Friday, February 28, 2014

Dating, Dining and Desperation by Melody Carlson - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dating, Dining, and Desperation
B&H Books (March 1, 2014)
Melody Carlson


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


Daphne Ballinger has learned to accept her deceased, eccentric aunt’s strange request that she marry in order to inherit her estate, along with taking over her aunt’s hometown paper’s advice column. But knowing and accepting that God’s will be done becomes harder when a new neighbor, a divorced socialite, learns of Daphne’s predicament and takes on the task of finding her the perfect man, even if it includes speed dating. When God does open Daphne’s heart, it is instead to take in a young girl left parentless and in the care of her dying grandmother. It may be a temporary arrangement until the girl’s uncle returns from the Marines, but God uses Daphne to speak His heavenly love and protection into the life of the child -- whom Daphne soon discovers has a very handsome and single uncle.

My Thoughts:
“’Focus on each step of the journey and eventually you’ll reach you final destination.’”  (p. 192)

I don’t normally quote someone who is quoting another quote, but Sabrina said a mouthful when she shared this thought with Daphne!  Melody Carlson’s writing has always been full of surprises, and Dating, Dining, and Desperation is packed full of them!  What I perceived to be a light read (well, Daphne’s circumstances are quite unusual) contains some depth that caught me off guard.  Then I remember who the author is, and I realize I should have expected this.  I love Melody’s books!

Daphne and Sabrina have to be two of the most original characters I’ve encountered lately!  A more unlikely friendship you will never find!  Yet the complement each other splendidly – especially considering that Daphne need to find a husband ASAP!  In a very unintentional way, these two friends provide help and healing for each other throughout the book.  Daphne would probably still be holed up in her room writing advice columns without Sabrina!  And Sabrina would be hold up with Tootsie – driving her neighbors up the wall with the dog’s insistent barking!

Instead, both Daphne and Sabrina get to know the residents of their small town and make many positive life-changes for everyone around them.  I love it when that happens! Everyone from Mick, to Jake and Harrison, to Vera, Mable and Daniel, both Daphne and Sabrina make a positive difference! And Daphne is a good sport about meeting so many men is such quick succession!  Her answers were – well – right in front of her all of the time.  A common problem when we focus in the wrong direction.

I told you, this book contains a lot – a lot of fun, a lot of friendship, a lot of depth.  All of this combines to make Dating, Dining, and Desperation a fantastic read!  Thanks Melody!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dating, Dining, and Desperation, go HERE.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Truth by Gary Chapman - REVIEWED

About the Album:
After a ten year absence, award-winning singer-songwriter and radio and television personality Gary Chapman made a triumphant return to music in November with the release of his latest album, The TruthThe long-anticipated studio album features 16 tracks and guest appearances byAlison Krauss, John Rich, Tanya Tucker and Rebecca Lynn Howardalong with Chapman’s wife, Cassie, and his daughter, Sarah.

2014 also finds Chapman returning to television and radio. Alongside his wife Cassie, Chapman is a cast member of TNT’s new reality series, Private Lives of Nashville Wives. The show premiered on February 24th and airs on Monday nights at 10/9c. In recent months, Chapman hass also becoming a regular guest co-host on SIRIUS XM’s Blue Collar Radio, the official radio home of the Blue Collar Comedy brand (available nationwide on SIRIUS and XM at channel 97). 

For well over three decades, Chapman has seamlessly blurred the lines of contemporary Christian pop, country and southern gospel, racking up an impressive list of Dove Awards, GRAMMY nominations and writing credits for legendary artists such as Kenny Rogers, Alabama and Wynonna. Chapman is also widely remembered as the host of TNN’s popular Prime Time Country television series and the Sam’s Place concert series and radio program.

For more information, visit the official website HERE

My Thoughts:
When you know where you’re going, you’re always headed home.”  (Where You’re Going – chorus)

Gary Chapman’s latest project, The Truth, is a brutally honest, poignant and realistic picture of a lot of Christians’ every day struggles and relationship with Christ. This is a 16-song album packed with everything from toe-tapping songs to gentle, lyrical worship hymns.  There is something for everyone on this album, and I think believers of every age will find thought-provoking truth in every song!  This is a RICH album!

How Great A God is my favorite song, and I am blessed every single time I listen and worship to its message!  This song is a beautiful anthem of grace! The Rough Crowd contains a reminder that believers need hear – that God redeems and transforms lives in unmistakable, undeniable ways!  Safe from the Wind is another favorite – a lilting reminder that we have a refuge in Christ no matter what changes blow through our lives.  When I Say is another very honest look into the daily walk of a Christian – a bold statement that without God we can do nothing – a humble statement of faith by someone who knows what it feels like to be broken.

Gary Chapman has walked a broken road at times in his life, but I think The Truth is an honest representation of the anchor that has enabled him to weather the storms of life and still know the love of Christ.  I think many lives will be encouraged and strengthened by the message found in the words of this project.  I am happy to recommend this to everyone!

About the Artist:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Thief by Stephanie Landsem - REVIEWED

About the Book:
A Roman centurion longing for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a deadly secret witness a miracle that transforms their lives and leads them to the foot of the cross.
Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, he'll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.
Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.
When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.
Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and 
Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?
The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love.

Purchase your copy HERE.

My Thoughts:
The last thing I need is to get involved with these crazy people.” (p. 81)

Longinus is a Roman Centurion who has grown very disillusioned with his life and his duty to Rome.  The last thing he ever expected was to  encounter a young Jewish woman with a discontentment stronger than his own.  He never expected that she held the answers to the questions he sought – the solution to a wager he never intended to make.

Nissa’s life as a young Jewish woman is tragic to say the least.  As you get to know her heart and you witness her choices – or rather the lack of choice she faces day after day – you begin to understand and feel the hopelessness that surrounds her.  A miraculous event changes her circumstances in profound ways, but not enough to bring the faith that so many others have placed in the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth.  Many say he will bring revolution to the Jewish people, many call him blasphemer.  Nissa only knows that she has been placed in a desperate situation, and each day brings even greater desperation.

Then life begins to take unexpected twists and turns, Jesus comes to Jerusalem and is betrayed, and Nissa and Longinus – a most unlikely pair  - find their lives inextricably intertwined.

This is a phenomenal story that takes you into the heart of the Jewish culture just before Passover – and the crucifixion. Your heart will be transformed along with the characters in the story – and you will find yourself at the foot of the cross with Longinus and Nissa.  WHAT AN INCREDIBLE STORY!!  This is a must read for everyone!

About the Author:
Stephanie Landsem loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she's explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she's not writing, she's feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure---whether it be in person or on the page.

Learn more about Stephanie at:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Amish Boyfriend by Melody Carlson - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Shannon's summer just got a whole lot more . . . Amish?
Shannon McNamara has exciting plans for the summer--getting her driver's license, a job, and more--and she can't wait to dive in. But her ill mother has plans of her own: to relocate them both to the heart of Amish country in Ohio where she has relatives who can help her. 

Turns out a "simple" life is actually a lot of hard work. But when a hot young Amish guy named Ezra enters the picture, Shannon's ready to get an Amish makeover and even consider making it a permanent change. Will these plans come crashing down around her too? Or can she really make the jump into a whole new way of life?

Teen favorite Melody Carlson brings fans another surprising story of worlds--and families--colliding.

My Thoughts:
Amish are taught to trust God for everything.  The good and the bad.  And when you are trusting God, you do not need to talk about it so much.” (p. 237)

Melody Carlson has set an Englisher amongst the Amish in a way that is unique and impactful.  The main character is a teen girl who find herself almost orphaned far earlier than she dreams possible.  Her mom’s declining health places her unexpectedly in the Amish community.  From the moment she discovers she has family members in the Amish community, Shannon is set upon  a path of discovery that causes her to examine a variety of relationship from a very different perspective.  Most importantly, she is made to examine her own relationship with God in a very personal way.

Shannon’s faith journey gives her Amish relatives pause to consider their own faith and the decisions that they have made regarding their own kin.  This examination proves to be foundational in setting faith in a concrete way into the lives of each character.  The results are realistic and profound.

I think I enjoyed this so much because Melody is so adept at causing readers to look at things closely – even when it uncomfortable and sometimes difficult.  She shows the importance of a personal relationship with God through Christ regardless of lifestyle choices of worship.  The Englisher and the Amish have opportunity to be very real and open with their opinions and grow from their interaction in unexpected ways. 

This is, no surprise to me, another stellar young adult novel from Melody Carlson, and I am happy to recommend it to readers of all ages!  The truth that is revealed makes this an exceptional novel!

About the Author:
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than two hundred books, including the Life at Kingston High series, the Dating Games series, Double Take, and A Simple Song. She has received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon. Find out more at

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Sinners Garden by William Sirls - REVIEWED

About the Book:
In the small Lake Erie township of Benning, someone is at work cultivating a supernatural garden . . .

Andy Kemp's young life has been as ravaged as his scarred face. Disfigured by an abusive father, the teenager hides behind his books and an impenetrable wall of cynicism and anger.

As Andy's mother struggles to reconnect with him, his Uncle Rip returns transformed from a stint in prison and wants to be a mentor to the reclusive boy, doing everything he can to help end Andy's pain. When Andy begins hearing strange music through his iPod and making near-prophetic announcements, Rip is convinced that what Andy is hearing is the voice of God.

Elsewhere, police officer Heather Gerisch responds to a late-night breaking and entering in one of the poorest homes in town. She soon realizes that the masked prowler has left thousands of dollars in gift cards from a local grocery store.
As the bizarre break-ins continue and Heather pursues the elusive "Summer Santa," Andy and Rip discover an enormous and well-kept garden of wildflowers that seems to have grown overnight at an abandoned steel mill.

Soon, they realize who the gardener is, and a spree of miracles transfigures this small town from a place of hopelessness into a place of healing and beauty.

Purchase your copy HERE.

My Thoughts:
Sometimes we rush to judge others, or tell them how to lead their lives, because they sin differently than we do.”  (p. 78)

Mercy. Grace. The Sinners’ Garden is one of the most vivid depictions of grace I have read in quite some time.  The characters are flawed, they struggle against judgment from others…judgment that has affected their lives in profound ways. Yet they too pass judgment of their own….withholding relationship, making excuses, doing works to make up for their sin…so many, familiar, ways we as Christians behave every single day.  The ONLY thing we have to grasp is the grace shed for us through the blood of Jesus is grace that would have been shed for us had we been the only one in need of a Savior. 

That is really the bottom line in this story – unmerited grace.  Mercy so deep and tender we are unable to grasp its depth.  Rip, Heather, Andy, Judi, Kevin….these are the people whose lives are intertwined with a lifetime of choices that make each of them feel a desperate need to be redeemed.  They each go about this in familiar, and not-so-comfortable ways. 

This is a story of redemption – a story of resolution – a story that will make you laugh and weep.  There are supernatural elements that are believable in the realm of possibility.  God always speaks in a way we will understand.  A personal, real way that will transform our lives.

I HIGHLY recommend The Sinners’ Garden!

About the Author:

Over the course of his life, William Sirls has experienced both great highs and tremendous lows---some born of chance, some born of choice. Life lessons involving faith, grace, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. The Sinners' Garden is his second novel. His first novel, The Reason, was published in 2012. William makes his home in southern Michigan.

Learn more about William at:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Prime of Life by P.D. Bekendam

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

P.D. Bekendam

and the book:

Prime of Life

***Special thanks to Leeanna Case of Worthy Publishin for sending me a review copy.***

Author and practicing eye surgeon, Dr. Bekendam is happily married and the proud father of two boys. Proceeds from his writing go to help fund his activities in developing countries as he works to bring cataract surgery to the needlessly blind. Prime of Life is his debut novel.

Visit the author's website.


Operation First Novel 2013 contest winner, Prime of Life was released in Kindle edition only and has garnered in excess of 200 positive reviews with over 6,000 paid downloads.

Ben used to be a cardiothoracic surgeon before he suddenly abandoned his career and became a janitor at a retirement facility. Now, other than dealing with minor problems such as an unhealthy obsession with prime numbers, an inept boss, and a feud between two cantankerous retirees, he lives a relatively stress-free life. There is even hope for romance when an attractive podiatrist shows an interest in him. But it is not long before his past catches up with him and his carefully protected world begins to unravel. Filled with humor and quirky characters, Prime of Life delivers a satisfying and entertaining read.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-161795-227-2


Iclean rooms in a retirement home. Four years of college, four of medical school, four more in residency, and another four training in cardiothoracic surgery, and now I spend
my days scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. My shift starts at eight, when the residents are supposed to be at breakfast.
“Ben,” Frank hollers as I push my cleaning cart down the long hallway of the skilled nursing facility. “Start in my room today.”
Frank is a cantankerous octogenarian. I have yet to discover his pleasant side.
“Sure, Frank.” I wheel my cart into his dingy room. The blinds are drawn. A crumpled potato chip bag lies open on the floor. I step over a few greasy remnants that are ground into the carpet as I make my way between the bed and the television stand, taking care not to bump the rickety plastic contraption supporting the heavy 1970s-era TV.
“Just the bathroom,” Frank says as he shuffles toward his chair. He takes an unexpected detour toward his rolltop desk and rum- mages through a drawer. “I just remembered. I’m gonna need your help with a little project later on.”
This triggers a warning bell in my mind. “Not if it has anything to do with Marvin. You know my position on that.”
Frank and Marvin have been feuding for half a century. Proba- bly longer.
“Did you hear what he did to my denture cream?” Frank’s voice raises an octave and his bushy white eyebrows perform a frustrat- ed dance.
“Yeah. Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce.” I suppress a grin. “Don’t you want to hear my plan for revenge?”
“Absolutely not.” I make my way into the bathroom . . . and
shake my head in disgust. I gave it a thorough cleaning only two days ago. “Why aren’t you at breakfast?”
“Nasty scrambled eggs. Hey, I found ’em!”
Curious, I poke my head out to see Frank sitting at the foot of his bed, a pair of toenail clippers in hand. His knee pops as he la- boriously raises his foot and yanks off his sock. He reaches into his shirt pocket and produces a plastic bag full of wet soil. Using the cuticle cleaner attached to the clippers, he scoops up some mud and crams it under his large toenail.
“What are you doing?” I can’t help but ask.
“Dr. Kentucky is coming tomorrow.” He grins.
Dr. Kentucky missed her calling to become a supermodel and
instead became a podiatrist.
“You’re pathetic, Frank.”
“Can you blame me?”
I can’t. Dr. Kentucky is nothing short of intoxicating, which is
why I do my best to avoid her. If she even knows I exist I’d hate to imagine what she would make of me, a thirty-eight-year-old toi- let scrubber.
“Hey,” Frank says, “why don’t you ask her out?”
“Give it up, Frank.”
“Seriously. You’re not that ugly and you two are probably about
the same age. What’s holding you back?” “Drop it.”
“I’ll put in a good word for you.”
“Do you want to scrub your toilet yourself?”
“There’s no need to get all riled up. I’m only trying to help.” He crams more mud under his toenail. “In my lifetime I’ve dated more women than you’ve dreamed about.”
I return my attention to the bathroom and remind myself that I’m here by choice. I’ve been doing this for three years now. I make ten dollars an hour, my job is low stress, I mostly manage myself, and nobody bothers me as long as I keep things clean. There are other perks too. I have plenty of friends. Granted, they’re all forty years older than I am, but they’re wonderful people—present com- pany excluded. I’ll probably stay here until I retire. I won’t even have to move. In the meantime, I can enjoy all-you-can-eat Jell-O in the cafeteria whenever I want.
I make quick work of rectifying the disaster in Frank’s commode and then smile with satisfaction. This is what I want. A simple life. Eager to make my escape from Frank’s company, I arrange my
assorted cleaning supplies in their proper configuration on my cart: bottles organized by category and sub-organized alphabeti- cally with labels facing outward, brushes in their holsters, mop and broom securely fastened. My cart exemplifies humankind’s ability to overcome chaos and defeat the second law of thermodynamics. The universe may be a mess, but my cart is in perfect order.
As I push it out of the bathroom, one of the front wheels snags on the carpet and snaps off. My cart tilts sideways, launching a few bottles overboard.
“You should probably fix that before you spill bleach on my floor,” Frank says. “I don’t want any stains.”
“Look who’s talking. You’re getting mud all over the place.”
“Don’t worry about that. I know just the man who can clean this up.”
“Well, I’d be happy to meet him.”
“I meant you, you numskull. I’ll register a complaint if you don’t.” “I’ll tell Dr. Kentucky how the dirt got under your nails.”
“I’ll bring the vacuum by later on. I’ll even plug it in for you. But mark my words, Frank: I’m not cleaning that mess.”
“I’ll see you later.” I rescue my wayward bottles and carefully limp my damaged cart out the door.
Frank sends me a parting grunt.
My next stop is the Professor’s room. His name is Jerry, but my private nickname for him suits him better. From what I can gather, he holds three doctorates: physics, literature, and psychology. Per- haps philosophy too, but I’m not certain. Regardless, I suspect he knows everything.
I knock.
“It’s open.” His voice nearly fails to penetrate the wood. Nobody seems to be at breakfast this morning. That means Frank was right. Scrambled eggs must be on the menu. I can say with confidence that this place has the worst scrambled eggs in the entire Western Hemisphere. The Professor once described them fairly adequately when he said they taste like they were fished out of the garbage disposal right before they were slopped onto the plate.
“Good morning, Jerry.” I follow my three-wheeled cart into his room.
Despite his brilliance, the Professor demonstrates exceedingly poor choice in attire. Today he’s decked out in orange pants and a cherry-red polo shirt. I wonder where he acquired his bright yellow socks. His entire wardrobe consists of neon garments, giving him the appearance he strayed from a tropical fish tank.
“Good morning, Doc.” He pulls his reading glasses toward the tip of his nose. With grey hair in disarray and a moustache in need of trimming, he resembles the classic Einsteinian image, and what makes it most authentic is that it is completely unintentional.
I falter for an instant and hope I don’t give him the satisfaction of noticing my surprise at his pregnant greeting. I glance his way as he
lounges in his leather recliner, hardback book minus its dust jacket propped in his lap. He smiles as if he’s solved some great mystery.
“Whatcha reading?” I ignore his triumphant grin.
“It’s called The Information.” He pauses. “It’s quite fascinating— this whole subject of information. Listen to this: ‘In the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself.’ Chew on that for a while.” He stares me straight in the eye. “Say, Doc, how long have we known each other?”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Sure you do.” He pounds his chest with his fist, mimicking the rhythm of a beating heart.
A sinking feeling settles in as I realize today will mark the end of the relative peace I’ve managed to find at Heritage Gardens.
Heritage Gardens is a cookie-cutter retirement village located near Temecula off the I-15 between San Diego and Riverside. The sun shines 347 days out of the year here. I like the number 347 because the first two digits add up to the third, it is prime, and it rolls off the tongue. Other interesting but irrelevant facts about the number 347: it is the case number assigned to the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954—the case that end- ed segregation in public schools; it is the area code for most tele- phone numbers in New York City; some models of the Boeing 747 have 347 seats; and Plato died in 347 BC.
I am annoyed by the name Heritage Gardens, as I am by most clichés. Why is it that nine out of ten retirement communities must have the word Gardens or Village or Springs in the name? I suppose this is better than an honest name like Ticking Clock or Borrowed Time, but when it comes time for me to find a place to enjoy my final days, I don’t want to be patronized. I’d rather stay in a place called Heaven Can Wait a Little Longer While I Golf.
I don’t golf and I’ve abandoned my belief in heaven, but I’d still prefer that name.
There are several levels of retirement at Heritage Gardens. The first is independent living in condos and small homes. After that, the residents graduate (or get demoted, depending on your per- spective) to the nursing facility, which is where Frank and the Pro- fessor live. The last stop is the mortuary, where the residents em- bark on their ultimate retirement.
In all, there are approximately 126 residents here. Well, not ap- proximately. Exactly. I’m hoping we add one more, because that would be prime. The alternative would be that thirteen residents would have to die so that the total could be 113.
I have invested the past three years in this place, learning to love it, becoming part of it, beginning to imagine how I could become a permanent fixture here.
But now the Professor has somehow managed to slap me in the face with my past.
“Did you think I wouldn’t discover you’re a doctor, Ben?” He closes his book with finality, as if to say, Case closed. I solved the mystery. Now what’s your move?
“I’m not a doctor. I’m a janitor.”
“I’m sorry.” He doesn’t sound very sorry. “You know I can’t let this go.”
“Please let it rest, Jerry.” I turn to leave. I’ll clean his room an- other day.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Sky Without Stars by Linda S Clare - REVIEWED

This week, the
is introducing

About the Book:
Will the Lakota Star Quilt she is making help Frankie sew a new future of happiness?
Frankie Chasing Bear is caught between cultures. She wants to raise her son Harold to revere his Lakota heritage, but she also thinks he will need to learn the white man’s ways to succeed. After the untimely death of her husband, Frankie joins the U.S. Government’s Relocation Program and moves to Arizona. There she begins sewing a Lakota Star pattern quilt for Harold with tribal wisdom sung, sewn, and prayed into it.
A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars, but neither the quilt—nor her new life—comes easily to Frankie. Nick Vandergriff, for instance, is the last man Frankie wants to trust. He’s half-Lakota but Christian, and Frankie can see no good coming from that faith after her own parents were forced to convert at an Indian school. Can Nick convince Frankie that white men and Christians aren’t all bad? And will Frankie learn that love is the most important ingredient—for her son’s quilt and life itself?

My Thoughts:
And another thing about Christians – always forgiving people who didn’t deserve it.” 
  (p. 218)

Frankie Chasing Bear is grieving a great loss, starting over in a new town as a single parent to a very strong-willed son.  The year is 1951, and with no high school diploma and the Indian school that seems determined to watch you fail, Frankie and her son Harold have a very hard time making things go in a right direction.

When Federal Agent Nick Parker crosses this family’s path, it seems things might improve quite a bit.  Then suddenly accusations are thrown Harold and Frankie’s way, and it seems they have no choice but to leave behind their second chance and return the place that stripped them of everything.  There are times when life seems to be severely lacking in mercy.

Frankie has a real problem with those who practice the Christian faith.  Indian tradition is strong in her heart, and her heritage is one she is fiercely proud of – even though there are deadly weaknesses  in the midst.  Even though Nick is a Christian, he struggles with his own demons.  Both of them don’t know quite how to handle the relationship that begins to grow between them.  Theirs is not an easy road.

A Sky Without Stars is a unique and interesting read.  The combination of tradition, faith, romance and a healthy dose of prideful stubbornness creates a fascinating story.  This novel is also my introduction to Linda Clare’s writing, and I must say that her characters have a depth and realism that makes the story come alive to the reader.  I think this is another very good addition to the Quilts of Love series, and I am happy to recommend it to readers!

About the Author:
Linda S. Clare is an award-winning author and coauthor of several books and has also published many essays, stories, and poems in publications including The Christian Reader, The Denver Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Born in Arizona, Linda and her husband now make their home in Eugene, Oregon, where Linda has taught college-level creative writing classes, and writes, edits, and mentors other writers. She also is a frequent writing conference presenter, a church retreat leader, and mom to four grown children and five wayward cats.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Friend Me by John Faubion - REVIEWED

About the Book:
When a lonely wife and her frustrated husband each secretly pursue companionship online, neither dreams that a real woman is behind their virtual creations, threatening their marriage---and their lives.
Scott and Rachel's marriage is on the brink of disaster. Scott, a businessman with a high-pressure job, just wants Rachel to understand him and accept his flaws. Rachel is a lonely housewife, desperate for attention and friendship. So she decides to create a virtual friend online, unaware that Scott is doing the exact same thing. As Rachel desperately tries to re-create a friendship with a friend who has passed, Scott becomes unfaithful and is torn between the love for his wife and the perfection of his cyber-girlfriend. But neither realizes that there's a much larger problem looming . . .
Behind both of their online creations is Melissa, a woman who is brilliant---and totally insane. Masquerading as both friend and lover, Melissa programmed a search parameter into the virtual friend software to find her perfect man, but along the way she forgot to specify his marriage status. And Scott is her ideal match. Now Melissa is determined to have it all---Scott, his family, and Rachel's life.
As Melissa grows bolder and her online manipulations transition into the real world, Scott and Rachel figure out they are being played. Now it's a race against time as Scott and Rachel fight to save their marriage, and their lives, before it's too late.
In today's digital age, the Internet presents all kinds of opportunities to test our personal boundaries, and this exciting and suspenseful story raises important questions about the ethics of virtual relationships. Friend Me will open your eyes to a new---and terrifying---moral dimensions and how they play out in the real world.

Read an excerpt and buy a copy HERE!

My Thoughts
People are looking to the web for friendships, for relationships at all levels.”  (p. 3)

This statement, made by the creator of a virtual-friend cyber network really said a mouthful of truth in that one sentence!  I think that is what makes this book so extraordinarily creepy.  I use that word positively as far as it means that this story will be a little too close to home for comfort, and the thrill ride to the conclusion is superb!  So, creepy is what you want to find in a suspense novel.

However, what REALLY creeped me out was the realization of the TOTAL vulnerability that is exhibited through on-line “relationships.”  The fact that Scott knew (or thought he knew) that his “virtual friend” wasn’t real emboldened him to choose a female friend.  In no time he was in so deep it was scary!  And I did not foresee the possibility that the person behind this “network” was really behind all that she controlled.  I mean, I suspected it sort of, because the first chapter is a bit disconcerting, but I assigned the TOTALLY wrong motive to that scene, and that really came back to bite me!

So be warned.  There are LOTS of twists and turns in this novel!  If you frequent social networks, you will probably leave them alone for a while.  This is just entirely too possible.  Creepy.  And part of it is so very REAL!!  I mean internet friendships often take on a life of their own and bleed into reality in ways that are dangerous and even deadly!

And all of this in a DEBUT novel! I can’t wait to see what John Faubion comes up with next!!
About the Author:

John Faubion has spent many years in Asia as a missionary with his family. Since returning to the United States, John has worked as a senior software developer for a large appliance chain. He teaches an adult Sunday school class and enjoys writing and driving his 1949 Packard automobile. John lives near Indianapolis with his wife, Beth, and their daughter. - See more at:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Enter to Win a Kindle Fire HDX

John Faubion is celebrating his debut novel, Friend Me, with a Kindle HDX giveaway!

One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • Friend Me by John Faubion
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 22nd. Winner will be announced February 24th on John Faubion's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by John's blog on the 24th to see if you won.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bounce Back by Julie Clinton - REVIEWED

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

Julie Clinton

and the book:

Bounce Back
Worthy Publication February 14, 2014

***Special thanks to Leeanna Case of Worthy Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

Julie Clinton, M.Ad., M.B.A., president of Extraordinary Women, has spoken to hundreds of thousands of women as host of E-Women conferences all across America, and is author of Extraordinary Women: Discovering the Dream God Created for You, the devotional Living God's Dream for You10 Things You Aren't Telling Him, and A Woman's Path to Emotional Freedom. A woman of deep faith, she cares passionately about seeing women live out their dreams by finding their freedom in Christ. 

Visit the author's website.


When Your Heart is Empty and Your Dreams Are Lost

Brokenhearted, disappointed, and wanting more from life—if we are honest, most of us have endured a season or two or incredible difficulty. Julie Clinton sees and hears the needs and concerns of women all over America on a regular basis. She shows the way forward when all seems lost. In this transparent and encouraging book she walks beside her readers, revealing three steps to a more fulfilled life: breathe, believe, and bounce back. Clinton provides wisdom and encouragement to help women rediscover their joy and strength.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
ISBN- 978-161795-107-7

What you see as a tragic reduction of  your life, God sees as an opportunity to rebuild what might truly become the new and improved you.”  (p.55)

When I saw Julie Clinton’s name on the cover of this book, I knew there was healing within its pages.  I’ve attended her Extraordinary Women of Faith conferences a couple of times, and when she speaks, she speaks words of life and truth.  Bounce Back is an amazing book filled with practical steps that anyone can choose to take when they face difficult or uncertain circumstances.  Julie explains a lifelong process that allows spiritual and emotional growth opportunities.  Breathe. Believe. Bounce Back.  

She explains each part of the process in the context of Loss experienced through Death and Disease, with Failure, with Disappointment and Rejection.  Life contains all of these at some point, and at other points they all crash around you at once. It is in that moment you have the choice to Breathe – Believe – and Bounce Back.

This isn’t a magic formula.  This plan is one of hard work, small but consistent steps forward, and an absolute trust in Christ’s unfailing love for His children.  Julie gives Scriptural examples, verses to meditate on and a lot of meaty information for readers to digest and thrive on!!  When you sit down with this book, don’t forget a pen and highlighter!  There will be lots of passages you will want to revisit!

How I thank God for this book!! He knows how to get my attention!! Praising Him today for Julie Clinton’s obedience and ministry!


Face the Trouble
Behind the Smile
After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will
himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
—1 Peter 5:10 (esv)
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
—Albert Einstein
I look into the beautiful, shining faces of literally thousands
of women every year. I can close my eyes right now and see so
many of these women with sharp clarity—in many cases, I can
recall the sound of their voices.
The vast majority of them have a desire to be women of faith,
with spiritual depth and vibrancy.
They are mature and accomplished women who, in many
cases, have families and careers.
They are seeking women, wanting deeper, richer, and more
meaningful lives.
Even so . . .
Just behind their smiles and warm greetings . . .
I often see a depth of pain and longing that is immense and
persistent. In their eyes I see hurt. Anger. Sadness. Discouragement.
Hopelessness. Desperation. I count it a high privilege
to be able to pray with many of them, and to give at least a few
words of encouragement.
There was Susan, who started her first sentence to me with
a smile that dissolved into tears and that ended in a long, silent
hug. When we were finally able to converse a bit, she shared with
me that her husband of twenty-eight years had walked away
earlier in the year to be with a woman half his age—a waitress
he had met at a café, with whom he’d had a one-night fling that
turned into an affair. She wasn’t sure if he’d be back or if she’d
want him if he did come back. She was conflicted and angry and
didn’t want to have either set of emotions.
There was Audra, who had lost her mother to a suffering
disease and ultimately dementia. She couldn’t stop asking, “Why
didn’t God step in and heal her? Why didn’t God allow her
to stay mentally and emotionally strong?” Audra believed her
mother was now safely with the Lord in paradise, but she was
still reeling from two years of intense caregiving and the deep
pain of loss. Her mother had been her best friend.
There was Cynthia, who had started having nightmares
related to intense sexual abuse from an uncle when she was a
child. “Why now?” she questioned. She admitted that at times
she felt as if she was losing her mind. She had not thought about
these experiences for more than two decades, but now she felt
Face ace the Trouble rouble rouble rouble Behind the Smile
haunted by them. She dreaded going to bed at night, fearful of the nightmares that seemed to be recurring more regularly.
There was Dorothy, an older woman who said she desperately wanted to be free of the resentment she had held against her former husband for more than thirty years. He had put her and their children through bankruptcy and the loss of a comfortable lifestyle and then abandoned the family, leaving her to fend for herself financially and raise three young children as a single mother. And then, like bad icing on a bad cake, he had reappeared with a new wife and two adult children, asking for her forgiveness “twenty-five years too late.” She said, “I told him I forgave him, but I really didn’t. I felt angry and cornered by his asking for forgiveness in the presence of these three people I didn’t know. That was several years ago. Rather than feel better as time goes by, I feel even deeper resentment. I don’t want to be a bitter old woman.”
There was Maryanne, who had lost a fifth pregnancy, this latest one at six months. She had a deep and abiding desire for a baby. The miscarriages were wearing on her relationship with her husband, especially as they explored expensive options for medical intervention to assist them to conceive or, in her words, “to heal my broken uterus.” She was not at all interested in pursuing adoption, and she certainly was not interested in even considering a fulfilling life without a “child of our own.” She was almost frantic in her quest for a baby and had a suspicion that God might not be as good as she had been told He was.
Each of these women had a deep desire for:
• God’s presence. They each wanted to feel God in their
lives, emotionally and spiritually. They wanted a deeper,
dearer, more direct relationship with a loving Lord.
• a personal miracle. They wanted new freedom and
healing of a kind they knew could only come from
Christ Jesus.
• the ability to let go of the past. They each wanted a release
from emotions they knew were negative and limiting,
but they had no clue about how to release their pain.
• more enthusiasm for living. They each had a deep
longing for more energy and more zest in their lives. As
one woman said, “I want to get up in the morning eager
for the new day. I’m tired of feeling that the best place
for me to live is in bed with the covers pulled up over
my head.”
• greater authenticity and fulfillment. They each felt a need
to be “the real me” without criticism or limitation. They
wanted fulfillment in their life and ministry, including a
strong sense of purpose and a role to play in God’s plan
for the world.
These women are not isolated examples. They are the
mainstream of our world and of the church. Half of the women
who come to our conferences are single, for various reasons.
Some of them are married, yet still feel single because their
husbands are inattentive, absent, or unsympathetic to them most
Face the Trouble Behind the Smile
of the time. A significant percentage of them have suffered or are
suffering from a stress-related disorder or an eating disorder.
Most of them have endured pain or disappointment of some
variety—in their relationships, in their health, in their work life,
in their childhoods. The pain has lingered and festered and they
long to be free of it. They have a deep desire to break out of the
“what if,” “if only,” and “paralyzed in the present” state in which
they find themselves.
They often feel overwhelmed, stressed out to the max, and
stuck in their lives.
When I ask the women to describe their lives today, I often
hear these words:
• overstressed
• overworked
• underappreciated
• underpaid
• burnt out
Many of the women admit to having more than one of these
words as a descriptor for their lives—and some lay claim to
all five!
I can guarantee you this: the women who provide these
descriptive words do not want to live the way they are living.
Most of them simply don’t know how to break out of being
burdened, in bondage, or carrying emotional baggage that is too
heavy for one person to carry. They realize something is broken,
but they don’t know how to fix it.
They want to be set free, break out, and bounce back!
They are the reason for this book.
You may not directly relate to Susan, Audra, Cynthia,
Dorothy, or Maryanne, described above. But I suspect you
do relate to their feelings and their yearnings. And if not you
personally, you very likely know someone who does have their
experiences, feelings, or deep longings.
My overarching word to you today is this: hope.
God does love you.
He does want a better life for you.
And He does have a way for you to move from where you
are, to the better life of your future. You can bounce back..