A Life Once Dreamed By Rachel Fordham

What would cause a young woman of privilege and wealth to leave her family, her childhood sweetheart/fiancée, and move to a small town in the rugged Dakota Territory to become a school teacher? That is exactly what Agnes Pratt did. She is loved and accepted by the small community of Penance. Teaching school and loving the children has become her life calling. Her neighbors have no clue of her previous life, although they do wonder why such a young attractive woman has no desire to marry. Her past is safe until 6 years later when the new doctor arrives in town. Shock upon shock it is her fiancée she has been hiding from. It is a challenge for them to keep their previous relationship to themselves. Tensions rise with being near each other again and her reason for leaving still unexplained. Not to mention the other people involved in their lives at different levels that knew nothing of their shared past.
I would have assumed Agnes would be a spoiled little rich girl. I was very impressed by compassion, courage and work ethic, no matter how hard the job. James was so sweet and patient. Their love was strong and true even with all the misunderstanding and years of separation. The couple’s transition from ease and wealth to the hard life in a territory in the 1800’s showed they had true character. I was inspired by their faith and desire to seek God in all things. I loved the way the author gradually built the suspense in revealing Agnes’s hidden story. I tried to guess multiple times but was wrong on every one! An exciting, beautiful story of true sacrificial love!
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Stories That Bind Us By Susie Finkbeiner

As soon as I see Susie Finkbeiner has a new book out, I HAVE to read it! She never disappoints! I was able to totally lose myself in the story and characters! The story takes place in the 1960’s.
Betty Sweet’s beloved husband of 23 years dies suddenly right before her eyes. She is only 40 years old and of course is devastated. They had one of those special sweet marriages and he was the love of her life. I could relate to so much of her emotions and experiences having lost my husband. Grieving the loss of the love of her life consumed her in every area. As if this was not enough to deal with, out of the blue, her sister Clara whom she has had no contact with for years, shows up at her door with her 5 year old son. She needs a place to stay and she needs help. Betty pulls herself together to welcome them to her home and life. Clara’s problems are serious. Their mother suffered from mental illness throughout their childhood, finally dying in a sanitarium. Betty lovingly shoulders the responsibility of her sister’ mental illness and the care of her young nephew, Hugo. It matters not to her he is black, but during this era others where not so accepting.
There was so much to the book! I don’t even know where to begin! Betty’s putting her sister’s and nephew’s needs before her own was an incredible Christian testimony. I couldn’t imagine being her shoes after losing my husband. She had never been able to have children so Hugo captured her heart immediately. He was such a sweet and gentle child. There were times I wished I could reach into the book and hug him! With his mother’s problems his short life had struggles that needed healing too. Betty’s love and sacrifice knew no bounds. I loved her in-laws. They were her true family and support. Her relationship with them was so comforting and loving. The interactions between them gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling.
This is a beautiful, heartening story, showing that with unconditional love and strong faith in God no problem is too big! I am amazed how the author wove an enthralling story with such difficult subjects as the grief of losing a spouse and a parent, parental rejection, family mental illness and racial prejudice. Yet the book is not depressing but inspirational and uplifting. A definite want to read!!!

These Nameless Things By Shawn Smucker

This is my second book of Shawn Smucker’s to read. I had trouble getting into the book. While the writer was wonderfully descriptive in not only visual terms but also the emotions of the characters I found the story very confusing. I would connect with parts this all of sudden be confused about what was going on.
The characters didn’t seem to have much of a personal history other than an escape from somewhere on the other side of the mountain. I wanted to know more about them. It was difficult to follow a story line. There kept being more questions, but no answers. I left me with a very unfinished feeling about the story. Also with this being from a Christian publisher I thought there would be a Christian theme running through it. There is no mention of scripture or God in the book. I loved the cover, it drew me in to read the book.
I think a big part of the problem is that the dystopian genre is not for me.
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Little Words Matter Jumbo Coloring Book By B&H Kids Editorial Staff

I was surprised and delighted when I received this coloring book. When they said Jumbo and they meant JUMBO! When I was a child my mother faithfully bought me “jumbo” coloring books and they were thick. Nowadays I find such books that say jumbo but are anything but. Such a disappointment.
This book is perfect for little ones! Not only is it thick, all 384 pages of it but each page is big. Now that’s jumbo!!! The pictures are large also and simple in drawing so a young budding artist will not get discouraged with a lot of detail to color. It also doubles as a fun teaching book and more! Giant letters to trace, learning colors, numbers, counting, shapes, body parts, alphabet activities, Bible characters and even prayer pages. Hours of fun and learning for little ones! So worth the money, you won’t be disappointed!!!
I received this book from B & H Kids in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Coastal Breeze By Suzanne Woods Fisher

When I read a really good book then find out there is a sequel, I get excited! That was the case with Coastal Breeze. After I finished reading book 1, I couldn’t wait for this one!
Paul Grayson and his three daughters are starting new chapters in each of their lives at Camp Kicking Moose. Paul, with the help of his oldest daughter Cam has remodeled and decorated the derelict cabins into comfortable, appealing rentals. They are now open for business! I love the descriptions of the camp. It reminds me, before renovation, of old church camps I attended. The new changes are exciting, maybe because I have that old dream of owning a bed and breakfast.
Cam is engaged to Seth and wedding plans are in the future? Or are they? Even on the tiny island she has thrown herself into a major project. Her goal is to bring sustainable electricity to the unreliable one the residents now suffer with. Old habits are hard to change. Cam may be in a different location but her old business drive to succeed is still there, sometimes at the expense of relationships. Exciting and frightening events must take place for her to open her eyes to what is truly important.
Maddy, poor sweet Maddy. She opens an office on the island as counselor and therapist. Nervous but excited she feels she is finally living her dream. She does have clients but finds most of her skills are going to help her sisters. Her anxiety is better, that is until the new pastor parachutes in, yes parachutes! Much to her dismay she realizes it is Ricky, O’Shea the pest and tormentor of her youth, whom she has always had a crush. I feel of the three sisters, she experiences the greatest amount of change and discovery in her life. I liked how the story forces her to not only face her fears but learn to deal with things you cannot run from. Surprising facts come to light forcing Maddy to grow as a person.
Blaine makes a surprise return from culinary school and isn’t at all herself. She holds a painful secret that she only shares with Maddy. Always flitting from one interest to another like a butterfly, her new plans concern her family.
I didn’t want the story to end! Ms. Fisher hits it out of the ballpark again! Each character’s story is a view of God working in their lives. Not only drawing upon what they have learned of Him in the past, but also recognizing His hand in their circumstances in the present. The family dynamics and personal emotions of each character are so real. While there is seriousness, there is also humor that would pop up at unexpected moments. Paul’s unwanted pet duck was one of them! Peg, with her quirkiness and old Maine wisdom is my favorite character! At the end of the book is one of Blaine’s recipes! A nice surprise! After reading the too short excerpt of book three at the back, I anxiously await it!!!
I received this book from Revell Publishing I exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Lily’s Story: A Puppy Tale By W. Bruce Cameron

I know this book is recommended for 8 – 12 year old but I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult! I played it in my car to listen to during trips and couldn’t wait to go somewhere so I could listen to more!
This is a charming story about a mother dog and her puppies brought into an animal shelter. One particular one is the runt and very tiny. Being the only girl, her brother’s rough housing hard to handle. Maggie Rose is also the only girl and the “runt” of her family with 2 older brothers. She can relate to Lily’s situation. She was at the shelter frequently because her mom was director. She falls in love with this little puppy and names her Lily.
The story is told through Lily’s eyes and Maggie Rose. I am reviewing the audio book and the voice of Lily was so spot on! It is the sweet, innocent voice of what you would think a precious little puppy would have. The author does an amazing job of describing the experience, thoughts and feelings a tiny pup might have. If dogs could talk I think this would be accurate! He also captured the emotions of a child that has fallen in love with a puppy. Maggie Rose and Lily’s adventures are humorous, fun, and sometimes sad. The descriptiveness and narration were so good, pictures of the tale play across my mind like a movie.
A second story is told here, the plight of animal shelters with so many pets that need to be adopted and find a forever home. I feel it spoke about those generous volunteers across the country, who face heartbreak, give their time, compassion, and hard work to help the helpless.
A wonderful book for any age!

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Don’t Overthink It By Anne Bogel

This book’s title finds me guilty as charged! It is an area of my life I am working on. I have a master’s degree in overthinking. The author clearly and convincingly verified what I knew in my heart to be true but didn’t know how to change. For one, I realized in doing so am complicating any decision I need to make. Overthinking adds many unimportant ideas that appear as facts to me at the moment. There are usually nothing more than a lot of “what ifs”. I can see now that the Devil runs with this and my imagination goes wild. I believe it is a useful tool of his because my thinking becomes so cloudy I lose sight of God and what guidance He had in the matter. I also find myself caught up in anxiety which drains me mentally and physically. The more I over analyze the deeper I go and find I am stuck in this vicious cycle. Not only is there no answer to be found this way, but the useless thoughts just keep coming. Whew! No wonder I ended up in such a mess and still no direction!
The author goes even further than just learning to overcome this destructive thought process. She reminded me that by focusing on the principles that guide my life, (which for me come from God and His Word) I will be able make clearer decisions, because those are what most important to me. Another part that jumped out at me is this destructive way of thinking is linked with perfectionism which also goes hand in hand with fear of failure! A great book to help you overcome what is possible one of the biggest hindrances in making sound, choices.
I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Made to Move Mountains By Kristen Welch

Whatever mountains loom ahead of us in our spiritual walk, whether a dream or a problem, they usually seem enormous and impossible to overcome. I always try to remind myself that God loves impossible situations to show Himself strong.
Ms. Welch tells about the mountains she has climbed in her life. I liked that she was open about her experiences, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Transparency like that helps me get more out of the book. I can relate to being imperfect and do not feel I am somehow don’t measure up. Like many of us, her life had a mountain range to overcome and by that I mean they were in different areas of her life. As the founder of an organization providing homes for pregnant teens her challenges seemed hopeless. She did not falter but obediently looked to God no matter what fears or obstacles. This rang true for each mountain that arose in her path.
I liked that she used her own experiences to illustrate the different kinds of mountains we might encounter. Included are scripture references to direct and encourage the reader. I like the scriptures, and questions at the end of each chapter to help me apply the information to my personal situations. I also appreciated the page to journal my thoughts. It made the book even more personal to me.
I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I stated are my own.

A Glitter of Gold By Liz Johnson

This was a fun exciting read! Anne has made some bad choices. Finding it difficult to face the shame and embarrassment in her home town, she moves away for a new start. Just wanting to, well hide, she comes to Savannah, Georgia hoping for a fresh start. There she attempts to start a tour company. Dressed up in pirate garb she takes tourists, hungry for adventure, on excursions to historical spots, regaling them with stories of famous pirates. The picture of cute girl on the front with the sassy look definitely captured Anne’s personality!
Struggling with her finances a facing defeat she was very discouraged, until while walking on the beach after a storm she finds a sword hilt sticking out of the sand. She hopes it will be of great value and allow her to remain in Georgia. She sneaks our Carter Hale, the director of a small museum that was also facing a lack of funds. He believes the hilt may prove the shipwreck of a famous pirate ship that had never been proven to exist. They consult a pirate’s diary from 1750 for clues. Journal entries from book are shown throughout the story. This I really enjoyed!!! It added to the excitement!
While Carter and Anne are both on the same page about verifying shipwreck and the hilt’s authenticity they are going in totally different directions in other areas. This causes conflicts in their budding relationship. Aunt Tessie was precious. Her scriptural wisdom and sweet spirit drew me to her character. All in all, God clearly has a plan for both Carter and Anne to heal from wounds they are carrying.

With All Your Heart By Christine Hoover

How times have we said or heard someone say, “I love you with all my heart.” Those that profess usually truly believe they do, but do they? There are actions and outward signs if an “all my heart” love is the real deal. This is true also with a Christian’s love of God. Children of God make this declaration often, but again is it true? This book helps us look within and see if the Lord does have all our heart. I personally feel this is very important and much needed if we are to serve Him that does love us with all His heart.
It is easy in our day and time to give bits and pieces (be they large or small) of our hearts to other things. There are so many to choose from, pulling at our emotions, affections, time and attention. We may not even realize we are doing it. Ms. Hoover calls them “allegiances” I see them as other gods, anything that comes between us and God. She presents these in a way I had never thought of before. Anxiety and Isolation, two the author names, made me realize I had never looked at them in this light. These were eye openers to me! As the author points out they are all part of the kingdom of “self”.
Once we become the Lord’s nothing can take His place or we will be robbed of our joy and leave us in despair and frustration. If one is not careful they will be caught up in the endless circle of pursuing them to meet our needs that only God can.
Ms. Hoover’s style of writing was easy to relate to and touched my heart. The questions at the end of each chapter gave me a time to reflect and take a good look at myself.
I like books that cause me to dig deep within and point out any blind spots in my Christian life that need correcting. It is not a book you will want to read quickly, but work through and absorb all it has to teach. I found it helpful, but also especially relevant for the times we are facing.
I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.