Monday, December 19, 2011

Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott

Will Hanby is a broken soul. Following the death of his parents, he signs on as a saddlemaker apprentice to Master Jacob Good. Master Good turns out to be a cruel teacher with a thirst for power. When Ann Miller and her father encounter Will, Will is drawn to the kindness and light that he sees in them. As circumstances develop and change, Will flees his terrible master in search of the Millers. When he finds them, he realizes the danger surrounding them all. As a wanted man, he must stay hidden and the Millers could be in trouble. But far more dangerous are the feelings developing between Will and Ann. Can Will overcome his troubled past? Will Ann ever see him as more than a dirty and broken youth? And if Will trusts the future to God, will Ann wait for him until the apprenticeship is fulfilled?

Fairer Than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott is probably in the top ten books I've read this year. The story had my attention from the very beginning. Will Hanby's character transformation from broken apprentice to brave Christian reflected a strong sense of personal healing and growth that added depth to the story. I would have liked to have seen more growth and resolution in Ann's character. If Ann's nightmares had been resolved and an additional scene between Eli and Ann had been added, I think the closure of the story would have been more complete. There is a sequel coming out next year, but it does not appear to focus on Will and Ann. Overall, Fairer Than Morning was a surprisingly enjoyable read that I have no doubt I will eventually read again. I recommend it to fans of Christian romances.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BookSneeze as part of their blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas: An Introduction

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Pearl Girls™ 12 Pearls of Christmas series!

We've gathered several of today's most beloved authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning tomorrow (Wednesday the 14th) through Christmas day as Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Rachel Hauck, Sandy Ralya, Sibella Giorello, Susan May Warren and more, share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

And of course, there is a giveaway! Beginning tomorrow you and all your friends can enter to win a PEARL NECKLACE and EARRINGS valued at $450! The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

by Margaret McSweeney

As I write this, I imagine that we are sitting at my kitchen table and chatting over a cup of coffee while familiar Christmas carols celebrate the Season. My twelve year old Chihuahua, Pongo, barks for a pinch of pound cake while my Shih Tzu, Lilly, patiently sits by the chair and waits for a crumb to fall.

My name is not Martha Stewart, and I will never receive a neighborhood beautification award. Just look at my front stoop. Yes, my never-had-time-to-carve-the-pumpkin-that-now-suffers-from-frostbite slouches next to the front door which is decorated with a Christmas wreath. I plan to roll this large orange ornament to the garbage pile tomorrow. For now, however, I will pretend that my front stoop is a contemplative modern art exhibit capturing the essence of contrast.

Actually, I love the concept of juxtaposition – placing things together that don’t seem to belong together, yet somehow ultimately make sense being paired. A personal example for me this season is the phrase: “comfort and joy.” Having just completed my manuscript for New Hope Publishers about the aftermath of grief, I fully understand the contrast of those two words. How can comfort bring joy? How can one find joy in loss?

Perhaps, dear reader, you have experienced loss this year – loss of a loved one, loss of friendship, loss of health,  loss of financial security, loss of trust, loss of love, or loss of direction. Even with the best intent, words of encouragement shared by others can somehow seem insufficient to address an inconsolable loss.  A spoken word cannot fully restore joy to a broken heart; however the Word can. And that’s the bottom line message of Christmas! God gave us the most amazing gift: His Son -  the Word of God, the Holy Comforter.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

You are not alone this Christmas, dear friend. Juxtaposed to the unexpected grit in life is the gift of God’s grace wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This year I purposely placed a pearl in the Nativity scene as a metaphoric reminder. When we place our grit into the hands of the Lord, His grace transforms our pain into a pearl.

 “Joy to the world!”  

Thank you so very much for sharing the JOY of the Season with us this year.

God Bless,
Margaret McSweeny
Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts. Her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. She is also the host of weekly radio show, Kitchen Chat. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, December 12, 2011

God Gave Us Love by Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant

In God Gave Us Love by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Little Cub is on a fishing adventure when the interruptive otters scare the fish away, leading Little Cub to admit that liking the otters is sometimes hard. Grampa gently reminds Little Cub that spending time together and sharing love is far more important than catching fish. Thus begins Little Cub's lesson about God's great love and the different ways it is displayed in relationships.

God Gave Us Love is a super-cute book with an important message about God's love and the love we should have for others. Even as an adult, I could relate to Little Cub's ambivalence towards the otters. The message of unconditional love shines through as Grampa and Little Cub discuss the love that God gives us and why He gives it to us. Although the book appears durable for children of younger ages, I recommend this book for children five or older. Younger children will enjoy the pictures, but I'm not sure if they would understand all of the concepts. My little one won't be here to test it out for a few more months, but I look forward to being able to share this story with my child when he or she arrives.

Click here to read an excerpt from God Gave Us Love or to visit the blog tour.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Press as part of FIRST Wild Card Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

FIRST Wild Card Tour: God Gave Us Love

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press; Brdbk edition (December 20, 2011)
***Special thanks to Laura Tucker, WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity, for sending me a review copy.***


LISA BERGREN is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty books, with more than two million copies sold. A former publishing executive, she now splits her time working as a freelance editor and writer while parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of the family’s next visit to Taos.

Visit the author's website.


As Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, the young polar bear begins to question why we must love others… even the seemingly unlovable.

In answering her questions, Grampa Bear gives tender explanations that teach Little Cub about the different kinds of love that is shared between families, friends, and mamas and papas. Grampa explains that all these kinds of love come from God and that it is important to love others because…

“Any time we show love, Little Cub, we’re sharing a bit of his love.”

This sweet tale will warm the hearts of young children as they learn about all the different sorts of love, while the gentle explanations of each provide a valuable opportunity to encourage children to share with others a “God-sized love.” Now in a sturdy format, ideal for the littlest hands at storytime, bedtime, or anytime. Would make a great Christmas gift!

Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 0 and up
Board book: 22 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Brdbk edition (December 20, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730271
ISBN-13: 978-0307730275

Here's an excerpt from the book : God Gave Us You (Board Book). (Click on images to see them larger):

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey by Deborah Barnes

Zee and Zoey. Two completely different cats. One unlikely couple.

Zee, a large male Maine Coon cat, found the love of his life when he met Zoey, a spirited Bengal cat. Together they shared their food, their days, their humans and even a litter of kittens. As the cats grew, changed and lived, author Deborah Barnes recognized the similarities between their lives and her own situations. Drawing on Zee, Zoey and their companions, the author creates a true story about embracing the extraordinary parts of our so-called ordinary lives.

I greatly enjoyed reading The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey: A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary by Deborah Barnes. Obviously, the main audience for this type of book is cat lovers. However, I think other pet lovers and general audiences would also enjoy this book. I could even see this book being used as bedtime stories for an older child. The book does include stories about the author's other cats and dogs. It is not just limited to Zee and Zoey, though they are the main stars of the book.

Barnes' writing style consists of openness mixed with humor. As a fellow cat owner and lover, I could relate to the author's experiences. I literally laughed out loud at some of the cat antics. There was definitely an underlying message about examining our ordinary days and deliberately looking for the extraordinary. I don't think it would have hurt if the author had made this message a little stronger.

I absolutely loved the design of this book. The pictures of the cats enhanced the narrative and helped me to experience it more deeply. Even the non-cat pictures and designs contributed to making the book a very pleasureable reading experience. I recommend The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey to any cat lover!

Click here to visit the virtual blog tour where you can enter the giveaway, learn more about the author, and read an excerpt from The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey by Deborah Barnes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author as part of the virtual blog tour by PumpUpYourBook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."