Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick

1.jpgWhen Tabitha Brown’s son makes the fateful decision to leave Missouri and strike out for Oregon, she refuses to be left behind. Despite her son’s concerns, Tabitha hires her own wagon to join the party. Along with her reluctant daughter and her ever-hopeful granddaughter, the intrepid Tabitha has her misgivings. But family ties are stronger than fear.

The trials they face along the way will severely test Tabitha’s faith, courage, and ability to hope. With her family’s survival on the line, she must make the ultimate sacrifice, plunging deeper into the wilderness to seek aid. What she couldn’t know was how this frightening journey would impact how she understood her own life–and the greater part she had to play in history.

With her signature attention to detail and epic style, New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick invites readers to travel the deadly and enticing Oregon Trail. Based on actual events, This Road We Traveled will inspire the pioneer in all of us.

From page one, This Road We Traveled promises to be a novel jam-packed with history and I believe it more than delivered. There was rich detail sprinkled throughout the pages. Another superb treat was the amount of sound wisdom offered up. The type of wisdom you would expect to find in an older lady’s memoir. I found several quotes to ponder on even after the book was closed.
Unfortunately, I struggled with actual story-telling. I started off connected and intrigued by the futures of these three women. But as the story continued, my interest wanned. It’s hard to pin down the exact cause of the problem. I believe it’s a lack of tension and a mishmash of narration techniques. I regularly read historic journals so I’m not put off by this type of narration. In fact, I think the book would have been greatly improved had Kirkpatrick decided to use it. Instead, I found sections of the story summarized and narrated where I would have liked to see it acted out. And other sections that I felt could have been skipped over altogether that was acted out in what seemed to be slow motion.
I wanted to like this one. I REALLY wanted to like it. But at the end of the day, it just wasn’t a fit for me. However, I can’t discredit the amount of energy and study that went into the novel and will gladly recommend it to anyone who wants to further dig into the history of the Oregon Trail.

~ I received a copy from Revell in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in About the Book, History

When Fiction Meets Reality: The Battle of Chickamauga

 

When I sat down to begin writing/researching for the Ancient Words Series, one of the first questions I had asked was, “If a man joined the Confederacy from Bedford Co. TN, which regiment would he join?” There were two infantry regiments. I chose the 17th and drowned myself in its history. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took notes. I followed their trail like a dedicated fan…because, let’s face it, that’s what I was at this point.

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While my characters were fictional, their experiences were based on reality. One of my favorite moments to research was the Battle of Chickamauga. The anniversary of this extremely bloody battle is today and tomorrow. While there are so many factors to cover, I only want to focus on the experience of the 17th. You can read about Frank Harper’s version of events in my 2nd book, In the Shadow of Thy Wings. I had the pleasure of weaving in several real details into the story.

I also had the pleasure of touring the battlefield for the first time this summer. Here are some of my favorite photos…most of them featuring the 17th! The flag pictured above is a replica of the regimental flag. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it in person. What a TREAT!!
Perryville and Murfreesboro were two significant battles for the 17th. And both are featured in Where Can I Flee.

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After touring the museum inside, we set out in search of monuments featuring the 17th. This was one of my favorite family moments of the entire weekend. We had turned it into a contest to see who could find the monuments first and all of a sudden children and adults that might not have cared in the beginning was invested and enjoying themselves. It does my heart good to see people enjoying history.
*Family Fun Tip: When visiting historical sites with children or history-hating adults, create a scavenger hunt. It worked on my family and maybe it’ll work on yours.😉

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At long last, we were rewarded with two monuments. There was something so special about standing before a monument honoring the regiment that I’ve spent so much time with.

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We found smaller monuments dedicated to individual regiments around this larger one. But sadly, we couldn’t find one for the 17th. We hiked all over the area, searching for it but came up empty. I’m not sure if there ever was one for the 17th or not. I’d love to check into the situation and see what can be done, but for today, Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings act as monuments to a now beloved regiment.

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Words can hardly explain and these pictures will hardly do it justice when describing the hilly terrain. I’m convinced any semi-flat area that we stood on was man-made. I stepped off to the side and snapped a few pictures of the area. You can only imagine the additional hardships the armies faced on account of the landscape.

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And here are some cannon shots.

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A trip to Chickamauga isn’t complete without visiting the impressive Wilder Brigade Monument.

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Visitors can climb to the top of the tower. I’d advise you to bring a water bottle and inhaler with you, both of which, I had left outside with my parents. Lol

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But thankfully, I had brought my camera.😉

 

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson

1Five women from different walks of life have become close friends through their book club–enjoying one another’s company even more than they enjoy the books. So when the leader of the book club unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the four remaining friends are stunned. They relied on Abby for inspiration and motivation. She was the glue that held them together, and they’re sure that without her the group can’t continue.

When the group gathers “one last time” to open a bag Abby’s husband gives them, they find Abby had made each of them an angel ornament for Christmas, crafted especially for each woman and accompanied by a sweet and personal note. Inspired by their beloved friend, together Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda decide to commit themselves to becoming Christmas Angels to others in need. Each woman will use her life situation and talents to reach out and help others in her own unique way–little knowing that her own life and her relationships will be changed forever.

Fan favorite Melody Carlson is back with another touching Christmas story sure to grip readers’ hearts and perhaps inspire them to become Christmas Angels themselves.

Melody Carlson is a synonym for warm Christmas stories and The Christmas Angel Project was certainly one of them. The story starts off a little slow and more on the depressing side for what you might hope to find in a Christmas story, but once it started picking up, the mood in the story changed. The Christmas Angel Project is a novel with a much-needed message. I loved how Carlson weaved a common Christmas hardship that many of her readers will relate to and the uplifting solution in the lives of these four women. For those that are heartbroken during the holidays, The Christmas Angel Project will be an encouraging read full of ideas and wisdom wrapped up in an entertaining story.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 4 stars and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Fiction, Christmas Fiction, or stories featuring loss.

~ I received a copy from Revell in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: To Have and to Hold, A Novella Collection

110

They’ve helped orchestrate the perfect day for countless couples. Now twelve new couples will find themselves in the wedding spotlight in the second Year of Weddings novella collection.

Love Takes the Cake: A September Wedding Story by Betsy St. Amant
Charlotte Cantrell is always the baker; never the bride. When Will, a regular at Charlotte’s bakery, catches her attention, she can only hope that he is the reliable man this single mother has always hoped to find. The problem is that he’s regularly stopping in to buy cookies for another girl. But when Charlotte is hired to bake a host of wedding goodies for a difficult bride and finds out Will is the best man, she has the perfect opportunity to get to know him better—and find out how serious Will is about this other girl in his life.

The Perfect Arrangement: An October Wedding Story by Katie Ganshert
Amelia Woods is a small-town wallflower and the proud owner of Forget-Me-Nots, a quaint flower shop. Her love life has always been a bit lackluster—until she ends up in an embarrassing fender-bender with handsome Nate Gallagher. Meanwhile, Amelia’s younger brother, William, has proposed to his girlfriend. Amelia would be excited except she has evidence that the fiancée is not who she says she is. It seems Nate is the only one available for any advice-giving, and he’s good at it—and pretty fun to talk to too. As Amelia works to craft the perfect flower arrangements for other people, she begins to wonder if real love is better than the dream. And if it is, will Nate still be interested when he learns who she is?

Love in the Details: A November Wedding Story by Becky Wade
When Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over. Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she longs to be with Josh but doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her smalltown world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

It’s hard to find a novella set where every story earns 5 stars. So it’s a special treat to get your hands on a such a book. And what a stunning cover!!

Love Takes the Cake: In a word, Love Takes the Cake was sweet. It made me hungry for baked goods and more stories from Betsy ST. Amant. There was a little bit of everything in here from your classic bridezilla to your adorable child. The story was a great start to the set.

The Perfect Arrangement: With the flair of a You’ve Got Mail inspired story, The Perfect Arrangement remains one of my favorite novellas. It was romantic, funny, and flat-out charming from start to finish.

Love in the Details: Love in the Details wraps this novella set up nicely with a couple in need of a second chance. I enjoyed visiting Holly in her small town world, complete with a unique cast of supporting characters. It was a warm story with a satisfying ending.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving To Have and To Hold 5 stars. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Fiction or Contemporary Bridal stories.

~I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in About the Author, Christian

Standing Before the Burning Bush

Who are you trusting? Yourself or God?

How about when you’re challenged with a difficult task and you’re way in over your head? Are you trusting yourself or Christ?

Sometimes even the most dedicated Christians stumble here. Moses did. Let’s go back to the moment in history in Exodus and examine the scene:
Moses was minding his own business when he walked upon a bush that while on fire wasn’t consumed or being burnt. The angel of the Lord spoke to him from inside this bush. It was here, that Moses learned of his assignment: Go back to Egypt and bring the Israelites out. Out of bondage. Out of Egypt. Out to worship the One True God in a way they had never known before. This was no small task. The Pharaoh was powerful. The people were stubborn. It would have been risky enough to slip back into Egypt and rescue just one person in the cloak of night, but to rescue ALL right in front of the entire Egyptian army and the mighty Pharaoh? Who would dare to do such a thing?

A man called by God.

But in spite of this calling, in spite of the awesome signs God had shown him right there on the spot, in spite of the fact that the Lord, Himself, spoke to him through a burning bush, Moses made a list of reasons why he wasn’t qualified.

In that moment, he stopped seeing how great and mighty God was and could only see himself. He saw his own shortcomings. His failures. His inabilities. And Moses had them. These were not pretend ailments but real issues that anyone could see. In fact, God didn’t deny them. But what did He say?
“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

God told Moses that He would fill him with Himself. He would teach him. Sadly Moses continued to argue and God was angry. But He had mercy on Moses sent his brother Aaron to help him. But what about you? What about me? Have we ever stood before a burning bush and argued with God about how He intended to use us?

I have.

Four years ago, God laid it on my heart in a way that couldn’t be ignored to start writing for the public. I had already been writing privately but now I would allow others to read and criticize my work. And to make matters worse, the story on my heart included Civil War letters. I would actually be in charge of writing letters as if they came off the battlefield! How in the world a meek little woman, who had never so much as been in the army for an hour, write with authority? How would I make it sound real? I wasn’t capable of this task. And I knew it. Much like Moses, I made my list of reasons why I wasn’t qualified. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have the commanding personality to be in the public eye. I don’t know enough. I’m not talented enough. I wasn’t there in history’s past.

And like with Moses, God never denied my list. I never felt the Holy Spirit comfort my heart and remind me that I am good enough. That I am talented. That I am smarter than those around me. The God who created me knew He made me with some shortcomings. He also knew He was able to fill them.

He reminded me that He is the I Am. Everything I lacked would come from Him. He would teach me, guide me, and fill me. He would take my weaknesses and show off His strengths. Alone, Moses could do nothing. With Christ, Moses would storm Egypt and turn the world upside down. The showdown was so powerful and so mighty that we still talk about it today. My task would be much smaller, but I would still make the impact that God had ordained.

But what does this filling look like?

God didn’t fill me outside of my own efforts. That means that He didn’t zap me with His God-gun or insert powers into my body like the spider did when he bit Peter Parker. He didn’t come over me in a cloud. I didn’t fall into a trance at the computer and write a 400-page novel.

No. I sweated every word out. One word at a time. One line at a time.  And, yet, He was there.

Every time I studied, He was opening my mind. Every time I researched, He was bringing me closer to history. Every time I corrected my writing, He was giving me understanding. He brought others along side of me. He opened doors for me that had previously been closed.
I never worked alone. But I did work. And the same is said for repentance. God doesn’t zap us with a do-better ray. Instead, He changes us from the inside as we turn away from our old sinful behaviors. The more we turn from sin, the more we detest it. God is always working with us. But we’re always required to show up and do the work.

I once stood before a burning bush (figuratively, of course) and I argued my merits. I somehow thought that in spite of the great miracles I had read about in the Bible and in spite of the proof I had witnessed in my own life, God wouldn’t be able to use someone who had so little to offer and use them in such a powerful way.

And I was proven wrong.

God delights in using the simple and the weak. It’s not an ego boost to know it. But it is a comfort.

I stood before another burning bush two months ago. I made my list of failings but this time, I smiled and handed them over. God will use them. And I will get a front row seat. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store. Are you curious to know what the new assignment is?

It’s a new adventure. A new series!

In spite of the fact that I’m in the middle of 5 books series. In spite of the fact that I’ve had mono for over 200 days now and counting. In spite of the fact that I’m also struggling with a Vitamin D deficiency. In spite of the fact that I’ve had to set aside the revisions of my third novel, falling months behind my personal schedule. In spite of everything, God pressed on my heart in a clear way that it was time to start a brand new series. I have begun writing the new novel and I intend to work on both series, side by side.
It’s true, I don’t have enough time or enough energy. Some days, I don’t get any writing done at all because my strength is zapped and my body is drained. But Jesus is the I Am. What I am not, He is. Where I lack, He fills. As I work, He’s working in me.
From where I stand, my progress looks like a snail’s crawl, but I trust my Master. My weakness will show off His strength and I’m looking forward to it.

Now, I might have sparked your curiosity. What is this new series? Fans of Christian Fiction, Christian Historical Fiction, and especially fans of Multi-generational series will love to learn more about my new series. I invite you to the Facebook party that I’ll be hosting where I reveal all the secrets concerning this new series. There’ll be games, giveaways, and good, clean fellowship. Set the date for Oct 1 at 10 am, central. I hope to see you there! But if you’re not able to make it, look for the blog post later that night where I reveal all the details for those that missed the party.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Gratitude, A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

101Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal invites you to bring creative journaling and the calming act of coloring into your quiet time with God. This beautifully designed interactive prayer book from Tyndale’s Living Expressions collection helps guide your thoughts as you pray about concerns such as health, overcoming stress, personal relationships, and more. Gratitude gives you a way to celebrate and give thanks to God for the many blessings he provides. Filled with over 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling and sketching, and 40 needs-based prayers, Gratitude helps you express your devotion to God with your whole heart!

What I Loved: The Gratitude journal is very compact and easy to carry along with your Bible. The book itself is very well done. Tyndale used quality paper and lots of colorful designs. This journal is very different from your average coloring book or devotional. It’s a healthy blend of both. Some pages were 100% colored. Some are waiting for you to add the color. And some are a blend of both ideas with select images colored and others left blank for you.

Gratitude is a very thought provoking journal. Each page is a different theme and encourages you to meditate on God’s goodness in your life and even add your own personal prayers or notes to the pages.

What I Didn’t Love: With a coloring prayer journal, it’s hard to have enough space for everything. In this particular book, I would have liked to have seen more space for personal notes or prayers.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Gratitude 5 stars and I think it would make a great gift or an addition to your Bible study.

Visit Tyndale’s Living Expressions Page for similar products.

~I received a copy from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. 

Sample Pages:

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears

106A Fresh Voice in Historical Romance!

Lydia King knows what it’s like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes 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 poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the moral society’s president is her suitor’s mother. Her first task as a moral society member–to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town–should be easy . . . except he 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, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs–and hearts–truly align.

What I Loved: EVERYTHING! I loved everything about A Heart Most Certain. First of all, it’s a lovely cover! One of my favorites of the year. But I guess it’s time for me to dig a little deeper in this review…
From the very first scene, when Lydia compared Mr. Lowe to Scrooge, Melissa stole my heart. A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories and I thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing connection between the two men.
A Heart Most Certain challenges the reader, as it did its characters, to consider how they treat fallen people and their methods of evangelizing them. Lydia and Nicholas clashed from the very beginning with their drastically different views. It was a joy to watch them both grow and change.
The plot twisted in unexpected ways. I loved my time here in Teaville and I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Rating and Recommendation: Melissa Jagears has more than earned these 5 stars and I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys Christian Historical Fiction or those who are looking for a Christian book that addresses the tough subjects.

~I received a copy from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review:Miracle in Music City by Natalie Grant

104In this third title in the Faithgirlz Glimmer Girls series by Natalie Grant, Miracle in Music City, the Glimmer Girls are at it again—looking for a mystery to solve. Gloria wants her daughters to learn they aren’t too young to make a difference, so she gets them involved in her annual benefit and auction. But as things often do with the trio of smart and sassy sisters, they get themselves and their nanny Miss Julia involved in a lot more than just helping mom raise money for a worthy and wonderful cause.

What I Loved: I was amazed at how many life lessons Grant was able to weave into an entertaining story. The girls deal with jealousy and the homeless all in one book. Another bonus in the Glimmer Girls series is the attention to detail when it comes to the setting. Each book is set in a very different place and the area’s history and culture take a spotlight. Miracle in Music City was set in Nashville, TN and history of the Grand Ole Opry takes the stage.

List of Lessons:
Jealousy
Being a blessing to others
Having faith in God even when things look impossible
Helping others
Serving God with the right heart
Learning to listen to the Spirit’s nudging
Gifts from the heart are sacrificial

Ratings and Recommendation: This is a wonderful series for young girls and I’m giving Miracle in Music City 5 stars.

~I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Milller

105Her heart seeks sanctuary in the deep woods. But will trouble find her even here?

The Civil War has ended, but in Katie Calloway’s Georgia home, conflict still rages. To protect herself and her young brother from her violent and unstable husband, she flees north, finding anonymity and sanctuary as the cook in a north woods lumber camp. The camp owner, Robert Foster, wonders if the lovely woman he’s hired has the grit to survive the never-ending work and harsh conditions of a remote pine forest in winter. Katie wonders if she can keep her past a secret from a man she is slowly growing to love.

With grace and skill, Serena Miller brings to life a bygone era. From the ethereal, snowy forest and the rowdy shanty boys to the warm cookstove and mouth-watering apple pie, every detail is perfectly rendered, transporting you to a time of danger and romance.

What I Loved: There were several things to praise in The Measure of Katie Calloway. The novel was packed with twists and turns and endearing characters. I’ve always enjoyed a labor camp setting and Miller brings a real treat here with the history of the lumber camps in Michigan. It was jam-packed with historic details and yet the story flowed beautifully. I really enjoyed the setting and that the unique edge that the Michigan lumber camp had to offer.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Measure of Katie Calloway 5 stars and I recommend it to anyone who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction.