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Thursday, August 30, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour--A Duke's Promise by Jamie Carie

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Duke's Promise
B&H Books (September 1, 2012)
by
Jamie Carie


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As Jamie’s relationship with God grew, she discovered her heart was filled with songs and poetry. During high school she wrote lyrics for her brother’s band. (And she sang them too!) After college, Jamie married, had two sons and decided to stay home with them. While she homeschooled she wrote skits, poems, plays and short stories for school and church.
When her eldest son turned five she dove into the world of novels. She’d read romance novels for years, but couldn’t relate to the flawless, saintly heroines in Christian romance novels. So she decided to write her own.

Snow Angel was born on a frosty night in an old farmhouse in Fishers, Indiana, where the cold floor gave plenty of motivation for the snow scene. Jamie loves to write late at night when the house is quiet and the darkness seems alive. Elizabeth and Noah had been playacting in her head for a long time, so the story went fast.
Ten years later Snow Angel was published and won the ForeWord magazine Romance Book of the Year winner, was a National “Best Books 2007” Awards winner, and a 2008 RITA Awards® Best First Book finalist. It was the beginning of her dream career.

Jamie and her husband Tony have been married for twenty-one years and live in Indianapolis with their three sons and a giant of a dog named Leo.

If she could only say one thing to her readers it would be, “Live the dreams God has destined you for!”

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the Land of Fire and Ice back to England’s shores, Alexandria Featherstone finds herself the new Duchess of St. Easton. Her husband has promised a wedding trip to take them to the place where her imperiled parents were last seen -- Italy and the marble caves of Carrara -- but a powerful Italian duke plots against Alex and her treasure-hunting parents.

Hoping to save them, Alex and Gabriel travel to Italy by balloon. Fraught with danger on all sides and pressured by Gabriel’s affliction to the breaking point, they must learn to work and fight together. The mysterious key is within their grasp, but they have yet to recognize it. This journey will require steadfast faith in God and each other -- a risk that will win them everything they want or lose them everything they have.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Duke's Promise, go HERE.

Jamie can be reached through the Contact link on her Website


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Outrunning the Trials of War - A Review of "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand

Book Description
Copied from Amazon.com

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.a

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Book Review

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" is the newest book from Laura Hillenbrand, author of "Seabiscuit."  Let me start off by saying that "Unbroken" is amazing.  The story it tells is awe-inspiring, and the writing which conveys it is beautiful.

From the very first chapter I knew I was in for a treat.  Hillenbrand immediately takes the reader deep into the life of Louis Zamerini, the main character.  Nearly every passage in this book is informed by the immense amount of research that Hillenbrand did, and that research shines through every page.  Facts about Louis's track days are scattered through the first chapters, quotes from first-hand witnesses are inserted often, and photographs provided directly from the main players in the story and their families are littered throughout.  The reader really gets to know Zamperini and all the supporting cast very intimately.

However, all this factual information would be nothing without beautiful writing to tie it all together, and Hillenbrand brings it in spades.  Through all the climactic moments, and all the lulls, Hillenbrand's writing carries the reader through the story with grace - and what a story it is!  I find it hard to think of anyone who would not enjoy this book.  It is a story of human resilience and the strength to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.  It is also a wonderfully moving story of Christian faith.  I am inspired by the stories of the men and women in this book and I think anyone who reads it will be too.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  This is a clean read.

This book was reviewed by my husband, Addison.

I want to thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers  for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CFBA Blog Tour "The Kingdom" by Bryan Litfin--Thrilling Conclusion to Chiveis Trilogy





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Kingdom
Crossway Books (June 30, 2012)
by
Brian M. Litfin


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bryan earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of Tennessee as well as a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he went to the University of Virginia, taking a PhD in the field of ancient church history. He is currently professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where he has been since 2002. He teaches courses in theology, church history, and Western civilization from the ancient and medieval periods. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007), as well as several scholarly articles and essays. Bryan has always enjoyed epic adventure stories as well as historical fiction, but most of his reading these days is taken up by academia.

Today Bryan lives in downtown Wheaton in a Victorian house built in 1887. He and his wife Carolyn are parents to two children. For recreation Bryan enjoys basketball, traveling, and hiking anywhere there are mountains. The Litfins attend College Church in Wheaton, where Bryan has served on the Board of Missions and as a deacon. He also helped start Clapham School, a Christian primary school in Wheaton using the classical model of education.

Brian can be reached through the Contact link on his Website
 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Three in the Chiveis Trilogy

War and disease have destroyed the modern world. Centuries later, feudal societies have arisen across Europe. No one can remember the ancient religion of Christianity—until an army captain and a farmer’s daughter discover the Sacred Writing of the one true God.
As Teo and Ana encounter the forgotten words of the holy book, they realize its message is just what their kingdom needs. Though exiled from their homeland, they join their hearts in a quest to return. But now an ancient pact has united the enemies of the Christian faith into a dark alliance that threatens to consume the known world. Racing to stay one step ahead of their enemies, Teo and Ana must battle heinous villains, stormy seas, and the powers of the underworld itself. As armies begin to mass for a final battle, the odds favor the forces of evil. Can Teo and Ana bring divine truth to Chiveis—or will the Word of God fade from the earth forever?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Kingdom, go HERE.



My review:

Can you imagine a place where the Bible has never been heard of and Christianity never preached?  At least in Teo and Ana's day, that's what the reader encounters.  As they get swept into this epic saga, readers find themselves in a land not unlike that of medieval society, except all traces of Christianity are suppressed and it is in fact not the Middle Ages but 400 years in the future.  What a refreshing view, to take a society who has never heard of the Bible and reintroduce Christianity.  How will the society react?  Will they feel threatened after reading the truth of God's Word or rejoice at the beautiful truths presented therein?  Litfin's The Kingdom is an awesome testimony to the power of God's transforming Word and how the discovery of that Word changed everything in the life of two people and one kingdom.

The Kingdom by Bryan Litfin is the third installment in the Chiveis Trilogy.  I would recommend that one read the other two books in the series before this one as The Kingdom directly picks up where the second book leaves off.  Litfin does do a good job of summing up events for those who have not read the other two books, without being too tedious about it.  I had not finished reading the second book in the series (The Gift) by the time I was reading this book and was still able to fully understand and enjoy it. 

The Kingdom has an epic, adventure-like quality to it not unlike The Lord of the Rings or Narnia.  Unlike those classic series though, this is no made-up world.  Instead, The Kingdom is set in the real world, in a vividly imagined post-apocalyptic future.  It's a world that has gone through nuclear warfare and has regressed in terms of technology, thus giving it an otherworldly, fantasy-like feel.  The places Litfin refers to in The Kingdom are all real and many of them are places he has actually visited.

Spiritually, "The Kingdom" packs a big punch!  The characters, especially the main characters, are fully developed in their relationship with the Lord (or Deu, as they call Him).  I love the freshness of the hero's and heroine's (Teo's and Ana's) faith and hunger for the Lord.  They are seeing Scripture through new eyes and just discovering God and Christianity.  It really convicts me of how much I take the ability to own and read the Bible for granted.  I also felt myself having a new vibrancy as I read Scripture just from reading Ana's reaction to different situations.  Ana's love for Deu and her relationship with him is really described so beautifully and is something I want to emulate in my own life.

The characters in The Kingdom are characters the reader will not easily want to part with at the end of the series.  I found myself getting attached to them, especially Ana and Teo.  Teo and Ana are written in such a way that they complement each other.  It is not just Teo who is always coming to the rescue and saving Ana.  Ana, not content to be the "damsel in distress," often ends up saving Teo as well. 
Ana is definitely my favorite character.  She is strong and I like the fact that she saves Teo at times.  As well as being good with a bow and arrow, she is also vulnerable, beautiful, noble, feminine and virtuous (no, she's definitely not perfect).  There is one scene where she will not deny Deu, even if it means her death! 

There are a lot of extra features (for free) on The Chiveis Trilogy website.  There are maps, videos and downloads for each book. 

Content:  The book is a clean read (no bad language or sex).  I would recommend this book to teens and up due to the violent content in a lot of the battle and fighting scenes.  The subject matter of demons and demon possession is also dealt with, sometimes in detail (in reference to spiritual warfare, as the hero's enemies often use demons to give them otherworldly power).  The hero and heroine are tempted sexually but do not give into their temptation knowing that waiting until marriage is God's best plan for them.  The evil priestess is said to wear seductive (even see-through) clothing.  Our hero admits how attractive he finds her at times.  I believe this is to show how beguiling and attractive evil can often look. 

I give this book 5 stars!

I want to thank Bryan Litfin, Crossway Books, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Forgiven Duke Blog Tour--Review & Giveaway!



There is a GIVEAWAY for a signed paperback copy of the Guardian Duke and The Forgiven Duke (Forgotten Castles #1 & #2) to one winner!  Be sure to enter!  Scroll to the bottom to find out more!
The Book: (description from Goodreads)

Tethered by her impulsive promise to marry Lord John Lemon - the path of least resistance - Alexandria Featherstone sets off toward Iceland in search of her parents with a leaden heart. A glimpse of her guardian, the Duke of St. Easton - the path less traveled by - on Dublin’s shore still haunts her.

Will he come after her? Will he drag her back to London, quelling her mission to rescue her treasure-seeking parents, or might he decide to throw caution to the wind and choose Foy Pour Devoir: “Faith for Duty,” the St. Easton motto. The Featherstone motto Valens et Volens: “Willing and Able,” beats in her heart and thrums through her veins. She will find her parents and find their love, no matter the cost.

The powerful yet wing-clipped Duke of St. Easton has never known the challenge that has become his life since hearing his ward’s name. Alexandria Featherstone will be the life or the death of him. Only time and God’s plan will reveal just how much this man can endure for the prize of love.

Book Links:




The Author:

Jamie Carie writes novels about fierce, passionate women; their dreams; their fears; their triumphs. Her deepest desire is to see her readers find that same passion as they follow their destiny and discover deeper intimacy with Jesus.

 She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and three sons.
It's here!  The official Facebook page for The Forgotten Castles series: facebook.com/ForgottenCastles
The Guardian DukeFebruary 2012 See the making of the cover and trailer  here!

The Forgiven Duke – Book 2 in The Forgotten Castles series - July 2012

The Review:

Jamie Carie has done it again! She has produced quite a masterpiece in The Forgiven Duke, the second installment in her “Forgotten Castles” series. I was so impressed by the first book in the series, The Guardian Duke, that I was a little worried the sequel might disappoint. Although the two books are different in some ways, they are both just as good and equally deserving of the five stars I have given them.

In the first book, The Guardian Duke, Gabriel, the Duke of St. Easton, has been trying to catch his ward, Alexandria Featherstone, in a chase across England and Ireland, but to no avail. Alexandria (Alex) has been trying to locate her parents who are high-profile treasure hunters. At the end, Alex is sailing off on a ship to Iceland as the Duke is on shore watching her leave. They lock eyes for an intense moment over the distance that separates them—and speak to each other in the way only soul mates can. Gabriel has just decided that if he reaches Alex in time, he will abandon the Regent’s wishes to bring Alex back to England and help her in her quest to find her parents. He will choose faith over duty (his family motto is “Faith for Duty”). He knows he loves her and will do whatever it takes.

The Forgiven Duke begins where The Guardian Duke leaves off. The year is 1818. Alex is now aboard the ship with her fiance, John Lemon. Alex realizes she may have made a mistake in trying to escape her guardian, and prays that he will come. She needs him. Alex feels her life has gotten off track. John seems too eager to marry her. She wonders what his real motivations are. In the midst of all this, Alex must be on constant alert for the dangerous men who have been following her since the beginning of her search for her parents. She must also consider if she can trust those who are supposedly her allies.

The Duke follows Alex to Iceland, the last place where “the manuscript” was heard to be. This is what Alex’s parents are searching for. Gabriel travels to the Black Castles of Iceland, huge black pillars from volcanic lava that look like castles. This path is fraught with dangers. Gabriel is deterred again and again. Will he ever make it to Alex in time? Why is the manuscript so valuable? 
 

Alex and Gabriel do finally meet, and the meeting is so tender and worth the wait! Then a tragedy occurs. Will Alex and the Duke let the tragedy separate them just when they were finally brought together?

I adored this book. It was different from its predecessor in many ways, as I stated before, because it seemed to have a more intense feel to it. The Guardian Duke was a more light-hearted romp, with fun, lovable characters. The Forgiven Duke deals with much weightier subjects. The scenery here, instead of being the verdant Ireland, is the dark, dangerous paths of Iceland.

As I state in my previous review of The Guardian Duke, both are written to have an air of poetry about them. Jamie Carie writes in a way that is lyrical and mesmerizing. The Forgiven Duke uses amazing and wonderfully descriptive language. The land of Iceland feels almost otherworldly. She describes a beautiful land with fire, ice, snow, crevasses, boiling mud pits, volcanoes, and mists.

It was inspiring to watch the journey of faith that Gabriel and Alex’s characters take. Gabriel prays a lot more in this book. He used to love listening to music, but now he uses music to worship God. God fills the hole in him that music used to fill. While reading I began examining myself for different areas where I might be going to things other than God to satisfy my needs. It is a good reality check for all of us. The Duke must come to the end of himself and ask for God’s will in everything. That is a hard place to be, but a good one, because that is really when God can start to use us. 


Alex realizes she is trying to control things by attempting to find her parents her own way and not submitting to the Duke. She now comprehends how much havoc and suffering this has caused to others. I can relate to Alex as I constantly have to give up my own issues of control to God.

I love the storyline of this series because it is fresh, exiting and will whisk you off to new places!

I give this book five stars out of five. It is a clean read. It is Christian fiction.

Click here to go check out all the other sites on the tour!  Thank you so much to Bookshelf Confessions for sponsoring this tour!

I want to thank NetGalley, Jamie Carie and the B&H Publishing Group for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255. 

There is a GIVEAWAY for a signed paperback copy of the Guardian Duke and The Forgiven Duke (Forgotten Castles # 1, #2) to one winner! Be sure to enter. Scroll to the bottom to find out more. US/CAN only.  Follow the Rafflecopter on how to enter.    

           
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"My Emily" by Matt Patterson Review

My Emily by Matt Patterson is a poignant tale of a precious child's life and the people she touched during her brief time here on earth.  Her Creator made her for a special purpose many years later.  I knew Emily's story would be extremely hard to read because of the many trials her family had to face during her short life.  I also knew that I would be extremely blessed in reading it, but was reluctant to pick it up at the same time.  I was more than rewarded!

I first got to know Matt, the author, through the "International Online Book Club of Clean Reads."  I was so inspired by Matt and how he was always so upbeat and always encouraging and promoting other authors.  At the same time, Matt was also tirelessly promoting his book  My Emily  on the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.  I started to read a few interviews and guest posts that Matt gave on My Emily, and couldn't believe I was weeping over a guest post on a blog I had happened to stumble upon.  Matt's passion just shone through that much on everything he did regarding what he viewed as his calling in life at that time--to get his little book into as many hands as possible and share Emily's story with as many people as possible.  I knew I had to know more about the story of My Emily

Don't be fooled--this little book packs a big punch.  My Emily is the story of Matt's firstborn daughter, Emily.  Emily's life is told from Matt's point of view.  Matt shares on one of his blog entries part of this story.  He tells of how excited he was to find out he was having his first child.  The doctor then told him she was born with Down Syndrome.  Matt talks about how he did not even know what Down Syndrome was at the time.  My heart broke along with his and his wife's as I read that paragraph.  THEN, I read on and came to find out that Emily is later also diagnosed with leukemia.  My heart dropped!  I can not imagine! 

But Matt's attitude is so refreshing in today's society in the way he views his Emily.  He loves her so completely.  That blesses me so much.  I love what he said soon after he found out that Emily was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, "I wanted a boy, but now I had a girl--a girl with a disability.  Did I feel cheated?  Heck no...I didn't understand people's reactions...Whatever the case, my little angels had such a tight grip on my heart.  All I could do was think of them.  Forget about going out for a night on the town for two years.  I could not wait to get home to see my girls and tuck them in" (298).  Matt saw Emily as perfect, just the way His Creator did. 

The rest of the story tells of Emily's struggle with these two diseases.  Matt writes the story just as if he were sitting down with the reader.  He does not try to bog one down with any confusing medical terminology.  He just tells things as they are.  He gives his raw, but oh-so-real emotions, laying bare his heart to the reader.  I think that's why so many people love "My Emily" and can relate to it.  He also breaks up the weighty subject matter with a great sense of humor.  Between the tears, I found myself laughing out loud at Matt's quirkiness. 

Most of all, Matt's message of faith is touching and not preachy.  It is just him sharing his beliefs about God's purpose, perfection, and living each day to the fullest.  These are things he came to terms with as he lived them out.  They are lessons we can all learn from as well.  I was especially touched by the quote he shared from Rick Warren, "You never know God is all you need until God is all you've got."  Thank you Matt for sharing Emily's life with us and letting it continue to bless others!

I give this book 5 stars!  It is a clean read. 




To find out more about Matt Patterson and his book visit his website.

I want to thank Matt Patterson for the complimentary copy of this book for review.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

CFBA Tour Serpent of Moses by Don Hoesel--A Fun Globe-Trotting Adventure!






This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Serpent of Moses
Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
by
Don Hoesel


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Don Hoesel is a Web site designer for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN.  He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.  He was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.  Serpent of Moses is his fourth novel.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Moses built and lifted up the brass serpent, healing the afflicted Israelites of snakebites.

King Hezekiah called the serpent Nehushtan.  Long thought destroyed, it's been buried for millennia, secreted under the region's shifting sands.

Now the Israeli government wants it back and they will stop at nothing to get their hands on it.  Yet they're not the only ones who covet the Nehushtan.

Archaeologist Jack Hawthorne travels to Libya intent on recovering the sacred object, but one does not cross the Mossad and expect to walk away without a fight.  Jack and his friends must find the priceless "snake of brass upon a pole" before those who are also hunting it find them...and silence them forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Serpent of Moses, go HERE.

BOOK REVIEW

Note:  This review is by a guest reviewer... my husband, Addison!  Please be kind; it's his first review! :)

Serpent of Moses is a good book and I had a fun time reading it.  When I first read the description of the book, and its main character, the intrepid archaeologist Jack Hawthorne, I immediately thought of other famous adventurers like Indiana Jones and (for the video game savvy) Nathan Drake.  While Jack Hawthorne's adventure through northern Africa in this book may not meet the bar set by those two adventurers, it did provide me with a joyful, fun, easy read.

I went into this book blind, not knowing that there is a preceding book which recounts an earlier adventure of Mr. Hawthorne's.  Having done so, and now after finishing the book, I can say that Don Hoesel, the author, does an excellent job of allowing new-comers to jump right into the story.  All the characters are well-developed within this single tale, and whenever something comes up that requires knowledge of Jack's previous escapades, the author fills you in with just enough details to clear up any confusion, and yet each reference to Jack's earlier adventure left me wanting to go back and read that story as well.  It really is very well done.

The adventure itself is well thought out and has many moving parts.  One of things I most enjoyed was how the narrative continually jumps between the many players in the story.  Seeing the separate paths of all the characters involved and how all those paths wove in and out and eventually came together in the end was quite enjoyable.

While the subject of the book, the Nehushtan or Serpent of Moses, has biblical roots, the story itself only a few times touches on matters of faith.  I was expecting and looking forward to Jack Hawthorne's spiritual growth being a central theme but was left wanting in that respect.

Overall Serpent of Moses was a fun, enjoyable and easy read.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick globe-trotting adventure - it would be a great beach book!

This book is a clean read.  Although there are a few occasional instances of descriptive violence (e.g. a man using a knife to "open the throat" of another man) none of it was gratuitous or overly graphic in my opinion.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.




I want to thank Don Hoesel, Bethany House Publishers, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review.The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Rebel" by Linda Windsor-- A Fast-Paced Arthurian Legend Which Brilliantly Concludes A Wonderful Trilogy!

Title: Rebel
Publisher: David C. Cook
Publication Date: June 1st, 2012
ISBN: 9781434764768



Goodreads Description:  With Merlin dead, the succession undecided, and the Celtic church on the defensive from Rome, intrigue sweeps the court of the High King Arthur. But it's battlefield news that consumes Queen Gwenhyfar's young scribe, Kella O'Toole: her fiancĂ© is dead and her father gone missing. Determined to find him at all costs, Kella defies the queen's orders and sets out for Pictish territory. Her foster brother Alyn, a disillusioned priest who questions his calling, agrees to help her. The journey itself is perilous. But it's their secrets that land Kella and Alyn in a viper's nest of treachery that threatens both their lives and the future of Albion. Can they summon the love and faith they need to find their way not only out of danger, but into happiness? Brilliantly researched, vividly imagined, and movingly written-a memorable climax to the Brides of Alba series.

My review:  If you love Scotland, Arthurian legend, and medieval history, you are in for a treat with the Brides of Alba series!  Considering these are some of my absolute favorite things to read about, it is no wonder that I love this series so much!  Rebel is the third book in the Brides of Alba series.  Windsor has really done her research with this series and her other historical novels set in this time period showing a lot of little known information of that time in history (especially in regards to the Arthurian legends, Britain's early history and the early church).  The novels are jam-packed with  maps, places, character lists, and other information pertaining to historical data pertinent to the history and background of the story. 

My copy of Rebel is an advance kindle copy and an uncorrected proof, so it does not have the map and or an option for me to go to a "table of contents" (I assume they will be added)  I was very glad to have my paperback copies to refer to the references when I needed to.  This is just a suggestion to readers, that if you are going to read an advance copy, this is one of those books where you definitely will want to refer to the list of characters and map a lot, so I would try to get the advance copy in paperback if you can. 

I really love Linda's weaving of the Arthurian characters and legend into the plot.  They are not the main characters, but it is neat to have these familiar characters in the background of the story.  Although, these Arthurian characters may not always do what one would expect.  There is a twist on the Arthurian legend in Windsor's novels, which even ties in with the Biblical history.  Windsor explains it all in her extra references and it is fascinating. 

The story itself has a great plot with two lovable characters.  They both grow in their faith as they travel on a journey full of adventure and exciting battle scenes (and of course a very satisfying romance)!  I give this book 5 stars.  It is a clean read.

I want to thank  David C Cook, Linda Windsor, & NetGalley for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review.The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.
 

Linda's Website : click here
Linda's Facebook Page : click here


Linda Windsor is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty novels, with more than a million books in print. Her most recent work includes Healer and Thief, the first two volumes in the Brides of Alba series, and the early Irish Celtic Fires of Gleannmara trilogy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Glamorous Illusions" by Lisa Bergren Book Review

                     
Bergren Challenges Readers to
Face Their Own Identity Crisis

New series from Lisa T. Bergren leads readers
through a journey of inner discovery



Colorado Springs: Glamorous Illusions (David C Cook/June 1, 2012/ISBN: 978-1-4347-6430-0), the first release in Lisa Bergren’s new Grand Tour series, is a beautiful exploration of the covenant connection between God the Father and His children. Through the story of Cora Kensington, Bergren takes her audience on a European adventure of forgiveness, spiritual awareness, and self-discovery. A person often identifies themself by their family, profession, or circumstances. However, as Christians, what would happen if we began to better understand our true identity in Christ? It is this spiritual journey that author Bergren guides readers through in Glamorous Illusions. It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington’s life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father’s health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her. Cora is invited to take the “Grand Tour” of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person’s education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she’s never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning. Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King—a Father who is the only One who can truly heal. “Glamorous Illusions" is not only Cora’s journey toward understanding true identity in Christ, but it will help every reader understand it better too,” explains Bergren. “It’s an examination of the bond between the Father and his child.” Each member of the traveling group expects an outer cultural journey of refinement, but each will also wrestle with their own sins and inner conflicts. Ultimately, they explore what truly informs a person’s sense of identity. Readers will be able to join Cora and the other Kensingtons and Morgans as they continue their Grand Tour, discovering new lands, new cultures, and new aspects of themselves, in the upcoming installments Grave Consequences (Spring 2013) and Glittering Promises (Fall 2013).



My review:  Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Bergren is a beautiful work of grand adventure and inner discovery.  I LOVED Bergren's River of Time Series, which was more geared towards teens.  Bergern has mentioned in some interviews that this series features a heroine who is a little older than the heroines of the River of Time Series.  This would perhaps be the young adults, college years, and early 20s.  Cora Kensington is finding her place in this world, stepping out, and finding her wings.  This main character of this book is right around the age I am now, but I loved the River of Time Series and I feel that women of all ages will find something they can relate to in this book. 

Bergren always brings a fresh, distinct voice to her work.  Even though the main character, Cora, lives in 1913, she struggles with universal issues that the reader feels like they can relate to as well.  She struggles with her identity, anger at her family, and worry about her future (just to name a few).  Bergren presents Cora as strong and full of heart, creating her to be someone I feel young women will connect with and be inspired by. 

Bergren's secondary characters are characters that I felt myself becoming attached to.  They are well-written, multi-dimensional characters.  The readers comes to change their opinion about many of these characters as the book progresses, as does Cora. 

Lastly, I just truly enjoyed getting caught up in the Grand Tour and traveling with Cora.  It was interesting learning the history about the places she traveled.  I love all of the lavish descriptions of the places they tour in Europe and I cannot wait for the next installment of the Grand Tour! 

This is a clean read.  I give this book 5 stars!

I want to thank David C Cook, Lisa Bergren, & NetGalley for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review.The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.  

Lisa T. Bergren is the award-winning author of over thirty-five books, with more than 2 million copies sold. A former publishing executive, Lisa now divides her time between writing, editing, parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of her next trip to Italy. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Lisa's Website : click here
Lisa on Facebook : click here

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review and Giveaway!--SeaSnax: A Healthy & Tasty Treat


About 7 months ago, I was diagnosed with gluten-sensitivity and have had to radically change my eating habits.  Since then, I've been looking for tasty, healthy snacks that fit into my new diet and I came across a wonderful product called SeaSnax.  They're so good in fact I thought I'd share a review of their products with you.

I  have a tasty treat to share with you today!  I want to introduce to you the new roasted seaweed snack.  Wait, seaweed, you ask?  Isn't that the slimy stuff found in the ocean?  Gross, why would I want to eat that?  That was one of my first thoughts when I heard that people ate seaweed, so I don't blame you.  But hold on one second.  SeaSnax is dried, packaged, yummy, and flavored seaweed that doesn't look, smell or feel like the stuff you find in the ocean.  It also has TONS of health benefits!!!  In fact, it's one of the most nutrient-packed foods on Earth!  People have actually been eating seaweed for centuries to gain all of its amazing health benefits.  You must be thinking, well if it's so great, what's the catch?  There is none.  It's just that good.  I'm going to list some of the great things about it, but if you want to learn more of the amazing benefits, the SeaSnax website (listed below) lists many more benefits, so be sure to check it out, as well as the other resources I list.

SeaSnax--why they are amazing (besides the awesome taste):
  •  First ever Non-GMO Project verified roasted seaweed snack
  • Vegan
  • Gluten free (I especially love this one because I had to go gluten free about a year ago)
  • Soy free
  • Dairy free
  • Only uses three natural ingredients--100% olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and seaweed (of course)
  • No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
  • One of the most nutrient-packed foods on earth
  • Low fat, cholesterol free, low carb
  • Sugar free
  • Available in classic (olive oil and sea salt), toasty onion, wasabi and spicy chipotle flavors
  • Iodine found in seaweed stimulates a person's thyroid, increasing metabolism, thereby burning more calories
  • Seaweed is rich in minerals and vitamins (i.e. iodine, iron, calcium, B1, B6, C and E)
  • Seaweed provides fiber, enzymes and high quality proteins
  • Sea vegetables also have higher proportion of essential fatty acids than land plants

My review:


The company kindly sent me a box full of all the flavors of SeaSnax to enjoy and review!  It was about 8 or so bags of SeaSnax.  They are like little bags of chips (the SeaSnax Grab & Go's) and then I also got some of the full sheets (SeaSnax full sheet singles), which are larger and come in more flat packaging, about the size of a tortilla.  I received almost every flavor and loved every one of them!  They were "Strangely Addictive" as the tagline says!  They are kind of crunchy like chips and very tasty.  I love that I can eat something that is so healthy for me, yet so enjoyable at the same time.  My doctor recently told me I should be eating seaweed to be getting all of the nutrients I need.  "Yeah right, like that'll happen," I said to myself.  I knew NOTHING about seaweed.  I'm so glad to find some that is TASTY (most important), goes with my food allergies, and I feel good about it because I am being good to my body.  Just check out the websites I list below and see for yourself about ALL of the healthy benefits; you'll definitely give yourself a pat on the back for eating SeaSnax.  I also appreciate that this company gives 10% of their money back to making the world a better place for children.  You can find out more about that on their website. 

To summarize, SeaSnax perfectly meets my need for a quick, tasty, healthy treat, and I heartily recommend them to anyone and everyone!


GIVEAWAY:  A case of SeaSnax Grab & Go's (12/cs in any flavor) or 4 packs of SeaSnax full sheet singles (in any flavor).





www.seasnax.com
www.facebook.com/seasnax
www.twitter.com/seasnax

Links to other sites on benefits of seaweed and sea vegetables that SeaSnax provided:

Oceanvegetables.com
seasnax-strangely-addictive



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review--"An Amish Family Reunion" by Mary Ellis

"An Amish Family Reunion" by Mary Ellis was a delicious venture into Amish fiction.  In the past, the only inspirational Amish fiction I have truly enjoyed was that of Beverly Lewis.  When I saw the synopsis of "An Amish Family Reunion," I found it intriguing.  It seemed unlike all the other familiar plots of the other Amish fiction books (which all seemed similar to me).  I decided to give this one a chance, and I am very glad I did! 


Goodreads Book Description:  During a rumschpringe visit to Niagara Falls, Phoebe Miller meets Eli Riehl, who charms her--and everyone else--with his exceptional storytelling ability. When Phoebe sketches scenes to illustrate one of his tales, Eli encourages her talent, and together they embark on a lofty and unlikely business venture for two young Amish people--writing and illustrating a children's book.

As I stated above, I really enjoyed many aspects of this book.  One way it was unfamiliar from the other Amish books I have read is that much of it takes place in Amish communities in Ohio.  Most of the Amish fiction I am familiar with are based on the Lancaster County Amish, which seem to have many different customs from the Ohio Amish.  It was interesting to compare the differences between the communities as I was reading. 

I also enjoyed the fact that all of the action did not take place on a farm or just in an Amish community.  It was really refreshing see the world (such as Niagara Falls) through the eyes of the Amish.  The two main characters, Phoebe and Eli go on a rumschpringe trip to Niagara Falls.  I love that part of the book and think that it is very different to see the characters taking a trip like this in this particular genre. 

I also enjoy the fact that even though we have our two main protagonists, there are also subplots going on between the characters in the extended family.  They are characters from the author's previous books in this series.  This is actually a book in a series, but I have not read the previous books.  I found that one does not have to read the preceding books to understand this book.  It was a little confusing at first for me to keep all of the characters straight, but the author has a "cast of characters" listed in the front of the book that I referred to often.  I found it extremely helpful!  I loved all of the subplots and fell in love with this big family.  It is heartwarming how the author brings everything together at the end and the whole family is able to meet for a wonderful "Amish Reunion."

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  It is a clean read. 

I want to thank Harvest House Publishers & Mary Ellis for the complimentary copy of this book for review.  I was not required to write a positive review.The opinions I express in this review are my own.  This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.

Go here to read the first chapter from "An Amish Family Reunion"

Visit Mary Ellis's website and blog to learn more about her and her books

Watch the book trailer below



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review of "Made to Crave for Young Women: Satisfying Your Deepest Desires With God" by Lysa Terkeurst & Shaunti Feldhahn--Not Just For Teens

 Made to Crave for Young Women: Satisfying Your Deepest Desires
with God by Lysa Terkeurst & Shaunti Feldhahn is a book that speaks to women of all ages.  I was drawn in by the subtitle of the book, Satisfying Your Deepest Desires with God.  I really struggle with this, but I know that is what the Christian life is all about.  I read the rest of the book's description, and it seemed like it had some fresh ideas that weren't what is normally covered in a lot of the Christian Living books out there.  I did see that it is for Young Women and it seemed like it was aimed at high-school teenagers.  I saw that there was also another Made to Crave that is for women, but that one is just all about a woman's struggle with food, eating and weight and how she puts those cravings ahead of God.  This Made to Crave for Young Women seemed to cover a lot more areas of struggles besides food that I thought would be more helpful to me. 

Once I read it, I was so glad I had decided to give it a try!  If you struggle in any other area besides eating, I would recommend this book over the other one because of the wider variety of examples and struggles that the authors cover.  Of course, you have to remember that the two authors are speaking mostly to a teen audience, but as I am in my mid-20s and read a lot of young adult books, it did not bother me.  It is also written in a way so that anyone can relate to it.  Don't we all still deal with the same struggles that we dealt with in high school anyway, in some form or another?  I know I do.  Sorry for those who are still in high school, but those struggles do not go away, they just keep coming back in different forms.  That's why it is so important to learn as early on as possible how to conquer those struggles with God's help!  Lysa and Shaunti give the reader great practical advice on how to do that and make God our number one heart's desire.

The main point of the book is that we as humans put other desires and things in our lives before God.  These "things" are what the authors call "God substitutes."  They are emotional
(the desire to be loved and accepted), physical (to be comforted by physical satisfaction and pleasure) and material cravings (a desire for something that makes us feel special, improved or new).  These aren't necessarily bad desires in themselves.  The problem comes when we automatically go to them first instead of God.  These are desires that God wants to satisfy and only He truly can. 

There are so many good things that I appreciate about this book.  I love how Lysa and Shaunti go through each of the desires and give examples of what they are and how to overcome them.  The authors are honest, genuine and down-to-earth.  Lysa and Shaunti also give engaging personal stories from their lives to which many will be able to relate.

I find it to be very helpful that practical examples are interspersed throughout the book.  Each chapter has a step-by-step action plan at the end that gives the reader a way to apply that chapter to her life.
An example is how Lysa and Shaunti believe one's cravings can be retrained.  You will crave what you are focusing on.  They give ways to change one's thought pattern by replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones through Scripture (they provide the reader with specific Scripture and exercises to help with this).  By filling themselves with God and Scripture, the reader can be satisfied with God alone.

This is truly a wonderful read and I grew in my walk with Christ as a result of this book!  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  It is a clean read. 


I want to thank Zondervan, Lysa Terkeurst & Shaunti Feldhahn  for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.
For more information on Lysa Terkeurst, go to her website.
For more information on Shaunti Feldhahn, go to her website.
Tons of resources and freebies on Made to Crave for Young Women at this site.
Go here to read the first chapter.


 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Interview with Katy Lee, Author of Real Virtue!

Today I am hosting Katy Lee, the author of Real Virtue.  I found out about Katy and her book through the International Online  Book Club of Clean Reads.  Crystal Kelly, the founder of the club, asked me to be its administrator.  Our club helps to bring authors, readers and bloggers together and introduce them to clean reads.  Here is our club's website: http://cleanreadsbookclub.webs.com/browse-our-shelves.  Each month we will feature a different author, discuss their book, promote them, review their book, and feature them on different blogs and our group website.  We also have a Facebook group where we support each other.  You'll be seeing me do different posts each month reviewing books and interviewing the authors of those books from the club.  For more information, go to the website above and fill out the contact us form.

1)  Welcome Katy! Please tell us what you write:

Hello Megan, thank you for having me. I am excited to be here today to share about myself, but also about my debut novel, Real Virtue. I write Inspirational-romantic-suspense. I’ve tried to write contemporary romance, but no matter what I do, a villain ends up rearing his, or her, ugly head. For the most part, my stories are contemporary, but I am presently plotting a historical. Not sure if it will ever see the light of day, but I am having loads of fun with it! A few weekends ago, I attended a showing of 19th century fashion at my local university. The dresses were beautiful, and I loved hearing about why certain patterns and fabrics became the rage for the ladies in these times. A writer’s delight, for sure!

2)  Tell us what motivates you to keep at writing:

What motivates me? Believe it or not, deadlines. Give me a deadline and it will be done. Even if the deadline is tomorrow. When my publisher gave me the final edits of Real Virtue she told me I had until five o’clock the next day to proof them. I got them back to her at 4:55. Whew! The saying goes, you want something done, give it to someone who is busy. An object in motion stays in motion. Well, I am that person in constant motion…just make sure you give me the deadline.

3)  How does your faith affect your daily life?

I don’t make a move without God’s direction. When I have feelings of worry, I remind myself that worry is fear, and God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. I handle the task at hand, and trust He will provide what I need for it when I need it.

4)  How much spirituality do you weave into your stories?

My stories are not sermons, however, I allow my Christian characters free rein when it comes to The Great Commission. As the story progresses their faith shines through as another thread, but more importantly, they demonstrate what the Christian life looks like. I want the inspirational arc to be revealed naturally through the story.

5)  What is your general purpose as an author?

My general purpose as an author is my general purpose in everything I do¬¬—to glorify Christ. But the message I hope to convey to my readers through my stories, is that God is in the business of rehabilitating lives, and there is no one not worth His time.

6)  What is your greatest challenge in your writing?

My greatest challenge is time. I home-school my children, and I am also the Children’s Ministry Director for my church. Both take up huge chunks of time, but they are commitments I have made, and I need to be obedient and responsible in carrying those duties out. If it means I start my day at 5AM to get my word count in, then that is what I do. People ask me all the time how I am able to write. I tell them the question isn’t how I am I able. The question is how much do I want it?

7)  "Real Virtue" has a lot to do with gaming and gaming addiction.  I am currently seeing a neurological chiropractor who treats a lot of children who deal with ADD and other neurological disorders.  Recently I saw a sign in his office that said something to the effect of the neurological patients could not play any kind of video or computer game except for the motion control games, like Wii, because these games have negative neurological effects on the brain.  My mind immediately went to "Real Virtue."  During your research for "Real Virtue," did you come across any information on the effects of gaming on one's health (mental or physical)?

Yes, I did, but I will be honest and say I didn’t pay too much attention to the damaging brain effects, so I can’t give you any hard facts about them. I paid more attention to the addicting effects and how people use games as a means of escape and to avoid the problems they face in their real lives. I read many interviews where kids and young adults admitted to preferring their virtual lives over their real ones. In real life they can’t zap out of a situation they don’t like. They can in their virtual world.

I find it extremely interesting that your chiropractor would post this note, though. It means he is seeing more and more cases where people are experiencing neurological problems that are related to gaming, and honestly, I think it will only get worse.


8)  Please share a little of your research for "Real Virtue."  Did you play any video games for your research?

AHA! Yes, I did, but not at first. I was kind of afraid to open these accounts. They want credit card numbers so you can buy things for your avatar, and I could see how one simple purchase could get out of hand. I could also see the allure people might have to it with their bright color screens and beautiful people and amazing promises of the perfect life. There are many out there to choose from. There are adventurous games of travel to the violent variety, like wars and vampires. But then there are also the sites geared toward children. I suppose if you get them used to buying into these at a young age, kids will grow up thinking it is normal and will continue to do so.


9)  I had noticed your characters were so real in "Real Virtue," Arlene (the main character's mother) especially, who deals with schizophrenia.  Then I saw on one of your interviews on another blog that she was based on your mother, which made a lot of sense.  Are any of the other characters taken from your real-life experiences?

Yes, Arlene is loosely based on my mom. Like my mom, Arlene suffers from the horrible brain disease, Schizophrenia. When I set out to write Real Virtue, I did not plan for Arlene to have this disease. Never in my wildest imagination did I think my story would link up with it either, but during my research of online virtual-reality gaming I came across an avatar with this affliction. You see, in Real Virtue, it is my heroine who is the gamer and takes her pastime a little too far. She is living a life that is a bit removed from reality…just like her mother. But in Mel’s case, she has the choice.

But, Mel is in no way based on a particular person in my life, other than perhaps my kids who, in my opinion, play too many video games. I see how they get sucked into a game and nothing around them matters anymore, not even their friends. I’ve watched my son’s friend go home because my son wasn’t talking to him. I put a one-hour limit on gaming in my house, because if I don’t they would play all day without even realizing it.

As for my hero, Jeremy Stiles, I WISH there was someone in this world he was based on. (SIGH) But seriously, I had to create a man who would outshine the virtual world Mel preferred. He had to be someone who could see the truth and stand by it, but still love her through it. The world could use more Jeremy’s.


FYI-I want people to know Real Virtue is not some high-tech computer story non-gamers wouldn’t understand. Only a small fraction takes place in the virtual world, just enough for the reader to get a feel for it. The rest is a small-town, coming-home story.

I hope you enjoy it!



Thank you, Megan for having me on your blog! Readers, I love comments and would love to hear from you.

And please keep in touch with me at my website: www.KatyLeeBooks.com

You will see links for Twitter and Facebook. Let’s connect and get to know each other!



BIO:

Katy Lee writes higher purpose stories in high speed worlds. As an inspirational author, speaker, home-schooling mom, and children’s ministry director, she has dedicated her life to sharing tales of love, from the greatest love story ever told to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. Her fresh and unique voice brings a fast-paced and modern feel to her romances that are sure to resonate with readers long after the last page. Her debut novel Real Virtue is a finalist in many writing contests, and took second place in the 2011 Georgia Maggie Award of Excellence. Katy lives in New England with her husband, three children, and two cats.


And here is a bit about Real Virtue:



In a virtual reality game where she can fly, someone’s aiming to take her down.

Mel Mesini is a New York City restaurateur and an avid, virtual reality world traveler. But her successful life—both online and in reality—takes a swerve the night her father is seriously injured in a hit-and-run. To make matters worse, Officer Jeremy Stiles, the man who had once cut her deep with his harsh, rejecting words, is heading the investigation.


When Jeremy realizes Mel is the actual target, he plans to protect her—whether she wants him to or not. What he wants is answers, especially about this online game she plays. Is it a harmless pastime as she says? Or is she using it to cover something up? As a faceless predator destroys the things that matter to her, Jeremy knows he’s running out of time before she loses the one thing that matters most—her real life.

Real Virtue is available in ebook format, paperback in November. It is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and Soulmatepublishing.com



LINKS:







Thank you so much Katy for being on my blog and for the interview!  I would highly recommend Real Virtue to anyone.  I am reading it right now and I love it!