If . . . What If? By Tony Myles and Daniel Myles

How I wish we had this book when our girls were growing up! Family devotionals were, let’s say, a little dry most of the time. One of the rules we had was that the girls could not lie down or recline at all or they would fall asleep! Sad I know! If we had had these devotionals we would have never had to make that rule.
There are 365 days of devotions, I liked that! It is important with youth to teach and share God’s Word, but equally important that they see how to apply it to their lives. This book does exactly that. Best of all it is fun, with an essential purpose. The lessons begin with an “If” question to capture everyone’s attention, and getting those “thinking gears” turning. Followed by that is a “What If” question that will stir up discussion. With the family relaxed and talking a scripture reference and though provoking devotional come next. At the end of each one is another “If”, “What If” question that brings the topic home. Some even have suggestions for projects to do individually or as a group. I the found the “There is Hope” inspirational lines on every page, very encouraging. Every 7th day there is a “Catch up, Recap, Grow together, Open up, and Pray”. I plan to use this with my grandchildren and as lessons in our Sunday school class. This is an exceptional book that will make family devotionals something to look forward to, drawing them together and making a lasting impression on young hearts and minds.
BH Publishing provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

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In the Shadow of Croft Towers By Abigail Wilson

Sybil Delafield has been raised as an orphan at Winterridge by her beloved teacher Mrs. Smith. She was content and lived a simple life, until the day and mysterious letter arrived with a bracelet. Mrs. Smith also informs her she has been offered a job as a lady’s companion to the elderly Mrs. Chalcroft, a friend of her teacher. The year is 1813.
Never having been away from her only home, she is understandably nervous. I thought of how I would feel being thrust into such new and different surroundings. Well poor Sybil didn’t get off that easy. On her way to her new life, the coach she was riding is robbed by highway men. One of the men held her at gunpoint in the drenching rain and took her reference letter. Her ride ends at an Inn where she is left out in the freezing rain until they summon a coach from Croft towers. It is night and she enters this magnificent mansion and is taken to a stunning WHITE drawing room, drip, drip, drip, you get the picture. Around the fire are 3 obviously refined and wealthy people; a more than awkward moment and with no papers to prove her identity. While she is sharing her harrowing tale of the robbery, another man enters the room. Ut oh! It is the highwayman that seized her! What is she to do?
I am truly struggling to write this review! The book is so amazing I am finding hard to put everything into words. The very first sentence captured my attention and I was glued to the book until the end! There is suspense and mystery but it is so smoothly introduced into the plot. The author captured the era perfectly. Her descriptiveness in every area, from the setting, the emotions to the characters was so powerful that pictures popped into my head like a movie. (That’s a good idea! This would make a great movie!) At every turn there was a surprise, but they didn’t jump out and smack you in the face as with some novels. They slipped out in front of you catching you off guard! Some parts are so intense I found myself tensed up and gripping the book! The clever sense of humor Sybil and Mr. Sinclair’s shared with each other had me laughing more than once. I was entertained and kept guessing till the very end. I loved this book! It is staying on my bookshelf for good! I am anxiously awaiting her next book to be release July 2, 2019.
The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Mending Fences By Suzanne Woods Fisher

When I see a new book by Ms. Fisher I know it will be good! This one was great!
Luke Schrock is an Amish bad boy. He has a loving family, community and strong roots to a simple and good life. He throws it away and finds himself in trouble with the law and in rehab for alcoholism. His Bishop, David and his rehab counselor feel the best way for Luke overcome his problems is return to home to Stoney Ridge and apologize to the people he has wronged. And there is more. He must offer to make amends and ask them how it affected their lives. His list of victims is quite long. This is his last chance and He to “mend fences” and start a new life. Amos and Fern Lapp have offered to bring him into their home, with meals and a place to stay in exchange for work. What a shocker when he finds out his room is in the barn!
Izzy has also been taken in by the Lapps a year ago; she gets to stay in the house of course! She lacks and craves all Luke took for granted; a secure home, a loving family and place to belong. She treasures having these blessings and sees how valuable they are. Luke is intrigued by Izzy. She is quite, even secretive and totally unimpressed by his charms that have always turned the girl’s heads.
I loved this book. The title is so appropriate. I enjoyed watching Luke grow and change as he realized the damage what he considered “innocent pranks” did to so many. It was extremely interesting to look into the lives of those wronged and how it had changed them. I saw his years of selfishness and his attitude of entitlement fall away as he grows spiritually, truly loving and caring for his people.
Izzy is a beautiful soul trapped inside a shell of childhood hurt and resentment. It was painful to see her struggle with trusting even the Lapps and realizing she was loved. I just wanted to hug Amos and Fern. Their challenges and hardships could have easily caused them to abandon Luke and Izzy to focus on their needs but they didn’t. They were so sweet and sincere in their sacrifices to help troubled youth. One of my favorite parts of the books was Luke’s problems with a wily raccoon and Amos’s beloved horse Bob. I was sorry for the book to end, it was that good! It did make me happy to see this is a series another book will be coming!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Never Let Go By Elizabeth Goddard

The book starts off with a bang! Possible murder, attempted murder, arson, and having two ex-lovers meeting again! This is not a book you want to read at night to fall asleep (as is my custom) because you won’t! The plot moves along at a break neck speed. As if all of this is not enough for one person to bear, Willow does not have time to sit back and contemplate. She must join forces with her former boyfriend, Austin, whom she never wanted to see again. She has no choice to be able to stay alive and get to the bottom of a 21 year old cold case file of a baby stolen from a hospital. The birth mother only has 2 months to live. All the violence seems to link back to this one incident. While she wants nothing to do with, Austin, a former FBI agent now private investigator, she finds his help is essential.
The author does a brilliant job of sharing Willow and Austin’s complicated thoughts and feelings toward one another as the story unfolds. Their old wounds and heartaches surface again, forcing the couple to face them. Austin’s personal, hidden past of an abusive childhood and an estranged family resurfaces, requiring him to deal with it. There is so much pain; the pain of loss of life, a child, shattered relationships, and self-doubt. Mysteries only God can reveal and pain only He can heal. I appreciate wholesomeness of the book in the area of romance. I admired Willow’s resilience and persistence to do what was right in spite of her present situation. Austin won my respect with his courage to step back into Willow’s life not only to aid her but also protect her. This is a riveting and exciting story with all its layers of suspense and kaleidoscope of emotions. An added bonus was I learned something new! I had never heard of a forensic genealogist! Fascinating! If I had heard about it growing up I think of might have become one!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants By Diane Dettmann

I will say outright I am a fan of Diane Dettmann and her writings! She uses the same words we all do but somehow she puts them together in a way that draws you in both with her fiction or nonfiction books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would call it a “cozy read”. The story of her grandparents was so personal I felt as if I were a part of the family and reading about my heritage!
The Great Depression was a very difficult time for those who lived in that era. Reading about their hardships and deprivation made me feel a bit guilty. Our internet goes out for a few hours or we have a power outage and we feel we are suffering. Forget modern conveniences, they had practically nothing, but it was the everyday norm for them. If you add to that being immigrants from another country, learning our ways and language I feel these people had a greater challenge to survive. Their story is far from discouraging or gloomy though! There is so much humor and joy and that makes it all the brighter with the back drop of those times. I found myself laughing over and over at family incidents shared. This memoir was also an in depth history lesson of day to day living and endurance.
I think one of my favorite chapters if I had to choose one was “Mother’s Influence.” Her ingenuity and resourcefulness in caring for her family’s needs was amazing, especially when I think of today’s society of “throw it away and buy a new one”. They didn’t feel underprivileged or lacking; whatever they were blessed with brought the family contentment. A delightful read!
I received this complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Christian and Jacob Sea Kid’s Adventures Plush Toys Lee Ann Mancini

Christian Sea Turtle and Jacob Starfish are the main characters in God’s Gift by Lee Ann Mancini. Please see my review of this extraordinary children’s Christmas book. Children love stuffed toys and that is putting it mildly! They give them comfort and are fun. Snuggling such soft toys gives a child a sense of security. This is why many police, fire stations, and emergency rooms have them on hand when children are involved in tragedies or illness. Unlike toys now that play FOR the child, a plush toy allows little imaginations soar with no limits.
You have not seen stuffed toys this quality in a long time! I cannot emphasize how extremely well made they are in materials, construction and design. They can stand up to the toughest pint-sized loving and play. Well-crafted toys like these can even make it to an adult’s keepsake box.
The characters are captured exactly like their pictures in the book. Their colors are just as vibrant and bright. THEY ARE SO CUTE! I liked the super soft materials. They are just the right size for little hands and arms to hold. Best of all I found them not to hard, nor soft like so many plush toys. As baby bear said in the fabled story, they are “Just right”!
What a wonderful gift to give Christian and Jacob with their book, but these would be fantastic as gifts alone. Children love toys that match the characters in their books. I am sincerely impressed with these as well as the book series. I hope Ms. Mancini will eventually come out with all the characters as plush animals!

God’s Easter Miracles By Lee Ann Mancini

This is a dynamic children’s book for Easter and encompasses so many important subjects and makes them a part of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. No Easter Bunny or association with him is mentioned; Christ as first place as He should be!
It is Easter and after attending church the Sea Kids gather for an egg hunt. Their Sunday school teacher tells them there are 3 special eggs that will win them a key to the prize box to pick a gift of their choice. Paul is autistic and when he doesn’t find a prize egg he becomes very upset. Jimmy finds 2 prize eggs and refuses to give on to Paul even when the teacher suggests it. He just doesn’t understand why he should. In the midst of all this excitement the pastor comes in with Brian manatee, announcing that his little brother Lenny was seriously injured. The next week the sea creatures gather to have a special prayer for Lenny who needs a miracle. Jimmy struggles with wanting to keep both prize eggs and giving one to Paul. He goes to his father for advice.
Prayer is such a strong theme in all of the Sea Kids Adventures books but very much so in this one. Children see how important it is to pray for those who are sick or hurt. All the sea adults coming together for prayer further establishes its importance. With autism becoming very prevalent among children today I thought it was wonderful the author introduced Paul to the story. These children and their behavior are often misunderstood by their peers and adults. I was happy to see all the students accepted, included and even helped Paul. Jimmy asks his Dad if he should give Paul one of his eggs because he was autistic. His Father told him that he was just as special to God as his friend was. If he gave Paul one of his eggs it should only because he wanted to be kind to his friend! Wow! Jimmy prays that night and asks Jesus into his heart. The purpose of Christ’s death, sacrifice and resurrection for our sins is beautifully expressed throughout the book. . I appreciate there was no Easter Bunny mentioned. I believe it take from Christ and replace Him in the eyes of little ones.
I will be using all of this series of books in my Sunday school class. Without a doubt I will be reading them many times with my youngest grandson throughout the years. After his parents trying 13 years to have him, and with no medical intervention he was born 4 days before Easter! He is a miracle to our family!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The opinions stated are my own.

A Servant Like Jesus By Lee Ann Mancini

Charlie the crab is another one of Ms. Mancini’s charming characters. He is very shy so the first day of school is somewhat daunting to the little fellow. While other kids embrace the special day or are crying for their parents, he decides hiding behind the sink and watching is the best choice. When he witnesses students having trouble getting along he is able to tell the teacher what really happened. The teacher is then prompted to ask him to be her special helper. This was just the ticket to bring Charlie out of hiding. Immediately he quotes his resume of special crab skills that he knows will come in useful. Later that day on a field trip a fellow student accidentally falls into a fire coral and is stung. Without hesitating, Charlie alerts the teacher, and rushes to his classmate’s side, to comfort and pray with him. Thanks to his quick actions the student receives first aid. As the day goes on Charlie realizes not only has he had fun, but that he is brave and able to be a servant like Jesus.
New experiences and places can be overwhelming to youngsters. It might be the first day of school, first time to be left at day care, Sunday school or junior church. Some are so incredibly shy like Charlie that it is painful. Children can relate to the cute, colorful Sea Kids facing the same situation. The little crab’s special abilities were needed and helpful to others. I was amused at all the values Charlies sees in his little “crabby” skills, especially walking sideways! I find this a wonderful illustration to point out each child’s unique God given abilities can be a blessing to those around them and can be used to serve the Lord. Prayer is a powerful message in the story, showing kids they can ask God for help, not only for themselves but others anytime and anywhere. Furthermore young readers can see it is okay to pray out loud in front of others. I also noticed another important encouragement for children to do right. When Charlie told his teacher about the students fighting he demonstrated there is a right time to go to those in authority with a problem. Too many youngsters fear being a “tattle-tale”. This is a wonderful point to discuss with your child the difference between tattling and the responsibility to share important information. This little red crab will help kids realize it if fun to serve others!
This book is another blessing in the series! I love how the author doesn’t just focus on just moral character but Christian values based on God’s word! My youngest Grandson is almost 1 year old and loves books. Red is his favorite color right now so I feel quite sure Charlie the crab, will be his favored Sea kid!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The opinions stated are my own.

God’s Gift By Lee Ann Mancini

What a unique children’s holiday book! I have never seen one like it before. The story opens with the sea families preparing for the holiday by decorating their caves and yards. Christian and Mary turtle are putting up their tree and lights getting ready for Christmas. Jacob and Jeremiah starfish are decorating for Hanukkah with their menorah. At the playground the friends begin to bicker about which is better, Christmas or Hanukkah and which yields the most gifts (a very important topic with children). As you can imagine nothing is resolved and the fuming kids go home. Arriving home they immediately vent their anger to their parents. The wise turtle and starfish parents arrange a meeting at each other’s houses to learn about the meanings of their very different celebrations. The young sea creatures learn many valuable lessons and respect for one another’s faith.
This book impressed me on many levels. First of all children of both the Jewish and Christian faith can enjoy it and gain understanding about beliefs and traditions unlike theirs. This is the one thing I feel makes it one of a kind! I was amazed that from the very beginning, Ms. Mancini shares the foundation of each faith’s holiday celebration in one sentence! Throughout the book there is the Star of David and a cross to find.
I appreciated there was no Santa Claus mentioned as I believe that takes away from our celebration of Christ’s birth, especially in the mind of a young child. I also applaud her for tackling the subject of kids overwhelming focus on receiving gifts! The sea parents help the children realize that presents are not what they celebrate and their true gifts are much greater. The parents are once again emphasized as those giving direction and wisdom to the youngsters. Of course as with all of the author’s books, prayer is a central part of the story.
This book took me back to my 2nd grade year. I had a dear friend, which I am still in touch with, that was Jewish. She belonged to my Bluebirds group too. I see now our mothers were wise women as we had a Christmas and Hanukkah party at separate times. It made our holiday celebrations very natural though unalike. Yes, I was focused on gifts and remember asking my mother if I could convert to Judaism as I was sure 8 days of festiveness would yield more loot than just one! I shared this recently with my dear friend 50 years later and we both had a good laugh.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The opinions stated are my own.

God’s Gift By Lee Ann Mancini

What a unique children’s holiday book! I have never seen one like it before. The story opens with the sea families preparing for the holiday by decorating their caves and yards. Christian and Mary turtle are putting up their tree and lights getting ready for Christmas. Jacob and Jeremiah starfish are decorating for Hanukkah with their menorah. At the playground the friends begin to bicker about which is better, Christmas or Hanukkah and which yields the most gifts (a very important topic with children). As you can imagine nothing is resolved and the fuming kids go home. Arriving home they immediately vent their anger to their parents. The wise turtle and starfish parents arrange a meeting at each other’s houses to learn about the meanings of their very different celebrations. The young sea creatures learn many valuable lessons and respect for one another’s faith.
This book impressed me on many levels. First of all children of both the Jewish and Christian faith can enjoy it and gain understanding about beliefs and traditions unlike theirs. This is the one thing I feel makes it one of a kind! I was amazed that from the very beginning, Ms. Mancini shares the foundation of each faith’s holiday celebration in one sentence! Throughout the book there is the Star of David and a cross to find.
I appreciated there was no Santa Claus mentioned as I believe that takes away from our celebration of Christ’s birth, especially in the mind of a young child. I also applaud her for tackling the subject of kids overwhelming focus on receiving gifts! The sea parents help the children realize that presents are not what they celebrate and their true gifts are much greater. The parents are once again emphasized as those giving direction and wisdom to the youngsters. Of course as with all of the author’s books, prayer is a central part of the story.
This book took me back to my 2nd grade year. I had a dear friend, which I am still in touch with, that was Jewish. She belonged to my Bluebirds group too. I see now our mothers were wise women as we had a Christmas and Hanukkah party at separate times. It made our holiday celebrations very natural though unalike. Yes, I was focused on gifts and remember asking my mother if I could convert to Judaism as I was sure 8 days of festiveness would yield more loot than just one! I shared this recently with my dear friend 50 years later and we both had a good laugh.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. The opinions stated are my own…