©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Christmas at Forest Hill

Joel's wife, Florence, died shortly after giving birth to their baby girl, Grace, and leaving behind two very young boys. Joel needed help and fast. His father, the bishop, calls a bishop in another Amish settlement asking if there is someone who can come and help Joel with his children. The bishop immediately thinks of Rose and calls on her to see if she's willing to go and help. Her father answers for her and so the very next day, she is on her way to Forest Hill to assist in any way she could. She's not there long before Joel's father comes to tell Joel he needs to marry Rose for her to stay and take care of the children. Rose accepts the marriage of convenience with only a few conditions--being friends with the woman who coordinated getting breast milk for baby Grace, and that Joel will always be kind to her.

Rose's past is talked about early in the story--the fact that her mother verbally abused her and her father basically ignored her. It takes Joel a while to get past the grief of Florence's death and begin to live again, but when he's about to tell Rose that his love has grown for her, his late wife's mother sticks a wrench into the works and involves the bishop into their marriage.

Cindy Woodsmall has written a formulaic romance with an Amish twist, but the romance formula does not detract from the narrative at all. In fact, the romance formula* makes the story worth reading this time. It's not trite, it's not inane, it actually helps the story along. It does not take long to read the book and it is a good book to fill in an afternoon. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cup of hot cocoa to warm you up after an afternoon of sledding.

My thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for allowing me to read and review this book.

*Romance Formula
Boy meets Girl
Boy gets Girl
Boy loses Girl
Boy gets Girl back

The Pattern Artist

I chose this book without reading the synopsis simply because of the title. This book is about patterns and sewing and high fashion in 1911 and 1912. I read it in one day simply because it was too fascinating to put down.

Annie Wood is an upstairs maid for the Viscountess Newley and her daughter, Henriette. She assists the ladies' maids for these ladies and when sewing is needed, Annie does it--especially if there is bead work involved. While she believed that she would be promoted up through the ranks, the ladies' maids were taking credit for all of her work. Annie was included on a trip from England to America and spent her time rooming with a similar maid, Iris, in a similar position. Annie and Iris were accosted by one of the footmen and decided they weren't going to be treated that way, so they ran away. Annie got a job at Macy's in the fabric and sewing department, while Iris got a job with a baker's wife, caring for her children.

This is the basic set up Nancy Moser used in writing this novel. Annie understood much about sewing and fashion because of her handling of Newley ladies' dresses--especially the couture clothing. This understanding caught the attention of the salesman for Butterick patterns, a man named Sean. He talked to his superiors at Butterick and secured a place for her there, because he wanted to be near her on a daily basis. The world of making the patterns for the home sewist opened up to me and I was fascinated.

I have sewn with Butterick patterns and other brands as well. I do hand sewing (mostly for dolls) and machine sewing and absolutely love it. My mother began teaching me to sew when I was thirteen and told me that once I mastered sewing well, I'd get more clothes if I made them myself. For a young teen, that motivates well. I appreciate how Nancy has included different parts of sewing into the warp and woof of the novel. I love the characters that Nancy has included to fill out the depth of the story and her descriptions of parts of New York City are quite incredible--especially the Butterick Building. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a sewing machine to aid your sewing projects.

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

EVerybody Dance, Now

I'm struggling with a title for this post. "I could have danced all night and still have begged for more,..." or "Shall we dance? Shall we dance?" Either would fit the bill for this story of a family going through some of the most difficult times a family can face. I jumped into this series with book number three, and while I didn't get the nuances of the first two, this third one does fine on its own.

Jane and Leander are the happy parents of a number of children
and I may be forgetting one or two.

Leander has ALS and Jane denies that it is the death sentence it's known to be. Most of the book is about redefining Jane's faith and finding her peace with God regardless of circumstances.

Laura has a drinking problem, but she's so far from home, her family only knows that she has become distant.

Ivy had adopted three children who have been abandoned by their mother, and one of the children has a serious anger issue.

Amy has been friends with Mitch for a long time, but Mitch has had to deal with his issues and they have decided they will be nothing more than friends until he's been sober for a year

Sephy and her new husband, Justice, have moved to Namibia to work in a mission--Sephy as a nurse and Justice as a veterinarian.

With every step of deterioration in Leander, Jane becomes more militant in her stance that God will heal him. When he starts walking with a cane, she rails at him for not having strong enough faith. In the midst of Leander's troubles, Jane's sister Ellen asks Jane to come visit. Their relationship has not been a close one for a long time and Jane doesn't know what to expect. If she was hoping for a warm welcome, she was sorely mistaken. Ellen is just as prickly as she's ever been.

There is a lot of angst in the book, They Danced On, Jane's for Leander, Laura's for her addiction, Ivy's for her children, Jane's for the son she gave up for adoption, Jane's for her sister Ellen, but all of it seems necessary for the plot to move at its intended pace. With as many characters in the book as there are, Carre Armstrong Gardner has done an admirable job in giving them depth and personality. I truly enjoyed the book and give it five stars, two thumbs up, and faith to face anything that comes your way.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016


A couple of years ago, I found a couple of books by David Gregory that turned my world upside down. They asked the question of "What if?"--What if Jesus invited you to dinner? What if you got to spend a day with Jesus? How would those events change your life? I was intrigued, I was pulled in, I was shaken a bit, and I was challenged. Tyndale House has now published another book by David that changes the reader's thinking, expectations, and gives the reader a feeling of having been with Emma in her adventures.

David's question in this book is what does it mean to grow spiritually. What is spiritual growth? At the beginning of the book, Emma is rather broken by her breakup with her boyfriend, she's feeling abandoned, alone, and spiritually dry. She comes home from work to find a card in her mail with a cryptic note inside: Go through the first open door. She writes down every open door she can think of on a mental level--get a different job, move in with her friend, change churches, but those don't seem to be what is meant. So she goes into her bedroom, but nothing there catches her eye. Then she sees that the pantry door is open just a bit. She opens it wider and finds herself on a boat in the middle of a storm in first century Israel. And she begins an adventure with Jesus that comes full circle to her finding what true spiritual growth is--Abide.

Since finishing the book, I've been thinking about what abiding means for me. How do I abide in Jesus? First I have to remember that Jesus is fully man with the emotions and feelings that make Him most empathetic to me, but He is also fully God and by virtue of the fact that He is fully God, He is fully Love. It took several episodes with Jesus for Emma to figure all of this out, and I can relate. It often takes me a while for these kinds of things to soak into my spirit, but once it's there, it's there indefinitely.

One thing about David Gregory's books is that it doesn't take a lot of time to read them, but it takes quite a bit of time to digest the information he presents. I found not only his story, but also his precepts compelling. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and Jesus to calm your storm.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This Road

For the most part, I do not like Jane Kirkpatrick, but for some reason I keep picking up her books and reading them. I even have three of her books that are sitting in my TBR pile. I will say this: Jane writes fascinating prose that engages the reader from the very first page. Her depth of character development makes the reader feel intimately acquainted with the characters, and the plot movement gives the reader the feeling of actually being in the moment of the narrative.

Jane's books are based on historical figures and are basically novelizations of real events. Some of the extraneous characters may be products of her imagination, but they give depth and color to the story.

I chose This Road We Traveled simply because it gives a firsthand look at traveling the Oregon Trail. Last year, my husband and I took a road trip to follow the Oregon Trail and saw many of the same things that Tabby and her family saw. While ours was a car trip, the landscape and scenery was pretty much the same.
Throughout the book Tabatha Moffatt Brown is writing her memoirs as a way to appease her granddaughter and as a way to remember how far she'd come in her life. Her son, Orus, decided to move to the Oregon Territory, but he wants Tabby to stay behind. Tabby is a strong woman with strong opinions, strong words, and strong actions, but she uses a lot of her strength to lean on God. Without knowing just how old Tabby was at the time of the trip, I would have placed her age in her mid-seventies, but at the age of sixty-five, she begins campaigning for education for the children of Oregon. Tabby's group suffered the hardships of lack of food, wagon accidents, families being broken up, lack of water, and general fatigue on the way.

This is indeed a five star book with two thumbs up and a trip down the Oregon Trail with a memoir.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

And, no, this is not about the movie/play of the same name. This is about Seven Brides for Seven Texans published by Barbour Publishing.

Seven critically acclaimed authors collaborated to bring together seven Hart brothers and their brides. George Washington Hart has written his will and added a codicil that would shake even the mightiest of men. He has declared that each son will receive a part of the 7 Heart Ranch (which by the descriptions in the various novellas is HUGE) as soon as they are married. The kicker is that each son must be married before the year is out. The youngest son, Hays, decided that he would take the plunge first by posting advertisements around town. Travis, the doctor of the family, was the next to fall into the hands of love, and then one by one, each domino fell. Along the way, each man had to overcome reluctance of his bride, possibly solve a mystery, fall in love, and then present his bride to his family. Each son found a bride who was a perfect fit in personality and grace.

I absolutely loved this collection of short novels. There's just enough intrigue in each one to keep the reader engaged and there's enough romance to satisfy my heart. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a HUGE family reunion.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Shadow of the Storm

I just finished this book a few minutes ago and there is one thing I absolutely HATE about it. It ended. No loose ends were tied up neatly in a bow. Now I HAVE to wait until the next book in the series comes out to find out what happened. In Connilyn Cossette's first book, Counted with the Stars (reviewed here) begins with the story of Kiya and secondarily the story of Shira. While Kiya plays an important part in Shadow of the Storm, the story is Shira's, how she becomes a midwife, how she finds herself involved in difficult births without feeling that she has the training, how a couple of the women in the camp have come to hate her without cause, and how she turns that hate upside down just by finding her strength.

The Israelites have escaped Pharaoh and are now living in the wilderness while Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments. They collect manna every morning, and work on the Tent of Meeting. Shira believes that she's called to be a midwife, even though her mother wants her to continue with weaving and dying wool. The very first time Shira assists Reva with a birth, Reva recognizes Shira's talent for calming mothers and her strength in assisting mothers give birth. When she is called to Leisha's tent to assist in her delivery, she finds that Leisha is married to the man she has admired for a long time. When Leisha dies in birth, Shira wants to give up midwifing, but Yahweh has other plans.

There are several biblical concepts that Connilyn includes in her book: forgiving is freeing, appearances are not as important as what is on the inside of a person, and God is not a being to be messed with--He requires ultimate devotion. I love books that help me grow and this one does just that.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a calm delivery for your next baby.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Devoted

Suzanne Woods Fisher is among my favorite Amish fiction authors, and with her newest offering, she does not disappoint. One of my favorite characteristics of Suzanne's books is that she shares what the characters are learning from the Bible and about living as Christ desires. The biblical concepts put forth in the book really shone into my life for my own Christian walk. That's a rare thing to find in a novel and I love finding it here.

Ruthie wants to do something important with her life, but she has no clue what that is. Luke Schrock wants to be her boyfriend, but his behavior has been degenerating and she wants to distance herself from him because of it. Ruthie has been helping Rose King with her Inn at Eagle Hill and prepares the cabin for a coming visitor who wishes to join the Amish church. After Ruthie has double-checked the cabin and is making her way home, she runs into a stranger who seems befuddled and possibly injured. He asks Ruthie for a place to stay and her only option was to allow the man to stay in the cabin. The next morning, the man was dead, and no one knew why.

Patrick Kelly shows up as the mystery around the dead man is uncovered. He has rented the cabin for a month but can't stay there until the investigation into the mystery man's death is resolved. Instead, he is offered Jesse Schrock's room across the road from the Inn, where he meets Ruthie and engages her as a tutor to teach him Pennsylvania Dutch.

David Schrock is the Bishop of the Amish church and is seeing things that stick in his gut as not being as right as they should be. Oil was found in the area and many of the parishioners have oil leases on their land, but they have become more self-centered, less willing to help out their neighbors, less giving, and generally compromising on their beliefs. It bothers David but he is unsure how to correct it. This is the part of the story I liked the best. It's a general conundrum to figure out where the sin is in the camp and how to address it.

This is the third story in The Bishop's Family series set in Stoney Ridge and brings many of the loose ends of the other two books into complete closure, while a couple of other issues could still be resolved in another book. I'm looking forward to what Suzanne has to come.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a some true insight into Biblical concepts.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

When Love Arrives

When I began reading this book, I knew for sure that I had already read it. I searched my blog, sure I had read and reviewed it before. I hadn't read this particular book before, but I had read the first book in the series. Johnnie Alexander writes with a deft hand with well developed characters who feel like they are old friends. With her style of writing it is no small thing that I felt like I'd read the book before.

Dani Prescott is in Columbus following a man who slandered her dead mother and suggested she should have been convicted of murder. Dani wanted to publicly humiliate Brett Somers the same way he humiliated her mother, and by extension, her. Dani had followed Brett from his office to the children's hospital and watched him as he stood outside and gazed at a certain window. While he was there, she took a couple of pictures of him, for an unknown purpose at the time. An ambulance went by and changed Brett's gaze so that he saw her. He walked to where she was and engaged her in conversation and then asked her out. Thus begins a change in Brett that is so out of character for him, his friends begin to think he's falling in love.

Johnnie Alexander has a folksy way about her writing that creates an instant empathy with her characters. She allows her reader to explore the feelings her characters have as they develop. She does, however, use the boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back formula. It works here and makes the most sense--there has to be the angst leading up to the climax and denouement. Her setting is charming and only adds to the vehicle of the story.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a new camera to record all of your adventures.

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

This Fine Life

Sometimes I read a book simply because it's there. Eva Marie Everson writes the kind of stories that allow me to do just that. I've had This Fine Life on my kindle for a while and needed a "palate cleanser" book--one that will allow me to escape for a while between two heavily-themed novels. This didn't exactly fit that bill, but it did give me a great escape for a while. One thing I truly enjoyed about the book is the way that Mariette grows as a person and then as a Christian.

Mariette has graduated from high school and her mother is pushing her to marry the "right" man and her father wants her to go to college. She is having a hard time choosing what to do with her life until she meets Thayne Scott in the stairwell of her father's factory. She not only falls in love, she falls hard--and so does Thayne. After her parents refuse to allow her to see Thayne anymore, the two of them elope. The rest of the book is about her growing relationship with Thayne and her new relationship with God. There is so much more to the story of their growth than what I have described here.

Mariette and Thayne make a couple that the reader wants to befriend. Her parents are easy to understand and yet somewhat misguided in their ideas. I understand a lot of Mariette's feelings of not fitting into her own life and it was a great privilege to see that an author understood the feeling herself.

I have loved Eva Marie Everson since I read the Potluck Club novels she co-wrote with Linda Evans Shepherd. This one is definitely a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a fine life.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Child of the River

I've read several of Irma Joubert's books and I find each one to be exquisite in plot, character, and depth. Her writing ability is unsurpassed and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She's not afraid to tackle hard subjects in her writing and her research bears out in all the historical details she includes in her novels.

I delayed reading Irma's newest book, Child of the River, because I knew it was going to be a heavy read full of depth and angst. I was right in that regard, but I was wrong to dread reading the book.

Persomi's story is one of coming of age in a time of strife and struggle. Beginning near the end of the Great Depression and moving through World War II and then into the turbulent fifties and sixties of South Africa's Apartheid days. Persomi is looked down on for being the daughter of illiterate sharecroppers, but she's the bright star of her class at school to the degree that she gets a scholarship to the high school and excels at sports as well as academics. Beyond high school, Persomi achieves her dreams in college and then in law school, finally ending up in the law firm of her choice working with one of her best friends. She struggles through wanting to protect her friends in town from the unfair laws that will make them move to a "separate" community four miles away.

Because Irma is from South Africa, she has a first-hand knowledge of how the "colored" people were treated. Only white people were considered "whole people," and there were even levels of wholeness among the whites. Persomi fought to overcome these labels and designations. While faith is part of the book, it's not shown as much as in other books by other authors. The understated way that faith is lived out in this book makes it all the more brilliant.

This is a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a scholarship to the university near you.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Waves of Mercy

I absolutely LOVE Lynn Austin, I'd study a menu if she wrote it. So when I saw her newest book on the list of potential reviewable books, I jumped on getting the e-galley. I was right. Waves of Mercy is one tremendous book with parallel plot lines, incredible characters, unbelievable settings, and unrelenting conflict within the plot. The other thing Lynn has worked into her book is a great deal of spiritual growth.

At the beginning of the book, Geesje is a young lady whose family is being persecuted for their faith. Her father decides to move once, gets run out of town again, and so he decides to emigrate to America. Geesje is reluctant to come with the family because she has fallen in love and wants to stay until her love can come with her.

Anna is a young lady who has dreams of a shipwreck in which she watches her Mama drown and she is given to her father to save. Her engagement is broken because she goes to a church her fiance does not agree with.

Derk is Geesje's "adopted" nephew who is the grandson of the man she was in love with back in the Netherlands. He is studying for the ministry and wants more than anything to understand and live in God's will. His fiancee doesn't want to make the sacrifices of being a minister's wife and breaks up with him. During the time that Anna is in town, she befriends Derk--who is working at the hotel where she is staying.

It is because of Anna's and Derk's friendship that Anna begins to have answers to her questions, but even her answers begin to add more questions. But, eventually, Derk introduces Anna to Geesje, and answers begin to form.

There is no romance, per se, but the love that comes through the pages of this tome is real, is tangible, and is eternal. This is a five-star, two thumbs up book with Dutch pancakes for breakfast.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book. It was certainly my pleasure.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wildflower Harvest

Colleen Reece has written a pair of rollicking novels taking place on the frontiers of Wyoming in the post-Civil War era. Mountain Laurel--more often known as Laurel--has grown up in her twin sister's shadow. Ivy Ann is more vivacious, more flirtatious, and more socially adept all the way around. Laurel is happy in her quietness, but lurking inside Laurel is a spark of adventure that longs to see more of the country than just their West Virginia home. When Adam Birchfield shows up at the family's mansion and hears Laurel express her desire to follow her husband (should she ever have one) wherever he'd go, he applauds her adventurous thinking.

This is how Wildflower Harvest begins. With a generous helping of humor, Colleen creates a story that takes the reader on a spontaneous adventure to find love. Laurel just has to overcome Ivy Ann's duplicity of pretending to be her.

Included with this book is the story Desert Rose, who is the daughter of Laurel and Adam. Taking on a dare by her cousin Nate, she puts an ad in a magazine for a "Mail Order Husband." Nate sends her ad to a teacher he had at the boarding school back in Massachusetts. With the beginnings of a pen-pal romance, Carmichael Carey Blake-Jones decides to buy a ranch in Antelope, Wyoming, and go incognito as a ranch hand to learn how to run his ranch. In the meantime, he's still writing to Desert Rose and he's falling in love with her.

While Wildflower Harvest kept my attention all the way through, Desert Rose seemed a bit predictable because some of the elements are repeated from Wildflower Harvest. Nevertheless, both are good reads, and maybe the reader needs to take a break between the two books to come back to Desert Rose fresh. Four Strong Stars.

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