Book Review: Hymns of The Heart

3 Sep

UnknownGod is high and holy, but he is also near to his people. It can seem difficult at times for us to grasp how our King can also be our Friend. Perhaps no book of the Bible better demonstrates the desire to understand God than Psalms. Running the entire gamut of emotions, the writers of these great poems sought to draw near to God and both honor and know him. In doing so, they aid us in expressing our hearts and minds to God.

Hymns of the Heart walks the reader through 35 of these psalms, looking to the meaning of the original text while pointing to God’s majesty and glory. As you reflect on the Psalms, may your heart be drawn to the Lord and may you stand amazed at his love for his people.

 

Blog-picture-2013-1024x1024Adam Faughn was raised in the Heartland of America, and calls the “Show Me State” home. He graduated from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, in 1999 with a B.A. in History. Upon graduation, he taught middle school social studies and also worked with the Church of Christ in Somerville, Tennessee as youth minister. He returned to FHU and received a Master of Ministry degree in 2003.

In 2001, Adam and Leah moved to Haleyville, Alabama, where Adam became the full-time youth minister for the 9th Avenue Church of Christ. He served there for just under 7 years, and then moved to Nashville to work with the Lebanon Road Church of Christ as the pulpit minister. In December 2014, Adam returned to Haleyville and began serving the 9th Avenue church of Christ again, this time in the role of pulpit minister.

In addition to regular ministry duties, Adam maintains this blog on a regular basis. Also, Adam enjoys writing, and has authored several books for Christians of all ages.
Adam is proud to have a family filled with Christians who serve as elders, preachers, Bible class teachers, and faithful servants in other roles. His goal in preaching is to help people combine the heart and the head in order to serve God.

My Impressions:

If you are looking for a deeper look into the heart of God, then consider studying the Psalms with Adam Faughn’s Hymns of the Heart. A good start for an individual Bible study, this book is sure to make you go deeper in your relationship with God.

Faughn explores 35 of the Psalms in detail — verse by verse — including commentary from Biblical scholars and analysis of the original meanings of words. Each chapter is less than 10 pages long, allowing for the reader to complete a study of each Psalm in a day or two. Faughn introduces each study with a story and then painstakingly works through the verses expounding on key words and phrases. While each section within the chapter looks at the complete verses, the book does not include the Psalms in their entirety. I wish that the book had included them at the beginning of each chapter, or if that was not possible, the verses included by themselves instead of within the text. This is certainly just a personal preference; I did have my Bible close by to use as a guide :). The book also does not include questions for personal reflection — it reads more like a lecture than a discussion — so I think this one is more for individual than group study.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to BookCrash for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Children’s Corner: The Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible for Little Ones

2 Sep

51tuVKGHjML._SX364_BO1,204,203,200_The Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible for Little Ones is based on The Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible and features eight stories from the Old and New Testaments, with adorable Berenstain Bears illustrations accompanying each story. This padded board book is perfect for ages 2 to 4 years with a simple text that easy for young children to understand. A wonderful introduction for babies and toddlers.

 

 

 

 

51lfvMvb9FL._UX250_Mike Berenstain is an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. The son of Stan and Jan Berenstain, he continues the Berenstain Bears series of picture books that his parents inaugurated in 1962.

My Impressions:

The Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible for Little Ones is the perfect book for children ages 2-4. This durable board book shares eight favorite stories from both the Old and New Testaments. The illustrations are colorful and detailed. Make sure to look closely — I discovered some bears behaving badly while Noah was building the Ark! Simple for young ones to understand, this book enforces Bible reading even at a young age. They will also be proud to take their own Bible along with them to church!

Recommended.

Ages 2-4.

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Club News: Author Meet And Greet with Lisa Wingate!

1 Sep

wingatepubshot2015julybLMRI am so excited! My book clubs, By The Book and Page Turners, are teaming up to host Lisa Wingate on September 15. Yay!!! Lisa will be sharing Preserving Your Family Story and telling us a little bit about her new release The Sea Keeper’s Daughter. You can find out more about Lisa’s book tour itinerary by clicking HERE. Check it out to discover if Lisa will be in your area soon.

 

Unknown-5From modern-day Roanoke Island to the sweeping backdrop of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Roosevelt’s WPA folklore writers, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny . . .

Restaurant owner Whitney Monroe is desperate to save her business from a hostile takeover. The inheritance of a decaying Gilded Age hotel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may provide just the ray of hope she needs. But things at The Excelsior are more complicated than they seem. Whitney’s estranged stepfather is entrenched on the third floor, and the downstairs tenants are determined to save the historic building. Searching through years of stored family heirlooms may be Whitney’s only hope of quick cash, but will the discovery of an old necklace and a depression-era love story change everything?

Book Review: Murder in The Past Tense

31 Aug

5189GuGNaxL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_It’s summer, and Amelia is a lady in waiting. When she happens on a familiar face in a tabloid newspaper, she and Gil reminisce about another summer, long, long ago when they were teens, working with a summer stock company. There was drama that summer, along with romance. And danger. Though much has changed over the years, the danger still lurks.

Who killed Danny? Did they also kill Janey? What does it all have to do with an Adirondack hermit? And will Amelia uncover the killer’s identity before she finds herself playing a death scene?

 

 

ellen-kennedy-300x240(From Goodreads) As a teen, E.E. Kennedy nursed the dream of being a Broadway star, but since she couldn’t stand rejection, she chose being a writer instead. (Who knew?) Life has been kind to E.E. She’s married to an inventor who understands the creative process. She’s the grandmother of 5 children whose cuteness really cuts into her writing time!

She decided to start writing when she ran out of Agatha Christies and couldn’t find anything else she wanted to read. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll write something I’d want to read.” And she did. On alternate days, she thinks her work is brilliant and miserable, but she keeps at it and is grateful for her gracious publisher, Sheaf House, who seems happy to publish her mysteries. Her mission statement is a hokey one: “wholesome entertainment”.

 

My Impressions:

Amelia Prentice Dickensen is back in her 3rd whodunit in Murder in The Past Tense. Still newlyweds, Amelia and Gil are expecting their baby in a few weeks. A tabloid article of a murdered theatrical agent leads them down memory lane as they relive the summer Amelia got a taste of the bright lights of Broadway. But long-buried secrets, missing persons and a murderer still at large gets the sleuthing Amelia involved despite her new mother status.

Murder in The Past Tense is a classic cozy — small town setting, a nosy and intuitive amateur sleuth and a mystery that keeps the reader guessing. Amelia is a fun character. A grammar Nazi English teacher with a penchant for proper manners, she is by nature curious. She often stumbles onto the solutions to the mysteries she encounters, but she is  determined and ingenious when she gets into trouble. I liked that we see a 15 year old Amelia for parts of the book. A bit insecure and naive, she is still Amelia through and through, sticking her nose in where it does not belong. Amelia is also a believer, and God brings her through while Scripture sustains her. Recurring characters add to the small town feel and the Lake Champlain monster also makes a brief appearance.

If you like cozy mysteries, you can’t go wrong with Miss Prentice. Murder in The Past Tense is book 3 in the series, but can be read as a standalone. But I recommend starting at the beginning.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: A Heart’s Home

28 Aug

51oiX+0-IPL._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_Emmie’s hope for a life with Isaac is overshadowed by a tragic loss at Fort Phil Kearny.

Isaac Liddle is keen to marry Emmie, and she knows she shouldn’t hide her pregnancy from him any longer. But before she can tell him her secret, a widower friend asks the impossible of Emmie: Will she honor her promise to his dead wife by marrying him to care for the orphaned baby?

With the Sioux Wars threatening outside the fort, Emmie’s solemn vow threatens her happiness from within. Will she honor a promise sure to break her heart—and Isaac’s? Or is there another way to find a home for her heart?

 

ccoble-110USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written several romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

 

 

My Impressions:

Colleen Coble’s Journey of The Heart series is a six book novella set that is a re-worked release from a 2-part series she published years ago. I signed up to review all 6 books, but I don’t think I would have continued with this series if I had not made that commitment. The last book, A Heart’s Home, wraps up the series, but feels rushed with missing pieces still uncovered. If you you are looking for a very light historical romance, you may like these books. If not, then I say just skip them. I know that sounds really harsh, but I had high hopes that never materialized. I was left very disappointed.

Emmie Croftner has finally found true love, and she and Isaac Liddle are making plans for a future. But the unthinkable happens and Emmie has to make a choice to follow her heart or to fulfill a promise. The domestic drama develops against the very real threats of attack by the Sioux Indians. Men are dying every day, and the peril grows.

Emmie Croftner’s story had a promising beginning in book 4, A Heart’s Betrayal. But the story became very predictable and formulaic. The characters are interesting, but don’t have enough development to capture the reader’s imagination. The setting and history is new and fresh, but seems to be just a prop for a romance that just didn’t have enough sizzle. The whole series could have been so much more. Other readers liked the book. Make sure to check out the reviews of A Heart’s Home on Amazon to decide for yourself — 60% give it a 5-star rating.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: A Worthy Pursuit

27 Aug

51sCgJ+CUgL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

 

bio-picAfter growing up in California, Karen Witemeyer moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master’s degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid- to late1800s.

A life-long bookworm, Karen is living her dream by writing novels. Her books have consistently hit bestseller lists and have garnered awards such as the ACFW Carol Award, the Holt Medallion, and the Christian Manifesto’s Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction. In addition, she is a multiple RITA and National Reader’s Choice finalist. Karen is also a sought-after speaker for national writing conferences and regional workshops.

 

My Impressions:

My recent reading journey has included some heavy subjects and complex writing, so I was definitely in the mood for a bit of humor and sweet romance when I picked up Karen Witemeyer’s novel, A Worthy Pursuit. Stealing The Preacher was such a fun read, that I anticipated another chuckle-laden historical. However, I just could not get into this book. Not sure if it was me or what, but this one just wasn’t the book I expected.

Charlotte Atherton is an accomplished musician and teacher. Headmistress at a boarding school in Austin, Texas, she is blind-sided when her boss closes the school mid-term. Determined to protect and care for three of her students, she steals away in the night and goes into hiding. Stone Hammond is a retriever not a bounty hunter, thank you very much! But he always gets his man or in this case the 9-year old Lily who Charlotte is protecting. Twists, turns, and some dime novel heroics lead to love and a happily-ever-after.

As I said, I am not sure why A Worthy Pursuit didn’t work for me. I do know that I did not find a connection with the characters. I also didn’t laugh very much. The romance was sweet and there was lots of action involving shoot outs and runaway wagons, kidnappings and a unscrupulous grandfather. But I found myself skimming to get to the end. Others found this a great read, and I encourage you to check out the reviews on Amazon. Please note this experience did not influence me away from her books; I will definitely read more by Witemeyer.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Audiobook Review: Center of Gravity

26 Aug

510K4Y1r7LL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The truth could cost her everything.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town, Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?

 

 

52C-300x231After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura McNeill moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

Laura works at Spring Hill College as the school’s web content and social media manager and​ is active in her community—participating in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and Providence Hospital’s Festival of Flowers.

Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Laura is represented by Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein, president of McIntosh and Otis literary agency in New York.​ Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.

She holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in interactive technology from the University of Alabama. She is a native of Upstate New York and currently resides near the Alabama Gulf Coast with her two children.

 

My Impressions:

I first heard about Center of Gravity from a discussion on a FB group. Published by Thomas Nelson, it is promoted for the Christian market. There were some comments on the page about the profanity used in the book and if there is ever a reason for it to be included in a Christian novel. Rightly or wrongly, the discussion peaked my interest, and I checked the book out on Amazon. The premise was intriguing and the 4 and 5 star reviews outweighed the 1 stars, so I used an Audible credit and commenced to listening. What I found was a un-put-downable psychological suspense novel. What I didn’t find was a Christian novel.

Ava Carson has an idyllic marriage — or so she thinks. Mother to her adopted son Jack, age 8 and her biological son Sam, 16 months, she has a doting and loving husband, a beautiful country club home and a life that seems to good to be true. And that’s because it is. Ava’s husband Mitchell is a sociopath and, when he snaps, he snaps BIG!

Center of Gravity is riveting. The unraveling of Ava’s marriage is unnerving and caused me to have a knot in the pit of my stomach while listening. Many reviewers say it wasn’t really an enjoyable read, and it wasn’t. But it was very good despite the disturbing twists and turns. Well-written with a good sense of place (Mobile, Alabama), it is told in the first person POVs of Ava, Mitchell, Jack, Ava’s attorney Graham, and court-appointed psychologist Lucy. Lots of POVs to be sure, but it really worked. Everything about this book was good, except . . . this is not a Christian novel.

When I pick up a book from a Christian publisher there are a few things I expect — no profanity and a message of hope/redemption even if subtly woven through the narrative. I admit, I like my books with an edginess that is not always found in Christian fiction. I like real people and real problems and the characters don’t have to be Christians. But I do want a message of God’s grace or mercy or sovereignty; something that will point readers to a God bigger and stronger than the circumstances they are facing. Center of Gravity did, indeed, contain profanity. It wasn’t rampant, but it was there. But that’s not my big issue with the book. Ava and Jack were such compelling characters. There could have been so much they could have learned through their struggles if one or two other characters that had relationships with God could have intersected with their lives. The only spiritual event in the novel was when Ava shot up a prayer to “angels” or “a higher being”. Really!? Center of Gravity was a good secular novel. Unfortunately, it could have been an excellent Christian one.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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