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Chocolate is very welcome on Valentine’s Day. It tastes so good. (OK, it tastes better than good. Words are just inadequate to describe chocolate.) I’m just glad Valentine’s day is next Thursday. Maybe there will still be some chocolate left in the bag for me to distribute. Flowers are a great gift too. I’m always surprised and delighted to see them when I walk into the room where they are.

But a novel with fun, intriguing characters and a romantic theme is a meal for my heart. And if that book speaks of and shows me God’s love being played out, fleshed out, in human lives, that book becomes a feast for my soul.

My short answer to what to give a special young person on Valentine’s Day–a romance novel. (But don’t skip the chocolate. People do enjoy eating something while reading.)

I chose some books for you to consider from the ones we’ve liked.  It is only a sampling. Click on “Select Category” on the left to find other book reviews.

Christy

Dear My. Knightley

Even Now

Love at Any Cost

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii

Love Letters, The

Once Upon a Time

Pearl in the Sand

Secret of Pembrooke Park, The

With Every Letter

Wonder of You, The

 

21 Days of Love, compiled by Kathy Ide and published by Broadstreet (2016) is a must-read for Valentine’s Day. It is creative, heartwarming and insightful. Not your ordinary collection of flowers and romance, this book shares true-to-life tales of all different types of love, focusing on God’s love as the primary and most important of all. Women, ages 18 and above, will find this a good read.

There are twenty-one amazing stories with a wide range of relationships–sweethearts, spouses, parents and children, grandparents, friends, pets, caregivers and couples from other countries. I enjoyed reading each story and learned something from each one. The main theme of the book is that God should be the center of all relationships. With His guiding hand, all love relationships will be greatly enhanced. I would like to highlight a few of my favorite stories.

The story I could relate to the most, A Finger and a Big Toe, by Nancy Ellen Hird, is about a young mother who is troubled because no matter how hard she tries, the woman she wants to have a significant relationship with, isn’t responding with equal interest. I think this is a common issue in the friendships among women. We often seek a friendship with someone and are disappointed when it doesn’t work out the way we had planned.

Becky and Carla are good friends, but Becky also is seeking the friendship of Jennifer, a woman she works with in a volunteer organization and whom she admires greatly. She tries unsuccessfully to reach out to Jennifer and make time for them to get to know each other. When Jennifer doesn’t respond, Becky is upset.

While at a church event with Carla, Becky sees Jennifer and learns that Jennifer and her family are planning to move in the near future. Becky is stunned. On the way home, she tells Carla about her disappointment.

Carla gives encouraging advice and shows Becky that perhaps God had a reason for preventing the friendship to blossom. Becky realizes how blessed she is with a friend like Carla, and learns an age-old lesson of trust and obedience to God’s plan. I believe this story can encourage others to place God at the center of their relationships.

Another story I particularly liked is Desert Crossing, by Dona Watson. It is the story of Lori, the mother of a nineteen year-old son named Josh. Her husband David is away with the military, deployed in the Middle East. As the story begins, Josh has gotten into some trouble with drugs and has had to spend a night in jail. Lori is hoping and praying for his safe return home. She settles into bed, praying and crying out to God for both her husband and son.

Soon she hears a door open. She believes Josh has come home. It turns out to be her husband David. Lori is thrilled he has returned and thankful they can face the challenges with their son together. After a happy greeting, she takes him to the kitchen to make him a meal and explain about their son.

Shortly after that, Josh returns and is overjoyed to see his father. He admits he was wrong and agrees to get help for his problem. The family is reunited with a sense of hope for the future.

Every story in this little book is encouraging and well-written. I loved the variety of characters. There is even a story about a little dog. This book would be a great one to read, and also would make a wonderful gift.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her children and grandchildren. Her two daughters, two sons, one son-in-law, one daughter-in-law and two granddaughters are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for more than 35 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

 

“Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. . . . and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; . . .” Ephesians 6: 11, 14b-15.

So what could these spiritual shoes look like that help us stand? I think devotionals can be one kind. We’ve looked at two such books, and we recommend them highly for YAs and college age/working persons.

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women

Praying with Jane

We have also found the following books enriched our hearts and helped us walk with the Lord. May your heart also be enriched in the coming year.

Deeper: Living in the Reality of God’s Love

A Grief Observed

Lord, I Feel So Small

Mere Christianity

Mimosa: A True Story

Pray This Way

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

According to my research, the Italian, “venire alla luce” translates as “to be born.” Literally, the words are “to come to the light.” It has struck me this week as I’ve been thinking about Advent and Christmas how beautiful and meaningful that phrase is.

Tonight is the first night of Advent and at our house we will light the first candle. I will marvel again that Jesus came to live on earth. He is the light of the world. In Him we, humans, saw and see the light of God’s love. And then more marvelous still, He carried us into it’s brightness through His sacrifice.

Advent can be a crazy time for all of us, young and old and in-betweens. Especially in-betweens. We can forget what’s important. We can think we have to make Christmas happen. We forget that the light has come.

I suggest some down time to re-focus; read with the kids. And give yourself permission to not make a big event of it. (Hot chocolate is very optional and only if you really, really want to do it.) Just pick a book with a Christmas theme, settle on the couch and enjoy the story together. (If you don’t have kids, read to the kid in you.)

Those of us at Books 4 Christian Kids have a few suggestions for some terrific books.

God Gave Us Christmas

It’s a Wonderful Life for Kids!

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Lucille Nadine Alexander’s Birthday

A Night of Great Joy

Read and Play Christmas

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

Sparkle Box

For your young teen:

Jotham’s Journey

I get it that your older teen or college/person may not want to read aloud with you, but they still may need “a warm fuzzy” and some quiet moments away from all the excitement of the season. May we suggest for the young women in your world:

A Christmas Gift for Rose 

Engaging Father Christmas

Finding Father Christmas

21 Days of Christmas

Tell me how it goes. (I understand completely if you want to wait until January to do this.) And if you do decide to make hot chocolate, I want the recipe. 🙂

 

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue are her most recent works. These novels are mysteries for kids, ages 10 to 13.

 

Praying with Jane is a lovely, small, hardbound book. Rachel Dodge has taken three beautiful prayers composed by the famous novelist Jane Austen and transformed them into a thirty-one day devotional. It is insightful, uplifting, and engaging.

The author’s introduction reveals fascinating details of Jane Austen’s spiritual and family life which may be unknown to many readers. Then, after presenting each prayer in full, she breaks them into small passages for reflection.

Each devotional gives insights into Jane’s faith, pulls illustrations from her novels, quotes related scripture passages, and suggests personalized prayers on the same theme. We glimpse the gracious life of hope and joy lived by a woman whose strength came from daily conversations with God.

For those who love all-things-Austen, this book will be a valued addition to their collection. Published by Bethany House Publishers (2018), Praying with Jane is about 160 pages long, and can be appreciated by readers from middle school through college, and beyond. The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, and probably in your local book store.

 

From Nancy–If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about Christmas gifts. This book sounds like it would make a terrific one–a gift a beloved would savor throughout the long winter months ahead. And don’t forget, that someone could be you. 🙂

Last year at this time Pamela Walls recommended Suddenly Single Mom by Jeanette Hanscome, and I want to point you to that review and the book again. Single moms can have a really tough time of it during the holidays. Maybe you and this book can befriend one of them, giving them the gift of an understanding heart.

 

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.

Today I am remembering 9/11. I remember the horror and the fear. But more than that, I remember the grace of God and the bravery and the self-sacrifice of the men and women who became involved, challenged despair and overcame evil.

At Books 4 Christian Kids we’ve looked at two books that speak to the bravery of one individual and his dog that day–Thunder Dog (for teens and adults) and Running with Roselle (for children).

None of us face the challenges of a 9/11 each day, but every day we all face small and big challenges. We need to do the right thing and we need to be brave even when we are scared. We think these books will be encouraging.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue are her most recent works. These novels are mysteries for kids, ages 10 to 13.

Looking for a beach read, a plane read or a commuter train on- your-way-to-work read? Looking for a read that will invite you to an adventure or a romance? A read that will take you to a new world? or a different time? and with interesting people? One of the following books may be just what you want. The titles come from the books we have recommended for the College Age/Working Adult. They represent a variety of genres: historical fiction, contemporary romance, nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, biblical fiction. And we have more titles to suggest. Use the Select Category drop down menu at your left to see other books we recommend.

Boys in the Boat, The

Christy

The City of Tranquil Light

God’s Smuggler

Longing

Lost Castle, The

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge

Oxygen

Pearl in the Sand

Peculiar Treasures

Shaken

Sophie’s Heart

Sushi for One?

With Every Letter

Zookeeper’s Wife, The

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, the second book in the–from My Edinburgh Files series, mystery novels for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

The Lost Castle, written by Kristy Cambron and published by Thomas Nelson (2018), is a split-time romance—multiple stories in one. It follows the lives of three women: a noblewoman during the French Revolution, a British linguist at the time of WWII, and a contemporary young American. Each woman must define herself against the backdrop of her time, and respond to the claims on her life. Moving between three different eras, Kristy Cambron skillfully weaves the three plots into one overarching story line.

It all begins when Ellie Carver visits her Grandma Vi at the care center. Agitated, but surprisingly lucid, her grandmother gives her an old volume of French fairy tales. Inside, Ellie finds a sepia photograph of her grandmother as a young woman, gazing lovingly at a very handsome young man who is not her grandfather. Grandma Vi—overcoming Alzheimer’s for a brief moment—begs her granddaughter to find the castle in the photo before it is too late.

It is up to Ellie to track down this mystery for her grandmother while there is still time. The novel is intriguing, revealing fascinating details of two explosive time periods and tying them to the present. Ellie, Violet, and Aveline must grapple with how to be loyal, honest, persevering, brave, and caring despite harrowing circumstances. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle come together and the castle emerges—transforming the lives and loves of those who find it.

Over 300 pages in length, this book is for college or high school readers. Since two of the time periods encompass wars, there is violence and loss. Death is not depicted graphically, but the harshness of war might be an issue for some readers. The Lost Castle is sold at Christian bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon. 

 

Sushi for One? (The Sushi Series, Book 1) written by Camy Tang and published by Zondervan (2007) will definitely give you a laugh. Much of it is lighthearted, with the cousins bantering back and forth and questioning the sanity of their various relatives at the many family functions they all attend.

The leading lady of this novel is Lex Sakai, a 30-year-old Japanese-American women. She and many of her relatives live in the San Jose area of California. Lex is about to become the oldest unmarried cousin at her upcoming cousin Mariko’s wedding. Her grandmother believes this is not good at all, and she has threatened to pull funding for Lex’s junior high volleyball team if Lex does not produce a boyfriend by the time of the wedding.

Lex has had some difficulties with her love life in the past. Eight years ago she was raped by one of her dates. (Very few details are given in the books.) She is now very cautious with men. She neither appreciates her grandmother’s attitude nor how her older brother and aunts are always trying to set her up with unacceptable young men. Lex’s outlook is skeptical and sarcastic. Furthermore, she refuses to consider dating men if they are not Christians and do not measure up to an “Ephesians List” she has created. Her grandmother doesn’t understand the importance of the men being Christians.

Lex is definitely the one in control in her life. She has not yet released the reigns to the Lord. She loves Him and wishes to follow Him, but she has much room for growth.

Another key character of this story is a young man named Aiden, who has been introduced to Lex by her brother. Although she treats him somewhat cautiously, she does like him. He is not a Christian though, and therefore, she will not date him. Aiden is a physical therapist who finds many admirable qualities in Lex. He decides to take up volleyball. He is interested in the game but also because she plays. Lex and Aiden become friends and, as time goes on, her feelings for him deepen.

Aiden decides to check out his co-worker’s church and gradually becomes more and more interested in the Lord. At one of Lex’s family parties, she is uncomfortable with a guy who persists in flirting with her. Aiden intervenes, asking Lex if she wants the man to go away. She definitely does. In what follows, the man shoves Aiden. Aiden’s shoulder bumps into Lex and she falls, tearing her ACL.

This is a huge disappoint to her, as she has just been accepted onto a semi-professional volleyball team and she has also landed a job at the Sports Website Mecca of North America in Silicon Valley. She is distraught, yet Aiden is there along with some of her cousins to help her out. Aiden becomes her physical therapist.

Mariko’s wedding is getting closer. Lex becomes increasingly concerned about her junior high volleyball team and their funding. She is afraid her grandmother will pull their funds when Lex doesn’t show up with a boyfriend at the wedding. She likes Aiden a lot, but he is not a Christian, so that door is closed to her.

Lex gives up on the hope of funding for the junior high team. But she decides to take Aiden to the wedding as a friend. While they are there, he talks to her grandma and Lex finds out that he has recently become a Christian. Her grandmother tries to question Lex and give her a hard time, but all the cousins and Lex’s father surround her, pressuring grandma to keep her promise to Lex. She agrees.

Lex is beyond thrilled that Aiden is now a Christian and they finally begin dating. She realizes that she has been foolish by not allowing the Lord to have total control of her life. She sees that He had the very best plan for her all along.

I would recommend this book to young women ages 21 and above. It is very funny and keeps your interest. Most of the deeper spiritual truths are found near the end of the story.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

BTW: Donna Fujimoto interviewed Camy. Interesting lady. Interview with Camy Tang

The Summer Kitchen (Blue Sky Hill Series), by Lisa Wingate and published by New American Library (2009), will open your eyes to the needs around you and teach you many important life lessons.

The story starts out by introducing the main character, Sandra Kaye Darden.  She has just experienced some trauma. Her beloved uncle, nicknamed Poppy, has died. Her treasured, adopted son, Jake, has left and she hasn’t heard from him in six months. He had been attending Southern Methodist University in Texas. All she knows is that he abandoned his car at the airport and bought a ticket to Guatemala, the land of his birth.  Sandra has another son, Christopher, who is a junior in high school. Her husband, Rob, a doctor, wanted both boys to be pre-Med.

Sandra Kaye lives in Plano, but each day she crosses town to work on her uncle’s house in Dallas. She isn’t quite ready to let it go, so she has told the real estate agent she will paint it and do some other minor repairs. Her mother, who has been a great disappointment to Sandra due to her abuse of various medications, owns Poppy’s house.

On one of Sandra’s trips to a nearby store, she notices a tall young girl, who looks about junior high age. The girl, Cass Sally Blue, is twelve and she has a brother, Rusty, who is seventeen. When their mother passed away last year, they ran away from their stepfather, believing him to be dangerous and unstable. They are trying to make it on their own, with Rusty working full time. Rusty has just brought into the house, Kiki, a young adult, and her daughter, Opal, who were living in an unsafe situation.

In the weeks to come, Cass becomes attached to Opal and they meet up with Sandra Kay. Sandra sees they are in need. She also sees the needs of the other neighbor children. She makes up a bag of sandwiches to bring them each day. Eventually, Cass comes to spend time at Poppy’s house with Sandra and help with the chores.

Sandra eventually tells her son, Christopher and best friend, Holly, that she is involved in feeding the neighborhood children. They too become involved and begin to serve daily lunches to many of the neighbors. So far, Sandra’s husband does not know about her ministry. She finally gets the nerve to tell him, and although skeptical, he does not forbid her to continue.

When the need of Cass Sally Blue becomes overwhelming, Sandra’s husband gets on board with his wife. Their relationship is strengthened, moving to a whole new level.  Christopher, who was always silent about his true feelings, becomes bold and shares them with his father. He also sheds light on why Jake may have left.

In the end, all is well and a wonderful new ministry begins in Poppy’s neighborhood. Hope replaces hurt and heartbreak; lives are redeemed.

I loved reading this book. It was rich with spiritual truth and gave me many tools for growth. The author, Lisa Wingate, has a wonderful way of driving points home in a very subtle way. She makes you get outside your comfort zone and think about how you can find purpose by helping others in need.

She also points out the reality of family living. It is not always perfect, and sometimes, just plain agonizing. She makes you think about growing out of your fears and failures and moving on to all that God has planned for you. I would recommend this book for women, ages 18 and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

Book Reviews

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