Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review - The Butterfly and the Violin

ABOUT THE BOOK:

 A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz---and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl---a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her grandfather's stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find Kristy online: website, Facebook, Twitter


MY REVIEW:
This was one of the best books I've read in a long time! I loved the story of Adele and Vladamir and couldn't wait for those parts of the book that talked about them. Such a story of strength from God, the capacity of the human heart to survive, and true love.

Adele Von Bron is the daughter of a high ranking Nazi officer. She is a extraordinary violinist who is the sweetheart of Austria. She lives a life of luxury as her parents only daughter, and yet, she is not unaware of those things that are happening around her. She is deeply in love with the cellist in the orchestra, Vladamir Nicoli. He is the son of a merchant and poor so her parents deeply disapprove of her having anything to do with him. 

Sera and William meet when each wants to find a paining of Adele for different reasons. Sera has been horribly hurt by the man she was supposed to marry and William is living a life he feels he must live - not the life he feels by God to live. The painting will resolve many issues in each of their lives, if they can just find it.

The book jumps between the second World War and the here and now. The author does this beautifully and you never feel confused or lost when she does this. As I stated, my favorite character was Adele. I loved her heart and her compassion to save others, and then when she herself is in dire circumstances, she learns to play for the One she has always played for but in a different way. 

There was a lot of sadness in this story as well. It highlights the horrible atrocities committed against the Jewish people, as well as others they deemed were not worthy. It was hard to read this, and yet, so important not to forget this horrible time in our history. 

They beauty of the book shone through, however, and I loved how these characters so depended upon the Lord in each of their circumstances. Those who weren't realized their need for Him. 

I just can't say enough good about this book! It was so hauntingly beautiful and I am so looking forward to more by this author! The characters and the story will not leave my heart or my mind as it truly touched something in me. This book deserves 5 out of 5 stars!

*This book was provided to me for my honest review by LitFuse Publicity Group


Blessings - Julie

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Roller Coaster Ride of Life


I've been riding that roller coaster of life for the past few weeks. The scariest part came last Friday when I went to see my vascular surgeon (who did the bypass in my leg) and my infectious disease doctor. Let me back up in my story, though, so you know what's been going on.

About a week and a half ago, my two in home nurses were here. The wound care nurse pulled my bandage off my knee, with my injection nurse watching, and they both said, "Uh-oh" in unison. This is something you never, ever want to hear from your caregiver. There was puss in the knee wound and a new hole had formed. My nurse took a culture and sent it to both my wound care doctor and my infectious disease doctor. We had a preliminary result on that Friday, but the infectious disease doctor wanted to grow it out. When I went to my wound care center, he was not concerned about it and didn't put me on anything. My infectious disease doctor decided he wanted to wait and see the wound when I saw him on Friday. I really wasn't worried as no one else seemed to be.

Back to my appointment....so the vascular doctor looked at everything, pronounced it looking good and moved on. I had to wait for my infectious disease doctor who did not pronounce it all good and made some ominous suppositions. The hole in my knee is about the size of a q-tip end and tunnels about 3-4cm. After looking at my culture, my infectious disease doctor put me back on the IV meds (2 different kinds, including Vancomyacin) and then proceeded to scare the living daylights out of me when he said, "We need to make sure that this infection hasn't gotten into the knee joint hardware." I asked him what that would mean if it did and he said, "You would have to have this knee joint taken out and a new one put in." The room went quiet and then I started crying. My doctors just stood there while I cried as they just didn't know what to say.  I composed myself and the doctor got an MRI arranged that afternoon with the sister hospital to the one I went to. That was a small miracle because my insurance approved it over the phone and they had an opening for me to do the MRI. I had to lie on the table for over one hour as they did a huge section of my leg to check for infection. I was amazed that I was able to lie there without my back killing me. That was truly God helping me! I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get up...but I finally did!

I am asking for prayer, dear friends. Please pray that there is no infection in the hardware. I'll be honest - I just am so exhausted by all this and the thought of another surgery sends me into panic mode and just despair. I am praying fervently that my knee replacement is fine and that these IV meds will take care of whatever there is in the tissue. I'm asking you to agree with me in prayer on this.

I talked with my sister last week about all this and was in tears as I was telling her. She said to me, "Julie, God and satan are in battle over you." That stopped me cold as I never thought about that at all. She said it was like Job and how the Lord allowed satan to test Job to prove that Job would be faithful no matter what. She said I was the same way and that satan was trying to break me down. I will not allow him to break me down and nothing - nothing - will make me ever lose my faith in my true Lord, Jesus, or to turn away from Him. Without Him, I am nothing! I love Him too much and He is my everything!

I thank you for your prayers, your sweet comments and your love! They truly have sustained me through these last few difficult months. You are all so special to me and I thank God for you!

Blessings - Julie

Bible Study Review - The Fragrance of Crushed Violets

ABOUT THE BOOK:

What do we do when a loved one, boss, co-worker, friend, or enemy seem determined to bring us down through an attack? How do we handle it when their assault is personal, public, deep, unjust, unfair, and unfounded? Take it one step further. How do we deal with meaningless acts of destruction and death, say in something similar to the Twin Towers incident or a school shooting, especially when the offender shows no remorse? Do we file it in our brains and rack it up to “one more senseless act” and chance to think that God somehow messed up?
In short, how do we move past the hurt and anger to a place of forgiveness?
Join us as we examine relevant scriptures about forgiveness and come away with a scriptural understanding of:
  • what forgiveness is and what it isn’t
  • God’s role in the process of forgiveness
  • what Jesus did at the cross for each of us
  • our mandate to forgive as we’ve been forgiven
  • what gets in the way of forgiving others
  • how to truly forgive

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cathy Bryant writes both Christian fiction and devotional materials. She’s written devotions for The Upper Room devotional magazine, two devotional books, and for various online devotional sites including her own website, www.CatBryant.com. The Fragrance of Crushed Violets is her first Bible study booklet.

Cathy's standalone novels are set in the fictional town of Miller's Creek, Texas, where folks are friendly, the iced tea is sweet, and Mama Beth's front porch beckons. Her debut novel, Texas Roads, was a 2009 ACFW Genesis contest finalist and has been on the Amazon Kindle Best-Seller list. Since then she's added four other books to the Miller's Creek novels, the latest one released in Spring 2014. Readers have compared her novels to those of Karen Kingsbury and Nicholas Sparks and have called Miller's Creek the Texas version of Mayberry.

A native Texan, Cathy currently resides in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico with her minister husband of over thirty years. When she’s writing, you can find her rummaging through thrift stores, hiking through the wilderness, or up to her elbows in yet another home improvement project in the mountain cabin she calls home.

MY REVIEW:

This is a Bible study on the subject of forgiveness. It's not a long study, but very concise and I gained so much from it! 

The thing I loved the most was all the Scriptures that Cathy showed that talks about forgiveness and how important it is to God that we forgive. Sometimes, those Scriptures hurt (we must forgive to be forgiven) and brought light to areas of my life where I have been harboring unforgiveness. That's exactly what the study was all about, so I really felt that I learned so much and really understood what true forgiveness is and what it isn't.

My copy is so highlighted because there was so much great information about forgiveness! The first chapter goes into what forgiveness is and what it isn't. This was especially helpful to me because, like others, I have allowed the world's definition of Christian forgiveness to creep into my belief system. It was so helpful to know exactly what God expects from us regarding forgiveness and how we should handle things.  

The other thing I really felt was really helpful was at the end of each chapter, there is a conclusion where she asks you to personalize what you've learned in the chapter. You are also asked to pick out a favorite Scripture from the chapter that really spoke to you in the area of forgiveness. Finally, and this is my favorite part, she has you write out a prayer to the Lord regarding what you've learned in the chapter. I found all this really helpful in helping me to apply what I learned to my life.

I highly recommend this Bible study! It would be perfect for a small group, a Women's Ministry or just to do it on your own, as I did. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

*This book was provided to me by the author for my honest review.




Blessings - Julie

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review - Penny Wise


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Penny Wise introduces us to yet another family in "the neighborhood"---the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change!

The third in the Windy City Neighbors series, Penny Wise is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life. The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of "parallel novels," each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters' lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. Welcome to Beecham Street---a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Dave and Neta Jackson are award-winning authors living in the Chicago area where their parallel novels from the Yada Yada House of Hope and Harry Bentley series are set. As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books.

Find Neta and Dave online: website

MY REVIEW:
 I have always been a huge fan of Neta Jackson and just devoured the Yada Yada Prayer Group books. I always felt such a connection with her characters and loved the way she talked about serious issues, yet always brought humor into her books. Unfortunately, since she started writing with her husband, a lot of the things I loved about her books have disappeared.

This book is about a family that is so busy doing for others, they really don't have time for each other. Michelle is a case-worker trying to help families that need help and children who are in bad situations. She also heads up a women's group at her church as well as a group to help women who have had abortions and are struggling with their decision. She and her husband, Jared, have three children - a teenage boy and twins, a boy and a girl. Jared is a deacon in their church as well as being an air traffic controller with a crazy schedule.

There are some characters in the book from the Yada Yada Prayer group books and it was nice to revisit them. Michelle and Jared are neighbors of Estelle and Harry, from those books, and I just have always loved those characters.

What I liked about the book - the fact that this was a family that was working hard to show their children godly parenting and love. I liked that this was a family that wasn't falling apart from within with any real serious issues. I also loved the part of the book that the title is from - the pennies and how they showed up in the story. This just brought a lump to my throat. The last 3 chapters of the book were great and I liked the ending of the story.

What I didn't like about the book - I have no interest or desire to know that the characters are going to have sex (there are no explicit scenes, but still...) or that Michelle uses a diaphram and that she's about ready to put it in place. I found the endless details very boring...I don't care what they eat for breakfast or dinner every day! There were endless boring details like this that just made you want to turn the page in hopes you could skip all this. There is very little of Neta's writing shining through and I could tell her sections of the book from Dave's. They write completely different about the characters and it showed, to me at least.

I had read the last book they did together and really didn't like it, but when this book came up for review, I was hoping that the writing style would return to what it was when Neta wrote alone, but alas, this book was even less enthralling than the last book I read by them. Personally, I hope that Neta will write alone again. I'm sure Dave's a good writer, but this is not his genre and it really shows. I can only give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

*This book was provided to me for my honest review by LitFuse Publicity Group




Blessings - Julie

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Book Review - The Revealing

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Naomi King, soft spoken, loyal, and easily overlooked, has a gift. She sees what others can't see. Intuition, she calls it. Others in Stoney Ridge don't know what to make of it and dismiss her hunches and inklings altogether.

When a young woman arrives at the Inn at Eagle Hill with a shocking secret about Tobe Schrock, Naomi fears the worst. She can't ignore the feeling that something sinister is at work--- something more than a threat to the tenuous love begun between her and Tobe.

As signs mount, they begin to point to Jake Hertzler, the elusive mastermind behind Schrock Investments' downfall. Soon, events spiral hopelessly out of control and Naomi must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.

In this riveting conclusion to The Inn at Eagle Hill series, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher pulls out all the stops with a fast-paced tale of deception, revelation, and just the right dose of romance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Inn at Eagle Hill series, Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California.

Download Suzanne's free app! http://bit.ly/10Tygyi

Find Suzanne online: website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

MY REVIEW:

This book is the conclusion of "The Inn at Eagle Hill" series. Even though it's part of a series, if you have only read this book, you won't be lost and you'll enjoy it immensely! The characters are so believable and so well rounded, I was still thinking about them even when the book was done. I was almost sad that this is the last in the series, except the author ended it so well and it was very satisfying how it ended.

Rose is still keeping her family together after the death of her husband. She has step-children, children of her own and a cranky mother-in-law all living under the same roof. For added income, she also rents out a room to people that want to experience the Amish way of life. This time, Brooke is her guest and she ends up creating quite a stir as she gets involved with someone from the families past.

Tobe, Rose's stepson, is getting out of prison soon and they all wonder if he will come back home and be baptized as Amish or if he will leave the community again. Naomi wonders this most of all as she loves Tobe and hopes the best will work out. Naomi's brother, Galen, doesn't know about her relationship with Tobe and this creates a problem for her - she is constantly popping Tums!

There are some new characters in this book that I really liked and I was curious if there would be a new romance with Rose. Galen and Rose have had an understanding for awhile, but there is a lot between them, including an age difference, that bothers Rose.

I really loved how the story was all brought to a wonderful conclusion. Most of all, I liked that the author didn't rush the conclusion, as can happen so many times. She took her time and tied all the lose ends up and I was very happy with the conclusion. This is a lovely story full of intrigue, relationships, and the Amish way of life. I really enjoyed it and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

*This book was provided to me for my honest review by LitFuse Publicity Group


Blessings - Julie