Thursday, May 23, 2019

Fiction Book Review: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes


Description:
In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss's humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn't anticipate was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

She joins forces with the handsome and mysterious harbor postman, and all her hopes of mending the decades-old chasm in her family seem to point back to the ruins. But with Robert failing fast, her search for answers battles against time, a foe as relentless as the ever-crashing waves upon the sea.

My Review:
Whose Waves These Are is an amazing story of love, devotion, misunderstanding, loss and redemption. Annie Bliss is a plucky character determined to make amends for her own mistakes and those of her family. She's strong, yet vulnerable. Jeremiah's patience and uncertainty add a delicious layer of mystery to the already interesting story. As Annie and Jeremiah work to unravel the years of tangled family threads, the village of Ansel-by-the-Sea rises up to its full potential to love the people who need it most. Amanda Dykes has woven a fascinating and satisfying story, A perfect Maine tale. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Fiction Review: Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter


Description:
When her grandmother goes missing from the family beach house, Maddy and her estranged sisters converge in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma in the home where their family broke apart is a struggle Maddy is not in the mood to face, especially since she’s recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s betrayal.

As the sisters wait for word of their grandmother, they begin to pack up the family belongings—and unpack memories of the idyllic summers of their childhood. But with those memories come long-buried secrets, and Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven. Meanwhile, Gram’s neighbor, Connor Sullivan, seems overly interested in Gram’s whereabouts. Maddy is drawn in by his quick smile and steady gaze in spite of herself.

Undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the family under again, maybe for good this time. As tensions rise, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they’ve become—and Maddy must decide if falling in love again is worth the potential heartbreak.

My Review:
Love this book! Summer by the Tides is a beautiful story of love, hope, and forgiveness. A visit to Sea Haven, North Carolina made me feel like I was on vacation. The memories embedded in Gram's cottage, from family summers of the past, creates tension between the sisters. The kind of tension that made me keep turning the pages. While Maddy tries to figure out her life, Gram's handsome neighbor, Connor, reaches out to the family. The story of the three sisters is intriguing. I enjoyed this is perfect summer read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

God is Love

1 John 4:7-10
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This week has been a tough one. I've been in prayer—a lot. For dear friends who have physical ailments, surgeries and recoveries. For grandchildren and children who need some extra special care. For Tim and I as we let go of one of our best friends, our dog Tater. I don't really know how to say goodbye to our dog. He came to us as the sweetest little puppy. Now fifteen years later, yes that's a long time for a big dog, his body is giving out. But when I look into his face, I see that puppy who stole my heart. Some folks won't understand losing a pet, but many will. He's been part of our family, a comfort at times and a buddy always. The same grief we experience for a loved one has been pounding me ever since we knew he'd be gone soon. I've been angry, sad, relieved, comforted, all those emotions and sometimes all at once. But the one thing I know...we have wonderful memories with a fabulous pet. He protected and loved us.

I don't know if dogs will be in heaven. They are part of God's creation, so I hope they are. But even if they aren't, I'm thankful God made them for us here. Tater has loved us unconditionally. He's given us a glimpse of the bigger love God has for us. I've learned a lot of things from my dog, but the best lesson is love. His love is pure, without manipulation or selfish ambition.

God's love, the purest love, reaches across the universe to every person. Through his love he sacrificed his son, Jesus, so our sins would be forgiven. That had to be hard. His own son. Think about that. God's love is so huge we can't comprehend it. How can he love me, a sinner? Not just love, but forgive. He loves and wants to be loved back. 
Love God and love people. There is no greater commandment.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Historical Fiction Book Review: The Refuge by Ann H. Gabhart


Description:
When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It's meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique--and lonely--position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

My Review:
I enjoyed delving into and learning more about the Shaker community in The Refuge. Ann H. Gabhart's research into the lifestyle and beliefs of the Shakers is beautifully woven into the plot. Darcy and Flynn's stories are entertaining, and I love the stories of the children. Ann added some twists I wasn't expecting, which always makes for a good read. This is well crafted historical fiction; written with great detail and based in the reality of the times. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction, you'll love The Refuge. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Fiction Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay


Description:
Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop.

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened her heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

My Review:
The Printed Letter Bookshop is a beautiful story of love, loss, misunderstanding, friendship, and joy. I'd love to have a bookshop like this one in my neighborhood. The store itself is an amazing character. The two ladies who work in the shop create the perfect tension to carry the story through to the end. I enjoyed watching Maddie grow into the person her aunt knew she could be. And I love the gardener. He's a sweetheart. Katherine Reay's books always captivate me, this one was no exception. She adds in so many wonderful literary references. This is definitely a story for book lovers. It would make a wonderful gift for the avid reader.
 I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Children's Book Review: Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You words by Annette Bourland, illustrated by Kit Chase


Description:
Featuring read-aloud rhymes and adorable illustrations, Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You is the perfect book for a parent, grandparent, or any other loved one to share with the little one in their life. With each reading, it will bring joy to your child’s heart, and might even bring a tear to your eye as the charming illustrations and sweet rhymes remind you how precious these moments are between you and your Little Sweet Pea.

Little Sweet Pea, God loves you.
From button nose to gentle coo.
Squishy cheeks and sparkly eyes,
Pure delight and perfect size. 

My Review:
Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You is an adorable book made for reading aloud. This is the perfect story for lap-sitting and snuggling. The words are in a sing-song easy to read rhyme. The delightful illustrations add charm. Kit Chase uses watercolor, gouache, acrylic and ink to bring the pages to life. If you have a sweet child in your life you enjoy reading to, or know someone who would enjoy this positive, inspiring read about God's love for them pick up a copy to share.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Like the Birds

Psalm 91:1-2
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

A baby barred owl nestled into the roots of a tall oak tree. He sat as still as a statue— until my youngest daughter and I approached. We stood about three feet from him when we heard his mama hooting. He clacked his beak and flapped his wings to scare us off and she kept hooting. The next day, on a field trip with my oldest daughter's first grade class, we spied a killdeer. She flapped her wings, swelled her chest out, and ran around trying to shoo us away from her eggs. Both mama birds went into protector mode when their babies felt threatened.


Like the birds, I have a protector. One who knows my enemy. I love the verse in Psalm that reminds me I rest in the shadow of the almighty. Can you imagine the enormity of God's shadow? Neither can I. Yet what I do know—in his shadow I'm surrounded by God and his army of angels; I have God's word that pours truth into my weary soul; I have the Holy Spirit who walks with me every day; and I have Jesus promise of new life. Praise God for his love and protection.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fiction Review: On a Summer Tide by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Bk#1 of Three Sisters Island)


Description:
Sometimes love hurts--and sometimes it can heal in the most unexpected way.

Camden Grayson loves her challenging career, but the rest of her life could use some improvement. "Moving on" is Cam's mantra. But there's a difference, her two sisters insist, between one who moves on . . . and one who keeps moving. 

Cam's full-throttle life skids to a stop when her father buys a remote island off the coast of Maine. Paul Grayson has a dream to breathe new life into the island--a dream that includes reuniting his estranged daughters. Certain Dad has lost his mind, the three sisters rush to the island. To Cam's surprise, the slow pace of island life appeals to her, along with the locals--and one in particular. Seth Walker, the scruffy island schoolteacher harbors more than a few surprises. 

My Review:
On a Summer Tide, the first in the Three Sisters Island series by Suzanne Woods Fisher, is a heart-warming story with a glorious setting. You may be familiar with Suzanne's many Amish and historical novels. Her contemporary romance is delightful and full of charm. The beautiful Maine coast is the perfect backdrop for this story of reconciliation and discovery. Paul Grayson wants his daughters back in the fold, to accomplish that he buys an island. That alone made the story appealing to me. They work together to rebuild the camp he holds dear to his heart. Each of the three sisters brings a different personality to the table, as is the case with sisters. There are some surprises along with the restoration. I plan to keep this book and reread it when the next ones in the series are published. This a perfect summer read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Fiction Review: Becoming Us (Haven Makers Book 1) by Robin Jones Gunn


Description:
Five young women, including beloved Gunn characters Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen, gather for a simple Christmas party and soon become unlikely best friends. Told from the viewpoint of Emily, a timid young mom going through a difficult season of life, the regular gatherings provide the much needed community she's longed for. As the women begin sharing their life stories in Becoming Us they are endeared to each other and find ways to challenge, encourage, and help each other become the nurturing mothers they wished they'd had when they were growing up. They see themselves as Haven Makers and unite to be remembered for what they do and not for what was done to them.

My Review:
Becoming Us is a sweet inspirational novel. Fans of Robin's Christy Miller books will love this new series. I enjoyed the interaction of the young women as they learn and grow through tough times. The most inspiring element in the story is the common thread they share; young women doing life together. I've read several of Gunn's books and enjoyed them all. This one will appeal to young women who can relate to the trials of life as mom's and/or working women. I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Children's Picture Book Review: A Kite for Moon by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Matt Phelan


Book Description:
Dedicated to astronaut Neil Armstrong, A Kite for Moon is the perfect children’s book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first United States moon landing.
What would it be like if the moon was your friend? Find out as you walk alongside a little boy who journeys through life to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut. And then blast off with your little one as you zoom to the moon together!

The story begins when a little boy, who is flying his kite, notices a sad Moon. He sends up kites to her, writing notes promising he will come see her someday. This promise propels him through years of studying, learning, and training to become an astronaut. Until … he finally goes up, up, up in a big rocket ship with a fiery tail!


A Kite for Moon, written by New York Times bestselling author of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi Stemple, is a heartfelt story about a young boy’s fascination and unlikely friendship with the moon.

My Review:
A Kite for Moon is the perfect conversation starter about space exploration, the moon, or a summer night of star gazing. Share this poetic tribute with an elementary school class or your own children. This sweet story will inspire children to dream about what they'd like to do when they grow up. Dedicated to Neil Armstrong, the story follows a little boy and his desire to help the moon find happiness. I like that the point of view comes from the moon's perspective. At the age of 12, I remember watching Armstrong's moon landing; as will many grandparents who will want to read this to their grandchildren. This gorgeous book, filled with beautiful illustrations, is a perfect salute to Armstrong and all the boys and girls who dream of bigger things. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zonderkidz. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Free to Live


2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

"I am Free!"

I woke up on May 1st with the News Boys song in my head. "I am free, yes I am free." That marked my first day as a retiree. No more clocking in and out. No more scheduled work, deadlines to make or staff meetings. Thanks to the support of my husband, I no longer need to work outside of our home. On my last day of work, several co-workers dropped by and bid me farewell. Many of them asked me what my plans were after I retired. But one of them posed a different question. He asked, "What is your favorite memory you'll take with you?" I had to ponder that one. With 24 years of library work, what did I think? A few hours later one of our former student assistants, Ty, dropped by to tell me good-bye. I had a Charlie Brown moment when in my head, I yelled, "That's it!"

My favorite memory stemmed from the students, Ty and Ben. I had both young men in elementary school, before I worked at the college. They both came to Clermont as college freshman and worked in the library as students. I had the privilege of seeing these two follow their dreams, along with several of my friends' children.

I loved working with students. But God knew I was ready for a change. As free as I feel about retirement, I am truly free in Jesus because he took my sins with him to the cross. When Jesus beat death, the shackles of sin fell from me because I chose to follow Him. Now without a daily job to go to, I have opportunity to explore my future. Through prayer and scripture, I'm seeking what God wants me to do for the rest of my life. I know my path includes encouragement, writing and art. With the Holy Spirit's guidance and a servant's heart, I want to glorify Jesus in whatever I do. Because the Spirit of the Lord is with me, I am free indeed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Fiction Review: Sweet on You (A Bradford Sisters Romance Book #3) by Becky Wade


Book Description:
Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.

Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who's spent the past 18 months traveling the world. He's achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him--Britt's heart.When Zander's uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But while 

Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.

As they work together to uncover his uncle's tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light?


My Review:
I love Zander. In True to You, book 1 in the series, Zander is a sweet boy, who has grown up, after travels overseas, to be a kind-hearted man. Britt made me a little crazy, in a good way. She's a dare-devil who pushes the limit. But the two, with a solid friendship have much to figure out. Then there is the mystery that folds into the lives of Zander and Britt. Well done, Becky Wade. This is a great addition to the series. I loved Britt's chocolate shop, where I wanted to taste the peppermint truffles and revisiting the Merryweather Historical Village where much of the story takes place. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I Spy the Colors of Spring


I love the color that brightens the earth this time of year, especially the blooming trees and bushes. After the white and grey of winter, the array of purple, pink, yellow and green spray beauty everywhere.

First the forsythia bring sunshine with their bright yellow blossoms. Redbuds pop with color against the pale green of the budding trees. Then the dogwood brighten the woods with brilliant white and passion pink. And I love the lavender of the lilac bushes.

When I was a girl, a lavender bush stood in our yard. Taller than me and wider than a tree, I played hide and seek around the bush with my cousin. We breathed in the fragrant smell of the gorgeous blooms. Mom cut the branches and graced our table with the gorgeous color and fragrant smell. For the last few years, we had a bush growing by our garage. I didn't know what the bush was, although I should have, until the lavender clusters popped out. What a delightful surprise.

Driving down the road with my grandson and granddaughter, we played a game spying all the different colors of trees. Ella Cates favorite color is pink and sure enough she found the pink dogwood and the redbud. Eli discovered the white dogwood and the shades of green on the new spring leaves. What fun to share my love of nature with my grands.

Take the time to notice the beauty of God's creation.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;    let your glory be over all the earth.Psalm 57:11