Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December's Review Round-up

Here is the link to this month's review posted at Wildflower Faith:

Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems
This was by far my favorite non-fiction discovery of 2014!

You may have noticed that December was slow month for book reviews. I enjoyed the little break and used it to catch up on some other reading. In January, though, this blog will be full of reviews!

Here are a few titles that you can expect to see:

Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall
Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren
Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta
The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets

I hope you all enjoyed a beautiful Christmas! I wish you a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: "The Wishing Season"

Denise Hunter has been among my favorite authors for some time now. I always look forward to her new releases, knowing I'll get to enjoy a sweet story. The Wishing Season, her newest release, disappointed me, though. Yes. It was a sweet story. But it pushed the boundaries of Christian fiction too far. If I had a teenage daughter, I wouldn't be comfortable letting her read this book. And, though the book wasn't written for teenagers or young adults, it does carry the label Christian fiction. To me that means that the Christian characters in the book, though human and vulnerable to temptation, should be "role models" for those who read their stories. P.J. and Cole weren't.

When an elderly lady in town offers to give her spacious house to the applicant she finds most worthy, P.J. and Cole both apply. P.J. wants to turn the home into a restaurant/bed and breakfast. Cole wants to turn it into a home for young adults transitioning out of the foster care system. The owner of the house can't decide which applicant has the better idea, so she gives one floor of the home to P.J. for a year and the other to Cole. At the end of that time, she'll see how each of them has done and choose a winner.

The problem is: P.J. and Cole are complete strangers. Both are unmarried. They are now living together. And as the book progresses, they fall in love and can't keep their hands off of each other--while still living in the same house. They never go so far as to sleep together, but they go in and out of each other's bedrooms at all hours of the day and night. And Hunter portrays the situation as totally normal, nothing anyone should be concerned about when, in reality, it's a high-temptation situation that unmarried Christians should avoid. I'm not surprised when secular media uses this tactic, portraying what shouldn't be normal as normal in order to get people to decide that it is normal after all. But I shouldn't find that in a book written for Christians.

On the positive side, I did like Hunter's portrayal of Cole overcoming the great hardships of his life. He was a complex character who learned about changes he needed to make in his opinion of himself. He carried his issues through the story, was hit with a crisis, failed in his response to it, then accepted new insight and made things right. I enjoyed reading about it, though I wish even that would have have had a bit more depth. Hunter told me what went on inside of Cole, but didn't quite convince me it was so.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #5

If you haven't read this one yet, you must!
I've read it twice and will again.
This challenge will change your life and
strengthen your soul.
On November 17th, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2014. Here is where I stand since then:

  • A Guide to Prayer for All God's People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck (Finished!)
  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn (Finished!)
  • More Precious Than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada (Finished!)
  • Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (Finished!)
  • Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron (Finished!)
  • The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue (Finished!)
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson (Finished!)
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (Finished!)
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson (On page 311 of 476)
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs (Finished!)
  • Love without End by Robin Lee Hatcher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall - Includes: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace (Started - on page 102 of 1019)
  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • One addition: The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter (Started and finished! I'll post a review later today.)

I'll have no problem finishing Dee Henderson's book by Christmas, and by the end of the year, I will have made a pretty good dent in Hope Crossing, which I wasn't sure I'd even have time to start. So this will be my last update. I'm off to enjoy Christmas and New Year's Day! I hope you enjoy your celebrations, too.

Merry Christmas, reading friends! Happy 2015, too!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: "The Secret of Pembrooke Park"

A regency romance with layers of mystery, The Secret of Pembrooke Park is Julie Klassen’s most intriguing story yet. I just kept reading, my mind trying to sort it all out. Though I did guess bits, Klassen kept me mildly uncertain and guessing to the end where everything worked out just right. I recommend this perilous tale!

Trying to set things right for her family who suffered a serious financial set-back because of her investment recommendation, Abigail Foster encourages her father to accept an unusual housing offer. For unknown reasons, the anonymous owner wants Abigail’s family to live at Pembrooke Park for at least one year for a very low rate, household help included. The Fosters know little about the history of the manor but do know that the Pembrookes are distant relatives. They make plans to move in, sending Abigail ahead, alone, to help the servants prepare.

When Abigail begins to hear rumors about the estate that her servants, under threat of losing their jobs, refuse to confirm or deny, she starts seeking answers on her own. Journal pages written by a former inhabitant arrive in the mail to make her even more curious—and to provide clues. Bumps in the night, grave warnings from mysterious sources, strange behavior of town residents, and the suspiciously timed arrival of one of the actual Pembrookes all spur Abigail’s investigation on. Does Pembrooke Park offer hope for her family or threaten to destroy it? She has to keep seeking the truth.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this honest review. It was an intense adventure with unusual characters set in a favorite historical time. Fans of books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights will want to discover The Secret of Pembrooke Park.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Janet's Reading Themes for 2015


I don't know how you choose books to read. But I like to choose reading themes. Last year, along with whatever books came along for review, I focused on books by Dee Henderson. I read Jennifer, then I reread The O'Malley's series, then I caught up with Henderson's three most recent books. Now I've learned her next book, Taken, will be released in April - I can't wait!

For 2015, I have some new themes:

First, for my devotional reading, along with my Bible, I'll be reading books by C.S. Lewis. I've collected most of them and read several. But I still have more to read and some I long to reread. I don't expect to get through them all, but I'm going to read as many as I can. I'm starting with The Weight of Glory, one I've seen quoted from often that I have yet to read.

Also for devotional reading, I plan to read some of the Kindle Freebies I've collected over the past few years. Some are by well-known authors like Beth Moore. Others are by bloggers who wanted to share their thoughts in digital book form. I've gleefully grabbed so many of these when they were offered for free. Now I want to read them! (And if they were written by self-published authors who were hoping for positive reviews, I will be writing those for the books I enjoy.) I'll be reading Walking with Bilbo by Sarah Arthur first.

Then for fun, along with whatever books come along for review, I plan to finish as many series I've started as I can. Again, there is no way I'll get through them all in one year. My must-read-to-finish-series list on Goodreads has 75 titles. But I've been reading through The House of Winslow series by Gilbert Morris since 1999, and I still have four books to go (plus the three books in the spin-off series A Winslow Breed, but they won't count toward this theme). It's time for me to finish some of these series. I'll actually be starting with The Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta which I just received for review. This will wrap up her ultra-mysterious Price of Privilege trilogy.

  • Your turn! What reading themes or goals are you setting for 2015?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #4

On November 17th, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2014. Here is where I stand since then:

  • A Guide to Prayer for All God's People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck (Finished!)
  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn (Finished!)
  • More Precious Than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada (Two more daily devotionals to go!)
  • Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (Finished!)
  • Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron (Finished!)
  • The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue (Finished!)
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson (Finished!)
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (On page 206 of 227)
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson (On page 153 of 476)
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs (Finished!)
  • Love without End by Robin Lee Hatcher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall - Includes: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace (Started - on page 40 of 1019)
  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen (On page 82 of 456)
So now I've finished all of the books that I had started earlier this year, those that I was lingering over for one reason or another. All that's left is to finish this year's devotional reading plus the two books I'm currently reading for review and to finally catch up with Dee Henderson. (That was one of my reading goals for this year: to re-read the O'Malley's then read Henderson's three most recent works.) Now I'm ready for her to write another book!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: "Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball"

If you, like me, never quite outgrew the love of a great fairy tale, Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball will sweep you off your feet. Published in 2010, it remains one of my Christmas favorites, a delightful story by an imaginative author.

Donita Paul's imagination is revealed in her characters. (Sandy and Skippy were my favorites.) It is revealed in the story's setting—if only I could actually visit Sage Street and the Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bookstore. (That’s right—it starts in a bookstore. I was sold from the start! And I’d love to buy a dress from the Booterbaw sisters someday. If only I could.) Finally, her imagination worked overtime all through the vaguely familiar, but not entirely predictable plot. I enjoyed this book.

As a bonus, skillfully crafted into the story are many subtle words of Christian wisdom and practical ideas for life. This is my favorite kind of story: one I can thoroughly relax and enjoy, yet glean some significant insight from as I do. (The one I considered most profound can be found in the second full paragraph of page 144.) If you’re in the mood for a sweet Christmas story this season, go out and find this book!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #3

On November 17th, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2014. Here is where I stand since then:

  • A Guide to Prayer for All God's People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck (Finished!)
  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn (On page 241 of 473)
  • More Precious Than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada (A few more weeks of daily devotionals to go)
  • Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (On page 164 of 248)
  • Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron (Finished!)
  • The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue (Finished!)
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson (Finished!)
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (On page 122 of 227)
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson (Started - on page 71 of 476)
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs (Started - on page 126 of 180)
  • Love without End by Robin Lee Hatcher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall - Includes: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace (Now an even more ambitious maybe because . . .)

I have one addition to this list: a for-review book that arrived earlier than expected. I need to finish reading it by January 1!

  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen (Started - on page 12 of  456)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Finding Guilt-Free Time to Read

I’ve been asked how I find time to read as many books as I do. First I’d have to say that when you enjoy something thoroughly and benefit from it, if it’s your passion, so to speak, you make time for the activity. Reading is such an activity for me. My God and my family come first, but reading enhances my relationships and my involvement in ministry. What I put in, God can bring out. Reading has value that way.

The Woman's Study Bible, NIV
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned:

1. Use waiting time. The television character, Rory, one of the Gilmore Girls, always carried a book in her purse to read when she had to wait for something—a bus, a friend, an appointment, whatever. She had the book available and made good use of the time. Likewise, one of my college professors claims he read the entire Old Testament while waiting for his wife to do her make-up on Sunday mornings. My husband doesn’t put on make-up, praise the Lord, but my professor’s point was that we can make good use of waiting time. A few minutes here and there eventually get us through even a great, big, overwhelming book!

2. Get up early (or stay up late). It all depends on how you’re wired. If you’re an early bird, get up before anyone else and enjoy a few moments of uninterrupted quiet, reading time—the Bible first, then other books. If you’re a night owl, celebrate getting the rest of the household to bed and reward yourself for a good day’s work by reading before you tuck yourself in.

3. Multi-task. Here’s your opportunity to get really creative. I’ll offer a few ideas to get you started: I like to work-out in the morning, and sometimes I run on a treadmill. I’ve learned that if I make the incline steep, I can burn the same amount of calories per mile walking as I burn running on a flat surface. If I’m walking, I can read as I do, and walking is easier on knees and ankles. It takes a little longer to complete a work-out, but joint health and reading time justify that. I also like to read while I cook. I’m notoriously impatient while waiting for water to boil or pasta to soften up. If I keep a book on the counter to read during these waiting times, I’m more likely to get the recipe right.

4. Reward yourself for doing tasks you usually put off. Tell yourself if you complete the dreaded task, you’ve earned a little time to read. Then keep your promise—treat yourself. Don’t rush off to do something else.

5. Turn teaching your children into playtime for yourself. I found this idea in a Focus on the Family Magazine article last year. It’s too much fun! If a child fails to do a chore, as children sometimes do, rather than rant and rave, fuss and fume, quietly do the chore yourself. Later, have your child pay you back by doing a chore for you. Choose a dreaded, time-consuming one, then read while your child works. (This isn't as effective with little kids, but with teenagers, it’s ideal.)

These are just a few ideas. I hope they are helpful to you. If you have others, please take the time to comment and share. I always appreciate finding more time to read: God’s Word first, then other worthwhile books--or blogs or magazines.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #2

Insights into Christian living
from the life of St. Francis
On November 17th, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2014. Here is where I stand since then:

  • A Guide to Prayer for All God's People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck (Finished!)
  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn (On page 183 of 473)
  • More Precious Than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada (A little less than a month of daily devotionals to go)
  • Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (On page 89 of 248)
  • Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron (Finished!)
  • The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue (Finished!)
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson (On page 220 of 441)
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (No progress this week. Still on page 62 of 227)
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson (Not Started)
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs (Started - on page 10 of 180)
  • Love without End by Robin Lee Hatcher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems (Started - on page 57 of  199)
  • Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall - Includes: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace (Still an ambitious maybe)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November's Review Round-up

Here are this month's links to book reviews I posted at Wildflower Faith:

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson





by Erin Healy







Love Without End
by Robin Lee Hatcher











I also shared some thoughts about a quote from The Merciful Scar in a post called Liking Having to Get Along.

I hope you'll visit some of these. Feel free to leave a comment to say, "Hi!"


Monday, November 24, 2014

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #1

A Guide to Prayer
for All God's People -
A daily devotional that runs
from the first Sunday of
Advent (11-30 this year)
through the last week of
the church year
Last week I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2014. Here is where I stand after one week:

  • A Guide to Prayer for All God's People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck (Almost finished!)
  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn (On page 171 of 473)
  • More Precious Than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada (A little more than a month of daily devotionals to go)
  • Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney (On page 50 of 248)
  • Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron (On page 160 of 208)
  • The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue (Finished!)
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson (On page 91 of 441)
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Finished! Review posted here.)
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (On page 62 of 227)
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson (Not Started)
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs (Not started)
  • Love without End by Robin Lee Hatcher (Started - on page of 283)
  • Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems (Not started)
  • Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall - Includes: The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace (Still an ambitious maybe)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Review: "Christmas at Rose Hill Farm"

For me, Christmas at Rose Hill Farm was a fun surprise. It’s a visit with characters, some minor, some more important, from some of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s other books. I enjoyed reading about Bess, Billy, and Maggie all grown up, being reminded of Bertha’s odd ways, and learning what’s become of Lainey and her family all while being treated to a brand new Christmastime story.

Two years after the love of her life vanished without a trace, Bess is preparing to marry Amos, a man who loves her and will provide her with a comfortable life. As she’s thinking about her future, she discovers an unusual rose hidden under a workbench in her grandmother’s greenhouse. The rose has one bud on it, preparing to bloom. Curious, Bess and her father call for a rose rustler to come identify the mysterious plant. It turns out, of course, that several more secrets will need to revealed in order for all people involved to find their happily-ever-after. The book is one honest disclosure after another until healing can come.

You don’t have to have read any of Fisher’s other books first in order to enjoy this one. (But if you haven't, you'll probably want to after reading this one.) I recommend it to all fans of sweet Christmas fiction reads and thank Revell for sending my copy in exchange for this review. Now I’m hoping Fisher will let us visit this community again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: The Christmas Cat

If you enjoy reading sweet Christmas stories this time of year, I recommend The Christmas Cat—even if you don’t like cats—because it isn’t really about the cat.

Actually, there are six cats in the story. They belonged to Garrison Brown’s grandmother. But now that she has passed away, Garrison must find homes for them all, and he can’t just give them away to anyone. Garrison’s grandmother’s will has him placing these cats as carefully as children up for adoption.

Unfortunately for Garrison, he’s allergic to cats and, perhaps, afraid of them, too. Thankfully for Garrison, his grandmother belonged to a loving and helpful community of people whom Garrison is about to get to know.

I really liked this book. I only wish it had included just a few more chapters. It seemed to end too abruptly. Melody Carlson did give readers enough information to predict which way the story will probably go, but I would have liked just a little more reassurance about the happily-ever-afters for Garrison, Cara, Harry, and Elliott. Maybe Carlson will set another book in this Washington state town! I’d like to read about these people—and cats—again.

I thank Revell for sending me a complimentary copy of The Christmas Cat in exchange for this honest review.

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading List

I'm almost done with
this touching story!
Some people make New Year's Resolutions. I make end of year goals. Finishing books I've started always tops the list. It just makes me happy to start fresh in the New Year.

Here is the list of books I've started in 2014 that I plan to finish reading:

  • A Guide to Prayer for All God's People by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck
  • Heaven by Randy Alcorn
  • More Precious Than Silver by Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney
  • Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
  • The Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson
  • Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Here are just a few more books that I haven't started yet but plan to read by December 31:

  • Undetected by Dee Henderson
  • The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs
  • Love without End by Robin Lee Hatcher
  • Rhythms of Grace by Kerri Weems

And, if I have time, I'd also like to read Hope Crossing by Cindy Woodsmall, but it's a trilogy compiled into one book, so I'm thinking that may be too ambitious. We'll see! I'll post updates weekly.

What books are you trying to finish by the end of the year?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World"

This book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, has been on my to-read list for a very long time, so I was really excited when Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers offered me a complimentary copy of the newly released version in exchange for an honest review. I think I put off reading it because I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. I had heard high recommendations, but I was also feeling kind of tired of the whole Mary and Martha thing. I was afraid the book would be more of the same.

But it wasn’t. This book is full of fresh insights into the lives of Mary and Martha, their relationship with Jesus, their place in history. It’s also full of practical wisdom that all women, whether they consider themselves more like Mary or Martha, will be able to apply to their lives. Joanna Weaver teaches, in an easy-to-understand way, the path to the balance we all need.

On page 5, she tells us (about Mary and Martha), “That is not to say one is right and one is wrong. We are all different, and that is just as God made us to be. Each gifting and personality has its own strengths and weaknesses, its glories and temptations.” You see? No Martha-bashing here. Weaver shows us the strengths and weaknesses, glories and temptations of both women, helps us to identify these in our lives, and teaches us how to let Jesus bring out our best. (There’s even a chart on pages 182-3 to help us see which way we may be leaning.)

I read this book at just the right time and will be  praying and waiting and watching for some opportunities to make some adjustments with the loving and gentle guidance of my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. If you also are feeling as if the balance may be off in your life, I recommend this book to you.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: "A Mom's Prayers for Her Son"

A Mom’s Prayers for Her Son is an excellent resource for moms who want help with their prayer life. The book isn't really meant to be read through in one sitting. Seventy-seven prayers are identified by circumstance, so that a mom can find the ones that will help her find the words she needs as she begins to pray for her son. Three or four Bible verses are included before each prayer, so women can pray the Scriptures, too.

Scattered among the prayers are testimonies by other mothers regarding their prayers for their sons and articles by the author about prayer concerns mothers will especially want to cover when praying particularly for sons.

Because I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review, I did read it straight through. I discovered great value in this approach, too. I have three sons, so as I read the different prayers, I’d pray for one, then another. Sometimes I’d pray for my husband, another family member—even myself. Not all of these prayers apply only to boys, so as I read, I prayed for whomever God’s Spirit brought to my mind.

The prayers were beautiful and thought-provoking--a great jumping-off point for the reader's personal prayers. I appreciated the author’s tendency, as she prayed for her sons, to pray for herself as a mother, too. God placed our sons in our care; we’re wise to ask Him to help us be the moms He intended us to be—the best moms for them. I recommend this book to moms of sons.


Note: I was disappointed in one small aspect of the book. It’s not the author’s or publisher’s fault. But each testimony by another mother included an invitation to visit that mother’s website. Maybe it’s unusual for readers to take people up on these invitations, but I did only to discover that many were inactive—a few didn’t even exist anymore. It probably would have been better to leave the website invitations off. They were an unnecessary distraction from the book.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October's Review Round-up

Here are this month's links to reviews I posted at Wildflower Faith:

Citizen by Rob Peabody

Into the Canyon by Michael Neale

Reviews coming in November to this blog are:

A Mom's Prayers for Her Son by Rob & Joanna Teigen

Having a Mary Heart by Joanna Weaver

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: "To Everything a Season"

To Everything a Season by Lauraine Snelling is the first book in the Song of Blessing series. But it’s the 18th book in the Blessing saga which rotates around Ingeborg Bjorklund, her family, her community, and her solid relationship with Christ. This installment is especially tender—one readers who’ve followed Ingeborg's story won’t want to miss.

As in many of the other books and series set in Blessing, North Dakota, this series focuses on a member of the family who is coming of age, making decisions that will impact the course of his life. Ingeborg’s nephew Trygve Knutson is that focal point. Tired of traveling to manage a crew that digs wells for farmers in nearby and not-so-nearby communities, Trygve believes he’s needed in Blessing, available to serve his family and community. Uncle Hjelmer, who sets up the well-drilling jobs, isn’t happy about Trygve’s choice, but Trygve is determined to make this change in his life.

New characters to the town are Miriam Hastings (a student nurse from Chicago sent to train in Blessing to learn how nursing is done differently in a small-town setting), Manny McCrary (a troubled 12-year-old with a broken leg and a defensive attitude), and Father Thomas Devlin (a mysterious Anglican priest seeking work in the field of carpentry).

I haven’t yet read Snelling’s Home to Blessing series (Astrid’s story), but I didn’t feel lost as I plunged into Song of Blessing. Snelling tells just enough to keep readers who haven’t read the earlier books up to speed without revealing critical details from the previous stories. I don’t yet know how Astrid got from high school to happily-married doctor, but I can read her adventure later without feeling I spoiled anything for myself by reading this book first. Therefore I can recommend this book to readers new to the town of Blessing as well as to long-time fans. Anyone with an interest in American history in the early 1900’s, westward expansion, immigration, and Christian fiction will appreciate this book.

Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Contrasting Approaches to Friendship

Something interesting happened in my reading world the other day. Two of the books I’m reading had little discussions about how different people approach friendship. The approaches presented were complete opposites. I thought it was funny that I happened to read them on the same day. Neither book is about friendship; the non-fiction one included the approach in order to explain a concept, the fiction one to develop a character.

In the first book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the author describes a friend of his whom he’s identified as a connector. This person, Roger, thinks of every person he ever meets as a friend. If he can get your name, address, and birthday, he will send you a birthday card every year—just to let you know you’re important to him. He does this even if he only met you in the airport while waiting to catch a plane, spent just a few minutes with you, and will most likely never see you again! At the time the book was written, Roger had 1,600 people in his address book!

Roger knows these relationships aren’t deep (Gladwell calls them “weak-ties”), but Roger likes people and people like him. One of his greatest joys in life is introducing friends with similar interests to one another, so they can become friends, too. The term “connector” fits because Roger connects himself to other people and then to each other. The book was written before social media came to exist, so I can only imagine how many “friends” Roger has now. According to Gladwell, he values every one.

The second book, Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson, introduces us to Ann Silver. Ann knows that life is short and that she doesn’t have time to fully invest herself in the lives of every person on the planet. She enjoys meeting new people, but she's selective about which people she calls friends. People like and respect Ann. Those she chooses as her friends consider themselves privileged and like spending time with her. They trust her with the deepest details of their lives.

Ann values her privacy, so she protects the privacy of her friends. This means she doesn’t talk about one to another except in general and positive ways if one happens to come up in conversation. She never goes out of her way to introduce them to each other. If they happened to show up in the same room and the same time, she’ll happily make the introduction. Otherwise, it’s none of her business whether or not they ever meet. With Ann, once you’re a friend, you’re a friend for life—unless you betray her trust. If Ann were to use social media, and that would be unlikely, she would probably have very few friends—by choice.

  • Realizing that these are two extremes, which kind of friend do you tend to be?
  • Which kind of friend would you most appreciate?

Today I'm sharing this post with the linky party at A Little R & R.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: "A Love Undone"

Cindy Woodsmall has a gift for putting her characters into impossible situations, and her new book, A Love Undone, is especially heartwrenching.

Andy Fisher, whom readers met in Cindy’s Christmas novella, The Dawn of Christmas, is a grass widower with a young son. A grass widower is a man whose wife has left him. She’s still living, therefore, he’s still married and must remain so, except in extreme circumstances, until his wife dies—even if this means he has to live alone for the rest of his life.


Jolene Keim, the oldest of five children, is also alone because of circumstances beyond her control. Many widowers have tried to court her, but she’s given her life to another cause. When Andy and Jolene meet while working together on his uncle’s farm to save a group of rescued horses, he believes she knows his situation—until it becomes clear that both of their hearts are involved in what can never be.

I wasn’t surprised by the book’s eventual resolution, but I still enjoyed reading how it all played out. I was touched more than once by each character’s sacrificial determination to do what was right for others in spite of the cost to self. God sees when His children suffer in this way. He rewards in His time and in His way.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. I recommend it to Amish fiction fans.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: "Storm Siren"

When I read Mary Weber’s author biography, I knew I had to read her book . . . any “ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives” deserves to have the first of these books read.

I was thoroughly engrossed, but the last five paragraphs nearly killed me. Please write fast, Mary! I’m ready to read the next book.

As you might have guessed from her description of herself, Mary writes fantasy novels. In Storm Siren, she has created a land at war, a land full of royalty plotting behind each other’s backs, slaves with secret powers, monsters who can climb inside people's skin, tall dwarves, man-eating horses, and mystery. Readers are cheering for Nym, an anomaly in this world, a girl with the ability to control the weather who would be sentenced to die if what she is were to become known. One woman does know, however, and purchases Nym to be her slave in order to train her as a weapon for the war.

Nym is tormented emotionally. She sees her gift as a curse, trusts no one—especially herself, and only wants to hide where she will do no one else any more harm. She carries the scars of her life on her arms. But she is suddenly surrounded by people who seem to believe there is good in her, who want to help her succeed, to become what she’s truly intended to be.

I received a complimentary eCopy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this honest review. I recommend it to fans of great adventures in invented worlds.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: "Abraham"

When I was little, I read a lot of biographies. Most, naturally, ended with an account of the person's death. I always cried. My poor parents . . . I must have drove them crazy. But I think it's one sign of a gifted writer, not just a tender heart, to be able to bring someone to life through a book in such a way.

This is what Charles Swindoll has accomplished through his book, Abraham. He has taken the familiar Bible stories about this incredible patriarch and brought the man to life--to the point that when I read about his death, I actually wanted to cry, though I've known these stories since childhood.

Swindoll doesn't just record a biography, though. While it's true that each chapter records an event from or observation about Abraham's life, each also has a practical life application for today's reader. Abraham lived. His story is included in our Bibles to teach us about the choices we make and about the God we serve and about His work in our lives. We may have existed on this planet millenniums apart from each other, but Swindoll's book shows us that our lives may not be so different after all. Some aspects are dramatically different, but principles for living are much the same.

I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. I recommend it to readers who enjoy reading biographies and studying God's Word.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: "The River"

Beverly Lewis's new book, The River, approaches Amish life from a different angle. As the story begins, two sisters who have left their Amish upbringing behind in order to live English lives are invited home by their brother after several years away. Their parents' anniversary is the occasion and their father's failing health is the draw they need, though both return with fear and trembling.

Tilly is happily married and raising twin daughters, but Ruth is still single. Her parents and siblings can't help but hope that her visit will draw her back to her roots. Her former beau, the reason for her departure, hopes to influence her as well. Tilly, however, is determined to protect her sister from the lifestyle they chose to leave, even from Ruth, herself, if need be.

Unusual for Beverly Lewis, this sweet book stands alone. It's a story of reconciliation, acceptance, and familial love. It's a story full of secrets kept finally revealed, so that healing can take place. It's a quick read, a little predictable, but one that leaves the reader feeling happy that all has finally ended well.

I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I recommend it to fans of Beverly Lewis and Amish fiction.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: "The Story Keeper"

Wow! This book was worth waiting for! It initially got lost in the mail, but finally found its way here. I loved reading it!

The story is romantic, but it's not a romance. You may have to read it to figure out what that means. It's the story of a New York editor who finds a mystery on her desk. The quest to solve it leads her back to her childhood home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It brings her face to face with a reclusive and angry author and gets her emotions all tangled up with a longing to help the impoverished children of her community of origin to escape as she did.

I loved the themes of individuality, family, community, ancestry, and history. I also enjoyed learning about the Melungeon people and reading about the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I appreciated seeing the way that Jen and Evan and Rand and Sarra matured as their stories progressed. Lisa Wingate's book has given me a lot to reflect upon.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of The Story Keeper in exchange for this honest review. I gladly recommend it to you!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Book Review: "Prescription for Life"

If you are concerned about your health . . .

If you want to stay as young as you can be physiologically (even as you age chronologically) . . .

If you want to do what is in your power to maximize your lifespan . . .

If you want to avoid some of the world’s most common, yet most dreaded, diseases . . .

You will want to read Richard Furman’s book, Prescription for Life.

The three strategies he offers are pretty basic: eat healthy foods, maintain a healthy weight, exercise. But the information that he packs into the book about these strategies and about how our bodies work is quite useful. A lot of the information in the book was new to me, and I've been paying attention to these strategies since my college days.

After those three sections (the first 2/3 of the book), when Furman started delving into specific diseases and all the studies done that show why his prescribed strategies can help us avoid them, I felt the book started to get a touch repetitious. I realized, however, that Furman just really, really, really believes that the diet and exercise program he prescribes will help his readers to live long and healthy lives—unless they get eaten by a lion or something like that. He has packed all the data he can into this book to convince his readers of this, too. He knows he’s asking a lot of the average reader, therefore he must provide ample evidence in order to talk his readers into committing to his plan.

I will have to think long and hard about actually giving up all cheese. But I will remember the information gleaned from this book and apply quite a bit of it to my life. I do want to be healthy and to avoid, if at all possible, the suffering that comes with heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and dementia. If you feel the same way about your life, I recommend this book to you.

I received a complimentary copy of Prescription for Life from Revell in exchange for this honest review. I am thankful I had the opportunity to read this helpful book.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September's Review Round-Up

Here are this month's links to reviews I posted at Wildflower Faith:

Never Ever Give Up by Erik Rees

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley

Both books are exceptional! My reviews will tell you why.

And, just in case you're curious . . .

Coming in October - to this blog - reviews of:
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate
Prescription for Life by Richard Furman
Abraham by Charles Swindoll
The River by Beverly Lewis
Storm Siren by Mary Weber
A Love Undone by Cindy Woodsmall

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon Wrap Up Post

Better late than never! I knew I would be somewhat off the grid over the weekend, but I ended up much farther away from it than I'd anticipated. Reading time was limited and blogging impossible. But I'd still like to wrap things up:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Done! -as of 9-12.)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Done! -as of 9-15)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (I was able to reach Chapter 24 before the end of the read-a-thon. I finished this book yesterday! You can read my review here.)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (On Chapter 13 by the end of the read-a-thon; two more chapters read. I hope to finish this book today.)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Still on Chapter 14)

Prescription for Life by Richard Furman (Now on Chapter 3; one more chapter read)

Abraham by Charles Swindoll (Still on Chapter 3)

So far this month, I've finished six of the seven books from my original list. At the start of the read-a-thon, I replaced The Story Keeper with Just Jane which I will finish soon. So I'm pleased with the progress I made during the read-a-thon which helped me exceed my goals for the month. I'd say the whole experiment was a fun success! I hope all the other readers were happy with their reading accomplishments, too.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 11

I think yesterday was the best day progress-wise of the whole read-a-thon! Here is how I did:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Done! -as of 9-12.)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Done! -as of 9-15)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Now on Chapter 22; eight more chapters read)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Now on Chapter 11; two more chapters read)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Now on Chapter 14; one more chapter read)

Prescription for Life by Richard Furman (Now on Chapter 2; one chapter read)

Abraham by Charles Swindoll (Now on Chapter 3; two chapters read)

I don't expect to have much time for reading in the next few days, but I'll do my best. I've finished the equivalent of 5 1/2 books and should be able to finish all of these before September 30.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 10

Ten days! Congratulations to all the readers who are hanging in there. We're two-thirds of the way! Here's my progress after yesterday:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Done! -as of 9-12.)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Done! -as of 9-15)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Now on Chapter 14; seven more chapters read)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Now on Chapter 9; one more chapter read)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Now on Chapter 13; one more chapter read)

Prescription for Life by Richard Furman (Still at the Introduction)

Abraham by Charles Swindoll (Introduction read; ready for Chapter 1--This book promises to be great!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 9

So I did decide to add two non-fiction books to my reading list: Prescription for Life by Richard Furman and Abraham by Charles Swindoll. I haven't started Abraham yet, but I read the first 18 pages of Prescription for Life yesterday. Here's my progress overall:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Done! -as of 9-12.)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Done! -as of 9-15)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Now on Chapter 7; three more chapters read)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Still on Chapter 8)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Now on Chapter 12; one more chapter read)

Prescription for Life by Richard Furman (Foreward and Preface read)

Abraham by Charles Swindoll (Not started yet)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 8

I'm back! I chose to take yesterday off as far as checking in went, but I kept reading, focusing mainly on The Rescuer by Dee Henderson. Today I'm hoping to visit everyone who checked in at the midway point yesterday! Are you all reaching your goals?

Here's my progress after the weekend:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Done! -as of 9-12.)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Now on Chapter 24; I hope to finish this one today!)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Now on Chapter 4; one more chapter read)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Now on Chapter 8; one more chapter read)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Now on Chapter 11; one more chapter read)

I'm thinking that when I finish The Rescuer, I'm going to have to start at least one of my up-next, non-fiction books-to-read. Though I love reading several books at a time, I enjoy this more when there's variety. Just Jane and The Maiden of Mayfair are set in the same era. And all four books I'm currently reading are novels. The seven books on my list are the ones I planned to read in September, so I'm still ahead even if I don't finish these exact seven by the 21st. I'll let you know what I choose tomorrow.

In the meantime, have fun reading today!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Opposites


These are the books I chose for Tressa's Book Cover Opposites Challenge: Yesterday and Tomorrow.  (Both of these are on my TBR list!) To see what opposites others are choosing, visit the Wishful Endings blog here.

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 6

Done!
So . . . now that I'm down to only four books, I'm really fighting the temptation to start another one! The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate, The River by Beverly Lewis, and two other books, both non-fiction, are sitting on my shelf waiting for me to read them and post reviews. I'm also longing to start Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. There is just no end my list of TBR books!

For now, though, I'll stick with these and be thankful for them. We can't truly enjoy the experience of a moment if we're always looking toward what's up next.

Here's my progress after yesterday:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Done! -as of 9-12.)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Now on Chapter 15; two more chapters read)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Now on Chapter 3; one more chapter read)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Now on Chapter 7; one more chapter read)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Now on Chapter 10; one more chapter read)

Happy weekend reading, everyone!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 5

It came! It finally came! The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate showed up on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. I probably won't start reading it until after the read-a-thon, though. My brain is feeling quite full! Here's where I stand after yesterday's reading:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Now on Chapter 17; two more chapters read--I hope to finish this one today!)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Now on Chapter 13; one more chapter read)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done!-as of 9-10. Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Still on Chapter 2)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Still on Chapter 6)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Done!-as of 9-11. Click here to read my review.)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Still on Chapter 9)

I hope all read-a-thon participants are feeling satisfied with the progress they are making so far! I'm off to go visit some of you to cheer you on. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to encourage me the past few days. That's a bonus perk to joining a read-a-thon!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: "Speak"

I chose to read Speak because of its description:

Speak, by popular blogger Nish Weiseth, is a book about the power of telling our own stories and hearing those of others to change hearts, build bridges, advocate for good, make disciples with grace, and proclaim God’s kingdom on Earth today.

This premise is beautiful. I believe it. I wanted to learn more about it.

But I was disappointed in the book. For me, it ran kind of hot and cold. There were three chapters that I absolutely loved. One of these even had me tearing up a bit. The other five mostly left me scratching my head, trying to understand what the words I was reading had to do with the theme of the book. There was a disconnect somewhere between the stories the author told and the message she was trying to convey.

Each chapter ended with a blog post which included some of the comments that post actually received when published on-line. These posts, all by different bloggers, were supposed to illustrate the author’s point, but I found them more distracting than helpful. They contained thought-provoking reading but sent my thoughts away from the message of the book.

The final chapter of the book, however, was my favorite. In this one, the author encourages readers to faithfully live whatever life stories they’ve been given. She says, “Though you may be living what seems like an ordinary life, faithfully doing what God has placed in front of you to do means you are actually living an extraordinary life.” I appreciated those words.

I thank Zondervan Publishers for sending me a complimentary eCopy of this book through the BookLook Blogger program in exchange for my honest review.

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 4

Here's where I stand with the books I'm reading for the Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Now on Chapter 15; two more chapters read)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Now on Chapter 12; one more chapter read)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Done! Click here to read my review.)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (Now on Chapter 2; one chapter read)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Now on Chapter 6; one more chapter read)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Now on Chapter 7; three more chapters read--I'll finish this one today!)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Still on Chapter 9)

As for actually tackling my TBR, though, I sabotaged myself yesterday. I found three books on Lifeway's bargain shelf that just had to come home with me. One book read; three new books I must read! (Let's just say I am preparing for Tressa's next read-a-thon.)

Four days into this! Are you reaching the goals you made?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: "Thief of Glory"

Wow . . . I have no adequate words. Thief of Glory is a powerful read. It’s the kind of book that leaves you pondering for days, trying to grasp it all. The last seventy pages, give or take a few, were unexpected. The last five held yet one more heart-wrenching twist. I’d have to call this book a triumphant tragedy.

The main character is an elderly man, Jeremiah Prins, recalling the years of his life spent in a Japanese internment camp for Dutch women and children unfortunate enough to be living in the Dutch East Indies during World War II. Separated from his father and older brothers and with an emotionally ill mother, 10-year-old Jeremiah suddenly finds himself the protector of and provider for his family: mother, younger sisters, and youngest brother. Jeremiah turns out to be one feisty and determined kid, a hero to most everyone inhabiting the Jappenkamp.

Like all heroes, he has allies (Sophie, Dr. Eikenboom, and Adi), a nemesis or two or three, and one enduring love. And the Thief of Glory will turn out to be Jeremiah’s fiercest enemy. I was alternately captivated and mortified as I read through each scene of this book. Having lived in the Netherlands for a time, I enjoyed learning more about that country's history and role in World War II. I plan to recommend this book to my husband and son; I think they’ll both appreciate the quality of this read.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Thief of Glory for my honest review. I am thankful they gave me the opportunity to read this book.

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day 3

The read-a-thon continues! Here's where I stand after another day:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey (Now on Chapter 13; four chapters read)

The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (Now on Chapter 11; two chapters read)

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (Now on Chapter 46; eight chapters read)

Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley (I get to start this book today!)

Just Jane by Nancy Moser (Still on Chapter 5)

Speak by Nish Weiseth (Still on Chapter 4)

The Maiden of Mayfair by Lawana Blackwell (Currently on Chapter 9; one chapter read)

I'm only about 30 pages from the end of Thief of Glory, so I'll be finishing that book today and posting its review. Then I'll start focusing primarily on Speak. (This book only has eight chapters, so I'm halfway through it already, even though I'm only on Chapter 4.)

If you're participating in the Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, I hope you're enjoying all your books while reaching your reading goals. I'm off to visit some of the other readers now. I'll be back with another update tomorrow!