Monday, July 16, 2012

ECFL Summer Blog Tour

Love's Providence
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Collegiate athlete Lily Brennon has always been the piece that doesn't quite fit in the puzzle, especially in her fragmented family, and no amount of rule-following perfection seems to bring her any closer to the love and acceptance she desperately seeks. If not for Jackson Carter, her childhood best friend and the only boy she’s ever loved, she’s sure she would have run away years ago. But when Jackson loses his father and a future basketball career within months of each other, his faith is so shattered, he shuts out everyone, including Lily.

After months of heartache, Lily begins to piece together a life without Jackson, and while vacationing on a beautiful island off the Georgia coast, she begins a long-distance romance with Alex Walker, a police officer with a quick wit and a cocky grin. He revives her hope in love again, but their intense attraction and his devastating secret test Lily’s values, stretching them until they break. Through her struggles to remain true to her principles, an agonizing choice between Alex and Jackson, and a series of terrifying events that threaten all of them, Lily must endure losing everything she’s been grasping so tightly. Only then will she discover the depth of the love that already surrounds her.

Love's Providence

As part of the Edgy Christian Fiction Summer Blog Tour, I'd love to offer Love's Providence as a hot summer read. Check out the review below from Book Wormz!

"I started reading this delightful book thinking it was just the normal Christian Romance. Boy was I wrong! This little book packed a punch and pretty soon I was transported into an all out mystery/suspense with action and adventure. Wow. 
This is an excellent read for young adults and I'd even recommend it for young Christians who are in the throes of decision making as it relates to purity. This book shows us what can happen when we compromise our standards and change our minds to please those around us. In this book, our heroine Lily was hurt by the love of her life and meets another guy who seems great but her decision to start a relationship with him will change her life forever. 
The story line though predictable (most romance novels by nature are predictable) kept me coming back for more.  I kept trying to tell Lily what to do throughout the entire book. It really was an interesting read and worth the time. I give this one 4 stars."

~Joana James

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Every Bush is Burning

Review: Every Bush is Burning 

by Brandon Clements

Click here to order
Jack Bennett has a wife, two kids, the perfect job--and the perfect affair. When he is caught and it all comes crashing down, Jack is left with no one to turn to. No friends. No family, except his recovering drug addict of a sister.
On a Sunday morning drive, he sees a homeless man locked out of a church service, banging on the door. He stops and offers the guy a cup of coffee. He asks the man his name, and the guy says Yeshua.  As in, Jesus.
Jack's not stupid. This isn't the real Jesus. But with nowhere else to turn, Jack forms an unlikely friendship--one that will test his idea of truth, faith, love, and forgiveness. And Jack is completely unprepared for the real-life twists his story is going to take.
My thoughts:
From the outset, this book intrigued me because of the writing style; it was different, and the author pulled it off well most of the time. The story is written as if it’s a letter to a fellow patron of the coffee shop where Jack is penning his tale, a method I’ve never read in another novel. Though I’m sure it isn’t a new concept, it certainly isn’t common, which most people in the business will tell you to stay away from at all costs. Clements does a great job, with only a few sections that seem to go off on unrelated tangents. The only other criticism I have of the writing is that there are moments when Yeshua gets on a high horse and starts preaching, and it comes off as the author preaching a message he wants to get across rather than as a character truly interacting with another. Otherwise, the writing is crisp, and moves the plot along nicely.

The idea of Jesus himself appearing to Bennett was fascinating, and I had mixed feelings about it throughout.  But by the end of the novel, my concerns were resolved, and I could look back over the journey of reading this book and honestly say I enjoyed it thoroughly. I also loved that these characters were outside of the traditional characters you typically find in Christian fiction, without being controversial just for the sake of pushing the limits. I found all of these characters to be realistic in nearly all their interactions and dialogue. And I absolutely loved the ending, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Overall, I’d give Every Bush is Burning 4 stars, and I would definitely recommend it to others. I would also recommend it for readers 18 or older (personal taste) for the occasional language and sexual references.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Review: The Well and the Mine, by Gin Philips

Review: The Well and the Mine, by Gin Phillips

Summary from Goodreads: 

"After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing the splash." 

So begins The Well and the Mine, a magnificent debut novel set in 1930s Alabama. The place is Carbon Hill, a small coal-mining community, in the midst of the Depression. The Moore family, a loving brood of five, is better off than most, generous to their less fortunate neighbors. But darkness arrives at their doorstep when a mysterious woman throws a baby down the Moores' well, and the story slowly unfolds, through the alternating voices of nine-year-old Tess (who witnessed the crime); her older sister, Virgie; her brother, Jack; and her parents, Albert and Leta.

The mystery of the baby and why the Moores' well was the chosen location for its disposal is the catalyst of this intimate novel -- the splash whose ripples widen to reveal a community divided by race and class. The revelation of this shadowy side of life in Carbon Hill is leavened by the awakening conscience of a family that survives adversity with pluck and determination. In her first novel, Phillips has found beauty, depth, and the promise of salvation in one strong Southern clan.

My thoughts:

Gin Phillips does a beautiful job of painting a picture of Depression era Alabama. Through the viewpoints of one family in the coal mining town of Carbon Hill, she brings alive a time that many young people today can't imagine, much less relate to. The writing is superb; it often feels like you're sitting down with these people at their kitchen table while they tell you a fine story over a tall glass of sweet tea. I love that Phillips shows an accurate picture of Southern life--the heat, the love of family, the complicated social relationships--without a derogatory or melodramatic tone. It's very real.

If you're looking for a leisurely read that will take you back in time, this is your book. If you're looking for a conflict-driven page-turner, this book isn't for you. Although the mystery of the woman who dropped her baby in the well adds some suspense in the beginning, this is really a slow-paced, Sunday-afternoon-drive through the country. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the view.

This would also make a great read for those of you in high school who can pick your summer reading selections. There's enough history and symbolism in this book to please just about any lit teacher. 

Happy reading!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review of Brave
4.5 stars

I took my two boys (9 & just shy of 4) to see Brave today, and it didn’t turn out as I thought it would. I thought I would like it okay, Brody (9) would love it, and Fox (almost 4) would like it for about 45 minutes and then want to go home. I nailed Fox, as usual, but I completely missed on Brody and myself.

As for me, I loved it, even teared up several times. Much of the drive within Merida for her freedom to be herself resonated with me. I would have loved to jump on horseback with her and go exploring through the Scottish forests. And when she and her mom must learn to “mend the bond torn by pride,” I got all misty-eyed. I could see so much of my own struggles in Merida (not with my mom, but in other areas of my life), and surprisingly in my often stressful relationship with Brody. So in a strange way, I related to Merida's mom as well.

Getting Brody to do anything—especially if it’s ME telling him to do it—is sure to be filled with drama and attempted negotiations. I love him so much it literally hurts, but I also have no idea how to communicate with him. I’m afraid that like Merida and her mom, pride may be our biggest enemy as well as he grows up. But hopefully we won’t have to turn to an ancient curse to cure our ills.

As for Brody, he seemed to enjoy the movie and spoke pretty highly of it on the way out to the car ( he loved the mischievous triplets), but as the day wore on, he mentioned several times that he thought it was just okay. Not great, not bad. Just okay. I asked him what he thought the point of the movie was, and he said something to the effect of Merida getting her mother to change. Interesting that he would pick up on THAT part of the movie and not the part where Merida herself goes through a change as well.

So my thoughts on the movie are mostly great. I think it actually presents a wonderful story that most teenage girls and their mothers can relate to, and the rebuilding of their understanding for one another is moving. My only criticism is that once again, “Hollywood” has given us a father that is dominated by his wife. Now granted, the father is loveable and engaged with his kids, but when it comes down to business, the Queen rules the home and the kingdom. Now I am all for women who are strong and independent; I happen to lean that way myself. However, a husband does not have to be less in order for the woman to be more. Why can’t they be partners? I would love to see more family movies that depict fathers as balanced—strong and compassionate at the same time. But maybe that doesn’t sell, or at least they don’t think will.

At any rate, I still loved the movie, and I would still recommend it. If you have very young children, the intense battles with bears and some suspenseful situations may be a bit much for them. Several times, Fox climbed into my lap and said he didn’t like the mean bear and wanted to go home. But he made it through, and in the end told his dad later in the day that he liked it. Who knows what goes on in the mind of an almost-four-year-old? 

So I rated the movie with 4.5 stars, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it as well once you've seen it. God bless!

Friday, June 1, 2012

To Everything There Is A Season

…not just a catchy Beatles tune

Normally, this time of year is a welcome break from all the craziness that is middle school, a time to evaluate and grow, a time to send off a class of eighth graders into the wonderful (or frightening for some) world of high school. I cherish summer for the time it gives me with my own kids as well as the time it gives me for exploring some of my own pleasures (sleeping in, reading, sleeping in, writing, laying by the pool, napping, sleeping in, etc.)
But this week was different. I’ve known for some time that this season of my life was coming to a close, and that I would be leaving a family, not just a workplace. I expected to feel a bit sad, but I’ve been excited to begin a new season, a chapter in my story that I’ve been dreaming of for years. I’m staying at home with my sweet boys, and I’m beginning an exciting adventure in publishing novels on my own terms. It’s exhilarating, and a bit scary. But I’ve been looking forward to it for so long!
So when the time came to say goodbye, and I hugged each eighth grader as they passed by me on the stage, and I watched them struggle through tears to sing a beautiful song, I wondered if I was truly doing the right thing. I’ve been so blessed in this chapter of my story; maybe it’s not time to start a new one. After all, I had a job I loved, with coworkers who I admired and students I adored. I was content.
But one of the things God has taught me in the past year, which has been full of amazing lessons, is that I’m not here to figure out what His plans are for me. I’m not supposed to try to read the last page of my story and then orchestrate everything to make sure that’s how my story goes. Because my story is His story…
What I’m actually supposed to do is love Him with all my heart and love my neighbors more than I love myself. If I seek to honor Him daily, and live in the peace of knowing His forgiveness and mercy, and I love the people around me more than myself, I’ll write a life story that will bring glory to God. And what I’ll find in the end when I read the last page, is that it’s the story He had written for me all along.
So, what I’m taking from all of this, and what I hope you’ll take as well, is that it’s okay to be sad when closing a chapter of your own story, and it’s okay to wonder about what the next chapter will hold. But remember that the point of your story is not to just make it to the end, but to fill the pages with love, friends, faith, and memories that glorify your Father and show others His love.
To those of you who have been a part of my time at Midway Covenant Christian School—teachers, parents, friends, and especially students—I hope you know how much I love you, and how blessed I have felt to be a small part of your story. God bless!