Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Healing Jar By Wanda E Brunstetter A Heartwarming Story of Love and Healing

...from the publisher...
Lenore Lapp is an Amish schoolteacher in her late twenties still living at home with her parents and grandparents. She thought love had passed her by until she meets Jesse Smucker, a widower with a baby daughter. She quickly falls in love with them both and accepts Jesse’s proposal of marriage, but Jesse breaks off their engagement when he realizes he can’t marry only for convenience.
Resigned to living single, Lenore throws herself into caring for her elders. While working in her grandmother’s garden, she digs up an old jar. Will Lenore find healing for her broken heart and solve long-buried family secrets by reading the note contained inside? thoughts...
The long awaited conclusion to Wanda E. Brunstetter's series, The Prayer Jars, is here! The Healing Jar is Lenore's story.  One day in the barn, she found the long hidden prayer jar, and found solace in the words tucked inside. The mystery of this jar and another, found on a shelf in the dark basement, piqued the interests first of Michelle, then Sara. Now Lenore sits in wonder at these words that seem to coincide with her own thoughts and feelings. At the discovery of a third jar, the mystery begins to unfold as the discovery of who started these jars hidden for so long.

Carefully written, complex lives of a seemingly simple world are upturned and will never be the same.  It is just like me to start a new book late at night, and I found myself unable to put it down.  I enjoy Wanda E. Brunstetter's books for the way she makes her characters come to life.  The Healing Jar is a fitting title for a book that touches the heart of this extended family.  I laughed, cried and found wisdom in this book.  I have a feeling that many a prayer jar will be started as more people read this wonderful series.  I am sad to see this series end, but look forward to more books written by this beloved author.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Add A Perfect Silhouette to Your Reading List

...from the publisher...

In 1850, Mellicent "Mellie" Blanchard takes a job at a mill in Manchester, New Hampshire, to help support her family. In search of additional earning opportunities, she approaches a daguerreotype shop owner with the proposal that he hire her to make paper cuttings or silhouette portraits for those who can't afford an expensive daguerreotype.

When a particularly charming customer--whose broad smile and twinkling eyes catch her off guard--asks to escort her home, the seeds of romance begin to blossom. All the pieces of her new life seem to have fallen perfectly into place, but when her new venture brings her an unexpected opportunity, she is confronted with the truth that all is not as it seems. Will Mellie, who is keeping secrets of her own, find happiness in the new life she has carved out for herself in the busy mill town? thoughts....

Judith Miller's A Perfect Silhouette hooked me from the first page.  I enjoy historical fiction, especially when it comes alive with believable characters. When I read this book I could see the shoddy boarding house, hear the looms in the factory and see how lives are changed.  The simpler times we long for were built on hard work and determination.  Life wasn't all work and the author has woven a wonderful story.

Our heroine, Mellie, was just one of hundreds of workers recruited for the booming textile industry.  The promise of steady wages to send home to her struggling family enticed her to leave everything behind and work at the mill.  Once she arrived, she learned that her housing was little more than a shared bed and the promise of a long day working in a loud textile mill. Her determination, like that of so many, developed an industry that played an integral role in our country's future. I heartily recommend this book for the story line, the well developed characters and impeccable research.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Debbie Macomber's Window On The Bay Destined to Be a Bestseller

...from the publisher...

Jenna Boltz’s life is at a crossroads. After a messy divorce from her surgeon husband nearly twenty years ago, she raised her two children on her own, juggling motherhood with her beloved job as a Seattle intensive-care nurse. Now that Paul and Allie have gone to college and moved out, Jenna can’t help but wonder what her future holds.

Her best friend, Maureen, is excited for Jenna’s newfound independence. Now is the perfect time to finally book the trip to Paris they’ve been dreaming of since their college days. But when it comes to life’s other great adventure—dating—Jenna still isn’t sure she’s ready to let love in . . . until an unexpected encounter begins to change her mind.

When Jenna’s elderly mother breaks her hip, Dr. Rowan Lancaster saves the day. Despite his silent, stoic exterior, Rowan is immediately smitten with Jenna. And even though Jenna is hesitant about becoming involved with another surgeon, she has to admit that she’s more than a little intrigued. But when Jenna’s children approach her with shocking news, she realizes that she needs to have faith in love and embrace the unexpected—before the life she has always dreamed of passes her by. thoughts... 

I predict that Window on the Bay will be a bestseller almost as soon as it is released.  Debbie Macomber is a popular writer who has the gift of hooking her reader into the story immediately.  This book is no exception.  It will appeal to the baby boomers who found empty nests where once the rooms were filled with laughter and needs to be filled.  Any woman might easily identify with Jenna and her best friend Maureen. Women who once had ideals and plans that were set aside to raise children and husbands.  While not every woman has put aside their youthful dreams, there does come a time when there are new things to discover upon entering a new stage in life.  Maureen and Jenna are still very vibrant and alive.  As each approaches new relationships and family dynamics, they are there for each other in ways only the best of friends can be.

This book was a quick read, as it was easy to get into and just as easily, I recommend it to all fans of Debbie Macomber books. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Reviewing: A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund is a wonderful story about bringing brides from England to British Columbia in 1862.  The women who boarded the Tynemouth did so not knowing what their fate would be upon their arrival.  They left all behind and there would be no turning back once the ship sailed.

Our heroine, Mercy Wilkins, knew she was just one more burden to her family if she stayed at home and wasn't going to settle for life in the workhouse or on the streets.  But marriage was definitely not in he plans.  She was a gifted nurse, with no formal training except love for others and the desire to care for the sick.  It was her talent for nursing that led the wealthy Dr. Joseph Colville to seek her assistance among the sick aboard ship.   Working side by side worked out well for some time since they both had no intention of marrying.  The best intentions, however, don't work out at times.

I like this book because at the heart of this story is a young woman who had very little that she left behind.  She saw what her parent's lives were like with little or nothing coming in to support a large family.  Poverty caused her mother to do things that Mercy never wanted to emulate in her own life.  It took courage for  her to swallow her pride and board ship.  She, like the real life women who left England to help settle the western part of our world blazed the trail for life as we know it today.  This book is Mercy's story but there were others on board that ship and not all were poor, at least not financially.  For whatever reason that led the women to seek that new life, they were all starting over from scratch, with no class or society to dictate.

Once again, Jody Hedlund has written an amazing historical novel that I recommend with 5 stars. Her research, as usual, is impeccable and the story is one that is very compelling.  A Reluctant Bride is Book one in The Bride Ships series and already, I am eagerly waiting for the release of book two, The Runaway Bride in March 2020!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tuesday Night Review: Wanda E Brunstetter's Amish Friends Gatherings Cookbook

If you enjoy reading Amish fiction and have wondered what it would be like to try your hand at making some of the delicious sounding food on their tables, look no more.  Wanda E Brunstetter's Amish Friends Gatherings Cookbook is filled with over 200 delightful recipes.    We love potlucks and this wonderful collection of recipes has earned its keep on the cookbook shelf.  A lovely tea concentrate to prepare and freeze for a summer gathering is one I liked trying.  Or, how about a nice bowl of Sweet Cheddar Popcorn, a nice switch from that bag in the microwave!  I recommend this cookbook for anyone who loves to cook and try new, and not so new recipes. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuesday Night Review: The Brides of the Big Valley

...from the publisher...

In an area of Pennsylvania called The Big Valley, a uniquely blended Amish community thrives in which 3 distinct groups of Amish identify themselves by the colors of their buggy’s top—white, black, or yellow. Join New York Times Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter, her daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in experiencing the stories of three young women who search for faith and love
within this special place. Deanna is a widow who sees her second chance of love slipping away. Rose Mary is at a point in life where she must choose the path of her faith and the right man to walk with her on it. Leila is burdened with family responsibilities and wonders when she will ever start a family of her own. thoughts...

Once again, three generations of Brunstetter women have brought three unique stories together in one book. I liked how each story was set in the same valley, allowing some of the characters from a previous story to spill into the next one.  I know that fictional characters are, well, fiction, but sometimes I wonder what might have happened to that person or how they may have adjusted to a trying situation.  Difficult situations are not always written about in Amish fiction yet the Brunstetter's are able to infuse these topics into their work.  These are the very things that make their stories believable for the challenges brought to bear. At the heart of each woman's story is their faith and how it renews and strengthens each of their paths as they become brides.

I recommend this book for all fans of Wanda E. Brunstetter and for those who are new to reading works written by her daughter-in-law Jean Brunstetter and  granddaughter Richelle Brunstetter. Together their collaborations are wonderful, while each has her own unique gifts.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Reviewing: On A Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I just finished reading On A Summer Tide, book one of a new series by Suzanne Woods Fisher called Three Sisters Island.  Fans of Suzanne's are familiar with her popular books about the Amish. This book is a departure from that genre and highlights the author's talents for well written fiction.

I enjoyed meeting the Graysons and learning, piece by piece through the chapters about their family dynamics and what gave  each of them their individual outlooks on Three Sisters Island.  Paul Grayson, patriarch of the family had thrown them all a curve ball when he asked them to clear their schedules to join him on the island. The journey was more than they bargained for and upon their arrival, the girls wondered if their father was going senile.

Day by day, as they breathed new life into Camp Kicking Moose, new dreams surfaced for everyone.  Perhaps there is magic in that ocean air filled with possibilities found with love, rekindled faith and a lot of listening.

There are so many surprises in the story that it is hard to not to give it all away.  I recommend this book without hesitation to those who like contemporary Christian fiction with a slight twist of mystery. 

 ...from the publisher...

Camden Grayson loves her challenging career, but the rest of her life could use some improvement. "Moving on" is Cam's mantra. But there's a difference, her two sisters insist, between one who moves on . . . and one who keeps moving.

Cam's full-throttle life skids to a stop when her father buys a remote island off the coast of Maine. Paul Grayson has a dream to breathe new life into the island--a dream that includes reuniting his estranged daughters. Certain Dad has lost his mind, the three sisters rush to the island. To Cam's surprise, the slow pace of island life appeals to her, along with the locals--and one in particular. Seth Walker, the scruffy island schoolteacher harbors more than a few surprises.

With On a Summer Tide, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher begins a brand-new contemporary romance series that is sure to delight her fans and draw new ones.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers is an insightful look at women who long for society's perennial perfect body.  They long for it so much they are willing to do anything to achieve what they believe is impossible to do on their own.  Set in a remote Vermont countryside, the exclusive program promises quick transformation in a few short weeks.  The price in dollars is quite expensive but the price in human dignity and depravity is priceless.  Alice and Dephne quickly discover that there while they agreed to be filmed during the program, much more is going on behind the camera. 

This book, while showing the extremes of an expensive weight loss camp, is entertaining, yet sad at times.  It shows how tied we are to our weight because so society norm.  Having a healthy body is important.  There is, however, more than the number on the scale or the size of your thighs that matter.  What matters most is the work that is done inside of a person who seeks to lose weight.   Alice and Daphne grow as individuals along the way as they discover the impact between their relationships with their bodies and all other aspects of their lives, especially within their marriages. 

Expectations are powerful and this book provides a look beyond the scale.  Well written with interesting characters, I recommend this book to those who are contemplating  a major weight loss plan. This book is not a manual for dieters, but rather, a look at how extreme we can become when looking for a quick fix.  It shows that even if one has a major weight loss goal, to keep it in perspective and not become so serious that you forget to enjoy life on the journey. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Karen Witemeyer's More Than Words Can Say

...what the publisher says... 

After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free. No family entanglements. No disappointing those around him. Just the quiet bachelor existence he's always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away when the baker of his favorite breakfast bun is railroaded by the city council. Despite not wanting to get involved, he can't turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man's name on her bakery's deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. That person definitely isn't the stoic lumberman who oozes silent confidence whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can't even control her pulse when she's around him.
When vows are spoken, Abigail's troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. Can she put ever more trust in Zach without losing her dreams of independence? thoughts... 

 More Than Words Can Say, Karen Witemeyer's book #2 in A Patchwork Family Novel series is entertaining, heartwarming and full of surprises.  Zach and Abigail are bound to capture your  heart.  All the foibles they manage to get through make them as believable as your neighbor.  There is a depth of character, though, that the reader goes through as the story reveals more of what they have both experienced while growing up.

I found this book is as serious as it is amusing.  It shows that life can throw curve balls, but it is how you handle them that either gives you mettle or makes you bitter and withdrawn.  When Abigail is faced with trial after trial at the expense of an unforgiving former friend, she relentlessly moves forward as she prays for God's guidance.  When she is finally faced with the possibility of losing her business through a long forgotten law, she garners all resources and meets the challenge head on.  Only her head is very in touch with her heart, and as the story goes along, her heart warms to the idea that she does not have to take charge of everything on her own.  Her resilience, faith and growing love for Zach make this book one that you will want to have in your "To Read" pile.

Many thanks to Bethany House for providing me with an advanced copy of More than Words Can Say, although I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.  To learn more about  award winning author Karen Witemeyer, check out her website!  If you are like me and enjoy reading a series from the beginning, here is a link to my review of Karen's first book in the series: More Than Meets the Eye.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Thursday Review: The Inn At Hidden Run by Olivia Newport

The Inn At Hidden Run is book one in Olivia Newport's new Tree of Life Series.  I was intrigued by this book for two reasons, the first is that I enjoy Olivia Newport's work and the second is my interest in genealogy.  I was hooked from page one and the story just kept getting better.

This story parallels two distinct eras that are interwoven in ways that I never would have guessed.  Present day Meri, a young medical school dropout shows up in Canyon Mines and accepts a job she is clearly over qualified for.  The mystery surrounding her appearance and secretive manner are too much for father daughter duo Nolan and Jillian to leave alone. They are surely a team to have in your corner and they really made a case for genealogy as the center of many traits that surface time and again through generations. 

Step back into Memphis, 1878, where Yellow Fever nearly knocked out the entire population of the city.  Miss Eliza remains in the city, working tirelessly among the dead and dying.  Her courage is unflinching, especially when it comes to the orphaned children.  Her story is remarkable, and though a fictional character, Olivia Newport's research and ability to tell a compelling story take you right alongside Eliza's journey.

If you like mystery, you will enjoy this blend of contemporary and historical fiction.  The setting in a small town in Colorado makes it a good choice to sit back with a cup of tea and while away the afternoon. 

I received an advanced copy of this book from Barbour Publishing with no obligation for a review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Settle in At Driftwood Bay by Irene Hannon

...publisher's notes...
After tragedy upends her world, Jeannette Mason retreats to the tiny Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor to create a new life. Vowing to avoid emotional attachments, she focuses on running her lavender farm and tea-room--until a new neighbor with a destructive dog and a forlorn little girl.

Yet when both Jeanette and Logan find themselves pulled into the life of a tattered Christian family fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria, might they discover that love sometimes comes calling when it's least expected?

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon invites readers back to the charming seaside town of Hope Harbor, where they are sure to find peace, healing, and a second chance at happiness.
invades her turf. But she needn't worry. Dr. Logan West is too busy coping with an unexpected family, a radical lifestyle change, and an unruly pup to have any interest in his aloof and disagreeable neighbor. thoughts.
I was waiting for Driftwood Bay to be published since reading the author's tease in Pelican Point, book 4 in the Hope Harbor series.  It is like meeting up with an old friend and catching up on their lives.  We vacation along the Oregon Coast for about a week each summer and the charm of Hope Harbor resonates with me.

Logan is new to Hope Harbor and although Jeanette has been pouring herself into her new business for over a year, she hasn't really connected with many people and that was her plan when settling in the tiny coastal town.  Irene Hannon has the gift of creating characters that she can delve into and bring out their best traits and leaves them happy for the changes.  Logan and Jeanette do not seem, at first to have any chance of becoming good neighbors let alone friends. I enjoyed the pace that their pasts emerged as they began to change.

Charlie, a constant in all Hope Harbor books, has the wisdom and insight that leaves many wondering how he can know their thoughts or what they need.  Does he have special gifts or are his words of advice simply coincidence?  Either way, he is near when least expected and knows when you "might" show up for one of his famous fish tacos.

I recommend this book with 5 stars simply because it is that good.  Hope Harbor is a special place in the heart of Irene Hannon's fans.  Just enough magic inspired by faith, love and a wonderful location to change the hearts of those who need it most.  I am already looking forward to book 6 in this series.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Beverly Lewis' The Tinderbox Holds a Past That is too Hot to Handle

...from the publisher...

With her Amish parents' twentieth anniversary approaching, eighteen-year-old Sylvia Miller stumbles across a surprise--the old brass tinderbox her clockmaker father keeps in his Lancaster County shop has been left unlocked. Against her better judgment, Sylvia opens the cherished heirloom, not realizing that what she is about to discover will splinter apart her happy life.

Sylvia's bewilderment grows when her father confronts her about snooping in the box. To her amazement, the respected convert to the Old Order reacts as if he has something to hide.

Burdened by the weight of his deception, Earnest Miller decides he must reveal the details about his past to his beloved wife, Rhoda. The long-kept secret alters everything for the close-knit family, jeopardizing Earnest and Rhoda's relationship, as well as threatening Sylvia's recent engagement to the preacher's grandson.

Can the Millers find a way forward through the turmoil to a place of forgiveness and acceptance? thoughts....

I liked The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis very much and it hooked me right away.  The love shared between Earnest and Rhoda Miller spills over into the lives of their five children.  Sylvia, the oldest, has dreams of having a close relationship like her parents have with her new fiancee, Titus. It was her curiosity about the one heirloom her father kept locked on a shelf in his shop that niggled at her imagination and tempted her since childhood.  One day, by the merest chance, the box was left unlocked and because of that burning curiosity, she opened it and the ensuing can of worms had a ripple effect on her family and her relationship with Titus.

While the secrets in the box cuts deeply into the fabric of their lives, Sylvia begins to notice things about her own relationships along the way to healing her family.  Titus, whom she thinks the world of, may not be the man she believed him to be.  She is second guessing a lot of things that she took for granted yet she remains the kind, generous spirit her parents raised her to be.  As she grows, she begins to think much  more independently and I felt myself cheering her on.

At the heart of the matter is her father, and his sin of omission before joining the Amish community in Hickory Hollow.  The family may never be the same and yet in the midst of it all, they begin to look at their faith in new ways.  Beverly Lewis has created characters that have depth and appeal. They are alive with the tension and love that comes from facing serious challenges.   I recommend this book for its strong characters, good plot and the promise of hope for better things to come.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Reviewing: Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund

...from the publisher...

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found…

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves? thoughts...

Jody Hedlund is one of my favorite writers.  Whether she is writing about lighthouse keepers, orphan trains or anything else, I have read many of her books.  I waited for a long time to read Newton & Polly and it surprised me.  At first I found it a chore.  I was prepared to be inspired by John Newton, because, after all, he wrote Amazing Grace, one of the most revered hymns in Christianity today. 

I could not get excited about John Newton the man.  Once I realized how I felt about him, I kept reading and in true Jody Hedlund fashion, she researched her subject so well that it was reflected into his character.  This man was quite the opposite of what I expected.  When I think of a clergyman from the 1700's I am not thinking of an irresponsible young man who strays from duty so far that he goes A.W.O.L. from his shipboard duties, mocks the faith of fellow seamen, drinks to excess, gambles and deals in the slave trade.  It was only by the grace of God that he was saved.  It was after such a long and hard fall from grace that he realized the path of destruction he was on.  It was then, after he was saved that he penned the words to the beautiful song describing what a wretch he had been.  In the end, I was inspired by this man's story and how far he had sunk before finding his faith. If you enjoy reading historical Christian fiction I recommend this book to you. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin: A Story of Espionage During World War I

...from the publisher... 
In spring 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries on the front, receives a message by carrier pigeon. It is from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life--a woman he believed to be dead. Traveling to France to answer her urgent summons, he desperately hopes this mission will ease his guilt and restore the courage he lost on the battlefield.

Colin is stunned, however, to discover the message came from Jewel's half sister, Johanna. Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence, found Jewel's diary and believes her sister is alive in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives. thoughts....
This book is quite an escapade for  intrigue. I liked the two main characters, Colin Mabry and Johanna Reyer.  They played nicely against each other since he was fast becoming a wallflower with his war injuries and she with her devil may care attitude for her cause.  As they joined forces to find the missing Jewel Reyer, it was easy to see how their chemistry made them a formidable team.

Kate Breslin's characters come alive and their complexities make this suspenseful novel one that is hard to put down.  I was surprised to learn how much carrier pigeons were used in World War I to convey intricate details for intelligence.  Colin may have had a debilitating injury when he lost his hand but that did nothing to stop him from playing an important role in deciphering the coded messages sent from allies.  Johanna pioneered women when she donned tunics and slacks to drive her motorcycle in and out of danger to deliver messages.  I enjoyed her spirit and her first hand experience handling the pigeons who carried messages across the channel.

The two were joined together on a mission that grew larger than life. Kate kept the story going with several twists and turns to make this one big caper for freedom.  There is a good bit of faith and values in this story that brings together a man who was grounded in his faith and a woman who never before heard the word of God.  The love Colin begins to feel for Johanna is built within his faith and as she grows to love him, she opens her  heart to a new and simmering faith.  I enjoyed this story very much and recommend it to the reader who enjoys mysteries of an espionage nature.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Reviewing: A Faithful Gathering by Leslie Gould thoughts...
 I recently read A Faithful Gathering, book three in the Sisters of Lancaster Series by Leslie Gould. I enjoy Leslie's books not only for the good story but also for the characters, each one unique and complex.  Leisel is no exception.  She courageously left her Amish faith and comforts of home to study nursing, a field she felt God called her to enter.  For an Amish woman with an eighth grade education that is no small fete. When you open this book you will find she has accomplished all that hard work and she is ready to take her board examinations. With her future full of opportunity, her life around her shifts and she suddenly finds herself on new ground and nothing is going to be what she planned.

Her mother does not support her leaving the faith and becoming a nurse. Her sister Marie is on shaky ground with a cancer diagnosis. The farm is at a point where some changes need to be made to keep it productive.  Nick is planning a change in his career that will alter the life they planned together.  The calm in this port of storm is her beloved aunt relating the wonderful story of her grandfather.  His story is like the balm she needs to see things in a new perspective. 

...from the publisher... 
Leisel Bachmann left her Amish roots and beloved sisters to pursue a career in medicine without a second thought. She has an Englisch boyfriend, Nick Jordan, and dreams of a new life--but those dreams come crashing down when her sister Marie is diagnosed with cancer.

Soon nothing is going as she planned--not her state boards, not her first nursing job, and certainly not her relationship with Nick. As she becomes increasingly discouraged, her aunt shares the story of Leisel's grandfather during World War II and the struggle he faced between returning to Lancaster or being with the woman he loved.

Peace and a vision for the future are difficult to find, and when Nick leaves Pennsylvania for a completely new life, Leisel is faced with impossible choices. Will she stay in Lancaster, close to her family and the traditions of her past? Or learn from her grandfather's story and embrace a life of love and service in an uncertain future?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Broken Bone China by Laura Childs

...from the publisher...

It is Sunday afternoon, and Theodosia and Drayton are catering a formal tea at a hot-air balloon rally. The view aloft is not only stunning, they are also surrounded by a dozen other colorful hot-air balloons. But as the sky turns gray and the clouds start to boil up, a strange object zooms out of nowhere. It is a drone, and it appears to be buzzing around the balloons, checking them out.

As Theodosia and Drayton watch, the drone, hovering like some angry, mechanized insect, deliberately crashes into the balloon next to them. An enormous, fiery explosion erupts, and everyone watches in horror as the balloon plummets to the earth, killing all three of its passengers.

Sirens scream, first responders arrive, and Theodosia is interviewed by the police. During the interview she learns that one of the downed occupants was Don Kingsley, the CEO of a local software company, SyncSoft. Not only do the police suspect Kingsley as the primary target, they learn that he possessed a rare Revolutionary War Union Jack flag that several people were rabidly bidding on.

Intrigued, Theodosia begins her own investigation. Was it the CEO's soon-to-be ex-wife, who is restoring an enormous mansion at no expense? The CEO's personal assistant, who also functioned as curator of his prized collection of Americana? Two rival antiques' dealers known for dirty dealing? Or was the killer the fiancΓ©e of one of Theodosia's dear friends, who turns out to be an employee—and whistle-blower—at SyncSoft? thoughts...

Theodosia and Drayton are at it again! I never know where I will find these two. What started out as a pleasant hot air balloon ride ends tragically as the balloon next to them is hit by a rogue drone.  Broken Bone China by Laura Childs is book twenty in the Tea Shop Mystery Series and it is a good one.  There are a lot of things going on this story and it seems like one thing just keeps going on after another to where there are more than one suspects being juggled in the air.  It is a complex plot that took some twists and turns with some bad weather in the mix.

Drayton never fails to disappoint with all his wit and wisdom.  He is a font of historical knowledge and there is good information for people who enjoy American history as I do.  Laura Childs' research is impeccable from her knowledge of tea, to southern culture, fabulous recipes, history, and of course, the sleuthing.  I always look forward to her next book because they are so enjoyable, especially with a cup of tea.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Mending Fences Destined to Be Another Success for Suzanne Woods Fisher

Luke Schrock just got out of rehab for the third time.  He didn't receive the welcome home he expected and he was unsure where he would stay or whether he wanted to be back in Stoney Ridge.  He had long since worn out his welcome and wore down the community.  When Bishop David Stoltzfus talked to Luke about mending fences, it was not meant in the literal way with a hammer and some nails. Rather, it was a painstaking method that Luke found the most difficult challenge of his life.

Handsome, confident Luke got much more than he bargained for this time.  I loved reading this book by Suzanne Woods Fisher. Whenever I read one of her books I tell myself it is her best yet.  However, there is so much inside Mending Fences that I recommend it not just for a good read but also as a book club selection.  The discussions would be lively and all the more so for the questions in the back of the book.

I found myself laughing out loud a few times in this book for the adventures Luke got himself into.  In the midst of all his foibles there is a truly serious side to this story of resilience and faith.  He is persistent in his journey of second ( or sometimes more....) chances and along the way his faith grows, bringing along some surprising new friends. 

Although this is Luke's story, it would be rather dull without Izzy Miller, A young woman, who like Luke, was staying at Windmill Farm with Amos and Fern Lapp. Throughout the story he worked hard to win her friendship.  She trusted very few people, least of all Luke. His reputation had, after all, preceded him. The story of their prickly relationship is heartwarming and full of surprises.  Tears of sadness and joy abound.

Mending Fences is the first book of Suzanne's new series The Deacon's family. After reading an excerpt of the upcoming  Stitches In Time, I am looking forward to hearing more about Luke and Izzy.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Grateful American by Gary Sinise thoughts... 

Grateful American A Journey From Self to Service is Gary Sinise's inspiring story.  He has become one of our country's favorite role model for selfless service to others.  I am inspired by this service and his dedication to our military, and first responders.  Throughout the book I was touched by his honor and respect for those who serve us, often in the most trying situations. I looked forward to reading just one more chapter to keep up the momentum of his tireless ideas and willingness to look for ways to help his fellow Americans when they need us most. 

As a young man he made lifelong friends with fellow actors who started the  Steppenwolf theater together in Chicago.  It was  grand time for creative ideas, yet nobody thought these young men and women had what it takes to build a theater troupe that is still alive and thriving in Chicago today.  In subsequent years he teamed up with his friends and colleagues over and over.  It was at the theater where he was inspired to offer free nights for Veterans at the theater.  It was at the theater that he was prompted to never give up when pursuing the rights to perform plays written by and performed by vets.  It was at this theater that he met his loving wife Moira. 

The theater continued to play a role in his service to the vets after meeting Moira's brothers Mac and James.  Gary was inspired by their service and all the courage and dedication they had to serving our country.  As a woman who was a teenager during the sixties, I remember well how our military were treated when they returned from Vietnam.  Two of my brothers served in Vietnam and one received a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in the war.  I know several young men who were killed or badly wounded in the war.  It was devastating.  Can we ever thank them enough?

Today we fight in another arena and I am grateful for the work Gary Sinise continues to do through the Gary  Sinise Foundation.  I can't imagine the pace he worked through to go to so many U.S.O. shows, whether to shake hands or perform with the Lt. Dan Band and for the time he has spent visiting our severely wounded in the military hospitals at home and abroad on their first stop for treatment. 

In addition to the military, his work with First Responders is tremendous.  As he describes September 11, 2001 in the book, I was taken back to the moment I heard of this horrific attack;  while watching it unfold on live television. Our country pulled together and became stronger.

  I am happy I had an opportunity to be a member of the Grateful American Launch Team.  Reading this book has been a memorable experience.  This is a good story of an aimless teen who found his purpose in a life of selfless service to our country.  He is one in a million.  I am grateful for him and also his family who have supported him and his time away from home because they truly understand how important his work is and the impact it makes on the lives of so many.  Throughout the book he is grateful for his life and career as an American.   How refreshing for times such as these. 

...from the publisher...

As a kid in suburban Chicago, Gary Sinise was more interested in sports and rock-n-roll than reading or schoolwork. But when he impulsively auditioned for a school production of "West Side Story," he found his purpose--or so it seemed. Within a few years Gary and a handful of friends created what became one of the most exciting and important new theater companies in America. From its home in a church basement in Highland Park, Illinois, the Steppenwolf Theatre launched a series of groundbreaking productions, igniting Gary's career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf, Dennis Farina, John Mahoney, and others. Television and film came calling soon after, and Gary starred in Of Mice and Men (which he directed) and The Stand  before taking the role that would change his life in unforeseeable ways: Lieutenant Dan in the Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump.

The military community’s embrace of the character of the disabled veteran was matched only by the depth of Gary's realization that America's defenders had not received all the honor, respect, and gratitude their sacrifices deserve. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, this became Gary's mission. While starring in hits like Apollo 13, RansomTruman, George Wallace, CSI: NY, and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Gary has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve this country, entertaining more than a half million troops around the world playing bass guitar with his Lieutenant Dan Band, raising funds on behalf of veterans, and eventually founding the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.
Grateful American is the moving, entertaining, profoundly gripping story of how one man found his calling: to see that those who defend this country and its freedoms are never forgotten.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Patient One by Shelley Shepard Gray

"Some friends may ruin you, but a real friend will be more loyal than a brother. "—Proverbs 18: 24

Friendships are to treasure, for we never know when those close ties will change forever.  The Patient One begins with friends gathered for the unthinkable: Andy's funeral. They can't work out how it can possibly be that one of their own has died.  Each has their own precious memories of a friend who was the best sort of friend. Loyal, dependable, always with a willing ear.  Each wonders how they could have drifted on to their own busy, separate lives. 

Shelley Shepard Gray has hit the pulse of how it feels when death comes takes someone young from our midst. As those left behind struggle to reason with their loss, nobody has a good answer.  As Andy's friends struggle to understand his death, each grieves in their own way.  I liked this book, as I have others by this author. She tackles  hard topics and this was no exception as I thought of each young person in my life who died too young. It is inexplicable and painful. It is not easy, yet we can emerge with lessons learned, as all of Andy's friends do as they grapple with grief and what their lives hold for them in the future. And there is a future.  A rich future,  that may look differently than what they imagined, yet our faith in God reminds us of this promise.

I appreciate this book for the thoughtful way it was written.  I recommend it with 4 stars as it is a book that will make you think and remain in your heart for a while. It will make you think of absent friends and memories of times spent together making those memories.  Stay tuned for more books in The Walnut Creek Series. 

...notes from the publisher....

When word had gotten out that Andy Warner had committed suicide, everyone in Walnut Creek, Ohio, had been shocked. For seven men and women in their twenties, some Amish, some Mennonite, and some English, each of whom had once counted his or herself as one of Andy’s best friends, it had been extremely painful.

And, maybe, a source of guilt.

Years have passed since they’d all been together last. Some of them got into trouble. A couple got into arguments. Eventually they all drifted apart. But even though none of them really saw each other anymore, there was a steadfast certainty that they’d always have each other’s backs—even when no one else did. Their bond was that strong…until Andy did the unthinkable.

Now the seven remaining friends, still reeling from Andy’s death, have vowed to look after each other again. As far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t matter that they’re now in their twenties and have drifted far apart. They need to connect again…for Andy.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Wanda Brunstetter's The Forgiving Jar is an Inspiration

...from the publisher...  

Sara Murray had never met her mother’s parents and was surprised to learn after her death that they were Amish living in Pennsylvania. When she is finally able to make the trip to meet them, she is shocked to learn someone else has been living with them and pretending to be Sara. Sara can’t understand how quickly her grandparents are willing to forgive the impostor.

Secrets and deceit seem to follow Sara, and she is so tired of it. Though soon she meets Brad Fuller who is visiting her grandparents for during Christmas. She likes him a lot, but even he seems to pull away from her, not being totally honest.

Struggling, Sara finds an old canning jar hidden in the barn that is full of encouraging prayers. Can Sara find a way to forgive the past and move on to building new relationships? thoughts... 

The Forgiving Jar, book two in Wanda E Brunstetter's Prayer Jar series is an inspiring story about forgiveness even when all seems hopeless.  Faith and a searching heart can overcome even the worst feelings within an unforgiving heart.  Had anyone ever assumed my identity I am sure it would take an act of God to help me get over those feelings of hurt, frustration and sense of being violated.  Sara was wounded and justly so.  As the story went along, however, I felt she was overtaken by her betrayal and wondered if she could get over it.

Her grandparents loved her and were thrilled to finally have her in their home.  They also came to love Michelle, the imposter, who through an honest case of mistaken identity, became Sara in their eyes and hearts. Michelle, for her part, in The Hope Jar, had never known the love they showered on her and as time went on, didn't want to let go of  her life as Sara.  

Michelle has atoned for her past and tries very hart to be forgiven by Sara, as she has by her new community.  If not for a jar filled with scripture, she may not have found the new, peaceful life she lives now.   

I enjoyed reading The Forgiving Jar by Wanda E Brunstetter, a book filled with complex characters and moments of self reflection.  She knows human nature and the power of prayer.  If there is a third book in this series, I will definitely read it!  This book is for anyone who likes an intriguing cast of characters along with some food for spiritual thought that, although not preachy, hits the mark. I enjoyed both books in this series, please read my review of The Hope Jar as well. I recommend this book with 5 stars!


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Stories From the Past... Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle Griep

3 Page-Turners Under One Cover from Reader Favorite Michelle Griep!
Can truth and love prevail when no one is as they appear?

The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady
Cornish Coast, 1815
When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?
The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!)
Dakota Territory, 1862
Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.
  A House of Secrets
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam. thoughts...

I had an opportunity to read The Gentleman Smuggler's Lady once before and was pleased to find it among this collection. Helen was to travel aboard ship to help her ailing father but got much more than she bargained for. Pirates....and a handsome one at that, set her heart roiling like the sea itself. Things are not always as they seem so this story takes a surprising turn as Helen earns her niche as an intriguing lady. Sometimes a novella can be too short to capture the heart of the story but not so for The Gentleman Smuggler's Lady. 

The Doctor's Woman, set in Fort Snelling is a testament of Michelle's talent as a writer of historical fiction set in military outposts in middle America. Harsh conditions tested the mettle of the men who served and the courageous women who joined their husbands far from conventions of society. The story of Emmy and James is one such story, but what sets this novella apart from others is how they came to work together.  Their love was not found in  ballrooms nor cotillions but among the caring way they cared for the Dakota women and children encamped at Fort Snelling. This is heartwarming and a worthy read for those who enjoy American Historical fiction.

A House of Secrets is a glimpse into the "Gay Nineties" when lovely young ladies belonged to "well intentioned" organizations based on service projects and planned social events to improve the lot of the less fortunate. By and large the members were protected from the unpleasant side of life and followed the norms of decorum of the day.  Amanda Carston, new chair for the Ladies Aide Society was not so demure as to sip tea when she had goals to achieve for the annual service project. She meant to start school for the poor and was willing to go to great lengths to achieve her goal.
 Her fiancee was involved with his own project and the timing of his plans nearly collide with hers. As City Attorney, his job was on the line and his investigation of shady characters keeps this story going. This story has seemingly complex characters but Amanda was pretty predictable, albeit sweet. She learned a lot while pursuing her service project, and found out the hard way what a dedicated man Joseph was to her. I enjoyed the way Michelle tied up the tangled web of good intentions and misunderstandings.

If you like historical fiction, I recommend Ladies of Intrigue with 4 stars. I found this collection a good traveling companion on a very long flight.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

At Last, The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen

Monday, January 7, 2019

We Hope For Better Things A Strong Debut Novel by Erin Bartels thoughts....

I enjoyed reading We Hope for Better Things,  a compelling time slip novel that easily slips between three very different times in our country, specifically in Detroit.  From the Civil War to racially charged Detroit in the sixties to present day unrest.  Each time centers on a strong female character who is faced with finding her voice in circumstances beyond her control.

Erin Bartels has woven the subject of race discrimination among beautiful descriptions of the big family farm that is almost its own unique character in the story.  We meet Mary Balsam, a young, barely married wife sending her husband off to war, not knowing how she will manage the crops or the big house.  Mary's granddaughter, Nora, married a black man in the sixties after a Martin Luther King Jr. rally in 1963. They found refuge at the abandoned farm after she was disowned by her father.  Forbidden love is all the sweeter when it is requited in the smallest way.  Nora, after seeing the big picture said, "William was the right man, all right. But it was the wrong time, that's all."  Elizabeth Balsam, Nora's great-niece found a reclusive Nora after losing her job as a journalist at the Detroit Free Press. A generation is skipped between each woman's story and each is so tightly woven the reader will keep reading to see what is going on next in each era.

The stories of the Civil War and its aftershocks were still a bit freshly written when I was a child.  While most of the players were long gone, the stories were rich but not always pleasant.  That was a terrible time for our country.  When we think we cannot emerge stronger or better today, we can look back on how bad things were after President Lincoln was killed and the war ended. 

I remember the turmoil of the sixties although I lived far from those hot spots of the time.  We did not have cable news and in a way, I am glad of that.  Today, with news at the ready, it seems we get so many theories and guesses that it still takes a few days to sort things out.  The turmoil in our country today is not new.  We may have thought we were past some of the injustice handed to others based on their race, politics or faith.  We have not, though, I pray some day we will. 

This book is a gentle reminder that we need to tell our stories so that our family history continues to the next generation.  I am grateful for the stories that my mother wrote down and eagerly share stories with my grandchildren. We Hope for Better Things is an engaging family story that was worth telling.  While it is fiction, it could be pieces of many stories.  I recommend this book with 4 stars. 

...from the publisher... 

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen Is Just Right for Our Fast Paced World thoughts....

We live in such a fast paced world that even our spiritual habits can be fast-tracked. With online bible studies and podcasts from our favorite church sermons we can fit in our spiritual needs on the go.  Or so it would seem.  Are we better off in such a manner? 

Jane Austen is more famous now than she would have considered possible.  Imagine the quiet society the author lived in and compare it with our lives today.  Imagine her sitting at her desk writing in her journal or perhaps outdoors on a blanket reading her bible.  I can imagine her carving time in her day for reading her bible, writing her thoughts or discussing her thoughts on a verse with her beloved sister, Cassandra.  Many today find it difficult to find time to simply sit and reset their minds on their spiritual needs.  I find myself seemingly running out of time when I know I have the same 24 hours every day, just as those who went before me.  Our lives today truly are busy, but we simply use our time differently.

Slowing time down can be done but it takes practice.  It also takes practice to ignore our phones in order to breathe deep and get into quiet times of reflection. We still have sixty minutes to the hour, that will not change.   I find that for myself, reading books like Praying with Jane help me slow down and pause for much needed spiritual boost.  Every care in the world still awaits but I am better equipped to manage them.  Less stress is one of my goals for the new year so relaxing with Jane came at a very good time for me.

If you like Jane Austen and want to give your spiritual side a boost, pick up a copy Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge.  Rachel also has reading guides and discussions on her website.  This book is on my Kindle app so it is easy to access on my phone or tablet.  Just right for those times when I am waiting for an appointment or at the bus stop for my grand-kids. It is time well spent rather than watching the clock.

...from the publisher...

The charm of Jane Austen and her novels has been enjoyed for over 200 years by readers around the world. Much has been written about her fascinating life, yet little is known about Jane's spiritual side. In this lovely 31-day devotional, you will get an in-depth look at Miss Austen's vibrant, steadfast prayer and faith life. Her intimate relationship with the Father comes to life through her exquisite prayers, touching biographical anecdotes, intimate excerpts from family letters and memoirs, and illuminating scenes from her novels.

Spiritual insights and Scripture references shed light on the profound meaning behind Miss Austen's prayers and the enduring truths they contain. Each day ends with a key Bible verse and invitation to "pray with Jane," helping to ignite and deepen your own vibrant relationship with the Father.