Monday, August 29, 2016

The Things We Knew by Catherine West - REVIEWED

About the book: 

The Things We Knew (Thomas Nelson, July 2016)

A tragedy from the past resurfaces in this tale of family secrets and reignited love.

After her mother's death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to harbor animosity toward their father, silently blaming him for their mother's death. Nobody will talk about that dreadful day, and Lynette can't remember a bit of it.

But when next-door neighbor Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, he brings the past with him. Once her brother's best friend and Lynette's first crush, Nick seems to hiding things from her. Lynette wonders what he knows about the day her mother died and hopes he might help her remember the things she can't.

But Nick has no intention of telling Lynette the truth. Besides the damage it might cause his own family, he doesn't want to risk harming the fragile friendship between him and the woman he once thought of as a kid sister.

As their father's failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets begin to surface---secrets that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question all they ever believed in.

Purchase your copy HERE!

My Thoughts:
Sometimes…you find hope in the last place you think to look.”  (p.132)

Cecily is the one, constant source of truth and encouragement in this novel, and you will be thanking God for her presence in the story when you discover the very tangled web of life consequences that plague the Carlisle and Cooper families!  Honestly, this book was very intriguing with its many twists and turns and layers of plots that ties these two families together.  Honestly, the family and relational dysfunction isn’t all that shocking or strange.  Rather, you find it realistically accurate and, that leaves me feeling a bit sad.

Now, to be fair, there is a certain amount of overcoming, healing and life transformation that takes place in the lives of all of these characters, and the conclusion is believable and satisfying.  But, oh the journey your heart must take to get through this novel!  There were times I quit reading all together, because is simply became too painful!  All of the characters are very well-developed, and you will come to care a great deal about all of them.  However, their woundedness, their pain, all of it could have been avoided or at least minimized!  Keeping secrets is NEVER a good idea!! EVER!! Just be honest for goodness’ sake!!

This is a VERY well written novel, and one you are not likely to forget after reading it!  But the journey is painful. So, consider yourself warned.  Your heart will ache.  This is a story of grace and redemption, but believe me, you will feel the impact of the cost of that redemption!

About the Author:

Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she's not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border collie for long walks on the beach or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas - REVIEWED

About the Book:
What is the weight of a secret?

And what happens when that burden becomes almost too much to bear?
For decades, Perla Phillips has hidden the truth of a decision that still fills her with guilt. But now, seeing her granddaughter, Ella, struggle in a similar way, she's prepared to finally open the past to her family, no matter the consequences. But when the opportunity is snatched from her in a most unexpected manner, will she have waited too long? 

Spanning generations, this moving family drama weaves together the interlocking stories of two women as they navigate relationships, family, faith, and the choices that will shape their lives. Heartwarming and nostalgic, the story explores the courage to share the wounds of the past and celebrates the legacy a family passes from one generation to the next. 

My Thoughts:
Be content.”  (p. 241)

When Perla Phillips speaks these words to her granddaughter Ella, they are words that have finally settled into her own heart after years of striving.  Perla finally reached a point in life that she wanted to share her heart with her daughters and family, but God had to alter her timing a bit.  Reading Perla’s story is an amazing example of how God uses EVERYTHING for our good and His glory! When circumstance seems to indicate chaos and trouble, look up, because God is up to something amazing!

This story deals with many, many layers of family, community, tradition and misplaces trust in our ability to control and order our lives outside of God’s best for us.  The Phillips family is far from perfect, and they chose to keep secrets that did relational damage over many years.  God’s fingerprints are all over this story as He tenderly brings lives and circumstance in line with His divine plan.

I’ll be honest, I had a sort of love/hate relationship with Ella throughout the story.  She had a hard of gold toward her family but seemed a bit desperate about her marital status.  Unnecessarily  desperate.  She was a hard character  to get to know because of her indecision and immaturity.   The community she became a part of was also uncomfortable familiar in the say they clung to tradition no matter the cost.  The issues surrounding the church – painfully familiar!!

In short, this is a masterfully told story with well-developed characters and universal issues that everyone will relate to on some level!  There are many layers to this story and readers will come away from its pages challenged and changed!

I am very happy to recommend this novel to everyone!!

About the Author:
Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fundraiser for a children's ministry and has written for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Thenmagazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times. She is the author of Miracle in a Dry Season and Until the Harvest. She holds a BA in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in North Carolina. She can be found online at

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hearing God in Conversation by Samuel C. Williamson - REVIEWED

About The Book:
Christians are comfortable saying that Christianity is about a relationship with God. Yet many might also say that they sense little meaningful relationship with God in their own lives. After all, the foundation of good relationship is communication—but conversation with God often seems to go only one way. We may sing of walking and talking with God in the garden, His voice falling on our ears, but few have heard that beloved voice themselves. 

Sam Williamson acknowledges the fundamental human longing to hear God's voice and offers a hopeful supposition: God is always speaking—we've just never been taught how to recognize His voice. Williamson handles this potentially heady topic with his characteristic straightforwardness and leavening humor. This book deftly bridges the gap between solid biblical theology and practical application, addressing topics such as how to truly pray without ceasing, how to brainstorm with God, how to navigate our emotions, how to answer God's questions, and how to hear God's voice for others. 

Hearing God in Conversation offers simple, step-by-step lessons on how to hear God. Williamson begins with Scripture meditation. He then expands the practice of listening for that voice everywhere—in the checkout line, on the job, in a movie theater, and even in silence. From there, he demonstrates how to hear God's guidance when making any decision. By the end, readers' eyes and ears will be opened to the limitless methods through which God speaks. 

My Thoughts:
We want information; God wasn’t a conversation.” (p. 24)

I’ve never read a truer statement, and I’ve never fully understood the discipline of having a conversational relationship with God so clearly until I encountered the amazing book!  Samuel Williamson has given a gift to believers of all ages and in all stages that will enable them to understand and pursue an intimate, conversational relationship with God through Jesus Christ! It is exciting to understand and pursue this relationship and see the fruit of spiritual maturity and growth in my life.

Williamson literally takes readers on a step by step journey beginning with the misconceptions believers have and then the reality of developing this spiritual discipline.  God’s Word is our ultimate guide toward hearing God’s Voice, and Williamson states this emphatically.  He uses personal experiences from his own life to illustrate each of his thoughts and encourages believers to not grow weary in their pursuit of God.  Sometime He IS silent, but that doesn’t mean He has left us! His perceived silence should cause us to take a closer look at His active presence in all of our circumstances. He is always speaking to us, but we are not always listening!

I cannot begin to recommend this book enough!  It has changed my life, and I am seriously considering using it as a small group study this Fall!  I think this book answers many, many questions that are common to believers at every point of their spiritual journey!  I encourage everyone to pick up your copy and invite Holy Spirit to show you and guide you through each passage!  This book is a gift!  I invite you to share it with me!  (PS don’t forget a pen and highlighter! You will need both!)

Pick up your copy HERE!

About the Author:
Samuel Williamson is the founding director of Beliefs of the Heart and the author of Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? He and his wife Carla live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sam regularly posts on

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Loyal Heart by Shelley Shepard Gray - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn’t expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.
Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything. 
After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda’s home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip’s name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.
Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.
He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn’t prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about
Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.
My Thoughts:
It seems your loyalty knows no bounds.”  (p. 292)

The Civil War is a period of U.S. history that redefined and challenged the definition of loyalty on many levels.  Shelly Shepard Gray’s latest novel explores that loyalty in an ingenious way.  The Loyal Heart follows the life of Miranda Markham as she tries to rebuild her life as a widow of her husband, Second Lieutenant Phillip Markham.  It seems someone in her hometown of Galveston, Texas has determined that Miranda needs to be as absent from life as her late husband, and she begins to be threatened  in her own home, and begins to despair of life.

What she could never imagined is that her husband served with a group of men who vowed an oath of loyalty to her husband, and one by one, each of the men begin to appear in her life and begin  the arduous task of getting to the bottom of the mysterious threat that has come to haunt every moment of Miranda’s life.  What unfolds is both frightening and miraculous, and readers will find their hearts captured by both the plot and the characters!
War has made people desperate, and those who come to the pages of this novel will be surprised by the many twists and turns this plot takes!  Readers will also be surprised to watch new relationships develop between characters that seem determined to resist any romantic involvement at all!  In short, this is a novel filled with surprises, and by the time you reach the end of the novel, you heart and mind will be well satisfied!

Purchase you copy HERE!

About the Author:
Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.  Find Shelley on her website,, on Facebook: ShelleyShepardGray, and on Twitter @ShelleySGray.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Death Draws Near A Gwen Marcey Novel by Carrie Stuart Parks - REVIEWED

About the Book:
When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson, August 2016)

Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey's job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims.

Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned.

Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil.

Purchase you copy HERE!!

My Thoughts:
Don’t trust anyone…Anyone. Do you understand?”  (p. 156)

The character that spoke these word to Gwen Marcey spoke them as he held her at gunpoint.  He was pretty desperate for her to understand his warning!  Sadly, at this point, Gwen almost believes she has come to a place of safety.  Little does she know!!

This book tells a great suspense tale that will keep the pages turning at a frantic pace!! But there is a deeper, more thoughtful layer to this story if you will stop and read its underlying truth.  In this story, people are desperate to keep their true selves hidden behind the mask of acceptance and comfort, all the while judging others’ lives and faith from a position of a false sense of superiority.  Wounded people really do wound others, and in this story, some lose their lives because of these wounds.  There are scenes and characters who find themselves lost within the maze of these walking wounded.

I found myself wrongly judging others by the time I got to the end of this story. That was an unexpected revelation.  I also found myself relieved and surprised by God’s amazing goodness poured out upon the lives of some of the characters. It should have been a firm confidence builder instead of a pleasant surprise.  In other words, I never expected to have spiritual revelation about my own wounds as I read a suspense novel!!  God is so good to get my attention that way!!

I hope you pick up this book and enjoy the tale!  I hope you enjoy the thrill ride of suspense!! But more than that, I pray that you will come to these pages expecting God to speak!  He will! And you will be amazed!!  

About the Author:

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

fireflies by Ginger Sanders Illustrated by Tracy Applewhite Broome - REVIEWED

About the Book:

Author and speaker Ginger Sanders has released her newest children's book, Fireflies: Sharing God's Light in the Time of Loss. Published by Xulon Press, the book is available from major online booksellers, including, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million.

Fireflies, beautifully illustrated by Tracy Applewhite Broome, deals with talking with young children about the difficult subject of the death of a loved one.

Sanders recently appeared as a guest on Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk radio show to discuss the new book.

"This book is based on a true story about God revealing death in a way that is easy enough for a child to understand," says Sanders. "I am so grateful to the family that allowed me to share, so others may find peace in a time of loss."

Sanders is no stranger to loss. As a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, she has experienced more than her share of natural and man-made disasters. From devastating floods in Iowa to tornado ravaged towns in Alabama; from the scene of the horrific theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, to the unfathomable grief following the tragic school shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Sanders and her fellow chaplains continually see God at work. Yes, bad things happen to good people, but Sanders has also seen lives changed and souls saved through God's amazing grace. In every situation, Sanders says she and her fellow chaplains have witnessed the dramatic presence of God, proving that only God can orchestrate these situations.

"Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and man-made is not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but it is nonetheless a universal truth, an incomprehensible paradox," she acknowledges. "The human condition is frail, but God is bursting with life! Through all this pain and grief, God allows us to be His hands and feet, offering those who are suffering the love of Jesus through the power and strength of God.

My Thoughts:

One of my favorite memories from my childhood are nights spent chasing fireflies with friends and/or siblings. Ginger Sanders uses this innocent childhood activity to bring light to the darkness of unexpected loss.  Any child will be able to understand the comfort offered by the words and pictures of this precious book!  And even greater still, she includes ways to share the gospel with young children so they will grow up with the blessed assurance that even death cannot separate us from God's love!

Every child would benefit by having this book in their early reading library!! I highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Love Our Vets - amazing resource!!

"This is the best book on PTSD and vets I've ever read. Anyone who works with vets or is related to a vet needs this book. You won't regret it. As a professor, this book is definitely at the top of my reading list on PTSD. Welby O'Brien is honest, insightful, and incredibly compassionate. Gutsy and sensitive. 
 Absolutely fantastic!"
---Dr. Steve Stephens, PhD, 
counselor, professor, and author

Do you have a family member or friend impacted by PTSD? 
Invite him or her to read Love Our Vets and post a guest review on your blog! 

Love Our Vets was written as a practical book for the families and friends of vets who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Affecting millions in the U.S. alone, PTSD is an issue approaching epidemic proportions. Certainly for the sufferer fighting through this disorder, life is fraught with difficulties and heartache. However, for every one person struggling with PTSD, there are significantly more friends and family members who are also deeply and profoundly impacted. While someone may not have PTSD themselves, if he or she is living with someone who does, he or she is in fact suffering from it as well.
Now families have a comprehensive, practical book solely dedicated to addressing their specific needs. Love Our Vets answers more than sixty heartfelt questions, providing readers down-to-earth wisdom and much-needed tips for taking care of themselves. Sharing as a counselor and from her personal experience of living with a 100% disabled veteran with PTSD, Welby O'Brien gives hope, encouragement, and practical help for families and loved ones who are caught in the wake of the trauma. This book addresses a broad spectrum of issues and concerns and offers realistic wisdom from a wide variety of individuals who share from real hearts and lives.

Recommended by VA and other counselors, Love Our Vets is a tremendous resource for families and loved ones who struggle along with their vets in the challenges it presents.
Welby O'Brien appeared on AM Northwest in Portland, Oregon. In this interview she explains that PTSD can affect anyone, including veterans and their loved ones

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dayton area church receives national recognition

Dayton, OH -- Fairhaven Church in Centerville, Ohio has been named one of the Best Christian Workplaces in America, one of only 48 churches in the U.S. to earn the designation. The church was founded 52 years ago with twelve families holding service at a local YMCA. Today, the church has three campuses in Centerville, Springboro, and Clayton with approximately 7000 attendees, and a staff of 80 serving the entire Dayton, Ohio area. Dr. David Smith is the current pastor, only the third lead pastor in the church’s long-standing history.
“It is easy to think or say that a church is healthy,” says Smith, “but when you invite an outside group to come in and access and then tell you that you are in the top 50 healthiest churches in America…I feel humbled that I get to work with our staff and leaders who have made it so! We believe that team is everything and that the success of other staff members is our individual priority.”
Fairhaven has been twice listed as one of the Fastest Growing churches in the country by Outreach Magazine. Smith says he believes there are three qualities of his membership and staff that drive their continued growth.
“We maintain a strong and vibrant ministry for children and families,” says Smith. “We encourage our church body to be intentional about their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. And we have a clear presence in the community to assist people and address social concerns.”

Smith (pictured left) and his wife are parents to a special needs child so the church has become a community-wide refuge for families with special needs kids, offering parents the opportunity to go to church together while their children are being cared for by dedicated church staff. In a recent $10 million expansion campaign, the church added a preschool/nursery building with a two-story play area for community use; a new chapel for weddings, funerals and other smaller events; as well as the launch of their Springboro campus, among other additions.
Over 25% of the church’s budget goes to missions, including a recent $500,000 donation to Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, Africa, which provides medical and spiritual care to thousands of people every year. The church has recently completed mission trips to Quito, Ecuador, Guatemala and China.
 Fairhaven is currently in the midst of a “100,000 hours of Serving” campaign with over 40,000 hours already logged by members and staff. Smith says the essence of the church is to inspire people to reach beyond themselves.

“Our church wants to go beyond our four walls,” says Smith. “This year, we have made a concerted effort to send our congregation out into our community. It’s only through our consistent actions, and concern for those around us that our friends and neighbors will truly see the demonstration of Christ’s love. The tens of thousands of hours we’ve spent demonstrating our concern for those around us is making an impact. We pray that we may continue to shine a light in our neighborhoods together."

For more information, visit

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hymns by Jason Truby - REVIEWED


Little Rock, AR −Former P.O.D. guitarist Jason Truby is releasing a new instrumental CD entitled Hymns on July 27. Renowned for his innovative finger-style guitar techniques, Truby says the project was specifically produced with the purpose to help people who are going through trauma or sickness, and was originally his wife’s idea.

“I have performed finger-style covers of hymns in my live sets over the years,” says Truby, “and one day my wife mentioned the idea of a therapy-type album. I know that suffering can consume a lot of thought and energy, so this album was arranged with peace and healing in mind. We started with the idea of distributing it to cancer patients, and now want to make it available to anyone who may be going through grief, recovery, divorce or any other difficulties.”

Truby was a member of the rock band P.O.D. from 2002 to 2006, writing songs for the band’s self-titled album which quickly went to Platinum sales status. Truby also penned the title song for the “Matrix Reloaded” movie as well as a song for the Dove Award-winning soundtrack for “The Passion of the Christ.” Truby later teamed up with acclaimed guitarist, Phil Keaggy, for several solo albums, as well as played on a finger-style guitar album with the legendary instrumentalist, Chet Atkins, and classical guitarist, John Williams.  Truby also produced the Grafted  compilation CD to benefit Project Zero, a non-profit foundation specializing in adoption and foster care. Grafted included various artists from all genres including Tiffany Thornton, star of Disney's "So Random" and "Sonny with a Chance;” Caitlin Evanson, violin player for Taylor Swift; Keaggy; and Stu Garrard from Delirious, among several others.

The Hymns CD features ten of the most familiar hymns of the church such as “Come Thou Fount,” “Amazing Grace,” “It is Well with my Soul,” and “Be Thou My Vision.” Truby says the project moved him emotionally even during the recording process.

Jason Truby promotion .jpg“I hope that these arrangements bring peace, and introspection as they did for me while I was tracking,” says Truby. “The lyrics to these hymns are very powerful, and many of them were written during times of grief and trial. I hope it is a gentle reminder that our time here is short, but our souls are forever. Even in the midst of the chaos and turmoil we are experiencing in our society today, we can attain peace in our souls as we pass through this life, regardless of our physical or material circumstances.”
For more information, visit oriTunes,


This is one of the most beautiful, peaceful CD's I've ever had the privilege to enjoy!  I've always been a fan of the classic hymns, and to listen to them played so beautifully truly touches me very deeply.  I love the fact that there are wind instruments that are used only to highlight the beautiful guitar music.  There seem to be keyboards as well, but it is minimal.  The beautiful, intricate guitar playing captures my heart and mind completely.  

To me, this becomes a very intimate time of worship, because I can totally focus on Christ alone as I softly sing the words of the songs.  I HIGHLY recommend this CD to anyone and everyone!! It is the most beautiful, peaceful selection of music that inhabits the worship and praise of Christ alone.