Monday, April 18, 2016

My friend Michelle


 
There are approximately 30,000 Americans living with cystic fibrosis. One of them is my friend Michelle. When I found out that she has Cystic Fibrosis, I couldn't believe it. She is so full of life and is truly a fighter of this disease.

The reason she is alive today is because of the great strides that have been made in Cystic Fibrosis research and treatment. There is still no cure, and that is why I am walking in the 2016 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides Walk in Lafayette.

Will you join me? Support me by making a donation to my Great Strides fundraising campaign today!

Great Strides is a fun, family-friendly event that raises awareness and support for people with CF and their families.

Please support me!
Help me reach my fundraising goal by donating to my Great Strides fundraising campaign. Your gift will help add tomorrows to the lives of people with cystic fibrosis by supporting life-saving research and medical progress. Your gift is 100-percent tax deductible.
 
 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Z Blog Squad Easter Giveaway!

Can you believe it?!
 
 
 
Easter is only 26 days away!!!
 
To help celebrate, the good folks at Zonderkidz have agreed to have me host an Easter basket giveaway!
 
 
I am so excited about this giveaway!
 
 
Zonderkidz let me choose from among several categories of books that have been grouped together especially for this giveaway. Since my daughter just recently turned 7, my blog will be hosting the giveaway for the group of books in the 4-10 year-old age range.
 
 
And what a fun grouping of books it is!
 
 
Here's what you can win:
 
 
Info

 

Faith Builders Bible
NIrV

Full Text Bible with Features
 

 
 
 
 
Info
 
Angels in the Bible Storybook
by Allia Zobel Nolan
Informational Storybook Bible for Older children
 
 

 

 

Info
 
Think, Act, Be Like Jesus
by Randy Frazee
Devotional for kids ages 6-12; from Believe series





 
 
Info
 
7 Days of Awesome
by Shawn Byous
Picture Book; Story of Creation
 
 
 
 
 
Click on "Info" under each book cover above to get more information about each product.

And be sure to check back over the next month or so to read my reviews of these books!
 
He is Risen!
 
To enter the giveaway (U.S. addresses only), fill out the form below by March 12, 2016.    
Please enter only once.
  All books will be shipped in time for Easter! 
  
 
Congratulations to Ella P. -- you are the winner of the Zonderkidz Easter Basket Giveaway!!!
 
 
 
 
 
"The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay."  Matthew 28:5-6
 

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Your New Money Mindset" Blog Tour

About the book:

Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale, October 2015)

Have you ever thought: If I just had a little more money I would be happy? Research has shown this belief to be false.
 
Through personal experience, Biblical passages and timely research, coauthors Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, and Dr. Jim Moline, consulting psychologist, reveal that financial happiness and security have little to do with how much money you have, and a lot to do with the role money plays in your life.

Your New Money Mindset isn't just another book about managing finances. It's a book about reshaping your relationship with money by examining your attitudes and beliefs around money.

Your New Money Mindset:

-Defies the consumerism that infects our culture and sickens our hearts.
-Shows us how to replace the tension and fear we feel about money with contentment and peace.
-Guides us to live open-heartedly with our time, energy and money.
-Provides an online New Money Mindset Assessment™, which will help you pinpoint what attitudes about money you could work on in order to develop an openhearted attitude to life.
Regardless of your financial situation, we invite you to journey with us to discover how to transform your relationship with money by remaking your heart.
 
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1IN4NP7
 
 
About the author: 
 
Brad Hewitt is president and CEO of Thrivent Financial, a not-for-profit Fortune 500 organization dedicated to helping Christians be wise with money and live generously. He speaks regularly on how a redefined relationship with money can help us find and live out our call in life. He and his wife live in Minnesota.

Connect with Brad:
website, Twitter, Facebook



My Take:

When I first picked up this book, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Is this a devotional book? Is it a self-help thing? Is it an inspirational piece?

What I found was that, in a way, it was kind of all three of these things.

What I like about this book was that it was easy to read, and for the most part, it kept my attention. Since I read a large chunk of it in one sitting, I felt as if some things were repeated quite a bit. But this is true of any book that focus on one thing.

What was the one thing this book focused on? To me it seemed as if the big takeaway was that in order to "get control" over your money (which is what so many people are looking to do), you need to change your thinking about money. When you think differently about your money, you will feel differently about your money and ultimately act differently with your money. This overall idea was so very similar to what our church does every year during our Stewardship month.

I thought that this book got that point across very well. However, if you are looking for more of a step-by-step, practical budgeting, how-to book, this is not your answer. The book seems to take on the "pre" aspect of getting your financial ducks in a row by focusing on the big picture - the "why" of things - rather than the nitty-gritty.

Overall, I thought this was a good book to get your head in the game when it comes to financial thinking. I wouldn't recommend it as a practical how-to, but if you need some help getting your thoughts in line when it comes to money, it would be a help.


See what other reviewers are saying about this book here -
Landing page:






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."




Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook" Review

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook

Eat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes
by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison

In their debut cookbook, the Trim Healthy Mama’s share hundreds of delicious, healthy recipes to help readers successfully slim down while eating well. 

This companion cookbook to the bestselling Trim Healthy Mama Plan is just what readers have been waiting for. It features simple, mouthwatering, recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner—including slow cooker and one-pot meals, hearty soups and salads, omelets and waffles, pizzas, breads and more.  No Trim Healthy Mama should be deprived, so there are also favorite snacks, delectable desserts, and the smoothies, sippers and teas fans love.

With  pantry-stocking advice, time-saving tips, and information on how to cook for the entire family, the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook offers a delicious and nutritious way to make trim and healthy meals with less stress—so you have more time with your loved ones.


For more information click here.

More information about the Trim Healthy Mama Lifestyle can be found here - http://www.trimhealthymama.com/



My Take:

When I signed up to review this cookbook, I didn't actually realize the whole picture of what this "Trim Healthy Mama" was about. The cookbook promised simple, healthy recipes for all sorts of things, and I am a sucker for a cookbook!

It turns out that the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle is something that the authors founded based on their previous book - Trim Healthy Mama Plan. Here is what it says on their website about it:
 
Authors Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett provide a comprehensive, Biblically-sound, effective and delicious way to eat for health and weight loss. Written with humor and thorough research, these books will entertain, enlighten and encourage women (and men!) to feed their bodies and souls the way God created us to thrive. Separating scientific realities from the fads, this book addresses the diverse needs of adults and growing children.You'll never look at food and health the same way again.
 
 
To me, all that seems fairly vague. When you get farther into reading about the plan and farther into the cookbook, you realize that this plan involves completely cutting out sugar. It also involves following a plan for eating other types of foods. For someone who has had bad reactions to "other" sweeteners (even natural stevia), this is extremely hard to do!
 
Now I'm not trying to bash the authors of this book - far from it. This plan obviously works for them and works for many others. I just am not able to follow this plan, and it wasn't clear at the outset that this is what this cookbook was about.
 
I looked completely through this cookbook, and there were some recipes that we were able to use, substituting here and there as needed. Most were very tasty, but I think you would get much more out of this book if you are trying to follow the Trim Healthy Mama plan.
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Penguin-Random House Publishing through Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day Salute


 
 
Bill DeWitt (Shoopette's Dad)
Honorably discharged as Petty Officer 2nd Class (E-5) after four years in the United States Navy -- 1964-1968.

Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1964 and served primarily on the USS America (CV-66), an aircraft carrier. The USS America was attached to Fighter Squadron (VF-33), and Bill served as an Aviation Fire Control Technician (AQF-2). He worked on the electronics that controlled the air-to-air missiles on the F4-B Phantom fighter jet.

The time period when my dad served was the early Vietnam War era. His aircraft carrier was also involved in the rescue effort of a Navy electronic intelligence vessel during the Six-Day War in June, 1967, when the USS Liberty was mistakenly attacked during the Arab-Israeli conflict.
 
My dad learned as much as he could about electronics in the Navy, and after he was discharged, he used the G.I. Bill to attend college at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After earning his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering, he spent the next 40+ years as a Professional Engineer in various companies and then as a Full Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology at Purdue University.
 

 
 
Orlo Shoop (Shoopette's father-in-law}
U.S. Army, Chief Warrant Office IV, retired after 24 years of service.

After attending Wabash College in Indiana, Orlo entered the U.S. Army in 1971 in the midst of the conflict in Vietnam. While stationed in Hawaii, he graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Chaminade University.
 
During his career in the U.S. Army, Orlo was stationed at various bases throughout the world including bases in Hawaii; North Carolina; Wurzburg, Germany; Arizona; Georgia, Heidelberg, Germany; and Nebraska. He served in Military Intelligence including being stationed at Headquarters USAREUR - Heidelberg, Germany, during the U.S. Gulf War in the early 1990s. He finished his career at STRATCOM in Bellevue, Nebraska. Beyond that, since he was in Military Intelligence, we can't say anything else -- it's classified. :)
 
My husband grew up in this Army household and moved at least every three years during his childhood. The motto in the Shoop household was, "Home is where the Army sends you."
 
After retiring from the Army, Orlo moved his family back home to Indiana. He has spent the past 20 years working for Purdue University in IT/Technical Operations.
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Annihilation" Review

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's “Southern Reach” trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist (the de facto leader), and our narrator – a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and – above all – avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers―they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding―but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

My husband's take:

I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi and fantasy books, and I have been for as long as I can remember. But even I must admit that sometimes they can be a bit cookie cutter. The hero finds him/herself in space/a distant land and must conquer the aliens/dragons and save the love interest. Occasionally you get something different, but that really doesn’t happen too often. 

Now don’t get me wrong – I still love reading these types of books even if it is the same basic story over and over. I’m a fan, and there is something to be said for the familiar. 

However, Annihilation is something different. Very different. So different that it is hard for me to put it into a category or even decide if I liked it or not.

The story is of an expedition in Area X. Actually, this is the story of the 12th expedition in the strange area that has been cut off from the rest of America. Each of the previous expeditions all died in very strange ways, so this expedition is treated differently. Four women with varying skill sets enter the zone, completely alienated from the history of the area and each other. They don’t even know each other’s names. With tensions already high, they start to become affected by Area X and slowly descend into madness.

This book is written from the perspective of one of the four women’s journal entries. The author does a fantastic job of painting a picture of the surroundings and giving you a real grasp of the tension among the four women. One of the women is a psychologist who has given them hypnotic suggestions to try to control them without their knowledge. When the narrator figures this out, she immediately tries to figure out why. Each of the women’s mental state decays throughout the novel, which is actually pretty cool. Our main character sees them all start to lose it but can’t figure out if she is going crazy or not. The descriptions of Area X were amazing, and trying to figure out what happened to the area and the previous expeditions was appealing, too.

But even though parts of this story were interesting, I still felt as if it was missing…something. I’m not sure if “missing” is the right word to use here, but it was definitely lacking in story lines and progressions. There didn’t seem to be much of a story arc – just a slow descent into more questions. And each question that was raised seemed to just lead to more questions. There were no answers – none at all. There were lots of little storylines that looked like they might be promising, but they went no further than a few steps and then veered right back onto the path to nowhere.

It doesn’t help that I didn’t realize this was the first book in a trilogy (I should have known. Is it possible for someone to write a book that isn’t part of a trilogy these days?), so the ending was completely unsatisfying. Maybe there would be more of a story arc over the entire trilogy and maybe those questions would get answers eventually. When I did learn it was a trilogy, the biggest question that came to mind was – is this book good enough for me to want to read two more? And like all of the other questions raised in this novel, I really don’t know the answer to that one, either. 

I will give Annihilation ... 3 BookWorms.










Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from HarperCollins UK/4th Estate Publishing through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"A Worthy Pursuit" Review

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily's mother she'd keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily's legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he's been led to believe. Is she villain or victim? 

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he's ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte's heart.

My Take:

Books by Karen Witemeyer were some of the first ones I read when I started doing book reviews several years ago. Some of her novels I have thought were just OK, but there are a couple of hers that I would list among my favorite books that I have reviewed.

Fortunately, this latest novel can be counted as a favorite.

First of all, the setup for this book was one that I thought was very unique. A bounty hunter chasing a supposedly kidnapped girl and a guardian trying to protect that same girl from her disreputable grandfather – it made for a great stepping off point for the rest of the novel.

And what a multi-layered novel it was.

The complicated setup only led to an intriguing novel that had so many dimensions that I never once felt bored. There were just so many things that led to my overall enjoyment of this book. The talented children, the bounty hunter with a heart of gold, the uptight music teacher who was running from the emotional turmoil in her past, the suspense, the witty banter – all of it came together into a very well-written book that was extremely hard to put down.

One thing that has been lacking in recent novels I have read is the depth of the characters. This was definitely not lacking with A Worthy Pursuit. Charlotte and Stone and especially the children leapt off the page. They never once felt as if they were cookie-cutter characters, and their actions and dialogue seemed genuine. The plot of this novel really could have led to many Big Misunderstandings in order to keep the characters apart, but even though one time it got close, it never fully went that route. And for that I am very grateful! 

I also appreciated the relationship between Charlotte and Stone. I knew where it would ultimately end up, but it was fun to see their journey. Even though the physical descriptions at times were a bit eye-rolling or unnecessary, their courtship still felt genuine, and I liked seeing how they fell in love.

The suspense throughout this novel was something else that kept things interesting. I like having another dimension to a romance besides the courtship, and this novel definitely had that. Poor Stone was beaten up and shot at so many times it became borderline unbelievable, but it still made for an interesting story.

One of my favorite aspects of the Charlotte character was her love of music. I so related to how she could just let go and lose herself in the music when she played the piano. I saw a quote years ago (attributed to a German opera house), and the last part said, “God gave us music that we might pray without words.” This came to mind at once when Charlotte played the piano in the book, and there are so many times when I feel the same way when I play.

If I had to pick something that could have been done a little bit better, it would be the spiritual aspect. The two main characters already had a relationship with God, and they did rely on Him and the Bible for guidance. It was very seamless in its presentation, which is something I appreciate, but I wish at times that it just went a bit deeper.

Something that I thought was really cute in this novel was how Stone, because of his career as a bounty hunter, ended up being portrayed in dime novels as a character. It was a neat way for Stone to relate to Lily as her protector, and I thought it was just flat-out funny at times. Stone’s friend and fellow dime novel character, Dan, was fun, too, and I would love to read a book about him in the future!

I truly feel that this novel was reminiscent of what I really liked about Karen Witemeyer’s books back in the beginning of her career. A Worthy Pursuit is definitely a favorite read of the year.

I will give  A Worthy Pursuit ... 4 BookWorms.











Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"The Finishing School" Blog Tour

The Finishing School: How One Book Nerd Began Living What She Learned (Nyree Press, August 2015)

Are you tired of waiting for change to happen in your life? Do you feel stuck, even though you want to live more intentionally?

In today's world, our most precious pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream, shopping trips for things we don't need, bad habits we can't seem to get a handle on, and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it? That's the challenge.

After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to good use and start actually living it out. You will hear about her journey through victories and plenty of failures and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your own life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

Purchase a copy:
http://bit.ly/1K9ghpY
 
 
 
 
 
About the author: Valerie Woerner is owner of Val Marie Paper. She and her husband, Tyler, live in Louisiana with their daughter, Vivi Mae. The Finishing School is her first book.

Connect with Valerie: websiteTwitter, Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My Take:
 
I think we all struggle with getting things done and just not having enough hours in the day. My six-year-old daughter even commented on this the other day. She was disappointed that she just didn't have enough time to do everything she wanted to do in one day!
 
So what do we do about it? Make lists? Tell ourselves we are failures who will never do better? Give up and watch Netflix all weekend? Maybe. But what's the best thing we can do?
 
Be intentional.
 
That's what I got from this book, The Finishing School. The most important thing to think about when trying to "get your life together" is to be intentional. Intentional with what you do, intentional with whom you have relationship, intentional in your time spent with God.
 
Woerner covers many different areas in this book including joy, hospitality, friendships, health, rest, and contentment. There are a lot of topics covered, which may seem overwhelming. I would recommend taking it slowly and doing a little bit at a time - being intentional but also not stressing yourself out!
 
At times this book read more like a memoir than a self-help book. It's nice to have examples and feel as if other people are in the same boat. It just needs to really be balanced in a book like this.
 
I do find it ironic that the author says that she has read all of the books, and her answer to that is to -- write another book! It was helpful to have so many books narrowed down in this book, though. And of course I appreciated how she always referred back to the only book that we really need to follow - the Bible!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Nyree Press through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Israel's Mission" Blog Tour

About the DVD:

What's your mission?

God gave the assignment to His people thousands of years ago: to bring "lost sheep" back into the love and safety of His kingdom. He said to become a "Kingdom of Priests," and put God on display to show the world what He is like.
 
It's still our task today.
 
In this thirteenth volume of the That the World May Know ® film series, you'll glimpse the urgency and rewards of welcoming the strangers and prodigals the Lord longs to embrace. Discover the mission that can give your life - and the lives of those around you - greater meaning than you ever imagined.

Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the lands of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures. Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know ® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

Designed for use with That the World May Know: Israel's Mission Discovery Guide.

Filmed on location at these biblically significant sites in Israel and Jordan:
-Back to the Father's House - Negev Desert
-Show Them the Way - Timnah
-Prodigal Sons and Daughters - Qatzrin
-Return from the Far Off Country - Jerash
-Welcome Home - Qatzrin


Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1KsCFRr









About the author:

Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the Faith Lessons video series with Focus on the Family. An ordained minister, he holds the chair of biblical cultural studies as a religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan. He and his wife, Esther, have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

Find Ray online:
website
 
 
See what other reviewers are saying here: http://litfusegroup.com/author/RVanderLaan




My Take:

My husband regularly teaches a class at our church called "Overview of the Bible." In it he spends six weekly sessions going through every section of the Bible and talking about how God's plan of redemption is seen throughout and how we can apply the Bible to our everyday lives.

This DVD series reminded me a lot of that class. The emphases are a bit different - this series is more specific than my husband's class - but the way it looks at the "big picture" of God's plan is very similar.

I really didn't know what to expect when I started this series - I'm not a huge history/geography buff - but I was blown away by the use of the historically significant sights in this series. It was fascinating to see where these events in the Bible took place, and it was neat to kind of take a tour along with the people in the video.

The teacher - Ray Vander Laan - was a dynamic speaker who did an excellent job of relating the messages of the lessons to everyday life. He was very passionate about the topic, and it was very easy to listen to him.

There is a study guide/book that goes along with this DVD series. The discussion questions and notes in it that relate to the DVD lesson are very good. There are also additional pages that provide an in-depth personal study for each of the five lessons. While the personal study is very good, I think it might be difficult for some people to fit that part of the study into a busy schedule, especially if this was a weekly series. The personal study section for Lesson One is 30 pages, and the one for Lesson Three is about 33. I would love to have an hour or two every day to devote to studying the Bible! But that just isn't able to happen many days.

That being said, this series is meant to be an in-depth series. I did appreciate the thoroughness of the study guide and the videos. If I was doing this with a small group, I would probably stretch it out over 8-10 weeks and really dig into it.

I would also like to add a comment about the camera operation of the videos. At times the videos were very dizzying. This was especially true when Mr. Vander Laan would walk back and forth while he was teaching. Now I don't have a problem with teachers walking back and forth. My husband does it all the time! But when the camera would be zoomed in on him and would try to follow him back and forth rather than using a wider-angle shot, it became very, very dizzying. I realize that this is the new normal for movies and such these days. My eyes/brain/inner ear just can't always keep up!

Overall, I think this DVD series is excellent, and I am looking forward to maybe being able to experience others of this type in the future.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing and Focus on the Family through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."






Friday, August 28, 2015

"Irish Meadows" Blog Tour

1911, Long Island, New York
Faced With an Uncertain Future, Sometimes All You Have Left Is the Courage to Dream

Brianna and Colleen O'Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he's put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
 
Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry---as long as her father's choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone's plans.
 
As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O'Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father's machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

 
Irish Meadows
by Susan Anne Mason 
Historical Romance
Courage to Dream series book 1
Bethany House 
 
See what other reviewers are saying here: http://litfusegroup.com/author/smason
 
 
 
 
 
Susan Anne Mason's debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

 
Find Susan online: website, Facebook
 
 
 
 
 
 
My Take:
 
As I started reading Irish Meadows, I was immediately taken back to 1911 on a Long Island, New York, horse farm. The writing is very descriptive and really captures the scenery and atmosphere of this time and place.

As I kept reading, I realized that the only plotlines were going to be ones about the romantic relationships between Gilbert/Brianna and Rylan/Colleen. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I usually prefer for my historical romance to have a few more interesting things going on around the romantic storyline. Even so, I decided to keep reading to the end to see where things went.

Brianna and Gil’s relationship was one that went back-and-forth throughout the story and sometimes seemed contrived, especially at the end. I actually didn’t really like their relationship to begin with anyway. I felt that it was kind of weird that they were in love. I could understand if he had been a farmhand or something (“Farm boy – fetch me that pitcher?” “As you wish.”). But he had been raised as a brother in Brianna’s house. Sure, they weren’t biologically related, but it still seemed odd to me, and I just couldn’t get past it. Plus, I felt as if they spent more time not liking each other than actually liking each other!

The relationship between Rylan and Colleen was definitely the more interesting of the two. A man studying to be a priest having to decide whether or not he should give up his commitment to the church for love is a compelling romantic plotline. Again, this relationship seemed a bit odd since they were distant relations, but I guess if it was distant enough, it would be OK. The book wasn't too clear on that point.

If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Rylan. I liked his easygoing personality, and I appreciated his struggle.

As for the spiritual aspect, I really had a hard time with how it was portrayed in this novel. God was mentioned quite a bit – praying to Him and turning to Him in times of need – but Jesus was barely discussed. One character even turns to God, but it all happens without any reference of Christ and His sacrifice for sins. I just think it’s dangerous to portray salvation without mentioning the cross and what Christ did for us.

Now, I am not someone who has to have her Christian novels filled with salvation experiences and preaching. I realize that a book can just be a good, clean novel that is enjoyable. But if the book brings up spiritual aspects, I expect them to be based on truth and include Jesus. It is Christian fiction, after all. As an example, at one point this statement is made: “What [Rylan] needed was absolution – to confess his offense to a priest and receive a clergyman’s counsel. It was the only way to make up for his sin and find a way to move forward.” While I do believe that confession is good for the soul, again, where is Christ in this? The only way to “make up” for his sins was to confess to a priest? There is absolutely no way we can make up for our sins. Christ is the only way (Hebrews 9), and I’m actually kind of surprised that Bethany House publishers would allow this in one of their books.

I also thought that there were many portions of the novel that focused on clich├ęs and drama rather than reality. There were many references of “following your heart” and many eye-rolling moments of romance. I understand what the author means when the characters talk about following their hearts. I wouldn’t want my daughter to end up in a loveless marriage. But the Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB). I think it is dangerous to portray following your heart as always being the right thing no matter what. There was a lot of talk about God’s will and wanting God’s will for their lives, but there was no clear look at how that might be accomplished. All of the talk about following the heart and doing what a person wanted to do seemed to be in conflict with the talk about God’s will.

I realize that I have pretty much skewered the spiritual portions of this novel, but the more I read Christian fiction, the more I realize how very far away from Christ these novels can get. As I said earlier, not every book has to preach the gospel. But when a book tries to do so and falls short, I feel it should be noted. This novel just seemed to be Christian fluff which doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run.

Now that I have said all of that, I think my favorite part of this novel was the setting. I liked the horse farm atmosphere, and I wished that it had been explored even further. The part of the story focusing on the family possibly losing the farm was interesting and might have been something that could have been elaborated on in order to create even more suspense.

If I had to pick one word to describe this novel, it would be “drama.” I really thought that the story would revolve around more than just the two romances, but it didn’t. If straight romance is what you like, then you might want to give this series a try. I really wanted to like this novel much more than I did.

I will give Irish Meadows … 2 BookWorms.  

 







Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."