Friday Flashback

Undone 2

I finished reading Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life by Michele Cushatt a few days ago. I cannot even begin to tell you the impact this book had on me.

I would give this book 100 stars were that possible.

Michele writes with a raw openness rarely seen in books. Her memoir is not sugar coated; in fact, at times it is downright gritty. This grittiness and openness allow her to reach out to the reader and make a profound impact.

Her story resonates with truth and fear, hope and disillusionment, faith and doubt, turmoil and peace.

We, the reader, are able to follow Michele through her journeys of marriage and divorce, single life as a parent, remarriage, adoptive parenting and cancer. An unrelenting, recurring and mind-numbing story of cancer, yet, through it all, you feel her drawing closer to God and learning to lean on Him more each day.

Michele’s story is not all sadness and gloom, though; there are many, many instances where her humor and wit shine radiantly through her story.

You will laugh, cry and reread the book many times because one reading only skims the tip of the iceberg. You will want to digest her little gems of wisdom and truth scattered throughout Undone.

I know the Lord brought this book to my attention because I needed to hear the truths within.

The blurb on the back includes this line: “The secret to peace is finding eyes to see.” Michele has found the eyes; I pray that I will, too.

Michele’s story is indescribable.  You can read about Michele here. She is heroic, awesome and God-loving.

I received this book free from Zondervan for being a member of Michele’s launch team.

**********This was originally printed on March 2, 2015**********

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Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge by Karen Ehman

Zip It

Publisher’s Summary

Zip It empowers readers to put into action the advice and commands of Scripture concerning the tongue. The New York Times bestselling book Keep It Shut covered many topics, including anger, truth-telling, people-pleasing, our digital tongues online, and gossip. Because there are more than 3,500 verses in the Bible that relate to our words and our silence, Keep It Shut only scratched the surface of these issues. Karen Ehman now takes a deeper look and offers practical how-to’s that will inspire you to use your words to build, to bless, to encourage, and to praise.

Each of the forty interactive entries includes a Scripture verse focus for the day, a story or teaching point, and reflection questions with space for readers to write their answers and thoughts. Each entry ends with both a challenge that will help you carry out the directive in the verse and a prayer prompt. Rather than a traditional devotional, the entries in Zip It build upon each other, equipping you with new habits in how to, or not to, use words.

My Review

Zip It is a forty-day devotional on how to tame the tongue. Each day’s chapter ends with a wrap-up that includes Today’s Takeaways, Lesson for the Lips, Challenge and Prayer. In addition, there are spaces to write your contemplations and answers.

The book is easy to follow and understand in its approach and style. The author uses cute, but apt analogies and rewording to create a word that succinctly describes her message. For example, she uses wordrobe as a way to describe the words in our thought closet that we commonly use.

As I read the book, I was convicted in several instances. A lot of times we don’t stop to think of the true meaning of a word or Scripture verse. If we did, we wouldn’t react the way we do. Zip It does an impressive job of getting to the meat of the matter and explaining the fallacies inherent in not understanding the truth.

Zip It is Karen Ehman’s follow up to Keep It Shut. However, I don’t feel it’s necessary to read it first. In fact, I cannot imagine what gems and truths may be found within the first book since the second was so appositely written.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A Love to Treasure by Kimberly Rose Johnson

A Love to Treasure

Publisher’s Summary

School teacher Nicole Davis is on summer break, but this vacation is unlike any other. Her beloved Grandmother’s final wish has landed Nicole smack in the middle of her favorite destination—Sunriver, Oregon, following Grams’s clues on a mysterious scavenger hunt. Unexpectedly, Nicole finds more than just a fellow sleuth in a handsome police officer, Mark Stone. But Mark must return to his job in Portland at summer’s end, and Nicole must guard her heart.

Mark is hoping for a quiet summer in Sunriver as he contemplates his future in law enforcement, but a string of burglaries draws him from his self-imposed break from detective work and thrusts him into the middle of the investigation. To complicate matters, Nicole is in jeopardy, and he knows his growing feelings for her could cloud his judgment. Will their differing career goals be the end of their summer romance—or just the beginning of forever after?

My Review

Nicole Davis is on summer break from her teaching position and vacationing at her favorite place, Sunriver Oregon. However, Nicole is there because of her Grandmother’s scavenger hunt, and not because she really wants to be. Her grandmother set up the hunt, before her death, hoping to curtail Nicole’s workaholic tendencies.

Mark Stone, a Portland police detective, is in Sunriver, Oregon, working as a street cop. Trying to forget what brought him there, he is anticipating an undisturbed summer in a quiet little town. Instead, he finds himself in the middle of an investigation he wants no part of.

I enjoyed how Kimberly Rose Johnson presents a unique twist to her romantic suspense novel. A young, career-focused woman is forced out of her comfort zone by a scavenger hunt. She has few clues, and it seems as if everyone is in on the secrets except her. A career police detective wants to scale back from his duties in a big city and comes to a seemingly idyllic town. All is not as it seems, and when you throw in a troubled teen and his cousin, two self-proclaimed party lovers and a string of burglaries, you have a recipe for mystery, mayhem and magnetism.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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To Gain a Valentine by Tanya Eavenson

To Gain a Valentine

Publisher’s Summary

Pediatrician Patrick Reynolds works wonders with sick children, yet when it comes to pets, he’s clueless. But caring for his sister’s menagerie while she’s on vacation is the perfect answer to working through a broken engagement. Hoping to escape the memories, he returns to his hometown, the last place he’d expect to find love.

Life as a single mom is never easy, but pet shop owner Amabelle Durand has found contentment. When an old friend returns to care for his sister’s pets, he enlists her assistance to keep the animals alive. But when Amabelle’s young daughter falls ill, she finds herself attracted to more than the handsome pediatrician’s medical skills.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, will Patrick and Amabelle miss out on the love they’ve always desired? Or will their love take flight under the stars on this very special night?

My Review

Tanya Eavenson reintroduces us to Patrick, who had a pivotal role in To Gain a Mommy. He comes back to his hometown to assist his sister while she’s on vacation. He is trying to put hurts and disillusionment behind him, but how can he when he keeps losing his nephew’s pets? HIs character is so lovable, he’s a great pediatrician, but he’s a lousy pet keeper. However not for lack of trying. How was he to know that in addition to hamsters, lizards and parakeets, there would be a suitcase and clothes eating Lab?

Amabelle Durand is a struggling single mom and the busy owner of a pet shop. When her daughter, Abby, falls ill, she seeks the help of Patrick since the nearest doctor is an hour’s drive away.

I enjoyed To Gain a Valentine, book two in the Gaining Love Series. The story is short, only 93 pages, but a lot is packed into those pages. You will find laugh out loud moments, along with some anger and a few “aww” moments, too.

If you are looking for a quick story and sweet clean romance, then you will want to check out Tanya Eavenson’s newest novella.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Because You’re Mine by Colleen Coble

because-youre-mine

Publisher’s Summary

Amid the beauty of Charleston, not all is as it seems.

When her husband Liam is killed by a car bomb while their Celtic band is on tour in Charleston, singer and Irish beauty Alanna doesn’t quite know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but Alanna knows she can’t lose the only piece of Liam she has left.

Alanna’s manager offers her a marriage of convenience to obtain U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution until she arrives at the family home of her new husband—a decaying mansion with more questions than answers.

Strange things begin happening that threaten Alanna’s life and the life of her child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is something more sinister at work?

A mysterious painting, a haunting melody, and a love stronger than death leave Alanna questioning where darkness ends and light begins.

My Review

Alanna Connolly, on tour in America, is four months pregnant when her husband, Liam, and his best friend go for a ride.  Just minutes after their concert, a strategically placed bomb causes the car to explode.

Alanna doesn’t know what to do or where to go; her in-laws are threatening to take her baby-her only connection to Liam-and she needs to find a way to support herself and the baby. When her band manager, Barry Kavanagh, a wealthy Charlestonian attorney, offers her a marriage of convenience and legal assistance, she jumps at the chance.

Set in historic Charleston, Colleen Coble weaves a story of mystery and suspense evocative of low country folklore. As you read the richly illustrated Because You’re Mine, you are transported to muggy, humid Southern days, redolent with the images of brackish water, chirruping insects, croaking frogs and a splashing alligator. Also, the imagery of the once stately mansion, now in sad disrepair, transports you to a bygone era, leaving a feeling of sadness and despair.

The haunting imagery and eerie, suspenseful tale, with its creepy folklore, will have you on the edge of your seat as you read.

I enjoyed reading Because You’re Mine. Although aspects of the book are seemingly predictable, the outcome is still shocking. There are some spine-chilling, macabre and unnerving events in the book. Nonetheless, it added to the overall edginess and tension.

I received this book free through the Fiction Guild program in exchange for an honest review.

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The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco

the-dog-who-was-there

About the Book

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before.

Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman-occupied Judea.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

My Review

The Dog Who Was There is written in a simple, easy to understand style, from the perspective of Barley, a dog living in Jerusalem just prior to and immediately following the crucifixion of Christ.

The story is unique and endearing in its viewpoint. As you read Barley’s story you get caught up in the imagery, remarkably told and eloquently described in the book.

One section touched me as one of the characters described their definition of despair; “. . . despair is so difficult to let go of because it helps us to justify the worst things inside of us. We think: I lack, so I can steal. I hurt, so I can injure. I failed at one thing, so now watch me destroy my whole life. . .But when despair is gone, we cannot help but change. We simply must.” I feel this is a sad treatise on their and our society.

Ron Marasco does an incredible job of presenting the story through the eyes of Barley. He captures Barley’s actions and thoughts in a way that you can easily believe if you have ever been around a dog.

The Dog Who Was There is an out of the ordinary story that is very interesting, challenging and inspiring.

I received this book free through the Fiction Guild program in exchange for an honest review.

 

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To Gain a Mommy (Gaining Love Book 1)

to-gain-a-mommy

About the Book

They had a plan, but will it work?

Thirteen years ago, pediatrician Hope Michaels was the fool-hearted girl who came home from college to learn the man she loved was engaged to her twin. But now to move on with her life and accept a proposal of marriage, she must confront the one man who holds the key to the wounds of her past.

Fire Captain Carl McGuire can put out any flame, except for the one Hope sparks within him. As she stirs up his life and heart, Carl knows some things never change. Even a past he’d rather keep hidden.

When a new neighbor moves in across the street who would be a perfect fit for their family, Mary and Brody form a plan to bring their dad and Hope together. But how will it work if Hope keeps pushing him away?

My Review

Widower Carl McGuire is trying to carry on after the death of his wife, Faith. He and his children, Mary and Brody, are getting on with their lives, until Hope Michaels moves in across the street, throwing everyone’s life into an uproar.

Hope relocated her pediatric firm back to her hometown to be close to her Mom. Little did she know, she would be moving across the street from the only man she had ever loved, the one who betrayed her and broke her heart.

I really enjoyed To Gain a Mommy. The children were so true to life. Mary is twelve with a going on 20 attitude and Brody is eight, and loves dogs, and don’t even get me started on Hope’s dog, Goldie. She is such a sweetheart! I appreciated feeling as if I was getting to know each character, and in getting to know them, to also understand why they chose certain paths or behaved a particular way.

Even though this is a novella, the characters are well rounded. As you read the story, you become invested in their pains, hopes and dreams.

Tanya Eavenson has written a short (only 93 pages), sweet story of heartbreak, betrayal and redemption. To Gain a Mommy is a quick read and a great book to curl up with on a lazy day.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Elusive Miss Ellison (Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace) by Carolyn Miller

the-elusive-miss-ellison

About the Book

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

My Review

Lavinia Ellison, the daughter of St. Hampton Heath Village’s pastor, isn’t affected by riches or looks. She believes in helping the poor, living modestly and owning up to your obligations.

Nicholas Stamford, Earl to St. Hampton Heath Village, just wants to turn his duties over to his bailiff and be done with it, but he is thwarted at every turn.

I particularly enjoyed Lavinia’s wit and somewhat sharp tongue. Critical of those not living up to their legal and moral responsibilities, she often had an acerbic tone. However, she was equally as condemnatory of her own failings.

Sprinkled throughout the tale are rich portrayals of the villager’s pitiable homes and the landscape of the area juxtaposed against the detailed narrative of the aristocrat’s estates and opulent lifestyle, leaving you feeling the despair and sadness against which Lavinia struggled.

An impressively written story rich in history, the book abounds with faith, aspirations, romance and just the right amount of intrigue and family mystery. It is so well written, I had a hard time comprehending this was Carolyn Miller’s debut novel.

The main character’s development, tempered by their faith added a unique perspective to this tale.

Regency Era fans will love Carolyn Miller’s debut book, The Elusive Miss Ellison.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The California Gold Rush Romance Collection

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Treasures Worth More than Gold by Amanda Barratt, Angela Bell, Dianne Christner, Anne Greene, Linda Farmer Harris, Cynthia Hickey, Pam Hillman, Jennifer Rogers Spinola and Jaime Jo Wright

california-gold-rush

About the Book

Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?

My Review

Everyone, from all walks of life, is caught up in gold fever during the California gold rush. The California Gold Rush Romance Collection richly captures a slice of life during this tumultuous and exciting time in American history.

Nine authors come together to give a unique perspective on the robust era of the gold rush.

Amanda Barratt pens the story of Lorena Quinn, in The Price of Love. Lorena is a struggling new reporter who jumps at the chance to cover the gold rush and to prove her boss wrong. Women don’t need men to take care of them, even if the woman is unbecoming with unfashionably red hair.

The Best Man in Brookside by Angela Bell focuses on Donovan, an Irish immigrant to England. However, Donovan had to flee England after being falsely accused of theft. He feels himself a failure for having to leave his little sister and wants to vindicate himself. So, he seeks his fortune in gold in America, hoping to free himself and his sister.

Civilizing Clementine by Dianne Christner, introduces us to Clementine Cahill, forced to return to San Francisco with her Chilean friends after her father is injured in a logging accident. Motherless Clementine begins to feel betrayed when her invalid father badgers her to clean up her grammar and start wearing dresses.

Ann Green’s story, The Marriage Broker and the Mortician, opens with the robbery of Eve Malloy, while she was at a boarding house. Rafe Riley, happening upon the scene 15 minutes later, offers to assist her and takes her to dinner when none of the multitudes of men at the boarding house seem to care.

Jo Bass is made known to us in The Lye Water Bride by Linda Farmer Harris. Jo and her brother Thaddeus run the local bank. However, Thaddeus falls ill, leaving Jo with the chore of caring for day-to-day operations.

Cynthia Hickey writes the story of Rose McIroy in A Sketch of Gold. Poor Rose is forced to cut her hair to hide her muliebrity. She can’t believe her father’s latest get rich quick scheme involves trying to pass her off as a male and call her boy all the time.

Pam Hillman’s tale, Love is a Puzzle, presents the story of Shanyn Duvall and her aunt who traveled from the tip of South America to Sacramento in the hopes of seeing Shanyn’s father. They learn he has passed away, and during this time, Sacramento is not a friendly town for two single women.

The Golden Cross by Jennifer Rogers Spinola centers on Ming and her uncle, who travel from China to California. Ming feels God called her to be a missionary to America, and her uncle is hoping they can find riches in the gold-rich state.

Golden Haven Heiress, by Jamie Jo Wright, is about Jack Taylor and Thalia Simmons, residents of a ghost town. Thalia, trying to escape her past, moved to Golden Haven to be left alone, then Jack shows up and disrupts her peaceful life.

The stories in the Gold Rush Collection differs in their seriousness of Biblical applications. However, each author does a fitting job of presenting Christian principles.

I thoroughly delighted in each story and each author’s interpretation of the gold rush time frame. I also enjoyed the ability to read as many or as few stories as I wanted in one sitting.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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At Your Request by Jen Turano

at-your-request

About the Book

After her father lost the family’s fortune, Wilhelmina was cast out of the fashionable set and banished to the wallflower section. Taking a position as a social secretary to help support her family, she’s mostly come to terms with her new status. But when her old friend Edgar returns to New York society for the first time since she rejected his marriage proposal, she’s newly ashamed at how far she’s fallen–and how hastily she dismissed him years ago. Her strategy is to avoid a face-to-face encounter at all costs, but he seems to have other plans. Will Edgar take advantage of their now reversed positions and make her regret her refusal, or is there still hope for a friendship between them–or something more?

At Your Request is an e-only novella that gives an exciting introduction to Jen Turano’s new Gilded Age historical romance series, Apart From the Crowd! Includes an extended excerpt of the first full-length novel in the series, Behind the Scenes.

My Review

Jen Turano introduces us to Wilhelmina Radcliff and her friends in the novella, At Your Request. Wilhelmina, after her father’s fall from grace, has also fallen, from being a valued party and society participant to being banished to the wallflower section.

I laughed out loud several times at Wilhelmina and Permilia Griswold’s antics while falling in love with their stories.

Wilhelmina is a funny, enlightened and charismatic character, the story enchanting and delightful! I can’t wait to read the series being introduced by this novella, as I will get to see more of Wilhelmina and her entertaining friends.

Ms. Turano has managed to take a short story (only 105 pages) and makes you feel as if you are right there in the book. She richly describes the society snobs of New York, the feelings of despair and the joy of outsmarting the local social climbers.

At Your Request is a quick read, and it is currently free on Kindle (be sure to double check before clicking)! If you enjoy historical fiction with a dash of humor amongst a serious story, you are sure to enjoy this novella.

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