Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

29358388.jpg

About the book:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
Now remembered as the author of the world s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father until the night he hears Polly Catlett s enchanting voice, caroling. He s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.
An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?
Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.”

My Review:

In the somewhat different style of Jody Hedlund, the famous story of John Newton and his conversion is told in a fascinating way.
I found the story uplifting and inspiring. even though it was familiar to me, it was told in such new way, it seemed like a new story. I found myself realizing the cultures and customs of the time, while different from ours, Polly’s father had many reasons to dislike John as a suitor, and Polly needed to have the wisdom to listen. Often we can see a story as “just a story”, but in this case, this book would be excellent for young women to read to see the “behind the scenes” of what we might think is “romantic”, but realize that in knowing the story of John Newton, why at times our parents may think otherwise.
If for nothing else, pick up this book and just stare at the cover. It is so pretty! I loved it!

 

This book was provided for review by “Blogging for Books”. The opinions contained herein are my own.

It is available for purchase wherever books are sold, but also on Amazon.

Polly and Newton 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Romance, Uncategorized

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

29430781.jpg

Description:
A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

My Review:

As not so much of a Narnia fan myself, I was skeptical about this book. (I had an unnatural fear of the idea of a closet with another land in the back of it).  But she quickly won me over and I was engrossed in the storyline immediately.

I, of course, felt some frustration over the secrets that seem to plague the characters, but I forgave them and throughly enjoyed the read. If you are a fan of literature, you will want to pick up these books.

The book was provided by NetGalley and the publisher for review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

This is the second book in the series, and I recommend you read the first book before reading this one. I read them out of order and still enjoyed them both, but it would be nicer the other way around.

They are available for purchase from Amazon.

Close To You 

Can’t help Falling

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Child of the River by Irma Joubert

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko 

cover90785-medium.png

About the book:
Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.

Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Persomi’s English language publication solidifies Irma Joubert’s important place in the canon of inspirational historical fiction.

My Review:

This book is written with the flavor of a book written in first person, but it you look, it is not first person. The culture and language of the story are unique in their style, but I was drawn into the story from the first pages.

There is heartbreak in these pages, intertwined with the determination of a young woman trapped in a system that could seek to destroy her. I really enjoyed the history in this story that encompasses many years.

It really is more historical fiction although it has relationship elements, it is not a romantic story at all, but more gritty without details, but told in a more subtle way about some of the harder parts of life.

I really enjoyed this book, even with the different style of writing. I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys historical fiction.

I received this book for review from NetGalley and the publisher. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Busy Days…

Life has been a bit busy and my internet on my computer has been spotty, which combined means I do not get to update my blog as much. I have tons of book reviews and pictures and activities to upload.

But I guess on the good side, it means we are living life, and I just have not had time to share it with my readers.

I will update soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Daily Happenings, Uncategorized

The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall (Giveaway!!!)

29885744.jpg

About the book:

Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents’ New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks; but when Violet’s own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance;Vance Everstone. As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust; and who to leave behind.

My Review:

I was privileged to read “The Cautious Maiden” before publication and since I am a big fan of the previous three books, I was excited to see where this story went.

It is not often that an author can truly bring about the reformation of a villain in a believable way. I will say, if you have not read the previous three books, don’t read this one yet. Read the other three and then you will have to get this one.

This is Vance Everstone’s story. We have had all the other family member’s get their spotlights in the sun, and this one you will delve deep into his heart and mind.

 

Once again, Dawn Crandall has set aside the norms when it comes to romantic historical fiction, to wow us with this beautifully written novel. I find I am never disappointed to pick up a copy of one of her books. What appears on the cover as another romantic novel, the depth of the work is so much more.

What makes this title unique, as with her others, is the first person format, that doesn’t feel like first person. I thoroughly savored each page, hoping that it would not come to an end too soon.

 

I found myself stopping to reflect on the true beauty of repentance and how even those that are redeemed, struggle at times throughout. Ms. Crandall gives us, without being overdone, a beautiful lesson in the value of Christ’s love and forgiveness.

 

I was provided this book for review by the publisher. The opinions contained herein are my own.

You can purchase a copy here as well as the rest of the Everstone Series.

The Hesitant Heiress #1

Bound Heart #2

Captive Imposter #3

The Cautious Maiden #4

If you would like to enter for a giveaway of a copy of the Cautious Maiden, which I highly recommend you do, please comment here on the blog page with an answer to this question and an email address to reach you by.

“Do you like to see villains from previous books redeemed? Or would you rather they stay “bad”?”

If you skip answering the question, you will not be entered for the drawing!  Thank you!

13 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Romance

The Power of Story

27261345.jpg

What makes a story come alive? Is it the author? The genre? If the facts are true or false?

What is the power of story?

For me, the power of story is whether or not you can place yourself inside that story and live it. It doesn’t matter it is fiction or non-fiction, but the power of the author to draw you in and make you live it.

Were you there?

 

History is full of people’s stories. It is the story of the human race. We have long relegated it to textbooks, that detail the facts in a matter of fact way. But take those same facts, give the people a name, create a picture of the place they lived and we live it.

One of the most powerful tools in our possession is well-written, accurate historical fiction. Non-fiction is essential as well, but fiction has the power of story. It gives us the ability to place ourselves in the place of the main character and we live it with them. Instead of being told what someone else experienced, we live it.

We call this “Living History Books”. It is one of the most incredible tools at our disposal as homeschool parents and teachers. Schoolteachers have been using this for years, but over time, it took a lot of time and effort. When time is a commodity this often falls to the wayside. Historical fiction is used, but the textbooks replace it for the majority of the teaching.

25863713.jpg

Hands-on learning is wonderful, but it takes times as well. For mothers that even are homeschooling, they find that they just don’t have the time to create that. Teachers in classrooms can do it somewhat, but then also, they run out of time to do it all the time.

The key here is they do not have to. They can give the students the tools to experience it themselves. If you give a child a stack of living books, historical fiction that makes the eras come alive to them, along with the history books, the biographies, and documentaries each one will be like they are living it themselves.

They will see themselves traveling the Oregon Trail with the Donner Party, because they have lived it with the Whitman’s, The Sager’s, and the Singing Boones. They know that some of them are fictional characters, but they also know who were the real ones. They feel like they walked through the desert, lacking water, their eyelids swelling, and feeling the taste of sand on their skin.

Their bodies know the pain that they suffered because they connected with a character, whom they lived and walked the trail with.

When the power of story is used in a positive way, it can give our children the heart to learn the stories of the past. When we teach our children the stories of the past, they will learn from it and want to prevent the suffering of the future.

So many times I have seen people, with good intentions scoff at the reading of historical fiction. They insist that too much of it will confuse the facts.

I have never found that while reading a fiction story, that I am confused about the facts. Instead, when I finish, I love reading the authors notes about what was real, where she researched, how he found this story, and what documents they went to while writing.

I end up finding myself researching the history, and looking for the tidbits on the trail of knowledge.

I remember after reading a book by Elizabeth Camden, Against the Tide, coming across an ad for syrup that was mentioned in the book. I ended up researching the facts told in the story. It was based on the facts of how orphans, in order to keep them docile, were given a cough and headache medicine commonly available at that time. What was not widely known was that it contained opium. It kept the orphans weak and docile, but also made them drug addicts. The story is well written and you see the other side of drug addiction, from an orphan, as she is grown.

Historical fiction, which is well written, teaches history in a way that no textbook alone can ever do.

Here are a couple of ways you can get the most out of your reading time for learning and loving history:

cover88117-medium.png

 

  • Always check your facts.
  • Read several stories and opinions on the time period
  • Don’t isolate yourself to one author, explore several.
  • Certainly do not restrict yourself to encyclopedias and biographies. While a great way to learn, you need to live the story.
  • Find out the characters in the book were based on real people. Learn more about those people and how well the author did telling their story.
  • Talk to others about the story, the time period and explore if you can get them excited about it as well. If you can live the story and retell it to someone else, the book has done its job.

 
If you would like lists of books that are great historical fiction without worrying about content, check out my book list option links. I will send you lists of books that will meet your needs and help your students get excited about history.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Homeschooling

The Artisan’s Wife by Judith Miller

 

27066692.jpg

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the book:

Ainslee McKay’s world is shaken when she discovers her twin sister has not only eloped with a man she barely knows but now Ainslee must fulfill their obligation at a tile works in Weston, West Virginia. Ainslee must learn the ropes and, if she can keep the tile works profitable, her brother will help her sell the business.

When Levi Judson arrives and shows Ainslee his designs for new tiles, she’s impressed by his skill and passion for the business. But he’s hiding his true reason for coming to Weston. And Ainslee knows he’d be crushed to learn his plans for a long career at McKay Tile Works are in vain since she intends to sell. Can the growing feelings between them survive if the truth comes to light–or is a future together as untenable as the future of the tile works itself?

My Review:

I have been reading Judith Miller’s books for awhile and I will say that I think this was one of her better books. I really loved the history of the mental institution that she put in here. The fear from the local people against the inmates, as well as how many of them were women put there by abusive spouses, brothers etc. as well as those that suffered from depression.
The woman that read and wrote novels was one of my favorite secondary characters. The unique history of tile making was also fascinating. I loved how the history was throughout, but the story was not forced.
If you enjoy a sweet story with great history interwoven into this third book in the series, you will enjoy this one.

You can purchase it here

The Artisan’s Wife

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Romance

Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra Bricker

 

cover97640-medium.png

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the Book:

Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters.

Never mind a pony. The Tucker girls have inherited their father’s horse farm for Christmas. Make that . . . a run-down horse farm. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again?

One thing’s for sure—nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart.

Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas?

 

My Review:

I am generally not a huge fan of novellas or novella collections. They tend to feel choppy or too short to me. However, this one hits the mark. It is fairly seamless between the stories about the four sisters. You get to continue each of their stories, yet told from four different points of view. I think the only thing I missed was hearing more of their dad’s letters to their mom and daughters. I know it would have added a lot of length, but I desperately wanted to read what he wrote.

If you are looking for a fun, easy Christmas read, this heartwarming story of forgiveness, love and family will give you something to warm up to by the fire. It would be perfect to go with Christmas cookies and hot cocoa. The book will have you hunting down your own recipes for cookies, looking in the attic for vintage dresses and hugging your children a little closer.

The book is released on Oct. 14th, but is available now from Amazon

Sleigh Bells Ring 

If you are looking for an enjoyable Christmas read, this is a fun one!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Need For Community

Independence. It is something we all strive for.

We want to teach our children to be independent, strong, confident people. We want them to be self motivated, investors in their futures.

I have seen talks, articles, and many friends say how they don’t have time for friendship. I myself struggle with making the time for what is important.

But as I watched a talk by Maggie Doyne this morning on Love, I was reminded of some of the cliches we have been taught or teach our children.

“You can do it by yourself.”

“You don’t need me.”

“You don’t need anyone else to make you happy.”

While in a sense, they might be true, those same words rob us of community.

I know that in times past, many people were isolated for months out of the year. Some people died from the lack of companionship, support and just being alone.

I am an introvert. I thrive off of being alone. My most refreshing moments are when  I spend the day not talking, just reading, writing or in disengaging activities. I feel revived and as though I can take on the world. So, you know I am not talking about running around, making sure your social calendar is booked to the max. I am talking about community.

When you have something bad that happens to you, who can you turn to?

Who have you invested in that would be there for you, if you needed it?

Who have you been there for?

I remember a time when I felt like there was no one I could call. I wanted to go to a cooking show with friends as it is more fun if you go with someone. I realized that outside my family, I had not developed friendships. It was not a priority to me. I felt I was better off on my own. It was painful to open your heart to love. I mean, you could get hurt. It was stressful for me too. I often stumble on my words, have times where I don’t know how to maintain a conversation and struggle with the basics. (I have improved, but it still happens.)

I sat there wishing I had someone to go with, and on a whim called up two people that I knew in passing and asked them to go. They are two of the most amazing people, and it was so worth it to take that risk (for me), and step out of my comfort zone to build some community.

IMG_1188

Fred, myself and Tiffany

You know, how not easy it is to build a friendship and lose it? When you love someone, it hurts when you lose them. It hurts when they have pain.

12 years ago, my husband was in a hospital four hours away. I had a new baby, and three other little active boys. My community that I had worked hard to build had mostly turned their back on me. I left a cult group that a few wanted to support me, but were prevented. One woman sacrificed a lot to come and be by my side when I gave birth. I was ashamed to tell anyone what was going on with my husband. Those I did tell, felt it was too much, too messy and were hesitant to even have me as a friend. Who wants to take on a friendship with a family where the husband has a severe mental illness and four very active boys?  It was a lot of work to be my friend.

So, I remember, sitting in my home, encumbered by depression, thoughts of things I would not want to admit aloud, and decided to make a change.

I lacked community, but I was going to seek out how I could be community for others. It might be too much for them to be there for me, but I could see how I could be there for them.

MOPS was a stepping stone for me in this. I was able to reach out by cooking breakfast for other moms, helping with clean up and set up.

Last night, I met with several other moms to discuss the best ways we can support our community of homeschool moms. I sat there realizing that my journey, from someone that could barely string two-three words together in a coherent sentence, I was discussing being a speaker, setting up speakers and plans for reaching others.

I don’t want to need people. I want to be able to do this on my own.

img_3909

Instead, I have been shown that we need community. We need older women to encourage us and come alongside us in the journey.

We need someone to say, “It was really hard. Here is a hug.”

My son had surgery about two weeks ago now.

img_3970

Instead of feeling like I was going through it alone, I was not. I not only had family, but someone dropped off a meal for me, I had a friend come by the surgery center and drink a cup of tea with me while waiting. I was surrounded by the thoughts  and prayers of many, and many that know my son.

I don’t say this because I want others to say, “Oh, that is nice for her, but I have no one. I have no family, no church, no community here. Why is she bragging on what she has?”

It is because I have been where I had no one. I had no one to turn to and nothing to live for. I felt worthless, and wondered if others would be better off without me here many times.

I made a choice to work hard to build community. It is not easy. I have not always become fast friends with everyone I come in contact with. Most friendships are still shallow or surface. Many people still do not realize what my life is like on an everyday level or some of the daily struggles that cause me to have to look for community.

Honestly, it would be easier to stay home, read my books, write, and even stay in my bed all day, most days.

I realize though that we were not created as individuals to survive without companionship, much as I wish we could. And as I said, I thrive off of being alone! But serving others and offering support to others, is a tiring, but also reviving way of living.

I watched as many families sought an isolationist lifestyle. They cut off contact in many forms. Some do this to a certain extent with “cutting out Facebook”, “reducing screen time”, “focusing on their family” and other things that sound good on the outside. Other families push themselves into so much social activities they never have the chance to actually build community when they need it. No one really knows them, but everyone knows them. Neither one is right.

If we want our children to want to stay near to us, we need to foster a sense of community that makes them believe they are loved and belong where we live. They need to know that we are there for them, the community is there, and they have friends wherever they go.

If they look back at their childhood, they should have people that meant something to them. They may not marry who they are around exactly, but most people marry someone similar to a counterpart close to them. The people you are around will define your life. If it is only the people you see in the grocery store, those are the people that will define your life.

My encouragement to you, is to take time to foster community. Take time to build friendships. Take the chance. Invite the semi strangers to the cooking shows or to have PB and J sandwiches in the park. The worst they can do is turn you down. Sometimes it still means you cannot leave your home. Sending a card, donating $5 to a cheer box for someone, or a kind FB massage or text can really make someone’s day and build community.

But, in the meanwhile, you may find community deeper than you realize. Your life can be changed when you need help and you ask for it, you might just have someone to ask.

I am a strong, independent woman. I know I can do things on my own, but I know I can do better if I work with others and let them be my community as well.

2 Comments

Filed under Daily Happenings

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck

cover85819-medium.png

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Description: 

Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.

It’s the 1930s, and Cora is taking the reins at her family’s wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee. Brides come from far away to be doted on by Cora and her family while they find the perfect wedding dress. Meanwhile, Cora has found her true love, Rufus, a riverboat captain. Cora counts the days until his return from the river, and she continues to wait for him as days turn into months and months turn into years. When he finally returns, she receives the shock of a lifetime: he is married to another. Nursing her heartbreak, she must find a way to continue pouring her heart into the hopes and dreams of the brides who visit her shop, all while wondering if she will ever find true love or if it has passed her by.

In present day, Haley has finished her time as a soldier, and suffering from PTSD, wants nothing to do with the heartbreak of this world. She sets off for Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, and in order to honor the memory of a fallen friend, she takes on the task of reopening an abandoned and long-forgotten wedding shop. Perhaps through helping others, she can forget the pain and disappointment in her own life.

 

 

My Review:

I think I decided that this wedding series should be one that doesn’t end. I was thinking maybe a caterer should be in the next series. They could start a catering company that has ties to the past. That said, that is how much I enjoyed this book. The previous books tie in a bit with this one, so you will want to read them in order, but you will not be lost if you do not.

I loved Cora’s story. She was so real, and you could totally see her as real. I felt like I was in the wedding shop. Rachel, once again, gives you the realization of flawed characters with mistakes in their past and healing from that past. The hope portrayed in these pages will warm your heart as you read. This book is both light and in depth. It is one that will have you thinking.

You can buy it here for $9.31 for paperback.

The Wedding Shop

 

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Romance