Friday, December 12, 2014

The Bachelor - a Kregel review

The Bachelor: A Novel; Plain City Peace #2

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Kregel Publications (October 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0825442168

Book Description
In this sequel to The Bargain, Betsie Troyer is back home in her Amish community where she knows she belongs, free from the confusing Englisher way of life. She and Charley Yoder have made promises to each other, and her life is back on track--until Gerald Sullivan shows up with his young daughter, asking for Betsie's help. He's on his way to find his estranged wife, and begs Betsie to take young Sheila in.
When she agrees, Betsie's carefully planned life is shaken up again. Sheila's newfound faith is troubling to Charley--and his attraction to another girl is beginning to be a problem. But how can Betsie confront him when she is still trying to confront her own feelings about Sheila's brother, Michael? Keeping the peace between the Amish man she's always loved, a twelve-year-old Englisher girl, and a draft-dodging hippie is more than she ever thought she'd have to deal with in her simple, orderly life. Still, Betsie is convinced she can keep things from falling apart completely.
Then during her best friend's wedding, tragedy strikes and her world is upended. She has to make a decision: does she love Charley or Michael . . . or is she craving a deeper love that only God can give?
The compelling second novel of the Plain City Peace series,The Bachelor deftly weaves together the strands of a solid, simpler time with the turmoil of an era of change, revealing the strengths of both in its powerful narrative.

My Thoughts
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to read Stephanie's Reed's novel Across the Wide River. I had never read anything written by her before, and I was moved by her writing. I've been a reader of Amish fiction since my teen years when my grandmother introduced me to Beverly Lewis' books, and for many years it was a genre that was my favorite. I don't read a lot of it at this point, due to burn-out, but when I saw that Stephanie's newest novel was available for review, I snagged the opportunity to read some well-written story!

What I love about Stephanie's writing of Amish fiction is that she writes about the Amish people's beliefs accurately, at least in my opinion. That is one of my pet peeves with Amish fiction, and a big reason why I no longer read it like I used to. But that's another story for another day.

Stephanie has a knack for capturing your attention with detail and characters that feel real. She made me feel some real feelings regarding the characters Charley (frustration, anger, appreciation--his character traits ... and flaws ... were evident) and Betsie (frustration, frustration, admiration ... did I mention frustration? lol She just seemed a good bit naive, but I can see how that would be realistic for an Amish young lady.)

Taking place during the 1970s, the story revolves around Betsie Troyer and how she struggles with her mother and father (as well as family members) leaving the Amish faith for mainstream Christianity and moving away. Left as a young adult with her seventeen year old sister Sadie, Betsie is left to fend for herself. Along the way, she struggles with her own standing in the Amish faith and finding a happy medium with an English family in her life. Between Amish fiance Charley and English friend Michael, Betsie has a hard time knowing what's right. Life challenges present themselves and Betsie finds herself at a crossroad, and she has to make a decision.

I highly recommend The Bachelor to anyone who enjoys reading Amish fiction. Stephanie Reed is definitely a name to remember in the Amish fiction world! Check her out!

I received The Bachelor as a complimentary gift in exchange for review froKregel Blog Tours.
My comments and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

DVD Review - Buck Denver Asks.... *AND GIVEAWAY!*

I have been given an opportunity to watch and review a DVD of Buck Denver asks... What's in the Bible? Jesus is the Good News! (Vol. 10) My children have all been big fans of Veggie Tales, and while I've never watched this volume of videos, I determined that it surely would be every bit as good as Veggie Tales. I was right.

What I love about these videos is that it's relevant for children but also fun for adults. There are little comical bits that made me chuckle, and the video was educational yet fun for children.

Episode 1 covers the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New, and is entitled "God's Perfect Timing". Episode 2 teaches about Jesus and is entitled "The Messiah Has Come!" I felt that each video was appropriately timed to hold children's interest and seemed to present the story completely and with an entertaining quality.

The use of puppets, an adult actor (Phil Vischer himself) answering questions, and music was all very well intertwined. The mesh of them didn't seem corny, which is a problem that I sometimes find with children's Bible videos.

I plan on using this in my home and will recommend it to my church youth ministries!

DVD Description: In the Gospels, we get up close and personal with the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, learning about our place in the kingdom of God along the way. Jesus is the Good News! [Matthew, Mark, Luke & John] covers the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament before digging in to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We walk with Jesus and his closest friends as he delivers the Sermon on the Mount, feeds 5,000, breaks bread at the Last Supper, and gives His life for our sins before God raises Him from the dead. Jesus shows us firsthand what life in the kingdom of God is like – and invites us all to be a part of it!
Run time: Approximately 60 minutes

About the movie:
Volume 10: Jesus Is the Good News! / Run time: Approx 66 min
Let VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer and a bunch of hilarious new friends explain the entire Bible to your kids in this groundbreaking fast-paced and fun-filled DVD series. Includes TWO 25 minute episodes: God’s Perfect Timing - Buck Denver and crew learn about the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments and how Jesus arrives at just the perfect time & The Messiah Has Come! - Learn about the life and ministry of Jesus-how He died for us and rose again to launch the kingdom of God in the world and in us!

Check out the official website here!
Check out and share the trailer here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

NaNo Wrimo Update

I officially have become dreadfully behind in my November writing. If you read my previous blog entry, you know why.

Suffice it to say that as soon as I'm feeling well enough (hopefully tomorrow!), my plan is to get this train back on the track and chug away.

But first, I want to share a portion of what I've written so far and shared with my reading group. My goal is to eventually finish and do something with this manuscript. I don't know what I'll do. It may go into the pile with all the other ones I started and never finished, but I hope to get it out of the house and onto someone's desk for perusing. I don't know; we'll see.

Here's a glimpse:

The first time she saw Chad was on a hot July morning. Granna's icy lemonade was causing her glass to sweat. Natasha Howard wiped the condensation with her hand and watched as the cool water slid down her wrist and onto her forearm. She sat on the porch swing, gently rocking, her dirty feet shod in flip-flops that were a size too small. She hadn't asked Poppy and Granna for new ones because she hated new shoes, flip-flops included.

She sighed, wishing there was something to do. She was just wishing it was time for school to start when a baseball sailed over the wooden fence. It took a long arc, and Natasha suddenly sat up, worried that it was going to hit--

No way!” She launched herself off the swing, leaving it careening crazily on the chain, and sprinted to the bird bath. Too late.

The ball landed right in the middle of Granna's really expensive bird bath that had its own little neat fountain and smashed the bird that perched proudly in the center.

She looked around behind her to see if Granna had seen what had happened, but the kitchen window was uninhabited, as was the living room bay window. Then Natasha fixed her gaze toward the wooden fence and saw the planks shuffle and move. Someone was trying to climb it. One of those new kids Granna had talked about who'd just moved in next door, or--

Suddenly a tow-colored head appeared atop the pointed edges at the top of the fence. “Hi, sorry. I hit the ball a little too far.”

This wasn't some little kid like Granna had suggested. He was at least her age, or maybe a year older. Natasha pointed at the bird bath and watched as the boy's gaze shifted to the mess in the middle of the yard.

His eyes grew wide and then he winced. “Did I do that? Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry!” He struggled to maintain his stance on the fence. “Can I come over and see it? My dad will probably kill me, but I'll pay for it to be replaced.”

Natasha held back a little grin as she realized there was no way this twelve or thirteen year old boy would be able to replace her Granna's prized possession. “Come on over,” she replied. “You can come over and meet my Granna. I promise she won't rip your head off, but she might be a little mad.”

“Ok, thanks. I'll be right over.”

Natasha sighed and, since he was no longer in her line of sight, let herself grin. Really big. 

That's the prologue. As you probably have figured out, it's a flashback. The rest of the story goes back and forth between modern day and when Natasha and Chad were growing up.

That's my update for NaNoWrimo. I'm not sure I'll have 50,000 words by November 30, but at least I'll have a start, and that's more than I've had for many, many years. :)

Copyright © 2014 Jami Bennington

Weigh in Wednesday Didn't Happen!

I am so sorry to have to renege on my promise this week about weighing in on Wednesday and reporting my results.

I also am sad to say that I've not stuck with the menu!

The reason is because on Saturday evening I got accosted by an attack of diverticulitis. It wasn't until Sunday that I knew that I was in bad trouble. It wasn't until Monday that I knew what was going on. Suffice it to say that I've eaten soft foods all week, have had to avoid a lot of foods that I prefer to eat and exchange them with watery soups, potatoes, bananas--foods that digest well. Raw veggies, nuts, etc. are out. Salad is out. Anything that could drag this out has been shelved or frozen until I'm well again.

What is diverticulitis? I've heard that a few times this week. It's where the colon develops pockets that get food particles (seeds, peels, undigested particles, etc.) trapped and results in infection. It feels like the worst abdominal muscle pull that you could ever have. It feels like someone's pummeled me in my left side until I could no longer walk. Speaking of walking--that's bad. I'm really slow right now, and I want to hold my belly with my hand. It's almost as if I've had another cesarean. Very tender, very sore, but binding the belly is a NO-NO. That would rob the colon of the blood that it needs and only make things worse. So even though it feels better to hold my stomach, I can't.

This is the first time I've had diverticulitis, but it runs rampant in my family, and when I called my mom (a frequent-diverticulitis-flyer) with my suspicion, she verified it. I just so happened to be put on an oral antibiotic for my eye that is one of the medications that also treats diverticulitis, so I've already got that going for me. At this point, I don't have to take any pain medication anymore. My pain level is about at a 5, instead of the 8 that it was when it all began. So apparently the antibiotic is doing its thing, thank God!

That said, 75% of the food on my Monday Menu is verboten. At this point, it doesn't look like I can even use that menu next week.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu Monday #1

Egg, Turkey Bacon, apple
Bacon, raisin, broccoli salad (Stevia in place of sugar)
Ham, grilled veggies
fruit, tea

Leftover bacon, raisin, broccoli salad

Green protein smoothie (vegetable protein, fruit, kale or spinach)
Leftover Paleo Nachos
Leftover ham, salad and veggies
Banana Chocolate Shake

Egg, bacon, fruit
Spring mix greens with grilled chicken with dairy-free paleo ranch dressing, fruit
Slow-cooker pot roast
Energy bar

Green protein smoothie
Taco Salad
Leftover pot roast
Brownie bites (100 cal. ea.)

Fruit & nuts
Non-pasta fagioli
Brownie bites (100 calories ea.)

Paleo pancakes
salad with grilled chicken
leftover chili
brownie bite, tea

As you can see from my menu, I'm a creature of habit. I have a hard time eating breakfast--always have. Also, I can't stomach fish, so most of my meals are chicken, turkey, pork, or beef. 

Check back later in the week to see my progress!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Journey to Weight Loss

I had a baby last year, and since then the weight hadn't budged much. I began a paleo diet, and the weight started to melt right off. It was amazing how much better I felt, and seeing weight loss made it even better.

I've since then yo-yo'd on it, and so now I'm going to use this blog as an avenue to stay on track and continue on my journey.

My plan is to make posts here on the blog about what I'll be eating during the week. It's so much easier to stay on task if you already have a plan.

Each week, I plan on having a "Menu Monday" post where I post the week's menu and "Weigh-in Wednesday" where I post about how the week has gone.

Have your own weight loss journey? Share with me your successes or struggles! I'd love to hear from you!

LilySlim Weight loss tickers

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Quilted by Christmas - a Litfuse Review

  • Series: Quilts of Love
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426773617

Book Description 
A grandmother’s last wish is to communicate God’s love through an Irish chain quilt.
Taryn McKenna believes she’s easy to forget. Abandoned by her parents and left behind when her high school sweetheart joined the army, she vows to never love again and throws herself into her love for the outdoors and the pursuit of a college degree—something no one else in her family has ever accomplished. Her goal, as a young teacher in the hills of North Carolina, is to leave a legacy in the lives of the middle‑schoolers she teaches.
When Taryn’s grandmother Jemma, the only other person who ever held her close, has a heart attack that reveals a fatal medical condition, Taryn is corralled into helping Grandma work on a final project—an Irish chain quilt that tells the story of her history and the love Jemma knows is out there for Taryn. As the pieces of the quilt come together, Taryn begins to see her value. Can she learn to believe that God will never leave her behind even though others have?

My Thoughts
Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey was an enjoyable read. Taryn, the main character, struggled with having been told that she was manipulative and needy. She hadn't had a loving father in her life, and she never felt like she quite measured up. She had a hard time seeing herself as loved and important. She'd made mistakes that resulted in a big life change. She desired forgiveness, but seemed to not be able to believe that she deserved it.
When her high school sweetheart Justin moved back home, Taryn found herself frequently in his company. The secret that Taryn has been keeping from him was waiting in the wings, and its revelation was soon coming.
I truly enjoyed this story. The characters felt real, and the situations were believable. The characters' faith in God was evident, not overly preachy, and was touching. Faith, forgiveness, and resolution all took place in the novel and was weaved along the way effortlessly. 

About the Author
Jodie Bailey is Tarheel born and bred. After 15 years as a military spouse, she settled with her family back in North Carolina. She is the author of the military suspense novel "Freefall" and is a contributor to a devotional for military families, "Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home." While not working on her next novel, she teaches middle‑schoolers to love writing as much as she does.

I've been given a copy of Quilted by Christmas by Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hidden in the Stars - a Litfuse Review

Series: Quilts of Love
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (September 16, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426773609

Book Description
A quilt holds the secret to a killer still at large—and who his next victim will be.
Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21‑year‑old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence. The fact that Julian is undeniably attracted to Sophia doesn’t help either, so Julian hides his feelings as concern for a trauma victim and focuses instead on finding the killer.
Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer—still at large—silence her forever?
My Thoughts
I had never read anything by Robin Caroll before, and I've definitely added her to my list of much-appreciated authors! Hidden in the Stars is a murder mystery, full of suspense that will leave you wondering "who done it". The characters are very succinctly and nicely depicted, the plot is strong and fluid, and the attention to detail that Robin deftly worked in was very well done. It was a book that kept my attention, and as my regular readers know, that's not easily done with this busy mom who is easily distracted.
Twenty-one year old Sophia finds herself smack dab in the middle of chaos, pain and misery, and her grief and pain came across the page in a very real way. There were elements in this story that impressed me that the author used--the use of a lip reader being one. It was remarkable, and I loved the fact that the dialog between the lip-reader and Sophia was done very smoothly--not a bit choppy or confusing.
I have nothing but good to say about this novel, and I highly recommend anyone who likes mystery and suspense check this out and be prepared for a great read!

About the Author
Robin Caroll is the author of 22 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of 20‑plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character‑filled pets at home in Little Rock, Arkansas. She gives back to the writing community by serving as conference director for ACFW. Her books have been named finalists in such contests as the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best, and Book of the Year.

I've been given a copy of Hidden in the Stars by Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

NanoWrimo - November is Writing Month!

November is National Writing Month! Have you ever heard of NanoWrimo? It's a website dedicated to writing a manuscript during the month of November. The goal is to write a 50,000 word rough draft in November. You can submit your manuscript if you'd like to participate in their writing contest (where you can earn real prizes), or you can just use the website to kick-start your own writing.

On NanoWrimo, you can select your region, take part in the forums, find a buddy or two, and just generally be sociable during your writing process. There are also tools to get your inspiration flowing!

I took part in NanoWrimo three years ago, but never got my story finished. This year I'm hoping to get closer to that 50,000 mark so that I can say I at least did better than the last time.

Any other Wrimo'ers out there? If so, maybe we can swap names and be writing buddies!

During the month of November, I plan on updating on my NanoWrimo progress, so I hope you'll check back with me to see how it's going.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Grand Design - a Litfuse Review

Series: Quilts of Love
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (June 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426773471

Book Description

A getaway on a charming island may be just what Alyssa needs—if only she can let go of her past.

When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists.

As the quilt’s story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother’s life . . . and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa’s fractured heart—and bring healing to her entire family?

My Thoughts
This was a hard novel to read. My general rule is that if I'm not captured by the story in 30 pages that I give myself permission to stop reading. (However, this being a review book, I read until the end.) The book just didn't take off until page 100 or so. Half the story felt like filler or as if the author was trying to build up to the climax but was struggling.

The main character Alyssa was a character who I had a hard time visualizing. I'd have liked to have seen her more fleshed out, along with the other characters. The male in the story was alluded to having had a family secret of some sort, like Alyssa, but it was never addressed. I kept waiting for it, but it never arrived. That was a bit disappointing. 
There was a part of the story that really left me shaking my head. In the story, Alyssa had been attacked in the past by a man and was accosted again by him in the story. Alyssa was saved by Scott, who managed to get a few wounds during the attempt to fight off Alyssa's attacker. Alyssa tended to his wounds, and both of them felt the draw to kiss. This didn't feel right to me--does someone who's been accosted want to kiss someone who she barely knows and has been developing feelings for? I wouldn't. And when I asked my husband how he'd have felt about the matter, he wholeheartedly agreed that he couldn't imagine wanting to romantically kiss someone who had just been accosted. In another scene with Alyssa's friend Libby and Grandma, the experience was quickly talked away. Reading it, I felt like scratching my head, because I was imagining that Alyssa's experience would have left her shaken and maybe left her having a hard time sleeping. However, an hour or so after the event, Alyssa, her friend Libby, and Grandma were hilariously laughing about something. It just didn't make sense.
I will say though that the story ended ok. It had a godly focus to it, which I certainly appreciate. It had a nice romantic ending, and I wish that the story had had more oomph to it! 
About the Author
Amber Stockton is an award‑winning author, a national speaker, and a direct‑sales brand partner with Nerium International. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son, and an Aussie/retriever mix named Roxie. Three of her novels have won annual reader’s choice awards. Find out why readers love her by visiting her website

I've been given a copy of A Grand Design by Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rival Hearts - a Litfuse review

Series: Quilts of Love
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (June 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426773463

Book Description
They both want the promotion. But will they find out that it is worth the cost?
Molly Henderson and Ben Weaver have been rival magazine writers for the same publishing group for years. When both come up for the same promotion, they find themselves in an unexpected competition to win the spot. Molly, editor of Quilter’s Heart, and Ben, editor of Outdoor Adventures, must switch roles, each working for the other for one month, then submit an article at the end of their quests. Can girly‑girl Molly survive the outdoor adventures that Ben has planned? Can Ben navigate the perils of the social dynamics of quilting events without destroying a valuable quilt in one short month? More importantly, in this he‑said, she‑said situation, will Molly and Ben give in to their attraction and fall in love, no matter who wins?

My Thoughts
Let me first say that I truly enjoyed this novel. This was a novel that had me guessing which character was going to be the "winner" and who would be left out in the cold, so to speak. I like reading a book that I cannot predict. It was written very cleanly, with nicely fleshed characters, scenes that kept my attention, and situations that tugged on my emotions.

The characters Molly and Ben are easy to like, and their individual personalities make an interesting story. Molly prefers indoor activities--quilting is her hobby--and Ben is an outdoorsman. When they both compete for editor for the same publishing group, their separate traits and strengths come head to head in a battle that kept me turning the pages.

If you like a contemporary novel with a Christian base, this one won't disappoint!

About the Author

Tara Randel has enjoyed a lifelong love of books, especially romance and mystery genres, so it didn't come as a surprise when she began writing with the dream of becoming published. After finding Romantic Times magazine in a bookstore many years ago, she found information about writing organizations. Soon after, she joined Romance Writers of America. She located the local RWA chapter and immediately attended her first meeting. There was no stopping her after that!

Through Tampa Area Romance Authors, Tara learned all about the business of publishing, starting with the craft of writing to behind the scenes of publishing. She served as contest coordinator for four years and served as President for one year, enjoying the organization and the lasting friendships made there.

When not writing, Tara owns a business with her husband and stays busy with her two daughters. She lives on the West Coast of Florida, where gorgeous sunsets inspire the creation of heartwarming stories, filled with love, laughter and the occasional mystery.

I've been given a copy of Rival Hearts by Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

Caught in the Middle - a Bethany House review

  • Series: Ladies of Caldwell County, Book 3
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764209922

Book Description
She Wants the Freedom of the Open Plains. 
He Wants the Prestige of a Successful Career.
Neither is Ready for What Comes Instead. 

The train to Garber, Texas, is supposed to bring life's next victory to Nicholas Lovelace. Instead, it gets held up by robbers who are thwarted by the last person Nick ever expected--Anne Tillerton from back home in Prairie Lea.
Anne's been hiding away as a buffalo hunter. She's only in town to find their runaway cook, but the woman flees--leaving Anne with her infant son. With Nick the only person Anne knows in town, the two form an unlikely team as they try to figure out what to do with the child.
But being in town means acting and dressing for polite society--and it's not going well for Anne. Meanwhile, Nick's work is bringing new pressures, and being seen with a rough-around-the-edges woman isn't helping his reputation. Caught between their own dreams, a deepening relationship, and others' expectations, can the pair find their way to love?

My Thoughts
This was a novel that caught my attention from the very beginning. Train holdup. Robbers. Business dude meets rough-shod, trouser wearing girl who saves his life. True to form, Regina Jennings drew me in to her characters and their situations.

When Anne Tillerton got "stuck" with a baby who was abandoned by his mother, the last thing she knew how to do was to take care of him. On a search for the baby's father, Anne soon realizes that her suspicions about the baby's father were indeed true--baby's daddy was an outlaw. Emphasis on was

Nick Lovelace has his own demons to deal with. Grandfathered into the position of commissioner after the previous one unexpectedly died, Nick falls into the position of feeling obligated to run for office after his term is finished. Falling prey to some greedy individuals, Nick is put into a position where he has to decide if he's going to be on the side of good or evil when it comes to his political future.

Regina is fantastic at weaving a story that will tug at your heartstrings. Her talent keeps on building, book after book. The book has enough humor, romance, and heart-touching drama to make you want to read more!

About the Author Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang,along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
I received Caught in the Middle as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Bethany House Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Stitch and a Prayer - a Litfuse Review

  • Series: Quilts of Love
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 20, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426772521

A Stitch and a Prayer, written by Eva Gibson, is a historical Christian fiction novel that is based on a fictionalized account of her grandparents' lives during turn of the 20th century Northwest.

Book Description
A quilt becomes a labor of love for a lonely wife mysteriously separated from her young husband.

After her fiancĂ© returns from the Klondike gold rush in 1897, Florence Harms sets about building a new life in her new marriage—even though the lingering effects of illness have left her weak and vulnerable. She and her young husband, Will, work tirelessly to clear the land around their Northwest cabin, content with their modest life.

But then a stranger comes knocking and Florence suddenly senses a restlessness in Will’s spirit that she had never seen before. When he leaves her with only a note that tells her he will return before their baby’s birth, she is devastated, and the illness that stiffened her joints returns. Counting the days until Will walks back through her door, Florence busies herself with a Tree of Life quilt displaying a map of the farm they call home. Doubts claw at her heart as Florence struggles to believe Will’s promise to return to her. Will her labor of love-and faith in God—sustain her as she waits to see her beloved once again?

My Thoughts

Whenever the wind blew hard and the rain came down sideways, lashing the windowpane, Florence Harms heard her dancing song.

It has taken me a long time to finish reading this book. Every time I would pick it up, something would frustrate me about the storyline or the characters. When I opened the book and saw the above quote, I winced and said, "This does not bode well." I hate to see metaphors in a story opener. It is just hard to pull it off without seeming--for lack of a better word--cheesy. I was just hoping that maybe it was off to a rough start and things would get better.


I gave this book many a chance, gave myself a talking to a few times, and forged ahead. The things that bothered me the most were the whiny main character, the weepy husband (Do husbands really weep so much?), the characters for whom I couldn't figure out from where they came (felt like I should've read a book about them already--missing pieces), the neighbors that suddenly become great friends, the pearls that were such a big deal but so little time was spent talking about their relevance, and just a general choppiness of the story. I'll deal with explaining some of these below.

Florence's character really annoyed me. One day, she'd be happy and relying on God, and the next day she'd be so whiny and questioning everything. Sure, we humans are like this quite frequently, but Florence was unnaturally so.

Her husband Will seems to be very emotional. Actually, he and Florence seem like the same person at times, just given names of the opposite sex. At one point, he tells Florence he's probably going to have to leave for a time, but when he does he promises to say goodbye. And true to the story's path, he doesn't. He leaves a letter instead. Florence's response? Tears welling her eyes. Then later on in the day, Aunt Amelia comes over and Florence cries in her arms. It just seemed too tame, especially for Florence.

Toward the end of the story, some new neighbors were introduced into the book. Some kids got a little rowdy, shot above Florence's house and got Aunt Amelia mad enough to pitch overworked baking soda biscuits. The next day, the boys' dad brought them along and made them apologize. They became instant friends, and the motherless boys became instant friends with childless Aunt Amelia. I'm still trying to figure out the relevance of these people being brought into the story, especially so late. They just felt like story filler--like they were just crammed in there.

There was a set of pearls left to Florence from her mother. Early in the story as Florence was preparing for her wedding, the pearls went missing. Thinking that the pearls were going to become a big part of the story, I kept reading thinking there would be some plot about the pearls, maybe some explanation about why they were so special. Nope--just a little snippet saying that a month later they found them--the cat had them.The pearls were mentioned a little later in the story as well, but once again, so little was mentioned about them again.  I'd have loved to have seen something more about the pearls. 

The story was choppy. At the beginning of the story, Florence and her family were living in a tent, leading me to believe that they had just settled into the northwestern territory. Later on though, Gus the traveling salesman seemed well known (they wanted to invite him for Christmas dinner), the doctor was close enough to them that Florence felt comfortable hugging him, and they knew some other people fairly well. However, some folks who lived just a bit down the road were almost strangers to them. That said, township relationships were confusing. The story skipped in time a lot. Almost ever chapter covered a different month, and there were bits of the story that I really wanted to see more covered, but it felt like it was a rush to finish.

I think the story had potential, I really do, but it wasn't given the appropriate time to flesh out. What I did thoroughly appreciate is that there was a lot of scripture included in the book which Florence used to encourage herself throughout her difficulties. That was very admirable, and it's not something that I see regularly. It was the portion of the story that I most appreciated, and seeing God's word brought up several times made me smile.

About the Author
Eva Gibson is the author of twenty books, including The Gift of Forgiveness and The Three Marys. She currently teaches "writing your life story" classes for Portland Community College and is an active member of Oregon Christian Writers. She has lived most of her life on the family farm in Wilsonville, Oregon, which is the setting for A Stitch and a Prayer.

I've been given a copy of A Stitch and a Prayer by Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Blood Moons Rising - A Tyndale Blog Review

Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons is a book written by Mark Hitchcock.

Mark Hitchcock has, like many other end-times writers lately, taken a stance on how he feels about the four blood moons looming.

Book Description
Has the final countdown to the end days begun? Are the heavens telling us we are nearing the end? Astronomers have noticed it is coming. Historians have noted its significance. In 2014 and 2015, there will be a phenomenon in the skies of four blood moons falling during Jewish feasts. This has only happened three times in recorded history: 1493-94, 1949-50 and 1967-68. Each time these dates have had extraordinary significance for the Israelites. From the discovery of the New World to the creation of modern-day Israel, these years of the four blood moons have truly been turning points in history. Bible prophecy describes the moon being darkened and turned to blood. What is the significance of these signs in the skies? What will the future bring? Prophecy expert Mark Hitchcock guides you through the relevant Bible passages so you can understand the times in which you live.

My Thoughts
I love a good look at prophecy, especially when it correlates with current events. I think most people are interested in the four blood moons that are taking place this year and next. This is the last blood moon tetrad that is to occur during this century. Hitchcock shares in his book how previous tetrads have occurred during Jewish feast days and how significant things happened to the Jewish state of Israel during those blood moon years.

Specifically of interest, Hitchcock lists ten signs that are the biblical framework that serve as true signs of the times.

Hitchcock devotes a lot of his book to talking about John Hagee's book Four Blood Moons. He believes, unlike Hagee, that the 2014-15 tetrad is not a sign of the Lord's soon return but instead, like previous tetrads, will earmark important events that will take place in Israel's history. Hitchcock defends his stance with scripture, showing how Hagee's theory holds no water and is sensationalist at best. It is obvious that Hitchcock has spent a lot of time doing his own research and comparing his findings to Hagee's theory. Hitchcock's findings are quite convincing, and his proof that Hagee and others like him have taken scripture out of context in order to support their theories on the blood moons.

Basically, to sum up, Hitchcock's book is revolved around explaining the blood moons, looking at the history of the previous tetrads, sharing scripture about the tetrads, and debunking sensationalist theories regarding the 2014-15 tetrad. It was a very fascinating read, and I appreciated the effort he put forth in explaining and his common sense approach to pointing folks to scripture instead of to theory!

About the Author
Attorney Mark Hitchcock thought his career was set after graduating from law school in 1984 and getting a job working with a judge at the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. But after what Mark calls a "clear call to full-time ministry," he changed course and went to Dallas Theological Seminary, completing a master's degree in 1991 and a doctoral degree in 2006. Since 1991 Mark has served as senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He has authored 15 books related to end-time Bible prophecy and was the contributing editor for the Internet-based Left Behind Prophecy Club for four years. Mark and his wife, Cheryl, live in Edmond with their two sons, Justin and Samuel.

I am a member of Tyndale Blog Network, a fabulous website that sends free books to read and keep if you write a review for your blog and for a major retailer (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble). Tyndale Blog Network is through Tyndale House Publishers.