Friday, January 29, 2021

Winter Reads From Zonderkidz

Hard to believe we're at the end of January already! It's only been a month, but the year is already zipping by! I think about that because I'm already sharing a Valentine's Day book with you! *jaw drop*

I look at children's books in an entirely new way now that I have a granddaughter in the picture. Sure, she's only a month old, but every kid book will now be viewed in light of her and me being her grandma! I'm SO glad I decided to review these books.

The first book is

Valentine's Day Treats
by Tara Knudson
Illustrated by Pauline Siewert
Publisher: Zonderkidz
ISBN: 9780310768395


From sparkly cards to heart-shaped cakes to a party with friends, Valentine’s Day Treats captures the joy and fun of holiday traditions. The fun, read-aloud rhymes and bright, adorable illustrations are perfect for evoking favorite holiday memories and—with the included recipe to make your very own heart-shaped cereal treats—creating new ones!

My Review:

The first thing you notice about this delightful board book is the cover (of course). Aside from the adorable raccoons and squirrel, the glittered texture is so fun! The font on the cover and throughout the story are very cute and go along with the adorableness of it!

The illustrations that go along with the rhymes on each page will draw children into the story. I have no doubt that when my little granddaughter is old enough she'll want to craft just like the raccoon family. It's sweet watching mama raccoon help her kids make Valentine's Day treats for their friends.

And of course, if your kids (or grandkids ahem) are old enough to help out in the kitchen, definitely try the recipe included on the back! Super simple and fun for the kiddos to personalize!

by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrator: Jago
Publisher: Zonderkidz
ISBN: 9780310768265


God is my Father who made everything.

And I am a little explorer of the wide world.

He is near me

And he protects me.

He sees me

And he knows me.

He is strong

And he looks after me.He is with me—always!


  • Is written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, the bestselling author of The Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Contains lyrical text inspired by Psalm 139
  • Contains a reassuring message that helps calm kids’ nerves, soothe their anxieties, and ease their fears
  • Features a soft padded format that is a perfect fit for little hands
  • Is a great gift for a new baby, First Communion, or birthday
My Review:

Books are such a great way to share Scripture with our little ones. Psalm 139 has always been a favorite of mine and seeing it illustrated for babies or toddlers, I was excited to review it so I could give it to my daughter for her daughter. I was bummed it didn't arrive before I headed to MN, but was grateful to see it when I got home.

I love how the illustrations go along with the words. For example, the first page has 3 children, 2 cats, and a dog in a hot air balloon looking out over the expanse of the Earth. Whether the children are in the city or the countryside, the words remind children that God is with them.

The illustrations help the children to go on an adventure around the world and in outer space. So many animals and experiences that the children in the book go through helps us to see how He will always be there. No matter what we do or where we go, God won't ever leave them. So reassuring to to share that good news with them!

Be sure to look through the next to last page to see all of the fun the kids have enjoyed throughout the story!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Cast The First Stone By David James Warren

Cast the First Stone
by David James Warren
Publisher: TriStone Media
Series: The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone

Ok, so this is the first trifecta of James L. Rubart, David Curtis Warren, and Susan May Warren. While Susan May Warren is the only author I've read of these three, I knew that if she was involved I was going to want to read it. Thankfully I was able to be part of the launch team and was sent the ebook to read!


One case haunts him. One chance to fix the past. One mistake could cost him everything.

Ex-Minneapolis Police Detective Rembrandt Stone walked away from a career he loved—just the price of being sure he can come home to the wife and daughter he cherishes. But he can’t shake the deep regret over a case left behind.

When his mentor, the former Chief of Homicide dies and leaves Rembrandt with a box of cold cases and a mysterious watch, he finds himself thrust into a world he recognizes—a world from twenty years ago—the same world he’s woken from in a cold sweat a hundred times. But is it a dream, or some kind of twisted reality?

If he solves the case that plagues him, and justice is finally served, will it destroy the life he loves?

Strap in for a mind-bending, time travel thrill ride in Book One of this exciting new series, The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone.

My Review:

Wow! Cast the First Stone was not at all what I was expecting. I mean, it was and it wasn't. And in the best of ways!

Ok, first of all, I LOVE that SMW's books are set in Minnesota. That's on a personal level because it's home to me. :) And just in case you're wondering, these locations are for real! They're not made up.

Where to start... I guess with Rem (I'll call Rembrandt, Rem, because I feel like I know him well enough for it). I don't know if this fella is just a hot mess or just misunderstood. I think like his wife, Eve, it's the latter. There's a LOT going on with him and Eve seems to be his balm. As he says in the book, she's his compass.

And Eve. There's so much depth to her. This trueness to her. She's wise and calming, and understands Rem like no other. Not even his partner, Burke.

Then life takes the bizarre shift with the watch from Booker and his cold case files. Like him, that would seriously freak me out. I'd think I was dreaming, too. I mean, how far would you have to go in a dream to start thinking it's real? And would you ever get to that point? SO many questions. Ha!

I would probably do the same things Rem does in this dream reality. I'd tell people to Google something or ask if there's an Uber. Think of how everything has changed since 1997! Nobody is Shazam-ing their music back then. lol And as he's trying to solve this bomber case, how does he do it without letting on he knows what will happen in the future and not sound like he should be institutionalized?

The story got my blood pumping as they try to track down the bomber. With all of the advancements we've made in technology and crime scene investigations, 1997 seems like the dark ages. And Rem is up against that wall except for the hindsight - or is it foresight - to give him those "hunches" of what's to come. 

Now, I will say that this isn't a faith based novel. Those of you who read SMW novels might not be expecting that, hence my heads up. This novel is... steamier that what we're typically used to. It's clean, to be sure, but does talk about their relationship over the years. There's a part of Rem's story that reminds me of the Jacob Wetterling kidnapping. His killer was actually found to be in my little town, not too far from where I lived when I first moved there. Only a few houses away.

Of course the ending leaves us hanging with shock and while we're given a peek into book 2, it only made my heart clench more! I need the next book NOW!

About the Authors:

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He’s the best-selling, Christy Hall of Fame author of ten novels and loves to send readers on mind-bending journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s dad to the two most outstanding sons on the planet and lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at

Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling, Christy and RITA award–winning author of more than eighty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. The mother of four grown children, and married to her real-life hero for over 30 years, she loves travelling and telling stories about life, adventure and faith.
For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at

David Curtis Warren is making his literary debut in these novels, and he’s never been more excited. He looks forward to creating more riveting stories with Susie and Jim, as well as on his own. He’s grateful for his co-writers, family, and faith, buoying him during the pandemic of 2020, and this writing and publishing process.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

All That We Carried By Erin Bartels

All That We Carried
by Erin Bartels
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 9780800738365

Having read The Words Between Us last fall, I was looking forward to reading All That We Carried when I saw it available for review from Revell. They sent me the book for my review.


The most treacherous terrain is found within

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. They haven't seen each other since the funeral. Olivia coped with the loss by plunging herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life coaching business around her DIY spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

My Review:

In All That We Carried I can't believe the wide range of emotions I experienced. Who knew that two sisters on a hiking trip could invoke that in me? And I don't even have sisters!

I'll be honest. When I first started the story I was a bit "freaked" out. "Freaked" is probably way too strong of a word, but I was concerned about where the storyline was going to go. And yes, this was in the beginning! *cringe* Melanie, the free spirit sister, is talking about Tarot cards and reincarnation. Full Stop. A fellow book reviewer had LITERALLY just posted a photo of this book and mentioned how much she enjoyed it so I reached out to her about where I was at in the story. She reassured me that it all fleshes out. That was totally a God moment because I was nervous.

Whew... Listen, sometimes a gal has to be reassured. lol

So, I continued on with the story and it all began to make sense. With the accident that claimed their parents lives, Melanie and Olivia coped in their own ways. Melanie began grasping at anything that she thought would be a comfort or positive. Olivia closed ranks on herself and what she was able to control.

Can I just say I related quite a lot to Olivia. In fact, so much so that I cringed when she talked because I could hear myself saying similar things. The need to be right, to be in control. When you go through tragedy you do what you can to make yourself feel safe and that's what these girls did.

One of my favorite aspects of this story is during certain scenes the author then brings you back to a previous time in the girls lives - either when they were little or teens. It would give you a glimpse as to how some things never change. I also appreciated the design of those pages. It was easy to differentiate those past moments with the rest of the story.

You can see God's hand in the story even though the characters are clueless, but in so many ways He's evident. While I started out nervous about the trajectory of the spiritual aspect of this story, I can see how all of that mumbo jumbo fits in. Melanie (and for sure Olivia) is searching. She wants peace. She wants encouragement. She wants to know there's someone greater than her out there. Olivia, unbeknownst to herself, is searching even though she's outright rejected any "god". I just love how He reveals Himself to them as they hike. And THIS quote is why it's so important for parents to do as the Bible says and to train our children up in the way they should go as well as speaking about God all the time.

These sisters have a LOT to work out in their lives needless to say. In their own lives and together. With a decade of separation there is a lot to make up for... if only they can get past their huge chasm between them. And an even bigger chasm possibly in their future if things aren't ironed out on this hiking trip.

If anything can go wrong, it certainly does. But, God! The author's writing makes this hiking trip seem extremely real and you can imagine yourself a fly on their shoulder as they make their way through the Porkies.

And as much as I related to Olivia, how she expected Melanie to react to a bear is how she probably would've expected me to react as well. HA!

About the Author:

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things (2020 Michigan Notable Book, 2020 WFWA Star Award-winner, 2019 Christy Award finalist) and The Words between Us (2020 Christy Award finalist, 2015 WFWA Rising Star Award finalist). Her short story, "This Elegant Ruin," was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest in 2014, and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. A publishing professional for 18 years, she is the director of WFWA's annual writers retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Dress Shop On King Street By Ashley Clark

The Dress Shop on King Street
by Ashley Clark
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Heirloom Secrets
ISBN: 9780764237607

I judged a book by it's cover which is why I ended up wanting to review this book from Bethany House! What wasn't there not to love or be drawn in by it? Hence, they sent me a copy and now I'm reviewing it!


Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie's past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton--the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman--boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they've both dreamed of. But it's not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams.

My Review:

I don't know if you're like me, but I'm often hesitant when it comes to debut authors. You just never know what to expect. Well, I can tell you one thing, expect a lot from The Dress Shop on King Street! This story was incredible.

In the time that we're living in, this book is so... timely. My thought throughout the book was, "how do we live like we're still not in the 1940s and 50s?" Millie's world was such a scary place to live in simply for the fact that she was half Black. The fact that parents still worry about their children playing outside because of their skin color just does me in. How have we not changed in the ensuing years?

Sorry, I digress...

Honestly, this book really forces the reader to look back and where our country has come from to where we are now. There's no way around it and while that's good, it's also a sad testament to where we still are.

First there's Millie. Honestly, first there's Rose and Ashley, and a choice that no mother should've ever had to make. Millie is part of their heritage. She's forced to start a new life away from her mama. So many your girls separated from their mama's at an early age in this family. Utterly heartbreaking! Millie pushes into the world of living the Italian side of her family while pushing the Black aside. Her battle with this throughout the story is palpable. You can feel the struggle she has from beginning to end.

And there's Harper. She's a young lady whose dream of owning a dress shop seems to always be just out of reach. When times are hard though, she would just rather run than fight for what she wants. Thankfully, life brings her back to Millie. Millie who has secrets and knows what it's like to run.

We also meet two fellas in this story. Franklin... ah, what a guy. He's the kind of guy who was created to have a zest for life, to take chances, and to fall for one woman for his entire life. Franklin worked his way into my heart from the moment we meet him. Trust me, you'll know why when he jumps onto the scene.

Peter, to me, is the guy you hope your daughter ends up with one day. There were so many great moments with him in this story. He's a historian because of circumstances that happen in his life, and it suits him to a "T". He and Harper have a love for restoring old things: he with buildings and her with clothing and accessories.

Millie is the tie that connects them and as we see the pieces all falling together, it's an amazing tale. One for the ages. I have to tell you, towards the end of the story, I was so emotional. I definitely teared up at one point because it was so beautiful and pulls on the heartstrings.

This story was so wonderfully written and it snuggled its way into my heart. I can't wait to read more from this author!

About the Author:

Ashley Clark ( writes romantic women's fiction set in the South. With a master's degree in creative writing, Ashley teaches literature and writing courses at the University of West Florida. Ashley has been an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers for almost a decade. She lives with her husband, son, and two rescued Cocker Spaniels off Florida's Gulf Coast. When she's not writing, she's rescuing stray animals, dreaming of Charleston, and drinking all the English breakfast tea she can get her hands on.

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.