Friday, May 27, 2016

The JOY of Art - Honoring those who gave their all



Generations of Service
- Kevin Daniel


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And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
- Lee Greenwood
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May Freedom Ring Forever
- Kevin Daniel




Reviewing the Troops
- Jack E. Dawson



_________________________

“I don't have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is.
Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded
that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.”
– President Ronald Reagan
_________________________




Washington at Valley Forge
- Mort Künstler




Helicopter Rescue of Wounded
Indiana Rangers: The Army Guard in Vietnam
- Mort Künstler




Divine Guidance
- Mort Künstler



_________________________

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to
something bigger than oneself."
- Joseph Campbell
_________________________




Homecoming
- Dan Hatala




Col. Robert Shaw and the 54th Massachusettes
- Mort Künstler




A Hot Night in Basra
- David Pentland



_________________________

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero
to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
– General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.
_________________________




Duty, Honor and Tears / God Be with You
- Mort Künstler




Hometown Heroes
- Dona Gelsinger




His First Goodbye / His First Homecoming /His Last Goodbye
Terry Redlin



_________________________

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we
should thank God that such men lived.”
— General George S. Patton
_________________________




D-Day
- Mort Künstler




Back Home
- Tom Wood

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review + GIVEAWAY: Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter




Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter
By Carrie Fancett Pagels
Pelican Book Group, 2016


Summary

In a land fraught with religious strife, they must break the barriers between status and faith to forge a fresh future in a new world…

After her Huguenot father is arrested, aristocrat Suzanne Richelieu escapes Versailles. Handsome German peasant, Johan Rousch, risks his life to bring her to the safety of his family’s farm in the Palatinate duchy, but when Suzanne’s brother and the French army arrive with a warning that they plan to burn the area, she and Johan are forced to flee.

With no money or options, both become indentured servants in exchange for safe passage to Philadelphia. Suzanne falls gravely ill aboard ship and marries Johan, only to survive with no memory of the wedding—a reality made worse when Johan spots the “priest” who married them working as a surveyor and later in Quaker cleric garb. Are their wedding vows valid? When Suzanne’s former fiancé arrives in port, planning to abduct her, Johan must save her again—but can he do so before Suzanne is lost to him forever?


My thoughts

Beginning in the year 1742, Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter gives us a glimpse into a turbulent time in history, one that I’m not all that familiar with, and that is one of this novel’s strengths for me. Hidden faith, persecution, betrayal, indentured servitude, and class distinction are just a few elements readers will find – as well as courage, friendship, romance, and intrigue.

Aachen Cathedral, Germany
The story is extremely well researched and rich with historical detail that vividly conveys settings and scenes from France, Germany, and colonial America. There’s good character depth, and gradually getting to know more about Suzanne and Johan – a couple who couldn’t be more different on the surface – was very enjoyable. I loved the unfolding of their friendship, attraction, and spiritual growth.

Carrie did a great job in conveying the realism of something I’ve never understood, and that’s intolerance and persecution in the name of religion. The courage of both the Huguenots and those who helped them at personal risk was moving.

I recommend Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter to all who enjoy historical fiction.

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Carrie Fancett Pagels is a multi-published award-winning author of Christian historical romance. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn’t “cure” her overactive imagination! She resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia, which is perfect for her love of history. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time!


Thank you to Carrie Fancett Pagels and Celebrate Lit for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tour landing page

Link to purchase book: http://amzn.to/1TeU3h9

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TWO GIVEAWAYS!!

Carrie has graciously offered an ebook copy of Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter to one of you. To enter, please click on this link to share my Facebook post, then leave a comment and also mention that you’d like the ebook. In addition . . .

To celebrate her tour, Carrie is giving away a Kindle Fire 7, one signed copy of Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter along with Postcard & bookmark and Fleur de Lis Earrings.




Monday, May 23, 2016

Review + GIVEAWAY: In His Place


In His Place
By Harry C. Griffith
Barbour Publishing, 2016


Summary

A modern-day challenge in the tradition of Charles Sheldon's classic In His Steps

Charles Sheldon’s WWJD? was a significant challenge in its time, but God calls us to do more than wait until we are facing a decision and then choose to do what we think Jesus would do. We are to incarnate Christ in our time, being conscious of the presence and power of God within us in all of our thoughts and actions. This is what pastor Steve Long wants his congregation to understand.

When Long challenges his prominent but self-satisfied congregation to become a living force for Christ in their small North Georgia town, he is blindsided by personal trials. Responding to Christ’s command “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” Pastor Long tackles these difficult situations—and more—over a tumultuous week of trials and testing and ultimately learns (as he leads) what it means to walk In His Place.


My thoughts

After all these years, I can still feel the effects of Charles M. Sheldon’s life-changing book, In His Steps, so I was eager to read this book when I noticed the description, “A modern-day challenge for readers of In His Steps.” I don’t think there’s any way I can do justice to In His Place with my review, but I can definitely say that the potential is there for a similar type of impact on readers. A compelling and poignant work of fiction, In His Place is an outstanding book on many levels … for it has a storyline that hooks you from the first page, an idyllic setting, character depth, but most importantly, it’s a story that simply won’t let you stay the same.

In a picturesque North Georgia town, we are introduced to a congregation operating out of its comfort zone and a pastor pleased with his leadership – until one of the active members commits suicide. Pastor Steve Long seeks counsel from his friend and confidant, Philip, who just happens to be a non-Christian, and a faith journey of self-seeking and courage begins. Philip poses a question that Steve wrestles with:  “How can someone be a member of our church – an active member – yet die of loneliness?”

In His Place is easy reading, but not necessarily comfortable reading – and it has an underlying message that’s impossible to ignore. The use of theological terms is often downplayed in today’s culture, and I think a wealth of understanding is lost as a result. Harry Griffith brings out the meaning of the incarnation beautifully – Christ’s presence on earth in human form – and that His presence did not end when He ascended into heaven. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:12).

Many of Pastor Steve’s church members were doctors, lawyers, and business executives of the area – and he began to question the church’s effectiveness in a way that speaks to us also . . .

Had it become nothing more than a shell? Had it ceased to be a place of healing? A place where people could come to connect with God? A place where they could worship and find community? More importantly, a place of changed lives, of people radically committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? A body of disciples?

Steve is a flawed character, often being more responsive to church members’ needs than those of his immediate family. The support and humble spirit of his wife, Jayne, is appealing, but I wish her character had more depth. Great characters overall, though. In challenging his congregation to incarnate Christ by being Jesus to the world around them, I applauded Steve as he made tough, unpopular decisions.

In His Place speaks to us in so many ways with the gospel message beautifully presented, the reminder that we can repeat our failures or redeem them, and that we either believe what Jesus taught or we don’t. There’s no middle ground.

The best Christian fiction causes us to reflect and examine ourselves, and In His Place does exactly that. It belongs right there along with other impactful stories, such as The War Room and In His Steps. Highly recommended.





        Harry C. Griffith is an attorney by education, graduating from the University of Mississippi Law School as Editor-in-Chief of the Mississippi Law Journal and winner of the Phi Delta Phi Award as Outstanding Law Graduate. After serving in the Army JAG Corps, he became a corporate attorney and then executive, rising to the position of Vice President-Administration, before accepting God's call into fulltime Christian work as a lay person.
        He has had more than 20 books published on a wide range of subjects: prayer, Bible study, evangelism, lay ministry and marriage. His publishers include Tyndale, Zondervan, Eerdmans, and A. R. Mowbray (England).
        Harry has been called a Christian entrepreneur because of his varied and creative ministries over the years. He is a speaker, writer, teacher, poet, lawyer, business executive, husband, father, grandfather and founder of several Christian and business organizations. He has also held a wide range of positions in civic, service, business and political organizations.

Thank you to Barbour Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and also for providing a giveaway copy.

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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. If you read the story that inspired this, In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon, please share your thoughts. And don’t forget to leave your name and e-mail in a safe format … [at] and [dot], etc.

I try to promote on social media, but the best way to keep up with my reviews and occasional giveaways is to subscribe by e-mail in the top right corner (no pressure intended).

Contest ends at midnight PST on Tuesday, May 31. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Interview + GIVEAWAY: Ruth Logan Herne


Ruth Logan Herne is a very talented writer who also happens to have a great sense of humor that shines through her writing. After reading two of her books in a short period of time, Ruth has become a “not to be missed” author for me. If Ruth is a new author to you, I hope you'll try one of her books very soon. Please click on the title to see my review of Back in the Saddle.

Ruth and Litfuse Publicity put together a very interesting interview that I’d like to share, and I appreciate being able to offer a copy of Back in the Saddle to one of this blog’s readers.



An interview with Ruth Logan Herne,
Author of Back in the Saddle

Family relationships are never easy, and loss, grief and greed can compound normal everyday tensions. Ruth Logan Herne offers hope for hurting families with the messages contained in her new book, Back in the Saddle.

Q: Your latest release, Back in the Saddle, is a modern twist on the biblical parable of the prodigal son. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?

        Take one smokin’ hot hero with a chip on his shoulder, turn his hard-won world upside down at the same time his estranged father is diagnosed with deteriorating liver disease and watch the sparks fly!
        Colt Stafford grew up with resentment burned into his soul. His mother told him to trust God with all his little heart and soul, and when Colt lost her to a tragic car wreck, he realized that if God existed, he sure wasn’t anyone who could be trusted. He was left with a power-loving, money-hungry father who saw gold in establishing a new kind of beef empire, but Sam’s quest for world beef domination left little for his son. When he tried to rectify that mistake with more mistakes, their relationship dissolved.
        But grown-ups see things through a different reality lens, and Colt’s return sets a new normal in motion. His presence disrupts the status quo for the better, and when he gets beyond his initial affront of having a woman running part of the show at the Double S, he realizes that maybe God does exist. And maybe, just maybe, that imperfect timing of his youth was pretty perfect after all.


Q: Your leading man, Colt Stafford, is a proud man who has to return home in disgrace after a personal misfortune. How did you tap into some of your own life experiences to paint his character?

        Great question! I took that time I was crazy rich and gambled it all on one roll of the dice and rolled snake eyes. . . . OK, I wasn’t ever rich, and I don’t throw dice, but I have two sons living in Manhattan. I watched their skilled, brilliant friends get rolled under a financial bus with the crash of 2008, and examining the underpinnings of what went wrong, I saw an area ripe for character development.
        And that’s where Colt came from. But the expert advice on pegging Colt in Lower Manhattan came from my youngest son, Luke, who is currently working in hedge funds. Fans of Michael Lewis books will recognize that Wall Street doesn’t talk easily or freely, so having an insider point of view was clutch for developing Colt’s career and his downfall with accuracy. I did buy Luke a lot of coffee out of gratitude!



Q: What is your favorite thing about your heroine, Angelina? Will readers find any parts of your own personality in hers?

        That’s a loaded question! I like strong heroines. I like strong women. I like championing for strong women, and even if a heroine has reason to cave, my goal as an author is to show how she picks herself up and gets back on her feet. And if there’s a wonderful hero to make the picture complete, better yet!
        There’s a little bit of me in every heroine, but I had to make Detective Mary Angela (Angelina) even more self-protective, defensive and tough than, let’s say, a kindergarten teacher. So I took a little bit of me, a dash of Kate Beckett on Castle, a hint of the household staffs from The Help and a smidge of Catherine Zeta Jones from Zorro. A woman cop, skilled in negotiation techniques and trained in undercover work, is the perfect setup for dealing with a huge, busy ranch kitchen filled with sometimes-clueless men. One of my greatest joys is how women are loving Angelina as a heroine because I was pretty much guaranteed they’d love Colt. But to have them embrace and cheer on a tough-girl image heroine, that’s awesome!


Q: You talk on your blog about your upbringing and how you were born into poverty. In what ways did your early life experiences shape the writer you are today?

        I cannot even begin to say what a huge influence all of that was on my life as a wife, mother, employee and now author. I see all of that as God’s preparation for me for the job he and I both knew I would do some day: write books people love and help women see and build their inner strengths through faith and love.
        It is so easy to blame the past and let it wither us. Far too easy. Parts of society actually encourage that.
        No. Grab those bootstraps, avoid negative people, surround yourself with positives and thank God daily for all the wonderfulness in your life, no matter how big or how small! No matter how menial the job, do your best every day.
        I’ve held a great many nametag and hairnet jobs in my time, and the blessing of that was a paycheck to help put shoes on my kids’ feet . . . and research for books! Take those down times and use them to minister to others.
        Take the good and run with it. The rest is up to you!


Q: Other than writing, what are some of your interests? Tell us about your roadside vegetable stand back home in upstate New York.

        My love for gardening comes straight from my grandma Myrtle Herne. It’s funny how things get passed down, but I could literally live in a garden if time allowed — and it hasn’t for many years. However, my husband is retiring this year, and he’s started up our truck farm again. We’d done it for a dozen years when our kids were younger, and that gave us lots of field hands when they weren’t playing soccer, tennis or baseball or running track-and-field or cross-country.
        A truck farm is an old-school name for a small farm that trucks this, that and the other thing to roadside stands, so in front of our big, old farmhouse (160 years old, and when you fix one thing, you break two others!) we haul out the produce stand every spring . . . and it begins. We have a henhouse of nearly 50 laying hens I handle, and the initial farm work comes down to my husband, Dave, our son Seth, and son-in-law Jon. In the fall during pumpkin and squash season, it’s all hands on deck! A great pumpkin year is a wonderful thing, and there are no worries about staying in shape when you’re hauling 30-pound pumpkins from the field to the tractor path! It’s so pretty to fill the yard with hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins and watch folks drive in with little kids and fill their trunk.
        When there’s time I bake bread and cookies for the produce stand . . . and the customers love it, so I don’t tell them that bread’s supposed to be bad for them!


Q: Can you give us a hint as to your plans for Home on the Range, the next book in the Double S Ranch series?

        I love Home on the Range! Oh, poor Nick, he is just so beside himself with what he thinks he wants and the image he’s tried so hard to portray of the modern-day cattle breeder with one foot in suburbia and one on the rugged terrain of the Double S. He was so sure he could do it right and best his father, but one marriage later and two very unhappy little girls means that somehow, someway, Nick’s got to get his life back in order.
        Who better than an emotionally-tanked therapist, leading a reclusive life while hiding in the woods in a hobbit-style house because she can’t come to terms with life, to do it? It sure sounds like a match made in heaven to me!


Learn more about Ruth Logan Herne and Back in the Saddle at ruthloganherne.com, on Facebook (ruthloganherne) or by following her on Twitter (@ruthloganherne) or Pinterest (ruthyloganherne).


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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Back in the Saddle, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here about something you enjoyed in Ruth’s interview. [Name and e-mail required. Leave in a safe format - using [at] and [dot], for instance.]

I try to promote on social media, but the best way to keep up with my reviews and occasional giveaways is to subscribe by e-mail in the top right corner (no pressure intended).

Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, May 29. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Crossing the Divide


Crossing the Divide
By Jake Hanson
Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press), 2016


Summary

How can Christians today reach a world that is becoming increasingly intolerant to the teachings of the church? John Wesley entered the scene of 18th century England with greater hostility than exists today in the West. His life and teaching offer the 21st century church a way forward.

John Wesley forged his ministry in the midst of mobs, riots, and angry diatribes, yet this fearless evangelist found a way to reach the very enemies in need of transformation. This complex personality drove one of the most significant renewal movements of the English-speaking world--a movement that transformed the spirituality, morality, and work of the church for the next three centuries.


My thoughts

Crossing the Divide is a well-written biography of world-famous evangelist, John Wesley. Sometimes biographies and reference books can be a little dry, uninteresting, or hard to follow – but that is not the case here. Jake Hanson is knowledgeable and communicates that knowledge in a style that is interesting and flows easily.

Hanson makes this biography even richer by the inclusion of Wesley’s own words from journals and correspondence. Little-known details – to me, at least – are accounts of events like Wesley’s miraculous deliverance from a house fire as a child and his failed missionary work in America. Church history fans will enjoy reading of his relationships with fellow theologians of that time – George Whitefield, Charles Wesley, Peter Bohler, and Jonathan Edwards, for example.

_________________________

The faith I want is, “a sure trust and confidence in God,
that through the merits of Christ my sins are forgiven,
and I reconciled to the favour of God.”
- John Wesley
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I especially enjoyed Wesley’s slow, steady journey from the idea that people are justified by works, to a doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Opposition and hostility were no strangers to Wesley, and his life has much relevance for us today.

Crossing the Divide is an interesting account of John Wesley’s life and ministry – and also an excellent reference tool for students of church history.

Recommended.


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Jake Hanson is a graduate of Wheaton College (B.A.) and Beeson Divinity School (MDiv). A preacher and teacher, Jake also operates a web site (TheDecidedLife.com) devoted to biography, Bible study, and theology.

He lives near Birmingham, Alabama with his wife Charissa and three girls.

Thank you to Barbour Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Sister Dear


Sister Dear
By Laura McNeill
Thomas Nelson, 2016


Summary

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish --- time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie's return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie's claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret---one that holds the key to Allie's freedom.


My thoughts

What a brilliant and impressive novel! Set in Georgia’s beautiful coastal area, Sister Dear is a solid relationship drama that incorporates the suspense of a psychological thriller, and the result is an attention-grabbing story that never lets go.

I’m always drawn to books that take place in my own state, and Laura McNeill did a wonderful job at conveying the beauty and small-town feel of Brunswick and St. Simons Island. Sister Dear is an impressive story that weaves past and present together in the lives of four main characters: Sisters Allie and Emma, Allie’s daughter Caroline, and Sheriff Lee Gaines.  These characters are realistically flawed, even downright messy at times – and the idyllic setting is infused with bitterness, jealousy, betrayal, police corruption, and the supremacy of football at all costs.

Laura writes in such a way that, rather than standing back and observing, I connected with these characters as if I was right there with them. Allie’s ten-year prison experience and the difficulty to re-enter society are vividly conveyed in the beginning pages. During Allie’s imprisonment, Emma had become “the good daughter, the one everyone counted on and respected for her sacrifices.” And Caroline, aging from 5 to 15 during these years, struggled with inner turmoil . . . “Maybe, just maybe, if people could see through her skin, they wouldn’t like what they saw underneath. . . . She was a girl who smiled on the outside while she died a little on the inside. A daughter running away to avoid the past.”

I loved how, rather than being left in the dark until everything is explained at the end, Laura drops strategically-placed clues throughout, allowing readers to glimpse hearts and motives in a story where nothing is quite as it appears at first. As I’m not always a fan of suspense, I was delighted that it was more psychological than scary – even chilling at times. I especially enjoyed the secondary characters of Natalie and Russell, a mother and son who befriended Allie and Caroline.

The spiritual theme of forgiveness that leads to hope and healing is present, but in such a subtle way that this story should have wide mass-market appeal. I am delighted to have discovered Laura McNeill’s writing and look forward to much more from her.

Highly recommended.


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Laura McNeill is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a graduate program in interactive technology at the University of Alabama. When she's not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Mobile, AL with her family.



Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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