Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Secrets of the Vine for Women by Darlene Marie Wilkinson

Breaking Through to Abundance

Darlene Marie Wilkinson, author of the New York Times bestseller The Prayer of Jabez for Women, explores Jesus' last teachings in John 15 and their special relevance for women.

This thought-provoking book is a valuable feminine approach to the message of her husband's national bestseller Secrets of the Vine. Each woman who understands these secrets to intimately abiding in Jesus will become stronger, more joyful, and more effective than ever-confident that God is actively intervening in her life for her greatest good and His highest glory.

In accordance with her husband’s book, she demonstrates how Jesus is the “vine” of life, discusses four levels of “fruit bearing” (doing the good work of God) and reveals three life-changing truths that will lead readers to new joy and effectiveness in His kingdom.

My Review:
This little book of only six chapters would make a good personal devotional. Because of the extensive Study Guide for each chapter, it could also serve as a source for a group Bible study.

A frame story, set in Tuscany, about a vinedresser instructing his daughter in the art of growing a bumper crop of grapes is the metaphor for this study of John 15. The reader quickly sees that she is the daughter, and God is represented by the father, the vinedresser.

Thank you to Cindy Brovsky at Random House for my copy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max On Life by Max Lucado

Answers and Inspiration for Today's Questions

We have questions. Child-like inquiries. And deep, heavy ones.

In more than twenty-five years of writing and ministry, Max Lucado has been the receiving line for thousands of such questions. The questions come in letters, e-mails, even on Dunkin Donuts napkins. In Max on Life he offers thoughtful answers to more than 150 of the most pressing questions on topics ranging from hope to hurt, from home to the hereafter.

Max writes about the role of prayer, the purpose of pain, and the reason for our ultimate hope. He responds to the day-to-day questions—parenting quandaries, financial challenges, difficult relationships—as well as to the profound: Is God really listening?

A special addendum includes Max’s advice on writing and publishing.

Including topical and scriptural indexes and filled with classic Lucado encouragement and insight, Max on Life will quickly become a favorite resource for pastors and ministry leaders as well as new and mature believers.

My Review:
Prolific Max Lucado has done it again! Each page contains an engaging question that the reader might have wondered, along with Lucado's succinct answer. He never wavers; he goes straight to the point, usually with anecdotes and biblical verses that clarify.

There are six major sections:
Help: God, Grace, and "Why am I here?"
Hurt: Conflict, Calamities, and "Why me?"
Help: Prayer, Scripture, and "Why church?"
Him/Her: Sex, Romance, and "Any chance of a second chance?"
Home: Diapers, Disagreements, and "Any hope for prodigals?"
Hereafter: Cemeteries, Heaven, Hell, and "Who goes where?"

This book could be used as a daily devotional or Bible study. However, I prefer reading it slowly, stopping to consider the truths. I highly recommend this book for personal use or as a terrific gift!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookSneeze for my copy. If you'd like to investigate further, click below.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

A Big Sky Romance

Wade's ranch home needs a woman's touch. Abigail's life needs a cowboy's touch.

Four years ago, rodeo celebrity Wade Ryan gave up his identity to protect his daughter. Now, settled on a ranch in Big Sky Country, he lives in obscurity, his heart guarded by a high, thick fence.

Abigail Jones isn't sure how she went from big-city columnist to small-town nanny, but her new charge is growing on her, to say nothing of her ruggedly handsome boss. Love blossoms between Abigail and Wade--despite her better judgment. Will the secrets she brought with her to Moose Creek, Montana separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

Women of Faith fiction

My Review:
This contemporary romance proved to be an easy read. The plot moves along at a good pace. The characters are well fleshed out, and although the reader can guess who will end up together, the end still holds a small surprise.

One problem I have is with Abigail's walk with Christ. She admits that she hasn't been to church in a long while, or even thought much about the things of God; yet she quotes Bible verses. She doesn't even listen to the sermon when she attends with her aunt for the first time. Strange, I think.

I learned a bit about life on a Montana ranch, the celebrity of a cowboy rodeo star, some of the pressures a columnist faces, as well as the duties of a nanny. I call this novel a relaxing read.

Includes Reading Group Guide.

Thank you to FirstWildCard and Audra from The B&B Media Group for my copy.

And now, the first chapter:

Abigail Jones knew the truth. She frowned at the blinking curser on her monitor and tapped her fingers on the keyboard-what next?

Beyond the screen's glow, darkness washed the cubicles. Her computer hummed, and outside the office windows a screech of tires broke the relative stillness ofthe Chicago night.

She shuffled her note cards. The story had been long in coming, but it was finished now, all except the telling. She knew where she wanted to take it next.

Her fingers stirred into motion, dancing across the keys. This was her favorite part, exposing truth to the world. Well, okay, not the world exactly, not with Viewpoint's paltry circulation. But now, during the writing, it felt like the world.

Four paragraphs later, the office had shrunk away, and all that existed were the words on the monitor and her memory playing in full color on the screen of her mind.

Something dropped onto her desk with a sudden thud. Abigail’s hand flew to her heart, and her chair darted from her desk. She looked up at her boss’s frowning face, then shared a frown of her own. “You scared me.”

“And you’re scaring me. It’s after midnight, Abigail—what are you doing here?” Marilyn Jones’s hand settled on her hip.

The blast of adrenaline settled into Abigail’s bloodstream, though her heart was still in overdrive. “Being an ambitious staffer?”

“You mean an obsessive workaholic.”

“Something wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong is my twenty-eight-year-old daughter is working all hours on a Saturday night instead of dating an eligible bachelor like all the other single women her age.” Her mom tossed her head, but her short brown hair hardly budged. “You could’ve at least gone out with your sister and me. We had a good time.”

“I’m down to the wire.”

“You’ve been here every night for two weeks.” Her mother rolled up a chair and sank into it. “Your father always thought you’d be a schoolteacher, did I ever tell you that?”

“About a million times.” Abigail settled into the chair, rubbed the ache in her temple. Her heart was still recovering, but she wanted to return to her column. She was just getting to the good part.

“You had a doctor’s appointment yesterday,” Mom said. Abigail sighed hard.

“Whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”

“Goes out the window when the doctor is your sister. Come on, Abigail, this is your health. Reagan prescribed rest—R-E-S-T—and yet here you are.”

“A couple more days and the story will be put to bed.”

“And then there’ll be another story.”

“That’s what I do, Mother.”

“You’ve had a headache for weeks, and the fact that you made an appointment with your sister is proof you’re not feeling well.”

Abigail pulled her hand from her temple. “I’m fine.”

“That’s what your father said the week before he collapsed.”

Compassion and frustration warred inside Abigail. “He was sixty-two.” And his pork habit hadn’t helped matters. Thin didn’t necessarily mean healthy. She skimmed her own long legs, encased in her favorite jeans . . . exhibit A.

“I’ve been thinking you should go visit your great-aunt.” Abigail already had a story in the works, but maybe her mom had a lead on something else. “New York sounds interesting. What’s the assignment?”

“Rest and relaxation. And I’m not talking about your Aunt Eloise—as if you’d get any rest there—I’m talking about your Aunt Lucy.”

Abigail’s spirits dropped to the basement. “Aunt Lucy lives in Montana.” Where cattle outnumbered people. She felt for the familiar ring on her right hand and began twisting.

“She seems a bit . . . confused lately.”

Abigail recalled the birthday gifts her great-aunt had sent over the years, and her lips twitched. “Aunt Lucy has always been confused.”

“Someone needs to check on her. Her latest letter was full of comments about some girls who live with her, when I know perfectly well she lives alone. I think it may be time for assisted living or a retirement community.”

Abigail’s eyes flashed to the screen. A series of nonsensical letters showed where she’d stopped in alarm at her mother’s appearance. She hit the delete button. “Let’s invite her to Chicago for a few weeks.”

“She needs to be observed in her own surroundings. Besides, that woman hasn’t set foot on a plane since Uncle Murray passed, and I sure wouldn’t trust her to travel across the country alone. You know what happened when she came out for your father’s funeral.”

“Dad always said she had a bad sense of direction.”

“Nevertheless, I don’t have time to hunt her down in Canada again. Now, come on, Abigail, it makes perfect sense for you to go. You need a break, and Aunt Lucy was your father’s favorite relative. It’s our job to look after her now, and if she’s incapable of making coherent decisions, we need to help her.”

Abigail’s conscience tweaked her. She had a soft spot for Aunt Lucy, and her mom knew it. Still, that identity theft story called her name, and she had a reliable source who might or might not be willing to talk in a couple weeks.

“Reagan should do it. I’ll need the full month for my column, and we can’t afford to scrap it. Distribution is down enough as it is. Just last month you were concerned—”

Her mother stood abruptly, the chair reeling backward into the aisle. She walked as far as the next cubicle, then turned. “Hypertension is nothing to mess with, Abigail. You’re so . . . rest- less. You need a break—a chance to find some peace in your life.” She cleared her throat, then her face took on that I’ve-made-up- my-mind look. “Whether you go to your aunt’s or not, I’m insisting you take a leave of absence.”

There was no point arguing once her mother took that tone. She could always do research online—and she wouldn’t mind visiting a part of the country she’d never seen. “Fine. I’ll finish this story, then go out to Montana for a week or so.”

“Finish the story, yes. But your leave of absence will last three months.”

“Three months!”

“It may take that long to make a decision about Aunt Lucy.”

“What about my apartment?”

“Reagan will look after it. You’re hardly there anyway. You need a break, and Moose Creek is the perfect place.”

Moose Creek. “I’ll say. Sounds like nothing more than a traffic signal with a gas pump on the corner.”

“Don’t be silly. Moose Creek has no traffic signal. Abigail, you have become wholly obsessed with—”

“So I’m a hard worker . . .” She lifted her shoulders.

Her mom’s lips compressed into a hard line. “Wholly obsessed with your job. Look, you know I admire hard work, but it feels like you’re always chasing something and never quite catching it. I want you to find some contentment, for your health if nothing else. There’s more to life than investigative reporting.”

“I’m the Truthseeker, Mom. That’s who I am.” Her fist found home over her heart.

Her mother shouldered her purse, then zipped her light sweater, her movements irritatingly slow. She tugged down the ribbed hem and smoothed the material of her pants. “Three months, Abigail. Not a day less.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tea for Two by Trish Perry

Tea With Millicent Series #2

Counselor Tina Milano has been visiting Milly’s Tea Shop regularly for the past several months. She has many friends but no steady man in her life. Zack Cooper is a local farmer who provides Milly with fresh fruit and vegetables. As a single parent, Zack is doing his best to raise his teenage son and daughter on his own.

When the kids get in minor scrapes with the law, Milly gently encourages Zack and Tina to work together to draw the teens back before their rebellious natures land them in even hotter water. At first Tina sees the relationship in only a professional capacity, but soon her friends notice the luscious scent of romance in the air and decide to help things along.

Tea for Two is a faith-filled novel that explores the delight of second chances, warm friendship, and unexpected romantic encounters.

My Review:
Millicent's Tea Shop becomes the focal setting of this Christian fiction romance novel. It seems to do a thriving business, with the ever-friendly proprietor, Milly. Although I did not read the first novel in this series, I had no problem feeling right at home.

Characters are nicely fleshed out. Tina, a local counselor, presides over her weekly group, allowing everyone to share their issues. She's so adapt that Milly suggests Tina as a solution for Zack to help him guide his headstrong, motherless teens. The plot becomes complex when Zack's teens "catch" Tina and Zack together and quickly jump to the conclusion that they're a couple.

Tina's gentle advice is good for all readers; I wish we all could have a Tina on hand to talk over our problems. Chapter twelve where Anthony and Tina have a date should be must reading for every guy before he dates!

Discussion questions are included, along with five yummy sounding recipes. This would make a fun book club read!

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Harvest House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giveaway! On Humingbird Wings by Lauraine Snelling

"But Mother is always dying," is Gillian Ormsby's sarcastic response when her younger, favored sister tells her that she has to go take care of their hypochondriac mother. Much against her will, since she and her mother never have gotten along, Gillian arrives in California to find the garden and yard dead, the blinds all drawn, and her mother indeed in bed--waiting to die. But when Gillian talks with the doctor, he assures her there's no medical reason behind her mother's state.

Now on a mission to restore her mother to health, Gillian insists Mother get out of bed, eat, exercise, and hopefully, choose to live. She also sets about reviving the garden to its former glory, enlisting the help of Adam, a handsome man who owns a family gardening business with his father. Gillian is delighted when a pair of hummingbirds appear, and her friendship with Adam grows.

Soon, Mother's health improves, and one day she announces she and her friend Enzio are going on a cruise. Before Gillian has time to turn around, her mother is gone, and she is left high and dry again, and wondering, what is she going to do with the rest of her own life?

My Review:
How nice to read a contemporary work. The protagonist, Gillian, is a successful New York businesswoman. She's climbed her way to the top of the corporate heap, but then, the bottom drops out of her world. Her sister, back home in California, calls for Gillian to come home because their mother is dying. During Gillian's weekend visit, she discovers that her company has been bought out, and she is out of a job! Gillian is left to figure out what she wants to do with the remainder of her life. Stay in California? Return to New York? Change careers?

The author realistically paints the mother/daughter portrait and stress of the two sisters. Each sister thinks that the other is the one that "mother loved best." Each time the sisters communicate, the tension can be cut with a knife. This sure sounds familiar to me!

However, a handsome neighbor sparks romance, causing Gillian's life to become even more complex.

I connected to Gillian as she organizes and thinks through her options. She analyses much the same as me. This is a good read, and comes with a Reading Group Guide.

Thank you to Sarah Reck at FaithWords for my copy.

If you would like to read a bit, click below:

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

In addition to furnishing me my review copy, Sarah Reck at FaithWords is allowing me to host a book giveaway for two (2) copies of this book!
  • The winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
  • Leave your email address in code in your comment.
  • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST May 10th and pick the winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their mailing information. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from the winners within three days, I will select another.
  • If you're interested, just say so in a comment with that all-important email address in code.
Example of email in code: you[at]yourmail[dot]com