Saturday, December 24, 2016

Movie Review of Hillsong: Let Hope Rise.

If you didn't get a chance to see Hillsong in the theaters, you can watch it in your own home now. Blu-ray and DVD are available now!

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

This inspiring film chronicles the spectacular rise of the Christian band, Hillsong UNITED, to a worldwide recording and concert sensation. Capturing the on-stage energy and off-stage hearts of the Australia-based band Hillsong UNITED, HILLSONG–LET HOPE RISE is a new motion-picture genre—the theatrical worship experience. The film explores Hillsong’s humble beginnings and astonishing rise to prominence as an international church whose songs are sung every Sunday by more than 50 million people worldwide.
Additional Details
The runtime for the film is 103 mins. There are 38 minutes of the following Special Features, included on both the DVD and Blu-ray:
  • Bonus Performances: “Scandal of Grace”, “Captain”, “Wake”, “The Stand”
  • Behind the Scenes Footage: LA Record and San Clemente Writing

This was a great film to watch. Seeing inside the heart of the individuals in the band, as well as their collective hope to use music to "connect the human heart with heaven" was very encouraging. The documentary style of story-telling takes the viewer behind the lights and awe for back stage footage, personal interviews and even scenes within the member's home lives.

My favorite part was the concert footage. In most cases the words to the songs they are performing are on your screen, as they encourage the viewer's interaction and involvement right from your living room.

The movie walks through the history of the band, starting out small as a youth band in the eighties, and moving up to the international phenomenon they are today -- "the biggest band you've never heard of.". Yet a lot of church people are familiar with the Hillsong United band, either by recognition of their songs on the radio or by singing their lyrics in one's home church. However I doubt anyone could list the band members by name. I couldn't - until I watched this movie.

It was delightful to see the process it took the band to actually put forth some of those songs that we love to hear and sing. You might be amazed at the price it cost them to write songs that aren't aimed at fame or profitability but are aimed at the heart of worship.

A special favorite part of the documentary for me was a montage of the song "Mighty to Save" as people from around the world in various languages and locations pieced together every line of the song. What a beautiful scene of worship.

It was encouraging to know this movie was not a commercial for the Hillsong church. The members interviewed had a broader definition of "church", encouraging everyone to "find a local church, pour your life into it and you'll never be the same again". (Quote is from Senior Pastor and Founder of Hillsong Church, Brian Houston.)

Some of the band members had the opportunity to talk of the places of pain in their lives that helped bring forth the music and the heart within the lyrics. It was inspiring to hear their stories. Joel Houston, song of Pastor Brian Houston and lead worship leader of the band shared this.
I feel like we are at our best when we are broken. That's the moment when God gets to be made evident. It gives us the opportunity to love and to trust and to operate from a place of His strength.
I recommend this DVD documentary to those who love story, who love worship, and who love to see the hand of God move in people's lives. Very encouraging. The movie is distributed by PureFlix Entertainment with no inappropriate language or scenes. Visit Dove Foundation's review for the specifics.

It is rated PG. There are some scenes of poverty as the band travels to visit a Compassion village. There is mention of a suicide in one of the band member's family. There is also talk by some band members on what the physical and family toll is from the stress and travel. However, having said that, it is important to know I did not feel these comments inappropriate. It is clear from the interviews that these worship leaders and musicians are not in this "gig" for the money. It is a calling, not unlike a Pastor or Missionary family. These are not rich rock stars - they are humble people living a humble existence as they work out their calling and ministry. One worship leader comments on how his neighbors know he works for a church but they have no idea what he actually did last night - play a live concert to a sold out crowd of tens of thousands attendees in an arena somewhere else in the world.

Buy it now.

Not convinced yet, check out these links:

Book Review of Her One and Only by Becky Wade

Becky Wade has been a favorite author of mine since My Stubborn Heart. She instantly won my heart with her rich and honest stories of wounded souls and the enduring hope of the Healer. Her Porter Family series sits on my bookshelf at home - where very few of my review books land - most get donated to a library. So here is the final addition to the Porter Family.

Her One and Only is book 4 in the series. The long awaited wrap up to the family saga and the only girl in the family of rough and tumble boys. But Dru is no princess!

After ten years in the NFL, super star Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans. But when Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught. Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them is a young, beautiful woman. How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself?
Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt–none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment. In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she’s determined to find Gray’s stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past.
Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they’ll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives — and their hearts — to one another.
I absolutely LOVED the previous books in the series. Yet, this one fell very flat for me. I wholeheartedly recommend her series but cannot offer the same praise for Her One and Only. However there is a plot line in this book that follows up on Meg and Bo from book 1 Undeniably Yours.
Now for my reasons. First of all the characters were stereotypical. I loved the flip of a teeny-tiny woman decked out with killer bodyguard skills protecting a huge, muscled tight end football player. Chapter one page one and two go into detail that the irony isn't lost on Dru either. However beyond that flip and switch, everything falls very predictable after that. Gray, our football hero idolizes himself and all the female attention he receives on a daily basis. And Dru fights tooth and nail to be seen as "more than" her short stature and womanly figure.
I enjoyed the banter between the characters brought on by the way they saw themselves in contrast to each other. Yet Gray was hard to like. He baited her. He taunted her, all to prove he could get a reaction from any girl. So at times the talk between the two was inappropriate with sexual innuendos.
As is with good fiction, the main characters grow and mature as they face their issues and work through them. This is definitely the case with these characters and by the end of the book I could like and appreciate who Gray was. A part of that change for him is how his heart softened to Dru. At one point he made a bet with a fellow football player to see who could win Dru - who could get her to kiss him first. At first it was pure Neanderthal fun as the boys competed but a protective side soon came out of Gray. It redeemed his playboy qualities slightly but the novel definitely takes liberties to show his needs and urges in relation to women. Not unlike his football cohort.
I also struggled with the suspense aspect. The story opens with a prologue three months in the future. In all honesty if that hadn't been there I would not have finished the book. Because it was there I had a glimpse that something powerful was going to happen to peak the story. And I waited a lot of pages to get it. I just did not get pulled into the drama of the search for the stalker.
Yet for me the biggest distraction to the story was the sub plot of Meg and Bo's journey with infertility and loss. It was a great, inspiring story in every way but not here in this book. It needed its own title. 
It pains me to write this review as I have adored all of Becky Wade's previous books. So, suffice it to say this one will not deter me from reading another book of hers in the future. And as always if I must deliver a low rating on a book I remind you that everyone has different likes. Please feel free to visit another blog I came across that had a very different reaction to this particular book.
By the Book Book review of Her One and Only,
And you can always check out my previous review of book 3 A Love Like Ours which I couldn't say enough good about.
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review of Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

What a  treat this is for me. My first opportunity to review a Susan May Warren book. I've been a reader and follower of hers for years now but never had the chance to do a book review. Woohoo!

Wild Montana Skies is book 1 in the Montana Rescue Series. If you have never read a Susan May Warren book start now!

She's come home to heal . . . only to find heartbreak is waiting. He thought he put the past behind him . . . until he returned home to discover it's walked back into his life--and this time, with a secret he can't forgive. Can two broken hearts find their way back to love?

Here's the back cover copy:
The last thing Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing needs upon returning home to Mercy Falls, Montana, is to run into her mistakes. After a devastating crash during her recent military tour in Afghanistan, she is emotionally broken but ready to start putting her life back together. She just wants to reconnect with her teenage daughter and spend the summer working as the new lead pilot of PEAK Rescue in Glacier National Park.

But her mistakes aren't so easily forgotten. Because Ben King is also back in town.

Country music star Ben King abandoned his past when he moved to Nashville thirteen years ago to start his career. He hoped to heal his broken heart, caused by losing the woman he loved. But when his father is injured, Ben is called home to help manage PEAK Rescue during his recovery. He doesn't realize his father has ulterior motives until his old flame, Kacey, walks into his house and back into his heart. 

Now, with Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben will have to work together to save lives. But when secrets are uncovered and old hurts rise to the surface, will they walk away again? Or can they find a different ending to their country love song?

Susan May Warren is known for her captivating characters and rich story lines and Wild Montana Skies is no exception. Also true to form is the compelling adventure that moves the story on like river rapids.

Kacey and Ben are two runners. They both fled their mistakes and ultimately each other years back after high school and now they are both home again. Although flash floods and a decimated town bring them home, it is the buried away love they once shared that keeps them here. The story line is as powerful as it intriguing.

The setting of the story, Glacier National Park and surrounding areas brings it own level of intensity and excitement to the plot. Warren writes it with crystal clear clarity. Old haunting grounds and similar circumstances reignite the past that Ben and Kacey shared.

There is a strong family element in this story, not uncommon for Warren. The friends and family that surround the main characters are riveting in their own way. There's an element of what our families would do for us to protect not knowing if it's the right choice in the end. And the power of forgiveness surrounding those choices.

Wild Montana Skies also touches on the topic of PTSD, as Kacey is a military helicopter pilot returning home after a tragic accident in Afghanistan. The problems she faces are real and the power with which they hold in her life can be devastating. However there is hope.

The faith element is evident in this story, both main characters are struggling with it but come from a solid base of Christian beliefs.
"Having faith is the bravest thing we can do. It's the unwavering confidence that God loves us. That although we can't see the road ahead, we can see God." page 271, Wild Montana Skies
I also love the contrast between the father's - one is a pastor and one is a judge. A perfect visual of the age-old battle within us of love versus the law.

Lastly, there is a subplot that takes the main stage many times throughout the book. It is the up and down relationship of Ian Shaw and Sierra Rose. Although this is a great story in its own right, I found it very distracting to the main plot. It was like reading two books at the same time. This is becoming more common in fiction these days and is not a first time for Warren either. My personal preference is to do one at a time.

However, Susan May Warren wrote a novella titled If Ever I Would Leave You. It is a free offering to her readers for signing up for her newsletter. It is my understanding that this story lays the foundation for the plot story of Ian and Sierra. I haven't read it, but looking at the synopsis I think it may have helped me not feel so yanked from the story. Check it out.

And of course ... book #2, Rescue Me is on its way for January 31, 2017.

What happens when the rescuer has to be rescued? When a van full of teenagers is lost in the rugged mountains of Montana, it's logical that PEAK Rescue would call out deputy Sam Brooks. Only problem is...he's lost with them. It'll take all the courage, skill and determination for Sam to rescue the wounded, scared teenagers. But when tragedy takes a dark turn, who will rescue Sam?

I definitely recommend Wild Montana Skies to readers who love adventure, romance and strong characters. Stories that grab your heart and take a long time to let go are your thing? This is a perfect match for you.

Susan May Warren is the ECPA and CBA bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Wild Montana Skies, with more than one million books sold. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT and numerous Readers' Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas. 
She can be found online at, on Facebook at SusanMayWarrenFiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren.

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pdf excerpt of Wild Montana Skies and links to popular shopping places are available at Baker Publishing and

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