Book Review: Treasured Grace

Tracie Peterson has a knack for bringing history, particularly Western History, alive in her many novels. Her newest series, Heart of the Frontier, debuted with Treasured Grace. The novel follows Grace Martindale, who is traveling west to the Oregon Territory with her marriage-of-convenience husband and two sisters, Hope and Mercy in 1847.

On the road west Reverend Martindale dies, but Grace is not upset because the marriage was only one of mutual necessity and had never been consummated. The church said the reverend needed a wife in order to go west, and Grace needed someone to care for herself and her sisters on the frontier since their parents had both passed away.

Grace is a “healer” and uses herbs and tonics to cure people. On the trail west, many people are struck with measles, and she helps save many of them. They stop at the Whitman Mission in present-day Washington State to ride out the winter, but are met with angry Cayuse Indians, set on making Dr. Marcus Whitman pay because he was unable to save many of the tribe members from the measles epidemic.

Grace meets loner trapper Alex Armistead, and begins to bond with him. But, he is distant and seems to be weighted down by his past. Soon, the Americans at the Whitman Mission are in serious danger…is there anything they can do to save their friends and family, or will the vengeful Cayuse finally get their revenge on Dr. Whitman and everyone else at the Mission?

This novel was based in part by a true story-the massacre at the Whitman Mission. Grace, Hope, and Mercy were fictional, but many of the characters were actually real people. This was an intense book, but it was well written. I liked the historical facts weaved in with the fictional accounts, and I learned quite a bit about that event in history. The only thing I would have changed would have been to develop Alex’s past a bit more. With how weighted down he was by the past, I was expecting a bit more of a story, but the explanation was quite short.

But as usual from Tracie Peterson, I enjoyed this novel and look forward to the second book in this series!

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Bible Review: Precious Moments Precious Prayers Bible

I love Children’s Bibles. The often have fun and colorful features, and I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of enjoying things like that! I recently received Precious Moments Precious Prayers Bible. Precious Moments are an adorable set of illustrated characters that have been charming children (and adults) for decades.

I was excited to receive this Bible for several reasons. First of all, Precious Moments characters are just adorable, and secondly, it is a NKJV. I’m not a big fan of the children’s Bible versions, and since my oldest is almost 9, she’s ready for a more advanced version.

This Bible has a bunch of full color inserts (sets of 4 pages) that include a poem, several illustrations, a familiar Bible passage, and a prayer. The illustrations are obviously very sweet, and the page inserts are cute.

Each book of the Bible gets it’s own short introduction discussing the book’s author, timeline, key verse, and theme. It gives some good background information. There are also a couple of maps in the back as well as some resource lists.

The downside to this Bible is that, while cute, the page inserts are the only features of the Bible. I would love to see some key words, or small illustrations, or little tidbits strewn throughout the pages. I would also like to see the words of Jesus in red.

Overall, I thought this was a very cute Bible, and I know my daughter will love it, but I wish the features were more spread out throughout the Bible instead of all within the feature pages.

*I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher and BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way. I was not required to give a positive review.

 

Book Review: Deep Undercover

I’ve always been fascinated with the inner workings of the spy life. In fact, “spy” was often what I would say as a child when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Movies and television have greatly romanticized the spy experience, so I was looking forward to reading the new memoir by an operative in the Cold War KGB Illegals program, in which KGB officers were embedded in the US as full fledged citizens, in an effort to gather intelligence for Moscow.

Jack Barsky was living the American Dream with a good job in the corporate world, a nice house and two beautiful children when he was detained by the FBI in 1997. To the surprise of his family and friends, he admitted to being a former KGB operative.

Jack Barsky was born as Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany right after World War II. He was brought up in an austere home with little in the way of family affection. He was raised a staunch Communist, and had dreams of becoming a chemistry professor (science was a noble effort in Communist countries.)

As Albrecht was getting ready to begin his chemistry career, he was approached by The Party (Communist officials), who attempted to recruit him. He said yes, and a new life had begun.

After several years in Moscow learning to speak English as an American native, Albrecht was sent to New York City with only a birth certificate for one Jack Barsky and money. He had to procure all his own legal documents and make his way up in the world on his own.

The book talked about Albrecht’s training, Jack’s early days in the US, and the ideological shift that Jack faced after being in the US. Albrecht had a wife and son behind the Iron Curtain, and Jack had a wife and two children in the US, and neither family were aware of the other. He also discusses how he cut ties with the KGB with a sneaky untruth. The book finishes by talking about Jack’s conversion to Christianity, and how that shaped his after-KGB life.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed reading about Albrecht’s childhood (thought it was sad because of the lack of love from his parents and the harshness of his country), and I also really enjoyed the making of the spy–turning Albrecht into Jack, and all the training that entailed. It was so fascinating, and sobering that the USSR was able to put agents into place in the US, posing as US citizens and speaking perfect English.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: Different

Being the parent of a special needs child can be isolating and lonely. We often feel alone in our struggles, weary that we seem to be the only person we know dealing with these things. Life with Junior has been a lot of ups and downs, from day to day. Some days are good, some days are awful, and most days are a big ball of lots of good and awful all wrapped into one little 24-hour period.

I have read most of Sally Clarkson’s books, and have gotten a lot of helpful encouragement out of each of them (I’ve given all of these previous books 5 star reviews because they are all quite good), but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but have the negative inkling of “this woman has the perfect life. Her children, her marriage, her homeschooling…all perfect. If I had the perfect life, I bet I could have a peaceful home/homeschool/marriage/life as well.”

Well, how surprised I was to see that Sally Clarkson was releasing a new book titled, Different, written with her grown son Nathan, who has always suffered from OCD, ADHD, and ODD among other things. This book is basically about how Sally managed to raise Nathan and to love him in spite of his issues, seeking to understand him, guide him, teach him, and show him unconditional love through and despite all his struggles.

This book was eye-opening, and allowed me to see Junior in a different light. I suddenly wanted to understand his world instead of trying to make him fit into mine. I no longer saw a little boy who was pushing my buttons for the sake of making my life difficult, but instead I saw a little boy who craved the safety and security of unconditional love and grace from someone who sees him as he is and adores him anyway-his momma.

Sally and Nathan wrote the book together. Two-thirds of the book is Sally writing from the mom’s perspective, and probably 1/3 is from Nathan’s perspective–the misunderstood child who was always an “out of the box” kid. Both perspectives were really helpful. As a mom, I only see this side of it, but Nathan gave some insight into what special needs kids go through in navigating this big world that seeks a one-size-fits-all personality.

Overall, I loved this book and will reference it frequently. I’ve already recommended it to many people, and even purchased another copy for a friend who is in need of encouragement dealing with her struggling child.

*I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Book Review: In the Shadow of Denali

I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. In fact, my husband and I were planning a cruise to Alaska when I became pregnant with our firstborn, and 9 months of chronic morning (afternoon, and night) sickness got in the way of that. She’s worth it, but I still would have enjoyed Alaska. But, I digress.

There’s something about the thought of the untainted beauty of Alaska that just draws you in and refreshes your soul. Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse have teamed up to write a new series about early 20th century Alaska called The Heart of Alaska. Book one is entitled In the Shadow of Denali, and takes place in the 1920s near Denali National Park.

Allan Brennan is traveling to Alaska to find closure after his father, Henry Brennan’s death some 6 years earlier. Allan’s father attempted to climb Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley) and never returned. Henry was on an expedition with business partner Frank and local expert wilderness guide John Ivanoff. Frank returned to their hometown of Seattle and told the Brennan family that John allowed Henry to die on his watch. As a result, Allan has always harbored resentment toward the native Alaskan without ever having met him.

When Allan arrives to work at the Curry Hotel at the foot of Mt. Denali, he is stunned when his new boss is no one else than John Ivanoff. John and his daughter Cassidy both work at the hotel–John as a guide and Cassidy in the kitchen. Allan and Cassidy begin to enjoy each other’s company, but Allan still has too many questions about his father’s death to let anyone into his heart. When he begins to question Frank’s account of the story, Allan learns that sometimes the truth can have deadly consequences.

I really enjoyed this book. I could imagine myself at the Curry Hotel, in the shadow of Mt. Denali, taking it all in. There was a lot of good development in Allan’s character…you could see him work through his issues and grief, and eventually become a different man. I am looking forward to book #2 in this series.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.