Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review: Grit for the Oyster by Suzanne Woods Fisher et al

Filled with helpful advice and inspiration, Grit for the Oyster 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers by Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss is a must read for all aspiring writers.

Broken down into four sections, not a single page in this book is wasted. Readers can expect to find motivational quotes from successful writers, Biblical Scriptures, anecdotes from the authors, prayers tied into each pearl of wisdom, and questions to reflect upon.

More than just a book that will help you move your writing career forward, Grit for the Oyster will change not only how you pursue your writing career, but also your perception of that career. A powerful motivator that will increase your self-confidence and draw you closer to the One who has called you to write, this book should stay close by your computer and lift you up when you need it most.

Grit for the Oyster will help the aspiring writer to get started, to find her voice, to handle interruptions, to deal with rejections, fear of failure, moments when she feels like giving up, and so much more.

An excellent daily devotional for every writer who seeks to glorify God with the written word.

Title: Grit for the Oyster
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher et al.
Publisher: Vintage Spirit
ISBN: 978-0-9815592-2-3
SRP: $15.99

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: Quills & Promises by Amber Miller

A tender mix of inspirational romance, historical figures and memorable fictional characters come together for an enjoyable read in Quills & Promises by Amber Miller. This is the second book in Miller's Delaware Brides series.

Set during the French and Indian War, young Elanna Hanssen unexpectedly meets up with Major Madison Scott, a visiting cousin of her best friend. Both Madison and Elanna are taken with each other, but he is soon called away to war. They must depend upon their correspondence to carry on their relationship and to learn more about each other, ever careful not to reveal too much, lest their letters fall into the wrong hands.

An unusual interest in the war puts Elanna in contact with Mr. Witherspoon, a young journalist for the Wilmington Journal. When he shares war reports that question Major Scott's integrity, Elanna must depend upon her initial meetings with Madison and her faith in God to help her decide if she should follow her heart.

As I read through Quills & Promises, I thought Elanna could have been Anne Shirley from Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables. Elanna, like Anne, is constantly trying to reconcile what she would like to do with what is proper in society and for her age. This makes her a sympathetic character from the start. That sympathy increases when she is separated from Madison so quickly and later discovers he may not be the man she thought him to be. The reader is as eager to uncover the truth as Elanna is.

The strength of this book is definitely its characters. Madison is torn between his duty, his hatred of war, and his desire to see Elanna again. The camaraderie between Madison and the men in his regiment is something I very much enjoyed. Edric, Elanna's twin brother, is both protector and supporter of his twin, and ends up being crucial in Elanna getting information about the war. Mama understands Elanna's battle between her desires and what society allows, as well as, provides great insight into what Elanna must do in order to decide if she should follow her head or her heart. And Mr. Witherspoon, whose motives Elanna is not quite sure of, makes the perfect antagonist.

While the history buff in me would have enjoyed a few more historical details, since the writer is limited to a certain word count with Heartsong, that may not have been possible. The focus in these novels is always more on the romance--which this book certainly has from beginning to end as the reader watches the love between Elanna and Madison bloom across the miles.

Fans of inspirational romance and historical fiction will certainly want to read Quills and Promises by Amber Miller.

Title: Quills and Promises
Author: Amber Miller
Publisher: Heartsong Presents
ISBN: 978-1-60260-049-2
SRP: $4.95

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Book Review: With Endless Spirit by Allison Pittman

The story of a young girl's determination to stay true to God's plan despite the tragedies and loss she endures is what you'll find in the highly anticipated conclusion to the Crossroads of Grace series by Allison Pittman.

With Endless Spirit introduces the reader to Belinda, a young girl born into privilege. Led to believe her family is going on this great adventure, reality soon strikes while on the journey West. Wounded and suddenly alone, Belinda clings to her faith to help her in this harsh new world.

Forced to spend the winter with the man who stole the life she once knew, Belinda struggles to find the power of forgiveness. Her journey takes her to a mining camp in Wyoming, also home to a red-roofed brothel, where she finds friendship and perhaps love. But is her faith strong enough to let her forgive?

What a satisfying conclusion to the Crossroads of Grace series! Belinda, who fans of the first two books will learn receives a new name once she ends up at Jewell's place at Silver Peak, is an inspiring character whose story was begging to be told. The author pits Belinda against tragedy and loss while the reader is allowed to witness her evolution from a secure but shy girl to a young woman determined to survive and believe in God's hand in her life.

Just as with Pittman's other books in this series, Ten Thousand Charms and Speak through the Wind--which we reviewed here and here--the author's attention to historical detail adds realism and depth to this novel. Just like Speak through the Wind, fans of the series are treated to discovering the story of a secondary character from the first book. And while in Ten Thousand Charms, most of the story unfolds at Jewell's place, a good portion of Belinda's story is told before she even finds herself at the red-roofed brothel.

Christian fiction fans won't want to miss the powerful conclusion to the Crossroads of Grace series. And they'll want to read all three books again as soon as they finish. Allison Pittman is an author whose work touches the heart and lifts you up. I eagerly await Pittman's next project.

Title: With Endless Spirit
Author: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISBN: 978-1-60142-012-1
SRP: $13.99

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Book Review: Speak through the Wind by Allison Pittman

A moving and compelling story of the power of God's love and forgiveness is what you'll discover in Allison Pittman's Speak through the Wind, Book 2 in the Crossroads of Grace series.

When a young orphan living in the impoverished Five Points District of Manhattan is gravely injured by a horse and driver, Reverend Joseph nurses her back to health. He also tends to Kassandra's soul, helping her to learn Bible verses and sending her off to school. Now a teenager, Kassandra decides to flee the only real home she's ever known for the promise of a young man's love.

Living a life so far from the one she knew with Reverend Joseph, she fears neither God, nor the Reverend, will ever forgive her. Kassandra heads off to California and is transformed into a woman known as Sadie. Will she ever find her way back home?

Allison Pittman has done it again. She's delivered a powerful, gripping novel that is sure to win the hearts of Christian fiction fans everywhere. Just as with Ten Thousand Charms, Pittman's attention to detail, complex characters, and inspiring message blend together to create an amazing reading experience.

Beginning in 1841, we are introduced to Kassandra, who we know as Sadie from Ten Thousand Charms. Sadie is such an interesting character in Ten Thousand Charms, that the reader is granted a wonderful opportunity to discover her full story in Speak through the Wind. It makes her actions in Ten Thousand Charms crystal clear once you know who she was before the mining camp in Wyoming.

But you needn't read Book 1 to enjoy this novel, as it truly stands on its own. Pittman provides just the right amount of material from Book 1 in Speak through the Wind; and those who have read both books will not feel they are reliving information already known. But instead, they will feel as if they are in familiar territory, but reading it all again for the first time as it revolves around Sadie, and not Gloria--the main character from Book 1.

I said at the end of my review for Ten Thousand Charms that I wasn't sure how Pittman would top such a strong introductory novel, but she has raised the bar with Speak through the Wind, and now I am eager to dive into With Endless Sight, the third and final book of the Crossroads of Grace series.

Title: Speak through the Wind
Author: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISBN: 1-59052-625-2
SRP: $12.99

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Interview: Stacy Gooch-Anderson, Author of The Santa Letters

Joining us today is Stacy Gooch-Anderson. Stacy is a wife and mother and the author of The Santa Letters, a book I am sure will quickly become a Christmas classic. We’re going to talk to Stacy about the inspiration behind this heartwarming story, the choices she made, and what the future holds in store for her fans.

Welcome to my blog, Stacy. I am thrilled to have you with us.

Thank you, Cheryl. It is truly my pleasure!

Why don’t we get started by having you tell our readers a little bit more about yourself.

I’m pretty simple really. I’m a wife (we just celebrated our 22nd anniversary on August 26) and a mother who also happens to serve as a taxi and cleaning service for four rambunctious boys. In my spare time (what little there is), I find sanity by writing inspirational and humor based stories. I would say I’ve become pretty balanced since I learned that imperfection truly is my new best friend…;-)

What are some of your favorite ways to spend time with your family?

I love watching my son’s hockey games (I do have something in common with Sarah Palin although I couldn’t run or kill caribou if my life depended on it) and soccer games and curling in on cold yucky days to watch funny movies. We also love trying new things and traveling when our schedules mesh.

Do any of these pastimes or family traditions pop up in your work?

The sports and humor pop up quite a bit. A lot of what is in The Santa Letters came from actual family experiences and traditions and my next book, “Life is Tough – I Doubt I’ll Make it Out Alive” is based all on family experiences.

Let’s talk about The Santa Letters. First of all, I can’t tell you how much I loved the book. My family will be reading it together as we get closer to Christmas. Was The Santa Letters inspired by real life events? Were you active in the LDS church at that time?

I found out that two of my sons had been placed in sexually abusive situations which made me question everything I'd ever been taught and I wondered if there truly was justice in the world. I was active in the church and it was the lessons I’d learned at church throughout my life that thankfully had sunk in which helped me to get past it and aid my sons in getting past it too. I think a stable basis grounded in faith – no matter what religion one is – can help anyone get through the toughest of times.

Has your faith in God grown as a result of everything that happened? Did your family grow closer together too?

Yes, because I watched His hand in all aspects of my life at that time and came to really understand that He loves us and wants the best for us – no matter how insignificant we think we are. I know many of us feel that way at times but we are significant and vital, not only to this world, but to His plan.

As for my family, I will never forget the night my son - who’d been struggling through this terrible situation so much - cried and told us that for the first time he felt loved and protected and surrounded by a family who loved him unconditionally. He thanked God for having given him a good family to be a part of. No mother could have ever had a better Christmas present. We learned that there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish or survive if we stuck together.

As a wife and mother I was very touched by the sudden loss of William and how it impacted his wife and children. Was it difficult writing Emma (William’s wife) Jensen’s story prior to the arrival of the first Santa letter?

It was because much of it came from watching my mother as she grieved after the loss of my father to cancer. Although he was older (61), the joy in life for her left the night he died. Almost four years to the date (four years, 1 month and 1 day to be exact), she passed away from cancer at age 63. I know that they are now happy together watching over their family from beyond.

As each Santa letter and package arrives the excitement for the Jensen family grows and each letter and package also continues the family’s—especially Emma’s—road to healing. In these letters, you managed to share the true message of Christ’s birth without coming across as preaching. Was that a challenge?

The whole goal was to write it for a mainstream audience in a non-offensive, non- threatening way since people, including myself, are turned off by ‘preachy-ness’ and I certainly didn’t to do that! But I also believe that understanding comes through education and perspective. So that became my focus, to teach and help understand through simple lessons and a different perspective. What was hard was studying His life and putting it into simple terms that mainstream (including myself) America could easily understand and relate to.

McKenna is the youngest member of the Jensen family. She embraces the Santa letters and their origin from the first arrival. How important is this for the story? Does McKenna’s easy acceptance draw on any Biblical principles?

Actually it does. You always hear about the faith of children. In correlation to that we are told to become as little children and I think that if we could harbor the faith, innocence and purity of a little child, many things in life would just take care of themselves.

After reading The Santa Letters, I thought this would be a great book for church members to read together and discuss. Does your publisher offer discounts on group sales?

I’m sure they would. You could contact them directly through their website at or email me directly at and I will hook them up with the representative that can best help them down there. You can also call them at 801-489-4084.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Santa Letters?

It’s available at,, and It’s currently on shelves at Desert Book and Seagull Book and will be on shelves at Borders, Barnes and Noble, Walden bookstores, Sam’s Club and Wal-Marts and I think in Star Books, Costco and in airports.

Do you have a website where readers can find out more about the book?

They can go to to find free-downloaable templates to the Santa Letters and also read the first chapter to its companion book The Inmate Letters which goes more in depth into Guillermo’s story and picks up with his association with the Jensens.

What’s up next for you? Any exciting news you would like to share with our readers?

Look for Life is Tough coming out Mother’s Day 2009 and The Legend of the Star, another Christmas book coming out Christmas 2009. I’m not sure when The Inmate Letters will be released yet. Probably when I get done writing it..;-)

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just remember that no wound is so deep that with a little TLC (a tender Lord’s care), it can’t be healed better and stronger than it was before.

Thank you for sharing so much of your time with us today, Stacy. I wish you all the success in the world. You’ve written a wonderful book!

Thank you for thinking so but in all honesty, I don’t look at it as my book. Just a story that I was blessed enough to be a part of. The success belongs to Him…

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Book Review: The Life and Times of The Lord Jesus Christ: A Harmony of the Gospels by Peter E J Smith

If you are looking for an easy way to review or study the life of Jesus Christ then The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ: A Harmony of the Gospels by Peter E J Smith may be just what you're looking for.

In this 155-page book, Smith has taken the events written about in the four Gospels and put them in chronological order so that the reader gets a full understanding of the events of Christ's life as they occurred. Hailed by the author as "...something of a fifth gospel" this book begins with John 1: 1-18, which says, "In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then moves quickly through the ancestry of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, the announcement to Zacharias of the upcoming birth of his son--who he is instructed to name, John [the Baptist], the annunciation to Mary, Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and John's birth--which are all found in the first chapter of Luke. We briefly hear of the announcement to Joseph and him taking Mary as his wife from the Gospel of Matthew, then return back to the the Gospel of Luke for the birth of Christ and other events that occurred within his infancy. The reader travels along through the various gospels from Christ's infancy up to his Resurrection and Ascension.

Meant to be a companion volume to Ellen Gould White's Christian classic, The Desire of Ages, The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ can be helpful to new Christians who want to explore Christ's life easily. It would also work well for Bible study groups who are interested in studying the four Gospels as a unit rather than exploring them separately. It could be a helpful resource to writers whose fiction or non-fiction stories revolve around the life of Christ or the times in which He lived.

I did, however, have a couple of concerns regarding this book. Smith states that he has spent over 20 years as an avid student of the life of Jesus Christ, but provides few sources. I found the Comparison a bit confusing because it contains so many numbers, and perhaps the reader would have been better served if Smith only discussed the reasons for the size of his book as he did in the last few paragraphs of this section.

I know I will find The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ helpful in my research and I believe others will find this chronological telling of the life of Jesus Christ easy to understand.

Title: The Life and Times of the Lord Jesus Christ: A Harmony of the Gospels
Author: Peter E J Smith
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4327-0939-6
SRP: $13.95

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Ten Thousand Charms by Allison Pittman

Ten Thousand Charms by Allison Pittman is an outstanding and powerful novel of love and redemption.

A mining camp certainly isn't the place for someone as young and pretty as Gloria. But when you're a pregnant prostitute trying to decide how to get out of your predicament, a mining camp where you know someone isn't such a bad thing. Taken in by Jewell, the closest thing to a friend she knows, and the owner of the local brothel, Gloria pays her way by taking care of things around the place...that is, until her time comes and then she'll be expected to work like the rest of the girls.

John William McGregan is desperate. His wife died in childbirth and he is forced to seek Gloria's help to nurse his newborn daughter. They enter into an agreement where Gloria will tend to his daughter if he raises her son. No marriage, just taking care of the kids together until Gloria feels it's time to leave--she's not the motherly type.

After moving to the new Oregon Territory things begin to change. John William's faith and the doting of a neighborly widow leave Gloria longing for the love she's never known. But she's not worthy of a man of great faith like John William McGregan and certainly God couldn't want anything to do with her. When tragedy strikes, Gloria turns to the God she's never trusted. Can He save her new found family?

Kudos go out to Pittman for delivering such a powerful and inspiring story right out of the gate. Ten Thousand Charms is Pittman's debut novel and now I am eager to read the next two books in her Crossroads of Grace series.

A story of unanticipated love and redemption, Christian fiction and inspirational romance fans are certain to be moved by Ten Thousand Charms. Pittman has thrust two characters from distinctly different points of views together out of necessity and brings them to where they discover God's plan for their lives.

Gloria is at times crass, but her childlike eagerness to learn from John William and Maureen (the neighborly widow) about God endears the reader to her. It is easy to relate to the helplessness that Gloria feels as she wanders through life believing she has no future and doubting that she could ever be worthy in John's or God's eyes. The unfolding love story between John and Gloria is heartwarming and beautifully done, especially when it comes so unexpectedly for both of them.

Pittman's research and attention to detail make this story come to life as much as her realistic and all too human characters do. This story is set in the 1860's--a favorite time period of mine--which is why I wanted to read the book in the first place. And the discussion questions at the end make this the perfect book club selection.

I can't imagine how Pittman will top such a strong introductory novel, but since she sent me books 2 and 3 in this series to review, I eagerly anticipate sitting down with a cup of tea and finding out.

Title: Ten Thousand Charms (Crossroads of Grace series)
Author: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Multnomah Books
ISN: 1-59052-575-2
SRP: $12.99

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interview: Michelle Sutton, Author of It's Not About Me

Joining us today is author Michelle Sutton. Her debut novel, It’s Not about Me is scheduled for release in September 2008 from Sheaf House.

Welcome to my blog, Michelle. It’s wonderful to have you with us. Let’s get started by finding out a bit about you. How long have you been writing and what genres do you write?

I started writing in August 2003 hoping to sell a novel to Steeple Hill. The first story I wrote was a romance.

It’s Not about Me is your debut novel. How does that feel?

It feels incredible and so far it has been well-received, so the reviews have been encouraging.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

It’s about a young woman with a safe and fairly perfect life who is trying to please her boyfriend who has become increasingly pushy in regards to physical intimacy. When she is alone and attacked by a vicious person (she is NOT raped) her life is totally blown apart. Her boyfriend can’t handle the guilt and goes on a drinking rampage and his older brother who had been in love with her for years (from a distance) steps in and befriends her. Then the war between the brothers begins…with her stuck in the middle.

Where did you find the inspiration for this story?

In regards to what happened to her that blew apart her life…the same thing happened to a friend of mine, only the details were changed, of course.

Tell us about your main characters. Why will readers relate to them? What will they like about them? Is there anything they will dislike about them?

So far the feedback has been that they were anxious for Annie and cared about her from the beginning because they understood her dilemma. The older brother is the one the readers swoon over because he’s a great guy even with some character flaws. Most people want to slap her boyfriend around numerous times throughout the book, but in the end most people feel for him, too. He is pretty much a jerk through the first 2/3 of the story.

How long did it take you to bring this book from the first draft to the final published product?

I wrote the story fast and completed it in about four months. However, I have reread it to death and tweaked things here and there, but it’s essentially the exact same story as my rough draft. It’s just more polished now.

Were there any obstacles or challenges you faced during the publishing process?

Editors said the story was too intense for YA and too YA for women’s fiction or romance. I do have a “caution” on the top left hand corner of the back cover that says “Due to mature content, recommended for mature teens and young adults.” However, I’ve had people as young as 12 and as old as 70 read it and they enjoyed the story.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Barnes and Noble, – these are online. However, you can walk into a Barnes and Noble store and order it as well. As far as other stores goes, readers will just need to ask them to order it. There shouldn’t be a problem. Some stores will stock the book. I don’t know where they are all located but I know some are in Arizona, New York, Minnesota, and Tennessee.

Do you have a website where readers can find out more?


What’s up next for you?

I’ve sold the sequel to It’s Not About Me and I’m fine tuning that one for final edits. It’s called It’s Not About Him.

Thanks for joining us today Michelle. Best of luck with your book!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kathi Macias, Author of Beyond Me

Our guest blogger today is Christian author Kathi Macias. Kathi's latest release is titled Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World (New Hope Publishers). Today Kathi shares with us how we, too, can answer the call of true discipleship.

Moving “Beyond Me” to Freedom by Kathi Macias

My 4-foot 10-inch German grandma was famous for saying, “Good things come in small packages”—a true statement, particularly in her case.

But here’s another true statement, one that most of us wrestle with at some point in our lives: “When we get wrapped up in ourselves, we make very small packages.”

We all do it, don’t we? We may not mean to, but life is busy—and sometimes it’s hard. In addition, we live in a society that bombards us with the message that “it’s all about us.” This message really hit home with me the day I took my pre-teen granddaughter shopping. We’d no sooner gone inside the store than she headed for the cosmetic counter, where she quickly became enamored of a perfume called “It’s About Me.” As I watched her open the sample bottle and sniff the contents, I knew I had my work cut out for me to try to counter that all-about-me message.

Of course, we’re not surprised when our young people get caught up in that self-centered, self-serving message, but what about us? Do we do any better? Do we even recognize it as it inundates our daily lives?

We hear songs that brag about doing it “my way” or declare that it’s “my life” and I can do what I want with it. We see commercials on TV that entice us with “you deserve it” come-ons and “treat yourself” temptations. It’s easy to get sucked in and start believing that—and living accordingly.

What the world doesn’t need is one more “it’s all about me” poster child. What it does need is Christians who are willing to move beyond serving self and start living like the One we claim to follow—the One who came to serve, rather than be served, the One who laid down His life…for us. Why? Certainly not because we deserved it, but rather because His love was so great and His humility so real that He put “self” aside to fulfill God’s purpose for His life here on earth.

God has a purpose for each of us, but we’ll never fulfill it so long as we buy into the world’s “it’s all about me” message. But if we willingly lay down our lives—daily—in service to God and others, that small package of self will begin to blossom and bear more fruit than we can ever imagine.

A pastor friend of mine once said, “So long as I consider it my life and my ministry, my influence will never move beyond where my arms can reach. But when I lay it down to partner with and serve others, there’s no end to what God can do in and through me.”

That’s the message we want to live out ourselves, as well as convey/model to others. It is the message that spurred me to write my newest book, BEYOND ME: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World, which is full of illustrations and teaching about “beyond me” living. Here are a few practical ways you might consider living and modeling that sort of living to others:

• First, does your church have an outreach ministry to the homeless? Maybe your entire family could commit one day a month to going to the park and handing out sandwiches and blankets or ladling out soup to those less fortunate. This is an especially meaningful way to spend Thanksgiving, and countless ministries in nearly every city welcome volunteers for such occasions.

• Second, does your church sponsor or participate in a short-term mission project, such as going to another country (or a poverty-stricken area in our own country) to help build homes or offer medical or educational assistance? Though this is the type of ministry we often send our young people to do, how much more effective might it be if we went with them so our children could see us actively involved in giving ourselves away to others?

• Third, are there hospitals or nursing homes in your community that would welcome regular visits from you and your family? This type of ministry not only blesses the patients and residents of these facilities, but those ministering often develop close and loving relationships with those patients and residents that equally bless all involved.

Finally, how can we model beyond-me living right in our own homes? Do those closest to us see us willingly and lovingly giving of ourselves to our spouse and the rest of the family? Do they view us as cheerful givers—or grumbling complainers? Ultimately, regardless of the words we speak, the actions we display will have the deepest impact.

If the package that represents your life seems small and insignificant, try moving “beyond me” and giving yourself away for the sake of the One who has “bought you with a price.” Why not live your life for Him and experience the true freedom for which you were created?

Kathi Macias, popular speaker and prolific author, is an Angel-award winning writer who has published twenty-one books and hundreds of articles. Whether keyboarding her latest book, keynoting a conference, or riding on the back of her husband's Harley, Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias is a lady on a mission to communicate God’s vision. Her insightful words—filled with passion, humor and soul nourishment—refresh audiences from all walks of life. To book Kathi for your next event, email kenbarry(at) For more information, visit

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review: Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World by Kathi Macias

Looking for a guide to help you along your spiritual journey? Need a gentle way to reflect upon your relationship with God and with others? Are you searching for insight into how you can become a true disciple of Jesus?

Then pick up a copy of Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World by Kathi Macias.

Combining powerful stories with Scriptures and discussion questions, Macias provides readers with a tender and encouraging call to true discipleship, and therefore, a more meaningful and loving relationship with God and their neighbors.

In depth insights into such Biblical parables as "The Good Samaritan", "The Prodigal Son", and "The Sower" bring readers closer to the Word of God than ever before; making each story relatable to readers no matter where they are along their spiritual paths. Reminding us that the Church is Christ's Bride and of the commitments believers have in their union with Jesus, Macias leaves readers eager and encouraged to take up their crosses and follow Him.

Beyond Me is a book like none I've ever read. The power of its words caused deep reflection, so that I could not just rush through it and toss it onto my pile of "books I've read". Reading Beyond Me is a personal and emotional experience; a gentle call to review what is in your heart and to see if you not only accept Christ as your savior, but are willing to put aside your wants and desires to obey His commandments and follow Him.

Anyone who reads Beyond Me and answers its call will be changed forever!

Title: Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World
Author: Kathi Macias
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-59669-220-6
SRP: $12.99

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book Review: Raising Up Mommy by Heidi Hess Saxton

As parents, I believe we all suffer through moments of self-doubt. This past Sunday was Father's Day. After getting four hours of sleep, I crawled out of bed and began getting me and my girls ready for church. Services were followed by a trip to McDonald's for lunch and the rest of the time was spent trying to make it a relaxing day for my husband and entertaining the kids, while attempting to complete household chores. By 9:30 PM I was ready for some down time, but my daughter couldn't sleep. To say that I was less than sympathetic would be a major understatement. I still had several things to do--which included frosting cupcakes to bring into school the next morning--and I wanted the kids out of my hair so that I could get my work done and jump into bed before 2:00 AM.

I told my daughter that she had to stay in her bed and try to sleep. After she called me several more times and an exasperated and angry reply came her way, I told her she could read for a few minutes. Eventually she drifted off to sleep and I breathed a sigh of relief...until she woke for a second time, claiming she had a belly ache. Once again, my state of exhaustion and the late hour left me more concerned with getting my work done than coddling my child. After several terse moments, I agreed to rub her belly and again she drifted off to sleep. In the hours that followed, as I struggled in a distracted state to complete my work, I knew that I was an uncaring, insensitive mother who failed to put her child's needs ahead of her own.

Turning off the power on my laptop, I reached for Raising Up Mommy and shut the light off in my office. I brewed a cup of tea and slid into a bath of steamy water to ease the tension.

Heidi's words touched my heart as she shared what it was like to become an instant mommy to her foster children. It changed her life, and admittedly, Heidi wasn't always prepared for the demands her new role placed upon her. The "Mommy Monster" came out and she struggled with a way to tame it.

Raising Up Mommy--which is part of the Women of Grace Life Guide Series--puts you back in control by giving you "Action Steps" to move towards taming your "Mommy Monster". Heidi helps you find ways to relieve stress and to spot your "Mommy Monster" by exploring the seven "deadly sins". You'll find out more about womanly virtues and what they mean to your life as a mother.

Filled with Scripture, self-tests, and questions to reflect upon and discuss, Raising Up Mommy will help you identify where your "Mommy Monster" comes from and tame it with "Action Steps" that bring you to a better place; a place that will find you feeling better just knowing that you aren't the only mother who has struggled like this.

I highly recommend Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments to every woman entrusted with caring for and nurturing children.

Title: Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments
Author: Heidi Hess Saxton
Publisher: Simon Peter Press
ISBN-10: 0-9777430-2-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-9777430-2-5
SRP: $8.99

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book Review: Behold Your Mother by Heidi Hess Saxton

Full of stories that reach the heart of motherhood and the relationship all people can have with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert by Heidi Hess Saxton will draw you closer to Mary, and therefore, her Son, Jesus.

As a former Catholic, I know the significant role that Mary plays in the Church. It is a part of that faith that used to mystify me; and my husband, who was brought up Greek Orthodox, after nearly 10 years of marriage still asks me what's up with the whole "Mary" thing.

But as I grew into adulthood and became a mother, I gave Mary more thought and realized what an inspiration and source of strength Mary can be to every one of God's children. This is exactly what Saxton has captured with Behold Your Mother.

In the first story, Saxton discusses her own hesitation in praying to the mother of Jesus after converting to Catholicism. There are also two other stories that show how Saxton draws strength and receives protection from Mary. The remainder of the book serves as a devotional. Snippets of Scripture are brought together with thought-provoking meditations about Mary and the role she plays in all our lives. Each meditation ends with a short prayer.

After reading Behold Your Mother, I am more convinced than ever that people can reach out to Mary and gain a closer relationship with their Savior, Jesus Christ. In a world of uncertainty, Mary can give us the strength to move forward and she protects us as we reach out to her and seek her intercession.

Behold Your Mother by Heidi Hess Saxton is certain to bring people of all faiths closer to Mary and God. It will also make an excellent Mother's Day gift or alternative to a Mother's Day Card.

Title: Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert
Author: Heidi Hess Saxton
Publisher: Bezalel Books
ISBN: 978-0-9800483-0-8
SRP: $9.99

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Book Review: The Amen Sisters by Angela Benson

A powerful, gripping story of betrayal and forgiveness, The Amen Sisters by Angela Benson is truly unforgettable.

Five years ago, Francine Amen renounced her family and friends to follow Bishop Payne's ministry. That decision would leave her questioning her faith and would cost Francine her best friend, Toni. After three years in a mental institution to help Francine deal with her guilt over Toni's suicide, her sister, Dawn brings her back home to the place where it all began, to help her rebuild her life and make amends.

As Francine deals with the repercussions of being led astray by a false man of God, Dawn is dealing with her own form of betrayal. Dawn's husband, Sylvester--Francine's ex-fiance--had an extramarital affair. Already insecure that Sylvester really loved her, Dawn struggles to forgive his transgression and work towards healing their marriage.

Can the Amen sisters get past the betrayals and grasp the power of forgiveness to move on with their lives? Will Francine ever be accepted by the family and friends she turned away from? Can Dawn ever forget that Sylvester found love in the arms of another woman? And will Dawn and Francine allow God to help show them the way?

I had never read one of Angela Benson's novels before The Amen Sisters. Now, I want to own all of them. No wonder she has been called, "One of the most talented writers of fiction."

This story drew me in right away with its well-developed characters and its all too realistic storyline. Benson is a master storyteller who creates two women you sympathize with and whose strength you admire.

A tale of unforgettable characters, love, forgiveness, and faith, The Amen Sisters is an inspiring story of hope that all readers will enjoy.

Title: The Amen Sisters
Author: Angela Benson
Publisher: Walk Worthy Press
ISBN: 0-446-53153-7
SRP: $13.99

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Review: Sermonsnacks: Help...Hope...and Encouragement for Donald Collette

If you're looking for help; if you're looking for hope; if you're looking for encouragement; look no further than Sermonsnacks. This powerful devotional will inspire you along life's journey and make the ordinary seem extraordinary.

Donald Collette chose the best Scriptures and perfectly matched them with thought-provoking comments to put together a devotional that is powerful, yet easy to read. Using Scriptures from both The Message and the New International Version, Sermonsnacks offers help, hope, and encouragement for every facet of your life: to build your faith, for the times when you are in pain or suffering, for the times when you're lonely, and for help with work and your finances. When you seek help, hope, and encouragement in your family life, in your marriage, and in your senior years, Sermonsnacks will be there with words of Biblical wisdom and insightful, inspirational commentary.

I will keep Sermonsnacks by my bedside and read it every day as part of my morning and evening prayer ritual.

For more information about Sermonsnacks go to

Title: Sermonsnacks: Help...Hope...and Encouragement for today...
Author: Donald Collette
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4251-4539-2
SRP: $15.99

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Review: Choices: My Secrets by Thomas Wade Bounds

Don't you wish there was an easier way to start parent/teen discussions with your child? Now there is!

Thomas Wade Bounds' new series for teens, Choices, gives parents a way to jumpstart conversations about the important choices facing our young people today. In the first book, My Secrets, released by Xulon Press, young Rachel gets pregnant after one night of passion shared with her boyfriend Gary. She doesn't find out until after Gary leaves for college and he never returns any of her messages. Left alone to decide what she will do, Rachel believes abortion is the only way. As a frightened Rachel waits for the doctor to come in and perform the procedure, she passes out and has dreams of her unborn child, which make her realize she might have another choice.

My Secrets delivers a powerful message, but it is a bit heavy handed for my liking. The book would be better with the help of an editor, but it was still a quick and easy read--which can be important when trying to spur those parent/teen discussions. It will be interesting to see how this series of books develops and what topics will be discussed next.

Title: Choices: My Secrets
Author: Thomas Wade Bounds
Publisher: Xulon Press
ISBN: 978-1-60477-369-9
U.S. Price: $9.99

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review: September Dawn by Carole Whang Schutter

A novel of forbidden love, fanatical beliefs, and forgiveness, September Dawn by Carole Whang Schutter is a story that will stay with you long after you've read the last page.

Two nineteen-year-olds brought up with very different sets of beliefs fall in love, and nothing--not religion, not their families, not threat of danger--can keep them apart.

Fifty years after the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the present day family sits down to retell the love story of Jonathan Samuelson and Emily Hudson. Jonathan is the son of a Mormon bishop, and Emily, the daughter of a Christian pastor. They are drawn together from the moment they meet, but suspicious and vengeful church leaders lead a massacre that forever separates the two lovers, and somewhere in the distant future, someone must learn to forgive what happened on that fatal day in September.

Traveling through different periods of time was the most challenging part of reading September Dawn. The story begins fifty years after the date of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but quickly goes back to two weeks before the massacre occurred to show the reader how the people of the wagon train met up with the Mormons in Utah. The story continues to travel through time, going back and forth between present day and the two weeks the wagon train remained Utah, and moving further back in time to earlier dates important in Mormon Church history to provide the reader with a well-rounded idea of how the Church was formed and what led to the Mormons' distrust of the Gentiles. With all this back story, it is easy to lose the true focus of the novel--which is the unfolding relationship between Jonathan and Emily. I believe this format is much better suited to the film version of this story where the visual aspect of events can help keep the viewer involved.

Once the back story was out of the way, September Dawn engaged me so deeply that I never wished to put it down. And the ending was so moving and unexpected, that I couldn't help but cry.

Overall, this is an excellent read. As a lover of history, I enjoyed getting that full picture of what led up to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but the parts I enjoyed most dealt with Jonathan and Emily's fierce love for one another that survived many years after the horrible events that separated them.

With September Dawn Carole Whang Schutter brings you a love story that surpasses all odds and touches upon the power of forgiveness.

Title: September Dawn
Author: Carole Whang Schutter
Publisher: AuthorHouse
ISBN: 978-1-4343-0022-5 (sc)
SRP: $19.95