If you are a fan of country music, or if you just
enjoy a good memoir, this is a book you will want to check out.
Growing up, my family was a fan of Charlie Daniels’
music, so I was quite familiar with him, at least the musical side. However,
this book offers the reader a chance to see the more personal side of the music
legend — in his own words. He offers his views on life and world events,
including Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, and 9/11. He opens up about his childhood, as
well as his alcoholic father. Overall, the book is well-written and insightful.
As a warning to some readers, there is mild swearing (less than five times). Daniels
is upfront about his political views, as well. The chapters are short, almost
as though you are hearing a collection of stories while sitting across the
table from Charlie, which makes the book go by quite quickly. A number of personal photos are included, which really adds to the book. This is a
heartfelt and encouraging read which runs the gamut of emotions, from funny,
sad, to be honest.
Some of my favorite quotes include:
“Walk on stage with a positive attitude. Your troubles
are your own and are not included in the ticket price.”
“You’re concerned with the people who showed up, not
the ones who didn’t. Always give them a show, and never look at the empty
"I've always ascribed to
the theory that if you can't get what you want, take what you can get and make
what you want out of it."
I received a complimentary copy as part of the BookLook Bloggers program, but I
wasn’t required to leave a positive review.
Have you ever struggled with insecurity, fear, felt
you were less than enough, or wasted too much time comparing yourself to other?
If you can say “yes” to any of these, then this is a book to add to your TBR
Aimee’s latest contains numerous personal stories in
an honest, transparent way. She discusses her struggles with insecurity and
finding her identity in Christ, and she wants to help the reader do the same.
Various areas are addressed, including our bodies, our gifts, our
relationships, and our pasts. The reader will likely find at least one area
relatable. Aimee’s writing style is very conversational, and it often feels
like she’s speaking right to you (and that she has been spying on you, as
well!). Appropriate scripture verses are referenced throughout. Despite the
seriousness of the topic, there are a number of humorous scenes. There is a
study guide included for individual or small group study, along with links to
download journaling pages, scripture affirmations, and more. This book would be
appropriate for women of all ages, including teens, as self-doubt and
insecurity can occur at any age.
Some of my favorite quotes are:
“Because regardless of our age, we all just want to
“We all just want someone to tell us we matter.”
I received a complimentary copy as part of the B&H Blogger Program/Launch
Team, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.
Michelle Levigne has graciously offered to give away an electronic copy of this new release. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends February 1, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.) Here's Michelle...
DORM RATS: The newest Neighborlee, Ohio story.
Dorm Rats is the rest of the story of
Lanie Zephyr growing up, learning to be a semi-pseudo-superhero and guardian of
the town of Neighborlee.
Nothing is ever simple when it involves this weird, magical,
Neighborlee first came into existence when I wrote a short story
that took place in Divine's Emporium, the central point of all the magical,
weird events in town. I wrote several very short stories and made notes for
more story ideas. One was published, then the online magazine I was writing
them for folded.
I played with the idea of a superhero who was sick and tired
of picking up after the mental midgets in the town she was assigned to protect.
She quit and moved to another town, where weird things seemed to be happening, and yet no one paid much attention. She encountered another superhero, whose
job seemed to consist of kicking grumbling superheroes' butts and getting them
to go back to work. That story kind of died out after about one hundred pages. When I
came back to it years later, it became the basis for Hero Blues. In it, Jane, a
superhero called the Ghost, returns to the town where she was found as an
abandoned toddler and learns more details about her mysterious past.
However, before that story was restarted and fixed and finished, I
wrote a series of silly short stories dealing with Fae running amok in the
mortal world and falling in love, called All's Fae in Love and Chocolate.
So I had a good idea of the Fae, their society, their "justice
system," and had an idea about a rebellious young Fae (young at 200 years
old). Maurice pushes the envelope and gets sentenced to two years of exile in the
mortal world, shrunk down to six inches tall, with shrunken magic and wings
Tinkerbell wouldn't be caught dead in. He was exiled to … Divine's Emporium. I
recycled and added to the first Divine's stories, basically following Maurice
as he learned to temper justice with mercy and helped bumbling mortals find
true love, guided by Angela, the mysterious proprietor of the shop, who is also his
During this time, I roughed a book called Living Proof, about a
wheelchair-bound comedienne who worked at a small-town newspaper and happened
to be a broken semi-pseudo-superhero. Where else was I to put Lanie Zephyr but
in Neighborlee? Lanie and her friends appeared in the books that followed Divine's Emporium. I figured out more about Lanie, how she and her friends
landed in Neighborlee, the mystery of the Lost Kids, and other
"rules" about their powers and the magical, weird, wonderful things
that happen in town. I also used Neighborlee as the "landing" spot
where kids from another dimension gathered in a YA fantasy series called The
Then Splickety Magazine came into existence. They do flash
fiction, which is a story of 1,000 words or less. I took it as a challenge and wrote a story about Lanie's first Christmas after she was adopted out of
the orphanage. Midnight Magic dealt with her problem of trusting her new
parents with the secret of her semi-pseudo-superhero powers. That was followed
by several other stories of Lanie and her friends, Kurt and Felicity, as they
figured things out and sometimes got in trouble. For instance, the time they
decided they were aliens and tried to "phone home" at Halloween.
By this time I had a number of books planned out to follow Living Proof, but I needed to get from Lanie as the six-year-old adoptee, learning how
to be a superhero from reading comic books, to Lanie with the broken back and
snarky attitude, spouting one-liners. (As a side note: Lanie's humor is
borrowed directly from my brother, a comedian in a wheelchair. I'm serious. He did comedy on a regular basis for many years in the Northeast Ohio area. I
have his joke book for a resource.)
Thus, Growing Up Neighborlee was born. The adventures of Lanie,
Kurt, and Felicity, dealing with learning their powers, their duties as
guardians of Neighborlee, and the general weirdness of the town. The book goes
up until Lanie's sophomore year of high school. Dorm Rats, the newest
Neighborlee book, starts with a family vacation/research trip to England, then
takes Lanie through college (from which comes the title, after discovering a
somewhat insidious experiment, manipulating the freshmen class's living
situation) and ends with the accident that lands her in a wheelchair for the
rest of her life.
See? How the story came to be written is not a simple answer at all.
Lanie and her Lost Kids friends continue growing into their semi-pseudo-superhero powers and responsibilities and learn more about what it means to be a guardian of the odd little town of Neighborlee. Sometimes that meant protecting the rest of the world from the everyday weirdness and magic around them.
The transition from high school to college is marked with challenges and mystical, magical attacks from outside Neighborlee's borders. When the academic game-playing and politics of the local college are used to run a questionable experiment on the entire freshman class, Lanie is there in the middle of it. Sometimes those who realize there's something strange going on aren't as enchanted as Lanie and her geek friends, and it takes a lot of fast talking and faster maneuvering to keep the lid from blowing off the entire town.
The threats grow bigger and the enemies grow meaner, but it's all in a day's work for the guardians of Neighborlee. This is home, and they're willing to pay the price. Sometimes, they do. With their lives.
The really big questions remain: Why are they the way they are, and how can they do the things they can do? At least when they mess up and use their talents in public, most people don't even notice. It's just part of the background weirdness of Neighborlee, Ohio.
On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college
(she is a recovering Trekker and adores “Warehouse 13,” “Stargate SG-1,”
"The Dresden Files," and "The Librarians."), and has 40+
stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a BA in theater/English
from Northwestern College and a MA focused on film and writing from Regent
University. She has published 70+ books and novellas with multiple small
presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, and sub-genres of romance. Her
official launch into publishing came with winning first place in the Writers of
the Future contest in 1990. She has been a finalist in the EPIC Awards
competition more than thirteen times, winning with Lorien in 2006
and The Meruk Episodes, I-V, in 2010. Her training includes the
Institute for Children’s Literature, proofreading at an advertising agency, and
working at a community newspaper. She freelance edits for a living
(MichelleLevigne@gmail.com for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to
“Could you…I mean, would it be okay if you sang to me?” My
head snaps up and I look at him. He’s looking down sheepishly, but he raises
his eyes to meet mine.
“Why sing if can’t hear you?”
“I can a little…if you let me put my head on your chest.” I
look at him skeptically and he is quick to follow up, “I swear it’s not a line.
My mom used to sing to me that way, and it’s been a while, so I was just
curious if it would work with you.”
“Light on off which?” I repeat.
“I prefer low light, always on.” He flips off the main switch
and turns on the nightstand light, which isn’t more than an amber glow.
I roll to my back and he places his head on my shoulder. I
think about what song to sing. It’s not like it’s really going to matter much
to him, but I never make a song choice without thought. Music is the sound
track of life to me, so I decide something a little sad and soulful is in
order. I pick ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley. Singing while flat on your back
with a person on top of you is no easy feat. I guess it doesn’t really matter
what the sound is like as long as the vibration is there, so with that in mind,
I keep my tone low and raspy. Luckily, I tend to feel right at home singing
alto, so this works out pretty nicely.
I start off soft and low, and let the music build. He is
tentative in the beginning, who am I kidding, we both are. This should be
seriously awkward. We hardly know each other and we’re entering major bubble
territory…yet there’s also something very innocent and pure about it. I can
tell when he starts to relax and is more comfortable. I’m really letting go as
well now and just singing from my soul. He moves to where his head is fully on
my upper chest, right below my throat. By the third verse I stop worrying about
how weird this might be and the beauty of the situation full on hits me. I’m
able to give this man something that he’s never been able to give himself.
Sharing the joy of music isn’t only a passion for me, it’s a need, so we are
just two souls fulfilling a great need in each other.
His tears are completely silent as they slowly hit my
exposed skin and pool in the hollow of my throat. They spark my own tears. The
idea that I can touch him so deeply this way, giving him nothing but my voice,
touches me deeply. Without thinking, I bring his arms around me and place his
hands flat against my back so he isn’t only getting the sound vibrations from
my chest, but he can also feel them from behind. It has its desired effect when
he sighs out against my neck. The song ends but neither one of us move. To be
honest, I have no words. In this type of communication words are useless. I
close my eyes and go right into ‘Brightest’ by Copeland. Somewhere around ‘As
my guitar gently weeps’ by the Beatles, I drift off.
Wheeler lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband and two
Her love of
literature began in Jr. High when she was introduced to Lowis Lowry’s books.
Since then she has had a passion for writing Young Adult books, and creating
strong female leads. When she’s not writing, she is advocating for Autism
Awareness and involved in the deaf community.
favorite things to do are play with her children, craft with her friends, sleep
while her husband watches movies and indulge in her favorite addictions:
Coffee, candy, and shoes.
“Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested—now there’s
a challenge.” This quote sums up nicely what the author hopes to address in her
Dalton-Smith is a woman who understands what it’s like
to need rest, and she wants to show the reader how it can be achieved. While it
is written from a Christian perspective, it is not overbearing in any way. The
author is a physician, and she incorporates scientific and medical evidence to
support her observations throughout the book. That said, it is not too
technical for the average reader to understand and utilize. The chapters are
short, so they can easily be fit into a busy schedule.
This book is structured in three parts. In Part I, "Why Rest?," the author breaks down the various types of rest (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative). She helps the reader determine which type (or types) of rest is needed. Part II, "The Gifts of Rest," discusses the spiritual aspects of rest in twelve areas (boundaries, reflection, freedom, acceptance, exchange, permission, cessation, art, communication, productivity, choice, and faith). Part III, "The Promises of Rest," provides a Personal Rest Deficit Assessment Tool and an online option to sign up for the Thirty-Day Sacred Rest Challenge.
Some of my favorite quotes include:
“Many of us run from rest
because it seems like giving up.”
“Rest is not a luxury, it’s a
“The desire to overwork is an attempt
to justify ourselves.”
“You don’t find purpose. You
live and let purpose reveal itself to you.”
“You are made to live within
the wide-open space of God’s validation and affirmation.”
“God did not make rest a mere
suggestion. He commanded it.”
“You can be busy and still lack
If you are weary and want to change that, consider adding this book to your To-Be-Read pile for 2018.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the LitFuse Blogging Program. I wasn't required to leave a positive review.
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is an author, speaker, and board-certified physician. She has an active medical practice in Alabama (near the Birmingham area). She received her B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Georgia and graduated with honors from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. She has been an adjunct faculty member at Baker College and Davenport University in Michigan teaching courses on health, nutrition, and disease progression. Dr. Dalton-Smith is a national and international media resource on the mind, body, spirit connection and has been featured in Women's Day, Redbook, and First for Women magazine. She is the author of Set Free to Live and Come Empty (winner 2016 Golden Scroll Nonfiction Book of the Year and 2016 Illumination Award Gold medalist). She is a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association and a repeat keynote speaker at their annual gathering. She has shared her tips on merging faith and medicine with over 16,000 healthcare professionals to encourage the current and next generation of doctors to treat the whole person.
Kelly Irvin has graciously offered to give away a copy of her new release. You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 26, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.)
The story behind the story...
The idea for Beneath
the Summer Sun and the series around which it is built came from reading an
Amish scribe’s blurb in the newspaper The
Budget. The scribe gave annual statistics for her community that included
births, deaths, weddings, number of adults, number of children, number of
baptisms, number of graduates from school, and number of widows/widowers. The
number of widows and widowers was important enough for her to include in her
summary. That made me wonder how widows are integrated into a society that is
centered around husband-wife family units.
From that seed, I developed a proposal for a four-book
series. I wanted to explore the lives of Amish women and how it must be
different to be a widow at twenty and at seventy. Beneath the Summer Sun is the second in a four-part series that
examines those seasons in life. The first book, Upon a Spring Breeze, follows the story of Bess Graber, a young,
pregnant newlywed who finds her life irrevocably changed after a terrible
In Beneath the Summer
Sun, I delve into Jennie Troyer’s life as a thirty-something widow with
seven children. The third book centers around a grandmother and the fourth
book, a great-grandmother.
Jennie is encouraged by her community to remarry, but she
resists. She’s afraid of committing the same mistake twice. How can she trust
her feelings when they led to her first marriage to an abusive husband?
Domestic abuse in Amish marriages is an anomaly, but the
idea that it does sometimes happen made me want to explore the reactions and
repercussions. The Amish don’t believe in divorce. Their vows are sacred and
unbreakable. They believe that there’s nothing that can’t be forgiven.
They also prefer to have as little contact as possible with the English legal
system. Given those three facts, what happens when a woman goes to her bishop
to seek relief from an abusive husband?
In The Amish by
Donald Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt, the authors note
that sexual abuse and domestic abuse likely result in the same challenges for
the Amish, including the reluctance to report them to outside authorities. “Abuse
is typically reported to church leaders, who are always male. Because the church,
family, and community are knit together and the authority structure is
patriarchal, male leaders may not be sensitive to the needs of female victims.
Men may minimize the acts of a male perpetrator or blame female victims for the
The authors also touched on an article from Family Life in the mid-1990s when a
group of Amish women calling themselves the Sewing Circle collected stories of
domestic violence and printed them in a booklet to raise awareness of the
problem. This bolstered my belief that there are Amish women who will stand up
for themselves in these situations and reach out to others to help them heal.
We tend to over-simplify the lives of Amish families, and The Amish reminded me that these folks
are human and face some of the same challenges and issues that we do in English
society. Beneath the Summer Sun
delves into one woman’s life and how she overcomes her fears. She learns that
she deserves to be happy. She learns to be brave and grasp her second chance.
It’s a difficult topic and not one we find often in Amish
romances, but I want to explore all facets of love and life, not just the easy,
simple, sweet ones. I believe readers will be touched by Jennie’s story and
there are those women who will see themselves in Jennie’s situation. It’s my
hope that they’ll find some measure of healing and hope in her story.
Back cover blurb...
Jennie Troyer knows
it’s time to remarry. Can she overcome a painful secret and open her heart to
four years since Jennie’s husband died in a farming accident. Long enough that
the elders in her Amish community think it’s time to marry again for the sake
of her seven children. What they don’t know is that grief isn’t holding her
back from a new relationship. Fear is. A terrible secret in her past keeps her
from moving forward.
Mennonite book salesman Nathan Walker stops by Jennie’s farm whenever
he’s in the area. Despite years of conversation and dinners together, she never
seems to relax around him. He knows he should move on, but something about her
keeps drawing him back.
Meanwhile, Leo Graber nurtures a decades-long love for Jennie, but
guilt plagues him—guilt for letting Jennie marry someone else and guilt for his
father’s death on a hunting trip many years ago. How could anyone love him
again—and how could he ever take a chance to love in return?
In this second book in the Every Amish Season series, three
hearts try to discern God’s plan for the future—and find peace beneath the
Kelly Irvin is the author of Upon a Spring Breeze, the first book in the Every Amish Season series from Zondervan/ HarperCollins. It follows
the Amish of Bee County Series, which
included The Beekeeper’s Son, subject
of a starred review from Publisher’s
Weekly, calling it “an intricately woven masterpiece.” Among her other
works are novellas in three collections. She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest
House Publishing. She has also penned two inspirational romantic suspense
novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
Kelly’s novels, The Beekeeper’s Son and Love Redeemed, were finalists in the
2015 and 2016 contemporary romance category of the American Christian Fiction
Writers (ACFW) Carol Awards Contest. The
Beekeeper’s Son, An Amish Christmas
Gift, and An Amish Market are Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
Kelly is currently working on
the third novel in the Every Amish Season
series. Additionally, she is contracted for novellas in two anthologies to be
published by Thomas Nelson in 2018 and 2019. She recently announced that she
has signed a contract with Thomas Nelson for two romantic suspense novels. The first
one, Tell Her No Lies, will debut in
The Kansas native is a
graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing
nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a
newspaper reporter. She recently retired after working twenty-two years in
public relations for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.
Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two young adult children,
two grandchildren, and two ornery cats. In her spare time, she reads, blogs,
and writes articles on being a cancer patient for Cure Today Magazine.
Melanie D. Snitker has graciously offered to give away an electronic copy of this new release (or the first book in the series). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 18, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.)
How the story came to be...
When I began writing Finding Grace, I wanted to tell Tyler and Beth's story with an emphasis on the role grace plays in our lives. I had no idea at the time that I would soon be facing the toughest seasons of my life. The very grace I was writing about was exactly the kind I needed for myself: the grace to admit that I'm overwhelmed and to give myself the time off I've needed over the last two months.
It is my hope that Finding Grace will remind readers that it's okay to not only give themselves the kind of grace they might extend to others, but that our Heavenly Father is always there to offer a generous helping of it as well.
Finding Grace is the sixth, and final, book in the Love's Compass series. While each book does give updates on characters that have been featured previously, they are also complete stories that stand on their own.
Thank you, Leslie, for the opportunity to be a guest on your blog today. God bless!
Single dad Tyler Martin can't be more grateful to the woman who finds his missing daughter. Even though he feels a spark between them, falling in love is a risk he shouldn't take. Too bad chance encounters and his stubborn heart keep trying to convince him otherwise.
After escaping a nightmarish relationship, Beth Davenport is content with her safe and blessedly normal life. Yet something about Tyler and his adorable daughter makes her wish for more. With the walls around her heart finally starting to crumble, she's afraid of a future she can't predict.
Can they let go of their fear and trust God to lead them to the love they desperately need?
Melanie D. Snitker has enjoyed writing fiction for as long as she can remember. She started out creating episodes of cartoon shows she wanted to see as a child, and her love of writing grew from there. She and her husband live in Texas with their two children, who keep their lives full of adventure, and two dogs, who add a dash of mischief to the family dynamics. In her spare time, Melanie enjoys photography, reading, crocheting, baking, and hanging out with family and friends.
Liz Tolsma has graciously offered to give away a copy of her new release. The book can be winner's choice of an ebook or hard copy (US ONLY for hard copy). You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends January 12, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information.)
Back cover blurb...
By 1943, Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost everything, including her career as a concert violinist and almost her entire family. The only person she has left is her beloved grandmother, and she's determined to keep her safe. Protecting Grandmother won't be easy — not with a Nazi officer billeted below them.
Anna must keep a low profile. There's one thing she refuses to give up, though. Despite instruments being declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to practice her violin. She has to believe that the war will end someday and her career will be waiting. Fortunately for Anna, the officer, Horst Engel, enjoys her soothing music. It distracts him from his dissatisfaction with Nazi ideology and reminds him that beauty still exists in an increasingly world.
When his neighbors face deportation, Horst is moved to risk everything to hide them. Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals to her might break her trust and stop the music forever…
If you only have time to read a few books this year, be sure Tolsma's latest is on your list! Yes, it's that good! It's really setting a high standard for the other books I review this year. It is such an emotional read and hard to put down. It's sad to see the story come to an end, and I can't wait for the sequel. It's amazing to see how the author can weave together the beauty and evil in such a way that you can still see God's love in the middle of it all.
Some of my favorite quotes...
"Cling to your memories, yes. They are good, a blessing from the Lord. But if you allow the past to weigh you down, you cannot move forward. You have to deal with the present and reach for the future."
"Don't judge him by the uniform he wears, but by the kind of person he is underneath."
"You're dwelling on things you can't change. Focus on what you can."
Passionate might best describe Liz Tolsma. She loves writing, research, and editing. Her passion shown through in her first novel which was a double award finalist. On any given day, you might find her pulling weeds in her perennial garden, walking her hyperactive dog, or curled up with a good book. Nothing means More to her than her family. She married her high-school sweetheart twenty-eight years ago. Get her talking about international adoption, and you might never get her to stop. She and her husband adopted three children, including a son who is a U.S. Marine, and two daughters.