Monday, December 31, 2007

Book Review: "Home to Holly Springs" by Jan Karon


We're on our way back home

Father Tim has left Mitford and all he loves. He's gone back to his hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi to rediscover his roots. The reader is taken on a journey where Father Tim tries to reconnect with his past and find out more about his parents and those he used to love. Flashbacks help to flesh out the whole story about the man readers have grown to love. Along the way, he makes a shocking discovery that will change his life forever.

I got started reading the Jan Karon books about three and a half years ago thanks to my boyfriend's mother. I had considered reading them for a while before that but I had just never gotten around to it. Also, other women I had worked with in my church library said I was too young to read the books. But my BF's mom told me I would really like them. So I broke down and read the first Mitford book. And I loved it. Since at this point all the books were out I proceeded to read all 9 books in 3 months. When I finished the last book, I was delighted to hear that there would be a new series with Father Tim and I was eagerly awaiting the release of it. The book is a bit slow in the beginning. Since this novel is focusing almost entirely on Father Tim, there is little mention of all the Mitford characters we've grown to love. And that is a little difficult at first because you miss hearing about all the familiar names and going ons in Mitford. Luckily Father Tim does have frequent calls with Cynthia so we still get to hear from her and he brings along Barnabas as well, so there is a familiar doggy face with us.

The story is interesting because we get to learn more about a man that we thought we knew everything about. I liked the flashbacks as we learn more about Father Tim's childhood, his relationship with his parents, and what it was like for him growing up in the south.
There was a bit of confusion for me because there were two characters named Peggy. I could not figure out for a couple of chapters which one was which. There is also some mild cursing in this book so be prepared for some peppery language sprinkled throughout. There is a shocking revelation at the end, one that I found very surprising. It will be interesting to see how this will be played out in future books especially with interaction from the Mitford crew. If you are a Mitford fan, then I would definitely recommend picking up this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking very forward to when the next book comes out.

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon is published by Viking Press(2007)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Movie Review: "Amazing Grace"

For my last movie review of 2007, I picked a movie that every time I saw the trailer I got excited. In fact it was the movie I was most anticipating to watch this year. Never mind the big blockbusters or award winners, this was the movie that I have been wanting to watch since I first saw the trailer. Amazing Grace is a song that EVERYBODY knows, whether they are Christian or not. Even just the tune is familiar to all.

I thought this movie was EXTREMELY well done. The story is inspirational and moving. I love historical movies set in Britain during the 1700-1800s so this definately made me enjoy watching this. I love period pieces because of the costumes and settings and this movie did not disappoint. The acting is so powerful in this movie. All the characters were played extremely well especially Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce. He should have gotten nominated for this movie. I also really like Michael Gambon in this movie, his character is not at all what you expect. Of course I kept seeing Dumbledore at first every time he appeared on screen. Also equally moving, is Albert Finney's portrayal of John Newton, the writer of the song Amazing Grace. Every time he was on screen I wanted to cry because his portrayal was so touching. And even though this is a serious topic there were lots of funny little scenes thrown in. My two favorites are the golf scene and the boring speech scene (if you watch it you'll know what I mean). Just little tidbits to make you laugh and break up the serious mood. By the end of the movie you want to stand up and cheer along with everyone.

And this is really a side note, but isn't Ioan Gruffudd just gorgeous in this movie? Definitely a great casting choice using Mr. Fantastic! Also, I had never heard of this actor before, my goodness Benedict Cumberpatch is WOW as William Pitt. I'm going to have to go look at this guy's other films. Apparently he is in that new movie Atonement. Definitely going to have to check out that movie now lol. Of course I'm referring to how these guys looked when they weren't wearing their wigs. The wigs they have to wear while in Parliament just made them looked really bad. I know that was the fashion at the time but it just made everyone who wore them look really...bad.

There was only one thing that irked me about this movie. It was the fact that everyone in the movie was SINGING the title. Unfortunately the tune to the song did not happen until years later so while they could have sang the song, it would not have been to the familiar tune that we all know. Also, what on earth did they do to Rufus Sewell? He goes from looking like a hunk in The Holiday to a long haired hippie in this movie. I'm not sure why they made him the ugly guy.

Other than that, I truly enjoyed this movie. It's a movie that the whole family can watch, and treasure for a long time. It's really inspirational and a tear jerker. It definately ranks in my top 10 movies of 2007.

After watching this movie if you are still interested in learning more about the characters, I recommend listening to Focus on the Family's Radio Theater version of Amazing Grace. It tells the stories of John Newton, William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. It's a very well done dramatization. It is a bit intense at times with the descriptions of slavery so I would recommend this more towards teens and adults.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book Review: "Seventy Times Seven" by Brandt Dodson


Forgive and forget

Colton Parker has been called to another case. This time he's been hired to find the wife of a man who supposedly had everything. She's disappeared without a trace and her husband has hired Colton to bring her back home. Without much to go on, Colton begins to hunt for Claudia while having to deal with his strained relationship with his daughter. The revelations from both events put Colton to the test in discovering more about his own personal issues.

This is a book I believe guys will love. It has everything they could possibly want in a book. Of course female readers will enjoy this book too but I really think that Dodson has huge potential for the male readership in Christian fiction. The story is a fast paced page turner. I could not put this book down. The story is riveting and makes you think a lot as well as keep you on the edge of your seat. This is one of the edgiest novels that I've read in Christian fiction and really enjoyed it more because of that fact. Like the first novel in the series, it's gritty and realistic and does not sugarcoat life at all. If you're used to clean sanitized fiction, I would recommend being prepared to read this book with wide open eyes. I really like Colton's character. He is flawed. He has relationship problems with his daughter. He breaks rules to get information for his job. But he's one of the coolest characters I've read in a book this year. The ending is a shocker, one that I did not see coming. I'm looking to forward to seeing how it will play out in future books. Fans of mainstream suspense authors like James Patterson are sure to devour this book. Like I said before everyone will enjoy this series, but male readers will definitely get a kick of these books. HIGHLY recommended.

Seventy Times Seven by Brandt Dodson is published by Harvest House (2006)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Review: "Torrent Falls" by Jan Watson


You can go home again

Copper Brown is now a single mother raising her young daughter. She has returned to her home at Troublesome Creek after the death of her husband to start her life over again. Now the local midwife, she tends to the needs of others. Then an old childhood sweetheart returns and Copper begins to fall in love again, finally able to erase the pain. But just when it looks like there will be a happy ending, secrets from John's past threaten to destroy any future for him and Copper.

This is the third book in the Troublesome Creek series. I was worried that since I hadn't read the other two I would be completely lost. Luckily this book can stand alone as a novel because there is enough back story so a new reader would not be lost. I really liked Copper's character. She's a single mom living in the frontier but she is fully capable of supporting herself. Yes there is a man she is in love with but she doesn't need him to take care of her all the time. Her relationship with her daughter is very loving and tender. This is especially important because Copper is also a midwife and also serves as the area's doctor to those in need. The other characters in the story are interesting especially the siblings Dimmert, Darcy and Dance. The first two come out of nowhere to help out Copper and her daughter while the Dance needs Copper to help her with her own child.

I enjoyed reading about these characters because they added life to the story. Copper's relationship with John is passionate yet they both keep restraint due to being strong in their faith.
I was worried that the ending would be typical of most Christian fiction when involving secrets that could ruin an engagement. However I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome because it was unique and not at all what I had expected. Fans of the other two books will probably enjoy reading more about Copper and her adventures. I myself am looking forward to going back and reading the previous novels in this series and I'm hoping to read more future novels about Copper's life.

Torrent Falls by Jan Watson is published by Tyndale (2008)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

12 Days of Christmas - Love

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Love


God's Gift of Love

by Kathleen Y'Barbo

Love. It seems as though everyone these days is either in desperate avoidance of it, in the heart wrenching process of losing it, or in the giddy throes of finding it. Some have given up on it while others believe they will know it when they see it. All of us hope when it’s our turn, the love we get - and give - will be unconditional.

But can flawed humans really offer unconditional love?

Oh, we try. If you’re a parent you know the depth of love you felt the first moment you saw that precious baby of yours. Then there’s the feelings you carried up the aisle to join your beloved at the altar. Or perhaps love to you is counted by the nights spent at a parent’s bedside. The thread of love winds through each of these, and yet it is the rare parent, spouse, or child who would admit to having loved perfectly. We are human and sadly flawed, even when we act with the best of intentions.

There is only one unconditional love that never fails. Only one love that never turns a blind eye, says the wrong thing, or procrastinates rather than acts. The love of the Father, our Heavenly Father, is perfect in every way. Not only is His love unconditional, but He also loves us in spite of who we are and not for what we are. How wonderful to know that the God of the universe loves us.

Not just love in the way we see it, the stars-in-our-eyes crazy-about-my-baby love, but a depth of feeling exponentially more than anything our flawed but well intentioned hearts could imagine.

So today, when you’re reminded of that tiny baby, Jesus Christ the Creator-made-flesh, think of the love it took to accomplish this holy miracle of unconditional love. To put on the fingers and toes of an infant and come to us as Savior was the beginning of a love story that has no end.

Kathleen Y’Barbo

Kathleen Y'Barbo is the author of Beloved Castaway and countless other books. For more information visit www.kathleenybarbo.com.

Monday, December 24, 2007

12 Days of Christmas - Uncluttered Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas



God's Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas

by Cyndy Salzmann

It was enough to curl my toes. And a quick glance at the other mother’s in the audience told me I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

So what horrendous experience caused such a reaction from a room full of moms? A violent or sexually explicit movie? A challenge from Doctor Phil to “get real” and ‘fess up about our parenting faux pas? Or a pan of the audience spotlighting a really bad hair day?

Actually, the event that caused such a panic among this audience of mothers occurred during the Christmas program at my daughter’s school.

Things started innocently enough when the girls marched out onto the stage swinging colorful shopping bags. Of course, they were adorable and the apples of their mothers’ eyes. The trouble began when the girls opened their mouths and sang…

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

Scurry! Scurry! Scurry!

Worry! Worry! Worry!

Christmastime is here!

As I said, it was enough to curl my toes. Just the thought of all that hurrying, scurrying and worrying to prepare for Christmas gave me a full-blown a hot flash. No wonder depression peaks during the holidays. Faced with all that stress , I wouldn’t want to get out of bed either.

Once my hot flash ceded, I began to realize that this is just where Satan wants us – dreading the celebration of the most precious gifts to mankind – the birth of Jesus Christ. And frankly, it made my blood boil – almost bringing on another hot flash. I decided right then that he wasn’t going to get away with it.

We have a choice on how much hurrying, scurrying and worrying we do. And this year I hope you’ll make a commitment to join me in uncluttering your Christmas by jumping off the treadmill and keeping your eyes on the true reason for the season.

BTW- I have a tip sheet with practical ideas and advice to help you to simplify your holidays and focus on Jesus’ birth. Just contact me at cyndy@cyndysalzmann.com and I’ll email you a copy.

Cyndy Salzmann is the author of Crime & Clutter, book two in the highly acclaimed Friday Afternoon Mystery series published by Howard Books. As America’s Clutter Coach, Cyndy is a popular national speaker and radio personality. Cyndy, her husband and three children, live in Omaha, Nebraska. For more information visit http://www.cyndysalzmann.com/

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fall Reading Challenge Wrap Up


Well all good things must come to an end. And the Fall Reading Challenge is now over. How'd I do? Well I read all the books (33) on my list PLUS 20 more for a grand total of 53 books in 3 months!!!!!

Here's the list of the books I read for the challenge.

Here's a breakdown of the OTHER books that I read

Christian Ficton:
  1. Unwrapping Christmas by Lori Copeland
  2. The Parting by Beverly Lewis
  3. Reconstructing Natalie by Laura Jensen Walker
  4. They Guy I'm Not Dating by Trish Perry
  5. Just Jane by Nancy Moser
  6. Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge
  7. Try Dying by James Scott Bell
  8. Heather by Debra White Smith
  9. Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh
  10. Doesn't She Look Natural? by Angela Hunt
  11. The Restorer's Son by Sharon Hinck
  12. Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker
  13. A Shadow of Treason by Tricia Goyer
  14. Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon
  15. Your Chariot Awaits by Lorena McCourtney
  16. Echoes by Kristen Heitzmann
  17. Around the World in 80 Dates by Christa Ann Banister
  18. The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson
Non Fiction:
  1. Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd
Chick Lit:
  1. Slightly Married by Wendy Markham

  • What was the best book you read this fall? Gosh there were all sorts of goodies. Top 3 would be Splitting Harriet, Around the World in 80 Dates and Reconstructing Natalie. Chick lit of course :)
  • What book could you have done without? I liked all the books this time but I was disappointed with Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty. It just didn't have the same zing as the other books in the series.
  • Did you try out a new author this fall? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again? Yes! I finally caved in and read Karen Kingsbury. And I found that I've liked what I've read so far. I'll continue to read her books now.
  • If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it? I finished all my books this time around. An Assembly Such as This took me a while to get into mostly because I haven't actually read Pride and Prejudice yet and had only the movie to compare it too. Unfortunately until I read P&P, I won't finish that series.
  • Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones? Enjoyed seeing all the other Christian fiction books on other TBR lists. Makes me want to go back and reread them again.
  • What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share! I can read up to 3 books at a time. So what I did was read 2 books from the list, 1 from each library and then another 3rd book from the TBR stack of books that I own not on the list. That way I would read books that I wanted to read and books I had to finish.
  • What was the best part of the Fall Reading Challenge? I read all my library books that I had kept putting off. So I got them all done with no fines to pay!
  • Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this spring? Definitely. Will keep me straight on another library book pile. It's already starting to pile up again. Lol.
  • Any other thoughts, impressions, or comments. Thanks for hosting this Katrina!!!! Can't wait til spring!

Fall Reading Challenge

**This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for current entries and book giveaways.**

FINISHED!!!!!



Well it's that time of the year again! Katrina at Callapidder Days is issuing out the command to get our reading lists out and done!
"As a quick refresher, the purpose of this challenge is for us to establish some goals for our reading this Fall and then work toward them. Whether you have a pile of books that you've been intending to read but just haven't yet, or you need a gentle prod to finish some books that you started but then abandoned, or you would just like a little accountability as you work through your reading stack, this is the place for you. Whether you're reading for fun, reading to learn, reading to be inspired, or reading to your kids, you are welcome here!"

So without further adieu is here is my list for the challenge! (I will be having reviews for most of the books up on my blog once I am finished with the book, so this is a preview of what is to come for the next few months). Note: These are all my library books, which means these MUST be read by the end of the challenge or face the wrath of fines! I haven't listed books I own because I don't know if I'll get around to them, but they might pop up at the end of the challenge on my list.

Christian Fiction

  1. Revealed by Tamera Alexander
  2. Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines
  3. Ghostwriter by Rene Gutteridge
  4. Kaleidoscope Eyes by Karen Ball
  5. The Color of the Soul by Tracey Bateman
  6. Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser
  7. Crystal Lies by Melody Carlson
  8. Finding Anna by Christine Schaub
  9. Relentless by Robin Parrish
  10. Armando’s Treasure by Melody Carlson
  11. Island Breeze by Lynn Bulock
  12. Rustlers by Karen Rispin
  13. Shades of Light by Melody Carlson
  14. The Wiseman’s House by Melody Carlson
  15. Voyage by Elaine Schulte
  16. Controlling Interests by Tracie Peterson
  17. Surrender by Lynn Bulock
  18. Reunion by Karen Ball
  19. Flower Girl Bride by Dana Corbit
  20. The Parting by Beverly Lewis
  21. Be My Neat Heart by Judy Baer
  22. Texas Tender by Sharon Gillenwater
  23. - 25. A Kingsbury Collection (which is really 3 books: Where Yesterday Lives, When Joy Came to Stay and On Every Side) by Karen Kingsbury

YA Fiction

  1. Moonstruck in Manhattan by Wendy Lee Nentwig
  2. Cabs, Cameras and Catastrophes by Wendy Lee Nentwig
  3. Harsh Pink by Melody Carlson

Chick Lit

  1. How Nancy Drew Saved My Life by Lauren Baratz- Logstead
  2. Dating Can Be Deadly by Wendy Roberts
  3. Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate by Kyra Davis
  4. Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

Historical Fiction

1. An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan

This time I've divided the books into categories so you can see exactly what I'm reading. I have some new authors I've never read before plus a few re-reads for old times sake. For the spring challenge I read 50 books in 3 months. Will I beat that this time around? Come back December 21st to find out!

*Ok so I added 7 more books because I stopped by the library today and these were all on hold for me. And then I got home and looked online and saw that 2 more had come on hold after I had left. Bah. Lol, I love the library.

12 Days of Christmas - Memories

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Memories




God's Gift of Memories

by Marlo Schalesky


Memory is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’s bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making now, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don’t even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.


For more about the power of memories in our lives, check out Marlo's next novel, Beyond the Night, releasing in May. A woman in a hospital bed, a man sitting beside her, and between them, a memory that can set her free. Find out more at: http://www.marloschalesky.com/

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12 Days of Christmas - Story

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.


On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Story



God's Gift of Dreams and Story

by Melody Carlson


A dream doesn’t always seem like a gift from God, but sometimes I’ll experience one so vivid and amazing that I can’t help but think God is at work. I remember a dream that woke me in the middle of the night about ten years ago. I was so moved that I felt compelled to write it down. In my dream I saw a sweet angel who was distraught that Jesus was about to leave heaven to be born as a baby on earth. So she volunteered to give up being an angel and God transformed her into a magnificent star to light the night sky for the Big Event. I won’t tell the entire dream, but simply let it be said that the ending surprised everyone—including me. The story became a children’s Christmas book called The Greatest Gift (which is currently out of print). But as a result of that dream, I began to pay even more attention to my dreams. Sometimes I think that God simply uses them to show me things about my own life and sometimes my dreams wind up in my books.

Melody Carlson is the author of Ready to Wed, (Guideposts Books 2007). This story also involves a dream! For more information visit www.melodycarlson.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Distant Heart

(Avon Inspire January 2, 2008)

by

Tracey Bateman


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:








Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the First in the Westward Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She lives in Lebanon, Missouri, with her husband and their four children.



ABOUT THE BOOK

In the second book in the Westward Hearts trilogy, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?

This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way/ Thin Little House on the Prairie meets Francine river's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.

In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.

But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.

But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.

12 Days of Christmas - Unexpected Blessings

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.


On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Unexpected Blessings




God's Gift of Unexpected Blessings

by Angela Hunt

The arrival of our daughter from South Korea wasn’t exactly unexpected—we’d spent years longing for her, and then months praying for that little baby’s safe arrival in our arms.

And as I look back over the experience, I can’t help thinking of Mary, who must have had such mixed feelings when she held the infant Jesus in her arms. Great joy, for the promised child had arrived. Great responsibility for the fragile life in her care. And great dread for the difficulties and sorrows that would arise.

As a young mother, I knew there would be tough times, and I haven’t been disappointed. But through bad times and good, through loving moments and less-than-loving moments, I can see the hand of God’s sovereignty molding me, my husband, and my children into the people he intends us to be.

Christmas shines brightest in the eyes of children. But it resonates most deeply in the hearts of those who love them.

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt is the author of Doesn't She Look Natural? (Tyndale Publishers). For more information visit www.angelahuntbooks.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

12 Days of Christmas - Uniqueness

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.


On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Uniqueness




God's Gift of Uniqueness

by Tosca Lee

I used to hate my name. “Tosca” was too unusual. “Moon,” my middle name, was just downright embarrassing. “Lee” was all right, though it still set me apart from the rest of the Caucasian kids in my school. In an era when Christy Brinkley graced the cover of every fashion magazine, I did not wish to accentuate my different-ness.

The name I really wanted was Marie--probably because others had it and that meant I could at least buy one of those door plates for my bedroom door or license plates for my bike, which was my litmus test. As it was, they sure didn’t have plates for kids named “Tosca.”

In junior high, my friends called me “Weird Tosca.” I didn’t like that so much.

These days I teach about talent in my work as a consultant. I talk about the strange, quirky things that not only set people apart, but have the potential to make them great. A friend said to me once, “Stars have points.” He’s right. And when we blunt our points, we lose the defining characteristics of our unique mark in and contribution to this world.

Opportunities work much the same. It’s the unique ones that seem to hold the greatest potential impact. When my main character, Clay, bumps up against the opportunity to hear the story of creation from the viewpoint of a Demon, he is terrified--intrigued, but terrified. And so he resists. While his reaction might be in keeping with any sane person’s, it’s also a human reaction to the unusual. But in this case, it’s the unusual that might just might save his soul.

How has God revealed to you your uniquness? And what, most importantly, is He telling you to do with it?

Weird Tosca

“You need to know something more about Elohim: he is the ultimate force of creativity. He is the author of diversity.”

--Lucian, Demon: A Memoir

Tosca Lee is the author of Demon: A Memoir and of the upcoming Havah: The Story of Eve. For more information visit www.demonamemoir.com

Monday, December 17, 2007

12 Days of Christmas - Unconditional Acceptance

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.


On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


The Gift of Unconditional Acceptance



God's Gift of Unconditional Acceptance

by Lisa Samson

Clearly God Incarnate wasn't choosy. He wasn't born in a palace, but to a simple peasant woman bearing the stigma of a pregnancy conceived out of the bonds of matrimony. He wasn't even born in his own town, but endured a long ride to Bethlehem in his mother's womb only to be born in a stable among the livestock. Even after his ministry began he owned one robe and proclaimed himself homeless when He said, "Foxes have dens, birds have nest, but the Son of God has no place to lay His head."

If we used some TV preachers' standards today, Jesus clearly wasn't blessed by God. He didn't have the finest clothes, transportation or housing. Even most of His disciples weren't exactly candidates for a PhD. Clearly He must not have had enough faith if that's all He was getting from His Father!

But Christ isn't choosy and that is good news for us. For there isn't a single human being who can impress Him into shining His light of grace upon them. The stockbroker on Wall Street stands level with the illegal immigrant who picks strawberries. The evangelist in fine suits or sparkly dresses looks eye-to-eye with the busdriver. And the homeschool mom stands shoulder to shoulder with the prostitute. His love demands He looks above the good and the bad, and His arms are always open, ready to receive us when we are ready to receive Him. Sometimes we run back into His arms many times in one day and He doesn't care if we've showered or put on the latest fashions, He's only looking for a contrite heart. That's it. A heart that says, "I'm sorry."

This Christmastime, rest in the fact that you can't impress Christ. He doesn't care about our beautiful cookies or the fact that our trees look designer coordinated. He isn't impressed we ran around to ten different stores to find the perfect present for Aunt Sue. He just wants us to love Him, just as we are, for when we do, we incarnate Him in the here and now, and there's no telling what He'll do through us.

Lisa Samson is the author of Hollywood Nobody (NavPress, 2007), For more information visit www.lisasamson.com

Friday, December 14, 2007

Movie Review: "Spiderman 3"

You know how I have that self proclaimed ban on going to see any Kirsten Dunst movie in theaters? I nearly broke it for this movie. I mean come on... Tobey Maguire, James Franco AND Topher Grace??? You could not come up with a hotter trio! But alas, I held my stance and waited until the DVD came out. And as much as it would have been wonderful to see scenes of Topher shirtless on the big screen, I kept to my promise.

It was a good movie. Very action packed, way more than the other two combined in my opinion. The fight with the Venom Peter and Harry was very intense because you had two friends who are fighting against each other.

The scenes where Peter uses the black suit and acts strangely emo are slightly embarrassing. When he starts dancing in the street and then the whole scene in the night club, I hid my hands in my face. I felt embarrassed for him because it's so out of character for the dorky Peter Parker. And even though I love the hair and clothes that the Venom suit made him wear, it just did not suit him very well. Also his attitude made him ...well I won't resort to the bad language but you can catch my meaning.

I swear all Kirsten Dunst did in this movie was scream. And I even read online that her screams were reused from the past movies. I didn't feel like her character developed at all. I did feel sorry for her in the nightclub scene but other than that, nothing. I did like Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy. First off she looks completely different than how she did in Lady in the Water. And her character is genuinely nice. I hope she's in the next movie.

I felt bad for the Sandman. He seemed like a villain that didn't really want to be one. He was just doing things because of his daughter. And then he gets changed into a non human now. Just very sad ending for him. Eddie Brock on the other hand is a villain you don't feel sorry for. He wants to kill Peter so he will do anything to have that happen. The Venom suit is actually really scary especially when he opens his mouth. I've read that there might be a spin off for Venom to have his own movie. Hmm..

*This is a Huge spoiler so stop reading if you haven't' watched the movie yet.*

Why did they have to kill off Harry???? I mean right after he makes up with Peter and they became friends again, he has to die. James Franco is so hot. Ok that is all.

If you liked the other films, you'll enjoy this one. If you like hot guys, DEFINITELY watch this movie!

12 Days of Christmas - Imagination

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.


On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


The Gift of Imagination




God's Gift of Imagination

by Jack Cavanaugh

Christmas is a holiday for the imagination.

Angels and shepherds and wise men (oh my!),

Tyrants and taxes and stars in the sky!

No room for a bed

As tidings were spread

And the Father looked down from on high.

It’s no wonder the story of the nativity thrills our hearts year after year. It’s a wonderfully creative event orchestrated by a Deity who loves using His imagination. Take the temple priest’s robes for example. When the temple was first built God assembled all the skilled craftsmen and gave them instructions (Exodus 35:10). The craftsmen designing the priestly robes were told to adorn them with images of blue pomegranates (Exodus 39:24).

Blue?

There’s no such thing as a blue pomegranate! What was God thinking? If this kind of creativity were to catch on we could end up with Christmas cards with images of green angels, pink Christmas trees, and a plaid star over the manger!

If blue pomegranates bothers you…get over it! We have a wonderfully imaginative God who frequently colors outside the lines. Go, and do thou likewise.

Wishing you an imaginative Christmas season.

Jack Cavanaugh is the author of Hideous Beauty: Kingdom Wars #1 and countless other books. For more information visit www.JackCavanaugh.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review: "Blink of an Eye" by Ted Dekker

Not your normal princess in distress

Miriam lives in Saudi Arabia and is a princess. Seth lives in California and has an IQ that makes him a threat to the government. They are worlds away, almost destined never to meet. But arranged marriages, honor killings, secret flights across the world somehow manage to make the pair end up together. Fast past action, shockingly realistic events make this story a thrill ride to read with a forbidden love story thrown in between.

*Note: This book is a updated re-release of Blink which was originally published a few years ago*

This was my first Ted Dekker book that I have read. Well, I have read House, his collaboration with Frank Peretti, but this is the first full Dekker book that I chose to pickup. This book was actually different that what I thought was going to happen. I know Dekker's other works are more suspenseful or fantasy-ish. I had watched the movie Thr3e and had enjoyed it very much. Reading this book made me feel like I was watching the nightly news. This plot in this story is so relevant to this day and age. I liked Miriam's character very much. Without a doubt, she's one of the strongest female characters I've read in a while. This is mostly because she lives in an environment where she is not supposed to be strong. I was actually glad that Seth was sort of a dorky character. I think previous stories like this have always had an athletic, brawny, strong guy win the princess's heart. Actually there was even a part of me that was scared that if someone from the Middle East were to read this book, they might get insulted. The book was very well researched with regards to culture. This is also an action packed book, where the results can be quite intense and gory. If you have a squeamish stomach, I do not recommend reading this book. There are several scenes where it's almost too difficult to read because you know that scenes like this are taking place in the world. It brings awareness to the plight that many women live on the other side of the world. It really makes you feel grateful for the freedoms we have in our country. While there is a romance story, there is more than enough action to make up for male readers who hate romance. I would recommend this book to those who like a true, could have really happen story. Will definitely be looking forward to the movie of this book when it comes out.

Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker is published by Thomas Nelson (2007)

12 Days of Christmas - God's Patience

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


The Gift of God's Patience




The Gift of God's Patience

by Griffin Smith

(written by Todd & Jedd Hafer)


Thanks for reading, everybody. My name is Griffin Smith. I’m in my second year at Lewis College (Go Eagles!) on the track team. Specifically, I run distance. Okay, I realize “distance” isn’t really specific at all. In high school I ran the 1600 and 3200 meters – that’s the mile and 2-mile for those of still holding strong in the anti-metric resistance.

As a runner and big-time sinner, the gift I am most thankful for this Christmas (and every day) is patience. Not my own, as my dad likes to say “looooong-suffering”. No, I could use a ton more. I routinely lose my patience in class, in races, in relationships – even with my little brother Colby who overcame the burden of being named after cheese to become the sweetest kid on the planet.

The amazing gift is God’s patience. His patience with me – the most unsweetened kid on the planet (and I know that is not the most grammatically sound phrase, but it’s tough for me to write about positive subjects, so, if we’re going to play ball, you’re going to have to indulge me).

Anyway, I constantly criticize myself, even punish myself (since we’re trying to be positive, I won’t get into that now), but God, He just keeps loving me. I try to squirm away, I even bend God’s fingers back, He just patiently holds on. I swear the guy must be double-jointed.

I’m definitely thankful for that grip though. I’d hate to think He’d ever let go.

The point is I know He never will. It’s just not in His nature. Good news for people like me!

You can read more of Griffin Smith’s ramblings about his surface life and his private pain in the novels Bad Idea: A novel with Coyotes and From Bad to Worse: A novel with Girls by Todd and Jedd Hafer

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Lies Within by Karen Ball


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

What Lies Within

Multnomah Fiction (November 20, 2007)

by

Karen Ball


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karen Ball , bestselling novelist, is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. Her love for words was passed down through her father and grandfather - both pastors who shared God's truth through sermons and storytelling. Blending humor, poignancy, and honesty, Karen's writing style is a powerful force for revealing God's truth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Don, and their "kids," Bodhan, a mischief-making Siberian husky, and Dakota, an Aussie-terrier mix who should have been named "Destructo."

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Nothing’s going to stop Kyla…


until the ground crumbles beneath her feet.


Kyla Justice has arrived. Her company, Justice Construction, is one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful companies in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, something is missing. Not until she’s called on to build a center for inner-city kids does she realize what it is: her sense of purpose. Now nothing can stop her, not the low budget, not supply problems, not gang opposition, not her boyfriend’s suggestion that she sell her business and marry him–and most especially not that disagreeable Rafael Murphy.

Rafe Murphy understands battle. Wounded in action, this Force Recon Marine carries the scars–and the nightmares–to prove it. Though he can’t fight overseas any longer, he’s found his place as a warrior in the civilian world. So he soldiers on, trusting that one of these days, God will reveal to him why Rafe survived the ambush in Iraq. That day has arrived.

Kyla and Rafe both discover that determination alone won’t carry them through danger and challenges. When gang violence threatens their very foundations, there’s only one way to survive: rely on each other, be real–and surrender to God. In other words, risk everything…

12 Days of Christmas - Restoration

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


The Gift of Restoration



God's Gift of Restoration

by Rachel Thoene

When I was but a wee child, I had many opportunities to travel with my dad’s folks, Nonnie and Papa, on trips to the coast with their house trailer.

My Nonnie was religious about packing sandwiches, fresh home made cookies and fruit for the trip. She wrapped the cookies and sandwiches in wax paper… this was before the days of juice boxes and Lunchables… and the whole picnic was packed neatly into one or two sturdy shoe boxes for the trip. A thermos of coffee for she and Papa and one of milk for me. The trip to the coast was only about two and a half hours long, but about half way there, Papa would slow the rig to a wide spot in the road and we would have a “picnic” together before continuing on our way to the ocean.

I was asked to contribute some thoughts on the gift of God’s restoration vs. life’s destination.

As I mulled a few thoughts over, it occurred to me that Nonnie’s “shoe box lunches” were a lot like God’s gift of restoration… Sure we had a destination in mind. It was exciting to get out of the valley and go spend time at the ocean with the sand and the waves and time all to myself with my Nonnie and Papa collecting shells… but the picnic lunch on the side of the road DURING the trip restored us and provided a brief respite in our journey.

Lately, my heart has been troubled and anxious as I have been caring for a friend with a very serious cancer. And I have found myself, head down, walking my campus during the day at work, talking to God about her condition and the outcome of all of this agony…And as I have conversed with Him on these strolls, I have picked up an amazing number of Pennies… every day… pennies… sometimes it’s only one or two, sometimes I’ve found 12 or more… but every day…pennies. And the curious thing is that every single one of those pennies says, “In God we Trust.” And I pick them up, put them in my pocket and say, “Thank you Lord. We are blessed today and we are whole, healthy, healed and restored…”

I believe that my friend is going to be well at the end of all of this, because God reminds me daily through those pennies to TRUST HIM”. And every penny draws me closer to Him so that I am focusing now on the moment and my conversation with Him, daily being restored in my faith and claiming her healing and I’m not any longer worrying about the destination or when we’re going to get there, because we have been given THIS MOMENT and in THIS Moment, I’m going to just pull my rig to the side of the road and have a picnic with Him in my heart.

Rachel Thoene is the author of The Vase Of Many Colors (Capstone Books, 2007), For more information visit www.thoenebooks.com