A Love Like Ours

A Love Like Ours Book Cover. Adapted from Baker Publishing Group, 2015.

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships. When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run. Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend? – Summary provided by Bethany House Publishers.

When I started to read this novel, I immediately felt a sense of familiarity and I wondered to myself why this was so. It wasn’t until I got further into the novel that I realized the characters in the novel belonged to a trio series called the ‘Porter Family’. Upon this realization, I settled into the novel and immersed myself into this fictitious world.  However, I still felt myself being drawn back to this sense of familiarity and finally the dots connected! This novel paralleled so strikingly to the novel My Stubborn Heart also written by Becky Wade. The main premise of both novels were pretty much the same; a man with emotional trauma who immerses himself in his vocational work; builds a world with no one else except for family and even the latter have no meaningful relationship with this man; the fiercely determined young woman comes into his life and eventually nurtures this wounded man back to health and wholeness.

I was disappointed because I felt as though I was reading version 2.0 of My Stubborn Heart but I forged on and once again Becky Wade’s exceptional storytelling captured me into Lyndie and Jake’s world.

This is a contemporary romance novel; it explored a very relevant topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its impacts on war veterans. I enjoyed learning Jake’s perspective because it opened my eyes to the challenges (asides from the transition to civilian life) that veterans face. I also enjoyed the character development of Lyndie and Jake and the side story of Will and Amber. In addition, I would have liked to see Jake have more interactions with his brother and see the dynamics of their relationships because now, two of the brothers love story had been written. It would have been unique to see Ty and Bo’s perspectives as married men not necessarily to see them give advice to Jake on relationships but just the brotherly conversations of work (i.e. horses) and helping Jake with his PTSD. However, Jake relationship with Lyndie’s mother made up for it (i.e. Jake conversing with another individual who can help with his PTSD) as it took on a patient-therapist role. It was great seeing the final sibling, Dru, be more involved in this novel. I have a feeling her story might be the last of the Porter Family series and it will be neat to see how her story unfolds!

Again, I didn’t like the fact that this novel had many similarities with My Stubborn Heart. Also, I was really confused with this statement that appeared often within the first half of the novel: “if you like that sort of thing”. This statement referenced a particular description of Jake made by Lyndie and thus the assertion the average woman may not like this sort of thing. I was trying to understand why Becky inserted this phrase multiple times…what was she trying to get at? Or maybe I already answered my question? Or maybe I only read it twice and extrapolated it to “multiple”(lol) it’s possible! However, if something is repeated more than once, it must have some significance, right? Anyways, it was also strange to see Amber commenting on Ty’s looks. Granted he was described as a good-looking guy in the second novel of the series but she mentioned it a few times and he’s married now, though (hmmmm). I would love to see a fourth and final series in the book of Dru’s story mixed in with Bo and Meg’s story on their infertility. I think the latter topic is so relevant and it will shed some light and give me as a reader greater insight of the struggles couples face.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel; I couldn’t put it down for longer than 10 minutes. Becky Wade is an exceptional writer and master storyteller. I can’t wait for her next book release!

I would like to express great thanks to  Bethany House Publishers for providing me with this free copy of A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade.

Taming the Wind

Cover Art

Taming the Wind. Adapted from Baker Publishing Group, 2014.

When Cassie Lowe goes to live with her sister in the years following the Civil War, she is reacquainted with a man who once saved her life, Tyler Atherton. But Cassie is no longer the lighthearted young woman he once knew. She is now a widow with a young daughter, and she is nursing the disappointments and hurts from a difficult marriage. Though she longs to open her heart again, she is bound by fear and mistrust.

Tyler has demons of his own. Still haunted by the knowledge that his father was murdered by Comanches, he puts all his focus on reclaiming his inheritance: the ranch stolen from his family as punishment for his fighting for the Confederacy. With his affection for Cassie growing, he longs to provide a home and future for her and her daughter.

Though yearning to pledge their love, both Cassie and Tyler struggle to conquer their fears. Will Indian attacks, post-war renegades, and the hardship of life on the Texas plains destroy their future? Or will they find the strength to surrender their wills to God…and embrace his perfect plan? – Summary provided by Bethany House Publishers

This novel was an solid read. For me, there was a familiarity that came with this novel. It’s a part of a series (three novels so far) so seeing the same characters from the first and second book made me feel more connected to the characters. This story tackled very serious issues such as unforgiveness, pain and hurt from broken hearts, and more. Even though it was mellow at some points, joy and laughter is brought forth from Carissa’s daughter. Her childlike honesty and carefree attitude brings light in the mellow times.

I particularly enjoyed that the men in the town left to go on the cattle drive because we were able to truly see a discipleship happen in each one of the women – especially in Carissa. They read bible passages together, they learnt, cried and prayed for each other and it was an incredible image! Allowing the men to physically leave made the women rely solely on God. The truths that Carissa learnt were what kept her courageous in the most difficult situations. There were ‘God moments’ all throughout the book which ultimately directed the reader to remember or understand that God is the orchestrator of what seems impossible.

Once again, Tracie demonstrates that a love story without the display of the faithfulness and goodness of God is one that is not worth telling. Thank you for continuously sharing of this message of the confident hope we find only in Jesus!

I would like to express great thanks to  Bethany House Publishers for providing me with this free copy of Taming the Wind by Tracie Peterson.

– Manuela

For me, Christmas has always been a season of getting together with family and friends – over food of course, haha! Lately, I have been rediscovering what Christmas is all about; because growing up in a Christian home my whole life has made me used to certain routines, patterns. At times, I find myself going through the motions, not really reflecting on the ‘reason for the season’ and as I was cleaning the other day, God reminded me of these three things.

First is that, this is a season of celebration! God wants us to celebrate the birth of His Son, Jesus. We must be filled with praise, and rejoicing because Jesus’ birth meant that God is with us – Immanuel! Our redemption and salvation couldn’t have happened if He wasn’t born.

Secondly, by allowing His Son to be born, God presented us with a gift – Jesus! This means we must also present ourselves back to God as a gift.

Finally, we must be oh so mindful that we don’t get caught up in the excessive (emphasis here) materialism and that we should give of our time; spending quality moments with friends and family. As someone said, it is not what you bring, but who you bring with you to heaven.

So, celebrate joyously, offer yourselves back to God as gifts, and love deeply in all the relationships you’re invested in. Share of this precious hope because the world needs to hear!

– Manuela 🙂

The Miner’s Lady

 
The Miner's Lady (Land of Shining Water #3)The Miner’s Lady. Adapted from Baker Publishing Group, 2013.
When Chantel Panetta’s younger sister claims to be in love with Orlando Calarco, Chantel knows there is no hope. The Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families. Yet, unable to resist Isabella’s pleas, Chantel agrees to help her sister spend time with Orlando…only to have a run-in with Dante, Orlando’s brother.Chantel can’t deny the attraction that flares when she’s with Dante. But when a tragedy occurs at the mine, is there any hope that the hatred that has simmered between these two families might be resolved? Or will Chantel and Isabella’s hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding? (Peterson, 2013)

I’ve come to look forward to every new book that release by Tracie Peterson because her stories are not only filled with romance, but suspense and intrigue as well.

In this novel, there was not only one love story but two! Both had their own unique identities – with Isabella and Orlando’s,  it was primarily adventure and passion that fueled their love. Even resorting to meet in risky (iron mine) and uncanny (back of conveniencestore) locations. Tracie stayed true to this plot line, as both Isabella and Orlando were 19, so their passion and adventurous nature was not unlike any couple who would be experiencing those same feelings. The urgency of the two having to get married added to the suspense of the plot line, which was a benefit to the story. But realistically speaking, I don’t think it was necessary for the two to run away and create all this drama however I do have to remind myself of the historical time period this was set in.

Where Isabella and Orlando’s romance developed from adventure and passion, Chantelle and Dante stemmed from intensity because of their sameness in personality. This makes their encounters heated with passionate debates and  sharp banter but love blooms out of their obvious attraction for each other.

The plot line is further developed with the introduction of Alfredo and Marco, brothers of Isabella and Chantelle. In particular, Marco and his mishaps with alcohol and gambling. It was very interesting to see his internal struggle on whether doing the right thing is always the best thing. This little side plot provided a good break from the romance aspect and gave the story depth from being a one dimensional, traditional romance story.

Tracie also tackles the issue of alcoholism by introducing Reverend Black who gave a long drawn tirade that drinking alcohol leads to more sins, physical and spiritual death and destruction. I agree that are times when rebuke is warranted and even necessary, however Rev Black’s speech came out of condemnation and judgement. It surprised me that Tracie was willing to talk about this prevalent issue, albeit in a historical context-  how it was dealt with then, and that it still exists today! I appreciated that Tracie was willing to invoke her own personal opinion in a subtle way but still get the message across of Jesus’ love, grace and mercy.

To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed the faith of Nonna Barbota especially since it helped bring clarity, and perspective to this whole matter while unifying the overall plot of this story.

All in all, it was a fantastic read!

I would like to express great thanks to  Bethany House Publishers for providing me with this free copy of The Miner’s Lady by Tracie Peterson.  

– Manuela 🙂

This Year: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller

This Year: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller By Steven Furtick

I’ve met a lot of people who knew what it was to burn plows and set  out to live for God but didn’t know what to do next. They prayed, they  made a commitment—and they got stuck. As a pastor, I’ve seen it over and  over again. As a man trying to live for God, I’ve experienced it over  and over again.

I’m guessing you’ve made plenty of resolutions about stuff you needed  to start doing or stop doing. Maybe you were going to start praying or  reading your Bible more.

Or maybe you were going to stop smoking or boycott carbohydrates or  stop looking at pornography or stop saying mean things about family  members behind their backs. Maybe you decided to break away from a  relationship you knew was unhealthy for you.

The way I see it, there are two major reasons why well-intentioned people like us get stuck after we burn our plows.

One, we don’t think big enough. Two, we don’t start small enough.

I’m not trying to talk like Yoda here. Thinking big enough and  starting small enough are two sides of the same coin. So I not only want  to motivate you to dream bigger dreams for your life. I also want to  challenge you to take realistic steps of obedience that can actually  make God’s vision come to pass.

After all, our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask  or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). It is true that we often settle for dreams  and visions that are far less than those God has for us. And He wants  us to experience much more. If I didn’t believe that, the title of this  book would be Samer.

So of course God wants you to believe big—it’s in His very nature.  I’ve devoted my whole ministry to inspiring people with this truth.  Preacher Dwight L. Moody made a statement that I love: “If God is your  partner, make your plans big.” That way of thinking makes my heart race.

But we’re not going to see God’s bigger vision fulfilled in our lives  just because we spend more time thinking transcendent thoughts. We  don’t attain greater things simply by lying on the couch and  concentrating on the possibilities of a better life. Alas, sitting for  thousands of hours with my headphones on listening to Guns N’ Roses and  imagining I was Axl Rose didn’t translate into my being the lead singer  of the world’s most dangerous rock’n’roll band.

You do have to be willing to think big. But the active ingredient of  God’s greater work through us is our willingness to start small.

I want to show you an incredible image in one of the first main-stage  miracles Elisha performs after Elijah departs and leaves the ministry  in his successor’s hands. It demonstrates the principle that small steps  and hard work precipitate a move of God. That human action prepares the  way for supernatural favor.

It comes from 2 Kings 3, and it goes like this:

King Joram is ruling over Israel during the years when the kingdom is  divided. When the king of Moab rebels against him, the frightened king  enlists King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom to help him.  Their combined military force should be fearsome against the  Moabites—but they almost immediately run out of water for their armies  and animals. Now they are preparing to face a terrifying foe while  facing an even more terrifying fate: dying of thirst.

Par for the course in Israel’s history, the crisis drives King Joram  to look for divine help. He isn’t desperate for God, but he is desperate  for a solution. King Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet who could  consult God for them. A servant reminds him of Elisha, the artist  formerly known as Mr. Plow. So the three kings and their entourages go  looking for Elisha.

Elisha confirms to the kings that water will flow from Edom by the  time the sun comes up the next morning. Their armies and their animals  will have plenty to drink. The drought is almost over. God is going to  deliver Moab to His people just as they prayed for. Hallelujah,  somebody?

But he tells the kings to take a small, ludicrous step first.

This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. (verse 16)

Why would anybody in their right mind dig ditches to hold rain that isn’t even in the forecast?

Because that’s the way faith works. When you know God has promised  you greater things, you don’t wait for a sign to appear before you  respond. The kings wanted a miracle. They would get their miracle. But  first they got a work order: This is no time for the power of positive  thinking. Tie a bandanna around your head and pick up a shovel.

It would have been great if all the army had to do was sit around  thinking hydration-related thoughts or had a few guided exercises to  help them visualize the water. But that’s not how God operates.

It’s as if God says, “If you really believe I’m going to do what I  told you I would do, get busy. Show Me your faith, and then I’ll show  you My faithfulness. Do your part. If you will do what I asked you to  do, I will be faithful to My word.

“If you’ll dig the ditches, I’ll send the rain.”

The entire nation must have pitched in and dug all night, because  they got it done. The next morning the water arrived. As promised. As  always. The newly installed ditches were full of water, the armies and  animals were refreshed, and the joint army easily overtook the Moabites.

I think Elisha used the process of ditch digging to teach Israel this important paradox of great faith:

Only God can send the rain. But He expects you to dig the ditches.

It really comes down to this: What small steps and practical  preparations is God asking you to make for the greater life He wants you  to live? What ditches is He asking you to dig?

You can’t expect God to entrust you with a big dream if He can’t trust you to make a small start.

You can’t have the apostle Paul’s walk with God overnight. Big dream.

But you can pray ten minutes a day beginning tomorrow. Small start.

You can’t entirely mend a broken relationship overnight. Big dream.

But you can have a conversation and open the door, write the letter, make the call, say, “I’m sorry.” Small start.

If your kid is far from God, you can’t bring him back overnight. Big dream.

But you could start praying for him every day. Small start.

Notice what Elisha doesn’t say; he doesn’t tell the kings to dig one ditch. No singular ditch digging on this prophet’s watch.

Instead, make this valley full of ditches. Plural.

Believe that God is going to send a lot of rain.

If we really believe God is an abundant God, ready and willing to  bless our lives in greater ways than we could ever imagine, we ought to  be digging all kinds of ditches. In our relationships. In our careers.  In our ministries. In every area of our lives, there ought to be  heavy-duty equipment on site. Moving dirt. Making preparation.

And we ought to dig ditches using every means available. We can dig  ditches with our words. With our prayers. With our expectations. Even  with our thoughts.

How many ditches are you willing to dig? How deep will you dig them?  You’re not digging alone. And it’s not in vain. God has a downpour  scheduled in your near future. The deeper you dig, the greater the  rainfall has the potential to be.

Adapted from Greater by Steven Furtick with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Resolve to Love

Resolve to Love by Kerry and Chris Shook

Right now, there are three relationships in your life that trouble  you. Perhaps a good friend said something to you yesterday. It felt  critical, but you’re not sure what she meant. The two of you used to be  so close, but lately you’ve been drifting apart. Something’s not right.  Oh, and your mother called. There’s that. You know you should return her  call, but you haven’t. Why? You know there are things you should have  said before, you avoided them, and now you feel it’s too late. It’s  always so hard with her. Always messy. And then…your son has been  missing. Not missing physically, but he’s been distant, quiet, silent.  Missing emotionally. What’s that about? What’s going on in his life? You  want to reach out, but he pushes you away. It worries you.

Maybe the relationships in your life aren’t exactly like these, but  I’m guessing these remind you of someone close to you, a problem  relationship in your life right now. Maybe it’s not your mother but your  father, perhaps not your son but a daughter-in-law. It could be your  best friend. Whoever it is, he or she is someone who matters to you—or  else the relationship wouldn’t trouble you, gnaw at you on the inside,  make you question and grumble, or even bring you to tears.

So take a moment and think, who are these three key people in your  life? Which meaningful relationships are troubling you? Relationships  you wish were closer. Relationships you’d like to be deeper and richer.  Relationships that trouble you, bother you, even make you a little crazy  right now.

Seriously, think about it. Who are they? And now take a moment to name these three key relationships out loud.

Trust me, this is important for you. In fact, this may be the most significant thing you do in your life right now. Why?

Because life is way too short. At the end of the day—at the end of  The Day—in this all-too-short life we share, all that really matters is  relationships. Our relationships with the God who created us and with  the people we love. Compared to these relationships, the job or career  goals we set now aren’t really so important, the ladders we try to climb  don’t matter so much, and the objects we long to own and possess seem  utterly trivial.

What really counts in the end is that special knowing look you share  with your spouse, the arms of your child reaching up to you, or the  quiet comfort of a friend who stands by your side in a difficult time.

Think about the possible loss of the relationship with one of those  three people you named. You can’t do anything about death and the  physical departure of one of them from this earth. That’s in God’s  hands.

But you can do something about your relationship with them in life.

Much of what you’ve been told about relationships is upside down and wrong. Researchers tell us that a baby sees everything upside down for the  first few days of life until the brain can adjust the visual picture to  right side up. Most relationships today are stuck in this same infant  stage; we tend to see relationships upside down, and our culture only  reinforces this view. The concept of love at first sight permeates our  music, movies, television, and books. What we learn as children and  continue to believe as adults is that a fairy-tale relationship somehow  just happens. Now, I’m not bashing romance, but meaningful relationships  depend on seeing other people as they are and looking at them right  side up.

Real love—whether romantic love, a close friendship, or a  family relationship—happens long after first sight. It shows up as  people get to know each other more deeply and often after they work  through tough things together. Real love in relationships isn’t a  magic act; it’s a journey. When people say, “It was love at first sight,” what they really mean  is “I was attracted to that person the first time I saw them.” There is  nothing wrong with being infatuated with someone at the start of a  relationship. The real question, however, is, do you have a love that is  growing stronger and deeper every day?

I don’t believe in love at first sight; I believe in love at last  sight. Each of my relationships has the potential to be better the next  time we’re together than it was the previous time so that the last time  we see each other on this earth we’re closer than ever before.

I’d like you to join me in the Lasting Love Relationship Challenge. The book One Month to Love is the challenge, and you can do it on your own. Just read a chapter  each day. There are thirty chapters, they’re short, and you can probably  read one a day pretty easily. At the end of each chapter you’ll find  the Lasting Love Relationship Challenge, which is designed to help you  take the insights from that day and apply them to your key  relationships. Also you can log on to onemonthtolove.com each day to  access our personal coaching and get extra encouragement and advice or  share your story. Our goal is to come alongside you to help you create  the very best relationships possible. Let’s resolve to love this year!

Adapted from One Month to Love by Kerry and Chris Shook with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Love in Disguise

Love in Disguise. Adapted from Baker Publishing Group, 2012.

Can she solve the crime before they uncover her true identity?

Jobless and down to her last dime, Ellie Moore hears about a position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and believes it’s the perfect chance to put her acting skills and costumes to use. Reluctantly, the agency agrees to give her one assignment, one chance to prove herself. Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation. When the need arises, she also transforms into the dazzling Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.

Mine owner Steven Pierce is going to lose his business if he can’t figure out who’s stealing his silver shipments. In his wildest dreams, he never expected to receive help from a gray-haired widow…or to fall in love with her beautiful niece.

Then the thieves come after Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn’t safe no matter which character she plays! Should she give up and reveal her true identity? What will Steven do when he realizes the woman he’s falling in love with doesn’t really exist? – Summary provided by Bethany House Publishers

When I received this novel, I was knee deep in summer studies so I had to postpone reading the novel and this review. But I have successfully finished summer school and reading this novel! After reading the summary online, I was actually very psyched to read Love in Disguise by Carol Cox, however that excitement faltered when I finished reading the novel and I realized that I was disappointed. The book was not what I expected, in fact I didn’t really enjoy or like it while I was reading and after I read.

These are the three reasons why:

– Confusion between Ellie playing two role – The character development was mediocre

– The deception Ellie creates – Leads to unrealistic reactions from Steven Pierce

-The story line lacked substance – It was hard to remember the details

In allowing the main character, Ellie to play two different roles, it made it very difficult to track the character development of Ellie. The author gives brief glimpses of her strong will and fiery spirit however this is all lost when the reader (me!) has to question whether this is her true self or just another facade for the role she plays. Also, we see Ellie immersing into her roles so much that at one point she begins to think as ‘Mrs. Lavinia Stewart’. This immersal makes it so hard to see who Ellie is as a young woman. Yes, we see her raw and natural in the beginning of the book, but it is through hard circumstances such as Ellie’s unemployment that we are able to see her grow into a much more mature self. Unfortunately, the roles of Lavinia and Jessie clouds the reader from seeing this development.

I was so so shocked when I read Steven Pierce’s reaction when Ellie confessed of her deception. There was absolutely no show of outrage, anger, frustration or hurt. He seemingly brushes the matter asides and shows no emotions of being affected. This attitude by Steven made me realize the lack of depth in what was supposed to be a delightful relationship between Steven and Ellie.

This all leads to the fact that this story line or plot lacked substance. The summary provided by the author alludes to excitement, suspense, and sweet romance all wrapped up in one novel but it wasn’t fun to read. I found myself skipping through certain portions because of the un-engaging plot. After reading Love in Disguise, I quickly forgot the key details of the novel, it wasn’t very memorable and there was nothing really special or unique about it. It really could have been a fabulous story, but the execution of this story is not well done.

Perhaps your opinions may differ from mine. If you have read this novel, please feel free to share your thoughts on why you think otherwise 🙂

– Manuela

I would like to express great thanks to  Bethany House Publishers for providing me with this free copy of Love in Disguise by Carol Cox.