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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Heart of the Amish: Life Lessons on Peacemaking and the Power of Forgiveness by Suzanne Woods Fisher – A Book Review


     It’s not often that I review a non-fiction book, but this one caught my eye after experiencing a wonderful vacation in the Amish area of northern Ohio.  Suzanne Woods Fisher has authored both fiction and non-fiction books about the Amish.  I have read several books on the topic of forgiveness, but this book approaches the topic from a totally different point of view.  Forgiveness is portrayed as being simple, but not easy.  Simple in that from the Amish point of view it is basic, not optional, central to their faith, yet not easy because, like with all of us, emotions do have to be dealt with.
     While the book was not written as a devotional text, the structure does lend itself to being used in that manner.  The twenty-nine sections are short, making a focused point.  They could easily be read day by day with time to ponder the point being made.  I must admit though that I found myself getting so involved that I would read several sections each day, underlining, adding asterisks, and making notes in the margins.  Each section begins with an Amish proverb and ends with a tidbit, or as the author labeled it a “plain truth”, about Amish life.  Sandwiched between are real life examples of Amish forgiveness, forgiveness of significant wrongs, among these: murder, sexual abuse, and theft of life savings. 
     Forgiveness is deeply woven into the Amish culture.  As Christians we all know that God calls us to forgive so that we, too, may be forgiven (Matthew 6:12). There are lessons to be learned from the Amish, and their teaching and modeling of forgiveness for their children, living it out before them.  Fisher gives us a window into this, a glimpse into how we to might live out forgiveness before our own children, how we might practice forgiveness in light of the significance Christ gave it as he taught His disciples to pray. 
     Whether you are aware of an unmet need to forgive, or feel like you are doing well in this area, I would highly recommend The Heart of the Amish.  It is informative, persuasive, and engaging.  It speaks to the heart.  I thank Revell Publishers for providing The Heart of the Amish for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
heart of amish       

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt – A Book Review

Silent Tears     Kay_Bratt_122012_2_zpsfe9004d8-1_zpseca57b02 photo Kay_Bratt_122012_2_zpsfe9004d8-1_zpseca57b02-1_zps1c42dfe1.jpg

      Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt – A Book Review
     God led me to this piece of non-fiction years ago, long before I retired from teaching, long before I started blogging and posting book reviews.  God began then preparing my heart for the little girl who will be joining our family within the next eighteen months to two years.  Kay Bratt dedicated her book to China’s Orphans; stating, “You are not forgotten.”  Indeed they are not. Biological parents in China, for a variety of reasons, have made the heart wrenching decision to leave their children, and in the words of our soon-to-be granddaughter’s new parents, “There’s a lot we don’t know about our daughter, but we do know this: She has been left to be found, and our love will find her wherever she is.”  There are many parents out there whose love has led them to find their son or daughter wherever they were, and many who are being led by God to that wonderful discovery.
     In 2002 the author’s husband was transferred to China.  She immediately set three goals for herself: to learn to speak Mandarin, to volunteer in an orphanage, and to chronicle her time overseas by keeping a journal.  Once in Shengxi, and personally experiencing the day to day life of the orphans there, Kay began a volunteer group supported by friends and family stateside. This book is a collection of her journal entries during her four years in China.
     When Kay first arrived in Shengxi, volunteers were not readily welcomed in the orphanage.  A lady named Ann was the only volunteer at the time, and she laid the groundwork for Kay’s volunteering.  Without her, Kay may never have been able to reach her second goal.  The condition of the children, the living environment, and the lack of human contact was deeply depressing.  Kay’s description of the treatment of the children is vivid, and incomprehensible to most of us living in America.  While reading this book causes the reader great sadness, it is not meant for us to close our eyes and hearts to human suffering.  The reader can hold onto the portion of the title of the text: A Journey of Hope. Kay and her corp of volunteers did indeed slowly, and over time, bring hope to the Shengxi orphanage. The volunteers realized that change needed to occur little by little, move to fast and they would be told not to return.  
     Kay introduces us, her readers, to several specific children.  It is impossible not to get emotionally involved with their stories, driven to read on and discover their fates. Squirt a baby boy who stubbornly hung on to life for as long as he could.  Xiao Feng, a small girl with a beautiful smile and a missing hand. Two year old Jin Ji, a favorite of the ayis. Yue Hua longing for the comfort of human touch and understanding. Hei Mei with a minor heart condition, dimples and a sunny disposition. Xiao Gou twice abandoned.    
     A model of God’s love, compassion and mercy, Kay expresses an understanding of the ayis, the workers responsible for the children’s care.  By looking for ways to show them appreciation and to make their jobs easier rather than criticizing and arguing with them, Kay won their confidence and respect, building relationships one visit at a time.  This resulted in greater opportunities to impact the children’s lives and eventually changes in how the ayis treated the children. 
     Kay ends her book with letters that she has received by some of those who have been touched by her story, some who have gone on to adopt.  These letters are testaments to the power of the testimony contained in these pages, be they paper or electronic.  Whether you plan to adopt, love children, or just love a touching story, you will find inspiration and hope while reading Silent Tears. 
     If you want to learn more about what happens to children who age out of “the system” in China, you may want to visit http://www.brownwingfamily.com/2013/05/what-happens-to-orphans-if-they-are-not.html.
     If you want to know more about Kay Bratt’s continuing advocacy for children, you can visit www.kaybratt.com. If you want to know more about our son and daughter-in-law’s journey into adopting through China, you can keep up with their story at https://becomingafamilyof5.wordpress.com/ or http://www.gofundme.com/babycastenir.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Creole Princess by Beth White - A Book Review

     In April of 2014 I reviewed book one in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series.  I am delighted to have the opportunity to review book two, The Creole Princess, in April of 2015. While characters from book one, Pelican Bride, are briefly referred to, this book tells the story of their descendents and is set in Mobile and New Orleans during the Revolutionary War. I had been previously unaware of two British colonies that remained loyal to the Crown – East Florida and West Florida.  White focuses on Spain’s contribution to the success of the American War of Independence as she tells this story. Many of us may be less familiar with Spain’s alliance with the Americans that with France’s, creating additional interest in this historical romance.  White’s research and attention to detail are clearly evident as she intertwines real and fictional characters in authentic and fictionalized events. 
     The Creole Princess tells the story of Lyse Lanier, daughter of a poor, drunken fisherman and granddaughter of a wealthy businessman whose family had settled in the Gulf Coast decades before.  Lyse is being semi-officially courted by a young, red-headed soldier named Niall McLeod, and unofficially by a Spanish merchant, Don Rafael Maria Gonzales de Rippardá.  Don Rafael has a way of appearing and disappearing, leading Lyse to be uncertain about their future, and wondering if there is not more to him than meets the eye. Beyond providing her readers with an intriguing romance, White expands the freedom theme inherent in a story set during the Revolutionary War to include the issue of slavery.  She does this by giving her heroine ancestors with French, Indian, and African roots.  Lyse, born to a freed slave, gives much thought to the difference between her life and her cousin’s, the daughter of Lyse’s mother’s twin who had not been freed. As Don Rafael quizzes Lyse about her family, she laughing tells him he would need to see a family tree to follow the relationships.  I agree with her and hope that Beth White will supply us with a Lanier family tree on her blog site.

     Fans of Jane Kirkpatrick books will likely also enjoy White’s brand of historical fiction.  Both authors tell engaging stories, mixing fact and fiction with historical accuracy.  Both have well developed characters and use beautiful language to create vivid mental images to hold their readers spellbound.  I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing The Creole Princess for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.   
Pelican Bride by Beth White             

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Buried Secrets by Irene Hannon - A Book Review

Buried SecretsIrenepic    

     














     From the moment one picks up this book, all of his or her senses are engaged in the author’s tale.  I say that because the publisher has gone the extra mile to add texture to the cover allowing the reader to feel the dirt, and the sole of the shoe on the shovel as secrets are buried.  We know though, that secrets seldom stay buried, and in this case twenty-four years later they come back to haunt those that would prefer they had. 
     Police Chief Lisa Grant and Detective Mac McGregor, a former Navy SEAL, may not have been the ones to unearth the human skeleton, but they are the ones who will seek to discover the secrets buried with it. Along the way they also may discover the type of relationship they have both longed for in their lives.  Neither discovery will occur without a price exacted by someone desperate to keep the two plus decades secrets buried, the motivation to for doing so stretching even further into the past.  Lisa and Mac’s future hinges on solving this mystery.
     Buried Secrets is the first book in Irene Hannon’s Men of Valor series.  While the book serves well as a stand-alone read, the epilogue definitely sets the stage for the story to continue, much to the reader’s satisfaction.  The author has included the first chapter of book two in the series; reading it indicates that Lisa and Mac’s story may continue as a subplot to that of Mac’s brother Lance’s story.  Lance, like his older brother, has left military service to go into law enforcement, leaving Finn as the only McGregor brother in harm’s way in the Middle East.
     Hannon’s protagonists are real and contemporary in their outlook on life and emotional reactions to the situations they find themselves in and to one another.  However, they remain true to their Christian convictions, and do so without falling prey to stereotypes.  Hannon also balances a strong female character in a career that includes a fair amount of danger with a male character who feels both protective of her and respectful of her abilities.  Hannon’s antagonist is equally well developed, demonstrating the difference between having a strong character and strength of character
     I recommend Buried Secrets not only to fans of contemporary Christian fiction, but to all fans of romanticmysteries.  I will be anxiously awaiting book two in this series, and will be looking for other books previously written by this author.  I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Buried Secrets  for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.