Monday, January 16, 2017

Take Ten: Hidden gems of 2016

1. The Kindness Challenge

I was reminded just how much I love this book when I listened to a podcast with Shaunti yesterday (since we were iced in...). Taking on the kindness challenge, for real, was one of my new years resolutions.

2. The Circle Maker

I discovered this one when we decided to do the devotional in our women's study group. It's made me excited about my prayer life.;)

3. The Giftsnatcher

I know I have mentioned this one before, since it was just excellent!

4. My Blue is Happy

I read a ton to my kids, so we are constantly bringing home bags of books to keep me entertained (I don't want to read the same five or so over an over again!). This is one of the gems that we brought home towards the end of the year.

5. As an Oak Tree Grows

This one was a bit over their heads at the moment, but I love how it shows the life of an oak tree!

6. Would a Worm Go on a Walk?

This one is just fun!

7. Beyond the Rising Tide

I love how impossible this story is!

8. We're in the Wrong Book

We love this one!

9. The Princess and the Pig

10. Tackling the Fields

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Midnight Sisters

Do not meddle with the Master’s daughters.

The words rattle around Jonas’s head. What is the punishment again? Death? Dismemberment? Jonas, the newest addition to the gardening staff, can’t recall the exact penalty for breaking the rule. What does it matter anyway? He would never dream of meddling with the Earl of Bromhurst’s haughty daughters.

Until he comes face to face with Lady Ariela, the eldest of the Master’s daughters.

Her elusive smile and open manner cause him to question his convictions. In no time, he’s drawn into Lady Ariela’s world of mystery and intrigue, a world where she and her sisters will do anything—including leaving twelve empty beds at midnight—to escape their father’s strict rules.

Only Jonas can uncover the truth and save them from their father’s wrath and their own folly, if he is willing to risk everything he’s ever worked for.

My thoughts: I love fairy tale retellings, so I was thrilled to get a hold of this delightful story by the author of Becoming Beauty (another great tale, might I add!). While there is no magic in the stories, they are still such fun! I enjoyed getting to know the 12 mischievous sisters as they seek for some freedom and, at least for some, find true love along the way. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes fairy tales! (or, who just loves an all around sweet story). Two thumbs up!
I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
Buy your copy here

Meet Hayla & Isella:
The two small girls blinked up at me, their eyes round and full of innocence.
“Ladies,” I nodded down at them, forcing my lips into a smile. I straightened my livery and tucked my hands behind my back. They could probably smell fear.
“Want to play?” Isella shook the toy horse. I could have sworn the horse leered at me.
I swallowed. “Of course, Lady Isella.” I dropped into a squat before her. Isella trotted the horse over my knees, making various snorting noises.
“No!” Hayla snatched the toy from her sister. “Horsey says, ‘niegh, neigh!’” She pranced Horsey in the air to demonstrate.
Rage glimmered in Isella’s eyes and her rosebud mouth tightened into a dot. Dread pooled in my stomach. “He’s mine!” she screamed and grabbed for the toy. Did Horsey flinch? Hayla kept a tight hold on the toy. Back and forth Horsey went. Then with a mighty heave, Isella yanked the horse from her sister’s grasp. She released a cry of triumph. But it was too soon. She had pulled too hard. The toy arced through the air, flying out of her grasp. It fell impossibly slow.
Why couldn’t I move? I could have easily snatched it out of the air but my hands wouldn’t move.
“Owwwww!” I howled, clapping a hand to my eye. Tears poured down my face. “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Small people scurried away. At the same moment a larger form shuffled up to me. She sighed.
“Oh, Markus. Will you never learn?” Mrs. Jenkins said.

Friday, January 13, 2017

60 Days of Happiness

Would you like to experience true happiness?When it comes to happiness, most of us have the same questions. Why can't I be consistently happy? Is it wrong to be happy when there's so much pain and suffering in the world? And perhaps the biggest one: How can I be happier? Some Christians make an artificial contrast between joy and happiness, while others claim God wants us to be holy, but not happy. In fact, he wants us to be both, and the two go hand in hand!In "60 Days of Happiness," noted theologian and "New York Times" bestselling author Randy Alcorn shares sixty timeless devotions demonstrating that God not only wants us to be happy in him and enjoy his gifts, he commands and empowers us to do so.

My thoughts: This is an excellent devotional! I love that Randy Alcorn has written this devotional, since I have heard the arguments of happiness verses joy. I think that Randy makes a compelling argument on why we were made to long for happiness and seek it out. I love the length of these devotions, I feel like a lot of devotionals are so short and don't really allow to get past the surface of a thought. These devotions are a perfect length, longer but not too long to make them impossible.
I love the true stories included in these devotions. I also love the key message, that we were made to find happiness in the Lord.
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Meals from Mars

A fateful encounter late at night at a gas station in the hood brings together a white man from the suburbs and a young black man from the neighborhood. Stuck with each other for the night, they deal with their core prejudices, the walls that keep them from each other, and the discovery of their God-given humanity in one another.

When talking about race, it helps to have something specific to talk about―a story we can all wrap our heads around. In Meals from Mars, Ben Sciacca provides that story: two men from different worlds forced by circumstance to see and hear and consider one another. It is a novel that demonstrates the social challenges and relational potential for racial reconciliation.

My thoughts: I was thrilled to get this book, since it deals with a sensitive subject that needs to be talked about more. While I really enjoyed parts of the story. like Malik's uncle and his thoughts, as well as the parts about the meals and how to actually help people. I felt like the story has some holes in it and I would of personally liked to see a little more conclusion to the story. I know it would be pat to give it a happy ending, but I finished the book feeling like "Wait, that's it?!". These are just my personal thoughts on the story. I do think that there are a lot of difficult subjects tackled in this book and it's an interesting read.
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Women of Easter

his Season of Grace,
Deepen Your Faith in God
Who So Loved the World
that He Gave Us His Son.

You’re about to meet three women named Mary, each of whom has a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Mary of Bethany prepares the way for the Lord’s burial when she anoints His feet and fills the air with her perfume. His mother, Mary of Nazareth, remains by His side from His first breath to His last, her loyalty unwavering. Mary Magdalene, delivered of seven demons, bravely supports her Teacher through His darkest hours, then proclaims the glorious news of His resurrection.

What a trio. What a Savior!

Your mind and emotions will be engaged and your faith strengthened as each scene unfolds, preparing your heart for a richer, deeper Easter experience. Liz Curtis Higgs, a seasoned Bible teacher and award-winning novelist, combines her storytelling skills with a thorough verse-by-verse study of Scripture as together you explore the remarkable lives of The Women of Easter.

"The perfect companion for Easter and beyond!"
—Jennie Allen, visionary of IF:Gathering

“Liz Curtis Higgs is one of the most amazing teachers of God’s Word that I have ever experienced. Her in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures, gifting as a communicator, and personal relationship with the Lord make her unmatched in the ability to take biblical truth and make it applicable to anybody.”
—Priscilla Shirer, New York Times best-selling author of Fervent

"The Lord's resurrection is the most glorious, victorious moment in history. You and I will watch these ancient scenes unfold through the eyes of the three women who were mitnesses, who were there. Just the though gives me goose bumps. All three Marys will show us what happens when we encounter a loving Savior and are transformed. That's what Lent is all about. A time of renewal. A season of grace."
—Liz Curtis Higgs

My thoughts: This is such a wonderful Bible study to pick up as we approach Easter! I love how Liz brings to life the women in the Bible with her books. This one was so good, such an emotional journey as it talks about the Marys and their relationships with the Savior. I think this is an excellent book to do on your own, but would also be enjoyable to do with a group during the Lent season. Liz does a wonderful job of drawing our hearts closer to the Savior. Two thumbs up!
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Never Forget review and giveaway

Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book: Never Forget

Author: Jody Hedlund


Genre: Historical Romance


Release Date: January 4, 2017


Rose Island Lighthouse, Rhode Island


June 1880


Will she betray his trust to stay on the island she loves?

Abbie Wilson is content to spend her days clamming, crabbing, and tending Rose Island Lighthouse. Her grandpa is the head light keeper, but his senility may lead to their eviction. Since leaving the island would kill her beloved Gramps, Abbie will do anything to keep him in the one place he knows and loves.

Wealthy Nathaniel Winthrop III’s wild living has gained him a reputation as the ‘bad boy’ among the elite social circles of Newport. After a blow to the head in a yachting accident washes him up on Rose Island, Nathaniel has no memories of his past.

Abbie tends the wounded stranger in her home only to realize he assumes they’re married. Although she knows she needs to correct Nathaniel’s mistake, his presence calms Gramps and provides a way to prevent eviction from the lighthouse.

The longer the charade continues, the harder it gets for Abbie to tell Nathaniel the truth, more so as she begins to fall in love. Everyone she’s ever loved has abandoned her. Will Nathaniel leave her too, once he discovers he’s not really her husband?

My thoughts: This one is such a quaint but complex story! I love the tale of Abbie, who is stuck between a rock and a hard place with carrying for the lighthouse with her Gramps. Back in a time when women were only allowed certain professions, she is afraid what will become of them if people find out. When Nathaniel waltzes into her life, it becomes harder and harder to reveal the truth.
I thought that this was a wonderful addition to the series, which is a fascinating look at life as a lighthouse keeper. I love the rich historical details and depth of the characters. If you enjoy historical history, then I recommend this one!
I received this book from Celelbrate Lit in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

Winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award and Christy Award, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Guest Post from Jody Hedlund

Which Do You Prefer: Series or Standalones?

By Jody Hedlund

Readers usually have strong opinions about whether they like series or standalones.

Some readers refuse to read books that are inter-related. Others can’t get enough books about their favorite characters.

I see the pros and cons of both.

For series, I don’t like feeling lost as I try to wade through previous characters along with their backstory. I recently started a series by a well-known author and was disappointed to realize the first book was connected to a previous series she’d already published. From the get-go, I felt left out as though I didn’t quite know who all the characters were or their significance.

On the other hand, for standalones, I sometimes feel as though I would like the story to continue. I’ve invested in the setting and characters and so enjoy when I can return to that place and continue to glimpse the characters I’ve fallen in love with—even if from a distance.


My favorites are books that fall in the middle between standalone and series. I like to think of them as standalones within a series. Becky Wade’s Porter brother series is like that. Each of the books centers around one of the brothers (and a tomboy sister). While characters from other books make an appearance in the stories, each plot is separate and complete without any reliance upon another book.

My Beacons of Hope lighthouse series falls in the middle too. The books are related in that they all take place at lighthouses and share a symbolic “cross of hope” that is passed on from one book to the next. A minor character in a previous book becomes the hero or heroine in the next book. But each book can be read by itself without having read any of the others.

In other words, readers can pick up my newest release, Never Forget, which is the fifth and final book in the series, and they wouldn’t be confused about who the characters are or what their history is. The plot starts with a bang and ends with a satisfying sigh. It is complete story unto itself.

And yet, for those who’ve read other books in the series, they’ll get to see the happily-ever-after of a character from a previous book. And they’ll also get to find out where the cross of hope finally ends.

If you’re not a fan of series, I encourage you to give the Beacons of Hope series a try. It might satisfy the need for standalones and series all in one neat little package.

To that end, I’m giving away all FIVE books in the series as part of the Celebrate Lit blog tour to one lucky winner!


Tell us: What is your preference: Standalones, Series, or Standalones within a Series?


Blog Stops

January 10: Karen Sue Hadley
January 10: Bookworm Mama
January 11: Faithfully Bookish
January 12: Genesis 5020
January 13: The Scribbler
January 14: Daysong Reflections
January 16: A Greater Yes
January 16: Bigreadersite
January 18: Book by Book
January 19: Carpe Diem
January 19: Splashes of Joy
January 20: Stuff and Nonsense
January 21: Radiant Light
January 21: cherylbbookblog
January 22: A Path of Joy
January 23: Henry Happens
January 23: Onceuponatime


[Insert Giveaway Picture Here]

To celebrate her tour, Jody is giving away the entire Beacons of Hope series. Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Growing Up Social

Is technology drawing your family together or driving it apart?

In this digital age, children are spending more and more time interacting with a screen and less time playing outside, reading a book, or interacting with a parent. While technology can benefit us, it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child’s emotional and social development.

In Growing Up Social, Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane will empower you with the tools you need to make positive changes . . . starting today. Through stories, wit, and wisdom, you’ll discover how to take back your home from an overdependence on screens. Plus, you’ll learn to teach the five A+ skills that every child needs to master: affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention.

Learn how to:

Replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time
Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
Discover what's working for families that have become screen savvy
Equip your child to be relationally rich in a digital world
Learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things done

Now is the time to equip your child with a healthy involvement with screens and an even healthier involvement with others.

My thoughts: So much has changed on the technology front even since I was growing up (which doesn't seem like it was that long ago! lol). With the technology boom has come new problems and the dilemma of how to deal with kids and all the screen time they get. How do we, as parents, figure out a good balance for them? Gary and Arlene do a wonderful job of showing parents how to help their kids balance technology and living life, along with how to be screen savvy (something that each parent needs to keep up with their kid!). This is an excellent book for all parents!
I received this book from Moody in exchange for my honest review.