Friday, May 8, 2015

V-E Day

In honor of V-E Day, I am posting a Q&A with author Sarah Sundin that was originally posted on Straight off the Page.

At the end I will post links to my reviews of Ms. Sundin's books. They are pretty much the only World War II novels that I have truly enjoyed.


Sara:  Hello, Sarah! It is a pleasure to be able to ask you some questions about your books and about yourself!  Please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.

Sarah: Just your ordinary stay-at-home mom/pharmacist/author. My husband and I live in northern California, and our three children are in various stages of fluttering out of the nest—our daughter is getting married this summer! I never planned to write novels—I majored in chemistry and earned a doctorate in pharmacy. But in 2000, I got slammed with a story idea that wouldn’t leave me alone, and I had to write it. That first novel will never be published, but it got me started.

Sara: What do you like most about writing? Is there anything about writing that you do not particularly like?

Sarah: I love almost every part. I love playing with new story ideas and getting to know my characters. I love the heady, falling-in-love feeling when the rough draft is flowing and dialogue is zinging. I love the research and the editing. And I like many of the extra things authors need to do—speaking, teaching, and connecting on social media. When I’m in the middle of plotting a novel, I grumble and whine about how much I hate it. But when it all swoops together, it’s such a thrill.

Sara: Your books all take place during World War II, which I have to admit was not one of my favorite settings for historical fiction…until I read your books! You really have a way of taking a difficult time period and turning it into a story full of hope. What do you like most about this time period, and how do you make your stories hopeful instead of disheartening?

Sarah: What appeals to me about the World War II era is how a divided people came together to fight for freedom and how ordinary men and women learned they could do extraordinary things. World War II showed us the worst things humanity is capable of, but it showed the best of humanity and good prevailing over evil. I love writing fiction set during this era, because I can explore how individual men and women not only survived these difficult times, but thrived in them through their faith.

Sara: I also like that your novels are filled with historical details about the war but that they never get boring. How do you weave these details into the story without it getting bogged down?

Sarah: I slash and burn. I love the history so much that I have to restrain myself from throwing in all the great tidbits I learned. My rough drafts always have too much detail, but in the edits I hack out great chunks—and my editor hacks out even more. I keep reminding myself to include only what the reader needs to know to understand the story. Nothing more. Slash and burn.

Sara: Another thing that I really appreciate about your novels is how the spiritual aspects shine through so well. Is it difficult to incorporate Christ in your novels and have it feel natural as opposed to forced?

Sarah: For me, the spiritual aspects arise straight from the characters. I don’t come in with a lesson to teach, but I figure out what my character needs to learn, and then I put her in situations that challenge her and help her grow.

Sara: I really enjoyed your recent Christmas novel Where Treetops Glisten that you co-authored with Tricia Goyer and Cara Putman – especially since it took place in my hometown! Please tell us a little about the research you did for that novel and how you all worked together to make it a reality.

Sarah: That was so much fun! Cara asked Tricia and me if we’d like to write a Christmas novella collection set in WWII—and we loved the idea. Cara and Tricia brought so many great ideas and such energy to the project, and I—well, I made charts and spreadsheets to keep us organized. Sigh. That’s what I do.

Researching Lafayette, Indiana during World War II was a lot of fun. Not only could I find a lot of information online, but Cara lives in Lafayette! I spent a few days with her family, and she took me to all the sites, where I took gobs of pictures. Then I spent an afternoon in the library looking at wonderful issues of the Lafayette Journal & Courier from December 1943! And the phone book! What a treasure trove.

Sara: If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Germany. Where would you go?

Sarah: I love Germany! My family spent the summer of 2007 in Mannheim, and it was spectacular. I’m also extremely fond of Britain, Scotland, and Italy. I’d be torn between revisiting a favorite location and exploring somewhere new. Wanderlust runs wild in my family.

Sara: I am so excited to read your upcoming novel Through Waters Deep, the first in your new Waves of Freedom series, which is due to release this August. Can you give our readers a little preview?

Sarah: I’m thrilled about this new series, which follows three American naval officers during the Battle of the Atlantic. Through Waters Deep is set in 1941, when the US was officially neutral, but our warships escorted British convoys—and were exchanging fire with German U-boats. One US destroyer and five US merchant ships were sunk—before Pearl Harbor!
In Through Waters Deep, Ensign Jim Avery serves on a destroyer based in Boston, and his childhood friend, Mary Stirling, works as a secretary at the Boston Navy Yard. When evidence of sabotage is found on Jim’s ship, Jim and Mary work together to uncover the culprit. As America teeters on the brink of war, Jim and Mary’s friendship teeters on the brink of romance. Action, mystery, romance…with a side of Boston cream pie.

Sara:  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our site! We look forward to reading and reviewing your future novels!



********************************
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
--- Shoopette

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Steadfast Heart" Review

Lenore Fulcher wasn’t particularly looking for a suitor the day her father suggested she begin courting one of his business partners. But she does know that a friend of her father’s – especially one who is 17 years older than she – is not exactly what she desires in a mate. Fortunately Lenore meets Kolbein before her father can pledge her to another.

Kolbein Booth was definitely not looking for a bride when he arrived on the West Coast. After learning that his sister, who had run from their home in Chicago, might have come to Seattle to the Madison Bridal School, he is determined to find her. What awaits Kolbein at that school is not his sister but Lenore Fulcher, and for some reason he is completely captivated by her.

As Kolbein searches for his sister with the help of Lenore’s friends, he realizes that he does not want to leave Lenore and the city of Seattle to go back to Chicago. Will his sister be found safe and sound, and is Lenore the one who God has put in his life to be his bride?


Steadfast Heart is book one in the “Brides of Seattle” series by Tracie Peterson.

I wrote an article for Straight off the Page last month about How I Fell in Love with Historical Romance. In it I declared that the first author who caused me to fall in love with the genre was Janette Oke. While this is true, one of the authors who helped this love for Christian historical romance blossom was definitely Tracie Peterson.

Because of this I kind of have a soft spot for her and authors like her, and I tend to be a little more accepting of the genre pet peeves that sometimes come up in their novels (the Big Misunderstanding, love-at-first-sight, and the like). Their novels are “comfort food” for me, and I can overlook some things more easily.

Unfortunately I cannot do that with Steadfast Heart. The novel got off to a rocky start with the story being told from no fewer than five points of view within the first few chapters. This way of telling the story introduced the characters well, I guess, but it made the book very hard to get into. Plus, Lenore (the main female character from the back of the book) goes off to San Francisco very early on in the book and doesn’t return until almost the halfway point. This leaves the story to be told mostly through Abrianna, Lenore’s very high-strung, albeit well-meaning, best friend.

I actually think that Abrianna is more of the main character in this story instead of Lenore. It was fairly confusing to have so much of the story told through Abrianna’s eyes when I kept thinking that Lenore was the main character. I even had a hard time writing the summary above for this book since Lenore and Kolbein seem to barely be in it! What’s worse is that Abrianna, to me, was such an annoying character. I found myself skimming her ramblings, and I kept wanting Marilla Cuthbert to come along and say, “Abrianna! Hold your tongue!” Unfortunately Abrianna was not anywhere close to being as endearing as Anne Shirley, despite the surface similarities.

Despite these awkward occurrences, there were a few things about the novel that I liked. The concept of the Bridal School was interesting, especially since it had a good reputation and wasn’t considered a place of “ill repute.” I also liked the character of Wade – a life-long friend of Abrianna’s – and I would even go so far as to say that he was my favorite character of the book. There were also some good spiritual aspects to the novel. I liked how Wade was able to reach out to Kolbein during his time of spiritual doubt. I thought this was a good example of how to be compassionate and how to be available to those who need a listening ear.

As for the romance between Kolbein and Lenore, I’ve already mentioned that they didn’t seem to be the focal point of the book. Their shallow whirlwind of a romance – with the love-at-first-sight and the never seeming to spend any time together – was the epitome of a pet peeve for this genre. However, since they didn’t quite seem to be the main characters, it didn’t bother me as much. They did seem to be right for each other, and at least they did freely admit that they hadn’t known each other long and that it seemed to be strange that they should fall so madly in love so quickly. As I said, I can overlook these sorts of tropes with my favorite authors more easily.

Ultimately I just found this novel to be all over the place. It’s like it couldn’t decide which story it wanted to tell – Lenore and Kolbein, Abrianna and Wade, the Bridal School, social disparity, discrimination towards the Chinese on the West Coast at this time, drug and human trafficking – and most of these stories were just touched upon and left to hang until (hopefully) the next book in the series. It’s not easy for me to say, but I almost feel as if this book wasn’t even written by Tracie Peterson. That’s how far out in left field it felt. It’s really hard to admit that you didn’t care for a novel from one of your favorite authors, and I hope this feeling of disjointedness doesn’t continue in the series.

Overall, Steadfast Heart was a nice diversion but was far from what this author has produced in the past.

I will give Steadfast Heart ... 2 BookWorms.








Steadfast Heart
by Tracie Peterson
"Brides of Seattle" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: January 6, 2015
336 pages




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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, February 27, 2015

"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" Review

Abigail Foster always assumed that she would marry her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott. But with her father in financial ruin and Gilbert seeming to be more attracted to her younger sister, Abigail’s life has been thrown into upheaval.

When a distant relation’s long-empty manor house suddenly becomes available, Abigail’s father makes the decision to move the family to Easton. Abigail and her father journey to Pembrooke Park to get the house in order while her mother and sister enjoy the London season. What awaits them at Pembrooke Park is definitely more than Abigail bargained for: an overprotective steward, a house in shambles that looks as if the inhabitants left in a great hurry, a rumor of hidden treasure, and an interesting local curate.

As Abigail spends more and more time at Pembrooke Park, the deeper she gets into its secrets and mysteries. And the more time she spends with the curate, William Chapman, and his family, the more she realizes how much she longs for a family of her own.

Is there truth to the rumor of hidden treasure at Pembrooke Park? And what will some people do in order to find it…or to keep it safe?

I have enjoyed previous novels by Julie Klassen for their engaging and harder-to-figure-out mystery plots and their historical accuracy. With The Secret of Pembrooke Park, I feel as if I at least got half of what I usually bargain for.

The mystery and secrets surrounding Pembrooke Park stayed true to what I expect from Julie Klassen. There are many layers to the mysteries that Abigail is trying to solve, and even though I figured out the big one early on, it was still enjoyable to see how everything unfolded. The danger towards the end is very exciting, and I thought things wrapped up nicely.

What I didn’t think came off as clearly was the historical accuracy part of the novel. The descriptions of the manor house and the dances and such were fine; it just seemed as if something about the relationship between Abigail and William was a bit off. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was except that their romance seemed somewhat too modern for some reason. Maybe it was because they seemed to spend a lot of time alone together without any serious consequences. Maybe it was that the “inner voices” of the characters seemed too modern. I don't know. Whatever it was, the setting just felt misplaced.

I also thought the spiritual aspect of the novel could have been developed more, especially since the main male character is a pastor. The best spiritual aspect of the novel was William’s sermons. They were fantastic! I just wish Abigail’s faith had been clearer.

The main plot of this novel is very similar to one of my favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre. When Abigail arrives at Pembrooke Park with its strange nighttime noise and many secrets, it was very reminiscent of Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. I usually would begrudge a novel for being so similar to one of my favorites, but I actually liked that aspect in this one. It was familiar and comfortable, and it definitely held my interest. At 464 pages, this novel is quite a long read, and if it hadn’t been for the interesting mysteries, I might have given up halfway through.

Even though the setting was a little out of place, readers of Regency-era mysteries should still enjoy this lengthy but engaging novel.

I will give The Secret of Pembrooke Park ... 3.5 BookWorms.








The Secret of Pembrooke Park
by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: December 2, 2014
464 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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, February 20, 2015

"Where Trust Lies" Review

After finishing her year of teaching in Coal Valley in the Canadian West, Beth Thatcher returns home to Toronto and to her doting family. But before she has much time to catch her breath, her mother and sisters whisk her off with some family friends on a summer cruise down the eastern coast of Canada and the United States. Beth is not extremely excited about the trip, but she decides to try to use the time to connect more with her mother and sisters and to sort out her feelings about Jarrick – the Canadian Mountie back in Coal Valley.

The more time she spends with her family, the more Beth realizes how difficult it would be to leave them again if she returned to teaching in the West. But she cherishes each phone call and letter from Jarrick, and as her feelings for him grow, the more she feels torn. When the unexpected strikes her family on the cruise trip, Beth’s faith will be tested more than it ever has before, and she will discover from where her trust must truly come.

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the “Return to the Canadian West” series by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan.

After reading and enjoying the first book in this series last year, I was looking forward to this next installment. Even though this is the second novel in the “Return to the Canadian West” series, the story took place entirely on the East Coast of Canada and the United States! I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be returning to the West and to Coal Valley in this book, but once I got involved in the story that was taking place, I was able to move past that and really enjoy the novel.

This book is told from the perspective of Beth, who was the main character in the first novel. I expected this, but what I did not expect was that even though the story is told from Beth’s side of things, most of the action and development in the story revolves around Beth’s younger sister, Julie. I thought this way of telling things was slightly odd, but not necessarily in a bad way – just different.

I absolutely adored the main plot in this novel – Beth, her sisters, her mother, and some family friends going on a summer trip by themselves. It was like a girls’ night out extended to an entire summer. I’m not sure I would be able to (sanely) be away from my husband for that long, but it still sounded like fun and made for an interesting and emotional story. Since this book is written by a mother and daughter, it makes that even more poignant.

The romance continues from the first book in the series as Beth and Jarrick continue getting to know one another and waiting and praying to make sure that their relationship is God-honoring. The catch this time is that their courtship must take place while they are separated by thousands of miles – Jarrick in the West attending to his duties as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Beth while she is on this trip with her family and friends. I liked how their relationship progressed, though, even over the miles, and I could feel their angst as they tried to wait patiently and see how the Lord was directing them.

*****Possible Spoiler*****



I don’t know if this is a true spoiler, but I was so excited when towards the end of the book Jarrick shows up in person to be with Beth during a moment of true crisis for the Thatcher family. When he walked into the room, I wanted to stand up and cheer! It was a very knight-in-shining-armor moment!


*****Possible Spoiler Over*****


Although I could kind of see the direction in which this novel was headed with Julie and her choice of friends, I was still intrigued. That storyline definitely kept the novel moving, especially towards the middle when it got a bit slow. When I finished this novel, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the next one in the series ready to go! I’m really looking forward to that one when it comes out – probably next year.

The “Canadian West” series by Janette Oke is definitely one of my favorites, but the “Return to the Canadian West” series is definitely up towards the top of the list as well.

I will give Where Trust Lies … 4 BookWorms.








Where Trust Lies
by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan
"Return to the Canadian West" #2
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: February 3, 2015





Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Beyond All Dreams" Blog Tour

Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

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



About the author:

Elizabeth Camden is the author of six books and a RITA and Christy Award winner. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Elizabeth lives with her husband in Florida.

Find Elizabeth online: website, Facebook
 
 
 
 
Blog Tour Landing page:   http://litfusegroup.com/author/ecamden
 
 
 
 
My Take:

When I started reading this book, I was hooked instantly. I immediately adored the library-loving Anna (to whom I could totally relate), and I thought her job was so interesting. I was also drawn to the story of her father's ship - the Culpepper - that was lost at sea and the mystery surrounding it.

When the novel introduced the character of Luke, I was not an immediate fan of him. He seemed arrogant, and I was thinking, "How am I going to read about this guy as the 'hero' in this book? I don't like him at all!" But as I kept reading, his character was developed so much more, and I grew to like him more than I thought I would at the beginning. I’m still not totally convinced that I really liked him, but I was able to appreciate him and the reasons behind his actions. I also liked that his character did seem to go through a lot of growth throughout the course of the novel.


I also really liked some of the secondary characters in this book. Anna’s friend Neville was so sweet, and I enjoyed their best friend relationship. His romantic involvement later on in the novel was developed very well. It was also interesting to see how different relationships and alliances developed between the members of Congress and how they worked for and against each other.

Even though the characters in this novel are interesting, what really set it apart are the historical details. I sometimes get bogged down in political stuff, but this aspect was kept interesting because of the involvement of Luke and Anna. The emotions that people must have been feeling during this time period came across so clearly, and it shed light on a time in American history that I didn't know too much about.

The romance in this one had a bit of a different flavor to it. I especially liked the constant witty banter between Luke and Anna. That's always a favorite of mine in a novel. But I wasn't quite convinced of how the romance ends up. It seemed a bit abrupt. The growth of the characters didn't so much happen over time as much as just being back-and-forth. I also thought the spiritual side could have been so much deeper. It was there and was sometimes clear, especially with the aspect of forgiveness, but it could have gotten to the heart of the characters so much more.

This novel is definitely not a light read. There are some heavy issues that are discussed, including drunkenness, abuse, and political cover-ups. It is very realistic at times, but there is definitely a sense of hope and forgiveness in the end.


Overall, Beyond All Dreams is a well-written historical novel that is both complex and compelling, and it sheds light on some possibly unknown aspects of the United States and its political life.

 
I will give Beyond All Dreams ... 4 BookWorms.









 

About the giveaway:

Travel back in time to the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress in Elizabeth Camden's newest release, Beyond All Dreams. From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of Beyond All Dreams with a Kindle giveaway and Facebook party on February 17.

beyondalldreams-400
 
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • One copy of Beyond All Dreams
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 2/17. Winner will be announced at Elizabeth's 2/17 Beyond All Dreams Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Elizabeth and historical fiction fans, as well as for the opportunity to win some great prizes!
beyondalldreams-enterbanner
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!

 
 
 
 
 
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."

Friday, January 30, 2015

"The Dandelion Field" Blog Tour

This handsome firefighter makes a living coming to the rescue, but Gin doesn't need a man to fight her battles.

After Raine's dad walked out, Ginevieve Lightly never lived in one place too long, a rambling lifestyle that defined her daughter's youth. When their car dies in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Gin promises Raine they can stay until she finishes her senior year of high school. Gin will do anything to make sure her daughter has a bright future . . . a future that's compromised when Raine reveals she's pregnant.

Dan Moretti has only ever called Banister Falls home. After losing his best friend in a tragic accident, Dan devoted himself to responding to fires, rescuing the helpless, and guiding Cody Bennett, his best friend's son, through life. With Cody being the epitome of the good kid, it was an easy job. Until he says four little words: "The baby is mine."

Knowing gossip of Raine's pregnancy will erupt sooner or later in the small town, Gin's reflex is to grab the suitcase and escape to a new city, a new life. But with each passing day, Gin's feet stay rooted in Banister Falls, and she falls a little more for this local firefighter who shows her not all men abandon women at the first sign of smoke.

As Gin and Dan do the best they can to guide the two teenagers through their early entry into adulthood, they discover together that romance can bloom in the rockiest of situations. And God can turn the pieces of a broken past into a beautiful new beginning.

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



About the author:

Kathryn Springer
is a USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child she spent many hours sitting at her mother's typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books --- which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own. Kathryn has written nineteen books with close to two million copies sold. She lives with her husband and three children in Marinette, Wisconsin.
Find Kathryn online: website, Facebook
 
 
 
 
My Take:
 
Even though I mostly read historical fiction, I was intrigued when I read the summary for this contemporary novel. I'm glad I picked it up, though, because it ended up being a really good book.

What I was most impressed with was how the sensitive subject of teen pregnancy was handled. Everyone involved in the lives of these teens were understandably hurt, confused, and rattled, but it was beautiful that the two families were brought together and were able to find forgiveness and hope. What a great reminder of how even though we have trusted Jesus, we still need His forgiveness daily.

I also liked how it was obvious that God was working in the hearts and lives of all of the characters. At times I wish the text was more to the point about the gospel, but for the most part, it was handed well.

The romance between Gin and Dan was a nice storyline, as was the love that blossomed between the two teens who were facing such a life-altering situation. I liked having the perspective told from Gin, Dan, and Raine, and the flashbacks were also an interesting way to get the story across. And the title (and the story behind it) was just so sweet.

The setting of this story was nice, too. Since I grew up in a small town, I understood what Gin and Raine went through being "outsiders." It was a good reminder to not be judgmental but to shower people with grace, especially when they are new to your area.

Though contemporary romance novels are not usually my thing, I really enjoyed this one and how it told that God can redeem any situation.


*****SPOILER ALERT*****




Even though I liked this story, I was pretty bummed to not be able to experience the birth of the baby during the novel. Was it a boy or a girl? If it was a boy, did they name him Maxwell Dillon? I really wanted to experience that part of the lives of Cody and Raine, and I felt a bit cheated that I didn't get to.



*****SPOILER OVER*****



I will give  The Dandelion Field ... 4 BookWorms.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
See what other reviewers are saying here:
Landing page:
 
 
 
 
 
Get ready for Valentine's Day with a new story of romance and falling in love in Kathryn Springer's The Dandelion FieldThe handsome firefighter makes a living “coming to the rescue,” but Gin is used to fighting her own battles. Can a woman who doesn't believe in happy endings take a chance on a new beginning? 

Celebrate a second chance at love and family with Kathryn by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway!

dandelionfield-400

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Dandelion Field
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 15th. Winner will be announced February 16th on the Litfuse blog.

dandelionfield-enterbanner 
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan 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, January 16, 2015

"Gospel Formed" Blog Tour

Gospel Formed
Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life  
 
by J.A Medders
 

A call to Christians to be caught up in the powerful whirlwind that is the gospel of grace

 
Christianity is based on the foundation of the good news of the gospel. Yet how many Christians truly find their identity there? How many are thriving in a community clinging to the gospel? How many forget about the wondrous glory of Jesus?

J. A. Medders is on a mission to help Christians remember that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is also the power for our everyday life in Christ.

Yet living a gospel-centered life does not always come easily. The biblical meditations in Gospel Formed help to kindle, or rekindle, the passion to live a grace-addicted, truth-filled, Jesus-exalting life by constantly driving the reader back to the power of the cross and the empty tomb.

Funny, punchy, and theologically accessible, readers will be encouraged, challenged, and ultimately reoriented to the true North of Christianity—Christ Himself.

Pages: 200
Published: 2014 
Imprint: Kregel Publications

For more information and to read an excerpt, click here.


About the author:

J. A. Medders is the lead pastor at Redeemer Church (Acts 29) in Tomball, Texas. He has written for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Church Leaders, and more. To read more from J.A. Medders, visit www.jamedders.com. 
 


My Take:

Right off the bat Mr. J.A. Medders and I got off to a good start in his book Gospel Formed. In the introduction he states, "You don't need new tricks and tactics but the truth of Jesus, his person, and his work -- the gospel."

Exactly!

What follows is a small put powerful book with an entire focus on just that -- the gospel. With 27 short chapters plus a lengthier introduction and short conclusion, you could read a few pages or one chapter a day to give you a reminder every single day to keep the gospel at the forefront of everything that you do.

Here are some interesting thoughts I took away from this book:
  • The gospel is for everyone, both old and new Christians. It is at one time both advanced and elementary - how amazing!
  • Our view of Jesus needs to be big and awe-inspiring but also deeply personal.
  • True, heart-felt worship can defeat the powers of evil.
  • We can all be a "gospeler" -- "a person who zealously teaches or professes faith in the gospel."

Gospel Formed is so easy to read. It flows well and is a great way to start or end each day. The style of writing is very relatable even if some of the humor might have been a tad much.But any book that mentions Tolkien's elves or cranking something up to eleven gets a thumbs up in my book!

I will give Gospel Formed ... 4 BookWorms.










Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publishing through the Kregel Blog Tour Service. 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."




 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Ordinary" Blog Tour

Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down
by Tony Merida
 
What if the path toward an extraordinary life is becoming more ordinary? "Ordinary" is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. Tony Merida wants to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.

Through things such as humble acts of service, neighbor love, and hospitality, Christians can shake the foundations of the culture. In order to see things happen that have never happened before, Christians must to do what Christians have always done­. Christians need to become more ordinary.

Let’s think together about how we, ordinary people, doing ordinary things, might turn the world upside down.

About the Author:
Tony Merida is lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He earned a Ph.D. in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as associate professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His books include Faithful Preaching and Orphanology.


Book Information:
  • B&H Publishing
  • ISBN:  9781433684166
  • Page Count: 140
 
 
My Take:
 
Every year my church chooses a theme that we will focus on that year. Last year's theme was "Loving Our Neighbors," and it was a call to evaluate the things we were doing personally and as a church to show others the love of Christ.
 
This book, Ordinary, exactly relates to our church's theme during 2014, and was a great reminder going into 2015 that this theme should not be a one-year thing but should be something in which we continue to grow through the coming years.
 
This easy to read book is filled with "ordinary" ways that Christians can be a loving witness for Christ to everyone in our everyday lives. I will say, though, that sometimes I felt as if the author was giving commands of things that every Christian should be doing, and I am not sure that everything on that list should be done by every Christian. That's why we have the body of the church - we work together to complete the work Christ called us to do. Every Christian can't possibly be involved in every single available ministry, and sometimes the words that were used in this book came across as "beating you over the head" with it - words such as "must" and "should." The Bible commands us to love God and love others, but how each Christian specifically does that might look different.
 
Our church certainly has been challenged to try to meet more social needs in our community, and I am thankful for the great work that has been done this past year through our church in this area. Many churches we have been affiliated with in the past believe that meeting needs is something to be left to the government or is not something that Christians should be involved in, but Jesus showed us over and over in the Bible how he met the needs of the people and then spoke the word of truth to them. As Merida says in the book, "The "anti-social ministry" people need to also remember that some can't hear our proclamation until they've been delivered physically from injustice and other forms of suffering. Until we pick them up from the road, they won't hear the good news."
 
Ultimately, Ordinary is a call for Christians to serve like Jesus and to be His witness right where they are.
 
I will give Ordinary ... 3.5 BookWorms.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through CrossFocused Reviews. 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, January 7, 2015

"The Brickmaker's Bride" Review

Soon after the Civil War, Ewan McKay ventures to West Virginia to help his uncle purchase and run a brickmaking business. The one they decide to purchase is currently owned by a war widow and her daughter who are forced to sell. Ewan is soon drawn to the intelligent daughter of the former owner, Laura, whose knowledge of business and brickmaking certainly impresses him. But Laura has been courted for years by a successful lawyer from the area – one who is an aspiring politician and who already knows the secret she holds.

When Ewan’s uncle makes a deal that puts the brickworks in jeopardy, his future seems hopeless. With Laura’s help, will Ewan be able to save the brickworks? And will he also be able to win Laura’s heart?

The Brickmaker’s Bride is the first in the “Refined by Love” series by Judith Miller.

For a small change of pace, I decided to put a post-Civil War-era book into my repertoire. I tend to shy away from Civil War-era books for some reason, but this one caught my eye.

Usually I am very interested in discovering different eras in history and the processes and things that go along with them, especially things that I don’t know much about. I definitely know nothing about brickmaking, but I was less than thrilled with the descriptions of making bricks in this book. It was sometimes tedious and didn’t always flow well with the rest of the story. The tension over the bad deal that Ewan’s uncle made kept the plot going, but it sometimes seemed as if it was just all too much. I just kept wanting poor Ewan to catch a break.

The romance between Laura and Ewan was sweet, but the main characters themselves seemed to lack a depth that would have made them more endearing to the reader. I’m not sure what more could have been done to achieve this depth. The dialogue for the most part was good, but I felt as if the main characters didn’t experience too much growth overall. I just didn’t feel connected to Laura or Ewan, and most of the minor characters were over-the-top and annoying. I was at least satisfied with the end of the book and how Laura and Ewan’s story was wrapped up.

Even though I didn’t feel as if Laura and Ewan grew too much in this novel, there were still some important spiritual themes that were explored. Some of these were leaning on God during difficult times, not compromising your integrity (especially in business), and knowing that no one is too far gone to be redeemed. Although I felt as if these themes sometimes didn’t go quite deep enough and sometimes left Christ out of the picture, they still redeemed the book a bit for me.

Overall, The Brickmaker’s Bride seemed to have two different personalities. It wanted to be a sweet romantic story, but too many historical details and annoying minor characters got in the way. On the other hand, it wanted to be a fiction novel pertaining to the business of brickmaking in the second half of the 1800s, but the romance seemed to be just tacked on for good measure. Maybe it was just me, but for some reason, the two didn’t seem to click together very well.

Even though there were some bumps along the way, The Brickmaker’s Bride is a sweet romantic story that takes place during an especially hard time in our nation’s history.

I will give The Brickmaker's Bride ... 3 BookWorms.








The Brickmaker's Bride
by Judith Miller
"Refined by Love" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: October 7, 2014
352 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rachel Hauck Fires Up the Romance with “A Brush with Love” Kindle Giveaway!

"Fire" up the romance in the new year with Rachel Hauck's newest book, A Brush with Love, by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway! 

And be sure to catch a sneak peek of the soon-to-be-released How to Catch a Prince!


brushwithlove-400
 
 
 One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway only runs for a week, 12/30 – 1/5. Winner will be announced January 6th on Rachel's blog.

Rachel Hauck A Brush with Love

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