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!


Tuesday, June 3

Princess Stories: Real Bible Stories of God's Princesses

Princess Stories is my daughters (and my!) favorite bible story book and, believe me, we've got a lot of them! The book is expecially beautiful.  It's got shimmery flowers on the outside (which you can't see in the stock photo) and has lovely illustrations on every single page.
Princess Stories is appropriate for girls ages 4 to 8.  It's a collection of stories about 29 women in the Bible—and the 30th story is about the reader, who is God's princess too.  All of the stories are told through the bible princess's eyes.

In each four-page story, the reader gets a rhyming verse about the princess that begins "Mirror, mirror on the wall", a first-person story of the featured Bible woman and the special quality her life reflects, a Bible verse from another passage of Scripture that summarizes/relates to the character trait, and Princess Ponderings—questions that help girls and their parents discuss the stories and relate the lessons to life.

Through this book, girls learn in-depth stories of women of the Bible and how to apply Scripture to their own lives.  My daughters love their stories!

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

Monday, June 2

An Echoes of Mercy Review and #Win a Box of Christian Romance Books

Echoes of Mercy was the first book I've read by popular historical Christian fiction author Kim Vogel Sawyer, and I was hooked from the first page.  I absolutely loved this book, devoured it in a few days, and can't wait to read more from this wonderful author!  Admittedly, there are many books I'm not able to get into, but this was not one of them.  I like a strong lead female in the books I read, someone with passion for life, real personality, and just enough flaws to seem real.  Caroline, the lady in this book, is the kind of girl I'd like to be friends with.  I really liked her, enjoyed "spending time" with her, and got into her story.  The man in her life was equally likeable and was a very round character--not afraid to admit when he was wrong, and willing to become the kind of man God created him to be.  And the bad guy! The bad guy was such a villain--a very dastardly sort of fellow.  The book had such a wide variety of very different types of characters that it made the read very interesting.

In the book, Caroline is an undercover agent during the 1900's.  She's got a questionable past and it's interesting learning her story throughout the pages of the book.  The story isn't too predictable, and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader wondering how exactly some of the problems in the story are going to be resolved.   Here's a short synopsis:

When a suspicious accident occurs at the famous Dinsmore Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees—the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, her difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to her job as an investigator for the Labor Commission and she is compelled to see children freed from such heavy adult responsibilities, to allow them to pursue an education.

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

Like I said, I totally loved this read and can't wait for more from Miss Sawyer!

You can find Echoes of Mercy on Amazon and can read the first chapter here.

And now for the...
Enter below by June 9th to win a box of women's Christian romance books!  I'll choose a winner the next morning and will have your books sent ASAP. 

Fiction books can be amazing!  What is one fiction book you think everyone should read? 

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Blogging for Books for providing me with Echoes of Mercy to review.

Sunday, June 1

Battle for Cannibal Island: Great Historical Kids Fiction... and an Adventures in Odyssey Announcement!

We've been reading the most recent 2 books in the Imagination Station series, Battle for Cannibal Island (yes, CANNIBAL Island, which is the story of an incredibly brave Christian missionary who cared more about seeing cannibals in Fiji saved than about his own life) and Escape to the Hiding Place which is the amazing story of Corrie Ten Boom. Receiving this last book in the mail was incredibly timely--the day before we'd just finished listening to the audio book "The Hiding Place" on the way back from a roadtrip. (By the way, if you've never read about Corrie Ten Boom, get your hands on the movie "The Hiding Place". It's an amazing, inspiring true story filled with miracles and God's grace.)

Each book in this series features two kids, Beth and Patrick, as the main characters who end up on historical adventures where they meet knights in shining armor, pilgrims, Egyptians, you name it. The books have mystery, real faith, and adventure. These books are are written at a 2nd grade reading level, but even I was captured with the stories! Definitely page turners--each one. And each one makes you want to research the true history deeper. My kids love history! And these books are part of the reason why.

As a homeschooling mom, I use these as part of my history curriculum. Yes, historical fiction may be a bit unorthodox, but it grabs my children's interest, real-life characters are featured in these books, and the authors stick as close to possible to real life events as can be expected with 2nd graders historical fiction. This is my favorite series for this age level and I couldn't recommend it more highly! Kind of like Magic Treehouse but MUCH better!

Stay tuned--I've been selected as an Odyssey Adventure Club Blogger by Litfuse Publicity and will be giving you some exciting info in the next couple weeks!  So stay tuned and be sure you follow Our Bookshelf via e-mail so you don't miss out.