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 fiancĂ©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.