Saturday, September 30, 2017

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart, © 2017

Gabhart TheseHealingHills lores

Photo Courtesy of Frontier Nursing University Archives.

"Nobody comes here by accident."

My Review:

Absolutely a T*E*N.

Loved this story. Not a bedtime story because it will beckon to keep you awake reading!

Reading real slow so you don't run out of pages and then... there you are to the last sentence.

I loved this story and its star, Nurse Howard, or is it Woody's older brother returned from the war? They both are necessary to learn about themselves. Francine Howard thought she was running from, not realizing she was running to. To find her true heart's desire ~ the people of Appalachia, and the mountain air, and... her first dog, Sarge.

I loved how she discovered true importance; others ~ worthy of who she was becoming. All of the secondary characters become family! I hope many more adventures are honed in these healing hills.

***Thank you to author Ann H. Gabhart, and to the publisher for sending a print copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation beyond J*O*Y was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt from Ann H. Gabhart's These Healing Hills ~ Chapter 1


May 15,1945

Francine Howard stepped off the bus into another world. She should have been prepared. She’d studied the Frontier Nursing information until she almost knew it by heart. That should have given her a glimpse into this place.
   Hyden was in the Appalachian Mountains, but it was still Kentucky. While she lived in Cincinnati, she had spent many summer weeks on her Grandma Howard’s farm in northern Kentucky. But somehow the train from Lexington to Hazard and then the bus from Hazard to here had transported her away from everything she thought she knew about Kentucky and dumped her out in a place that looked as foreign to her as the moon.
   But wasn’t that what she wanted? To be in a new place long before Seth Miller brought his English bride home from the war. That might not be long. The war in Europe was over. Now, with all the firepower of the Allies focused on the Pacific, surely an end to the terrible war was in sight.
   When the news flashed through the country last week that Germany had surrendered, Francine celebrated along with everybody else. How could she not be happy to think about the boys coming home, even if Seth’s last letter had changed everything? Seth might finally be on the way home, but not to her.
   The news of his betrayal hadn’t taken long to circulate through Francine’s neighborhood. Not from Francine. Seth’s little sister took care of spreading the news. Alice had shown everybody the picture Seth sent home of him with his arm around this English woman. She’d even shown Francine.
   “I know you and Seth used to date when you were in high school, but he didn’t give you a ring or anything, did he?” Alice must have seen the stricken look on Francine’s face, because she pulled the picture back quickly and shoved it in her pocketbook.
   “No, no ring.” Francine managed to push a smile out on her face and salvage a little pride.
   Alice fingered the clasp on her purse. “You want to see the picture again? I jerked it away pretty fast.”
   “I saw it. She’s very pretty.”
   She’d seen enough to know that. The woman had barely come up to Seth’s shoulder. Petite with curly blonde hair and a dimpled smile. Nothing at all like Francine with her plain brown hair and hazel eyes. Just looking at the woman’s picture had made her feel tall and gawky. In heels, Francine was nearly as tall as Seth.
   Built strong, Grandma Howard used to say. Her grandmother told Francine she was pretty enough, but a person didn’t want to be only for pretty like a crystal bowl set on a shelf folks were afraid to use. Better to be a useful vessel ready to be filled with the work the Lord intended for her. Back in her neighborhood, Francine had felt like a cracked bowl somebody had pitched aside.
   People sent pitying looks her way. Poor Francine Howard. Going to end up just like Miss Ruby at church, who cried every Mother’s Day. No husband. No children. No chances.
   But where one door closed, another opened. If not a door, a window somewhere. Another thing Grandma Howard used to say. The Lord had opened a way for Francine to escape the pity trailing after her back home. The Frontier Nursing Service. She had a nursing degree and she could ride a horse. She needed an adventure to forget her bruised heart.
   An adventure. That was what the woman had offered when she came to the hospital last November to recruit nurses to train as midwives at the Frontier Nursing Service in Leslie County, Kentucky. The need was great. The people in the Appalachian Mountains didn’t have ready access to doctors the way they did in Cincinnati.
   At the time, Francine imagined it might be thrilling to ride a horse up into the hills to deliver babies in cabins, but she gave it little consideration. Seth would be home from the war, and she planned to have her own babies after they got married. Babies she might already have if not for the war or if she hadn’t let her mother talk her out of marrying Seth before he went overseas. Then everything might be different.
   Everything was different now as she stood in front of the drugstore, where the bus driver told her she needed to get off. She had no idea what to do next. The people on the street were giving her the eye but staying well away, as though her foreignness might be catching. She squared her shoulders and clutched her small suitcase in front of her, the larger bag on the walkway beside her. She tried a smile, but it bounced back to her like a rock off a stone wall. Somebody was supposed to meet her, but nobody stepped forward to greet her.
   She blinked to clear her eyes that were suddenly too watery. Francine wasn’t one to dissolve into tears when things went wrong. She hadn’t even cried when she read Seth’s letter. What good would tears do? Prayers were better. But right at that moment, Francine didn’t know whether to pray for someone to show up from the Frontier Nursing Service or for a train ticket back to Cincinnati.
   “She must be one of those brought-in women.”
   The man was behind her, but she didn’t need to see him to know he was talking about her. She was a stranger. Somebody who didn’t belong. At least not yet.
   First things first. If nobody was there to get her, she’d find her own way to the hospital. All she needed was somebody to point the way.
   A man came out of the drugstore straight toward her. “You must be one of Mrs. Breckinridge’s nurses.”
   “I’m here to go to the midwifery school.” Francine smiled at the tall, slender man. “Somebody was supposed to meet me.”
   He didn’t exactly smile back, but he didn’t look unfriendly. “Been a lot of rain. The river’s rolling. Probably kept them from making it to see to you. Do you know how to get to the hospital?”
   Francine looked around. “Is it down the street a ways?”
   “It’s a ways, all right. Up there.” He pointed toward the mountain looming over the town.
   Francine peered toward where he was pointing. High above them was a building on the side of the mountain.
   “There’s a road, but since you’re walking, the path up the mountain is shorter.” The man gave her a dubious look. “You think you can make it?”
   Francine stared at what appeared to be steps chiseled in the side of the mountain. “I’m sure I can.” She tried to sound more confident than she felt.
   “The path is plain as day. Don’t hardly see how you could stray off’n it. But tell you what. Jeb over there is headed that way. He can take you on up.”
   The man he indicated with a nod of his head was the last person Francine would have considered following anywhere. In spite of the warm spring day, he wore a coat spilling cotton batting from several rips. A felt hat perched on top of a tangled mass of graying hair, and his beard didn’t appear to have been trimmed for months. Maybe years. With a shotgun drooping from the crook of his arm, the man appeared anxious to be on his way and not at all happy to be saddled with a brought-in woman.
   But what other choice did she have? She leaned over to pick up her other bag, but the man from the drugstore put his hand on it first.
   “Don’t bother with that. Somebody will bring it up to you later.”
   She left it, wondering if she’d ever lay eyes on it again as she fell in behind the man named Jeb. Back home, daylight would have a couple more hours, but here shadows were deepening as the sun slid out of sight behind one of the hills that towered around the town. Jeb gave her a hard look, then turned and started away without a word. Francine slung her purse strap over her shoulder, clutched her small suitcase, and hurried after him.
   She had to be insane to follow this strange man away from town. He could be leading her to some godforsaken place to do no telling what to get rid of this interloper slowing him down. Not that he set a slower pace for her. She had to step double-quick to keep up. Nor did he offer to take her suitcase or even look back to see if she was still behind him. He didn’t have to look back. He could surely hear her panting. Where were those horses the Frontier Nursing brochure promised?
   When the path leveled out for a few paces, Francine caught up to the man whose pace didn’t change whether the way was steep or level. She could at least try to be friendly. “My name is Francine Howard.”
   She wasn’t certain, but she thought he might have grunted. She was certain he did not so much as glance back over his shoulder at her and that, in spite of the path taking a sharp upward turn, he began moving faster. His foot scooted on the trail and dislodged a rock that bounced down toward Francine. She tried to jump out the way, but she wasn’t quick enough.
   The rock landed on her toe. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. Mashed toes practically required a good yell. She set down her suitcase and rubbed her toe through her shoe. Her fingers were numb from clutching her suitcase handle and she could see nothing but trees. No wonder they called this place Thousandstick Mountain. This many trees had to make a lot of sticks.
   She’d been totally mistaken thinking her visits to her grandmother’s farm would prepare her for Leslie County. Everything wasn’t straight uphill there. A person could walk those rolling hills without losing her breath. Trees didn’t close in on you and make you wonder if you’d ever see sunshine again.
   She gave up on her throbbing toe and massaged her fingers. She started to call for the man to wait, but she kept her mouth closed. The path was plain, and while the shadows were lengthening, it wasn’t dark. How far could it be? People obviously traveled this way all the time, and the man’s footprints were plain as day on the muddy pathway.
   The Lord had pointed her to the Frontier Nursing Service. He wasn’t going to abandon her on this mountain. Francine ignored the little niggling voice in the back of her mind that said the Lord had given her a guide. Her task was keeping up.
   Too late for that now. The man was gone. Francine rotated her shoulders and picked up her suitcase. Time to carry on. Find her place on this mountain.
   She started climbing again, slower now as she looked around. Thick green bushes pushed into the path with buds promising beauty. Rhododendron. She couldn’t wait to see them burst into bloom. Delicate white flowers near the path tempted her to step into the trees for a better look, but the thought of snakes stopped her. Snakebit and alone on this mountain might not lead to a happy outcome.
   At first, the man’s footprints were easy to follow, but then the way got steeper and nothing but rocks. No sign of the man ahead of her. Worse, the path split in two directions. Even worse, the shadows were getting darker. It could be she should have run to keep up with silent Jeb after all.
   Even standing on her tiptoes, she couldn’t see the hospital up ahead as the trees and bushes crowded in on the path here. Both traces went up, so that was no help. She had no idea how high this mountain was. She might be climbing all night. But no, she’d seen the hospital from town. It couldn’t be much farther.
   Francine set her case down again and chocked it with her foot to keep it from sliding away from her. The word steep was taking on new meaning.
   With her eyes wide open, she whispered, “Dear Lord, I know you haven’t left me alone here on this mountain. So can you point the way?”
   She stood silent then. She didn’t want to miss a second answer if the Lord took pity on her after she’d foolishly trusted too much in her own abilities instead of scrambling after her mountain man guide.
   Just when she was ready to give up on divine intervention and pick a path, she heard whistling. Not a bird, but a man. And the sound was coming closer. The Lord was sending her someone to point the way. Certainly not Jeb coming back for her. She couldn’t imagine that stone-faced man whistling the merry tune coming to her ears.
   “Hello,” she called. She didn’t want the whistler to pass her by without seeing her.
   The whistling abruptly stopped. Francine called again. This time an echoing hello came back to her, and a gangly boy, maybe fourteen or fifteen, scrambled into view down the path to her left. His overalls were too short, showing a span of leg above well-worn shoes, but the best thing about him were his blue eyes that looked as friendly as a summer sky.
   He skidded to a stop and stared down at her. “You lost?”
   “A bit,” Francine admitted. “Could you point me the way to the Hyden Hospital?”
   “I reckon you’re one of Mrs. Breckinridge’s brought-in nurses.” He gave her a curious look. “Do you catch babies?”
   “I’m here to train to be a midwife.” Francine smiled at the idea of catching babies. “At the hospital. Is it much farther?”
   “Not all that far, but night might catch you. You best follow me.”
   He came on down to her and started up the other path. “Weren’t nobody down there in town to show you the way?”
   “I was supposed to follow somebody named Jeb, but I didn’t keep up.”
   The boy laughed. “That Jeb. And I reckon he never said word one. Jeb, he ain’t much of a talker. Not like me. My brother used to tell me I jabbered as much as a jaybird that had been sipping out of a moonshine still. At least that’s what he said before he went off to fight the Germans. That’s been nigh on four years now, but I’m still a talker.”
   “I was very happy to hear you whistling a few minutes ago.” Francine picked up her bag and followed the boy. “My name is Francine Howard. Do you have a name other than Jaybird?”
   “Jaybird might be better than what folks call me. Woody. Woody Locke. Sort of sounds funny when you say it, but my pa was Woodrow. Woodrow Locke, that’s a fine name. One I reckon I can take on after I get a little older.” His voice softened, turned somber. “Now that Pa passed on last year.”
   “Oh, I’m sorry.” Francine felt an answering wave of sympathy. Her own father had died two years ago.
   “Ma says the Lord calls people home when he’s ready for them, and we shouldn’t look askance at the Lord’s doing.” The boy looked over his shoulder at her. “I get in trouble all the time asking too much about everything. Pa, he used to say I had a curious mind, but Ma gets worn out by my wonderings.”
   “That’s how you learn things.” Francine couldn’t keep from panting a little as she climbed behind Woody.
   The boy noticed. He looked stricken as he turned back to her. “Give me that case. My ma would slap me silly if she saw me letting you lug that thing and me with two free hands.”
   “Thank you.” Francine handed it to him. “But maybe you should just tell me the way now. You need to go on home before night falls so your mother won’t worry.”
   “Ma don’t worry none about me. She sent me up here to get some medicine for Sadie. That’s my little sister and she’s been punying around. The nurse over our way said she needed some ear drops she had run out of in her medicine bag. So I came on to fetch them. Sadie being the youngest and all, Ma babies her some. We all do. She ain’t but four, nigh on five.”
   “But it will be dark soon.”
   “Dark don’t fret me. I can find my way light or night. But Ma knowed I’d probably find a spot in town to spend the night ’fore I head on up the mountain come morning. Get me out of chores.” He grinned at Francine and turned back up the path. “I oughta be shamed about that with Ma having to do them, but I laid in wood for her this morn and she milks the cow most every night herself anyhow. She’ll have a list of chores a mile long to make up for me being late home, but she wouldn’t want me not to help one of you nurses. No sir. I’d get in way more trouble if I didn’t see that you made it to where you’re going.”
   “You don’t have any other brothers at home?” Walking uphill after him was easier without carrying the suitcase, but it didn’t seem to slow Woody down at all.
   “Nope. It’s just me and Sadie now. Ruthie, she went north to work in one of the airplane factories and Becca got married and moved over to a mining camp in Harlan County. Ben, he’s the oldest. He joined up with the army after Pearl Harbor. I been telling Ma I’m nigh old enough to go fight the Germans and the Japs too, but Ma don’t like hearing that. Says she’s busy enough praying that the Lord ain’t ready for Ben to go home with Pa.” He looked back at Francine again. “Ben’s the one what says I jabber like a jaybird. Guess you can see why now.”
   “I always liked jaybirds.” That made Woody laugh. “Where is your brother? In Europe or the Pacific?”
   “Europe last we heard. We get letters now and again, but places where he might be are all cut out of them. He’s a medic. Ma’s right proud that he ain’t just over there shooting people, but that he’s doing some healing too.”
   “That does sound good. I’ll add my prayers to your mother’s for his safety and that he’ll get home soon.”
   “That’s neighborly of you. I’ll tell my ma.”
   They stepped out of the trees to see the hospital on the side of the mountain. Not that big, but sturdy. Substantial and a little surprising. A road circled right up to its door. To the side was another building connected by a covered walkway. That must be where she’d be living for the next few months.
   She’d loved working with the mothers and babies back in Cincinnati. And odd as it was here on this mountain with the long-legged boy beside her, she was looking forward to learning how to catch those babies, as he had said.
   New life. And not just for the babies, but for her too. A new life in a new place. A window of opportunity for her to climb through. If only she could stop looking back at the door she had dreamed of walking through with Seth.
   After she thanked the boy, she watched him disappear back down the hillside. Then she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and walked straight toward the hospital doors.
Ann H. Gabhart, These Healing Hills Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.

Ann H. Gabhart
Photo Credit: © Memories by Chris
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--as well as Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, Love Comes Home, Words Spoken True, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at her website.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Liar's Winter: An Appalachian Novel by Cindy K. Sproles, © 2017

An incredibly beautiful story woven in the truth of revealed overcoming love.

1893 East Tennessee ~
Lochiel Ogle has been hidden away from Love, unaware of the touch of life that will enfold her and expose beauty.
my most favorite.  Sunset in the Smoky Mountains

Climb the mountains of Appalachia and view the sunrises and sunsets high above the valley glens beneath. The movement in this story will bring you along, sad to leave them behind at the end. The author brought me to tears with her touching words of vision and hope displayed, lovingly given and honored bringing joy to the bearers.

I would love to read a sequel to this story!

The secondary characters have been robbed as well. Gerald Ogle hoped to revive his mother by his gift, but her life dwindles and so does his dream of restoring what has been lost. A disparity of hearts torn with anger brings this family to ruin.

Choice. Bitterness or forgiveness shaping a life affects those distant or near. Lives interwoven bring release or bondage by their presence. Walton Grubbs has never given up hope of restoring what is his. As he travels the hillsides, he becomes beloved by those he meets and is trusted. This has a lot of bearing on the story as being associated with him brings you into places that would not be opened to you without his proven character.

Gorgeous Smoky Mountains near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Step out on the porch early in the foggy morning. So vividly written, I enjoyed the characters who displayed remarkable insight into receiving another. The assurance of God's presence in their midst enables them to move ahead to remarkable outcomes of mercy and grace.

***Thank you, Kregel Publications, for inviting me on this book tour for Cindy K. Sproles' novel, Liar's Winter, and sending me a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

author Cindy K. Sproles

Friday, September 22, 2017

Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson, © 2017

Releases October 24, 2017

My Review:

We are loved by God. So deeply.
Mark Batterson, in his book, "Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God," will remind you just how much!

Recollections taken of people in different settings and time periods, the faithfulness of God shines through. ~ For any generation... Be refreshed in the interweaving of the Truth of Scripture throughout, you too will be reminded of such moments in your own life. He is there, constant and never leaving us for a moment.

Notes in the back of the book footnote the references. These twenty pages are full! One I liked is where to find the "1827. demamah," reference page to read further. demamah = whisper

This is a book to read by yourself, rather than someone else telling you about it! An exploration of who you are created by Who He Is. Discerning God's promptings and stepping out, trusting Him, is told in first-person by the author in his own life. Divine appointments and divine timing. Living a Spirit-led life.

You will want to go back and reread, underline and mark up your book! So... if you'd planned to share it, get another copy for a friend. This will be a good nudge to begin; open your Bible and study His Word for you!

***Thank you to WaterBrookMultnomah for inviting me to be part of this book tour for Mark Batterson's Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God and for sending an advanced uncorrected proof copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

EnJ*O*Y this Sneak Peek from WaterBrookMultnomah

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. One church with eight campuses, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations. The vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill.
Mark is the author of The Circle Maker, and, among others, Chase the Lion; If; Wild Goose Chase; and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. He has a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children. Learn more at his website.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer, © 2017

My Review:

This story is different from previous writings by this author. It centers around an event kept hidden from earlier times in 1943 Arkansas, still affecting responses in a family now in the present contemporary time. When an unsolved mystery is revealed, hope arises of resolving family conflict spreading throughout the pages to mend their relationship. I forge forward in their journey, hoping this will be so! Nothing sadder than to lose those closest to you ~ a gifting actually to cherish.

Meddling did not seem to fit in, as three generations are unable to form an alliance between themselves without taking two sides against one. The daughter has been feeling the granddaughter got more attention from the mother than she herself had received while growing up. In fact such a dismal comparison, she thought she saw why she was so determined to leave home earlier than planned by either of them. The past not reckoned with, dissolved any hope for a relationship beyond what had been experienced previously....

Meghan DeFord looked so forward to spending time in Nevada with her beloved grandmother, Hazel Blackwell DeFord. Many happy memories of earlier stays seemed just what was needed to rest and heal physically from traffic accident injuries. Surprisingly, her emotionally absent mother, Diane DeFord, appears out of nowhere it seemed, encouraging plans to stay a spell as she brings not one but four dogs with her. Meghan quickly finds a referee is needed as one or the other seems to find barbs to spread into conversations. Reverting to past actions, the whirlwind seems to shatter a welcomed relief Meghan had envisioned.

I am reminded of a quote by Elisabeth Elliot Gren that certainly applied to this scenario:
"Then I heard a tape which said it was a lie of the enemy to believe that some event that had happened would prevent something else from ever happening. As if a mistake you or someone else made would forever prevent God's will for your life."
   --Quest for Love, 240
As I read on, I see an inkling of an exposure of light and truth seeping in from those around them. Darkness cannot remain when exposed to God's love infiltrating a cycle of negative repetition; habits that have enfolded hearts unable to see a way of escape. Slow changes begin, as the sadness and despondency of the past are unveiled. Secrets revealed and talked about, help them to see the possibility of the past not dominating the future and present of their lives.

This is a strong story of hope speaking into their lives as they begin to hear and dislodge the hold of the past. The characters reflect on their individual memories as growing trust and confidence surface.

EnJ*O*Y this recent interview with the author ~ her story behind the story

Here is an excerpt from Kim Vogel Sawyer's Bringing Maggie Home ~ Chapter 1

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick:
but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
                       —Proverbs 13:12, kjv


Mid-July 1943
Cumpton, Arkansas
Hazel Mae Blackwell

Hazel set a porcelain cup and saucer on the overturned apple crate in front of her little sister. “Madam, would you like cream and sugar in your tea?”
   Maggie nodded, making her Shirley Temple curls bounce. Her hair—what Daddy called flaxen—shimmered under the noonday sun, almost as yellow as the roses painted on the cup.
   Jealousy sparked in Hazel’s heart. Why couldn’t she have inherited Mama’s sunshiny-yellow hair and sky-blue eyes the way Maggie had instead of Daddy’s dirt-brown hair and eyes?
   “What do you say?” Hazel asked the question as tartly as Mama.
   “Yes, pwease.”
   “Pluh-ease,” Hazel said.
   Hazel sighed. Maggie was just-turned-three, as Daddy often reminded Hazel when she got impatient with her sister. Sometimes she wished Mama hadn’t waited so long after Hazel to have another baby. Wouldn’t it be fine if almost seven years didn’t stretch between them? Mama and Daddy were always telling her she was lucky to have a sister, and Hazel loved Maggie. Of course she did. But sometimes . . .
   “Pwease, Hayzoo Mae?”
   She lifted the lid on the doll-sized sugar bowl and spooned out pretend sugar. Then she pretended to pour cream. No matter how much Hazel begged, Mama never let her waste real sugar and cream for her tea parties. She used the spoon to stir the air in Maggie’s cup. “There you are.”
   Maggie’s apple cheeks dimpled with her smile. “Fank you.” She picked up the cup between her fingers and carried it to her rosy lips.
   “I hope it isn’t too hot.”
   Maggie made noisy drinking sounds. Her blue eyes rounded and she pursed her lips. “Ooooh, it is hot! I bu’n my tongue!”
   Hazel stifled a chuckle. Playing make-believe with her doll had never been this fun. Maybe she should have let Maggie use her special tea set before. But she’d waited until her sister passed her third birthday, the same age Hazel had been when she received the set for Christmas from Memaw and Pappaw Blackwell. She hadn’t trusted Maggie’s baby fingers not to break one of the fragile cups or plates.
   She picked up her own cup and held it close to her mouth. “Blow on it.” She puffed breaths into her cup, smiling when Maggie imitated her.
   With the sun warming their heads, they sipped and smiled at each other and helped their dollies eat pretend cookies from the serving plate centered on the crate. Hazel’s imagination painted their surroundings from a dusty yard to the fancy city restaurant she’d seen in a magazine. With linen-draped tables instead of a handkerchief-covered crate. With ladies wearing silk instead of homespun. So easy to see in her imagination. She even pretended her hair was shiny yellow curls trailing down her back instead of wind-tossed, dirt-brown, pin-straight locks lopped at shoulder level.
   She picked up the plate and offered it to Maggie. “Would you like the last cookie?”
   Maggie reached out her pudgy hand.
   The screen door squeaked open and Mama stepped onto the porch. “Hazel Mae? Maggie?”
   Maggie rolled sideways to push herself to her feet, and her bottom bumped the crate. The teacups and serving pieces wobbled. Gasping, Hazel dropped the plate to steady the table, and the plate landed on the sugar bowl. Both the plate and the lid to the sugar bowl snapped in two.
   The lovely daydream shattered. “Oh, Maggie, look what you did!” Hazel snatched up the halves of the once-pretty plate with its circle of painted yellow roses and green leaves and hugged them. Surely her heart was broken in half, too. “Why can’t you be careful? I should never have let you touch it.”
   Tears swam in Maggie’s blue eyes, and her lower lip quivered. Mama hurried across the yard, her bare feet stirring dust. Maggie buried her face in Mama’s apron skirt.
   Mama scowled at Hazel. “For shame, yelling at your sister. It was an accident.”
   Hazel stared at Mama’s hand on Maggie’s head, the fingers petting, sweet and soothing. Why didn’t Mama soothe Hazel? She’d suffered the loss. “But she broke the serving plate. And the sugar bowl lid.”
   “You dropped the plate, Hazel Mae. You broke the pieces.”
   But she wouldn’t have dropped the plate if she hadn’t been trying to keep the crate from falling over. She said so, too, even though Daddy would probably say she was talking back.
   Mama’s scowl deepened. “Arguing won’t fix things.” Then a hint of sympathy crept into her eyes. She set Maggie aside and held out her hands. “Give it to me. If there’s a clean break, I can glue it together.”
   Hazel swallowed the words hovering on her lips—It won’t be the same—and reluctantly transferred the halves to Mama’s keeping. She gave her the pieces of the sugar bowl lid, too.
   Mama slipped all the pieces into her apron pockets. “Put your toys away and then come to the kitchen. I have a job for you to do.” She returned to the house.
   Her jaw clenched so tight her teeth ached, Hazel transferred the fragile tea set to the brittle grass. She turned the crate right-side up, settled her doll with its stuffed cloth body in the bottom, then began arranging the teapot, cups, saucers, and plates around the doll. Maggie bent over and reached for a cup.
   Hazel pushed her sister’s hand aside. “Don’t.”
   “I hewp?”
   “No. Let me do it.”
   “’Kay.” Maggie picked up her doll, the one Daddy ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalog for her last birthday, and wrapped her arms around it. She rocked side to side, making her pink muslin skirt sway. “We pway again tomorrow, Hayzoo Mae?”
   Not with the tea set. Not ever with the tea set. “We’ll see.”
   She lifted the crate and carried it inside, Maggie trailing her. She ordered her sister to the kitchen, then trotted upstairs and tucked the crate in her closet, way back in the dark corner where Maggie was afraid to go. With the tea set safe, she clattered down the enclosed staircase to the kitchen.
   Mama was waiting with the egg basket. She smiled as she gave it to Hazel. “Go to the blackberry thicket and pick as many ripe berries as the basket will hold. Don’t dally now. I want to bake a cobbler for our supper.”
   Hazel’s mouth watered. A cobbler used lots of sugar. It was a treat. Especially blackberry cobbler since Mama usually turned the dark berries into jam. “Is company comin’?” She hoped not. If they had to share the cobbler, they’d get only one small portion each.
   Mama’s eyebrows rose. “Don’t you remember? It’s Daddy’s birthday.”
   She ducked her head. She had forgotten. She’d need to hurry so there’d be time to draw Daddy a card to give him at suppertime. She looped the basket over her arm and headed for the door.
   “Take your sister with you.”
   Hazel spun around. “Oh, Mama, please don’t make me. She’ll slow me down.”
   Mama’s lips set in a stern frown. “I have things to do, too, and I need her out from underfoot. Take her.” She pushed both girls out the back door. “Hurry now.”
   How could she hurry with Maggie along? Her sister’s short legs would wear out halfway to the patch. But arguing would waste time, and she could almost taste that blackberry cobbler already. So she ordered Maggie to tuck the ever-present doll under one arm, grabbed her sister’s free hand, and took off at a brisk pace, giving little jerks now and then to keep Maggie going.
   A wagon rattled up the road from the west, and a big shiny touring car came from the east. The girls clambered onto the rough edge where the ground sloped sharply upward. Hazel kept her arm around Maggie, tapping her toe impatiently at the delay. The wagon went on by, but the car slowed to a stop, and Mrs. Burton, the lady who ran the orphans’ home on the west side of town, stuck her head out the open window.
   “Good morning, girls.” She pinned her warm smile on Maggie. The little girl always earned a smile from folks—she was so little, as pretty as a china doll, so likable. And Hazel couldn’t decide if that made her proud or jealous.
   “’Morning,” Hazel said.
   “’Mo’ning,” Maggie echoed.
   “Where are you two off to with that basket?”
   Hazel wished she’d hurry on. They needed to get to the thicket. “Gonna pick blackberries. Mama’s makin’ a cobbler.”
   The woman sighed. “I’m sorry I can’t give you a ride. Thicket’s in the wrong direction for me. But you two have fun. Don’t stick your fingers, you hear?” She gave a little wave and then the car growled on.
   Hazel led Maggie to the center of the road again, where wheels had carved two smooth ruts. She squinted ahead, thinking. About a half mile up the road, a path carved by deer led directly to the blackberry brambles, but there was a shorter route. It was rougher and harder to get through, but the quicker she picked the berries, the quicker she could go home and get started on her card for Daddy. She wanted to spend lots of time on it and make it extra nice so he wouldn’t know she’d forgotten his special day.
   “C’mon, Maggie. This way.”
   Her little sister beamed up at her, her face all sweaty and curls drooping. She looked so cute, Hazel caught herself smiling back. They left the dirt road and climbed a slight rise, ducking beneath low-hanging tree branches and pushing between bushes. Maggie panted, her little face red, but she didn’t complain, even when branches pulled her hair ribbon askew.
   “We’re almost there.” Hazel lifted a snarl of branches and gestured Maggie through the opening. Hugging her doll against her chest, Maggie squeezed past Hazel. Hazel moved behind her and let the branches slap back into place. Without warning, Maggie stopped.
   Hazel sidestepped to keep from trampling her sister. “What’re you doing?”
   Maggie pointed silently to a chunk of displaced earth. Her face puckered with questions.
   Even though they needed to hurry, Hazel couldn’t resist crouching down and lifting the piece of ground held together by grass roots. Underneath, in a smooth hollowed spot, four little bunnies curled together in a ball. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Lookee, Maggie—baby rabbits.”
   Maggie’s face lit, and Hazel sensed a squeal coming on.
   “Shhh.” She touched a finger to her own lips and shook her head. “Don’t scare ’em. Let ’em sleep.”
   Wonder in her blue eyes, Maggie knelt next to Hazel. “I pet ’em?”
   “I wanna pet ’em, Hayzoo Mae.”
   Hazel gave Maggie the explanation Daddy had given her the first time she found a bunny burrow. “If you touch ’em, the mama won’t come back. They’ll die without their mama. You don’t want the bunnies to die, do you?”
   Her little sister shook her head so hard her sweaty curls bounced.
   “Then we gotta leave ’em alone.” She lowered the chunk of earth over the baby bunnies and rose. “C’mon.” She grabbed Maggie’s hand and moved on.
   Maggie trotted alongside, stumbling now and then because she kept her face angled toward the spot where the rabbits slept. At the blackberry thicket, Hazel settled Maggie in a patch of shade with her doll and shook her finger at her. “You stay put.” While her sister played with her doll, contentedly jabbering, Hazel picked berries as fast as she could. Her fingertips turned purple and she got stuck more times than she could count, but she ignored the pricks and kept picking, glancing into the basket now and then to judge her progress.
   The basket was a little over half full when Maggie’s happy chatter changed to a shriek. Hazel jerked, the basket rocking on her arm. She sucked in a breath and turned to scold, but the words died on her lips when she spotted a black snake, nearly five feet long, slithering through the grass only a few feet from where Maggie was sitting.
   Hazel dropped the basket and leaped in front of her sister. The snake changed course, but now it headed in the direction of the rabbit burrow. She couldn’t let that awful snake eat the bunnies for lunch! She pushed Maggie closer to the bushes where blackberries from the basket dotted the thick grass. “Start puttin’ the berries back in the basket. I’ll be right back.” She snatched up a dead tree branch and darted after the snake, whacking the ground as she went.
   The snake eased one way and then another, but it persisted in moving toward the burrow. Hazel skirted slightly ahead of it and waved the branch. It paused for a moment, its tongue flicking in and out and its bright eyes seeming to stare directly at her. She smacked the grass hard. “Get outta here, you dumb snake! You go on!”
   The snake lowered its head and slithered away from her. She chased after it, yelling and swatting, until she was certain she’d frightened it into the woods. She swiped her brow and blew out a breath of relief. The bunnies were safe. She tossed the stick aside and hurried back to the thicket. Triumphant, she burst through the bushes.
   “I did it, Maggie! I scared it off!” She stopped short. Maggie’s doll lay in the grass near the overturned basket, but her sister wasn’t there. She sent a frowning look right and left. “Maggie?”
   Hazel inched forward, searching the area with her gaze. Squashed berries littered the area, proof that her sister had trampled through them. Had Maggie decided to play hide-and-seek? She singsonged, “Ma-a-aggie, where a-a-are you?” She listened for a telltale giggle. Only the whisper of wind replied. She didn’t have time for games. She balled her hands on her hips. “Margaret Rose Blackwell, I’m not playin’. You better come out right now if you know what’s good for you!”
   A pair of bluebirds swooped from a scraggly oak, but Maggie didn’t step out from the bushes. A chill wiggled down Hazel’s spine despite the heat making her flesh sticky. “C’mon, Maggie, this isn’t funny.” She turned a slow circle, repeatedly calling her sister’s name. Maggie still didn’t answer. The stillness unnerved her. No squirrels chattering, no birds singing, not even a rabbit nibbling at the tender grass under the trees.
   Worry churning in her gut, she searched the thicket. Then the surrounding area. Her heart gave a leap when she found Maggie’s limp hair ribbon caught on a shoulder-high tree branch. She jerked it free and stared at it. Maggie had gone at least a hundred feet from the thicket. How had she wandered so far in such a short time?
   Hazel shoved the ribbon into her pocket and cupped her hands around her mouth. “Maggie, wherever you are, you better stop right now an’ let me catch up or you’re gonna be in big trouble!” She waited several seconds, waiting, listening. More silence.
   She hugged herself, battling tears. Why didn’t Maggie answer? Maybe she’d curled up somewhere, like a bunny, and fallen asleep. She began hunting again, moving slow, peeking into bushes and under the thick branches of pine trees.
   Minutes slipped by with no sign of her sister, and Hazel’s fear grew so intense a bitter taste flooded her mouth. She broke into a run. She zigzagged through the woods, forming a rough circle around the blackberry bramble, always calling. Sometimes she cajoled, sometimes she threatened. Sometimes she choked back sobs and other times angry growls. She searched and called until her throat was too dry to make a sound and her leg muscles quivered.
   She stopped, leaning forward and resting her hands on her knees. Her breath heaved. Her chest ached. Sweat dribbled down her face and mixed with her tears. Daddy and Mama would be so disappointed in her for losing Maggie in the woods, but she’d have to face them. She needed help. Sucking in a big breath, she gathered her bearings and then took off toward home.

Image result for blackberry picking Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, best-selling author with more than one million books in print, in seven different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades, including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband, Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope and redemption. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

***Thank you, author Kim Vogel Sawyer, and WaterBrook for sending a print pre-copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Legacy by Michael Phillips, © 2017

Secrets of the Shetlands, Book 3


a long anticipated read of  ~ The Legacy ~ the third and final book in the series

Fair Isle, Shetlands. Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. It looks so beautiful and peaceful...would just love to visit.

My Review:
   Over the years Ernest would discover that the hunger to write one's inner biography on the hidden tablets of the heart was rare even among Christians.
   At length he became more circumspect in sharing his journey with others. He realized that the hunger he felt could not be transmitted by enthusiasm or even by example. It must be birthed from within. Why such hunger had come alive in his heart in the years of his youth, when most young men were chasing much different dreams, was a mystery he had still not successfully answered. Whence came the hunger to know God?
   --The Legacy, 154
Bressay, the Shetland Islands, Scotland (Alex Mazurov Photography)
credit: Alex Mazurov Photography
This tale is so riveting, so introspective as to take it on as your own discovery of intent of the heart. I love the history recounted as it was made, the current flow of life amid the Shetlands, and the people becoming so dear. This is the third book in the series and begins with discovering the previous generations and their longings. It flawlessly brings you up-to-date with the happenings of the first two books, without interrupting the current story needlessly. For those new to the series, as well as those continuing on, there are hints to dreams of the lasting remnants the Shetland area of Whales Reef has left with them.

I am fascinated with the village life ~ the cottage shops, with the women selling their wares from their homes; the fish and chips ~fried potatoes~ served inside newspaper; the ways and livelihood continuing from generations before them, and most definitely the roles of the laird and chief handed down.

The Shetland Trader - Brooklyn TweedI loved the women from nowaday's Loni and the telling of her great-grandmother, Emily, as each arrival from the United States is a reckoning to the older and younger inhabitants of Whales Reef who mainly have not been away from their beloved homeland. I especially liked the meeting between Emily and the Herb Woman who includes her in a special way by inviting her into her home.

I thoroughly enjoyed the history and personage of these people from a land I will but read of in books. Very enJ*O*Yable. The painted word picture of their daily lives came alive on the page. As you may sense, I loved this series!
Image result for the shetlands
~* Emily's Puffins *~

Image result for the shetlandsOverview:
Loni Ford's unexpected inheritance of substantial real estate––not to mention a title––in the Shetland Islands has caused more than a stir in the quiet fishing hamlet of Whales Reef. How is life ever to be the same with an outsider––and a woman, at that––playing such a pivotal role in the life of this conservative community? But it isn't just the locals who have deep misgivings about the current situation. Loni herself never imagined this in her wildest dreams.
   What Loni is more sure of, however, is that she is falling in love––with Whales Reef, with its hardy people, with its simple, peaceful way of life, and with local chieftain David Tulloch, whose inheritance she has usurped, at least in the eyes of some.
   But life in Whales Reef is not without drama. Deep rifts exist between certain lifelong residents, and when one local resident turns up dead, suspicion is cast in the direction of the island's most prominent family. How Loni and David deal with this challenge will go a long way in determining their future, and that of the quaint island community.

Michael R. PhillipsMichael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.

***Thank you, author Michael Phillips and to Bethany House Publishers for my review copy of The Legacy, Book 3 in the Secrets of the Shetlands series. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Book 1, Secrets of the Shetlands
Book 2, Secrets of the Shetlands