Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

I usually don't share so much of the story to where it spoils it for a reader. But here in this review it's hard to share without doing so. If you're eager to read this novel just skip my review. You may pick up this novel and love it. I wouldn't want to spoil a novel for one so anticipating it's reading. 

What caught my attention for this novel was the cover. The pondering of the space between words. You know those words not spoken, often held inside, and sometimes acted out. I thought the idea of treasure finding was exciting. After all I love antiquing and pondering the story behind the objects I'm holding. I too was excited to see this backstory of the Huguenots and the mystery of an ancient document and how it related to the main character.

This was one of those reads I didn't mind setting down. The problem was I didn't really want to go back and pick it up. I finally made my way through this novel. I did find places where my attention was growing, but those ended up empty. I really wanted to love this novel. It just wasn't there for me. 

Our main character is in Paris with two friends, roommates. Jennifer, the main character, has known Patrick for about four years. They are close friends, not romantic, but seem to have a special kind of bond. Vonda is the friend who is much younger and isn't afraid to speak her mind. At first her character is strength and she has an attraction to see the city and experience all that it has. 

Tragedy happens. Paris is attacked. Jennifer is shot. Wounded and trying to make it to safety. Vonda gets to safety, but much happens before she is able to find a secure place. Patrick was to stay behind with other plans while the girls attended a concert. 

Now, before Jennifer had left for Paris she lived with her parents on and off for many years. She left the last time wanting to make it on her own so she didn't have to fall back on their dependence. Finding two roommates excited her.

Next in the story Jennifer is awaken in the hospital. She finds Patrick at her side. The story leads on with conversations between the two. Where is Vonda? She comes to the hospital days later giving Jennifer clothes and toiletries. She's had enough. She's going home. But Patrick remains. 

Through all this she finally gets a hold of her parents to let them know she's okay. She's been shot, but she's okay and will be leaving the hospital in a few days. They are so wanting to come help. I can imagine how they are feeling, but Jennifer has a strange attitude toward them and that I found really odd. They of course are worried sick. They want to come and get her. She refuses their help. She says that Patrick if with her and will take care of her. 

She leaves the hospital and finds herself in Patrick's apartment. He isn't home, but soon arrives. They have conversations. He's begging her to stay. She wants to return home. He convinces her to stay with him. They decide to travel the country and find a B&B. These people who own the B&B are super kind and carrying. 

So, come to find out, yes, she has been in shock, and has had little money. How did she travel all this way? She isn't with Patrick at all. She is traveling alone. So many questions. But through the help of this couple they are going to help her search for this document and translate it. 

Are you ready? Patrick is dead. He was killed at the concert. He had changed his plans and was coming to attend. Jennifer has been suffering from PTSD and her brain has refused to see reality. Remember that Vonda was shy of being at the hospital and then didn't want to remain in Paris? Well, before Vonda could make it to safety she found Patrick. This strong and resilient girl is suffering too, but she sees reality. She wants to escape this place that brought such devastation

With all that said. I simply didn't feel the emotion of Jennifer's pain. As the story concludes I have no idea if she came to faith, knowing Christ as her Savior. This novel had great potential. But something was lost for me. Something missing. 

I am so sorry to give so much of the story away. Once Jennifer realizes that Patrick is gone she gathers the strength to carry on her mission of seeking the meaning of this document. She learns that the Huguenots carried great faith, but in that faith they had many choices to make that would be life or death. If they chose to say they loved Jesus they would be killed. If they chose to denounce their faith they could live. Many chose to denounce. I did enjoy how the document showed they battled flesh and faith, as they faced horrific times of injustice. 

Jennifer and those now helping her uncovered all of this information so very quickly. This is something I would expect to take quite a long time. Research for such things isn't uncovered so easily.

And then there's getting in Patrick's car, going to the apartment, gathering items, and traveling far from Paris, finding a B&B, doing so much, but not being in reality at all. That is just, well, a lot to believe that at some point she didn't have a break through and see some piece of reality. 

It seems I read so much of the story believing that Patrick was with her and was going to take care of her and then I find out he has died in the attack. I don't know. There was a lot of space for me that needed more details, more story, more Vonda. She was an interesting character that left the story quite early, until she and Jennifer finally speak again where she shares the depth of her anguish and why she wanted to return home so quickly. 

It just wasn't my kind of an afternoon unputdownable. It is my hope that you pick up this novel and find it amazing. Maybe I can come back and read it later at another time and will find it complete and be able to walk away with a blessing of some sort.  Maybe then I'll be able to change my review and share just why I loved it. 

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

Michele Phoenix Born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michele Phoenix is a consultant, writer, and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids. She taught for twenty years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission. Michele travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies, and paths to healing. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

One of the best reads I have held in my hands. The cover of this gem is very telling. Just beautiful. The description, although accurate, gives enough detail to intrigue a reader to open the pages, but not enough to give away the sheer beauty penned in these pages. 

If I had to sum up this novel with one word it would be hope. Oh, there's redemption, faith, family, friendship, love, and trial. 

We have three generations. All three with stories of their own. They come together for a surprise visit, although it seems it isn't a coincidence, but a master design by God. 

I didn't want to put this book down and in reading the last chapter I found myself wishing there was a book two for us to journey even more with these characters. The books centers around Hazel and the tragedy that seemed to stop life so many years ago. She has held a secret that even her daughter and granddaughter don't know. Now up in years she must face choices that have a lasting effect on not only her, but her family. 

I loved all the characters in this novel. Especially the daughter, Diane, and the granddaughter, Meghan. We see the relationship issues between all of these women. What I love about Sawyer is she gives us a transparent look into their hearts. We see what has taken place in the past and why they have held the emotions they have carried for years. Anger, blame, and frustration. 

It's easy to find yourself with in these pages. Oh, to have a grandmother such as Hazel, would be a gift. Love covers all and with God all things are possible. This is what I walk away with from reading this novel. To let the anger go and most of all to communicate with one another before it's too late and there isn't another opportunity given to share the heart. 

These ladies come together in so many ways, but once they make a decision to seek the story of the past healing comes and a whole new blessing arises from the faith they carry. 

This is one I loved. Happy reading. Enjoy!😊

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

Kim Vogel Sawyer is highly acclaimed, best-selling author with more than one million books in print, in several different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades, including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives with her retired military husband, Don, in central Kansas, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope and redemption. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker

This may be the strangest review I have ever written. In reading the reviews for this one you will find a whole lotta people who loved it. There's a great message here about life, death, evil and good. This novel takes the tree of life and in black and white leads the reader into a journey of a young boy, Sam, whose mother dies in a tragic accident. He doesn't want to say goodbye. Doesn't want to live without her. We see his pain as he now must live without the love of his mother.

As the novel begins he comes face to face with three carnival fortune-tellers. It is here that he begins his search for the tree of life. He wants to bring back his mother.

His friend, Abra, is always at his side. She is the character I most enjoyed. She is filled with encouragement and love. We also have Mr. Tennin and Mr. Jinn. Of these characters he learns who to trust and where to make a stand. There too is the Amarok. The search for it and trying to kill it. Kind of a coming to age journey in who to invite into our life and where to place our boundary for protection.

When I opened this novel and began reading the first chapter I was excited to see where it was going. Sam is old in age and is now telling his story in first person. The chapters go back and forth from Sam in old age to Sam years back when he was a twelve year old boy. I loved the telling of the story when Sam was old in age. What I loved even more was the ending of this novel. The last chapter where the secret is coming to life. Okay, there is a second novel coming. This one is with Abra's story. This first novel feels like a first part to a larger more prevalent story.

This is a YA novel. The first novel for author Shawn Smucker. I kept waiting to be pulled in and have a greater understanding of the message. Yes, there's good and evil, the tree of life, and life and death. But I just couldn't connect with this story. Something was missing for me and I cannot even pinpoint what that is. Now, you may pick up this novel like others have and find it to be fascinating. I hope you do!! For me, it just didn't grab me. Maybe I wanted more of a message about the tree of life and salvation.

We are given the message that there is no fear in death. But there is a greater message there that for me wasn't relayed strong enough for an understanding of really knowing the meaning of the tree of life. There is no fear in death when Christ is our Savior. Without Him fear is present. Maybe that's it.

This is one I may go back and read again. Maybe in another setting, another mindset, I would really enjoy it. I am curious to see the next addition to this story as we journey more with Abra. 

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

Shawn Smucker lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Day the Angels Fell is his first novel.

Shine by Allison Allen

My first experience with Allison Allen was at Women of Faith. I was in attendance a few years to see her perform on stage. Even sitting many seats away, she was able to draw me near, pull me in, and forever change my heart. She is pure and transparent. That's the kind of girlfriend we all seek to find, but more importantly the woman we all need to be. 

She brings all she's learned from the theatrical stage and has brought it to life for us in ways that are so unique you are sure to find yourself within these pages. 

She's that cheerleader we all need in our corner. But many of us are short of cheerleaders. She guides us to finding ourselves in Christ, to being pure to who we are, and thriving to seek our role in the world around us. 

It can be suffocating trying to figure out who we are and where we belong. Especially as women. We compete with everyone around us and find ourselves falling short. Not because we are not worthy, but because we are trying to be someone we were not meant to be. We were meant to shine in our own skin and be present in our own life. 

This is a marvelous read for every woman of every age. Even a great book for Sunday school class, a youth group gathering, a small gathering of friends sharing coffee and heart. This is certainly a keeper for the shelf to go back to again on those days where Satan is roaring and we forget who we were to be and for whom we were meant to shine!! 

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Allison Allen is a graduate of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University and appeared in 650 performances of the Broadway production of Grease. A former Women of Faith dramatist and current Bible teacher, she speaks to women at conferences and retreats around the country, exploring themes of purpose, value, and identity in original unexpected ways. She lives with her family in Tennessee. 

Becoming Resilient by Donna Gibbs

If we aren't hurting right now, I'm sure the majority of us have in the past. We are not immune to pain and suffering. What Donna Gibbs has done here in these black and white pages is bring to life a way of getting unstuck in that wound that has kept us from living for far too long. That's something we can most likely all relate to. 

This isn't just a self-help kind of book. I'm not a fan of those. Ms. Gibbs brings the reader to the Word of God and that is the first key to removing ourselves from the suffering and trusting Him to lead us to a new life. Maybe unexpected, maybe not wanted, but circumstances bring wounds to us like we are in a battle. 

Knowing our pain isn't the issue. Asking why isn't the problem. It's remaining paralyzed in that deep gulf of destruction that leads us no where. Resilience. That's what Donna Gibbs offers us. She opens our eyes to developing resilience.

Here are a few headings in chapter two: Stop the Bleeding, Destructive Patterns (Destructive theology, destructive thinking), Poor Coping Skills (Asking the wrong questions, failing to place an appropriate boundary, obsession with injustice, over-analyzing, over-identifying as a victim,  prolonged denial, unrealistic expectations, tunnel vision catastrophizing). 

But first in chapter one she brings us to ask the question; What's normal about suffering? Here she brings us straight to the heart and truth of the matter. What are the sources of our pain? Our sin, the sin of others, hurting at the hands of God or Satan? These are questions where she doesn't just leave us hanging. She offers us a deep look inside and a beginning on a journey to healing. 

With each continuing chapter she gives a victory verse and personal questions to ponder. 

I found this profound: "It's easy to become fixated on the unfairness of the prosperity of someone who has wronged us. Often, we put our healing on hold, waiting for justice that may never come. We may find it difficult to move forward when there is unresolved injustice. It's important to remember that the bitterness associated with the obsession with injustice has little impact on the offender, but it is toxic to the person who is stuck."

This book continues on with such profound words that reach deep in the heart. It did for me on many levels. I have a friend who I will gift this book to. This is one of those books no wants to read, but one we all need. I found this book to be a journey. Just reading the words isn't enough. The reader must ponder them and make the choice to live them out. 

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you.

Donna Gibbs is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor, a National Certified Counselor, and a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, she is on the professional referral network for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuuum, and FINDINGbalance. A Christian counselor since 1998, she is director of A Clear Word Counseling Center and of marriage and support ministries for Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina.  

A Time To Stand by Robert Whitlow

A robbery. A shot. Thunder and lightning. There in the middle of the street in the heat of the dark an officer is face to face with a suspect. This is where the story begins, but it is far from where it ends. 

Here in my area, being close to St. Louis, the protests and riots over a criminal being shot by an officer, this novel brings a fresh and honest portrayal of justice at work when the truth is first on being sought out. 

The character, Adisa, stands out for me. I really admired her strengths and weaknesses. She walked with a great integrity and through circumstances in her life she is faced with coming true to who she is and what she believes. 

This is hometown South. A white officer is accused of shooting a black man. Adisa, a black attorney, feels one way about this case, but when she takes this case it is amazing to see truth prevail through her actions along with others to seek truth justice, not street justice. 

Through this novel we see the lives of the officer, the attorney, and the young man who was shot come to life before our eyes. Whitlow has long been a favorite for me. Choosing another novel penned by his talent was a no brainer, but I was really surprised at the content of this novel. I wasn't sure in what direction he would take these pages. He shows us that what's on the surface isn't always the truth and when we dig down deep we find that love, respect, and honor can come to life when we look beyond our self. Especially when we look beyond what generations have taught, what the media places in our face on the nightly news. This novel shows that hate gets us no where, racism is on all sides, and too often we don't want the truth, we just want to be angry. 

The more I read the more I wanted to spend time in these words. That's a clue I have a great read in my hands. I cannot wait to see what's next for Whitlow. 

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

Robert Whitlow is the bestselling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review.


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