Monday, January 20, 2020

Collateral Damage | Book Review



My Review
This is another riveting read by Lynette Eason. It is written in a way that draws me into the reality of each scene and has my brain turning with possible solutions to the intricately woven mystery. I enjoyed each of the characters very much—the main characters as much as the side characters.

It is a great suspense read. Lynette deals with some very sickening realities in the book, but in such a way that does not glorify it, but shows the reality of the depravity of some people’s minds.

The whole thread of PTSD was good—as in, it seemed realistic and definitely raised in me a better understanding for the individuals who go through it. I appreciate books that do things like that for me.

The romance was slow-moving and sweet. There were a few kisses mentioned, but nothing beyond that (a hint of someone accusing “middle of the night” activity, but basically in that way).

The spiritual content was woven throughout the entire book in a steady thread, which I appreciate.

This book has left me eager for the rest of the series to be here now!

*I received this book from the publisher and happily provided my honest review*



About the Book
Honorably discharged from the Army after an explosion nearly killed her, former military psychiatrist Brooke Adams has set up shop to help others--but her days of helping military personnel are over. She's got her own battles to fight from her time overseas, and she's not equipped to take on more. Former Army Special Ops Sergeant First Class Asher James could handle anything that war sent his way--terrorists, bombs, bullets. The only thing that scares him now is sleep. As the shadows close in, the nightmares begin.

Finally convinced that he needs help, Asher makes an appointment with a counselor, and Brooke is pressed by her boss to take him on. When he arrives at her office she isn't there--but a dead body is. Brooke is devastated when she walks in, and Asher is a conveniently strong shoulder to cry on. But she can't take him on as a client after sharing such an intimate and unprofessional moment, can she? And he's not sure he can handle sharing his deepest fears with such a beautiful woman.

When it becomes clear that Brooke was the real target of the attack--and that her secrets go even deeper than his own--Asher vows to protect her no matter what.

Bestselling author Lynette Eason is back with a new series that spans the globe and will have your heart working overtime.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Obedience, When It's Hard | From the Archives

For a moment, picture the following:
There is a mighty king, renowned for his power and victories. Wherever he fights, he comes away victorious, burning the enemy city and carrying away hundreds of captives. This king is now coming against your nation, and you are totally unable to defend yourself. There is only one place to go where you can escape this king’s invasion. Would it not be wise to flee?

The tribe of Judah faced this decision (Jeremiah 42-43). King Nebuchadnezzar was coming to fight against Judah and they were unable to defend themselves. The nation that they thought was the habitation of safety was Egypt. Before taking the journey down to Egypt, however, they came before Jeremiah the prophet and asked him to seek God (Jeremiah 42:1-3). They assured Jeremiah, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 42:6)

God gave Judah two options: 1) Stay in the land and be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, or 2) Flee to Egypt for and be overtaken by the sword and famine. God’s will was for the remnant of Judah to stay and be delivered into the hand of Babylon.

The thought process of Judah was understandable. Egypt appeared to be quiet and free from fear, whereas staying in the land and living through King Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion was not an appealing alternative. They were faced with a choice: obey God and stay in the land, or disobey God and flee to Egypt. Which did they choose? They chose Egypt: “for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes.” (Jeremiah 43:7) What was the result? Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled,
“And when [King Nebuchadnezzar] cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword. And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. He shall break also the images of Beth-she'mesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.” (Jeremiah 43:11-13)

What can we learn from Judah’s example?

1) Obedience is not simply saying, “I will obey” (like Judah did in Jeremiah 24:6), but in actively obeying.
2) Obedience is not always easy – in fact, to obey might mean to let go of our way of thinking and follow God – even when things do not seem to make sense.
3) There is safety in obeying God. Had Judah obeyed God and stayed in their land, God would have saved them, delivered them, and guided King Nebuchadnezzar to have mercy on them (see Jeremiah 42:11-12).
4) God loves us too much to allow us to continually disobey Him. He will bring correction if we willfully disobey Him (see Jeremiah 46:28).

Sometimes we face tough choices like the tribe of Judah did. Will we take the easy route and disobey God’s commands, or will we follow Him, no matter what the cost?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

"Thou Shalt Not" and our Thoughts | From the Archives



Have you ever applied the Ten Commandments directly to your thought-life? I have not . . . until the study on our thought-life set me to thinking.

1 - Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
2 - Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. (Exodus 20:4)
What is foremost in our thoughts? Are our thoughts focused on God and pleasing Him? If not, what keeps our thoughts away from God? These thoughts could be “gods” or “idols” (graven images) that come between us and God.

3 - Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
Many of us would never dare let a curse word out of our mouth (note: most curse words are derivatives of God’s Holy Name) but what about in our thoughts? Do we keep our thoughts pure from using ugly words?

4 - Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
While listening to the sermon, do we let our thoughts wander? Do we go to church to learn of God, or simply use that “wasted” time to daydream? When we are home on Sunday, do we keep our thoughts pure, or on this “day off”, do we take a day off of guarding our thoughts?

5 - Honour thy father and thy mother. (Exodus 20:12)
It is easy to smile and act obedient to our parents, but what about our thoughts? Do we boil and rebel inside? Do we tear down our parents in our minds? Do we compare them to others’ parents? Do we grumble about our parents in our thoughts? Honor does not come from without, but from within.

6 - Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13)
While we may not physically commit murder, remember that 1 John 3:15 says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” Are our thoughts full of love for others? Or do we mentally “kill” our family and friends?

7 - Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)
Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 – note: this can apply to women lusting after men as well). Do we look at others with pure eyes? Or do we look to supply our minds with food for thought? Do we lust after (long for) young men and thereby commit adultery?

8 - Thou shalt not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
Is it possible that when we think prideful thoughts, we are stealing glory from God? Do we steal time from God when we allow our thoughts to wander idly about instead of using them for His honor and glory?

9 - Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (Exodus 20:16)
Do we contrive ways to damage others’ reputation? Do we always “speak the truth” in our hearts about others, or do we allow our injured feelings to shade the truth in order to justify ourselves?

10 - Thou shalt not covet. (Exodus 20:17)
Do we greedily long for something that someone else has? Do we spend our time wishing or dreaming for things that are not?

As we view our thoughts in light of the Ten Commandments perhaps there are a few things to consider.
     - Where do I fail in obeying God’s Ten Commandments?
     - Where have I disobeyed and need to ask God’s forgiveness?
     - How can I change my thoughts to be more Christ-like?

Perhaps we do not think that we are in trouble of falling, but remember, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23 – emphasis added) The quote, “Our actions follow our thoughts,” is very true according to God’s Word. A person does not become a murderer overnight neither does one become a thief overnight. It begins within, when we fail to keep our thoughts in line with God’s laws.



It is so important to judge our thoughts in light of the Ten Commandments because, one day, God will judge us not only for our actions, but also for our thoughts.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Focused Backstory | Book Review and Giveaway


ABOUT THE BOOK

Learn how to write characters readers will love.
Has an industry professional told you not to dump character history at the beginning of your story? If so, you aren’t alone. But what’s the solution to this common advice? Most writers take the time to design interesting characters with troubled pasts. They long for readers to care about the characters’ lives. However, the sad truth is on page one, readers don’t care—yet. That’s why industry gurus tell writers to stop overusing character history, also called backstory, at the beginning of stories. Have you ever wondered… How to use backstory correctly? What are the ways other writers successfully incorporate backstory into their work? Do tools exist to help writers better plan stories so the backstory isn’t such a problem? In Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys, you’ll find answers to these questions and more. You’ll learn how to avoid the dreaded info-dump and instead, harness curiosity so readers keep turning pages. This resource breaks down focused backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story no matter what genre or length. Worksheets, tables, questionnaires, and templates will help you plan an engaging story with deep characters. Examples from popular stories will help you understand this method.
You’ll learn how to
• design a character around a troubled past.
• create additional characters around the main character.
• weave interesting sub-plots within a characters’ journey toward healing.
• design proper obstacles which interfere with characters’ goals.
• guide readers’ emotions so they have a satisfying reading experience.
No matter what kind of writer you are, if you take the time to analyze the use of backstory, it will enhance your style. Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys is the missing gadget in your writing tool kit.


Click here to get your copy.

MY THOUGHTS

Backstory is something I have been thinking a lot on with just own writing, so I was very interested in this book. Carol brings out some very helpful points. I didn’t actually work through all of the project sheets for each chapter, but just reading through them, they will be very helpful in developing my next story.

In some ways, this seems to be a more amateur book. I’ve read several books on the writing craft, so many of the concepts covered in this book were not new to me.

The charts are fantastic and will be great to skim back to and use in more detail later. As for the actual book text, I did find that several concepts were repeated quite a bit—it may just be that I don’t require as much repetition to get a point.

For writers who are just beginning, this would be a great read!

*I received this book from Celebrate Lit and happily provided my honest review*


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol Alwood has an unending passion for fiction, and she can’t think of a better way to spend her life than writing books for young adults and teaching about techniques she has learned along the way. With a Master of Education, experience as a content editor, and over a decade of establishing and working with critique groups, she is an excellent resource. An award-winning author, Carol finds joy in helping writers find the right tools to plan, draft and revise their novels so they can achieve excellence in storytelling.





GIVEAWAY
To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

More from Carol

Focused Backstory resulted from a personal quest to please industry critics who suggested I keep character history out of the first pages of my novels. My initial questions to this advice were: What? Why? I searched for resources to figure out how to write a more powerful beginning without relying on the past but found little help. On a mission to find answers, I studied popular books, television and movies to abstract what made stories work and — boom! I found it! We can break down backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story without compromising artistry. This book provides definitions, examples, worksheets, templates, and comics to help writers study the art of using powerful character histories to keep readers turning pages. I’m so excited to offer this resource and hope it will empower your writing as it has mine.

Blog Stops

Holly Jo Morris, December 28
janicesbookreviews, December 29
CarpeDiem, December 29
Jacquelyn Lynn, December 29
Mary Hake, December 30
Blogging With Carol, December 31
All-of-a-kind Mom, December 31
Genesis 5020, January 1
Pause for Tales, January 1
Emily Yager, January 3
Remembrancy, January 4
A Reader’s Brain, January 5
Sara Jane Jacobs, January 5
Godly Book Reviews, January 6
A Diva’s Heart, January 8
Artistic Nobody, January 9
Texas Book-aholic, January 10
Stories By Gina, January 10

End Game | Book Review


Happy release day to...



About the Book
When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington, DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper whom Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.

When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, including a link to a powerful defense contractor, they wonder if there's a deeper cover-up at play. Then Bailey is targeted, and it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.

With the stakes getting higher by the moment in a twisted conspiracy, there's a rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of all of them.

Purchase on Amazon.

My Review
I really wanted to like this book, but it just wasn’t for me. I love Christian suspense and have enjoyed some of Rachel Dylan’s books, but this was missing a few pieces for my full enjoyment.

But first… I did like the actual mystery. I couldn’t exactly untangle it myself, so I liked that. Also, the author didn’t end it like she has concluded several of her other books, so I enjoyed the variance there. The different layers of who-did-what were very intriguing and I liked watching everything unravel.

The Christian thread about trusting God rather than circumstance was nicely woven in the story and I think people who have lost loved ones and struggle to open their hearts again could benefit from this theme.

Overall, the writing was rather wooden to me, which is sad, because the actual plot had a lot of depth and potential. I felt like I was told everything rather than being able to experience it for myself. Even in the romance, I didn’t feel the chemistry between characters—they just always said they were falling quickly.

I really don’t intend to be harsh in reviewing this, but I primarily read it to see “whodunit” in the end rather than soaking in the story as it was happening, and I dislike reading in that fashion.

*I received this book from the author and provided my honest review*

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The 5-Second Prayer | From the Archives


A few months ago we had the director of BEAMS Bible Ministries (beamsbibles.org) speak at our church. As he was closing his presentation, he asked how many of us would dedicate to pray a five-second prayer for them. It was a strange request, so he went on to explain, “A five-second prayer is when you are mowing your lawn, doing your work, or whatever else, and happen to think of us; take the time to bow your head, and say a quick, five-second prayer for us and BEAMS Ministries.” The response he got after the explanation was vibrant consent.

After that Sunday, I thought a little more about the five-second prayer. Many times, I have had different acquaintances flash through my mind at odd times; could those times have been when God wanted me to lift them up in a short prayer? Though God’s Word indicates that we are to spend much time with Him in prayer, I believe that those five-second prayers are also essential. We do not know what an individual is dealing with at the moment we think of them.

Another challenge with the five-second prayer is capturing our thoughts. As I hear different news my thoughts tend to wander, often resulting in some very judgmental thoughts towards fellow-believers. Recently, God has convicted me with the challenge, “You can think about them and inwardly judge them as much as you want, but if you do not pray for them, you will succeed only in injuring yourself.” What truth! Now, as God helps me, when I am tempted to think badly towards others, I instead lift them up in prayer. The outcome is not only having peace in leaving the results up to God, but also having a freedom from evil thoughts and surmising.

What can be benefited by a five-second prayer? I am sure that we will never know. We should just be sure that we immediately obey God and His prompting

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. I John 5:14-15


Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Dating Charade | Book Review

My Review

This was not at all what I judged it to be… which means I was pleasantly surprised. I love comedy, but I’m not the biggest romance fan, so yes, I realize when I sign up to read a rom-com, I might get more romance than I bargained for. But this was totally not the case. There was a lot of heart-wrenching depth to this story as foster care was a very big thread woven throughout the story.

The Dating Charade is a hilarious yet deep read. I cannot even count the times I actually laughed out loud while reading it. It was just the read I needed.

The romance was actually not the main focal point of the story, which I personally liked. It was there and it was something the characters were concerned about, but there really weren’t many uncomfortable scenes. Okay, there was one, but it wasn’t between the two MCs… yeah, it was really an unnecessary scene in my eyes, [spoiler] as it involved Jett interrupted while in the bathroom and the whole scene was basically him undressed and seen by another woman [end of spoiler]. Yeah, that scene could have totally, totally been left out, as it showed the chaos, but I think a much more G-rated situation could have occurred. Besides that, I don’t remember anything specifically, but then I will openly confess that I was more involved in the kids’ stories than in their romance.

The spiritual content really wasn’t deep at all. I guess they did pray, but it was more of a flippant, “Okay, God, I need You” (which I don’t have anything at all wrong with—it’s just when that is basically all the spiritual content). Oh, and there was a church service, but it was more the before/after service than the actual service that was honed in on.

Definitely a 4.5 star-book in my books. ;) I’ll probably find time to reread it.

*I received this book from the author and happily provided my honest review*

About the Book

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.
But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.
No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?
Melissa Ferguson’s hilarious and warmhearted debut reminds us that love can come in very small packages—and that sometimes our best-laid plans aren’t nearly as rewarding and fun as the surprises that come our way.
Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

 Melissa Ferguson lives in Bristol, Tennessee, where she is an adjunct professor at King University and pens books that make her laugh and grow. She used to have hobbies like running and backpacking the Appalachian Trail outside her door. Now she and her husband are outnumbered, and her hobbies include diaper changes, chasing toddlers in parking lots, and admiring the Appalachian Trail out her minivan window while singing “Winnie the Pooh.” She survives by Jesus, rom coms, and roughly two espresso shots a day. The Dating Charade is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Read an excerpt of The Dating Charade here.

Blog Stops

Genesis 5020, December 16
Kat’s Corner Books, December 17
Robin’s Nest, December 17
EmpowerMoms, December 17
All-of-a-kind Mom, December 18
For Him and my Family, December 18
Carla Loves to Read, December 19
CarpeDiem, December 19
Cultivating Us, December 19
Quiet Quilter, December 20
SusanLovesBooks, December 21
Texas Book-aholic, December 22
A Reader’s Brain, December 23
janicesbookreviews, December 23
Emily Yager, December 24
Vicky Sluiter, December 24
Hallie Reads, December 25
Remembrancy, December 25
Just the Write Escape, December 26
Simple Harvest Reads, December 26 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Pause for Tales , December 27
As He Leads is Joy, December 28
A Rup Life, December 28
Batya’s Bits, December 29
With a Joyful Noise, December 29
Inklings and notions, December 29


Thursday, December 26, 2019

God's Hostage | Book Review



About the Book
The incredible true story of one man's imprisonment for the gospel; his brokenness, God's faithfulness and his eventual freedom.

In 1993, Andrew Brunson was asked to travel to Turkey, the largest unevangelised country in the world, to serve as a missionary. Though hesitant because of the daunting and dangerous task that lay ahead, Andrew and his wife, Norine, believed this was God's plan for them.

What followed was a string of threats and attacks,but also successes in starting new churches in a place where many people had never met a Christian. As their work with refugees from Syria, including Kurds, gained attention and suspicion, Andrew and Norine acknowledged the threat but accepted the risk, determining to stay unless God told them to leave.

In 2016, they were arrested. Though the State eventually released Norine, who remained in Turkey, Andrew was imprisoned. Accused of being a spy and being among the plotters of the attempted coup, he became a political pawn whose story soon became known around the world.

This is Andrew's remarkable story of his imprisonment and journey of faith.


Purchase on Amazon.

My Review
This was... a little different than I’d expected. I’ve read several books on imprisoned Christians. This one was very open and honest about discouragement, fear, disappointment, depression, and doubts—and I found that to be very good. Because so often, we hold Christians who go through difficulties on a pedestal, as if they’re “super Christians” or something like that. You definitely don’t get that disillusionment with “God’s Hostage.”

Because it’s a true story, I hesitate to voice anything that would sound critical, because I don’t know what I would do in this situation and I don’t want to appear as a know-it-all or judgmental. Overall, I guess there just felt to be an imbalance. For instance, about 2/3 of the book was about his struggles and only the last 1/3 about his victory (which was still peppered with his doubts and struggles). At one point, he admitted that though he had doubted God and accused Him, he had asked forgiveness and regularly prayed for hours. But the focus was on the loneliness and depression, not on his communion with God unless it benefitted the prison situation. Because of this imbalance, when I think of the book as a whole, I think more of his depression than of his victory. I’m choosing to dwell on the small tidbits of positive lessons he learned—like the small mention of not dwelling on himself, but on others (mentioned for only about a page). It felt like when he finally surrendered to God’s will in his life and imprisonment, the story skipped through months and didn’t dwell on the positive like it had on the negative.

There is the whole situation of him considering suicide and turning to meds rather than to God that will cause some readers to not agree with his methods.

That being said, it was a very interesting read. Different from many of the imprisoned Christian books I’d previously read because Andrew Brunson wasn’t tortured, but often held in isolation. Because it’s an American Christian who was held, it brings it a little closer to home than stories of other imprisoned Christians who were held in their own nations.

*I received this book from the publisher and happily provided my honest review*
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