“The Joy of Being Mom” Review & Giveaway (ends 5/31/21)

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Recently, The BlogAbout Blogger Network sent me the perfect read for May (you know, Mother’s Day)! I received two copies of Judy Brisky’s The Joy of Being Mom. One copy is for me to give away to a FINCHNWREN reader! This was a wonderful and faith-building read. Let me tell you more!

About The Joy of Being Mom

Author Judy Brisky has written a book that’s appropriate for moms in any stage of parenting, from infant (well, really, even during pregnancy) all the way through our kids’ adult lives. The Joy of Being Mom contains 11 chapters on life, parenting, motherhood, marriage, and the Christian faith; and also about how God is right there for us in our mothering, every step of the way. Each chapter includes wisdom, instruction, ideas, and even stories of Judy’s own life experiences and how she walked through them. At the end of each chapter is a short but rich study guide (including a brief chapter review, applicable Bible verses, questions, “Heart Connectors,” and a prayer), as well as a coloring page for Bible journaling lovers!

Judy is a mother of 5 (three children in heaven, and two adult sons), mother-in-love to two daughters-in-love, and grandmother to Poppy (who’s also in heaven). She and her husband Mike spent years on the professional golf tour circuit; Judy homeschooled their two boys and Mike golfed as they raised their family. Those boys are now adults. Judy and Mike have been married for over 30 years and are now involved in ministry at Gateway Church. So, Judy is especially able to speak on many seasons of a mom’s life!

In The Joy of Being Mom, Judy’s Christian faith, joy in the journey of the mom life, and desire to share wisdom with other mothers shines on every page. Readers will get to hear about the way Mike and Judy came to faith and met God; how the Bible impacted their parenting and enduring the losses of three children; and how to live in the moment and enjoy their family relationships. There’s so much that moms at any point of their lives (even once the children are grown and have left the house) will benefit enormously. Judy’s voice is also delightful; she speaks to readers as if they are women she has come alongside to love and cherish. All of that makes The Joy of Being Mom a bright and refreshing read.

What I learned–and loved–about this book

One of my favorite things about books that come out of Gateway Publishing is this: while the authors teach and instruct on Scripture, life experience, and ministry, the books are always uplifting, encouraging, and never heavy or judgmental. I may definitely feel, while I’m reading, that God has instructions or corrections for me; but I never feel like I’m being shamed or condemned, or that the authors are putting burdens on me that are too heavy for me to carry. What a relief! And Judy Brisky’s book has all those same qualities. It was lovely to read.

I loved her reminders that our words have an enormous impact on our children. Are we speaking life over them? Or are we criticizing their flaws without offering them ways to improve? Her words on timing and lovingkindness in our speaking and teaching are on point and really able to instruct moms.

She shares a story from the life of Jesus that beautifully illustrates the heart we can have as we raise our kids. Although Jesus was the Son of God, He laid aside His position in order to lovingly serve the disciples, even to the point of washing their dirty feet. Amazing.

Judy also knows that a mother’s days are both full and sometimes…long. She found herself that putting her faith and reliance on God each day helped her to walk through those days with grace and love, instead of quick tempers or irritation. In addition, she shares tons of practical suggestions that enable moms to handle the responsibilities of life, like chore charts, teaching kids to communicate with grace, and staying involved in the Bible as individuals and as a family.

I’d love to tell you everything that I loved about this book and its wisdom. But I’m also a person who hates to give spoilers! So instead, I’m going to share some of my favorite quotes. Here they are:

  • “…He knows exactly what kind of mother your children need…God equips every mother with the specific tools she needs to help her children grow into loving, mature adults.”
  • “One of the most important things we can teach our children is that mistakes do not lessen God’s love for us or our love for each other. Love is not something we have to earn, nor is it something we have to worry about losing.”
  • “Listen to your children and thank them for sharing with you. Let them know that what they have to say matters and is important to you.”
  • “When you think there’s nowhere to go and the dim light at the end of the tunnel has faded away, He will be your Light. He will show you “a pathway no one knew was there.” Whether this pathway is one of healing, restoration, or guidance, it will bring you to the heart of God. It will guide you to the place of knowing that your heavenly Father loves you, takes care of you, and is always faithful to you, even when you don’t understand.”
  • “Don’t be discouraged if there is an area of weakness in your life. We are all in the process of learning, growing, and healing. Go to the Father and ask Him to help you.”

More than anything else, I love that while Judy Brisky has tons of wonderful ideas and perspectives to share with moms, a major theme in her book is that God LOVES us all so much, and that He is ALWAYS ready to help us, to share His lovingkindness with us, and to help us with our parenting and families. We are never alone; we have the God of all comfort on our side!

How you can enter to win your own copy of The Joy of Being Mom

The FINCHNWREN blog has one copy of he Joy of Being Mom to give away to one reader! Beginning at 9:00 a.m. EST on May 16, 2021, readers can enter to win this. Simply click on the “Enter here!” link below. That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways. Giveaway closes 5/31/21, and one winner will be selected to win. Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Terri Blackstock’s fabulous newest: “Aftermath” – A JustRead Blog Tour & Giveaway (ends 5/18/21)

Aftermath JustRead Blog Tour Welcome to the Blog Tour for Aftermath by Terri Blackstock, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


AftermathTitle: Aftermath Author: Terri Blackstock Publisher: Thomas Nelson Release Date: May 11, 2021 Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense/Thriller

This gripping new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock will leave you on the edge of your seat. A devastating explosion. Three best friends are at the venue just to hear their favorite band . . . but only one of them makes it out alive. A trunk full of planted evidence. When police stop Dustin with a warrant to search his trunk, he knows it’s just a mistake. He’s former military and owns a security firm. But he’s horrified when they find explosives, and he can’t fathom how they got there. An attorney who will risk it all for a friend. Criminal attorney Jamie Powell was Dustin’s best friend growing up. They haven’t spoken since he left for basic training, but she’s the first one he thinks of when he’s arrested. Jamie knows she’s putting her career on the line by defending an accused terrorist, but she’d never abandon him. Someone is framing Dustin to take the fall for shocking acts of violence . . . but why?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Christianbook | Bookbub


Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. She’s the author of If I Run, If I’m Found, and If I Live, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, Moonlighters, and the Restoration series. Visit her website at www.terriblackstock.com.

CONNECT WITH TERRI: Website | Facebook


(3) winners will receive a print copy of Aftermath by Terri Blackstock!

Aftermath JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight May 11, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 18, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

My review of Aftermath

Aftermath: (noun) Something that results or follows from an event, especially one of a disastrous or unfortunate nature; consequence. (from Dictionary.com)

In the aftermath of disaster, emergency personnel descend on the scene. They work rapidly to locate victims, remove survivors from dangerous situations, prevent further tragedies from occurring.

But what if the disaster is a crime scene? Then all those efforts still have to happen, but in addition, suspects must be located and secured so that no further harm is done. What happens, though, when the wrong guy is arrested?

In Atlanta, three people are going about their lives, unaware that those lives are about to be turned upside down. College student Taylor is at a concert/political appearance with her two best friends. Jamie, an attorney, plans to pick up her young daughter from her mother’s home, after a case is closed and her client is acquitted. Former U.S. military and current security consultant Dustin is driving alone, but is suddenly pulled over by a group of armed police and ATF agents. They demand to search his trunk. And what the officers find there shocks Dustin and impels them into action. Once he is booked, he contacts the only person he knows who might be able to help him: Jamie.

What follows is a fascinating tale that touches myriad aspects of the human experience: a suffering and perhaps dying spouse; guilt determined by the media rather than in a court of law; the joys of family and children; struggles with mental illness; revenge; and beneath all of those, the character of each individual that determines the actions taken and choices made. Will another innocent person be made to suffer in the aftermath of others’ decisions?

I was thrilled to discover that one of my favorite authors of inspirational suspense thrillers, Terri Blackstock, was releasing her next book. Aftermath is excellent! I loved reading this book about a good man arrested for a horrendous crime he didn’t commit, the childhood friend turned lawyer who fights to get him set free, and Taylor, a random young woman who got, so to speak, caught in the crossfire. Never predictable, and including challenges faced by real people today, this novel grabbed me from the first chapter. (In fact, I read it all in one day; it would have been in one sitting except I had to eat lunch!) I love Blackstock’s thrillers, and the faith that her characters either encounter or lean on to get through their difficulties. If you’re looking for an exciting novel that you won’t be able to put down, Aftermath is the book for you!

Sound amazing?

Well, the publisher has provided a sample chapter for you to read! Just click on this LINK if you’d like to check it out! Once you’re on the Aftermath page, scroll down a bit and you’ll see a spot where you can click on the book cover to read a chapter. I’m certain you’ll find it compelling!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis” – A JustRead Blog & Giveaway (ends 5/11/21)

Finding Uncle Newton JustRead Blog Tour Welcome to the Blog Tour for Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis by Douglas P. Cornelius, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Finding Uncle NewtonTitle: Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis Author: Douglas P. Cornelius Publisher: Gatekeeper Press Release Date: March 15, 2021 Genre: Middle Grade/Teen Historical Fiction (age 13-17)

She is outgoing, but orphaned. He is introverted, but a world-renowned scientist. Would moving in with Uncle Isaac Newton work? When his head was always in a book or the Bible? Teen-aged Catherine Barton tries desperately to connect, so seeks a match for her energy in the London coffeehouses. That women were not welcome there in the late 1690’s would not stop her, and she does find promising boyfriend John. Meanwhile, Uncle Isaac, as new Warden of the Mint, has his own challenges—nabbing counterfeiters, including the notorious, William Chaloner. He enlists Catherine to spy at the coffeehouse, and she welcomes the bond—all until boyfriend John gets implicated in a counterfeiting scheme. Then a case of smallpox, a pandemic scourge that had killed millions just decades earlier, sends her off to dreaded isolation in the countryside. And Uncle Isaac’s battle to nab the devious Chaloner turns into a challenging chess match. Will famous scientist Newton be embarrassed by a scofflaw from the street? Will Catherine ever find her true connection? Based on actual historical events and people. Author is a prior recipient of Moonbeam and Illumination Awards for books for faith-driven teens.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound


Douglas Cornelius

Illumination and Moonbeam award-winning author Douglas P. Cornelius hails from the Twin Cities, MN. He began writing after careers at Target, Ameriprise, and 3M. A Cornell University graduate, his hope is to reveal the lives of impactful Christian figures through story, rather than biography. Doug has been married for 45 years and has two children, three grandchildren, cat Selah, and new puppy Scout.



(1) winner will receive a print copy of Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis, winner’s choice of another book by the author, and a $25 Amazon gift card!

Finding Uncle Newton JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight May 4, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 11, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

My review

Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis provides middle-grade and teen readers with a glimpse into the life of scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Set in England in the late 1600s and peopled with actual historical figures, this book tells the story of what might have happened when his orphaned niece, Catherine Barton, came to live with him after “aging” out of the orphanage she lived in (at age 16!). Imagine a vibrant, extroverted teen moving into her uncle’s home; her uncle who had a brilliant scientific mind, a vigorous Christian faith, and…a temper.

While her Uncle Isaac had already published his masterwork Principia Mathematica when Catherine came to live with him, both his scientific and faith explorations were far from over. The monarchy had faced immense difficulties with England’s economy, and these difficulties were exacerbated by large counterfeiting operations, when bogus coins were struck and used as legal tender. To help solve this crisis, Newton was appointed Warden of the Mint and tasked with finding and arresting the counterfeiters.

In Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis, young readers will meet a number of actual people who lived in Newton’s time and interacted with the scientist and, perhaps, his niece, such as:

  • Edmund (sometimes spelled Edmond) Halley
  • Captain William Phips
  • Counterfeiter William Chalmoner
  • Newgate prisoner Cecilia Labree
  • Colonial poet Anne Bradstreet
  • and more

In addition, author Douglas Cornelius also includes excerpts from actual letters in this book (although their 17th-century language has been updated for today’s readers).

Sir Isaac Newton is one of my favorite scientists of all time. His exceptional scientific discoveries still affect us and inform our understanding of astronomy and science today. Many people might be surprised to learn that he investigated the Bible and the realm of faith just as intensely. Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis is an engaging story about Newton and his niece Catherine, who deeply desires to be loved and valued. Newton’s pursuit of England’s counterfeiters while serving as Warden of the Mint provides a wonderful, and true, spy story. I so enjoyed the way Cornelius wove the actual letters and statements of counterfeiter Chalmoner into this tale (proving yet again that people really haven’t changed much over the years). Readers will gain a wonderful insight not only into Newton’s faith, and into his ideas and discoveries as well.

Finding Uncle Newton and his Nemesis is a fantastic read for teens, and also, I’d believe, for late elementary-aged students. This book could be enjoyed either as a reader or a family read-aloud.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“Begotten” – A JustRead Blog + Review Tour (plus giveaway, ends 5/4/21)

Begotten JustRead Blog + Review Tour

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Begotten Title: Begotten Series: The Gifted Trilogy #1 Author: Lisa T. Bergren Publisher: BCG Press Release Date: April 26, 2021 Genre: Christian, Supernatural Suspense Begotten is an edited, new edition of a novel previously released in 2006, The Begotten. At the height of the Inquisition, a secret half a millennium old is about to be exposed—a lost letter believed to have been written by Saint Paul but never part of the Christian canon. The letter speaks of men and women—the Gifted—with profound spiritual gifts that will strike fear in the heart of a Church dedicated to maintaining power. Now the letter has surfaced and the Gifted are gathering. But so are their enemies… PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Christianbook


Lisa T. Bergren

Lisa T. Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 60 books in a variety of genres, from children’s picture books to contemporary romance to supernatural suspense novels. She lives in Colorado Springs in a brand-new home she and her husband just finished building and intend to never leave, because she’s discovered she loathes moving. You can find out more about her at LisaTBergren.com

CONNECT WITH LISA: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


(1) winner will receive a signed print copy of Begotten, a custom Gifted candle, and a $50 Amazon gift card!

Begotten JustRead giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight April 27, 2021 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on May 4, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

My review of Begotten

Gianni de Capezzana: knight of the Church, strong and courageous in his faith as he and his men seek to track down the Sorcerer, who is a murderer, destroyer, and ensnarer of the unwary.

Father Piero: transient priest, preacher of the Gospel of Christ, holder of a prophetic illuminated document, that foretells three who will bring life, healing, and faith to those in need.

Lady Daria d’Angelo: member of a noble Siena family famous for their weaving, who’s abiding in a convent after a broken engagement. She hopes to heal her own heart, not knowing that God has given her an unusual gift for healing others.

These three, although they don’t know it yet, are part of the Gifted, a group of Christians who’ve been brought together to share the gifts of the Spirit in a time when the Church was generally the only possessor of the Bible and the only groups and individuals authorized to speak of God and His directions. Yet a battle has begun between two sides that will engage them all, heart and soul, and draw others into a spiritual and physical fight between good and evil. Will they be able to stand against such a powerful enemy, with weapons that are spiritual, as they seek to save the lost and the broken?

Lisa Bergren’s exceptional gift for storytelling brings the struggle between the God and His children and the forces of darkness to life with appealing and varied characters. Life in Italy, in the 1300s, is captured vividly; readers can picture cathedrals, cobblestoned plazas, and walled castles as well as the challenges of existence in the Middle Ages. Just as powerfully, Bergren describes the lives of individuals called to follow God and gifted for His amazing purposes in this novel about Daria, Piero, Gianni, the Sorcerer, and others, and the forces aligned on both sides. This exciting book is the first in The Gifted series, with two more to come.

If you love a fantastic story, engaging characters, and inspirational fiction, you’ll love Begotten. Just be prepared for a wonderful, if sometimes frightening, tale of good and its fight against evil!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Irene Hannon’s new novel: “Blackberry Beach” (a Revell Reads review)

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Hi everyone! I recently received a new Hope Harbor book from Revell Reads to share with you. Irene Hannon writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels, with faith as one of the key ingredients. Her newest book, Blackberry Beach, returns to the town of Hope Harbor, where new characters meet the lovely beachside town as well as old favorites from the series.

In earlier years, Katherine Parker had visited Blackberry Beach and loved its beauty, simplicity, and of course, the nearby ocean whose sound and rhythm permeated the village. So when her challenging and demanding career drives her to a moment when she knows that she needs some peace and quiet, she rents an oceanside cottage and settles in. She loves the secluded area and finds much to enjoy. The blackberry bushes, Charley’s food truck, with its incredible fish tacos, and an empty beach to stroll daily help her to catch her breath.

Zach Garrett would probably understand her perspective. After loss, he’s moved to Hope Harbor and started a new career with his own gourmet coffee shop. He has become a talented and artsy barista and loves the locals, and his coffee shop attracts both residents and visiting tourists. When a lovely woman buys a latte but doesn’t respond to his friendly conversation, preferring to hide behind her oversized sunglasses, he’s intrigued…but respectful. He’d love to find out more about her though. In a non-stalker-y way. He’s even more interested to discover that the woman is his near neighbor on the beach.

Katherine’s and Zach’s lives couldn’t be more different; yet underneath, they both lack, and hope for, some of the same things. But to find out if they might be compatible, they’ll have to have a real conversation. Personal hobbies, a volunteer opportunity, and maybe even the fish taco truck’s owner might help them along the way.

Irene Hannon’s contemporary romance is a gentle story that shows both the importance of human connection and the challenges of dating in this day and age, for adults of many ages! Her characters are appealing and interesting. Hope Harbor and its adjacent Blackberry Beach are described so beautifully that the reader will actually be able to see and imagine the luscious blackberries, smell the lavender, and mentally taste the truffles, as they follow Zach’s and Katherine’s journeys. And anyone who’s struggled with the questions of “Is God really good?” or “Can he be trusted with my hopes and dreams?” will appreciate the characters’ walks of faith.

Pick up this book if you’d like a lovely romance set on the beach, to visit Hope Harbor, and to remember God’s lovingkindness!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Blackberry Beach from Revell Reads. All opinions included here are my own.

Vooks-a brand-new way for kids to read! (giveaway ends 4/28/21)

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Recently, I had the opportunity to check out Vooks, a new way for kids to engage with reading storybooks online! Momentum Influencers provided a Vooks membership to me, plus another one-year Vooks subscription to give away to one FINCHNWREN reader!

What is Vooks?

Vooks is a streaming storybook service for families, and especially for kids. It provides unlimited streaming, is kid-safe, and includes no ads. Vooks’ library of storybooks is full of classic tales and new stories. Books can be downloaded or viewed while streaming on platforms such as Roku, Apple, AppleTV, AmazonFire TV, and more, on tablets, phones, and tv.

Vooks also includes free printable lesson plans to go with books! These might have a book summary, questions, and fun activities for kids and parents to engage with. Kids can color, draw, make foldable cubes, and learn as they’re completing fun activities. This is a wonderful resource for parents or teachers to use, especially during the time of corona.

Books are available for the preschool set all the way through elementary-aged students. Vooks covers a lot of subject matter in their books as well! Art, science, technology; colorful kid dictionaries, nature books, and seasons; creativity, biographies, and character qualities are just a few of the many categories kids can read about. Classic book titles like Curious George or The Mitten and book collections from Class Dojo and Dream Big are some of the many readers will find.

How does Vooks work?

Each book on the Vooks website contains the original book’s illustrations, vividly reproduced and animated in the digital book. When a reader clicks on a book selection, they can see a summary of the book, its category (art, biography, etc.), and the number of minutes it will take to complete the book. All the books are read aloud by interesting voice actors who help bring the book to life. The book’s “pages” turn automatically to match up to what the speaker is reading. All the beauty of children’s books is reproduced faithfully to provide a wonderful, engaging storytime read-aloud for kids, as the books’ original illustrations animate to match the story.

When parents sign up for their membership (and later, I’ll provide a link for a free 30-day membership you can try out!), they can set up profiles for their children. The Vooks home page allows readers to click on their profile avatar, which will take them to books arranged for them. From there, kids or parents can scroll through the book titles, click on one they’re interested in, and listen/view!

Each book’s “cover” contains a blue “Watch” button that can be clicked on to start the book, pause it, or resume. Readers can like books by clicking on hearts over the books, which will add them to the user’s favorites list. There is also a “Details” tab on each book that states its intended audience (e.g., 2-8), author, illustrator, and release date. As each word of the story (printed on each page) is read aloud, its letters go from gray (unread) to black (read), so kids can also be connecting words as spelling with their auditory versions.

What books will you find in the Vooks streaming service?

So many! I’ve already mentioned Curious George (you’ll find several of those) and The Mitten (with gorgeous new illustrations). There are books about science (Earth Yay!, Physics Animated, Shells: A Pop-Up Book of Wonder), Caldecott Award winner What Do You Do With a Tail?, and so much more. Here are some of my personal favorites!

  • Inventors Who Changed the World
  • Hats Are NOT for Cats!
  • The Road Less Traveled
  • Hattie Peck
  • The Very Cold, Freezing, No Number Day
  • A Dog By Any Other Name is Not the Same
  • Luis and Tabitha
  • and more!

There are books for preschool kids, kindergartners, elementary-ages. There are dictionary-ish books with vivid illustrations for the kid reader. There are books about cultures of the world, and about tons of animals. There are bedtime books and counting books. Just an abundance of riches for the reading family!

My impressions

Charming. Wonderful! Such an engaging experience!

We don’t have early readers at home at the moment. But what an incredible addition to our lives Vooks would have been, when we did! We spent many, many hours reading aloud, from the time our son was an infant, all the way up to family read-alouds in his upper grades. Picture books, chapter books, novels and nonfiction reads, all enriched our family as a whole and as individuals. I would have loved to have had Vooks to add to our family’s reading experiences!

Vooks brings children’s books to life so vividly and beautifully. Yes, children can use it on their own. But I venture to guess that parents will want to join in as well! The illustrations are gorgeous and the animation brings them gently to life in a way that adds richness and delight to the stories. The voice actors are so talented yet never distract from the story. And musical compositions add to the flow of the experience.

I recommend Vooks so highly to you, if you have kids ranging from preschool to elementary age. Vooks can add more reading and beauty to your kids’ lives, and to your family as a whole.

How to get your own free 30-day subscription—and enter to win a year’s sub!

Vooks has graciously made a free 30-day subscription of their streaming service available toFINCHNWREN readers. You can try Vooks free for 30 days! Go to VOOKS to sign up! 

And, you can enter to win a year’s subscription to Vooks as well! To enter this giveaway, simply click on the “Enter here!” link below. That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways. Giveaway closes 4/28/21. One winner will win a year’s subcription to Vooks. Best wishes!

Enter here!

If you don’t happen to be the winner of the FINCHNWREN Vooks giveaway, just click on Vooks to purchase your own.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: Many thanks to Vooks for providing this product/product information for review.  Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

“Empty Nest, Full Life” – a review

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I had the enormous privilege of experiencing Jill Savage’s wisdom for life in her exceptional new book for empty nesters. The Blog About Blogger Network sent me a copy of Empty Nest, Full Life and I’ve loved every moment of reading this book. If you are in, or are preparing for the time of life when your children are grown and have entered their own adult lives, you will want to grab a copy of this book!

About Empty Nest, Full Life

Being the mom of kids who range from the ages of infant to high school graduate tends to create a full, busy life. Eventually, those kids are going to go off to college (or other educational institutions), pursue careers, and move out of the homes they’ve grown up in. Making that transition can feel overwhelming, sad, and without a clear path to follow. How can moms, and dads, step into such a different life with grace, courage, and wisdom, while not trying to hang onto or control their adult children? Empty Nest, Full Life is subtitled “Discovering God’s Best for Your Next,” and that sums up a fantastic perspective outlined in this book for parents as they step into the new chapter of their lives without kids at home.

Author Jill Savage covers a lot of ground in this 277-page softcover book. Suddenly, our full houses can feel very empty. How is our thought life coping with all that empty space in our physical home and our schedules? It’s so important that we are thinking truthfully as we move through this transition. Right away, in the first chapter, Jill offers help for moms in this process, including lies we might believe and truths to replace them, and a questionnaire to help readers assess what we’ve experienced and learned over the years. This powerful chapter assists readers to begin to step into what Jill calls the “encore” years on a solid foundation.

Much of this book deals with relationships. How do we learn to interact with our grown children as they begin their own adult life journeys? Our roles will change, but much of the success of those parent/adult child relationships lies with the parents’ expectations and willingness to release control and authority as their kids are stepping out into their own marriages, careers, and parenting. Jill divides the book into two major sections: “Let Go” and “Hold On.” For us to move successfully into this new segment of our lives, there are habits, thought patterns, and traditions or opinions that, if we choose to lay them aside, will enable us (and our kids!) to move on in a beautiful and healthy way. There may also be idols that we have set up that would try to drag us down. Wouldn’t it be amazing to identify those and kick them out?

Jill’s picture of the lives empty nesters can lead is full of wonder and excitement. We may not feel wonderful nor excited when our kids move out! But we can embrace, or as the author says, “Hold On,” to what God has for us. Just because a particular (and important) season of our lives is past, doesn’t mean that God is finished with us! He may have a new career, or mission field, ahead for us. We may have had a list of things that we’d like to do “someday.” What if “someday” has suddenly become now? This season is also a time where we can pursue new friendships as well as new paths in our marriages, if we are married. And God is still there, desiring to continue or have a rich and loving relationship with us! Truly, there can be many adventures ahead.

My favorite moments in Empty Nest, Full Life

You can see from the banner above, if you look very closely to the right of the book, all the little flags and sticky notes I used to mark important things I wanted to practice or remember. My highlighter pens got quite a workout as well! You see, I’ve been out on this empty nest journey myself for almost an entire school year while our son has been in his college dorm. I’ve personally experienced so many changes myself! From learning to release him so that he can grow in confidence and authority; to keeping my (often very strong) opinions to myself when they won’t really add much to our conversations; to starting out to learn what God has for me in this next season of my life. So I’d say that, while I’ve learned many things over the last 8 months, there is still much for me to learn and walk into, and Jill’s wonderful book has opened my eyes to many things I’d never considered. Here are some of the most memorable quotes for me:

  • “As you adjust your expectations to better match reality or let go of expectations of others completely, you’ll find your contentment will increase, your love will expand, and your relationship with your…kids will be strengthened.” (p. 47)
  • “Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) tell us we experience “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” The fruits we particularly need as we fight the temptation to share our opinions when they’re not requested are love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.” (p. 65)
  • “It’s being a safe person to be honest with–one who listens, shows compassion and empathy, and leads with love…It’s not about lecturing or telling them what to do.” (p. 105)
  • “He is a good God with good plans for us. He wants what’s best for us. His plans are hope-filled and yet-to-come. This means we have something to anticipate.” (p.136)
  • “You and I have to steward this body God has given us. Take care of it. Keep it healthy.” (p. 227)

And that’s just a tiny sampling of the richness moms can find as they are preparing for and entering God’s next steps in their journey.

In closing

My life this year, since our son has stepped out on his college adventure, has been quite a learning experience! I have seen God bring so many books to my attention that have helped me to heal, to grow, and to work with Him as He leads our family as a whole and individually. I have to say that Jill Savage’s Empty Nest, Full Life has been an incredible encouragement and instruction manual for me! As a wife and mom of 5 who have grown to adulthood and left her home, Jill has an enormous bounty of wisdom and helps for those on their own similar journey. It has been a wise and beautiful help for me.

I recommend Empty Nest, Full Life to you if you’re on your own empty nest path, or if you’re approaching it. You’ll find Jill to be a wonderful friend and guide to you, with God’s help, as you walk out this new season. Do get yourself a copy!

Where you can find Jill Savage

Jill is active on social media so you can connect with her there!

Jill Savage blog

Facebook: @jillsavage.author

Twitter: @jillsavage

Instagram: @jillsavage.author

Empty Nest, Full Life website

Enjoy! –Wren

DISCLOSURE: From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service, for which we share our honest opinions on our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

“Downsizing” – A JustRead Blog & Review Tour (closed)

Downsizing JustRead Blog + Review Tour Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Downsizing by Lin Stepp, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Downsizing Title: Downsizing Series: Mountain Home Books #2 Author: Lin Stepp Publisher: Mountain Hill Press Release Date: April 1, 2021 Genre: Clean/Sweet Contemporary Romance

Forced to suddenly downsize her life, and not by choice, pushes Mary Pat Latham to give up all that is familiar, to reexamine her life in every area, and to eventually open her heart to new beauty and purpose, instead of only looking back in regret.

At midlife, Mary Pat Latham has an almost perfect life—a successful husband, a beautiful home, four fine grown children, and a wealth of meaningful activities and social clubs to fill her days—so it’s a total shock when her husband walks in one day and says he wants a divorce. As if hearing a stranger talking in her own kitchen, Mary Pat listens to Russell’s reasons for wanting to abandon their long marriage and to his plans, already in place, to sell their home and move on. What will she do? Where will she go? She hasn’t worked since the children were born, her life wrapped up in home and family. Stunned, Mary Pat heads to the small mountain home she and Russell bought from her parents years ago, too shocked and humiliated to face her friends or anyone she knows right now. Owen McCarter knew he’d need to stop by the old Jennings place, on some pretense or other, after Wheeler told him he’d seen a woman up there acting sick. After all, the house was next door to his at the end of Highland Drive. When he knocked on the front door later, it took him a minute to recognize Mary Pat, weeping and so different from the girl he’d known in childhood and fallen in love with. Owen reached out in friendship, of course, seeing Mary Pat so upset, but he felt surprised at the old memories that touched him, too. Hearing her problems and learning why she’d come to the mountains, Owen knew it unlikely she’d stay for long after the more lavish life she’d known. But he couldn’t help wishing she would. Another Lin Stepp novel set in the Smoky Mountains … with a special “Downsizing Diet” available free to readers as a book supplement.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository



Lin Stepp

image credit Katie Riley

Lin Stepp is a New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon best-selling international author, A native Tennessean, businesswoman, and former faculty member at Tusculum College, Lin has twenty-one published books, including her beloved Smoky Mountain and Mountain Home novels, all set in different Tennessee and North Carolina locations, plus a novella A Smoky Mountain Gift in one of Kensington’s Christmas anthologies.

Stepp’s latest novels, set around the Smoky Mountains, are Downsizing (2021) and Happy Valley (2019). Lin also has three novels set on the South Carolina coast in her Edisto Trilogy: Claire at Edisto (2019), Return to Edisto (2020) and Edisto Song (2021). Lin and her husband J.L. also write regional guidebooks, including a Smoky Mountain hiking guide and two state parks guidebooks for Tennessee and South Carolina.

Lin’s title Claire At Edisto was the 2019 Best Books Award Winner in Fiction: Romance, sponsored by American Book Fest, her novel Welcome Back a finalist in the 2017 Selah Awards, and Lin and her husband’s guidebook Discovering Tennessee State Parks a 2019 Best Books Award Finalist in Nonfiction: Travel Guides with American Book Fest.

Lin enjoys hiking and exploring out of doors and she loves speaking for events, festivals, libraries, and book clubs and sharing about her work and interests through her monthly blog and newsletter, both on her website at: http://www.linstepp.com

CONNECT WITH LIN: Website | Facebook | Twitter


(1) winner will receive a Tennesee gift pack including a print copy of Downsizing by Lin Stepp, The Afternoon Hiker and Discovering Tennessee State Parks by J.L. & Lin Stepp, and a Great Smoky Mountains National Park pocket guide!

Downsizing JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight April 5, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on April 12, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

My review of Downsizing

Mary Pat has had a lovely, decades-long marriage. Her husband is a surgeon. They’ve raised four wonderful children and live in a nice home in a well-to-do neighborhood. Her days are filled with clubs and volunteering. She’s frosting a cake for a meeting when her husband Russell comes home, sits across from her in the kitchen, and tells her he wants a divorce and that he’s already got an offer for their home. (And also, by the way, that she’s put on too much weight.) To say she’s shocked would be an understatement.

Heartsick, Mary Pat takes her dog and flees to her parents’ home in the Tennessee mountains, where she grew up. Her first few weeks aren’t that awesome. Grieving her upcoming divorce, she is also reminded (quite rudely) by several people that she is not the fit, slender twirler she was in college. In fact, she’s quite overweight.

She also has a run-in with…a bear.

City life did not prepare her for all this trauma! But Mary Pat does find kindness in a nearby neighbor, an also-divorced high school former boyfriend, Owen, who has returned to the mountains to work and live near his sister and father. Mary Pat is most definitely not interested in a relationship, especially after discovering that Russell plans to remarry right after their divorce is final.

But, life is full of changes. And there are indeed changes ahead for Mary Pat. Faith, hope, and perhaps even love are ahead of her as she sets out to rebuild her broken life and discard the weights that have held her down and back.

Downsizing captures the down-home beauty and comfort of life in the Tennessee mountains. It reminds readers that new dreams can be built after old ones are swept away. Also, that our faithful God is still there even when people fail us; and that while not all people are trustworthy, sometimes we find faithful friends where we’d least expect them. In fact, my favorite quote in the book mentions the encouragement we can find in community: “…but when you’re around people of strong faith, it builds your own faith up. I read a quote once that said you can only be lifted up to higher ground by people who walk there.”

Words for Mary Pat to live by…and for us as well!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“No Unturned Stone” – A JustRead Blog & Review Tour (closed)

No Stone Unturned JustRead Blog + Review Tour Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for No Unturned Stone by David James Warren, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


The continuing adventures of Rembrandt Stone from the creative minds of James L. Rubart, Susan May Warren, and newcomer David Curtis Warren, writing collectively as David James Warren.

No Unturned StoneTitle: No Unturned Stone Series: The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone #2 Author: David James Warren Publisher: TriStone Media Release Date: April 6, 2021 Genre: Time Travel Detective Series

The One Rule Is, Don’t Mess With The Past But he did, and now ex-detective Rembrandt Stone is reaping the devastation of ignoring those words when he traveled back in time to solve the one case that had haunted his dreams. Yes, he solved the crime. Yes, he saved lives. But Rembrandt returns to find the unthinkable has happened and his life has shattered. There’s only one answer: break the rule again. Go back in time once more, fix what went wrong, save what went right, and yeah, in his spare time solve another brutal crime. But it’s not so easy to change time, especially when time turns you into a target. And of course there’s the strong possibility if he goes again, he’ll never get back. Get ready for your mind to be blown in Book 2 of the time-travel suspense series, The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble




James L. Rubart, Susan May Warren, David Curtis Warren

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 http://jameslrubart.com/

CONNECT WITH JAMES: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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 traveling and telling stories about life, adventure, and faith. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com. CONNECT WITH SUSAN: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 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.


(1) winner will receive a print copy of Cast the First Stone & No Unturned Stone!

No Unturned Stone JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight April 6, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on April 13, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

About No Unturned Stone

What if you were able to visit the past, to right a wrong or solve a crime?

And…what if you did that but when you returned to your own timeline, you’d lost all that you valued in your life?

That is Rembrandt Stone’s story. In Cast the First Stone, the first book in THE TRUE LIES OF REMBRANDT STONE series, Rembrandt is given a special watch that enables him to return to the past, where he solves a cold case. When No Unturned Stone begins, he has returned to his own time. And he’s lost everything. His wife. His daughter. In addition, apparently he’s begun a love affair with alcohol.

There are new tragedies everywhere. But, Rem thinks, he can fix this! He’s got the watch, he’ll just go back in time and undo the things that he messed up before.

Before he can head back, Rembrandt and his boss (and sparring partner) Burke have a series of cases to solve. In fact, Rembrandt is the head of the police task force to find a serial killer. But Rem is a wreck. He has bounced back into a present that bears little resemblance to the one he’d been in before the watch took him back and he’s having a lot of trouble recognizing what is apparently his life. He is a mess. He can see the evidence, but has no idea what events transpired to get him here.

But, there is a crime victim who survived the serial killer’s attack. There’s a press conference to announce the latest on the crimes to the media. There is also a watchmaker, Art, that Rem believes can help him to get his life back in order; but when he visits the old man, he finds another life that has been dramatically altered.

Art has some time travel wisdom to impart. Could it be possible to create a rewrite? The alternative is an empty life Rembrandt can’t imagine. So returning to the past is clearly the only hope for the detective. Still, it’s hope where he had no hope before.

If he can only rewrite a past that brings his marriage and his child back.

My thoughts

No Unturned Stone is a fantastic, nail-biter of a story. I could not put it down. If I hadn’t known that it was written by three authors working together, I’d never have imagined that it wasn’t written by only one person! The style is spare yet vivid; it’s definitely a detective story/police procedural (one of my favorite genres). Yet the fantasy elements of time travel are woven in quite naturally. The two styles combine beautifully to provide a suspenseful and eventful novel with appealing characters.

Rembrandt is a fascinating narrator. And he really does desire to do what is right. The trouble is, while he knows how to be a detective and a friend, he is woefully ignorant about how to be a successful time-traveler. He really believes he can make the wrongs right. But he’s missing the owner’s manual on the watch that tells him everything to do…and not do.

Most of us have probably thought that, if we only had a time machine, we could fix this or that problem or event from our pasts. But anyone who has watched a time travel or science fiction film knows that the space-time continuum is delicate and fragile; one tiny difference can alter history or civilization, as well as individual lives. Rembrandt has all the right hopes and dreams, but what will his actions accomplish…or destroy? Read No Unturned Stone and find out!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“Unknown Threat” by Lynn H. Blackburn (a review)

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Hi there!

If you love inspirational suspense thrillers, you’ll love the new Lynn H. Blackburn book I just finished! Revell Reads sent me a print copy of Unknown Threat. It had engaging characters, fascinating suspense, and an appealing story. I couldn’t put it down!

Luke and Zane are out for their Monday morning run. They used to run as a trio; with their friend and fellow Secret Service agent Thad. But Thad was gone and now it was just the two of them. They lost Thad when his car exploded as he turned the ignition one night. There are no clues, and there is no explanation for the crime. But the guys are trying to move forward even as they mourn the loss of their friend.

As they finish their run around the lake and head back toward the parking lot, a shot rings out; and Zane falls to the ground. Luke dives to the asphalt beside him. Zane is hit, but still alive. Shots continue to echo and both are injued. Then, something all too familiar happens again; Zane’s car explodes. Luke and Zane survive but other agents aren’t so lucky. Who could possibly be targeting the Secret Service in its Raleigh, North Carolina office?

FBI agent Faith Malone is put in charge of the investigation. Faith, and her boss, believe that Luke’s and Zane’s attack is connected to Thad’s murder earlier. But they have no idea who is seeking to decimate the agents. There have been no trips to North Carolina by the president or the vice president. And other agents are now under attack. Then, they discover that there was a woman in the car with Thad in the explosion. A woman that was not his wife.

Faith and Luke, who’s recovering from his own injury, are desperate to protect the other agents and discover who’s behind the shootings and explosions. Could it be the head of the local mafia? They reach out to confidential informants, other agents, and the medical examiner’s office. There just don’t seem to be any clues they can follow.

Before the investigation is over, an incredible story of loss, lies, love, and crime will be revealed. And Faith and Luke may discover, despite their allied yet often-competing agencies, that they might be just right for each other romantically. But to pursue a romance, they’ve both got to survive an ever-deepening and extremely dangerous case. Will they be able to come out on the other side?

Lynn H. Blackburn is a master weaver of the suspense story. I loved all the characters and I was fascinated with the storyline. (I’m a definite fan of the police procedural, and this was such an exciting one!) I couldn’t have predicted the way things would have turned out; Blackburn kept me guessing til the very end. I was thrilled to find out that she has another novel coming out in this “Defend and Protect” series. I can’t wait, and I definitely recommend this book to you!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions are my own.