Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: Wilderness Reunion


Wilderness Reunion
By Elizabeth Goddard
Wilderness, Inc. #4
Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, 2017


Summary

After stumbling on a drug operation, Alice Wilde races through the woods as bullets whiz past, using her skills as a wilderness guide to elude her pursuers. But she doesn't stay safe for long once one of the armed men recognizes her…and starts stalking her.

When the sheriff asks her to guide his men and photojournalist Griffin Slater—her ex-boyfriend—to the crime scene, though, she can't refuse. Alice knows Griffin's just there for a story, but after the two of them are separated from the rest of the group, he's the only person who can save her. And with someone willing to do anything to hunt them down, Alice must put aside their past if she wants to survive.


My thoughts

Wilderness Reunion is an edge-of-your-seat page turner, filled with non-stop action – also impossible to put down. With Elizabeth Goddard’s distinctive gift for conveying vivid imagery and bringing characters to life, I was transported into the Oregon wilderness and caught up in Alice and Griffin’s story from the very first paragraph.

Suspense isn’t my genre of choice, but I’ve consistently enjoyed the Wilderness, Inc. series. For one thing, the stories I’ve read are more action packed than filled with scary suspense or terror. Secondly, in a genre that isn’t known for its character depth, Goddard creates well-rounded characters that readers can immediately connect with.

Blossom Bar, Rogue River
Wilderness Reunion takes place in Oregon’s wilderness, and I could “see” its wildness, rugged beauty and majesty as I read. In the river rafting scenes, I could almost hear the water churning and roaring around me. Griffin, a photojournalist who captured the tragedies of the world, felt he was damaged goods because of all the horrors he had witnessed. Wonderful romantic tension is created when Alice, who literally finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, is forced to rely on Griffin in a life-or-death situation – and both struggle with emotional baggage from their past relationship.

Wilderness Reunion stands out to me because it calls attention to a growing and dangerous problem in our country today –marijuana farms located in remote wilderness areas. Goddard writes at the end: “I wanted to raise awareness of the devastation that’s being inflicted on public lands in our beautiful country. Not only are illegal marijuana farms catastrophic to the land, the wildlife and water, but they’re dangerous to people, especially nature enthusiasts.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Wilderness Reunion and look forward to Elizabeth Goddard’s next series.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book from the author. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

_________________________


Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty-five romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, THE CAMERA NEVER LIES–a 2011 Carol Award winner. She’s a double finalist in the 2016 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense for her books BURIED and BACKFIRE in the Mountain Cove series.

A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dreams of writing full-time. She currently makes her home in Minnesota with her husband and children.

Website │ Facebook │ Twitter │ Pinterest



Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: The Return



Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book title: The Return  
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher  
Release date: Sept 1, 2017  
Genre: Amish  

In a wild country, the true cost of love may be more than they can bear

Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family’s rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans—but then she never had to. Not until the night she’s taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. Facing brutality and hardship, Betsy finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the feelings she’s developing for a native man who encourages her to see God in all circumstances. 

Greatly anguished by Betsy’s captivity, Hans turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. She responds eagerly, overlooking troubling signs of Hans’s hunger for revenge. But if Betsy is ever restored to the Amish, will things between Hans and Tessa have gone too far? 

Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of prerevolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.  




My Thoughts

Lancaster, Pennsylvania – 1763

This New World, intended to be a holy experiment of tolerance, was anything but. All these devout people – Scots-Irish, Quakers, Mennonites, Moravians, Lutherans – they all distrusted each other. But let the talk turn to Indians, and they were instantly thick as thieves, united in their hatred.

As with all that Suzanne Woods Fisher writes, The Return is incredible. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s the best book she has written because each story is unique and never fails to touch me, but there is something special about this one.

From a descriptive standpoint, the narrative flows smoothly and every word has a purpose. Careful attention is paid to historical detail, characters are multifaceted – and in the midst of danger and discord for colonists of the New World, Fisher injects a subtle and delightful humor. We even get to see the meaning behind some common sayings heard today … such as hitting the nail on the head and I’ll be there with bells on. This story stands alone, but reading the Amish Beginnings series in order makes for a more fulfilling experience.

Precious and endearing characters abound … Bairn and Anna, whose story began in book one, Anna’s Crossing; Bairn’s now-grown-up brother, Felix, who was a handful as a child and hasn’t yet outgrown some childish tendencies; Caleb, who knows what it’s like to not be fully accepted in any culture; Betsy and Tessa, two pioneer women with strength and determination; and even Rumpled Martin, son of a Mennonite minister. Bairn and Anna, equally strong in faith and love for each other, have been favorites of mine throughout the series. I have to confess a little humanness here, but there’s just something about a Scotsman that gets to me, and when Bairn speaks in his Scotish brogue …

What sets this novel apart is the way readers will connect with the setting and characters, literally being pulled into the scenes. These characters may have lived 250 years ago, but their wisdom, faith and courage are timeless. Spiritual themes are especially relevant … 

   ... the need for grace, reflected in Bairn’s ministry style at Stoney Ridge 
   … how thoughtless words can incite an unquenchable anger and vengeance 
   … prejudice, how easy and tempting it is to paint all people of a certain nationality or belief system with the same brush 
   … that we must never allow evil to be victorious 
   ... and that God is sovereign in all circumstances.

The Return is a wonderfully entertaining and touching story – heartbreaking at times, but filled with the inspiration of grace and hope. I hope to see more from these characters, especially Betsy, Tessa, Caleb and Martin. “Best of the best” for me.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

____________________

Favorite quotes …

“It often puzzled Tessa how personal significance was needed for men to see things clearly. Their secret pride.”

“Vengeance is a dangerous master to feed. Its appetite has no end.”

“What virtue does obedience have if it is not examined and then made to be a choice?”

“A bachelor is a man who’s too fast to be caught or too slow to be worth catching.”


About the Author

Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Anna’s Crossing and The Newcomer in the Amish Beginnings series, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish

She lives in California. Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.










Guest Post from Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Three Sisters’ Garden: Corn, Squash & Beans!

Corn was a new food to the immigrants to the New World, introduced to them by Native Americans. Soon, it became an essential part of their daily diet, in one form or another. Growing it brought yet another new discovery: companion planting in the form of the Three Sisters’ Garden.

According to Iroquois legend, corn, squash and beans were three inseparable sisters who only grew and thrived together. 18th century Native Americans wouldn’t have understood the science behind why companion planting worked, but they knew it did. Beans, like all legumes, have bacteria living on their roots that help them absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form that plants can use. Corn, which requires a lot of nitrogen to grow, benefits from the legumes and provides a pole support for the beans to climb. Low growing squash leaves shade the soil and prevent weed growth. Their sharp and prickly leaves deter pests. This tradition, of planting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, became a sustainable system to provide long-term soil fertility among Native American tribes that farmed. 

The wisdom of planting Three Sisters’ Garden was adopted by the immigrants, including our own Betsy Zook from The Return. Betsy learned of the technique while a captive among a tribe of Indians and later, after she had been returned to the Amish, shared her knowledge with Anna and Bairn.  

Have you ever considered growing a Three Sisters’ garden? All you need is the right kind of seeds, a mound of dirt in a sunny spot, and to not forget to water. Mother Nature will do the rest. 

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling, award-winning author of novels about the Old Order Amish. Her interest in the Plain People began with her grandfather, who was raised as a Dunkard (German Baptist) on a farm in Pennsylvania. Suzanne loves to connect with readers! You can find her on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.


*Images courtesy of Dream Home Improvement and Technology Exchange Lab

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Spotlight (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Vangie Vale and the Murdered Macaron




Vangie Vale and the Murdered Macaron
By R. L. Syme
The Matchmaker Mysteries #1
Hummingbird Books, 2017

Note: Mystery fans, this looks like a good one – and I understand that it’s clean. I didn’t have time to do a review, but I ordered the ebook version on Amazon for only 99¢ and look forward to reading it soon.


Summary

Small towns and gossip go together like flaky crust and sweet pastry cream. Between the police scanners, social media, and the senior center, it’s like a zombie apocalypse where the undead consume people’s secrets instead of living flesh.

But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar…especially the police radar.

So when her new bakery becomes linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body. Can’t have that.

Forced into the role of investigator, this new-in-town bakery owner has to become the very thing she hates–a nosy, small-town gossip–in order to clear her good name, and keep her face off the front page. But when a dating debacle brings her face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can’t ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find the who-dun-it.

Book One in a cozy culinary mystery series from USA Today Bestselling Author, R.L. Syme.

_________________________



Rebecca Syme writes small town romance as Becca Boyd and cozy mystery as R.L. Syme. She is a long-time foodie and loves fancy cheese.

Becca calls the mountains of Montana her home and draws inspiration from the beautiful vistas and heartwarming people. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Line of Fire series of sweet romances and part of the Chick Tales series set in Somewhere, TX. 

You can find her on Twitter talking #fancycheese or #Chopped, and on Facebook with her fans in Becca Nation.




Purchase Links
Amazon   B&N


GIVEAWAY




Monday, August 7, 2017

Spotlight (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): A Door Cracked Open



Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book title: A Door Cracked Open  
Author: Carmina Edwards  
Release date: November, 2015  
Genre: Biography

Raised in a mean-spirited, poverty-stricken home in the seventies, where her quarrelsome father tries to squash her carefree spirit and her three siblings make fun of her, Amy struggles to understand what value she has. Somehow finding God in the midst of an atheist upbringing, she perseveres to grow up better than the useless person she’s assured she is. 

When told at the age of sixteen that she must start working to pay her way instead of finishing school, she dares to dream of a better life, away from the squabbles and constant despair she encounters at home. 

A magazine ad from a family in Sweden, looking for someone to watch their children, entices Amy’s adventurous spirit, and she soon finds herself looking through a new door in her life, cracked open to an amazing world she never dreamed possible, where people are nice to her and life is good.

"An incredible true story of perseverance in adversity, this is one account where truth truly is stranger than fiction." ~Laurie Penner.


About the Author

I am a mother of two wonderful grown up children and currently living in the UK, after living in Sweden for three years where I wrote my first book, “A Door Cracked Open.” I was blessed to be able to spend six months in USA before returning to the UK, my home country, to work with my editor in California on the edits of this book and visit friends. 

I am an avid reader and linguist, having also spent some years living in France and have been fortunate enough to have taught Swedish and French over twenty-five years and translate for businesses and manuscripts in both languages. Being unemployed the past few years, has led to me becoming homeless. However, I never give up hope. As I try to portray in my books, God has always had His hand on me. Once again, He has stepped in right at the last minute. I now have a new job in Sweden and will be moving back there. Because I feel passionately about helping the homeless, a large percentage of my royalties will go directly to them.


Guest Post from Carmina Edwards

Something about my book. 

After many friends, having seen the unusual life I have led up until now, told me that I should write a book, I finally decided to do just that. I am an ordinary person who has not suffered more than many, but have been privileged with many extra-ordinary experiences. I wrote my book in order to share with others, just how God has had His hand on me and brought me through some tough times which seemed impossible to find a way out of. 

My first book highlights some of this, though it isn’t until the second book, that more becomes clear and the third book will show the extreme mercy and grace He has showered me with. The story is still unfolding. My aim is to show, through my writing, that giving up is never an option. Stay true to God and He does pull us through. Trusting in Him is key and I personally, have seen Him transform some of the dreams He put onto my heart, into reality. 

I’d love for my books to be of some encouragement to others and have so far received several emails from readers all over the world, telling me how my story so far, has done that. One went so far as to say that she had given up, but read my book purely by chance and has picked herself up and is once again back on the road to reach her goals. The story of a scatty, spontaneous and highly sensitive girl, ridiculed all her life because of her faith and dreams, (she’s born into a completely atheist family). never gives up and some of the situations she gets herself into are pretty scary, but sometimes humorous. Yet God’s protection is seen all the way through.


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Carmina is giving away:
Grand Prize of a book themed gift basket all the way from Sweden!
and
A 1st – 3rd place prize of an eBook copy of A Door Cracked Open!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Wounded in the Church



To purchase your copy, click here.


About the Book

Book title: Wounded in the Church  
Author: Ray Beeson & Chris Hayward  
Release date: March 14, 2017
Genre: Non-fiction

Church should be a safe place, right? Then why do so many get hurt there? Ray Beeson and Chris Hayward combine their years of ministry experience to address head-on the elephant in the room: church members and church leaders hurt Christians. All the time. And the long-lasting effects—rejection, shame, despair, loneliness, fear—can be devastating. The authors have witnessed the rise of the “dones,” those who are just done with God thanks to scars from church. 

With first-person stories of hurt and loss, this book is a wake-up call for any who deny woundedness in the church but is also a redemptive message for any who hurt from church wounds. Leaders and laypeople alike will learn how to grieve over abuse, to leave unhealthy attitudes and patterns that cause pain, and to trust in God’s real, delivering work through churches that build up, not tear down. Thanks to the grace of God, there is always hope beyond the pain.


My Thoughts

Christians wound their own, and most of us probably know someone who has been hurt or even turned away from God and the church because of this. I don’t understand why we can’t forgive as we’ve been forgiven and freely offer the same grace that we’ve received. Many Christians do, but not all – and it’s those who don’t that seem to get the most attention.

Wounded in the Church, a book that explores this topic in great depth, would be great for personal use and also as a resource for pastors and church leaders. The authors divide this topic into two parts – “The Pain” and “The Hope.” It’s well written, incorporates a lot of real-life examples, and is solidly Scripture based. I loved the meditative ending of each chapter, which includes a proverb and “Psalms for the Wounded” section.

This book is not only helpful to those who have been hurt by other Christians, but eye opening in showing how we could unintentionally be the actual ones wounding others at times. I would like for it to have had more of a personal focus rather than on the established church, but this book still has many strong points. Wounded in the Church is well worth the read.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


About the Authors

Ray Beeson is the director of Overcomers Ministries, a teaching ministry with a special emphasis on spiritual warfare and prayer. Ray teaches seminars on spiritual warfare, prayer, and Christlike living and is the author of numerous books including Signed in His Blood (Charisma House, 2014) and The Hidden Price of Greatness (Overcomers, 2000). Ray and his wife, Linda, live in Ventura, CA. 

Chris Hayward has had over thirty-six years of pastoral ministry and is currently serving as president of Cleansing Stream Ministries, a discipleship ministry that works with the local church around the world. He is also the author of God’s Cleansing Stream (Chosen Books, 2004) and The End of Rejection (Chosen Books, 2007). Chris and his wife, Karen, live in Castaic, CA.


Guest Post from Ray Beeson & Chris Hayward

When we tell people we’ve written a book entitled “Wounded in the Church,” many nod knowingly. Sadly, the pain and heartache that happens in churches is all too common. Collectively, the two of us have spent more than 70 years in ministry. During that time we have seen neglect, tactlessness, and blatant insensitivity fostered by some leaders and congregations resulting in the wounding of others. We realize it is not prolific in every church, but the wounding is significant and it needs to be exposed. 

That is why we wrote this book – we share real stories of real people who were wounded in church, a place that should be a shelter of God’s love and peace. Sometimes people are abused by leaders or church members. There are also times when leaders are abused by people within the congregation. As you read, perhaps you’ll identify with some of the situations described. If so, be assured you are not alone. If you have been wounded, it is our hope and prayer God uses this book to facilitate healing. Because of Jesus Christ, there is hope beyond the pain.


Giveaway


To celebrate this tour, Whitaker House is giving away
- Grand Prize: Kindle Fire and Wounded in the Church by Ray Beeson and Chris Hayward
- First Place Prize: Walking by Faith mug with matching pen OR Bouquet of Blessings mug and Wounded in the Church 
- Second Place Prize: Walking By Faith pen and Wounded in the Church

Click below to enter. And if you or someone you know has experienced this, please share. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!




Review: Secrets


Secrets
By Jonathan Daugherty
New Growth Press, 2017


Summary

Everyone has a secret or two, a part of their life they would rather not share with the rest of the world.

But for Jonathan Daugherty, his secret was so life-altering and relationship-ending that he fought to keep it hidden at all costs. And it did cost him. His secret kept him from contentment, peace, and the possibility of being known and loved for who he truly is. That's what any secret addiction can do-but in particular a sex addiction.

After his wife finally discovered his secret, their marriage appeared to be over. In Secrets, Jonathan honestly and courageously shares his story of addiction to pornography and how he lost everything to it.

But that's not how the story ends. While Jonathan struggled, someone else was at work-his heavenly Father. At the lowest possible moment of his life, God stepped in and brought him hope and healing. This is a story of both loss and redemption that gives hope to anyone who has ever experienced the power and struggle of addiction and its life-destroying effects.

Addiction doesn't have the final say over Jonathan's life or in his marriage. The God who finds the lost, heals the sick, and brings life from death has the last, victorious word.

- A courageous, honest and open account of life as a sex addict and how sex addiction destroys marriages.
- A life-affirming and personal story of recovery and redemption that will inspire readers.
- Offers hope to all who struggle with pornography and sex addiction.
- Each chapter includes a "Living in the Light" section designed to equip and help readers find freedom from addiction.
- Suitable as a study for support groups of addicts and those who care about them.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

In Secrets, Jonathan Daugherty recounts a story of his sexual addiction, beginning with his first exposure to pornography as a young teen, in a story this really speaks to all of us. This can’t have been an easy story to share. Daugherty writes on his blog: “God called me into full time ministry to sexually broken people with only three words: Tell your story.” And in Secrets, he does just that.

_________________________

I have come to realize that grace is available to anyone,
even the stray child of God who spent years seeking
to serve himself at the expense of everyone he loves ...
It was just that grace that changed me, and it is that
same grace that keeps changing me.
- Jonathan Daugherty
_________________________

The narrative is well written in an honest, open, and straightforward way. There’s nothing explicit or graphic; rather, a sharing of feelings and coping mechanisms in relationships through the years, cultivating in the moment when he confessed his brokenness. Secrets is ultimately redemptive and I was glad to read about the Be Broken Ministries that he founded. This men’s ministry is having a huge impact and I have already told my pastor about it.

Daugherty talks about keeping secrets, compartmentalizing, hiding his real self from others – and contrasts all this with the truth that sets us free. It’s the reflective and devotional section at the end of each chapter that I think will speak to everyone, because who among us doesn’t have something in our lives that we’ve buried, not sharing in close relationships and maybe even with God?

Secrets has left me with much to think about. For one thing, although addiction comes in all shapes and sizes, certain things are held in common. Daugherty writes: “A trip to the bottom is often a slow one, marked by winding trails of clever temptations that bear no obvious, or immediate, threat to a person’s life.” How true that is! And Daugherty’s insight about confession, learned through personal experience, spoke to me in a special way: “Confession alone changes nothing, unless it is combined with brokenness and repentance.”

I’m so thankful that God uses broken vessels and that Jonathan Daugherty is willing to share his story.

Recommended for personal reading and especially men’s ministries.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/JDaugherty

_________________________


Jonathan Daugherty is the founder of Be Broken Ministries, and founder of Gateway to Freedom workshop for men. He also hosts the weekly radio broadcast, Pure Sex Radio, and is in demand nationally as a speaker on sexual purity and men s issues.

He has appeared on multiple radio and television media, both local and national. He has authored "Grace-Based Recovery," "The 4 Pillars of Purity," and other works. Jonathan lives with his wife and three children in San Antonio, Texas.

Find out more about Jonathan at http://www.jonathandaugherty.com.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Hiding from the Kinds in My Prayer Closet


Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet
By Jessica Kastner
David C. Cook, 2017


Summary

Finding grace and laughter when motherhood gets real

Soon after Jessica Kastner became a mother, she wondered if she was the only mom who found pretend play more boring than watching playdough harden and who dreaded yet another friend's Instagram post of homemade deliciousness.

In Hiding from My Kids in the Prayer Closet, Kastner shares her experience as an "unmom"-a mom who loves her kids more than she loves the daily experience of mothering. She helps readers laugh at the ridiculous, delight in the unpredictable, and enjoy being the mothers God made them to be.

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

This book captured my attention when I saw the word “unmom” in the description, maybe because that term hits a little too close to home when it comes to me? And maybe I saw myself a few times within its pages … okay, more than a few. I found it to be funny, hilarious at times, but a book that would benefit young moms everywhere. My children are grown, but I wish Jessica Kastner had written this book 40 years ago … and that’s all I’ll say about that!

I’m an only child who never babysat as a teenager, so my son was literally the first baby I had ever held or been around. Moms all around me seemed to have their act together quite nicely, and while I kept up a brave front, I was quaking inside. Just like Ms. Kastner, I loved him with everything in me, yet didn’t quite know what to do.

I think that’s where this book shines. We’re all wired in different ways and there’s no one “proper” way to be a successful mom. And that’s okay. I love Kastner’s irreverence when it comes to tradition and society’s expectations. While thoroughly entertaining and keeping you laughing, she hits home with relevant spiritual truths. Will readers relate to all that she says? Probably not, but that’s true of any book. Bottom line: Kastner shares a lot of wisdom gained from experience and walking with God, while allaying your fears and helping you laugh at yourself.

I could go on and on with quotes, but here's a few that I loved …

Regarding grandparents: “There is a seldom-discussed phenomenon that occurs when your parents become grandparents, and it’s mind-boggling. They’re twice as protective and concerned about things that wouldn’t have caused an eye to bat during your own childhood.”

On joining a Mom’s Club: “When I was a new Christian, I kind of assumed the fact that we’d all been saved from hell and granted eternal life would be enough to bond us, and make us relatable. Anyone saved for more than a year knows this just ain’t the truth.”

Teens: “Having a teen is God’s way of forcing us to trust him in ways we never thought possible.”

This is a great book to share with young moms, especially new or expecting moms … and it would make a wonderful baby shower gift.

Recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/JKastner






Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist and a contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network's CBN.com, Beliefnet.com, and the Huffington Post's Christianity blog. As Connecticut's coordinator for Straight Ahead Ministries, she shares God's message of hope by leading Bible studies in juvenile detention centers. When she's not on the trampoline with her three boys in Connecticut, Jessica shares her unapologetically "real" commentary on the Christian life at JessicaKastner.com.

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