Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock – Relatable & Heartwarming

Terri Blackstock is on my list of writers, that when they write a new book, I want to read it.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read her newest book Catching Christmas.

This story is a little different than most of Terri’s books.  The book centers around three people, Finn, Sydney and Callie, who don’t have a lot in common.  But circumstances have a way of creating some unusual bonds, especially around Christmas.

Take Finn for example, he’s a cab driver and for him, time is money.  His life is about to get more complicated when he picks up his next fare.  Callie, an older woman in a wheelchair, seems to be taking a little nap when Finn arrives and she needs transportation to a doctor’s appointment.  Who in the world sends their grandmother to the doctor via a cab?  Meet Sydney, Callie’s granddaughter, who is burning the candle at both ends and just trying to keep her new job, thus the cab for her grandmother.

Terri has way of making her characters very relatable and real.  My favorite character was Finn, a little gruff on the outside, but deep down he has a tender heart, a guilty conscience and wants to get it right this time.  Callie reminds me of my mom in her latter years.  Only with Callie…I could laugh at some of the embarrassing uncomfortable moments.  I related to Sydney too and felt like I had walked in her shoes.

The Christian faith is talked about some in this book.  Callie is a Christian and she loves Jesus and talks to Him and about Him to others.

Catching Christmas is a heartwarming book to read for the Christmas holiday season.  It’s a short book, so even if your schedule is busy, you’ll be able to find time to read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

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Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson – Satisfying & Intriguing

It was the title, Hidden Among the Stars, that first caught my attention.  The storyline drew me in and made me want to read Melanie Dobson’s newest book, an author whose writing is new to me.

The story takes place in two periods of time and in two places that intersect as character Callie tries to find out who Luzia and Annika were and if perchance if one of them was related to her beloved friend Charlotte.

Luzia, Annika, Max and Hermann lived in Austria during the late 1930’s and their lives were forever changed as the were caught up in the war when the Nazi’s swept in to Austria.  Eighty years later and 5,000 miles away, Callie is drawn into trying to solve a mystery that was discovered in a children’s book.  Will Callie step outside her comfort zone to solve a mystery and discover the truth?  Will she let down her walls long enough to open herself the possibility of finding love once again?

Hidden Among the Stars was very different kind of book, but I really liked it.  I especially liked the characters from the 1930’s in Austria.  The characters came to life and the situations that they faced as their beloved country was overrun by evil was very compelling.  How would they respond when the anti-Jewish Nazi mentality grew and overwhelmed Austrians?  Fellow neighbors, were they now friend or foe?  Would they protect and try to help their Jewish neighbors?  It was both horrifying and captivating to see what they faced and how they responded to evil in their midst.

The modern-day part of the story took a little while for me to get used to because it was written in the first person, but the rest of the story was not.  After a while, I got used to it.  While I liked the characters, they didn’t seem as real or rich as the 1930’s characters.

The author includes faith in her story and the Gospel message was shared.  I appreciated that the author didn’t include profanity or sexual immorality in the story.  She delicately handled a scene where one of the characters was raped.

As the story unfolded, I figured out some of the mystery, but not all of it.  It kept me guessing until the end.

I would describe the book as satisfying and intriguing.  It unfolds and develops slowly, but that’s okay because you are learning about the characters and what they are going through.  There is some about this book that is almost poetic, probably most visible in the character of Callie.

I recommend Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson.  If you like mystery, intrigue or historical fiction you may enjoy this book.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to read Hidden Among the Stars in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Five Minute Friday – Handpicked Burdens

I’m so grateful to be participating in today’s Five Minute Friday writing challenge. If you like to write or need some inspiration and encouragement from others be sure to check it out.

Today word prompt: Burden

The burdens the Lord brings
Or allows into our lives
He never meant for us to carry them alone

He has a good purpose and plan
A design for each one
He knows our burdens and cares for each one of us

A burden that will cause us
To repent of our sin
Cry out to the Lord for forgiveness

A burden that will reveal
Our weakness and deep abiding need
Cause us to depend and rely upon the Lord

A burden that will grow and change us
Take us from selfish and self-focused
Develop a compassionate and caring heart

The Lord invites us to cast our burdens upon Him
He is the Lord and daily bears our burdens
We in turn are to bear one another’s burdens

Won’t you come to the One who invites you
Take Christ’s yoke upon you and learn
For His yoke is easy and His burden is light

Susan Wachtel
November 9, 2018

 

Chosen People by Robert Whitlow – Intrigue, Suspense & Interesting Characters – A Story That Kept Me Guessing to the End

One of my favorite authors that I’ve discovered in recent years is Robert Whitlow.  If he writes a new book, I want read.  I’m so glad that I was able to read Robert’s newest release Chosen People.

This book is a little different than other novels I’ve read by Robert Whitlow.  Like his other books, it involves attorneys and law, but Chosen People is set against the backdrop Islamic terrorism.  It includes characters that are from the Middle East and shows the impact of terrorism at a personal level.

Hana Abboud, an attorney working at law firm in Atlanta, is from Israel and is of Arab descent and a Christian which adds some interesting dynamics and cultural views to the storyline.  Jakob Brodsky, a secular Jewish attorney has agreed to help Ben Neumann and his daughter Sadie bring a lawsuit against any organization or company that funded the terrorists that left his wife Gloria dead and their daughter Sadie seriously injured.

With her background and experience in Israel, Hana is the right attorney to handle this case, if she’s willing.  Jakob is going to batt for a family that may not have much of a case to stand on, much less the deep pockets necessary to handle the comprehensive research and to track down people who funded these morally reprehensible murderers.

Will there be any justice for the Neumann family?  Will the big law firm be willing to take a risk on this case which may go no where or run into many costly obstacles along the way?  Will Hana be willing to take on a case that will bring up ugly savage images that will never leave her memory?  How will she be able to handle this case long distance from Atlanta?  Who will she be able to trust to be her boots on the ground in Israel to investigate the terrorists who perpetrated this savage attack?  Was Jakob’s attack related to the investigation, or was it just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Mixed into the storyline is faith, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and agnostic.

I enjoyed the likable characters, found the storyline intriguing and suspenseful as people put their lives on the line to investigate and bring terrorists and those that support them to justice.

I give Chosen People a big thumbs up and recommend it highly.  Robert Whitlow knows how to write great fiction, from interesting characters to a storyline that weaves together intrigue, suspense and faith.  This one kept me guessing to the end.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Robert Whitlow’s new book Chosen People in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Five Minute Friday – It Only Takes a Moment

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in the Five Minute Friday writing challenge. But it feels so good to dive back in. If you like to write or need some inspiration and encouragement from others be sure to check it out.

Today word prompt: Moment

It only takes a moment
For everything in your life to change

One moment
And things will never be the same again

Sometimes those are good moments
Filled with happiness, excitement and joy

Other times, it’s a sad or desperate moment
One that you will look back on and wonder
What if
If only
I wish

The thing of it is
We don’t know when those moments are coming

We don’t know
When it will be the last time…
You’ll see that loved one alive
Or the last time you get to say I love you
The final time you will hear their voice
The last message that will come across your phone

When that moment comes
Only then you realize…
No more chances to say I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me
No more opportunities to share the Gospel of Christ
No longer can you tell them what they’ve meant to you
Your words of encouragement will not be heard by the one who needs it the most

No longer will you be able to hold their hand
Look into their eyes
Laugh together so hard it makes you cry
Hug them and feel them hold you tight

So today
For a moment
Take a moment
To be with
To do or say
That which you can’t do
When the one you love has been taken away

Susan Wachtel
October 26, 2018

In light of the recent death of my brother, Michael Bunts, I’m very aware of those moments that have passed and I can’t get back or do over.

When a fellow Christian dies you miss them, are profoundly sad and grieve their loss. But it’s a grief with hope in the knowledge that their life is not over and you will see them again in heaven. They are in the presence of God, where we long to be.

But when it’s someone who doesn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ, or hasn’t repented of their sin and put their faith in the complete and finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, that’s a sadness without hope for their eternal security.

Even in that profound sadness and loss…there is always hope for the believer based on who God is. Sovereign, Righteous, Holy, Holy, Holy, Compassionate, Truth, Deliverer, Refuge, Strong Tower, Strength, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Great High Priest, Everywhere Present, Creator, Eternal, Without Beginning and Without End, The Good Shepherd, The Way, The Truth and the Life, The Narrow Gate, Without Sin, Pure, The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World, Resurrected Savior, Kind, Patient, the Mighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ the Son of God, Immanuel, Messiah, Wrathful, Punishes the Wicked, Merciful, Gracious, Just, Judge…and so much more.

Jacob – Being Transformed by Amazing Grace – The Bible Teacher’s Guide – by Gregory Brown – Comprehensive, Insightful & Interesting Bible Study About Jacob

One of my favorite books of the Bible, both to read and study, is the book of Genesis.  One of the characters I’ve struggled to understand is Jacob.  That’s why I was excited when Pastor, Teacher and Author Gregory Brown asked if I would like to read his newest Bible study, Jacob – Being Transformed by Amazing Grace.

This Bible study on Jacob is comprehensive.  Pastor Brown does not shy away from taking a closer look at some Jacob’s uglier character flaws, sin patterns and the sinful choices he made.  He also shows us areas of growth and faith in Jacob’s walk with God.  Additionally, he looks at the people in Jacob’s life, like his parents, brother, wives and children and we see how Jacob’s life impacted and influenced them.  Lest we think we are far superior to Jacob, there are some very convicting application questions and insightful commentary that will help us learn from Scripture and apply what we learn to our own lives.

Pastor Brown uses Scripture to interpret Scripture.  He studies the Scripture in context, line by line, verse by verse.

A few areas that Pastor Brown focuses on are:  Signs of Not Trusting God, Equipped in God’s Boot Camp, Protecting our Families from Sin and Dysfunctionality, Faithfully Following God, Living Out Our New Identity in Christ and the Consequences of Neglecting God.

Even though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived over 4,000 years ago, their lives and what God did in their individual lives and families is very relevant to us today.  We can learn about who God is and who He has revealed Himself to be and how that should impact our lives.

This Bible study would be good for a small group study, an individual Bible study or to help someone prepare to teach from the book of Genesis about the life of Jacob.

I would like to thank Pastor Gregory Brown for the opportunity to read his latest Bible Teacher’s Guide on Jacob – Being Transformed by Amazing Grace.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin – A Real Gem and Lovely Read

One of my favorite things is when I find a book that I love by an author whose work is new to me.  I found a gem in Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin.  I absolutely loved this book, from the moment I first started reading it.  I haven’t read a lot of Amish themed novels, but there was something about storyline that caught my attention.

Mary Katherine Ropp is a sixty-year-old widow and her last daughter is getting married.  Most in the community would have her living with one of her married children and helping to raise her grandchildren.  But Mary Katherine isn’t like most Amish women.  She’s little bit spunky, independent, she likes to read, write stories and even dares to dream about opening a book store with her English friend Dottie.  Also, part of the community is Ezekiel Miller who has been widowed for many years.  In spite of grief, he kept family going through his business the Purpose Martin Café.  Both Mary Katherine and Ezekiel can’t imagine getting married again so late in life, especially since they had wonderful marriages.  But Ezekiel can imagine hiring another cook to help at the restaurant.  In to the storyline steps the not so skilled, but very hungry burglar, Burke McMillan, who has a late-night encounter with Mary Katherine.

What I loved best about this book were the characters.  They were very likable people that I would enjoy knowing.  Mary Katherine was my favorite and I loved her ongoing conversations with her husband Moses.  I loved Ezekiel’s tender caring heart, tender for Mary Katherine, open to help and give a new start to a stranger, loving to his grandchildren, especially Kenneth.  Burke is a man of mystery.  Is he just a down on his luck kind of guy, is he the thief that’s been plaguing the Amish community or is something more going on with him?

Kelly Irvin is a wonderful writer.  She knows how to make characters interesting and very likeable, even in plain every day ordinary life.  She gives insight into the characters and what they are going through at this stage in their lives.  The Amish community setting is interesting but doesn’t overwhelm the story, instead it’s the background and reveals how these characters live their lives.  I could identify with many of the feelings that Mary Katherine was expressing.

The one person, I wasn’t too keen on was her son Thomas because he was so disrespectful to his mother.  I would think as a Christian, he would have tried to honor his mother, but instead he treated her more like a child who has misbehaved.

I loved Through the Autumn Air by Kelly Irvin and I look forward to reading more of her books.  I highly recommend this story, it was lovely!  I read this book during a very difficult time in my life and I found it to be a very comforting place to escape to for a while.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Through the Autumn Air in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.