Book Recommendation ~ Strength Renewed: Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer by Shirley Corder

Book Description:

Nothing can sap a person’s strength and hope quite like a cancer diagnosis–unless it is the energy-stealing chemotherapy and surgeries faced in the fight against cancer. But one can find hope and strength in the pages of Scripture and in the experience of someone who has been there. Strength Renewed is an encouraging devotional for those living in the valley of cancer. Meditations combine Scripture and stories from the author’s own experience and can be read in sequential order to move the reader through a typical cancer journey from diagnosis through treatment. Each devotion also stands on its own, so readers can go directly to the entry that speaks to their need. Each devotional includes a short prayer and a Scripture verse for encouragement.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

It seems like cancer is becoming more prevalent and, like most people, my life has been touched by the cancer diagnosis of friends and family members. I found this devotional book very inspiring and helpful in understanding the life changing journey for both the patient and their loved ones. The whole idea of receiving a cancer diagnosis is very scary, and Shirley provides honest and thought provoking insights gained from her experiences fifteen years ago.

Shirley drew strength from the Lord and held onto Biblical truths as she struggled through the good days and the bad days. The book contains ninety devotions that are easy to read and provide wisdom and encouragement from her real life experiences. She speaks with compassion as she shares her mistakes as well as her triumphs through the various stages of her journey to becoming a cancer survivor. I highly recommend this book to those who have received a cancer diagnosis or are looking to gain new insights into how they can support friends and family undergoing cancer treatment.

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Book Recommendation: Jackson Jones – The Tale of a Boy, an Elf and a Very Stinky Fish

Book Description:

Sometimes you have to get lost to figure out where you’re going. All Jackson wants is to be the hero, just for once in his life. The hero who steps in at the last minute to save the universe. The hero who saves the entire village from a raging fire. Great Aunt Harriett is always telling him find his own story, but so far his story doesn’t seem very exciting. Until he falls into Great Aunt Harriett’s hair, that is. There Jackson will encounter a world of elves, trap doors, bubblegum-blowing birds, hairy-backed spiders, kangaroo meat, and perilous danger which requires … a hero.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading this book and I asked my daughter to provide her thoughts on the story.

Jackson Jones is a good book because it has got a lot of imagination in it. It has lots of cool but weird things like: elfs, stinky fish, beet risotto, and bean burgers. And other things. Jackson Jones is a funny book because Jackson falls into Great Aunt Harriett’s hair and has the most exciting adventure ever. I can’t wait to read Book 2!”

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Book Recommendation ~ Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Book Description:

California’s gold country, 1850. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. What she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance, her heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. So Angel runs. Back to the darkness… A powerful retelling of the book of Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love. A page-turner.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I love this book, and I’ve read it more than once. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is an award winning historical romance that has featured on Christian fiction bestseller lists for years. Francine’s writing is both beautiful and powerful as her characters retell the little known Biblical story of Hosea and Gomer. If you’ve never read Christian fiction and like reading romance, I highly recommend you start by reading Redeeming Love.

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Book Recommendation ~ Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith

Book Description:

Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her devout husband away fighting the king’s wars for many months at a time, discontent and loneliness dog her steps–and make it frighteningly easy to succumb to King David’s charm and attention. Though she immediately regrets her involvement with the powerful king, the pieces are set in motion that will destroy everything she holds dear. Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God–and David–forever?

With a historian’s sharp eye for detail and a novelist’s creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David’s most famous–and infamous–wife. Smith uses her gentle hand to draw out the humanity in her characters, allowing readers to see themselves in the three-dimensional lives and minds of people who are often viewed in starkly moralistic terms. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Jill Eileen Smith’s fictionalised account of Bathsheba’s story. The story opens with Bathsheba’s struggle to overcome loneliness and disappointment over not providing an heir for her husband, Uriah. Uriah was one of King David’s mighty men who was often away at war, and Bathsheba didn’t have children to distract her from missing her absent warrior husband. We journey with Bathsheba as she makes choices that will ultimately have devastating and deadly consequences.

We also gain an insight into both King David and Bathsheba’s faith and relationship with God. We meet two people who, despite loving the Lord, are human and flawed like the rest of us. I recommend this book to those looking for a fascinating and insightful Biblical fiction story.

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Book Recommendation ~ Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris

Book Description:

Natalie Sinclair is working to eradicate the diseases decimating whole villages in the Republic of Dhambizao when she meets Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from a lucrative medical practice now volunteering at a small clinic. Meanwhile, things are unraveling in Dhambizao. Joseph Komboli returns to his village to discover rebel soldiers abducting his family and friends. Those that were too old or weak to work lay motionless in the African soil. When Chad and Natalie decide to help Joseph expose this modern-day slave trade—and a high-ranking political figure involved in it—disaster nips at their heels. Where is God in the chaos? Will Chad, Natalie, and Joseph win their race against time? Romance and adventure drive Blood Ransom, by Lisa Harris, a powerful thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Blood Ransom was a 2011 Christy Award nominee in the contemporary romance category and I totally understand why. I read this book within two days and I was immediately drawn into Natalie and Chad’s story.

Natalie and Chad were two ordinary Americans who had a heart to help Africans born into poverty and difficult circumstances. They could have ignored the evidence of slavery but instead put their lives in danger as they struggled to save  Joseph’s family and the other innocent victims from remotes villages. A powerful story of hope in a world full of greed and political corruption. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a fast paced romantic thriller that addresses the issue of modern-day slavery.

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Book Recommendation ~ The Covering by Dana Pratola

Book Description:

What do a woman of faith and a heathen biker have in common? The devil, of course.

Tessa is moved to intercede for a man she’s never met. When they do meet, she’s stunned. Gunnar is gorgeous, charismatic, and driven. He’s also hostile, self-destructive, and an unbeliever…and she’s drawn to him like no other. The temptation she feels is as dangerous as it is alluring. She wants to stay away, but God has other plans. He reveals the devil’s intent to destroy Gunnar, and commissions Tessa to keep him covered in prayer. Can she rely on God to keep her from falling…in love, and into temptation? Or will the devil claim them both?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I read the back cover blurb and I wasn’t sure if I would like this book. But, after the reading the first chapter I was hooked. There is an underlying spiritual warfare theme but the main focus of the story is on the fascinating relationship between Tessa and Gunnar.

It has the ‘good girl/bad boy’ romance dynamic and the way the characters are drawn together is not sugar coated and could be considered edgy for an inspirational romance. The attraction between Tessa and Gunnar is not hidden or downplayed and contains a level of realism that may not be to the taste of more conservative Christian fiction readers. I recommend this book to those looking for an exciting and different inspirational romance that explores faith issues.

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Book Recommendation ~ Catching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent

Book Description:

Jessilyn Lassiter no longer has to convince people she’s not a child. Having just turned 19 in the summer of 1938, her love for Luke Talley has never been more real. And Luke is finally beginning to care for her in the way she’s always dreamed of. But their budding romance is interrupted when Tal Pritchett—a young, black doctor—comes to Calloway, stealing the heart of Jessilyn’s best friend, Gemma, and stirring up the racial prejudice that has been simmering just beneath the town’s surface. The tension starts to bubble over when Jessie’s elderly neighbor Miss Cleta becomes the first white townsperson to accept Tal’s treatment. And when a young black man is lynched, Calloway is brought to its knees once again as Jessilyn realizes that her anger can make her heart as full of hate as the klan members who have terrorized her town and her family.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Catching Moondrops is the third book in Jennifer Erin Valent’s Summer series.  A confronting and heart wrenching love story set in a small town in Virginia.

Jessilyn Lassiter lives in a town with a dark history. It’s 1938 and racial prejudices resurface after Tal Pritchett, a young black doctor, moves to town. Jessilyn’s best friend, Gemma, starts working for Tal as his assistant. Gemma falls in love with the kind hearted doctor, despite the danger she may face by working with him.

Nineteen year old Jessilyn has loved Luke Talley for many years, and it seems like Luke may soon be ready to act on his feelings. As Jessilyn dreams of a future with Luke, the townsfolk are divided over Tal’s presence. Klan members pursue their hateful agenda and Jessilyn is forced to deal with her own anger and faith issues.

Catching Moondrops provides an insightful and hard hitting perspective into the hearts of those who are full of anger, hate and prejudice. The harsh reality of racial prejudice and injustice, and the devastating consequences for all involved, is brought together in a brilliant climax with a page turning ending. I recommend this book to those looking for a compelling and honest historical romance that deals with the tough issue of racial prejudice.

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Book Recommendation ~ Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith

Book Description:

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?

When Abram finally requests the hand of his beautiful half sister Sarai, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even Sarai’s father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if she 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?

Combining in-depth research and vivid storytelling, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the beautiful and inscrutable Sarai in this remarkable story of love, jealousy, and undaunted faith.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I found this fictional story fascinating for a number of reasons. In the book of Hebrews Sarai (later known as Sarah) was commended for her faith. If we take a closer look at her life circumstances we realise she struggled in her faith, especially in believing God’s promise that she would provide her husband with an heir.

Sarai was a woman who shared a deep love with her husband. She was known for her beauty and appeared to have it all. Her beauty even attracted the attention of a Pharoah, with disastrous consequences. I recommend this book to those who like Biblical fiction and want to gain a greater insight into the lives of Abraham and Sarah.

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Book Recommendation ~ A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes

Book Description:

When young widow Lady Lydia Gale helps a French prisoner obtain parole, she never dreamed he would turn up in her parlor. But just as the London Season is getting under way, there he is, along with a few other questionable personages. While she should be focused on helping her headstrong younger sister prepare for her entré into London society, Lady Gale finds herself preoccupied with the mysterious Frenchman. Is he a spy or a suitor? Can she trust him? Or is she putting her family in danger?

Readers will enjoy being drawn into this world of elegance and intrigue, balls and masquerades. Author Laurie Alice Eakes whisks readers through the drawing rooms of London amid the sound of rustling gowns on this exciting quest to let the past stay in the past and let love guide the future.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

A Necessary Deception is Book One in Laurie Alice Eakes’ The Daughters of Bainbridge House regency romance series. Lydia is a complex character who I wanted to see overcome both past and present obstacles to rescue her often wayward family members and find her place in a world where women often had limited choices.

I really enjoyed the political intrigue and suspense element in the story that kept me guessing until the end. The historical backdrop of the wars with the French and Spanish, and the trouble brewing in America, added an authenticity to the story. The regency period is often glamorised and this story takes a different slant as it looks at the regency era through the eyes of a Frenchman. I highly recommend this story to those looking for an exciting and captivating regency romance.

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Book Recommendation ~ Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Book Description:

Created, not born. Her name is Eve. Myth and legend shroud her in mystery. Now hear her story.

She knew this earth when it was perfect—as she was perfect, a creature without flaw. Created by God in a manner like no other, Eve lived in utter peace as the world’s first woman, until she made a choice, one mistake for which all of humanity would suffer. But what did it feel like to be the first person to sin and experience exile; to see innocence crumble so vividly; and to witness a new strange, darker world emerge in its place?

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the epic dawn of mankind through the eyes and heart of Eve—the woman first known as Havah.

Narelle’s thoughts:

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee is a speculative fiction love story. The early chapters in the book of Genesis outline Adam and Eve’s story. We know the basic plot. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were banished from the Garden of Eden. Later on in the story their eldest son, Cain, murdered his younger brother, Abel.

The beauty of this book is the way the author has interpreted the events outlined in Genesis and brought these characters to life on the page. The story is a fascinating and thought provoking fictionalised account of what may have transpired during Havah’s lifetime. We look at the world through her eyes, and gain an insight into the life of the first woman and mother of all the living.

I was fascinated by the contrast between Adam and Havah’s idyllic and harmonious life in the Garden of Eden and their life in exile as they live with the consequences of their disobedience to ‘The One’. They shared this amazing relationship with ‘The One’ in the Garden that we can only dream about and suffered the pain of silence from ‘The One’ after they sinned and were exiled.

The book highlights the consequences of original sin, for Adam and Havah and their descendents. Things we perceive as a normal part of life eg. disease, ageing, death, difficulties with childbirth, nature being out of harmony, were foreign concepts to Adam and Havah until they were exiled into a broken world. Their harmonious and loving relationship drastically changed after they ate the forbidden fruit.

I was challenged to question the ideas and concepts raised in the story. Havah faced many problems and issues in her relationships with Adam and her growing family. She knew what life was like before sin entered the world and yearned to return to her former life in the Garden of Eden. Havah and Adam lived with incredible guilt as they and their descendents bore the consequences of their sin in the Garden of Eden. Their guilt put additional pressure on their relationship because they knew what they had lost.

This story also contains adult themes that are handled in a tasteful manner, and I give the story a PG rating for children and younger readers. I wouldn’t call this story a romance in the traditional sense because it is the original human love story turned sour. The story explores how Adam and Havah picked up the pieces after their idyllic relationship was shattered. I recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and challenging speculative fiction story.

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