Friday, July 25, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway

I stumbled across this book on Netgalley and, having just watched Austenland, decided to give it a try. Here's a blurb and we'll chat on the otherside:)

Shelby Roswell, a Civil War historian and professor, is on the fast track to tenure—that is, until her new book is roasted by the famous historian Ransom Fielding in a national review. With her career stalled by a man she’s never met, Shelby struggles to maintain her composure when she discovers that Fielding has taken a visiting professorship at her small Southern college.

Ransom Fielding is still struggling with his role in his wife’s accidental death six years ago and is hoping that a year at Shelby’s small college near his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, will be a respite from the pressures of Ivy League academia. He never bargained for falling in love with the one woman whose career—and pride—he injured, and who would do anything to make him leave.

When these two hot-headed southerners find themselves fighting over the centuries-old history of local battles and antebellum mansions, their small college is about to become a battlefield of Civil War proportions.

I'll admit to a slow-start for this book for me. I struggled to connect with the characters, even though there was a good bit of conflict between them at the beginning. It truly opened as all good books should, but I still had a bit of disconnect and found the first few chapters slow.

But then Ransom snagged me with one of his glances at Shelby. Their interactions and banter began to fly off the page, and while the voice of this author was slightly different than what I typically read, her characters began to beg me to turn the pages. The slow beginning was forgotten, and I fell for the budding relationship between Ransom and Shelby. At the same time, a sub-plot deepened conflict within the story providing a great external issue that nearly tore apart our hero and heroine. It was well written and woven throughout, well timed, and believable.

I closed the last page with a true smile on my face and the feeling like I'd really spent time with these characters. I loved the depth of their relationship. Mary Jane created unique individuals and gave them small interactions (rings, greenhouses, diaries, it, you'll see) with huge meaning. It was those special touches I believe I loved the most.

I happily give Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits 4 out of 5 stars and will be soon picking up the sequel:) You can purchase it here. Happy reading this weekend!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

Reminds me of those trust falls we'd do as team building exercises. Except here there's no one stepping away as a joke or because they weren't paying attention. Nope. He will catch us every time with his "everlasting arms". 

All we have to do is let go:)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Things Unseen

I have a prayer journal. Some of my prayers in it seem like a lifetime of prayer has gone into them and I'm still waiting to see answers. And I'm not going to lie, I fight frustration and discouragement over God even listening? Why is it that I can pray, and pray, and pray some more and yet see nothing happen?

God and I were having this discussion on my walk this morning, and he whispered to my soul. (I appreciated the fact that he whispered in a loving tone rather than becoming frustrated back at me...he is such an awesome God. I want to be more like him!)

Ok...small digression there, but here's what my heart quietly heard him say:

"Is nothing really happening? Or can you just not see with your eyes what I am doing?" And he followed that with:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

It's not like I don't know that verse. I know it very well. In fact, I have the confidence in what I hope for down pat. I know that I know that I know God can and will accomplish all he's promised. He's God. There is nothing he cannot do. I am beyond confident in that fact.

But that's what led me to my frustration. If I know he can do anything but nothing is happening, then he must not be listening, doesn't care, or...doesn't want to use me. (gulp) Right?

Wrong. See, it's the second half of that verse I need to work on. God is moving...alllll the time. He's working things we cannot even begin to see in preparation to bring us to the place we can see. He's putting people in places. He's stringing together events. He's arranging moments. We need to have assurance that beyond what's visible, God is still working our answers. We don't need to see his movement to believe he's still working. Oh, we want to (desperately at times) but our faith shouldn't be contingent on our eyes.

And that's what that verse is saying.

Do we believe always with a steadfast assurance? Even when the answer isn't immediately evident? Or does our faith rely solely on what God can tangibly deliver? 

For me I fall in the middle. There are times where my faith is red hot and then there are times like today where I question. I beg for him to show me his work. Yet I need to rest in his timing and allow the assurance of my faith to cradle my discouraged heart. Because that's when my faith grows. When that red hot burns bright. Above all, I want a faith that holds in all circumstances.

So I'll take the assurance that he is currently working beyond what I see, and I'll not only keep praying but begin praising. Because if I believe he's working those answers, then I'm going to take my faith a step farther and begin praising him for them before they are visible. 

And amen.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with this? Ready to start praising him for the answers before you even see them?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant

So while traveling to Florida last month I needed a book to listen to and chose A February Bride. Here's the blurb and then we'll chat:)

Allie left the love of her life at the altar—to save him from a lifetime of heartbreak. When a Valentine’s Day wedding brings them back together, she struggles against her family’s destructive history. Can Allie ever realize that a marriage is so much more than a wedding dress? History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day—in the same dress passed down for generations and worn by all the women in her family—women with a long history of failed marriages. Allie loves Marcus, but fears she’s destined to repeat her family’s mistakes. She can’t bear to hurt Marcus worse. Marcus Hall never stopped loving Allie and can only think of one reason she left him at the altar—him. When the two are thrown together for his sister’s Valentine’s Day wedding, he discovers the truth and realizes their story might be far from over. Can Allie shuck expectation and discover who she is as a bride and in the Bride of Christ? And if she ever walks down the aisle, what dress will she wear?

This was honestly the first interaction I had with Betsy St. Amant as an author, and I truly enjoyed her sweet novella. The characters and their voices were clear, the story moved at a good pace, and there were several moments that made me smile. The main character, Allie, has a lot to overcome in these few pages, and she manages to do it in a believable manner. Her family...well, I can see why she'd shy away from them and how they maybe, just maybe, have given her a complex. Watching Allie struggle with the idea that God has a new plan for her--separate from the mistakes of her family--was a hope-filled storyline that had me rooting for her. And the love and forgiveness of Marcus? He was the perfect hero for this heroine. A beautiful picture of love.

Overall, this bridal series has been a great way to become acquainted with new authors in a short sitting and at a wonderful price. And because I so enjoyed this book and Betsy's voice as an author, I am eagerly anticipating her next release with Zondervan: All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes. It's debuting this fall, but here's a short blurb. I'm sure I'll be highlighting it here too:)

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.
But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.
As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away.
The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

Isn't that a cute cover? And I love the title and premise. I will definitely be picking it up! You can pre-order All's Fair here and purchase the novella A February Bride here. Enjoy and I hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I'm breaking from my normal CS Lewis quotes today because this quote stopped me this week:

Lysa used this quote to remind us that every day we are building character. Each decision we make, each word we speak or action we take shapes how others see us.  It reminded me of this verse:

Matthew 7:20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. 

No, we aren't perfect. But we can do our best to make good decisions that birth great descriptions that ultimately point people back to God. That means loving when others are unloveable. Biting our tongue when we want to unleash it. And apologizing whenever we've been wrong--because we will be, plenty. (Big ol' hand raising going on over here!)

What decisions are you making today?

Monday, July 14, 2014


Just the other day I was going to snap a picture of a rock and post it to Instagram with the caption: "Life"
(It wouldn't have been nearly as pretty as the picture to the right, but I only had my yard to work with.)

Sometimes it can feel like that, though, can't it? Jagged and hard. Unyielding. Even a boulder in our path. Life can be tough.

But then God started speaking His version on rocks...

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

Truly my soul finds rest in God;

    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matthew 7: 24-25

And suddenly this is the picture I started to see:

His cross. His strength. And He continued driving the point home for anything that stood like a rock on my path other than Him.

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jeremiah 23:29

See, there's no rock on our paths that God cannot handle. There's no roughness in our lives that God cannot soften. There's nothing He cannot break or bend...if it needs breaking and bending--and yes, that includes in our hearts and wills too.

But here's the other thing about rocks. They can be used as a beautiful picture of remembrance.

 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ Joshua 4:19-22

In fact, I have a pile of them myself from moments God's done some pretty amazing things in my life. And that's the thing about satan, he always wants to take things of beauty and wrap them in his lies. But God's truth always prevails.

What rocks do you have standing in your path today? Is life feeling like it's hard and unyeilding? Grab one of the verses above and start speaking it to whatever situation you're in. Then pick up a stone and use it to remember what God has brought you through, His faithful promises, and the strength He pours into you.

And if you have one, I'd love to hear your favorite verse for going through a time of struggle or even what you may keep as your own personal "stone of remembrance".

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Before I start, I have the name of my June Bookshelf Winner...

Michelle Tuller!!

Michelle, pick a book from my June Bookshelf, and then Facebook, email or leave it here and I'll be in touch! I'll have another giveaway for July as a HUGE thank-you to all of my friends out there. Wish I could buy you all a book...or chocolate...or coffee...

Ok. I digress. But I need to refocus because I am SO happy to review this debut! I've had the pleasure of meeting many, many wonderful people through ACFW and Kristy Cambron is one of them. I met her at my very first conference when we both had big dreams in front of us. I am uber-excited to say a portion of Kristy's came true this week with the release of her book The Butterfly and the Violin. Here's a blurb, and then we can chat on the other side:)

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the
altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction
reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a
painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William
Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the
key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly
unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and
daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything
when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of
prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds
beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in
the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

I literally could not wait to get my hands on this book and the moment I did, it drew me in. Starting in present day, Kristy not only pulls you in to a modern day romance, but then introduces a parallel one taking place during WWII. Both couples enticed me as did the mystery surrounding the painting and Adele. It is truly a story that captivates.

But not simply because of the beautiful love stories. No. The Butterfly and the Violin somehow breathes beauty into the middle of horror. The in-depth look into Auschwitz and the unspeakable horrors that happened there is tackled in such a way that we see the undefeatable human spirit when it's interwoven with God's Holy Spirit. Kristy never shied away from the depths of Auschwitz but tackled them head on and yet didn't leave us there. We can only see true hope and love against the backdrop of the absence of it, and this is what Kristy somehow captures.

I highly recommend this book. Chapters flow between two time periods and with the exception of one minor section (where we jump back even farther in Adele's life) they do this seamlessly. A beautiful debut that pulls you in and won't let go until the last page. I look forward to the second in this series.

I give The Butterfly and the Violin 5 out of 5 stars and if you'd like to purchase it, you can do so here.

Kristy was taken with the WWII Era as a young girl. Her grandfather was a B-17 co-pilot in the war and she remembers the stories he’d so often tell. Years later, she came across the lost art of Auschwitz while studying for her undergraduate degree in Art History. She didn’t know if then, but more than a decade later, God would remind her of the heart of this book. In the wee hours of the morning in early 2013, it came alive once again. She writes WWII and Regency Era Christian fiction titles and is so grateful that they placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests (Inspirational Categories)!  She's been a contributing author on since 2012, and still post there with her Regency friends from time to time. In her day career, she's a Communications Consultant for a Fortune-100 Company — so along with fiction, she gets to write and do cool aesthetic design all day long!

To learn more about Kristy, you can visit her at her website,