Thursday, 3 November 2016

Beloved Mess

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/beloved-mess/375040

Back Cover
 God doesn't expect you to have it all together.


Life is messy.  Yet the pressure to appear to others as though you've got it all together is a powerful force.  We strive to act normally, look good, and set a positive example.  AFter all, as others may tell us, we're the only Jesus some people see - so we better make him look good.  That's a heavy burden.

But the Christian life is not about being less of a mess.  It's about admitting that we need to be saved from trying to clean ourselves up.  In Beloved Mess, Kimm Crandall frees you to live with the assurance that God loves you right here, right now.  He's not waiting for you to clean up your act before you're worthy to come to him. In fact, he wants you to stop trying to fix the mess and allow him to wash it away.

Review


Kimm's book would speak to any soul.  We live in a performance driven culture in the workforce and even in our personal life with family and friends whereby our worth is correlated to our daily actions and accomplishments.  It's only natural that the same attitude transfers over to our faith.  This book is an excellant reminder that "while we were yet sinners, Christ (loved and) died for us".  His love isn't conditional on what we say or do - if it was, we would be hopelessly lost and salvation would not be a finished work on the cross.  Rather, God loves us despite all that we do, the messes we create, and our ever present shortcomings.  Does this mean we never strive to do better?  Absolutely not.  As the Apostle Paul said, "should I sin so that grace may abound"?  But we need to let the love of God saturate our being, rest in His grace and mercy, otherwise we can easily fall into a cycle of works and despair, not doing things out of love for our Lord and His people, but "must do this or else!"


Beloved Mess is a very real book that is evidently written from the heart.  Kimm struggled (and still does) with the notion that God loves her right where she is - messes and all - and this book illuminates that struggle and desire to live with the assurance that no matter the failing, Christ's work on the cross is complete, and He loves her still.



I bent many page corners in this book to easily reference various points that really hit home for me, and wish to end on this quote from pages 121-122:


"Christ's love for you is not fickle.  It's not manipulative or abusive. 
God is not passive-aggressive or codependent. 
He has no requirements except that you need him.  He loves to love you. 
He is loving and pursuing you at this very moment, whether you want him to or not. 
It is a constant fight to mute the background noise of the world and of our past or present mess and listen to the Holy Spirit's voice of truth saying, 'You are my beloved mess.'"  


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Sunday, 23 October 2016

No Other Will Do

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/no-other-will-do/352740

Back Cover

 She trusts him for the job, but can she trust him with her heart?

Men are optional.  That was the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts taught her and why she established Harper's Station, a women's colony that offers a fresh start to females in need.  But when a dangerous and shadowy assailant tries repeatedly to drive the women out, Emma is forced to admit they might need a man after all.  One who can fight.  And there is only one man she trusts enough to ask.

Malachi Shaw has finally earned the respect hes always craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad.  Yet when Emma's telegram arrives, he rushes back to Texas to repay the girl who once saved his life.  Only she's not a girl any longer.  She's a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.

As the danger intensifies, Emma, Mal, and the ladies of Harper's Station must choose safety or whether to risk everything to fight for their future.

Review

Karen Witemeyer's newest book is another excellent western tale invoking the elements that fans of the author have come to love:  humour, romance, interesting plot, a strong heroine, and a male lead akin to a knight in shining armor.  And in this particular novel, there is an added element of danger coupled with a thread of mystery as the characters try to determine who is the villain.  Is is someone from one of the ladies' past?  Someone who just doesn't want to see the women succeed?  Or is there a traitor in their midst?

No Other Will Do follows a tried and true plot:  a knight in shining armor sets out to rescue a damsel in distress, except this knight is wearing plaid and sporting dynamite instead of a sword, and the damsel is a mayoress of her own town with a head for "figures" instead of a kingdom's princess looking forward to the next ball.  But despite the familial plot structure, the story itself is unique, making my little foray into Harper's Station an enjoyable experience.  As this is the start of a new series for Karen Witemeyer - "Ladies of Harper's Station" - there will be more trips in my future to Harper's Station: one that I greatly look forward to.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
  

From this Moment

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/from-this-moment/375750

Back Cover

Stella West's artistic talent made her the toast of London, but when her beloved sister dies under mysterious circumstances she abandons everything and heads for Boston.  With single-minded determination she fights to pierce the ring of secrecy surrounding her sister's death.  Upon meeting Romulus White, a publisher with connections into every important power circle in the city, she quickly realizes he could be a valuable ally in navigating Boston society.

Romulus has been pursuing Stella for years to create art for his magazine.  Her luminous illustrations are the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry, and he will stop at nothing to get her on board.

Sparks fly at the instant they join forces, but Romulus is unsettled by the unwelcome attraction he feels toward Stella, fearing she might be the one woman who could disrupt his hard-won independence.  He may have finally met his match in Stella, but is helping her solve the mystery of her sister's death worth the risk to his publishing empire?

Review

I really loved this novel.  The story was great, an intriguing mystery entrenched in story rich with historical detail.  But the real stars of the show in this book was not the plot, nor the setting, but the characters.

Stella is bold and brash - unequivocal in her opinion of herself and handles relationships much like a bull navigating a china shop.  She is amusing and highly talented - and meets her match in the form of Romolus who equals her tenacity and self-confidence, a man who is passionate about everything and attacks projects with fervor (even if only for a short period of time).  His lack of attention span is something Stella compliments in her single-minded focus on issues.  As iron sharpens iron, these two characters buffets the others' weaknesses and embolden their strengths.  It is truly one of the greatest character matches I've read.  The two aren't polar opposite and neither are they exactly like the other.  But they mesh so well, bringing life to the story and themselves so much so I half-expected them to jump off the page and take real-life form in front of me.

From this Moment was well-written and left me wanting more.  Highly recommend!


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Traces of Guilt

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/traces-of-guilt/382320


Back Cover

Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police detective...mostly.  She's very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks.  She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job.

Gabriel Thane grew up in Carin County and is now its sheriff, a job he loves.  Gabriel is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he's sworn to protect.  He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have...

When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it's to help launch a new task force focused on unsolved crimes across the state.  She will work with the sheriff's department on a couple of its most troubling missing-person cases.  As she studies old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths surprising connections.  One way or another, she knows Gabriel Thane and his family will be key to the answers she seeks. 

Review

Some books I start reading, get a few pages in (or not even that far), and start bemoaning the fact that I picked up the book in the first place (I never not finish a novel - unless the content itself is really questionable).  Other books, upon reading the first few pages, I get a silly grin on my face, and I wiggle a little deeper into the couch as I know - just know - it's going to be a *good* read (and start bemoaning the fact that the story has to come to an end!).

Traces of Guilt falls into the latter category.  It truly showcases some of Dee's best writing, and is easily one of my favourite novels of hers to date.  The character depth, the multi-faceted story, and the intriguing mystery all result in one knockout novel (and take into consideration that I was already mentally writing this review when I was a few chapters into the book - it was that good from the get-go!).  Dee brings back the Falcons, who have been staple supporting characters over the past few novels.  I found the inclusion of them, particularly Ann, really help anchor the story as a presence of a consistent character who really seems to know everybody.  It allows the transitioning from character to character to run smoothly as Ann is the "middle-woman" (for a lack of better term) and brings everyone together.

I'm so happy to see that Traces of Guilt is the start of a new series, centered around Evie Blackwell.  Evie is a vibrant and tenacious character that I really would like to see more of.  Of course, the rest of the characters, including the Thane family, are equally interesting and admirable with their intense loyalty, deep maturity, strong faith, and steadfast love for one another.  Can't wait for the next installment!



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Monday, 10 October 2016

A Heart Most Certain

 
 
 
A Heart Most Certain, by Melissa Jagears
Back Cover
 
Lydia King knows what it’s like to be in need, so she joins the Teaville Moral Society hoping to help the town’s poor.  But with her father’s debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poorhouse herself.  Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that his mother is the moral society’s president.  Lydia’s first task as a moral society member – to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town – seems easy…until the man flat-out refuses.
 
Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private.  When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, thought Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve.  Neither foresees the harrowing complications that will arise from working together, and when town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs – and hearts – truly align.
 
Review
 
Throughout reading this story, the one thing that kept coming to mind was Pride and Prejudice.  For as Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennett had to overcome their own shortcomings – particularly a prideful countenance for one and a judgmental outlook for the other, so do Lydia King and Nicholas Lowe. 
 
Nicholas, in endeavoring to keep his charity work secret, was in fact trying to shield himself from the perceived self-righteous individuals in his church.  He desired to avoid their anticipated scorn and condemnation over his choices of charitable patrons.  But in doing so, he alienates himself from everyone as he automatically believes that all Christians are self-righteous and not willing to help the “least of these”.
 
Lydia, despite her sweet character, discovers that she holds a healthy amount of prejudice towards the more unsavory individuals in society.  While she is willing to call out their sins and unlawful deeds, she is not so willing to show empathy towards their situation.  She backs off of trying to directly assist in making their lives better and pulling them out of the dire straits they are in.  She doesn’t like to be made uncomfortable and be in direct contact with the poorest of individuals.
 
A Heart Most Certain provided an interesting character study.  Self-righteousness and prejudice are two flaws that often are thrown at the church and/or individual believers.  One must remember that we all are sinners and have shortcomings – we will never be perfect on this side of heaven. As Nicholas and Lydia are to learn, we should also strive to have a heart open to seeing our shortcomings followed by a willingness to change.
 
I greatly enjoyed A Heart Most Certain¸ the debut novel for Melissa’s new series, “Teaville Moral Society” (note:  there was also an e-novella released, Engaging the Competition, prior to this book), and will be looking forward to the next addition!


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

God's Not Dead 2



God's Not Dead 2, the latest film from Pure Flix, is releasing on DVD and Blu-ray August 16th. Drawing from today's headlines, the thought-provoking sequel to the Christian blockbuster God's Not Dead examines the high cost of taking a stand for religious freedom. Stars Melissa Joan Hart, Jessie Metcalfe, David A. R. White, Sadie Robertson, and the Newsboys.​

When high school history teacher Grace Wesley is asked a question about Jesus in class, her reasoned response lands her in deep trouble. The ensuing court case could expel God from the classroom and the public square once and for all.

Review

God’s Not Dead 2 was a well-written and equally well-acted film that evokes the question of “Are you willing to stand up for your faith?”  And not just in an easy conversation with a friend, but in the face of opposition whether it be in a home, your work place, or even in a courtroom on trial for your words of faith.  It is not an easy feat to stand up for yourself in a conflict, and especially one as antagonistic and hostile as portrayed in the movie.  Even the Apostle Peter had his own set of difficulties in affirming his beliefs. 


 But when you do see someone standing firm, unwavering, willing to risk it all - that one act can cause a ripple effect of often unknown proportions.  A witness for Christ provides encouragement to other believers, a testimony to the lost, and strength for one’s own faith whilst leaning on Jesus to stand in the face of adversity. 


God’s Not Dead 2 addresses all the above.  It is a film that packs a powerful punch, sure to leave an impact on every viewer. 





Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



An Elegant Facade

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/an-elegant-facade/376600



Back Cover

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has always known she must marry well.  After years of tirelessly planning every detail of her debut season, she is poised to be a smashing success and have her choice of eligible gentlemen.

With money and powerful business connections but no title, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere.  He intends to marry someday, but when he does it will not be to a shallow woman like Lady Georgina, whose only concerns appears to be status and appearance.

But beneath her flawless exterior, Georgina’s social aspirations stem from a shameful secret she is desperately trying to keep hidden – and that Colin is too close to discovering.  Drawn to each other despite their mutual intent to avoid association, is the realization of their dreams worth the sacrifices they’ll be forced to make?

Review

I loved Kristi Ann Hunter’s debut novel, A Noble Masquerade which kick-started her “Hawthorne House” series.  Partnering Jane Austen style setting and romance with some delightful intrigue, A Noble Masquerade, was one of my favourite historical novels of 2015.  The sequel, An Elegant Fa├žade is easily my favourite this year so far.  The author expertly tied in (rather, overlapped) the last part of A Noble Masquerade but from Lady Georgina’s and Colin McCrae’s viewpoint, providing a unique perspective on the “past” events before jumping into the Lady Georgina’s story.

Lady Georgina is truly a multi-faceted character, an expert at manipulating social situations to her benefit, obsessed with persuading society that she is the epitome of a perfect lady, while also maintaining a close friendship with her lady’s maid, nurturing a deep passion for art, and harbouring a secret that, should it be made public, could be her ruin.  It is these various aspects that draw Colin McCrae to her, along with a desire for Lady Georgina to allow the world to see her for who she truly is, and not the perfect image she wants to display.

This was a truly wonderful read that I greatly enjoyed.  I highly recommend it and can’t wait until the next book in the series is released!


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Miracles from Heaven


https://www.amazon.ca/Miracles-Heaven-Digital-Copy-Bilingual/dp/B01DCXN5F8/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1468724491&sr=1-1&keywords=miracles+from+heaven




Miracles From Heaven is based on the story of the Beam family, Jennifer Garner plays Christy Beam, whose daughter Annabel (Kylie Rogers, Fathers, and Daughters) suffers from a rare digestive disorder, but finds herself miraculously cured after surviving a terrible accident.

Review

A moving film, Miracles from Heaven tells the the remarkable story of the Beam family as young Annabel Beam is diagnosed with having an incurable (and very painful) digestive disorder.  Their journey is a hard one as they struggle to find a cure and pay for the expensive hospital bills, all the while trying to keep faith that God has a plan.  It is an emotional story – guaranteed tear-jerker – as the Beams goes through a nightmarish reality as Annabel suffers terribly from a disorder where her body cannot digest solid food.  However, miracles do happen (praise God!), and it came about in a dramatic fashion for Annabel.  The adage “truth is stranger than fiction” couldn’t be more true than with this story – you truly have to see it to believe it!

It is encouraging to see more faith-based films being released.  Miracles from Heaven was really well done, and holds a strong cast of actors - Jennifer Garner in particular truly shines in her role as mom, Christy Beam. 

With respect to the rating, while this is a family-friendly film and suitable for a wide range of audiences, the PG rating is quite fair due to the traumatic events and emotional themes that could be too much for some children.

Two thumbs up!  



Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  This is my honest review.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Live Loved: An Adult Coloring Book

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/live-loved/382140



Back Cover

How would your attitude, actions, and responses change if you lived in the unconditional, immeasurable love of God?  What would it look like for you to live loved?

Live Loved provides an opportunity for you to pull away from the hustle and bustle of life to pray, journal, and unleash your creative gifts as you marinate in the truth of God’s fierce love for you.


  • -          Spend time in prayer, reflecting and growing in your relationship with God
  • -          Commit Bible passages to memory and deepen your faith
  • -          Share your fun artistry with others through what you create


Color and doodle and learn to live loved as you craft God’s Word into your heart.

Review

Growing up, colouring was always a favourite pastime.  I still have colouring books from before my age hit double-digits - which are quite amusing to flip through to see how my colouring “style” evolved over the years – from using one single crayon to scribble all across the page with no rhyme or reason other than to obliterate the picture on the page (haha), to eventually colouring somewhat in the lines, I spent many happy hours on the living room floor or at the kitchen table with my crayons and my colouring book (it was an added benefit to my parents for it kept me out of mischief!).

I’m so happy to see that colouring has morphed from a child’s pastime into something everyone can enjoy – regardless of age.  There are so many beautiful colouring books out there, and I truly believe that colouring, like many other hobbies within the art culture, can be quite therapeutic to the heart, mind, and soul.  And what can be better than meditating on Scripture at the same time?  The Psalms make many references to meditating on our Heavenly Father’s works and attributes: “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works” (Psalm 145:5); “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).  In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul admonishes, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” And nothing can be more true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy as THE Good News itself – the Word of God! 

By encompassing a stress-relieving, creative activity such as colouring, and the pondering of Scripture, Live Loved is an encouragement to the soul with its theme of the incredible love God has for us.  I thoroughly have (and still am) enjoying this book and will definitely be looking for others once I’ve finished this one.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Her One and Only

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/her-one-and-only/344870



Back Cover



After ten years in the NFL, superstar Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans.  But when Gray starts receiving threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught.  Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them in a young, beautiful woman.  How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself?



Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt – none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment.  In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she’s determined to find Gray’s stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past.



Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray.  As the danger escalates, they’ll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives – and their hearts – to one another.



Review



I’ve been a big fan of Becky Wade’s “Porter Family” Series since her first novel, Undeniably Yours, came out in 2013.  Each novel was unique and the characters unforgettable – and Her One and Only was no exception.



I was a tad worried about how Dru Porter’s character would come off as my experience with a defiant, rebellious female lead often leads to an ultra-feminist bent as the heroine spends all her time talking trash about the male population and trying her absolute hardest to best all males in general, resulting in a the story focused on aa competition of wills and ego that leaves you with the feeling “Was I reading a boxing story or a romance?”



I shouldn’t have been worried – especially an author of Becky Wade’s caliber at the helm of this engaging story.  Dru Porter does have a strong personality, nerves of steel, and a soldier’s attitude.  She’s a woman who prefers Guns & Ammunition over the latest Cosmopolitan and rides a motorcycle over the newest Honda Civic.  But Dru Porter has a huge heart (even though she does her best to shield it), and along with her likeable determination and quick wit, Becky Wade has created one of my favourite heroines to date.   



Gray Fowler is Dru’s perfect counterpart as a strong guy with the same amount of guts and determination as Dru, and also easily matches her sharp wit to create some of the most entertaining banter I’ve read.  Together they make a great team, and perfectly close out the Porter Family series with a story of romance, intrigue, suspense, and redemption.   


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.