Review: Once Upon A Summer by Janet Oke

“…God loves you … He plans for your good, not your hurt. It’s true that things happen in life that seem wrong and are painful, but it isn’t because God likes to see us suffer. He wants to see us grow. He wants us to love Him, to trust Him.” – the preacher

Once upon a Summer (Seasons of the Heart, #1)Once upon a Summer by Janette Oke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Josh’s parents died when he was a small child. Ever since then, his Auntie Lou, who was only five years older than he was, took over the role of his mother in the best way she knew how. They lived with Grandpa (Lou’s dad) and Uncle Charlie. And then when Grandpa and Uncle Charlie started talking about marrying Auntie Lou off, Josh wondered what he’d do without her. And then he decided, maybe he won’t have to find out…

“Holes in socks are sorta like sin, Josh. If you don’t tend to them right away when they’re small and controllable, they grow with amazing speed.” – the preacher

(I had to stop reading the book when I came to that quote and ponder it. Just… wow.)

As if that wasn’t bad enough, his great grandma died, leaving his great grandpa a widower. Grandpa and Uncle Charlie invited him to live with them. Josh wasn’t sure what to think about this, but he felt like it would disrupt everything.

Between Grandpa and Uncle Charlie trying to marry off Auntie Lou and a great-grandpa that he had never met coming to stay with them, Josh had a lot on his mind. The big question was, what would he do about it?

“Whenever something comes into our life that hurts us, we do the decidin’—do I let this work for my good, as God intended, or do I let bitterness grow like a bothersome canker sore in my soul?” – Auntie Lou

This story is told from 12-year-old Josh’s point of view. The writing style is so different, which I enjoyed, though it took me a chapter or two to get into the rhythm of it.

Josh’s character was well developed. Without revealing any spoilers, it was a joy to follow his story from start to where he is at the end of the book. He grows a lot. And the ending almost brought tears to my eyes. It was great.

There were too many amazing quotes in this book to list them all, but I think this one was my favorite:

“He could let us go through all of our life, bundlin’ us and shelterin’ us from anything and everything that would hurt us. I could do that with my petunias, Josh. I could build a box around them and keep them from the wind and the rain, the crawlers and the bees. What would happen iffen I did that, Josh?”

I jest shrugged. The answer was too obvious.

“They’d never bear flowers,” said Auntie Lou.

Aaaand the fun doesn’t stop here, because Janet Oke wrote four books in this series – which I have and look forward to reading soon. 🙂 However, I think this book could be read as a stand-alone. Until recently, I didn’t know that this book was even part of a series. If I had, I would have gotten my hands on the other books long ago!

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Review: When Dreams Come True

When Dreams Come TrueWhen Dreams Come True by Eric Ludy and Leslie Ludy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book so much! I’ve had this book for a while, but was saving it until close to Valentines’s Day. It didn’t disappoint! It was hard to put down. I loved their writing styles.

“And amazingly, through it all, there was a God watching me fall, watching me break His heart, and loving me still…” – Leslie

“The next hour passed like a hiccup attack in the middle of a wedding ceremony.” – Eric

(Those two sentences are from different parts of the book, by the way.) It pulled me right in.  I didn’t expect the book to have much conviction in it since it was a love story, but I was pleasantly surprised. Here are just a few:

“Eric, God doesn’t care about you accomplishing things, He cares about you obeying. When you obey, it’s truly amazing what you can accomplish!” – Eric’s mom

“I was in pre-med, and doing what I had always dreamed of,” he shared animately, “but I realized that, even though I’d been a Christian since I was five, I had never asked God what He wanted to do with my life.” – Eric

And there are also plenty of gems for the single Christian (like me):

“And as I had slowly learned to trust Him completely as the Lord of every area of my life, I had felt His gentle challenge to my heart, I have someone special for you, My precious child. Wait patiently for that man, set yourself aside for him in complete purity and faithfulness. I will bring him into your life in a way more beautiful than anything you can imagine. But wait for My perfect timing. Use this time of your life to focus on Me instead of chasing after foolish, short-term pleasure.” – Leslie

This book was such an enjoyable read, and I loved how Eric and Leslie respected their future spouses without even knowing them yet. It was beautiful.  It truly is a love story that only God could write. ❤

* Also, if you read the book, it advertises their music in the back. Leslie Ludy allows you to listen and download a few tracks for free on her website, Set Apart Girl, which are AMAZING.

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Review: Hinds’ Feet on High Places

Hinds' Feet On High PlacesHinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Much-Afraid, who lived in the village of Much-Trembling, desired to serve the Chief Shepherd with her whole heart, but she feared that she fell short of ever pleasing Him. Her feet were deformed which made walking difficult, and her face was disfigured, and more than anything she wanted to be free from things that she felt were holding her back.

But those are not the only things holding her back. Her relatives, the Family of Fearings, were always lurking in the Valley…

Mrs. Dismal Forebodings, her aunt, raised her along with her two cousins Gloomy and Spiteful and their brother Craven Fear, of who mistreated her horribly on a regular basis.

When Craven Fear and his family try to force her to marry him, she flees to the pool where the Chief Shepherd is waiting, and she explains all to Him. He tells her that she can come to the Kingdom of Love if she allows Him to make her feet into hinds’ feet – and He would have to change her name because a Much-Afraid cannot enter the Kingdom. And in addition to that, she would have to allow Him to plant the seed of Love into her heart…

He chose two guides to help her on her journey: Sorrow and Suffering, and she is as scared as her name suggests. Will she allow Him to work in her life so she can enter the Kingdom of Love, or will Old Lord Fearing have his way?


This story was so gripping. A friend gave this to me in August 2016, and it sure didn’t disappoint!

Hannah Hurnard’s writing style pulled me right in. The names of everyone and everything was so cute. (In addition to the ones I mentioned above, there was Pride, Bitterness, Self-Pity, and a little flower named Acceptance-with-Joy.) The symbolism and allegories were fantastic. Also, this book managed to expand my vocabulary with words such as estuary and hoary; I always appreciate when a book makes me use my dictionary.

The poems make me so happy and are based on Scripture. Here is one of my favorite ones from the book:

“I am the Rose of Sharon, a wild anemone.
As lily ‘mong the thorn trees, so is my love to me.

An apple tree ‘mong wild trees, my Love is in my sight,
I sit down in his shadow, his fruit is my delight.

He brought me to his palace, and to the banquet hall,
To share with me his greatness, I, who am least of all.

Oh, give me help and comfort, for I am sick with shame,
Unfit, to be his consort, unfit to bear his Name.

I charge you, o ye daughters, ye roses among the trees,
Stir not my sleeping loved one, to love me e’er he please.”

I believe this is based on Song of Solomon, chapter two.


I did find one error: “You will give me a new name when I get to the top?” quavered Much-Afraid, who all of a sudden seemed to have become deaf to the music who all of a sudden seemed deaf to the music around her and to be full of fears and forebodings again.

I reread that sentence so many times. But in hind-sight (oh, bad pun!), it wasn’t that big of a deal.


Spoiler-y stuff (in white text – highlight to read):

I loved how when Much-Afraid reached a milestone, she took a literal stone as a reminder – this reminded me of the rocks in Joshua 4 where the Lord ordered 12 large stones be taken out of the Jordan in remembrance of what the Lord had done for them, so that their children would see and ask about them and they could be told the stories of how God parted the river for them. Anyway. At the end of this book, the rocks Much-Afraid picked up were turned to jewels!

And her new name. LOVE.

And when she reflects upon her journey, it was so touching.

The end of Act One left me almost speechless. So emotional. So wonderful. And heart-wrenching.

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Book Review: First Love – Renewing Your Passion For God by Bill Bright

First Love: Renewing Your Passion for GodFirst Love: Renewing Your Passion for God by Bill Bright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you started off the new year with a resolution for getting closer to God or restoring your love for God, then you’ll like this book.  I’ve certainly enjoyed it immensely, and it was a great way to start off the new year.

I finished this book in less than two weeks (would have finished it sooner had I not gotten sick in the middle of it 😆) and it was really good. It’s less than 100 pages, so it’s a quick read. He makes so many great points that caused me to stop and ponder before continuing reading. It was a joy to read, and I breezed through the last 50 pages in one day.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“He submitted Himself to the most painful and degrading execution men could possibly inflict, just so He could offer His rescue from the kingdom of darkness to the very agents of His suffering. Even today, I feel deep emotion when I consider all that His death on the cross means to me. It might have been me at the foot of that cross, pounding iron nails into His wrists. Even so, He would offer me no less love, no less forgiveness.”

What a loving God. ❤

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Review: The Lost Art of True Beauty by Leslie Ludy

Hello all! 🙂 I just finished reading this book and WOW. 😍 This is a review that I wrote for Goodreads (trying out a new format for reviewing 😅):

The Lost Art of True Beauty: The Set-Apart Girl's Guide to Feminine GraceThe Lost Art of True Beauty: The Set-Apart Girl’s Guide to Feminine Grace by Leslie Ludy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend of mine gave this book to me for my birthday, and I enjoyed it so much! I think that this is a book that every woman, young or old, should read. It was very informative, telling how to exude a Christ-like femininity, not the femininity of the world. I wish I could give it more than five stars.

Leslie covers issues that many girls and women can relate to, such as peer pressure, fashion, eating disorders, body image, forgiveness, and even creating a Christ-like atmosphere in your home, room, or wherever you live. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Along with the quotes on the quote page, these quotes had an impact on me:

“The temptations of the world must not be looked at, listened to, or entertained even for the slightest moment.”

“She feels emotion at greater levels, but she is not a slave to her feelings.”

“If we live in a sloppy, disorganized environment with clothes strewn all over the floor and dishes piled in the sink, we are likely to feel chaotic, scattered, and sloppy as we go about our daily tasks.”

“The more you mull over it [an offense], and go over the scene in your mind, the more it has an opportunity to take root within your soul and plant deep seeds of bitterness.”

“However, though we are not to accept harassment from the enemy, we can still thank God for the opportunity to learn how to fight, pray, and be strengthened in our faith – just as it says in James 1.”

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Book Review: Christmas After All

People are losing jobs. Businesses are closing down. Willie Fae, a cousin from Texas, lost both of her parents and had to move to Indianapolis to live with Minnie’s family. (Minnie likes having a girl her own age around, though.) Her family is having to eat au gratin (which is French for “with cheese” and basically meant that they added potatoes and cheese to everything to make the food stretch farther) for dinner most nights. According to Minnie and Ozzie’s (Minnie’s brother) “vomitometric scale,” or “vomitron” for short, most au gratin dinners rate high, such as the cauliflower au gratin, which rated a solid 8 of 10 on the vomitous scale.

Times are hard. She knows, she has been to the shantytown (which they named Curtisville after the vice president of the time) before and seen people living in little shacks built out of old tires and scraps, burning whatever they can find in large tin barrels to keep warm. She knows that Christmas this year will be different, but she doesn’t know how different. Will they even be able to have a Christmas?

★★★★

(Now that I am on Goodreads, I will be sharing the number of stars that I give each book – soon I will try to connect my Goodreads account to my WordPress account and you’ll be able to see what I’m reading! 😉 In the meantime, if you want to see what I’m reading, here is a link to my Goodreads account: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/74692007-penelope-payne)

Without revealing too many spoilers, and keeping in mind that this is a children’s book: I was a bit surprised that the topic of suicide came up. Perhaps I haven’t read enough children’s books written in the 2000’s, but I’m not sure how I felt about this; I guess I expect a G rating in a children’s book. However, the reaction that Minnie had to it was believable, it was portrayed in the right light, and it was realistic to how it really was back then.

Speaking of how it was back then… I so enjoyed how there was a section at the end of the book that told about the things mentioned in the book, such as the radio programs, movie stars of the era, recipes for foods that they ate in the book (that were not on the vomitron scale!), and photos from back then. It added depth to the story, and I love it when books are educational. It was a really great read for Christmas. 🙂

This was my third Dear America book. The other two were So Far From Home (The Diary of an Irish Mill Girl) and Voyage On The Great Titanic. I plan to get a review up for So Far From Home after I reread it because it has been years since I read it. But I remember enjoying it.)

Titanic Talk + A Review of SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting

The R. M. S. Titanic sank 105 years ago today, and I think a lot can be learned from this tragedy. Here is a quote from my post a year ago:

I realize not everyone shares my interest in this historic disaster, but there is one aspect of it I’d like to touch upon. I saw a church sign years ago: “Men built the Titanic. God built the ark. Which one sank?” God had Noah build the ark, and did it sink? No. It stayed afloat for 40 days and 40 nights (and many months after the rains stopped). Noah had faith in God, not in himself.

In the back of Voyage on the Great Titanic, it has a timeline of events, and it amazes me how many things could have been prevented. People thought that the Titanic was unsinkable – they had such faith in their own works and were quite boastful and overconfident in themselves and the ship’s abilities – that they ignored the many warnings that could have possibly saved the great ship. (The book also says that the overworked telegraph operator even responded to one of the ships sending ice warnings, telling them to “shut up”.) In addition, they were so confident that the ship would not sink, that they didn’t install nearly enough lifeboats to even attempt to save all of the passengers who were on board. Proverbs 13:10: “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” The story of the R. M. S. Titanic is so sad. If only the people had not been so arrogant, maybe the Titanic could have been saved. But I guess we will never know.


SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting

When Barry is sent aboard the Titanic to go be with his parents in New York, it looks like it will be just a lonely journey across the Atlantic. His archenemies, the Flynn brothers, are in steerage while he is in first class, so he hoped that this would keep them at bay. Just when he begins to feel safe, he hears rumors of icebergs…

In a terrified rush of imagination, Barry saw the way the stars would see it. The way God would see it. Lying there big and black and helpless. A great sea creature, bellowing its death cries.

S.O.S. Titanic by Eve Bunting

My second post ever on this blog was about the Titanic. I included two book reviews for children’s books that took place on the ship. This year, I chose another children’s book, and I wasn’t disappointed! It was mostly clean. Not much filthy language (one word was used a couple of times at the end, which I could have done without, but it didn’t bother me enough to stop reading), no adult topics – it was a fun read. 🙂