A Michigan Photo Presentation: Second Edition by John Macdonald ~ Review

A Michigan Photo Presentation Second Edition pic

A Michigan Photo Presentation Second Edition by John Macdonald

This photographer’s assortment of Michigan photos is impressive. Since I was born and raised in Michigan I have personally visited and enjoyed many places in these photos. As he said in the introduction, the Upper Peninsula alone has nearly 500 waterfalls. It’s impossible to photograph all of them. But that’s not all there is to see in Michigan.

His subjects are the best of all collections: bridges, waterfalls, lakes, sunsets, lighthouses, rock formations, wildlife, flowers, historic churches and buildings. All of them in fabulous color and some monochromatically displayed.

My favorites are the waterfalls and the Fall colors, of course. They are why I love living in this state. It’s a state that’s vast, roaming and beautiful and this photographer has captured much of the best views you can find.

Happy Fall14

Perhaps in a future book the author/photographer can include something of our historic towns (such as the ghost town in Fayette State Park), the Indian Petroglyphs in the Thumb area, a couple of the old historic forts and a few more lighthouses. The possibilities are endless.

But in the meantime, enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this commentary from Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Goodbyes and Second Chances by T.I. Lowe ~ Review

Goodbyes and Second Chances pic

Goodbyes and Second Chances: Book 1 by T.I. Lowe

Life can throw us some pretty nasty curves. Some of it may be deserved, but some, and perhaps most, is not. Take, for example, people born into wealth, and people born into poverty and all the gradations in between. How do we deal with this? It depends on our perceptions. And that is what this tale is all about. Think of it as a modern day parable. For the modern part, rock stars and a rock band. The parable? Trailer trash stigma. What can we learn from them? Read and see.

Jillian has known Dillan since she was eight and he was six. Before that, even. They grew up in the same neighborhood with other friends that eventually formed a strong group that had each others’ backs. They all lived in the trailer park. They knew what that meant: stigma. They lived on the “other side of the lake.” Across the lake were the wealthy condos and homes. Would life even give them a chance?

Goodbyes and Second Chances quote1

Dillon grew up with insane talents on several instruments and a smooth silky voice. He was a poet at heart and often wrote his own lyrics. His mother was fierce in her efforts to save him from a reputation as trailer trash. So by the time he was sixteen, he had found an opportunity to make it big in the music world. But to do that, he would have to leave his dearest friends behind, including his jewel, Jillian. He promised he would come back for her. She didn’t believe him. No one came back.

Goodbyes and Second Chances quote 2

The author has done a great job portraying the funny moments within the group of friends who lived in each others’ pockets. She includes their struggles, how close this group grew together, and how Jillian fit in as a sort of mom. It made me think of Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys. There were sad times, sweet moments, victories and failures. Be sure to bring along some tissues, as there were many poignant moments.

Goodbyes and Second Chances quote3

The funniest and most tragic happenings in the story involved Maverick King. His story becomes the focus of book two in this series. He was part of Dillon’s rock band from the beginning. If you enjoy this book, you’ll certainly want to get book two which is told from Mave’s point of view. Overall, Goodbyes and Second Chances has several flawed characters, which we see change and grow up before our eyes. The author has done a great job making the reader feel as if they were part of this close-knit group.

 

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Hope Crossing: The Complete Ada’s House Trilogy by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

Hope Crossing: The Complete Ada’s House Trilogy by Cindy Woodsmall

Hope Crossing pic

This is the trilogy, Ada’s House, that includes three full-length novels: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace. I have already written reviews of each book separately, so this book review is only about a few things about the bound trilogy.

Review for Book One

Review for Book Two

Review for Book Three

When it comes to binding three full length books into one volume, I feel a little ambivalent. On one hand, it’s convenient to have all three books in one volume. No searching, no hunting for a missing book. I like the convenience. On the other hand, it makes for a large, heavy book to hold up to read. Since I have carpal tunnel in one hand, it was uncomfortable if sitting up in a comfortable chair. It was not a problem sitting at a table. What I was given was a soft bound book, but it was still heavy. However, eventually, the spine broke and the book split in half. My given preference would be to have three separate volumes.

For an overview: The story begins with someone living outside the Amish communities that eventually come into focus for these books. We follow Cara’s story all throughout the three books. In a great twist of events, she discovers she was supposed to grow up in the Amish community of Dry Lake with her relatives. But instead, she ended up in foster care. She falls in love with Ephraim, makes friends in the community, and over the course of the three books struggles with personal issues to join the Old Order Amish community whole-heartedly to marry him.

Hope Crossing quote1

All the books are beautifully written, filled with people I came to care for, and full of great dynamic characterization. I cared for the people in these stories. I disliked the villains, felt fear with the ones in pain, triumphant with overcomers, and rejoiced with the marriages of friends. It was nearly like taking a journey with close companions. I would heartily recommend this trilogy. Just choose buying the three books separately and forgo the huge book of all three bound together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Why Did We Blame? by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Why Did We Blame pic

Why Did We Blame? Book Two by Paula Rose Michelson

Why Did We Blame? by Paula Rose Michelson is the second book in her series on the Lamb Ministries 7 X 7: Biblical Recovery for Women Suffering from Trauma and Abuse. “Lamb Ministries was born to help women recover from the negative impact of what went before, so that each woman who undertakes this journey can grasp hold of the full blessings of God in Messiah (Christ). Had I not experienced what many of my LAMB Ladies had, God would have gifted this work to someone else.” Each book in this series is about the fallout of abuse; how to deal with the results that stay with us. Book one dealt with anger. This book helps us handle blame, or the continuing of abuse.

The beauty of this series is the key to recovery mentioned in the first book– the 7 X 7 method. It is simple and yet crucial for recovering women to do this work. The second key is journaling. Readers are often encouraged to write our candid ideas down, or to meditate on Scripture and write our thoughts on them. Sometimes there are lists to write down and pray over. The process is easy and short.

Why Did We Blame Quote 1

The book is designed to be read like a devotional, a few pages at a time. It is not a book to be read and then placed on the shelf. It helps you progress through your recovery, which could take some time. So I found it a good book to return to, time after time. Book one was the same way.

The author and I have similar backgrounds in that we both had a relative with similar conditions. Our abuse was basically verbal, yet devastating. Verbal abuse is no less difficult to recover from than physical abuse. The scars are invisible, but still there. Additionally, we both found the same solution to our insecurities. So Ms. Michelson has a tremendous capacity for empathy. It’s quite evident in this series.

Why Did We Blame quote 3

I never felt I had “finished” my recovery, so the steps outlined in this book were helpful for me. I have discovered that as a person goes through different stages in their lives, new challenges arise and some of the fallout from abuse raises its ugly head once again. This is a series that can aid in taking that next step. Even if we must do so repeatedly.

Why Did We Blame book 2 quote 2

One of the things I like best in this book is how the author shares her own personal experiences and recovery with her readers. I love that. I didn’t feel that “she had it,” and I don’t “have it.” This book implies we’re all traveling this journey together. Do you find yourself caught up in the “blame game?” I have. I think you will find good suggestions to break this cycle. Your friends and family will love the new you when it’s broken.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an ARC copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

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Otherworld: A YA Fantasy Adventure by Evan Ronan ~ Review~

Otherworld: A Young Adult Fantasy Adventure by Evan Ronan

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” –Albert Einstein

“Everybody knew I was the biggest daydreamer in the whole school.”

When you’ve been gifted with a wild imagination, anything can happen. This book is aOtherworld great example of where an abundant flight of imagination can take you. Readers are introduced to Aoife Finley, pronounced Eef-uh, daydreamer extraordinaire. The extraordinary events in the book all started when Erica saw the Lady in Green. No one was supposed to see the Lady in Green because she was a product of Aoife’s imagination. That was the first inkling that something was very wrong in Paxsum, Aoife’s imaginary world.

Aoife created Paxsum probably when she lost her mother many years ago. It was her
way of coping with sad reality, but was also a way to connect her to her father, who
wisely encouraged Aoife to use her imagination. Imagination created her first group of friends…Al the industrial-sized recycling container in her yard, B the barbecue on the back deck, and Rosie the sled. In the early days of loss, she talked with her friends daily.Otherworld quote1

Now that she was a little bit older, some of her classmates in school were her friends. Slob, a.k.a Sam, was her best friend. They could talk about anything, and he even understood her imaginary world and her imaginary friends because he was also fluent in imagination. His imaginary person was Steel Sunday, a structural engineer who went on adventures as if he were another Indiana Jones. Slob (a name given to him based on Bob the Builder) spent most of his waking time building things from blocks. He understood Aoife and so they spent time together, sometimes in silence that was comfortable. Others in her class were mostly annoyances such as Erica (nicknamed The Bank of Erica), Nestor (nicknamed Binky), Kris Miller (nicknamed Killer), and Robin (nicknamed Snail-smeller). Erica used to be a close friend, when suddenly she turned her back and became Aoife’s arch enemy. But it was these friends, when push came to shove, that saved not only Aoife’s imaginary world, but also the real world around them.

This book is one designed for the YA category. Because of some serious threats to
children in the imaginary town of Paxsum, I do not recommend reading this to children younger than 4th grade. It also may not appeal to upper age teens or older because the classroom scenario seems to center around 5th or 6th grade age-range interactions. I used to teach middle school age YA, and I believe this story is perfect for that spectrum. However, upper age students such as those who need lower reading level, high interest material would find this perfect as well.Otherworld quote2

Not only is this book about the imagination, it also features how friendship develops, what it is and what it is not, its imperfections, and its character. For the young readers, there’s a lot of action, imaginative events, suspense, and a little bit of danger. The author’s sense of humor adds a lot to this story. I loved the giggles and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read this story all the way through. It was that good.Otherworld quote3

The one thing I loved most about this book is that it is not entirely dark in nature. So much of today’s literature is so dark, even among children’s books, that I’m happy when I run across something truly light-hearted and “childish”. Yes, there were characters with bad attitudes, but they changed eventually. Good characterization is also a hallmark in this book. Aoife especially had some life lessons to learn, but the way it happens is entirely painless to the reader (No groaning in the peanut gallery, please. I really do love books with substance). Two thumbs and two big toes up for this first work from the pen of Evan Ronan. I sincerely hope he has many more books like this to offer us!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade
Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and
Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Flower Swallow by Alana Terry ~Review~

Flower Swallow by Alana Terry

Flower Swallow

Some of us may relate to a time when we saw the world through a child’s eyes. It has always been a mystery to me how that happens. But when it does, there’s a sense of new appreciation for things that have become ‘ho hum’ to us through time and familiarity. I have discovered this book gives us the same kind of perspective. We see what life might be like in North Korea through the eyes of a lost child, a lost boy, known in that country as a ‘flower swallow.’

Once I started reading this book, I became entranced. Because really, what do we know about life in North Korea? Not really enough for us to develop compassion for people who are trapped within a nation whose despotic leaders want them to think they are gods. So this story is told in the first person by a little boy named Woong. From his viewpoint, we understand the people a little bit more; we understand a land in famine, hit by storms, flash floods, cruel dictators, starvation and hard circumstances. Life was so harsh that many children were cut loose from their families to find their own way. In the Western world, we would think of them as “street urchins” thinking back to the eighteenth century London where children often lived in the streets. If you’ve read or watched the story Oliver, that would give you a glimpse of what that life was about. It wasn’t pretty. So too, this boy Woong had a tough life. He wasn’t an orphan, but he was cut loose from family nevertheless.

Flower Swallow street-children Bogota

Street children in Bogota

The author, Alana Terry, creates a character with tons of personality. Unlike the story of Oliver, which was a serious tome from the onset to its conclusion, Woong is a mischievous little guy who thinks and ponders things through. This story is his reflection on his younger years as a ‘flower swallow’, where his adventures and attitudes remind me more of Tom Sawyer than Oliver. I often chuckled, if not at the circumstances, definitely at the way the adventures were explained by a little boy. (His present life sounds as if he’s about 8 or 9, telling this story to his American teacher.)

Flower Swallow street urchins1

19th century London, street children

What I especially appreciate about this book is the combination of pathos and humor. The humor does not detract from the seriousness of the population’s condition. It is so well written, that when the boy speaks of his every day life, you can laugh but with tears in your eyes. You gain such a sense of sympathy devoid of pity. I could appreciate the strength needed to cope and survive in such a hostile environment. I began to admire Woong, and others who barely survived. In fact, I experienced a wide range of emotions while reading this story, including admiration for the author who made this story come alive.

Flower Swallow street children in India

Street children, India

I highly recommend it for your household. This is the type of book you can read with your children, since there are no graphic scenes in this book, although you should be prepared to share harsh reality with your children if they have not been exposed to it before. Yet this book is one that’s appropriate for a wide range of readers. As a former homeschool mom, I can see many applications in this book for children and young people.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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