Thursday, December 17, 2020

I Was Called Barabbas by M.D. House - REVIEWED

About the Book:  

We know precious little of the man called Barabbas, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth. He is variously described in the historical record as thief, murderer, rebel, and notable Roman prisoner. His release by the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate was part of the supernal plan for the Christ to offer himself as the ultimate blood sacrifice, but it’s doubtful Barabbas understood any of that at the time.Many have wondered what became of him, or rather, who he became after that fateful day. Someday we will know the answer, but in the meantime we can imagine that, like all of us, he too sought a path of personal redemption, imperfectly.

My Thoughts:

I am guilty.  If this Jesus that my wife believes in can truly forgive sins, he won’t forgive mine.  Not all of them, anyway.  I have earned my just reward in the deepest pit of Sheol.”  (p.87) 

Barabbas is a man few have considered over time.  He received his freedom as Christ took his place on the cross, but how his life played out for the rest of his days -who knows?  M.D. House uses this man’s life as a jumping off place for his imagination, and, after blending it with historical details, produces a story that will touch and challenge a believer’s heart. 

I was captivated by all of the twists and turns of the story.  This author really thinks of every practical challenge that Barabbas would face as a man trying to rebuild a life after being set free from prison. The placement of a believing wife walking by his side was a stroke of genius, because the faith of the early believers seemed almost contagious!  Yet Barabbas, even after witnessing many miraculous things, struggles with his own ability to receive the gift of grace that Jesus’ life offers him.

 Barabbas’ struggle was convicting to me, because I’ve struggled mightily in this same area.  Like Barabbas, no matter how many times God blesses me throughout my life, there is a part of me that is always waiting for justice to come calling.  I’ve had spiritual directors and counselors leading me out of those lies and toward God’s truth, and, like Barabbas, it is not an easy journey. 

I applaud M.D House for such an amazing story, and I am thrilled that I will be able to follow Barabbas on his journey as he continues to walk out his faith.  The early Church was a very challenging place to grow your faith, and not everyone survived the challenge. I’m thrilled to discover this author and eagerly await his next work!

About the Author:

M.D. House enjoyed a successful first career in the mysterious world of Corporate Finance, but creating and telling stories (and NOT about Finance) was his true love. His first full-length novel was a sci-fi work called "Patriot Star." His second was historical fiction about the life of Barabbas, titled "I Was Called Barabbas." Sequels to both are coming soon.

Writing isn't just fun for him, it's an important way to share his passion, beliefs and vision with family, friends, and anyone else who loves great storytelling with powerful human perspective and emotion.


 

Monday, November 30, 2020

A View from Amy Willoughby-Burle's window! a year of thorns and honey.....


 Having never read your novels, I was immediately caught up in the lives of Nina and her family.  Can you tell me what inspired this set of characters?

This novel actually started as a short story that appears in my collection, Out Across the Nowhere. I most often get an image or a line of dialogue pop into my head and the story forms around it. It's like seeing something shiny poking out from the dirt and then brushing, digging, pulling until you get the whole thing up.  The spark for this one was actually a memory inside a memory wrapped around something fictional. Nina appeared to me as me, inside a Texaco bathroom while on a trip to Disney world with her family, only she wasn't a child and her father had died. I thought, wait, that's not me. Who is that? What happened? And it grew from there. I started to "hear the voices in my head," which my mother thought sounded like I might be crazy, but writers know what I mean. The voices were Lola and Ray, her brother and sister. I also have one brother and one sister, so the dynamic was familiar, but Lola and Ray are not my brother and sister. I started writing to find out the story for myself. That's the fun part for a writer. We don't know what's going to happen either.

What character are you most drawn to in this novel, and why?

I think my favorite character is Oliver--Father Finley. I love that he's so human and at the same time so much a source of peace and comfort representing the church and Christ. I think he's  funny and real and he reminds me how approachable Christ is to us. I like that he represents the ability to have a very personal relationship with God.

Will there be more stories built around this same set of characters in the future?  Are you already at work on another story?

Well, actually, this is a stand-alone follow-up to The Lemonade Year where we first meet all these characters. You can totally read The Year of Thorns and Honey by itself, but it's actually the second in a series. And yes, I am already working on book 3! It will likely be a stand-alone as well, but totally the continuation of this book.  I think of them as season on a show--back in the day before you could binge watch the whole thing on Netflix. You might come to something in season 2 and be able to follow right along.

Can you share a bit about your own writing process?  Do you outline? Do you let your characters tell the story? 

Yes and yes. But the other way around. I let the characters tell me  quite a bit about the story in their own order and time and then once I think I have a handle on what's happening, then I start outlining and piecing things together, filling in the gaps.

How long have you been writing?  Tell readers a bit about your journey to publication.

I have always known I wanted to be a writer. When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me the continued stories of Hansel and Gretel. They were elaborate and wonderful. I asked her one day what book they were in because I wanted to read them again. She said. "Oh, sweetie, I'm just making these up as I go along."  That blew my world wide open. As an eight-year-old, it hadn't occurred to me that anyone could write a story. I already loved to read. Books were my jam. I just didn't know that anyone could write one. I started writing right away. I would get a diary and number all the pages and "write a book." 

I wrote all through middle school and then in high school I discovered boys and forgot about writing for a while. (Ladies, boys are nice and all, but don't forget who you are.) I came back to it full force in college when I "sneaked" and took a writing class instead of something more practical. I was hooked all over again. I started writing short fiction. I took more and more of those writing classes and after I graduated, I kept working on the craft. Life moved forward and there were seasons where I wrote more and wrote less. After my first child was born in late 2001 I really got serious about publishing. I published my first story in 2006. (This is not a fast industry.) I published about a dozen more in various journals. In 2012, I had a collection published. By that time, I was also working on novel length stories. Most things come to me as short pieces and some of them keep nudging at me to dig deeper.  That shiny object is sometimes bigger than I think it is. I got an agent in Dec of 2015, Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency, and she has been my champion since then.  The Lemonade Year came out in 2018. Now, this one in 2020. She has about four other novels of mine that she's shopping around and there are more in the works even.

What words of encouragement would you like to share with your readers?

When you feel drawn to something, when you're naturally "good" at it or inclined toward it--I believe that thing is a gift from God. I believe that he gave you that thing--whatever it is-- singing, writing, crafting, organizing, dancing, teaching, even math(ing) to be used to lead people to Him. So don't let mom (or dad!) guilt, laundry, the opinions of others or whatever it is, keep you from exploring and using that gift. It's not about being great at it, it's about doing and dealt her another blow--but she keeps on looking up. Keep looking up. This--mess we're all in it with a passion for people and for Christ. Also, life is wonky right now to say the least. My mom said of the title of my new book as it applies to 2020, "enough of the thorns, let's see the honey." Then life went together-- it too shall pass. God is in control and He is ever with us. I love that we're headed into the Christmas season. Boy do we need to be reminded of the gift of Christ right now. He is ours and we are His.


Please visit Amy's website to learn more about her books!  You will be so glad you did!!





Sunday, November 29, 2020

the year of thorns and Honey by Amy Willoughby-Burle - REVIEWED


 About the Book:

Nina is a photographer who really appreciates control. She likes to set up just the right shot with the perfect composition, but life is not always as pretty as her pictures. The lighting is off, the timing is wrong, and the subjects just won't do like she wants them to.

She's engaged to her ex-husband, her teenage daughter is testing all the boundaries, and her childhood memories have a For-Sale sign on them. She's also keeping a secret about the chance of a lifetime, but what she'll have to give up to get it might not be worth it. Just when she thinks she's got it all figured out, an important someone resurfaces and forces her to take a hard look at what she really wants and why.

Life can be as prickly as it is sweet. Will Nina be able to let go of the perfect picture she had in her head and let her heart find the sweetness that life has to offer.

About the Author:

Amy Willoughby-Burle grew up in the small coastal town of Kure Beach, North Carolina. She studied writing at East Carolina University and is now a writer and teacher living in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and four children. She writes about the mystery and wonder of everyday life. Her contemporary fiction focuses on the themes of second chances, redemption, and finding the beauty in the world around us. Sara Gruen says of The Lemonade Year, “When life gives you lemons, read this book. It’s a delicious glass of humor, heart, and hope.”  Amy is also the author of a collection of short stories entitled Out Across the Nowhere and a contributor to a number of anthologies.




My Thoughts:
"Sticky, beautiful, sweet and messy.  Life."  (p, 377)

Nina and I are uncomfortably similar in our need to control every aspect of our world to feel safe.  Nina's control issues run up against a brick wall with everyone in her life, because everyone else has pushed beyond their fear and embraced the reality of their own life choices.  For Nina's sake, and my own, grace and mercy has never looked sweeter!

This author does a masterful job of fleshing out every character's personality and how the need to have control over the uncomfortable choices they have made (and are making) play out in their closest relationships.  Nina pretty much stays at odds with everyone; her daughter Cassie, her mom, her sister and brother-in-law, Father Finley and her ex-husband Jack.  Within those relationships, the reader sees another layer of struggle for control, and the strain and heartbreak that result.  There are some scenes - like the one with the moving van and the night Cassie seeks solace outside her parents' awareness - that illustrate the extreme lengths the human heart will go to in order to avoid dealing with painful emotions.

Every single relational conflict in this story is universal nature, and every reader will identify with one or more of the situations.  I think I saw myself in every single one! Talk about felling your toes stepped on by the weight of truth! Ouch!  I could not put this story down, and quickly found myself involved in the lives of each character.

Second chances are often never offered in our lives - to ourselves or to others - because we're never willing to boldly face our own shortcomings or become willing to risk rejection.  I hope you can "hear" me when I say this: take a risk and read this book!  You will leave its pages challenged and satisfied.  This story is every bit as sticky, beautiful, sweet and messy as life can be!

Bravo, Amy Willougby-Burle!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Conqueror by Bryan Litfin REVIEWED


 About the Book:

AD 309. Rome teeters on the brink of war. Constantine's army is on the move. On the Rhine frontier, pagan Germanic barbarian Brandulf Rex joins the Roman army as a spy. Down in Rome, senator's daughter Junia Flavia finds herself embroiled in anti-Christian politics as she works on behalf of the church.

As armies converge and forces beyond their control threaten to destroy everything they have worked for, these two people from different worlds will have to fight together to bring down the evil Emperor Maxentius. But his villainous plans and devious henchmen are not easily overcome.

Will Rex and Flavia live to see the Empire bow the knee to Christ? Or will their part in the story of Constantine's rise meet an untimely and brutal end?

About the Author:

Bryan Litfin is the author of the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently a writer and editor at Moody Publishers. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at www.bryanlitfin.com.  

My Thoughts:

"Be strong and courageous, brave warrior...and wait to discover the plans of God."  (p.490)

This novel, The Conqueror, is a majestic piece of literature that sweeps the reader back into the history of the early church.  Rome is the target of conquest, and the warring parties are filled with much darkness and a malevolent greed.

Among all of this, there is a young Speculator named Rex who rises in favor with his general to become a spy.  Embedded in the imperial horse guard, Rex is tasked with gathering intelligence to feed to the Emperor Constantine in his quest to free Rome from the tyrannical rule of Praetorian prefects Pompeianus and Emperor Maxentius.  That storyline alone is RICH!

BUT there is Flavia, a daughter of another aristocratic leader, and also a daughter of King Jesus.  The Christians are still reeling from persecution when they find themselves in the middle of a war they neither want or can ever begin to slow. Flavia finds herself a pawn between rulers and winds up as a fugitive for her very life when Rex intervenes at a particularly deadly moment!

These two characters serve as a rich center point upon which  Litfin builds a saga quite unlike anything I've ever read!  Every character, whether emperor or common slave, comes alive on the page! The passage of time and change in scenario is seamless, and your own life and time passes over you with little notice! (think late nights that you don't mind at all!)  This is such a treasure!!  Greater still...it's the first in a series! You will be so glad you chose to spend time with this novel!  It will change your heart!!


Friday, October 30, 2020

The Sound of Falling Leaves by Lisa Carter - REVIEWED


 About the Book:

After aspiring opera singer Tessa loses her voice in a fire, she needs both a place to heal and a way to keep music in her life. She retreats to her aunt's apple orchard in rural North Carolina to collect folk ballads. But amid the autumn splendor of this isolated Appalachian community, she uncovers an unnerving connection between a murder case and a long-ago disappearance. Tessa gets a glimpse into an almost-forgotten world, encounters a corrupt, small-town political dynasty, and finds superstition and prejudice at every turn.

She's also drawn to Zeke, the handsome but enigmatic orchard caretaker, who shows her that mountain justice is neither impartial nor just. But battling a conspiracy of silence, Tessa isn't sure if she can trust him. Yet somewhere in the mists of the Blue Ridge Mountains, evil lurks, and a killer is determined to keep the past where it belongs--dead and buried.

About the Author:
Lisa Carter is the best-selling author of seven romantic suspense novels, four historical novellas, and a contemporary Coast Guard series. Her book Under a Turquoise Sky won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Blending Southern and Native American fiction, she likes to describe her suspense novels as "sweet tea with a slice of murder." Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. When not writing, she loves spending time with her family and teaching writing workshops. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. Visit her online at lisacarterauthor.com


My Thoughts:
"Ouida sighed, the sound like the rustling of autunm leaves.  'Knowing is a far different thing than having the power to stop it.  Such a power is reserved for God Himself."  (p. 126)

This story combines two very unlikely characters, Tessa, an opera singer by trade, and Zeke, an undercover detective working for her aunt.  The setting is also unusual, an Appalacian community where innocents like Ouida and Tess' Aunt Dicey live, but fail to thrive, because of the dark cloud of evil that reigns over the valley in the form of the Cozart family.  Apparently, this wicked family has extended its power over the people of this town for decades, and they have finally encountered folks who are angry and greived enough to fight for justice - no matter the cost.

Tessa sort of stumbles into this battle when her own life circumstances are dramatically and unalterbly changed through another very dark and untimely tragedy.  The only thing that seems to keep her boueyed to hope and healing are her Aunt Dicey, and her unexpectedly handsome orchard supervisor, Zeke.

Zeke is less than thrilled for an outsider to disrupt his already complicated undercover assignment.  As the story unfolds, there is a depth of human emotion that the reader will find to be as thrilling and heart stopping as the mystery and espionage taking place right under the community's collective noses!  With more twists and turns than the rural roads running through this Appalacian town, the reader will be burning the midnight oil to find out who survives this novel!! Talk about a nail biter!!  

I HIGHLY recommend this story! It is well written, well paced and filled with characters you will want to hold close to your heart.  I know my heart ached for them all at one point or another!! Don't wait to add this book to your reading list!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Something Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick REVIEWED


 About the Book:

In 1853, Abigail Scott was a nineteen-year-old school teacher in Oregon Territory when she married Ben Duniway. Marriage meant giving up on teaching, but Abigail always believed she was meant to be more than a good wife and mother. When Abigail becomes the primary breadwinner for her growing family, what she sees as a working woman appalls her--and prompts her to devote her life to fighting for the rights of women, including the right to vote.

Based on a true story, Something Worth Doing will resonate with modern women who still grapple with the pull between career and family, finding their place in the public sphere, and dealing with frustrations and prejudices when competing in male-dominated spaces.

About the Author:


Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than 30 books, including One More River to CrossEverything She Didn't SayAll Together in One PlaceA Light in the WildernessThe Memory WeaverThis Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com



My Thoughts:

"Relationships were so unpredictable, and she longed for certainty - certainty she could control." (p. 153)

Abigail Scott Duniway is a name I was unfamiliar with, but is now one I'll not soon forget.  The later part of the 1800's and early part of the 1900's were not easy for anyone, but women seemed to bear the lion's portion of every aspect of family life.  They had little hope of survival at all without a man, and the burden to provide children, and lots of them, was something many didn't survive. Abigail nearly didn't, and somehow I think this was the genesis of her understanding that she had a greater purpose in life than bearing children. 

Kirkpatrick allows the story to unfold naturally through life circumstances, and Abigail's longing for more - more freedom, more autonomy, more ingenuity, more life - keeps her going through all of life's struggles.  It's not long after the harsh reality of the Oregon frontier strikes a few blows that Abigail knows with certainty that is the right to vote - to have your voice heard makes all the difference.

Words become Abigail's voice, her weapon, her wealth as she becomes an active suffragette.  This comes to her over time, and through many avenues of hard work and determination.  She knows beyond a doubt that her husband, Ben, is the greatest source of strength, because he always supports her with a level-headed and calming presence.  She always knew how blessed she and her children were to have him in their lives.

I can't imagine pursuing something for four decades, but Abigail does and lives long enough to see her work come to fruition.  She experienced a lot of heartache and loss along the way, but she never turned aside.  She always struggled relationally with a lot of folks, and she was a bit of a control freak, but those qualities allowed her to pursue her cause tirelessly.  Oh that we all could live our lives so filled with purpose!

Thank you Jane Kirkpatrick for bringing Abigail to vivid life!  This has been an inspiring story to read and enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Dazzle of Diamonds by Liz Johnson - REVIEWED

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Penelope Hunter loves her job as the event manager at one of Savannah's premier historic venues--until her ex-fiancĂ© walks into her office with his new bride-to-be. Surely she cannot be expected to plan their wedding. To make matters worse, a scheming social matriarch is threatening to take her big-ticket event elsewhere, especially if Penelope insists on being seen with her best friend, Tucker Westbrook.

Since returning from serving two tours in the Middle East, Tucker has built a thriving security company. His work is nearly as stabilizing as his lifelong friendship with Penelope. But when the lone candidate for county sheriff goads him, Tucker loses his cool and ends up on the ballot--and on the receiving end of a smear campaign claiming the Westbrooks were traitors to the South.

To clear his name, Tucker and Penelope must join forces to find the truth behind a lost Civil War treasure. But the more time they spend together, the closer she comes to losing her job--and falling helplessly in love.

My Thoughts:

"Love is love because it's freely given.  It may cost everything, but it is free to give."  (p. 304)

Penelope Hunter and Tucker Westbrook have a bit of trouble determining what love looks like in their lives. Caught up in community drama, public scrutiny and good 'ole fashioned Southern Tradition, these two find themselves entangled in a personal way that seems way too complicated for anyone's good. On top of that,there is a public office at stake based on a treasure hunt that has gone on for over a century! True to the depth of Southern pride, and the propensity of gossip, a dark shadow is cast over the lives of many!

You know, if I wasn't born and raised in the South, I might have missed some of the nuances of this story.  However, I was able to totally relate to everyone's point of view - from Penelope's stress about her job performance for her very elite clientele, to Tucker's anxiety spawned by his father's expectations.  I even understand the weird dynamic that causes Penelope and Tucker to cook up the drama that almost costs them what matters most.

I love the way they allow history and mystery steer them toward the truth in every area of their lives.  This is a fun and very unexpected read!  There is SO MUCH going on that you have a hard time putting it down! You have to find out where the next clue leads!

Well, I'm going to stop here before I say too much.  If you want a Southern Romance, then pick this up and settle in for a good read!  Enjoy!! I did!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Liz Johnson is the author of more than a dozen novels, including A Sparkle of SilverA Glitter of GoldThe Red Door InnWhere Two Hearts Meet, and On Love's Gentle Shore, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. She works in marketing and makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.







Monday, August 3, 2020

These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker - REVIEWED



ABOUT THE BOOK:
Once held captive and tortured on a mysterious mountain, Dan was lucky to have made it out alive. But freedom comes at a cost. Left with little memory of the horrific ordeal, Dan can recall one thing--his escape meant leaving his brother behind.

With each day that passes, Dan waits with the other survivors in hope of his brother's escape. But just as long-forgotten memories start rising to the surface, the sudden appearance of a wounded woman throws everything into question. As Dan struggles to know who to trust, he is caught once again in a paralyzing moral dilemma:

How far will he go to save the people he loves?    

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Shawn Smucker is the award-winning author of Light from Distant Stars, the young adult novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, and the memoir Once We Were Strangers. He lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him online at www.shawnsmucker.com.

My Thoughts:
"It's the kind of place you have to leave on your own.  Everyone who has ever left has battled their way out.  In this place, our guilt consumes us."  p. 203

After reading this book, I've had to sit with its truth for a few days before writing my review.  I'll be honest, when I began reading, I stayed a bit confused by the story line.  I was confused about the location and the circumstances in which I found the characters living.  So, I have to say from the very beginning, stick with this story!!  Everything will become clear as you read.  As you take steps toward understanding, things will become clearer and clearer.  It is SO WORTH the journey!

I know, if you've been reading my blog anytime at all, you know I always intersect with a story at a God appointed moment in my life.  This story intersects my life in a season of growth and change.  Those two words sound amazing, no?  However, they are, in reality uncomfortably hard.  The characters in this story are in that same place, but they don't exactly realize it.  Truth be told, the journey to understand that truth about their lives is a bit circuitous. This is not an action packed thriller.  Rather, this is a story that is personal, individual and challenges us as such to learn to be an honest contributor to the groups we find ourselves a part of....family, church, work, friends.

I encourage everyone to take the time to savor this book. It is very different from most fiction I've read lately. The characters are very believable, and you will like some more than others.  This is an analogous tale, and, as such, needs to be read with an open mind.  Experience it. You will be so glad you did!!






Thursday, June 25, 2020

What Momma Left Behind by Cindy K. Sproles - REVIEW

About the Book:
In the face of overwhelming obstacles, she'll need courage, grit, and a tender heart

Worie Dressar is seventeen years old when influenza and typhoid ravage her Appalachian Mountain community in 1877, leaving behind a growing number of orphaned children with no way to care for themselves. Worie's mother has been secretly feeding several of these little ones on Sourwood Mountain. But when tragedy strikes, Worie is left to figure out why and how she was caring for them.


Plagued with two good-for-nothing brothers--one greedy and the other a drunkard--Worie must fight to save her home and the children now in her begrudging care. Along the way, she discovers the beauty of unconditional love and the power of forgiveness as she cares for all of Momma's children.

About the Author:
Cindy K. Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. An author, storyteller, and popular speaker, Cindy teaches at writers conferences across the country and directs the Asheville Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina. Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, Cindy has a BA in business and journalism and lives in the mountains of East Tennessee with her family.
My Thoughts:
"Truth can be hard to swaller, and right now I was chokin."  (p.212)
Worrie Dressar's simple life in a remote Appalachian Mountain community was not without its problems.  It turns out that the definition of family was a vast as the mountains themselves.  Worrie has to go through hell and back before that truth becomes known to her.  Her journey to that truth costs her more than she wants to pay, and she must decide, moment by moment, if it is worth the cost.
When I first picked up this novel, I assumed that it would address the ravages of typhoid in rural Appalachia.  Technically, it does, but not in a way I'd have ever dreamed!  Cindy Sproles takes the reader on a very delicate spiritual and emotional journey through the harshest physical, circumstantial circumstances imaginable!  She develops her characters in such a way, that, even though the circumstances are terrible, you are able to feel the impact of the choices Worrie is forced to make as the story unfolds.
There is a strength and wisdom in Worrie's actions that is beyond her years.  Yet, when it is most impactful, she is able to express her overwhelming emotions in a way that will twist your heart in two! Once I recognized what the true treasure was in the story, I found out that I'd misjudged that too.  Sproles carefully weaves depth and breadth into her characters and story line that makes every chapter feel like something new.  
I highly recommend this book!  You will come away satisfied, challenged, and examining your own heart. I think in light of the pandemic and racial unrest in our country right now, this story packs a greater emotional punch!  Enjoy this story!  Prepare your heart to be touched and changed!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Cross Shadow by Andrew Huff - REVIEW and GIVE AWAY!


About the Book:
All journalist Christine Lewis wants is the truth. All pastor John Cross wants is to avoid it.

Former CIA agent turned evangelical pastor John Cross is busy caring for the small community of believers he ministers to in Virginia. Journalist Christine Lewis is busy with the demand for her talents from top news agencies in New York City. Neither has any time left for their relationship, which began eight months before when they paired up to prevent the detonation of a chemical bomb in the nation's capital.

But when Christine hears that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Texas, they team up again to discover the truth about the crime. Untangling a web of conspiracy, the couple finds themselves in the center of another dangerous situation-and in trouble far deeper than they expected.


With an assassin on the loose, a trusted colleague acting as a double agent, and unreliable artificial intelligence connected to mercenaries who have Cross on their hit list, these two may not get out of the Lone Star State alive.

About the Author:
Huff spent ten years in local church ministry as a youth pastor and creative arts pastor before pursuing God’s calling into creative storytelling and media production as the product director at Igniter Media, a church media company (ignitermedia.com).

He is a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest for unpublished authors (2014, 2017) and also won the best screenplay award at the 2015 48 Hour Film Festival in Richmond, VA. A Cross to Kill and Cross Shadow in the Shepherd Suspense series are his first releases.

Huff holds a bachelor of science in religion degree from Liberty University and a master of arts in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He resides in Plano, TX, with his beautiful wife, Jae, and their two boys.


Learn more Andrew Huff and the Shepherd Suspense novels at www.andrewhuffbooks.com. He can also be found on Facebook (@huffwrites), Twitter (@andrewjohnhuff) and Instagram (@andyhuff).

My Thoughts:
"Come on. Let's get you cleaned up.  We've got a lot to talk about."  (p, 176)

Christine Lewis finds herself cleaning up a LOT more than any news reporter I've ever heard of!  If I were her, I'd pick a less dangerous profession!  John Cross, her boyfriend, possesses an every stranger combination of skill sets, and seems to be perfectly suited to her very aggressive and  dangerous reporting gigs!

This time, Christine's reporting takes a backseat, because she finds herself trying to save her step brother from being wrongfully charged with murder.  Her reporting skills, combined with John's endless protective and crafty intelligence gathering capabilities, prove to be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.  As they uncover the depth and breadth of the people determined to profit off the lives of others - alive or dead - it takes every ounce of determination and faith they can muster to survive everything that comes their way.

All along the way, both Christine and John have their personal faith challenged in ways that cause them both heartache and joy.  Anyone brave enough to open this novel better hang on for the ride!  This is a tale that begins with a subtle uptick in danger, but by the end of the novel, the reader is breathless and in need of a good nap!  There are no end to the twists and turns in this plot line! As this is book two of the series, I am now anxious to go back and enjoy the first novel so I'll be ready for the next one!

This is a series that anyone who enjoys a great thrill ride will thoroughly enjoy! I highly recommend this trilogy!! I can't wait to see what happens next!

You can win your own copy of Cross Shadow!  Leave a message in the comments, and I will contact the winner next week!


Friday, May 22, 2020

Legends From My Mom's Closet by Sasha Olsen - REVIEWED!

About the Book:

Legends from Mom s Closet documents Sasha s summer, where she spends most of her time indoors because of stormy weather. Due to her boredom, she turns to learning about legendary people through books and research. She comes upon some incredible women, like Frida Kahlo, and delves into these legends lives which lead her to feel extremely inspired. She turns her inspiration into art by rummaging in her mom s closet for vintage pieces to dress up as the legends she learned about. Sometimes she faces little troubles, but she quickly overcomes them in a mission to spend a day in a legend s shoes and document it. Through this diary, readers will also learn the importance of vintage clothing and the need to prevent fast fashion. Legends from Mom s Closet is abundant with colorful photos and illustrations for other kids to truly get a feel of Sasha s imagination. She even shares little fun facts and a how-to for each icon.Experience the creativity a kid encounters when exploring what s right around them and let it inspire you too!

About the Author:
Sasha Olsen is a 10-year-old author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm,
pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. She always finds new hobbies and things to do, which
usually ends up in her trying to juggle everything. She lives with her family in Bal Harbour,

Florida, where she also spearheads the conservation movement “I Want My Ocean Back.”
Legends From Mom’s Closet is her first book.

My Review:

“Cleopatra was awesome, but so am I and all the women I know!”  p. 37
“…do you think she ever got tired of being herself?”  p. 46 (Audrey Hepburn)
“Get inspired to learn more and be creative.  New people and new things surround you.  Read, read, read.”  p. 120

It is an exceptional 10-year-old who enjoys research and writing!  As a parent of adult children, I can honestly say, I’d love to meet her parents too!  However, I won’t distract a moment from this very extraordinary book!

This is far more than just a dress-up activity!  Sasha actually reads about every character she portrays and shares what she learns in a way that other readers her age will remain engaged.  Sasha chooses a diary format to tell her story.  Who on planet earth doesn’t love to read someone else’s diary?!  Seriously!  She begins by sharing the source of inspiration to choose the character, then goes on to share what she learned in the process of choosing the clothing and props.

At this point, the reader is totally engaged and ready to learn interesting and little known facts about the character.  This is a far more interesting way to learn than  doing an internet search!  She then shares her own artful interpretation of the character in a drawing – typically in crayon – and ends the chapter with hints and tips to recreate your own character!  All along the way, there are amazing photos of Sasha as her character.  At the end of the book, you learn that all of her props were found in her home or the building she lived in.  This kid doesn’t do anything to excess that would harm the world around her!

This was an unexpected and very pleasant discovery of a book!  I’ve always been drawn to children’s books, and am so honored to review this one!  I look forward to watching Sasha as she grows and follows what is certain to be a fascinating life path!  BRAVO!!

Learn more here!
  • Author's Facebook: LINK 
  • Author's Instagram: LINK
  • Author's Website: LINK
  • Amazon: LINK
  • B&N: LINK

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

An Interview with Sasha Olsen: Legend's from Mom's Closet

Sasha Olsen has accomplished more in her ten years of living than most people!  She has become an activist on behalf of the world's oceans, and has published her first book!

Legend's from Mom's Closet  showcases Sasha's limitless search for knowledge, born from a Summer trapped indoors by inclement weather.  Her love for reading and research will open many doors for her during her lifetime!  Enjoy this brief interview, and come back on Friday for my review of this very unique and fascinating exploration of women who have impacted history in meaningful ways!  Welcome, Sasha!

In your book, Legends from Mom’s Closet, you share tidbits about and dress up like
legendary women you read about during a rainy summer spent indoors. A lot of kids
your age would spend a rainy summer watching TV or playing video games. What
made you decide to start reading books about famous women?

Well, I actually love to read, especially biographies. I don’t usually spend a lot of time
using any devices. I didn’t specifically start reading books about famous women, but I
started looking around for books to learn more about legendary people. I just happened
to meet these iconic women through their amazing stories and spending a day in their
shoes!

What is the biggest lesson you learned from getting to know all of these female
legends?

I learned many lessons! Most of all though, I learned that women are super strong.
Women work very hard and can get through anything that might stand in their way of

achieving their goals. Women are so inspiring!

What inspired you to use your mom’s clothes and your grandmother’s vintage pieces
to recreate all of their iconic looks?

Actually, I just went into my mom’s closet and started trying on her shoes and dresses.
This was after I read about Frida Kahlo. So, I just got the idea to try and dress up as her! I
thought my mom might be really upset with me for playing with her things, but she
loved the idea. If the legend was wearing something like I really couldn’t figure out
where to get, I would call my grandma for advice. Most of the time, she had exactly

what I needed!

How did you decide which legends to include in Legends from Mom’s Closet?

I didn’t choose them before. I just started to read about people who I didn’t know much
about yet and it ended up being all women! After, I just decided to share them in this

book.

Your other passion is the environment. Tell us what you learned about vintage fashion
versus fast fashion.

When I was started my movement Iwantmyoceanback and this project, I was doing a lot
of research during that time. I wanted to know more about what are the biggest things
that pollute our oceans and cause problems for our planet. I found out like clothing is
one of the biggest ocean pollutants and some fabrics, like polyester, have plastic in
them so it breaks down and hurts our sea animals. After finding this out, I realized that
it’s very harmful to buy fast fashion because people just buy the clothes and throw them
away soon after. It inspired me to learn more about vintage and how we can buy
secondhand instead, and just reuse clothing!

Ultimately, what do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope readers learn how important it is to let your creativity run wild! I want other kids
to know that we can get inspired and have fun while also learning new things and
growing our knowledge. It’s also very important that we learn more about how fast
fashion affects our oceans and that we stop it! We need to win the war against fast
fashion to help save the planet.

Purchase your copy HERE!


Monday, April 20, 2020

Silent Shadows by Natalie Walters - REVIEWED


About the Book:
They're running from their pasts into an unknown future.
But first, they'll have to survive the present.

Nurse Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolves into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally--her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton's involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer--and more deadly--than they realized.


Welcome back to Walton, Georgia, where everyone knows your name--but no one knows your secret.

About the Author:
Natalie Walters is the author of Living Lies and Deadly Deceit. A military wife of 22 years, she currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. She writes full-time and has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. In addition to balancing life as a military spouse, mom, and writer, she loves connecting on social media, sharing her love of books, cooking, and traveling. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past. Learn more at www.nataliewalterswriter.com.






My Thoughts:
Secrets are easy to keep - until they're not.  Pecca Gallegos and her son, Maceo have become an integral part of the community in Walton, Georgia.  Pecca's job as a physical therapist at the local veteran's rehab facility, Home for Heroes, provides the structure and security - and anonymity  - Pecca needs to raise her son.  When Army veteran, Colton Cawford, becomes her patient, Pecca discovers that keeping her feelings under wraps becomes an unexpected challenge as she gets to know her patient.  Her co-workers only seem to encourage the relationship as both Pecca and her son become an almost daily part of Colton's life.

Life takes a sudden u-turn when gun shots ring out of the shadows.  Those shots open the gate way to Pecca's past, and secrets come to light that ensure nothing but unknown circumstances and danger in what had become the safest place of her life.  As Pecca begins to navigate the task of both keeping her son safe and guarding her heart against growing feelings for Colton, Captain Crawford has to struggle to overcome the trauma lurking in his own past that keeps his mind and body hi-jacked by uncontrolled movement.

This story has multi-layered plot lines that will appeal to a broad range of readers.  There is romance, suspense, difficult emotions, trauma, and a multitude or surprises hidden along the way!  Truth grapples to come to the surface against a constant stream of efforts to protect people from being hurt both physically and emotionally.  The characters in this novel - even the minor characters - are believable and very likable.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time within the pages of this novel, and am very excited to recommend it to everyone!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Three Secrets to Teaching Your Kids to Choose Confidence Over Fear - Guest Post by Ryan Maule


3 Secrets to Teaching Your Kids to Choose Confidence Over Fear
By Ryan Maule, author of the children’s book I Am Awesome!

Being a parent of a child in grade school means constantly sitting on the edge of your seat. Changes are happening all the time that affect the way your child reacts and responds to everyday life situations. This makes parenting overwhelming, feeling like you’re just sitting around waiting to come up with answers to issues you didn’t realize would come up in the first place. 

One of those changes seen regularly is a loss in self-esteem or confidence. Many parents face the dilemma of seeing confidence deplete with little to no understanding of what’s going on or how it happened. Most of the time we don’t even notice until the confidence has dropped so far that we wonder how it will ever recover!

So, what happened? If you’re like me, it’s easy to remember the moments where your child looked like they were absolutely unstoppable. I’ve seen my daughter take on roller coasters that made me nauseas, introduce herself to a group of strangers where I hoped to just blend in and get ignored, and perform, sing, and dance in front of crowds that make even the most confident of parents wonder “where did this kid come from?!” For a while it seemed like the only thing that scared her was Santa Claus.

But then, without notice or warning, she doesn’t have that confidence anymore. She doesn’t want to perform, she’s withdrawn, she doesn’t want to go on even simple child rides, or stand out at school or in small groups. 

Where did the confidence go?

The reality is that these depletions in confidence are normal and common throughout not only the growing up process, but throughout your child’s entire life. These life tests never go away. The trick is to be able to recognize and label the problem that is always getting in the way. It can be called many things and summed up into one word: fear.

Fear is the main reason your children lose some or most of their self-confidence. It can be discovering the fear of death, the fear of judgement, the fear of disapproval, the fear of disappointment, the fear of embarrassment, or even the fear of simply failing. They could even just be scared in general. Fear is always present and will never fully go away. Fear is the amplifier of all the negative outcomes in every situation that we hold in the back of our mind. 

The secret is to teach our children how to react to fear in order to maintain and build their confidence. To do this, I have three easy secrets to help your kids choose confidence over fear.

1. Teach Your Children to Recognize and Admit Their Fears

Most situations where confidence is attacked are never recognized because we allow ourselves to get away with lying to each other. Instead of properly saying “I’m afraid of” or “I’m scared to,” we allow bad excuses and “I just don’t want to’s” to be acceptable answers. Teaching your kids to identify the thoughts and feelings that are fear-related helps them to create the potential for a stronger, more confident response. 

2. Make A Rule of No Hypotheticals

This secret is one that all families should use and applies to both adults and children. Hypotheticals are imaginary negative outcomes and more commonly, fantasy worst-case scenarios. It’s so easy to think up disasters and failures and play them out like a movie in your mind. The answer is to not allow them. No hypotheticals means basing your decision on only the things that are facts and that you already know. By not allowing your worst-case scenario to impact your decision, you create opportunities where positive outcomes are truly possible.

3. Discuss Past Successes!

When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to remember past experience. Sometimes all you need is a little reminder of great moments of past confidence to inspire more instances of future confidence!

“Do you remember that time you did this same thing and it went perfectly?!”

“Mom and I were so proud of you the last time you handled a situation like this!”

“You are awesome at this!”

“This is nothing for you!”

“You could do this in your sleep!”

By drawing on past successes, your children will start to see beyond the fear and see themselves conquering the world!

RYAN MAULE is the author of the children’s book I Am Awesome! He is also a nationally recognized and highly sought-after motivational speaker, host of the popular Expect Awesome Podcast, and the president of Integrity Doctors, the world’s largest chiropractic business organization. Over the last 15 years Ryan has traveled the world spreading the message of expecting awesome and building a stronger self-image in order to gain a God-powered confidence. Ryan is happily married to his awesome wife Amber and they live in Florida with their two awesome kids, Summer Grace and Nolan Zeal.