Summer Reading

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Now that school is over for the summer, it’s time to find something to read. Perhaps you’re in a summer reading program or a book club. Maybe you just need a good book as you relax by the pool or suntan in the back yard. Try The Sixth Power and Double Play, both available on Amazon.

  The Sixth Power

The Amish Widower

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Book Review: The Amish Widower, by Virginia Smith

Amish farmer Seth Hostetler was devastated when his first wife died. When he finally remarries, his second wife and unborn child are killed in a carriage accident. Now he believes that he is doomed and will never love again.  His life is empty, and he wonders how he can keep going. Then Seth meets an Amish potter, who offers to teach him the craft. Seth learns quickly, and he finds solace and a renewed sense of fulfillment in the creation of both useful and decorative pottery. As time goes on, he is drawn to Leah, who works for her father, but she has renounced her Amish lifestyle and has become Englisch.  Her heart has been wounded as well, and she is not about to be drawn into a relationship, especially with an Amish man.

I loved this book. The characters were real, with deep emotions and struggles that are finally overcome through love and faith. The story explores themes of grief, guilt, and forgiveness.  It also portrays how a creative outlet like pottery can bring fulfillment and healing to one’s soul. Set in the Amish community of Lancaster County, the love story of Seth and Leah is sweet and deeply felt, and it resonates with anyone who has suffered loss and found hope and healing again. Virginia Smith has done meticulous research (including hands-on pottery making) in order to give us another beautiful and uplifting story.

Five Stars

The Language of Sparrows

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Book Review:  The Language of Sparrows, by Rachel Pfifer – cover The language of Sparrows

When artist April Wright and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Sierra, move to Houston, Texas, they are trying to escape a past neither of them can get over. But their pain follows them, and April has no idea how to help her brilliant daughter, who learns languages like others eat candy but is failing school. Sierra can barely speak to others and does her best to remain invisible. Even her classmate and neighbor, Carlos, has a hard time reaching her, in spite of his compassion and patience. Then Sierra meets old Luca, a survivor of a Romanian gulag, who matches wits with her and draws her into a friendship that others refuse to understand. His son, Nick, is a gifted teacher, but the relationship between him and his father is like a tree that has grown twisted and bent under years of misunderstanding and grief. As Nick reaches out to help Sierra, he becomes friends with Sierra’s mom, April, and falls for her. However, April is still grieving about her husband’s suicide, and she doesn’t know how to tell the truth to her daughter. It’s been a long time since she even took a photograph. As the two families come to know each other and reveal what is in their hearts, a miracle begins to happen.
I LOVED this book! Wow! I was up until 2:30 a.m. reading.  I could not put it down.  After reading this book, I need to go back and lower all the stars I gave to the other books, because this one deserves five stars, no – ten stars.
I was drawn into the inner workings of each character’s heart, and I felt so deeply for them. I ached to help them. Though the story centers around Sierra, all four characters are vividly portrayed, each struggling under weighty burdens. Eventually, rays of hope break through the clouds of adversity and drench their lives. Their faith is handled sensitively with just the right amount of emphasis. This incredible book is about the courage to reach out to others and make a difference in someone’s life. I was so inspired by it.
Rachel Phifer has done an absolutely amazing job with this beautiful debut novel, which was the winner of the 2012 ACFW Genesis Award. The Language of Sparrows is now one of my very favorite books.

Best Books of 2016

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“Did you have a good year?” some people ask. Their judgment of 2016 might be dependent on how much money they made, or if everyone they knew lived, if they became famous, or even who won the election. However, money comes and goes, people around us are born and die, and every few years the leadership of the government changes. There are always going to be some amazingly beautiful experiences along with some hard, painful, even dark times, all interspersed with days that you just plod ahead keeping the cart moving. That’s part of mortal life. The real question is, did you change within? Did you personally grow?
I judge a year by the books I have read. Books have the power to change a person’s life, to inspire them and challenge them, to break down walls and become the catalyst for growth, new thought, and healing. A book can challenge you to set goals and give you the hope you need to keep working towards them. A book can inspire you to become a better writer, artist, teacher, or person. Some books just make you laugh. Some are like chocolate and a ray of sunshine on a cold, rainy day. And then there are books who are like an old friend who provides comfort when you need it most. So, here is my list of my favorite books for 2016, concluding with the winners for the year.

Mystery:
The Waves Break Gray – Sibella Giorello
The Stones Cry Out – Sibella Giorello
Crocodile on the Sandbank – Elizabeth Peters
YA Mystery:
Stone and Spark – Sibella Giorello
Romantic Suspense:
Twilight – Kristen Heitzmann
Told You Twice – Kristen Heitzmann
Adult Suspense:
The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer
YA/NA Contemporary Romance:
P.S. I Like You – Kasie West
There You’ll Find Me – Jenny B. Jones
The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen
Greensleeves – Eloise Jarvis McGraw
YA Fantasy:
David (The Unseen #3) – Johnny Worthen
Fantasy:
The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner
Tea With the Black Dragon – R.A. MacAvoy
Moon Dancing – Anna Zogg
The Xerxes Factor – Anna Zogg
Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
Kingfisher – Patricia A. McKillip
Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold
Historical Romance:
The Rose of Winslow Street – Elizabeth Camden
Doing No Harm – Carla Kelly
Huckleberry Summer – Jennifer Beckstrand
Fantasy/Romance:
Gladly Beyond – Nichole Van
Intertwine – Nichole Van
Adult Fiction:
Where the River Ends – Charles Martin
Non-Fiction:
Where the Blind Horse Sings – Kathy Stevens
Lehi in the Desert – Hugh Nibley
An Approach to the Book of Abraham – Hugh Nibley
Children’s:
The Mouse and the Motorcycle – Beverly Cleary
Middle Grade:
Sarafina and the Black Cloak – Robert Beatty
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid – Mark Waxman

Third place goes to Where the River Ends, by Charles Martin (a poignant, deeply moving book). Second place goes to The Stones Cry Out, by Sibella Giorello (all her books are amazing!) And the winner for 2016 is… (drum roll) Greensleeves – by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Read it, and you’ll know why I picked it as my favorite.

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Merry Christmas to All…

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This is a season filled with happy memories and enjoyable experiences as families gather, special foods are eaten, gifts are exchanged, and songs are sung. It can also be a time of poignant memories, loneliness and sorrow. Sometimes we don’t get to be with the ones we love. But whatever our circumstances, we can reach out to others in kindness.  We can remember the first Christmas — a little baby born in a humble stable, a star shining in the night, the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, and the angel’s proclamation. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” The joyous news echoes through the ages and still brings us peace. Merry Christmas.

 

NaNoWriMo Winner: I’m done!

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I’m done! It’s November 30th, and I am officially finished my first draft of Out of the Depths. It has been quite the month, with a rollercoaster of emotions as I tried to figure out what this book was about and where it was heading. Some days I got discouraged and never wrote. Some days I gritted my teeth, plowed through the opposition, and kept writing. Other days were glorious, where I dreamed of whole scenes and woke up and wrote them. Characters just popped onto the page fully developed, with distinct voices and characteristics. They said and did things I didn’t expect and took the story down twisted paths that eventually ended up where they needed to be. It was amazing!

Oh, I know this is just the beginning. Now the hard work begins of checking back to my outline (thanks to Johnny Worthen I actually made one), rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. But still the accomplishment stands. I’ve written a novel. Yeah!

Here’s an example of one of my favorite characters:

The dragon stood there with a confused look on its face. “Dear me. Oh dear me. What have I done?”
He looked at Westley with an expression of chagrin. “My good knight, may I congratulate you. Somehow you have broken the spell that was laid on me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, thank you.”
The dragon spoke with a cultured, British voice in a fine tenor, which was surprising considering its size.
Westley felt dazed. “Uh… I don’t think you should go around thanking people here. It gives them power over you.”
“Oh, that only applies to the Fey, and I can see that you are no Fey, although you do smell of Selkie and spider.” He sniffed delicately. “And something else I haven’t smelled for a long time. Hmmm.”
Westley stayed where he was, frozen against the boulder. At any moment the dragon would decide to eat him. Would it politely apologize before snatching him up and crunching on him like some appetizer?
The dragon seemed to be lost in thought. Then he looked at Westley again. “No matter. Please, Sir Knight, put that sword away. You have nothing to fear from me now. Allow me to introduce myself. Professor Martin Cho at your service, head librarian of the Boston Public Library. At least, I was before I was ensorcelled by the Dark Knight. It’s all a muddle. Would you mind awfully telling me the date?”
Boston? Library? Westley thought he was going to faint. He stammered. “Ah. When I left home it was June 20th 2016.”
The dragon shook its head. “Ah, well, they most certainly have replaced me by now. I started working at the Boston library back when it opened in 1890, and I lost track of the time. Some sixty-fifty years later, I set out to research some arcane tidbit of information, and I was captured. Very foolish of me. I wasn’t paying attention at all. And perhaps I’d grown a little careless. After all, your world had become wrapped in iron and few of the Fey had any influence there. And since I’ve been here, well, to me it seems as if only a mere week has gone by, but then you can’t expect time to match here, can you?”

Out of the Depths is a YA Fantasy.