Monday, January 21, 2019

The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman

 The Hope Chest

Mattie Tice and her husband are facing her ALS together, but now she needs more care as they move into a house more suitable to her worsening health. Rose Hoffs, a young single mother becomes Mattie's caregiver and immediately bonds with the couple and so does her daughter, Jeri. As winter settles in, Rose and Jeri become the family that Mattie and Donald never had. As she shares the treasures of her hope chest, Mattie comes realize that both she and her husband need to return to their cherished Lake Michigan cabin.

While I think this book glossed over the horrific effects of ALS  a bit (until the very end),  it certainly hit the mark on the pain of preparing for the death that will separate a couple still deeply in love.
I listened to this book on CD and I really liked the Lake Michigan setting.  Being from Wisconsin, I love both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and am always eager to find books set on the lakeshores.  Shipman's book is set on the Michigan side with the huge dunes.  We traveled to those dunes and the Michigan side of the great lake this past fall to visit a dear friend who had moved to be near her daughters.  I revisited the dunes and the farm stands in my mind as I listened to Shipman weave them into her story.  This is the kind of heart-warming, life-affirming story that is great to hear while I concentrate on my quilting projects. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

THE JOY OF LESS: 101 Stores of Having More by Simplifying Our Lives

 Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less : 101 Stories about Having More by Simplifying Our Lives

No Netflix at our house, so I am not watching TIDYING UP WITH MARIE KONDO, but I am feeling the urge to declutter, pare down, and simplify after reading THE JOY OF LESS: 101 STORIES ABOUT HAVING MORE BY SIMPLIFYING OUR LIVES.  A Chicken Soup publication, each essay in the book tells how real people made the decision to cut the cable cord, make fewer time commitments, downsize to smaller homes (or even rvs), or just get rid of stuff.  The main theme throughout is that no one missed the stuff, or if they did, they found new ways to handle the need.  Almost everyone mentioned feeling closer to family and friends.  Many were able to donate significantly to others in need.  For some getting rid of stuff made it easier to move into a new phase of life.  I finished the book last night.  My task this morning -- cleaning out my bathroom vanity drawers and linen closet.  Next was my shoe area.  By no means am I a shoe collector, but even I could find several pairs to part with.  Lucky for me, I was already planning a trip to a nearby town which has a Goodwill.  My morning work led to a drop-off this afternoon.  Time to tackle another area.  I am already working on finding a home for most of my cookbook collection.  Spanning four decades, these books reflect travels we've taken, rummage sale and thrift store finds, and fund raisers I've wanted to support.  I love something about each one of these books, and many are well marked, but it is time to pare down. 

Back to the book.  I was most impressed with those authors who downsized from large homes to apartments, rvs, or small homes.  Thirteen years ago, we actually did the opposite when we moved from the small 1300 square foot home where we raised our 3 kids to a larger home a few miles away.  In a way we did downsize because we went from 50 acres to just under 2 acres, and like most people who move, we eliminated a lot of junk from the previous garage, shed, and basement.  Now fully retired, we both know that at some time in the future, the yard work of this new place may be too much.  Until then, I am not ready to part with this place which we designed together and worked so hard to get. But over the 13 years we've been here, we've slowly started to accumulate more stuff. 
Books like this one keep me focused on not accumulating too much. And for a quilter, that is a battle.  And it helps me understand that the real "treasures" are family and friends, not things.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

THE MAKING OF MRS. HALE by Carolyn Miller

 Christian Regency romance The Making of Mrs Hale

THE MAKING OF MRS. HALE is Carolyn Miller's third book in her Regency Romance series THE PROMISE OF HOPE.  Without her mother's or brother's approval, Julia elopes to Gretna Green to e When her new husband, a soldier, disappears and leaves her penniless, she reluctantly slinks back home, hoping her family will take her in.  When her husband reappears, only to disappear again, Julie must decide what marriage means to her.  After his return, Major Thomas Hale feels he must find answers to why his wife was never given the message and money he had left for her.  Plus he must try to recoup the money he was promised for his secret military assignment.  Hoping to start again with his bride, he can only hope she never learns all that happened when he was imprisoned in Spain. 

I did not read the first two books in this series, but I was able to follow the plot of this book, although at times I was a bit confused. The villains of this book are clearly villains, but I was never quite sure what their motives were.  I am a fast reader and I may have missed something, or this could be the result of the book being part of a series. Some characters who play a minor role in this book were the stars of the previous titles; likewise, I think Thomas and Julia played lesser roles in those books.  While many Christian romance novels only light touch on romance or faith, this book handles both with finesse. Both Thomas and Julia grow in their understanding of love -- both romantic love and God's love.  And that means they learn lessons in forgiveness.  It has been years since I read a Regency romance, and while I think I've moved on from that time period setting, I did enjoy this title.  Julia, who certainly has been sheltered in a very restricted society, acts on her heart's desires.  Her relationship with her mother and her refusal to again be put under her thumb is worth the time it took to read this book alone.  But it is the faith message that will make you glad you picked up this title.  I received a copy of this title from Netgalley and Kregel books; all opinions are mine.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Vineyard Christmas by Jean Stone

A Vineyard Christmas by Jean Stone
Annie Sutton, a successful author, has come to Martha's Vineyard to regroup after the death of a dear friend. As she settles in for her first winter o the island, Annie takes up soap making and begins to make friends. Expecting a simple winter focusing on the beauty of the island, Annie finds everything changes when she finds an infant in a basket on her steps. Knowing she should inform the police, Annie (herself an adoptee) makes the decision to pass the baby Bella off as a niece's. Meanwhile she searches for the mother, hoping to give mother and child a second chance. This novel offers a plot with twists, colorful characters, and plenty of island charm. This book was chosen for the online Farmgirl Bookclub.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


 We Hope for Better Things

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

Here is a link to Erin Bartels' website to learn more about her writing.


WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS is Erin Bartels' first novel, and it is also my first read of 2019.  I am sure that this novel will remain among my favorites of the year.  And if every book I read this year is this well written, with such intricately developed characters, I am in for a stellar year of reading!  With an expected autumn release date for her sophomore novel, I may be able to end the year with another superb Bartels novel.  Three time periods, three generations, and  one isolated farm house outside Detroit, MI provide the backdrop for 3 interconnected stories of love and acceptance, war, riots, and racism. The first story begins as a young bride is left to run the family's farm as her husbands leaves to serve in the Union army.  When it soon appears that her husband is sending fleeing slaves to their home, her life and perception of blacks are forever changed.  In 1960's Detroit a well-to- do young socialite falls for a talented, unknown black photographer, and their hasty marriage sends them to seek refuge at the same isolated farm.  The third story, the contemporary one, tells how a young reporter seeks her own refuge at the farm and meets her great aunt, the same white woman who fled Detroit in the 60's.  Secrets from all three generations will be revealed in this book which keeps its suspense until the very end.  Stories that alternate time periods and characters can be choppy and hard to follow, sometimes feeling contrived and gimmicky, but this is not true of Bartels' writing.  The three stories meld together seamlessly into a powerful book.  I received a copy of this novel from Revell Publishing.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Fever, A Flight, and A Fight for the World by J. A. Myhre



J. A. Myhre has written a series of four adventure books set in Africa where she and her husband
have worked in the medical field for over two decades.  Known collectively as the THE RWENDIGO TALES, the four books were written for their own children, who were evacuated away from their parents when both parents had been exposed to the ebola virus.  A FEVER, A FLIGHT, AND A FIGHT FOR THE WORLD is the fourth and final book of the series.  As the book opens, a man awakes momentarily, too weak to rise.  With no idea where he is, or even who he is, the man wakes and sleeps, over and over.  In the waking moments, he realizes that someone is leaving him small sips of water and is also covering him with sand to keep him warm.  As he regains enough strength to stay awake longer, he finds bits of banana and food left for him, and soon sees that a young girl is tending to him.  As she helps him move to a secluded cave, he learns that her name is Nykato, and that he is a doctor who had recently come to her village Bundibimoli to help another doctor deal with a mysterious deadly virus.

Nykato fills in the blanks in his memory.  Soldiers came to the village, saying they were moving the ill and the exposed to a better equipped hospital.  Instead, all were dumped on an uninhabited island. Only Nykato and the man Mujuni survive.  Together, with Nykato's bush baby whom she insists talks to her and guides her safety, the pair leave the island, eventually making their way back to the city where Mujuni studied medicine.  When he finds that his old apartment has been ransacked and that people believe that he and the Bundibimoli doctor died in a truck accident, he knows that something evil is happening.  When he hears a reporter question a government official about rumors of a deadly new disease, he knows that he and Nykato may be marked for knowing the truth. 

First of all, the ink illustrations help bring the African setting come alive.  Second, the dichotomy between those people willing to help the pair and those trying to harm them keeps the story moving quickly.  There is even a divide between elements of nature that threaten them and ones that keep them safe.  The African setting makes the book different from other elementary/middle school fiction books. I think children will especially latch onto the special relationship between the very clever Nykato and her bush baby, Komba.  The book will especially appeal to readers who seek adventure and new places.  I received a copy of this title from New Growth Press.  I have not read the other three books in the series and cannot comment on them.  All opinions are mine. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

BELOVED: 365 Devotions fo Young Women by Lindsay A. Franklin

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women   -

What does it man to be a daughter of God, especially when one is a modern teenager?  BELOVED: 365 DEVOTIONS FOR YOUNG WOMEN by Lindsay A. Franklin looks to answer that question and more, not by looking to social media's newest darlings but by examining the lives of over 60 women of the Bible.  With a Bible verse referenced at the beginning, each devotion is just a few paragraphs long and is followed with room for brief notes or journaling.  Despite being short, the devotions cut to the core of each scripture and always pose a question or thought for the modern teen to ponder and act upon.  The metallic letting on the cover and the floral edged pages with a ribbon book marker make this an attractive, inviting volume.  But the best feature of this devotional is the up beat message that every teen needs to hear -- "We're his (God's) daughters, Valued, Adored, Cherished, Beloved." (p. 5)  BELOVED would be a wonderful gift for a teenage girl and will provide a full year of wisdom and godly examples. I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  All opinions are mine.