Monday, January 31, 2011

And have I mentioned how much I enjoy Amish stories? -- A Place of Peace

A Place of Peace is the third book in Amy Clipston's Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, and I hope it's not the last.  It was fun to re-visit characters from the other stories and meet some new ones as well.  (And there are surely more stories to be written about those characters.)

Miriam Lapp left her Amish community four years earlier and returns home when she learns of her mother's death.  Her visit home -- which she hopes will be an opportunity to mend some relationships -- just seems to create more hurt and confusion for Miriam and some of her friends and family.  She returns to her "English" way of life in Indiana but is torn more than ever about where she really belongs.  When she is called back home again for another family emergency, she learns more about the power of forgiveness and how important it is to untangle lies, separate out the truth, and make important decisions -- no matter how difficult.  Forgiveness and reconciliation shine through as important themes in this story.

As in the earlier books in the series, Amy shares several Amish recipes.  I can personally recommend the Apple Butter Pie on page 201!

On a personal note, I found it fun that the main character was Miriam Lapp from Gordonville, PA.  When my husband and I visited Lancaster County, we stayed in a guest house in Gordonville, PA, run by a dear Amish lady named Miriam Lapp!  No connection between character and real-life person (I contacted Amy Clipston to ask about it), but I enjoyed remembering my time with Miriam while I read this story.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A relaxing read -- Plain Wisdom

Grab a cup of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee, curl up in a comfy chair, and be prepared to listen as two friends share their thoughts and experiences about . . . well, about a lot of things – family, fun, friendship, faith – about life.  That is how I felt while reading Plain Wisdom by Cindy Woodsmall and Miriam Flaud.

Cindy and Miriam live in very different worlds.  Cindy is an “Englisch” author in a world filled with modern technology, and Miriam is Old Order Amish.  But when it comes to the bottom line, they are very much alike.  Both love their families, face day-to-day challenges, learn through their life experiences, and try to live God-pleasing lives.  As Cindy did research for her Amish novels, the two women developed a friendship that transcends their varied lifestyles.  Somewhere along the way, they came up with the idea of writing a book together . . . and I’m glad they did!

The story-telling style is not what I would call dialogue – Cindy and Miriam don’t really interact with each other.  It’s more like one of them shares her heart on a particular subject and then the other adds her thoughts.  Mixed in with their stories, they share facts about the Amish lifestyle, and Miriam shares several of her favorite recipes.

If you are interested in the Amish lifestyle or just want to relax with “comfort food” for your soul, I would recommend Plain Wisdom.

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(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Shelter of God's Promises by Sheila Walsh

Provision, peace, confidence, love, grace, hope, strength, more and home – aren’t these things each of long to find in our lives?

In The Shelter of God’s Promises, Sheila Walsh uses Scripture and stories from her own life and the lives of others to share the gems of truth in God’s promises to provide those things.  In an easy-to-read style she pulls those promises together under the over-arching idea of shelter.  She relates how Christ, as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, not only provides us shelter, but He IS our Shelter. 

Sheila had me at the introduction of her book, laying the foundation with an application in her life of one of my favorite passages of Scripture – Exodus 33 – where God places Moses in the cleft of the rock and promises Moses shelter until He has passed by.  I was inspired by the reminders of how much God cares for each of us, for me individually, how I can stake my life on the promises He provides in His Word, and how I can rest in Christ as the Cleft of the Rock.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for hope, or anyone wanting to enjoy a reminder of all that God offers.

At the end of the book are questions on each chapter to encourage the reader to look deeper at personal applications of each topic.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An unusual story -- The Miracle of Mercy Land

The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan was an unsual story, not the type I normally read.  The story captivated me within the first chapter, and I had no choice but to keep reading.  At times the story was hard to follow -- jumping between times and places and characters -- but there were so many twists and turns and intriguing scenes that I kept working through the times of confusion to see where it went.

"I was born in a bolt of lightning on the banks of Bittersweet Creek."  This is the first description we get of Mercy Land.  Although Mercy has spent seven years in the "big" Bay City, working at The Banner as Doc Philips' go-to girl, who she was and where she came from continue to play a big role in who she is becoming.  As the story progresses, the pieces fall together about who Mercy, Doc, John Quncy, and Aunt Ida are and how their lives impacted each other in ways not all of them were aware of.  The mysterious book -- that might be described as the main character of the story -- seems to drive the story in kind of a supernatural way.  The story explores the question of what we would change if we could -- and whether that would be a good thing.  The "lesson" that seems to come through as the story reaches its climax is one of choices -- how we are each ultimately responsible for our own choices, and that is much more important than anything we might do to try to change the outcome of anyone else's life. 

This was not my favorite recent read, but I did enjoy it and would recommend it to others.  It is definitely a thought-provoking story.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Another great historical novel -- Courting Miss Amsel

Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer is another great historical novel by this author.  Edythe Amsel begins her first teaching assignment in Walnut Hill, Nebraska, in 1882, planning to put her difficult past behind her and forge ahead as an independent young woman.  She has innovative ideas and enjoys teaching students of all ages in her one-room school house.  Along the way, she manages to stir up some of the towns-folk with her unorthodox methods but also finds some much-needed support.  She also learns important lessons about letting go of the control she so desperately wants to have over her own life and enjoying the better life God has for her.

As always, Kim creates characters that you would love to know in real life -- and almost feel like you do by the time you finish the book!  Edythe, Joel, Luthenia, and others draw you into their stories and lives in a compelling way.  Although In Every Heartbeat is still my favorite Kim Vogel Sawyer story, I can whole-heartedly recommend Courting Miss Amsel.