Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adventures in Odyssey Club!

Do your kids need some fun to get them through the last weeks of vacation before school starts again? Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club—only $5 for a limited time!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble's newest book in the Hope Beach Series is out!  This is the third book in the series and is another great murder mystery novel.  You can read my reviews of book 1--Tidewater Inn  here and book 2--Rosemary Cottage here.

From the Back of the Book:
     Elin Summerall was one of the lucky ones.  Not only did she get a heart transplant, but the donor was a perfect fit.  A miraculously perfect fit.
     But when Elin begins having violent flashbacks--and vivid dreams of being strangled--she realizes that she has been the recipient of more than just a new heart...Elin is remembering her donor's murder.
     Her strange affliction has attracted some unwanted attention: from the press, from the authorities...and from the killer himself.  Now, living alone with her young daughter and aging mother, Elin is being stalked--by a man she's only met in her nightmares.
     The police are dubious of her story, but one off-duty FBI agent agrees to help her: Agent Marc Everton.
     Now, in a remote cottage on Hope Island, Elin and Marc must probe the secrets buried in her borrowed heart.  And there's no time to waste.  One man is desperate to silence her--before she remembers too much.

My Review:
Colleen Coble has written another great novel.  It was a quick read since the story compelled me to stay up to the wee hours of the morning finishing chapter after chapter.  The characters really draw you into the story and the plot has you wondering who is the real culprit.  Elin has a lot of changes happening in her life with her mother, heart transplant and husband.  I appreciate the vulnerability written into her character.  It makes her believable; although, the cell memory theory was a new one to me.  I had no idea there was such a theory like that out there.  This theory believes that a the recipient of a heart transplant, as in this case, actually has cravings and memories from the deceased.  I will say that strange things can happen, but who knows. 
So if you're looking for a series that is thrilling and will keep you up reading late at night, pick up Colleen Coble's Hope Beach series.

***I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson

Cindy Thomson is a new to me author that has published her second book in the Ellis Island series called Annie's Stories.   I have yet to read her first book in the series, Grace's Pictures, but I'm eagerly looking forward to reading that one too.  Below you can read the back of the book description, see a short video by the author and read my review.  So take a look and see you think about this new-to-me author.

From the Back of the Book:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, but for Irish immigrant Annie Gallagher, the book is more than mere entertainment.  It's a sweet reminder of her father, a traveling Irish storyteller.  After his death, with only a dream and his handwritten stories, Annie flees to America, finding work and friendship at a boardinghouse in the heart of the city.
     Just as Annie is settling into her new life, a friendly postman begins to show a particular interest in her--and in her father's unpublished writing.  He suspects the tales may hold a grand secret.  But Annie isn't sure she wants to risk sharing her last remnants of home with the world.  More trouble brews when authorities make accusations against a fellow boarder and threaten to shut down Hawkins House, jeopardizing everything Annie holds dear.
     Facing obstacles on all sides, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and build a new home to call her own.

My Review:
I was delightfully surprised by this new-to-me author, Cindy Thomson.  I really enjoyed her writing style, and I was able to read the book in 3 days which is quite an accomplishment with two little kids running around.  The story transports you in time to an age when things were quite different for the modern society.  I loved reading all the history, especially the inclusion of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  It makes me want to pick that book up and read it since I only ever saw the movie version.  I also loved all the detail about Ireland since that is the land of my ancestry, and I have the red hair to prove it. The story does include some unsavory topics such as reformatories for girls of ill repute who faced some abuse by the ones claiming to help them.  So I would caution giving this book to a minor to read.
As far as the characters, I enjoyed Annie's character.  She had so much to overcome and deal with in her life.  It was easy for me to identify with her love for literature that she had learned from her father.  Stephen Adams on the other hand seems a little lost to say the least, and his character was frustrating at times.  He has a good heart, but not much common sense.
The overall story was very interesting and I'm looking forward to picking up the first book in this series.  Cindy Thomson is definitely an author I'll be looking for when I'm deciding on books to read.  Her thoughts flowed well and the story was very enjoyable.  I would recommend reading the books in order since Grace does appear in this second book and details of her life are shared that would be more meaningful if I had already read the first book.

**I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Peril in the Palace (Imagination Station book 3) by Paul McCusker and Marianne Hering

Peril in the Palace was another exciting adventure in the continuation of the quest to save Mr. Whittaker's friend, Albert.  You can read my reviews of book 1 here and book 2 here.  Much like the other books, Patrick and Beth learn about the history and culture of the time they have been transported to.  In this book, they travel back in time to the year 1271 to the land of China to meet Kublai Khan.  Their mission is to find the golden tablet of Kublai Khan.  Mr. Whittaker gives them several packages to give to others as gifts in order to help them with their mission.   Some of the gifts prove helpful, while others do not seem to work and get them into more trouble.  You'll have to read the book to find out if they complete their mission in finding the golden tablet in time to help Mr. Whittaker's friend, Albert.

My daughter and I really liked the previous 2 books of this series and the third book did not disappoint.   The books are great for this age group (ages 7 and up).  I think that the writing is well done and the plot even keeps my 6 year old's attention.  It's fun to hear her laughing at the funny parts.   I definitely recommend this series!  You can read the first 5 pages of the 4th book in the series The Revenge of the Red Knight here on Adventures in Odyssey's The Imagination Station website.  Just click on the read button that says Watch a Click Book.

***This is a book we already own.  I'm reading this series with my daughter for the Tyndale Summer Reading Program.  All opinions are my own.

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

I picked up this book by Jessica Dotta, Born of Persuasion, since it was on the Tyndale Summer Reading Program list.

From the Back of the Book:
The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

My Review:
My initial response to the opening chapters I read was that this was going to be a great read.  Jessica Dotta has done a great job in crafting her words to paint wonderful pictures.  Her story is filled with intrigue and the mystery that is unfolding is captivating.  My enthusiasm waned when Julia encounter some compromising situations with a "gentleman."  While the scenes that were described show the true character of this man, I didn't really care for my mind to dwell on them.  When I pick up a Christian book, I'm looking for something that is in accordance with Philippians 4:8--true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  This kind of tainted the book for me.  However, I will say that the mystery not only picked up pace at the end, but is definitely compelling me to read the next book.  I'm hoping that the next book isn't filled with more compromising circumstances because I was really impressed with her writing skills.   If it is....I'll probably be done with this series.

**I checked this book out from my local library to read for the Tyndale Summer Reading Program.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Family, Community, and a Free Episode of Adventures in Odyssey

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 For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE! Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5! Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Attack at the Arena (Imagination Station book 2)

My daughter and I have finished the second book in the Imagination Station series called Attack at the Arena.   In this book, Patrick and Beth's adventure continues when they head back in time to ancient Rome.  Their mission is to find a silver cup in the hopes of helping a mysterious man named Albert.  Patrick and Beth discover a lot about ancient Rome and get into a little bit of trouble along the way.

We really enjoyed reading this second book in the series.  This book does a great job carrying over the exciting mystery that was begun in the first book.  The story includes lots of historical facts about the city of Rome during the time of the games at the Coliseum.  The story does include the facts about the prisoners fighting to the death, so be prepared to answer some questions about what when on back then.  Just like with the first book, this story ends with another mystery that will make your kids want to start the next book right away!

You can read the my review of the first book, Voyage of the Vikings here.  And be on the look out for my review of the next book in the series, Peril in the Palace (book 3).
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