Monday, November 20, 2017

Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone by CJ 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 this book an "oh, the feels" and "one to watch".

Until the next page turns,


Friday, November 17, 2017

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (October 3, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800727665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800727666

About the Book:

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that's obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she's made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she's chosen. She's still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she's not sure she can write anymore. She's beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a "scandalous" book. And the fact that she's falling in love with her pastor doesn't make things any easier.

With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn't afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

My Thoughts:

I'm going to step out on a limb and declare this one of my top ten favorite reads of 2017. The story is unique and fresh, the humor borders on the absurd, but since that's where I live, I love it. And I really think this book taps into an area few are willing to openly discuss.

Sarah Hollenbeck, before salvation, finds her writing gift in the form of bodice ripping romance. Some have gone so far as having her be a fictional E.L. James, but I just can't do that to our fictional author.

After her 'come to Jesus' moment in which she truly comes to Jesus, Sarah has to find a way to reconcile the two halves of her life. On her first Sunday in church, a complication arrives and then the story really takes off.

If you're reading The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck as anything but a humorous romance, you've given it too much weight. But if you're reading it as just a humorous romance, you've missed the point.

Amid the wit and humor, and a bit of the absurdity, are some genuine truths that Christian romance readers and writers grapple with. How pure is too pure, i.e., unrealistic. We all have to admit, when we fell hard in love with our men, temptation was always lurking around the corner. Accountability was the only thing that kept us from falling into sin.

But too much passion would lead us to possibly impure thoughts. And possibly offend a host of readers. So what was the answer?

While I'm not saying that this story provides that answer, with the humor and unforeseeable events, Turner has placed the question of balancing reality with morality in a perfect place. I had moments of laughing so hard I couldn't breathe, amid moments when I couldn't see the page because of the tears.

I will not forget this story for a very,very long time. I also haven't enjoyed an inspirational romance novel in a very, very long time either. So The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck makes my top ten list of 2017!  I'm giving this book my "oh, the feels!" and the author "one to watch".

Until the next page turns,


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Engaged In Trouble by Jenny B. Jones

  • Series: An Enchanted Events Mystery
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Sweet Pea Productions; 1 edition (March 30, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0998109800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0998109800

About the Book:

When a washed-up pop star inherits a wedding planning business, it’s all bouquets and bliss until a bride turns up dead.

Paisley Sutton shot to stardom as a teenage rock sensation, but ten years later that star has fizzled out, just like her bank account. When she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s wedding planning business, Paisley leaves the glamour of Los Angeles for a charming small town in Arkansas. Thinking she’ll arrive in Sugar Creek and liquidate the moldly property, Paisley’s shocked to find Enchanted Events has experienced a major makeover and is now the place for brides. She’s got two months to keep Enchanted Events afloat if she wants to sell and rekindle her music career with the profits. 

Paisley’s tossed into a world of vows and venues, but her most difficult challenge comes in the form of one demanding bride. When this Bridezilla’s found facedown in her cake, all fingers point to Paisley as the prime murder suspect. And she does not look good in prison orange. 

This former pop princess will need the help of her gun-toting, ex-CIA grandmother and her handsome neighbor, Beau Hudson, to unravel the mystery and clear her good name. As she and her unruly posse dig into Bridezilla’s life, she discovers the woman had a long list of enemies. The closer Paisley gets to the truth, the more her own life is in danger. 

Love is in the air this wedding season, but before Paisley can help the ladies of Sugar Creek say, “I do,” she’s got to unveil a killer. Or find herself the next target. 

Engaged in Trouble is the first book in the long-awaited Enchanted Events cozy mystery series by award-winning author Jenny B. Jones. If you like laugh-out-loud adventures, small-town romance, unforgettable, sassy characters, and a mystery to keep you guessing, then you’ll love this new page-turning series.

My Thoughts:

What happens when a washed up pop star inherits a failing wedding business?

So much fun to read!  Jenny B. Jones is an amazing author, and she never disappoints.  "Engaged in Trouble" is a departure from her usual fare.  But her usual wit and snarky dialogue is all over the place in this first book in a new series.

Her grandmother and grandma's bestie are former CIA. And the hunky next door neighbor is a wounded vet who saved lives but can't find peace.  What a wild premise, and what even wilder characters!  The conversations involving our retired CIA ladies is worth the price of the book!

Oh, and the bride to be gets smashed by champagne. . .literally! Jenny B. Jones has created a laugh out loud cozy mystery, and I can hardly wait for more!  I'm giving "Engaged in Trouble" my "oh, the feels" and "packs a punch" stamp of approval.

Until the next page turns,


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Carrie Turansky

  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 71 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Flowing Stream Books (October 10, 2016)
  • Publication Date: October 10, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English

About the Book:

Professional organizer Sarah Montgomery is hired to organize her elderly neighbor’s cluttered apartment by Justin Latimer, her neighbor’s grandson. Sarah believes free-spirited Justin is a lazy, unemployed poet who is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. Though attracted to him, she guards her heart against her growing feelings. As Sarah and Justin work together to help his grandmother and enjoy Christmas events in NYC, romantic sparks fly. When Sarah discovers who Justin really is, she must decide if she will continue to hide behind her protective wall or open her heart and embrace love. Moonlight Over Manhattan (formerly titled Moonlight and Mistletoe) was originally published in A Big Apple Christmas. It has been updated for new readers to enjoy.

My Thoughts:

** spoiler alert ** This was a fun and quick read, my first opportunity to read a Carrie Turansky novel! Sarah and Justin meet because of his grandmother, Lillian. She took a tumble and ended up in the hospital. Her house is filled with clutter, and when Justin discovers that Sarah is a professional organizer, the two of them come together to get Lillian's home in order.

Attraction is obvious on Justin's side, but Sarah holds back. He knows how she makes a living, but is Justin merely a bum taking advantage of an elderly relative. . .or is he hiding something even more disturbing?

A very sweet romance, and I will definitely be reading more by Carrie Turansky! "Moonlight Over Manhattan" gets my "oh, the feels!" stamp of approval!

Until the next page turns,


Monday, November 13, 2017

Your Dream, God's Plan by Tiffany Smiling with Margot Starbuck

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Shiloh Run Press (November 1, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1683223594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1683223597

About the Book:

Satisfaction can be yours, but it might look different than you thought.

Like a lot of young women, Tiffany Smiling had been assured that the path to fulfillment looked like the one she’d seen in her favorite movies: She’d be swept away by a soul mate, live in a southern estate, and start a family.

But Tiffany’s story unfolded quite differently.

Weeks after serving on her high school’s homecoming court, while doctors operated to remove the brain tumor that was killing her, Tiffany suffered a paralyzing stroke. In the nick of a scalpel she lost her beauty and most of her physical ability. Returning to high school in a wheelchair, head half-shaved and face distorted, Tiffany vowed to be normal and live the dream.

And for a season, she did.

But just when the fairytale was within reach, God surprised Tiffany. Wooing her heart, God convinced her that there was something even better in store for her.

. . .And He has something better in store for you, too.

Read Your Dream. God's Plan. and see how the Lord wants to use the broken pieces of your life for His greater plan for you.

Smiling's story will help you see the ways God is writing your own amazing story—designed for His glory and your fulfillment.

My Thoughts:

My initial thought was "Wow!  What a strong young woman!".  But after reading the book I realized "WOW!  What a testimony to the power of Christ in a surrendered life!"  You can see the fingerprints of God all over Tiffany's life, beginning with her last name (you'll have to read the book to understand why I say that).

Tiffany opens with a preface titled "Something Better Than Your Dreams", and that truly captures the heart of her story.  Each chapter is a part of Tiffany's personal journey, but has a subtitle that brings you the bigger message: "What a Girl Wants: God's dream is different than our plans" as an example.

We often hear of events like the one that changed Tiffany's life direction.  My immediate thought was Joni Erickson Tada, paralyzed in a diving accident while still in her teens.  But we only see from this side of the amazing tapestry God is weaving, and from our perspective it's a tragedy.  Praise God for young women and men like Tiffany Smiling who can see with God's eyes and find the message in the mess.

I received a copy of "Your Dream, God's Plan" from Shiloh Run Press with no services provided in exchange.  I'm highly recommending this one, and get a copy for the young people in your life.  This book will teach them to think outside of themselves.

Until the next page turns,


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:


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,


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,


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,


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,



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