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Christmas at Silver Falls–saving the family heritage

Christmas at Silver Falls

by Jenny Hale

Christmas at Silver FallsFrom Jenny Hale, author of books set in summer and at Christmas time, comes another “heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance” in the form of Christmas at Silver Falls.  Scarlett Bailey realizes that this Christmas will probably be the last Christmas gathering of her family at her Gran’s beloved White Oaks Inn. Gran will be forced to sell because she is unable to compete with the newer resorts springing up in the area. Charles Bryant, one of the developers of the popular resorts, shows up unexpectedly in the area, and Scarlett determines to enlist his help in saving the Inn. The complicated becomes even more so when Julie and her young son Trevor, who have obviously undergone hard times, make a dramatic entrance that changes everything.

Christmas at Silver Falls is a fun Christmas read with a beautiful setting. Not all the characters were as well fleshed out as they might have been, but you can not come away without feeling for them in their predicaments.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 15, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“We all go through things like that in life, and the good news, at least from what I’ve found, is that after the lows you notice the highs, and when you’re up there, it feels so good. Just hang on. It’s coming.”

Scarlett felt hope surge in her veins like rocket fuel.

“In an old run-down cottage, you are like fresh bouquets; you’re like a misty-morning view, a sunrise, a barefoot dance in a field of wildflowers…”

Christmas Shopaholic–Becky “needs” it all

Christmas Shopaholic

by Sophie Kinsella

Christmas ShopaholicIf you have enjoyed any other Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic books, then be prepared for a treat with Becky’s antics in Christmas Shopaholic. Becky’s  husband Luke has a profitable business. This is a fortunate circumstance for the couple because Becky, who has a good heart, just really has no sense when it comes to finances. She fights a losing battle with her desires to shop. Her version of economizing is buying things she doesn’t need in order to get free shipping. Another of Becky’s cost-saving strategies is to  buy a lifetime supply of a product because it is on sale.

In Christmas Shopaholic, Becky is asked to take over her extended family’s traditional Christmas Day dinner and activities at her own house. As she tries to make everyone happy, Becky becomes quite stressed and keeps getting distracted from her original shopping goals. To complicate matters, her vegan, organic-loving, eco-friendly half sister is back from Chile with monosyllabic responses to everything. Becky’s parents are experiencing life changes, and Becky has to face up to encounters with an ex-boyfriend who has morphed into an alluring rocker.

Christmas Shopaholic is an all-round fun and funny Christmas read with no tissues required. To add to the humor, Kinsella inserts texts and emails that represent Becky’s personality perfectly.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: There are eight other Shopaholic books, but each can be read as a standalone.

Publication:   October 15, 2019— Random House (Dial Press)

Memorable Lines:

I should shop ethically. We all should! So I started a little habit—when I’ve been on a shopping spree I try to buy something ethical too. Like those people who buy trees to make up for flying on planes.

Online ordering isn’t really shopping, it’s “procuring.” You procure stuff online. But you don’t get the buzz of actually stepping into a shop and seeing all the gorgeous stuff, feeling it, stroking it, being seduced by it.

In desperation, I’ve been watching one Christmas movie after another and feeling genuine withdrawal symptoms in between. They’re like Valium—not that I know what Valium is like, but I’m guessing. They make me feel calm and happy and hopeful, because in all of them, without fail, Christmas spirit brings everyone together.

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car

by James J. Cudney

Mistaken Identity CrisisI am sure that I have not read a more complex cozy mystery with regard to characters than Mistaken Identity Crisis. Author James J. Cudney had my head spinning with all of the intricate relationships in his story. Fortunately, he includes a categorized list of characters with brief descriptions for support if you get confused. To my surprise, I only referred to it a few times as the characters appear multiple times and Cudney puts them in context with references to their relationships and backgrounds. Therefore, they rapidly take on unique identities for the reader.

Along with an emphasis on characters, Cudney has devised a complicated plot with more than one mystery. Hop aboard the campus cable car to find a dead body, intrigue with stolen jewels, and symbolic black calla lilies. Kellan, a professor at Braxton, comes closer to resolution with his presumed dead wife Francesca and two warring mobs. Feisty Nana D takes office as the new mayor, and Kellan sees a new side of April, the local sheriff.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, and I recommend reading this series in sequence.

  2. Includes a helpful map and list of characters

Publication:   June 30, 2019—Creativa

Memorable Lines:

I could only conclude that he was a bit of a chameleon, depending on the situation and balance of power in the relationship.

You are right, Kellan. I’ve been giving you mixed signals,” April said, offering one of the rare concessions I’d usually witness only during full moons in a leap year once a millennium.

Stress and fear plummeted inside me until they knocked my body out of balance and sent me careening against the stone pillar in the Stanton driveway.

The Healing Jar–challenges that require patience

The Healing Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter 

The Healing JarExamples of difficult situations and decisions abound in Wanda E. Brunstetter’s The Healing Jar along with positive, Godly responses to those circumstances. Frequently the characters pray and then continue with their daily activities as they wait on God to answer their prayers by changing their circumstances or their hearts. Often He acts in surprising ways.

The main characters in these stories are all connected to the Amish Lapp family, and they all independently stumble on prayer jars hidden on the Lapp property. What remains a mystery to the young ladies, until a discovery in this book, is who accumulated Scriptures and heartfelt petitions to God on slips of paper in old canning jars.

The matriarch of the Lapp family is Mary Ruth. The other main character in The Healing Jar is her granddaughter Lenore Lapp who longs to be a wife and mother. The story of Sara, a granddaughter who was not raised Amish, continues in this book as she tries to discover the identity of her biological father. Michelle, who in an earlier book pretends to be Sara, finds happiness in her conversion to the Amish way but faces challenges when her husband wants to move away from her new family and friends.

I enjoyed this gentle book and recommend this trilogy to those who are interested in learning more about Amish life and customs and to readers looking for romance with a Christian focus. I do think this series should be read in its entirety and in sequence as it is very character based. Perhaps because of the way the series builds and the closure this book provides, it is my favorite of the three books.

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: 5/5

Category: Christian, Literary Fiction

Notes: #3 in the Prayer Jar Trilogy. I recommend it, but not as a standalone.

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

Memorable Lines:

“We must learn to trust the Lord, even with things we don’t understand. As we go through troubled waters, it should strengthen, not weaken, our faith. And remember, dear one, prayer is not a business transaction. We don’t give something to get something in return.”

It was frustrating how a person could think they had worked through a situation, even felt peace about it, and then out of the blue, the pain of it all came right back to haunt them.

“It just goes to show that even when people make terrible mistakes, God can take a negative situation and turn it into something good.”

Just in Case You Ever Wonder–created by God

Just in Case You Ever Wonder

by Max Lucado

illustrated by Eve Tharlet

Just in Case You Ever WonderA gifted storyteller for both adults and children and known as “America’s Pastor,” Max Lucado has a way with words and thoughts. In  Just in Case You Ever Wonder, Lucado has captured some of the most important truths of reassurance in the Bible in a book he wrote for and dedicated to his daughters many years ago. In this newly published version, Eve Tharlet created soft and welcoming illustrations that feature bears as the characters instead of people. I am enchanted by this book that talks about God’s love and the parent’s love for his child. It provides reassurance for a child that both God and the parent will always support and love the child through good times and bad. The bad times are age appropriate—monsters in the dark, bullies, and bad days at school. It skirts the issue of death while describing the promises of heaven. I think every home with small children should have a copy: it will indeed be a favorite bedtime story.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Children’s Nonfiction

Publication:   August 6, 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

The same hands that made the trees and the moon and the sun made you. That’s why you are so special. God made you.

If you looked all over the world—in every city, in every house—there would be no one else like you…

I knew in my heart God had sent someone very wonderful for me to take care of.

The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

Penguin Days–autism spectrum disorder

Penguin Days

by Sara Leach

Illustrated by Rebecca Bender

Penguin DaysLauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.

Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.

If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the  outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: 1. Very good illustrations

  2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.

Publication:   January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”

Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.

The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.

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