Friday, November 10, 2017

Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone by C.J. Darlington


  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mountainview Books (June 20, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941291376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941291375

About the Book:

After being picked on at school yet again, Alison Henry seeks refuge in her favorite place, the woods behind her cabin home. Her day couldn't get any worse. At least that's what she thinks before she spots the magnificent buck. Desperate to protect the deer from a teenage gang out to shoot him, Ali has no idea she's about to begin the adventure of a lifetime. This buck is no ordinary deer, and it turns out Ali is no ordinary girl. 

When she suddenly begins to hear the buck talking in her head, she thinks she's going crazy. She certainly can't be The Interpreter this buck named Artemis says she is, the one destined to bring together the men and creatures of his realm. She's just a kid who misses her deployed father and gets teased at school for wearing the wrong clothes. But Artemis is convinced. She must follow him. 

Before the full moon sets Alison Henry finds herself in the strange land of Torone where evil beasts trap and devour the creatures of the woods and the rightful heir to the throne is hunted and on the run. What can one girl possibly do?

My Thoughts:

The magic and wonder of Narnia blended with the majesty and battle of The Lord of the Rings...that's what you'll discover in the pages of Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone. 

This is a sweeping high fantasy tale of a girl seeking purpose, and a young woman who has lost her way. Animals that talk, creatures that will give you the shivers, and a friendship forged in the fire of conflict will draw you in and refuse to let go until the last page turns. 

Four out of five stars because CLIFF HANGER! I did not see it coming, and now I'm having to WAIT to see if we triumphed or failed. AUGH!

Don't miss out on this amazing book. And yes, it's audience is probably middle school and up, but a great read is a great read!  I'm giving "Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone" my 'packs a punch' mark of approval.

Until the next page turns,

Deena

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Christmas Captive by Liz Johson



  • Series: Men of Valor
  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Love Inspired Suspense (October 3, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373457375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373457373

About the Book:

SABOTAGE AT SEA 

On his cousin's Christmas cruise wedding, navy SEAL Jordan Somerton anticipated having the typical best man duties—not facing down criminals boarding the ship. But when the luxury liner is infiltrated by men determined to kidnap the flower girl, he's plunged into an unexpected mission. Maid of honor and DEA agent Amy Delgado hasn't forgiven Jordan for a misunderstanding in their pasts. But with her young niece targeted, she must draw on Jordan's skills as a protector. Signs point to an inside job. With a traitor in their midst, can they ensure that every passenger returns home safely for the holidays…even as they find love amid deepening danger?

My Thoughts:

Liz Johnson is a phenomenal writer, and her talent shines in her newest novel, "Christmas Captive". DEA Agent Amy Delgado is still wrestling with the emotional fallout of an absent father when she encounters Navy SEAL Jordan Somerton.

Jordan is still attracted to the very independent Amy, and being aboard a holiday cruise has him in close quarters to the unforgiving and unforgettable agent.

The abduction of flower girl Elaina forces them to work together to stop the kidnappers before they can get the girl off the ship. The reason for the kidnapping? You'll be chasing clues until the explosive ending of "Christmas Captive", and you won't see it coming. 

Don't miss out on this thrilling story.  I'm giving this one my "Packs a Punch" mark of approval.  My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy with no service promised in return,

Until the next page turns,

Deena

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay



  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 7, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718078098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718078096

About the Book:

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.
Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

My Thoughts:

"The Austen Escape" is my favorite novel by Katherine Reay.  I've enjoyed all of her books, but this one is an excellent and fun story. 

After reading all of Reay's novel, she's forced my hand.  She's forced me to hunt down all of Jane Austen's books, especially the ones I remember from college. While the originals are classics, nothing can compete with Reay's take on Austen.

More than just a new take on an old classic, the novel deals with issues of relationships, not wanting to leave our comfort zones, and dealing with the unexpected with grace and finesse.  I didn't care for Isabel at first, but as the story progressed, my affection for her matched the pace.

"The Austen Escape" is perfect summer reading, and extra good when shared with a group of friends!  I'm giving Reay's latest novel my "Oh, the feels!" stamp of approval.  My thanks to Thomas Nelson for my advance copy, with no services promised in return.

Until the next page turns,

Deena

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Laugh It Up! by Candace Payne


  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (November 7, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310350565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310350569

About the Book:

The world knows Candace Payne as “Chewbacca Mom,” the wife and mother of two from Dallas who captured the hearts of nearly 200 million people around the world with nothing but a toy Chewbacca mask, a smart phone, and infectious laughter.
Candace’s viral moment of simple joy became Facebook Live’s top video. But what the video doesn’t show is Candace’s storied journey of daunting obstacles on the way to the joy-filled life—extreme poverty, past trauma, and struggles with self-worth.
Laugh It Up! tells the rest of the story behind the woman in the mask. Like most of us, Candace has often felt overlooked, undervalued, and insignificant. But she has also discovered the secrets to unshakable joy that no circumstance can take away, and Laugh It Up! will help you discover and experience the same.
Join Candace to discover the gift God has given us all to experience life to the fullest. All you need to do is answer “yes” when joy, whom Candace personifies as a friend, calls you to come and play.
  • Do you feel tempted to give up on your dreams? Joy stays the course.
  • Do your knees knock when thinking about the future? Joy hopes for what can be.
  • Do you feel unseen and unnoticed? Joy is content whether backstage or center stage.
  • Do you feel crushed under the weight of regret? Joy loves you enough to weep with you, but also enough to help you move on.
When life punches you in the gut, it can be difficult to muster a smile—much less a laugh. But with humor and power, wit and wisdom, Candace lights the way forward to a life that is free indeed.

My Thoughts:

I have to be honest. I fell in love with Candace Payne when I stumbled upon the Wookie Mom video on Facebook. I lost count of how many times I watched it (I still look for it and watch when I need to laugh).

And then all of the media attention came her way, and the little green demon of jealousy began peeking over my shoulder and whispering in my ear..."Why couldn't you do something like that?" or "All of this attention for putting on a mask and laughing?"

Thankfully, I flicked the green thing back where he belongs, and I was just thankful for the laughter. For the joy. And then I found out she was writing a book.

Here he came again. My dream? To write. And to publish. But I'm a sucker for a new book, so when I was offered the chance to read it early and to help influence and launch, I was all over it.

I'm so glad Candace made that goofy video, and the world took notice, and gave her a platform so she could ultimately write this book. See, the world didn't notice Candace Payne and give her a platform.

God did. He did it all, from showing her the madk, to nudging her to buy it, to making the video, to sending it viral...because He has something He wants all of us to hear.

He made us for joy. Pure, laugh til you pee joy. Life is falling down around me but I still have joy. I just said goodbye to my best friend but I feel joy bubbling up.

His joy. Not Candace Payne's joy. His joy. And it was so critical that we get His message, He moved the pieces of Candace's not so easy life around in order to show us raw, unfiltered joy.

Then He moved things around so that Candace would get the opportunity to write "Laugh It Up", so she, through her total, transparent, gut-wrenching, honest book, could prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that THIS was His message all along...

"The joy of the Lord is your, is my, is Candace's strength". Maybe a large portion of the world will check out now that God's in the mix. But I hope not.

Because, if they do, they will miss the chance to really know Chewbacca Mom as she really is. And they will miss His joy. His love. His message of hope and healing through Jesus Christ, His Son, dying for us so that we can be His, and find His joy.

So, no, I haven't been blessed with the opportunity to write and publish my book. But I get to tell you about Candace Payne and her amazing book.

And that brings me such joy. So, thank You, God, for that discounted Wookie mask at Kohls that day. And thank You for Candace Payne and her marvelous laugh. And thank You for joy. YOUR joy.  So I'm giving "Laugh It Up" my "For Such a Time" stamp of approval.

And, God, if You could ever give me that book writing opportunity? ? I mean, You heard Candace's prayer for that impossible gift she asked for. . .and to know what I mean, you'll just have to read the book! ;-)

Until the next page turns,

Deena

Monday, November 6, 2017

Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle



  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (October 3, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310348870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310348870

About the Book:

Is my ordinary, everyday life actually significant? Is it okay to be fulfilled by the simple acts of raising kids, working in an office, and cooking chicken for dinner?
It’s been said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” The pressure of that can be staggering as we spend our days looking for that big thing that promises to take our breath away. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the small significance of fully living with every breath we take.
Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog tackles these questions head on in her fourth book, Church of the Small Things. Easygoing and relatable, she speaks directly to the heart of women of all ages who are longing to find significance and meaning in the normal, sometimes mundane world of driving carpool to soccer practice, attending class on their college campus, cooking meals for their family, or taking care of a sick loved one.
The million little pieces that make a life aren’t necessarily glamorous or far-reaching. But God uses some of the smallest, most ordinary acts of faithfulness—and sometimes they look a whole lot like packing lunch. 
Through humorous stories told in her signature style, full of Frito pie, best friends, the love of her Me-Ma and Pa-Pa, the unexpected grace that comes when we quit trying to measure up, and a little of the best TV has to offer, Melanie helps women embrace what it means to live a simple, yet incredibly meaningful life and how to find all the beauty and laughter that lies right beneath the surface of every moment.

My Thoughts:

You're not going to find a deep theology in a book by Melanie Shankle. I've read them all, so I know it's true. 

What you WILL find is a friend. She can tell a story like nobody's business, and have you in tears of laughter in one paragraph and in tears of powerful emotion the next.

Her newest book, Church of the Small Things, is my new favorite. She opens with the story of the fish and loaves, and how Jesus fed the thousands with a small, impossible offering. 

And points out that everyone gets mentioned in the story except the mom that packed the boy's lunch before sending him off for the day, with no idea her son would become a part of Scripture. 

I was hooked. 

To be fair, she uses one swear word (begins with 'h'), drinks wine, and is extremely knowledgeable about all things pop culture. AMAZINGLY knowledgeable. 

She also writes with passion for God, His church, and family. And friends. And being her real, authentic self. I think of Shankle as Erma Bombeck with a smattering of Tina Fey, and a sprinkling of your favorite Bible teacher. 

I love her books, and I especially love this one.  That's why I'm giving it my "Oh, the Feels" mark of approval.

Until the next page turns,

Deena


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Whisper by Mark Batterson


  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Multnomah (October 24, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073529108X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735291089

About the Book:

The best-selling author of Circle Maker, which helped over 2 million people learn to talk to God, now helps readers learn how to listen to God.
The voice that spoke the cosmos into existence is the same voice that parted the Red sea, and made the sun stand still in the midday sky. One day, this voice will make all things new, but it’s also speaking to you now! 
 
That voice is God’s voice, and what we’ve learned from Scripture is that He often speaks in a whisper. Not to make it difficult to hear Him, but to draw us close. 
 
Many people have a tough time believing God still speaks. Sure, in ancient times and in mysterious ways, God spoke to His people, but is He still speaking now? 
 
Mark Batterson certainly believes so. And he wants to introduce you to the seven love languages of God; each of them unique and entirely divine. Some of them you might suspect but others will surprise you. 
 
By learning to tune in to and decipher each language, you’ll be able to hear His guidance in simple as well as life-altering choices. God is actively speaking through: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain. Batterson gives you the tools you need to unlock each of these languages. 
 
God’s whisper can answer your most burning questions, calm your deepest fears, and fulfill your loftiest dreams. 
 
Discover how simple it is to hear God’s voice in every aspect of your life!
 
He’s speaking, make sure you know how to listen!

My Thoughts:

Out of over a dozen books, I've read three of Mark Batterson's.  I have two more on my tbr shelf, and my husband has almost every book written by Batterson. 

So when I was invited to read and review "Whisper" I was excited. I expected to enjoy the book, and to learn a thing or two. 

I did not expect to feel convicted, inspired, or changed. I also didn't expect to highlight close to every other line in each chapter. Or to fall in love with God's Word because of the chapter "The Key of Keys".

Batterson devotes a good amount of reading and research to his writing. That's evident by the number of footnotes in each chapter (and I love me some footnotes!  This knowledge nerd was in reference heaven!)

All of that is impressive. But I can see Batterson's heart on every page. I can sense his passion in every careful choice of words. And I can feel his love for God and for the church in every chapter. 

You may not agree with everything Batterson has to say. Come to his book as a blank page, and then do what the Bereans did. You'll come away with deeper insight, richer understanding, and a burning passion for God's Word. 

I hope to read more of Mark Batterson's books. Right now, I'm busy rereading my favorite chapters in "Whisper", and learning afresh how to hear the voice of my Father. 


My thanks to Multnomah Press for a copy of "Whisper", with no services promised in return. I'm giving this book my "For such a time" stamp of approval. 

Until the next page turns,

Deena

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh



  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Waterfall Press (September 19, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1542045630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1542045636

About the Book:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Walsh returns with a hopeful and emotional new book about seizing second chances, finding yourself, and forging your own path.
Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.
Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.
Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

My Thoughts:

Another excellent story from Courtney Walsh!  Hometown Girl is multi-layered. First, just look at that cover!  And the setting centers around a farm, complete with apple orchard!  Perfect for fall!

But it's also a story about forgiving yourself for past mistakes and failures. It's about that itch to leave home for bigger and better things, only to realize that home might just be where we belong.

Hometown Girl is about giving the ones we love the space to dream along with the space to fail. About giving ourselves permission to dream and to chase those dreams, even when they make no sense on paper.

It's a story about secrets kept and how toxic the hidden becomes.  And it's about losing the need to prove ones worth at the expense of realizing our intrinsic worth as image bearers of the King.

Hometown Girl is about community, celebration, and triumph in the midst of tragedy. And about families and their complicated relationships.

Most of all, Hometown Girl is a fun, heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking novel, with a little bit of romance, a few tears, and a lot of love. You'll really enjoy this one!

I'm giving "Hometown Girl" my "Oh, the Feels!" stamp of approval. My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy via NetGalley, with no services promised in return.

Until the next page turns,

Deena
 

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