©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way

Using the biblical account of Mary and Martha, Sarah Mae helps the harried woman have a clean, organized, decluttered home. Her book is a set of devotional thoughts to take you through thirty-one days of growing spiritually, decluttering your home, and finding your way to hospitality. The tasks set for each day are doable in little time, the devotional thoughts are easy to read and worth meditating on, and the whole project is worthwhile. I'd have to give this five stars, two thumbs up, and a clean kitchen.

My thanks to Tyndale Momentum for allowing me to read and review this book.

The Wedding Shop

For some of the books I've read recently, it seems that the "in" device to use in writing is flashing back to other characters and telling parallel stories. Rachel Hauck has done this with her book, The Wedding Shop. This device is particularly necessary for the book. The Wedding Shop wouldn't have as much charm otherwise. Cora inherits the Wedding Shop from her aunt Jane. It was the business that got her through the Depression. Cora wants to marry Rufus St Claire, a river boat captain. For some reason she trusts him and loves him.

Zip through the years, Haley and Tammy are ten years old and playing in the now-defunct and vacant Wedding Shop. Tammy is the bride and Haley is the bridesmaid. The staircase from the mezzanine to the main floor is still just as glorious even if the rest of the shop is not. They pinkie promise to reopen and run the Wedding Shop. And Tammy wants to marry Cole Danner.

Even more years pass and Haley is out of the Air Force, living with her parents, Tammy has passed away from cancer, and Haley is trying to decide what to do with her life. For some reason she ends up back at the Wedding Shop only to hear that the city is planning to sell it to make a parking lot for a condo unit. Haley remembers the pinkie promise and starts researching what it will take to reopen the store. She has several hoops she must jump through to get the building and the permits. The City Manager holds her permits hostage because he wants a guitar that her friend Cole has.

Throughout the book, Rachel bounces back and forth between Cora and Haley, telling their parallel stories, and bringing love to both women in God's time. Rachel brings a bit of her previous books in this series into the book, but not so much that you have to go back to read them to understand the story. What Rachel does well is she describes both women's growth in their faith and adds just enough information that could help the reader grow in her own faith.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a personal appointment in the wedding shop.

My thanks to Zondervan Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Rails to Love Romance Collection

I have developed the habit of reading a novella in between reading larger novels or heavier-content books. I use them as a palate cleanser for reading. I LOVE Barbour Publishing for putting out so many novella collections. I love the themes this publishing house comes up with, I love the authors who fill the collections, and I love the stories.

The Rails to Love Romance Collection worked great as a palate cleanser. Each story took me away for a couple of hours of blissful reading without a lot of deep thought. These narratives each tell of love happening on or near a railroad during the early years of train travel. Some involve children and some involve ladies who think they are too long in the tooth to be a bride, but each one brings true love to the fore.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a train trip to love.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Change of Heart

There is one thing I do not like about this book. Courtney Walsh never tells what happens to Christopher--does he get convicted? does he get acquitted? Most of the plot of the book is based on Christopher and his overarching bad deeds. I want him to get his come-uppance, he's a piece of slime and needs to be put in his place--moreso than just Evelyn walking out on him.

Evelyn's world gets rocked when the FBI shows up at her house with a search warrant seeking information on Christopher's possible involvement in embezzling state and local government funds. They believe that Evelyn knows of his involvement and is hiding something from them. She has to take refuge at a friend's farm, but still the press and paparazzi find her and print stories about her--keeping her in the eye of the citizens of Loves Park in Colorado.

What Evelyn doesn't realize is that her friend, Trevor Whitney, has been in love with her and she's the object of the Valentine Volunteers matchmaking schemes. There is a lot of plotting and planning for her to revamp the towns wooden hearts for Valentine's Day, for her to become the town's artist-in-residence, for her to become Trevor's wife.

This was a sweet novel with just the right amount of angst, conflict, and romance. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Valentine Heart for your love.

My thanks to Tyndale Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Sister's Prayer

I haven't read the first book of this series, but that didn't detract from the beauty of My Sister's Prayer. In both books, there are characters who are direct descendents of the historical characters who live similar lives.

In this review, I am detouring from my usual style to do a "my favorites" kind of thing.

My favorite historical character surprised me. It's not Celeste, but Sary--she saw many things during her indenture that gave her such wisdom beyond her years. While she technically wasn't an indentured servant but a slave, her work was still the same. She was a cook for an inn on the James River, and while French was her first language, she spoke and understood English fluently. She chose to hide that fact so that she could force her "owner" to bring in a translator to be her friend.

My favorite modern character is Maddee, which is not surprising. Her faith has been derailed for a bit, but because of her sister, Nicole's, accident and subsequent recovery at Maddee's place, she's slowly finding it again. She's mixed up a bit as to the kind of man she really wants and she often can't see what's right in front of her.

My favorite plot device in this book is the parallel lives the modern sisters lived to the historical sisters. While Celeste's sister, Berta, did not have an accident, she was extremely ill and required Celeste's care. Maddee's sister, Nicole, needed Maddee's care while recovering from a car accident.

One thing I would change in this book is to leave out the murder of the man in the cabin. While it allowed a few extra characters and a bit of cloak and dagger action, it really didn't add to the plot lines except as a distraction. I feel the book would have been a whole story without that particular device.

This is an exceptional novel with bright, clean writing that leads to a satisfying conclusion for the reader. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a friend who speaks your language. Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould make a killer author team and I need to read more of their works.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Until I Love Again

I have come to love Jerry Eicher's writings as authentic Amish lifestyle written into a novel. He does what other Amish novel writers seldom do--he writes about people who make hard decisions whether to remain Amish or adopt an Englischa lifestyle, and he writes about the ones who leave the Amish church and the pathway that took them there. Such is the story of Susanna Miller and Joey MacAlister.

Susanna is finishing her rumspringa and works at a feed store in town. Her parents have been lax about her running around days and now there is a man who wants to marry her. So her parents are cutting her rumspringa short and encouraging her to accept the suit of Ernest Helmuth--a man who wants a frau and a mamm to his two small girls. Susanna wants nothing to do with him, but her parents push without allowing her to make up her own mind. The harder her parents push, the harder she pushes back--sneaking around to see Joey, escaping whenever Ernest comes over, whatever she has to do. It seems that when Ernest shows up, he talks AT Susanna without letting her get a word in edgewise.

Her Daed wants this marriage because he holds secrets that will devastate Susanna. When the secrets come out, she does the only thing that will bring her peace--she calls Joey. That one action sets the course for the rest of the book.

Susanna is a character for whom it is very easy to sympathize. She's between the proverbial rock and hard place with no easy way out. It's more than she can handle, but Joey has the perfect release for her--a piano at his parents' house. She can pour out her heart making music. By using the keys, her feelings and emotions become vibrant and alive for everyone around her.

This is the best book I've read so far this summer. Until I Love Again is one of the The St. Lawrence County Amish series, and is so hard to put down with so many things to recommend it. I can't list them all here. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a piano piece straight from the heart.

My thanks to Harvest House Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Seasons in Paradise

I think everyone believes their hometown is the most perfect place in the world. At least it's that way for me. This afternoon I finished reading Seasons in Paradise by Barbara Cameron, and her characters love their hometown. Mary Elizabeth loves the fall in her hometown, the sights and smells of autumn delight her. The only thing that is not well in her world is the fact that the one man she truly loves has left the Amish church and basically told her that there is no hope for a future together because of his father's behavior.

Ben Miller moves to town and decides to court Mary Elizabeth, and that hurts Sam Stolzfus to think that Mary Elizabeth has moved on without him.

Barbara Cameron has done an excellent job developing her characters and making them real. I was sad when Ben dropped out of sight in the book after Mary Elizabeth broke up with him. Because of Mary Elizabeth's work with the women's shelter ladies, I thought Ben might have been an abusive husband looking for his wife or something. Or that he was going to become a stalker, or do some other nefarious deeds. But, I was wrong. Once he was kicked to the curb, he basically dropped out of the book. The setting is perfect--farmland in Pennsylvania, with just a touch of town thrown in for good measure. The pacing of the novel is steady with a touch of sweetness (and a grandfather who likes extra slices of pie).

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a slice of your favorite pie.

My thanks to Abingdon Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

God Bless Us Everyone

I love novellas to read between reading bigger, meatier books. They're like a palate cleanser between courses of food. I just finished Eva Marie Everson's novella God Bless Us Everyone and found it to be a perfect palate cleanser. Now, I can start another bigger, meatier book. The problem with novellas is that the story isn't quite as full as a regular novel, and the characters aren't quite as complete. But that didn't detract from the gist of the story.

Charlie has lost her job and her first recourse is to move back to her home with her grandmother. For some reason the headmaster of the school where she worked didn't like the way she taught the music in the school. When she got to her grandmother's place, her grandmother, Sis, convinced her to work with the choir in the local production of "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens.

There is a bit of romance in this book, but the bulk of the story is the reuniting of Charlie with her father--an ex-convict who runs a homeless shelter. Sis wants Charlie to believe her dad has changed, Charlie withholds judgment because she distrusts her father.

Eva Marie has worked magic with this short little story and it provides a short afternoon of entertainment. Five Stars.

My thanks to Abingdon Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Beauty Refined

Phoebe and her father have come to America to find sapphires for her father's employer. His employer wants Ceylon sapphires, but he's gathering Montana sapphires. He's been doing this for years, cheating her out of money, instead of getting her the gems she wants.

Phoebe has lived the last ten years of her life believing that her mother is dead, but ran into her mother outside the hotel where they were staying in Helena. There she learns the truth about her father.

While he is gone for a couple of weeks gathering the stones from the mines, Phoebe receives a telegram from an old Duke her father wants her to marry. He had promised that she would have a final say in whom she marries, but has all but sold her to this man. Phoebe has met the local lapidary who intrigues her. That he is often seen in the company of a young boy leads Phoebe to believe that he is the boy's father. After spending time with Ian, the lapidary, and her mother, she figures out that the young boy is actually her brother.

The story her mother told her is that her father is abusive and she had to leave without Phoebe even though it broke her heart. Phoebe had a hard time believing the story until her father unleashes his anger on her. She dared to stand up to her father for selling her to the old Duke and told him that she was going to choose her own husband. Her father slaps her around and then posts a guard outside her door so that she couldn't go out.

This is one of Tracie Peterson's Sapphire Brides series. A Beauty Refined moves rather slowly until the very end, which I won't discuss here in order not to spoil the ending for anyone yet to read the book. I didn't find the plot to be all that compelling FOR ME. It is still a good book, describing the ills of familial abuse and the effects it has on the abused one. Four Stars.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Heart Most Certain

Lydia King is a member of the Moral Society of Teaville, and as such wants to help the poor and disenfranchised. She's not exactly sure about their methods, but this seems to be the only way to get inroads for helping people. The one thing the leader of the Moral Society wants Lydia to do is to get Nicholas Lowe to donate toward their quilting gear by buying two sewing machines. Nicholas doesn't see that the Moral Society does any good, and refuses time and again in spite of Lydia's persistence. Finally, he gives Lydia a challenge--come up with three things that do not include sewing machines, and he will grant her wishes. Part of him wants to see what she comes up with, and part of him wants to be around her more--he's intrigued by her.

Lydia knows what it's like to be poor--her father gambles away every cent they have, her mother is terminally ill, and they are behind on their house payments. Sebastian Little thinks that Lydia will make the finest political wife, because he thinks she'll be biddable especially since he will bail her family out of their financial woes. The big thing is Lydia doesn't love him.

When she brings Nicholas her list, he grants every one of her wishes with the proviso that she participates in the execution of her wishes. Lydia asked Nicholas to help three families in need, tithe ten percent of his fortune to the church, and to build a library for the town so that books are available to everyone in town.

I really can't go into much more of the plot without giving it away. I will say that Melissa Jagears is one talented writer. Her characters are believable, her setting adds so much to the story line, and her plot moves along at a consistent pace. A Heart Most Certain takes social mores and turns them on their heads. It seems that behind every social movement, there are people exploiting it and making money off of it. Parts of this book could be an expose' in how that's done all too frequently.

I give this book five stars, two thumbs up, and a library book for a lazy afternoon.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Artisan's Wife

Since I read The Carousel Painter by Judith McCoy Miller, I have been in love with her books. Some of my favorites of her books are the Amana series. Now she is wrapping up the West Virginia series with The Artisan's Wife. The Potter's Lady and the Brickmaker's Bride comprise the other two books in this series. It's been fun reading this series because of Judith's skill in writing it.

When Ainslee's world is turned topsy-turvy because her twin sister elopes, she goes to Weston to take over the tile works, which was the dream of her sister, not her. One of the first things she does is to hire a man who wants to make mosaic tiles, Levi Judson. He has moved to Weston to be near his brother, a patient in the local asylum. Suddenly, Ainslee does not want to leave Weston, but make a go of making the tile works a viable business. She also wants to get the bid for the West Virginia Museum.

In creating her characters, Judith has taken some unusual traits and woven them into the personalities of those populating her book. Ainslee is smarter than most women are thought to be during the time period of history (1870's). She just doesn't see herself as creative. The creative people, for the most part, are incarcerated in the asylum. By using the asylum as part of the setting, Judith has awakened awareness of the life in a place where some people do not belong. She also points to the power men had over women that was irrefutable.

In setting up the romance between Ainslee and Levi, Judith had the relationship grow slowly through friendship and through working together on a project both of them are passionate about. There wasn't a boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back formula in this book.

This is a five-star, two thumbs up, and a beautiful tile mosaic book.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Tapestry of Secrets

I had not realized that I read a book in this series of three books, until I looked it up on my blog. Book two is reviewed here, but I must say that book three is every bit as compelling and engaging as book two. Sarah Loudin Thomas does not write fluffy books without a serious thought to them. Her writing is deep, thoughtful, and completely fascinating. Again, while this is part of a series, this book can stand alone. I did not feel lost in figuring out what the past plots were.

Perla has had a stroke and Ella's parents call her to come home to help with her grandmother. Since Ella's career is making art-quilts, she can do that anywhere, and right now she needs a way out of Craggy Mount and to get away from Mark Arrington. This is the perfect solution. The only fly in the ointment is her Aunt Sadie, a rather domineering person who thinks Perla should go to a rehab center/nursing home. Ella wants her grandmother at home where things are familiar and comfortable.

When Ella comes home, she comes also to her home church where a developer is wanting to build a hunting lodge and wants to buy the ground the church sits on. Ella can't let go of the history that church represents to her and truly doesn't want to see the church pushed out by the developer.

Perla's issues go much farther back in that Sadie was born outside of wedlock and Perla wants to tell Ella and Sadie the story and make a full disclosure about that time in her life, what that meant to her, and how she rose above it. Perla was ready to tell Sadie some time ago, but Sadie was not in a position to hear her mother. Now she wants to know, but she also wants to meet the other relatives involved.

Except for Sadie wanting to put Perla away (so to speak), Ella and Sadie are almost two peas in the same pod for wanting to know more of the family history.

Sarah has also worked into this story a bit of romance, but it is not apparent at the beginning which boy will get the girl! I LOVE that. I love the way she has worked all the plot details together so that it comes together in a savory whole. This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and an art quilt to hang on your wall.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.