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Never Far From Home by Mary Ellis

Emma Miller is a young Amish girl turning sweet sixteen. At her birthday party she shocks her family by announcing she want to take her full Rumspringa. This is the time Amish boys and girls are allowed to experience the English (or Englischer as they are called) world before being baptized into the faith. Emma is a hard working young teenager with her own wool business. She sells her products to Mrs. Dunn who owns the “Stitch In Time” boutique. Emma has met James Davis Jr, a young Englischer farmer who often makes deliveries to the boutique. She has feelings for James, and feels guilty: the worlds of the Amish and Englischers are too far apart. Her father, would never approve of her courting James.

Emma is very close to her Aunt Hannah who recently married her Uncle Seth. They are both raising lambs, both are in the wool business, both selling their products to Mrs. Dunn. She longs to talk with Hanna about James, but doesn’t want to put her in the middle. Emma’s father is “Old World” Amish and a deacon. When he learns of her associated with James from an Amish harness maker, he is really upset and forbids her to see him. He cannot understand why his daughter would want to associate with an Englischer, let alone have feelings for him. This goes against all he believes in. There are several good Amish young men she can court when it is time.

Readers will enjoy living Emma’s daily life as she agonizes over her feelings for James, the desire to obey her parents, her God, and not to bring shame to her family. You will cry, laugh and rejoice with the family as they cope with the debilitating illness of her mother, Emma’s long recovery from a terrible accident involving her buggy and a truck. Does she reconcile her problems with her father? Does Emma leave her faith and become English or does James convert to Amish? Talk with the family as they live their daily lives. Hanna prays for a baby, Emma’s mother prays for relief from her illness, and Emma prays for guidance and understanding. Is James the one person God has planned for her? Can she truly wait for God’s timing and accept his will?

Ms. Ellis is an excellent writer of romance fiction. She seems to have a firm understanding of the Amish’ beliefs and their way of life. Highly recommend for all readers.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge

Jayne Tate is a staff reporter writing for the “Oregonian” newspaper and residing in Portland, Oregon. When her boss calls her into his office, she is sure is getting the prime assignment to go to Miami. Instead she is told her work is slipping, too many rewrites, and he suggests she take a few weeks of vacation to get her act together. He has given the assignment to another reporter. Her father has recently passed away and her boss thinks she is still grieving. Jayne know this is not true. She is estranged from her family and has been for some time. However, she keeps quiet – he can believe what he wants. Jayne is devastated about missing out on the assignment though – what will she do with all that time? She can’t relax on the weekends let alone for three weeks.

Jayne is a motorcycle riding gal. She owns a 2008 Triumph Bonneville. She fires up her bike and goes for a ride to clear her mind. She doesn’t get far – she spots a bookstore and stops to browse. A magazine catches her eye – there is an article about the Amish. She buys the magazine and returns home. An idea – there is a story, here, or maybe a series, and she is the one to write it, proving to her boss she is still his best reporter. The Internet reveals an Amish community just outside of Albany.

Jayne tells her friends and boyfriend what she plans to do, cranks up her Triumph and starts out for the adventure of her life. Reaching Albany she picks the name Levi Burkholder, an Amish carpenter and owner of his own business, out of the phone book. Making contact with Levi, she tells him she is a reporter and wants to do a story on the Amish people. She wants to stay with an Amish family to learn their ways.

Levi is clearly smitten by Jayne and takes her to an Amish family who agrees to let her stay for a few weeks. Jayne is unaware this is Levi’s family. He left home before being baptized into the faith, wanting something more than what the Amish community could provide. Wanting to be closer to his family, he left the corporate world, returning to Albany and started his carpentry business. He has kept in touch with his mother, but is shunned by his father who won’t even speak to him. The longer Jayne stays with the family, the more she is convinced the plain and simply life of the Amish is for her. Maybe she should try to reconnect with her family. Perhaps they didn’t hate her or blame her for all the problems.

I highly recommend you read the book to learn Jayne’s fate. Does she become Amish? How does her boyfriend fit into her new life style? Does she cultivate a relationship with Levi? Does she reconcile with her family? Readers will thoroughly enjoy their journey with Jayne – a tea drinking, motorcycle rider determined to prove to her boss that she is still his best reporter.

Ms. Lodge is an excellent writer of romance fiction. She has a firm grasp of the Amish community and their beliefs. The book is certainly an eye-opener and one you will find hard to put down.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake

The book is written from the personal journal of the author as she experiences the heartbreak of infertility. Hannah’s Hope is patterned after Hannah in the Bible. Hannah’s story can be found in 1 Samuel, Chapters 1 and 2 of the Old Testament. (I suggest you read her story along with Jennifer’s).

Hannah too longed for a child to hold and nurture. She dearly loved her husband Elkanah, but was unable to give him a son. The Bible states she was barren. Jennifer loved her husband Rick. They had plans for a large family, but this didn’t seems to be in God’s plans.

The story unfolds as the author takes you through the heartache and agony of losing her babies through miscarriages, still born, failed adoptions and in vitro fertilization (IVF). You will feel her pain as she experiences one failed adoption after another, year after year of not getting pregnant, and the agony of losing her babies when she does become pregnant. As you read her story, tears will flow, you will find yourself praying for her, becoming angry as you ask the question – how can this happen to one who so desperately wants to be a mother? Jennifer never loses her faith in God, however – she is determined to wait on His timing and His plans for her life.

One must read the book to fully grasp the agony one goes through being unable to bear children. Does Jennifer and Rick ever have living children – the ending will surprise you. Through God everything is possible and He is with you no matter what you may have to endure. I found the book both soothing and heart rending as I made the journey with Jennifer and all the other women who are infertile.

Highly recommend for all adult readers. You will come away with a thorough understanding of what it means to be infertile and how it impacts your life.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

Chase Falson is the founding pastor of the largest contemporary evangelical church in New England. After graduating from seminary, he headed east to start a church in Thackeray, Connecticut. Everyone thought he was crazy – New England is commonly called “the graveyard of preachers”. He not only founded a new church, but saw it grow to a weekly attendance of over three thousand worshipers.

Things were going great – right. Not so, Chase had become disillusioned. He is reaching a spiritual crisis in his faith and asking the question – there must be something beyond the evangelicalism island he lived in. To top things off, behind his back his student ministries’ pastor is aiming for his job.

Things come to a head one Sunday morning when he goes completely off script and loses it. He tells the whole congregation he has lost his faith and there must be a better way to serve God than the way the church is going. As a result, the Elders suggest he take some time off to get himself together. He is not allowed to speak with any of the members or his staff.

The question – now what is he to do? After three days of not leaving his condo, the idea comes to him to call his Uncle Kenny. Kenny not only had left the Conservative Baptist fold and became a Catholic but a Franciscan priest, living in Florence, Italy. Kenny suggested he come to Italy for a visit.

This is where the story becomes intriguing. Kenny is taking Chase on a pilgrimage through the teaching of Saint Francis of Assisi. Leaving Florence, they journey to Assisi where they meet up with Kenny’s three friends who are Franciscan priests – Brothers Bernard, Peter and Thomas. (Brother Bernard reminded me of Hagrid in Harry Potter movies.) They are delighted to meet Chase and enthusiastically join in the pilgrimage. Their first stop is the Chapel of San Damino. This is the chapel where Francis heard Jesus speak from the cross. He told Francis to repair his church. Francis, a man of noble birth and wealth, left his family and his privileged life to live in poverty, and to do what Jesus had asked of him. With the help of the brothers, books, articles and places, Chase starts his spiritual journey in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi who was the first post modern Christian .

As you read the book, you find yourself going step by step with Chase as he experiences the teaching of Francis. Will Chase convert to the Catholic religion? What will happen to his church when he returns? Will he change the church’s beliefs or be out of a job?

I found the book hard to put down, I could hardly turn the pages fast enough . The story held my interest and kept me enthralled and (I hope) brought me closer to God. I can’t recommend this book too highly. Everyone should take this pilgrimage with Chase and Francis.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Hunter’s Moon by Don Hoesel

CJ Baxter is a bestselling novelist from the small town of Adelia, NY, but now resides in Tennessee. His novels are mostly about his own experience growing up in the Baxter family. Lyndale is the ancestral home where the Baxters have lived for centuries. CJ left home at seventeen and has not been back for almost three decades.

CJ is returning to Adelia because his grandfather is dying – the only person he has kept in contact with over the years. CJ is having problems. His wife has kicked him out, changed the locks and kept his dog. Before he leaves Tennessee, he breaks into his former home and steals the dog. This results in the police issuing a warrant for his arrest.

The Baxters have a secret – one that has haunted CJ since the age of ten. He knows the truth, but has been reluctant to face his father who has covered this up for years. CJ’s return is not a joyful reunion. His family is secretive, have their own agenda, and are skeptical of CJ’s motives. His brother Graham is running for the Senate. The last thing he wants is for the secret and his other underhanded deals to become known. CJ has been hired to write an article on Graham’s candidacy and the whole Baxter clan is concerned about what he will reveal.

The longer CJ stays in Adelia, the worse things become. He finds himself having unhealthy thoughts concerning his high school sweetheart. The one he left decades ago and is now married to his cousin. One must read the book to learn how CJ handles this situation and all the other problems he faces. To what length will the Baxters go to get what they want. Blood may be thicker than water, but its no match for money and power.

Highly recommend this book. It is one that you can’t put down – the suspense is addictive. Don Hoesel is an excellent writer of fictional suspense.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Kiss for Cade by Lori Copeland

Cade is a bounty hunter, the town of Winterborn, Kanasas’ most notorious citizen. He has a reputation of having the fastest draw, bringing a number of outlaws to justice. He left his own town fifteen years ago, leaving his sweetheart Zoe behind. He is only returning now due to the death of his sister and brother-in-law. His sister’s dying wish is for Cade to return and make the decision as to whom will raise her four young children. Zoe is very close to the children and can’t understand why Addy did not give her the children. Even though it goes against everything she holds dear, Zoe respects Addy’s wish and sends for Cade.

A Kiss for Cade
by Lori Copeland
Harvest House
January 2010

According to Zoe, a bounty hunter is not a person to raise children or to make a decision as to what is best for them. After all, Cade has never been back since leaving and he won’t stay this time. She will fight him for the children as they are all she has – Zoe’s husband was killed in a bank robbery.

How will Cade’s return affect her life and the children? She has loved Cade for so long, how will she cope with his return? Has he changed from the boy she knew or has he become hardened with the life he lives? Does Zoe get the children, or will Aunt Laticia get her way? What happens between Cade and Zoe?

One must read the book to see how things play out. The book is one you can’t put down, keeping you in suspense to the last page. You will learn how the whole town helps Cade reach his decision. I highly recommend the book for all readers. You will be enthralled by Ms. Copeland’s ability to put you right in the middle of the situation. You will laugh, cry and rejoice with Zoe and her friends, even experience an old fashion middle of the street gun fight. Ms. Copeland is an excellent writer of romance fiction.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Rewards of Simplicity by Pam and Chuck D. Pierce

The book is about simplicity in your life – both physical and spiritual. Simply put – getting rid of the clutter. What is the book, though – personal confessions, a sermon, a bible study, a daily devotional, or two people’s unrelenting faith in Jesus Christ regardless of the circumstances and obeying His commands? It is all of the above. There are three keys to simplicity – faith, focus and function.

While the authors clearly outline how to simplify your life using the three keys, quoting scripture pertaining to each key and detailing personal experiences, I was not overly impressed. The book reads like a personal journal of two people trying to (or who have already) simplify their own lives, obeying God and strengthening their own faith. As such it is just not that interesting or deep. On the face of it, we all know that we live cluttered lives, but I found nothing here that surprised or added to what I already knew I should be doing. The Pierces have served the Lord for many years, have written several books, and are well known. People will no doubt purchase this book because of who they are; however, it is one I would not. I cannot in good faith recommend the book.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron

It is not uncommon to have a crisis of faith.  It is, however, uncommon for the person having the crisis to be the founding pastor of a mega-church.  It is even more uncommon for that crisis of faith to occur as you are delivering a Sunday morning sermon.  Chase Falson is just that man having just that crisis.  His uncle, a Franciscan priest invites him to Italy to learn more about Saint Francis of Assisi and his teachings.  Chase balks a first.  What can a Catholic saint really teach him about his faith as an evangelical pastor?  After some persuasion, he agrees to take the journey with his uncle.  What follows is the story of two men: one, a progressive minister whose works happened more than 800 years ago and the other, a modern-day minister attempting to find a new way to love Christ.   Ian Morgan Cron takes us on Chase’s journey to learn more about Francis and what kind of impact his life and teachings can have on ours.
If you have ever suffered or are suffering with a “crisis of faith,” this novel is great.  It’s not about finding your faith, only you can do that.  It’s about learning a different way to love Christ and to interact with Him.  I read this novel from the point of view of taking it at face value.  I am in no way a theologian, and I cannot tell you the first thing about the Biblical relevance of Cron’s novel.
What I can tell you is that Cron presents the life of Francis to the world in a manner that inspires readers to try to be better people.  Cron details how Francis left behind his charmed life to submit himself to poverty for Christ’s sake.  From a realistic point, it is unlikely that many would be inspired to eliminate all of their worldly goods in favor of poverty for Christ.  But maybe, just maybe we will all be inspired to cut back all of our wants to help serve the needs of those around us. We will realize that we don’t need to purchase everything on our never ending lists of wants and will put some of those purchases on the back burner in favor of helping someone else.
In regards to the arts, as a singer, I don’t see anything wrong with using the gifts that God has bestowed upon you for his glory.  It’s important to use the gifts given to honor Him.  Why shouldn’t that include singing, painting, sculpting, music, etc?  
Overally, I really enjoyed Cron’s novel.  I walked away wanting to know more about the path that Chase would take at the end, which is probably the only down side I can find.  But, if a book can leave me thinking about what happens after the ending, I am guaranteed to read it again. (Which, as previously noted, is the mark of how much I have truly enjoyed a book).
This book was provided free of charge as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. No payment was provided in return for this review. 

Not a Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols

Mary Bridget Washburn is a young woman who has made some wrong choices in her life and needs to escape. She is able to get away from immediate trouble, but she has to live a life in fear and withdrawal. She knows she needs to break free, but will she be able to? Alasdair MacPherson is a pastor at a well established church, writes for a magazine, gives talks at seminars and has a radio program. However, behind this facade, his world is falling apart after the death of his wife and the devastation of learning that the church elders are unhappy with his work and want him to quit. Mary and Alasdair’s paths cross and the story takes an amazing journey through two lives looking for healing and redemption. This story was inspiring. I love the constant weaving of God’s truth and promises throughout the book. I enjoyed being reminded that once we are God’s children, He will not forsake us. I would highly recommend this well written, inspiring book.

This book was a free copy from the publisher.

I Love God’s Green Earth by Michael & Caroline Carroll

This book is written to be used as a daily devotional for kids and to make them aware of the need to protect God’s creation. The devotional quotes daily scripture and touches briefly on the meaning and connection of the environment to the Bible. However, it seemed the book is more scientific than spiritual. The facts are interesting, the jokes cute, but in my opinion don’t contribute enough spiritually. As a devotional it lacks substance.

I believe that this book is too detailed and deep for kids under the age of 10. Even after age 10, I question kid’s ability to fully grasp the book’s complexity. The book is colorfully illustrated with nice pictures, is for the most part cute, and is full of jokes, but is not something that will hold a child’s interest for long. If used daily it is likely that kids would get excited about the environment and trying to take care of God’s creation, but young kids, as a whole, are more interested in entertainment than in social responsibility. I applaud the authors for attempting to encourage the perspective that the earth as God’s magnificent creation I have my doubts though as to their success. At the least, this devotional could be used as a reference book for some school projects as there are some interesting facts listed.

As for myself, I was challenged by the publisher to determine an action step that I could take to make my household more environmentally sound. My action step is to ensure that 95% of light bulbs in my home are compact fluorescent bulbs.

This book was supplied by the publisher as a review copy.