Thursday, 13 August 2015

Book Review: Among the Fair Magnolias

About the book:
In the most turbulent decade of our nation's history, four Southern women---destinies forged by birth, hearts steeled by war---face near impossible choices on their journeys in life . . . and in love.

To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander
Savannah Darby would do almost anything to revisit her family home. So when new owner, Aidan Bedford, a Boston attorney and former Union soldier, seeks to redecorate the house for his fiancée, Savannah jumps at the opportunity. But the clock is ticking. Can she find the box her father supposedly hid there during the war before her assignment is completed? And before she sees yet another battle lost on the home front. This time, one of the heart.

An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray
When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he's determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother's homestead, he discovers she's very ill, and the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.

A Heart So True by Dorothy Love
Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society. But her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.

Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser
Emily has a secret: She's in love with one of the freedmen on her family's plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe.

My Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed all 4 novellas in this collection, but my favourite one was probably To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander.

My favourite quote from the book occurs when Savannah asks Aidan why he considers the cottage on the property a haven and he says that it is "a haven from everything in the world that is not this". And Savannah replies "But if everything in the world were such as this, where would the longing for heaven be?"

I found this book in particular to be filled with nuggets of wisdom and humility, without being pretentious or fake.

I enjoy works of historical fiction and these 4 novellas did not disappoint!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

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    Tuesday, 4 August 2015

    Book Review: A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears

    About the Book:  Abandoned by his mail-order bride, Silas Jonesey has fought an uphill battle to recover from a pattern of poor choices. Now his prayers for reconciliation have finally come true and his estranged wife has contacted him with her whereabouts.

    Kate Dawson was supposed to be a mail-order bride, but upon realizing she'd been deceived about her intended groom, she's now settled into life as a schoolteacher. When the mother of a student passes away, Kate assumes she'll take on care of nine-year-old Anthony-until two men suddenly show up in town, claiming to be the boy's father.

    Silas can see Anthony loves Kate, so he enlists her help in reaching out to the boy and attempting to prove his paternity to the court. When a common interest in Anthony leads to an interest in each other and Silas and Kate begin to think they can overcome their rocky start, neither is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light. Can Silas, Kate, and Anthony's wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever?

    My Thoughts:  I've always enjoyed reading books about the pioneer days and the times of the mail order bride.

    Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I did feel like it dragged on a little long and that a slightly more condensed version of the story would have been more effective.  The book dealt well with a few heavy issues such as addictions, lack of trust, fear of abandonment, and running from your problems.  One thing I really appreciated was how the author draws you into the lives of the characters and makes you invested in each one of them.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

    Monday, 20 July 2015

    Book Review: Letters from my Father's Murderer by Laurie A Coombs

    About the book:  When her father was murdered, Laurie Coombs sought justice and found it.

    His murderer now serves two life sentences with no possibility of parole. Yet, despite the swift punishment of the killer, Laurie found herself increasingly full of pain, bitterness, and anger she couldn't control. After coming to faith, she realized she was being called to seek something infinitely more difficult than justice: forgiveness.

    This is an extraordinary true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God to change lives. The reader is swept along with Laurie as she undergoes the life-changing transformation of becoming a Christian. As she studies Scripture, seeing God redeeming losses and healing deep wounds time and time again, she starts to understand that her own healing would require her to love her enemy in a real, practical way.

    Using her incredible correspondence with the man who killed her father, Laurie reveals a compelling journey of transformation, not only in her life, but in the lives of those whom many would call irredeemable.

    Letters from My Father's Murderer is for any audience Christian or secular who

    -Craves freedom from the inability to forgive those who've caused them harm 
    -Wants to hear testimony of God's power in our obedience 
    -Has experienced pain through other's sin against them 
    -Needs to know healing is always possible
    The real story here is not primarily about murder and its fallout, but rather about redemption and how far it can reach.

    Purchase a copy:

    My Thoughts:  The title of this book alone intrigued me, and I was looking forward to reading and reviewing Letters from my Father's Murderer.  Even with high expectations, this book surpassed them all by far.

    Many books that are somewhat autobiographical in nature are not necessarily well written - the story is interesting, but the writing can often be abysmal.  Not so with this book.  The writing is incredibly well done and you are swept, not only into the story, but into Laurie's heart and mind as she deals with the ramifications of her father's murder.

    I was also not anticipating a book of theology, and though clearly it is not, as such, it contains a great deal of theology - sound theology.  Though some people tend to make light of the import of sound theology in books that are non-theological in nature, it is actually incredibly important.  We learn through stories - as evidenced in the parables used in Jesus' teaching.  And when stories - whether fiction or non-fiction - are told from a poor theological perspective, the result can be quite damaging.  However, when those stories are told from a strong theological perspective, the result is simply amazing.  The depth of insight Laurie provides on the subjects of forgiveness, reconciliation, and our walk with God is incredible.

    Here are some quotes that moved me.....
    It turns out life's purposes really isn't such a riddle, after all. It's much simpler than most people think, but it takes spiritual eyes to discern. The purpose of life is God. To know and be known by the One and Only. The One who loves immeasurably more than we imagine. The One who gave everything to reconcile us to Himself that we might have a relationship with Him. It's profound yet simple - beautiful. It is God who gives purpose. And it is God who is our purpose. Life is about loving God and loving others - magnifying Him so that the whole world may see and know that He is who He says He is. That He may take His rightful place in our lives, bringing joy to both God and the world. This is shalom, everything as it ought to be. He is the peace we so desperately seek.

    They say time heals all wounds, but that's simply not true. Time only dulls the pain. God heals the wounds.

    Healing begins the moment we allow Jesus complete access to the darkness contained within our souls. Darkness flees in the presence of light, but light cannot go where it's not permitted. Doors must be opened for light's rays to touch our darkest dark. And I was flinging doors open left and right, begging, Come, Lord Jesus, come.

    ...apart from God's grace, we are all capable of doing the unthinkable.

    I cannot recommend this book more highly - if you read it, you will be better for having read it.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

    Thursday, 16 July 2015

    Book Review: Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

    About the book: When image becomes everything, it's up to love to refocus the heart.

    Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to look picture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren't always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God's plan and His perfect timing.

    Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture of put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton's heart still hasn't recovered.

    It was me. His younger sister's three words turn Ashton's world upside down. He must ask Jenna's forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

    Purchase a copy:

    My Thoughts: I enjoyed this novella, but felt that the limitations of length made this a mismatch when it came to subject matter.  Forgiveness and trust are pretty big issues, particularly when it comes to marriage, and I didn't feel like it was realistic, possible, or wise for the relationship between Jenna and Ashton to progress the way it did.  It's hard to say too much without spoilers, but suffice it to say that forgiveness does not equal trust, and if this story took place in real life to me (or my children!) there would have been some major red flags that would've need to be addressed over a much longer time period in order to have a firm foundation on which to build a marriage.

    That being said, I loved the author's writing style, and her ability to draw you in to the characters, even the ones you don't want to like.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary e-book review copy.

    Monday, 13 July 2015

    Book Review: Summer's List by Anita Higman

    About the book: A dying wish alters the course of a young woman's life.

    Life hadn't been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness---caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother's bookstore---she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only tries she had at love . . . didn't turn out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something---or someone.

    Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer's past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

    My Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed the last book I read/reviewed by Anita Higman, and if anything, I enjoyed this one even more.

    All the main characters are endearing, the storyline is compelling, the topics are serious and treated with the utmost care (adultery, divorce, adoption, death, betrayal, and lies, as well as forgiveness, redemption, hope, and promise), and the author manages to cover all of that without it feeling heavy or preachy, but rather real and refreshing.

    I loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

    Tuesday, 30 June 2015

    Book Review: A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak

    About the book: What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?

    Believers and atheists alike typically carry and finally reject the toxic images of God in their own hearts and minds. Even the Christian gospel has repeatedly lapsed into a vision of God where the wrathful King must be appeased by his victim Son. How do such good cop/bad cop distortions of the divine arise and come to dominate churches and cultures?

    Whether our notions of 'god' are personal projections or inherited traditions, author and theologian Brad Jersak proposes a radical reassessment, arguing for A More Christlike God: a More Beautiful Gospel. If Christ is "the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God's glory and exact representation of God's likeness," what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike---the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? What if God has always been and forever will be cruciform (cross-shaped) in his character and actions?

    A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed---a God who Jesus "unwrathed" from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.
    Purchase a copy:

    My Thoughts:  It took me awhile to get through this book, and I'm still pondering parts of it.  I appreciated a lot of Jersak's thoughts, but many of his points left me unsettled, uneasy, and frankly, unconvinced.

    Jersak's assertion that we can know everything there is to know about God from the life of Jesus is, in itself, suspect.  Yes, Jesus is the perfect representation of God, but not everything He said or did is recorded in the gospels.  If that was all we needed to know, why do have the epistles, or the entire OT for that matter?  God has revealed himself in the entire Bible, not just select books.

    In order to dewrath God, Jersak does two things.  First he interprets wrath to be passive - the natural consequences of our sin is it's own punishment.  To a certain extent, this is very true, but leaves many questions unanswered.  Second, he interprets all mention of God's active wrath as either misunderstood, figurative, or ironic.  He does not give satisfactory explanations to the portions of scripture he tries to tackle, and seems to simply take a scissor to other passages from both the OT and the NT, including even the words and actions of Jesus.  (Jesus clearing out the temple strikes me as wrathful, for example).  At time he implies that the writers of the OT were misinterpreting things or confused - which is impossible, since all scripture is God-breathed.  And, at times, seems to take a snide tone when he talks about anyone disagreeing with his obvious conclusions.

    I agree that no matter what we do God is always turned toward us, continuing to offer us grace.  I disagree with him though, that the offer never ends.  He doesn't outrightly say it, but it is implied that he believes eventually everyone is saved and no one is in hell.

    I agree that who God actually is, is independant of who we think He is.

    Yet, at the same time, I think he has tried to put God in a box, and He doesn't quite fit.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

    Friday, 26 June 2015

    Book Review: Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

    About the book:  Can she forgive the hurting man who costs her the role she loves?

    After her father's death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren't supposed to have such roles, so it's only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper---even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

    Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He's secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation---the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope...and possibly love?

    Purchase a copy:

    My Thoughts: I loved this book!

    Believable characters, likeable but not perfect; action; romance; suspense; and intriguing storyline; while delving into topics such as addiction, independence vs dependence on God, forgiveness, war, injury, death, loss, and more - this book had a lot going for it.  Combined with Hedlund's excellent writing ability and style, as well as her ability to weave in spiritual themes without sounding preachy, this made for a great read.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

    Friday, 19 June 2015

    Book Review: Fatal Trauma by Richard L Mabry

    About the book:
    Fatal Trauma (Abingdon Press, May 2015)

    A gunman who has nothing to lose faces a doctor who could lose it all to prove his innocence.

    When Dr. Mark Baker and Nurse Kelly Atkinson are held at the mercy of a dangerous gunman, the lives of every emergency room patient are at stake. At the end of the evening three men are dead. One of them is a police officer who couldn't be saved despite Mark's best efforts. The other two are members of the feared Zeta drug cartel.

    Though the standoff is over, the killing is not, because when the drug cartel loses its members, revenge is not far behind. Facing an adversary whose desires are dark and efforts are ruthless, Mark finds himself under suspicion as a killer, yet still a potential victim. When he turns to his high school sweetheart, attorney Gwen Woodruff, for help, Kelly helplessly looks on, as she hides her own feelings for the good doctor.

    At the height of the conflict, three questions remain: Who is the shooter? Who will the next victim be? And can Mark prove his innocence before the gun turns on him?

    Purchase a copy:

    My Thoughts:  After reading and reviewing a previous book by Mabry, I was excited to read his latest medical suspense novel.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure if my expectations were too high, based on how much I loved his previous work, but this one didn't quite measure up in the same way.

    The storyline started off with a bang and I was hooked at the beginning, but it didn't seem to resonate with me in quite the same way.  I'm not sure exactly what it was - the characters didn't quite have the same depth or maybe I felt them a bit harder to relate with.   It was still a great read, and I would still recommend it - I think my expectations were just too high.  I will still not hesitate to read his next book!

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

    Tuesday, 9 June 2015

    Book Review: Who's the New Kid? by Heidi Bond

    About the book:
    Who's the New Kid? shows readers how Heidi helped her daughter lose weight without the aid of fad diets, medication, or surgery and how other parents can do the same with their kids.

    At nine years old, Breanna Bond weighed a whopping 186 pounds. Just walking up the stairs to her room was a challenge. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with taunts of "Hey, Fatty!" Breanna's mom, Heidi, was devastated and wondered, How can I get my daughter healthy again?

    In just over a year, Heidi's plan worked! Breanna dropped 40 percent of her body weight and was transformed from a morbidly obese child who spent her days in front of the TV eating chips and chocolate to a vibrant, healthy, energetic little girl.

    Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who's the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally but also introduce them to simple, yet effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

    Purchase a copy:

    My Thoughts:  I found the first part of the book to be slow going.  It seemed to cover the same ground over and over, and while I understand that it helped to get across their continual frustration and lack of progress, it dragged a bit too much.  I did, however, appreciate Heidi's honesty about her own responsibility in her daughter's weight gain, and that her own selfishness played a huge part in delaying the weight loss process.

    I enjoyed the book a lot more once they started focusing on what finally began to work. I commend Heidi for fully committing to this weight loss journey with her daughter and walking (literally!) through it with her every step of the way.  I think this book would be a huge encouragement to anyone dealing with childhood obesity.

    Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.


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