Undeniably Yours

Last time I wrote a book review on here, it was for the book The Icecutter’s Daughter.

Now I know I’ve been a little  lot MIA,  but I remember something that I said in that post. In referring to that book, I remember saying how innocent (in a good way) those  characters were, and how without sacrificing plot for it, the author managed to make the characters believable and raw, yet still chaste and above board.

Well, I just read another one: Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade.

Undeniably Yours tells the story of Meg Cole. Meg’s father is the owner of Cole Oil in Texas- one of the largest oil companies in the country. Meg has never wanted anything to do with his company, as she is more of a free spirit. However, his unexpected death plunges her into the role of CEO…a role she never dreamed of filling.

Questions needing answers are thrown at Meg, the new CEO, left and right. One being: to keep or not to keep the family horse breeding business. Meg is absolutely positive that the horses have to go…until she meets the man who runs that part of her father’s business. Bo Porter. A rugged, hardworking gentleman.

Bo has an immediate effect on Meg. His love for her father’s horses compels her to get to know this man more. The more she gets to know this man, the more compelled she is to keep this horse farm up and running.

But the moral dilemma this creates is very dangerous. Should she make a potentially unwise financial decision just because her heartstrings are pulled? Or should she go with her head & let the horses go?

This book was good. Not great… It took me a while to get into it- in fact, I started it, got bored, lent it to someone else, they read it, then I got it back, procrastinated some more and eventually read it.  I did get more into the book by about halfway through- it just seemed to take a while to “get going.”

The thing that stands out in my mind the most however, is that unfortunately, this book was only moderately “Christian” fiction. There were no real indiscretions, but the characters were not “careful” enough, in my opinion- if you know what I mean. Going to bars & dancing, getting caught in potentially compromising situations, having to fight their physical urges, etc.

It was ok. It wasn’t “bad.” But here’s my scale: I wouldn’t put it in the library at our Christian school for the high school girls to read.

And that’s that.

Thanks for reading!

Oh… one more thing. Just to be clear: I was given this book for free as a part of the Bethany House Publishers Blogger Book Review program. They give me a free book, I read it, give my honest review, then get to keep the book. Awesome, huh?

 

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The Icecutter’s Daughter

Ice-cutting?

Yeah, I’d never heard of it either.

Apparently, people used to pull horse-drawn buggies out onto frozen lakes and harvest ice blocks to sell. Interesting…

Not really the job for me- what with the high risk of sinking into a dark, frozen lake and freezing to death. No thanks.

Anyway, the land of “Minnesotan” ice-cutting does make for a great novel setting 🙂

Merrill Krause: Daughter to a fiercely protective, hard-working father & deceased mother,

Sister to several brothers who feel duty-bound to protect her,

Lover of the arts and creativity, tied to the sludge of farm-life and ice-cutting.

Rurik Jorgensen: Son due to inherit a family business,

Formerly engaged to a young lady whose heart can’t let him go,

Best friend to the brother of the ex-fiancé,

Carpenter par excellence and devoted employee.

Merrill is fulfilling her promise to her dying mother- looking after her father and brothers. Cooking, cleaning, mending clothes, even helping with the ice harvest, while all the while longing for more.

Rurik comes to town.

His faithfulness to his sickly uncle, shown in his successful undertaking of the family business, his willingness to help out with the ice harvest, and his handsome exterior make him quite a catch.

Merrill catches him.

Or so she thinks. Along comes the ex-fiancé, carrying with her some wildly inappropriate claims about the man Merrill believed to be pure and honest. Who can she trust?

Having never heart of ice-cutting, I was intrigued 🙂 The book delivered. A beautiful setting of old German and Swedish traditions colliding in a snowy wonderland, where the characters drink cocoa and wear woolen mittens….it’s a feel-good read.

I find that so many “Christian romance novels” are pushing the boundaries and attempting to smash in just enough sensual so that the novel can still be “Christian” (at least nominally,) while still appealing to the secular reader. However, the behavior of the characters in this book was completely above-board and even charming in many ways.

I enjoyed it. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think!

PS- This book was provided to me for free from the generous folks at Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for my review. Free book, my own honest opinions. Aren’t they great!?

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Shattered

Way back when, I read and reviewed the book Submerged by Dani Pettrey. And I gushed about it. Loved it!

Well, as it turns out, that book was not a fluke. Dani Pettrey is on a roll with this series! How do I know? I recently received the 2nd book in the series as part of the book reviewer program with Bethany House Publishers, and it was JUST.AS.GOOD. as the first! I couldn’t put it down!

( Picture from book listing on amazon.com)

Piper McKenna is so excited to finally have her brother Reef back in town for a while- all the siblings back together again! The excitement doesn’t last for long though… Shortly after his arrival, Reef stumbles upon a murder scene and is blamed for the terrible act, and thrown in jail awaiting a trial by a biased judge and jury.

Piper doesn’t believe it. Not Reef. He wouldn’t. But her hopes of finding out the truth are quickly shattered when she realizes that the man closest to her heart, Landon Grainger, can’t seem to look past the facts of the murder scene to see the man he grew up with, the man he knows would never commit such a heinous crime.

Can Piper convince the others, especially Landon, to dig for the truth- for the sake of her brother? And if they dig, will Piper really be satisfied with what they find? Will the faith she placed in her brother be shaken? And will this be the thing that finally brings her and Landon together, or the one that drives them apart for good?

This book is phenomenal. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. The characters are, just as they were in the first book, so believable. The struggles and emotions they face are identical to “real-life” issues, which makes them very relatable. Pettrey writes in a smooth, easy-to-read style, with a very succint style- no disjointed, jumpy chapters.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of romance/suspense novels. And perhaps to other readers as well- since this may be the book that brings you over to the other side… 🙂

As always, Bethany House Publishers is beyond fabulous for providing me a free copy of this book and allowing me to review it honestly. The opinions are all mine.

Your Beautiful Purpose

Just in case I’ve never really said this before- I LOVE the privilege I have of reviewing books for Bethany House Publishers. It is the coolest little “gig,” and something that I truly relish!

Moving on…

The latest book? Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson.

It is one of the BEST books I have read in a very long, long time. If you are a woman, who can sometimes, in the seeming “drudgery” of the everyday, lose sight of your purpose as a daughter of the King, READ THIS!

Recently I have felt very “on hold.” I have dreams and plans that have been indefinitely put on hold by circumstances not necessarily of my choosing. I knew, as soon as I read the foreword by Ann Voskamp, that this book was a good place to start:

“It doesn’t matter how chaotic your life is. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been waiting, what your hope is, what your impossible prayers are.
It doesn’t matter how broken you are.
The Prince of Peace is bent beside you right now- you holding this book, because He knows- and He’s picking up all the pieces to your peace.
To make this mosaic of astonishing grace.
To piece you together for His one beautiful Purpose.
So turn the page…and breathe.”

Aaaah.  Can’t you just feel it? This book was sent to me ON PURPOSE at just the right time.

Your Beautiful Purpose starts out by making sure that each women, who is a child of God, believes that she is indeed called by Him to a specific purpose. Then Larson walks the reader through the steps of embracing her purpose, trusting God’s timing, hearing God’s voice, believing God’s Word, walking by faith, and taking on new territories for God.

The Lord is really dealing with me. Working in my heart to get me to a place of thankfulness, a place that is not envious of another woman’s “calling.” A place of expectancy and understanding that I am in this place on purpose, being trained for the next step He has for me.

It is phenomenal! Here are a few quotes I highlighted, underlined, did a little dance while reading, etc…

“If we trust God with our fears and insecurities, He’ll entrust us with a call that puts those fears to shame.”

“If Jesus has our full attention from day to day, moment to moment, He’ll get us where we need to go so that we can live out the big picture.”

“Can you honor the “Me” in her? How you steward what you see in others will determine how much I can entrust to you.” (Something the Lord spoke to Larson’s heart while she was dealing with envy toward another woman’s ministry/calling.)

“I’m happy for her. Expectant for me.”

“When life heats up, we have the choice to jump out of the refiner’s fire with our pride still intact. But here’s what’s scary about choosing that route: the pride that helps us save face will eventually be the stumbling block that makes us fall on our face.”

“God will do this work in you to the extent that you entrust yourself to Him.”

Lastly…

“Nothing is more beautiful than a strong, humble, God-fearing woman who knows who she is and Whose she is.”

Y’all. Please pick up a copy of this book. I think it is going to really speak to the hearts of so many women who need the reminder that God desires to use them in a mighty way.

I stole this prayer from the book, and it is now posted on my bedroom mirror to remind me that I am here, in this place at this time, on purpose. And to remind me to be ever moving forward in my relationship with my Father, looking expectantly for the next thing He will allow me to do for Him:

“Is His Kingdom real to you in this place?…You’re not free to go until you’re free to stay. Call on God until His power invades your reality…

Precious Lord,

I open up my hands to You and say with all my heart, You get to decide, Lord. You get to decide the how, the when, and the what for the deepest desires of my heart. Pour your Spirit out on me. Give me grit and grace to lean in and learn everything I can in this place.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

Learning from the “Now,” while Eagerly Awaiting the “Next,”

-Me

PS- Just wanted to remind you that these opinions are all my own. Bethany House Publishers are generous enough to send me a book for free, and not require me to “like it.” Aren’t they great?

Crash Course in Leadership

One of my passions is leadership. Leading a group doesn’t scare me, it invigorates me. I love to organize something and make it happen, and the thrill of making it happen for a larger group of people is even better.

Lately I have felt a little, scratch that, a LOT frustrated with my desire to lead because I feel like I am ineffective in all of my roles. Financially, our family needs me to work, but our conviction is that I need to be with our son. So I work & stay with our son. He comes to work with me….

Trying to teach a class of 15-25 with a toddler in the room ain’t as easy as you might think… They’re yelling at me that his diaper is stinking up the library, he’s crying asking for a drink, someone points out that he has snot running out of his nose, etc., etc., etc.

I feel frustrated- am I leading my son effectively? Am I wasting the time of these kids? Am I doing everything at 50% and not exercising the strengths that I really feel the Lord has given me?

It’s been a struggle…

So when the opportunity to review this book came to me, I accepted it, hopeful for some encouragement and a challenge on how to improve in all areas in which I am supposed to lead.

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Dr. Mohler is the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this book, he outlines 25 very practical principles that he believes have the power to change the mentality of leaders.

Inside this book, I found many things that I needed to find. I will admit that it was, at times, somewhat heavy reading, however, it was written in a refreshingly simple format. Each principle had a chapter, and each chapter was able to stand alone. That will make this book an easy go-to reference for me in the future if I should feel frustrated and just need a jolt in a certain area of leadership.

Some of the best quotes in the book, in my opinion, were the following, which really resonated with me. They seemed to piggyback one another, even though they jumped from one chapter to another:

“Management is not the same thing as leadership.” (p. 16) (I’ve been satisfied to just manage my situation, believing that that is all I may be able to do- I have to put some things aside in order to LEAD in my situation.) “Without convictions, you might be able to manage, but you cannot really lead.” (p. 26)

“…if believers cannot lead, we are headed nowhere.” (p. 20) (How true is that? If we want to see a change, we have to have the conviction to step up and do all we can to make it happen. We complain about our country’s leadership, but so few of us would be willing to lead in those capacities.)

“The beliefs that anchor our faith are those to which we are most passionately and personally committed, and these are our convictions.” (p. 20) (If I do truly believe that the Lord has enabled me to lead, and my deep conviction is that my son is my 1st responsibility, then I must believe that I can accomplish these two tasks simultaneously.)

“Charisma is a great gift, but it cannot substitute for conviction.” (p. 32) (When we believe we are doing what we are doing, ON PURPOSE, with conviction, then we will see that our personality traits are not the things that will carry us, but our convictions.)

“Leaders who fear acknowledging alternatives to their decisions undermine their own credibility.” (p. 64) (I must lay aside my pride to lead effectively. If something isn’t working, change it! My own stubbornness will leave a much worse impression than admitting that I need to change will.)

As a librarian, you know I loved this one:

“Think of reading like you think of eating. In other words, pay attention to your diet.” (p.103) (In other words, readers are leaders, people! I have to keep seeking counsel in order to grow as a leader- both of my son and of my students.)

And as a blogger, this one was a favorite too:

“All leaders lean into words; it just comes with the territory. For Christian leaders, the commitment to words is a matter of discipleship and personal devotion, for our faith is communicated by words… The written word matters longer and reaches farther than the words we speak.” (p. 171-172) (I don’t want this blog to be fluff- I want it to matter, today and in days to come.)

Anyway, my overall opinion on the book? Very practical and very challenging to me. Dr. Mohler has obviously been in a very high role of leadership, and I appreciated his book very much.

Psst! Just wanted to remind you that this book was provided to me, free of charge, by the gracious folks at Bethany House Publishers as part of their blogger review program. I get to keep the book, which is awesome (please read that last word in a high pitched voice for full effect,) but I am not required to present the book in a favorable way. The opinions are mine, all mine.

The Breath of Dawn- Kristen Heitzmann

Imagine being a 20-something single girl, shunned by your family & on the run for your life from a crazed, recently released felon that YOU put behind bars. Think you would find love along that kind of ride?

Well, I just finished another fabulous book as part of the Bethany House Publishers book reviewer program, and it encompassed all of that and so much more! I couldn’t put the book down… 400+ pages in 2 days (while working, watching my son, and sacrificing sleep.)

The characters and emotions in this book were so raw and honest. Their hearts were bared open, and because of that, the book just sucked me in to their lives. Fabulous read!

Quinn Reilly. A 27 year old whose life has led her to be a touch cynical, aggressively independent, and unable to settle. She has created a world for herself, one she thinks is untraceable. She owns an anonymous online business, buys with cash, and trusts no one. All for the sake of staying away from him.

Markham Wilder. A con man par excellence. Raised in a hellish home, he was taught to steal, deceive & kill at an early age. He thought he had mastered it when he found a “pathetic” religious community just waiting for a dynamic shepherd to lead them. He led them alright- led them to deposit their life’s savings into his personal account. Everything was going so smoothly until Quinn. Nosy Quinn. She turned him in & now that he’s out, he’ll make her pay. 

The Spencers. The willingness of this family to help others sucks Quinn in like a vortex. It’s so night and day opposite from the way her own family treated her & she fights the desire to be a part of this life. But she can’t stick around here- she’d be endangering this great family! Markham would know… he’ll take out anyone between himself and her.

Morgan. The oldest Spencer brother. Widowed, single father, business mogul, quite sure he’s not interested in love yet… or is he? This spitfire of a woman, Quinn, is intriguing to him. She is independent, and doesn’t necessarily need him, which draws him all the more to her.

Will Quinn be able to escape Markham once and for all? Will Markham get revenge or redemption? Will Morgan be able to bear the baggage that Quinn brings to the table?

Read it and find out!

(Psst! Don’t forget that this book is provided to me for free by Bethany House Publishers, but the opinions are really mine. Nobody made me love it… I just did!)

Against the Tide

I recently finished another book for the Bethany House Publishers reviewing program.

And it was an excellent book!

Lydia Pallas is all grown-up now and ready to escape the past of instability that haunts her. Orphaned at age 9, and forced to fight through all measures of insecurity just to make it to adulthood, she now craves routine and autonomy.  After many years, she has made a name for herself as a foreign language translator, and will do nothing to risk her reputation or her first source of steady, reliable income.

Nothing that is, except fall head over heels for the greatest liability yet- Alexander Banebridge, “Bane.”

Bane, kidnapped from his father at a young age and used as an opium pusher, is now a renewed man- changed from the inside out. He is determined to make up for his past sins- to right the wrongs he did with opium. He will stop at nothing, and will let nothing and no one stop him from blotting out the opium trade all together.

No one, that is, except for a beautiful translator, with a hauntingly similar story to his own and a headlong spirit to match.

What neither stopped to imagine was the force they could become if only they worked together… Can Lydia cross the line and step out into unpredictable territory to help stop a terrible crime? Can Bane ever forgive himself enough to let go of the past and see a future? And will they ever stop seeing everything around them & truly see each other?

All I can say about this one is- phenomenal!

This book has made it to the top of my recommendations list for sure. The characters were so real, so alive. There was nothing at all stereotypical about this romance. Both Lydia and Bane fought demons both their own and in each other throughout the entire story. There is even a story of redemption woven throughout.

It is truly excellent!

I often feel that Christian Fiction books lack substance. They either have a story that revolves around the spiritual lives of the characters, and thus lack any real adventure, romance, or mystery, or they are full of romance, mystery and adventures, while the mention of God is minimal, and leaves the reader wondering exactly what was “Christian” about this Christian Fiction.

Camden has done an excellent job of taking the reader through both Bane’s story of understanding the true depth of redemption from sins, and Lydia’s story of grasping Heavenly security instead of Earthly.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this novel. I hope you’ll pick it up and read it for yourself!

As usual, Bethany House Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book, but in no way required a positive opinion from me. The gushing and blubbering over the excellence of this book was ALL me. 🙂