Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book Review: "Trim Healthy Mama Plan"

Chemistry was one of my least favorite classes in high school. I didn’t care much more for it when I helped successive children through it in their high school years. I think this is why I struggled to read the Trim Healthy Mama Plan. It felt like chemistry class.

Don’t get me wrong. The teachers for this class are friendly and entertaining. They want their students to succeed. But the material is still chemistry. It’s not what you eat or how much, but how you combine it: meats with veggies but never potatoes, fruits with grains, etc. Several chapters in I was still struggling to understand what foods I could safely serve together without forever ruining my family’s health and metabolism.

Then I realized that my family is healthy right now, and I wondered if God really meant for meal preparation to be so complicated. I put the book away. I may use it as a reference from time to time, and I’m interested in trying some of Pearl and Serene’s recipes, but the plan as a whole is too complex. Everything in moderation (except for gluten, soy, and dairy) works for me.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: "Worship Changes Everything"

In the final chapter of her new book, Worship Changes Everything, Darlene Zschech says, “My prayer is that God, through the teaching and inner working of the Holy Spirit, will use Worship Changes Everything to deepen, widen, strengthen, and nourish you in worship; to help you live, love, pray, praise, work, walk, serve, give, overcome—to breathe—in the presence of God.”

A few paragraphs later, she continues, “I pray that your heart will be stirred by the glory and presence of Jesus, and that with every fiber of your being you will recognize and acknowledge that He alone is worthy of all our praise.” If you long to learn how to live with a continual awareness of God’s presence and with a heart that worships Him all day long, Darlene wrote this book to encourage you.

Part One: The Heart of Worship was my favorite part of the book. These six chapters were all about Who God Is and why He Is worthy of our worship, praise, and gratitude. They led me into worship as I read. Part Two: The Hands of Worship was more practical, telling readers how to worship not only at church but also through every aspect of life, looking toward eternity. Both sections contain relevant Scripture references, Darlene’s personal experiences, and quotes from well-known Christian leaders, both historical and contemporary, to help readers understand each of Darlene's points.

If developing a heart of worship is something you want to learn more about, I recommend this book to you. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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

Five weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:
Almost done!
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 109 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Finished!)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Finished!)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 303 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Currently on page 111 of 261)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Currently on page 39 of 296)
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray (Started! Currently on page 26 of 329)
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 35 of 124)
One week to go! Like this past week, it'll be a busy one, though. Celebrating Christmas and New Year's with my family are the higher priority. I'll post my final update on January 1st!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

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

Four weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 96 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Finished!)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Finished!)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 124 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Currently on page 61 of 261)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Currently on page 188 of 251)
  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Started! Currently on page 16 of 296)
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray (Not started yet)
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis (Started! Currently on page 9 of 124)
Yes. I slipped another one in there. I don't know if I'll have time to finish it or not, but I just had to start one more C.S. Lewis book this year. This one has been calling to me since I started writing my series on prayer, The Conversation Begins, at Wildflower Faith.

  • What books are calling you to read them soon?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: "All Is Calm/All Is Bright"

This book showed up on my doorstep as a happy surprise. I love Colleen Coble's books. They are always the perfect combination of romance, suspense, mystery, and insight. All Is Calm/All Is Bright is actually two stories for the price of one, novellas for Christmas set in places familiar to Coble's fans: Bluebird Ranch and Hope Beach. This means readers get to learn what's going on in the lives of familiar characters while discovering the fates of some of the minor characters from Coble's books.

The first story is set at Bluebird Ranch. I haven't read the series places there yet, but I wasn't lost. The short story stands alone just fine. In this story, Lauren Everman goes to the ranch to hide. Her cousin is framing her for a crime she didn't commit. Brendan Waddell, a visitor to the ranch, decides to investigate on her behalf, though he's not convinced she's innocent.

The second story, set on Hope Beach, was used in two of Coble's series. I loved all of the subtle updates on the lives of characters from all of the stories involved. The main story, though, involves Delilah Carter, manager of Tidewater Inn. Someone is trying to kill her. Sheriff Tom Bourne is determined to discover who, protect the girl, and give her the best Christmas ever.

If you enjoy short Christmas stories around this time of year, I recommend this book to you. I received my complimentary copy from The Fiction Guild in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review: "The Wedding Chapel"

Rachel Hauck’s books breathe romance like no one else’s do. Brides, princesses, beautiful dresses . . . and now a forsaken wedding chapel in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee. Who doesn’t want to read a book about a sixty-something-year-old wedding chapel that has never been used?

What I love most, though, is that Hauck’s books always dig in deeper than that. Her newest book, for example, The Wedding Chapel, is the story of secrets, deception, abandonment, misunderstandings, discovering the truth—and doing something about it, trusting in God’s Spirit to help a person make what’s gone horribly wrong right.

The Wedding Chapel tells the stories of two couples. Taylor and Jack are newly married but neither is sure their marriage is real or meant to stick. When threats come at them from both sides, they must learn to communicate, to fight together for what they both know that they want. The other couple, Jimmy and Collette, were high school sweethearts pledged to be married before the war took him away. They were not to see each other again for more than sixty years. When a sudden decision reunites them, they must decide if the hurt of the past makes a future impossible or not.

My favorite scene was the one where Jack’s last foster father, the one who gave him a home before he aged out of the system, revealed something that brought incredible healing to Jack’s heart and then offered something, once again, that Jack needed almost more than anything, something that Jack was finally ready to receive.

If you enjoy books about broken and messed up people learning how to depend on God to help them figure out how life works best, I recommend The Wedding Chapel to you. I thank Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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

Three weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
    I'll finish this one this week!
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 74 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Currently at location 1310 of 3430)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Currently on page 87 of 130)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Currently on page 357 of 382)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 53 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Currently on page 312 of 368)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Currently on page 23 of 179.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Started! Currently on page 23 of 261.)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Currently on page 123 of 251)
  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Not started yet)
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray (Not started yet)
Though I only finished one book this week, I'm really close to finishing three more. Next week's update will have several more strike-throughs. Do you read your books in batches or one at a time?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Book Review: "Longing for Paris"

Sarah Mae longs to visit Paris, a city her own mother lived in for a few years and told her stories about, capturing her imagination and her heart. But Sarah has family and ministry and a life to live in the city where she is.  Sarah wants both. This wrestling with desires that seem incompatible for the time being has led her to write an amazing book, Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure—Right Where She Is. I’m so glad I got to read it!

Sarah begins by telling readers about this wrestling and how it led her to try to find Paris right where she is. (She even started with a hunt for croissants!) In the chapters following her story, she discusses aspects of Paris that she has learned to find and enjoy anywhere. She writes about savoring life, enjoying beauty, and living all-out for Christ. She also writes about marriage, family, service, and adventure. She teaches readers to find the things they most long for right where they are in order to live lives full of purpose and delight.

Anyone who feels stuck or in need of inspiration will find value, motivation, and fun ideas in this book. I highly recommend it and thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending a review copy to me.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

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

Two weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:

  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 57 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Currently at location 1204 of 3430)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Currently on page 23 of 130)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Currently on page 291 of 382)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 32 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Currently on page 27 of 368)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Started! Currently on page 11 of 179.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Started! Currently on page 45 of 198.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Not started yet)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Currently on page 64 of 251)

Two more books for me to review arrived on my doorstep before December began. One was not expected so soon, the other a surprise! But I do try to finish reviews within a month of the time I receive the book, so I'm adding these two to my list, giving myself permission to be late if I must be:

  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray
What kinds of reading goals do you set for yourself? Do you set ambitious goals, then give yourself permission to fall short of reaching them? Do you set strict goals and make them high priorities? Do you set reachable goals and find joy in surpassing your personal expectations?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: "A Respectable Actress"

Just out of the blue, Surprise! - The Fiction Guild sent me a copy of Dorothy Love’s new book, A Respectable Actress, for review. I thank them; I enjoyed this read.

So many things to love about this book.
  • The setting: Savannah and St. Simon’s Island in Georgia. I’ve had so much fun in recent years visiting the modern versions of both, so reading the history was fun for me.
  • The characters: imagined from the lives of real people. The author tells more in her note following the story. I also enjoyed meeting a character from one of Love’s books that I’ve yet to read but hope to someday, Celia Browning Mackay from The Bracelet.
  • The era: just after the Civil War. Characters in this book are still recovering, but the focus is on a newcomer to the area, one untouched by the event.
  • The plot: a murder mystery, but not just any murder mystery. Every time it seems to be solved, the main character discovers another loose end, bringing all conclusions into question again . . . and the story goes on. India Hartley just will not let anything questionable go.
Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the uniqueness of Dorthy Love's newest book.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

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

Happy Thanksgiving! I pray you'll all enjoy a gratitude-filled day!

Last week I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand after one week:

  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 50 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished!)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Currently at location 904 of 3430)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Currently on page 7 of 130)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Currently on page 179 of 258)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Currently on page 225 of 382)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Currently on page 101 of 363)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Started! Currently on page 21 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Started! Currently on page 9 of 368)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Not started yet)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Not started yet)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn (Not started yet)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Started! Currently on page 32 of 251)

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading List 2015

It's that time of year again! Some people make New Year's Resolutions. I set 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 2015 that I plan to finish reading before 2016 begins:

  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay
  • Audacious by Beth Moore
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love

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

  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech

Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, Touching the Clouds, Breaking Free Day-by-Day, and Sisterchicks Go Brit! are all part of the year-long reading challenges in my sidebar: The C.S. Lewis Challenge, The eBook Challenge, and the To-Finish-Series Challenge. I'd love to add one more eBook before the year's end, but 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?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Review: "Luther and Katharina"

Jody Hedlund's newest novel is a slightly new development in her writing, yet she handled it beautifully. Though historical Christian fiction is her genre, I think this is the first time she's chosen characters who were really real. She chose to tell her readers the love story of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, set right in the middle of the reformation in Germany.

Throughout the story, Luther is caught up in all things religion and politics, trying to bring about needed societal changes while discouraging hatred and violence. A symbol of reformation, his life isn't always his own, especially when it comes to making decisions regarding marriage and family.

Katharina von Bora is an escaped nun, seeking a new life according to Luther's teaching. She lives with tension and uncertainty, afraid she'll be captured and returned to the life she left, afraid she'll never find acceptance, family, or love.

Hedlund tells her readers that most of the events in this fictionalized account really happened, so I enjoyed learning more about the lives of these people and events of the time. I also found the story as Hedlund told it fascinating. Her Luther and Katharina reminded me a little of Shakespeare's main characters in The Taming of the Shrew. If they were really both that stubborn, their marriage was a miracle ordained by God.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I recommend it to anyone who loves reading historical fiction.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: "Vendetta"

Lisa Harris is a new author to me, but I loved this first book in her new Nikki Boyd Files series. Vendetta is a race to find a missing girl, a girl who may have been kidnapped by the same serial killer who took Nikki’s sister a decade ago. A member of the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force, Nikki is called to drop everything, including a family emergency and a memorial event, to find this girl before it’s too late.

I enjoyed getting to know this new set of characters (Nikki, her family, Tyler, Sam, Greta, and Jack) and will look forward to learning more about them in future books. I loved the settings, Nashville and the Great Smoky Mountains. Harris did an amazing job of showing readers the enormity of the outdoor areas of Tennessee. What I liked most, though, was the book’s complete unpredictability. Every time I started to anticipate what was coming next, the story went another way. That’s the most essential feature of a great mystery.

Fans of this genre will have fun with Vendetta. I thank Revell for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: "Streams of Mercy"

Streams of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling is the third book in her Song of Blessing series, but the 19th book set in the Red River Valley in North Dakota and the 20th featuring Ingeborg Bjorklund. Snelling has taken her readers from Norway in 1878 to North Dakota in 1907 and has shown them how a community is born and can thrive. These books are among my favorites because I just love revisiting that community whenever Snelling writes a new book.

Streams of Mercy features a character from the past. Many books ago, Anji Baard was in love with Ingeborg’s eldest son, Thorliff. Things did not work out for the two of them; each found someone else to love. But now Anji is widowed and has returned to Blessing with her four children. She can’t imagine raising them anywhere else. Streams of Mercy reveals how this works out for her.

It also tells readers what’s new in the lives of all the other members of this growing, blessed community—births, deaths, celebrations, tragedies, lessons learned, people moving away and moving in. Clara is a new favorite character of mine; I’m especially looking forward to learning how her life develops in the next book.

Fans of historical Christian fiction will love this new addition to the Song of Blessing series. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review: "The Girl from the Train"

The Girl from the Train is a slow but intriguing story that spans 15 years and two continents during tumultuous times. It begins near the end of World War II. Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt has been pushed off a train heading for Auschwitz just in the nick of time. Her father, whom she doesn’t remember, was a German soldier. But her mother, also dead, was a Jew.

Gretl finds herself in the care of Jakob Kowalski, a Polish factory worker and political dissident. But Jakob’s people have little patience for Germans or Jews. As communism begins to consume his country, plunging it into conflict and poverty, Jakob finds a way for Gretl to escape. Keeping her Jewish heritage and Catholic schooling in Poland a secret, he sends her with a group of German orphans to find a new home in South Africa.

Through Gretl’s eyes, readers gain a new understanding of political, religious, and racial issues of the decade and a half following World War II in Europe and South Africa. They also get to enjoy the story of a young girl discovering who she is in the midst of it all. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this book.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Review: "Generational IQ"

Every person involved in Christian ministry needs to read GenerationalIQ. For the first time in history, we are trying to minister to five generations at the same time. There are bound to be struggles. Haydn Shaw, author of Sticking Points, teaches sincerely concerned readers how to navigate through them with understanding and grace.

Just as he did in Sticking Points, Shaw begins by defining each of the four older generations. This time, though, he explains how the generation we are born into affects our relationship with God. As he moves from the traditionalists to the millenials, he helps readers grasp subtle shifts in thinking that have taken place through the years resulting in dramatically different world views for each generation.

Next he answers questions about relating and reaching out to family and friends in other generations. In the first few of these chapters, he’s writing mostly to parents and grandparents about the younger generations, then he addresses the church, helping ministers and members see how they can more effectively tell unchurched people of all generations about our amazing and faithful God.

His most important advice: listen, love, be patient, answer questions honestly, trust God. His insights into each generation’s mindset show readers how to do this well.

I enjoyed Shaw’s first book, Sticking Points, but wasn’t sure what he could add to my understanding of generations in Generational IQ. This new book adds a lot, though. In fact, I think, in the long run, I’ll find the understanding I gained from the new book to be even more valuable. If you live with or minister to people of different generations, you’ll appreciate Shaw’s hopeful outlook and deep insights. I recommend this book.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: "The Imposter"

After reading Suzanne Woods Fisher’s newest book, The Imposter, I am so excited about the whole Bishop’s Family series. Unlike other “family” series I’ve read, this one introduces us to every member along with significant members of the community. It keeps readers guessing about whose story will be resolved and even to what extent. But the first book ended perfectly for the segment of the story it told. I can’t wait for Book 2, The Quieting.

In this first book, we meet David Stoltzfus’s family in a time of crisis. One member has just returned from far away under curious circumstances. Another is grieving with a broken heart. All six of the children miss their mother who died in an accident a year earlier. And David, one of the community’s ministers, is working to prevent a devastating church split.

Thankfully, the family is surrounded by an unusual group of
people dedicated to helping them: an injured widow who needs help running her business, her mysterious farmhand, a buggy repairman and his niece-in-law (both introduced in a previous book), and a bird-watching spinster turned schoolteacher. Fisher has populated Stoney Ridge with a fascinating cast.

Revell sent me a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review. I recommend it to fans of Amish fiction and contemporary romance.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: "She's Almost a Teenager"

She’s Almost a Teenager by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp is a book that can most definitely help parents prepare to raise their teenage daughters well. This book provides ideas and questions to consider when preparing to have eight essential conversations with a ten-  to twelve-year-old daughter. These conversations include: the big picture (becoming a teenager), friends, academics, body, faith, boys, money, and tech. Each chapter either gave me something to think about that I hadn’t yet thought about or equipped me with great ideas for navigating through conversations I already know might be challenging. The Larsons and the Arps are giving parents a needed head-start.

I especially appreciated their emphasis on keeping things positive. It’s exciting when our children become teenagers. It’s a privilege to help them as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. We celebrate as they master new skills and take on more responsibility. We enjoy adding appropriate, corresponding privileges as they do.

On page 151, the authors say, “Remember, our job as parents is to work ourselves out of a job and into a relationship that will last for a lifetime.” Every chapter in this book is designed to help parents succeed.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I recommend it to parents of daughters approaching their teens.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: "The Photograph"

I think Beverly Lewis’s main character from The Photograph, Eva Esch, must be her sweetest yet. I so wanted a happily ever after ending for her! Recently orphaned, Eva lives with her two sisters, one younger and one older, in the home they grew up in. Her youngest older brother, though, has inherited the property and plans to move his family in. He says that one sister may stay to help his wife with their kids, but two must go. He suggests they find someone to marry—fast! But Eva doesn’t want to marry for any reason other than true love nor leave the candy shop her father built onto the house just for her. She truly is a damsel in distress.

Eva’s younger sister, Lily, complicates matters by running away during the night to embrace the Englisch life. Closer to Lily than anyone else in her family, Eva finds herself grieving yet another loss. She turns her heartbreak over to God, daily praying for Lily to find reason to return. God answers her prayer in a curious and unforeseeable way.

I loved reading this story, and I enjoyed the way Lewis brought back characters from a previous novel, The River, giving readers a little update though The Photograph stands alone. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I recommend it to you.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Book Review: "Return to Christmas"

It’s been a while since a book has brought tears to my eyes. But as I reached the final pages this one did. Return to Christmas by Kathi Macias is a tender story full of hope and a beautiful example of the way the fiction can sometimes educate and inspire as much or more than non-fiction informational or self-help.

Return to Christmas tells the stories of two families. In the first, the husband has just returned from his second deployment as a Marine. He is unemployed, depressed, and in need of counseling for PTSD. Prone to irrational bursts of anger, he has his family confused and unsure of what to do. His wife fears she’ll never again be able to do anything right in his eyes.

The second family has adopted a three-year-old boy out of foster care. This child suffers from attachment disorder and dwells in his own, little, isolated world. His parents have been patient with him for a year, anxiously waiting for him to respond to their love, to begin to reach out to others socially. They are beginning to despair.

Return to Christmas shows how prayer, patience, endurance can make a difference in the lives of those who suffer. God knows who is hurting; He is faithful in His work of healing hearts.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: "Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish"

When I see that a book is described as a daily devotional, I expect to find a book of short readings that start with a Bible verse, that are followed by a few paragraphs about a life experience or such with insights into the meaning of the verse, and that end with prayer or life application. The Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Daily Devotional is not like this.

In this daily devotional, each entry does start with a Bible verse as expected. The verses are usually followed by single paragraphs, sometimes two, that are related to adoption. The relationship between the chosen verse and paragraph is mostly unclear. The paragraphs about adoption give just enough insight to let the reader know that the author has a point to make, but fall short of making it clear. As I was reading, I kept thinking that I’d like to know more about what the author was talking about; she raised a lot of questions in my mind. But to find the answers, I’ll have to read another book. In fact, I’ll probably have to read the book the devotional is based on, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, because, after reading the devotional, I still don’t know what those twenty things are.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for this honest review. I can’t recommend it as a devotional or as a book with clear insights into the heart of an adopted child. Readers who’ve read the book this devotional is based on may find this devotional useful for quick reminders of what they learned from that book.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon Wrap-up

We're done! And it was fun . . . but I'm ready to get back to my regular reading pace now. Whew! Here's where I ended up:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Finished!)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Finished!)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Finished!)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Page 91 of 258.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Read to location 793 of 1585. Eighty-four locations forward yesterday.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Page 60 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Read to page 76 of 204. Seventeen pages read yesterday.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Finished!)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (Page 17 of 343.)

Altogether I finished eight books. I read 1593 pages and 1706 locations (on Kindle). Not bad for two weeks! I hope you made great progress, too.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon, Day 14

As expected, I still didn't have a lot of time for reading yesterday, but I did finish two more books:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Finished!)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Finished! Eighty-three pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Finished! One hundred and forty-five locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Still on page 91 of 258.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Still at location 709 of 1585.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 60 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 59 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Finished! Six pages read.)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (Still on page 17 of 343.)

That's 83 pages + 145 locations (on Kindle). Today's the last day! How much farther will we go? Read on, reading friends!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon, Day 13

I didn't have a lot of time for reading yesterday, but I did manage to finish two more books:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Finished! Fifty pages read.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Still on page 155 of 238.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Finished! Eighty-two pages read. Click here to read my review.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1896 of 2041. Seventy locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Still on page 91 of 258.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Still at location 709 of 1585.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 60 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 59 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Finished! Six pages read.)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (Still on page 17 of 343.)

That's 56 pages + 70 locations (on Kindle). Today promises to be busy like yesterday, but maybe I can manage to "pick off" at least one more book. Happy reading to you!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon, Day 12

Eleven days down. Only three left! I've finished four books so far. I think I can finish at least three more. Here's what I read yesterday:

I plan to finish this one today!
Awakening by Tracy Higley (Currently on page 312 of 362. Thirty-two pages read.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 155 of 238. Fourteen pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Finished! Eighty-two pages read. Click here to read my review.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1826 of 2041. One hundred and two locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Currently on page 91 of 258. Thirty-six pages read.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Still at location 709 of 1585.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 60 of 158. Thirteen pages read.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 59 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 98 of 104. Five pages read.)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (Currently on page 17 of 343. Seven pages read.)

That's 199 pages + 102 locations (on Kindle). I'm plugging along. Hope you are, too! Keep on reading, friends!

Book Review: "Ties That Bind"

Ariana Brenneman’s family and community mean everything to her. All she wants to do is live a faithful Amish life, open a cafe to help support her parents and nine siblings, and marry the man she’s coming to love. The first man she loved, however, betrayed her—running away from the community with her best friend. Now he’s back and threatening to complicate her simple world.

At the same time, one of her brothers has discovered a young woman in the Englisch world who could almost be an identical twin to one of Ariana’s sisters. He doesn't realize that the truth behind this discovery has the power to obliterate all of Ariana’s dreams. As she struggles to keep the man from her past from stealing what’s dear, upheaval is approaching from another source.

Ties That Bind wrestles with the concept of seeking truth whatever the cost versus keeping secrets to protect. Is it better to confront problems that cause pain, trusting God to lead you through, or is it sometimes necessary to work under the cover of darkness in order to protect the people you love? Are lies, even lies of omission, ever justified? Or will the truth always find its way out?

This is the first book in what promises to be a powerful series. Ariana is a strong female character, flawed by her ideals, yet pursuing good for all. Quill, her first love, is conflicted and confused, also pursuing what’s best for all. The supporting cast, each member with a personal story to resolve, is full of intriguing characters, too. I’m looking forward to learning what becomes of them all as the story progresses in the next book.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of Ties That Bind in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

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

I didn't have as much time to read yesterday as I had hoped, but some progress is better than none. Here's what I read:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Still on page 280 of 362.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 141 of 238. Fourteen pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Currently on page 257 of  339. Fifty-seven pages read.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1724 of 2041. Eighty-seven locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Still on page 55 of 258.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Currently at location 709 of 1585. Sixty-five locations forward.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 47 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Currently on page 59 of 204. Fourteen pages read.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 93 of 104. Ten pages read.)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (Currently on page 10. Nine pages read.)

That's 104 pages + 152 locations (on Kindle). I will finish another book today! Maybe two! So close. Happy reading to you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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

Yesterday surprised me! I was able to read much more than I thought I would. Here's where I stand:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Currently on page 280 of 362. Forty-four pages read.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 127 of 238. Sixteen pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Currently on page 200 of  339. Fifty-five pages read.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1637 of 2041. Fifty-five locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Currently on page 55 of 258. Thirty pages read.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Still at location 644 of 1585.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 47 of 158. Nine pages read.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 45 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 83 of 104. Nine pages read.)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (Still on page 1.)

That's 163 pages + 55 locations (on Kindle). Hopefully, I'll finish another book today! I'm getting close. I hope you're closing in on your goals, too. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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

Progress after yesterday:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Still on page 236 of 362.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished!)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 111 of 238. Ten pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Currently on page 145 of  339. Seventy-four pages read.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1582 of 2041. Seventy-two locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Still on page 25 of 258.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Currently at location 644 of 1585. One hundred and four locations forward.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 38 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Currently on page 45 of 204. Fourteen pages read.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 74 of 104. Four pages read.)

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren (I read the prologue. Thirteen pages.)

That's 112 pages + 176 locations (on Kindle). I kind of wish I could stay home and read all day today, but life is calling. I don't want to miss out! I'll read what I can as time allows. Happy reading, all!

Monday, September 21, 2015

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

Is anyone tired of reading yet? I didn't think so. Here's where I stand after one week:

New to the List Today!
Awakening by Tracy Higley (Currently on page 236 of 362. Seventeen pages read.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Finished! Nine pages read.)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Still on page 101 of 238.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Currently on page 71 of  339. Thirty-eight pages read.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1510 of 2041. Sixty-four locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Currently on page 25 of 258. Twenty-four pages read.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Still at location 540 of 1585.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 38 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 31 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 70 of 104. Six pages read.)

And I'll be adding a new one today:

Happily Ever After by Susan May Warren

I don't expect to finish it this week, and I know it will slow down my progress on the others, but it's part of the To Finish Series challenge I am working on this year.

As for yesterday, I read 85 pages + 64 locations (on Kindle). I'll be back tomorrow with another update. Happy reading, all!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon, Day 7

Day 7! After today, we're halfway! Here's how I did yesterday:

I'll finish this one today!
Awakening by Tracy Higley (Still on page 219 of 362.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Currently on page 277 of 286. Ninety-six pages read.)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 101 of 238. Six pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Still on page 33 of  339.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1446 of 2041. Seventy-two locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Still on page 1.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Currently at location 540 of 1585. One hundred and forty-nine locations forward.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 38 of 158. Six pages read.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 31 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 64 of 104. Five pages read.)

That's 113 pages + 221 locations (on Kindle). Not bad for a Saturday! I'll be back tomorrow with another update. Happy reading, all!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

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

Day 6! Steady progress--moving forward! I read less on weekends, but still I read. Here's how I did yesterday:

Second Finished!
Awakening by Tracy Higley (Currently on page 219 of 362. Seven pages read.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Currently on page 181 of 286. Seventy-six pages read.)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished!)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 95 of 238. Ten pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Currently on page 33 of  339. Eight pages read.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1374 of 2041. Sixty-eight locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (I read the introduction yesterday: seven pages.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Currently at location 391 of 1585. One hundred and eighteen locations forward.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 32 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Currently on page 31 of 204. Fourteen pages read.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 59 of 104. Eight pages read.)

That's 130 pages + 186 locations (on Kindle). I'll be back tomorrow with another update. Happy reading, all!

Friday, September 18, 2015

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

Day 5! I finished two books yesterday, and I'll be starting a new one today!

First Finished!
Awakening by Tracy Higley (Still on page 212 of 362.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Still on page 105 of 286.)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Finished! Thirty-eight pages read.)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Still on page 85 of 238.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Still on page 25 of  339.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Finished! Click here to read my review. Ninety-eight pages read.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1306 of 2041. Sixty-seven locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (I'm starting this one today!)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Still at location 273 of 1585.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 32 of 158. Nine pages read.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 17 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 51 of 104. Three pages read.)

That's 148 pages + 67 locations (on Kindle). I am surprised to see that I actually read more two days ago, the extra busy day. Today promises to be extra busy, too, so maybe that will be a good thing for my reading progress.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

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

Day 4! I haven't finished any books yet, but I'm going to get to start crossing them off soon! I'm looking forward to that; it will feel like more progress made. Here's where I stand after yesterday:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Currently on page 212 of 362. Thirteen pages read.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Still on page 105 of 286.)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Currently on page 239 of 277. Twenty-three pages read.)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 85 of 238. Fourteen pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Currently on page 25 of  339. Eighteen pages read.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Currently on page 253 of 351. Ninety-four pages read.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1239 of 2041. One hundred and two locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (I'll start this when I finish Sin and Syntax - hopefully today!)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Currently at location 273 of 1585. Sixty-nine locations forward.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Still on page 23 of 158.)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Currently on page 17 of 204. Fifteen pages read.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 48 of 104. Four pages read.)

That's 181 pages + 171 locations (on Kindle). How about you? Are you making the progress you'd hoped for when you started this game?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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

Here's my Day 3 update. Yesterday was busy, but I got farther than I thought I would:

Awakening by Tracy Higley (Still on page 199.)

The Hesitant Hero by Gilbert Morris (Currently on page 105 of 286. Ten pages read.)

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale (Still on page 216 of 277.)

Popular by Tindell Baldwin (Currently on page 85 of 238. Fourteen pages read.)

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall (Still on page 7 of  339.)

Hiding Places by Erin Healy (Currently on page 159 of 351. Sixty pages read.)

Eyes of the Heart by Tracie Peterson (Currently at location 1137 of 2041. Sixty-two locations forward.)

Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (I'll start this when I finish Sin and Syntax.)

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish by Sherrie Eldridge (Currently at location 204 of 1585. One hundred and ten locations forward.)

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 23 of 158. Six pages read)

The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal (Still on page 2 of 204.)

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates (Currently on page 44 of 104. Three pages read.)

That's 93 pages + 172 "locations"-however many pages that is. Not bad for a busy day.