Friday, February 28, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Life Support by Candace Calvert

It's been a little bit since I've picked up a Candace Calvert book, and when I saw she had a new one coming out, I realized how much I'd missed reading her. So I snatched it up and read it this week. You  know the drill, here's the blurb and we'll chat on the other side:)

Nurse Lauren Barclay put her life on hold to keep a watchful eye on her troubled sister. It’s why she’s back in Houston. But that means confronting the brooding physician assistant who caused painful turmoil in her family--and left Lauren with memories her heart can’t forget.

PA and single parent Elijah Landry is no stranger to stormy relationships, including one with his father, who is threatening him with a restraining order. It won’t stop Eli from protecting his disabled brother--or from making peace with Lauren. He wants that and so much more.

But as Lauren and Eli draw closer, a powerful hurricane roars toward Houston. Survival instincts take priority and everything changes. Can hope weather the storm?

As far as medical romantic suspense, Candace writes it, and writes it well. Being a retired ER nurse, she more than knows her stuff. It helped keep a quick pace to this book, because something is always happening.

For me, however, I think that is where the book lost a little. At times it felt there were too many story lines going on, and that detracted from Lauren and Eli's story. Could this be because Candace wrote their story so well I only wanted to see more of them? Quite possibly:) And while I liked the secondary characters, and their stories dealt with some very important topics, I didn't want to see all of their points of view. I would have preferred to deepen Eli and Lauren's time together on page and perhaps lessen one of the subplots that takes place.

That said, the book still more than held my attention. Putting everyone into the eye of a storm mimicked not only what was happening in so many of the characters' lives, but also kept the suspense angle moving. I truly loved how the theme of storms in our lives and trusting God to handle them was woven throughout the entire story.

All in all, Candace is an author I thoroughly enjoy reading and highly recommend to my friends. I will definitely be going back and reading the second book in this series--it's the only one of hers I've missed.

I happily give Life Support 4 out of 5 stars. If you're looking for a weekend read, you can purchase it here.

Former ER nurse, wife, Mom and proud grandmother, Candace Calvert believes that love, laughter, and faith are the best medicines. Her popular medical fiction offers charismatic characters, pulse-pounding drama, romance, humor, suspense--and a prescription for hope. Think, “Grey’s Anatomy finds its soul.” She is . . .

A Northern California native who spent several years in Hill Country Texas--where she learned to check her shoes for scorpions and plucked an armadillo from her swimming pool. Thinks cruising is the best way to travel: honeymooned in Venice, swam with stingrays, rode a camel at the pyramids, and sang (badly) with a Newfoundland country band. She’s passionate about cooking, loves bird watching, gardening, and gets goose bumps when her handsome husband hits the low notes at karaoke.  She writes inspirational fiction because . . .

God blessed her with a quirky wit, buoyant optimism, and a contagious sense of fun--but she didn’t come to know him until after the Triple Whammy that turned her life into a bad country song. A painful and unexpected divorce, the Northern California floods of 1997, and (just when she was coping like a champ, no problem) an equestrian accident that left her with fractured ribs, a bleeding lung, broken back, neck fractures and a spinal cord injury. She’ll tell you that God took drastic measures to get her attention.

In the months of rehabilitation, Candace healed in body and spirit. And came to fully understand the difference between being a strong woman and a woman of strength. The difference is faith, and that lesson has been her biggest blessing. Her story, “By Accident,” appears in Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, and launched her writing career. Now . . .

She is honored to bring readers medical fiction that offers exciting entertainment and a healthy dose of hope. If you'd like to learn more about Candace, check out her website, here.

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Quotable Wednesdays

So often we think we don't have an answer, forgetting we are asking the One who is our answer.
Praying you lean into Him for all your needs today.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Books of the Bible

Let me start by saying I was working on another blog post, a devotional, but God put a bit of a kabosh on it. Which led to this short post.

I was sitting in church this morning and we were asked to turn to Malachi. My 13 year old son was beside me and I asked him if he knew where it was--yes, I knew, but I wanted to see if he knew.

He didn't.

Now. We homeschool. And I've taught him a lot of things. But I'm sorely missing out on some important stuff if the boy doesn't know where the books of the Bible are. I thought we'd had this one down, apparently not. Problem is, he has an iTouch with an electronic Bible in it. All good. I like a hard copy myself, but I'm not opposed to electronic. I am, however, opposed to the fact that it keeps him from flipping through the pages to find what he's looking for. And yes, I know there's a table of contents, but there's just something different about having to run through the pages of other books to get there. Call me old-fashioned. It's okay. I can handle it:)

So. I decided I'm starting something new to hopefully help my kids learn the books and learn a verse or two--or 66--along the way. Starting today, I'm going to have a weekly memory verse around my house. (Hello to my kiddos who read this...yes, we are) for them to learn. We start with a verse from Genesis, next week it's from Exodus, the next is Leviticus...and so on. I'll work up some reward if they learn it. Maybe a month end bigger one if they can recite all the verses from that month. I don't know, it's a work in progress and I'm open to suggestions. But we're doing this and if you'd like to join, come on:)

This week's verse is:

"What you intended for evil, God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done." Genesis 50:20

Love that verse, and I want it in my kids' bones. In my bones! Sometimes our circumstances look not to hot, but that doesn't mean God isn't working something good, something beautiful, out of them.

Well, there you have it. My plan for the Tuttle household for the next 66 weeks. Praying it takes root. Not sure if it'll work, but even if it's an epic flop, they'll still have spent time in the Word so bottom line, it's a win-win no matter what!

Have a blessed Monday, friends!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - My Mother's Chamomile by Susie Finkbeiner

I had the pleasure of meeting Susie and reading her debut novel, Paint Chips, this fall. Living in the same town, we've kept in contact a little. When I heard her second novel was coming out, I chatted her up on Facebook and asked if I could read and review it. She was kind enough to let me:) Here's a short blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:

Desperate for the rains of mercy...

Middle Main, Michigan has one stop light, one bakery, one hair salon...and one funeral home. The Eliot Family has assisted the grieving people in their town for over fifty years. After all those years of comforting others, they are the ones in need of mercy.

Olga, the matriarch who fixes everything, is unable to cure what ails her precious daughter. She is forced to face her worst fears. How can she possibly trust God with Gretchen's life?

A third generation mortician, Evelyn is tired of the isolation that comes with the territory of her unconventional occupation. Just when it seems she's met a man who understands her, she must deal with her mother's heartbreaking news. Always able to calm others and say just the right thing, she is now overwhelmed with helplessness as she watches Gretchen slip away.

They are tasting only the drought of tragedy...where is the deluge of comfort God promises?

You all know that I typically love fast paced books full of suspense and romance. Those are my favorites. Yet there are still authors that reach beyond my favorite genre and entertain me with stories far from my typical genre. Susie Finkebeiner is one of those authors who I've discovered may not write what I would normally reach for, but I'll happily still pull her from the shelf. She has yet to disappoint.

Written in first person, My Mother's Chamomile follows both Olga and Evelyn through a trial neither wants to face. It took me a little while to get used to the format of switching between Olga and Evelyn, but with chapter headings that let you know which character you are with, that soon fell to the wayside, and I enjoyed seeing this story play out from two perspectives. The full cast of characters from this family made a rich background and provided laughter and a whole lot of love.

As I found with Susie's first novel, she expertly pulls you into the emotions of these characters and weaves a story that is full of heartbreak and hope. No matter where you are in life, you're able to identify with the struggles on the page so that when she ushers in the truth of God's unfailing love and healing you feel it touch your life too.

I recommend a box of Kleenex when you read this book--both for happy and sad tears.

And I happily give My Mother's Chamomile 5 out of 5 stars.

If you would like to purchase My Mother's Chamomile, you can do so here. (It's only $3.99 on Kindle right now!) and if you'd like to learn more about Susie, keep reading:)

Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist and short story writer from West Michigan. Her first novel "Paint Chips" released in 2013 and her second novel "My Mother's Chamomile" in  2014. She worked with WhiteFire Publishing on both novels. Currently, she is working on her third novel.

One little known fact: Susie is also a published playwright. Her Christmas play "Merry Chrismukkah" was published in 2006 by Eldridge Plays. Six of Susie's plays have been produced for a West Michigan audience. Susie also writes for DV:FX, a children's program at Ada Bible Church.

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write. You can find Susie at her website, here.

***if you'd like to know my rating system, click on the page to the right***

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

Anyone else been blessed by this truth in their lives? I know I have been...several times over :) Happy Wednesday, friends!

***picture created with photo by: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Monday, February 17, 2014

Walking into the Wind

I had the amazing opportunity to go on a cruise with my hubby about two weeks ago now. Time away and in the sun, much needed for these Michiganders:)

Most days I'd make it to deck 7 where you could walk the entire perimeter of the ship. I loved it. Outside, the sun shining, the salty air coating my lips. I'd put on my worship music and walk, sometimes for more than an hour. There's something about being in the middle of the ocean, nothing around, that starts to give you a unique view of God's creation. That's a lot of water he put down here!

One of the mornings was a bit windy. Ok. A lot windy. And we were headed into the wind. As I came to the front of the ship, the wind increased so much that I could literally lean into it and be supported. Honestly, it was difficult to even take a step forward. Powerful. The waves crashed beside the boat and the sunshine beat down. I stood there and suddenly the story of Jesus calming the storm ran through my mind. He stood on the front of a boat and told the waves and wind "Quiet. Be still!" and they listened!

The waters calmed.

The wind stopped.

I could stand in that wind all day, the force of it nearly stopping me from taking a step, and tell it to be still all I wanted. That wouldn't stop it from blowing though. And as it threatened to topple me, I was amazed again at the power of God. One word. Just one word and all of nature obeys him!
The force of that wind was unlike anything I've ever encountered...except God. And that thought settled into my core, nearly bursting my soul. An awesome, physical reminder that we serve a God who commands not only nature with one word, but any force that may come against us. Things may threaten to topple us, but God has control. He'll either walk us through it, or he'll speak into it. 

Because no matter how strong that wind feels, God's stronger. He's bigger. And he's in control.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

It's been a long time since I've stayed up with a book till one a.m. on a weeknight, but to borrow my favorite borrowed line of the novel, "I was in the middle before I knew I had begun". That was the way of this book, making me devour pages with no knowledge of time, just sheer joy in the reading. Absolutely lovely.

Let me give you a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side.
Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

This was such a uniquely told story that at first I wasn't sure what to make of it. Yet it tugged at me, begging me to turn another page. The characters were rich and their stories full, something I didn't think the format of this story would allow for, but Katherine Reay completely delivered.

My only complaint of the story is I desperately wanted to see Mr. Knightley's response to some of Sam's letters, especially as I got to know Mr. Knightley better. As the story unfolded, I could guess at his responses, but the romantic in me wished to see those moments played out.

However, I still fell in love with the story Reay tells through these characters. They embedded in my mind, causing me to smile, laugh, and cry with them--and that is what makes good story-telling. I didn't want to say good-bye on the last page. This will be a book I re-read sections from in the coming years.

I highly recommend Dear Mr. Knightley to you, but with that recommendation I ask one thing. Give it a chance. It's a story told in a different way, but that is partly what makes it so intriguing. With each page, it draws you in a little more. There's no rushing within the pages, but a slow unraveling of complete healing against the backdrop of a sweet romance. Truly one of my favorite reads of the year.

I happily give Dear Mr. Knightley 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it here.

If you'd like to learn about the author, Katherine Reay, you can meet her here.

AND...Happy Valentine's Day! Did you think I forgot the holiday? Well, truth be told, I nearly did. LOL. What's your favorite candy today? I'm all about anything chocolate. But when aren't I?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I just spent an entire week with only Hubby and kids, no computers, no phones, no nothing...and came back to Valentine's week, so a LOT of love going around right now:) It made this quote jump right out when I read it. It's so true too. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Wednesday friends! Hope you had a great week too!