Houses Built Upon the Sand

Abigail Sinclair and her family have temporarily moved from Edenton, South Carolina to the Outer Banks for the summer. Gone was the ordered life that Abigail was familiar with. Instead she found herself in an environment that was very different in part due to the fact that her father had contracted to have the house built relatively close to the ocean. Most of the other people that she knew did not have their houses built like a shanty teetering on the brink of destruction at the whim of the ocean. In addition, Abigail’s father offers to have her teach a local “banker” how to read. Benjamin Whimble opens her eyes and mind to new sights and sounds. He also opens her heart to the possibility of a life so different from her “normal.”

Encapsulated within this story, The Outer Banks House A Novel, is also the story of the scales removed from Abigail’s eyes about her mother’s fraility and mental breakdown as well as the prejudice and hatred that her father believes. Abigail witnesses the horrendous murder of a black man at the hands of her father and his friends in this post-Civil War story of innocence that is destroyed just like a house that is built upon the sand. Abigail begins to question all she knows and believed in. This powerful story gives the readers a glimpse into the mind of Southerners following the Civil War and also into the mind of innocence.

I received this book for free to review from Read It Forward.

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Blossoming Love

In the very beginning of 2 Corinthians 6:14 it says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” That is what caused the ripping apart of two young lives in “The Scent of Cherry Blossoms” by Cindy Woodsmall. Annie Martin was Old Order Mennonite and Aden Zook was Old Order Amish – never shall the two meet, at least when love blossoms into a marriage is concerned. The story centers around these two characters in a wonderful depiction similar to the blossoming of a rose – layer upon layer opening and revealing the true beauty. The story is also about Roman Zook, Aden’s twin brother who had been injured in a farm accident and is left a paraplegic who is angry and scared to truly live. It is also about the relationships between Aden, his family, and Annie’s grandfather (Daadi Moses) as well as Annie’s relationship with her mother and grandfather.

The layers draw you in and capture your heart so that you are cheering for the relationship between the two young lovers. You also find yourself wanting to know more about the culture of the two communities and the deep faith of the characters. As usual, Cindy Woodsmall has written a fabulous book with language that causes your mind to see what she is describing with infinite detail. I would encourage anyone who is interested in Amish/Mennonite culture or someone who desires a greater faith in God to read this book. Just as the springtime beauty of the blossoming of the cherry tree leaves you with the heady scent and cocoons you with the beauty of the red-tinged and pink blossoms, this book will become a favorite on your shelf and wrap you in faith, love, and hope.

I received this book for free to review for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. You may preorder your copy now from WaterBrook and Amazon with the book being released February 21, 2012.

Amish Heart

Anyone who knows me knows that I love reading Amish fiction, cookbooks, and non-fiction. My love for the Amish began with traveling in Ohio, but then began to include fiction written by Beverly Lewis. I was then introduced to Cindy Woodsmall last year. Last night I finished a book by Judith Miller titled Somewhere To Belong. Although it does not contain all of the language and descriptiveness that Beverly and Cindy include, it was an enjoyable book. The story was surrounded around two girls – Johanna Ilg and Berta Schumacher. The setting is Amana Colonies, Iowa in 1877.

Johanna has been raised her entire life in Amana as part of the Amish community. Berta was raised in Chicago, Illinois by her charitable works mother and physician father. Her family moves to Amana which is not agreeable to Berta. The antics of Berta, who is used to shopping, extravagence, and parties, sets the entire community on edge. The friendship that develops between Johanna and Berta when Johanna is charged with teaching Berta the Amish ways is heart-warming.

Encompassed in the story are the secrets in each family that come to surface and the endearance of the community upon both girls’ hearts despite the secrets and troubles. Readers can sense the pain of both girls throughout the storyline and will feel a sense of joy when both girls embrace the Amish way of living.

Compassion Internationally

In America, we tend to advise to girls to wait before getting married. It is less common to hear of a girl younger than fifteen getting married under any circumstances. However that is not the case in many Middle Eastern countries. Many times a family will arrange a marriage of a daughter much younger than fifteen to avoid the girl being kidnapped and being sold into the hands of human traffickers. Other times a girl’s marriage is arranged to avoid having to feed her. I had heard of marriages of girls twelve and thirteen years old becoming married, but I never heard of a ten year old girl, until I read I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui.

I Am Nujood is a book written to both illuminated the culture of Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries and to highlight the strength of little girl who had to face that culture that says woman are not equal. Nujood was given in marriage by her father and the men of her family to a man of thirty years. He promised to not touch her until one year after her puberty. However, he attacked her almost immediately and violated her nightly while beating her. He attempted to break her but Nujood managed to escape and faced the daunting task of asking for a divorce in a country that did not value woman.

If you are a mother, a daughter, a sister, a Christian – I encourage to read this book and cry out for all women and girls around the world. God created us, male and female, in His image and rather than turn your eyes and mind from the violence against women and girls because it is not in our own home, we must educate ourselves and stand united to protect His children – male and female.

I read this book as part of the United Methodist Women’s Reading Program for 2012. The book is published by Read It Forward and is available on Amazon.com.

Integral Living

If You Know Who You Are You’ll Know What To Do: Living with Integrity by Ronald J. Greer intrigued me just by the title. You know how it is sometimes. You see the title of a book or movie; or you see the cover of a magazine with a byline that grabs you attention and so you buy it (or borrow it) and begin reading. Sometimes that pays off and you end up satisfied and having learned a little more. Sometimes it is a bust and you regret snatching up that book, DVD, or magazine without a little research.

I am happy to say that this book is worth the read. The author has broken into two sections – “Personal Integrity: A Life of Wholeness” and “Moral Integrity: A Person of Values.” He uses personal stories as examples and simple language to state exactly what the title says “If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.” If you know that you are child of God, then it is simple to understand that you are to live your life as Christ would have. Your life must be maked by compassion, truth, character, courage, relation, fidelity, and respect. I would encourage everyone to read this short book and use it as a gauge of whether you live your life with integrity.

I read this book as part of the United Methodist Women’s Reading Program for 2012. The book is published by Abingdon Press and can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Baking Up Friendships

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy is set in both World War II Germany and present day California. The story surrounds the budding friendship that erupts from a journalist’s assignment. The journalist, Reba Adams, is assigned a story to interview Elsie Schmidt Meriwether a baker originally from Garmisch, Germany. Reba is also engaged to Riki Chavez, an Border Patrol Agent. Ricki’s parents were originally from Mexico which eventually causes him to reevaluate his allegience to his job. Encompassed in this story is the story of Elsie and her family during the campaign of Adolf Hitler, the romantic relationship between Elsie’s daughter, Jane, and a Mexican illegal, the relationship between Reba and Riki, and the friendship between Reba, Elsie, and Jane.

Elsie was 15 years old during World War II and was from a family of bakers. The chapters in Germany are written in first-person from Elsie and discuss her life including how her mind changed about Jews and the Nazis after hiding a seven-year-old Jewish boy in her wall when he saved her from impending rape from a Nazi officer. The chapters in California feature the stories of each of the other characters as well as the budding friendship between all of the characters.

The book also features a short cookbook at the end of the book with tempting bakery recipes. The stories are riveting and engaging. The author has done a remarkable job presenting so many stories within the one novel. This is a great book!

I received this book for free for review from Read It Forward. The book can be purchased at Amazon.

Not Close Enough

I love books! I would rather read than almost anything. I usually pick a book because it provides me with an opportunity to learn something or is a genre that I like. So it is a rare occasion that I find a book that I either didn’t like or felt it didn’t muster the high regard that I felt when reading the recommendation or review for it. Living Close to God When You’re Not Good At It by Gene Edwards is one of those books. The book is not a bad book. It does not have untruths in it. It is not hard to understand. It just did not grab me and make me want to read it voraciously.

I was pretty excited about the book when I read the synopsis of it. I was ready to read a book that addressed issues that I struggle with – inconsistent time with the Lord, wandering mind, falling asleep while talking to God. However, when I read the book, I felt that in some parts it was too simple. Now you may be saying that simple is good. I agree, but sometimes simple leaves you begging for more and searching even harder. There was much that I enjoyed of this book. I think that maybe if I had read this book as part of a Bible study with others I would have garnered a deeper love for it. Mr. Edwards does include a six session group study and seven week individual deeper study.

The author has a deep knowledge base about the subject and advises that none of the suggestions are quick fixes. The book is easy to read. I would definitely suggest either a group study using this book or the deeper individual study rather than just reading the book straight through.

I received this book free for review from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. The book can be purchased through Amazon.

Song Bird

I have never been much of a “lover of the hymns.” That is until I began Robert J. Morgan’s book Then Sings My Soul Book 3. I found his book to be easy to read and loved the “old book” feel of the pages in the paperbook. I cannot read music and have always felt that the hymns were for those that could sing high notes and liked slow music. After reading the history behind the songs and the poetic quality of the songs, I have changed my viewpoint of the hymns. Although I still cannot read the music nor sing the songs, Mr. Morgan advised readers to utilize a hymnal as an additional resource during study and devotion time. He stated that readers could either sing the songs as a time of praise and worship or read the hymn as a poem of praise and worship.

The book is separated into segments discussing biblical hymns, ancient hymns, medieval hymns, German hymns, English hymns, Gospel songs, and contemporary praise. This book helped me to gain a greater understanding of the hymns, hymn writers, and church history. One of my most favorite hymns, that I did not realize was hymn, is “Breathe on Me, Breath of God.” I did not realize that this beautiful song was published in 1878 and was written by someone who enjoyed learning as much as I – Edwin Hatch.

I would recommend this book to anyone, young or old, who loves hymns, loves poetry, loves history, or just loves God. Your knowledge of music, poetry, praise, and history will grow exponentially. I have gained a love of the hymns and now utilize a hymnal as a resource to praise God even though I cannot hold a tune in a bucket!

I received this book for free for review from booksneeze.com. The book can be purchased at Amazon.

I review for BookSneeze®