Monday, December 15, 2014

Lost and Found by Collen Coble and Robin Caroll

Lost and Found FeaturedA while ago I won LOST AND FOUND, Colleen Coble's second Rock Harbor book for kids, from
Lana @  Having read Coble's adult series set in Rock Harbor, MI, I
was pleased that she (along with Robin Caroll) had tried the pre-teen market.   Mysterious disappearances that require use of search and rescue dogs are the kind of action that many young readers like.  Despite being only fourteen, Emily O'Reilly is in the thick of the searches as both she and her young dog Sherlock are training to be part of the rescue team.  As the story opens, Emily and her friend Olivia are searching for Olivia's parents' wedding photo for a surprise anniversary party.
What they find instead is a captioned baby photo indicating that Olivia was adopted.  Clearly Emily is a sleuth-in-making and she's determined to find out why Olivia has never been told about her adoption.  With the help of a friend newspaper reporter, the girls begin to learn more about the suspicious lawyer involved in the adoption.  Could their investigating have anything to do with
strange happenings in the town?

I really wanted to like this book more than I did.  It seemed that the search and rescue team was called out too many times to be realistic. As I read,  I just couldn't decide what age group was the targeted readers.   Before I read the book, I thought I would give it to my 9 year old granddaughter.  In one place, Amazon listed the book as being for 8-11 years, and certainly the lexile level (vocabulary, sentence structure, etc) fits that age group, but then I saw another listing that said the book was for 6th grade and up.  I totally understand that discrepancy.  The book is an easy read, but the characters, their actions (even the story of the birth mother) are skewed toward an older reader.  Here's my problem, I have another granddaughter who is in 7th grade.  For her, this book is probably a little simple.  She normally likes books that are challenging or just plain silly.  Having been a children's librarian, I can tell you that writing for pre-adolescents and and adolescents is challenging.  Creating characters and stories that match their interests, entertain them, and expand their understanding is a delicate mix.  While an adult book may interest people with an age range or 20 years or more, children's books may fit a range of only a year or two.  While I've read literally hundreds of Christian fiction titles over the
last few years, I've only read a few written specifically for kids.  I am afraid the kids are probably a more difficult audience to please than we adults.  Keep trying authors, but give it your best.

Thanks Lana for hosting the give away.  I will be passing this book on to grandchildren.  We'll see who likes it best.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Back from Branson -- great vacation

It's been 9 days since I last posted, probably the longest break since I started blogging.  Reading has been slower with this busy time of year, but I have managed to finish a few books and will be reviewing them over the next few days if I have time.  And I have completed a few sewing projects with more in the works, but I can't reveal them until after Christmas. The real reason I haven't been online much is that we took a trip to Branson with my brother and his wife.  What a great trip!

We were gone 6 nights - 7 days and saw 7 shows.  Also made a side trip on the way home, but I'll keep you in suspense about that for a bit.  Here's our itinerary.

Saturday, we drove to Whitewater where my brother lives.  From there we drove as far as Rolla, MO.
On the way we stopped at the St. James winery.  I never realized that Missouri had so many wineries.  St. James produces a lot of different wines and we sampled several kinds and brought two bottles home with us to share with friends.  On Sunday we drove to the College of the Ozarks (also known as Work U) where we ate a special brunch at Keeter Hall.  If you've never heard of this college, you should read about it.  This is the second time Russ and I have eaten here, and my brother goes there almost every time he visits Branson.  We had delightful servers and struck up some interesting conversations.  After checking into our condo (more about that in a minute), we saw our first show --
THE DUBLIN IRISH TENORS and THE CELTIC LADIES.  High energy show, but I was slightly disappointed that they did not perform more authentic Celtic music.  Monday morning we saw THE BRETT FAMILY's Christmas show. They are a real family - parents, daughter and two sons. I would have to rank this as one of my favorites.  Most all shows do some type of tribute to veterans, but their show's tribute is extremely emotional.  We had planned to see Billy Dean in the afternoon but his show was cancelled.  It seems that he had just returned from being on the road, and while he made it back to Branson, his instruments did not.  So we swam at the condo and relaxed in the hot tub.  At 5:00 we went to the main building for beer and salsa.

Our condo was the Marriott Willow Ridge.  Bob booked our accomodations; they had stayed here with friends recently.  After being there for a day or so, Russ and I realized that we had "endured" a timeshare sales pitch at this complex back 11 years ago when we first went to Branson.  Never did we realize that we would ever stay there.  Our other times in Branson we have stayed at a different condo complex.  We actually stayed in on Monday night so the guys could watch the Packers play.

Tuesday, we packed the day with  3 shows- CLAY COOPER in the morning, probably my favorite show; JONAH in the afternoon, a huge productionat the Sight and Sound Theater ; and THE HUGHES BROTHERS in the evening, five brothers, their wives, and all their kids (many, many kids!!)  Big day !!  We also squeezed in time to visit old Branson and the famous DICK'S FIVE AND DIME.  Thursday, we met friends of Bob and Joyce's at a burger joint, then we finished off our time in Branson by seeing the BILLY DEAN show we wanted to see on Monday, followed by the extravagent Shoji Tabuchi in the evening.  In between we had  wine and cheese with entertainment at the condo club house.

Thursday we left early for our trip back to Wisconsin, but traveled a different way to I could actually stop at the MISSOURI STAR QUILT COMPANY, the home of Jenny Doan and her Youtube quilting videos.  This is an amazing entrepreneurial success story and even Bob was interested in how the quilt shops have revitalized a small town.  Going this way home meant we traveled through Iowa rather than Illinois, so we stopped in Grinnell.  Grinnell College is a private college which is in the same conference as Ripon, St. Norbert's, Beloit, and Carroll.

One of our most enjoyable vacations - great company, top notch "digs", and superb music.  Can't wait to go again.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Special Price on THE BACHELOR by Stephanie Reed

The ebook of THE BACHELOR by Stephanie Reed will be on sale during the blog tour, December 8-12th.  Check out Amazon (and possibly other e-book retailers) to download.  See my earlier review for a summary of this Amish fiction set in 1970s Ohio.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Bachelor by Stephanie Reed

Image result for stephanie reed the bachelorTHE BACHELOR by Stephanie Reed is the second book in her PLAIN CITY PLACE series.
While most Amish fiction is set in the present, Reed has set her story in Ohio in the turbulent times of the 1970s.  In book one, Betsie Troyer worked outside the Amish community.  Now back home on the farm, she's been asked to watch the young daughter of the English family she used to board with.  
Despite her sister's disapproval, Betsie agrees to keep young Sheila.  

Betsie knows that having an Englisher in the family home may mean a disgruntled visit from the bishop, but that aren't her only concerns.  Foremost is her fear that her parents whose faith has led them to leave the Amish community may make their break permanent.  Her young brother, who had been living with their older brother Eli and family, has returned.  No longer a little boy, he is rebellious and at odds with everyone.  The only bright spot in her life is the attention of CharleyYoder who has made clear that he wants to make Betsie his wife.  Then a letter comes in the mail from Michael, the young Englisher who has fled to a place called The Farm in Tennessee to avoid the draft.  Just thinking about Michael upsets her peace, but his letters show that he may be the only person who really knows and cares about Betsie.  I am not sure why this book is titled THE BACHELOR as the story is clearly Betsie's, not Charley's or Michael's.  And while Betsie does have a romantic interest in Charley (and possibly Michael) her story is much more than a simple romance.

The 1970's provided a new focus to the typical Amish genre and I liked that.  I have not read the first book in the series so I lacked some important background, but still could follow the story.  This series seems to concentrate heavily on the difference beliefs between Amish and mainstream Christianity.  That thread I believe will be just as strong in the next volume.  While this book comes to a satisfactory end, it is clear that Betsie's story (as well as the bishop's) will continue in another book.  
A secondary thread to this book is the changing lives of the Amish in Plain City, Ohio, as many families sell their farms (for a good profit) and leave for Missouri and cheaper land.  This interested me because the first Amish settlers to our central Wisconsin area came in the the mid-70's, shortly after the time period of this book.  Similar to the Plain City families, our new neighbors had sold their previous homes in Indiana and searched out cheaper land.  

I received a copy of THE BACHELOR  from Kregel Publications for my honest review.  There is a blog tour of the book next week, but I posted my review early because of other commitments next week.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Have Seen God:The Miraculous Story of hte Diospi Suyana hospital in Peru by Klaus-Dieter John

Jacket ImageBoth Klaus-Dieter John and his wife Martina knew in their teen years that they wanted careers in medicine, not so they could become wealthy, but so they could doctor the poor in some remote corner of the world.  I Have Seen God (an English translation of the German book) tells of their decades long journey of dedication, hard work, and sacrifice to make that dream come true.  Klaus-Dieter John makes it clear that this is also a lifelong  journey of miracles.

The first miracle was when he was able to complete part of his medical training in the United States. In the 1980's such exchange programs were almost impossible because the German medical training requirements did not line up with American medical internships.  His experience in the United States gave him both a resume and references that would prove invaluable throughout his career, especially when he and his wife pursued their dream of starting a hospital for the neglected Indians of the Peruvian Andes.  Most of the book dwells on the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of presentations Klaus-Dieter John made across Germany, Peru, and America to secure funds for the hospital that seemed impossible to build.  Time and again, the hospital received just what it needed; and many times it was blessed with even more than requested.  Whether it was a MRI machine, operating tables, IT satellites, medical personnel, or even stained glass for the chapel, prayers were answered.
Clearly God was opening hearts.

Sometimes it was difficult reading this book because the author was constantly referring to German and Peruvian companies and government agencies.  These companies and agencies had great importance to the story, but they were totally unfamiliar to me, an American reader, and it was hard to keep them straight.  In the end, I just sort of skipped over the names and concentrated on each milestone achieved.  Clearly this book shows that modern day miracles are possible, that God helps those who step out to help others in need.  Klaus-Dieter John and his wife did not possess all the skills and knowledge needed to start a hospital.  They did not have the wealth to do it.  But they knew there was a need and they asked God to help them voice that need.  They never gave up asking and they've been able to see God in those who have given and in those who have received alike.  I received a copy of this book from Litfuse for review purposes.

Here is more information about the book and the author, provided by Litfuse.

The miraculous founding of a top class hospital for some of the world’s poorest people
Klaus-Dieter and Martina John–both brilliant, talented, and highly qualified doctors–turned their backs on lucrative careers to follow their dream to open a first-rate medical facility for the Indians of the Peruvian Andes, some of the world’s poorest people. The Peruvian Andes natives suffer appallingly from the diseases of poverty and, although they make up approximately 40 percent of Peru’s population, are ignored by the authorities.
Having studied at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Johannesburg during his training as a surgeon, Dr. Klaus-Dieter John together with his wife, Dr. Martina John, a pediatrician, developed a concept for a modern hospital in the Peruvian Highlands.
Turning down other offers, including a professorship, they set themselves the task of raising the millions of dollars needed. God opened the hearts and consciences of individuals and companies to create not just a health center, but a fully equipped hospital. Their story and vision has captured attention around the world and today they have the backing of 180 corporations and 50,000 private supporters.
The hospital’s name, Diospi Suyana, means “we trust in God” in Quechua, the native language of the people it serves. It is a testament to their experience that with God the impossible can happen. The incredible conviction and profound faith of the Johns will refresh your heart and stir your spirit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

Leah and her parents are newcomers to Mattingly.  Little Leah's severe stutter and shyness, along with her father's career as a psychologist set them even farther apart from the "regulars" of this small Southern town.  A birthday party that starts out as a way to make their daughter feel part of the community instead sets the background for a drama that will test the beliefs of everyone within miles.
An imaginary friend whom Leah calls "Rainbow Man" instructs her to paint a picture and give it to Barney, an older neighbor with a disabled wife.  When he reveals that he saw secret numbers in the painting, numbers which he used to buy a lotto ticket, some people see what happened afterward as a miracle.  Others see darkness and evil.  Leah's father refuses to believe either and his disbelief threatens his marriage and further erodes Leah's fragile emotions.  Allie, Leah's only friend must decide if she is going to believe what Leah has told her or hold to what she's always believed.

Big questions are asked in this story -- about what we accept as truth, about faith, and about miracles.  Barney sees himself as a modern day Job, but when his life begins to change, does he understand what is happening and why?  Pastor Reggie is sure that Leah's miracles as a threat to him and his flock, yet he cannot ignore her presence. On the other hand, if God was going to make himself known, wouldn't he pick someone loyal and deserving, like Reggie?  Dr. Norcross, Leah's father, passionately denies all talk of religion and God, but he's called to a great action of faith.  Coffey's writing style is as complex as the story itself.  At first, I could barely read a page without wondering why I had begun, by mid-book I was finding passages to mark, and by the end, I was enthralled -- rushing to the finish, all the while juggling symbolism and meaning in my mind.  What kept coming to mind were those throughout history who professed to witness miracles, apparitions, and such.  Certainly, they faced the kind of doubt and disbelief that Leah does.  It's hard to put a label on this book -- maybe part allegory?  mystical?  Not the type of book I normally select, but I am glad I read it.

Understanding Coffey's writing style and his take on the "mysteries of faith" would have been easier if I had read THE DEVIL WALKS IN MATTINGLY, the book which precedes this one.  WHEN MOCKINGBIRDS SING was our book club's book for this month and I was anxiously anticipating the discussion.  We are quite diverse in our views and beliefs so I was not sure at all about other people's reactions. Our group met tonight, but being November and our yearly wrap up with a dinner, our normal discussion didn't take place.  Did talk about the book with a few people who ate at the same table as I did -- maybe a couple of us will read the next book which follows Allie into the Dark Woods the next year.  If anyone has read WHEN MOCKINGBIRDS SING, let me know your take on the book.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Look Inside THE TIME OF JESUS: A Lift the Flap Discovery Book

 Kregel Publications, Lois Rock, and Lorenzo Orlandi have combined efforts to create a delightful children's book about Jesus and his teachings.  Each two page spread colorfully shows the everyday life of the time while also telling about Jesus's life.  At least one lift the flap is found on each spread; many pages have two.  One the first page the shepherds have arrived at the door of the stable; when opened, Mary and Joseph look admiringly at the Christ child, as do the animals. I love that children are present on so many pages, going through their daily routines -- walking to get water with Mom, playing a game on the stone pavement, going to school to learn the Scripture and even playing hide and seek with the pup.  On the pages showing Jesus going to Zacchaeus's luxurious home for dinner, a trio of young children are hidden behind the window, sneaking a peek at the feast.  The inclusion of all these children will help modern children make connections to those times and to what Jesus's presence meant.

The text is simple but never silly and doesn't skip over the trial and the crucifixion, and the last flap shows the women finding the empty tomb.  I think there should have been one more two page spread, showing the Risen Christ and the early church which follows, but I still feel this is an excellent book for young families to read together.  Its large format (about 9 x 11 inches per page) makes it an easy book to share for story time.  Pages are sturdy as are the flaps.  Creative adults will be able to have youngsters hunt for something special on each page, varying those hunts on each reading.

I received a copy of THE TIMES OF JESUS from Kregel Publications for review purposes.