Tuesday, February 28, 2017

january - february 2017

a note from me:

oh my stars, reading friend!!!

i am beyond excited to share my five star picks with you!!! you'll find reviews on engaging fiction, exciting options for youth and young adult fiction, some must read non-fiction (yes, check out my two favorites i've reviewed!!!) and a relevant family-friendly resource for parents of toddlers by dr. mary manz simon!!!

thank you for all your feedback and support you've given me. i really appreciate it when you "share" my fb page and tell your friends about this blog site.

my skin and allergies have been sensitive to all the weather changes we've been experiencing lately. how about you?!? i'm reminded that seasons (& the weather!!!) will always change, but God's love and faithfulness always remain constant. i want to share a favorite verse (one of many!) from psalm 36:5 "your unfailing love, o Lord, is as vast as the heavens' your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Be encouraged, friend!!!

happy reading!!!

blessings & love,

susan, your reading mom
jer. 29:11


fiction:

elusive miss ellison, the is the regency romance debut novel by carolyn miller from her regency brides: a legacy of grace series. having just watched pride & prejudice (with kiera knightley), i was ready to be transported to regency england! lavinia ellison is the daughter of the minister and she's intelligent, opinionated and always ready to speak her mind! lavinia's heart for the poor and needy clashes with the new earl of hawkesbury and his indifference toward those suffering in the village. she takes every opportunity to remind him his responsibilities and their witty and spirited exchanges are quite comical! this charming story will leave you enchanted and wanting more from miller!!!

justice delayed is a memphis cold case novel by patricia bradley where romance, danger and suspense coincide. i love anything by patricia bradley!!! andi hollister's sister was murdered eighteen years ago and the confessed killer's execution date is approaching. but a letter surfaces and the content is disturbing. detective will kincaide is committed to helping andi find justice because the case has taken a personal twist and turn. there's a missing diamond mystery and murdered people begin to pile up... see if you can crack this case before will and andi do!

lady in disguise, a by sandra byrd is the third and final installment of the series, daughters of hampshire coming your way in march! as a new heiress, gillian young remembers her father as kind and well-repected member of the police force; however, her father's colleagues are hinting that her father may have had a role in something illegal. gillian is determined to get to the bottom of things and clear her father's name, but someone is trying to stop her. gillian must figure out who she can trust and who is betraying her confidence before time runs out. as you read this intriguing romance and mystery novel set in victorian england, you will love gillian's courage and heart of compassion! this novel sheds light on exploited children and child trafficking in 1883.

moon bow night by laura frantz is a richly detailed historical novel that takes you into the kentucke wilderness in 1777. temperance grace (tempe for short) loves the wonders of nature. she knows the ridges, the meadows and the hollows by heart. she can outshoot any man, find any trail and move from place to place undetected in the forest. but tempe is harboring a family secret and the one man she holds in her heart and trusts was killed in a raid. when circumstances force her to be the hired guide for a virginian surveyor, tempe must learn to work with sion morgan and trust him in order to survive the wilderness with their scalps intact. frantz paints vivid and stunning pictures with her words as she draws you into the heart of kentucky.

newcomer, the by suzanne woods fisher is book 2 in the historical amish series where anna konig's journey continues after the ten weeks at sea. a brand new start on the pennsylvania frontier is exactly what anna and bairn bauer need after finding out that he was the bishop's son who was abducted when he was a child. bairn feels the call of the sea in his heart and after numerous clashes with his bishop father who seems to refuse to acknowledge his stolen youth, he takes a job on a ship for a few months. henrik newman joins the church and helps the church members get to their new land. when the bishop and his wife are nowhere to be found since they had left for the property ahead of time, it's up to henrik to help the church members figure out what to do. he's got his eye on anna even though her heart belongs to bairn, but things soon change when news comes that bairn's ship went up in flames and no one survived. in this one, true love is put to the final test and you'll never expect the twists that happens in the end!

redeeming grace: ruth's story is the third book in the daughters of the promise land series by jill eileen smith. smith weaves historical detail and imagination in her stories transporting you back to the times of the old testament where you get a sneak peak into the lives of the women there. you will adore boaz and adi, feel for naomi when she has to move from her beloved hometown and admire ruth for her resilience. this is a story of redemption, hope and the power of love that will draw you in from the moment you begin reading!

rescue me follows wild montana skies which was book one of the montana rescue series by susan may warren. as always, warren delivers danger and adventure in this one! deputy sam brooks and his brother pete do not see eye to eye. in fact, they're usually staying out of each other's ways with anger, bitterness and a whole lot of history at the root of their relationship. sierra rose is the perfect girl for him but it's willow, her sister who seems to touch his heart. pete wants to apply for the incident commander's job but all sam can see is his brother's lack of responsibility. when willow and sam and the new youth pastor take some kids on a hike, things quickly go south when the winter weather rapidly changes and they're suddenly in need of shelter and aid after a horrific accident. it's going to be up to pete to save his brother and the rest of the group. this one was an amazing read!!!

young adult & youth fiction:

prince warriors and the swords of rhema, the is the epic conclusion of this best-selling series, the prince warriors by priscilla shirer with gina detwiler. the chapter opens with a race that quickly turns into something else when a dark circle appears in the water. join finn and the other prince and princesses as they learn the secret power of resistance and begin their journey to receive their swords. Readers are going to love the adventure, friendship, danger and intrigue that is trademark in this series that teaches tweens and adults about spiritual warfare and its consequences. this series also has a 365 devotional (unseen was reviewed in my last blog) and the smartphone app, unseen: the prince warriors, that go along with the series. your entire family will love this series!!!

recruits by thomas locke (pseudonym for award-winning author davis bunn) is a fast-paced and engaging read that fans of science fiction and fantasy will love!!! i asked my 10-year-old (a die-hard rick riordan only fan) to check this one out and when he got to page 21, he exclaimed, "this book is as good as rick riordan's books!!! i love it and i can't stop reading it!!!" this. one. is. a. winner. twins sean and dillon kirrel have dreamed of a world beyond their own. before they turn 18, they are approached by carver and are given the opportunity to prove themselves as recruits... within a time limit. when sean takes the step of faith, he realizes that everything he sees is just as his mind has imagined as a kid with his brother. and the rest is history...!

non-fiction:

children's ministry on purpose: a purpose-driven approach to lead kids toward spiritual health addresses five key questions that are relevant for every children's ministry written by steve adams (he's the children's pastor at saddleback church in lake forest, ca). this resource is engaging and thought-provoking and will challenge leaders on finding purpose and intentionality in their ministry.  this quote from adams really resonated with me... "a purpose driven children's ministry is an intentional and balanced discipleship process that leads kids toward spiritual health." Adams gives practical steps in leading kids, implementing change, developing a healthy team and more. he also focuses on how to get where you are going by being a leader people will follow. this is worth reading and passing on to anyone who is involved in children's ministry!!!

when God says wait: navigating life's detours & delays without losing your faith, your friends, or your mind is a well-written debut book by elizabeth laing thompson. this was one one my favorite reads on the subject of waiting on God and i think many will identify with thompson when she vulnerably shares her story of infertility. thompson is super hilarious (i totally relate to her feelings on camping!!!), witty and authentic!!! i think we would totally hit it off if we ever met in person and spent some time hanging out!!! i love that she encourages, inspires and challenges her readers using scripture, personal stories and examples in the bible. after every chapter, you will find a section on "waiting room reading" which will give you some more notes for further study along with a journal prompt and a prayer prompt. my favorite chapter was chapter 5 (when prayer becomes a battleground) and i love the faith building playlist to fight satan's lies on page 90. i think i can probably go on and on but you get the picture. this one is worth your time reading and sharing with others!!!

family-friendly resources:

first feelings: 12 stories for toddlers is another home run hit for dr. mary manz simon! i've been a huge fan of mary for years---she writes from the heart, she writes from the head (she is a parenting expert and you can read her bio at http://www.marymanzsimon.com/about.html) and she writes from experience as a mother and grandmother. i highly recommend you that you read the letter to parents first before you start reading to your child. you will find that this is a resource that will help your child learn "to identify his feelings and cope with them in a way that is not only socially acceptable but developmentally appropriate so they can become emotionally literate." but i love the fact that mary doesn't just stop there. she incorporates the importance of children knowing that God is always with them so they are secure and don't feel isolated when coping with feelings. she writes from a christian world view perspective so parents can empower children to know how they're feeling and how to cope with it with God's help. the trademark age-appropriate rhyming text, interactive questions and adorable illustrations will make this a "read again and again and again" favorite with your toddler!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

november - december 2016

note from me:

happy new year, dear reading friend!!!


i'm so excited to begin another year sharing my five star reads with you!!! please accept my apologies for not getting my reviews out by the last day of 2016 like i originally intended. we're still in "holiday" mode but in just a blink of the eye, work and school will resume again and we'll be back to our "new" normal routine of life soon enough! 


the beginning of 2017 marked the end of the journey for one special little girl: ava bright lee, a pint-sized warrior princess that i've been following for the past couple of years. you can read her story at http://fortheloveofavalee.blogspot.com and prepare to cry, be inspired, feel the raw pain and be challenged because although her journey on earth has ended, her story will live on touching gazillions of lives.

 
the book of james reminds us that life is a vapor. you're here one minute and gone the next. it's why we should live our lives with intention. more than ever, God is showing me the importance of abiding in him. abiding in Christ means to allow his word to fill our minds so that it directs the intentions of our hearts (our will) and transforms our desires, our behavior, our actions, our thoughts and our words to align with the heart of God. 


my faith depends on it. so does yours. i want 2017 to be all about us abiding in Christ. i'll end this note with matthew 6:33 from the amplified bible: "but first and most importantly, seek (aim at, strive after) his kingdom and his righteousness [his way of doing and being right-the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also."


happy reading with blessings & love!!!


your reading mom,


susan

jer. 29:11

fiction:


christmas angel project, the by melody carlson (i love her!!!) has four friends devastated over the loss of their group leader, abby. but abby has left them all something very specific that she made and it's up to them to discover what the gift means to them and how they can live it out as abby's angels. this is a feel good story that is both inspiring and heart-warming! melody writes from her heart and this story showcases it well.

death in the shadows by paul mccusker is a father gilbert mystery that will hold your attention captive from start to finish with this story covering the heavy topic of human sex trafficking. i love father gilbert. he's a former detective-turned-priest who ends up helping the police because of his supernatural encounters and investigative skills. he's wise, caring and relentless in his pursuit for justice.  father gilbert is attending a conference in a little seaside town when he reads a local story of a murdered asian girl who worked at a local massage parlor. and then the visions begin and soon, father gilbert is assisting scotland yard with uncovering clues that will lead them to something bigger than any of them could have imagined. this one is a winner. well done, paul!!!


cowboy christmas homecoming is a collection of four historical novellas written by mary connealy, ruth logan herne, julie lessman and anna schmidt.  i love how four heart-warming stories interweave the lives of four women who are trying to make their way in this wild country during a very cold winter. so, cozy up to the fireplace and enjoy your read with a warm cuppa!


fatal frost by nancy mehl is book 2 in the defenders of justice series. unbeknownst to her, u.s. marshal mercy brennan has something someone is desperately trying to get. at all cost. and that's why her boss and former boyfriend, deputy u.s. marshal mark st. laurent are determined to get her out of town until they can guarantee she's safe. someone's dirty in the office and neither of them are sure who they can trust except for each other. the details appear to be fool-proof until a freak ice storm has them stranded at a remote location. if you want suspense, extreme danger and heart-pounding moments, this one's for you! i love how nancy always integrates faith authentically in her stories!


fear has a name by creston mapes is book one in the series, the crittendon files which first came out in 2013 but is so worth checking out if you haven't discovered this series yet. this suspense thriller will have you on the edge of your seat and to be perfectly honest, i was only able to read this in the daytime! a missing pastor, deadly secrets and a stalker who knows too much about his family has jack crittendon on edge. while chasing down the clues for a huge story, jack will have to do everything he can to keep his family safe before the unthinkable happens. and then it does. 


guide me home by kim vogel sawyer is set in 1907 and is a stand alone novel about the hardin family who have very little materially, but make up for it in love. rebekah wants to find a job at kentucky's renowned mammoth cave to help her father make enough so they can have a proper way to honor her beloved brother's memory. cissy loves her family but she's got big dreams and  bigger suspicions that she may not be who she thinks she is. tolly sanford is an experienced guide and he has a soft spot for rebekah and her family. he understands the depth of grief the family has gone through after losing andy in mammoth cave. devlin bale is an aspiring cartographer who wants to earn his father's approval and help him in his political aspirations. the many tunnels and secrets of mammoth cave is the answer and he's determined to find a profitable opportunity. but someone else has the same idea and answers will have to be uncovered before the cave claims another. This is a perfect book to use with your book club as it comes with study guide questions in the back. 


kill fee, the by fiona veitch smith is the second book in the poppy denby investigates series. as the arts and entertainment editor at the daily globe, it's up to poppy to cover the collection of russian art exhibition at the crystal palace. there's plenty of security at the exhibit so when the lights go out and a guard is shot, poppy's curiosity and investigative nose for a story immediately kicks into high gear. intrigue, mystery and a growing body count takes poppy and her colleagues on a race to uncover the killer before they strike again. smith does a believable job with her murder mysteries set in 1920's london featuring poppy denby. i love the historical details and reading about the mysteries of the faberge eggs and their secret compartments as well as the keepers of the treasures were fascinating!


lucifer's harvest: the chronicles of hugh de singleton, surgeon series by mel starr is definitely one of my favorite series!!! this is book 9 in the series where you will travel back in time to the medieval world of war between england and france. i love the strategy for taking down limoges's city walls and the various herbal concoctions that master hugh uses for various ailments as he tends injuries during battle! as always, there's a murder to be solved and master hugh must solve it to clear his name...

sleigh bells ring is a collection of four contemporary romance novellas by sandra d. bricker, barbara j. scott, lynette sowell and lenora worth. you're going to love the tucker sisters---in this book, the four tucker sisters have inherited their father's horse ranch for christmas. it's run down from years of little funds and now they have to make a decision on what it will take to get it ready to sell. joanna, as the oldest sister, knows that if they all work together, they will be able to fix up the ranch in time for christmas and then make a decision about the ranch. the only problem is that not all of them want to return for one last christmas on the ranch. these stories will touch your heart and make your stomach hungry for the yummy food that sarah weatherly prepares!!!


undetected by dee henderson is one of those books that makes you feel smarter after reading it (i can't even imagine the amount of research every book takes)!!! this story focuses on commander mark bishop, a navy man who fulfills his responsibilities well. mark is the type of guy you would want to introduce to all your single friends---he's responsible, kind, caring and a gentleman. and, he's ready to be married again after being widowed for several years. i love that his best friend jeff gray thinks his younger sister, gina would be a good match for mark but mark feels she may be too young for him at the eleven-and-a-half year difference between them. the two guys then focus on matching her up with someone closer to her age and someone they both approve on! you gotta love a story where a brother and his best friend are concerned about the relationship welfare of a younger sibling!!!


unspoken by dee henderson is a super intriguing story focusing on bryce bishop (yes, he's mark bishop's brother from undetected), a dealer in rare coins. he's been handpicked by charlotte graham and her circle of friends to sell a collection of coins that will blow his mind. once again, i feel a lot smarter after reading this story because i've gotten to learn about the world of selling and dealing with rare coins! charlotte graham is definitely fascinating and the mystery surrounding her story will be revealed later in the story (i'm so not giving it away now!!!). this story will definitely captivate you from start to finish!!!


wild montana skies by susan may warren is the first book of the montana rescue series where you can expect adventure, suspense and danger alongside faith and love! kacey fairing has returned home to mercy falls, montana where she needs time to heal from a horrific crash during her recent military tour in afghanistan. ben king is a successful country artist after leaving mercy falls for nashville. he's home again after thirteen years to help his father who needs help because of his dual broken hips. both kacey and ben have been asked to help with the peak search and rescue team by ben's dad, chet but neither of them realize his ulterior motives. chet is hands down my favorite character in this story!


non fiction:

choosing real: an invitation to celebrate when life doesn't go as planned by bekah jane pogue is all about "opting to see how present Jesus is in real-life circumstances." i also absolutely love this phrase from choosing real... "choosing real trusts God has a beautiful plan in the mess, in the scary, in the unknown, in the tears, and in not feeling enough." does this resonate with you, too?!? pogue writes in an easy - breezy - comfy manner that makes you feel like you're having a conversation with a bestie. she's authentic as she shares her own stories, scripture, practical advice and recipes involving... chocolate!!! this is perfect reading to start your new year because a new year means a new me (i'm totally borrowing this phrase from my daughter!!!), right?!?

family-friendly resources:

where does love hide? by mary manz simon is a fun lift-the-flap book that's perfect for children ages 1 through 4. the adorable illustrations, aged-appropriate text and the important life lesson we can teach our children makes this one another winner from mary (i have yet to find something i didn't absolutely adore from her)!!! teaching children to look for ways they can show love is important when we live in an "it's-all-about-me" generation world that endorses entitlement. thank you, mary for writing relevant books that remind parents that it's never too early to start teaching our children about what's important in life.