The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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My Review:
This debut fiction story with the lovely cover was enjoyable. The author wove minor historical caveats to this story to give you a feel of some of the lives experienced by those that road the “orphan trains” as we refer to them now.
I found the hints of suspicion and dislike from the town towards someone that was an orphan or living in a way they could not understand so relatable. It seems that often we see this with foster parents, children that have possibly been abused or even with friends that have less than ideal lives. We reject them in the name of protection of others, while at the same time losing out on wonderful relationships.
This historical tale shows how sometimes loving when someone does not look or appear lovable, can be one of the best things for all involved.
This book was obtained from NetGalley through the publisher. The opinions expressed herein are my own and no one else.
The book is available for purchase from local booksellers and Amazon.
“The Hope of Azure Springs” It is also available on Audible, which is nice as well.
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What is Enough?

Are you enough? 

What is enough? 

Today, all over I saw people saying, speaking and sharing the idea that because one person was focusing on one wrong, it meant that they were neglecting other wrongs that needed to be addressed.

It made me ask.  What is enough? What truly means we are doing enough?

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There are times it seems we look into the wide expanse of the universe and the enormity of it is overwhelming. It seems that as far as the eye can see there is something that needs to change, someone that needs support and some item that there is never enough of.

Are we enough?

Can we change lives from our small corner of the universe?

I like to think we can.

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It might mean that while we cannot impact everyone, we may take one small smiling face and impact them to make change later.

It might mean having tea with a friend when they are having a bad day, to impact our corner, so they have strength to do their daily tasks, raise their children whom are growing up to impact their corner of the world.

It also may mean for you, that you are involved in politics. You may be a foster parent. You may adopt. You may support those in abusive situations. You may go to court rooms with those that need support. You may be a counselor that lends a listening ear.

You may write books, articles or report on news in the media.

Whatever you are doing, don’t ask yourself if you are enough. Ask yourself what you are doing to impact your corner of the world.

When you see the answer, ask if you can do more. If the answer is no, realize you are enough. Do we need to push ourselves a bit more? We are still enough if we are listening to that inner call.

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Let us stop telling everyone that they are not enough when they seek to impact their corner. We can all grow, change and work to be more impactful individuals. But in the end, the way we act towards others often is the greatest impact we can share.

Instead, let us seek to encourage them in their impactful journey each step of the way!

When they seek to go in one direction and you are following another, know that this is how those with different visions make up the universe and give us each our uniqueness.

We are enough. We can have an impact from the smallest corner to the broadest audience.

 

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The Slow and Simple Life…

Is it reality?

Can it be achieved?

From my perspective, it seems like a dim reality. But as with so many other things in my life that I have sought after, I know that often we choose to accept the reality we have, rather than seek to change it. We see it as something we are trapped in, rather than looking for ways to find freedom.

As I am filling up the empty calendar days, this feeling in the pit of my stomach begins to rise. You know the one? That sinking feeling of, “How on earth am I going to do this and not lose my mind.” feeling.

I was watching an old movie about  Francis of Assisi and was struck by his desire for simplicity. He had everything. Riches, power, women, and everything. AS the movie aptly puts it, “Power, riches, women, even God. He just sauntered out of his house one fine morning and plucked God out of the air as easy as catching a butterfly. It is all too simple.”

His friend was jealous of his peace, the ability to forsake every standard that was set by society and live a slow, peaceful life, serving others. While much of the movie is fiction, I am sure, it teaches me something.

It may have seemed impossible for Francis to escape his duties to his country, his father, the church, and go against what the normal standard was. He forsook marriage, took to living as a beggar or what we would consider “homeless”. That is not what I want, but the peace is something I envy.

I live pretty simply. We eat simply.  We don’t drive fancy cars. We don’t accumulate debt. We serve others. But in all of that, comes a lot of responsibility and workload.

I would say, ask of yourself questions when determining where something falls on the priority scale.

  • Am I putting my service to others above my own responsibilities?
  • Are good things causing me stress?
  • What is on the top priority list where it is a need for survival?
  • What relationships are causing more anxiety than peace?

When we ask these questions, some of them may be hard to answer. They are not the same for everyone. We may need to cut back on good things. We may have to limit interactions with some people that we truly care about for a time.

But there is also a time when we need to ask other questions as well.

  • Am I limiting myself from being hurt because I don’t want to deal with it?
  • Am I caring for myself in a way that I can be of service to others?
  • Would it be easier to set healthy boundaries if I maintained them?
  • What things do I need to move off the top priority list because they never belonged there?

These questions are not always easy to answer as well as they constitute change we have to make. Change is not always comfortable. We may wish to protect ourselves from pain, when sometimes serving others is on the top priority list and it might cause pain. Perhaps we need to cut out sugar, so we have more energy, or allow ourselves to eat frozen pizza once in awhile so we don’t have the stress of cooking all the time to perfection.

The answers are not the same for everyone, but realizing that simple and slow might vary for you, but it can be obtainable in your own way.

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Before I Saw You by Amy Sorrells

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has.  Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

My Review:

Adoption is a topic that is very close to me. My grandmother was adopted. She was loved by two mothers, the one that gave birth to her, loved her and cared for her until she was six weeks, while keeping it a secret from everyone. The second one was the mother that adopted her, an amazing mother whom had nothing, but love for her daughter, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. She was incredible. Always laughing, and giving something of herself to others.

When I read this story of Jaycee, I knew that the story was very different than that of my grandmother. But her mother that gave birth to her was similar in that she felt she had no choice. In that time, you didn’t keep a child when you were not married.

This story touched me as you felt the love of a birth mother for her child. The sacrifice she gave to give a child life. Often that is neglected in the story of adoption to show the incredible love that is there.

I wish that we were more supportive of mothers, so they do feel they have options, like Jaycee, that if they want to parent or release their child to be parented by another set of parents, we would see there is love in both actions.

I would recommend this book to anyone that has adoption as a part of their life, to see a glimpse inside the world of a mother that chose adoption, but not only them, almost anyone that would want their heart to be touched to glimpse into how we can love, self sacrificially in so many ways.

This book was obtained by me from the publisher, Tyndale House. The opinions contained herein are my own.

You can purchase your own copy in your local bookstore, or online.

“Before I Saw You”

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Becoming The Talbot Sisters by Rachel Linden

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description

Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.

When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.

But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

My Review:

I was not sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I had heard good things about it and was looking forward to it. It went in so many different directions than I thought it would. I throughly enjoyed this story.

This book would be classified as women’s fiction without a focus on romance, while there are hints of it, it is more about the relationship and life issues the characters faced. The story was beautifully interwoven with hard life stories, with the HGTV cooking show feel in the middle of it.

One of my favorite scenes was a labor scene. I thought the beautiful descriptions without being dramatic, gross or anything offensive in the labor scene was one of the highlights of the book. It takes talent to do that.

I would highly recommend you pick up this story, especially if you are looking for something with some good discussion and will make you think.

This book is available for purchase from your local booksellers and Amazon.

“Becoming The Talbot Sisters”

This book was obtained from BookLook bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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Honeysuckle Dreams by Denise Hunter

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiance.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

My Review:

This modern tale of a marriage of convenience between two friends was just bordering on cheesy, with a touch of reality.  I found myself drawn into the story very quickly, with very little effort and enjoyed it. I didn’t find it completely realistic, although there were parts that were amazingly so.

I did overall love the father’s love for a child that was shown throughout, that goes beyond blood. It was a fun, easy read, great for summer and on the beach!

I obtained this book from BookLook Bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.

 I review for BookLook Bloggers

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The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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The Bashful Bride by Vanessa Riley

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

 

My Review:

The books in this series are stand alone, but I found that I believe more enjoyable when read in order. Vanessa Riley brings to life a time period and culture from a time period that is rarely written about. She does so in this beautiful tale of love, where people are willing to do anything for another person’s care and devotion.

However, there are also forced marriages, evil uncles, and controlling parents to add to the mix, along with racial prejudices. This novel is both entertaining and educational, all wrapped in a well written package. Check this one out!

“The Bashful Bride” is available on Amazon.

This was obtained through Netgalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

 

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A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

My Review:
So, if the cover and the beautiful hair adornments on the front of this book were not enough to get you to pick it up, you have to pick it up for the history. I never knew plumbing, and the chemistry of the purification of water could be so interesting. I mean, forget history books, put a few more of these on the shelves and  history is fascinating.
Was there a storyline besides that? Oh, of course. What is  a book without a storyline? Well, a textbook, but this was no textbook. I found myself wanting to pull out and study them though. I cannot wait for the next book in this series when I was done, but this story throughly wraps up the details in the end. It is not one that you are upset that you have a year to wait, but you are wanting more of the story and the characters.
I am not sure that I have seen a narcissistic character so well portrayed as in this book. She had nice moments, but in the end, she seeks to make her own way by hurting others to make herself better. Secondary character, one you will recognize from the first book, but a memorable one.
Life lessons learned from this book? 
  • -Thankfulness that so far, chlorine has not been proven deadly when used in small amounts to purify water.
  • Deceit never pays off. Not in books, nor in real life. If you think you are stuck in a jam and can’t tell anyone, likely that is when you should tell someone.
  • Don’t try to understand a narcissistic person. They will end up just hurting you more in the end, no matter your good intentions.
  • Cholera was awful. I am so thankful we don’t have that anymore.
I highly recommend this series. It is the second book in the series, but they could be read as a stand alone, I would recommend you read the first book before this one, as I feel you will enjoy it more and know the characters better.
This series would be excellent to make a whole high school unit study from as well.
This book was just recently released, but is available at your local booksellers (hopefully) and Amazon.
I obtained this book from the publisher and NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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The Orphan’s Wish by Melanie Dickerson

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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