A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley {Book Review}

Hope Series, Book 1

When Quaker Pastor Sam Gardner is asked by the ill Unitarian minister to oversee a wedding in his place, Sam naturally agrees. It's not until the couple stand before him that he realizes change has come to Harmony. The wedding stirs up a tempest of strong opinions and misunderstandings, and Sam soon finds himself facing possible unemployment.

Deeply discouraged, he wonders if his pastoral usefulness has come to an end. Perhaps it's time for a change. His wife has found a new job at the library, his elder son is off to college, and the younger has decided to join the military once he graduates high school. Sam contemplates a future selling used cars, until he receives a call from a woman in the suburban town of Hope, Indiana. It seems Hope Friends Meeting is in desperate need of a pastor. Though they have only twelve members, they also have a beautiful meetinghouse and a pie committee. Sam is quite fond of pie. But can he really leave his beloved hometown of Harmony?

My Thoughts

After reading A Place Called Hope I found myself longing for the simplicity of the original Harmony series. I fell in love with the quirky characters that felt very familiar to me. I'm pretty sure every congregation has a member like Dale Hinshaw who always comes up with wacko ideas like Scripture eggs. Thankfully there is usually a Miriam Hodge to balance out the craziness. 

Dale, Miriam, Fern, and the rest of the gang return in this series. And in fact it starts out pretty funny but quickly takes a turn that it didn't come out of until the very end. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Gulley expected the reader to sympathize with the dilemma that Sam found himself in the midst of but I just didn't. In fact it was Sam that I was the most disappointed in. 

So, am I ready to write off the rest of the series? No, for two reasons. The first is because I already have a copy of the second book. The second reason is I'm hopeful about the new community that Sam and Barbara have moved to. We've already been introduced to some very interesting characters and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. It's also my hope that we'll still get to check in with the people at Harmony Friends Meeting now and again. 

My recommendation would be to read at your own discretion knowing that it is going to be a bit preachy about being accepting of gay marriage. If you can look past that and just enjoy catching up with some beloved characters then you should be able to at least partly enjoy the book.

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Teaching Toddlers: Begin At The Beginning {plus a GIVEAWAY}

We’ve all heard about the terrible twos. I’m here to tell you that it’s not the second year that will have you begging for mercy but rather years three and four. By then your little darlings will have developed the skills of a master manipulator with a killer smile to boot.

So what’s a worn out momma to do? Begin at the beginning.

For me during those turbulent years it meant running straight into the arms of Jesus. Every. Single. Day. The days I missed were the days I would sink. I love the popular advice of getting up before the kiddos to have a quiet time . . . a little bit of coffee and a whole lotta Jesus. (Cold can of Coke for me thank you very much!) The problem was that I was blessed with a boy that woke up with the first rays of light. And this night owl momma had usually gone to bed just a few hours before. Guilt was my cloak of choice. Why couldn’t I love early mornings? Why did I need an hour or so of just being before I could coherently function?

Here’s where I’m going to urge you to loosen those chains that hinder your morning meeting with Jesus. Do what you have to do to make it happen even if it is mid-morning rather than the crack of dawn. Just like you should put on your oxygen first in an airline emergency, you should also equip yourself first to face what is ahead of you. So put a DVD on, plop your little cherub in front of it and then run to Jesus. Grab your Bible and coffee and absorb His words of life-giving power.

After that mountain top experience you get the privilege of doing what you were called to do . . . train up a child!

So where should you start? Begin at the beginning.

The wonderful thing about toddlers is their insatiable curiosity. The most taxing part of a toddler is their insatiable curiosity. (And the tantrums . . . oh the tantrums!) Toddlers love to discover how things are made and how they work. Encourage that curiosity by teaching them the creation story in Genesis.

There are literally thousands of resources of books and music and coloring sheets that you can use to teach your little one what happened on those first seven days. Make it fun and enjoyable for both of you. I happen to be a brand ambassador for Zonderkidz so I have had the privilege of scouring a ton of their toddler books. One of my favorite new books is the Read With Me Bible for Little Ones. It does a nice overview of some of the main themes in the Bible.

Once you’ve conquered the creation story you can move on to many other stories that reside in the Old and New Testaments. My favorite teaching outline comes from Hebrews 11:1-39. We affectionately refer to it as the great Hall of Faith. Spend time teaching your children about each of these great men and women. It is perfectly acceptable to leave out the gruesome parts at this point. A three-year-old is probably not ready to learn about Cain killing his brother Able. But they can begin to learn about obedience to God by presenting acceptable offerings. And above all else begin teaching them about Jesus.

I’m so excited for each of you mommas as you journey this path with your little ones. You are called to this and our faithful God is equipping you for it. You can do this. There’s a great cloud of witnesses surrounding you and cheering you on. And all the grannies said . . . AMEN!

Now . . . how about a GIVEAWAY?!! We loved Read With Me Bible For Little Ones so much that we wanted to make a way for one of our readers to get their own copy. To do that we have partnered with Zonderkidz to give one of our readers a copy of the book.

The giveaway is open to U.S. residents and will run through midnight on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. The winner will be contacted by email and will have forty-eight hours to claim the prize. If unclaimed, a new winner will be drawn. The winners’ entries will be verified. Please enter the contest using the Giveaway Tools form below. All entries are optional.


Snuggle Time Prayers by Glenys Nellist {Children's Book Review}

Illustrated by Cee Biscoe
Juvenile Nonfiction (ages 2-5)

Time to snuggle in my bed,
Time to climb the stairs, 
Time to thank God for this day,
Time to say my prayers.

It's bedtime. A time to settle down and draw closer to God. This collection of fifteen prayers will remind children of their blessings as they drift off to sleep.

My Thoughts

I love children's bedtime for all the obvious reasons but also because it is such a wonderful time of snuggling and breathing in the aroma of freshly bathed little ones. In our home we always read a book or two before tucking our kiddos in. I'm careful about selecting what we will read. Just as I want them to begin their day with a story about Jesus I also want them to end their day that way.

When you see the name Glenys Nellist on the cover you can be assured that the words contained within will point you to Jesus. In Snuggle Time Prayers Glenys gives us fifteen prayers to share with our kids. Each section begins with a verse of Scripture and then has a rhyming prayer. Just think you're already beginning to teach your little one how to pray back the words of God! That's a lifelong benefit that you are instilling. 

The book itself is beautifully illustrated by the talented Cee Biscoe. All of the sweet little animals pictured are absolutely adorable. So soft and cuddly! The book is a padded board book that is sturdy enough to stand up to multiple readings from little hands.

If you are looking for a new bedtime book for your nightly routine I highly recommend this one. The words are ones that are sure to be remembered and the pictures are a treat as well.

Other Reviews For The Author

Love Letters From God
Little Love Letters From God

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Annabel Lee (Coffey & Hill, #1) by Mike Nappa {Suspense Book Review}

Coffey & Hill, #1

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden.

She doesn't know why her enigmatic uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He's left her with a few German words, a barely controlled guard dog, and a single command: "Don't open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me."

Miles away in Atlanta, private investigator Trudi Coffey is visited by a mysterious older man calling himself Dr. Smith. He's been trailing a man for a decade--a man she met through her ex-partner Samuel Hill--and the trail has led him to her office. The last thing Trudi wants to do is to contact Samuel. But it will take both of them to unravel this mystery--before it's too late.


My Thoughts

If you enjoy a good suspense novel then I suggest you go ahead and pick this one up. Annabel Lee is the first book in the new Coffey & Hill series. I expected it to be slow in parts because it would need to introduce us to the characters and set the stage. I was completely wrong. Instead the reader is just thrown into the midst of the plot and left to figure things out as they come to light.

There are some gruesome parts that just seem downright evil. And in fact they are. But there are other parts that aren't what they appear to be at all. At the beginning of the story Annabel Lee's uncle locks her in a hidden underground shelter with a barely controlled guard dog. Why? What craziness is this? As the story unfolds the unknown comes to light and even though you will understand the reasons they are still scary.

Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill are former business and marriage partners. They've got a complicated history that just adds to the tension in this novel. I really like their characters and look forward to watching their story unfold in the coming books.

I don't give away endings but this one is a doozy! Take a bathroom break and get yourself a snack because you're not going to be able to put this book down as the story line comes to a climax. The epilogue will be a soothing balm to all the crazy of the previous chapters. Read the preview of the next book, The Raven, at your own peril. I say that because it doesn't come out until September and you will be left wanting to read it NOW. On a final note the acknowledgements were the best I've ever read. (Yes I read those and you should too! Gives you insight into who the author really is.)

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A Dolphin Wish (Glimmer Girls, #2) by Natalie Grant {Children's Book Review}

Glimmer Girls, #2
Juvenile Fiction

JOIN TWINS MIA AND MADDIE and their little sister, Lulu, as they travel the country finding adventure, mystery, and mischief along the way. Together with their father, their famous mother, singer Gloria Glimmer, and their slightly wacky nanny, Miss Julia, the smart and sassy sisters learn lessons about being good friends, telling the truth, and a whole lot more.

Sun, sights, and a watery mystery

A stay in the city of San Diego seems like it might be just the break the girls need--lovely weather and great sights to see. That is until they hear some animal handlers at Captain Swashbuckler's Adventure Park talking about the trouble they've been having keeping all the animals in their habitats. Mia and her sisters cannot resist a challenge, and they talk Miss Julia and their parents into another visit to the educational amusement park to search for clues as to what or who is helping the animals escape.

Can Mia save the day and help keep the beloved animals safe?

My Thoughts

If you follow my reviews you already know that I had mixed feelings about the first book, London Art Chase. There was so much that I liked about the adorable sisters and their world travels. I liked all of the details about London and I appreciated the very apparent faith of the entire family. But there was that one little detail that just nagged at me. And truthfully even after the second book it still nags at me.

Let me just insert here that I'm assuming that you're reading this review wanting to know details about the book and series. The rest of my review is going to contain spoilers but I'm writing this from one momma to another in order to give you a heads up. If you don't want to know . . . stop reading now!

The little detail was that TEN-YEAR-OLD Maddie snuck out of her hotel BY HERSELF and wandered the streets of LONDON chasing after a thief. Everything turned out fine in the end but I was not thrilled with the situation and then the fact that the book ended without any consequences being addressed. 

Fast forward to book two, A Dolphin Wish. The family has left London and flown to San Diego for a few days of rest and then a concert. They are staying in a beach house and planning their outings for the coming days. Eventually (chapter 3) the wrong doing by Maddie comes up and we find out what her punishment was. 
Good thing the night was dark, because Mia knew she'd made a face. It wasn't fair that Maddie had become the detective of the family. Maybe she'd solved the mystery in London, but she'd done it by breaking the rules. Her consequence for rule breaking had been no movie-watching on the flight to San Diego. To Mia, the consequence didn't seem big enough at all, especially since everyone was also treating Maddie like a hero.
"Let's admit, it wasn't a good thing for Maddie to sneak out," Mom said. "But I'm also so proud of Maddie for being brave and speaking up when she knew that something was wrong." (pg. 20)
I'm going to restrain myself from expounding on my true feelings. Let's just say that my version would be a bit different. I think one of the reasons that this disturbs me so much is that Natalie Grant is one of the prominent voices in the end human trafficking movement. Ten-year-old little girls alone on the streets of London are prime targets.

Okay on to the rest of the story. Again for the most part I liked it. The mystery was clever and fun to watch the girls work together to solve. I even want to go to Captain Swashbuckler's Adventure Park. I liked how the reader actually gets to learn some interesting facts about the sea life without it seeming like a lesson.

My only other concern is less intense. The story contains a 13-year-old boy named Jackson. Jackson is allowed to wander around the park by himself day after day. His father is in management at the theme park so presumably it's thought that the workers kind of look out for him I guess. Truthfully without the previous situation with Maddie I might not have even been sensitive to this. But can I just say, whatever happened to the buddy system? Kids really shouldn't just be allowed to wander around by themselves. We no longer live in that world.

So . . . would I recommend this book and series? Yes, but if I were the momma I would read the books for myself before I handed them off. Then I would use them as a springboard for some serious conversations with my kiddo.

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