Friday, January 29, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

I so enjoy Jody Hedlund's writing, so I was very excited when Undaunted Hope showed up in my mailbox. Book #3 in her "Beacons of Hope" series, it was a wonderful addition. Here's the blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him. 

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

First off, as anyone who has read a Hedlund book will say, this author does her research. Every detail is paid attention to and oftentimes her characters are taken from the history of real people. Undaunted Hope is no exception as she loosely based Tessa on the wife of a light keeper. These author traits only deepen the setting, and story and the reader greatly benefits.

But Hedlund doesn't just do research well. She also writes beautifully, creating strong leads, organic faith elements, and multi-layered plots. I loved getting to know Tessa better in this book, and I could relate to her struggle between what she wanted to do and what God just might be leading her to do. Add to it two amazing male leads, and Hedlund was able to craft a love triangle that didn't feel overdone. I knew immediately which man I rooted for, but it was a fun ride waiting to see if he'd be the one to end up with Tessa at the end.

With just a hint of suspense, tons of smile-worthy romance, and a stubborn young woman who only wants a fresh start, Undaunted Hope allows Hedlund's writing to once again shine, and I cannot wait for book #4 in this series. If you haven't read any of them, you can easily start here, but I'm going to recommend you read them all. They are simply that good.

I happily give Undaunted Hope 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Who Am I Speaking With?


We still have a landline. We’re in the minority, I am sure, but it allows people to call my home and get any one of us on the phone. And I’ve been noticing a new phenomenon occurring when my oldest—and even sometimes youngest—daughter answers the phone. People don’t know if it’s her or me. On more than one occasion acquaintances, doctor’s offices, businesses, and even family members have begun a conversation thinking I’m the one who answered.

Do you know who doesn’t?

My husband.

And why would that be? It’s because he lives with us. Day in and out he spends time with us. Every single day he is in conversation with us, and because of it, he knows our voices. He knows who he’s speaking with when he calls our house, and it doesn’t matter who picks up.

Friends, we need the same with kind of relationship with God. We need to spend so much time with him that we never wonder whose voice we’re hearing or take a misstep because we listened to a counterfeit. When God speaks, we need to have been in his presence so often that we recognize his voice from the first note of it.

So sit with him today. Chat with him. Oh how he treasures time with you! Listen to his voice and let it become so familiar that nothing and no one could ever fool you.


“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar

A good friend recommended this book to me, and I was excited to read it. I enjoy checking out authors who are new-to-me, and with a recommendation I could almost guarantee I’d enjoy the book—which I did. Here’s the blurb, and we can chat on the other side!


Nineteen-year-old Carrie Ann Bell is independent and spirited. The only thing she really fears are the Union soldiers fighting against her Confederate friends. When her youngest sister runs away from home, brave Carrie Ann is determined to find her and bring her back. Disguised as a soldier, she sets off--only to find she's fallen into the hands of the enemy.
Her childhood friend Confederate Major Joshua Blevins has warned her against these Yankees: they're all devils, ready to inflict evil on unsuspecting young women. When Colonel Peyton Collier arrests her for her impersonation of an officer, it seems to confirm all her fears.
Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel. He rescued her, protected her, and has been every inch the gentleman. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally--and more than that, someone she could love. But the arrival of Joshua in the Union camp as a spy will test her loyalties. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Set during the Civil War, it is obvious to the reader that Andrea Boeshaar has done her historical research before beginning this book. That facet only added depth to the setting, background, and details of her characters.

Peyton Collier and Carrie Ann Bell were well-rounded and believable leads for this time period. And I loved the strength Boeshaar wove into Carrie Ann, making her immensely likeable. She was willing to do anything for her family, but she never made a decision I found unbelievable or untrue to the woman we saw on page. I enjoyed the connection she shared with Peyton who was a very strong hero in this story; soft where needed but tough at the same time. He desired to both protect those he loved and also possessed the heart of a soldier to fight and protect for the freedoms he believed everyone deserves.

The story plot moved at a good pace and placed authentic conflict before all of those on the pages. The resolution of those conflicts was so natural and not drawn out, which only added to my enjoyment of the book. I even loved the secondary characters such as Aunt Ruth and Tommy. All together the pages flipped by quickly as I was immersed in a story I truly delighted in reading.


I happily give A Thousand Shall Fall 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - The Redemption by MaryLu Tyndall

I've been looking for a pirate book for some time, mainly because I haven't read one. Typically they look a tad too...spicy...for me. So when I saw one with MaryLu Tyndall's name attached I knew it would be a safe read and something new I could try. Here's the blurb, and we can chat on the other side:)


Charlisse Bristol sets off on a voyage in search of a father she never knew, only to become shipwrecked on an island. She longs for a father’s love to fill the emptiness in her soul from an abusive childhood, but resigns herself to a lonely death of starvation. Her salvation comes in the form of a band of pirates and their fierce, enigmatic leader, Captain Merrick. 

The last thing Merrick expected to find in the middle of the Caribbean was a beautiful maiden. Now he is burdened with the task of not only protecting her from his crew, but from himself. A recent convert to Christianity, Merrick is haunted by a sordid past while he struggles to become a better man and accepts a mission from God to hunt down the most vicious pirates on the Caribbean. 

Charlisse can make no sense of Captain Merrick. A pirate who prays and drinks rum? Breaking her vow to never trust any man, she finds herself falling for the pirate/priest, who more than once risks his life to save her. When she confides in him her quest to find her father, Merrick agrees to help. What he doesn’t realize is Charlisse’s father is the ruthless Edward the Terror, the one man Merrick has vowed to hunt down and kill. 

Evil forces are at work against Charlisse and Merrick: enemies, battles, imprisonment, jealousy, and betrayal, all threaten to destroy not only their new found romance but their very lives. It will take a miracle—or several—for either of them to survive. 

I'll start off by saying that the cover I've featured here is an old one. The book has been reformatted and the new cover was one that had me reminding myself to "not judge a book by its cover"...and I'm glad I didn't.

Tyndall begins this story at a fast pace which immediately drew me in. I connected with Charlisse from the beginning, and the same can be said of Merrick. Tyndall develops an undeniable chemistry between these two likable characters, both of whom are well fleshed out and believable. Merrick is  a strong male lead--which he should be as a pirate!--who is struggling to place his new faith into his old world. Charlisse, however, has no faith, and as Tyndall reveals layers of her backstory the reader not only understands why but sympathizes with her.

This was one aspect of the story that only made it stronger. Charlisse's history was a large portion of this story and brought out in an even pace, honestly shared in natural moments. Merrick is well-matched for Charlisse and able to help her understand who God truly is and thus establish God's truths in place of all the lies she's grown to believe. This faith element is strong and natural to the story.

My only complaint is at times some of the conflicts these characters face became repetitive. A few scenes could have been cut without losing the meat of the plot. That being said, this was still a very enjoyable read. The Redemption is the first in a series, and I've no doubt I'll dive into the second. If you're looking for adventure on the high seas with a band of pirates and romance tossed in, this is the book for you.

I happily give The Redemption 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

On Not Becoming the Woman I Want to Be

Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21).

Recently I was praying over an opportunity. Okay. If I’m being honest, I was explaining to God why I couldn’t do this thing before me. I very politely reminded him that I do things differently than pretty much everyone else in the near vicinity…to which he replied, “I know that. I made you. And if I wanted it done another way, I’d ask someone else.”

All right, then. Guess I can’t argue with that line of thinking.

And yet, how often do I try? How often do you?

It’s so hard to become comfortable in our own skin when we often press to be something other than what we are. But if we aren’t living as who God created us to be, then there’s a hole in the purpose he created us for.  Yes, how we do things will look different than the person beside us--it's supposed to! Yet I find myself all too often creating plans in my heart of who I want to be based on those around me. Skinnier. Wittier. More vibrant. More chatty. More creative. Better received.

Come on. I’m not alone here. Not in this day and age.

Even this morning I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post that had me thinking, “Now why can’t I be more like her?” And God sidled up beside me to remind me, “I already had one of her, which is why I made you. So, Beloved, just be you.”

Hmmm...those words made me think. We either believe God made us exactly as we are for a specific purpose and plan, or we don’t. We can chase after all the adjectives in the world that we believe will make us better, or we can rest in the belief that God already attached the perfect ones to us. Oh, friend, does that mean we shouldn’t grow and change? Absolutely not! But our growth needs to be in chasing after His holiness and his plan for our life. We grow in him, not apart from him. And into who he created us to be--not who we think we want to be or need to be.


Stop sizing yourself up only to decide you're lacking. Instead, press into him. Seek his desires for your life. Ask the plan-maker what the plan is, and let him be the one to say yes or no. Rather than becoming the women we want to be, let’s become the women God designed us to be.

Truly, what could be better than that?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - Fatal Reunion by Jessica R. Patch

I had the pleasure of Jessica sharing her heart here on Monday, and today I have pure excitement over sharing her debut with Love Inspired Suspense, Fatal Reunion. I think a huge part of this excitement isn't simply the fact that she's an amazing writer (because she is!), it's that I've had the immense pleasure and joy of watching God bring Jessica to this place. I've gotten to know her heart and her love for her Savior, her obedience in her call to writing, and the birth of this book into a story on shelves everywhere now! So, here's the blurb, and we'll chat on the other side!


When her beloved grandmother is almost killed during a home invasion, Piper Kennedy isn't surprised that she's a suspect—especially since Luke Ransom is on the case. The handsome detective she once loved thinks she knows more than she's telling about the attack. And given her crooked past and the heartbreaking way she'd been forced to betray Luke years ago, Piper understands why he doesn't trust her. But when attempts are made on her life, Luke insists on keeping her safe and finding out who wants her dead. And Piper and Luke soon realize a remorseless criminal will do anything to keep them from the truth…or an unexpected second shot at a future.

For anyone who hasn't ever read a Love Inspired Suspense, I've discovered them to be great stories in small doses. They can tend to follow a set formula, so it's often hard for an author to insert their voice or keep the story fresh, but Jessica manages to do just that. Her wit shines through in wonderful doses, creatively placed in moments that needed lightening. Her suspense is well crafted and the story keeps you guessing until the very end. And her two leads have an amazing chemistry. Jess has the ability to craft strong female leads who make smart choices and yet allow their leading man to partner with them in ways that keep the hero strong as well. It's a balance I love as a reader, and one she always seems to strike. Add to it she always weaves in an element of faith that is seamless to the story and organically driven, and you find consistent stories that challenge and entertain. I truly believe this is because her faith is in every element of who she is, as natural as breathing, so it comes out that way in her writing.

With this being Jess's debut for LIS I want to celebrate by giving a copy away! So leave a comment here or on my Facebook page and you'll be entered to win a copy. I'll announce the winner on next Friday's Bookshelf:) And while you're checking out the book, you should check out Jess's storyboard on Pinterest where you can meet the cast of Fatal Reunion and peruse some of the scenes set in the book.  https://www.pinterest.com/jessicarpatch/fatal-reunion/

You can purchase Fatal Reunion here.

Happy reading, friends!


Jessica R. Patch lives in the mid-south where she pens inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. When she's not hunched over her laptop or going on adventurous trips in the name of research with willing friends, you can find her watching way too much Netflix with her family and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she'll probably never cook. Her novel, Fatal Reunion, releases with Love Inspired Suspense in January, 2016. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.

Connect:
Get Patched In! Jessica’s newsletter subscribers get first looks at book covers and excerpts as well as receive notifications of new book releases and other cool news. Sign up at www.jessicarpatch.com

Join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

Monday, January 4, 2016

That's What You Get - A Guest Post by Jessica Patch

Hey everyone! Happy New Year! I'm in the craziness of moving, so my dear friend, Jessica Patch is taking over to start off 2016. This woman has a HUGE heart for Jesus, and I've learned so much through her. Plus, she's got a crazy sense of humor and is known for sending texts that make you snort...a true gift that you'll find in her writing--because she has another story coming out this month! But we'll chat about that on Friday. For now, Jess is doing the devotion for today, linking together a Truth woven not only into that story, but throughout the Bible and in our lives. So, here she is:)

Ever hear that phrase? “If he rides that bike without the helmet, that’s what he gets if he wrecks. I’ve told him a hundred times to wear it.” “If you don’t listen to me and you (fill in the blank) then that’s what you get.”

In Fatal Reunion, my heroine Piper Kennedy believes everything that is happening is because “that’s what she gets” for her past mistakes. Yes, she got into a lot of trouble at fourteen. Yes, she made some major mistakes. And yes, we all have to deal with the consequences. But I’m thankful for a merciful God who isn’t looking at us shaking His head and thinking, “Well, that’s what you get!”

When David, a man after God’s own heart, failed miserably and sinned, God gave him three choices as consequences. David chose falling into God’s hands over man’s hands. He knew God was (and is) merciful, fair, and just. That God disciplines those He loves. Not punishment in the sense of “that’s what you get!” but to teach us to live according to His word.

We get mercy. We get grace to go through those consequences. God loves us. Enough to make sure we don’t get away with things.


God gives second chances. He’s not sitting on the edge of his seat waiting to punish us for making a mistake. He’s the God of second and a billion chances. The truth is we all deserve eternal death. The wages of sin is death. God however gives us forgiveness and eternal life with Him. I’d say that’s a loving God. That’s what we get!

AMEN! I, for one, am SO happy God gives "second and a billion chances" because I've needed them!
Here's a little about Jess and how to connect with her, and come back on Friday to hear about her debut and a chance to win a copy!


Jessica R. Patch lives in the mid-south where she pens inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. When she's not hunched over her laptop or going on adventurous trips in the name of research with willing friends, you can find her watching way too much Netflix with her family and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she'll probably never cook. Her novel, Fatal Reunion, releases with Love Inspired Suspense in January, 2016. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.

Connect:
Get Patched In! Jessica’s newsletter subscribers get first looks at book covers and excerpts as well as receive notifications of new book releases and other cool news. Sign up at www.jessicarpatch.com

Join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!