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Review: Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney


Corinne, a stay-at-home mom to three adorable little girls and Jesse, her successful husband, seem to have the perfect life.  But Corrine is stressed by Jess’s intense travel schedule, and Jesse, sole provider of  a luxurious lifestyle, has stresses of his own.  One of them is Michaela, a coworker who is becoming too friendly during long business trips.  Their family limps along sadly until disaster strikes:  Michaela charges Jesse with sexual harassment.*

Supported by their parents and siblings, whom I first got to know in Home to Chicory Lane, Corrine and Jesse need to refocus their lives in the face of this threat.  By this point I loved the characters so much that it was very difficult not to skip ahead in the book to see if Michaela succeeded in her attempts to destroy the family.

Deborah Raney has written another thoughtful novel about Christians in modern life.  The tensions are very real, the emotions strong, and the characters believable.  They are authentic, not perfect, trying to serve God, trying to love those around them, trying to avoid sin but not always grasping its subtleties, learning forgiveness and showing compassion.  Despite all this deep content, the author has written an exciting story about real life, without preaching.

Two Roads Home, the second book of the Chicory Inn series, is about many different kinds of relationships, those involving husband and wife, siblings, in-laws, coworkers, enemies, and especially Christians and God.  What’s more, we see how everyone in a family deals with different stresses and how family members try to support each other, learning to understand each other better as God changes their lives.  Deborah Raney subtly but convincingly reminds us that our good and powerful God is in control.

Two Roads Home is both fun and insightful and I am very glad I read it.  It could be read on its own, but knowing the characters from the first book in the series, Home to Chicory Lane (link to my review), increased my enjoyment.

If you are looking for a worthwhile and enjoyable novel, you will probably enjoy Two Roads Home.  If you are not sure check out the Litfuse website for more reviews; if you want to read this book you may wish to enter the giveaway mentioned below.

*Just to clarify—Jesse is not guilty of Michaela’s charges, and this is obvious early on.  This is a book about Christian family life, not about its opposite.

Deborah Raney is hosting a giveaway!

Two Roads Home Deborah Raney

Currently my comment form is not working (my techie son and I have not been able to resolve this yet), but you can comment on Google+ instead or at GoodReads.  Thank you for your patience.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.

For more family encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, R&R Wednesdays.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of this review.  All my opinions are my own, and I am not compensated for sharing them.


Bloggers Who Became Authors


While reviewing Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book (link to my review), I realized that many of the books I’ve read are very closely related to their authors’ blogs.  As someone who delights in watching others achieve big dreams, I offer you this list of bloggers who have published books based on their blogs.

May they inspire you to dream big as well.

I’ve watched these authors explore ideas, publish ‘how to’ posts, ask their readers for opinions, publish a poem here and there, develop a blog series, or share what they have learned.  And in due time another book would appear, whether traditionally published or self-published, whether a best seller or something small or even something completely out of the box.  Sometimes much of the material stayed up on the blog once the book was out; sometimes it ‘mysteriously’ disappeared.

In each case it was a joy to watch the process, and when I read the revised How to Blog a Book, I realized that some of these blogger-authors had probably read the earlier version which, at the time, was the only book of its kind around.

Bloggers and their Books  (Most book links are to my reviews; there are never affiliate links on this blog.)

Crystal Paine of Money-Saving Mom based The Money $aving Mom’s Budget, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life, and Say Goodbye to Survival Mode directly on her blog and blog comments.   Because these inspiring resources are not easy to find on her very busy blog, her many readers have cheerfully catapulted her to the bestseller lists.

Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom and Cheap Good Eats has self-published as well as published traditionally.  As a super-organized homeschooling mom of 6, her blogs’ focus on streamlined family life and on yummy inexpensive food has translated into seven books so far.  She explores many aspects of her books on her blogs and then organizes and edits them extremely well, adding new ideas as well as printables and recipes before publishing them.  I’ve reviewed Summer Survival Guide , which I aim to reread next week, and A Simpler Season ,and enjoyed two of her cookbooks as well.

George van Popta first published much of his delightful Pure Love, a sonnet version of the Song of Solomon, on his blog, but almost all of the sonnets have disappeared from there.  Mostly Canticles, a collection of hymns, was also first introduced on his blog.  Unlike most of the other blogger-authors mentioned here, George is neither a prolific blogger nor an enthusiastic marketer, a refreshing reminder that there are many different approaches to both blogging and book writing.

Gretchen Rubin explores many topics on her blog; although she does not actually blog her books she certainly discusses many of the concepts online before, and after, her books come out.  It is hard to determine whether she an author with a blog or a blogger-author, partially because her blog often seems to be more about self-promotion than the insightful ideas that populate her three best sellers The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better than Before.

Laura Vanderkam explores many of her ideas about time management and productivity on her chatty blog.  A mother of four, she focuses on the concept that managing time and tasks well allows women to have it all, and her enthusiasm for the topic flows from her blog into her books and back again.  I’ve reviewed 168 Hours, devoured the What the Most Successful People Do booklets, and am eagerly waiting to read I Know How She Does It.

Amy Lynn Andrews, one of the most out-of-the-box thinkers I know, has put out a unique and ever-changing Knowtbook that she calls her ‘brain’ about online business—marketing, social media, blogging, working from home, and more. Most of the material is available on her blog and much of the rest is available in her free UseLetter, but that doesn’t stop Amy or her readers.  She also wrote the ebook Tell Your Time and refused a traditional publishing contract for its second edition;  her thoughtful discussion of this refusal is a beautiful complement to Nina Amir’s point of view. Amy is one of my heroes because of her clear thinking, her deep faith, and her principled approach to life.   Her resources would be a very helpful accompaniment to anyone wanting to blog and sell a book, and I am surprised that Nina did not mention her in How to Blog a Book.

Tricia Hodges of Southern Hodge Podge was publishing her mother’s art tutorials on her blog when someone asked her for an ebook version.  This led to A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels which has been followed by other chalk pastel books.  We are doing A Seasonal Start in Spring Chalk Pastels this summer.  Tricia is an example of a blogger stumbling into publishing ebooks without having planned it, an encouraging reminder that being faithful in what one does can lead to unexpected opportunities.

Besides these, I’ve noticed other bloggers reworking blog contents into books:  Michael Hyatt, Ruth Soukup, Tsh Oxenreider, Kris Bales, and many more.  And, of course, Nina Amir first blogged How to Blog a Book (which also contains some dramatic blog-to-book success stories) and has successfully blogged several other books as well.

Upcoming Books

If you want a peak into the process, here are some bloggers currently working on books.

Cheri Fields of Creation Science for Kids is getting ready to self-publish a mini-book, Mysteries of Time and Creation, and was testing out her cover on Google+  on June 16.  If you have opinions about book covers, you can help out here.

Anne White, of Dewey’s Treehouse and an Advisory Member of the amazing homeschool curriculum Ambleside Online, is writing a book based on her two decades as a Charlotte Mason home educator, curriculum developer, writer, and speaker.  “I wondered, what is it that children need to be taught in order to grow into critical thinkers, problem solvers, decision makers? How do they develop the attentiveness to fix their minds on a problem, and the creativity to solve it?”

And, if I were an old-timer, I’d say I’d eat my hat if Jessica Fisher did not have a book about travelling with kids up her sleeve, and Michael Hyatt one about living wisely.

I hope that this list of bloggers who followed their dreams and became published authors has inspired you…or at the very least has added a few blogs and/or books to your to-read list.

And, no matter what your age or circumstances, if your big dream is increasing in intensity and becoming a calling, go ahead.  Be brave.  Find the resources you need to move ahead and then go for it, to God’s glory.

Unfortunately my comment form is still not working (my techie son and I have not been able to resolve this yet), but you can comment on Google+ instead.  Now that our homeschool year is finished, I do hope to solve this problem, finally.  Thank you for your patience.

Disclosure:   I am not compensated for mentioning these bloggers, blogs, and books in this article.

Homeschool Year: Finished!

WP_20150618_002 (500x234)

We thought it would never, ever happen, but it finally has. As of today Miss 12’s and Miss 15’s school year is finished!

And what next? Pool time. Hanging out. Friends. Staycation. Ice cream. Good books. Music. Nature. Basket balls and badminton. Good food. Camp fires in the back yard. Laughter. Movies. Adventures.

But not only that. Our summer schedule will involve daily reading, writing, and arithmetic, and a smattering of French, music, and art. There will be gardening and yard work and maybe some paid employment. We plan to buy bunnies. The girls hope to sell rhubarb. I want to plan some special summer fun.

There is also work to do.  We need to organize our bookshelves, declutter, clean, patch, paint, and straighten out the flower beds. One joy of not going on a long road trip this year is that we can finally catch up on some of those tasks.

Miss 17 will still be busy with the last few focused weeks of her homeschool career, so there will still be tests to mark, concepts to explain, and learning angst to soothe, but she is such an independent learner. I just need to wrap up her high school records …and begin Miss 15’s. Then comes the fun of planning next year, with only two kids left in our homeschool.

And this summer in bloggy land I hope to finally fix my comments, tweak my blog, catch up on reviews, read, explore ideas, write a lot, and clear my desk and my mind.

Happy summer to all of you, those who have already reached the middle of vacation as well as those who are still longing for the end of school!

Sadly it is still impossible to comment on my blog (and even more problems have shown up behind the scenes).  Currently the only way to comment is to go to Google+ and comment there.  I’m so sorry about that!

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up , Week in Review, and Finishing Strong.

Review: A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau


There are so many lonely people in the world.  One of them may even be you.

Some say loneliness is an inevitable part of living in a sin-drenched world, and there is a measure of truth in that.  On the other hand, Christians should be there for the lonely, for those who are struggling and need someone to hear their hearts.  This should be especially true in the church where no one should be living ‘uncomforted under the pressure of sickness, loneliness, and poverty,’  and ideally we would have time and energy to reach out to everyone around us.

Of course that is easy to say, but doing so wisely and well is a different matter. It involves everything from being careful about our use of time to learning how to love others.  Fundamentally, it involves learning how to be a safe place for others, and this is what Pamela Havey Lau writes about in her book A Friend in Me:  how to be a safe haven for other women.

To be a safe haven for others, we need to love them with the love with which Christ has loved us; we need to comfort them with the comfort God has given us; and above all we need to trust God’s power and goodness in our relationships and not have our own agenda for them.

Over and over, Pamela emphasizes how other women need to be listened to and to experience God’s love in and through us.  They need someone to connect with. Yes, they also need to be reminded of God’s Word and of how he wants us to live, but if they are in distress they won’t be able to listen until they are loved and comforted.  This involves setting aside our agendas for them and just listening to the cry of their hearts.  Yes, they may be sinning, Pamela says, but before we teach or remind them about God’s commands, we first need to show them his love.

The above process sounds all jumbled up, doesn’t it?  We want to offer advice to stop sinning.  We want to help others in the way that they can best be helped, by pointing them to God.  But that is not the way the hungry and hurting human heart seems to work.  Love does indeed seem to come first—as we should have been able to figure out ourselves from the Bible.  For if other women do not know, deeply, how much you care for them, they will not even begin to listen to your advice.

In this context, Pamela deals with pain and suffering, comforting, being understanding, forgiving, showing compassion, discussing sex, building friendships, and loving others.  Wisely she points to the fact that our interactions with others depend on our relationship with God, our obedience to his Word, and our own life history.  She shares her own story of abandonment and loss as well as the stories of others, and constantly points to God’s goodness and power in all things.  She also shares practical tips and discussion points to help women reach out to others.

Above all, Pamela emphasizes that we need to focus on keeping our own hearts clean of bitterness, anger, and self-pity; this emphasis makes sense given her life story. While we all need to do so, some of us may need to concentrate more on cleansing our hearts from different sins and emotions.  For, unless we obey God’s commands about our own attitudes, we will not be able to share his love and comfort openly with others.

At first I thought Pamela focuses too much on connecting and not enough on applying God’s Word in difficult situations, but as I read more of the book it became obvious that the balance between connecting and correcting is a very delicate one that depends strongly on circumstances and relationships.  The key is not to let our own agenda take over but to pray and to trust in God’s wisdom.  We cannot change hearts, after all; that is God’s business.  Ultimately ours is to show his love in Jesus Christ which that is only possible if we abide in Jesus.

Although I did not agree with everything in A Friend in Me, God sent it into my life at a time when I needed to learn more about connecting with people.  To me it was a powerful book in many ways, filled with insights that I was finally ready to hear.  I needed to learn how to show love.  I needed to learn when giving correction and advice is appropriate and when it is counterproductive.  I needed to be reminded that I can do nothing helpful at all unless I find my strength in my Lord, Jesus.

I pray that this book will do much to turn us all to God as we learn to love each other more fully.

You can read more reviews of this book at the LitFuse website. Crystal Paine’s thoughts on friendship , based on the book Safe People which I have not yet read, seems to have more of an emphasis on self-protection than on giving to others.  Because this is a broken world, both are obviously necessary and Pamela does mention boundaries in A Friend in Me.

Currently my comment form is not working (my techie son and I have not been able to resolve this yet), but you can comment on Google+ instead or at GoodReads.  Thank you for your patience.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.

For more encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, R&R Wednesdays, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of this review.  All my opinions are my own, and I am not compensated for sharing them.

Weekly Wrap Up: Almost Finished!

FIFA Women's Soccer Norway vs Germany

Women’s World Soccer: Norway vs Germany

We are inching towards the end of the school year and hope to finish it by the end of next week.

Sometimes progress seems so slow, but this morning Miss 12 completed more in one hour than she does in a normal, hair-pulling day!  And all just so she could play her Saturday computer game!  Another lesson for mom, relearned again.  How many more times will I need to learn the same lesson, that she is able to do her work if she feels motivated?

Miss 15 faithfully plods along, day by day.  She reminds me of the adage:  Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.

Miss 17, nearing the end of grade 12, is busy finishing up Bible and Apologia’s Advanced Chemistry and Advanced Physics.  Those two AP level sciences are really intense and we only want a grade 12 course in each case, so I’m tweaking them both.  All that’s left for Bible is finishing up our big high school Bible project: writing (usually an introduction, sometimes a report, summary, poem, or story) about each individual book of the Bible.

Track and field, one of the highlights of the year, was almost rained out, but it turned out to be a success and the storm held off until the very end.  Miss 12 ended up with a chest full of red ribbons and a body full of aches and pains.

Another exciting event:  we attended a FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer game, Germany vs Norway.    We normally never watch sports, but this was wonderful.

This week in books:  Miss 17 is still working on Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Miss 15 is enjoying the zany science of Munroe’s What If? as well as Henty’s A Tale of The Western Plains, and Miss 12 read several books about the RCMP and is still studying Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits.

I finished Calm My Anxious Heart (mentioned here, review coming up), began A Friend in Me, and am skimming through Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath which is, so far, insightful and thought-provoking.   Since I tend to skim books from the back to the front, I’ve only explored the last chapters.

At meals we’re reading Psalms and Revelation, and personally I’m in 1 Samuel, taking many breaks to dip back into the Psalms.  With Linda Dillow’s Calm My Anxious Heart I read through Habakkuk and for the first time it made sense to me.

On the blog:  It is still impossible to comment on my blog (and even more problems have shown up behind the scenes).  Currently the only way to comment is to go to Google+ and comment there.  I’m so sorry about that!

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up , Week in Review, and Finishing Strong.

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