Anything But Plain By Suzanne Woods Fisher

This book combines two very unusual subjects and modern day topics and weaving them into an informative, entertaining and interesting story!

Lydia is quirky and can’t seem to keep her life in order. This leads her quickly going from job to job in rapid succession. She feels doesn’t fit in anywhere, especially not in the ordered life of the Amish.  She secretly plans to leave.

Nathan’s dream is to become a successful organic farmer.  He loves Lydia and only sees her sweet spirit and unusual insight into situations.  Unfortunately his father and brother are sold out to using as many harmful chemicals on their crops as the can.  Ignoring the impact they have on the environment and health.

To complicate matters more Lydia’s paternal grandmother comes to stay.  She is overbearing, unkind, controlling and has a master plan to “fix” Lydia once and for all. Lydia’s Aunt, Dok is a physician who left the Amish years ago. She offers her a job in her office.  Her suspicions are validated with some testing, Lydia has ADHD.

All the characters are so multifaceted!  Each has their own faults and struggles they are secretly dealing with.  Ms. Fisher beautifully weaves them all together in their relationships and community! 

I learned much about ADHD that I wasn’t aware of.  Not only some of the challenges but also how greatly it impacts one’s day to day existence.  I appreciated that the author presented that it can be treated without medication.

A wonderful story of forgiveness and God’s healing in unexpected ways.  

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

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The Lost Melody By Joanna Davidson Politano

Vivienne Mourdant is relieved at the death of her abusive father.  His cruelty and harsh training made her into a famous, sought after pianist.  Finally she was free to live her life and pursue her passion with music.  That is until she found among his papers reference to a woman named Rose.   For many years he had been paying for her keep at the Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum.  Who was this mysterious woman?  She was compelled to find her.  She decided to become an employee at the asylum to gain inside information and search.  Little did she know the danger she was exposing herself to.

I have read several fiction books depicting the lives and treatment of those living in what was referred to as lunatic asylums during the 1800’s.  I have even read Nellie Bly’s, “Ten Days in a Mad-house”.  None of these books came even close to giving the true picture of what these inmate’s lives were like, but Ms. Politano captures it all in this novel. 

She exposes the unjust, raw nightmare conditions of those who fell victim of these establishments.  Many inmates would become lifetime prisoner simply by someone’s accusation or assumption that they were mentally ill.  Sadly family members were often the culprit just wanting to rid themselves of the person. Some simply suffered from health problems.  I was grieved at the inhumane treatment and hopelessness of these poor souls.  

The story is powerful.  I could not read it at long stretches and especially not before going to bed.  All in the entire story is one of perseverance in the face of great hardship.  Vivienne’s faith, and belief she would escape even with such physical and mental abuse was inspirational. I loved the surprise ending. 

I received this book from LibraryThing and Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Fix The Clutter Fix: The No-Fail, Stress-Free Guide to Organizing Your Home By Shannon Acheson

Clutter has been an ongoing challenge for me for many years.  I go from organized and cleansed back to clutter.  I am always looking for new ideas and help in digging out when I slip back into my old ways.  There have been a lot of books written on this subject and believe me I have read a lot of them.  So I was a bit skeptical but still hopeful this one might have some ways to help me approach the job that lay before me.  I was pleasantly surprised!

I liked that the author was a Christian.  As a believer myself and always want to approach every part of my life through the Bible. This is the first decluttering book I have seen that includes God in putting your home in order. To me that’s perfect as He is to be the center of our homes in every way.

Clutter is complicated because much of it has an emotional basis.  I love the way she makes her instructions so simple and clear.  It was like having her there beside me discussing many aspects involved in this huge task that I would have never thought of!  She covers every angle.  I learned so many new ideas and techniques I can apply to weeding out my belongings.  Instead of being overwhelmed I felt it was a task I could succeed at! Once you are done she has even more suggestions to keep your house from going backwards again. A very helpful book!

I received this book from Bethany House Nonfiction/Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions I have stated are my own.

Brain Washed: Overcome Toxic Thoughts and Take Back Control of Your Mind By Manny Arango

I am sure toxic thoughts are nothing new, but the world and media seem to give us a lot more material for them now!  It seems anxiety and fear generated by these harmful ruminations has reached epidemic proportions. 

I have my fair share of struggles with this too.  The Bible emphasizes the importance of renewing our minds and not accepting everything that pops into our heads.  It is truly our guideline to true peace and a healthy mind.  Yet sometimes in the midst of our suffering we find it hard to apply this wisdom. 

Through his own personal challenges in this area and sharing his private experiences, he helps the reader not only navigate their complicated thought life, but also apply what scripture teaches. The book was very thorough in addressing such a difficult problem.   I like that he had so many biblical references to guide me.  What impressed me the most about the book was how the author directed the reader achievable and concrete solutions to change their thinking.  This book was definitely written by someone who understands how hard conquering toxic thoughts is but has found victory over them!

I received this book from Bethany House Nonfiction/Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions I have stated are my own.

A Quilt for Christmas By Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson’s Christmas books have become a yearly tradition with me.  The holiday is not complete without reading her latest one.

Christmas is going to be hard for elderly Vera Swanson in more ways than one. She sold her family home with all the sweet memories and moved across the state of Oregon to be near her daughter and grandchildren. Shortly after her move, the family had to relocate to California. While her new condo was nice it didn’t hold a candle to her large home she had sold. The holiday there included lots of family, friends, Christmas baking and over the top Christmas decorations.  To add to her sadness, she didn’t know anyone nor could any of her family could make it home to celebrate.

Purposing to make the bests of things she decorated as best she could. While she was pondering over her dilemma, there was a knock at the door.  Her neighbor’s daughter was standing there frantic.  Her mother was sick and she needed help. Rushing over she finds the mother seriously ill.  Vera takes over and drives her to the hospital. 

This leaves her to care for 4 year old Fiona and her siblings when they return from school. The father is working out of state and cannot come home.   Fascinated by all the decorations the little girl explores condo.  She spots a handmade quilt is in awe.  She exclaims that it is exactly what her mother would want for Christmas.   She asks if Vera can make one for her and no amount of explaining the logistics of time and labor deters her.

Vera concedes and decides to advertise for other ladies to help.  The group that responds not only has never quilted but was as diverse in background and personality as you could ever imagine.   Suddenly her quite life is filled to the brim; teaching, quilting, and caring for 3 young children.

The story expresses the true spirit of Christmas in such a warm and loving way.  All the character’s involved moved past their heartaches and problems to truly give and care about others in need.  Vera gave not only gave of her time but of herself and in the process influenced others by her actions to do the same. The ripple effect she had on the other lives made me smile. We may all picture what our perfect Christmas looks like and we know it seldom is a reality.  Ms. Carlson shows that no matter how flawed our holiday appears, opening our hearts can make it better than we ever imagined.  After all Christmas is about giving.   A beautiful story.

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Beneath the Bending Skies By Jane Kirkpatrick

Mollie Sheehan was totally committed to caring for her father after her mother’s death.  She was only six years old in 1858 when her mother passed.  His freight wagon business kept him gone for long periods and left her in the care of others.    Mollie wanted to keep the biblical statute to honor her father in spite of his many times, unreasonable ultimatums.   When he remarried her new stepmother, Anne, more and more responsibilities were piled upon her and he always quoted the scripture when she tried to disagree.  While life was difficult and often miserable she persevered to keep her duty to “honor her father”.  That was until she fell in love with his best friend Peter Ronan who was 13 years older than her.  After this she truly understood that honoring her father did not mean never having a life of her own.

Peter became Superintendent of the Confederated Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.  It was a daunting job, one that he excelled at and made his own history. Here they began their family. 

Mollie loved her husband and stepped into her difficult and often frightening role as his helpmeet.  The area was remote and many necessities were not available.  There wasn’t even a doctor at first!   Supplies could be scarce, plus the unpredictability of Indian attacks.

At any moment she could be called upon to host a meal for any number of people.  They might be Indians or someone famous.  A feast was pulled together with whatever was on hand and done so graciously.  Mollie’s love and respect of all people, no matter what their station in life, was beautiful.  Her love ran deep to help others and she would make whatever sacrifices were needed.

The open door policy with the Indians where they could walk into their home anytime day or night (and they did) had to be difficult, but Mollie took it all in stride.   In addition to the constant company and erratic life, she was giving birth to her children in quick succession.   She was an amazing woman. 

It might seem odd but one of the things that fascinated me about her was the description of her thick, massive hair that hung well past her hips.    (I searched pictures of her on the internet and it was remarkable!) I cannot imagine how hot and uncomfortable it was in the summer, but the sheer effort it took to wash, comb and dry it without modern conveniences is beyond my imagination.

Ms. Kirkpatrick once again has written a great book. 

I received this book from LibraryThing and Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

The Last Way Home By Liz Johnson

Eli is forced to return home after leaving in anger 11 years ago in an argument with his brother.  His budding NHL career is in shambles and shame.  He has nowhere else to go. There is more to his story than is being told. Violet has become a very loved and important part of the family.  She has untold secrets too.  She is very suspicious of him, his motives and possibly breaking his mother’s heart again. Neither believes they can be loved and forgiven because of their failures.

His big return home coincides with his mother’s and Violets beloved pottery business being destroyed by fire.   As he steps in to help his family (who other than his mother or not very happy to see him) his and Violet’s relationship begins to grow. 

This is such a beautiful story of forgiveness and healing, not only between family members but also with God. It isn’t an easy path the character’s move along but you can clearly see the Lord working in what they see as impossible situations to bring about His will.

I loved Eli’s personality, so fun loving, cheerful and compassionate; totally the opposite of Violet’s in the beginning.  The story shows that no failure is so great that God cannot bring good and blessings out of it.  That many times by caring the burden alone we keep the Lord from helping us and make our pain greater.  

I love Ms. Johnson’s books and romance always is done in good taste.  It is this time also but I found some the romantic moments and bit long and rather extreme in passion for my taste. I found myself skimming through those parts.   All in all another great book from the author! 

I received this book from LibraryThing and Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Falling Apart, Falling for You By Chris Posti

I was so happy to see a book about much older women!   I love the ones about youth but how refreshing to one about ladies my age and their experiences and perspectives!

I have not been to a high school reunion since I graduated 40 years ago.  My classmates are frozen in my mind from that time.  I still picture them as 17 and 18.  For four decades they have lived, changed and have an entire different life I know nothing about. 

Suzanne, Marla and Rachel are 3 high school friends that reunite for their 40th reunion for the first time since graduation.  Their lives have taken them on vastly diverse paths.  The old bonds are still there but they are very different women.

Susanne has lost her career of 19 years.  Rachel who has spent her life being a homemaker has suddenly lost her husband. (I related most to Rachel). Marla a highly successful, famous, professional has just sold her multi-million dollar business.  Each of these women facing loss, albeit unalike, still they must make many choices to refine their futures and new identities.  This was one of their many challenges I could relate now and as I neared my senior years.

Not only was it interesting for me to catch up on their pasts, but to have the full picture of how their lives had changed and been impacted since their teens.  Each woman was at a different level in her faith walk with God.  I loved watching them mature in the Lord with the challenges they were dealt.  Marla’s generosity and gifts to her friends was such fun to be a part of, like a fairy tale especially Rachel.  No matter what their level of success or how their lives had unfolded, each one had something special to offer each other and their community.  I look forward to reading book 2 of the series!! 

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions I have stated are my own.

Cinched Companion Workbook: Applying 10 Lessons from Rahab to Our Lives Today By Kristine Brown

I am very picky about study guides that go with the books I read, and for a good reason.  I need them to be user friendly and help me study what I have learned. Some have too much in them to the point I struggle to work through them.  Others have just “fluff” lots of questions but no real meat to grasp and apply.  This one is just right! Ms. Brown has done a fantastic job!

The first plus I saw was that there is lots of room to write your thoughts, and answers.  When I study I like to record not only what I learn but also those special insights from the Lord.  Two or three blank lines are not enough for me.

Secondly there are numerous scripture references for each of the 10 lessons.  This is a must on my list.  How can I apply what I learn and seek the Lord without His Word?

Third, her questions are very thought provoking and prompt personal self-examination.  I dislike study guides that ask a lot of obvious questions. It makes me feel like I am doing busy work instead of learning.   This workbook is a guide for the reader to go even deeper looking into where their trust in God truly stands.

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions I have stated are my own.

Cinched: Living with Unwavering Trust in an Unfailing God By Kristine Brown

This book came at a perfect time for me.  I am the queen of “what ifs” and my mind runs into crazy cycles of what catastrophic things could befall me or my loved ones.  Ms. Brown story humbled me and made me ashamed of my emotional “drama” I have been spinning over my minor health issues compared to her breast cancer diagnosis. 

With many Bible stories we become familiar with them through a lifetime of hearing and reading.  It becomes easy to miss the fact that these were real people who lived in that moment and the lessons God wants us to learn. So it was with me and Rahab’s story.  The author not only brought her to life for me but awakened me to all her possible emotions, doubts and fears she experienced.  Not at all different from my own.

This in turn led me to take a deeper look into my life when the future is unknown and frightening.  What stood out most is that I had not considered before was Rahab’s great faith and trust in God.  She staked her life and that of her family on a handful of men who promised to keep them safe when the city was invaded.  Yes she believed they would be true to their word, but foremost her trust was in God.  Did she worry; wonder if she made the right choice, struggle at following their commands?  I would say she did, just as I do when the future is filled with unknowns. 

At the end of each chapter are 2 sections: “Untying Old Habits” and “Living it Out”. The first is a prayer and focuses realizing the destructive patterns we fall into when confronted with problems.  The proverbial “old shoes” we slip into.  By identifying these we can begin to make God’s truths a part of our hearts and minds.  The second poses questions or suggestion on how we might personally apply the concepts we have learned.

I found this book very inspirational.  I feel it has helped me to not only recognize where I fall short in trusting God but also in changing my way of thinking and emotional choices.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.