Sunday, April 7, 2013

A War-Time Story of Love and Faith -- Sweet Sanctuary

When I see a Kim Vogel Sawyer title, I expect a lot -- a great story, rich characters, strong faith, often set in the prairies of the midwest a century or so ago.  Sweet Sanctuary is no exception to that description (except for the setting being a different time and place).  And Kim does a great job with a World War II background for this book.

Once again Kim delivers a story well worth reading.   Lydia's, Micah's, and Nic's lives intertwine and play out with lots of twists and turns, many of them unexpected.  Nicky and Justina are sweet, lovable children who add an extra bonus to the story.

Sweet Sanctuary is a tale of love between a man and a woman, but it is so much more.  A picture of a loving God who works things out in His way and His time, in spite of human attempts to plan things out, shines through from beginning to end.

I give Sweet Sanctuary five stars and recommend it to all fans of great historical Christian fiction.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

A Story of Hope and Love Set Against the Backdrop of World War II

Lydia Eldredge longs to provide sanctuary for her young son, Nicky. But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him.

Dr. Micah Hatcher faithfully serves the immigrant population of Queens, New York. But under cover of darkness, he has a secret mission that challenges everything he thought he wanted out of life.

When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings. Together, they seek a refuge of safety--for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God puts into their lives. Amid turmoil and discord, can hope and love prevail?

About the Author

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of nineteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site at for more information.

A baseball story, with so much more! (includes a giveaway) -- Home Run

I'm not a big sports fan -- I couldn't name the favorite teams or players in any particular sport.  But I have enjoyed lots of really good movies and books that revolve around a sports team or individual.  Home Run is the latest I've found in that category.

The people in the story seem real -- they struggle, they are flawed, and they draw you into their lives so that you care what happens to them.  Cory Brand, major-league baseball star, and the family and friends he left behind in his hometown learn first-hand about the power of God's love in healing hearts of long-standing hurts. 

Home Run is a well-written read for a wide audience, with a good mix of baseball, faith, and relationship.  The flashbacks at the end of each chapter help the reader put pieces together and understand more about how Cory got to the point where his life and career seem to be falling apart -- and how he finds his way home.

Sports fan or not, anyone who enjoys a good story of hope, healing, and redemption should enjoy Home Run.  The book is a novelization of a movie due to be released later this month.  If the movie is as good as the book, it should be a hit!

Thanks to David C. Cook publishers for providing this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

A Chance to Win Your Own Copy

The publisher was generous enough to provide an extra copy of this book for me to share with another reader.  If you would like a chance at winning a copy, leave a comment below and I'll draw a name at random sometime after 5:00 p.m. (central time) on Wednesday, April 10.

About the Book

Baseball star Cory Brand knows how to win. But off the field, he's spiraling out of control. Haunted by old wounds and regrets, his future seems as hopeless as his past.

Until one moment-one mistake-changes everything. To save his career, Cory must go back to the town where it all began. His plan is simple: coach the local baseball team, complete a recovery program, and get out as fast as possible. Instead, he runs headfirst into memories he can't escape ... and the love he left behind.

Faced with a second chance he never expected, Cory embarks on a journey of faith, transformation and redemption. And along the way, he discovers a powerful truth: no one is beyond the healing of God.

A novel based on the major motion picture starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, Home Run is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us. 

Meet the Author

The author of a dozen works of fiction, including Isolation and Ghostwriter, Travis Thrasher has been writing since he was in the third grade. His writing is known for its honesty, depth, and surprising twists. Thrasher lives with his wife and daughter near Chicago.

Learn more about Travis at his website:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Healing Love -- The House That Love Built

Beth Wiseman hooked me with her excellent Amish fiction.  But she has proven her ability to write excellent fiction in more than one genre.  The House that Love Built is her second non-Amish novel, and it was a delight to read.

Brooke, Owen, and the other characters come alive on the pages.  A troubled teenager and an offbeat uncle add variety and depth to the story, providing a balance of trouble and humor.  As the characters deal with loss and betrayal, hope, love, and healing come at just the right time.  A bit of small-town mystery around an old house and a bonding of an eclectic "family" rounds out this very enjoyable story.

Thanks to the BookSneeze blogging program for providing this ebook in exchange for my honest review. 

About the Book

Brooke has only loved one man, her late husband. Owen’s rebuilding after a painful divorce. Can a mysterious house bring them together for a second chance at love?

In the charming town of Smithville, Texas, Brooke Holloway is raising two young children on her own, supporting them by running the family hardware store. The last thing on her mind is falling in love. But she’s intrigued when a stranger moves to town and buys the old Hadley mansion. She’s always heard that house holds a secret—maybe even a treasure—and she can’t wait to see inside. When she meets the new owner and they spend time together, she can’t deny the attraction. Could God be giving her another chance at happiness? Or is she betraying her late husband’s memory by even thinking that way?

Owen Saunders bought the Hadley place to spite his cheating ex-wife. She’d always wanted to restore an old house in Smithville. Now he’s going to do it without her. But if anything needs restoration, it is Owen’s heart. Then he meets Brooke and her kids and finds himself tempted by love. Can he bring himself to trust a woman again?

Throw an eccentric uncle into the mix, along with the town’s teenage troublemaker, and even a finicky cat—and one thing becomes clear: God is bringing them all together for a reason.

Much like Brooke and Owen, Wiseman has sensed God putting her in situations for His purpose. In turn, she has written some of the lessons she’s learned into her stories whether it be in her Amish series or her new venture into contemporary novels (The House that Love Built is her second non-Amish release). “There have been times in my life that I could see God was using the situation, but I couldn’t foresee the reasoning — especially during the bad times.  It has taken years to understand that much of what I have experienced was to give me a better understanding of certain situations so I could write about it and hopefully help others,” explains Wiseman. “I’m not sure I could have captured the hospital scene in my second novel if my own son hadn’t spent a month in the hospital. I’ve witnessed a miracle, so I wrote about one. I’ve made mistakes I’m not proud of, and those seem to find a way into my stories, as well, painful as some of them might be. I’m adopted, so I’ve written about that. Each book I write ministers to my own soul, and I pray the stories will bring peace to my readers.”

Ultimately, in addition to an entertaining story, what Wiseman hopes readers walk away with is, “God forgives us . . . and so easily. Yet, we beat ourselves (and others) into the ground over the burdens of our past. I personally have trouble forgiving myself, so that ends up in my books a lot,” admits Wiseman. “Carrying our burdens of the past is self-destructive, and my goal for this story was to have several of my characters shedding their burdens as they grow in their faith and put their trust in God.”

When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

About the Author

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, it will not be the last. She recently completed The House that Love Built, scheduled for release in April 2013Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, and a growing collection of Boer goats in a small community in South Central Texas. When Beth isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, and watching good movies. Her favorite pastimes, however, are painting (her paintings can be veiwed on her Fans of Beth Wiseman Facebook page) and spending time with friends and family.

Christian Romance -- The Dance

A year ago this month, I started a book review with a question about whether a man could write a good love story.  My conclusion then was, "Yes, he can."  The book I was reviewing was The Discovery, by none other than Dan Walsh.  Well, Dan and co-author Gary Smalley have done nothing to change my mind about that answer! 

The Dance is a heart-tugging and heart-warming story of the struggles and romance that are present in many marriages.  The little things missing in her marriage add up to big things for Marilyn, and she takes desperate measures to get Jim's attention.  The "chance" encounters Marilyn and Jim both have with the same person lead to lessons neither of them expected to learn.

As the story neared its conclusion, it was pretty evident where things were headed.  The tender, emotional details, though, kept me tied to the pages as I read the conclusion through my tears.

Besides providing an extremely engaging story, The Dance challenges readers to make the most of their marriages and other family relationships.  The authors' combination of skill in writing and insight about family relationships provides an excellent read.  I look forward to more visits with the Anderson family in this Restoration series.

Available April 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

Jim Anderson is a successful businessman, and his wife, Marilyn, is the perfect wife. And why wouldn’t she be? He gives her everything she needs. That’s why Jim never expected to come home one day and find Marilyn gone.

After 27 years of marriage, Marilyn has had enough of feeling unloved and neglected. She wants to experience some measure of happiness before she’s too old to enjoy it, even signing up for dance lessons, something Jim would never do. What will it take for Jim to finally become the man Marilyn needs him to be?

Love’s recovery starts with a single step . . .

After 27 years of marriage, Marilyn Anderson is tired of playing the role of perfect wife. Her husband Jim is a successful businessman who gives her everything she needs-a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, the financial freedom to be a stay-at-home mom, an enviable collection of stuff. Everything, that is, except what really matters:  love.

After years of trying to connect with Jim, Marilyn has had enough. She longs to experience some measure of happiness before she’s too old to enjoy it. Needing some time to herself to sort things out, Marilyn leaves to start a new job and take dancing lessons-something she has wanted to do for as long as she can remember.
Shocked to find his wife gone, Jim Anderson must sort through the past to save his marriage. With a little help from an unexpected ally, he begins a campaign to win Marilyn back. What he doesn’t anticipate is how his actions will affect everyone around him-starting with himself.

About the Authors

Combining the literary talents of bestselling author Dan Walsh and the relationship expertise of bestselling author Gary Smalley, The Dance is the romantic first novel in The Restoration Series. Readers will get caught up in these flawed but earnest characters as they rediscover genuine love and start a transformation that will ultimately affect their whole family.

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Discovery and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he’s busy researching and writing his next novel.

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of 16 books, along with several popular films and videos. He has spent over 30 years learning, teaching, and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. Smalley has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Extra, The Today Show, and The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, as well as numerous national radio programs. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of many books, including the Baxter Family Redemption series with Karen Kingsbury. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 40 years and live in Branson, Missouri. They have three children and six grandchildren.