Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Caught by Surprise



Caught by Surprise

by
Jen Turano


MY THOUGHTS: Jen Turano is one of my favorite authors. Her books always make me laugh at the hysterical situations the characters find themselves immersed in. In Caught by Surprise I noticed what a gift Jen has for creating fast paced and totally engaging conversation. I could hear the characters bantering back and forth with lots of emotional involvement -- sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always intriguing. This book is full of lots of unexpected situations, suspense, and amazing surprises.

Although this is the final book in the Apart From the Crowd series, you don't need to read the other books before you read this one (however I bet you'll want to read them afterwards because you'll be dying to know more about the other characters). Every single one of Jen's books has been a delightful way to escape from the worries of the world and giggle at the antics of the characters.

I'm going to miss these characters -- they become friends!


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Miss Temperance Flowerdew is on her way to work when a stranger suddenly grabs her off the street and sends her on a Chicago-bound train before she can figure out what happened. 
When Mr. Gilbert Cavendish is called upon to rescue a missing woman, he follows the trail to Chicago only to discover that the woman is his good friend Temperance. Before they can discover who was behind the abduction, they’re seen alone together by a New York society matron, putting their reputations at risk.
Gilbert is willing to propose marriage–except Temperance will have none of it. She’s finally stepped out of the shadow of her relations and won’t give up her independence. But when it becomes clear the misunderstanding in Chicago has escalated into a threat on her life and followed her to New York, accepting Gilbert’s help in solving the mystery may lead to more than she ever could have dreamed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JenTuranoA USA Today Best-Selling Author, Jen Turano has written the critically acclaimed Ladies of Distinction series, and A Class of Their Own series, published through Bethany House Publishers. Her novel, After a Fashion, was chosen as a top pick from Romantic Times, as well as being named a top ten romance of 2015 from Booklist.  It is also a nominee for Romantic Times 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen as a top ten romance by Booklist in 2013. Her seventh book, Playing the Part, released in the spring of 2016, and will be followed by a new four-book series, Apart from the Crowd. When she’s not writing, Jen spends her time outside of Denver with her husband and neurotic Cattle Dog, enjoying herself as an empty-nester since her son recently abandoned her for the college life. She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/ or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com. She is represented by the Natasha Kern Literary Agency. Her books may be found in fine bookstores, or follow the Baker House Publishing link to find additional places to purchase her work – http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/jen-turano/1761

Sunday, February 18, 2018

LIFE-CHANGING BOOK - February: No Compromise, The Life Story of Keith Green

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green
Legacy edition
by
Melody Green and David Hazard


MY THOUGHTS:
This book was recommended when I asked several friends for the titles of books that changed their lives. My plan is to read one per month. I was very scientific about how I planned my reading for the year -- this book was first of those I ordered to arrive, so I read it first! You can see the full list of books I want to read (now at 24) here.

The book is approximately 500 pages and includes lots of pictures of singer Keith Green, his ministry, family, and friends. If I had to pick a quote from the book that summarized it all, it would be this:

"When we obey God in faith, we have no way of knowing what he will do with our efforts. We should never underestimate the power of one passionate heart in the hands of the all-powerful God."

Keith was part of the 60's generation and he and his later wife Melody got caught up in all the craziness that California had to provide at the time. He was an extreme seeker -- he knew there was more to live for than the daily grind, and he tried everything he could find that might help him find a purpose in life. He fought against Christianity for a long time, mostly because he had significant questions that weren't answered to his satisfaction. He was incredibly intense and he never gave up in his pursuit of meaning.

Along the way many people were critical to helping him find the love of Jesus and the truth of the Bible. Once he realized Jesus was truly the son of the one and only God, and that Jesus was also God himself, Keith gave himself over completely to God.

It wasn't an easy transition for him -- he struggled daily to understand what God wanted of him and how to be all he expected God wanted. He wrote hundreds of songs and delivered a powerful message to thousands of people who credit him for showing them the way to Christ.

The book is full of amazing lyrics and heartfelt passages from Keith's journal. I found myself bookmarking a lot of pages and underlining paragraphs. Through these insights the reader can see the intense struggle he went through to give up himself and be filled completely with God. He wrote, "All the talent in the world won't buy me a godly character...and that's what I want more than anything."

He lived a life that seemed to an outsider to be more than devoted, yet he always felt he wasn't doing enough for the Lord who gave everything for him. Many of his journal writings are so personal and deep, and I want to want God in my life in the same way. This book has opened my eyes to a level of introspection and action that I desperately want and need.

These excerpts from Keith's journal was especially meaningful to me:

"Prayer is the key. Make me a man of prayer! Put power in my words. Your word is powerful! Make your word my word, make your power my power. I want to be God's voice, full of love, mercy and fire! But I must be dead. I am ready for death! Kill me, destroy me, burn me beyond recognition. I know now that you would never hurt or harm me. You only want me dead! Let it be done! I don't want greatness. I want you to be great! Lower me down, humble me. Teach me to humble myself, O Lord! I love you so much, but not as you love the Father. I want to love you that way!"

"God has been so kind and patient with me, and now it's time to get serious about the call to serve Him. The Lord rebuked me yesterday for just occupying--just looking to do the next newsletter, the next album and tour, etc. He showed me that my vision was far too small and that I had lost my pioneer spirit. I had hidden my talent of potential for revival and soul-winning in the ground. I had become a corporate president instead of an apostle -- making new territories available to God's Spirit to glorify Him. Thank you for rebuking me in such love and kindness. I love you. Abba, and Jesus."

So many passages were either arrows into my heart, challenging me to listen and obey God more. Others were balm to a weary soul. These include:

"I know my (Melody's) losses deposited something deep into my spirit. Yes, I would have rather read a book to receive what God gave me in those darkest of times--but some pearls are only discovered when the field looks like an impossible wasteland. He is the God of the impossible. The God who tells us where to dig for the treasure. The God of great and tender mercies. And I love him with all of my heart."

"The main thing is that we decide to live differently. After we make a firm decision in our heart, God gives us the power to walk it out, and I think the temptations get less intense too."

And an analogy about godly works, not salvation by works: "An apple tree becomes an apple tree as a gift of God, but it proves it's an apple tree by making apples."

I highly recommend this book only if you truly want to take a good look at yourself and your relationship with God. You will be convicted if you read this!

KEY TAKE AWAYS:
1. God loves us unconditionally.
2. We take Him for granted.
3. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, but there are many things we can do in response to that love.
4. Few of us ever desire to give ourselves over to God with the intensity that Keith did. And few will have the impact he did -- there is a correlation!
5. I want to be intense in my Bible reading and prayer. I waste so much time on meaningless things and I do so little to point others to God. I want to be filled with the Spirit in a way that causes me to seek God first in everything, to listen for His voice, to watch Him in action, and to be obedient to whatever he asks.
6. I have been hiding my talents and coasting through life. Shame on me. God loves me intensely despite this, but I want less of me and more of Him. None of me and all of Him!
7. I added three more books to my Amazon list!

You can purchase the book here.

ABOUT THE BOOK (from the back cover):
He was only twenty-eight when he died in a plane crash with two of his small children, but singer/songwriter Keith Green had already created a legacy of music and inspiration that would outlive him. A spiritual revolutionary, he found freedom through Jesus at twenty-one and spent the rest of his short life convincing others to refuse to accept the status quo and to bring passion and honestly back to the church.
Now, on the 25th anniversary of his death, Melody has expanded and updated her husband's biography with many added stories and insights, never before published photos, extra selections from Keith's private journals, and glimpses into Melody's season of grieving and raising their two surviving children on her own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melody is probably most loved for the songs she’s written.  “There Is A Redeemer” is found in church hymn books around the world, and reports of it being sung in villages in Africa and Asia are plentiful. She has also composed many other standards including, "Make My Life A Prayer  To You,"  “You Are The One,” Rushing Wind,” and "The Lord Is My Shepherd."

Melody 's life is an adventure that just keeps unfolding. Besides writing songs she is also known internationally as an author and a minister.  She is fearless when it comes to tackling difficult issues and bold in her travels.  She has been to over 30 nations to speak at retreats, conferences, and church services…  as well ministering to  men and women in prisons, refugee camps, remote villages, leper colonies, underground churches, and those living in war zones.

Her best selling book,  “No Compromise. The Life Story of Keith Green”  has become a must-read classic, translated into numerous languages.  Melody’s “ministry articles” are distributed as LDM WiseTracts by the multi-millions, especially her groundbreaking Pro-Life message, "Children Things We Throw Away" which at last count, 10 years ago, over 20 million had been distributed. You can learn more about her and Keith's live at http://www.melodygreen.com

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A Refuge Assured

A Refuge Assured
by Jocelyn Green

My Thoughts:
Jocelyn Green has a way of bringing history to life that goes far beyond what we learned in school. Her complex characters demonstrate the realities of life during difficult times in history. I had no idea the horrors of living during the French Revolution even if you weren't royalty, and it's hard to imagine the daily struggles of those who tried to escape and start new lives in America.

A Refuge Assured quickly transports the reader to the side of Vivienne Rivard, a business woman (with her aunt) who provides lace to the upper class women and royalty. Because of her association with them she and all who produce the lace are targeted and she barely escapes to Philadelphia in the late 1700s. The book follows her efforts to start over again in a country that is mostly hostile to French refugees. There are many twists and important secondary characters she interacts with that provide a fascinating tale of the struggle to find peace and security.

And along the way you will discover interesting twists on Alexander Hamilton and the Whiskey Rebellion.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a history buff. One of the things I really enjoy about Green's writing is that her books are NOT historical romances. They are first and foremost intriguing historical stories that may include a bit of romance (because that's real life). The stories are incredibly well researched and always examine God's providence and love in a natural, non-preachy way.

Jocelyn Green also provides an incredible amount of reference resources on her pinterest page and website. Check them out!

You can purchase the book here:

About the Book (back cover text):

Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia, but danger lurks in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers begin to suspect a young boy left in her care might be the Dauphine. Can the French settlement of Asylum offer permanent refuge?

Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate his hard-won farm near Asylum, but he soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they are drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

About the Author:
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Mark of the  King and Wedded to War, both Christy Award finalists, and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with best selling author Dr.Gary Chapman. Jocelyn lives with her husband and two children in Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.







Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a review copy. A review was not required, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

LIFE CHANGING BOOK - January: Walk It Out

One of my 2018 goals is to read a different nonfiction Christian book each month with the intent of learning from various well-respected authors. I want to expand my faith and really define what I believe. I thought about finding one spiritual 'mentor' and focusing on his/her books, but right now I want to understand the perspectives of those who have been important influencers of friends I respect. I've actually pulled together a list of about 20 books so I have many to choose from depending on what seems most important at the time.

Walk It Out: The Radical Result of Living God's Word One Step at a Time by [Goyer, Tricia]I started reading Walk It Out, by Tricia Goyer, before I decided to accept this challenge. While she is not regarded as a pillar in the faith by many, she is a woman I respect immensely. She's dealt with the difficult choices she made in the past and has moved forward with a life devoted to obedience. She and her husband are advocates for teen moms, foster kids, and caring for the elderly. In fact she is currently living with seven adopted children and her ailing grandmother. At the same time she has an active role in the local Teen MOPS group and their church. Walk it Out is a compilation of the different ways she has struggled to follow Christ and obey the call of God and it's chock full of great wisdom to help the reader to do the same.

Each chapter ends with thoughtful questions for reflection and a list of action steps that help the reader apply what was learned. Some are a true stretch, but many just involve taking one small step.

As a result of reading this book I'm challenged to spend more time really diving into my Bible. I want to see the wisdom and advice that is there and really find ways to apply it to my life. I want to worry less about what God holds in my future and to step out and see what he has for me today. And not really for me, but for me to do to help further his kingdom. Because a major theme in Goyer's story is that it's not about us. Yes, there will be amazing things we'll find along the way, but the real joy in living is sharing God's love and finding true joy in the adventure this life can hold.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes
by
Jen Turano


MY THOUGHTS
If you have ever been stuck on the sidelines in a wallflower position, you will absolutely love this book! Jen Turano has once again created a delightful historical romance that will have you laughing and cheering on the characters as they struggle with a dastardly threat that puts their lives at risk. Miss Permilia Griswold is a feisty young woman who has been relegated to the sidelines because of her father's financial demise. In an unprecedented move she becomes friends with the other women who for whatever reason are relegated to the sidelines of posh New York society.

Turano has an amazing way of causing her readers to fall in love with characters who are so honest and flawed that one can't help but hope for their success against all odds.

I highly recommend that you read the novella, At Your Request (free for Kindle here). While Behind the Scenes truly stands alone, you will meet some of the characters and get a better feel for their situations if you read the novella first.

Honestly, I will read every book Jen Turano writes! They are all delightful.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
(From the back cover)
After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, Miss Permilia Griswold has finally figured out a way to pass the time at all the New York high-society events she attends. Under the pseudonym "Miss Quill", she is the author of society gossip columns filled with tidbits only an insider in society -- albeit one on the fringes-- would know.

When she overhears a threat against Mr. Asher Rutherford, the owner of one of the most up-and-coming department stores in the city, she's determined to warn him. But the irritatingly handsome man doesn't believer her, leaving her no choice but to take matters into her own hands. What she doesn't anticipate is that she'll end up putting herself at risk in the process -- or that she and Mr. Rutherford, a man with secrets of his own, just might end up joining forces after all.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A USA Today Best-Selling Author, Jen Turano has written the critically acclaimed Ladies of Distinction series, and A Class of Their Own series, published through Bethany House Publishers. Her novel, After a Fashion, was chosen as a top pick from Romantic Times, as JenTuranowell as being named a top ten romance of 2015 from Booklist.  It is also a nominee for Romantic Times 2015 Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen as a top ten romance by Booklist in 2013. Her seventh book, Playing the Part, released in the spring of 2016, and will be followed by a new four-book series, Apart from the Crowd. When she’s not writing, Jen spends her time outside of Denver with her husband and neurotic Cattle Dog, enjoying herself as an empty-nester since her son recently abandoned her for the college life. She can be found on Facebook At https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/ or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com. She is represented by the Natasha Kern Literary Agency. Her books may be found in fine bookstores, or follow the Baker House Publishing link to find additional places to purchase her work – http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/jen-turano/1761

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Moving Target

Moving Target
by
Lynette Eason


MY THOUGHTS
Moving Target is the third book in the Elite Guardians series about a group of no-nonsense women who have established a bodyguard service. This book does stand alone, but it is helpful to have read the other books because there are references that make more sense and you'll have a better feel for the secondary characters.

All of Lynette Eason's books are full of riveting suspense and surprising twists. It is easy to forget where you are when you read them! Moving Target starts off with a bang and never slows down. I really enjoyed getting to know these characters more (they are referred to in previous books in the series), and I like the way they worked together to solve the crime.

I had a bit of trouble finding this book to be as realistic as the others in the series. I found myself questioning some of the timelines and actually went back a couple of times to check things out, which is distracting. The serial killers methodology was just a bit too contrived for me.

That said, I will still read every Lynette Eason book I can get my hands on -- I love her fast paced style and the way she artfully tells a tale.

ABOUT THE BOOK
When Maddy McKay and Quinn Holcombe don’t show up for Quinn’s surprise birthday party, his friends know that something is very wrong. Their search turns up little beyond evidence that Quinn and Maddy just decided to take off for a long overdue vacation. But it soon becomes apparent that they did not leave of their own accord.
Maddy awakens in a cement room with no idea where she is. But it’s not long before she realizes she’s in the clutches of a madman exacting revenge by hunting. His prey of choice? Humans. Now Maddy and Quinn must run for their lives, hoping to find their killer before the next game begins. Because if they don’t win this game, they die.
Fast, furious, and flirty, Lynette Eason’s relentless suspense barely gives her readers time to catch their breath in this third thrilling installment of the Elite Guardians series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynette Eason grew up in Greenville, SC. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a Business Degree she used for a very short time, she moved to Spartanburg, SC to attend Converse College where she obtained her Masters degree in Education. She started her teaching career at the South Carolina School for the deaf and blind. In 1996, she met the man she would marry—the boy next door!
She is married to Jack Eason, who speaks, leads worship, and consults ministries around the country. They have two teenage children.
Lynette’s books have appeared on the ECPA and CBA bestseller lists and have won several awards.

Thanks to Revell Publishers for providing a copy of this book for my honest review.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rescue Me

Rescue Me
by 
Susan May Warren

MY THOUGHTS
This was a fascinating book that takes the reader behind the scenes of a mountain rescue operation. It is the third book in the Montana Rescue series, and it really stands alone. I have not read the first two books in the series (although now I want to), and while the book hints at backstories I really didn't feel like I'd missed out on critical information required for Rescue Me to make sense.

The book begins with an incident that sends the hero, Sam Brooks, into a head spin and quickly draws the reader in. The interactions between the characters are complex and fascinating, especially between siblings (Sam and his brother, and the two female characters Sierra Rose and Willow).

Warren has a way of creating a setting that takes me out of my couch and into the wilderness in just a couple of sentences! Her stories are intriguing and full of twists that keep me reading late into the night.

ABOUT THE BOOK
Deputy Sam Brooks is deeply committed to keeping the town of Mercy Falls safe. So he takes his role as liaison between the Mercy Falls Sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue very seriously. However, he is also committed in his personal life. Once his mind is set on something – nothing can sway him.
Despite the opinions of others, Sam is sure that Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. She is safe, practical and organized; a far cry from her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.
Willow feels torn between her love for Sam and her desire to see her sister have a happy ending. At least for the time being, Willow focuses her attention on getting the job as youth pastor of her small-town church.
But when an arsonist strikes, Willow and Sam are forced to fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded and injured with the winter weather closing in, Willow and Sam will have to work together to rescue a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling, Christy and RITA award-winning novelist of over fifty novels. An eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.
A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: The Story Equation.
She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, and Novel.Academy, a school for aspiring novelists. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com.

Thank you to Revell Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.