Book Review: All for a Sister

All for a Sister
by
Allison Pittman

This book set in the 1920’s tells the story of aspiring actress Celeste DuFrane. After her mother passes away, Celeste discovers that half of the family estate has been left to Dana Lundgren, a woman accused of killing Celeste’s infant sister before Celeste was born.

After spending most of her life in prison for the murder of Celeste’s sister, Dana is shocked to learn that she has been left half of the estate. She wonders why a woman who accused her of murder would do such a thing.

As the two women learn more about each other and read Celeste’s written mother’s confession, they realize that they have more in common than they ever thought possible.

It took me a while to really get into this book, it seemed to start out a bit slow for my taste.  Of course that could be because I was reading 3 other books at the same time.  However, once I delved into the story a bit further it drew me in. Once I got sucked into the story of Celeste and Dana, I couldn’t read it fast enough. The author stayed true to the time period, really making the reader feel like they could just immerse themselves into the story’s settings. I really enjoyed the way she told the character’s stories and the way she intertwined their lives so carefully and creatively.

Disclaimer:
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Buy the Book:
If you’re interested in checking out this book you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as many other retailers.

Book Review: Penny Wise

This review is part of a blog tour. To see what others are saying about Penny Wise, click here.

Penny Wise
by
Dave and Neta Jackson

If you’re unfamiliar with Dave and Neta Jackson, you’ve been missing out on some great novels.  Dave and Neta are the husband and wife team behind a group of Christian fiction series set in and around the city of Chicago. While each series focuses on one core group of characters, you’ll see these characters pop up in other series – all the stories are interrelated. (Read more about that here.) I’m a sucker for books and series that interrelated, so I jumped at the chance to be able to read and review their latest work, Penny Wise. It was really awesome to run into characters I’d previously “met” in series such as the Yada Yada Prayer group and House of Hope. This was the first book I’ve read in the Windy City series, but I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything by picking it up part way through.

Penny Wise focuses on the Jasper family as they navigate the busyness and struggles of life. Just when Michelle thinks she finally has it under control, life throws her a few curve balls that have her seriously rethinking her future. When she thinks her life is just too much to handle, God shows his faithfulness on penny at a time.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to catch up with some of my favorite characters from the Windy City. Dave and Neta write some fun stories with characters who are completely relatable and go through trials that many of us face on a day to day basis. Penny Wise was another great story to read and I look forward to seeing what’s next.

Disclaimer:
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Buy the Book:
If you’re interested in checking out this book you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as many other retailers.

Family, Community, and a Free Episode of Adventures in Odyssey

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For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE! Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5!
Here’s what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):

It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.

Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive.
One way families can carry out God’s design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:

  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren’t available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven’t been for awhile, so it’s something he looks forward to. —Maria
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others’ meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn

Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!

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Book Review: Plain Faith

Plain Faith
by
Irene and Ora Jay Eash with Tricia Goyer

When their daughters are killed in a tragic accident, Irene and Ora Jay Eash seek comfort in their Amish community. What they find is a culture that points the finger at them searching for sins or transgressions that may have caused this accident to happen. While looking for grace, they find the quality and quantity of their good works in question. Gradually, through interactions with those outside their own faith community, that God is a God of grace and that his love is not based on our works. As they begin to see that what they have been taught their entire lives may not be the whole truth, they struggle with how to embrace this new life they’ve discovered while trying to maintain at least a small connection with their family.

I’ve read a lot of books about the Amish, both fiction and non-fiction, but I’ve never read anything quite like this. While it can often seem like the Amish have it all together and are very religious, we often don’t see the whole picture. It was interesting to read something from the perspective of those who have lived in that community, but left and found freedom in Christ. It is not a book that just bashes the Amish, but it does give readers a look at what their religious, legalistic lives are really like. It took great faith and courage for Irene and Ora Jay to leave the Amish community, but what they discovered on the outside was freedom and grace that they’d never have seen otherwise. This was a beautiful story of courage and grace that kept me interested and engaged the entire time I was reading.

Disclaimer:
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Buy the Book:
If you’re interested in checking out this book you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as many other retailers.

Book Review: Modern Pioneering

Modern Pioneering
by
Georgia Pellegrini

I was so excited to have the opportunity to read this book for review. I’m always looking for new ways to do things in a more self-sufficient way, so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it and it did not disappoint.  The book is broken up into four sections: the garden, the home, the wild and the rest. Topics range from how to build garden boxes to how to negotiate at an antique market and even how to make bacon, each topic covered in depth and in an easily understandable manner.  The book is full of gorgeous pictures and is laid out in a format that is both eye-catching and easy to follow.  I haven’t gotten the chance to try out any of the recipes or tutorials, but I’ve got my pages marked and ready to go.

Disclaimer:
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Buy the Book:
If you’re interested in checking out this book you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as many other retailers.

Book Review: When I Fall in Love

When I Fall in Love
by
Susan May Warren

I loved book 3 in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series just as much as I loved the first two books. I really enjoyed catching up with the Christiansen family and being able to follow their stories a little bit more.  In When I Fall in Love, we catch up with Grace Christiansen.  When Grace’s family surprises her with a cooking retreat in Hawaii, she is forced to leave her comfort zone, face her fears and try new things.

It should be a comfort that Max Sharpe, a former teammate of her brother, is going on the same retreat but it doesn’t pan out that way.  While Grace is having trouble being so far out of her comfort zone, Max is wrestling with his own personal demons – not to mention the fact that the last thing he wants to do is “babysit” his buddy’s sister when he’d rather be enjoying his annual culinary vacation. When it seems like the pair will never really get along, they are paired up in a cooking competition. The time they spend together during the competition seems to be drawing them together, at least until Max suddenly pulls away.

When Grace finds out the truth, she is torn between going for the safe thing or going after what her heart wants and Max is faced with accepting the future no matter what may come. In what may be the toughest times of their lives, Max and Grace work together to face their fears.

I love Susan May Warren’s writing, she tells great stories that engage the reader and keep them turning pages. These are the perfect books to read in the summer, they’re easy to read and let the reader lose themselves in the town of Deep Haven. When I Fall in Love found me losing myself in both Hawaii and Deep Haven. I have a deep love for Hawaii and I enjoyed getting to take a “trip” back there while following the story of Max and Grace.  Each time I finish one of Warren’s novels, I can’t wait to pick up the next one and this one is no different. I hope that her next story finds us catching up with Casper.

Disclaimer:
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Buy the Book:
If you’re interested in checking out this book you can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as many other retailers.

Summer Activities for Adventures in Odyssey Fans


Summer is officially here! Don’t let your kids’ boredom run rampant. Adventures in Odyssey is here to save the day. Below are some must-try ideas for summer fun! Want even more summer fun? For the month of June, you can join the Odyssey Adventure Club for only $5! More details can be found here.

Summer Activities

As a parent you are probably a big proponent of reading. Encourage your kids to dig into a book or two this summer with Adventures in Odyssey’s On Your Marks Summer Reading Challenge. Bonus points if YOU create a reading challenge for yourself as you read along with your kids!

Looking for something hands-on? Create Matthew in 3-D! Invite a few of your kids’ friends over for a play date, print off the activity sheet, and let them have at it for the afternoon (with the promise of cookies and lemonade once they’ve finished constructing Matthew).

Maybe your kids aren’t into reading, but they love math. If that’s the case, have them solve Eugene’s Sudoku!

The laundry needs to be done; the dishes need to be put away. But your kids are begging you to take them out to the zoo. Let them take a whack at Matthew’s Decoder in the morning, then make an agreement that if they figure out how to use the decoder, you’ll take them on an afternoon adventure. That’ll give you the morning to finish up your to-do list!

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