The Berenstain Bears' Harvest Festival by Mike Berenstain {Children's Book Review}

Juvenile Fiction

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and the folks of Bear Country are looking forward to everything the season brings. So when the Chapel in the Woods holds its first ever Harvest Festival, people gather at Farmer Ben's for a wonderful time of family, friends, fun, and praising God for his gifts.

My Thoughts

Around here the weather has started to have a crispness to it and the leaves are just beginning to hint at the colors to come. With these changes come the many fall festivals that we love to attend as a family. 

Our family isn't the only one that loves a good harvest festival. The residents of Bear Country are eagerly anticipating the first ever Chapel in the Woods Harvest Festival at Farmer Ben's farm. We meet up with the Berenstain Bear family as Mama and Papa are readying their yard for a winter's rest. Papa mentions the Harvest Festival and the whole family decides to attend.

Along the way it is mentioned that "mother nature puts on her best clothes and dishes up her finest food." At first this little phrase made me cringe. But in the next pages the following exchange takes place between the Bear family:
"Would you say mother nature is putting on a good show for us?" said Brother, kicking up a drift of leaves.
"Well," said Mama, pointing to the heavens, "you know mother nature works for someone a bit higher up."
"Yes," agreed Papa. "And harvest time is about much more than just enjoying the season. It is a time to give thanks to God for all his blessings--for the food that grows in his good, rich earth and for the wonders of nature that he has created." (pg. 10)
I appreciated the follow-up that pointed out the true Creator. I'm still not thrilled with the "mother nature" reference but not enough to pass on the book.

Once the Bear family arrives at Farmer Ben's they participate in apple picking and pumpkin picking and then a hay ride. At the end of the day there is a feast for the entire community where Preacher Brown gives a wonderful prayer about celebrating the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops that have been sown.

This newest Berenstain Bears' book is a good one to add to your family library for fall reading.

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A Reluctant Bride (Amish of Birch Creek, Book 1) by Kathleen Fuller {Book Review}

Amish of Birch Creek, Book 1
Contemporary Fiction/Amish

She never wanted to marry. He hopes to make 
amends for past wrongs. Can love find a way 
to heal both of their hearts?

Sadie Schrock swore she would never marry. All of her other Amish friends could court and marry—she was content to manage the family business and eventually take it over when her parents are ready to retire. But all of that changes when a reckless driver kills both of her parents and seriously injures her younger sister. With mounting hospital bills adding to the pile of debt her parents left behind, Sadie is left with no choice: she must marry. And not just any man—the man who saw her at her weakest and walked away.

Aden knows what his brother did to Sadie years ago was inexcusable. And every day since that incident, Aden has lived with the guilt for not intervening sooner. When he is faced with the chance to protect Sadie once again, he can’t let her down—even if it means living with the scorn of the woman he loves for the rest of his life.

Working alongside Aden at the store, Sadie realizes he isn’t the same boy who once betrayed her. Just when Sadie starts to let her guard down and perhaps develop feelings for her new husband, dangerous secrets are revealed. Now everything Sadie has worked so hard to protect is threatened, and she must find a way to save her family—and herself.

My Thoughts

It has been a long time since an Amish based book has raised such raw emotion in me. But The Reluctant Bride has done the trick. Bishop Troyer has succeeded in making my blood boil!

This first book in Kathleen Fuller's newest series isn't your average Amish novel. She chooses a more edgy path for her characters and delves into abuse including physical, mental and spiritual. While she allows the dark side of a tight knit community to be revealed this isn't just a novel filled with tragedy, far from it.

It is also a story of healing, hope, and the beginning of a lifelong love. I enjoyed following along while Sadie and Aden navigated the treacherous path set before them. The strength of character that developed in each of them was inspiring and their developing love for each other was moving. 

We expect to be able to trust and rely on our spiritual leaders but sometimes those leaders shouldn't be trusted. This book reminds us that we are all fallible and God should be the only One that we ultimately rely on. 

If you enjoy a story with depth that will surely evoke strong emotions then I encourage you to pick this novel up. Because of the subject matter I think it would make a particularly good choice for a featured read for your book club. To get the ball rolling there are discussion questions at the back of the book.

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Through Waters Deep (Waves of Freedom, Book 1) by Sarah Sundin {Book Review}

Waves of Freedom, Book 1
Historical Romance


It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.

When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is discovered, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.


Here's a fun peek at the behind the scenes making of the cover:

My Thoughts

Sarah Sundin's newest book Through Waters Deep was a delightful surprise to me. It is another of her World War II stories set in the months just prior to the United States entering the war. The interesting part is that it is a completely new series but it contains some characters that we have met previously in another of her books.

At first I just kept thinking that I had read a similar story and then it hit me . . . I know these people and their families. Once I realized that the pages just flew by. Mary Stirling is the main female character and she is a complex mix of reserved behind the scenes worker and diligently bold detective. If you grew up reading the Nancy Drew series you are going to enjoy Mary.

Naval officer Ensign Jim Avery has known Mary since childhood but for the first time he is really noticing her. His dilemma is does he want to become involved with anyone who is so different from what he usually gravitates to? In the past he's always been drawn to bubbly blondes and a specific blonde at that. But in Mary's presence he feels a peace that has always been missing.

The story contains the many twists and turns that we have come to expect from Sundin's writing. I think what I enjoy most is that this isn't just a war story and it isn't just a romance. Instead it is a mix of mystery, intrigue, and romance filled with characters that will entertain you as well as strengthen your faith. 

I can almost guarantee that this will be a book that my reading group picks for a future read. There are a set of discussion questions in the back of the book that will help any book club get started. I look forward to reading the rest of this series and if you like historical romance I think you will too.

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Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer {Book Review}

Christian Life / Prayer


And he's dead set on destroying all you hold dear. He does it strategically. He does it specifically. He's doing it right this minute, in fact--aimed at personally drawn targets on your heart, your home, your mind, your life.

And this book, this battle plan, is your chance to fight back. With a weapon that really works. With prayer.

New York Times best-selling author Priscilla Shirer brings her role from the War Room movie into real life, addressing the topics that affect you the most: your identity, your family, your regrets, your pressures, your temptations, your fears, your attitudes, and more. Each chapter exposes the enemy's cruel, cunning intentions against you in all kinds of key areas like these, then coaches you in crafting your own personalized prayer strategies on included tear-out sheets--ready to post them and pray them, anywhere you can put them into active deployment. Because the truth is: Victories don't happen by accident.

Fervent is a hands-on, knees-down, never-give-up action guide to practical, purposeful praying.

My Thoughts

If you have seen the movie War Room and are longing to implement what you saw on the screen through Priscilla Shirer's character then you need this book. I loved the movie but this book just takes it over the top. If you've ever experienced a Bible study by Priscilla you already know what I mean. If not let me give you a little glimpse of what is to come.

The opening of the book sets the stage so you will have no doubt about what is expected. Here's the opening paragraph to prove what I'm saying:
"Just so you know what you're getting into . . . 
By the time you've finished reading (and working) through this book, the front cover shouldn't be able to close neatly back over on itself. It should be noticeably disfigured. Ski-ramping up from the spine at such a scooped angle that even if you laid an old-school telephone book on top, you still couldn't smooth out what's become so harshly, permanently misshapen. From heartfelt use. War torn. An impossible option for regifting at Christmastime." (pg. 1)
Now that's the type of study I'm interested in. One that compels me to dive in and dig deep. One that I beg the Lord to ingrain upon my being. This study is all of that and more.

You'll be walked through the process of beginning a plan to commit your life to prayer, for yourself and those around you. Once you've reached the end I think you'll feel empowered to take on the difficult situations in your life on your knees.

This is one of those books that if I were independently wealthy I'd buy by the caseload and hand it out to my loved ones. (And probably total strangers as well!) If you are looking for a way to take your prayer life to the next meaningful level get yourself a copy of this book.

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The Plans I Have For You by Amy Parker {Children's Book Review}

The Plans I Have For You by Amy Parker

Book review disclosure.

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Juvenile Fiction

God has great plans for you.
It's true.
So dream about your future.
And do.

The Plans I Have for You will inspire readers of all ages to dream about their future and to trust that God has great plans for each and every one of us.

My Thoughts

I always find it nice to read a children's book that speaks to my own heart while entertaining my kids. The Plans I Have For You does exactly that. Amy Parker reminds us all that no matter what our occupation is be it stay-at-home mom or physician God has a plan for us that is perfect and complete.

We like to say that we are all missionaries but when it comes down to it, it doesn't always feel that way. In an engaging rhyming verse we are prompted to look at occupations as part of our God appointed destinies. What a wonderful thing to instill in our kiddos that the desire to work in a certain field no matter what it is pleases God when we do it for His glory.

As an artsy person I loved Vanessa Brantley-Newton's mixed media type of illustrations. All the colors and patterns and whimsical faces combine to make the book a feast for the eyes while it is ministering to your heart.

This would be a delightful read aloud for your entire family. Every home library would benefit from the contents of this adorable children's book.

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Amy Parker

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Disclosure of materials.

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