Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Marvelous Mud House by April Graney

The Marvelous Mud House: A Story of Finding Fullness and Joy, written by April Graney and illustrated by Alida Massari, tells the stories of two families. One family – the Smith family of America – overflows with material wealth, but is never satisfied. The other family – Mama George and her son of Kenya – lacks material wealth, but is rich in love, strength and life.When these two families meet, they are both changed. Mama George and her son teach the Smith family how to be content with less and the joy that comes from contentment. In turn, the Smith family blesses Mama George by giving sacrificially. Both families are changed for the better by their experiences. Read more in The Marvelous Mud House.

I recommend The Marvelous Mud House by April Graney for children ages 3-7. It's a little too long to hold the attention of my two year old, so I'm rating it for a slightly older child. A small reader's discussion guide is provided at the end of the story as well as a few Kenyan words a child could learn.

The narrative of this storybook conveys messages of personal contentment and giving to others. As a mom of two young children, raised in America, I am thankful for a resource that promotes contentment and giving. It's natural for children to want more; but, it's also good to teach them at a young age how to be content and full of joy, whether or not they have a new toy. Mama George's song was beautiful – a lovely way to remind oneself to value spiritual/eternal things over temporal pursuits.

Enjoy this short video of April Graney discussing her family's trip in Kenya that led to the creation of The Marvelous Mud House:




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

Adisa Johnson, a young African-American lawyer, never expected that conversing with a reporter would lead to losing her job. Luke Nelson, a white police officer, never planned to shoot an unarmed African-American youth. When their split-second decisions alter Adisa and Luke's lives, they find themselves uncomfortably situated together. Adisa, as a reluctant and loyalty-divided defense lawyer, and Luke, as a suspicious but desperate client. Their tenuous relationship serves as an example of their respective communities and the racial tensions that exist far after slavery's abolition. As circumstances escalate and Luke's hope of exoneration diminishes, the future seems dark. Everyone involved, white and black, must confront their own prejudices. Only then can light, hope, and life arise.

A Time to Stand is the first novel I've read by Robert Whitlow. The plot was engaging, but not captivating to where I felt I couldn't put it down. Adisa's relationships, spiritual growth and the preparing of a legal defense were the most interesting aspects of the story to me. As expected, the challenging issue of racial prejudice spans this entire novel. The author attempted to address multiple sides of the issue, but I'd be interested in hearing the thoughts of an African-American reader as to how authentic this book reads. While the main issue of the book is racial prejudice, there are other thought-provoking nuggets throughout the book including a most encouraging one: Our actions and prayers matter more than we'll ever know.

I recommend A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow to readers looking for a thought-provoking read with elements of suspense and drama.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Big and Little Coloring Devotional

Big and Little Coloring Devotional, written by Rachel C. Swanson and illustrated by Jacy Corral, is my first experience with a coloring book designed for sharing between parent and child. I love that the book marries an enjoyable childhood activity with a calming adult activity. Not only does it set the stage for some quality time, but it inserts Scriptures and spiritual truths that mom and child can discuss while they color.

My five year old daughter and I sat down this afternoon to test out the new coloring book. The pages are set so that mom and child can sit opposite each other and the child can work on one page while mom does the other. Well, we decided we wanted to share a page and work together. After about thirty minutes of us both coloring, we nearly completed the page. She said the background should be colored in, but she was tired of coloring. (And truthfully, thirty minutes was plenty for me too.) I was beyond pleased with the experience. We talked, we colored, we made up stories, we spent time together. There were smiles, thoughts, and a bright coloring page to remind us of it all.



Of course, I can not leave out my two year old daughter who also likes to color and it occurred to me that this would be a great morning activity since she gets usually gets up at least an hour earlier than her older sister. Entertaining my young child while starting the day with a relaxing activity.... I'm looking forward to trying that out tomorrow morning....

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren

Champion snowboarder Gage Watson had lucrative sponsorships, his dream career, and a budding romance until the death of a fan. These days, he makes his life in Montana's rugged mountains as a ski patrol and emergency rescuer. In the past three years, he's not been able to forgive himself or make peace with his past. Then Ella Blair, his former love interest who betrayed him, arrives and insists on helping rescue her brother. As they work together, Gage is forced to acknowledge his past and finds hope for a future with Ella. But a secret still lies between them. Will buried secrets keep Gage and Ella apart or could the truth set them both free? Read more in A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren.

A Matter of Trust is the third full-length novel in Susan May Warren's Montana Rescue Series. It is not necessary to read the prior two novels, but they are excellent reads and I do recommend them.

As usual, Susan May Warren's writing style was captivating. Within the first chapter, Warren introduces Gage and Ella separately, as they are in the present, but with hints of their rocky past that engage the reader's curiosity. The story ushered me into it at page one and held my interest throughout. The sizzling tension, unwarranted forgiveness, secret betrayal, heady romance, and self-sacrifice created quite a story. I loved it and can easily recommend it to fans of contemporary Christian romance. My only warning is that, if you are, like me, a native Floridian with little knowledge of snowboarding, you might have to google some snowboarding terms. :)


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

As the oldest of the Neumann sisters, Elise carries the heavy responsibility of protecting and providing for her siblings as well as the two small children that live with them. Though she is a skilled seamstress, work is hard to find and her pitiful pay fails to provide for basic needs. Convinced that she can earn better wages in the west and send them back to her sisters, Elise joins the New York Children's Aid Society. However, she finds immediately that the pay and work is far worse than promised. Her history with the town's developer, Thornton Quincy, temporarily preserves her. However, Thornton contends with his own issues – issues that don't include better working conditions and the sparking attraction between him and Elise. With such different life stations, is it possible that Elise and Thornton were brought together for a purpose greater than their own welfare? Read more in With You Always by Jody Hedlund.

With You Always is the first full-length novel in Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train series. I highly recommend reading the (currently free) prequel novella, An Awakened Heart. With You Always picks up one day after An Awakened Heart ends and it flows together as one complete story.

Simply put, I thought With You Always was excellent. Equal parts romance and fiction, I found the plot unique and captivating. The immigrant plight was thoughtfully presented and the story made me sadder than I expected. The story pulled at my heartstrings, but used the conflict to present hope in God. I recommend With You Always to fans of inspiration historical romance and I'm eager for the next novel in the series.

Read an excerpt from With You Always by Jody Hedlund on the publisher's website.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar


As a young woman who grew up in the shadow of her father, a master of making purple dye, Lydia is competent in dye making. Yet her fear holds her back from embracing the complete process without her father's help. After her father is injured, Lydia must face her fear and fulfill customer orders alone. Once recovered, Lydia's father entrustes her with his precious formula secrets. Far too soon, Lydia finds herself on her own with few assets other than dye making knowledge. Through past connections and ambition, Lydia restarts with a dye business of her own in Phillippi. Yet fear follows Lydia to her new home, until one man brings an astounding message of freedom. Read more in Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar.

Bread of Angels is the latest stand-alone fiction novel by Tessa Afshar. I enjoyed the small tie-in to her previous novel, Land of Silence, but reading Elianna's story is not necessary to enjoy Lydia's. I felt that Afshar held closely to the narrative regarding Lydia in the New Testament book of Acts though the back story of where Lydia came from and why she eagerly embraced Christianity is fictional.


I enjoyed Lydia's thorough character development and commend the author for bringing Lydia to face her fear rather than concocting an escape. As usual, Tessa Afshar's writing style was beautiful and the plot flowed well. I especially enjoyed the post-conversion part of the book when it seemed the author really focused in on themes regarding fear and the power of the work that Jesus accomplished for all believers. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around some of the excellent messages in this book. I recommend Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar to fans of Biblical fiction. 

Read an excerpt from Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar on the publisher's website and see the video below to watch the author talk about who Lydia was.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

True to You by Becky Wade

Nora Bradford is proud of her success as a historical village owner, enjoys her work at the library museum, and is seriously in-love with her favorite tv show. If those things don't occupy her time sufficiently, she has books, Facebook, and her smart phone to help her avoid certain emotions and circumstances. Then John Lawson enters her life, needing help to find his birth mother. Nora's focus shifts to John's search and ultimately to the man, himself. As the pair traces John's ancestry, they grow closer until an unexpected and dark truth from the past clouds their relationship. Will they rise above the past and find light after darkness? Read more in True to You by Becky Wade.

True to You is the first full-length novel in Becky Wade's Bradford Sisters Romance Series. The prequel, Then Came You, complements the story line, but is not essential to True to You. I thoroughly enjoyed Nora's character development. In the beginning, I didn't really like her and stuck with the story because the ancestry search was interesting. However, by the middle of the book, I was cheering for her and staying up much too late so I could finish “just one more chapter.” And then came the unveiling of past secrets. Wow. I absolutely adore how the author carried both John and Nora through that. I can't say more without giving a spoiler, but it was excellent.

I would rate True to You as a PG-13 book. There's some innuendo by one of Nora's co-workers that really wasn't necessary and I wouldn't want my young child absorbing. For older teens and adults, the story is entertaining and the message of redemption is lovely.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."