education pathways

Saint Patrick the Forgiver–The History and Legends of Ireland’s Bishop

Saint Patrick the Forgiver

retold and illustrated by Ned Bustard

Is Saint Patrick’s Day just a great time of celebrating Irish heritage with parades, green beer, and shamrocks? Ned Bustard shares the real story of St. Patrick along with some of the tall tales that have surrounded his legacy. In his book Saint Patrick the Forgiver, Ned Bustard retells the ancient story in poem format that is suitable for young and old.

Patrick was born in 385 in England. He was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Ireland where he worked as a shepherd. He had an encounter with God and became a follower of Christ. Later God spoke to him in a vision, provided a boat, and led him safely on the long journey back to his family.

After this escape he had another vision that he was to return to the land and people who had enslaved him. He was able to forgive them because God had forgiven him.

This book is a treasure of spiritual truths, beautiful poetry, and fitting illustrations. Saint Patrick the Forgiver would be a wonderful addition to your St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It shares history and legend differentiating between the two. Most importantly it teaches the lesson of forgiveness.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Christian, Religion and Spirituality

Notes: 1. The author’s note at the end summarizes the book in prose and has two discussion questions, a verse from Ephesians on forgiveness, and two resources for further reading.
2. Intended Ages—4-8, but it would make great family reading for all ages.
3. Currently Amazon has a special pre-order price for this hardback that is almost 50% off. (I have no financial connection with Amazon; I just noticed the price when I looked for the age range.)

Publication: 2/21/2023—InterVarsity Press (IVP Kids)

Memorable Lines:

Hello, my name is Patrick—
you may have heard my story.
I walked the span of Ireland
to tell of God’s great glory.

To the Irish I returned
to preach of love and grace.
I spoke first to the High King’s son
—our Lord he did embrace.

I saw the Spirit moving
all across the Emerald Isle.
It wasn’t luck—it was God’s grace,
and that always makes me smile!

Sold on Love–Harper and Rusty’s story

Sold on Love

by Kathleen Fuller

Harper is a hard-working, stylish realtor. Rusty is a hard-working, rough around the edges, skilled mechanic. Neither one has time for dating, but they have something else in common—Harper’s beautiful Mercedes. Despite its mechanical problems, Harper loves it, and Rusty is committed to keeping it running for her. Their paths keep crossing when Rusty decides he needs to sell his current house when his grandfather needs to move back in with him. Later Harper convinces Rusty to participate in a bachelor auction to raise funds for ALS. Sparks fly but neither wants to admit their attraction to the other. Both have leftover hurts from their childhoods that make loving someone risky.

I enjoyed watching Harper and Rusty get to know each other. They are likable characters with insecurities that they handle quite differently. Rusty’s grandfather Senior is wise and is an amusing character. There is a subplot involving Harper’s parents and another that showcases Harper’s nemesis and an ex-boyfriend. There are plenty of problems and misunderstandings, but the author handles them well with some surprising solutions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: 1. #3 in the Maple Falls Romance Series which should be read in order.
2. Includes a map of Maple Falls and Discussion Questions

Publication: 8/2/2022—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

He didn’t want to be single. More than once he’d put himself out into the dating scene only to have his heart stomped on like a wood floor in a country bar each and every time.

She’d known her fair share of disingenuous people, not only in the business world but personally. Jack came to mind, and she shoved him off the cliff of her thoughts. She didn’t want to think about him right now. Or ever.

This was what she was reduced to—watching infomercials and pigging out on ice cream on a Tuesday night. Even at her worst moments, she’d never resorted to such clichéd behavior. But after one taste she was helpless to stop eating her feelings.

Much Ado About a Latte–Anita and Tanner’s story

Much Ado About a Latte

by Kathleen Fuller

Anita and Tanner had their first kiss as teenagers stuck in a closet playing Truth or Dare. Mostly they saw each other at tutoring sessions. Anita has a learning disability, feels stupid, and was bullied about her problems in school. All her life she hasn’t measured up to her family’s standards. Her siblings all have careers as professionals. Anita works as a waitress; she is kind, efficient, and customers love her. Tanner, whose father died when Tanner was young, immediately took over the role as head of the household fulfilling a promise to his father. He and his mother both worked two or more jobs to survive and to put his younger brother through college.

Anita has always had a crush on Tanner, but he has been too busy to see what is right in front of him. The pair worked together for three years as he was assistant manager at the Sunshine Diner (i.e. her boss).

Much Ado About a Latte is about their attraction and difficult relationship. They both have plans and dreams for the future, but they don’t share them with each other any more than they share their feelings about each other. Will they be able to reconcile their differences and proclaim their love?

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: 1. #2 in the Maple Falls Romance Series which should be read in order.
2. Includes a map of Maple Falls and Discussion Questions

Publication: 1/4/2022—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Streetlamps lit up the dark street, but she didn’t need light to know every outer detail of #3, from the picture windows on each side of the dark wooden door to the splintered wooden façade that was in desperate need of repair and fresh paint….Six months ago she had come up with a crazy idea: opening a café in #3….But she always talked herself out of the idea, and tonight was no exception. She didn’t have the brains or skills to run a business. She wouldn’t even know where to start.

But spending time with her last night had been nice. More than nice. He appreciated the way she hadn’t hesitated to help him taste-test food she’d never tried before, and her gastronomical bravery in trying the anchovies—an ingredient most people either loved or loathed—was impressive. Best of all was her sigh when she tried the patatas bravas. That had been one of the sexiest things he’d ever seen and heard.

Hooked on You–Riley and Hayden’s story

Hooked on You

by Kathleen Fuller

Riley and Hayden went to the same high school, but barely knew each other. She went off to New York City hoping to find success as an artist while he pursued a career in baseball. Both find themselves helping out at family businesses—a yarn shop and a hardware store in the dying little town of Maple Falls. Author Kathleen Fuller has created damaged, but likable characters and surrounded them with loving, supportive people. Will the pair overcome their pasts? Can they save the businesses and the little town?

Join the BB’s (Bosom Buddies) who are Riley’s grandmother’s friends, and the Three Musketeers, an unlikely group of three young women as they welcome the loner Riley with the friendship she never had.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: 1. #1 in the Maple Falls Romance Series which should be read in order.
2. Includes a map of Maple Falls and Discussion Questions

Publication: 5/11/2021—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

A riot of colors, textures, and fibers filled the canvas in front of Riley McAllister. She tilted her head to the right. To the left. Then, with careful precision and pointed tweezers, she started to apply a hair-thin golden thread to the narrow bead of glue on the peacock feather in the center, the final touch to a project that had taken over three months to complete.

Mimi’s lilting Southern drawl filled Riley’s ear, triggering the tiniest spark of homesickness, which always surprised her. After nine years of living in New York City, she should be over it, but every time she heard Mimi’s voice, it came back again. Riley’s life in Maple Falls had been a big disappointment, but that wasn’t Mimi’s fault.

The Maple Falls Romance Series

I tried to start reading the Maple Falls Romance Series with an Advanced Reader Copy of the third novel. By the time I got to the fourth chapter, I realized that Sold on Love was just not good as a standalone. I was dropped in the middle of a small town wedding where everyone, except me, knew everyone else. Very confusing! Fortunately, since bad weather closed the library for a few days, my library was able to provide me with e-copies of the first two books in the series. Each book in the series focuses on a different couple, and thus characters are introduced as necessary and show up again in later books. The books in order of publication are:

Hooked on You
Much Ado About a Latte
Sold on Love
Two to Tango
(to be released on July 11, 2023)

My next upcoming reviews will give my impressions of the three published books in the series. They are all clean, gentle romances. I am attracted more to cozy mysteries than romances, but I did enjoy these.

Peanut Butter Panic–complicated, but humorous, mystery

Peanut Butter Panic

by Amanda Flower

I always enjoy the novels in Amanda Flower’s cozy mystery series The Amish Candy Shop Mysteries. Peanut Butter Panic is no exception.

Bailey, an Englisch chocolatier, is co-owner with her grandmother of Swissmen Sweets in the tourist town of Harvest. There is a lot going on for Bailey. Margo, the town event coordinator, has organized a Thanksgiving celebration for the whole area that unifies the Amish and the Englisch in one big celebration. The arrival of Margot’s mother Zara, a fierce retired judge who is remembered for the harsh sentences she passed on Amish defendants, arrives suddenly and is unexpectedly accompanied by a much younger boyfriend. Her appearance throws Margot into a panic as Zara has made it clear that Margot has never lived up to her standards. When a murder occurs at the dinner, both Margot and Zara appeal to Bailey who has a reputation as a successful unofficial sleuth.

Other complications in the plot for Bailey include the intense sales period of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It is difficult to produce enough sweets for all of these events in addition to the Jethro bars made for tourists in honor of the pot-bellied pig Jethro who has appeared on Bailey’s cooking show. Add in the difficulties of Bailey’s semi-long distance relationship with Aiden who has accepted a position with the Ohio BCI. She is also considering expanding Swissmen Sweets which would be a big change for her and for her grandmother.

There are a lot of twists and turns as hidden relationships and identities emerge. When the book appeared to be at a point of closure, I found myself wondering if I had missed something as I read. I still didn’t know whodunnit! But the last pages hold yet another surprise, the mystery is solved, and some real justice is done.

Characters are vital to this story. The reactions of people to Margot and to her mother Zara speak volumes. There is animal humor in the book as Jethro the polka-dotted pig plays an important role along with Puff the rabbit and a new character, Gator, a rather vicious little purse dog. Another character I enjoy is Charlotte who has a recently decided to leave the Amish way and is gradually transitioning to the Englisch way of life. This is a fun cozy with interesting characters and a good plot. I recommend the whole series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, but could be read as a standalone

Publication: August 23, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Amateur sleuthing required a great deal of balance I realized. Enough meddling to get the answers but not so much as to obstruct justice or negatively impact the prosecution of a criminal.

I did notice that the shouts and cheers for the little bacon bundle were a tad more jubilant than they had been for me. I understood. I wasn’t an adorable little comfort pig. It was difficult to compete with such cuteness.

“…Zara was the kind of person who could have a terrible time just about anywhere. She complained about everything, even when it was done just as she liked it. She found fault with just about everything I did.”

Murder Spills the Tea–baking competition

Murder Spills the Tea

by Vicki Delany

The way I judged Murder Spills the Tea was by my increasing frustration at the end of the book. With about 90% of the mystery read, I experienced an almost comical series of interruptions—the dogs wanted to go for a walk, my husband came in to say “hi,” the dryer buzzed urgently, and the timer for the tub of vegetables I was disinfecting dinged. I finally gave up and handled each issue culminating with the dog walk. I’m a fairly patient person, so I must have been really into the novel to get so irritated.

Lily is busy enough baking for and managing her own tea shop, but she also makes breakfast for her grandmother Rose’s B&B in exchange for lodging in a separate cottage on the grounds. All is well until her best friend Bernie and Rose convince Lily that participating in America Bakes!, a cooking “reality” show, will help promote her business. The event turns out to be rigged and full of competing ego-filled personalities. Lily does her best to “keep calm and carry on,” but that becomes difficult when she finds one of the judges dead in her tearoom. Sparks fly during the filming, some of the characters are less than truthful, and Lily is sure that the wrong person has been arrested.

Following the investigation is like watching a tennis match where the ball is lobbed all over the place. Things turn dangerous as the murderer gets more and more desperate. There are connections among the residents that are uncovered as Lily’s informal investigation progresses. Suspicions arise too about the film actors and crew, some of whom are staying at the B&B. Lily, Bernie, and Rose work well together as a team with Rose playing the age card when it suits her purposes. Murder Spills the Tea is an engaging and fun cozy mystery.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the Tea by the Sea Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. I have a particular fondness for tearooms, so I especially enjoy cozy mysteries set in tearooms.
3. Includes recipes for Herbed Cucumber Sandwiches, Coconut Lime Cake, and a coffee cake that is served at the B&B.
4. Lily has a dog that is featured throughout the book and Rose has a cat that, despite Health Dept. regulations, finds its way into the kitchen regularly. Both add interest to the book.

Publication: July 26, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

“This is called reality TV,” he said. “In reality, it’s anything but. The show’s not concerned about the quality of your food or the arrangement of the flowers on the table. It’s about creating drama and interest. Reality’s boring.”

“Afternoon tea’s all about tradition. About hospitality and taking time to gather with friends to enjoy the finer things in life. Afternoon tea, in my opinion, anyway, is a delicacy, an indulgence, and it should be treated as such.”

Robbie jumped onto the floor and hissed at Detective Williams. “Do pardon my cat, Inspector,” Rose said as she made her way out of the room. “He likes most people.”

The True Love Bookshop–a Marine of honor

The True Love Bookshop

by Annie Rains

With themes of forgiveness and second chances, The True Love Bookshop invites you into the small town of Somerset Lake. The setting is predominantly Tess’ dream come true: her bookshop which she is trying to put her own stamp on by expanding the collection of books on offer and inviting authors for book signings. Unfortunately, she is still dealing with grief three years after her husband passed away.

The drama in Tess’ life ratchets up when River Harrison stumbles into the bookshop having suffered a knife wound. He is the man who ruined her wedding day nine years prior. Although she has never forgiven him for trying to break up the event, she agrees to take care of his dog Buddy while he is in the hospital. This simple act of kindness results in Tess and River teaming up to find out what her deceased husband Jared was doing in the neighboring town of Morrisville when he had the fatal car accident.

This romance has its share of ups and downs. Tess and River both deal with pains from the past. River was adopted as a two year old, but has done little to search for his birth parents. He is viewed as a loner, but he enjoys nature and is happy. There are devastating revelations in store for Tess. Both characters learn to redefine family and friendship.

I liked Tess and River; watching them reach out and grow emotionally and relationally was a pleasurable benefit of this romance. There were plot complications both for the couple and for the town whose festival had been ruined for the last two years by mischief. As a PI, River was hired to discover who was behind the problems.

This was my introduction to author Annie Rains, and I would definitely like to read more of her books. I appreciated that the author included multi-cultural friends and marriages and treated them as the norm.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. #3 in the Somerset Lake Series, but it worked fine for me as a standalone.
2. Includes excellent discussion questions.

Publication: July 7, 2022—Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

Memorable Lines:

…the point of Tess’s book club…was friendship, food, and fiction. The best three f-words in the dictionary, if you asked Tess.

River believed in loyalty and honor, not just in the military, but in everything. And Jared believed in loyalty and honor only when someone else was watching.

…River had never believed in luck. He believed in right and wrong, in keeping your word, and helping others as much as possible. He couldn’t imagine ever falling into a pattern where he did the wrong thing and needed to search out lawyers to hide his secrets.

The Wind in My Hair–compulsory hijab

The Wind in My Hair

by Masih Alinejad with Kambiz Foroohar

In her memoir The Wind in My Hair, Masih Alinejad, in exile first in Great Britain and later in America, tells the struggles she had and all Iranian women still endure with laws in Iran that make wearing the hijab compulsory from age seven. The “morality police” in that country take this law over what women wear to the extreme. Women can be beaten, flogged, and jailed if even a strand of hair escapes the hijab. Women who have resisted this compulsory law have had acid splashed in their faces and have been incarcerated, tortured, and sometimes raped.

Masih tells her personal story of an impoverished, but mostly happy, rural childhood with conservative parents. Always a bit of a rebel, Masih was expelled from high school in her final semester and jailed for belonging to a small anti-government secret society. Later as a parliament reporter, she was banned from the parliament building for asking the wrong questions.

In exile Masih worked tirelessly and sometimes under threats of violence for the rights of women in Iran. There are more issues involved than compulsory hijab, but that is a visible sign of the control men have over women in Iran. Masih used the tools of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, to broadcast her positions in Iran where the government controls television and newspapers. The movements she started were given exposure internationally via the Internet.

Masih is highly critical of female politicians and government employees who visit Iran but are unwilling to bring up women’s rights in official discussions and wear some version of head covering during their visit. Masih made recordings of Iranian families’ stories about their dead or missing loved ones called The Victims of 88. Brave women flooded her social media accounts with pictures of themselves without the hijab in the interest of freedom. The Wind in My Hair is well-written by a journalist-storyteller who has lived the story she tells. It will grip you and not release you as you ponder the freedoms you currently enjoy in your own country.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History, Memoir

Notes: Perhaps because she was not raised American, perhaps because she is a journalist, Masih’s perception of current politics and reporting in the U.S. seem somewhat skewed. She clearly understands that you can’t trust reports in Iran, but does not seem to realize that there is censorship in the U.S. by big business, politicians, and the media working in concert. That viewpoint does not change the importance of her analysis of the Iranian government’s control over its people following the deposition of the Shah.

Publication: May 29, 2018—Little, Brown, & Co.

Memorable Lines:

“The Americans are coming to steal Iran away. They’ll kill us all.” I really thought we’d face another war immediately. It was not rational, but, like millions of Iranians, I had been brainwashed by the daily propaganda on the national television and radio stations. I thought it was only Khomeini who was strong enough to stand up to the greedy U.S. capitalists. Many years later, I discovered that Khomeini was a coldhearted dictator who ordered the execution of thousands of Iranians.

I didn’t even know what charges I faced. No one had read the complaint against me. I had no lawyer to defend me. I was forced into giving a confession, and now all that remained was for this judge to pass a sentence. It didn’t sound very just. Later in life, I discovered that there is not much justice in the Islamic Republic.

There is a predictable cycle in Iranian politics, as predictable as the weather. Every year, for a few months, the government relaxes its grip and some actions are tolerated—women can show a few inches of hair under their head scarves, or men and women can actually walk together without being married, or the newspapers can publish mildly critical articles. Then, just like the dark clouds that gather in late autumn, the freedoms are taken away and transgressors are punished.

Edge of Dusk–Murder on Lake Superior

Edge of Dusk

by Colleen Coble

I am not a fan of thrillers as the intensity can negate the reading pleasure for me. I have made an exception for Colleen Coble’s suspense books. They are extremely fast-paced, the plots are complex, but they don’t leave me with nightmarish visions. The characters have depth and potential for growth—the protagonists anyway. Coble has previously set a series in Rock Harbor, Michigan, but Edge of Dusk starts a new series, the Annie Pederson novels, using the same setting which has already been proven popular with her readers. I like the main character Annie Pederson; she is a Law Enforcement Officer with the parks services. She has one child, and she recently lost her husband and both parents in an accident. She is trying to maintain the family business, a marina and cabin resort, while keeping her day job.

Annie lives with guilt because of the death of a little sister when they were both young. This novel involves repercussions from that tragedy and revives another cold case in which two teenage girls disappeared. On that backdrop there is a new murder of a camper and an attack on another one in remote areas of the lake. Annie’s life becomes more complicated with the return of her ex-fiancé, now a successful orthopedic surgeon. Their breakup nine years earlier was messy, sudden, and not handled well by either party. They now have to face the past and decide if they have a future together going forward.

The more Annie investigates the murders and disappearances, the more dangerous her life becomes with vandalism, arson, stalking, and other kinds of threats. She will do anything to keep her daughter safe. Fortunately, she has friends who gather round her as things become increasingly dangerous. Annie and her ex-fiancé use these difficulties as opportunities to grow in their faith.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery and Thriller, General Fiction

Notes: #1 in the new Annie Pederson Series

Publication: July 12, 2022—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Memories pummeled her like a tsunami, and bile burned the back of her throat. That last night here had ruined everything—her purity, her self-respect, relationship with Jon and with her parents.

“I’m not going to sit in judgment over your mistakes. We all make them. That’s between you and God.” And she’d asked God many times to forgive her. She knew he had. The problem was she hadn’t been able to forgive herself, and this new wrinkle brought all her sins out into the light to be examined.

The lake was the embodiment of their relationship: turbulent and calming, exciting and steady. She could look at Lake Superior on a stormy day and remember that last violent argument. She could glide on its glassy surface on a calm morning and remember how his strength would calm her fears.

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