Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!!

Today is Christmas (as I am sure you already know and by now have opened most of your presents), as well as the day that I normally post reviews. But since it is a holiday meant for spending time with family and friends, I figure that most of you would rather do that than read one of my reviews. For that reason, there will not be a regular post this week. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and that you will come back next week for my review of Habits of the Heart.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas at Carnton- Tamera Alexander

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. With the bank threatening to evict them, she discovers an advertisement for the Women's Relief Society auction and applies for a position—only to discover it's been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity-- and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women's Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of "crinolines" isn't his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop of the real history of Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

My Thoughts: Tamera Alexander has always had a way of telling a story that sucks you into the characters lives. She invests a lot of time in to researching locations and the historical characters who lived there, creating environments in which it actually feels like the people she writes are truly moving around.

However, as with the last couple of books, I felt that Tamera is writing a highly idealized versions of some of her characters. For instance, Mrs. McGavock, the mistress of Carnton, is portrayed as a believer in women's ability to preform the same tasks as men as well as someone who demanded respect be given to her slaves, going so far as to fire someone who did not. While it is possible that the real Mrs McGavock held these beliefs (the author's note at the end makes no mention of it), the chance that this was the case is highly unlikely.

Ignoring this, I was able to concentrate on the story between Jake and Aletta, yet there were still moments when I was unable to overlook interactions between Mrs. McGavock and her slave cook, Tempy. These moments felt untrue to history and, though a small portion of the book, still tempered my enthusiasm for the rest of the story. And, if Mrs McGavock had been the way she was portrayed, I feel that to have been an anomaly worth mentioning.

As stated before, I really enjoy Tamera's writing and generally truly enjoy her books as a whole. I still liked the story between Jake and Aletta, and would have loved the book had it not been for the portrayal of Mrs. McGavock and, to a lesser extent, Tempy. I know that for many others, this depiction of those characters will be hardly noticed. But for others, like myself, it is something worth noting.

I have provided an honest review after receiving a copy through the Fiction Guild.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mesu Andrew's New Book and Information on a Giveaway!


A captive orphan girl becomes Judah’s captivating queen.

Ishma comes to the prophet Isaiah’s home as a five-year-old orphan, devastated after watching her family destroyed and living as a captive. With tenderness and care, her lively spirit is revived, and the prophet and his wife adopt Ishma, giving her a new name—Zibah, delight of the Lord. As the years pass, Zibah wins Prince Hezekiah’s favor, a boy determined to rebuild the kingdom his father has nearly destroyed. But loving this man awakens Zibah’s painful past and calls into question the very foundation of her father’s prophecies. Can she learn to rely on only Yahweh, who gives life, calms fear, and conquers nations?

Author Bio:  Mesu Andrews’ deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, live in a log cain snuggled into the beautiful Appalachian Mountains with their dog, Zeke. The Andrews’ have two married daughters and a small tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel.

Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), tells the story of Job and won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year for a Debut Author. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012) relates the poetic Song of Solomon in story form, and Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013) sets the story of Hosea and Gomer in biblical Israel. The Shadow of Jezebel (Revell, 2014) displays God’s sovereignty over Jezebel’s daughter, Queen Athaliah. The Pharaoh’s Daughter (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015), the first in The Treasures of the Nile series, unveils Moses’ early years through the eyes of his Egyptian mother, and Miriam (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2016), the second book in the series, introduces Yahweh’s prophetess during the ten plagues and the Exodus as she struggles to trust this God she doesn’t understand. In January 2018, Isaiah’s Daughter: A Novel of Prophets and Kings (Waterbrook/Multnomah) reveals the little-known personal life of the prophet Isaiah and introduces readers to his captivating daughter.


I have been a fan of Mesu's novels for a number of years, so when I was able to take part in her street team, I has happy to make sure that my followers learned about her fantastic new book coming out in January. And when Mesu asked if there was anyone willing to donate prizes for a giveaway leading up to her release, I knew I had the perfect thing to offer.

Back in 2015, I was blessed enough to be able to do study abroad as part of my degree and field school. As an archaeologist, with a minor in religious studies, learning of an archaeological dig in Jordan was a dream come true. I was able to do what I loved in a country that not only was home to a vastly different religion than I was used to being around, but also one where I was able to see places mentioned in the Bible.

For most of the six and a half weeks I and the other students were there, we spent our days excavating in the ruins of a Roman fort and bathhouse, with a view of Israel in the distance, and our afternoons lounging at our hotel, looking out at the Red Sea and Egypt across the way.

It was not until that last week that we were eventually able to travel the country at large, visiting many of the historic sites. We saw Petra, the city in stone, Wadi Rum, where we were able to sleep under the stars, as well as the Dead Sea and the River Jordan, along with many others. It was on our last day of sightseeing that we were able to visit those last two, and on our way back to our hotel, we stopped at Mt. Nebo to the watch the sunset.

Now, at first when we arrived there, we did not think much of the place. There were no signs or ruins to look at, our driver just pulled over to the side of the road and we all climbed out. But that was when one of our instructors told us the significance of the mountain which I had long forgotten. This was the mountain which was believed to be the same Mt. Nebo from the Bible, where Moses went to die before the Israelites entered the promise land.

Suddenly, this was a moment were I connected with history and the Biblical narrative. At the other places where had been, the areas were heavily regulated, with fees to visit and booths from which to buy souvenirs. But Mt. Nebo had none of that; only a simple road, a couple of signs warning about the curved slopes, and about ten college students in a bus. It was peaceful and quiet, a place where I could envision Moses having his last conversation with the God who had sustained him through so much.

While there, I picked up a few stones to remember the moment by, all of which were fossilized sea shells deposited when Mt. Nebo was once underwater. When I came home, I turned one of those stones into a pendant and, once I learned about Mesu's giveaway, I added a chain. Now, you can enter to win it by going to Mesu's facebook page and commenting on yesterday's Wednesday Wisdom and Wit post.

If you would like to see more pendants I have made (sorry, no more of them are from Mt. Nebo) you can check out my etsy page, Gingered Gems, where my mother and I sell other jewelry we have made. There are also some vintage items along with bath and beauty products.
My sister designed this card. Didn't she do a great job?

Are there any places you have visited that are the Bible? If so, how did you feel being there? And if not, where is one place you would to go?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway HOP

Last month, I was going through my bookshelves, condensing and rearranging, when I realized that there were a few books that I had somehow collected two copies of. Since I take that as a sign that I had truly loved them, I decided that I didn't just want to take these extra copies to the used book store like all the others, but instead wanted to give them away. And that is where you come in...

I am taking part in the Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway HOP in order to give one lucky entrant a copy of either Arena by Karen Hancock or The Song of Unmaking by D. Barkley Briggs. That way you too can enjoy a sci-fi (or fantasy) Christmas! You can click on the covers to find their Goodreads pages.

Here are the rules: There is only one winner, chosen from the rafflecopter entries below. That winner will be emailed and asked for their address and choice of book. They have 24hrs to respond or else another winner will be chosen.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Crooked Christmas Tree- Damian Chandler

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: In this real-life Christmas fable, when a Dad decides to let his kids select the family Christmas tree, he gets an unexpected lesson about God's love.

  In this thoroughly contemporary holiday story, a father lets his children choose the family Christmas tree. To his surprise, the kids pick one that is crooked. As he tries one thing after another to make the tree look right, he rediscovers the power of God's love. He begins to understand Christmas in a new way, particularly when his family decorates their tree and crown it with a star, never even noticing the crookedness he spent hours in the garage struggling to hide. The tender and laugh-out-loud narrative of real-life relationships propels the reader through the most un-generic Christmas story. This upbeat and comedic treasure refreshes the Christmas message of love and faith.

My Thoughts: The Crooked Christmas Tree is a nice, short little book, perfect for reading as a family around the holidays when you would like something to spark discussion. The narrative is amusing and easily followed, with thoughtful musings as to what can be taken from the simple state of the crooked tree. Chandler turns the tree into a metaphor for our own broken state before God, and its transference from the tree lot to their living room as undeserved redemption.

The story may or may not be something that most families will want to read with their younger kids. While the majority of the chapters deal with the author's personal thought process regarding the tree his children picked out, there is a chapter where the tree reminded him about an encounter with a woman outside a strip club. Yet this portion of the book can easily be skipped over for younger listeners if so desired.

Reading it on my own, I found the author's voice to be amusing; full of tongue in cheek observations and woe-is-me descriptions. There were at times some turns of phrase that I did not really understand or some points of humor where did not follow, however most of these involved scenarios that I have no past experience with. My family has always put up a fake tree without any real determination to develop traditions, so I am not well acquainted with that struggle.

I have provided an honest review for this book after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Friday, December 8, 2017

His Frontier Christmas Family- Tour and Giveaway

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

His Frontier Christmas Family
(Frontier Bachelors #7)
by Regina Scott
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 288 pages
December 1st 2017 by Love Inspired Historicals

A Family Made at Christmas

After taking guardianship of his late friend’s siblings and baby daughter, minister Levi Wallin hopes to atone for his troubled past on the gold fields. But it won’t be easy to convince the children’s wary elder sister to trust him. The more he learns about her, though, the more he believes Callie Murphy’s prickly manner masks a vulnerable heart…one he’s starting to wish he was worthy of.

Every man in Callie’s life chose chasing gold over responsibilities. Levi—and the large, loving Wallin family—might just be different. But she can tell he’s hiding something from her, and she refuses to risk her heart with secrets between them. Even as they grow closer, will their pasts keep them from claiming this unexpected new beginning?


    “A man I knew at Vital Creek was fond of saying that life is for the living,” he murmured. “What do you want to do with your life, Miss Murphy?”

    She made a face. “Not so much a matter of wanting as what must be done. Frisco and Sutter need to go to school, learn a trade. I won’t have them dying with a pan in their hands, too. And someone has to raise Mica.”

    Levi closed the distance between them, put both hands on her shoulders. Though they seemed far too narrow, there was a strength in them. “What about Callie? Do you want nothing for yourself?”

    Her gaze brushed his, and for a moment he thought she’d confess some dream of her own. Then she shrugged as if dismissing it. “You do right by my kin, preacher, and I’ll be satisfied. I can always find my own way later.”

    So brave. He might have given another woman a brotherly hug to encourage her, but something told him Callie wouldn’t take kindly to the gesture. She was all prickles and thorns, a hedge thrown up in defense of the heart within, he suspected. He wasn’t sure how to convince her he only meant the best for all of them.

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn't actually sell her first novel until she had learned a bit more about writing such as vocabulary, sentence structure, and plot. After numerous short stories and articles in magazines and trade journals, she got serious about her novel writing. The Unflappable Miss Fairchild was her first novel to be published (March 1998).

Besides her novels, Regina Scott has had published three Regency novellas ("The June Bride Conspiracy" in His Blushing Bride, "Sweeter Than Candy" in A Match for Mother, and "A Place by the Fire" in Mistletoe Kittens). Two of her novels, A Dangerous Dalliance and The Twelve Days of Christmas, have been translated into German. A Dangerous Dalliance and The Incomparable Miss Compton have been translated into Italian. Starstruck and Perfection have been translated into Dutch.

Regina Scott and her husband are the parents of two sons. They reside in the Tri-Cities of southeast Washington State and are members of the Church of the Nazarene. Born in 1959 and raised in the Seattle area, Regina Scott is a graduate of the University of Washington. She comes by her writing talent naturally--both her parents are excellent writers in their vocations as teacher and electrical technician. Her mother envisioned the plot for "Sweeter Than Candy," the novella which was written as a tribute to her.

Regina Scott is a devout Christian and a decent fencer; owns a historical, fantasy, and science fiction costume collection that currently takes up over a third of her large closet; and has been known to impersonate an independent consultant specializing in risk communication.


Tour Schedule
Tour Giveaway

1 winner will win an autographed print copy of His Frontier Christmas Family along with a set of rustic burnt-wood Christmas decorations the Wallin family would be pleased to own.
US only
Ends December 13th

Monday, December 4, 2017

All Things Now Living- Rondi Bauer Olson

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Sixteen-year-old Amy doesn't like anything to die, she won't even eat the goats or chickens her mama has butchered every fall, but she can't let herself pity the inhabitants of New Lithisle. In a few short months the dome they built to isolate themselves from the deadly pandemic is predicted to collapse, but her whole life Amy has been taught it's God's will they die. They traded their souls for immunity to the swine flu virus, brought God's curse upon themselves by adding pig genes to their own.

Then, while on a scavenging trip with her father, Amy is accidentally trapped in New Lithisle. At first her only goal is to escape, but when she meets Daniel, a New Lithisle boy, she begins to question how less-than-human the people of New Lithisle are.

Amy's feelings grow even more conflicted when she learns she didn't end up in New Lithisle by mistake. Her father is secretly a sympathizer, and was trying to prevent the coming destruction.

Now time is running short and Amy has to decide if she will bring the computer program her father wrote to his contact or save herself. Installing the program could prevent the dome's collapse, but if Amy doesn't find her father's contact in time, she'll die, along with everyone else.

My Thoughts: In the author's bio on the back cover of the book, it says that the novel was a finalist in the 2012 Genesis Contest with the ACFW Conference (which is a pretty big deal). And I can see how it advanced as far as it did. The pace is spot on, leading you to continuously turn the pages in order to find out what happens next and the world building is different enough to engage lovers of the dystopian genre. However, I can also see why All Things Now Living didn't win that contest.

While the story itself is engaging, much of the world building does not quiet fit together. For instance, as stated in the blurb, the people of New Lithisle crossed their genes with those of pigs, yet there are individuals who clearly have crossed their genes with other animals as they bare physical markers of those species. The confusion comes from the fact that this is never really addressed. Did these people cross their genetics with both pigs and these other animals or just with the one? Were these other genes brought in as an alternative to pig genes for stopping the flu, or where they for cosmetic purposes, as those with pig genes, like Daniel, have no real outward differences?

There are other examples of where information fails to add up; how Daniel is as rich as he is when his only job seems to be officiating marriages and blessing babies, what Amy's role as a seventh daughter would be if she were to accept that fate, ect. And while none of this detracts overly much from the overall story, they were still questions that hounded me whenever I set the book down. I enjoyed the story, and would even read a sequel if there were one, however, I wish that those questions would have been addressed. It would have pushed the story into a four or five star rating.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through Litfuse.

All Things Now Living Rondi Bauer Olson