Friday, February 23, 2018

Hearts Entwined ~ a Bethany House book review


Christian Historical Fiction, Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer, Bethany House, book reviews


Have you ever gotten to the end of a great book and wished there was just one more chapter? Or arrived at the end of a trilogy by one of your favorite authors and wished there was just one more story to read? Me too! That is why I jumped at the chance to review Hearts Entwined, a Novella collection from Bethany House. It features stories from three authors I have read quite a few book from, Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, and Regina Jennings, along with a novella from Melissa Jaguars who is still fairly new to the Christian Historical Romance genre. 

If you are a fan of any of these four engaging authors you will want to pick up your own copy to read. Karen Witemeyer’s The Love Knot is from her Ladies of Harper’s Station storyline. Claire Nevin has received a rather cryptic letter from her younger sister Polly back East asking her to meet the train in the neighboring town of Seymour, Texas. She is shipping something valuable to Claire and wishes her to protect it for Polly, as their Da had kicked Polly out of the family’s tenement apartment. Little does Claire know that what is arriving is her infant nephew, Polly’s baby, and that Polly has sent it with Claire’s old Beau, the baby’s Uncle, Pieter. This story focuses on forgiveness and regaining trust. 

Claire and Pieter both want what is best for baby Liam, but in order to do so they must work through their own troubled past and the feelings of hurt their rash actions have caused each other. Finding someone to help Claire care for Liam is rarely a problem, since Harper’s Station is filled with women, but finding help for Claire’s heart is harder to come by. Don’t we all struggle at times to forgive? It’s just a novella, not a novel, so I'll stop now before I give away too many spoilers!

Mary Connealy’s The Tangled Ties That Bind is the story I’ve been waiting a year to read… as it is from her Kincaid Brides series. When I finished the third book a year or so ago I really wanted it to go on… and not be just a trilogy. I had come to enjoy spending time with the characters and their quirks. This novella transports us a while into the future of the Kincaid family as it focuses on two of the children from the earlier stories - when they have grown up and are looking for they own paths in life. I enjoyed visiting with Audra and Ethan Kincaid again, but more then that, I enjoyed the realistic characters of Connor and Maggie. Having an almost 20 year old myself, I appreciated the struggles Maggie is going through to find her identity, her future plans, and deal with the expectations others might unknowingly have thrust upon her. If you have read and enjoyed any if Mary’s previous books, you’ll want to savor this novella as well. Maybe even read it first when you get your copy of Hearts Entwined!

Regina Jennings’ contribution to this delightful collection is Bound and Determined. Eighteen year old Ambrosia Herald, affectionately called Amber by her father, has determined that her mother’s rose garden is more important than her father's plan rescuing the camels he used in the war. She has decided to go along on his trip to thwart his plans. Private Bradley Willis has been assigned to help Captain Herald retrieve his camels as a punishment for disobedience. This story probably made me laugh the most of all four included in the book. Amber is trying to use her charm to get her way, Private Willis is trying to not get killed by a local gang - or fail the mission and end up with a worse punishment, and Captain Herald is reliving the memories of his time in the war and his companions he had along the way. 

Melissa Jagears is a new-to-me author. Her story Tied and True is set in Kansas City, Missouri in 1908. It tells the tale of Marianne Lister, a young woman who has been brought up with the wealth of her parents, but is currently floundering as she tries to find her own place in society. Her parents expect her to marry within her station in life, but her heart tells her another story. David is the man her parents expect her to marry, but try as she might, Marianne cannot see herself spending the rest of her life as David’s wife, only as his friend. The man that Marianne’s heart has fallen for is Calvin, David’s assistant. 

The themes presented in Tied and True are ones that people have struggled with for centuries across continents. Do you choose to marry because of what is expected of you, or do you defy the standards of society’s expectations and marry for love? Have you ever wondered what you would do in that situation? If yes, then you will enjoy Marianne’s journey to find out who she really is inside, who God has called her to be, and the answer about marriage He has for her.

Whether these four are already favorite authors of yours, or if you’re looking for something new to read, I highly recommend Hearts Entwined to readers of Historical Fiction, especially those who like a little humor in their romances!

Get your copy of Hearts Entwined from Bethany House or your local bookstore. 

Connect with the authors on their websites:



I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

To Rome ... thoughts on God's call to spread the Gospel


Rome, book of Acts, Apostle Paul, Christian Living


Recently while reading in the books of Acts, I was struck anew by the prophesy of Agabus about Paul’s future in chapter 21. Agabus told Paul that he would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul’s companions were worried and begged Paul to not go to Jerusalem, but still, Paul went. Paul went to Jerusalem knowing he would very likely loose his life for the name of Christ. He had already been stoned, publicly beaten and imprisoned, now almost certain death awaited him. Perhaps Paul understood much more deeply than we do today what it means to give our lives for Christ. Paul went.

While in Jerusalem Paul’s life was in jeopardy once again, and through the mercies of God, Paul’s nephew learned of the plot to take his life. The Roman soldiers protected Paul by sending him away ahead of time to face his trial before Governor Felix. Paul gave his defense at the trial, how what he had done in Jerusalem and elsewhere was not breaking any Jewish laws, but simply angered the Jews because Paul believed in the resurrection of Christ, while the Sanhedrin did not. 

Paul spends two years in prison before another governor took control. At this point the trial resumes and Paul appealed to Caesar. As a Roman citizen Paul had the right to demand a trial before the Emperor. Governor Festus replied that since Paul had appealed to Rome, to Rome he would be sent.

Perhaps you have read further in the book of Acts. If so, you’ll remember Paul was shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake, and spent two years in Rome under house arrest awaiting his trial. 

God had a plan 

His plan involved Paul going to Rome and preaching repeatedly about the message of the Gospel, the good news, of Christ! Paul wrote many of the letters we now refer to as the Epistles while in Rome. God’s plan was for Paul to be in Rome. No plan of man - either Jew or Gentile - was going to trump God’s plan. Paul had been on missionary journeys, Paul had met with the Disciples in Jerusalem, he had carried a gift to help provide relief from the hardships they were facing. So many times along the way Paul’s life was seemingly lost, and yet, God provided a way out- because it was not yet time for Paul to die according to God's plan. 

Paul knew his life was surrendered to God, and that Christ Jesus had promised him a hope of a future, of eternal life. 
How often do we loose our focus and forget that this life we are living is just temporary? 

Weekly?

Daily?

Hourly?

Are we more like Paul, who set his face resolutely towards Rome and God’s purposes, or are we more like the Old Testament prophet Jonah who ran away from God’s directions for his life? Are we holding on too tightly to the things of this world? I would have to say “yes.” What about you?

How do we get our focus back on what God’s plan is for us? 
First, we stop. 

Psalm 46:10 states: He says,"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heavens, I will be exalted in the earth."(NIV)

To know that God is reigning supreme, above all other things that might happen in our lives today, we must stop and be still. When you can hear your own heart beat, or feel yourself breathing - those involuntary actions that tell you that God has still given you life and breath - then you can begin to be thankful for all the other gifts God has given. When we are impatient or anxious about what might happen next in our day, then we are not being still. When we focus on how soon we can get a task completed to move on to something else, without focusing on doing the task well, then we are not being still.

I’m sitting in a library. When I look to my left, I see other people being still. Reading, typing, studying. When I look to my right, I see a highway outside the window. I see people in cars and trucks headed towards whatever comes next. I cannot say if they are being still or if they are striving to reach the next thing. It IS possible to be active in body while yet being still in your soul. It comes from trusting the One who holds your future. If Jesus commands your life, and your future - your life eternal - then you can be still and know God anywhere.

Paul had found that knowing, that trust, and it allowed him to face the future knowing that God would send him to Rome, because that was a part of God’s plan for Paul. Less than two weeks before Agabus prophesied, Paul had already known his future was at hand. In his farewell to the Ephesian elders he shared his knowledge of God’s plan, limited though his understanding was, Paul knew it would be for God’s glory.

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I an going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22-24 (NIV)

Where is your Rome?


What is the place or task that the Holy Spirit is compelling you to go to or accomplish for the Gospel? If you have not recently felt the call of the Holy Spirit on your life, then you have not been listening. If you are not a Christian, the Holy Spirit is calling you, wooing you, to the freedom that comes from a future entrusted to God’s mighty hand. You are being called to a life filled with inexpressible peace and joy. If you are a Christian, then the Holy Spirit has a specific call for your life that includes being set apart for God. It may not be a call to foreign missions, it may be a call to be set apart right where you are today - as a plumber, a nurse, a teacher, a mom or dad, or even as a student. It is a call to be transformed from the inside out by time spent in God’s Word and prayer. 

My calling is different than yours, but we may be walking alongside each other for miles, years even, in the paths that God had planned for each of us. How do we hold one another up? How do our words and actions towards those around us show that we are set apart? Where is the love that Christ commands us to share with everyone? These can be tough questions to answer. I do not have all the answers, but I do know the One who does!


So I ask again? Where is your Rome, and are you following the call of the Holy Spirit to arrive there in God's timing?




Monday, February 19, 2018

Wulf the Saxon from Heirloom Audio Productions ~ a Crew Review



Jump in the boat with us as we sail away on yet another exciting adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions! This ninth release in the Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty series tell a tale of loyalty, courage, and love through the story of Wulf the Saxon. We begin our adventure when Wulf is just a short-tempered 16 year old thane under Earl Harold Godwinson and follow him through the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Although these are historical fiction tales, you will step away wishing Wulf were real and alive today because you will want him for a friend, either for yourself or for your children.

Heirloom Audio Productions continues to excel at bringing audio theatre to a higher level as they combine great storytelling with superb acting and amazing sound effects. We like listening to these on long car rides, but I often wish I had the time to listen at home as well when I could close my eyes and better imagine the details the stories evoke. Arlene has enjoyed listening to all of the audio adventures over and over again ever since the first one arrived in the fall of 2014.

Wulf the Saxon is 2.5 hours of non-stop listening enjoyment. Having recently lived through our own daughters' learning those oh-so-necessary lessons of self-control, polite speech, and loyalty during the teen years, I think the story of Wulf's growth in this tale might just become my favorite! As a future landholder in a time of England's history where a thane's words and actions reflected upon the Earls, and thus the King, Wulf must learn to control his temper. Along the way he learns the value of self-control and the great honor and responsibility of loyalty to Earl Harold who would succeed Edward the Confessor as King.

While Wulf has the privilege of being raised as a page enroute to becoming a thane who will one-day rule his Father's lands, he also must learn the value of hard work. Beorn is in a similar situation, and during the time they spend learning from Earl Harold they become good friends. By the end of the story you will also come to love Osgod, Wulf's servant, defender, cohort, and friend.

I was fascinated by the way this story tells the details of what happened leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It has been a long time since I studied World History, but I do remember mention of the Bayeux Tapestry, and it is the springboard into this story. Once again, G.A. Henty as narrator is voiced by Brian Blessed, and he is joined by an amazing cast.




While listening to the story of Wulf the Saxon, Arlene and I often paused the CDs to talk about these themes of loyalty and hard work and various points in Britain's history. Questions she raised like "Why was someone always trying to conquer England?" and others make our study of history so much richer. We would definitely recommend these Christian audio dramas become a vital and well-loved part of your homeschooling curriculum! If you are looking to further your study of history, we recommend you take a look at the Live the Adventure Club from Heirloom Audio Productions! This online, subscription-only resource allows you to dig deeper into a wide variety of history topics, beginning with the audio adventures! We have a subscription and it keeps all of our audio adventures available for online listening,  along with any bonus content. There is an old-time radio vault for your listening enjoyment, plus resources for parents, online kids' activities, daily devotionals and a wonderful Live the Adventure Club Community forum. 

Throughout the story of Wulf the Saxon there is an underlying theme of patriotism (to England) that requires sacrifice. This is a lesson we Americans would do well to learn again. King Edward's, and later King Harold's goals were to keep England united from within to withstand the attacks that threatened to tear her apart. Some characters, like Lady Edith and King Harold, gave up their dreams of marrying for love, while others, like Osgod, gave up a part of their lives, all while fighting for the continuation of England as a free country. They are not portrayed as looking for their country to do something for them, but rather they are portrayed as being willing to sacrifice their personal wants for the greater good of their country and their countrymen. It reminded me of JFK's speech "Ask not what your country can do for you..."

Courage in the face of overwhelming odds or an uncertain future is something I want our daughters to learn. Courage is not necessarily the absence of fear, but the decision to not let fear rule your life or your choices. The story of Wulf the Saxon, while fictional, reminds us of the Biblical truths that God is the one who goes before us into battle, and He is the one who allows us to treat others with compassion.

While the adventures from Heirloom Audio Productions are designed for ages 6-16, don't be fooled into thinking those are the only ages that will enjoy them. Arlene will soon turn 18 and is still excited every time a new audio adventure releases! I am pretty sure some day in the distant future Kurt and I will be purchasing these for another generation of our family. Yes, they really are that well done!


From Arlene:


Normans and Saxons, if you have ever watched or read Robin Hood (I myself am a big fan of the 1938 Errol Flynn version) you know that the Normans and Saxons don't like each other. However, if you are like me, you were never quite sure why? Enter Wulf the Saxon, a tale that can help you understand their animosity, while still being an amazing story in its own right. The story follows Wulf, a thane, in his adventures with and for Earl Harold as the Earl works to unify the country of England he will one day rule. Harold is trying to keep peace with the other rulers and cultures around them. The story is never boring, with battles and adventures of Dukes and Kings. It is sure to both entertain and teach from start to finish.

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Books With Bean ~ Anne of Green Gables



Books With Bean, book reviews by teens, Anne of Green Gables


Title: Anne of Green Gables 

Author: L. M. Montgomery

Published: 1908

Genre: Literary 

Summary: 11 year old Anne Shirley was not what Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert expected when they sent for an orphan to help out on their farm. But come she did, and their lives are forever changed when they decide to keep her and raise her. Anne hasn't had much formal upbringing up to that point so life is one mishap after another as Anne learns how to be a proper girl. From making lifelong friends with one child at school to swearing to hate another one for the rest of her life, life on Prince Edward Island is never boring. Anne meets new people, has lots of adventures, and for the first time in her life learns what it is like to have a family.

What I liked about it: Being a redhead myself I have always liked Anne, she was a lot like me, she loved what she loved and hated what she did not like. She was quick to a temper but just as quick to forgive (at least most of the time). Even as I got older and with time grew more refined in my literary analysis skills I realized that Anne could be a bit too good at times. However she and her adventures will always have a special place in my heart for her love of fun and the world around her.

Language: None

Romance: None in the first book, but as Anne grows older she does have romance and eventually gets married. The books are all very good however you might want to wait until your child is a bit older to read the later books if they start the first book when they are young.

Violence: None

Magic: None

Recommended Age: Anne is 11 and I personally think 10 or 11 is good age to start reading the series. However as I said above Anne does get older as the books go on. These books a wonderful to read as you grow up however while Anne is young in the first book she does get older and I would recommend the later books for 14 and up or maybe a little older

Books With Bean, book reviews by teens, Anne of Green Gables