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Book Review: One Last Thing by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue


One Last Thing
By Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue
Released 3/10/15
Provided free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 bones

This one caught me a little off guard.  I’m on my mystery kick and I was roped in by the description of this book and the promise of a dark secret.  It was definitely dark and a bit of a deeper issue than I was prepared for.  I’ll blame my own ignorance.  I knew the author’s name sounded familiar, and that is (after further investigation) because Rebecca St. James is also a Christian recording artist. I love many of her songs.  So of course this is a Christian book!  Not a bad thing, but just as I said, caught me off guard.  The issues Tara and Seth face and tackle are all too real and heart-wrenching as the reader experiences with them in this book.

That all being said, it was a wonderfully written book with great characters and had me hooked.  And oddly enough, this morning’s sermon at our church hit on many points that were very relevant to this story.  (Refer 2 Samuel 11-12 for the story of David & Bathsheba)  Maybe deep down Seth wanted his secret to be discovered so he could work towards being free of it?  The secrets and the guilt we carry will only continue to eat away at us.  In order to be free of our secrets we must face them.  And that is hard.  That is what Seth and Tara must do in this book.  And that is what David did in the Bible.   And God is working behind the scenes through it all (or maybe right out in the open too.)

The big “secret” is uncovered very early in the book.  The rest of the book is how one person’s (Seth’s) choices affect everyone else in their life.  It’s very powerful and a real issue facing not only many people, but many Christian people.  I was worried about the book turning into a big PSA (public service announcement) as I find a lot of books in the Christian genre can be.  But while the message is definitely there, the story was good.  Really good.

Your heart will ache with Tara.  You can just picture the “Watch”, Tara’s eccentric group of friends formed throughout the book and their nightly meetings at the coffee shop.  All from different backgrounds, they are an amazing group of women brought together.  I loved Tara’s relationships with her parents, her friends, her brother, Ned, Wendy, Ike and even Seth and his family.  Each character really taught Tara something about herself and were all placed there for a specific reason.  There were so many things going on, but woven seamlessly together with a good ending.  And the backdrop of Savannah, GA was fun too having been there to visit and could easily visualize the setting.

This book really made me think and then paired with the sermon this morning, challenged me in a way I haven’t been in a while.  Reinforcement that God is in everything.  The bad, the good, the people we come across each day; in every tough situation there is a lesson to be learned that will only make us stronger.  And sometimes bad things happen so we can see the good in them or things in ourselves we may not have known before.  That is what happened for Tara and Seth in One Last Thing.

Again an unexpected ride from my initial download, but a really great one.  Be prepared for anything and everything and check out this book!

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for allowing me to preview this book!!

Book Description:

Tara had always imagined her happily ever after. But her fiancé’s secrets are changing this story into one she doesn’t even recognize.

Tara Faulkner and Seth Grissom grew up next door to each other in Savannah’s historic district. Their parents are best friends. They finish each other’s sentences all the time. Their fairy tale wedding is a foregone conclusion . . . until Tara discovers another side to Seth three weeks before the wedding.

Reality has crashed in on Tara’s fairy tale—but hope will lead her to a future she couldn’t have planned for herself.

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Book Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

The Prayer Box (click book or see below for description)
By Lisa Wingate
Released 8/16/13
Downloaded free on 7/15/14 through Amazon

Rating:5 bones

Finish Time: 6ish nights.  Another book that got me through my move.  And a great one to do so.  This book had it all and was really a great read and as I started writing my review – realized it would be only my 2nd 5 bone review of the year!  I really liked it!

Meet Tandi.  A newly single mom, running away from an awful past with her 2 kids, not knowing where her next paycheck is coming from, just trying to get by and figure out who she is.  She rents a cottage in on Hatteras Island (which sounds beautiful!), quickly goes through what money she received from her divorce, and scrambles to figure out what is next.  The cottage or bungalow, as a few call it, is owned by a woman, Iola Anne Poole, who we never meet in person in the book, but really the story is just as much about her as it is Tandi.

Tandi never met her landlord, but when she needed her one day, she ventured over to the “main house” on her property, where Iola lives, only to find her passed away.  Panicked and afraid of what will happen next, Tandi does the right thing and calls the police, but it was a weird struggle for me whether to trust her or not.  Throughout the book we learn more about Tandi’s past, and it comes to make sense, but I could never tell if she would do the right thing, or had the right intentions.  She does have a big heart, but she is also getting pretty desperate, so who knows what that will drive someone to do.  So it took me some time to trust her (not that I have to trust my main characters) but I guess as any relationship, that was all part of it and I felt made for a great story.

In fear of losing her house and on edge, Tandi is approached by the church, who has taken control of the property, to clean it out in exchange for staying in her bungalow.  And as she starts sorting through Iola’s things, she discovers more than she bargained for, but in a good way.  Iola didn’t have the best reputation on Hatteras Island, most thought she deceived an old man into getting control of her estate.  But like most rumors, no one had all the details, and Tandi made it her mission (after much thought) to bring out Iola’s story.  Which was truly fascinating.

Oh and I should probably mention the prayer boxes in the title.  That is how Tandi learned everything about Iola.  From a young age, not having a confidant, Iola begins writing letters to her father, which Tandi learned (a bit slower than I did) is the Almighty Father in heaven, so they are not letters, but prayers.  Through joy and tears, Tandi is transported into Iola’s past and learns so much more about this woman who had an amazingly big heart, but preferred to remain in the background.

I’ve already rambled on a lot and feel I haven’t even touched the story.  Throw in a (not so appreciative) boyfriend, a terrifying ex-husband, nosy townspeople, her sister, that cute dorky guy from church, her kids, a sea shell stop, the handy-woman hidden inside her, and an open heart for the Lord, really this story had it all.  Really it does.  You won’t be disappointed – check it out!

Description from Amazon:

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper–the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

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Book Review: Composing Amelia: A Novel by Alison Strobel


Composing Amelia: A Novel (click book or see below for description)
By Alison Strobel
Downloaded free on 5/26/14 (released in Sept 2011)

Rating: 3 bones

Finish Time: 4 nights.  I have a queue of books, both hard copy and e-copy just waiting to be read, but again this time (3rd in a row) I found myself looking through Amazon (Free) Best Sellers for a different book.  The last two (here and here) have not disappointed.  Having just made a big life decision and having to trust God and my husband, I couldn’t turn this book down.

I would say this follows the typical format of a Christian fiction book.  Not a bad thing, but predictable.  Come on – what kind of Christian book could end without God prevailing (really what in life could end that way either!)?  The common theme is trusting God when He throws some crazy curves your way.  And then watching your life transform into how He wants it to be.  Always amazing to read and see His amazing power.

Amelia recently married pastor-to-be, Marcus.  As they are both figuring out their new marriage, they are both trying to figure out their careers as well.  Both not going as they planned, they stay faithful and keep trucking along.  Marcus gets a call to pastor a hurting church in Nebraska (from New York) and they both spend time figuring out if that is where they are meant to be. Marcus comes to the decision quicker than Amelia, as she just got her first break in New York.

This decision threatens their marriage, and Amelia’s faith.  A few other challenges are thrown in, then the book takes a very depressing turn, then, (not really a spoiler alert), things get back on track.  A good read, nothing to rave about, but good to get me thinking if I’m being obedient and what God wants for my life (not what I want.)  Quick read, worth a few nights of reading!

Description from Amazon:
Can a brand-new marriage withstand the weight of generations-old baggage?
Newlyweds Amelia and Marcus Sheffield are recent college grads, trying to stay afloat in LA while searching for their dream jobs. Marcus hopes to become a mega-church pastor. Amelia has an esteemed music degree, and longs to play piano professionally. The Sheffields are clearly city people.
 
But when a small town church offers Marcus a job, the couple’s dedication to their dreams and each other is tested. After a risky compromise is made, Amelia falls into a dark emotional place, where she finds skeletons she’d fought hard to deny. In desperation, she calls out to God. But why can’t she find Him? While Amelia struggles, Marcus learns news that nearly crushes him. He must lean on his faith to withstand the pressure… or risk losing his wife forever.

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Whom Shall I Fear? (Happy Hump Day)

Happy Wednesday aka Hump Day!  Anyone else notice the increase in camel pictures on Wednesdays?  Maybe it’s just my FB friends, but I swear the last few weeks I see at least 2-3 camel pictures on Wednesday – new trend?

That all being said, I’ve strayed away from my typical Sunday posts the last few weeks.  And thought I would try to post when I felt most inspired, or when I need it the most, and today that just happens to be on a Wednesday!  I will try to post weekly though as it helps me and hopefully some of you!

I have been encouraged by many songs this last week, particularly some of THESE AWESOME ONES, but I’ll save a post on one of those for another week.  This past week at church we sang this one – Whom Shall I Fear – and I also hear it daily (maybe hourly) on the radio.  It seems those are the songs I’m drawn most to posting about, but when I think that through, it makes sense because it gives the song time to sink in and after a few (hundred) times hearing it, it’s made an impact.

This week at a couples bible study we were discussing two types of Facebook posters.  One was deemed the overly, happy almost fake sounding, that only posts about good things.  The other is the opposite, using it as a platform to complain to ask for sympathy.  No one wants to raise their hand for either, but if I had to label myself it would be the positive one.  I hope not fake, but my Facebook friends (be them real or virtual) don’t need to see that side on my life, so I’m guilty of only posting happy things.  Not that I want to be a negative poster, but I save my issues for my friends and family off-line.  Neither of these is right or wrong or healthy or not (I’ll leave that for you to decide).  I do believe by airing grievances, you may find sympathy and/or support, and definitely get some extra prayers.   But is there a point where it is TMI or you’re just boasting (if it’s on the positive side)? Which one are you?  (And I’m sure there is an argument in here that’s anti-social media, a highly debated topic in many of my groups – but we’ll save that for another day!)

That being said (yes I know I already started a paragraph with those words – it’s my transition today!), things aren’t always happy and shiny in my life.  These last few posts (Here and Here) focused on great things that we did.  I need to do that sometimes (often) to refocus and spend time praising God for the good things in my life, which there are WAY more than not.  But other days, and more this past week, I’ve been consumed with panic and fear.  Of unknowns and of trusting God.  And this song – Whom Shall I Fear – always brings it back into focus for me.  Who should I fear when I have God – the God of Angel Armies albeit, by MY side?  I love the imagery of that.

Here is what Chris Tomlin says about the song:

The Scripture really came to life for me after we wrote the song. I may have read that Bible passage from 2nd Kings before, but my eyes weren’t really open to the story. When Elisha is told about the army camped outside the city, and sees the fear in his servant’s eyes, he tells him, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prays for the Lord to open the eyes of his servant. Then he saw the angel armies all around their enemies.

Remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? We raise our hands to celebrate and in surrender. We can lift up our hands in confidence to God and know that His mercy is unfailing. His love is never-ending. He is our refuge and our strength. God’s ultimate will is not to bring affliction upon people, but to restore us so that we may experience His unfailing love.

May you always remember that you believe in God – the God of the Angel Armies, and that He’s got your back.  Always.  Amen and Happy Hump Day!

Whom Shall I Fear
Chris Tomlin
You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light
 
Whom shall I fear
 
You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my Sword and Shield
Though trouble lingers still
 
Whom shall I fear
 
I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always on my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
 
My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory
 
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
 
And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding onto Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
 
I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always on my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
 
The God of angel armies is always by my side

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TRUST by Jay and Abby Akins

(Click on Album to be directed to Amazon to hear samples and BUY!)
Trust
Jay & Abby Akins
Release Date: October 1st 2013

I am SO excited to be finally sharing this with you all.  This is Jay & Abby’s 1st album, it came out today on Amazon and iTunes, and it is AMAZING!  Filled with 8 catchy songs that will move you to dance, sing along, and praise GOD above all.  Call me a groupie or just a dedicated friend and fan, but Jay & Abby inspired this post HERE. They are some of my inspiration as I search to find what I am called to do, as they clearly have found and are living out their calling.  And this one here where we hosted them in our backyard to introduce some of these very songs!

IMG_0029  IMG_0025

Their passion for music and Jesus come through in each and every song.   I’m so happy for them and am proclaiming my bragging rights here and now that we knew them BEFORE they were big time!!  But check it out – share it – tell friends, you won’t be disappointed!  My favorites are #2 – I Stand in Awe and #4 – Trust (but they all are really great!)

Congrats Jay & Abby!  You guys are amazing, encouraging, and 2 of the best people I am blessed to know and call friends!

Read more about Jay & Abby, stories behind the songs, and much more on their website:

JayandAbbyMusic.com

Aren’t they stinkin’ adorable (borrowed this from their website too!)

KSP_3832c

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Book Review: Oh to Grace by Abby Rosser


Oh to Grace
By Abby Rosser
This book was provided to me free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Finish time: 5 nights.  This was one of those books that I wish I had read in hard copy.  You know the ones I’m talking about, where each chapter begins with a date and they aren’t necessarily in chronological order.  So on the Kindle, it’s hard to backtrack.  For that reason, and not really paying attention to the dates until later in the book, I found the book hard to follow at first.  It jumps around a bit between time periods and characters, that I’m not sure I ever really felt I had it all figured out.

The book begins and goes back each chapter to a granddaughter interviewing her great-aunt (I believe) Frankie about her family’s history.  Her family’s story included lots of interesting characters, lots of little adventures, and painted a great picture of life during the early 1900’s.  But I felt it was lacking a larger story to tie it all together.  I guess looking back the book starts out with a boy running into a store and proclaiming to the owner that his son is dead, but it takes a long time to come back to that point, that I had completely forgotten about it by the time it circled back around.  And throughout the story there is mention of a pocket-watch, but it seemed inconsequential and I couldn’t keep track of whose it was and who had it now, so I did appreciate its timeline at the end of the story.

The writing was good, I enjoyed the story of Anna and Ernest and his family, and I especially loved the ending.  Again, looking back, there is mention of hymns and church, but just not much.  But at the end (without spoiling anything) the discussions about faith and God were so good, I wished there was more through the book, or even more build up to that point in everyone’s lives (especially Anna).

So really an enjoyable read, and everything was eventually tied together, it was just a little frustrating as I don’t think I ever had all the characters straight, and was confused a lot of the book.  But the ending really redeemed it all for me and left feeling satisfied and happy.

I don’t normally tie in songs or verses to my book reviews, but the verse below from Romans and past post HERE were in my head since finishing this book and I couldn’t help but share as it’s one of my favorites!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

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Book Update: Elizabeth Street and The Dr. Pepper Prophecies

I have been reading.  Just nothing to shout about.  I know I promised good back and ugly, so I’ll do a quick recap now.

Dr. Pepper Prophecies by Jennifer Gilby Roberts.  I read this is 2 days.  It was merely a “filler” between 2 heavier books.  It was a fluffy, chick-lit novel.  Quick, easy, somewhat entertaining, still don’t understand the name.  Free (ofcourse!), but nothing to shout about.  I”ll leave it at this.

Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano.  Back to my favorite genre of historical fiction, this was actually based on the true story of the authors family.  They immigrated from Italy in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s.  Tons of detail and a very long book.  I really did enjoy it, I just felt there was almost too much detail, so after 2+ weeks of reading a book, I was ready for it to be over.  Thoroughly researched and no detail missed, you got a great feel about the Italian-American culture in that time period, and were thankful to not be a part of it.  It was very interesting what gangs/mafia/whatever were able to get away with and what the early American police force could not control.  A love story was woven in, and towards the middle it was quite the mystery.  The pages turned quickly as I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.  A terrifying part of American history, yet told in a very profound way.  If you have some time, you won’t be disappointed.

Now I’m juggling a book for a small group I am in:

A light, chick-lit read:

And I’m very excited to find a new website (Net Galley) and be accepted to to get even more free books to review – most of them new releases or maybe not even released yet!  Here is my first one (review coming soon!)

And I still have this one from BookSneeze that I keep forgetting about:


My plate is full (of books) – but that is a good thing!  Stay tuned for hopefully some great book reviews!

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I will follow – will you?

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

Happy Sunday!  Today I wanted to share a song that I have heard a few times this week that I really feel God has placed on my heart as I am trying to listen.  It is Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow”, and as always I have included the YouTube video below.

I’ve been feeling restless lately.  As the kids are getting older and a bit more independent, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my [free] time.  Part of that was starting this blog.  I am hoping that by organizing how I spend my time and documenting trips, activities, and whatever occupies our time, maybe my true calling (purpose) will appear.  At least that is my prayer.  God speaks to me through music, as each Sunday I have been posting a song that either goes along with that days sermon or one that God has laid on my heart.

This week it was “I Will Follow”.  I always hope and try to follow the desires God places on my heart, but as I am entering a period of unknowns and possibly some tough choices (nothing serious, I will elaborate at a later time), I need to, now more than ever, place my trust in God and follow.  Where HE goes, I go, where HE stays, I stay, where HE moves, I move…you get the point.  I know things are not always clear – but I’m praying for a clear answer right now! (Wouldn’t that be nice!?)  I know in time, it will come, so I pray for patience in the meantime (something I pray for daily)  I will TRUST in HIM, SEEK HIM, and my joy will follow.

Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading stories behind songs, and found this article here with Chris on the meaning behind this song.  It comes from the story of Peter.  Peter was a follower of Jesus, but also a man of the world, and while he wanted to follow wholeheartedly, he was hoping for a different version of the story.  Sound familiar?  (It does to me!)  Following Jesus means setting aside your own wants and obeying.

“Isn’t that still what it means for anyone to follow Jesus? It means that we lay down our own agendas and hopes and dreams, and faithfully obey day by day. It’s a daily dying to self—the crucifying of our own petty and self-centered desires so that we might more clearly reflect Christ to the people around us. In the end, it’s not about bravado and bold statements. It’s about simple, ongoing obedience to the words of our Lord. To say “I will follow” is really not so different from saying “Help me every hour to die to my own desires, Jesus, so that you can live more fully through me.”” [Excerpt from article linked above with Chris Tomlin]

I pray this week (and always) that I can set aside MY expectations and MY agenda and fully open up my heart and mind to the word of God and follow HIM with my whole heart, while trusting HIM, and praising HIM always.  In HIM I will be free and find my joy, if I will just follow.

Amen – have a great week!  (Looking forward to a fun and God filled week here as we host VBS at our church!)

I Will Follow
Chris Tomlin

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