As an avid fan of the Olympics, even if not so much track and field, I was glad for the chance to read Sanya Richard-Ross's autobiography. I really knew very little about her beforehand, but she covers everything from her childhood to her retirement before the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

Sanya was a fast-rising track star in Jamaica before her family realized they would have more opportunities if they immigrated to the United States. The Richards family settled in Florida, and Sanya ran her way through school and on to her collegiate career at the University of Texas.

I especially enjoyed the parts about the three Olympics at which Sanya competed - Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, and London in 2012. She goes into details like who always travels with her, what her race day routine is like, etc. One of the things to which Sanya credits her success is surrounding herself with a good group of coaches and supporters. I liked this quote from Chapter 10: "In the end, it won't be the medals or the promotions that mean the most; it will be the people and the memories you create along the way." 

The most heartbreaking portion of Sanya's story comes in 2008, when shortly before the Beijing Games she found out she was pregnant. She chose to have an abortion literally days before flying to China for the competition, and was still suffering the physical effects during her disappointing 400m race there. Sanya does not glorify this choice, and she talks about how it has affected other parts of her life, including her marriage. It does seem that in seeking spiritual healing for this devastating time Sanya really and truly encountered God's love for her. It was after this part of the book that the spiritual insights seemed to become deeper and more authentic.

Another part that spoke to me was towards the end, as Sanya was dealing with injuries and having to consider retirement. "Just taking the next step, I realized, is an act of hope as you trust God to see you through," she said in Chapter 13. That could apply to all uncertain times we find ourselves in. 

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading about athletes - their story, their faith, the way our lives are similar or different. Thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book. All opinions in this review are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers
Book Cover 

One of my goals for this year was to broaden the way I spent time in God's Word, including the use of Scripture coloring books. I was excited when The Beautiful Word coloring book became available for review, and I looked forward to receiving it in the mail.

This is a lovely coloring book featuring 50 Bible verses and additional coloring scenes. All pages are printed on both front and back, and are perforated for removal. Some pages are just Scripture, while others have no words, and some are a mix of each. I have included below two pictures that I colored from the book to give you an example of what you can expect.

I enjoy using creativity and the peace that comes from sitting still and filling out the pages. I would have liked to see a greater variety of picture styles, as most of them are quite similar, and I thought better perforation could have been used. I didn't realize this was supposed to include a hand lettering tutorial until I read other reviews, which shows how little hand lettering content there is. Conversely, the volume of coloring pictures makes this a great value if you are looking for something to help you meditate more on God's Word while getting in touch with your creative side. 

I received my copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers. All opinions in this review are my own.

A coloring page showing a mountain sunset

A coloring page showing the Fruit of the Spirit

Here are my favorite reads from 2016! I hope you'll check some of them out for yourself. Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

This World War II story focuses on a plucky female pharmacist and a Naval officer as they try to uncover a drug ring operating out of Boston Harbor.

Young Adult Fiction

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

A captivating retelling of The Little Mermaid, Melanie Dickerson again proves her brilliance as a fairy tale writer.

Contemporary Fiction

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

I loved the depth of the characters, and I really related to one of them in particular. I just love Melissa Tagg's stories!!


I've got to go with the autobiographies of two Olympians here! Weren't the Rio Olympics exciting??

Greater Than Gold by David Boudia

David's journey from an active tot to a world class diver, and how he found Jesus along the way.

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles

Leader of the Final Five and winner of five medals in Rio, this 4'9" gymnastics wonder shares her story from adoption to training to topping the podium.

Classic Literature

Mr. Harrison's Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

This short novel, from which part of the miniseries Cranford was drawn, is laugh-out-loud funny and encompasses the delights of a small English village.


This category has two winners as well, because I couldn't choose between these two delightful Christmas stories.

One Enchanted Eve by Melissa Tagg

If you enjoy competitive baking shows, you'll love this story of a down-on-her-luck baker and her quest to find one wow-worthy recipe to land her dream job.

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

All Alexis needs for Christmas is her home remodel to go well. When everything goes wrong it may be time to reevaluate the true meaning of Christmas.

I was thrilled to have the chance to review this autobiography by Simone Biles, the darling of the 2016 Rio Olympics. While many might not have known who Simone was at the start of the Games, certainly everyone knew who she was afterwards! Winner of five medals, four of which were gold, Simone broke records and shone in the spotlight. Now we have the opportunity to read the story of her life in her own words.

Simone starts with her earliest memories of life with her birth mother, and talks extensively about the transition to being adopted by her maternal grandparents, who gave her a home full of love and stability. She tells about how she was first introduced to gymnastics through a daycare field trip and immediately fell in love with tumbling as an outlet for her unusual amount of energy. When her parents enrolled her in classes she caught the attention of the coaches from the very first day. Her natural gifts were evident even though she was getting a "late start" to formal training, at age 6. With her abilities she soon caught up and passed the other girls her age with the skills she was able to perform.

I enjoyed learning about Simone's relationship with her coach, Aimee Boorman, and also about all her parents did to support Simone's growing dreams as she advanced in the sport. Simone talks openly about times she struggled with attitude and how she agonized over certain decisions regarding her education. She discusses the times she failed and the times she succeeded, each one shaping her character and career in its own way. Simone's Catholic faith has also played a huge part in her life. In the telling of her life story there is a great balance of honesty, humor, and humility.

Once I got to the part of the book about Simone's senior gymnastics career, I read the rest of the book in one sitting. It was so exciting to read her perspective of events I'd watched on television, including all the way up her crowning achievements in Rio. I wanted to know what Simone thought about Martha Karolyi and the other Final Five gymnasts, and she did not disappoint or skimp on the details.

I would highly recommend this book to all gymnasts or gymnastics fans. It's a great look at the hard work at sacrifices that this sport requires, as well as the fun and glory of success. As someone who has made her place in history, Simone's story will attract readers for many years to come. Special thanks to Michelle Burford for helping make this book a reality.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Thank you to the publisher for my copy of this book. All opinions in this review are my own.

This is a book I've been wanting to read for a long time. Boundaries are so key for all areas of healthy living, and I thought this book did an excellent job discussing them from a Biblical standpoint. This book is full of Scripture and the authors are kind as well as straightforward in showing the problems that come from not having boundaries, reasons we might not have proper boundaries, and how to begin and continue building healthy boundaries for ourselves.

A lack of boundaries will sabotage our lives. If we are incapable of saying no when something is asked of us, how can we ever give a whole-hearted yes? This book covers boundaries of all kinds - in relationships, at work, in the church, and even towards God. If this is a topic in which you are interested or a way in which you would like to grow, I would highly recommend this book.

I grew up in a boundaryless family, and while I have learned a lot of hard lessons about boundary setting in my adult years, this book helped explain the way my journey has unfolded. Many things fell into place and made sense. I was strengthened and encouraged as I read through these chapters.

One of my favorite things that the book focused on was having good support around you. The authors stress that healthy change cannot be made without people around us who can help us grow. This is so important! We need safe and trustworthy people who can help us with our boundary needs, whether good friends, professional counselors, a support group, etc. We as humans are built for relationships, and the best relationships are those with healthy boundaries. I'm so thankful for resources like these that help us take responsibility for our lives and grow in love and maturity.

Evie Bennet was widowed at age 25 and has spent the last 13 years devoting herself to raising her son. Now that Cody is out on his own, Evie struggles with grasping what her life will look like now. She's been so well taken care of by her lifelong friends and the men at the fire station who worked with her husband. Her life has been singularly focused and very, very safe.

When Jack Vale temporarily takes the job as custodian of Evie's church, he hopes no one finds out about the mess that is his extended family. His brother's struggles with addiction have Jack constantly waiting for devastating news. He wants to show that he's there for Travis and his family, but it's so hard to watch the downward spiral and be unable to do anything to stop it.

When circumstances bring Evie and Jack together, she can't help but be shocked at the impact Jack is having in his neighborhood. While she lives in a beautiful subdivision, he lives in a ratty apartment building where he often serves dinner to anyone who wanders in his door. He helps one high school student with his homework, allows a second shift dad to catch naps on his couch so he won't be woken by his baby, and lets one muscular young man to help him renovate the building rather than using his hulk for disreputable reasons. Throw in his family situation, and Jack is anything but safe. But his outlook on life is slowly turning Evie's on its head.

When Jack realizes how much he's drawn to Evie he's afraid of what that might mean. It's one thing to choose to live in the mess that other people have made, it's another to consider sharing that mess with someone so gentle and kind. As Jack's family situation continues to fall apart, the temptation to turn his heart away from Evie grows stronger, even if she was brave enough to risk opening her heart to him.

This is the second novel in the Bannister Falls series, and I would highly recommend reading the first book, The Dandelion Field, before this one. Not only was The Dandelion Field one of my favorite reads from last year, there are also many characters who were introduced there who reappear in this one. I really enjoy this author and look forward to her future releases!

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lady Rosemarie has spent the past four years preparing to fulfill the vow her parents made on her life. She's come to terms with the unusual requirements and is ready to embrace what appears to be her calling. When the Duke of Rivenshire, her godfather, arrives for an unexpected visit, he has some shocking news for her. There's an exception to the vow, which he believes her parents meant for her to find. The exception states she must fall in love and marry before sundown on her eighteenth birthday, which is only one month away. After years of quiet preparation and not much contact with the rest of the world, this seems an unrealistic idea, even if the duke has brought his three most trusted knights to try to win her hand. Wouldn't it be better to go through with the vow rather than risk heartbreak and dissatisfaction at the end of the month?

After serious reflection, Rosemarie decides that she can't find out God's will unless she gives the knights a chance. Sir Collin, Sir Bennet, and Sir Derrick are all handsome and brave, and soon two of them are showering her with gifts, compliments, and lavish attention. The other seems more focused on meeting Rosemarie in her daily tasks of taking care of her people, and encouraging her to be strong as she prepares to take over full leadership of her land. Although the attention of the more ardent suitors is flattering, it's the sincerity of the third that draws Lady Rosemarie to him.

As the month unfolds, mysterious events begin happening. Two of the knights almost lose their lives to attempted murder, strange outbreaks of illness occur throughout Rosemarie's realm, and the local sheriff is killed in a brutal attack. Meanwhile Rosemarie's guardians and guides have very different opinions about which route she should take for her future, and her own heart is torn over the decisions in front of her. But she might not even be able to make the choice, as an evil influence is working against her to take away her options and force the outcome that best favors his own intentions.

I believe one of the author's chief goals with this story was to show the target audience that choosing a life mate is more about character and similar life convictions than it is about excitement or the delights of a moment. This theme is really excellently done. The plot has a fast pace and the emotions keep you turning pages to see if Rosemarie will end up safe and sound and with the knight who has won over not only her affections but those of the reader as well.

I also appreciated the theme of leadership and the exploration of what courage really means. To be courageous and a good leader doesn't mean to be brash or to necessarily be the first to rush into battle. Sometimes it means the most when taken in the form of humility. It means being able to put the good of others in front of your own desires. These lessons are learned by our main characters in resonating ways.

This story appears to be the first in a series and thus the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but that just means there is more to look forward to from this author in the future. Thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book, which was given in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

When I heard that Christian historical romance author Jody Hedlund was going to be branching out into young adult medieval fiction, I was excited and curious as to how that would work out. "The Vow" is a prequel novella to her March 2015 full-length release; in other words, it's a 7-chapter prologue. That's important for you to know. I wouldn't recommend reading this as a stand-alone, but if you plan to read "An Uncertain Choice," you might find it worth your time and the $1.99 price tag.

The year is 1386, and Lady Rosemarie is the only child of a wealthy landowner. At age 14 she is beginning to think seriously about ruling her lands one day, as well as finding the right young man who will help her with her task. She is already receiving attention from Thomas, the son of a neighboring lord, and her parents seem to approve as their relationship grows closer.

When the dreaded plague breaks out, Rosemarie is sent to the nearby abbey in order to avoid exposure. Rosemarie chafes against the protection of the monks and the seclusion from her parents and her people. When she is finally allowed to go back to the manor, Rosemarie discovers that before her birth her parents took a vow that will change every expected course for her future. It's a unique twist that took me by surprise!

Similar to the other Hedlund novella I reviewed last week, I found this story lacking the polish that comes with a full-length novel. This could also be because the heroine is at this point a young teenager with some annoying habits and a sureness that she has the correct view on life at such a young age. I thought these problems mostly resolved themselves in "An Uncertain Choice," which was a relief.

As stated earlier, I wouldn't recommend this novella on its own, as it is a prologue which will leave you hanging and unsatisfied unless you have the follow-up on hand. Thankfully I did, and stay tuned for that review in the near future.
Dandelion Fields

Ginevieve Lightly has spent her life doing two things: running from various situations, and trying to make sure her daughter Raine will have more options in life than she did. Now Raine is a senior in high school, and when their car breaks down in a small Wisconsin town Gin promises her they will stay in Banister Falls until the end of the school year. Gin is working as a waitress and counting down the months until they can move on, until Raine makes a startling announcement that changes everything.

Fireman Dan Moretti has helped raise Cody since the day his best friend, Cody's father, died in a fire they were both fighting. Dan loves Cody and his mother, and has been waiting for the right moment to ask Evie to marry him. It has been his joy to watch Cody grow into an upstanding young man who loves the Lord, and it rocks Dan and Evie to the core when Cody reveals that his girlfriend Raine is pregnant and he is the baby's father.

Knowing from personal experience how long and hard the road is for a young single mother, Gin is ready to cut all ties and whisk Raine away, but Raine and Cody want time to make a decision that is best for them and the future of the baby. Dan tries to play intermediary between Gin and Evie, two women who are vastly different from each other in personality but both fiercely protective of their children.

God has gifted Dan with the ability to see Gin's heart needs rather the front she likes to show the world, and as he gets to know her he realizes that even though he thought he knew how his life would play out, God may have different plans for him. Gin is meanwhile taken by surprise at the compassion shown to her family when everyone should hate them for the turn of events in their golden boy's life. She's always felt it was best to be the first to leave and to burn all bridges behind her, but the hands now extended to her hint that not all relationships have to end in pain and loss.

This book was beautifully written and completely captivating, and the themes were covered with grace and sensitivity. This is one of those stories that has a lot of real life in it, and at times will leave you frustrated and aching at the decisions the characters make, unable to resist reading one more chapter to see if Gin, Dan, Raine, and Cody can find a way to overcome obstacles and stand in love and support of each other in less than ideal circumstances. I'd recommend this book for anyone looking for their next good read.

I received my copy from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

Get ready for Valentine's Day with a new story of romance and falling in love in Kathryn Springer's The Dandelion Field. The handsome firefighter makes a living “coming to the rescue,” but Gin is used to fighting her own battles. Can a woman who doesn't believe in happy endings take a chance on a new beginning?

Celebrate a second chance at love and family with Kathryn by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire

  • The Dandelion Field

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 15th. Winner will be announced February 16th on the Litfuse blog.



Captive Maiden

It's the story of Cinderella as you've never seen before! Gisela is a strong, hard-working young woman who lives under the cruel hand of her stepmother and two stepsisters. She dreams about the day she'll be free from their oppression, but in the meanwhile she's finding ways to make the most of her situation. She also dreams about Valten, the eldest son of the duke of Hagenheim and champion of tournaments around the world, whom she met when she was a child and has admired from afar.

When Hagenheim hosts its own tournament and Valten comes back home, Gisela hardly hopes to even catch sight of him. But when another competing knight named Reuxner accosts her in the marketplace, Valten interferes and makes sure Gisela gets safely away from him. Valten finds the outspoken and quick-witted Gisela enchanting, and asks her to be sure to come to the tournament so he can see her again.

As Valten and Gisela begin spending time together and forging a friendship, Reuxner sees this as the perfect opportunity to hurt his longtime rival. He approaches Gisela's stepmother and she agrees to sell Gisela to be Reuxner's bride. Knowing she won't marry him willingly, the two plot to kidnap Gisela and threaten Valten in order to force her acquiescence. The courageous Valten has a thing or two to say about this plan and sets off to find and rescue Gisela.

I really liked the character of Valten. He's a man of strength and determination, but one of his weaknesses is relying too much on himself. The twists and turns of the story bring him to a place of humility and the realization that he needs to lean on the Lord and to accept the help of others if he ever hopes to free his captive maiden. As someone who is often stubborn enough to think I can handle things on my own, I could identify with Valten and I enjoyed his journey.

There are no fairy godmothers in this version, just friends who are there to help Gisela and Valten become who they need to be. The idea of community is not always a popular one in this world that prizes fierce independence, but God desires that we walk in fellowship with others and help one another on life's path. In community is strength, and I am glad we get stories like this to come along and remind us of that every now and then.
2014 was a great year for reading! I'm thankful to have had the ability to read so many good books this year. Now I get to present my favorites to you and hope you'll check some of them out for yourself! Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Love Comes Calling

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

In a zany series of capers, Ellis Eton tries to trade identities with one friend and save the life of another. Ellis makes an endearing heroine because she has a good heart but she's also terribly scatterbrained. This one is an amusing and charming read!

Young Adult Fiction

Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

This year I read more young adult books than I have since I was a young adult myself, and while a number of them were good, I am still resonating with the spiritual truths and character growth found in "The Fairest Beauty." This was a lovely retelling of the classic Snow White fairytale.

Speculative Fiction


Awakening by Tracy Higley

Museum worker Kallie Andreas suffers from amnesia, and she is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she's offered to lead a team in quest of finding a crucial artifact. As her journey takes her to Egypt, Italy, and the Greek isle of Santorini, Kallie discovers much about herself, her past, and our amazing God.

Contemporary Fiction

All My Belongings

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Becca Morrow is trying to get a fresh start on life by changing her name and moving half-way across the country to escape the notoriety of her father's high-profile murder trial. While she's running from her past, her new friend Isaac is seeking his in the form of searching for his biological parents. The themes and lessons in this book were beautiful and insightful, and the wonderful balance of storytelling elements makes this one you can't put down.


Hardest Peace

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts is a pastor's wife and mother of four young children who has received a terrible diagnosis: terminal cancer. As her life on this earth fades away, Kara encourages all of us to trust God as the Author of our story, let His grace fill our lives, and love well those around us. Find the beauty in the heartbreak. This is an amazing book with applications for you no matter your life circumstances.

Classic Literature

Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The final book in the Anne of Green Gables series is a coming-of-age tale set during the anxious days of World War I. Anne's daughter Rilla is one of my favorite literary characters ever written. She grows from a dreamy young girl into a mature and strong woman whose heart beats for the needs of others. Every emotion is written in such a way that you feel you're on the journey, too.
Fairest Beauty

When young Gabe hears that his brother's betrothed, long thought dead, is living as a mistreated scullery maid in her stepmother's castle, he recklessly sets off alone on a quest to free her. Never mind that his brother is a tournament champion and Gabe has never been that interested in training and competitions; this is his chance to show that he's just as valiant as Valten. Surely infiltrating Duchess Ermengard's home and whisking away one maid can't be that difficult.

Having grown up believing she is an orphan, Sophie tries to be an expert at pleasing the exacting and cruel Duchess Ermengard, but often finds herself punished for the most minor infractions. Life seems hopeless in Hohendorf, as the Duchess never lets anyone leave and rarely do any new visitors come to the castle. When a well-dressed troubadour mysteriously appears, claiming to want to sing the praises of Duchess Ermengard, everyone is suspicious that he is not who he claims to be.

At first I had a hard time getting into this story. Gabe seems far too irresponsible and thoughtless, and Sophie didn't seem like she had much of a personality. But as the story progressed I realized Sophie seemed one-dimensional because the abuse she had suffered robbed her of any joy or spark of individuality. It was once she realized that she was valued and that she could hope for a better future that she began coming alive. You can't overestimate the work of hope in an oppressive situation! Gabe goes through tremendous character growth, too, as he realizes that this quest to save Sophie isn't a lark, but rather a truly dangerous situation which will require strength and sacrifice if either of them are to survive.

This story includes lots of classic "Snow White" references, including the huntsman ordered to kill Sophie, the seven unusual men who offer shelter to our main characters when they desperately need it, and a poisoned apple which threatens every hope of a happy ending. Even though Gabe and Sophie are mindful of the fact that she is betrothed to Valten, a bond quickly forms between them as they work together to secure the future which Duchess Ermengard has tried to steal from her.

My favorite part of this novel was seeing Sophie's faith carry her through. When she realizes that the Duchess is actually her stepmother and all that has been taken away from her through evil intentions, she doesn't let despair or hate take over her heart. With the encouragement of others, she is able to actively choose to let God do His healing work in her. It's not an instantaneously healing, but rather a choice each time she is hurting to embrace God rather than anger. Watching her, Gabe also realizes that he can accept God's healing in various ways in his life, too. These kinds of lessons are ones I love seeing because they meet us right where we are. God wants to work in our lives so that our struggles and sorrows bring us closer to Him, but we can easily get in the way and shut Him out. Purposefully being open to His love, mercy, and grace is something we can all choose, giving Him a chance to do a transforming work in us.
Merchant's Daughter

Young Annabel Chapman's family owes a debt to the lord of their demesne, and they believe corrupt Bailiff Tom will help them pay it in exchange for Annabel's hand in marriage. Annabel, however, desires to become a nun and live her life studying the Bible, so she takes matters into her own hands and agrees to three years of indentured service to Lord le Wyse in order to pay her family's debt and also escape the unwanted advances of the bailiff. She hopes that after her time of service she will be able to take her vows and enter a convent.

Having just moved to the remote hamlet of Glynval in order to build a new manor house, Ranulf le Wyse is on a quest to hide from the world and recover from his past. He once saved a servant from a wolf's attack, and for his trouble he lost one of his eyes and use of his arm. Other life traumas have left him abrupt and easily angered, and the combination of physical and emotional scars give him a beastly bearing. He wants privacy and peace, but that is threatened when Bailiff Tom meets with a mysterious injury. His servant Annabel, whose reading of the Bible has often soothed his evenings, is one of the main suspects and he is sure she knows more than she is saying.

It was very easy to get caught up in this story! There was an element of danger which kept me turning the pages. I didn't find Annabel to be the most compelling character, as she seemed to have few faults besides a penchant for tears, and she fit one of my literary pet peeves in that nearly every man who met her wanted to marry her. But the story itself definitely fit with its "Beauty and the Beast" origins and was enjoyable overall. If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, be sure to check out this and other works by Melanie Dickerson!
Healer's Apprentice

Welcome to fourtheenth century Germany, where a girl named Rose has captured the hearts of two brothers. As an apprentice to the local healer, Rose lives inside the castle walls and is receiving an education far beyond what most women are given at that time. She was chosen to be placed under Frau Geruscha's tutelage and wants to learn the healing arts, even if it's not something she is naturally drawn towards.

Lord Hamlin and Lord Rupert, sons of the duke of Hagenheim, come home after being away for some years and both fall in love with Rose. As the eldest, Lord Hamlin has been betrothed to the daughter of a neighboring ruler since he was very young. Lord Rupert will inherit very little and would be prudent to find a wife with a rich dowry. As Rose become friends with both young men, she is aware that anything more than friendship is not likely, even as Rupert begins making strides towards a courtship.

Having never met his betrothed, Lord Hamlin works hard to curb his attraction to Rose and stay faithful to the unknown Lady Salomea, whom he will finally meet in a few months. Lady Salomea has been in hiding many years, as her life has been threatened by the evil Moncore. Deciding to try to catch Moncore so his betrothed will be safe at last, Lord Hamlin encourages Rose to marry Rupert and leaves on his quest.

But when Lord Rupert's motives become suspect and a strange man begins shadowing Rose, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Loosely based on "Sleeping Beauty," this tale brings us mystery, danger, hope, and a reminder that though God's plans often take us by surprise, they are always exactly right. How good to remember our trustworthy God during the sometimes dark and uncertain days we all go through!

I'm so glad I have been able to read a couple of Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale retellings, and I can't wait to read more. Stay tuned for future reviews.
Princess Spy

I have heard high praise for Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale retellings, and I was so excited when I had the chance to read one of them! Set in the fifteenth century, this reimagining of The Frog Prince was hard to put down once I got into the story. I'll definitely be going back and reading this author's previous books!

The hero in the story is a young Englishman named Colin, who ventured into Germany to find the man who murdered his sister's friend. Discovered and beaten by knights of the villain, Colin is left for dead on the side of the road. Although he is found and taken to the healer at Hagenheim Castle, he is so injured and at a disadvantage because of the language barrier that at first everyone thinks he has lost his mind.

Lady Margaretha, the oldest daughter of the duke of Hagenheim, is fascinated by the wounded man in the healer's chamber. Because she studied English under her tutor, she is able to communicate with Colin as he regains consciousness and strength. Margaretha is a very talkative and somewhat spoiled girl whose most serious concern in life has been contemplating which of her suitors to accept in marriage, but she is also kind and determined.

When Colin finds out that the murderer he is chasing is actually a guest at Hagenheim Castle, he asks Margaretha to put her own safety on the line and spy on Lord Claybrook. What she uncovers sends her and Colin on a quest to outwit and outmaneuver the evil lord before he is able to accomplish his scheme. As the pair rely on God and each other throughout the adventure, we get to see each of them growing in character, refining their strengths, and overcoming their weaknesses.

I enjoyed this book very much. Although it's of the young adult genre, it's one that will delight all ages, especially those who still enjoy fairy tales. This book releases today, so look for it at online retailers or Christian bookstores near you.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
Heart's Pursuit

Every now and then this reader likes to find a good western to sit down and read. Especially since I grew up reading lots of Stephen Bly books. Robin Lee Hatcher's latest release looked fun and I was excited to have the chance to review it.

The heroine of the story is Silver Matlock, whose fiance left her waiting at the altar on their wedding day while he emptied the safe at her father's store and then high-tailed it out of town. Silver is a very determined young woman, and has always been a little too spunky for what was appropriate at the time. The fact that she now feels foolish and taken advantage of only gives her more motivation to track the man down and recover what was stolen from her family.

Bounty hunter Jared Newman allows himself to be talked into taking Silver's case because he has nothing to do while waiting for payment from his last job to arrive. He doesn't expect that they'll be able to find her fiance with the few small clues and limited budget she has to offer him. But when it becomes apparent that Silver's former fiance is traveling with a man Jared has been hunting for years, Jared's goals and motivations go into another gear.

Jared's past was an interesting part of the story. He became a bounty hunter specifically to find the man who murdered his family. Along the way he's tracked down a lot of other people, but this man has always been the focus. Until he met Silver he didn't even know the man's name. Now with a better chance than ever, Jared plans to go after Carlton even if it means leaving Silver and her search for her fiance behind.

While I enjoyed this story overall, I found it lacking in several areas. New characters introduced in the second half of the book were very underdeveloped, even if they ended up being integral to the finish. The resolution was also extremely predictable. Not just what would happen, but exactly how it would come about. A little predictability is fine, but a reader likes a nice twist or surprise now and again. If you enjoy western novels, though, this could make for a good summer read for you.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

Robin Lee Hatcher's latest novel, The Heart's Pursuit, is receiving critical praise: "The Old West lives again in this inspirational romantic adventure. . . . Themes of forgiveness, justice and mercy dominate the story and add to the characters' depth. Hatcher treats readers to a rich sensory experience—you can taste the desert dust and smell the smoke and stench of a crowded gambling hall." (Publishers Weekly)

Robin is celebrating the release of her novel by giving away a $200 "Romantic Weekend Getaway."


One winner will receive:

  • A $200 Visa cash card (Get away for the weekend with that special someone!)

  • The Heart's Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 8th. Winner will be announced June 9th on Robin's website.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin's blog on June 8th to see if you won.

Susanna Truitt's life is finally about to come together. Her boyfriend of 12 years, whom she has waited for through his multiple military tours, is back on U.S. soil and is taking her for a walk on the beach. This will be the moment. Except instead of proposing, he breaks up with her and sends her heart and mind into a tailspin.

Right away I loved Susanna. She and I both love plans, and plans are our forte. I could thoroughly relate to her need to have a plan and stick to it. As ex-boyfriend Adam gently explains as he's saying goodbye to Susanna, "...You learned to wake up braced for anything. War or peace. You hated waking up in the morning not knowing what kind of a day you'd face so you became a planner. Even as a kid." That's me, too. My parents enjoy the unpredictable, often-and-abruptly-changing life, and that works for some people. As a child who needed stability, I learned to create that stability within myself. Creating stability is still a major driving force in my life today. Just like Susanna, when it comes to life I have to balance my desire for a plan with finding God's will for me, which often goes against my plans but in ways more wonderful than I could ever imagine.

Prince Nathaniel of the fictitious country of Brighton has come to Georgia for a holiday and to make an appearance at a distant cousin's function. He meets Susanna when she is stranded by a flat tire just minutes after her break-up. Nathaniel is immediately captivated by this beautiful, hurting woman, and introduces himself by the name he went by in college, Nate Kenneth. Not knowing that he's anything other than a guy on vacation, Susanna lets Nate into her life for a few weeks, not expecting anything more than some good company before he leaves. The prince, however, has fallen for our heroine in a deep way.

Before he can tell her his true identity, Susanna uncovers the secret quite randomly. Of course she is upset, and Nathaniel makes it worse by presuming she is ready for a relationship - much less a serious relationship with a royal - after only a couple weeks of knowing each other. When Nathaniel is suddenly called home, neither are sure they will ever have any contact with the other again.

As Nathaniel's coronation approaches, Nathaniel's mother and brother see that he has lost his heart and scheme for a way to bring Susanna to Brighton to show that she would never fit in. Will their plan succeed or backfire? Will the delicate political situation in Brighton survive the new leadership of this young king? What is God's plan for Nathaniel's life, for Susanna's life, and for the whole country?

As much as I identified with Susanna, this book didn't really resonate with me. The political intrigues were not that intriguing, and some of the minor characters were annoying. I was afraid that one of the plot lines was going to resolve in a dues ex machina manner, and I wouldn't say it didn't. I did not dislike the book and it certainly held my attention, but in my opinion the author has done much better in previous releases.

I review for BookSneeze®

I received my copy from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

When Jesus Wept

I consider Bodie & Brock Thoene to be some of the original pillars in the current Christian fiction market. While giving them their full props, it had easily been a dozen years since I read one of their books. When I heard that their latest release featured Lazarus of Bethany as the main character, I was immediately intrigued. What a unique focus for Biblical fiction!

The Lazarus of "When Jesus Wept" is a wealthy and well-respected vineyard owner. Grieving the recent loss of his wife and son in childbirth, his proud religious shell is beginning to soften. Curious about the wild man preaching in the desert, Lazarus goes to see John the Baptist and witnesses Jesus' baptism. Later he runs into Jesus again at a wedding in Cana of Galilee and sees firsthand to the miracle of water being turned into wine. A wine far better than anything he has ever tasted in his experience in the industry.

It is through hearing Jesus  teach about being the True Vine that Lazarus is drawn to Him. This is language that Lazarus understands, and he and Jesus share many conversations about the workings of God being similar to the work of a loving and faithful vinedresser. There was one exchange that I kept turning back to read again and again, hearing the truth of it in my own heart. The Thoenes have Jesus saying:

"...Those who love God are not exempt from pain. But for the righteous man to suffer? Think of it! Only the wise vinedresser knows what will make the best wine. The vine is stressed -- it reaches deep for the water, the shoots are pruned, the clusters are thinned, and in the end the fruit is richer and the wine full of character and grace. Though the growing may be difficult, God will be glorified at the end of every righteous man's story." (page 146)

Through the eyes of Lazarus, we continue to see many miracles from his firsthand account, as well as the growing unrest among the religious elite of Jerusalem. As one would expect from a Thoene novel, the details of history and culture give another depth to works we are already familiar with. One thing I found was that they chose to focus their Biblical expounding on the gospel of John, probably because that is where the "I am the vine" passage comes from. As a consequence of this, when there are multiple Bible accounts of a miracle, they stuck with the John version. This means, for example, that when Jesus walked on the water, Peter does not join him as he does in the book of Matthew. Another notable story left out of the novel would be the famous passage of Mary and Martha contrasted in Luke 10. While I believe it the truth of what John himself wrote ("And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." John 21:25), it would have been nice to see all of the details that we know about the Biblical people and events presented.

That was really my only minor complaint about this story. The rest was very beautifully written, and I had too many other favorite scenes to list. It was very interesting to see how they handled Lazarus's death and resurrection, and I felt it was well done. I loved how they highlighted the power of Jesus' voice in the moment when he called out Lazarus' name, and that even though it meant leaving the beauty of Heaven, Lazarus was powerless to do anything but willingly obey the call of the Master to come back to earth and serve his Lord and Friend throughout any more days given to him.

This is a book I would recommend to anyone. Even with the exception I took to their use of one sole Gospel as their focus, a lot of what the authors have Jesus speaking is direct Scripture, with footnotes to those passages. I loved this story and it will be staying on my keeper shelf.

I received my copy from LitFuse in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. Click below for information about a Facebook party and iPad Mini giveaway!


Earlier this year I wrote about some of my favorites on my bookshelf, the Mars Hill Classified trilogy by Austin Boyd. Those were the author's first releases and I've kept an eye open for any others over the past few years. When "Nobody's Child" came out I was very excited and waited anxiously for time and availability to read it myself. All I knew was that this was the first in a series about bioethics, which had been a minor plotline in the Mars Hill books.

Laura Ann McGehee is a determined young lady. When her only parent is diagnosed with cancer and taking out a loan against the West Virginia farm which has been in their family for centuries is not going to be enough to cover medical expenses, Laura Ann makes a tough and secret decision. She goes to a fertility clinic and begins taking medication to hyperstimulate her ovaries, so that her eggs can be harvested and she can continue supporting her family through the payments she receives there. When her father dies, Laura Ann becomes the sole owner of a farm that she is going to have to fight tooth and nail to keep. At 20 years old, she feels very much alone.

But she's not alone. There's a young man whom she grew up with whom she is suddenly seeing with new eyes. Ian, the game warden, has been drawn to Laura Ann for years. She isn't sure she can ever let him know that she is selling part of herself to keep things afloat. A wise neighbor offers lots of support, but she knows something isn't right with Laura Ann. She can see the guilt which is wrapping itself around Laura Ann's heart.

When a stranger shows up at the farm, pregnant with a child who was conceived using Laura Ann's eggs, things change dramatically for our young heroine. That is her son growing inside another woman's body. Through a dramatic series of events, Laura Ann must fight for custody once the baby is born. But whose child is he? The child of the mother who carried him in her body? Laura Ann's child? The sperm donor's child? As the tagline of the book states, "What price will a mother pay to save her only son?" Laura Ann must decide if will risk everything... her reputation, her livelihood, even her love.

I found that the book started off very slowly for me. The writing style threw me off, too, as it was far more pastoral than the author's first three books. It suit the setting but also took a little bit of getting used to. While I felt the story took its time in coming together, once it got started it was quite engrossing. At the same time, it was such a good story and written so well that I found myself waiting to finish it so I could draw out the reading process.

My one concern as I read the book was that Laura Ann was commended more than once for her "brave" act of donating her eggs. I was wondering how exactly I would approach that when I wrote a review. But by the end there was no doubt where the author stood on the subject and clearly shown to be something not to be done lightly or just for kicks or even for the reasons that drove Laura Ann there in the first place. I was relieved and I hope anyone who reads the book will take its warning seriously.

"Nobody's Child" is the first in the "Pandora Files" series from Zondervan.



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