Monday, October 31, 2016

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood:Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom by Sarah Humphrey

Did you join the coloring craze last winter?  I did.  Like many libraries, our Mill Pond library held a mini-class for adults on this seemingly easy pastime.  I had always liked coloring, never even minded joining the granddaughters as they colored Strawberry Shortcake or Hello Kitty pages, so I was delighted to discover that whole books were being printed for adults.  I was even more overjoyed when I found that Christian publishers were putting together coloring books.  I liked the inspiring quotes and coordinating pictures to color much better than some of the psychedelic offerings at the big box stores.  So I was not surprised when a combination coloring book/devotion book came along.  Sarah Humphrey has written 40 encouraging devotions about topics dear to mothers' hearts: self-care, self-acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, and the challenges of family life.  Coupled with each devotion is a simple prayer and a full page image to color.  Some of the images include scripture or inspiring quotes, but not all do.  Many of the images are quite simple and will not require much time to color. Other pages offer space for simple journaling as well as coloring. I like to imagine a mother taking the time to read the devotion, then taking a few minutes to contemplate the devotion as she colors.  We really do process better when we are relaxed and coloring is supposed to enhance relaxation, so it makes sense to couple coloring with reflections about a daily devotion, then ending the brief quiet time with a simple prayer.  And we all know that mothers, if they ever get quiet time, have only a few moments of it!!

I received a copy of this devotional coloring book from Litfuse.  This review reflects my personal opinions.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace by Jody Hedlund

Newton and Polly Almost all of us recognize John Newton's moving hymn AMAZING GRACE, and when we sing it or hear the lyrics, we are awed by the hymn's redemptive message.  Many of us know a bit about Newton's later-in-life decision to become a minister and that the hymn documents some details of his conversion and redemption.  We may even know that in his youth he worked on and commanded slave ships, but there still remains much we do not know about Newton.

Jody Hedlund's newest historical fiction NEWTON AND POLLY gives us the opportunity to learn more.  Newton, still a teenager himself, meets Polly, the daughter of his mother's cousin and falls instantly in love.  Being an impetuous, immature youth, Newton fails to make an appointment to start a job his father has arranged for him, instead staying extra days at Polly's home.  His failure to set sail on the appointed date and loss of an excellent marine opportunity deepens a chasm between father and son which started years before when Newton's mother died.   The Newton we see throughout most of this book is one who disappoints all around him.  He has an instant charm and humor which secures Polly's interest, but he quickly gives in to his own vices -- drinking, carousing, and gambling, causing Polly's father to banish him from their home.  At one point he is "impressed" or forced into naval service for the queen as the British prepare to fight the French.  While at sea, he continues to be obstinate and foolish, leading himself into deeper trouble and further away from any hope of winning Polly's affections, and definitely further away from a relationship with God.

Readers will be enthralled with the turn of events which change Newton's life -- a storm which should have killed him, a father who should have deserted him, and a woman who should have left him behind.  Like Hedlund's recent novel LUTHER AND KATHARINA, the author has imagined much about the interactions between Polly and John, but she does follow closely the actual life happenings of the two.  And historical details such as the prevalence of smugglers, Polly's father's job as a custom official, and the beginnings of anti-slavery sentiments among the Quakers make the book all the more authentic. I highly recommend this title for my historical fiction friends.  I received an e-copy of this title from NetGalley.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

THE ROAD WE TRAVELED by Jane Kirkpatrick

Jane Kirkpatrick remains one of my favorite historical fiction authors.  Her books revolve around real life strong women who defied society's norms and so much more to make a place in America's expanding frontiers.  Many of her books center on the women of the Northwest, and THE ROAD WE TRAVELED, her latest work, features yet another mostly unknown heroine.  As Kirkpatrick reveals in her author notes, Tabitha Brown is not totally unrecognized in Oregon, having earned the title "Mother of Oregon" from the Oregon legislature in 1987. However, that honor did not make her a household name, even in Oregon, and few know much about her trip from Missouri to Oregon, a trip which had her wagon and several others deciding to take a cutoff (Applegate cutoff) that almost cost their lives.

From the first page I connected with Tabitha.  At age 66 and being a widow and somewhat handicapped from a childhood injury, Tabitha was viewed by her adult family as too old and feeble to make the difficult wagon trip west.  Tabitha knew she did not want to be a burden, but she did not want to remain in Missouri, even when one son's family decided not to go west.  Tabby's pioneer spirit, fueled by memories of her life with her minister husband and the years she struggled as a widow with three children, prevailed and she bought her own wagon, found a driver, and consented to take her brother-in-law (much older than she was) along.  Being just about Tabitha's age, I certainly can't imagine traveling by covered wagon across the country, leaving all my possessions behind, but I also would bristle if my family deemed me too old or too feeble to do anything.

I've read many books and watched numerous movies portraying wagon trains, but I have to place this one among the best.  Readers will grieve with Tabitha's daughter Pherne who reluctantly leaves behind a tiny grave, bolstered by her husband's declaration that their tiny son lives on in their hearts.  And I found Tabby's granddaughter Virgilia's excitement over the promise of an unknown future represents the feelings of so many children who had no say in where they traveled, yet met every day with wonder.

Like she has done in her other books, Kirkpatrick did extensive research which is incorporated into the story, then the characters are "fleshed out" with words, thoughts, and experiences that fit the historical framework.  That the Applegate cutoff which Tabitha, her son-in-law, and others decide to take is a total disaster is fact; that they almost starved is fact.  Kirkpatrick paints the day by day pictures of broken wagons, dying oxen, and constant stops to bury yet another member of the group in such a way that you too will feel their despair. It is also fact that during the same months that the Browns and others travel across this cutoff, another group (some of them former members of their group) attempt to make it across the mountains to California.  By simply mentioning the name given to that group, the Donner party, we all know their fate.  Kirkpatrick's book does not end with the group's rescue and arrival in Oregon; besides being a story of a journey, this is also a book about family and relationships.  The author continues the story with details of how Tabitha finds a purpose in the new land, reconciles with a troublesome son, and also how Pherne and Virgilia find their places.

Each time I read another Kirkpatrick book, I think it is my favorite, and I think perhaps she has run out of strong women to write about.  Fortunately for all readers, I have always been wrong, and within months she returns with a new book and we are introduced to another piece to our country's heritage.  I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A chance for some autumn splendor in Iowa

Just returned from nearly a week camping in Iowa, our first extended trip there.  We had so much fun just doing some low key sight seeing.  I had my camera clicking all the time.  Over the next few days, time permitting, I will record some of what we saw.  Today's posting is just a teaser of what we saw.  I guess a few days away from the political turmoil and speculation with time to focus on each other, our interests, a bit of history, and some good Iowa pork thrown in is just what we needed.

I must mention, though, that every shop we saw that had special cheese displays was showcasing Wisconsin cheese, mostly Shullsburg.  On the second day of our trip while Russ golfed, I savored my first pumpkin latte of the season, browsed some quilt shops,and did some sight seeing in Kalona, Ia.  This rural town is known for its Amish and Mennonites farms, but it also has a thriving "English" community.  My sight seeing included touring their historic village and quilt museum. 

Earlier this summer we needed to replace our washer and dryer.  I had a difficult time making a decision just what to buy.  The range of prices is quite significant, and there are so many features to consider.  Plus, we are restricted to stackables because of our laundry room configuration.  If I did not have to do stackable, maybe I should have considered one of these lovely domestic machines as seen at the Kalona Historic Village. 
Love the green color
The gray one is quite industrial.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Love's Faithful Promise by Susan Anne Mason

Product Details

Life has been quite busy - who ever said retirement is a slower pace-- and I have been quite lax in both reading and posting reviews.  I managed to squeeze in reading Susan Anne Mason's latest book while at the cabin this weekend between multiple rounds of Word brain, Skipbo, Apple to Apples, and Boogle with two of the grandkids.  Plus, I cooked the meals including a chicken roasted over the campfire in a dutch oven and played fetch the tennis ball with their lab Lady.  Just in case you're wondering, I was the one who threw the ball; Lady did the fetching.  So without saying anymore, you know this book was a good read; otherwise I would have found too many opportunities not to pick it up.

Dr. Matthew Claybourne's injuries from the Great War have, for the most part, diminished to a mere limp, but hidden beneath his professional expertise and promise is a wounded man, a single father who feels he must protect his four year old daughter from all harm and certainly from from any germs that might threatened her weakened constitution.  When he receives a visit from the energetic, Deidre O'Leary requesting that he try his innovative physical therapy methods on her mother, who has residual paralysis from her recent stroke, the doctor at first refuses.  But when his daughter's doctor suggests some time in a country setting may be good for the young girl's lungs, Matthew changes his mind, leaves behind his Canadian practive and travels to Irish Meadows outside New York.

Deidre, a medical student herself, has left her classes to help with her mother's therapy.  Soon she finds herself attracted to the quiet, withdrawn doctor whose methods seem so promising.  And the large brood of O'Leary nieces and nephews soon have little Phoebe  running outdoors, playing with puppies and wishing for a pony.  And Deidre finds herself caring for the little girl almost as she is attracted to the father.  When Matthew shares his declaration that he will never marry again, Deidre's hope for romance is crushed.  Meanwhile her brother Connor, working as the horse farm's foreman and trainer, has a new hire, a young man who seems able to handle a temperamental stallion whose owners want him ready to race within months.  When Connor learns that the young man is hiding his true identity, Connor must decide whether to keep "Jo's" secret and keep the "lad" on or fire the worker.

This is the third and final book in the Courage to Dream trilogy, a series which has kept my interest throughout all three books. As is noted on Susan Anne Mason's website, these are romance books with a "sprinkle of faith." Nothing unpredictable here in the plot, but I really enjoyed the book and the fast pace that I could read.  The O'Leary family was an endearing family, and I am sad that their tales are done.  I received an ecopy of this title from Netgalley for my honest review.