Monday, August 21, 2017

Courageous Love ~ A Book Review

The review was originally written for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine in May of this year. To read the original, click here.

Circle C Adventures, Circle C Milestones, susan marlow, horse stories

Courageous Love is the final episode of the Andrea Carter books. While it is the fourth book in the Circle C Milestones series, Susan K. Marlow has written about Andrea’s life since she was just six years old, and first nicknamed Andi, in the first book of the Circle C Beginnings series set in 1874 California. 

In Courageous Love, Andi is nearing her 17th birthday and has finally convinced her mother and older brothers to allow her to learn some trick riding from Riley Prescott, one of the Circle C Ranch’s hands. Andi and Riley have been friends for many years, as Riley’s uncle Sid has been the ranch foreman for as long as anyone cares to remember. After graduating school, Andi’s family has finally allowed her to work full time on the ranch, which has always been her dream.

Trouble starts at the Circle C as Riley and Andi find a cut barbed-wire fence. The fence is supposed to surround Andi’s brother Mitch’s black Angus heifer calves. Then more trouble appears that evening at her brother Chad’s engagement party at the Fresno House hotel in town. One thing is certain, the Carter family will not go down without a fight! Andi’s older brothers, including Justin, a lawyer who now lives in town, work to plan protection for the ranch, the livestock, and their families.

Each chapter in this 186 page paperback book begins with a thought, supposedly copied from Andi’s diary. Although this is a fictional story, Mrs. Marlow has done an excellent job of researching the everyday lives of people near Fresno, CA in the mid-1880’s, and including such exquisite details, that the characters and the places seem quite real. We have found this to be true of all of the Andrea Carter books, of which we have read quite a few. At one point in a previous book, my daughter commented “Mom, you know Mrs. Marlow is a good author when you find yourself cheering with, or crying alongside, the characters during the plot twists and turns.” I whole-heartedly agree!

After yet another attack on the Circle C Ranch, this one burning down their barn, the Carter family decides no one should be left alone. Because Justin needs to travel out of town for a court case, Andi is asked to stay in town with his wife Lucy and their small son Sammy. Lucy is suffering from morning sickness, and Andi’s family thinks it will be easier for Andi to recover the rest of her strength from the smoke she inhaled during the barn fire if she stays in town, instead of chomping at the bit to get back to ranch chores. Little do they know that the Mexican outlaw Procopio, that the Carter family helped identify and send to prison several years before, has escaped and is plotting his revenge on the family.

Andi, Lucy, and Sammy are kidnapped from town. Riley had been sent to town to check on them, but Procopio’s outlaws jump him, beat him, and then leave him for dead in Justin and Lucy’s shed. Then the outlaws fake the deaths of Lucy and Andi to throw any search party off their trail.

Will Riley recover soon enough to find them before the trail goes cold? Will Andi be brave and trust God to tell her what to do and when to do it to protect Lucy and Sammy? Will Procopio ever be brought to justice? Find the answers to these and many more plot twists when you read Courageous Love for yourself!

Both Arlene, aged 16, and I enjoyed this action-filled adventure novel immensely. Besides being an excellent author, Mrs. Marlow loves to interact with her readers of all ages. She has a Facebook fan page, an annual writing contest, and she blogs about life on the Circle C Ranch regularly, as Andi of course! Mrs. Marlow, a former homeschool mom herself, understands the value of enrichment studies to go alongside a good book. She has both free learning activities and in-depth enrichment guides or lap books available for each of her Andrea Carter books for all ages groups from six on up. 

Courageous Love is written for ages 12 and up, but would probably be best enjoyed by ages 14 and up. If you have a daughter age 12 or above that loves horses, consider getting her all four books in the Circle C Milestones series so she can grow up with Andi! Since she already had the first book, I purchased books two and three of the Circle C Milestones series for Arlene last year. She was so excited for this final installment to be released and to read the conclusion of Andi’s story. We highly recommend Susan’s books to others - often!

More information about all of Susan K. Marlow’s Andrea Carter books, and the companion activities and guides can be found on her website:

Circle C Adventures, horse stories for girls

Wondering how much Arlene likes Susan's books? Here is a picture of her helping Mrs. Marlow at her booth at our state homeschool convention this spring. She bagged orders, stocked the displays, and talked to lots of little girls about horses. :)

Friday, August 18, 2017


Today's Five Minute Friday writing prompt is: speak

speak, speech, five minute friday writing prompt

The heavens declare the glory of God;

    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

The Psalms tell us that the world around us speaks of God's glory. 

I must pause and check my own heart... do I declare the glory of God? Not often enough. 

There are so many ways that our actions speak about what is important to us, and then there are our words. Our words that should always be seasoned with grace. (Colossians 4:6) Our words that should be speaking the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

My words have not always been kind recently. They definitely have not been pointing others to Christ as they should. 

Where does this leave me? 

On my knees, at the foot of the cross, where I find forgiveness once more. Where God's mercy and grace become my strength to move on, to walk again, to season my words with grace. My walk should be declaring the glory of God, and filled with grace and truth.

My words should be His words. With His help - they will be!

This song, by Matthew West, reminds me that God uses the broken things of this world to do His work.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rosa of Linden Castle ~ A book review

This was originally written as a review for The Old Schoolhouse® magazine back in March of this year. To read the original post, click here.

Lamplighter publishing, christian fiction, rosa of linden castle

Rosa of Linden Castle, originally written by Christoph von Schmid in 1845, and re-printed by Lamplighter Publishing beginning in 2000 is recommended for ages 9-14. This tale follows Rosa beginning with her early years, growing up in Linden Castle with her Father, the brave knight Edelbert, and her virtuous and humble mother Matilda. The story continues until Rosa is about 15 years old. It uses both the difficulties she incurs, and the blessings she receives, to teach the character traits of sacrificial love, obedience, and enduring trials.

The story starts during Rosa’s young life, when her father is often away fighting alongside the Duke of Swabia, and her upbringing and training are the chief responsibility of her mother. Matilda sets Rosa a good example of being industrious and kind to the poor and needy. Rosa learns to love and obey both her parents and her Savior.

Tragedy strikes when Rosa is about 14 as her mother takes ill and quickly dies. Her father rushes home from battle in time that the family has one last parting scene where Matilda reminds them both to love one another, and remember their Savior. Not too many months later, Edelbert’s arm is severely injured in battle, and he returns to Linden Castle to recuperate. Before he is fully healed, his fighting men are recalled to battle, even thought Edelbert cannot yet join them, and Linden castle is left with meager protection. In swoops Kunerick, the self-centered knight of neighboring Forest castle. He storms Linden castle, imprisons Edelbert for his perceived past wrongs against Kunerick, and overtakes those left behind in order to claim Linden castle as his own. Rosa runs out of the castle gate pleading with Kunerick for her father and too late realizes she is locked out of the castle and any help she might find from their faithful servants. With no other options to pursue she remembers her father’s admonition to seek out his faithful friend, Burkhard the collier.

After a long trek to locate their hidden valley, Rosa is welcomed into the family of Burkhard, his wife, and daughter. As she adapts to life in their humble home, concern for hr father’s well-being is always foremost in her mind. Rosa devises a plan to try and gain employment at Kunerick’s Forest castle to learn of her father’s fate. Burkhard’s family helps her fashion a disguise, and his daughter accompanies Rosa most of the way on the long trek to try to gain employment. As Rosa’s friend waits in the edge of the forest, Rosa manages to gain employment as the servant of the Steward’s ill-tempered wife. 

Will Rosa be able to shoulder the great responsibilities and hard toil her new position requires? Will her humble service win over her ill-tempered Mistress? Can Rosa keep her identity a secret and learn of her Father’s fate? Can the Savior who softened Rosa’s heart overcome the hardness of Kunerick’s heart? All of these questions and more are answered as the reader continues along Rosa’s journey. Rosa of Linden Castle would make an excellent read-aloud for family time, or a solid choice for those 12 and up to read independently. Because of the time when the work was originally published, readers may want to have a dictionary, or dictionary app, handy to look up unfamiliar terms. An example is Burkhard the Collier. in the 1800’s, a collier was someone who carried, manufactured, or sold coal. Today the definition of collier is a coal miner.

Although this book at first may appear long for the recommended ages of 9-14 at 253 pages, the story keeps a brisk pace, making it a satisfying read. At approximately 5x7”, this hardback book with imprinted cover can take its place alongside other quality literature for children on your shelf, or be easily tucked in a purse or backpack for reading on the go. It currently retails from Lamplighter Publishing for $20. Older teens who read Rosa of Linden Castle may find the character of Rosa a bit too goody-two-shoes, and yet, she is held up as an ideal of how we should learn, be chastened, and grow in our following of the Savior. Perhaps it was common at the time the book was first written, but I found it a bit unusual that the words Jesus or Christ are never mentioned, only God and Savior. It does, however, keep to Lamplighter’s goal of promoting a Christian Worldview.

Overall, both Arlene, aged 16, and I enjoyed reading Rosa of Linden Castle. It will take a space on our shelf alongside other Lamplighter titles we have purchased in the past. This book is a solid read for the recommended age group of 9-14. If you have children older than 14, I would suggest you look at the Lamplighter books recommended for ages 12-99, as they would probably be a better fit for independent reading. They have a plethora of titles to choose from with the superb presentation of old-fashioned covers, quality binding and stories with solid morals and interesting plots.

FTC Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review, I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are mine, or those of my family.