Two Interesting Stories Woven into One

Three years ago, Jessica Bachmann left the Amish way of life and her family because of a clash with her half-brother on how to best utilize their farmland upon their father’s passing. Once in the English world, she begins researching the effects of fracking on the land to learn as much as she can to try to prevent it. When her boss and beau, Tom, gives her the opportunity to write an article on fracking and to interview a local Amish man who claims his wife developed cancer and other health problems because of it, she jumps at the opportunity and is grateful to finally be able to put her knowledge of the subject to use. An unexpected call from her sister, Leisel, informs Jessica that her father struggled with a cough over the winter and eventually passed. Not wanting to miss the funeral, Jessica decides to take a week off of work to travel to her home right in the middle of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Old feelings begin to stir within her as she arrives in Lancaster, both good and bad. She sees her old beau, Silas, talking what she assumes exclusively with another girl and hears that they may be courting and she can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy and remorse remembering what they were at one time. Several things on the farm remind her of him, including a large oak tree in her family’s yard that they considered “their tree”. During her visit, she also learns, from a piece of paper that was strategically placed by her sister, that her older half-brother is indeed planning on fracking the land. Can her article about the Amish family whose water got contaminated and made them ill from the fracking persuade more people to find ways to make money from their land that doesn’t involve fracking, including her brother and can she cope with the idea of living apart from her childhood upbringing for the rest of her life?

Seeing her confusion, her Aunt Suz decides to tell her a story about a family member, Ruby Bachmann, who lived during the American Revolutionary War. Since the Amish are pacifists, some of Ruby’s brothers and her beau, Paul, travel to find new land in Canada so they are not required to fight in the war or pay the war tax to keep out of the war. Ruby is expected to stay behind with her ailing mother and her brother Zachary and keep guard over the farm while they are away. Going against the Amish beliefs, her brother Zachary feels a pull towards supporting the Patriots’ cause and enlists in the military leaving Ruby and her mother alone. Eventually, their mother passes away and Ruby is left to work on the farm all by herself. Their neighbor, Old Man Wallis, has a nephew who came to help out with his farm and agrees to help Ruby out with her farm until someone returns for her or to sell the land. Duncan is a wounded war veteran himself and they start to hit it off well. When they get word that Zachary is wounded in Valley Forge, Duncan agrees to go with Ruby to bring Zachary home and they agree to let Zachary return when he is better, but instead Duncan tells the general that he will take his place. Ruby and Zachary feel greatly indebted to Duncan. Along the way, Duncan and Ruby realize that they have feelings for one another, but Ruby is torn between being with a man she loves who does not necessarily share her Amish faith, although he believes in God, or to stay with a man she does not love and live in the world she was raised in.

Both Jessica and Ruby have a choice to make, will they choose to be with the one they love or the one they know will provide them security without much love. And when is it that childhood traditions are overridden by what the heart longs for.

A Plain Leaving (The Sisters of Lancaster County, Book 1) by Leslie Gould is a very fascinating story in that it is actually two stories in one; and both stories are excellently written and interesting. Even though it is two stories written into one story, they blend well into the overall storyline and plot of the book. Leslie definitely has a lot of talent being able to create a work like this and managing to keep the stories separate, yet woven together. The stories of Ruby and Jessica will keep the reader turning the page. This is a beautifully written novel that is suitable for any age.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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A Book Your Young Child Will Enjoy

If there’s one way to get a child excited for bed, it is to get a new children’s book in the mail right before bedtime! I was anticipating God Gave Us Family by Lisa Tawn Bergren with art by David Hohn to come in the mail and because it has seemed like we might need to start building an ark for the last several days (lots of rain where I live currently), I have been checking my front door like crazy. Unfortunately, the delivery person put the cardboard envelope it came in underneath my eves to my house (instead of between the doors, which would make sense given all the rain), so the package was soaked and, THANKFULLY, what saved the book was its hard cover and slight overlap to the pages. The pages still got a little warped, but my review isn’t on the delivery service, it’s the book, and thankfully the book was still in good condition given the moisture and I was able to take it to read to my son before bed. He was so excited to read it that he actually went to bed half an hour earlier than normal (maybe I need to more frequently have new children’s books arrive in the mail around bedtime! 🙂 )

This book is adorable. Following in the trend of the God Gave Us series of books, this is a tender book with animal characters. Instead of our usual Little Cub character, we follow Little Pup (a wolf) on his journey to find out why his family only has one child instead of more. Little Pup’s family goes out camping for a family reunion and on his way to the reunion, he runs across all kinds of families; from those with multiple kids, adopted, kids, single parents, and grandparents as the primary guardians to name a few. His parents explain that each family is unique and God created them all.

My son absolutely loved this book. He’s at the age right now where he really enjoys looking at the pictures and pointing out certain things in the pictures of the books. This book was a treat for him because he has just started developing a love for boats and fishing and this book was definitely written with little boys in mind. From fishing off a dock and observing to boats and tents and duckies swimming in water, he enjoyed looking at all the colorful pictures and being able to relate to things he has a passion for. It is a sweet book that can help you simply explain to your child why families are so different and how God has created each one special if they start to have questions, or it is also just a good book to read and fits into the God Gave Us series perfectly. If you have enjoyed the series so far, you will want to add this book to your collection. Even if you have never heard of the series, this book is easy enough to pick up and you won’t feel lost in the story because they all explain something a little different.

Be prepared, your child may not want to give this book up though if you tell them you need to blog on it!  🙂 My little guy was ready to stick it on his bookshelf with the other books (he’s 2 ½ and for him every thing has a place) and was disappointed when I told him he would have to wait until tomorrow to put it on his shelf so I could have it to write about. If your child is anything like mine, they are going to enjoy this book. Even as a parent I enjoy this book and am thrilled to see more come out in the series because they are so sweet. And like all of the books in this series, it is friendly for anyone to read from 0-99. My oldest daughter has been reading this series since she was about 9 months old (10 years ago already-agh!) and still likes it when I bring these books into the house and show them to her. Definitely well worth the buy!

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


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Proving to be Another Good Book from Beverly Lewis

Mandy and Josiah. Best friends. Inseparable. Other than Mandy’s twin, Arie Mae, Josiah had been the closest friend she had growing up and the boy that she hoped she would some day marry. When Mandy catches her twin with him, all she feels is betrayal and hurt and all her dreams shattering to the ground. Desperate to escape from the pain of the loss of her two closest friends, she agrees to go to live in the Englisch world in Kansas with two other girls who are fleeing due to being ousted from their community by the bishop. Mandy finds a job at a florist shop and settles into the new routine of life and trying to forget the betrayal she felt in her community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

5 years later, Mandy is content at her job, but finds out that due to financial reasons, the owners are having to close the florist shop and she will have a week severance pay. She starts looking for other positions, but everything keeps turning up as a dead end. That’s when she gets a letter in the mail from her brother, Jerome. He informs her that their mother had recently passed away and asks her to give him a call as soon as she can, at which point he tells her that she is to inherit their mother’s bed and breakfast, but she has obligations she needs to fulfill for it in order to keep the inheritance. Confused as to why her mother wouldn’t give her twin, Arie Mae, the bed and breakfast when she has been the one to help with it for so long, Mandy agrees to travel back to her childhood home to take over the day to day functions of the B&B. Her first order of business upon arriving is to let her twin, who is working there, go; after which she finds herself in a predicament because the other Amish employees choose to leave as well and she cannot find herself anyone to assist her with running the facility. Determined to prove she can meet the requirements of the inheritance, she plans to do just that, then sell the place within a year and move back to Kansas.

Trina has been Englisch all her life, but she is bored and looking for a vacation, or something, to break up the monotony of day to day life. She reads and advertisement for “mystery trips”, where she pays a certain amount and the travel company sets her vacation for her (with given parameters). Intrigued and figuring she has nothing to lose, except time at an exotic location if she doesn’t sign up, Trina jumps in. She is shocked to find herself in the heart of Amish country and figures there has to be a mistake or that this is only a quaint stop on the way to her warm beach because Amish country is not what she signed up for. Upon calling the travel agency, she finds that her trip was indeed for the Butterfly Meadows Bed and Breakfast and is not pleased; not to mention, the room she was suppose to have was double booked and she was the last guest for the room to arrive so she is stuck sleeping on the “Amish side of the house” with Mandy. Upset about her trip gone awry, she cannot help but have a sour attitude, which makes Mandy’s job that much more unpleasant.

Being in close quarters, Mandy and Trina learn to develop a tolerance for each other, and after finding out Mandy is lacking in the cooking skills, Trina decides to help her out so the guests can be satisfied with their breakfasts. Trina ends up becoming more of an asset than Mandy initially realizes and the two ladies form a partnership of sorts. Can Trina help Mandy prove that she is worthy of the inheritance and find a way to get her to open up to her twin sister again?

This is a book that starts with hurt and betrayal and ends with forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with a little romance thrown in. The Proving is another masterfully woven novel by Beverly Lewis. For me it started out a little slow, but after I got in to the novel, I found that it was actually more fast paced. If you enjoy Beverly Lewis, you will want to pick up this novel. This is a novel that is safe for all ages to read.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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How to Make the Most of Color in Your Photography

Once again, Bryan Peterson does a phenomenal job of creating an easy to understand book that is all about Understanding Color in Photography: Using Color, Composition, and Exposure to Create Vivid Photos; this time he also enlists the expertise of Susana Heide Schellenberg. Being a somewhat novice, for fun photographer, I found this book as simple to understand as the other one of his previous books that I have read, Understanding Exposure. This is a book you can read and then go out and start practicing the techniques right away. Not only is this book good for beginning photographers like myself, but I feel that it also provides tips and tricks for the more advanced photographers.

With over 30 years of experience in photography, Bryan knows his stuff. He gives a general overview of some of the more complex color concepts and “why” and then delves a little into some of the interesting scientific facts on why we see color the way we do and how a camera sees color without boring the reading. Each page has captivating photos that go along with the general theme that he is discussing in that segment (from colors, to color schemes, to some of the better ways to post-process, although he doesn’t recommend doing a lot) and with each photo he includes what specifics he used on his camera to capture the photos.

At first when I received the book, I thought for a book on color, the cover of red, blue, and green with a small yellow trace was rather boring; however, when he got to the part in the book on additive and subtractive colors, the reason that picture was chosen made all the more sense (not sure if it was intentional, but for blog sake, I am going to assume it was). Even though he had Susana co-author this book with him, they are of the same mindset and voice when writing that the overall structure flows nicely and it’s easy to forget there are two authors at points. I highly recommend this book, or Bryan’s other aforementioned book, to whoever wants to gleam some more knowledge on the art of photography.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


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From a Church Divided to a Church United

“If you turn that place around, you’ll be a hero. But if you don’t, no one will blame you, because that’s impossible!” (All Saints, pg. 17, paragraph 3)

Being a minister can be a challenging task in and of itself, much less, being a new minister fresh out of seminary and being thrown into a church that had just undergone a huge split and in a financial crisis due to a large mortgage. For Father Michael Spurlock, this was exactly the situation he found himself in when he took the vicarage at All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee.

All Saints by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle details the true story of a church that was split down to 25 people when Father Spurlock took over and the way prayers were answered and the Karen people group not only helped them grow in congregation size, but helped them see how to make the most of the land they were blessed with and grow their faith (and crops) as God provided miracle after miracle. In the book, we read as this church goes from the brinks of having to sell the church building and property after a terribly messy church split, to being a thriving, flourishing, and growing church. This is also a story of the Kunzoo family of the Karen tribe and how God proved himself faithful to bring them out of oppression in Burma to a new life in America.

The book was very interesting and a quick read. The only part I didn’t really care for in the book was the last few chapters when it became more like a documentary to making the All Saints film rather than the actual story of the church itself.

If you’re looking for a book that describes the story of what it was like to be a refugee and unwanted people group in Burma in recent years, this is it. If you are looking for a story of the ways God works for the good of those who love Him, you will also find that in here. And if you are looking for a story to uplift you when you feel at the very end of your ropes and not sure if God is really listening to your prayers (or even if you’re trying to understand the sometimes humorous ways God answers prayers), then this is a book you will want to pick up.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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A Trilogy with a Great Ending

Finally, the third and final book in Cindy Woodsmall’s “The Amish of Summer Grove” trilogy has arrived! If you have followed her other two books in the series (Ties That Bind and Fraying at the Edge), then Gathering the Threads is the book you have been waiting for to fill in all the gaps. My grandma and I have been following this series and both of us were thrilled to learn that the new book was being released. Being that she is not a blogger, she had to wait a little longer than I to read it, but she was glad to know that all the threads have been gathered in this final book.

If you remember from the other two books, Ariana Brenneman and Skylar Nash find out that they were accidentally switched at birth. The one who should have gone to the English world went to the Amish world and the one who should have gone to the Amish world went to the English world. Ariana is content with her life in the Amish world and is reluctant to spend time getting to know her Englisch family with limited contact to her Amish world and per the hopes of her Englisch father, to expand her thinking beyond what she knew all her life. The tradeoff, Skylar would go spend time with her Amish birth parents in hopes that she would be able to cut her addiction with prescription drugs. The original plan was for a year, but due to some prayers and talking on Ariana’s part, she is able to return home after 3 months.

The third book starts off where the second book left off. Ariana just comes home from spending time with the Englisch and Skylar is just starting to feel some security in her Amish home. Things have been running great at Ariana’s café with Skylar in the lead and she has finally found her place in with her birth siblings. Ariana comes back and finds herself overwhelmed with the closed minds of the Amish she grew up with and the pressure that comes from her Daed, Bishop, and her boyfriend, Rudy, to reconform to the old ways and have limited contact with her Englisch family. But most of all, she is to cut off all ties with Quill Schlabach who left the Amish community years ago to help her best friend get proper medical treatment and escape the abuse of her father. Overwhelmed, Ariana decides to get away for a few days to a bed and breakfast, that unbeknownst to her, helps the cause of people trying to escape the Amish lifestyle. The only person who she feels fully understands her is the one who she is forbidden to see, and so out of desperation, she reaches out to Quill to help her get her head wrapped around everything.

Skylar, in the meantime, is trying everything she can to ruin Ariana’s good standing with her family. From planting Ariana’s forbidden cell phone in places her Daed will find it, to finding a way to keep her out of the café Ariana started so that way she can remain in her place of security, Skylar is willing to stop at nothing to make sure her security is not pulled from her. She also finds herself falling for one of her twin brother’s old coworkers, Jax. Being that Skylar was not raised Amish, she is not forced to attend any Amish Sunday gatherings or observe their rules.

As Skylar struggles for control and Ariana fumbles to find exactly what her new identity is in life after her world has been shaken to the core, both ladies must learn to work together to achieve a common good for their families and café and life and learn to lean on God for support through the messy situations in their lives. In a sudden twist, Ariana figures out what she was meant to do in her life and Skylar learns to live in a world without a prescription drug addiction.

This book is very good overall and answers a lot of lingering questions I had as a reader. I feel that some of the “voices” of the characters changed, but a lot of it probably is to artistically distinguish who the characters are now from who they were in the past. If you read the other two books and are just itching to know what happens to these characters, this is the book you will want to read! I would suggest reading the other two books before starting on this one. As with most of Cindy Woodsmall’s books, this is a book that would be suitable for any age.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


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Tender Prayers for Daughters

Girls go through so many different stages and emotions in life. Matter of fact, sometimes having a daughter can be like you’re the passenger of a rollercoaster. One minute they love you to the ends of the earth and then the next minute you are their worst enemy: so many ups and downs. As a mother of soon to be 3 girls- one who is a teenager, one who is a preteen, and one who is due to arrive any day now (and one boy, poor guy!)- I understand the stages they go through. And as a mother of girls, there are many times I wish I knew the words to pray for them in certain circumstances that have left me speechless and knew how to minister to them in their needs. Teri Lynne Underwood attempts to approach this in her book Praying for Girls, based on her blog “Prayers for Girls”.

This book is tenderly written from the heart of a mother and each prayer is immersed in Scripture with scriptural references from where it comes at the end of the prayer. But it is so much more than just a book of prayers. This is a book that will minister to the heart and soul of mother and daughter alike (and I’m sure this book would even be great for grandmas!).

Teri encompasses a few different categories to pray for regarding our daughters, such as her mind and identity, then each of those categories is broken down into even more specific areas and all are put into an index so if your daughter is really struggling with one area specifically, you can target your prayers on that. Each section starts out with an introduction to why that area is important and then when it breaks down into individual chapters, there is a little bit of a study and/or story that goes with it. After that, Teri has written out several specific, scripturally based prayers in that area for the daughters in our lives using blank spaces for you to insert their names and concluding it with a little bit of a heart to heart with the moms (and a prayer for them as well), and then finally for each chapter she gives some phenomenal tips on ways to minister to daughters of different age groups for each topic. Some ways she suggests are special mother/daughter dates and others are as simple as just talking with them and figuring out where they stand in each area.

Praying for Girls is a tool you can use for specifics when needed or as an overall “love dare” type book for your daughter. This is probably not a book a lot of dads are going to want to read as it is written from a mother to mother standpoint, but I do think that both parents can pray all of these prayers over their daughters. Even though it specifically said girls in the title, many of these prayers were still applicable to my little boy as well and I found myself praying several of them over him. I only wish that there was a book like this specifically for praying for boys because as a mom to a boy too, there are days I need guidance on how to minister to him. I do strongly recommend this book if you are a mother of a daughter because not only will it enrich their lives, it will enrich yours as well.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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