Home All Along by Beth Wiseman

Book description:

Charlotte has made a home for herself in Amish Country with Daniel. But unforeseen events rock their fragile world and may move them even further away from the life they long for.

Charlotte, an Englisher, is living in Amish Country, and she has formed strong and lasting bonds with the people in her new community. She has even fallen in love with an Amish man. But just when she is considering a permanent conversion to the Amish way of life, her world crashes around her. An unexpected death and a mysterious visitor unsettle Charlotte, and she begins to question her faith and her choices.

Daniel loves Charlotte and wants to share his life with her, even it if means leaving the only world he’s ever known. But as he walks alongside of her through her struggles, his own world is turned upside down when a loved one receives a grim medical diagnosis and a prodigal relative returns home. Will Charlotte and Daniel’s relationship succumb to the many pressures around them, or will their faith and the strong community around them allow them to weather the storms of their own lives in order to build a life together?

My review:

Although I have read a lot of Amish fiction books, this is the first one in which the main character is an “Englischer” considering joining the Amish community. I found it to be an interesting approach to Amish fiction. I have not read the other books in this series, but that did not affect my understanding or enjoyment of this novel.

One thing I really enjoy about novels is when the characters have to cope with real-life struggles and challenges. This one does not disappoint! All of the characters have to survive challenges and real-lfe problems that are normal parts of life, in addition to other problems that might not be so commonplace, but readers can be sympathetic to because the characters are so relatable. Wiseman incorporates issues such a grief, life-support, and relationship problems and deals with them in a very tactful and real way.

If you are looking for an Amish novel that is different from any you have read before, this is one for you. It was so good, I want to go back and read the other books in the series!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids by Nancy Guthrie

Book description:

Daily encouragement for parents who realize the things they want most for their kids are things only God can do . . . so they pray.
As parents we want to protect our children; we want them to move forward in life; most importantly, we want them to take hold of and grow in Christ. And while the advice offered by parenting experts can be helpful, at some point we realize there are no simplistic formulas or sure-fire methods. We need wisdom from God’s Word for this all-important task.

In The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids, trusted author Nancy Guthrie weaves together wisdom and insight from each day’s reading in The One Year Bible, providing encouragement through the triumphs and turbulence of parenting. Day by day you’ll find your dreams and desires for your children are becoming shaped more by Scripture than by the culture around you. Worry less, pray more, and help yourself to a daily dose of perspective, hope, and grace as you parent.

My review:

As a mom of three teenagers, I can identify with the book description of wanting the things for my kids that only God can do. I can’t guarantee their safety as they go out into the world, but I can pray for them before they leave the house. I can’t be with them every moment to make sure that others are kind to them or that they never experience heartbreak or struggles, but I can pray that God would minister to them. I can’t even guarantee that I will not be impatient or quick to anger with them, but I can pray that God would reveal His perfect love and stand in the gap of my failings as a parent.

The readings in the book are short and quick, so they are easy to commit to on a daily basis. They are relevant to challenges that children will face as they live their lives, such as inner beauty or modesty. Each reading also has additional verses so that if readers want to spend more time on a topic, they are able to.

If you are looking for a book to guide your prayers for your children, no matter what their ages, this is a great choice! With the new year right around the corner, it is a great time to commit to a daily devotional and prayer time for your children. However, although the book is written starting in January, you can begin it at any time.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

Book description:

Get out! Run! We must leave this place! They are going to destroy this whole place! Go, children, run first! Go now!

These were the final shouts nine year-old Kim Phuc heard before her world dissolved into flames―before napalm bombs fell from the sky, burning away her clothing and searing deep into her skin. It’s a moment forever captured, an iconic image that has come to define the horror and violence of the Vietnam War. Kim was left for dead in a morgue; no one expected her to survive the attack. Napalm meant fire, and fire meant death.

Against all odds, Kim lived―but her journey toward healing was only beginning. When the napalm bombs dropped, everything Kim knew and relied on exploded along with them: her home, her country’s freedom, her childhood innocence and happiness. The coming years would be marked by excruciating treatments for her burns and unrelenting physical pain throughout her body, which were constant reminders of that terrible day. Kim survived the pain of her body ablaze, but how could she possibly survive the pain of her devastated soul?

Fire Road is the true story of how she found the answer in a God who suffered Himself; a Savior who truly understood and cared about the depths of her pain. Fire Road is a story of horror and hope, a harrowing tale of a life changed in an instant―and the power and resilience that can only be found in the power of God’s mercy and love.

My review:

When I saw the cover of this book, I couldn’t wait to read it because I have wondered about the girl in the picture, if she survived the war, and what happened to her. Some pictures so perfectly capture an event that they can not help but pull the viewer in. This picture is one of the top five of all time, in my opinion. I did not realize that the girl in the photo was fleeing a Napalm attack or that she was naked because her clothes were burned away. I also did not realize that some of the people in the photo with her were relatives that did not survive. Learning the story behind the photo and about the person made it a lot more meaningful.

I learned a lot while reading this book. I was born at the very end of the Vietnam War, so I was not aware of a lot of the human suffering of the people of Vietnam. I found Kim’s stories of living and surviving in Vietnam in the midst of war to be very disturbing and inspiring. Although her physical injuries and pain was difficult to read about, the most disturbing aspect of her story was when she was used as a propaganda tool by her government.

Despite the pain and difficulty of her youth, Kim grew into a woman filled with grace and compassion. It was inspiring to read about her discovery of faith and the peace and happiness she experienced. I particularly enjoyed studying her family photographs of her husband and sons.

If you read only one biographical book in the next year, make it this one. It is a wonderful story of the strength of the human spirit and the blessings of faith.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Acrylic Painter by James Van Patten

Book description:

A complete course on acrylic painting for beginners and experienced artists that covers classic approaches and new innovations 

Embraced for versatility, quick-drying properties, and non-toxicity, no medium offers a wider range of effects forcreating highly expressive art than acrylics. With its flexibility and ease of use, acrylic paint is a must-try for painters—no matter your skill level.

Here noted artist and School of Visual Arts instructor James Van Patten draws from years of experience to show you how to use acrylics to achieve a variety of results—from watercolor-like transparency and the flatness of tempera and gouache to the buttery quality of oils. He presents an insider’s look at the most up-to-date tools, materials, and techniques used by top painters in the medium to produce highly expressive art.

Van Patten offers guidance on materials, processes, balance, and composition, and focuses on effectively using color in painting. Replete with detailed step-by-step technical demonstrations and a catalog of inspiring works by notable past and contemporary artists, as well as the author himself and his students, The Acrylic Painter provides a complete, classic art instruction manual for painters of all abilities in one of today’s most popular types of paint.

My review:

The best part about this book is that it has something to offer beginners or experienced painters alike. I found the chapter on stretching your own canvas particularly informational, because it is something I have never done before. However, Van Patten offers such detailed and easy-to-follow directions that anyone can do it.

There is something in this book for everyone, whether it is your first attempt at acrylic painting, or if you are comfortable with advanced techniques. One of the most motivating parts of the book is the many pictures that show how acrylic paint can be used to create trubly beautiful works of art. Some of the pictures are so perfect that they look like photographs. I know I will never be able to paint like that, but it is inspiring to know that it can be done.

This is a book that I will refer to time and time again, when considering materials and techniques. If you are looking for a go-to reference to further your painting abilities, look no further than this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Book Description:

A letter brings him back to his Amish family. It will take someone truly extraordinary to make him stay.

Roman is on the verge of leaving the Amish ways. Feeling confined by the strict rules, he longs to do something more with his life. But when things don’t go as planned, Roman’s prospects outside of the community dwindle. Upon learning that his beloved grandmother has died and left a letter urging him to reconcile with his brother in Birch Creek, Roman decides to return home. But he doesn’t plan to stay for long.

Leanna Chupp has always made her own way in her small community of Birch Creek. Though some may call her unconventional—strange, even—Leanna is happy. Her unique outlook on life has meant she’s never had many suitors pursuing courtship, which Leanna doesn’t mind. She is content being single.

But when Roman and Leanna find themselves working together again, everything changes. Though neither fit squarely within the strictures of the Amish faith, their differences could be the very thing to help them form a deeper connection to their community and to each other. The question remains: will this strengthening bond be enough to make Roman stay for good?

My review:

The best part about this book was the various facets presented by the characters. They were flawed and experienced real-life tragedies and pain, but the persevered and continued on a path according to God’s plan for their lives.

As I read books like this where the main characters are obviously meant for each other, the suspense of whether they get together is replaced by a curiousity of how they will get together. Clearly Leanna and Roman were destined to get together, but how would they realize it. Fuller offered an interesting journey of discovery between the two that felt authentic and less contrived than similar books. I found the physical description of Leanna and the life-journey of Roman to be particular interesting and unusual. There were aspects of the book that I was really curious about that kept me reading and reading. Due to external factors, it has been rare that I have had the time to read a book a day, but this was such an interesting and quick read that I sacrificed other activities to read it.

If you enjoy reading Amish fiction, you will enjoy this book. It provides a different look at the Amish world and lifestyle.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

Book Description:

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

My Review:

This is the second book I have read from Michele Phoenix and I was blown away by both of them! I love books that are realistic and true-to-life. Phoenix does not hold back from realistic happenings in her books and is not afraid to have really terrible things happen to her characters. I find it refreshing because real-life can be terrible and it is a little frustrating to read books that are always predictable and happy.

In this story, Phoenix deals with current issues and intertwines events from the past. One of the reasons why historical fiction is my favorite genre to read is because I find that I learn a little bit about the past while reading the novel. Although this is not historical fiction, Phoenix gives us snapshots into the past. Furthermore, the Huguenot persecutions are something that I was not that familiar with, so I found this novel especially interesting.

There were a couple of twists and turns in this book that will hold the interest of all readers, especially in light of the relevance and current events. However, what I found most interesting was the connection between the persecution of the past and the current climate.

The saddest thing about this book was the fact that while I vaguely remembered the attacks on Paris, I had already forgotten many of the details of the attack on the Bataclan. Phoenix’s novel keeps the memory of the attack and the innocent victims alive in readers, even those that were not directly affected by the attacks.

If you want to read a book that is inspiring and painful and disturbing and wonderful, this is the book for you. It is well-written and painfully beautiful.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell

Book Description:

In a few hours, Millie will say “I do” to Bump Anderson, a man who loves her through and through. But would he love her if he knew the secret she keeps?

Millie’s mind is racing and there seems to be no clear line between right and wrong. Either path leads to pain, and she’ll do anything to protect the ones she loves. So she decides to bury the truth and begin again, helping Bump launch a ranch in the wilds of Colorado. But just when she thinks she’s left her old Mississippi life behind, the facts surface in the most challenging way.

That’s when Millie’s grandmother, Oka, arrives to help. Relying on her age-old Choctaw traditions, Oka teaches Millie the power of second chances. Millie resists, believing redemption is about as likely as moving mountains. But Oka stands strong, modeling forgiveness as the only true path to freedom.

Together, Bump, Millie, and Oka fight against all odds to create a sustainable ranch, all while learning that the important lessons of their pasts can be used to build a beautiful future.

My Review:

I’ve been a fan of Julie Cantrell since reading her book, The Feathered Bone. I learned from that book that Cantrell writes honestly, without artificiality. My favorite authors are ones that write honestly about the human condition. Cantrell provides the same level of honest writing in this book.

I didn’t realize this book was a sequel until after I had begun reading it. Although I did not read the first book, it did not impact my understanding of events in this book. It definitely stands on its own.  The characters are engaging and endearing in this book, but what makes it so very good is the message of unconditional love and trust. Readers see this particularly in the character of Bump. However, readers also see that sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is ourself.

This is a great story of forging a new and better life and the possibility of doing so despite pain and hardship of the past. If you like stories of characters with depth who overcome struggles, you will enjoy this book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

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Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

Book Description:

Stella Bain has no memory of her past when she wakes up in a hospital bed in Marne, France. It is 1916, and she wears the uniform of a British war nurse but speaks with an American accent. As soon as she is able, Stella sets out for London, where she hopes to find answers. What she discovers-with the help of Dr. August Bridge, who takes an interest in her case-both shocks and startles. As Stella’s memories come racing back, she must undertake a journey across the ocean to confront the haunted past of the woman she used to be.

In this gripping historical drama that transports us from Europe to America and back again, Anita Shreve weaves an engrossing tale about love and memory, set against the backdrop of a war that devastated an entire generation.

My Review:

I thought this book was an interesting look at WWI and the role of women in service in WWI. This is the second book from Shreve that I have read and I appreciate the honesty of her writing. In this book, for example, she does not gloss over or try to beautify the ugliness of war. The injuries the soldiers face and the emotional trauma that is a side effect of war is forefront throughout the book.

One of the reasons why I enjoy historical fiction so much is because one can get an idea of how people that lived during the time might have viewed events or ideas that came into vogue when they actually happened. In this book, it was interesting to hear about Freud’s ideas when they were newly introduced.

This novel held my attention because I had no idea which way it was going to go and where Stella would end up. The mystery of her identify was revealed expertly by Shreve in such a way that it was impossible to figure it out before it was time. However, there was enough action and interest to keep me reading to find out who Stella was.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting book that would be great for a weekend read.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco

Book Description:

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.

Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman-occupied Judea.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

My Review:

One of the reasons why I love reading historical fiction so much is that it brings history to life. It is one thing to memorize facts or to read descriptions of historical events, but another to imagine what it would be like to actually have been present when the event was happening. In Marasco’s book, readers get to experience Jesus’s crucifixion through the eyes of a dog. In many ways, it reminded me of Avi’s book, The Good Dog.

This is the best book I have read in a very long time. I always know when I am completely lost in a book because I say things out loud like, “Oh no!” or even gasp at times. I gave several audible reactions while I was reading this book, so much so that my family asked if I was ok.

One thing that this book made me realize/remember was the danger that merchants and travelers encountered while they were journeying along the roads around Jerusalem. We read the story of the Good Samaritan and other stories that demonstrate the presence of thieves, but this story clearly demonstrated that.

One might not think that there would be any surprises in this book, but I was so impressed with the twists that Marasco included. I had no idea what was coming next. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially with a different and unusual perspective, this book is a must, must, must read!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller

Book Description:

When a postal error creates pen pals of two young Amish people, can they put behind their past mistakes to see the bright future God has written for them?

Jalon Chupp has a past he isn’t proud to claim. He’s worked hard to overcome his youthful mistakes, and he has recommitted himself to his faith. When he receives a sweet note included in a piece of misdirected mail, he can’t help but write back. Soon, the letters he receives from Phoebe are the highlights of his days, and with a hopeful heart, he suggests they meet in person.

Phoebe, too, looks forward to every single one of Jalon’s letters. Living with her overbearing aunt, Phoebe doesn’t have too much to look forward to. But when Jalon suggests they meet, she panics—although she has shared some of the deepest longings of her heart with him, she hasn’t been entirely truthful about her past. But when Jalon shows up at her aunt’s doorstep, everything is revealed. And she can only pray he’ll forgive her for holding back the truth.

In order to reach beyond the errors of their pasts, both Phoebe and Jalon must put their faith in something—or Someone—bigger than either of them could pen.

My Review:

I have to admit that usually when I am reading a book and the author includes letters written from one character to another, I just sort of skim over them. However, Fuller begins this book with a series of letters written from Jalon to Phoebe, so I found myself carefully reading the letters for a change.

This is a nice novel, perfect for a relaxing afternoon read. It follows the typical romance novel format where the characters have a connection, there is a conflict, and readers have a fairly confident expectation that they will end up together by the end of the story. I liked reading the story, although I found it much more interesting at the beginning and the end than in the middle. I appreciated all the layers of characters that were pulled in because it helped to hold my interest. I liked the addition of Adam, because it is a little uncommon for authors to include a character with a disability.

If you enjoy reading Amish fiction, you will enjoy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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