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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Praying for Strangers by River Jordan - A Book Review

   An image posted by the author.

     I was gifted Praying for Strangers by a good friend, and am very grateful. This thoughtful read about the work of prayers in others’ lives, and the work of praying in our own has given me pause to consider my own prayer life. Yesterday I heard a quote on K-LOVE radio asking if God answered all of your prayers, would it change anyone’s life but your own. While I don’t think my prayer life is so self-centered as to answer that question in the negative, I would have to say that frequently it would only change the lives of family, church family, friends, and those for whom they specifically ask prayer. So, while I am not stepping up to the resolution River Jordan made of praying daily for a stranger, I am striving to be more aware of the needs of strangers around me, and to lift them in prayer. I have even introduced myself and asked, “Is there any way I can pray for you today?” Thanks River Jordan for reminding me to slow down and be aware of those around me. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz - A Book Review

The LacemakerLaura Frantz

     As soon as I heard about Laura Frantz’s new book, The Lacemaker, I began to search book sites to see when the release date might be or whether or not advanced reader copies might be available. Frantz’s reputation as a stellar author was of course one reason to be interested in this book, but for me the big draw was the setting, Colonial Williamsburg. Having visited there twice in recent months, I am enthralled with the stories of Colonial Williamsburg. The Lacemaker was not a disappointment, but rather a compelling read.
     Elisabeth Anne Lawson, daughter of the lieutenant governor of Virginia Colony, once a close friend of Lady Charlotte, the first lady of the colony, and her daughters, finds herself abandoned by both her father and her fiancĂ©. She must make her own way in the midst of the rumblings of what will become known as the War for Independence. Fortunately, her mother, for whose return she awaits, taught her the skill of lacemaking, and what was once a form of entertainment becomes a vocation alongside her other needle skills. In order to ply her trade Elisabeth must take on a new identity, one apart from her family’s Tory reputation, and apart from the social status and protection she has always known.
     Noble Rynallt, independence man, master of Ty Mawr and Ty Bryn, and cousin to Elisabeth’s former fiancĂ©, is struggling with trials of his own. While still mourning and dealing with guilt associated with his sister’s death, Noble seeks to take his place among those striving for independence from the mother country. Separated from his brother by a vast sea, and from his cousin by a vast difference in character, Noble has no close family with whom to share his joys or his burdens. Now he feels compelled to take Elisabeth under his arm of protection, while she strives to find her own sense of independence.

     Readers who have never visited Colonial Williamsburg will enjoy Frantz’s ability to place them directly on the streets of this town during the birth pains of our nation. For those who have visited, they will enjoy walking the streets once again, enjoying the memories of the Raleigh Tavern, Bruton Parish Church, the Governor’s Palace, and many other Colonial Williamsburg landmarks. I thank Revell Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Lacemaker in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen - A Book Review

Product DetailsJulie Klassen

     This is my first visit to Ivy Hill, and I am looking forward to my next visit. Although I entered this series in book two of the Tales From Ivy Hill series, it worked quite well as a stand-alone read. I don’t believe too much was revealed to spoil my going back and reading book one. I am actually quite intrigued to discover what previously occurred between Jane Bell and Gabrielle Locke, as well as to learn what motivated the change in Jane’s mother-in-law, Thora. Klassen does a good job of balancing closure in this book with leaving enough of the plot line open to motivate her reader to read book three.
     Themes in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage deal with the struggle to ask for help from others, and maybe even from God. While the story is set in 1820’s England, this struggle may be even more prevalent in today’s society that values independence, self-reliance, and pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps. The book also deals with the importance of truth: the sometimes-high cost of truth, the fact that truth always has a way of coming out, and the strength of character that is displayed when one deals with a hard truth in a way that pleases and glorifies God. This too is a theme that is pertinent to modern living as we are daily faced in mainstream media and social media with discerning truth, holding our leaders to the truth, and behaving truthfully in our own lives even when the cost may be quite high.
     The main characters in this book are endearing. The three central characters inn keeper Jane Bell, school teacher Mercy Grove, and librarian Rachel Ashford now all working for a living were once ladies of nobility. They are evidence of changing times in England, as are their friendships with secondary characters that cross social boundaries. Changes, even positive ones, take time to accept by people of both genders and across all walks of life. This is evidenced by the reaction and interaction of characters throughout this story, as it is probably evidenced in each of our own lives.

     I recommend The Ladies of Ivy Cottage to historical fiction fans, they will likely be intrigued by the information on subscription or circulating libraries, forerunners of today’s public libraries, that is woven into the story. I also recommend it to fans of romantic fiction, and of course to those who love Christian fiction. I thank NetGalley and Baker Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright - A Book Review

The House on Foster Hill by [Wright, Jaime Jo]    Jaime Jo Wright

     The theme of this book is hope, hope in knowing God’s promises are fulfilled in spite of our circumstances, not instead of them. An unidentified murder victim, who becomes known as Gabriella, leaves behind a diary of sorts that encourages that type of hope in Kaine, a victim of emotional abuse, many years later.  
     The House on Foster Hill is Jaime Jo Wright’s debut novel (She has had work printed in collections of stories.), but it reads like the work of a seasoned author. Fans of Christian mysteries will be interested to know that she was encouraged to write this story by well-known author Colleen Coble. Wright tackled the challenge of a time-split novel, and did so with great success. The connection among character and the smooth transition between the two time frames was well done. The mystery of Gabriella’s murder set in the early 1900s and the mystery of Kaine’s stalker and her husband’s murder set in present day are both intriguing, well-paced, and suspenseful. I will be on the look-out for Wright’s next novel scheduled to be released in July of 2018.

     I recommend this book to mystery fans, especially to those who like a little romance intertwined with the mystery. I thank NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of The House on Foster Hill in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries

Product Details

By Basyle Tchividjian and Shira M. Berkovits

     This book is thorough in its scope and treatment of this timely topic. The authors outline behaviors and attitudes that indicate a child might be being abused. They also discuss characteristics of abusers to be on the alert for. I was especially interested in the reasoning behind the strength with which even seemingly small infractions to a church’s or ministry’s policy should be dealt. Enforcement of the policy is the responsibility of the entire congregation, so everyone must know and understand the policy. The Policy Guide gives thoughtful information on supporting survivors of abuse, both in the short and long-term. This book would benefit ministries planning a policy and those reviewing their policy.  

     I thank Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a copy of this guide in exchange for my review. I received no monetary compensation. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris - A Book Review

Product DetailsLisa Harris
     I have greatly enjoyed Lisa Harris’s Nikki Boyd Files series. Throughout the series Nikki and her colleagues in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation solved missing persons cases, but they were never able to solve the abduction of Nikki’s sister, Sarah. In Vanishing Point we finally find out who was behind the abduction and whether or not Sarah, whose body had never been found, is alive or not. The story actually begins prior to Sarah’s going missing, with the third victim of the Angel Abductor. It ends over a decade later with the families, investigators, and Harris’s readers finally getting closure.
     New characters are introduced in Vanishing Point, among them is Special Agent Garrett Addison of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Jordan Lambert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Garrett and Jordan had once been close while enrolled in the Police Academy, but their careers had led them in different directions. Now, working closely together on the Angel Abductor case, might the sparks that were once there be rekindled, or have they grown cold?
     The major theme in this book revolves around the classic question of why God allows bad things to happen. How does one’s faith survive when God doesn’t seem to be present? Parents reeling with the fact that their daughters will not be coming home, and investigators who see the dark side of humanity almost daily feel cause to cry out, “God, where are You?” This is a question many we have read of in the Bible have asked, and it is a question many of us have asked as well.  Harris handles this question with care, not offering flip answers, but allowing her character, Jordan, to really articulate a thoughtful response.

     I thank NetGalley and the Baker Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of Vanishing Point in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review. 

Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering - A Book Review

Product Details   Julianna Deering
     I am coming into this series at book six, but it made for a great stand-alone read. I am looking forward to going back and catching up on the previous escapades of Drew and Madeline Farthering and Nick Dennison. My husband and I are fans of several BBC mystery series, and I could absolutely see a series built around these characters. I would recommend The Drew Farthering Mysteries to both men and women.
     Set in England in the 1930s, the Drew Farthering series has the feel of Christie, Sayers and James; names well known to fans of British writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. In Death at Thorburn Hall Drew and his entourage are tasked to unearth the secrets of their host’s formerly trusted business partner who has begun to act in a very suspicious manner. The investigation quickly turns into the search for a murderer, a search that turns even more deadly and pits our detectives against possible Nazi spies. Nick, Drew’s right-hand man, struggles throughout the investigation as he is torn between dedication to Drew and love of country and his attempts to win the hand of Carrie, the love of his life who has a major aversion to his detective work.
     Julianna Deering, who also writes under her real name, DeAnna Julie Dodson, may live in Texas, but she provides her readers with a real flavor of 1930s England’s upper class. In the fashion of other writers of the same era, Deering provides a cast of suspects and plenty of red herrings. She allows her readers to wade through these and to weed out the important clues, avoiding giving them surprises that come out of nowhere as the solution to the mystery comes to light. Mystery fans will find this book a real treat.

     I thank NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for providing me a copy of Death at Thorburn Hall in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for this review.