December 22, 2013

Reviewing "Captive Trail" by Susan Page Davis

    "Captive Trail", by Susan Page Davis,  is the second book in the "Texas Trails" series and takes place in mid 1800's Texas.  Centered around a young woman who was kidnapped by the Comanche as a little girl, the book begins shortly before Taabe Waipu's harrowing escape from her Comanche village. She is found lying in the road and is taken in by a group of Ursuline nuns who nurse her back to health within the walls of the mission, all the while trying to figure out Taabe Waipu's true identity.
     I completely enjoyed this book and was immediately attached to the characters. The relationship between Taabe Waipu and the nuns is heartwarming even in its youngest stages when communication was almost impossible.  I also enjoyed the relationship between young Quinta and Taabe Waipu. Quinta was able to communicate with Taabe in a way that the adults could not, and their interactions were very sweet. The nuns' faith and tenacity were inspirational as they vigilantly protected their young charges from outsiders. Throughout their many adventures, they never lost hope or lessened their faith in God's protection.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with lovable characters and exciting story lines.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series and would recommend getting all of them at once so you don't have to wait too long to read the next one. They can also be read out of order if you so choose.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewing "The Spymistress"

    "The Spymistress" by Jennifer Chiaverini is a very well researched historical novel based on the life of civil war heroine Elizabeth Van Lew. Even though she was born to a wealthy slave holding family in Richmond, Virginia,  "Lizzie" held very strong Union sympathies and dedicated herself to caring for Union prisoners of war during the Civil War.  She also gathered military intelligence, helped construct the Richmond Underground and aided prisoners escaping from the Confederate Libby Prison.
     I was drawn into the book right away and found the first half of the book to be very interesting and enthralling.  Lizzie took many risks to help the prisoners, including risking her own life. There was also a lot of drama taking place in the Van Lew household as the family struggled to hide their Union patriotism while staying true to their beliefs.   About halfway through the book I started to feel bogged down with details.  Chiaverini obviously did a huge amount of research in preparation for this book and it is apparent in the extreme attention to detail. While the first half of the book felt like a novel, a some point in the middle, I started feeling like I was reading a history book. I would have enjoyed more character development in place of the involved explanations of the battles and prison scenes.  That said, if you are a history buff, this book would probably be right up your alley. And if I was a history student, I would have definitely chosen to read a book like this over (or to supplement) a typical history book.   I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy highly detailed historical fiction and Civil War fiction based on real events and characters.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Dutton books in exchange for an honest review.

December 19, 2013

Reviewing "The Dawn of Christmas" by Cindy Woodsmall

"The Dawn of Christmas" is a charming love story which is perfect for the holiday season.  I knew I would enjoy it because I am a fan of Woodsmall's and also of Amish fiction in general.   Although it is slightly predictable because of the nature of the book, there are several twists and turns that leave the reader guessing what will happen next.
Woodsmall's writing style is such that I quickly get attached to the characters. From almost the very beginning of the book, I was rooting for the two main characters, "Sadie" and "Levi".  They've both had bad experiences with love and the pair seem determined to never fall in love.  Even thought this is a short novella sized book, it is packed with drama, romance and adventure. The story kept my interest throughout the book, and the suspense toward the end had me turning the pages as fast as possible.

Here is a short summary from the publisher:
"Sadie enjoyes her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it's time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan- but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?"

One of the strong themes of the book is how powerful and wonderful love is, and the lengths that people will go to, to show the ones they love how much they mean to them. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, with a romance at the center of the storyline.  Even though it has a holiday theme, it would be a great read for any time of year. (Especially  good in the middle of summer when you need to picture yourself in a snowy climate to escape the heat.)

Disclaimer: I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing group for free in exchange for an honest review. 

November 26, 2013

Reviewing "Lone Star Trail" by Darlene Franklin

"Lone Star Trail" by Darlene Franklin, is the first in a series of 6 historical fiction books called the "Texas Trails" series. The books are centered around the Morgan family and the struggles they and the people they meet face in mid-1800s Texas.  Very well written, this book quickly draws the reader into the series. Even if you aren't normally into historical fiction, "Lone Star Trail" is written in such a way that it's easy to identify with the characters and relate to their trials and struggles. Though we don't face the same types of challenges in today's society, the human spirit of blazing your own trail and providing a safe place for your family remains the same.

Here's a quick summary from the publisher:
"Judson "Jud" Morgan's father died for Texas' freedom during the war for independence. So when the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas (the Verein) attempts to colonize a New Germany in his country, he takes a stand against them. 
After Wande Fleischers' fiancĂ© marries someone else, the young fraulein determines to make a new life for herself in Texas. With the help of Jud's sister Marion, Wande learns English and becomes a trusted friend to the entire Morgan family. 
As much as Jud dislikes the immigrant invasion, he can't help admiring Wande's character. She is sweet and cheerful as she serves the Lord and all those around her. Can the rancher put aside his prejudice to forge a new future? Through Jud and Wande, we learn the powerful lessons of forgiveness and reconciliation among a diverse community of believers." 

 I enjoyed that this book took me back to my childhood in a way because it was reminiscent of some of the themes of  the "Little House on the Prairie" series.  Though reading about how labor intensive day-to- day life was for the settlers in those times makes me very thankful for the modern conveniences of today, sometimes I long for those simpler times when checking our smart phones every other minute wasn't part of our society.  Where waiting for the mail to arrive was the most exciting form of communication, and if someone called your house and you weren't there, they just called back later.
I've already started reading book two of the series and look forward to reading 4 more after that.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

November 9, 2013

Reviewing "Blessings for the Evening: Finding Peace in God's Presence"

"Blessings for the Evening" by Susie Larson is an absolutely beautiful book. Meant to be a nightly devotional, every page is filled with gorgeous photos paired with Bible verses and a blessing to read before you put your head down on your pillow.  It's so well done that upon opening it, there is a general feeling of peace that seems to spill out of the book. 
I can't gush enough about how great the book is and how excited I was when I first laid eyes on it.  When I received it in the mail, it went straight into my nightstand where it will stay for many evenings to come, I'm sure.  I would recommend "Blessings for the Evening" to anybody who wants to go to sleep concentrating on God's many blessings instead of the worries of the day. It would also make a great gift!

Here's a short description of the book from the publisher:
"Feel the concerns of your day fade away through the reassuring promises of God. These blessings offer refreshment to your soul and a biblical perspective to your thoughts.

 Borne from Susie Larson's own bouts with nighttime worries, each blessing and related Scripture is a daily, soothing reminder of God's love and mercy."

Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Emily C! You were chosen by random number generator to win "An Elm Creek Quilts Companion" by Jennifer Chiaverini.  Thanks to everybody who commented and to everyone who reads this blog. I'm thankful for all of you!

November 1, 2013

Giveaway: An Elm Creek Quilts Companion

One of my wonderful readers is in for a big treat! I'm giving away one copy of the just released "An Elm Creek Quilts Companion", which is a beautiful keepsake book by Jennifer Chiaverini. The book is designed to be a companion to her very popular Elm Creek Quilts series, and if you are a fan, this is a must-have. Here's a synopsis from the publisher to get you super excited about getting a copy :).

"Over the course of the bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, readers have expressed a longing to visit Elm Creek Manor, meet the quilters themselves, and admire their beautiful creations. Jennifer Chiaverini’s An Elm Creek Quilts Companion is the next best thing to a guided tour. Inside, readers will discover a treasure trove of delights, including the Bergstrom family tree, character biographies, quilt block illustrations, full-color photographs of quilts featured in the novels, and "Behind the Scenes at Elm Creek Quilt Camp," an exclusive short story inspired by questions from real readers. No Elm Creek Quilts fan will want to be without this indispensable guide to the cherished series."

*Leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Fall treat or tradition is.
*Make sure I have a way to contact you via email if you win. If your account isn't linked to your email, please leave your email address in the comment.
*Last day to enter is Friday, November 8th. Winner will be announced November 9th.
*You must live in the U.S. or Canada

October 8, 2013

Reviewing "For Every Season" by Cindy Woodsmall

I am completely hooked on Cindy Woodsmall's "Amish Vines and Orchards" series.  I read "For Every Season", which is the third book in the series, in about three days and I can't believe I am going to have to wait until April of next year to read the next one.  It's actually good news that there is a fourth book because the author didn't intend to write a fourth when she wrote the first three. So keep reading this series and maybe she will decide to write a fifth! ;)  
Here is a short synopsis from the publisher:
"Working hard to develop a new Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is fully committed to rehabilitating an orchard with business partner Samuel King. But an impulsive decision has created an unexpected strain in her relationship with her beau, Samuel’s brother, Jacob, threatening plans for the orchard. Amidst mounting tension in matters of the heart and business, Rhoda finds that this fledging settlement feels like the home she has always longed for, and she begins to embrace the God-given, heightened intuition that has always felt like a burden to her. She longs for Jacob to fully be free of his past, so they can work towards the future together.
But as Rhoda uses her gift to unpack an old secret with her Englisch neighbors, it is not her beau but an unlikely ally that cheers her on. With the orchard on shaky ground and Jacob’s plans in question, Rhoda is determined to see things through to harvest. But can she trust her insight to direct her path in matters of the heart?"
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Amish fiction, but make sure you start with book one first because you will miss all of the drama-filled backstories of these lovable characters.  I will probably read every new book that Cindy Woodsmall writes about the Amish community.  I find them to be perfect "end of the day, need to wind down" reads and I am probably going to go into withdrawals having to wait 6 more months for the next one. 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exhange for  this honest review

September 27, 2013

Conejo Valley Quilters Showcase "A Gathering Under the Oaks"

The Conejo Valley Quilters guild held a wonderful Quilters Showcase last weekend called "A Gathering Under the Oaks".  My mom belongs to that guild and had her own showcase booth, so of course our family was thrilled to be able to visit the show on Sunday and view all of the beautiful quilts and fun vendors.

The first thing we happened upon when we arrived was the "Quilt My Ride" display outside the front of the auditorium.  Members of the guild made mini quilts that were then attached together to cover the entire vehicle.  Attendees got to vote for their favorite mini quilt.  What a fun idea! My mom's is the Patriotic themed square near the back of the car.
After purchasing our entry tickets, we visited the booth where you could purchase tickets and enter drawings for lovely gift baskets. This was my dad and my husband's first quilt show, and when they realized they had a chance to win a golf themed basket, they bought a bunch of tickets and my mom and I pitched in to help them fill them all out.

My mom displayed a sampling of her favorite quilts in her showcase booth and everything looked wonderful! I had so much fun being there to see her beautiful work hanging up for everyone to see. Here she is posing in front of her handiwork.  :)

Can you believe that heart quilt was the very first quilt she ever made? Pretty ambitious! And so gorgeous, too.

I overheard a lot of people saying really nice things about her quilts, and the one that got the most attention was her puff quilt.  It's so fun and colorful, and it makes you want to walk up and squeeze it! She named it "Hawaiian Dream Puffs".  I secretly want one of these really badly.  Hi, mom. ;)

This neat one is called "Bali Pop Braids."  The pattern worked so well with the rich colors that it really draws you in. 

Two of my mom's fellow quilt guild members are also friends of our family and it was neat that each of their booths were right next to each other.  The first one is our friend Chris Cole's booth.   She and my mom have spent many hours quilting together and she has also been a great resource for both of us about quilting techniques and tips.  I knew that this booth was hers before I even saw the tags because I'm familiar with the types of quilts she makes and the colors she enjoys. Here are some pics so you can enjoy them too.

She titled this one "Urban Legend". I thought that all the different quilting techniques she used were beautiful and added lots of great texture. 

This fun one is called "Windmills of Your Mind." Aren't the shapes and colors eye catching? 

 The next showcase was put together by our friend Janet Hinderer.  We were next door neighbors for many years and I grew up playing with her kids pretty much every day.  I have a lot of fun memories from that time.  She displayed many different types and sizes of quilts using varying techniques.

She titled this "Spinning Out of Control". I like that she juxtaposed the swirling stitch technique on top of the geometric shapes. It feels very whimsical. 

This one is called "Shochikubai". I love the stitching technique she used to create the light colored flowers and leaves pattern over the dark background. 

We all had a lot of fun wandering through the quilt show and admiring everyone's work. Here are some others that we really liked. 

 "Happy Scrappy Challenge Quilt" by Karen Schweiger

 I didn't catch the name of this one but the guys had a lot of fun trying to name the different varieties of fish. 

"Seeing Stars" by Monica Sayre

 "Yo-Yo" by Ellen Rankin. Can you believe there are 3,000 yo-yos all stitched together?

That one definitely needed a closer look. Wow!

"Wild Chicken Tea Party" by Barbara Woolson (I am a big chicken fan)

It was so fun for me to have the guys along with us this time. My mom and I have attended many a quilt show and we always come home with lots of stories to tell them. This time they got to see what we've been talking about and it seemed like they were really into it. They even studied techniques and asked interesting questions. I was very impressed. :)

After all that time we spent filling out entry tickets, Chad ended up winning the Golf gift basket! What a bonus!  

The Conejo Valley Quilters Showcase was undoubtably a success, and a pleasure to attend. Congratulations to my mom and all of the guild members for a job well done!

September 10, 2013

Reviewing "Tattler's Branch"

"Tattler's Branch" by Jan Watson, is a historical mystery novel set in the early 20th century in a small coal town called "Skip Rock" in the mountains of Kentucky.  The main character, "Lilly Corbett Still" is the doctor for that mining community and leads a very full life, taking care of the town and her younger sister.  Lilly's good friend, "Armina" has a strange series of events happen to her, and suddenly the entire town in involved in figuring out the mystery.  The suspense takes you through to the very end of the book, when you find out the fate of the main characters.
I really enjoyed reading this book, although it didn't enthrall me from the beginning.  The first half of the book seemed a bit slow and there was a lot of energy spent concentrating on an illness that one of the main characters was battling. I found that it picked up a lot about halfway through, and then turned into a tension filled page turner for me, in a good way.
Watson has a very detail oriented and descriptive writing style that is enjoying to read.   You do feel like you get to know the characters and become attached to them. One thing that I didn't like as much was that most of the male characters in the book were either portrayed as absent, weak, gambling prone, or criminals. It would have been nice to have at least one additional strong husband/boyfriend in the mix.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or books with medical themes. Jan Watson is a talented writer and I would definitely be interested in reading more of her books in the future.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

September 7, 2013

"Mary had a Sleepy Sheep" book review

"Mary had a Sleepy Sheep" by Julia Dweck is a sweet ebook that any young child would enjoy.  The illustrations are adorable and the story is clever and creative.  The main character, "Mary", has an extremely sleepy sheep named "Sheppard".  (I find it endearing that "Sheppard" is also the name of the author's husband.) Mary goes to great lengths to get her sheep to stay awake but all he wants to do is slumber away the days.  The book is humorous and the illustrations do a great job of showing the reader just how frustrated Mary is with this sleepy little sheep.
There are some added little bonuses that come with the ebook as well. There's a cute toy mouse named "whiskers" hidden on every page of the book as well as a fun activity page at the end of the book.  With the author's charming writing style and beautiful illustrations, I think this book has the potential for a lot of "re-readability".  I've included a couple links for you below, in case you'd like more information about the author.
Julia's author page

Disclaimer: I received this ebook for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

September 2, 2013

Reviewing "The Winnowing Season"

"The Winnowing Season" by Cindy Woodsmall, is the second book in the "Amish Vines and Orchards Series" and I found it to be just as delightful as the first book.   I was already attached to the characters from book one and was glad to find that this book picked up right where the last one left off.  When I find myself rooting for the characters, or getting upset at the characters in a series and feeling nervous about what might happen next, I know I've been completely sucked in.  This is definitely the case for me with this series. :)
Here is a summary from the publisher:
"The tornado that devastated Kings’ Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them? 
On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and is fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.  
Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally."

Doesn't that summary make you want to pick this one up immediately? I found that this book was filled with suspense, intrigue, and romance.  And while oftentimes a rarity in a book series, I enjoyed this book even more than book one.  Woodsmall's writing style is a pleasure to read and in my opinion she is doing a great service for the Amish literature genre.  If you've never read a series like this one, this would be a great place to start. 

Click here for more information about Cindy Woodsmall: Cindy Woodsmall's website

Disclaimer: I received the book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

August 31, 2013

Reviewing "Blucy" by Julia Dweck

"Blucy", written by Julia Dweck and illustrated by Erika LeBarre is an adorable e-book about a cat whose fur changes colors to blue when she gets excited. Written in a delightful rhyming style, any child will be enthralled with Blucy the cat and probably want one for their very own.  The cat's young caretaker, Mandy, tries everything to get her cat to eat her food, and all Blucy wants to do is create mischief by hiding among blue objects like jelly beans and jello.  The illustrations are so well done and in such vivid colors, you practically forget you are reading an e-book.  I would recommend this book to  anyone with elementary aged children. The book is humorous and imaginative and I have no doubt that kids and adults would enjoy reading it quite often.

Here are some links for more info on the author:
Amazon Author Page

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

August 25, 2013

Things I Like to Like

I'm the kind of person who gets excited when I find a really good product, and can't help but want to share it with others.  There are many moments when I think, "I need to share this (insert product here) with my blog peeps." So, that's what I'm doing today. I haven't been paid to do this or given any of these products for free, I just feel like sharing. :) So here goes!

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner:  Intense Black

This eyeliner is the absolute very best eyeliner I have found. It goes on easily and stays on perfectly all day.  If you're a liquid eyeliner person, get this. If you aren't a liquid eyeliner person, get this anyway, and you will become one.

Tangle Teezer

This is the ultimate in detangling hairbrushes. I have long hair and was struggling with knots all the time (and ripping globs of hair tangles out in the process).  I found this and it has changed my hair brushing life! Use it on wet hair or dry hair and your hairs will thank you. :)

You many be thinking, "What's so exciting about dusters?" Well these babies don't just work for regular dusting. I have found so many great cleaning uses for them.  One of my favorite uses is to retrieve the flocks of dust bunnies from under our bed. They are quite elusive and like to gather in the very center where it's hard to reach them.  With this great extending tool, you can keep that area under your bed clean and bunny free.  Another perfect use is for cleaning up hair (I know, ew) from under bathroom vanity cabinets and behind toilets.  Both of those areas are hard to reach with brooms, but these dusters do a great job. 

I think three is a good number of products for my first "Things I Like to Like" posting.  What are your favorite products that you just can't do without?

August 9, 2013

A Snapshot of the Long Beach International Quilt Festival

My mom and I attended the Long Beach International Quilt Festival last weekend and had a wonderful time. We enjoyed all the vendors and the display of quilts was probably our favorite of all the quilt shows we have attended.  There were so many unique quilts and such an amazing display of modern quilts, we thoroughly enjoyed spending time gazing at them.   I took pictures of my favorites so I could share them with you. I hope you enjoy them!

This one is titled "Berne House Quilt" and was made by the members of the Bernese Quilters for an exhibition in Berne, Switzerland in 2010.  There are 156 different blocks which were all made separately and then sewn together.  You can see the famous clock tower (a landmark in the city of Berne) in the lower middle of the quilt. Isn't this amazing? Below, is a closeup of some of the wonderful details.

"A World of Many Colors" by Georgeta Grama of Romania

"Crime Scene Investigation" by Pauline Salzman of Florida. Below is a closeup so you can take a peek at the writing on the fence. 

"Inside the Tipi" by Terry Aske of British Columbia, Canada.  This one reminded me of my days attending summer camp in Southern California.  We slept in Tipis (Teepees) and our view was just like the one you see here. I really love this quilt.

"5-HTP Squared" by Jennifer Carlton Bailly of Portland, Oregon

"Pixelated Color Wheel" by Kati Spencer of Taylorsville, Utah

"The 48 Pound Quilt" by Tanya Finken of Saratoga Springs, Utah

"Sky High" by Kate Stiassniof New York,  quilted by Jackie Kunkel

"Sounds of Coming Spring" by Jung Eun Tark of the Republic of Korea. Below is a closeup to show you the beautiful details.

August 7, 2013

"Streak of Lightning" book review

"Streak of Lightning" by Clare O' Donohue is a novella available in e-book format designed to tide all of the "Someday Quilts" series fans over until the next novel is released this fall.  Even though it helps to be familiar with the characters, it also works as a stand alone mystery novel. I enjoyed the book and had so much fun reconnecting with the characters, I read the whole thing in one afternoon.  Here is a short synopsis from the publisher:

"Back in Archer's Rest, Nell Fitzgerald and boyfriend police chief Jesse DeWalt are heading out of town for a romantic New Years Eve weekend in New York City.  Hoping for a clean break from work, Jesse leaves his police partner Greg in charge of the precinct.  The first order of business is dealing with Joe Proctor, an abrasive bully who everyone in town seems to hate.  Joe's latest altercation—this time with local florist Violet—ends with a chair flying through her flower shop window and him in handcuffs.

As Nell and Jesse arrive in Grand Central station, their getaway is suddenly curtailed by a call with disturbing news. Joe was found dead in his cell at the police station, leaving Greg as the only viable suspect.  As the state police step in to investigate this possible homicide, Nell and Jesse work below the radar to learn more about Joe and find the killer.  Did a long standing grudge between Greg's father and Joe make this the perfect opportunity for payback?   Why did Violet and Joe argue, and did she secretly get even for damage to her shop?   Or, did someone else want to settle their own score with the unpopular Joe?"
I would recommend this book to mystery novel fans looking for an entertaining and light summer read.  If you haven't read any of O'Donohue's books, this also would serve as a perfect introduction to her writing style and to the Archer's Rest cast of characters.  I have enjoyed all of the books in the "Someday Quilts" series and this one did not disappoint.  Look for her next book, "The Double Wedding Ring", to be released in October. 

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

August 2, 2013

Book Review - "A Season For Tending"

"A Season for Tending" by Cindy Woodsmall is the first book in the "Amish Vines and Orchards" series and once you read this one, you will probably want to read the entire series. Here is a quick summary from the publisher:

 "Old Order Amish Rhoda Byler’s unusual gift and her remarkable abilities to grow herbs and berries have caused many to think her odd. As rumors mount that Rhoda’s “gift” is a detriment to the community, she chooses isolation, spending her time in her fruit garden and on her thriving canning business. Miles away in Harvest Mills, Samuel King struggles to keep his family’s apple orchard profitable. As the eldest son, Samuel farms with his brothers, the irrepressible Jacob and brash Eli, while his longtime girlfriend Catherine remains hopeful that Samuel will marry her when he feels financially stable. Meanwhile, Samuel’s younger sister Leah is testing all the boundaries during her rumschpringe, and finds herself far from home in Rhoda’s garden after a night of partying gone badly. But Leah’s poor choices serve as a bridge between Rhoda and the King family when a tragic mistake in the orchard leaves Samuel searching for solutions. 
Rhoda’s expertise in canning could be the answer, but she struggles with guilt over the tragic death of her sister and doesn’t trust herself outside her garden walls. As the lines between business, love, and family begin to blur, can Rhoda finally open up to a new life? And what effect will this odd, amazing woman have on the entire King family?"

 As you can tell from the summary, this book contains many interwoven themes and story lines full of drama and angst, romance and heartache. The characters are very likeable to the extent that I found myself rooting for them and celebrating with them when good things started happening. The book ends in a slight cliff-hanger which means I will definitely be reading the rest of the series to find out what happens next. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction as I would consider this book to be particularly well written and unique for this genre. I also enjoyed learning a little bit about the business of Apple Orchards and how fragile the business of being a farmer can be.

 Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

July 18, 2013

"Grace's Pictures"- Book Review

  "Grace's Pictures", by Cindy Thomson, is a wonderful book about an Irish Immigrant named Grace McCaffery who finds her new life in New York City.  She arrives a scared and uncertain girl and gradually transforms throughout the novel into a confident woman.  Thomson has a gift for painting a picture with words and I found myself completely enthralled with this book and its characters.  I picked it up whenever I had a spare minute to read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys great historical fiction. It would also appeal to anybody who enjoys crime dramas and books with a slight romance novel aspect as well.  This book has something for everyone!

About the Author . . . Cindy Thomson is a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast. Her love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage have inspired much of her writing. In addition to books, Cindy has written articles for numerous online and print publications. She is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Cindy and her husband have three grown sons and live in central Ohio.

1. What was your inspiration for this book, Grace’s Pictures?
When the Brownie Camera was introduced, it changed photography forever. What was before expensive and not very portable, suddenly became available for the average person. I read a contemporary commentary that expressed the concern that with everyone carrying a camera, someone could have his/her photograph taken without permission, and what an invasion of privacy that would be. That got me thinking…what if that happened, and at a time before there were very many mug shots available of criminals.
I love writing about immigrants because their stories are a part of who we are today. If not for their bravery and ingenuity, our lives would be much different today, and probably more difficult

2. Tell me about your main character, Grace McCaffery. Was her character based upon anyone in particular?
Grace comes to America wounded by her experiences of having an abusive father, being evicted from her home by the police, and then having to survive in a workhouse. When her mother gets remarried, to a policeman no less, Grace is horrified. In her mind, avoiding the kind of people who hurt you is the only way to stay safe. When she is sent to America to start a new life, she is not certain she wants to go. She wishes for the confidence and joy she sees in others around her, and she tries to capture it in drawings and snapshots so she can better study it. I know a lot of people, me for one, who would rather observe for a while before stepping out and trying something new. But historically, immigrants could not do that. They were thrust into change and had to adapt and endure.
Grace, like most fictional characters, is not based on any particular person. She is a conglomeration of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers who came to this country seeking a better life, but without many options to support themselves. They must have been frightened at first by this vast new country, but somehow they overcame that fear and founded our American families.

3. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
A lesson that I hope is learned in this story is that God provides what we need, but many times it requires us to put aside our preconceived ideas. No matter what disadvantages we start with, we can turn things around, with God’s help.

4. How do you expect Grace’s story to resonate with women?
Grace, a young woman who was not nurtured much as a child, becomes a nurturer. She is a nanny with a role that becomes essential for the children she cares for. I think most women are nurturers. Unfortunately, Grace had a far from ideal childhood. I think many women struggle with not having been nurtured themselves. Grace’s story illustrates the hope that God can turn that around, and even in unexpected ways. Grace meets someone who cares for her, who just happens to work in that dreaded occupation—a policeman.

5. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved learning about Ellis Island, visiting New York City, and imagining those immigrants of the early 20th century moving along the same paths I was exploring. I loved writing about how the children Grace cared for helped to change her. History is fascinating to me, and it's a privilege to be able to write about it.

6. What is your hope for this story? How would you like it to impact readers?
I hope readers will be transported to a time in history when everything was changing at a rapid pace and experience a bit of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I would like readers, through Grace’s Pictures, to not only appreciate the sacrifices their ancestors made, but also find the courage to meet their own challenges—everyone has them.

7. How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller?
Grace was at first a difficult character to figure out. I had a loving father who passed away a few months before I started working on this book. Grace, who did not have a loving father, stretched me a bit, but it was good to explore what life was like for her and try to imagine how someone like her could not only survive but thrive.

8. What is it about this time period in history that made you want to write about it?
New inventions were constantly popping up, things that we take for granted today. For instance, telephones were becoming more widely available, but immigrants were not familiar with them. Same with electricity. There was a huge disparity between the rich and the poor, and the middle class was the minority. Monopolies were not yet forbidden. The rich were extremely rich. The poor were extremely poor, and the conditions in the tenements were disgraceful. And yet, this was not overlooked. There were gangs and corrupt police, but also scores of charities working hard to protect, educate, and care for immigrants. And it was also a time period of huge numbers of immigrants coming to the country, most through Ellis Island, so in that way this time period has impacted a great many Americans today.

9. What lessons can we learn from the pages of historical fiction?

The Bible tells us, “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT). Historical fiction uses the power of story to help us find those old ways. We deceive ourselves if we think no one has experienced the struggles we have. Someone has. Why not learn those stories and be led by them?

10. What is one of the best pieces of advice or encouragement you have received?
I’m always open to sound advice. Here is one that has encouraged me. It’s from a tea bag quote.
A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere. ~Joyce A. Meyers

Chapter One Excerpt: 

Author’s blog:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.