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Wednesday, August 24

Back to the Books!

For this session, the books are organized in the order that I read' books and adult books alike are intermingled here.

Home Sewn (Cassandra Ellis)

This beautiful craft book features distinctive sewing projects dedicated to living, resting, eating, and sharing. Use quality materials—from rustic linen to leather—to create simple ottomans, pendant light shades, a voile bed skirt, and more. With dreamy lifestyle photography and ideas for every room, Home Sewn is a keepsake for the modern maker.

This book is fabulous for the beginning seamstress and hobbyist! The beautiful photographs will inspire you to go shopping for bolts of cloth and begin several new projects! Different sections of the book provide projects for the living area, kitchen, bedroom, and more. It explains fabrics and why each is used differently. Also, each project has a step by step guide with photographs for many of the steps. It’s very easy to follow, and the projects are shown in neutral colors. (We will probably make many of them in bold, bright prints!) Overall, it’s a great resource with many different ideas.

Great Small Things (Jodi Picoult)

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.I had been bored with the formulaic style that Jodi Picoult was using for the past several books, but went ahead and tried this one out. I’m glad to see that she’s steered back into the style of Nineteen Minutes, with more twists, and real-life situations. One thing about this book is that it will change the way you think; even if you already think you know yourself very well.

A Beauty Refined (Tracie Peterson)

Phoebe Von Bergen is excited to accompany her father when he travels from Germany to purchase sapphires in Montana. Little does she know that her father's plans--for the gemstones and his daughter--are not what they seem. Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie--a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom. Meeting Ian has changed everything. Phoebe is determined to stay in America, regardless of her father's plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger as the deception begins to unravel.

Once again, I’ve been unlucky enough to pick up in the middle of a trilogy, and would have loved to have read the first book first….which would allow me to ease into the characters and get to know them a bit deeper. That first book is called “A Treasure Concealed.” There is also a third book due out this September, “A Love Transformed.” They are standalone books, as they are about different characters, but they all intertwine and are set similarly. So, that said, this was still a good book. The characters were real, and the plot was believable. I loved the beautiful descriptions of the clothing, furnishings, and area…it made you feel like you were standing there taking it all in. It’s also relevant to today’s world, as there’s a lot of focus on the theme of ‘what is a lie?’ and just how far you can stretch something before it’s no longer anywhere near the truth!

The Witnesses (Robert Whitlow)

Parker House’s secret inheritance is either his greatest blessing . . . or his deadliest curse. The fresh-faced North Carolina attorney shares his German grandfather’s uncanny ability to see future events in his mind’s eye—a gift that has haunted 82-year-old Frank House through decades of trying to erase a murderous wartime past. While Parker navigates the intrigue and politics of small-town courtroom law, Frank is forced to face his darkest regrets. Then, a big career break for Parker collides with a new love he longs to nurture and the nightmares his grandfather can no longer escape. Sudden peril threatens to shatter not only Parker’s legal prospects but also his life and the lives of those dearest to him. Two witnesses, two paths, an uncertain future.

If you like mysteries and thrillers, this is a good book for you! Parker, the lead character, struggles with his past as he makes decisions and goes about his lawyering. I really liked the WWII aspect, as this is an era that intrigues me in novels. The grandfather, Frank, was a boy during WWII Germany, and is haunted by some of the events that occurred. He was gifted, though, with a sort of sixth sense – a gut feeling, which he uses in a special way. Later in the novel, he ‘gifts’ that sense to his grandson. You just have to read it… The book jumps back and forth between current day and WWII, but it’s not terribly confusing. I’d never read a book by this author, but really enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing some more from him.

Guide Me Home (Kim Vogel Sawyer)

After tragedy leaves its mark on Rebekah Hardin’s family, she plans to help her parents and six siblings honor her beloved brother’s memory and alleviate their poverty by working as a guide in the dangerous cave system. Kentucky’s renowned Mammoth Cave presents profitable opportunities in for hardworking, capable men. But Rebekah is determined and if it means presenting herself as a himself, then she’s up to the job. Under the wing of experienced guide Tolly Sanford, “Reb” begins to learn the complexities of the cave and the two are joined by an aspiring young cartographer, Devlin Bale. The university student has traveled to the hill country to map tunnels—not to fall for a girl in disguise. Can the God who designed miles of underground astonishment shape Devlin’s ambitious plans and free Reb from the weight from the past?

I love all of KVS’s books, and this was no exception. Both the period and the setting were well-researched, bringing the reader into an underground, historical world that seems so realistic. Reb/ekah is a strong heroine who is devoted to her family. She learns several life lessons throughout the book (no spoilers here!). Devlin, the other main character, also matures and learns about overcoming stereotypes. And Tolly, my favorite character in the book, brings the wisdom of age and a fun-loving spirit to the story. He helps to tie some of the more awkward parts of the story together, too. I have never been to the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, but after reading this book, would love to visit!

Forever Doon (Corp & Langdon)
With the witch of Doon on the throne, Jamie believed dead, and Duncan and Mackenna trapped in Alloway, Veronica has no choice but to put her grief aside and prepare her remaining followers for the impending battle against the false queen and her forces. But while on a covert mission to steal a powerful elixir from the castle, Veronica discovers her true love may actually be alive, and fighting a battle of his own. With the Brig o’ Doon destroyed and the portal fragmented, Doon’s forces are not only divided, but also isolated in different dimensions. With the help of a storyteller as ancient as the witch herself, Kenna and Duncan learn they must rebuild the bridge to have any chance of crossing back into Doon with their ragtag army. But when Mackenna insists on fighting as well, Duncan soon realizes the only way he can ensure her safety is to turn her into a cold-hearted killer. For Vee, Jamie, Kenna, and Duncan, saving their kingdom while keeping their lives intact will take a miracle.

Forever Doon is the fourth book in the Doon series, and had I realized that prior to reading, I probably would have gone back and read the first three beforehand. It certainly would have made the whole thing make much more sense!! I have only read book three before this one. Without the character background, I was able to pick up the story line within a few chapters, but never really felt connected to the characters. That probably would have been different if I had been invested in this series, but the book does not work well as a stand alone. There are good character qualities exhibited in the main characters, and they struggle to overcome some less-than-good ones as they grow through their adventures. There are many elements of magic in the story, so if you are opposed to the supernatural or magical characters, this will not be the series for you. If you are into fairy tales, and the good guys defeating the evil witches, then this could be a very good series for you. I spoke with a girl who had read the other three, and she filled me in on the backstory. Knowing that information, I’d say this was a pretty decent wrap up to the entire series. This is the last book in the series. If you’re interested, you may want to go back and pick up books one, two, and three first.

Pumpkin Patch Blessings (Washburn & East)
Pumpkin Patch Blessings celebrates fall and shows little ones there are blessings all around us, especially in the pumpkin patch! The sweet rhyming text by Kim Washburn and whimsical illustrations by Jacqueline East bring autumn alive for readers young and old as they take in the fun of the fall season and remember how much they have to be grateful for.

Pumpkin Patch Blessings captures the beauty of autumn, my absolute favorite season, perfectly! The colors are vibrant, the feel of the narrative is fun, and you can almost picture yourself surrounded by this pumpkin patch while smelling the crisp, autumn air! It is a board book, which makes it wonderful for little hands, and is written for the newly emerging reader. The illustrations are bright and very nice. It is short enough to be manageable for a new reader, or for the parent to read over and over again. Since it’s written in rhyme, you might even memorize it! Overall, it’s a great family read that will ring in the excitement of the autumn season.

Tapestry of Secrets (Sarah Loudin Thomas)
Perla Phillips has carried a secret for over sixty years. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling in life, Perla decides to share her story--then suffers a debilitating stroke before she can do so. As Ella and her aunt begin to look into their grandmother''s past, they''ll learn more than they expected about Perla, faith, and each other.

This is the third book in a series, and I have not read the other two, but definitely plan to go back and catch up on the first parts of the story. The book does work as a stand alone, but you’ll probably want to know what happens first. If you’d like to read them in order, check out Until the Harvest and Miracle in a Dry Season first. The series follows the Phillips family from the Depression-era until modern day. A little research will show that this last book wraps up some of the mysteries that were introduced in the first couple of books. The book started out at a rapid pace, like it was picking right up from where the last one left off, and then it fell into this super slow-paced, dry zone for a while. It picked back up at the end, but you have to push through that middle section. Having everything wrapped up in a neat little bow, though, is worth it. The main characters are a little bit too nice at times, and occasionally unbelievable, but overall the book has a nice, home-y feel to it. There is a lot of emphasis on family, and putting family first, as well as the church and how the family and church are tied together.

NIrV Kids' Devotional Bible: Over 300 Devotions (Zondervan)

Complete with a year’s worth of devotions, the Kids’ Devotional Bible, NIrV will help children develop a habit they’ll want to keep. Engaging weekday devotions, fun weekend activities, interesting illustrations, and a dictionary make this a Bible they’ll want to read and apply to their lives. It includes the complete New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)—the stepping stone to the NIV—making it easier for young readers to read and understand.  Features include:

  • Short weekday devotions that help young readers apply Bible lessons for a full year.
  • 52 weekend devotions that teach kids about God’s creation through fun activities like visiting the      zoo and gazing at the stars.
  • “Got It” feature that encourages kids to find answers to Bible trivia themselves.
  • Book introductions that give helpful information about each book of the Bible.
  • A dictionary to look up words they want to know more about.
  • The complete NIrV text, which uses shorter sentences and easier words. Kids can read this Bible on their own!

This is a great book for the graduate of leveled readers.  It is written at a third grade reading level, and answers those curious questions that kids are so well-known for having about their world!  It is a Bible, with scriptures (some are revised), but it also has illustrations and explanations for those scriptures.  It includes a dictionary and an index for better understanding.  Some of the answers cross-reference other passages, and it encourages deeper thinking and exploration.  This is a wonderful book for the in-between age…the child that isn’t ready to tackle an adult Bible – or even an adult that has trouble comprehending it.  It breaks it down into manageable bits.

Moments & Days (Michelle Van Loon)
People rarely slow down to experience their days, and so they feel rushed through life even as they begin to suspect that life lacks significance. By introducing (and reintroducing) us to the feasts and festivals of the Bible, as well as the special celebrations of the Christian calendar, Moments and Daysrestores a sacred sense of time throughout our year, enriching our experience of each “holy day” and enlivening our experience of even the most “ordinary time.”

This was an interesting read. Having been raised in both Christian and Jewish environments, I felt that the book really brought out the similarities between the two and did a good job of explaining the differences.  It promotes love and tolerance, as well as slowing down to be fully present at these annual rituals.  It also explains the reasoning behind each holiday, so that the reader no longer just 'goes through the motions' without knowing the history, which brings a deeper connection to the faith.  Charts and tables help to illustrate some of this, and the book is very down-to-earth.

Saffire (Sigmund Brouwer)
For President Teddy Roosevelt, controlling the east-west passage between two oceans mattered so much that he orchestrated a revolution to control it. His command was to ‘let the dirt fly’ and for years, the American Zone of the Panama Canal mesmerized the world, working in uneasy co-existence with the Panamanian aristocrats. It’s in this buffered Zone where, in 1909, James Holt takes that first step to protect a defenseless girl named Saffire, expecting a short and simple search for her mother. Instead it draws him away from safety, into a land haunted by a history of pirates, gold runners, and plantation owners, all leaving behind ghosts of their interwoven desires sins and ambitions, ghosts that create the web of deceit and intrigue of a new generation of revolutionary politics. It will also bring him together with a woman who will change his course—or bring an end to it. A love story set within a historical mystery, Saffire is brings to vibrant life the most impressive-and embattled- engineering achievement of the twentieth-century.

Sadly, this book never arrived in the mail for me to read and review. However, I am required by the review company to at least post about it - so here is the synopsis (above) of the story line.

I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I don't mince words.
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