“Rescued Hearts” by Hope Toler Dougherty

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Children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar- entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.

Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months’ investigation against the woman’s safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind.

When Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

 
Rescued Hearts
 
 Dougherty packs the plot of Rescued Hearts full of action from the very first page to the last!  When I read that the main character was a clothing designer, I somehow figured the story would be mostly sweet romance, but while that element is there, Rescued Hearts is much, much more.
 
That action starts off at the very beginning and rises throughout.  It never feels scary, which I appreciate, but Mary Wade finds herself in some really tough situations.  I enjoyed Brett’s changing roles and the way that his experience and job adds to the action, both physical and emotional.
 
Both kinds of action are there.  Dougherty uses lots of physical action to advance the plot, but there’s a lot of emotional and spiritual drama going on, too.  Mary Wade and Brett both have spiritual lessons to learn, and they are very relatable.  
 
I love the way that Dougherty describes Mary Wade without using words.  She uses incidents and story sketches to show the reader who her characters really are, and I love that skill.  Bringing the past into the present in small bits and pieces throughout the story ups the suspense factor and is another talent of this author.
 
I love mystery and suspense stories, and Rescued Hearts ranks right up there with Colleen Coble or Teri Blackstock.  I can’t wait for the next one!
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

The KJV Know the Word Study Bible Review

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The KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers three easy ways to begin studying Scripture and helps individuals transition from being a casual reader of the Bible to becoming a regular student of the Bible. You can choose to study the Bible book-by-book, verse-by-verse, or topic-by-topic; each path offers powerful insights that will help you develop a daily routine of Bible study. The book-by-book series of notes leads you through the main points of each book of the Bible. The verse-by-verse notes help you to dig deeper into God’s Word. The topic-by-topic articles, which cover 21 theological topics, guide you through a series of insightful notes and give you a thorough biblical understanding of each topic. With the beautiful and timeless text of the KJV translation, the KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers you choices of how to study Scripture and grow in your relationship with Christ.

Features Include:

  • King James Version Bible text
  • Three easy approaches to study the Bible: 1. Book by Book; 2. Verse by Verse; 3. Topic by Topic
  • Insightful introductions for each book of Scripture
  • Words of Jesus in red
  • Beautiful two-color interior page design
  • Comprehensive list of theological notes
  • Concordance
  • Full-color maps
  • 8-point type size

KJV Know the Word Study Bible

Have you ever noticed how no two Bibles feel the same when you pick them up?  I don’t mean in weight, or in heft, but they all have different features.  While the books of the actual Bible are in the same order, the notes, maps, explanations, and more make each version unique.

The Know the Word Study Bible is very different from my other study Bibles.  They are intended to be easy to understand, or are full of color pictures, but this one feels more conservative and old-fashioned in nature.  It’s chock-full of explanatory notes meant to help the reader understand the history and meaning of words and verses.  The explanations take a very conservative stance, and I appreciate the way that they explain a variety of views and which one is most researched or plausible.

Notes are abundant.  I really like the way that there’s extra information everywhere you look.  It’s not distracting in layout, but if I want more information while I’m reading, it’s easy to find.

I thoroughly enjoy the introductions to each book.  They’re lengthy and detailed.  There’s a lot of information there, and it’s not just in list format like in some other books; instead, there’s a full page of background material to get you up to speed as you begin reading each new book of the Bible.

If you’re looking for additional information to beef up your Bible time, I highly recommend this new Know the Word Study Bible.  It’s full of great features and even better information.

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

What if You Lost Your Sight?

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It was one of the scariest school days ever.

It was the first day of third grade, and I’d heard that the teacher was very strict.  Scarily strict.  So when she wanted us to copy what she had written on the board, and I couldn’t see the writing, I was afraid to tell her, but I had no choice.

Twice I had to raise my hand and explain that I couldn’t see the board, and finally she got tired of moving my seat.  She sighed loudly and told me to move my desk wherever it needed to be so that I could see.  I began to push my desk forward and stopped when I could see – when my desk touched the board.

That was the first time that I realized how scary it was not to be able to see, and as I became more and more nearsighted, similar situations occurred.  I began to wonder what it would be like actually to be blind, and I didn’t like the idea.

My nearsightedness is a common occurrence, and I can see just fine – but if that should change?  What if there were something I could do about it?

AMD

Every year nearly 10 million Americans go blind due to AMD or age-related Macular Degeneration.  The exciting news is that a cure is in sight!  The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a non-profit organization, has provided funding for research for curing blindness, particularly AMD, since 1971.  In fact, with the research FFB has already made possible, treatments to stop and in some cases even reverse retinal disease is a reality.  This is great news for people over 55 and their families. With AMD it is nearly impossible for grandparents to enjoy the little things in life such as playing games, watching movies, and reading to their grandchildren.  However, due to innovative research, those things are once again possible for many people, but we need to continue this outreach to fund research and find cures.

With your help, we can continue our important work of helping the blind to see.  Please click on this link for a FREE informational packet about AMD and how you can help.

Thomas Nelson’s ‘KJV Know The Word Study Bible’ Kindle Fire Giveaway

Diving deeper into God’s Word can be easy and rewarding if you break it down book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic with the new KJV Know The Word Study Bible by Thomas Nelson. The book-by-book series of notes leads you through the main points of each book of the Bible. The verse-by-verse notes help you to dig deeper into God’s Word. The topic-by-topic articles, which cover 21 theological topics, guide you through a series of insightful notes and give you a thorough biblical understanding of each topic. With the beautiful and timeless text of the KJV translation, the KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers you choices of how to study Scripture and grow in your relationship with Christ.

This fall, become a regular student of the Bible and enter to win the Kindle Fire giveaway!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of the KJV Know The Word Study Bible
  • A Kindle Fire 7
  • A Kindle Fire case (winner’s choice)

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 31. The winner will be announced November 1 on the Litfuse blog.

“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 incredible, 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.