Friday, August 29, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson

I'm finishing up my summer reading and this book has been on my to-be-read pile for a little while. After a recommendation from a friend, I bumped it up. So glad I did! Here's a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:)


A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past.

Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.

But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child.

A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover…

I truly loved this book. There was just enough mystery--not the suspenseful type--to pull me in immediately from the first chapters. The two stories start at opposite ends and work toward each other in a well-paced story line that slowly unveils what happened in this Chateau during the War. Both Chloe and Gisele are strong women who refuse to give up despite what circumstances they may encounter.

While at first the chapter changes (from third person with Gisele's chapters to a first person with Chloe's chapters) jarred me, the story kept me tugged in tight and soon I easily slipped into the point-of-view changes. As for romance, it was more of a backdrop to this story and yet still present enough for this romantic heart. The mystery of each character, some you see in present day and also in their past, was the heart of this story, and Melanie revealed a little more of their lives with each new chapter. I enjoyed this pace which left me invested rather than frustrated with the story.

If Chateau of Secrets is on your TBR pile, nudge it up. If it's not, you can purchase it here. And if you want to learn more about Melanie and her books, head on over to her website. The link is below. Have a great weekend!

The author of thirteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall. More info at www.melaniedobson.com

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quotable Wednesday



Reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:18,
We Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.

Just like the mirror in my bathroom, sometimes my reflection gets some splats and smears on it. Which is why I need Him to work in me. I don't want a dull reflection, but one that glows with Him. And some days I need more work than others:)

Praying our reflections get buffed up today!


Monday, August 25, 2014

It's a Race Not a Sprint

freedigitalphotos: mapichai
Thanks to my husband I've gotten to be a part of the racing world for the past several years. Yesterday, in fact, I volunteered at one of the races he helps put on. Let's be clear though, while he's done everything from a 5K to an Ironman, my role caps out at handing out the medals and cheering.

Yet I'm running my own race, and so are you. It's a thought that's been on my mind all week as I scrambled to finish a never-ending to-do list, meet my family's needs, prepare for our new homeschool year, and simply keep up with things I'd said "yes" to or simple daily tasks. Suddenly I felt as if I was running at an impossible speed and about to burn out when God reminded me of these words from Hebrew 12:

...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...

Emphasis on the word run, not sprint. And that's what slowed this runner enough to mull over all the words there.

See, we can start to sprint, can't we? Racing from one thing to another to another until we're nearly running circles. But if you've ever seen a race, the runners pace themselves. Sometimes they even walk for a bit--especially in longer races--and that's because a body cannot maintain that all out pace for long periods of time.

And when we start to sprint we can miss the markers on the path we're on. Oh, do we need those markers! Without them we can miss our calling, miss those moments God can use us, or even take on so many extra miles that it wears us out.

So pace yourself. Stay on the marked path. Walk sometimes, it's okay. It's a run, not a sprint, to the finish line God has for us and he doesn't want anyone to miss one thing along the way.

Have you found yourself in a crazy sprint lately? What things can you give up so that you can slow down some?




Monday, August 18, 2014

The Beauty in Cancer

Cancer is ugly. It's cruel and doesn't play favorites. And last week it took my father-in-law. Yet in the midst of all that our family is going through, I refuse to let something so ugly get the last word. So I'm looking to the beauty in it.

Like how we held each other a little closer since Dad's diagnosis. They say time flies, and it does, but the reminder that life is so precious slowed down the speed of our days. In those moments that we'd normally tear through, I'd sit back and simply watch Dad. Truly see him. His laughter and joy from being in the middle of friends and family. His truly awful one-liners that made everyone groan while his smile grew. The way he'd position everything exactly where it belonged or scrub something until it shined--because it made him happy to take care of items he considered a blessing...and ok, he had a wee bit of OCD in him:)

I created snapshots not only on my camera but in my mind of him playing full-out with the grandkids; they were his joy. I got to tease him over who took more mashed potatoes from Mom's roast. I sat and chatted rather than rushing past, and didn't simply chat but made sure to listen. Best of all I to got to hug him tighter and say "I love you" all those times I may have simply slid out the door with no more than a "see you later".

Cancer allowed me to savor each moment with Dad rather than hurrying past, forgetting how each day we wake up is a blessed gift with those we love. Time became precious and rather than living with a disease, Dad simply lived. And he lived to the fullest. By extension, so did those of us around him.

I have been blessed to call him my father. Blessed by the man he raised who'd become my husband. Blessed by the relationship he had with Mom that gave us a beautiful picture of marriage and friendship. Blessed by the way he loved my kids. Blessed by his love of Jesus that may have taken a few dents but never wavered.

Time does fly, and oh, how I wish we had more of those precious moments here on earth, but we will see Dad again. Of that we are sure. And while cancer may think it won, it didn't. It took too much from us, but it also gave us this strange little gift of slowing down our moments together and making them count for so much more than we ever knew they could. And that's beautiful.

Exactly as Dad's life was. We'll miss you, Dad:) All our love.

Romans 14:8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quotable Wednesday


Dance. Rejoice. In affliction. In blessing. Our delight is in Him.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Don't Want to be Normal.

Normal says that in the face of adversity we aren't joyful.

Normal says to be beautiful we must be a certain weight--and have no wrinkles.

Normal says our worth is measured in "likes" and "follows".

Normal says our identity is found in our abilities and successes.

Normal says our acceptance is found in the crowd around us.

But I don't want normal. I want God.

God says we can be joyful in all things, because joy in the midst of our sorrows produces in us that which normal circumstances cannot. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

God says we are beautiful. No qualifications. You are all together beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

God says our worth is measured in him and through the price he paid for us, simply because of his great love. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

God says our identity is found solely in him. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9-10

God says our acceptance is found in him, and he doesn't play favorites. Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who [reverently] fears him and does what is right. Acts 10:34-35

This life is full of what the world deems as normal, but at the end of the day their "normal" leaves us feeling insecure, anxious, and even unsure of ourselves. Sometimes even hopeless. But when we take our eyes off of this world and focus on God and the Truths he says about us, that one action ushers in stability, security, and bucket-loads of peace.

No. It's not easy to do. Situations can overwhelm at times like a breath-stealing tidal wave, but we can learn to do it. And God never, never, never fails to meet us when our obedience steps us toward him.

Today I challenge you to take one "normal" that you have around you (it could very well be one I didn't mention) and replace it with God. I'll even share the one I'm working on: my worth. I've come a looooooong way on this one, but in today's world of social media (coupled with working on becoming an author) finding my worth can shift into the wrong place. So I'm reminding myself daily of where my worth comes from and even putting myself on a limit of how often I can be on social media. Because at the end of the day, I want God's voice and truth to be the voice I listen to.

I don't want to be normal:)


What "normal" will you be working on?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Love Still Stands by Kelly Irvin

Before I start today's review, I need to let you know who won the July Bookshelf giveaway...

Eva North!

You win your choice of one book off my July Bookshelf. Take a look and then email me your pick, and I'll get it to you.

Now onto building my August bookshelf. Let me give you the blurb and then we'll chat on the other side!


In Love Still Stands, a group of dedicated families leaves Bliss Creek to establish a new community in Missouri. Among them is Bethel Graber, a beautiful young woman with a passion for teaching. But after being disabled in a terrible accident, overseeing a classroom is out of the question…and romance seems a long-lost dream.


Bethel begins physical therapy, determined to make a fresh start. But that won’t be easy in the town of New Hope, where the locals seem anything but eager to welcome their new Amish neighbors. Amid growing intimidation from the community, Bethel must find the strength to face her many challenges and the faith to believe that God still has a plan—and a love—for her life.

I'm rather sure this is the first Amish fiction I've had on my blog. I'll admit, it's not typically a genre I gravitate towards, but I had a chance to read this book and I took it. Lucky for me I did. While Amish fiction was new to me, I truly enjoyed this book.

Kelly Irvin packs these pages with so many different issues yet it never felt too weighty. It tackled things like postpartum depression, rehabilitation, and starting over in a new place all with a depth and breadth that kept me glued to the pages. While the story is not fast paced, it is intriguing in the sense that I honestly wanted to know how each character would overcome the obstacles in front of them.

I did struggle some in the beginning getting to know each character, at times needing to refer to the chart in the front of the book. However, that soon passed and I became acquainted with the main players on the stage. This is a continuation of a series Kelly had already written, but I did not feel it necessary to have read those books first.

I enjoyed the sweet romance as it budded between Bethel and Elijah, and I admit at times to wanting to swat each of them upside the head. They both had a tinge of stubbornness in them that bent in its own direction. I also enjoyed seeing Leah and Luke work at their marriage. Having been married nearly 17 years myself, it was refreshing to see a couple work through struggles but be committed to staying together. It played nicely against Bethel and Elijah's new romance.

All together I found Kelly Irvin wove a wonderful story with rich characters in a setting I don't normally visit but was happy I had. You can purchase Love Still Stands here.

The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter, mostly in Texas-Mexico border towns. She has worked in public relations for the City of San Antonio for twenty years. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and serves as secretary of the local chapter, Alamo Christian Fiction Writers.

Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-six years. They have two young adult children, two cats, and a tank full of fish. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors. To find out more about Kelly and her books visit her at www.kellyirvin.com .

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Winner Wednesday!

I'm on a little vacation today but wanted to at least let you know about the winners from Dawn Crandall's visit last week! (My bookshelf Friday winner will be announced on Friday.)

The winner of the e-book of The Hesitant Heiress is:  Nancy M!
Nancy, Dawn will contact you this week! Congrats!

And then Dawn also let me know that the winner of her weekly prize package was a commenter from this blog too! 

Melissa Tagg!

Melissa, you've won the weekly prize package from Dawn of an e-book of The Hesitant Heiress, an Amazon gift card, a moleskin journal, and an Everstone Chronicles mug. Dawn will be contacting you too.

Congrats to both winners and I'll be back on Friday with a book review and the winner of my July Bookshelf!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Juggling

But God is not a God of disorder but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33

Photo credit: Penywise
Life can get messy, can't it? It can be so full of moments and demands that sometimes we simply don't know which way we're headed. More like we spin in circles. We have so many demands in front of us that to keep them straight we start to juggle them. Our work. Our kids. Husband. Guilt trips. God. Friends. Household. Hobbies. The I-feel-obligateds. Go ahead, add on your own because I'm sure you can name a few more.

Oh. And that list isn't even in the right order, but that happens at times too, right? In truth, God should be at the front, then husband, then kids. Let's also admit there's the ones we shouldn't be holding but we are...so not only are there too many things, but they all somehow jumble up into the wrong order. Then while we're juggling all those balls if one falls they all fall. It's crazy. At times the music seems to speed up and we frantically try to toss faster, catch, throw, keep it all moving until we are a complete, chaotic mess.

Except that's not how God works, and it's certainly not how he wants to work in our lives. That's because he's a God of order. He holds time in his hand: our past, present, and future. He knows what we need right now and what we need to lay down. What we need to wait to pick up until the future and what we should be letting go of for good. If we listen to him, he'll line all those things up in our life and rather than frantically juggling them, there'll be peace.

So ask him today what is something you should be laying down. Listen and let go and take on his peace instead. It's a much better thing to be holding.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall & My Monthly Giveaway

It's a big day here with lots of giveaways, but first...I am beyond excited to feature this book. It is not only a debut, but it's also the first in the Everstone Chronicles. I have had the privilege or reading this book since it's infancy stage and through all the rounds of edits. Today it releases for everyone to read! Here's a blurb and we'll chat on the other side:)


After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, disappearing before her very eyes. Now, the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: Marry within the year to inherit the immense fortune of her estranged grandmother. Amaryllis reluctantly moves in to her aunt's Boston home and rubs shoulders with fashionable society. Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, the envy of every eligible female, whose father has haunted her dreams for the decade following her mother's tragic death. However, Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems...and everything she never knew she wanted. But can she ever really trust an Everstone man?

Let me start by saying this book is not only historical, but it's written in first person. The combination of the two I typically shy away from, however Dawn's writing immediately drew me in. She writes with an old voice (Jane Austen fans, you will love her!) that spins you into her heroine's world and keeps you there deeply ensconced in her surroundings and emotions. Amaryllis and Nathan, along with the beautiful setting of Boston, come alive with each page you flip. Their connection is tangible and with the added touch of intrigue--who is really behind the problems that seem to plague Amaryllis?--you'll be up late into the night to finish this book.

I am blessed to consider Dawn my critique partner and so very happy to see her book finally in the hands of readers everywhere. From the moment I read page one of this story (before it was even contracted) I knew it would find its way onto shelves all over. Not only does Dawn give you a beautiful romance, her characters also mature spiritually in a natural story arc that slips its way into your heart.

If you'd like to purchase The Hesitant Heiress, you can do so here. Or, to enter a chance to win not only an ebook but a few other wonderful prizes, you can comment on today's blog. Here are the prizes:
1) ebook of The Hesitant Heiress (One commenter from this blog will win a copy, to be announced next week.)
2) Weekly Prize Package: ebook of The Hesitant Heiress, $10 Amazon gift card, moleskin journal & Everstone Chronicles coffee mug (Dawn will collect the names of everyone who's commented this week from each blog she visited and select one name for this prize package to be announced next week.) 
3) Grand Prize Giveaway: ebook of The Hesitant Heiress, $10 Amazon gift card, moleskin journal & Everstone Chronicles coffee mug and a KINDLE FIRE. (Dawn will collect the names of all who've commented during her 6-week blog tour and announce one winner on Saturday August 30th. If someone here wins, I'll announce it on my blog also.)

So if you're interested, leave me a comment AND your email address below! And keep scrolling down this post to find out about my monthly Bookshelf giveaway too:)

 A graduate of Taylor University, Dawn Crandall holds a degree in Christian Education, and is a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble. She didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming published, he let her quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.
If you'd like to learn more about Dawn, the Everstone Chronicles, or keep track of her blog tour and winners, you can visit her website: dawncrandall.blogspot.com

MONTHLY BOOKSHELF GIVEAWAY:
For those of you who've been around a while, you know the routine! It's time for my monthly bookshelf giveaway to say thanks to all you who've 'liked' or 'followed' one of my pages. (If you never have, would you mind doing so? It's a huge help to us aspiring authors! You can find the links at the top of my side bar.) So...if you're interested in one of my books from July, leave that in your comment too! I'll be collecting all the names and announce my monthly bookshelf winner next Friday. That winner will get to pick one of the books I reviewed in July, and I'll send it to you as a big thank-you simply for following me on social media:) The books and reviews eligible are below:

Reviews:
Captured by Love
The Butterfly and the Violin
A February Bride
Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits