Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

Handlebar Review: Home for Christmas; Stories for Young and Old by various authors

**This review has affiliate links if you click on the linked text and purchase it I will earn a small percentage of the sale which will help me as I raise my three children alone.**

About the Book:

For readers who are tired of Christmas commercialism, or who feel that Santa Claus and reindeer don’t tell the whole story, these classic gems provide a winning alternative. Selected for their insightfulness, spiritual value, and literary quality (nothing moralistic here) they project the spirit of the season in a fresh, compelling manner that will resonate with readers of all ages – from children too young to read to themselves, to parents and grandparents who enjoy reading stories aloud.

Home for Christmas includes time-tested favorites by some of the world’s most beloved children’s authors – Pearl Buck, Selma Lagerlöf, Henry van Dyke, Madeleine L’Engle, Elizabeth Goudge, Rebecca Caudill, and Ruth Sawyer – as well as little-known European stories appearing in English for the first time.

You can purchase Home for Christmas: Stories for Young and Oldon Amazon.

My Opinion:

**I’m late in getting this review done – it was due around the time of my husband’s passing – and I couldn’t bring myself to even read the book until now.**

Christmas……it’s a favorite time of year for me, the mystery of the Lord’s birth, the shepherds, the wise men, stars and all that comes with it. I tire of the commercials that scream, give me, give me, give me and the even less said, thank you. I sat down to read this in the summer and thought it would give me some peace and have me looking forward to the upcoming Christmas season that was so dear to me. With authors like Pearl Buck, Madeleine L’Engle and others one would expect this to be a high caliber reading of Christmas stories that one could indeed read to their children as well as maybe in a Sunday school setting, and some of the stories were that – some were quite good and pulled me in such as “Brother Robber” by Helene Christaller or “The Guest” by Nikolai S. Lesskov but some well, left me disappointed and skipping the entire story.

There were two stories in the book that used the liberal usage of d*** and h*** and I promptly quit reading those, I don’t care to use the language in my speech and therefor do not care to read it either. If you want to read this book to a younger audience I would definitely suggest pre-reading it and marking which stories are appropriate. Also of note for some of my readers there were a couple stories where the ‘bad’ people were drunk and/or drinking. Also, I want to say some do revolve around the Roman Catholic faith in which some ideas are strictly not Biblical (in no way saying Catholics aren’t Christian but there are so theologies I disagree with) such as works based salvation, Jesus showing up in a cottage to play a game of chess and statues of Mary and Jesus bleeding.

While there were a few stories I enjoyed, overall this is not a book I would highly recommend – especially if you’re looking for something as a family read aloud or to read in church – unless you do a lot of heavy editing. I enjoy tales that are almost forgotten and I do enjoy a good European author but this was not what I was expecting for Christmas stories, I wanted a good, theologically sound tale and most didn’t offer that even if a few did.

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Handlebar Review: Their Name is Today by Johann Christoph Arnold

About the Book:

There’s hope for childhood. Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that are robbing children of a healthy childhood, courageous parents and teachers who know what’s best for children are turning the tide.

Johann Christoph Arnold, whose books on education, parenting, and relationships have helped more than a million readers through life’s challenges, draws on the stories and voices of parents and educators on the ground, and a wealth of personal experience. He surveys the drastic changes in the lives of children, but also the groundswell of grassroots advocacy and action that he believes will lead to the triumph of common sense and time-tested wisdom.

Their Name Is Today takes on technology, standardized testing, overstimulation, academic pressure, marketing to children, over-diagnosis and much more, calling on everyone who loves children to combat these threats to childhood and find creative ways to help children flourish. Every parent, teacher, and childcare provider has the power to make a difference, by giving children time to play, access to nature, and personal attention, and most of all, by defending their right to remain children.

You can purchase a copy at Plough.

About the Author:

People have come to expect sound advice from Johann Christoph Arnold, an award-winning author with over a million copies of his books in print, in more than twenty languages. A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, education, and end-of-life issues, Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities. With his wife, Verena, he has counseled thousands of individuals and families over the last forty years, as well as serving as an advisor at several innovative private schools.

Together with paralyzed police officer Steven McDonald, Arnold started the Breaking the Cycle program, which brings the positive answer of nonviolent conflict resolution and forgiveness to schools, to counteract the fear of school shootings, as well as gang violence and bullying that affects children, teachers, and parents. Promoting reconciliation, he has spoken with students at hundreds of public schools. This work has also brought him to conflict zones from Northern Ireland to Rwanda to the Middle East. Closer to home, he serves as chaplain for the local sheriff’s department.

Arnold’s message has been shaped by encounters with great peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, César Chavez, and John Paul II.

Born in Great Britain in 1940 to German refugees, Arnold spent his boyhood years in South America, where his parents found asylum during the war; he immigrated to the United States in 1955. He and his wife have eight children, forty-four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. They live in upstate New York.

My Opinion:

I wanted to really like this book – after all I do believe all children are precious, although there are some that I would rather not be around or have my children around – but yes, they are all precious and should be respected for the individuals they are.  I read this book through a Christian, homeschool viewpoint so reading this book which touted teachers as great beings in our children’s lives was hard to read.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying teachers aren’t great, because I had a few good teachers during my time in public and private school but a quote from a teacher, “These are the parents who worry me the most – parents who won’t let their child learn.  You see, teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic.  We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint and foresight”.  So in essence teachers teach the things that parents are supposed to – in all my years in a brick and mortar school not one of my teachers, even the good ones, taught anything but the subjects they were required to teach, because it was the parents job to teach the other stuff, thankfully I had parents who did teach my siblings and I those things and cared, not every child gets that.

Mr. Arnold also calls for no screen time, admitting his own children didn’t learn typing until they were in middle school and then they still had to rely on the library for their sources when writing papers – the internet wasn’t allowed.  Televisions are also a no-no as are electronic reading devices, tablets, video games and so on – in our house the television is not just used for entertainment it is used also as an educational tool for watching documentaries on periods of history that we are studying, active video games are used for physical fitness when the weather here doesn’t permit a lot of time outside.  I’m all for limiting access to technology – the T.V. is off for the greater part of our days and we don’t plan our schedules around it and my children know how to interact with all ages.  I’m sure that for some families the television and ‘screen time’ as it’s called in the book are bad things for some children and in my experience that is usually the children who are enrolled in a brick and mortar school, it is not so much true for those who have chosen to home educate.

It seems that Mr. Arnold has a more liberal view on raising children, he advocates discipline and consequences but then also goes on to say that parents should never use a negative attitude toward children.  If a child does something wrong we should not say that we are disappointed in their choice or show any sort of negative reaction because then said child may begin to act out – the child should feel only love, “happiness and security, generosity and optimism” – to me that is not correct as the child is going to become an adult at some point and not everyone is going love them, make them happy, provide security so shouldn’t within reason children learn to deal with these feelings with their parents?  “After parents, the relationship of greatest influence is often that of child and teacher”, and then he quotes Carl Jung (quite a few of the quotes are from those who were liberal in their views) – shouldn’t the single most greatest influence be us, the parents?  I understand, unfortunately, not all children are born into families where they are wanted or loved or educated, but in a perfect world the greatest influence should be the parents and of course the Lord.  Mr. Arnold though, as I have learned lives within a closed community called the Bruderhof and all children go to the community’s school – so I’m sure the teachers there are lovingly and carefully picked, but that type of setting is not replicated within the outside societies schools.

I’m sad to say that I really didn’t find anything that I totally agreed with in his book, I don’t believe that teacher’s are somehow above the parents (although the government would love us to believe that, and some have), I don’t believe taking away all screen time is valuable or conducive in today’s world (if so my oldest would have missed out on writing her first novel) – although I do agree with him that there are children who are unloved, left alone, scared and floundering in the world – but they also flounder just as much in schools (ask me how I know) as they are left behind in a system that has failed them both in school and at home.  This book may be a great one for those whose children are in school for 9+ hours a day, for a teacher who works in a brick and mortar school, but for this mom who loves her children, corrects them as needed, brings them up in knowing the Lord and also educates them this book just rubbed this mom the wrong way.

(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

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Handlebar Review: The Healing Quilt (Book 3 in the Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club series) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

About the Book:

Retired Amish newlyweds Emma and Lamar Miller have decided to buy a winter place in Sarasota, Florida. But it wouldn’t feel like home if Emma didn’t take her quilting materials and offer classes. Wounded and hurting people have a knack for finding their way to her classes for some quilting therapy: Jennifer, a pregnant new mom; Mike, a charter boat owner; Erika, a wheelchair-bound teen; Kim, a waitress; Noreen, a newly-retired widow; and BJ, an artist facing illness. And when Jan visits from Indiana, romance is also added to the class discussions.


Read a note from Wanda where she talks a little about the series on her website.

You can purchase your own copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook and other retailers where books are sold.


You can connect with Wanda E. Brunstetter on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well.




My Opinion:


I’m late in posting this review (yes, I’m admitting that) because I realized that I really should have started with book 1 in the series as there are several characters mentioned in The Healing Quilt that come from books 1 and 2 so I had to borrow the e-copy from my library and find book 2 on my shelf.  I enjoy Wanda’s writings as they really seem to dive into the characters and their lives and make them come to life on the page and that is what I so enjoy – while her books provide an escape they also give me a way to relate to the characters and in doing so she has me inspired to do more, be more.  Usually, one would think that they’d be inspired after reading a non-fiction book but not in this case, Wanda Brunstetter inspires her readers through this book.  To help another person, to forgive, to accept and to love –  not only do Emma and Lamar want to be Christian they want to be Christ’s hands and feet.


As I said I have to recommend that if one wants to read this book, please, start with Books 1 and 2 – while it could technically be read as a stand alone the mention of other characters such as Jan, Star, Terry and such it may leave one confused as to who these characters are and how they play into the story in the 3rd book.  I think my favorite character in this book had to be the young teenager Erika, who is wheel chair bound after a diving accident – mean, smug and just unhappy Erika transforms in front of our eyes – a young woman who eventually finds a calling and realizes that quilting can be enjoyable.  While not wheel chair bound I could resonate with Erika’s unhappiness as that was me in my teen years – oh the angst I went through and Wanda touches on that in a wonderful way and really has us feeling Erika’s situation.


This is an easy read and while some things are too neatly wrapped up, I don’t fault the book or Wanda for that, I didn’t pick up this book or the other two to step into real life – but to escape for a few minutes before going to bed.  I wanted a happy ending, however far fetched it may be but then again God does work in some miraculous ways and what I think is far fetched is just His way of working.  It’s not your typical Amish book – as there are so many other characters involved that just happen to come into a Amish couple’s home, there isn’t going to be a lot of Amish speech in this one and even less about their lifestyle – it’s just a couple wanting to reach out to hurting souls and bring them some salve that only Christ can do as He works through us.


(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws



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Handlebar Review: Woman of Courage by Wanda E. Brunstetter #grow4christ #bookreview

About the Book:


Amanda Pearson, a Quaker woman suffering from a broken engagement, leaves her home in New York and travels West to minister to the Nez Perce Indians. Along the way, she encounters many problems, yet she never gives up. Like a true woman of courage, Amanda trusts God to see her through, even when she fights illness, abandonment, misunderstandings, and an unexpected event. Set in 1837, this historical novel has many twists and turns that will take readers from the rugged Rocky Mountains to Oregon Territory and the home of the Spalding Mission, where the Nez Perce Indians were first introduced to Christianity.


Read the interesting note of how the book came to be from Wanda E. Brunstetter.


You can purchase your own copy at Amazon, Family Christian, and other places where books are sold!



My Opinion:


I’ve enjoyed reading Wanda Brunstetter for years now and when I had the chance to read and review her newest, Woman of Courage, which doesn’t include Amish people I knew I wanted to read it.  I liked that the story included a Quaker woman, even if all the thees and thous got on my nerves like it did the characters, as it wasn’t the usual Amish fiction I typically read.  While I don’t know a lot about Quakers – I do know there is a Friend’s Meeting House – about 30 minutes from me I know they do have a different outlook on God and how He resides in everyone, even non-Believers, through what they call the Inner Light.  That said Wanda Brunstetter does not give much in the way of explaining the Quaker life, but then again her book isn’t an expose on the Quakers – just a work of fiction (although the Rev and Mrs. Spalding really did witness to the Nez Perce) with a Quaker woman at the center of the story.  The book started off quite fast, with Amanda receiving a broken heart, she and her dad set off to go to the West and become missionaries but along the way Amanda is met with more hardships and almost near starvation until she is rescued by Buck – a trapper.


The book got a bit slower toward the middle as Amanda spends some time in the cabin of Buck’s friend, Jim and his American Indian wife – neither man wants anything to do with God, the Bible or religion.  As the women set out with Jim more hardship follow them as they continue the trip to the Rendezvous – an annual time for trappers to trade and to buy supplies.  As they set out to finish the trip to the Spalding mission, Amanda learns more about the American Indians and superstitions that pervade their daily life as well as to know that she is able to survive.  Through the book Amanda grows into her faith, and it becomes not just her parents, but her faith as well and she wants others to know about God and accept His gift of His Son – not only does he faith grow stronger she too realizes she is a woman of courage.  The book ended with some incredible twists and I’m hoping that maybe I haven’t heard the last of Amanda, Buck, Yellow Bird and Gray Eagle.



(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws


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Handlebar Review: The War on Christmas by Bodie Hodge #grow4christ

About the Book:

-Is it a bunch of pagan symbols “Christianized” for the celebration?

-Why is our concept of Christmas so important for those who don’t believe in Jesus?
-Most may say Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but are we truly worshiping Him or just celebrating the earthly gifts we give ourselves?

Filled with family get-togethers, office parties, breaks from school, decorating the tree, and more, Christmas is a time of peace and love. So why has so much controversy clouded this sacred holiday? It has become ground zero in an ongoing culture war where Nativity scenes are nixed, Merry Christmas becomes Happy Holidays, and even the word “Christmas” is considered by some as offensive. Find the truth about Christmas and the Christian’s response to a culture that seems to be declaring war.  You can buy the book on Master Books’ website or at other Christian retailers.

My Opinion:

Ever since I heard about this book coming out I wanted to get my hands on it and see what it had to say about Christmas, the holidays and other points that seem to not only have divided Christians but also Christians and non-believers over the years.  It’s been a subtle shift in recent years to everyone saying Merry Christmas to now it only being allowed to say Happy Holidays or some other non-Christ name, effectively erasing Christmas from Christ and the true reason for celebrating the holiday.  Bodie Hodge deals with this sensitive topic with sensivity and compassion even as he writes about Christians who chose not to celebrate the holiday given that some believe it had it’s roots in the pagan culture of the day or those who write Xmas versus Christmas.  I reviewed a book a while ago, called King Alfred’s English that went into some detail about the X and the connection to Christ’s name – which I highly recommend if you don’t want to take Bodie’s word for things.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should stop writing Christmas, sometimes it’s simple laziness that prevents many from writing Christmas out in full – but what I am saying is that those who aren’t Christians who think they are omitting Christ from Christmas by writing X, aren’t.


This is a short book at only 144 pages but it’s big on information, some of the information was repeated, but often things that are worth reading are worth reading again – plus since I had finished another book, The Lie, which also dealt with some of the issues Bodie brings up in The War on Christmas, so it may have felt like a repeat.  Twenty three chapters span this book and each chapter is short and to the point without being preachy and sticks to Biblical and archaeological facts that support the Biblical account – isn’t it great how science and archaeology supports the history of the Bible?  Beautiful illustrations grace the pages of the book including Scripture that brings to life the Christmas story and adds to the overall facts of the book.  Whether you’re a Christian who does celebrate Christmas, one who doesn’t, or a non-Believer who is searching this is a great book to read to understand what Christmas is all about and how it became a beloved holiday that Christians around the world celebrate, and yes he even addresses Santa Claus.


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Handlebar Review: A Plain Disapearance by Amanda Flower #grow4christ

About the Book:

It’s Christmastime in Amish Country, and Chloe Humphrey has begun settling into her life in Appleseed Creek excited to see where her new relationship with Timothy Troyer will lead. Unfortunately it leads to murder when the couple discovers the body of Amish teenager Katie Lambright while on their first date.

Near the scene there is evidence that Timothy’s friend and auto mechanic Billy Thorpe is involved with the crime. The police reveal Billy is not really who he said he was and has been living the last decade in Knox County under a stolen alias. Now, Chloe and Timothy must find Billy, bring him to justice, or prove his innocence.

About the Author:

Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland. She also writes mysteries as Isabella Alan.

My Opinion:

I think I’ve just found a new favorite author!  I’ve never heard of Amanda Flower before until I was offered a copy of her book, third in the An Appleseed Creek Mystery series, and I just really enjoyed reading this book even though I have not read the first two, yet.  I’ll be seeking out the first two and her other books when I get some time to do pleasure reading.  Thankfully, Amanda wove some review into this book so it was easy to know who Chloe is as well as her beau Timothy and the other characters that come along – I didn’t feel lost which was a total plus for me when jumping into the middle of a series.  It was easy to figure out that Timothy used to be Amish and there was some strain there between him and his former Amish community, although his family still welcomes him.

Since I’m a sucker for Amish books and I also enjoy the mystery story, blending these can’t be an easy task, but it appears to be easy for Amanda, blending mystery, intrigue, Amish life and a romance seems to come easy and this book is a hit in all three genres, plus it’s one that I can proudly say I’d recommend even to other Christians who may not usually find mysteries in their to be read piles.  I appreciate that even though Chloe and Timothy happen upon the body of Katie, it’s not descriptive except to say how she died – I’m not into gruesome murder scenes and this one gave just enough detail to know that Katie died without blood and gore that usually come with it.  The romance also is very tame, the reader can tell that Chloe and Timothy care for each other and both have a deep faith that carries over into their relationship that it isn’t physical.

I really enjoyed this book and probably would have finished it sooner had I had more free time this past week and I cannot wait to see if my library carries the other books and if not I’ll be requesting they purchase them as soon as possible!  This book and this series is one not to be missed and it has something for everyone who enjoys Amish, mystery and romance, neither detracts from the other but actually would add to each and makes for a well rounded story and great character depth that I enjoy in the books I read.

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Handlebar Review: Goodbye to Yesterday by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Goodbye to Yesterday by Wanda Brunstetter About the Book: Join Meredith and Luke Stoltzfus, an Amish couple who are faced with the greatest challenge of their young lives. Financial struggles. Arguments. A suspected pregnancy. A last-minute trip to Middlebury, Indiana. A deadly encounter at a Philadelphia bus station. Will their love and faith be enough to bring them back together again, against all odds?

For a list of where you can purchase this book visit Wanda Brunstetter’s website.

My opinion:

I’m late in getting this read and reviewed and for that I apologize – it got buried on my bookshelf and I came across it when I was cleaning.  This book is number 1 of 6 in a serial novel series titled The Discovery and set in Lancaster County.  At just a little over 100 pages this book is an easy read – I read it in just over an hour and it provided a break from some other, heavier, reading I was doing at the time.  I became very caught up in Luke and Meredith’s life from the outset of this book – their story is one of love and faith and even though it’s a short book the characters were well developed and believable.

I must say that it was well worth that hour to sit down and read this book – the suspense, the love, the support and the faith that come through the pages shines through as does the whole plot.  I’m usually not a fan of serial novels as I’d rather read the whole story in one sitting I must admit I’ve changed my mind, at least when it comes to this one, the book was short enough to provide a break but not long enough that I’ll neglect my family while enjoying it.  I’m looking forward to reading the other five books in this serialization and maybe one day they’ll be bound into one book.

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