A Plain and Fancy Christmas Written By Cynthia Keller

An excellent read about two girls that had been switched at birth. One was Amish and the other a typical American girl who both found out through a letter from a nurse that was getting old and couldn’t contain the truth about the switch any longer. An Amish family in the area of Lancaster, Pa. had raised Rachel Yoder and Ellie Shore grew up in the New York City area and had a lucrative job. When the letters arrived the girls didn’t know how to react or if the letters were truthful. They appeared believable but how could such a thing occur? They each pondered for some time before telling their parents about the letters, wondering what their reaction would be after raising each in their own way all their life. They each decided to try living with their rightful parents to see that life would be characterized since the difference was so great. An Amish girl living in New York city amidst the towering buildings having so much available of which she never knew the existence of, so never missed those fancy stores and crowded streets and sidewalks. And a New Yorker used to all the good as well as bad things that she was raised around, used to going anywhere or getting almost anything she wanted to leave and work on a farm with no modern amenities. This would be a real challenge but Rachel and Ellie were up to trying.

Rachel tried living in Ellie’s apartment in New York while Ellie went to the Amish farm to see how that would work out. The new and rightful families of each girl assisted each of them to try to adjust to their new style of living and existing. Ellie found it much easier to rent a small house not too far from the farm because she was having a hard time adjusting while Rachel didn’t know what to do with herself now in this jungle of a city! The families got to meet which was another strange meeting but they all tried hard to be friendly and make this a success. Some cash had been given to Rachel to pay her expenses while Ellie had money of her own for her living arrangements. The many culture differences were quite a challenge to both girls and their families. After many adjustments in their lives they each had situated in their new homes but many times not knowing if they were happy or not.

I could go on and tell some of the many interesting plots and subplots that exist in the story but they are what makes this story such a great read. Just purchase the book and start reading. You will laugh, you will cry, you will try to place yourself in the same position, and in the end you will have surprises not knowing if this is the life you would have chosen.

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Book Review of "Kabul Beauty School"

If you thought you knew everything there is to know about beauty schools, you haven’t seen anything like this. In “Kabul Beauty School”, author Deborah Rodriguez-Turner with Kristin Ohlson shares one journey you wouldn’t even imagine. It’s not an adventure I would want because I am too afraid to ever leave the United States but a fascinating one to read about from a woman who has guts.

At the age of twenty-six, Deborah divorced her first husband. She had two kids and couldn’t quite put her finger on it but she always seemed to be restless. She tried college. She tried being a correctional officer. She tried partying. She tried religion. Without a religious background, she jumped right in to a Pentecostal church and married a traveling preacher who turned out to be abusive.

Her second marriage tuned out to be a bad situation. Deborah sent her boys to live with her mother and started trying to find the safest way to escape this relationship. She began going on mission trips, convincing her husband that she would be a good helper to him when he traveled. Then, she also got involved with relief efforts of humanitarian agencies and really enjoyed it.

On her first trip by herself to Afghanistan, she felt a little awkward because all the other volunteers were educated medical professionals. To her pleasant surprise, when she was introduced as a hair dresser, everyone was ecstatic because she could help them feel refreshed in the ditsy desert.

When she returned home, she began brainstorming about how she could make a difference in the lives of Middle Eastern Women by opening a beauty school and teaching them to become hairdressers.

Deborah collected product donations, found someone to ship the product and made contacts to actually make the dream happen. Someone put her in contact with a lady who already had started a school and suggested they join forces so she agreed. She just wanted to help.

Deborah’s husband was very controlling and began making threats in attempt to stop her from leaving him. She had her mind made up and left.

Once she opened her school, friends convinced her that if she planned on staying permanently, she would need a husband. She agreed to enter an arranged marriage as the second wife.

Much of the book introduces the reader to the lives of the women at the school. Sadly, she discovered that she couldn’t help everyone because there were so many sad stories and cultural differences beyond her control. She learned to be grateful those the differences she could make. As of the publishing if the book in 2007, she was still married to her Afghan husband and remains living there. The school had many obstacles to overcome but she did make a difference.

I think the main point of the book is that you have something to offer wherever you live.

Book Review of "The Templars"

There are so many stories about Templars, Knights and Masons. Some are fact and some are fiction. You have to know a little about history to sort through them. Barbara Frale is a historian who gives the reader the history background collected from her research.

The warrior-monks were put together to protect Jerusalem from being taken over by the Muslims. There were multiple countries involved. France and England were two of the major ones. They led the crusades for centuries but were eventually defeated. In the end, between kings and the Catholic Church, they were disbanded. It was a sad ending to their history. There was an inquisition and they were killed.

Much of the book was beyond my knowledge and I kept my laptop nearby to lookup time periods I needed background on. It was very interesting.

From what I comprehended, they began as an honorable group of men who in the end were used as scapegoats, pawns and murdered in the end.

Many people interested in these topics are into the whole conspiracy theories that make for movies.

I’m not into all that but do enjoy learning about history. What I got out of it is that I do not want to support death penalties or torture in any circumstance. Throughout history, there has been so much wrong done to innocent people by deceit or fanaticism. Even for heinous crimes, I would rather just incarcerate and rehabilitate than chance unjustly murdering or harming someone who was innocent or who didn’t submit to an idea.

We have seen these scenarios throughout history from the Templars, to witch hunts, to those refusing to convert to religions, to military revenge. I know in my heart that is not what God would want people doing to each other in his name.

I do believe the military is a necessary part of life that will always be needed. One group will always be trying to take over another and countries need to be able to defend themselves. I am thankful that I have never to to experience war and pray I never do. I am thankful that I live in a country with freedom of religion, democracy and in the age of peace. I am thankful I was born after freedom for slaves, rights for women and civil rights equality. I am thankful for all those before I was born who sacrificed their lives for those freedoms.