Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Under the Summer Sky by Lori Copeland

UPC: 9780736930208
Review:  Under the Summer Sky by Lori Copeland is the second book in The Dakota Diaries series.  The story is set in 1893 in South Dakota. Trinity Franklin had come home to South Dakota to take care of family affairs after her brother passed away.  She is the only surviving member of her family.  Jones is a man not looking for trouble bur finding it everywhere.  The book starts out with Jones throwing Trinity into a barrel and throwing her over the rapids.  Unknown to Trinity, Jones was saving her life.  When Trinity returned home she found her house trashed and her money gone.  Her brother, Rob, had squandered the family money away and she was left with nothing.  Trinity and Jones run into one fiasco after another. 

This story will make you laugh at and fall in love with the characters.  It is a romantic tale.  I have not read the first book in the series and that did not take away from this story.  I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to historical fiction fans as well as fans of romance.  I look forward to reading more books by Lori Copeland.  (reviewed by C.Ingram)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Under the Summer Sky was given to us by Harvest House Publishing on behalf of the author in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself by Everett L. Worthington Jr

In Moving Forward Everett L. Worthington Jr. has published a compelling book of forgiveness; the first chapter opened with the story of his brother witnessing the aftermath of his mother's murder. His brother committed suicide after a long bout with depression, and Everett wrote about the impact those actions made on his psyche. Since he is a Christian psychiatrist, he struggled for years with guilt over not being able to help his brother more.

Everett uses many Biblical principles, but he admits that self-love, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness are never mentioned in the Bible. He also uses research by other psychiatrists to emphasize his points. Everett has six steps to self-forgiveness:
  1. Receive God's forgiveness
  2. Repair Relationships
  3. Rethink ruminations
  4. REACH emotional self-forgiveness
  5. Rebuild self-acceptance
  6. Resolve to live virtuously
This is a very easy-to-read, practical book. I do recommend reading it for someone who is struggling with overcoming negative thoughts.  Inner thoughts become attitudes and actions. My only reservation is the extra-Biblical ideas that sound good but may be in error. Everett has a nice writing style; other information and resources can be found at www.forgiveself.com. (reviewed by M.Reynolds)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Blogging for Books on behalf of the publisher and author for the purpose of our honest review. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Brent and Josh Shook

ISBN: 9780307886293
Brent and Josh Shook are two preacher's sons who knew all the right thing to do and say, but Christianity was their parent's religion--not theirs. When they reached their late teen years and early twenties, they started questioning their faith and sharing their innermost feeling with a few good friends. Through that process they found that the Bible is real and relevant. Their book  is a practical encouragement to seek God through the Bible, good friends, and community.

I liked the "Making it Real" section at the end of each chapter. There are testimonials, searching questions, and tips to help a person find the true answers. Ryan made short films on the web to remind himself and others that there is more to the Christian life. Go to FirsthandBook.cm/Empty to watch one of them.

I am more conservative in my worship and lifestyle than was talked about in the book, but I appreciate Brent and Josh's desire to serve the Lord wholeheartedly with the talents God has given to them. Many young people "lose" their faith in their twenties because it was never theirs. This is a good book to help Christian young people discover their relationship with God. (reviewed by M.Reynolds)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Big Year for Lily by Suzzanne Woods Fisher co-written with Mary Kinsinger

About the book:  Lily Lapp's family has settled into their new home in Pennsylvania, but life still holds big changes and big steps for Lily. Good changes, like once again living close to her beloved cousin and best friend, Hannah. Bad changes, like a mean girl who plays tricks on her. And no change at all where Lily would most want one--Aaron Yoder sits near her in school and relentlessly teases her. Surprises are in store for Lily as she learns, with Mama and Papa's help, to manage the ups and downs of growing up Amish.

The third of four charming novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, A Big Year for Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish---and lots of fun and laughter along the way. It combines Mary Ann Kinsinger's real-life stories of growing up Amish and the bestselling writing of Amish fiction and nonfiction author Suzanne Woods Fisher. With charming line drawings in each book, this series captures the hearts of readers young and old.

Review:   Another lovely, lively Lily Lapp tale!  The third book in the series has enough details in it that it can be read without having read the first two volumes.  It would make a perfect chapter book to read to young children or for a  6,7, 8 year-old and up to read alone.
As the family grows, Lily grows up gaining more responsibilities, often watching her baby brother, Paul.  Her other siblings, Joseph and Dannie sometimes irritate her when she wants to spend time alone reading or painting pictures.  Still she loves them and feels terrible when Dannie crashes into the barn on his first solo sled ride.  Lily was supposed to be in charge, but couldn't resist his request to go down the hill alone.  The family is trying to make the best of Christmas Day alone while Dannie recuperates, but would love to be with the extended family at Grandpa and Grandma's.  They are surprised and touched when the entire Christmas Day feast is carried to them and all the relatives trek through the snow to spend the day with Lily's family. This is just one instance showing the strong family ties in the Amish brotherhood. 
School has been a highlight in Lily's life in the past years and she can't wait till it starts again, especially since cousin Hannah will be at her school now.  When Hannah takes a liking to Aaron, the boy who seems to live to make Lily's days miserable, it comes between the cousins.  Lily is also left defending herself when someone keeps switching sandwiches in the students' lunches, making it appear that Lily is stealing!  Being shy, she can't seem to find the words to convince the teacher that she is innocent and that leads to notes home to Mama and Papa.  They find it hard to believe their sweet girl would do such things.  She is so distraught when it keeps happening that she starts checking her lunch in the morning and at recess.  Teacher Rhoda catches her returning yet another sandwich "plant" and assuming Lily is guilty, she assigns an unreasonable number of sentence writing:  "Thou shalt not steal".  Finally Aaron, her nemesis, tells the teacher that he saw Effie making a switch involving Lily's lunch.  That took courage, because Effie, not the nicest girl in class, would definitely get back at Aaron eventually!
Home is a haven for Lily, especially her time with her father.  When he takes her to town to help with the shopping, he rewards Lily with her first ice cream cone.  She is delighted when he explains she can lick the ice cream right from the cone, but Papa forgot to explain that the cone was edible.  Lily tosses it over the edge of the buggy thinking it was cardboard.  She won't do that again! 
She loves artwork, so Mama surprises her with a box of 64 crayons.  Later when they are destroyed in a school fire, Papa replaces them for her. He even took a box of paints, brushes and art books as part payment for some work he did which he presented to Lily. She began painting pictures for gifts and dreams of the day she will be a famous artist and have ice cream after dinner, every single day. Also,store bought bread and deli meat in every school lunch! 
Lily is still learning the lessons that every child needs to learn, how to think before she acts or speaks, and not to take matters into her own hands. The book ends with Lily turning ten, and that means a lot of changes in the clothes she wears and the privilege of sitting with her friends in church services.  There will be one more book in this wholesome series and I just wish they had been written when my daughter was little!  There are always granddaughters to read them to!  Thank you Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher for this glimpse into the Amish world! (reviewed by Carly Karns, ACS teacher)    
About the author:  Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines.
DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy  was provided in exchange for our honest review by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher and author. We were under no obligation to render a positive review.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Forsaken Dreams Escape to Paradise...Book 1 by Mary Lu Tyndall

Have you ever heard of the "Confederados"?  After reading this book, you will never forget who they were.  They are defined in this book as those who immigrated to Brazil after the Civil War.  They were citizens of the Southern States, seeking a similar climate, an abundance of land for growing sugar cane and cotton, cheap labor, and a chance to start over in peace after the devastation of war in and around their own homes.

This is a tale of a boatload of mostly southern-born colonists, each with their own baggage of hurts, disappointments, and sorrows from the war years.  The head of the entourage, Colonel Blake Wallace, a handsome, strong war hero of the Confederacy was wanted by the Union for war crimes.  He barely makes it aboard the New Hope because of an encounter with officers who are seeking to arrest him.  He proves to be an able-bodied seaman, but doubts his own leadership when recurring horrific memories of battles haunt him at unpredictable moments, rendering him unconscious at times.

Eliza Crawford, a southern-bred, independent, beautiful widow served as a Confederate nurse during part of the war.  That was after she was rejected by her Yankee husband's family when he was killed in action.  Despite her politician father's orders to not marry the Yankee officer she had fallen in love with at the family's hotel, she defied him and was no longer welcome in his home either.  She struggles with her own lack of obedience to authority throughout the novel.  Try as she might, she is not able to keep her marriage to a Yankee a secret from the other members of the entourage.  This stands between a romantic relationship between she and Blake Wallace who lost several family members in the war.

The story is full of interesting well-developed characters, each with their own dream of starting over in a new land they know little about.  Some of the men and women are honest, hardworking while others are looking for dishonest gain or an escape from a past criminal record.

Weeks aboard the ship and numerous storms and near tragedies bring some to their knees and others to fisticuffs.  Eliza acts as nurse to many, even though she is hated for her association to the enemy.  Forgiveness is a spiritual theme that runs deeply through this book and is testified to by several characters who have gone through extremely trying times.  Other spiritual emphasises develop as the members of the new colony are drawn to God when their resources and strength grows small.

Forsaken Dreams is historical fiction at its best!

(This is a perfect book for a week at the beach - if you can keep from reading the complete story in a few days.  It makes one anxious for Book 2 to be published! ) --Reviewed by Carly Karns

About the author:  Acclaimed author, M.L. (MaryLu) Tyndall dreamt of pirates and sea-faring adventures during her childhood days on Florida's Coast. After obtaining a degree in Math and working as software engineer for 15 years, she decided to test the waters as a writer. With now more than ten books published, she makes no excuses for the deeply spiritual themes embedded within her romantic adventures. As a follower of Christ, her stories often reflect her own journey and walk with God. Her hope is that readers will not only be entertained but will be brought closer to the Creator who loves them beyond measure. In a culture that accepts the occult, wizards, zombies, and vampires without batting an eye, MaryLu hopes to show the awesome present and powerful acts of God in a dying world. A Christy award nominee, MaryLu makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on the California coast, where her imagination still surges with the sea.

DISCLOSURE:  Forsaken Dreams was donated to the Alamance Christian School library.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Burro’s Tortillas By Terri Fields Illustrated by Sherry Rogers

Burro’s Tortillas is a whimsical story about a “little burro” (a small donkey) who noticed that the corn in the fields had grown tall and was ready to harvest.  His goal was to harvest the corn and make tortillas.  The burro calls his friends, the bobcat, the coyote, and the jackrabbit to help him harvest the corn, but each had an excuse as to why they were not able to help.  The burro harvests the corn himself, and once again calls his friends to help him in the next step of tortilla production, removing the kernels.  They are again much too busy and give excuses in turn.  The story follows the production of tortillas, the burro alone does each step as his friends are obviously too lazy to work.  Finally the tortillas are baked and ready to eat; the smell of fresh tortillas wafting through the air.  The burro’s friends show up without being called; they are ready to eat the tortillas.  The burro responds to his friends by reminding them that they did not help on any of the steps to make the tortillas, now he did not need help in eating them.  The burro enjoys a tasty meal of fresh baked tortillas while the bobcat, coyote, and jackrabbit look dejectedly on.

The story is educational on several levels.  It follows the production of a famous Mexican food while exposing the readers to something about the culture of Mexico and Central America.  The story line introduces Spanish words as well as picturesque Mexican settings.  Finally, the author has built the
story around a moral to be learned:  he who wants to eat, should also be willing to work.

After the story concludes, the reader finds a section of interactive games to further enhance the learning of Spanish words introduced in the story.  It also includes a recipe for making tortillas at home.

Burro’s Tortillas is a fanciful book for children.  It exposes children to another culture, a foreign language and a moral.  It is a wonderful children’s book. (reviewed by S.Fincannon)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for our honest review by Sylvan Dell Publishing. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Warm Winter Tail By Carrie A. Pearson

Review:  This is a wonderful book filled with beautiful illustrations of sweet baby animals and their mother.  It will capture every child’s attention with the details of many wonderful animals.

The story begins by telling us a conversation between the mother animal and her children.  They want to know if humans live the same way they do.  It draws to a close with a human child asking his mother about the animals and the way they live. 

The book goes on to give the reader fun informative facts about each of the questions asked in the beginning of the book.  It also includes an activity page to reinforce what the reader has read.  They are given an opportunity to match the animal with the description given in the book.

This book not only is enjoyable reading but a wonderful learning tool.  The parent and child will enjoy learning about the different types of animals as well as putting that knowledge to a test in the fun matching activity the author provides.  (reviewed by L.Hale, ACS Elementary Teacher)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of A Warm Winter Tail was provided by SylvanDell Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Claude In The City By Alex T. Smith

Early chapter book
Ages 1-9, Grades 1-3
Review;  This book is one of a series of books about a dog named Claude.  Claude lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shiny Shoes.  Every day they go to work leaving Claude at home.  Claude and his friend Sir Bobblysock have other plans.  

They decide to take a trip to the city.  While in the city they see all kinds of stores and people.  Claude’s favorite place is the beret shop.  He goes a little crazy and buys berets of all different colors. Next they visit an art museum where Claude stops a robbery and wins a medal.  

The next day Sir Bobblysock becomes ill and Claude has to take him to the hospital.  Claude once again goes to work helping those around him.  This book is filled with colorful and fun illustrations.  The young reader will enjoy reading about the many adventures of Claude and Sir Bobblysock.  (reviewed by L.Hale, Elementary Teacher, ACS)

Author/illustrator Alex T. Smith has given the young readers a delightfully illustrated dual-tone early chapter book that will engage them with the "storyline" and various episodes as well as the captivating illustrations.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Claude in the City  was provided in exchange for our honest review by Peachtree Publishing. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When All My Dreams Come True By Janelle Mowery

Review: The setting of this story is on a Colorado ranch.  The young rancher is struggling to keep the family ranch alive after the death of both his parents.  He is faced with seemingly endless problems of cattle rustlers. The funny thing is no other rancher is being targeted by the rustlers.  Then walks in his latest hire who turns out to be a woman by the name of Bobbie that can outshoot and out rope any of his other ranch hands. 

He soon discovers her need to know Christ.  He seeks to win her heart not only for himself, but also for the Lord.  He discovers beneath all the dust and cowboy attire a beautiful woman.   Unfortunately that beautiful woman might possibly be wanted for cattle rustling and bank robbery.  He must find out the truth about this woman.  In all his struggles and problems he never loses the faith he has in God. 

This book makes for great reading.  It has romance, adventure, mystery, and a happy ending.  (reviewed by L.Hale, Elementary Teacher, ACS)

DISCLOSURE: A copy was gifted to the school library. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Crimson Cipher By Susan Page Davis

ISBN-13: 9781609360122
About the book:  A female Navy cryptographer seeks to save lives...and uncover her father's killers.

In 1915, German sympathizers escalated acts of sabotage in the United States to keep the nation from joining in the war. Following the mysterious murder of Emma Shuster's father, Lt. John Patterson invites Emma to become a Navy cryptographer because of the expertise she gained in helping her father develop a cipher system. Emma finds new strength in her faith as she strives to outwit her adversary, known only as Kobold - German for goblin. Can Emma and John find love in the midst of turmoil as America plunges toward war?

Review: Emma Shuster finds herself face to face with the horrors of Pre-WWI in America in 1915.  Her father is murdered, allegedly for his ingenious encryption machine.  His expertise in cryptography made him a desirable asset to the United States Navy, but a high-level threat to less friendly factions, mainly those of German descent. As her father’s assistant, she had learned and become quite skilled in cracking many types of ciphers and codes, but now she finds herself without parents, home, or job.

Shortly after her father’s funeral, Captain Waller of the Signal Corps offers Emma a job in Fairfax, VA as a decoder of encrypted messages from various enemy sources.  Her job was to help stop espionage and the destruction of bridges, warehouses, cargo ships and ammunition factories by decoding messages from the enemy.  She also donates her father’s secret encryption machine to the Navy for its potential use should America ever become directly involved in the war.

Emma settles into her new job.  She enjoys the work and feels accomplishment in potentially saving lives and property, but is totally unaware of a new storm brewing in her own life.  Unbeknownst to her, her father’s killers are still frantically searching for Professor Shuster’s encryption machine, and will stop at nothing to find it.  Although Emma’s employment with the Signal Corps is a high-level, secret position, eventually they do find her.  Emma is moved by the Navy to a new location, and is personally guarded by Navy soldiers, but one night, under the blanket of darkness, the enemy attacks….

The Crimson Cipher is an enthralling historical novel that joins history, romance, and Christian faith with real life circumstances and hardships.  Although Emma is like a small cog in a giant machine, her work, behind the scenes, is vital to the American people. 

The book gave you a real feel of pre-WWI sentiments and the world of cryptography.  Excellent book; highly recommended!  (reviewed by S.Fincannon)

About the author:  SUSAN PAGE DAVIS is an award-winning author of twenty-five novels in the historical romance, romantic suspense, mystery, and romance genres.

DISCLOSURE: A copy of The Crimson Cipher was donated by the author in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hey Diddle Diddle, A Food Chain Tale By Pam Kapchinske Illustrated by Sherry Rogers

Hardcover $16.95
ISBN: 9781607181309
Review:  Hey Diddle Diddle, A Food Chain Tale is a whimsical story about the interconnectedness of eight different animals and the food chain that results within this ecosystem.  The story is told using enchanting rhyming verses.  Each animal within the food chain has its own little niche within the broader ecosystem.  As each animal is introduced within the storyline, other facts as to its characteristics or classification is revealed making the story much more than just the study of a food chain.

The illustrator has also done a marvelous job picturing the animals in a charming way.  Each animal is pictured within its natural habitat and accurately displays characteristics true of each animal. 

Included after the story is a section entitled, “For Creative Minds”.  It has several different kinds of matching games and activities.  These games enlarge upon facts already learned in the story, such as the difference between herbivores and carnivores, and the predator and prey relationship.  It also includes an activity that teaches animal characteristics and classification.  Finally, the author includes a website that consists of more activities that the reader may enjoy while learning about basic biology facts.

I enjoyed the book immensely, and I think it would be a wonderful addition to any early elementary classroom or as an addition to a home collection to be read again and again! (reviewed by S.Fincannon, Science Teacher)

Author info: Pam Kapchinske (pronounced Cap-Chin-Ski) is a freelance writer and editor of educational materials. She creates K-12 web-based assessments for Scantron Corporation and has written science content for Discovery Education. Her children’s poetry has been published in Ladybug magazine. Pam holds a B.S. in Biology and taught science in the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe. She lives with her husband and two boys in San Diego. Hey Diddle Diddle is her debut picture book.

Illustrator info: Sherry Rogers spent twelve years as a corporate graphic designer and artist before "leaving it all behind" for the freelance world. In addition to illustrating The Penguin Lady for Sylvan Dell, Sherry has illustrated Ten For Me; Hey Diddle Diddle; Paws, Claws, Hands & Feet; Kersplatypus; Burro's Tortillas; and the award-winning Moose and Magpie; Newton and Me; Sort It Out!; and If You Were a Parrot for Sylvan Dell. Sherry lives in Northern California. Visit Sherry's website.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Hey Diddle Diddle was provided by Sylvan Dell in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Animalogy, Animal Analogies by Marianne Berkes & Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Hardcover $16.95
ISBN: 9781607181279
Animalogy, Animal Analogies is an enchanting little book that uses analogies to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between a variety of animals, each in its own ecosystem.  It teaches the literary form of analogies while encouraging simple analytical skills. 

The illustrator has done a masterful job in representing each of the animals in its own ecosystem and fulfilling its own niche.  The illustrations are whimsical and enchanting.

Included after the story is a section entitled, “For Creative Minds”.  It has several different kinds of matching games and activities.  These games enlarge upon analogies already learned in the story.  The reader is aided in drawing his or her own analogies.  Another comparative game that is included compares the different animal sizes.  One game helps the reader determine the best descriptive verbs to describe ten different animal movements and descriptive adjectives to describe animal coverings.  Finally, the author includes a website with a video including the book’s illustrations with the actual sounds that each animal makes.

I enjoyed the book immensely, and I think it would be a wonderful addition to any early elementary classroom or as an addition to a home collection to be read again and again! (Reviewed S. Fincannon)

Author/Illustrator Info: Award-winning author Marianne Berkes (pronounced Ber-kess with two syllables) is a retired teacher and librarian who turned her love of nature and teaching into writing informational picture books. In addition to The Tree That Bear Climbed and Animalogy for Sylvan Dell, some of Marianne’s other recent and award-winning titles include: Going Home, The Mystery of Animal Migration; Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef; Over in the Jungle, a Rainforest Rhyme; Going Around the Sun, Some Planetary Fun, and Marsh Morning. Visit her website at www.MarianneBerkes.com
Cathy Morrison may have started her art career in animation but she soon fell in love illustrating children’s books and has been doing so for 20 years. Cathy has illustrated Nature Recycles: How About You?, Three Little Beavers, and Animalogy: Animal Analogies for Sylvan Dell as well as Ignacio’s Chair, and the Young Patriots Series including Alexander Hamilton, Young Statesman;Frederick Douglass, Young Defender of Human Rights; and Juliette Low, Girl Scout Founder. Cathy works from her home in a studio loft overlooking a beautiful view of the Mummy Range, on the northern side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out Cathy’s blog at www.cathymorrison.blogspot.com.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Animalogy was provided by Sylvan Dell to facilitate our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Leaving Lancaster By Kate Lloyd

ISBN: 9780781405089
Holly Fisher and her mother Esther live in Seattle, Washington.  Holly’s father died while overseas in the military.  One of Holly’s life long regrets is that she was forced to grow up without a father and without any other known family members.  She and her mother had eked out a meager existence with the help of a few faithful friends. 

To Holly’s amazement, one day her mother reveals to her that Holly not only has living grandparents, but a large extended family living near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Her extended family members are all Amish.  Esther also reveals some of the circumstances behind the secrecy.  During the season of rumspringa, Esther and her secret love, Samuel, had run off to California to wed and begin life on their own.  They rejected the Amish beliefs of their parents and chose not to be baptized into the Amish church.  They had caused much grief to their family, and ultimately Samuel had died shortly there after in the war.  Holly also grieves to find out that her father would have been legally exempt from fighting in war if he had remained a practicing Amish man.

After almost 40 years of separation, Esther has decided to go home to see her ailing mother, and she wants Holly to accompany her.  Holly’s initial response is one of shock and anger that her mother has hid the truth of her own past and that of her family by lying to her these many years. 

Holly, Esther, and their Amish family members are forced to deal with many years of emotional guilt, anger, resentment, distrust, but also of love, and forgiveness.  Will the family be able to resolve all of the struggles of the past?  Will they be able to forgive and continue as a family?  And, how will this affect Holly’s career in Seattle, a career she has worked hard on to develop?  This is a quaint story of love and redemption within a once strained and divided family. (reviewed by S.Fincannon)

DISCLOSURE: Leaving Lancaster was donated to the ACS Library.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Small Town Girl by Ann H. Gabhart

ISBN: 9781441242280
Kate Merritt rejoiced for her older sister, but sorrowed for herself.  Evie was marrying the man of Kate’s dreams, Minister Mike Champion of Rosey Corner, Kentucky.  Not only that, but war was brewing in Europe.  Although President Roosevelt had promised to keep America out of the war, suddenly things changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  America declared war on Japan.  The world was full of uncertainty.

And then there was Jay Tanner, her new brother-in-law’s best childhood friend.  He was handsome, charming, and he liked Kate.  But his childhood was tainted with an uncertain past.  Raised by unloving, demanding relatives, Jay had learned to trust no one.  He had migrated from town to town working temporary jobs and making lady friends wherever he went.  But he never stayed long; he was independent of family ties and love.

Despite Kate’s reservations about Jay, she couldn’t help but fall for his charisma.  Her family liked him, especially her sweet little sister, “Birdie”.  But he had so many secrets.  What did he do on the weekends, and why didn’t he go to church with them on Sunday?  And then there was Mike warning the family against Jay’s potentially unscrupulous ways.

Suddenly, just when Kate had decided to give Jay a chance, a family disaster takes place, and Jay seems to be in the center of it.  Remembering Mike’s warnings and considering only Jay’s uncertain past, Kate refuses to listen to Jay and give him a chance to explain.  The next morning Jay is gone.  Within the week he has enlisted to serve in WWII.

Has Kate made the right decision?  Should she have given Jay a chance to explain himself?  Will she ever see him again? 

Ann Gabhart’s book, Small Town Girl, is a fascinating historical novel of romance, love, war, and life’s uncertainties. (reviewed by S.Fincannon)
 About the author:  Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--as well as several other historical novels, including Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope, Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Find out more at www.annhgabhart.com.
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Small Town Girl was provided by BookSneeze in exchange for our honest review on behalf of Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence by Jane Hampton Cook

ISBN: 9781595555410
Hardcover $26.99
Review: The War of 1812 has often been regarded a forgotten war, or even worse, an unnecessary war.  In her well written book, “American Phoenix”, not only does Jane Hampton Cook debunk those theories, in the process she opens the reader’s mind to a side of two of the most influential people of that generation, John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa.

Written in an intriguing combination of an historical biography and novel, this work reveals the romantic connection that existed, not only between the Adams’ but also between Louisa Adams and her affinity for Russia, developed during the time she spent there while her husband served  as the first diplomat sent from the fledgling United States to St. Petersburg.   Cook successfully explores through letters and diary entries the loving and warm relationship that existed between the strong and vivacious Louisa and her reserved New England born husband.

More importantly, the reader is brought to see the vital importance the War of 1812 played in the establishment of the United States as a new and growing nation, capable of playing on the world stage.  Rising from the national ashes after the invasion of the British and the burning of much of the nation’s capital, the American republic, struggling to survive its infant years,  is seen more as the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes of the funeral pyre.  Windows are opened so that the reader can see how John Quincy Adams, son of the second president of the United States, rose from the political ash heap to play the lead role in bringing about the Treaty of Ghent, which not only brought permanent peace with Great Britain, but also opened various avenues of commercial trade, key to the future success of the United States.  The capability of the younger Adams as a diplomat is on full display as he deftly and successfully works to maintain the delicate balance between the three world powers of the day, pre-Soviet Russia,  Napoleon’s France, and Great Britain.

In the end Cook allows us to see the devotion of Louisa Adams to a husband she spent many months and even years separated from as he worked tirelessly to serve the nation he loved so dearly.  Finally, we see the faith of both John and Louisa, a faith that carried them through the dark periods of life, including their lengthy separations and the deaths of two of their children. 

This is a well written and touching account of the most pivotal point in U.S. history and the involvement of two of its most influential citizen patriots. (Reviewed by Dr. Robert Hodges)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of American Phoenix by Jane Hampton Cook was provided by BookSneeze to facilitate our honest review on behalf of the publisher, Thomas Nelson. No compensation was provided for this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.