Monday, October 31, 2016

Fiction Book Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Book Description:
Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .
Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

My Thoughts:
A Portrait of Emily Price is absolutely beautiful. First I love that Emily can repair most things. She's quite the handy woman. She's also more interested in taking care of her sister than she is herself. Ben's pretty perfect, unusual for a novel, but exactly like we need him to be in this story. When they go to Italy the descriptions are lovely. I wanted to sit on a hill with Emily and take it all in. And the food. I think I gained five pounds just from reading the yummy descriptions of pasta and breads. I've read all of Katherine Reay's books and this one is my favorite. It's hard to put into words what makes it so special. But for me I think part of it is the huge role family plays in the characters' lives and the beauty of grace and self-forgiveness that twines through the story. They say to read is to escape—this is the perfect diversion. I read an interview Katherine Reay did for Library Journal. She targets a younger generation, but I'm older and I loved this story. I received this book for free.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Rejoicing Heart

1 John 3:20-23
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 

Sometimes when I try to understand the Bible, I make things too complicated. Several times in the Bible God makes his commands clear. Love him and love people. Believe in Jesus, love one another. But because I over think what I need to do each day I often stumble and fall. In other words, I forget to be kind. I fret instead of rest in his peace. I let negativity in the world steal my joy. I criticize when I should be thankful. You get the picture.

Thank goodness God speaks to me through his word. I love what chapter three of 1 John has to say. When I stumble and fall on my face because I'm not following Jesus' lead, my heart lets me know. Or as my Bible's notes say, my conscience speaks up. I believe this is the Holy Spirit nudging me and telling me to get it together. But when I am on track and following my Jesus with all I have, my heart sings. And that's the best feeling ever. That's when I know I'm being obedient to my creator. I pray before making a decision, I listen to the Spirit's lead, I garner courage to follow my Lord. A clear conscience equals a rejoicing heart. Praise God for Jesus!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fiction Book Review: Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson

Book: Description:
In her kitchen at Rose's Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent. But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen--and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful.

Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island. He's also on assignment to uncover a story. Instead he's falling in love with the island's red shores and Caden's sweets.

When Caden discovers Adam isn't who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he's writing could do more than ruin the inn's chances for survival--it might also break her heart.

My Review:
I absolutely loved When Two Hearts Meet. Once I started reading I had a hard time putting it down. There were parts I found myself smiling through, not just smiling but grinning, and others I wanted to cry. This is the second book in the Prince Edward Island Dream series, and I liked it even better than the first. I related so well to Caden Holt's sweet, insecure character. She's someone I'd choose for a friend. And Adam Jacob's story broke my heart. Visiting the island through these characters made me want to go there in person. The other characters who inhabit the island or just popped in for a visit add a great interest to the story. And this isn't just a sweet read, it's a story about courage, love, and honor with a great element of trust. For me, this is the perfect book to curl up with and get lost in. The Red Door Inn is a lovely place to visit and I look forward to book three in the summer of 2017. I received this book for free from Revell Publishing.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ever Green

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

One afternoon after work, I strolled along the sidewalk to my car. As usual at this time of year, I glanced at the trees to see the autumnal colors. The college has some lovely maples and several other smaller trees. Along one side of the walkway, a group of small pines stood in front of several deciduous trees whose scarlet, gold, and orange leaves were in the process of falling. It struck me that we, the people God created, are like the trees who go through seasons of change. Not just aging, but spiritual challenges, physical adjustments, and emotional trials.

As I studied the beautiful scene, my focus then rested on the pines. Evergreens don't lose their leaves. They retain their rich, verdant color, even after all the leaves from the deciduous trees fall to the ground. Just as the maples and oaks reminded me of people, the pines reminded me of Jesus. He's always the same. No matter what happens, Jesus is still Jesus and God is still God. Sovereign and in control. My faith rests in the one who never changes. Praise God that I can live without fear because he is the same yesterday and today and forever.

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.

Children's Book Review: Ready, Set, Find Christmas

Book Description:
Get ready to follow Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. They are in a hurry! Mary is expecting the baby Jesus and they need your help to find many things along the way. This holiday board book is perfect for young children who will love finding the 48 objects hidden on the pages while reading the classic story of Christmas, accurately retold and with scripture references. On your mark, Ready-Set-Find!

My Thoughts:
Ready, Set, Find Christmas is a sweet book for preschoolers. I think children will have fun searching for the objects pictured on each spread. The drawings are charming, especially the animals. Scriptures are used to tell the story of Jesus birth. The book ends with the wise men visiting Jesus at the manger. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but it is a cute book and would be a great way to share Jesus' birth with a child.  Also, the book has nice sturdy tabs that make it easy for little fingers. I received this book for free.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Autumn Mistflower

Fiction Book Review: Finding Riley by Dan Walsh

Book Description:
An unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the Christmas trip of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst Christmas of their lives. John Finch and his friend Alfred live in the woods. Been doing it for decades. He likes wintering in Florida, but this year’s been particularly harsh. Between the cold, freezing rain and terrifying lightning storms, John’s starting to wonder how much more of this lifestyle he can take. A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper, the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley, is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking her help with a new dog training project that will help the homeless. Is he for real? And is her co-worker right? Does this rich, handsome man’s interest in Kim go much deeper than her dog-training skills?

My Thoughts:
Dan Walsh has written many wonderful books, of them all the Forever Home series are my favorite. Finding Riley is the second book of the series. One of the things I like most about these stories are the chapters where we get to hear the voice of Riley. Written in a realistic way, I could easily imagine the dog having the exact thoughts that Dan portrayed. In the story we are introduced to a homeless camp. I learned from and appreciated Dan's presentation of this. He also does an excellent job of portraying the animal shelter and the role they play. And I loved Jeff, a sweet, sweet boy. And of course I enjoyed the twist of romance lightly threaded through the story. If you love dogs, need a pleasant, uplifting read, or want to escape into a sweet Christmas story, read Finding Riley. I received this book for free.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

Psalm 62:5-8
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
 Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Does anyone else remember singing or still sing "My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand..." a hymn written by Edward Mote in 1834. And 182 years later this song still comes to mind. As the chaos of the world swirls around me I need the reassurance that God is my fortress. 

Sin is alive and well. Satan is attacking. But rather than hide under a rock, I'm taking refuge on the Rock.

My hope rests in Jesus. I trust him with everything. Yes, everything. If you feel the weight of the world, the chaos of life, fear for our country—seek Jesus. He's the calm in the storm. He's the one who brings comfort and peace in the midst of mayhem. He is the solid Rock.

Praise God for peace in turmoil that comes only through him.

Nonfiction Book Review: Experiencing God Through His Names by Sheryl Giesbrecht

About the book: 
What's in a name?
Names are more than groups of letters that represent a person or identify objects. Names are powerful. A person's character and destiny can be influenced by his or her name. God's attributes and personality support His unique and distinct names. If we comprehend the meanings of His titles, we can know God more intimately. In Experiencing God Through His Names, Sheryl Giesbrecht walks with you on an exciting journey to discover and absorb the truth about God's character. In the next 31 days, God wants you to get to know Him. Are you ready?

My Thoughts:
I've been reading Experiencing God Through His Name each morning in my quiet time. I love this little book. Sheryl does a beautiful job relating the many names for God to our needs. I've enjoyed learning and worshipping God through reading his names. God has so much to give his followers, and I believe understanding the various characteristics of his nature has helped me to comprehend his vastness. I also like the structure of the writing. She gives an example, a biblical instance, and a prayer with each name. If you'd like to get to know God better, this is a great book that takes an intimate look at our God. I received this book for free.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
Sheryl Giesbrecht has written three books, hundreds of articles, blogs, and columns. A nationally syndicated radio host, Sheryl is a sought after inspirational speaker who facilitates leadership training for thousands internationally.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Best Doughnut Ever!

I felt like I'd landed in a Norman Rockwell painting with a hint of Mayberry. On our way home from Port Clinton over Labor Day weekend, we stumbled upon a quaint village. Most of the stores were closed due to the holiday, but the bakery's open sign hung on the door. 

Ideal Bakery sat on the corner across from the locally owned Kirwen's Super Market. As soon as Tim and I entered the bakery, the smell of fresh baked goods filled my nose. The lovely lady at the counter told us to take a seat and she'd be right with us. With coffees in hand, we pulled up to a table. Our waitress recommended the longjohn with chocolate filling and chocolate icing. Oh my goodness! Best. Doughnut. Ever. I'm not kidding. It was fresh and wonderful and very fattening. But, it was vacation-so calories didn't count. We found out the bakery was open due to a tractor and implement show they held every year in Gibsonburg on Labor Day. And the bakery was the result of three generations dedicating their lives to baking.

After our indulgence, our waitress who had filled us in on much of the goings on in Gibsonburg recommended we visit the local park. A rod from the 9/11 World Trade Center was set up for a memorial to be held a few days later. The town had been selected from several others for this honor.

Not only did the park hold a piece of history, several artists had installed a variety of work. As we walked the path that encircled a small pond, we discovered so many lovely sculptures and expressions of beauty. And all in the middle of a lovely small town.

I grew up in a small town and have an appreciation for the ones that still thrive. Someday I'd like to return to Gibsonburg and maybe stop in the grocery. I sense a chocolate longjohn is in my future. 

Photos of some of the fabulous art. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” -L.M. Montgomery

One of the reasons I love this time of year--I get to make soup! We had our first bowl of chili this week!

©Penny Frost McGinnis

Sunday, October 2, 2016