©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Bead and a Prayer

Kristen Vincent has written a short study on prayer and beads, specifically the evangelical/ecumenical rosary. Many of the reasons she gives for using this form of prayer resonate with me because I pray so much better when I hold something in my hands--my attention stays more focused, and I feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do. I often pray while I am making something, especially when I am making something for someone specific. I pray for the recipient with each stitch I make or each part of the project.

This is why I was glad to read and review A Bead and a Prayer. She not only explores the reasons for using beads in prayer, but also how to make the rosary, and how to use the rosary in various methods of prayer. The goal and the outcome of this is a deeper prayer life, and a closer relationship with God.

Her studies are easy to understand and back up the author's desire to help the reader understand prayer better. Her directions for making the rosaries are complete and well diagrammed. This is an excellent book to use as a tool to further your understanding of prayer, to help you keep your prayers focused, and to bring you to an incredible relationship with God.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a beaded prayer.

The Vanishing Evangelical

I read fairly fast, but occasionally a book comes along that has to be read slowly, savored, pondered, and carefully considered. The Vanishing Evangelical is such a book and sadly it will be the last offering by Calvin Miller.

I first encountered Calvin's writings in The Legend of the Brotherstone, a book of enduring quality--especially at Christmas time. I have pondered many of Calvin's other books, but this one hit a note with me and it provided me with confirmation of thoughts I'd been feeling about the condition of the Christian Church in America, but it also provided me with solutions for the problems. I am not going to wax poetic about this book, but I am going to offer one quote:

Let us seek Him where He may be found. Put no expectation on any church. The splendor is not somewhere out there. The revolution is in you! Whatever others may do in the forefront of this great flame, do only as He bids you. Then Christianity will be born in vitality in at least one place: within your own small heart. Either there or nowhere.

Calvin calls this our only hope for the vanishing evangelical, and for the church itself. It's the only way we can remove the cultural infection from the church--by coming back to our first love.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a commitment to fall in love with Christ again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Christmas in Apple Ridge

I love Christmas and Christmas stories and this book fits the bill on both counts, because you'll get recipes, ideas, and a bit of love thrown into the mix. I haven't read many of Cindy Woodsmall's books because I don't read that many Amish stories, but I've come to appreciate Cindy's ability to write a story that blends the Amish and Englisch worlds and how they work together. For that reason, I have several more of her books to read on my TBR* list. But I digress . . . .

Christmas in Apple Ridge tells three stories of people hiding secrets and hurts, getting past those hurts to find love, and heart healing.

In the Sound of Sleigh Bells, Beth helps her Aunt Lizzy in the dry goods store and goes to other stores in the area that sell Amish goods. She negotiates between Englisch and Amish business owners to make both businesses succeed. She also holds a hurt that keeps her from engaging in life or even making room for love. She mourns for what could have been but never truly was. When she finds a wood carving that intrigues her, she feels a need to find the carver and see if he will make more them for her to sell. Instead she finds someone who understands her hurts and points her toward healing.

The Christmas Singing introduces Mattie, a baker extraordinaire, who can make the most tantalizing cakes and decorate them into works of art. When her bakerie burns down, she has to move back to Apple Ridge and runs into her past. Gideon holds the keys to Mattie's past and if she knew it, the keys to her future.

The Dawn of Christmas brings Sadie back to Apple Ridge for the holidays, and at odds with her father because he wants her to reopen her heart to courting again. When her father forbids her from attending the Fourth of July celebration, Sadie goes for a ride on her grandmother's mare, Bay. While out on the ride, she finds a man lying on the ground with a horse standing not too far away. The man has obviously been thrown from the horse and could be injured. Sadie stays with the man and gets medical help for him, then proceeds to steal his heart.

I spent only three days reading these beautiful stories and enjoyed every single minute. Cindy has included some scrumptious recipes and craft ideas in this collection that will delight her readers.

This rates five stars, two thumbs up, and a cake your tongue will never forget.

You can read a chapter here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

London Dawn

London Dawn is the finale of The Danforths of Lancashire series by Murray Pura. Lord Preston Danforth and his family are all back in London and all together and more numerous than before. The story picks up in the mid-thirties as Hitler begins his rise to power and create havoc in Germany. The Danforth family has grown and has a plethora of grandchildren added to the mix. At times it is hard to keep up with who is who and who belongs to whom, but as Germany encroaches on Europe and begins to attack Britain, the Danforth sons and grandsons (and a couple of granddaughters) line up to get involved in protect their beloved country.

Pura has written a wonderful saga detailing the life and times of a family going through several hard eras of history in the last century. He is still able to write a story of the love of a family, of romantic love, and of the inevitable losses of war.

My only disappointment is that I felt the book ended too soon. I would have liked for the book to have carried through to the end of World War II, and reunited a few of the friendships that I felt were left hanging. I still give this book a solid four stars.

High Plains Hearts

Every now and again, I like to read something that doesn't take many of my braincells to enjoy. High Plains Hearts fits this bill and gives me a few hours of entertainment without me having to ponder the deep issues of life.

Janet Spaeth has put together three novellas all taking place in the North Dakota Badlands.

Tess owns a store called Angels Roost where all the merchandise has something to do with angels. When someone comes in and wants to buy her favorite angel, she feels a kinship, or a connection, with the new owner.

Lily is a songle mother who needs to find a place to live after she found out that her former boss was embezzling from the agency where she worked. She is offered a job right up her vocational alley when a town is flooded and her skills are needed to provide child care for those affected by the flood. When her former boss implicates her in the embezzlement, a friend she made while attending a Christian camp stands beside her through the whole ordeal of clearing her name.

Olivia finds an advertisement for a resort for sale in Sunshine, North Dakota. How the ad got to Boston or how it blew up next to her car puzzled her, but she took a chance and moved, lock, stock, and barrel to North Dakota to buy the resort. Meeting the owner and his grandson were just icing on the cake.

I've read several of Janet's novels and find them worth curling up under a nice blanket on a rainy afternoon. Definite get-away without leaving home.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Talent for Trouble

I reviewed A Most Peculiar Circumstance a while ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was excited when A Talent for Trouble was offered for review. There are some laugh-out-loud spots in this book, there are spots that make you shake your head, and a few places where you might tear up.

Felicia Murdock has always felt that she was supposed to marry the preacher, even up to the day he marries someone else. So after a time when she mopes for a bit, she turns that particular leaf over, gets a new wardrobe, and starts living life. Her mother insists on her going to a tea hostessed by Eliza Beckett with Grayson Sumner, Eliza's brother. Grayson is not sure what to think about Felicia, but as circumstances keep throwing them together, he becomes more and more intrigued with finding who the "real" Felicia is--she has a talent for assuming identities, trying his patience, exasperating her mother, and otherwise creating chaos in her wake. At first, she came off to me as a bit of a flibbertigibbet--or in more common words: a bit silly, but she grew on me. There was a depth to her that doesn't come across until later in the book. Her own nosiness gets her into trouble, but somehow Grayson is always there to bail her out. She finds in him the man who has the patience to tolerate her more eccentric ideas.

Definite four stars--a very likable book. Jen Turano has put together a great series that will give the reader much enjoyment.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tattered Quilt

Wanda Brunstetter is a known name among Amish fiction writers. Her newest offering, The Tattered Quilt, is one that takes the reader by surprise and gives the reader a patchwork of characters. The multiple viewpoints of the book give an interesting look into each character's life.

Emma Miller teaches quilting classes and each class teaches Emma as much about the students as Emma teaches them about quilting. In this particular class, Emma has Anna--a young lady with very strict parents, Cheryl--a woman who wants her grandmother's tattered quilt repaired, Carmen--a journalist trying to dig up dirt on the Amish, Terry--a roofer's helper who is enamored with Cheryl, Selma--a grouchy old biddy of a woman who is lonely more than anything, and Blaine--a man who lost a bet fishing with his boss. Emma's husband Lamar and her goat, Maggie, make up the rest of the characters. Each one has a need, and God uses Emma in various ways to reach out and bless each of her students.

I can't really tell what the surprise is in the book because that would spoil the whole thing, but it amazed me that Wanda was able to put together a full story with well developed characters, a little romance, a little softening of the characters, and a little friendly competition.

Definite four stars!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Bride for Keeps

Everett Cline has been jilted four times by his mail order brides. His best friend's wife has been writing to another candidate for Everett's wife without his knowledge. Julia Lockwood comes in on the train and surprises Everett with her beauty and her apparent wealth, but what Everett doesn't know is that she's hiding a couple of secrets and she doesn't know Everett's background either. They come to a marriage arrangement that sort of suits them, but really does neither of them any favors.

Melissa Jagears has written a story of redemption for Everett and Julia both. They both have to come to terms with God about their own pasts and Julia has to come to terms with her faith as well. Everett has to realize that God has indeed sent him a Bride for Keeps.

This is an entertaining story that is hard to put down and will spur you on to reading more of Melissa's books. Definite Keeper.

Friday, October 4, 2013


pil·grim·age (plgr-mj)
1. A journey to a sacred place or shrine.

2. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

intr.v.pil·grim·aged, pil·grim·ag·ing, pil·grim·ag·es
To go on a pilgrimage.

I remember the first Lynn Austin book I read, "A Woman's Place," which caught my eye because it was about women during World War II. It began my love affair with WWII fiction, but it also introduced me to one talented lady who writes incredible books that not only entertain, thrill, and delight my reader's soul, but also encourage, teach, and enlarge my faith. So I jumped at the chance to read and review her newest offering, a non-fiction book detailing her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and how that affected her faith.

Lynn, I have to tell you, some of the things you learned in your pilgrimage will stick with me and take my faith back to First Century simplicity.

Her trip to Israel was more than a tourist expedition, but a trip to bring alive all the things she had learned about the Bible. Through her ability to put ideas into words and words onto paper, I was able to go along and see through her eyes the places where so much of my faith actually happened. I envy (in a good way) Lynn's trip where her faith was partially made sight, and her ability to be so gifted in putting her experiences to words.

One thing she said that made such an impact on me that it is my current Facebook status is this:

We're commanded to consider ourselves dead to sin, not to keep it on life support or make peace treaties with it.

After reading her description of Joshua making a treaty with the Gibeonites without consulting God about it, this thought has put that whole story into perspective. We can't be half-hearted about following God, or we get taken in by moldy bread and worn out shoes.

I wish I could give this book Ten Stars, but Five is the limit, Two Thumbs Up, and a trip to significance.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Matchmaker Weddings

Two books in one cover, the bargain of the year, and two very nice books at that. Matchmaker Weddings has two contemporary romances that will delight readers and fulfill a need for sweet romance.

First is A Wedding Blunder in the Black Hills, with Millie Hogan and her mother, Eva, owning a bakery/cafe called Dosie Doughs. Millie's mom is quite a meddler and sets Millie up with the new dentist in town--David Denvers. David has his own problems with a childhood friend stalking him and wanting to start up a relationship with him. David is a widower with an eleven-year-old son, Bart. David and Millie strike a deal to create a "faux" relationship to rid David of his stalker and to get Millie's mom off her back, but before they know it, the relationship has taken on deeper dimensions than either of them ever anticipated. Kim O'Brien has put together a delightful story with a new twist on the typical romance formula.

The second book in this collection, I read and reviewed earlier this year here.

No less than four stars, two thumbs up, and a blind date.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Burning Sky

Willa has been away from home for twelve years, and now she is returning back to the only home she knew before she was taken by the Mohawks to live as one of them. As she is walking back, she happens upon a man who is wounded and without any means of transport. His only companion is a collie named Cap. She has no horse but she makes a travois to carry him back to the cabin where she will be able to take care of him until he recovers. It was a lot of work, but she eventually got him to the cabin and got him in so she could help with his wounds. This was her introduction to Neil MacGregor, and her introduction to even more adventures than she bargained for.

Richard Waring grew up with her before she was taken, and he wants her land to add to what will be his own someday. He tries to get her marry him so that the land will be his by default, and when that doesn't work he does his best to intimidate her and run her off.

Willa has a "brother" from her Mohawk years named Joseph Tames-His-Horse who finds where she is and brings her two children who were left without a family because of the war. At first Owl and Little Pine want nothing to do with her but as they get to know her and Neil, they begin to become more comfortable with her and over time even come to love her. Joseph loves her too and goes to great lengths to aid her and to make sure she has all she needs for herself and the children.

One of the things Willa needs is proof that her parents were not Loyalists, but instead were Patriots. A friend from town remembers Willa's Oma, Dagna Fruehof Obenchain, and spurs Willa's memory of a cousin living in Albany. Willa writes to Tilda hoping that Tilda could remember where her parents' loyalties had lain. If she cannot find the proof of their patriotism, her land will be auctioned.

Burning Sky tells Willa's story in a way that keeps the reader involved past the very last word in the book. Lori Benton is a skillful storyteller with an ability to weave in the historical scene without making it a history lesson. The scenery of the book jumps to life just as much as the characters do through the ups and downs of the story and only adds to it.

Five Shining Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cabin no longer abandoned.