Tuesday, August 21, 2007

After the Leaves Fall

Surely you have seen the T-shirts that say "If all else fails, ask Grandma." Julia Bakker has only person who in her life who truly loves her with a Christ-like love, unconditionally. Her Grandma Bakker has been there for her through all her losses in her life. Her mother left her father and her at a very young age. She doesn't even refer to her mother as "Mom" but Janice. Her father dies when she is just 16 and she stays with her grandma. Her best friend Thomas breaks her heart when he announces that his future is now with Francesca. He promises to always be her friend even though she was hoping that someday she could be much to him.

Julia is a hard worker and a scholarship recipient. She has her chance to escape for the conservative and "everyone knows everyone else's business" town. She elects to go to Brighton University as an engineering major. She has to try and deal with her exact opposite of a roomate Becca who would rather sleep than work hard. Julia finds a friend in one of her first engineering classes. Only thing is Parker is a "teacher's assistant" who always has advice, be it good or bad for her. She tries hard but is engineering the field she really should be trying to get into or did she just pick that major so she could get the scholarship.

Julia and Parker become friends and start spending alot of time together. He gives her help in her classes and she tries to make him out to be the good quality friend that she has in Thomas. The unexpected happens and Julia's life comes crashing down. Who is there to pick up the pieces but Grandma. Grandma finds her strength in the Lord and encourages Julia but is not pushy. She leaves the Holy Spirit to do the work of changing Julia's outlook. Its time for Julia to start her life over again. Will her life be just one disappointment after another, or is there light at the end of the tunnel? Grandma has the answer but is Grandma up to date with the times?

"After the Leaves Fall" is an awesome book for readers who enjoy a young heroine who is a survivor despite the circumstances she finds herself involved. This is an excellent book by Nicole Baart, a first time novel writer. I sincerely hope Nicole writes more books as this one really kept your interest from cover to cover. It touches your heart and leaves your heart feeling that refreshed.


Title: Beginnings
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Published by Barbour Publishing, 2007.
ISBN: 978-1-59789-4-5-0.
Reviewed for Reader Views, 8/07.

Bloom where you are planted! There are plenty of Scripture passages which speak of being content in whatever circumstance you are in. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Oh hard that can be at times. Sometimes we just feel so challenged that we don't feel like giving thanks for our place in life.

Beth Quinn is trying to be content with her life in Summerfield. She has her cell phone and other modern conveniences. She and her mother came to Summerfield because this is where her mother's family were. Despite not being raised in the Mennonite faith like her mother was, she has come to call Summerfield her home. And her mother's people have become her people. She has not joined their church but does attend it with her family. She has a firmly rooted faith in God and His promises.

She owns Quinn's Stained Glass Art Studio. She makes suncatchers and travels to various craft shows. She has dreams of opening her own showroom someday. Her cousin Andrew helps in her store since he has no desire to be a farmer like all his brothers and father. He would rather use his artistic talents even though his father doesn't agree with his pursuits. One day a suncatcher from the art studio gets sold and catches the eye of McCauley Church Construction.

Sean is the son of the owner of the church construction company who has to find this talented young lady. He proposes that she design and make a stained glass window in order to showcase her talents. If the company likes what they see and she meets the deadline imposed, she will be granted a contract to work with them. If for any reason, she doesn't make the deadline or McCauley's dislike the work all the work and expense are for nothing and Beth loses out. This could be Beth's big break into expanding her business and becoming a bigger success.

In order to put up a safety net for her business, she wants to keep on producing suncatchers and doing craft shows. Only creation of this large stained glass window will take an incredible amount of time and talent. Andrew is always willing to lend a hand. He also happens to enjoy being in Beth's company. Would it ever be possible for Beth to think of him as something other than a cousin or an employee?

Beth's mother Marie has found true love in the first book of this trilogy "Bygones." Henry and Marie Koeppler are happy to be expecting twins. With Marie's age, this is a high risk pregnancy. Never did Beth think that she would become a big sister at her age. Beth doesn't know what it is like to even have a father much less a brother and sister.

An emergency. forces Beth to make a choice between her family and her dreams of being a successful business woman. Her choices will not only impact her but also Andrew and the rest of the small town of Summerfield. Through her struggles, she holds steady to the verse in Philippians which states "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

This is an excellent book about a couragous Christian woman who lays it all on the line in hopes of following God's plan for her life. All things work together for the good of those who love Him. I simply loved this book and couldn't lay it down once I started reading it. I am anxiously awaiting the last book in this trilogy called "Blessings" which will be coming in Spring 2008!

Forever Christmas

Title: Forever Christmas
Author: Christine Lynxwiler
Published by Barbour Publishing, 2007.
ISBN: 978-1-59789-821-8.
Reviewed for Reader Views, 8/07.

Wouldn't it be great to celebrate Christmas every day? No, you don't have to visit the North Pole in order to celebrate Christmas every day of the year. Welcome to the small town of Jingle Bells, Arkansas. Augustus Harding is the mayor of this small town who is affectionately known by Uncle Gus by all of the town's residents. Life had been quite content in this small town with its Blizzard Barbecue restaurant, Forever Christmas gift store, Reindeer Games and Toy Store and Snow Place Like Home Pet Boarding. Recently the town has experienced the closing of its biggest employer, Benning Distribution Center.

The economy could get a boost if Summer Valley Outdoors would come to town and acquire the empty Benning building. There is a glitch to it however, the corporation would like to rename the small town of Jingle Bells to Summer Valley. While it would give people jobs and traffic to the small town. But who would want visit the Forever Christmas store in a town called Summer Valley.

You can't find city hall or can you? Kristianna Harrington is the young lady owner of Forever Christmas and is a town council member. She is dealing with a broken engagement as she caught her fiancee' kissing another woman the night before the wedding. It is fortunate for her that she has good friends like Ami Manchester and Garrett Mitchell. It has always been the 3 of them as best friends. They have grown up together and made Jingle Bells their home. They seem to all have preserving the Jingle Bells name at heart.

Kristianna is like any young girl who dreams of someday having a wedding, but she wants to someday have a Christmas wedding. Ami will be getting married soon and Kristianna is in the wedding. Will the young lawyer Shawn working for Summer Valley Outdoors be her knight in shining armor or will he be just a wolf in sheep's clothing to her ? Can Shawn woo the residents of Jingle Bells over to his side of things. Just what is his interest in Kristianna personally? Kristianna's parents who are both lawyers don't understand why their daughter has so much passion for this small town. But they think that Shawn's the perfect man for their daughter. She isn't about to let anyone take away her beautiful quaint town with quirky characters and will let no man stand in her way. Perhaps Kristianna will need Garrett's input on keeping her feet solidly on the ground rather than in a whirlwind romance.

"Forever Christmas" is a wonderful book for those who enjoy holiday sentiments, a touch of mystery and a delightful romantic story. Once you visit Jingle Bells, Arkansas through the pages of this book you will Christmas in a different light. Her desire for God's will for her life reigns true and love comes in the most unexpected places. Come dashing through the snow and be warmed with the love of "Forever Christmas."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Race to the Altar

Title: Race to the Altar
Authors: Ron Benrey; Gloria Clover; Becky Melby & Cathy Wienke; and Gail Sattler
Published by Barbour Publishing, 2007.
ISBN: 978-1-59789-847-8.
Reviewed for Reader Views, 08/07.

"Gentlemen, start your engines!" Of course, if you follow NASCAR racing at all, you know these familiar words are spoken right before the big event. If you like NASCAR and romances, you are definitely in for a treat when you pick up the book "Race to the Altar."

The first of the four stories in this volume is called "Clear! Clear! Dear!" Faith Wright doesn't think she ever wants to go back to the race track. She had been involved in an accident a few years ago. However, Emmett Grant wants her to be Tony Griffith's spotter. Its a very important job but Tony is not an easy one to deal with. By giving Faith a job on the racing team, Emmett Grant has an idea of finding just what the two of them have been searching for. All Emmett is doing is putting the wheels in motion.

"The Remaking of Moe McKenna" is about a young lady who enjoys fast car and the amazing men who race these cars. Moe has her eye on going after the prize and living the summer she always dreamed of . The Sutherlands are a family whose lives revolve around racing. They adopt Moe and gives her the chance to experience racing and family life on the inside track. She has been missing out on some key elements in her life. The Sutherlands intend on showing her just what her life had been missing. The Sutherland family introduces her to God and shows her just how she fits into God's family and maybe their own.

"Over the Wall" is the story of Camela Eastman. She and her long-time boyfriend Joe both have signed on to be a part of a racing crew. She is a nurse while Joe is a fireman. Tommy Garrett has a very good relationship with God but he too is missing something very important. Around the race track and around the hospital, two people find their way to each other.

Talladega is known for its two races each year on the NASCAR circuit. So what better place for Rob to try to sell his computer racing game. He has found just the place where he can get in contact with other racing enthusiasts. His timing is off because the owner of the store has been called away for a family emergency. Kathleen has left her store in the capable hands of her assistant Lynda. This opens the door for Rob to to set up his demo in the store under Lynda's watchful eye. She feels like she alone is responsible for the business. The two Christian singles are thrown into spending many hours together. Will they realize that they are in for the race of a lifetime.

Each story is beautifully written and you won't want to set "Race to the Altar" down until the checkered flag is flown!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Going Home

Title: Going Home
Author: Wanda E Brunstetter
Published by Barbour Publishing, 2007.
ISBN: 478-1-59789-609-2.
Reviewed for Reader Views, 08/07.

Faith Stutzman Andrews has it all. Or does she? She is a successful singer and comedienne. She has a delightful daughter named Melinda. Her agent and often abusive husband Greg has recently died and Faith must now make some choices that will change Melinda's and her lives forever.

Feeling she has no place else to go, she returns to Webster County, Missouri and her Amish family. Greg's parents are too busy with their life in Los Angeles to be saddled with Faith and Melinda. Faith's plans are to familarize young Melinda to the stability of Amish community. After all, Faith was raised Amish until she left for the lights of stardom. She then hopes to return to the exciting life of being an entertainer. She so loves to be accepted and appreciated for her talents. She has never felt accepted by her people especially her parents who are very strong in their Amish faith and don't like her "goofing around" with her jokes and having fun.

Noah Hertzler is a familiar face from the past. He was friends with one of her brothers when she was growing up in Webster County. Noah is not your ordinary Amish gentleman. He does not have any desire to be a hog farmer like his father. He is perfectly happy being a Christmas tree farmer with his "English" friends. He has an unusual hobby for an Amish man too, he often bakes desserts for his friends, family and others who could use some cheering up. He very often shares a Scripture verse he finds fitting on a tag along with the baked goods. Noah has a strong relationship with God where Faith's has deteriorated. He soon forms a bond with young Melinda who finds his humor and personality much to her liking.

The Stutzman family has grown while Faith has been gone. Faith now has a new little sister who is virtually the same age as Melinda. The two become fast friends in addition to being aunt and niece. Just as Faith is preparing to leave Melinda and her Amish roots, an accident occurs which will alter their lives.

Will Noah and Faith find out that "going home" is God's leading both to happiness and acceptance for their unique talents? Wanda Brunstatter has done it again by weaving a tale which will have you waiting for more chapters. "Going Home" is the first in her new series called "Brides of Webster County." I can't wait to visit Webster County again soon. Home is where the heart is with this kind people who appreciate the simple things in life.

Coach Mom

Motherhood is the world's oldest profession. Yet there is no where to get an education on how to be a better mother. You could say it motherhood is definitely on the job training. That is until "Coach Mom" arrived on the scene. Families need teamwork in order to be a success. "Coach Mom" by Brenna Stull is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to organize their family into an an all-star team. Mothers have so many roles to fill. There must be motivation and communication amongst the team members. Part of being a team is all working together for a common goal.

"Coach Mom" is organized into 7 chapeters each dealing with a definitive strategy. Such areas as organizing your house, preparing for the next day the night before, and grocery tips are included. This book is very easy to read and understand. When you find that you need a "pick me up" in the middle of chaos just read a few paragraphs. No matter if your family works together like a well-oiled machine or it seems like your family is always breaking down, help is on the way.

Brenna Stull brings her wealth of knowledge and experience of raising 5 children to help you every step of the way. Brenna uses frequent Scripture verses to promote here key points in the text. Often times, Brenna shares humorous stories from her own family's daily life. She gently reminds all mothers to keep Christ Jesus as the center of your family's daily life. He is by far the best instructor and friend there ever was. I loved this book and hope Brenna Stull writes many more books for mothers to enjoy. Your All-Star team is right around the corner or the next chapter whatever the case may be!