Mattie’s Pledge By Jan Drexler

This Amish novel was very different to me. I always pictured the Amish as staying in one place for their entire lives, never making a harrowing journey by wagon train to start a new life. Very thought-provoking!
The Schrock family has decided to move to Indiana from Pennsylvania. The promise of more and better farmland at good prices is the lure. Plus an Amish community has already been started there. It is courageous not only because of the dangers of the journey but they will be starting from scratch, nothing but land.
Friends, family, and some friends from the past come to join them. Mattie is excited to go. She has had a wanderlust for long time, to see the world and have adventure. Not the norm for a young Amish girl.
Jacob Yoder and his family come to be a part of the wagon train. He knew Mattie from when they lived in the same community. She has always had a part of his heart. Mattie finds herself drawn to Jacob too, but struggles with becoming the typical Amish wife and staying in one place forever or fulfilling her dream of travel. Faith, family, and the simple lifestyle are ingrained in her, but her youthfulness finds many temptations. One such temptation is a dark haired, wicked thief, one of three brothers that continue to follow them to steal their horses. She finds herself dangerously enticed by him.
The story gives explicit details of the life and hardships of wagon travel in the 1840’s. I learned so much!! I was awed by how they took the difficulties in stride. The travel was hard by itself, but caring for children, cooking, unexpected illness, and hazards were dealt with matter-of-factly. I found it heartwarming how everyone helped each other and if you were lacking another shared what they had.
Their strong faith was their driving force and they never questioned or wavered. This would explain their success against some insurmountable odds.
The novel brought to light spiritual struggles we face today. One was Mattie’s discontentment with what they Lord had provided. Her unhappiness had nothing to do with her situation or others, but within herself. It took some very hard lessons and a lot of prayer for Mattie to see she had all she needed.
A major highlight for me was seeing true forgiveness. This is something people battle every day. The entire Amish group not only forgave them men that tried to harm with and steal, but helped them when they were in need. What a sterling example that forgiveness is a choice.
Life in the trail was hard and fraught with numerous unexpected problems and hazards. The people did not shrink back or complain. Without questioning, the people dealt with each one trusting wholly in God. This book was exciting, historically educational, and very entertaining!
I received this book free from Revell Publishing.

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The Judgmental Flower by Julia Cook

Prejudice and hatred are growing rapidly in our society. These dangerous attitudes are usually directed at those that are different in some way. Ms. Cook has such a gift and insight to address serious issues with children. Her books do not preach or scold, but share the problem and many solutions.
A judgmental spirit is a learned attitude. Otherwise children are naturally the most loving and accepting people there are. As with all her books, The Judgmental Flower is charmingly illustrated, entertaining to read and written on a child’s level of understanding. This book is also written in rhyme which I know with the young ones I read to helps retain attention.
Because all children know about and love flowers they can relate to them. The story is about a little blue flower that has a big family and lots of friends, of course they are all blue like him. One day a purple flower appears on his patch of ground. He immediately dislikes the new bloom because he isn’t like him. He goes to his mother to share his concerns.
He is surprised to find out that everyone is NOT supposed to be alike. She begins to point out all the ways the new comer is LIKE him. She also helps him see how the water, wind, sun, and bees respect the purple blossom just as he is. Mom points out how boring the world would be if everyone were alike and difference make the world beautiful.
Not wanting to grow in the “wrong” direction the blue flower decides to have his new neighbor a chance. He was delighted to find out they had so much in common and his new friend taught him many new things!
At the back of the book are six of Ms. Cook’s wonderful tips and discussion questions to help children overcome a horrible attitude while they are young. Every class and home needs to read this book.

All Is Bright By Nancy Guthrie

All Is Bright
I have been delighted with the adult coloring books. I no longer have to be a “secret” colorer. I have loved coloring since I was a child, but the only thing available was children’s coloring books.
This one goes far and beyond just a book for entertainment! It is perfect for the Christmas season. You have not only a release for your artistic part, but also a 31 day Advent, devotional book. Each devotional is one page and has an accompanying picture to color. It gets even better! The back of the book has 12 devotionals with a scripture to share with your family. This also includes some discussion questions and really nice coloring pages for kids.
I like that it allows you to include the entire family. What wonderful Christmas memories and a way to prepare your heart for the true reason for the season. This is a quality book made with heavy paper. Best of all it can be kept as a keep sake and used year after year as a new family tradition.
I received this book free from Tyndale publishers.

The Christmas Angel Project By Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson is the queen author of Christmas novels! They are the cozy snuggle up and read stories even when it isn’t Christmas time! Abby has a special way of touching people’s lives personally and for the Lord. When she dies suddenly, her monthly book club which consists of her and 4 other ladies is devastated, even lost. None of them had much in common other than their friendship Abby. Even more so they each depended on her greatly for emotional support and spiritual advice. They decide to meet one more time before disbanding the club. Her husband delivers sack filled with gifts for each one for the next meeting.
Opening their presents bring tears as they are beautiful handmade angel ornaments that looks exactly like the one receiving it. Included for all of them was a personal hand written note about how grateful she was for their friendships, and how they were all her “angels”. The certainly never saw themselves as angels, just Abby.
They decide in honor of their friend, to keep the club together but in a different way. Inspired by her message they would each become a Christmas angel, working to make miracles come true in the lives of others. They depart excited but perplexed. Each lady had been so wrapped up in her personal life, problems, and career, they hadn’t thought much about serving God and the needs of others. Individually the ask themselves question, what could they do, what were they capable of doing, and how would be do it?
As the story unfolds all 4 ladies choose very different plans to accomplish their goal. Deeply buried God given talents emerged as they found ways to bless others.
The women also found a new awakening in their relationship with the Lord. Their personal lives began to change in ways they never imagined.
There were so many wonderful life lessons in this book! When you have only one person to depend on for your deepest needs and that person is taken, you are lost. That is why it is so important to have God as number one in your life. He will always be there
Also just was with the club members, life and all its drama and business can consume us. Unknowingly we shut God out of our lives and struggle along alone. This backslidden condition also tends to make us very self-centered, unable to see or care about those around us. This book was so inspiring!
I received this book free from Revell Publishing.

Where Hope Prevails by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

I have greatly enjoyed this series and was excited to see another sequel! After a long visit with her wealthy family Beth Thatcher excitedly returns to rural Coal Valley, the place that has stolen her heart and to her beloved teaching job with the miner’s children. She loves the simplicity, never missing the prosperous life she grew up with. She is in for a surprise! Nothing looks the same! Not only has the small town grown, but the beautiful trees have all been cut down to make way for more homes. She feels sick and hates the hideous stumps that dot the land.
If that isn’t bad enough, she has found they have hired another teacher to help with the increased number of children. Being accustomed to being in control and having the school to herself, Becky is upset to say the least. But that isn’t the worst of it. She also learns she will not be able to stay at her beloved Molly’s boarding house, the woman that is like a mother to her. There isn’t room plus somehow there is the assumption that she and her Mountie boyfriend, Jarrick, are going to be married! She must stay in the upstairs apartment the Grant’s used to inhabit. The family brings back so many bad memories. Their abusive attitudes, the husbands arrest and the wife’s attempted suicide there. The quarters are cramped, dingy, and cold! She has no idea how to cook or care for a household, plus she has never stayed alone! Poor Becky
Some sequels begin to fizzle out as they are added but this one did not. The plot is full of surprises and wonderful characters. Becky has always been one to jump to conclusions and think the worst of people and situations. God works on her in a big way to wait on Him and learn to trust His choices for her. She grows in leaps and bounds in her spiritual maturity and abilities. I hope there is another sequel after this one!
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers.
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The Road We Traveled By Jane Kirkpatrick

I have never read a book of Ms. Kirkpatrick’s I did not enjoy – a lot! It isn’t just her outstanding skills as a writer that draws me, but the fact that all her books are based on real people and events. Most I had never heard of.
Tabitha Brown lived during the 1840’s and became known as the Mother of Oregon. She founded the Oregon Orphans’ Asylum and School at Tualatin Plains. It was a boarding house, had a teacher from the east. Children were fed, clothed educated and loved. Eventually it became the Tualatin Academy. She did all this with very limited funds, in her senior years and in a newly settled area. The diary she kept along the journey was a great source of information for the author.
All this is quite amazing, but there was much more to Tabitha than that. She was a widowed pastor’s wife, a spunky, outspoken, independent woman. When her family decides to move to Oregon from Missouri, her son announces it is best for to stay behind! He cites her age, 65, and a lame leg that makes it difficult to get around. She is hurt and stunned.
With her usual determination she buys her own wagon, supplies and animals, announcing she is going. The trip is treacherous and dangerous, testing her in ways she had never been challenged. In the 1840’s such trips were trying even for the young. Not only did she face every peril, but actually helped her family in different crisis’s.
I related to Tabitha in several ways. I am in my 60’s also a widowed pastor’s wife. How would I feel if my children announced they were all moving away and leaving me behind? What if I lived in that era and the trip would not mean jumping in a car and being there in a few hours. Would I have the courage and strength?
Her strong faith in God is what carried her. I admired that as with all the discomfort, opposition, and hazards she faced it showed she had true trust in God. It would have been so easy to give up. No matter how difficult the experiences were, she continued to think of and care for others. What an inspiring woman! Six stars to Ms. Kirkpatrick for another outstanding book!
I received this book free from Baker Publishing

No Way Up by Mary Connealy

To be honest I am not a fan of western novels but I thought would give this one a try and I am so glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is also the first time I have read one of Ms. Connealy’s books.
Yes, it was an action packed western, but I was delighted to see it also a romance, a mystery, filled with danger and suspense, but my biggest surprise was the wonderful humor throughout the book!
Chance Bowden was a wealthy and powerful man. His children are grown and all have left the ranch except one. The other two have pursued careers they love away from the family empire. Chance is unexpectedly seriously injured in an avalanche. Before he is taken to Denver for treatment to save his live he calls his children, Cole, Justin, and Sadie, to his bedside and delivers a surprising ultimatum. They must all agree to live together on the ranch for a year or lose their inheritance ( a quite substantial one) to a cousin the detest. They grudgingly agree.
Hired hand, Health Kincaid stands by them. His wisdom and skills become invaluable to the siblings when serious trouble begins to emerge. Much to her brother’s disapproval Sadie begins to see him as more than an employee. Little did they know when they agreed to their father’s demands how much danger they would face and what hidden family secrets they would uncover. A very exciting and entertaining book! I look forward to reading more by Ms. Connealy!
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers

Flirtation Walk By Siri Mitchell

Lucinda Curtis didn’t have a typical upbringing. Her mother died when she was young. Her Dad was a con-artist and not only taught her everything he knew, but also employed her as part of his devious escapades. It is all she has ever known until one day she gets word he is dead.
She finds herself penniless and homeless. Her only option to go to her uncle’s house in West Point, New York. He cut all ties with her mother when she married her father. They are a very respectable family, and her uncle is a professor at the academy. Their reception of her is not quite welcoming, but they allow her to stay. She soon wins them over with her desire to help and charming personality.
Lucinda does her best to fit in and tries to turn around from her dishonest ways.
She is determined to change and put her past behind her but the old ways of thinking are hard to shake off.
She meets Seth Westcott a cadet at West Point. He is everything she has never been, upstanding, hardworking, and honest. He captures her heart but she feels she is not worthy of him. Seth has his own problems. He wants to go home and help his sister who has been swindled out of the family farm but the military will not give him permission. He decides to cast aside his good grades, perfect conduct and become a “bad” boy with the help of some not so upstanding cadets so he will be discharged.
This pre-Civil war historical novel is great. I love the characters, so many different personalities, and attitudes! Learning about the life of the cadets and some of the antics that went on was extremely interesting. I learned so much about the academy during this era. There are lots of unexpected twists and surprises along the way! The author beautifully shows how complete God’s forgiveness is and not matter how bad your past, He always has a new beginning!
.I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers.

That Rule Doesn’t Apply To Me! By Julia Cook

Most kids hate rules! They put restrictions and guidelines on them that require obedience and self-control. Noodle shares their feelings and as usual he has oodles of attitude about following them. He resolves this issue by deciding most of them don’t apply to him! Noodle goes through a mental list of a few rules in his life and decides they all “STINK”!
At school when confronted for breaking a rule he explains why he is exempt from it. He is continually being called down his teacher which only annoys him more. One day his teacher gives an assignment to write a poem for homework. Noodle decides write one entitled “Rules Stink”. In rhyme (just as the teacher assigned) he proceeds to prove his point.
His Mom isn’t very impressed with his poetry. She talks to him about how rules are there to help him and without them life would really STINK. Finally understanding the importance of these guidelines, he rewrites his poem. It sounds the same but there is a surprise ending!
Following rules is a major part of life. Children need to learn this at a very young age because adulthood has even more rules to follow! This delightful fun book gets the point across in the special way only Ms. Cook can reach them.
At the end of the book the author shares 10 tips to teach children to follow rules. They are excellent!
I love these books!! Go to http://www.juliacookonline.com to see more of the author’s books!

I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No! By Julia Cook

I honestly don’t know of a child that likes to be told “no”. When children argue most parents argue back, reason, ignore, bribe, give in or lose patience. None of those are a good outcomes for either parent or child. Ms. Cook once again as written a book that helps both of them. Amusing, engaging, and written in just the way to reach a child’s heart and mind, this book can teach your youngster to learn to respond correctly when told no. This is a win-win situation for everyone and lays an important foundation for years to come.
R.J. hates to be told, ”No”. Everything is battle, does that sound familiar? His teacher has had enough of his backtalk and disputing what she says. She encourages him to become a member of the “Say Yes to No Club.” He is intrigued and wants to know what he must do. The teacher tells him at two things: accept “no” for an answer, and disagree in the right way. She outlines four very simple steps for each one. I loved these and believe every home needs this club!
R.J. wanting to be a member of the club begins to apply what he has learned not only at school but also at home. His parents are in shock at first but very pleased! As the story unfolds children are shown how to implement these ideas. Not only will they be happier, but it will prevent conflicts with parents and teachers.
Special words are emphasized in color and a larger font. My granddaughter really liked this in the author’s books. At the end of the book are tips to deal with kids that don’t like the sound of “no”! Every home and classroom needs this book!
I love these books!! Go to http://www.juliacookonline.com to see more of the author’s books!