Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review - Sarai - Jill Eileen Smith

Jill Eileen Smith wrote a rich tapestry of history and love in her new book Sarai:  Wives of the Patriarchs.

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?
SaraiSarai, the last child of her aged father, is beautiful, spoiled, and used to getting her own way. Even as a young girl, she is aware of the way men look at her, including her half brother Abram. When Abram finally requests Sarai’s hand, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even her father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if Sarai makes a promise in return–to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.
But as the years stretch on and Sarai’s womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain–lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram’s patience last?

I have always loved the story of Abram and Sarai.  But I find sometimes we accept Bible stories without putting ourselves in their shoes.  I mentioned this in another post recently about how the Bible says what happened in one small paragraph - so we know the details - but it doesn't give us enough chance to 'feel' the details.  Well, now I have.  Jill Eileen Smith's book Sarai was my first taste of historical fiction.  I enjoyed it very much.

I especially liked the way she delved into the surrounding characters. Lot's wife in particular.  Smith had to name her and create a persona around her from very little information but I think she did a great job.  A wonderfully contrasting character to Sarai. My other favourite part was the love between Abram and Sarai.  It was fun to read their interactions - so loving and sweet, yet realistic to a marriage.  

If I had to give a negative comment it would be the story seemed to move a little slow at times.  I found this felt better as the book progressed but that is the one thing I wished was different.

Overall I loved the character development, I enjoyed the writing - her rich, beautifully flowing way of writing was a joy to read, and the way she laid the setting was exquisite.  I highly recommend this book to other readers.  For fun ... and for spiritual growth and understanding.

Please check out Jill's website where you can read about other upcoming books in the series as well as access a bible study, discussion questions and read a portion of this book.  Also you can check out a fellow bloggers' review of the same book here at Interviews & Reviews.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

Thursday, March 29, 2012

NOT just another birthday ...

NO, it's not my birthday today.

I heard a really neat song today by Casting Crowns title 'Just Another Birthday'.  I have not heard it on my local radio stations.  I heard it on Klove, online.  It really struck me.  It is so much like my own story.  If you haven't heard it yet, check it out at this link.

Consider today ... for just a moment in your busy day ... ask God to bring to mind a young person (male or female) who is hurting; who might be lonely and trying desperately to fill that void in their heart and soul.  If we all reach out to just one we can make a huge difference in our world.  And maybe you can alter the course of a young person's life enough just by caring.  Pray and ask Him.

If you want to check out what Mark Hall and Megan Garrett, from the band had to say about this new song, look here.  What a powerful message they bring.

If you like Casting Crowns then you will also enjoy the release of their latest video, 'Jesus, Friend of Sinners'.  Both of the songs mentioned are found on their Come To The Well CD, available everywhere Christian music is sold.

I have seen Casting Crowns live twice now.  The second time they performed they played this song.  It was amazing.  Let the lyrics soak in.  They are powerful.  And not just soak in but change our hearts - just as they sing it.

The live concert I saw them at looked exactly like the video, but I am sure it wasn't filmed here.  For two reasons.  The night I saw them, Mark was sick with a sore throat and surviving on cold meds and Megan was not even there.  Oh well, it was still great!!

video for Jesus, friend of sinner released
Casting Crowns - Jesus, Friend of Sinners (Official Music Video) from casting-crowns on GodTube.

Also, for those of you that didn't check out the videos on the Every Life is Beautiful site, Mark Hall has a video there too.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hungry for the right answer

There is a struggle in my home.  Currently it is me against my teens.  They want to see Hunger Games in the theatres.  I am undecided.

Maybe there are some of you out there who have gone to see the movie already.  I have been reading reviews everywhere form folks who have seen it.  I am still undecided.

My kids have read the novels and been anxiously anticipating the arrival of the film.  To be honest I hadn't given it much thought at that point.  We are a family that LOVES movies so it only seemed natural that we would see the film.  However ... we seldom go to the big theatres anymore - unless it is the cheap one.  So naturally in the back of my mind I assumed we would wait with this one as well.  However my teens had made plans to see it opening night.

Here presents two dilemmas for me.  

Number 1 - we had no idea  what the film actually contained in it. I rely consistently on Plugged In (dot) com to provide me with reviews.  They hadn't released it yet.  I struggled to justify seeing the movie the first night without that valuable information.  

Number 2 - I have boasted on this blog before of the need to stand up and support movies in the theatres as Christians because those are the numbers that count.  Hollywood needs those dollars that represent viewers to know which types of movies to make again.  I urged all of you to go out and see October Baby in the theatres for that very reason.

Going to watch a violent 'kids killing kids' movie didn't seem the best place to put my movie dollars.  Due to the indecision in our home we have managed to push the issue back six days so far, but not without casualties.  Now I have angry, frustrated teenagers.  I am still undecided.

When as a parent do we stop filtering images and information for our kids?  Do they reach a magic age?  Or maybe just the 'right' opportunity comes along, like a movie?  Or maybe is it when the heat in the home rises too high?

I am still undecided ....

The box office results are in!

Hunger Games takes the top spot (obviously) grossing over $155 million on its opening weekend.  Wall Street Journal states,
The box office gross of "The Hunger Games" is the third-highest opening weekend, behind “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2″ and “The Dark Knight.”
It’s also the highest opening of all time for a non-sequel movie. No movie has ever had as large an opening weekend outside of the summer season.
October Baby did very well considering it had to compete with Hunger Games, which opened in more than 10 times as many theatres. 
October Baby had the third highest per-screen average and closed at No. 8 in the nation for its opening weekend ... Opening in a relatively modest 390 theaters, Samuel Goldwyn Films/Provident Films OCTOBER BABY also rode strong grassroots support and word of mouth to a No. 1 ranking for limited-release movies.

To learn more, visit:


Twitter:        @OctoberBabyFilm

And visit 

Did any of you get out to see October baby?  I would love to hear your comments.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review - In Too Deep by Mary Connealy

Mary Connealy is an author I follow on Seekerville.  I was delighted at the offer to review her latest book as I had never read any. The rave reviews she receives on her previous books sweetened the deal further.  I was eager to begin.

Wrangler in PetticoatsIn 1866 Colorado, Ethan Kincaid agrees to a marriage of convenience with the same casual disregard he gives every decision. Audra Gilliland, young mother of two, accepts his proposal because she wants to stop being a burden to her newly married stepdaughter.

And suddenly both of them are in far deeper than they'd planned.

Ethan doesn't expect Audra to affect him so profoundly, and when she begins to, he's terrified of the pain he's felt before when someone he loved was seriously injured on his watch. He's determined that his new wife will do as he says so he can keep her safe from the dangers that lurk on their ranch.

Audra has been cared for all her life by one man or another--and they've done a poor job of it. Now she's planning to stand up for herself. And her new husband had better agree or get out of her way! 

What will it take to transform two wayward hearts fearful of getting in too deep into two trusting hearts ready to risk falling deeply in love?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Connealy makes it effortless to read straight through.  Her story is compelling and entertaining. The story tells the relationship between Audra and Ethan as they find themselves shoved into a marriage of convenience.  Neither one is looking for love or expecting to find it.  The story follows the relationship between the three brothers, Rafe, Seth and Ethan as they try to run family land in an unforgiving wilderness.  The interactions between the brothers were a joy to read.

In Too Deep is book two in the Kincaid Brides series.  I have not read book one yet and that may be the cause of the areas I did not like in the book.  For starters, I had a little trouble getting into the characters - especially Ethan and Seth.  They seemed a little flat at times.  Also the relationship between Audra and Seth seemed pre-existing but with little or no explanation of that. However, based on the quality of the rest of the book I am certain that IF I HAD READ book one I would have felt more comfortable with those characters and their development.  Mary did a great job of creating the other characters to feel so real.

Another area of struggle was the 'head' antagonist.  Jasper felt outside of the story to me.  He was the one calling the shots perhaps but not the bad guys whom Audra and Ethan had to face. Chapter after chapter seemed to dive further into his life and I could not make the connection.  AGAIN, I apologize if his part is explained more in book one and I missed it.  I found myself skipping some of those pages.  Sorry Mary :(

Overall I recommend this book to all my book lover friends.  It is a delightful and fun read.  I am looking forward to the release of book three in August of this year.

I received a free copy from Bethany House for the purpose of giving a review.  My opinions are my own and I am not required to give a positive review.

In case you are wondering, the first book is Out of Control.  The third book is titled Over the Edge and is due out in August.

Now, on a more personal note ... as a follower of Seekerville, where Mary posts regularly, I won a draw.  In April I am able to send 15 pages of my own writing in to Mary for a critique.  I was so excited when I heard that, then to have her book arrive in the mail two days later was surreal.  I will let you all know the outcome of that in the future.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

At Your Name

Have you heard of Phil Wickham before?  He is a contemporary Christian singer with five albums under his belt already.  He comes from a strong Christian family with abundant blessings of music talent.

I really caught onto his music after the single Safe, with MercyMe's Bart Millard.  It released in 2009 and made it to number four on the charts.  I loved it!

TODAY, Phil Wickham's new single At Your Name is offered as a free download at KLove.  Check it out ... it is a beautiful worship song.

(Some restrictions may apply in certain locations.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Every Life is Beautiful

Four days left until the movie hits the theatres.  ARE YOU READY?

October Baby is another round of evangelical Christian values hitting the big screen.  Can I hear an amen?

This movie is inspired from the life of Gianna Jessen who defied the odds and survived an abortion attempt.  Her story is amazing.  I read her book about sixteen years ago when she was just a teenager.  It was a powerful and moving portrayal of God's love for His people and His undying efforts to restore us all to the ones He created us to be.  As well as the gripping message spoken out to all women against aborting lives.

Here is the official synopsis of the movie:
"You saw me before I was born." Psalm 139:16 (NLT)
As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her theatrical debut in college. Yet before she can utter her first lines, Hannah—unscripted—collapses in front of the stunned audience.
After countless medical tests, all signs point to one underlying factor: Hannah's difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to what she then learns from her parents: she was actually adopted … after a failed abortion attempt.
Bewildered, angered, and confused, Hannah turns for support to Jason, her oldest friend. Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, Hannah joins his group of friends on a Spring Break road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past … and find hope for her unknown future.
In the midst of her incredible journey, Hannah finds that life can be so much more than what you have planned.
Now, you know me ... I am attracted to the music behind it all. So, I have included the video from The Afters, singing Life Is Beautiful, the theme song from the film.  The movie trailer follows the video.

The Afters - Life Is Beautiful (Official Music Video From October Baby) from fairtradeservices on GodTube.

Another amazing aspect of this film is that the producers of October Baby have committed to donating 10% of the profits to Every Life is Beautiful.  It is an organization that supports local crisis pregnancy groups.  Check out their website here.  Visit it. Stay awhile and have your life touched and possibly changed by how others are spreading the news that ... every life is beautiful.

I would love to hear if you are planning on going to the movie. Let's support Hollywood's efforts at producing family friendly and God honouring works. Thanks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Right on time!

This morning I awoke an hour earlier than my alarm goes off and my heart was heavy.  I couldn't get back to sleep.  Ideas, solutions and even consequences were fighting for the spotlight in my mind.  I was desperate to solve a challenge I am facing in my life.

It has been an odd week for me and I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I got out of bed this morning and grabbed my Bible.  Let me see if I can explain to you what God wanted to tell me this morning.

I have never been a very consistent person with my devotions all my Christian life.  I'm a 'spurter'.  I would go in spurts.  Last November I did the writing challenge of Nanowrimo.  But I added my own slant.  If I am going to challenge myself to write everyday - which I want to do anyway, then I will make myself do my devotions first before typing a single word.  It worked.  I got up every weekday morning an hour earlier and did my devotions and then typed on my manuscript.  I was amazed at my own consistency - something I'd struggled with for years.  Even after the writing contest was over I maintained my regular quiet time with God, waking early on school days to read my Bible and study. (I wish I could say I maintained my writing time too.)

Typical for me is that I can sustain something for awhile until I hit a speed bump.  Those bumps - for me - are as simple as a change in routine.  My speed bump was going to be Christmas break.

Imagine with me playing a video game of Mario where he can't jump.  He can play and kick mushrooms or whatever he needs to do just fine until he has to jump up on a new level.  He can move backwards and forwards but he can't go up.

That is how I felt.  As soon as there was a change in my routine all my hard work would be gone.  It would take me months to get going again.  Maybe that doesn't describe you but that was my life to a 't'.

However this time was different.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Looking for a giggle?

We had fun in my house last night.  My teenage daughter and I sat around my lap top listening to songs that had us falling off our chair at times.  It all started with a video of Mercy Me doing a cover of Justin Bieber's Baby, Baby hit song.

MercyMe - Baby, Baby (Cover Tune Grab Bag) from mercymemusic on GodTube.

I love the music of Mercy Me.  They have been putting forth fantastic music for a long time.  A little history on these guys to start us off.  The band was formed in the mid 1990's in Texas. Their first album with INO records introduced us to the amazing I Can Only Imagine.  This is song became an instant hit soon filtering over into the Top 40 mainstream radio play.  It won the band huge recognition and awards.  "In 2010, the song was certified platinum by the RIAA for sales of over one million digital downloads, and is the first (and so far only) Christian single to reach that milestone."  Wikipedia
(By the way, the links on the song titles will take you to the lyrics - not the videos.  Use the God Tube link or the radio link to view videos.)

Then came my favourite album of their, Spoken For in 2002. Songs like Word of God Speak, Come One - Come All, Spoken For and Go.  (Just a few of my favourites.)  The band continued on with successful albums leading up to the Generous Mr. Lovewell which houses the hit-toppers Move and  Beautiful .  If you are not familiar with this band, these last two songs are a great place to start.  Move is fun and will definitely get you moving. Beautiful is a wonderful song that stirs my heart as I think about my kids.

I found a music radio site that has a whole gaggle of videos from Mercy me if you would like to check it.  Be sure to look at another favourite of mine - Bring the Rain.

But onto the real fun that brings us here today ... the giggles in my living room.  God tube has a full set of videos that the boys of Mercy Me have done of cover songs (songs they did not write). We started with their latest one which is a rendition of the popular Baby, Baby.  Then we worked our way through their long line-up of fun videos.  The most current two include many other artists joining in on the fun.  (See how many you can recognize...).  The earlier videos are just the band goofing around.  But I will tell you my daughter and I laughed our selves silly with their antics.  So, if you need a laugh and you know your 70's, 80's and 90's rock hits - check out the Cover Tune Grab Bag on God Tube.  You won't be disappointed.

Also, call your local Christian Radio station and ask them to play the new Mercy me song, The Hurt and The Healer.  It is amazing. The new album is projected to be out in May 2012.  Watch for it.
(Couldn't find a video of the new song that was okay to post. But I found a video where Bart Millard, lead singer, talks about the story behind the song here.)