Month: November 2017

Book Review | The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman

Natchez, MS, 1791 …

Following the death of her brother and her father’s subsequent injuries, Isabella Bartholemew is left in control of her family plantation of Breeze Hill on the Natchez Trace. She needs labour. Her father is opposed to slavery. So she hires an indentured Irish carpenter to rebuild the estate—Connor O’Shea.

I liked Isabella. She was a strong woman who was prepared to do what needed to be done to protect her family and her home. And there were a lot of threats. Natchez in 1791 wasn’t a safe place for a woman almost alone. It was surrounded by slave traders, rouges on the road, and several suitors … some of whom are not what they appear.

That’s a lot of trouble to navigate, and Isabella does it well. She was more intelligent and more savvy than many historical romance heroines. I liked that.

I enjoyed watching Isabella and Connor get to know each other, and watching their relationship progress against the backdrop of the local troubles. Connor O’Shea is practically perfect. He is a handsome, hardworking man of faith and principles, who once made the mistake of falling for the wrong girl. He says he’s determined not to do the same again, but his actions (and feelings) don’t match his words or will. This makes for some fun in the romance. (Although there was also plenty of conflict.)

All in all, The Promise of Breeze Hill was an excellent historical romance. The ending was perhaps a little too neat, but that’s a small niggle in an enjoyable novel.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House for providing a free ebook for review.

About Pam Hillman

Pam HillmanCBA Bestselling author Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of.

Find Pam Hillman online at:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads| PinterestTwitter

About The Promise of Breeze Hill

Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady.

The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage.

Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe?

Find The Promise of Breeze Hill online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction of The Promise of Breeze Hill below:

Book Review | Piercehaven by Robin Merrill

Friday Night Lights meets Girl’s Basketball

Emily Morse has come to the remote Maine island of Piercehaven as the high school’s new English teacher. It’s her first proper job out of college, although she’s had a few adult ed and relief teaching roles. Now she has a job, her own classroom, even a house. Everything seems to be gong well, especially when the handsome fisherman she meeets at church asks her out.

But the students are a different story.

They live for basketball and aren’t inclined to read or write or learn. Her fellow teachers are jaded. The Phys Ed teacher thinks he rules the school by virtue of being the basketball coach. After all, the girl’s team has a state championship title to defend. And she finds high school politics are a lot more complicated in a small community than she’d anticipated:

Book Quote from Piercehaven by Robin Merrill

As the story went on to show, Emily Morse had a good idea of how high school should work. But it doesn’t work that way in Piercehaven. It’s a small school where everyone knows everyone else (and they’re probably related), and no one pays any attention to a newbie English teacher who will probably be gone at the end of the year.

The proofreading was excellent, but writing was solid at best. There were times when my writer/editor brain wanted to take a red pen to my Kindle. But the story was compelling—more than compelling, especially towards the end. Piercehaven ends up being a gripping tale of what happens when too many people would rather look the other way than confront the status quo. The majority is not always right.

A good read for those looking for Christian fiction that’s a little out of the ordinary.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About Robin Merrill

Robin MerrillRobin Merrill is an award-winning writer from rural Maine where she lives with her husband, their two children, and several furry friends. She is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestselling Shelter; the Gertrude, Gumshoe series; and the popular Jesus Diet devotionals. Her individual poems, essays, and short stories have appeared in hundreds of publications, and three of her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She has performed her poetry and fiction in venues all over the country and has represented Maine at three national poetry slams.

You can find Robin Merrill online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

About Piercehaven

Emily is so excited to start her new teaching job on a remote Maine island. It seems God is really dropping all the puzzle pieces of her life into place. There’s even a handsome lobsterman in play. But the island also harbors a long-kept dark secret, and it’s up to Emily to figure out what it is and what she’s going to do about it.

You can find Piercehaven online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Read the introduction to Piercehaven below:

What read the Bible in a year plan do you recommend?

Bookish Question #35 | What Read the Bible in a year plan do you recommend?

So we’re coming up to the end of another year, which means it’s time for me to consider what Bible reading programme I’ll follow next year (if any).

In 2014 and 2015, I read A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year by Diane Stortz. The first year, I did it with a virtual group on Facebook. We tried that in 2015 as well, but our weekly meetings fell apart for a range of reasons (my flaky internet connection being one of them).

In 2016 I used a different programme, one that went through the Bible in time order. This was good, but it did mean skipping around a lot. Like, some days would have six different readings (e.g. skipping between the Old Testament history books, or between Psalms and prophets.

So in 2017 I went back to A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible … and failed miserably. I’m not sure if it was the lack of accountability, or the familiarity. I’d like to get back into the habit of getting through the Bible in a year, but would like some kind of organised reading plan.

Do you use a read-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plan?

Which plan do you recommend?

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 21 | The Carpenter’s Daughter

It’s First Line Friday, which means it’s time to open the book nearest you and share the first line. Today I’m sharing from The Carpenter’s Daughter by Jennifer Rodewald.

First line from The Carpenter's Daughter

It’s a great first line, and a great novel. I loved it. (Because this is me. Once I read a first line like that, I can’t stop until I read the last line, and all the lines in between.)

One thing that really got me was how well Jennifer Rodewald writes emotion. If you’re wondering how my own writing is going, it’s ground to a complete halt as I realise how much I’ve got to learn. You can blame Jennifer Rodewald for that. #SorryNotSorry

About the Book

One word can change a life.
Sarah Sharpe has grown up as a carpenter’s daughter, knowing only the rough and work-heavy world of her father’s blue-collar profession. Abandoned by her mother as a baby, she’s lived twenty-one years content to drive nails at her dad’s side. Following her father into the world of construction was a natural path, and she took it without a second thought. But a harsh comment about her “butch” appearance sends her on a search for identity.
Enter handsome and easygoing Jesse Chapman, the roofer she meets on her first foray into volunteer work for Homes For Hope. In every way, the quirky man is her opposite—confident, a people kind of guy, and most importantly, happy. His likable qualities continue to draw her in, and for some reason he keeps coming back to her. But they can’t be more than friends—he’s made that crystal clear. Except for a handful of times…and the confusion is driving her crazy.
Sarah’s quest for self-definition becomes more tangled than she ever imagined, and she discovers that the journey will take her deeper than clothes and makeup. Filling the void in her heart becomes an obsession she cannot escape. How far is she willing to go to discover who she really is?

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click on the link which will take you to the master page, which holds all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

Book Review | The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

Woodsmall - Gift pin1

About The Gift of Christmas Past

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them.
Promises shattered.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.
Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.
Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.
Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

My Review

I offered to review The Gift of Christmas Past because it wasn’t Amish and I was interested in knowing what Cindy Woodsmall was like as an author. I don’t know how close this is to her usual writing style, especially since this is co-written with her daughter-in-law, but I wasn’t impressed. The characters didn’t appeal to me—they were perpetual teenagers, and didn’t engage me emotionally (I doubt boredom was the effect the authors were aiming for).

I feel misled by the title. A lot of Christmas stories come out at this time of year. Most are stories of family and celebration, and take place over a short timeframe (you know, the Christmas season). Christian authors often take the opportunity to share something of the gospel story, even if it’s just a Christmas church service.

The Gift of Christmas Past had none of that. There were a couple of mentions of Christmas, but the main story spanned more than ten years, and the Epilogue was four years later (and included enough information to make another two novels). Christmas was mentioned only in passing.

The first third of The Gift of Christmas Past was backstory—the story of Monroe and Hadley as seventeen-year-olds.

This gave the novel a Young Adult feel, something that I expect if I’m reading a novel categorised as YA, but not something I expect in a novel aimed at the adult market (actually, I’ve read YA novels where the characters act more adult than these did).

The plot was all driven by external circumstance, and both main characters struck me as immature , especially in their teenage years. I could believe this of Monroe. Boys are often less mature than girls of the same age, and Monroe grew up in a sheltered and privileged environment. But Hadley was a girl and a foster child, and I expected her to be more mature, more savvy than Monroe. At least as savvy as my own seventeen-year-old. She wasn’t.

The story then skipped forward ten years.

Hadley has completed her Bachelor’s degree and is working towards her Masters, but she doesn’t seem to have matured or changed in the intervening decade. Sure, she’s a hard worker and she’s got her temper under control, but I never felt I knew the real Hadley. She was like the nice lady in church you never connect with beyond hello and goodbye each week.

The same goes for Monroe. He was a nice guy. Perfect, in fact. His only fault was obeying his parents and believing they knew what was best for him. And still letting his parents pay his mobile bill when he’s twenty-seven. In real life, perfect might be perfect. In fiction, it’s boring. Monroe didn’t mature as a person over the course of the novel, which contributed to the flat feeling.

The Elliott/Trent relationship was more interesting. It raised a lot of questions I would have liked to have seen answered in more depth, perhaps in a sequel. Unfortunately, the questions were all answered in full in the overlong Epilogue. I guess that means I shouldn’t expect a sequel.

There was plenty of external conflict, all of which was resolved with a nice apology at the end. Just like in real life. Not. The writing was solid, but often too formal to the point where it sometimes sounded like a PSA. Homemade soup is cheaper and more nutritious than canned soup. Who knew?.

The best part of the novel was the discussion of apraxia.

Apraxia is a speech disorder apparently suffered by ten in a thousand children (really? Wouldn’t it have been easier and more sensible to reduce this to the lowest possible fraction, i.e. one in a hundred, or 1%? Or were they trying to sound clever?), and selective mutism. The other theme was foster children, but this topic has been dealt with by other authors with more impact.

Overall, while I didn’t hate The Gift of Christmas Past, I only finished it because I’d said I’d review it. If I’d started by reading the Kindle sample, I probably would have finished there. If you enjoy the Kindle sample or you’ve enjoyed Cindy Woodsmall’s previous novels, you’ll probably enjoy this. If the Kindle sample doesn’t enthrall you, then I suspect the novel won’t enthrall you either.

Litfuse Publicity and the authors provided a free ebook in exchange for review. As you can no doubt tell, all opinions are my own.

About the Authors

Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of eighteen works of fiction. She’s been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains in Flowery Branch, GA.

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She is very excited about their first coauthored book.

You can read the introduction below:

Book Recommendation | The Heart of an Agent by Tracey J Lyons

The Heart of an Agent is the sequel to A Changed Agent, which centred on the romance of Pinkerton agent Will Benton and schoolteacher Elsie Mitchell. Lily Handland was a minor character, Will’s Pinkerton partner. Now Lily has left the Pinkertons and wants to settle down in Heartston. Start a fresh life.

But Lily needs a job, and she’s not cut out to sew seams or serve in a boarding house restaurant. The banker suggests she consider investing in a local Great Camp, owned by widower Owen Murphy. The camp used to bustle with day visitors and vacationing guests, but it has fallen into ruin since the death of the perfect Rebecca Murphy.

The setting of one of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks was fascinating.

I’ve heard of the Adirondack chair (hasn’t everyone?). I may even have read a previous book set in an upper class camp in upstate New York. But that was just the setting. In The Heart of an Agent, the Great Camp is almost a character as the repair and resurrection of the Great Camp reflects Owen’s personal journey of healing and finding love again.

The one anticlimax was when Owen found out Lily’s big secret. It felt to me like he overreacted—possibly because we’d known her big secret almost from page one (that she was an ex-Pinkerton agent, and worked under cover as a saloon girl). It might have seemed fitting if he’d thought she was a gently raised choir girl, but she’d already told him parts of her past.

No matter. The conflict was short-lived, and we were able to get back to the main event, the romance. The Heart of an Agent was a classic Golden Age romance that achieved the difficult task of bringing a widower out of his slump, and focusing almost more on the characters and setting than the romance. It was all the better for that slow build.

Recommended for fans of Christian historical romance with a Golden Age setting, from authors such as Jen Turano and Karen Witemeyer.

Thanks to NetGalley and Waterfall Press for providing a free ebook for review.

About Tracey J Lyons

Tracey J LyonsTracey J. Lyons is the author of many historical romance novels, including The Women of Surprise series and The Adirondack Pinkertons series. An Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author, she is a member of Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Novelists, Inc. Her books have been translated into several languages, and she has appeared on the award-winning Cox cable television show Page One. Tracey lives with her family in Orange County, New York. When not busy writing, she enjoys making her husband crazy with renovation projects at their 1860s home.

You can find Tracey online at:

Website | Facebook | Pinterest

About The Heart of an Agent

Former Pinkerton spy Lily Handland has always dreamed of a quiet, safe life, free from chasing criminals and putting herself at risk. So when the opportunity to invest in a failing Great Camp in the Adirondacks comes to her attention, she quickly jumps at the chance.

Filled with grief, widower Owen Murphy wants to run away from it all. Though he’s worked hard to forge a future for himself, his guilt has kept him mired in the past. But all that changes when a headstrong, mysterious woman shows up at Owen’s door. Together, as Lily and Owen restore the beauty of the Great Camp, he begins to finally see a future. But will learning about Lily’s past destroy it all?

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to The Heart of an Agent below:

Bookish Question #34 | How do you find new authors to read?

Bookish Question #34 | How do you find new authors to read?

Last week I asked if you read new (or new-to-you) authors.

This week I’m looking at the obvious follow-up question: how do you find out about new authors?

I’ve been reviewing books for a little over six years now, and it’s amazing to think how my answer to this question has changed in the last five to ten years. Once upon a time, I discovered new authors and new books in only one way: by visiting my local Christian bookshop (or bookshops, as they often carried different stock).

Then I discovered mail order—Koorong at first, then Amazon and Book Depository (back in the old days, before they were bought by Amazon). Then I moved to a smaller city where the public library system carried a lot of Christian fiction (helpfully identified by the cross sticker on the spine).

Later, I discovered Amazon reviews, Amazon Top 100 genre lists, and Amazon discussion forums (which have recently been deleted). Through Amazon, I discovered Goodreads and book blogs. And NetGalley, Edelweiss, and book blogger programmes. So I became book blogger …

I now find the books I read and review from three main sources, and a bundle of others:


I get most of the ebooks I review from NetGalley (click here to read my blog post Introducing NetGalley). I can search for books classified as Christian, or I can search through the publishers I’ve marked as favourites.


First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

There are thousands of book bloggers, and probably hundreds of blogging groups with various themes. Some groups have what they call a “meme”, where they all post a linked post at the same time each week. I particiate in FirstLineFriday, which is a group of (mostly) Christian fiction bloggers.

I add at least one book to my to-read pile every Saturday after reading the #FirstLineFriday posts! This may or may not be a good thing ..


As a book reviewer, I’m also approached directly by authors looking for reviews for the books they’ve published. Many of these requests are clearly outside my preferred genre (like being offered general market memoir when I say I review Christian fiction). Others are within my genre, but I can only accept the offers which excite me—reviewers aren’t paid, and I can’t read every book I’m offered.

Other Sources

I also find some books through other sources, such as Amazon, BookBub (and other mailing lists), Facebook (e.g. the Avid Readers of Christian Fiction group), Goodreads (what my friends are reading and reviewing), and through author email lists (perhaps that’s a topic for another week).

What about you? How do you find new authors to read?

As he reviewed the logs from Kaylene's car, he was impressed. She was venturing beyond the short leash he had given her.

First Line Friday | Week 16 | Imperfect Justice

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to open the book nearest you and share the first line.

Today I’m sharing the first line from Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman.

As he reviewed the logs from Kaylene’s car, he was impressed. She was venturing beyond the short leash he had given her.

I’m a big legal thriller fan, and I think Cara Putman is one of my new favourite authors (along with Rachel Dylan). Great characters, great plot, great writing. And plenty of legal shenannigans, but not so much that I lose the plot. Perfect!

About Imperfect Justice

The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . . can they?

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in the race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

Find Imperfect Justice online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon UK
ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click on the link which will take you to the master page, which holds all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

Book Recommendation | Birds and Bees by the Book by Patricia Weerakoon

13 – 17 November 2017

Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

Is Introducing
Publisher CEP, July 19, 2017

Book Description

People have been talking about the birds and the bees since Adam and Eve walked the earth. Yet the conversation hasn’t become easier! With so many messages about sexuality, gender and identity around them, our children need a safe space to learn about these topics now more than ever.
Designed for parents and carers to read with children aged 7 to 10, Birds and Bees by the Book has been created to help you to have these conversations at your own pace.
Written by renowned sex educator Patricia Weerakoon, the six books in this set are designed to be read in whichever order suits you and your child. They cover three foundational topics that help children to understand the family structures in the world around them, and how their body and brain are developing as they grow. There are also three extension topics that teach children what is involved in sexual activity, what it means to be a boy or a girl, and how to protect themselves against pornography if they stumble across it.
All of these topics are framed within the Bible’s message that children are unique creations of God, and that sex is a precious gift to be used carefully and wisely in the context of marriage.

About the Author

Patricia Weerakoon is a Sexologist and Writer. She trained in medicine in the University of Sri Lanka. She is an evangelical Christian. She is married to Vasantha. Her son Kamal is a Presbyterian minister. As a Sexologist she has translated her passion to bring good holistic sexual health to all people into practical sex education, sex research and sex therapy.
Her writing and speaking brings together her enthusiasm for sex and her love for the glory of God. The Christian framework of sex therapy she offers has enriched and empowered the sex life of couples and singles. She has a recognised media presence and is a highly regarded public speaker and social commentator in sexuality and sexual health.
Patricia retired in 2011 after a twenty-three year career as an academic with the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Sydney, the last eight years of which she was the director of an internationally acclaimed graduate program in Sexual Health.

My Review

Like it or not, sex is everywhere in our culture, and no one can escape the fact. Not Christians, not children, not even Christian children. As Christian parents, we need to raise our children to understand sex, and understand its place in our lives. The easiest time to introduce many of these concepts are when children are young, before it becomes the topic of playground discussion, and when they are young enough that they actually listen to us and respect our parental opinions.

Birds and Bees by the Book is a set of six books for children about sex. It is written by Patricia Weerakoon, an Australian Christian sexologist, and published by Growing Faith, an imprint of Anglican Youthworks. The books are beautifully illustrated by Lisa Flanagan. Penny Reeve, a popular Australian children’s author, served as an editorial consultant, and Alyson Officer was the Child Psychology Consultant.

The books are:

  • Me and My Family
  • Me and My Body
  • Me and My Brain
  • Learning About Sex
  • Learning About Gender
  • Learning About Pornography

I admit those last two gave me pause! However, I soon found the books are designed to be read in order, so each builds on the previous book.

Me and My Family

Me and My Family presents a traditional Christian view of marriage and family: that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. It is made clear this was God’s plan right back from the time of creation. Yes, it does include broad details of the sexual act, but I believe this is necessary. If a child knows and believes sex outside marriage is wrong but doesn’t know what sex is, how are they to truly know right from wrong? This lack of knowledge provides fertile ground for sexual abuse.

The book also recognises the practicalities of modern life, that “not all families have one mother, one father, and children who come from that mother and father”, and there are many reasons for that, including fostere ing and adoption. Me and My Family touches on same-sex relationships in a non-judgemental manner in that it doesn’t say these are outside God’s plan (although that could be implied). Instead, it emphasises the fact that God loves all children, no matter their family circumstances. It finishes with an invitation to join God’s family.

Me and My Body

Me and My Body tackles the inaccurate views on body image we subconsciously absorb from the media. Girls don’t have to be tall and skinny. Boys don’t have to be strong and muscly. (Yes, there are a couple of lessons here for adults as well). God made us, and we are special just the way we are. There is also a brief mention of cyber-bullying.

It moves on to point out that we cover certain parts of our bodies because they are special, and that no one should touch those parts. It’s bad touching, and children should always tell an adult if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel bad. Again, the book finishes with a brief gospel message, an invitation to become part of God’s family.

Me and My Brain

Me and My Brain manages to get into some heavy brain science in a child-friendly way, explaining that it is important to feed our brains in a good way, so we make good decisions. This means not playing lots of violent video games or watching TV programmes with adults having sex (again, probably a message for parents as much as for children). The book again ends with a promise that if we do make bad desicions, Jesus will forgive us.

Learning About Sex

Learning About Sex helps children understand why sex is meant only for marriage—becuase it binds us at a brain level (Patricia’s books for teens and adults explain this in medical terms). She goes on to explain that our bodies mature sexually before our brains, and that we have to grow up (literally and figuratively) before we are ready for marriage and sex (in that order!). It also reinforces some of the messages from the previous books in the series.

Learning About Gender

Learning About Gender talks about the biological differences between males and females, and the difference between sexual love and friendship love. It also introduces the idea that some children (very few) are born as intersex or transgender. This isn’t their fault—Patricia says ït’s just one way that our world has moved away from how God intended it to be. And this is why everyone needs Jesus.”

The key point in Learning About Gender is that it encourages children not to bully other children who don’t look or behave according to their view of “normal”, and especially not to call other people gay or lesbian or bi as an insult. Jesus never insulted or bullied people, and nor should we. He loves us as we are. I’ve come across more than a few adults who say they are Christians but have yet to learn this lesson.

Learning About Pornography

Learning About Pornograhy again builds on the previous books, using lanugage children will understand. It defines pornography as “pictures and videos that are bad and unhealthy for your brain”, and “sexual activity without love or marriage.” It takes us back to Jesus, the perfect example of how God wants us treat other people, and contrasts that with the way pornography treats people. It encourages us to use our thinking brain when we see these pictures, to like what is good, and to find something else to do so our brains don’t trick us into looking at more wrong things.


Overall, Birds and Bees by the Book strikes an excellent balance between being too vague and being too explicit. It explains some complex scientific concepts in language a child can understand, but without getting too detailed. That’s the mark of a true expert.

My one criticism is that the books occasionally feel as though they might be talking down to children, referring to “children of your age”. This probably won’t bother younger children, but it might feel patronising to older children. Having said that, the books are designed to be read to children rather than being read independently. That’s not to say they can’t be read independently. They can, and I suspect most 7 to 10-year-olds would be able to read these unaided.

But I loved the way the topics were dealt with in an age-appropriate manner, and the way God was woven in throughout. After all, God designed sex, and He made all things to be good. Including sex. It’s time we as Christians reclaimed that.

Yes, I get these are difficult subjects. I get that children shouldn’t have to know about these things. But they do—my son first saw pornography at the age of nine on a school computer that (obviously) had insufficient content controls. We need books like this to explain difficult subjects like sex and pornography in an age-appropriate and child-friendly way. And it’s even better that these books are written from a Christian point of view.

Recommended for all parents of young children.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a free set of the books for review.

Book Review | The Struggle: 4 Girls and 1 Bathroom

The Struggle: 4 Girls and 1 Bathroom is not the normal kind of book I review.

For one thing, it’s not a novel. Well, not really. The first book in the “series”, Mom and the Summertime Blues, was a summer holiday project Patrice Smith assigned her four daughters so they wouldn’t get bored (click here to read my review). This is the follow-up, written over the course of a school year. While the names have been changed, I have no doubt all these events actually occurred. This makes The Struggle more memoir than fiction.

Four sisters, two parents, and one bathroom.

I can see The Struggle! But that’s not all the book talks about. Each of the four sisters contributes three chapters, one from the beginning of the school year, one from the middle, and one from their summer trip. Mom starts with an apology, and wraps up loose ends to finish.

I enjoyed The Struggle.

I know it’s meant for middle grade and younger young adult readers, but I’d also recommend it toe homeschooling parents looking for ideas for school (or holiday) projects. I suspect there is a large market of grandparents who would love a real printed book by their grandchildren. Amazon CreateSpace and other Print on Demand printers means such an undertaking doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

I’d also recommend The Struggle: 4 Girls and 1 Bathroom to those writing for a middle grade or young adult audience because of the insight it offers into the way modern pre-teen and teenage girls think. Part of me wants to know if the whole project is Patrice Smith’s sneaky plan to get to know her daughters better … or maybe not:

“I must say, my mom has done really well with the manipulating of her kids to eat the way she wants them to. She should write a book. Wait, what did I just say?”

Parts made me laugh out loud:

“My teacher makes coffee at the same time every morning. Nothing happens until she has some coffee in her hands. If you are smart, you stay out of her way until she has had at least one cup.”

I couldn’t possibly comment. Other parts reminded me how fast trends move on:

“My mom says by the time this book is published, I won’t want a fidget spinner anymore and people willl no longer be excited by them, but I doubt it.”

I suspect Mom was right. Big surprise.

The book also includes discussion questions (with thorny questions such as “Why do parents say No?”), and a word list, including the words that some younger readers might not know or understand (like vegan and chia).

Thanks to Patrice Smith for providing a free ebook for review. I’ll look forward to reading the next family project!

About the Authors

The StruggleThe authors of the book The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues and The Struggle: 4 Girls & 1 Bathroom are from Middle Georgia. The authors consist of a mom and her four daughters. The mom, Patrice Smith, is a second-time author, who has previously coauthored a healthy living cookbook. She received a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources and Family Studies from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

The four adolescent authors are Donna Smith age 16, Shannon Smith age 15, Charity Smith age 13, and Faith Smith age 12. They are all very active, school-aged girls with a variety of interests which include reading, drawing, singing, art and more. The inspiration for the first book came from their real-life mom’s summer writing assignment. This book is inspired by their real life, but it is a work of fiction. Be on the lookout for future works by these talented authors.

About The Struggle: 4 Girls and 1 Bathroom

The Struggle: 4 Girls & 1 Bathroom is the sequel to the book entitled The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues. It is also about the lives of four sisters, Diamond, Shelia, Crystal, and Felicity. Previously, these sisters wrote about having to endure a long summer with their mom and her never-ending lists of chores and schoolwork. Now they are back to discuss their upcoming school year. But this time, no one is safe from their complaints!

Read the introduction to The Struggle below: