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Thursday, May 3

May 2018 New Releases & A GIVEAWAY!

May brings a slew of amazing new releases....and we've got a surprise for YOU!  One lucky reader is going to get a box of books in the mail!!
Enter below for a chance to win (ends 5/10).  Contest open to US residents only.


FICTION
The Theory of Happily Ever After (Kristen Billerbeck)
According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious science, as serious as Maggie takes herself. But science can't always account for life's anomalies--for instance, why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream-fueled chick flick binge. Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie's friends book her as a speaker on a "New Year, New You" cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she's qualified to teach others about happiness when she can't muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can't ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart. Filled with memorable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, Kristin Billerbeck's The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile--because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, we have a character who has been deeply hurt, and still bears the scars of childhood hurts, and who is working through her grief while maintaining a facade that life has a fairytale ending. On the other hand, the characters are really juvenile, and sometimes I just want to smack some sense into them. I enjoyed the setting...along the Mexican coast...and felt like I was cruising right along with them. It goes back and forth between being a serious book addressing her issues and being a silly, at times inane, book of pettiness. At the heart of the book is the question of life...who is she? What purpose does her life have? Where does she belong? It is this journey for answers that kept me reading until the very end.


Becoming the Talbot Sisters (Rachel Linden)

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary. When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy. But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

This wasn't what I expected the book to be, but it was so much better! These two sisters have suffered tremendously in their lives, and coped in their own ways, but the time comes for them to work together against a new evil that befalls them. Between the baby and the little girl, the love that they find within themselves to share with others is beautiful. And while I thought it was going to be one-sided for a while, they love that they have for each other is demonstrated through their actions. This is an action-packed chick lit story that will not disappoint.
Laura Riehl is no stranger to heartache. Less than a year after her mother’s death, Laura finds herself burying another loved one: her best friend, Savilla, who has died after a brief and sudden illness. Laura feels heartbroken and alone, but her pain is nothing compared to that of Allen, the husband Savilla has left behind. He now faces a life so different from the one he imagined—plus a baby to care for on his own. When Laura offers to help Allen with baby Mollie, he jumps at the opportunity until a permanent solution can be found. She’d do anything to lend a hand to Allen and to honor her best friend’s memory. Rudy, Laura’s boyfriend, is initially supportive of her plan, but the more time Laura spends with Allen, the more jealous and frustrated Rudy seems to become. As Laura and Allen face hardships together, their friendship takes a surprising yet comforting turn—and she discovers an attraction she’s never felt with Rudy. Would falling for Allen betray the people she cares about most, or would denying those feelings betray her heart? This latest installment in the Amish Homestead series returns us to Lancaster County, home of the beloved Riehls, where a family’s strength—and advice from a new friend—may help Laura find God’s direction.

A follow up to A Place at the Table, this book features Jamie's sister, Laura, and her venture through grief. Having lost her mother and best friend, she sets her heart to doing good for others, only to find herself losing her heart and then losing her focus. She has to come to terms with her feelings, and there is a bit of a love triangle involved as well. To be honest, I wasn't sure how it would end up...which suitor she would end up with...but the story ends well. Your heart breaks for the main characters all the way through the book. I look forward to the final book in the series, and seeing which characters we catch up with next!

Together Forever (Jodi Hedlund)
Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.  Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children--firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

I was 2/3 of the way through this before realizing that it's part of a series, which is a testament to how well it works as a stand-alone. The characters are lovable, with their issues and faults, they have good intentions and beautiful hearts. The children are adorable, and you'll want to adopt them all. Each of the main characters must overcome something from their past, accept themselves and their faults, and be willing to move forward...whether that ends up being together or not is something you'll discover. There are, however, a few questions that won't be answered...for that, we'll need book three!


Send Down the Rain (Charles Martin)

Allie is still recovering from the loss of her family’s beloved waterfront restaurant on Florida’s Gulf Coast when she loses her second husband to a terrifying highway accident. Devastated and losing hope, she shudders to contemplate the future—until a cherished person from her past returns. Joseph has been adrift for many years, wounded in both body and spirit and unable to come to terms with the trauma of his Vietnam War experiences. Just as he resolves to abandon his search for peace and live alone at a remote cabin in the Carolina mountains, he discovers a mother and her two small children lost in the forest. A man of character and strength, he instinctively steps in to help them get back to their home in Florida. There he will return to his own hometown—and witness the accident that launches a bittersweet reunion with his childhood sweetheart, Allie. When Joseph offers to help Allie rebuild her restaurant, it seems the flame may reignite—until a 45-year-old secret from the past begins to emerge, threatening to destroy all hope for their second chance at love. In Send Down the Rain, Charles Martin proves himself to be a storyteller of great wisdom and compassion who bears witness to the dreams we cherish, the struggles we face, and the courage we must summon when life seems to threaten what we hold most dear.

A second Vietnam War book this month, Martin brings to life the struggles of veterans, including PTSD, trouble with forgiveness, addiction, and abuse.  There are war scenes that will leave you struggling to understand how anyone can move forward after these experiences.  The story is told in both the present day and in flashbacks (to the war scenes), and we get a true depth of the main character as he takes a journey of self-forgiveness and healing.  There is also a story-within-a-story, which will keep you intrigued, but they come together in the end.  Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, Martin brings the main character through the fire to rise again in the end.


NON-FICTION
Everyday Holy (Melanie Shankle)
It is a rite of passage for every woman: the day you wake up and say, ?Wait, THIS is the life I signed up for?!?? We've all been there---Melanie Shankle is just brave enough to say it out loud. Everyday Holy is your invitation to reexamine your life and find the beautiful little pieces that create a picture of a beautiful big God.

I've enjoyed every Melanie Shankle book I've ever picked up...she's like that friend who has no filter and isn't afraid to let you know it!  Hearing her speak is like talking to a good friend; she has your best interests at heart and loves to help you be your best self.  Unlike her other books, this is not so much of a novel; it is a devotional.  Each day has a piece on finding the holy moments throughout your day, no matter what your schedule looks like or how strung up you feel.  She shows us how each day is a gift from God, and we just need to remember to open it up!  The book itself is beautiful, and it would make a great gift for Mother's Day.

Breaking the Fear Cycle (Maria Furlough)
It seems there is more to fear now than ever, but fear and anxiety are nothing new to human beings--or to God. The Bible calls us to not be afraid on many occasions, and of course we all want to live without fear. But just how is that accomplished when every news item seems designed to get us wringing our hands? Using her own story as a catalyst, Maria Furlough shows readers how to overcome fear for good. She calls readers to make a list of their fears, to choose to bring those fears to God rather than acting on them, and to trust God with the future. She shows how when we give God full control over our lives, choosing his sovereignty over our own ability, we can break the cycle of fear, grow through suffering, and trust God to fulfill his promises of protection and peace. Anyone who is filled with anxiety over their personal circumstances, the state of the world today, or even their fear-clogged social media feeds will welcome this hands-on journey from fear to freedom.

No one wants to admit that they live with fear, but so many people actually do.  The author recognizes that and talks about it in a truthful, but loving, way.  She offers practical strategies for overcoming those fears and really learning to live.  Each of the eleven chapters features personal stories, advice for overcoming the particular fear, questions for further exploration, and a personal prayer.  The book is written in a conversational tone, and the author does a good job of relating to the reader and offering acceptance, guidance, and strength.  She shows that, though it is hard work, the cycle of fear can be broken if you want it to be.  There is also a section showing how to use the book in a small group setting.



Adamant (Lisa Bevere) 
By ancient definition, the adamant was known as both a diamond and a mythical stone of indestructible wonder. In more modern terminology, it describes a posture of unshakeable resolve and determination. If there was ever a time for us to be adamant about love and truth it is now. God is Love. God is Truth. Both love and truth are timeless, transcending our current trends and opinions. Sometimes the most loving thing we will ever do is to speak the truth, but speaking truth begins with living it. Using the mediums of Scripture and story, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Bevere takes readers on a journey into the Mountain of God, to the one place they can learn not only to abide in God's unshakeable truth and love, but become adamant--people who are unmovable, determined, and steadfast. With conviction and passion, Lisa unpacks the concept of the adamant for readers, linking together the grand story of Scripture and God's purpose in their lives. Readers will see that God's plan is revealed as we dwell in him, it is there that we are forged and shaped. As we abide in Christ our Cornerstone we are shaped into the image of the adamant. 



This book is much-needed in today's society, where the truth changes from day to day, its fluidity determined by the motives of various interest groups and pop culture.  The book has eleven chapter, covering how (and why) to be adamant in love, hate, intimacy, transformation, and holiness, among others.  There are also appendices with scripture that is related to those chapters.  The author uses examples from her own life in each of the chapters, and speaks in a way that is easy to relate to.  It is about recognizing the truth, understanding the truth, and having the courage to stand firm in it.

Boots on the Ground (Elizabeth Partridge)
America's war in Vietnam. In over a decade of bitter fighting, it claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American soldiers and beleaguered four US presidents. More than forty years after America left Vietnam in defeat in 1975, the war remains controversial and divisive both in the United States and abroad. The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it's the personal stories of eight people—six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee—that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans' struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam. With more than one hundred photographs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge's unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.

Many of us remember our fathers’ battles with the scars of Vietnam, but to our children, this is ancient history. Their grandfather doesn’t want to speak of it, and it’s just something that happened long ago. This book brings the war to life for them, and does it with all of the details of a non-fiction book, while maintaining a story flow of a fiction book. This book covers the war itself, the government during the war, the protests, the refugees, and the treatment of soldiers upon return. It has interviews with people who were there, and includes stark photographs that bring those people to life. There’s no bias, either; she presents the facts and leaves it up to the reader to decide his/her opinion on the conflict. In truth, it’s a timely book, as we appear to be doomed to repeat this episode of history through the actions of our government (over the past decade or so, not just the current one), and it’s time that we all brush up on our history before we make the same mistakes.


Devotions from the Lake (Thomas Nelson)

Life is better at the lake—but you already knew that. Capture the sweetest parts of lake life with 100 peaceful devotions and gorgeous photography in Devotions from the Lake. This beautiful book offers insight into how God meets us through rest and play, and how to bring all the best parts of “lake life” to everyday life.  Life has a way of slowing down and simplifying when you’re by the water. Enjoying long walks, ice cream cones, and watercolor sunsets with your family and friends is a way of life on lake days . . . wouldn’t it be a dream to live like that year-round?  Devotions from the Lake includes 100 devotions and beautiful photography.It is a wonderful way to start each day at the lake with quiet devotional time as you gain deeper insight into how God meets us through rest and play and how to bring all the best parts of “lake life” to everyday life.  It’s the perfect gift for any lake lover or a happy way to keep a little piece of the lake with you at all times.

In the same vein as Devotions from the Beach, this is a beautiful hardcover book with incredible pictures that will draw you in.  Each day begins with a short Bible verse and ends with a prayer.  The photographs are so beautiful and engaging, you'll want to leave this one out where company can pick it up and flip through it.  The devotions are short - one to two minutes long - and would be appropriate for family gathering time or your morning 'alone' time.  As the title indicates, they are all lake-themed, and will help to re-center your spirit.  This book is also excellent at bringing a sense of calm!

I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.

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