Tag: Book Recommendation

Book Review | The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Francine Rivers is, in my opinion, the queen of Christian fiction. She’s written Biblical fiction (Sons of Encouragement), biblical retellings (Redeeming Love), historical fiction (The Mark of the Lion trilogy), contemporary fiction (Leota’s Garden, When the Shofar Blew). She’s even written a dual timeline story (The Scarlett Thread).

She’s written some of my favourite Christian fiction, and The Masterpiece is a worthy addition to that shelf.

Roman Velasco is a rich young artist who’s hiding secrets. His messed-up past. His dissatisfaction with his work. The fact he’s also a graffiti artist, decorating (or defacing) prominent Los Angeles buildings. It’s his way of dealing with his past. Roman is a character with issues stemming back decades.

Grace Moore is a divorced single mother who’s broke but needs a job so she can justify keeping the son she almost gave up for adoption. Working for Roman might be her way out. Or not …

The Masterpiece doesn’t shy away from the hard issues of modern life.

Drink. Drugs. Promiscuity. Temptation. Godlessness … but also godliness. I’m sure Grace’s name is no coincidence.

The writing is excellent, as I expected. The characters are layered and complex—just like with real people, it takes a long time to truly know them. I was especially impressed by the way the story switched between the present and past, taking us back to show us the events that turned Roman and Grace into the adults they’ve become. It could have been confusing, but it wasn’t.

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

About Francine Rivers

Francine RiversNew York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers continues to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her numerous bestsellers include Redeeming Love, A Voice in the Wind, and Bridge to Haven, and her work has been translated into more than thirty different languages. She is a member of Romance Writers of America’s coveted Hall of Fame as well as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Find Francine Rivers online at:

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About The Masterpiece

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want—money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist—an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship—and both their lives—forever.

Find The Masterpiece online at:

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Read the introduction to The Masterpiece below:

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

Quote from A Chance at Forever: The only tool she had was prayer, and if that was so, why didn't she use it more often?

Book Recommendation | A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

A Chance at Forever is the third (and hopefully not last) novel in The Teaville Moral Society series.

It follows A Heart Most Certain and A Love So True. There have also been two novellas in the series, With This Ring (which I haven’t read), and Tied and True (which I have). But A Chance at Forever is a standalone novel, and you don’t need to have read the earlier books to enjoy this. (But you should read them anyway.)

It’s been six years since school bully George Firebrook left Teaville. Now he’s back in town as Aaron Firebrook, aspiring math teacher. But Mercy McClain is in the school board, the same Mercy McClain he teased mercilessly for having only one arm … and for always being happy in spite of her disability. That’s part of why he’s returned, to try and make up for the sins of his childhood. Now he has to convince people he has changed, and that’s going to start with Mercy.

Mercy McClain knows she’ll never marry and have children.

Her disability has seen to that. But she can still love the children in her care and make sure they aren’t bullied the way she was as a child. And she’s not convinced George Aaron Firebrook has changed from the bully she knew. She’s not pleased when he’s hired as the orphanage gardener. She’s gradually swayed by his work ethic and his obvious concern for the children, especially for Jimmy the troublemaker, and Owen.

Mercy is a great heroine. She’s got issues, but she’s also got a strong sense of self and she’s not willing to let anyone present the orphans with less than ideal role models. That places her in an awkward situation when she realises Aaron isn’t her biggest problem, and that speaking out might cost her.

Aaron is a strong hero. He was a bully as a schoolboy, but he’s a Christian now and trying to make amends. There are also reasons why he was a bully. This explains why he wants to make sure other Teaville children don’t face the same problems. So the job at the orphanage is perfect, even if Mercy would rather he wasn’t there. But the path of true love doesn’t run smooth, and first Aaron has to deal with bumps in the path like Owen and Jimmy.

I know I’m usually a contemporary Christian romance fan. But A Chance at Forever (and the other Teaville Moral Society stories) are the best kind of historical romance. I love the way the series uses historical settings to address some very modern issues. How do we, as Christians, deal with the less desireable members of society? The alcoholics, the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the homeless? How do we deal with that? Jagears has some ideas:

Quote from A Chance at Forever: Being moral isn't doing what's easiest or what makes you comfortable, but rather, it's choosing to do right even when it hurts, when it costs, when it's difficult.

She also isn’t afraid to identify the problem:

Quote from A Chance at Forever: The whole problem was sinful hearts, plain and simple. From the men who took advantage of the pleasures of the district, to the disdain and apathy of those who never stepped in to minister to those ensnared within it.

This is the problem highlighted by the #MeToo movement. It’s just framed a little differently.

See what I mean about historical fiction being an excellent vehicle for highlighting present-day problems?

As you’ve probably guessed, I thought everything about A Chance at Forever was outstanding—the plot, the characters, the writing, and the Christian message. Recommended for all Christian fiction readers.

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

About Melissa Jagears

Author Photo: Melissa JagearsI stay home with my kids, and though that’s PLENTY to do, I added homeschooling and writing to my schedule too!

My husband and I have been married since 2001 and have a daughter and two sons. I’m a former high school ESL teacher and an avid book reader. If you don’t believe me, come peruse the 16 bookshelves in my house. The only reason I don’t have more is because my husband is convinced he can hear the house’s foundation groaning.

He only claims one of those bookshelves which is full of how-to manuals because he loves blacksmithing, knife smithing, traditional archery, hunting, etc. Generally whatever a mountain man does, he’s done or wants to do. He and his one lonely bookshelf often come in handy for research.

My daughter is also an avid reader who owns the book shelf chair, is a lover of famous art, and wants to be a fashion designer. My middle son builds and creates all day long, his creations are mostly knives and swords since he wants to be a knifesmith like his daddy. And my youngest is the quietest of the bunch. At the moment, he self-identifies as a cat. A black one. He answers in meows.

A pronunciation lesson for the curious: Jagears sounds like /Jag – ers/, like Mick Jagger with an S.

You can find Melissa Jagears online at:

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About A Chance at Forever

In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child, finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job.

Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy’s mistrust, but he’s returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He doesn’t expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the best interests of the children at heart.

Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for?

You can find A Chance at Forever online at:

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You can read the introduction to A Chance at Forever below:

If God loved her, then it followed that He would have good things for her, things that wold bring her hope.

#ThrowbackThursday | Book Review | The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m bringing you my review of The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, the final book in the Legacy of Grace trilogy by Carolyn Miller. I’m sharing it because it was my favourite of the series, and the first book in her new series is due out in March! I’m looking forward to reading it—The Winsome Miss Winthrop.

About The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey

Will a damaged reputation and desire for society’s approval thwart the legacy of grace?
Tainted by scandal and forced to leave London for the quieter Brighton countryside, the Honorable Miss Clara DeLancey is a shadow of her former society self. She’s lost the man she loved to another and, in a culture that has no patience for self-pity, is struggling with depression. A chance encounter brings her a healing friendship with the sisters of an injured naval captain. But Clara’s society mama is appalled at the new company she’s keeping.
Captain Benjamin Kemsley is not looking for a wife. But his gallant spirit won’t let him ignore the penniless viscount’s daughter–not when she so obviously needs assistance to keep moving forward from day to day. Can he protect his heart and still keep her safe?
When they’re pushed into the highest echelons of society at the Prince Regent’s Brighton Pavilion, this mismatched couple must decide if family honor is more important than their hopes. Can they right the wrongs of the past and find future happiness together–without finances, family support, or royal favor?

My Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all romance novels since Jane Austen are mere copies.

Well, not really. As we know, we are all unique, so our journeys to love are also unique. But many romance novels do offer a conscious or subconscious nod to Austen’s work, and The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey is no exception.

At five-and-twenty, Miss DeLancey is close to being on the shelf. Her marital prospects are not helped by a mama who combines Mrs Bennett’s silliness with Lady Catherine’s snobbery, a brother who has gambled away her dowry, and a father who reminded me of Mr Bennett: intelligent and personable, but influenced by his wife. There are also echoes of Persuasion in the decorated sea captain who was rejected in love when a lowly lieutenant.

Carolyn Miller takes these well-known tropes and gives them new life in The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, the final book in her Legacy of Grace series—and the best (well, in my view).

Miss DeLancey had the misfortune to fall for someone who didn’t return her regard, and was then humiliated for it. It didn’t help that her brother gambled away her dowry, making it difficult for her to find another suitor. (Yes, there were several times when I thought Richard DeLancey needed to take a long walk off a short pier.)

Ben Kemsley has his own problems. He’s spent most of his prize money caring for the families of the men he captained, especially those who didn’t make it back to England. The Prince Regent has promised him a reward, but Prinny is famously self-centred and how exactly does one ask the Prince of Wales for a promised fortune?

My favourite aspect of Clara DeLancey’s story was the focus on her spiritual journey.

In fact, that was the major focus of the first half of the novel. Clara’s turning point comes when she realises there is more to Christianity than church. She sees the need to change from the dissatisfied person she had been. And she saw the need to put that change in God’s hands. Fortunately, she has her new friends to guide her … new friends with a handsome brother.

I also enjoyed the references to the marine chronometer. I read Longtitude by Dava Sobel many years ago. She explained that we’ve long been able to calculate latitude through the position of the stars and sun. But we can’t calculate longtitude accurately without a clock that can remain accurate throughout a long ocean voyage.

I love this kind of mix of fact and fiction, because it was the lack of such a clock caused the shipwreck that made Captain Ben Kemsley a minor Regency celebrity. There were also several scenes set in and around the famed Brighton Pavillion, redecorated by the Prince Regent at great expense and with dubious taste, and I enjoyed this as well.

Overall, an excellent Christian Regency romance with element of suspense. Recommended!

Thanks to Kregel Publications for sending me a free paperback to review.

About Carolyn Miller

Carolyn MillerCarolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. She is married, with four gorgeous children, who all love to read (and write!).

A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’s novels have won a number of Romance Writers of American (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. Her favourite authors are classics like Jane Austen (of course!), Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie, but she also enjoys contemporary authors like Susan May Warren and Becky Wade.

Her stories are fun and witty, yet also deal with real issues, such as dealing with forgiveness, the nature of really loving versus ‘true love’, and other challenges we all face at different times.

Find Carolyn Miller online at:

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Find The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey online at:

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#ThrowbackThursday | Close to You by Kara Isaac

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my extremely biased review of Close to You by Kara Isaac. It’s biased because Kara is a fellow Kiwi, and it’s the first Christian novel I’ve read that is set anywhere near what I call home.

To the best of my knowledge, Close to You by Kara Isaac is the first novel from a New Zealand author contracted and published by a major US Christian publisher. That alone is worth five stars, at least from this parochial Kiwi reader. Those of you who can’t see the appeal of a romance novel set in the Land of the Long White Cloud (and the land of hobbits) … I don’t know. What do people who don’t like New Zealand or hobbits read? Do they read? Can they read?.

Anyway, on to the novel.

Allie is short of money, as her funds are currently tied up in a messy divorce. She’s working as a tour guide delivering high-class (i.e. expensive) tours of New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie locations, making good use of her PhD in English literature. Unfortunately, she now loathes all things Tolkien.

Jackson’s company has just gone bust, and he’s accompanying a long-lost—and rich—uncle on Allie’s Lord of the Rings tour in the hope he can persuade uncle to invest in his next business idea. Unfortunately, he knows nothing about Tolkien, hobbits or Lord of the Rings … despite telling his uncle he’s a die-hard fan.

Naturally, Allie and Jackson start off on the wrong foot and equally naturally (this is Christian romance!), things change as they start to get to know each other. Throw in a tour bus full of seriously eccentric characters, a wily uncle and a weasly almost-ex-husband, and the stage is set for fun and romance.

I loved all the Kiwi touches.

The nail-biting approach to Wellington Airport. The lush greenery of the Waikato. The “scents” of Rotorua. The majesty of Queenstown. The Tolkien tourist mecca of Hobbiton (which is even better in real life. I love the Second Breakfast at The Shire’s Rest cafe). The writing was good, with a good dose of humour (people actually speak Elvish?) and a subtle underlying Christian theme.

Recommended for fans of Carla Laureano and Susan May Warren. And New Zealand, and Tolkien. So that should cover pretty much everyone.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac is a RITA® Award nominee who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and three Hobbit-sized children.

You can find Kara Isaac online at:

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About Close to You

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

You can find Close to You online at:

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You can read the opening to Close to You below:

Click here to find Close to You and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon store.

Quote from Ladies of Ivy Cottage

Book Recommendation | The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is the second book in the Tales From Ivy Hill series by beloved Christian Regency author Julie Klassen. There are a lot of characters to keep straight, so while this is a standalone story, it might help if you’ve read the first book in the series, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. And recently. I’ve read it, but it was over a year ago. I remembered the main plot points, but had forgotten some of the minor characters who are now major characters.

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage is historical romance but only to a degree. Ivy Hill has plenty of single ladies (and single gentlemen), but it’s less a romance and more a gentle ongoing story of everyday village life, complete with village intrigues. It’s not a fast-paced novel, but neither does it drag.

I enjoyed the slower pace, the reminder of a time when life wasn’t ruled by phone notifications but by the arrival of the Mail coach. I enjoyed the slow getting-to-know new characters, and being reintroduced to familiar characters. As always, I enjoyed the subtle-but-there presentation of Christianity (although The Ladies of Ivy Cottage certainly has even less of a faith message than some of her previous works).

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage was a delightful step back into another time.

Recommended for fans of village tales such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, Lawanna Blackwell’s Gresham Chronicles, or Jan Karon’s Mitford. And fans of Jane Austen. Of course.

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

About Julie Klassen

Julie KlassenJulie Klassen loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her novels have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. Her book, The Silent Governess, was also a finalist in the Minnesota Book Awards, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.

Find Julie Klassen online at:

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About The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?
Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.
Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?
As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

Find The Ladies of Ivy Cottage online at:

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Read the introduction to The Ladies of Ivy Cottage below:

Quote from Holding the Fort

Book Recommendation | Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

Lovely Lola Bell was raised in a saloon, but her singing voice has meant she’s managed to keep from working upstairs. Except now she’s been fired, and no one in town is going to give a saloon girl a respectable job. Then she hears her brother—her only family—is in trouble. She has no choice but to become Miss Louisa Bell, find Bradley at Fort Reno, find a respectable job, and hope her past never catches up with her.

Major Daniel Adams is a widower with two daughters. When Miss Louisa Bell arrives at the Fort to teach his daughters, he’s so grateful he doesn’t bother to check her details. The girls like her, and anything to keep them out of trouble in a fort filled with soldiers and surrounded by potentally hostile Indians …

In some ways, Holding the Fort was a typical Western romance. Beautiful heroine meets handsome hero, fall in love, and so on.

But that would be missing the best parts: the comedy, and the Christian element.

Regina Jennings writes comedy. Well, this had a lot of comedy—awkwardly comedic situations, similar to Karen Witemeyer or Jen Turano. There can be a fine line between comedy and cringefest, but I definitely found Holding the Fort was comedy (especially a couple of the riding scenes).

It was also Christian. Lola aka Louisa was not a Christian. She’d been raised in a saloon, hardly the kind of place you’d find a preacher. She does a so-so job of pretending, but when it comes out that she’s not a Christian, Daniel has a dilemma. He’s attracted to her, but … Anyway, that ended up being one of the strengths for me.

Overall, I loved Holding the Fort. Recommended for fans of romantic comedy, especially historical Westerns.

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

About Regina Jennings

Regina JenningsRegina Jennings is the winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. A graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history, Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children when not traveling the world.

Find Regina Jennings online at:

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About Holding the Fort

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.
Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.
When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

Find Holding the Fort online at:

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Read the introduction to Holding the Fort below:

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.

Summary

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.

Life isn't about how much I've accomplished or what I've done. It's about who I've loved and how well I've loved them.

Book Recommendation | Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

Beth is the sensible one in the Whitaker family, a fact she’s reminded of when younger sister Molly shows up announcing she’s bought the derelict Fairwind Farm. Molly wants to restore the apple orchard and Christmas tree farm into the centre of the community it used to be. Beth is convinced she’ll never succeed … but somehow finds herself a partner in the venture.

The solitary Drew Barlow is returning to Willow Grove and Fairwind Farm for the first time in twenty years. He volunteers in a community working bee, and ends up being recruited as the farm’s all-round Mr Fixit. Maybe this will help him remember what happened, help him solve the mystery, help him find closure. Or maybe he’ll just fall for his pretty yet reserved employer …

This is the second Courtney Walsh book I’ve read this year.

The first was Just Look Up, which was a romance novel with a deeply symbolic title that made me think on many levels (click here to read my review). Hometown Girl was a little different—it had plenty of romantic and situational tension, but it also had a suspense thread around Drew’s history with the Fairwind property.

Drew and Beth both had secrets that came out during the story. Drew’s secret was hinted at from his very first scene, with his reluctance to return to Fairwind, and the knowledge that something bad had happened. His reluctance to revisit the past made his secret feel natural. It helped that he had no memory of the actual event, just the knowledge he was there.

Beth’s secret wasn’t so obvious, but it was something recent, something she knew about, and something she didn’t share. It made it feel as though she wasn’t a trustworthy character, yet she was obviously supposed to be the heroine. That annoyed me, as it left me feeling conflicted. Was I supposed to sympathise with her, or not? This was probably the weakest aspect of the novel for me.

But this was more than made up for by the rest.

I especially enjoyed by the underlying suspense thread of the mystery over Jess’s disappearance twenty years ago. Yes, I would have liked for Drew to fess up to his prior knowledge of Fairwind earlier, but I could see why he didn’t. In the end, that aspect of the plot was just plain sad.

It was also good to watch the relationship develop between Beth and Drew, especially the way Beth was able to draw him out. I also enjoyed the minor characters—I do hope this is part of a series, because I’d like to see Ben and Callie together, and I wonder who might be right for the flighty Molly.

Overall, Hometown Girl is an excellent contemporary Christian romance. Recommended for fans of Brandy Bruce, Kara Isaac, Melissa Tagg, and Becky Wade.

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

About Courtney Walsh

Courtney WalshCourtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Change of Heart is her fifth novel and is set in the same town as Paper Hearts. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books in the Sweethaven series, as well as two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives in Illinois where she and her husband own a performing and visual arts studio. They have three children.

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About Hometown Girl

Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm? 

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You can read the introduction to Hometown Girl below:

That's the kind of rescuing Jesus does. It's complete and final. Anything else is hogwash.

Book Recommendation | Lu by Beth Troy

All the stories have been written, including mine.

It’s a great first line, because it’s a strong statement that sounds true, in the same way as the famous opening line to Pride and Prejudice sounds true … until you think about it. Because we’re all unique, so our stories are also unique.

Although our stories also have some common elements:

I thought I’d finished writing that story years ago, but then yesterday’s story happened—the one about the boy who cheats and the girl who leaves. You could dress it up and call it a journey. But there was nothing new in the story about the girl who went home because she had nowhere else to go.

I know not everyone enjoys novels written in first person, but I do—especially when the character has a strong and interesting voice, as Lu (short for Louisa) does.

So Lu is home, with a car that barely runs, a 1970’s crockpot, and no money. She finds a job at the local newspaper, where she is asked to write wedding features. And she befriends the young preacher, back in town after his divorce. Lu isn’t sure if she believes in God and she certainly isn’t following him, despite having been raised in church.

Jackson challenges Lu to come to church, and she does. He’s preaching a series on the Book of Ecclesiastes, which brought him through his own tough time when his wife left him. These sermons start Lu on her own faith journey, reading the Bible and trying to understand what Jackson sees in Jesus. At the same time, she’s developing feelings for Jackson … all the while knowing nothing can come of those feelings if they don’t share a faith, and Jackson isn’t going to change.

Lu isn’t typical Christian fiction.

The characters drink alcohol and swear. Lu has been living with her boyfriend, and Jackson is divorced. Yet there is a lot more Christian content than in most Christian novels I read, and it feels natural, not forced. I liked the way the novel showed Lu’s faith journey warts and all, and that the focus was on finding Jesus for herself.

My one complaint about Lu was that it ended too soon. There was a clear ending to the main plot—Lu’s faith journey—but not to the main subplot. This annoyed me at first, but in hindsight it was the right decision. I only hope that dangling thread means there is a sequel in the works.

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

You can find Beth Troy online at:

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About Lu

“There’s great hope where the road meets the sky – maybe even an answer. But this road leads home. Just home. I thought I’d finished writing that story years ago, but then yesterday’s story happened – the one about the boy who cheats and the girl who leaves.”
Lu Sokolowski never planned to return to her small hometown of Dunlap’s Creek, but it’s the only place she can think of to go after her boyfriend cheats on her. Moving back in with her family lets her run away from her problems, but it also means suffering their attempts to reassemble her failed life, including arranging a job as the wedding beat writer at the local paper and setting her up with Jackson, the divorced pastor of her family’s church. Unexpected success and friendships restore Lu to the family and faith she’d left behind. But when the small-town life Lu never intended shakes up, will she run again?
Lu’s story is a journey of a woman back to her family, her faith, and herself. It’s about second chances and the unchosen circumstances that press the point of who we are and what we believe. Are we the sum of our successes and failures, or does our identity rest in a greater hope?

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As for her safety, God already knew when the end of her days would be.

Book Recommendation | Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Where We Belong starts in 1890, in the Sinai Desert, with forty-five year-old Rebecca Hawes traveling to St Catherine’s Monastery to search for ancient copies of the Bible. It’s a start that hooked me immediately, both because of the historical setting, and because of the age of the heroine—it’s refreshing to read a novel where the heroine is out of her twenties.

I was also intrigued because I could relate to Rebecca’s thoughts about the desolate nature of the Sinai between Cairo and St Catherines. Her journey took seven days by camel. In comparison, mine took seven hours by minibus, but that was quite long enough to feel for the stubborn Israelites, condemned to spend forty years in the heat and dust.

It's one thing to learn a language and another thing to understand the people who speak it.But then Where We Belong left the Sinai in 1890, and travelled back to 1860 Chicago—and I wasn’t impressed. It was still Rebecca’s story, but now Rebecca was a pampered teenager in the days before the Civil War (which I knew was coming, even though she didn’t). Fortunately, it soon became apparent that Rebecca was no ordinary Victorian-era teenager, and nor was her sister, Flora.

The novel followed Rebecca and Flora from their teenage years in Chicago through to showing why they are travelling to the Sinai in 1890 with only a couple of young servants for protection. The most fascinating thing is that Rebecca and Flora are based on real-life adventurers, Agnes and Margaret Smith, born in Scotland in 1843.

This explains one of the strengths of the novel—the feeling of historical authenticity that can only be gained by extensive research (and then leaving out most of the detail of that research). The other strength was related, and that was the Christian element. Rebecca and Flora (like the real-life Agnes and Margaret) were women of deep faith. They were intelligent women who had the strength of character to choose to follow God, not society, and who had endless compassion for the poor.

Lynn Austin has yet to write a novel I haven’t enjoyed, but I do think this is her best yet. Recommended for Christian historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoy authors such as Elizabeth Camden and Jody Hedlund.

I’m a history fan, and I loved it from the first line to the last. (I don’t think I stopped in between). Even better, a recent article from the Smithsonian shows new manuscripts are still being discovered at St Catherine’s:

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

Isn’t that cool?

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

About Lynn Austin

Lynn AustinFor many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 24 novels.

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About Where We Belong

The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters
In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.
Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

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