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.