Book Reviews, Fiction

The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy & Erin Woodsmall | Book Review

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them.
Promises shattered.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire. 



Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.



Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

This is for my readers who love a Christmas romance! Releasing her first non-Amish novel, Cindy Woodsmall teams up with her daughter-in-law, Erin Woodsmall, bringing readers a love story spanning over a decade.

There’s romance, faith and Christmas – a great mix for my contemporary romance fans. With a Hallmark movie feel and topics that go beyond a love story, I know fans of Woodsmall will enjoy this southern fiction read.

But more than the sweet romance, this story also deals with important issues, such as foster care and children who go through speech therapy, inviting readers to look into lives that may not be their own or in their circles. I really enjoyed that piece of the story and love when authors are willing to go deeper.

What’s one of your favorite Christmas novels?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano | Book Review

When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

What a debut! It’s been awhile since I’ve been incredibly impressed with a debut! Mystery, intrigue, more mystery, romance and a totally captivating story.

This was one of those reads I had to finish in one sitting. It was haunting, unique and not all characters turned out as you thought. There were a couple pieces I wanted to know more about at the end, but even with that, I so enjoyed this journey.

I also loved that many characters were not exactly as they first appeared. With each new layer peeled back, Politano revealed deeper levels and deeper reasons for a character’s behavior. Misunderstandings, revelations, and faith all make up this entertaining and fantastic debut!

Have you had the chance to read this debut?

(Thank you to Revell for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Inklings

In Celebration of His Birthday: 11 Favorite Quotes of C.S. Lewis

In celebration of Jack’s (aka C.S. Lewis) birthday, I thought I’d share 11 of my favorite quotes of Lewis.

1. “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

2. “It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.” The Horse and His Boy

3. “If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground for religion: it must have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.” The Problem of Pain

4. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The Problem of Pain

5. “When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two other friends, both Christians (these queer people seemed now to pop up on every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over the last stile. They were H. V. V. Dyson (then of Reading) and J. R. R. Tolkien. Friendship with the latter marked the breakdown of two old prejudices. At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a Papist, and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.” Surprised By Joy

6. “Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” Mere Christianity

7. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Mere Christianity

8. “Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Weight of Glory

9. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” The Four Loves

10. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” The Great Divorce

11. “Dear Wormwood,
Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage which the religion becomes merely a part of the “cause”…Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won you man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours – and more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here,
Your Affectionate Uncle,
Screwtape”
The Screwtape Letters

There are so many others (I made myself stop adding quotes from Narnia), you really can’t go wrong with words from Jack. What are some of your favorite books and/or quotes of Lewis?

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Book Review

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

I’ve been a fan of Reay’s novels since her debut! I always look forward to what’s coming next and this did not disappoint.

Like Austen’s heroines, Reay takes Mary and Isabel on their own journeys of self discovery. Full of mistakes, misunderstandings, romance and touching moments that remind you it’s never too late to find yourself.

As a fan of Austen’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed all the references and characters brought up throughout the novel. Reay did an excellent job of paying homage to Austen’s stories, characters and Austen’s incredible talent, but also made the story her own (sidenote: I loved that Mary was an engineer and how that played into the novel). It’s a story that grabs you, charms you and makes for an excellent read.

And of course I loved the all the references of Austin. How could I not?

If you enjoy contemporary women’s fiction, add this one to your list!

Have you read Katherine Reay’s novels? If so, which one is your favorite?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Love and Faith, Nonfiction

She Reads Truth Bible

The She Reads Truth Bible aims to live at the intersection of beauty, goodness, and Truth. Featuring devotionals by the She Reads Truth team, and Scripture reading plans that include supplemental passages for deeper understanding, this Bible invites every woman to count themselves among the She Reads Truth community of “Women in the Word of God every day.” The She Reads Truth Bible also features 66 key verses, artfully lettered to aid in Scripture memorization.

Features include: almost 200 devotionals, 66 artist-designed key verses, 35 full-color timelines, 20 full-color maps, 11 full-color charts, reading plans for every book of the Bible, one-year Bible reading plan, detailed book introductions, key verse list, carefully curated topical index, smyth-sewn binding, two colored ribbon markers, and wide margins for journaling and note-taking.

The She Reads Truth Bible features the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) text. Translated by more than 100 scholars from 17 denominations, the Christian Standard Bible features an optimal blend of accuracy and readability that’s faithful for serious study, and written with heart-stirring clarity that inspires readers to live and share it.

Well, simply put, this is a beautiful Bible! I’m such a visual person, so beautiful maps, script, quotes, images, they will inspire me every time. This will make a beautiful gift for any woman who loves God’s Word. Outside of the actual scripture, there’s plenty of inspiration throughout AND lots of space for journaling and note taking. I love that there’s a one year reading plan included as well.

I also love the devotionals sprinkled throughout. There’s an incredible variety, voices and topics. I truly believe they’ll encourage you wherever you’re at. This is a beautiful bible and would make a very special gift!

What kind of Bible owner are you? Keep one until it falls apart? Try new versions? Have multiple ones?

You can find out more about the details of the bible at shereadstruthbible.com.

(Thank you to B&H for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown | Book Review

“God’s story is about grace, adventure, peace, risk, courage, and trust, and that story is the best page-turner of them all.”

Your soul holds a massive record collection: melodies, rhythms, and bass lines. Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key. Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard.

Spoken word poet Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. How to Fix a Broken Record chronicles her journey of healing as she’s allowed the music of God’s love to replace the scratchy taunts of her past. From bad dates to marriage lessons at Waffle House, from learning to love her hair to learning to love an unexpected season of life, from discovering the power of saying no and the freedom to say yes, Amena offers keep-it-real stories your soul can relate to.

The hurtful words of others and the failures of your past often determine what record you play the most in your mind. Those painful repetitions can become loud at the most inopportune time, keeping you from speaking up, pursuing your dreams, and growing closer to God.
Recognize the negative messages that play on repeat every day in your mind. Learn how to replace them with the truth that you are a beloved child of God. And discover how to laugh along the way as you find new joy in the beautiful music of your life.

If my memory is correct (which you never know these days), I first heard Amena Brown speak a few years back at IF:Gathering in Austin. Among many things, she’s a spoken word artist and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from her at the conference.

Fast forward a few years and I’m so excited that she’s released another book and, that I get to share it with y’all! Sharing bits of her life, Brown reminds readers of important truths we can hold on to as believers. She’s honest, vulnerable and reading it felt like we were having coffee (tea for me) and chatting about all the things. There were several quotes that grabbed me on a variety of topics, but I’ll share this one.

“God understands the power of no. He is not a constant Yes God. Sometimes when God says no, it will hurt. It will sting. I will beg God to explain. Sometimes He never gives an explanation. In other moments, time will be the greatest explainer of all. Sometimes we ask God for things and He says no because He knows we can’t handle what we’re asking for. Because He knows what we’re asking for isn’t His best for us. Because it isn’t time. Because it isn’t good. Because God always knows better than we do.”

Truth! If you enjoy non fiction, make sure you add this to your pile!

What’s a recent memoir you really enjoyed?

(Thank you to Zondervan for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional by Sandra Byrd | Book Review

Why is it pretty much November? It was about 37 seconds ago that we were ringing in 2017. I need to know scientifically how this year went by so fast :). Outside of my time rushing woes, this time of year, I like to start thinking about reading plans and devos for 2018. If y’all are like me and thinking for yourself or Christmas gifts, I definitely recommend this latest devo from Sandra Byrd!

When was the last time you took a break to experience God’s love? To experience something is to live it, to encounter it, to understand it, to explore with our hearts, minds, and souls as well as with the five physical senses and our God-given spiritual ones. Every action we do with and for God, every good day and bad day, we walk hand-in-hand with God, experiencing Him.

Experiencing God’s love takes time. Love unfurls its blossoms in our lives when we concentrate all of our senses on the small gifts we pass by every day. Time slows, and we finally get to hear God’s beautiful background hum to our lives.

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional helps you intentionally carve out those moments in your day to savor God and His love for you.

After going through several of the devotionals, I decided to start using it now, instead of waiting until Jan 1. Byrd’s devotional style and stories are relatable and her writing style engaging. Not only that, but I was truly encouraged by the truths she shared and the verses highlighted stuck with me throughout the day. Definitely what my hope is with any devotional!

If you’re looking for something daily to draw you closer to Jesus, I highly recommend this one!

(Thank you to Tyndale for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden | Book Review

Another book by Elizabeth Camden means another excellent read! What makes her such a strong writer, is her ability to remain fitting and true to the time period she chooses, but also makes the plot intriguing and gives you a heroine you can root for.

Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.

I enjoyed the relationship between Colin and Lucy. There were some frustrations (which again, were very fitting for the time period), but I thought Camden did an excellent job with that part of the story.

I really liked Lucy (and Colin too!). But Lucy, there was a realness to her that’s sometimes missing in heroines. She was hardworking, committed, loyal, and brave. I thought her development was honest and encouraging. Plus her relationship with her brother? Loved it!

And the story had me intrigued the whole time – I was curious with each new piece revealed and enjoyed the satisfying ending. Once again, the unique piece of history Camden focused on was fascinating and I love learning new bits of history, especially with my background of journalism.

What characteristics make you like a heroine?

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Fiction

Featuring: Undercut by Heather Day Gilbert

I’m slowly but surely getting back to consistency with this blogging thing ;). YAY! Today I’m featuring Heather Day Gilbert’s latest release, her second novella in Hemlock Creek Suspense series, Undercut.

Marine sniper Isaiah (“Zane”) Boone is home from Afghanistan with more than a few ghosts. Try as he might to settle back into civilian life in small-town West Virginia, he can’t escape the conviction he’s being followed. Both Zane’s ex-wife and his psychologist claim he’s paranoid, and he can’t prove he’s not. Hoping to outrun his misery, he sets his romantic sights on the irresistible Molly McClure.

A successful wedding coordinator at the illustrious Greenbrier Resort, Molly has had plenty of wealthy men willing to open their wallets and hearts for her. But when Zane strides into the upscale Greenbrier lobby with his lumberjack boots and his troubled eyes, the attraction she’s felt since high school reawakens—and she’s willing to go way out of her comfort zone to pursue it.

When Molly becomes an innocent target, Zane realizes too late that his malevolent stalkers are very real. As a net of vengeance tightens around them, Zane gears up for a fight to the death…and Molly has just one chance to prove she can be far more than a pretty face.

Where to Buy: Goodreads | Author Website

About the Author

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.”

Where to Follow: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Reviews

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen | Book Review

(ICYMI: I switched blogs! I combined my blogs for this new writing and blogging chapter. You can find out all the details here).

Where my small town fiction readers at? If that’s you, I think you should keep reading!

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

I’ll start by saying this: this is a page turner. You want to find out what’s next, you want to know what’s going to happen. It kept me reading and if I remember correctly, I finished it in one setting.

It’s very much a small town novel. While there were a couple things I guessed were going to happen (but not in a way that ruined the reading experience), there were a few surprising bits that got my attention (if you’ve read it, message me. There’s one key thing I really REALLY want to discuss!)

It’s a page turner for sure and there were times when I wanted to sit characters down and tell them to make better choices, but isn’t that what good novels often do? I also like that it was an honest look at parent’s grief (not matter what you are grieving for). I liked that it showed how people do change and people can work at something they once thought lost.

Have you read any of Whalen’s novels?

(This was a Fall pick for SheReads.org. Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads