Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Wish, A Story of Friendship, Love and Coming Home

Product Details
Renowned author of Amish
Fiction, Beverly Lewis has hit home once again with her latest book The Wish.  This time, her story centers on two  young ladies, Leona Spreicher and Gloria Gingerich.  Leona was a lonely girl, born late in life to parents who were quiet and reserved. She may as well  have been an only child with her much older married brother Mahlon.  She longed for a friendship. A friendship with someone her own age who she could confide in and have fun as only girls can have fun.  Her life seemed so quiet and ordinary. One day, a family from an Arkansas community became her neighbors. It was a lucky day for Leona when she met Gloria who was just the friend she longed for. She began spending time at the Gingerich home when her own mother was stricken with a debilitating case of pneumonia and couldn't care for Leona. Gloria's family was everything Leona's family was not with younger, fun loving parents and brothers to play games with.  This was the family she felt she should have been born into. Until one day, the family suddenly moved away from Colerain Township.  Gloria's father, Arkansas Joe had been expelled from the Old Order Amish church under mysterious circumstances.  The girls were both heartsick and Gloria vowed to stay in touch with Leona.

Leona still missed her dear friend after three years but her strong faith led her to become baptized. She had also become engaged and worked part-time in her sister-in-laws gift shop.  Her life was whole. One day, however, a letter came from Gloria that rocked her world. Her dear friend needed her and Leona was determined to go to Gloria and help in any way she could.  Gloria's new life leads Leona to take a leap of faith and with her fiancee's blessing becomes determined to bring Gloria back home.  She only hopes she is not too late.

This is an inspiring story of resilience where two young women never forgot their old childhood friendship.  It is also a story of true forgiveness and lessons learned when we forgive and move forward.  I enjoyed the book for the story but also the lessons. Sometimes when we think the grass must be greener in the neighbor's yard we need only to look at what we are growing at home and appreciate what we have.  I had a hard time putting this book down. As with every book I have read by Beverly Lewis, this story is well grounded, has well developed characters people can identify with, brings tears to my eyes and makes me happy I read it!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mattie's Pledge: An Amish Woman's Journey to Indiana

Our world is full of dreamers looking for that magical place just beyond the mountains or across the river.  Mattie's Pledge (book 2 in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series ) by Jan Drexler is the story of a young Amish woman who is seduced by wanderlust. Mattie Schrock left Brother's Valley in Pennsylvania with her family to settle in Indiana.  She loved the lure of seeing new places and longed for adventure and yearned to see what was just beyond the mountains.  Not new to pulling  up stakes, Mattie's father had moved the family to Brother's Valley from the Conestoga area just seven years before.

It was 1843 and Americans were involved with the westward movement, including the Amish people. Farmland was getting scarce and the promise of cheaper land and the opportunity to build a larger community moving west appealing.  We often read of the great migration to the Oregon but the Midwest was still largely unsettled at the time.

Jacob Yoder's family from the Conestoga area, former neighbors and friends of the Schrock's joined in to complete the group.  As old friends, Jacob and Mattie enjoyed reconnecting that travelling by wagon afforded them time to get to know each other as young adults with dreams and plans ready to unfold.  Jacob planned to purchase land and build a future home for a wife and family. Mattie was committed to adventure and had no desire to settle down in one place for the rest of her life.  Two hearts so close yet with such different dreams.

Traveling on any trail wouldn't be complete without danger. The Bates brothers added that element of danger with their determination to steal the beautiful Conestoga horses from the Amish camp.  Cole Bates was intrigued by Mattie and had just enough charm to give her romantic ideas to dream of going further to Oregon.  He was determined to have those horses and capture Mattie's heart for his own.

Product DetailsThis story shows the example of forgiveness of the Amish people. When Cole is caught red-handed trying to steal the horses, he is told to take just one team and leave the rest. Unable to figure out whether that was a trick, he let them be, at least that night. He was also offered food which was also an unexpected kindness.

Cole's greed and determination to have those horses keeps Jacob Yoder on guard throughout the trip.  His patience and vigilance throughout the story shows great patience and courage.  He used these traits with Mattie, knowing she was searching for something to fill up her life beyond her simple life.

Jan Drexler has painted the characters of her story with care. The development of  their characters and how they grew in the story are a compliment to the author. It was good to read of the ups and downs of their nature and see how they used their given strengths to get through their trials.  While the story focuses mainly on Mattie, Jacob and Cole, we can't overlook the other stories being told within the lives of these young people.  They are woven into the daily life on the trail and play active roles in shaping our main characters.

We can get as impatient as Mattie as the story plods along through a black marsh or becomes difficult as a tragic storm hits them on the road. Yet the resilience of all the people in this story are a testament to the strength men and women possessed to keep our country growing.  The Amish are an important part of our society, living out their Anabaptist faith still today.  America is a potpourri of culture and religions, the very thing our founders embraced.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It Happened In This Road We Traveled

When I finished reading This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick I put it down and said "Wow." This is yet another book about the Oregon Trail but what sets it apart is that it is written about a very real woman who at 66 years old set out to find what she would do with the rest of her life. Not content to stay behind in Missouri, Tabby took a leap of faith, bought a wagon, hired a driver and crossed a continent of unknowns. Tabitha Moffit Brown is called the Mother of Oregon and her journey is written of with great care by Jane Kirkpatrick.

About an hour ago my husband and I returned from a trip down along the Oregon Trail.  Considering I had just finished reading this book Friday evening it was fitting to pause and visualize those wagons heading in our direction. I admit the experiences seem daunting to me. Could I have made this trek?  Walking beside a wagon for hours, then trying to bake cornbread on the lid of a cast iron dutch oven seems a trial. Anticipating what the conditions would be like and finding the path narrowing onto a cliff above deep canyons takes my breath away as it must have for the emigrating families. Continually weeding out possessions to lighten the load would be so difficult. After carefully choosing what to bring and what to leave behind would have already been a painstaking process. Tabby's daughter Pherne, unsure of the journey to begin with left behind her fine furnishings and books that she treasured.

Tabby Brown began the journey with her family and were led by her oldest son Orus. He had taken this journey before and the plan was to follow the Columbia.  Tabby's wagon was driven alongside her daughter Pherne and son-in-law Virgil, their family and Tabby's brother-in-law John.  They were separated from Orus with the distance growing day by day. Eventually they were two weeks behind Orus. Tabby and her group were approached by the Applegates and a Mr. Scott who sold them the idea of avoiding the dangerous Columbia by following a new trail from the bottom of the territory, working up to where Orus had built a cabin.  They were convinced this shortcut would land them at their destination before the experienced Orus arrived. 

Product DetailsAfter careful consideration the group followed the Applegate Trail and from there on the journey went from difficult to brutal.  The slow pace of travel on roads that were carved during the journey was hard on everyone. Provisions ran short along with tempers. Sickness and near starvation made it difficult for the travelers to persevere.  Broken wagon tongues and wheels, dying oxen and the death of family members are hard for me to imagine. I admire all who made it to their destination because they were courageous people whose indomitable spirit paved the way in which the west was settled.  

Jane Kirkpatrick has once again used her talent in a compelling way to bring the story of a woman who could have just been one of a group who survived a harrowing journey along the Applegate Trail.  What is important is that there are many people who took what they experienced and shaped an important part of the history of our great western states. Many people who courageously made their way west for 640 acres lost their lives or were separated from their families. A whole group of young people were impacted by this. Also about this time the Whitman Massacre devastated the area and left more orphans. Tabby Brown now saw her purpose at the end of the trail and while she could have retired in comfort with either Orus or Pherne she founded an orphanage and school in Forest Grove, not far from what is today known as Portland Oregon.  She enlisted the help of missionaries Harvey and Emmaline Clark and founded what is known as Pacific University today.  She did finally move in with her daughter Pherne, but only a few months shy of her death at 78. 

Journals, diaries and notes on scrap paper have brought to light many bits and pieces of what happened on the great migration west. Many thanks to those who have revered these glimpses to the past and to authors like Jane Kirkpatrick who bring these important stories to light.  I received this book from Revell for review and thank them for the opportunity to read it and learn from it.  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Review: Where Hope Prevails

If you follow Janette Oke you are no stranger to wonderful stories that capture our hearts and beg to be read again and again. Where Hope Prevails is just such a story.  Fans of the Hallmark series When Calls the Heart will delight in this companion tale of Elizabeth Thacker and her dashing Mountie Jack Thornton.  Where Hope Prevails, book 3 in Return to The Canadian West is a collaboration with Lauren Oke Logan.

Our story begins as Elizabeth returns to her beloved Coal Valley  to find some unsettling changes. While she was visiting her family over the summer, many new families have settled in Coal Valley causing is a housing shortage. Her room at Miss Molly's has been rented to someone else. She will be living alone for the first time in her life in a small apartment.

More families meant more students. As she pondered how to teach so many extra pupils she discovered that an additional teacher was hired. Not just any teacher but Mr. Robert Harris Hughes. A man with two last names whose beliefs are vastly different than Beth's with teaching style including a modern philosophical method delivered in a superior manner.  She is determined that his modern philosophical ideas will not suit her Coal Valley students.  Hang onto your seats as sparks fly with pure entertainment between Elizabeth and Mr. Harris Hughes.

Where Hope Prevails (Return to the Canadian West Book #3) by [Oke, Janette, Logan, Laurel Oke]
Adding all these new things to the mix, she is still waiting for Jack (Jarrick) to propose.  He is notably absent in Coal Valley as his work takes him along to other small towns in the area.  It is just one more adjustment to make.  All in all she has not had the desired return she longed for when she got off the train in her beloved Coal Valley.

This is a story about change and how one young woman faces all the new and very uncertain things in her life. As she faces each change she is reminded of her hopes, dreams and her faith. In true Janette Oke fashion, we are given some life lessons.  Elizabeth learns that she can't control everything in her life. She would like to have everything in its place. People don't always embrace life the same way we would like them to. All in all, there is good in everyone, even those with whom we disagree. How much better it is when we learn to discern their good qualities and give loyalty where it is deserved. If you read just one of the books in this series, I recommend that you chose Where Hope Prevails.  Elizabeth Thacker is a wonderful heroine and in this book particularly she grows in wisdom and faith.  Four s

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Elite Guardians Rock It In "Without Warning"

Without Warning, Book 2 in Lynette Eason's Elite Guardian Series is without a doubt one thrilling suspense ride beginning with page one.  Daniel Matthews, owner of a few restaurants called A Taste of Yesterday is working late when he hears sounds in the cellar of the historical building.  Unable to concentrate, he treads downstairs only to find the door partially open, tail lights moving away and the body of a chef he had recently fired hanging from a chain.

Katie Singleton, bodyguard by profession is on the scene quickly after she noticed law enforcement lights near Daniel Matthews restaurant. His niece Riley is one of Katie's self defense students, making this incident one she just can't drive by.  Her work with the Elite Guardians frequently links her with local law enforcement members so it was no surprise to find Detective Quinn Holcombe leading the investigation.  The surprise came after she met Daniel and they received a call about a second crime, this one about a fire at his other store location.

Without Warning (Elite Guardians Book #2) by [Eason, Lynette]Someone was after Daniel. That much he knew but was at a loss to fathom. The only person who had a complaint was already dead.  As the Guardians are hired by his niece Riley for protection the mystery just gets bigger.  Fearing for Riley's safety he agreed to the protection but not until after the perpetrator goes to further lengths to try to kill him.

Layer by layer this case is solved and while there were a few red herrings, I was surprised at how neatly Lynette tied up the case. I barely guessed the killer until the end.  In the meantime, this is a good read with good interaction between well developed characters.  I recommend this for your fall reading list complete with a mug of your favorite tea or coffee.  If you haven't already read the first book of  the series, Always Watching I recommend it as well. Both books can be read stand alone or one after the other. (After all, Fall is a good time for reading)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It Takes Perseverance To Follow Her Heart

To Follow Her Heart (The Southold Chronicles Book #3): A Novel: Volume 3 by [DeMarino, Rebecca]To Follow Her Heart (The Southold Chronicles Book 3) is the story of Patience Terry and her enduring love for Captain Jeremy Horton. As the story begins, word has arrived at Southold, Long Island, that Jeremy's ship, the Swallow has sunk along the coast of Barbados with no survivors. While his brother Barnabas' family are planning a memorial, Patience refuses to believe that Jeremy is dead. Just as his funeral begins, he walks in on the very ceremony and proves he is very much alive.
As the story proceeds we learn of Jeremy's rescue. Subsequently, he learns from his rescuers that there is to be a bit of an uprising. He is asked to bring men from Southold for a possible battle and help bring New Amsterdam under British rule.  While there was little fanfare or battling, the crown did achieve getting New Amsterdam under its rule. For Patience, it was just the first trip that sidetracked Jeremy from marrying her.

Largely a work of fiction, the Horton family is indeed very real and true ancestors of the author, Rebecca DeMarino.  She is descended from Barnabas Horton who was indeed part of the Southold community in 1664.  Also mentioned in this book was the Reverend John Youngs, the pastor of the local church.  To Follow Her Heart is the third book in this series and if I had read the first two books perhaps I would have had learned more about his life.  As it is, I enjoyed reading up on Southold and its beginnings. Bringing these characters to life gives life to history that for some is dull. I have long been a fan of American History and these connections intrigue me.

This book is the love story of Patience and Jeremy. Love for a sea captain brings little comfort when the absences are long and the future is uncertain. Patience is thrilled when Jeremy gives up his life at sea and although he pledges they will marry, he tarries long and has on more than one occasion prompted her to give up.  He begins work in a shipyard and plans to build her a home. All in all he keeps putting her off until the perfect time to wed. When his business is established, when he has her home built and on and on. Like Patience, I was getting weary of his excuses and wondered if that captain could be happy living on land!

While this is a work of historical fiction, the Reverend Joshua Hobart was a true minister and served as the second pastor of the Puritan Church in Southold, Long Island. In our story, Reverend Hobart was a young widowed pastor looking for both a church to pastor and a wife.  Patience caught his eye and while she loved Jeremy, she found him a kind and companionable friend.  As the book drew to a close, he proved invaluable to her as she made her final decision about Jeremy.  I enjoyed this work of fiction for the historical significance it gives to some of the earliest days of our country.

Reviewing: What Matters Most

What Matters Most (Texas Gold Collection Book #4) by [Gilbert, Kellie Coates]Once again Kellie Coates Gilbert tackles a difficult subject in her writing. What Matters Most, book 4 of her Texas Gold series gives us a glimpse of the impact dementia has on the lives the family left behind to face devastating loss of love, income, and the intricacies of managing the web of healthcare.

Leta Breckenridge was working toward a career as a landscape architect. Midway through college her mother is diagnosed with dementia and can no longer care for herself. This forces a new path that has Leta dropping out of school and working two jobs and supporting her mother's mounting costs in an assisted living facility.  She barely has enough to keep her bills paid and juggle the payments for her mother's care. The anguish of providing the best care possible for her mother is the driving force behind her life of work, work and look for more work!

This book is compelling in giving us information on a disease we continue to learn more about.  Nathan Emerson, the man who Leta meets and falls for is a renowned research doctor who has made inroads to cognitive brain studies. He is also a candidate for governor of Texas. After Leta met Nathan, she is drawn to his work on dementia and is impressed with the work he plans to continue in this area as governor.

In a twist of fate she is offered a research job at a prestigious public relations firm.  It isn't long before she is assigned to a special project with the goal of derailing Nathan's campaign. Her company represents the incumbent, a man who has plenty to hide. Although her new job comes with a premium salary she is forced to make a choice between her values and keeping up the payments at her mother's care facility. The decision is a tough one that many in our society face today. It is difficult to leave loved ones in a care facility. In addition to the burden of providing the best care possible, much rides on knowing that the said facility lives up to its promised level of care.

In addition to a good story this book gives us look into the underbelly of political campaigns. What I saw was unexpected. We have seen how campaigns can get dirty and I don't like it. The taste for power drives some to incredible lengths. While this is a work of fiction, the author has written it well enough that I can imagine these things happening. Campaigns come and go and we read of things we would rather not see. Careers can be ruined with the click of a camera or stroke of a pen. The lengths the rival campaign goes to in the effort to win is astonishing.

After reading this story I feel compelled to see more disclosure on how our tax dollars are really spent when used for special programs. Are those little known accounts being used for what they are meant to be used for?

I was pleased to receive this book from Revell to read and review. It is much more than a Christian romance. It is a book that is well researched by a woman who loves to do her homework, no doubt honed by a successful legal career. I wasn't sure how she would tie all this book up into a neat ending but she delivered. If you are looking for a good book to read in this campaign season, pick up Kellie's book What Matters Most.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Reviewing Honor Redeemed

Honor Redeemed, by Christine Johnson is Book 2 in the Keys of Promise Series.  Our story begins when our heroine, Prosperity Jones has lost her mother after a long illness. Having lost her father years before, she has no other family, no home and just enough money to book passage from Nantucket Island to Key West. Her betrothed, Lt. David Latham, an engineer with the U.S. Army left her two years before our story begins. They plan to marry and when his tour of duty in Key West is complete he will come for her.  He has been hard at work with his men building Fort Zachary Taylor, a major project.  She is determined that he will be glad to see her. Once he knows about the loss of her mother he will ask her to marry him. All her troubles will be over.

However, even the best of plans or dreams must be laid to rest if fate intervenes. Upon arrival, she discovers that he hadn't waited six years for her as he said they must, but he was married to someone else!  Brokenhearted and with no funds to return home, she finds work as the laundress in a hospital.  Determined to support herself, she finds lodgings and friendship within the home of an honorable young family.  She had also found friendship and protection under a Dr.  Goodenow, a kindly gentleman who sees her as much more than a helpless young woman.
Her friendship with Dr. Goodenow brought her face to face with David and his wife when he enlisted her help as a nurse.  Just as Prosperity hoped to put her past behind her, she can't seem to avoid the handsome Lieutenant who had so long ago captured her heart.

Product DetailsDavid has troubles of his own without facing Prosperity. He is ashamed that he had married another woman after pledging his heart to her.  He was set on making the marriage work even though he did not love his wife. His project at the fort was also beset with problems.  Work was not progressing as scheduled and building materials were coming up missing.  His honor comes into question as the problems escalate.  Prosperity loved him through it all and by chance learned the truth of the whole matter.

As the story progresses Prosperity grows into a strong woman who seems to face everything dealt to her. Her strong faith and the support of her good friends help her face whatever she is dealt with. This is a story with all the elements of a romance. The setting in Key West gives us a glimpse into 1852 when our country was still young and undeveloped. Building that historical fort in those days was very challenging in so many ways and Christine Johnson illustrates the life on the fort very well.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nikki Boyd Is Back In Missing by Lisa Harris

Missing (The Nikki Boyd Files Book #2) by [Harris, Lisa]Looking for a good suspense novel?  Missing, Book 2 in the Nikki Boyd series, is full of intrigue that will keep you wondering who, what and where. Award winning Author Lisa Harris' latest gives us a well written plot full of twists and turns leaving us in a wake of bodies and an unthinkable white collar crime.  Mac Hudson, a lead scientist for Byrne Laboratories discovered a deadly secret about the drugs his company produced.  The secrets cost him his life and now Nikki Boyd of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Task Force and her team are frantically searching for Mac's missing wife Lucy.

Counterfeit drugs are finding their way into mainstream America, short circuiting strict FDA regulations and lining the pockets of a few men who play a new kind of hard ball. While searching frantically for Lucy, Nikki, Jack and Gwen pull out all stops. This special missing person's task force of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation refuses to lose ground as the deadly killers forge ahead as though unstoppable.

Vivid descriptions and well developed characters set this suspense novel apart from your average whodunit. The plot is fresh and unpredictable. As the story progresses, more information emerges that will surprise you enough to keep turning the pages.  From the beginning I was enveloped into the case and finally let go when the author tied everything together like a sailor slips a knot.  Add this to your reading list if you like suspense. I am already looking forward to her next book in the series, Pursued, coming in spring 2017. Many thanks to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Review: A Haven On Orchard Lane

This past week I finished reading A Haven On Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell for review. The story, set in England in 1880 follows former actress Charlotte Ward as she creates a new life for herself.  Charlotte had ended a successful career on the stage to wed Lord Fosberry who promised her a life of love on his secluded country estate.  He was not as he seemed, however, and his promise of love turned to cruel loneliness and forced seclusion.

Our story really begins when Charlotte is wooed to return to the stage in London.  Her husband posed serious threats and derided her reputation.  He had people on the lookout for her, waiting to bait her for tabloid fodder. Her nerves collapsed under the strain, forcing her to change the course of her dreams. Sometimes, though, dreams take a different turn and what we think we want turns into something else altogether.

A Haven on Orchard Lane by [Blackwell, Lawana]After weeks of illness she found she was under the care of her estranged daughter Rosalind, who wanted nothing to do with her. Charlotte has no money and no means of support other than what Rosalind can provide. Taking leave from her teaching job, Rosalind plans to stay only long enough to help her mother regain her health and no longer.  She found them a cottage to rent in a small coastal village. For Charlotte, being reunited with Rosalind was like a gift. Her career dictated she leave her daughter with a spinster aunt to raise.

Rosalind, for her part in the story also finds a new path in her life. Caught up in her classroom she would have missed some of life's most rewarding moments.  She meets a handsome bookseller who turns her head and surprisingly captures her heart.

In this story of resilience and second chances, Lawana Blackwell gives us glimpses of love when no hope seems possible. Love takes many forms in this story, not the least of which is romantic love.  The more pages I turned the more love shone through. Charlotte is an amazing character who touched many lives in her small coastal village.  From the town gossip to a pair of young, neglected brothers, it is clear that even though her life had some sharp turns, her love for others transformed them.  She saw people for who they could become, not as they seemed.  Out of the darkest moments of her life, she became a strong woman with much more to offer than she had ever been led to believe.  In the end, Charlotte managed to truly create a Haven On Orchard Lane.

I give this book 4+ stars just for the wonderful characters Lawana Blackwell developed. I read The Widow of Larkspur Inn, also  by this author, the heroine in this book is also a seemingly weak woman who rose above her difficult situations.  These characters teach us that perhaps we haven't had an easy life but we can overcome many hardships with faith and love. Many thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book!