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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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?

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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.

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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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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.

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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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The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew (Inspirational Christian Romance) by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Beginning Anew pic

The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew by Paula Rose Michelson

Beginning Anew is the third book of the Naomi Chronicles series. The entire series has close bearing on all the books as a whole, so my recommendation is for you to begin with the first book and proceed from there in order. These books are very much chronically ordered and reading the third book will make much more sense if you read the previous two books first.

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As I read this third story, I could see it is a transitional volume. First, Naomi and Chaz (also known as Chaim) are back together after a very rough beginning in their marriage. They have new complications to face both personally and as a couple. Chaz needs to become more comfortable in his new identity. Naomi also has to adjust to the new perception of her identity within the barrio she has lived in for 15 years. And, unfortunately, the Barrio itself undergoes a bit of a transition when the Church Father tries to make peace in the neighborhood. There are a few nail-biting moments when it doesn’t appear this effort is going to work.

Second, while we were introduced to Tia Vida in the first book, and became acquainted with her amazing work among immigrants, we never fully came to understand her as a person. This was true for Naomi, as well, in spite of being adopted by the woman and living with her. So in this third book, Naomi is introduced to the work of the Tia’s in a more personal manner, although Tia Vida passed on long ago, through a new found journal. This adds some new twists to a wonderfully developing plot as well as a hint of mystery.

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I love the new twists; there is also some tension as the newlyweds become more comfortable with each other and among their friends, new and old. While this is a historical piece of fiction, the issues addressed in this story are very relevant, even today. This is an exciting way to learn more of our country’s amazing history as it deals with immigrant life in developing neighborhoods. Even though this is a transition time for the newly married couple, the way it is written, there is not a dull moment in the entire book.

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I read several books a month. Some of them I write reviews for. Most of them do not stick with me over the course of time. I put them down and they are forgotten. That’s not true of any of the books in this series so far. Every single one of them has stayed with me weeks after I’ve read them. I believe it’s a sign of the relevance of the books’ contents. It’s a topic that interests me. It also has historical significance, which I enjoy. But it also reflects how well the books are written. Like most authors, the writing style is not perfect; but it is memorable. This is not just another feel good romance. There is nothing fluffy about this series. There is relevance and purpose behind the fiction. I’m drawn to that type of writing.

Of course, there is another book in the series. Not all of the issues brought up in this book are resolved. So I am looking forward to reading the next piece in this adventure. There are mysteries to be settled.

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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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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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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Paralyzed (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 2) by Alana Terry ~ Review

Paralyzed (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 2) by Alana Terry

ParalyzedParalyzed is the second book of the Kennedy Stern novel series by Alana Terry. This series runs parallel to another series by the same author. That set involves Kennedy’s parents who live in China where they conduct a secret seminary for North Korean refugees. While book 1 and 2 in Kennedy’s series works closely together, you can read each one independently of the other. Of course, I think they are best read back to back, since the events only occur six weeks apart. You can view my review of book 1 here.

Kennedy Stern, after having lived in China ten years, is now attending Harvard University as a pre-med student. It’s only been six weeks since she’d been kidnapped in what turned out to be a high profile case that involved a big political name, underground thugs, and a pregnant girl. Kennedy ended up handcuffed for 24 hours in a filthy darkened basement watching the young teen die from bleeding out. She still had nightmares of the horrors she witnessed. While taking final exams before the Christmas break, she started have coughing fits, and out in the hallway, she thought she saw a familiar ugly face. It frightened her enough that she fled the exam in panic to her dorm room. Then she had to see a doctor for her cough and an excused absence for her professor. The doctor recognized her and asked her several questions. He hinted that she may need counseling, possibly for PTSD. She couldn’t get her mind wrapped around the concept. Could she really have PTSD? She was a Christian. She’d been praying an reading her Bible more often since her traumatic experience. She’d even memorized Bible verses. Didn’t that help?Paralyzed Quote1

From that point on, the author provides non-stop suspense. Kennedy’s friend took her out to see the Nutcracker Suite. She enjoyed it but was once again spooked when they attempted to see some of the players backstage, and she wound up alone in a dark hallway. Then they took a subway to get some pizza, but a power outage created new panic; she felt as if someone was following her in the dark tunnel, especially after a smoke bomb forced everyone out of the car and into the unlit tunnel. Once home her shaken nerves were further rattled when her father called to warn her a second man was discovered to have been involved in the kidnapping case. He sent her with an email with a picture of the man. She immediately recognized him from the subway incident. She needed to flee, but she didn’t know where to go. That’s when Pastor Carl Lindgren, a family friend, entered the fray. He had received the same warnings from Kennedy’s dad. Pastor Carl decided she needed to stay with him for her safety. They were anything but safe. What ensued was a terrifying car chase, a shoot out, a hospital visit, police protection, and an ambush. At that point, I just could not put the book down.

Paralyzed Quote2

Alana Terry writes excellent suspenseful scenes that are fast-paced. That alone has me recommending this book to you. But Kennedy’s inner battles are just as interesting to me. Yes, growing up in a missionary family ensured her head was filled with knowledge that made her appear to be a Christian. She prayed, read her Bible, lived by a set of moral codes in spite of her environment, and even memorizing Scripture. But something was missing. She seemed a little two dimensional to me. I kept asking myself, “Where’s the joy? Where’s the relationship, the inner peace, the intimacy between her Heavenly Father and a daughter?” Kennedy’s spiritual life is often too formulaic in my opinion. A true dynamic Christian life is much more than saying prayers, doing good deeds, going to church, and even reading the Bible. It’s vital and alive–an active relationship between a loving Father and His child. there should be dialogue and exchange. I believe this lack of depth has been carefully crafted by the author as an underlying subplot that began in the first book and grows gradually throughout the series. It is not yet resolved in the second book in spite of the satisfactory resolution of the more active portions of the story line. I suspect the quieter theme will continue into the next book or books in the series. I look forward to further development of this character thread because it is an ever pressing issue in today’s world.

Paralyzed Quote3

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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