Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof



From the publisher:
After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.
But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.
As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?
A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

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Joanne Biscof is a masterful writer.  Her writing places you into the Appalachia mountains and the farm of this family.  It is the way you feel the mist of the morning as she writes, or the smell of apples as they are pressed into cider.  The written becomes tangible in her beautiful writing.  

But it is the emotions and relationships that are really captured by Biscof's writing.  From the first scene with Aven the reader will feel the hope and crushing disappointment in what follows.  You will journey with her to adjust to a new family and watch as her heart is opened to love again.  The softness of her character and yet strength is easy to appreciate.  

The three brothers each have strengths and weaknesses that you get to know through the book.  At first glance you can make judgements but as you continue to read Biscof shows that there is more than meets the eye.  

It was fascinating to see how Thor's thoughts, words, and actions were portrayed.  I loved reading a book about a deaf and mute character.  Bringing this into a main character and the struggles and triumphs associated were amazing. It was brilliant the way Biscof chose to incorporate this.

There were more relationships, with secondary characters, that were also of great interest to me.  The African American families, the KKK...all of it was very well written.

There are a few intense scenes in the book, so just to make readers aware.  I can't wait to read the second book in the series when it comes out!

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dinner for Dinos by Ben Whitehouse



This is a short board book about dinosaurs getting to get together for a meal. This funny book is supposed to encourage children to enjoy meal time and eat healthy.  While it isn't directly telling them to eat a balanced diet it could be another way parents can say, "hey! See, even dinosaurs want to eat healthy food to grow strong!"

Overall cute, but just not a favorite book.

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Together Forever by Jody Hedlund



From the publisher:
Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children--firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

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This is the second book in the Orphan Train series.  I did not read the first book but this one definitely makes me want to.  That being said, I didn't feel that I was lost at all.  Jody Hedlund does a great job of filling in what you need to know in a natural way.  

Marianne Neumann at once captured my interest.  Her honest expressions and big heart  make her easy to love.  I loved reading her grow from someone who only saw herself as weak to being strong in a variety of circumstances.

Andrew Brady was a wonderful hero in the story.  His light-hearted actions yet intentional way with the children and Marianne endear him to the reader right away.  The chemistry between Andrew and Marianne was fun and thrilling to read.  

I was truly touched by the stories of the orphans and appreciated the research that Jody Hedlund did in writing this book.  As an adoptive parent I felt these situations were handled well and I think it is wonderful that she is writing about this topic.

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Create: A Girl's Guide to DIY, Doodles, and Design



What a fun and beautiful book!  Do you have a young girl in your life who enjoys creating with her hands?  This is a great book as a gift.  I love how the book has three parts.  Not everyone is creative in the same way and this book allows the readers to enjoy the areas they are best at, and at the same time have areas to grow and broaden themselves.

Each DIY, doodle, and design is clearly laid out.  What is needed, how to do it, and even how to make it a little more complicated (if you want) is in the layout.  There are pictures for each craft so you know what you are looking for in the end result. 

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Devotions from the Lake



Do you love the peace of nature, the quiet of the lake at any season?  This book will be a short time focused on the nature around the lake and the tranquility therein. 

I love the cover of the book and the idea that even though we might be busy in concrete buildings, we can take these few minutes of devotions (early morning, mid-day, evening...or even just a few minutes in the car alone) and be transported to the lake and the peace of God that resides there.  Personally, I find that I wanted to go and be at the lake, in that quietness to have my own devotions.

Each devotional is short, and it doesn't go into depth -- but I believe it can be a quiet time to reconnect to the God who created the lake.

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough








From the publisher:
It seems there is more to fear now than ever, but fear and anxiety are nothing new to human beings--or to God. The Bible calls us to not be afraid on many occasions, and of course we all want to live without fear. But just how is that accomplished when every news item seems designed to get us wringing our hands?

Using her own story as a catalyst, Maria Furlough shows readers how to overcome fear for good. She calls readers to make a list of their fears, to choose to bring those fears to God rather than acting on them, and to trust God with the future. She shows how when we give God full control over our lives, choosing his sovereignty over our own ability, we can break the cycle of fear, grow through suffering, and trust God to fulfill his promises of protection and peace.

Anyone who is filled with anxiety over their personal circumstances, the state of the world today, or even their fear-clogged social media feeds will welcome this hands-on journey from fear to freedom.

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You'll know if this book is for you in the first chapter.  As author Maria Furlough describes her thought process going from a question to full blown panic attack you may well see yourself in the scenario.  Loving, caring, functioning Christians can find themselves obsessing over the "what ifs".  This book isn't just a formula or plan.  This book tells of Maria's personal journey through fear and anxiety on a daily basis when her worst fear was realized.  She shows how even when we don't get a miracle that God still knows how to heal us deep down.  There's a lot of practical advice between the pages of this book.  There's a lot of scripture quoted too.  But there is also one woman's personal testimony of a loving God who showed Himself to still be love in the midst of her worst nightmare.  Maria's story is one of hope for anyone who has chronic fear/anxiety.  She claims the peace that passes understanding through her relationship with a God who is intimately aware and involved in the details of our lives.

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

First Impressions (A Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice) By Debra White Smith



While this is a retelling of the classic book Pride and Prejudice there is enough surprises and twists to make it seem brand new.  However, I found it a bit redundant to have the characters in the book who are each based on an Austen character also acting as those exact same characters in Aunt Maddy's Pride and Prejudice play.  For example Smith's character Dave Davidson is based on Austen's character Mr. Darcy.  Dave Davidson also acts in his aunt's play of Pride and Prejudice as Mr. Darcy.  That's just too much Mr. Darcy for me.  It has also made the plot of the story move a bit too slowly for my taste.  There is also too much mention (again redundancy) about Dave Davidson's vast wealth.  I get the picture!  But as reader am told over and over of this fact.  The best part of the book is the mystery behind Davidson's pseudonym and the Barclay sister's unique individual journeys.  If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan I think you will either love the retelling in a modern setting or perhaps find it disappointing as it cannot match Austen's work of art.

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.