Thursday, October 31, 2019

Review + GIVEAWAY: Before Christmas by Bill Crowder



About the Book

Book: Before Christmas
Author: Bill Crowder
Genre: RELIGION / Holidays/Christmas & Advent
Release Date: October, 2019

Embrace the majesty of the Messiah

Bill Crowder invites you to explore the backstory of the first advent. He brings you on a journey into the very heart of God, to a greater understanding of what it means that “the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).

 Walk through Scripture to see and know Jesus in a richer way. Examine His character as God, His relationship with the Father, His appearances in the Old Testament, and more. Understand how these pre-Bethlehem truths lead into the Savior’s birth and the events of that first Christmas—and, most importantly, how it all comes together in God’s great story of redemption and rescue.

You’ll embrace the majesty of the Messiah and celebrate Christ’s birth with renewed joy and wonder.

Click here to get your copy.


My Thoughts


Before Christmas by Bill Crowder is a small, but powerful book. It’s written in a style that’s easy to follow; not overly deep, but very thorough. I gained new insights and appreciated all that there is to reflect upon. Whether you’re a seasoned Christian, a new believer, or even a seeker, Before Christmas is a great resource for personal study leading up to Christmas, or any time of the year for that matter.

This Christmas backstory focuses on all that leads up to the manger, from before Creation and throughout the Old Testament, making the Christmas celebration even more rich in meaning. The six chapters focus on Jesus in these specific ways …

His Character as God
His Relationship with the Father
His Preparation for the Cross
His Role as Creator
His Appearances in the Old Testament
His Announced Arrival

The extent of Christ’s activity in the Old Testament wasn’t something I learned of until more in depth study as an adult, so this chapter was especially appealing to me. The author’s illustrations are helpful in leading into each topic, and references to original Greek words aid in understanding. Focusing on all that Jesus left or gave up to come to us was also meaningful …

This sacrifice did not begin on the cross or even at
Bethlehem. Christ began that sacrifice by willingly
giving up what was His so He could take hold of us.

I highly recommend Before Christmas for personal reading or study.

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


About the Author


Bill Crowder, who spent over twenty years in the pastorate, is vice president of ministry content at Our Daily Bread Ministries. He is a contributor to Our Daily Bread and the author of nine books, including My Hope Is in You, Seeing the Heart of Christ, and For This He Came. He and his wife, Marlene, have five children.

 

More from Bill

      During my years as a pastor, I found Christmas and Easter to be challenging. Certainly I love those seasons (for very different reasons), but finding creative ways to retell these important stories was often difficult. 
      But at one such season, I realized that the story we tell at Christmas is not really the whole story. By entering the story at Nazareth or Bethlehem, we enter too late. We can’t simply start with the Baby in the manger—we need to go back. Before time began. To the eternal Christ. Unless we seek to understand Him, we’ll never fully appreciate who He was and why He came. That is the Christmas story.  
      – Bill Crowder


Giveaway




To celebrate his tour, Bill is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of the book, Starbucks Holiday Blend Coffee, and $10 Amazon card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the image above or the link below to enter.



Blog Stops

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts


The Bright Unknown JustRead Blog Tour

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK


The Bright Unknown 
Title: The Bright Unknown  
Author: Elizabeth Byler Younts  
Publisher: Thomas Nelson  
Genre: Literary Fiction  
Release Date: October 22, 2019

This poignant and heartbreaking novel explores the power of resilience, the gift of friendship, and the divine beauty to be found in the big, bright world—if only we’re willing to look.

Pennsylvania, 1940s. The only life Brighton Friedrich has ever known is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of Riverside Home—the rural asylum where she was born. A nurse, Joann, has educated and raised Brighton, whose mother is a patient at the hospital. But Joann has also kept vital information from Brighton—secrets that if ever revealed would illuminate Brighton’s troubling past and the circumstances that confine her to Riverside. Brighton’s best friend is a boy she calls Angel, and as they grow up together and face the bleak future that awaits them, they determine to make a daring escape.

Nothing can prepare Brighton and Angel for life beyond Riverside’s walls. They have no legal identities, very little money, and only a few leads toward a safe place to land. As they struggle to survive in a world they’ve never seen before, they must rely on each other and the kindness of strangers—some of whom may prove more dangerous than the asylum they’ve fled.

Narrated in Elizabeth Byler Younts's gorgeous style, The Bright Unknown is a sparkling search for answers, family, and a place to call home.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Christianbook


MY THOUGHTS

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is a rare gem, a masterpiece of lyrical writing, rich characterization, sublime storytelling, emotion and hope. I was about to give up on ever finding a novel of this high quality in the Christian fiction genre. It’s not an easy read nor a fast one, but rather a compelling read that begs to be experienced. Kindness, caring, and innocence are contrasted with ignorance and greed. With a timeless relevancy, it forces us to examine the way we perceive those who are different, to see beyond the diagnosis. My mind, heart and emotions were captured with the first sentence and never wavered.

The Bright Unknown is Brighton’s story, a young girl born and raised at the Riverside Home for the Insane in the 1940s era. Life there was all she had known and was therefore normal, until suddenly it wasn’t – all because of a girl named Grace. Brighton’s friendship with another resident, who she named Angel, is priceless. The plight of the patients is hard to read, for in a time when ignorance abounded regarding mental illness, some were there simply because their families wanted them committed.

One strength of this story is the author’s exquisite prose and I savored every word and nuance of expression. This is just one example … “The flowering weeping willow’s boughs reached for me in the summery breath. It called out to me. Come to me. Let my delicate white tears fall over you. I extended my hand, even though I knew the branches were too far away to let their beauty cry over me.”

The Bright Unknown may seem like a dark story – and it is – but themes of hope, forgiveness and redemption are woven throughout. The conclusion is so very satisfying. The writing of Elizabeth Byler Younts is not to be missed, and The Bright Unknown goes on my “best of the best” list.

Very highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours and Thomas Nelson. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Elizabeth Byler Younts

Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book, Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Solace of Water and the Promise of Sunrise series. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, her two daughters, and a small menagerie of well-loved pets.  

CONNECT WITH ELIZABETH: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest



Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Review + GIVEAWAY: The Bridge Between by Lindsey Brackett




The Bridge Between
By Lindsey P. Brackett
Edisto series #2
Firefly Southern Fiction a division of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2019


Summary

Louisa Coultrie Halloway has returned home as caretaker for the family home on Edisto Island, but years before she left this world behind. Now she flounders to find her place. When Liam Whiting, a local professor studying tidal creek preservation, invites Lou to join his research team, she welcomes the opportunity for purpose.

David, her ex-husband, has followed Lou and their children to Edisto. As he finds his footing in this new life, their once strained relationship eases into a familiar rhythm—and he hopes for more.

But the past still has a hold on them all, especially in the presence of Grace Watson, whose son intends to marry Lou and David’s daughter. Somehow, Grace and Lou must let the past of a shared love settle between them.

In this idyllic setting, relationships, like the creeks, deepen and shift. Once more, Lou finds herself caught between the life she’s chosen—and the love that might be meant to be.



My thoughts

The Bridge Between is a story that I never wanted to end, and it is definitely one of my favorites. Lindsey P. Brackett, who excels in the southern fiction/women's fiction genre, has written a story steeped in atmosphere, complex characters, and sweet second-chance romance. Sufficient background is given so that this story can stand alone, but for the fullest understanding of relationships, it’s best to have read the previous Still Waters.

The author’s personal experience and love for South Carolina’s Lowcountry infuses the story with vibrancy and captures every distinctive nuance of Edisto Island. Southern fiction has always held a strong appeal for me and I loved being enveloped in this setting that literally becomes a main character. It is an essential part of the characters – their jobs, everyday life, and the setting for all their past baggage.

While The Bridge Between has the elements of a second-chance romance, it’s more of a relationship drama, filled with richly-drawn characters who carry the baggage of past mistakes. This is mainly Lou and David’s story, divorced parents of Cora Anne who was featured in the previous book. Lou and David have returned to Edisto Island – Lou with her three boys, seeking where she belongs, and David with a heart for rebuilding their marriage. A strong secondary character who I loved is Grace, widow of Patrick, Lou’s first love – and mother of Cora Anne’s fiancĂ©, Tennessee. A dual timeline is seamlessly blended throughout, giving a glimpse into the early years and providing a foundation for the present-day storyline. I loved that the main characters are older, with realistic struggles that make them so relatable.

The Bridge Between is a well-written, inspirational story of forgiveness, grace and reconciliation. I long for many more stories featuring the families of Edisto Island.

Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through Singing Librarian Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

_________________________



      Lindsey P. Brackett writes southern fiction and cooks big family meals, but she complains about the dishes. Her debut novel, Still Waters, released in 2017 and was named the 2018 Selah Book of the Year. Her latest novel, The Bridge Between, released in 2019. 
      Someday she hopes to balance motherhood and writing full-time. Until then, she’s just very grateful for her public school system. 
      Connect with Lindsey and get her free novella, Magnolia Mistletoe with newsletter signup at lindseypbrackett.com.


_________________________


10 Behind the Scenes Facts about the Still Waters

1. My grandparents actually met on a back road in Colleton County in the 1940’s. She was lost and he was bundling pine straw to sell. So that story inside the story is true.

2. McConkey’s Jungle Shack—and they’re not kidding about the shack part—really does have the best fish tacos on the coast.

3. Late in Still Waters, I reference a story about soldiers mistaking a loggerhead turtle for an enemy when the beach was being used as a lookout during WWII. This really happened and you can read about it in Nell Graydon’s Tales of Edisto, which I used for both reference and inspiration.

4. We drive a blue minivan and it’s kind of well-known because the paint job was bad (thanks Honda) and we’ve never spent the money to fix it. So my best friend begged me to put the blue van in the story. It’s there, when Cora Anne and Nan stop at King’s Market, complete with a passel of kids. (I have four of those.)

5. I buy and eat a whole King’s Market key lime pie every time we go to Edisto.

6. My cousin Heather and I were born 18 hours apart, and our moms are sisters. Yes, she inspired Cora Anne’s cousin, Hannah. When we were kids at Edisto, we always hunted for sharks teeth and snail shells so we could make necklaces with our grandmother.

7. The book is set in 2006 because I wanted a time period before social media’s invasion and before BiLo bought out the Piggly Wiggly. Edistonians are not coming around. They still call their only grocery store The Pig.

8. The Edisto Island Open Land Trust is a gem I stumbled upon while researching what made the most sense for Tennessee’s philanthropic spirit. The EIOLT was the perfect fit since it’s all about preservation of the Island’s natural beauty, while empowering home owners to still be able to afford family property that’s been passed down for generations. The executive director, John, drank coffee with me one morning at the Edisto Coffee Shop and told me so much valuable information.

9. Botany Bay (and that’s the Botany sentinel tree on the Still Waters cover) was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Edisto took the brunt of the storm’s hit and the eye passed over the island. When the beach pushed inland, the entire first row of houses were left standing in water. But the community there is strong and resilient. They’ve been rebuilding and regrouping. The beaches will never look the same, but as my mama says, “That’s nature. And life. Storms come and you have to deal with the aftermath.” Or, as Tennessee puts it in the story, “Sometimes a storm’s what clears out the junk…”

10.  Edisto Beach still has a video store, probably the last one left in the country. It’s also one of two places in the town to get ice cream—unless you’re sitting on your own porch enjoying the ocean breeze and listening for the churn to slow down.

____________________


GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a Bridge Between Prize Pack:
       -- print copy of the book
       -- tote bag
       -- $5 Starbucks gift card
       -- other bookish swag

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Giveaway ends October  27 at 11:59pm MT.

Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.


Tour Schedule

Check out the tour schedule HERE.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review: Unscripted by Davis Bunn


Unscripted
By Davis Bunn
Revell, 2019


Summary

Line producer Danny Byrd is well known in Hollywood for being someone who gets things done on time and under budget. But when his reputation takes a beating after his partner--and former best friend--makes off with their investors' money, Danny has but one chance to redeem himself and restore his ruined career.

LA lawyer Megan Pierce has sacrificed years of her life proving herself to impossible bosses, only to find herself disgusted at their snobbery and their specious business practices. When an opportunity to actually make a difference comes her way, she knows she has to grab it--even though she's not entirely clear what "it" is.

Danny and Megan are each other's best hope for redemption. What they never could have imagined was that they might also be each other's best hope for love.



My thoughts

Davis Bunn is a talented author with the ability to write in several different styles or genres. A drama like Unscripted is my favorite type and I thoroughly enjoyed this story, even though the setting – Hollywood – isn’t one that I like. My attention was engaged from the unusual beginning, which finds the lead character, Danny, in jail for a crime his business partner committed – betrayed and with both his business and good name virtually destroyed.

Bunn’s writing is excellent, as always, and his characters are rich. Megan is an attorney, smart and hardworking, who has given all that she had to please her hard-to-please bosses, only to become disillusioned with their attitudes and practices. Attraction between Danny and Megan slowly builds, but is secondary to the overall plot.

I really don’t care for Hollywood or buy into the whole “celebrity” thing, so for me to enjoy this story so much is a tribute to Bunn’s writing and characterization. The doors are thrown open wide and we gaze upon the realities of the film industry – propelled pretty much by money and power. Danny is a rare breed in this setting, a truly good and honest guy. I was especially drawn to the teenager, Emma, and her incredible talent.

I also have to mention the book’s cover, for the design team totally got it right. I didn’t pay much attention to the cover at first, but as I got into the story, I found myself staring at it every time I picked the book up. The greens and golds, Danny’s position behind the lettering as he gazes at the misty city lights – all combine to beautifully capture the story’s mood. Davis Bunn spins a fascinating story, redemptive with its subtle themes of forgiveness and letting go of the past.

I received a copy of this book from Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

_________________________



      Davis Bunn (www.davisbunn.com) is the award-winning author of numerous national bestsellers with sales totaling more than seven million copies worldwide. His work has been published in twenty languages, and his critical acclaim includes four Christy Awards for excellence in fiction.
      Bunn is a Writer-in-Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. He and his wife, Isabella, divide their time between England and Florida.

Review: The Horse of My Dreams by Callie Smith Grant


The Horse of My Dreams
By Callie Smith Grant
Revell, 2019


Summary

Truly the horse is one of the finest creatures on earth. In it we find embodied all of our own hopes and dreams. Our longing to live noble lives. Our need for companionship. Our desire to do good and helpful work. Our yearning to feel truly free.

With contributions from both well-known and up-and-coming writers, this heartwarming collection of true stories is the perfect way for you to decompress from the day's stresses and remember God's good gift to us in the majestic, calming, inspiring, and even silly horses he created. Here you'll meet a stubborn Shetland pony who teaches her girl the importance of hanging on. You'll see how a young woman learned to trust again after a serious riding accident. You'll fall in love with a stray donkey who finds a home--and a friend. And so much more.

So make yourself a cup of tea, open up this book, and claim a few refreshing moments on a busy day for yourself . . . and the horse of your dreams.



My thoughts

In The Horse of My Dreams, Callie Smith Grant has compiled a beautiful collection of stories that are sure to delight all animal lovers. I’m new to Grant’s animal-themed collections, but based on this compilation, I would think they are all excellent and I’m especially eager to read the books that feature cats.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Horse of My Dreams, even though I never dreamed of owning my own horse as a child, like many of the authors did. I’ve never ridden a horse and never really been around them – yet these majestic animals fascinate me and I was touched by each story.

The collection contains 32 fairly short stories, written from the heart and sharing the owner’s love and connection to a particular horse. Each story is heartwarming, written from a biblical worldview and containing Christian values. One of my favorite stories was “Callie Had a Secret,” which shows the bonding between a beautiful Connemara paint and Appaloosa, her newborn filly, Secret, and their owner. And some stories have a more overt Christian message, such as “Let Go of the Reins” …

Fred never let me down. He offered protection, strength, and comfort once I chose to trust him with the ride. God provides me with the same and so much more. Sometimes it’s good to let go of the reins and move as one with him.

The Horse of My Dreams is a book that can be enjoyed by animal lovers of all ages, but especially those who have been touched by a relationship with a horse. This would make a great gift or Christmas present!

Recommended.

I received a copy of this book from Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

_________________________


Callie Smith Grant is the editor of Second-Chance DogsThe Cat in the Window, The Dog Next Door, The Cat on My Lap, The Dog at My Feet, and The Horse of My Heart. She is the author of several nonfiction books for young readers and adults as well as many animal-themed stories and poems, which can be seen in Guideposts anthologies and in magazines such as Small Farmer's Journal.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Cover Reveal + GIVEAWAY: Promise for Tomorrow by Michelle De Bruin


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Promise for Tomorrow
By Michelle De Bruin

Coming November 19, 2019...


Living a life of faith isn’t going the way Logan and Karen hoped until some special visitors arrive and offer them their future back.

Karen Millerson dreamed of teaching high school but now finds herself boarding with a farm family and teaching country school. She is engaged to marry Logan De Witt and is getting prepared to share in ministry with him. But when she gets blamed for the tragic fire at the school, Karen’s future grows uncertain.

Logan De Witt is working to clear his family’s name with the bank. But when he breaks his leg, hindering his ability to work the farm, Logan is faced with life-changing decisions. When his best friend can’t offer the help he requested, can Logan find a way to care for his family and court Karen at the same time before his love for her destroys all of them?

(Affiliate link included.)
Pre-order: Amazon


Other Books in the Series

Hope for Tomorrow
By Michelle De Bruin
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 294 Pages
October 23rd 2018 by Mantle Rock Publishing LLC

When Logan De Witt learns of his father’s sudden death, he returns home to the family’s dairy farm. During his stay, he discovers his mother’s struggle with finances and his younger sister’s struggle with grief. Concern for his family presses Logan to make the difficult decision to leave his career as a pastor and stay on the farm. As a way to make some extra money, he agrees to board the teacher for their local school.

Karen Millerson arrives from Chicago ready to teach high school but her position is eliminated so she accepts the role of country school teacher. Eager to put her family’s ugly past behind her, Karen begins a new career to replace the trust she lost in her own father who had been in ministry when she was a child.

Logan and Karen both sense a call from the Lord to serve him, but neither of them expected that one day they would do it together.

Can Karen learn to trust again? Will Logan lay aside his grief in exchange for God’s purpose for his life?

(Affiliate links included.)


About the Author


Michelle De Bruin is a worship leader and spiritual services provider. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two teenage sons. She writes stories about people who live in rural communities at the turn of the 20th century. Characters that bring to life the delights of farm and small town living, whispers of Dutch heritage, and Christian faith make her stories distinct.



Cover Reveal Giveaway


One winner will receive copies of Hope for Tomorrow and Promise for Tomorrow
and a $20 Amazon eGift Card
US only
Ends October 25, 2019

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