Monday, November 28, 2016

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance Mom, by Wendy Speake and Kelly Stuart

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance MomLife Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelly Stuart celebrates the ways mothers can live their art in the midst of their mothering. By following God's leading to embrace His gifts, renaissance moms can model the joy of obedience for their families. It's a celebration of motherhood, creativity, and the faith that binds them.

This isn't a how-to book for running a business, or for developing creativity, or for developing time for creative pursuits in the midst of a busy season of life, but it is a book full of encouragement for creative women (with scriptural backing), and yes, some tips for running a business, developing creativity (in oneself and one's kids), and finding time.

This is especially geared toward mothers, and that aspect I had a hard time connecting with, being as I am not a mother. However, there was a lot of good, applicable encouragement for creative women that one doesn't need children to appreciate.

A couple highlights that impacted me:

Recognizing the worth in our creative abilities: While I can accept that I'm quite creative, sometimes it's a struggle to find the worth in it. It's not earning a fortune, and my artwork certainly isn't a Monet or Van Gough; I'm hardly at professional couturier-caliber in my sewing. I'm not providing a vital service, like doctors, farmers, and car mechanics; nor is much of my creative work overtly spiritually uplifting. However, the authors emphasize that using these creative abilities--in whatever capacity we are talented--is an act of worship, full of worth. God gave us these desires and talents and abilities for a purpose, and it is to His glory when we use them; saying that they aren't worth much belittles His good work.

Another aspect of worth the authors discuss is the placing of monetary values on our creative goods and services. It can be hard to charge for something that isn't a necessity, especially when we struggle with not feeling like a professional at our craft. And while the authors acknowledge that one should listen to God first on whether to charge or not to charge, they also emphasize that one should not be afraid to make a profit--the worker is worthy of his wages. And a lot of times things we create are truly A LOT of work and worth monetary compensation.

The importance of partnering with our family: This was one of my learning areas, as I tend to do a thing on my own (sometimes secretively, especially for something in which I don't have a lot of confidence in the outcome) and then maybe discuss it later if it was successful--like when I started writing short stories and submitting them for publication. When the first one was published, I felt obligated to tell my husband--but I had never hinted prior to that that I was writing them. The authors point out that it's a blessing to have the blessing of one's family--husband, kids, whoever. Chances are, they will be supportive and encouraging, helping in the areas one is not strong, if one only gives them the chance. "Creative woman, your husband is for you, not against you . . . even if he doesn't always understand you. You are two different personalities there in one flesh, and it can rub something awful. Still, if you feel called by God to do something more, then you've been called to do more together." (134).

There's a lot more in here, with recognition of boundaries, what to do if one doesn't have the blessing of one's family, how to incorporate family into one's creative pursuits, how to encourage creativity in one's children, and things the bible has to say about mothers and creativity (yes, it's there! Check out the Proverbs 31 woman). I definitely recommend it to both those who are creative and those who wish they were--chances are you actually are, and this book can help you see it. And also for any woman who is a mom and still wishes for a little more out of life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ronie Kendig's "Conspiracy of Silence" - Indiana Jones-style military thriller

#1: Conspiracy of Silence  -     By: Ronie Kendig
Four years after a mission gone bad, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. But when a mysterious plague is unleashed at an archaeological dig in Saudi Arabia, Tox is lured back into action. Partnered with an archaeologist, an FBI agent, and his old team, he is up against not only the plague, but also a secret society and an ancient mystery surrounding a revered codex that might be the key to the whole mission . . .

Indiana Jones meets military thriller, with ancient plagues, biblical artifacts, and secret societies to spice things up. I really enjoyed that unique blend. The action was non-stop, with plenty of suspense. The team is formed of people from a variety of backgrounds--from Christian to Jew to agnostic to atheist. While there is definite friction thanks to their histories, they are still a cohesive, functioning unit.

Kasey was definitely my favorite character, though unexpected, since she didn't have a part in the prequel. She doesn't have the military prowess most of the others on the team have, but she has special, really helpful skills. And she brings out the softer side of Tox. And the protective side. Basically, she makes him more human. I could relate to her best out of the bunch.

I do recommend reading the free prequel first. It provides a fair amount of backstory and introduces a lot of the major characters. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, so that extra help is nice--especially when it's in a another fascinating story. There's enough going on that I think these will be great to reread. I'm excited to see where the series goes next!

I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required--all opinions are my own.

Tox Files
0.5: "The Warrior's Seal"
1. Conspiracy of Silence
2. Crown of Souls

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Married 'Til Monday" by Denise Hunter - sweet story of restoration

Married 'til Monday (Chapel Springs, #4)Difficulties with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship between Abby and her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to come out for their 35th-anniversary party. Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby, but he only misses her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary party in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan discovers Abby never told them about the divorce, and he believes God has given him an opportunity to win her back. He shows up at her door, and she gets trapped into taking him with her. With just a one-week trip, will Ryan be able to overcome all the reasons they divorced in the first place? Or will their hearts be broken all over again?

It's not often one reads about divorces in Christian fiction, and it becomes pretty obvious why Abby and Ryan had divorced in the first place. But it's also clear that they didn't fight for their marriage enough--that both parties could have made changes to save their marriage. They potentially can still change, but God has to be part of the process. I don't think everything will be easy for them in the future, with all the baggage they carry, but with self-revelation and God's help, I think they can restore their marriage.

Married 'Til Monday and The Goodbye Bride are at the top for moving contemporary romances. Denise Hunter clearly knows how to write romance, and she clearly can do stories of restoration as well! What a tear-jerker! And yet there's some definite humor in it too, along with pain and joy. Marvelous.

Chapel Springs
1. Barefoot Summer
2. Dancing with Fireflies
3. The Wishing Season
4. Married 'Til Monday

Summer Harbor (connected to Married 'Til Monday)
1. Falling like Snowflakes
2. The Goodbye Bride
3. Just a Kiss 

Monday, November 14, 2016

"The Warrior's Seal" by Ronie Kendig - the A-Team meets Indiana Jones

The Warrior's Seal (The Tox Files): A Tox Files Novella - eBook  -     By: Ronie Kendig
Special Forces operative Cole 'Tox' Russell and his team are tasked with a high priority search-and-rescue mission--the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour in Africa. When a deadly, airborne poison connected with an ancient Assyrian weapon is released within the search area, Tox must stop the terrorists and neutralize the toxin to save the president.

The A-Team meets Indiana Jones in this short archeological/military thriller.

I love Indiana Jones.

And the guys of the A-Team are pretty cool too.

If this novella is any indication of how the series is going to go, I'm all in.

The military camaraderie is great, as the guys work together as a cohesive unit to do whatever needs to be done, if that's saving the president or stopping terrorists. There are potential hints of what may come in future books--Ram was pretty protective of his sister around Tox. Mayhap her archeological expertise will be needed again? It's a great introduction to Tox, and I'm interested to see how the events of this novella will affect him in the future. I wish the first book was already out so I could find out!

The Tox Files
0.5: "Warrior's Seal" (free prequel e-novella)
1. Conspiracy of Silence
2. Crown of Souls

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nancy Mehl's "Fatal Frost" - Review and Giveaway - an apropos read given current events

#1: Fatal Frost  -     By: Nancy Mehl
After a visit by her absentee US Marshal father, US Marshal Mercy Brennan finds herself in the sights of St. Louis's most powerful gang. Deputy Marshal Mark St. Laurent--her ex-boyfriend--is assigned to get her out of town and keep her safe. But it isn't until a freak ice storm strands them in a remote location that Mercy learns just how much the Marshals have been keeping her in the dark--and just how much danger she's really in. Between the enemy and storm, will they survive long enough for help to arrive--if it's even coming at all?

Wow, this story is quite apropos given all the recent the violence involving law enforcement. And it offers a pretty scary but believable situation--using video coverage to frame cops for shootings. Never mind the videos have been doctored, never mind that it wouldn't hold up to scrutiny--just the media frenzy alone could easily set off deadly rioting. It's a scary notion to contemplate. It also begs the question, in this technological age where everyone has access to photo/video editing programs, just how much can we trust such "proof" anymore?

I feel . . . almost . . . double-triple crossed. There are characters you can trust and those you can't, but how do you know which is which? Ah, the thrilling paranoia of a mole in law enforcement! (not something I'd never want to experience personally, of course). It really ramps up the suspense. And this book has suspense in spades.

There's at least one situation introduced early on that isn't ever dealt with (unless I really missed something from reading too fast; it's a hard book to put down); but since this is a series, I'm going on a hunch it will come into play in later books. Tons of suspense, some masterful manipulation, and a few good statements of faith make this a highly enjoyable read.

I received a free copy from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Defenders of Justice
1. Fatal Frost
2. Dark Deception 
3. Blind Betrayal

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Finding Margo" by Jen Turano - a fun, cross-genre story

Finding Margo (Finding Home #1)After suffering a stressful tour and too full schedule, pop star Margo Hartman is on the run, looking for a break. But when a duck forces her to stop in a small town in Ohio, she gets a lot more than she bargained for--and a lot less rest. Deputy Sheriff Brock Moore is pretty sure "Marge" isn't who she claims she is, especially when her resemblance to a local Amish woman has made her the target of a killer.

Some contemporary romance, a dose of Amish, a dash of mystery and suspense, and a lot of humor all work together to make this a fun cross-genre story. Generally speaking, Amish fiction doesn't thrill me, but with Jen Turano as the author, I knew I would enjoy it.

As in her historical fiction, Turano excels at humor. I loved the duck (though this could be from having a pet duck named Sonja when I was 23--just like Margo!--and how I miss her. Best pet ever.) The characters form a fun cast that I would be happy to revisit again.

Which leads me to . . . This isn't just a standalone book--it's to be part of a series! Turano has done a great job laying down a foundation for the series, with some mystery about the town itself, besides the--well, I can't say for spoilers. But with Jen Turano, wherever the the story leads, it's guaranteed to be entertaining!

Thank you Gilead and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Finding Home
1. Finding Margo

In memory of my Dearest Duck Sonja:
The Discovery of Sonja (poem)
Ode to Sonja (poem)
Photographs of baby Sonja
Photographs of slightly older Sonja

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ruth Logan Herne's "Home on the Range"

#2: Home on the Range  -     By: Ruth Logan Herne
After months of denial, single dad Nick Stafford finally gives in to the principal's pressure to take his two daughters to professional help after their mother's abandonment three years before. However, the recommended family therapist--the principal's sister--is not what Nick was expecting. After a traumatic incident, Dr. Elsa Andreas left her practice for the seclusion of a backwoods cottage. But Nick's two needy little girls--and the handsome cowboy himself--might just have the power to draw her out of her own protective bubble and back into the world.

The author can certainly write children! Especially sisters (boy, did Cheyenne and Dakota remind me of my cousins at that age). These are no two precocious little angels--they are the usual sort of children who whine, cry, sulk, and fight. They know exactly which buttons to push to get a bigger rise out of the other. And just when you're ready to break down and give up, they hit you right in the heart with how sweet they can be.

I liked Elsa a lot--she's not at all the stereotype of a child psychologist. She's sensible, fun, and quite mom-like, but without the heightened emotions of this being Her Own Troubled Kid she's dealing with.

To me, it felt like Nick's reaction to Elsa's reveal of her history was overblown, but then I don't have abandonment and trust issues like he does. However, I felt that the situation with Whitney (the girls' mom) was done really well--the characters acted with wisdom even in the face of her antagonism and manipulation. It's a good example for anyone dealing with a manipulative and untrustworthy relationship--"wise as serpents and innocent as doves" in action. Godly and loving, yet with very necessary boundaries.

And the dance dad thing is pretty cute.

Thank you Blogging for Books for providing a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Double S Ranch
1. Back in the Saddle
2. Home on the Range
3. Peace in the Valley (Spring 2017)