Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review of Made To Last by Melissa Tagg

If you buy one book this year ... make it this one!

Cover Art
That is a line I try very hard not to use. There are so many books out there that I  love and I want all my friends (and strangers) to read. But seriously ... it can get old.

Then along comes a book that I can't resist saying it anymore. Melissa Tagg's debut novel, Made To Last is my year's top pick for sure.

Publisher's blurb:  Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago. 
When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?
This story was engaging. The best part for me was that it seemed the plot was resolving at the midway point through the book. At first you may think that sounds bad - predictable plot, blah, blah, blah.  But it isn't bad. It was exciting that I thought I knew where we were going and how the ends would tie together but then I'd see the solid inches left of unread pages still in my right hand.  It was enthralling!

Tagg's characters were fantastic. I loved getting inside Miranda and Matthew's frame of mind. They felt real and almost touchable. Usually my head is controlled by the characters of my own writings that roam around and rule the roost of my brain. I push them aside while I open a novel and then when I close the book, they come right back, front and center. However for the three or four days I poured into Made To Last my mind was fully and completely consumed with Melissa's characters. They tugged on  my heart and teased my thoughts and perceptions. They truly came alive to me.

The book also contains group discussion questions at the end.

I can't wait to see what Melissa Tagg will do next!

If there is such a thing as a perfect story, Melissa Tagg has written it with this first novel. Laugh-out-loud funny, a delightful premise, hunky heroes, surprising plot twists and poignant, heart-tugging moments, all wound together with beautiful writing. Made to Last is a keeper that will charm its way onto your shelf, and into your heart.

Susan May Warren, RITA Award winner and bestselling author of Take a Chance on Me 
 So, who wants to read it?

Thanks to Baker Publishing for the free copy of Made To Last for reviewing purposes. I was not required to review it positively.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What does love do in your home?

Back in June of 2012 I wrote a book review on Love Does by Bob Goff. That book had an extreme impact on me. It has given me a new set of "rose-coloured" glasses, if you will.  I have tried to look at things from a bigger, grander perspective than before. I wish I could say my entire life is different because of that change in perspective but I am a card-carrying "baby steps" kinda of gal.

In May of this year I had the privilege of hearing Bob speak in person. He challenged me again (another baby step). He shared with the audience incredible stories and heart-tugging challenges but I remember one in particular.

He said to "hold people close" because "you will win everything in the end". He coupled that with an amazing story that I can't possibly go into here about a young boy he adopted. But the bottom line for me was that you have no idea the impact you could have on a person's life if you are just open and willing ... to do. Because Love Does.

Recently in music news Brandon Heath came out with a song and a video that exemplifies that very concept. It is titled Love Does and Bob Goff has his fingerprint on that one too.

Here is the video link for the official video of Love Does by Brandon Heath. Here is the link for the lyric video of Love Does.

The reason this had such an impact on me is one area in my life that I felt the tug to do more was with our three extra kids we have through child sponsorship. Each of my biological kids have a sponsored child in need, somewhere in the world that matches their age and birthday.

When my kids were younger we sent letters, photos, coloring pages and stickers (in addition to the financial assistance) to our adopted kids. Wealso kept all the letters and photos that are sent back to us as well.

However as my kids got older, life got busier and the letters and gifts to our sponsor kids dwindled. We faithful send our money every month but we've neglected to give of our time.

Isn't that such a North American ailment? It is too easy to open our wallets and not our hearts.

Bob also spoke about True North. He talked about the difference between True North and magnetic north. It is so easy to get off course.  At first it is one fraction of an inch - the slightest change that is almost imperceptible. But as time and distance add up we find ourselves out in the middle of a giant ocean drastically far from the place we were sailing to.

My goal was to impact and change a young child's life. But it was also important to me to teach my kids to look outside themselves and see the bigger picture. As my magnetic north of a busy life took me off course of my goal I see how I have failed to reach it. I have allowed my sponsor kids to live without a constant flow of love and encouragement. And I have shown my own kids that my life - and its hiccups - value higher than a single child's heart.

Where have you gone off course lately?  Is it just a step or are you miles from where you intended to be.
Call out to God, refocus your eyes on Him and ... as Bob suggests, hold people close!

Because Love does.

If you want to learn more about the children around the world trapped in poverty, disease and social injustice please check out the links below. If you know of any others please add the information in the comments section. Let's change lives.

Food For The Hungry
World Vision

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review - Trapped by Irene Hannon

Cover ArtA runaway teen, a desperate sister, and an intrepid PI determined to discover the truth 
When Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways--just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold . . . 

Now what sounds better than that for a curl-up read in front of a warm fireplace as Fall is settling in?

I really enjoyed Irene Hannon's book, Trapped. It is book 2 in her Private Justice Series. I haven't read book 1, Vanished. Yet, as her website states, "all books that are part of a series can be read as stand-alone novels." After reading Trapped I am definitely going to find myself a copy of Vanished.

Let's get started ... the characters in Trapped are rich and endearing. I loved the PI in particular. His personality and his charm were fun to read. There are many POV's in this story - which is not normally my favorite reading but I found once I got into the flow of each character I wanted to stay there. Very well done.

The plot was engaging, unpredictable and emotionally stirring. Probably the best review I could give for this book is that I couldn't put it down. I would bring it along with me in the car in case I had to wait for 3 minutes for my kids. I read it on my work breaks, while food cooked and at bedtime. It followed me everywhere just so I could read even a page or paragraph - anything to get me closer to the end. I even took a "mental health" day to sit on my porch in the warm sun to finish the last half of the book.

I recommend this book to anyone who like suspense, intriguing and unpredictable characters and a sweet dose of romance.

If you don't want to take my word for it, check out Irene's book trailer and excerpt for yourself.

"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"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Enter the Contest!

Maybe you remember the book reviews from this site of Dani Pettrey's first two books in her Alaskan Courage Trilogy. (Submerged book 1 and Shattered book 2.)
Well ... it's finally time for book 3.  Stranded!
The book review will be following in a few weeks but just to get you all excited with bubbling over anticipation, Dani is having an Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes. Check out all the information below and the links to enter your name in the contest. Then check back here for the book review in the weeks to come.
In Stranded, Book 3 in author Dani Pettrey’s acclaimed Alaskan Courage series, reporter Darcy St. James knows something is wrong when her friend vanishes from her job on a cruise ship. Everyone else believes Abby simply left of her own accord, but something isn’t lining up, and Darcy knows the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position.
Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock in Alaska for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy onboard one of the ships, working undercover as a reporter.
Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more they realize they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
To celebrate the story, author Dani Pettrey and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the ALASKAN ADVENTURES Sweepstakes, and your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes connected with the story!
Timeframe & Notifications:
This giveaway starts September 2, 2013 and ends September 19, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST). Winners will be selected Friday, September 20, 2013, and announced at

Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Grand PrizeGRAND PRIZE:
In Stranded, Darcy, Gage, and the McKenna family launch into all kinds of adventures: from high-octane ocean kayaking, to rugged island camping beneath the vast Alaskan skies.
Our grand prize winner will have the chance to build their own adventure, with a $300 adventure gear gift card of their choice from either Eddie Bauer or L.L. Bean.
And what would our hero and heroine do if they won the prize? Gage use it towards one of L.L. Bean’s gorgeous ocean kayaks, while Darcy would go for “Glamping” gear:)

Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Grand PrizeSECOND PRIZE:
Everyone knows Gage McKenna’s campfire cooking is second to none. But inStranded, Darcy discovers that before Gage was a search and rescue hero, he secretly dreamed of attending culinary school.
Our second prize winner will have the chance to fulfill Gage’s dream with a $200 value, 1-year membership to Top Chef University.
Membership includes over 200 video lessons taught by Top Chef contestants, covering everything from soups to desserts.

Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Third PrizeTHIRD PRIZE:
Darcy once gave her missing friend, Abby, a beautiful shell necklace, engraved with a special message that made it one-of-a-kind.
Our third prize winner will receive their very own, one-of-a-kind “Earth & Sea” necklace valued at $100.
Handmade of New Zealand Paua shells, hammered copper, and Tahitian pearls, this necklace is the perfect compliment for a soft sweater and jeans, or a unique finishing touch for a little black dress on a special date night.

How to Enter:
Visit and complete the entry box, anytime between September 2 and September 19.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Story of unmistakable faith and family

Are you looking for an inspiring movie? I found one for you.
It is called Paper Dream by American Family Studios and Bridgestone Multimedia Group.

For a personal note before I explain the movie I want you to know that I enjoyed this movie more than anything I have seen in a long while.

Paper DreamThe movie is short; an unbelievably well-packed 44 minutes long. It tells the realistic and agonizing experience of infertility. The actors were new faces to me but it didn't feel like they were "new". The entire piece was very engaging.

What I enjoyed the most was the ending. I promise I won't spoil it for you. You will have to watch it to find out for yourself what happens. But know this ... God is amazing and awesome and as in real life - always present.

As far as family-friendly goes ... it has earned the Dove Foundation seal for its clean content. The only questionable items that may help you decide if your younger children are ready to watch it is there is a scene where it is vaguely suggested that a young girl has had an abortion. Without this understanding the next few scenes may be difficult to process. So decide for yourself if you want to open that discussion with your family or not. If you do ... I don't think you will be disappointed.

Fantastic! The best 44 minutes I've spent in a long while!

BTW, the DVD copy I have comes with two short films as bonus features. One is titled Aaron and is a five minute video about the lasting pain of abortion. (An extremely difficult one for me to get through with dry eyes!) The second is a forty minute documentary about an American family who lost a son and how they battle through the grief and devastation still praising a Holy and Blessed God.

The quality of the films and the DVD are exceptional.

Check them out!

Paper Dream - OFFICIAL TRAILER from American Family Association on Vimeo.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review - NIV College Devotional Bible

Fantastic Idea! Great grad gift.

College is a unique time in one's life. New issues crop up consistently, challenging what you know and what you think you know. I have a young person planning for college in my home right now. I am excited for her, but I'm also concerned for her. There are so many "other" paths to follow out there and she has led a quiet existence within the walls of our home, our small town school and our church. Soon she will see and experience the BIG, WIDE World.

Zondervan has published a College Devotional Bible. It is intended for those years when young people step out on their own and have to choose to stand for something.

For features, the text within the Bible is New International Version. The layout of the bible is crisp and clear with footnotes italicized at the bottom of the page. At the end of the book there are helpful pages such as:

  • Weights and Measurements
  • Subject Index
  • Read Through the Bible in One Year Reading Plan
  • 60 Days Overview of the Bible
  • 30 Days for Beginning Your Walk with Christ
  • 30 Days with Jesus
  • 30 Days in the Psalms
  • 30 Days in Proverbs
  • 20 Not-So-Famous Bible Stories
  • 30 Days With Paul
  • 30 Days of Promises
  • 30 Days of Leadership
  • 30 Days of Prayer
  • 30 Days of Knowing God
  • 30 Stories of Great Faith
That's nearly 14 months worth of Bible Study - lasting several years of schooling.

As well, throughout the Bible are appropriately placed