Friday, February 29, 2008

Hope for the Journey Through Cancer by Yvonne Ortega

I'm giving away a brand new copy of today's book! Leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Friday, March 7. Good luck!

Would you go to work wearing a surgical mask and surgical gloves? Yvonne Ortega did during aggressive chemotherapy. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it's important to realize that cancer is a difficult illness to face. Ortega gives a message of hope and encouragement for those who are struggling with the devastating effects of cancer in her book Hope for the Journey through Cancer.

The book offers 60 short inspirational readings, each containing a part of Ortega's own story from diagnosis to recovery. She shares her personal triumphs and setbacks with humor and refreshing candor, with hope builders to remind us that even when it looks like we are alone, God is with us each step of the way. Hope for the Journey through Cancer is written in a caring and compassionate voice from one who has been there.

Ortega says, "Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a devastating experience. Our lives are never the same. We are not losing our minds. We are frightened, and this is natural. It's okay to cry. If we look around, we will see we are not alone. God would never think of abandoning us." In sharing this experience, Ortega helps readers see that, though cancer is a difficult illness to face, they do not have to face it alone.


Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner, a clinically certified domestic violence counselor, and a member of the Virginia Board of Counseling. She celebrates her sixth year as a breast cancer survivor. Ortega is an inspirational speaker to groups of all sizes and makes her residence in Yorktown, Virginia.


Interview with Yvonne Ortega

With all the books on cancer survivors already out there, why did you chose to write this book on cancer?

Cancer shattered my world. I wanted a book full of Scripture, prayer, and hope that would assure patients and their families that God would never leave them or forsake them. I also wanted a book that, with honesty and boldness, would address the emotional roller coaster ride that cancer patients, even Christian ones, endure.

Was there anything good that came about through your illness?

Oh, yes. I am a stronger Christian today. I know God loves me and that he is faithful. I no longer doubt his call on my life as a counselor as well as an author and speaker. After going through the trauma of cancer, I counsel with more effectiveness. When clients tell me they are scared, depressed, or angry, I understand because I've experienced those same emotions.

During your illness and now in recovery, have you ever asked God, "Why" or "Why me?"

I didn't ask, but I lashed out in anger at God. I knew he called me to be a counselor. So I spent hundreds of hours studying, writing papers, and completing projects and paid thousands of dollars for my master's degree in counseling. Half-way through my residency, I received my diagnosis of cancer. I thought the timing was outrageous and let God know it.

Is there ever a time when you can laugh about cancer?

I asked God to help me keep my sense of humor. The day my hair started to fall out, I went to work with wet hair. My colleagues thought I had a power outage. I told them I was afraid to blow dry my hair because I might blow it all off and arrive looking like a Buddhist monk. I laugh now about how angry I was with God. I thought he had made a mistake. Now I understand he used the cancer for good in my life and the lives of others. I laugh every time I reminisce about George, my radiation therapist. He entertained me with stories about his childhood adventures.

What is the most important lesson you learned from your experience in having cancer?

In God's economy, nothing is wasted, not even cancer. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I prayed that God would use cancer for good in my life and the lives of others, that it would be to his honor and glory, and for furthering his kingdom here on earth. I never dreamed he would do that through the publication of my book, much less through TV and radio interviews and speaking engagements.

Was the Bible real to you during treatment?

The Bible filled me with hope and peace. I clung to God's precious promises during treatment and wrote verses with special meaning in my 3x5 notebook. Within days, I memorized those passages and repeated them daily. Terrified after my diagnosis, I slept with the Bible literally over my heart. I took my 3x5 notebook with me daily to radiation and reviewed my Bible memory verses on the way to treatment.

Why do some cancer survivors say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them?

We say this because God has used cancer as a refining fire for us. He has used it to make us better people, stronger Christians, and more powerful in our careers and outreach.

How do you live differently today as a result of having had cancer?

I've learned to listen to my body. When I get tired, I take a nap. When I'm thirsty, I stop and drink water. Short breaks from my work help me relax. A weekend at the beach revives me. I don't put off my plans and dreams because "next year" may never come. I signed up for a phone package with unlimited long-distance calls. Now I can call my family and friends any time. I appreciate the little things in life--thirty-minute walks to enjoy God's beautiful world, a ride in my friend's convertible, and sunrise and sunset at the beach. I also left teaching to become a full-time counselor because I felt God leading me to do so. I've never looked back.

How did you keep your spirits up while going through the cancer treatments?

I played praise and worship music every day and watched videos and DVDs by Christian comedians. During treatment, I planned the party I would have after completing my residency and obtaining my state license. I selected the music for the dance my friend would choreograph for us to perform. I dreamed about the sheet cake with white icing and hot pink roses with "Yvonne Ortega, LPC" and "To God be the glory" on the cake. I chose the Bible verses for my party invitations. After my diagnosis, I accepted an invitation to present a workshop on writing devotionals at the Maine Christian Writers Fellowship state conference the following August. I listened to tapes and researched the topic to prepare for my workshop and looked forward to the reunion with fellow writers in Maine and snacks of delicious Maine blueberries.

Did you ever think about giving up--that the treatments were too hard?

After my second treatment, my blood counts dropped to 500. Normal is between 4,000 and 11,000. My doctor hospitalized me. She said she would release me when my counts rose to 1,000. My counts dropped two days in a row. I called my parents to come see me, but Dad's heart condition prevented them from doing so. I feared I would die alone in a military hospital more than an hour from my home. After my final chemotherapy treatment, I thought I would never stop vomiting. I experienced a weariness that made my bones ache. I had to keep reminding myself that it would soon pass and in a few months I would travel to Maine for the writers' conference.

What kinds of emotions did you experience during this time?

I experienced denial. If I didn't talk about the cancer, maybe it would go away. I experienced anger at God, the government, the Food & Drug Administration, televangelists who preached health and wealth, and anyone who told me Christians couldn't be angry with God. Fear overwhelmed me after my diagnosis and at times during treatment. Depression forced me to my knees in prayer. When I found out the cancer had traveled to one lymph node and adjacent to another, I became depressed.

Are these emotions typical for every cancer patient?

Not every cancer patient will experience all of them. However, these emotions are typical. Also cancer patients don't experience one feeling, get over it, and then go on to another one. They can go back and forth.

What can people do to help friends who are going through cancer treatments?

Listen without judging them. Expect cancer patients to ride an emotional roller coaster. Send cards, post cards, or e-mail greeting cards, especially humorous ones. Phone and visit them. Prepare a meal for them and take it in a disposable container or help with yard work and house work. Buy groceries and run errands for them. Take cancer patients to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and pray with them and for them.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: "Stuck in the Middle" by Virginia Smith


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stuck in the Middle

Revell (February 1, 2008)

by

Virginia Smith


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker with the release of her first novel Just As I Am.

Since then she has contracted eight novels and published numerous articles and short stories. She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007) and her newest release, Stuck in the Middle(Revell, February 2008), book 1 in the Sister-to-Sister Series.

Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines. An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”

Virginia is a speaker, and an avid Scuba diver. She and her husband Ted, divide their times between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for diving trips to the Caribbean!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Joan Sanderson's life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement-or romance.

That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal--to catch his eye and get a date. But it won't be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can't compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut and into the life she's been hiding from.

Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry that is sure to make you smile.

"A gentle story of one young woman's season of growth, deftly blending the tangle of family relationships with gifts of whimsey and revelation. A joy to read."
~SHARON HINCK, author of Renovating Becky Miller and Symphony of Secrets~

"Virginia Smith has created a charming and humerous novel that celebrates small-town life, generations of women caring for each other, and the value of finding a deeper, more active faith."
~SHARON DUNN, author of the Bargain Hunters mysteries~


Breaking out of my shell

As part of a three sister family myself, this book really reached out to me. I could totally relate with how the sisters acted and all the drama that goes on between them. The rivalry, the arguments, the late night gab fest- been there, done that. Anyone who has at least one sister will definately relate to this book. Joan started off at first as a sort of martyr-ish character who gave up everything to help out everyone else. Then as the story progresses she allows herself to do things that will make her own self happy.
I really liked how Joan allowed herself to come out of her shell regarding church. She was attending her old church simply because of tradition and not really getting much out of it. Even thought it was new and different for her, I'm glad she let herself become open minded to help update her own church. The same went for her relationship with her mother and grandmother. I could understand the arguments from both sides but there were times when I felt that Joan was not looking at the situation too clearly. I loved her relationship with her own McDreamy doctor. The chemistry between the two of them is wonderful and you can really feel the sparks fly.

This book has it all with the romance, drama and hilarious moments. The dinner scene competition between Joan and Tori was a hoot. It's just one of the many laughs in the book.
I love all the characters in this book. It was really hard to put down and I found myself having a great time while reading it. I am looking forward to the other books in the series especially Allie's because like her I am the oldest sister. This series starts off with a bang with this wonderful gem of a book.

Stuck in the Middle
by Virginia Smith is published by Revell (2008)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Review: "Taming Rafe" by Susan May Warren

Bucking broncos couldn't stop me from reading this book

Rafe is a cowboy who's a professional bull rider. Katherine is a city girl who is trying to raise money to help out those in poor countries. The two collide when frustrated Rafe drives his car into the hotel where Kat is trying to fund raise for her cause. Sparks fly between the two when Kat tries to get him to donate his money to make up for damages. Soon the city girl visits the ailing cowboy on his own turf as they try to reconcile their differences. While she's at the ranch, Kat also tries to find out her family's past. Meanwhile Lolly, the owner of the diner, tries to hide secrets she's kept hidden for over twenty years as the man who's loved her forever tries to win her heart.

Westerns usually aren't my cup of tea, but this series has really grabbed my attention. And I'm not just talking about the covers, even though they are SUPER HOT! This book taught me a lot about bull riding and the dangers that go with this sport. I've never really been a big fan of watching bull riding (and I still don't necessary agree with the sport even after reading the book) but I do have a lot more respect for the riders. It's a sport where you never know what's going to happen because you're not in control of the situation. I really liked Kat as a character. She has enough money to be a rich socialite but her heart is in the right place because she is focused on helping others. Her relationship with Brad adds suspense to the story with twists that the reader doesn't see coming. Rafe is a character that changes throughout the story. It's a interesting ride as the reader watches him grow. I loved the story within a story with the book that John wrote. It was actually quite a good read and I would have loved to have it more fleshed out as a story on its own. The only thing that irked me a bit was Lolly. I just wish she would have told Kat right off the bat who she was instead of clamming up. Of course it would have ruined the story, but I just hate it when things could have been resolved easily if there wasn't unnecessary drawn out drama. Also I didn't like the way she treated John. And women complain that there are never any good guys out there. All in all though, this was a wonderful story that I couldn't stop reading. I'm looking forward to reading the next book to find out more about Stefanie.

Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren is published by Tyndale (2008)

You can win a steak dinner with Rafe! Click here to enter.
Watch the book trailer!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review: "Maggie Come Lately" by Michelle Buckman



Not Sweet 16


Maggie is not the most popular in school. Since her mother committed suicide when Maggie was four, she's been the female head of her household. For years she's been in charge of most of the family affairs, leaving very little time for her to enjoy being a teenager. Then her father brings home another woman, who threatens to usurp Maggie's position in the house. There is also other things happening in her life: she discovers a girl from school in the woods who was raped, a dog is gruesomely killed near their house, and one of the youth group leaders is making her feel extremely uncomfortable. This is not what beeing 16 is supposed to be like....

This was an extremely powerful and moving story. The whole book you can completely relate to Maggie and feel for her. The opening scene is shocking with Maggie as a young child witnessing her mother's suicide and the effect it has on her for the rest of her life. I think a lot of girls will be able to relate to Maggie about not being popular and being on the outside looking in. And there will be also many who have to deal with parents dating and remarrying and the adjustments that come with that. The scenes where Maggie deals with having a taste of the in crowd, drinking and being with the popular guys are scenes that are all too familiar in high schools. The author obviously knows the way teens think and act.

There are serious topics discussed in the book. The scenes of the rape are harsh and graphic but teens need to read about this to know how to protect themselves. You feel the pain and the fear for both Maggie and the girl who was raped. The same goes for the idea of a sexual predator in the church. It's sad and scary that this happens even in a Christian community and it shows that you have to be careful of who you trust. I would definitely recommend this for older teens. Due to the mature content younger teens might not be ready for this but older teens should read this book. This book is comparable to Melody Carlson's books as a way to get teens to read. HIGHLY recommended.


Maggie Come Lately by
Michelle Buckman is published by NavPress (2007)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Closer than Your Skin by Susan D. Hill and BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I'm giving away a brand new copy of today's book! Leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Monday, March 3. Good luck!

If you crave the real experience of God’s presence in your daily life…

If you sense there’s more to Christianity than service, study, and superficial spirituality…

If you’re ready to go beyond knowing
about God
to truly
knowing Him…
Here’s where life with God begins.
Is God really like a father who cares about the details of our everyday lives? Then why does He often seem so far away, distant in the moments when we could most use a personal touch from Him? So many of us have lived in that unspoken longing. In these incredible stories, you’ll see how one person found that God is not always content to wait for us to discover Him amid the clutter of life. Instead, when we simply hold out our hands, He illuminates our ordinary world and gives us new eyes to see. Closer Than Your Skin traces the journey of an ordinary Christian who longed to move beyond the trappings of faith to genuine life with God. Her story reveals how to overcome the obstacles that most often block such intimate connection. Through this remarkable account, you’ll gain tangible insight into what a daily, vibrant companionship with the Creator really feels like once you wake up to the eternal reality all around you.

Author Susan Hill traces her discovery of a vibrant companionship with God and shows how it can become an everyday reality for anyone. Through stirring stories from her life, she assures readers that knowing God is more than spiritual rhetoric; it’s reality for those who learn to recognize His voice.

Susan D. Hill is an award-winning feature writer and a leader of interdenominational women’s groups, where she has sought answers to the common longing for a more authentic spiritual experience. She also serves on the board of the Uganda Orphans Fund, a non-profit Christian relief organization building orphan homes for victims of AIDS and war. Susan and her husband, Duncan, have three children and live in Montana.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Passion Regionals 2008: Washington DC

This is going to be a really long non-book/movie review post. Just a warning in advance :)

I just had the best weekend I've ever had in years. I went up to Fairfax, VA with 10 other people from my church for the Passion Regionals Conference. What is Passion?

From Wikipedia:
Passion Conferences is a Christian organization (also referred to as the 268 Generation, originally named Choice Ministries), founded by Louie Giglio in 1997, known for their annual spiritual awakening gatherings of college students.

I decided to to go the conference after seeing the video ad run during our church service. I wanted to go because I haven't been to a conference in a while and thought it would be really cool to go.
That was pretty much the main reason. However when I got there, it was MUCH more than that.

Do you know what it's like to worship with over 3000 people your age? It's indescribable. I went from feeling like I was the only person at my work and school who was a Christian to know that there were thousands of my Christian brothers and sisters in the same room as me. You don't feel alone. There's a reason why I haven't been able to connect with Christians my age. Not since high school youth group have I been involved with a group of Christians, either in a prayer or Bible study group. When I was in college I went to a couple of meetings for InterVarsity but dropped out because I had no motivation. Since then, I've pretty much just gone to church on Sundays and that was it for my fellowship.

The worship leaders that took part in this conference were Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Charlie Hall. I've been singing Tomlin's and Redman's songs in my churches for years so it was a thrill to finally get to see them live and in person. And wow, it was truly amazing to sing with them. Even though I didn't know all the songs in the beginning, by the end of the conference, I knew them all by heart (currently listening to the songs now as I type). Usually when I participate in the singing part of the worship, I'm usually very reserved. Ever since I started attending conferences 10 years ago, the most I would ever do is close my eyes. For the first time, this weekend I felt compelled to lift my hands up to the Lord and let him know how much I love him and what he means to me. When Chris Tomlin and the band started sining "How Great is Our God" I couldn't hold back anymore. I raised my arms and sang with all my heart because I knew it was true. In the past, I've always worried about how other people would look at me and what they would think. Most of the people I used to go to church with back in high school, I realize now, were not very deep in their Christian faith. Because I was worried about what they thought, this held me back from truly worshiping God the way I wanted to. It was so freeing to throw my arms out to God and sing of his power and wonderfulness.

The speakers were equally powerful as well. We heard from Louie Giglio, the founder of Passion, and Francis Chan. Their words made me want to have an impact on the college campus as a Christian. Louie told a story about a girl named Ashley who for 21 years resisted being a Christian until her roommate finally made a impact in her life to help her become one. Ashely was on fire for God after she became a Christian, but then died 5 months later. I don't think there was a person in that arena who wasn't affected by her story.

Another powerful moment for me was when the delegates for the Passion International tour for Hong Kong was brought out. Passion is planning on taking the conference globally in the next year to 18 cities worldwide. One of these cities is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where my mother's family is from. I have relatives, college age, in that city so this would be awesome if they could go as well. Anywho, Louie introduced Sam Lu, a 22 year old college student from Guadong, China (again where my mother's family is originally from). She gave her testimony which was extremely powerful especially since China is a country where it is nearly impossible to live truly as a Christian. The enthusiasm she gave at being able to worship with so many other people freely made me want to help support Passion to go out to these other countries and allow other college students the same opportunity. I was originally going to go give only $5 but then I was thinking about how I was only going to spend the rest of the cash on stuff that I don't really need. So I gave $30 and felt a sense of peace. The final total ended being over $35,000 for the World Tour plus another $32,000 for wells in Africa. College students are awesome!!

I don't think that it was coincidence that this conference was held at George Mason University, the very school I sent in my master's application for that very same day. This is the first time the conference was split up into regionals. Out of all the places in Washington DC the organizers could have chosen, they picked GMU. It's not a coincidence that this was the year that we got a new pastor in our church, who wanted to take us to this conference for the first time in our church history. And it was definately not a coincidence to hear 3000 students pray for the area, the school and the students of GMU to become affected by God in the upcoming months. We were told that out of 30,000 students at GMU only 300 are actively involved in the 12 Christian organizations. After hearing this, and then while we were praying for the GMU campus, I felt this strong feeling that God wants me to be at GMU and have an impact on the campus. I really believe that not only will I get into the school, I will be part of the change that God will lead to the campus in the future. None of this happened by coincidence. Everything is part of God's plan and I know that this all in his hands.

The trip was also filled with other memorable events. Remind me, when I do go to GMU, not to go to the McDonald's at University Mall. This store must be modeled after the Japanese ones because the efficiency at this store was intense. I've never seen people get food so fast at a fast food restaurant. When it was my turn, the lady behind the counter pretty much yelled at me to place my order. And then apparently when my food was ready, no one called out what my food was or the number that was on the ticket. She again yelled at me for not knowing my order and then as soon as I picked it up, told me to go away and dismissed me. While kudos for the fast service and clean restaurant, points down for customer service. I'm sorry but I felt like I was wrong for ordering something! Also, I probably won't be back to the Applebees or the Silver Diner in Fairfax either. The eggs weren't cooked at the diner, and paying the check at Applebees took almost 30 minutes. The new mac and cheese there though is really good. We stayed at the Hyatt which is the swankiest hotel I've ever been in. Our room had a bed and pullout couch. I was on the couch and it wasn't bad at all. I kept thinking about that Seinfeld episode where Elaine has the bar in her back, but it wasn't like that at all. It was lots of laughs and good times

Right now I'm working on about 5 hours of sleep. I'm functioning right now, but after I finish this post I might go pass out for a few more hours. But I will say, this is the reason ever for sleep deprivation. I feel drained but on fire for God. I know I have a purpose in life to serve him and I'm eager to start.

Has anyone else been to a Passion conference before? Tell me about the experiences you had and how the event changed you.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Movie Review: "The Jane Austen Book Club"

Lately I've been devouring anything Jane Austen (have you been watching the Jane Austen season on Masterpiece on PBS? if you haven't..WHY NOT????) I haven't read the book this movie is based on so I can't do a comparison of the two. If you have ever been in a book club, this movie is probably for you as it shows the lives of the members in and out of the club and the relationships they face.

I wish I could have been a part of the club. Jane Austen is a fantastic subject to discuss.
I do wish they had spent more time discussing the actual books in the movie. The book club meetings were only shown for a few minutes. The discussions that took place were really interesting and did give more insight into the books and the author herself. I giggled and groaned at Grigg's comparison of Edmund and Fanny in Mansfield Park to Luke and Leia in Star Wars. I'm surprised that no mention was made of her short stories that were published also. You'd think the fanatics might have mentioned it at least.

The actors fit naturally in this ensemble piece. I liked all of them, some more than others. Grigg was my favorite. Hugh Dancy is adorable. And I never knew a lot of those science fiction authors were female.
I only had a few minor quirks with this movie. One isn't about the movie at all but this DVD cover. Why is Jimmy Smits on the cover and not Hugh Dancy? Grigg was a member of the book club, not Daniel. I suppose Jimmy Smits is more recognizable than Hugh Dancy, but it's not fair to leave out an actual member of the title. Also Jocelyn sometimes annoyed me because she kept being flipfloppy about how she felt about Grigg. And then when he did finally do what she wanted, she got mad with him. Typical women. And Prudie should not have gotten involved with the student. You just don't.

This movie is rated PG13 but I would not recommend it for younger teens. There is quite a bit of sexual content in this movie that is definately not appropriate for the younger set.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Review: "Finding Alice" by Melody Carlson


You're your own worst enemy

Alice is a twenty something college student who seems to be living a normal life. But then after her boyfriend breaks up with her, something in her snaps. Thus begins Alice's journey of life with schizophrenia. It's a a terrifying ride that robs Alice of all her senses and is definately not a trip to Wonderland. Shunned by the church and taken into an institution where drugs are forced on her, she hides out in the street, with her mind becoming her worst enemy. But there is hope and with a little help from new friends, a way where Alice will finally find herself again.

This was one of the hardest and most impacting books that I have ever read. It was a definite eye opener with a subject you don't hear much about. I cannot even imagine what I would do if I was in Alice's situation. It would be a daily struggle to survive every day. Frankly it was quite scary to read about Alice's schizophrenia and what it did to her. The voices inside her head almost drove her to kill herself because they made her doubt everything and everyone. It was really frightening to think about how many people have to suffer from this every day and even if they get help, still have to deal with it for the rest of their lives.

The worst part, for Alice, is how her church (which to me seemed more like a cult) completely shunned her and banished her because they believed her mental illness to be a demon. I really appreciated how the author handles this, showing the reader that while there are Christians who do understand and will help you out, there is also a darker side that won't acknowledge this situation. It's painful yet refreshing to show how there are severely flawed Christians who need to be taught not to be judgmental or walking around with planks in their eyes. I'm glad though that there was a glimmer of hope for her and that she was able to cope with her mental illness.
I really love how Melody Carlson writes about subjects that many Christians shy away from and don't want to talk about. She writes these books with such conviction and grittiness because these are topics that we shouldn't avoid. This is edgy fiction at it best and I believe that it rivals mainstream fiction. This is not just a Christian novel, this is a novel that EVERYONE should read to learn more about what mental illness is really like. If you want a book that will leave you impacted, pick this book up.

Finding Alice by Melody Carlson is published by Waterbrook (2003)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Adam by Ted Dekker


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

ADAM

(Thomas Nelson April 1, 2008)


by
Ted Dekker


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. Dekker's body of work encompassing seven mysteries, three thrillers and ten fantasies includes Heaven's Wager, When Heaven Weeps, Thunder of Heaven, Blessed Child, A Man Called Blessed, Blink, Thr3e, The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, White), and Obsessed, with two more...Renegade, and Chaos to be released later this year.



ABOUT THE BOOK

He died once to stop the killer...now he's dying again to save his wife.

FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark has become famous for his well-articulated arguments that religion is one of society’s greatest antagonists. What Daniel doesn’t know is that his obsessive pursuit of a serial killer known only as “Eve” is about to end abruptly with an unexpected death-his own.

Twenty minutes later Daniel is resuscitated, only to be haunted by the loss of memory of the events immediately preceding his death.

Daniel becomes convinced that the only way to stop Eve is to recover those missing minutes during which he alone saw the killer’s face. And the only way to access them is to trigger his brain’s memory dump that occurs at the time of death by simulating his death again…and again. So begins a carefully researched psychological thriller which delves deep into the haunting realities of near-death experiences, demon possession, and the human psche.

"As always with a Ted Dekker thriller, the details of ADAM are stunning, pointing to meticulous research in a raft of areas: police and FBI methods, forensic medicine, psychological profiling-in short, all that accompanies a Federal hunt for a serial killer. But Dekker fully reveals his magic in the latter part of the book, when he subtly introduces his darker and more frightening theme. It's all too creepily convincing. We have to keep telling ourselves that this is fiction. At the same time, we can't help thinking that not only could it happen, but that it will happen if we're not careful."



New York Times best-selling author Ted Dekker unleashes his most riveting novel yet...an elusive serial killer whose victims die of unknown causes and the psychologist obsessed with catching him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Book Review: "Lady of Milkweed Manor" by Julie Klassen


One of the best historical novels of the year

Charlotte Lamb is a vicar's daughter who's committed a ghastly sin: become pregnant out of wedlock. Banished by her father and sister, she arrives at Milkweed Manor, a place where other young women in trouble live. There she learns about what being pregnant is really like, the life of a nursemaid and what happens to unwanted babies. While there, Charlotte meets with a old family friend, Dr. Taylor, who is hiding a secret of his own. Just when Charlotte thinks her life couldn't get any worse, she has to give up the one thing that means everything to her...

I never realized what the life of a nursemaid was like. In fact I just figured that nurses just helped out mothers who did not want to nurse. This book showed me there is so much more than that. It was quite interesting to read about all the guidelines and standards a nurse was supposed to have. Since I'm a history major, I relished all the details about the time period. Learning about the houses where unmarried pregnant girls went to was highly educational. I felt sorry for Charlotte throughout the book. It seemed that her life was destined to be nothing but despair for her. Throughout the novel, the reader keeps hoping that a glimmer of hope will work its way into her life. It was obvious that a lot of historical research had been done for this book and it shows. The tidbits about nursing and milkweeds at the beginning of each chapter were informative and helped to give more insight into the story. Also of interest was the way that postpartum depression was handled in the 19th century. I loved that the setting was set during the regency area. It brought to mind images of Jane Austen and Jane Eyre. I could totally see this book being made into a movie. There's so much emotion in this book that would project wonderfully in live action. This was an excellent first novel and one of the best historical novels I've read this year. I am looking forward to Julie Klassen's next book. HIGHLY recommended.

Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen is published by Bethany House (2008)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Book Review: "Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear" by Sharon Dunn and BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I'm giving away a brand new copy of today's book! Leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Monday, February 25. Good luck!

Deals and coupons won't help out this bear

The Bargain Hunter girls are back and this time they're in Calamity, NV for some major bargain shopping. Before they can get started on sales at the World's Largest Garage Sale, they have to encounter problems at their overbooked, non air conditioned hotel. There they run into a menagerie of characters including the hotel manager, his show girl ex wife, a former aging child star, and a college guy who dresses up as a teddy bear who becomes interested in Kindra. Plus Ginger can't locate her husband Earl who was supposed to be setting up his booth at the Inventor's Expo which is competing with the Squirrel Lovers Convention. But just when things couldn't get crazier, a man in a teddy bear suit is murdered and everyone becomes a suspect. Will the BH girls be able to solve the mystery in time?

Since I had enjoyed the first book in the Bargain Hunters series, I was excited to read the second installment. And with a title like that, who wouldn't be intrigued? Fans will be thrilled with this book. The mystery in this story is awesome. I had no idea who the killer was. There were twists and turns everywhere that kept me guessing. The unique characters in this story are what makes it really interesting. I loved all the little stories and side plots that were happening throughout the book. There's lots of humor that will keep you laughing. I did cringe a bit at the fate of one of the squirrels. I really liked Kindra's relationship with Xabier (very unique name) because they were really cute. Same goes for Earl and Ginger and how they had to learn to trust each other. I hope that in the next book we'll get a story featuring Suzanne as I felt she was sort of a third wheel in this book. I liked Artleta's character especially when she finally decides to become a Christian. Her question about whether something extraordinary was supposed to happen after her conversion rings true, because it always seems to happen in older Christian fiction. I thought it was a pretty funny tongue in cheek statement. There were just two minor quirks I had with this book. One was nothing much was done with the cyber stalker even after their identity was revealed. I felt that it was unsatisfying that the women did not pursue trying to figure out who the person was. They did not even seem mildly concerned when the stalker got threatening and sounding crazy. The other little thing was there wasn't much bargain talk in this story. I would have liked a bit more info about the gals' finds at the garage sale but it's understandable because the murder plot takes more precedence. Other than these two things, I really enjoyed this book. I am so looking forward to the next book in this series. If you enjoy mysteries that'll teach you how to save money, READ this book!

Sharon Dunn is the author of Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, book one in the Bargain Hunters Mysteries, and the Ruby Taylor mystery novels including Sassy Cinderella, which was voted Book of the Year by American Christian Fiction Writers. She earned a BA in television production and a master’s in history Sharon lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her husband of twenty years, three children, two cats, and lots of dust bunnies.


Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear by Sharon Dunn is published by Multnomah (2008)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Movie Review: "Gideon: Tuba Warrior"

I haven't met a Veggie Tales I haven't liked yet. This one I had not been able to find anywhere because none of the video stores or the libraries owned it until just recently. I felt like I was lacking because this had been the only one I hadn't seen. Well it was well worth the wait.

The show starts off with the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything taking over the show from Bob and Larry. And since Larry is part of the Pirates this means he produces an eye patch out of nowhere. Bob is willing to give them air time so they proceed with a story about George Mueller and how he trusted God in everything for everything. Pa Grape's ancestor makes an appearance as a tabloid reporter who's out to prove Mueller wrong but ends up seeing miracles first hand. It's quite a good cute story. When it's over the pirates are surprised at how short this story ends up being and are confused as to what to do next. So Bob takes over with a unique story about Gideon and his defeat of a huge army with only a small amount of men. This is one of my favorite Bible stories so I was pleased at how it was done Veggie style. It used the peas so it definately gets a thumbs up in my books (anything with the peas is awesome). I especially liked how they used drinking Slushies as the way to choose the men. There a loads of random things that adults will get a kick out of but the story remains true to the Bible and is an excellent way for kids to learn that even during the toughest of times to always trust God.

This episode had one of the best Silly Songs...*ahem* I mean Ukulele Karaoke With Bob. This was an absolute hoot. In the spirit of having other people take over the show, the French Peas have decided they will host a silly song with Bob as their lead singer.
The song is adorable and Bob is a riot singing it especially when he messes up the sheet music. I could not stop laughing. The best one I think since Pizza Angel (my absolute fav). I don't normally (ok ever) post vids on here but because I liked this one so much here it is.



One thing I love about these DVDs are the behind the scenes footage. The commentary is always hilarious and informative to listen too. And have you guys found all the Easter eggs that are hidden on the DVD? My favorite was the portraits that were in the Mueller house. They're so small and pass by really fast on screen but it was fun to see how they included past characters including the Blind Lemon! Like I've said before, there hasn't been a Veggie Tales I haven't liked yet. This one ranks as one of the best ones. And it makes me want to go check out that Pirates movie....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Book Review: "For Better or Worse" by Diann Hunt




Opposites Do Attract

Wendy's a wedding coordinator who revels in seeing couples live out happily ever after. She's also a widow. Mario is a divorce attorney who's bills get paid when he successfully helps a couple break up for good. He's also a divorce. The two couldn't be more different and wouldn't have crossed paths if Mario didn't happen to move in right next to Wendy's business. The sparks start to fly almost immediately and the chemistry between the two begins to heat up. Wendy tries to resist Mario's charms but finds out that she just can't. And then her son breaks the news that he's engaged to Mario's daughter.....

This story reminded me of all the great 50s movies where the leads are total opposites yet still somehow find themselves being attracted to each other. I mean how completely different can two people be by one advocating marriage and the other trying to profit from breaking it up? Wendy wants nothing to do with Mario yet he keeps popping up everywhere. Then she starts seeing all the bad things about Logan. It's funny how when you want to stop liking someone, you can focus on everything negative about them and then you find them repulsive. The writing is sprinkled with humor throughout which will keep the reader giggling. Scenes such as Wendy's foot phobia, Roseanne's fear of birds and the whole geese sequence will have you cracking up. There are serious topics discussed such as parent/child relations regardless of what age the child is. Also the sanctity of marriage and the effects of exactly how the spouse left the other is brought to the light in the book.

There were times however when I felt that Wendy acted like a pushover. I felt this especially during confrontations with her dad, Brooke, Mario and Logan. She didn't seem to want to argue back or push her case more. It made her character seem really weak because she wouldn't put up a fight or speak up about what she really wanted to say. This was especially evident when Sophia and Colin announce their engagement and Wendy does not allow herself to have a heart to heart talk with Colin. I felt that she really should have sat down and talked with him instead of just saying no and then just trying to pacify him. This brings to mention something that did slightly confused me throughout the book. Wendy and Mario's kids are dating. Wendy and Mario start dating. If Wendy and Mario get married, their kids will become step siblings. If that happens, it looks like step siblings will be marry each other. What was weird is that this is never brought up or mentioned at all. It's nothing major, just something that kept running through my head the whole time I was reading the book.

This is a fun story, perfect for those who are looking for a light hearted funny story with a touch of romance. A perfect Valentine's Day read!

For Better or For Worse by Diann Hunt is published by Thomas Nelson (2008)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Name is Russell Fink by Michael Snyder


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

My Name is Russell Fink

Zondervan (March 1, 2008)

by

Michael Snyder



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Snyder has spent the bulk of his professional career in sales, has fallen in love, and continues to struggle with the balance between art and vocation. He's never investigated a murder, much less that of an allegedly clairvoyant dog.






ABOUT THE BOOK:

Russell Fink is twenty-six years old and determined to salvage a job he hates so he can finally move out of his parents house for good. He's convinced he gave his twin sister cancer when they were nine years old. And his crazy fiancée refuses to accept the fact that their engagement really is over.

Then Sonny, his allegedly clairvoyant basset hound, is found murdered.

The ensuing amateur investigation forces Russell to confront several things at once-the enormity of his family's dysfunction, the guy stalking his family, and his long-buried feelings for a most peculiar love interest.

At its heart, My Name is Russell Fink is a comedy, with sharp dialogue, characters steeped in authenticity, romance, suspense, and fresh humor. With a postmodern style similar to Nick Hornby and Douglas Coupland, the author explores reconciliation, forgiveness, and faith in the midst of tragedy. No amount of neurosis or dysfunction can derail God's redemptive purposes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Book Review: "Leaving November" by Deborah Raney


Please forgive me if I act a little strange

Vienne Kenney has returned home after flunking the bar exam twice. Jack Linder has returned home also after completing a session in rehab. The two have plans to start anew in their hometown. Vienne is opening up a fancy coffee house while Jack paves the way for a new art gallery. Both of them face the trials of running a new business in a town and find themselves migrating towards the other for company. A relationship begins to grow until Vienne finds out about Jack's past. She has wounds that run deep involving alcoholism and and the relationship begins to fray. It takes a true act of forgiveness before all can be well again.

Clayburn is a town I would like to visit. I could see myself visiting both the art gallery and the Latte-dah. In fact I would probably be a regular visitor at Vienne's coffee house since I love frequenting places like that. It sounds like a great place to hang out with a book and a cup of mocha. I understood her frustration at Pete's gang disrupting the ambiance of her place with their manure covered shoes and loud talking. It's tough to start business with customers insisting on doing things their way and not yours. Both Vienne and Jack had secrets in their life they didn't want to share. This was probably not the best way to start a friendship because it kept leading to awkward moments between the two of them. This story shows the effects of what alcoholism does to not only the person who drinks but to other members of the family. Vienne's reluctance to get close to Jack is not at all surprising due to everything she went through with her father. It was interesting to see a recovering alcoholic's struggle with addiction and how prayer was the main thing that Jack could rely on. It was also painful to hear all the gossip that was being spread about Jack. It's sad that people will spread lies without knowing the whole story and then make false assumptions about others. I also felt touched by her relationship with her mother. It's not easy to have a stroke victim in the family and it can be very trying just to communicate with them. Vienne showed wonderful patience and kindness toward her mother. It's refreshing to read about situations like this instead of hearing about adult children who just leave their parents in the care of others.

The story is not overly preachy but instead shows the power of forgiveness and the struggles that addiction causes. It's a really touching story that everyone should read. If this is your first Deborah Raney book, it will make you become a fan. Highly recommend.

Leaving November by Deborah Raney is published by Howard Books (2008)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Healing Stones by Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Healing Stones

(Thomas Nelson January 1, 2008)

by

Stephen Arterburn & Nancy Rue



ABOUT THE AUTHORS:





Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries—the nation’s largest faith-based broadcast, counseling and treatment ministry—and is the host of the nationally syndicated “New Life Live!” daily radio...






By 1996 Nancy was a full-time writer. The Christian Heritage Series made that possible. She was writing those books from the early 1990's until 2000.

And then a new opportunity came along--the Lily series. If she ever doubted that she was going to make it as a writer, man, that little red-head put those fears to rest! And, of course, Sophie followed Lily, with some teen and grown-up books in between -- plus the non-fiction books designed just for you.

Nancy and her husband live in Tennessee now, overlooking a beautiful lake, lots of sycamore trees, and the rocky Tennessee hills. They have a bright yellow power boat named BANANA SPLIT which you can find us on no matter what the weather. Marijean and her husband live nearby with my three grand-dogs and three grand-cats (and two grand-snakes . . .)






ABOUT THE BOOK

With one flash of a camera, Demi's private life becomes public news. She doesn't know it yet, but her healing has just begun.

Christian college professor Demitria Costanas had vowed to end her affair with a colleague. But she gives into temptation one last time...and a lurking photographer captures her weakness for all to see. Quite literally, she's the woman caught in adultery. And almost everyone--herself included--has a stone to throw.

Enter Sullivan Crisp, a decidedly unorthodox psychologist with his own baggage. He's well-known for his quirky sense of humor and incorporation of "game show" theology into his counseling sessions. And yet there's something more he offers...hope for a fresh start.

Reluctantly the two of them begin an uplifting, uneven journey filled with healing and grace. By turns funny and touching, this story explores the ways humans hurt each other and deceive themselves. And it shows the endlessly creative means God uses to turn stones of accusation and shame into works of beauty that lead us onto the path of healing.

An auspicious debut for a candid yet tender series about pain, healing, and God's invitation for second chances.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Automatic 2nd Date by Victorya Michaels Rogers

Okay single ladies, you've been writing, emailing and calling me about how I managed to get 98 of 100 guys to ask me out for a 2nd Date. So I finally wrote down all my secrets just for you. These secrets can and will work just as effectively for YOU as they did for me!

~~Victorya Michaels Rogers, Author The Automatic 2nd Date


Q: Your new book offers a unique dating approach. Why focus so much on getting a 2nd date?


VICTORYA: If you can’t get past the first date, you won’t be booking a honeymoon anytime soon. The sad thing is ladies who would really be great catches are just blowing it and scaring their dates away by making silly, careless mistakes on their first dates—like talking too much, obsessing on exes, talking about marriage, calling the guy before or after the first date. If they just tweak a few of their dating behaviors, they can transform their dating life without changing who they are! If these secrets become a habit, you can stop stressing about first dates and focus on your man and deciding if HE is the great catch and worth your time. When you do that, 2nd dates become automatic.


Q: You say every woman has an internal “Male GPS.” What is it and how do we use it?


VICTORYA: Available men are everywhere -- at the drive-thru, at work, at school, at church, at restaurants, at the mall, the gas station, sporting events, etc. You just have to know what you’re looking for and believe he exists. The Male GPS –male global positioning satellite—is in your mind. Your mind is an extremely power instrument that is always working and wants to be right! When you think about something enough, amazingly it seems to begin appearing everywhere you go. Let’s talk cars as an example. If you want that new blue Honda SUV, of course you believe it exists and it’s on your mind so it suddenly stands out every time one drives by. Just like thinking of your next car, think about what kind of guy you want.


The key to finding your next 1st date begins with your mind. You can instantly turn on your internal MALE GPS by figuring out specifically what you’re looking for in a guy, visualizing a man with those traits and believing he exists.


Q: In Automatic 2nd Date you list many unique places to meet men. Tell us a few.


VICTORYA: I advise skipping bars and clubs and just plunging yourself into the social world around you—be it at your church, country club, charity, or a special-interest group at your community center. As you interact with more and more people, you will automatically find yourself around — and introduced to — available men.

Q: You say the three-second flirt is a great way to get noticed. How does it work?


VICTORYA: Flirting is the easiest way to get a man’s attention! When you find someone who intrigues you, by all means, FLIRT with him! I have a lot of dating tips in The Automatic 2nd Date, all of them improve the number of call backs you get for 2nd dates! But THIS secret—the 3-second Flirt--dramatically increases your number of first dates so you can get a shot at 2nd dates! To get that first date, you’ve got to capture his attention by making eye contact. Eye contact is huge because indeed the eyes are the window of the soul. So here’s a quick lesson on flirting. The next time you’re in a “target rich environment” of potential dates, slowly scan the room with calm, soft eyes, resting your eyes briefly on any man who captures your attention, then casually glance for a bare ring finger. If the finger is bare, lock into a gaze for your three-second flirt... Add a slight smile or grin, and then casually look away. You can repeat it several times to make your point that he indeed intrigues you. But no more than a 5 second glance at a time or you will borders on creepy.


Q: So let’s say your flirting has landed your next first date. What are some definite “Do’s” to keep in mind when that first date arrives?


VICTORYA: Here are my top five “Do’s” on your first date—look and act your best, lighten up and laugh, flatter your man, look at your man, and listen to your man! 1) First, you obviously want to look and act your best 2) Second, be sure to lighten up and laugh with your date 3) Third flatter your man with genuine praise when you notice something that merits a compliment. 4) Fourth, An ultimate compliment to anyone is to be given undivided attention. So look at your date, eye to eye, and let him know your attention is on him, not on the distractions around you in the room 5) And last but not least, listen to him! Ask your date a lot of questions about him then truly listening to his answers. As with any human being, your date is his own favorite subject, so he’ll be sure to have a great time if he is the main topic, and besides you WANT the information he reveals so you can figure out if you two are a match long before you are emotionally involved. These 5 Dos will do wonders at ensuring a request for a 2nd date!


Q: So Victorya, the first date is over. Now what? Does The Automatic 2nd Date offer advice on what to do AFTER the date? Such as can you call or text your date the next day to thank him?


VICTORYA: No, no, no. Do NOT call or even text your date before he contacts you! When the first date is over, just relax and go on with your life, no matter how much you are into your new man. Sure you can and should thank him at the end of the date, but no need for a follow-up thank you unless HE sends you a thank you gift. (Even if your romantic date was as incredible as a ride in a helicopter to see the lights of downtown, it is in your best interest NOT to call him the next day. If he’s treating you like that, you certainly don’t want to scare him away by chasing HIM.


Q: So you’ve given us ideas on how to do well one we’ve got a date. In the meantime, how does a confident single gal survive a dateless Valentine’s Day?

VICTORYA: There are great ways to spend a dateless Valentines that can actually put you on the path to ultimately find your man worth keeping! Here are 4 quick tips:


1. On Valentine’s Day you have permission to do something to spoil yourself a little. Don’t go crazy. Just give yourself one treat. Carve out time during your day, even if it has to be on your lunch hour, to pamper yourself. Get a French manicure or new hairstyle, color or cut; indulge in a massage or facial, or buy yourself SOMETHING just for you--just don’t mess up your entire budget. You want to pamper yourself, not punish yourself.


2. This is NOT the night to go out to eat—too many couples gazing dreamily across the table at each other. Instead, order your favorite take out or skip dinner and have a huge portion of your favorite dessert. While you’re enjoying your meal, pull out your journal a design your ideal man. Dream big. Write every character trait and every quality you hope he will possess. What better evening to do so than when Cupid is flying around?

3. Another idea for the evening is to plan a girl’s night. Invite over your single gals for dinner and your favorite chick flicks or better yet, reminisce on what did and didn’t work in your previous love life. Share funny dating stories, dating horror stories and warm fuzzy dating stories. In the very least you’ll have a good laugh with your girlfriends. End the evening by having each girlfriend write out exactly what you definitely want in your ideal mate, that way you’ll recognize him when he shows up!


4. My last solo Valentine idea is to grab a friend or boldly go solo to the movie theatre. After all Valentine’s is the perfect night for escapism.

Q: Do you have a website or blog with any of these tips for our audience to check out?

VICTORYA: Yes, my website has a lot of additional tips and advice for single women! Check it out-- it’s www.mantokeep.com. You can also order my books and learn about my coaching program. I hope I have helped you begin to see that dating does NOT have to be overwhelming, scary and stressful. In fact, believe it or not, you can actually enjoy the process if you take the time to find out what you REALLY want in a man, sharpen your dating skills and take risks. There is so much information I’d love to impart to you to make dating less anxiety filled, so feel free to visit my site anytime and/or check out my book The Automatic 2nd Date.

Victorya Michaels Rogers, Dating Coach, Author The Automatic 2nd Date

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Book Review: "Peculiar Treasures" by Robin Jones Gunn


Old friends are back again

Katie Weldon, Christy Miller's best friend, caught the bouquet at Christy's wedding. But wedding bells aren't on their way for her just yet. First she's got to choose a major she wants at college. Then she has to think about accepting an RA position in the dorms. AND then Katie has to wonder about her relationship with Rick Doyle, her not exactly boyfriend because they haven't discussed labels yet. Throughout all these decisions and circumstances, Katie must remember that God is with her at all times, even when she can't figure out what's going on herself.

When I heard that there was going to be a new edition to the Christy Miller saga, I was in 7th heaven. I adored the original Christy Miller books growing up, loved the Sierra saga, and was thrilled to see old friends pop up in Robin Gunn's other two series Glenbrooke and Sisterchicks. I was excited to hear we would finally get to read Katie's story. I had high expectations going into this book and I was not let down at all! All the familiar characters are back and the story picks up right where the last book in the Christy and Todd series left off. Even if this is your first time meeting the gang you won't get lost as all the characters are reintroduced again. Katie is someone most young women can identify with. Personally I thought that Katie is a more dimensional character that Christy was in the previous series. She's more outgoing, outspoken and a risk taker. I really do love her unique way of seeing life such as her accepting Christ was like taking up a dare from God. I also shared her frustration about defining her relationship with Rick yet at the same time I was glad to see how they everything worked out before using labels. This book totally made me miss being in college again and living in the dorms. I miss all the goings ons of dorm life, with staying up late, friends around the corner, and late night fast food runs. If it only didn't have to be ruined by studying! I wish I could have studied at Rancho Corona with Katie as my RA. She sound like she would have been the perfect RA to have, someone you could easily talk to with your problems. There's lots of humor in this book too with Katie's penchant for off beat jokes and wisecracks. It was a refreshing read and I learned quite a bit. I myself have never noticed the peculiar treasures reference in the Bible but after reading this I like seeing myself in that viewpoint. It took me no time at all to finish this book and I was sad to see it end. I cannot wait to see what happens next in Katie and Rick's relationship. Book 2 cannot come out fast enough! HIGHLY recommended!!!

Peculiar Treasures by Robin Jones Gunn is published by Zondervan (2008)