“A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star” by J.A. Myhre

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Just thirteen-years-old, Kusiima has no time for school, sports, or hanging out with the other boys in his African village. With no father or mother to take care of him, he works long hours to support his grandmother and sickly baby sister. Then one day, Kusiima’s life suddenly changes when he travels into a nearby protected forest. In the forest, Kusiima is presented with many choices, all with uncertain outcomes. Should he go along with illegal logging? Help to save an endangered baby gorilla? Follow a donkey to who knows where? With each choice, Kusiima has to make yet another decision about what is right in front of him. As he does, he meets a mysterious doctor who holds the key to his past and his future. In the end, Kusiima is faced with the hardest choice of all. Can he forgive a great wrong and heal a broken relationship? Readers of all ages won t want to put down this exciting book that addresses current realities like AIDS, malnutrition, and environmental destruction, all set in a richly detailed African adventure story. Following along as Kusiima makes his decisions, readers will find themselves considering their own choices and growing in empathy for others. This action-packed tale of a boy, his sister, and an orphaned gorilla is also a clear call to give up bitterness and forgive deep hurts, restoring broken lives and relationships. A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star is the third book in the Rwendigo Tale Series and follows Book One, A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest, and Book Two, A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue.

Myhre

God loves us and knows about every detail of our lives.  That’s the message I took away after ready A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star.  It’s a story for kids that doesn’t sugarcoat the hard things in life – Myhre talks AIDS, starvation, poaching, death, and more.  These issues all play a major role in this book.

So it’s a serious story, and it deals with issues that many children can’t possibly imagine.  Myhre writes the story in a very age-appropriate way, if there is such a thing, so that you’re very aware of Kusiima’s age but also of his fears.  I thoroughly enjoyed how relateable she created this character to be.

The story is well-planned and smooth.  It teaches great lessons while entertaining, and you’ll be excited to find out what happens to Kusiima.  The story is so far outside my realm of experience, though, that it was difficult for me to relate to.  That’s a good thing, in a way, but it made the plot feel a bit slow-moving to me.  

A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star would be a great story for those interested in international missions or for children learning about life in other countries.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

 

“Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey

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FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

Dani Pettrey
Don’t start Blind Spot unless you have at least four free hours, because once you pick it up, you won’t put it down until you’ve turned the last page!  Pettrey has outdone herself in this latest book in the Chesapeake Valor series.
 
Pettrey ups the game by introducing a heretofore-unknown character, and his actions not only move the plot along, but kick it out of the park.  Blind Spot has the absolute best cliffhanger ending.  I’ve never heard more readers asking impatiently for the release date of the next book, and I am right there with them!  (The next book will release in July, in case you’re wondering.  I’ve already made a note on my calendar.)  
 
I love the way that the various plots throughout the books begin to come together in Blind Spot.  Background characters take a bigger role as the stakes get higher with each plot.  Revisiting the main characters from the previous two books feels … friendly?  reassuring? as if you’re catching up with an old friend, and I love that part of this series – that you can see older characters’ plots and lives advance.
 
After turning the last page, I stewed for a day or so, frustrated at having to wait so.  very. long. for the next installment in the story, and then I handed the book to my husband, who had read the first two.  He’s not generally a reader, and the kids usually yell, “Whoa!  Daddy’s reading!” whenever he does pick up a book, so you know that it’s a rarity in this house of bibliophiles.  After starting Blind Spot, though, we didn’t really see him for about three days after that – until he had finished the book.  
 
If suspense stories are your cup of tea, this is definitely a book you need to have on your shelf.
 
I received a free copy of this book to review.   All opinions are my own.
 
There’s a great giveaway associated with this Blind Spot!  Check it out here.

“The Stray” Review & Giveaway

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The Stray is the new story of a dog who saves a family – in more ways than one.  Based on a true story, The Stray is both serious drama and adventure story.  

The whole family will relate to The Stray.  The driving force for much of the story is the oldest son of the family, who is an elementary-aged boy, but his parents’ opposing perspectives on family life are driven home, as well.  Themes of family, love, friendship, and forgiveness run through every scene of this movie.  

That’s the very best aspect of this movie:  the overall theme of the importance of family.  It’s refreshing to see a movie on the big screen that emphasizes this.  You’ll leave inspired to spend more quality time with your family.

The Stray makes this point uniquely, and the story is fascinating.  I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’ll be very vague, but parts of the movie were hard to watch.  The family was suffering, and I hate to see that.  Events alternately improve and worsen until the resolution, at which point every member of my family had tears streaming down their faces – even one who had never cried at a movie before.

That sadness was necessary, though, to highlight the ultimate sacrifice and joy brought about by that resolution.  Without it, the highs couldn’t have been so great, and they really were great.  They brought the message home and made you appreciate them much more than you ever could have otherwise.  

There were funny parts in the story, and we enjoyed those immensely.  They helped to lighten the mood when it got heavy, and it was done well.

There is a climactic scene that is intense, and so the movie may not be suitable for very young children.  There is suspense and danger, and perhaps some wouldn’t be ready for that; but there is no violence, language issues, or sexual overtones.  It’s one of the cleanest, most inspiring movies I’ve seen in years.

I’d definitely recommend making an outing to see The Stray.

Want to know more? You can watch the movie trailer here!

You can even win tickets to see it for free!  Click here to enter the giveaway for a family pack of tickets.

I received free tickets to see The Stray in theaters opening weekend.  All opinions are my own.

Book Club: “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone”

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We recently embarked on one of our most fun book clubs ever:  we read Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone.  

My Big Helper worked with me to flesh out details of the book that we could bring to life.  We spent several days making labels and creating things to turn my yard into a wizarding world.

Book Club

The day of our book club event dawned bright and sunny with brilliant blue skies.  The kids hurriedly donned their Hogwarts gear and ran outside.

Harry Potter

After everyone had arrived, we kicked off the day with the Sorting Hat.  I sewed it out of some khaki-colored felt and carefully put a small pocket on the inside of the hat.  When it came time for our sorting, a friend called my phone, which we then hid in that pocket.  As I loudly called each child’s name, he declared the house each child would go into.  It was a very fun part of the day, and the kids cheered for their housemates as the sorting continued.

Harry Potter

Following the Sorting and welcoming speeches, we moved onto the back deck for History of Magic.  We decided to recreate most of the classes that Harry Potter and his friends attended, and we used this class to summarize and discuss the book.

Harry Potter

The kids also decorated paper neckties that matched their individual houses.  Then they wrote about what they thought they might see in the Mirror of Erised.

Harry Potter

Potions class had us relocating to the driveaway, where we used a mixture of powders to create neat reactions.

Harry Potter

They were very fun to watch!

Harry Potter

Lunch was especially fun.  We made many of the foods mentioned in this book, particularly those found on the lunch trolley on the Hogwarts Express, like Pumpkin Pasties …

Harry Potter

Golden Snitches ….

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and Pumpkin Juice.

Harry Potter

We ended the day with a rousing game of Quidditch.  We modified it a bit, of course, since our brooms don’t actually fly, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.  They had a great time chasing their Snitch around our yard and trying to win the house cup.

The Harry Potter books have become cultural icons.  They’re amazing works of literature, but they’re loads of fun, too.  Give it a try and see what Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone can do for your book club.

“Many Sparrows” by Lori Benton

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In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son…especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do: be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Lori Benton
 
Lori Benton had me hooked from the very first page of Many Sparrows!  The suspense and action in this story is bar none, and it’s incredibly dramatic, too.  Normally, it would be the very kind of book that I can’t put down, except …
 
Lori Benton wrote this story in an incredibly realistic way.  I typically sail through stories, my nose firmly engrossed at the edge of the page, while I fly through it to find out what happens next.  I couldn’t do that with this story, however; it was too realistic.  Benton brings Clare’s feelings and problems and pain to aching reality, and I found that I needed a break periodically to separate myself from it.  Not that I wanted to stop reading, because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, but because I could feel Clare’s pain all-too strongly.  The breaks helped provide some needed distance and helped me to absorb the story fully.
 
The intense drama doesn’t detract from the story, however, as evidenced from the way I bounced on my seat through the beginning of the story – for an unusual reason, I suppose.  The Chief Logan of the story settled at one point in my home county back in Pennsylvania – and many local things are named for him.  I’d not heard his whole story before, however, and encountering it in this book was fascinating.  Being face-to-face with Mingoes and Logans, the original ones, was quite fascinating, and I found myself wishing I could mail the book off to my great-grandmother for another one of our by-mail book clubs.  She would’ve loved meeting local history in the pages of such a famous book, and I would have loved sharing it with her.
 
My local connection aside, Benton knew her setting and brought that to life, too.  Between land descriptions, drama, and Jem’s story slowly coming to light, there were many things to keep the pages turning, and one didn’t always know what might be coming in the next chapter.  Despite what you might want to happen, Benton kept surprising me.  I love when authors can do that.
 
Benton definitely created a new fan with Many Sparrows.  I can’t wait to read more!
 
I received a free book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Bringing Maggie Home” by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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Decades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery,

and a Rift Spanning Three Generations

Bringing Maggie Home is my favorite Sawyer book yet!  I absolutely love the way that Sawyer blends the stories of all three generations of DeFord women.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Meghan.  She adds a bit of Nancy Drew to the cast of characters and ups the mystery factor.  As a diehard lover of all things mysterious, this aspect of the story was right up my alley.

Hazel reminded me of my own grandmother.  Hazel is spunky and adventurous and proper only on the surface.  While she’s definitely more prim than Nana, she stared down adventure when the time came, and I want to be her someday.

Sawyer wrote Bringing Maggie Home as a story within a story.  This type of writing can be complicated and confusing if not done well, but Sawyer nails it.  It’s easy to keep each time frame straight.  My biggest problem was that I was always so caught up in each saga that I was never ready to leave any given time frame when they changed.  My desire to learn what happened next kept the pages turning until the very last one.

If you’re a fan of Sawyer’s books, general mystery novels, or just want a good read, pick up Bringing Maggie Home.

I received a free copy of Bringing Maggie Home from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

 

“The Pretender: A Blackguard in Disguise” by Ta’Mara Hanscom

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South Dakota: 1975. Eighteen-year-olds could order 3.2 beers in a bar and loaded guns were kept under the counter. Frankie Valli sang My Eyes Adored You, and American soldiers returning from Vietnam struggled with their new reality.

It’s within this tumultuous season of American history that Tillie Caselli meets Noah Hansen, and they are never the same again. Their lives were mysteriously intertwined and had been for many years, yet they had no idea.
 

There’s a new Danielle Steele in training.  Ta’Mara Hanscom‘s first book in the Caselli series has all the makings of a Steele favorite:  loveable characters, deep romance, and drama that spans years.

I spent much of this book cheering on Tillie and Noah.  They’ve made big mistakes, but they were also trying hard to make things right, and they were yearning for good things – except the book ended before I got the resolution I wanted.

That’s the biggest problem I had with The Pretender – I didn’t want the soap-opera cliffhanger but a happy ending, and there really isn’t one here. At least, it’s not the one I hoped for.  Maybe it’s coming in one of the future books, because there are more on the way, and I’ll want to read them to find out about that ending.

Those two characters were, by far, my favorite part.  At times events were a little too black and white, and sometimes monologues launched that were a bit preachy, albeit well-intentioned.  I would have liked to have seen those parts smoothed out.

As it was, despite those issues, I couldn’t help cheering for Noah and Tillie.  I enjoyed their families, their characters, and their general likeability.

I also want to know more about Marquette and Tara – I can tell there’s something brewing on the horizon for them.

I hope the sequel will be out soon – these cliffhanger endings are hard on readers! – but if sweeping sagas are your cup of tea, you’ll love The Pretender.

Despite just meeting each other, Tillie and Noah’s lives have been mysteriously intertwined for many years in Ta’Mara Hanscom’s The Pretender. From the moment they met, Tillie and Noah wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, but a deliberate omission will keep them apart-and that same omission will be responsible for the escape of a murderer, and a bride’s deception.

Join Ta’Mara in celebrating the release of the second printing and new covers by entering to win her $75 prize basket giveaway!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of The Pretender
  • A $75 Amazon gift card
  • A decorative box containing measuring cups, ten recipes from the book, a potholder, a kitchen towel, pepper and salt grinders, kitchen utensils, and an olive oil dispenser
 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 11. The winner will be announced October 12 on the Litfuse blog.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

NEW! “Lemoncello” Movie Pack and Bundles!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, and I’m not the only one – that first book spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times’ Bestseller List.  The second in the series is just as good, and the third is due to be released in just a few weeks – I’m super excited!

There are a few things that makes these books so wonderful – first, that they’re entertaining but completely clean reads, which is a rare thing for a middle-grade book these days.  Just as good, though, is that they’re smart books.  Grabenstein writes philosophical truths, lessons about kindness, and educational skills throughout his books, but your kids won’t realize that they’re learning anything – they’ll be too busy laughing at Mr. Lemoncello’s antics and trying to solve the mysteries before Kyle Keeley does.

I’m all for maximizing learning opportunities, though, and so that’s why I’ve created some really fun extension activities and novel studies to accompany these books.  You can find them here – and I’m happy to share a few NEW products, just in time for the movie release!

That’s right –  Nickolodeon has turned Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library into a movie, and it premieres on October 9.

To go along with this fantabulous opportunity to compare book and movie, I’ve created a new movie pack – full of discussion questions, creative writing projects, recipes for your movie party, printables, and more!  You can get your own copy here.

Grabenstein

You might want more than just those few pages of movie-related fun, though.  Perhaps you’re going all out for a big Lemoncello party, reading and watching for a book club event, or hosting your own library-style gala, just like in the book.  I’ve put together a bundle with both resources from Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, which features three games, loads of printables, a recipe for Lemonberry Fizz, and more.  You’ll find both the original party pack and the new movie pack in this bundle – 89 pages of fun!

Grabenstein

If you’re as big of a Lemoncello fan as we are, though, that might not be enough.  Maybe you also want to try your hand at Lemoncello-style scavenger hunts, STEAM activities, a unit study, plus all the printables, games, recipes, and more from the above bundle, then this is the one for you.  With 199 pages of Lemoncello-style fun, you’re guaranteed to find just the right learning projects and activities to maximize your child’s learning.

Grabenstein

Who else is counting down the days ’til the movie and the new book release?

“Rule of Law” by Randy Singer

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What did the president know? And when did she know it?

For the members of SEAL Team Six, it was a rare mission ordered by the president, monitored in real time from the Situation Room. The Houthi rebels in Yemen had captured an American journalist and a member of the Saudi royal family. Their executions were scheduled for Easter Sunday. The SEAL team would break them out.But when the mission results in spectacular failure, the finger-pointing goes all the way to the top.

Did the president play political games with the lives of U.S. service members?

Paige Chambers, a determined young lawyer, has a very personal reason for wanting to know the answer. The case she files will polarize the nation and test the resiliency of the Constitution. The stakes are huge, the alliances shaky, and she will be left to wonder if the saying on the Supreme Court building still holds true.

Equal justice under law.

It makes a nice motto. But will it work when one of the most powerful people on the planet is also a defendant?

Randy Singer

I’ve not read many of Randy Singer’s novels, but after reading Rule of Law this weekend, that’s about to change!  Rule of Law weighs in at a hefty 480 pages, but I flew through it in a single day – I couldn’t put it down!  It’s like the best of Joel C. Rosenberg and Dee Henderson and NCIS all rolled into one.

Singer caught me up in the romance of the story at the very beginning.  Patrick was a chivalrous leading man, and I couldn’t wait to learn more about him – except that then the story took a crazy turn, and we left Dee Henderson and moved into NCIS, all forensics and research and mystery.  After a while, though, as resolution neared, with me still cheering on Paige and Kristen, we moved into Rosenberg territory, as Middle Eastern culture and tradition and faithful double agents came into play.  There was no part of the story where I felt lost, confused, or bored; instead, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, and even when I thought I knew, I found myself surprised on the next page.

I’m not a political person, but Singer made me understand and care about the issues within this book, and he wrote it in such a way that it was both suspenseful and exciting.

If you read any new suspense novel at all this fall, make it Rule of Law!

Click here to read other reviews in this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy.

I received a free copy from Litfuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

Called and Courageous Girls Live Webcast

Called and Courageous Girls
 

 

Join the movement to inspire the next generation of godly women! 

Meet God’s Called and Courageous Girls, Bible heroes who inspire your child’s faith in God. Harvest House’s new series just launched with the release of the first book! To celebrate the release of A Brave Big Sister, you’re invited to join authors Rachel Spier Weaver and Anna Haggard for a live webcast on September 7 at 2 PM EDT (1 PM CDT/12 PM MDT/11 AM PDT).

Join top Christian speakers and the creators of the Called and Courageous Girls series for this live one-hour event to equip and encourage parents how to teach their kids about the women of the Bible. Explore how God is calling women to serve him today in exciting ways. There will be plenty of prizes to win, too, so stop by on your lunch break and join in the conversation.

Guest speakers and topics will include:

  • Peter Greer on framing our biblical and faith narrative in a way that invites girls to join God’s story.
  • Katelyn Beaty on how mainstream and church cultures impact girls’ understanding of their role in God’s plan for the world.
  • Chris Horst on the Christian narrative and the significance of women in scripture.
  • Carolyn Custis James, Kate Wallace Nunneley, with Rachel Spier Weaver and Anna Haggard, the authors and creators of the Called and Courageous Girls series of children’s books.

Don’t miss this chance to learn how to shine the spotlight on the heroic women of the Bible for your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters, and Sunday school classes! Click here to learn more and to register for the webcast by inputting your email address for a reminder using the pink “Register” button!

Also, check out the special preorder offer on A Brave Big Sister: A Bible Story About Miriam. Learn more here.