Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fiction Book Review: The Cottage by Michael Phillips

Book Description:
When Loni Ford is informed that she has inherited property in the Shetland Islands, she laughs. She wants nothing more than to sell it and be done with it. But when she arrives in the North Sea enclave, she is stunned to find that "the Cottage" is not at all what she expected, nor is David Tulloch, the man most of the islanders believe to be the rightful heir.

The locals could hardly be more surprised that the heir is a woman--and an American. Loni, in turn, finds the islanders quaint and a bit behind the times. Expecting David to be as provincial as the rest of his clan, she discovers that there is far more to the man than meets the eye. And there is something about the peaceful atmosphere of the place--and the character of its most prominent citizen--that soon gets under her skin.

Beneath the peaceful surface, however, change is threatening the island of Whale's Reef. David's cousin Hardy Tulloch, whose claim to the inheritance now in Loni's hands was backed by oil investors, has not been deterred in his aim to control the island. But his co-conspirators have plans of their own, plans that put Loni's very life in danger.

My Thoughts:
This is the second book in the Shetland Islands Saga. The Inheritance introduced readers to the Tulloch family and their quaint island life. In The Cottage we meet the American who is next in line to take over the small community. I enjoyed book one. Book two was even better. I love the Scottish setting, the authentic dialog entwined in the conversations, and the history of the Shetland Islands. This is not a fast read, instead it's one I call a "January book"; a perfect book to curl up with this winter (or on a cool autumn day) with a cup of hot tea. This can be read as a stand-alone, but I'd recommend you read both. I like Loni and David. They're both solid characters with a whole town full of people surrounding them like a patchwork quilt. One of my favorite parts of reading this book is the peaceful beauty of the Shetlands and the pastoral life. This a long book, 416 pages. There are some places that are a bit slow, but interesting. I received this book for free from Bethany House.

Nonfiction Book Review: 40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood: Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom by Sarah Humphrey

Book Description:
Wouldn't it be marvelous if mothering came with a concrete set of instructions---an easy recipe we could follow? Instead, motherhood challenges women to find their faith, their true selves, and their family through daily doses of trial and error. It is a brilliant and healing time of life that is full of joy, pain, and beauty with a small side of crisis (and humor). What mothers do not know, they learn. And through this lifelong process of learning, they nurture and care for the most precious gifts on earth: children. In a modern society where moms often have a full and busy plate, these 10 minute daily devotions focus on six key topics of motherhood:
-Reconciling with grief, hope and expectations
In addition to the devotions, these beautiful pages are adorned with handmade illustrations to help you refresh from long days or even occasional sleepless nights. So, grab your colors and a little quiet time for yourself while doodling at the kitchen table. You will be grateful you did!

My Thoughts:
40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood offers uplifting devotions meant to encourage. As a mother of adult children I know how difficult mothering can be and how easily discouragement creeps in. Anything that shores up confidence in a new or seasoned mom is valued. The devotions touch on several common issues shared among moms. Sarah Humphrey shares scriptures, uplifting thoughts, questions and prayers to help bring joy to a mom's day. She keeps the writings brief and doable for a busy mother. I like the graphics created for coloring. They are simple and not super-detailed, so they don't require an intense amount of time. Instead they are relaxing and lovely. This would make a nice gift. I received this book for free from Litfuse.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
Often considered a dreamer and silly heart, Sarah Humphrey uses inspiration from her most beloved career, motherhood, to fuel her passion for writing, creative movement and teaching. She has and is authoring several books and children's books. Sarah currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and three beautiful, bouncy kids.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Three Choices

Ephesians 6:18-20
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

When someone I love is sick, when finances stress me out, when I've sinned, or when life just stinks— I have three choices.
1. Worry and fret. 2. Ignore the situation. 3. Pray.

Sad to say, I sometimes attack the problem using choices 1 and 2 before I get to number 3. I know better. But too often there is so much noise in the world, not necessarily verbal noise,  but so much going on that I push myself away from the one who can help. I don't stop to think about what I need or the person I should be praying for needs. Instead, I fall into the trap of doubt and fear.

Truth is, Jesus wants me to call on him instead of worry. He wants me to call on him instead of hiding. He wants me to call on him and trust him to answer.
This year I've made an effort, when someone requests prayer, to stop at that moment and send up thoughts to God. I've done better, but I still get distracted and forget. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying. The apostle Paul asked the folks in the Ephesian church to pray for him. He needed their intercession. I want to throw out a challenge to anyone reading this. This week in everything you do, every person you hear of who needs prayer, every situation—pray first. I'll be doing it too. I believe prayer makes all the difference in our daily lives.

If you'd like me to pray for you. Please, let me know.

crooked-stemmed asters

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Picture Book Review: Christmas Love Letters from God: Bible Stories by Glenys Nellist Illustrated by Rachel Clowes

Book Description:
Written for children ages four to eight, Christmas Love Letters from God cleverly combines both prose and poetry as the story of Jesus’ birth unfolds. The book includes seven stories, beginning with Isaiah’s prophecy and ending with the visit of the wise men. Following each story, the child will find his or her own letter from God attached to the page. Each letter begins with a space in which to write the child’s name, so each one can be specially addressed to the child.

Written as if God is speaking, each personalized message gives the young reader a sense of wonder as they discover anew the Christmas holiday and the birth of Jesus. A very special Bible verse, entitled God’s Perfect Promise, also accompanies each story and letter as God’s personal words of love, promise, and hope.

My Thoughts:
I've read several of Glenys Nellist's books for children and can say this is the best one so far. There is so much to this lovely book. Seven stories are laid out with scripture, one of Glenys's beautiful poems, a letter from God, and a little scripture tucked into the illustration. I could easily see this becoming a tradition to read the week before Christmas, sharing one story a night and writing a letter to God on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. I love that she begins the stories with the prophet Isaiah. She handles the stories of Mary and Joseph with grace and has the wise men visit when Jesus is a bit older. To top off the excellent storytelling, Rachel Clowes' illustrations are fabulous. She uses some interesting techniques and adds in a few trinkets here and there that would be fun for a child to search and find. If you love sharing the Christmas story with children or would just enjoy a beautiful book for the holiday, buy Christmas Love Letters from God. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Picture Book Review: The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel by Mike Berenstain

Book Description:
In the newest Berenstain Bears Living Lights book, The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel, the cubs discover there’s more to angels than wings and flowing white robes!
It is almost Christmas and there is finally snow in Bear Country. Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear are ready for some winter fun! But when they can’t decide what kind of snowbear to build, Honey Bear’s snow angel gives the older cubs a great idea. Soon the cubs have built a Christmas snow angel. Later, as they warm up with some hot cocoa, Mama and Papa give the cubs a little lesson about some very special angels and the work they do for God.

My Thoughts:
Mike Berenstain has created a great book that helps teach children about angels and their purpose in The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel. Brother and Sister Bear are so excited about the snow that's fallen overnight. They take little sister, Honey, out to build their first snowman of the season. I enjoyed the variety of snow people they thought about making. Honey inspires them on their final. This leads to Mama and Papa telling the bear cubs about the angels in the Christmas story. I like how Mike intertwined a fun story with truth about angels in the Bible. The book also has further references in the back for other angel scriptures. As usual the Berenstain Bears do not disappoint. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Picture Book Review: A Night of Great Joy by Mary Engelbreit

Book Description:
Mary Engelbreit presents A Night of Great Joy, a delightful picture book that celebrates the joyful season of Christmas. This book tells the story of the nativity through the performance of a children’s Christmas pageant. With adorable illustrations and simple storytelling, Engelbreit paints a wonderful picture of the night that Jesus was born.

A Night of Great Joy recalls that fateful night with wonder and awe. From the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem to the gathering of many before the baby Jesus, this holiday treasure leads children through the tale of the birth of Jesus, guiding them with the star of Bethlehem.

Mary Engelbreit, New York Times bestselling illustrator of the blockbuster Christmas classic The Night Before Christmas, brings readers a new holiday picture book that’s sure to become a family favorite.

My Thoughts:
Who doesn't love a Christmas pageant?

I've long been a fan of Mary Engelbreit's illustrations and of Christmas pageants. A Night of Great Joy embraces the colorful whimsy of her art with the sweet, often amusing joy of a children's play. Mary's simple telling of Jesus birth pairs beautifully with her wonderful illustrations. I love the expressions on the faces of the diverse cast of children as they participate in the most important holiday story. And the shepherds and angels are a hoot. Parents and children will have a lot of fun reading this version of the Christmas story. I see this becoming a classic in years to come. If I could only buy one Christmas book for the children in my life this year, I'd choose this one. I received this book for free from Zonderkidz.