Friday, October 8, 2021

The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady by Sharon J. Mondragon REVIEWED


 About the Book:

A knitting group’s change of scenery changes lives in unexpected ways 

Margaret, Rose, Jane, and Fran had a good thing going: meet every week in the quiet of their peaceful chapel and knit prayer shawls. No muss, just ministry. That is, until their pastor boots them out of the church in his last-ditch effort to revive the dwindling congregation. 

Uptight Margaret isn’t having it. Knitting prayer shawls where people can watch is the most ridiculous idea she’s ever heard of, and she’s heard plenty. Prayer belongs in the church, not out among the heathen masses. How are they supposed to knit holiness into these shawls if they’re constantly distracted by the public? But with no choice, the others embrace the challenge. They pack their knitting bags and drag Margaret—grumbling the whole way—to the mall with them. She can’t wait to prove them all wrong when it fails miserably, and show the pastor that she always knows best. 

Without the familiar mold the group has been stuck in, their own losses, pain, and struggles rise to the surface. And the people and situations they encounter every time they try to sit quietly and knit are taking them a lot further out of their comfort zone than they ever imagined. Can they find the courage to tackle the increasing number of knotty issues they learn about in the community--or will the tangle be too much to unravel? 

Sharon J. Mondragon’s debut is warm and delightful, full of real laughter, grief, and personality. It beautifully illustrates the power of women across generations to reach people for Christ. 

To read an excerpt of The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady click here.

WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK!!!  CLICK HERE!!

My Thoughts:

"You're right, God is orderly.  But people are messy.  They have problems and wounds and fears and besetting sins.  Isn't that what prayer shawls are all about, though?  Trying to give people the comfort and strength they need to face and get through those things?"  (p. 64)

These words, spoken by Father Pete to Margaret as he tries to tell her that the prayer chapel will, indeed, be unavailable to the prayer shawl knitting group while being painted, did nothing to calm her anxiety.  Sharon Mondragon's book, The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady, spins quite the tale as she follows the four ladies that meet in the prayer chapel to knit prayer shawls as they go out into the community to knit while the chapel is undergoing renovations.  You would never BELIEVE that a group of knitting ladies could be so blessedly used of God, but let me tell you this story will convict a heart to open up to the most unexpected circumstance!

From the moment the women enter the bookstore café in the mall, it seems to attract the attention of everyone.  When they get kicked out by the manager and settle on the couches outside Macy's, they not attract attention, but they begin to gather people and prayer requests in droves.  Life does get messy, and the ladies of the Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl Ministry go to the gates of heaven with the most unlikely and unusual prayer requests you can imagine!  They learn, albeit reluctantly, that their own lives are not devoid of messes, and that when they join hearts and hands in prayer, God not only hears but answers in very amazing ways!

I could not put this book down!! It seemed as though every chapter the hearts of the characters broke open a little more toward all that God was doing in the lives of the people they interacted with in the mall, and in their own hearts as well!  Talk about transformation!  God is in the business of reaching people where they are, even if He has to kick you out of your comfort zone to do it!  You will come to love all of the characters in the book, and it will be a bittersweet but satisfying ending when you reach the last page. Please, bless yourself by reading this book, and then, find a way to reach others right where you are!  BRAVO!!!  This is a fantastic book!!

About the Author:

Sharon J. Mondragón writes about the place where kindness and courage meet. Her debut novel, The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady (originally titled The Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl Ministry) was the 2017 winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award in the Short Novel Category, and she has also been recognized by The Saturday Evening Post where her short story, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” was an Honorable Mention Awardee in the 2014 their Great American Fiction Contest.
 
Mondragón has been active in prayer shawl ministry since 2008 and currently serves as facilitator for the prayer shawl ministry at her church, St. Paul Episcopal in Waxahachie, TX. She also knits with the Circle of Healing at Red Oak United Methodist Church. She is a Level 2 Certified Knitting Instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and teaches beginning knitting at a local yarn store.
 
Mondragón is the mother of five grown children and has four grandchildren. After 26 years as an Army wife, she has settled in Midlothian, TX with her hero/husband, her laptop, and her yarn stash.
 
Visit Sharon Mondragón’s website and blog at www.sharonjmondragon.com and follow her on Facebook (Sherry Mondragón) and Twitter (@SJ_Mondragón).

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Secret Keepers of the Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox REVIEWED

About the Book:

Present Day. Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home, determined to finally follow her dream of running the family business alongside her mother and grandmother. So when her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that Old Depot Grocery is closing, Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a plan to save the store. But Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons--but she'll certainly never reveal the real one.

1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she's pregnant with her deceased fiancé's baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve her family's reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.

This dual-time story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.

My Thoughts:

"Maybe all their paths were lettered with mistakes and secrets that never should have been kept, but Sarah had faith that in the end, the truth would set them free."  (p. 293)

Amanda Cox weaves a multigenerational tale in her latest novel, The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery.  For me, the generational nature of the secrets kept made sense, because I grew up in a generation that kept those same secrets.  Familial appearance was everything in a small, rural setting, and moral failings of any kind were kept shut away, when possible, in very dramatic ways.

This story tells the outcome of generations of secrets kept, and the residual fallout that naturally occurred over time.  I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that one's own perception of any given circumstance shapes how we interpret life changes in our future.  Glory Ann, Rosemary and Sarah's life intersect during a perfect storm of circumstances that could have very well destroyed them all.  There are moments in the story where I saw no way around certain annellation!  

God's grace is the only explanation I can give for the way these women find the truth about themselves and their "secret" circumstances that sets them free in ways they never imagined possible!  I was totally captivated by this story, and was a bit heartbroken when it came to an end.  I encourage everyone to take a dive into this story!  There is room for growth and transformation all along the way!!  


About the Author:

Amanda Cox is the author of The Edge of Belonging. A blogger and a curriculum developer for a national nonprofit youth leadership organization, she holds a bachelor's degree in Bible and theology and a master's degree in professional counseling, but her first love is communicating through story. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband and their three children. Learn more at AmandaCoxWrites.com.

 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Under the Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse REVIEWED


About the Book:

When Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country in 1949, she knows her life will change--but she could never imagine just how dramatically

Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their unique culture, most of the residents come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher, and she's soon teaching just about everyone, despite opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives. Yet it's the lessons Ellie herself will learn--from new friends, a captivating Cajun fisherman, and even a legendary white alligator haunting the bayou--that will make all the difference.

Take a step away from the familiar and enter the shadowy waters of bayou country for a story of risk, resilience, and romance.

My Thoughts:

"Maybe you crossed over something when you went through the tunnel.  Now you can see something yyou couldn't see before, but at the same time, you can't go back."  (p. 155)

Something magical and unforgettable happens between the first and last pages of this novel.  Truly.  Ellie Fields decision to leave her safe place of comfort and privilege that her familial home offered seems a non-event at first.  Many women have made that choice over time. It is her entrance into the bayou community facing unjust laws that threaten their unique way of life where the magic begins to happen.

Ellie leaves her heart open to be changed and challenged, and she is richly rewarded because of her openness.  The people of the community are suspicious and closed off to Ellie's presence at first, but, over time, she wins the heart of both the community and one very special Cajun fisherman.

As the story develops, it becomes clear that there is, in fact, a real threat to the community, and some lose much as the threat becomes visible.  There are many difficult choices to be made for both Ellie and her new community, and their journey....well, it's magically transformative if you leave your heart open to receive the life lessons lived out through the relationships within this story!

I LOVED THIS BOOK!! I'm sure you will too!!

About the Author:


Valerie Fraser Luesse
 is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac, Almost Home, and The Key to Everything, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner - REVIEWED

 


About the Book:

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When one of those children announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Mindy's father grapples with the tension between holding on tightly and letting his daughter spread her wings. Her mother undergoes the emotional roller coaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy and her sister struggle to find the strength to accept each other as they both discover who they truly are.

Told through three distinct voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

My Thoughts:
"It's the nature of small birds to sing their little hearts out.
  It's the nature of God to hear them."  (p. 323)

This is the first time in a very long while I must say that the synopsis doesn't begin to TOUCH the depth and breadth of all this story contains.  Yes, the adoption of a Korean baby in operation Babylift plays a major element, but the layers of this story cover everything from sacrificial parenting, to coming of age teens, to family rifts over political views....there is a LOT to enjoy in this story!

The different points of view covered through different points in time is the magic that ties this story to the deepest places in your heart.  You feel the fear in a parent's heart over bringing an adopted child into a family.  You feel the anger of a parent who has lost a child to war.  You feel a teenager's angst over first crushes, and summer jobs.  There isn't much that you don't see through the eyes of this precious family that you can't relate to on some level.

My heart stayed engaged from first page to last, and I cried at different points along the way.  This author tapped every emotion multiple times, and I came to love this family.  Oh how I hope the author continues their story!  Then again, I hope I'll just carry that last image in my heart and let my imagination tell me the rest of their story!  This book  is such a treasure!!  The author has captured the nuance of family in a real and poignant way!  Bravo!!

About the Author:

Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, which was selected as a 2020 Michigan Notable Book, and Stories That Bind Us, as well as A Cup of Dust, A Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women's events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mysteries of the Messiah by Rabbi Jason Sobel REVIEWED

About the Book:

Are you settling for half the story? Highlighting connections that have been hidden from non-Jewish eyes, Rabbi Jason Sobel will connect the dots between the Old and New Testament, helping you see the Bible with clarity as God intended

Most people—even people of faith—do not understand how the Bible fits together. Too many Christians accept half an inheritance, content to embrace merely the New Testament, while Jewish people may often experience the same by embracing only the Old Testament. But God has an intricate plan and purpose for both the Old and the New.

In Mysteries of the Messiah, Rabbi Jason Sobel reveals the many connections in Scripture hidden in plain sight. Known for his emphatic declaration “but there’s more!” he guides us in seeing the passion and purpose of the Messiah. Mysteries of the Messiah:

Uncovers connections between the Old and New Testaments

Connects the dots for readers with details about Jesus, the Torah, and biblical characters

Written with the unique perspective of a rabbi with an evangelical theological degree

No matter how many times you have read the Bible, Mysteries of the Messiah will bring fresh perspective and insight. God’s Word, written by many people over thousands of years, is not a random selection of people and stories. Rabbi Jason Sobel connects the dots and helps us see with clarity what God intended.

My Review:

"We can experience God's lovingkindness because He gave us His Son, the Messiah, and His seed is established forever - from creation to today and eternity." (p.188)

Rabbi Jason Sobel makes this statement with utter and complete confidence, because He knows it is true.  After you read all that he has uncovered about his Messiah, you will be forever grateful, because you will see Jesus revealed in all His glory in every facet of the universe - throughout time!  Rabbi Sobel frames all of his knowledge on extensive research that is meticulously footnoted in the back of the book.  

But this is SO MUCH MORE than research!!  This is a record of miracle after miracle performed throughout time, using the very language of Jesus' people, the Jews, to tell the world over, and over, and over again who He is, and Whose He and who we are as His children!  This makes the Bible come to life in an entirely new and exciting way, and I encourage you to take your time, using pen and highlighter, and read it alongside your Bible.  This is truly a rich resource for anyone!

I love the way Jewish culture is totally enmeshed with all of Jesus' life work and ministry!  Sobel clearly explains to everyone, in ways that are undeniable, that Jesus is Who he had always been throughout time. This is truly a rich resource for believers and non-believers.  As a matter of fact, with prayer and careful conversation, this could be a mighty tool in ministering to anyone who doubts Jesus is God's Son.

I'm excited to share this book with you, and I hope you will consider buying a copy and sharing it with friends!

You can read and excerpt HERE!

About the Author:

Rabbi Jason Sobel is the founder of Fusion Global. This ministry seeks to bring people into the full inheritance of the faith by connecting treasures of "the old and the new." Rabbi Jason's voice is authentic, being raised in a Jewish home, and qualified by years of diligent academic work. His voice is prophetic-touched by the life of the Spirit. He has a radical testimony of his supernatural encounter with Yeshua-Jesus This moment awakened him to his calling and destiny.

Rabbi Jason received his rabbinic ordination from the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) in 2005. He has a B.A. in Jewish Studies (Moody) and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies (Southeastern Seminary). He is a sought-after speaker and has made multiple appearances on national television, including the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Daystar Network, and the Dr. Oz Show. Rabbi Jason is the author of Breakthrough: Living a Life That Overflows, Aligning with God's Appointed Times, and he is also the coauthor of New York Timesbestseller The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi with Kathie Lee Gifford.




https://youtu.be/q8rku5Lt-0I

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Along a Storied Trail by Ann H Gabhart REVIEWED



About the Book:

Kentucky packhorse librarian Tansy Calhoun doesn't mind the rough trails and long hours as she serves her Appalachian mountain community during the Great Depression. Yet she longs to find love like the heroines in her books. When a charming writer comes to town, she thinks she might have found it--or is the perfect man actually closer than she thinks?

Perdita Sweet has called these mountains home for so long she's nearly as rocky as the soil around her small cabin. Long ago she thought she could love, but when the object of her affection up and married someone else, she stopped giving too much of herself away to others.

As is so often the case, it's easier to see what's best for others than to see what's best for oneself, and Perdita knows who Tansy should choose. But why would anyone listen to the romantic advice of an old spinster?

Saddle up for a heartfelt story of love--love of family, love of place, and the love of a lifetime--from bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart.

My Thoughts:
"A fool's errand.  He looked off at the trees. "I guess we all set off of one of those sometimes."  (p.209)

The mountains of Kentucky was a place that had little to offer during the Great Depression - well, at least not a lot of material comfort and conveniences. However, Tansy Calhoun was able to do something she loved for the community she loved as she served as a packhorse librarian.  She was able to delivery friendship and fellowship along her route, as well as keep in touch with some folks that were struggling just to have food and shelter.

While Tansy is busy sharing her books and stories, there are other job programs that deposit other people into the community  - one is returning home from serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and one is gathering facts and stories for tourist guidebooks for the government.  Tansy's life gets a tad complicated as she gets torn betwixt and between some very strong emotions and hopes and dreams for a brighter future.

Perdita Sweet, an elderly and native local, takes a front row seat at Tansy's social/romantic quandary while finding herself in one of the most difficult situations of her life.  Gabhart ties the lives and the stories of these two very different women together in a way your heart and mind is not soon to forget! 

You will enjoy riding through the hills of Kentucky - truly along a storied trail - and your heart will be thrilled and satisfied along the way!  Gabhart always chooses the most fascinating historical eras and scenarios to build her stories around, and the packhorse librarian experience is one of my favorite!!

About the Author:
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels--The Refuge, The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--as well as other historical novels, including Angel Sister, These Healing Hills, River to Redemption, and An Appalachian Summer. She and her husband live on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Ann enjoys discovering the everyday wonders of nature while hiking in her farm's fields and woods with her grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.


Monday, June 7, 2021

The Sound the Sun Makes by Buck Storm REVIEWED



About the Book:

Detective Early Pines loves his southern Arizona desert, often thinking he could stare at it all day long. But now that he's forced to do just that, the truth is the view from his back porch is getting old. He's on mandatory leave from the police department, simply for punching a wife beater who had it coming. Early is in dire need of a distraction from his own loud thoughts. So when an old friend invites him to tag along to a rodeo down in Old Mex, it seems like just the ticket.

But if there's one constant in the world, it's that life always throws a guy curveballs. With a flat tire, a roadside bar, and a beautiful woman with trouble on her hands, Early's distraction takes a hard right turn--straight to Los Angeles, six hundred miles west.

Hammott Lamont is waiting there in his own personal hunting ground. The reclusive filmmaker is a veritable cult leader to Hollywood stars--and he's sure his latest project will redefine art history in his image. He's got a plan for a brutal, modernized version of the Christ story, and he's ready to trample anyone who stands in the way of his colossal vision. That is, until big, loud Early Pines hits the coast for a clash of two titans who never saw each other coming.


My Thoughts:

"Out there, in some forgotten valley, God breathes....Do you believe in God Detective Pines?" (p.304-305)

I really don't know where to begin praising this book!  This is the most fun, most literary poignant, humous blend of raw emotion, mystery and action that I've ever read!!  The characters hooked me from the beginning, and Early Pines...I can't get enough of him!!  The blend of lone wolf (pun intended), tragically flawed and strong independence applies to most every character in this novel.   At first, I thought is was going to tell a particular story, but I never dreamed the direction this book would take me!

Early and his entourage traipse across many miles of uncertain territory in pursuit of truth and family.  The truth they are trying to unearth is buried beneath the most bizarre character - Hammott Lamont.  This guy takes crazy to a whole new level!!  The great thing is, that the author, Buck Storm, knows how to keep the reader guessing the entire way through the novel, and in the end, you never see the twist coming!!  I LOVE IT when that happens!!!

Prepare your heart to race, relax and race again, as Early attempts to find answers to more layers of riddles than you've tried to dig through lately!  I cannot recommend this book enough!! I dearly hope this is only the fist of many Early Pines adventures!!

About the Author:

Buck Storm is a singer and songwriter in Hayden, Idaho. He's also the author of several books, including Truck Stop Jesus, Through the Holy Land on the Road Less Traveled, and The Miracle Man. Find out more about Buck at buckstorm.com.