The Orchard House

The Orchard House

There’s no doubting the power of stories, whether fact, fiction, or a blend. There’s also no doubting the power of words—to heal, soothe, save, bind, bond, or destroy. All of that surfaces in Heidi Chiavaroli's The Orchard House, a novel rooted in the home and life of Louisa May Alcott. When words don’t come to a writer,...

Why They Call It Falling

Why They Call It Falling

Perceptions of mental illness have included demonic influences, witchcraft, genetics, and bad parenting. In earlier centuries, degrading practices were the norm for those who suffered.  From the 1700s to the 1900s, even mental health hospitals proved barbaric. They functioned as a means to further punish and isolate...

When Dignity Came to Harlan

When Dignity Came to Harlan

Unlike certain other twigs in my family, I’ve always gravitated to family trees, their roots, and stories of ancestors. I wish I’d heard more family tales growing up. It wasn’t till years later that I missed what I never had. So I had to start digging on my own and asking for stories. I became the family scribe. So over...

The Girl Who Could Breathe  Underwater

The Girl Who Could Breathe  Underwater

As an author, here’s my “Top 4” list of worst fears—possibly every author’s worst fears: Realizing you accidentally plagiarized and the whole world knows it. Goodbye, career. Discovering another author wrote and published your story idea before you did, even though you’ve been working on it for years. Goodbye,...

Where Grace Appears

Where Grace Appears

Like millions of other readers, the first time I read Little Women, I fell in love—with everybody. Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. And of course Theodore Laurence, AKA Laurie (even though we shared the same name; I was Laurie back then). That was 8th grade. However, before I actually read the book, I chose it for an oral...

Hosea’s Heart

Hosea’s Heart

One of my favorite allegories is John Bunyan's The Pilgrim’s Progress, a picture of the Christian’s spiritual journey. (With a protagonist named Christian, too!) At the surface, it’s an adventure tale, but made more meaningful when we grasp the symbolism.  Another favorite is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, mirroring...

Roots of Wood and Stone

Roots of Wood and Stone

Houses have a magical quality, especially if you grew up there. Or your parents or grandparents lived there. Always interested in genealogy, I’ve trekked around southeast Michigan looking up my parents’ and other ancestors’ homes in Stevensville, Sparta, Ionia, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. My pulse increases as I hone in...

All That We Carried

All That We Carried

Whenever I go camping, Murphy’s Law goes into effect. Immediately. For example: My first camping trip was in high school at Minnesota’s Boundary Waters with diehard campers, canoeing and traversing portages. It rained 3 solid days in a row—the novelty got me through.Years later in Wisconsin, our tents leaked at night. My...

A Promise for Faith

A Promise for Faith

Several years ago, I took a summer road trip with three of my kids to visit my oldest daughter in Tennessee. On the way, we watched a show in Pigeon Forge, spotted bears while meandering through the Smoky Mountains, and took a rafting trip on the Ocoee River. What a blast!  After hours on the river, we drove to...

Friends & Enemies

Friends & Enemies

Just as The Storm Breaks Forth  (reviewed last time) offers a unique view of World War I through a German American’s perspective in Milwaukee, Terri Wangard’s World War II novels each provide a unique setting from which to experience other aspects of the war.  Her Promise for Tomorrow series consists of: Friends...

The Storm Breaks Forth

The Storm Breaks Forth

For many years I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city chock full of German heritage—swarming with first, second, third, and fourth generation Germans. Enough for Milwaukee to be considered the “Midwest Munich” back in the day. I even had German neighbors who’d immigrated in the 1940s. But unfortunately, I’d never...

A Picture of Hope

A Picture of Hope

World War II wrought unspeakable atrocities as well as heroes to fight the odds and overcome them. Here’s a sampling of both: — Marianne Cohn (1922 - 1944), underground activist for the Resistance. Marianne helped to smuggle groups of Jewish children over the Nazi-occupied French border into Switzerland. She was arrested...

The Maggie Bright

The Maggie Bright

“The world is always looking for a good story. The novel matters because it supplies society with needed diversion, needed respite, and needed truth that may not come when it’s served up cold. If we’re really lucky, truth may come through a kid named Huckleberry, a ghost named Marley, a hobbit named Frodo, or a place due...

My Dearest Dietrich

My Dearest Dietrich

Are you ever tempted to read the Author’s Notes at the end of the book before you’re done with the novel? Particularly with historical fiction. I certainly am. I want to separate fact from fiction.  I really had to resist the urge while reading Amanda Barratt’s My Dearest Dietrich, based on the life of German...

The Stones of My Accusers

The Stones of My Accusers

When I picked up The Stones of my Accusers, I had no idea it was the second story in a series of two. But it reads as a standalone—which I discovered firsthand. However, I still recommend reading The Brother’s Keeper first (reviewed last time). The title grabbed me, bringing to mind the New Testament story in John 8 where...

The Brother’s Keeper

The Brother’s Keeper

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to grow up in Nazareth with Jesus as your older brother? Does anyone ever want a "perfect" sibling? Most people can relate to situations where so-and-so can do no wrong, where goody-two-shoes conquers all with his self-righteousness. In families, that usually leads to more...

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery 

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery 

Have you ever entered a house, store, or other building and felt like you were stepping back in time? I’ve had that experience. Once was during college years ago, when my education professor took a group of students to southern Appalachia. We visited the Yancey County Country Store in Burnsville, North Carolina. With its...

The Finder of Forgotten Things 

The Finder of Forgotten Things 

What would you say is the worst tragedy in United States history? Looking over my past reviews, I noted that several revolve around U.S. disasters: All Manner of Things — by Susie Finkbeiner — the Vietnam WarUnder a Cloudless Sky—by Chris Fabry — the poor treatment of coal minersThe Pink Bonnet — by Liz Tolsma — the...

If It Rains

If It Rains

“All you need is confidence in yourself.  There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger.  True courage is facing danger when you are afraid,  and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”  –The Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz In If It Rains, Jennifer L. Wright’s debut novel, this...

Lioness

Lioness

Did you know that before 1974, all women in the United States—single, widowed, or divorced—were required to have a man cosign credit applications? The first legislation that required equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, was in 1963. Suffragists in the 1800s had an uphill battle, but having no voting rights was...

Coming soon: Fifteen Minutes with Mr. Baum, a novel

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