Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: Unchained


Unchained
By Noel Jesse Heikkinen
David C. Cook, 2017


Summary

Christians are free in Christ, yet Christianity can feel like a prison.

Unchained helps Christians who don't feel that grace has changed their lives.

Often when people follow Jesus, they feel more guilty instead of more free. A powerful book for the spiritually restless, Unchained shows readers how to have a robust faith that celebrates their freedom in Christ without compromising their holiness as God's followers.

Unchained turns to the person and work of Jesus Christ as the source of freedom-not just his work 2,000 years ago but also what he is doing today. As readers dig into the meaning of the freedom that Jesus offers, they will understand, perhaps for the first time, what true freedom in Christ means.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/njheikkinen


My thoughts

Before reading Unchained, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what freedom in Christ meant, but I don’t believe I had a clue. This is a book that everyone should read because you’ll find it quite eye opening – and freeing! As a word of advice, have plenty of highlighters on hand. It was hard to read for review purposes, for I kept wanting to go back and reread sections, letting everything sink in more fully.

Noel Jesse Heikkinen comes across exactly like he must be in person – passionate about his subject, extremely knowledgeable, honest, and not afraid to laugh at himself. I was impressed by the amount of Scripture he references, as well as the thorough and logical flow of his easily readable narrative.

The premise of Unchained is this: “Even though you cannot lose your freedom, you can lose feeling free.” The book is divided into four sections:

Part 1:  The Problem with Chains
Part 2:  Set Free From … the Law, religion, sin
Part 3:  Set Free for Freedom … from guilt, shame, to say yes
Part 4:  Set Free To … love, live free

Just to pull one example, this quote from the first chapter where he talks about yokes is right on target: “The problem occurs when our man-made rules become more important than Jesus – when praying or reading the Bible every day becomes more important than following Jesus.”

I’m glad for the opportunity to review Unchained and am ready to work through it at my own pace.

Highly recommended.

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




Noel Jesse Heikkinen is a pastor at Riverview Church, a multi-site church of over 3,000 near Lansing, Michigan. Heikkinen also helps lead the church planting ministry Acts 29 and is the chairman of the board for the mission agency Reliant. He and his wife, Grace, have four children.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): 21 Days of Grace



 
Click here to purchase your copy.


About the Book


Book: 21 Days of Grace  

Author: Compiled by Kathy Ide
  
Genre: Devotional  

Release Date: March 24, 2015

Love fiction? Looking for a devotional? Check out 21 DAYS OF GRACE, book one in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series (published by BroadStreet Publishing Group). Fictional stories followed by brief life applications written by best-selling Christian novelists and debut authors, including Angela Hunt, Cindy Woodsmall, and Deborah Raney. Great for individual or group study.




My thoughts


Avid readers of Christian fiction can testify to the power of story - how they have been touched and even changed through a work of fiction – and that is vividly reflected in the devotional 21 Days of Grace. What a creative idea to assemble a collection of short stories or excerpts from books in a devotional format!

Compiler and editor Kathy Ide has included works by familiar authors, as well as several who were new to me. Each story is meaningful and concludes with a life application section, making it perfect for personal reflection and meditation. The only thing I would have liked is more reference to Scripture (some have it, but not all).

I’m a person who is much more comfortable ministering to others than being on the receiving end, so Prairie Lessons by Deborah Raney really spoke to me. Kathy Ide’s Rag Doll beautifully conveys God’s boundless grace and forgiveness. I saw myself in Be Grateful in All Things by Diane Simmons Dill – quick to worry instead of being grateful and trusting in the God who always provides. I loved Cecil Murphy’s quirky We Called Him Happy Face because it reminded me of how others can be drawn to Christ through our simple kindness and the genuine happiness in our countenance. And True Confession by Angela Elwell Hunt really packs a punch with its focus on a character who struggles to feel God’s forgiveness.

I truly enjoyed 21 Days of Grace and don’t hesitate to recommend it for devotional use. It would also be great gift for new believers or seekers.

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


About the Author


Kathy Ide is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. She’s a full-time freelance editor and writing mentor, working with Christian authors of all genres at all levels. She teaches at writers’ conferences across the country and is the director of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. She’s a co-owner of the Christian Editor Network LLC and founder of the four divisions that comprise the CEN: Christian Editor Connection, The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network, PENCON, and The PEN Institute.

To find out more about Kathy, visit www.KathyIde.com

 


Guest Post from Kathy Ide

I’ve always loved Christian fiction, and I’ve seen the power of fiction to touch hearts and change lives, both firsthand and hearing about the experiences of others. But you know, in my quiet times with the Lord, reading a chapter from a novel just doesn’t seem quite appropriate. So a devotional with short fiction stories seemed like a great solution. And you can take these purse-sized devotionals wherever you go, to read when you have a few minutes of down time. It’s a great way to get “inspiration on the go.” And they make fantastic gifts for friends and loved ones.


Blog Stops

March 24: ASC Book Reviews
March 24: autism mom
March 28: A Greater Yes
March 29: Southern Chelle
March 30: Pause for Tales
March 30: The Scribbler
March 31: Carpe Diem
April 1: Splashesofjoy
April 3: Lane Hill House
April 5: God is Love


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Kathy is giving away:

1st – 4th place winners: A set of all four devotionals in the series. 
5th & 6th place winners: An autographed copy of 21 Days of Grace with a novel written by one of the contributing authors!!

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





Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Home at Last


Home at Last
By Deborah Raney
The Chicory Inn #5
Abingdon Press, 2017


Summary

Why did their differences matter so much?

Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he's stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters' efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother's white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn't repeat in polite-well, in any company. Her father's family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry's incarceration, life has left Shayla's father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn't people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?

Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl's aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee's On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society's view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Learn more and purchase a copy.


My thoughts

Deborah Raney brings the Chicory Inn series to a close with the compelling story of Link and Shayla in Home at Last. Deborah is a consummate author and I have greatly enjoyed each of the five books in this series. Each story involves one of the Whitman children and, while Home at Last can stand alone, I recommend reading the series in order.


The story is well written, capturing my attention from the first page, and I have particularly enjoyed how, throughout the series, Deborah deals with difficult life issues in a gentle manner that speaks volumes – such as infidelity, infertility, and dementia. And now, in Home at Last, she writes from the heart in exploring racism and biracial marriage. There is much to love and admire in the two main characters – Link’s good-heartedness and sense of innocence, and Shayla’s determination to do the right thing by her family, no matter how difficult.

Home at Last has a different feel from the previous four books, in that the subject matter is darker and seemed to overshadow character development. I didn’t get to know Link and Shayla as well as I would have liked, and never got a feel for how their caring for each other developed. However, the story’s strength is its cultural relevance and spiritual impact of unity in Christ, which makes it a very compelling read. This eye-opening, insightful story gave me a new awareness and much upon which to reflect, and it will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.


There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is
there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Deborah shared in an interview about the theme of this book … “We are all one in Christ, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters, and should love and care for one another as such. It’s a tall order, but I hope readers will be compelled to be more compassionate, more understanding, less judgmental, and more full of God’s grace toward each other—even when we disagree on some matters.

The Whitman family – Grant, Audrey, and their extended family – have become friends as they worked through problems and shared in God’s grace. I appreciated the realism of the series and that nothing was sugar-coated when it comes to the difficulties Link and Shayla will face.

Recommended.

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


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Deborah Raney's novels have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers' Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have three times been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken Raney have traded small-town life in Kansas-the setting of many of Deb's novels-for life in the city of Wichita.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spotlight (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Murder for the Time Being



 
Click here to purchase your copy.


About the Book

Book: Murder for the Time Being  

Author: Joanie Bruce

Genre: Christian Suspense/Romance

Release Date: November 29, 2016

“You’ll pay for this. I’ll get you both.”

Computer expert Lexi Wynn is frightened. Someone is after her, but she doesn’t know why. Is it because of her past or because she was thrust into a deadly bank robbery and might identify the ones responsible? Escaping a failed kidnapping attempt and not sure who to trust, she hopes her specialized skills with computers might flush out the name of the killer. When a tall, dark, and handsome stranger rams into her truck with the hearse he’s driving and puts his life in danger to save hers, can she ignore the attraction she feels for him to concentrate on the killers? Or is God the only one who can save her now?

Drew Sheffield is irritated when a cute lady stops abruptly in front of him and he plows into the back of her pickup. After their initial confrontation, flashbacks of honeysuckle and sassy green eyes linger in his thoughts. When Lexi is threatened, he steps in to help the feisty young woman, in spite of agonizing over a past relationship.

Can Lexi and Drew forget the tragedies of the past and embrace the feelings between them or will ghostly memories snub out the promise of a future together?


About the Author

Joanie has a strong passion for reading, and her love for books with nail-biting suspense, inspires her to write contemporary suspense books. Thankful that God has given her the ability to write from her home in the country, she strives to use that opportunity to honor Him in all of her writing.

Joanie and her husband, Ben, live in a country home near Madison, Georgia, right in the middle of a pasture full of beef cows. There they raised and homeschooled their three children. She enjoys cooking, taking long walks, painting oil portraits, and caring for their home in the country.






 

Guest Post from Joanie Bruce

Have you ever been devastated by a certain event in your life, and later it turned out to the best thing that ever happened to you? That’s what happened to Lexi Wyn in this book, “Murder for the Time Being.” Something unthinkable happened to her family, but in the end, it changes Lexi’s life forever and introduces her to the love of her life.

In this story, both Lexi and Drew have things in their past that discourage them from seeking a lasting relationship. However, God has a plan for them both, and through His Divine engineering, they are thrown together in circumstances that nurture a growing appreciation and affection for each other.

This book was fun to write because I anchored the story in my sweet little town of Madison, Georgia. I wasn’t raised in Madison, but I’ve called it home for much longer than any other place I’ve ever lived. While growing up in the big city of Memphis, Tennessee, I had definite plans for my future. All I ever wanted was to “marry a country boy and live in the country.” The Lord heard the desires of my heart and gave me what I wanted … a country boy, born and raised here in Morgan County on a dairy farm.

After we married, I adopted Madison as my home, and I love it so much that I wanted to feature some of the fun spots in Madison as the backdrops for the scenes in my books. I hope when you read through the pages of my book, you will get an idea of what a sweet little town Madison is and enjoy reading about Lexi and Drew and how they let God guide them in discovering that murder CAN be “for the Time Being.”


Blog Stops

March 15: autism mom
March 17: A Greater Yes
March 18: Radiant Light
March 20: Karen Sue Hadley
March 24: Pause for Tales
March 24: 2014 and Beyond!
March 26: Carpe Diem


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Joanie is giving away a Kindle Fire!! Enter below ... and be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review + GIVEAWAY: The Elusive Miss Ellison


The Elusive Miss Ellison
By Carolyn Miller
Regency Brides, A Legacy of Grace #1
Kregel, 2017


Summary

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That's the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister's daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won't take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia's pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother-who stole the most important person in Livvie's world.


Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he's just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there's already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.


That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn't the only heart that needs to change.


These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society's opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.


Fans of Georgette Heyer, Lori Wick, and Julie Klassen will enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister's daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God's grace and the true strength of love.


Learn more and purchase a copy.



My thoughts

Gloucestershire, England – 1813

I thoroughly enjoyed Carolyn Miller’s debut novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison. The Regency romance is one of my favorite genres – and while many reviewers allude to Jane Austen, my love for this genre is entirely due to the prolific writing of Georgette Heyer. The Elusive Miss Ellison is well written with a vivid sense of place and period authenticity, and blends Heyer’s witty dialogue with a strong foundation of faith.


_________________________


       “Do you not wish to feel accepted and appreciated, to know that your life has purpose and meaning?” - Lavinia
       Her words struck his heart like hammer on anvil, forbidding speech. How could she know the driftless state of his heart?
_________________________

Beneath all the witty repartee, manners and social status is a story of humility, forgiveness, and the vastness of God’s grace. Nicholas and Lavinia are well-drawn, with a complexity beneath the surface. Nicholas had a war background that showed remarkable character, courage, leadership, and compassion, yet those qualities were missing in the new Earl of Hawkesbury. Lavinia had a deep faith and concern for the poor, yet she struggled with a pride and unforgiveness that “until it is destroyed, we cannot see clearly” (Nicholas). Both of these characters are flawed and have a spiritual journey to make. There’s plenty of romantic tension and I especially liked that they had a lot of screen time together.


The Elusive Miss Ellison is exactly what a Regency should be and I eagerly anticipate book #2, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, which releases in June.


Recommended to all who enjoy Christian Regency romances.


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


_________________________




Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

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____________________



GIVEAWAY


Regency romance fans have another must-read novel to add to their lists: Carolyn Miller's The Elusive Miss Ellison. Enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister’s daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God’s grace and the true strength of love. These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Settle in for a cozy night of reading with a cuppa and a Kindle from Carolyn!


 

One grand prize winner will receive:

 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on March 22. The winner will be announced March 23 on the Litfuse blog.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Spotlight: Death by Chocolate Lab




Note:  I wanted to spotlight Death by Chocolate Lab because I haven’t had time to finish it yet due to personal reasons. This is an enjoyable cozy mystery and I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for my review and a chance to win a print copy.


Summary

Pet sitter Daphne Templeton has a soft spot for every stray and misfit who wanders into the quaint, lakeside village of Sylvan Creek. But even Daphne doesn’t like arrogant, womanizing Steve Beamus, the controversial owner of Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy. When Steve turns up dead during a dog agility trial, Daphne can think of a long list of people with motives for homicide, and so can the police. Unfortunately, at the top of the list is Daphne’s sister, Piper—Steve’s latest wronged girlfriend.

Certain that Piper is innocent, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, Daphne sets out to clear her sister’s name—and find Axis, Steve’s prize-winning chocolate Labrador, who went missing the night of Steve’s death. Aided by Socrates, her taciturn basset hound, and a hyperactive one-eared Chihuahua named Artie, Daphne quickly runs afoul of Detective Jonathan Black, a handsome and enigmatic newcomer to town, who has no appreciation for Daphne’s unorthodox sleuthing.

Can a free-spirited pet sitter, armed only with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and her two incompatible dogs, find the real killer before she becomes the next victim?

Includes recipes for homemade dog treats!


Guest Post by Bethany Blake

Hi, and thanks for visiting this stop on the blog tour for my new cozy mystery, Death by Chocolate Lab. The main character, Daphne Templeton, would love A Holland Reads. Daphne’s a pet sitter with a Ph.D. in philosophy and a passport filled with stamps from all over the world. She’s a journeyer in every sense of the word.

At least, Daphne thinks she’s a wanderer at heart. The problem is, she’s also a big softie who makes instant connections with people and animals. So while Daphne doesn’t plan to stay long at her sister’s bucolic farm, Winding Hill, outside the quaint town of Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania, she quickly finds herself surrounded by souls who make it difficult for her to leave.

First of all, Daphne’s reconnecting with her sensible sister, Piper. And when Piper – a veterinarian – is accused of murdering a controversial dog trainer, Daphne jumps in headfirst to solve the case and clear her sibling’s name.

Daphne’s childhood best friend, quirky Moxie Bloom, also lives in Sylvan Creek. A fan of all things vintage, Moxie runs Spa and Paw, the pet-friendly town’s unique salon for people and pets.

Daphne also has a canine constant companion, an introspective basset hound named Socrates, who does his best to keep Daphne out of trouble. And she’s temporarily – or at least she hopes – fostering Artie, a one-eared Chihuahua with a severe overbite and an excess of personality.

Then there’s Daphne’s mother, Realtor Maeve Templeton, who thinks Daphne should forget pet sitting, get a real estate license, and trade in her ancient VW for a reliable sedan – a life plan that doesn’t interest Daphne at all.

Finally, Daphne’s intrigued by a newcomer to Sylvan Creek. Handsome, enigmatic Detective Jonathan Black seems bound and determined to send Piper to jail for homicide, but he has some compelling secrets of his own. And even though Daphne knows she might ruin a budding friendship... or more... she just can’t stop herself from prying into Jonathan’s past.

These are just a few of the people and pets you’ll meet in Sylvan Creek. I hope you’ll visit the town, where you’ll also find delicious food and recipes, and, of course, lots of clues to follow!


Bethany Blake lives in a small, quaint town in Pennsylvania with her husband and three daughters. When she’s not writing or riding horses, she’s wrangling a menagerie of furry family members that includes a nervous pit bull, a fearsome feline, a blind goldfish, and an attack cardinal named Robert. Like Daphne Templeton, the heroine of her Lucky Paws Mysteries, Bethany holds a Ph.D. and operates a pet sitting business called Barkley’s Premium Pet Care.

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