Breaking the Fear Cycle – How to Find Peace for Your Anxious Heart by Maria Furlough

35086539When you sit down to read Maria Furlough’s book, be prepared to work your highlighter. You’ll be amazed at the volume of words you mark to revisit. Maria writes about breaking the fear cycle and kindly gives us a roadmap to finding peace. Fear clamps down like a vice grip on our hearts and minds. When left unchecked, it effects our well-being and influences how we interact with our family and the world. Maria shares with us, “Fear will come…But it is our choice how much dominion we are going to allow fear to have over our lives.”

Maria is the mother of five children (four here on earth and one in heaven). She and her family lost an infant son nearly immediately after his birth. God’s promises of protection and peace came alive with new meaning and sustained her during this time. Her heartfelt words tell a life-changing story that offer hope.

When we are consumed by fear, too often our conversations with God are fear-filled pleas. Maria shows us how to replace fear-filled pleas with faith-filled prayers. She touches a nerve when she writes, “Our fears highlight and illuminate the areas we honestly do not believe God’s power can touch.” Essentially Maria reminds us that often our fears are directly linked to how big we truly believe God is. If we have a small sized view of God, and feel there are certain areas that God can’t have control over, then fear will remain. She encourages us to gain confidence and break free of fear and anxiety by surrendering these fears to God. This is an important book for our times. Readers would be wise to choose it as a personal devotional or to read in a small group study. I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Where the Fire Falls – A National Park Vintage Novel by Karen Barnett

A superior five star plot based in a magnificent setting. Burning coals shoveled off cliffs f51iQ+auYDwL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_or star-fall like evening entertainment is not the only activity where the temperature is rising. The smoldering romance between Olivia and Clark ignites into a genuine love story. As their relationship heats up, they forge a lasting bond based on their true selves. Each character experiences betrayal and dashed dreams, but finds healing in beautiful Yosemite National Park. The subplots and lingering mysteries keep you guessing until all is revealed at the story’s end.

Christian themes are woven expertly into this story. Clark says, “Olivia, you’re never alone.” Echoing the sentiment behind Hebrew 13:5. As you watch the main characters’ plot lines work out for good, you recall that God has a plan for each life, and while you may not see it now, you can trust that God loves you as his heir and intends for you to find your way back to him. The dialogue describing how grace differs from disgrace is heartwarming and original. You’ll remember this exchange long after you finish the book.

This title is book two in Karen Barnett’s Vintage National Parks series. The attention to detail she has given to establish the correct time period reflects a high level of research. The musical references, hairstyles, and male and female attire are right out of the late 1920’s.

You’ll be glad you spent time in Yosemite National Park with Barnett’s novel. It’s as grand as the park itself. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher for my honest review. This book is available in early June.

The Golden Vial

51pJ6lVnHYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Thomas Locke is a pseudonym used by David Bunn. Books authored by Locke fit in the genre epic fantasy or techno thrillers. I received a complimentary copy of The Golden Vial – Legends of the Realm Book #3 to review. This book meets your expectations for an epic fantasy. Battle lines are drawn and the forces of good build alliances to defeat the evil. As the quest to preserve the current world order unfolds, readers will meet wizards, mages, elves, and more. On one hand, it may seem different for a Christian publishing company to present a book with wizards and sorcery. But there are elements that mirror the plot details of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It’s imaginative and fast paced. Thomas Locke writes with flair and great word choice.

If you’re a fan of strategy, you’ll appreciate the quote, “No matter how wise a leader might be, good fortune must still play a role.”

Readers will find the main character Dally’s story compelling. At one point, these words are repeated to her, “You have a good heart, young lady. It will take you far.” Dally has a far-seeing ability that drives the plot in multiple instances.

In the tradition other noteworthy epic fantasy books, the setting is all important. A map helps readers visualize the layout of the Realms. Fans of this genre will be pleased with the plot, strong characters, and fantasy elements.

A Borrowed Dream

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A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot

At various points throughout the book, two main characters pause and sample fudge recipes. This is a great sensory strategy that immediately draws you right into the plot of A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot. How fun that Lydia, a confectioner, is married to Travis, the Sheriff of this Texas town. Lydia and her good friend, Catherine, share important updates at the Candy Shop. They’re confidants and their frequent check-in’s keep the plot moving. Amanda Cabot gives us a strong cast of characters to warm up to as well as some reprobates to spurn. The characters’ entrance into the storyline is well timed and their dialogue keeps the story moving.

I appreciate that Cabot reveals plot details in a manner that resembles peeling back the layers of something edible. Step by step, she eases you into the various plot twists. This is book two in a trilogy. I had not read book one, but I easily jumped into the story.

There’s a love story for Catherine. Yet this is not the only emotional journey she travels. She must overcome resentment and find forgiveness for one character who figures prominently in her life. Readers will appreciate that she eventually understands what her Mama had told her, “Forgiveness helps you.”

The setting is 1881 in the small town of Cimarron Creek, Texas. There is a Wild West flavor to some of the story. Our main character, Catherine, is an independent problem solver who also works as the local school teacher. Overall, I found this book satisfying to read. Some questions I had about historical details were answered in the author notes.

First Line Fridays

Student Council Blog Title

 

“He was going to hit that pick up truck. ” 

This is the first line from Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon. It is book two in the Hope Harbor series. The first book I read of Irene Hannon’s was Fatal Judgement in the Guardians of Justice Series. I thought the pace of this Romantic Suspense was terrific. I went on to read Vanished and enjoyed this novel as well. Later I read, One Perfect Spring and thought this book was superb. It was a great multi-generational story with characters you grow to care about. So I am excited to delve into Sea Rose Lane and enjoy the rest of this series.

Thank you to Hoarding Books for sponsoring First Line Fridays

 

Quality Quotes

John 10_27I developed an ear for quality quotes back when I was a field editor for an agricultural newspaper. Often the catchiest phrase was spoken at the very end of the interview. I concluded that a comfort level had been achieved at the interview’s close, and people could finally just be themselves. Experience taught me to keep my eyes and ears sharp until the final goodbye.

This is a habit that’s still with me while reading fiction. Sometimes a nugget of wisdom will just jump off the page. I savor these words. I am so impressed when an author gives their characters great quotes to share.

As I wrap up each book, I plan to highlight my favorite quality quote. Since I’ve just finished The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers, my selection is found towards the end. The main character Roman and Pastor Brian are talking. The topic they’re discussing is keeping your wits about you and listening for God’s voice. Brain says, “You’ll know where you’ve gone wrong and how to get right with God. You follow His lead. Your life begins to change from the inside out.”

Roman seems to think Brian has it all together. But Brian responds, “Hardly…Pastors tend to be targets for the enemy. Destroy a shepherd, and a whole flock can be lost.”  Word choice is an essential element in good writing and this passage is stellar.

The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Th407900e characters struggle with contemporary issues so it’s relevant to readers. The journey protagonist Grace takes from “people pleaser” to proactive problem solver is inspiring. Her choices as the story unfolds reflect greater maturity and wisdom. Roman Velasco walks a labyrinth of unrest. He eventually lands at a satisfying destination where Biblical truths of God’s forgiveness and restoration are in clear view. Roman’s transformation is due in part to the wise and loving secondary characters that surround him throughout the story. This roster of supporting characters is one of my favorite parts of The Masterpiece.

Aunt Elizabeth, Shanice, Chet, Susan, and Brain were exceptionally vibrant characters with so much to offer the story. They didn’t respond to dilemmas with rote “I’ll pray for you!” responses. Instead they offered their time and activated their network of resources to take a hands-on approach to all snags and obstacles.

Francine Rivers weaves some unanticipated surprises into the plot. The pace of the narrative is full of momentum and readers will be anxious to see how all twists and turns resolve. The multifaceted story connects with readers on many levels. The story looks at adoption, foster care, single moms, and other mature themes. The Christian message is communicated in a heartfelt way with an emphasis on establishing a relationship with God and not simply following the practices of a religion.