The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall

Bridge of Peace pic

The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall is the second book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Cara and Ephraim’s story is continued from the first book into this one. We also get to know Deborah, Ephraim’s sister a little better since she, Cara and Ada live together in Hope Crossing now. Cara is helping Deborah recover when her fiance leaves her and his mother without support. It seems he even left the Amish lifestyle behind him. The three women eventually establish a good business as a bakery in their new setting in spite of a rough beginning, while Ada continues to mentor Cara.

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Meanwhile back in Dry Lake, where the story originated, Teacher Lena is having difficulties in school with a rebellious and angry student, a bull in the neighboring pasture threatens the school children, Grey is having marital difficulties, Jonathan is attracted to Deborah, Israel is beginning to see Ada, and Dwane is being downright creepy. While we don’t know these characters now, this authors manages to capture our interest in them quickly as our sense of community grows. Suspense builds, and so does the drama. I recommend you bring along a box of tissues when you read this book. The drama in this tale is just as heart-wrenching and touching as those in the first book.

Midst all the emotional valleys and mountain tops, this author holds it all together with great humor and meaningful life lessons. I found it helpful to read this book right after book 1 of the series. The three books together run seamlessly into each other, building on the storyline right at the beginning. You can read them independently, but you would lose some of the references to the action that went on before. Because of that, I recommend purchasing these books together.

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One other thing really attracts me to this author’s works. She weaves into her stories examples that steadfastly demonstrate God’s involvement in our everyday lives. These stories are like word pictures in action. We’re not preached at, but we see God’s principles enacted throughout the book in such a way that it has to touch our hearts. Whenever I read her books, I find myself delving into deep thoughts of spiritual meaning, how God can live through me more effectively, showing how much He loves His children. All this comes so naturally to the author’s pen, that we barely notice it while reading these tales. This is why Cindy Woodsmall is one of my top favorite authors.

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 positive review. 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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Blue Christmas by Diane Moody ~ Review

Blue Christmas by Diane Moody

Blue Christmas pic

Have you ever heard of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Things start out fine, but then get worse and worse. Well, this story is a bit like that with events that begin very well, but then there are surprise twists and turns that seem to get worse and worse. But the best part about this book is that it is the Christian version and so much more upbeat, with a terrific ending. You will not be disappointed.

Hannah was alone this Christmas. Her family was off enjoying a Colorado ski trip where she should be, but since she was assistant manager at the local grocery store, and the manager had just had a family emergency, she was next in line to supervise. On this Christmas Eve, she was feeling a bit sorry for herself when a kind, motherly customer she saw in the store regularly invited to attend Christmas Eve services with her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. That was the beginning of an incredible journey for Hannah.

Jason McKenzie is a star. His rock band, Out of the Blue, was a teen favorite. But living on the road was exhausting and from time to time he’d come home for a respite. He showed up on Christmas Eve and was immediately enchanted with Hannah.

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One of the things I like most about this story, besides the fact that it’s a Christmas story, is the humor infused in the tale. There’s a laugh around every corner. It’s good clean humor and makes this story just perfect.

Second, this story means more when you read the history behind the writing of this tale. I love reading where authors get their ideas. This one has a wee bit of truth and a bunch of fun fabrication. And this is one of those books that doesn’t lose its appeal when you read it the second time or third time. That’s my kind of book!

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull ~ Review

Cinderella Texas pic

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull is one of the newest published books by this author (2017). Both main characters love the Lord and are Christians, but have chosen vastly different lifestyles for themselves. The disparity makes this a unique type of story. The issues are not a matter of right and wrong; rather their choices are what places a wall between the two. The conflict/resolution issue in this story is still emotional, a matter of finding a place, a middle road, in which to meet. How they do this is what drives this story forward.

Alyson Spencer was a city girl, through and through. She was born, reared and educated in Dallas, TX and preferred living there. She never expected to get work anywhere else. When nothing else she wanted turned up, she took a job teaching a rancher’s children at his home. But she was not prepared for the desolation of the location in southern Texas and the distinct lifestyle of the family there. There were no modern conveniences at all. She’d signed a contract for a year of teaching without knowing this ahead of time, so how would she be able to endure the deprivation?

Cinderella Texas quote 2

Quatro Greene, Alyson’s employer and widowed father of her two new students, looked too young to have children. What was unsettling was his wealth. Yet he didnt live like a wealthy man. Neither did his family. They chose this nearly Amish-like lifestyle as a means of practicing their faith. Alyson respected that. It even intrigued her. Yet she just wasn’t certain it was a lifestyle she could adapt to within a year. The only thing she and Quatro had in common were a love for his children and a love for God. Quatro on the other hand, was a confusing person. His feet were planted in two different worlds: his personal life and his business life. How did he live with that?

Cinderella Texas quote 3

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author’s writing style mixes well the serious issues with humor at the quandry Alyson finds herself in. If you like Amish fiction reads, then some aspects of this genre may be familiar to you. However, the mixing of two worlds is the main issue, making this book more unique. That’s the feature I like the best.

Cinderella Texas quote1

Alyson’s character is well developed in this story. I wish, however, we could see a little more inside Quatro’s head. It would flesh out the development of characters more thoroughly than was there. I wanted to know more about his struggles and how he balanced his worlds. The resolution put forth in this book could make an interesting part two. I can also see how you could develop a sequel to this book by amplifying any resolution with more details. I hope the author will consider this idea.

 

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12 Saturdays by F.P. Lione ~ Review

12 Saturdays pic

12 Saturdays by F.P. Lione

Twelve Saturdays is like an “everything” bagel; it has a little bit of everything in it. The setting is New York City: Staten Island and Manhattan. It has a little bit of suspense and tension with a few bad guys thrown in. There’s fun humor and a few giggles. Some romance, some psychology, some tragedy, some adventure, and lots of relationship dynamics. All this is blended very well into an unforgettable storyline.

The premise is about family relationships. Jenna had been out on a date when she learned that her father was in the hospital. By the time she got there, it was too late, and she was overcome by so many regrets. She had not known he had a brain tumor. Then she learned that her father had some rather odd requests for her after his death. And that’s the beginning of an unforgettable series of 12 Saturdays.

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I enjoyed reading this book so much. There were moments of levity which balanced out the revelatory nature of the story. The one driving character, Jenna, was a real, living, breathing person to me. I found myself relating to her on so many levels. The more her background was revealed, the more her life spoke to me.

One element of the book I really enjoyed was the “girl power” feel of Jenna’s friendships. The best of the humor as well as the best of her strength came from these close ties. There were also a few twists and turns as the book progressed that kept me turning the pages.

12 Saturdays quote 2

Finally, this is a faith-based story. Jenna wasn’t exactly the picture perfect Christian; she was a work in progress, just as we are. I took comfort in the growth in her character shown to us through her trials and triumphs. At a crucial point in the story, she knows where she belongs. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in this conclusion.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of 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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Amish Cooking Class: The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter ~ Review

Amish Cooking Class book 2: The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Amish Cooking Class The Blessing

The Blessing is the second book in the Amish Cooking Class series. I read this book without knowing about the first one, and didn’t have any feeling of missing something vital. So I would say this book can stand alone on its own. But I am intrigued now that I have read this one; I want to go back and read the first book. That is how well written this book is.

The story’s premise is about an Amish couple, Heidi and Lyle Troyer, living in Walnut Creek, Ohio. They have been married about 9 years and do not have children. Lyle is an auctioneer while Heidi teaches cooking classes in her kitchen. At the opening of the story, Heidi is anticipating the birth of her friend’s baby, which she and Lyle were going to adopt. Kendra had been living with them for several months now. Kendra really wanted to keep her baby, but she was a single young person and it wouldn’t be the best thing for the little one if she couldn’t support it.

Just as Heidi had decided not to teach another class, in preparation of the babe’s arrival, Kendra’s parents reversed their decision not to help her rear the child, and suddenly Heidi finds herself bereft of the baby she wanted to adopt. She decided to go ahead and teach another cooking class to help her stay mentally occupied while she grieved her loss.

Amish Cooking Class The Blessing quote 1

We eventually become acquainted with the six members of this new cooking class, and they are as diversified as they come! There’s an overburdened high school student, a custodian, a food critic, a mother in a shaky marriage, a widower, and a caterer. It’s the clashing and meshing of these lives that makes this an intriguing read.

What I appreciate most about this book is that regardless of Heidi’s background, she is centered on honoring God with her life. She is genuine and caring, someone that her class of students need in their lives. Without being preachy or overly Amish in her behavior with her students, she quietly relayed to them what each person needed at this point in their life journey, even for the one who cared nothing for God. I loved how all these individual stories wrapped up neatly at the conclusion of the book. If at first you feel the story moves along slowly while we become acquainted with all the characters, be patient. The character development is worth the wait.

God heals broken hearts

The second thing I enjoyed about the book are the cooking tips and recipes included in the back. I am always open to learning something new, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you enjoy cozy character-driven stories that warm your heart, then this is the book for you. I enthusiastically recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing. 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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My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels ~ Review

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island Maude's Mooring pic

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels

I enjoyed this book so much. The beautiful Mackinac Island makes the perfect setting for this endearing historical romance. Since I live in Michigan, I might be a little biased. I especially enjoy visiting this island with its rich history and colorful background. There aren’t too many residents of the state who haven’t visited this site at least twice in their lifetimes. The author makes full use of the unique geographical features on the island and its beautiful views. That includes the abundance of lilacs which fill the air with its fragrances, even today.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 2017 is 69th

The story begins the moment Ben Steffan lands on the island and literally runs smack into Maude Welling at the docks. She looked upset and perhaps a bit angry. She apologized as she hadn’t seen him in front of her. Then she turned and rushed toward the village where he assumed she lived. He continued his stroll, to assume the persona of a wealthy industrialist, Freidrich Konig, he was trying to portray. He had a job to do. But when he looked up from the lovely brunette he had run into, he spotted two people he had known in Detroit. He hoped they didn’t blow his cover.

Maude continued down the street completely disoriented. Not only had she suffered the loss of her mother a year ago, but now she’d lost her fiance. She had expected Greyson’s arrival so they could wed and run her family Inn together. But without notice, he arrived on the docks with his wife! How was she to run the inn herself? Will her father now fulfill his threat to sell it and move down state? She didn’t want to leave the island. Could this day get any worse?

Mackinac Island

The author writes a tender love story that is much more than a casual summer read. She includes a touch of mystery, some duplicity on both the characters’ parts, not a few misunderstandings, heroic action, a bit of a twist and great character development. Both Ben and Maude have reached some crossroads in their lives. Both are attracted to each other, but have secrets that could stop their relationship developing before it even begins. How the author resolves this conflict is heart warming and life affirming.

Mackinac Island Grand Hotel

I especially enjoyed the touches of historical events where the men in the community must be prepared at a moment’s notice to become a rescue team in case there is a shipwreck or collision in the icy waters surrounding the island. At one point, the author uses one such event as a means to draw Ben and Maude together in spite of their determination to back away. What a great story.

Mackinac Island Lilacs Grand Hotel

“Everything you have comes from God, by His will, and for His glory only. Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that anything here on earth truly belongs to you.” –Pastor McWithey

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the Barbour Publishing. 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, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown ~ Review

Ocean of Storms

Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown

I am a fan of old-fashioned early and mid-twentieth century science fiction. In fact, I also love the science fiction that was generated in the nineteenth century as well; I believe this is called Steampunk today. While I was growing up, it was simply considered a classic genre of literature. The reason I hark back to that time era is because science didn’t overwhelm the plot and the characterization of the protagonists and antagonists. Subplots and supporting characters were not overtaken by the glitz and glitter of modern technology. They were simply an element of good story telling.

I have since lost interest in the current run of sci fi trends. I rarely read any book of that genre. Technological glitz tends to become outdated too quickly for readers not to get distracted by what’s considered old news. I empathize with authors of that genre trying to please all schools of thought. It’s difficult to hold a reader’s interest. Maintaining a good balance is key. Only once in a rare while does a book appear that manages to hold up to the ideals of literature with science at it’s core. I believe Ocean of Storms has successfully crossed this invisible barrier.

book weekend

In my opinion, Ocean of Storms is an instant classic. It has everything it needs to qualify it as an adventure: solid storytelling, development of suspense, a twist on a classic theme, drama with well developed characters, international intrigue, traitors, greed, mystery and more. It is a fast-paced complex tale that does not get so overly tangled that the reader gets lost in too many heads.

The story begins when an EM pulse knocks out communications over the entire planet, setting governments scrambling to gain control over panicking and perturbed citizens. When the source of the pulse was pinpointed to the moon, an immediate second space race ensues. Which country would arrive on the moon first? What the mission discovers in the deep cavern becomes an unexpected twist to a classic theme. For me, the conclusions are memorable. I would love to see a movie made based on this book.

If you are a fan of fast-paced adventure with a touch of drama and intrigue without the cruelty, darkness and gore often dogging the modern genre, I highly recommend this book to you. It even improves on multiple subsequent readings. That’s something I don’t find very often in any genre.

Warning: There is some language that seems inevitable; However, I am pleased that it doesn’t contain the evil presence of venom and lack of value for human life we see often in current books.

Also note that this is not a Christian book. But it is a good book. I will occasionally post one on this site.

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