Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"The Restorer's Journey - Expanded Edition" Book Review


His choices have the power to save or destroy.

With a loved one’s life at stake, Jake charges through the portal into Lyric to stage a dramatic rescue, trusting that the signs that mark him as Restorer will guarantee success. But everything familiar in Lyric has vanished, swept away by deadly lies and a corrupt king. As inexorable forces conspire to turn him from his purpose, Jake finds his path leading to places beyond his courage.

While he confronts the temptation to flee his calling, Susan struggles in brutal captivity. Can she gain freedom before the enemy destroys her spirit, and will Jake choose to follow his destiny before everything is lost?

** The original version of this book won an ACFW Carol Award. Enjoy this author’s preferred edition to get the full experience.

    I can honestly say that this trilogy ranks in my top 10 of all time favorite books that I have read. It it absolutely ground breaking and eye opening. Rich characters, settings that span two worlds vividly and a storyline so gripping my life would go on hold whenever I picked one of these books up. When I heard that Sharon Hinck was doing the series in expanded editions I was so excited! I am one of those people that like to watch all the extras on the expanded dvds of my favorite movies and will even watch the movies with the director's or actor's voice overs. This is like being able to do that for your favorite books. There are lots of bonus chapters and insights that make the whole book more enriching. For instance, there are chapters from the viewpoint of other characters so you can get inside their heads and see what they were thinking in that instance. At the beginning of this book there is actually a cool scene where we read a chapter through the eyes of one of the main characters and then we get a bonus chapter where it is the same scene but through the eyes of one of the other main characters - it's so cool!
    The basis of this book is continuing the saga of Susan Mitchell, a soccer mom who is transported to another world that is counting on her to be The Restorer and save everyone, but she doesn't have a clue how she is supposed to do that. God is in control but new enemies keep arising and here in book #3 Susan has been kidnapped and needs saving herself. It is up to her son Jake to save her, or is it? I was so glad to come back to the land of Lyric. This series is now firmly planted in my top 10 thanks to the expanded editions and new insight!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"No Safe Harbor" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
No Safe Harbor
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Elizabeth Ludwig

      This book was really good and I am glad it is a series because I have more to look forward to from these characters. The heroine is Cara and she is caught in the middle between her brother, whom she can't tell anyone about, and the man who is trying to kill her brother. He is trying to use Cara as bait to find her brother but I have a funny feeling that in the process he is falling for her. At this point I am suspicious that things are not what they seem when it comes to Cara's brother, Eoghan, not everything is as it seems. I am thinking the next book will focus on Eoghan and I am curious to see where this series will go from here.

Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

Coming in 2012 is Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, will release in October, with two more books following in 2013 and 2014.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.


The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Harbor, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Against The Tide" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Against the Tide
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Elizabeth Camden

      This book is incredible. It is a historical filled with intrigue and mystery/suspense with liberal doses of romance. I learned a tremendous amount about the opium smuggling of that time and was fascinated and saddened by all of that. One thing that I didn't realize when I started the book is that one of the main characters comes from one of Elizabeth's previous books (not necessary to read it first although I did). He was the bad guy in the first book and now turns into a shady/good guy in this book. I like it when an author can do that and make it believable at the same time. I have been so impressed with the characterization in Elizabeth's books, not to mention her attention to detail in her historicals and the settings - I felt transported to Lydia's life in Boston and was really sad when it ended. Looking forward to Elizabeth Camden's next book! 


A Word from Elizabeth:

I am a college librarian in central Florida by day, but by night I can be found pounding out inspirational historical novels the moment the sun goes down. I love writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges. As a rather introverted person, I have found that writing is the best way for me to share my faith and a sense of resilience with others.

I married relatively late in life, which turned out to be an odd kind of blessing. I had gotten very good at leading a solo life, and although I was not particularly content being alone, I had become reconciled to it. Most importantly, it taught me never to take my husband for granted. I give daily thanks for the blessing of being able to share a life with my favorite person on the planet.

As for who I am? I love old Hitchcock films, the hour before sunset, a long, sweaty run through the Florida countryside, and a glass of good wine. After spending my entire adult life on a college campus (either as a student or a librarian) I have finally been able to pursue my ultimate goal of writing professionally.


Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden's Latest Offering

As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she's finally carved out a perfect life for herself--a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or "Bane," a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.

Just as Bane's charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia's part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Against the Tide, go HERE.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Saving Gideon" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Saving Gideon
B&H Books (October 1, 2012)
Amy Lillard

   I just finished "Saving Gideon" and was surprised that I couldn't put it down. I'm not a huge fan of Amish though every once in awhile I find an author that has a new twist on it. Such is the case with Amy Lillard's debut novel.  I think part of it was the charming heroine, Avery Ann Hamilton - you can't help but love her and her imperfect ways. Then when brokenhearted Gideon is forced to rescue her things get interesting. What I really liked is that even though some of it was predictable, it didn't matter - I still wanted to see how it was going to happen. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series. Amy Lillard has started off strong and I am impressed.


A Word from Amy:I’m a wife, mother, and bona fide Southern belle. Published author, expert corn bread maker, and Squirrel Princess.

I live in Tulsa, though I was born in Mississippi. I moved to the Sooner State when I was seventeen and met my soul mate and best friend not long after. I’ve retained a little of my Mississippi accent though most people think I’m from Texas. (?) Rob and I have been married for over twenty years and have a son–a mom proclaimed prodigy, of course!

I love homemade tacos, shoes, and romance novels–not necessarily in that order. I’m a big fan of country music, a staunch proponent of saving the Oxford comma, and I’m shamefully obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

I believe that God is love. I guess that’s why I adore romances.

I have always been intrigued with the Amish culture, their gentle ways and slower-paced lifestyle. (And I love, love, love the fact that they stay married for their lifetime.) But until recently I never thought to blend this interest with my penchant for romance. Okay, okay, I’m a bit old-fashioned and even enjoy the gender roles that are present in this culture. I love to cook and take care of my family. Yes, that’s me June Cleaver with a laptop.

I dislike people trying to convince me to read the Twlight series (I’ll get to it or I won’t, either way I’m good with it), gratuitous violence, and strawberry ice cream. (I know I’m alone on this last one, and again, I’m good with it.)

Favorite movies–(besides HP) French Kiss, Maid of Honor, A Lot Like Love, Just Married, and Sweet Home Alabama. Oh, and Miss Congeniality, Sabrina (both versions) and a 1940′s movie called Dear Ruth. If you haven’t seen it, you should! A-dorable. Anything with Doris Day and most all of Marilyn’s and Audrey’s.


Gideon Fisher wants one thing out of life -- to be left alone. This is not the Amish way, but he’s devastated after the death of his wife and son to the point of losing his faith. He buys a farm on the outskirts of the district and pulls away from his community. But when a freak spring snowstorm brings a beautiful Englisher to his farm, what choice does Gideon have but to let her in?

Dallas socialite Avery Ann Hamilton is intrigued by the Amish farmer who pulls her out of the snow and into his austere lifestyle. Poor little rich girl, Avery has just gone through (yet another) bad breakup. Every man she meets only wants her for her father’s money. All she has ever wanted is to be loved for herself. Avery soon discovers the Oklahoma Amish country is the perfect place to hide out and heal her broken heart.

But she finds a peace in those back roads that she’s never felt before. Now her life has purpose and meaning as she connects with God and those around her. And there’s something more as she begins to care for this man who needs both love and forgiveness.

Gideon never wanted to live again much less fall in love, but Avery finds her way into his heart, showing him the beauty of life and God’s greatness. Yet as the feelings between Avery and Gideon grow, can they overcome their dissimilar lifestyles, or will their sheer differences pull them apart? If you would like to read the first chapter of Saving Gideon, go HERE

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"A Love Surrendered" Book Review


Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt. She longs for romance to fill the void left by her parents' death. But when she falls hard for Steven O'Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart too when he discovers who she really is? With heart-pounding romance, intense family drama, and emotional twists and turns, A Love Surrendered is everything Julie Lessman's many fans have been waiting for.

    One of my favorite sagas of all times continues with A Love Surrendered. It is technically the 6th book in the series (with a prequel with Marcy and Patrick releasing soon) and each book has been one to enjoy. This book was one to savor. The best part of Julie's books are that she doesn't forget about her characters when she moves on to the next one, they don't even just pop in for a cameo - no, we get to keep visiting them and enjoying them and seeing what they are up to. So in this book we may get inside the heads of Steven and Annie who are the "main characters", but we get to also follow Faith and Collin, Charity and Mitch, Luke and Katie, Sean and Emma, Brady and Lizzie, Patrick and Marcy and the cousins and kids. There are some twists and turns that try and keep romance at bay for Steven but in the end he finds that God is in control. Julie has done it again. I love the O'Connor clan and it is a pleasure to follow them through the years. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Life With Lily" Book Review


For a child, every day is a thing of wonder. And for six-year-old Lily Lapp, every day is a new opportunity for blessings, laughter, family, and a touch of mischief. As she explores her world, goes to school, spends time with her family, and gets into a bit of trouble with her friends, Lily learns what it means to be Amish and what it means to grow up. From getting a new teacher to welcoming a new sibling, Lily's life is always full of adventure. The first of four charming novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, Life with Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish--and lots of fun and laughter along the way. It combines the real-life stories of growing up Amish from Mary Ann Kinsinger and the bestselling writing of Amish fiction and nonfiction author Suzanne Woods Fisher. With charming illustrations throughout, this series is sure to capture the hearts of readers young and old.

     This book is absolutely precious. It reminds me a lot of the Grandma's Attic books by Arleta Jackson which I love. It is in a similar style of each chapter kind of being its own story and they weave all together to create this wonderful picture of life on a farm as a little Amish girl. Lily is precocious and sweet and certainly speaks her mind - one of my favorite lines is when she declares (to herself) that her new baby brother is ugly! Why couldn't God send them a pretty baby? I actually giggled at that because it is so true - most babies are a little rough around the edges the first couple days - leave it to Lily to say it like it really is! That is kind of how the book goes - you will find yourself smiling and enjoying yourself. It is written for the 8-12 (tween) group, but I enjoyed it and believe my 16 year old will as well. My 12 year old and her 8 year old sister are actually starting it together now. I look forward to more Life with Lily. 

"21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
     This is a book that needed to be written. I am currently going through it and love the way it is broadening my ideas about how I should and can connect with my kids. And considering I have 7 very different and unique children, I need all the ideas I can get. I highly recommend for anyone with children in their lives - parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors and so on... excellent resource!


Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults.

Visit the author's website.


21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids offers a straightforward, workable plan to create new avenues of connection between parents and their kids. This handy guide coaches moms and dads to do one simple thing each day for three weeks to connect with their kids even in the midst of busy schedules.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929673
ISBN-13: 978-0736929677


The Book I Almost
Didn’t Write

I argued with God for a long time before writing this book.

When I originally came up with the idea to write a book about connecting with your kids, I was on a “Mom High.” My husband, Roger, and I had been married for five years, and we had successfully blended a family. Two of his, two of mine, my cat, our dog.

Even the challenges I’d had with my stepson, Jeremy, after Roger and I got married were a mere memory. We had learned to care for each other, hang out together, and enjoy each other. And my relationship with my stepdaughter, Amanda, was growing, and we loved being together. All our kids would come over for Sunday night dinner and would often hang out during the week. While I knew we were far from perfect parents, I was excited that Roger and I both had close relationships with our kids.

But then all that went up in smoke.

My son, Justen, was going through a tough time in his life. He grew cold and distant from me. We were fighting and arguing and going through an awful, awful time.

And I needed to write a book about how to be close to your kids.

I cried out to God. I felt betrayed by him. I had poured all this love and energy, time and prayer into my son, and he was barely speaking to me. I felt like a failure. I felt like a fraud. And on the rare occasions that Justen and I had a conversation, I would curl up in a ball and cry as soon as we were done talking. I hated where our relationship was.

I talked with my husband about not writing the book. Not out of shame or embarrassment (and trust me, I felt both of those) but simply because I felt like the principles I had practiced didn’t work. My son was distant from me, and all the praying in the world was not helping. I asked friends to pray for Justen, pray for me, and pray for what this book was supposed to be about.

I’ve written much of this book during my desert time with Justen. I had nothing to hold on to but God’s Word, especially Philippians 4:6—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

So I waited and I prayed. And I prayed some more.

And now, as I finish writing this book, God has used time and the healing that only he can bring to restore Justen to a good place. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of prayer. But when I talked with Justen’s counselor, the one thing he said that I will never forget is this: “Justen felt safe enough with you to express his anger to you, because even with all of his anger, he never questioned your love for him.”

I’m afraid that each of my kids—and probably yours—are going to go through hard times. They are going to go through loss and disappointment and sadness, and they are not always going to behave as if all this “connecting stuff ” will make a difference. But let me tell you, it does.

Trust the process and trust your parenting. God has given you everything you need. You are not always going to feel like connecting. Do it anyway. Your kids need you to invest in them when they are young so that when they are older, they don’t ever have to question your love for them.


Why You’re a Better Parent than You Think You Are

I can tell you one thing about yourself right off the bat: You’re a better parent than you think you are. I know that’s a bold statement (especially since we’ve never met), but if you are anything like me and my friends, someone needed to tell you that.

I remember looking at the other moms at church, the dads out in the parks pushing their kids on the swings, and just knowing they all had it way more together than I ever would. Those thoughts started exactly one day after I became a parent.

It was time for us to check out of the hospital with Justen, who at one day and nine pounds and four ounces was just about the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen in my life. I was having a small (OK, enormous) panic attack. I couldn’t believe that the authorities, whoever they were, were going to let me take him home. Didn’t they realize I’d never handled a human baby before? What kind of broken system do we have that would let me (me!) take home this not-so-tiny baby boy?

And that’s when I knew I was sunk. In my mind, no one had ever had those thoughts before. All around me were happy couples who were dying to get their babies home and do what? I really had no idea. But I felt as though everyone else had been given a secret manual, and I had missed that day of orientation.

And the feeling persisted. All the other moms acted as if they had been parenting for decades. They had their parenting methods all picked out and were parenting on purpose.

I had a sneaking suspicion that they had their kids sleeping through the night after thirty days, were breastfeeding without tears, and woke up hours before their children so the house would be clean and activities laid out—activities that were not only creative but also educational. I felt like the world’s biggest loser of a parent.

But then something miraculous happened. I started talking to other parents. I mean really talking. And guess what I found out?

I found out they were just as unconfident, strung out, and secretly ashamed as I was. They too thought their kid was the only one to ever have a meltdown in the middle of Whole Foods. They too thought they had the only child on the planet who insisted on wearing his Spiderman underwear on the outside of his pants. They also thought that everyone else cooked homemade spinach muffins for their kids every morning and did alphabet-training drills starting at age two.

If you can relate to any of this, let me give you a few words of encouragement.

God gave the right parent to the right kid. There are days when this statement couldn’t feel further from the truth. You feel ill-equipped to meet your child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Because, for the most part, you are. God wants you to rely on him and the people he’s surrounded you with. You are not designed to do this parenting thing alone, even if you are a single parent. There are no gold stars for parents who never ask for help.

God gave the right kid to the right parent. All those things that God needs to grow in you to draw you closer to him? He sent those in a neat little package called “your child.” Each of my kids has taught me something about myself—often things I would choose to ignore if given the opportunity. I would have never thought that I had a patience problem, for example, until I had a patience tester named Kimberly. But there is no chance to ignore such things when they need to be bathed, fed, and loved pretty regularly. I had to confront the parts of me that needed, desperately, to be more like Jesus—and often, I needed to confront my problems with a lack of patience before Kimber woke up from her twelve-minute nap.

Prayer is key. For years, when a kid issue reared its ugly head, I would go to my friends, I would go to my mom, and I would go to my wall of “how to raise a great kid” books to find the answer. I needed answers, and I needed them quick! But as my friend Erin MacPherson, author of The Christian Mama’s Guide to Having a Baby: Everything You Need to Know to Survive (and Love) Your Pregnancy, says when it comes to pregnancy as well as parenting, “Go to God before Google.”

God will direct your heart as you parent. From day one, what I really needed was to know the heart of God and to let that direct me as a parent. Yes, I’m a big believer in wise council, but I am a bigger believer in not using God only when things hit the crisis stage (or the principal’s office).

• • • • •

Now, if you have a couple of years under your parenting belt, would you do us all a favor and tell the other mothers around you what went wrong?

• Tell us how the helpful junior higher you now are raising once threw a toy and knocked out her older brother’s tooth.

• Tell us that you faked dizziness so they wouldn’t release you from the hospital and you could stay another night.

• Tell us that your one and only prayer for the first year of your daughter’s life was, Dear God, please don’t let me screw her up.

When I was in high school, I had a youth leader named Emily Nelson. Emily had it all together. She’d married a great husband and started having great kids. Emily was the kind of person that I would spend a lot of time comparing myself to. You know the kind. You think to yourself, I bet they’re the kind of parent that grows their own organic food while teaching their kids French, as opposed to my kid who learned how to read from frequent exposure to packages of Chicken-Dino-Nuggets.

So imagine my glee when I read this essay by Emily about being a not-so-perfect mom:

As we cruised down the coast, singing along to Veggie Tales, I tossed carrots to my 3 sons who quickly gobbled them up. We arrived at the beach with our fresh-from-the-library-checked-out book about seashells and started collecting. After making sandcastles and letting them bury me neck deep, I pulled out the ice cream maker and made homemade, organic ice cream. I snapped a funny picture of them. “This one is for the scrapbook!” I exclaimed, and they tackled me with a hug. This was a perfect day, but…it never happened.

My REAL beach day started with screaming them into the car to beat traffic, telling them to forage the van floor if they were hungry, and throwing beach toys onto the sand, while I collapsed in my beach chair devouring the latest People magazine. I didn’t even bring the camera.

Looking back I’m tortured with what I didn’t do with my kids: take them hiking, educate them in museums, have family devotions. And I moan about what I did do: harsh words, wishy-washy discipline, and over-involvement in non-family activities. I look at the creative moms, the outdoorsy moms, the homemade-everything moms, the spiritual moms and think they parented so much better than I. Yet one day, as I was recounting my lack of mothering skills to my 27-year-old, he encircled me in a hug, saying, “Mom, you did just fine!” That boy never has to buy me another gift, as he gave me the gift of peace that maybe, just maybe, I did okay.

Every parent has struggles. Every parent has those nights when they toss a loaf of bread and some peanut butter on the table and call it dinner. But every parent also has those moments—probably more often than not—when they are a rock, an encourager, and a God-given gift to their children.

Your parenting road is going to have its share of take-the-hubcaps-off potholes. And it may be a long time before you hear the words, “Mom/Dad, you did just fine!”

But remember 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” God is sufficient for all your needs. Even your parenting needs.

You see? You really are a better parent than you think you are.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"All Things New" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
All Things New
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Lynn Austin

     The Reconstruction after the Civil War isn't a period with a lot written about it that I have found. I love Lynn Austin's sweeping historical sagas and I was excited to see what she would do with this time period. She doesn't disappoint. She takes an interesting spin on it because she shows us what is going on through the eyes of 3 different women after the war. Josephine is 22 and was 17 and living a spoiled life on her family's plantation when the Civil War broke out. She realizes that things can't stay the same but can't seem to get anyone else to see that as well, especially her mother. Her mother, Eugenia, has survived the war but sustained the loss of her husband and eldest son. She is not ready to see anything change and is quick to let me people know it. Then there is Lizzie who has been a slave on White Oak Plantation her whole life and is now a free woman, but she sure doesn't feel like it. All she wants is a better life for her husband, kids and herself and she isn't sure that can happen on White Oak, but she doesn't know how to restart the only life she has ever known. 
     This book takes a chapter through the eyes of each woman and then starts over - it is incredibly interesting to see events unfold in such a manner and I was enthralled by their viewpoints. Lynn has done it again, made history come alive.  


For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.


In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak...but a bitter hatred fuels her.

With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women--daughter, mother, and freed slave--in a riveting tale.

If you would like to read the first chapter of All Things New, go HERE.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Full Disclosure" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Full Disclosure
Bethany House Publishers (October 2, 2012)
Dee Henderson

     I almost hate to say this, but I haven't read very many of Dee Henderson's books. My mom and sister read all of her O'Malley books, but I never did. After reading this book I am ready to borrow the whole series from my mom and start from the beginning. This book is really clever because it takes those characters and pulls them all together in a round about way.
      This book was more of a romance than I expected with the story between Ann and Paul going deep and strong. But what really drove the book for me was the mystery of the lady shooter that runs from the beginning to the very end. There are a multitude of small mysteries spread throughout the book and it is awesome to read the parts where Ann does her storytelling. There are a couple threads that run through the whole book - Ann and Paul, the lady shooter, the vice president's book - and I saw how some of it was going to turn out but not everything. Well done.


Dee Henderson is the bestselling, award-winning author of 15 previous novels, including the acclaimed O'MALLEY series and UNCOMMON HEROES series. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois.


Ann Silver is a cop's cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region's most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn't expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is…

Watch the book trailer:

If you would like to read the first chapter of Full Disclosure, go HERE.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Trinity" Book Review


A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel's career was destroyed. Along with his faith. Now he and his military war dog, Trinity, train other dogs and their handlers. Though his passion is to be back in action, the medical discharge has forced Heath-and Trinity-to the sidelines. Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured while secretly tracking the Taliban. Only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity. Time is running out on the greatest-and most dangerous-mission of their lives.

    Honestly I have totally enjoyed every book from Ronie Kendig that I have read (and I have read every book she has written ;-)  She has a great voice with so many facets that she weaves together... mystery, romance, political intrigue, overseas locations, military situations, great characters and strong plots. This book starts a new series about retired military war dogs that get called back into action. The first one focuses on Trinity and her handler, Heath, who was released from the military after he suffered from TBI (traumatic brain injuries) while on a mission.  Trinity was so committed to Heath that after his release she wouldn't work for anyone else so the military retired her too. Now they are back in training and end up on a mission sooner than anyone anticipated. But can Heath set aside what he thinks his wants and desires are to find God's purpose for his life before he gets anyone hurt? This book had a much stronger romance line than I expected but the military side was strong and dominant like expected. I think Ronie has another winning series on her hands. If you haven't read her other series (Discarded Heroes) then you totally need to check those 4 books out as well!   

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Double Blind" Book Review


Twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Newberry can barely make it through the day. Suddenly widowed and a survivor of a near-fatal attack, she is wracked with grief and despair. Then she hears of a medical trial for a tiny brain chip that emits electrical pulses to heal severe depression. At rope's end, Lisa offers herself as a candidate.
When she receives her letter of acceptance for the trial, Lisa is at first hopeful. But-brain surgery. Can she really go through with that? What if she receives only the placebo? What if something far worse goes wrong?

    I was pleased to snag a copy of this book fresh from the publishers right as it came out. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it! I am always anxious to see what Brandilyn has up her sleeves next. This plot is original and mind boggling - a chip that can be implanted in the brain and send out little shock waves that will disturb the brain waves that cause depression. This chip is supposed to give Lisa her life back after the tragedies she has experienced over the last year... miscarriages, being widowed and then being viciously attacked. She has basically quit functioning and is racked with depression and grief. She just wants her life back and agrees to be part of a medical trial with this brain chip. She wakes up from the surgery and doesn't take long to realize that the chip is working! But as hindsight usually shows us, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is and Lisa starts dealing with some side effects of this "miracle chip". And these side effects could end up killing her... or someone else - except that they are already dead. Is she going insane - this might be worse than the depression she was dealing with before. 
      I was really on the edge of my seat to see how it was going to turn out and I have to be careful what I say at this point... I don't want to spoil anything but I have to say that the ending was not quite the punch I was hoping for. I never did understand the reasoning of the bad guy (other than pure sociopath maybe...) but overall this book was really good. I always know that if Brandilyn Collins writes it, it will be unusual and original and that is what I love! 

"Manners That Matter for Moms" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

     Don't let this book fool you. This is not written by a prissy Miss Manners sitting at a tea party with her lace gloves on while looking down her nose at me and my unpolished children... not even close. In fact I took the time to read part of chapter 2 aloud to my husband (a section where Maralee opens up about her past and getting to where she is today) and I cried the whole time I was reading - he almost did too. This book is written by a tender hearted woman who wants to help other mothers prepare their children as best as they can to be ready for being gracious, pleasant, loving people in the world around them. I am very impressed and look forward to using this book with my kids and maybe even taking this as the incentive I've been looking for to have a manners class with some of our local homeschoolers. Well done, Maralee. 


Maralee McKee is a sought-after expert in social interactions at work, at home, and in the community. She has taught thousands of children in her Manners Mentor classes, and her corporate clients include Hyatt, Chick-fil-A, State Farm, Campus Crusade, and AT&T. Maralee and her husband live in Florida with their two sons.

Visit the author's website.


Corporate trainer and mentor Maralee McKee turns her attention to the home and shares the simple, savvy, and sincere skills kids need in order to flourish in today’s culture. Tools for each stage of life make this the go-to book for moms with children of any age.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736944893
ISBN-13: 978-0736944892


Moms Like You and Me

Today our children are our shadow.

Tomorrow they will be our reflection.

Maralee McKee

I was nervous. I wanted this evening to be perfect for my husband, who was hosting a client-appreciation dinner for his company. He had worked hard planning every detail—especially choosing the guest speaker. After some negotiating, the man he hoped would accept his invitation agreed to present the keynote address.

This gentleman is a financial genius. He holds three degrees—one each from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. He consults privately with kings and presidents about global economic issues. All of this at the ripe old age of 34. He and I are about the same age, but I feared that was all we were going to have in common. A genius I’m not.

Common Ground
My husband planned to go from table to table, chatting with guests through dinner. That meant our special guest and I would share a cozy table for two throughout the 90-minute dinner before he took the stage. Driving to dinner, I was still trying to think of conversation topics he might enjoy and I would have an inkling about.

My list was short.

My concerns about us not having much common ground to talk were quickly realized—he was intense.

Moments after sitting down, he asked, “Maralee, I like to know my audience a little before I speak. What would you say are some of the economic and libertarian concessions you believe your guests are willing to make in light of our current financial and political surrounding?”

Okeydokey! Believe it or not, that particular question had not made my short list of conversation topics. Hiding my panic, I quickly decided that in order to survive this meal, I was going to have to be the one asking the questions.

I answered brightly, “I’m sure my husband will have more accurate insight than I do. I’ll call him over in a minute.” Then I asked our guest where he was from. He shared that he was born in Chicago and still lived there. I had recently visited for the first time and been smitten with the city. We began to find common ground talking about Chicago’s famed Miracle Mile. A few minutes later I asked about his family. He beamed as he told me that he and his wife were expecting their first child the next month—a girl.

We talked about how children change everything. But then he added, “But only for a little while.”

His genius was obvious in what he said next. It has been one of the most impacting maxims on the way I parent.

Twenty-One Percent of My Life
He explained, “We spend a statistically small percentage of our lives in direct contact with our children. Let’s say I live to be eighty-five, and my daughter lives with my wife and me until she leaves for college at eighteen. In that case, we’re only under the same roof for twenty-one percent of my life. Seventy-nine percent of it will be without daily contact.”

My mind raced to make sense of it all. How can that be? Only 21 percent of my life will be spent sleeping under the same roof as each of my children?

The cold reality of the number made my heart shiver—it still does.

Twenty-one percent is all the time we have with our children, and that’s if you start counting when they are newborns. If they’re five or fifteen already, a measure of that time is gone.

Is it enough time to teach them everything they need to know to thrive on their own when they’re grown? Yes it is, but they won’t learn it by accident. If we want our children to grow into adults who interact with kindness, respect, self-control, graciousness, and friendliness, we must teach them a lost art in today’s culture. It’s the art of being intentionally kind and patient in the words they say and the things they do every day, everywhere, with everybody. Quite simply, we much teach manners.

Moms like You and Me
Because you’re reading this page, I know you and I have some things in common. Moms like us deeply love our children and want to give them every skill they need to soar through life. We have high hopes for them—and not merely that they attend Ivy League schools, gain impressive-sounding job titles, win beauty pageants, or accumulate worldly wealth and fame.

Those are all fine things. But what matters more to you and me is that our children grow up to be kind, compassionate, friendly, warmhearted, caring, self-disciplined, self-controlled, self-reliant, fair, generous, empathetic, and even-tempered adults.

We wish them joy, so we want them to laugh daily and easily.

We want them to go with the flow but not to be easily swayed.

We want them to be optimistic but not to wear rose-colored glasses.

We want them to understand that personal conflict is inevitable but making enemies is optional.

We pray that they realize that apologizing for mistakes doesn’t mean you’re messed up. It means you have the strength of character to do the hard work of untangling messes.

We want our children to have a strong sense of right and wrong and the moral strength to live up to their convictions.

We want them to have goals and ambitions but not to let their goals become their gods.

We pray that they will always be secure in who they are so they don’t become bullies or easy targets for bullies.

We want them to please people but not to be people pleasers.

And because mamas enjoy hearing good things about their children, if we notice ours displaying these traits, we won’t mind a bit if people compliment them and tell us that our children are sweet and engaging and impressive. Christ within them makes all these things possible. Etiquette is the vehicle they’ll use to express their character in word and deed.

Etiquette Is Kindness and Love in Action
The apostle Paul’s famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 lists nine attributes of love, and seven of them describe what love is not. That leaves only two positive descriptions of love: patience and kindness.

Etiquette is the language that expresses patience and kindness in our interactions with one another. It teaches us to make modest sacrifices of our time, our agenda, and our momentary wants so we can live out patience and kindness. Etiquette is not pretense or fussiness. It’s not an attempt make children perfect. Manners are the language of love, and we teach them to our children for their benefit and for God’s glory.

Scripture often calls us to kindness. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:32 (niv), “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” Etiquette shows you how to live this way.

Etiquette Doesn’t Replace Authenticity
I sincerely do not want to add stress to any mother’s or child’s life. When etiquette is forced or stressed, it’s only on the outside. Love, on the other hand, is not forced.

We don’t teach etiquette in order to mold children into something they are not. Some children are spontaneous, spirited, and quick to share their opinion. That’s fantastic! They will grow up to be quick-witted, fun, welcoming leaders. Some children are reserved, slow to join in, and quiet. That’s fantastic too! They will grow up to be thoughtful and always there for you—servant leaders of their generation. God gave our children their personalities. Etiquette gives them the skills to bring the best of their personalities to the forefront.

Etiquette Has Evolved
Gone are the days when manners were about debutante balls, seated dinners for 12 with the butler serving, hats and gloves, and making sure the children were seen but not heard.

The etiquette I share with you has evolved. It’s in tune with the realities and sensibilities of our modern, casual, techno-savvy, fast-paced culture. Grandma’s etiquette was perfect for her day. But if we use her etiquette exclusively, we’re going to appear stiff and stuffy and out of sync for the time and place Christ has placed us in.

I’ve kept grandma’s timeless principles of courtesy, respect, hospitality, and consideration and used those principles to chart the course of our contemporary everyday encounters.

Etiquette Isn’t Artificial
Some people say we shouldn’t teach etiquette lest we train people to be artificial. Not so. Rather than forcing people to be artificial, etiquette frees them to become the best version of themselves.

On the other hand, some people try to use etiquette to mold their children into perfect people. Perfection is Satan’s trap. God didn’t give us our children for our own glory but so that we could empower them to freely and gladly live for Christ and reflect His glory. Etiquette polishes us so that Christ’s reflection can be seen more easily in us.

The skills you’ll learn about in these pages aren’t to be lived out legalistically. They are written in sand, not stone. You can use these principles to build and honor relationships inside and outside your family. This is an important concept. After all, the reason we were put here in the first place was to be in relationship with God and other people.

Etiquette Isn’t Window Dressing
Motherhood gives us an opportunity to be the people we want our children to become. That’s why I wrote this book—to help you teach your children and be a role model for them so their good manners spring from their hearts and are not just for show.

For manners to be more than window dressing in our lives, they must be expressed in the words we say and the things we do—and not just when we find it convenient or are in an especially good mood. Our good manners become true when they are ingrained into us, just as we can learn a new language and use it until it is as natural as our native tongue.

In the pages of this book you’ll find the modern, essential skills you need to know and model to help your children soar through life free from social uneasiness so they can become well liked, well mannered, and well respected. None of it is hard to learn. All of it pays a lifetime of dividends.

Our Journey Together
I’m so glad we’re going on this journey together! I’ve prayed and worked hard on this book for the benefit of you and your family. My prayer has been that it will encourage, inspire, and mentor you.

People often ask me how I became the Manners Mentor. It’s a pretty amazing story. I can still barely believe I am where I am today.

When I was nine years old, I was in a situation no little girl should experience. At that time, I started praying for three specific things. Over the next 20 years, God answered my three prayers, slowly unfurling His plans and purposes for me in ways that even the most imaginative novelist could never conceive. I’ll briefly share my story with you (friends should know about friends!) so you’ll understand my passion for these skills and why I’m honored to bring you the message God has entrusted to me—that manners matter to Him.

In the teaching part of the book, I’ll start by showing you how to teach etiquette without stressing or ever having to nag. We moms already have a lot on our plates. We don’t need to pile more “must do’s” on them. My way of teaching is gentle, subtle, and lifestyle-oriented. You won’t find your children pushing back. But you will see children who are more patient, kinder, and more likely to consider how their words and feelings impact the people around them.

You’ll also find relevant, modern, indispensable tips on everything from table manners to texting. You’ll learn how to make positive first impressions, interact with ease, and give and receive gifts graciously. You’ll also learn about using Wonder Words, beginning and ending conversations on a high note, dining skills, table manners, and so much more. All of it is in sync with today’s sensibilities and from the heart.

Chapters 4 through 17 start with just-for-fun etiquette IQ tests. “Mom to Mom” tips start in chapter 5. These are special things that are on my heart to share with you. They’re adult-level skills that will help you shine or special tips for teaching a particular skill set and touching the heart of your child.

Chapters 4 through 17 also include has multiple sections titled “Growing in Graciousness (Next-Level Skills).” These next-level skills allow you to pick and choose what you want to add into the mix. You can introduce a particular skill whenever your children will benefit the most given their age and stage, natural bent (introvert or extrovert), personality, level of maturity, confidence, and degree of manual dexterity.

You might look at all these skills and say, “Wow, Maralee! That looks like a whole bunch. How can I teach all of that?” Let me assure you, you can! It’s my joy to show you how. The skills you’ll find here are the ones I’ve taught successfully in hundreds of my Manners Mentor classes. And of course, I use them at home with my own two sons, Marc and Corbett. These skills are classroom tested, and they work in the real world.

Just don’t rush the process. You will teach and model for months or even years before some skills become parts of your child’s life. That’s normal. We’re in it for the long haul, aren’t we?

Our Shadow and Reflection
I often think of the evening several years ago when I dined with the financial genius. Now that my two sons are nine and fifteen, his words resonate deeper than they did when he first showed me that children change everything “but only for a little while.” We have 21 percent of our lives or less to daily impact theirs—just 21 percent to pass along to them everything they need to know to soar through life on their own.

The number one predictor of our children’s future success and happiness is their ability to get along well with others, to be well-liked, and to be confident and at ease in their interactions. You’re holding in your hands the how-to’s of instilling these character traits in your children.

Today our children are our shadow. Tomorrow they’ll be our reflection. Let’s embark on this journey together.