Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wonderful Retelling of the Story of Jacob, Leah, & Rachel

Thorn in My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs is a 1700s Scottish retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob, Leah, & Rachel. It is also the first of four books in the Lowlands of Scotland Series.

From the very beginning the book is filled with plot twists and deceptions. I won’t give them away here but if you are familiar with the Biblical account then you will probably be able to figure most of them out. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how Higgs handled them in their historical contest. For example, in the Bible Jacob takes two wives. However, during the 1700s in Scotland polygamy would have been frowned up and would not have been a plausible solution to the little Scottish love triangle.

Thorn in My Heart is alternately written from the viewpoints of Jamie McKie and Leana McBride. Both characters are strong and carry the story well. It is also to see the story from Leana’s (Biblical Leah) point of view. It makes you really stop and think what this all must have been like for her. What was she feeling? Was she a willing participant in the deception or was she a mere victim of circumstances?

Liz Curtis Higg’s descriptive writing style brings you right into the story from the very first pages. Whether you are raptly reading of Jamie and Evan’s births or nearing the climactic ending you will feel like you are really there. Her writing also helps you relate to the characters in a very real way. You genuinely feel bad for those who are overlooked and mistreated because you care about what happens to them. They are very real. And if you’re not careful you’ll feel so in touch with Scotland that you will be tempted to start saying ‘Nae’ or call people ‘bonnie’.

When I first opened the book I wasn’t sure what to think. I don’t particularly care for the story of Jacob getting wives and the quarrel between the sisters. I was even less sure about the story when I discovered that the brunt of the story would be written from Leah’s point of view. Now I am glad that I kept reading because it was definitely worth every minute! So whether you are curious about seeing this story from another side or you just love Scottish history, I recommend that you read Thorn in My Heart. You will absolutely love this book!

Other Books by Liz Curtis Higgs:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post by Jimmy Mustion

My husband, Jimmy, preached at our church this Sunday and I know I am biased but I think that he did a really amazing job! So I encouraged him to write out his sermons from Sunday in a series of smaller blog posts that everyone could enjoy. I also promised him that I would allow him to guest post one here. So ladies I hope you enjoy the an excerpt from Jimmy's 13 Characteristics of a Growing Church!

13 Characteristics of a Growing Church
by Jimmy Mustion

Hello, ladies!

This week I have been prepping to preach the Sunday morning and Sunday night services at Villebrook Baptist Church while my pastor recovers from surgery. While I was studying and praying, God laid it on my heart that I should talk about characteristics of a growing church as laid out in Romans. I don't want to give everything away before I preach but I will give you the first point in my 13 point sermon and then for the sake of attention spans, I will break the other 12 points out over the next few weeks. Hope that sounds good to you because that's the here you go...the sneak preview of my GIANT HUGE 13 Point Sermon...

The 1st Characteristic of a Growing Church is Love.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." Romans 12:9

In the English language, the word love is tossed about WAY to easily! We love pizza. We love going to the movies. We love our favorite sports team--Go Cards! But what does it mean to have a genuine love?

Read the Full Blog about Love.

Read the Full 13 Characteristics of a Growing Church Series.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Waterfall is an Amazing Teen Read!

Waterfall is the first book in The River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren. Bergren is an accomplished writer who has written several historical fiction romances for women, but Waterfall is her first historical romance for teens. Waterfall focuses on the Bettarini sisters, Gabriella and Evangelia, as they travel back through time and find themselves in medieval Italy.

Gabi and Lia have spent their lives working Etruscan digs with their mother and father who are archealogists. Since their father's death their mother has thrown herself into her work like never before--all but ignoring the girls. Feeling excluded and angry, Gabi breaks a cardinal rule and talks her sister into going into an ancient tomb before they are cleared to do so. Once inside, they discover a set of handprints which perfectly match their own and when they touch them they are drawn back in time.

In their journey through time Gabi and Lia are separated. Gabi is taken in by the knights of the gold castle who are in the midst of a civil war against the knights of the red castle. Will Gabi and Lia be able to find one another again? The future (or the past?) is uncertain. With constant fighting all around them, they aren't even sure if they will survive let alone find one another and find a way to get back home to the present. And what will become of the handsome night who assists Gabi in her search for Lia? Waterfall is packed with so many questions and adventures that you simply won't want to stop reading.

I think that my favorite parts of the book are the many times that the girls astonish their medieval Italian friends with their modern ways. Everything from the words coming out of their mouths and the cloths that they wear gets them in trouble at some point or another. You will laugh and sigh at all the different situations that Gabi and Lia find themselves in. As the end of the book I was glad that this book is just the first of three because I can't wait to start reading Cascade!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mideval history or other books by Lisa T. Bergren or Liz Curtis Higgs.

Another great read!

More Books by Lisa T. Bergren:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A New Adventure by Donita K Paul - The Dragons of Chiril

The Dragons of Chiril, previously published as The Vanishing Sculptor, is another interesting fantasy/allegory written by Donita K. Paul. As clearly stated on the back cover, The Dragons of Chiril takes place before the time of Dragonspell and in another country halfway across the world. It is not a sequel to Paul’s previous series The Dragon Keeper Chronicles. Although many devout Dragon Keeper Fans will be pleased to note that our friends Librettowit and Wizard Fenworth are among the main cast of characters in this novel.

In the country of Chiril, they have never heard of Wulder or Paladin. They don’t even know that dragons can communicate and some even have special abilities. In fact, everything in their world begins to change when a young Emerlindian named Tipper begins to sell off pieces of her father’s artwork to take care of her family after her father’s mysterious disappearance. Little does she know that you her actions have literally made the world start to fall apart! The quest that ensues to set things to rights is filled with adventure and humor as we are reunited with old friends and introduced to new ones.

Overall The Dragons of Chiril is well written and provides a strong story line to follow. Some of the situations that the characters find themselves in are resolved a little too conveniently, but this is a book written for younger readers so some of that is to be expected. The one real complaint I have is that the different races that you encounter in the book are really given much explanation. Yes, I know what a Kimen is versus an O’rant but I have also read The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, and I could look the information up in the glossary at the back but I would much rather have a brief explanation/description given when the race is first introduced. I mean without an explanation/description Bealomondore and Librettowit’s obsession with nice things (especially nice clothing) may seem ridiculous and off based but for someone who knows a little about Tumanhoffers you realize it’s just part of who they are.

Still I would definitely recommend this excellent story to just about anyone. However, I especially recommend it to readers who have previously enjoyed Donita K. Paul’s Dragon Keeper Chronicles.

I was provided this book free of charge by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for review purposes.

Other Books by Donita K Paul:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Devil Within

Sorry that I didn't get my post in on Monday this week for any of you regulars, but honestly I didn't think that I was even going to bother. I don't know about you but it has been one of those weeks/months/years for me when you just feel like giving up and not caring anymore. I have been struggling. There I said it! You don't know how good it feels to say that and how hard it was to type those four little words.

When you are in ministry it's hard to admit that you have problems and that you struggle because people expect you to be perfect and they judge you when you are not. It's like they believe that because you serve God that magically you don't have any troubles or problems or issues and if you are then you really don't have a real relationship with God like you claim. It's just not true.

Men and women in ministry struggle just like everyone else--somtimes more because we often are forced to hide our struggles or face the judgement of our Christian peers. So I feel like what I am going to share with you this week is a really big deal, and I pray that you will not judge me. I hope that God will use my struggles to help someone else who feels like they are as helpless as I have been feeling of late.

Today marks the twelve week point of my renewed healthy lifestyle journey, which includes diet and exercise. I have been using the Bodybugg and it's program to help gauge the work I am doing to eat right and be healthy. Being healthy is a struggle, and so is having a healthy body image. As an added little bonus I want to share with you an awesome clip of Mandisa on The Today Show as she talks about self-esteem, body image, and her Freedom CD.

Although I still struggle with my body image, lately my struggles have been different. I call it "the devil within". The thoughts and struggles and emotions I have been feeling have all been negative. I haven't been happy or excited. I don't feel worthy. You name it and if it's negative then I have probably been thinking it.

Last night as I talked with my husband and this morning as I watched the Mandisa clip I began to realize a couple of things. There are probably two big things that are contributing to "the devil within" that I have been dealing with: #1 I have felt like God isn't listening to me or caring about me and #2 I grew up with important female figures in my life who were always negative about themselves. Together these two things have developed and re-enforced patterns of negativity in my life. Now I have to fight against them every single day and more often than not I lose.

However, I am encouraged that there are people in my life who are always there to encourage me and build me up--even when I can't see anything good inside myself. I pray that with time I will feel closer to God than ever before and that the love and support of the people in my life will begin to counter act the negativity of my childhood influences.

If you struggle with negativity toward yourself, you are not alone. God loves you and there are others in your life who love you too. Join me in fighting a daily battle to change our negative mindsets. It won't happen overnight and trust me it won't be easy but all things are possible through Christ (Phil. 4:13)!

More Resources:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Midnight Sun is the third book in the Northern Lights Series by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It is the conclusion of the stories of our four friends Elsa, Karl, Tora, and Kaatje. Each of these characters is featured as they face new struggles and strive to find the endings--hopefully happy ones--that God has in store for them.

It has been a few years since Peder was delirious with malaria and fell overboard during a storm. Still Elsa grieves the loss of her first love and struggles with the guilt she sometimes feels as his memories begin to fade. Still she must trust God that He has great plans for her. So she takes to the sea as a Captain herself! With Kristian and Eve, she begins travelling around the world and continuing to manage all the many Ramstad businesses. Will the men accept a woman as Captain? Will she ever love again?

Karl continues to work with Bradford Bresley and Trent Storm to expand his business investments. He has done very well for himself on land, but God has lead him back to sea. Now he is the Captain of his own steamer and it seems all his dreams have finally come true--save one. Karl still hasn't found the woman of his dreams. No matter how many lovely women he meets in his travels he still hasn't found a connection. Will he ever find a love all his own?

Kaatje has traveled to Alaska with Tora, Trent, and her girls to go in search of her husband who abandoned them seven years prior. She doesn't know exactly why God has put her on this path, but she knows she has to find out if Soren is dead or alive. With Trent's help she hires two guides to take her into the Alaskan wilds in search of her wayward man. Will she survive? What will she find? Is there more to her guide, James, than what there seems?

Tora has finally agreed to marry Trent. After years of following God's plan and waiting no one could be more excited than the two of them. Still Tora's past haunts her. When Decker, the man who abducted and raped her, suddenly appears in Juneau Tora must learn to trust God as never before. Will Trent love her less because of her past? Will more of her past come back to haunt her?

There are so many questions and emotions that go through you as you read Midnight Sun? Although it is a wonderful book, compared to the other two it is a little flat. There are a couple of repetitive parts which could have been condensed in favor of more storyline for James and Kaatje or for after a certain couples wedding, but other than that I thought it was absolutely wonderful! So hard to put down, and it leaves you wanting still another book that will never come. I highly recommend Midnight Sun to avid fans of the Northern Lights Series and of Lisa T. Bergren. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Deep Emotions in Deep Harbor

Deep Harbor is the second book in the Northern Lights Series by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It continues to follow the four Bergen friends: Elsa, Kaatje, Tora, and Karl as they make their way in America. In Deep Harbor, each of them face new blessings and new struggles that will test their faith and could possibly even bring them back to God.

Elsa and Peder are still sailing around the globe. Their business and their family are growing with expansion into Washington Territory and the addition of one (soon to be two) children when disaster strikes unexpectedly. Will Elsa be able to survive? Will she be able to face her fears and one of the most evil men of the sea, Mason Dutton?

Kaatje and her two daughters have left their homestead in North Dakota to follow the rest of the Bergen to a new farm in Montana. Things promise to be better here, but there is still no word from Soren. It has been almost five years since she has seen him and four since she last heard from him. Is he even alive? Will she be able to continue to provide for their little family?

Karl has been far from God since he left his desires run away with him. He kissed Elsa (his best friend's wife) and ruined his life long friendship with Peder all in one small moment of passion. Will he ever obtain their forgiveness? Will he ever be able to talk to his father again? Can he truly come back to God?

Tora has been headstrong and manipulative her whole life. Trent Storm, her beau and one of the most powerful men in the West, just wants her to tell him the truth. Will Tora ever tell him about her past? He knows it because he hired a private investigator but he wants to hear it from her. Will she ever trust him? Or will their relationship come to an end?

The characters in Deep Harbor are complex and easy to relate too--although I have to admit that you just want to slap Tora. Still you know it's a good character when you struggle with your frustrations over them as much as the other characters in the book do. Deep Harbor is hard to put down and you truly feel the emotions and struggles these four characters are going through. It is masterfully written and leaves you wanting more--which is great since there is one more book in the series! Lisa Tawn Bergren does it again. Deep Harbor is amazing! I highly recommend it to women and to all individuals who love reading about the Western Frontier and life on the Ocean!

More Books by Lisa Tawn Bergren:

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Story of New Beginnings

I was so excited! I read this book once when I was in middle school/high school, but I couldn't remember the exact title or the author. However, this weekend I finally found The Captain's Bride again! Yeah! I searched and searched for this book because I remember it being amazing, and I wasn't disappointed.

The Captain's Bride follows a group of Norwegian immigrants as they make their new start in America. Each and every one of them is searching for a new beginning for one reason or another. Elsa and Peder have just gotten married after long years of waiting, Karl is in love with Elsa who is his best friend's bride, Kaatje's husband (Soren) is perpetually unfaithful, and Tora (Elsa's youngest sister) is head strong and seeking freedom from her father's watchful eyes.

Lisa T. Bergren uses the height of immigration in the 1880's as the perfect backdrop for all of their stories. You love these characters before they ever leave Norway. It is so easy to find a character you can relate to when they talk about the things that are driving them to America and the hopes they have for this new land. Then your heart goes out to them as they face struggles upon The Herald--the ship which Peder captains and which will eventually bring them to their beloved America. Finally, your heart aches for them when their new beginnings are not quite as easy as they hoped they would be. Would America be all that was promised to them? Would things really be new? Or would they fall to the same old trials in this new and foreign place? Bergren does an excellent job of weaving an intricate and entertaining story line which is so hard to put down!

I recommend The Captain's Bride to all historic romantic fiction lovers. Plus, if you are a Christian you will particularly love the strength and encouragement you will gain from seeing her character's struggles first hand and watching them learn to trust God even when it's easier not to. The Captain's Bride is amazing! I can't wait to read the next book in the Northern Light Series--Deep Harbor!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Biblical Love Story

A few days ago, I posted a review of Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs. If you don't know about this book or haven't read it then you really should check it out! It is amazing! Also, if you want to take a few seconds to rate my review (don't forget to verify your email), I would greatly appreciate it. Anyway, back to the point. As great as Mine is the Night is, it's nothing compared to the Biblical story that the book is based on.

The story I am referring to is the story of Ruth. Ruth is a Moabitess (which means she is from the country of Moab). Back in the day, when the Israelites come out of Egypt and were conquering the Promised Land, they were supposed to totally wipe out all the people who lived there. This included the Moabites. But the Israelites had some problems following all of God's directions (that's a whole other story) so there were still remnants of these people groups living in the Promised Land and the surrounding areas who were worshiping other gods. When Israel comes on hard times it's to these people and their country that Naomi and her husband and two sons flee, and eventually Ruth marries one of Naomi's sons (which is a pretty big no, no).

However, Naomi's husbands and her sons die. As a widow in this society, Naomi is totally dependent on her friends but more specifically on her male family member--only she doesn't have any. So she decides to head back home to Israel. This is when we really see the work that God has done in Ruth's live. Ruth could have stayed in her homeland with her people and her gods and found a new husband and been happy, but she chose to leave everything behind. She leaves her family and turns her back on her gods so that she can take care of Naomi and worship the One True God. So together they head back.

The long and short of this story is that because of Ruth's love for her mother-in-law and because of her obedience to God and her reputation, Ruth catches the eye of the most eligible bachelor around. But this guy isn't just anyone. Boaz is a close relative which means that he actually has the right and responsibility to marry Ruth and to provide for Naomi (although when he first starts falling for Ruth he doesn't know that). God worked it out perfectly so that through the obedience of Ruth she would find love, provision, and protection even though she was an outsider -- someone that an Israelite should never have married in the first place! God blessed her.

In the end, Boaz and Ruth are married and they have a son. His name was Obed. If you don't know, this little guy was very special. Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. And because of her obedience to God and her willingness to leave everything else behind to follow Him, Ruth is one of only four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1). I would say that's a pretty special love story.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mine is the Night is ADDICTING

Mine is the Night is a re-telling of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi set in Scotland during the 1700s and written by Liz Curtis Higgs. Mine in the Night is the sequel to Higgs first installment, Here Burns My Candle, although it can also be read as a stand alone novel. Both books follow the story of two women: Elizabeth and Marjory Kerr. These women are daughter-in-law and mother-in-law and together they will endure many struggles and tests of faith.

Mine is the Night begins shortly after the ending of Here Burns My Candle as the Kerr women make their way back to Marjory’s childhood home in Selkirkshire. They are seeking the mercy of a neglected relative after their family has been stripped of their money, land, and title due to their husband's/son's traitorous support of Prince Charles claim to the English throne. Now they have nothing but God, their faith, and each other. How will they survive? What will they do? What will become of them? Read Mine is the Night to follow Elizabeth and Marjory as they follow God's leading and face the struggles and possible blessings ahead of them.

I absolutely loved Mine is the Night! Once I started reading it I just couldn't put it down! Higgs does an excellent job of spinning a historically accurate yet addictingly good historical fiction romance. Mine is the Night is exciting, heart wrenching, and uplifting. If you have ever faced struggles in your life or you have ever questioned why God does what He does then you will relate to Elizabeth and/or Marjory in this book. This is the first book I read by Liz Curtis Higgs and I must say that I am now a fan. I also point this out because you can read and enjoy Mine is the Night without having to read Here Burns My Candle.

I highly recommend this book to historical fiction and Christian romance lovers. You will truly love Mine is the Night. I whole heartedly give this book a five star review!

This book was provided to me at no cost by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for review purposes.

More Books by Liz Curtis Higgs: