Sunday, August 2, 2015

"this is not a test" by tobymac + giveaway

Release Date: August 7, 2015

In junior high and high school, I was obsessed with dc Talk. Obsessed. One of my biggest regrets is not ever seeing them live. I've now seen each member separately, but it's not quite the same. So I was thrilled—like fist pump, jump up and down ecstatic—when I learned that TobyMac's new album would feature a track with dc Talk. And then when an invitation to review said album showed up in my inbox, I hit reply so fast it would have made your head spin!


This Is Not A Test  (Deluxe Edition) Songs:
1. Like a Match
2. Backseat Driver (featuring Hollyn & TRU)
3. This Is Not a Test (featuring Capital Kings)
4. Lights Shine Bright (featuring Hollyn)
5. Til the Day I Die (featuring NF)
6. Feel It (featuring Mr. Talkbox)
7. Move (Keep Walkin')
8. Love Broke Thru
9. Beyond Me
10. Love Feels Like (featuring dc Talk)
11. Undeniable
12. Lift You Up (featuring Ryan Stevenson)
13. Fall
14. Beyond Me (Phenomenon Remix)
15. Like a Match (Garcia's Remix)

If you're anything like me, your first question regarding the album is, "How's the dc Talk track?"

In a word: Awesome.

Basically, "Love Feels Like" is all the best parts of dc Talk rolled into one. It sounds like it would fit very well on the Jesus Freak or Supernatural albums. Each guy gets a chance to do his thing, and it's just fantastic. The song is incredibly catchy, and there is no doubt it's dc Talk.

The rest of the album is great, too. I especially like "Backseat Driver," featuring Hollyn (who I'd never heard of before) and TRU (TobyMac's son, previously known as Trudog). "Beyond Me" is great, too—and chances are good you've already heard it if you listen to any Christian radio. Really, I like every song on this album, and I think it's going to give Portable Sounds a run for its money as my favorite TobyMac album! 5 stars.

Now here's the part you've been waiting for: I get to give a copy of this awesome CD to one of my readers! Just enter through the Rafflecopter below.

Giveaway rules: Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Contest is open in the US and CANADA only. Winner will be selected at random using Rafflecopter.com and will have 48 hours to respond to email notification, or another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Preorder the album on iTunes and get four songs instantly! 


Toby McKeehan (known professionally as TobyMac) is a husband, father, performer, songwriter, producer, and businessman. Growing up in the northern Virginia suburbs adjacent to Washington D.C. helped instill his love for rap music. While attending Liberty University during the mid 80s, Toby met Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith, and these three friends formed the Grammy winning, platinum selling group dc Talk. Toby began his solo career in 1999 with his first solo album, Momentum, releasing in 2001. Momentum has been followed by four additional studio albums, Welcome to Diverse City (2004), Portable Sounds (2007), Tonight (2010), and Eye On It (2012), along with his first live album, Alive and Transported (2008). This Is Not A Test is his 6th studio album to be released. Starting with dc Talk, and then going solo when the group disbanded, Toby still clings to such rootsy notions as hard work, persistence, patience, and - perhaps most relevant of all - the power of music, which he insists is still what keeps him going. "It's the truth," he says. "I still believe that a song can penetrate a heart. I believe God can use a song to open someone's mind and heart."

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

"the wonder of you" by susan may warren

The Wonder of You continues Susan May Warren's wonderful Christiansen Family series.

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

The overarching theme in The Wonder of You is pursuing the life God has called you to, wherever that may be and however that life may look.

After returning home from Europe with her heart broken, Amelia wonders if God's plans for her really include more than Deep Haven. Maybe she should settle down with Seth, her high school boyfriend, and live out her days in Deep Haven. But her heart continues pulling her toward Roark, even though she's not sure she can fully trust him. She struggles to understand what God wants for her.

Max Sharpe, Grace Christiansen's fiance, also struggles to understand God's plan for his life. Knowing he faces declining health and eventually death due to Huntington's disease, he decided that children could not be in his future. But when an orphan practically falls into Grace's lap, Max begins to realize that God may have something bigger in mind for him and Grace.

I love the way that Susan May Warren seamlessly weaves spiritual truth into a completely gripping family drama. One thing that has stuck with me, even several days after finishing the book, is a conversation that Amelia has with her best friends about following God's call. One of her friends says that if God called her to missions, she would just say no—after all, people say no to God all the time. That got me thinking—in what ways have I said no to God, and how much richer would my life be if I had said yes? Food for thought, for sure.

Of course, I enjoyed the novel for more than the deep thinking it provoked! The romance between Amelia and Roark was sweet (if a bit frustrating at times), and I loved how Roark fit into the Deep Haven community. I also enjoyed looking in on most of the other Christiansens again, as well as Jensen and Claire (from Take a Chance on Me).

Though it was the "B" plot of the novel, I absolutely adored the story surrounding Max and Grace. They are my favorite of the couples so far, so I was thrilled to jump back into their story and see how their relationship progressed since they fell in love in When I Fall in Love.

I feel like a broken record whenever I review one of the Christiansen Family books because I have only good things to say about them! This is a series that you absolutely don't want to miss, and The Wonder of You is just as gripping as all the preceding books in the series. 5 stars.

Read an excerpt.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of other Christiansen Family novels: When I Fall in Love (5 stars), Evergreen (5 stars), and Always on my Mind (5 stars).

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. 

Find Susan online: website, My Book Therapy, Twitter, Facebook


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"a heart's promise" by colleen coble

Emmie Croftner tries to navigate pregnancy and romance in the fifth installment in Colleen Coble's Journey of the Heart series.

When Emmie Croftner discovers she's pregnant, she's unsure what to do. Everyone at Fort Phil Kearny, including her dearest friends Sarah and Amelia, assume she's a widow. If the truth—that her late "husband" Monroe deceived her, and they were never truly married—comes out, she may lose her friends, her place to stay, and the attention of sweet soldier Isaac Liddle.

I think I enjoyed this installment in the Journey of the Heart series more than any other so far. Not only is Emmie so wholly likeable, but there's good romantic tension between Emmie and Isaac, the plot moves forward quite a bit, and characters from previous installments make return appearances to shake things up.

Those return characters really add a lot to the story, and I think they'll continue to be influential in the final book of this series. When Morning Song, Sarah Campbell's old friend, returns, she brings with her two surprises that rock Emmie's world—one in a good way, and the other in a bad way. It will be very interesting to see how everything plays out there. The conniving Jessica DuBois, Sarah's husband's ex-fiancee, also shows up again, and her return is sure to make waves. Honestly, I'd love for Jessica to get eaten by the wolves that live outside the fort—that's not very charitable of me, I know, but she's just such a horrible person!

A Heart's Promise definitely left me hanging, and I can't wait to see how everything plays out in A Heart's Home. 4 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the novella.
Read my reviews of A Heart's Disguise (4 stars), A Heart's Obsession (3 stars), A Heart's Danger (4 stars), and A Heart's Betrayal (3 stars).
Read my reviews of Coble's Inn at Ocean's Edge (5 stars), Lonestar series (Lonestar Secrets; Lonestar Angel, 3 stars), Under Texas Stars series (Blue Moon Promise, 3-1/2 stars; Safe in His Arms, 3-1/2 stars), and The Lightkeeper's Daughter.

Colleen Coble has sold over 2 million novels worldwide. Seagrass Pier, the third installment in her acclaimed Hope Beach series, marks a new highpoint for emotion and complexity in Coble's addictive brand of romantic suspense.
Find Colleen online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"the curiosity keeper" by sarah e. ladd

Sweet romance, intriguing mystery, and rich descriptions combine into compelling historical fiction in Sarah E. Ladd's latest release.

"It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail's egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whoever possesses it."

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She's done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille must allow a mysterious stranger to come to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content to work as the village apothecary. But when his brother's death made him heir just as his father's foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession---a ruby called the Bevoy---can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop---and the beautiful shop girl who may be the answer to his many questions.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, these two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, they will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

I read each of Sarah Ladd's great Whispers of the Moors novels as they released. If The Curiosity Keeper is any indication, her new Treasures of Surrey series is sure to be just as wonderful!

The Curiosity Keeper features two extremely likeable yet flawed main characters, Camille and Jonathan. I found Camille's background to be fascinating, and I loved the way Ladd slowly unfolded the story of Camille's family. I felt for Jonathan as he strove to be the man he knew he was meant to be while still yearning for the approval of his father. Really, the family dynamics of both the Iverness and Gilchrist families were the most interesting aspects of the novel for me.

The romance is sweet, if understated, and the mystery is compelling without being heart pounding. (If you're wondering, I think both of those things are good.) I loved seeing how everything with the Bevoy unfolded and learning how both families were involved.

The Curiosity Keeper is a very enjoyable read. I'm sure Recency fans will love it! 4-1/2 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Ladd's The Heiress of Winterwood (4 stars), The Headmistress of Rosemere (5 stars), and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (4 stars).

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.

Visit Sarah online: website, Facebook, Twitter.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"living hope" cd from pizza ranch + giveaway

My first experience with Pizza Ranch was after the longest. speech meet. ever. We arrived at the meet late, due to stopping to pick up students from another school whose bus had broken down by the side of the road. Nothing ran on schedule practically all day. We had sick kids, and one of my students got hit on by a judge. It was a looooong day.

So when it was finally time to begin our 90-minute drive home, we decided to stop for food. Pizza Ranch won out, basically because it was conveniently located. Best decision ever!

The food was amazing, and we had so much fun decompressing after our long day! 

While the nearest Pizza Ranch is 45 minutes away from where I live, I though I might start going more often ... and then I began my gluten free diet. I just assumed that Pizza Ranch was out for me—my favorite menu items were the pizza, fried chicken, and potato wedges ... all of which contain gluten. But when I was researching for this post, I discovered that they offer a gluten free pizza. Win! I'm looking forward to trying it out.

And now there's another reason to love Pizza Ranch: they've just released a CD of great Christian music, and it's only $5!

On June 2, 2015, Pizza Ranch released a CD called Living Hope containing twelve songs from many of their favorite Christian artists.  Most of the songs are brand-new and written exclusively for this CD around the theme of Hope.  Artists include Colton Dixon, Francesca Batistelli, Ellie Holcomb, Sidewalk Prophets, Kevin Max, Bart Millard, Passion Band featuring Kristian Stanfill, Michael W. Smith, and Mark Schultz.  

The CD will be available to purchase for $5 plus tax exclusively in Pizza Ranch restaurants or for download at pizzaranch.com/livinghope through August 31.  

From Adrie Groeneweg, President & CEO of Pizza Ranch, Inc.: "This album has a very special meaning for Pizza Ranch. Although Pizza Ranch is not in the music business, many things have been happening, conversations have been taking place and doors have been opening for this album. Through these events, I believe it was obvious that God has been behind this for His specific purpose and putting it on our hearts to collectively create this project. As such, we call this our miracle album, Living Hope."

I'm really enjoying this CD. Most of the songs were written exclusively for this album, and they all feature the theme of hope. I think my favorite track is "Day One" by Matthew West, which is an acoustic version of his current hit. I also really like "A Little Hope" by Bart Millard (best known from MercyMe). It's such a happy, bouncy tune. The rest of the songs on the album are good, too—I highly recommend it! 5 stars.

Not only did I get to enjoy this great CD, but I also have a copy to give away! Enter through the Raffelcopter below.

Giveaway rules: Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Contest is open in the US and CANADA only. Winner will be selected at random using Rafflecopter.com and will have 48 hours to respond to email notification, or another winner will be chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buy the album at any Pizza Ranch or download here.

About Pizza Ranch: Adrie Groeneweg founded Pizza Ranch in 1981 in Hull, Iowa. Currently, Pizza Ranch has 190 locations in 13 states including Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Home of the Pizza Lover’s Pizza®, The Country’s Best Chicken®, and our famous cactus bread, Pizza Ranch prides itself on legendary service and quality food.

Learn more about Pizza Ranch and the Living Hope album: 
Twitter: @PizzaRanch @PRServes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PizzaRanchRacing
Official Website: http://www.pizzaranch.com/livinghope/
YouTube Channel (features images and videos of the artists talking about the story behind each song): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE9lEnxuNzMyLfRyX8_tiLA


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

"thriving in babylon" by larry osborne + giveaway

Conservative Christians have a tendency to freak out whenever something that goes against God's word is embraced by society. I had a boss like that once, and I dreaded going to staff meetings, as I was sure we were going to hear yet another reason why America was going to Hell in a handbasket. And it's true that a lot is happening in America—and around the world—that goes directly against the Bible. So how should we respond? Larry Osborne offers some suggestions in his new book, Thriving in Babylon.

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has much to teach us today.

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne explores the "adult" story of Daniel to help us not only survive - but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

-Why panic and despair are never from God
-What true optimism looks like
-How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies
-Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen
-How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat

For those who know Jesus and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Jesus, everything changes---not only in us, but also in our world.

Thriving in Babylon is full of advice for Christians living in America today. I especially appreciated sections on examining our faith, as well as the descriptions of how to live lives full of hope, humility, and wisdom.

While I didn't agree with everything Osborne said (I thought he was a little too quick to dismiss the lies certain Biblical figures told, saying God understands that sometimes we have to choose the lesser of two evils), he certainly gave me a lot to think about.

I really enjoyed Osborne's writing style—it's engaging, funny, and very easy to read and understand.

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is this question: Why would we expect people who don't know Jesus to live like they do? Legislating morality doesn't work, and neither do "in your face" debates. Jesus calls us to love others and share the gospel with them. At the end of the book's section on humility, Osborne addresses this, saying, "We are to proclaim the gospel to lost people in the hope they will repent and bow the knee. Our goal is to win them over, not wipe them out. But we'll never be able to persuade anybody if our knee-jerk response to those held captive to do the enemy's will remains one of anger, resentment, disrespect, and scorn" (p. 166). A lot of people on social media need to think that one over!

Osborne also addresses sin in the church, saying that's what we need to be concerned about. If unbelievers are living lives of sin, that's to be expected. If those who call themselves Christ followers are, that's a problem that needs to be addressed.

Overall, I'm very glad I read Thriving in Babylon. It's given me a lot to think about, that's for sure! 4 stars.

The publisher sent me an extra copy of the book to give away! Just enter through the Rafflecopter below. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification, or another winner will be chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Buy the book.

Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor and teaching pastor at North Coast Church---one of the ten most influential churches in the country---since 1980. Dr. Osborne is the author of numerous books, includingAccidental Pharisees. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. They have three grown children.

Find Larry online: website, Facebook, Twitter


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"the lost garden" by katharine swartz

The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz first caught my attention because of the stunning cover (probably my favorite cover so far in 2015), and it kept my attention because of the beautiful prose and sweetly gripping story line.

Present and past residents of a countryside English vicarage search for love 

Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident leaving her the guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister, Rebecca. They choose the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast and settle into Bower House, the former vicarage, on the edge of the church property. When a door to a walled garden captures Rebecca's interest, Marin becomes determined to open it and discover what is hidden beneath the bramble inside. She enlists the help of local gardener Joss Fowler, and together the three of them begin to uncover the garden's secrets. 

In 1919, nineteen-year-old Eleanor Sanderson, daughter of Goswell's vicar, is grieving the loss of her beloved brother Walter, who was killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Eleanor retreats into herself and her father starts to notice how unhappy she is. As spring arrives, he decides to hire someone to make a garden for Eleanor, and draw her out of--or at least distract her from--her grief and sorrow. Jack Taylor is in his early twenties, a Yorkshire man who has been doing odd jobs in the village, and when Eleanor's father hires him to work on the vicarage gardens, a surprising--and unsuitable--friendship unfolds. 

Deftly weaving the dual narratives, Katharine Swartz explores themes of loyalty and love through her memorable characters and strong sense of place. 

The Lost Garden is not a particularly fast read—it's not one of those novels that moves at breakneck pace or is full of passionate romance. But it is a beautiful novel—one that you read slowly so as to savor the experience as the story unfolds.

Swartz weaves her dual narratives in such a way that as Marin is learning the secrets of the garden and its inhabitants, those events are unfolding in Eleanor's time. The narrative switches between past and present with each chapter, and I never found myself more interested in one timeline than another—both are equally fascinating.

In both timelines, the main characters deal with grief in wildly different ways. Yet their journeys to love and healing do mirror each other in an interesting fashion. Both story lines would be compelling on their own, but the intertwining of the two makes for a much richer and emotional reading experience. This is my first time reading a Katharine Swartz novel, but I'm sure it won't be my last. 5 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.

After spending three years as a diehard New Yorker, Katharine Swartz now lives in the Lake District with her husband, an Anglican minister, their five children, and a Golden Retriever. She enjoys such novel things as long country walks and chatting with people in the street, and her children love the freedom of village life—although she often has to ring four or five people to figure out where they've gone off to!

In addition to writing women's fiction, she writes contemporary romance for Mills & Boon Modern under the name Kate Hewitt. Whatever the genre, she enjoys delivering a compelling and intensely emotional story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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