All That We Carried By Erin Bartels

Olivia and Melanie have been alienated from one another for 10 years, ever since the tragic death of their parents.  Melanie suggests they go on a hike, something they did as children.  Olivia hesitantly agrees.  This was some hike, it was a weeklong!  I just thought I had been hiking. I see now it was just long walks in the woods!  Melanie had hoped to renew their broken relationship.

The interaction, and communication (or lack of it) between the two sisters was so real! Olivia is controlling, bossy, and OCD planning.  Melanie is impulsive and light hearted, totally opposite of her older sister.  Their differences were even greater than that and are tested on this trip. The destination was the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan.  The trails they would take are remote and rugged.  Can you imagine going on a venture like this with a family member you have not seen in a decade!? 

The time and the unresolved grief had created many issues in their lives they did not even recognize they had.  As you can imagine away from civilization with just the two of them, each was faced with deep introspection of their life, beliefs, values, and things they had buried deep within themselves years ago.  I felt the frustration they experienced with each other.  The struggle wasn’t just physical as it would be with such a grueling journey, it was also emotional.  There were unexpected surprises and drama along the way.  I enjoyed the description of the scenery, it was fantastic!  It made me want to go look for pictures on the internet.

I saw a great lesson in how we cannot run from our painful experiences and not gave them affect our future in ways we never imagined.   A beautiful story of unresolved grief, forgiveness, and fresh starts. 

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

Madison: Cricket of the Valley By Diane Dettmann

We’ve all had them in our home at one time or another.  Their pretty little chirp very quickly can become maddening.  That is why I have never understood the Chinese custom of keeping one in a cage in your home. Crickets are not only noisy but can cause damage to fabric paper and many other things.  This is from a human point of view.  I never thought to look at it from the cricket’s point of view.  Ms. Dettmann helped me do exactly that. Stan and Edith have retired and moved to the country: perfect home, perfect view, peaceful, EXCEPT for the crickets in the house.  Edith cannot stand them, especially when they jump on her in the night. They give her the “hebbie-jebbies to put it mildly, and she is on all out quest to exterminate them.  Much to her dismay nothing works! At the same time I read about Edith’s woes, I also learn about Madison, resident camel cricket, according to his life and experiences in their home.  Her grandchildren come for a visit and find a book on crickets.  The boys are fascinated about them and even build a cricket cabin in the workshop for Madison and his friends.  That’s when Edith’s’ attitude begins to change, and I have to say mine did too. I never knew how fascinating these little guys were. I learned so much about how their bodies operate, survival, reproduction, and thanks to the author’s vivid imagination, how the world looks to them. I believe this book is a forerunner of a new, fun way to teach children (and adults) scientific information about nature and the many creatures we share this planet with. As an adult I loved the beautiful countryside photos at the beginning of each chapter. And I must say I won’t be “squishing” (sorry to be so graphic) crickets anymore! This is a delightful entertaining book.

What Momma Left Behind By Cindy K. Sproles

I find myself at a loss for words to describe Cindy Sproles books!  She is incredible!  Her books are always on my read list! Her understanding and ability to capture all the aspects of life in the Appalachian Mountains in the late 1890’s breathtakingly real.  Each story, including this one reaches deep inside of you on an emotional level. You aren’t just reading about the characters and their experiences, but living them.

Influenza has struck the small community of Sourwood, Tennessee.  Many many people are dying, but what is worse they are leaving orphaned children alone in a poverty stricken environment. After the death of her father, Worie is thankful to have her mother.  Then tragedy strikes.  She finds her mother dead from suicide. She faces grief and confusion as to why her mother would take her life.  Worie is 19 years old so she isn’t in as dire straits as all the young children left alone. 

Totally unexpectedly the orphans of the area begin showing up at her home seeking help. How can she help them, she hasn’t much?  Yet her loving tender heart moves to do the impossible and take them in. God works through these heart retching events to change Worie’s life and the lives of others around her. 

It rang so true to me that God uses horrible circumstances to turn our trust to Him when there is nowhere else to turn. I loved the wise words friends Ely and Bess; they are ones to remember. I was inspired by Worie’s courage, determination, and willingness to listen to God.  This book is filled with unexpected surprises, mystery, and beautiful examples of the love and help of those around us.  A very emotional but uplifting book.

Softly Blows the Bugle By Jan Drexler

As a fan of Amish fiction I have to say this was a very different book!  The year is 1863 and Elizabeth Kaufman’s husband has died in the Civil War.  Unlike most widows she is not grieved but relieved. She is freed from marriage vows that brought emotional, physical and spiritual pain.  His physical and verbal abusiveness has left their scars.  She is determined never to marry again and risk being put in the same situation.  After the war ends, her brother returns home with a broken and wounded fellow soldier, Aaron Zook.  Solomon Mast suddenly appears in the community, handsome, wealthy, Amish and out to win Elizabeth and marry her A.S.A.P. I didn’t like him from the get go!

I loved the thread that ran through the book of the community’s gentle, patient, faith-filled way of dealing with even the most horrible situations.   There were so many lessons to be learned about how people are not always as they appear.  I felt the struggles of Elizabeth and Aaron with their previous lives and the damage that had been wrought.  While they had very different pasts, both fought healing, forgiving, running from their pain and even God’s plan.  I loved the suspense and surprises along the way.  A great read!

The Dazzle of Diamonds By Liz Johnson

Imagine your heart is shattered when your fiancé calls off the wedding and walks away.  You hurt, cry, then move on and try to forget him.  Perfect plans, right?  UNTIL he shows up at the venue where you are the event manager WITH his NEW bride-to-be!  That’s exactly what happened to Penelope Hunter! 

 A mysterious letter from historical archives appears that puts Tucker’s family past in question.  This could end his chances of being elected Sheriff. A big socialite is threatening PJ’s job by withdrawing a big event if she is seen with Tucker at society affair. Against the odds, Tucker and PJ set off on a mission to find the truth and clear his name. This takes them all the way back to events and items from the Civil war.

The author perfectly captured all the emotions between the characters and how they personally affected the.  I liked as I do in all books that in their difficult times PJ and Tucker sought the Lord.  I especially enjoyed all he historical part of the book and the solving of the mystery!  Very exciting!