Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Book Review: The Oaks Remain by Julia J Gibbs

About the Book: 
In a world divided by blood and race, Veralee Harper comes of age under the guardian oaks of her family’s isolated plantation in southern Alabama. Red Oaks stands frozen in time, a haven for Simulacrum people for generations, against the chaotic world of the Friguscor. Life quickly unravels when her own split second decision breaks the Simulacrum law she is bound to keep. The blood moons have begun, the watchers have returned and war with the cold-hearts, the Friguscor seems inevitable. As she struggles to reconcile deep love for her family and loyalty to her people with the reality she is coming to know and the love she finds for a mysterious man, she realizes she is marked by more than the tseeyen on her arm. Many have a plan for Veralee Harper, but only she can decide which way it will end.

My Thoughts: Books that fall under the fantasy category, even if only just barely, do not generally interest me.  This book, however, thoroughly captivated me.

The author writes with such stunning detail that you can picture yourself within the pages.  At times her writing style can only be described as beautifully poetic, far different than the "dumbed down" style we're used to hearing spoken in our modern society, yet it does not seem out of place.

You can read this book somewhat superficially if you are so inclined, but any sort of in-depth reading at all will have you pondering all sorts of questions.  What is my purpose? Who am I? How do my life choices affect the lives of those around me?  Is the law to be followed blindly or interpreted through circumstance? Should there ever be exceptions to the law? Do our motives matter?  Do the ends justify the means?

People are separated into two different races - Simulacrum and Friguscor.  The differences between the two are internal at the core, yet manifest outwardly as well.  The blood of the Simulacrum protects them, causing them to age slowly and heal quickly.  The cold hearted Friguscor begin dying and decaying immediately after birth.  Though they live and work side by side, the Simulacrum try to limit their contact with the Friguscor for safety reasons.  The Friguscor can sense the sweet smell of the Simulacrum, and once they've gained a taste of their blood, they have an insatiable hunger for more and are capable of inflicting monstrous atrocities in order to obtain it.  Veralee begins to question the long-standing rules and traditions of the Simulacrum and questions whether it is possible for the Friguscor to be saved.  And if it's possible, is it worth the risk?  

The book clearly wrestles with themes contained in the Bible - the differences between Jews and Gentiles of the OT; the Jews' struggle to decide who Jesus was; the tendency of many to blindly cling to law over grace; the offering of a perfect life in order to take the punishment of the guilty; the power of the blood of Jesus; and the reality of eternity. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait for Book 2 in this series!

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.   Thanks Julia! 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Celebrate the Whit Award with Adventures in Odyssey


Most people can think of one or two figures whose love and life example had a great impact on the formation of their spiritual foundation. It might be a coach, a Sunday school teacher or a parent or grandparent. Whatever the role, it’s hard to put a value on the investment these people make on a daily basis. In an effort to bring honor to these countless, quiet heroes, Adventures in Odyssey announces the John Avery Whitaker Award. Named after Odyssey’s resident leader and the namesake of Odyssey’s most famous attraction, Whit’s End, the award will be bestowed annually on one deserving mentor.

Like the Adventures in Odyssey character John Avery Whitaker, or “Whit” as he’s known by fans of the show, the person should be someone who is passionate about innovatively teaching children the truths expressed in the Bible. Those who create Adventures in Odyssey know that while Whit might be a fictitious character, there are thousands of real people just like him. “Our hope is that by bringing those people into the light, others will be inspired to follow their example,” says Dave Arnold, the executive producer of Adventures in Odyssey. “If we can spur mature believers in Christ to mentor and influence a generation being barraged with messages of compromise, we can turn the tide and encourage revival in our youth.”

Nominations are being accepted now through October 31 for the “Whits” out there in the world. Beginning on November 1, one nominee will be selected daily and awarded with a prize package including Adventures in Odyssey's latest album, Taking the Plunge, and a DVD of the movie Beyond the Mask. One grand prize winner will be chosen and announced on November 20. This worthy recipient will receive more than $500 worth of Focus on the Family resources, including an Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) membership. The OAC offers 24/7, on-the-go access to more than 800 episodes of Adventures in Odyssey, as well as a new, members-only episode every month. It is a safe, fun environment where the whole family can explore, create and imagine, all while learning biblical truth.
Nominations can be submitted via this form, or the information can be emailed to (See the Official Rules for all the details.)
To learn more about the John Avery Whitaker Award, visit Discover the Odyssey Adventure Club at or on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

15-FOTF-0297-482513_PM_AIO_Whitaker_Award_Web_Ads_Disk_525 x 300

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Book Review: Counting on a Cowboy by Debra Clopton

About the book:
After losing everything she held dear, Abby never wants to love again. But a certain cowboy may just spur her to wonder if love might be worth the risk.

Running from a past that haunts her, Abby Knightly is drawn to the cozy town of Wishing Springs, Texas. Maybe this small town could offer hope and healing and a future for Abby . . . if she's brave enough to reach out and take it by the reins.

Bo Monahan isn't interested in the new romantic destination his little town has become---or the women who might be looking at him like he's their next Mr. Right. Between taking care of his Pops and his growing stirrup business, he isn't looking for serious romantic commitments. But when the infant son he never knew about shows up at his doorstep, his world is turned upside down.

This confirmed bachelor might not think he needs a wife, but he sure needs help. Even Abby can see that, and despite her best efforts to keep her distance, she can't help but be drawn to this new father-son duo. As Abby throws herself into helping Bo navigate fatherhood, hope sparks between them, revealing that maybe, just maybe, they can navigate their dark pasts and emerge together into a future as bright as the Texas sun itself.

Purchase a copy:

My Thoughts:  After reading, reviewing, and loving Book 1 of this series I was really looking forward to reading this one.  I wouldn't say I was disappointed in the book, but I did like the first book better than the second.

That being said, Clopton knows how to make a town and it's people come to life.  My favourite characters are probably Pops and Pebble, but the author does a great job of getting you to be invested in all of them.

I was, however, disappointed in how some of the topics were handled, particularly since this is a Christian novel.  I thought the themes of sin and forgiveness could've been fleshed out a lot more and that it was missing some solid doctrine.  When topics like that are brought up but then not dealt with from a Christian standpoint, it makes you wonder what the point is.

That said, it was a quick and easy read, and I'm hoping for more from Book 3.

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

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Book Review: Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

About the Book: Faced with an uncertain future, sometimes all you have left is the courage to dream.

Brianna and Colleen O'Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he's put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry---as long as her father's choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men
quickly complicate everyone's plans.

As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O'Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father's machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

Purchase a copy:

My Thoughts:  I loved the cover of this book, but I was a bit disappointed in the content.

There were things I loved about the book and things I didn't.  I loved the setting and how it was portrayed, but wish the storyline revolved more around the horse farm and the family possibly losing it, instead of just the romance.  The romance between Gilbert and Brianna never really seems natural, and I enjoyed watching the relationship between Rylan and Colleen develop more than Gil & Bree.

I don't believe every Christian fiction novel needs to contain the salvation message, but when it does come up it needs to be accurate, and this one wasn't.  It does talk about turning to God, but doesn't mention Jesus or His sacrifice for our sins, but rather talks about confessing to a priest.  Confession is good for the soul, but absolution can only come through Christ, not a priest.

I also didn't like the focus on following your heart vs your duty.  As the Bible says, the heart is deceitful, and we are much better off following Scripture than following our feelings.

Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I did, but it fell a little short.

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

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.

Get Access to Every ‘Adventures in Odyssey’ Episode Ever!

It's August, which means it's nearly time for your kids to pack up their pencils, zip up their backpacks, and hop on the school bus. Aside from prepping them for their new teachers, new classes, or maybe even a new school, it's important to prep their faith. Sign your whole family up for Adventures in Odyssey's Odyssey Adventure Club for a special price of $9.99US/month. The club is an essential tool to teach your children to share their faith at school, to be bold, and to grow in their relationship with God.


Join during the month of August for $9.99/month, and you'll receive these benefits for being a member:

  • Unlimited streaming of Adventures in Odyssey library (800 episodes) retail value over $1,500 USD

  • New monthly exclusive episodes

  • Monthly Web Quests

  • Monthly Clubhouse magazine subscription (U.S. Residents Only)

  • Daily devotions based on Adventures in Odyssey episodes

  • OAC monthly member newsletter

  • OAC exclusive video stories

  • Animated Odyssey videos, Last Chance Detectives, and more!
  • Spend the last few weeks of summer vacation with your kids listening to Adventures in Odyssey episodes and build their faith!

    Ready to join? Head over to the website and sign up today!

    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.


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