The Healing Jar
by Wanda E. Brunstetter
Examples of difficult situations and decisions abound in Wanda E. Brunstetter’s The Healing Jar along with positive, Godly responses to those circumstances. Frequently the characters pray and then continue with their daily activities as they wait on God to answer their prayers by changing their circumstances or their hearts. Often He acts in surprising ways.
The main characters in these stories are all connected to the Amish Lapp family, and they all independently stumble on prayer jars hidden on the Lapp property. What remains a mystery to the young ladies, until a discovery in this book, is who accumulated Scriptures and heartfelt petitions to God on slips of paper in old canning jars.
The matriarch of the Lapp family is Mary Ruth. The other main character in The Healing Jar is her granddaughter Lenore Lapp who longs to be a wife and mother. The story of Sara, a granddaughter who was not raised Amish, continues in this book as she tries to discover the identity of her biological father. Michelle, who in an earlier book pretends to be Sara, finds happiness in her conversion to the Amish way but faces challenges when her husband wants to move away from her new family and friends.
I enjoyed this gentle book and recommend this trilogy to those who are interested in learning more about Amish life and customs and to readers looking for romance with a Christian focus. I do think this series should be read in its entirety and in sequence as it is very character based. Perhaps because of the way the series builds and the closure this book provides, it is my favorite of the three books.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Literary Fiction
Notes: #3 in the Prayer Jar Trilogy. I recommend it, but not as a standalone.
Publication: August 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)
“We must learn to trust the Lord, even with things we don’t understand. As we go through troubled waters, it should strengthen, not weaken, our faith. And remember, dear one, prayer is not a business transaction. We don’t give something to get something in return.”
It was frustrating how a person could think they had worked through a situation, even felt peace about it, and then out of the blue, the pain of it all came right back to haunt them.
“It just goes to show that even when people make terrible mistakes, God can take a negative situation and turn it into something good.”
Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter!
by Lynne Truss
illustrated by Bonnie Timmons
Having enjoyed the adult book Eats, Shoots and Leaves years ago, I knew I would love Lynne Truss’ book Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter! It is written and illustrated appropriately for children but could also be helpful for teenagers and adults who just don’t understand that a few tiny punctuation marks can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Bonnie Timmons’ drawings are hysterically funny and illustrate so well the concepts.
The pages are set up so the differences in meaning are clear. On one page, for example, the words are “Eat here, and get gas.” The illustration shows cars getting gas at a place that also sells food. On the facing page, the reader is admonished: “Eat here and get gas.” with the illustration depicting a restaurant where a patron flies through the air with a tremendous burp. (Now what grade school boy is not going to laugh at that?) Under each picture, upside down, is an adult explanation of the effect of punctuation or lack of it. The inserted punctuation is always clearly indicated in red. This book is a winner. It achieves its purpose of explaining why punctuation is so important. Who knew grammar could be so funny?
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to G.P. Putnam for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Nonfiction
Notes: Ages 6-9
Publication: October 22, 2019—G.P. Putnam
If I Built a School
written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Jack uses his imagination to create the perfect school in If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen. Written in rhyme, the first verses immediately bring Dr. Seuss to mind:
Jack, on the playground, said to Miss Jane,
This school is OK, but it’s pitifully plain.
The builder who built this I think should be banned.
It’s nothing at all like the school I have planned.
Unlike Dr. Suess, Van Dusen sticks to real words and the book is ripe with opportunities for vocabulary study—after a long period of enjoying the story and illustrations.
As Jack takes his teacher on a tour, we see his ideas play out in colorful and fun illustrations. His concept includes puppies and a zoo in the lobby, hover desks, and hologram guests. This is such a fun book; I think it would be a particularly good read in the classroom lending itself to much discussion and creative followup as children illustrate and write about their own notions for a perfect school.
Warning to school administrators: there is no mention of testing in this book because as Jack concludes:
On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!
And learning is fun in a place that’s fun too.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Dial Press (Penguin) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: Ages: 5-8
Publication: August 13, 2019— Dial Press (Penguin)
Just in Case You Ever Wonder
by Max Lucado
illustrated by Eve Tharlet
A gifted storyteller for both adults and children and known as “America’s Pastor,” Max Lucado has a way with words and thoughts. In Just in Case You Ever Wonder, Lucado has captured some of the most important truths of reassurance in the Bible in a book he wrote for and dedicated to his daughters many years ago. In this newly published version, Eve Tharlet created soft and welcoming illustrations that feature bears as the characters instead of people. I am enchanted by this book that talks about God’s love and the parent’s love for his child. It provides reassurance for a child that both God and the parent will always support and love the child through good times and bad. The bad times are age appropriate—monsters in the dark, bullies, and bad days at school. It skirts the issue of death while describing the promises of heaven. I think every home with small children should have a copy: it will indeed be a favorite bedtime story.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Children’s Nonfiction
Publication: August 6, 2019—Thomas Nelson
The same hands that made the trees and the moon and the sun made you. That’s why you are so special. God made you.
If you looked all over the world—in every city, in every house—there would be no one else like you…
I knew in my heart God had sent someone very wonderful for me to take care of.
The Subject of Malice
by Cynthia Kuhn
An academic like Lila Maclean is highly suitable to detective work; many of the same skills are required to interview witnesses, deduce events from clues, and analyze situations as she employs in her profession. It doesn’t hurt that Lila has a propensity for finding dead bodies thus putting her on the scene where all the evidence is.
In The Subject of Malice by Cynthia Kuhn, the police chief actually recognizes the valuable contributions Lila has made in the past and gives Detective Lex, her boyfriend, the nod to include Lila as a consultant. As an English professor, Lila’s focus on the genres of gothic and horror brings her to a convention as an organizer, presenter, and participant. The ugly side of the academic world is on full display as professors compete for publication which in turn helps them achieve tenure. In fact, the atmosphere turns nasty and downright deadly. As the convention winds down, the complications, both personal and professional don’t. With interesting characters and dramatic plot twists, Kuhn creates a story you’ll want to keep at all the way to solving the murders and a surprise twist.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series; works well as a standalone
Publication: July 23, 2019—Henery Press
“Merrie’s the dearest friend—“ Simone mused, sweetly. She said most things sweetly, which was a misdirection of epic proportions.
“There has to be more to it than that. He doesn’t look like a cheater.”
“What does a cheater look like?”
Sometimes I forgot who she’d shown herself to be and trusted her again. Which usually didn’t turn out very well. She had a tendency to shift behaviors right when I’d let down my guard.
Death on a Summer Morning
by Betty Rowlands
Previously published as Deadly Obsession by Severn House, this cozy mystery by Betty Rowlands is being published anew as Death on a Summer Morning by Bookouture as part of a thirteen book series centered around Sukey Reynolds, a Scene of Crime Officer responsible for photographing and collecting evidence at crime scenes. Sukey has a nose for detective work which often leads her into scenarios that she is not prepared for, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend DI Jim Castle.
In this case, Sukey arrives at the home of a somewhat elderly man who appears to have fallen down the stairs. Both the man’s younger fiancée and his estranged daughter are convinced there is more to the story, but are at odds with each other in every other way. Meanwhile a headless torso is found in a watery ditch, and the police have the unpleasant and difficult task of identifying the body.
The characters in this book include Fergus (Gus), Sukey’s amiable son who is ready to enter university. Caught in time between teenager and adult, he acts as a sounding board when Sukey needs a listening ear. The plot moves quickly; the setting is important to the plot and well described. I ended the book satisfied with the outcomes, but wanting to read more in this series.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Although this book is #6 in the Sukey Reynolds Mystery Series of 13 books and it is my first Betty Rowlands book, I had no problem jumping into the series and already have another waiting in my queue based on my enjoyment of this book.
Publication: July 22, 2019—Bookouture
A short time later, the garden was empty of birds. They had all taken fright at the high, thin scream of terror and the crash of broken crockery and glass that shattered the peace of the morning.
“My father’s death was no accident; he was murdered.” The blue eyes that had made such an impression on Dalia Chen blazed with an almost fanatical intensity.
“In the hope that Sabrina will stop tilting at windmills, I’ll do what I can to get her and Elspeth to talk to each other.” …Fergus grinned. “I’d love to be a fly on the wall if those two ever get together. It’ll be the mother of all cat fights!”
by Mary Feliz
As Maggie McDonald and her family look forward to a working vacation at Monterey Bay, California, they could not imagine that it would turn into a nightmare. Sons David and Brian help rescue a crashed ultralight pilot, but their quick thinking and heroic actions could backfire in a legal maelstrom.
In Mary Feliz’s Cliff Hanger, Maggie tries to protect her sons and accomplish her organizing job at the resort that hired her, but there are complications at every turn with farmers in conflict, possible drug running, and alien deportation. It’s hard to know who to trust so the family enlists the help of crime fighting friends from their hometown, Orchard View. Their pet golden retriever, Belle, and their friend Stephen’s service dog, Munchkin, a drooling mastiff, have large supporting roles and are a welcome addition to the character list.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #5 in the Maggie McDonald Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.
2. Each chapter begins with a tip for vacationing families from Maggie’s organizing notebook. Many of the ideas are helpful for daily car use or for those who live on the beach.
3. In addition to formal tips for making life easier, the author weaves handy ideas into the body of the story as well as showing how a family can respond to stresses in a healthy way.
Publication: July 16, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Books)
“The tricky part will be managing the news outlets and social media. Their attacks can be swifter, harsher, and more reactionary than the law. Lucky for you, we’ve just hired two people who are experts in that arena. We all need to become adept at fending off slings and arrows in cyberspace.”
I shuddered, both in fear of the tales I’d heard of exploding methamphetamine labs and in sympathy for the people for whom near-slavery in the United States meant a better life than staying in the countries in which they’d been born. My skin prickled as my thoughts traveled from the desperate to those who preyed upon them.
Max placed a plate of warm cookies on the table. The fragrance lured David from his room, and we had a moment of silent appreciation of the stress-busting properties of chocolate and refined carbohydrates.
Ripe for Vengeance
by Wendy Tyson
Megan is a commercial organic gardener with an organic store and café in Winsome where it seems everybody has at least heard of everyone else. She has a handsome, charming boyfriend in Dr. Denver Finn, the local vet. When some of his friends come to town, however, it seems that a cloud of confusion and possibly evil has arrived with them as one of the group is murdered.
In Ripe for Vengeance, author Wendy Tyson has created yet another cozy mystery that is a page turner. The character of Dillon, a high IQ young man suffering from PTSD after witnessing family trauma, is an oxymoron. Is he a mild-mannered introvert as some believe or did he snap in response to an emotional trigger? This cozy is replete with twists and turns revolving around a special school for students like Dillon and drug trials for a startup pharmaceutical company. The introduction of a Pot-bellied pig into the story adds a little humor and softness. Tyson resolves the plot’s mysteries quite well, even picking up one tiny thread at the end that I had completely forgotten about. In doing so, she actually ties up three threads into a nice bow. As I finish each book in this series, I’m always looking forward to the next one.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in the Greenhouse Mystery Series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone.
Publication: July 16, 2019—Henery Press
If hope were a season, it would be spring.
Despite working with the public at the café and farmers markets, and years of practicing law before that, she wasn’t particularly extroverted, and walking into a party that was already underway lived between root canal and scrubbing toilets on her favorites list.
“Rough neighborhood. Kid born there is already a few football fields behind their peers in the game of life.”
Killer in the Carriage House
Lisbeth invites her friend Kate to Asheboro to try to save the town. The only industry, a shovel factory, has long since closed its doors. Kate’s only work experience has been in managing large hotels, but she thinks she could possibly turn the town into a replica of a Victorian village. The source of the idea is the Victorian mansion left to the town by the deceased factory owner.
There are many unanswered questions involved in this project. Kate needs to get the townspeople, especially the shopkeepers, on board. She needs to research the history of the period and develop resources to help put the plan into action. Meanwhile, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when she discovers the body of a young man she encountered the day before at the library. She also wants to learn more about the factory owner and his connections with both Clara Barton and Thomas Edison.
The storyline of Killer in the Carriage House is acceptable, but I had a hard time with the main character Kate. She isn’t believable to me as a project manager. She wastes a lot of time just waiting for things to happen and then complains that there are so many things to do. She also says that in her former position she was told what she had to do and was never in charge of initiating events. That does not seem in line with a hotel manager’s responsibilities. Her personal relationships are weak and not well defined.
The plot is better developed than the characters. I liked the plot resolution but was surprised that certain characters’ presence in town hadn’t been questioned earlier.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Although this book is the second book in the Victorian Village Mysteries, it is the first book in the series for me. It was easy to pick up with the plot and characters and move into the tale.
Publication: July 9, 2019—St. Martin’s Press
But to have someone—or in this case, something like an entire town—hand the whole unwieldy mess to me and say, “Here, make this nice, and don’t spend too much money”? I was left floundering.
“So, are you going to tell me about this new murder?”
“You mean the body in the library? Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, but unfortunately it’s true.”
“You got tossed into a difficult situation, one that kept changing about every ten minutes. You did the best you could.”