Thursday, October 18, 2018

GATHERING OF SISTERS: a year with my Old Order Mennonite family by Darla Weaver

Gathering of Sisters
Plainspoken is an imprint of Herald Press which specializes in providing a place for Mennonite, Amish and Hutterite authors to tell their stories.   A glance at most bookstore will show that Amish/Mennonite fiction (romance and mysteries) are popular, but as anyone with a bit of knowledge about these religious communities can tell you, the accuracy within those stories varies widely.  The make up of our rural Wisconsin neighborhood changed significantly thirty years ago when many farms were bought by the Amish.  Now, the area is known for its Amish produce and craftsman more than the "English" dairy farms and small businesses.  Having Amish neighbors from whom we buy produce and furniture has fueled my interest in their way of life and their beliefs.  A summer concert by members of a Mennonite church in a nearby town sparked my interest in all Anabaptist groups.  That was fueled by the Canadian blog MENNONITE GIRLS CAN COOK. When Plainspoken published Linda Maendel's HUTTERITE DIARIES, I welcomed the chance to read and review this wonderful book which not only gave us a peak at a large Hutterite colony on the Canadian plains, but also explained the history of the group.

So when given the chance to read Darla Weaver's GATHERING OF SISTERS, I hoped that I would learn more about this Anabaptist group and how it differs from others.  Darla Weaver answers some basic questions about the group at the end of the book, but mostly this book details her visits with her sisters over a year. It was a treat, a warm, welcoming read.  Every Tuesday Darla, married and the mother of 3, travels to her mother's to spend the day.  Her three sisters, also married and mothers of young children, do the same.  Each comes with a craft or sewing project.  They bring food for a shared meal and magazines and books to exchange.  And of course, they bring the youngest children.  And as a wooden sign in our great room says, "Grandma's house, where cousins go to become friends."  When the summer months roll around and the older children are out of school, those cousin friends number over 20.  What a houseful.  As Darla writes about each month, you will appreciate the rhythms of the seasons and feel how they affect our daily lives.  If you're caught up in the rat-race of career, over-scheduled kids' activities, and more, you may be missing those close ties to the seasons.  The simpler way of living of these sisters and their families will make you remember
A new jig-saw puzzle each week, sharing in the task of making new dresses for a brother's wedding, taking turns doing the noon dishes by hand, new recipes (both successful ones and failures), holding a new niece or nephew for the first time -- all these events  will never make news headlines, but they are pieces of a solid, affirming way of life.. Darla explains the importance of these Tuesday visits and talks in this way: it wasn't that our topics were of any momentous importance, It was simply a sharing of daily moments, thoughts, lessons learned or in the process of being learned.  As long as we breathe there are things to learn, and sometimes we can benefit from sisters' lessons too.

Perhaps my favorite part of each Tuesday's retelling was Darla's tales of the preschoolers and their antics.  Many of them reminded me of get togethers decades ago with my cousins on our farm -- playing in the mud, searching the barn for baby kittens, tricking the moms with a plastic snake, and cutting up the zucchini for canoes.  No need for cartoons or i-pads. And never a dull moment!!  I think this title would a lovely gift book for an older reader, someone who is recuperating from surgery, or anyone who has forgotten that the simple things in life are the important ones!!

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher and Audra Reads.  All opinions are mine.


Monday, October 15, 2018

GOD MAKE ME AND YOU: Celebrating God's Design for Ethnic Diversity by Shai Linne

God Made Me and You: Celebrating God's Design for Ethnic Diversity

Author Shai Linne and illustrator Trish Mahoney have delivered a thoughtful children's book about celebrating the ethnic diversity in God's great creation.  The book begins  with an all too frequent classroom scene - the teasing and bullying of some students while the teacher is out. Just as one boy begins to cry because others are laughing at the color of his skin, Ms. Preston, a wise teacher returns to the room.  Grabbing onto the opportune moment for a lesson, she shows the students that our differences are all part of God's design for the world, just as the sun, planets, stars, and moons are each different.  Told in brief rhymed stanzas, this book a fun read-aloud, but also a starting point for serious discussions on accepting others.  Because of its picture book format, the book can be used with young audiences, but I can also see it as a non-threatening book for slightly older kids.
I think this book would be an excellent buy for church school libraries, parochial schools, and even family libraries.  I received a copy of this title from New Growth Press.  All opinions are mine. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018


River to Redemption

When I first listened to the audio version of ANGEL SISTER by Ann H. Gabhart, I knew I had
found an author who captured the intricacies of young women, their families, and their dreams.  Her sense of time and place especially shine in this novel and the ones that follow.  Besides that  ROSEY CORNER series of three novels, I've read two of her mysteries and a historical fiction set after WWII.  That her latest story was again a tale of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood was a draw for me. So was the gorgeous cover.  But what should draw people to this book is the nugget of history on which the book is based.  In 1832-33, cholera broke out in the Kentucky city of Springfield, causing the death of more than one tenth of its population.  Those who remained healthy fled the town as quickly as possible.  A person could seem well in the morning and be dead by dusk.  Bodies of loved ones were left behind; no time for services or burials.  One who fled was the local hotel owner who left the keys to his business with a slave Louis, whom he told to continue running the business.  Louis. along with a slave cook Matilda, took it upon themselves to feed and care for the living left behind.  Neither were affected by the disease.  At a time that he could have likely succeeded in running away to freedom, Louis chose to stay behind and burial the dead.  When his owner died 12 years later and Louis would be put up for sale, the towns people banded together, purchased his freedom, and set him up in a blacksmith business.  When Ann H. Gabhart came across that story, she decided to construct a fictional story of who organized the drive to obtain Louis's freedom.  Her version?  It is the story of orphan teenager Adria Starr who years earlier was nursed to health by Louis and Matilda after watching her parents and brother die from the cholera.  As she grows up in the care of the local school teacher, widowed by the disease, Adria grows in her knowledge that slavery is wrong.  And she knows that she must obtain Louis's freedom.  This is a book of personal sacrifice, doing the right thing, discovering one's heart -- all with a strong message of faith. 

I obtained a copy of this book from our library system.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

SECOND-CHANCE DOGS: true stories of the dogs we rescue and the dogs who rescule us edited by Callie Smith Grant

Cover Art

We cannot deny that pets play a larger role in the lives of Americans now than they did at any earlier time.  Childless couples refer to them as their "fur-babies."  And if you are a frequent HGTV viewer like I am, you've seen countless people select a home because it meets the specific needs of their pet, whether it's a large backyard, a quick walk to the dog park, or large windows for Miss Kitty's daily sunning.  A decade ago, courageous people might try taking their animals on a camping trip, but seldom on any other vacation.  Now hotels promote being pet friendly and many pet owners would never leave Rover behind.  Just a few days ago my husband and I took a fall color tour from Wisconsin through Michigan's UP across the big bridge and out to Mackinac Island. On our ferry were several dogs, including a young puppy with the softest fur -- definitely a loved and pampered "fur-baby."  It is only natural then that people sharing their pet stories has made its way into the publishing field.  Callie Smith Grant has gathered a delightful assortment of tales about  how owners found their dogs (or vice-versa) and how that event changed everyone's lives.  Now, I always pack several books when I travel and besides SECOND-CHANCE DOGS, I took two novels on this short trip to Michigan.  Although I tried, I could not make any headway in either of the novels, despite one author being a favorite of mine.  SECOND-CHANCE DOGS was a different story.  Reading this book was like opening a bag of potato chips.  I planned to "eat" just one or two entries, but soon found that I had read for over an hour and totally missed going to the hot tub.  This would be a wonderful gift book for any dog lover. And the book transcend age levels.  A good solid middle school reader would delight in some of the stories.  But if they cry over every sad dog movie like my two middle school granddaughters, they may shed a few tears.  But mostly they will grin and perhaps enjoy their own pet relationship more than before.  And older adults, like me, will reminiscence about all the family pets they've had.
 I received a copy of this book from Revell and all opinions are mine. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Southern as a Second Language by Lisa Patton

Southern as a Second Language (Dixie, #3)

This is the third book about LeeLee, a southern girl and mom through and through. Now that her marriage is over she is back in Memphis, almost ready to open her Peach Blossom Inn. Her chef is the gorgeous Peter who has just professed his love to LeeLee. But in the few months he's been in Tennessee, it's become apparent that his direct northern ways and LeeLee's genteel manners could be heading for an impasse. I've enjoyed all Lisa Patton's stories even though the only Southern in me is my love for really good shrimp (and I do like cheesy grits). Patton's warmth and the humorous take on life's crises make me think of Lorna Landvik.

HOPE YOUR HEART NEEDS: 52 Encouraging reminders of how God cares for you by Holley Gerth

 Pre-Order: Hope Your Heart Needs

Fall is always the time I consider new devotionals for the following year and HOPE YOUR HEART NEEDS promises to be an uplifting devotional that will bring readers closer to God.  Starting with the premise that all of us are looking for "someone who will care for us, fight on our behalf, and extend grace to us always" Gerth focuses on the truth that only God can be that certain one.  Each of the 52 devotions that follow explore a different aspect of God, with the hope that the reader will take away a stronger understanding of His place in our lives.  Devotion #1 reminds us that God was present at each of our births, including the 353,000 births that will happen today.  So will he be present at the 151,600 deaths which will occur.  And for the 7.4 billion of us who will walk through this day, much like we do other days, God will be there for us also.  We are not alone and God, the creator, was here before us, he is here each day of our lives, and he will be here after us.  He is the everything of our world and beyond. 

Each devotion is short but powerful, and like many other devotionals begins with a scripture reference and ends with a prayer.  Having just 52 lessons, this is not a book that will serve the entire year, unless you plan to do one devotion per week.  Perhaps if you picked one particular day to read each week (Saturday or Sunday), then this would work for you.  Or you could read the book more quickly, either each day or several days a week.  I think that once you begin delving into the ways that Holley sees God caring for us, you will want to read more often than once a week.  And once you finish this title, you can check out other books by Holley Gerth at her website

I received a copy of this hopeful title from the publisher.  All opinions are mine. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Will be reading Cynthia Ruchti's new book soon!

I discovered author Cynthia Ruchti a few years ago and was hooked from the first book.  When I realized she was from Wisconsin and that her some of novels were set in my favorite places - (Madeline Island on Lake Superior) and Door County, I was delighted. She writes sensitive and hopeful books filled with realistic people of all ages who daily face realistic life challenges.  Her latest novel, which releases later in October, features a young couple whose marriage may be "on the rocks" even as their one year anniversary approaches.   I can't to read it.  (And did I say that the covers to her books are always so unique and inviting) 

October 16, 2018 release