Thursday, August 28, 2014

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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Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Beautiful Defeat by Kevin Malarkey with Matthew L. Jacobsen





About the Book:

Total surrender to God: the surprising key to experiencing the sense of peace and purpose you crave.

There is a gnawing feeling inside all of us that says we could be better. If we would just be more organized or work a little harder, we’d finally have the rich and fulfilling life we want.
But the message of the cross is different.

The message is not one of God saying, “I died for your sins to work as a consultant to help you achieve the life you’re determined to have.” Jesus died to reconcile us to God so that we can die and give our lives to him and to others—a total surrender that is truly a beautiful defeat!

Perspective and peace in the midst of the stormy chaos of life are always available to the person who lives a surrendered life. The result is a rich existence basking in the pleasure and approval of God.

My Thoughts:

"A Beautiful Defeat" is a book every believer should read.  In it, Kevin outlines ten steps to living a surrendered life, but don't be fooled.  This isn't some easy self-help program.  Each step along the way has its own built in challenges, and it won't be easy by any means.

It will be worth it, though.

Each chapter takes on one of the steps, beginning with knowing that the process of surrender is messy.  Then Kevin urges us to be honest about our existing struggles, an area where most of us get hung up.  It's hard to admit we struggle; we so want to represent a victorious life, but when we do it from a façade of ease and success, we rob God of His glory in our lives.

I loved Kevin's story of taking his son to visit Kevin's old college campus, when he struggled with sharing his true experiences at the college.  Once he opened up about his misbehavior and drinking days, his son was amazed at the transformational power of God in his dad's life.

Now, that's way cool!

At the end of each short chapter, packed with Biblical and personal anecdotes and Scripture passages, Kevin closes with a reminder of the step, giving the reader a suggested action to take and a prayer to commit to God.  He's included an appendix that summarizes the ten steps, actions and prayers for easy reference.

I received a copy of "A Beautiful Defeat from my friends at Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  I found Kevin's book to be refreshing, encouraging and his testimony transparent and filled with praise to God for it all.  Highly recommended.

Happy Reading!

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Jonah and the Great Big Fish by Rhonda Gowler Greene, Illustrated by Margaret Spengler




About the Book:

“God told Jonah to obey,

said, ‘Go to Nineveh this day.’

But, stubborn Jonah fled instead.

Didn’t do just what God said.”

Jonah’s disobedience landed him inside a big fish! And there he had time to think and pray.
Children will feel the waves and hear the splash as Jonah sinks “down and down and down” into the belly of the fish. This story serves as an excellent reminder of how important it is to listen to God.

My Thoughts:

First thing after opening the package for "Jonah and the Great Big Fish, I read it to my five-month-old granddaughter.  The book and the illustrations held her attention until the very end.  To me, that's a pretty good endorsement!

In case you need more proof, I also read it to my five-year-old grandson.  His first words were, "Nana, can you get me the rest of these books.  I really like them!"  Naturally, that's what this Nana plans on doing...getting every children's book written by Rhonda Gowler Greene!

Rhonda's writes big truths with great simplicity and a rhyme and rhythm that is cheerful and upbeat.  She captures the story of Jonah and helps young readers grasp the deeper truths of listening and obeying, and what can happen if you don't.

The book is gorgeous, too.  Illustrated by Margaret Spengler, the images are colorful and fun, and so captivating even a five-month-old will pay attention to the story...not bad!  I loved the colors and the brightness of the pages, and her under-the-sea scenes are some of my favorites.

I received a complimentary copy of "Jonah and the Great Big Fish" from my friends at Zonderkidz Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  This book is a treasure that's going on my grandchildren's bookshelf, hopefully to be joined soon by more of Rhonda's Bible stories!

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cottonmouth and the River by C.S. Fritz




About the Book:

Meet Freddie Cottonmouth - A Boy Who Loves the River, Big Adventures, and a Furry Beast named Tug.
Tug loves taking Freddie on wild adventures—trips to the moon, building castles, or catching fireflies with Freddie riding on his wide furry back. When Freddie finds a mysterious egg, Tug makes him promise never to eat it. But Freddie is about to discover that broken promises come at a great price.

This is the rare children’s story—both bold and tender and brimming with moments of great risk, adventure, and heart. Combining the artistic wonder of Where the Wild Things Are with the timeless storytelling of The Polar Express, this story will capture both the imagination and the intelligence of children and their parents as it sheds light on the power of sin, sacrifice, and redemption.

My Thoughts:

This children's storybook is beautifully packaged.  From the front cover illustration to the drawings within the story, "Cottonmouth and the River" evokes memories of classics such as "Where the Wild Things Are", the Lemony Snicket books and "Hugo".

All of the illustrations are black and white, with some shades of gray, looking more like etchings or paintings.  For several pages of the story, the illustrations are telling the tale, no words necessary.  And when words are used, they are carefully chosen.

Each page holds at most a couple of paragraphs, with some pages hosting a single sentence.  Regardless, a sense of whimsy floods the story, bringing along some melancholy and a gorgeous story of redemption within the allegory.

I received a copy of "Cottonmouth and the River" as a gift from David C. Cook Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  This book makes a beautiful gift for the entire family, and is sure to lead to some interesting discussions around the dinner table or while under the covers.  This appears to be the first in a series, so hurry and get your copy today!

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Confession by Robert Whitlow




About the Book:

Confession is good for the soul, but it could mean death to an ambitious young lawyer.

Assistant DA Holt Douglas has made a career of getting confessions from criminals. With a confession in hand, he knows a guilty plea is soon to follow.

In the midst of professional success, Holt is haunted by a secret—a lie he buried in the grave of his best friend. Holt’s crime is hidden from all eyes—family, friends, police, and his soon-to-be fiancé.
But the truth has a way of coming back to life.

With obsessive prosecutorial zeal, Holt reopens a cold case involving the death of the town’s wealthiest citizen. The man’s death was ruled a suicide, but Holt suspects murder. Facing fierce opposition, he is determined to expose the killer. Holt slowly begins to unravel the facts.
And comes face-to-face with his own guilty conscience.

With his job, his relationship with the woman he loves, and his future at risk, Holt skirts the boundary between truth and lies, confession and hypocrisy, redemption and ruin. Can he survive long enough to finally make the right choice?

My Thoughts:

Robert Whitlow's last novel was a little disappointing for me, so I requested my copy of "The Confession" with a bit of hesitation.  Turns out, I made a winning choice...Robert Whitlow's legal suspense is high octane and he hits it out of the courtroom with this one!

ADA Holt Douglas is hot on the trail of what he thinks might be a cover up.  After gaining access to a closed case file by accident, he goes against orders to ignore what he's read and he goes on digging, enlisting a friend from the sheriff's department to assist him.

Trish Carmichael is secretly carrying a torch for Holt, so she will do just about anything for him.  Question is would she knowingly break the law for him?  And Holt is carrying his own secret, one that could completely unravel his legal career.

You won't know who did the deed until the very end of the book and you won't see it coming.  That's great writing, reading friends, and I'm grateful to my friends at Thomas Nelson Publishing for my advance copy of "The Confession".  I confess that I loved this book, and I believe you will as well.

"The Confession" is available at bookstores and online wherever books are sold.


Happy Reading!

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CFBA Presents "Skyzone" by Creston Mapes

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Sky Zone
David C. Cook (June 1, 2014)
by
Creston Mapes


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Creston has fond memories of his boyhood in Bath, Ohio, where he became enchanted with his future wife, way back in the fourth grade. His father, Bernie, owned and operated The Weathervane Furniture Shop in town. The whole family lived right upstairs in the century-old house known as "The Shop."

Creston studied journalism at Bowling Green State University, then began his writing career. During the past 30 years, he has worked as a reporter, corporate copywriter, creative director, freelance writer, and author.


ABOUT THE BOOK

A rally for a controversial presidential candidate.
A terrorist threat.
A nightmare of cataclysmic proportions.


Jack and Pamela Crittendon have hit the breaking point. After months out of work as a reporter, Jack is playing Mr. Mom and working part-time at Festival Arena with his survivalist friend Brian Shakespeare. Meanwhile, Pamela has gone back to work full-time while eight months pregnant. Having her recently widowed mother on hand isn't making matters any easier. With financial pressures boiling, Jack reports for duty at a rally for controversial presidential candidate Martin Sterling where he expects a mindless night on the job. But when Homeland Security picks up intel about a potential terrorist threat, Jack and Shakespeare are thrust into a life-or-death battle to save their own lives--and the lives of thousands of innocent people.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sky Zone, go HERE.


For my review, click HERE.

Happy Reading!

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