Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review + GIVEAWAY: Someone Like You

Someone Like You
By Victoria Bylin
Bethany House, 2016


Single mom Julia Dare has a lot on her plate.

A brand new Christian, Julia is busy trying to run her own business, spend time with her widowed mother, and raise her young son, Max, despite his father's less-than-ideal influence on him. When a big account from her event-planning business sends her to the Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to come face-to-face with Zeke Monroe, the resort's general manager and her college sweetheart.

With his faith in tatters, Zeke Monroe is determined to keep the historic Caliente Springs resort running despite financial difficulties. But when Julia walks back into his life, he can't ignore the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's dream wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. When Zeke and Julia are pushed to their limits both personally and professionally, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

Pismo Beach, CA

My thoughts

Someone Like You is everything Christian fiction should be … It has an engrossing storyline, picturesque setting, engaging characters who struggle with serious life issues, and relevant spiritual themes. The cover hints at a charming contemporary romance, but don’t be deceived because there is so much more – as is the case with all of Victoria’s books. I can’t explain what it is about Victoria’s writing, but her novels have that indefinable “something” which creates an emotional pull that captures my heart.

A compelling Christian romance that tackles tough topics head-on … a description all too rare in Christian fiction. And that is exactly what Victoria does so beautifully in this story by reflecting real life where Christians struggle, not just with “comfortable” sins, but with serious ones. They fall, and fall hard. As Julia points out to Zeke, “Getting up takes a lot more time than falling down.”

Someone Like You takes place in the idyllic setting of a California resort, Caliente Springs, and from the lead characters all the way to the stable manager, everyone feels real. Several social issues come into play – narcissism, premarital sex, guilt, loss of faith, burnout, manipulation and control.


Narcissism - extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view
of one's own talents and a craving for admiration;
the pursuit of gratification from vanity

I don’t believe I’ve seen a narcissist featured before and found Hunter’s character fascinating, even though he got under my skin and I hated to see him enter a scene. I even felt an underlying theme about the need to examine our motives and be very careful in choosing who to date. Julia lived with something that we all know very well – that although our sins are freely forgiven, their results can be long lasting.

Zeke is such an appealing character, easy to connect with. He’s a servant leader who cares about people, carrying the responsibility for turning the resort around, yet his background complicates his spiritual side. Raised by his preacher father to play the hero, he had “tried his best to be a model Christian in college, but somehow he could never work hard enough or love God enough” – and the result was one of failure, giving in to temptation, burnout and loss of faith. His crisis of faith is moving and leads to a place that I can totally identify with:  “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was either. God’s working on me.”

And then there’s the incredibly delightful brown goat, Ladybug! Comic relief, yes, but more than that, I think she’s symbolic of the wild, lost and lonely parts of us … the internal battle between the godly desires and the flesh-and-blood humanness. Someone Like You is full of spiritual insight, one of the most meaningful being that God’s grace is abundant in the midst of our failures – for we serve a God of new beginnings, who can fix that which is broken, who makes all things new. I think this beautiful passage that Victoria quoted at the beginning reflects the story’s overall theme …

“I will give you a new heart and put a
new spirit in you; I will remove from you your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
- Ezekiel 36:26

Someone Like You goes on my “best of the best” list. Highly recommended.


Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances known for their realistic, relatable characters. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky.


Thank you to Bethany House and Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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To enter the drawing for Someone Like You, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. What do you find appealing about this story?

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, June 5. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

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Review: Her One and Only

Her One and Only
By Becky Wade
A Porter Family Novel, #4
Bethany House, 2016


After ten years in the NFL, super star Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans.

But when Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught. Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them is a young, beautiful woman. How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself?

Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt---none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment. In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she's determined to find Gray's stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past.

Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they'll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives---and their hearts---to one another.

My thoughts

Her One and Only concludes the Porter Family series in a moving way and is an outstanding story on every level. Becky Wade is one of my favorite authors in the contemporary romance genre, such that I almost tend to go against type and get a little giddy when holding one of her new releases in my hand. I’ve read enough of Becky’s novels to have certain expectations when I begin a new one, and I am never disappointed. The writing is tight, not one single word is wasted, and it moves at a fast pace.

Becky’s stories are multi-dimensional, both from really rich character depth, to a mixture of emotion, humor, spirituality, sizzling romance – and in this case, suspense. I think the term transformational fits her books, because Becky doesn’t shy away from difficult social issues, such as PTSD, alcoholism, child abuse, infertility and miscarriage – and it’s all about the transforming power of God and how He works through His children. It was also wonderful to see Bo and Meg’s story brought full circle.

Executive protection agent Dru and sports superstar Gray both have difficult personal histories and are portrayed very realistically. Dru is always trying to prove herself and Gray finds his self-worth in his sport. They have a lot of together time in the story and it’s so much fun to watch their initial negative assessment of each other gradually change.

Spiritual themes are never lacking in Becky’s books. I loved Dru’s faith and how she takes her elderly neighbor to a bikers’ church, showing that church is not a “one size fits all” institution.  There’s a couple of gems that I could totally relate to and I think readers will also. First, the question of where we find fulfillment, for Dru questioned if Gray was “looking for fulfillment in stuff like achievement and wealth, only to find it empty.”  Secondly, whether from our own making or from circumstances beyond our control, who of us doesn’t have a flawed past?

Thank you for writing this series, Becky, for in the Porters, you have created a family that not only entertains and inspires us, but one that we care about and will never forget.

Highly recommended.


Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and now lives in Dallas. A favorite among readers of Christian contemporary romance, Becky has won a Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and an INSPY Award.

Thank you to Bethany House and Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: The Quieting

The Quieting
By Suzanne Woods Fisher
The Bishop’s Family, #2
Revell, 2016


The Stoltzfus family faces serious problems, both in the church and at home. Everyone in the community expects minister David Stoltzfus to fix things – fast. But David doesn’t work fast. He prefers to wait for God to work in individual hearts. However, even he is left wondering if the solution to their most pressing problem might be a Quieting.

When David’s mother arrives, uninvited, more upheaval is in store. She has matchmaking plans for everyone in the family, including David and her eligible granddaughters – and especially for David’s niece Abigail. When Abigail stumbles onto a curious connection during her genealogical research, it could help David solve one problem – but will it create another?

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher takes fans back to Stoney Ridge, delivering the twists, turns, and romance they adore.

My thoughts

One word comes to mind when I think of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books, and that is “life.” With the gentle, steady ebb and flow of Suzanne’s writing, we are pulled into the daily routine of an Amish community as its people simply “walk the walk” – experiencing life’s frustrations, indecisions, beauty and joy. Suzanne excels at character depth with an ensemble cast, and she has become a favorite almost without my realizing it had happened.

If you’re reading the Stoney Ridge stories in order, you will see that children from earlier series are now dealing with the responsibility of becoming young adults. I especially enjoy a sense of familiarity when characters from previous novels make occasional appearances.

The Quieting begins right where The Imposter left off, with David and Birdie playing key roles.  The issue of the switching of lots has yet to be resolved. Another signature of Suzanne’s writing is the delightfully quirky, memorable characters she comes up with – all without pretense and totally relatable in their humanness. David’s niece, Abigail, is an unusual character that I grew to care for very much. She took everything that was said literally and was wide open in her honesty, sometimes unintentionally hurting people in the process. Having lived with criticism, she couldn’t handle kindness when it was freely given. And I loved the kind-hearted Dane who was gifted in caring for animals. “Dane was like a gust of wind blowing through an open window, somewhat oblivious to the effect he had on others.” Talk about opposites! I enjoyed the gentle unfolding of their romance.

David’s mom, nicknamed “Mammi the Meddler,” comes for an extended visit and adds so much rich color to this story! “Mammi never used five words when she could use thirty.” Her life’s mission was “to make sure her eligible granddaughters were doing their part in God’s great plan. Marriage and motherhood, in that order.” If you’ve ever known anyone whose efforts were more unhelpful than helpful, then you get the picture.

Of all the spiritual gems woven throughout this story, I found two especially touching. One of my favorite descriptions of Christ, our Good Shepherd, is vividly reflected as Dane works with the sheep on his farm. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). And then there’s Birdie’s fascination for the great blue heron and her appreciation for all of God’s creation … “Nature was God’s first book.” Like David, I find myself discovering the outdoors in a new way through Birdie’s eyes.

Enough background is supplied so that The Quieting can stand alone, but I suggest reading the series in order for the best reading experience. Highly recommended.

Click on title to see my review of book #1, The Imposter.


Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author whose most recent novels include Anna’s Crossing and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California.

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

Tour landing page



Friday, May 27, 2016

The JOY of Art - Honoring those who gave their all

Generations of Service
- Kevin Daniel


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

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

- 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

- 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


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.


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



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


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.



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 Sunday, June 5. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents