Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Book Review: Like a River from its Course by Kelli Stuart

About the Book: An epic novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope.

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler's blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine's tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the "killing ditch." He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the F├╝hrer's plans for domination
are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism. 
Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

Purchase a copy:

My Thoughts: This is one of the most well-written books I've ever read.

Kelli Stuart has gathered true stories from years of research and combined them into a work of historical fiction that will break your heart yet strengthen your faith at the same time. Though at times difficult to read due to the subject matter, Stuart writes with sensitivity and tact while still conveying sheer horror at the level of depravity to which man can sink.

One thing I really liked about this story was that she was able to focus on four completely different characters who saw the war through four unique perspectives, encompassing both sides of the war through both Ukranian and German characters, and managed to make me invested in the outcome of every single one.  Often when stories are laid out this way you become impatient while reading about the less interesting characters and just want the author to get back to your favourite storyline.  Stuart made it impossible to pick just one and instead made you eagerly anticipate the continuing development of each storyline.

Stuart's characters come through raw, real and, even though most of us cannot possibly relate, still relatable.  The way she writes draws you completely into the lives of the characters and immerses you in their world.  Well done!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

FREE 14 Day Trial Is Now Available for the Odyssey Adventure Club!

Think of ways you can enjoy this summer for free:
  • Hiking 
  • Visiting parks in your area 
  • Swimming 
  • Camping in your backyard 
  • Visit a public museum or library 

Now, add more fun and imagination to your summer through the Odyssey Adventure Club!

The Odyssey Adventure Club will give you streaming access to more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes plus a sneak peek of exclusive audio and video stories, on-line activities and daily devotions you can’t find anywhere else.

Start a free 14-day trial for your family today and make the summer even more fun!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Free Clubhouse Magazine Trial

Try 3 issues of the Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse® (ages 8-12) OR Clubhouse Jr.® (ages 3-7) magazine for free!

Created with kids in mind, Focus on the Family offers a world of fun and imagination through short stories, jokes, puzzles, and games as well as recipes and activities to do as a family. Plus, what child doesn’t like mail? Your child will enjoy getting this entertaining magazine each month in the mail.

Click here to sign up for the free Clubhouse® magazine trial.

Click here to sign up for the free Clubhouse Jr.® magazine trial.

Grow Your Child's Faith This Summer!
Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Monday, 13 June 2016

Make Your Children World Explorers

Give your family summer vacation a makeover this year and turn it into a "staycation." Have your kids forget their summer boredom, turn off their screens, and instead circle the globe with Focus on the Family's "World Explorers" summer adventure kit!

Throughout the next two months, travel our colorful, diverse world, visiting 27 different countries on six continents. Part of the fun will be figuring out where the next stop is, using five clues that reveal interesting facts about the next country. Once you've determined where you're going, use the games, activities and faith lessons to give your kids a glimpse into that country's unique culture.

Click here to sign up and receive your free summer adventure kit.

Don’t Be Bored This Summer!

Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Book Review: The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

About the book:
The Beautiful Pretender
(Thomas Nelson, May 2016)

What happens when a margrave realizes he's fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave's bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina's best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can't deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse---far deadlier---consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost? 

Purchase a copy:

My Thoughts:
With subtle references to Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and The Pea running throughout, this tale is filled with romance, intrigue, drama, and adventure while exploring topics such as deception, loyalty, personal responsibility, and faith.  Dickerson weaves it all together magically in this wonderful story of true nobility, showing us what it means to walk with integrity, showing love and respect to all, no matter their station.

I enjoy fiction books that manage to teach you something without come across as preachy, and Dickerson manages this effortlessly - at least, so it seems to the reader!

Looking forward to reading more from Dickerson.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Adventures in Odyssey Summer Challenge 2016

This summer, you can join Adventures in Odyssey’s Clubhouse Magazine and help children in the Middle East go to school and learn English. It’s Adventures in Odyssey's Clubhouse Magazine Exercise to Educate summer challenge!

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The Problem

Nearly 7,000 miles away from the United States, there's a war going on in the country of Syria. Many families have been forced from their homes. Parents have had to leave their jobs, and children have had to leave behind toys and friends.

Many of these families now live in refugee camps in nearby countries. They have tents instead of houses. Clean water is hard to come by. This war has put 2.6 million children out of school – some for more than four years already.

The Solution

Our friends at Focus on the Family Middle East know many families who don't have the money to buy a school uniform and pay for their children to go to school. They also know people who would love to teach children English in local churches.

You may not have a lot of money to help, but you probably have time, energy and excitement. Here's what you can do:

1. Go to to
2. Print a sponsor sheet and exercise to earn points. You can do it for a week or the whole summer – just remember, the more you exercise, the more points you'll earn!
3. Ask your family and friends to sponsor your efforts.
4. Beginning in July, tell us how you did and receive a digital bundle from your friends at Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family. The deadline to submit your information is August 31, 2016.

For participating and submitting your information, you will get a free Adventures in Odyssey episode from Album 51. You will also get 101 Surefire Ways to Strengthen Your Child's Faith – eBook and the audio book of Imagination Station #1, “Voyage with the Vikings.”

Make the most of your summer—exercise for your health and help other kids in need while you do!

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Don’t Be Bored This Summer!

Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with over 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Book Review: Sit Stay Love by Dana Mentink

About the Book: Take one abrasive professional athlete, a quirky out-of-work schoolteacher, and an overweight geriatric dog, and you're ready for a lesson in love . . . Tippy style.

Pro baseball pitcher Cal Crawford is not a dog guy. When he inherits his deceased mother's elderly dog, Tippy, he's quick to call on a pet-sitting service.

Gina isn't thrilled to be a dog sitter when her aspirations lie in the classroom. Furthermore, she can't abide the unfriendly Cal, a man with all the charm of a wet towel. But with no other prospects and a deep love for all things canine, she takes the job caring for Tippy.

As Gina travels through Cal's world with Tippy in tow, she begins to see Cal in a different light. Gina longs to show Cal the God-given blessings in his life that have nothing to do with baseball or fame. When her longing blooms into attraction, Gina does her best to suppress it. But Cal is falling in love with her too . . .

Discover the charming story of Tippy, the dog who brought a family together.

Purchase a copy:

My Thoughts:  I must admit that I am not a dog person (ducking the flaming arrows), but I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky book.

With charming characters and an engaging storyline, this book is a quick and enjoyable read, while still managing to teach you a thing or two along the way.  If you're a dog lover, you'll love this book - and if you're not, you still will! :)

I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by this Dana Mentink.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Book Review: Synced - Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

About the Book: Prayer can become extraordinary when we live connected to the heart of Jesus.

Synced encourages you to emulate the way Jesus lived His life. With real-life stories of people walking closely with Jesus, finding themselves in the right place at the right time, readers are challenged to examine what staying in step with the Spirit looks like. National best-selling author and known prayer expert, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, uses the familiar passage of the Lord's Prayer as anchor points to present the way Jesus lived His life in step with the Father through prayer.

Every moment is pregnant with purpose. Every moment is drenched in power. Prayer is no longer the means by which you attempt to get God to perform for you and becomes, instead, the means by which you connect with His heart and mind. A praying life is a life of peace and soul-rest. A praying life is lived in sync with the heart of Jesus.

Purchase a copy:

My Thoughts: Prayer is one of the spiritual disciplines that many believers struggle with, myself included.  We often don't think we're praying often enough, long enough, effectively enough, but are at a loss of exactly how to improve our lacking prayer lives.  I was hoping this book would be helpful in that regard, but it wasn't quite as much as I had hoped.

I did appreciate the somewhat unique twist of using the Lord's Prayer to discuss how we can become synced with God, connected to the heart of Jesus.  However, I found it a bit simplistic in parts.  With the suggestion that if we could only be synced with God, blessings and ministry would just flow effortlessly, it smacked a bit of prosperity gospel to me at times.

I definitely believe that God does miracles, and that sometimes heaven's power reaches through our earthly circumstances at the exact time we need it.  But it doesn't always.  And it's not due to a lack of faith or a lack confidence that God can come through for us.  Sometimes faithful believers lose their homes when the money doesn't come in at the eleventh hour.  I do think that the author realizes that, I just wished it would have been stated specifically, and that she would have explained what it means when we don't see heaven's power in our earthly circumstances, despite our fervent prayers.

I did, however, really enjoy her focus on obedience as well as her chapter on forgiveness, and found that particularly insightful.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Book Review: Pocket Prayers by Max Lucado

About the Book(s): Pocket Prayers (with various authors; Thomas Nelson, March 2016)

Bestselling author Max Lucado has teamed up with six authors to write the Pocket Prayers series for those in need of peace, renewal, rest, faith, hope, joy, direction, serenity, and courage.

Short, simple prayers are very effective, which is why each book in the series contains forty guided prayers and complementary scriptures for any situation, including for:

-Moms (written with daughter Andrea Lucado)
-Grads (written with daughter Andrea Lucado)
-Dads (written with Mark Mynheir)
-Military Life (written with Mark Mynheir)
-Teachers (written with blogger Jennifer Hale)
-Friends (written with Betsy St. Amant)

Purchase your copies:

My Thoughts: These books are perfect for guiding your prayer life specific to the category you fit in.  Each of the 40 prayers starts with a complementary scripture passage followed by the prayer that flows from that thought.

The prayers are very specific to the indicated category and are very practical and useful.  However, even though they are short, they are still very meaningful.

For example....
In Pocket Prayers for Teachers....
Psalm 139:13-14 You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.
a portion of the prayer reads "...Help the teachers and administrators in my school see your fingerprints on every student. Let each challenge be seen as an opportunity for good; let each character trait be seen as a reflection of your glory."

Snippets of prayers from other days.....
"...Bless each student in my class, especially those from troubled homes. Let them feel my love and attention, and please protect their innocence. Show me how to be their steady, dependable guide."

"...Help my coteachers tap into their talents and use them well. Let your glory shine in their skills so we can celebrate the achievement of our students through your mighty work."

"...Help my students get along and form lasting friendships."

Beautiful prayers, perfect for guiding a teacher's thoughts and prayers, and calming their hearts.

Snippets of prayers for moms....
"...Today I feel spread thing and overcommitted. I don't have the strength in me to do what needs to be done. Give me the energy I need just for today. Give me time for rest and rejuvenation."

"..Help my children to fix their eyes on you when they experience fear or anxiety. Show them who you are, and grow their trust in you."

"...Today I am worried about my children. Temptations surround them at school, with friends, online. Sometimes I feel helpless. Give me wisdom, and help me release them confidently to your care."

For dads....
"..Bless my wife today. Protect her, encourage her, and wrap your love around her. Help her focus on our relationship with each other and with you."

"Help me be bold with my faith and unashamed that I follow you so I will speak freely about you. Help me walk in courage and faith every day because my strength and dependence flow from the Holy Spirit."

"..Give me the heart of a servant leader. Humble my spirit so I will desire to serve as you served, to lead as you lead."

For friends....
"...I ask you to bring healthy relationships into my life and to protect me from relationships that would pull me away from you."

"...I need discernment today regarding the friendships I allow in my life. Give me wisdom to know which relationships to embrace and which ones to pass by."

"...I want to be strong for my friends when they go through trials and storms. Help me pick them up and point them toward you in every situation. Enable me to laugh with them as they rejoice and cry beside them as they struggle."

For the graduate....
"...Be with my friends who are starting new schools and new jobs. When situations arise, help them ask you, before anyone else, what they should do so they will make wise decisions."

"...Let this year be my chance to start over. Let it be the year I begin to follow you, really follow you. And let my life show the fruit of the Spirit to those around me."

"...I know graduation is an exciting time, but it is also bittersweet to say good-bye to family and friends. Give me joy and excitement in this time of change."

And for military life...
"...I pray I never have to enter the field of battle, but if I do, remind me that I am secure in you no matter what."

"...Please be with my family and chase their fears away. Comfort them and give them peace when I'm absent."

"...My family needs you. I have to train so often, and my job requires a lot of time away. Help them understand and be able to manage the days I am away. Reassure them that I'm following your will for my life."

6 short books for 6 specific people.  I really enjoyed these books and highly recommend them to you, or to give to someone as a gift.

We were encouraged to give at least some of ours away.

I am going to give the one for teachers to my friends, Pamela.
I am going to give the one for friends to my oldest daughter, Emma.
I am going to give the one for dad to my husband.
I am going to keep the one for moms!
I am going to give the one for graduates to one of the grads from our church.
I am going to give the military one to a couple from church.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Book Review: And It Was Beautiful by Kara Tippetts

About the Book:

And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-Bye (David C Cook, March 2016)

"I was here. I saw beauty. I embraced it." -Kara Tippetts

How do you live out extravagant love in the everyday moments? How do you celebrate grace when your life turns out differently than the one you dreamed?

Kara Tippetts discovered how to find joy in the small moments of life. She learned how to hold tight to hope even while battling intense physical and emotional pain. And she lived out the truth that God can redeem any story.

In her final book, Kara offers gentle reflections on living and dying well. She invites us to cultivate soft hearts even when we face great disappointment. Her ideas for living are hard-won, wrestled with in the crucible of family, illness, and faith. And her constant reminder is that whether we are in the midst of dark days or mundane moments Jesus is always there, life is surprisingly beautiful, and God is forever good.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Kara Tippetts was the author of The Hardest Peace and the co-author of Just Show Up. She blogged faithfully at Since her death in March 2015, her husband, Jason, has been parenting their four children and leading the church the couple founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

My Thoughts: As far as I can recall, this is the first book I've read by an author about her own death. I've read books by authors who are deceased, but not so recently and not a biography written during the process.  It was definitely a different feeling reading this book - poignant and sad, yet also filled with hope.

Kara writes with transparency and honesty, giving us a firsthand glimpse into the end of her earthly journey.  She tackles, both for us and more importantly for herself, questions like "How does one die well?" and "How does one glorify God in death?"  Reading this book makes it clear that she was able to do both and do them well.

There were so many things to take away from this book, but one thing that struck me was that the time we spend right now leaning on God, learning of God, following Jesus - that time will serve us well when the time comes for us to lean on what we've done in the past.  That foundation was crucial for her, and it is for us as well.

A beautiful and heart rending book!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.


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