Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories by Celeste Fletcher MaHale

When the Secret to Hummingbird Cake was released I missed the opportunity to review it. The title alone caught my attention. I mean, who doesn't love hummingbird cake? And to put it in the title of a book? Well, I just knew when I seen this title, The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, it was sure to be a novel to fall in love with. 

McHale writes dialog as if you have a front row seat to every conversation. Through their conversations you come to know the characters. She writes easy. Her words flow. The play of dialog brought me to feel much emotion. I could feel the characters emotion just through the words shared. That's something huge in allowing the reader to connect. 

This story is a beauty. Memories submerged. But before these characters can live fully today they are going to have to allow the past to come full force into memory. This is painful for these characters. What I love is that every character, no matter how much they look like they have it together, has issues. No matter how big or small, every single issue brings these characters to a place where they must choose to let go of the past or continue to hang on tight. 

Another aspect I love is that every character has their own story, their own battle to overcome. Each of their stories comes to life in a way that brings the reader to a place where they can relate. 

I love the relationship between the young women. Three friends who know each other so very well. They cheer one another on and they are there to catch each other when one falls. We see what friendship truly is to be between women. Jacey, Georgie, and Willow, are the friends. Although Jacey is the main character, I found myself truly loving Georgie. Her sense of humor and quick-wit was enchanting. She brought such life to this story. 

Colin is a character that brings depth to the story. He has chosen to be a pastor. He enjoys serving people in communities that truly are in need. He too loves building homes. As we see his character grow it becomes evident that maybe being a pastor isn't where he should be. That choice comes from a past that has brought him great pain. We see Colin struggle with making the right choices. We too see his relationship with his parents bring to light the person he is today. McHale allows us to see this battle taking place within his heart. 

Jacey has been through so much. For many it would have broken them. But, we see her overcome. Through tragedy her life has become entwined with others. Connected in such a powerful way that even the strongest storm couldn't separate them. Three days trying to stay alive on a roof changed her life forever. 

This writer brings us a beautiful story of friendship, love, family, and the connection that we have with others when we allow our hearts to fully feel. No holding back, but giving room for the heart to embrace the past, accept the present, and have hope for the future. 

I cannot wait to read more from this writer. I now know that I am going to have to purchase, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. If it's anything close to this beautiful story it's a must read! 

Now, for that part of the review that I just don't like. Ugh. Okay, this novel is published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher. When you choose a book by this publisher you expect to read a story wrapped in faith. A story leaving you with the feeling as you have just walked a little closer to the Savior through the stories of the characters you just spent time with. Is God mentioned? Yes. But, I would have to say if I choose this book just on the terms knowing it was published by Thomas Nelson and knowing I would walk away with a strong story of faith I would be very disappointed. If I were to walk down the aisle of my local book store this isn't a selection I would expect to find on the shelf. It is disappointing to see Thomas Nelson move continually further away from publishing 'faith-based' fiction.

With that said, this is a selection I would choose again just for the sheer beauty of the story and the heart of the characters. McHale is truly a gifted with the pen as she weaves a story that is genuine and full of deep emotion. 

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review. 

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana, where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

David Jeremiah Morning & Evening Devotions (Holy Moments in the Presence of God)

I am a lover of devotionals. That is devotionals that guide me to my Bible. This is one of those devotionals I would share with another, give as a gift, and one I will turn to every day. 

I have a David Jeremiah study Bible and this devotional with go great with my daily studies. Trusting a teacher is a valuable gift. David Jeremiah is that teacher for me. 

This devotional is gorgeous. Hardback with neutral colors. This is a devotional for everyone, no matter your age or gender. This too is a devotional my husband enjoys. He isn't big on devotionals, but when he picked up this one he shared, "This is really nice".  So, it would certainly be a great Father's Day gift!

It is a dated devotional. This is super cool because I have found that reading the devotional that is dated often gives me the needed message for that day. And this is awesome because it is a morning and evening devo! Whether you would like to read each morning, maybe each night, or if you like me you wanna soak in both, this is for you. One can read a devotional in many different ways and here David Jeremiah gives the reader more choices. 

This is even great for a group setting, a Sunday school class, even to use as a tool for teaching. It is filled with wonderful truths. A message for everyone at every time in life. I love how he uses one scripture to focus on and then shares a message on that verse shared. Each page is from two to four paragraphs. The messages shared give the reader much to ponder and like I have shared, leads the reader to their Bible to seek the Lord in their study time.

This is a devotional to treasure. It is one I would certainly suggest as a top find in Biblical tools to bring us closer to knowing our Lord, and making Him the focus of our day. 

This devotional was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 


David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point, an international ministry committed to providing Christians with sound Bible teaching through radio and television, the Internet, live events, and resource materials and books. He is the author of more than fifty books and serves as the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, California.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Our Every Word Matters

Have you ever thought about what happens with our used up words? You know, all the words we have spoken to another. Those quiet words and those words screamed off the roof top. Those tender words and those filled with hate. Where do they all go after they have left our mouths? Straight to the heart of another. Sure, people say that they let words roll off their back, but is that really possible? I don't think so. We would like to pretend words don't hurt us, but our wounds are deep with cuts from words. 

They are powerful. They hold such meaning. Then there are the useless words. You know them. Those spoken in gossip and judgement. Those cursed with spewed ignorance. Those shared with one, but end up all over town. They fill our homes and our churches. Children learn at a young age to not speak bad words, all the while their parents can't keep them in their mouths. Oh, the words that spill from our lips. 

Here's something to ponder. Well, I've been pondering for a few weeks now. What if at the beginning of our life we were only given a certain amount of words? Once they are used up that's it. No more. Maybe each day when we rise we are given an amount of words. Would we keep count? Would it matter to use how we used our words? Could we possibly learn to speak without so many words, but live out our love by action? 

Yes, just think about. We wake only having a certain amount for our day. We get out of bed, yell at the dog because he just couldn't wait until he went outside. Those nice clean socks are no longer wearable. Before we get in our car we spill coffee and there spewed from us are words we think are worthy of our anger. Oh, mercy me. We head to work, but traffic has us all tide in knots. It's a good thing we have glass to protect us from the people we are fowling up a pole and wishing they were dead. Right? How do people even make it to work with the way we drive? 

That's only the first hour of our day. There's work, school, the grocery, more traffic to get back home, and well, there's home. Yeah, that place where we feel so free to allow words to spill. I mean no one else can hear us, right? The kids need to listen anyway. Good grief, when are they gonna get it? The husband, well, why does he have to be so useless at home? Anger spews. The kids hear it all. These words fill them with such emotion. 

There's one side to our words, but what happens when the phone rings and it's Joann from down the street? Ever wonder how our voice can change from sounding like a blow
horn at one moment and the next we are June Cleaver. Our hello just smiles. Church is a place where our words are softly spoken with a tender smile. Oh, the love that flows from our mouths, but then we get in the car and wow, you know, right? We are spewing once again. Just where do those words go? 

We have our moments, right? We can speak with such care. Our hearts ache for others. We reach out and just wanna say something to help comfort. I can't tell you how many times I have opened my mouth to only wish I'd zipped it shut. How does that happen? It sounds so good before it leaves my lips, but then when I actually hear what I have just spoken it sounds as if I was dropped on my head as a baby. Where does it all go wrong? When does it all go right? 

It begins in our heart. Let's be real. We carry a lot of anger. That bitterness grows from a deep root. Jealousy is real. Let's not pretend it isn't. There is nothing that happens to us in our lives that doesn't leave it's mark. We bury our wounds so they won't come out and show themselves, but they do, don't they? 

Sure, our hearts hold such love, grace, and mercy. That's a God-love in us. When we allow Him to live through us, well, things change. We think before we speak. Our words mean more to us than just overflow. Sure, ever meet a person that never shuts up? You can't get in a word edgewise. It's that person who is always talking but never saying anything. Go on the other side of the spectrum and we have a person filled with so much to share, wisdom and stories, but they remain quiet because they have been made to feel like what they have to say isn't important at all. 

With our God-love we realize our actions are love in motion. Temptation to use our gift of words poorly never ends for us. But we can live more aware. In how we use our words is a choice. No one forces us to open our mouth. Whether love or hate escapes is all on us. We try to place blame on others and on situations, don't we? Isn't it time for us to hold ourselves accountable? 

I love you. 
I forgive you. 

These words hold meaning. They hold within them Jesus. Love our enemy? Yeah, hard to do, but with a Jesus-love, possible. Be kind to our neighbor? A hello with a smile, a wave, just may be what lifts another person's day. We never really know the heart of another until we give up ourselves and invest time in them. But that person passing by, the one we may never meet again, we have an opportunity to share with them words of love. It doesn't have to be a five minute conversation. I mean, that's a lot of our time, right? And our time is valuable. Well, guess what? People are more valuable. One of these days we are going to run out of time. 

So, just what if at the beginning of our day with our full amount of words we use up all we have before we make it home at night? There's our kids waiting for our love and attention, but we have used up every bit of words possible. Were they words that were valuable? Did they hold a great importance to another? Did they uplift or did they just cut down? Encourage and inspire or did they bury another deep? 

So much can spoken. Words are powerful antidotes of healing. We remember words spoken by our parents, our grandparents, our siblings, our teachers, our co-workers, and those at church. Words leave behind legacy. Just what that legacy is, well, that's up to us. 

Let us remember that all words have motive. Whether good or bad they are meant to make an impact. Our words begin in the depth of our heart. A heart filled with love speaks words of truth and grace. One filled with hate spews words of fire. We are what we eat? Well, we are what we speak. Our very reputation begins with foundation our words pour. What can be built with words of hate? 

We can speak truthful words or spill from our lips lies. It takes more words to spill lies than it does to speak the words of truth. That's huge! Again, what breaths from our mouths is totally up to us. We can stop the hate and begin the love. 

I grew up in a home of racism. The "N" word was spoken with such hate. Even as a child I knew the fire behind that evil word. What we as adults to in moderation our children will do in excess. Hate is taught. It is grown from words of old and hearts too ignorant to change. We can't cover up ugly. Not when it's pouring from the mouth. The same is with curse words. That "F" bomb that so many thinks is just an expression, well, it makes me ill. Doesn't show much intelligence when there are so many expressive words to choose from, but then it always goes back to choice. 

Even as a child I knew that I would choose never to speak such words of hate. People, if we will listen to children and grandchildren they can teach us a lot about the kindness of our words. Greater lessons are learned from kind words than from words of disappointment. 

Maybe we haven't been using our words wisely. Maybe we have been using them up for things that just don't matter. That moment of anger passes and then what? Those words remain alive. That hurting heart that hears words of comfort will never forget the love shared with them. Our every word matters. 

Think about that last conversation of gossip. Yeah, ponder how many useless words were spoken to tear down another. Words that were probably not even of truth. Hollow words are spoken daily, but they hit like a dead tree trunk slamming down. 

We can find such beauty in our words. I love that our days have the potential to leave a story told by our words. A story that points to Jesus. One that has power to shield, to mold, to build a foundation, to lift up, to inspire, to instruct. Every word spoken has power. Think about that.

Our words speak of character and integrity. What is it that we want to leave behind as our words are spoken? It is possible to bring about life with loving words. May we choose them wisely and speak them willy-nilly, allowing anything to flow from our lips. There is always someone listening. Some of the worst words spoken are those shared in secret. Ever think about living with the impact our words has on another? A bully doesn't have to punch with fists. All they have to do is open their mouth with words that bring anxious fear. 

Today is a new day. A new roll of words. A vocabulary of endless love. Maybe if we took the time to know the meaning of our words we would use them differently. If we knew the impact on the heart of the one hearing them just maybe we would say something different. 

Choose love today. 

Choose words that speak more of Jesus than they do of this world.

Let our words be enjoyable to the ears in hearing. 

May we not be empty of words when it really matters.

"All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ." Ephesians 4:31-32

"So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell." James 3:5-6

"A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath." Proverbs 15:1

"There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

"The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin." Proverbs 13:3


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills

Being introduced to DiAnn Mills with the novel, "Deadly Encounter", was the book that made me a fan! Now with this newest release, "Deep Extraction", once again I am blown away at her expertise in writing masterful action packed suspense!

Mills is a writer who knows how to treat a reader. Right?! I want intrigue, fast paced suspense, meaningful dialog, a message of hope, and characters the reader admires and respects. It's all here in these black and white pages that leap off into a world of choices. 

Each character faces different life circumstances. As we see those circumstances continually change. Nothing remains the same. Change is evident in our lives. Most of all it is our choice in how we journey through our circumstances. We can either rise above or be sucked into a darkness of unrest. These characters face the world around them differently. 

The title of this book is ingenious! The message I walk away with? We gotta go deep. We gotta extract what shouldn't be there and mine what's most valuable. But that's the lesson here. What's most valuable to us? When we live a Christ-centered life the things that once were important to us are no longer those at the top of the list. Our choices change. Circumstance no longer guides our life. 

We see characters of faith, others who are coming to faith. Some have questions. It's hard to understand what we can't come to see as truth. Often we want proof before we can truly believe. Gosh, there's just so much here to learn! I love walking away from a novel with a pondering heart into my own life. 

These characters face anger and surprise at life's circumstance. What's great is that faith is from the first to last page. I love their struggle with faith, with believing. The main character's brother lived out his faith through a trial in his life. His live is evident of a life lived in deep faith. The outcome of his trial isn't at all what this sister would see as an answer to prayer. But for her brother, he seen things much different. Was faith his crutch? You know what? When I need a crutch there's no one I would rather lean on than my Savior. This is a great message for us to live out a faith for those around us to see. They may not understand much about us, but what better legacy to leave for them! 

Looking for a great series? With this one you don't have to read the books in order. Each can be read as a stand-alone. This is one I quickly absorbed. This author isn't one to miss. If you have yet to read anything penned by DiAnn Mills this is a terrific place to start! 

This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you. 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author whose novels have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, and Carol Award contests. When she's not writing, DiAnn is busy teaching and doing research through the FBI Citizens Academy. She and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her online at www.diannmills.com.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Memory of You by Catherine West

This novel gives reason as to why I love doing reviews. I not only get to read new works, but I get to share them with you. Sometimes you pick up a novel that reminds you all over again as to why you love reading. This is one of those unputdownables that right up to the very last page held my attention and heart. 

This is such a fantastic novel. I fell in love with West's work when I read, "The Things We Knew". That is the very reason why I chose this novel. When you find a writer that you love it's hard to pass up a new release.

I love how the characters are introduced. They aren't just all thrown together, but they are perfectly brought into story. In fact, it's hard to pick a main character. Each character brings a beautiful aspect to the story. I found characters I could relate to. There is someone here for everyone to make a connection with. These are characters that are so real. People the reader would enjoy getting to know. I love the story behind each character and how they all intertwine. 

We get to see many different aspects of their lives. I love how West opens their lives up and shows us the depths of their wounds. They battle such deep emotion. They are battling with their pasts and their present. Even at times a fear of the future. Life can be unsettling at times. We see how their circumstances can depend on the choices of others. It seems everything collides for these characters. Just as in real life it's at times one thing after another for them. Finding balance and peace amidst the constant portals of storms isn't easy for these characters. It's in this journey that we see God moving in their lives. 

Faith is masterfully woven in this novel. Beautifully written in a style that easily flows. The themes of hope, faith, forgiveness, redemption, and love connect us with the characters. Family and relationship is something that stands out for me. We see these characters encourage and inspire one another. These are characters that all have a history with one another. I love how in some way or another they are connected. 

I really enjoyed how these characters want to move forward, but they struggle for various reasons with letting go of the past. Such deep inner struggles for these characters. There is a transparency that draws in the reader.

I could go on and on with sharing, but then I wouldn't want to give away any details. Although the back cover does a good job of giving a bit of detail there is much more to this novel. These characters deal with health issues, aging parents, PTSD, family issues of mental illness, and custody battles to name a few. 

The novel is set in the beautiful wine country of Sonoma, California. We travel the seasons of life with these characters. We see a winery struggling to hold it's own. The owner wanting to keep things as they have always been, but learns he must embrace the future to see this family treasure grow again. Just as the pressing of grapes brings about an aroma of sweetness, these characters will be pressed as they discover the full grace of God.

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 

Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she's not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border collie for long walks on the beach or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children. Visit her online at catherinewest.com.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

Sometimes I select a book because of the cover, sometimes it's because of the author, sometimes it's the description. There are a times  a publisher will stand out and because of their reputation I'll grab up a novel. 

In this case it was the cover that caught my attention. The name of the title, "The Hideaway". Now, how is that not appealing to one who would at times love to escape from this world? The description of the novel is simply lovely. I love the idea of the present and the past colliding. I enjoy a novel when the author takes us from the present to a time remembered. 

When I choose a novel from Thomas Nelson I am expecting it to be a Christian novel. Especially when it is classified as such. So, for me to review this book I first have to review on the basis of this information. This novel is nothing even near a faith based novel. If a reader is expecting to pick up a novel that is a unputdownable read, but one that is based first in faith that's what one should receive from a publisher as Thomas Nelson. With this novel faith cannot be found within these pages. 

A Christian novel that surrounds itself around lies and an affair. That doesn't sound logical, right? If I had to simply do a review based on that alone this novel would receive a 3 out of 5 stars. But that is more so basing a review on what the publisher is selling as faith based. 

So, this is where it gets difficult. This is the debut novel of this author. I must then review this selection for her writing style, for the story told as it is penned by her hand. If this novel were on another shelf, found in another aisle I would give it 5 stars. 

This is where I am pulled as a reviewer. More and more we are seeing Christian publishers go in a different route, but still classifying their novels as Christian, faith based, when they contain nothing of the sort. 

As this writer's debut novel I am honored to read her work. She has penned a beautiful novel about love lost, regret, and finding that we come to truly know ourselves when we let go of self. 

When I began reading the first chapter I was caught, hook, line, and sinker. I didn't want to put this book down. Mags, a woman from the past. A time when everything was different. Women had their place. Men had theirs. Women were to make it work, and in essence know their place. My heart ached for Maggie. I was excited to get to the chapters where she was speaking of her life. Denton writes in such a way that brings the heart of the character to life. 

We flip from the 1960s to present day. This is where we find Sarah, a young woman, busy with her own shop. She seems to push away everyone who could possibly make room in her heart. She's an introvert. One who is talented on many scales, but one who hides herself away from the world around her. All except for the young man who works with her. He has his own style and she gives him room to be himself, but without intruding in her space. He is truly the only one who knows her. She's allowed him to see more of herself than any other. 

She receives a call that her grandmother has passed away. This is where the novel takes off. From here we get to know Sarah and Maggie. Their lives intertwine as we meet many characters who surround their lives. They all give something of beauty to this novel. No character is out of place. They all give way for this novel to weave a place in the readers heart. 

We can look at the life of Sarah and we can easily relate to her. In our busy world we are simply busy with what we want to be busy with and we forget about those who seem so far away from our daily schedule. We think we have another day to meet up, place a call, or have dinner, but sadly, that last meeting always comes sort of what we only now wish life would have held for us. 

I love how Maggie has Sarah restore the B&B to it's full glory of what it should be. Kind of like life, right? We let things go and they get run down and forgotten. While Sarah is restoring the house she learns more about her grandmother and in turn learns more about herself. About the life she no longer lets pass her by in busyness, but one she chooses to live fully with no regret. 

Maggie lived with regret. She lived her life wishing for another life. But she too lived with secrets. These secrets not only touched her life, but the lives of others. Keeping these secrets hidden didn't bring about a life well lived, but one that only remembered regret and loss. 

There is beauty to be found within these pages. A story unfolds that leads us to know the importance of living truth and knowing ourselves well enough to pursue a life beyond one that is only a lost dream. 

If you are searching for a novel that is penned in deep faith this isn't that novel. But it is one that is a lovely read where it can lead one to ponder their own life and to reach beyond the hidden deep into a life where we allow others to enter without fear of being wounded. 

I am excited to see what's next for this author. 😊

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Lauren K. Denton Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she's rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

I Give It All To You Today

I've been quiet in my writing. I sit down at the computer to share my thoughts and my fingers are numb to the keys. I ponder just what I should share. So much to share, but nothing comes. I have never come to my computer without something to share. I have been so hard on myself for not writing. It's always come so easy. 

Life happens, right? We get busy and other things come first. But this is so much more. I have realized I have been stumbling over my own writing because of being fearful to share the real. I cannot be fearful of what others may think or even if they can relate. I simply have to be transparent and follow the instruction of the Lord.

Friends, I am so tired. I feel empty at times and this isn't something normal. But it has been building since October 12th when my husband was hit by a drunk driver. Life changed for us. In that very moment everything changed. I have been squashing my emotions. I just keep pushing myself forward, but I simply can't move being numb to reality. I have to allow my emotions to come full force so I continue in this life we are now living. If just one life is changed. Just one person reads my writing and decided to not drink a drive, well then, it's all worth it. 

Every single aspect of our lives has changed. I've cried out to God. I've that question we all ask when life's earthquakes shake us to the core. "Why, Lord?" What do I know? God didn't do this. A drunk driver did. We now live the consequences of their actions. They get to carry on with their normal every day life. They get to hire defense attorneys to fight for their poor actions of that night. And us? We try to move forward. To pick up broken pieces that are shattered. How does one do that? How can you move forward when so much has changed? When your husband is still facing such tremendous issues from this person who chose to alter life by their own selfishness

Drunk drivers. How is it that you picture them? You know, they look just like us. They fit into the every day world, but there's something drastically different. They live with the idea that they are Superman. Except for the fact that Superman didn't break the law. He had the interests of others first. He wasn't selfish. He was about saving mankind. A drunk is about self. They think they can handle their drink. A long day of work, a weekend they have longed for, a night they think they deserve. They think they are bigger, better than other drunks. But see, a drunk is a drunk. 

How would you define drunk? Drunk cannot be measured by a number because alcohol affects every person differently. Intoxicated, inebriated, these are words that describe one who has consumed alcohol. When you choose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle there is NO way your driving isn't impaired.  

There's always that first time you receive a DWI. Maybe you have already had a DWI and with funds you had tucked away for a rainy day you used that money to get this extinguished from your record. You're feeling really lucky now and instead of taking this second chance to do something good, to never drink and drive again, you use this get out of jail free card to do it again. After all, you're not like other drunks, right? Your better. You wouldn't ever cause a crash. 

Maybe you aren't stopped when you know you should be. You feel lucky? You pull in your drive, get out of your car, and make your way inside. Another night you made it. How many of these nights have you taken for granted? How many of these nights could you have taken a life? You should feel disgusted enough to change! Count this as your second chance. Think about the variables that could have happened. 

Reality for thousands of people whose lives are drastically altered by people who with their second chance made the choice to destroy life. They didn't get that chance to pull in their drive way and make it safely inside. They didn't have the opportunity because of you. Because of your choice to drive impaired. Maybe you never get a second chance. Maybe it's the first time you make the choice to drink and drive. All it takes is one time. One time to tear apart life. 

The five bucks you spent on a drink, the dollars you have laid on the bar, the tip you gave the server, maybe it's the bottle you purchased, a girls night, an after baseball gathering, was it worth it? Was your night, your morning, your moment of self all worth it to see families changed forever? The lives you have changed are valuable! Life ended, life altered, love lost, broken lives. It's a reality for people just like me whose lives have been forever changed by people who by their own choices smash into the lives of others and give us a world we didn't want but now own. You may think you deserve a night out, but the family you crash into doesn't deserve the life you have now given them. Today make a choice to change!

This is the song that was playing in the early morning hour when I placed the key in the ignition to find my way to my husband at the hospital. Tears fell as I opened my hands to the Lord. Without Him I am not sure if we could make this journey. Without Him I don't know where we would be. But what I do know is that with Him we have everything. With Him we have hope. With Him we have strength to face this journey we now walk. 

I don't know your circumstances today, my friend. May today be the day you surrender all to Him. 


Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Essential Amish Cookbook by Lovina Eicher

When you open this cookbook up you are going to find much more than recipes. You will find the heart of a woman. The photographs within this cookbook tell a story all their own. They are warm and inviting. Just as I imagine Lovina would be to one entering her kitchen. 

You too will find stories that go along with each recipe. Lovina shares with the reader how she used the recipe and what it means to her. These little notes make you feel as if she wrote the recipe down for you with her own pen. 

The chapter I enjoyed reading the most would be the chapter devoted to Amish Wedding Meals. Okay, these recipes are created for HUGE crowds of people. You can look at the photos, read her notes, and just imagine yourself nestled in a church service or around a table. 

This is one of those cookbooks that you can actually see yourself using. From breakfast, lunch, to dinner. Spring, summer, fall, or winter. There are recipes that cover every setting and season. Throughout my own life I have had many of these dishes. Lovina has a way of simplifying each of them to make them approachable.

There are many recipes for rhubarb that I am excited to give a try. Quite a few recipes call for lard. Some use Velveeta or your favorite cheese. There are recipes for canning, delicious beverages, desserts, breads, and main dishes. There's something in here for everyone, but most of all these are recipes to bring people to the table. 

This cookbook was a gift from Herald Press for sharing my review with you. 

Lovina Eicher is the author of the syndicated column Lovina's Amish Kitchen, which appears in forty newspapers around the United States and on a weekly blog. She is the author of several cookbooks. Lovina and her husband have eight children and live in rural Michigan. 

Maybe It's You by Candace Calvert (book 3 in Crisis Team Series)

I love being introduced to new authors. Now, Candace isn't new at all. I was going through the novels at Tyndale and this one stood out to me. I knew of Candace, but I hadn't read any of her work. Oh, what I have been missing. She is fabulous! 

For the first time ever, and I have been reviewing for many years now, I fell in love with the main character within the first two chapters. Within the first chapter Calvert had me so intrigued that this was a novel that was difficult to put down. 

When I chose this novel I had no idea it was third in this series. I always share with fellow readers that if you're going to read a series read them in order to get the best out of the penned words being offered. Not so with this novel! I was blown away when I realized it was the final book of the series. Although I have not read the first two, which I am now hoping to go back and read, I didn't feel at all that I was missing anything. This could totally be a stand alone novel. 

Just like with Lay's chips you can't eat just one, well, I think I just may be addicted. I cannot wait to read more of this author. This novel held a bit of everything. What sticks out to me is the heart of the characters that Calvert was able to bring to life. It was perfectly paced, heart-grabbing, and believable. I love when a novel is so believable that I can find myself within the characters. 

The back cover doesn't give a vast description of this novel. Sure, a romance, but there's also suspense, a kind of at the edge of your seat read. I also love that faith is woven throughout this novel. We see characters who are on the fence with God. We see their inner struggle with faith. They have believed at one time in their life, but as circumstances have brought them to come face to face with their fears, they have come to the conclusion that a relationship with God is the last thing that's possible. But, they will come to see that if God had a fridge their picture would be right on the front!

You know how there are books that come at the right time? This is one of those novels for me. Seven months ago my husband was hit by a drunk driver. He is still recovering from the crash. Everything about this drunk driver has changed our lives forever. Let me just say the characters in this novel brought me to a place I didn't feel comfortable with. Not in a bad way. But in that way that helped me to see what my deep anger was doing. See, there are many aspects to the characters in this novel that bring to light how drunk driving affects every aspect of life. This is one of those novels that can make a huge impact on the reader who is facing circumstances whether they are in the driver's seat, the passenger, or at the funeral of one killed by a drunk driver. So many different aspects and emotions collide with these characters. Candace wove masterfully wove them all together.

Not only medical drama, but there are many criminal aspects too! This is your favorite soap opera on steroids. This novel is explosive in bringing many characters together and entwining their stories to create this jam-packed creation. There are many twists and turns, stories within stories, and characters that will bring you to look closer at yourself. 

Maybe what I love the most is that these characters took their second chance and didn't waste it. I loved journeying with these characters. They knew what their past held, how far they had come, and what it took for them to be whole. They had to find forgiveness in others and in themselves. They were not about to give up what they had come to see as a journey where God had never left them.

This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you.

Candace Calvert is a former ER nurse and author of the Mercy Hospital, Grace Medical, and Crisis Team series. Her medical dramas offer readers a chance to "scrub in" on the exciting world of emergency medicine. Wife, mother, and very proud grandmother, Candace makes her home in northern California. Please visit her website at www.candacecalvert.com.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Beyond Justice by Cara Putman

Intelligent and thought provoking. Powerful writing and stand out characters.  This is a fast paced read. One that easily flows as the story grows. 

Good verses evil. Strong characters take part in this litigating suspense. Cara Putman is outstanding as she gives great attention to detail for the reader to have a front row seat. 

The main character is a great example of strength and tenacity. She is a woman of faith. She isn't afraid to take cases that others think are unwinnable. She's ready to not just fight for injustice, but to masterfully litigate using her strengths. 

She knows her limits. This is another aspect I love. Behind this strong woman are a group of friends who support, encourage, and inspire her. She's a character that doesn't waste time on things that are not leaving an impact in the world around her. She knows who she is and no matter what lies before her, she knows without a doubt where she is going. This is a woman not defined by what she does, but simply by who she is and how she lives her moments. 

Andrew and Emilie are also outstanding characters. Each having a strong presence.  I love how every character intertwines with the others. Cara didn't put in fillers and fluff. Nothing that didn't have to be there. She filled the pages with storyline to give the reader a jam-packed reading event. 

Immigration, illegal entrance, drug cartel, and a juvenile detainee center are all a part of this storyline. Murder, politics, government secrets, and blackmail are all woven throughout these black and white chapters to bring about a colorful array of mechanics that bring our main characters together. 

Our main characters bring friendship, family, honor, faith, and love to the story. I am excited for the next novel to release. Imperfect Justice sounds like another thrilling read! 

This novel was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 

Cara Putman graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, and completed her law degree at twenty-seven. She has published more then twenty books, teaches college courses, practices law, and is a home-schooling mom. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana. 

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