©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Mary's Home

I started reading Jerry Eicher's Peace in the Valley series thinking I'd meet some characters and then follow them through their lives. I met three different main characters, and they had some interesting stories, but they didn't show up again in any of the other novels in the series. What this means is that while these stories take place in one geographic location, the stories stand alone.

 Mary is committed to her church community and feels so strongly about it that she's already been baptized into membership.  Her sister, Betsy, wants to "jump the fence" so badly she can taste it.  Part of Betsy's reason is that she was burned badly on her face and neck and there is nothing that can cover her scars.  None of the local Amish boys will look at her.  Mary has met and fallen in love with Josiah, a boy from another community.  As the date draws near to the wedding, Josiah writes her a letter, telling her that he has met someone else and would be married on the same day they were supposed to marry.  

Often on her way to work at the co-op store, she would stop by an elderly woman's house and see how she was doing.  One time, she meets the woman's grandson and becomes intrigued by him.  He is a missionary to Kenya and his work there aroused Mary's interest even more.  He invited her to listen to his fundraising speech at a local church, where he described street urchins that his mission reached out to.  The more Mary hears, the more fascinated she becomes.  

Meanwhile, an old flame comes back to claim Betsy's heart and gives the reader the surprise of who jumps the fence and who stays faithful.  This is an interesting read with great characters and settings.  Five stars, two thumbs up, and the opportunity to rescue a glue boy. 

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

Phoebe's Gift

I started reading Jerry Eicher's Peace in the Valley series thinking I'd meet some characters and then follow them through their lives.  I met three different main characters, and they had some interesting stories, but they didn't show up again in any of the other novels in the series.  What this means is that while these stories take place in one geographic location, the stories stand alone.

So now we come to Phoebe's Gift.  She has been taking care of her grandmother and now her grandmother has passed.  Through a series of unexpected events, Phoebe finds out that her grandmother wanted her pony farm to become a respite farm for at-risk children, for a week at a time.  With David helping her with the farm and the children, Phoebe finds herself  a bit over her head, but still at peace with the choice she made to keep the farm and follow her grandmother's dream.  She has passed the county's foster parenting requirements, and once the children start coming, she loses her heart to each child who comes through her doors.

Jerry Eicher knows how to write Amish fiction and this one is great!  His characters are easy to understand, and to some degree, I wish I could meet them in person.  There is much I'd like to learn from them.

Five Stars, two thumbs up, and an Assateague pony to ride.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Silvia's Rose

If this book were a show, the title character would not appear in the show at all.  She is a memory of Joseph's and has died before the book begins.

Jerry Eicher writes Amish fiction of extremely high quality.  He has worked this story out so that the reader cannot figure out exactly how it is going to end.

Esther's husband, Lonnie, has died, and she moves with her daughter to the South Lancaster County community.  She's hoping to catch the attention of Isaiah, a man her radar has honed in on for a long time.

Arlene is Dorrine's cousin and is seeking a husband.  She feels Joseph is just the man for her, if she can change him to her liking.

Joseph takes some things that his late wife, Silvia, taught him about hybridizing plants and is working on a rose just to commemorate the memory of his love for her.

These are the stars of this particular show, with some minor characters who like to throw wrenches into the works.

The book is a great read with interesting people, events, and settings.  It is meant to be savored, each word taken in and pondered.  This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a rose created just for you.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Freedom's Ring

From the Boston Massacre to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, this book is filled with poignant histories of two ladies.  Heidi Chiavaroli has written a book that is meant to be savored.  She tells the stories of Liberty, whose brother was killed in the Massacre; and Anaya, a runner who was injured in the bombing.

When Anaya was injured in the bombing, a man wearing a Red Sox sweatshirt took her to safety, and gave her a ring. After she recovered, she looked for the man, but was never able to find him.  When Anaya's mother calls her to tell her that her sister may be moving to England, Anaya decides to make contact with her sister and her niece. It wasn't a great homecoming. Anaya's sister is bitter about Anaya's desertion of her family.

Liberty has come to Boston to search for her brother.  She has no money, no means of support, and no idea where her brother is.  A compassionate "Lobster Back" (English soldier) offers her a job as his housekeeper.  When she finally finds her brother, she's somewhat afraid to tell him who she works for, even though, her employers politics don't dovetail to hers.  A couple of weeks later, Liberty's brother, James, was the first fatality.

The men in the book are strong men, who know how to face their fears--eventually.  They are matched well to the women and stand well in their roles as leading men.

This is my first book that I've read by Heidi, but I am sure it won't be the last one I read by her.  She has a fresh voice in Christian fiction and her books are worth every minute to read them.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a signet ring that follows the family through the ages.

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fraying at the Edge

When last we left our heroines, both were overcoming stresses of their new situations.  Arianna is living with the people who raised Skylar, and Skylar is living with the people who raised Arianna.  Living in the Englisch world is beyond a challenge for Arianna.  Her biological father wants her to learn to live in the world, question it, and embrace it.  He has no belief in God and wants to tear down hers.  He not only wants to change her inside, but outside as well.  He wants her hair cut, her clothing totally changed, and her attitudes changed.  He writes a bucket list for her and expects her to fulfill it as a condition to returning to her Amish family.

For Skylar, the Amish world is totally backwards, and living by their rules is going to drive her to the looney bin.  She thinks she can hide her drugs and her habit, but Lovina, Skylar's biological mother, is wise to to Skylar's actions.

In the interim, Arianna's sisters and her twin are running the cafe with mixed results.  To save her sanity, and to have access to a phone, Skylar pitches in to help with the cafe.  After her last drugs run out, Lovina confronts Skylar and forces her to detox, but stands beside her to help her through the withdrawal.

Arianna feels pushed into a corner to fulfill the bucket list, even though much of it goes against her conscience.  When Arianna's friend, Quill, finds out what all is on the list, he confronts Ari's biological father and explains to him what loving a child is all about.  I think that is my favorite part of the book.

One thing about Cindy Woodsmall's series is that she sometimes leaves her characters hanging off the metaphoric cliff and makes her readers wait until the next installment.  Fraying at the Edge does exactly that, but it's still worth five stars, two thumbs up, and a cup of coffee, a scone, and a bucket list.

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

Ties That Bind

Cindy Woodsmall writes Amish fiction with a flourish.  Her characters have depth that I doubt I have as a person in real life. Her settings are imaginative but believable.  Her plots are impeccable. She writes five star stuff, Almost. Every. Single. Time.

Ties that Bind tells a story that has probably happened more than once--babies switched at birth in the busyness of a birth center.  Except that at this birth center, the busyness was a fire that allowed two baby girls to be switched. Now the girls are adults and have lived quite different lives which makes them different girls than they would have been.

When I was in college, I had to take a class in special education, primarily for the purpose of understanding what constitutes a special needs child.  One of the basic conundrums we encountered in this class is the influence of nurture versus nature.  How a child was raised, nurtured, and loved by his/her parents made a huge impact in that child's life.  But then there were the genetics of a child that tied into a child's behavior and characteristics as that child grew. The conundrum is--which one has the greater effect? And the answer is, I don't know.

This book and this series take a deep look at the effects of nature and nurture.  Arianna believes she's a twin to Abram, she loves her family, loves God, and loves to bake.  She works hard to buy a cafe so that she can contribute to her family, serve her community, and use her talents to the best of her abilities.

Skylar is a drama student and she's addicted to drugs.  When Arianna's friend Quill sees Skylar performing on stage, he realizes the looks amazingly like Arianna's sister Salome.  He does some research to find that Skylar and Arianna could have been switched at birth.  When Skylar's parents find out, they threaten a law suit unless Arianna comes to live with them for at least a year.  Then they give Skylar the option of living with Arianna's family or going to rehab.

It was hard for me to read this book and then wait for the next one to come out, but each page couldn't be read or turned fast enough.  Cindy's treatment of the situation is gentle and compassionate, yet at the same time engaging and compelling.  This is a five star book with two thumbs up, and a cup of the best coffee to be had.

Waterbrook/Multnomah put out this book and it holds to the high quality standards of the company.

Christmas at Carnton

Once in a while, I read a book, novella, or story of some kind where all the pieces fit together in such a way that there is no disconnect, no disjointed pieces, nothing but an enjoyable story with a completeness that brings satisfaction to the reader. Tamera Alexander's Christmas at Carnton is that kind of story.

Aletta is a war widow with a young son about to lose her house to foreclosure.  She looks all over town for a job, any job, just to keep the bills paid, and a roof over her and her son's heads.

Jake Winston is a sharp shooter who has been injured  and may never see well enough to do his job again.

Both of them end up at Carnton, a Franklin, Tennessee, planttion--Aletta to work, and Jake to recuperate from his injuries.  They end up working together on a couple of projects and a friendship forms.

All of the characters are believable--and I found it quite easy to put myself in their circumstances.  Aletta is not only skilled in the kitchen, she is also skilled in the woodshop--a deviation from the norm of the day.  Jake helps her build a nativity for the front lawn of Carnton to house a live nativity during the auction to raise money for the soldiers.  It's fun to watch Jake's opinions change as he sees that the ladies contributing to the auction really feel they have played a part in helping their loved ones.

I give this short novel five stars, two thumbs up, and a hot, flaky biscuit first thing in the morning.

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore

Because many of the books I read are e-galleys, I don't often see the covers or synopsis before I read the books on my list.  On Love's Gentle Shore gave me the impression that it might be an historical novel, and I wanted a change of pace. I finally settled down to read the book, and, boy, was I surprised.

This is the third novel in the Prince Edward Islands Dreams series, and while the novels have some of the same characters, it will stand alone pretty well by itself.

Natalie O'Ryan is returning to Prince Edward Island to get married.  It wasn't her idea, nor her desire to marry in her home town. It held very few happy memories for her and lots of bitter ones where she was the object of all the town gossip.

Now she's having to plan her own wedding alone, because her fiance is called out of town for some kind of business emergency.  Her only port in this particular storm is the only friend she ever had as a child growing up--Justin Kane.

Liz Johnson writes with incredible skill and her novels are so compelling and engaging they are extremely hard to put down.  If it weren't for the fact that my dog wakes me up around 5:00 AM every morning, I'd stay up late reading her books.  I really can't wait until her next one comes out.

This is a five-star, two thumbs up book, and a lighthouse to hide letters in.

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Promise of Breeze Hill

I don't know that I have read any books by Pam Hillman, but she is worth the time to read.  The Promise of Breeze Hill is the story of several people trying to tie themselves to the coat tails of the plantation called Breeze Hill.  One of the surest ways to get their grubby little hands on the land is to marry the daughter of the owner, Isabella Bartholomew. What most of the men don't realize is that Isabella's widowed sister-in-law is pregnant and her baby may be the heir to inherit the plantation.

The full gamut of characters populate the pages of this book--impostors, posers, milquetoasts, and ruffians.  Isabella and her family are the primary honest characters with a couple of other exceptions--one being Connor O'Shea, an Irish immigrant who has indentured himself in order to bring his brothers from Ireland.

From the time that Isabella bought Connor's indenture papers through the end of the book, Connor has felt it was his duty to protect Isabella.   When she gets a message that Leah, her sister-in-law, is having trouble with her baby, she leaves from Natchez to get back to Breeze Hill.  Connor decided to accompany her and it was a good thing he did.  Her trip wasn't as dire as she originally thought, and she didn't need to put herself into more danger than she already faced.

This is a good book, with quality writing, but it didn't engage me.  I can't put my finger on what I didn't like about it, but it's still a four star book.

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