The Innkeeper Of Ivy Hill (Tales From Ivy Hill #1) by Julie Klassen | Historical Fiction Review

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Tales from Ivy Hill #1) by Julie Klassen

Book review disclosure.

Tales From Ivy Hill #1
Historical Fiction


The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant landlady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?

As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

Read an excerpt.

My Thoughts

There's really not much more delightful to me than reading a series set in a small village that revolves around ordinary people living their everyday lives. If you've read Jan Karon's Mitford series or Miss Read's Fairacre Chronicles you know exactly what I am talking about. 

To say that I was excited to get my hands on Julie Klassen's first installment in the Tales From Ivy Hill series is an understatement. I have long enjoyed Julie's historical fiction books and I knew that she would be the perfect author to give us a new village and people to love. By the end of the book I felt as if I had made new acquaintances and looked forward to getting to know each of them better.

The book starts with one of my favorite things . . . a map of the village! I love being able to picture the layout as the story progresses. When we first dip into the story we meet Jane Bell who is a recent widow and has suddenly and unexpectedly become the new innkeeper for The Bell. Much to her dismay her late husband left the coaching inn for her to run. The problem lies in the fact that before this Jane's husband insisted that Jane lead a life of a genteel lady and as such she really had very little to do with the inn.

The next central figure that we are introduced to is Thora Bell. She's Jane's mother-in-law and the two of them have a very strained relationship. The Bell coaching inn has been in Thora's family for generations so Thora is a bit territorial when it comes to all things concerning the inn. The problem is that the decisions are no longer hers to make. 

There are other friends and family that we meet but I would say that this installment centers around these two women. I found the storyline to be very easy to relate to. Even the best of daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationships have a tension about them. Jane and Thora are leary of each other but they also need each other. Watching the barriers come down and the trust factor go up was a delight.

As I said earlier this is a gentle read but it does have a bit of mystery involved. I'm delighted to say that I was completely wrong about who was behind the deception. In this case it was so nice to be wrong! There's a bit of everything to entice the reader. There's relationship issues, both romantic and platonic, there's mystery, and there's also some very intriguing history. You just can't go wrong with this read.

Let me close with my favorite quote from the book. It comes from Mercy, a dear friend of Jane's, and it comes at the beginning of the book but it sets the tone for the rest of the story.
"Manage the inn, Jane; save it. Have a mission in life. Discover that work worth doing is about more than profit and toil. It's about using the gifts and ability you've been given to serve your fellow man and please your Maker." (pg. 130)

Other Reviews For This Author

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall 
The Tutor's Daughter
The Painter's Daughter

Connect With The Author

Julie Klassen
Photo Credit: © Farrow Media

Disclosure of materials.

Baa! Oink! Moo! God Made The Animals by Rhonda Gowler Greene | Children's Book Review

Baa! Oink! Moo! God Made The Animals by Rhonda Gowler Greene

Book review disclosure.

Illustrated by David Walker
Juvenile Fiction (ages 4-8)

Sheep. Pigs. Cows.
God made all the animals on the farm!

Listen in on a lyrical conversation between a mother and a child
as a young boy learns that God is responsible for
creating all the animals on the farm.

Baa! Oink! Moo! God Made the Animals, written by award-winning author Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by David Walker, is set on a farm and follows a conversation between a mother and child as the child repeatedly asks "Mama, who made . . . ?"

In the end, children learn that God is responsible for creating sheep, cows, pigs, horses, goats––all the animals on the farm… including puppies! Together, parents and children will discover the wonder of God’s creation when they open Baa! Oink! Moo! God Made the Animals.

My Thoughts

Little kids and farm animals just go together. What child doesn't love to make their noises? In Baa! Oink! Moo! God Made the Animals Rhonda Gowler Greene captures the curiosity and unending questions of little ones. If you're a momma of a little you know all about the cycle of question after question.

With the sing-songy verses the momma gently responds to all of her little boy's queries. As they move from animal to animal the son continually says "Mama, look!" and then responds with a question about who made the animals and their particular characteristic. I really like how the momma responds that only God can make these animals and give them their particular makeup. 

I am pretty sure that once you read this aloud to your little one they will begin to respond in all the right places with the animal sounds. The book itself is a padded board book that is very sturdy for the multiple readings that you are surely going to be doing. When the words have a rhyming flare it is actually fun to read it again and again. I think you'll also enjoy the illustrations by David Walker. His use of disproportionate features makes for a whimsical visual that goes really well with the verses.

This book would be a great addition to any child's library. It would also make a wonderful baby shower gift for that expecting momma. 

Other Reviews For This Author

Only God Can Make A Kitten
Noah And The Mighty Ark

Connect With The Author

Rhonda Gowler Greene

Facebook  -  Twitter  -  Goodreads

Disclosure of materials.

Read Your Bible Through Using The Snowball Effect

Read your Bible through using the snowball effect.

Every couple of years I read my Bible through. I usually just start in Genesis and read a few chapters a day until I reach the end of Revelation. I've used other methods (chronological, daily mix of old and new testaments, etc.) but for the most part I just read it from beginning to end.

I was talking to some of my book club friends about it and by and large everyone said about the same thing. We all start out strong but then you quickly come upon Leviticus and Numbers. We all acknowledged that those books are important . . . but boy are they tedious to get through!

First things first. A Bible reading plan for my fauxdori.

As I began thinking about ways to make reading through your Bible more doable a concept kept coming to the forefront of my mind. We've been working through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace using the baby steps he outlines. If you are familiar with the program you know that step 2 is creating a debt snowball.

To do a debt snowball you list out all of your debts and pick the one with the smallest balance and pay it off. Then you move on to the next smallest and just keep paying them off. You don't look at interest rates or things like that you just do the smallest debt first and keep going. Trust me when I say that this works! You quickly get a sense of accomplishment and motivation to power through the rest.

Illustrated Faith's Habit Tracker for 2017.

So . . . what if you used that same principle to read the Bible? Start with the smallest books and read them through and then move on to the next batch until you have finished the entire Bible. The more I thought about this the more excited I became.

I decided to put together a booklet for my fauxdori that I could use to track my reading. My dashboard is called "1st Things First". On the first page I printed the 2017 Habit Tracker from Illustrated Faith. I like the way I can hold myself accountable just by coloring in the dots for every day that I read.

Bible reading chart for my fauxdori.

For the rest of the pages I just made a table with the number of chapters for each book of the Bible. As I read a chapter I'll color the cell in. My booklet turned out a little wonky (I need to fix the margins) so for now I'm not offering it as a download. It would be quite easy for you to make your own and I'm betting you can be a bit more creative than I was.

Did you know that there are five books of the Bible that only contain one chapter? So if you think in terms of snowball effect you can easily read FIVE books of the Bible in five days if you only read a chapter a day. Now if that doesn't make you feel like you've accomplished something I don't know what else will! 

Here's the list of books by chapter length:

1 Chapter
Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude
2 Chapters
3 Chapters
Joel, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and 2 Peter 
4 Chapters
Ruth, Jonah, Malachi, Philippians, Colossians, and 2 Timothy 
5 Chapters
Lamentations, 1 Thessalonians, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John
6 Chapters
Galatians, Ephesians, and 1 Timothy 
7 Chapters
8 Chapters
Song of Songs
9 Chapters
10 Chapters
Ezra, and Esther
12 Chapters
Ecclesiastes, and Daniel
13 Chapters
Nehemiah, 2 Corinthians, and Hebrews
14 Chapters
Hosea, and Zechariah
16 Chapters
Mark, Romans, and 1 Corinthians
21 Chapters
Judges, and John
22 Chapters
1 Kings, and Revelation
24 Chapters
Joshua, 2 Samuel, and Luke
25 Chapters
2 Kings
27 Chapters
28 Chapters
Matthew, and Acts
29 Chapters
1 Chronicles
31 Chapters
1 Samuel, and Proverbs
34 Chapters
36 Chapters
Numbers, and 2 Chronicles
40 Chapters
42 Chapters
48 Chapters
50 Chapters
52 Chapters
66 Chapters
150 Chapters

If you follow this you will have read FOURTEEN books by the end of the first month just by reading a chapter a day. Now the truth is that some of these chapters are pretty short so you may wind up reading more than a chapter a day. Can you say SCORE? 

Bible reading chart for my fauxdori.

Let me tell you about one more thing that I do that I count in my booklet. I also count the chapters that I read in the devotionals that I follow along on a daily basis (as long as it is a full chapter). For example I am currently reading the book of Psalms with the Lifeway Women in their 40 Days of Prayer. I also read She Reads Truth every day and we are currently reading through the book of John. 

Doing this method has made me realize that I read more of the Word each day than I thought. Thank you Jesus for revealing this to me. Even though I'm a crazy reader (some might say addicted reader) I still need the affirmation that I'm diving into the Word daily. 

I hope that this will be an encouragement for you too. I'd love for you to share the idea with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram but more importantly I'd love to hear what you think of this approach. I'm tickled with it and want to hear how it's working for you. Tag us @RambleSAHM so we can follow along on your journey to read your Bible through this year!

Tangled Webs (Men of Valor #3) by Irene Hannon | Romantic Suspense Review

Tangled Webs (Men of Valor #3) by Irene Hannon

Book review disclosure.

Men of Valor #3
Romantic Suspense


After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime. A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress. But peace isn't on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own. Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather. As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone. And when it becomes apparent Dana's foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action--ready or not.

Bestselling author and three-time RITA Award winner Irene Hannon draws readers into a web of psychological suspense where danger lurks in dark corners . . . and keeps them captive until the very last page.

Read an excerpt.

My Thoughts

Tangled Webs brings the Men of Valor series to a close. In this final book our focus shifts to the baby of the family, Finn McGregor. If you read the first two books, Buried Secrets and Thin Ice, you've already become acquainted with Finn.

Finn was an Army Ranger for the last several years, but after a mission in the Middle East went bad he found himself without a definite career path. Knowing that he needs time to recuperate his brothers arrange for him to have some downtime at a friend's secluded cabin.

All seems peaceful and serine until a woman's screams pierce the night. That single event will change things for Finn in ways that he never imagined.

Dana Lewis is Finn's nearest neighbor and she's also recuperating at her family's cabin. She grew up spending lots of time at the cabin with her grandparents and it has always been a place of security and hope. Retreating here seemed to be the right thing to do but this time something is wrong.

I absolutely love Irene Hannon's romantic suspense books. This series has been especially intriguing because it involved three brothers that all have military careers. Each book can easily be read as a stand-alone title but if you plan on reading all of them definitely read them in order.

If your tastes lean towards suspense you won't be disappointed in this book or series. The action is fast and the characters are quite intriguing. Each of the situations are ones that we could easily read about in the headlines. I for one can't wait to see where her next series will take us.

If you are part of a book club you might be interested in downloading the Reading Group Guide.

Other Reviews For This Author

One Perfect Spring
Buried Secrets
Hope Harbor
Thin Ice
Sea Rose Lane

Connect With The Author

Irene Hannon
Photo Credit: ©

The Lord's Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness by Rick Warren | Children's Book Review

The Lord's Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness by Rick Warren

Book review disclosure.

Rick Warren
Illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson
Juvenile Nonfiction / Board Book

This iconic prayer is paired with flowing illustrations by award-winning artist Richard Jesse Watson and thoughtful insights by bestselling author Rick Warren, resulting in a book that rejuvenates the familiar prayer for a younger audience. Using poetic scripture from the King James Version, The Lord’s Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness helps familiarize children with real biblical text while also presenting contemporary illustrations and insightful words that make this beautiful prayer come alive.

My Thoughts

I love the simplicity of a small child's prayer. There's no hesitation and worry of using the right words. They don't worry about Thees and Thous they just lay out their requests and rightly assume that God hears them and will answer.

When Jesus taught His disciples the Lord's Prayer He used that same simplicity. It is a wonderful example of how we should approach the Father and an easy template to teach our children. Rick Warren and Richard Jesse Watson have taken these timeless words and added beautiful illustrations and thoughts that will encourage you and your children to not only learn this portion of Scripture but to also apply it in all situations.

I like that The Lord's Prayer: Words of Hope and Happiness is presented in this new board book format. This is definitely a book that will be read over and over in our house so durability in the hands of little ones counts! 

I also appreciate the subtle way that Rick Warren puts the Scripture into repeatable segments and also includes a short thought on what that particular segment means. The King James Version is beautifully lyrical but often the verbiage is confusing to little ones (and sometimes adults). The illustrations are stunningly life-like and had us all mesmerized.  

I heartily recommend this book to all families. If you are looking for a new way to help your kids learn the Lord's Prayer this book is a great resource.

Connect With The Author

Rick Warren

Disclosure of materials.

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