Stone Silence by Taylor Dean Great big beautiful love. Does it really exist? Everyone tells me it does. They say, “Spencer Elliott, don’t worry, you’ll find it one day. You just have to find the right man and when you do, it will surprise the heck out of you.” I’m still waiting for that heck of a surprise to hit. It has proven to be elusive thus far. I’m pretty sure the entire world is lying about love and the joke is on me. I know I want a man in my heart and in my life. Unfortunately, most men immediately push my OFF button and I lose interest quickly. Feeling pressure to prove I’m trying to find my soulmate, I finally give in and agree to a date. Huge mistake. Afterward I find myself abandoned in the middle of nowhere, in desperate need of help. That’s when I meet Stony by chance. He’s a silent and unsmiling man who intrigues me with his ability to keep going after life has knocked him down. Suddenly the abstract notion of love becomes tangible and within my reach. Once I experience it, I wonder how I ever lived without it. That’s when I stay with Stony by choice. But when Stony’s hidden past and present-day reality collide, his silence is broken. And the truth about his life nearly brings me to my knees. I can’t compete with ghosts from the past. I refuse to fight for a man’s love. He either loves me or he doesn’t. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. My only hope is . . . he does.
The Sound of Silence Series is a three book series.
Book One: Stone Silence, Spencer’s Story Book Two: Jailbird, Mia’s Story Book Three: Hothouse Flower, Shay’s Story
Each book has a happy ending and there are no cliffhangers. They are not standalones and should be read in order.
Hate waiting for the next book in a series?
You won't have to wait long!
Jailbird, Book Two will be released on December 1st, 2017
Hothouse Flower, Book Three will be released on January 1st, 2018
What readers are saying about STONE SILENCE:This story just wrapped me in its arms and held me tight. I adored the characters and never wanted the book to end. Dean weaves a heart-tugging romance like nobody else's business. Her books are always a feast to my literary mind and always go on my To-Read-Again pile once I finish.
-Charissa Stastny, Author
Once again Dean takes the raw pain and hurt many of us can relate to, and creates a perfectly romantic tale for readers to escape into, giving us hope, love, second chances and ultimately that believable happily ever after we all seek for as true romance lovers.
-Mylissa's Reviews and Book Thoughts
READ AN EXCERPT FROM STONE SILENCE:
“You like home improvement?” he asks.
“I love it. But let’s pick something we both like.”
“Let’s rock, paper, scissors it.”
“Excuse me?” I say, surprised at his suggestion. Again, the levity feels a little odd without an accompanying smile.
He holds out his hand. “Ready? If I win, it’s the baseball game, if you win, it’s home improvement.”
I’m still a little stunned and stare at him open-mouthed.
“You do know how to play rock, paper, scissors, right?”
Flustered, I say, “Yes, of course.”
“Okay then, let’s do this.”
I hold out my hand and he counts, “1, 2, 3 . . .”
He does paper and I do scissors. I win.
“Home improvement it is,” he says.
He flips to HGTV where an episode of House Hunters is playing. He settles into the recliner and seems content.
“You like this?” I ask. “I mean, really, we can watch whatever you’d like.”
“Used to be in the business. Now I just own several rentals.”
“What was your business?”
“Flipping houses. Selling them.”
Okay, that explains why he’s fine with watching HGTV. “You don’t mind watching this?”
“Don’t make me admit it.”
I laugh aloud at this funny man. His deadpan expression makes everything seem funnier than it really is. I can’t hide my smile as I stare at the TV. He’s an enigma and I want to solve the mystery. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Might not answer.”
“Can I ask anyway?” I say.
“How much time do you save in your life by never speaking in full sentences?”
He looks over at me with narrowed eyes, but I don’t back down.
“Eons,” he retorts. Then he mumbles, “Smart aleck.”
I laugh, but he remains . . . well, Stony.
I have to believe help will be in Roby.
But I can’t make it without water.
Now would be a good time for someone to ask me for a ride again. I contemplate finding a shady place to sit and wait for the rain that’s supposed to arrive this afternoon. The thought leads to a mental vision of me shivering in the bushes, drenched and stranded. I’m not sure which is the lesser of two evils. Plus, I can’t sit around and wait for rain water to quench my thirst. I know I don’t have that kind of time. All I know is Finn felt determined to get home early today so he could dodge the rain. Reportedly, torrential downfalls are headed this way. The news predicts flooding is going to be a problem again.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.
Even though I feel utterly alone, the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life, I realize that I’m not really alone. When people love you, are you ever really alone? They’re always behind the scenes, thinking of you and hoping for your safety. I have people in my life who love me. I matter to them. If something happens to me, they will mourn my loss from their life. This buoys me. They are with me, strengthening me. I feel them with me now, coaxing me to not give up. I hear my mom’s voice in my head; I love you, Spencer, my precious daughter. I hear my dad’s voice; My baby girl, my beautiful baby girl. I hear my brother’s voice; Don’t you dare give up, Spencer. Don’t you do it.
He’s right. I can’t quit now. I’ve come too far.
I’ve been sitting for too long. I have to keep going. I can’t give in to delirium. I pull myself up to a standing position and fight the dizziness that overcomes me.
Even though I’m still standing in the harsh sunlight, I can now see angry storm clouds in the distance. The horizon holds that blurry, slanted look, the one that tells me it’s pouring rain in that neck of the woods. I wonder how soon it will arrive here. The humidity level has risen in the past half hour and I’m sweating profusely. My skin feels cool and moist, yet I’m burning up and goosebumps are covering my arms. An odd combination. My pulse is racing and the muscles in my legs are cramping.
I need help now. I can’t wait any longer. I’m no longer fighting for just my current safety, I’m fighting for my life.
Suddenly, I hear a strange sound. A low buzz, the trill of electric machinery. It wafts over the airwaves and calls to me.
Someone is out here working. At last, I’ve found someone I can ask for help. Whoever it is, they are my only hope. My situation is dire and I don’t have a choice.
There’s a small gravel road to the right of me. The sound is coming from that direction. The rise and fall of the land doesn’t allow me to see where I’m headed. I follow the sound as if it’s the call of the Pied Piper. Wherever it takes me, that’s where I’m going.
I have no other option.
My feet propel me forward like they have a will of their own and I feel helpless. I’m no longer in control; the situation has taken control of me.
“He kicked me out of the car. I’ve been walking for hours. Please, if you could just . . .”
“No,” he says emphatically with a raised voice. Then again it’s as if he’s quietly speaking to himself. “I can’t do this. I’m not ready.”
“No?” I ask, feeling unbelief. If he’ll just let me finish a sentence, I’ll ask him for water and be on my way. “I just want a . . .”
“Roby’s just up the road,” he interrupts.
“Please, just a . . .”
“Someone will help you there,” he says with finality.
There’s a reason this guy lives all by himself in the boondocks. He’s about as friendly as a rabid dog. I doubt there’s a prince hiding underneath his stern demeanor. Only a beast.
Our eyes lock for a few moments. I implore him for help and I’m met with an unyielding gaze. I feel like I just ran into a rock wall. Hard.
Help is not here. Help is not anywhere. Despair engulfs me and I feel utterly defeated. I war between begging and my pride. My pride wins and that’s my downfall. “Never mind,” I whisper as my voice cracks. The impending rain will save me. I’ll cup my hands and drink to my heart’s content. I’ll find someone else to help me. Surely there’s another house down the road.
If there isn’t, it doesn’t matter. If I’m going to survive, I have to save myself.
There’s no sign of compassion in this man. I cast a longing-filled glance at his motorhome and wonder if I can make a run for it and attack his faucet before Mr. Unfriendly even has the chance to get down from his ladder.
I know I don’t have the strength, so I turn to leave.
My gait is wobbly and I falter. The buzzing in my head increases in volume. My head feels as though it has turned into one huge pulsing heartbeat. I don’t want to die out here. It strikes me as odd that I might die in the middle of the heartland because I couldn’t find anyone to help me. So much for friendship being the Texas state motto. Maybe they should remind their residents to act accordingly.
I hear a deep sigh from behind me. I don’t know how I hear it above the roar in my head. It sounds as though it’s miles away and yet whispered in my ear. Then the man says something unintelligible under his breath as his conscience gets the best of him. I hear that loud and clear.
“Wait,” he says. “I’m sorry. Of course I’ll help you. Please come back.”
Slowly, I turn to face him, ready to express my gratitude. The clouds roll in at that very moment and the sky darkens. A few raindrops land on my face and I instinctively turn my head toward the heavens, hoping moisture will inadvertently land in my waiting mouth.
Instead, the simple act of moving my head leaves me reeling and the lights go out as I fall to the ground in a crumpled heap.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense—you’ll find all sub-genres of clean romance in her line-up.
When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.
Eva—known to all as Lovey—grew up in Oxford, MS, surrounded by literary history and her mother's stunning perennial gardens. But a garden shed fire and the burns suffered by one of her best friends seemed to change everything. Her older sister Bitsy blamed her for the fire—and no one spoke up on Lovey’s behalf. Bitsy the cheerleader, Bitsy the homecoming queen, Bitsy married to a wealthy investor. And all the while, Lovey bears the brunt of everything that goes wrong.
At eighteen, Lovey turns down a marriage proposal and flees to Arizona—the farthest thing from the South she can imagine. She becomes a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, and she seems to have it all together. But she's alone. And on her 45th birthday, she can't help but wonder what's wrong.
When she gets a call from her father insisting that she come home three weeks early for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration, she's at wits end. She's about to close the biggest contract of her career, but his words, "Family First," hit too close to home.
Eva's journey home to the memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise for her mother becomes one of discovering roots, and truth, and love, and what living perennially in spite of disappointments and tragedy really means.
Eva thought she wanted to leave her family and the South far behind . . . but she's realizing she hasn't truly been herself the whole time she's been gone.
My Review of Perennials
Julie Cantrell’s Perennials is the powerful novel of The Sutherland Family and their ability to love, forgive and find their way home again.
Bitsy and Lovey Sutherland were inseparable as children growing up in rural Oxford, Mississippi. Spending time outdoors with companions Finn and Fisher, the sister’s days were filled with flower gardens, playing games and catching fireflies. But as Bitsy enters her teenage years things begin to change for the sisters. Feeling peer pressure to fit in and be popular, Bitsy no longer enjoys the carefree days of playing outdoors and getting dirty. In time her carefree spirit turns spiteful and angry and Lovey finds she is the target of her older sister’s venom. When a tragic accident occurs involving Finn and Fisher, Bitsy points the guilty finger at Lovey and thus begins years of bitter feuding. As the years go by and the sisters grow further apart Lovey decides to leave rural Mississippi for Arizona despite the pleas of her parents and a marriage proposal from Fisher.
As time goes by Lovey settles into her new life at Apogee, a successful advertising firm in Phoenix. Her love life however, is another matter. Having been through an ugly breakup, Lovey is determined to put love and relationships behind her and concentrate on nothing but work. With a new campaign that could bring huge profits to her advertising firm and a large bonus to fund an early retirement for her, Lovey throws herself into her work. With her parents 50th Wedding Anniversary around the corner Lovey has to slay this project and meet her milestones in order to make it home for the party. As she has not been home in years she knows her parents are looking forward to their reunion. But an urgent phone call from her parents asking her to return weeks before the party without explanation has her in a bind. Although the Jansana account is critical, her parents Laurel and Chief, have always come first. Determined to make it all work, Lovey reluctantly leaves for Oxford hoping to return to Arizona as soon as possible.
Once home it’s clear to Lovey not much has changed. She finds she has missed Mississippi more than ever. Being with her parents evoke memories of childhood, both sweet and bitter, but regardless she is glad she has made the journey home. Seeing Fisher once again ignites a spark she thought long ago extinguished and her feud with Bitsy escalates despite the years and distance apart. As The Sutherlands 50th Wedding Anniversary draws near and feelings intensify between Fisher and Lovey, Bitsy's verbal attacks on Lovey redouble. As emotions come to a head and Lovey decides to run back to Arizona to avoid conflict and a work crisis, her parents disclose the truth behind her real call home. Lovey must decide to make a stand for her parents and Fisher, while trying to close the emotional gap between herself and Bisty before it’s too late.
I loved Perennials. This is the kind of book I like to sink my teeth into. It has beautiful, well developed characters and a storyline that tugs at your heart. The author skillfully builds the tension and plot throughout the book, until the turning point where everything breaks loose and all the pieces fall into place. I also love when an author gives us a great Prologue and an Epilogue. It sets the stage for what will happen throughout the book and gives us closure at the end of the story. I loved Lovey and Fisher’s characters. They are true and human in the face of all they have endured. Bitsy, on the other hand, was much harder to like. Even when the author gave the story closure and you see why she operates as she does, I still had a hard time trusting her. The damage she had done to Lovey and Fisher all those years was surreal. And last, but not least we have Laurel and Chief. They were a beautiful and unique couple and the legacy they left behind will live on in their children and grandchildren for a lifetime.
If you want a great read that will keep you turning the pages and your emotions flowing then Perennials is the book for you. A beautiful story that is hard to put down with characters that will make you smile and make you cry.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Perennials by Julie Cantrell for a fair and honest review.
A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays...
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…
My Review of Seven Days of Us
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak is the intricate story of the Birch Family forced together for a week at Christmas under medical quarantine.
The Birch family has not been together under one roof for quite a while. Their oldest daughter Olivia is coming home from Liberia where she has been treating an epidemic of Haag Virus along with another doctor Sean Coughlan. Unfortunately, Olivia must stay in enforced medical confinement at home, leaving her family with little choice but to join her in isolation at their old county manor in Norfolk. But Olivia’s dreading the week she must spend with her family over the holidays. She has felt disconnected from her mother and father for quite a number of years and the closeness she once felt with her sister is gone as they now have nothing in common. As the days progress Olivia begins to feel trapped. She misses Sean and the day to day intensity of living in the worst of conditions, treating the worst of diseases. Phoebe, her sister, does nothing but prattle on about her upcoming nuptials while dad makes himself scarce and mom bustles about the decaying manor cooking and wrapping gifts as if everything is hunky dory. But the serene family Christmas the Birch family is trying so hard to manufacture is about to come unraveled at the arrival of two unexpected guests, George, Phoebe’s fiancé and Jesse, a son Andrew Birch has never met. As secrets of the family are revealed, and everybody has one, the tension within the house comes to a head with explosive results. But the outcome is for the better as the Birch family find they will emerge from their medical seclusion a more caring and tight-knit family. One they’ve always wanted to be, one they always needed to be.
I liked the way Francesca Hornak weaved complex characters into an ever evolving storyline. As the holiday week wore on, you could feel the tension building in the house. When George and Jesse finally arrive on the scene, things really begin to take a turn in an unexpected way and there was never a dull moment in the Birch residence again. Secrets are laid bare leaving the family to deal with them in the aftermath. Things will never be the same again, but the family will be the better for it.
All the characters in Seven Days of Us were unique and well written. Each had a distinct part to play in this book, but my favorites were Jesse and Emma. I liked Emma because despite all the problems she was quietly dealing with, her priority was always and foremost her family. She tried to bring lightness to all the tension and when all else failed she reverted to the kitchen to feed her loved ones. She tried to constantly keep everyone happy even in the most awkward of situations and when she finally had enough of her husband’s behavior she let lose a lifetime of pent-up frustration. It was a great scene in the book, one I could read again and again.
I also liked Jesse. Jesse liked to get to the heart of the matter, in other words he wore his proverbial heart on his sleeve. This made him extremely endearing to the reader, but not necessarily to his new found family. Jesse also had a kind side to him and was willing to go the extra mile, even at the expense of himself. I believe it was Jesse and Emma that were instrumental in resolving the conflicts that held the Birch family hostage for so long. All in all, they were charming characters amid the others who were often reserved and seemingly detached. Unfortunately, George was my least favorite character. Selfish and often self-serving, he only had his own interests at heart.
Seven Days of Us is the unique story of The Birch Family trying to get through the holidays with secrets intact and with little emotion expended as possible. Instead, secrets are revealed, feelings expressed and a family long void of emotion manages to find themselves seeing each other in an all new light. The family that entered the holidays will not be the same family that enters the New Year.
I want to thank Berkley Publishing via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak for a fair and honest review.
My thoughts on bread making and The Gift of Bread
Recipes for the Heart and the Table
When I was a child one of my favorite memories was watching my mother make homemade bread. My mother’s way of making bread may seem a little unconventional, but the process definitely worked. On bread baking day I would climb a chair and sit at the table mesmerized by her process. She never used a recipe, she made it all by sight and touch. After she proofed her yeast, she took a big enamel roaster (the kind you roast a turkey) and added a 5 lb. sack of Cinderella flour. After the flour came the shortening, salt, sugar, yeast then to this she added warm water. With the exception of the flour everything was done without measuring. As she kneaded the dough she would feel the texture and know if she needed more water to achieve the beautiful elastic consistency she always managed to create. Not once did I ever see her add more flour, or adjust anything else. She knew from experience and feel what she needed to do to have her dough turn out beautifully each and every time.
After the dough was silky and smooth she covered the roaster with its lid then wrapped the roaster in blankets to keep it warm and free of any drafts. My mother always gave her bread dough three risings. Two in the roaster and one in the pans. I swear it’s what made the bread crusty on the outside, but chewy and light as a feather on the inside. I always ran into the house when she punched it down for the first time. When she lifted that lid and the pungent smell of the yeast hit your nose there was nothing like it in the world, well that is besides slicing and eating it warm from the oven. My mother was always at her best in the kitchen baking and cooking for those she loved.
Today I try to carry on some of my mom’s favorite traditions and baking bread is just one of them. Try as I might though, after all these years I have never managed to create a loaf of bread the same way she did. I have however, managed to find a lot of great bread recipes and I’ve collected many bread cookbooks through the years. And even though I have enough cookbooks to fill a small library, I couldn’t stop myself from buying my latest find The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table by Karen Whiting. This book is not just a cookbook full of bread recipes. This is a book where bread is lived spiritually, physically and emotionally. It is as she calls it a “cookbook devotional”. Each beautiful chapter starts with a short scripture passage, followed by a short personal story of family or friends followed by Lovin’ From The Lord where the author shares a biblical passage always related to meals or breaking bread. She includes a Food For Thought and concludes each chapter with The Joy of Bread Making where the reader gets countless kitchen tips or Lovin’ From The Oven where the author shares wonderful bread or muffin recipes for family and friends to enjoy. The finishing touch at the end of each chapter is A Morsel of Bread, a small quote that gives you food for thought for your day.
In rating this book I would easily give it 5 *****. To describe it I would use one of two words, DELIGHTFUL or INSPIRATIONAL. This is a book I plan to refer to again and again and not just for the recipes. The personal stories and scriptural passages in regards to relationships and food are so well thought out. An all-around gem of a book that will not only feed your hunger, but feed your heart and soul too.
In closing I wanted to note that the above picture is one I took of Karen Whiting’s book The Gift of Bread and the loaves of bread sitting by it are two loaves I made from one of the recipes in the book. The Amish White Bread was light and delicious and easy to make. Because my daughters occasionally, but lovingly call me out for tweaking recipes I will be honest and say the only thing I did differently was in using instant yeast verses dry active yeast. Dry active yeast you typically proof first, whereas instant yeast you just add it to the flour. I also shaped the loaves by hand instead of using a loaf pan. I like to have fun and do creative things when making bread, but that was it. Soft and yummy the bread was a hit.
So if you are a novice and would like to make some bread for the first time, or an old pro like my mom, The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table is sure to be the inspiration to get you motivated to make and break bread.
Celebrate the joyful hope of the Christmas season as characters find healing in the midst of heartbreak.
New from Olivia Newport!
Christmas in Blue
In the wake of a personal loss deeper than anyone realizes, Angela plans to bypass as much of the season as possible and get through her duties as the church organist by going on autopilot. Instead, she finds herself in charge of the town’s celebration. After a mysterious young man arrives, townspeople suspect he is the reason that one set of plans after another disintegrate until little is left of their traditions. Yet Angela warms to Gabe because she suspects they share a secret—his real reason for coming to town. Even when all they have to work with is a garish supply of blue Christmas decorations, Gabe helps Angela discover the hidden beauty of hope.
Christmas in Gold
After eighty years, change is nothing new for Astrid. By the time she was twenty, she survived the destructive Nazi regime, caring for her family under brutal circumstances, moving to America, and losing her husband. At forty she was widowed again and left to build a new life with her children. Now, when she faces a move into an assisted living community and meets a young woman on the brink of despair, she resolves to stir up hope through tragedy one more time.
My Review of Colors of Christmas
If you are looking for a book to add to your holiday reading list this year, make sure to add Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport. This gem of a book holds two beautiful stories in one, Christmas in Gold and Christmas in Blue, both tender and endearing and sure to lift your hearts and spirits this Christmas season.
Christmas in Gold tells the story of Astrid, an elderly woman who sells her home and moves to Sycamore Hills, a place where seniors can be as independent as they want or receive assistance should they need it. It is an adjustment for Astrid for she is fiercely independent and private, but finds herself in need of help after a fall that left her with a broken ankle. But as the holidays approach and her new place of residence is being decorated for Christmas, Astrid is drawn to a particular tree dressed in gold. She has possessed for years three gold ornaments, the only thing left of her family from Germany after the war. It is her own sorrow she carries quietly from the past that draws her to her Physical Therapist Carly who is running from past mistakes of her own. As Astrid begins to open up and shares her story with Carly a bond of trust begins to form and an unlikely friendship develops between the women. A friendship that will take them into a brighter future and happier holiday season.
Christmas in Blue is the story of love, loss and the beauty of family and friends. The town of Spruce Valley has always taken its Christmas celebration very seriously. A Christmas to Remember has always been the town’s highlight of the year, but this year things are different. Carole, the town’s chief organizer and decorator loved by all has passed leaving her best friend Angela, the Main Street Church’s choir director, in charge by default. As Christmas approaches all Angela wants to do is run away. The loss of her best friend has been more than she can bear, especially with the holidays fast approaching. But as the town’s expectations mount for A Christmas to Remember Angela has only days to prepare for what normally takes weeks. And if things weren’t bad enough the decorations that are normally stored and used every year are ruined due to circumstances beyond her control. With nowhere to turn and limited resources and ideas a mysterious stranger named Gabe appears in town and magical things start to happen. With Gabriel leading the way new decorations are sought, and though all they can obtain are blue, Gabe and Angela are determined to make this year’s celebration a memorable one. As A Christmas to Remember approaches the whole town pulls together at their annual celebration making it one that Spruce Valley will never forget. Feeling the love of God, Gabe and her neighbors, Angela is able to approach Christmas without the dread she anticipated but with joy and tenderness in her heart.
I loved the stories comprising Colors of Christmas. They were both different in content, but left me with a smile on my face and looking forward to the hustle and bustle of Christmas. It also left me with the knowledge that my relationships with family and friends is really what makes Christmas magical and not the gifts under the tree. It reminded me to be thankful and to never take anything for granted and to remember it’s about the child in the manger that we really celebrate Christmas in the first place. The Colors of Christmas should make everyone’s reading list this year and will make a perfect gift for that booklover in your family.
I want to thank Barbour Publishing Inc via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport for a fair and honest review.
Story Time--The Most Important 10 Minutes in a Child's Day!
Your children or grandchildren will delight in this fully-illustrated storybook that brings 365 read-aloud classic Bible stories to life for impressionable young hearts.
Beginning with the creation story, "God Creates the Earth," and ending with "In Eternity with God,” your children will develop faith in an almighty God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, while journeying alongside Bible characters like Samuel, Jonah, Esther, David, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and many more.
365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories promises to make bedtime reading a delightful learning and faith-building experience for your kids 3 and up.
My Review of 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories
365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut is a beautifully illustrated collection of bible stories from the Old and New Testaments for children of all ages. Starting with the story of creation Jesse Lyman Hurlbut takes us on a journey through a biblical timeline that children not only hear, but see through the tender illustrations that are provided for the reader. A perfect book for children too young for an adult or teenage bible, but in need of learning as much as they can about God and the roots of their faith. Both children and adults together can enjoy these stories and there is one for every day of the year. What a beautiful way of starting or ending your child’s day.
I enjoyed 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories as it relayed Old and New Testament knowledge, but in a way children can grasp, break down and remember. Each story leads to the next in a timeframe that stays true to its biblical period. At times I felt like I was reading a bible just for children instead of bible stories and the illustrations that the book provided were sweet and beautifully done. The beauty of 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories is your children can journey every day for a year, learn about their faith and be the better for it.
If your children are unfamiliar with the bible or bible stories 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories is the perfect way to introduce them to God and their faith. If your children are familiar with bible stories then 365 Classic Bedtime Stories can expound their knowledge and the tender illustrations make those stories come to life. Let 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories make your Christmas shopping list for your children or grandchildren. It’s the perfect Christmas gift for the season (or any occasion) and an excellent way to start your loved ones New Year.
I want to thank Barbour Publishing, Inc via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of 365 Classic Bedtime Bible Stories by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut for a fair and honest review.
The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby
Violet Barnaby searches for the joy in life after losing her mother in this sweet and funny follow-up to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone. Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies. Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes. And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too…
Praise for The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby "[an] emotionally perceptive novel of grief and recovery." - Kirkus You'll fall in love with Violet and love every minute of living in her wondrous world! - Stephanie Faris Violet Barnaby and the forthcoming The Carnival of Wishes and Dreams (2019). I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway
I can remember the first time I realized how much I liked reading. I was in grade school happy as a lark checking out my fifth Nancy Drew mystery at the library. I couldn’t wait to get home. I was so excited to get it started. Looking back I can remember wanting to read them all and I still remember my two favorites, The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase. My mom who loved mysteries joined me in re-reading some of those old classics.
As time moved on I graduated to other books. I must have read The Black Stallion about five times and then in eighth grade I became obsessed with The Good-Bad Boy, a hilarious diary kept by a precocious adolescence who eventually became a priest. It was so popular that there was a waiting list for it in our one and only tiny school library.
As the years have gone by my love for books has not changed. I can’t remember a time when I was not reading something. My tastes have changed through the years and I can honestly say I have broadened my horizons and now enjoy a wide variety of books. Book clubs have been a great vehicle for introductions to genre’s I may never have selected for myself. I have also been open to friends’ suggestions, especially those who are avid readers. I feel fortunate too that I have passed on my love of reading to my children. Even as adolescences and young teens they spent a great deal of time reading and still do today.
So, where I am going with all of this. Well, with all the electronics that our children have access to today the pleasure of reading it appears has taken a back seat to all the fun and excitement that hand held electronics and standard gaming systems can give. Although these electronics are fun and can be played with friends and family, children are becoming addicted to them and prefer to play games over reading a good book. As moms, dads and grandparents we have some stiff competition. Although we want our kids and grandkids to have fun, perhaps there can be a compromise. Below I have listed some ideas to get our kids’ reading again and hope they’ll work for you.
1. Start early. We all know how important reading is to babies and preschoolers. As they grow we have to continue encouraging books, but take it a little further. As your children or grandchildren begin to mature make library trips a priority. Weekly or bi-weekly trips can be fun and something to look forward to while keeping track of books to read and return teaches them responsibility. If financially feasible, a trip to a local bookstore can be fun too. Choosing a book to purchase and keep helps children make decisions about what they really want to read. This is also where relatives can get involved indirectly. Gift cards to books stores make perfect gifts for children on birthdays and Christmas. Like most children, gift cards are greatly appreciated as they get to pick the gift themselves.
2. Make electronics something they have to earn. Like an allowance given for doing chores, electronic time can be earned through reading. For example, for every 30 minutes reading, 30 minutes is earned for the gaming system of their choice. Some may say this will only teach them to dread reading, but I disagree. This gives them the best of both worlds. Otherwise, and I have seen it, they can easily spend hours on electronic devices without even realizing it and books are collecting dust under their beds or in the corners of their rooms. Sometimes as parents and grandparents we have to be the bad guy and say “NO”! No more electronics, use your brain for something else!!
Remember too, kids love challenges and rewards. For every 5 books they read a trip to the store or ice cream shop of choice can be won. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. Kids love Dollar stores as much as adults and who doesn’t like an ice cream cone or sundae. Whatever the treat may be make it special and something everyone can enjoy. Short on cash, then allow your child to pick the activity the family will participate in that day. A game of cards, a favorite board game or baking their favorite cookie works too. It’s your time and attention they want anyway. Just be creative.
3. If your children have a regularly scheduled bedtime, bump it up by 30 minutes and allow them to read in bed. Some kids like to take their hand held electronics to bed, but this can often stimulate their minds instead of relaxing them. Reading can help them calm after a busy day and take them away to places where they have to use their imagination. It also gives them something to look forward to again the next night, especially if it’s a chapter book. If your children are still young and have difficulty reading without assistance this is a perfect time to spend the last 30 minutes of their day together. Assisting them with reading not only makes them a better reader, but allows you some quiet time together in an otherwise hectic day.
4. Whenever possible, let your children or grandchildren see their favorite books come to life. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, James and The Giant Peach, The Hobbit, Little Women, The Polar Express, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Cat in the Hat are just a few wonderful books that have been made into films. Just Like adults, children like to see their favorite characters jump off the page and entertain them on a screen larger than life.
5. If a parent or grandparent has trouble getting a child to read a book and it becomes a battle, find out what they are passionate about. If your child likes sports, there are many children’s books about sports. Perhaps your child likes animals, dolls, or if you’re lucky they may be interested in history, Again countless books have been written on all of these subjects. If none of these hold interest for your child or grandchild, how about a comic book or magazine. I collected Betty and Veronica, Jughead and Archie in grade school for years. I devoured those comic books and couldn’t wait for the next ones to hit the stand. The most important thing to remember is we want them to enjoy reading. If we make reading a chore instead of a reward we defeat our purpose.
Well I hope that some of these ideas to encourage your children or grandchildren to read has been helpful. We all want our children to succeed and becoming good readers is one way to start them on their way. Reading will educate them and help them to self-entertain especially when they are bored. More importantly it gives them a great alternative to endless hours of electronic activity. Reading will open them up to different worlds and allow them to develop a creative imagination. Reading is also something the whole family can share. In a busy world with all the activities that compete with their time, books are a way of slowing down and sharing with siblings and the whole family. It’s never too late to encourage your children and grandchildren to become avid readers. Why not start today!
In this first book on the topic written from a Catholic perspective, award-winning writer Mary DeTurris Poust offers personal, hard-won wisdom on the complex relationship between food and spirituality.Mary DeTurris Poust draws on the rich appreciation of meals she first gained at the tables of her childhood in an Italian-American family, leading readers into reflection on the connections between eating, self-image, and spirituality. Like Geneen Roth in Women, Food and God, but from a uniquely Catholic point of view, Poust helps readers spot ways they use food to avoid or ignore their real desires--for acceptance, understanding, friendship, love, and, indeed, for God. Poust draws from scripture and the great Catholic prayer forms and devotions to assist readers in making intentional changes in their use of food. She also offers reflections on fasting, eating in solidarity with the poor, vegetarianism, and the local food movement.
My Review of CRAVINGS - A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image and God
If you are like me and have read every diet and nutrition book out there and are still disappointed with the results or lack thereof, perhaps Cravings, A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-image, and God by Mary DeTurris Poust is the book for you. I bought this little book about two years ago and just this August finally decided to crack it open and I’m awfully glad I did. First let me say, if you are looking for a diet and exercise plan you will not find it in the pages of this book. If you are looking for quick weight lose tips, again, you will not find it here. But, if you are looking for a real solution or a meaningful guide of self-evaluation and discovery of what motivates us to eat or overeat then perhaps this book is for you.
In Cravings, Mary DeTurris Poust tackles some heavy issues that caused me to pause and self-evaluate my relationship with food. Cravings showed me, as well as it will any reader, that most likely our hunger goes deeper than the need for food, but a spiritual hunger that only we can fill with a relationship with God. She talks about mindless eating and the emotions that make us snack or binge. She talks about loving ourselves where we are now in order to work on the self we want to be. She tackles our attitudes about food and why, how, what and where we eat. Although she does not offer a diet or food plan, she does talk about what has worked for some people she knows and she talks about getting our family and table back to basics. Buying good, wholesome, if possible local meats and produce to get the most nutrition and vitamins out of our food. Like anything else, our meals should be a celebration of taste, family and love, giving thanks for what our bodies are going to consume. As she points out in various ways we are what we eat, and if we want to be whole and temples of the Holy Spirit the food we buy and consume should reflect just that. Her ideology is not strict, but one that makes sense and can change our lives and attitudes about how we feel about ourselves and the food we eat.
I liked this book for so many reasons, but the number one reason was it made me evaluate why I was constantly snacking. I kept a food diary as the author suggested and wrote down what I was eating and how I was feeling at the time I was eating it. What an eye opener!! Most of my snacking occurred when I was stressing or had an unpleasant task ahead of me. It made me realize that some of my eating was not from hunger, but mindless, stress related eating that left me feeling worse the next day. If nothing else, the self-awareness I obtained from this book was invaluable. It also made me aware that I was not always turning things over to God or asking for help from a friend or family member when I had too much on my plate. We all stress about the lack of hours in our day when all we need to do is reach out and ask for help. The second thing I liked about the book was the author used herself as an example when giving examples or pertinent information. It helped to know that she experienced many of the food related issues I did. Being vulnerable and putting herself out there made me realize that food is not always the issue. Changing attitudes about what I was eating, my self-image, and my willingness to spend time with my family and a God who loves me would go further than any diet could. Last, but not least, I treasured the Food for Thought section at the end of each chapter. The personal questions related to the chapter topic was invaluable. I recommend everyone to read these question and take the time for self-examination. It’s amazing what you may learn about yourself.
I recommend Cravings, A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God by Mary DeTurris Poust for anyone who wants to try a different approach to better health, mindful eating and an improved spiritual connection to God. I recommend when reading Cravings you take the time to savor the words, ideas and questions contained within. No matter where you are in your life journey, Cravings has something to offer to everyone.
There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned."
When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.
“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”
During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.
“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”
Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.
Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?
My Review of The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix
Michele Phoenix gives us a heart wrenching story of the power of faith and the human spirit to survive in The Space Between Words.
Jessica and Patrick are the best of friends living a quiet life in Denver. When Patrick decides to leave his antique shop for a time to study at the American University in Paris, he invites Jessica to join him the last few weeks of his Paris stay to sightsee and treasure hunt together. But pleasure turns to tragedy when an evening concert is shattered with the sound of gunfire leaving Jessica badly hurt and Patrick fatally wounded. Wanting badly to flee Paris after the horror of the attacks, Jessica embarks on a journey to Southern France to complete a trip she and Patrick had planned to find antique treasures. Staying in a B&B in Balazuc, Jessica meets the proprietor Mona, her son, and Mona’s brother Grant. With their help she discovers a barn filled with antiques where she is emotionally drawn to a beautiful wooden sewing box. Arriving back at the B&B, Jessica discovers a secret compartment in the sewing box containing a letter and pages from an antique Huguenot Bible. Enlisting Grant’s help, little by little they translate the old French language into English where they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard and her family, Huguenot’s, persecuted because of their faith. Touched by Adeline’s story, Jessica and Grant cannot rest until they ascertain the fate of Adeline’s family. Traveling as far as England, Jessica and Grant begin a quest for answers. As Jessica and Grant come closer to the truth healing begins for the both of them. Tragedy and pain are confronted providing an open door to a new and loving relationship.
I loved the Space Between Words. This book is filled with tenderness as well as gut wrenching emotions. I loved the characters that Michele Phoenix created both past and present. Adeline’s devotion to God, her family and students was both maternal and altruistic. Her courage in the face of persecution was heroic. I also loved seeing the gradual emotional healing of Jessica and the emerging relationship between her and Grant. I cheered them on as the pain of their past gave way to a brighter and hope filled future. As a reader I was left feeling Jessica and Grant’s lives were now full of possibilities and that made me happy. Like any good book I was reluctant to let the characters go.
The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix is a heartrending journey that takes you from the persecution of the Huguenot’s in France to a terror attack at a rock concert in present day Paris. It is the story of faith, courage and healing in the most tragic of circumstances. It is a woman from the past helping a woman today heal and live again. It is a story that will continue to haunt you long after you turn the last page.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson-Fiction via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix for a fair and honest review.
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