Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review: 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables


Book Jacket:   Gold Medallion Award-winner Bob Welch crafts 52 nuggets of Bible-based wisdom from one of the most popular novels, musicals, and films of all time: "Les Miserables."

     In "52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables," Bob Welch walks readers through Hugo's masterpiece, extracting dozens of uniquely spiritual reflections from this enduring portrait of poverty, social injustice, mercy, and redemption. Welch reminds us that Jean Valjean's life provides the truest example of why real love is found in the grittiest places, and that hearts are made whole beneath the crush of mercy. Most important, though, Welch keeps returning to the intersections of faith and reality throughout Hugo's writing--those places where mercy becomes an inroad to the heart, and where love is only truly received when it is given without condition.

     Discover again why life's purpose is found not in attending to personal needs and desires, but in responding to the hearts of others.

Book Review:   Les Mis, as it's commonly referred to in our home, is one of my top musical performances of all time so when I heard of this book, I jumped at the chance to review it!
And Bob Welch did not disappoint!

     As the book description states, 52 little lessons from Les Miserables is a wonderful collection of snippets and words of wisdom that relate to you - to me - to situations at hand to give a perspective that you might not have grasped the first time around.  Sometimes we need that little self-thump upside the head!  All the uniqueness of the 52 chapters lends expertise to Victor Hugo's book and writings, breaking down the structure of it's meaning, breathing new life into how it relates to
daily life.  Those struggles, of course, would be the obvious ones that many may have, such as doubt, confusion, pain and anger.  There is a pseudo Cosette and Marius in all of us in some way.

     If you haven't seen the movie, or the musical, or youtube versions of clips or just generally are not familiar with the original author (Victor Hugo), this book will still work for you.
It helps, it makes a little more sense, but it's not a necessity. 
Disclaimer:  BookLook Bloggers has provided me with a complimentary copy/advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

book Review: The Story Keeper


Book Jacket:  When successful New York editor Jen Gibbs discovers a decaying slush-pile manuscript on her desk, she has no idea that the story of Sarra, a young mixed-race woman trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the twentieth century, will both take her on a journey and change her forever. Happy with her life in the city, and at the top of her career with a new job at Vida House Publishing, Jen has left her Appalachian past and twisted family ties far behind. But the search for the rest of the manuscript, and Jen's suspicions about the identity of its unnamed author, will draw her into a mystery that leads back to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains . . . and quite possibly through the doors she thought she had closed forever.  
My Review:   Once again, Lisa Wingate magnifies great writing with a story to capture your heart and attention!  Bravo!  This book, a story that weaves the tales of Jen Gibbs and Evan Hall, is masterfully told as two stories blending into one.  One you start reading, you won't want to put this one down!
As you turn each page, the description and feel of the book is evident as Jen seeks to find the writer of an old manuscript and isnt' aware that it belongs to Sarra, a mixed race young woman who had been trapped in the mountains in the 20th century.   Jen thought she left that life behind long ago and travels back to open doors, old wounds and discover a pst she may not have been ready to face.  This book has healing, hope and warms the heart!

My favorite quote in the book: "Even when we are lost, God has not lost us.”

I rec'd a copy of this book from Tyndale for an honest review and the positive review of this book is purely my own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Planner Review - Sue Hooley/2015 Daily Planner

This easy-to-use Daily Planner is designed especially for homemakers. 

As a mother of six, Sue has learned that her day can seldom be scheduled the same as the previous day.  She can't fit every task of her day into the time slots offered in other planners. Her 2015 Daily Planner is versatile and it helps a homemaker to organize her days and duties effectively.

Features include: 

  • Two-page Weekly layout with menu planning and to-do list
  • Two-page Month layout
  • Year Calendars with place for notations
  • Perforated Shopping Lists
  • Tasks Lists and Projects & Events Sections
  • Information Section
 My Review:  From the lush floral, rustic portrait on the front cover of the daily planners, I was hooked immediately. Opening the cover to reveal the beauty inside just confirmed what I already knew - this planner is magnificent.  The inclusion of a scripture right way gives strength, solace and comfort in knowing that each day we are presented with is a gift.

I'm a busy mom!  I have a husband, 4 kids, and some super hectic schedules to juggle.  This planner is just the tool I need to keep me organized and efficient!

There are lots of planners.  But this one?  It's unique and bold and really pretty to look at ♥   In this day and age, people use electronic gadgets and phones.  But I'm old school - I like the tactile feel of an object, writing it down, recording it for memory and always being able to look back on something tangible that will be around long after the 'electronic gadgets' have broken and been replaced.  I like to write things down and record them to have for years from now, especially if inherited by my children.
The top three things among the many that stood out for me with this planner:

~ The flip tabs on the side for easy opening to the correct place each time.
The pages have small 'dog-earred' corners for you to remember the places that might be a most visited pages.

~It's truly beautiful.  Flip to any page at random and you'll find an inspiring scripture or an insightful quote.

~ The boxes to right in are big enough for several things in the busy schedule, including the menu for the day!

This will be one of my treasured items to carry within the new upcoming year!

You can find this planner and information about the author on her website.
Please check it out here!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book/Ebook/Product to review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: Miracle in a Dry Season

From the book jacket:   It's 1954 and Perla Long's arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.
Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor . . . until he meets Perla. She's everything he's sought in a woman, but he can't get past the sense that she's hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla's unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.
My review:  Debut novel? This book left me breathless!  Sarah Loudin Thomas' writing style is charming and refreshing.  Her writing style magnifies the beauty, and simplicity, of an era gone by.  I was nostalgic for such simple times of square dances, basket dinners and dances complete with banjos and men playing the spoons!  
Perla arrives in Wise, West Virginia in the 1950's after leaving behind a gossipy, wistful past and starts out to begin life anew with her daughter, Sadie, born out of wedlock.  It's not long before the new town starts to condemn and gossip, forcing Perla once again to reevaluate her life.  She's caught the eye of Casewell, one of the town's few batchelors,  but he's weary, worried and torn between feelings growing for Perla and that of what God would expect others to do - forgive.  Perla remains a a constant through-out this book in being a quiet, faithful woman of Christ and a wonderful mother to her daughter.  The small inscripts like Casewell making little doll furniture for Sadie's doll, Amy, was absolutely enchanting. 
Speckled with the harsh realities that often overcame the times, like cancers that can't be cured,  this book gives you a great insight into the times.  Sarah Thomas has done her homework - this book resonates well with the times, area and overall feel of the people in society.   If you'd love a Christian read without and overbearing message of preaching,
and a comforting, heart warming to the soul read, then I highly recommend Miracle!

*Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Hit

Book Jacket:  After receiving a full-ride scholarship to Mills College for Girls, it appears Sarah's future is all laid out before her that is until she walks into a poetry class led by Mr. Haddings, a student teacher from the nearby University of Washington. Suddenly, life on the UW campus seems very appealing, and Sarah finds herself using her poetry journal to subtly declare her feelings for Haddings. Convinced Mr. Haddings is flirting back, she sets off for school in the rain with a poem in her back pocket one that will declare her feelings once and for all.

Mr. Haddings has noticed Sarah's attention; the fallout from any perceived relationship with a student is too great a risk, and he has decided to end all speculation that morning.

But everything changes when Mr. Haddings feels a thud on his front bumper when he glances away from the road, and finds Sarah in the street with blood pooling beneath her."

My Review:    After seeing the book jacket for this book, and seeing it was inspired by a real life story,  I was literally salivating when my ARC book arrived in the mail!  I jumped right in and finished the book in a few hours as this is a rather quick read.  There are 52 chapters, based over the course of just 3 days from start to finish, packed into all of it's 215 pages.  However, some of the chapters are just a few sentences long ~ don't let the length scare you away.
The author, Lorie Ann Grover, has a new fan with me as her writing style not only clinches this book together like a present with a bow on the top, but is creative enough to make you feel like you are there on each page.   This book will definitely leave you breathless, shaking your head and cheering for setting things right after they go so terribly wrong.
Sarah, or Sares, as she is lovingly called by her family, has her future planned out after meeting her teacher Mr. Haddings.  Suddenly, life turns on a dime and becomes more poetic.  She's drawn to him and his ability to put words to paper and make them flow, something she dabbles with and keeps journals of her poetry.  She feels a connection, and sets out to tell him so when she is hit by a car on a wet rainy morning ~ an accident, but one by sheer fate, lands two people with paths already crossing on shaky ground at school crossing yet again, this time with tragic consequences.  Fate brings Sares to that crosswalk that stormy morning, and in the second Mr. Haddings looks away just for a second, his car meets here there.  And not in a good way.
While this book plays on the emotions and tugs at the heartstrings, it's not that creepy teacher-student romance that so often we read about in the news.  Is Sarah infatuated with her teacher? Yes.  She writes him a poem to tell him so, which turns out to be a catalyst in the book.  That poem, found at the scene after he tries to help Sarah while waiting on 911,  drives Mr. Haddings to do the right thing.
Hit's message is very clear to me.  Life turns on a dime, and sometimes the unexpected turns out to be the path less chosen.  The life you plan, the journey you intend to take, and the road to becoming the person you are meant to be - teenagers and adults alike - can change in an instant.   It's up to you  regardless of those circumstances to come back stronger and bolder and ready to challenge the one person who can make a difference - yourself.
It behooves me to say that fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will enjoy this book immensely.

*Disclosure: A copy of this book was  received for review purposes from Book Look. The opinions expressed in this review are purely my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Spiritual Warfare, Jesus' Way

Book Description:   Do you have problems in life that won't go away? Struggles you can't seem to overcome? It isn't surprising. Like it or not, you are immersed in an invisible war. The problem is, most of us don't know how significantly, or directly, our lives are influenced by unseen battles and beings.

Jesus Himself is our model. He taught us how to fight. Here, respected teacher and bestselling author Larry Richards draws not only from the words of Jesus, but also from His actions in dealing with evil spirits, to offer a biblical, balanced approach to spiritual warfare. Richards explains how to

· recognize the enemy's attacks today
· prepare to face the enemy
· experience big and little everyday victories
· help others who are under attack
· and more!

Easy to follow and immediately practical, this handbook will help you become an instrument of God's redemptive grace, continuing Christ's ministry of setting Satan's captives--and yourself--free

My Review:   One thing is clear from reading Spiritual Warfare, Jesus' Way,
Larry Richards is a gifted, knowledgeable writer.  Packed full of information on the subject of inner warfare, this 6 part, 20 chapter book gives insight to the questions you may have asked yourself from time to time:  Why does everything always happen to me?  It's like there is someone, or something, out to get me!

As a Christian, the topic of demons and spiritual warfare is not unfamiliar.  Larry Richards knowledge base of the bible is true and just.  In addition, he gives great insight as to his own perception and thoughts.  Demons are out there - and in many forms.  Demonic possession can take the forms of that which is the most weak:  from the Satanic to the weakness of the person, such as addictions, pornography, depression, and more.  Around chapter 13 of this book, Richards explains that struggles and troubles could be demons.  Self-loathing.  Self-hatred.  Rage.  Annoyance.  Resentment.  Yes, demons -- of them very well could be.    There are spiritual accounts that 'bear witness' to Jesus casting out demons, addressing them by name and casting them out
as a way to conquering the demons by ministering to them.  While I would have liked more detail on that issue, there is a strong biblical base for demonic possession - just peek at passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke, for example.
Don't embrace sin - don't invite it in. 

Overall, one of the chapters asks of you several simple statements:
~ Focus on Christ in your life
~ Nuture an interest in those around you
~ Accept your role as a warrior in God's invisible war.

In the battle, whatever battle it may be - whether personal (addiction, depression) or something stronger (demonic possession) or somewhere in between, this book helps you to identify how coming to know and fully trust in God and his motives is one of the tools you'll need to embrace to win the war!

With this book, you'd be best served to know it's not a quick read.  It's one that needs time, thought, and a good highlighter to remember all the points you'll want to return back to for referencing in the future. 

*Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Chosen,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Conrad and the Girl Next Door

This book is an absolute delight!   This is the second book in the series by Denette Fretz and Gene Barretta, however, this one in the series stands on it's own just fine!

From the hilariously clever lines to the bright, vivid cartoons drawn perfectly to the story line, this book draws the readers in - young and old.   The illustrator captures the essence of the writings so well with the expressions on the characters, from Conrad to the pig to the cat, etc!  All the farm mishaps and adventures are 'safe' enough for readers at any level - those reading and those being read to. 

Conrad, a young boy, goes to his Uncle Clint's ranch where he's armed with his medical kit, a sassy girl next door named Imogene, and a desire for a horse like so many of us hoped for when we were kids.  The book is a quick read, showcasing the daily adventures (and injuries, though humorously portrayed) of Conrad.  He reaches into his trusty medical kit on a daily basis to patch up himself or another cowboy on the ranch after several mishaps.

I so enjoyed this book.  My daughter is a first year teacher and we gave her a copy of this book to start her classroom library.  It's that good! 

The book's conclusion has a small vocabulary lesson which is funny and a wonderful touch - from explaining greenhorn to the Chuck Wagon song - I'm still smiling just thinking of this book.


*Disclosure: A copy of this book was  received for review purposes from Book Look. The opinions expressed in this review are purely my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Blessings of Freindship: Treasury - Book Review


From the young to the young at heart, this book is pure delight!
Mary Engelbreit is widely popular for her gorgeously detailed books, which include whimsical drawings and words of friendship, wisdom, love, scripture.  Each of the pages are bold and colorful, drawing the eye right in to the attention to detail she puts into her books.  This book is just magical.  Each of the 40 pages are a blessing indeed!
The pages are detailed with lush watercolor looks, classic Engelbreit style bold lettering and images of 'real life': boys running with their little dogs, girls in the schoolyard, playing down by the street skipping rocks on a hot day, picking flowers .......  sheer beauty in each page!  The small descriptions of friendship makes this book burst with positive words and lovely admirations for friends to share, sprinkled with quotes from famous authors, philosophers, and the bible, to name a few. 
While the book's jacket states this is 4-8 years old, this book immediately struck me as gift giving quality.  I'd proudly give this to any friend in my 40+ year age quality - it's that unique, that beautiful, that much a gift to treasure years down the road.  It would also serve as a great graduation gift,
or for the new baby born into a family.
Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher through the 
Writing a positive review was not required and any opinion associated with this review is purely my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 guidelines.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: Home Behind the Sun

From the Book JacketTimothy Willard and Jason Locy show readers how to discover the brilliance of God in the shadows of everyday lifeLife opens up before each of us, it beckons, it tempts, it thrills, it betrays. And what do we desire? All of it and none of it.

We’re not in this to survive, but to live. We want to experience joy in the everyday grind of work, relationships, and parenting. We want healing in our suffering. Forgiveness in the midst of our pains. Purpose through the journey. We want to break free from the temporal and live with an eternal perspective. We want to be brilliant.

In Home Behind The Sun coauthors Timothy Willard and Jason Locy invite you to step out of the shadows and into the brilliance. They want to introduce you to the God of the mysterious. A God who combats despair with joy, topples bitterness with forgiveness, and eliminates cynicism with belief and whimsy.

You’re invited home. Home, behind the sun.

My ReviewWhile this book landed in my lap for review purposes, I could not have imagined when I opened the cover of the very first page how much it would enlighten my life.  Yes, enlighten!   I'm a busy wife and mom with 4 kids to juggle and sometimes I have to remind myself that it's a blessing, a gift my hard-working husband has given to all of us so I could be a stay-at-home-mom.  In between the massive amounts of laundry, cooking, cleaning, more laundry, more cleaning, and oh! The dogs want a walk - again!   Life is that vast walk with God and all the entertainment that comes along with it - keeping our eyes on Him and knowing each day, no matter how hectic or convoluted or busy, there is always SUNSHINE waiting at the end. 

This book carries 14 informative and lovely chapters to read.  Each chapter is centered around a target topic, filled with scripture and anecdotes and lovely stories from the author's daily lives with their families.  I was able to see similarities and welcomed the head nods I caught myself doing with "yep, been there - I hear you." At the end of the book is a great discussion guide tool.  I'd recommend this book to adult Sunday school classes where thoughtful theological discussions would be welcomed, especially among young families and parents with children. 

There were parts of this book where reflection had me teary eyed.  The gift we call gratitude that is sometimes overlooked should be part of our daily walk.  Like the cars that are old and falling apart, yet they get us from place to place.   I love the author's reflection of "we all want something more in this life."  Often-times we may catch ourselves daydreaming of a better life, a better house, vacations we see in pictures and wonder if we will ever get there ... the list goes on.  But truthfully, there is a gift in everything, all around us. 

Read this book! You'll be enriched.  You'll fall in life with your life and all it's 'pull your hair out'  craziness.

Be brilliant ♥

About the AuthorsYou can learn more about the authors and their lives here on the website:

Disclaimer:   I was given a copy of this book for review by BookLook for an honest review. The above opinion is that of my own entirely.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: Everyday Uplifting You


Book Jacket:  What started out as a tool to bless and encourage an aunt quickly became an idea to bless as many people all over the world as possible. Everyday Uplifting you, is a book filled with daily nuggets to jumpstart your day. After watching an aunt broken due to the many obstacles she had been facing, Val decided to do something special for her and started writing nuggets for each day to show her aunt how much she is loved and remind her of the blessing that she is. The book is designed to bless, motivate, uplift and challenge you with powerful nuggets to empower you from the inside out. 
My Review:  Val Knowles' lovely book on daily blessings is a breath of fresh air!  I received a ebook version of this book and it's beauty sprang forth as I moved through each page and imagine a print copy of this book would be even more breathtaking.  The graphics are soothing and serene, beautifully photographed to match each coordinating month and date.
If you read it all on one day, like I did (for review purposes!), it's a short but moving read at just 62 pages.  I recommend the reader take one's time to go through this as intended,
month by month, blessing by blessing.  It was refreshing to look ahead at my birthday, and the birthday of my children and husbands as each day is highlighted by a passage, uplifting words and blessing. 
There is no doubt, Ms. Knowles was meant to write!  She has a gift with words and her poetic flowing of verse on paper is one to do exactly what she offers:  Uplift.  Each of us has a struggle within, no matter how large or small.  Each of us can be blessed in some way, prayed for, and pray for others.  Sometimes it's easy to get stuck on what to say,
or even knowing what's in your heart.  This is an incredible tool to open and read and remind each of us that there is the greater of goodness waiting and that God's blessings were already there!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book/Ebook/Product to review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.  

Author Bio:Val Newton Knowles was born in the beautiful island of Nassau, in the Bahamas. She is a passionate about helping people. Val's new book, "Everyday Uplifting you," is now available. Val started writing daily nuggets to encourage an aunt who had been going through some challenges, the book was such a blessing, that she decided to make it available as an encouragement for others. Val seeks to uplift, motivate and encourage to be the best they can and never allow failure to cause them too give up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Review: NIV Teen Study Bible


From the Book Cover:   The Bible keeps up with you, to help you keep up with God! As an on-the-go teen, you’re moving fast. God is moving faster! The NIV Teen Study Bible will help you keep in step with all he has done, is doing, and will do in the world—and in your life. This bestselling Bible will also help you discover the eternal truths of God’s Word and apply them to the issues you face today. Features include:
  • “We Believe”—Unpacks the Apostles’ Creed to reveal the biblical foundation of faith
  • “Panorama”—Keeps the big picture of each book of the Bible in view
  • Topical indexes—Help with in-depth Bible study
  • Book introductions—Provide an overview for each book of the Bible
  • Bible Promises—Highlighted Bible verses worth memorizing
  • Q & As—Test Bible knowledge
  • 4 full-color pages—Includes a presentation page and information about the Apostles’ Creed
  • 8-page, color map section
  • Biblical advice about friends, family, school, and other issues
  • Easy-to-read font size
  • Complete text of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.
With over 3.5 million copies sold, the Teen Study Bible continues to be a teen’s top resource for discovering the foundational truths of the Bible.

My Review:   Being a mom of 4 children, 3 of them teenagers, in today's secular world is no easy task.  The temptations, distractions, constant reminders of things they could be doing with all the electronics on the market rather than read are many!  To have a wonderfully written book like the NIV Teen Study Bible available to them is a wondrous thing! 

The NIV Teen Study opens with The Apostles Creed and it's history, which unifies us as believers of Christ and unites Christians around the world.  I know you might be thinking there are many of these on the market.  What makes this one different from all the other ones?   Well, there IS a difference!  The Teen Study Bible is 1,614 pages BIG!  In between pages 1-1614 is a multitude of information that teens NEED to read.   This book gets down in the trenches, it's straight talk with topics and hits home on more levels than I have read in other additions.  For example, one of my teen daughters has acne, so pronounced that we take her to a dermatologist who has worked with her and put her on several medicines to help her heal.  Neither her pastor or Sunday School teacher have ever brought up pimples!  But page 346 does exactly that - it talk about 'zits'!  Imagine!  From a Godly perspective, God said to Samuel in the anointing of the King, "Do not consider his appearance or his height .. The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  Straight talk, people.  Things kids want and need to hear.  They don't want lectures, or sermons that drone on,  they want to hear what is relevant to them in their daily walk, and that walk includes talks of God on their level. 

One amazing feature in this NIV Teen Study Bible is the "Dear Jordan" sections through-out the chapters where kids/teen have asked a variety of questions and Jordan answers them in matter-of-fact, non threatening ways.  Such as, what I argue, what if I'm at a party and there is drinking, what if one of my parents like me better than my siblings?   Sometimes, it is not easy to ask adults the things that kids have on their minds and lay heavy on their hearts.  The quick reference questions which are quick-fire style "Why did God kill Uzzah?" and answer "Uzzah put his hand on the ark of the covenant, which no one was allowed to touch."  Love the quick reference pro quo! In addition, the Instant Access spiritual reference is a great tool for kids to look up the references and have explanations in addition to their entire bible, book by book. 

The pages are a little thin, almost like onion-skin, so this book needs to be treated with some delicacy but it's absolute perfection in style and written with the true teenager in mind.  From open discussions of virginity, sexual promiscuity, drinking, drugs, bullying, shop-lifting, divorce, idolatry of stars, and so much more, this book just brings home all the topics you can imagine that you need to discuss with your teen and have on hand for those 'need scriptural reference' moments.  In addition to the worrisome topics, it's jam packed with the goodness as well, like serving as a Christian teen, witnessing, service projects, reaching out to others, and many more. 

I'm so blessed to have had the chance to review this teen study bible and will use this as a definite guiding tool with my own children.  This book would also benefit those working in the Christian field of teaching, Sunday schools and ministries.  It would also make an excellent gift! 

I was given a copy of this book to review.  The opinions expressed within are purely my own for an honest review of the book.

~Kelly Santi

Book Review: When I fall in love

From the Book Jacket:  Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.
My Review:  Each Summer, I find book (or three!) to toss in my bag and read at the beach or pool.  When I Fall in Love  by Susan May Warren is just that delightful book!  From the moment I opened the first page, Grace and Maxwell captured my heart and I just had to read on until the wee hours of the night!
This book is my first novel by Susan Warren but I will be scooping up the other two after reading this one!
Both characters are so detailed and richly written, they soon become like old friends.  The mystery of their meeting and consequences of them ending up in the same place and time makes you feel for the art of destiny.  As most people that meet or are 'thrown together under circumstance', both Grace and Max have a past, baggage, fears and uncertainties that they bring to the table.  As
an avid cook in the kitchen, the added flair of the cooking competition where they truly learned to master falling in love - both with cooking and one another - is written beautifully.  I honeymooned in Hawaii and I can tell you, the author's writing style and descriptions were so spot on, I felt transported back!
Thing is, God is ever present in so many of our situations.  Max was a man who struggled with a past and brought it to the pages of this book.  But Warren does an amazing job of keeping the pace and reminding us that in all things, God gives us strength.  Flawless, delightful, and a must read for those that love contemporary Christian romance with all that's good and nothing that's bad!  *5 Stars!*

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I have not been compensated.
About the Author: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.
Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives.

For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at

List Price:
Release Date:
July 2014
Page Count:
Trim Size:
5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Truth Be Told


Book Synopsis: 
When Amelia Wagner takes over her father's newspaper in 1893 Granite Springs, Arizona, she vows to carry on the paper's commitment to reporting only the truth. But Amelia soon learns that even the truth can have serious consequences. Her father's revealing articles about the Great Western Investment Company have caught the attention of the wrong people, and pressure mounts for Amelia to retract her father's statements.

Determined to find out the real story, Amelia begins her own investigation. She's joined by Benjamin Stone, a Great Western employee who's been assigned to keep tabs on her for the good of the company, a man Amelia finds both perplexing and intriguing.

What they uncover stuns them both--and has far-reaching implications for not only Ben and Amelia but all of Granite Springs. Can they reveal the truth before the enemy finds a way to silence them for good?

My Review:

This is my second novel that I've read from Carol Cox and I'm enamored with her writing style.  In Truth Be Told, she paints a picture with her words to describe rich detail of the time period.  It's as if you are walking the very streets she is writing about!
Her characters of Amelia and Ben are rich with character and style and their ensuing relationship blossoms with grace. 

Amelia arrives via train to Granite Springs to work with her father on their newspaper but soon finds herself on her own.  She holds fast to her father's words to seek only the truth, including in journalism and writing.  She soon encounters a sweet and wonderful man working for the Great Western Investment Company, the catalyst of this novel, which ends up being very company she ends up investigating!  The twists and turns of the plot make this book as wonderful as it does page-turning. Their attraction to each other is evident from the beginning but they are not able to be together due to various events and individuals that keep them apart.  This book is so refreshing in it's inclusion of cowboys and the great wild west, simplicity of life, murder, mystery, intrigue, friendships found and lost, and love finding a way through adversity and trial. 

I adore the intertwined faith that fills these wonderful pages.
The inclusion of scriptures and prayers that the characters say is refreshing!  This book is romance done right!
*Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review: Adventures Under the Mango Tree

God bless the Klepp family.  Honestly, this book moved me to my core!
I received a copy of this book for review but had no idea the sheer impact it would have on me to read it.  It's a honest, real-life approach to the biblical scriptures of humanity, selflessness, sacrifice.  From the opening pages where Mrs. Klepp shares her calling and quoting Romans 12:1-2, this book is about giving even when there isn't anything TO GIVE.  God will prevail and provide!

While this book is not earth-shattering, it's pages are filled with love and
stories of generosity, sharing, and caring.  What struck me most of all, aside from being a missionary called to do God's work abroad, is how they put so much of themselves to the side to give to others.  While Dennis battled a potentionally life threatening cancer, and most of us would not budge from the US and the medical care we have here, he and his wife went into the midst of the jungles, so rural and bare bones basic that a sheer love of God's forgotten children was enough.  The power of prayer proved to be stronger than fear
and conquered the unknown. 

I found myself applauding Lillian at times as she described taking in children who's mothers had died in childbirth, going to the neighboring cities to get supplies, even when it put her life in danger.  I had to laugh at the concept if eating outside the comforts of our fast foods and cushy supermarkets - especially when something like termites were considered a delicacy.  While I said outloud "No Thanks!", she described it with graciousness and following the plan that God obviously chose for her, bugs and all. 

I loved the addition of the pictures ~ it brought the book to life and gave it so much more realism.  This book is not all happy endings and everything coming up roses.  There are passages and chapters that will break your heart and you will need some tissues nearby.  But mostly, if you want a book that will fill your heart with pride for those that go above and beyond in the name of God and His Word, if you want a book that shows extreme sacrifice and a lesson in what we may do in our backyards, then this book is a great resource.  It's uplifting, inspirational, educational.

This book is a quick read - 21 short chapters and packs a punch in it's 106 pages.  It's a great read for students, sunday school lessons and leaders alike.

You can read more about Lillian Klepp and her mission's work

Disclaimer:  A copy of this book was provided to me (to review and give my honest opinion) by  The B&B Media Group.  The opinion expressed above is my own.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: Fly a Little Higher


Book Description:  Laura Sobiech tells the amazing story of how God used her son’s battle with cancer to touch the lives of millions.

“Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big. I want someone’s life to be changed forever.”

This is what Laura Sobiech prayed when she found out her seventeen-year-old son had only one year to live. With this desperate prayer, she released her son to God’s will.

At that point, Zach Sobiech was just another teenager battling cancer. When his mother told him to think about writing good-bye letters to family and friends, he decided instead to write songs. One of them, “Clouds,” captured hearts and changed not one life but millions, making him an international sensation.

But Zach’s story is not just about music. It’s a testament to what can happen when you live as if each day might be your last. It’s a story about the human spirit. It’s about how God used a dying boy from a small town in Minnesota to touch the hearts of millions—including top executives in the music industry, major music artists, news anchors, talk show hosts, actors, priests and pastors, and school children across the globe.

Zach once said, “I want to be known as the kid who went down fighting, and didn’t really lose.” Fly a Little Higher is about how God used Zach to do something big.

My Review:  What an absolutely astounding book.  From the first first pages, I could not control the tears or the swell of love in my heart for this mother ~ not just for the loss of her beloved son, but of her triumphant and courageous fight to let him live the life he had to live.  While Zach's life was short and he was gone too soon, this book is a glimpse inside the life he did have and how he graced so many lives.

Raised in a close-knit and loving family, Zach was surrounded by love from day one.  Being diagnosed from cancer and having to live the life of a teenager with cancer, the struggles, fear, joys, triumphs and eventually, acceptance.  His gift of song and music is a gift to the world, a legacy left for the rest of us to not only have a part of him, but the message it brings.

I've PTL never lost a child but have lost a parent to cancer way too young. 
I found many similitaries in this book to what I went through and this book was more of a self help message than I could have dreamed.  We all suffer in the journey of loss but this book makes it so profoundly easy to understand and

know that God does not want us to suffer.  He is there with us each step of the way. 

The strength of the Sobiech family and the love for this son, Zach, resonated with me long after I closed the last chapter of this book.  Make sure you have tissues nearby when you open this book!

*5 well deserved stars*

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for review by BookLook for an honest review. The above opinion is that of my own entirely.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Book Review: Plain Faith


Book Overview:  This is the true story of Ora-Jay and Irene Eash, Amish farmers from northwest Montana whose lives changed in an instant when a semi-truck struck the family buggy, killing their two young daughters. After the accident, the couple turned to their Amish community for comfort, but they remained haunted by the thought that they might not see their girls again in heaven. Would their deeds be good enough? Eventually Ora-Jay and Irene learned that grace---not works---was enough to ensure their place in eternity. But with that knowledge came the realization that they could no longer live in an Amish community that didn’t share this precious belief. Could they sever their connection to the Amish family they loved? This is the story of their journey to the hope that is heaven, a hope stronger than the loss of children, family, and a way of life. Fans of Amish fiction will appreciate such a real-life look into the Amish community, co-written by bestselling author Tricia Goyer, and readers of all kinds will resonate with this tale of courage, resilience, and the redemption found in the grace of Jesus.

Book Review:  Plain Faith is an amazing look at the Amish lifestyle from the inside looking out.  Told by the parents, Irene and Ora Jay Eash, with Tricia Goyer, it's an upclose and personal account of their story, their journey and triumph after unimaginable loss.

Even if you think you are familiar with the Amish lifestyle, this book will change what you think you know.

This book isn't a complicated read but it draws you in immediately with their down to earth, 'plain' talk.  They are such good people, the Eashes.  What happened to them could have happened to just about anyone.

But the aftermath of their story after burying their two young daughters is the 'stop and think' of this extraordinary book.  Have you ever had that feeling in your faith that something is missing?  That you attend church every Sunday, you abide by the rules of what a Christian (etc) should do and not do in the secular world yet something feels not quite right?  That's one of the ah-hah moments of this book. 

One of the points that stood out for me is when Irene stated "People saw me different when I wore my Amish kapp, or head covering.  People would see that and think "If that's what you have to share with me, then I don't want to listen."
It's an amazing moment to realize that the one true faith you've had for your entire life doesn't support you unless you live and breath THAT life.  But beyond the Amish faith, God is everywhere and in everything.  Sometimes stepping outside that life, like the Eashes did, you see it so very clearly.

This book is brave, courageous, heart-wrenching, tear inducing, thought provoking and admirable, to name just a few of it's endearing qualities.

I'd recommend this book based on it's quick, short chapters and easy flow of the book to teens in a youth groups, high school and college small groups at churches.
About the Authors:  You can read more about the authors, Irene and Ora Jay Eash here at this website:
and Tricia Goyer, author, here:
I received this book for an honest review from BookLook/Harper-Collins and was not required to write a positive review.  Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.


 Book Review by:  Kelly Santi

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Book Review: Until I found You

Book Overview:  When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life. It's Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She's not planning to get involved with one of the locals.

Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn't expect to be swept off his feet by the car's occupant. He's made a vow--no dating for a year--but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he's met Kate Darby. . . .

My Review:  I confess I had not heard of this author before reading Until I Found You , but I can also tell you that now having read it, I certainly crave for more! Although the book starts out as a typical girl in distress, guy shows up and is her knight in shining armor and saves the day (more than once!), it quickly grows into so much more. There's depth to the characters, a story line that just has you turning page and after page and a beautiful weaving of faith
into a romance that sizzles with chemistry right from the start.

Nick is the typical charming, kind and brave hero of the book. Having left behind a life he doesn't want anymore in order erase the pain of loss and the hardships of choices in the secular world, he goes on a year long self imposed 'sabatical', that is until being in the exact right place at the exact right time, he meets Kate. His world is turned upside down and the readers follows him through his connection to her and his commitment to God and the struggle that is in between.

Kate, coming to rescue her treasured Nonnie after an accident and help take care of her, ends up being the one rescued. And doesn't anticipate, or have time for, romance or meeting a gorgeous, single guy who ends up saving her life. She brings as much heartache and pain from the past to the table as Nick does and together, they try to find their way in the journey of the world with a lot of twist and turns along the way.

This book is never quiet. It just builds from one momentum to another. From the beautiful analogy and lifelong love of the condor birds to the relationship of her best friend and longing for children, the author does a great job of building a story, developing the richness of her characters. You will absolutely fall in love with these two characters and their story. When you close the book after the last page, you will hope for a sequel!!

One of my favorite quotes in this book was Kate's grandma telling her "When all is said and done, the biggest pieces of this life are beyond our understanding. In the end, we're left with a choice. We can think life is a string of random events or we can believe God has a plan in our lives." That theme resonates through-out this book and makes it refreshing and lovely.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”            You can read more about Victoria Bylin here.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

From the book Jacket:  "If our families are to flourish, we will need to learn and practice ways of forgiving those who have had the greatest impact upon us: our mothers and fathers."Do you struggle with the deep pain of a broken relationship with a parent?
Leslie Leyland Fields and Dr. Jill Hubbard invite you to walk with them as they explore the following questions:
  • What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Why must we forgive at all?
  • How do we honor those who act dishonorably toward us, especially when those people are as influential as our parents? Can we ever break free from the "sins of our fathers"?
  • What does forgiveness look like in the lives of real parents and children? Does forgiveness mean I have to let an estranged parent back into my life? Is it possible to forgive a parent who has passed away?
Through the authors' own compelling personal stories combined with a fresh look at the Scriptures, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers illustrates and instructs in the practice of authentic forgiveness, leading you away from hate and hurt toward healing, hope, and freedom. 
"A call to very hard, but very vital, work of the soul."
--Dr. Henry Cloud, leadership expert, psychologist, and best-selling author
"Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers is essential reading for anyone who wants to deal with those hurts in a constructive, healing, and God-honoring manner."
--Jim Daly, president, Focus on the Family
"Leslie Leyland Fields and Jill Hubbard take us into raw, messy stories so we can be transformed by that mysterious and painful grace in the force called forgiveness."
 --Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary
My Review:    Have you ever thought about forgiveness and said "I did nothing wrong, someone else did!"  Have you asked yourself "Why read yet another book on forgiveness?  How exactly do I move past the hurt?  What do you mean make amends?"   Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie Leyland Fields and Dr. Jill Hubbard will not only shed light on that very idea, but give you the tools for incredible leaps towards closing the forgiveness gap.

This book is so refreshing in it's wonderful inclusion of faith and scriptural
strength without being over the top.  It's subtle enough to understand God's desires for us to forgive those that have trespassed against us but firm in
the reasons why and hopes for forgiveness.   I nodded in agreement as they equated forgiveness with Jonah's journey and how sometimes being so dutifully wrapped up in the inability to forgive, we miss essential ways to move beyond.  Dreams are misguided, life goes off course, hopes seems lost.  However, rather than live with a hardened heart, we must look past the hurt, albeit is absolutely warranted in it's reason, and focus more on what Jesus asks of us:  Forgive us our debts.  He is the life and breath that we take and in each of those intakes, we must offer love and redemption - even if it's only for ourselves.

The inclusion of thought provoking Study Questions at the end of the chapters is a nice touch.  It expands on the topics discussed in the chapters and allows you to apply it to your own life and circumstances, giving much room for thought and processing.  While enlightening, I did find this book heavy on the personal stories (of author Leslie Fields) and countless stories included in this book from others around the globe.   What I took away from this book is in forgiving others, you have the incredible ability to let go.  You can let go of the pain, the hurt, and move on towards a better quality of life.  To humble ourselves and show mercy in offering that forgiveness is freeing. 

I received this book for an honest review from BookLook/Harper-Collins and was not required to write a positive review.  Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.