Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review of Remember Me by Lara Van Hulzen

How exciting is it when you discover a new author? I think it's fun! And even better when you really like them!
I was asked to review a book from an author I had never heard of before. But she she's not a debut author.  So graciously the author offered me both book 1 and 2 from her current series. And I devoured them both.


Lara Van Hulzen may not be a new name to you, but if she is ... read on! Her tagline is Romance with a Twist of Faith and she definitely delivers.

Book One in Van Hulzen's Men of Honor series is titled Remember Me. It is a fast moving, twisting tale of lost love, redemption and renewal in God's economy.

Publisher's blurb:
Detective Ben Russo is in trouble.
He just can’t remember why.
When a car accident lands Ben in the hospital, he can’t recall anything about his life. What he does know is he’s enchanted by a tiny nurse named Tess, but can’t shake the feeling they’re both in danger.

After being left at the altar, Tess Jansenn moves to a new town and starts over. When her ex-fiancĂ©, Ben, shows up in the ER where she works with no memory of her, she must decide – tell Ben who he is or let him remember on his own.

Can Tess forgive and forget what drove them apart, and when Ben remembers, will the consequences of his choices make it too late for love?

This story was fascinating to me from the start. Tess is thrown into such a tail-spin from page two on. The action and tension picks up instantly and moves you quickly through the entire story.

I enjoyed the characters immensely. Tess, although shaken by being left at the alter is confident and capable. She is a hard-working nurse, her faith in God is strong and she is surrounded by a tight-knit support system. All of that make the story believable as she tries to sort out what to do with this "lumberjack-of-a-man" who just tromped unknowingly back into her life ... and heart.

The suspense plot of the story takes a bit to get going, but I never felt bored or impatient. There was a lot to sort out between the two characters and the author did a great job of keeping the story entertaining. Once the suspense plot of the story gets into action, the reader is in for a ride.

The romance of the book is strong and compelling. Even though the reader should dislike Ben for ditching Tess at the alter, I didn't. I rooted for him from almost page one. I loved that there wasn't open hostility between the two characters - as Tess knew Ben didn't know who she was there was no point in being angry towards him.

The secondary characters were lovely as well. Tess's friends that walk beside her through the entire ordeal are well-rounded and fun characters. As a prequel maybe Ms. Van Hulzen could share with the readers their love story. :)

Anyway, a very nice lead into story number two in the series, as both main characters reach out to other family and friends to help solve the storyline. Once Ben remembers who he is he involves his police partner Dane in trying to keep Tess safe. And Tess reaches out to her vibrant and lively sister Aimee. Fireworks fly instantly. However this happens quite late in the story so not to distract from the current love story. It sure was a fun addition though.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this story. My only disappointment was that the story wrapped up super quickly. The tension and suspense is high throughout and then it was suddenly over and resolved. That felt a little off to me. But in the end it didn't deter my positive ratings!

That's all for Book One. Stay tuned for book two review to follow right away. However, if you're new to the name Lara Van Hulzen, take a moment to visit her. Her website and Goodreads author page are full of information.  She also has a blog where she shares her thoughts.

Thank you to the author for a chance to read and review this book. I received the book free of charge in exchange for honest review.

If you are into e-books, this title is excellently priced right now and available at amazon.ca and amazon.com and barnes&noble. Go get your copy!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review of A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

A Love Like Ours is book #3 in the Porter Family Series. It is also the fourth book of Becky Wade's I've read. (That's all she's written :))

One of the things I love best about Becky Wade's books is the honest way she writes. Numerous times I caught myself blushing and thinking - I can't believe she said that! This one is no exception!


Publisher's Blurb:
Cover ArtFormer Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?
There is so much to say about this lovely book. In my mind it reaches out to so many different reader-types. But before we dig too deep I have to say I love the cover! And then I read the Prologue and loved it!! Favorite line that only makes full sense in context of the entire story : "That was his job, to keep her safe. And that's what he would do. She was his favorite person."

Now ... let's get to the (really) good stuff.

First of all it is a story of love, hope and redemption. Jake Porter is one wounded guy! And he has pretty much committed his life to staying away from people, happiness and God. Horses he can deal with. Everything else- including his loving family- should be treated with much caution. I have to admit I am a sucker for a wounded soul. Especially when that wounded soul is on God's radar and He isn't backing down. This part of the plot was fantastic. Wade delves deep into the issue of PTSD and what war has done to so many fine young men. At one point in the story, the heroine's mother, a counsellor, tells Lyndie that Jake's condition isn't curable. But that doesn't stop God (and Becky Wade) from infusing hope into every crevice possible. Loved it!

Next, this story is a romance.  Whoa! Cover your eyes ... or ears ... or don't. But be prepared for some spice. I can remember being a tad shocked reading Wade's first book My Stubborn Heart when the main characters started commenting on her "boobs". Can you say that in Christian Fiction? Yet in context of the story it felt real and very life-like. So I moved on.

Now, after several more Wade stories under my belt I still love the authenticity and realness she gives her stories and characters. But I was also caught off guard with her latest shocker. "Bedroom eyes" Will. A secondary character who I'm hoping will be the main character in the future. As you can tell by now, I read almost exclusively Christian Fiction. (Otherwise those words wouldn't snag me.) So, this is my one warning to potential readers. There is no explicit information in this book, nor did I find it uncomfortable or inappropriate. However, if there is a line in the sand for you on what you want (or don't want) in your fiction, be aware. Becky Wade is wonderful at bringing to life a fact of romantic life that sometimes is overlooked in Christian fiction. Passion and attraction are real and there is a way to write it with modesty and truth. (And spice!) Fans of Julie Lessman will know what I mean here. If there was an award for kissing scenes - I'd give it to Becky Wade ... or Jake Porter ("Tall, Dark and Brooding"), however you want to see that one. Phew! Moving on ...

Next this story tackles the issue of disabilities and gifts. There is a sweet sub-plot moving throughout the story that adds such depth and character to the main story line. And I love how Wade made this thread work on both sides of the characters and mirror the main plot. Fantastic!

First we have Mollie, Lyndie's younger sister who is non-verbal and blind suffering with cerebral palsy. But Lyndie believes God gave her sister the power to heal others. Then we also have the horse, Silver Leaf, a horse with potential that only a few can see. This raises the complex topic of God's grace and His healing hand. Why would God not heal Mollie, but use her to heal others? And why would a horse that can't or won't win any horse races be useful to anyone? And why would God take a broken, wounded man and bless him with an optimistic, life-breathing woman that won't give up?

There are so many more aspects to this book but I realized how long this blog post has gotten already.

Bottom line: this is an interesting, thought-provoking, heart-stirring and blood-pumping good novel. Go get yourself a copy. If you're not sure yet, Becky Wade has provided a free excerpt on her website. And on YouTube Becky Wade talks about her book and giving some background to the writing process.

And just for fun - a perfect fit for the soundtrack: Sticking with You by Addison Road. Check it out.

Be sure to check out the other books in this series, Undeniably Yours and Meant to be Mine.

Thanks to Bethany House and Baker Publishing for a chance to review this book. I received a free copy in exchange for my opinion. I am not required to rate it positively.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Book Review of From Good to Grace by Christine Hoover

I remember so clearly the early days of each of my babies. 
Baby #1. I had high hopes. Not just for them but more so for me. I'm gonna be a good mom and do all the things good moms do. I had a list.

Then came baby number two and dressed in tears I spoke a new promise ... "I'm gonna do better this time. I'm gonna try to get it right with this baby."

Then came baby number three. The words were there, underneath a suffocating cloak of shame. I was too burdened to speak them out loud because I had failed. Not once but twice. Dare I try again?

Cover ArtWow! If only I knew better back then what God is teaching me now. He never wanted good. He wanted surrendered. He wanted me ... covered in His grace. He doesn't want me to try so much and so hard. 

Christine Hoover's new book From Good to Grace is an exceptional book on exactly that. God never asked for us to be good enough. We can't. We won't ever be. And wishing for it only destroys His true purpose for us. He only wants us ... dripping in His grace.

Do you struggle with wanting to do better? Wishing for more energy so you could accomplish more? Praying for a second chance so this time you could get it right?

Stop right there.

You are living in what Christine describes as the "Goodness Gospel". That was never where God wanted you to be. Striving for that Gold Star or that pat on the back. That sweet "You did great" smile. Do enough. Be enough. 

Stop. 

That is not the gospel of our Lord and Savior. Christine reminds us, "we aren't enough, but God has made us enough by his grace." 

In a wonderfully enchanting manner, Christine uses examples from her own life as a mother, pastor's wife and child of God to impart to us the importance of recognizing the false gospel in our lives. She dives into scripture with the reader to point out the areas that we "try" when we should just lean in instead.

 Publisher's blurb:
God is calling you to something greater than good.
So many of us feel as if we do not do enough and, in fact, are not enough. We try hard to be good--a good friend, mom, wife, Christian, employee, or ministry leader--hoping for that "atta-girl" from God, some heavenly assertion that we matter. In the process, we find ourselves living by a lesser gospel: the gospel of goodness. It's a gospel without grace, and in the end, it's good for nothing.

With compelling illustrations from her own life and from Scripture, Christine Hoover helps you start asking, "What does God want for me?" before asking, "What does God want from me?" You'll find yourself breathing a sigh of relief at this powerful message of freedom and hope. Rather than serving God out of obligation or duty, you'll be compelled to love and serve God with great joy.

 A definite keeper. I recommend this book for any women, young or old, as an individual or a group study (discussion guide included). Even if you don't see yourself in the description of the book, you probably know a woman who does.

Christine Hoover authors a fantastic blog, Grace Covers Me. Check her out there. Also you can find an excerpt of the book on Baker Publishing website. Or visit your favorite Christian bookseller and get your own copy.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc