Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Crazy, Holy Grace & The Remarkable Ordinary - Both by Frederick Buechner

The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life by [Buechner, Frederick]

About 'The Remarkable Ordinary:'

Your remarkable life is happening right here, right now. You may not be able to see it – your life may seem predictable and your work insignificant until you look at your life as Frederick Buechner does.
Based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, Frederick Buechner reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. He reflects on how both art and faith teach us how to pay attention to the remarkableness right in front of us, to watch for the greatness in the ordinary, and to use our imaginations to see the greatness in others and love them well.
As you learn to listen to your life and what God is doing in it, you will uncover the plot of your life’s story and the sacred opportunity to connect with the Divine in each moment.

My Review:
I have mixed feelings about these books.  I liked 'The Remarkable Ordinary' more as he talked about really being present in each moment and appreciating beauty.  I loved his thought about truly seeing people and that we can see God in them, or I took him to mean that we're each made in the image of God.  He also talks about loving God and your neighbor and that we need to really pay attention to the ways that God's showing up in our lives.  We also need to love, look and listen to people and while it would be exhausting to do this all of the time, we can do better than we do, which I felt was a very good point.  The section about Maya Angelou was fascinating.  I also loved his point about our lives having a plot, that it's not just incident after incident but that there's a purpose and we're going somewhere.  Another point that hit me is that we don't know how much impact we're having on someone, for the good or bad, that you just don't know what can get through to someone.  I thought he had a lot of good points in this book.

About 'A Crazy, Holy Grace:'

When pain is real, why is God silent?
Frederick Buechner has grappled with the nature of pain, grief, and grace ever since his father committed suicide when Buechner was a young boy. He continued that search as a father when his daughter struggled with anorexia. In this essential collection of essays, including one never before published, Frederick Buechner finds that the God who might seem so silent is ever near. He writes about what it means to be a steward of our pain, and about this grace from God that seems arbitrary and yet draws us to his holiness and care. Finally he writes about the magic of memory and how it can close up the old wounds with the memories of past goodnesses and graces from God.
Here now are the best of Buechner’s writings on pain and loss, covering such topics as the power of hidden secrets, loss of a dearly beloved, letting go, resurrection from the ruins, peace, and listening for the quiet voice of God. And he reveals that pain and sorrow can be a treasure—an amazing grace.
Buechner says that loss will come to all of us, but he writes that we are not alone. Crazy and unreal as it may sometimes seem, God’s holy, healing grace is always present and available if we are still enough to receive it.

My Review:

In 'A Crazy, Holy Grace' sometimes I found his thoughts intriguing or an original way of thinking of something and other times he just seemed confused about God, Jesus and the afterlife.  He quotes Scripture so he's read at least part of the Bible but I don't know if he doesn't believe what it says about Heaven and Hell, doesn't want to believe it or views it as a metaphor.  Sometimes he seems hopeful and reminds us that God is there and we're not alone and other times he doubts and questions.  He mentions that Jesus was human and could have been wrong sometimes but was also more than human.  I would say Christians believe Jesus was also fully God while being fully human, so He wouldn't have gotten anything wrong.  There was also a longer section where he's imagining conversing with his dead grandmother and talking about what happens after you die and her "answers" don't sound at all like what the Bible says, including it sounding like everyone's there, which if she's talking about Heaven, that won't be the case.  It was a strange section.  He also mentions the god Ganesh and praying to him and using a Ouija board, which he mentioned he didn't like but not about the dangers of it.  I didn't like this book.

There was some overlap between the two books with him mentioning the same memories sometimes.  He also swore sometimes, which I didn't like.  Both were pretty easy reading as it just felt like he was talking to you over coffee.  I would recommend 'The Remarkable Ordinary' but not 'A Crazy, Holy Grace.'

I received these books from Handlebar in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Gift of Christmas Past - by Cindy Woodsmall & Erin Woodsmall

The Gift Of Christmas Past: A Southern Romance

About the book:

Arson wasn't the only fire that ignited between them. 
Promises shattered.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.

Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.

Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

My review:

I really enjoyed this interesting story set in the world of speech therapy!  I have a friend who's a speech therapist so I know a little bit about it but I still learned more about causes and techniques and it was fascinating!  I also really liked the unique focus on grown-up foster children and what some of the difficulties were growing up in the system.  I really felt for Hadley and her friends Elliott and Tara as they struggled with feelings of abandonment, anger and helplessness when they were teens and even into their adult years due to how their parents treated them and even due to how other adults sometimes treated them.  I admired Hadley's drive to become a speech therapist and Elliott's becoming an LPN and all of the hard work it took to make it on their own.  They supported each other and took their neighbors under their wing and created their own family.  They both had a strong faith, though I would have liked a little more background on how that came about.  There were some frustrating moments as I just wanted the truth to come out about Hadley and Monroe's past and Monroe's parents were also quite the pair but there was definitely a satisfying end to the story.  There was a little bit of romance between some couples.  Overall, this was a satisfying and sweet read for Christmas.  I recommend it!

I received this book free from the Woodsmalls in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Eye-Opening! 'Becoming Resilient: How to Move Through Suffering and Come Back Stronger' - by Donna Gibbs

Cover Art

About the book:

At some point, we all suffer disappointment, rejection, injustice, and loss. Such suffering can paralyze us, leaving us broken inside and merely going through the motions outside. Whether we remain stuck in these negative patterns or move forward is determined in large part by our resilience.

A professional counselor for twenty years, Donna Gibbs shares the secrets of building resilience that will change your experience of suffering. She offers practical tools and effective coping strategies to deal with whatever life throws your way so you can move through suffering--and come out stronger on the other side.

My review:

This book is amazing and contains such great wisdom for dealing with all kinds of suffering, from trauma to broken relationships to physical issues.  It has enlightening real-life examples of people she's counseled and other people she knows who were either stuck in their suffering or were resilient and moved through it well.  She also uses Scripture to explain and comfort.  The author first has a section explaining that suffering is normal in that everyone is going to suffer at one time or another and the Bible says we can expect to suffer.  She looks at reasons people get stuck when suffering, such as believing destructive theology, practicing destructive thinking or having poor coping skills. 

The next section talks about getting unstuck and building resilience by acknowledging the suffering, telling the whole story and balancing emotional boundaries, to name a few ways.  Some people live in denial and don't want to even acknowledge their pain while others focus on parts of the story or situation instead of looking at the whole picture.  It's very important to focus on who God says you are, not on what the suffering says.  Her last section looks at learning to thrive once you're unstuck and looks at the big picture and finding purpose.  The end of each chapter has a victory verse and application questions.  This is such an important book for everyone to read who feels they could use a little, or a lot, more resilience, because if you haven't gone through suffering yet, you will.  It's best to be prepared so you don't get stuck in the first place, but there's always hope for getting unstuck!  I highly recommend this book!

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

 The Author

  1. Donna Gibbs

    Donna Gibbs

    Donna Gibbs is a licensed counselor supervisor, a national certified counselor, and a board certified Christian counselor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, she is on the referral network for Focus on the Family, Christian Care...
    Continue reading about Donna Gibbs 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Gift - The Amish of Hart County 3 - by Shelley Shepard Gray

 About the book:

A special Christmas story about love and blessings in the next book in the Amish of Hart County series
The Schwartz family is happy to be spending Christmas on their new farm in Hart County. But when Susanna Schwartz hears gunshots that causes her buggy to overturn, and then her little sister falls through a wooden bridge into the icy creek, it becomes clear from these dangerous "accidents" that someone wants them gone.
Neil Vance has been heartbroken ever since his parents lost their family farm. He knows it's not the Schwartz family's fault, but he can't help but be resentful. Until he meets Susanna. She is kind-hearted and bold, and Neil can't stop thinking about her pretty green eyes.
Neil thinks the accidents are just that, but Susanna's father is convinced the Vance family is responsible. Susanna refuses to believe Neil would do anything to harm her. She's fallen in love with him and knows he is a good man. But her family is ready to pack up and move, and time is running out to uncover the truth before someone gets hurt . . . or worse.
My review:
This was an enjoyable story about a tough situation for two families.  Susanna was a tough girl and I liked how she wanted to get to the truth of whoever was behind the accidents.  Neil made a stupid choice early on but realized the error of his ways and changed his attitude.  It would be really hard to lose your farm, especially when it was under embarrassing circumstances, but he determined to keep his priorities in order and be thankful for what he did have.  Characters prayed and tried to trust God.  There was a little bit of romance.  There was some excitement as it seemed someone was out to scare the Schwartz family.  I loved the sense of community that Amish books always have.  This was a slightly suspenseful Christmas story you'll definitely want to read if you like Amish stories!
I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
About the author:
Shelley Shepard Gray is a "New York Times" and "USA Today" bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.
Find out more about Shelley at

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Murder in Disguise - A Preston Barclay Mystery - by Donn Taylor

About the book:

Official verdict: Suicide.
But why would that vigorous department chairman kill himself? To avoid disgrace? Those rumored ventures on the dark side? Some other secret life? Visiting professor Preston Barclay wonders. But his questions bring no answers, only anonymous threats. He has enough problems already, proving himself on a strange campus while radical faculty do all they can to undermine him. Worse yet, that sexy siren assigned as his assistant complicates his courtship of the beautiful Mara Thorn.
While Press keeps asking questions, Mara's research reveals a cancer of criminal activity that permeates the community and even the campus itself. The more Press questions, the more dangerous the threats against him become, and the more determined he grows to clear his friend's name.
But can Press and Mara's stumbling efforts prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, the campus radicals, and an unseen but powerful criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger...?

My review:
I loved this book!  It really surprised me with the characters' unique humor (got to love puns!) and ongoing orchestra music in Press's head.  I had to look up some of the songs mentioned and hear what he was hearing at different points in the book.  I loved the frequent talk about music and history and literature.  I liked Press a lot and Mara was great.  I love strong women characters and the men who love them!  There's often talk of faith as Press teaches the history of Christianity and is a Christian himself, so he gets a lot of resistance from liberal teachers and students.  I thought he answered them very well, calm and reasonable and witty.  It was interesting to see how college has changed since I went a little over a decade ago and yet some things were the same.  It's scary to think how much influence professors have over young people and how so many of them have an agenda and not a good one.  That's why it's so important for a person to know what they believe and why before they go to college.  He gave them something to think about.  There's some romance as Press and Mara's relationship progresses and some action as he gets closer to the truth.  It moved at a fast pace.  This was a wonderful story and I'm definitely going to look for more books by the author.  I highly recommend it!
I received this book from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:
With a PhD in English literature (Renaissance), Donn Taylor taught literature for 18 years at two liberal arts colleges. Now retired, he has published suspense novels, mysteries, and poetry. His historical novel Lightning on a Quiet Night was a finalist for the 2015 Selah Awards. He is a frequent speaker at writers' conferences. In a prior incarnation, he led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. He now lives in the woods near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.
Find out more about Donn at

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women - by Lindsay A. Franklin


About the book:

In an ever-changing world, we can be certain of one thing: we are beloved by God. Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women tackles tough topics girls face, from bullying and social media to friendships and dating, all the while showing readers how infinitely precious they are in God’s sight.

Each day features an easy-to-read, relevant devotion paired with a scripture verse and journaling space to help readers reflect on the day’s message. With honest, poignant, and sometimes humorous text, every page will speak to the pressures and changes girls face, giving them real-world applications to find God in their hearts and in their lives. Perfect for everyday use, Adored will resonate with girls searching for truth and guidance. Gift givers will love this highly-designed book featuring a beautiful, foiled cover, and two-color interior pages.

My review:

This is a wonderful devotional for teen girls or young women!  It looks at a variety of topics with a fresh young voice.  I loved the humor and I especially loved the emphasis on how much God loves and adores us!  The artwork is very cute and I like that the inside matches the outside.  It's also a nice size, not too big or small and has a hard cover so it will be more durable.  I highly recommend this book and it would make a wonderful gift for a young lady in your life!

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

Check out more info here, including a sample!

Free for Kindle!

Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions Series) by [Sproul, R. C.]

Free for kindle!


Free for kindle!

Lady Rosamund (The Rose & The Ring Book 1) by [Williams, Joyce Brandt] 

Free for kindle!


Free for Kindle!

Spice Box (Love Endures) by [Hill, Grace Livingston]

Free for Kindle!


Free for Kindle!

Canteen Dreams (Cornhusker Dreams Book 1) by [Putman, Cara]

Free for kindle!


Free for Kindle!

A Middlebury Christmas (Christian Christmas short story) by [Higman, Anita] 

Free for kindle!


Count Your Blessings: Inspiration from the Beloved Hymn by [Inc. Barbour Publishing]  Free for kindle!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Life-Changing Miracles - Compiled by James Stuart Bell

Cover Art

About the book:

See God's Power at Work in Real People's Lives
God is near and wants to help, whatever you're going through. In Life-Changing Miracles, ordinary people share extraordinary stories of how their lives were turned upside down by a miraculous encounter. Watch God's display of power help people miraculously overcome disease, temptation, and unbelief, often leaving a mark for all eternity.

Let this book encourage your belief that God still works on earth today. He wants to demonstrate His might, not only to help and heal you in the time of your need, but to bring you closer to Him in a relationship that will last forever.

My review:

This was another great edition to the miracles books Bell has compiled!  There was such a wide variety of stories, from healings to seemingly small miracles that still made a big difference in someone's life.  Some were breathtaking and blew me away while others made me cry or smile.  All were incredibly encouraging and such a great reinforcement to my faith.  The recipients of these miracles learned great spiritual lessons such as not to fear, that God can be depended on, that He loves us and cares about even small things and He always has perfect timing.  I can't say enough good things about this book and the other books about miracles Bell has compiled.  I've read a few others but want to read them all.  I highly recommend them!

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

About the compiler:

  1. James Stuart Bell
    © David Vosburg

    James Stuart Bell

    James Stuart Bell is a Christian publishing veteran and the owner of Whitestone Communications, a literary development agency. He is the editor of many story collections, including Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters; Heaven Touching Earth;...
    Continue reading about James Stuart Bell 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

She's Got the Wrong Guy: Why Smart Women Settle - by Deepak Reju

The control freak. The angry man. The lazy guy. The unteachable guy. The promiscuous man. The unbeliever. The lone ranger. The unchurched guy. The new convert. The commitment-phobe.
For any woman who has struggled with failed relationships, this may seem like a familiar list. These are the men your friends and family have in mind when they think, "she's with the wrong guy." And while the reasons women choose these types of men are complicated and varied, ultimately, they will all let you down.
In She's Got the Wrong Guy, Deepak Reju offers a different kind of dating book, discussing the types of guys women should not marry and offering biblical reasons why they aren't suitable spouses. Writing from his years of experience as a pastor and counselor, Reju shares with women his perspective on how to assess a relationship's strengths from the beginning, how to identify possible pitfalls, and how to have the courage to wait for a relationship that will be a blessing for both of you. Using stories that single women can relate to and highlighting contemporary issues in the modern world of dating, Reju gives readers clear, biblical direction on how to have positive, life-giving relationships with members of the opposite sex.
With a strong, Christ-centered focus, women will better understand why they "settle" for less than what God intends for their romantic relationships and learn to put their hopes and find their happiness in Jesus, not marriage.
My review:
This was a fascinating book full of wonderful advice!  I mainly requested to review this because I was curious what the ten types of men to avoid were and the warning signs.  There was a chapter on each with a story of a woman dating this type of man and the signs of the problem to look out for, along with pointing out that the problem will only get worse after marriage since people are on their best behavior when dating.  Reju first had a chapter looking at why women settle for these kinds of relationships and that some of the possibilities are the high emphasis put on marriage as the most important thing to the point where it becomes an idol, emotional baggage, love being blind, fear, etc.  He reminded us that Jesus needs to be the most important and our first love.  I really liked that he emphasized this and talked quite a bit about putting Jesus in the number one spot in your life.  Only He can truly make us content.  Reju also had a great chapter on why waiting is okay and how to wait well.  I found it sad to see these women compromise their happiness, their faith and sometimes their morals just to stay with a guy in the hope that they'll get married someday, even if the guy treats you like dirt.  Unfortunately, I know a couple friends who have done this and they're miserable.  I highly recommend this book for all teen girls and single women and even single men as they need their eyes opened to the dating options they should avoid or, for the men, avoid becoming.
I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
Deepak Reju, MDiv, PhD, serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, DC, as well as president for the board of directors of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He is the author of several books and articles, including "Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus Is Greater than Saul, David and Solomon," "The Pastor and Counseling," and "On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church." Deepak and his wife Sarah have been married since 2001 and have five children.
Find out more about Deepak at

Friday, November 3, 2017

Page-Turner! 'The Delusion: We All Have Our Demons' - The Delusion Series 1 - by Laura Gallier

This book was amazing!  I never knew what was going to happen next.  It was incredibly intense.  The story follows Owen Edmonds as his senior year winds down at Masonville High School.  It's a depressing place as eleven students have committed suicide and they all wonder who will be next.  Owen is just trying to get to graduation when he meets a strange old man, almost dies and suddenly he's seeing chains and shackles on pretty much everyone.  He doesn't believe in the supernatural but there are scary creatures everywhere and they're tormenting everyone but no one can see them but him.  At first he thinks he's going crazy but he finally realizes they're not imaginary.  He tries to warn people but they don't believe him.  He sees a girl at school who doesn't have shackles and he thinks maybe she knows what's going on and how he can stop them.

I just wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next!  It reminded me of Frank Peretti's books but a little more intense with the suicides and with a teenager seeing into the other realm.  I loved the spiritual conversations as Owen tried to understand what was happening.  I admired Owen's determination to save people but also felt like he needed to let people make their own choices.  It was heartbreaking to see people make the wrong choices and more so when I thought about real life and how people choose evil and hurtful things all the time, even to their own detriment.  There was a little bit of romance.  There was also an amazing ending and a cliffhanger!  So now I have to wait to find out what happened until book two comes out!  I highly recommend this well-written page-turner!

I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

1st chapter pdf

Author Laura Gallier

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hope Toler Dougherty's 'Rescued Hearts' Blog Tour and Kindle Giveaway

 About the book:

Children's clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball's soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar- entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.
Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months' investigation against the woman's safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind.
When Mary Wade's safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn't the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.
My review:
This was a wonderful romance with exciting suspense I couldn't stop reading!  I loved getting inside of both character's heads so we get to see what they're thinking about each other.  There were some great romantic moments and a lot of funny banter.  Mary Wade was such a stubborn and strong character, a good match for the tough Brett.  I loved how prayer was her first thought going into a difficult situation and that she tried to trust God even though it felt like her world was falling apart.  Brett had a harder time trusting God and felt like he could take care of things himself, until he couldn't.  There was a good spiritual conversation between her and a teen she mentored but I wished for more with Brett.  Not until the end did he seem to think about his faith, or lack thereof.  Mary Wade really went through a lot in the story, from being kidnapped to running for her life to worrying about her business going under and being attracted to Brett.  They both had been hurt before so she feared being rejected again and he was afraid she only liked him since he had rescued her and not really for himself.  I also liked his grandmother, Gig, a lot, as she was spunky and wise.  I liked the suspense and I thought the plot moved along nicely.  I really enjoyed this story and I highly recommend it!
I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
About the author:

Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master's degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. A member of ACFW, RWA and SinC, she writes for Almost an Author. Before writing novels, she published non-fiction articles on topics ranging from gardening with children to writing apprehension. She cheers for the Pittsburgh Steelers, ACC basketball, and Army West Point Football. Hope and her husband, Kevin, live in North Carolina and chat with their two daughters and twin sons through ooVoo.
Find out more about Hope Toler at

Her personal safety isn't the only thing in jeopardy-so is her heart. In Hope Toler Dougherty's new novel, Rescued Hearts, children's clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball's soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Brett forsakes his three-month mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind . . . and then Mary Wade's safety is threatened once more.

Cozy up this fall with Hope's new book and enter to win a Kindle Fire!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Rescued Hearts
  • A Kindle Fire 7
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 13. The winner will be announced November 14 on the Litfuse blog.