Saturday, December 10, 2016

Waiting For Wonder by Marlo Schalesky Giveaway

Waiting for Wonder Marlo Schalesky
We don't like to wait. It's the not knowing, the time between the medical scan and the phone call with the report. It is waiting for the fulfillment of what you are sure God has promised. Schalesky takes us through the life of Sarah (Sarai) and her time of waiting to help us in ours.

Here are just a few of the lessons we learn from Sarah. God has purposes in causing the wait. For example, “He is the God who uncovers the deepest places of our shame and pain and promises to bless the whole world right from those very places.” Maybe there is something in us that has to die before the promise can be fulfilled. Maybe God is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him. Perhaps our waiting is aimed at a deeper devotion to Him. Maybe God is identifying ingrained patterns of fear within us. We learn what happens when we lose faith and follow the customs of our society and our plans go awry. We learn that God desires to restore us when we are so much less than He created us to be.

I like all the lessons Schalesky helps us learn from Sarah's life. “God plans everything precisely,” she writes. We can trust that our waiting is not some punishment but is rather part of God's timing.

I am always a little cautious when an author tries to recreate a biblical story, retelling it and putting thoughts and words into the characters' minds and mouths. Schalesky does that here. I would rather an author just adhere to the biblical account we have.

This is a good book for those waiting. Schalesky gives lots of insight and encouragement from Sarah's life and her own experiences. I recommend it for those learning to trust God in the inbetween times.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Marlo Schalesky is an award winning author of ten books. A regular speaker and columnist, she has published nearly 1,000 articles in various Christian magazines. She and her husband, their six children and various animals, live in a log home in Salinas, California. You can find out more at http://www.marloschalesky.com/ or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Abingdon, 272 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Why Did I Love (Hate) That Novel? by Brandilyn Collins

As a book reviewer, there are times when I know I love a novel and other times when I know I don't like a novel. What I didn't totally understand was why.

Collins has clarified that for me. She suggests three aspects of a novel that need to be well done for us to like that novel. First, there must be an effective story structure. She suggests a strong protagonist, a formula for plot development, and how to grab the reader's attention quickly. Second, there must be strong desires (emotions), more than one, and that they can be revealed through dialogue. Third is sentence rhythm and vividness, using sentence construction to convey the pace of the plot and using effective words, making every word count.

To those I would add a fourth, proper use of words. An example comes from this very book. “You might think,” Collins writes, “if a novel uses less words, it takes less time to write.” Ouch. This should have been “fewer” words and less time. “Fewer” is used when individual items are in mind while “less” is used elsewhere. For example, fewer calories, less fat.

Reading this short work has helped me understand why I thoroughly enjoy some novels while others leave me unexcited. It has also helped me identify issues I have with a novel when I write a review.

I recommend this book to those interested in writing fiction that engages readers and to those who review fiction.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Brandilyn Collins was born in India and grew up in Kentucky. She and her husband now live in the Pacific Northwest. She has written nearly 30 novels and has won numerous awards. You can find out more at http://brandilyncollins.com/.


Challow Press, 84 pages.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck Giveaway

Enter the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post.
Avery had met Prince Colin five years ago when she was in Brighton Kingdom to attend the wedding of her sister to Nathaniel, now king. She had been excited about their budding romance until he abruptly dropped her. That was four and a half years ago and she hasn't heard from him since. Avery and her mother are going to the kingdom to enjoy the country's Christmas celebration. Will she see Colin? Will she be able to control her heart?

Colin had never stopped loving the vivacious Avery, even when his father made him break off the romance. Now he has a beautiful and wealthy woman on his arm. His father thinks she is exactly the right woman for Colin's future. Colin's world is jolted when he sees Avery in Brighton Kingdom. Will he displease his father and pursue Avery?

Hauck has given us a well developed romance in this short novel. It helps that Avery and Colin knew each other before. Through memories and dialogue, both characters are quickly developed well. I really like the fire in Avery. She's a spitfire, even willing to toss cupcakes at Prince Colin when challenged by Colin's friend. I appreciate the character development through character actions rather than long descriptive passages.

I like the setting too. We've learned a bit about Brighton Kingdom from earlier novels and this one concentrates on the Christmas celebration. I like the idea of the centuries old tradition – when the tower bell mysteriously rings on its own, it seems God will have a hand in the romance between Avery and Colin.

This is the fourth in this series but this novel reads well on its own. There is enough back story included and action taking place that it is an enjoyable novel to read during the Christmas season.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book. You can find links to other reviews and read a guest post by the author here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Rachel Hauck is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning author. She is a graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism. She worked in the corporate software world before beginning to write full time in 2004. She is a mentor and therapist at My Book Therapy and a conference speaker. She and her husband live in central Florida.

Zondervan, 240 pages. You can purchase a copy here.




I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Phoenix Giveaway

Of Stillness and Storm Michele Phoenix
Phoenix has crafted a novel revealing the dark side of missionary work. Sometimes couples in the mission field struggle with hurts and discouragement. Often their children suffer as well.

We are taken through the romance and marriage of Sam and Lauren. Sam has dreams of doing mission work but settles for a normal life – for ten years. They have a child, Ryan. Then Sam meets a man doing mission work in Nepal. Sam is all set to go and do what he feels God has called him to. Lauren is not so excited about the move and their nine year old son not at all.

Phoenix relates the family's experience in Nepal with flash backs as to how they got there. Sam is totally committed to his work and is gone into the hills weeks at a time. Lauren is teaching so they can have visas, but she is lonely and connects with an old male friend online. Ryan is not doing well at all as a teen in Nepal. When disaster strikes in the family, the feelings bubbling under the surface boil over.

Phoenix says in an afterward her hope is that this novel is a cautionary tale, shedding light on missionary kids who struggle. She has certainly given us a revealing picture of a struggling missionary family.

There are other thought provoking issues in this novel besides the one dealing with how parental decisions affect their children. Sam was convinced God had called him to this mission work and that everything would be fine for his family. “God wouldn't call us to something that would harm us,” he declares. Yet much harm does result. Would God call a man to a ministry that harmed his family?

I had difficulty liking any of the major characters in the novel. At times I felt that they themselves were the source of much of their problems. I did not like Sam at all. Two of my sisters were missionaries and raised their families in the Middle East. I know that the difficulties portrayed in this novel are not the experience of all missionary families. Some end up with well adjusted wonderful children.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book. You can find other reviews here.

Michele Phoenix is a consultant, writer, and speaker with a heart for missionary kids. She taught at Black Forest Academy (Germany) for twenty years before launching her own advocacy adventure under Global Outreach Missions. You can find out more at www.michelephoenix.com.

Thomas Nelson, 336 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cat in the Flock Book Blast

Synopsis:

A sexy murder-mystery with a spiritual edge.
For most people, dreams are a way to escape reality. But for Cat McCormick, they're a way to get closer to the truth. Cat can 'slip' into other people's dreams.
After graduating college with a degree in criminal justice but little in the way of real-life experience, Cat moves from the Midwest to Seattle to apprentice with her Granny Grace, who shares the ability. Granny uses dreamslipping as a private investigator, and Cat plans to follow in her footsteps.
But forced to take work as a security guard, Cat discovers a mother and daughter on the run. Following the clues, she goes undercover in a Midwestern megachurch, where she finds redemption and goodwill amidst repression, hypocrisy, and murder.

Praise:

"A fascinating tale of mystery, romance, and what one woman's dreams are made of. Brunette will keep you awake far into the night.” -- Mary Daheim, bestselling author of the Bed-and-Breakfast and Emma Lord/Alpine mysteries
"Already hooked, this reader intends further sojourns in Cat's dreamslipping world. Highly recommended." -- Frances Carden, Readers Lane
"Gripping, sexy and profound, CAT IN THE FLOCK is an excellent first novel. Lisa Brunette is an author to enjoy now and watch for the future.” -- Jon Talton, author of the David Mapstone Mysteries, the Cincinnati Casebooks and the thriller Deadline Man
"A little Sue Grafton and a dose of Janet Evanovich… is just the right recipe for a promising new series.” -- Rev. Eric O'del
"The launch of an intriguing female detective series... A mystery with an unusual twist and quirky settings; an enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre." -- Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Sky Harbor Press
Publication Date: December 27th 2014
Number of Pages: 197
ISBN: 0986237701 (ISBN13: 9780986237706)
Series: Dreamslippers #1

Don't Miss Your Chance to Purchase Cat in the Flock at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, & Add it To Your List on Goodreads!

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Sherrie marched into her daughter’s bedroom and dragged a child-sized roller bag suitcase out of the closet. The girl stood in the middle of the room, still in her pajamas. Milk from breakfast had dried around the edges of her lips.
“Ruthie,” the mother said. “I need you to get dressed. We’re going to take a…trip.” Sherrie tried to make her voice sound cheery, but the desperation she felt came through in her tone.
“What’s wrong, Mommy?”
Sherrie set the suitcase on the bed. The bubble- gum pink had once seemed innocent but now looked fleshy and indecent. She glanced at the clock over the bed. He’d been golfing for a good fifteen minutes by now, long enough for her to make sure he didn’t come back for a favorite club or the right gloves. She wanted to be on that morning flight by the time he got home and discovered them gone.
She flung open the chest of drawers and grabbed all of the girl’s socks and underwear, a pair of corduroy pants, black cotton tights, a sweater the color of a Midwestern sky. Nothing pink. Only warm things. Seattle in her memory was cold and wet. It was a grey city; grey clouds over grey buildings. Even the water was grey.
One doll would fit. Made of cloth, it could be folded in on itself and slid down the backside of the suitcase.
“Can I bring the ballerina skirt?”
Any other day, she would have corrected her daughter, who needed to learn the precise names of things. Tutu. There it was in the closet, hanging because it took up too much room in the drawer. She yanked it free, sending the hanger to the floor. Ordinarily, she would pick that up; her house was so clean it hurt her eyes with its spareness—as if theirs were a showroom house, not lived in. She left the hanger there, aware of the thrill this fraction of disobedience gave her. She shoved everything into the little pink case, but with the fluffy tulle taking up so much space, the zipper would not close. The choice was clear. The doll would be a comfort to Ruthie in Seattle, but the tutu would not.
“We’ll come back for this later,” she said, tossing the tutu onto the bed. The zipper closed, the sound of it satisfying.
“No, Mommy!” Ruthie stomped her foot. “I want it now!”
“Then you’re going to have to wear it. Now get dressed while I pack my clothes.” But she felt a pang of guilt for her reprimanding tone, and for having to leave the tutu. Bending down, she used her thumb to wipe some of the milk crust from her daughter’s face. “I’ll let you wear anything you want on this trip, okay, sweetheart? And clean your face with the cloth in the bathroom, like Mommy showed you.”
The girl nodded, as if sensing this was not the time for a tantrum.
Sherrie’s own packing, she did with even less consideration. Under things, shirts. A fleece hoodie. Warm socks. She remembered she needed layers in Seattle. Sometimes it could seem warm even though it rained and the sun had not come out for weeks. Her keepsakes in their tiny, locked chest would not fit. They were the only things she had to remind herself of her life before this, but she would have to leave them behind.
Sherrie kept watch on the clock and glanced out the window twice to make sure his car wasn’t out front even though she knew he wouldn’t be home for another hour. The sun had risen blood-red over the cornfields in the distance, lighting them as if on fire. She’d miss that. And she thought of thunderstorms, which seemed never to occur in Seattle. She’d miss those, too.
Ruthie appeared in the doorway. Her face was clean, but none of her clothes matched. She was wearing pink high-tops that seemed wrong for the city they were going to, the situation, and everything else, but she had apparently decided not to wear the tutu.
“Time to leave.” She took the girl’s hand, promising to herself she’d never let go.

Author Bio:

Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called "military brat," she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother's books by Daphne DuMaurier and Taylor Caldwell.
A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.
Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.
With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…

Lisa publishes a bimonthly newsletter. Sign up and receive a free book!

You can also visit Lisa on her Website, on Twitter, & at Facebook.

Visit these other Sites for More in this December 6 2016 Book Blast:


Plus Join Us In March 2017:

We'll be touring Cat in the Flock by Lisa Brunette with great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and MORE GIVEAWAYS!

Enter For Your Chance to WIN!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Lisa Brunette. There will be 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Cat in the Flock by Lisa Brunette. The giveaway begins on December 5th and runs through December 13th, 2016.
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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

  Note: I have not read this book. This is a publicity post only, not an endorsement nor recommendation of this book.


Monday, December 5, 2016

When There Is No Miracle by Robert L. Wise

Wise tackles hard questions. If God loves me and He is all powerful, then why am I suffering? Shouldn't Christians be exempt from tragedy? Why didn't God heal me?

He helps readers understand what a miracle is as well as why we question God's character when we don't get the miracle for which we prayed. Wise then shows how God has purposes in mind when disasters and tragedies happen.

While God doesn't send tragedy, He still allows it; then the heavenly Father takes and reshapes everything that happens to us.” (47) And, “When there is no miracle, we need not doubt His intentions and power; we can trust God to achieve His purposes in a more conventional manner.” (47)

Other purposes include discovering our inadequacy and catching sight of God's sufficiency (58), we cannot live independently because we need God, God is working to bring order out of chaos, God uses struggles to transform us, and a few more.

Wise's style is very conversational. This is not a scholarly work nor an exposition of Scripture. Wise tells lots of stories from his own life, his family, and people he has known. There are many more stories than there are references to Scripture.

As is often the case when trying to explain tragedies, Wise defends God's sovereignty yet claims that God is not responsible for disasters and tragedies. He writes, “I find it contradicts Scripture to blame tragedy on God.” (92) Yet he provides no Scripture to support his statement. He makes no attempt to address Old Testament disasters God caused in judgment, the flood being a good example. Nor does he address Scriptures like Amos 3:6 (“When a disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” NIV) and Isaiah 45:7b (“I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” NIV).

Unfortunately, Wise does not defend nor prove many of his statements using Scripture. There is some good material in the book, such as identifying the purposes of God in tragedy and suffering. However, one familiar with Scripture will find much in this book lacking a good solid biblical basis. This is a reprint and expanded version of the book that was originally printed in 1978.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Robert L. Wise is an archbishop in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches and director of the office of ecumenical relations. He is the author of 34 books, some under the pseudonyms Spencer E. Moses and Ed Moses.


Kregel, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

Martin has given us an engaging novel about music, how some are gifted and how that gift is to be used.

He has woven the meaning of music into a plot involving the story of Cooper. He has the gift. Son of a tent preacher, he left when he was eighteen to make his name in Nashville. He experiences disappointments yet perseveres. He meets Daley, a young woman who can sing Cooper's songs like an angel. But a tragedy causes Cooper's days in Nashville to be over and his budding romance with Daley to be smashed.

This novel has a great message of redemption. Has Cooper been gone to far and to long to return? What about his gift? Has he used it wrong? Will he ever use it again?

Music lovers will enjoy the detail about music in this novel. We find out why people have a gift to write songs and play and sing them. We see why some feel it is their calling to place songs within others so they can sing them. We are told each of us has a song that only we can sing.

One aspect of this novel is sort of in the magical realism style, perhaps I should call it spiritual realism. We see a heavenly being portrayed, perhaps Jesus. I always find it a little dangerous when an author portrays a person of the Godhead. There were a couple of conversations with Him (Jesus?) that had me shaking my head.

I also felt the ending of the novel was just a little too easy, too much of a rescue out of the blue, so to speak.

That being said, the novel contains a great spiritual lesson. There is no place too far gone that God's love cannot reach us. No matter where we have been or what we have done, we can always come home. There is a very good gospel message in this novel, especially in the Afterward by the author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Charles Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels. He and his wife live in Jacksonville, Florida. You can find out more at http://charlesmartinbooks.com/

Thomas Nelson, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

To Joey With Love DVD available December 20

Watching this movie was an emotional experience. I laughed and I cried. This story has a profound impact.

Joey and Rory Feek were a popular country music duo and peaking in fame when they decided to take a year off at the beginning of 2014. They knew they might lose their music career but were looking for something more important. Joey was pregnant so they went back to their farm an hour south of Nashville, simplifying their life. Rory felt that this was going to be a notable year so he began filming their experiences.

The story he documents is one of trial and faith. Joey opted for natural birth but then there were complications. Then came the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. A short time later Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer. In the midst of the current story Rory took us back to how they met, their marriage and their music career.

The impact of this film is great. It was a sobering experience to watch Joey as she persevered in the face of such adversity. That I was watching filmed events in their life rather than reading a book made the story that much more intense. I loved their music forming the movie's soundtrack. Joey singing hymns was especially moving.

I highly recommend this movie. Those who appreciate Kara Tippets' story will appreciate this one too. Be sure to have your tissues ready.

You can find additional information about the movie at http://tojoeywithlove.com. You can watch the movie trailer here.

Rory has been writing a blog for some time and you can follow it at http://thislifeilive.com.

The DVD will be available on December 20. You can find links to order the movie here.

I was given the opportunity to experience a complimentary advance screening of this movie through Icon Media. My comments are an independent and honest review.