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Wednesday, March 22

It's Raining Books!

Kids / Teens

The Legend of the Sand Dollar (Chris Auer)
This newly illustrated edition of The Legend of the Sand Dollar renews the wonder and charm of the original and timeless tale written by Chris Auer. With new vibrant artwork from Bad Dog, Marley illustrator, Richard Cowdrey, this holiday classic is brought to life for a new generation. The Legend of the Sand Dollar tells the story of Kerry, as her cousin Jack reveals to her the deeper meaning of Easter hidden within something as small as a sand dollar. This Easter tale reminds everyone everywhere that when Jesus died for us and was resurrected, he promised hope for all.

Beautiful illustrations grab your attention very first when cracking open this book...once you get past the cover! The story line is a good one, too. It's the story of the biblical explanations behind the grand design of the sand dollar, but within the context of a fictionalized trip. This is a wonderful children's book and perfect for an Easter time read aloud! It also helps that our family loves visiting the beach. Now, the kids are looking forward to scouting out sand dollars the next time we go!

Let's Be Real (Natasha Bure)
From singer, model and YouTube celebrity Natasha Bure, the daughter of Candace Cameron Bure, comes a real, honest conversational book that doesn’t hold back. Everywhere she goes and every video she posts has one basic message: this is real, this is life, and we all go through it. Whether it’s acne, boyfriends, faith, stress, or having fun, Natasha’s view is to simply be honest, simply be real, no matter what you face. Natasha’s real and relatable tone paired with personal notes and stories will help readers see that living a “real” life is the best life.

Although some of the material would have been Greek to me (texting?  what is that?) as a teenager, I wish this book had been around back them.  The message is classic - know yourself, love yourself, and be true to yourself - but the delivery is modernized to connect with today's teens.  Though directed at girls, the messages can be extracted and used with boys as well.  My favorite part, and the one I've photocopied to give to my teen son, is the Ten Rules toward the back of the book.  Although the author comes from famous stock, and lives in the limelight herself, she comes across as very down to earth and easy to relate to...she'll tell you when you're doing well, call you on it when you're not doing so hot, and she always "keeps it real."  She's someone you would want to be friends with.

FaithGirlz Promises for You : Coloring Devotional (Zondervan)
Take time to enjoy God’s Word and color images from his beautiful world. In this 60-day coloring devotional filled with unique illustrations and patterns, you will read about God’s unchanging promises through NIV Bible verses, paired with detailed line art. Each page is printed on high-quality, thick paper stock that won’t bleed through. And when you’re finished coloring with markers, metallic pens, or colored pencils, you will have a chance to reflect and journal about each promise from Scripture, and find inspiration for every day. Perfect for girls 8-12.

This is a great coloring book for preteens and teens.  It's aimed at girls, obviously, and one complaint I have about these types of things is that I'd like to see something geared toward boys, too.  That said, I like how it has a short scripture and devotional section, written in a format that is relevant to today's teen, along with space for journaling thoughts.  The pages are thick and aren't going to bleed through, so you can color with your choice of crayons, pencils, or markers, without any fear.  The pictures are calming, and are also the perfect size for completing in a short period of time. 

For Love and Honor (Jody Hedlund)
Lady Sabine is harboring a skin blemish, one, that if revealed, could cause her to be branded as a witch, put her life in danger, and damage her chances of making a good marriage. After all, what nobleman would want to marry a woman so flawed? Sir Bennet is returning home to protect his family from an imminent attack by neighboring lords who seek repayment of debts. Without fortune or means to pay those debts, Sir Bennet realizes his only option is to make a marriage match with a wealthy noblewoman. As a man of honor, he loathes the idea of courting a woman for her money, but with time running out for his family’s safety, what other choice does he have? As Lady Sabine and Sir Bennet are thrust together under dangerous circumstances, will they both be able to learn to trust each other enough to share their deepest secrets? Or will those secrets ultimately lead to their demise?

This is the third story in a medieval-themed trilogy that includes "A Daring Sacrifice" and "An Uncertain Choice," however each is a stand-alone story.  The book has a fairy tale aura, but is definitely historical fiction.  The reader will learn something of the era as they follow the story.  The age of chivalry is alive and well within these stories, which is something that I feel is missing from today's world - and teens should be exposed to it.  Young ladies should expect knightly behavior from the young men around them.  The book also nods toward character qualities, including patience and persistence, as the main characters experience struggles and work toward the outcome.  For the young adult on the cusp of teen and adulthood, this is a good novel.

Adult Fiction

When Tides Turn (Sarah Sundin)
When fun-loving glamour girl Quintessa Beaumont learns the Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, determined to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. No-nonsense and hoping to make admiral, Lt. Dan Avery has been using his skills to fight German U-boats. The last thing he wants to see on his radar is a girl like Tess. For her part, Tess works hard to prove her worth in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston--both to her commanding officers and to the man with whom she is smitten. When Dan is assigned to a new escort carrier at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, he's torn between his lifelong career goals and his desire to help Tess root out a possible spy on shore. The Germans put up quite a fight, but he wages a deeper battle within his heart. Could Tess be the one for him?

This is book three in the series, and I had already read (and loved!) the first two books, but they are definitely able to be read as stand-alone books, too.  Wrapping up the series, we have Tess fighting to find her identity as a 'practical' woman in the war.  There is a romance, with the last brother from the same family which weaves through the entire series, but it's only part of the story.  The heart of the story lies with the mystery that Tess is trying to solve.  I'm not giving anything away, but it's not something that you'll be able to solve immediately either...  The author has done an immense amount of research, and she skillfully weaves that into the story, bringing you both a novel and a history lesson all wrapped up in one! 

A Note Yet Unsung (Tamera Alexander)
A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the new maestro at the Nashville Philharmonic. But women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed when the conductor--determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music--bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah's new employer, agrees with him.  Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's youngest orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head, he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city's new symphony hall. Even more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music--his dying father. As Tate's ailment worsens, he knows Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he's robbed her of her dream?

This is a story of faith and loyalty, swathed in beautiful music!  There's even a link on the author's website with the music from the story - listen to it as you will transform your reading experience!  The theme of the novel is to trust God, even when you don't understand why nothing is going the way you want it to.  It's about taking chances and finding out who's really on your side at the end of the day.  I could say more, but it would ruin the story and the journey you'll take as you read just go to the website, play the music, and enjoy the read!
*All of Tamera's Belmont Mansion novels are complete stories within themselves. The "series" part of the novels is the historic Belmont Mansion setting in Nashville and some of the secondary characters.  The other two books in the series are : A Lasting Impression & A Beauty So Rare

Written in Love (Kathleen Fuller)
Jalon Chupp has a past he isn’t proud to claim. He’s worked hard to overcome his youthful mistakes, and he has recommitted himself to his faith. When he receives a sweet note included in a piece of misdirected mail, he can’t help but write back. Soon, the letters he receives from Phoebe are the highlights of his days, and with a hopeful heart, he suggests they meet in person.  Phoebe, too, looks forward to every single one of Jalon’s letters. Living with her overbearing aunt, Phoebe doesn’t have too much to look forward to. But when Jalon suggests they meet, she panics—although she has shared some of the deepest longings of her heart with him, she hasn’t been entirely truthful about her past. But when Jalon shows up at her aunt’s doorstep, everything is revealed. And she can only pray he’ll forgive her for holding back the truth.  In order to reach beyond the errors of their pasts, both Phoebe and Jalon must put their faith in something—or Someone—bigger than either of them could pen.

This is the first book in a new series, but it wraps up nicely and you won't need to read the rest of the series for closure.  There are some interesting secondary-primary characters that I expect we will see in the next two books of the Amish Letters series.  The story is written in third person, and the main characters, Phoebe and Jalon, are humanly flawed - it is these flaws that carries the story.  Some of the darker sides of Rumspringa, including unplanned pregnancy and alcoholism, are discussed, as well as redemption from past mistakes.  There are many (at times, too many) hurdles that the characters must overcome as they forgive themselves and accept each other's flaws on their path to togetherness.

Treasured Grace (Tracie Peterson)
Grace Martindale has known more than her share of hardship. After her parents died, raising her two younger sisters became her responsibility. A hasty marriage to a minister who is heading to the untamed West seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start, but a cholera outbreak along the wagon trail has left Grace a widow in a very precarious position.  Having learned natural remedies and midwifery from her mother, Grace seeks an opportunity to use her skills for the benefit of others. So when she and her sisters arrive at the Whitman mission in "Oregon Country," she decides to stay rather than push on.   With the help of Alex Armistead, a French-American fur trapper, Grace begins to provide care for her neighbors, including some of the native populace. But not everyone welcomes her skills--or her presence--and soon Grace finds herself and those she loves in more danger than she imagined possible.

This book, the first in a new series, feels like a non-fiction book.  It's a fictional story, but the author has done so much research into the time period, the setting, and how the people lived that it really feels like a true account.  I'm a big fan of stories where you learn something along the way, so this was a plus.  Also, it's not dry, like regular old textbooks.  While I've heard of Walla Walla, I'd never heard of the Whitman Massacre, so everything was new information.  There is the obligatory romance, struggles, and hardships, as well as the overcoming of them, but that wasn't the meat of this story for me.  There are also associations with the local Native American people, but they don't go into as much depth as the rest of the story.  If I could change one thing about this book, it would be the interactions between the main characters and tribal characters.

This too Shall Pass (Milena Busquets)
Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like.  To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to Cadaqués, on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted.  A refreshingly frank and ruefully funny portrait of a grieving daughter, THIS TOO SHALL PASS explores how our deepest relationships are changed by tragedy, with bonds often becoming stronger in ways we never expected.

Hm.  Given that my own mother is my best friend, I was excited to dig into this book and see what a 'love letter from daughter to mother' looked like from another perspective.  What I found, however, was a forty year old who acted like a fourteen year old.  They didn't seem to have that great of a relationship before her mother's passing.  And while I know that the whole book was her working through her grief, the main character was just a self-centered brat who habitually practiced defeating behaviors.  There were two good parts to this book :  (1) It made me appreciate my own mother a little bit more, and made me want to go visit her.  (Hey mom...can you come visit?  😊)  (2) The book was only 170 pages long, so it was a quick read.  True, there are parts that are funny, but the overall rhythm of the book is whiny and tiresome.

Chilbury Ladies' Choir (Jennifer Ryan)
As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.  An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

Through diaries, newspaper articles, and letters, the characters of this novel spring to life in wartime England.  The men are gone, and the vicar wants to shut down the choir, but it's something that the women have left and can cling to for joy and love.  (This is a big theme of the book.)   There are a lot characters, and it takes a bit at first to really get the hang of each characters' voice, but once you do, it's not an issue at all.  There were some shocking actions in the story, but it's war and survival is also key.  Overall, they're human, they're women, and they're the silent warriors of their own community.  A good WWII themed read from the homefront.

Some Small Magic (Billy Coffey)

All Abel wants is a little bit of magic in his life. Enough money so his mom doesn’t cry at night. Healing for his broken body. And maybe a few answers about his past.  When Abel discovers letters to him from the father he believed dead, he wonders if magic has come to the hills of Mattingly, Virginia, after all. But not everything is as it seems.  With a lot of questions and a little bit of hope, Abel decides to run away to find the truth. But danger follows him from the moment he jumps his first boxcar, forcing Abel to rely on his simpleminded friend Willie—a man wanted for murder who knows more about truth than most—and a beautiful young woman they met on the train.  From Appalachia to the Tennessee wilds and through the Carolina mountains, the name of a single small town beckons: Fairhope. That is where Abel believes his magic lays. But will it be the sort that will bring a broken boy healing? And is it the magic that will one day lead him home?

This reminded me of an old movie, What Dreams May Come, in the magic and mystery behind a troubling story.  Grief comes in many forms, several of which are investigated through the lives of the main characters.  You'll come out the other side of the story pondering the events and putting them in place with your own belief system.  One of the things I didn't like about the book was having to plow through the tedium of some chapters, while racing through others to find out what happens next.  The pacing  But overall, it was worth it to finish the story - and it's just that, a new coming-of-age story with a boy who comes to terms with what life has dished out, and ends up being better off for it.  And so will you, for journeying with him.

Adult Non-Fiction

With Love, Wherever you Are (Dandi Daley Mackall)
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.  Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real―and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?  Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.

This book takes a different view of the war - it's not one that is  usually seen in WWII books, and I've read a ton of them!  Check out our World War II book list. (link up book list).  This is a fictionalized version of the author's parents' true love story, and one that will suck you right into their lives.  You'll live the war, and their marriage, through their eyes.  This isn't one of those stories that you can summarize, other than to say that they have their own troubles and they make it through to the other side.  If you're a fan of the greatest generation, you'll want to put this on your 'to read' list!  Watch the trailer below for the story behind the story and some of her parents' memories...

The Hum of Angels (Scot McKnight)
The majority of earth’s inhabitants believe in angels. Yet many of us cannot claim to have seen one. Why?  Perhaps it’s because in order to encounter one, we first have to learn what to look for and how to look! We live in a world where the natural and supernatural overlap. Angels are constantly on mission from God and constantly at work in the world.  From the Garden of Eden to the book of Revelation, Scripture is filled with hundreds of references to these wondrous creatures. In this creative work, Scot McKnight explores what the Bible says—and doesn’t say—about these majestic beings.  And that’s deeply important, because angels are still on mission today. They express God’s love, confirm his presence, and even lead humans in redemptive worship. Don’t just believe in angels. Learn how to recognize these messengers of God that are all around us, and know how God might be using them to affect our lives.

Divided into four parts, this book grabs the readers attention with anecdotes and true stories.  But then it backs up those words with scripture to help explain the experiences.  I had no idea exactly how many times angels are referred to in the Bible, but there are so many places pointed out!  The four main parts of the book are : In Defense of Angels, God's Loving Presence In Angels, God's Loving Advocacy In Angels, and God's Loving Transformation Through Angels.  In each of those parts, the author explains how scripture relates to that topic.  If nothing else, this book is a guide to help you open up that part of your brain that will listen for messages from a place that is bigger than you are...

Acid Watcher Diet (Jonathan Aviv)
Do you suffer from abdominal bloating; a chronic, nagging cough or sore throat; post-nasal drip; a feeling of a lump in the back of your throat; allergies; or a shortness of breath? If so, odds are that you are experiencing acid reflux without recognizing the silent symptoms. Even without the presence of heartburn or indigestion, more than 60 million people are suffering from acid-related disorders that are undetected or untreated--and leading to long-term health problems, including the rapid rise of esophageal cancer. Since there are no outward signs of acid damage and the typical symptoms might not be recognized, until now you might not have known how pervasive acid reflux is or that you have it. In The Acid Watcher Diet, Dr. Jonathan Aviv, one of the leading authorities on the diagnosis and treatment of acid reflux disease, helps readers identify those silent symptoms and provides his proven solution for reducing whole-body acid damage quickly and easily. His 28-day program includes a two-phase eating plan, menu guide, and recipes and works to immediately neutralize acid, stabilize pH levels, and relieve the inflammation at the root of acid reflux. Dr. Aviv's Power of Five rule will help readers discover the key foods that offer fast relief, and his Daily Six will reveal the foods to avoid (onion, tomato, citrus, and more).

It's amazing to me how many diseases begin in the gut...I've learned more about that in recent years.  This book focuses on acid reflux, or GERD (I'm sure that you know at least one person with that diagnosis), and its prevalence in our society today.  I was surprised to learn about the "silent reflux" that is also prevalent - it was a new term for me.  The book talks about what causes it, the effects it can have (both short term and long term), and some preventative measures.  There are meal plans and exercise recommendations, but nothing that is unattainable by the Average Joe.  At the heart of the book is a practical 28-day approach to overhauling your life....decreasing any reflux symptoms you may already be experiencing, and helping to prevent further issues.

Waking Up Slowly (Dave Burchett)
We are the most connected culture in history but arguably the most disconnected from the awareness of God’s presence. Waking Up Slowly is author Dave Burchett’s personal challenge to live “in the moment” and find the everyday joys he misses in disconnected busyness. What moments of joy do we inadvertently miss as we stare at our screens? What performance idols destroy our ability to appreciate God’s gifts? Dave Burchett sets out to find out how life might look differently if he awoke each morning consciously looking for the easy to miss “postcards from God.” Waking Up Slowly is an intimate, warm, and touching story of discovering how to more fully appreciate living in the moment. During his discovery, the author finds regular reminders of daily joys from his Labrador pal, Maggie. Waking Up Slowly challenges the reader to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the ways that God reveals himself daily. Through regular people, everyday situations, cuddly creatures, and stunning nature, God’s presence is real and discoverable. We just need to wake up to it.

As the title would indicate, the theme of this book is slowing down and savoring life. The introduction helps you to understand where the author has been, and why he is offering up this advice. My favorite part of the book was the cute quips at the beginning of each chapter; followed closely by some of the anecdotes within the chapters. It's a very real, very down to earth take on modern day society and how we can take baby steps toward a simpler time. There is scripture and verse woven into the story, but it doesn't overshadow the story itself. The author is honest and he lays it all out there on the table. My favorite quip? "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from email...."-five year old reciting the Lord's Prayer at church See? Not only does it make you think, but chuckle, too!

We Stood Upon Stars : Finding God in Lost Places (Roger Thompson)
We are made for freedom and adventure, friendship and romance. Yet too much of life is spent unfulfilled at work, restless at home, and bored at church. All the while knowing there is something more. You’ll find some of life’s best moments waiting for you over a campfire, on a river—even in that coffee shop or brewery you didn’t know you’d discover along the way. It’s time to begin the search. In the literary spirit of well-worn tales about America’s open road, this poetic, honest, often hilarious collection of essays shows how to embark on adventures that kindle spiritual reflection, personal growth, and deeper family connections. From surfing California’s coastlines, stargazing southwestern deserts, and fly-fishing in remote mountains of Montana, you’ll be inspired to follow the author’s footsteps and use the hand-drawn maps from each chapter to plan your own trips. There you will hear God’s voice – and it may help you find what you’re searching for.

I have to say, you really can judge a book by its cover here!  This was a very enjoyable book to read...and not just because we're always on the go.  There is a lot of focus on nature, and God's creations around us - about slowing down and appreciating the small moments in life.  Whether you're in the Grand Canyon or Hawaiian islands...or watching a sunset from your hotel room, witnessing a beautiful moonrise over the highway, or birds playing together on a city sidewalk....God's wonder is everywhere.  Whether you're a traveler, or just have a case of wanderlust, this book will take you places...both in your faith and in your mind.  Enjoy the journey!

I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.
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