Monday, February 29, 2016

Juvenile Fiction Book Review: Love, Lexi: Letters to God by Sherry Kyle

Publisher's Description:
What is a girl to do when her rival wants to nab the attention of the one boy she’s liked since he shared his peanut butter sandwich with her in the first grade? Love, Lexi follows seventh grader Alexis Dawn Cooper (Lexi) as she navigates middle school and being a middle child. But this is no ordinary middle-school novel. Love, Lexi is a unique combination of a fictional story combined with a devotional and journal to allow readers to watch Lexi learn to seek God first above all else, while writing their own letters to God. Love, Lexi draws young people into Lexi’s life as they contemplate their own place in God’s eyes.

My Review:
Sherry Kyle has a gift for writing for tweens and teens. Love, Lexi is a delightful story written in the form of letters to God from a seventh grade girl. She pours her heart out like most girls her age with a sincere and sweet trust. God's response through scripture creates a great dialog and will help the reader understand how God's word can work in their life. I like that there's space for the reader to answer questions and jot down thoughts. I can't wait to share this with my granddaughter. I think it will be a great tool to help teach her that God is there for her, along with the many encouraging scriptures and thoughts. The hot pink lettering and doodles will make any girl smile as they read Lexi's story. As a grandmother, I'm happy the book emphasizes friendship and relationship in a positive way. I can't say enough good stuff about Love, Lexi. I hope Sherry Kyle write more Lexi books.

I received this book from Tyndale House in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Pity Party

Psalm 34:17-18
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

My left knee throbs, the spot between my shoulder blades along my spine aches, my thumb joints scream at me. I have arthritis and fibromyalgia. Let me tell you, some days I just plain hurt. I'm not writing this to gain sympathy, it's just part of my life now. What I want to say is I've gained empathy for others who ache and hurt from physical pain. God has provided me an excellent rheumatologist who helps me manage the pain. And God has blessed me through this. He's given me new insight into what others go through. Sometimes illness isn't visible, sometimes handicaps aren't seen, so I'll not judge the person who parks in a handicapped spot and looks "fine". They may not be.

public image domain
There's another side to the physical pain, There's the emotional and spiritual battle. For awhile I was angry because I could no longer embroider, something I'd enjoyed since I was six years old. I could no longer hand-quilt or sew for any length of time by hand. I struggle to crochet, and I've had to adjust to walking slower and in shorter increments. Here's a funny. I like to sit on the floor-but guess what, it's not pretty when I have to get up. As all of these changes to my body have taken place, I've been brokenhearted. I've cried out to God the typical "WHY?" I've felt sorry for myself and been grumpy. But you know what? In the midst of my pity party I felt the Holy Spirit's nudge. He said pray. Pray for healing. The healing wasn't for my body, it was for my attitude, my selfishness, and yes my pathetic spirit. So I've prayed. I've asked God for comfort and peace with my situation. And He's poured it over me. I still struggle sometimes (and I'd say I hit my knees, but I can't physically do that) so I sit down and bow my head and seek my Father who loves me. The One who has healed my crushed spirit. I praise God that He's always there for me.

What do you need to turn over to God?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Children's Book Review: The Legend of the Easer Robin: An Easter Story of Compassion and Faith by Dandi Dadey Mackall, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

Publisher's Description:
This newly illustrated edition of The Legend of the Easter Robin renews the wonder and charm of the original and timeless tale written by Dandi Daley Mackall. With new vibrant artwork from New York Times bestselling illustrator, Richard Cowdrey, this holiday classic is brought to life for a new generation. The Legend of the Easter Robin tells the story of Tressa, whose grandmother reveals to her the story of a small robin who saw Jesus struggling and soared to help him. This Easter tale reminds Christians everywhere how much Jesus sacrificed for us and how much he loves us.
My Review:
The first thing I noticed when I opened The Legend of the Easter Robin were the lovely illustrations. Spring popped out and filled me with joy. I know children will love the drawings of the robins and spring flowers. I love that this story ties a Pennsylvania Dutch legend with the story of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. As a grandmother and granddaughter share an excitement about a robin's nest on the windowsill and the eggs she lays, Grandma gets to share the legend and talk to her granddaughter about Jesus. Also, I learned about Pennsylvania Dutch egg coloring and decorating. I'd never read this story and find it a delightful tale I'd like to share with my grandkids. The story provides a great way to share about Jesus as well as the tradition of coloring eggs. This would be a great book to read as a family for Easter.

Children's Book Review: Little One, God Loves You by Amy Warren Hilliker, illustrated by Polona Lovsin

Publisher's Description:
Little One, God Loves You, written by Amy Warren Hilliker and inspired by the New York Times #1bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life, is a cute and cuddly board book that let’s children know God made them solely for the purpose of loving them.
My Review:
Amy Warren Hilliker, daughter of Rick Warren, has written a delightful book to share with little ones. This board book assures children that God loves them. The playful rhyme is easy to read aloud and will be fun to share with small children. I love the illustrations. The sweet bunnies in the story, depicted in various scenes of play and family life, bring the text to life. They're sure to bring a smile. This would be a perfect Easter gift. 
I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Children's Book Review: A Royal Easter Story by Jeanna Young & Jacqueline Johnson, illustrated by Omar Aranda

Publisher's Description:
It is the most spectacular spring in history. The princesses—Joy, Grace, Faith, Charity, and Hope are busy with preparations for the annual Easter celebration and the castle is alive with activity.

Into the kingdom ride five new friends, young knights, who are as spirited as the princesses. In the new Princess Parables title, A Royal Easter Story, a challenge is presented and the boys and girls decide to race to the neighboring village where the annual Easter celebration and feast will be held. Along the way, the princesses must weather a scary storm and rescue another new friend. But in the end the lesson is clear … trust in the Lord and his love and you can overcome any obstacle.

My Review:
I recommend A Royal Easter Story for older children (4-9 years old) as the wording on each page is a bit long. I like the story of the princesses as they discover what is more important-- helping someone or winning a race. The focus on Easter and Jesus is refreshing, especially the prayer the girls shared for guidance. And I like the reference to the girls being daughters of the King, just as God is Father and we are his daughters. The "Parable Thoughts" at the end were a great tie in to share with children. This would be nice for a family to read together or maybe at a girls' Bible study. I would have enjoyed reading this with my daughters when they were young. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and bound to please any girl. The dust cover even has glitter!

I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Little Ladybug

I've been learning to draw with watercolor pencils. Still need lots of practice!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Juvenile Chapter Book Review: Blue Ribbon Trail Ride by Miralee Ferrell

Book Description: 
Thirteen-year old Kate and her friends came up with the perfect way to raise money for her autistic younger brother and others to attend summer camp---a horse scavenger hunt! As local businesses donate money and prizes, Kate keeps the entry fees in her mom's antique jewelry box.

But when the box and the money disappear, Kate and her friends must unravel the clues, hold on to hope, and solve the mystery along the Blue Ribbon Trail Ride. 

My Review:
As a young person I read lots of books centered around horses and horse farms. I'm so happy to see books like Blue Ribbon Trail Ride are still written. How delightful to read about children working together for a good cause. And in the midst of their plans for a trail ride to raise money, a mystery pops up.  As they discuss and follow clues, young readers will enjoy figuring out the answers along with the kids in the story. This is book four of a series. I haven't read the first three, but can imagine they too are well written. Miralee Ferrell's knowledge of horses and farms shines through her writing. I highly recommend the series to young people age 8-12. They'd also be fun to read as a family. I can't wait to share these stories with my granddaughter.
I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Purchase a copy: 

About the author:
Miralee Ferrell is the award-winning author of more than a dozen novels. She and her husband live along the Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington State, where she enjoys riding the wooded trails and spending time with her grown children. In addition to horses and dogs, Miralee once owned two cougars.

Connect with Miralee: websiteTwitter,Facebook

Change Happens

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It's the time of year when winter is trying to figure out when to give in to spring. On Monday we had a two-hour delay due to snow, by Friday the snow was melted with sixty-degree temperatures. The change of seasons is a normal occurrence in southwest Ohio, so I'm used to it. But what about other types of change. I admit I'm not fond of change. And it happens. Often. But more often than not, adjustment to a new situation brings good stuff. Even though I may fret and moan, an alteration in life may produce better circumstances, new people, and positive growth. But even positive growing pains don't always feel good. Sometimes they flat out hurt.

But the good news is, when I know a change has come directly from God and is not something I've caused due to selfish reasons, I have that wonderful peace that passes understanding. Even when I know the change may have a foggy future of uncertainty, God calms my heart and carries me through. I'm so thankful I have a God who understands me and knows what I need, all the time. So even though the temperature varies and life throws curve balls, God leads me through. He guards my heart and mind and I praise him for that. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Children's Book Review: Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship by Henry Cole

Publisher Description:
From the beloved illustrator and author of A Nest for Celeste comes Brambleheart, a beautiful tale about nature, imagination, and how love is the greatest thing we build. With stunning black-and-white artwork and a gorgeous package, Henry Cole’s animal fantasy adventure harkens back to Brian Jacques’s Redwall and Avi’s Poppy series.

In the Hill, animals work as Weavers, Smelters, and Carvers—but Twig doesn’t know who he wants to be. He tries very hard in all his classes, but his imagination wanders to his favorite books or the delicious mayapples growing beyond the scavenge yard . . .  and then he loses his focus. After Twig makes a big mistake in front of everyone, he sets out on a secret journey to discover himself. But as he wanders deeper into the Yard than he’s ever wandered before, Twig finds a curious colored globe. A dragon’s egg—which hatches in front of his eyes.

Now protecting the baby dragon is all Twig wants to do. But when he learns that his secret might hurt others, he’s forced to make a choice between his place in the world and the feelings in his heart.
The first in a duology, Brambleheart is  beloved illustrator and author Henry Cole’s beautiful story about  nature, imagination,  and how love is the greatest thing we build.

My Review:
It's so hard to find your place in the world. Can you imagine being a chipmunk who lacks the skills required to succeed? Brambleheart is a book for children that encourages acceptance and love. Twig, the main character, is adorable. I fell in love with this little guy as soon as I started reading his delightful story. He's much like any child who has gone through school and faced bullies, found fantastic friends, and lived through challenges. I cheered for him as he faced his troubles head on and worried for him as he tried to figure out what to do when he was caught in a quandary. Henry Cole's attractive illustrations add whimsy and beauty to an already delightful story. Brambleheart is a duology, the first of two books. I can't wait to read the next one. This would be a great read aloud. Much like Winnie-the-Pooh, the animals have big hearts and personalities to match.

I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fiction Book Review: Change of Heart by Courtney Walsh

Publisher's Description:
A Colorado senator’s wife, Evelyn Brandt seems to have it all. But her carefully constructed life comes toppling down when the FBI crashes her society brunch with news that her husband has been arrested for embezzlement, and he’s far from repentant. It turns out this was only the start of his indiscretions—for which he has little regret.

As the weeks following the scandal turn into months, Evelyn withdraws, even shirking her duties with the philanthropic Valentine Volunteers. The inquisitive women of the group are determined not to let Evelyn’s divorce destroy her. They have big plans for her to use her long-forgotten artistic talent to reimagine the city’s iconic lamppost hearts. But doing so will force Evelyn to work closely with Trevor Whitney, her ex-husband’s former best friend. Though she and Trevor used to be close—and he’s been letting her hide in his guesthouse—his gruffness conveys his unease with the situation.

Amid the beauty of Trevor’s farm and the comfort of a paintbrush, Evelyn starts to reclaim the dreams she sacrificed to become the perfect politician’s wife. And as creativity inspires them both, Whit begins to see the girl he fell in love with before his friend—and his own mistakes—stole his chance. Possibilities for a new beginning emerge, but long-kept secrets threaten to ruin everything. After so much time, is a change of heart too much to hope for?

My Review:
When I finish a novel and my first thought is I want more, I know I've just finished a great book. Courtney Walsh has written an excellent story of not just second chances but of new beginnings. Evelyn embodies a wounded soul with little to hang on to. Through Evelyn's story, the author weaves in the beautiful hope one finds in the Lord, without being preachy, and the promise that dreams can come true.

If you've read Paper Hearts, her first book set in Loves Park, you'll recognize the Valentine Volunteers, a fun group of ladies determined to be the town matchmakers. They add a note of whimsy to Change of Heart as they trip over each other while trying to "make things happen." As for Trevor, I enjoyed watching him squirm as he attempted to find his way in a maze of confusion and at times chaos. And his farm is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

If you enjoy women's fiction with a touch of romance , a dab of spice, and a dose of truth, you'll like Change of Heart. If you haven't read Paper Hearts, I recommend that one as well. They don't have to be read in order.

I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Visit Courtney Walsh's website

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Snowy evening

Nonfiction Book Review: Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy

Book Description:
When Christie Purifoy arrived at Maplehurst that September, she was longing for a fixed point in her busily spinning world. The sprawling Victorian farmhouse sitting atop a Pennsylvania hill held within its walls endless possibilities. It was a place where she could finally grasp and hold the thing we all long for--home.

In lyrical, contemplative prose, Christie slowly unveils the trials and triumphs of that first year at Maplehurst--from summer's intense heat and autumn's glorious canopy to winter's quiet grief and spring's unexpected mercies. Through stories of planting and preserving, of opening the gates wide to neighbors, and of learning to speak the language of a place, Christie invites you into the heartache and joy of small beginnings and the wonder of a God who would make his home with us. 

My Review:
Roots & Sky is a beautiful, spiritual journey. I relish Christie Purifoy's lovely descriptions of the changing seasons and her desire to find the true heart of her new home. Her words pulled me in to her days. I could almost taste the produce from her garden and wanted to play in the snow with her children. I found her honesty in her struggles refreshing and her triumphs joy filled. Christie's lyrical writing called me to pray for the very things she desired; a closer walk with God, harmony and peace in the day, and the joy that comes from being surrounded by beauty. I especially like the hope she shares through her story; hope through God's creation.
I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

All or Nothing

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I've heard these verses so many times; at weddings, around Valentine's Day, and in sermons. And at times I separated out the parts of the whole as if they could stand alone. But, for love to never fail, I must cultivate all parts of God's love in my heart, then plant the seeds in others. To truly love my husband, children, parents, siblings, and friends, I want to help them become the person God created them to be. In other words, I want to put them above myself, encourage their talents, and give them opportunity. That's the opposite of what often happens in the world.

So if I love someone, it's all or nothing. Patience and kindness don't work without hope and trust. Rejoicing in truth is way better than being envious and boastful. No one knows this better than Jesus. He loved me so much He gave his all. He came to live on earth knowing He'd die with the burdens of many. Through no fault of His, he carried my sin to the cross. Just as God promised, His love never fails.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nonfiction Book Review: Art and Faith: Mixed Media Art with a Faith-Filled Message by Cherie Burbach

Book Description:
In Art and Faith, Cherie Burbach shares original mixed-media paintings that contain a positive, faith-filled message. There are times when a Bible verse you’ve read many times suddenly becomes clearer to you with a meaning and message you haven’t realized before. Many of the paintings in Art and Faith are inspired by a particular verse that stood out for a variety of reasons. Celebrate your faith with this collection of verses and art that represent hope and encourage belief.

My Review:
In reading through Art and Faith, I felt like I was having a conversation over a cup of coffee with Cherie. In her latest book, she writes about how her faith and the art she creates intersect and why this is such a joy. I've been an artist for many years but of late have been discouraged due to health issues. Yet, Cherie's gentle nudges to "use your creative gifts" encourages me. She says, "Creative gifts are all about God. He gives them to us, He likes to see what we do with them, and He gets satisfaction when we use them." I love that.

As much as I love Cherie's words about her faith, I am in awe of the artwork in this book. Page after page is filled with beautiful and inspiring mixed media. The colors pop from the pages. From her lovely bird paintings to the beautiful flowers, Cherie blends textures and words together to make a gorgeous array of artwork. My favorite print is on page 78. I guess you'll have to buy the book to find out which one that is. I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

You'll find more about Cherie at her website.

Friday, February 5, 2016

What Are You Waiting For?

Psalm 27:13-14
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Waiting on the train
A few years ago, I went to the zoo with my daughter and her two children. We wanted to see everything we could, but one of the highlights of Zeke's day was the train ride. The little engine pulled a string of cars around a section of the zoo, so visitors could see the swans on the lake and several other animals. He could hardly wait for his turn around the track.

How often do I ask God for something and don't wait on the answer? I don't want to stand in line for a confirmation. I want to dive in even though I know He has a plan and knows my needs. And how difficult, because of my human nature, is it to wait on God? My prayer might be, "But God, I need that now." Or "God, I don't have time for this." Then there's "This is perfect for me, isn't it? Maybe not. Can you just tell me?" When I'm waiting on an answer from God, I'm not as patient as I should be. My mind plays games and dreams up ridiculous scenarios of how something should go. That's when I have to pop myself in the head with my Bible (not literally) and remind myself that to wait on the Lord is a good thing.

I love what the Psalm says about seeing the Lord's goodness in the land of the living. The place of the people who trust in Him. I can be confident in His promise. With an obedient heart I need to be strong, take heart, and wait.

What are you waiting for? Have you sent your request to God?

Praise God for his wisdom and mercy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review: Freedom's Price by Michaela MacColl & Rosemary Nichols,Historical Fiction for Grades 5-8

Publisher's Description:
Eliza Scott isn’t quite a slave, but she’s not free either. She’s not a prisoner, but her family lives in a jail. Eliza, who attends a secret floating school on the Mississippi River because it’s illegal for her to read, says she understands how dangerous her situation is—but her parents know she’s not afraid enough. When a devastating cholera epidemic strikes the city, Eliza discovers she will have to be clever and resourceful to escape a slave catcher and the worst fire in St. Louis’ history. Will Eliza be willing to pay the price of freedom? Freedom’s Price is the second book in the Hidden Histories series, which examines little known moments in American history. Based on actual events and people, the book is extensively researched and includes an author’s note and bibliography.

My Review:
Freedom's Price is the first book I've read in the Hidden Histories series. I worked in an elementary school library for a number of years, and I would have definitely added this book to the collection. The authors spin an interesting tale based on the life of Dred Scott and his family with his oldest daughter Eliza as the main character. Young readers will be inspired by Eliza's bravery and her strong determination. The authors added notes about the history and resources they studied to create a fascinating story. I highly recommend this as reading for young people interested in the history of African-American slavery. 5 stars

I received this book in exchange for a fair review.

Beauty in Today 2/2/16

Sunrise over campus this morning.