Monday, April 27, 2015

Pure Love, Pure Life by Elsa Kok Colopy


About the Book:

When you think of purity, what comes to mind? Perfect behavior? Impossible standards? Everything focused on waiting for that special guy? If so, you’re not alone.

The good news is purity isn’t just a list of don’ts—don’t think that way, don’t look that way, don’t act that way. It’s a God-designed plan for a happy life. Honest, humorous, and real, Pure Love, Pure Life provides practical tools to help you navigate the temptations and frustrations you face every day, stories from girls who have been there, and tips on what to do if your pure life takes a detour.

Discover a new vision of purity, how you can live it in today’s broken reality, and why it’s worth the effort.

My Thoughts:

Right now, all three of my daughters are grown, and two of them are married.  But I still feel like I belong in the target demographic for this book.  Purity is a life, not just a one time choice.  We live in a world that claims fifty shades of gray; we need to desire God's pure white no matter what age we happen to be.

Elsa grabbed my heart with her open and honest introduction to the book.  I've read several books on the topic of purity, but the ones that tend to capture my attention are the ones that read as genuine from the opening page.

Else doesn't try to hide her choices from the girls and young women she's trying to reach.  She knows that it's better to write from a place of authenticity than perfection.  Especially when perfection is pretty much impossible.  I've told my girls there's a reason God spent so much of the Bible encouraging us to run from sexual sin.

Once sexual sin has a hold on you it never lets go without a knock down, drag out fight.  But Elsa is quick to point out that a fresh start is always available through Jesus.  That is SO important for you to hear, I'm going to repeat myself:

A fresh start is ALWAYS available through Jesus.

Elsa breaks down what Biblical purity is and what it's not, and encourages girls (and guys as well!) to make Jesus the Person in charge of any relationship.  Elsa talks about not letting fairy tales and movies define romance for us, and about having a plan before the first guy calls for a date.

She also is candid about second chances, and I really want girls to get this message: with God, you can always get a do-over if you are honest and place your life in His hands.  But trust Him before you make a move or a decision and spare yourself lots of heartache and scars.

The only I thing I wasn't crazy about was the cover.  No offense, but it needs a bit more attention.  Girls need to read this book, so let's make "Pure Love, Pure Life" stand out.  My thanks to my friends at Zondervan for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

"Pure Love, Pure Life" is highly recommended, and let me add one more thing....read this together, moms and daughters.  If your mom isn't around anymore, find an aunt, an older sister, someone older in your church...even your pastor's wife!  Hey, I'm a pastor's wife, and some people think I'm still cool!

Happy Reading!

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Samantha Sanderson: Off the Record by Robin Caroll




About the Book:

Sam Sanderson is an independent, resourceful, high-tech cheerleader. She dreams of becoming an award-winning journalist like her mother, so she’s always looking for articles to publish in her middle-school paper (where she secretly hopes to become chief editor). With a police officer for a father, Sam is in no short supply of writing material.

In the third book of the Samantha Sanderson series, when the school’s grades were tampered with, Sam must enlist Makayla’s help in hacking the system to discover the virus that was used and who committed the crime. But when the lead suspect is her newfound friend, Felicia, Sam must choose whether to stick by her friends at all costs or report the story as she sees it.

The Samantha Sanderson series is about an ordinary girl with extraordinary dreams. Each book touches on a crime straight from headlines, from bomb threats to bullying, while following Samantha and her friends as they navigate middle-school and questions of faith.

My Thoughts:

I might be in my fifth decade of life, but I'm such a huge fan of this series!  Robin Caroll has created a fun and engaging young heroine and isn't afraid to take her outside of her comfort zone.

"Off the Record" is the third novel in this series, and it is by far the best book in the series.  Grades have been tampered with at Sam's school, and she is hot on the case.  Can she find the true culprit or with a new friend have to take the fall?

Readers will learn about reporting and ethics, about friendship and bullies, and about a bunch of other things that young teens deal with on a regular basis.  Sam's parents are patient and caring, but not afraid to bust Sam if she goes too far...which she often does!

Makayla is the kind of best friend I'd want for my child to have, and as for the secret crush?  Yeah, third book and it's still pretty much a secret! 

My thanks to my friends at Zondervan Publishing for an advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  The Samantha Sanderson books are some of the best in youth fiction in today's marketplace.  Highly Recommended!!

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hand in Hand by Randy Alcorn



About the Book:

If God is sovereign, how can I be free to choose?But if God is not sovereign, how can he be God?
Is it possible to reconcile God’s sovereignty with human choice? This is one of the most perplexing theological questions. It’s also one of the most personal.

In hand in Hand, Randy Alcorn says that the traditional approach to this debate has often diminished our trust in God and his purposes. Instead of making a one-sided argument from select verses, Alcorn examines the question in light of all Scripture. By exploring what the whole Bible says about divine sovereignty and human choice, hand in Hand helps us…

· Carefully and honestly examine the different views on this issue
· Gain a deeper understanding of God
· Appreciate God’s design in providing us the freedom of meaningful choice
· See the value in better understanding what we cannot fully understand
· Learn how to communicate about the issue in clear and compassionate ways
· More fully experience the unity Christ intends for his Church

A careful guide through Scripture, hand in Hand shows us why God’s sovereignty and meaningful human choice work together in a beautiful way.

Includes small-group discussion questions.

My Thoughts:

My husband and I have read pretty much every book Randy Alcorn has written.  Randy always includes ample Scripture when he writes, and if God's Word doesn't back up his point, he changes his point to fit God's Word.

"Hand in Hand" is a carefully written book about the Calvinist school of interpretation and the Armenian school of interpretation.  My husband has been pastoring a Southern Baptist church for nearly eleven years, and we've had this discussion with many believers.  Until I read Randy's book I never clearly understood what the discussion was truly about.

Randy can write about this debate/issue with reliable authority.  For the first ten years of his walk with Jesus he was in the Armenian camp.  But after much study of Scripture, he now believes more like a Calvinist.

He clearly explains both systems of belief, using easy to read side by side comparison charts, a brief explanation of the history of the systems of belief, and some things he found odd on both sides of the proverbial fence.

His writing is easy to read, but this book is also a bit heavy.  The topic isn't necessarily difficult, but the understanding required takes you deep into the theology and Scripture.  Ultimately Randy does a masterful job making a two sided argument go hand in hand.

After reading "Hand in Hand", I truly believe you can be a member of both camps...a Calvinian.  Or an Armevin.  Whichever way you say it, this is one of Randy Alcorn's most important books to date.  My thanks to my friends at Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

My opinion?  This book is so good my husband bought himself a copy so he can "mark it up"!  Highly recommended.

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Random Acts of Murder by Christy Barritt




About the Book:

When Holly Anna Paladin is given a year to live, she embraces her final days doing what she loves most—random acts of kindness. But one of her extreme good deeds goes horribly wrong, implicating Holly in a string of murders. Holly is suddenly in a different kind of fight for her life.

Only two other people know Holly was at the site of the murder, and one of them is the killer. Making matters stickier is the fact that the detective assigned to the case is her old high school crush and present day nemesis.

The clock is ticking as Holly is forced to play a dangerous game. Will Holly find the killer before he ruins what’s left of her life? Or will she spend her final days alone and behind bars?

My Thoughts:

Christy Barritt has been one of my favorite authors ever since "Hazardous Duty" hit my shelf! Not only is she a gifted storyteller, but her imagination is prolific...resulting in a wide variety of choices to read. One of her new series' that I've quickly grown to love is the perfect spin-off. She cleverly placed Holly Anna Paladin in a Squeaky Clean mystery...with no clue that Holly was due to get her own series.

"Random Acts of Murder" has the quirky fun we love, but adds extra heart and an entirely new cast of characters. Holly is a huge fan of all things vintage and hearing about her old-fashioned attitude and style is an added treat. Jamie is hilarious, and the interaction between the two best friends will take you back to the days of Lucy and Ethel.

From the members of Holly's family to the people in her circle of influence, not one character is wasted. Each person is so strong in character that each could support his or her own novel. Personally, I can't wait to learn more about Alex and Ralph, Holly's high achieving siblings. For that matter, I'm eager for more of Jaime's family relations as well!

Another point to note: Each of Christy's series has its own flavor. Some are more light-hearted, some are a bit darker...and some you don't want to read when you're home alone **insert creepy music**. But each story is consistent in the message of hope, faith, and love that are signature Christy Barritt elements.

One of the best, in my opinon. "Random Acts of Murder" is highly recommended, and the first book is the beginning of what promises to be a favorite series.

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham




About the Book:

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all.

When her fiancĂ© leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman?

In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone.

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancĂ© and his own childhood companion.

As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.

When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough – or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

My Thoughts:

From the spectacular cover art to the opening prologue to the final page...Pepper Basham has become a debut author to watch.  Her first novel is fresh, creative and poignant--a sure delight to fans of period fiction.

Now, I'm NOT a huge fan of historical or period novels.  My ideal genre is modern suspense and mystery.  When I have the opportunity to read a historical novel, I read with a critical eye and a rather large amount of trepidation.

In other words, it takes a powerful period story to grab and hold my attention.  Which is why I'm thrilled to tell you about Pepper's novel.  Her plot is a fresh take on World War II, focusing on the destruction of the Lusitania.

Pepper knows the proper balance between description and detail versus action and dialogue.  The pacing keeps the story moving in a nice rhythm.  And also important: the dialogue is suitable for the time period of the novel.

And for a period tale, her prologue is powerful and unique as well.  Tragedy stole Ashleigh's innocence and has left her feeling like damaged goods.  As the story unfolds we see her take more emotional blows that would topple any woman.

Enter Sam Miller.  He isn't movie star handsome, wealthy beyond means or a player.  He's a gentle man with a deep affection for Ashleigh as a little sister.  Watching the relationship between Sam and Ashleigh develop made me want to tell women everywhere one thing:

THIS IS THE KIND OF MAN YOU WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WITH!!!

Wow, that felt good!  Pepper has made a huge mark in the faith fiction marketplace, and I'm eager for more stories.  "The Thorn Bearer" is the first in a series, and I have discovered that she plans on tackling another genre in the near future.

So, my thanks to my friend Casey Herringshaw for my advance copy of "The Thorn Bearer" in exchange for an honest review.  Honestly, I loved the book so much I bought a copy!  Highly Recommended.


Happy Reading!

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Sand In My Sandwich by Sarah Parshall Perry



About the Book:

You know that thing when you're in Walmart at noon before you discover you haven't brushed your teeth? Sarah Parshall Perry gets that. She also gets weird things showing up in her bed, her daughter asking for war paint, and her son crawling into a giant blue sock on Christmas morning. Mainly, she gets that conflicted feeling of finding her kids hanging out in the dogs' cages and happily realizing they have stopped getting into trouble for a minute.

According to Perry, "The hardest stuff is the quickest way to God," and readers get to watch the systematic destruction of her carefully planned life, laughing at her missteps, aching at her tragedies, and recognizing themselves along the way.

A mother of three children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum, she has experienced plenty of ups and downs, but from the chaos of her "ordinary" life she pulls the universal truths of motherhood, addressing them with humor, poignancy, and a naked honesty that will make the reader think, That sounds a lot like my crazy life.

Perry helps mothers realize they aren't alone, even if they've fallen off the straight and narrow of their intended path and are instead lying in the ditch next to it. Life's a mess. But as Perry reminds us, it's all for a purpose.
 
Perfect for mothers, this book will encourage, inspire, and enlighten.

My Thoughts:

I read the description on the back of this book and was eager to review a copy.  It definitely sounded like my kind of parenting book!  Yes, my children are all grown, but I still find comfort in a book about motherhood that isn't Pinterest perfect.

Can I get a witness??

The stories Sarah shares in "Sand In My Sandwich" are filled with wit, humor and love.  And her thre little ones gave her ample material to fill her book.  However, I have a small issue with this particular book for moms who are weary of the war to be perfect.

The language in the book made my brain hurt. 

Oh, I'm not talking about foul language.  No, I'm talking about college textbook language.  Allow me to demonstrate: "But thinking about this nonlinear journey necessitates a discussion of the lessons learned..."

Need more?  How about this line: "Hard too is the peeling back of whatever protective layers of anonymity still exist between me and the outside world."  And this is just from the first two chapters!

Please do not misunderstand me:  Sarah is most definitely well spoken, and I'm fairly certain her readers will be able to get the point of the book.  It's just, for me, I don't want to have to read "that hard", and especially when the book is designed to encourage me to lighten up.

For this reason I'm only mildly recommending "Sand In My Sandwich".  But I do thank my friends at Revell Publishing for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review!

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

From the Start by Melissa Tagg



About the Book:

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

 
Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

My Thoughts:

I fell in love with Melissa's writing with her first novel, "Made to Last."  Her characters were so engaging and alive, and her imagination crafted unique stories that grabbed me from the first page and held me until the end.

But as I began reading "From the Start", I noticed something had changed.  This novel wasn't like her first books.  My own imagination perked up and paid close attention.

As I navigated the early chapters of Melissa Tagg's latest novel, I was impressed by one overarching thought. Melissa captures a gorgeous essence of the Father, working behind the scenes to orchestrate events that are best for His creation, or, in Melissa's case her children. The beautiful weaving of change and circumstance into the ideal plan was breathtaking and inspiring.

And again, much like the Father, Melissa took the fragments of broken dreams and wounded hearts and crafted good things for her imaginary people. Things not just for them, but for the good of those around them also. Her artistry is a true pleasure to watch.

That's right.  Melissa bends and weaves words like a master craftsman.  Not one syllable is wasted, and prepare for an emotional tug-of-war.  But know this: the reader always wins at the conclusion of the story.

Make room on your shelf for "From the Start" and make room in your heart for some unforgettable characters.  You know what?  Go ahead and leave a couple of spaces for her other books as well, because once you read a novel by Melissa Tagg, she'll be "Here To Stay".

Trust me, you'll love her "From the Start"!  And every book she crafts will be "Made to Last".  (Like how I did that?  Huh??  Huh??)

My thanks to my friends at Bethany House Publishing for my complimentary copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Highly, highly recommended!

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Seek and Hide by Amanda G. Stevens



About the Book:

Six years ago, the government took control of the church.

Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment-including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.

Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she's targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she'd never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.
 
When Aubrey and Marcus's lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus's life in a way he'd never expect, turning a loner into a leader.

My Thoughts:

First of all, you need to know that this is the first book in a four part series.  That said, be prepared for major cliff-hangers!  Second, there was a time when this would have been pure speculation and pure fiction.

I personally believe we are going into a time when this kind of thing could really happen.  Which is why I found the book so frightening and disturbing.  Should Christianity fall under government control one day, this is a great manual for what could be coming.

Having said that, I had an issue with the main character.  And I believe the issue I had with him was deliberately planned by the author.  Amanda has created a he-man/martyr/walking guilt on the stick kind of guy.

Marcus is distant, a bit cold, and has a HUGE chip on his shoulder.  We receive glimpses into why he acts as he does, but only glimpses.  I'm hoping more of his background is revealed in future novels.  I wanted to like him, but it felt as if he wouldn't let me.

Which, of course, is excellent writing, because Marcus isn't real!

Then there was Lee, his best friend and someone who is carrying the past around with her like a fashion accessory.  This makes her stand-offish as well, and I sense that was deliberate.  Lee has been deeply wounded in the past and she has cement walls built up to guard her feelings. 

There's a weird kind of synergy between Lee and Marcus.  If one would drop his or her guard, the other would follow and a relationship could begin.  These two are either playing a stalemated game of chicken or just so stubborn a heavy wind would snap them in two.  Either way, I felt very chilled as I read the book.

Thankfully, Aubrey is open, honest, and equally tortured as Marcus and Lee.  But because Aubrey has a son, and a disabled son at that, she can't put up walls like the other two main characters have done.  She has to able to feel in order to care for her child.

You learn quick that caring in this future world can be most dangerous.

Unfortunately, and I won't spoil the book for you, tragedy strikes out of literally no where.  It was almost as if Amanda was editing and thought "I haven't tortured my readers enough, so I have to do THIS."  It felt abrupt, jarring, and made no sense to me at all.

It almost ruined the book for me.  I've decided to at least read the second book to see what happens in the aftermath.  That will help me decide just how I feel about "Seek and Hide".  By the way, the titles of each book are extremely clever and have their own meaning if you think about it for long.

My thanks to my friends at David C. Cook Publishing and Wynn-Wynn Media for my complimentary copy.  I'm recommended "Seek and Hide"....hope it disturbs you as well.  LOL!!

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg


About the Book:

This is the sweet and funny tale of a young girl named Candy and her Cankersaur Rex! Candy receives a dinosaur as a gift and is determined to train him to be a good pet.

This playful homage to Syd Hoff will make all dinosaur-crazy boys and girls happy!

 As a bedtime story Picture Book it's ideal for children ages 2-7.

My Thoughts:

The book description doesn't really tell you much, does it?  Allow me to fill in some empty spaces:

1. Candy is lovable.

2. Her father is too busy.

3. Because of #1 and #2, he tends to buy her extravagant gifts.

4. Her little neighbor covets (i.e., gets pouty faced and tries to one up her).

This story is cute and engaging, and is extremely whimsical.  I love Jason's motivation!  He wants to recreate the books from his childhood, and he takes great care with his writing and illustrating.  The drawings may look a bit simple, but go and check out his other books.

Every book has a different flavor and appeal, and I'm proud to introduce him to you with "Candy and the Cankersaur".  My thanks to author Jason Sandberg for gifting me a prerelease e-copy of his book for review.

Recommended, and I'm off to check out his other titles.  Very eye-catching artwork!


Happy Reading!

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Monday, March 16, 2015

When God Turned On the Light by Allia Zobel Nolan, Illustrated by Linda Clearwater



About the Book:

In her newest children's story, beloved author Allia Zobel Nolan treats her young audience to an unforgettable look at how God created the world. Imagine that day when God smiled and His love and light filled the Earth!

Set to rhyme and accompanied by Linda Clearwater's colorful and engaging illustrations, this story inspires 3- to 6-year-olds to imagine how fun it would be to dance through fields of brand new red poppies, spy on freshly created pink flamingos, and climb up just-made mountain peaks.

Best of all, children come to understand that God is the source of all life and that His Son, Jesus, came to live in their hearts and light up their lives.

My Thoughts:

Allia Zobel Nolan is one of favorite authors, and her books never disappoint!  The rhythm of the words is perfect for reading aloud.  Her word choices and clever and make me smile.  And her illustrators are always unique and bring life to the pages.

Her new book "When God Turned on the Light" is an engaging tale of creation.  Instead of just repeating the Biblical day and night story, Allia adds a bit of whimsy and wonder to her re-telling.  The story she unfolds is refreshing and accurate, but really makes the reading engage with ALL of creation.

"When God turned on the light, trees shot up, grass took root.

        He made red poppies blossom.  Plants bloomed and bore fruit."

The illustrations are more like paintings than pictures, demonstrating an almost 3-dimensional feel.  The color choices are vibrant, adding extra life to Allia's clever rhythm and rhyme.

Basically, Allia's books are always top notch quality, engaging and clever.  And she always points the way to discovering God's love.  I've enjoyed every copy I've been able to read and I look forward to many more books to come!

My thanks to my friends at Harvest House Publishing for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.  Highly, highly recommended!

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's a God Thing: Volume Two, created by Don Jacobson and K-LOVE




About the Book:

More incredible stories of God’s intervention

Some things in life have no earthly explanation. It’s just a God thing.

Miracles are not reserved for the characters in the Old and New Testaments; they happen to everyday people today, all around the world. Series creators Don Jacobson and K-LOVE Radio Network (14 million listeners) have joined together once again to produce a remarkable collection of modern-day miracles.

Stories include:
  • A man who was mysteriously pulled from a broken truck as it sailed over a ravine
  • A young boy who made a full recovery after being trapped under water for seven minutes
  • A young girl who defied all medical prognoses and survived after her vehicle was hit by a train
  • A mother, compelled to drive across town, who found her nine-year-old son stranded and alone at a busy intersection
Experiences like these are far more common than one may realize. From more than 1,000 occurrences, these more than 50 stories were chosen for their ability to amaze, encourage, and inspire all who live each day with both faith and doubt, victory and despair. Each day, the sunrise itself is a sign of God’s miraculous hand, and these stories prove that it’s only the beginning.


My Thoughts:

Needing encouragement?  Pick up this book!  Needing a 'faith-lift'?  Pick up this book!  Enjoy things like 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'?  Pick up THIS book!

"It's A God Thing" is back, and the second volume of stories is even better than  the first volume.  The stories are moving and inspiring, and they are all TRUE.  The entire book is a testimony to God's love and care for His people.

I'd love to list the stories that really touched me...but I'm too lazy to copy the entire table of contents.  I can't think of one story that didn't lift me up and set me on the Rock.  Stories of supernatural rescue, divine appointments, and timely words of encouragement fill the book.

We live in a world that is full of noise and negativity, so a positive tale is like a true breath of fresh air for the soul.  I just read a news story on line about a 16 month old baby rescued from a horrific car crash.  Fire rescue reported hearing a distinct voice cry "Help me!", which drew them to the car.

They still cannot explain who cried out, but were moved by the circumstances and outcome, some of them to tears.  THAT'S the kind of story you'll find in "It's a God Thing: Volume 2".  And God's fingerprints are on every single story.

My thanks to my friends at Thomas Nelson W Publishing for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.  Highly recommended!

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Berenstain Bears County Cookbook by Mike Berenstain




About the Book:

It’s The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook! Bear lovers everywhere are sure to find favorite recipes for fun food in this new kid-friendly, cookbook--ranging from Bear favorites that use honey and berries to pie, a delicious stew, and even some Berenstain favorites like Jan Berenstain’s famous green lasagna.

Featuring breakfast, lunch, main meal, and dessert recipes as well as kid-friendly cooking tips such as food and measurement conversions, this is sure to become a go-to cookbook for delicious and fun recipes kids can cook with an adult.

My Thoughts:

This is the ideal book for the fans of The Berenstain Bears series!  Author Mike Berenstain has combined his skill at weaving a story with some fun and easy recipes.  I plan on trying a few of these myself!

The book is divided into four sections, five if you include the appendix.  We open with 10 tasty breakfast recipes, then move on to lunch with another 10 delish recipes for the midday meal.  Next are the Main Dishes, 10 delectable choices, and Dessert/Snacks rounds out the book with 10 scrumptious selections.

How about some "Bear-y Good Oatmeal" or "Bunny Biscuits" to start your day?  At noon try "Lettuce Wraps" or whip up a pot of "Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup".  Have dinner on your mind?  Why not try "Easy Enchiladas" or "Grilled Chicken with Carrots"?  And for dessert let's have "Banana Pops" or a slice of "Cola Cake"!

Each portion of the recipe book opens with a story that is fun and educational, and crafted in the tradition of The Berenstain Bears book series.  The illustrations are full color and introduce each section in a fun and engaging way.

My thanks to my friends at Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy of "The Berestain Bears' Country Cookbook" in exchange for an honest review.  Highly recommended, and perfect for Easter Baskets!


Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Undone by Michele Cushatt



About the Book:

Undone is author Michele Cushatt’s quest to make peace with a complicated life. It is an honest confession of a diagnosis of cancer and the joys and disappointments of motherhood and marriage, ripe with regret over what is and, yet, still hopeful for what could be.

With enough humor to ease the rawness of the story, Undone takes the reader on a roller coaster two-year journey through the unexpectedness of life.

A look back makes Michele long for a do-over, the chance to make fewer mistakes and leave less of a mess to clean up.

A look forward makes Michele wonder if all her attempts to control life have robbed her of the vibrancy of it.

And, in the middle of this internal chaos, she finds her once-pristine house filled with the sights and sounds of three small, uncontainable children who just want to be loved.

In the end, Undone turns complication into a beautiful canvas, angst into joy, and the unknown into an adventure, revealing that sometimes life’s most colorful and courageous stories are written right in the middle of the mess.

My Thoughts:

Allow me to open this review with a statement I rarely use:  If I had the means to do so, I would buy this book by the CASE to give to as many people as possible.  The message of Michele's book is so universal, profound and desperately needed by people--especially Christian people.

We all long to 'get it right'.  But life tends to happen without consulting our plans, dreams and even abilities.  I know very few people who have never met an "Undone" moment at some point in their lives.  In fact, I must correct that to read, I don't know ANYONE.

Sometimes those moments are life-altering, like Michele's battle with cancer (which is still ongoing, so please pray for this lovely woman of God).  Other times the moment when we come "Undone" is the moment our marriage unravels, our child rebels, our income is lost, or a beloved person leaves this life unexpectedly.

I myself can point to several "Undone" moments.  The beauty of those moments is simply this: if we don't waste them, those moments can change us, renew our perspective, and make us into the person we truly long to become.

"Undone" matures our faith, and we need that maturation.  Yes, life is hard, God is good, and we are imperfect people loving and serving a perfect Savior.  All of those things tend to drive us to unrealistic expectations and create a false drive toward the unachievable goal to be right, solid, perfect.

What we need to be is easily molded, purified, and continually set apart for His will.  Michele writes with gut wrenching honesty, and a transparency that gloriously reveals Jesus in her life.  In the midst of her already challenging life, even more of the unexpected occurs, resulting in another moment of being "Undone".

This book is deep, real, profound, and honest.  My thanks to my friends at Zondervan for allowing me the opportunity to take part in the "Undone" book launch, and for a complimentary copy.  I personally plan on purchasing as many copies as I can to give out to friends and family.

"Undone" is a must-not-miss read, and is one of the best memoirs I've ever had the privilege of reading.  If you knew how much I read, you'd know that is a really huge statement!  And "Undone" is a book that will be permanently placed in my 'library of influence", to be read over and over again.

Please, do NOT miss out on "Undone" or meeting Michele through her writing.  And keep tissues near by.  Keep Michele and her family in prayer as she continues her battle with cancer an influencing lives for Christ.

Happy Reading!

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Unbound by J.B. Simmons


About the Book:

He must be released for a little while.
But the one who sees doesn't believe.


Elijah Goldsmith has nightmares he needs to ignore. Why would a rich kid from Manhattan dream three straight nights about a dragon and the destruction of St. Peter's Basilica? He's never even been to Rome.

It's bad timing, too. He's graduating soon and applying to be a spy in the International Security Agency. That's where he meets Naomi. She's the kind of girl who makes boys like Elijah want to share their secrets. Were they brought together to learn what his secrets mean? There's more to their sparks than they think.

This is 2066, the year the world ends.

My Thoughts:

If you enjoy fiction about the end of days, then J.B.'s novel will be very satisfying.  I'm not a huge fan of this kind of story, but I did enjoy the first few chapters.

Somewhere around the middle of the book the story fell apart for me.  By the time I finished I had no idea where the author was intending to take me.  Was Naomi a spy, or wasn't she?  Did Charles mean to warn Elijah, or didn't he? 

The worst part?  I didn't care.  People died, and I felt nothing.  Characters got in over their heads, and I just shrugged it off.  I was left feeling disappointed and dissatisfied. 

I appreciate my friends at Believers Trust for a complimentary copy of "Unbound" in exchange for an honest review.  The early chapters were promising, but the book ended up on a down note for me.  But, if you really like this kind of fiction, I'd advise you to take a chance.  It just might be your cup of tea.

It just wasn't mine.  Mildly recommended.

Happy Reading!

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Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck



About the Book:

Behind him, beside him, before him, the synchronized cathedral bells began to ring out.

One, two, three . . .

Then she said it first. The words his heart burst to share. “I love you, Stephen. You are my true prince.”

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever?

American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she’s shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul.

Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. His days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command will mark him forever. And he can’t shake their dark shadow.

But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind.

With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome, move forward, and find love again?

My Thoughts:

Whenever I pick up a book by Rachel Hauck, I know I'm going to find a winner.  Rachel has a knack for creating memorable characters in standout stories that are filled with humor, faith and heart.

I've enjoyed all of the books in her "Royal Wedding" series, but I really believe "How to Catch a Prince" is my absolute favorite.  This third novel in the series packs an emotional punch that will have you smiling through your tears as the story unfolds.

Prince Stephen is truly a tortured soul, and the perfect personification of what life is like when you are unable or unwilling to forgive yourself.  He also ideally illustrates how ridiculous it is to assume how another person will feel to a secret they know nothing about!

Corina has wealth, fame, and once had the love of a prince.  But it isn't until she truly surrenders her life to Christ that she finds true peace and purpose.  She's lovable, spunky and passionate, and one of Rachel's most memorable heroines.

Lots of tears, lots of healing, and enough wit to keep the story at a good pace, "How to Catch a Prince" is one of the best novels of 2015.  I had a bit of difficulty with The Manor and its caretakers, but when I finished the book I realized that my reaction to that part of the story mirrored Corina's.

Now, that's powerful writing!!  And, ultimately, I found myself wanting to book a room there for myself!  I also adored Madeline and Hyacinth, and found their "talk show" hilarious.  I'd love to see more of these two feisty ladies in another book if possible.

Do something for me.  Treat yourself to Rachel's "Royal Wedding" trilogy, and don't forget to pick up a copy of my all time favorite Rachel Hauck novel, "The Wedding Dress".  All are published by Zondervan Publishing and are available at your favorite place to buy books.

My thanks to my friends at Zondervan Publishing for providing me with an advance copy of "How to Catch a Prince" via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Highly recommended

Happy Reading!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Dubiosity by Christy Barritt



About the Book:

Savannah Harris vowed to leave behind her old life as an intrepid investigative reporter. But when a friend raises suspicions about two migrant workers who’ve gone missing from the sleepy coastal town Savannah calls home, her curiosity spikes.

As ever more eerie incidents begin afflicting the area, each works to draw Savannah out of her seclusion and raise the stakes—for both Savannah and the surrounding community. Even as Savannah’s new boarder, Clive Miller, makes her feel things she thought long forgotten, she suspects he’s hiding something too, and he’s not the only one. Doubts collide in Savannah’s mind: Who can she really trust?

As secrets emerge and danger closes in, Savannah must choose between faith and uncertainty. One wrong decision might spell the end…not just for her, but for everyone around her.
Will she unravel the mystery in time, or will doubt get the best of her?

My Thoughts:

If you've never had the opportunity to read a novel by Christy Barritt, this is a great book to begin with.  "Dubiosity" displays her gift with words and ability to layer story upon story, giving a richness to the tales she crafts.

Savannah is haunted.  An event in her past has left some deep and still bleeding scars on her heart.  She has closed herself off from the experience of living, fearful that she might hurt again, or hurt someone else with her choices.

Can anyone relate?  I know I can!  You can almost feel the shadows of the past as they linger in her mind, giving off a chill of loneliness that Savannah just cannot shake.

Clive is haunted as well.  But his secrets could endanger Savannah just as she might be starting to open up again.  Is it ever a good idea to hide or pretend with someone?  You might think so, but you'll be rethinking that after you finish this book.  Honesty takes on a whole different and richer meaning after "Dubiosity".

The beauty of a novel by Christy Barritt is difficult to explain.  First and foremost, she knows how to tell a great story.  What causes her books to stand out is simply this:  Christy never wastes a single word.

Each word gives a vibrant description, lightens the scene, explains a solution, defines a character, or points the way to faith in Someone bigger than ourselves.  And she devotes the same amount of time to her background characters as she does the imaginary people in the forefront.

You need proof?  I dare you not to weep when someone dies in just the first few pages.  I dare you not to have deep anger issues with a character within five sentences of meeting this fictional person.

And I challenge you to read "Dubiosity" and not fall in love with this amazing storyteller.  Do something great for yourself, and check out a book that people are talking about.  My thanks to my friends at Waterfall Press for my complimentary copy of "Dubiosity" in exchange for an honest review.

"Dubiosity" and all of Christy Barritt's novels are highly recommended.

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Little Chick's Bible by P. J. Lyons, illustrated by Melanie Mitchell



About the Book:

The Little Chick’s Bible is a soft, cuddly Bible that children age 2-5 can call their own. Throughout this plush-covered book little ones learn that they’re loved and cared for by God as they hear about God’s faithfulness in stories from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

With sweet, rhyming text and colorful illustrations, this soft and cuddly character storybook Bible is sure to become a classic with preschoolers.

My Thoughts:

This is simply adorable!  The cover is plush and textured, with little wings that little fingers can cling to.  The beak opens and closes, and the case is clear with snaps to store the Bible on the shelf.

Inside are colorful illustrations and short stories based upon well known Bible stories.  Each story has a reference to the actual Scripture.  Both Old and New Testament tales are written in a rhyme and rhythm that makes reading aloud fun.

My granddaughter turns one this weekend, and "Little Chick's Bible" is the perfect gift.  Need something for a baby shower, or for Easter?  Pick up a copy of "Little Chick's Bible"!

My thanks to my friends at Zondervan for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.  "Little Chick's Bible" is highly recommended.



Also by Zondervan, "Tiny Bear's Bible", is just as adorable and perfect for gift giving!

Happy Reading!

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