A book to help encourage and strengthen step-families

Parenting in and of itself can be quite difficult. From the moment a parent finds out they are going to have a baby (are we getting the right prenatal care?) to the trying teen years (how do I get my child to stop lying?) and forevermore, there’s no doubt that being a parent is a huge responsibility. And that’s with your own flesh and blood children. Throw in being a step-parent and the complications rise even more. Now you have a child that is not fully your flesh and blood, but is still the flesh and blood child of your spouse, who, whether their other parent is living or passed on, may resent you for whatever reason which causes some tension on your end and creates a total head butting episode (not that I’m speaking from experience at all…). There are some step-parents that have a great relationship with their step-children and if you are one of them, that is great, but for the most part, movies and society portray the step-parent as a wicked and evil villain who is out to become the fairest one of them all. With all the negative portrayals out there, step-parents could use a little encouragement and a pat on the back from time to time to let them know that their efforts are not in vain, and I think that is what Ron L. Deal with Denise Neal Matthews try to do in their book Daily Encouragement for the Smart Stepfamily.

 This book is set up like a devotion in that each day is a new topic, or an expansion on the topic from the day before. While it is Biblically based, instead of being a Bible devotion where you read a chapter or a verse and have a little meditation on that, this is a piece of encouragement a day for 365 Days. I haven’t read through the whole book yet because I am trying to just read a page a day, but so far, I am enjoying the little snippets and they are challenging me to think outside the box. Some are direct principles from the Bible (how the fruits of the spirit can apply to step-families was a segment) and some are just snippets that let the step-family know, “hey, you’re really not alone in this”. Some days are even designed to be shared as a whole family to work on creating more unity/discussion amongst the family members. Each day is concluded with a short prayer to start your prayers for the night based on that day’s discussion.

So far, overall I am glad I got this book. At first I wasn’t too sure because I don’t always want to readily admit my shortcomings in my family, but this book isn’t about pointing out what you do wrong at all. This book is like a fellow runner coming up alongside you in a race when you are on that last leg and about to collapse because you’re not sure you can run another foot and cheering you on letting you know that you can get through this and this too shall pass and you are doing well. Keep up the good work.

If you’re a step-parent, I encourage you to pick up this little book of encouragement written just for you.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Slowing Down Time and Becoming More Aware of It

Did you know that there are 936 weeks between a child’s birth and age 18? Put in this aspect, it seems like a long time, an eternity if you’re dealing with a rebellious teenager or crying infant; but put as pennies into a jar, it seems small and makes one completely conscious of how little time it actually is. This is exactly what Eryn Lynum discovers when her pastor hands her a jar of 936 pennies on baby dedication Sunday with her first born and thus is the basis behind her book: 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting.

Time can fly extremely quickly if we put ourselves in autopilot mode and instead of doing that, Eryn encourages the reader to slow down and be intentional about how time is invested with your children. Each week she takes a penny out of the weeks jar and puts it into another jar which makes her very conscious of how she is investing and spending her time with her kids. In this book, she gives some ideas of how she and her family has tried to get the most out of the time they have before the kids are grown to encourage each family to find ways to savor their time as well. While I did feel guilty at times for some of the time that has been wasted, she does emphasize that her goal is not to do that, but she understands that is how we as moms operate and urges us not to put so much pressure on ourselves with what we have done or have not done.

Eryn also talks about how sometimes we don’t get the whole 936 pennies to invest in our children because of tragedies that befall and even writes a whole section on that. But she does encourage the mother who has lost that those children’s lives are not in vain and that they will always be important.

This was a very difficult book for me to read. Not that the content was overly complex or challenging to understand, but that in the few weeks while I was reading this book I was very aware of time passing and how short that time is. At times I honestly had to put the book down and come back at it another day because it was too hard at that particular time. I stumbled across the section dealing with unused pennies around the same time as one of my church friends lost her 7 year old daughter to a very sudden, unexpected illness. And then it is also birthday season for 2 of my children and I was reading the book the night before my son turned 3 and just started sobbing. Time is definitely a precious thing and while we can’t get back the pennies we’ve spent in our children’s lives, like Eryn mentions (paraphrased), we can definitely press forward and invest our time more fully in the future.

While the content might be raw at times, 936 Pennies will spur you to start thinking of how the time with your children has been invested so far and how you can better invest it in the future. This is a book that is for parents or those wanting to become parents.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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A Girl, a Brand, and a Run for Her Life

As a 13 year old girl, Moriyah and her friend Alanah were taken as captive in Jericho before the walls fell and Moriyah was branded by the Canaanite pagan priestess to be a temple slave, before Alanah came in to save her and take out the high priestess in the process. 7 years later, Moriyah is confined to her father’s house and land because of the shame that has plagued her with her brand and the fear of being scoffed at by those on the outside world. She is convinced that due to her pagan brand, no Hebrew man would ever want her for a wife for what the brand implies, until her father comes and tells her that he found a man that is willing to take her as a wife.

As a last event for her to enjoy as an unmarried maiden, her blind friend, Ora, convinces her to go to the festival on Tu B’Av and dance with the other unmarried maiden who wear white dresses and head coverings. Moriyah feels that it will be safe because she will not have to reveal the brand on her face because it will be covered up. Throughout the evening, she enjoys herself and feels freer than she ever has and manages to catch the eye of a handsome young soldier. Suddenly, a girl from the marketplace realizes that she is the girl with the brand on her face and her and her friends start to mock her until she catches her sleeve in the fire and lights her garment aflame. The Moriyah and the soldier she has been making eye contact with come to the girls’ aid. Later on, after they have treated her wounds, Moriyah has a chance to talk to the soldier and from what he tells her and the descriptions her father has told her of the man she is to wed, she believes Darek, the man she is talking to, is indeed the man her father has chosen for her to marry and she cannot wait to have this all revealed when she is to meet the man the next day. The next day, her hopes are crushed when she realizes that it is not Darek she is to marry but Darek’s brother, Raviv, who also has 2 preteen boys.

Determined to make the best of the situation, Moriyah decides to prepare a meal for Darek and his sons and his father and her father so she can show them that she will not turn down the arrangement, even if she wishes it another way. She calls the boys in for dinner, but they are rude to her and make accusations about her brand on her face, which makes her young friend and helper upset. Her father and the other men still have not returned from running their errands so Moriyah decides to dish the boys up a bowl of her stew since they complain of being hungry and don’t want to wait. By the time Raviv returns, the boys are writhing in pain and on the brink of death. She dumps out the rest of the stew and finds that she accidentally placed oleander in the mixture. She realizes that since the boys’ death is her responsibility, however accidental it might be, the only thing she can do is run for her life to make it to the refuge city. She takes off with her father’s servant Yuval to protect her and wonders if she’ll ever see her family or her beloved land again.

Along the way she runs across Darek, who is out to help Raviv avenge his nephews’ deaths, but also believes that she deserves a fair trial which she will be able to receive in the refuge city; But will she make it there before her avenger. A tale of love and action, this is a page turner from the very first scene to the last. Most of the story does take place while Moriyah is fleeing for her life, but it does not lose the main plot line like several novels do when faced with such a situation.

There is nothing in extremely graphic nature in this novel, but I do think the concepts would be a little difficult for the younger reader to understand. But if you want a moving novel that will keep you interested, A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette is one that you will want to check out.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Like Having a Cup of Tea with a Good Friend

Sometimes in the impossible situations, it can seem so difficult to hope. When someone has a horrible sickness that it looks like they will never recover from or life is at its bleakest, we may not have much hope in our earthly situation, but in Daring to Hope, Katie Davis Majors shows us that One can always be trusted with our hopes and will hear our prayers and that even at our lowest moment, God is still there walking beside us and hearing our hopes and prayers.

From the very first pages of this book, it is like a soothing balm just pours out on the reader’s soul. You can hear Katie’s sweet and gentle spirit come through on each page and you will laugh and cry with her (and I’m not a person who usually shows much physical emotion when reading) as she recounts numerous stories of different people and situations that have entered her life. Some situations it was easy to hope in and others, her hope truly came from the grace of God and the promise that the person she had come to care about would get to be with Jesus shortly and the eternal hope that she would get to see that loved one again.

In each case, Katie will point you to Christ. When she has been elated and happy and when she has shaken her fist in anger at God wondering why He would let something happen. She recounts how God is patient even in our frustration with Him and how he shows His love even in those moments. Each story may be a reflection of an event that happened in Katie’s life, but she always brings the glory back to God.

This is a beautiful book and if your soul is weary and just needs a good friend to visit with, Katie is in the pages of this book. I have never met her before and after reading this, I felt like I sat with her and had a cup of tea and a good chat where we shared our lives and faith with one another. At first I just about didn’t get this book because I thought it had to do with adoption (and I haven’t adopted nor do I feel called to) so I didn’t think it would apply to me. But this book, even though you can see her love for adoption, this book is so much more and you will be glad you read it. I would recommend this book to people of all ages (although a younger child might not enjoy it as much) who just need a good talk with a friend while reading a book.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


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Historical fiction based on real people and events

If you are looking for action, adventure, and romance, Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt has it all. Based on the life of Judah Maccabees, Judah’s Wife is a fictional novel based on real events as told through the eyes of Judah’s wife. I am not all too familiar with the books of Maccabees as it is not included as part of my denomination’s Biblical canon, but this novel does have me interested to read it to find out more about the life of Judah and see how close the novel is to the actual events. As with the other stories I have read by Angela, I’m sure she has definitely done her research and based it as closely to the real events as possible with it still being a fictional work.

Growing up in a rough childhood with a father who was abusive to her mother, Leah wanted something better for herself. She didn’t want to become like her mother and, in her eyes, weak and not willing to stand up for herself to a man. And above all, Leah wants a marriage where she can feel safe not have to worry about anger and constant fighting. One day on the street, she happens to cross paths with Judah Maccabee who stands up for her against a group of boys who want to take advantage of her. From that point forward, Judah invades Leah’s thoughts.

Growing up, Judah didn’t have much of a desire to marry. To him, following HaShem (God) and standing up for his beliefs were more important to him that finding a women. When Judah’s father says that they are going to move to Modein to escape the religious persecution that the Jews were facing in Jerusalem around 168 B.C., he encourages Judah to find a wife from the many ladies that are an option in Jerusalem to take to Modein with them. Like Leah, Judah cannot get her off his mind either and decides that she is the one he would like to take for a wife. Leah agrees seeing that Judah is a noble man, and does not initially marry for love, but for the safety and security Judah can provide her away from her father.

Starting out on their journey of life together, Leah learns that being married to Judah is more than she ever anticipated, and while he is a good, honorable man, she does not agree with his fighting for his beliefs and contemplates leaving him. Can Leah learn to love a man who treats her well but desires to fight for what he feels is right?

Judah’s Wife is a good book and well written, but it is honestly not my favorite book by Angela; the reason is not due to anything that was written wrong with the book, but just for the fact that this book was based in a time period when there were a lot of religious freedom fighters and I’m not a huge fan of to war and fighting stories. This is a great book for those who enjoy reading fictional accounts of historical wars and it does a great job in adding the touches from what kind of armor the armies of the time would use to including the use of war elephants. Due to some of the graphic war images, I would not recommend this book for the faint of heart or young readers.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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A Deep Novel Based in the Time of Isaiah

It was a time when the kings of Judah were wicked and paganism ran rampant throughout the land, including in the Holy Temple of Yahweh. When all that was truly Holy was disregarded and replaced with idols that man had made that required sacrifices of the most horrible sort. During the reign of Ahaz, one of the most wicked rulers, a child was born who would prove to be a righteous king unlike his father. The novel Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews focuses on the life of King Hezekiah and Queen Hephzibah. While it is a fictional story based on Biblical events and passages, it is a story in a time that the author has very thoroughly researched and done a phenomenal job writing on.

The story starts around the time when Israel and Judah are at war with one another. Ishma (future Queen Hephzibah) and her friend Yaira are trying to escape to Jerusalem after the murder of Ishma’s parents by Israeli soldiers so they can live with Yaira’s brother Micah. Due to the horrible image of seeing her parents murdered in front of her, Ishma is left temporarily unable to speak. Upon finding Micah, he recommends that they actually go live with the prophet Isaiah who can take care of them and give them the best chance of having the life they need. Around this time, Isaiah is also summoned to be a teacher to the children of royal heritage in the palace.

Hezekiah has witnessed more than most children his age should have to witness in his few short years of life. One such incident was so horrifying that he has all but lost the will to live and by the time Ishma meets him, he is essentially reduced to a breathing corpse and unwilling to talk. One day, Isaiah’s wife, Aya, meets with her friend (and Ahaz’s wife) Queen Abijah and encourage Ishma and Hezekiah to spend time together and develop a friendship. Turns out that Ishma is the only one who is able to coax Hezekiah back to full life and over the years, the friendship grows and strengthens and develops in to something more, but knowing that she is not of royal blood, Ishma finds herself content to be Hezekiah’s friend for life.

In the meantime, Isaiah and Aya have grown to love Ishma as their own and see the love Ishma and Hezekiah have for one another. Upon prompting from Yahweh, they decide to legally adopt Ishma as their own daughter so that she can have the royal pedigree needed to marry Hezekiah. Ishma’s name no longer is “Desolate”, but instead, they change it to “Hephzibah” which means “delight of the Lord”. Together Hezekiah and Hephzibah become a couple who work to eradicate the idols out of Judah and bring the country back to worship the one true God, Yahweh.

This is not one of those light reading books that you can sit down with and read in one night. While it is very interesting, it is also very complex and gives you a lot to think about as you read, and honestly, some of the content is heavy. It is neat how Mesu integrates Scripture in with the book. At the beginning of each chapter, she includes a chronological scripture reference to the time of Hezekiah and Hephzibah and bases that part of the story about what happens after that particular passage or in direct relation to. I truly enjoy when authors take a character from the Bible and without taking away from what the Bible directly says about them, also tries to fictionalize the character a bit, not to take away from the Bible, but to maybe imagine what the character’s life was like and maybe what drove some of their motives. These characters and the time frame has been well researched by Mesu down to details like different customs of the time and even research into rabbinical literature and Bible text saying that Manasseh (Hezekiah and Hephzibah’s son) was the maternal grandson of Isaiah and putting that all together and really bringing it to life in the person of Hephzibah.

While I truly enjoyed this book, this is not a novel that I will be allowing my children to read until they are older and it is not one that the faint of heart will want to read. There is nothing that they can’t necessarily read in the book, but being true to the time frame it was written in, there are a lot of concepts in it that would be extremely difficult for the less mature reader to understand and grasp its place in the novel. Also, there was one scene especially that was really graphic and horrific (and probably very true to that time) that made me cringe and just about in tears after reading it at the very beginning. If you want a good, solid read about a Biblical character, I do recommend this book.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


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A Charming Historical Romance

Lovely Lola Bell has been the dance hall singer at the Cat-Eye Saloon for years and is secure in her position and has fans that adore her, until the saloon’s owner, Tim-Bob, brings a newer, younger singer in to take her place, just as she had done to the singer before her. Tim-Bob promises a place to stay briefly while she looks to find a new job, but Lola denies his offer because she does not want to find herself in a compromising position of a lot of the upstairs girls. Knowing she has a brother out west in the army who has had a bit of a scrape with some of the higher ups due to reckless behavior, she decides to head to Fort Reno in hopes of at least securing a job providing entertainment to the soldiers there and keeping an eye on her brother.

The last stop in a town before Fort Reno completely changes everything for her. While waiting for her ride to the fort, she happens across a widow named Mrs. Townsend who was going to be a governess at the fort but has decided that going out west is a bit much for her health and has decided to go back to Kansas. Once Mrs. Townsend finds out Lola is going to the fort, she asks if Lola could at least bring the books she was carrying out there to Major Adams for her and Lola consents. The stage to the fort is running a bit behind, so a young boy decides to take Lola out fishing with him, but only brings one pole not anticipating Lola wanting to fish; instead, she takes the opportunity to burst into song in the open meadow and sees a man riding standing on the horse in the distance. Unbeknownst to her, it is Major Adams, who is so taken aback by hearing a women singing in the middle of nowhere that he falls off his horse and is injured. Lola quickly rushes to his side and he is smitten by the beauty of the angel he thinks has rescued him.

Upon arriving at the fort, with books in tow, Lola is mistaken for a governess, Miss Louisa. And not only that, but Louisa finds out that she is not just a governess to anyone, but to Major Adam’s daughters. Everyone quickly recognizes that she is not the widow Mennonite who was sent to be the governess, but a replacement. This is not a problem for Louisa because she is the dance hall singer Lovely Lola Bell and she has amazed and captivated audiences before, so this will be one more part she has to play, at least until she can find a way to get on her feet. The Major is not too utterly convinced that Louisa is a governess as she says she is, but she urges him to give her 1 week to prove that she has what it takes for the job.

Apart from her studying every night to get ahead of the girls in their lessons, since she was never much into to schooling herself, she comes across as a normal governess, but Major Adams still senses something is a bit amiss. He writes to the Mennonite Missionary Agency where Louisa supposedly came from to get her credentials and references to see if she really is who she says she is. In the meantime, Louisa is doing a fantastic job with the girls and they are actually enjoying being her pupil and Major Adams finds that Louisa has a bit of a knack for chess and has been moving his pawns to continue on the game- an equal to the game of chess that he has not had in awhile. He decides to start inviting her into his study on an evening by evening basis to play the game with him, which has begins to enjoy.

When the letter finally comes from the missionary agency, will he want to even know what truths the letter exposes and will Louisa be able to keep up her guise much longer, especially when her heart is at stake.

You will be drawn into the novel Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings. This was a fast read because it was so entertaining and had a well developed story line. Even though it does deal with some scenes in a saloon and Louisa being a dance hall singer, there is nothing in this book that is not appropriate for any age reader.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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