Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

If you have yet to read a Catherine West novel I suggest you begin right here with this one. She writes hope from heartfilled raw and transparent words. I love how she weaves a story out of the ugly, the unforgivable, and mess that is very real in life, and brings forth redeemable grace. 

She doesn't stop there. She doesn't just bring a life story, something that is real and painful. She brings hope, faith, and everything Jesus. That is what makes a Christian faith novel stand out. 

One of my favorite things about this story is that the lead character, Savannah, feels a great sadness that her life is falling apart. She is fearful, angry, and wounded, at the circumstances that were forced upon her. She knows loss, that deep agony that only another parent who has lost a child can understand. She already carries guilt. She feels shame by "church members" who instead of lift her up, tear her down with their, "This is what you should do pious attitudes." 

See, Savannah is looking for solace. She wants everything to be as it once was for her family. There is no more normal. In her search to save herself she in turn saves another. This is the miracle that only God can do! She sees the circumstances of another family in need and instead of focusing on herself she gets busy focusing on God. Through this He opens a door for her to witness something magical that could not have been possible if not for her trial to bring her to where God was calling. 

Something else that I really love is that Savannah realizes somewhere in her marriage she stopped praying for her husband. It wasn't until this circumstance, this new trial that separates her marriage does she understand that she needs to be praying for him. Yes, through her anger and wounded soul, she forgives, she makes room for God through prayer. 

But just when Savannah thinks one trial is passing, another is thrown at her. West does an outstanding job at showing the reader that it doesn't matter the circumstance, God is bigger. No matter how ugly the mess, God creates beauty. We see that there is no perfect Christian. There is no perfect life. But through our imperfections God shines bright!

This novel holds within it many circumstances. Separation, divorce, death, loss, cancer, suicide, and so much more. This is life for us. This is real for us. But for us believers we have something the world is missing. Jesus! He is where our hope begins. 


Yes, I loved this novel and cannot wait to see what's next for this author. If you're searching for a new read for your shelf grab up this gem of a story. Where there is hope there is healing.

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 catherinejwest.com.

Friday, June 15, 2018

God Bless Our Bedtime Prayers written by Hannah C. Hall and Illustrated by Steve Whitlow

I am loving choosing children's books by this wonderfully gifted author and illustrator. Together they bring children beautiful gems to enjoy. 

My grandchildren are going to love curling up together and reading this. The illustrations are soft and gentle hues perfect for bedtime. Easy and inviting for little ones.

As you open the book we see a giraffe mama and baby. The young one is kneeling at the bed and praying. This first little prayer is this: 

"Dear God, the day has said good-bye. The moon glows big and bright. As bedtime nears, You're with me here. God bless our prayers tonight." 
"The Lord our God comes near when we pray to Him." 
Deuteronomy 4;7

With each turning of the page we meet a new animal family, have a new prayer, and a Bible verse that coincides with the prayer. These are sweet prayers from little ones to God. Prayers that teach them to simply talk to Jesus about everything that touches our lives. Asking God to help us show His love to others, having a grumpy heart and learning to ask forgiveness, knowing He is with us with His protection when we are frightened, praying for others in need, praising Him for yummy treats and good things, finding peace in Him, going to Him when a special toy is missing giving Him all our worries, thanking Him for special time with others, and ending with telling God how much we love Him, are subjects that this gem touches on so perfectly for little ones.

In the description it shares that this book is great for 1-2 graders. I am thinking it would be wonderful for any age younger too. My youngest granddaughter is on her way to being two years of age and I know she will enjoy it as well. 

One could read the entire book at once or take just a page a night as we pray with our little ones. This is a sweet and tender read, but also a teaching tool for the heart. A great opening for our children to pray and an extra blessing for us to be a part of such love.


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

Hannah C. Hall writes books for kids, blogs for their moms, and many a forgotten grocery list. She loves Jesus, her husband Josh, their five incredible kids, crock pot dinners, extra desserts, and those rare and wonderful occasions when the laundry room is tidy. Visit her at HannahCHall.com.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

I feel as though I just went on a journey into the deep. Younts is an author to watch. Her writing style was poetic and beautiful. Her choice of words, placing them together, and the detail she provides is just exceptional. Sometimes it felt like her words floated to the heart. 

For me this wasn't an afternoon read. Gosh, it isn't that happy go lucky read. No, this isn't that lighthearted read to escape the world. This novel takes you deep. It's raw and transparent. It moved me. 

We travel back in time to the year of 1956. We are heading to the deep south where there are no longer any signs of "Black only" or "White only". It doesn't have to be written. One just knows. 

Two families. Secrets. A past they can't seem to unravel. They can't run far enough from God. Amish, white, and black. 

I  just want to share with you the first paragraph: "My skin was the same color as the soil. I pushed my hands into the ground and it had hardened some since my visit a week earlier. My hands barely left a dent when I lifted them. I put them back and pressed harder. Tiny bright-green blades of grass were growing and the dirt didn't look so newly turned over no more. Made me mad. Grass growing over my boy's grave. Should have known it would happen quick in Alabama spring without no shade overhead. Still wasn't ready to see the ground looking so settled in just a month." These words are from Delilah. She just buried her son. She's filled with such anger and hate. Her husband is a preacher. They have a family of children. But one is no longer present with them. The circumstances surrounding his death have not touched his mama's ears. She didn't want to know the details. She's pushing everything and everyone away as her heart hardens deep without her wound. 

They move from Alabama to Pennsylvania. Things should be different here. We journey with Delilah and her family to this new place, a dream, but life is hard for this family. But this is where we meet Emma. She's Amish, has her own family, and her own set of trials that is wearing on her. Here's a little from Emma: "Secret hive, whispering wind-no-breeze. Swaying branches, dancing trees. I repeated the words over and over in my mind. I didn't want to forget them. My fingers thrummed against my knee, itching for the pencil and paper I had at home. What would come next? What would it be like to have the freedom of trees?"

Delilah and Emma are two of the main characters of this book, but Sparrow, is the character that breaks my heart and takes me to that mama place where I just want to wrap my arms around her. Here's a few of her words: "When I saw the lady's watery eyes, it was like I was looking back at myself. It wasn't that she looked like me-she was white-but she got this something in her eyes that I got since Carver been killed. It made me get fidgety and I started to rub the puffy scar on my finger. I got it on the day we buried Carver when I smashed my small mirror against the porcelain sink. I couldn't stand to see myself in it. Didn't like the way it felt now neither so I looked away. That's when I saw the rest of her." 

This novel travels from these three characters, but through them we meet others. These are people I will never forget. Their stories are raw filled pain that overtakes everything about them. They are lost in their grief and so wanting to heal, to find relief, but that solace just isn't there. 

But these characters connect in ways that is just breathtaking. They form a friendship that fills them with something new, something unexpected. No one can understand what they have together. They shouldn't be friends. They should remain with their own kind. 

Oh, I loved this book! I love when an author uses their gift to take readers to a place they have never experienced. But when they close the last page they feel as though they have exchanged shoes and walked a journey unknown. This was that book for me. If you are looking for something deep and something that will move you I certainly hope you choose to grab up this gem. 


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

Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book, Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl, and is a RITA nominated writer. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable. Visit her online at: ElizabethBylerYounts.com

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli

History and present day meet in this new release. Chiavaroli takes us on a journey. We travel back and forth between the years of 1776 and 2016. It is 240 years that separate these two magnificently told stories, but Heidi brilliantly brings together two stories into a powerful read about the hidden heart. 

You know, it's that part we hide for many reasons. In 1776 we meet Mercy Howard. Oh, she is a thrilling character. So strong, steadfast, and full of patriotism. Her heart is full of grace and love. She stands for what is right and true. She hates injustice. She is finding herself in the middle of a war where she must take a side. 

I loved traveling back in time with Mercy. The characters that are side by side Mercy are those like herself. They have high standards. They are choosing to believe in something bigger than themselves. They are willing to sacrifice. What I love about Mercy is that she just doesn't allow herself to be a follower, but she pushes fear aside and decides to lead. She is that character that doesn't take things lightly. When she decides to take sides, she must hide the truth of her beliefs in order to seek aid Washington. She has seen those around her lose their life for standing for what is right. She is willing to risk everything. This reminds me of scripture and giving one's life for a friend. 

We follow Mercy and her struggle in hiding her true self. You gotta love a girl who keeps a journal. 

Now the other side of the story. This story was hard for me. It was deep, raw, and transparent. Again, Heidi is brilliant how she brings out the heart of her characters. Here in black and white they are brought to life. We are allowed to see every aspect of their lives. This is a story that could be a stand out all on its own, but as Heidi brings them together, just WOW!!! 

Let us go to New York in the year of 2016. We meet a family. Natalie, Mike, Maelynn, and Chris. The Abbot family is that all American Christian family. Natalie has a job in Christian radio. Mike is a police officer. Chris and Maelynn are twin teenagers. This family is living like many. They are busy. Life circles around them. One day all is wonderful, and then they stop sharing. They are now living right above the surface. 

Tragedy. A school shooting. This is where the story gets really difficult. Yes, it is a hard read. But Heidi is magnificent in how she allows the reader to see the heart of each character. The hidden side and the reality, the truth, that somehow gets paved over to make it look easy and right. You know facade we can all put on so easily so others think our family is just like every other family sitting in church. What we are all afraid to admit is that we are all sinners. We all struggle. We are all a mess, trying to do our best in situations that are not easy at all. 

What I love is that with this school shooting, we are allowed to see the struggle of this family in the aftermath of the reality that their son was the shooter. We understand more of Chris. Oh, we are still left with questions, but as for this family we see the struggle of what they must now live. 

I too admire how Heidi allows the reader to understand better these teens who struggle in life just to try and fit in, to be normal, to just be accepted. We too see parents that are having to try and understand the why and how of things in this tragedy. 

We are just given so much to absorb. It took me quite a while to read through this novel. I wouldn't have wanted to do it all in one sitting. There's too much to ponder. This is one of those novels I will not soon forget. We never want to be the parent of the child who is slain at school. But how often do we really think about the parent of the child who did the shooting? This book made me ponder those parents. As uncomfortable as that was, it was needed. 

Natalie is trying to make sense of what cannot possibly make sense. She goes into her son's room and searches for something of normalcy. She finds a book of Nathan Hale where she begins reading the journal of Mercy. Oh, how Natalie needs a little 'mercy' of her own. She finds so much of herself within the pages of Mercy's journal. It's not only an escape, but a place where peace can be found. Mercy was a legacy of hope that Natalie so needed. 

I admire authors who weave a penned creation around faith. Faith is alive throughout this novel. We see the road where faith is put to life. We see that 'no matter what' kind of faith, the struggle to see God in something that feels impossible. What the reader is given is that truth lights the way. There is a great blessing in being transparent, in letting others in, and in being honest with ourselves. 

I really enjoyed the depth of this novel and the journey that Chiavaroli invites us to travel. I cannot wait to see what's next for this gifted writer. 

Happy Reading!!


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

Heidi Chiabaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger. Heidi writes women's fiction, exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom's Ring, was a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Visit her online at www.heidichiavaroli.com.


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