Here to Stay (Where Love Begins Bk. 2) by Melissa Tagg ~ Review ~

Here to Stay (Where Love Begins Bk. 2) by Melissa Tagg

Here to Stay

This book is about dreams, expectations, beginnings, hopes and being young with your entire life before you. Of course, this is balanced with loss, grief, reality, family and heritage, adjustment and God. When the author throws in generous helpings of humor, lovable characters, feuding families and lives poised on the precipice of either disaster or adventure, you have a story that draws you in and won’t let you go until you’ve finished it.

Blake Hunziker, also known as Blaze around his home town of Whisper Shore, Michigan, was like the prodigal son. He was returning home after nomadic adventuring around the world. Well, it wasn’t so much grasping life and living it to the fullest as much as it was running from life and the guilt he carried in his conscience about his brother Ryan’s death. So returning home was his way of squaring his shoulders and facing head on the responsibility he’d been running from for half a decade. If only he knew what he was supposed to do with his life.

Autumn Kingsley, on the other hand, had always taken on the challenges of life, putting others’ needs before her own. For example, when her mother deeded her Kingsley Inn, the business Autumn’s grandparents poured their lives into and passed on on to her mother, Autumn accepted ownership–at least temporarily, because it didn’t keep her from dreams of traveling to far off places as her father had done. But at this point, she didn’t think her life merited even a page in a scrapbook. Some day, she hoped to fill an entire book with the adventures of her life.

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Blake and Autumn had a history. First, as family rivalry since Blake’s parents owned the Hunziker Hotel, an upscale competitor to the sprawling down-home charm of the Kingsley Inn. The tiny coastal town on Lake Michigan could barely contain the two businesses. Second, since Autumn’s sister had dated Blake’s brother, who, she discovered, had a pain pill drug addiction stemming from a sports injury. It had become serious. When she had warned Ryan’s parents, they didn’t believe her, spurned her efforts to help, and even publicly denounced her after Ryan’s death in an accident. Since then, the Hunzikers and the Kingsleys carried on a private war that trickled down the family line and even into business. It was definitely a shock, then, when Blake and Autumn began to work together on a winter festival committee for their town. Sparks were sure to fly–both kinds.

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One of the things I appreciate about this author is her quirky sense of humor. She infuses her characters with sparkle and wit that makes reading this book so fun. What I will remember most about this particular story is the incident of the clawfoot bathtub. It still tickles my funny-bone now, after the book has been finished. It’s the kind of story you will share with your family and friends.

I also loved the author’s use of metaphors that paint emotional pictures for the reader and heighten our feelings of empathy. Autumn’s family Inn is a symbol of her perspective on life. The scrapbook references are closely related to the hotel motif and the journey she chooses to live. These writing aids are aptly applied to provide us insights to the two main characters, fleshing them out so that they come alive. They could be you and me.

If you enjoy stories of romance and the journey of life, I’m sure you will enjoy this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge ~ Review ~

A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

“Foodista: Someone who loves food in the same vein as fashionista.” Urban Dictionary

A Table by the Window

Are you a foodie or a foodista? If you are, you are sure to enjoy this book, if for no other reason than to try the delectable recipes included at the end of each chapter. If you are like me, not a foodie or a foodista, but you like good character-building books, you may enjoy this one for its unique voice: a family bigger than life, Mediterranean culture, fine dining, and heart. Just think about the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but steeped in Italian and French culture and tradition instead.

Juliette’s mother was from France and her father from Italy. They met on the plane to America where they were traveling in efforts to establish their independence. They settled in Portland and became a restaurant family. That is, according to Juliette, when “restaurant” becomes the third person in the marriage. It worked for her parents, but it didn’t appeal to Jules. Grand-mere followed after Grand-pere’s death and Juliette’s sisters were born. Being a gifted bakery chef herself, she also settled in Portland and opened up a patisserie (bakery) called La Petite Chouquette. The D’Alisa’s were a big, boisterous tri-lingual family.

Juliette was the youngest of five siblings and like most of her family trained as a chef. But her choice of employment was food writing. She was a food critic. She had gotten her start writing a food blog and she was good at what she did.

Still, Jules was lonely. Her family pushed guys at her, threw out subtle (and not so subtle) hints, but being the typical youngest child, she rebelled. She wanted someone of her own choosing, preferably not someone in the restaurant business. She desired someone who would see her for herself, so she signed up with an online dating website. She kept her dating life a secret from her family, but it still opened up a can of worms eventually.

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Like any other twenty-something adult, Juliette had a lot to juggle from day to day. After celebrating a 96th birthday, her grandmother died. She was so vital that it took the entire family by surprise. One day, Jules was looking through her Grand- mere’s French cookbook when she discovered a mystery–the picture of a man who looked very much like her brother, Nico. She wanted to investigate this unknown relative but decided to keep it to herself when during one family dinner her maman announced she had stage 3 cancer. She didn’t want to add to the family distress.

Jules, dealing with her high maintenance dramatic family, involved in a secret dating relationship, working a stressful job, handling a mother with cancer, deciding whether to partner with her brother in opening up a new restaurant, grieving the loss of her grand-mere, and suffering an identity crisis provides a moving plot line for the book.

What made this book special for me was the way the author combines family dynamics with Old World charm and wit. The book is pure artistry. The family’s warmth and love for each other is never in question. But Juliette struggles with her place and purpose within the family structure. Dating outside the family niche is one way she explores her potential.

The online correspondence between Juliette and Neil is written in a sweet and touching manner. It was a joy to follow their growing relationship because it fit the atmosphere the author created in this book–a bit of old-fashioned courtesy and elegance. Neil himself is southern charm embodied and intelligent. When they finally met in person, I couldn’t help but want their long distance relationship to step up a notch and become real for them.

The author’s sense of humor is another reason I enjoyed this book. The story is warm, witty, and draws the reader into the family circle effortlessly as welcomed guest. There are many laugh out loud moments and times when we get inside Juliette’s head and see her circumstances from her point of view.

This is not necessarily a true romance, in my opinion. In most of the content we only know about Jule’s side of the relationship, so I would label this book as women’s fiction and contemporary literature, with light romantic elements. My guess is that there will be a second book in which Neil and Juliette resolve their long distance dilemma. If that’s true, then I’m looking forward to reading that book. I hope it has more of Neil’s story in it, because I like his character. He sounds perfect for Juliette.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books on behalf of Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Caught in the Middle (Ladies of Caldwell County Book #3) by Regina Jennings ~Review~

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

Caught in the Middle

Annie Oakley, move over to make room for Dead-Eye Anne. In this historical western, Anne grew up in the woods of Ohio without a mother, with a father who at best paid little attention to his daughter besides providing her a roof over her head. After a short abusive marriage, she’s shunned any suspicious attention from men, working in Indian Territory as a buffalo hunter and wearing the rough clothing of a man to disguise her figure. She has trusted no one but herself; she’s callous, tough, hard as nails, and vulnerable.

When the hunt group’s cook ran away, Anne was sent to Garber to bring her back or hire another cook. One of the train’s male passengers attempted a foolish rescue of one of the young ladies during a hold-up and got a gun aimed at his head for his efforts. When the leader ordered him killed, Anne had no choice but to rescue him using her considerable sharp-shooting skills. Nicholas Lovelace was in her debt.

In a series of wacky turn of events, the cook Anne sought ran off leaving her baby for Anne to take care of. No one could have been more ill-suited for that task than she. Anne knew the baby’s father and set out to track him down and make him take responsibility for the baby himself. But that was easier said than done.

Nicholas Lovelace lived in Garber, TX as transportation expert. He supplied the lumber to the local railroad magnate. Nick was not who Anne expected. Even though she knew of him in the past through her friendship with his sister, Molly, Anne had him pegged as a dandy and pencil pusher. But his heroism during the train robbery surprised her. And he kept surprising her the more she was around him. Once Tessa, the baby’s mom, disappeared, Nick helped Anne find a suitable place to stay in Garber and provided her with employment to pay for her lodging.

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I have to admit that this is one of the most unusual westerns I have ever read. The author keeps the reader guessing just how this story could possibly end, especially when Anne becomes attached to little Sammy. Nick and Anne make an odd couple, even when they are working together to take care of the baby. In the end, however, the author makes it all work out. The two adults are like iron against iron, and they grow as individuals, even in their relationship to God. I enjoyed reading this story. If you like non-stop action, western historical fiction and light romance, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Titus for You (God’s Word for You series) by Tim Chester ~ Review ~

Titus for You (God’s Word for You series) by Tim Chester

Titus for You

“Living the good life of the gospel is always a challenge when we live in a culture that defines the good life in other ways. It is particularly hard in a culture where newspapers cannot be trusted and politicians are corrupt; a harsh, selfish, racist culture in which there is a fear of crime; a culture where people are reluctant to do manual work, which is therefore left to migrant workers; a culture in which people routinely overeat. And that was the culture of first century Crete.”

In the Bible the book of Titus, located near the end of the New Testament, is short and compact. It is easily read in 10 minutes since it contains only three chapters. But it is by no means an insignificant book. It has surprising relevance for us today. Tim Chester’s book, Titus for You, effectively shows his readers just how appropriate this little book is for you and me today.

The Apostle Paul and Titus had traveled to Crete and professed Christ to many who became saved by faith. Then Paul moved on leaving Titus there to continue to preach the gospel and organize groups of believers in many towns. A few years later, Paul writes this epistle (a short letter) to encourage Titus to choose leaders for these growing churches. The Apostle Paul’s guidelines had very little to do with the structure of a church as we might have expected. Instead his message was about keeping the gospel message central.

In the first chapter of Titus, Paul encourages him to appoint Christ-centered leaders who would counter false teachings. The second chapter focuses on keeping the gospel central in their/our daily lives, and the third chapter further emphasizes the gospel message focused on Jesus Christ so that our lives demonstrate Christ to others–our mission.

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This short book is less a commentary than it is a Bible study or devotional on Titus. It is the perfect length for those who don’t have time for detailed studies but want something that will be applicable for our daily walk as Christians.

Two topics of discussion caught my attention in this book. The first is the principle of mentorship and relationships as they pertain to growth and maturity within the membership of the young church in Crete. Mentorship is an important aspect of Christian vitality. It focuses us on relationship rather than rules, which the author rightly believes is key to a church’s ability to stay intent on its mission to share the gospel with the nations. Mentorship is an urgent need in today’s youth-focused peer dependent culture. So this author spends a significant amount of space on this topic.

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The second subject I found interesting is the relationship between the false teachings Titus was supposed to deal with, the author’s discussion of legalism, and what he had to say about divisive people. It didn’t matter so much what the false teachings were that Paul was referring to, whether it was a form of legalism or not, but how the ones perpetuating the deceptive beliefs became divisive within the body of believers. It all had to do with respect and lack of respect for the authority of the leaders, rebellion, and staying close to the original gospel message as shared by Paul. In the book of Titus, Paul warns us to be on guard against people who reject authority and love controversy in whatever form it took.

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Cross Focused Reviews

I am excited about the God’s Word for You series and this book in particular. It has successfully served to open up the little book of Titus and revealed the hugely relevant message it contains for Christ’s followers even today. I would love to see this series in every church library and widely read. I think you will find the contents fresh and fascinating.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)on behalf of The Good Book Company . I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin ~ Review ~

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Until I Found You

Kate Darby was a mess. In spite of the laissez faire attitude toward life she projected to others, she was a seething tornado inside: fears, insecurities, indecision about her future in spite of her dream job, and loneliness. To complicate her life, her grandmother suffered a stroke and Kate was needed to help her recover while at the same time keeping the family’s local newspaper, the Clarion, afloat during her absence. She had to take two months off from her job, an action that could lead to layoff in the future.

Kate was driving one particular perilous mountain road on the way to her grandmother’s house when she nearly struck a rare California condor feasting on a carcass in the middle of the road. Braking spun her car out of control until the shoulder of the road gave way, sending her over the edge and down the cliff. Before her car plummeted further into the ravine, she was pulled out of her vehicle by Nick, literally moments before it exploded in a ball of fire.

Nick Sheridan, retired veteran of life in the fast lane and reformed playboy bachelor, had recently made his home in Meadows, California while writing for a California travel magazine. He was the one who had discovered Leona Darby after her stroke and gotten her to the hospital in time to save her life. When he pulled Kate out of her downed car, he had recognized her from the pictures Leona had on her desk at the Clarion. Nick was doing some freelance work for her and they had become friends. After her stroke, she had communicated to Nick to help Kate settle in at the newspaper and be her friend.

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Once Kate and Nick got to know each other and learned to work together at the Clarion, Nick did his best to ignore his growing attraction for Kate. He had reasons why he needed to keep their relationship platonic. To Kate, Nick had the posture of a soldier, the ease of a cowboy, and the daring of a pirate. Once she learned of the book he had written, she was on the way to viewing him as her knight in shining armor. But Nick knew better how human he really was, and he didn’t want her to put him on a pedestal.

Several months before Kate’s accident, Nick had an epiphany and his life came to a screeching halt. His lifestyle had caught up with him; someone had been hurt as a result of his wayward behavior. He had some major decisions to make. On Mount Abel, he sought and found God. As a result he was in transition, putting away his old ways and adopting a new lifestyle with his brother’s help. From Leona, he knew his old ways would appeal to Kate, but he cared enough for her to know that she needed a real Savior, not him as a substitute. She had her own demons to face, so he needed to stay out of the way while she searched and found her own faith in God. But it was harder than he expected.

God hears our prayers

The author skillfully writes complex personal problems that intertwine between the three main characters. Leona’s heart ached for her only living family, her granddaughter Kate. She wanted so much for Kate to find the same soul satisfying relationship with God that she has had herself as well as a soul mate like she had with Alex, Kate’s grandfather. But Kate was stubborn. She would have to find her own way through her fears and insecurities. Although Leona’s stroke left her unable to talk, she could still write. So she set out to write in her journal a personal story for Kate that she had never shared with anyone else. She only hoped she would finish the story in time.

The author not only tells a wonderful multi-layered story, but uses metaphors that stir the reader’s heart. Two of my favorite metaphors used in this book are the condors which seem to appear at key moments for Kate, and the mountain road and cliff that played a role in shifting the direction of Kate’s life more than once. Of course, there are more metaphors in the book, and I hope you enjoy discovering them as much as I did.

Another element of Kate’s character development that resonated with me was in her struggle to fill the gaping hole in her life with things she knew well–her exciting job and her hero worship of Nick. But the God-shaped hole just wouldn’t be satisfied through her own efforts. How she came to terms with her doubts and insecurities and how she found faith in God brought back memories of my own internal battles and life lessons through the stages of maturity. In empathy, I was rooting for her to find her way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I wasnot required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Service Station Angel by Lisa J. Schuster ~ Book Blast! ~

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Service Station Angel
By Lisa J. Schuster

About the Book:

Sometimes God places you in a situation of great perplexity, but you perceive His intentions are premeditated and purposeful. Do you trust His lead?

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” – Psalms 37:7 (NIV)

Ernie Price is a middle-aged, humble-hearted man who owns and operates a service station in a rural Midwest town in Upper Michigan, back in a time when full service was the only service, and you got your windows cleaned and your tires pumped for free.

Ernie’s life has been a reflection of God’s love, giving of himself fully and graciously to people in the community and his church. As music director for the children’s choir or hosting the yearly Christmas party for the less-fortunate children in town, Ernie impacted lives and was loved by many.

When trouble rocks the small town and Ernie is physically incapacitated to offer his help, the community is left to pick up the pieces, mourn, and move on, while Ernie wrestles with the spiritual questions of his accident:

My glimpse of heaven is for what purpose on earth?

Why do I feel compelled to help this stranger know the love of the Lord? Who is this stranger anyway?

This heartwarming story of love, faithful forgiveness and following God’s perfect plan, will inspire and delight!

LINK to KINDLE | LINK to PAPERBACK

80c6dd3e31f90a82390bef.L._V366868119_SX200_Faith, family and friends inspired Lisa J. Schuster to write again and God nudged her to publish her first novel, Service Station Angel. She believes the words in this book are her service to others, so that they may find joy and comfort during a season of time when they need it most. “May your hand reach up towards His so that you may touch another with Jesus’ abundant love,” prays Lisa.

Lisa lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado with her husband and two children. She enjoys creative writing, traveling, working with inner city youth, bible study groups, singing and theater.

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Angel Stories by Jonathan Nixon ~ Review ~

Angel Stories by Jonathan Nixon

angel stories

“It is through Jesus, not angels, that we are saved from sin and reconciled with the Father. It is through Him that our lives are made new. We may marvel at the things angels know, the places they can be, the feats they can accomplish that are beyond our limited human ability. But what excites angels? Luke 15:10 says ‘there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’ ” James Goll

“The angels want you to turn toward heaven. They want you to accept Jesus as your Lord. When you become an heir of salvation, the angels of heaven are commissioned by God Himself to guard, protect, assist, and bless you with all that heaven has planned for you.” Jonathan Nixon

When I write reviews on books I like to write more than whether I like it or don’t like it. I prefer to explain what I like and why I like or dislike something. Readers should know enough of my perspective to understand my viewpoint and why I said what I said. The readers can then decide if they align with my perspective and would agree or disagree with me. It is not persuasive writing, just simply giving my opinion on a book with enough information that a reader can make an informed choice.

In reviewing this book on angel stories, I feel I need to give more information on my worldview than I normally do. I look at the world from a Christian worldview. That means I look at it through the Bible lens. The Bible says that once we have accepted Christ as God’s gift of salvation, our hearts are transformed and we become a new creation. We still have to live with our bodies and an old mindset, even with the culture we live in, so the transformation doesn’t always show itself immediately or easily. But God keeps working on us. The purpose of a body of believers who gather (as the church) is to help us grow and mature in our relationship with God. In other words, church is for imperfect but growing people.

God teaches in the Bible that His people are like a body. It is comprised of believers all over the world, with Christ Jesus as its head. That means there is a lot of room for cultural differences within the body of Christ in living our daily lives and worshiping God once the foundation is laid. Cultural differences not only refer to different nationalities, but also differences in regional history, lifestyles and preferences.

One of the first things I noticed about the stories in this book is that they were written by people like you and me. They are not intellectuals writing a thesis. All the stories were written in the vernacular. They may have been lightly edited, but have retained their down home feel. It’s about people who share some remarkable experiences and sometimes their interpretation of the events.

Angel Stories has two different types of stories about angels. The first kind was more of what I expected to read–stories of mysterious appearances that are difficult to explain from a human perspective. One person shared how a stranger somehow directed her to where she parked her car in a huge lot at an international airport. Another story told of a stranger who restored missing airline tickets in a foreign country. I always enjoy angelic stories like this.

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The second type of story in this book are what I call teaching stories. They relate some unusual experiences but also teach a concept. There are more teaching stories than traditional stories. In addition, these stories are immersed in a culture that uses such phrases as: In the glory; Angelic encounters; issuing or declaring a decree; receiving a revelation or revelatory moments; falling under the power of God; ministering, teaming with, partnering with or interacting with angels; going into the heavenly realm or glory realm or connecting to the glory, or releasing the glory realm; releasing signs, wonders and miracles; speaking the word of knowledge; releasing supernatural favor; seeing in the spiritual realm; releasing or receiving a prophetic word; opening our spiritual senses; mass deliverance; and calling down His kingdom. For the most part, I am a little unfamiliar with this culture so the above phrases made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I believe persons who connect with an experiential and emotional writing style will enjoy this book more than those who prefer an intellectual study of angels. However, I am certain many readers will enjoy the experiences shared by the book’s writers.

The reason I have spent time here qualifying my viewpoint is to establish a foundation, first and foremost. The foundation is salvation through Jesus Christ. When the foundation is firmly established in teaching books like this, then I look at whether the foundation is being built upon using good material. I search to see if growth is encouraged through sound teaching from the Bible. Are readers urged to practice what they are taught? Are people led to maturity in their faith in the Lord, and in their walk with the Holy Spirit? Are they shown how to reach out to others in love? And finally, I observe to see if they are taught to be obedient to God in fulfilling His directive to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ “unto the ends of the world.” Additionally, I look to see if the truth is being diluted or if believers are being distracted by something that could be good on its own merit but may be misused, overemphasized or under-emphasized.

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Laying cultural differences aside, my only reservation about the stories in this book is that they may encourage some readers to be distracted by angels to the point of neglecting the need for salvation through Jesus Christ and spiritual growth toward maturity through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this commentary from Charisma House Book Group through their reader program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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