Monday, May 18, 2015

CFBA Presents: The Art of Losing Yourself

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Art of Losing Yourself
WaterBrook Press (April 21, 2015)
by
Katie Ganshert


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Art of Losing Yourself, go HERE.

Friday, May 08, 2015

MORE by Tammie Head

"Messy. We're all feeling it." Thus opens Tammie Head's debut book More: From Messes to Miracles.



"I wish my story were prettier."

Don't we all.

Tammie's story is certainly messy, with plenty of situations one doesn't often find in a Christian book.

"God, You know stories like mine aren't so acceptable in church."

Praise God that He provided Tammie the opportunity to tell her messy beautiful story. Because it is messy. And it is so, so beautiful.

Tammie Head's story is a remarkable one, mostly because of her willingness to share it. It's real and not pretty and if I'm honest, sometimes difficult for this mom of two teenage girls to read.

But there is hope found within this book's pages. Tammie advocates a real faith that begins in the pages of the Bible and meets people where they are: in the back room of a strip club; in a sandwich shop; in the backyard chain-smoking cigarettes; even in the pews of church.

I recommend this book for women who think their story is too messy for church people. Too messy for good Christians. Too messy for God. Because the fact is, God is still in the miracle business, and nothing is impossible with Him. No life is too messy for Jesus to work with.

This book would be good for a book club or for friends to read together. I wouldn't say it's a Bible study, per se, although Scripture permeates each page and most of the chapters conclude with good questions to discuss. But for a group looking to discuss the messy that leads to the miracle, this book would be wonderful for you.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Book Review: Heart Sisters

My copy of the book with Hiland Mountain in the background. #Alaska

I am on the launch team for Heart Sisters: Be the Friend You Want to Have by Natalie Snapp.

I will preface this review by saying that I haven't finished the book, even though I fully intended to finish it before today (graduation, moving prep, working, and other things notwithstanding). It's just not a book one can rush. This book is so rich. Rich in wisdom, rich in Biblical examples, rich in so many good, good things.

The title alone, when I first heard about the book from my longtime friend Teri Lynne (you can read what she thinks of both the book and 19-year-old me here), was enough to capture my heart. You see, I haven't always had good experiences with friends--but every time I went through those tough times, I had other friends who came along beside me to help me heal and grow stronger, to speak truth to me and let me know I was not alone.

I have many acquaintances, but a much smaller group of heart friends. I believe in seasons of friendship, and I know that right now I am truly blessed with many women close by with whom I can share my heart. I know that as I prepare yet again to move to a new location and make new friends, that this book will go with me and help me as I forge new bonds of friendship, and as I continue to nurture my current friendships from a distance.

Chapter topics include our relationship with God, forgiveness, dealing with friendship conflicts, daughters, digital friendship etiquette, and setting boundaries. There are study questions after each chapter, making this the ideal summer or fall Bible study - leaders take note! (Especially PWOC groups--this book is great! I think so far it has offered me much to consider in our mobile subculture.)

Highly, highly recommend. And yes, I will finish this book. :)

Note: Contest Details:

One lucky winner will receive a "Girl's Night Out" - includes a $100 Visa card, mani/pedi kit, fun summer polish, a clutch handbag and a camera. You can enter by going to my Facebook Author Page (www.facebook.com/AuthorNatalieSnapp) and clicking the "Girl's Night Out Giveaway" tab. Follow the directions and voila! You're entered.
The mobile friendly link is: http://prmo.me/5cM4qm

___
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Natalie and her publisher, Abingdon Press, for the paperback copy (and the NetGalley copy too!) of the book.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

CFBA presents: Mist of Midnight

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Mist of Midnight
Howard Books (March 10, 2015)
by
Sandra Byrd


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. The Tudor series’ end cap, Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

A life-long lover of Victorian Gothic romances, Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire, weaves elements of that mystical, traditional genre with inspirational and literary threads. Mist of Midnight, the series’ first book, debuts in March, 2015.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens, and is passionate about helping new authors develop their talent and their work toward traditional or independent publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her...and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca's name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father's investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Mist of Midnight, go HERE.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

CFBA presents: The Spy of Richmond

{Note: I haven't received my copy of the book, so no review yet.}
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Spy of Richmond
River North (March 1, 2015)
by
Jocelyn Green


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jocelyn Green is a child of God, wife and mom living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She is also an award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger. Though she has written nonfiction on a variety of topics, her name is most widely recognized for her ministry to military wives: Faith Deployed. Her passion for the military family was fueled by her own experience as a military wife, and by the dozens of interviews she has conducted with members of the military for her articles and books, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and its sequel, Faith Deployed...Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. She is also co-author of both Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front (forthcoming, May 2012). Her Faith Deployed Web site and Facebook page continue to provide ongoing support, encouragement and resources for military wives worldwide.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Trust none. Risk all. Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can't do it alone. Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie's home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city's fortifications.

As Sophie's spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father's position as newspaper editor and a suitor's position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.

Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Spy of Richmond, go HERE.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life

What an amazing novel by one of my favorite writers, Susan Meissner.

From the back cover:

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

In her signature style, Susan Meissner has crafted an unforgettable story set in both modern day and the Second World War. She seamlessly shifts between both worlds, telling the stories of Kendra, Isabel, Emmy, and Julia with tenderness, sympathy, and yes, intrigue.

I devoured this book. It was hard not to rush through, because I wanted to savor the language. The intriguing plot, however, drew me in and pushed me forward to finish the book inside just a couple of days. It is also the kind of book I know I will revisit.

Susan is a woman of great faith, and indeed she has until recently written for the Christian fiction market. In spite of changing publishers, however, faith still plays a strong role in the story. It’s more like a strong undercurrent than a melody, but it’s unmistakably present.

I highly recommend this novel. In fact, I think it would be a great choice for any book club, because it is a multi-faceted story dealing with love, the most universal of all human experience. Love between men and women, mothers and daughters, and sisters.

Similar authors on the market with this type of story would be Sarah Jio (except for her most recent novel, which I will also be reviewing soon), and Kate Morton, both of whom meld the past and the present in their stories.

The cover blurb by Sarah Jio is absolutely the truth: Susan’s writing is “Beautifully crafted and captivating.” Her books are always good. I can hardly wait for her next novel, which will be set in the golden age of Hollywood.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the author to write this review.

To read my review of A Fall of Marigolds, click here.

Let God Talk to You

Becky Tirabassi is probably best known for her prayer journaling method that helped revolutionize women’s prayer lives in her book Let Prayer Change Your Life.

In this book from Bethany House, Let God Talk to You, Tirabassi talks more about how God speaks to us:

  • through His Word
  • through thoughts
  • through silence,
  • and always requiring of us a listening heart.


She intersperses Biblical truths with her own story as well as stories of other Christians. Then she gives the reader tools and suggestions of practical ways to actively listen for God’s voice and then record those prayers and responses and Bible verses for remembrance.

This book will be helpful to Christians seeking to learn fresh ways to listen to God.

Acknowledgement of compensation disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for posting a review, which I am sad to say is long overdue. 



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge: 52 Books in 52 Weeks

I posted this link on Facebook at the end of December, and wow, the response I got! I started a Facebook group and it grew and grew as people added their friends. 

You can print the PDF of the list (the link is in the article here) and start checking them off.

Since I read around 100 books per year (and with a huge long road trip this summer I should have no problem finishing some of them), I am confident I'll finish the list.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Word 2015: WRITE

I haven't been doing what the mug says, have I? Evidence below, as my last post was almost two months ago.

In fact, I hit a wall with my 2014 One Word, which was Creative.

I read books about creativity and art, which side of the brain does what, and many other things. But when it actually came to creating, well, that was where I stuck with the familiar: painting pottery like this mug, or two sketches all year in my journal, or even knitting the same kind of scarf (two strands of Lion Brand Hometown yarn, size 50 needles, 6 stitches across in garter).

Not much adventure there. I allowed the word to dictate how I had to be, so I learned avoidance.

Enter the end of 2014, and the expectation of 2015 just around the corner. All I saw in my mind and on my desk was this mug: Write.

I have not used my gift well.

I teach writing, I can write, and I edit others' writing. But I get all wrapped up in my head and just don't write anymore.

So with the one word staring me in the face (literally in my line of vision right now on the windowsill above my desk where I sit typing this blog post), I must do what I must do.

Write.

Proverbs 3:3 says, Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.

Lord, let me be faithful to the gift You have given me.




This post is linked at Bonnie Gray's site here: http://bit.ly/belovedbrews

Past themes:
Brave (2009)
Focus (2010)
Grace (2011)
Listen (2012)
Dream (2013)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

CFBA Book Review: Swept Away

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Swept Away
Abingdon Press (November 18, 2014)
by
Laura V. Hilton
and
Cindy Loven


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award winning author Laura V. Hilton has penned many novels, including the Amish of Seymour series, the Amish of Webster County series, and the forthcoming Amish of Jamesport series. A member of ACFW, Laura is also a professional book reviewer for the Christian market, with over a thousand book reviews published at various online review sites. A pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom, and home school teacher, Laura and her family make their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.

A lifelong reader, Cindy Loven is an active church wife of a minister and mother to one son who is a home school graduate. Cindy and her family reside in Conway, Arkansas.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don’t always go as planned. Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past—and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but also as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane’s grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between him and his new employer’s granddaughter. Still, it doesn’t take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn’t what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts online researching him. What she discovers could change her life—and her heart—forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Swept Away, go HERE.

Pattie's Review: I know of Laura Hilton because we've both been reviewing Christian fiction books for a very long time. Cindy Loven is new to me as an author.

The strength of this novel is in the handling of the situation with Grandma Sari. It's not easy to deal with an aging parent or grandparent, and Sara Jane's situation with her grandmother is portrayed with realism and grace.

I also liked the links within the story of historical significance, as well as the link to the Appalachian Trail experience.

The romance seems a bit forced to me in several places. Sara and Drew don't seem to mesh well at all, yet before we know it they're "feeding the crush" they have on each other. I think that could have been handled a bit better. I do like that Sara gets over her first impression by reading Drew's online blog from his hike. That was really neat, and it is culturally relevant with Cheryl Strayed's Wild coming out in theaters soon.

If you're looking for a sweet, clean, Christian romance, this is a good book for you. Probably the entire series, actually, since Abingdon Press is a well-known Christian fiction/romance publisher with quite a few good series in their catalog.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What didn't make the list: #31Days of Books



I'm sure you're wondering what didn't make the list of 31 books. There are so many great books that I have read and loved, and even if I wrote for 365 days for years on end, I'd still never run out of books. My annual reading goal for the past ten years has been to read 100 books per year. Most years I exceed that goal.

My criteria for choosing the books for October was narrowing down the list to the books that have had the most influence on me personally, and that hold special meaning for me in some way. This included many books I read in my teens and twenties.

October 31st: Hamlet



"Brevity is the soul of wit."
Shown: My antique volume of The Complete Works of Shakespeare,
with a cartoon I found in college that was used as a bookmark.
"Hey, Hamlet, who were these?" showing a smiley face and Killroy.

Renowned Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom, in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, notes, "After Jesus, Hamlet is the most cited figure in Western consciousness" (xix). We are aware of Hamlet, even in the 21st century, as we are aware of Jesus--specifically His words in the King James Bible. All that said, we know Hamlet. It has become ingrained in our Western culture and thought. To read it is to think about humanity, revenge, parent-child relationships, love, romance, insanity, and friendship.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 30th: Joy for Beginners

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

I enjoy Erica Bauermeister's work. She does a wonderful job in her novels of switching points of view.

From my new smartphone Kindle app.
I'm still trying to learn this
new technology!
Summary on Goodreads: At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them. To celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, all of them will also do something they always swore they'd never do-and Kate is going to choose their adventures.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29th: The Contemplative Mom


Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood. It's possible.

The idea of having a consistent quiet time when my children were tiny and I was working full-time was completely overwhelming to me. This often-undone task made me feel as if I was a failure as a Christian and as a mother, when I could barely find time to read a verse or two some days, or pray while I was driving to work.

Enter Ann Kroeker and her wonderful book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28th: A Wrinkle in Time


Gosh, I loved 5th grade.

I had the best teacher, Ms. S., for the second half of fifth grade (we moved from Iowa to St. Louis in January, so I don't remember my Iowa 5th grade teacher. I'm sure she was a good teacher, though.) Ms. S. was not only my first teacher who went by "Ms." but also she had a great habit: she read aloud to our class every day the last twenty minutes.

Of course, moving is always awkward and adjusting is not easy, so when we finally got into school, it was midway through the month and midway through the readaloud book, which was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was fascinated, but lost, so Ms. S. suggested I check the book out at the school library. It was checked out. Then the bookmobile, that magical library-in-a-truck, arrived, and I was able to get it there.

To say I devoured the book is probably an understatement.