Saturday, May 18, 2019

THE REFUGE by Ann H. Gabhart

 The Refuge

THE REFUGE by Ann H. Gabhart is the first novel I've read set in a Shaker community.  When cholera swept the rural area Darcie and Walter Goodwin lived, they decided to flee their small farm and seek shelter in the Shaker village which seemed to be unaffected by the disease.  If you know the history and basic beliefs of the Shaker communities,  you realize that they lived as brothers and sisters, sharing in all the work and blessings.  Marriage was not allowed, and even previously married couples like Darcie and Walter were expected to live separately while with the group. 
Both Darcie and her husband know they will never be able to fully accept the beliefs of this group and abandon their loving marriage.  Then Walter is killed in a freak accident, Darcie finds herself pregnant, and without money or another home, forcing her to continue at Harmony Hill.
Meanwhile, Flynn Keller realizes he and his aging father-in-law cannot handle his rambunctious young daughter alone after his wife's death.  He knows that others have sent their children to the Shaker village for schooling, but it would mean leaving her there for weeks or months.  Can he do that?  Will she feel she has been rejected by those who love her most?

Ann H. Gabbart's characters are always so well developed.  Years after reading, ANGEL SISTER and the other novels that followed in that series, the books remain among my favorites, simply because I remember the characters.  Since I am not a huge fan of the Amish/Mennonite style romances, I was not too sure about this novel.  But the relationships between the "sisters" of the group was so well drawn that I soon found myself fully drawn into the story. As I finished the book, I realized there are enough loose ends left with minor characters that their stories will shine in future Harmony Hill books. Plus I just realized that this book is book 8 of her Shaker stories, not book one.  I received a copy of this novel from Netgalley.  All opinions are mine.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A SILKEN THREAD by Kim Vogel Sawyer

 A Silken Thread

Set at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition of 1895, A SILKEN THREAD explores class restraints, family expectations, and race.  Laurel Millard, a beautiful 18 year-old, has been told by her elder siblings that it will be her duty to care for her aging mother.  While working at the silk weaving exhibit, which she fears might be her only chance to experience the outside world, she catches the eye of the wealthy Landon Rochester and hopes to find both romance and security with him.  If only his treatment of those below him in social status was kinder.  She can't help comparing his harsh treatment to the more caring demeanor of Willie Sharp, who has been assigned guard duty at the silk exhibit.  By getting to know Willie, she also meets his life-long friend Quincy Tate, a young black man working as a groundskeeper.  While this book moved slowly for me for the first hundred pages or so, by the end I was thoroughly caught up in the story and its message.  I obtained a copy of this latest novel by well known Christian author Kim Vogel Sawyer through the Winnefox Library System, and I would recommend it to those who read Christian historical fiction.  The  setting of the Atlanta Cotton Exposition reminds me a bit of the multitude of books in recent years that were set at the Chicago World's Fair.  Both settings provide a backdrop for exploration of social changes and technological advances, plus they are perfect for an air of romance.  As with her other books, Sawyer provides a well written story that incorporates romance, history, and a message of hope and God's love without ignoring the hardships that we each must face.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A DOG'S GIFT:The Inspirational Story of Veterans and Children Healed by Man's Best Friend by Bob Drury

 A Dog's Gift by Bob Drury - Used (Good) - 162336101X by Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony/Rodale |

This audio book version of Bob Drury's close up examination of the non-profit paws4people, which trains and places service dogs with ptsd and disabled veterans and special needs children, is my favorite non-fiction book for this year.  Simply fascination, the book tells story after story of the bonds formed and the transformations achieved between dog and owner.  From dogs that can "read" simple written commands to another that would place grocery items on the check-out conveyor belt and then take a credit card from his pouch for payment, the dogs' abilities are just amazing.  Also amazing is that most of the paws4people dogs are trained by prison inmates and that the dogs end up choosing their own owners is a ceremony called the bump. 

This wonderful organization all come from the dreams of a young girl Kyria Henry who convinced her dad, a former military counterintelligence officer, that their golden retriever should visit a local nursing home.  Now an adult, Kyria, along with her father are the lifeblood of paws4people.  I obtained the audio book through Wisconsin Public Library Consortium/OVERDRIVE, and I recommend it for pet lovers.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

THE INN AT HIDDEN RUN by Olivia Newport

The Inn at Hidden Run

MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK:  Books that blend a story from the past with a contemporary one are very popular.  Often the two stories feature relatives generations apart who are facing similar life challenges. In other books, place is the connecting factor. In some way, the past helps the present make sense or solves some current problem.  For her new series TREE OF LIFE, Olivia Newport seizes on that popularity to tell stories of seemingly ordinary families who look to their family trees to better understand themselves.  In the first story, THE INN AT HIDDEN RUN, genealogist Jillian Parisi-Duffy and her lawyer father Nolan quickly make friends with a twenty-something  black woman who has taken a job at the local inn.  When they realize that she is in hiding from her well-to-do, powerful family, Jillian and her father decide to delve into the past to find something that will help Meri stand up to her domineering relatives.  This story alternates with the story of Eliza Davies, an unmarried Memphis lady, who puts asides her fears and the strict social mores of the time to help those suffering during the 1878 yellow fever outbreak.  I found Eliza's story the most interesting of the two and was happy when the two stories finally meshed at the end.  Until then, I found the modern day actions of Nolan to be contrived and a bit overbearing.  I could never imagine intruding into someone's life whom I had just met to the extent that he did, and I also found Jillian's discovery of family tree information in such a quick way a bit magical. That said, I was fascinated by the work that Jillian was supposed to be working on for other clients -- like finding a woman who just inherited a fortune from an uncle she knew nothing about.  Hoping more about that will be revealed in the next book.  Final analysis, this was an easy, quick read and I recommend it for those who are looking for new Christian series. I love history so the historical part was a win for me.  I am much harder to please with contemporary stories.  I hope the series finds success, and perhaps as I get to know Jillian and Nolan better, their interactions with others will seem more natural and authentic.  

 "I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review."

 A Father-Daughter Genealogy Team Link Present to Past on Family Trees

Meri’s family has been producing doctors for so many generations that no one remembers why, so when she flunks out of medical school, she runs as far from her parents as she can get. In the small mountain town of Canyon Mines, Colorado, she takes a job at the Inn at Hidden Run B&B. And waits. It’s only a matter of time.

What she doesn’t count on is genealogist Jillian Parisi-Duffy and her father, Nolan, having her back when it takes everything she has not to bolt again but to stay and face the truth that only unfolding her family’s history will reveal. While Nolan works on keeping Meri calm—and in town—Jillian pulls out of her gems of information she doesn’t know she has and arranges the puzzle pieces.

But none of that changes the fact that Meri’s family is closing in to haul her back to her “real” life. When their arrival inflames tensions and Meri finally does bolt, Nolan and Jillian may be out of time.

The Inn at Hidden Run is the first book in the Tree of Life series. Readers will come back to backdrop of a lovely mountain town of Canyon Mines again and again to explore and celebrate unforgettable family stories that inspire them to connect with their own family histories and unique faith journeys.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Recent reads

SECRET LIFE OF MAC by Meldina Metz
This was among the books on the FARMGIRL Bookclub list for late winter.  Two books were told with cats as main characters.  Unlike SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, the cat (Mac) was not the narrator, but since the book had an omniscient narrator, we could still "hear" the cat's thoughts.  Basically, this was a light romance.  Lately, I've found that easy books like this, which should read easy-peasy fast as can be, take me longer to get through.  Other things call to me instead of the book, and it is just too easy to set the book aside.  Still, if you are a cat person, this light read might appeal to you.  There is humor, it is a multi-generational story, and a bit of mystery. 

TENDER AT THE BONE: Growing up at the Table by Ruth Riechl
This is an interesting food memoir written by the one time editor of Gourmet magazine.  The book
recounts stories of growing up in New York, her mother's bi-polar issues, and the role food played in
Ruth's childhood and early adulthood.  Some recipes are included.

This is the other book on the FARMGIRL reading list with a cat as a main character.  Lily (cat) worries that Charlie, the youngest boy in her people family is being abused or bullied at school.  While trying to find a way to alert the others in the family about the dangers Charlie is facing, she realizes that there are many kinds of hurts and problems within the family.  I wanted to like this book more than I did.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Light Over London by Julia Kelly

The Light Over London

When Cara Hargraves finds an old WWII era diary hidden in a cookie tin while inventorying a home for her job at an antique shop, she is immediately drawn to it.  With no identification as to the author except the initials L. K., Cara sees the journal as a mystery that needs to be solved. Given permission to keep the diary while she reads it, Cara soon figures out that it was written by a young British woman on the cusp of adulthood during the early days of WWII.  As Cara reads of a budding romance with a pilot, and L. K.'s decision to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) as a gunner girl, her thoughts drift to her own's grandmother's reluctance to share what she did during the war.  Cara's determination to learn L. K.'s identity will give an opportunity to finally learn her grandmother's story and help Cara begin her own life again.

My personal list of books read about the heroic efforts of England's citizens during both WWI and WWII continues to grow.  Each story adds a bit more to my understanding of how ordinary people faced rationing, danger, uncertainty,  and total upheaval of their normal lives.  Like many of the other books I've read, LIGHT OVER LONDON weaves an engaging modern day story with an equally engaging historic story.  While the stories of first love, lost love, and love refound may be familiar, the details of Britain's gunner girls and female corps women was new to me.  I am quite certain this will remain one of my favorite reads for 2019.  Not sure how I learned about this book (perhaps, the publication BOOK PAGES), but I am glad it came on  my radar.   I obtained this book from our library system. 

I just went online to try to find a good explanation of exactly what the women gunners did in WWII, and I found this wonderful blog post by author Julia Kelly.   If you don't have time to read the whole article, I have copied a section for you to read.  (Taken from Julia Kelly's blog)

Also called Ack Ack Girls, these ATS women were given the rank of gunner as they were now attached to the Royal Artillery (RA). They were part of mixed batteries—units with women and men—and they took over some of the vital roles previously performed by men in an effort to free those men up for other jobs.
In an Ack Ack unit, a spotter would work the powerful tool used to locate and identify enemy aircraft. Two women would operate the height and range finder that would gather the information to properly aim the gun. Then that information would be sent over to the predictor, which would calculate and account for both the forward movement of a plane and the time it would take a shell to reach it in order to damage or shoot down the plane. Once trained, the Gunner Girls could do this all in a matter of seconds.

One thing the Gunner Girls didn’t do, however, was pull the trigger on guns. When arguing for the inclusion of women in Ack Ack units, General Sir Frederick Pyle, Commander in Chief of Air Defense, agreed to the government demand that women would not fire the guns. This is because, even in the middle of a war, the government didn’t believe it was appropriate for “life givers to be life takers.”
By the time the first mixed battery units were trained up and dispatched to their first assignments, the London Blitz was over. However, the Luftwaffe still conducted bombing raids in the capital and across Britain throughout the war.


Friday, April 12, 2019

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck

The Memory House

New York City police officer Beck Holiday is at a crisis point when she receives a letter from an unknown Florida lawyer.  She's just received a four week suspension (just read the first few pages and you'll know why) and she's yet to face an even more serious "bump" in her life.  The letter and the news within provide a place she can escape to while she re-evaluates her future.  Yes, THE MEMORY HOUSE is another of those person-in-distress suddenly receives an inheritance from a virtual stranger (often a distant relative) that we've all read or watched on Hallmark movies.  But let's face it, there are only so many basic plots, and talented author Rachel Hauck does a superb job in making this time-worn plot blossom into a fresh, compelling read.  Thirty-something year old Beck was just a teenager when her police officer father perished in the 9/11 horror, and ever since she has had what mental health counselors call selective amnesia.  Almost all memories of her father are gone, and with them most memories of the childhood things she did with him -- like their annual, lengthy vacations to the same Florida community.  So when she shows up to claim her inheritance, she does not recognize Bruno Endicott, a determined sports agent, who boasts that Beck was his first kiss back when they were fourteen. While Bruno seems ready to carry on the first crush, Beck has no memories of him or the sweet older lady Everleigh Applegate who left Beck the huge home on Memory Lane.  While Beck settles into her new dwelling, readers (through a series of flashbacks) learn Everleigh's own story of love, profound loss, and new life.  Here is where Rachel Hauck's skill shines the most as she describes what I will call "The Texas Years."  I started this book Tuesday morning thinking I would be rushed to finish it before Friday when I planned to post a blog entry.  It's a busy week for me and I don't have much time to read.  But Rachel Hauck had other plans for me, and with a bit of free time yesterday evening, I finished the book before 9 p.m.  I recommend this title especially to young adult looking for a romance with a bit more to the story.  I received an advanced readers' copy of this title. All opinions in this review are mine. 


Rachel Hauck


Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.
Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a
double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner.

Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie.
Rachel has been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times
Book Reviews.
A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at
the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.
At home, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.
A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted
Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.
She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.
For more information, visit, Facebook (@rachelhauck), Twitter (@RachelHauck) and Instagram