Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Decades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery, and a Rift Spanning Three Generations
Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.
Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s overprotectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.
When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?
Author: Kitty Foth-Regner
For many, a nursing home is the despised last stop before heading out into the Great Beyond. Not so for the heroines of The Song of Sadie Sparrow—three very different women whose lives intersect in a warm and endlessly engaging facility called The Hickories. Sadie Sparrow, Meg Vogel and Elise Chapelle represent different generations. They have experienced different sorrows and entertain different hopes. They even adhere to different worldviews, from devoutly Christian to unapologetically atheist. Yet over the course of a single year, they forge unlikely bonds that impact each other’s lives in the here and now—and perhaps for all eternity. A beautifully written story of friendship set against the backdrop of life’s twilight years, The Song of Sadie Sparrow explores contrasting views of purpose and pardon, life and afterlife—and faith’s role in shaping those views, now and forevermore.
Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart?
move to facilitate McFar's greed. But he's powerful. And adamant. Will McFar get his way and uproot this beacon, offending the traditions and faith of the townspeople? Or will the story of the cross cause things to turn out another way altogether?
visions of the story in their heads. Years later, they would tell these tales of life to their own children, and so on through the generations. Welcome to my back porch. Please make yourself at home. By the way, I remember when…
But how’s he supposed to turn down fresh cinnamon buns? And Robert hasn’t bargained on his neighbour’s innocent, probing questions. They erode his faith in naturalism and collide with his assumptions about life, love, and truth. Have his foundational beliefs been the cause of his personal losses? As he searches for answers, Anna's example of loving integrity keeps him coming back. Or maybe it's her homemade pies. Yet to risk re-thinking his core convictions for a chance at personal peace would expose his soul and tear open an old wound.
Others in the neighbourhood, too, are under Anna’s thrall – a teacher facing a crisis pregnancy, a crusty cat-lady, a cancer-ridden conspiracy theorist, a Cambodian immigrant family. Each is touched by the power of her obscure and ordinary life.
Reviewer: Jessica Sichel
“Christmas” is a collection of four short stories written by Marcia Lee Laycock. “Missing Christmas,” “No Matter How Far,” “An Earthly Treasure,” and “An Unexpected Glory” are rather different from each other and each has a different take on the miracle and wonder of Christmas. Yet, all of the stories share the common theme of God as provider, whether the needs of the characters are physical, emotional, or financial.
In the first story, “Missing Christmas,” self-centeredness overwhelms the main character. Due to an unfortunate event, she and her husband are unable to attend Christmas with distant family as previous planned, leaving the unnamed narrator feeling very sorry for herself. However, towards the end of the story she is shown an unexpected kindness and says, “The sight…filled my soul with a light that made me forget about myself.” The wonder of Christmas wins over the narrator.
Next, Laycock tells the story of a man in desperate straits who almost gives in to the physical stress his body undertakes in, “No Matter How Far.” Help comes in various forms and in the end, the sequence of events, along with his background, propels him towards finding answers to certain questions.
The third story, “An Earthly Treasure,” is a little out there – literally! It is a science fiction tale which takes place in space and shows how, even when we are physically and mentally very far from where Jesus wrought miracles, God works anyway, crossing immeasurable boundaries.
The fourth story – and my favorite – is “An Unexpected Glory,” a classic tale of overcoming the desire for Christmas to be perfect. The mishaps which befall the characters are all too well known by many. When things seem to be falling apart all around, God can and does work all things for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Laycock has a talent for storytelling and shows her versatility in the variety of genres, settings, and characters within this little collection. One story seems to have a more existential feel, while another is heart-warming, and a third is science fiction. When picking up a compilation of Christmas stories, one might expect a more traditional, consistent set of tales. Instead, Laycock modernizes Christmas by setting her stories in what seem to be present – and in one case, is actually future – scenarios. Furthermore, the characters themselves are rather approachable, feeling and thinking things that a reader may very well think for him or herself. Laycock does a good job making connections between the reader and her characters.
There are a few flaws in the tales, such as in the fourth story when a baby is given medication for an unknown ailment instead of being taken to a doctor for evaluation. The medication causes the child to sleep, which is not necessarily a sign of healing. This incident leaves a disturbing feeling in the mind. Also, some of Laycock’s characters could be made a little less flat, with more information or background being given about them. These are, however, short stories, so some brevity in such areas is to be expected.
Overall, for a different take on the traditional fireside short story, “Christmas” would be a good choice. Happy reading!
Reviewer: Cierra Loften
Everyone who knows me knows I love everything about the holiday season. The festivities, the decorations, the food, and of course, the real reason for the season: celebrating the birth of Christ. So, when I saw the title of Laycock's collection of 4 short stories, I decided to pick it up. The cover gets right down to the point of what the stories are about (the birth of Jesus) and the author bio on the back is also simple and lovely to look at. The cover earns an 8 from me. There were four separate stories, with their own respective characters, though, overall, I didn't really connect with the characters in any of the stories. I found them a tad boring, though they weren't awful by any means. I'll offer a 6 for the characters. Each story's plot was fairly simple and fairly interesting, though none of them really struck my interest for very long. Plot earns an 8 from me. Style wise, I can tell Laycock has been writing for quite a while. Her ideas flow very well and she does a wonderful job of closing each story. Style earns an 8. Unfortunately, when it comes to addictiveness, I really had a difficult time finishing these stories. As mentioned above, I didn't find them that intriguing and that made it hard for me to want to keep reading at times. Addictivenes earns a 4. Ending on a positive note, the stories were inspirational and did a beautiful job of capturing the peaceful, loving essence of Christmastime. Content earns a 10. Overall, Christmas earns a 4 star rating from me.
Reviewer: Beverly Wallin
Love, Lies and Consequences (Book II) - Through Thick and Thin tells us exactly that. The pregnant heroine, Raegan, doesn't listen to her fiance's proclamation of love for her, whether or not the baby is his. This book shows that Christians aren't perfect, which I find more interesting than those who have perfect characters.
When the second chapter switched to another couple entirely, I lost a little interest, however it soon became clear the women were friends. Afterwards, I was drawn in and had a hard time putting the book down.
Overall, this was a really good book. The author teaches us to be open, honest, and willing to make compromises, especially in intimate relationships. I would recommend it to couples of all ages and religions.
Reviewer: Mary Hosmar
Joe Peas is a complex man. The Italian itinerant house painter is much more than he seems. Mr. Newsome has taken what seems to be a simple story with a simple hero and turned it into a convincing and interesting character study of both Joe Peas and human nature.
Although I found the introduction of new characters in almost every chapter in the first part of the book somewhat mystifying and confusing, I kept reading.
Eventually, it all came together into a good story which made the reading effort very worthwhile. The characters are well developed, interesting and believable although some of the situations they found themselves in were hard to imagine.
The author, being a medical doctor himself, brings in a lot of medical (and at times, legal) information, some of which, although informative, was too long and
detracted from the story.
I was disappointed towards the ending. It seemed as if the author was in a rush to tie up loose ends, some of which might have been better left for the reader to
wonder about. The rush to finish the story left this reader with a dissatisfied feeling. The last part of the last chapter, however, brings the story back to the
beginning and is a fitting way to end.