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.



Friday, May 21, 2021

Never Miss by Melissa Koslin REVIEWED


About the Book:

Former CIA sniper Kadance Tolle possesses a special set of skills and a rare pedigree. She comes from a family of assassins, and by saving Lyndon Vaile's life she risks being found by them. Despite the danger, Kadance feels compelled to help Lyndon discover who is after him--and his research that seems to prove that the Ebola virus was manmade and is about to be weaponized.

With shadowy figures pursuing them and a Mastermind watching their every move, Kadance and Lyndon must scramble to stop an impending bioattack at the State of the Union address. But their warnings fall on deaf ears, and it becomes increasingly clear that there's no one they can trust--except perhaps each other.

Strap in for a breakneck story that will have you up all night, hurtling toward the last page as the clock ticks and time runs out.

My Thoughts:

"I am involved.  I won't let what happened be for nothing.  I'm seeing this through." (p. 93)

Kandace Tolli speaks this truth to Lyndon Vaile after multiple life threatening situations have occurred with little or no understanding of the underlying reason.  Kandace's unusual assassin's skill set provide a stark contrast to Lyndon's logical scientific mind.  They both find themselves in a race against time to save the world from the deadliest bioattck on the human race - using Lyndon's life work of research centered on the deadliest virus strain imaginable

This is the first novel I've ever read from Melissa Koslin's pen, and I must say with complete certainty, it won't be my last!  Kandace and Lyndon are characters that make an impressive and believable duo caught within a seemingly impossible situation.  When they first begin communicating it is under extreme duress, and their relationship is developed in a way that draws the reader deeper and deeper into the story.  As they begin to know each other, it becomes clear that they have experienced life in very unique and different ways.  The fact that they become entirely committed to their purpose is no surprise to the reader as Koslin fleshes out each character in a very believable and intriguing way...as they interact with cat named Mac.

A cat? Really?  Yes, really.  I didn't realize a non-verbal character could provide such a powerful yet believable conduit for characters to develop relationship!  Mac was one of my favorite characters!  You won't want to miss this adventure!! Koslin has built a very real and scary scenario that will keep the pages turning at break neck speed!!  Have a blast with this book!



About the Author:
Melissa Koslin is a fourth-degree black belt in and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. In her day job as a commercial property manager, she secretly notes personal quirks and funny situations, ready to tweak them into colorful additions for her books. She and Corey, her husband of twenty years, live in Jacksonville, Florida, where they do their best not to melt in the sun. Find more information on her books at MelissaKoslin.com.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Pillars of Barabbas by M. D. House REVIEWED


About the Book:

The man they called Barabbas has come a long way from the wretched prisoner released by Pontius Pilate in lieu of Jesus of Nazareth. He and his wife Chanah are growing in regard among the leadership of Christ's fledgling church, which is expanding and thriving.

But increasing Christian influence breeds jealousy among several Roman governors and senators. How will Emperor Nero react? Can the apostle Paul soothe the moody young ruler and help the valiant Roman saints continue to spread the Word?

The Parthian Empire also poses threats, including in Eastern Africa, where the former centurion Cornelius has become a prominent Christian leader. Will the Christians need to flee, or must they fight both the Romans and the Parthians?

My Thoughts:  (I'm a tad late posting this, but this is a fabulous book!)

"We must keep striving to do our best - our very best - to learn, understand and apply the Savior's teachings, trusting that he will make up for what we lack, often in miraculous ways we could never have predicted."  (p. 243)

I reviewed the first book in this series and never imagined that the character of Barabbas could be such a rich window through which to watch the early church develop.  The Bible doesn't really tell us much about the man whose life was spared when Jesus was crucified, but M. D. House builds an entire story around what he could have contributed to the early church.

I never really considered the means that would be necessary to accomplish things like the building of early temples of worship, the calling of leaders for early churches facing persecution, the price those called to ministry had to face as they traveled great distances....so many details I never really thought about.  M.D. House not only thought about them, but skillfully weaves a plausible story around Biblical characters who served in the beginning of the spread of the gospel.

Paul is one of several apostles that appear in the course of the story, and he becomes a relatable character that  God uses to direct the lives of others considering the next steps of their spiritual journey.  Barabbas and his family feel unworthy to serve alongside him, but grow to be powerful leaders in their own right as they faithfully serve those they are called to serve.

This is a wonderful sequel that gives the reader an intriguing world to immerse themselves in, but also find scenes that will convict your heart to listen to God's call in your own life.  I look forward to reading more from this author!


 
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.







 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Miriam's Song by Jill Eileen Smith REVIEWED


About the Book:

She has prayed for deliverance from Egypt.

But perhaps the greatest liberation happens within the heart.

From the very beginning, Miriam has lived in her younger brother's shadow. Thrust into the role of protective older sister before Moses was even born, she will grow up into a woman who not only keeps her family's secret but bears the burden of leading a new nation.

In her mind, she knows that she is serving both her God and her people. But in her heart, Miriam yearns for more. She longs to experience the privileges Moses has--to talk with God face-to-face. But when God finally does speak directly to her, the outcome is not at all what she expects.

With her impeccable research and keen eye for detail, bestselling author Jill Eileen Smith offers this epic novel to fill in the gaps in Miriam's story, following her from childhood to motherhood, obscurity to notoriety, and yearning to fulfillment as she learns that what God promises He provides--in His own perfect timing.

My Thoughts:
"Oh Adonai, help me to trust You more."  (p. 271)

This is the opening to a prayer Miriam prays later in the novel, but it represents the heart of the character throughout this novel.  Jill Eileen Smith has a fabulous way of bringing Biblical characters to life in a very realistic way!  She has many decades to cover, but from the time Moses is placed in a basket in the Nile, to end of life experiences on the other side of Exile, Miriam's story is filled with realistic challenges from beginning to end.

I was intrigued by the way she depicted life as an Egyptian slave - the daily challenges and how Moses' presence was always felt even from a distance.  When the plagues came, it was the first time I was aware of the correlation between the plagues and the Egyptian gods. Before it was clear that manna would be their daily sustenance, the fear of starving was palpable.  Throughout, Miriam remains a strong foundation of faith for her community, and often prays for understanding and wisdom when things appear impossible.

I also enjoyed the depiction of the close family ties and the challenges that such extended family groups presented during such a long arduous exile.  I'm glad to have an opportunity to consider that these people had no idea where they were going, much less that it would take decades to get there!  I forget that reality when I read scriptures.  Moses kept admonishing them that God was purifying their hearts through this process.  This makes me keenly aware that the redemptive process is a lifelong journey!  

Oh that I will trust God like Miriam!  Daily asking for wisdom and direction!  Can you tell I'm a HUGE fan of Jill Eileen Smith's work?  Her biblical fiction is superb!!  Enjoy!!


About the Author:

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, and Daughters of the Promised Land, as well as The Heart of a King and Star of Persia: Esther's Story. She is also the author of the nonfiction books When Life Doesn't Match Your Dreams and She Walked Before Us. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan. Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

facing the dawn by Cynthia Ruchti REVIEWED


 About the Book:

While her humanitarian husband Liam has been digging wells in Africa, Mara Jacobs has been struggling. She knows she's supposed to feel a warm glow that her husband is eight time zones away, caring for widows and orphans. But she is exhausted, working a demanding yet unrewarding job, trying to manage their three detention-prone and needy kids, failing at her to-repair list, and fading like a garment left too long in the sun.

Then Liam's three-year absence turns into something more, changing everything and plunging her into a sunless grief. As Mara struggles to find her footing, she discovers that even when hope is tenuous, faith is fragile, and the future is unknown, we can be sure we are not forgotten . . . or unloved.


My Thoughts:

"Sun can fade the fabric of life, but it can also make art." (p. 310)

Mara Jacobs, and her children share a home devoid of their father/husband.  The reality that her husband, Liam is doing a type of mission work doesn't make up for the stress of her everyday life with three teens that seem to be totally off the chain.  The financial strain, the emotional anxiety, the exhausting work hours seem to build into an overwhelming tidal wave.

When the tidal wave breaks over this family, it will steal your breath and break your heart.  There is a darkness that threatens to engulf them all.  God's grace lights a candle of hope when Mara's lifelong friend, Ashlee resurfaces in her life, and begins to gently coax life back into the family.  The changes that happen during the course of this novel are so realistic that your heart and emotions become truly vested in the lives of each character.

This novel will transform your life if you will open your heart to receive the gift that it offers. I was not prepared for the many things that happened between the pages of this story, but I will be forever grateful to Cynthia Rushti for writing it down.  Take your time, and savor this novel.  It is a rare gift.

About the Author:


Cynthia Ruchti is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, including the novels Miles from Where We Started, A Fragile Hope, Song of Silence, When the Morning Glory Blooms, and They Almost Always Come Home. Her books have been honored with more than 40 awards, including Romantic Times' Inspirational Novel of the Year, two Selah Awards, and three Christian Retailing's BEST Awards, and she has been a finalist for many others, including the Carol and the Christy. Former president of and current professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Cynthia lives in Wisconsin and can be found online at www.cynthiaruchti.com.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill REVEIWED


About the Book: 

She's following her instincts. They're following her every move.

After her rescue of nearly fifty kidnapped children made international headlines, Amara Alvarez gets what she's worked for: a transfer to San Antonio's Homicide Division. But reality sets in quickly when her first case, the suspicious death of a teenager at a crowded local water park, plunges her life into chaos.

As the investigation moves forward, Amara finds herself stalked online by cybercriminals who uncover her personal life in frightening detail. With few leads, she's forced to resort to unconventional methods to find the killer and prevent her first murder investigation from ending up in the cold case files.

My Thoughts:

"Are you in any danger?"  (p. 182)

Detective Amara Alvarez' mom asks the question everyone reading the novel is asking!  And, at the point the question is asked, there is no clear answer.  Amara is working her first homicide case, open and shut suicide, right?  Oh no!  Her instincts kick in immediately, and she begins to uncover a multi-layer cyber crime ring that is holding data hostage till the ransom is paid!  

Amara is a really great character, and she is devoted to her job.  While she begins digging into her first case, her personal life takes quite a few twists and turns as well.  She is also devoted to her large and very intertwined family, and is forced to learn to lean on their strength when her case threatens their safety.  Someone gains way too much information about her life and Amara has to take drastic action!

This is the first novel I've ever read by Tom Threadgill, but it won't be the last!  I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, and became invested in the outcome of the story almost immediately.  The story is paced in such a way that you can enjoy the ride, but remain on edge because the outcome is never clear.  I can honestly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a solid story!  I am a Threadgill fan for certain!


About the Author:

Tom Threadgill is a full-time author and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the International Thriller Writers (ITW). The author of Collision of Lies, Tom lives with his wife near Dallas, Texas. Learn more at www.tomthreadgill.com.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

All That We Carried by Erin Bartels - REVIEWED


About the Book:

The most treacherous terrain is found within

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. They haven't seen each other since the funeral. Olivia coped with the loss by plunging herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life coaching business around her DIY spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

My Thoughts:
"No one had been left to fend for themselves amid the flames."  (p. 328)

When the hiking adventure begins between Olivia and Melanie Greene in this novel, there is enough unforgiveness and pent up bitterness to fuel the flames of another ten year separation.  There was more than one time during this journey that I was ready for the two of them to just give up and go home.  The reality of the loss faced by these two sisters is palpable!  I know people who have had less to work through that never came close to the transparency these two long for.

Erin Bartels is a gifted story teller, and draws the reader into a storyline that seems rather insurmountable.  If you've ever been camping even one night, you know right away that these two sisters picked the worst possible way to try and reconnect!  But God....doesn't He always work through all of our seemingly impossible circumstances?  Both Olivia and Melanie face some ugly truths on their journey, but they discover a quiet, solid presence at work amid the wreckage of their relationship.

There are those who will come to this story with an open mind, but leave shaking their head at how God is present in the smallest details of the story - always for the greater good.  I will tell you with unshakable certainty that Erin Bartels has experienced this unexpected grace in her own life to be able to write about it in such a believable way!  I found myself saying, "amen!" right out loud throughout the last couple of chapters!  

This story will challenge your faith, your relationships and your very heart to reach deep inside and ask God to show you where He is working in your own life!  Look for Him!  He's walking around in the midst of the flames!

About the Author:

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things (2020 Michigan Notable Book, 2020 WFWA Star Award-winner, 2019 Christy Award finalist) and The Words between Us (2020 Christy Award finalist, 2015 WFWA Rising Star Award finalist). Her short story, "This Elegant Ruin," was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest in 2014, and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. A publishing professional for 18 years, she is the director of WFWA's annual writers retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at www.erinbartels.com.