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The Medallion–for the love of a child

The Medallion

by Cathy Gohlke

The MedallionWhat is worse than being a Pole during World War II?  Being a Jew.  

And what is worse than either? Being a Polish Jew, a target for abuse, humiliation, torture and destruction.

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke tells the story of two families whose lives and deaths become joined through the horrors and hardships of life in Poland in World War II. Janet is a Polish fighter pilot married to Sophia, an English citizen, alone in Poland, but with a heart for Jewish children. Rosa has to make the most difficult decision possible to save her beloved daughter’s life. Her husband Itzhak, an electrician, endures the most horrific task assigned to any person by the Nazis, digging up mass graves with his bare hands. Can anything good possibly emerge from the desperation of this story?

Many of the characters in The Medallion are fictional, but are inspired by interviews and textual research. Some are found in history, including Irena Sandler who rescued 2,500 children and Dr. Janusz Korczak who ran an orphanage.

The tales of these two families are difficult to read but also inspiring. Towards the end of the book, when the war is over and all should be well, it isn’t. Sophia finds herself in a moral and personal crisis of faith that intimately affects the lives and futures of herself and those she loves most.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: The end of this book also includes discussion questions, notes to the reader about the writing of this book, and historical notes.

Publication:   June 4, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

“Adonai makes a way when there appears no way. It is His specialty. Remember the Red Sea.”  The words of her old friend came back to her, just as they did so often when Sophie felt at her wits’ end.

The Germans wanted to make certain that Poles were equipped only to follow orders, mostly for menial labor. They espoused the belief that a thinking Pole was a dangerous Pole. Hence, Polish schools were closed and thousands upon thousands of children did not learn to read or write—unless they were taught in secret.

“We’re not meant to handle life alone, Sophie. It’s too hard, too unpredictable, too messy and big. There is One who is willing and ready to help, to travel with us, if we let Him.”

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The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

All This Homeless Veteran and His Dog Needed Was Human Kindness…

Being the hands and feet of Jesus…

Kindness Blog

homeless man in starbucksWhile seated at a Starbucks, a homeless man came in and sat nearby.

His scent was unpleasant and people looked at him and rolled their eyes. He was simply doing what we were all doing, drinking coffee and taking advantage of free WiFi.

He brought his dog, Legacy, who was well behaved. He proceeded to tell me he walked 60 miles from Seattle to Tumwater over a few days period. He spoke highly of Legacy who, in stride, journeyed along with his master every step of the way without complaint. As soon as Legacy was told to lay down, he fell asleep.

It was sad to see people distance themselves from this homeless veteran. Kids who inquired about the dog were quickly shielded by their parents and hurried away.

This Veteran explained most people have no concept of being Christ like because they simply place Christ on the shelf as…

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The Brides of the Big Valley: Three Romances from a Unique Pennsylvania Amish Community

The Brides of the Big Valley: Three Romances from a Unique Pennsylvania Amish Community

by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean B. Brunstetter and Richelle B. Brunstetter

The Brides of the Big ValleyThree different Brunstetter authors have combined to create three equally good short Amish romances all set in Big Valley located in Mifflin County. The Amish situation that is unique in this area is that in the 1840’s the congregation broke into three groups based on beliefs, customs, and later the colors on the tops of their horse drawn buggies.

Deanna’s Determination by Wanda E. Brunstetter tells the story of Deanna Speicher, a young Amish widow with a sweet little boy who has Down syndrome. She lives with her father and contributes to their support by creating quilted goods to sell at the local flea market. Her deceased husband’s best friend, Elmer, is the romantic interest in this story until tragedy strikes again. Will Deanna and Elmer’s love survive the new crisis?

In Rose Mary’s Resolve, by Jean B. Brunstetter, we are introduced to a family that was mentioned in the first story, the Rennos, who own a furniture company. With older sister Linda getting married, Rose Mary is learning the ins and outs of the show room so she can help in the family business. Romance is in the air as Tom Yoder courts Rose Mary, but problems arise as Tom thinks of going Englisch and pressures Rose Mary on all of their decisions. Meanwhile Kevin literally drops out of the sky as he crash lands in the Renno field and develops an interest in Rose Mary and the Amish way. Will Rose Mary stay true to God and her family customs?

Leila’s Longing by Richelle Brunstetter is the story of Leila Fisher, a shy young lady who was bullied at school when she was younger and now carries the emotional scars of those experiences. She is a gifted artist, creating sketches and making greeting cards and selling them. Will her new friends Aden and his sister Sue and her new employee Mollie be able to help her emerge from her reclusiveness? Will anyone ever want to court her?

The Brides of the Big Valley is comprised of three novellas, gentle stories combined to make an interesting tale for a calm afternoon’s reading. The characters are likable and the plots are not overly predictable. God and faith are an important part of these tales.

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.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian Fiction, Romance

Publication:   June 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

I bet Rose Mary would say anything is possible with the Lord’s help. But can He truly help me through my relationship with Dad, by repairing the bridge across the chasm that exists between us?

She’d been too trusting of others when she was young, which caused her to be suspicious of disloyalty. No matter how nice she was to others, she didn’t receive kindness in return. That was why it was easier for her to not even try.

When life gets at its worst or drags us down, reading God’s Word provides guidance on good living.”

Ripple Effects–what you do affects others

Ripple Effects

by Pam Tebow

Ripple EffectsAuthor Pam Tebow is the mother of Tim Tebow, a football and baseball star. Tim uses his talents and fame as a platform to share God’s love and to make a difference in the lives of those who can’t help themselves through the many outreaches of the Tim Tebow foundation.

In Ripple Effects we learn how Tim Tebow and all of his brothers and sisters were affected by the Christian witness and guidance of their mom and dad. More importantly, Pam Tebow shares how what we do has ripple effects on those around us. When you take the time to help a neighbor or smile at a stranger, your actions can affect you, them, and the people they interact with.

Pam focuses on our relationship with Jesus, finding our purpose, mission and influence, reading the Bible, prayer, our mindset, and living with passion. She shows how all of these can and should be integrated into our lives. The book is full of anecdotes and examples demonstrating how she and her husband Bob learned to yield to God’s will as they followed His prompting to begin missions in the Philippines as well as speak and lead all over the world.

Pam is very practical, explaining the importance of memorizing Bible verses. She made up tunes to go with the Scriptures to help herself and her children remember them. One example of the ripple effect is that her grandchildren can now sing these same Scriptures as they have been  passed on to a new generation. Bob and Pam used teachable moments in their daily lives to share Biblical truths through life experiences. They taught humility and giving God the glory with consistency in their teaching and lives and by always drawing their children’s attention back to God, the source of their talents and gifts.

Although a lot of the book focuses on raising children from a pioneering homeschooling mother’s perspective, the lessons of ripple effects are for everyone. People are watching you; what will they take away about you and your God?

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Self-Help

Publication:   May 7, 2019—Tyndale House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

Put simply, faith is trusting God, even when we don’t have a clue how His plan will unfold.

The most effective way to influence people in our sphere to trust God is for them to watch us trust Him…Influence is not accidental; it results from making deliberate, determined, and repeated choices, beginning in the mind and then acted out day by day. Choices empowered by God and HIs Word.

Reading, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture has had an unmistakable impact on me, and it has served as one of my greatest opportunities to influence others—with ripple effects on my family, my friends, and the people I meet along the way.

Loving people is hard, but next to loving God, it should be our number one priority. You may have someone in your sphere who is not especially lovable…But when people are at their worst, they need love the most.

Ever Faithful–Yellowstone in 1933

Ever Faithful

by Karen Barnett

Ever FaithfulYellowstone National Park, Wyoming

1933

The middle of the Great Depression

Ever Faithful is the tale of young people from various walks of life joined by employment at Yellowstone. Some are pack rats (porters), some pillow punchers (maids), and others pearl divers (dishwashers). Additional college students working the summer are tour bus drivers and laundry workers. Throw into the mix a contingent of down and out, unemployed and often uneducated young men from the cities, part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) founded by President Roosevelt to combat unemployment and the problems that can arise from idleness and defeated attitudes. All of these young people have pasts that affect their presents.

Elsie, the daughter of a park ranger, loves Yellowstone and has spent many summers working hard at the inns at the park to achieve her dream—to go to college to become a teacher. She and her friends have romantic entanglements typical of summer romances. Some, however, seem more serious than others. Vaughn, a park ranger, sets his eyes on Elsie as does Nate Webber who has taken a CCC job to get out of trouble and provide money for his family in New York. Secrets abound and some are potentially deadly as they are linked to wildfires that could destroy the dry, pine beetle infested forests of Yellowstone.

After an interesting story with a historically accurate setting, author Karen Barnett moves the story ahead four years with a quite satisfactory epilogue. Then she provides information on the main aspects of this work of historical fiction and notes a few minor discrepancies as well as how the park has changed.

Yellowstone with its bears, bison, geysers, and vistas is on many a bucket list. Some of the original inns remain while others have been replaced. There are probably too many tourists, but it is still a park that belongs to the people, and it is a wonderful setting for this tale.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: 1. Thematically a part of the Vintage National Parks Novels but remains a standalone in terms of characters, setting, and plot.

2. Gentle reminders of God’s presence and plan.

Publication:   June 18, 2019—WaterBrook (Penguin Random House)

Memorable Lines:

“It’s hard for men to be out of work. It wears at their souls, tears them down piece by piece like a crumbling brick wall.”

It was odd how teaching both energized her and sapped her at the same time. During class, she flitted from one student to another, each one’s progress sending a wave of satisfaction through her chest. But when the room emptied, her strength seemed to go with them.

Nate reached into his pocket and pulled out the pine cone he’d picked up at Roosevelt and squeezed it in his fist. The scales were closed, glued shut by sap. According to Ranger Brookes, without fire it wouldn’t open to disperse the seeds hidden within. God could bring good out of disaster.

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

by Max Lucado

you'll get through thisI have always been fascinated by the Biblical story of Joseph, from the coat of many colors to saving Egypt and his people from famine. The story includes pride and arrogance, bad parenting, attempted fratricide, slavery, temptations, false accusations, jail, forgotten promises, a rise to power, revenge, and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was a roller coaster ride. There had to be a lot of times when Joseph could have questioned God, “Why me?”

Max Lucado uses Joseph’s story to speak to those who are hurting, who find themselves in a pit of despair. In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado offers the hope found in the Bible that what was intended for evil can be used by God for good. Lucado is the ultimate storyteller, and he brings in stories of people he knows and those he has met to demonstrate his points. With chapters like “Stupid Won’t Fix Stupid” and “Is God Good When Life Isn’t?”,  Lucado’s book is Biblical, practical, and inspirational. I read it at the pace of a chapter a day with more than a few sneak peeks ahead, and I plan on rereading it. There is so much help and understanding rooted in its pages for both men and women who are facing life’s challenges. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: To aid readers who want to use You’ll Get Through This for book or Bible study, there are added “Questions for Reflection” at the end of the book to accompany each chapter.

Publication:   September 10, 2013—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naive.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.

God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slip-ups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our days is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.

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