Friday, December 21, 2012

Wonder

I had a highly-respected reading friend suggest the book, Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  So I promptly got a copy and began reading - and thus begins a wonderful story.  I can hardly even relay how strongly I feel about this book - it hit me as a mom, it struck strong cords as a friend, and it moved me deeply on a human level in general.  This is the powerful story of August Pullman, a fifth grade boy born with a severe facial deformity, who is just trying to make his way through middle school - just like all the other kids.  However, his way through school is not at all easy - which can be normal for all kids - but even worse when you look like an "orc".  My heart ached for August as he tried to be like all the other kids - but he was very rarely accepted for who he really was.  What you do come to see through a few close friends, are strong friendships that are based on looking beyond the outward and looking inside to see who our friends REALLY are.  I just LOVE this book - and feel so strongly that I even think it should be required reading in middle school!  I mean that - let's see each other and how we are alike - not how we are different - let's see each other's hearts!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Snow Child

Eowyn Ivey has written a novel, The Snow Child, that is sure to be a gem for many readers.  This is based loosely on the children's novel, The Snow Child, by Freya Littledale.  And maybe that's what caught me - I loved it that it was based on a child's fairytale and yet turned itself into a novel that had me riveted from very early on.  I was drawn right into the story of Jack and Mabel and their life on the Alaskan frontier.  I felt for them when they lost their first child, and I was so excited for them when they had a little girl show up on their property - it just seemed perfect.  However, the story takes quite a twist when their little Faina grows up.  It was pure fabulousness on the part of Ivey to take the story in the direction she did - she follows the premise of the fairytale, but takes you in a round-about way.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Blackberry Winter

I finished another of Sarah Jio’s books – Blackberry Winter. Jio is a writer that gives you a fabulous story from page one! You are drawn in immediately – and she takes you full circle until you hit the last page and are left wondering if you really wanted it to end! This novel is one of my favorites of hers so far – it ties in the stories of two women – Vera Ray, who lived in Seattle in 1933, and Claire Aldridge, also a mom that lives in Seattle during present day. The moving story shows the loss of children and the impact it had on these two women’s lives. Their stories are profoundly different and yet SO much alike. It is well told – the characters are real and become people you care about as you read. Jio has done it again – another enthralling read!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Love Anthony

Love Anthony is the latest novel by Lisa Genova. You may remember Genova has written Still Alice and Left Neglected, both intriguing novels that showcase Genova’s expertise in neuroscience. Love Anthony is much the same in nature – a novel that focuses on autism from the mind of the autistic child. I thought just getting into the mind of the autistic child was fascinating. When we observe autistic children, we often wonder how much they are relating to our world. According to Genova, they are VERY MUCH involved and have strong feelings about how they are treated. I thought that aspect of the novel was riveting – in fact, I could have used more of those thoughts/feelings throughout the novel. The other story lines, family-related issues, were good, but, I didn’t think they were as strong as those of her other novels. I think it’s worth a read – just maybe not one of my “top-of-the-list” of Genova’s novels.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Afterwards

When I first started, Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, I thought for sure I would not like it - it was just too odd.  I could hardly get past the fact that two dead people were talking to each other - but when I figured out that it was a mother and daughter, both of which went through a fire and are near-death, who are talking with each other - learning about each other - trying to put together pieces to the mystery of the fire - it was enough to keep me going.  I loved that this book is told unlike any other I have read - a mom and daughter - hovering on the brink of life and death - learning how to really love each other.  I thought it was a great read - a super mystery and a strong novel that delves into family relationships as well.

Love what Amazon's review says:

The school is on fire. Her children are inside.
   Grace runs toward the burning building, desperate to reach them.
   In the aftermath of the devastating fire which tears her family apart, Grace embarks on a mission to find the person responsible and protect her children from further harm.  This fire was not an accident, and her daughter Jenny may still be in grave danger. Grace is the only one who can discover the culprit, and she will do whatever it takes to save her family and find out who committed the crime that rocked their lives.  While unearthing truths about her life that may help her find answers, Grace learns more about everyone around her -- and finds she has courage she never knew she possessed.
   Powerful and beautiful, with a riveting story and Lupton’s trademark elegant style that made Sister such a sweeping success, Afterwards explores the depths of a mother’s unswerving love.



Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Jenny Wingfield's debut novel, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, is a book that is guaranteed to keep you reading.  I was taken in immediately by the intricacy of her characters and the plot that unfolds simply as you read.  It is the tender story of the Moses clan - Willadee, Moses' daughter, and her husband, Samuel Lake, and their three children, that head back to Arkansas every June for the Moses family reunion.  This year, the reunion starts out like any other but tragically takes a turn as they lose an important family member.  What unfolds after the loss, becomes the major crux of the story - and it revolves around Swan, Willadee and Samuel's eleven year old daughter.  She is a fabulous character that you will love from the start.  I was drawn to her simple and yet very complex line of thinking - she is a wonderful eleven-year-old.

There were some tough parts to the novel - abuse of animals and children - but it wasn't drawn out so much that I couldn't get through it - and the end is redemptive.  The novel left me in tears - I would highly recommend this one!  I agree with this review:

“It’s all here. Faith. Honesty. Sin. Redemption. . . . Anyone who loves Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird will delight in Swan, the Lakes' eleven-year-old daughter.”—USA Today 

 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Age of Miracles

I had heard lots of talk about Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles.  That is what prompted me to pick it up when I saw it sitting on the shelf.  It is in interesting premise - Julia, a teenager, wakes up to find that the world is changing - drastically, in fact.  The earth is slowing - days and nights are growing longer, gravity is also being affected, and it affects every part of her life.  Even her mother, already not coping with the change well, contracts a disease related to the slowing of the earth.  I have to say that it kept me intrigued - great idea for a book.  But I have to admit that it didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped.  The characters didn't grab me - even though the storyline is a great idea.  Give it a whirl and let me know what you think - I love to hear what others think!

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Unmarked Grave

My first encounter with Charles Todd as an author was a hit!  An Unmarked Grave is a "Bess Crawford Mystery" which means almost nothing to me as I've never read a Bess Crawford Mystery nor have I ever heard of them.  But now I have and you can be sure I am on the lookout!  This is a wonderful mystery set in 1918 - I loved the history AND the plot.  Bess Crawford is a battlefield nurse that is drawn into a baffling mystery because people she worked closely with are now dying or being killed - she has to decide which.  Because of Bess' family background and inability to leave a mystery alone, she is determined to get to the bottom of this rash of deaths.  It was suspenseful and well-written - great World War I intrigue and history to boot!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ivy and Bean - Week 3

Here is Week 3 in our countdown to Ivy and Bean Day!

This week - leave a comment to win Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record AND some Ivy and Bean Mini Notes!!!  If you've read Ivy and Bean books before, leave me a comment telling me why you enjoy them.  If you haven't read them - tell me one Ivy and Bean title that looks good!

I will choose a winner on Sunday, September 2.

Last week's winner was Comment 2 - Jasmine Ko - so Jasmine, I need your mailing address!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School Books!

Here is a fabulous post with some back-to-school books!

Over a Steaming Cup of Tea



*I was sent all of these as review copies by the publisher.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ivy and Bean Countdown

There's a new Ivy and Bean Book out SOON!!  And in honor of that - we have fun prizes!!


So leave a comment and tell me your favorite Ivy and Bean title, OR, if you have not read them yet, tell me which you'd like to read!  Winners will receive a copy of Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that Had to Go and some mini notes too!  So comment away - winners will be announced 8/26/2012!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mother of Pearl

I want to encourage you to read this new book by Margaret McSweeney - Mother of Pearl is a book that is full of collective wisdom from women - women that have been there and know life.  It will encourage you to pull through the busy life of a mom and a woman and come out on the other side -strengthened and full of hope.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am confident you will too!

About the Book:
Like oysters, women often encounter unexpected grit during their everyday lives. In response, God’s love and grace covers this grit and transforms the pain into a precious pearl that leaves a layered, luminous lining within a shell: Mother of Pearl. This brilliant luster is strong, lasting, and purposeful—just like the love, lessons, and legacies left by the special women in our lives. Mother of Pearl celebrates the collective iridescence of motherhood. Margaret McSweeney presents a collection of heartfelt vignettes from authors who communicate the importance of the unique relationships between mothers and their children, between granddaughters and grandmothers and between children and the mother-figures in their lives. These stories tell of the power of faith, prayer, and values, exploring coming of age, the joy of becoming a mother, the importance of motherhood, the ways to heal from a bad relationship with a mother and weathering the death of a special loved one. Poignant and thought-provoking, the stories serve to inspire, encourage, instill hope, and strengthen faith. The proceeds from the sale of Mother of Pearl will be donated to organizations helping struggling women and children. The charities include Wings (Women in Need Growing Stronger) to help fund the Safe House in the Chicago suburbs and to Hands of Hope to help build wells for schoolchildren in Zambia.
About the Author:

Margaret McSweeney is a well-published author often writing online articles for Make It Better (the former North Shore Magazine) and freelance articles for the Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. In addition, she has authored and compiled several books including A Mother’s Heart Knows; Go Back and Be Happy; Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, Mother of Pearl and Aftermath. With a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina in international business, Margaret became a vice-president in the corporate finance division of a New York City bank and worked there 1986–93. As founder of Pearl Girls, Margaret collaborates with other writers on projects to help fund a safe house for WINGS, an organization that helps women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, and to build wells for schoolchildren in Uganda through Hands of Hope. For the past 10 years she has served on the board of directors and leadership advisory board for WINGS. Margaret lives with her husband and 2 daughters in the Chicago suburbs. www.pearlgirls.info.
To read what others have to say about this book - visit the blog tour - Mother of Pearl.


* I was sent a review copy by the publisher for this blog tour.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Pop-Up Bible Stories

What a fun little book with a new twist on Bible Stories - a Pop-Up version!!  Juliet David has created My Pop-Up Bible Stories.  This is an adorable book with tender illustrations by Daniel Haworth.  The book will need to be used with care as any pop-up would - and it does only include 5 stories - I'd LOVE to see more!!!  But it is still fun and my girls are enjoying it!  The five stories are a combination of Old and New Testament stories so it gives a fun and simple overview that we can share with our little ones.  This is an author that KNOWS her stuff when it comes to Bible Stories - her list of books she's written is long - enjoy another new one by this "seasoned" author!


*I was sent this book to review by the publisher - Kregel Books - as part of a blog tour.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Extra Yarn

Mac Barnett has written a children's book that is "THE BEST" according to my 6 and 8 year old girls!  Extra Yarn is such a fun picture book - the story of Annabelle and her ball of yarn that just never stops!  She knits for herself, her family, her friends, her pets, other animals and then just keeps knitting for trees, houses, and even trucks!!  It isn't until the Archduke comes to find the secret to the yarn that we, as readers, get to see what is truly inside that secret yarn box!  SO fun - and Jon Klassen's illustrations are MAGNIFICENT - check out his use of limited color - I just LOVE it!!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Tales of the Not Forgotten

As a parent, one thing we strive to do is keep our children mission-minded.  That is not easy in this world we live in - but we sure try!  We forget how fortunate we are - we get focused on our own lives and our problems and we forget about the rest of the world.  So I was thrilled to be a part of a blog tour that focused on Beth Guckenberger's Tales of the Not Forgotten.  This is a wonderful book/DVD that challenges our young teens to look beyond themselves and see kids their own age - following God.  I can not even say enough good about this book, leader's guide, and DVD!  I see this being so powerful in our homes but also in our churches - for use in youth groups or middle age programming.  Do not miss this wonderful tool!
Visit the blog tour HERE.
Here is what others have said:
"Throughout Scripture we see that God's heart is for the orphans. He is in constant pursuit of them and has placed a special call on the church to care for the orphan. The church is waking to this truth at a very intense level these days and God is using Beth as a means to call the church to action on behalf of the orphan. Beth speaks clearly, powerfully, and with a passion that comes from living among and serving orphans in distress. Beth is able to deeply engage her audience in understanding the reality of life as an orphan and how the orphaned heart is affected when abandoned or abused. In a compelling way, Beth moves the openhearted person from just caring about the orphan to becoming a person who will care for the orphan. She presents the clear and emotive reality of life as an orphan in such a manner that people rise up to take action for these precious ones." - Steve Biondo, SVP, Family Christian Stores, President, The James Fund
"Our NASCAR community had the opportunity to hear Beth speak in our chapel at the racetrack. She captured the hearts of our community and has made a lasting impression in lives. Her heart for the orphan is evident and contagious." - Lonnie Clouse (Motor Racing Outreach), Lead Chaplain, NASCAR Nationwide Series

Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries (based in Cincinnati, OH) which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Back2Back Ministries connects willing workers to open hearts through international and local ministry opportunities. Their ministry is currently caring and providing for orphan children and needy people in Mexico, Nigeria, India and most recently, Haiti.

Beth travels and speaks regularly at women's and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. Her topics include orphan care, missions, parenting, marriage/intimacy, and faith. Her story-telling style captures audiences, and she draws from her field experience as a missionary and parent for illustrations to biblical concepts. In addition to her latest release, Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing 2012), Beth has written Relentless Hope (Standard, 2011) and Reckless Faith (Zondervan, 2008).

The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico where they have hosted thousands of guests on their ministry campus. Between biological, foster, and adopted additions to their family, Beth and Todd are raising nine children. Learn how you can join Beth in ministry at www.bethguckenberger.com or www.back2backministries.org.

More from the publisher:

Follow these real-life stories as they take you on a journey to faraway lands and unknown faces. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver writing endings you’d never imagine! Joel dares to ask for what he can’t have. Seraphina sacrifices what she can’t afford to give. Ibrahim looks for an answer buried out of reach. Christiana, saved by a mission, searches for her own. These are the tales of the ones the world doesn’t see . . . the tales of the not forgotten. In this collection of four real-life stories written for preteens, a compelling storyteller paints a picture of God’s dynamic movement in four foreign cultures, inspiring children to trust that God is weaving a story in their lives as well.

This resource will shrink the macro picture down to approachable, individual stories of real children and teach about fundamental survival issues. The stories address some of the challenging questions that kids have and weave God's promises to orphans into each one. The Tales of the Not Forgotten Leader’s Guide is a 6-session kids' missions resource (sold separately) that walks adults through an easy-to-follow guide for making the abstract real and for designing an action plan to help others. Preteens will be challenged to answer the questions: How do I pray? What can I give? Where can I go? Who will I serve?


*I was sent a copy for review purposes by the publisher.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gold

Chris Cleave hit it out of the ballpark with Little Bee and now, I am again reminded of what a fabulous writer he is with Gold.  When I first started this book, I thought racing bicyclists - hmm, maybe not.  But I was drawn in right away and caught up to the very end of the book.  The book does not bog down with bicycling details, but is very interesting to see the life of a professional Olympic bicyclist.  It follows the story of three Olympic bicyclists - Kate, Jack and Zoe - and how their lives intertwine to tell their stories.  Their lives certainly intertwine - Kate and Zoe train together and race together but also compete together.  Jack and Zoe have a history but Jack and Kate are now married - hmmm - need I say more - the characters are pretty tangled in this one!  A story of 8 year old Sophie and her battle with leukemia - a story of the hopelessness of life for a character that seemingly "has it all" - and a story of devotion and sacrifice of parents.  I loved this book - I could feel for each character and I was riveted to the very end!  (And it's oh-so-timely here in the days of our current Olympics - don't miss it!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turn of Mind

Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind is a riveting read.  It is the incredibly sad story of Dr. Jennifer White, a 64 year old retired orthopedic surgeon, who is learning to live with dementia.  The story is told from Jennifer's perspective and can be so hard to read at times - how she can not even remember her son or daughter must be a challenge for the whole family - but seeing it all from Jennifer's side is almost worse.  What makes this book even more appealing is the murder storyline.  Jennifer's best friend has recently been murdered and the police suspect her as the murderer.  This book is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final pages - I could not believe how it ended - I had no idea and DID NOT see it coming.  It is just gives some great insight into dementia patients and what they live with, and what their families and friends live with - all from an insider's perspective.  I would highly recommend this book - it was a fabulous read!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Passages

Are you feeling bored in your spiritual life?  Feel like you've hit a wall and are sliding down?  Brian Hardin tackles this in his book, Passages.  If you feel like your daily Bible readings are not very meaningful - you will love how Hardin tries to challenge you that your daily reading might just change you AND become the highlight of your day.  First he helps you to see that there is a big God that loves you and wants to be part of your life and he shows you how you can find time to spend with God and make a plan to see it happen.  He sets up a reading plan for the next year to get you through the entire Bible chronologically.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book - Hardin makes you think AND laugh - and I value that in a writer!  He is grounded and practical - just what we NEED!  Check out his great book AND his website.

To read what others have to say about Hardin's book - visit this tour schedule.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Surprised by Oxford

I am telling everyone I know that they MUST pick up this book - what a wonderful read Carolyn Weber has crafted.  Surprised by Oxford is Carolyn's memoir of her journey to Christ through Oxford.  I loved everything about this book - her writing is fabulous!  She weaves in many references to literature as she teaches literature and her background comes through loud and clear.  What I love about this book is that Weber heads off to Oxford to study - NOT to find God - but her journey is chronicled so well that you, as the reader, can feel her struggle as she strongly makes it clear she DOES NOT need God.  Weber is a pretty strong woman with strong feminist ideas - her journey is fantastic and will resonate with many people that read it.  Her questioning is real and the answers people give her in her journey are thoughts we can all relate to and may have heard ourselves along the way.  I would give this to skeptics, new believers, and people who've been believers for ages - it will challenge and encourage - I loved it!

*I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If you like......

What a great tool - plug in your favorite authors and they will give you more suggestions - hmmm, check it out!!!

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