Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Wreath

This is a book that I picked up after meeting the author at ACFW in September. With my daughter's birthday in October, I had a feeling she'd like an autographed copy. I was right.

Here's what she has to say about this book.

This was my favorite book that I've read recently. Wreath is amazingly strong. She's able to move place to place with her mother and survives. But when her mother dies in her arms, Wreath is forced to leave home. She wants to start a new life where her mother grew up. She never met her dad, because he died before she was born. She ends up living in a junkyard that she names Rusted Estates. Wreath finds a job at an old furniture store that is going down the drain. But she's making a life.

I loved Wreath. She inspired me with the way she was so strong through everything. Sure she could have opened up and let people help her sooner, but she's still amazing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review & Giveaway: The Wishing Pearl

The Wishing Pearl is the latest book from my daughter's favorite author Nicole O'Dell. The moment she received this book, she disappeared to reappear after the adventure was complete.

Here's what she says:

I absolutely loved it, because Olivia Mansfield, the main character, is faced with a tough life. Her dad died in a car accident when she was seven. Olivia was in the car with him, and that's just the beginning of her troubles. She has an abusive stepfather (note: heavy content), starts going partying -- it would have been bad if her mom caught her, but it's even worse that her brother does -- and ends up in another car accident. She goes to Diamond Estate, similar to a Teen Challenge program but for girls only.

Olivia learns that she can't face everything on her own. She can't control life and has to turn everything over to God.

I kept reading because the book is filled with action and tough choices. It was fun to watch how she dealt with everything. She made some dumb choices, but it was fun all the same.

So if you're looking for a book that deals with the gritty details of life but shows you the way to hope, definitely give this book a try. Leave a comment because I have a copy to give away!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Review: There You'll Find Me


Here's my take on this book...

If you've read Jenny's Save the Date, Finley is Alex Sinclair's little sister. There You'll Find Me is filled with such raw emotion and longing that I couldn't put it down. Don't let the YA categorization keep you from reading this book. Jenny takes these characters through issues that all of us can relate to: from the deep need to control our worlds to the search for a place it's safe to be the true me, she shines a light on our deepest needs. Then she masterfully demonstrates how Christ is the answer to all of our needs and longings. This story does not wrap up neatly, because life is that way. However, at the end you are left with a sense that Finley will be okay, that she will come out the other side a much stronger person...one that God can use.

And the best part? CBD has the book on sale for $6.99. Christmas shopping, folks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: There You'll Find Me & Giveaway

This book was so good we're going to give your two perspectives. Today, my daughter is writing the review. Come back later for my review and a giveaway.

Here's the review:

AMAZING. It's very well-written. Jenny takes you to Ireland with the main character Finley Sinclair. Finley heads to Ireland for a foreign exchange program, but she's really there to find peace. Her dead brother spent his senior year in Ireland and she wants to recreate his experience and find his peace.

On the way, she ends up seated next to Beckett Rush, THE heart throb of vampire movies. She walks away, thinking she'll never see him again, only to find he's staying at the B&B her host family owns.

Finely is desperately trying to lose weight -- about the only thing in her world she thinks she can control. Between a foster grandma who is dying, a cross she can't find, and an audition that is bearing down on her, she needs something she can control. After reading this multi-layered book, I can't wait to read more of Jenny's YA titles. It's AMAZING.

Leave a comment and Jenny has agreed to send a signed copy to one lucky reader.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

My daughter is loving this series. She says they are really fun books. She flew through this one... yes, I know, she flies through most books, but she really did seem to enjoy this one. And with a cover like that, I have to admit I want to read it. Though my daughter insists I have to read the first one...first.

Here's what she has to say:

This book was completely fun. While there were some sad parts, Christine Lee does some really stupid and really silly things to get her dad and soon to be stepmom a part. She does not want them to get married at all. Christine is an interesting character because of her history. You have to have something special about you to be a miracle girl and for Christine it's that she was in the car with her mom when her mom died. Christine went through the windshield and didn't have a single scratch on her. That qualifies as a miracle.

Now she's trying to find her way in this new world without her mom. It's not easy, but the story is filled with laughs. I would love to know Christine in real life. She's trying hard to keep her friends together. I can't wait to read book three.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Always Watching by Brandilyn Collins


Amazing cover. Amazing characters. Amazing Story.

My almost eleven-year-old read Always Watching in two nights, probably as fast as I did. She loved the suspense. Shaley is a really strong character. You get the feeling of what it would be like to have a celebrity mom and away from home for months at a time. The characters became friends. Going back and forth between Shaley and the murderer's perspective made interesting and fun. My daughter is so like me -- she loved trying to figure out who did it before the story reveals the murderer.

The pacing kept the pages turning and her light burning way too late at night. But she had to know what happened next.

A great suspense for young adult readers and adults who enjoy a page-turner and don't mind a ya protagonist.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Alliance

Now Beka is a Christian for real. But she is stressed, stressed, and more stressed. Her life is going crazy. Which friend will she pick: Laurie, the friend who will most likely stick by her side, or Gretchen, the hot shot? She has to choose because Gretchen's boyfriend asks Laurie out. Laurie says no, but it kicks off a series of awful pay-backs and lies from Gretchen. Beka is caught in the middle, something many girls can relate to.

My daughter inhales these books. I think it's because she can relate to the characters, even if she hasn't been confronted by the exact situations Beka finds herself facing. Yet, having said that, even at her age there are still friendships complicated by boys. Reading books like this helps girls process how they would respond in similar situations.

A great read for tweens and young teens.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Masquerade

While these books may be a few years old, my almost eleven year old is inhaling them and learning a ton from Beka's mistakes. (While she's eleven, she reads at an upper high-school level) They've lead to some great discussions between us as she processes what happens to Beka. Here's what my daughter has to say about this book:

The Masquerade is a WONDERFUL, AMAZING book. It is so life-like. The book was like a magnet that drew me back again and again. There were sometimes I laughed at her and other times I wanted to punch her, because her life is so messed up. She could fix it in an instant with some right choices, but she won't make those. So as she learned the hard way, I learned how to do it the right way. Beka is a little frustrating but fun because she handles her life in such an unusual way with unexpected choices. Beka has to Masquerade as a Christian. Pretending you're a Christian isn't easy, but she has to to feel like she fits in to her family. Her choices land her in a psychiatric hospital. It's quite the fun ride to take with her.

Watch for the butterflies. They are so cool -- and play a role in her deciding to become a Christian.

So if you have a tween or teen, you should suggest this book to them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hold Me, the video

Have you discovered Jamie Grace? If you listen to K-LOVE, then you've heard this great song. We downloaded it from iTunes soon after hearing it. What a great pick-up! So sit back and enjoy the reminder of how much your Father loves you!

"Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic" & "Treasures from Grandma's Attic" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:



and the books:

Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic

and

Treasures from Grandma’s Attic


David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

MY REVIEW:
I love, love, love these precious stories I read as a young girl and am thrilled that they have been packaged and re-released so I can share them with my girls now. My 11 year Chloe has been just taken with the stories of Mabel and Sarah Jane and I know my 7 year old Paige is not far behind her. To have such wonderful, fun and innocent (but mischevious) stories available is fantastic and the fact that they pull up such a feeling of nostalgia for me just makes it all the better. Boys can appreciate the fun antics of Mabel and her brothers too and these books will be read aloud enjoyment for our family this fall. You can't go wrong with these books, or their prices at $6.99 a piece. A true treasure!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


The late Arleta Richardson grew up an only child in Chicago, living in a hotel on the shores of Lake Michigan. Under the care of her maternal grandmother, she listened for hours to stories from her grandmother’s childhood. With unusual recall, Arleta began to write these stories for an audience that now numbers over two million. “My grandmother would be amazed to know her stories have gone around the world,” Arleta said.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




Grandma did what? You might be surprised. Back in the 1880’s, when she was a young girl named Mabel, trouble seemed to follow her everywhere. She and her best friend, Sarah Jane, had the best intentions at home and at school, but somehow clumsiness and mischief always seemed to intrude. Whether getting into a sticky mess with face cream, traveling to the big city, sneaking out to a birthday party or studying for the spelling bee, Mabel’s brilliant ideas only seemed to show how much she had to learn. And each of her mishaps turned into lessons in honesty, patience and responsibility.



Arleta Richardson’s beloved series, Grandma’s Attic, returns with Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic, the third and fourth books in the refreshed classic collection for girls ages 8 to 12. These compilations of tales recount humorous and poignant memories from Grandma Mabel’s childhood on a Michigan farm in the late 1800’s. Combining the warmth and spirit of Little House on the Prairie with a Christian focus, these books transport readers back to a simpler time to learn lessons surprisingly relevant in today’s world.



Even though these stories took place over a hundred years ago, there are some things about being a girl that never change. Just like Mabel, girls still want to be prettier or more independent. It’s all part of growing up. But the amazing thing is—Grandma felt the same way! Sometimes your brother teases you or someone you thought was a friend turns out to be insincere. Sometimes you’re certain you know better than your parents, only to discover to your horror that they might have been right. It’s all part of growing up.



Richardson’s wholesome stories have reached more than two million readers worldwide. Parents appreciate the godly values and character they promote while children love the captivating storytelling that recounts childhood memories of mischief and joy. These books are ideal for homes, schools, libraries or gifts and are certain to be treasured. So return to Grandma’s attic, where true tales of yesteryear bring timeless lessons for today, combining the appeal of historical fiction for girls with the truth of God’s Word. Each captivating story promotes godly character and values with humor, understanding and warmth.



Product Details:

Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic
:

List Price: $6.99

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 160 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0781403812

ISBN-13: 978-0781403818





Treasures from Grandma’s Attic:



Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 160 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0781403820

ISBN-13: 978-0781403825



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERS:





Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic



When Grandma Was a Little Girl



One hundred years! What a long, long time ago that is! Not very many people are still alive who can remember that far back. But through the magic of stories, we can be right there again.



When I was a little girl, I thought no one could tell a story like my grandma.



“Tell me about when you were a little girl,” I would say. Soon I would be back on the farm in northern Michigan with young Mabel—who became my grandmother—her mother and father, and her brothers, Reuben and Roy.



The old kitchen where I sat to hear many of Grandma’s stories didn’t look the same as when she was a little girl. Then there was no electricity nor running water. But my grandma still lived in the house she grew up in. I had no trouble imagining all the funny jams that Grandma and her best friend, Sarah Jane, got into. Or how it felt to wear long flannel stockings and high-buttoned shoes.



From the dusty old attic to the front parlor with its slippery furniture, Grandma’s old house was a storybook just waiting to be opened. I was fortunate to have a grandma who knew just how to open it. She loved to tell a story just as much as I loved to hear one.



Come with me now, back to the old kitchen in that Michigan farmhouse, and enjoy the laughter and tears of many years ago....



1



Face Cream from Godey’s Lady’s Book



Receiving mail always excited me. I never had to be told to get the mail for Grandma on my way home from school. But sometimes the mail became even more important. Like the time I was watching for something I had ordered from Woman’s Home Companion.



When the small package finally arrived, my face revealed how excited I was.



“What did you get a sample of this time?” Grandma asked as I came in proudly carrying the precious box.



“You’ll see. Just wait till I show you,” I said, promising Grandma the box held something special.



Quickly I tore the wrapping paper off the small box. Inside was a jar of skin cream for wrinkles.



Grandma laughed when she saw it. “You certainly don’t need that,” she said. “Now it might do me some good if those things ever really worked.”



“You aren’t wrinkled, Grandma,” I protested. “Your face is nice and smooth.”



“Perhaps so. But not because of what I’ve rubbed on it. More than likely I’ve inherited a smooth skin.”



She took the jar of cream and looked at the ingredients “This doesn’t look quite as dangerous as some stuff Sarah Jane and I mixed up one day. Did I ever tell you about that?”



“No, I’m sure you didn’t,” I replied. “Tell me now.”



Grandma picked up her crocheting, and I settled back to listen to a story about Grandma and her friend, Sarah Jane, when they were my age.



***



Sarah Jane had a cousin who lived in the city. This cousin often came to stay at Sarah Jane’s for a few days. She brought things with her that we were not accustomed to seeing.



One morning as Sarah Jane and I were walking to school together, Sarah Jane told me some very exciting news. “My cousin Laura will be here tomorrow. She’s going to stay all next week. Won’t that be fun?”



“Yes,” I agreed. “I’m glad she’s coming. What do you think she’ll bring this time?”



“Probably some pretty new dresses and hats,” Sarah Jane guessed. “She might even let us try them on.”



“Oh, I’m sure she wouldn’t want us to try on her dresses. But maybe she wouldn’t mind if we peeked at ourselves in the mirror to see how the hats looked.”



Laura arrived the next day with several new hats. She amiably agreed that we might try them on.



They were too big, and had a tendency to slide down over our noses. But to us, they were the latest fashion.



As we laid the hats back on the bed, Sarah Jane spied something else that interested her. It was a magazine for ladies. We had not seen more than half a dozen magazines in our lives, so this was exciting.



“Oh, Laura,” Sarah Jane cried, “may we look at your magazine? We’ll be very careful.”



“Why, yes. I’m not going to be reading it right away. Go ahead.”



Eagerly we snatched the magazine and ran out to the porch. The cover pictured a lady with a very fashionable dress and hat, carrying a frilly parasol. The name of the magazine was Godey’s Lady’s Book.



“Ooh! Look at the ruffles on her dress!” Sarah Jane exclaimed. “Wouldn’t you just love to have one dress with all those ribbons and things?”



“Yes, but there’s little chance I’ll ever have it,” I replied. “Ma wouldn’t iron that many ruffles for anything. Besides, we’re not grown up enough to have dresses like that. It looks like it might be organdy, doesn’t it?”



“Mmm-hum,” Sarah Jane agreed. “It looks like something soft, all right. And look at her hair. It must be long to make that big a roll around her head.”



We spread the magazine across our laps and studied each page carefully. Nothing escaped our notice. “I sure wish we were grown up,” Sarah Jane sighed. “Think how much prettier we’d be.”



“Yes, and how much more fun we could have. These ladies don’t spend all their time going to school and doing chores. They just get all dressed up and sit around looking pretty.”



We looked for a moment in silence; then Sarah Jane noticed something interesting. “Look here, Mabel. Here’s something you can make to get rid of wrinkles on your face.”



I looked where she was reading.



Guaranteed to remove wrinkles. Melt together a quantity of white wax and honey. When it becomes liquid, add the juice of several lemons. Spread the mixture liberally on your face and allow it to dry. In addition to smoothing out your wrinkles, this formula will leave your skin soft, smooth, and freckle free.



“But we don’t have any wrinkles,” I pointed out.



“That doesn’t matter,” Sarah Jane replied. “If it takes wrinkles away, it should keep us from getting them too. Besides,” she added critically, “it says it takes away freckles. And you have plenty of those.”



I rubbed my nose reflectively. “I sure do. Do you suppose that stuff really would take them off?”



“We can try it and see. I’ll put some on if you will. Where shall we mix it up?”



This would be a problem, since Sarah Jane’s mother was baking in her kitchen. It would be better to work where we wouldn’t have to answer questions about what we were doing.



“Let’s go to your house and see what your mother is doing,” Sarah Jane suggested.



We hurriedly returned the magazine to Laura’s bedroom and dashed back outdoors.



“Do you have all the things we need to put in it?” Sarah Jane asked.



“I know we have wax left over from Ma’s jelly glasses. And I’m sure we have lemons. But I don’t know how much honey is left.



“I know where we can get some, though.” I continued. “Remember that hollow tree in the woods? We found honey there last week.”



Soon we were on our way to collect it in a small pail.



“This is sure going to be messy and sticky to put on our faces,” I commented as we filled the pail.



“Probably the wax takes the sticky out,” Sarah Jane replied. “Anyway, if it takes away your freckles and makes our skin smooth, it won’t matter if it is a little gooey. I wonder how long we leave it on.”



“The directions said to let it dry,” I reminded her. “I suppose the longer you leave it there, the more good it does. We’ll have to take it off before we go in to supper, I guess.”



“I guess so,” Sarah Jane exclaimed. “I don’t know what your brothers would say. But I’m not going to give Caleb a chance to make fun of me.”



I knew what Reuben and Roy would say, too, and I was pretty sure I could predict what Ma would say. There seemed to be no reason to let them know about it.



Fortune was with us, for the kitchen was empty when we cautiously opened the back door. Ma heard us come in and called down from upstairs, “Do you need something, Mabel?”



“No, Ma’am,” I answered. “But we might like a cookie.”



“Help yourself,” Ma replied. “I’m too busy tearing rags to come down right now. You can pour yourselves some milk too.”



I assured her that we could. With a sigh of relief, we went to the pantry for a kettle in which to melt the wax and honey.



“This looks big enough,” Sarah Jane said. “You start that getting hot, and I’ll squeeze the lemons. Do you think two will be enough?”



“I guess two is ‘several.’ Maybe we can tell by the way it looks whether we need more or not.”



“I don’t see how,” Sarah Jane argued. “We never saw any of this stuff before. But we’ll start with two, anyway.”



I placed the pan containing the wax and honey on the hottest part of the stove and pulled up a chair to sit on. “Do you suppose I ought to stir it?” I inquired. “It doesn’t look as though it’s mixing very fast.”



“Give it time,” Sarah Jane advised. “Once the wax melts down, it will mix.”



After a short time, the mixture began to bubble.



“There, see?” she said, stirring it with a spoon. “You can’t tell which is wax and which is honey. I think it’s time to put in the lemon juice.” She picked up the juice, but I stopped her.



“You have to take the seeds out, first, silly. You don’t want knobs all over your face, do you?”



“I guess you’re right. That wouldn’t look too good, would it?”



She dug the seeds out, and we carefully stirred the lemon juice into the pan.



“Umm, it smells good,” I observed.



Sarah Jane agreed. “In fact, it smells a little like Ma’s cough syrup. Do you want to taste it?”



“Sure, I’ll take a little taste.” I licked some off the spoon and smacked my lips. “It’s fine,” I reported. “If it tastes that good, it will certainly be safe to use. Let’s take it to my room and try it.”



We carefully lifted the kettle from the stove. Together we carried the kettle upstairs and set it on my dresser.



“It will have to cool a little before we put it on,” I said.



“What if the wax gets hard again? We’ll have to take it downstairs and heat it all over.”



“It won’t,” I assured her. “The honey will keep it from getting too hard.” By the time the mixture was cool enough to use, it was thick and gooey—but still spreadable.



“Well, here goes,” Sarah Jane said. She dipped a big blob out and spread it on her face. I did the same. Soon our faces were covered with the sticky mess.



“Don’t get it in your hair,” I warned. “It looks like it would be awfully hard to get out. I wonder how long it will take to dry?”



“The magazine didn’t say that. It would probably dry faster outside in the sun. But someone is sure to see us out there. We’d better stay here.... I wish we had brought the magazine to look at.”



“We can look at the Sears catalog,” I suggested. “Let’s play like we’re ordering things for our own house.”



We sat down on the floor and spread the catalog out in front of us. After several minutes, Sarah Jane felt her face.



“I think it’s dry, Mabel,” she announced, hardly moving her lips. “It doesn’t bend or anything.”



I touched mine and discovered the same thing. The mask was solid and hard. It was impossible to move my mouth to speak, so my voice had a funny sound when I answered her.



“So’s mine. Maybe we’d better start taking it off now.”



We ran to the mirror and looked at ourselves.



“We sure look funny.” Sarah Jane laughed the best she could without moving her face. “How did the magazine say to get it off?”



Suddenly we looked at each other in dismay. The magazine hadn’t said anything about removing the mixture, only how to fix and spread it on.



“Well, we’ve done it again,” I said. “How come everything we try works until we’re ready to undo it? We’ll just have to figure some way to get rid of it.”



We certainly did try. We pushed the heavy masks that covered our faces. We pulled them, knocked on them, and tried to soak them off. They would not budge.



“I think we used too much wax and not enough honey,” Sarah Jane puffed as she flopped back down on the bed.



“That’s certainly a great thing to think of now,” I answered crossly. “The only way to move wax is to melt it. And we certainly can’t stick our faces in the fire!”



“Mine feels like it’s already on fire. I don’t think this stuff is good for your skin.”



“You’re going to have to think about more than that,” I told her. “Or this stuff will be your skin. There has to be some way to get it off.”



“We’ve tried everything we can think of. We’ll just have to go down and let your rna help us.”



That was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. But I could see no other alternative. Slowly we trudged down to the kitchen.



Ma was working at the stove, and she said cheerfully, “Are you girls hungry again? It won’t be long until suppertime, so you’d better not eat ....”



She turned around as she spoke. When she spotted us standing in the doorway, her eyes widened in disbelief.



“What on earth? ... What have you done to yourselves?”



I burst into tears. The sight of drops of tears running down that ridiculous mask must have been more than Ma could stand. Suddenly she began to laugh. She laughed until she had to sit down.



“It’s not funny, Ma. We can’t get it off! We’ll have to wear it the rest of our lives!”



Ma controlled herself long enough to come over and feel my face. “What did you put in it?” she asked. “That will help me know how to take it off.”



We told her.



“If you two ever live to grow up, it will only be the Lord’s good mercy. The only thing we can do is apply something hot enough to melt the wax,” Ma told us quickly.



“But we boiled the wax, Ma,” I cried. “You can’t boil our faces!”



“No, 1won’t try anything as drastic as that. I’ll just use hot towels until it gets soft enough to pull away.”



After several applications, we were finally able to start peeling the mixture off. As it came loose, our skin came with it.



“Ouch! That hurts,” I cried.



But Ma could not stop. By the time the last bits of wax and honey were removed, our faces were fiery red and raw.



“What did we do wrong?” Sarah Jane wailed. “We made it just like the magazine said.”



“You may have used the wrong quantities, or left it on too long,” Ma said. “At any rate, I don’t think you’ll try it again.”



“I know I won’t,” Sarah Jane moaned. “I’m going to tell Laura she should ignore that page in her magazine.” She looked at me. “The stuff did one thing they said it would, Mabel. I don’t see any freckles.”



“There’s no skin left, either,” I retorted. “I’d rather have freckles than a face like this.”



“Never mind.” Ma tried to soothe us. “Your faces will be all right in a couple of days.”



“A couple of days!” I howled. “We can’t go to school looking like this!”



***



“We did, though.” Grandma laughed as she finished the story. “After a while we were able to laugh with the others over our foolishness.”



I looked at the little jar of cream that had come in the mail.



“I don’t think I’ll use this, Grandma. I guess I’ll just let my face get wrinkled if it wants to!”




************************************************



Treasures from Grandma's Attic



Cousin Agatha



My best friend, Sarah Jane, and I were walking home from school on a cold November afternoon.



“Do you realize, Mabel, that 1886 is almost over? Another year of nothing important ever happening is nearly gone.”



“Well, we still have a good bit of life ahead of us,” I replied.



“You don’t know that,” Sarah Jane said darkly, “We’re thirteen and a half. We may already have lived nearly a third of our allotted time.”



“The O’Dells live to be awfully old,” I told her. “So, unless I get run down by a horse and buggy, I’ll probably be around awhile.”



We walked along in silence. Then suddenly Sarah Jane pulled me to the side of the road.



“Here’s the horse and buggy that could keep you from becoming an old lady,” she kidded. We turned to see my pa coming down the road.



“Want to ride the rest of the way, girls?” he called. We clambered into the buggy, and Pa clucked to Nellie.



“What did you get in town?” I asked.



“Some things for the farm and a letter for your ma.” Around the next bend, Pa slowed Nellie to a halt. “Your stop, Sarah Jane.”



“Thanks, Mr. O’Dell.” Sarah Jane jumped down. “I’ll be over to study later, Mabel. ‘Bye.”



“Who’s the letter from?” I asked Pa.



“Can’t tell from the handwriting. We’ll have to wait for Ma to tell us.”



When Ma opened the letter, she looked puzzled. “This is from your cousin Agatha,” she said to Pa. “Why didn’t she address it to you, too?”



“If I know Aggie, she wants something,” Pa declared. “And she figured you’d be more likely to listen to her sad story.”



Ma read the letter and shook her head at Pa. “She just wants to come for Thanksgiving. Now aren’t you ashamed of talking that way?”



“No, I’m not. That’s what Aggie says she wants. You can be sure there’s more there than meets the eye. Are you going to tell her to come ahead?”



“Why, of course!” Ma exclaimed. “If I were a widowed lady up in years, I’d want to be with family on Thanksgiving. Why shouldn’t I tell her to come?”



Pa took his hat from the peg by the door and started for the barn, where my older brothers were already at work. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he remarked as he left.



“What did Pa warn you about?” I asked as soon as the door closed behind him. “What does Cousin Agatha want?”



“I don’t believe Pa was talking to you,” Ma replied. “You heard me say that she wants to come for Thanksgiving.”



“Yes, but Pa said—”



“That’s enough, Mabel. We won’t discuss it further.”



I watched silently as Ma sat down at the kitchen table and answered Cousin Agatha’s letter.



Snow began to fall two days before the holiday, and Pa had to hitch up the sleigh to go into town and meet the train.



“It will be just our misfortune to have a real blizzard and be snowed in with that woman for a week,” he grumbled.



“Having Aggie here a few days won’t hurt you,” Ma said. “The way you carry on, you’d think she was coming to stay forever!”



Pa’s look said he considered that a distinct possibility. As I helped Ma with the pies, I questioned her about Cousin Agatha.



“Has she been here before? I can’t remember seeing her.”



“I guess you were pretty small last time Agatha visited,” Ma replied. “I expect she gets lonely in that big house in the city.”



“What do you suppose she wants besides dinner?” I ventured.



“Friendly company,” Ma snapped. “And we’re going to give it to her.”



When the pies were in the oven, I hung around the window, watching for the sleigh. It was nearly dark when I heard the bells on Nellie’s harness ring out across the snow.



“They’re coming, Ma,” I called, and Ma hurried to the door with the lamp held high over her head. The boys and I crowded behind her. Pa jumped down from the sleigh and turned to help Cousin Agatha.



“I don’t need any assistance from you, James,” a firm voice spoke. “I’m perfectly capable of leaving any conveyance under my own power.”



“She talks like a book!” Roy whispered, and Reuben poked him. I watched in awe as a tall, unbending figure sailed into the kitchen.



“Well, Maryanne,” she said, “it’s good to see you.” She removed her big hat, jabbed a long hat pin into it, and handed the hat to me. “You must be Mabel.”



I nodded wordlessly.



“What’s the matter? Can’t you speak?” she boomed.



“Yes, ma’am,” I gulped nervously.



“Then don’t stand there bobbing your head like a monkey on a stick. People will think you have no sense. You can put that hat in my room.”



I stared openmouthed at this unusual person until a gentle push from Ma sent me in the direction of the guest room.



After dinner and prayers, Pa rose with the intention of going to the barn.



“James!” Cousin Agatha’s voice stopped him. “Surely you aren’t going to do the chores with these two great hulking fellows sitting here, are you?”



The two great hulking fellows leaped for the door with a speed I didn’t know they had.



“I should guess so,” Cousin Agatha exclaimed with satisfaction. “If there’s anything I can’t abide, it’s a lazy child.”



As she spoke, Cousin Agatha pulled Ma’s rocker to the stove and lowered herself into it. “This chair would be more comfortable if there were something to put my feet on,” she said, “but I suppose one can’t expect the amenities in a place like this.”



I looked at Ma for some clue as to what “amenities” might be. This was not a word we had encountered in our speller.



“Run into the parlor and get the footstool, Mabel,” Ma directed.



When Cousin Agatha was settled with her hands in her lap and her feet off the cold floor, I started the dishes.



“Maryanne, don’t you think Mabel’s dress is a mite too short?”



Startled, I looked down at my dress.



“No,” Ma’s calm voice replied. “She’s only thirteen, you know. I don’t want her to be grown up too soon.”



“There is such a thing as modesty, you know.” Cousin Agatha sniffed.



Pa and the boys returned just then, so Ma didn’t answer. I steered an uneasy path around Cousin Agatha all evening. For the first time I could remember, I was glad when bedtime came.



The next day was Thanksgiving, and the house was filled with the aroma of good things to eat. From her rocker, Cousin Agatha offered suggestions as Ma scurried about the kitchen.



“Isn’t it time to baste the turkey, Maryanne? I don’t care for dry fowl.”



“I see the boys running around out there with that mangy dog as though they had nothing to do. Shouldn’t they be chopping wood or something?”



“I should think Mabel could be helping you instead of reading a book. If there’s one thing I can’t abide . . . “



“Mabel will set the table when it’s time,” Ma put in. “Maybe you’d like to peel some potatoes?”



The horrified look on Cousin Agatha’s face said she wouldn’t consider it, so Ma withdrew her offer.



A bump on the door indicated that the “mangy dog” was tired of the cold. I laid down my book and let Pep in. He made straight for the stove and his rug.



“Mercy!” Cousin Agatha cried. “Do you let that—that animal in the kitchen?”



“Yes,” Ma replied. “He’s not a young dog any longer. He isn’t any bother, and he does enjoy the heat.”



“Humph.” Agatha pulled her skirts around her. “I wouldn’t allow any livestock in my kitchen. Can’t think what earthly good a dog can be.” She glared at Pep, who responded with a thump of his tail and a sigh of contentment.



“Dumb creature,” Cousin Agatha muttered.



“Pep isn’t dumb, Cousin Agatha,” I said. “He’s really the smartest dog I know.”



“I was not referring to his intellect or lack of it,” she told me, “‘Dumb’ indicates an inability to speak. You will have to concede that he is unable to carry on a conversation.”



I was ready to dispute that, too, but Ma shook her head. Cousin Agatha continued to give Pep disparaging glances.



“Didn’t you ever have any pets at your house, Cousin Agatha?” I asked.



“Pets? I should say not! Where in the Bible does it say that God made animals for man’s playthings? They’re meant to earn their keep, not sprawl out around the house absorbing heat.”



“Oh, Pep works,” I assured her. “He’s been taking the cows out and bringing them back for years now.”



Cousin Agatha was not impressed. She sat back in the rocker and eyed Pep with disfavor. “The one thing I can’t abide, next to a lazy child, is a useless animal—and in the house!”



I began to look nervously at Ma, thinking she might send Pep to the barn to keep the peace. But she went on about her work, serenely ignoring Cousin Agatha’s hints. I was glad when it was time to set the table.



After we had eaten, Pa took the Bible down from the cupboard and read our Thanksgiving chapter, Psalm 100. Then he prayed, thanking the Lord for Cousin Agatha and asking the Lord’s blessing on her just as he did on the rest of us. When he had finished, Cousin Agatha spoke up.



“I believe that I will stay here until Christmas, James. Then, if I find it to my liking, I could sell the house in the city and continue on with you. Maryanne could use some help in teaching these children how to be useful.”



In the stunned silence that followed, I looked at Pa and Ma to see how this news had affected them. Ma looked pale. Before Pa could open his mouth to answer, Cousin Agatha rose from the table. “I’ll just go to my room for a bit of rest,” she said. “We’ll discuss this later.”



When she had left, we gazed at each other helplessly.



“Is there anything in the Bible that tells you what to do now?” I asked Pa.



“Well, it says if we don’t love our brother whom we can see, how can we love God whom we can’t see? I think that probably applies to cousins as well.”



“I’d love her better if I couldn’t see her.” Reuben declared. “We don’t have to let her stay, do we, Pa?”



“No, we don’t have to,” Pa replied. “We could ask her to leave tomorrow as planned. But I’m not sure that would be right. What do you think, Ma?”



“I wouldn’t want to live alone in the city,” Ma said slowly. “I can see that she would prefer the company of a family. I suppose we should ask her to stay until Christmas.”



“I think she already asked herself,” Roy ventured. “But she did say if she found things to her liking. . . .”



We all looked at Roy. Pa said, “You’re not planning something that wouldn’t be to her liking, are you?”



“Oh, no, sir!” Roy quickly answered. “Not me.”



Pa signed. “I’m not sure I’d blame you. She’s not an easy person to live with. We’ll all have to be especially patient with her.”



There wasn’t much Thanksgiving atmosphere in the kitchen as we did the dishes.



“How can we possibly stand it for another whole month?” I moaned.



“The Lord only sends us one day at a time,” Ma informed me. “Don’t worry about more than that. When the other days arrive, you’ll probably find out you worried about all the wrong things.”



As soon as the work was finished, I put on my coat and walked over to Sarah Jane’s.



“What will you do if she stays on after Christmas?” she asked.



“I’ll just die.”



“I thought you were going to be a long-living O’Dell.”



“I changed my mind,” I retorted. “What would you do if you were in my place?”



“I’d probably make her life miserable so she’d want to leave.”



“You know I couldn’t get away with that. Pa believes that Christian love is the best solution.”



“All right, then,” Sarah Jane said with a shrug. “Love her to death.”



As though to fulfill Pa’s prediction, snow began to fall heavily that night. By morning we were snowed in.



“Snowed in?” Cousin Agatha repeated. “You mean unable to leave the house at all?”



“That’s right,” Pa replied. “This one is coming straight down from Canada.”



Cousin Agatha looked troubled. “I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.”



“We’ll be all right,” Ma reassured her. “We have plenty of wood and all the food we need.”



But Cousin Agatha was not to be reassured. I watched her stare into the fire and twist her handkerchief around her fingers. Why, she’s frightened! I thought. This old lady had been directing things all her life, and here was something she couldn’t control. Suddenly I felt sorry for her.



“Cousin Agatha,” I said, “we have fun when we’re snowed in. We play games and pop corn and tell stories. You’ll enjoy it. I know you will!”



I ran over and put my arms around her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. She looked at me in surprise.



“That’s the first time anyone has hugged me since I can remember,” she said. “Do you really like me, Mabel?”



Right then I knew that I did like Cousin Agatha a whole lot. Behind her stern front was another person who needed to be loved and wanted.



“Oh, yes, Cousin Agatha,” I replied. “I really do. You’ll see what a good time we’ll have together.”



The smile that lighted her face was bright enough to chase away any gloom that had settled over the kitchen. And deep down inside, I felt real good.





Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Lost in Dreams

Lost in Dreams is the first book by this duo that my daughter has read, but I doubt it will be the last. My almost eleven year old is inhaling the Gallagher Girl books, Tricia Goyer's WWII titles, but stopped all that to escape into Kim's world. Here's what she has to say about this book:

AMAZING! I could really interact with the character, even though I haven't had experiences like hers. I could totally understand how she was feeling and relate to her story. Her story is a mixture of emotions: one minutes you're laughing with her and the next you're crying with her. Kim just returned from a life-changing missions trip. While waiting for her mom to pick her up from the airport, she gets a distressing phone call. WIth the blink of an eye, her mom's gone and her life is changed. This book tells the story of her dealing with the changes and getting to know her father, who she hasn't been really close to before. While watching Kim, I learned that God can take bad situation and turn them into something beautiful.

I think we'll get the first book in the series, since my daughter enjoyed this one so much!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Great Research Tool:History Detectives

At our house, we don't watch much TV, but when we do watch, it's often PBS. The kids watch it in the morning with breakfast. And occasionally we catch something in the evening.

This week I came home from a meeting to find my family watching History Detectives. I think I might be hooked...or have found a fourth career.

Each show has three short episodes where someone tracks down the backstory to an artifact. Is it what the owner thinks? Can the story that's told be supported by evidence?

It's fascinating to watch the "detectives" at work. And I've been very impressed with the World War II segments I've watched. If you're studying something in history, this can be a great tool to get some fun information.

And if you're a writer, it's chock full of story ideas!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door Review & Contest

Most of us have heard of Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler. Josh McDowell is known for books like More than a Carpenter and Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He is known for taking apologetics and making it understandable. Bob Hostetler is a writer, pastor and teacher.

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door is a book they first wrote and released in 1992. The cover alone was in desperate need of freshening :-). Guess which one is the new one.

This book is broken into short chapters of 3-5 pages that are easy to read in a few minutes, but address big questions. The ones our kids have got to be able to answer if they are going to own and defend their

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun History Books with a Twist

The other day my kids and I walked into the children's section of the library... a common occurrence. What was unusual was the display the librarians had assembled of history books. These books had cartoonish covers and touched on a wide swath of history. But the take was unique...perfect for tween boys. Why you wouldn't want to be...

  • on the Mayflower
  • at the Boston Tea Party
  • in Alexander the Great's Army
  • a Victorian Mill Worker
  • an Aristocrat in the French Revolution
  • live in Pompeii
  • and many, many more titles 
My son just spend twenty minutes telling me about several of the books and why I should read them...which I will especially the one on World War II pilots.

The covers are great, drawing him in, especially after he discovered the focal character of the book is often depicted on the cover. And the colorful, cartoon style continues inside the book. Each two-page spread has a paragraph or two of text and a bunch of drawings that are filled with short snippets of facts. Guess which ones my son read? Yep, the snippets. There is also a Handy Hint which he read.

So if you like to read comics, but aren't so into history books, give these a try. I think you'll enjoy learning all sort of gross facts like the Romans and their Britton enemies both liked to cut off and collect the heads of their slain enemies. EEEWWW!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Risky Business 2-in-1

My almost 11 y.o. LOVES the Scenario books by Nicole O'Dell. Yes, I capitalized on purpose because that almost captures her enthusiasm for this series.  Why does she love these books? Because she loves being the character and choosing the outcome. She'll select the wrong choice, and then go back and make the right choice. It leads to great conversations as we talk about what makes one choice better than the other.

In the first story, Magna, one of the girls gets hired at a popular clothing store. Sneaking out coupons to her friends turns into pressure to help them shoplift dresses and jeans for an upcoming party. Will she do and what are the consequences if she does. And what should she do with the money she earns? Then in Making Waves, the main character joins a swim team and is offered performance enhancing drugs. What harm could come of that?

What I love about this book and the others in the series is the way they address real life issues head on, and help tweens and teens decide ahead of time what they would do in a similar situation. Like Choose your Adventures with a purpose.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Dare to be Different 2-in-1

My almost 11 y.o. LOVES the Scenario books. Yes, I capitalized on purpose because that almost captures her enthusiasm for this series.  Why does she love these books? Because she loves being the character and choosing the outcome. She'll select the wrong choice, and then go back and make the right choice. It leads to great conversations as we talk about what makes one choice better than the other.

In Dare to be Different, the first story Truth or Dare starts with friends playing a harmless game at regular sleep-overs. Then their games of Truth or Dare take a risky turn. One of them is dared to drink a can of beer. In All that Glitters, one of the girls has to decide whether to give in to her boyfriend and lie to her parents or tell the truth. There's also a party with drugs. The girls are learning how to address peer pressure to do things they know are wrong or take the hard stand of doing what is right. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Swept Away by Nicole O'Dell

My daughter literally squealed when this book arrived in the mail. She's been waiting for MONTHS for it to be published.

My almost 11 y.o. LOVES the Scenario books. Yes, I capitalized on purpose because that almost captures her enthusiasm for this series. When this book arrived, she literally peeled it from my hands and ran upstairs to start reading. Why does she love these books? Because she loves being the character and choosing the outcome. She'll select the wrong choice, and then go back and make the right choice. It leads to great conversations as we talk about what makes one choice better than the other.

For this 2-in-1 Swept Away, the girls face touch choices about sex and cheating for what looks like a good reason. I wasn't 100% sure my daughter was ready for the sex story, but I was wrong. This truly gave us good opportunities to have some needed girl talk. And Nicole handles the issue in a sensitive yet real way. The consequences are real and laid out for readers to weigh. How much better to consider what she would do now rather than in a few years when the pressure is on.

Please get these books for the tween girls in your life. They are wonderful stories with a purpose.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wildflowers of Terezin Review

Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer is set in Denmark during World War II. Terezin is a labor camp in Czechoslovakia where many Danish Jews were deported by the Gestapo. The book tells the story of nurse Hanne and her experiences while hiding and helping other Jews escape until she is captured.

My daughter is like me and loves the World War II time period. That's what attracted her to the book initially. It's been on my to be read pile for ages, and has leapt up several positions thanks to my daughter's enthusiasm for the story. She felt like she was Hanne as she read, experiencing all the heroine did. "It's a great book about faith in our Creator and love." The pacing kept my daughter's attention. She literally couldn't put it down, carrying it around the house and reading it in the car. She said the best part of the book comes at the end -- but I won't tell you why and spoil it for you.

Now I'm eager to read this book!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Double Take Review: Cara

When this book arrived in the mail, I wasn't sure if my daughter would even find Double Take interesting. Maybe because she enjoyed Kathleen Fuller's Amish mysteries for YA, she scooped this one up practically before I could get it out of the envelope. A day later she handed it back to me asking where the next one is. I think this is only the first of many Melody Carlson books my gal will inhale. 
The plot has a Prince and the Pauper feel to it as two divergent kids swap places. I also enjoyed the Parent Trap overtones of swapped lives. Both are sick of their lives. Both want a change. And the life the other leads sounds too good to be true. Does reality match the expectations of their new lives? You'll have to read the book to find out. While you do, you'll find characters that keep you engaged thrust into situations neither is prepared to handle. Just one week and both realize maybe the grass isn't so much greener on the other side of the fence. When I asked my daughter why she liked the book so much, she said it was because every kid has felt like these girls -- like they want a different life.

This book is a great addition to our YA library and we will definitely by buying any similar books from Melody. I'm so glad this option was available and one my daughter enjoyed so much.

More about the book: Bestselling author Melody Carlson takes readers into the worlds of a socialite and an Amish girl struggling with who they are in Double Take. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could switch your life with someone else for just one day? Readers will live the one-week experiences of a bored Amish girl and stressed out socialite when they decide to switch places in Double Take.  

Spring break has arrived. It’s her senior year, and Madison VanBuren is fed up with her surroundings and the pressures of life. Stressed out over choosing an Ivy League school that will please her parents, their marital problems, and her boyfriend's pressure, Madison gets in her car and drives west.
Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Anna Fisher wants to escape the so-called simple life--which for her consists of caring for younger siblings, sewing, cooking, and gardening--and she's well aware that her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love.
Madison and Anna stumble into each other in a small town. Realizing their looks are uncannily similar, they both think their lives are boring. Thinking the grass is greener on the other side, they make a decision that will transform them forever and switch lives for one week.
Readers will love this funny and provocative tale of switching places from bestselling author Melody Carlson. As they get a glimpse and understanding of these two very different worlds. They may find themselves happy to be just who they are, and where they are.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling books, Christmas at Harrington’s and The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and several books which  are being considered for TV movies. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Emily of Deep Valley" Book Review



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Emily of Deep Valley


Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (October 12, 2010)


by


Mitali Perkins

MY REVIEW:
I have never read the classic Maud Hart Lovelace books including her Betsy-Tacy books and Emily of Deep Valley. I have been collecting the Betsy-Tacy books so I can read them with my daughters so when I had the opportunity to get this new re-release of Emily of Deep Valley I had to try it. I am pleased to say that I am looking forward to the Betsy-Tacy books based on this one (though this one actually comes after the others chronologically). It really took me back to the simple times of my childhood when some of my best friends came in the form of characters in classic books (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Trixie Belden, The Bobbsey Twins, The Boxcar Children, The Happy Hollisters, etc...) girls who lived in worlds where so many of today's issues didn't exist. With places and people that were quirky and fun and all around books that I don't have to censor for my children.
I am thrilled to have finally discovered Maud Hart Lovelace and the beautiful new packaging that this classic book comes wrapped in.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A word from Mitali: Who In The World Is Mitali Perkins?

That's a good question. I've been trying to figure it out myself, spending most of my life crossing borders.

I was born Mitali Bose in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, and always tried to live up to my name—which means “friendly” in the Bangla language. I had to! Because my family moved so much, it was the only way I could make new friends.

By the time I was 11, I'd lived in Ghana, Cameroon, London, New York and Mexico before settling in California just in time for middle school. Yep, I was the new kid again, in seventh grade, the year everybody barely makes it through.

My biggest lifeline during those early years was story. Books were my rock, my stability, my safe place as I navigated the border between California suburbia and the Bengali culture of my traditional home.

After studying political science at Stanford and public policy at U.C. Berkeley, I taught in middle school, high school and college. When I began to write fiction, my protagonists were often—not surprisingly—strong female characters trying to bridge different cultures.

Mitali Perkins is the author of several books for young people, including SECRET KEEPER (Random House), MONSOON SUMMER (Random House), RICKSHAW GIRL (Charlesbridge), and the FIRST DAUGHTER books (Dutton).

ABOUT THE BOOK



Often cited as Maud Hart Lovelace’s (of Betsy-Tacy fame) best novel, Emily of Deep Valley is now back in print, with a new foreword by acclaimed young adult author Mitali Perkins and new archival material about the characters’ real lives.

Emily Webster, an orphan living with her grandfather, is not like the other girls her age in Deep Valley, Minnesota. The gulf between Emily and her classmates widens even more when they graduate from Deep Valley High School in 1912. Emily longs to go off to college with everyone else, but she can’t leave her grandfather. Emily resigns herself to facing a “lost winter,” but soon decides to stop feeling sorry for herself. And with a new program of study, a growing interest in the Syrian community, and a handsome new teacher at the high school to fill her days, Emily gains more than she ever dreamed...

In addition to her beloved Betsy-Tacy books, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote three more stories set in the fictional town of Deep Valley: Winona’s Pony Cart, Carney’s House Party and Emily of Deep Valley. Longtime fans and new readers alike will be delighted to find the Deep Valley books available again for the first time in many years.

If you would like to browse inside Emily of Deep Valley, go HERE.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"The Gift" Book Review




This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



The Gift



Crossway Books (April 30, 2011)



by



Bryan Litfin





MY REVIEW:


I really enjoyed the first book in this series, but this second book is even better! Years in the future and after a global epidemic that practically wiped out all mankind, society has reverted to an almost midevil state. Christianity has been eradicated - or has it? This book takes us on a journey to Roma in search of a copy of the New Testament (in Book 1 Teo and Ana found a copy of the Old Testament). Along the way Ana and Teo are separated and both of them make the ultimate sacrifice for each other. I can not wait until the next book comes out - alas, I think it will be awhile, but worth the wait!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






Bryan earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of Tennessee as well as a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he went to the University of Virginia, taking a PhD in the field of ancient church history. He is currently professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where he has been since 2002. He teaches courses in theology, church history, and Western civilization from the ancient and medieval periods. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007), as well as several scholarly articles and essays. Bryan has always enjoyed epic adventure stories as well as historical fiction, but most of his reading these days is taken up by academia.

Today Bryan lives in downtown Wheaton in a Victorian house built in 1887. He and his wife Carolyn are parents to two children. For recreation Bryan enjoys basketball, traveling, and hiking anywhere there are mountains. The Litfins attend College Church in Wheaton, where Bryan has served on the Board of Missions and as a deacon. He also helped start Clapham School, a Christian primary school in Wheaton using the classical model of education.


ABOUT THE BOOK



The Chiveis Trilogy takes readers hundreds of years into the future. War and disease have destroyed civilization as we know it. Much technology has been discarded and history is largely forgotten. Slowly, the few survivors have begun to build new communities, and kingdoms now prosper in a kind of feudal order. But the Word of God has been lost for centuries.

After the finding of an Old Testament in book one of the trilogy, The Gift picks up the story of Teo and Ana. Exiled from their homeland and trying to survive in unknown and dangerous lands, they search for any record of the missing Testament.

Their journeys lead them into the region we know as Italy. An elite society welcomes Ana, who finds she must choose between her new life and her dream of returning to Chiveis. Will Teo and Ana’s relationship withstand the circumstances and new enemies pulling them apart? And can Teo keep ahead of a powerful and mysterious force opposing his search for the New Testament?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of The Gift, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:





The Gift Trailer from Crossway on Vimeo<>

"The Sword" Book Review



This week, the




Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing


The Sword


Crossway Books (April 30, 2010)


by


Bryan M. Litfin





MY REVIEW:
Okay, you know I like Speculative fiction, I enjoy a good "what if" storyline... but some can be a little over the top. Not "The Sword". "The Sword" is a brilliant blend of the futuristic past with characters and settings that grab the mind but don't boggle it into confusion. The prologue is so good and interesting that I read it out loud to my husband. This book is set in the future after a virus breaks out and spreads across the planet wiping out the human race but not before sending it into nuclear war. The little remnants of human existence that try to survive are forced to revert to life of long ago since there is no electricity, no technology and really no obvious signs of life as we know it now.



In this world we meet a "knight" and a common lady who unknowingly set out to change the world when they discover a Bible that was hidden 400 years ago and introduce it to this society where Christianity is unheard of and 3 false gods "rule" everything.
I loved this book and can't believe I have to wait an entire year to get the 2nd one!!!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Bryan Litfin was born in Dallas, but lived in Memphis, Tennessee and Oxford, England, where he discovered that the house of his favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was only five doors down from his own. Bryan still enjoys epic adventure stories, as well as historical fiction. However, most of his reading these days is taken up by academia.

After marrying his high school sweetheart, Carolyn (a true Southern belle), he went on to study for a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he went to the University of Virginia, taking a PhD in the field of ancient church history. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007), as well as several scholarly articles and essays.

In 2002, Bryan took a position on the faculty at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where he is a professor in the Theology Department. He teaches courses in theology, church history, and Western civilization from the ancient and medieval periods.

On the morning of January 6, 2007, Bryan woke up with an epiphany. Having finished writing his primer on the ancient church, he had the idea of trying his hand at fiction. The thought occurred to him that the writer of speculative fiction typically has two options. He can create an imaginary land like Middle Earth (which offers great creative freedom but is unrealistic), or he can delve into genuine history (which is realistic, yet limted to what ‘actually occurred.’) However, if a writer were to create a future world as in the Chiveis trilogy, it could be both realistic and creatively unlimited.

This little dream stayed in Bryan’s mind while he researched how to write fiction, and also researched the European landscape where the novel would be set. He planned a trip to the story locations, then went there in the summer with a buddy from grad school. Bryan and Jeff rented a Beemer and drove all over Europe from the Alps to the Black Forest with a video camera in hand. With that epic setting fresh in his mind, Bryan returned home and began to write.

Today Bryan lives in downtown Wheaton in a Victorian house built in 1887. He is blessed by God to be married to Carolyn, and to be the father of two amazing children, William, 11, and Anna, 9. For recreation Bryan enjoys basketball, traveling, and hiking anywhere there are mountains (which means getting far away from the Midwest – preferably to his beloved Smokies).

ABOUT THE BOOK




This novel of page-turning action and adventure poses the question, "If a society had no knowledge of Christianity, and then a Bible were discovered, what would happen?"

Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the "ancient" world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten—until a young army scout comes across a strange book.

With that discovery, this work of speculative fiction takes readers on a journey that encompasses adventure, romance, and the revelation of the one true God. Through compelling narrative and powerful character development, The Sword speaks to God's goodness, his refusal to tolerate sin, man's need to bow before him, and the eternality and power of his Word. Fantasy and adventure readers will be hooked by this first book in a forthcoming trilogy.

Visit the book website at The Sword to see amazing videos and a wealth of information about the trilogy!

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sword, go to HERE

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ralph Moody's Man of the Family

Little Britches is back in Man of the Family. Now as a young boy, he's the man in the house and works with his mother and older sister to find ways to survive. They're off the ranch and living in town. In the process they find incredible ways to make a living. Entrepreneurship at its best.

This book is filled with the importance of community, neighbors, and standing on your own. Little Britches makes sacrifices in order to accept his role as the man in the family. Grace, the eldest daughter, also shoulders a lot of responsibility. Together they try to take as much of the load off their mother as possible. The author has a way of writing scenes so vividly that you are transported into the middle and feel every emotion.

This book can be read on its own. But for those who have read Little Britches, you will love seeing so many characters return. These books make me think of Little House on the Prairie, only for boys. But everyone can enjoy them.

Synopsis: Fortified with Yankee ingenuity and western can-do energy, the Moody family, transplanted from New England, builds a new life on a Colorado ranch early in the twentieth century. Father has died and Little Britches shoulders the responsibilities of a man at age eleven.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ralph Moody: Little Britches

I remember my mom reading this book out loud to us kids at lunch time when we homeschooled. This spring I pulled it off the shelf to read to my kids. I had forgotten how rich the writing is. The characters leap off the page and come to life. I love that!

Here's the synopsis: Ralph Moody was eight years old in 1906 when his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Through his eyes we experience the pleasures and perils of ranching there early in the twentieth century. Auctions and roundups, family picnics, irrigation wars, tornadoes and wind storms give authentic color to Little Britches. So do adventures, wonderfully told, that equip Ralph to take his father's place when it becomes necessary.

Cara Again: one little note. One of the ranchers uses a bit of colorful language. The kind I had to edit as I read. I didn't remember that, which probably means my mom did the same thing. That is the only caveat on this book. And I would encourage you to get the book. My ten year old daughter enjoyed the stories and the family immensely. But the life lessons on how to grow up to be a man of character are incredible. The father is full of wisdom that is passed to us through the books pages. All of your kids will enjoy these stories of growing up on a ranch in Colorado at the turn of the century, but your boys will especially love it.

Just a note: the ending is sad...but the book leads you there with compassion. And it was real life back then.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Praying for Your Future Husband...Giveaway

I am sooooo excited to tell you about this brand new book from two of my friends, Tricia Goyer and Robin Jones Gunn. Last summer while I attended ICRS, a Christian Retail Show, I got to listen to these two talk about writing the chapters to this book and how very jazzed they were to get to read it.

Then in early May Tricia sent a copy to my daughter. I was THRILLED. I'm even more excited to have a copy to giveaway to one commenter/follower on this blog and one on my blog!

Let's face it young adults are concerned about finding that perfect spouse. But in the pursuit of the right person, we often forget we need to become that right person. What I love about this book is that Gunn and Goyer focus not only on how to pray for your future spouse -- before you even know who that is -- but also on how you need to prepare yourself to be the right person, too. Can you imagine what would happen if we poured half the energy we devote to dreaming and fretting into praying? That could be amazing!

Goyer and Gunn also have very different experiences that lead to marriage. These experiences bring a richness to the book because it's not all rosy nor all warning. Instead, it casts vision for what is possible. They guide the reader through 12 areas they can pray for their future spouse. Areas like his heart, that he would be a God lover, for patience, understanding, intimacy and commitment. This book would be a great gift for a girl who is starting to focus on young men -- especially if it's coupled with a commitment to read it and discuss the principles with her.

Here's more:
From when we were small girls, most of us dream of “The One,” our future husband. We think about what it would be like to be a bride. We wonder who that special guy is and when we'll find him. The great news is that what you do now can make a difference in your life and the life of your future husband!

Authors and good friends Robin Jones Gunn (Christy Miller series) and Tricia Goyer (author and former teen mom) believe God answers women's prayers for husbands—even husbands they may not meet for years. They invite young women to pray boldly for their future mate … while also asking God to prepare their own hearts.

In Praying for Your Future Husband, Robin and Tricia share their two vastly different experiences, including the things they did right and the mistakes they made on the path to meeting and marrying their husbands. Each chapter includes helpful Bible verses, prayers, and practical application, along with true stories of women who prayed for a husband and how God answered in remarkable ways.

God has a beautiful romance prepared for you. Prayer is the key to unlocking the love story … with your future husband and with God, the lover of your soul.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Richard Peck's Wings of Eagles

On the Wings of Heroes is another great offering from Richard Peck. I loved this one because it told the story of a young boy and his friends in small town America while World War II was fought across the oceans. He illustrates what the war was like on the homefront in a way that truly entertains.

Here's the synopsis: Davy Bowman's dad looks forward to Halloween more than a kid, and Davy's brother, Bill, flies B-17s. Davy adores these two heroes and tries his best to follow their lead, especially now. World War II has invaded Davy's homefront boyhood. Bill has joined up, breaking their dad's heart. It's an intense, confusing time, and one that will spur Davy to grow up in a hurry. This is one of Richard Peck's finest novels—a tender, unforgettable portrait of the World War II home front and a family's enduring love.

Cara again: I love the way the story illustrates you can be a hero by donning the uniform or by living like one every day. This family was one that we loved to come back to the pages and read more about. My seven year old son loved it, and my ten year old daughter kept asking to read just one more chapter. Each chapter represented an experience Davy had that propelled him from childhood to becoming a young man. And the recapturing of the time and history was perfect. I loved it! This was our first try with one of Richard Peck's book and was a delightful start.

The School Library Journal also has this book at a 4-8th grade reading level.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...