Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Abigail's New Hope by Mary Ellis

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Abigail's New Hope

(Harvest House Publishers - April 1, 2011)


Mary Ellis


A word from the author:I grew up close to the eastern Ohio Amish community of Geauga County, where my parents often took me to farmers’ markets and woodworking fairs. My husband and I now live within the largest population of Amish in the country–a four-county area in central Ohio. We love to take weekend getaways to purchase farm produce and other goodies, stay with Amish families in bed and breakfasts, attend country auctions and enjoy the simpler way of life.

This is my first series of novels set in the Amish community.

I would love to hear from readers of Christian novels. Please leave me a post at my blogsite.


As an Amish midwife, Abigail Graber loves bringing babies into the world. But when a difficult delivery takes a devastating turn, Abigail is faced with some hard choices. Despite her best efforts, the young mother dies—but the baby is saved.

When a heartless judge confines Abigail to the county jail for her mistakes, her sister Catherine comes to care for her children while Daniel works his fields. Catherine meets Daniel’s reclusive cousin, Isaiah, who’s deaf and thought to be simple minded by his community. She endeavors to teach him to communicate and discovers he possesses unexpected gifts and talents.

While Abigail searches for forgiveness, Catherine changes lives and, in return, finds love, something long elusive in her life. And Isaiah discovers God, who cares nothing about our handicaps or limitations in His sustaining love.

An inspirational tale of overcoming grief, maintaining faith, and finding hope in an ever-changing world.


I really enjoyed this book with it's gripping story line of an Amish midwife thrust into the Englischer system of law while practicing a vocation that is commonplace in the Amish culture. This was such an emotional story since we see the viewpoints of Abby and Nathan in the book, each having suffered a loss, and you couldn't help but grieve as they struggled and rejoice as they work to overcome in those struggles.

I also really enjoyed the chemistry that exists between Catherine and Isaiah...and I certainly hope there is more to their story.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Abigail's New Hope, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He Said, She Said by Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

He Said, She Said

(Lighthouse Publishing - February 14, 2011)


Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles


Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles are the cofounders of Christian Devotions Ministries. Their He Said, She Said devotions are syndicated in a number of newspapers across the eastern seaboard and they host the weekly He Said, She Said Radio, Friday nights at 6:00 p.m. est. on Blog Talk Radio. Eddie and Cindy are popular speakers and teachers at Writers Conferences across the country.

Eddie is the author of five non-fiction books and his newest fiction release, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, a middle grade book. While Cindy is the author of one non-fiction and two compilations.

Together they teach writing with Eddie and Cindy have been writing the He Said, She Said devotions since 2008, taking one scripture weekly and looking at it from two perspectives--His and Hers, with the idea that learning more about scripture from two perspectives helps one to delve deeper in God's word and know Him better.


He Said, She Said: A Devotional Guide to Cultivating a Life of Passion, or How Newlyweds, Couples and Singles Can Draw Closer to God and Their Mate Through Daily Devotions

Do you sense something vital missing from you relationship with your spouse, children and God? Are you easily distracted by the busyness of life and left feeling drained, bored, and discouraged? Do you sense you were meant to enjoy the richness of life, but spend your days feasting on crumbs? This heart-warming collection of stories (54 in all) will inspire you to reach for the true source of joy: a life lived for and through God.

These deeply personal (and sometimes humorous) devotions offer biblical insights and spiritual truths from the unique perspective of one man and one woman. Learn to cultivate a life of passion. Perfect for your quiet time, these moments of meditative reflection illustrate the importance of allowing God to work within you and speak through you. No matter if you are newlyweds or newly retired, this book of devotions will help you put the spark back into your love life and explore the precious relationships God desires for you. He Said, She Said touches the heart, tickles the funny bone and brings you to your knees in worship.

If you would like to read an excerpt from He Said, She Said, go HERE.

Watch the book video:

Cindy and Eddie are not only good friends of mine, but a regular source of my spiritual renewal. It's a great idea, the he-said/she-said concept and I always enjoy their devotionals. Both are not only grounded spiritually, and super nice people but they both keep me laughing. It's that humor and heart that makes the spiritual more relatable in the most practical sense.

~Gina Holmes, author of Crossing Oceans~

I've know Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles for a few years. Each has a way of tickling my funny bone, so I wondered what a devotional book by them would be. I can heartily recommend it. The humor is there, but it's coupled with deep truths that go straight to the heart of the problem. You'll find a path that winds closer to God through He Said, She Said.

~Ane Mulligan, Editor of Novel Journey~


I'm almost finished with this...but I'm enjoying it so far. Review coming soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Imagination Station Review and GIVEAWAY

See the end of this post to see how you can win a copy of each of these books.

About Voyage with the Vikings:

In the first book of the series, Voyage with the Vikings, cousins Patrick and Beth are visiting Mr. Whittaker at Whit’s Soda Shoppe when they find a mysterious letter in the Imagination Station requesting a Viking sunstone. The letter is old and says that someone named Albert will be imprisoned if the sunstone isn't found. Whit sends Patrick and Beth to Greenland circa 1000, where they meet Vikings Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson--and find the sunstone as they join Leif on his first voyage to North America . But the adventure is just beginning, for when they return to Mr. Whittaker's workshop with the sunstone, there is another note waiting for them.

About Attack at the Arena:

The adventures continue in Attack at the Arena. Patrick and Beth learn that Mr. Whittaker’s fancy ring can be seen inside the Imagination Station but not outside of the machine. A second mysterious letter leads the cousins to fifth-century Rome in search of a special cup that belongs to a monk. If they find the cup it could keep the mysterious Albert out of prison. At the Roman Colosseum, Emperor Honorius is hosting a gladiator battle in celebration of a war victory. Beth attends the event as the emperor’s slave; Patrick attends as a monk’s apprentice but is taken prisoner and sent to fight in the arena. During their adventure, the cousins meet Telemachus (a true historical figure), a monk who believes that fighting is wrong. Telemachus is willing to risk everything—even his life—to stop the killing.

I am honored to have my 10 year old daughter Miss Rose give her thoughts on this series with me. She is an avid reader...and always has a book in her hands. Take it away, Miss Rose...

Miss Rose's Thoughts:

I really enjoy books about history so I really liked these two books. My favorite character in the books is Beth. She is smart and knows what to do in any situation...although she did seem to be a bit unsure of what to do when she was kidnapped in by the Roman soldier in Attack at the Arena. My favorite part in the Attack at the Arena is when Telemachus stops the hurt man from being killed. My favorite part in Voyage with the Vikings is when Beth plays chess with Erik the Red and beats him! These books were exciting and mysterious, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Mom's Thoughts:

Mom and Dad, if you're looking for fun, engaging books to keep your child reading then look no further than these Imagination Station books from Adventures in Odyssey. They're fast paced and easy to read (with pictures, too), and have an air of mystery that will keep your child turning pages. Another bonus...they're exploring the annals of history with the element of faith! I really enjoyed seeing how the message of Christ was woven through each story. These books have everything I could ask for in a book that I would share with my kids. So grab your child and climb aboard the Imagination will not be disappointed!

Guess what? I have one set of these books to GIVE AWAY, courtesy of Side Door Communications! Just leave a comment with contact information (you at yoohoo dot com) on this post by midnight Central Time on Friday, April 15, 2011, and I'll choose a winner on Saturday.

My sincerest thanks to Debbie Lykins at Side Door Communications for providing review copies for us.

Find out more on the web:
The Imagination Station Website
Author Marianne Hering
Author Paul McCusker
Illustrator David Hohn
Behind the Minds - Author Q&A
Side Door Communications

Behind the Minds of the Imagination Station

Imagination Station Interview and Q&A with Marianne Hering

1. What inspired you to write the Imagination Station series?
Paul (McCusker) had always wanted to write stories about the Imagination Station. When looking to do a kids’ series about it, we chose early elementary to introduce new readers to the Adventures in Odyssey world. We also wanted to touch on a group of kids that didn’t have many Christian books written for their level. There seemed to be a gap from picture books to later elementary readers.

2. The Imagination Station device is well-known to fans of the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey. Why did you and Paul decide to use it in a book series?
It lends itself to stand-alone adventures. It’s a fascinating device. Why wouldn’t he want to write about it? It allowed us to write about settings outside of Odyssey. We’d like some of the books to augment the history kids learn from public school textbooks or TV. The Imagination Station radio dramas are also among the most popular. We thought that kids would like them, that’s all!

3. The first two books focus on the Vikings and ancient Rome. The next two books focus on Kublai Khan and the War of the Roses. How did you and Paul decide which historical events to write about?
They just seemed interesting and we thought they’d be popular with boys. I also looked through the Bennett books on core knowledge to make sure the things we write about would be taught in schools. Also, the Rome book is based on an actual Adventures in Odyssey radio drama. It is one of our favorites, and so we wanted to retell the story. The Kublai Khan book started out to be more about Marco Polo, but Kublai took the stage. He was a fascinating character. We don’t always decide with concrete objectives. Most times the story just sounds plain old fun.

4. How true to history are the books?
Now, this is a spoiler. Mr. Whittaker isn’t real. Neither are Patrick and Beth. Though they are named after Paul’s children. Patrick and Beth are his children’s middle names.

Most of the events are based on sagas, legends, or some sort of historical base—except for book 4. All the characters in the War of the Roses story are fictional. For plot purposes, I sped up the storytelling. For example, the events in the Kublai Khan story took place over months, not hours. Same with the Viking book. I wanted Leif to leave for the New World shortly after he brought back the gospel from Norway. In reality, a lot of time passed between the events.
I did make some vocabulary exceptions. For example, Marco Polo was Venetian, but I called him Italian—a more familiar term for the readership. But the basic events of books 1 to 3 are true, and the War of the Roses did occur in England with Lords fighting their neighbors, etc. We really just wanted to write about the jousting. Paul did a lot great research for the jousting scene. I had to cut a lot of it, and that made me sad.

On the website The, I’ve listed what’s true and what’s exaggerated for each book. There are also nonfiction pages for the kids to read about Leif Ericsson and the other Christian heroes.

5. These books are geared towards young readers, ages 7 and up. What is the number one issue that children learning to read struggle with?
Speed processing. The kids who are slower reading learners usually need more help with sight words and fluency. That’s just practice at an accessible reading level. These are just slower readers in general—I’m not counting kids with true auditory processing issues or other learning disabilities, which represent between 3 and 10 percent. Most kids can learn to read better with one-on-one instruction and a loving atmosphere. I’ve posted reading tips on the website for each book and lists of words to practice before tackling a chapter. See

6. What kinds of books do you recommend children read?
I don’t only recommend books. There are fabulous magazines out there for this age group. Not all kids like fiction, so magazines draw them in with nonfiction and pictures. There are some good book series out there—I personally give my children the tried-and-true series written years ago, like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. My boys enjoyed the Horrible Harry books by Suzy Kline. My daughter was a Gertrude Chandler Warner/Boxcar Children fanatic. Parents can ask librarians to recommend books. One of my sons loves anything about animals in the nonfiction section—I don’t make him read fiction unless it’s for school. I do have to review their books first, and that can take a lot of time, but it’s worth it.

7. What are some ways that parents can help their children develop their reading skills?
(Get their vision checked for not only vision but for tracking issues as well.) Turn off the electronics and make reading a fun time. You can read to them or they can read to you. Make reading an event. Your kids will complain for about two weeks while the electronic addiction wears off. Then they will be better able to engage in literary pursuits. For free reading, let your kids read “easy” books. Don’t judge. If they want to read Hop on Pop twenty times, that means that’s where they are comfortable. If you push your kids beyond what they perceive to be the right level, they will rebel. Better a lot of fluent reading at an easy level than choppy reading at a higher level. Reading with starts and stops is a bad habit to let them get into.

8. What encouragement can you offer parents who may have reluctant or struggling readers?
I can encourage parents by letting them know that there are GREAT reading programs for kids. Most kids, 60 percent, need extra help at home to make it to the fourth grade reading level. That extra help can come from parents who gently and lovingly make reading a family hobby. There is no lack of teaching material, and your school districts should be able to help you find the right tools. The biggest factor in children’s success at school is a loving parent who takes the time to work with their children. One of my sons could not learn to sound out letters quickly enough to “hear” the word. I couldn’t help him, and so I hired a reading specialist who was more of a cognitive trainer and we worked through his auditory glitch. There are some terms to search “phonemic” awareness and “phonograms” that will help parents read more about how to help emergent readers. When the kids know how to sound out words, speed training on sight words can jump start their reading fluency. On the website,, I’ve prepared this long essay on how use a metronome to speed up your child’s reaction time to sight words. It’s under the book The Attack at the Arena. Don’t give up. Virtually every kid can learn to read well enough to go to college if his or her parent(s) invest in them.

9. What do you hope kids will walk away with after reading Imagination Station?
A smile and a desire to learn more about history and faith in Jesus Christ.

10. Can you give us any “sneak peeks” into what we can expect in future books?
Book 5 is a Bible story, a familiar Bible story. The title is “Showdown with the Shepherd.” I think that’s a fairly strong clue.
Book 6 is about Miles Standish and William Bradford and Native American relations. It centers on a certain holiday in November.
That will end the first story arc. As for the next set of 6, that may depend on sales of the first set. (That’s a strong hint to readers to buy the books so we can keep developing the series.)
Be sure to check out the click book for book 1 at That way you can tell if these books will be at the right level for your kids.

Find out more on the web:
Author Marianne Hering
Author Paul McCusker