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For the Love of Literature

As a bibliophile, my passion for books coalesces with a love of writing, and writing book reviews allows me to share literature with the world.

You Better Watch Out, You Better Be Good

Benjy and the Belsnickel - Swinehart,  Bonnie

Heartwarming and charming, “Benjy and the Belsnickel” is an all-around fun read for children whose reading skills are advanced enough for chapter books, and the hand-drawn illustrations add to the appeal. With Christian underpinnings, this book reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie series as well as the lesser-well-known “Younguns of Mansfield” by Thomas L. Tedrow. Benjy is an eleven-year-old boy growing up in the Pennsylvania Dutch town of Landisburg in the 1930s, and this quaint setting includes a one-room schoolhouse and rural farms where adventure is never far away. Unfortunately for Benjy, neither is trouble. Poor Benjy doesn’t mean to be so naughty, but he can’t seem to help himself, and as a result he fears a visit from the Belsnickel at Christmastime. A more benign version of Krampus, the Belsnickel is associated with southwestern Germany and also the Pennsylvania Dutch. Benjy’s encounter with this mysterious creature might be slightly scary for younger kids, but the overwhelming majority of this delightful book is amusing and pleasant. Reading about a time when kids played mostly outside and used their imaginations to have fun is such a relief from today’s technological age and will hopefully inspire young readers to engage in some of these “old-fashioned” activities!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.

Compelling, with a Caveat

Gone Too Soon - Carlson,  Melody

Whew. This is a tough one to review, because of the subject matter itself and because it’s difficult to discuss without giving spoilers. The first half of this book is very dark. Although there are important peripheral characters, the main characters are sixteen-year-old Kiera, her mom Moira, and her recently-deceased older sister Hannah. Kiera’s part of the story is told in the first person and Moira’s in third-person limited point of view; Hannah’s story is told through diary entries. As such, the reader is really placed into the mind of each character, and let me reiterate: it’s very dark, especially for the first half of this novel. On the one hand, this really makes the experience realistic and enables the characters to come alive and evoke sympathy, but…maybe it’s a bit too much for too long.

The target audience for “Gone Too Soon” is young adult, and as an adult reading this, I would categorize it as mature young adult or even adult. I loved that this became a story about redemption and coming to terms with grief, with all of the baggage that involves: shame, guilt, anger, depression, etc. However, I feel the need to add a major caveat here. A large percentage of this book is not a feel-good story, and it’s not meant to be. This is about a family truly coming apart at the seams, and it is anything but pretty. It is raw and real, and the first two-thirds or so of the story could be included in a manual about how not to deal with grief. There are plenty of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and for this reason I would issue a trigger warning for suicide, rape, and drug and alcohol abuse. There are no graphic details, but the mindset of the characters are described thoroughly. Given this, I would only recommend this book to those who are looking to help people who are dealing with grief and/or those who are looking for a heartfelt read but who are approaching it from a stable mental health perspective. The later part of this book, about the resolution of the plot, could be helpful as a Christian approach to grief. My main bone of contention with the book as a whole is that while I found it to be an absolutely compelling read and loved that it dealt with real-life issues and brought in a Christian perspective in a realistic, non-preachy manner, I feel that the darkness was too heavy without any whispers of hope for too long before any relief entered the narrative.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.

I Will Never Leave Thee Nor Forsake Thee

Woman of Courage: Collector's Edition Continues the Story of Little Fawn - Wanda E. Brunstetter

“I am a woman of faith who is trusting in the Lord to give her courage.”

“Woman of Courage” has been on my reading list for a few years now, and I am glad that I was able to read this collector’s edition, which includes the sequel novella “Woman of Hope.” Expecting “Woman of Courage” to be a travel novel and an Oregon Trail-like experience, I was surprised to discover that it fell more into the genre of wilderness survival and mountain living. Traveling was still a part of the tale, but most of the narrative was focused on the characters’ experiences and interactions with each other rather than on the trek itself. Fraught with omnipresent danger, this story did not have any lulls or tedious sections and proved to be a quick read, even taking into consideration the appended novella. The situations seemed realistic and not contrived, and there were several twists that I did not expect, which I always appreciate. Amanda, the eponymous heroine, was a sweet character, and I would have liked to have more of her background; other than being unerringly Christian and using quaint language (“thee” and “thou”), there were no other indications that she was a Quaker. It would have been worthwhile to add more information about this particular religious group to the story, in my opinion. However, I did appreciate the author’s use of Native American and mixed-race characters.

Despite very much enjoying this story, there were a few points with which I had issues, and I wavered between a four and a five-star rating. Some of the language and slang used in the narrative was not period-appropriate, and several of the characters were stereotypical, including Amanda. She was too perfect and therefore did not seem to grow or change throughout the course of the story, whereas Jim Breck’s attitudes and place in the story shifted too quickly. Yellow Bird and Buck McFadden were my favorite characters, as they were the most dynamic and realistic, given their pasts and what became of them. Because Amanda was a missionary, the Christian underpinning of the novel did come across as preachy, but not overbearingly so. Amanda’s story dovetailed well into that of Little Fawn’s in “Woman of Hope”, and this novella is what ultimately bumped up my rating. Little Fawn’s story was not as idealistic and yet it was still hopeful and inspiring. Amanda’s character was also more realistic, and all of the characters’ actions were credible. The story was well written for its short length, as well, and it did not seem like it was too abrupt. Being able to see how circumstances changed for the characters from “Woman of Courage” in the approximately seventeen-year time gap and being introduced to the next generation of characters was a fitting way to end the saga.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

The Amish Midwife's Secret Review and GIVEAWAY!

 

About the Book

 



Book: The Amish Midwife’s Secret  
Author: Rachel J. Good  
Genre: Inspirational Amish Romance  
Release Date: November 27, 2018

A beautiful story of forgiveness and second chances.” -Shelley Shepard Gray, New York Times bestselling author
 
They won’t see eye-to-eye until they meet heart-to-heart…
 
Kyle Miller never planned on becoming a country doctor. But when he’s offered a medical practice in his sleepy hometown, Kyle knows he must return… and face the painful past he left behind. Except the Amish community isn’t quite ready for Kyle. Especially the pretty midwife who refuses to compromise her herbal cures and Amish traditions with his modern medicine…
 
The more Leah Stoltzfus works with the handsome Englisch doctor, the more she finds herself caught between the expectations of her family and her own hopes for the future. It will take one surprising revelation and one helpless baby in need of love to show Leah and Kyle that their bond may be greater than their differences… if Leah can find the courage to follow her heart.

Click here to purchase your copy!


About the Author

 



Inspirational author Rachel J. Good writes life-changing, heart-tugging novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. The author of several Amish romance series, she grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for many of her stories. Striving to be as authentic as possible, she spends time with her Amish friends, doing chores on their farm and attending family events.
 
Rachel’s Amish series include Sisters & Friends (Charisma House/Harlequin), Love & Promises (Grand Central), Hearts of Amish Country (Annie’s Book Club), and Surprised by Love as well as several anthologies—Springs of Love, Love’s Thankful Heart, Plain Everyday Heroes—and the Amish Quilts Coloring Books.
 

Guest Post from Rachel

 

 

The Amish and Herbal Remedies
 
As many of you know, my Amish novels are based on real life. I get ideas from hanging around Amish friends, hearing their stories and observing their lives. I’d never invade their privacy by telling their stories exactly as they happen, but the things I learn trigger plot ideas.
 
I’ve always been fascinated by the way the Amish approach healing. Once thing I’ve learned is that, although they’re usually willing to visit doctors, they don’t always take the medicines that are prescribed. Instead, they often substitute herbal remedies. That, and several visits to one of my favorite Amish natural products stores, gave me an idea for one of the conflicts in The Amish Midwife’s Secret.
 
Leah, an Amish midwife, prefers herbal remedies. Of course, that puts her in direct conflict with Kyle, the new Englisch doctor in town, who only believes in science and traditional medicine. Put the two together and lots of sparks fly. Of course, some of those sparks are also of a romantic nature.
 
Leah is not only a midwife, but her family owns a natural products store. She knows the best herbs for healing. Rather than sending a small boy to the hospital for pneumonia, Leah covers the baby’s chest with a warm mixture of onions and other herbs and spices (some Amish friends prefer raw onion for congestion), and she feds the baby fresh pineapple juice for his cough.
 
As a doctor, Kyle is horrified. He wants to admit the baby to a hospital at once. And he expects the old country doctor he’s replacing to back him up. Instead, Dr. Hess informs Kyle that many of the Amish go to doctors for a diagnosis, but then rely on herbal treatments rather than prescriptions.
 
Kyle, who’s been debating about whether to stay in Amish country or move to a big-city hospital, decides to remain in Lancaster and make it his mission to prevent the Amish midwife from harming newborns and their mothers. He certainly doesn’t expect to have his eyes opened to other ways to handle illnesses. But he has to admit, Leah’s methods do seem to work. When a crisis comes, they soon discover that it takes both of them to save a baby.
 
***
 
A extra little secret: Those of you who get my newsletter already know this, but Kyle in The Amish Midwife’s Secret appeared in two earlier books. The Midwife story stands alone, but if you want to know more about Kyle and Emma’s past, you can find it in the Sisters & Friends series, Book 1, Change of Heart, and Book 2, Buried Secrets.


My Review

 
My feelings going into this book were a mixed bag. On the one hand, I loved that it had a medical aspect and that it featured many Amish characters, but I wasn’t so sure about some of its other aspects. It’s a contemporary romance, and I prefer historical settings and, although a romantic at heart, I’ve never been a fan of the romance genre. However, so much of Christian fiction is romance-oriented that I’ve come to accept that it’s most likely going to be part of the story. What sets some Christian fiction authors apart for me as a reader is the ability to craft a narrative in which the romance is not overdone. The romance is definitely there, but it’s not overdramatized and it coalesces well with the other primary storylines. To my delight, this was the case with “The Amish Midwife’s Secret”. Even though it was clearly evident from the beginning that Leah and Kyle were attracted to one another, knowing this early on did not detract from the story.

Something that really stood out in this novel was Good’s ability to weave together the Amish, Mennonite, and Englisch cultures and customs. The characters were all dynamic, facing challenges to their beliefs and traditions, and this conflict added emotional depth to the story. Both Leah and Kyle had to come to terms with defining moments in their past and learn how to move forward in faith. They each had dreams that pulled their hearts in different directions, and it was interesting to watch this play out. One of the main lessons, in my opinion, was about compromise. Sometimes the answer isn’t always black and white but rather a mixture of the two. Balancing complementary medicine such as herbal remedies with prescription medication and more invasive procedures is one example of this. Seeing how the Englisch and Amish can coexist and learn from one another made this book stand out, and the strong faith element was a good reminder that God is always working things out and making a way for us. What a blessing it is when we, like Leah and Kyle, realize how things are coming together and falling into place!

I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
 

Blog Stops

 

Among the Reads, November 27

Christian Bookaholic, November 27

KarenSueHadleyNovember 27

The Avid Reader, November 28

A Baker’s Perspective, November 28

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 28

Genesis 5020, November 29

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 29

cherylbbookblog, November 29

Because I said so- adventures in parentingNovember 30

BigreadersiteNovember 30

Quiet Quilter, December 1

Blossoms and Blessings, December 1

Wonders of Anomalies Book Reviews, December 1

Bibliophile Reviews, December 2

Britt Reads Fiction, December 2

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, December 3

Captive Dreams Window, December 3

Cafinated Reads, December 4

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd CornerDecember 4

Carpe Diem, December 4

Maureen’s Musings, December 5

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, December 5

Christian Centered book ReviewsDecember 6

Janices book reviewsDecember 6

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, December 7

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 7

For the Love of Literature, December 7

Inklings and notions, December 8

Jeanette’s Thoughts, December 8

Moments, December 9

Random Thoughts From a Bookworm, December 9

Texas Book-aholic, December 9

Miss Tinas Amish Book Review, December 10

The Becca Files, December 10

Vicky Sluiter, December 10

 

 

Giveaway

 

 
 
To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away a grand prize package of two faceless Amish dolls and an autographed copy of The Amish Midwife’s Secret and Plain Everyday Heroes!!
 
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d66f/the-amish-midwife-s-secret-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

I Pledge Allegiance

The Liberty Bride - Tyndall,  MaryLu

Once again this series has delivered a solid, intriguing story full of suspense, romance, and faith. While some series might fall into a rut and begin to turn out indistinguishable heroines and monotonous plot lines, The Daughters of the Mayflower always rises to the occasion with a fresh, exciting experience. Part of this may be attributable to the fact that a variety of authors have contributed to the project. In “The Liberty Bride”, MaryLu Tyndall immerses readers in a Regency-era adventure during the War of 1812, featuring an unlikely heroine and hero. Their vulnerabilities and fledgling faith endear them to readers from the start, and the secrets that they keep ensure that there is no lack of tension. Throw in wartime conditions and you have a tightly-woven narrative that flows swiftly toward its climax, betrayal and love in its wake.

The Regency period is one with which I am not very familiar, and this book certainly aroused my interest. Piracy, blockading, spies, war…wow! I appreciated the gravity of the situation from an American viewpoint. From the comfortable detachment of history, it is easy to forget that victory was far from assured and that the action of individuals such as the characters in this novel often provided the crucial turning points in battle. Then, too, there is the dramatic internal struggle that we empathize with, and while mentally bolstering the characters and pointing out their flawed thinking, hopefully we turn some of the same introspection toward ourselves as well. After all, history reflects and informs our reality, and if, as in this case, it is done well, so does fiction.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Shelter of the Most High Review and GIVEAWAY!

About the Book



Book: Shelter of the Most High  
Author: Connilyn Cossette  
Genre: Christian Biblical Fiction  
Release Date: October, 2018

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.
 
Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.
 
As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author

 


Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out From Egypt series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the Christy Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of twenty years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com.

Guest Post from Connilyn

 

Shelter of the Most High, the second book in my Cities of Refuge Series, will be the first I’ve written to have been influenced by my trip to Israel last year. When I started writing Biblical fiction almost nine years ago, I was limited to exploring the Land of Promise via Google Earth, books, and through a plethora of photos on the good ol’ world wide web, but of course nothing can compare to actually experiencing the atmosphere and scenery for yourself.
 
So although I’d already written Shelter of the Most High by the time I hopped on a plane to join fellow author Cliff Graham’s GoodBattle Tour, once I returned my editing was filtered through the sights and sounds I’d witnessed for myself. It had been a life-long dream to go to Israel and it did not disappoint, in fact it just went way too fast!
 
One of my greatest fears was that I would see the places I’d written about in my books and realize I totally messed up my descriptions, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part I’d been fairly accurate (although I did tweak a few things here and there).
 
Standing on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee I was able to envision Eitan, our hero in Shelter of the Most High, sitting on one of the black boulders there, defeated and weary as he searched for his love. I was able to look toward the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon in the north and over the fertile Hula Valley just below the ancient ruins of Kedesh, the city of refuge, and consider how Sofea must have felt as she experienced the landscape of her new home for the first time, both the fear and the awe.
 
One of my favorite sites was Tel Dan and although it does not feature in Shelter of the Most High it’s lush greenness and dense forest gave me a better sense of what Israel must have been in the past before deforestation, war, and shifts in climate have done to the fertile land God himself called a land of milk and honey. Since I was so affected by Tel Dan (or Laish in ancient times) that city will be one of the settings in my upcoming third installment of the Cities of Refuge Series, Until the Mountains Fall.
 
Being a super visual person who is highly sensitive to sensory input, I took great pleasure in absorbing with all my senses as we walked paths, climbed mountains (yes, mountains), slogged through a long, cold, and wet tunnel deep beneath Jerusalem, hiked up to the secret oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul, and rocked along on a boat over the glassy surface of the Galilee. I felt like a sponge just soaking up every little detail and every grand vista.
 
Smelling the salty breeze off the Mediterranean and hearing the waves crash against the sandy beach in Tel Aviv and Caesarea Phillipi made me imagine our heroine Sofea looking over that enormous, blue expanse and wondering what sort of god had control of such a powerful thing.
 
Feeling the timeworn cobblestones beneath my feet gave me a sense of what it must have been like for Eitan and Sofea to walk through the streets of Kedesh, their own sandals scuffing against the rough-hewn stone as they went about their daily activities.
 
Running my fingers along the pitted surfaces of ancient buildings and tracing the chisel marks from craftsmen of the Bronze Age wrapped me in a whirl of imagination about who the people were that hefted those same rocks into place and the ingenuity it took to create structures that have lasted so long.
 
Tasting the unique spices and flavors of the Middle East gave me a sense of the passion Moryiah (our hero’s mother) has for creating delicious new dishes to feed her growing family and the guests at her inn.
 
Although I write fiction, my stories are woven into Biblical accounts so going to Israel was a perfect reminder for me that the people that lived between the pages of Genesis to Revelations were real. They breathed, they cried, they loved, they mourned, they suffered, and they celebrated with their families. I am so grateful to have gleaned some great new insight into the Land and its resilient, vibrant people and hope that through Shelter of the Most High readers get a small sense of the beauty and wonder I experienced there. I cannot wait to go back!
 

My Review

 

 My expectations were high going into “Shelter of the Most High”, and I have to say that I was not disappointed. Connilyn Cossette is now on my list of favorite authors, and you can bet that I will be bumping all of her books to the top of my pleasure reading list. I am eager to explore Moriyah’s story in “A Light on the Hill”, and although it is not necessary to read it first, I am sure that it offers background information that would enhance the reading experience of the second book. “Shelter of the Most High” holds its own as a standalone, however, and takes off with a flying leap right from the very beginning. There are no lulls in this story! With a diverse cast of characters and a vulnerable but determined heroine, the plot resembles a wheel hub with spokes fanning out from it, each intriguing and skillfully connected to the whole.  

Sanctuary cities are a hot-button topic in today’s political climate, and the concept of a city of refuge, while clearly different in implementation, connects the reader to the narrative and makes the story more contemporaneous. The other issues that unfold augment this connection. Some of the characters suffer from PTSD, and the reality of transitioning from one culture to another, overcoming language barriers as well as foreign customs, is very convincingly portrayed. Romance plays a role also, and one of the most poignant elements in the novel is the faith journey that the characters embark upon. Sofea and Eitan were the main protagonists, and the story is told from their alternating points of view in the first person, but this tale belongs just as much to the secondary characters. Cossette truly achieves a well-rounded narrative in which all of the characters’ lives echo throughout the pages and enrich those of the hero and heroine. This is Biblical fiction done well, on par with the works of such authors as Tessa Afshar. Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and NetGalley and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.


Blog Stops

 

A Baker’s Perspective, November 20

The Power of Words, November 20

Among the Reads, November 21

Gensis 5020, November 21

God’s Little Bookworm, November 22

Book by Book, November 22

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 22

Remembrancy, November 23

Real World Bible Study, November 23

Inklings and notionsNovember 23

The Becca Files, November 24

Christian Centered book ReviewsNovember 24

Baker Kella, November 24

Bibliophile Reviews, November 25

The Meanderings of a BookwormNovember 25

By The Book, November 26

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 26

Aryn The LibraryanNovember 27

All-of-a-kind Mom, November 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 27

Abbas Prayer Warrior Princess, November 28

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, November 28

Simple Harvest Reads, November 29 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

For the Love of Literature, November 29

Janices book reviews, November 29

The Lit Addict, November 30

Texas Book-aholic, November 30

Just the Write Escape, December 1

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, December 1

Connect in Fiction, December 2

The Christian Fiction Girl, December 2

Bigreadersite, December 2

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, December 3

Purposeful Learning, December 3

Carpe Diem, December 3

 

Giveaway

 
 
To celebrate her tour, Connilyn is giving away
 
Grand Prize: All five of Conni’s novels, including Shelter of the Most High, plus AHAVA Dead Sea Bath Salts
 
Three other winners will receive a copy of Shelter of the Most High!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d66d/shelter-of-the-most-high-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

The Vagaries of War

My Heart Belongs in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Clarissa's Conflict - Murray Pura

Many aspects of “My Heart Belongs in Gettysburg” reminded me of “Gone With the Wind,” one of my favorite classics. The Civil War setting drew me in, especially since it was set in such a renowned location. In fact, that was one of the striking parts of the reading experience because most of the action took place prior to the famous Battle of Gettysburg, when the town was just a quaint place that outsiders would never have heard of. The heroine, Clarissa Ross, points this out herself, commenting that she does not want her idyllic town and its environs to be remembered for death and destruction. Given all of the tragic events that have occurred even recently in the U.S., this was a reminder that disasters can happen anywhere, and this is where faith comes in as we trust God that He is ultimately working all things for the good of His children.

Clarissa was a distinctive character, to be sure. In some ways she reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara, with her stubbornness and her temper. An inimitable redhead, Clarissa was very strongminded and outspoken, which I think was due in part to her being an only child and also to her living in the North. Had she been raised in the South, I think that the patriarchal society there would have had a deeper influence on her and she may have been somewhat more submissive. At first I found her character to be off-putting, but I soon grew to admire her and her antics. The romance, which is usually my least favorite part of a story, was very engaging because it was fraught with both danger and surprises. From a historical viewpoint, I was pleased that this novel pointed out that the Civil War was about much more than just the issue of slavery; states’ rights and the economy were at the forefront of the fighting, especially in the beginning. The many different levels of conflict in the book were well balanced by the Christian and romantic aspects, and I only wish that the story had been a bit longer in order to fill out some of the details more fully and allow for the plot to play out more slowly.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor Review and Giveaway!

About the Book

 
Book: The Unannounced Christmas Visitor  
Author: Patrick Higgins  
Genre: Christian fiction/Christmas  
Release Date: November 18, 2014

What if angels really did come from the most unlikely of places? That’s exactly what happens in this heartwarming story, set in a homeless community in Anywhere USA. Sent to Planet Earth by his Maker, disguised as a homeless person, Enoch was on a mission: to rescue a man whose life was slowly but steadily spiraling out of control Inspired by Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it,” this story will stir your soul like never before, guaranteed! 2016 IPA (INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHER AWARDS) GOLD MEDAL AWARD WINNER.

Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author



Patrick Higgins is the author of “The Pelican Trees”, “Coffee In Manila”, the award-winning “The Unannounced Christmas Visitor”, and the award-winning prophetic end times series, “Chaos In The Blink Of An Eye.”

Guest Post from Patrick

 

Why I wrote the book: Inspired by Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it,” this story will stir your soul like never before, guaranteed!

My Review

 

“Those who rest in the promise that God really does take care of those who belong to Him, despite what happens each day, are the ones who leave all of the consequences to Him.”
 
Reminiscent of a Hallmark Channel movie, “The Unannounced Christmas Visitor” certainly embodies the spirit of the Christmas season. The reading experience was an unexpected surprise because on the surface it seemed as though the story was very transparent. From the beginning I knew what was going on, and the revelations were apparent. As an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers, this concerned me because I was uncertain about what this meant for the book. What now? What is going to keep me turning the pages?

As it turns out, in spite of my misgivings, I became emotionally invested in this book. The characters were not unique, and I say this in a good way because they represent all of us and enable us to connect with them so easily. They aren’t perfect; they reflect our own sins and shortcomings, with a familiar internal monologue of contending thoughts. Marital troubles, homelessness, and hypocrisy are some of the main themes. Where this story really shines is through how it navigates these predicaments, embracing them rather than shying away from them. “The Unannounced Christmas Visitor” contains a plethora of Scripture, which will be reassuringly familiar to seasoned Christians and immersive and enlightening to non-Christians. Not only that, but the way in which the story tackles the difficult questions offers readers a different perspective. This book is nothing if not inspirational, and it is a call to action for all of us to entertain strangers, not only at Christmastime but all year round.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

Blog Stops

 

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 10

Lighthouse Academy, November 10

The Power of Words, November 11

Christian Centered book ReviewsNovember 11

Genesis 5020, November 12

Bogging With Carol, November 12

God’s Little Bookworm, November 13

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, November 13

Girls in White Dresses, November 14

Moments, November 14

Mary Hake, November 15

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 15

For the Love of Literature, November 15

Inklings and notionsNovember 16

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 16

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, November 17

Bibliophile Reviews, November 17

Vicky Sluiter, November 18

Debbie’s Dusty DeliberationsNovember 18

Godly Book Reviews, November 19

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, November 19

Luv’N Lambert Life, November 20

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 20

Texas Book-aholic, November 21

Janices book reviews, November 21

Carpe Diem, November 22

Bigreadersite, November 22

amandainpaNovember 23

A Baker’s Perspective, November 23

 

Giveaway

 

 
 
To celebrate his tour, Patrick is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card!
 
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d5c7/the-unannounced-christmas-visitor-tour-giveaway

 

100 Women of Faith

100 Extraordinary Stories for Courageous Girls: Unforgettable Tales of Women of Faith - Fischer,  Jean

Amidst the myriad compilations of famous and notable people, “100 Extraordinary Stories for Courageous Girls” stands out in that it highlights specifically women of faith. This includes some women who were not necessarily praiseworthy but who nevertheless provide valuable lessons through their actions. One page is dedicated to each of the one hundred women portrayed alphabetically, alongside which is an illustration of them, and this setup is very advantageous for being brief and for possibly reading this in a devotional style, focusing on one woman per day. The women include Biblical characters as well as historical figures and a few contemporary ones. The Biblical women’s stories include the relevant Scriptures, and all of the stories end with a moral message related to the Bible along with a Scripture quotation. Not all of the stories have happy endings; some of the women were martyred for their faith, and although the author mentions that some were tortured, there are no graphic details. When mature words were used, such as “martyr” or “heresy”, a definition was given, and all of the Scripture references were quoted in easy-to-understand language. This is a beautiful collection of the lives of inspirational women of faith, some of whom have otherwise been lost to the annals of history, and a wonderful book for tweens and young teens.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

How to Combat Bullying

The Bullying Breakthrough: Real Help for Parents and Teachers of the Bullied, Bystanders, and Bullies - Jonathan McKee

“The Bullying Breakthrough” packs a lot of information into a small book, making it a good resource that is easy to carry around. My only real complaint is that I thought there should be more of a Christian influence and viewpoint throughout the book; however, this does serve to make it applicable to a wide range of people regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. The subtitle defines the target audience as parents and teachers, and the focus is on children, but I felt that the principles put forth here could be generalized for adults as well. It seems that bullying is ubiquitous and that while we should certainly aim to eradicate it at schools, those bullies grow up and sometimes continue to exhibit bullying behavior. Society is becoming increasingly more intolerant, and much of this narrow-mindedness mirrors childhood bullying, just at an “adult” level.

As someone who was bullied as a kid and whose son was bullied, Jonathan McKee is uniquely positioned to offer insight into the issue. He aptly notes that “[p]ain seems to be the common denominator all around. Bullied, bully, bystander…hurt isn’t partial.” He defines bullying as an aggressive, repeated behavior that involves a power play and goes on to discuss the perspective of each group—bullied, bullies, bystanders—and how to reach out to them, which I thought was very perceptive. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter are helpful for facilitating conversation and encouraging action. One of the biggest take-aways is listening to kids and noticing any behaviors that could indicate bullying of some kind. Another major point was the culpability of social media in cyberbullying and causing isolation among kids. The stories include many types of bullying, from the physical to the emotional to that which occurs on social media, and they are heartbreaking but not surprising, which is why things need to change. Fittingly, the last segment of the book is devoted to solutions for those being bullied and for the authority figures in such situations and how to help schools deal with and prevent bullying. Although not a light read by any stretch of the imagination, this is a very necessary and timely resource for anyone who has been bullied, has witness bullying, or has even been a bully themselves, and especially for those who wish to combat bullying.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Game On

Stratagem - Robin Caroll

Starting this year, I have been avoiding looking at the summary of most of the books that I read, including those I review, to make reading a more exciting experience and to steer clear of figuring out the plot too early. “Stratagem” was featured on many Christian book blogs prior to its release, so when the chance came to read and review it, I jumped on it. Going in, I thought that it was going to be a techno-thriller, so I was actually very pleasantly surprised when I realized that it was about a (fictional) murder investigation. Mysteries and thrillers, including crime thrillers, are among my favorite genres, and it is an added bonus when it happens to be Christian fiction as well because despite the subject matter, I can be assured that the language and details will not be too coarse or gritty.

“Stratagem” deals with many contemporary issues and a believable cast of characters. There is the murder early on in the story, and as the backstories of the characters unfold, it becomes evident that they are true-to-life in all its virtues and vices. There are no saints, and even the protagonist, Grayson Thibodeaux, has a painful past; he is still coming to terms with prior betrayals when he is plunged into even bigger problems. Some of the topics broached in the novel are divorce, abortion, infidelity, and phobias, among others. The concept of Game’s On You was simultaneously intriguing and disturbing, especially with the real advent of escape rooms as entertainment. Virtual reality takes flak for its potential ill effects on players, and I shudder to think of something like Game’s On You coming into play in society as well. Nevertheless, its use in the novel certainly stokes the reader’s adrenaline, and that, combined with the progression of the narrative, make this an un-put-downable thriller.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Not Today, Devil!

Oddly Enough: Standing Out When the World Begs You to Fit In - Miljavac,  Carolanne

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Carolanne Miljavac, but now I will be checking out her website. “Odd(ly) Enough” is categorized in the spiritual growth section, but it’s so much more than that. Part memoir, part call to action, it is Christian nonfiction but appropriate for anyone looking for that something more out of life, knowing that they need to make a change even if they’re fighting it. Rife with spiritual truths and Scripture, this book will have you both laughing and crying. The tone is very conversational, sprinkled with southern dialect, and Miljavac’s vulnerability and sharing of her own testimony and personal life stories make this feel like sitting down with a tell-it-like-it-is, hilarious but brutally honest friend for coffee instead of reading a work of nonfiction. There are no earth-shattering Biblical revelations here; instead, there is an empathy and a challenge to really live and love in this broken world and to let go and trust God with everything. Miljavac’s message resonates deeply with those of us who are perfectionists and who deal with ongoing life or health issues. After all, “[i]t is in our greatest moments of imperfection, when we are broken and humbled, aware of our need for God, that He comes in and shows us the beauty in our ashes. So everything that we think makes us an outcast is actually what makes us…oddly…enough.” I would definitely recommend this book to all women and particularly to those who are struggling with any kind of adversity—and really, isn’t that all of us?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Over the River and Through the Woods

The Christmas Prayer - Wanda E. Brunstetter

Wanda Brunstetter’s “The Christmas Prayer” leaves me with mixed feelings. A brief novella, it is great for a one-to-two hour diversion, and the writing is very easy to understand. However, these qualities are also part of my criticism. The storyline seems like it would have been better suited to a full-length novel, as the plot comes across as rushed, jumping over weeks and even months at a time. The same is true of the characterization. As the reader, I did not feel any strong connection with any of the characters, and they were not developed to any real extent. Part of the narrative comes from Cynthia Cooper’s journal, which in my opinion detracted from the flow of the story. This read more like a teen or young adult novella, and everything came together too neatly and too quickly to be believable. It is reminiscent of a Hallmark Channel movie. Nevertheless, the cover is absolutely beautiful, with an embossed gold border on both the front and back, and anyone looking for a fast, feel-good tale will enjoy this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Take Every Thought Captive

The Cumberland Bride - Shannon McNear

As the Daughters of the Mayflower series unfolds, paralleling America’s history and English colonization, the stories become more compelling and thought-provoking. Several readers have commented on not caring for the first book in the series, but I would encourage them to try the books that follow because they were, in my opinion, more interesting. Also, any of these books can easily be stand-alones. “The Cumberland Bride” takes place in 1794 along the Wilderness Road that ran from northeastern Tennessee to the western Kentucky frontier. That fact in and of itself was enough to garner my interest, since literature focusing on this specific time period and region seems few and far between, at least in Christian fiction.

The story itself is captivating and full of complexities that embellish the plot. McNear does not shy away from supplying details that immerse the reader in the experience, which I appreciate; it is refreshing to read a Christian story that acknowledges the rough side of life and does not hide behind rose-colored glasses, yet remains clean content-wise. The threat of Indian attack and the horrors of such are discussed, but not graphically. Likewise, the deprivation and difficulty of traveling and living in the wilderness forms a large part of the narrative, a stark reminder as to what our ancestors survived. The conditions seem unbelievable now, and I find myself wondering if people 200 years from now will look back and think the same of our lifestyle.

Another aspect of this novel that really shines is the presentation of the characters. Katarina Gruener, the heroine, has obvious flaws and fragility, which makes her truly come to life on the page. I felt added kinship with her in her affinity for writing and recording stories. Her naivete enhances her relatability, and the awkwardness of the burgeoning romance throughout the novel is endearing and true to life. Indian-settler relations are explored from both sides, with Thomas Bledsoe playing a leading role due to his shadowy past, and I valued how the Native American perspective is respectfully offered. The character dynamics are excellent. For anyone who enjoys a historical jaunt full to the brim with adventure and faith, “The Cumberland Bride” is not to be missed.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Imagine. . .The Fall of Jericho - Matt Koceich

This third installment in Matt Koceich’s Imagine series is my favorite so far. It handles issues pertinent to both Biblical and contemporary society, such as child exploitation and not fitting in, with grace, adding in just enough detail to make sure that young readers understand the situation without it being overwhelming or too frightening. Jake Henry makes a laudable role model, and his situation of feeling alone and unwanted resonates with readers of all ages. His experience in the world of the Biblical Jericho vividly demonstrates a lesson from which we can all benefit: “It’s like God is using this to show me I’m never alone, and I always have a job to do no matter what I feel inside or how crazy the situation is on the outside.” Undeniably, such an outlook on life helps all of us to face our fears and to fully rely on God even when our walls—literal or figurative—are crumbling down around us.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Love One Another

Marked by Love: A Dare to Walk Away from Judgment and Hypocrisy - Gareth Stevens Publishing

“Stop telling people they need Jesus, and instead show them they matter. Stop using fear or scare tactics and start loving. Stop talking and start showing. When the people God brings into your life begin to experience a truly giving, sacrificial, unconditional, authentic, and vulnerable love from you, it will have an impact.”

Not your typical Christian nonfiction book, “Marked by Love” truly stands out in the genre. I went into this expecting to glean information about how Jesus expressed His love for us and how we, in turn, are to demonstrate that love to others, but wow, this turned out to be so much more! Many of the points that Tim Stevens articulates are anticipated, and yet he takes them further and stretches them in a way that is honest and raw and, yes, sometimes uncomfortable. An apt description for this book would be eyebrow-raising. Stevens explains that we should move past using the title of “Christians” because it has taken on such a negative connotation over the centuries and is more often than not offensive and use instead a term such as “Christ follower.” At first I was taken aback at this; however, as with so much of this book, I found that when I put aside my initial reaction and considered what Stevens was saying, I understood his point.

The best aspect of “Marked by Love” was that it was thought-provoking. It was an immersive reading experience; it didn’t just reinforce my theological views and ideas but rather challenged me to look outside the box and consider aspects of my faith and life in general in ways I hadn’t before. Stevens doesn’t purport to have all the answers, and although I didn’t always completely agree with him 100%, he expressed and explained his views logically, reaching out to the reader and drawing them in instead of just preaching to them. Many of the Scriptures used throughout the book were taken from The Message, a translation which I have not used before and which offered a new perspective on otherwise very familiar passages. Overall, I found “Marked by Love” to be radically countercultural, especially for conservative, traditionalist Christians (I should say Christ followers!), and doesn’t that also describe Jesus’ ministry during His time here on earth? Breaking down barriers and meeting people where they were with compassion, shattering hypocrisy and judgment by extending love and leaving an example for us to follow so that we can choose to be marked by love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.