A Christmas in the Alps  By Melody Carlson

Who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas in France in the scenic Alps!   I know you can’t see me but my hand is raised!  A trip like this isn’t possible for me but I was able to travel with Simone and share in her experiences.

Solid, responsible and loving, Simone has taken care of her Grandmother Betty for the last couple of years. Her friend Andrea is helping her with the monumental task of sifting through a life time of accumulation.   During their endeavor they come upon 3 year old letter addressed to her from her great grandmother.  If that weren’t enough of surprise, Simone reads that her great grandmother asks her to make a trip to the French Alps to find a hidden treasure she has left during the war.  Her grandmother has since died and was a nonagenarian when she wrote it. The chances of it still being there after all these years and the mental state of her relative when she wrote it are questionable.  Would it be worth a trip to France on such slim chances?  Andrea thinks Simone is ready for adventure and a change of scenery.  She encourages . . . no pushes. . . forces Simone into making the trip.  While Simone sees many obstacles, the biggest is her paralyzing anxiety about flying!

After Andrea, being the good friend she is has made all the arrangements Simone boards her flight to France.  She is blessed with a kind, not to mention handsome, young man named Kyle.  He calms her through her panic attacks along the way.  They go their separate ways in Iceland but exchange numbers, hoping to meet again in Paris.

Meeting and becoming acquainted with her French side of the “family” is not all joyfulness and affection, but she perseveres and the secrets of her ancestry open up in surprising ways. She finds the treasure her great-grandmother wrote of is not at all what she imagined.  

I received this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery By Amanda Cox.

So many things attracted me to this book; the cover, the title, the back cover blurb and the author’s reputation for good books!  I must say I was not disappointed!  I loved this book! This story spans a period of 60 years in the lives of 3 generations of women.  The old saying, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” came to my mind as I read.  It holds true in these 3 women’s lives because when we are dishonest in any situation, we open the door to problems that will eventually be out of our control. Each of these women was not deceitful by nature, but through circumstances beyond their control felt hiding their secrets would be less painful for those they loved. 

The Old Depot Grocery had been the center of the family’s life since 1965 when Glory married the owner Clarence, a man 10 years her senior.  The marriage didn’t start out as a traditional one for sure, but through the years grew strong in affection and respect. After her husband died she continued to run the store that she saw as a life blood to her family and community.  After 56 years it was becoming a burden with the new grocery store in town taking most of its customers.  Although she was in her 80’s she was determined to keep it going.  She has secrets from her past that drive her on.

Her daughter, Rosemary, who grew up in the store has other plans.  She wants the store sold and her mother’s last years to be those of ease.  Tempers flare and heads butt as they disagree.  Her mother’s future isn’t the only reason she wants to sell.  She holds many secrets in her heart that have been hidden for many years.

Enter Sarah, daughter and granddaughter.  She has just lost her husband in an accident and comes home in hope of support and healing.  She gets caught in the crossfire of her family and while seeing both sides she has her opinions and even plans. Sarah has her own secrets she holds close.  As the three women once again live in close proximity, their secrecy gives way to a slippery slope of emotions and events that reveal what none of them felt would ever come to light.

I saw so many deep lessons as I read. Shame and fear of upsetting others involved are never motives to hide the truth.  It hurts far more to find out one was betrayed than to face the pain of facts.  The longer one conceals secrets, the more complicated they become and the harder it is to come clean.  I also saw how forgiving yourself is often more difficult than forgiving another.

I couldn’t put the book down!  There are so many surprises along the way! It was incredible to view all three lives and see what the other ones could not see.  A dynamic and entertaining book!

I received this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Aunt Ida Clare By Michele McCarthy

Children are bombarded with so much negative in the world. They are faced with bullies and unkind kids at school.  Media programs that make them feel they don’t measure up in many ways. Even adults in their life unthinkingly make statements that can undermine their value in their eyes.  They have little encouragement or teaching them to show how truly special they are.  These comments stay with their impressionable minds and hearts for life. I know some of the remarks made to me in my youth have stayed with me all these years. (And trust me that is a lot of years!) Because of these things, too many children have a “can’t do” rather than a “can do” mind set.  

This book is a wonderful, fun way to encourage and turn about a child’s thinking.  It centers around the importance of words.  And after all that is where it all begins isn’t it, with the spoken word?

All of us have that crazy aunt.  Well Aunt Ida was definitely one of those!  She has just moved to town near the children and is called upon to babysit them.  At first they are skeptical but are quickly caught up in her excitement, positivity and quirkiness.  There are lots of unusual fun, descriptive words.  (Personally my favorite word is bodacious but much to my disappointment it is not in the book).

Aunt Ida quickly turns the children’s negative thinking around.  Two things I especially liked about is one, it center’s around the Bible and God’s perspective on our words. Secondly I loved the object lesson she uses to get this across.  It is unforgettable and easily applied to your children’s lives.  Not telling what it is because I don’t want to be a spoiler!

I will not only read it with my grandchildren (more than once) but also use it as a lesson in my Sunday school class.  I also plan to get each child the item used in the object lesson! A much needed powerful little book that I see being a real game changer in children’s lives! Thank you to Michele McCarty for giving me a copy of this book.  The opinions in this review are my own.

Under the Bayou Moon  By Valerie Fraser Luesse

I have some close friends from Louisiana that are so in love with their state and the life they had there.  I have been there briefly once but otherwise knew little about it.  After reading this book I understand what they are talking about.

The time is 1949.  Ellie Fields wants to break out of her family’s preconceived ideas about how her future would be and have some adventure!  That opportunity comes when she is offered a teaching job in the Bernadette, Louisiana.  She sets off alone from her comfortable home in Alabama in her 1939 car she has named Mabel. 

What she finds is a far cry from what she expected.  She finds she will be teaching 12 grades alone.  The children are terrified of teachers due to some abusive discipline the school board wants enforced when children speak their native language, French.   The housing she is provided is only accessible by a fairly long boat ride and her home has no electricity or indoor amenities.  She is really out in the boonies alone! Such a culture shock! Ellie is determined to stay and do the very best job she can.  I loved her fearlessness, grit and determination to face challenges head on and to be a part of the community. Raphe Broussard, a lifetime resident, becomes a source of encouragement and guidance she needs to settle in.  He is trying to raise his orphaned nephew.  A job he definitely feels unqualified for.  Little do they know a powerful politician has evil motives to do harm to the sleepy community to clear the way for his financial advancement.

The characters and town were delightful.  The deep caring and commitment they had for each other is something I wish was everywhere.  Their lives were poor and even backward, but they were so content and happy!  I was swept away by the author’s beautiful descriptions of the bayou, and the simple lifestyle of the people.  I felt so peaceful and relaxed, and pictured myself sitting on their front porches, looking out at the water, no TV, phones, or internet to distract.  Pure pleasure!  I felt a longing to go and experience it.   I learned so much about the Cajun heritage, traditions and personality!   One surprising thing about the book was that when most would end, this one was just beginning.  I enjoyed the excitement and mystery!  I either couldn’t put the book down because I was caught up in the beautiful moments or because I had to see what happened next!  A book you want to read!

I received this book from Revell Books in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Beyond the Tides By Liz Johnson

I was drawn into this unique story immediately!   It checked all the boxes:  Mystery, humor, romance, inspiration, and faith!

Oliver had been helping Meg’s father in his lobster business for many years.  Both men had love, respect and close working relationship.  The unusual thing is that Meg had a deep seated resentment and bitterness against Oliver for something that happened 10 years ago in high school.  You could even say she loathed him. She had moved away and had a teaching job she loved.

Her mother’s health takes a frightening turn for the worse. This forces her father to sell his business so he can take care of his wife.  The logical one to buy it is Oliver, who desperately needs income.  Meg has never worked the business and get violently sea sick even standing on a boat.  Her grudge spurs her to tell her father she wants it.  Oliver has the skills and loyalty and it is Meg’s legacy. Which should he choose and how?  To resolve the problem, he decides Oliver and Meg work side by side on the boat for the fishing season and then he will pick one of them to own his business.    Talk about pouring gas on the fire!  With gritty determination they both take the challenge.

What transpires is beautiful.  The constant act of working together brings about miraculous changes in both their lives.  God begins to work in both their lives in unexpected ways and does what is seemingly impossible.  There are lots of surprises along the way for the reader and so many really funny moments. 

I so enjoyed this book and cannot wait to read the next one in this series 2

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Eat God’s Food By Susan U. Neal RN, MBA, MHS

I was very impressed with this book and I wish it was around when my girls were young.   I am happy it is here for my grandsons though!  Healthy eating is very important, but most people today still do not choose it.

Our bodies are the temple of God and as Christians caring for them is very important.  Children are bombarded with all the unhealthy foods by friends, family,

and advertisements.  This book not only teaches them healthy eating in a fun way but also biblical perspective. 

Each section asks the question, “Why did God give you. . .” and names a particular food group. It covers fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seed, meat and seafood and water (not recipe on the last one of course!)

The pages are colorfully illustrated to spark young one’s interest.  Included are fun activities to aid in learning and a healthy recipe!  Children will learn and enjoy doing it. The book covers even more important information kids need to not only make healthy eating choices but why.  A great book to encourage children to start eating right at an early age!

I received this book as a gift from the author.  The opinions stated are my own.

To Steal a Heart By Jen Turano

Gabriella Goodhue has had a hard life.  As a child she was forced to work as a thief many other children for an unscrupulous man, until being rescued into an orphanage.  Now as an adult she has turned all that around.  She is has become an upright citizen and has a respectable job as a seamstress.  She resides at the Bleeker Street Boardinghouse with a most unusual group of women.  Each with their own past and funny quirks, but together have formed a close knit family. 

One of the tenants there is falsely accused of stealing an expensive heirloom from an aristocratic family.  Gabriella is determined to clear their name.  She disguises herself and goes undercover at a ball to try and nab the real thief.  In the process, she is thrown together with Nicholas Quinn.  He was a part of the child thief ring and they had been very close, but had not seen each other in many years.  Nicholas was taken in by a wealthy man and is now part of high society. He purposes to help her solve her case but she wants nothing to do with him.  She has past hurts of feeling he abandoned her.

As with all of Ms. Turano’s books the events that follow are hilarious and touching! I couldn’t quit laughing at the escapades of Gabriella, Nicholas and the motley group from the boardinghouse. Daphne, her friend and fellow tenant, was my favorite character!  Her eccentricities paired with her helping Gabriella were hysterical   I loved the suspense and close calls they found themselves in.  What I liked most was Nicholas’s strong faith in the Lord and his gentle guiding to help Gabriella see that God loved her and she could trust Him. This is such a fun book and the ending will surprise you.  Thank you Ms. Turano for brightening my reading days with another fantastic book!

The Nature of Small Birds By Susie Finkbeiner

The Vietnam War was a news topic all my growing up years and early adulthood.  I remember the headlines.  When Operation Baby Lift occurred April 4 to April 19, 1975, I had just given birth to my first child on April 4th.  As I held my sweet baby, I remember hurting for all these frightened children being brought to the United States.  They had already been through such traumatic experiences.  I heard of families that had adopted them, but I knew nothing of their lives after that.

Mindy was one of those children.  The story goes back and forth between Mindy’s thoughts and feelings and that of her adoptive father and mother.  Each had, of course, such different perspectives. This gave a complete picture mentally and emotionally of what so many children and families faced. I had not even considered the racial and political hurdles they would have to handle, not only in their communities but within extended family.  For me this added to the challenges of trying to give a child love and security while making them a part of your family.  In addition, these sweet little ones had no way of telling you the horrors they had seen. Mindy’s new family was loving, accepting, and wonderful, she always felt as if she did not belong.  As an adult she found herself wanting to meet her birth family.  Her desire was muddled with fear, doubt, and insecurity of what she might find out.  Her parents supported her 100% by helping her work through her maze of emotions.

Not only did I enjoy Mindy’s story, but also the closeness and love the family shared.  I enjoyed their humor and sensitivity toward one another and so many happy times.

Ms. Finkbeiner has a unique way of making her stories personal and real.  For me, this book brought to life what might have happened to those children and their new families.

100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety By Bethany House Publishers

This book is not what I was expecting but in a very good way!  Being a worry wart has been a struggle for me most of my adult life.  In the last few years due to health issues, family losses and medication changes, my battle with worry and anxiety has reached an all-time high.  So of course my interest was piqued in reading this book. I was expecting to find the best known and loved scriptures concerning this subject and an application or story to go with them. 

I am pleased to say I found much more!  This book goes much deeper than that!  Yes it has those comforting verses but it also has truths from the Bible that remind a Christian of their foundation in Christ and the true Source of all comfort.

Each page with a verse has four parts:

Context: This gives a background what is going on in the scripture, in relation to the lesson, the events and the people involved.

Meaning: I found this very helpful.  It fleshes out the verse with visualization, feelings, and thoughts.  I found many helpful insights in the section.

Application: I think of the three, this one helped the most.  When you are caught up in anxiety your thinking can get muddled.  This part gave me direction in how to use what I had read and learned.

At the end of each section are included more scriptures to read. Far more than just a Bible references to verses. A wonderful book!

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Betty Greene By Janet and Geoff Benge

Betty’s desire to be a pilot blossomed at the very young age of 8 years old, and that dream never diminished.  Her mother pushed her into enrolling in nursing school, but after two years she dropped out.  All she wanted to do was fly!  In 1940 she was visiting a 70 year old neighbor, and poured out her frustrations about what to do with her life.   The wise old woman asked her what she loved doing the most and Betty’s answers were flying and helping with the youth group at church. Her neighbor pointed out she could do both by helping by flying for Christian missions. Once she got home she prayed and told God that although she had never heard of anyone flying to spread the gospel, if it was what He wanted her to do, He would work it out. Just a few weeks after her prayer, she heard of a civilian pilot training.  She enrolled and was accepted.  From that point on God continued to move with opportunity after opportunity in training and experience.  Being an eager student Betty excelled in everything she did.  She flew for Women’s Airforce Service in World War 2. She is honored with the title of the first woman to fly over the Andes and also to be allowed to fly over Sudan (women pilots were not allowed at that time). With 3 other men she helped found and Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship. Now the Mission Aviation Fellowship. Her adventures were incredible; flying to isolated jungle areas, staying with missionaries, hiking through the jungle, and repairing planes in remote areas.  She even coordinated and flew missions across many continents which was no easy feat with numerous stops for fueling plus time to rest, all in different countries!  I found all she did mind boggling, but the planning and knowledge it took to accomplish this was incredible.  She had so many close calls, emergency situations, illness and just downright scary circumstances.  Betty loved every minute of it and never wavered.  I won’t even travel to another state alone in a car!  What I found most impressive was all of this was done with her intense devotion to God and desire to serve Him. One amazing lady! 

Thank you to YWAM Publishing for a providing this book for me to review.  The opinions stated are my own.