Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Plain Christmas





Plain Christmas

A Plain Fame novel #6

By Sarah Price

Published by Waterfall Press, 2016



This is part of the "Plain Fame" series, and although I had not previously read any of the other books, I found I was able to just jump straight in and enjoy this title with no problem at all.

A Cuban-heritage music star husband named Alejandro, his devout Catholic mother Alecia, his Amish-brought up wife Amanda and their very modern children. This is an unlikely combination, to be sure, but with huge amounts of love, tolerance and respect, Alejandro Diaz (better known as "Viper" in the music industry) and Amanda  have managed to build a stable marriage, a loving family life for their children and she does her level best to keep her kids grounded and focused on what really matters in life, regardless of how wealthy and famous their Dad is.

When  Amanda  receives a rather cryptic letter from her mother in Lancaster County, she is concerned and feels a burning need to take her family back to spend time in her childhood home for a real  Amish Christmas with her extended family. Is there more to her mother's letter than meets the eye? How will her children cope without their technology and all the trappings of an Englisch Christmas? There is going to be an understandable major collision of worlds, culture and heritage. Will the visit be a disaster or a triumph under these circumstances?

This book should not work, but it does work extremely well and the protagonists have very real personalities. The superstar lifestyle of the Diaz family might be a wealthy one, but it carries responsibilities and obligations, and burdens too, especially that of being constantly in the media and public eye. It certainly is not a lifestyle I would ever want for myself or for my children, and the Diaz family's stay with Amanda's family brings new insights into their individual hopes and expectations from life, as well as some unexpected twists and blessings. It is a surprisingly deep and thoughtful book, but one I enjoyed greatly and now I need to go back to the beginning of the series to find out what I have missed out on!





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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Light for a Dark Season





Light for a Dark Season:  

Treasuring God's Faithfulness as the Year Ends

By Ruth J. Leamy with Mark J. Leamy

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, October 2017



When the nights draw in, it is all too easy to become a little sad or despondent with the prospect of a long, dark winter ahead. This devotional is a great way to dispel those feelings, turning our hearts and minds to the blessings we have received and the preparation for the greatest joy, Christmas, when Christ came into the world for our salvation. It is also ideal for those for whom  2017 may have been a hard year emotionally or spiritually, as it focuses on the faithfulness of God throughout history, those people in the Bible who have trusted in God and the passages of Scripture which point to God's promises and His faithfulness.

Designed to start on the sixth Sunday before Christmas, this devotional is in a large A4 workbook format, with space for notes and annotations. It covers the festal season of Thanksgiving, the traditional western Christian season of Advent and the Christmas period right up to Epiphany, allowing us to start with giving thanks and ending with giving thanks, as well as looking forward to the blessings of a fresh New Year.

Poetry, hymns, lyrics, psalms, bible readings, discussions, prayers and points to ponder combine beautifully to bring light to dispel the darkness and remind us always of the Light of Christ. This inexpensive book, only £3.77 on Amazon.co.uk,  has a clean, simple and basic layout; it may lack glitz, bells and whistles and a huge advertising/marketing campaign for its recent launch but do not be deceived  - it packs some real punches and has great depths within its covers.  Definitely a keeper!



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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Their Pretend Amish Courtship




Their Pretend Amish Courtship

By Patricia Davids

Love Inspired/Harlequin, 2017



It seemed like such a brilliantly inspired idea which would help them both, but the best-laid plans can go wildly astray, as Fannie Erb and her childhood friend Noah Bowman find out all too quickly.

Fannie is a dedicated and talented horsewoman, determined to help her Englisch friend Connie save her horse-breeding and training business from potential ruin. Her parents want her to settle down and get married; they feel the only way she will find a suitable husband will be to go outside her church area to visit her grandparents in Florida.

Fannie is appalled by the idea and approaches her old friend Noah to ask him to agree to a fake courtship which will convince their families to leave them in peace to pursue their apparent courtship. Fannie could then continue to help Connie with her horses and  Noah could pursue his dream of competing in baseball tournaments without being hounded by his parents to give up his worldly pursuit in favour of settling down with a nice Amish girl.

Their plan was simple and fool-proof. Or so they thought, until it becomes obvious that a number of other people will be affected by their decision, and hearts will be broken and feelings hurt. Can such a deception ever lead to happiness? Will they be able to walk away from their faked relationship at the end of the allotted time, or will they each come to terms with truly seeking and following God's Will for their lives, no matter where or with whom that might be? Their childhood friendship and constant teasing of each other leads to misunderstandings and assumptions which need to be clarified and put right, and Fannie's faith is tested to the limit towards the end of the book when tragedy strikes and their plans fall apart at the seams.

This is a charming book with episodes which made me laugh out loud in several places. Both Fannie and Noah are real and lovable characters who grow throughout the story and I finished the book with a satisfied sigh.
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Opening My Heart






Opening My Heart

By Tilda Shalof

Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2011

I have no idea how I missed this great book, or indeed the many others Tilda Shalof has written about her nursing experiences, but I am glad to have finally discovered her as an author.

Tilda is an ICU Nurse, working with some of the sickest patients in the hospital. She is active, busy, constantly on the go, combining her life as a nurse with her family life, pushing into the background that her own long-term heart valve problem is getting worse and her cardiac health is deteriorating. Eventually she is forced to confront reality and is advised that her only option is open-heart surgery to replace the defective valve.

She is now on the other side of the bed-sheets, having to adjust to the thought of having a serious albeit relatively routine operation, and she is afraid, despite of  - or more likely because of - her knowledge and experience. How she comes to terms with that fear, documents her thoughts and wishes should things go wrong, informs her family and friends of her impending operation and prepares for surgery makes fascinating reading.

Even more fascinating is her experiences as a post-operative patient, seeing things very differently now that she is ill, dependent and helpless, and how frightening this can be. She skilfully interweaves her current thoughts with reminisences of experiences, patients and colleagues from her nursing past and has created an absorbing diary of this turbulent and traumatic time in her life.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Christmas Is Coming! But Waiting Is Hard!








Christmas Is Coming!
But Waiting Is Hard!


Family Activities and Devotions for Advent

By Karen Whiting

Abingdon Press, 2016


Unfortunately I was too late to review this last year, but liked it so much that I was determined I would review it for this coming Advent!

 From the highly appealing cover to the very last page, this book is crammed full of wonderful activities, ideas, hymns, songs, prayers, points to ponder, bible verses to study, Christmas facts and ideas on how to implement the Christmas message into everyday life in Advent.

The very first activity is to make your own Advent wreath from scratch. This does involve some finicky work on the part of a helpful adult/parent/godparent, but very complete instructions are given, and this wreath then sets the scene for the rest of Advent.

This is an ideal book for families with young children, but there is no reason at all why the ideas and activities could not be slightly adapted for older children too, and if I am absolutely honest, this is the sort of book I would be perfectly happy to buy and use just for myself.  

There are lots of craft activities to make and do, with reproducible templates to be photocopied and then cut up, coloured in etc. Make garlands, snowflakes, Christmas gift tags, Jesse tree ornaments, cards, quick Christmas breads and so much more, all with Christian symbolism and messages to enjoy.

This is a most welcome addition to my Christmas collection.






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Return of the Magi



Return of the Magi
By P.J. Tracy
Published by Penguin UK/Michael Joseph
15th November 2017


We first meet Emil Rice as a delightful, kind and very sweet little boy in the prologue, gently sharing his blanket with Baby Jesus at an outdoor Nativity scene. 

This delightful family vignette is shattered when we fast-forward and meet Emil again as an adult. He is up before the court yet again in another episode of petty crime and he cannot manage to wriggle his way out of punishment this time. Even his long-suffering probation officer has given up and joined the "book" among his colleagues as to how soon Emil will be in trouble yet again...

But Emil is not sent to a correctional facility this time; he is sent to spend time working at a mental health care facility, much to his horror. He has no idea how to deal with the inmates, who have a variety of psychiatric problems , some more serious and complex than others. 

Gradually, Emil begins to see them as individuals, to help them, to care for them and not actively fear them. He is still a petty crook, out to feather his own nest, but gradually we see glimpses of the sweet and loving Emil begin to reappear. Emil finds two sisters take a special shine to him, absolutely convinced that he and they have a major role to play in the Biblical tale of the Nativity, and when they engineer a jailbreak, he goes with them. His life will never be the same again....but neither will the lives of a whole group of people Emil and his companion Magi encounter.

This is an absolute gem of a Christmas read - and I loved every page.



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