Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, A Mitford Novel by Jan Karon



About the Book:

After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors.

 While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he decides he doesn’t want it. Maybe he’s lost his passion.

 His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion—for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley’s brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother’s abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim’s prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business.
           
All this as Wanda’s Feel Good CafĂ© opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?
           
Millions of fans will applaud the chance to spend time, once more, in the often comic and utterly human presence of Jan Karon’s characters. Indeed, they have never been more sympathetic, bighearted, and engaging.

My Thoughts:

Welcome home to Mitford if you've loved the novels!  If not, then Welcome to Mitford--you need to start from the beginning, but you can do that after you read "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good".

Who am I to be offering a review of Jan Karon's works?  I'm just a fan who takes literature seriously, and insists on quality in what I read.  Jan's books have both a serious take on books and authors as well as top notch quality.

If you've read my post in the countdown to today's release date, you've learned a lot about Jan's journey to Mitford and her beloved Father Timothy Kavanagh.  If you missed those, there's still time to enter each giveaway for a chance at winning a free copy.

So, what did I learn from my time in "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good"?  Lots of things, such as everybody deserves to be loved.  Also, in marriage it is so vital to keep love alive, even if it means writing each other love letters (make it a challenge to out do each other--Like Tim and Cynthia did!)

I learned that it isn't enough to simply ask, "What can I do to help" or say "If you need anything, just call."  No, we have to put feet to our words and let our hands be helpful, or our words are empty.  The beauty of it all is, as we help others, we in return are helped by God.

I also learned that prayer truly does matter, and faith in Christ can be scary and murky for those who haven't yet believed.  I'm beginning to open my days in good morning prayers, pray often for people who ask or who just need prayer.  And to close my days with a prayer of thankfulness to God for all He accomplished in me, through me, and in spite of me.

Oh...one last thing...I MISS UNCLE BILLY!  There.  I've said it.

Here's to hoping for another trip back to Mitford.  I've also missed Mitford, and this was a refreshing tale about people I've grown to love, even though they are fictional...because they seem real to me. 

My thanks to my generous friends at Putnam Adult for my complimentary copy and trusting me to provide an honest review.

So here it is, in all honesty:  GET THEE TO MITFORD!  YOU MISS IT, EVEN IF YOU DON'T KNOW IT YET!  Sorry for the yelling, but it is a vitally important message:-)

Happy Reading!

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day!!!



Dear Reading Buddies,

It's Labor Day, and I cannot think of anyone who worked harder than my Dad.  He gave me my love of books by buying a copy of "Trixie Belden and the Black Jacket Mystery" when I had the flu.  I was only around 8 years old, but that memory sticks in my brain and in my heart.  He also worked hard at a job that was painful for his body, driving truck, in order to buy me books, with only minor complaint--but he loved my love of books, even though he himself didn't read much.

So Happy Labor Day to my dad, Les Ward...enjoy your rest in Jesus, Daddy.



Another person who also worked hard to raise me, and took any home job she could do while being at home with me was my mom.  She shared a love of books with me (I think she's the real reason Dad didn't 'really' complain!), and teaching me that a truly good book wasn't good until it was shared.  Mom is the reason I labor over my reviews and try to pick just the perfect word when I write.  Jean Ward is the reason I review like I do.  She's the reason I share with all of you my love of books.

So Happy Labor Day to my mom, Jean Ward, and you also enjoy your rest with Jesus.

Happy Reading!

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

More Anticipation for "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good"



To encourage Mitford fans (and soon to be Mitford fans), I'm sharing a little more from an interview with author Jan Karon.  Watch for the trivia question at the end of the post for your chance to win a free copy of this highly anticipated novel!

1. Your books are brimming with quotable quotes, both sacred and secular.  Do you have a favorite?  Your top 5?

I collect quotes like a child collects butterflies.  They are everywhere, absolutely flying around in the air and I am after them with a net.  I don't usually collect from other quote collections, finding that the easy way.  A great favorite, on which I feasted for many a moon in the early years of my work, is from Goethe: "Whatever you would do, begin it.  Boldness has courage, genius and magic in it."  This is the best if read over and over again, letting the great truth of it sink in.  My sworn favorite is from a 16th century poet: "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future".  A glorious truth.

2. What makes Father Tim so easy to be with and write about?

Hey, when I first started writing about Father Tim, I found him on the boring side.  Too nice, maybe.  Bland, but as we worked together, I got to know him better.  He became deeper and so did the author.  He suffered and so did the author.  We embarked on a life together, and I began to find him trustworthy, funny, sensitive, loving, thoughtful of others, lacking a little bit in self-esteem, hungry for love but scared of it, and with fewer defenses than the rest of us.  Agatha Christie wrote 60 books and stories about Poirot and said at the end, "I never really cared for that little man."  I find this hilarious, but must tell you that I care very much for my man, and thus have devoted, to date, twenty years of my life telling his story.

3. Is there a story behind the title, "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good"?

Cynthia got the notion that they should write love letters again, as they did when courting.  So around the time of their ninth anniversary, she posed this to Father Tim.  He did NOT want to do it, but she gave him a blast of those cornflower blue eyes and what could he say?  In her first love letter to him, she said she had longed since childhood to be "somewhere safe with somebody good."  I was really looking for a title, as I like to have one upfront.  So far, one had not come my way.  But there it was, hooray, on her small, almost childlike handwriting.  I am always ecstatic when I find the perfect title, one that distills the meaning of 400 pages into a single line.

So....for that trivia question.  Post your answer along with your name and your email address (thedeena63 @ Hotmail dot com) and you'll gain entry into a drawing for your OWN FREE COPY OF "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good"!

Here's the question:  Where is your somewhere safe with somebody good?

Oh, and my favorite quote from the Mitford novels: "Well, I'll be et for a tater!"

Happy Reading!

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Friday, August 29, 2014

In Anticipation of "Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good" by Jan Karon



"Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good" is a highly anticipated Mitford novel, and readers are excited to get a copy.  I received a complimentary copy from G.P. Putnam's Sons in exchange for an honest review  and some advance publicity.

Enclosed with my copy of the book (which is absolutely GORGEOUS in design) came an interview with Jan Karon.  I thought I would share some of her thoughts with you, to hopefully generate some excitement in you, reading buddies.

Let's just say I just about fell out of my chair when the email requesting me to review sent me over the moon.  As I told my children, "Mama's reviewing in the big leagues now!"  But enough about me...

1, After a nine year hiatus, what prompted the return to Mitford now?

My readers were wild to go back to Mitford.  The general consensus was: Holly Springs, fine.  County Sligo, fine.  Now let's go back to Mitford.  Thankfully, I was curious myself,  What was going on in the lives of characters I had lived with for twenty years?  I was occasionally homesick for the place.  Conclusion: Never say never,

2. Unlike many bestsellers today, you've said that your books have "no cussin', no murder, no mayhem".  Given the state of popular culture, what makes your books so popular?

When I began writing the series, I was dedicated to keeping it clean. That's the way I like it, and I thought a few people might agree.  Actually, millions agreed, which, in the end, is no surprise.  Having traveled the country many times over, I find people everywhere to be basically decent, kindhearted, affectionate, helpful, funny, ready for a laugh, a cry--and the assurance that God really does love us.  I am here to encourage, to console, and create a safe place between the covers of a book.

3. Who is your typical reader?  Has that changed over the twenty years you've been writing books?

My typical reader is the same as Charles Dicken's typical reader.   The demographic is every age and both sexes.  Entire families read my work.  Couples read the Mitford series out loud to each other.  Young couples have told me "you have saved our marriage."  (This is astonishing, as I have no clue how to save a marriage.)  My work is read in homeschools, public schools and retirement communities.  I get mail from doctors, bishops, librarians (yay for librarians), and lots of mail from people who have read the series many times over.

Whetted your appetite for Mitford yet?  Come back tomorrow for more with Jan Karon...oh, did I forget to mention a giveaway?? 

To enter leave a comment about how you found Mitford, your name and email address (like this, please: thedeena63 @ Hotmail Dot com)...I will draw a winning name from each day's posts about "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good", ending with my full review on the September 2nd release date.

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tremors, a Stone Braide Chronicles Story by Bonnie S. Calhoun



About the Book:

In this gripping prequel to Thunder, unsettling secrets change Selah Chavez's life forever in the days before her 18th Born Remembrance.

My Thoughts:

Oh.  My.  Word.  If ever a synopsis doesn't do justice to the powerful novella, it would be this one!  I mean, yes, this prequel is gripping.   And yes, Selah learns some unsettling secrets. 

That would be because she's, oh, I don't know...headstrong?  Determined?  Independent?  Try all of the above!

You would be too if your father was....oops!  Almost said too much.  But I can tell you Selah has a wonderful mother, a controlling father, two adorable brothers and one brother I wouldn't wish on anyone!

Then, there's also....oh, you sneaky reading buddy!  Almost talked me into giving away major plot points.  Nope, you'll just have to mine for treasure in "Tremors" yourself....but be warned...

This little taste of this new world Bonnie has crafted will leave you wanting more...oh, so much more!  And while it is a bit frustrating....that's a sign of stellar writing and solid hope of even greater things to come.

I downloaded an electronic  copy of "Tremors", simply because I couldn't wait for the release of "Thunder".   Both are published by Revell Publishing, and highly recommended. 

Happy Reading!

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The Last Witness by Glenn Meade



About the Book:

After a massacre at a Bosnian prison camp, a young girl is found alone, clutching a diary, so traumatized she can’t even speak. Twenty years later, the last witness to the prison guards' brutal crimes must hunt down those responsible to learn what happened to her family.

Twenty years ago, after the fall of Yugoslavia, the world watched in horror as tens of thousands were killed or imprisioned in work camps during an “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia. Carla Lane has little knowledge of what went on halfway around the world when she was a child. She is living a near perfect life in New York City, married and soon to have a family of her own.

But when her husband is murdered by a group of Serbian war criminals, strange memories start coming back, and she discovers that she underwent extensive therapy as a girl to suppress her memories. She is given her mother’s diary, which unlocks her childhood memories and reveals that she was, along with her parents and young brother, imprisoned in a war camp outside Sarajevo.

As her memories come back, it becomes clear that she is the last witness to a brutal massacre in the prison and that her brother may still be alive. She sets out to find her brother, but first she must hunt down the war criminals responsible for destroying her life. But these killers will stop at nothing to protect their anonymity and their deadly pasts...and are determined to silence the last witness to their crimes.

From the talented storyteller who gave us The Second Messiah, The Last Witness serves up another captivating and nail-biting thriller that will keep you holding your breath right to the end.

My Thoughts:

This is one of the most mind-bending works of fiction I think I've ever read.  Glenn Meade takes readers on a journey that isn't for the faint of heart, but he has crafted a novel that everyone must read...because the atrocities he writes are based firmly on true events.

If I mention the name Slobodan Milosevic, does that trigger a memory of the monster behind unspeakable events that took the world stage a mere 25 years ago?  Unfortunately, I don't think most remember him.

You will when you've read "The Last Witness".  But this may be the most challenging novel you've ever read, and it will remain with you long after the final page is turned.  The events of Milosevic's ethnic cleansing make the Holocaust look rather juvenile....and yes, those events are horrific in themselves.

Still, the journey Carla Lane must take to get the answers that demand resolution is nightmarish.  Events triggered by the murder of her beloved husband result in deeply buried memories that feel surreal.

My thanks to my friends at Howard Publishing for my complimentary copy of this powerful novel, given in exchange for an honest review.  Highly recommended, with a caution: reading these pages will change you, and that will save us from sitting back when the monsters come again.

Because evil will not rest until Jesus returns, and we must stay aware and vigilant.

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teachable Moments by Marybeth Hicks


About the Book:

Nationally syndicated columnist and media advisor on all things parenting, Marybeth Hicks outlines the overarching issues and objectives in using daily encounters with the culture to impart the values and virtues of Christianity. Through entertaining and instructive questions and answers, she provides concrete examples of teachable moments that will ring true for every family.

Never have Christian families been so challenged by the world around them to instill and instruct their children in the tenets of their faith. Moral relativism literally seeps into every facet of family life and saturates our popular culture. A ubiquitous media presence that defines our daily experience also is defining the attitudes and behaviors of those who consume it. Yet within this pervasive secular culture, Christian families encounter “teachable moments,” those unplanned but unmatched opportunities to put their faith into action and live out the values and virtues embodied in Jesus Christ.

When looking for teachable moments, parents, and coaches must approach each day with intentionality, seeking out and capitalizing on opportunities to incorporate life lessons into every day experiences amid the culture.

Teachable moments might be as simple as incorporating values about empathy and compassion in young friendships, or as complex and consequential as understanding the nature of the culture’s destructive messages about human sexuality. They might present themselves in song lyrics, teacher’s comments, television shows, social media interactions, and current events. Most certainly, teachable moments emerge in parenting decisions, family relationships, school situations, and in opportunities for freedom and responsibility.

Teachable Moments outlines the overarching issues and objectives in using daily encounters with the culture to impart the values and virtues of Christianity. Through entertaining and instructive questions and answers, author Marybeth Hicks provides concrete examples of teachable moments that will ring true for every family.

My Thoughts:

I am no longer raising children: my oldest is 28 and my youngest is 20.  But I have four grandchildren that range in age from seven down to six months, and I am a huge influence in their lives (thanks to mommy and daddy!), so I requested a copy of "Teachable Moments" to see what I could glean that would help my grandchildren and possibly still have an impact on my adult children.

My bucket of influence is full to overflowing thanks to Marybeth's timely and wise advice!  I've always believed in taking advantage of those brief moments that lend themselves to training our children in maturity and in discernment.  I only wish I'd had a book like this one as a guide....I would have found so many more moments to teach my children, and with God's Word and my own common sense I found quite a few.

The book breaks down into different types of teachable moments and different avenues of teaching.  Marybeth devotes an entire chapter on teachable moments with media, and it's a thick chapter!  She covers everything from the written word to music, from movies and television to social media.  With each particular subject, she poses certain scenarios, followed by suggestions on how to turn those scenarios into "Teachable Moments".

Her advice is sound, practical and Biblically based.  The entire book is written from the foundational premise that all we do in life should magnify and point the way to Christ, and each chapter reflects that one core value in the way we guide our children through life into adulthood.

My thanks to my friends at Howard Publishing for my complimentary copy of "Teachable Moments" in exchange for an honest review.  I highly recommend this one to parents of all ages, and to anyone who has influence in a child's life.

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers




About the Book:

To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown.

Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

In this riveting and highly anticipated tale of temptation, grace, and unconditional love, New York Times best-selling author Francine Rivers delivers big-canvas storytelling at its very best.


My Thoughts:

If this reads like a mixed bag review, it's probably because I'm not sure how I feel about this new book from one of my all time favorite Inspirational authors.  Francine has crafted another sweeping redemptive story, but the path to redemption is a very, very bumpy road in "Bridge to Haven".

I connected quickly with the tiny baby girl left under the "Bridge to Haven", despite disliking her name with a passion (Abra).  Still, when she was loved, I felt that love.  When she felt rejected and lost, I empathized with her deeply.  My childhood was peppered with confusion and feelings of abandonment that ultimately were figments of my imagination, just as Abra's were.

But feelings are feelings, and if they aren't dealt with honestly and quickly, those feelings give birth to resentment and rebellion.  It's that rebellion in Abra that took me to places I just didn't want to go.  From the moment she ran off with Dylan, I was ready to put the book down and walk away.  Uncomfortable, saddened, fearful....what I felt as I read that portion of the book.

Instead of returning to Haven, Abra moves from one destructive relationship right into another one.  It seemed safer than the first, but in the end was even more destructive.  Again, I wanted to toss the book aside.  Her life with Franklin evoked memories for me that I have no desire to revisit (please don't misunderstand me--my rebellion looked like child's play next to Abra's...but the emotions were like identical twins to mine.)

As I watched Abra come to a portion of her senses and escape her own personal hell, and watched the hand of God in her life, moving her through disaster after disaster to her one hope of redemption and forgiveness, I felt rewarded for suffering along with her all those years on the run from herself and her God.

It's the last few chapters of the book that I must warn readers of...and yes, the first two thirds of the book will leave you unsettled and uncomfortable.  This ain't your Momma's Christian romantic fiction!  Abra has known false love for so long, Francine takes extra care to show the reader what genuine love and marital intimacy really is.

But it does get a bit more graphic than one would expect.  Nothing like general market romance, but more than your average inspirational market romance.  It may leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable, but the comparison between what Abra ran to and what she came home to is night and day, and what Francine writes is truly what true love and intimacy is all about.

Just not sure if it might be too much for some readers.  Let me just leave it this way: this is NOT a book for a young girl, and if you are faint of heart or squeamish, it might not set well with you either.  But the writing is of the same caliber as Francine's epic novels such as "Redeeming Love", and her "Mark of the Lion Trilogy".

My thanks to the Tyndale House Publishing for my copy of "Bridge to Haven" in exchange for an honest review.  I do recommend it, but with caution.  If you feel you can handle going where Abra goes, then you won't be disappointed by her full journey.

Oh, one more thing...the ending feels a bit unfinished, but no word on a sequel.  And the best writing always leaves you wanting to know more about the fictional lives you're now invested in.





Happy Reading!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Angels Walking: A Novel by Karen Kingsbury




About the Book:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury comes the first in a brand-new series about second chances—a dramatic story about a washed up baseball player, the love he left behind, and the miracles that might save them both.

When former national baseball star Tyler Ames suffers a career-ending injury, all he can think about is putting his life back together the way it was before. He has lost everyone he loves on his way to the big leagues. Then just when things seem to be turning around, Tyler hits rock bottom. Across the country, Tyler’s one true love Sami Dawson has moved on.

A series of small miracles leads Tyler to a maintenance job at a retirement home and a friendship with Virginia Hutcheson, an old woman with Alzheimer’s who strangely might have the answers he so desperately seeks.

A team of Angels Walking take on the mission to restore hope for Tyler, Sami, and Virginia. Can such small and seemingly insignificant actions of the unseen bring healing and redemption? And can the words of a stranger rekindle lost love? Every journey begins with a step.

It is time for the mission to begin…

My Thoughts:

This series opens with a refreshing and unique concept:  angels sent to Earth with divine instruction.  Think "Touched by an Angel" meets "Mission Impossible", and put an accurate Biblical spin on it.

That's kind of what you'll find in "Angels Walking".  And you'll love watching the story unfold.

Most believers know that nothing happens by chance.  If you don't, then go check out Romans 8:28!  But to watch the threads of multiple lives intersect in what appears to be random moments turn into a tapestry of God's grace, mercy and love...Well, it's exquisite.

And this IS a Karen Kingsbury novel, so stock up on tissues!  "Angels Walking" releases September 2nd, so reserve a copy today.  My thanks to my friends at Howard Publishing for my advance copy in exchange for an honest review.  Out of all of Karen's books, I think this one is my favorite.

Happy Reading!

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Goodnight Ark by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman



About the Book:

Beds are ready.
Food is stored.
Noah hollers,
“All aboard!”

It’s bedtime on Noah’s ark, but the animals can’t sleep because of the storm. Two by two, they crowd into Noah’s bed, creating a sticky situation. Will Noah ever get them back to their own beds?

Climb aboard the ark for this rollicking, yet ultimately restful bedtime story as Noah finds a way to make things calm and cozy, even in the midst of a storm.

My Thoughts:

Cute rhymes, fun illustrations, and a Bible based children's book!  I loved it, and so did my five-year-old grandson.  Will poor Noah be able to get any sleep?  The animals are restless and some are fearful, but they all are ending up with Noah.

Children will be able to identify with the animals...I mean, when you heard strange noises did you dash to Mom and Dad and crawl in their bed?

This book is a winner, and I'm grateful to my friends at Zondervan Publishing for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.  "Goodnight Ark" is available in bookstores and online wherever books are sold.

Perfect for back-to-school reading, and ideal for Christmas.

Happy Reading!

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Move On by Vicki Courtney



About the Book:

You can say good-bye to the person you've been pretending to be!

Life is often messy. God makes provision to help us move beyond our messes.

Oftentimes our first instincts are to hide, deny, ignore, or run. InMove Onbest-selling author Vicki Courtney helps readers come clean with their muddy messes, revealing the deeper issues they must face, including:
  • the need for approval
  • struggles and broken dreams
  • shame
  • legalism
  • idols
  • Christian snobbery

It is in the middle of our messes, Vicki says, that Mercy shows up and offers us a safe place to process our struggles, imperfections, doubts, and fears. Once we face our messes, God, with his sweet mercy, can help us to get real, deal, and truly move on. Then with Mercy by our side, we are able to break free and experience the grace and freedom God intends

My Thoughts:

First of all, love the cover design on this one: GORGEOUS!  And I've always appreciated Vicki's candor and honesty in her books.  However, "Move On" is going on my keep shelf, because this is epic teaching, filled with hope and transparency and grace.

Vicki opens the book with an anecdote that would be a bombshell for any parent, especially a mom who has raised her children to live by God's Word.  The way she responds is gorgeous and filled with God's tender forgiveness and grace, which is the message of her book.

Too many Christians hold on to past sins and bad choices and wear them like post it notes from the enemy, reminding us just how awful we truly are.  NEWS FLASH: when you're in Jesus Christ, you're no longer condemned!  Time to tell the devil to take a hike and take his reminders with him.

That's not a license to sin, but a release from shame and freedom from finger-pointing, either at ourselves or at others in order to make ourselves feel just a little less awful.  We need to express, confess, repent and MOVE ON.

One line that really hit home for me had to do with a well-known pastor who fell in temptation in a very public way (and also repented in a very public way).  An attempt to share Christ with an unbeliever unraveled because Christians are known for "turning on one another and eating our own."

OUCH!

One thought I do wish Vicki had expressed more fully was Jesus not condemning the woman caught in adultery.  We need to remember that He did tell her He didn't condemn her...but He also said to "Go and not sin anymore."  To get it right, we really need to practice both forgiveness and exhortation to leave sin behind and "Move On".

My thanks to my friends at Thomas Nelson Publishing for a copy of "Move On" in exchange for an honest review.  For me, this is the best I've read from Vicki Courtney, and it's a keeper!


Happy Reading!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

CFBA Presents "A Grand Design" by Amber Stockton

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Grand Design
Abingdon Press (August 19, 2014)
by
Amber Stockton


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Words from the author:

Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. I am in my mid-30's, married to the love of my life since July 2007, have a daughter and a son, and live in Colorado. Here, I am content to do what I love—write, speak, and offer virtual assistance.

Thanks to the gentle nudging of a fellow author -- Tracie Peterson -- in 2002, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers and wouldn't be published today without them. For those of you who are also fiction writers looking for a wonderful support group, check them out! My very first book, Promises, Promises, sold in December 2006 and released in February 2008. I've been going steady ever since.

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists. As the quilt’s story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother’s life . . . and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa’s fractured heart—and bring healing to her entire family?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Grand Design, go HERE.

My Thoughts:

I'm a bit behind in my reading, and I received my copy a little late...so watch for my review coming soon!

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Storm Siren by Mary Weber



About the Book:

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes.
Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”


As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her  Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth—meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war or be killed.
 
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

My Thoughts:

This YA book has been getting rave reviews from some of my favorite authors, so when I had the chance to read it, I was excited.  "Storm Siren" got off to a slow start for me, but once I got into the rhythm of the story, I was hooked.

For me, I think I wanted more back story.  Yes, I'm a weirdo, because usually the complaint is too much back story.  But in order for me to slip into the universe of the fantasy novel I need more to pull me out of my regular world.

Nym is a sympathetic character.  She's been handed around like a pair of used socks, with nothing to really call her own except this elemental power that takes more than it gives.  When her fifteenth owner purchases her, will she finally find a home, or just be another piece of furniture on display?

Lots of foreign terms kind of threw me as well.  A pronunciation guide might have helped, but midway through the book I either had my own way of saying the words or just skipped over them to get to the action.

My thanks to my friends at Thomas Nelson for an advance copy of "Storm Siren" in exchange for an honest review, and major props to the artist behind the gorgeous cover art.  If you are a fantasy fan, this book is perfect for you.


Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Surviving Henry by Erin Taylor Young




About the Book:

Sometimes you seek out love. And sometimes it broadsides you. You don't always know what you're getting into when you bring home a puppy. You hope for laughs and cuddles, long walks and a wagging tail. And sometimes you get . . . Henry.

Henry is a boxer who suffers from Supreme Dictator of the Universe Syndrome. He vandalizes his obedience school, leaps through windows, cheats death at every turn, and generally causes his long-suffering owner Erin Taylor Young to wonder what on earth she did wrong that God would send this dog to derail her life.

But this rogue torpedo of a dog wasn't sent to torment his owner--well, not just to torment her. Through all the hair-pulling and questioning of her own sanity, Erin learns something very powerful from Henry, a dog who brings new meaning to the concept of unconditional love.

Through his laugh-out-loud antics and jaw-dropping escapades, Henry will careen into your life and steal your heart.

My Thoughts:

If you've ever been a pet owner, you'll relate to the tales Erin shares in "Surviving Henry".  If you've never had a pet...you may have second thoughts about becoming a pet owner after reading about Henry's antics.

Henry is a boxer who wasn't eligible to live his life as a show dog due to...wait for it...a missing testicle.  So instead, he became a member of the Young family.  It isn't long before Erin and Alan and their boys wonder just who owns whom?

From peeing on the owner of the obedience school, to breaking and entering a pet store, there isn't anything Henry won't attempt.  Except swimming.  But he does.  Go swimming.  Accidentally.  Seems Henry can't swim, so he ends up with a doggy life jacket and hilarity ensues.

This charismatic boxer attracts fans and friends everywhere he goes, and creates mayhem wherever he enters.  But he's obviously loved and well cared for, cheap squeaky toys and all.  My thanks to my friends at Revell Publishing for my advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

I honestly fell in love with Henry, and I think you will, too.  You'll also be very glad you aren't his owner!  "Surviving Henry" is available at bookstores and online book sellers everywhere, so get a copy and prepare to laugh...a lot!

Happy Reading!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker



About the Book:

Have you ever felt like you are completely missing the point?

 Are you one of the millions who crave a new direction in the church, fed up with religious games, empty promises, and cultural Christianity? You are not alone. You are not crazy. Maybe Jesus is ready to interrupt your life.

In 7, Jen Hatmaker and her family started an experimental mutiny against excess. Interrupted is the prequel, the story before the story—when God stepped into their comfortable faith and called them to join Him in something greater.

Walk with Jen into a transformational journey that began with one dangerous prayer: “Raise up in me a holy passion,” and concluded with a life of service to the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken. Transparent and imperfect, Jen will engage and inspire you to go beyond comfortable and answer for yourself the question she faced: Is there more to faith than just safe and sequestered, predictable and boring?

God is moving and stirring our generation. Are you ready?

My Thoughts:

I love Jen Hatmaker, but her books need to come with warning labels: "Warning--reading this book may be hazardous to your comfortable little life!"  Seriously, Jen's tagline could easily be "Flip My Faith".  (If she uses that, I get credit for it!)

"Interrupted" is revised and expanded, with new material, which makes me wonder what the previous version would have done to my life.  As it is, I have a lot to chew on.  See, I'm one of those believers who feel like I'm missing something.  I attend church, read my Bible, pray, and share my faith.

But I still feel like I'm missing something.  "Interrupted" tackles today's hot topic of serving the least of these, but Jen has a unique take on the 'movement' if you will.  It's fresh, it's packed with humor, loaded with missteps and totally honest.

In other words, it's livable.  It's doable.  It's practical.  It's Gospel inclusive.  It's dangerous.  And Jen says if you only read one of her books, make it "Interrupted".  I agree.

Unless you're comfy and cozy in your faith.  In that case, while you NEED to read "Interrupted", if you do, you'll end up feeling....well....interrupted!

My thanks to my friends at Tyndale House Publishing for my complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.  Make "Interrupted" a part of your 'to be read' shelf.  Right up there with "Crazy Love" and "Radical".

Happy Reading!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham




About the Book:

Read Find Your Strongest Life and discover:
  • How to make the most of the role you were born to play
  • How to get others to understand who you really are
  • The successful strategies of other women like you
Check out what women are already saying about Find Your Strongest Life.

Brooke: When I read the “Ten Myths” that opened the book, I was completely hooked. The statistics are interesting and fresh. I also related to the problem that sets up the book: "Which parts of me should I cut out?" As I read, I could see myself in the Marcus’s big-picture analysis and statistics. The early part of the book made me anticipate a breakthrough. And Marcus delivered. Overall, he explains a woman's dilemma perfectly . . . in fresh terms with a unique spin. The main ideas in each chapter were so engaging. Chapter 6 in particular is worth the price of the book. I have already started looking for strong moments in my life, and I want to tell every woman I know to do the same.It is definitely life-changing.

Rebecca:It was really good. It was awesome. And to be honest, perfect timing for my life. I'm REALLY in that place. I can't tell you how badly I've been depressed for the last several months just trying to figure out what to do differently so I'm not so miserable. On one hand, I'm grateful I have a job still. I have a mortgage and bills and all that. But on the other hand...I can't continue to work at a job that gets me nowhere, is not rewarding, not challenging, and mentally drains me. I really have started avoiding my family because I've become so rude and snippy. It's a bad cycle. BUT...God willing this year (sooner than later) I will be able to put this behind me and do what I love :) Even if it's making half as much money. Thanks for thinking of me to read this. I needed it!

Delaney: I was on a plane as I finished reading the manuscript. I was going to be with my daughter who is a law student. As I finished the pages, Marcus helped me gain a new understanding of myself that stood out like a neon sign: I am the person who helps others build infrastructure, get through situations ,and set everything right. It goes beyond motherhood. I am an event planner by birth. I see big pictures and the components necessary to get from vision to execution. The content helped me to reframe my own thinking. Very helpful. I’m excited to take the online test and see whichrole I'm born to play.

Jennifer: As a working mother, I found theconcept of the book fascinating. There are daily struggles of tryingto balancebeing the perfect wife, mother, and employee, and the book helped me truly understand how to navigate all those demands.


My Thoughts:

Well, hmmm.  I requested a copy of Marcus Buckingham's book quite awhile ago from a program called BookLookBloggers, but shelved it and then forgot about it.  When I reactivated my account (I took a much needed sabbatical from reviewing), there it was, just waiting for my review.

So I dug through my overstuffed bookshelves, found the book and sat down with it.  Truthfully, I have no clue why I requested this book!  I don't care for self-help, life coaching, or anything with 'easy steps'...so I'm kind of disappointed in myself.

The book is well written.  Marcus knows how to tell a story, and some of the anecdotes he shares are interesting.  But, in all honesty, I didn't make it past chapter five.  This just isn't the book for me.

So I'm going to ask a favor of you, my faithful readers.  If you see "Find Your Strongest Life" in your bookstore, or come across it online, check it out.  See what you think.  And give the book a fair chance.

My thanks to my friends at Thomas Nelson Publishing for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review, and for not holding my tardiness against me:-)

Happy Reading!

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