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Thursday, June 7

"JUNE-o" about these New Books?

So...."June-o" would be the redneck side of me coming out..  For those of you from above the Mason-Dixon Line, you can read that as "Do you know..."   😊  This month, we're also featuring a new movie that touched our hearts!

I Can Only Imagine - DVD
Dennis Quaid and Trace Adkins star in this inspiring true story behind MercyMe’s beloved hit song. Running from a troubled home life and a broken relationship, Bart Millard (Finley) found escape in music. Hitting the road in a decrepit tour bus, Bart and his band MercyMe set out on an amazing journey none of them could have ever imagined, in this uplifting, music-filled movie that beautifully illustrates the power of forgiveness and God’s love.  The home entertainment release of I Can Only Imagine features over 3 hours of extras including 7 deleted scenes, 7 in-depth featurettes, an audio commentary, and more!

Our Thoughts
Created by the same folks who brought you Moms' Night Out (which you must see!), this is about the story behind the popular song of the same name. It's a song about heaven, and a movie about a prodigal son story. Even if you're not typically into Christian movies, this one still might has a more mainstream feel, with a deeper message of morality, rather than strictly religion. Surprisingly, the song isn't rehashed over and over again, as you might think, but only alluded to at points in the story and then has it's moment in the sun toward the end. The emotions these actors bring to the movie are incredible...the actors should be applauded for their sincerity. It is a movie that will fill you with laughter, tears, heartbreak, and finally, joy!  Listen to the song.

Historical Fiction
A Rebel Heart (Beth White)
Five years after the final shot was fired in the War Between the States, Selah Daughtry can barely manage to keep herself, her two younger sisters, and their spinster cousin fed and clothed. With their family's Mississippi plantation swamped by debt and the Big House falling down around them, the only option seems to be giving up their ancestral land. Pinkerton agent and former Union cavalryman Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage linked to the impoverished Daughtry plantation. Posing as a hotel management agent for the railroad, he tells Selah he'll help her save her home, but only if it is converted into a hotel. With Selah otherwise engaged with renovations, Levi moves onto the property to "supervise" while he actually attends to his real assignment right under her nose. Selah isn't sure she entirely trusts the handsome Yankee, but she'd do almost anything to save her home. What she never expected to encounter was his assault on her heart.

The first in a new series about the Reconstructionist South, this book incorporates a living history lesson into a mystery and romance story. The lead characters are obviously going to end up together, but their journey through conflict and into courtship helps move the story forward. Personally, I liked the mystery aspect of this story best of all, and kept trying to figure out the answer right along with the detective...the answer was a surprise! We get a glimpse of characters that will mostly likely be featured in the upcoming books as a sequel to this one; however, the book itself works as a stand-alone, as all of the pertinent issues are resolved by the end.

A Daring Venture (Elizabeth Camden)As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city--but only if she can get people to believe in her work. Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team's techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist. While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

Having left her hometown after both a scandal and a personal tragedy linked to poor drinking water, the leading female sets her life goal to be the prevention of other deaths from the same. She comes up against the leading male, a character holdover from book one in this series, who also agrees that something must be done about the drinking water, but is coming at the problem from a very different angle.  The two are at odds for most of the book, trying to outdo each other in solving this problem their own way.  It should be noted that, in this time period, women were not respected as scientists, and so she must work three times as hard to be taken seriously.  As we all know, with hardship comes intimacy, and eventually the two develop a relationship.  It is one full of passion and excitement, and they must learn to harness their differences to work together as an irrepressible team.  This story is based on historical fact, and the author does a good job of working them in.

Road to Magnolia Glen (Pam Hillman)
1792, Natchez Trace, MS:  Bitter since his eldest brother abandoned their family in Ireland, Quinn O’Shea travels to Natchez, Mississippi, ready to shuck the weight of his duty and set off on an adventure of his own. It’s time Connor, as head of the family, took responsibility for their younger siblings. While aboard ship, a run-in with three Irish sisters lands Quinn in the role of reluctant savior. Though it may delay his plans, he cannot abandon the Young sisters, especially the tenacious yet kind Kiera. Upon arriving in the colonies, Kiera Young prepares to meet her intended and begin her new life. But she soon discovers the marriage her brother-in-law arranged was never meant to be, and a far more sinister deal was negotiated for her and her sisters. Quinn offers to escort his charges safely to Breeze Hill Plantation and his brother’s care, fully intending to seek his freedom elsewhere. But the longer he remains, the greater his feelings toward Kiera grow and the more he comes to realize true freedom might be found in sacrifice.

A follow-up to The Promise of Breeze Hill, this second installment of the Natchez Trace series briefly touches on the characters from the first, and then focuses on the next O'Shea brother. (Being as how there are three more brothers, I am expecting three more books in this series.) This romance has a lot of fiery (yet clean) passion in it! They exhibit the stereotypical Irish tempers and flair for the dramatic, but also the loyalty and devotion for which they are known. While it is a historical novel, I didn't feel that this one taught me a lot of history (as some are wont to do), but it still felt very period-like. It is a quick read that will leave you feeling like you know the characters and want to know how their lives play out.

Bound for Gold (William Martin)
Bound for Gold continues New York Times bestselling author William Martin’s epic of American history with the further adventures of Boston rare-book dealer Peter Fallon and his girlfriend, Evangeline Carrington. They are headed to California, where their search for a lost journal takes them into the history of Gold Rush. The journal follows young James Spencer, of the Sagamore Mining Company, on a spectacular journey from staid Boston, up the Sacramento River to the Mother Lode. During his search for a “lost river of gold,” Spencer confronts vengeance, greed, and racism in himself and others, and builds one of California’s first mercantile empires.

In the present, Peter Fallon’s son asks his father for help appraising the rare books in the Spencer estate and reconstructing Spencer’s seven-part journal, which has been stolen from the California Historical Society. Peter and Evangeline head for modern San Francisco and quickly discover that there’s something much bigger and more dangerous going on, and Peter’s son is in the middle of it. Turns out, that lost river of gold may be more than a myth.I am in love with this new (well, new to me) author! My kids have always loved immersion stories, where we fully experience a time or place and learn so much from it while reading a story. This is like one of those books, but for adults. (And my oldest student is already reading it!) There are two stories intertwined...the present-day mystery / action-adventure and the Gold Rush-era historical action-adventure. I learned so much about the Gold Rush that I never knew (and history is our thing around here) while reading this book. We'll be going through Mr. Martin's older books to see what else we can learn through living history, too!

An Amish Family (Kathleen Fuller)
Building Trust : Grace Miller and Joel King are in love. They’ve dated secretly for the past year and when he proposes marriage, Grace eagerly agrees. But when she tells her parents about the wedding, she’s shocked when her father tells her she can’t marry Joel. Can Grace get to the bottom of her father’s animosity toward Joel so they can have the happily ever after she’s always dreamed of?
A Heart Full of Love (also in An Amish Cradle) : Ellie’s mother hasn’t stopped meddling in her personal life since Ellie lost her sight—and she’s taken it up a notch now that Ellie’s pregnant. When Ellie gives birth to twins, her mother insists on moving in to care for them. But when her mother’s behavior becomes unbearable, Ellie is forced to take a stand . . . and finally find out why Mamm can’t let go.
Surprised by Love : In a desperate move to evade her match-making mother, Emily Shwartz announces that she’s already seeing someone: Reuban Coblentz. The trouble is, Reuban is barely even a friend. Seeing how desperate she is, Reuban plays along. But when the past sneaks up on them, will this temporary arrangement turn into everlasting love?
A Gift for Anne Marie (also in An Amish Second Christmas) : Anne Marie and Nathaniel have been best friends since they were kids. Now things are evolving . . . in ways everyone else predicted long ago. But when her mother suddenly decides to remarry in another state, Anne Marie’s new chapter with Nathaniel looks doomed to end before it begins.

I've read several of these Amish collections, but it's rare that I've thoroughly enjoyed every single story included in them. I loved all of the stories in this collection....each brought a unique flavor to the table, and they all centered around the theme of family. Family doesn't always look like we picture - mom, dad, kids - even within the Amish community. (No, there is no LGBT or transgenderism...that's not what I was getting at.) Sometimes your family is your friends, or you have mixed families because of past grief, or you have family members who are carrying deep, hidden burdens that affect those around them. You will enjoy these stories of coming together as a whole and healing as a family!

Arms of Mercy (Ruth Reid)
On the eve of a new year, Catherine Glick is expecting her bu of five years to propose. Instead, the unexpected arrival of an old boyfriend, Elijah, sends her life spiraling out of control. When a rash decision damages her current relationship, Catherine leaves for Florida to work in her cousin’s bakery—anything to flee the source of her shame.  Elijah Graber knows he hurt Catherine when he left their Amish district six years ago. He’s determined to explain his actions, even if it means following her to Florida. Perhaps their two-day bus trip together will provide enough time for him to make his case and win her back.  Just when Elijah is starting to tear down the walls Catherine has built, their bus skids on an icy road—and amid the mayhem and tragedy that follow, Catherine disappears. Elijah’s friends urge him to prepare for the worst, but Elijah holds on to his hope in God and refuses to give up his search for Catherine. With supernatural nudging from the most unexpected places, Elijah sets out to find the love he once lost—no matter the cost.

I've never read an Amish book quite like this one, and was really fascinated at how it unfolded. You've got a girl, two boys, and a tragic accident that we wouldn't typically see in an Amish community. Everyone's running away from something, unless they've forgotten what they're running from, and eventually they come full circle to where they're supposed to be...albeit a bit changed. Themes of survivor guilt, forgiveness, and acceptance are featured in the book. The love triangle isn't as prominent as it appears to be at the very beginning; rather it's the tragedy that takes center stage and changes everyone involved. And the very very end? Beautiful; just beautiful.

The Good Girls Guide to Conquering Life (Erica Catherman)
There's a lot a girl needs to know as she grows up and makes her way in the world. Having a reference guide of practical how-to life skills and character traits can empower her to become a confident and capable woman. In fact, if it's in here, it's an important skill or character trait practiced by capable and confident women. With great illustrations and sidebars of advice from world-class experts, this all-in-one reference tool for young women in the making is the perfect gift for birthdays, graduations, or any occasion.  Coauthors Erica and Jonathan Catherman offer this collection of step-by-step instructions on 100 things girls need to succeed, including how to :
- introduce yourself
- change a flat tire
- respectfully break up with a guy
- leave a tip
- apply for a job
- ask for a promotion
- behave during a police stop
- create a personal budget
- calculate square footage
- wash your face
- clear a clogged drain
- iron a shirt
- wear a scarf
- shoot a basketball
- sharpen kitchen knives
- and much more

My first thought on reading this was that it's just too simplistic and I knew nearly every piece of advice given. However, upon looking at it through a different lens, I think that this would be the perfect gift for a young girl setting out from home for the first time...perhaps a graduation gift? She will probably know some of this stuff, just from being around her parents, but there are some things that parents simply neglect to teach because they don't think about it. Each of the skills is taught, step by step, and illustrated. The book spans a wide variety of topics: social skills and manners, work and ethics, wealth and money management, health and beauty, clothes and fashion, sports and recreation, cars and driving, food and cooking, tools and fix-it, and guys and dating. This could even be used as a family read-aloud...tackling a different skill each week together. Finally, although it says the Girls' would also be helpful for boys.
I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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