Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Heartwarming Christmas story

Just south of Nashville, in Franklin, TN, just after the Battle of Chickamauga, two people have lost so much that hope may be the next thing they lose.  Aletta Prescott is recently widowed, has a young son and is pregnant.  The bank is threatening foreclosure and finding a job to support her small family proves difficult in these times.  Jake Winston was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga and the wound has affected his eyesight so returning to battle isn't really an option.  When the two of them cross paths at Carnton Plantation, life takes a bit of a turn for them both.

While considered a Novella even at 240+ pages, Christmas at Carnton is the first installment of a three part series of books set in Franklin with the Carnton Plantation playing a backdrop.  Looking at the list of books written by Tamera Alexander, it would appear she focuses much of her writing in that area having a series set at Belmont and another at Belle Meade.  However, I was unfamiliar with any of them.

I originally chose this book because I love Christmas and historical fiction and I live less than three hours from the setting of the story.  I am not sorry that I did.  Alexander is easy to read yet grabs the reader in the first chapter.  Your heart can't help but go out to Aletta Prescott. I loved Alexander's wording, her characters have depth, and while somewhat predictable, there was enough twist in the story that I didn't want to put it down. I am also thinking Canton will be on my list to visit next time I am in the Nashville area.

Christmas at Carnton  is a beautiful story of faith, perseverance, and love.  Highly recommended for anyone who loves historical fiction set in the 19th c.  I did receive this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and am in no way obligated to write a positive one.  Two thumbs up for Tamera Alexander's latest and I am making a request at the library to locate her other series.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Becoming the Proverbs 31 woman

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Whenever given the opportunity to review a Liz Curtis Higgs book, I am in.  I first picked up a fiction title of hers years ago simply because she lives in Louisville, KY and had heard she had a good sense of humor.  While I didn't necessarily find the first book a one of humor (nor was it intended to be), Higgs' ability to engage me as a reader made her an author for me to remember.

How many of us have read Proverbs 31 and wondered how in the world any human woman could be all those things?  It was quite comforting when someone pointed out to me that she didn't display all those attributes in one day and most likely it would take a lifetime to allow God to mold me into anything close to a Proverbs 31 woman.  However, I was in for the journey and still feel so far from the finish line.

While Proverbs 31 is typically the part of the book we women look to for wisdom in becoming the wives God intends us to be,  Higgs has taken all of Proverbs and plucked nuggets of truth from the entire book.  Perfect for a devotional for a month as it is set up in thirty-one four to six pages chapters.  Each begins with a scripture verse followed by narrative from the author that doesn't fail to touch a chord.  Higgs closes each chapter with a suggested prayer to offer up to God related to the scripture and, something I love, a short practical application and encouragement.    While she intentionally published this book to be a one month study, I believe, for me, it will span months as I reread and commit those Proverbs to heart.

Liz Curtis Higgs has never disappointed and this volume is no exception.  Topics in 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path range from wisdom to contentment to submitting to God's will and ways just to name a few.  I am so looking forward to rereading this book in its entirety on a daily basis, allowing God to use His words through scripture and Higgs' words of wisdom she has gained from Him to transform this woman more to His likeness.

I did receive this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and am in no way obligated to write a positive one.  Thank you Liz Curtis Higgs for allowing God to use you to minister through your writing and speaking.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's a keeper

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Nothing is looked forward to more than Christmas at my house.  We may leave up our tree longer than anyone else I know.  Christmas is family, decorations, gatherings with friends and family, shopping, and so much more.  But no dessert during the holidays trumps Christmas cookies.  That tradition has been handed down for generations.

While there are perennial favorites, I'm always open to a new recipe or two to add to the cookie platter.  Holiday Cookies: showstopping recipes to sweeten the season has dozens for me to choose from.  From favorites such as gingerbread and shortbread to recipes that make plenty for cookie exchanges and those enjoyed around the world, the selection here is sure to please even someone who thinks they have every cookie recipe they will ever need.  Also included are a few confections such as Apple Cider Caramels and Smoked Almond and Cacao Nib Brittle to name a few.  The only selections that I personally would shy away from are a few of those included in the Warm Holiday Spice section.  I don't think I am interested in a cookie with Aleppo pepper, bourbon, or aniseed. 

The book begins with somewhat of a 101 education to cookie baking tips, suggestions, pastry bags, etc.  Each recipe has clear, easy to understand directions with special equipment needed if there is anything.  Each of these items are most likely in your kitchen already and, if not, quite easy to locate.  I only saw a few ingredients listed in the entire book that I couldn't find in my pantry all the time and very few I wasn't completely familiar with but I am certain those few that were unfamiliar would not be so to many who bake much more elaborate desserts than my limited experience. In the back is a listing of special ingredients the author suggests you use as well as recommended places to purchase and even brands.  Again, a much appreciated addition for me.

Originally ordered as a potential gift book, this volume probably won't be going anywhere.  I don't believe I will wait until the holidays to make my first attempt at Speculaas, a favorite when I am in Europe.   And I just may have to add cooking baking to my list for tomorrows chores as well.  Good thing I am well stocked with tea!

I did receive this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and am in no way obligated to write a positive one. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Start your day with encouragement

365 Devotions for Living Joyfully  -     By: Stacy Edwards

Recently, my daughter was looking through the local bookstore for a book of devotions and few seemed to address living joyfully right where God has you.  In our world, it is so easy to be negative and dwell on all that is wrong in our lives and the lives of those we love.  True joy and contentment can only be found in God and He truly desires you have that joy, not only for your benefit but for the benefit of those around you.

This new hardback volume of devotions by Victoria York is exactly what my daughter was looking for, I believe.  You will find topics such as God is in control, believing God will fulfill His promises, God hears our prayers, and dealing with feeling overwhelmed.   Each day has a very brief scripture that sets the stage for the devotion and concludes with a promise/brief prayer to carry with you throughout the day.  No devotion is longer than one page so there are no excuses that you simply don't have enough time. 

I love the fact that it is a hardback volume and especially that it has a built in ribbon bookmark to mark the page where you are.  I even like that it is a cheery yellow cover to help brighten each day. I can't wait to give it to my daughter and watch how God's word continues to transform her life.

I did receive this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and am in no way obligated to write a positive one.  I honestly feel that this is an excellent book of devotionals, perfect for gift giving or perhaps one that you want to pick up to begin the new year.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sad to see the series end

Cherished Mercy #3   -     By: Tracie Peterson

Mercy Flanagan was just a child when she and her sisters headed west after their parent's deaths to join an uncle and make a new life.  Mercy was the youngest of the three but old enough to remember well the terrifying Indian massacre that killed the Whittmans, and her friends.  Her sisters are settled with husbands and children but Mercy has wanted to teach and opportunity comes when  family friends, Isaac and Eletta Browning,  write asking if Mercy can come deeper into Indian territory to help with a difficult pregnancy.

Mercy feels that God is directing her to help so packs her trunk and agrees to teach the native people in town and take care of the Browning household including the Browning's daughter, Faith.  Also living close by is Isaac's brother, Adam, who teaches some of the older male Indians and ministers to the natives.  Adam appears warm and kind to everyone but Mercy and she has trouble understanding why he seems to avoid her.

Settlers in the area want the land and all the riches it holds.   They want the Indians gone, one way or another.  The government is even paying soldiers to rid the land of the Natives.  With those tensions increasing, Mercy and Adam are going to need to figure out a way to work together to get through it....if they survive.

While a reader can probably read this third book in the "Heart of the Frontier" series as a standalone, I certainly wouldn't recommend it.  Peterson does an excellent job filling in or reminding the reader of what happened in the first two installments but you don't want to miss out on the stories of Mercy's sisters, Grace and Hope.  Peterson has written about the immoral treatment of Indians as few have attempted to do and her ability to tell a gripping story shines in this series.  I guess I have stuck my head in the sand where the Indian's treatment is concerned so I appreciate Peterson sharing how cruel and greedy the white men were in the quest to settle the west.  I very much enjoyed this entire series and highly recommend it to any historical fiction reader. 

I did receive this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and was in no way obligated to write a positive one.

New twist on children's devotional

You can't ever have enough devotional stories for your little one.  It's a perfect way to end or begin their day and having multiple options for them to select from is important.  I think this one could potentially be the one they turn to again and again because of some of the unique features it has.

The volume includes a hundred Bible stories with scripture references, a summary to remind your little one of the Truths in the story and a simple phrase to keep in their mind throughout the day.  One example is the story of David and Goliath that remind us "If I call on the Lord, He will help me".  What a Truth to carry with you each day. 

One of the most unique features of the book is that a song goes alone with each story.  Some are very familiar such as "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" while others I feel are written just to go with this book and each story.  Many that are unfamiliar have a suggested tune to sing it to while others have no suggestions so I hope you are good at making up tunes because only the words are printed, not the notes themselves.  I suppose, if I had to find a way to improve the volume, that would be it.  Personally, I might be at a disadvantage with the song.  My husband, on the other hand, can make up a tune to anything.  I think the author may have assumed a bit much that everyone would be familiar with the tunes but I still think it is a fabulous addition to the Bible stories.

I did receive this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and was in no way obligated to write a positive one.  This sturdy hard-bound volume is destined to be a family favorite.5-Minute Bible: 100 Stories and Songs  -     By: Stephen Elkins

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Promise of a better life

The Promise of Dawn #1  -     By: Lauraine Snelling

Hoping for a better life and land in America, Rune Carlson and his wife Signe packed all they could carry to take their family to Minnesota when Rune's uncle, Einar, sends a letter asking for help on his land, specifically cutting down the giant trees so that he can sell the lumber and clear the land.  Both Rune and Signe know they will probably never see their family in Norway again once they board the ship and, to make it even more difficult for Signe to leave family, she suspects she is pregnant.

Upon arriving in Minnesota, it is clear there is more work than even the seven of them can do. For starters, Einar's wife is ill, demanding, and doesn't treat anyone very kindly.  The house is an absolute mess and Signe is expected to be maid, cook, nurse, mother and wife.  Einar expects far too much of the inexperienced Rune and his sons.  As strong and gracious Signe continues to care for the family, one of the family members slowly but surely begins to change but the other continues to be almost impossible to live with, whether it be out of desperation or is simply a part of their character.

The Promise of Dawn is the first installment in Lauraine Snelling's "Under Northern Skies" series.  I have read few book regarding immigrants so I am thankful for the opportunity and read and review such a book.  How difficult it was for the Carlson family to come to America and speak so little English but how I admired their willingness to ask others to help them learn rather than arriving not being able to communicate at all.  As eluded to above, it was also interesting to see the treatment they endured by their own family who made them somewhat servants in their own home.  The expectations were so very high.  Granted, their family had paid their voyage over and they were expected to repay through work but to be treated so unkindly, not even having a bed or place to lay their head.  Was if the uncle and aunt's fear of losing their own land that made them desperate enough to treat others so?  I am uncertain.

I did find this novel a bit more difficult than some to totally get into though.  I was probably about a third through it before I felt like I didn't want to put it down.  The book seems well researched and the author does a good job painting a picture in the reader's mind of the setting.  I could easily "see" the home and land, down to the barn and outhouse.  As the main character, Signe's days just seemed so mundane...get up, cook breakfast, clean, take care of Aunt Gerd, cook, clean, go to bed only to have the routine repeat itself day after day.   I think I would say I like the book but didn't love it.  I gained some new understandings and empathy for immigrants, historically speaking, but perhaps 375 pages was a bit long.  I would be interested to see what the author has planned for the rest of the series.

I did receive this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and was in no way obligated to write a positive one.