Book Review of A Name Unknown

We sat there, Mom and I, in the too-clean feeling hospital room, with the stiffly starched sheets and the stinky hand cleaner. I’ve always read that hospitals have an awful “clean” smell. I submit that perhaps it’s just the overall too-clean feeling. We were both reading, trying to pass the time until the ward doctor came by for one last check on Mom before we were given her discharge papers. It’s hard to focus on reading when you’re anxious to get out to fresh air, green grass, and blue skies again—even if the stay was pleasant enough, and not nearly as long as other people’s! (Now, I’m not complaining—I am thankful for modern medicine, hospitals, and all that. I’m just a terrible homebody!)

“It’s hard to focus on finishing a book,” I sighed to Mom as I set the book aside, “when you’re tired of reading and you already know what the ending will be.”

She agreed with me, but went back to reading. There wasn’t much else to do between those four walls with several curtains designed to give each patient a little privacy!

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Several months ago, a book came up on a book reviews site I follow, and it immediately piqued my curiosity. Roseanna M. White is a co-author of the Go Teen Writers blog, and as such when I saw her most recent release available in exchange for review, I decided to try it. I was really interested to see what kind of writing style she had, so I was glad for a way to find out! I did know that the book was a romance, so thankfully that wasn’t a surprise.

What I Thought of A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White:

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. WhiteI loved this book! And…in some ways, got quite annoyed with the story, but that’s a side point right now. I loved the setting. I can’t remember when the last time was that I read a historical fiction about England right before the First World War, so that was extra special (probably partly because I’ve always had a bit of fascination for English history anyway!). I loved the tension as it built between the different characters as they tried to prove (or disprove!) one of the main character’s loyalties—whether to the Crown, or to the enemy, the Germans.

I also loved the fact that this felt like Oliver Twist retold in some ways. Different, of course, but some elements were very striking in that area. And since I loved Oliver Twist when I read it for school several years ago, this naturally felt like meeting an old friend once again.

The whole librarian thing is, of course, an intriguing element for me since I love books as well. And I LOVED the fact that one of the main characters was a writer! It gave an interesting, sometimes humorous twist to the story—and one that’s all too relatable! At one point, he got distracted with an idea for his story, and ended up ignoring someone for about five minutes. I couldn’t help laughing! Been there, done that!

Despite all the fun parts, though, the history, the semi-classic feel, the fun characters (some really made me crack up!), the bookishness (if that’s a word!) of the story, I was disappointed in some ways. The romance was actually okay—only one kissing scene made me gag a little, and I’m thankful that was confined to just over a page. Overall, though, it wasn’t icky. I appreciated that.

(POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT) My main gripe with the book lies in its predictableness—or, at least, what felt like that when I was reading it. I knew from the first page who would marry whom, and what the ending would be—down to some of the less important parts—and that kind-of ruined the ending for me. I’m not sure I would have even finished the book once I got past the climax, except for the fact that I wanted to finish for the review’s sake. I also didn’t like the fact that the villain (or supposed villain) didn’t actually end up bad in the end. It was understandable, but disappointing. (END SPOILER ALERT)

In all, while I did enjoy this book, I don’t see myself coming back to read it again very soon, which I find to be somewhat disappointing. However, I do hope I’ll be able to read more of White’s books in the future, because I loved the rhythm and wording she used. In many ways, this book was a cozy, relaxing read for me—some parts were outright funny, some sad, and overall it was a good story.

There were two things that I learned from A Name Unknown I thought noteworthy: First, have you ever heard of these landscaping things called ha-has? I hadn’t, until I encountered it in chapter thirteen—and had to look it up. Very neat idea! (You can find out about them here.) I was glad, this week, I had taken time to look it up—while I was listening to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, a ha-ha was mentioned several times. Never would have picked up on that otherwise! Second, I enjoyed the mention of New Zealand cabbage trees, of all things, being in Cornwall back in the early 1900s—and looked that up as well. Apparently there are places in the UK that have them. So I did find it neat to have two different minor things confirmed as being realistic parts of the setting.

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About the Book:

She’s out to steal his name. Will he steal her heart instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets—now they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary’s challenge of a lifetime comes when she’s assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the crown—so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well-credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.

Anger and danger continue to mount, though, and both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth—about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

There were maybe twenty of us youth together that December evening eight months ago—perhaps a few less; I’m not certain. Together, we had just come through a week-full of meetings at a youth conference, each day, on average, infusing us and the many other attendees with four Biblically-rich, challenging sermons. I don’t know if my sentiments then could express what the others were feeling or not, but I felt full. Spiritually fed, my soul enriched far beyond what I normally encountered in my everyday life. The Lord had shown Himself faithful in the days leading up to that chilly Saturday evening, showing me areas where I wasn’t serving Him to my fullest extent, and overall just drawing me closer to Him.

I felt full. And as I looked around the room at all the other youth—spread across the assortment of couches in the spacious, yet cozy-feeling living room, I felt so blessed to be there. To be able to spend a bit of time with these special people, some of whom were very close friends, some friends from years past, or relatives—and grateful to have shared the enriching week with them.

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Someone—our evening’s host, perhaps, who happened to be one of the speakers at the conference—suggested we all write down one thing we really appreciated or were challenged by in the previous week. As we each took time to look back, I know many of us remembered fondly different scenes from the week, and the room grew silent apart from the occasional humming as someone tried to put their thoughts onto paper.

Soon all the papers were gathered up into a plate, mixed together, then passed out randomly, and we each took turns reading what was on our particular note, then tried to guess who had written it. Some of the notes were quite in-depth, with several sentences dedicated to whatever the person was thankful for. One, I remember, simply said “Food!”—it was submitted by a younger guy in the group! While that provided humor for some of us, the thing that really struck me was how many people said they were thankful for the encouragement to be grateful. That was a theme that had been running throughout the different sermons that week, unintentionally (or intentionally by the Lord?) tying together each of the four different speaker’s messages. Although by far that wasn’t the only thing we learned it was one of the most memorable thoughts. And I’d hazard to guess that at least half of us there that night mentioned something to that effect.

Fast forward to last Friday, when I was trialing a new pattern on a jumper (online dictionary says this should properly be called a pinafore—new word usage on me!). The first attempt failed, and it was late that evening when I finished a second top, only to find out that it was way too small as well. To say the least, I wasn’t in the best of moods. Twice, the solution had eluded me, and frankly, I was quite disgusted.

The worst part about it? I had posted on Instagram earlier that afternoon—before, you can be sure, I found out that both attempts weren’t right—saying something about being thankful I could sew. That evening, I wasn’t feeling very thankful.

A latte and time for sewing this afternoon. #Thankful #littleblessings

A post shared by Esther Filbrun (@estherfilbrun) on

So yesterday, as I was happily sewing along, making my third try at getting this pinafore top done, I started thinking over what I’d learned at youth conference about being grateful. Then I thought about the gratitude list I had started right about the same time as the two failed attempts…and how, for some inexplicable reason, those two pinafore tops were not included in said list.

Any coincidence? I think not. After all, why would I be thankful for something I was decidedly not grateful for at the moment? Yes, I had appreciated the moment earlier—back when it was (ahem) social media-worthy.

But I knew it was a double standard.

So while, yes, I did write down gratitude for the completed one, I’m going to make sure to add the two failed attempts to the list, too—I learned something from them as well.

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Because if there’s one thing I learned from the youth conference, we as God’s temple* have something priceless at our disposal. Back in the Old Testament, under the old law, the tabernacle held something precious: The altar of incense. Today, under the New Covenant, we as God’s priests (see the 1 Peter reference below) are in charge of our individual altars of incense—praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. This is a task that should be attended as our highest joy, an outflowing from our hearts because of the inflowing of the Spirit as He does His work in us.

It’s a precious thing, one I want to keep practicing. So next time my side seams don’t match up, or the garment ends up fitting much differently than I had intended, perhaps I should post a picture of that and start a trend with the hashtag #ThankfulForFailure …and a chance to try again.

Have you been practicing being thankful for things lately…even if it’s things that really didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to? What has the Lord been teaching you through failure recently?

*See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:19-22, and 1 Peter 2:4-10

Home, Sweet Home

One thing I love about being away is that I can thoroughly enjoy being home again. In saying that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time away…the sweet, albeit brief, reunions and all the precious memories made with our friends and family. It was so good.

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Little sister enjoyed petting the donkeys at the Creation Museum when we visited!

But near the end, especially those last few days as we were packing up, saying our last goodbyes, and realizing that our time had already past—like that!—it was bittersweet to realize we’d soon be home. Back to “normal” life, to a normal routine again, to just being us again. I looked forward to that. But as I looked back over the seven weeks, I knew that my heart would always be partly there—with those dear family members. Those that though I only see them once every few years, they’re still some of the nearest, dearest friends I have on this earth.

When I think of that, I know I’m so blessed.

We’ve been home just over a week now, and it’s been so, so good to be back. So good to say hello to the dear friends here, to have the comfort of my own bed (even on the nights when it gets quite frosty out!), to have my own space and just be able to be with my own family.

And as I think of all I enjoy about this temporal home, I can’t help but think of the heavenly—if I enjoy this so much, how much more should I look forward to Heaven, where we’ll forever be with Jesus? If I looked forward to being back in New Zealand, how much more should I long and yearn for the better Home? It’s then that I see how shallow I can be in my Christian walk…and how much growing I still have left to do.

In our family devotions recently, we’ve been studying Jesus’ crucifixion. And despite how horrific that ended up being, it was really interesting to discuss some of the different traits Jesus displayed during His trial and death. Love, peace, patience, and courage, just to name a few. Dad pointed out that Jesus wasn’t focusing on the next whiplash, though—He knew it was coming, but instead of looking at the “now”, Jesus was looking far ahead to the “joy that was set before Him”. In part, that’s us—and all the other courageous saints through the past ages. That’s how He could endure. How He DID endure. Partly because He knew He had to, as there was no other way to redeem us, but also partly because He knew the reward at the end would be so sweet it would be more than worth the pain.

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A version of The Great Bible, printed in 1566, as seen in the Ark Encounter.

As my mind raced ahead, following that “joy that was set before Him” path, a thought clicked in place that I hadn’t quite considered before. That’s how God’s saints endured, all through the ages. That’s how they stayed strong, even when they knew they were going to the stake.

It was the joy set before them. They knew about and reveled in the Home that was waiting for them on the other side, so no matter what temporal struggles they had to face on this side, they knew it was worth it all…and more. Our Lord had gone through it already, setting an example for us, and they were just treading in His footsteps. They knew, without a doubt, where they were going, and what they’d get when they got there.

Oh, that I might have faith like that when my day of testing comes! And may we all follow the Lord ever more closely, so we can spend our eternity with Him, and with all our precious brothers and sisters that have gone before us. What a reunion that will be!

State Park Visit

One Sunday afternoon when we were up north a ways, one of our aunts took us five oldest out to a local state park. There’s a lovely trail through some woods around different water courses, and we really enjoyed our time walking and talking. It was a good way for us to get some quality time with her.

Just after we started off, a kind woman offered to take our picture for us. I was thankful! It’s not often that we get to get a picture with our aunt!

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The irises there were gorgeous!

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At one point along the trail, it opened out into a small sand dune. The boys loved running down to the water and climbing back up!

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Flowers and Family Time

We’ve been in Michigan for nearly three wonderful weeks now. The main goal of our family trip was to attend my grandma’s 70th birthday celebration, and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins were here for a few short days last week. Despite the hand, foot, and mouth disease that almost all the younger children caught, we had a wonderful catch-up time and made memories that I’m sure will last for many years.

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Grandma had some beautiful flowers in her garden!

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Last Friday, a lot of us headed to a local beach to cool off. It was a warm day, and most of us hadn’t seen much of Lake Michigan yet (at least not enough to have time to spend in it!), so we really enjoyed the chance to play in the beautiful golden sand and wade. I don’t normally swim, but I did get in a short water-fight with one of my brothers, so I ended up soaked too. It was a gorgeous, fun day!

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Afterward, a good part of our group climbed the Little Sable Point lighthouse there. I’d climbed it years ago, before we moved, so I decided to stay behind with little sister. The rest of the family seemed to enjoy it, though!

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Last Saturday, the last day we had with most of the family before they headed home, we went out to a local pond created by a dam. This is one of Grandma’s favorite nature spots; a lovely walk through good ‘ole Michigan woods, with great views of the pond and sometimes the wildlife that lives on it. We used to go there fairly often before we moved, so it was fun to see it again.

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Then Mom spotted a fully grown Monarch caterpillar! We got to looking closer at the milkweed on the edge of the road, and I think in total we found about eleven or twelve caterpillars. That was pretty exciting! They ranged from a few mm long (just hatched out) to just over an inch long (basically ready to turn into chrysalises). We got five that were almost ready to turn, which are all chrysalises now, and are hoping we will get to see them hatch out as butterflies sometime when we’re in Ohio. Very fun!

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What the chrysalises look like now (above), and what our baby worm that was just a couple mms long when we found him looks like now (below). He’s still not very big!

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I’ll end with an answered prayer for my brothers—they had wanted to see a snake while we’re here in America, since we don’t have any in New Zealand. It just so happened that there were about five garter (nonvenomous) snakes hanging around the dam that day, so we enjoyed seeing them slithering around for a while!

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I’m so thankful for the time we’ve been able to spend together! Thank You, Lord!

Jandal Weather

We’ve been in Michigan for a week and a half now, and yesterday the rest of Mom’s family arrived for the reunion. All eight siblings, the inlaws, and all 22 grandchildren are here. It’s been a blast. It’s so good to catch up again!

Today, a lot of the younger generation went swimming. It’s been a lovely warm day (hence the title!), and now it’s time to get ready for supper. I count myself really blessed!

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The Secret Slipper (Author Interview & Blog Tour)

Today, I’m stopping in again just for a bit to tell you about another book that I loved recently. I actually read The Secret Slipper quite a while ago, but thoroughly enjoyed it, and today I’m bringing the author onto the blog for a quick interview as well! But first…

Tour banner

About the Book

The Secret Slipper coverBeing a cripple is only the beginning of Lia’s troubles. It seems as if Bioti’s goal in life is to make Lia as miserable as possible. If Lia’s purpose is to be a slave, then why did God make her a cripple? How can He make something beautiful out of her deformity?

Raoul never questioned the death of his daughter until someone reports her whereabouts. If Ellia is still alive, how has she survived these ten years with her deformity? When Raoul doesn’t know who to trust, can he trust God to keep Ellia safe when evidence reveals Bioti’s dangerous character?

As time brings more hindrances, will Raoul find Ellia, or will she forever be lost to the father she doesn’t even know is searching for her?

Hello, Amanda! And welcome!

What was your first inspiration for “The Secret Slipper”?
I had finished “Befriending the Beast” (a spin-off of Beauty and the Beast) as a stand-alone when an author friend asked, “Hey, have you ever considered a father/daughter Cinderella story?” And that is exactly where the inspiration started. I prayed about it, and the Lord supplied the full story.

You’ve written quite a few short stories and novellas; which ones are your favorite and least favorite? Why?
“The Secret Slipper” is my favorite. 😉 Really. It has the most intricate plot of anything I’ve written so far. When it comes to short stories, “Coffee Cake Days” would be my favorite, just because it was so close to my heart and personal experiences. As for least favorites…that is a tough question. If I didn’t like it at least a little, I wouldn’t publish it. That being said, Journey of Choice would have been my least favorite if I published it last year. But I’m tweaking it to be better, so hopefully by the time it gets to publication, it won’t fall in that category anymore. 😉

Do you have any pets? Have these ever featured in your stories and/or affected portions of your books?
I’m not a big animal fan. I enjoy having them around and our family has several animals (chickens, German Shepherds, a Siberian Husky, rabbits, a cat). I have animals in my story and some of them have been influenced by animals I’ve hung around, but none in particular.

I know you have a fairly good-sized family. Have you ever included experiences from times with your family in your books? If so, could you please share an example?
“Coffee Cake Days” is one of the stories that most strongly includes my personal experience with my family and an important lesson I’ve learned. I also use my siblings to influence some of my characters—it is commonly assumed that “12 kids” are all alike. Oh my, how very different we are!! It helps to give some character diversity.

What is your favorite part of having the title “author”?
Honestly, my favorite is to connect with readers and other authors. It gives me a great place to form friendships with the common interest of books—and often, the common thread of salvation.

What is the most interesting response you’ve gotten when you’ve told people you write books?
Hmm…probably the assumption that I’m popular.

I’m curious: What stories are you working on right now? Could you please share a little synopsis (or maybe even a favorite quote) from your most recent work-in-progress?
My current WIP is Journey of Choice. I am still figuring out the entire synopsis as the rewrite is changing the first draft about 50%. It is the first Orphan Journeys novel about a teen, Nat, who is brought from the streets of New York against his will, taken in by a family against his will, and eventually, enlisted in the army against his will. With so much in his life that has happened against his choice, will he continue to turn his back on God or turn to Him in time of need?

About Amanda

Amanda Tero Profile PicAmanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again—starting with some short stories that she wrote for her sisters as a gift. Her mom encouraged her to try selling the stories she published, and since then, she has begun actively writing short stories, novellas, and novels. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it!

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Connect with Amanda:
Email (amandaterobooks@gmail.com)  |  Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Pinterest  |  Blog  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

My Review

Well, I’ve actually already reviewed this book over on the main reviews website. So here’s a portion of it, but I hope you won’t mind if I refer you there to see the full version!

When looking through the books I’ve read lately, I was surprised to see how many of them dealt with tougher issues—the Revolutionary war, identity, and growing up being some of the more recent stories. So I was happy to see a slightly “lighter” story in the mix, The Secret Slipper by Amanda Tero! If I remember correctly, near the end of last year the author asked for a few beta-readers, so that is how I got to read this story. This is a fun book, one that I classified after reading as “the kind of book I dream of writing.” (Read the rest here.)

Giveaway!

The Secret Slipper Giveaway

U.S. Giveaway: Enter to win the set of “Befriending the Beast” and “The Secret Slipper” (ENTER HERE)

International Giveaway: Enter to win the eBook set of “Befriending the Beast” and “The Secret Slipper” (ENTER HERE)

Final Tour Stops:

May 31
Jesseca @ Whimsical Writings for His glory | Spotlight, Review
Raechel @ God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae | Spotlight, Review

June 1
Kellyn @ Reveries Reviews | Review
Victoria @ Victoria Minks Blog | Spotlight, Review
Kelsey @ Kelsey’s Notebook | Spotlight

June 2
Hanne @ RockandMinerals4Him | Spotlight, Review, Giveaway
Erica @ Roxbury Books Blog | Spotlight
Janell @ Views from the Window Friend | Review
Crystal @ Crystal’s Adventures for Christ | Spotlight, Review, Interview

June 3
Alexa @ Verbosity Reviews | Spotlight
Faith @ Chosen Vessels | Review
Melissa @ Clothed with Scarlet | Review, Interview, Giveaway

Thank you for following along! I know blog tour posts can get a bit tedious, but thanks for taking time to read and please check out the posts from other participants over the next few days (for a list of the previous stops on the tour, go here!). And hopefully sometime soon, I can work on normal blogging again. For some reason, though, taking a trip seems to sap a lot of brain energy even before it happens—not sure how that works. Anyway, until next time, keep serving the Lord!

All the Way My Savior Leads (Book Review & Blog Tour!)

Today, I’m participating in the blog tour for All the Way My Savior Leads, a great new story by author Faith Blum! I loved this book, and am looking forward to sharing it with you! (Find out more about the author here.)

I made a mistake last week. I had been planning to read All the Way My Savior Leads, but since I was still smack-dab in the middle of the adventures of two sisters in Suit and Suitability (a retelling of the classic Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, but set in Depression-era Ohio!), I decided to wait a bit and see if I could finish the other book first. This book was just a novella, right?…or so I thought. So when I tapped to open it in my Kindle Sunday morning, I realized differently quite quickly. Thankfully, even though this book is a novel, it’s a shorter one in the range—but I still enjoyed it immensely.

All The Way My Savior Leads Blog Tour

About the Book

Caroline and I walked out the back door and went into the barn. “What are we going to do?” Caroline asked.
“Head out on our own. Saddle Whitey, please.”
Caroline’s mouth gaped open. “They’ll find us.”
“I know.”
Caroline sighed. “What can we do then?”
I shook my head. “We can stick together. Always.”

Tragedy stole everything from him…except her…

Three years ago, an illness orphaned Henry and Caroline Sullivan. The harsh years at the orphanage have forged a strong bond between the pair.

But Henry’s about to age out.

He must choose whether to leave his only family behind in relative safety, or take her with him as he pursues dreams of owning a farm. Henry trusts that God has a plan for him, but little does he know that others have plans for him and his younger sister as well. He will need all his faith to find the right path.

Although this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a standalone.

Note from the author: 50% of my income from this series will go to the World Orphans organization.

My Review

All The Way My Savior Leads Book ReviewI’ve been fascinated by orphan’s stories ever since Mom recorded the Orphan’s Journey Series by Arleta Richardson onto tapes back when I was 5 or 6. I listened to those recordings so many times that I’m sure she got quite tired of hearing her voice over and over, but I loved the books—and still do, although it’s been years since I last listened to it (a great excuse to re-read an old favorite in order to review, I reckon). So I was quite delighted when I found out that this book by Faith Blum was about an orphan. (Seeing as I didn’t even know that much basic info about the story illustrates the fact that I hardly read any description about this book before I requested to review it!)

So, going into a brand new book that I hadn’t read much about was somewhat of a new experience for me right there. I had heard of author Faith Blum before, and looked at her books with the hope that one day I could read them, and I must say…even though this is the second book in the series, and I haven’t read the first book (yet; she kindly gave it to me, though, so that will be remedied soon!), this one was enough to make me want to try other books that she’s written.

I was highly impressed by the story. As far as the plotline goes, I’d consider it average; there wasn’t anything intensely exciting, adventuresome, sad, or even unpredictable about it (although I wouldn’t have predicted some of the things that happened!). In some ways, it was highly predictable—but for some reason, I enjoyed that this time around. To me, this book felt like the kind of story you’d pick up as a cozy read on a chilly winter day or a lazy Sunday afternoon—it didn’t meander pointlessly, but it didn’t just rush from one place to another, either. It had a nice, even flow—so if you’re one for adventurous reads, this probably isn’t for you.

As far as the characters, I think Hope was my favorite. She was cute, had endured a tremendous amount, and yet still dared to love where she felt free to do so. I really enjoyed little Jimmy, too—he was hilarious when he wasn’t being naughty! The main character felt pretty “perfect” (one fact that did annoy me at times), although it wasn’t overt AND it was told in first-person point of view so that is a lot more understandable.

The Christian element to the story was both fairly well-done and annoying. The title song for the book cropped up about 4-6 times, and personally I found that a bit much—almost as if the author was trying to make a point about the title of the novel. Probably not, and it did normally fit the circumstances, but after about the third time I was getting annoyed. As far as the other parts of the story, the faith is talked about at times, but usually in a very normal setting. There was one point where the gospel message was presented to a boy, and it felt somewhat long-winded, but other than that it was fine.

I laughed out loud several times while reading. Thankfully, one of the places is fairly easy to quote; I loved the way she described this:

Tommy, Edward, and Jeremiah spun around, and I think I saw at least one jaw bounce off the floor.

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It wasn’t super-exciting, but it pulled me in this afternoon (so much so that when I needed to do a job for Mom I had to repeat the instructions about three times to be sure I got it!), and to me that’s a big win there. I also don’t remember noticing any typos or other errors—which is a big pet peeve of mine toward self-published authors! In all, if you’re looking for a cozy, not-too-long historical fiction, this might be a good fit for you.

Thanks, Miss Blum, for giving me a copy of this book to review!

Other Notes

For May 26-31 only, get both books in the Orphans of the West series for just $0.99 each! They are both available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and more. Buy now: Savior, Like a Shepherd and All the Way My Savior Leads

There’s a giveaway! Go here to enter and also see links to the other blogs participating in this tour. 🙂

Remaining tour stops:

May 30
Frances Hoelsma—Book Spotlight

May 31
Rachel Rossano’s Words—Guest Post: How I Pick Hymns
Written Rest—Review

June 1
Bookish Orchestrations—Giveaway Winner

When You Can Sing Again

Last Wednesday, nearly a week ago, we were invited to the home of a local friend for an impromptu singing. If you happen to know our family in real life, you’ve probably found out that we love to sing—so it wasn’t likely that we would be missing this chance! It was a lovely evening of praise to our Lord and Maker, and I think we all came away feeling refreshed. One song we sang that night, though, touched the deep chords of my heart.

It is the last song I remember singing with Seth.

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We had been at a concert put on by all the families of our homeschool group, and as our family has done for the past 5-7 concerts we’ve attended, we sang a couple songs together and shared a short poem. The songs and poem all spoke of loss, but beyond that—of hope after loss. I had invited a dear friend of ours, a recent widow, to the concert, hoping that our words—however trite they might come across—would be encouraging and helpful to her in her grief.

I had no idea then that the very words which I was hoping would be an encouragement to her would become a lifeline of a memory, a grounding pillar to me, exactly a week and a half later.

It’s bittersweet to look back on now, knowing that my last memories of singing with him were singing together about the Lord’s healing and help in the middle of struggles we don’t understand. It was—is—powerful to think on.

After the funeral, when life is supposed to return to normal, I remember noticing my singing had stopped. Dried up. Daily chores that had often found me humming favorite melodies were now unusually silent. My heart was just too heavy—overwhelmed—to attempt to even consider finding something.

During those days, I could only cling to the Lord and my family. Together, we discussed our fears, shared our pain, and prayed…a lot. All we had then were God’s promises to cling to, and they became enough. Every time whys surfaced, every time the grief got too hard to bear, He was there to bear it. He took it. And I could sleep each night in peace, knowing that the Lord was there with us in the mess.

Then, one day a week or two later, I caught myself singing again. It’s then I knew I could hope. If that part of me could come back, a new normal could follow.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, what trials are burdening your heart and bringing pain-filled tears to your eyes. But dear friend, may I encourage you to look up? Even if your heart and throat cannot express yourself the way you’ve always known, do know that the Comforter is right there for you. He loves you. You! You might not feel able to grasp that right now, but that’s okay. Cling onto one more day, one more moment. The One who created the universe knows what you’re going through, and He does care.

That song that we sang last Wednesday, the one we sang as a family? I’m thankful I can still sing it today. And it’s become even more precious than it was back then. Here’s our family’s version of it—admittedly not that great, but that’s okay too.

Blessings on your day, friend!

Have you ever been in a place where you just couldn’t sing? How did the Lord help you out of that?

When Real Life Hurts

I never thought, that morning in early October 2016, how quickly my life could be tossed into a tailspin. I had no clue then how much pain and loss can be crammed into a few minutes—a few seconds—in a day. I also had no clue as to how much the Lord’s presence could be felt even when you’re facing your worst nightmare.

Raindrops on flowers

I had no idea. And in many, many ways, I’m glad I didn’t. But as I’ve thought back on the day my oldest brother committed suicide, I’m often struck not with the ugliness and agony of that day (although that was most definitely there), but more with the love—the love that can only come from Jesus—that flowed to, over, and around us in that time.

It still makes me want to cry when I think about it. His love is beyond explanation.

I didn’t—don’t—want to write about this detail in our family’s history. It’s ugly. It’s awful. But at the same time, as month after month slides by, I’m coming to realize that not talking about a thing (surprise!) doesn’t make it just disappear. This is what happened. And as I’ve been pondering and praying about what to blog about, this is the detail that I keep coming back to:

God is good, even when life is a horrific mess.

Just recently, I was reminded of those beautiful verses in 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 that go like this:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

God’s comfort toward us was shown in a very mighty way over the months following my brother’s death. While I don’t want to “glorify” his death in any way, or “rub it in your face”, so to speak, I do think I’m going to talk about it sometimes from here on out. Because I know this is something—as ugly as it is—that I have learned a lot from, and if my experiences can be helpful to just one person, if these painful moments can help to comfort you in what you’re going through, I’ll count my time more than worthwhile.

I don’t know a lot. But I do know one thing: God is good. And I’d like to share just a little of that with you over the next while.

Have you been through some tough stuff in your life? Did you experience the Lord’s nearness in that? What did He teach you in that time?