Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Fiction Book Review: Starfish Pier (A Hope Harbor Novel Book #6) by Irene Hannon

Book Description:
A year ago, ex-Delta Force operator Steven Roark left the rigors of combat behind to run fishing charters in Hope Harbor, decompress, and talk some sense into his kid brother. Business is good--but making peace with his past is more challenging than he expected.

First-grade teacher Holly Miller leads a quiet, low-profile existence--until she's recruited to advocate for a cause that's dear to her heart. When she solicits Steven's assistance, sparks fly--especially after they find themselves on opposite sides of an issue that disrupts their placid seaside community.

As these two seemingly incompatible souls search for common ground, might they discover a deeper connection--and find that love can banish darkness and light the way to a future filled with promise?

My Review:
Irene Hannon's Hope Harbor series is one of my favorites. Seems like they get better and better with each new book. This story, featuring Steven and Holly, hits on some weighty issues. Hannon handles them beauty and grace. Besides Steven and Holly, Steven's brother Patrick has demons to conquer and Holly's neighbor is about to make a decision that will change his life. I love the way all their stories are woven together with threads of faith. The gorgeous setting and recurring characters of Hope Harbor enhance Hannon's storytelling and makes me hungry for fish tacos! If you read Starfish Pier and enjoy it, make sure to go back and read the first five volumes of this wonderful series. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Season for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

And a time to take a walk and see the beauty of spring.

As we wait out the COVID-19 virus, Tim and I and many people I know have made walking outside part of their daily activity.

We've trekked around the high school track. Hiked on a trail in the woods and ambled around the neighborhood. I'm happy to report we've witnessed spring's arrival. Regardless of our circumstances, the frustration that eats at us, missing our families, friends, and church, or not workingthe tulips peek out with a flourish of color, the bright yellow daffodils wave in the breeze, trees show off their blossoms, robins twitter and tweet, and the sun bursts through the clouds.

This morning in my quiet time, I read a verse in Psalm 43, "Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell." As I read, sunlight spread across my Bible and highlighted the words. Goose bumps raised on my arms. I bowed my head and prayed God would lead me to that mountain where he rests.

His light gives hope in this time of despair. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a season for everything. Good and bad. Regardless of which moment we're in, God remains the same. His light and truth guide us. He offers hope for a hurting world. In him we find peace.

In this season of difficulty, have you prepared your heart? Jesus loves you. He offers peace and hope through forgiveness and grace. Let his light and truth guide your heart.

Friday, March 27, 2020

It is Well

I share a love for this hymn with my dear college friends. 
Marcia sent this to our group-enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Children's Book Review: Mama Kisses, Papa Hugs by Lisa Tawn Bergren (Author), Aleksander Zolotic (Illustrator)

Book Description:
Parents are always looking out for the perfect bedtime book to create a sense of well-being before a night of rest. Mama Kisses, Papa Hugs explores a child's curiosity about how love is shown between parent and child, with the reassurance that Mama and Papa will always love their little one. And like Lisa Tawn Bergren's young protagonist asks his mother, this question is pressing on the minds of many children:

"Mama, how does God kiss us?"

Mama smiled. "He kisses us a hundred times a day; although if you don't pay attention, you might miss it."

"At night he kisses us with a shooting star. In the morning, he kisses us with sunlight, crawling across the fields and into our windows. On a hot summer afternoon, he kisses us with a gentle breeze. But most of all, he kisses us through our family. That's how God made us. That's why I give you Mama kisses."

My Review:
Aleksander Zolotic's artwork adds colorful, imaginative creatures, characters, and backgrounds to this delightful book. Lisa Tawn Bergren's sweet text will be fun for parents to read to their children. I love the idea of God hugs and kisses and the way Bergren explains them. God is all around us and he actively acknowledges us. This is a great reminder for adults as well. Enjoy sharing this story with children as you tuck them in at night. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Coming May 2020—Love is in the Air

All you have to do is look up.

This collection of five brand new romances is sure to send your heart soaring. Journey from Canada to Georgia and Colorado to Paris by way of Michigan as these couples find love is in the air. All they had to do was look up.

First Class Wrong Flight by Laura V. Hilton:

Candi Walker is excited to attend her former college roommate’s wedding. At least it’s a direct flight across the country and the potential of messing up is next to impossible…until she crashes into a handsome pilot. Now it’s a dream-come-true or her worst nightmare.

Alex Kuklewski has one last flight before he attends his stepsister’s wedding. Desperate to escape his tagalong ex-girlfriend’s clutches, Alex prays that his future wife would drop into his path. And she does. Too bad he and Candi aren’t headed to the same destination.

Emotional baggage on both sides exceeds the weight limit, and the flight to happily-ever-after seems grounded. What will it take for them to launch true love into the air?

A Castle in the Clouds by Candee Fick:

Aspiring romance novelist Miranda Scott has her head in the clouds and her nose buried in a book. Raised by a single mother, extravagant trips to castles overseas are only a fairy-tale…until a co-worker’s accident has her boarding a plane to teach creative writing on an all-expenses-paid school-sponsored trip. Family responsibilities kept Joshua Clark close to home, but it’s finally time for the history teacher to spread his wings. Hopefully his time chaperoning an overseas trip and seeing history in person will reveal what the next chapter holds.

However, falling in love surrounded by teenagers was never the plan.

Flying Into Love by Kathleen Rouser:

Unable to say no when others need her, Talia Sampson took on her deceased aunt’s advice column and the care of her special needs niece. Then new veteran, Ben Tanner, shows up unexpected on her doorstep. Hurt many times, he wonders where home is. Talia isn’t happy finding a hot-air balloon with him, but she treasures the old journal with it. Ben hopes restoring her family’s antique will please her, until he discovers a secret that shatters his trust. And Talia hates flying. Will she trust God—and Ben—enough to go airborne?

To Gain Forever by Tanya Eavenson:

Karianne Bennett, small-town wedding coordinator, has always believed in happily-ever-afters. That is, for everyone but herself. Her fiancé’s alcohol-related death put an end to her own dreams and turned her career into a weekly reminder of all she’s lost. Hope comes when she adopts a retired service dog and a newcomer catches her eye.

Trey Scott has been fascinated with fireworks since he was a boy. If he can land the account for a hot-air balloon festival in an out-of-state town, he’ll be that much closer to achieving his lifelong goal. But his dreams never included a beautiful dog walker who also happens to be the stranger he’s been praying over for years.

Written in the Clouds by Kathleen Friesen:

A mysterious cloud formation, a nerve-wracking introduction for JR and Serena, an unexpected reunion for Jim and Blythe, a few traumatic memories, a pilot for the company plane, and another afraid of flying. Mix them together…and what in the world is God up to? Is it love at first flight?

Can love—for two generations—be written in the clouds?

*I haven't read these yet. My friend Kathleen is one of the authors. I've read and enjoyed other books by Kathleen Friesen, Laura Hilton, and Kathleen Rouser.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fiction Book Review: The Happy Camper by Melody Carlson

Book Description:
Home is the place to heal, right? At least, that's what Dillon Michaels is hoping as she leaves her disappointing career and nonstarter love life behind to help her grieving and aging grandfather on his small Oregon farm. The only problem? Her eccentric mother beat her there and has taken over Dillon's old room. After a few nights sleeping on a sagging sofa, Dillon is ready to give up, until she receives an unlikely gift--her grandfather's run-down vintage camp trailer, which she quickly resolves to restore with the help of Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store.

But just when things are finally beginning to run smoothly, Dillon's noncommittal ex-boyfriend shows up with roses . . . and a ring.

Full of quirky characters, family drama, and sweet romance, The Happy Camper will have you scouring Craigslist for your own diamond-in-the-rough camper to restore and haunting your local hardware store for a handy guy to help your dreams come true.

My Review:
Melody Carlson's books give me that feel good vibe. I found myself smiling and chuckling as I read The Happy Camper, a delightful story featuring Dillon, a hardworking young woman. She's left behind her corporate job and her boyfriend when she flees Colorado for her grandpa's farm in Oregon. I love all the quirky characters, from her mom to the woman who runs the Silver Slipper. If you've ever heard of glamping, you'll enjoy every minute of Dillan's adventure in camping. Of course there is the handsome bachelor, Jordan. He's likable and smart. If you need a relaxing, fun read pick up The Happy Camper. Guaranteed to add some joy to your day. P.S. I love the cover! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Help for the Anxious

1 Peter 5:6-9
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

The more people I talk to, the more I hear anxiety rearing its ugly head. Even if you don't suffer from anxiety, the state of the world right now could raise anyone's insecurity to a new level.

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder several years ago. Because I want to live a peaceful life, I practice different methods to keep my anxious thoughts at bay.

On a daily basis I remind myself there are things I simply cannot control. Those are the things I have to let go. I have to. If I don't let them go, they bury me like an avalanche.

Instead of lugging my worries around in a wheel barrow, I pray. I ask God to cart around my anxiety for me. He carries our burdens if we ask.

I read Bible verses every day. They ground me and remind me I have a Father who loves me. Even if I only read one verse, I'm reminded I have hope.

I talk to my family and friends. Find someone who understands.

Yes, I also work with a doctor to keep the receptors in my brain working properly.

If you have a family member or friend with a lot of anxiety. Be patient. These are trying times, and they may be overwhelmed. I think we all are.

Love your neighbors. Help the ones who can't help themselves. Lift each other in prayer to the One who cares.

Here are some Bible verses that help to calm and give hope. Hang them on your door, the refrigerator, the mirror. Focus on the promise of hope.

Psalm 33:20-22
We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Do Not Fret

In Psalm 37:8 David writes, "do not fret."
Proverbs 12:25 says, "An anxious heart weighs a man down." 
In Philippians 4:6 Paul pens, "Do not be anxious about anything."

As difficult as it is to keep anxiety and worry at bay, God calls us to trust in him.
I've gotten up everyday this week, and repeated to myself: "I choose to trust in Jesus."
I have to verbalize it to keep myself calm and not worry so much.

Won't you join me in trusting in the God of miracles?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Historical Fiction Book Review: Out of the Embers (Mesquite Springs Book #1) by Amanda Cabot

Book Description:
Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents' murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don't include a family of his own.

At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.

My Review:
I enjoyed reading this story set in the western world of early America. Evelyn is a strong woman determined to survive. She's taken on a little girl who is her perfect side kick. Wyatt is the quintessential cowboy, with a love for his horses, but a restless spirit. The town Evelyn lands in is one where the folks are friendly and fierce in their loyalty. What I liked the most was the twist at the end, when some secrets are revealed. I won't give that away, but I will say Amanda Cabot did a great job writing and weaving in the stories of the characters. Enjoy this book with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Children's Book Review: Stand-Up Guys: 50 Christian Men Who Changed the World by Kate Etue (Author), Caroline Siegrist (Author)

Book Description:
Stand-Up Guys features inspiring stories of Christian men who have made an impact on their communities. Being a man can mean many things, and boys should know they can follow any path they want and still change the world. Featuring important historical figures such as Eric Liddell and George Washington Carver and more recent heroes, such as Robby Novak, aka “Kid President,” and Chef José Andrés, this book will inspire young men to change the world.

Stand-Up Guys features:
  •  50 biographical profiles of current and historical men of faith
  • Historical and current figures that haven’t been featured elsewhere
  •  A colorful interior with illustrations

My Review:
I read through all of the brief biographies and viewed the accompanying illustrations. The book is filled with interesting stories of men who brought positive change to the world. Pulled from many different denominations and belief systems, the men featured regarded their lives as purposeful. One of my favorites is about Clarence Jordan and the path he took to build the foundation of one of the leading non-profits in the world. The book also features athletes, musicians, ministers, artists, scientists and more. These positive role models are good for boys to learn about and emulate. The illustrations are unique and colorful. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Children's Book Review: Rex's Fun Day Coloring and Activity Book by Francesca Cecioni (Author), Mary Neville (Contributor)

Book Description:
A coloring and activity book featuring your favorite wiener dog!

From the author-illustrator team that brought you the successful picture book Rex's Winning Day, comes this new exciting book packed with pages to color, mazes, word search, color by number, and more. Whether you are already a fan of Rex and Trixie, or you just love cute dogs, you will have a great time at home or on the go.

60 pages.
Scenes from the book and original designs.
Seasonal activities for year round fun.
Mazes, word search, color by number, and more.
Ideal gift for dogs lovers.

My Review:
Francesca Cecioni creates the most delightful artwork of Rex and Trixie in Rex's Fun Day. This activity book is filled with fun things to do with your child or for them to enjoy on their own. Go through the seasons with Rex as you run through mazes, take a stab at drawing the main characters, or search for words in the puzzles.  I love the drawings of this fun pair. Many kids are home from school right now. This would be a great activity book to keep the kids busy while they have fun. If you haven't read Rex's Winning Day, the story of Rex's race, grab it too. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Stop the Attack!

Several years ago, my poem "Germs" was published in Jack and Jill magazine. 
I thought it might be a good time to share it again. 


Germs crawl on fingers.
Live on toes. 
They love to jump 
inside your nose.

They'll bother you
Until you sneeze.
You'll cough and snort
Shiver and freeze.

Your stomach aches
High fever jumps.
Your skin's covered
With little bumps.

What can you do?
Stop the attack!
Scrub your hands 
Both front and back!

*Just to note-these are not the symptoms of COVID-19. Just a generalization of illness.

My Hope is in God

Psalm 31:24
Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

God infuses me with strength, even when I'm weak.

Last Saturday, I moved all of our clocks ahead at three o'clock in the afternoon. I thought I could trick myself into thinking we wouldn't lose an hour of sleep. This tactic didn't work. My body knows the difference. It's been a struggle to wake up this week even though the light shines through the blinds and my dog barks. My ambition to start the day fades. I just want to sleep.

Maybe some of you feel the same way. The time change messes with our physiological being. And I think the change weakens my emotional, mental, and spiritual life.

The one good thing about jumping forward—the change happens in the spring. A time of hope in new life.

King David survived wars, sins, self-loathing, and distress. So my tiny, little complaint about the time change seems unimportant. Yet as I read Psalm 31, no matter the circumstance, I need to trust God. He cares about the little things as well as the big ones. My hope is in the one who created me, the one who breathed life into my soul.

As we face trials take heart and look to God for strength.

Right now our nation is fighting to stop the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19.) While we wait, as the doctors, scientists, and leaders figure out what to do—take the problem to the Great Physician. Pray about it, use common sense, and and continue to hope in Jesus.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A Spring Surprise

I walked around the corner of our condo and looked at all the green sprouts. 
Tulips and daffodils dared to shoot their leaves out of the winter dirt.
As I checked the progress of the hyacinth, I spied the bloom of a crocus.
I'd forgotten I planted the bulbs last year or maybe the year before. 
The lovely lavender buds were a sweet surprise. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Children's Board Book Review: Nighty Night Narwhal by Victoria Saxson (Author), Irene Montano (Illustrator)

Book Description:
In this sweet, humorous tale about an imaginative narwhal named Nolan, children and parents alike will giggle at, and likely recognize, all of Nolan’s excuses for avoiding bedtime. With soothing, rhyming text and whimsical, playful illustrations, this charming padded board book is sure to help little ones go from deep sea silliness to sweet, soothing dreams.

Nolan the Narwhal tries to go to sleep. He really does. But he’s thirsty ... and hungry ... and there might be a giant sea horse in the closet ... or under the bed ... and his eyes won’t stay shut ... and his horn is achy ... and all the blankets are too hot ... but no blankets are too cold ... and maybe one more song would help ... and one more story ... that’s it! One more story and Nolan promises to go to bed.

My Review:
Who doesn't love a narwhal? Kids will enjoy this sweet bedtime story of a little narwhal (the unicorn of the ocean) who just can't settle down to sleep. Parents will relate to mom and dad narwhal as they try to help their little one resolve to stay in bed for the night. Irene Montano's illustrations will delight readers. Make sure to share the details in the artwork with the children, like the froggy alarm clock. They'll love it. This copy is a board book great for ages 2-4. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Breath We Breathe

Isaiah 55:10-11
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I love trees in every season; budding leaves, full shade, riots of color, and bare branches.

A magnificent maple tree stood, like a guard, by the end of our gravel driveway. That tree provided shelter for me as I waited on the school bus. In the summer, I'd play in the welcoming shade. No matter the season, the maple spread its massive branches overhead.

I remember looking up through the limbs at the gorgeous red and gold leaves as they danced in the sky. For a child, that was pure magic.

According to Botanical Gardens Conservation International there are more than 60,000 species of trees in the world. God created every one of them with purpose. In the spring, flowering trees like dogwood and redbud spread across the Appalachian Mountains. In summer and fall folks harvest fruit from apple, pear, banana, and coconut trees, to name a few. In winter, the evergreens provide shelter for cardinals and all their friends.
Most important, trees give us oxygen; the very breath we breath. They soak in the rain with their roots and reach toward the sky to the sun, in order to share their gift with us.

These beauties remind me to bury my roots deep in God's word. The Lord provides all the nourishment I need, through the scripture, his people, and his grace. As the oaks and palms do, I reach toward heaven, through prayer and praise to God's son, Jesus, then take a deep breath and inhale his love.

God gave every tree a purpose. If he cares that much about the forests, just think how much he loves us.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Grounded and Reaching

I'm fascinated with all the crazy branches that grow out of this tree's trunk. 

The roots dig down as the limbs raise up. 

This tree reminds me to root myself in the word of God
and raise my arms toward heaven in prayer. 

Photo taken at Withrow Nature Preserve

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Fiction Suspense Review: One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

Book Description:
It started with one little lie. But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover the truth in this gripping new romantic suspense. 

Jane Hardy is appointed interim sheriff in Pelican Harbor, Alabama, after her father
retires, but there's no time for an adjustment period. When her father is arrested for theft and then implicated in a recent murder, Jane quickly realizes she's facing someone out to destroy the only family she has.

After escaping with her father from a cult fifteen years ago, Jane has searched relentlessly for her mother—who refused to leave—ever since. Could someone from that horrible past have found them?

Reid Bechtol is well-known for his documentaries, and his latest project involves covering Jane's career. Jane has little interest in the attention, but the committee who appointed her loves the idea of the publicity.

Jane finds herself depending on Reid's calm manner as he follows her around filming, and they begin working together to clear her father. But Reid has his own secrets from the past, and the gulf between them may be impossible to cross—especially once her father’s lie catches up with him.

My Review:
Once I figured out who all the characters were, I enjoyed the story line. I found the premise interesting, as Colleen explored the devastation a cult can cause, especially when someone has kept up a lie. As I read the story, I found myself rooting for Jane. She'd had too much to deal with and too many loose ends. Some she didn't even know about. At first, Reid annoyed me, but he proved to be a good guy. As the mystery tied to the cult unravels, the suspense escalates and makes for an interesting ending. You'll enjoy the twists and turns that run along beside the mystery. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.