All Manner of Things

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.

In Mike’s absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family’s home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I thought of this book!  It was sad and difficult but so gripping and so many layers.  Taking place in Michigan in 1967 and dealing with the Vietnam war, it gives so much insight; not only to the war but also life and racial relations in rural America.  From Mike’s letters we learn about the servicemen in Vietnam.  But from the ongoing story and letters from Annie, we understand the times.  I loved how both Mike and Annie grow in their relationships to God, that even if He seems far away, He really hasn’t gone anywhere.

So, although I really wanted to keep reading the book to find out the ending (and there is good in the ending), it was not what I wanted to read – it was hard and didn’t make my day brighter.  Maybe part of my problem was the characters were too real and I like happy endings.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Author:  Susie Finkbeiner – Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

The Number of Love – a novel

The Number of Love (Codebreakers, #1)

 

The Toughest Puzzle She’ll Have to Solve
Might Be the Wishes of Her Own Heart

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack German telegrams for hints of the enemy’s plans. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, she discovers for the first time in her life that numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the quick and brainy Margot, but soon the dangers of the war draw ever closer. Margot and Drake will have to team up to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

Wow!  What a fantastic book!  I loved all the mystery and intrigue – what a story the author has woven!  I couldn’t put it down.  So many variables with love and war and spies and decoding in London during the second world war.  Margot is a refuge from Belgium to London but has found her niche decoding the enemy’s messages.  Numbers are her life – but is there room for love in there?  Drake is a British spy in Spain, but his sister Dot has become Margot’s friend.  All are suffering from the war but learn to lean more and more on God through the trying times.

The author Roseanna White introduced Margot in a previous story, but this is the first in the Codebreakers series, and although it would be nice to meet her earlier, it is not necessary for the story.  I loved this story and highly recommend it!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Number of Love released today!  Get your copy at https://www.amazon.com/Number-Love-Codebreakers-Roseanna-White/dp/0764231812/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=the+number+of+love&qid=1559692198&s=gateway&sr=8-3

 

Roseanna M. WhiteThe Author: Roseanna M. White (www.roseannamwhite.com) is a bestselling, Christy Award-nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, designing book covers, editing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books . . . to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.

A Reluctant Bride – a novel

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Living in London’s poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she’s offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship’s surgeon, he’s in charge of the passengers’ welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love.

With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

Jody Hedlund is an amazing storyteller as she brings to life the horrors of the London slums of the 1800’s (“The sour reek of human waste and rotting garbage was ever present.”), the difficulties of sea voyages of the time, and the challenges of being a poor woman.  With no hope for employment, and a bleak future, poor women were eager to board a ship and sail for about 4 months to a distant colony and become the bride of a miner.  Jody Hedlund tells the story of some of these women through her new series The Bride Ships.  This is the first of the series and is the story of Mercy, who leaves her sister and family behind to allow the younger siblings more food.  The author lightly weaves faith in God into the book, “Mercy had tried to be like her sister, to have the same strong faith, to believe that God was with them in their afflictions.  But she’d never been quite as strong as Patience.”  On the ship she befriends many of the younger women and helps the ships doctor – but encounters a foe in the reverend who is very pious but not very godly!

This was a fascinating story and I recommend it!   I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Reluctant Bride just released today – you can get it on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Bride-Ships/dp/0764232959/ref=sr_1_3?crid=19CQ7KA6UHOSL&keywords=a+reluctant+bride+jody+hedlund&qid=1559686867&s=gateway&sprefix=a+reluct%2Caps%2C130&sr=8-3

 

The Author: Jody HedlundJody Hedlund is the bestselling author of over twenty historical novels for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards, including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award. Jody lives in Michigan with her husband, five busy teens, and five spoiled cats. Visit her at jodyhedlund.com.

The Edge of Over There – a fantasy novel

Before the Tree of Life, everything in Abra Miller’s life had been predictable. But after the Tree and the lightning and the angels, everything felt tenuous, like holding a soap bubble in the palm of her hand. She spent years looking for signs of that other world, waiting for it to break through. When it didn’t, her friendship with Sam Chambers grew cold and distant, and they both wondered how any of it could actually have happened.

Four years later, 16-year-old Abra’s long-delayed quest to find the next manifestation of the Tree of Life is renewed when she sees a woman walking up the road–a woman who looks exactly like Sam’s dead mother. The woman directs her to New Orleans where she will find the grave of Marie Laveau, one of seven gateways between this world and Over There. As Abra enters The Edge of Over There and begins her pursuit of the Tree once more, she doesn’t know whom to fear or whom to trust. But she’s starting to think that some doorways should never be opened.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this was the second book in a 2 book (so far) series before I read it – I think it would be much better if I had previously read the first book!  A lot of occurrences left me puzzled since I didn’t know what had happened previously.  Having said that though, I couldn’t put the book down as I kept wanting to know what would happen next.  Would Abra find the tree of life?  Would Leo find his sister Ruby?  Who is Beatrice, friend or foe?  This novel kept me on my toes as the author would skip from present to past, in this world and in the in-between world, keeping me wondering what would come next.  Great fantasy, good for young adults and up.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Where in the World is Kris? Amsterdam!

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Sometimes flying standby is amazing – we flew to Amsterdam in first class!!!  And sometimes it is the pits – we watched our airplane leave us because there were no more seats left and we ended up buying a ticket to make sure we could fly back the next day!

 

20190321_123025 (2)But, even with our “lemonade” day (When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!) we had a fabulous time!  We began our stay by buying at the airport information desk the “Holland Pass” that gave us “free” (how can it be free when we paid a fair amount to get the pass) entrance to several places and discounts for others.  We also asked about buses to Haarlem where we had reservations to see Corrie Ten Boom’s house (The Hiding Place).  Nicely, the bus/train system in Amsterdam is pretty easy to work and we were soon on our way to Haarlem.

No problem getting there – but the luggage lockers are inside the train station (must have a ticket to enter) and we had come by bus.  It took some doing before the information desk understood us enough to help us figure out how to drop off our bags – it’s not much fun walking around a city toting your suitcases, no matter how small they are!

Visiting the Hiding Place was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time!  It’s not a large place and they limit tours to 20 people/hour so fortunately, we had signed up in advance.  It was a good tour – and interesting to be able to go through the bookcase like the people hiding had done.  Good thing I wasn’t timed!  And I can’t imagine how hard it was to stay still in that very small space!

 

After finishing our tour there and buying some bread and cheese for lunch, we bought a 3-day train ticket and headed into Amsterdam (our BnB was in Haarlem so we’d be traveling each day to Amsterdam and it was easier to get the 3-day pass).

Our first stop was the Moco, where Banksy’s art is displayed.  Never heard of Banksy?  20190320_074845.jpgMe neither!  But Banksy is an anonymous England-based street artist, vandal, political activist, and film director.  In other words, he does graffiti and is mentioned in one of the Oceans movies.  We also went to a diamond cutting place – but I didn’t buy anything!  With that, we walked back to the train station, taking in the sights – and stores – as we went, and caught the train back to Haarlem.  After checking in at our BnB, we went and got pizza at a nearby place – so yummy!  And then we crashed!

Early the next morning we made our way back to Amsterdam – we were getting to be pros at this train travel stuff – to meet up with our tour group!  Since we weren’t driving and thought taking the trains might take a while, we elected to buy a tour with Tours and Tickets – so worth it!  As first on the bus we got the front seats of the double decker bus and set off for Keukenhof – the garden of gardens filled with tulips and crocuses and daffodils and more!  So very pretty and informative and we were there on opening day, first thing in the morning.  We had 3 hours to wander and learned all about tulips from the tulipmania that hit almost 400 years ago during the Dutch Golden Age when tulips were so prized that people were buying and selling them at huge prices, sometimes for 10x the yearly wages of a worker.  This inflated market collapsed in February of 1637- when the bulb prices dropped dramatically, the trading of the bulbs ground to a halt.  One possibility for its collapse was that the people of Haarlem didn’t go to trade one morning because the bubonic plague had just broken out.  We also learned that the tulip originally came from Turkey and the most prized ones, with the different striped colors, occurred when the bulbs got a virus.  The last most unusual fact we learned was it takes 25 years for a tulip to go from seed to bulb to be sold – tulips can also multiply from the bulb which is much quicker but then they are more susceptible to viruses.20190321_135707.jpg

After having our picnic lunch on the grounds of Keukenhof, it was time to get back on the bus and travel to Zaanse Schans, a totally touristy area, with lots of windmills!  The windmills actually had been in different areas and brought to this area to preserve them and allow others to see them.  We got to go in the one that was making peanut oil – we saw the peanuts being ground and then heated and then put in large bags and pressed.

The next stop on the tour was Volendam – what a cute village. Unfortunately, as part of a big bus tour, we didn’t get as much time as we would have liked to explore but instead followed our guide to our destination – the cheese factory, where we not only saw how cheese was made, we also got to try a bunch and buy some!  How Gouda!  (sorry!)  20190321_165600Have you ever tried a stroopwaffel?  It’s a very small, thin waffle, sliced in half, and then glued back together with a sweet caramel filling (you can see one in the picture above resting on the tea cup).  After eating cheese, we were directed to the stroopwaffel shop to see them made.  When they needed a volunteer, they chose Kate, so she got to help make the stroopwaffel.  They are so yummy and you can buy them at Costco or, if you fly a morning flight with United, they will serve you one – warm it up on top of your coffee!

Our day wasn’t over yet as we still had a ferry ride to the town of Marken where we got to see wooden shoes being made.  They say the Dutch still wear them on farms and such because they provide good insulation from water and are safer than steel toed boots (in case your horse steps on your foot).  And, if you need arch support, just cut a little more out in the heel!  I was tempted to buy a pair – but they aren’t cheap, and I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase – I guess I could have packed my tennis shoes and worn those on the plane!2019-04-12 (8) 2019-04-12 (15)

Day three of our trip saw us checking out all the sights in Amsterdam – the A’dam lookout tower (not so great on a foggy morning but they have this swing high up on the tower – yes of course we did it!), 2019-04-12 (2) 2019-04-12 (9)a canal boat ride, a bus tour, a houseboat museum (ok – it used to be a houseboat, it’s 100 years old and now you can walk through it),  and of course the streets of Amsterdam.  Doesn’t seem like much when I type it up, but we felt like we stayed busy!  We also went to a photo studio and got our pictures taken as Rembrandt subjects – that was fun!

painting.jpg    original painting (2)

 

The next day was an emotionally hard day – we got up early, went to the airport, checked in and waited, waited, waited.  And waited some more – only to be told there was no room on the plane for us.  Yes, I got teary eyed – okay, I cried!  I was scheduled to speak at a lunch the next day, but it wasn’t going to happen for me!  I had told Kate she could go home without me – but bless that sweet girl’s heart, she stayed with her Momma!

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So, it was time to make lemonade ‘cause we sure got handed a bunch of lemons at that point!  We booked a room at an airport hotel, dropped off our luggage there and headed back into Amsterdam for our bonus lemonade day!  We went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, Rembrandt’s House, a market, and more streets and canals.  Both the Dutch Resistance Museum and Rembrandt’s House were remarkable, and we learned so much!  I certainly never knew that Rembrandt had a huge room filled with statues, taxidermy animals, shells and corals, antlers and more.

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Really, we had a great day and then slept in a wonderful hotel that overlooked the runways (Citizen M – and I do highly recommend the hotel for a short stay close to the airport!).  The next morning, we slept in, walked a 100-yards to the airport, picked up chocolate croissants for breakfast and, since Kate had wisely bought me a ticket for this day’s flight, we got on our flight and returned home!  We had a great visit to Amsterdam – but I’m not sure I want to go to again!)

Flora  florarembrandt-2.jpg

 

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A Silken Thread – a novel

For readers who love a heartwarming romance and a rich historical setting comes a tale of a young woman with a heavy burden, the International Cotton Exposition, and the pursuit of true love.

Eighteen-year-old Laurel Millard, youngest of seven children, is expected to stay home and “take care of Mama” by her older siblings, but Laurel has dreams of starting her own family. Operating a silk loom at the Atlanta Exposition will give her the chance to capture the heart of a man wealthy enough to take care of Laurel and any children she might bear, as well as her mother.

Langdon Rochester’s parents have given him an ultimatum: settle down with a wife or lose his family inheritance. At the Exposition, Langdon meets Laurel. Marrying her would satisfy his parents’s command, she would look lovely on his arm for social events, and in her besotted state, he believes she would overlook him continuing pursuing rowdy adventures with his unmarried buddies. Langdon decides to woo Laurel. Willie Sharp is not well-off and must take on an extra job at the Atlanta Exposition as a security guard. When mischief-makers cause trouble in the Women’s Building, Willie is put in charge of keeping the building secure. He enjoys visiting with Laurel, who seems like the little sister he never had, but his feelings for Laurel change to something much deeper. Can Willie convince Laurel that he can give her better life–even with so little to offer?

First, I’ve never read a book by Kim that I haven’t loved – and I thought this one was fabulous!  I loved all the various elements in this book – the Atlanta Cotton Expedition of 1895 (I’d never heard of it before), the racial prejudices of the late 1800’s, the silk weaving process and so much more, including a sweet love story!  The author skillfully wove a story that was enjoyable to read, taught about the class differences of the day, and showed the need for Christ and the changes He makes in people.

I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it!  I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, WaterBrookMultnomah. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book goes on sale on April 2, 2019.

The Author: Kim Vogel SawyerAward-winning, bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer is a wife, mother, gramma, chocolate-lover, cat-petter, and–most importantly–a daughter of the King! With more than 1.5 million books in print in seven different languages, Kim enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Her “gentle stories of hope” are loved by readers and reviewers alike. Kim and her retired military husband, Don, reside on the plains of Kansas, the setting for many of her novels.

Of Fire and Lions – a novel

The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series.

Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she’d perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Now, as Daniel’s wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she’s safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear–until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar’s palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili’s tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone?

Ultimately, Yahweh’s sovereign hand guides Jerusalem’s captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.

What a fantastic Biblical fiction read!  I so enjoyed the story told by the author, who not only tells the Biblical story, taken from several books in the Bible, but also gives insight to that era in time and the historical people.  Basically, this is the story of Daniel.  Mesu switches the point of view from Daniel at times to Abigail, a servant girl.  The author also goes back and forth in time, starting with the night Belshazzar sees the writing on the wall and going back to the time of the exile, 66 years earlier.  Mesu weaves a story around the historical facts and palace intrigue, secrets that save and secrets that destroy, and Yahweh who saves and the god who doesn’t.

This is a great novel and I especially appreciated the Author’s note at the end, where she tells of how she decided to write the characters the way she did and what her research showed.  Ultimately, we don’t know the complete stories of these Biblical characters, but Mesu Andrews does an amazing job of providing a wonderful book that points the way to Yahweh.  I highly recommend this book, especially if you like Biblical fiction as it is a great book.   I received a copy of this book from the publisher, WaterBrookMultnomah.  I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Of Fire and Lions was just released on March 5 and can be purchased at Amazon and other places.