A Dance in Donegal By Jennifer Deibel

It is the 1920’s and Moria is on the cusp of an exciting future, all looks bright.  She has just graduated and qualified to be a teacher.  Her mother’s beloved village in Donegal, Ireland has offered her a teaching job.  Instilled with her mother’s never dying love of her hometown, she is going to go.  Then suddenly her mother dies.  After several months she decides to go ahead and move and take the job.  She is nervous and a bit frightened being all alone in the world, but she knows this would make her mother happy.

Greater obstacles than just moving to a new country face her. There are odd quirks to the language, superstitions, customs and a very different culture.  Upon arriving the locals treat her with contempt and she hears odd murmurings about her mother, but has no clue about the reasons.  She purposes to soldier on and throw her life and heart into educating the children.  She also wants to ferret out the truth about her mother. 

She does find some loving and supportive friends to carry her through.  I was endeared to those characters.  I found their compassion and making her a part of their homes comforting. Sean McFadden was one of those friends.  He became her protector and listening ear.  What impressed me the most was Moria’s diligence in seeking God and His Word for strength and guidance. I love the scriptures quote and how she applied them to her problems.  Throughout I see Moria grow not only as a woman but also as a Christian. Very inspiring! As the story unfolds there are many twists and turns, not to mention big surprises.  I wish I could share more but I don’t want to give away the story!

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

The Moonlight School By Suzanne Woods Fisher

I love everything about this book: the cover, the title and the story!  If that isn’t wonderful enough, the fact that it is based on a true story is icing on the cake!  Many of the characters in the book were real people!  Cora Wilson Stewart fought tirelessly for the education of the Appalachian children and adults.  She didn’t just campaign but took actions to further her dream.  She herself grew  up in the hills of Kentucky where poverty and lack of educational opportunity was the norm.  How well she understood their plight. Her accomplishments are incredible.

In this fictional story, Cora’s, wealthy and privileged younger cousin is sent by her father to assist her.  Lucy has the impression that she is coming as a stenographer.  Cora shatters that preconceived idea very quickly.  In a few days Lucy is on horseback (she has never ridden a horse) and being sent up into the woods and hills of the Kentucky Hollows to see people she has not clue where they live!  She is definitely put out of her comfort zone.  Her job is to take write the letters they want to send family and loved ones.  As you can imagine she is overwhelmed.

Severe poverty, lack of hygiene, not to mention countless traditions and superstitions of the people is a bit of a culture shock at first. She grows to realize the vast gulf between the life she has taken for granted and theirs. Very quickly Lucy develops a love the people and hurt for their suffering.  She blossoms into quite activist for those she serves.

Appalachia and its people have always held a fascination for me.  The author’s descriptiveness of the people, their environment, and their customs added to my interest.  The characters are captivating. Wyatt and Angie were two of my favorites. The book is much deeper than just this historical time and the wonderful people. There are many surprises, one especially about a tragedy in Lucy’s past.   A beautifully written book you don’t want to miss reading!

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

That Way and No Other By Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael is one of my two favorite female missionaries. From the 1st time I started reading her books she had an enormous impact on my spiritual life. She writes like no other author I have ever read. Her words reach deep into you that inspire, convict and open your eyes. I believe her writing is so powerful because she led a totally committed life to the Lord and doing the work he called her to do. She lived life of total sacrifice, something that is rare in any era.
The first part of this book introduces the reader to who Amy was with two short biographies. The following 6 chapters are excerpts from her books. Her wisdom and spiritual insights are dynamic! The subjects she covers are varied. All are fruits of her 55 years on the mission field and the incredible challenges she faced. I wanted to underline, memorize and line after line. This book will inspire you in ways you can’t imagine!

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!

The Christmas Bus By Melody Carlson

I have to say I am adding this one to my top favorites of her books her Christmas books. You and your spouse are empty nesters, Christmas is near and you are excited to have all your children and their families return home to celebrate. Then one by one you get the call that no one can come.  This is what happened to Charles and his wife Edith.  He pastors the only church in the small town of Christmas Valley and has for many years.  It was a close knit community.  They run a cozy bed and breakfast which is also their home.  Instead of leaving the 5 rooms empty for their children as she has the last 17 years, Edith decides to make the best of the situation. They will rent the rooms out and treat their guests to a family Christmas atmosphere.  The couple prayed about who the Lord would send as their guests.  And boy did He send them a mix of personalities and characters! Each one had a special struggle in their life.  The Inn was festively decorated, homemade cookies, wonderful meals what more could anyone want?  Edith’s homey Christmas turns into quite a juggling act, with the conflicts of not only with their guests, but also grumpy church members. 

This book was so entertaining!  All Edith’s preparation and special touches made me feel all warm and fuzzy.  It is filled with all the touches that make the holiday season so special. I loved how she turned to the Lord in prayer for each hurdle she faced. There is humor and lots of surprises along the way.  I am keeping this book to read again.  Ms. Carlson out did herself again!  

Joy to the World By Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt and Erica Vetsch

I love reading Christmas fiction during the holiday.  It always gives a warm cozy feeling and is one more thing to make it special.  This book is a big plus as there are 3 stories in it by great authors. They are also set in an era I especially like, the 1800’s.

“Heaven and Nature Sing” by Carolyn Miller made me a part of a really old fashioned Christmas with the wealthy.  I love the descriptions of their entertainment.  It was such a simple and uncomplicated time; gathering a yule log, making greenery decorations, performing with music and song.  Edith Mansfield has been invited to a party by her God mother, Lady Grantley for the Christmas holiday.  Her focus was entertaining a group of young people. The snafu to such a grand time is the beau, George Bannerman, whom Edith had shunned a marriage proposal from the year before was also invited.  The reason for the breakup is not made clear at first but both obviously still have feelings for each other.  There has definitely been a misunderstanding.  The awkwardness in being tossed together is heightened by the complicated Victorian codes of conduct. 

“Far as the Curse Is Found” by Amanda Barratt, I must admit was my favorite! Dwight, the Earl of Amberly has returned to London briefly to sell his estate.  He has been living in isolation in Yorkshire since returning from the war.  It appears he is suffering from PTSD. Jenny an unwed mother, due to a rape, is very ill as is her baby girl. Dwight sees her collapse in the street with her infant and brings her to the estate do receive medical care. Upon her recovery he offers her a job at his home in Yorkshire.  She accepts.  He gives her shelter and provision while she gives him something much greater, friendship and God’s word. 

“The Wonders of His Love” by Erica Vetsch. Cilla Haverly was destined to become a duchess, and then her husband dies.  She becomes trapped in the dull, lifeless, drudgery serving her mother-in-law. Hamish Sinclair is commissioned by the dowager to paint Cilla’s brother-in-law and sister-in law’s portrait. As cliché as it may sound, Hamish brings color to Cilla’s gray life.  He is poor and of a lower class, but has confidence in himself and purpose.  She has all the trimmings of the upper class but is very insecure and has no purpose in her existence.  I found it a beautiful example of how God can send someone into our life to not only change it but change us.  Three wonderful Christmas novellas just in time for the season!

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