Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Wings of Glass


Wings of Glass
By Gina Holmes
Tyndale House, 2013


Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes is many things:

. . . a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption
. . . a sensitively-told story about the difficult subject of domestic abuse
. . . a deep and well-characterized story told in an easygoing, flowing style
. . . a young woman's journey in small steps from addiction and denial to trust and freedom.

It is eye opening as we experience the story from the abused wife's viewpoint. Wings of Glass is a 5-star read for me, an important story that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.


Summary

On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.


My thoughts

I was drawn into Wings of Glass from Penny's words in the very first sentence: "He always said if I left he would kill me, but there are far worse fates than death." Gina's engaging prose is populated with memorable, well-drawn characters.

     -- Trent Taylor, a farmhand hired by Penny's father during a bumper crop summer. "It was just like that story from the Trojan War. We all let him right in without looking first to see what was inside him."

     -- Penny Taylor, Trent's wife, who deluded herself into believing the abuse she suffered was somehow justified.

     -- Callie Mae and Fatimah, friends who care about Penny and don't hesitate to tell her the truth. "The shame is your husband's. Not yours."

The imagery of the book's title is drawn from a meaningful sculpture that Callie Mae gives Penny, depicting "a woman with butterfly wings fashioned from pink, purple, and blue stained glass. She reached her graceful fingertips heavenward with such a look of longing, I couldn't help but feel it too. Her wings were spread and ready for flight, but a vine wound tightly around her ankles, binding her to the stone base."

Wings of Glass deals with an uncomfortable subject in an uplifting and redemptive way. The book is well researched and Gina certainly writes from the heart. The effects of abuse are so far reaching that I feel anyone would benefit from reading this novel. Highly recommended.

In the author's note at the end, Gina provides some very helpful resources, as well as thought-provoking discussion questions.

Connect with Gina online at ginaholmes.com and Facebook.

This book was provided by BookFun.org in exchange for my honest review.



Gina Holmes

Gina shares her heart in these words from her website . . .

        "I suppose if I had never been the victim of domestic abuse, the word “memoir” associated with my novel wouldn’t make my stomach cramp, but I have and so it does. My past is something that defined me for much of my young adult life. As I matured and God healed me, I chose to leave that past behind me and focus on the future and good things. That is until I felt the need to slash open my veins onto the pages of Wings of Glass.
        "I’m not Penny, the main character. I’m all of the characters in the book to some degree. I am both the abuser and the abused. The sinner and the saint. All of my ugliness, and triumphs are right there on the pages for friends, foes, and strangers to read. And although all of those terrible things didn’t happen to me the way they unfolded for Penny, many of them did in one form or another over the course of my life. That makes me feel terribly exposed, but it also makes me feel incredibly liberated.
        "Darkness hates light and by sharing our experiences even under the guise of fiction, we are able to minister to those who are travelling the path we’ve already come down. By exposing our own sins and secrets, we are able to understand and sympathize in a way those who haven’t gone through what we have can. More than that, we are allowing others to share their struggles and find healing and support.
        "I believe, really good fiction happens when we get emotionally naked—make ourselves known on a level our parents, spouses, children, best-friends…even ourselves… have not experienced. Sometimes when we delve into our souls, the blackness we find there can be disturbing. Sometimes our shovel clinks against the lid of an unopened treasure chest— but as novelists, it is our job to break that ground, come what may. It is only then that we can heal and help others heal, and say to the world, you are not alone. I’ve been there and I understand."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Author Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Denise Hunter


I am thrilled and honored to welcome Denise Hunter to The Power of Words this week! When I was given the opportunity to review Dancing with Fireflies, I jumped at the chance because I've wanted to try Denise's books for a good while. Let me just say that she knows how to entertain and inspire readers with her "swoon-worthy" heroes! Click on the book title to see my review of Dancing with Fireflies.

Denise is graciously giving one of our readers a copy of Dancing with Fireflies (entry details at the end of this post). Now lets enjoy Denise . . .


Q:  Tell us a little about the real Denise Hunter behind the books. Married? Write full time or part time? Introvert or extrovert?

I’ve been happily married for 25 years, and we have 3 boys—2 in college, one in high school. I’m definitely introverted. I’ve been writing for 18 years, and my 25th book releases this December.


Q:  What are three unique or fun things about you?

I play the drums, I love to travel the world, and I eat my cereal dry. How’s that for random?


Q:  When you read for relaxation, what genre, books or authors do you turn to?

I’m a romance reader all the way! I also read women’s fiction, but it has to have a romantic thread. Some of my favorite authors are Francine Rivers, Diane Chamberlain, and Kristin Hannah.



Q:  Tell us about the Chapel Springs series, the setting, and how the book we're featuring today, Dancing with Fireflies, fits in.

Dancing with Fireflies is the 2nd book in the Chapel Springs series, though each of the books can stand on their own. The series is set in the fictional river town of Chapel Springs, Indiana (my home state) and features the McKinley family. Each book tells the love story of one of the four grown McKinley children. Readers can expect family drama, romance, tears and laughter, and always, the happily ever after sigh.


Q:  What is something about the lead characters, Daniel and Jade, that will draw readers to them?

Jade is a strong young woman with hidden frailties—like so many of us. She needs her family—and of course, Daniel, to encourage and support her. Daniel . . . sigh! He’s a swoon-worthy mayor-hero with his heart set on Jade—and too afraid of losing her to let her know how he feels. Fireworks were made for these two lovebirds.


Q:  The title, Dancing with Fireflies, certainly creates a beautiful visual image. What is the significance of this title?

The title stems from a memory Daniel has of Jade the first time he met her. When we meet Jade in the current day, she’s lost that spark, and Daniel is determined to help her find it again.


Q:  What is one message that you hope readers will take away from this story?

Risking your heart is difficult after a loss, but don’t be afraid to love fully and deeply. God will carry you through.


Q:  When it comes to contemporary romance, you really shine, Denise. Why write for the Christian market?

Aw, thank you. I’m really blessed to be doing what I love.  Since faith is integral to my life, I can’t imagine writing anything else. It’s a challenge to show faith in an authentic way in a novel, but doing so gives the reader a chance to walk in a character’s shoes, to feel her feelings and think her thoughts. Showing a faith journey in novel form can help readers see things in a new way or cause them to ponder their own circumstances in light of what they’ve learned. What a joy to go on that journey with readers!


Q:  As the writer of over 20 books, have there been changes in the publishing industry that you've had to adapt to?

The publishing world is changing, and rapidly. I feel blessed to have contracts, a wonderful publisher, and loyal readers (whom I dearly love!) in this evolving industry. So much of it is out of my hands, but that’s true of life in general, and all we can do is trust God, day by day, and be thankful for the blessings we already have.


Q:  What’s on the book horizon for you, Denise?

Book 3 in the Chapel Springs series releases December 9th. I’m so excited about PJ’s story, where a veritable mansion is up for grabs between PJ and a very hunky out-of-towner with a big heart. I love it when the sparks fly!


Q:  What are some ways we can support and encourage you, both personally and as an author, Denise?

I covet your prayers. It’s my heart’s desire to the write the stories he lays on my heart. I also love to hear from my readers! You can find me on Facebook or drop me an email at denise@denisehunterbooks.com.



____________________

GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Dancing with Fireflies, simply answer the following question about Denise's writing and leave your e-mail in a safe format - [at] and [dot]. If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter.


Question:
Do you have a favorite book or character among the 25 stories Denise has written? If you are new to her books, what genre do you enjoy reading?

Please "like" my Facebook page, ThePowerofWordsBookReviews, if you haven't already. And new followers of this blog are always welcome!


  • E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
  • Contest open to U.S. residents 18 and older, and ends at midnight PST on Monday, September 1. No purchase necessary.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail on Wednesday, September 3. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.

Review: Heaven Sent Rain


Heaven Sent Rain
By Lauraine Snelling
FaithWords, 2014


Summary

Dinah Taylor has an orderly life that is just how she likes it. A perfectly furnished luxury apartment, a satisfying career as a scientist and CEO of her own company, and an uncomplicated personal life. But all of that changes when she meets seven-year-old Jonah.

The boy shows up one day, a scruffy dog by his side, in front of her office building. Dinah knows nothing about kids and even less about animals, but after she buys him breakfast, he shows up the next day...and the next. She tries to learn more about him, to help him, but he's remarkably skilled at evading her questions.

And then, late one night, he calls her in a panic-his dog has been badly injured. Dinah rushes them to a local animal clinic, where she meets Garret, a veterinarian with a thriving practice and a passion for drawing.

Though Jonah takes to Garret right away, for some reason neither understands, Dinah and Garret just don't mesh. But for Jonah's sake, their lives continue to collide, and slowly the relationship between these three strangers begins to change.


My thoughts

Heaven Sent Rain by falls into the category of one of my favorite genres, that of relationship drama - and from Dinah's first sighting of Jonah and his dog in the rain, this poignant story held my attention and captured my emotions. It's a story of three people who simply need each other. Lauraine's writing flows easily, the storyline is compelling, and her complex characters deal with real-life issues. I really enjoyed the scope and depth of Heaven Sent Rain.

Dinah and Garret were both unusual and fascinating characters to me. Dinah, a biochemist and president of her own dietary supplement company, had always been able to manage things on her own - but suddenly finds everything spinning out of control when Jonah comes into her life. Garret wore many hats - veterinarian, celebrity, cartoonist, animal rights activist, artist, strong in his faith - and I loved how he sketched portraits of children with their pets that he treated. There's also humor scattered throughout, like when Garret reflects about his own collection of pets, "No one knew how to get even like a cat." I adore cats and can totally relate to that! But it was young Jonah, forced to cope with a loss that no child should have to experience, who stole my heart as he brought the worlds of Garret and Dinah together.

At times, Dinah isn't the most likeable of characters, but she has a big heart for Jonah and that elevated her in my opinion. She had lost her faith at some point when life got tough, but we see a gradual transformation as she struggles with balancing family and career, and these words of wisdom from her beloved Gramma Grace come back to her:

"You can't outrun God. . . . His shoulders
are plenty broad enough to carry your anger
and He will always love you no matter what."

I loved the meaning behind the title, Heaven Sent Rain, for while it was raining when Dinah and Jonah met, a deeper spiritual meaning becomes obvious toward the end. One theme of this story is that God is always at work in our lives and that He often uses people. I found myself thinking back over the years at the people God has placed in my life . . . How did I receive them? With grateful acceptance or rejection? And did I even recognize that God had sent them to help?

There's romance in this story, but we don't see a lot of interaction between Garret and Dinah until the last half of the book. And much is left to our imagination between the last page and the epilogue - but that's okay, because it added to the realism and seemed to fit the narrative.

Heaven Sent Rain is a moving and heartwarming story, bittersweet yet humorous at times. I enjoyed this story very much and recommend it to all who enjoy character-driven inspirational fiction.

Heaven Sent Rain can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.


Lauraine Snelling

Lauraine Snelling has been writing since 1980, with over 65 books published, both fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary, for adults and young readers. Her books consistently appear on CBA bestseller lists, and have been translated into Norwegian, Danish, and German. A hallmark of her style is writing about real issues within a compelling story. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a watchdog Bassett named Chewy.

Meet Lauraine online at laurainesnelling.com, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Thank you to Amanda Dykes for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: The Dance

The Dance
By Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley
The Restoration Series, #1
Revell, 2013


Summary

Jim Anderson is a successful businessman, and his wife, Marilyn, is the perfect wife. And why wouldn’t she be? He gives her everything she needs. That’s why Jim never expected to come home one day and find Marilyn gone.

After 27 years of marriage, Marilyn has had enough of feeling unloved and neglected. She wants to experience some measure of happiness before she’s too old to enjoy it, even signing up for dance lessons, something Jim would never do. What will it take for Jim to finally become the man Marilyn needs him to be?


My thoughts

From now on, whenever I hear the phrase "the power of story," The Dance by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley is one book that will quickly come to mind. The narrative takes real-life issues that many of us face - lack of communication, the drive to get ahead, acceptance by peers, financial insecurity - and meets them head on in a story with relationship advice seamlessly blended into a storyline that simply entertains. The Dance, book one in The Restoration Series, is a character-driven novel, written in an easy-to-read style that captured and held my attention from the very first page.

On his blog, Dan says this about The Restoration Series:  "We’ve written the series hoping to reach thousands of Christians who may be struggling or coming up short of their expectations for a truly happy home." While the focus is on the marriage of Jim and Marilyn Anderson, I think the relational gems in this book would help strengthen any relationship. The novels are mostly set in the fictitious town of River Oaks, Florida, which is inspired by a real-life, storybook-like town of Celebration near Disneyworld. Be sure to visit Dan's Restoration Series Pinterest board to get a glimpse of this charming town.

The Dance is a book that beautifully weaves Dan Walsh's literary talent with Gary Smalley's relationship expertise, and entertaining fiction with educational truths. I would have thought this blending of styles and message would be somewhat difficult to achieve, but they made it look effortless. Jim and Marilyn are sympathetic characters that I could easily relate to, and strong supporting characters added richness to the story. I especially enjoyed dance instructor Audrey and Jim's Uncle Henry, the hippie who'd found Jesus after almost dying of a drug overdose at Woodstock.

Everything had to revolve around Jim, who had spent years crafting his reputation, and Marilyn avoided confrontation. But while Jim initially attributed their separation to Marilyn's selfishness, it quickly became an eye-opening experience. And I thought the church they attended almost became a major character, for I have known of churches like that - status driven, prestigious, legalistic. In Jim's thoughts, he "was a pariah now, inside that building. A man fallen from grace. If not from God, certainly from men. . . . One never rises once fallen from grace. Not in this church."

The Dance is a story of hope, prayer, forgiveness, restoration, and new beginnings. The beauty of Christianity is God restoring us relationally to Him, and we see another kind of restoration in this story - the marriage relationship - that reflects Christ's relationship with us. The Dance is an example of the power of fiction to transform lives and I highly recommend it.

The Dance can be purchased online at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon. The third book in this series, The Desire, releases on August 26, 2014.




Dan Walsh

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Unfinished GiftThe Discovery, and The Reunion, as well as The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley. He has won three Carol awards, and three of his novels were finalists for RT Book ReviewsInspirational Book of the Year (2011-2013). Dan lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel.

Connect with Dan online at danwalshbooks.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.




Gary Smalley

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of 16 books, along with several popular films and videos. He has spent over 30 years learning, teaching, and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. Smalley has appeared on national television programs such as OprahLarry King LiveExtra,The Today Show, and The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, as well as numerous national radio programs. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 50 years and live in Branson, Missouri. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.