Rail Trail: Pennsy Trail, Salamanca, NY

Titus Run Creek

The Pennsy Trail crosses Titus Run Creek in Salamanca, NY. This is one of the areas of the trail that has recently been improved.

Finally, the weather in our part of New York is improving. Many businesses are closed due to COVID-19, and that can get frustrating when the weather doesn’t cooperate. This afternoon, the husband, the dog, and I explored part of the Pennsy Rail Trail in Salamanca, NY.

Let’s get the elephant out of the room first. Yes, locals may remember the tragic past of this trail. Although I wasn’t in the area in 1999, I’ve heard about Penny Brown’s murder on the previous incarnation of this trail. The revamped trail has plenty of security features, including lights, security cameras, and emergency call boxes. There’s also talk of possibly renaming the trail.

Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has kept open state parks and hasn’t locked us down to the point where we can’t go anywhere except where necessary. When it comes to being outdoors, we’ve been urged to keep our social distance from others. With this afternoon being so lovely (sunshine and mild temperatures), plenty of people were on the asphalt trail. We saw families on bicycles and several dog walkers, and we passed them with smiles and hellos.

old bridge

I love finding historical gems on rail trails, such as this battered bridge

The trail runs between exits 20 and 21 of I-86. We traveled westbound from Olean, exiting at Parkway Drive. A small parking lot is located opposite the off-ramp, beside where the old hospital stood until its closure and later demolition. From there, we walked approximately 1.35 miles of the 3.1 mile length before turning around. Houses and backyards line the trail, so be prepared for leashed dogs. There are benches and garbage cans for your convenience, and I hope that eventually there’ll be signage and historical markers about the Pennsylvania Road. The other end exits by the Ohi:yo’ Gateway on the Broad Street extension. From there, it’s possible to walk to the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum and the Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino.

LINK: Salamanca rail trail to see electrical, paving work in coming months

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Review: Killing a Messiah, by Adam Winn

book coverSynopsis

As Passover approaches, the city of Jerusalem is a political tinderbox.

Judah, a resistance leader, plots to overthrow the Roman occupation. Eleazar and his father, the high priest Caiaphas, seek peace in the city at all costs. Pilate, the Roman governor, maneuvers to keep order (and his own hold on power). Caleb, a shopkeeper, is reluctantly caught up in the intrigue. When rumors start spreading about the popular prophet Jesus, hailed by many as the Messiah, Roman and Jewish leaders alike fear unrest and violence during the upcoming festival. Then, in the midst of this tension, unexpected alliances emerge.

In Killing a Messiah, New Testament scholar Adam Winn weaves together stories of historical and fictional characters in a fresh reimagining of the events leading up to Jesus’ execution. Based on what we know of the first-century context, Winn’s narrative offers compelling explanations for gaps in the Gospel accounts. The social, political, and religious realities of Jesus’ world come to life and shed new light on our reading of the biblical texts.

In a city full of political entanglements, espionage, and competing interests, the blame for the crucifixion is complex and can’t land on just a single party. It takes more than one to kill a messiah.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

I’m mostly familiar with InterVarsity Press through its a Week in the Life Of series, so I admit I thought that Killing a Messiah would be in a similar format: that of a novel with side bars of explanatory notes. I was wrong. This is a straightforward novel that, according to the opening notes, began over a decade ago as an idea for a lecture about the crucifixion. The opening prologue, although seemingly unrelated, was exciting enough to launch me into the story and hope for great things. Continue reading

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Review: Star of Persia, by Jill Eileen Smith

book coverSynopsis

Love. Duty. Fear. Courage. In the court of the king, which will prevail?

In an effort to complete a war his father had planned to win, King Xerxes calls every governor, satrap, and official in his vast kingdom to his palace in Susa to strategize and feast. When they finally leave, he decides on one more week of frivolity, which ends in the banishment of his favorite wife, something he never intended to do. But when he discovers Esther, Xerxes is sure he has a second chance at happiness.

In her wildest dreams, Esther could never have imagined that she would end up as queen of Persia. Yet she knows better than to become complacent. Another of Xerxes’ wives is vying for position, and his closest advisor has a deep and dangerous grudge against Esther’s adoptive father. Caught in the middle of palace politics, Esther will find herself in an impossible position: risk her life or consign her people to annihilation.


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

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Review: Like Flames in the Night, by Connilyn Cossette

book coverSynopsis

Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander’s kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger.

Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached–strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted.

When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam’s thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he’s come to love?


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

Forty years have passed since a Hebrew named Moriyah was introduced in Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette. She was maybe 13 years old, and her first appearance came almost halfway through the book. She featured heavily in the second half, but that was the last book in Cossette’s Out of Israel series, and I lamented that I wouldn’t get to learn what happened to her. At the time, I didn’t know she would become the centerpiece of the four Cities of Refuge books. Now the last of those books has been released… and I still want more.

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Literary Locations: Chicago (Veiled in Smoke)

While it might not seem an obvious addition to a bucket list, Chicago is one of the many locations on mine. (Along with the likes of ancient Petra, in Jordan!) This Midwest city contains a wealth of history, and several events I find fascinating took place there. There’s the H.H. Holmes murders, the Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1893, and… the Great Chicago Fire. As I read Veiled in Smoke, by Jocelyn Green, I would pause to find a spot on a map, such as where the fictional Corner Books & More store would’ve been located (corner of Randolph and Clark Streets, diagonally across from Court House Square.

Chicago by air 2014The only Chicago location I’ve been to is O’Hare Airport, twice. The closest I’ve been to downtown is probably from up in the air. This photograph shows Lincoln Park in the lower half. Interestingly, part of it was once a cemetery. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still a few bodies buried under there. During the Great Chicago Fire, people escaping the flames fled to Lincoln Park. In Veiled in Smoke, the Townsend sisters and Nate Pierce were among those running for safety.

Jocelyn Green blog graphicJocelyn Green recently wrote a blog post about places in the city where you can catch glimpses of the city as it was in the book. First on her list is the former O’Leary property where the fire started. It’s now the location of the Chicago Fire Academy. You know that had to be intentional but, nonetheless, I find it funny. Another place on her list is a mansion from one of my favorite eras of American history – the Gilded Age.

Find your favorite Veiled in Smoke location at Jocelyn’s blog today.

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Review: The Runaway Bride, by Jody Hedlund

book coverSynopsis

Haunted by Mistakes in Her Past, Will She Ever Again
Trust Her Heart to Another?

Wealthy Arabella Lawrence flees to British Columbia on a bride ship, still bearing the scars of past mistakes. One of the few single women in the boomtown, she immediately attracts suitors, but she is determined not to find herself trapped again by making a poor choice.

Vying for her hand are two very different men. Lieutenant Richard Drummond is a gentleman in the Navy, held in high esteem. Peter Kelly is the town’s baker who has worked hard to build a thriving business. He and Drummond not only compete for Arabella’s affections, but also clash over their views of how the natives should be treated in the midst of a smallpox outbreak.

As Arabella begins to overcome her fears, she discovers someone in dire need–a starving girl left behind by her tribe. Intent on helping the child, Arabella leans on Peter’s advice and guidance. Will she have the wisdom to make the right decision, or will seeking what’s right cost both her and Peter everything?


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

Jody Hedlund is a busy woman. In the past year, she’s launched a half dozen novels, including the first of The Bride Ships series. Now comes the second of that series, The Runaway Bride, set during the same time frame as The Reluctant Bride and featuring familiar characters from that title.

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Review: Isaiah’s Legacy, by Mesu Andrews

book coverSynopsis

The drama of the Old Testament comes to life as Judah’s most notorious king ascends to the throne in this gripping novel from the award-winning author of Isaiah’s Daughter.

At eight years old, Shulle has known only life in a small village with her loving but peculiar father. When Uncle Shebna offers shelter in Jerusalem in exchange for Shulle’s help tutoring King Manasseh, Judah’s five-year-old co-regent who displays the same peculiarities as her father, she’s eager to experience the royal court. But Shulle soon realizes the limits of her father’s strict adherence to Yahweh’s Law when Uncle Shebna teaches her of the starry hosts and their power.

Convinced Judah must be freed from Yahweh’s chains, she begins the subtle swaying of young Manasseh, using her charm and skills on the boy no one else understands. When King Hezekiah dies, twelve-year-old Manasseh is thrust onto Judah’s throne, bitter at Yahweh and eager to marry the girl he adores. Assyria’s crown prince favors Manasseh and twists his brilliant mind toward cruelty, beginning Shulle’s long and harrowing journey to discover the Yahweh she’d never known, guided with loving wisdom by Manasseh’s mother: Isaiah’s daughter, the heartbroken Hephzibah.

Amid Judah’s dark days, a desperate remnant emerges, claiming the Lord’s promise, “Though we’re helpless now, we’re never hopeless–because we serve El Shaddai.” Shulle is among them, a girl who becomes a queen through Isaiah’s legacy.

My Review

Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own. I appreciate being a member of the BFF team.

Comments about Christianity aren’t always positive. I’ve often heard that it’s misogynistic, for example, even though that’s something with which I disagree. But, when I consider the paganism featured in this novel, I want to say how thankful I am for the Christian faith. Isaiah’s Legacy isn’t the first book I’ve read by Mesu Andrews, not by a long shot, but it is the one I had the most difficulty finishing. That’s nothing to do with her quality of writing, but instead due to the subject matter Andrews had to write about.

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Welcome to Isaiah’s Legacy Blog Hop – Stop #22

blog tour graphic

1 Week ~ 24 Blogs ~ 3 Incredible Prizes!

Learn a little about Isaiah’s Legacy and enter multiple giveaways while picking up CLUES at each stop. Compile all the clues, submit the final PHRASE at the last stop, and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 Grand Prizes!

What are the prizes? They’re completely unique to the winners!

Mesu will contact each winner personally to chat about what they would most like to see in Israel, and then she’ll SHOP for just the right gift while touring Israel, March 6-19! She’ll then purchase a personal and memorable gift specifically chosen for each of those three winners and ship them to each one when she returns. How fun is that?!

How does the Scavenger Hunt & Blog Tour Work?

  • Begin at Stop #1. At the end, you’ll find a CLUE and a link to the next stop. Progress to each stop IN ORDER.
  • Collect all the clues—in order—and submit the full phrase at the last blog stop in the Rafflecopter form. Every stop has a clue, so be sure not to skip any along the way!
  • You may enter the final giveaway only once and win only one grand prize.
  • The Hunt begins 2/19/20 at noon EDT. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, 02/25 at midnight Eastern.
  • For best results, hunt through our list using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).

There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have a whole week! As you visit each blog, it’s our hope that you get to know Mesu’s BFF team and discover the heart behind Isaiah’s Legacy.

Hi there!

book coverI’m Sally, and Isaiah’s Legacy is the fourth book I’ve helped promote on Mesu’s BFF team. I love reading her novels, and I’ve learned a lot from them as well.

Want to dig deeper into God’s Word about the king in Isaiah’s Legacy? Check out the YouVersion Devotional Bible Study. (I love YouVersion!)

Thanks for stopping by my blog. My actual review will be in another post on here. Remember to write down your CLUE before clicking to the next stop.

Here’s the Stop 22 Stuff!

Clue to write down: betray.”

Link to STOP #23: Assyria’s King Sennacherib Married to a Hebrew?

Bookmark STOP #1 so you can check the tour schedule and get back on track if at any point you get lost or find a broken link.

Enjoy the hunt!
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Review: The Hocus Girl, by Chris Nickson

book coverDisclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

Have you ever read a book and wanted to know MORE? If you’re like me then you probably have, but I don’t think I’ve anticipated a next book more eagerly than when I waited for The Hocus Girl. To quickly recap, in The Hanging Psalm, readers are introduced to thief-taker, Simon Westow, and his assistant Jane. A thief-taker is someone who hunts down stolen items and returns them to their rightful owners for a fee. Simon, Jane, his wife and his sons, live in gritty 19th century Leeds. It’s the time of the Industrial Revolution, and great change is taking place. New machines are being invented, and man’s place in the world is shifting. Leeds is full of mills and mines, and the first commercially viable steam engine has been built on the city’s outskirts. Continue reading

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Review: Veiled in Smoke, by Jocelyn Green

book coverSynopsis

The Flames Took So Much.
She Can’t Lose Her Father As Well.

Meg Townsend and her sister, Sylvie, seek a quiet existence managing the family bookshop. Meg feels responsible for caring for their father, Stephen, whose spirit and health are both damaged from his time as a prisoner during the Civil War. Her one escape is the paintings she creates and sells in the bookshop.

Then the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district. The fiery explosions and chaos stir up memories of war for Stephen as he runs from the blaze and becomes separated from his daughters. Days later, when the smoke has cleared, Meg and Sylvie manage to reunite with him. Their home and shop are lost, and what’s left among the ashes may be even more threatening than the flames, for they learn that a close friend was murdered the night of the fire–and Stephen has been charged with the crime. After he is committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum, where they cannot visit him, Stephen feels as lost to them as the shop that now lies in rubble.

Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life but prove the truth of what happened that night, before the asylum truly drives her father mad.


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the author and the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.

The Civil War might’ve ended in 1865, but its impact was felt long after. Continue reading

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