Saturday, November 25, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Austen Escape" by Katherine Reay

Book Summary: Falling into the past will change their futures forever.
Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

My thoughts... On the surface, this novel may seem like a Christian fiction version of Austenland. I actually haven't read that book, but saw the movie and thought the concept was very entertaining. In my single days I would've loved to have a Pride and Prejudice-like experience...dressing up in period clothing, staying in an English mansion, etc. But this book is no Austenland. Katherine Reay's novels have a uniqueness and depth all their own.

Of the books I have read of Katherine Reay's, I've noticed that the emotional and psychological journeys of the characters play a huge role in the plot. Mary and Isabel have a complicated friendship. They are almost like sisters in many ways, as they practically grew up together. Isabel can be very manipulative and Mary tends to like being out of the spotlight. There were times in this story that I was very irritated with Isabel's behavior, but as the story went on and the backstory was revealed a bit at a time, you can see why she acted the way she did. Isabel's break with reality also helped Mary to see the depth of her friend's struggles, as well as her own. I appreciated their journey and also enjoyed the romantic elements of the story.

I know there is so much more depth to this story than I'm even picking up on, but even so, I thought this novel was well-written and explores the many layers of the human heart and mind.

**I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest review, which I did**

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reviewer's bookshelf: Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander

Book Summary (from Goodreads): A novella to launch a brand new three-book series . . .

In the midst of war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas, the cost of love . . . and of loving again.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. About to be evicted, she sees an advertisement for the Ladies Aid Society Auction and applies for a position—only to discover it's been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity. And friendship. But can she trust him? Is Jake Winston the man he appears to be? Having lost everything once, Aletta is determined to guard not only her own heart, but also her son's.

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffers a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Ladies Aid Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of "crinolines" isn't his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop of the real history of Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored . . . at Christmas.

My thoughts... I have read all of Tamera Alexander's books, with the exception of a novella she previously wrote in a collection. Why? I'm not really that big into novellas. I always feel like everything is so rushed...the romantic connection between the characters, the plot...everything. And I realize it has to's a novella. So why did I read this one? I didn't realize it was a novella when I signed up to read it! 
: ) It was a mistake I do not regret!

I may not be convinced to pick up all novellas, but I will pick up this author's. Even with a shorter book, the characters were well developed. The pace of their interaction and building relationship was just right. Enough to satisfy by the end, but not so much that it was totally unrealistic. Quite enjoyable!

I am also excited about the beginning of a new series by Tamera Alexander. She is able to intertwine real historical events and places with fictional characters with skill and creativity. In Christmas at Carnton, the horrors of war, but also the way people came together to support one another, was a big part of the novella. Friendship and unity among people of different race, background, and social status was really the central theme, which I loved as well. 

Get ready for the holiday season by picking up Christmas at Carnton!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did**

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thoughts as I read through the Bible

     I've had several personal blog posts swirling around in my mind lately, just waiting for me to take some time to jot them down. This week I'm on fall break and trying to commit some serious time to rest, rest, and more rest. It's the first week off that I've had, without being sick, since I taught summer school last June. I've been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted...and after a while, it takes a toll! So this week the kids have been in school and I've had time off to read, go to the library, go grocery shopping, have lunch with a friend, and more. One of the things I've been catching up on is my daily Bible reading. I joined a group of ladies several months ago who are coming together to read through the entire Bible in a year and discuss it as we go. When I joined this group, it was for a lot of reasons. One was because it's been several years since I've read the Bible completely through. Another was because my Papa (grandfather) and his wife, my "Nanny", read through the Bible every year for over 30 years. I am using the same type of Bible they did, and it reminds me so much of their love for the Word and all that reading through the Bible taught them. With all that we've had going on lately, I have gotten way behind...but I'm not giving up! 

    Today as I was reading, I was reminded of just who our Biblical ancestors were. I've only read through Genesis and part of Exodus, but so far we've got...
deceivers, and slave traders.

We also have...
grace extended by a patient and loving God,
a God who forgives again and again,
a God who spares lives and prospers families...
a God who would sacrifice His own Son so that we could experience a relationship with Him.

Another thing that I love about all the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful in the Bible? That God included it all in there. God didn't cut all the sin and disobedience out of His word...He didn't sugarcoat it. Didn't make the status of the men and women after God's own heart based on their good works...because all of them were sinners. So are we. Thanks to Jesus' sacrifice, we are now after God's own heart. We are His heart.

One of my conclusions: there is so much hope for all of us in the pages of God's Word! I was listening to a song by Lauren Daigle and it really expresses this truth: He, alone, has the power to redeem. All people, all circumstances.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Blind Spot" by Dani Pettrey

Summary (Goodreads): FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life--but isn't sure exactly what he's chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that "the wrath is coming," Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She's sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there's anyone who can help him, it's Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can't deny, and she's pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell--and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming "wrath" that could cost thousands their lives.

My thoughts...This series by Dani Pettrey is fantastic! This is the third book in the series, and it only keep getting better. I kind of wish they were able to be released closer together because it's hard to wait so long to see what happens next! : ) But I'm thankful for all of thought that Dani puts into these novels because they are full of detail and indepth plot lines.

I'm finally starting to be able to keep up with all of the characters in this series : ). I'll admit, there are a lot of them, as there is a family feel to the group of characters and they're in each novel. This story focuses in on Declan Grey and Tanner Shaw and their role in trying to solve a muli-tiered, multi-murder mystery. Some of the circumstances are carried over from the previous books in the series. You still get to see other familiar characters as well, as they all work together to solve crimes.

The plot is action-packed from the beginning. There is never a dull moment as Declan and Tanner are being chased, shot at, and followed as they try to solve not only the circumstances surrounding the death of some friends, but a bigger terrorist plot that is brewing among them. Throughout all of this, the romantic tension between them is also building. I also enjoyed learning about their past and who they really are, especially Tanner. I loved her backstory : ).

You really can't go wrong with a Dani Pettrey book! I would definitely recommend Blind Spot!

*I am grateful for a copy of this book so that I could share my thoughts and opinions*

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Dangerous Legacy" by Elizabeth Camden

Summary (Goodreads): Lucy is determined to keep working as a telegraph operator at a news agency, even though the arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith threatens her position. When she discovers Colin's shocking secret, she agrees to assist him if he helps her find her family's stolen inheritance--not realizing that the trail leads into a web of treachery, danger, and conspiracy.

My thoughts...I've read all of Elizabeth Camden's books and I've loved some, and others I didn't connect with as well. A Dangerous Legacy fell into the "love" category! A typical Camden book often has an event in history as the backdrop, and many times the setting becomes central to the book with the characters falling in behind it. In this novel, the setting added to the characters instead of taking over. I really liked that. I also liked that the characters in this story were involved with the telegraph machine at rival newspaper offices, which was interesting and helped to create some of the tension. There was also another side plot, which contributed to the intrigue and suspense in the story.

Romantic tension also plays a part in Lucy and Colin's story, and I really loved the way that the characters didn't fight their attraction to one another. However, circumstances didn't allow them to pursue one another the way they would've liked. The honesty that they had with one another, even if it showed their personal weaknesses, was refreshing. 

The way the plot was woven together, with a lot of layers that were revealed a piece at a time, kept me turning pages and built up the suspense. I loved the way that a dangerous situation that Lucy was involved in helped her to have a moment of self-discovery and affected the outcome of the story. Her journey also affected the way Colin saw the direction his life was going.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of historical Christian fiction. An excellent story!

**I am grateful for a copy of this novel so that I could share an honest review, which I did.**

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Dangerous Engagment" by Melanie Dickerson

Summary (Goodreads): Just as merchant’s daughter Felicity Mayson is spurned once again because of her meager dowry, she receives an unexpected invitation to Lady Blackstone’s country home. Being introduced to the wealthy Oliver Ratley is an admitted delight, as is his rather heedless yet inviting proposal of marriage. Only when another of Lady Blackstone’s handsome guests catches Felicity’s attention does she realize that nothing is what it seems at Doverton Hall.

Government agent Philip McDowell is infiltrating a group of cutthroat revolutionaries led by none other than Lady Blackstone and Ratley. Their devious plot is to overthrow the monarchy, and their unwitting pawn is Felicity. Now Philip needs Felicity’s help in discovering the rebels’ secrets—by asking her to maintain cover as Ratley’s innocent bride-to-be.

Philip is duty bound. Felicity is game. Together they’re risking their lives—and gambling their hearts—to undo a traitorous conspiracy before their dangerous masquerade is exposed.

My thoughts...This is the third book in Melanie Dickerson's The Regency Spies of London series, and I'll have to say...I have really enjoyed all three! Different than Dickerson's YA fairytale retellings, this series has a little more suspense, different setting, and slightly more romantic tension, although the books are still very clean. The romance is definitely PG and suitable for all audiences.

Similar to the other two novels, the pace begins a little slower as the characters and setting are established, as well as some backstory. The story's intensity and plot begin to go deeper as you continue to read. Felicity was a strong character but dealt with fainting and motion sickness, which were two of her physical weaknesses. Even though she struggled with this, she didn't let it get the better of her. I loved her perseverance through difficult circumstances. Philip is also courageous and a man of strong moral character, which definitely makes one want to cheer him on in his dangerous mission. (possible slight spoiler) From the beginning, just the name, Ratley, gave me a negative perception of Oliver. I guess that was the point. Even so, the full nature of his and Lady Blackstone's involvement were somewhat a mystery. It made the two of them an interesting contrast to Felicity and Philip.

I would definitely recommend this book as well as the others in this series! Melanie is great about connecting with her readers and fans. Go check her out on social media!

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in order to share my honest opinion, which I did.**

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

Book Summary (Goodreads): With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn't tear them apart first.

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father's name. One man holds the key to Sy's success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville's society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he's found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison's fiancee—and what has broken her heart.

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen's university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy's roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn't count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

Set against the real history of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

My thoughts...I have thoroughly enjoyed Tamera Alexander's Belle Meade Plantation book series. Each book is unique in its connection to the historical home, and also features different historical events that took place in 19th century Tennessee. The way that Alexander weaves a mix of fictional characters in with non-fictional ones, makes each story even more interesting and gives a little history lesson without a textbook feel. It is impressive and shows how much thought and research is put into each novel.
My expectation before I started reading To Wager Her Heart was that it would be centered around the railroad. While that is part of the story, as our hero is a rugged railroad man, an even bigger part is centered around the heroine, Alexandra. This novel is a journey detailing a woman's personal growth through a time of loss and heartache. She must face her fears and insecurities as she travels by herself, without the support of her family, to become a teacher at Fisk University. As a teacher myself, I loved her passion for the mission she felt God was leading her to do, as well as the friendships she developed along the way. Our hero, Sylas, while a total opposite of Alexandra, learned to appreciate her business savvy and ability to connect with those in high society. This is what drew them together, but I appreciated the friendship and mutual respect that was developed between these two characters.
Some of my favorite quotes are:
"No matter where you're going, God is already there."
"None of us knows what we're fully capable of doing until God leads us to a place where we realize our strength is nothing compared to his. He says to take a step, yet you look out and see nothing but thin air in your path. Yet, he calls you on. And only when you finally trust him and take that step into nothingness do you discover you're standing on solid ground."
If you enjoy historical Christian fiction, you'll enjoy this novel by Tamera Alexander. I would also highly recommend her other novels, all of which are in the same genre.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley to give an honest opinion of this book, which I did.**

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman

Book Summary (Goodreads)...Natchez, MS; 1791
Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O'Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he's sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he'll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady.

The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella's shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor's help, Isabella fears she'll lose her family's plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor's proposal of marriage.

Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe?

My thoughts...I was first drawn in to this novel by the beautiful cover. It captures Isabella's character and the setting so well!
I don't know much about the Natchez area or its' history, but Pam Hillman gave a great description that helped me visualize it without going overboard with too much detail. The vivid description of Breeze Hill made me feel as if I were walking through the rooms, seeing the layout, the furnishings, and charred remains of each room.
Connor O'Shea was a hero after my own heart. Masculine, with a deep sense of commitment to family and protectiveness over those who are in need, and then throw in the Irish iron will and really doesn't get much better than that! Isabella was a little bit of the damsel in distress, but never gave up on serving her injured father or those who depended on her. She was a heroine that I could respect.
The overall pace of the story was steady and strong, my only concern in the beginning of the novel being that too much of the villain's motives were revealed. While I would've liked to have more suspense in that case, I was still pleasantly surprised with how the story unfolded. There was plenty of intrigue and action to keep me turning the pages til the end.
I look forward to reading more of Hillman's books in the future!

**I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to express my thoughts and opinions, which I did.**

Friday, August 11, 2017

God's Faithfulness in the Midst of Hardship...a conclusion and new beginning

Journaling has always been therapy for me, so as I sit tonight, processing my thoughts and emotions, I wanted to record them. Not just for myself, but for all who want to know how God can take dust and make it into something beautiful. He can use our suffering as a means to bring glory to Himself.
My last personal post was at the New Year, about a month after my Mom had surgery to amputate her arm. In the beginning of 2017, Mom was doing wonderfully. She struggled with some pain and occasional discouragement, but the determination she's always had shone through it all. She told me several times that she just wanted to live her life to the fullest, even if she had to do it with just one arm. And she did. She learned how to drive again. She weaned herself off most of her pain medication. She went to the grocery store, went with my Dad to the movies, and began cooking again. So many times I sat amazed, thinking to myself that I could never endure what she had with such a great perspective. She was even planning to share her testimony at a local church's senior group. She was nervous about it, but knew that it was a way that she could give God glory.
I continued to spend time with my parents during the week while my children were at school, and my youngest son and I would spend most afternoons there after I picked him up. One day I found him and "Mimi" reading a book together in her room. It warmed my heart. When our kids played soccer in the spring, we were able to spend the night with my parents a lot after soccer practice and the nights before soccer games. Looking back, I'm so very thankful God gave us those days and nights of sweet fellowship. I will cherish them.
In February, a routine scan showed that Mom's cancer had begun to spread to her lungs. At this point they were small spots, but they had to be removed. I was able to take her to a few of her doctor's appointments in Atlanta during this time. As one who struggles with high levels of anxiety when it comes to going to any kind of doctor, it was hard to do this, but I'm glad now for that time of fellowship with her. We would always eat together in the cafeteria of either the hospital or the doctor's office, and enjoy each other's company. I'm so very thankful for those moments. Mom pressed on through two lung surgeries and still had her positive attitude. The aggressiveness of this cancer caused all of us to be concerned. I know that Mom was afraid and overwhelmed at times. She didn't let it defeat her, though. She continued to recuperate and try to live each day to the fullest.
Easter 2017
She and my Dad were able to drive down to our church in Unadilla, GA and celebrate Easter with us. It was a sweet day as she was able to be with our family and meet our church family who had been lifting her up in prayer so often. When our daughter became a Christian and was baptized, Mom and Dad were able to be there with us for that special occasion. Special memories I will never forget and I'm so grateful for.
The months continued and Mom began have a lot of pressure in her chest area, and we discovered there was a pocket of fluid buildup in her left lung. She had it drained at the hospital and a port was put in so that she could try a round of chemotherapy. Most of the month of June I was teaching summer school and beginning the process of being hired for a new job when school started. I was juggling my new work schedule, my family, and so many other things. The times I was able to drop in on Mom and Dad were not as often as I would've liked, but I could tell that when I was there, she wasn't feeling well. Despite all that she was feeling, she still took the time to plan a surprise 40th birthday party for me on July
Me, Mom, and my sister on my 40th birthday
4th. Just thinking about this brings tears to my eyes. My Mom knew how much I loved surprises. She also knew how much I loved my birthday, and this year was a big year for me. When I told her that she didn't have to go to all of that trouble, she said, "I wanted to do it!" Afterwards she sent my husband a text that said, "It was my joy and pleasure to see how happy it made her! It was fun and the food was good!!" :-) That was my Mom. Always loving and serving others. It brought her joy to see others happy.
Mom continued to feel more pressure in her chest and was struggling to breathe as the month went on. She knew something wasn't right, but thought it was more fluid that had built up. She and my Dad did manage to take a much desired trip to Panama City Beach, even though she wasn't feeling like herself after she had tried a few rounds of chemotherapy. The chemo had made her feel terrible. It took a lot out of her, but I know she was glad to go on their annual trip and be near the ocean, which was one of her favorite places.When she went to the doctor for another check up, they discovered that a new tumor had grown in a matter of weeks and had filled her left lung, rendering it useless. We now knew why she had been in a lot of pain and struggling for breath. She stayed at Emory a few days to get stabilized and they put her on oxygen. They also began a new drug that could potentially help prolong life. Mom went home and began yet another new "normal." The new drug did seem to help with her pain level and the oxygen helped her breathe better. In my heart, though, I felt that our time was short. I hoped that it wouldn't be, but I had a sense that being with her and saying things to her that I wanted to say was something I didn't need to put off.
I was working at my new teaching job, as school started August 1st, and had to often return home so that I could take care of the kids and relieve our babysitter. I was, however, still able to have some wonderful moments with Mom in which she was fully aware and awake. One day that stands out in particular was one in which I was speaking to one of my coworkers about our situation, Mom's illness, and some struggles I was having. She had gone through a similar experience with her father. She told me that one day it just clicked with her that she could let go of the struggles and see the time she was able care for her parents as a privilege. It was a privilege to spend those final days serving them, being with them, and all the other things going on just didn't matter. When I walked in to my parent's house that afternoon, those words were on my heart and mind, and it made a huge difference in my perspective. That day Mom was sitting on her bed in her room and she and I were able to talk, just the two of us. She wanted to know about my job, how things were going...just catch up on life. I was also able to tell her how brave I thought she was and how well she had fought her battle this year. I told her that her journey honored the Lord and that many people would come to Jesus because of this. She kind of laughed it off, but for me, it felt like a holy moment. That day I was able to help her do things to get her comfortable, things that I normally felt awkward doing, but as I saw it as a privilege it brought me joy. After a few hours that day, Mom was tired and laid down to rest. I left her house with joy and peace. A few days later Mom was taken by ambulance to the hospital for a high heart rate and breathing problems.
I went to the hospital that night and along with several others and waited for Mom to get stabilized. She was put in the ICU and we thought that she would get what she needed and would soon come home. I went to work on Monday and felt concerned, but still thought we had a good bit of time left with Mom. My brother was with her and messaged us that it looked like things were getting steadily worse and Hospice care was what we were moving towards. Once again, I'm thankful that my husband, children, and I were able to spend some time with her while she was still able to talk. She saw the children and was able to say a few words to them. You could tell that having her grandchildren there lifted her spirit. After we got home that night my brother called and said Mom's time of passing was near. I was so surprised after just seeing her a few hours before. I'm so glad I was able to go back up to the hospital and be with Mom during her final hours, along with my brother, sister, Dad, and other family members. While it was heart-wrenching, it was also a sweet time to pray with her, encourage her, tell her we loved her, and hold her. At 5:20am, on August 8th, 2017, exactly one year to the day of her cancer diagnosis, my Mom went to her forever home in Heaven.
Today was my Mom's funeral. I have honestly felt the presence of the Lord, His comfort, His peace, through all of this. I have cried tears, and I know I will continue to grieve and miss my Mom terribly, but I have a joy that can only come from knowing that my Mom's suffering has ended, she is with her Father in Heaven, and I will one day see her again. I told one of my best friends, who has been with us the past two days, that I think I've been grieving all year. I've felt the heartache of the many hard things my parents have had to go through. Moving away from our childhood home, the loss of freedom to go and do things like we used to, the physical pain, and the type of fellowship we used to have. I've grieved my children losing their grandparents at such an early age, as they've already lost both of their paternal grandparents and now their beloved "Mimi." Through the loss, through the pain, I know that there is a deeper intimacy with Christ that is gained. My Mom experienced that this year. She depended on God even more than she ever had. She told me through all of this, she was experiencing the marriage she had always wanted, as she and my Dad would spend the evenings reading God's Word together, praying together, and even singing old hymns together. I grew in my own dependence on God and have been humbled in many new ways. God gave me and my family the gift of time and fellowship with my Mom this year. And what a beautiful, treasured gift that was! I had more time with her this year than I've had in many years past, along with my husband and children as well. I can only give God the glory for arranging that.
My Mom loved God. My prayer is that through my sharing her journey others will come to know Him. This life is just the beginning of our story. If you want to learn more about how to know Christ, start with the book of John in the Bible. You can have a relationship with Jesus along with the blessed assurance of a life beyond the one we have on this earth. God bless!<3 bless="" god="" p="">

Monday, June 12, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Book Summary (Goodreads): In 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle's café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She's a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

My thoughts...
Kate Breslin's books are packed with non-stop intensity from beginning to end. I have thoroughly enjoyed her previous two books and could hardly put them down. High as the Heavens was equally intense as the story of Evelyn Marche comes to life.

Breslin has found a sweet spot in writing books that take place during times of war. She is able to capture the sights, sounds, sacrifices, heartaches...and even the hope...that her characters experience during these difficult times in history. Even though these characters are fictional, the atmosphere could very much be true to life. I found myself physically tensing up as I was reading, I was so immersed in the dangers that Evelyn and Simon were facing. There was never a dull moment as the plot moves steadily on. There was a suspense element to the story as well, as Evelyn and the spy network she is part of try to uncover a traitor. The romantic tension increases as Eve interacts with Simon, who she knows from her past. As a Christian fiction novel, there was a spiritual element as well. It didn't seem like an afterthought or a forced part of the story, which I appreciated. For me, all the elements of a great read! If you enjoy this genre, I would definitely recommend this book.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to share my thoughts and opinons, which I did.**

Friday, June 9, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (Amazon): When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

My thoughts...
Before you read With You Always, I would highly recommend reading the novella An Awakened Heart, which is the prequel to this novel. This novella tells the story of other characters, but it also gives some important backstory of Elise and her family. It also paints a realistic picture of the suffering and hardships of 1850s New York.

I am a big fan of Jody Hedlund, and once reason is because she can write romantic tension like no one else! While With You Always did have some romantic tension,  it had a different tone than many of her other historic novels. The plight of those trying to survive a very difficult time in history, the contrast between the wealthy and the poor, and the sacrifices families had to make in order to survive were the central themes of this novel. My heart was wrenched as Elise had to make hard choices, faced starvation, and fought to provide for the family she had to leave behind. Thorton came from a wealthy family but he was a man of character who wanted to provide jobs and a safe place for those working for him. As he and Elise cross paths and interact with each other, a relationship blossoms. I would characterize this as stronger in the historical aspect than the romantic aspect, but the plot was interesting, it evoked a wide range of emotions, and is a series I would be interested in reading more of.

**I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, to share my personal opinions, which I did.**

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Book summary (Amazon): Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can't let the villain she believes responsible for her father's death release his wrath in Harper's Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she's ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My thoughts...I have yet to read a Karen Witemeyer book that I didn't enjoy. Heart on the Line is the second book in this series, but could also be read as a stand alone. This story includes some of the characters that I really enjoyed in the first book, but also introduces the characters of Grace and Amos.

I've read a lot of books in a western setting, and often you find some of the same plot lines. This story had the western aspects I love, but with refreshing twists and characters that were believable. I loved Grace's level-headedness even though she was forced into a dangerous situation. She wasn't a heroine that fell for any handsome face or what anyone told her, but followed her heart (and mind) in everything she did. Amos is not your typical hero, but is so likeable and has a big heart, especially for Grace. Both characters take physical and emotional risks throughout the plot that developed their character and the story. There was a spiritual connection between the characters as well, which was well integrated and didn't feel forced.

Smart, interesting characters, a lot of heart, and a western setting are just a few of the things you'll get in this new Karen Witemeyer book. Even the side plot was entertaining and held my attention. I would definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy this genre. You really can't go wrong with Karen Witemeyer!

**I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, to share my honest opinions, which I did. **

Friday, May 12, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

Book Summary (Goodreads): She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted.

Since meeting Steffan, the Duke of Wolfberg, at Thornbeck Castle, Lady Magdalen has not been able to stop thinking about him. She knows—as a penniless lady with little to offer in terms of a dowry—she has no real hope of marrying such a highly titled man, so it comes as a great surprise when she receives a letter from him, asking for her hand in marriage.

But all is not what it seems at Wolfberg Castle. Steffan has been evicted by his scheming uncle, and his cousin has taken over the title of duke. Left for dead, Steffan is able to escape, and disguised as a shepherd, hopes to gain entry to the castle to claim the items that will prove he is the true Duke of Wolfberg.

Journeying to the castle, Magdalen has no idea what awaits her, but she certainly did not expect her loyal maidservant to turn on her. Forcing Magdalen to trade places with her, the servant plans to marry the duke and force Magdalen to tend the geese.

Without their respective titles—and the privileges that came with them—Steffan and Magdalen are reunited in the shepherd’s field. Together they conspire to get back their rightful titles. But they must hurry . . . or else they risk losing it all to the uncle’s evil plan.

My thoughts...I'm not very familiar with the goose girl fairy tale, so I can't really say how closely this novel followed or connected with that story. I would also mention that I'm reviewing this novel with the Young Adult (YA) categorization in mind, as I feel that this novel is more relevant for that age group.

The overall storyline of The Noble Servant was entertaining. I liked the plot twists and the way that different characters were posing as other people, so there were always different consequences happening as a result of that. The lies and corruption were not glamorized, so I felt that this was a good moral lesson that was shown in the story. It was also a very clean novel. While there was some mild romantic tension, I thought it was appropriate for a YA novel. Magdalen and Steffan's moral character grew through the story, as they learned humility through their circumstances. For those reasons, it is a novel I believe my young daughter would enjoy.

The only things that, in considering it's a YA novel, that concerned me was the way that murder was the constant threat to the characters. It seemed to be the only option in dealing with those who stood in opposition the evil characters plotting against the more virtuous one. For example, one character consistently told Magdalen if she didn't do something, she would be killed and her friend would be killed, If someone came to her aide, they would be murdered. Basically all the "good guys" were threatened to be killed. At one point even Magdalen herself found pleasure in the idea of murdering her adversary in her sleep by stabbing her in the heart. While very few killings actually took place, and the ones that did were in self-defense, I found that aspect a little intense for a YA reader. For an adult, not so much. I've read several YA novels, and many of the mainstream books in this category can be much more intense. With Christian fiction, I tend to be a little stronger with my critique.

**I received a free copy of this novel to give an honest opinion, which I did.**

Friday, May 5, 2017

Reviewer's bookshelf: "Wings of the Wind" by Connilyn Cossette

Book Summary (Amazon): Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving. 

Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can't ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.

Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage--for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she's found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah's fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she's come to love?

My thoughts...My eyes were immediately drawn to the cover of this novel. It communicated mystery, beauty, and Biblical history...I was intrigued. I had never read a novel by Connilyn Cossette, but I wanted to take a chance with someone new. I was not disappointed! : )

This book is part of a series, but I was able to enjoy this as a stand-alone novel. I found the plot to be steady, interesting, and with a good amount of tension. I have never read a story that has taken place during the time of the Israelites in their 40 years of wandering the desert before entering into the Promised Land. Cossette opened up their world to me through this novel, portraying the struggles, hopes, and difficulties that could be associated with that time in history. I also thought the way she showed the perspectives of a Hebrew man and contrasted it with a Canaanite woman were well done.

Love, faith, war, survival, redemption...these are just some of the themes of this novel. I enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it!

**I received a copy of this book in order to share my thoughts and opinions, which I did.**

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Reviewer's bookshelf: "True to You" by Becky Wade

Book Summary (Amazon): 

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition, he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother. 

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

My thoughts...
When I saw that Becky Wade had a new series coming out, I was so excited! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of her books so far, and hoped this new series would still include the things I love: interesting plot line, romantic tension, and well constructed characters. Oh'll get all that good stuff in True to You! Not to mention another gorgeous cover!

I love Nora's character. I got a little more background from reading the novella prequel, Then Came You, but you can still read True to You as a stand alone and get her story. A lot of who Nora is was shaped by a tragic past, but also by a hopeful future with her family and relationship with God. She's portrayed as down to earth, joking with her sister about her attraction to John Lawson but never seeing it go anywhere. The honesty and humor kept the reading fun. John is also a complex character whose outward appearance portrays him as tough and disciplined with his military background, but you also see a vulnerable side....which makes him even more attractive. : )

Once again, Becky Wade has won me over and I can't wait to see what's going to happen with the rest of the Bradford sisters! I definitely recommend this one!

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to express my honest opinions, which I have.**

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My thoughts on "Counter Culture" by David Platt

Book summary (Amazon): Revised and updated, with a new chapter on the refugee crisis.
Welcome to the front lines. Everywhere we turn, battle lines are being drawn—traditional marriage vs. gay marriage, pro-life vs. pro-choice, personal freedom vs. governmental protection. Seemingly overnight, culture has shifted to the point where right and wrong are no longer measured by universal truth but by popular opinion. And as difficult conversations about homosexuality, abortion, and religious liberty continue to inject themselves into our workplaces, our churches, our schools, and our homes, Christians everywhere are asking the same question: How are we supposed to respond to all this? In Counter Culture, New York Times bestselling author David Platt shows Christians how to actively take a stand on such issues as poverty, sex trafficking, marriage, abortion, racism, and religious liberty—and challenges us to become passionate, unwavering voices for Christ. Drawing on compelling personal accounts from around the world, Platt presents an unapologetic yet winsome call for Christians to faithfully follow Christ into the cultural battlefield in ways that will prove both costly and rewarding. The lines have been drawn. The moment has come for Christians to rise up and deliver a gospel message that’s more radical than even the most controversial issues of our day.

My thoughts...This is not my typical pleasure reading, as it tackles deep and difficult subject matter. But going deep is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you're seeking truth in a day and age where thoughts among Christian leaders seems to go from one extreme to the other. While the Bible is always my personal authority, David Platt is a teacher and author that I've come to respect over the years. His "Secret Church" gatherings have been some of my favorite times of teaching and worship. 
    One of my struggles in today's society is seeing several figures in Christian/spiritual life take a strong stand on some Biblical truths while seeming to ignore others. I've pondered how to stand for the truths laid out in the Bible, how to stand for the Gospel, and still show those who are not believers a genuine love for who they are, right where they are. I don't want to blend in to the rest of the world, but I do want to love better. I think the title of this book speaks for itself: as Christ followers, we have to live counter-culturally. 
    Platt quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in one of the chapters: "There was a time when the Church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society...But the judgement of God is upon the Church as never before. If the Church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early Church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century."
    This book was a challenge to me to examine myself, areas I need to grow in, and how I can represent Christ in a culture that does not embrace Him. I would definitely recommend it!

**I received a copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, to give my honest opinions about this book, which I did.**

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "To the Farthest Shores" by Elizabeth Camden

Book Summary (Amazon): It has been six years since army nurse Jenny Bennett's heart was broken by a dashing naval officer. Now Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher has abruptly reappeared in her life at the Presidio army base but refuses to discuss the inexplicable behavior that destroyed their happiness.

Ryan is in an impossible situation. One of the few men in the world qualified to carry out a daring assignment, he accepted a government mission overseas that caused his reputation to be destroyed and broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Honor bound never to reveal where he had been during those six years, he can't tell Jenny the truth or it will endanger an ongoing mission and put thousands of lives at risk.

Although Ryan thinks he may have finally found a solution, he can't pull it off on his own. Loyalty to her country compels Jenny to help, but she never could have imagined the intrigue she and Ryan will have to face or the lengths to which they will have to go to succeed.

My thoughts...
In To The Farthest Shores, Elizabeth Camden has once again captured a moment in history in a unique and interesting way. She is so gifted at merging American culture with the culture of another place and time. In this novel, Ryan Gallagher has grown up in Japan and has been immersed in its culture, social customs, and is intrigued by the pearl industry, which is prominent in Japan. His whole persona actually seems half American, half Japanese, and this is represented in several ways throughout the novel. As he returns to America, deeply affected by his recent mission, his inner struggle of doing his duty or following his heart is constantly at odds with one another.

Jenny Bennett has a history as well. While she has been in the United States her whole life, she grew up abandoned, having to learn to survive and fight for everything she has. Her feelings of rejection early on in life are affected even more as she feels abandoned and betrayed by Ryan. Her inner struggle is to leave behind the scrappy girl of her past and become a well-respected nurse with an impeccable record. As she begins to spend time with Ryan again, their personal battles create the romantic and emotional tension that build throughout the novel. 

I've read every novel Elizabeth Camden has published, and even though I usually feel like the setting and cultural aspect that is featured in each book takes center stage and the romantic aspect is in the background (I'm a hopeless romantic), I still eagerly anticipate each novel. Character development is also a prominent feature, but it is often a hard road...not always filled with heart-fluttery moments (but there are some of those). I appreciate the journey I go on and all of the research that is obviously put in to each of her books. If you like historical fiction, you'll enjoy this book. There are some adult themes in To the Farthest Shores, but they are not told graphically. It is clean and has a redemptive, spiritual aspect as well. 

**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and enjoyed giving an honest review.**

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Elusive Miss Ellison" by Carolyn Miller

Book Summary: 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.

My thoughts...My first impression was of the cover, which I thought was beautiful. The combination of the title and the cover art made this book very appealing. This is the first book I've read by Carolyn Miller, so I wasn't sure what to expect from her writing. This book follows a similar storyline with a lot of Christian fiction I've read lately, which is similar to a Pride and Prejudice-type plot. Every author approaches this familiar storyline in a different way, and these are my impressions of Carolyn Miller's:

Lavinia (Livvie) Ellison is the outspoken female heroine, not one to follow or care about all the typical rules of society, and yet she's very compassionate towards the people of the area. She tends the sick and takes food to the unfortunate. She also holds the Earl of Hawkesbury responsible for taking care of the people that have been neglected. The Earl initially comes across as a little haughty, but deep down he has a heart that seeks to do what is right. There was definite growth in the story for both characters, as they see areas of pride and a need to surrender every aspect of their lives to God. There is a strong spiritual element as the way to become a Christian is presented as well as spiritual growth among the characters. The pace is moderate, with some mild plot twists and conflict resolution. There is a very clean romantic element that builds throughout the story. All of these parts come together to create a well thought out story.

For my personal taste, the pace of the novel was a little slow. I struggled to get the "tingles" while Livvie and Nicholas interacted. While I know that they displayed the proper etiquette for ladies and gentlemen of that era, I wanted to get into the heads of the characters a little more about how they felt about each other...understand their chemistry. Several times in the story, Livvie is complemented on her wit...but I had trouble connecting with that, too.

While I had my issues, if you like a proper English novel with the elements I mentioned above, you'll like this novel.

**I received a free copy of this novel and appreciate the opportunity to give an honest review, which I did.**

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reviewer's bookshelf: "The Viscount's Proposal" by Melanie Dickerson

Book Summary (Amazon): Leorah Langdon has no patience for Regency society’s shallow hypocrisy and unnecessary rules, especially for women. She’s determined to defy convention by marrying for grand passion instead of settling for a loveless union like her parents—or wedding a stuffy, pompous gentleman like Edward, the Viscount Withinghall. But when a chance meeting in the countryside leads to Leorah and Withinghall being discovered in his overturned carriage—alone and after dark—the ensuing gossip may force them together.
Withinghall has his reasons for clinging to propriety; his father perished in a duel with his mistress’s husband, and Edward must avoid scandal himself if he wants to become prime minister. He certainly has no time for a reckless hoyden like Miss Langdon. But soon the two discover that Withinghall’s coach “accident” was no such thing: the vehicle was sabotaged.
Can the culprit be brought to justice? Strong-willed Leorah and duty-driven Withinghall will have to work together if they have any hope of saving her reputation, his political career—and his life.

My thoughts... Many readers my recognize Melanie Dickerson by her Young Adult fairytale retellings, but her Regency spy series is equally enjoyable. In this second book in the series, Leorah and the Viscount have been, literally, thrown together in an unexpected way and have to navigate through what is expected of them and what they feel.
    This story reminded me so much of Pride and Prejudice, which is a long time favorite. Edward has the appearance of being very prideful and withdrawn, while Leorah is passionate about life. I loved Leorah's spunk. She wouldn't just "settle" for any man, even if the match was a advantageous one. Edward, the Viscount, masked his true feelings to most people, mainly as a result of hardships in his past. Both characters went through transformations as they began to think more of each other than themselves.
    Melanie Dickerson does a great job at writing novels set in England, and I've really enjoyed her Regency series so far. There are elements of mystery, some danger, and a steady pace to the plot that kept me from wanting to put it down. This novel is also very clean, but I loved that it still has the beautiful romantic tension that kept it fun. Personally, I can never get enough of the broody male character. They always have lots of layers to peel back, which make them interesting. I love how Melanie balanced that with Leorah's character, which added lightheartedness and humor to the story. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
"Calling him a pirate was a compliment, and one he didn't deserve, for it indicated there was some passion beneath that cold façade."
"You have every right to be free, Miss Langdon. No one is denying you that. But freedom is only valuable if you can use your freedom wisely."
    If you love a Pride and Prejudice-style story that has Christian faith woven through it, you will love this! I would definitely recommend it!

*I received a free copy of this novel to honestly share my thoughts and opinions, which I did.*

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Reviewer's bookshelf: "A Note Yet Unsung" by Tamera Alexander

Book summary: A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the new maestro at the Nashville Philharmonic. But women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed when the conductor--determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music--bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah's new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's youngest orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head, he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city's new symphony hall. Even more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music--his dying father. As Tate's ailment worsens, he knows Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he's robbed her of her dream?

My thoughts...When I see that Tamera Alexander has a new book coming out, I get excited. I've been reading her books for several years now, and I've never been disappointed. She is truly a master storyteller. A Note Yet Unsung is another beautifully written novel, with a depth to the characters that I appreciate every time.

This is the third novel in the Belmont Mansion series, but could be read as a stand alone. Previous characters are mentioned and have small parts in this story, and, of course, Mrs. Adelicia Cheatham plays a key role as she is the mistress of Belmont. I absolutely loved Rebekah and Tate's story. Tate was particularly interesting, as he is obviously hiding something about himself from everyone. As who he is starts to unfold, for me the story truly began. His vulnerability, showing who is behind this ambitious conductor, binds he and Rebekah together. Rebekah is also hiding something from Tate and learns to trust him with her secret as he trusts her with his. A truly beautiful tale of conquering your fears and trusting God to use you right where you are. I would highly recommend this book!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review.**

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Still Life" by Dani Pettrey

Book summary (Amazon): Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright--and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. 

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead--and the photographer insists he didn't take the shot. Worse, her friend can't be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

My thoughts...I'll admit, romantic suspense is not my typical genre. I'm more of a romantic historical fiction type girl, but Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series sold me. When she began this new series with Cold Shot, once again I was drawn in by the twists, fast moving plot, suspense, and the connection between the characters. Still Life continues with the same elements.

Still Life's suspenseful side was pretty intense. It may be that I'm a little more sensitive to that aspect because it's been so long since I've read much suspense, but it was very well done. I was reading at night and got the shivers more than once! Avery's friend has been featured in a Black Dahlia-style shoot: models posing as if they were dead. Throw in a couple of shady characters, a few murder suspects, and our main characters' struggles with their past, and you've got all the elements of a great romantic suspense novel.

My only hang up, which I mentioned in my critique of Cold Shot, is the amount of characters to keep up with. There are a lot of people in Avery and Parker's "inner circle." Then you add the secondary characters who play a part in their investigation....let's just say I had to think a lot about who was who. You may have to have a reference sheet handy. Just sayin'. 

Overall, despite the long character list, this book represents the author and genre well. Not too creepy, but just enough to keep you on your toes and guessing about "whodunnit" til the end. The spiritual aspect of the novel was not an afterthought, either. The characters' need for Christ to overcome their past and resolve the issues in the present was a key part in the novel. Well done.

*I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to give an honest review, which I did.*

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reflections on "Uninvited" by Lysa TerKeurst

Brief summary (Amazon)...The enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than.
In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences of rejection--from the perceived judgment of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over to the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father. She leans in to honestly examine the roots of rejection, as well as rejection's ability to poison relationships from the inside out, including our relationship with God.

My thoughts...Let me be honest...I really don't read a lot of Christian non-fiction books. When I have spare time to read, I want to escape my own reality. I love getting lost in new places, time periods, the drama of a story line. So I tend to be very selective when it comes to reading books about growing spiritually. I also know that I have struggled in the past with making people and their thoughts on God, the Bible, and spirituality the authority in my life instead of God Himself. The Bible itself. I am now very mindful to keep that in check.

With that said, when I read the summary of Lysa TerKeurst's newest book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, it was like God was sending up all the flags...good flags...that said, "READ THIS." I'm generally an outgoing person that loves to socialize, pour out my heart with my trusted girlfriends, and find a way to be a part of social gatherings. But like many others, I have felt the sting of rejection. I try to keep my protective shell up so I won't have to experience it, but it happens. And I get devastated. Why do I take rejection so hard? This book was not about going back and analyzing past hurts, blaming people for things they had said or done, but instead it was about believing truth and walking forward with God as I did some self-evaluation....some soul evaluation.

I practically underlined the whole book, but here are a few lines that really stood out:
"Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His."
"Because instead of Him being our hope, we misplace our hope in people who can't wholly love a desperately broken version of us. Only God can do that."
"Wisdom seeks to see someone else's vantage point even if I don't agree with that person's perspective."

This book is one that I will revisit...I've just skimmed the surface. So many humbling truths here that speak straight to my heart. If you struggle with loneliness, rejection, or feeling less than....pick up this book. You will be blessed!

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to give and honest review, which I did.*