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McDuff Moves In–you’ll love McDuff

McDuff Moves In

by Rosemary Wells

illustrated by Susan Jeffers

McDuff Moves InI had a delightful trip back in time as I read Rosemary Wells’ McDuff Moves In. It is being republished with original illustrations for a new generation of readers. Set in the 1930’s, its main character is McDuff, a  West Highland White terrier (Westie). As Wells says in her forward, “Lucy and Fred’s loving rescue of homeless McDuff adds to their lives and shows the beautiful change that kindness and care can make for any homeless dog.”

This is a short picture book with colorful, appealing illustrations and a sweet story. You’ll love learning how McDuff got his name! There is added  information about rescuing and fostering homeless animals and references to other books with a similar theme. McDuff Moves In is a fun book that children will ask for again and again.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Gryphon Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Rosemary Wells is a prolific children’s book author as well as an artist. Her books include the Max and Ruby books, the Sophie books, and many others that feature lovable animals. She also has several more McDuff titles.

Publication:   October 25, 2019—Gryphon Press

The Christmas Calendar Girls–an advent calendar that helps others

The Christmas Calendar Girls

by Samantha Tonge

The Christmas Calendar GirlsFern, Davina, and Cara bond over children who attend the same school in Birchwood Estate. With different personalities and strengths they value each other rather than hold jealousies. In The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge, the ladies work together to save the food bank that is a lifeline for so many in the community, from the addict to the unemployed parent struggling to provide.

It’s the busy Christmas season and late to begin a project to raise money, but Fern has an idea to save the food bank and engender community spirit and good will. Her friends jump on board to help.

All is not smooth sailing, however, with the project and its changing deadlines or in the “calendar girls’ ” personal lives. Fern is a widowed journalist trying to find a new normal for herself and her daughter Lily. Perhaps she is ready to have a relationship again. Kit, a former client of the food bank, stirs her heart, but is he ready for romance? Davina has always been close to her twin boys, but the more sensitive of the two begins pulling away and the pair get into a fight at school. Cara is fantastic with food, very creative, and a doting, stay-at-home mom. Suddenly she seems to have lost it all as she burns foods, uses the wrong ingredients, and  forgets school notices and weather appropriate clothing for her kids. She fears the onset of early dementia.

Watching these characters grow as they lean on each other and gradually reveal their secrets and rooting for them as they try to help those less fortunate, makes for a gentle, interesting, and inspiring story. Birchwood Estate will never be the same.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 3, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

That’s what Cara’s homely place was like…If it was a person it would have been a welcoming aunt, who always had your favorite biscuits in and never forgot to send birthday money.

“Bringing everyone together, friends and family, over food and drink, with the purpose of helping people facing difficult times…your idea really does encapsulate everything that the festive season should be about.”

Sometimes I worried I’d never meet another man. I didn’t need one to look after myself and Lily. But I wanted the company. The closeness. I missed that.

What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

by Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba

What They Meant for EvilWe hear reports on the news of massacres of innocents in various countries around the globe and stories of displaced men, women, and children who become refugees and try to survive in crowded refugee camps. Those stories are usually sound bites, quickly discarded for the next big story. Rebecca Deng, a survivor of the horrific Bor Massacre of 1991 in Sudan, gives us the perspective of a six year old girl in What They Meant for Evil. We see her confusion as she flees with family walking through the wilds. She becomes an orphan as those she loves most are killed and grows up in a refugee camp. The UN provides a small amount of maize, without seasoning, to sustain the population. The bathroom is an open area on the other side of a dry riverbed with nothing to provide privacy. I had always imagined a refugee camp as a temporary facility, but Rebecca lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya for eight years before she benefited from a special program that relocated her to the U.S. and placed her with an adoptive family. Many of her Sudanese relatives remained in the camp long after that.

In the latter part of the book, we learn of Rebecca’s life as an adult and her spiritual growth as she comes to terms with her identity and the trauma of her past. She uses her education, her experiences, and her faith in God to help other refugees recover as she sees God’s plan unfold to bring good out of what others intended for evil.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Faith Words for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian, Memoir, Nonfiction

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Faith Words

Memorable Lines:

That was what the war did to the tens of thousands of innocent children who lost everything—it took their childhood, their innocence, their families, their homes, even their lives.

More crowds meant less food for everybody. And less food meant more violence. Crime seemed to be everywhere. People began bullying other people, stealing their food, and beating and raping them. These things were unheard of for my people before coming here. My language doesn’t even have a word for rape.

…I had learned that God doesn’t always keep us from experiencing trauma, but his unseen presence is with us, strengthening us.

But there’s another aspect of forgiveness that we too often forget or neglect, and that is forgiving ourselves. If we want true forgiveness, we must forgive ourselves for the ways in which we have failed ourselves. We do more damage to ourselves when we believe the lies others have said about us and the lies the enemy whispers into our minds—the lies that tell us we are no good, we are worthless, we can never experience true freedom or true love.

Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place!

Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place!

written by Naomi Shulman

illustrated by Hsinping Pan

Be KindLooking for a good way to make children more aware of how to be kind and demonstrate it every day? Then Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place!  by Naomi Shulman is the perfect book for you. With over 100 ideas of kind things to do, Be Kind can be read at one sitting or broken up into a suggestion per day. I would suggest doing  both! Not all suggestions are appropriate for all children or settings. For example, setting up a neighborhood lost and found could be problematic in some neighborhoods or for a child who needs boundary guidelines. I really think this is a good book for an adult to share with a child so that discussion can occur about safety issues and materials, and assistance and supervision can be provided as needed. Most of the examples, however, are just uncomplicated, courteous actions such as smiling at people or sharing room on bleachers. Just thinking of kind things and implementing them can help you think of more kind things to do. Children could even write and illustrate a book of their own ideas or a log of their acts of kindness.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Storey Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: The illustrations are simple, colorful shape drawings.

Publication:  June 25, 2019— Storey Publishing 

All This Homeless Veteran and His Dog Needed Was Human Kindness…

Being the hands and feet of Jesus…

Kindness Blog

homeless man in starbucksWhile seated at a Starbucks, a homeless man came in and sat nearby.

His scent was unpleasant and people looked at him and rolled their eyes. He was simply doing what we were all doing, drinking coffee and taking advantage of free WiFi.

He brought his dog, Legacy, who was well behaved. He proceeded to tell me he walked 60 miles from Seattle to Tumwater over a few days period. He spoke highly of Legacy who, in stride, journeyed along with his master every step of the way without complaint. As soon as Legacy was told to lay down, he fell asleep.

It was sad to see people distance themselves from this homeless veteran. Kids who inquired about the dog were quickly shielded by their parents and hurried away.

This Veteran explained most people have no concept of being Christ like because they simply place Christ on the shelf as…

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You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

by Max Lucado

you'll get through thisI have always been fascinated by the Biblical story of Joseph, from the coat of many colors to saving Egypt and his people from famine. The story includes pride and arrogance, bad parenting, attempted fratricide, slavery, temptations, false accusations, jail, forgotten promises, a rise to power, revenge, and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was a roller coaster ride. There had to be a lot of times when Joseph could have questioned God, “Why me?”

Max Lucado uses Joseph’s story to speak to those who are hurting, who find themselves in a pit of despair. In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado offers the hope found in the Bible that what was intended for evil can be used by God for good. Lucado is the ultimate storyteller, and he brings in stories of people he knows and those he has met to demonstrate his points. With chapters like “Stupid Won’t Fix Stupid” and “Is God Good When Life Isn’t?”,  Lucado’s book is Biblical, practical, and inspirational. I read it at the pace of a chapter a day with more than a few sneak peeks ahead, and I plan on rereading it. There is so much help and understanding rooted in its pages for both men and women who are facing life’s challenges. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: To aid readers who want to use You’ll Get Through This for book or Bible study, there are added “Questions for Reflection” at the end of the book to accompany each chapter.

Publication:   September 10, 2013—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naive.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.

God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slip-ups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our days is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog–introduction to the animal shelter

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog

written and illustrated by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn and the Shelter DogIf you like kids and reading and you have a heart for shelter dogs, then you will enjoy sharing Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog by Lisa Papp with a child in your life. The storyline is simple. A little girl, Madeline, begs her mother for a puppy. Mrs. Dimple, who volunteers at a shelter, has a rescue dog, Bonnie, with some pups. Madeline is allowed to choose one, and in the process she learns about shelters where animals wait for their forever homes as well as how to care for her new puppy. Madeline is a girl of action. She not only helps at the shelter, she also rallies her community to bring blankets and books to read to the shelter animals. Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog is a sweet read with gentle and engaging illustrations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Publication:  March 1, 2019—Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing)

The Forgiving Jar–the power of forgiveness

The Forgiving Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Forgiving JarMysterious prayer jars filled with Bible verses and notes of faith are an inspiration to two young ladies whose paths cross when one, in an act of desperation, assumes the identity of the other. Michelle, who pretends to be Sara, finds a hope jar in the barn of the Amish couple she is deceiving. Sara, their true granddaughter, finds a forgiving jar in the basement of their house. Regardless of who hid the treasure filled canning jars, God uses the messages in the jars to give hope, inspire forgiveness, and lead the women into a relationship with Him.

Having enjoyed The Hope Jar, I looked forward to continuing the tale in The Forgiving Jar and was not disappointed. Unanswered questions in the first book were mostly answered in the second, and closure was brought to all of the relationship issues. The characters in the first book continue into the second like meeting up again with old friends. I especially like the loving and patient spirit of Sara’s Amish grandparents, Will and Mary Ruth Lapp, who, according to Amish tradition, do not evangelize but “tried by their actions and deeds to be an example of what it meant to be a Christian.” The characters are realistically portrayed as they struggle to overcome old, deep-seated hurts through forgiveness which is not depicted lightly as an easy thing to do.

I recommend The Hope Jar and The Forgiving Jar as a pair. Readers will smile, root for the characters at various times in the story, be saddened over events past and present, and be happy that, as promised, God works out even the bad in their pasts for good.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Christian

Notes: 1. The Prayer Jars #2. I strongly recommend reading The Hope Jar first.

  2. There are recipes and discussion questions at the end of the book.

Publication:   February 1, 2019—Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

Michelle took a deep breath, enjoying the scents of the season. The fragrance of dried leaves still lingered from autumn, and the tang of wood smoke drifting out of chimneys from nearby homes permeated the air.

“The problem with guilt is until we let go, our thoughts can be consumed with it—sometimes to the point of it making us sick or affecting our relationships with others.”

She wished she could shut the door on her memories as easily as she closed the door on the winter’s cold.

This is the Day–a life changing book

This is the Day:

Reclaim Your Dream. Ignite Your Passion. Live Your Purpose.

by Tim Tebow

with A. J. Gregory

this is the dayThe wisdom, insights, and inspiration in Tim Tebow’s This is the Day are timeless, but I think it is particularly appropriate that it popped up in my reading queue at the first of the new year when peoples’ thoughts turn to renovating their lives. I knew little about Tim Tebow, but I now know that although he is an athletic star, his goal is to help others and humbly point  attention on Jesus.

This book will inspire you to be your best and find your path through the strength of Jesus. Tebow tries to walk out his life according to Biblical principles. He is all about following God, loving others, and doing his best. He is also realistic about life’s challenges.

Sometimes nonfiction can be a slower read than fiction, but that is not the case with This is the Day. Tebow intertwines his own background and anecdotes from his life with Biblical truths. He never claims to be perfect, make all the right choices, or have an easy life. He also doesn’t claim to have all the right answers for everyone else’s life. He does, however, know how to come alongside people from all backgrounds and situations and pray with them. He knows how to point people to his best friend, Jesus.

This is the Day does not really fit any category other than nonfiction. Sports aficionados will love it. People, like me, who give a “deer in the headlights stare” when someone mentions the name of a sports team will love it. This book is for men, women, and teens. It is for Christians and those seeking God. It is for people at the top of their life game and for those suffering, struggling and wondering why life is the way it is. I recommend this book for everyone. I think you’ll be amazed and surprised at the wisdom and truths found in the inspirational This is the Day. It can be a life changer for you.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality

Notes: The memorable lines highlighted in This is the Day greatly exceeded the number I usually mark, so consider the ones mentioned below just a tiny taste of the inspiration to be found in this book.

Publication:   November 25, 2018—WaterBrook

Memorable Lines:

God gives us today as a gift. He wants us to pursue it, not just for selfish ambition but to do something meaningful with it. To use it to grow, to love others well, to help someone, to pursue a dream He’s put on our hearts.

…part of living this way means being confident that regardless of what happens in life or with our pursuits, God’s going to use it. He will use for the good our failures, our mistakes, our detours, and our U-turns, just like He will use our successes.

When you keep wondering what could have been or what you should have done differently, here’s what happens: you miss the present moment and cripple your potential in the future.

Auschwitz Lullaby–a mother’s amazing love

Auschwitz Lullaby

by Mario Escobar

Auschwitz LullabyAuschwitz Lullaby is a sad book based on the life of Helene Hannemann, a German woman married to a talented Gypsy violinist. As an Aryan she could have saved her own life, but she chooses instead to accompany her five mixed-blood Gypsy children to Auschwitz. There she is chosen by the infamous Doctor Mengele to establish and run a nursery school at the concentration camp. Knowing that Mengele would only perform this “kindness” to the children for his own ends, she agrees anyway to provide the starving children with more nutritious food, several hours a day in a cleaner, healthier environment, and some mental respite from the stressful deprivations and horrors of the camp.

Without graphic descriptions, the author Mario Escobar uses a first person format, having Helene tell her own story through a journal which she supposedly left behind in the camp. Her writing is encased in a Prologue and Epilogue in Mengele’s voice. As I read this work of historical fiction, I wondered how much was true. I was gratified to discover a section called “Historical Clarifications” at the conclusion of the tale that explains clearly the aspects of the book that are nonfiction. The author is a historian so he also adds a “Chronology of the Gypsy Camp at Auschwitz” and acknowledgements of his sources of research.

Although the publisher categorizes the book as “historical fiction” and “Christian,” there are not a lot of overt references to Christianity, but there is an underlying thread of faith, hope,and love available through the power of God. The school holds a meager Christmas celebration which attempts to “give these children back a little bit of their faith.” Helene notes “that night we were celebrating life, the birth of the Christ child” and she ponders the message of the manger: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” There are other Christian themes throughout of love, forgiving one’s enemies, God’s plan for Helene’s life, and the existence of evil.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Christian

Publication:  August 7, 2018 — Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

“From the first time I saw you, I knew God had brought you here to ease our pain somehow. You were so lost, confused, and scared, but I could see a fierce determination in the back of your eyes.”

Death seemed like a gift from heaven, but I knew that it was not yet for me. I was an old ship in the middle of a storm, and my children anchored me to life. I had to keep fighting for them, trying to hold on to hope, looking each day in the face, praying for this nightmare to finally be over.

“God sent you here to guide us. We needed a breath of hope, and you showed up with your beautiful family. I’ve never known anyone as brave and determined as you.”

I tried to fill my heart with love. I did not want hatred to eat away my insides. I had to love even my enemies. It was the only way to keep from becoming a monster myself.

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