Wednesday, December 10

The Bracelet: Mysterious, Romantic Historical Fiction from Dorothy Love

A beautiful girl.
A mysterious bracelet.
A deadly message.

Inspired by actual events in one of Savannah’s most prominent 19th century families, THE BRACELET combines romance, rich historical detail and breathtaking suspense as one young woman embarks upon a dangerous quest to free herself from her family’s tragic past. It hooked me from start to finish--a fabulous story!  The mystery kept me guessing, I genuinely liked the heroine Celia, and the ending was not at all predictable.  I absolutely cannot wait for the next book by Miss Love!

More about the Book:
Lose yourself in the timeless beauty and charm of Old Savannah in this story of mystery, dangerous family secrets, and heartwarming romance. Celia Browning is counting the days until her childhood sweetheart Sutton Mackay returns to Savannah after two years in Jamaica looking after his family’s shipping interests. She’s certain he will propose marriage, thus joining two of the city’s most prominent families. But just as Sutton returns, an unsavory newspaper reporter arrives in town, determined to revive interest in the secret tragedies that occurred in the Browning mansion on Madison Square when Celia was a child. A series of mysterious notes arrives at the house, followed by an anonymous gift—a bracelet imbued with a sinister message. Is it merely a coincidence, or is someone out to harm her? As war clouds gather over Savannah and her beloved father’s health worsens, Celia determines to uncover the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Zondervan for providing me with this book to review.

Monday, November 24

"The Shadow of Your Smile" One of my Favorite Books in a Long Time! #Free

Susan May Warren is my favorite contemporary fiction writer.  I usually go for the historical fiction, but Miss Warren always weaves sweet stories with wonderful characters who seem so very real.  Last month, I requested The Shadow of Your Smile free from Tyndale Rewards.  It was so good! One of the very best books I have read in a long time, and they still have more free copies!  Go get yours!! 

Here's a story synopsis:

A beautiful blanket of snow may cover the quaint town of Deep Haven each winter, but it can’t quite hide the wreckage of Noelle and Eli Hueston’s marriage. After twenty-five years, they’re contemplating divorce . . . just as soon as their youngest son graduates from high school. But then an accident erases part of Noelle’s memory. Though her other injuries are minor, she doesn’t remember Eli, their children, or the tragedy that has ripped their family apart. What’s more, Noelle is shocked that her life has turned out nothing like she dreamed it would. As she tries to regain her memory and slowly steps into her role as a wife and mother, Eli helps her readjust to daily life with sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-heartwarming results. But can she fall in love again with a man she can’t remember? Will their secrets destroy them . . . or has erasing the past given them a chance for a future? 

You can read the first chapter here or you can get it free by heading to Tyndale Rewards and heading to the "Earn Points" tab and then the "Browse" tab--click on Fiction and you'll see it there.  Let me know if you read it and like it!

Sunday, November 23

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longing of a Woman's Heart #Giveaway

 Once upon a time (back in high school) I got really hooked on my step mom's historical fiction romances.  These were not, by any means, Christian romances.  No way, josé.  They were the kind of books Russia's Vladimir Putin seems to wish to be on the cover of.  They were pretty erotic, and they created in me a desire to always want the kind of fire and excitement that comes along with lust.  Even after becoming a Christian, I struggled with that for a long time.  And no one ever preached about that--about women struggling with lust--until very recently.  There are a couple of authors who have decided to open their lives and write pages and pages of honesty and life-changing hope, and to speak truth where the Christian world has been so silent for so long. 

Pulling Back the Shades is one of those books.  It's very well-written, and it's a quick read.  Honest, thought-provoking, and the perfect book for anyone who has ever struggled with impure thoughts or discontent in her sex-life or marriage.
Christian women don't have to choose between being sexual and spiritual. They have legitimate longings so many Christians have been afraid to talk about, and books like Fifty Shades of Grey exploit. Whether you are single or married, sexually dead or just looking to revive your sex life, Pulling Back the Shades will address your desire to be both sexual AND spiritual. With solid Biblical teaching and transparent stories, trusted authors Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery offer an unflinching look at the most personal questions women ask.

The book offers practical advice for women to address five core longings:
  • to be cherished by a man
  • to be protected by a strong man
  • to rescue a man
  • to be sexually alive
  • to escape reality
God designed women with these longings and has a plan to satisfy them. It's time for women to identify their intimate longings and God-honoring ways to fulfill them.

I love the way these women write because they are so real and honest: honest about their own failings and temptations, and they're not writing of something they know nothing about.  They write with a heart for their reader, whether you're into this "Fifty Shades of Gray" thing or not.  One of them has read "Fifty Shades", one of them hasn't.

If you are into "Fifty Shades", if you're just wondering what all this sexual fantasy is about, if you've struggled with inappropriate fantasy in the past, or if you long for more fulfilling sex in your marriage, please read "Pulling Back the Shades"! It's something I believe God put on these women's hearts in His always-perfect timing.  

One of my readers will win her own copy of Pulling Back the Shades.  Enter below by Dec 2nd at 11 pm anyone's time.  I'll choose a winner the next morning via 

You Can Find Family Christian On

This book was provided to me by the awesome people at Family Christian in exchange for a thoughtful and honest review!


Action Bible Giveaway! Genesis, Comic Book Style

My little guy loves this comic book style bible--The Action Bible: The Battle Begins, The Story of Creation!  It's very cool.  The pictures are awesome--very vivid artwork, quite realistic, and the story is great.... of course!  This is a really ingenious way to get kids who aren't into reading into the bible, and I like it because as you can see, my little guy loves comics!  And so do so many other kiddos.  Superheroes are awesome, and Jesus is the most amazing superhero of all--He rose from the dead, He walked through walls, He teleported, He's eternal--He's amazing!  He should definitely have His own comic book series!  You can get this book and the others at Family Christian Stores all around the country, or on-line. 

Even as God walked through the beauty of His new creation, and breathed life into Adam, His masterpiece ... a warrior-angel gives into his pride—and commits the ultimate betrayal. Witness Adam and Eve falling into Lucifer's trap, as the battle for eternity begins in this brilliantly presented retelling of Creation, the Fall, and God's promise of redemption.

One of my readers will win a $10 gift certificate to spend on The Identical Soundtrack CD or anything else of your choice at Family Christian Stores.  Enter below by Dec 9th at 11 pm anyone's time.  I'll choose a winner the next morning via 

You Can Find Family Christian On
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Family Christian Stores for providing this prize for the giveaway.

Little Princess Hardcover Girls Bible #Giveaway: Love this one!

I love this bible!  It's absolutely gorgeous and my little princesses love it.  It's written in the New King James Version and is the first truly themed princess bible inside and out for girls ages 6 to 10!

Princesses everywhere will enjoy having their first full Bible from Sheila Walsh’s popular God’s Little Princess brand, which has sold over 1.3 million copies. The accurate and reliable New King James Version text is highlighted with 288 pages of articles that help a princess grow into the young woman God created her to be! Featured Articles included in God's Little Princess Bible from Genesis to Revelation are: Bible Basics (Bible Jewels), Regal Relationships, Royal Heroes, Kingdom Living, Kingdom Highlights, Going Deeper, A Princess Heart Study, and a 13 week Bible study that features key topics of the Bible and what they mean for your little girl's “Princess Life.”

My daughters were 8 when they started reading the actual bible.  Have you ever invited your kids to read from a full-length Bible and not a storybook Bible?

Giveaway ends 12/9/14. 

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tommy Mommy for providing me with this opportunity!


Saturday, November 22

"It Will Be Okay" Children's Picture Book #Giveaway

In the end, it will be okay because God is always with us.

Truth be told, I need these kinds of reminders, too!  Life has thrown some crazy challenges my way of late.  And, whether we like it or not, growing up brings change for our kids. For many children, this conjures fears that are sometimes real and sometimes imagined. How can kids learn that even when they face new and unfamiliar situations, they don’t have to be afraid? Little Seed and Little Fox are facing changes and brand new circumstances—and they don’t like it one bit! Through this unlikely friendship, children will discover that no matter how new or fearful their circumstances, God is always with them. The whimsical art by Natalia Moore will put a smile on kids’ faces and put their minds at ease. Just as Little Seed and Little Fox learn to trust that the Farmer is good and kind, children will also learn to trust God. A charming and heartwarming story!

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tommy Mommies for providing us with this opportunity!

Wednesday, November 5

The Legend of Saint Nicholas: A Picture Book with Gorgeous Artwork and a Wonderful Story about the Real St. Nick!

The Legend of St. Nicholas is filled with beautiful artwork and tells the story of a young man named Nicholas, who was moved by the plight of the poor and needy. I've taught my children who Santa Claus really was since they were tiny.  Whether your kiddos believe in Santa or not, this is a wonderful, magical story about the real Nicholas who spent his life secretly helping the poor all over the world, giving gifts on Christmas Eve to remind people of the greatest Gift of all, Jesus Christ.

I love this book!  It's by one of our favorite authors, Dandi Daley Mackall (check out her books on Amazon! She has so many great reads for kiddos from birth to middle school ages).  But back to the book at hand!  The Legend of St. Nicholas make a wonderful pre-Christmas or even Christmas gift.  It would also be the perfect addition to a church preschool.  I'll be donating ours to that cause.  This gentle Christmas book introduces the original St. Nicholas and offers inspiration for readers to become cheerful givers themselves. The final pages in the book include fun Father Christmas traditions in other lands.

Special thanks to the wonderful people at BookLook for providing us with this book to review!

Tuesday, November 4

Revolutionary War, Adventures in Odyssey Style!

Just like the other Imagination Station books, Surprise at Yorktown is filled with history and a great storyline, not to mention adventure and surprise! This is the 3rd in a sub-series revolving around the Revolutionary War. We read this book as part of a homeschool unit study on the American Revolution. Like the other Imagination Station books, this had all of my kids (ages 6, 9, and 10) on the edge of their seats--I read this series aloud to my 6 year old while my 9 and 10 year olds read them silently (mainly b/c they can't wait to see what happens next!) My oldest daughter devoured this book in one day and she can't wait to read the next one!  Every time one of these books come in the mail, it's cause for celebration at our house!

More about this book:
Travel two centuries back in time to the final battle of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia. Cousins Patrick and Beth sneak through trenches and race across battlefields to warn General George Washington about a dangerous spy. The spy is stealing his secret plans and giving them to the British. Cannons roar and the ground shakes as the struggle reaches a climax. Washington’s ragtag soldiers are up against the most powerful army in the world. Will Patrick and Beth witness the American Revolution come to an end? Or will they be caught in a dangerous trap they can’t escape?

Special thanks to the people at Tyndale for providing us with this book to review!

Monday, September 22

God is Always Good: Another Special Children's Book #Giveaway

A remarkable tool for parents to use for everything from the death of a goldfish to a national tragedy...

A friend who doesn’t keep a promise. A scary storm. A soldier who goes off to war. Saying goodbye to a pet—or a loved one. Every day, children come in contact with scary or sad situations where they can feel helpless and alone. Filled with scriptures, soft illustrations, and sweet, reassuring text, this book will broadly address scary situations and remind children that God is always in control and that He will bring good out of bad things. God Is Always Good features sweet illustrations filled with animal characters who show how God never leaves His children alone, and we can see Him through the helping hands of others, a hug, a warm blanket, or even a smile. Each spread features a scripture, giving children biblical assurance that God keeps His promises. A wonderful book!

My daughter has a special bunny she sleeps with when she's sick.  What object do your kids (big & little!) hold close to their hearts to comfort them during hard times?

Giveaway ends 9/30/14. 

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tommy Mommies for providing us with this opportunity!

"Good Night, Little Pumpkin": A Cute Halloween Children's Book #Giveaway

Sleepy little Milo, in his oversized pumpkin costume, is making the rounds at the harvest party with his friends. It’s time to go home, but he wants to enjoy every game at the fall fair before the night is over! Crunching leaves, crisp breezes, mountains of sweets—celebrate the abundance of the harvest season through this bedtime book for children. Charming illustrations and a sweet story are perfect for young hearts.

"Goodnight Little Pumpkin" is such a great alernative to spooky Halloween books or movies!  It's a board book meant for kiddos from 1-4 with fun glitter embellishment on the cover.  It's got adorable art and a fun, wholesome story to engage children as they wind down for bedtime.  It's about $7 on Amazon.  It would be a super cute thing to send as a gift to someone for Halloween... maybe along with some candy!  ;)

This adorable book evokes some favorites sights and sounds of fall. What are your favorite sights, sounds, or smells of fall?

Giveaway ends 9/30/14.

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tommy Mommy for providing me with this opportunity!

Get to Know Mary... another great kid's biography

Mary was more than the mother of Jesus.  She was a hero of the bible.  She said "Yes!" to God.
I've found a great new series to use as part of our homeschool curriculum this year.  The second book in the Get to Know Series from Zondervan is a unique biography about Mary, Jesus' mother. 

Get to Know Mary really shows the reader what life was really like for Mary.  It's a little over 100 pages, the perfect length for my 4th graders.  It focuses on  Mary's life and character using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story.  I like that it's such a history book--but an easy-to-read one.  Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports.  I am so eager to get our hands on the rest of the series! 

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Booksneeze for providing us with this book to review!

Saturday, September 6

Get to Know Jesus... a great biography for kids!

I've found a great new series to use as part of our homeschool curriculum this year.  The first book in the Get to Know Series from Zondervan is a unique biography about Jesus, the son of God. My 8 year old daughter reads her bible (we have the New International Readers Version which I highly recommend!) but has been asking how to know Jesus better, so I jumped at the chance to review this book.  Get to Know Jesus really shows the reader what life was like for Jesus.  It's a little over 100 pages, the perfect length for my 4th graders.  It focuses on  Jesus' life and character using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of the God and the role he plays in history. Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports.  I am so eager to get our hands on the rest of the series! 

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Booksneeze for providing us with this book to review!

Friday, September 5

"My Princesses" Learning to Share and Be Brave: Adorable and Inspiring!

My daughter loves the new My Princessess books!  And so do I.  They're absolutely adorable, the illustrations are charming, and the story is inspiring.  It encourages my daughter to understand that she is a princess because she is God's child, a daughter of the King.  Both books feature little girls named Hope and Grace who are learning how to live as "princesses" by learning new bible stories and finding out how they relate to their lives.  I've always taught my littles that they are princesses because Jesus is the King, and I was excited to see a new book series that would go along with that--especially one with such beautiful illustrations.  These books would make wonderful gifts for the little royalty in your life!

Little girls love princesses—complete with tiaras, gowns, and all things sparkly. This new, affordable picture book series captures the love of princesses and adds a biblical lesson, teaching girls they are daughters of the King and encouraging them to live as God would have them live.

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tyndale for providing me with this review opportunity.

Friday, August 29

#Free Bibles At Tyndale Rewards

If you could use a new bible and haven't signed up for Tyndale Rewards yet, this is the perfect time. They've got a ton of new bibles posted.  Shipping is even free!  Head on over and let me know if you pick something out. :)  Be blessed!

Thursday, August 28

A Triple Knot: Intriguing Historical Fiction of the Lovely Joan of Kent

Fascinating... Emma Campion brings Plantagenet history to life and pulls the reader into the loves and losses, tragedies and triumphs of a dynamic woman, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent.
-Karen Harper, NY Times


Yes, A Triple Knot will pull at your heart and inspire as the Fair Maid of Kent's life unfolds, I believe, as true to life as historical fiction could have done.  Joan of Kent's life was terribly interesting, but it was also part-times terribly heartbreaking and terribly inspiring. This was a strong woman, a woman who amazed me--even as a young girl.  A Triple Knot spans a 23 year period and sweeps the reader along as if she is truly in fourteenth century England.  Miss Campion is such a gifted author!  May I write as well as her someday!  In the meantime, I'm eagerly awaiting her next novel.  And now I must mention--the cover.  My hubby asked when he saw it, "What are you reading?!"  It looks quite suggestive and it isn't Christian historical fiction (many of my reads are).  However, the cover is misleading and I hoped it would be after I read the book synopsis--this is no "romance novel" in the racy sense of the term.  It's a clean read (cleaner than some "Christian fiction" I've read!) and I highly recommend it.  Wonderful, captivating, historical fiction that will whet your appetite for more Plantagenet history!

Emma Campion brings another fascinating woman from history to life in an enthralling story of political intrigue, personal tragedy, and illicit love.
Joan of Kent, renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. As the king begins a long dynastic struggle to claim the crown of France, plunging England into the Hundred Years’ War, he negotiates her betrothal to a potential ally and heir of a powerful lordship.

But Joan, haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution at the hands of her treacherous royal kin, fears the king’s selection and is not resigned to her fate. She secretly pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights, one who has become a trusted friend and protector. Now she must defend her vow as the king—furious at Joan’s defiance—prepares to marry her off to another man.

In A Triple Knot, Emma Campion brings Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent” to glorious life, deftly weaving details of King Edward III’s extravagant court into a rich and emotionally resonant tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal.

Read the first chapter on Amazon.

Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with this book to review!

Monday, August 11

Little Critters Books #Giveaway

Two new books featuring the famous Little Critter!  In board book or soft cover.

I was so excited to see that The Little Critters books are back!  My brother and I loved these books as kids and now my kiddos love them, too. These 2 books have faith-inspired messages that show kids the importance of thankfulness and forgiveness. They're recommended for ages 3-7, but my 9 year old loves reading them to her little brother just as much as he likes hearing the stories. You can get these as soft covers for $3.59 on Amazon or as board books for $8.99. There are Kindle editions of each of these, too, for $1.99. So cute and great messages! Enter to win your own copy of these cute books.  Fill out the form below by  August 19th at 11 pm anyone's time.  And be sure to enter all of the other giveaways at our blog by clicking on the tabs above.  :) 

What were your favorite books to read when you were little?

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tommy Mommy for providing me with this opportunity!

Tuesday, August 5

Creativity, Art, and Beauty in Auschwitz

Alma Rose, Jewish Violinist and Conductor
of the Women's Orchestra at Auschwitz
"We found ourselves hushed by delicate floating butterflies and cheery watercolor flowers that had no place within the camp's barbed wire walls.  We were moved by the coexistence of evil and sheer beauty, seemingly both allowed to flourish in the same place."

~Kristy Cambron, The Butterfly and the Violin

If you're like I was, you don't realize that after World War II ended, hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish prisoner artwork was found hidden throughout Auschwitz.  There were more than 200 artists of all nationalities as prisoners in Auschwitz, as well as in other concentration camps. 

If you're like I was, you also don't realize there was a women's prisoner orchestra.  Alma Rosé was a beautiful Jewish violinist who was forced to conduct the women's orchestra in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  This women's orchestra played upbeat music as women left to work throughout the camps each day.  Later, they were forced to play as new arrivals, women and children, walked unsuspecting to their deaths.  How could they do that?  How could they play their beautiful music as their fellow Jewish sisters walked to their deaths?  The story of The Butterfly and the Violin grapples that question.  This is a book that touched my heart, and taught me history I had no inkling of before.  I love books that do that!  And this one couldn't be released during a more perfect time!  If you follow the news at all, you know that anti-Semitism isn't dead. It's heartbreakingly alive and real.  It's what made the horrors of WWII possible.  And it's not something we should be ignoring.  God is certainly not ignoring it, and God's people should not take it lightly.

More than anything, this book, fiction though it may be, magnified  the steadfastness of the human spirit and the truth that God will make beauty from ashes.  Even in ashes.  When Jews found themselves in Auschwitz, they actually saw the horror of ashes floating on the breeze.  They endured things no human being should ever have to endure.  And yet, they found and even created beauty there.  My favorite Jewish prisoner artwork is by Mieczyslaw Koscielniak, painted in 1944 and 1945 during his imprisonment at Auschwitz:


To view more Jewish art of the Holocaust, visit Last Expressions.  To read the fictional account of the women's prisoner orchestra, read The Butterfly and the Violin.  Also, be sure and enter the giveaway and visit the author chat party.  You can sign up to win and to RSVP by clicking the pic below.  Have a blessed day, and pray for Israel!  And if you live near me and want to borrow this book, please let me know!

Special thanks to the wonderful author and the people at Litfuse for providing me with the opportunity to review this incredible book!

Wednesday, July 30

AIO Adventures: #Free Adventures in Odyssey Episode & Exciting Books!

My children and I love the kids Historical fiction series The Imagination Station!  This is the 2nd book in the series.  My 3rd graders zoom through these books, and my 1st grader loves listening to them as a night time read-aloud.

I love History as much as I love books, and my kids love History, too.  I credit a lot of that to the great fiction we read that gives them an exciting taste and hunger for history.  I've been reading them great historical non-fiction (try David Adler's picture book series if you've got younger kids) since they were tiny.  No dry Ferris Bueller-style History lessons for us!

Join cousins Patrick and Beth in the Imagination Station and travel through history as they sail with Viking explorers! (for ages 7 and up)

"Voyage with the Vikings" is actually the first book in the Imagination Station series by Marianne Herring and Paul McKuster. This book is about real-life vikings Eric the Red and Leif Eriksson. The cover itself gives an accurate description of the book: 2 kids, Beth and Patrick, end up going back to around AD1,000 and getting mixed up in a viking adventure. "Voyage with the Vikings" delves into the history of Iceland, Leif Eriksson's conversion to Christianity and the strife that caused between he and his father, and so much more... but you'll have to read it to find out the "more"! The Imagination Station is great, exciting fiction that's sure to peak your kids' interest in History, too.  It's very similar to the popular Magic Treehouse Series but better because it's got great spiritual values, too. 

This book is part of Tyndale's Summer Reading program.  Earn it free! 

And have you heard about the new Adventures in Odyssey Adventure Club?!
For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE!
Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.54.28 PM 

Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5! Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!


Monday, July 28

"Dear Mr. Knightley": Charming Fiction by Katherine Reay

Like Samantha in Katherine Reay's debut novel Dear Mr. Knightley, I am madly in love with Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare--the classics.  I can't quote them as well as Sam, by any means, but I found it to be very charming when she did... though her best friend found it annoying.  Out of the blue, Sam meets a man who can do the same (well-known and super cute writer Alex Powell).  Honestly, I doubt there's a straight man in this world who could quote classic novelists... but it made for a cute story, nonetheless. 
Samantha is a foster kid who has been passed from family to family and finally ends up with a mysterious benefactor who calls himself Mr. Knightley.  If you're a Jane Austen fan, you'll know that Mr. Knightley is one of the most attractive and swoon-worthy of Austen's heroes.  Also like me, Samantha loves writing.  Her "Mr. Knightley" offers to put her through college to major in journalism if she'll write letters to her mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
Because of Mr. Knightley's anonymity, Sam’s letters become more like diary entries.  One of the "rules" is that he won't write her back.  She feels safe, almost as if he isn't really an actual person.  She sometimes wonders if he even reads the letters.  Sam ends up confessing things to him that she has never told anyone.  In real life, Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, and old secrets are drawn to light. As Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.
The premise of this book is the importance of discovering who you are... embracing who you were meant to be.  I really enjoyed Dear Mr. Knightley and definitely recommend you put it on your summer reading list!
Special thanks to the wonderful people at Booksneeze for providing me this book to review!

Wednesday, July 16

Dream Treaders, Exciting Preteen/Teen Fiction #Giveaway

I was so hooked on fantasy as a preteen and teen and, I have to say, I still really like it a lot!  Especially when it's got a biblical twist to it.  People are fascinated by dreams, and the Bible has a lot to say about them. From Jacob’s dream of the heavenly stairway in Genesis 28 to angels visiting Joseph during dreams in Matthew 1 to the Apostle John’s “waking dream” from which he obtained the book of Revelation—dreams have been powerful ingredients of God’s plan as revealed through Scripture.  Dreamtreaders is sure to hook your kiddo!

Fourteen-year-old Archer Keaton discovers he has the ability to enter and explore his dreams. He is a dreamtreader, one of three selected from each generation. Their mission: to protect the waking world from the Nightmare Lord, who wreaks chaos in the Dream World. But as Archer’s dreams become more dangerous and threatening, so too does his waking life.

Rigby Thames, the new kid from England, builds a suspicious rock star-like following at Dresden High School a little too quickly. Even Archer’s best friend and confidant, Kara Windchil, seems taken in by the cool guy with the wild blond hair, which definitely rubs Archer the wrong way. Archer must face two foes in two worlds, but he cannot succeed alone. Archer sets off to find other dreamtreaders in a desperate attempt to defeat the enemy terrorizing his friends and family.

Enter below by July 21st at 11 pm anyone's time. I'll choose a winner the next morning. Good luck!
Special thanks to the wonderful people at Tommy Nelson for this review and giveaway opportunity!

Monday, June 30

"Bridge to Haven" New, Incredible 1950s Historical Fiction from Francine Rivers

"Bridge to Haven" tells the story of Abra, lovely but wounded.  As a baby, she is abandoned under a bridge where the local preacher finds her.  He and his wife adopt her, even though he has misgivings--his wife's health isn't good and he doesn't think she can handle the demands of a baby... then a toddler... then the high-spirited little girl Abra becomes.  Her adopted mother dies and her daddy gives her away to some family friends.  My heart broke for Abra.  After some time, the only daddy she ever knew doesn't even seem to want to see her anymore!  Later, as the story unfolded, I was on the edge of my seat as I turned every page.  I was gripped with Abra's life as she searched for love and approval from everyone.  She put herself on a pedestal, she sought perfection, she tried to please those closest to her to earn their love. 

As a teenager and later as a young woman, Abra doesn't feel at all like she belongs in her small town of Haven.  She ends up in Hollywood, pursuing stardom, living a life giving into any temptation she feels like giving into, essentially trying to fill her heart with something... anything... anyone... who might be able to fill it.  After she ends up burning every bridge back to Haven, she realizes she wants to go back but it seems impossible.  The story is riveting and, in the end, it has such a message of hope!  In my own life, I recently made quite a mess of a certain something but God has been filling my heart with hope just as He showed Abra in this story--hope that He can somehow turn the mess she made into some part of His beautiful plan, and the truth that He can replace "sorrow and shame" with "everlasting joy" (Isaiah 61:7).  Abra seemed real, I loved her, she felt more like a "friend" than most book characters I've met, and reading her story was a blessing to my heart.

I enjoyed this book so much!  Read it!!

Saturday, June 28

"Annies Stories" A New and Charming Ellis Island Novel

Annie's Stories picks up where Grace's Pictures left off.  Both are charming reads that take place on Ellis Island during the early 1900s.  It's interesting to suddenly be pulled into the world of immigrants in New York over 100 years ago and, while admittedly it took me a few chapters to really get into the story, I had to know what was going to happen.  Annie is an Irish lass who is a sweet girl.  She has recently lost her father, a wonderful man who had the heart of a storyteller. and who left her only his wonderful stories--written down, unpublished, and hidden away in the secret compartment of a desk.  A bit mysterious, yes? 

During the time Annie's Stories takes place, the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has just been published and is taking New York City by storm.  I love the way the author weaves what's going on in Annie's life into the Oz story.  Like me, the books she reads (even the fiction ones) influence Annie's life and she relates them to things going on around her in the real world.  There is a bit of mystery here, too, as Annie's father actually hid the stories he wrote before his death--hid them away even as he didn't hide away the little money he had saved.  Annie's adorable love interest thinks the stories hold a grand secret... but do they really?

If you're looking for an easy, cozy read this summer, I think you'll like this one.  You can read the first chapter here on Amazon.

This book is also part of Tyndale's Summer Reading Program.  You can earn it free!  Check it out.

Wednesday, June 25

The Best Summer Reading Programs of 2014... for Kids AND Adults!

Backyard Horses Series, Tyndale Summer Reading
Tyndale's Summer Reading Program: This one is for both children and adults.  For every 5 books you read and review, you get to choose a new book from their list as a prize.  This is in addition to Tyndale Rewards, which is another way to earn free books this summer.  Their summer reading program runs through August 31st.

Historical Fiction, Tyndale Summer Reading

Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading:  This one requires kids to read eight books an then make a short recommendation on each one.   They can then turn in their completed Summer Reading form at a store and choose a free book from that store's selection.  This program runs through September 2nd.  We've participated for the last 4 years and love it! 

1st and 2nd Grade Prizes for Barnes and Noble's Summer Reading Program 2013

Chuck E Cheese:  Your child can keep track of their reading through one of the rewards calendars.  Once they've completed two weeks of reading he or she can submit the completed Chuck E Cheese calendar for 10 free tokens!

Bob Jones University: Children ages 4 – 17 can participate in this fun program.  You determine the goal which can be to read for a select number of minutes or number of pages on a daily basis.  Once they've completed their goal, you submit the completion form online by August 19th.  Prizes are awarded for completing the program while supplies last.

Your child will also be entered to win one of nine Summer Reading Tote bags filled with JourneyForth Books (3 for each age group).  They might also win the grand prize – a Kindle Fire!

If you know of another summer reading program I've missed, let me know!  Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 5

You are His treasure: A Book of Letters from Your King

How you feel about yourself will never change God’s unconditional love for you . . . you are His Treasure.
On the days when it feels like a struggle to connect my heart to God's, I turn to His Treasure—a beautiful collection of letters from my King, a pattern of precious gems reflecting His love.  I love this book so much!  My ideal time with God is to read a bit of His word, along with a letter from this book, and then go outside and talk to Him either with the sunrise or under the stars at night.

When other people fall short, which they always will because no one is perfect but God--no friend, no man, no one--He reminds me that my worth is in Him and, no matter what, He treasures me and loves me.  He's been using this book to show me that again and again.
If you have ever struggled to find a way to connect your heart to your heavenly Father, His Treasure is the book for you.  I've tried quite a few devotionals but this one is my favorite.  Besides that it's written in such a way that God will touch your heart, it's an absolutely beautiful book, both inside and out.  It would also make a wonderful gift.  I've already got a few people in mind I want to give a copy to.  You can find His Treasure on Amazon as a hardcopy for about $9 or as an e-book for $6.  Enjoy and be blessed!
This book was read as part of Tyndale's Summer Rewards Program. Join here and earn free books!  

Wednesday, June 4

All for a Story: A Great Roaring 20s Historical Fiction Read!

Allison Pittman is one of my very favorite authors!  She writes intriguing stories that I jump at the chance to read.  Her characters seem real; flawed but likeable, people I'd like to be friends with.  All for a Story is actually the third in a series of books that take place during the flapper days after World War II.   ("Lilies in Moonlight" is the first in the series but they don't need to be read in order--they feature only the same time period; not the same main characters or even the same setting.) I've been reading good historical Christian fiction for about the last 7 years but had never read anything that took place during the 1920s before discovering this series... and it was such an exciting and interesting time period in our nation's history! 
The heroine of our story is Monica Bisbaine, who loves being a modern girl in the Roaring Twenties. She's feisty, classy, and clever with a zest for life.  She loves to party and seems to thrive around people.  I could totally relate to her--Monica before Christianity was a lot like me before I was living for God, and Monica after Christianity is a lot like I am now.  We would've been friends.  There's some mystery in the story, which is always an added bonus for me.  Chapter 1 ends with the owner of the newspaper which Monica works for passing away.  The newspaper is passed down to Max Moore, a guy with values who ends up becoming Monica's love interest and her boss.  She ends up researching and writing from a much different angle!  There's a battle for her--does she want to give up her exciting party girl life?  Or doesn't she? 

Another important character in the book is real-life Amy Semple McPherson who began the Four Square Church in the 1920s.  She's a very interesting person, quite a phenomena, and I was intrigued to know more about her.  She certainly did great things in her lifetime, though much of her life was quite colorful, to say the least.
The author definitely weaves a wonderful story that grips the reader from the first chapter.  I was hooked immediately, as I always am with this author's books!  I enjoyed this read very much but my favorite is still Lilies in Moonlight which you can get from Amazon for 1 cent plus shipping!