Friday, March 31, 2017

Perfect Blend of Mystery & Amish Fiction {Book Review for Her Secret}

If you love mysteries and enjoy Amish fiction, you absolutely want to read Shelley Shepard Gray's latest novel! On the surface, Her Secret seems like a fairly "cut and dry" storyline; you (as the reader) assume you're smart enough to know the plot from start to finish, so you settle into your chair for some nice Christian Amish fiction. You will find yourself surprised, however, when many things are not as they seem! Her Secret holds rich layers of plot, excellent character development, and several twists and turns you will not see coming. The fact this novel is the first in a new series for Gray makes it even more wonderful! You most certainly want front row seats for this series, and will not regret your purchase.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to write a positive review.*

Her Secret (Avon Inspire, March 2017)
A suspenseful tale of a young Amish woman who is forced to move to a new town to escape a threatening stalker
After a stalker went too far, Hannah Hilty and her family had no choice but to leave the bustling Amish community where she grew up. Now she’s getting a fresh start in Hart County, Kentucky…if only she wasn’t too scared to take it. Hannah has become afraid to trust anyone—even Isaac, the friendly Amish man who lives next door. She wonders if she’ll ever return to the trusting, easy-going woman she once was.
For Isaac Troyer, the beautiful girl he teasingly called “The Recluse” confuses him like no other. When he learns of her past, he knows he’s misjudged her. However, he also understands the importance of being grateful for God’s gifts, and wonders if they will ever have anything in common. But as Hannah and Isaac slowly grow closer, they realize that there’s always more to someone than meets the eye.
Just as Hannah is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding a new love, more secrets are revealed and tragedy strikes. Now Hannah must decide if she should run again or dare to fight for the future she has found in Hart County.
Shelley Shepard GrayShelley Shepard Gray is the "New York Times" and "USA Today" bestselling author of the Seasons of Sugarcreek series, the Sisters of the Heart series, and the Families of Honor series. She lives with her family in southern Ohio, where she writes full time. Before her work in the inspirational market, Gray wrote several novels as Shelley Galloway. During this time her books appeared on the Waldenbooks bestseller list, and she won "RT Book Reviews'" prestigious Reviewers' Choice Award.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A+ Series from Start to Finish {Home at Last Book Review}

Spent 10 minutes trying to find my book & my daughter had it!
Home at Last is the final book in the Chicory Inn series, and it is a series I highly recommend. While Home at Last is a fantastic novel, I highly recommend you read the other books in the series before you read Home at Last. Each book in the series not only focuses on a specific Whitman child, but also creates depth, character development and interweaving storylines from one novel to the next.

If I had to describe Link Whitman's role within the other books, I would say he most definitely was a minor character (even his deceased brother Tim played a bigger role within the plots of the first four books). Within his minor role, he always came across as kind, loyal, and fun. In Home at Last, Link takes center stage & his personality truly shines through. He is also a 29 year old bachelor, feeling trapped in a "dead-end" job. His desires, struggles, and connections with his family create a very realistic and endearing protagonist!

Shayla is also single, and is busy working at her dad's bakery while also raising her niece. Their life has been a hard one in recent years, and the tough situations are compounded due to one thing; race. Shayla's father is African American, and Shayla and her niece Portia are biracial. The family lives in a predominantly white community. It's rare to see a Christian romance novel address current racial fears & tension, but Raney tackles in head-on and acknowledges how current events (such as Ferguson) have affected the country.

Link and Shayla do not remain separate characters in the novel, and interest in one another is revealed rather quickly. The novel does a great job of capturing the struggles of inter-racial dating, and analyzing if the struggles make it even worth pursuing a relationship. 

As the Chicory Inn series comes to an end, Raney does a good job of wrapping up the various storylines and providing a nice "riding off into the sunset" feeling in regards to the Whitman family. I was pleased with Home at Last as well as the Chicory Inn series, and would even read them all again.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to write a positive review.*

Home at Last (Abingdon, February 2017)
Why did their differences matter so much?
Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters’ efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.
All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite–well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?
Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl’s aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee’s On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tightropes & Teeter-Totters: Finding Balance in the Ups and Downs ofLife {Book Review}

Ever wonder how some Christian women seem to stay calm & steady regardless of the situation, and others sway in the wind? No matter where you fall within that spectrum, Pennington's book is a fantastic one for helping you seek or further establish balance in your life. Multitasking our roles as wives, moms, careers & managing a household can be overwhelming; finding ways to seek balance, embracing self-affirmation, identifying our weak areas, and relying in Christ are critical components to living the life God has planned for us. Tightropes and Teeter-Totters: Finding Balance in the Ups and Downs of Life is a great and authentic resource!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to write a positive review.*

Tightropes and Teeter-Totters: Finding Balance in the Ups and Downs of Life (David C. Cook, February 2017)
Do you wonder if you will ever find balance?
Lisa Pennington knows how to get up after losing her balance, even with a full house, a not-so-full bank account, and never enough energy. In her latest book, she offers readers:
—Strategies for finding balance in marriage, motherhood, and bad moods
—Playful yet biblically based tips for turning hard days around
—Inspiration for shaping obstacles into opportunities
—Ways to respond to irritations with gratitude
—Enthusiastic encouragement for living out God’s purpose.
For every woman who wonders if her satisfaction in life will ever match her dreams, Pennington has real-life answers full of hope and humor.
Lisa PenningtonLisa Pennington is a homeschooling mom of nine who shares her life—one laundry load at a time—on her blog, The Pennington Point. She is a sought-after speaker at conferences and women’s groups and is the author of "Mama Needs a Do-Over." Lisa and her family live near San Antonio.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Door to Freedom {A Fantastic Novel}

When I first started reading Door to Freedom, I feared I might have to "muscle through" to complete it. Instead, I stayed up late to finish it and went to bed feeling like it was Christmas Eve--so very excited to be a Christian! I needed to truly be reminded how many people are persecuted for their faith, how many people are seeking out Truth, and how many people are risking their jobs and have given up Western comforts to share about Christ around the world. Jana Kelley has created a novel rich in character development, sensitivity and empathy. It is very deep and an easy read at the same time. I've never read anything quite like it, and am making it a point to read her previous novel as well as her future ones!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to write a positive review.*

Door to FreedomDoor to Freedom (New Hope, February 2017)
It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.
In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom, the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than manmade security.
Part of New Hope Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.
Learn more and purchase a copy.

Jana KelleyAuthor of the captivating novel "Side by Side," Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Making Marriage Beautiful is a Great Resource {book review}

Making Marriage Beautiful; Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You by Dorothy Little Greco is one of the most intentional marriage books I have read. As a pastor's wife and a small group leader, I am often looking for good resources that can help me as I encourage, build up, challenge, and counsel other wives....and also books that challenge me to continually seek out my own godly marriage! I truly appreciate the way Greco addresses how our upbringing affects our marriage, is vulnerable in sharing experiences from her own marriage, and shares insight from other couples as they reveal their own struggles and how they worked to draw closer together. This is a great book in helping you see how God can help transform you in the areas you need to be refined and molded more into His image.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to write a positive review.*
Making Marriage Beautiful (David C Cook, January 2017)
Making Marriage BeautifulWhat makes a marriage beautiful? Honesty? Compatibility? Physical and emotional intimacy? 
All of these are important, but there’s one component that determines the quality and longevity of a marriage more than anything else: a willingness to grow.
Because a wedding joins together two imperfect people, all couples experience disappointment, conflict, and pain. How husbands and wives respond to these challenges determines the kind of people they will become and the kind of marriage they will have.
Making Marriage Beautiful reveals how the pursuit of Christ results in profound transformation for both the individual and the marriage. Rather than offering clich├ęs and formulas, Greco relies on candor, humor, and real life stories to bring encouragement and wisdom to all couples, regardless of whether they have been married four weeks or forty years.
Learn more and purchase a copy.

Dorothy Greco and her husband, Christopher, have spent their entire twenty-five-year marriage helping men and women create and sustain healthy marriages. They have served numerous churches in the Greater Boston area for thirty years. Dorothy's writing has been featured in "Relevant Magazine," "Christianity Today," "Sojourners," and "Her.meneutics." She is a regular contributor for "Gifted for Leadership," "Today's Christian Woman," and "Start Marriage Right." The Grecos have three sons and live near Boston.