Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Five Love Languages...

The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition

I'd read the original Five Love Languages from the library several years ago, and I really liked Dr. Chapman's ideas. 
They make sense: we each spell L-o-v-e differently. For some of us, it's words of affirmation, others it's acts of service, gift-giving, spending time together, or positive physical touch. Most of us have a dominant love language, identifiable from our own actions and our expectations of others, and all of us need to learn to speak all five languages.
On and off, I had though about the love languages in relation to my family and friends. 
Now, Moody Press offers several of Dr. Chapman's books for review, and I was eager to try one again. 

The Five Love Languages Singles Edition was a great choice. It encompass a lot of the basic teaching, while not being specifically about marriage. 

Dr. Chapman's thesis is that much pain and confusion could be avoided if we just spoke each other's language. I agree. 
Within my own family, I know that there's no lack of love, but we certainly all feel unloved at times.
Why? Because we aren't expressing that love in a way that means something to the beloved. 
(If I really need a hug, and you offer to vacuum the floor under my desk, you'll wonder why I felt so neglected when you'd been so helpful.)

My Grammy loves receiving gifts. You can give that lady a package of pencils or a pair of socks, and she's hug you and kiss you like you gave her the Hope Diamond. My Mom hates most surprises, and she doesn't like accepting gifts because she knows how much they must have cost. For Mom, it's an act of service that touches her most. A bracelet that Grammy would be delighted to receive will truly mean less to Mom than a week's worth of folded laundry. 
Family disharmony can come from very simple roots: Grammy gifts Mom a pink bathrobe for Christmas. Mom looks at it and wonders "Thirty dollars for a garment I'll never wear? Why?" Meanwhile, Mom thinks "I didn't buy her anything, but I know she need's her plants repotted. I'll visit her with new potting soil and make a day of the project, that'll bless both of us."
Was it love? Yes, on both sides, but they were each speaking their own language, and that spelled "You don't understand me!" to the other. 

So simple, it's ridiculous. I can see why this book is full of personal stories, from college students with intractable roommates to second marriages, where the Love Languages turned things around. 

Too many people, when faced with a personality conflict, react in defensiveness: "I don't need to change what I'm doing- they need to change how they're reacting!" Maybe all you need is a tune-up in they way you both act towards each other? 
The other big obstacle I can picture is discomfort: "It's not my style to give verbal praise, hug people, hang out just catching up, etc." 
Like Dr. Chapman says, your own style may never change, but you'll probably need to expand your skills so you can meaningfully relate to people with different styles. That's what this whole thing is about... meaningful interaction. 

So, if you're curious about the Love Languages, and you're ready to apply them to friends, family, and significant other, then this edition is a fine place to begin. It's got testimonies to show you how this stuff works out in people's lives, it's got an overview of each language, it's got a quiz to assess your own languages, and because it's for singles it's got several chapters specifically looking at the point of dating in the first place. Again, I think Dr. Chapman nails it: dating is ultimately about connecting with another person, and if we aren't used to deep, intentional relationships to start with, dating will be difficult. That's why he applies the Love Languages to every relationship. There's no time like the present to begin learning.

Thank you Moody Press Newsroom for my review copy!

Gary ChapmanIn addition to his busy writing and seminar schedule, Gary Chapman is a senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he has served for 36 years. Gary and his wife, Karolyn, have been married for 45 years, have two adult children, and two grandchildren.

Gary Chapman is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology from Wheaton College and Wake Forest University, respectively. He received M.R.E. and Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has completed postgraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Duke University.

Manual to Manhood: Skills for Boys to Master.

The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive

Ok... this book is a great addition to a teenagers library! 

I wanted this book when Revell offered it to me because I figured that most of the same information would apply to me as well. I was right. 
This book has step by step instruction for so many things that every boy and girl needs to know for at work and around the home. 
A good chunk of it was new to me! And I'm glad I own the book so I can reference it when I need it. 

Ok... in the cars and driving section, there's info about how to parallel park, how to shift a manual transmission, how to jump a dead battery, and how to speak to a police officer should you have occasion to. 

In the Fix-It and Repair section, you learn how to calculate square footage, how to use a circular saw, how to use a drill, and the how-to for several other skills. There is also an oh-so-necessary section about unclogging sinks and toilets. As the author says, yelling "Stop, water, stop!" to an overflowing toilet will not work. I didn't even know that there was a way to shut off the water directly to a toilet! No more overflow. In a family, that is a useful skill. 

There's a section on Finance, Savings, and Planning for the Future, which casts a vision for smart moneymaking and spending. 

There's a section on Work and Ethics, with Diligence outlined as the best job skill, and ideas for Applications, References, asking for a well-earned Raise, and even Resigning! 

There's a section that every boy's future spouse will love him for practicing, all about washing laundry, drying it, and folding/ironing it. Oh yeah! 
I myself never really understood ironing, so I should probably learn. 

There's even a Cooking section, explaining how to whip up the pancakes and mashed potatoes and roasted chicken and grilled fish and broiled steak and the most important dish: Bacon. 

Yep. I picture this book getting a lot of wear in the hands of a high school boy. This is stuff that kids love to learn, stuff that they can master step by step and see their own progress. And it's stuff they'll never outgrow, they'll only build upon the initial foundation. 

The Manual to Manhood is a winner. 

Thank you Revell for my review copy! 

Jonathan Catherman

Jonathan Catherman is a leading education trainer specializing in the character and leadership development of youth. An award-winning cultural strategist, Jonathan speaks worldwide about the principles and strengths that empower greatness in children, teens, and young adults. The father of two sons, he sees daily the importance guys place on gaining respect and avoiding embarrassment. As both a parent and a professional, Jonathan is committed to assisting young men in the making to experience success and significance as they mature into manhood and lifelong leadership. Jonathan, his bride, and their boys live in North Carolina. Learn more at www.jonathancatherman.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn...

In our family, we always learned history best through Story. If you give me characters to love, I'll soon care about their times and places. I'll want to know what shaped them and where their life was likely to go. 
And it helps if the story you tell is vividly described and set in a fascinating period... like it is in The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn! It's here! Lori Benton's second book!

After an act of violence leaves her in grave danger, Tamsen Littlejohn is forced into a desperate exile. 
With nothing extra but a cloak and a metal box containing secret papers, she flees into the wilderness.
Her guide is a man whose name she doesn't even know, and a revelation about her heritage has changed the way she views herself and the world around her. 

If your heart was stolen by Willa in Burning Sky, then you've definitely been on pins and needles waiting for Tamsen's story. It's time for another adventure... this one into the Overmountain settlements in Tennessee.

It's uncompromising country, with rushing streams and wild animals and thick forests. No place for a lady, that's for sure. No place this lady has ever needed to go. 
And the danger isn't only found in the environment: the settlers are divided under the two battling governments that really did bisect Tennessee territory between 1784 and 1789. Think roughshod politics, often "taken with a side of lead." (You learn quick not to announce which government you favor.) 
Tamsen is being tested in mind, mettle, and spirit. 

This is one great story. You feel like you're right there with Tamsen, and over almost 400 pages you get to meet so many other great characters. For example, Jesse Bird's Pa Cade is one of my favorite characters. 

So get ready to travel with Tamsen Littlejohn. 
This journey will cause her to question her past and trust in her future, and she's taking you along. 

Lori Benton

Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God's transforming grace.

When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband – often scouring the brush for huckleberries, which overflow the freezer and find their way into her signature huckleberry lemon pound cake.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Sensible Arrangement....

A Sensible Arrangement (Lone Star Brides, #1)

A Sensible Arrangement, that's all it was. 
Marty Danridge Olson (is her name a tribute to the original Marty, from Janette Oke's classic Love Comes Softly I wonder?) feels that every hope of marriage and motherhood has been cut down with the death of her beloved Thomas. 

Yet she has accepted a marriage proposal from widower Jake Wythe. As a bank manager, the board of trustees thinks that a wife will seal his good-standing and future success in the town. He didn't to risk having his heart torn again,so he asked for only two things: a woman content to keep up appearances, and someone who came from the Lone Star state to remind him of his home. Despite the life he has now, Jake longs to return to ranching in Texas, and he's unaware that in Marty's mind, that place symbolizes all the loss and bereavement of a past she's escaping. 

They have no clue what they're getting into. To use the tried and true Texan phrase, they're about to find themselves in a heap o' trouble! :) 

Marty finds Jake's lifestyle wonderful in several ways, and difficult in others. She's suddenly the object of queenly care: beautiful dresses and long hot baths and a grand home to furnish and outfit any way she see's fit. Yet she keeps her spunk, and resists some of the more onerous formalities... she even insists on befriending the household staff! 

As the days of her new marriage go by, Marty draws especially close to Alice, a young lady's maid whose own story is soon told. 
You see, Alice's father worked for the bank before he was murdered, before Jake came along. As Marty and Alice become more like sisters, Marty determines to find out as much as she can about those strange circumstances and protect the younger girl who's seen so much and has so much wisdom. 

Yes... Marty has her work cut out for her. She's got to figure out how to become friends with all the new people she's meeting, and with her own newly wed husband. Making a marriage work based on appearances (and what Marty increasingly feels is deception) only compounds the out-of-place feelings that she has. 
Marty knows that she may never find love like Thomas gave her again, and so she determines to become Jake's best friend. 
A thought that guides her in her relationships is expressed in a conversation between Marty and Alice. 
Alice says that people think familiarity breeds contempt. Marty rightly responds that familiarity can encourage love and trust. How true, Marty, how true. 
Too often we take advantage of the people around us, because they're just always there. Imagine what might change if we decided to become each other's friends, especially within a family!

This story will make you laugh and make you grin, and you will feel for Alice and Marty. There's also a wee bit of a mystery element, and the last few paragraphs are the sweetest part of all. 

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy!

Tracie Peterson Tracie Peterson is a bestselling author who writes in both historical and contemporary genres. Her novels reveal her love for research as well as her strong desire to develop emotionally meaningful characters and stories for her readers. Tracie and her family live in Montana.

Monday, April 14, 2014

No One Can Stem The Tide...

No One Can Stem the Tide: Selected Poetry 1931-1991

Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay were the ladies who introduced me to poetry the winter that I was fourteen. The words and the images that they captured demanded to be stamped on my memory, so I began writing my favorites down in a scrap book. 

Since then, my poetry collection has grown to its own place on the shelf, and I have continued to copy down my favorites in a memory book. I'm so glad that No One Can Stem The Tide is now part of my library. 
Jane Tyson Clement's lend themselves to slow, restful reading, and time to let them sink in. They deserve the extra meditation space. 

The first one I opened to was titled Autumn, and in it Jane Tyson Clement says that God "charges me to see all lovely things." I think these poems are her collection of seeing, of noticing. 
And as you read about what she's seen, you call it up in your mind's eye and realize that these same sights have shaped and made their mark on you, too. The word pictures she crafted jump off the page.
April rain is "heedless/lovely/necessary/" and Autumn is when "the wind fills with scarlet spinning down..." 

Most of the poems start with something in nature (mouse tracks in snow, bells ringing out, salt spray of the sea) and then delve into the human heart. Her inner world and the created world and their merging with the spiritual world are all explored here.

One poem that I really love begins with this affirmation: 
"The earth's good, in spit of evil; 
The earth's good; I've tasted it."
It goes on to describe the many ways that we've all eaten and drank of the goodness amidst the brokenness. That poem reminded me of These Have I Loved by Rupert Brooke. 

All of these poems can be considered praise to the Maker, every moment she experienced, appreciated, and wrote about testifies and reminds us of Presence of God in life. Some of them are direct. 
Conversion, for example, reminded me of St. Patrick's Breastplate. 
"So may I be possessed and claimed and altered, 
no part of life denied but all transferred
into thy kingdom where no man has faltered
but to be raised again by thy sure word."

Some of them, like Rainbow, are laughing, limpid, joyous verses, as she points out that wet sheep in a meadow don't notice the rainbow resting on their backs. 

One of them is so short and compact, it's own structure mimics the subject! 
"Fern fiddleheads
like a loved story
whose ending we know well
and wait for-" 
For me, in New England, ferns are the sublime sign of Spring. This poem tells me that she understood. 

Just a few more examples of her verses....

To My Unborn Child: 
"I am in God's hands, and you
In God's hands, 
through me-
all of it God's: the light, the dark,
the winter, 
and this wild, petal-drifting,
sun-dazed May." 

Dark Interval:
"...the harmony has risen and has gone
into the mind of God 
where it will linger 
always among all beauty we have lost." 

So yes, lover of poetry, and lover of beauty, spiritual seeker, Jane Tyson Clement's poems belong on your shelf. Read them, enjoy them. Let the words root in your memory. 

And remember, from her poem Abiding, 
"Things that abide are those that God
and man have loved together:
the sheep, the keels, the bells, the bird
the shepherd- are forever." 

Thank you Plough publishing for my review copy. It is much appreciated!

Jane Tyson ClementPoet and writer Jane Tyson Clement (1917 – 2000) grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But she always preferred Bay Head, New Jersey where her family owned a summer house. “There was something eternal about it that was always a rock and an anchor for me.” Jane earn an English degree at Smith College and married Robert Clement, a Quaker attorney. Together they sought for meaning in life and an answer to social injustice. They eventually joined the Bruderhof, a Christian community. Jane taught school and raised a family, but her unquenchable thirst for justice, and for the wonders and mysteries that lie hidden in nature, kept her restless. Her poetry and short stories mirror this lifelong quest for truth and wholeness.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shadow Hand....

Shadow Hand (Tales of Goldstone Wood, #6)

*Right against wrong, good against evil, and the children caught in the middle.*

When I received Shadow Hand, I knew I was jumping into a series in the sixth book. Even though I hadn't read Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, or Dragonwitch, and I'd never met Daylily, Foxbrush, or Lionheart, I was drawn right into Anne Elisabeth Stengl's grown-up fantasy. 

I didn't like Fairy Tales when I was little. I avoided the Brother's Grimm because they scared me. It was only when I grew up and met Tolkien and Lewis that I began to learn: Fairy Tales take us to other worlds, give us strange adventures, let us fight epic battles, and teach us about ourselves in the process. 

Shadow Hand has all the elements you would expect in a Fairy Tale (the enchanted wood, the unwanted suitor, the dragon pestilence, the Fairy Queen, the seen and the unseen) and then makes it all fresh and lush and wild and surprising. Welcome to a world where nothing is as it seems. 

When you step into Goldstone Wood, expect nothing for sure except that you will want to return.

The prophecy says that he will give of himself for her.
She is fighting a battle in herself.
There is an evil sucking the life out of the lands.
They must save the children, the memories, and their destiny. 

The scope of this story is very vast- the past and the future, the here and the there, true love and shed blood. 
And then there's the tiny details and dialogues that make for such satisfying world-building. 
I see can why so many travelers journey into Goldstone Wood. 

Me and my friend have decided that we're going to read the first books in this series as our Summer Read Aloud this year. 

Thank you to Fred and Nora St. Laurent from Bookfun.org for my review copy! 

Anne Elisabeth Stengl Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, and STARFLOWER, with DRAGONWITCH due to release in 2013. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Follows After by Dan Walsh

What Follows After  -     By: Dan Walsh

Dan Walsh's What Follows After is a skillful combination of hope and forgiveness. 

This story follows the life of Scott and Gina, the seemingly happily married couple and parents of two boys, who have been secretly separated for several months. Gina feels betrayed by the man she loved and Scott is frustrated that Gina refuses to accept his claims of innocence. Their separation places their boys in a difficult position: not only are they struggling with the changes at home, but their parents demand they keep the separation hidden from friends and family.
That's when 11 year old Colt decides to take his younger brother and tun away  to their aunt's house. The children wish that this would bring their parents around. Instead the unthinkable happens and 7 year old Timmy is kidnapped while with his brother. 

Suddenly everything must come into focus Scott and Gina must both decide what is going to be important in their future as they and the reader hope for Timmy's safe return.

   As in his Restoration series written with Gary Smalley he delivers a story that will not disappoint readers with a welcome and hopeful conclusion that you can't help but be glad about. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

For Such a Time...

For Such a Time

I love this book. What else can I say? This story grabbed my heartstrings in its fist and wouldn't let them go. 
(And it feels wrong to say that. How can you love a story composed of tragedy and set in unimaginable suffering? I guess it's because I fell in love with the characters, and with watching them care for each other and grow increasingly more tenderhearted and brave as the story went on.) 

Having pored over books like Ken Burn's The War, I already had metal images of the death camps and the work camps and the Jews who died there. 
This book contains enough detail to bring those pictures back to mind, and the facts fit in with what I'd previously studied. 
And this book gives back the stories behind the anonymous pictures, as the author crafts a "What if?" that you so wish could have been true. 
For Such a Time made me wish that I wasn't reading fiction. I wanted to believe that things like this could have happened. 

Colonel Aric von Schmidt. He's the camp Kommandant at Theresienstadt. As a soldier, Aric had fought against trained armies and fellow warriors. 
His new work, supposedly for the same cause, is a polar opposite: managing a camp of the weakest, frailest, oldest, and most beaten down of Jews. 
That is not work for an Austrian military man. That is the work of a bully. 
And so he finds himself to be a walking contradiction. As a Nazi Kommandant, his uniform and rank mark him as a ruthless killer, yet he had received the Knight's Cross, a medal that symbolizes all the highest ideals of self-sacrifice and courage. 
He rues the turn his life has taken, yet how can one man stem the tide? Even his own martyrdom would not end the death and stop the trains. 
So he keeps on, day to day, until he himself wonders whether he even has a soul left. 

"How could there be goodness in a man like him?" That is what Stella wonders. For some reason that she doesn't understand, this man pulled her out of the firing line at Dachau. He saved her life, but what does he want with her and who does he think she is? The only demand he's made is that she give him her loyalty. He think's she's Stella Muller, of course. That was the name on her forged identification papers. Nobody knows that she's Hadassah Benjamin, Jewish maiden named for Queen Esther. 
What she knows for sure is that Colonel Schmidt defies categorization. He's a Nazi Kommandant, yet the people he chooses to gather around him are all cast-offs on one way or another. And he takes care of them.

Joseph... the one-eared houseboy. Precocious and sweet, Joseph retains his innocence and faith. He is the first thing Stella allows herself to love in the Kommandant's house, and for Stella he symbolizes the fate of all the children. 
Helen, the mute cook whose silent presence helps guide this household. She and Aric understand each other instinctively, and there is a strong loyalty between them. (Aric says that scent of Helen's apfelstrudel could lead men into battle.) 
Sgt. Rand Grossman, Aric's best friend and brother-in-arms. Rand is trusted implicitly, and he deserves that trust. He lost a hand in the war, but he never lost his honor or his heart. 

Kate Breslin has done something really wonderful: she has taken the story of Esther and rebuilt it in the days of the Holocaust. Stella is like Esther, and Aric has the basic role of Xerxes, and Stella's Uncle Morty is Mordecai... and yet the way she's done it is so seamless that if you didn't know the Biblical story, you wouldn't be hampered from devouring the book, and if you do know Esther's story, then Stella's clearly echoes the same truths. 

This is a story of where, if anywhere, our hope lies, and asks the question "What do we do with ourselves when the world is so dark around us? How do we remember the Light?" 

Thank you Bethany for my review copy! 

Kate BreslinA Florida girl and former bookseller, Kate Breslin migrated to the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and a spoiled cat named Coco. Kate has written travel articles, published award-winning poetry, and was a finalist in RWA's Golden Heart Contest. FOR SUCH A TIME is her debut novel; now that she's writing inspirational romance, Kate enjoys creating stories showing how God's love brings two hearts together. 

When she's not plotting the next novel, Kate can be found with her nose in a book, or enjoying a long walk in one of Washington's beautiful forests. She also likes to do a bit of traveling to new places--great for finding the next story idea! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Romance of Religion...

The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

I think C. S Lewis would have liked this book. 

My review isn't going to due this book justice, so let's not call it a review. 
Let's call this an expression of appreciation because this book touched my heart. 

The Romance of Religion is the case for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, all of which wait for us when we open our eyes. 

Now, don't those ideals make your heart leap? Doesn't it inspire you to think of living a life awakened to Beauty, Truth, and Goodness? 
Don't those words whisper to you "This is what we need?" 

Our world suffers from cynicism, which Dwight Longenecker defines as looking out a window and only seeing the pane of glass.
The problem with the cynic, he explains, isn't that they look too closely at reality, but that they haven't looked enough. 
This is a book about how the Extraordinary is hidden inside the Ordinary, and about how we instinctively recognize that a great story will always reveals this to us. 

We are inside a Story where there are heroes and villains, and both are made of the same flesh and bone. 
We are in a Story of fate and destiny and deep magic and mystery.
There are secret Kingdoms and rebel armies and wild prophets and lost princes and imprisoned princesses. 
There is blood shed and there are swords that cut and there are healers who can help mend us again. 
There are journeys to go on and seas to sail and hearts to win, and battles inside our souls and outside the gates waiting to be fought. 

The antidote to dullness and dissatisfaction is Romance, and that word encompasses so much more than you'd ever think. 

If you're fascinated with words and legends and tales, if you're a seeker or a lover of Jesus, then you'll be richly blessed by this book.
My personal favorite part was about "Holy Wood and Hollywood," how we always need stories to feed our hearts, and the one thing that changes is who does the telling. 

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy. 

Dwight LongeneckerDwight Longenecker was brought up an Evangelical, studied at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, and later was ordained an Anglican priest in England. After ten years in the Anglican ministry as a curate, a chaplain at Cambridge, and a country parson, in 1995 Dwight was received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He has published in numerous religious magazines and papers in the UK, Ireland, and the USA, writing on film and theology, apologetics, Biblical commentary and Catholic culture.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sincerely Yours

Sincerely Yours

This is a collection of four novellas, and each of the stories are sparked by the arrival of a letter to a lady. And each letter shows her her destiny. Each letter helps her find her place in the world. Each letter is part of what guides her home. 

First, A Moonlight Promise, by Laurie Alice Eakes. Get read to jump aboard a steamboat with Camilla, who's fleeing from a tempestuous past in England and finding that this untamed river offers smoother passage... just barely.There's sabotage, and danger, and all is not what it seems. But it's a chance to make a new life, and a chance to meet a river boat captain. At first stand-offish, Captain Nate Black soon decides that there's more to Camila than is evident in her refined accent and privileged manner. She might be exactly what's he's been looking for. 

The second is from Ann Shorey. When Marigold starts taking piano lessons from the pastor's son, neither of them imagined that they'd receive Lessons in Love. Of course, that's before Marigold's writing ambition got her in a mix up, and she enlisted Colin to help her continue with her dreams. Ann Shorey has provided a sweet, gently comic tale that celebrates women authors in the 1800's. 

The next is One Little Word. This story is born out of Amanda Cabot's love for hand crafted carousels. When Lorraine arrives at The Lilac Hall Inn (where no lilacs are yet in bloom) there's a beauty of a carousel being crafted in an outbuilding. Her world is topsy-turvy as it is... her brother just married a laundress, and invited her here for the wedding! Why shouldn't she be daring and get involved with the project? Or, if Jonah insists on keeping it to himself, why shouldn't she start a project of her own? By the end of the tale, I could see why Amanda has "Carousel Fever." 

And the last is chock full of (disturbing) historical detail. The strong heroine and descriptive writing mark A Saving Grace as a story by Jane Kirkpatrick. Grace Hathaway must travel away from her quiet life to Olalla Washington, to rescue a friend from a starvation clinic. Rebecca went to Wilderness Heights to cure her broken heart after her husband died. She left behind a beloved child and a good friend, a friend who would storm the gates to get her back. Based of the terrible reality of a female doctor that starved people to death in the early 1900's. This is a terrible reminder of the deceit that people will perpetuate, and the power of a friend in need. 

Thank you Revell for my review copy.

Laurie Alice EakesLaurie Alice Eakes used to lie in bed as a child telling herself stories so she didn’t wake anyone else up. Sometimes she shared her stories withothers; thus, when she decided to be a writer, she surprised no one.

Ann Shorey
I was blessed to have a mother who read to me, and in so doing gifted me with a love of books that has defined my life. In school I spent as much time reading the novels hidden behind my textbooks as I did paying attention to my lessons. Guess that’s how I developed the ability to write stories in my head while working at day-to-day tasks. 
 Our community rests in one of the Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua, which is the name of the river that runs through our county from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. If there’s a paradise here on earth, I believe we live smack in the middle of it.  You can feel the history and the stories in this place every time you walk through the forest or listen to the rush of the river.

Jane believes that our lives are the stories that others read first and she encourages groups to discover the power of their own stories to divinely heal and transform. Visit her blog for more information about her current projects and the privilege of following one's passion wherever the dreams may lead. 

Amanda Cabot With both parents avid readers, it's no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age. From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a novel by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she’s sold more than thirty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. When she’s not writing, Amanda enjoys sewing, cooking and – of course – reading.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Table by The Window...

A Table by the Window: A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom Recipes

I was 3/4 of the way through this book before I realized that it didn't feel like a novel anymore. It felt like I was snooping on someone's real life. 
That's what makes A Table by the Window such an amazing story.

I got to see everything through Etta's eyes. 
Through her, I got to experience the (sometimes uncomfortable) embrace of the D'Alisa family.
I got to laugh at Nico and shake my head at Sophie, and realize that they all really do love each other fiercely. 
I got to dine at the D'Alisa table, experiencing epic cooking that marries consciousness of who you are with contemplation of what sustains you. 

Reading this book felt like eating delicious food. There are lots of friendships and familial relationships in this story, each one adding more layers and flavors. There's a delightful combination of French and Italian ethnicity, served up in a family that can bless you richly or drive you crazy!
This story is salted with some tears, because life is tough and there are losses that shake you to the core, and it's sweetened with a romance that is very memorable. 

Overall, A Table by the Window serves up a heartiness that leaves your soul full when you finish- but not so full that you don't crave a sequel! :) 
I really did adore this story. I already shared it with my Mom and sister! 

Thank you Waterbrook Multnomah for my review copy.

Hillary Manton Lodge I'm an author and multi-media artist, which basically means that I like to write and make stuff. My books center on normal people figuring out their lives and wrestling with faith in the Pacific Northwest. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tracy Higley's latest novel!

The Queen's Handmaid

The Queen's Handmaid- Suspenseful retelling of History's Intrigue!

Welcome to the Ancient world, where a king can go mad, a queen can be wicked, and a servant girl can witness it all. 

This book is packed with nearly-unbelievable-and-yet-factual events. There are marriages, divorces, executions, escapes, liaisons, schemes and conniving. And because there were very human hearts beating in the midst of the turmoil and politics, there was forbidden love, unrequited affection, sharp desperation, fragile hope, and strong bonds between unlikely friends. 

All see from the eyes of two remarkable women: Lydia, a fictional character, and Mariamme, Herod's wife. 
Through it all, you wish that Mariamme had been an object of love, not obsession. 
You follow her story and Lydia's closely, because as the pages turn you become invested in their lives.

If you are a student of history, things like the fate of Cleopatra and her paramour Marc Antony will probably be familiar accounts. Here you'll see them through the freshness of Story.

Some of these characters are probably just disembodied names to most people. Here you'll get to meet them for the first time as flesh-and-bone men and women with heartbreaks and adventures and triumphs and tests. 

Really, if you're an adventurous reader with an interest in history, try The Queen's Handmaid. 

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy!

Tracy L. HigleyFrom her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates.

Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. She then spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry. Over 10,000 people have attended drama productions she has written.

A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Turning.

Photo of The Turning

We love Davis Bunn's books at my house. Whether it's his Marc Royce series (Dad's favorite) or his Acts of Faith series with Janette Oke (which introduced him to us) or his movie-based novel Unlimited (which we all enjoyed) we get to explore a new world and get caught up in the story. 

I was excited to get The Turning into my hands. 
Now, depending on what you're looking for, this may instantly be your favorite story of the year, or you may have to work at understanding this book. 
I fell into the latter category. It took about 134 pages before the story started shaping up for me, so don't worry if you don't "get it" right away.

This is the story of five individuals, each with a Turning that they must take. God speaks to each of them, whispering the encouragement they need to make those hard choices and move in a good direction. There seems to be no similarity between these men and women. There is a daughter who clashes constantly with her traditional Chinese ultra-conservative Tea Party parents; a man who wants to help his nephew begin 'life after prison' and doesn't know how; a woman who's been estranged from her baby-sister-all-grown-up for several years.... just for starters. 

We watch as these people come together, without any planning on their own part, and begin to be knit into the fabric of each other's lives. 
They need all the community they are building: They're about to enter a battle. 

The battle is against a man, who wants to make something unforgettable of himself. He's been considered Nothing all his life, now he wants to be Something. He wants to be a trendsetter, not a trend follower. His trend? It must be something that will take over the minds of millions. 
It must appeal to the inner emptiness of life in a broken world, the lovelessness of life in a cruel world, and the darkness of life where the Light is constantly assaulted. And it must exploit all those feelings. 

That's a powerful set-up, isn't it? 

From there, we begin to ask questions, because this is a book that gets mental juices flowing, and conversations going.
For example, it really made me consider whether the uptick in Dystopian publication really does stem from a hopelessness in the youth.
I didn't originally think so. After all, when I read the Hunger Games, I wasn't convinced the world was destined to be dark and grow darker. 
I thought that dystopians showed that humans can be depraved and have a huge capacity for violence, and also a great loyalty and longing for Goodness.
I figured that a thoughtful dystopian reminds us that evil like slavery and the Holocaust occurred in history, that the same evil lurking in human hearts could bring terrible destruction about again, so we needed to seek God and never forget that we too can lose our way.
The Turning did make me wonder if too much dark/paranormal/dystopian books and movies and video games are being circulated, In which case we certainly need the message: Hope Is Not Dead. 

I think that the story about Hope Not Being Dead would have been equally as powerful if we had simply followed the five through their daily lives, showing reunion, restoration, and reconciliation between people and God. 

Thank you for my review copy! 

An internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than seven million books in sixteen languages, Davis is equal parts writer, scholar, teacher, and sportsman.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Fight. A story of boxing, and so much more.

I know almost zilch about boxing, and yet this book has haunted me since I finished it. 
Please don't let a similar lack of knowledge stop you from picking up this book. 
The Fight is about far more than boxing. 

It's about the brevity of life.
It's about how one person is dying while another one is healing. 
It's about second chances and taking chances.
It's about breakthroughs and breakdowns. 
It's about God and despair and the maddening/wonderful ways that He ambushes us in the middle of it all. 

When Sam shows up at Ilford Boxing Club, he's already broken several noses, blackened many eyes, and busted someone's rib.
That's just what's on record. And he's only fifteen. 
He's drawn to fights like a moth to fire. Sam needs to inflict the pain that's inside him on an outside opponent. Boxing seems to offer that. 

That means that Sam needs Jerry to train him. And Jerry needs Sam to be a champion. 
Jerry Ambrose is a good man. A fine man. 
But there's a darkness that hasn't been resolved yet, and if it isn't dealt with, then he's going to pull Sam down with him.

At the end of the day, what are you really fighting for? 

If you've ever felt the least bit like Sam or Jerry, like you need to fight something to feel alive, or like you failed and maybe God really hasn't changed you after all, you need to read this story. 
If you've ever loved a brother or a best friend, you need to read this story. 
By the end, you'll be so glad that you met Geoff and Earl and Sam and Mario and Jerry and Robbie and Gloria and Janet. 
I am. 

Luke Wordley has given us a solid, spiritually attune story here, for men and also for ladies. We need more authentic novels like it.

Thank you Tyndale for my review copy.

 Luke Wordley is 37 years old and lives with his family in the South of England. A passionate Christian, he has spent most of his career involved in charity work and International Development. ‘The Fight’ is Luke’s first novel.