©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Simple Faith

This is the fifth book by Anna Schmidt that I have read, and it equals the others in in compelling, riveting narrative. Taking place during World War II in Europe, this book continues the story of Josef and Beth, now known as Lisbeth, and Anja and her son, Daniel, who help an American flyer to escape Germany and get back to England after his plane crashes in Belgium. These four intrepid souls have known the hardships of Sobibor prison camp, and do everything they can to get Peter away from the hands of the Nazis. Woven seamlessly into the story is the strength of quiet faith that leads them through every step of their journey. Many obstacles have to be overcome in getting across Belgium, France, and Spain: illnesses, broken bones, double-crossing guides, death of a treasured guide, compromised hiding places, and even a capture or two. In the midst of all of the trials, friendship, love, and comradery grow among the group, and especially between the American, Peter, and Anja--who never really expected to love again after the death of her husband and daughter during the escape from Sobibor.

Because Anja, Lisbeth, and Josef are members of the Society of Friends, their faith is practiced in simple ways, and they teach this simplicity of faith to Peter who learns it with the gentleness of soul that he is. Simple Faith is at times heartbreaking, at times riveting, and at times consuming. Because I have such a legacy of family who were involved in World War II on the European front, I am fascinated by stories that expand my knowledge of this era of history in our world.

Most definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an escape from a terrible foe.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

I cannot imagine the life that Brenda Spahn has lived. She has more energy than I have ever had, more gumption, more drive, and a propensity to jump in with both feet and never mind the sharks. When her tax preparation business went down the tubes and she nearly went to prison, she decided a change in career was the appropriate thing to do. She became an ordained minister, and started a ministry at the Juliet Tutwiler prison for women in Birmingham, Alabama. From that came the idea for a transitional home for parolees coming out of Tutwiler. Brenda does not believe that addictions have so much control over us that we can never completely overcome them, she believes in a God who can and will heal completely the diseases that we face. In setting up her "whole-way" house, she accepted seven parolees initially, undertaking how to teach them to live. One of the first things she had to do was to take them shopping at Wal Mart for "hygienes," showing them that they had choices in life that had nothing to do with drugs or other things that would get them into trouble.

It took a while to get her family totally on board with this new idea, this new ministry, this whole new way of life. One of her sons had trouble with the fact that some of these women called his mother, "Mama." He wasn't quite willing to share his mother that way. Her husband wanted her to have a more hands-off role in the Loveladies Home. Even her neighbors were quite against her endeavors.

Through all of the opposition and road blocks, Brenda overcame, and with her overcoming, her Loveladies overcame. One of her ladies put it in proper perspective when she said that the ones who failed to succeed were just not ready to quit the drugs.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies recounts the trials and triumphs of a ministry that seems to be not very well thought out, and naive in its inception, but it turned out to be one of the most successful things Brenda has done. The lesson learned here is that God only wants someone who is willing to do the work at hand. Brenda, along with Irene Zutell, has the uncanny ability to pull the reader in and not let go until the story is fully told. It only took me one afternoon to completely read this book. To see what God is doing in the lives of these women who have fallen under the spell of their addictions is a treat, indeed. To see what God can do with willing hands is a challenge--when I read something like this, I want to say, "I can do this," without stopping to consider if this is what God wants me to do. However, I can pray for this ministry, and the more people who read this book, the more prayers are going up for the Loveladies and the ministry in which they are involved.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a trip to Wal Mart.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Match Made in Texas

Four ladies have put together a collection of novellas that will warm your heart and keep you giggling for a good, long while. All four stories make this a fun read, they are intertwined, and one is even part of another series that I absolutely adore.

Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox, Mary Connealy, and Regina Jennings are an All-Star group of writers that I'd have on my team any day of the week. They all know how to punch up their stories with a bit of humor, add adventure and excitement, throw in rugged and hardworking men, and include their faith in a way that doesn't overpower the story but still gets the point across. I loved each and every hero and heroine, I wish that some of the stories had been longer, and I was especially sad to see the Archer brothers saga come to an end. I know it has to be tough for these talented writers to let their characters go and make it on their own in the world now, but it's hard for us as readers to let them go on, as well.

Definitely a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a hard-working Texas man kind of book

The British Brides Collection

With a Hall of Fame cast of authors, the publishers have put together nine endearing romances taking place in the British Isles. Each story is independent of the others, so there's no story line to have to follow. You can read one a day like vitamins or read one a week or as your schedule allows.

Most of these stories I have read before, but it has been long enough, they were like new stories for me. That I liked, a lot! There was only one story in this collection that did not resonate with me, and that was A Treasure Worth Keeping by Kelly Eileen Hake. While the names she chose may be authentic names, they seemed a bit too contrived. That is the worst criticism I have for the whole collection. My favorites were Moonlight Masquerade by Pamela Marie Griffin, Fayre Rose by Tamela Hancock Murray, and English Tea and Bagpipes again by Pamela Marie Griffin. The others in this book are: A Duplicitous Facade by Tamela Murray, Love's Unmasking by Bonnie Blythe, Apple of His Eye by Gail Gaymer Martin, and Fresh Highland Heir by Jill Stengl.

Threats of duels, masquerade balls, poisonings, highway robberies, other attempted murders, gardeners, orchardists, gentry and commoners make up the plots and casts of characters in these novellas. While all are historical, some go back to the feudal system and others happen in the Victorian Era. Even though not every story was my cup of tea, any reader will find at least one or two that will entertain them for a while and that alone is worth buying the book. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cup of tea on a cold day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Taken for English

When I read this book, I felt like I'd been dropped inside the middle of a story and I wasn't going to get the punchline, no matter what I did. Come to find out, I was dropped inside the middle of a story, or exactly two thirds of the way through the story. Taken for English is the third book of a series by Olivia Newport. I wish I had taken the time to read the other books in the series, and I wouldn't have been so lost in this one. This is not a book that can stand on it's own two feet, it has to rest on the shoulders of the previous novels in the collection.

That aside, Olivia has taken a new approach to this book in that she integrates a book within the book, and uses it to explain how Annie came to yearn for the Amish lifestyle and for Rufus himself. It's in her history and it's in her blood. Not understanding this is what caused me my confusion. It took me a while to figure out the bouncing back and forth from Arkansas to Colorado, from the 1800's to the 2000's, from Joseph and Maura to Annie and Rufus and Ruth and Elijah, from Amish to English and English to Amish.

Would I recommend this book? Yeah, after the other two books have been read for foundation. Olivia writes a good story and the intricacies of her plots are what make her a good writer. Thumbs Up

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New England Romance Collection

I have four little girls I call my granddaughters (they aren't related to me, but that's a different story for a different post), and I have bought some dolls for them. One of the dolls came naked, so I am making doll clothes for the dolls for their Christmas gift. In the meantime, we are remodeling the house. I have no kitchen--I cook in a slow cooker on the floor of my living room because we are having some drywall work done. All this is to explain why I haven't had as many posts lately. I am reading as hard and as fast I can, but I am doing the clothing by hand at the moment. I can't reach my sewing machine.

The New England Romance Collection is an anthology of five novellas, each in a separate era of time--from 1720 to 1930's. These stories entertained me, kept me patient as I waited in line in the drive-thru, kept me engaged, and whiled away time as I was in the car with my husband running errands. These ladies are all class acts when it comes to writing decent love stories that are built on a godly foundation.

Jack can't prove he didn't kill his neighbor, but a young sneak-thief has the answer. Lucy always believed in him--to the point of marrying him while he was in jail possibly awaiting hanging for the murder.

Clara and Daniel have to solve the series of bank robberies in Maple Notch and St Albans, Vermont. Clara has an inkling who is involved and hates that she thinks it might be her brother.

Michaela wants to adopt a young girl named Anna, who lost her parents in the same fire that killed her husband and daughter. The committee decided that if Michaela were married, she could adopt Anna. Patrick offers to marry her right before she goes to help her brother and his wife. While there she meets Eric, who is also interested in her. Now she really has a decision to make.

Francesca and Alfred were really meant to be together, but her mother thinks he's beneath her darling Francesca. Her mother has forgotten her own humble beginnings, and refuses to back down. She wants Francesca to marry a French Count to increase the family coffers; in fact, she wants it so much, she forces Francesca to accept the Count's proposal. Francesca knows this isn't the answer, but she doesn't know what is.

Clemmie has been in love with Joel since she was a girl of ten. For several years she hasn't heard from him, and wonders where he is. When she goes to visit her friend from the boy's refuge her parents own, she finds Joel, but not how she expected.

Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Lisa Harris, Lynette Sowell, and Pamela Griffin have exceeded expectations in this collection. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the era of your choice.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Amish Groom

So here we have a good Amish boy (young man) thrown into the Englisch world and feeling like he belongs in neither place or both places at once. Throw into the mix an angry younger brother; an Amish, almost fiancee; an Englisch photography tutor; a distant father; a deceased mother; and not just a few questions about who he really is. This is the conundrum Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner have set before the readers of their newest novel, The Amish Groom

I must say these two ladies have put together an engaging novel that brings the reader into Tyler's angst and his desire to know where he fits in the world. I appreciate that they have written a book that delves into the difficulty of hearing God's voice.

Most of the time, you will read romances that focus on the female character in the story, and this one is a refreshing change in that it makes Tyler the main element of the novel. Definitely a five-star, two thumbs up, and a specific word from God.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Jew Named Jesus

From a name like Rebekah Simon-Peter, you get the impression that this author knows what she's talking about in regard to the Jewish culture and Jewish life in general. So when you see the title, The Jew Named Jesus, you want to dive in and uncover the mysteries behind the Man, His message, and His ministry. You will not be disappointed. I wasn't. I recently finished reading Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg and had my appetite whetted for a greater understanding of the Jewish culture and the culture of the times of the life of Jesus.

There is one thing all of these authors have in common in their books: we American Christians have allowed too much culture to invade our religion instead of the other way around. As society goes downhill in a run-away train (much faster than a handcart), the church has begun to resemble society more and more. I could get rather soap boxish here and I better quit while I am ahead. The point is we can't read these books JUST for the information, we have to allow these books to work their way inside us, to change the way we think, to change the way we act, and we have to allow them to change us and our relationship with Christ.

Rebekah does one thing in her book that stands out, she pushes her readers to go back to what the authors of the New Testament really meant in the original language to get a fuller understanding of the Man, Jesus.

This is a ten out of five star book, four thumbs up, and a loaf of challah bread.

Emma of Aurora

What a treat to get to review three books at once, to have a whole series in your hands in one binding--all 1100+ pages of it. I've read several of Jane Kirkpatrick's books and enjoyed them for the most part. What I like is when she writes about real people in their true settings, but she adds life to them by filling in the blanks with her creative imagery and dialog. Her writing is impeccable and engaging. I found Emma herself to be hard to like, rather abrasive, and self-centered. But again, I found Wilhelm Keil to be hard to like, abrasive, and self-centered. Sometimes the people aren't very nice. I did not find Emma to be totally unsympathetic, though, as she came to realize that some of her troubles she brought upon herself, some were outside her ability to avoid, and some just happened, just because.

The three books narrate the story of Emma's life from Bethel, Missouri, to Aurora, Oregon; her marriages to Christian Giesy, to Big Jack Giesy; the births of her four children; Herr Kiel removing her sons from her care; her striving to adhere to Kiel's Diamond Rule (to make others lives better than your own); and her trailbreaking ideas that led to several improvements in the colony. Her acceptance by the other women in the colony came slowly, but once it happened they became friends for life. One thing that set Emma apart was her ability to collect strays, women who needed a hand up and time to heal from the blows that life had hurled at them. Almira and Christine were two of her strays, and definitely needed Emma's helpful hand.

Jane has done an excellent job of putting together a story that from where I sit was not an easy task. That I did not like Emma at first (she did grow on me) was not Jane's fault, I feel it was more a statement of who Emma was. Emma of Aurora is definitely a worthwhile read and with the three books in one cover the story moves seamlessly from beginning to end.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Diamond ruler.