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Archive for the ‘inspirational’ Category

Angel of Promise

By Sam Oliver

Fideli Publishing: 2010

Author Site: http://www.pathintohealing.com/ 

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Promise-Sam-Oliver/dp/160414209X

When I decided to read and review Sam Oliver’s Angel of Promise, I had no idea what to expect. I opened it up, read a few pages and was immersed in the story before I knew what was happening. At around a hundred and thirty pages, I read it straight through in about an hour. Then I went back and re-read most of it. Since then I’ve read certain passages several times. I found the premise both captivating and thought provoking. The bulk of the story takes place in The Garden of The Gods. I visited there a few years ago and can’t think of a better setting for a story like this.

Lee, a hard working man is feeling very much the loser. He’s lost his job, his faith in himself and is on the verge of losing his home and his family. His wife had planned a trip with their daughters to visit her sister in Florida. When their peaceful night is shattered by a break in, the police suggest she leave right away to decrease traumatizing the little girls anymore. Rose agrees and she and her daughters leave early the next morning.

Alone in the quiet house without his family, Lee becomes despondent and finds himself hating the world and no longer knows his place in it. Emotionally drained, he falls into a restless sleep and dreams of an Angel named Promise. The Angel tells him he’s there to remind Lee of who he is to help him remember the promises he made to the Angel the moment he was born. Lee finds this both interesting and confusing.

A couple of days later he finds being alone in the house unbearable and leaves to visit his family in Kentucky. After spending a couple of days visiting his parents, he leaves to visit his grandfather’s old cabin located in The Garden The Gods. Here we join Lee as he becomes intimately acquainted with the Promise Angel, and takes a journey to self-discovery and restoration—a rekindling of faith in himself and the world. 

As the back blurb states, this is a fictional novel and can be read by anyone of any religious background without having to filter it through your own beliefs. Angel of Promise is charming, inspirational, and captivating. A story both encouraging and motivating, I recommend it to all.

–Willow

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Childproofed

By Reese Reed

Author Website: www.reesewrites.blogspot.com

BuyLink: https://www.createspace.com/Customer/EStore.do?id=3399630

Things have been so crazy around my house lately that having time to read was impossible. I finally carved out a few minutes, determined to at least start CHILDPROOFED by Reese Reed. If I’d known what a treat this story would be, I’d have put off bedtime a couple of hours to read it before now. At 194 pages, it’s a one sitting read and well worth the time.

Virginia is a thirty-year-old wife and mother who after the birth of her second child isn’t so sure motherhood is all it’s cracked up to be. Somewhere between changing diapers, middle of the night feedings, baths, bedtime stories, and the million other chores of motherhood, she’s lost herself—that young girl who was so carefree.

When Virginia learns that a hot young student at her husband’s school is after him, all her insecurities come crashing forward. Anxiety surfaces over the changes brought to her body by pregnancy, the fact that she barely has time to shower much less take time for a beauty routine, and uninterrupted lovemaking with Mark is a thing of the past. She wonders how he could possibly not prefer his gorgeous student aide to what waits for him at home.

Ms. Reed’s debut novel will strike a chord with mothers everywhere—an uplifting story of a young mother who temporarily loses herself, but then realizes she’s right there, exactly where she wants to be. Well written with a fast, steady pace and easy humor, it’s a great read for all busy mothers and yes, even those who haven’t yet ventured into motherhood. I also recommend it for all those fathers who’d like a little understanding of what’s going on with their wives.

–Willow

https://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com

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the-climbing-boyThe Climbing Boy

By Mark Lichterman

Metropolis Ink (c) 2003

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Boy-Mark-Lichterman/dp/0958054363

 

After reading the synopsis for Mark Lichterman’s THE CLIMBING BOY, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I felt pretty certain the story would educate me on the dreadful working conditions of young orphan children sold into apprenticeship in the 1800s, but what I didn’t know was the depth of feelings this enchanting little story would evoke in me. At just 180 pages, THE CLIMBING BOY is a short novel that is anything but short on plot.

Orphaned at the age of four, Zachariah is sold into apprenticeship to a chimney sweep for the cost of back rent owed on his late mother’s flat: a sum of one pound. Thus begins his life as a climbing boy. The life of a climbing boy is grueling and perilous, not only in the immediate dangers of being suspended by a rope harness and lifted down into zigzagging, sometimes stories-high chimneys, but also in the long term ill effects of breathing in soot and chimney dust on a daily basis. Add to that Zachariah’s master’s cruelty and you will find a boy’s life that is much more an existence than a childhood. Even so, eight-going-on-nine-year-old Zachariah maintains a positive outlook on life and a sweet disposition that makes him a favorite with many of his customers.

Set in London, England in 1843, the bulk of the story takes place in the span of just one day — December 24, the day before Christmas. The tale begins with Zachariah awakening from a beautiful dream of his deceased mother’s love to enter into the reality of his now bleak and loveless existence. Throughout the day, the reader follows Zachariah and his master, Johnson, as they go about their work. Turning the pages, the reader feels a full spectrum of emotions (the terror of being suspended in a chimney that sways precariously in the wind, the heartbreak of a child being denied a gift he really wanted, and the joy of a stranger’s kindness to name but a few) as the story builds to a delightful, fairy tale ending.

I found myself drawn deeper and deeper into the life and heart of this wonderful character until he truly felt like someone I knew and loved. The cruel Johnson is equally well drawn, and though I hated him at times, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him in the end. That’s how talented a storyteller Mark Lichterman is. His poignant fictional details blend with the hard truths of what, sadly, was reality for many children of that era, to create a beautiful story that, while being educational, is also sweeping and unforgettable. I highly recommend this heartwarming tale to anyone who enjoys seeing the good guy win. I know I certainly did.

–Honeybee

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halfway-to-each-otherHalfway to Each Other

By Susan Pohlman

Genre: Memoir

Guideposts, September 2009

Preorder Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Halfway-Each-Other-Brought-Family/dp/0824947800

Susan and Tim Pohlman are living the American Dream in LA. It’s the dream life Susan always wanted, but behind the closed doors of the Pohlman home, things are far from perfect. Susan is disillusioned, unhappy, and secretly plotting her divorce. She plans to tell Tim after they wrap up a business trip to Italy.

Having a free day in Italy with no business to conduct, Tim suggests they spend it together. Although reluctant, Susan agrees. Surprisingly, the day is idyllic. When Tim confesses to hating his job and makes the crazy suggestion that they sell their home in LA and spend a year in the small town on the Italian Riviera in an effort to renew their love and marriage, Susan balks. She has a lot of painful emotions tied to her decision for divorce and can’t even imagine the reaction of their two children, fourteen-year-old Katie and eleven-year-old Matt. Yet the day had been wonderful and if there was even a small chance to save their marriage, shouldn’t she be willing to try?

Tim finds an apartment for them to view and after much soul searching and conversations with God, Susan tells Tim if the apartment is great, they’ll do it. But if the apartment is horrible, they’ll forget the whole idea. Tim agrees. Although lacking curb appeal, the place is large with a wall of windows and a balcony that looks onto the sea. Having made the agreement, Susan puts her faith in God for the first time in years and they sell the house, pack up the protesting kids and make the move.

I received this book and sighed. I laid it on the coffee table to remind me to read it, but I was reluctant. I’d read similar books over the years, both fiction and non-fiction. To be honest, I found them all a bit tiresome. Waking up to a stormy, torrential rain filled day, I picked the book up and decided to read the first few pages. I finished it later that evening. Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. Ms. Pohlman tells her story with a fresh, unique voice and excellent writing.

This isn’t one of those, ‘lets move to Tuscany and live the simple life’ stories, even though that’s exactly what they do for a year. And although this sounds romantic, the family must adjust to a life so far removed from their previous one, they might as well be on a distant planet. None of them speak Italian and this alone causes many a hardship.

Halfway to Each Other is a story about creating lasting bonds—bonds of love, of family, and of friendship. And it’s a story of renewal—the renewal of love between a husband and wife, a renewal of family, and a renewal of faith. This is a true story and I found it very believable. These are not perfect fictionalized characters. They’re genuine, vulnerable, and charming. I don’t know if there’s a way to describe the Italian Riviera without romanticizing it. It is after all, beautiful and romantic. The author did a wonderful job with this. But what impressed me more was the way Ms. Pohlman did not romanticize the Italian people. They’re full of flaws, unadulterated, charismatic, and captivating.

I can’t begin to explain the variety of emotions I experienced while reading Ms. Pohlman’s first book. It’s full of subtle humor and I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, this touching, heartwarming account brought me to tears. I truly enjoyed my time with the Pohlman family and I highly recommend this book to all. If there is a negative, it’s only that, far too quickly I came to that last page. I wanted more and when Susan Pohlman writes another book, whether fiction or non-fiction, I’ll be there to get my copy.

 –Willow

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the-last-sin-eaterThe Last Sin Eater

By Francine Rivers

Paperback, 1999

Tyndale House

ISBN-10: 0 8423 3571 4

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Sin-Eater-Francine-Rivers/dp/0842335714

Allegory, Appalachia and Advocates: I’ll use these three words to describe this unique novel. I bought this book a year ago after reading other books by Francine Rivers. I had no idea what the book was about and to be honest, it’s not the type of title that normally appeals to me, but since her other books were so good, I bought it. I guess I must have read the first chapter or two because I found a bookmark placed between pages 20 and 21. I can’t remember why I set it aside originally, but I’m glad I decided to give it another try this week. The book starts off kind of slow and it took me a couple of chapters to get used to the mountain dialect, but it quickly grew on me and the book became enjoyable to read. The premise of the story fascinated me and I feel I got to know the characters right away. I was easily drawn into their lives. The author keeps interest high by hinting of things to come and leaving questions unanswered for a time then returning to them in later chapters.  Events and ideas are masterfully woven together and as an added bonus – – – I loved the ending!!!

Set in the mountains in the 1800’s Cadi Forbes narrates the story of her ancestors and an ancient burial practice involving a sin eater. According to the author’s note “The sin eater was a person who was paid a fee or given food to take upon himself the moral trespasses of the deceased and their consequences in the afterlife. Sin eaters were common in the early nineteenth century in England, the Lowlands of Scotland, and the Welsh border district. This custom was carried over by immigrants to the Americas and practiced in remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains.” Chosen by lot the sin eater in this story became an outcast who lived apart from all others high in a mountain cave and only entered the community at the time of death. Children and adults were cautioned never to speak of him and never, ever dare peek at him during a burial service, for doing so, it was feared, would bring curses down on them. This fictional account tells the story of the last sin eater to be appointed deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Strong, stubborn, Cadi Forbes has done something she thinks only the sin eater can help her with. She has lost a sister and her mother’s love, and after the passing of her dear granny she just can’t rest until she finds this man. Her journey is one of discovery, intrigue, and redemption, as she seeks the truth that turns her isolated community inside out.

Although normally only summoned in times of death, Cadi is determined to seek the sin eater out in life to beg him to take away the guilt for what she has done. Who is this sin eater? Does he help the dead? Can he help the living?

In the midst of the wondering and worrying about the sin eater Cadi becomes soul mates with Fagan the son of the feared and self-proclaimed community leader, Brogan Kai.  To truly help Cadi, Fagan must come to terms with family secrets in a community where questions are unwelcome but truth finds a way to push up to the surface. It’s never easy to confront your own family or to hear of their hand in tragic events. Will Fagan stand for truth even if it means going against his kin? This is a book filled with suspense and a book filled with hope. Readers are reminded that freedom can stand stronger than oppression, fear, and guilt. Readers soon realize that Fagan has his own secrets and his own reasons for seeking the sin eater. The two children work together with the help of an elderly neighbor and a local outcast to try and find answers. As they are seeking this sin eater, they learn that a “Man of God” has come to the area? Just as they have their own reasons for meeting the sin eater they are both curious to find out what this man of God has to say. Does he speak the truth? Will what he says be accepted by the people and what will happen if they won’t listen? Will a child lead the way? And . . . if tradition is broken what will become of the man they call the sin eater? I won’t answer these questions nor tell too much more of the plot because it unfolds as it goes and I’d hate to spoil it for anyone.

If you like a book full of rich descriptions and wonderful characters this is a book for you. These characters have depth and personality. You will grieve with them, pity them, fear for them, and rejoice with them. There are many characters to like in this book. There are plenty to dislike as well. Even the unlikeable characters are well portrayed and well defined by the author.  Themes in this book include mistakes and forgiveness, standing up for what’s right and going against the establishment, folklore and truth. The story is compelling and will make some readers stop and think about truth, traditions and why we do what we do when we do it. I was pleased to see that Rivers addresses the Appalachian culture with honesty and care. She does a great job presenting the tribal character of a mountain culture and easily moves the reader from feeling pity for these people to really relating to the emotions and frustrations they face due to tradition, isolation and a lack of options. Although the notion of the sin eater was new to me, the ultimate redemption presented is a familiar truth. I enjoyed my time with Cadi and Fagan and found myself cheering them on in more than one chapter.

This is a Christian novel that can also be classified as historical fiction. The biblical references are accurate and well placed. The historical aspect was well researched and respectfully presented. The biblical references are so entwined in the story that they don’t come off as preachy or forced. I believe even readers who don’t normally read Christian literature would enjoy this compelling story. The book contains adventure, danger and coming of age of the two younger characters. The characters are presented in a realistic way and placed in a captivating setting that fits the time period and honestly portrays the traditions of the mountain people.

I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the mountain flowers, herbs and plants. It was interesting to be exposed to some of the truths, traditions, fears and beliefs of the mountain people. Although this book doesn’t take long to read, it is suspenseful, heartwarming, and well written. I recommend it for all readers. It would be a good choice for a family read aloud or a book club selection.

–Pearl

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sala-coverSala: More Than A Survivor

Written by Marsha Cook

As Told By Sala Lewis

Fidele Publishing, 2008

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sala-More-Survivor-Marsha-Casper/dp/1604141115/

Website: www.michiganavenuemedia.com

 

Born into the loving heart of a big, happy Polish family, Salucia (nicknamed Sala) has the kind of childhood most little girls only dream of. Short on money, but wealthy in love, her family of ten is knit together with strong values, laughter, and sacred Jewish traditions. But when Sala is just ten years old, her fairy tale childhood becomes a living nightmare and everything she has been raised to believe about faith, God and humanity is challenged.

With the Second World War raging throughout Europe and Hitler gaining in power, Sala watches as one by one, the young people of her neighborhood are taken away to Nazi work camps. When the day arrives for her beloved older sister, Dora, to go, Sala does not think her family will ever recover from the loss. Their once happy home becomes a quiet and somber place, reflecting the joyless tone of the near-deserted neighborhood. One day Sala returns from play to find her family home sealed up and her family vanished, their only crime — being Jewish. Thus begins Sala’s life in the Gestapo work camp; her tender childhood lost to years of cruelty and a process of dehumanization made bearable only by her faith in God and her miraculous reunion with Dora.

This was not an easy story to read. As a teen, my heart was broken by stories like The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank. All these years later, Sala’s story left me feeling much the same way. It was sad and troubling to read of the despicable conditions which were forced on human beings by other so-called human beings. Nevertheless, it is a story that needs to be read and remembered, a story of a time when an entire race was terrorized on the whim of a madman. A time that in Sala’s own words must be remembered so as never to be repeated.

So much more than just a story of survival, this story of raw, human courage blends glimpses into the hell of the Holocaust with heartwarming snippets of personal letters written by young Sala to herself as she struggles to make sense of the insanity her life has become. Her determination to hold on to her faith and to realize her dreams in the face of incredible odds is truly an inspiration. I was pleased that Sala’s story continued on, beyond the war, and I was given the opportunity to see her recreate her life and realize some of her childhood dreams.

Not eloquently written, the story’s beauty is in its simplicity. Written in an honest, straightforward style, this memoir reads like a very personal journal, the journal of a woman who has endured more hardship than most ever will, but who learns through that very hardship to celebrate victories and embrace life without questioning why.

More than a journal, Sala: More Than A Survivor is a journey, and one I really hope you will want to take.

–Honeybee

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mosaic-amygrantMosaic: Pieces Of My Life So Far

By: Amy Grant

Water Brook Press, 2007

ISBN: 978 1 4000 7360 3

Buy Link for paperback (Flying Dolphin Press, Oct. 7, 2008): http://www.amazon.com/Mosaic-Pieces-My-Life-Far/dp/0767929675

 

I have followed Amy Grant since my college days. I owned cassette tapes of most of her early recordings and even saw her in concert once. Her songs have always spoken to me. She is down home, earthy and real. I kind of lost track of her for several years, but I knew she had gotten divorced from Gary Chapman and remarried to country star Vince Gill. I must confess I wanted to read this book partly to get the details on her breakup, her children’s adjustment and the remarriage. The more I read the book the more I realized she wasn’t going to reveal much of that and then as I read her words I thought, Good for you Amy, you don’t owe me an explanation on your personal life or private pain. Who are we (fans) to think we have the right to know these things? Sorry Amy!

This book is not a novel nor is it an autobiography, but I feel it may be of interest to many readers and therefore worthy of a review on this site. It is, as the title says, pieces of her life. Instead of going into great personal detail of any one event Amy talks about memories of various people she has encountered in her life. Some are family members or people she has known her whole life and others are one time chance meetings with strangers that impacted her in some way. The book is not chronological but simply a mosaic fit together Amy style. Between chapters readers will find the lyrics of more than 30 songs as well as some poems and quotes. The center of the book features 16 pages of color photographs. There are also small black and white photos at the start of each chapter.

The book title is perfect for this journal style writing and the cover photo of Amy pictured in a casual skirt, barefoot and smiling captures the mood of the book. It is interesting the way Amy wove song lyrics, poems, thoughts and photos into this project.  Fans will be pleased to see that the book gives insight into the inspiration behind many of Amy’s popular songs. The format flows smoothly from memory to memory. She mentions memories from her childhood, vacations, her career, her own children, her husband, friends and fans. I read the book in bits and snatches reflecting on her descriptions and her faith. It’s not a book that demands to be read all at once, but rather a book you could enjoy over several days. Readers may bookmark some sections to come back to for a reread.

In Mosaic Amy humbly shares stories about her life, places she has been and people she has had the privilege to meet. She shares her thoughts on an encounter with a homeless man, a friend’s battle with cancer and a visit with an elderly fan. She shares family memories of birthdays, vacations, weddings and funerals.  Fame and music allowed Amy the opportunity to meet many famous people including, Reverend Billy Graham, Presidents Bush and Clinton, Tony Bennett, Kevin Costner, Michael Jordan, the Andretti family, and more. The book captures Amy’s special memories, Amy’s powerful music, and Amy’s deep faith.

Amy admits that there have been rough times in her life but in writing the book she doesn’t ask for sympathy or make excuses. She is human and admits to human struggles in her life. Her honest admission of her feelings of failure and even depression made her all the more human to me. I think all readers who have struggles in this life (which I think is all of us) will easily relate to this book. Family, faith and music are extremely important to Amy Grant and this book weaves them together in an uplifting fashion. Sharing pieces of your life means the happy and the sad, the fame and the failures. For Amy, these emotions have often been captured in her lyrics and now they are also shared in this book.

All in all I found this to be a moving book that gives a glimpse into the person behind the fame. Reading it might cause readers to look at their own life and think what they would include in their mosaic? As I read her writings, I paused to recall some of my good, my bad, my joys and my sorrows – so far. Self reflection is a good thing; disclosing it for others to read is courageous. Whether or not you call yourself an Amy Grant fan I suggest giving Mosaic a try. I enjoyed it so much I might even check her schedule and see about getting some tickets next time she comes to a city near me.

Pearl

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