, where Tessa takes her three sons on a trip along Route 66 from Amarillo, Texas, to the route's beginning in Chicago. On the way, she stops in Oklahoma City and takes her sons to Pizza Playground where she runs into Blake, her youngest son's father. Of all the people to encounter, Blake is last on Tessa's list. Tessa is a different person than when Blake knew her, especially due to the fact that she has surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. When she returns to Amarillo, she finds that Blake is moving back to Amarillo to put in another Pizza Playground. He inserts himself into Tessa's family and makes her fall in love with him all over again. The only problem is that Blake doesn't have a relationship with Christ.

The second story in this book is Redeeming Sarah's Present. Sarah and Kevin have an eighteen year old son, Trey, whom they gave up for adoption. Trey's parents have made sure to send Sarah and Kevin a letter and picture every year around his birthday. For Trey's eighteenth birthday, they arrange for Trey to meet Sarah and Kevin, but Sarah hasn't seen Kevin for the last eighteen years and running into him after meeting Trey is not the cap to such an occasion. As Kevin and Sarah reacquaint themselves, Sarah is also being pursued by one of the doctors she works with. She likes the doctor, but she doesn't love him, not like she loves Kevin. Still there are roadblocks in the course of true love.

Building Amanda's Future sees Amanda returning to Litchfield, Illinois, after her husband and her daughter were killed in a car accident. She has finished school and is set to begin teaching kindergarten in the fall. Right before she arrives, a tornado had ripped through the area and taken one of her friends leaving behind her former boyfriend and his niece. Amanda and Chad had been in love since high school and into college until Susan set up a series of events that split them up. Amanda moved to California where she met Ken, married him, and had Charity. When Charity was ten months old, Ken and Charity were killed, pushing Amanda to finish her degree and then find a job. Because of the tornado that had taken Chad's sister, Jessica, and Jessica's husband, and leaving their daughter behind needing her Uncle Chad in a most serious way, and Chad needing Amanda.

Mildred Colvin has written three very entertaining stories with a typical romance novel formula--boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. While the formula fits this series of novellas, it doesn't detract from the entertainment value of the stories, and the way Mildred has tied all three of them together makes a cohesive book, great for afternoon reading.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Letters

Rose Shrock is living with her mother-in-law after her husband died mysteriously. Rose knows that her husband's business lost a lot of money for a lot of people, and she is determined to earn it and pay it back because these were brothers and sisters in Christ who hurt in the business folding.

She is raising her husband's two daughters and their two sons while trying to figure out how to restore the lost moneys. Bethany, the oldest daughter, is also working to help her step-mother. On a chance encounter at the "Bent and Dent" store, Rose finds a need within the Amish community that she could possibly fill--a bed and breakfast. With the help of her next door neighbor, she remodels her basement to hold two bedrooms, a sitting room with a kitchenette, and a bathroom. After the first the tourists wanting a place to stay go back home, they have a chance ecounter with a woman who needs to "get away" and have a place to rest and release. Through Rose's acquaintance with Delia Stoltz, she becomes more sure of herself and finds herself falling for her neighbor Galen.

While The Letters is the first book in a new series by Suzanne Woods Fisher, some characters carry over from the Stoney Ridge Seasons series. It is not necessary to have read this series in order to understand or know all the characters in this new Eagle Hill Series.

Suzanne writes a good romance with solid characters with real-world problems, she shows the good and bad in people--Amish and Englisch. Definitely a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a night at the Bed and Breakfast.

Stopping Words That Hurt

My daughter worked for seven years in a rather toxic environment where her supervisor tried time after time to cause her to fail, told her that she NEEDED to fail, and became extremely angry when she didn't fail. He took every opportunity to bring her down, to sabotage her work, and often talked about her behind her back. When I saw Michael Sedler's book, Stopping Words That Hurt, I knew I had to read it, because I wanted to help her cope with the fallout of the verbal and emotional abuse she suffered.

I was so wrong in so many ways in assuming what the book was about, but I learned so much in reading this book. I learned how I need to stop the words I speak that hurt. Dr Sedler has defined the effect our own words have on those around us--words that gossip, tear down, bear false reports, and in so many ways defile our world. When my husband was about mid-way through his career, he came home with the news that he'd flubbed something up at work. His comment about it was that one, "Oh Sh*&^*!" can cancel out ten "Atta Boys." Michael makes the same point in his book, but he also makes other points that are so basic but at the same time so overlooked in our society.

One of his examples was teachers in the teachers' lounge at school talking about the children with behavior problems, the affairs of other teachers, the parents who are pains in the neck; in other words, gossip. What makes this so despicable is that the people being talked about aren't there to defend themselves, and while you may not contribute to the conversation, you become polluted by the others' talk. When we don't speak up in these conversations, we allow ourselves to become complicit in them. Our words have such power to build up or tear down and we have the power to stop the words that hurt. One thing we have to realize is that we don't have to do this under our own power, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to curb our tongues. We also have the power to make reconciliation where our words have already caused pain.

This book is necessary for every Christian to read. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and words to build one another up.

Destiny Brides

When Destiny Brides is released, it will be a great value as it contains two complete novels in one cover, and the novels are indeed worth reading.

First is A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer. Travis Logan is a doctor but he just came out of the Civil War and wants nothing more to do with doctoring. He'd rather raise horses instead. While on a boat traveling down the Mississippi River, he meets a man who is ill and takes care of him until he dies. Before the man dies, he deeds his farm to Travis, telling him that he'll meet Heaven there, but never explaining that Heaven is his daughter. When Travis arrives at the farm, he not only finds the beautiful Heaven, but also her little sister, Angel. Once Travis meets Heaven and Angel, he finally understands what their father was telling him, that he wanted Travis to marry Heaven and take care of both of his daughters. It's just that the road to the nuptials is not as smooth as it could be.

Second, Murray Pura has put together a post-Civil War novel that touches the heart in unexpected ways. In A Bride's Flight from Virginia City, Montana, Murray has told a story of love, faith, and absolute trust. Charlotte Spence now owns and runs her deceased brother's ranch near Virginia City, Montana. Zephaniah Parker is one of her neighbors who would like more than friendship with Charlotte. After rescuing two children from a burned out settlement, Zephaniah finds himself on a cross-country train trip with Charlotte and the children. The problem comes in having to outwit, outrun, and outmaneuver an outlaw called the Angel of Death, or Seraphim Rader. Charlotte is having to keep her own secrets from Zephaniah in order to protect him. The question is whether true love will win over kept and revealed secrets.

Definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the trip of your choice.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Prairie Christmas Collection

For times when I need just a bit of fluff to read, I love to have books like A Prairie Christmas Collection, because the novellas are short enough to fill a bit of time and complete in one sitting. This collection is no different. My favorite was the Buckskin Bride by Vickie McDonough. Mattie, Millie, and their sister, Jess, were living in a teepee on Donall's land and waiting for their father to return from hunting. He's been gone a while and the girls miss him, but they know what to do to protect themselves. In hiding from someone approaching their campsite, Jess gets hurt and Donall and his family offer their hospitality while Jess recovers from her broken ankle. This story takes twists and turns to finally get Mattie and Donall together.

The stories are:

Defending Truth by Shannon McNear
The Calling by Kathleen Fuller
A Silent Night by Anna Urquhart
A Pony Express Christmas by Margaret Brownley
The Cowboy's Angel by Lauraine Snelling
A Badlands Christmas by Marcia Gruver
Buckskin Bride by Vickie McDonough
The Gold Rush Christmas by Michelle Ule

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a favorite Christmas ornament.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Heartland Weddings

This book contains two complete novels, both novels' main characters are named Megan. Both Megans are not necessarily looking for love, but find it anyway.

A Wedding Song in Lexington, KY, by Jennifer Johnson, chronicles the love story of Megan McKinney and Justin Frasure--definitely an unlikely couple because Justin is Megan's boss, his best friend is marrying Megan's twin sister, Marianna. Marianna doesn't like Justin and tries everything in her power to prevent him from dating her sister. Megan has to tell Marianna to allow her to make her own dating decisions. Megan also has an estranged relationship with her mother. One thing that Megan does accomplish is learning to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions.

A Wedding Homerun in Loveland, OH, by Cathy Liggett details the romance between Megan O'Donnell and MacNeill Hattaway that occurs while setting up a sports day for special needs children. The issue is near and dear to Megan's heart because of her own son, Sam, a little boy with Cerebral Palsy. Megan has to learn that not all men face their responsibilities by running away and that some men make the hard choices to fulfill their duties or even accept someone else's duties.

I truly enjoyed both novels in this book, but I found Sam's abilities a bit beyond what I know of Cerebral Palsy, especially his speech. I know great strides are made everyday in therapies to allow CP children to reach their full potentials and maybe I just haven't been around enough CP children to truly know, but a seven year old child wouldn't have the sophistication of speech this author gave him.

Still a solid four star book.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Governess of Highland Hall

Julia Foster needs a job. Sir William Ramsey needs a governess for his own two children and his cousin's two daughters, who are preparing for their first season in London. Julia's experience in working with orphans has made her highly qualified to fill Sir William's needs. The Governess of Highland Hall takes an old plot and serves it up once again. There are a few differences: Julia has wisdom to match Sir William's dilemmas, Sir William is open enough to Julia's advice to begin taking it, there is internal strife among the estate's staff, and a fire breaks out in the children's wing of Highland Hall that brings more worries to Sir William.

Just because this plot has been done before--the aristocracy and the service classes mixing together to find true love--doesn't mean this is not an enjoyable read, it is very much enjoyable. Carrie Turansky has well developed, believable characters with real foibles and strengths along with well defined faith.

It only took me two days to read this partially because I had a long day in the car on Wednesday this week. Because the book was so enjoyable, it was an easy read and worth the time.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a fancy ball gown.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Years ago I read a book by Liz Curtis Higgs called Reflecting His Image: Discovering Your Worth in Christ From A to Z. For each letter of the alphabet, she described an attribute of God and an attribute of who we are in God's family. So today, I just finished reading a book by Cecil Murphey called Revitalize Your Prayer Life: An Inspired Living Companion. Like Liz's book, Cecil takes attributes of God but personalizes them to us in such a way that we see God in a whole new light--in an intimate light. Cecil has awakened me to see how God isn't some nebulous being "out there" somewhere, but He's personal, He's involved, He's listening, He WANTS my prayers, He wants ME!

This book has been previously published as Invading the Privacy of God, and even though originally released in 1997, it is still relevant and implementable today.