Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell

I must be honest; my initial interest in the book was the part of the title that said, “Loveladies”, because “Lovelady” was my maiden name. That confession aside, when I began to read the book I was fascinated and awed by Ms. Brenda’s work.
A childhood of want and poverty spurred her on in her adult life to be rich and achieve success. She did just that by building several very prosperous tax preparation offices. Wrongly accused of preparing false tax returns, her wealthy carefree life style faced serious problems, possible jail time. She chose to plead guilty in hopes a avoiding a prison sentence for her and her pregnant daughter, and stop the attorney’s fees draining their bank account. During this time her eyes were opened. She realized her material wealth had not made her happy. She reached out to God for the first time in years and asked Him what He would have her do. His answer was to minister to the women she almost joined those in prison.
With her feisty personality and never give up attitude, she literally threw herself into this new calling. She purchased a beautiful expensive home, furnished it lavishly, and hired a house mother, cook, and driver. This would be her new Whole Way house for women fresh out of prison and on parole. A place that would help women to build a new life and avoid being incarcerated as the vast majority does. She planned to finance it and regularly visit to make sure things were going well. When the 7 women arrived Brenda was shocked. She had been sent the hopeless cases considered unable to be rehabilitated. All together they had spent 100 years behind bars for every crime imaginable, even murder. They were dangerous and hardened. Upon arrival her entire staff quit and she was left alone. That didn’t keep Brenda from continuing to pursue the ministry God had laid on her heart.
Through patience, perseverance, and genuine love, she began to break through the years of hurt, disappointment, and horrific pasts. They became a family and Brenda helped them see they had value and hope for a normal life. She became a mother to them, teaching them how cook, shop, interact with others in the community, personal hygiene and how to dress. She stood up for them against prejudice and never came up a single one.
This book was humorous, heartbreaking and a real eye opener to the challenges and struggles repeatedly incarcerated women face each time they are released from prison. They are caught in a vicious circle that began in their childhood. Brenda Spahn’s enormous faith and determination to follow God’s direction is nothing short of awe inspiring. Ms. Brenda’s ministry has now grown into the Lovelady Center. It is “the largest most successful nonprofit transitional center” in the U.S. Its foundation is still God and His Word. A remarkable, a remarkable book, and one you definitely want to read!
I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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UNDER THE OVER PASS by Mike Yankoski

I was very excited to read this book and definitely was not disappointed. Two young men after hearing a convicting sermon decide to test their Christianity and see if they could be true Christians without all their physical blessings.
They choose to live homeless on the streets with no help and no contact with their families for 5 months. I have always had compassion toward the homeless but this book was a real eye opener. Even with Mr. Yankoski’s detailed account I still cannot imagine the horrors and suffering these people face in their daily existence, many for decades. I was shocked and irritated at the heartlessness and lack of love shown by professing Christians and worse yet churches!
Some have put themselves in this position by their choices as drug addicts and alcoholics, but they still deserve to see the love of Christ and the milk of human kindness. Some are there because of hardship, bad health and mental illness. No matter what their condition, they are still people and souls that hurt and have needs. They are somebody’s child, sibling or parent.
This book also brought to light how these people are hurting so badly and “fixing” them with hard preaching about “Fire & Brimstone” when they are “already suffering:” is not what they need. Yes they need to hear the gospel but they need to see His love in action and find hope.
This book has given me a great desire to reach out to the homeless and never forget they are someone Christ died for. It may not be pleasant or comfortable but it needs to be done. I appreciate the author’s cautions of not going alone and not giving them money. He suggests many ways to help. An excellent book!
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

I couldn’t put this book down. More than once I stayed up well past 2 a.m. reading! It was well worth it though! Jane Lindsey is a modern day woman of the 21st century. She lives in Manhattan and runs an antique shop passed down from her aunt. Little does she realize that her passion for antiques would soon change her life. After 22 years of marriage she is shocked by her husband’s suggestion that they separate and reevaluate their relationship. Furthermore, he offers no explanation as to why.
At the same time, an English friend sends her a broken down old box supposedly filled with worthless relics of the past. To her surprise she finds an ancient ring in the binding of an ancient prayer book, with a Latin inscription inside the band and her name, “Jane”. She becomes obsessed to find out who this “Jane” was. Research yields information on a dressmaker from the 16th century employed by young Lady Jane Grey, 4th in line to be Queen of England.
The author weaves back and forth between the two women’s lives, their struggles and heart aches. Jane’s feeling of being trapped in her situation of her husband leaving, and Lady’s Jane’s at being bound to her position as royalty parallel each other.
While Jane is a fictional character, Lady Jane is a real person from the pages of history. I love historical fiction and learned so much about life for the working and royal class in the 16th century. It was as if I was there walking through the halls with Lady Jane. I got so involved that I felt the stress and emotional pain as Jane dealt with her failed marriage and with the pressure and disappoint Lady Jane faced.
There were spiritual lessons in this story I will not forget. One is about stepping out in faith and letting God guide me, no matter what the consequences or criticism of others. Toward the end of the book there are some thoughts on what marriage and love really is and what it truly takes to make a marriage work that I think every woman should read. I am copying it down and putting it in my journal it was so tremendous and life-changing. The ending was unusual and I felt satisfied and not left hanging. This is the BEST historical fiction I have read to date.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

GOD LOVES ME MORE THAN THAT by Dandi Daley Mackall; illustrated by David Hohn

As soon as I received this book I did immediate field testing on it – I read it to children and got their reaction. The first child was my 5 year old granddaughter. She was not only enthralled with the bright, creative illustrations, but she was also very intent in listening as I read it.
At one point in the reading she commented, “Awww that is sweet of God.” Upon finishing I asked her what the book taught her. Wide eyed she replied, “Wow, God loves me a WHOLE lot!” I also read the book in church nursery and had the same response from the children. Not only were they attentive but they also got the message of how much God loves them.
Children understand the concept of loving someone more than words can express. They stretch their little arms as far as they will go and say, “I love you this much!” This book works from that understanding. The illustrations were impressive and I very much liked the original examples they used to convey the message. I felt it is written in a way a child could understand the enormity of God’s love. It was fun to read and communicates a very important message to children.
In exchange for my honest review, I received a copy of the book from Waterbrook Press Publishers.

Mine Is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

Since reading the 1st book, Here Burns My Candle, I have anxiously awaited the rest of the story in Mine Is the Night. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in a short time! The year is 1746 and Lady Marjory Kerr and her young widowed daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, have gone from the elite rich to the poorest of poor. They have lost everything after the death of Lady Kerr’s two sons, and their lives are in danger for supporting Prince Charles.
They are forced to return to Marjory’s hometown to depend upon the hospitality and compassion of her cousin Anne, whom Lady Kerr shunned while she was wealthy. Marjory is humbled in a great way, but takes her lessons well and sees the error of her past ways.
Elizabeth is able to help contribute to their finances with her skills as a dressmaker. After losing one job, she finds employment for a period of time with the rich and famous Admiral Lord Buchanan who has recently moved to his English estate near town. Romance blossoms for Elizabeth and Marjory in unexpected ways. After much hardship and suffering their lives take a turn for the better.
This novel was great in so many ways. One was a detailed look into the day to day life and customs of 16th century Scotland. Not only was it very interesting but I saw the difficulties they faced just to live. I truly felt I was there with them. It made me think of how blessed I am to live in the 21st century.
The story reminded me of the book of Ruth in the Bible when Ruth followed Naomi and cared for her after the death of her husband. I was very touched and inspired at the characters commitment and faithfulness to God and biblical principles no matter how difficult their circumstances. The Lord was their focus in all they did. They always look to Him for provision, comfort and help. It made me look at areas of my life I could apply this strong faith.
I rate this book in my tops reads. It is superbly written, very entertaining, and inspiring. I hope Ms. Higgs will be writing another sequel! Hint hint!
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Little Star byby Anthony DeStefano

I had mixed reactions to this book. Hands down the illustrations are absolutely beautiful with their combination of vibrant colors and excellent quality.
The story was cute and one children would enjoy. The beginning of the book told of the stars in the heaven all hoping they would be chosen to be the one to shine the brightest the night of Christ’s birth.
As the story of Jesus birth is told, the reaction of the stars is shared also. I liked that an emphasis was put on the fact the King of Kings was born in poor and humble surroundings and not in the wealth and splendor the world expected. The stars as did many during that time doubted His place as King.
However, I would not be able to recommend this book to read to children. I was hoping to share it with my grandchildren and children at church but will not be doing so.
Christ’s birth is such an important event; it concerns me that the book is not biblically accurate. The humble shepherds were the first to honor Him and they are not mentioned. Instead, the common mistake of placing the wise men at His birth is made part of the story. They came when the child was older and to his house, not the stable. The star of His birth did not burn out but continued to shine brightly a couple of more years, leading the Magi to Him. Neither did the star warm baby Jesus.
I was hoping the book would be a Christ-centered one, helping children to be reminded of the true reason for Christmas each time they saw the star atop their holiday tree. Most of all, it disturbs me to make fictional characters part of such a scared Bible story. Children take everything literally therefore I would not want to mislead them concerning God’s Word or the birth of His Son.
In exchange for my honest review, I received a copy of the book from Waterbrook Press Publishers.

This Little Prayer of Mine by Anthony DeStefano

This book covered all my qualifications for being a good children’s book. The illustrations were great. There was excellent art plus bright tasteful colors, nothing garish. I also like the fact that each illustration had a picture of a child or children. This makes it easier for children to relate to on the subject being covered.
I own and have read a lot of children’s books on prayer but this one was different. It really touched the heart of a child’s concerns and experiences they face. Each situation was written and worded in the way a child would express it. The book thoroughly covered a child’s struggle in wanting to do right but sometimes failing. I think it will be very comforting to children that read it and they will see God listens, cares, helps and loves them at all times. I read it to my most important and biggest critic; my 5 year old granddaughter and it got her star of approval! A wonderful book for home and church classes.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

How to Write a Memoir in 30 Days By Roberta Temes, PhD

A couple of years ago my uncle died. He was an intelligent articulate man that had published many articles in his field. While going through his belongings, my cousin found a treasure. It was his memories beginning in childhood, through part of his later years. She graciously sent me a copy. Reading it was wonderful! Not only did I find so much about his life I never knew, I got a glimpse of my father’s family and part of his life. Writing my own memoir to leave for my children and grandchildren has always been in my mind. His motivated me further but where and how do I start? That’s why I was so happy to get this book. It not only gives me a starting point but also direction.
I know it won’t be written in 30 days as the title suggests, but in 30 days the book will help me produce a rough “skeleton” of my life story. I liked it that the author says “just write”, get it down on paper, and worry about punctuation, spelling, and grammar later. That is such a hindrance to many who write, thinking it has to be “perfect” the first time. The beginning of the book also opens the door to the idea that there can be many different types of memoirs you might want to write.
Each day focuses on a different aspect of your life to think about. For me, I have many memories and thoughts but they are jumbled together in my mind and come forward when triggered by some outside source. The author had lots of thought provoking ideas to delve deeper into those recollections therefore giving more meaning and detail to my writing. There were also samples of other people’s memoir writings to illustrate what the author was suggesting and avoiding mistakes. In addition, I found them as a springboard to further organize my thoughts. This book helps you do more than tell your stories; it helps you share your emotions, feelings, and experiences at a deeper level.
I am a writer. I love to write, but I think this book would be a great help to someone that writing does not come easily. I want to leave a written legacy as my uncle did for our family. I found this book very helpful and inspiring!
I received this book free from FBS Associates which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

While Love Stirs By Lorna Seilstad

Charlotte Gregory was young, spirited, and unflinching in standing for what she believed in. As a new, 1910, graduate of Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery, she passionately wanted to apply and share all that she had learned. Her dream was to be a chef for an upscale restaurant, and eventually have her own. She quickly learned that women chefs were not accepted when she tried to apply for her first job. She alienates herself from the chef even more by being outspoken about the unsanitary conditions of his kitchen.
Angered and discouraged, she heads to the hospital to see her beloved sister who has just had a baby. Surely her new niece will cheer her up. All is well until her sister’s meal tray comes. Charlotte is shocked the “gray gruel and weak tea” that is supposed to be her meal. Once again Charlotte launches into a heated discussion about how recovering and nursing mothers need healthy food to gain their strength. She confronts her sister’s doctor, Joel Brooks. An appointment is made for the following day to discuss the hospital’s dietary inadequacies. He is faced not only with a demanding medical practice but also juggling an impossible budget for his department. Even if he wanted her services he could not afford them and he seriously doubted a “cooking” school graduate had the knowledge. This is the beginning of many confrontations and disagreements with Charlotte and Dr. Joel. Even though they mix like gas and fire, they struggle to deny the growing attraction to each other.
Charlotte has to make a living so she enters a cooking contest and wins! Her prize is the job of traveling around the country giving demonstrations to convince women that the newest invention, the gas stove, was safe, easy, and time saving.
The book had a lot of humor, not the silly slapstick stuff. Moments in the story that definitely gave me a chuckle. I liked the historical information nutrition and meal preparation during that era.
Charlotte, Dr. Brooks, and Charlotte’s youngest sister, Tessa were all faced with difficult situations that tested their moral character and Christian beliefs. Do you follow God or face the loss of something dear to you?
The interactions between the main characters and other people represented many examples of learning to deal with discord and confrontation, with not only patience but through their mistakes. There was also lots of adventure and excitement.
This book was a fun read!
I received this book free from Revell publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.