A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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Pages: 352

Publisher: Random House Publishing – Ballantine

Published: October 2, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I will start my review saying I will NOT discuss the political sides of abortion or whether I think it is right or wrong.

George Goddard, an upset father, takes it upon himself to teach the women and doctor at the state’s only abortion clinic a lesson, by taking them hostage. He blames everyone there, patients and staff, for what has happened to his daughter.

After the first shot was fired, Hugh McElroy, a hostage negotiator, was one of the first one scene. What he doesn’t realize is that his fifteen year old daughter is inside with her aunt, his sister. Hugh has depend on his training and the others inside to keep his daughter safe.

Through the eyes of a nurse who is a patient, the doctor who performs the abortions, a retired professor facing a death she cannot control, the distraught father, an anti abortion protestor, a young woman who felt abortion was her only way out and a scared teenager we learn of the many different reasons humans make the decisions they do.

You can guarantee that when you pick up a Jodi Picoult book you will be made to dig deep inside yourself and think. You may not agree with the issue being discussed but you will be forced to see the issue from every side.

I was not sure if I would like the narrative structure The Spark of Life was written in but by the end I was glad it was written backward, meaning we start with the most recent hour of the hostage standoff and work our way back to how it all began. It forced me to question why and take more of the facts given into consideration.

A great book for book clubs as many discussions can arise while reading. Expect tears and heartache as you read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House-Ballantine through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

On the Internet: Our First Talk About Internet Safety by Dr. Jillian Roberts

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Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Published: February 19, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

How do we approach our young children in regards to Internet Safety? Using a conversational approach with real-world examples this book is a great tool for parents.

As a teacher, I appreciated the real-world examples and the format it was written in. The language is simple enough for even the youngest to understand and the examples with pictures will help everyone understand what is being discussed.

I plan on buying this for several friends who have young kids that will be getting on the internet more and more for school. I will feel like a better friend for helping make sure they are as safe as we can make them on the internet.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Orca Book Publishers through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

The First Love by Beverly Lewis

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Pages: 304

Publisher: Bethany House

Published: September 4, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

1951: It’s a summer of change and acceptance. Maggie is learning to deal with her chronic illness and help her younger siblings accept their new stepmom. A Mennonite tent revival has set up in town and Maggie attends at the urging of her Mennonite cousins. Will the meetings bring her closer to accepting her illness and accepting her stepmom or will the meetings take her away from her Amish faith?

I knew very little about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis until reading Maggie’s story. JRA sounds absolutely terrible not to know day to day when you wake up on how you are going to feel and if you are going to be able to move or not.

I applaud Lewis for her positive stepmom portrayal. So many times we read stories of a terrible stepmom who hates her step kids. Being a stepmom myself it made my heart sing to see the stepmom as loving and trying to keep their mom’s memory alive. Yes, there are hard times but with love and patience hard times can be overcome.

My favorite story line was Maggie’s spiritual awakening. The thirst for understanding and believing was beautiful. There were a lot of biblical stories mentioned that I was not completely familiar with and has made me interested to read more of my Bible.

Lewis has written another story that reminds you of the beauty in the world.

I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2) by Jacqueline Frost

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Pages: 309 (eBook)

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Published: November 13, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Holly White has barely recovered from her almost death last Christmas while investigating a murder when another murder finds her this Christmas. The town lothario winds up stabbed to death and left in the town square’s gigantic peppermint candy bowl. Unfortunately Holly’s best friend and town cupcake maker, Caroline, is the main suspect. Can Holly solve this murder before becoming a repeat customer of the “almost dead” club?

This series is my guilty Christmas pleasure. Holly and her family are what you think of when you think of Christmas. First, they live in Mistletoe, Maine where the twelve days of Christmas is celebrated with the Reindeer Games. You have blindfold gingerbread house building and snowman building contests. The town plays Christmas music and every store is decorated. A little murder is thrown in to make things even more interesting.

You will laugh, scream and cry with Holly at every turn. Her love life is interesting. She is kind of dating the local sheriff but they have yet to get on the same page at the same time.

In book two, Holly’s family is building an inn at the Christmas Tree Farm and I am interested to see how the dynamics change in future books with this addition.

If you love Christmas and murder together you need to get this series ASAP.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

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Audiobook: 14 hours

Publisher: William Morrow

Published: September 8, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A story of romance, illicit affairs, espionage, and tragedy.

It’s 2013 and Sarah Blake needs to find inspiration for her next best-selling book. At her wit’s end she opens her great-grandfather’s chest and discovers information that could be history changing regarding the sinking of the Lusitania.

Go back 98 years to April 1915 and we meet Caroline, a first-class passenger, who is married to Gilbert. Gilbert is very pre-occupied and Caroline hopes this cruise ignites a spark in their marriage. What she did not expect was to run into her first love, Robert Langford.

Tessa Fairweather, a second-class passenger, is working with her sister to obtain the music composition that is in the hands of Gilbert. Tessa does not understand why she is to get this music but one thing she does understand is that she is falling for Robert.

What does Sarah learn and how does each passenger above affect the outcome?

I opted to listen to the audiobook and let me state it is FOURTEEN hours of listening. I enjoyed the audiobook as the narrator did an excellent job with all the characters. My issue was I did not have a lot of time lumped together to listen to a good chunk at one time.

The story jumps between Sarah (2013), Caroline (1915) and Tessa (1915) so you do need to keep track of who is talking and what year it is. It is pretty easy since the majority of Caroline and Tessa’s time is on the Lusitania.

I knew very little about the sinking of the Lusitania and The Glass Ocean has whetted my appetite for more.

The Whispered Word (Secret, Book and Scone Society #2) by Ellery Adams

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Pages: 292 (Paperback)

Publisher: Kensington

Published: November 27, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Another five star visit to Miracle Springs, NC with Nora and the Secret, Book and Scone Society.

Summer is ending but visitors to Miracle Springs is still going strong. One such visitor has made Nora and her group of friends really think about their own pasts. Nora finds “Abilene” curled up in her stock room in a too large dress and flip flops, hospital ID bracelet and bruises with a story to tell. Abilene does not want to talk but is willing to work for exchange of food and place to lay her head.

A new shop has opened as well that seem like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a town hit hard by the closing of the local bank (read the Secret, Book and Scone Society to learn more). Virtual Genie will appraise your family heirlooms and any other treasures you may have and offer to sell them online for a 60/40 split.

Nora and Society has decided to help those affected by the bank closing and put together Secret Kindness bags and leave them on the doorsteps. One particular person has been on Nora’s mind, Amanda Frye, a not so nice visitor to the bookstore but Nora is trying to see the good behind the pain that makes Amanda so tough to deal with. Unfortunately, Amanda never reaps the benefit of the kindness bag. The Society finds her floating in the pond in front of her house. at first it looks like suicide but Nora sees flaws in the plan.

Can Nora and the Secret Society find out the truth of Amanda’ death while helping out Abilene? Is Virtual Genie everything is appears or are they trying to steal what is left of the people in Miracle Springs?

I absolutely LOVED the first book in the series and the second did not disappoint. In fact it was even better. When I enter the world of Nora and the Society, I get lost and do not want to return. I am perfectly happy being lost in Miracle Springs. Particularly the bookstore. My copy of The Whispered Word looks like a post-it note factory exploded on the pages. I have marked every page where a book or author is mentioned. I would love to be able to read every book mentioned in both books of the series.

As I was reading this book it hit me that Hester has similarities to Ella Mae (Charmed Pie Shoppe series), another wonderful character from Ellery Adams. I truly believe in the cooking with feeling and others will feel it. Imagine being able to sit outside on a lovely park bench with fall swirling around you, a comfort scone from Hester next to you, a book recommended by Nora in your hands and maybe a pair of stress relief socks knitted by June on your feet to keep you warm. Are you interested in a visit yet?

If the answer is yes you have two chances. You can run to your favorite bookseller or library and grab The Secret, Book and Scone Society now and on November 27 you can buy The Whispered Word. While you are at it you may want to buy copies for your best friends as well. No sense in keeping your visits to yourself.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

His Promise (Amish of Hart County #6) by Shelley Shepard Gray

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Pages: 334 (Paperback)

Publisher: Avon Inspire

Published: October 23, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Grace has made her niche in life by pet sitting for Englishers who go out of town. This year for Christmas while she is pet sitting a very cantankerous dachshund her family has to go to her grandparents to take care of them. When the dachshund gets into a little trouble Grace runs into John Michael Miller, her sister’s ex-boyfriend and the boy she had a crush on when she was younger.

John Michael regrets hurting Grace’s sister several years ago but he had a good reason, he was falling for Grace. John Michael is now a firefighter and this season has been busy with arson fires being set to cover local burglaries.

Can Grace forgive John Michael for hurting her sister and let their feelings grow? Can John Michael keep Grace safe even when he is not around?

Let me start with the end, the last forty pages had me in tears. Why? The beauty of the story coming together and the action happening. See if you don’t have a glimmer of tears in your eyes as you read.

Shelley Shepard Gray has a way to make the love come through in a beautiful, clean way. I would feel very comfortable giving any of her Amish books to any young teenage girl to read.

I loved that Gray included helpful fire safety tips especially during the Christmas season in the story. A few things I learned and have started looking around to make sure my parents and family are as safe as I can make them.

Gray’s Amish of Hart County is a six book series that can be read any in order and each as a stand alone book. Once you take a visit you will want to keep visiting.

I received a complimentary copy from the author and any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

When Mercy Sings by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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Pages: 352 (eBook)

Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah

Published: October 7, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Suzanne was made to leave her Mennonite home when she did the unthinkable and became pregnant with her boyfriend. Her mother sent her to Indiana to have the baby, give it for adoption to her married cousin and then return. Suzanne decided to stay in Indiana. At the urging of her brothers and sisters, Suzanne returns with her nineteen year old daughter in tow to care for her mother who is now handicap. What Suzanne did not expect was the love of her life from her childhood to be working at her mother’s house. Paul has no clue that she was pregnant when she went away all those years ago. But things are not as they seem. Will Suzanne keep her secret or will everything come out in the open when she least expects it?

I read the third book in this trilogy a couple of years ago and was excited to read the first to see how it all began. Book One was just as wonderful as the third one. I did not want to put it down. It felt very realistic as I was reading.

The angst between Suzanne and her mom is so true of many mothers and daughters that faced the situation they found themselves experiencing. My heart was hurting for them. I especially felt for Suzanne’s mom dealing with becoming handicap late in life as my mom has had to face something very similar. Her loss of freedom to do what she wants when she wants has been a very hard adjustment.

Kim Vogel Sawyer writes with grit and beauty in When Mercy Sings. You will find yourself looking deep into yourself as you read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

An Amish Homecoming by Amy Clipston, Beth Wiseman, Shelley Shepard Gray and Kathleen Fuller

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Pages: 416 (eBook)

Publisher: Zondervan Fiction

Published: October 16, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Four wonderful stories on forgiveness and love.

No Place Like Home by Amy Clipston
Can Eva forgive her parents for their actions and feelings years ago for the benefit of her four year old son?
A perfect story on forgiveness: forgiving yourself and others that have wronged you.

When Love Returns by Beth Wiseman
Sarah and her daughter must return to home she fled six years ago and face those she left behind. Upon her returned, Abram has realized he never stopped loving her. Will Hurricane Harvey mend the destruction of Sarah and Abram’s lives?
This story had me in tears from almost the beginning to the end. The raw emotions and heartache of the characters came through beautifully.

The Courage to Love by Shelley Shepard Gray
Can Irene overcome her past and let people into her heart?
A story to remind us to get to know others before judging them.

What Love Built by Kathleen Fuller
Upon retuning to Birch Creek after being away 18 years, Carolyn is determined to realize her dream of opening an Amish Bakery. Will Carolyn relinquish control and let Atlee and others help her with her dream?
I found this story as a great reminder to forgive others who have hurt me in the past and to also let others help me when I need it. You are not showing weakness in needing help, you are letting others follow Jesus’ example.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Zondervan Fiction through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed are in the above review are entirely my own.

 

Christmas Cake Murder (Hannah Swenson #23) by Joanne Fluke

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Pages: 270 (eBook & Hardback)

Publisher: Kensington

Published: September 25, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Hannah has come home from college after the death of her father and has no intentions to go back after a disastrous ending to her love affair with a professor. As Hannah tries to keep the house running for her youngest sister, she sees her mother declining more and more into depression. No projects the daughters think of can pull their mom back into the land of the living that is until two church ladies tell Hannah and her family about Essie. Essie is the elderly owner of the Albion Hotel who lives above it with no water or electricity. Essie is to proud to accept help even though all the townsfolk love Essie. Unfortunately Essie has fallen and broken her hip. Essie wants to revisit the Christmas Ball with its Christmas Cake parade one more time before dying. Hannah and her family are determined to make that happen for Essie. While gathering info for the Christmas Ball, Hannah and her mom run across several notebooks that Essie said are the beginnings of a novel she has written. Can Hannah make Essie’s dreams come true of the Christmas Ball or will a story of fiction become all to real?

This book can be read out of sync from the rest of the series since it takes place before Hannah opened The Cookie Jar. I found this book delightful. Yes, it does read differently from the other books in to series as Hannah is not solving a murder mystery but she does have a mystery to solve. I liked seeing Hannah’s mother on a more real, down to earth basis than her usual snooty self at times.

If you are looking for a quick Christmas themed read during a cold, dreary day then this is the book for you. I read it in one day. My only complaint is I didn’t leave any for today. If I could I would be a regular customer at The Cookie Jar. Lots of yummy recipes included.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kensington through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.