Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review of "Zachary's Choice: Surviving My Child's Suicide"

Review of Zachary's Choice:  Surviving My Child's Suicide

by Suzy LaBonte

A Christian homeschooling mom of a large family, Suzy LaBonte never imagined one of her children might die by suicide. She received an agonizing blow the day her sixteen-year-old son, Zachary, without threat or forewarning, chose to end his own life. The following months were bleak and sorrowful as Suzy struggled down a confusing path of shock, anger, guilt, and depression. Slowly putting one foot in front of the other, Suzy focused on the unfailing character of God, her husband's faithful partnership, and the hopeful faces of the children before her. Plodding and stumbling toward understanding and healing, Suzy found that God's faithful companionship and the promises of His Word lightened the darkest hours and sustained her life. Healing came slowly and with it, transforming lessons of pain and courage. With a passion to reach out to encourage other suicide survivors, Suzy shares the healing that is found in Christ Jesus."Includes a Survival Guide for those impacted by suicide and suggested resources for further support."

MY REVIEW:  I have not lost a child to death but I have had a family member commit suicide and have had several serious attempts made by loved ones.   Their attempts, thankfully, were unsuccessful and led to hospitalizations which allowed them to receive help and healing.  Suzy LaBonte's son did not receive help and healing as he showed no obvious warning signs to family members or friends.  Suzy experienced great guilt after losing Zachary as she wanted to go back  in time and help him.  
      Suzy dealt honestly and respectfully with her feelings and struggles after losing her son in such a tragic way.   She described her own progression through the five stages of grief:  shock, anger, guilt, depression, and acceptance.  None of the stages were quick and easy. None were without struggle.  They certainly weren't without tears.  Zachary's mother admits she is not a professional counselor but I felt that she spoke clearly and in ordinary language so that anyone could easily understand and apply the script to their own lives.   I have three grown daughters and I found myself grieving with this precious mom over the senseless loss of her beautiful son.   She urges readers to seek professional help if needed and includes many useful tips for those who are experiencing their own grief after a suicide.   
      I rate this book 5 stars and would highly recommend it to readers.
      I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 About the Author:
Suzy LaBonte

Suzy LaBonte lives with her family in the rural town of Lacey Spring, Virginia which is located in the beautiful farmland of the Shenandoah Valley. For over 26 years, she has been blessed to be the wife of her high school sweetheart, Allen, who manages the engine repair shop for an aviation company at a local airport. 

Suzy has a B.S. in Elementary Education from Cedarville University and is the very proud mother of 10 children between the ages of 3 and 24 (five birth and five adopted from foster care). She is extremely proud of her two sons in the military -- one in the Navy and another in the Marines. Suzy stays busy juggling the weekly homeschool schedules and extra-curricular activities of two busy teenage daughters and five young ones still at home. 

Suzy and Allen have been foster parents is the state of Virginia for over 12 years and have had over thirty children spend time in their home. They are passionate about providing care to abused and neglected children within their community.

After her 16 year old son, Zachary, died of suicide in 2009, Suzy wrote a book about her experience titled Zachary's Choice: Surviving My Child's Suicide. She also created a local monthly support group for survivors of suicide loss called Lanterns of Hope. Meeting with these individuals within her community who are sharing a similar journey has been extremely healing. She also keeps in close contact with others beyond her community who lost a loved one to suicide. These she counts among her dearest friends.

On a personal note, Suzy likes looking for treasures at garage sales and thrift stores, tending to her perennial flower beds, and collecting eggs from her little flock of chickens. In her spare time, besides writing, she enjoys various crafts, vacationing at the beach, and keeping in touch with her friends.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review of "The Love Letters" by Beverly Lewis

Review of The Love Letters

by Beverly Lewis


When her sister falls gravely ill, twenty-year-old Marlena Wenger takes on the responsibility of caring for her infant niece, Angel Rose. Worried that this turn of events portends a more complicated future than he is prepared for, her beau ends their relationship. Marlena is devastated, but is determined to give Angel Rose the best care possible.

Though from the Beachy Amish herself, Marlena meets Ellie Bitner, an Old Order Amish mother who offers quilting and needlepoint classes. They soon form a bond, and Marlena is drawn into the circle of Ellie's family. Ellie's handsome cousin seems rather taken with Marlena, but after her recent breakup, she is cautious where her feelings are concerned.

But things begin to change when Ellie's young son Jacob discovers an older homeless man camped out in the nearby abandoned mill. Suffering from some cognitive disorder, the man has few prospects and fewer possessions--among them a small clutch of letters apparently from his own courting days. Could these letters be the key to the old man's identity? And can they bring healing and hope to Marlena and Ellie as well?

MY REVIEW:  Death, dementia, special needs' children, faith and differences in religious practices and expression....these are all some weighty issues and Beverly Lewis tackles all of them in this book.   Marlena and her family and friends stole my heart as I read this book.  I could relate to Marlena's falling in love with her sister's precious baby, Angela.   Marlena sacrifices for many people in her life and never complains or argues.  She willingly goes along with ministering to others as she feels God's direction.  I definitely could take some lessons from this loyal and dutiful young woman.  She stirred my heart and gave me many things to consider and ponder.
        I honestly felt that this book was one of Beverly's best ever.   I appreciated the tender and sensitive way that she dealt with some very touchy issues.   I taught special needs' preschoolers for many years and learned so many things from the precious children just as Jake taught so much to those around him as he helped the elderly homeless man.  I wished that I could attend the quilting and embroidery classes along with Ellie and her students.  It sounded like such fun and I would love to have someone show me how to quilt as I am learning but have to teach myself.  
       I rate this exceptional book 5 stars and would love to hear readers' thoughts after they have read it.  
       I received a pdf version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Beverly  Lewis

Beverly Lewis, raised in Pennsylvania Amish country and both a schoolteacher and an accomplished musician, has been an award-winning author for over a dozen years. Her acclaimed novel, The Preacher's Daughter, was a 2006 Quill Book Award finalist in the romance category. Her books have appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including USA Today and The New York Times. She and her husband, David, live in Colorado.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review of "The Last Heiress"

Review of The Last Heiress

by Mary Ellis


Bestselling author Mary Ellis (A Widow's Hope) presents The Last Heiress, a new romantic standalone that intertwines the lives of a British manufacturing heiress and an American merchant caught in the turbulent time of the War Between the States.

When Amanda Dunn sets sail from England for Wilmington, North Carolina, she hopes to somehow restore shipments of raw materials for her family's textile mills, which have been severely disrupted by the American Civil War. Though there is not much one individual can do, the wealthy young woman feels she must try, as her mother and hundreds of employees at Dunn Textiles are dependent on Southern cotton.

When Amanda meets Nathaniel Cooper, her desire to conduct business and quickly return to England changes. Though captivated by one another, neither is fully aware of the other's true nature.

Nathanial, who on the outside appears to be a poor but hardworking merchant, is actually a secret Yankee sympathizer who will stop at almost nothing to bring about freedom for those who live under subjugation, even when that involves questionable judgment. And Amanda's wealth is made possible by underpaid workers living in slums around the mills, not much different than American slavery.

Can these two earnest souls find the best in one another rather than focus on what could tear them apart? And though they both believe they are on God's path, how will their decisions affect those around them?

MY REVIEW:    When I read a blog post the other day and found out that this book is set in Wilmington, North Carolina, I just had to read it.  My oldest daughter lives there and I graduated in 1996 from University of North Carolina @Wilmington.  I want to visit several of the historical homes in Wilmington after reading the book.  I have been to Fort Fisher many times and much of the action of the Civil War scenes in the book took place there.   
       It was very interesting to see slavery placed side-by-side with British maids.   Seeing the differences in the ways the two countries treated servants made slavery look even more despicable if that is possible.   The characters made this book great fun to read as some of the characters are highly lovable and some are ones readers "love to hate".   I started reading this book and finished in one sitting as it was quite exciting.  
       I rate this book 5 stars and am delighted to recommend it to readers.   
       I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

About the Author:
Mary  Ellis

Mary Ellis has written twelve bestselling novels set in the Amish community, along with two romantic suspense set in Louisiana. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught middle school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. She has enjoyed a lifelong passion for American history and is an active member of the local historical society. She has recently finished several romances set during the Civil War and is currently working on a series of mysteries, Secrets of the South. The Last Heiress is her latest release.
She can be found on the web at: www.maryellis.net or https://www.facebook.com/Mary.Ellis.Author.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

REVIEW of "Keys of Heaven"

Review of Keys of Heaven

by Adina Senft 


Sarah Yoder is learning to help the people in her Amish community as aDokterfraa, creating teas and tinctures using the herbs she grows. But her latest patient seems to have a problem that can't be resolved with anything in Sarah's garden-a woman who, in Sarah's mind, would flourish anywhere but in the place she lives. Meanwhile, Sarah's relatives have decided to do a little matchmaking between her and a visiting Amish man. He would make a wonderful husband, and she knows she should be willing for God to show her His choice of partner...and not allow her friendship with her neighbor, Henry Byler, to grow into anything more.

Henry has seen some success as a potter since a major store commissioned a line of his work for their catalog. The trouble is that they want to market him as Amish. Though he was raised in the faith and now lives in Amish country, he has never joined church-and doesn't plan to, either. Which means that, despite the attraction between them, he must keep his distance from Sarah. But what happens when Sarah and Henry are called upon to help a runaway whose family is too worldly to see how lost their son has become? The plant Sarah calls Keys of Heaven may be able to grow in impossible places, but it's not so easy for people to find their own place. Which means it's quite a temptation for her to take matters into her own hands......
MY REVIEW:  Chamomile tea is one of my stress and anxiety relievers.   I enjoyed reading of Sarah and the herbal teas and tinctures she creates to help the Amish community and her own family.  I learned a great deal about some new natural remedies that I did not know about previously.  As a retired teacher and lover of crafts and arts, I read with interest as the young English teenager, Eric, explored his desire to create pottery with Henry, who is formerly Amish and does not intend to return to the Amish faith.
        There were a great many relationships and storylines going on in this book and a few times, I had to backtrack and reread portions of the book to figure out who was being featured at a given time.  Within these relationships, there were many romances and conflicts occurring and it kept me hopping to keep up.   I really enjoyed the book though and appreciate the number of lessons learned by several of the characters.   There were several lessons of faith learned as characters experienced turmoils and trials of life.   
        I rate this book 4 stars and highly recommend it to readers.   I think this book would also be of particular interest to teenagers, even preteens would find it enjoyable.  
       I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Adina Senft
Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church, where she was often asked by outsiders if she was Amish (the answer was no), she made her own clothes, and she perfected the art of the French braid. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches as adjunct faculty. 

Writing as Shelley Bates, she was the winner of RWA’s RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and, writing as Shelley Adina, was a Christy Award finalist in 2009. Three of her books have shortlisted for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Carol Award for book of the year. Of her fiction, publisher and industry blogger W. Terry Whalin has said, “Readers will be lost in the vivid world that [she] paints with incredible detail and masterful storytelling.” 

A transplanted Canadian, Adina returns there annually to have her accent calibrated. Between books, she enjoys traveling with her husband, playing the piano and Celtic harp, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens. These days, she makes period costumes and only puts up her hair for historical events and fun.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review of "Remember the Lilies"

Review of Remember the Lilies

 by Liz Tolsma


Irene and Rand come from very different walks of life. Will they find common ground in their fight to survive? 

Irene has grown up in the jungle as a missionary with her Aunt Anita, but now she and countless others are imprisoned by Japanese soldiers at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines. Irene and her aunt are safe there, and she keeps busy with her duty of delivering censored messages to the camp’s prisoners, but like everyone else, she prays for the war to end and for her freedom. Rand is a wealthy, womanizing American, whose attempted escape from the internment camp has put himself and others in danger. When Rand and Irene’s Aunt Anita meet one another in the hospital, Irene learns more of his story and her heart is determined to save his family. But the danger outside the walls of the hospital worsens every day, and life in this exotic place is anything but luxurious. Can Irene find Rand’s family before they disappear forever? And can a humble missionary woman and an arrogant man find common ground in the face of their biggest fears?

MY REVIEW:  "No one survived an escape attempt.  No one even tried.  She finger raked strands of damp hair from her eyes.  In the daytime, each shanty had its own personality.  At dark, they blurred together, one indistinguishable from the other.  She straightened to resume the search, not knowing how she would find him.  Her legs protested, but she urged them forward.  She had to make sure Mr. Sterling had the complete message."
       I was not aware that Americans living in the Philippines during World War II were imprisoned in internment camps.  I knew that America forced Japanese living in America to remain in internment camps and that was awful enough as I learned of it.   I'm sure that the Americans living abroad never dreamed their lives would be put on hold for the duration of the war.  While Rand and Irene are from two entirely different worlds, they somehow become connected through Irene's work in the office working with censored mail.  
      Both Irene and Rand conceal their secrets and fear what will happen if the other discovers the pain they hide.   This book was quite riveting and highly emotional for me.   I lost an uncle, my mother's only brother in World War II.   He knew something of the pain and fear he had experienced, but I did not think it touched the lives of so many others.  I definitely knew of the anguish that my grandparents and my mom, and his sisters felt.  My grandmother shared many stories with me.   While this book is deeply moving, it also offers a very real sense of hope.   Read this book and open your heart to the pain and the hope.   
      5 stars for this book and I am delighted to recommend it to readers.
      I received a free kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.   

About the Author:
Liz Tolsma

Liz Tolsma has lived in Wisconsin most of her life, and she now resides next to a farm field with her husband, their son, and their two daughters. All of their children have been adopted internationally and one has special needs. Her novella, Under His Wings, appeared in the New York Times bestselling collection, A Log Cabin Christmas. Her debut novel, Snow on the Tulips, released in August of 2013. Daisies Are Forever released in May 2014. When not busy putting words to paper, she enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family. Please visit her blog at www.liztolsma.blogspot.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@LizTolsma). She is also a regular contributor to the Barn Door blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review of "Where Trust Lies"

Review of Where Trust Lies

by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan


Beth Thatcher returns home from her first year as a schoolteacher in the mining town of Coal Valley and steps into a whole different world. Her life back among her wealthy Eastern family is a stark contrast to her primitive life in the West, and Beth isn't sure where she belongs anymore.

She barely has time to settle in before her mother announces plans for a family holiday--a luxurious steamship tour along the eastern coast of Canada and the U.S. Wishing to reconnect with her mother and sister, Beth agrees to go but quickly finds herself at odds with her mother's expectations. After enjoying complete freedom in the western wilds, Beth isn't sure what to make of her mother's ongoing efforts to direct her life--and her heart.

Beth keeps in touch with her Mountie beau, Jarrick, even as young men more of her station catch her eye. Is she ready to fully give her heart to Jarrick, knowing it will mean saying good-bye to her family and her life of privilege once again? And when Beth trusts the wrong person, will Jarrick be able to help her despite the distance between them?

MY REVIEW:  "She's probably assuming I've come to discuss the cruise.  Oh, Heavenly Father, please help me find the right words.  Please help me find the right words.  Please help Mother to understand."    Travel is so exciting to me and I have always longed to visit Canada and I was able to take a little trip through the incredibly descriptive words of the authors.  I actually imagined I was there with the characters and the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes were amazing.  The cruise also carried them through some of the New England states and New York City.   These are also places I would love to visit.   
        The characters and family dynamics were believable and lovable while some, of course, were irritating.  In other words, they behaved just like our own families.  I found myself laughing and crying with the characters.   Beth, Julie, and Margret tickled me and reminded me greatly of my own three precious daughters in their interactions.  
        I have been reading Janette Oke's books since I was a young teenager and they never fail to please me.   It only adds to the attraction for me that Janette's daughter, Laurel, has joined with her in writing these engaging books.   Oh my, this book has certainly filled me with a renewed desire for a Canadian cruise and adding the New England states would be like frosting on the cake.   
        5 Stars for this book.   Readers will likely enjoy the mystery and suspense of this story as I did.   I love when romance has mystery and suspense mixed with it.  Thank you, ladies, for a wonderful book to occupy my mind on a snow-filled week in Virginia.   
        I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Authors:
Janette Oke

Janette Oke writes with a profound simplicity of what she knows best—real life, honest love, and lasting values. With over 23 million in sales, her historical novels portray the lives of early North American settlers from many walks of life and geographical settings. She also writes engaging children's stories and inspiring gift books that warm the heart.

Janette was born during the depression years to a Canadian prairie farmer and his wife, and she remembers her childhood as full of love and laughter and family love. After graduating from Mountain View Bible College in Canada where she met her husband, Edward, they pastored churches in Canada and the U.S., and they raised their family of four children, including twin boys, in both countries. Edward eventually became president of Mountain View Bible College and recently established a coalition of colleges that became Rocky Mountain Bible College.

During her earliest years, Janette sensed the desire to write. Though she yearned to be a published novelist, she devoted herself to being a wife and mother because, she says, "there is no higher honor—that is my number-one priority." She began serious writing when her children were entering their teens.

Her first novel, a prairie love story titled Love Comes Softly, was published by Bethany House in 1979. This book was followed by more than 75 others. She reaches both religious and general markets, telling stories that transcend time and place. Her readers of all ages and walks of life can identify with the everyday events and emotions of her characters. Janette believes everyone goes through tough times—the key is to be prepared with a strong faith as the foundation from which decisions are made and difficult experiences are faced. That perspective is subtly woven throughout her novels.

After Love Comes Softly was published, Oke found her readers asking for more. That book led to a series of eight others in her Love Comes Softly series. She has written multiple fiction series, including The Canadian West, Seasons of the Heart and Women of the West. Her most recent releases include a beautiful children's picture book, I Wonder...Did Jesus Have a Pet Lamb and The Song of Acadia series, co-written with T. Davis Bunn.

Janette Oke's warm writing style has won the hearts of millions of readers. She has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medallion Award, The Christy Award of Excellence, the 1992 President's Award for her significant contribution to the category of Christian fiction from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and in 1999 the Life Impact Award from the Christian Booksellers Association International. Beloved worldwide, her books have been translated into fourteen languages.

In recent years, Janette and her siblings lovingly restored their parents' prairie farm home, and it now serves as a gift shop and museum of prairie life. Please see below for a special invitation to the Oke Writing Museum and The Steeves' Historical House. She and her husband live nearby in Alberta, Canada, where they are active in their local church. Visits from their families, including their grandchildren, are their delight.

Laurel Oke Logan

Laurel Oke Logan is the daughter of Janette Oke, awarding-winning author of Christian fiction, whose bestselling books have sold over eleven million copies, and Dr. Edward Oke. Laurel grew up in a small town on the Canadian prairie with three brothers who kept life exciting and eventful.

She married during her college days and soon after began writing her first novel, Gillian. She and her husband, Marvin, are the parents of four children and Laurel has been able to resume writing on a part-time basis while she homeschools her children. 

Laurel Oke Logan has joined with her mother, in the writing of Janette's life story.

Laurel continued her education at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana, and Purdue University. She has taught writing seminars to high school students, as well as assisting Janette Oke with her writing projects. She and her husband and children make their home in Indiana.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review of"The Amish Clockmaker"

Review of The Amish Clockmaker

by Mindy Starns Clark & Susan Meissner

From bestselling authors Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner, The Amish Clockmaker (Book 3 in the Men of Lancaster County series) explores the men of an Amish community in Lancaster County, how their Amish beliefs play out in their unique roles, and the women who change their lives.

Newlywed Matthew Zook is expanding his family's tack and feed store when a surprising property dispute puts the remodel on hold--and raises new questions about the location's mysterious past.

Decades earlier, the same building housed a clock shop run by a young Amish clockmaker named Clayton Raber. Known for his hot temper, Clayton was arrested for the murder of his beloved wife, a crime almost everyone--including his own family members--believed he'd committed, even after charges were dropped. Isolated and feeling condemned by all, Clayton eventually broke from the church, left Lancaster County, and was never heard from again.

Now the only way Matthew can solve the boundary issue and save his family's business is to track down the clockmaker. But does this put Matthew on the trail of a murderer?

A timeless novel of truth, commitment, and the power of enduring love, where secrets of the past give way to hope for the future.

MY REVIEW:  Accused of murdering the woman he loves and then abandoned by his Amish community and family, Clayton Raber leaves the home he grew up in and never returns.   Now 60 years later, Matthew's livelihood depends on getting Clayton's signature.  Can he find him in time?  Will Matthew discover even more information than he was seeking as he searches for Clayton Raber?  
     I have read many Amish fictions and many have similar storylines, but this book is very different.  I think it is the first time I have seen one with such a unique conflict.  I love the element of mystery and suspense as Matthew searches for Clayton Raber.   This book was a beautiful testament to love and commitment.   Thank you, Mindy and Susan, for writing a book deserving of a huge prize!   I hope this book will win some sort of honor.  5 Stars....read this....you will not be disappointed. 
I received a free kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Authors:
Mindy Starns Clark

A former singer and stand-up comedian, Mindy lives with her husband and two teenage daughters near Valley Forge, PA. She enjoys speaking to churches, civic groups, and libraries across the country. Her unique blend of humor and insight make her an audience favorite. 

Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.
Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.