Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the book: (from back cover)

Back in fifth grade, Micah Knight got an Amish pen pal, and over the years, they’ve exchanged many letters–and many secrets. At age seventeen, Micah finally has the chance to meet her pen pal face-to-face. The only problem is that because of confusion about her name when the pen pals were assigned, her pen pal was a boy, Zack Miller. And all this time, Micah’s never told Zack that she’s actually a girl! While she wants nothing more than to experience life on Zack’s Amish farm, she’s afraid he’ll hate her for deceiving him all these years. But she makes up her mind to face the music–and that’s where the fun really begins.

Bestselling author Melody Carlson brings young adults another fascinating tale of worlds colliding, secrets being revealed, and friendships forming. Teens will love this story of miscommunication and mishaps along the way to the truth.

My Review:

This young adult book is one among several that Ms. Carlson has written about “English” and Amish. It is sort of the equivalent of Judy Baer’s Cedar River Daydreams, with Amish characters. I personally tend to avoid Amish fiction, as they are not my cup of tea, but the description of this one caught my eye and I thought I would give it a try.

The one thing I actually liked about this book was how rude Zack’s mother was to her throughout the book, capturing much of the way that many Amish would treat a young person that she felt was threatening her lifestyle, beliefs and even her son’s salvation. While the book is not terribly accurate on many levels and quite far fetched, it was fairly harmless. However, I felt that it contained some scenarios where it was very disrespectful of  the teens to their parents, putting them down because they were of different beliefs than them. For that reason, parents should likely should discuss afterwards with their teens about the long term consequences that decisions like that can have.

I think Melody Carlson should stick to adult fiction, which she does an excellent job at, and maybe leave the teen fiction and Amish fiction in general alone.

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Forever Christmas by Robert Tate

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book: (From publisher website)

Book Description

This Christmas will change Andrew Farmer’s life forever.

Andrew can’t remember the last time he spent Christmas away from work. The end of the year is crunch time for literary agents. But when your career is your life, your life starts to suffer . . . beginning with your marriage.

When a heart-wrenching accident in a Christmas Eve snowstorm jars this high-powered agent from his obsession with success, a Christmas miracle will give him a second chance at love, life, and gratitude, but only if he can put aside his own ambition and learn to appreciate each moment.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to change a man’s life—and to teach him to treat every day as if it were his last.

About the Author

Robert Tate Miller began his writing career with homespun essays of small town life that were published by Reader’s Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s and wrote successful family-oriented telefilms for NBC, ABC Family, and the Hallmark Channel. Robert lives in Northridge, CA, with his wife Gina and stepdaughter Chloe June.

My Review:

This familiar story line caught my attention from the first chapter. The writing style is very smooth and drew me into the story and away from my responsibilities for awhile. I could feel the pain suffered by his wife, his cry of his heart when he realized his errors of his ways, and what length he was willing to go to, even if it was just a moment to fix it. This book is one that you could read as a husband and wife couple read, maybe as you were reflecting on slowing down for the holidays. It was a good reminder to me that every minute can count in our lives. Our decisions, even the minor ones can often have consequences that are far reaching. I don’t think you will really have angels that will visit you, or beautiful gold keys appearing, but you may see the vision for your own family as you read this.

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Deceived by Irene Hannon

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book (From the publisher website):

A grieving mother. A mysterious child. And a dedicated PI who’s determined to solve the puzzle.

For three years, Kate Marshall has been mourning the loss of her husband and four-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on a mall escalator, she’s convinced it’s her son. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan for help. As the former Secret Service agent digs into the case, the boating “accident” begins to look increasingly suspicious. But if Kate’s son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden–and may go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.
As Irene Hannon’s many fans have come to expect, Deceived is filled with complex characters, unexpected twists, and a riveting plotline that accelerates to an explosive finish.

My Review:

Another 5 star book from Irene Hannon. It seems to me that her suspense books, and her contemporary books have outdone themselves lately. I find myself eager to pick them up to read. This story begins with heartbreak, the heartbreak any mother will relate to, the loss of her husband and child. However, when she believes she sees her son, she doubts herself even, but keeps digging to see if there is a possibility it could be true.

Hannon keeps you turning the pages hoping beyond hope that you will find a way to make this mother’s dream’s come true without endangering anyone, plus, you have a hint of healing and romance for the widowed mother as well.  I found myself in one place on the couch, reading away, wanting to reach the conclusion, but dragging out the reading time so that I didn’t have to finish this amazing read. I highly recommend it! If you like suspense without too many gory details, these are your books!

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Expectant Parents by Suzanne Gosselin

While many books for new parents focus on prenatal development and the health of a mom-to-be, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin‘s Expectant Parents core purpose is to help new parents understand key issues related to the arrival of a new child in the home, offering practical assistance as they prepare themselves for long-term family success.

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Learn ways to strengthen your marriage relationship, set plans and expectations for parenthood, increase communication, and prepare for the new stage of your family life. Pick up a copy for yourself or for expectant friends and enter for a chance to win an iPad Mini!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • An iPad Mini
  • Expectant Parents from Suzanne Hadley Gosselin and Focus on the Family

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 2nd. Winner will be announced November 3rd on Suzanne’s website here.

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My Review:

This book has a very cute cover which attracted me immediately and since I am writing my own pregnancy book, I wanted to read it. I soon learned that this book went a totally different way than my book will be going!

This book is written to expectant parents, no matter if they are experienced or not, but more focused on the parents that are #1-3.  It is practical advice for dads and moms learning to cope with the changes that pregnancy brings, how to deal with the annoying comments people make and planning post baby careers.

For me, I found the layout a bit distracting. The chapters are broken up with boxes of text with stories, poems, and interesting blog post quotes. I was more expecting a focus on the physical side of coping, and while that is addressed briefly, it more focused on the emotional side of parenting. The self doubts  that almost every parent faces, the frustration with the physical changes, and false information that others can give you about what to expect, is addressed in here. There are many topics addressed directly to dads, and how they found coping, pitching in and other ways to be the best father possible.

The one thing  I didn’t find as helpful was the breastfeeding advice. There was a suspicious lack of it. I realized towards the end, that perhaps the author did not have a successful breastfeeding relationship, but that was the extent of the advice. There was also advice from a dad that said how they kept their marriage strong was to have the baby not sleep in their room and go on multiple date nights a week.  While this may work for some parents, it can undermine a good breastfeeding relationship, just as simple as that.

I did like the coverage of doulas that were briefly mentioned in the book, although it didn’t cover anything as far as care providers or birth choices in any detail, it was briefly mentioned, which was great! There was a doula even quoted in the book!

Overall, it was a great book for the parents that are readers and looking for some guidance on the new journey they are about to embark on.

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MFW 1850’s-Modern- Weeks #7&8

These past two weeks have not been very exciting. In fact, they seemed like they slogged by, like dragging wheels through molasses.

My camera cord somehow decided to vanish while either I was gone on my trip, or I dropped it somewhere on the trip. Anyhow, that means this post will have pictures added after the fact and I need to work on creating more word pictures.

I left town for almost an entire week, and so we had doubled up on school the week prior, but when I got back, my household was in an uproar. Several things had gotten behind and the minor schoolwork I had left to get done, especially with my high school student, was not done.

P1080130 Our view for the morning

The youngest member of the clan chose those weeks to exert a case of extreme stubbornness and pure bullheaded mischief, which has caused no end of trouble. However, I am rejoicing in the little things, as here we are…week #9 and making some headway.

This week we were focusing on the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, read the story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, read about General Lee, General Grant, and discussed many sides and topics of the “War Between the States” or our Civil War.

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I have learned that many people wish to revise history, and maybe not in the way you are thinking, but they seem to either believe that men and women in history are good or evil and no in-between. I think often, they forget that they were human.

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That is one thing we concentrated on this week, we were learning about our own obedience and diligence in schoolwork, achieving goals, and facing hard tasks, but also about how people in history were people just like you and me.

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We are working on writing, coloring and learning from nature as well. This past week, we learned about Horse Chestnuts as we observed and collected several on a walk. We found this coloring page to use and identified leaves of several other trees with the younger two, as well as a visiting nephew who is in kindergarten.

I have been reading several books on learning styles, and working with them to encourage learning. I believe it is helping!

P1080139 (My outfit for the day)

We are working on our science modules as well as math, which often needs to be done, re-done and then see if it can be taught a different way so that they can understand. It is always a challenge to see what the day brings.

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Alexander Graham Bell, Across Five Aprils, and On the Banks of Plum Creek were some of of our read alouds for this time period.

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We created a breakfast area with stuff set up for easy access to breakfast, which seems to be helping with some concentration.

P1080141 We have cereal, oatmeal packets, and oatmeal, brown sugar in containers. The bottom tub is snacks for after school subjects are completed.

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The Brickmaker’s Bride by Judith Miller

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book: (From the publishers website)

In the clay-rich hills of the newly founded state of West Virginia, two families tentatively come together to rebuild a war-torn brickmaking business.

Ewan McKay has immigrated to West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial help. Uncle Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, and it’s Ewan’s job to get the company up and running again.

Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner’s daughter, and he quickly feels a connection with her, but she’s being courted by another man–a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Resolving that he’ll make the brickworks enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Ireland, Ewan pours all his energy into the new job.

But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan’s hard work is put in jeopardy. As his hopes for the future crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. Can she help him save the brickworks, and will Ewan finally get a shot at winning her heart?

My Review:

I was reading this book at the same time as learning all sorts of ways to build and write fiction, so I have to say I was reading it, while thinking about the mechanics of fiction, more than the story. However, despite that, Ms. Miller drew me into the book.  I felt Ewan’s frustration of wanting his sister’s safe, but feeling like his only option was to continue to deal with is crooked uncle. I could also feel Laura’s frustration of being a spinster in the time when that was not okay, and bearing a secret that only one man knew and held over her head.

Ms. Miller really brings out some of the era’s frustrations and also at the same time introduces us to the mystery of brick making. The times were wrought with many things, but also, society played a huge role in dictating your value, just as it does today, but at the same time, as the characters needed to learn, they had to let it go as well.

While I discovered this book is written in an older fiction style of writing, so the scenes do not speed by as fast as in some books, this is a well written book, which will fascinate you.

This book was given to me for review by NetGalley and the publisher. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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Hallowed Halls by Hannah Alexander

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description: (from website)

When Dr. Joy Gilbert is fired by a grieving boss who wants more from her than she’s willing to give, she returns to her tiny hometown of Juliet, MO to find her ex-fiance still single, her once-strong and independent mother struggling in every way. Before she can make a move, however, the back door of her car bursts open and Tressa, her former employer’s fifteen-year-old daughter, clambers out, refusing to return home to either of her divorced, embittered parents.

Zack Tyler, director of Juliet Hospital’s ER, is stunned to see the woman he still loves has returned to town, apparently unbroken by the rejection of her former employer. That same employer, Weston Cline, told Zack last year that Joy wanted to spread her wings and take the job Weston offered her in a suburb of Kansas City. Zack would have expected to see her heartbroken, in tears, but all she’s worried about is her mother’s health and Tressa’s rebellion. To help her financially, Zack hires her to work in the ER, but the minute he does that, he knows he’s in for another wild ride of the heart.

When Tressa first begins having blackouts, she’s relieved that they take place when she’s alone. If she’s not careful, she’s afraid Joy will feel the need to tell her parents, who will insist she return home. But more and more often, the blackouts hit, and she’s in grave danger before Joy and Zack can discover what is causing them, and what caused the deaths of her brother, her father’s baby brother, a great grandfather…how many unexplained deaths will her family have to endure?

My Review:

The description really gives a nice overview. This book is less mystery than Hannah Alexander’s other ones, and instead involves more of a medical mystery, than the fight against a human intruder.  I enjoyed the intertwining of the story lines with her mother, Weston Kline, and Tressa’s health mystery. There were a lot of details left to the imagination or just seemed a little different. I found it slightly odd that Joy’s mother would share very private family history with a 15 year old, and not with her adult daughter. However, it worked well for the storyline. The romance is light, but there is more adult topics covered, rape, hints of molestation, child abuse, drunkenness, and seduction, which make this subject matter a bit inappropriate for teens. There is also a focus on weight throughout the book, which could be triggering for someone with an eating disorder.

I enjoyed the medical part of it, which this author always does an amazing job with weaving throughout the story. It is not your typical Christian fiction novel. The characters are highly flawed, they all have intricate stories and even the “villain” you feel for. I really enjoyed it and found it refreshing to read a book with unique qualities, which is unusual to find now.

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