Wednesday, August 3, 2022

You Wonder all the Time by Deborah Farmer Kris Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin REVIEWED


About the Book:

This affirming book celebrates curiosity and the thought-provoking questions children ask.

“Where do colors go at night, and why do shadows creep?” You Wonder All the Time celebrates curiosity and the thought-provoking questions children ask and supports them as they continue to learn. “Will you stay curious as you grow? It’s a brilliant part of you!” 

Asking questions is an important part of learning that helps children grow and understand the world. Inspired by and containing questions from real kids, You Wonder All the Time explores and affirms all the questions children ask. The book features a series of engaging, playful, and curious what, when, where, why, and how questions from the child to the adult. “What if we rode a T-Rex and shook the forest floor?” 

Its charming rhyme and heartwarming message that children’s many questions are welcomed and their wondering is loved make the book perfect for storytime, home, and the preschool classroom.

My Thoughts:

I was blessed to raise two very curious boys to adulthood, and I totally related to the words on the next to the last page:  "The world is full of questions, so I will ask one too.  will you stay as curious as you grow? It's a brilliant part of you!"  I think every adult who is blessed to either have children of their own, or contribute to the life of a growing child is as wonder-filled as they are just to watch them discover the world and all that it holds for their imagination!

I had a Mom who read to me from the very beginning of my life, and I think books like this one add so much to a child's ability to discover and explore their world, because they learn to love books and reading.  Books like this one open their minds, hearts and imagination to be free to discover and learn all about the mystery of life!

I look forward to sharing this book with the little ones in my life!!

About the Author:

Deborah Farmer Kris is a child development expert and parent educator. She serves as a columnist and consultant for PBS KIDS, and she writes for NPR’s MindShift and other national publications. Over the course of her career, Deborah has taught almost every grade K–12, served as a school administrator, directed leadership institutes, and presented to hundreds of parents and educators around the United States. Deborah and her husband live in Massachusetts with their two kids—who love to test every theory she’s ever had about child development. Mostly, she loves sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive. You can learn more at www.parenthood365.com

 

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold REVIEWED


 About the Book:

A throwaway assignment is about to change two lives forever

Aidyn Kelley is talented, ambitious, and ready for a more serious assignment than the fluff pieces she's been getting as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. In her eagerness, she pushes too hard, earning herself the menial task of writing an obituary for an unremarkable woman who's just entered hospice care.

But there's more to Clara Kip than meets the eye. The spirited septuagenarian may be dying, but she's not quite ready to cash it in yet. Never one to shy away from an assignment herself, she can see that God brought the young reporter into her life for a reason. And if it's a story Aidyn Kelley wants, that's just what Mrs. Kip will give her--but she's going to have to work for it.

My Thoughts:

"We can all attest to your thousands of extraordinary deaths."  (p, 331)

Aiden Kelly speaks these words after an unexpected assignment from her editor to write someone's obituary.  I think I was as surprised, if not more so, than the main character to discover the depth and breath of a persons life.  Clara Kip became a person I'll never forget, because she represents many spiritual giants that I'm privileged to know who gave of themselves as selflessly as Mrs. Kip.  

This is a story of self discovery in so many ways!  Mrs. Kip is discovering what it's like to walk her final journey in her mortal body, and Aiden Kelley is learning that her life holds endless possibility.  No one will leave this story unchanged, because the reader is made to pause and consider how much goes on in the lives of others that is missed if not taken time to uncover.  Relationships can impact lives no matter how brief the interaction, and that is a lesson I hope never to take for granted.

I was hesitant to read this book, because my Mom passed away a few weeks ago.  Her time in hospice care changed my life forever, and I was able to relate to both of the main characters in very real ways! I'm in my own season of discovery and growth just as Aiden was in the book, and My Mom and Mrs. Kip were strikingly similar in the way they loved others. This is a PRECIOUS novel, and one I will read again.  I recommend this book to everyone who wants to experience an unexpected gift of relationship unfolding right before their eyes!  This novel is a treasure!!!


About the Author:


Sara Brunsvold creates stories that speak hope, truth, and life. Influenced by humble women of God who find his fingerprints in the everyday, she does the same in her life and her storytelling. Sara's recognitions include the 2020 ACFW Genesis Award for Contemporary Fiction. She lives with her family in Kansas City, Missouri, where she can often be spotted writing at a park or library. Learn more at www.sarabrunsvold.com.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Among the Innocent by Mary Alford REVIEWED

About the Book:

When Leah Miller's entire Amish family was murdered ten years ago, the person believed responsible took his own life. Since then, Leah has left the Amish and joined the police force. Now, after an Amish woman is found murdered with the same MO, it becomes clear that the wrong man may have been blamed for her family's deaths.

As Leah and the new police chief, Dalton Cooper, work long hours struggling to fit the pieces together in order to catch the killer, they can't help but grow closer. When secrets from both of their pasts begin to surface, an unexpected connection between them is revealed. But this is only the beginning.

What will it mean for Leah--and Dalton--when the full truth comes to light?
 
My Thoughts:
"The inevitable showdown coming had been a decade in the making.  When it was over, would any of them be left standing?" (p.140)

This is the question the reader asks the entire way through this novel!  Alford's book begins with the murder of an innocent Amish girl, and spirals first one way then another, until the reader's head is spinning and heart racing as much as the main character, Leah Miller.  Leah's head can barely focus on one harsh reality before she is forced to face another. Her life as a police officer began with a strong desire to protect those around her, and that includes the members of the Amish community in which she was raised.  To watch innocent girls lives taken brings back her own childhood trauma, but her desire to face her fears, and her obsessed killer is stronger than her fears.

Working alongside Dalton Cooper - a man with his own fears - helps Leah navigate the chaos that flows through her community as a killer rises among them and seems to stay one step ahead of them no matter how hard they work.  This story line is as fast paced as anything I've ever read, and I can honestly say I couldn't wait to pick it up and see what happened next! 

I believe this is my first time reading one of Mary Alford's books, but I guarantee it won't be the last!  I love it when I can't figure out what's going on, and the tension builds bit by bit until you barely stand it! That, to me, is a fun read!!  You  will thoroughly enjoy this novel, and you will not escape without losing few characters along the way.  The killer in this book has a voracious appetite for mayhem! Buckle up for a wild ride!!

About the Author:

Mary Alford is a USA Today bestselling author who loves giving her readers the unexpected, combining unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots that result in stories the reader can't put down. Her titles have been finalists for several awards, including the Daphne Du Maurier, the Beverly, the Maggie, and the Selah. She and her husband live in the heart of Texas in the middle of 70 acres with two cats and one dog. Learn more at www.maryalford.net.


 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Friendly Mouse by Sophia R. Tyler REVIEWED


About the Book:

 A Small Mouse with a Big Heart Changes the World One Friend at a Time. . .

Mouse is a field mouse who loves living in the country, but works in the city. This leaves him with a major problem: he is constantly late for work. In the face of losing his job, Mouse makes a bold, faith-filled choice that could cost him everything.

An unexpected story about how a little mouse overwhelmed with his own struggles finds himself to be the miracle prayed for by another.

For more information, go to:

TheFriendlyMouseBook.com

My Thoughts:

"I decided to choose kindness, no matter what anyone else does."  (p.29)

Mouse reminds me of something I easily forget sometimes...be kind always.  This is a picture book that kids will easily relate to, because they all always watching and listening and know when their parents are struggling.  This book also holds powerful truth reminders for the adults reading to the children in their lives...model the behavior you want to teach them!

Mouse also reminds us that others  - adults too - are always watching the behaviors we model.  Kindness doesn't always result in generous gifts from others, but there are many intangible gifts that kindness brings our way  - like friendship!   Every adult I know has difficult people in their lives, and if we choose to react with kindness, we are often surprised at the way God meets our needs, both physical and emotional!

I love this picture book and can't wait to share it with the little people in my life!!  Enjoy!

About the Author:

Sophia R. Tyler thinks back on the countless nights spent with her mom and sisters, reading books before bed. Ending the day by escaping into books with her sisters and mom, brought her feelings of warmth, safety and coziness. And ever since then, books have had that same effect. She hopes that the Jesus-inspired morals resonate with readers and brings similar feelings to those she felt as a kid.

Sophia likes to think about times people have shown kindness to her in times of need and how much that meant to her. The Friendly Mouse is a sweet reminder of how acts of kindness can go a long way. A comedian and actor named Robin Williams said it best: "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind, always.”



Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Barabbas Legacy by M.D. House REVIEWED


 About the Book:

In this poignant capstone to the trilogy, the man called Barabbas—infamous former thief, murderer and prisoner turned Christian—and his wife Chanah continue their mission of spreading the gospel across the known world as cauldrons of political and military chaos boil across the Roman Empire. Nero is increasingly erratic, and it’s only a matter of time before the sharp knives of imperial politics finish him off. Various successors vie for position. Who will strike first, and who will come out on top?

Meanwhile, the rebellion in Judea has intensified, the Jewish zealots exerting great influence over the minds of the people. General Vespasian and his son Titus aim to put a permanent end to the insurrection. How many lives will ultimately be sacrificed on the great altar of Jerusalem? Can the Jewish nation survive the fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy? What will become of the Jewish Christians and the apostles and sisters who lead them? And where will Barabbas and his family find lasting peace?


My Thoughts:

"If any of you came here thinking this would be easy, I hope you realize now it will not." (p. 313)

Establishing the first churches within the Roman Empire and the known world was anything but easy, but it is what the apostles and disciples dedicated their lives to after Jesus commissioned them before ascending back to His Father.  In this third installment of Barabbas' story you get a front row seat to the intense labor involved in every aspect of this journey.  The travel alone makes me exhausted.  I can't imagine the time and labor involved in getting from one place to another.

Barabbas and his family answer their call to become leaders in the early church.  They must leave family and loved ones behind, knowing they may never see them again this side of heaven. Relationally, this is a very realistic story.  The disagreement between the apostles, between believers and non believers is real and sometimes intense. It's not so very different from today, sadly.   Human nature, without the transformative power of the Holy Spirit remains unchanged throughout time.

My only criticism of this book, is that establishing the church seems too focused on temples of worship and statues in memorial.  In one passage the apostle talk about the "regional headquarters " and I'm not sure that was even the point.  I wouldn't have paid it any mind, but it kept being referenced, and I personally didn't like it.  Maybe Barabbas' faith needed concrete things to see and touch (beautiful temples and statues) but it detracted from the depth of faith I wanted to believe he possesses. 

If you want to experience the establishment of the early church in fiction, the Barabbas story is a good place to start.  It was not an easy or quickly established network, and many times it cost folks everything - life itself.  Enjoy this installment of the Barabbas story!

About the Author:

M.D. HOUSE is the author of The Barabbas Legacy, as well as the first two books in the series, I Was Called Barabbas and Pillars of Barabbas. He also wrote the science-fiction novel, Patriot Star, with a sequel coming in 2022.

Before beginning his second career as a writer, he worked for twenty-five years in the world of corporate finance, strategic planning, and business development. Now, he lives in the mountains of Northern Utah with his wife, where he spends his time writing and enjoying his children and grandchildren.

Learn more about M.D. House and his work at www.mdhouselive.com


Monday, May 30, 2022

All That Fills Us by Autumn Lytle REVIEWED


 About the Book:

The journey toward healing starts with a single brave step--but it is never walked alone

Mel Ellis knows that her eating disorder is ruining her life. Everyone tells her rehab is her best option, but she can't bring herself to go. Broke, broken, and empty in more ways than one, Mel launches one last-ditch effort to make hers a story worth telling. She will walk her own road to recovery along the lesser-known trails of the North American wilderness.

Though she is physically and mentally unprepared to face the difficulties that lay ahead, she sets off on foot from Michigan. Her goal? Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. During the long journey, she meets strangers with their own stories, as well as ghosts from her past who can no longer be ignored. But though the land she travels threatens her success at every turn, it's her own dark thoughts she'll have to overcome in order to find peace in the life and the body she has been given.

My Thoughts:

"One day, after all this is over, we'll sit down together and I'll tell you all about this.  And you'll look at me like you did when you first saw the Grand Canyon, and we'll both know that I finally made it."  (p. 115)

This is the story of Mel Ellis' unique and seemingly impossible journey to overcome a problem that has consumed her entire being - literally to the point of almost dying.   I got to know Mel and relate to her in a very personal way through the pages of this precious novel. This is not exactly a light read, but the way Lytle tells Mel's story brings you in as a friend, and keeps you engaged.  As you read, you'll learn a lot about eating disorders and the behaviors that surround and confound the people who struggle with this particular emotional demon.

Mel chooses a path that is rather extreme in the "real" world, so some level of suspended disbelief is required.  I love the way the author inserts her life into the lives of other she encounters along the way.  I love the way she is able to reconnect with the very person whose life choices so unknowingly and profoundly affected Mel's path.  It really made me want to be more self-aware so that I don't inflict my pain onto others who are, always, dealing with their own stuff.

I highly recommend this novel!  For me, it was an opportunity to examine my own life and the way I relate to others who may need encouragement along their life journey.  As always, God divinely appointed the timing of this story - He knows how to get my attention!  I will come back to and share this story with others, because it it a beautiful way to illustrate that only God's presence in our live can ultimately heal and feel the deepest longings of our heart!

About the Author:

Autumn Lytle identifies with a strange group of humans who enjoy running long distances and writing even longer books. Along with being a forever-recovering anorexic and exercise addict, she is a weirdly good checkers player and finder of four-leaf clovers. She spends her days thinking up stories and trying to figure out this whole parenting thing with her son. She can often be found out exploring her hometown of Seattle, Washington, with her family in tow. Learn more at www.autumnlytle.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Master Cratsman by Kelli Stuart REVIEWED

About the Book:

In 1917, Alma Pihl, a master craftsman in the House of Fabergé, was charged to protect one of the greatest secrets in Russian history--an unknown Fabergé Egg that Peter Karl Fabergé secretly created to honor his divided allegiance to both the people of Russia and the Imperial tsar's family. When Alma and her husband escaped Russia for their native Finland in 1921, she took the secret with her, guarding her past connection to the Romanov family. 

Three generations later, world-renowned treasure hunter Nick Laine is sick and fears the secret of the missing egg will die with him. With time running out, he entrusts the mission of retrieving the egg to his estranged daughter, Ava, who has little idea of the dangers she is about to face. As the stakes are raised, Ava is forced to declare her own allegiance--and the consequences are greater than she could have imagined.

My Thoughts:
"Mrs, Andrews,....I believe you just made your first big breakthrough."  (p.265)

It's hard for me to believe that there are folks who thrive, chase and even capture the lifestyle of a treasure hunter, but I've watched enough reality television to know that such people do exist.  Kelli Stuart builds an entire novel on the premise that all of us seek treasure in this lifetime...and some are fortunate to realize what that treasure is, long before others.  Stuart weaves present day and history into a very realistic, and somewhat tragic tale of a family caught up in a treasure hunt that takes them far beyond the goal they thought they were headed toward.

Ava and Carol have built a life without including Nick Lavine - father to Ava and husband to Carol.  The life of a treasure hunter didn't allow the luxury of a family.  Although world renowned, Nick's fame and fortune do little in the face of terminal disease.  What begins as an attempt at a final reconciliation turns into the adventure of a lifetime for this estranged family.  As they look across time into the lives of the Faberge family of royal jewelry fame, they begin to seek a jeweled egg that may or may not exist.

Existing or not, this unlikely team sets out on one last treasure hunt that spans the globe in search of a jeweled egg with a history they couldn't begin to imagine.  Stuart masterfully weaves the past with present-day and tells the tale of two families seeking much the same thing - relationships that ground them in truth, love and meaning.  The journey is both dangerous and rewarding, but in ways the reader cannot possibly anticipate!

This was not an easy book to lay aside!  I encourage anyone who likes a healthy mix of history and mystery to pick up a copy of this book today!!  You will be well satisfied in all the ways that matter!! Enjoy the search!!

About the Author:
Kelli Stuart is the author of the Carol Award-winning Like a River from Its Course, as well as A Silver Willow by the Shore and Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance Mom (with Wendy Speake). Stuart has written for The Huffington Post, 5 Minutes for Mom, Tonic.com, Disney, American Girl, The MOB Society, Extraordinary Mommy, God Size Dreams, Short Fiction Break, and (in)courage. Kelli is a storyteller at heart, fluent in the Russian language, and has spent the last two decades studying the Russian and Ukrainian culture. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida, with her husband and five children.


 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Prince and the Prodigal by Jill Eileen Smith - REVEIWED


 About the Book:

Two brothers. One betrayal.

The patriarch Jacob has made it no secret that young Joseph is his favorite son. Growing up as the pampered heir to his father's legacy, Joseph thrives under the praise of his father but struggles with the disdain of his older brothers, especially Judah. When a chance comes along to rid themselves of Joseph, his brothers sell him to slave traders and deceive their father about his fate.

Joseph, now serving the captain of Pharaoh's palace guard, is imprisoned after being falsely accused of rape. Back home, Judah leaves his father and builds a new life in Canaan, attempting to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother.

Decades later, the brothers will come face-to-face, and this time Joseph has the upper hand. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?

My Thoughts:

 "They had no idea how great was the God they denied and did not know.  Perhaps one day they would see." (p, 170)

Jill Eilleen Smith brings biblical characters to life so realistically, so naturally, that any time I see her name on the cover of a book, I don't hesitate to read it!  Joseph is the main character in her latest novel, and although he is both prince and prodigal in this story, she writes another layer that echoes this same theme in the life of other characters in the story. 

Joseph's character struggles mightily with his faith throughout most of the story, but he remains faithful to God, because he has received God's grace and mercy in such a personal way, he cannot help but follow wherever He leads.  I love the way Jill makes his emotional response so heartbreakingly realistic.  I realize the struggle he faced on so many levels!  The social restraints placed upon different classes and genders plays a mighty role in Joseph's circumstances!  I'd never considered that before!

There is another character who fulfills both prince and prodigal in the story -Judah.  The time and story line runs between the two brothers in a way that will make your heart very aware of the duplicity that lies within it.  Judah wrestles with his own demons in this novel, and his is a heartbreaking tale.  Jill doesn't stray from the biblical narrative, and the way she fleshes out this character alongside Joseph is convicting and very poignant!

I daresay you will read the story of Joseph in the Bible in a new and deeper way.  I know I did! Don't hesitate to read this story!  It will be a story you can share in a book club or just among friends! Thank you, Jill Eileen Smith for reminding me that I, too, have been both prince and prodigal in my own life story!!  What an amazing journey!! 

I


About the Author:


Jill Eileen Smith
 is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, and Daughters of the Promised Land, as well as The Heart of a KingStar of Persia: Esther's Story, and Miriam's Song. She is also the author of the nonfiction books When Life Doesn't Match Your Dreams and She Walked Before Us. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan. Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com.

Monday, January 31, 2022

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels REVIEWED




 About the Book:

The best fiction simply tells the truth.

But the truth is never simple.

When novelist Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather's old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend's brother--and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book. If she can prove that she told the truth about what happened during those long-ago summers, perhaps she can put the letter's claims to rest and meet the swiftly approaching deadline for her next book.

But what she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. While facing Tyler isn't easy, facing the consequences of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

Plumb the depths of the human heart with this emotional exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgivable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.

Review:

But novels are about looking through someone else's eyes, seeing what someone else sees when they look at the world and realizing, perhaps for the first time, that other people are jest as real and alive and hurt as you are.  (p. 277)

This novel is a wrestling match between people who are successful and well-loved on the surface - in the lives the world around them observes - and the real, heart-felt woundedness that lives on the inside.  In this story Kendra Brennan returns to a familiar childhood homeplace after a decade that has brought her great success as a first-time author.  She retreats to a place from her childhood that holds precious memories and anchors her to her truest self.

What she did not expect to find in the deepest part of her heart was a terror that is keeping her heart frozen in place.  As Kendra faces her own difficult journey through an impossible writer's block, she discovers that those people that are such a part of her DNA from childhood are also wrestling with their own terrifying demons.  Life on the surface is often a placid lake while a churning river of emotional trauma lies underneath the surface.

This book turned out to be deeply personal and provided a mirror to my own soul's wrestling matches. I was deeply moved by the bravery of this story and found healing within its pages.  I highly recommend this journey.  It will change your life!!  

About the Author:

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of All That We Carried, 2020 Christy finalist The Words between Us, and We Hope for Better Things, a 2020 Michigan Notable Book, 2020 WFWA Star Award-winner, and 2019 Christy finalist. A publishing professional for nearly twenty years, she lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at www.erinbartels.com.
 

 


 

Monday, January 24, 2022

A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz REVIEWED


 About the Book:

It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she's never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.

Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Can Esmée and Henri's shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past and reunite them?

Review:

"Her fervent prayers went the way of her hopes and dreams and became floating wreckage." (p, 69)

Esmee Shaw's inner dialogue regarding her failed relationship of the past collide with a reality that takes she and her family to the brink of war.  This is a story that draws your heart in and refuses to let go.  Laura Frantz drops breadcrumbs all along the path to lead the reader into a story that far surpasses what they could ever imagine!  Romance, history and intrigue combine in the most unexpected ways, and you will be hard pressed to lay the book aside!

As I write this, it's been a few days since I finished the book, and, as I thumb through its pages, I recall the characters and their relationships vividly!  Esmee's family became dear to me as did Captain Lennox and his lighthouse.  There are elements of relational conflict that work themselves out in sometimes painful ways.  The point is, that they work out as they need to, and not without consequences.  This book wove a close family dynamic into the story in a way that really appealed to me, and it worked to make the historical context all the more poignant.

I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say that I was thrilled over and over again with the personal integrity of the main characters and their selfless love for one another.  Their relationship had far reaching effects on everyone else in the story!

This is a beautiful, exciting, historically intriguing novel that will appeal to a large audience!  I am happy to recommend it to you!!


About the Author:


Laura Frantz
 is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of a dozen novels, including An Uncommon WomanTidewater Bride, The Frontiersman's DaughterCourting Morrow LittleThe Colonel's LadyThe Lacemaker, and A Bound Heart. She is a proud mom to an American soldier and a career firefighter. When not at home in Kentucky, she and her husband live in Washington State. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.