Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never Before

Like Never Before – Walker Family Series by Melissa Tagg

Have you been to Maple Valley, Iowa??  It’s one of my favorite towns to visit. You too can visit this amazing town and get to know the wonderful people who live there by reading Melissa Tagg’s Walker Family Series.

Okay, okay…so it’s a fictional town and we can’t really go there for a visit.  But I sure wish we could.  I fell in love with this little town and its heartwarming and relatable characters in the prequel novella, Three Little Words (which you can get FREE on Amazon).  My heart was touched by the first book in the series, From the Start.  I loved the story and did not want to leave Maple Valley.  Thankfully, Melissa seemed to know that we were going to miss Maple Valley and would have to wait for book two in the Walker Family Series, so she surprised us with a fabulous novella, One Enchanted Christmas to tie us over.  Although not a Walker Family book, it was set in Maple Valley and it was such a joy to read.

I have liked Melissa’s author page on Facebook and I LOVE how she shares about her writing and her characters and what God is teaching her through them.  Logan’s book, Like Never Before – the second in the Walker Family Series – has been highly anticipated both by her and by all of us who love the Walkers and Maple Valley!  I was so excited to get my influencer copy in the mail.  I wanted to devour it and yet, I didn’t.  I really wanted to read it nonstop until I finished, but I also wanted to savor it.  It almost sounds silly to me, but I wanted to be able to focus solely on the book, not having anything else around to distract me when I was reading.  So, I forced myself to read it slowly and I’m so glad I did.

There was a lot of hype about Logan Walker before the book even came out.  Melissa just couldn’t say enough good stuff about him…she practically fell in love with him (ask her…she’ll tell you).  And I must say, after reading the book I can see why…Logan makes falling for him easy and from what I’ve seen in other reviews, she’s not the only one!   Logan has some tough issues to deal with in this book.  I love his heart, his true desire to do what is right, his devotion to his family and his romantic nature.

Amelia Bentley is a fun quirky character that we met in From the Start and she is the perfect match for Logan.  I love her passion and determination.  Her heart for seemingly unlovable people challenges me to love people where they are, knowing there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

This book allowed us to walk through a lot of hard memories and difficult decisions, determination and life altering situations, gentle reminders and soul-searching moments as Logan and Amelia face life together as their paths cross in Maple Valley.

We are also privileged to witness the great love between father and daughter, estranged sisters, caring siblings, father to grown son, two souls finding each other and most importantly God and His children.  This book speaks to the importance of the relationships in our lives and reminds us not to take them for granted.

This book is one for the re-read shelf.  It is heartwarming and challenging at the same time.  And there’s a fun mystery woven in too!

Are you ready to visit Maple Valley and meet these wonderful people?  Don’t delay.  I’m certain they will make you feel right at home.

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

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A Love Like Ours – READ IT!!

To be honest, I’ve been having a really difficult time putting into words how much I love this book. So, many aspects of it grabbed my heart or my attention and caused this book to really stick with me long after finishing it.

I knew I would love the book because it was written by Becky Wade. AND, it is a Porter Family novel. Having already read the first two books in this series, I’ve already fallen in love with the stories (and, who am I kidding, the characters) of Bo and Ty Porter. The family, the town, the setting…visiting the make-believe town of Holley, Texas is on my fictional bucket list!

Jake, the third Porter brother, is a Marine who has PTSD and carries an enormous load of guilt from his time overseas. He has been home for eight years and has yet to begin healing at all. He has become a brooding, broken man who no longer believes in God and does not believe he deserves any happiness in his life.

Lyndie Thomas’ life has not been easy either. Her family’s lives have revolved around caring for her younger sister Mollie who has lived since birth with cerebral palsy so bad that she cannot see or speak and daily seizures that have the potential to cause death. As this story begins, Lyndie and her family are moving back to Holley, Texas after having been gone for 20 years. Opposite of Jake, Lyndie is assured of God’s presence in her life because of the trials she and her family face on a daily basis. Lyndie brings happiness into the lives of all she comes in contact with.

Becky grapples with some really difficult, true-to-life struggles in A Love Like Ours. She does so in a compassionate and loving way, showing how real the hurt and pain is AND how capable and willing our Savior is to help us in and through them. Moments in this book range from truly heart wrenching to laugh-out-loud silliness, to such sweet tenderness that I was near tears. Becky captures the true essence of life with and without God in this book. It leaves you with the desire to know God more intimately and trust Him more implicitly. It causes you to want to make a difference in those around you no matter how capable you feel. Mollie made everyone’s lives better just by existing. A Love Like Ours reminds you that even in the darkest of times, there is hope.

There is no way in this review to touch on all of the aspects of this book that touched my heart. To do so, I would have to just re-tell the story. Where’s the fun in that? READ IT!! You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you Becky for sharing your heart with us in this story. Thank you also for your support of real-life heroes, like Jake. Becky was touched enough through her research of what our service members deal with that she donated a portion of the proceeds of A Love Like Ours (through May 17th, 2015) to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Foundation.

I can’t wait to read Dru’s story (the only Porter girl) next year!!

“Where there’s God, there’s hope,” she said. “And where there’s hope, there can be healing.” ~ Lyndie

And The Winner Is…

Sabotaged Giveaway

Congratulations Phyllis!!!  You are the winner of my first blog giveaway!!

I’m praying you are as blessed by this series as I have been.  🙂

Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts on Dani’s books with me.  I hope you get a chance to read this series…and soon!  You won’t be disappointed!!  🙂

My review of Undetected by Dee Henderson will be up before long…

Who are you enjoying reading right now?

Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey (And…My 1st Giveaway)

It has been too long since I’ve reviewed a book on my blog, but with the final book in Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage Series out, I had to come out of hibernation to tell you all about it.  (Well, not … Continue reading

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Unspoken by Dee Henderson

Maybe I ought to preface this review with the confession that I may be a tad biased.  You see, Dee Henderson is my all-time favorite author.  I have never read a book by her that I didn’t LOVE.  And since this is my first blog post for one of her books, I can’t help but tell you why I LOVE her so much! 

**  I love the way she writes. 

**I love the way she develops her characters. 

**I love the way her characters instantly matter to you – they become “real” to you and you care for them and their family as much as you care for your own. 

**I love the unique way that her characters continue to re-appear in other books, often more than just in passing. 

**I love that she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and circumstances. 

**I love the reality of her stories. 

**I love the “real” problems that people face and the “real” way she brings it around to conclusion. 

**I love most of all her love of God and the way she brings a relationship with Him to life in each book. 

**I love the way she tackles difficult and real reasons that people choose not to, or can’t bring themselves to believe in God, and yet she takes the time to share with and bring each around to an understanding of who God is and who He wants to be in their lives. 

Dee Henderson captures my heart in every book.  I have never read a book by Dee that didn’t have an impact on my life and leave me wanting to read more, know the characters better and draw closer to Jesus.  I know I could go on and on and on, but this is supposed to be a review about a specific book.  Guess I’ll get to it. 

Due to some changes in publishing matters, Dee Henderson took a break from writing.  Much to her faithful fans delight, Full Disclosure which released October, 2012, was the break of her six years of quiet.  Full Disclosure and Unspoken are not “officially” considered a series, but may I strongly suggest that you read Full Disclosure prior to opening Unspoken?  If you’ve read my other reviews, you will remember that I am a stickler for reading books in order.  You get to know people in Full Disclosure who are also prominent characters in Unspoken.  Although you can read Unspoken as a standalone, knowing the stories of these characters will create a much richer reading experience.

I joined and have enjoyed being a part of a couple of Facebook reading groups.  A comment that I read on one of these group boards about Unspoken shortly after it released indicated that this book was slower than other Dee Henderson books.  Reading that comment, prior to reading the book myself, gave me pause.  I took it as possibly negative.  Having now read the book, I must say that I agree.  It was a little slower – although when I think about it, I feel the same way about Full Disclosure.  I have discovered however that the pace is one of my favorite parts of these two books.  I feel that the slower pace, without changing the suspenseful story line, allows for deeper connections with the characters.  It also lends to a deeper spiritual emphasis – deeper in that it tackles some real tough reasons to disbelieve or be questioning one’s faith.  Dee doesn’t gloss over someone’s real struggles in believing in or trusting God.   God has blessed her with the ability to meet even the toughest reasons of disbelief, ones that when explained, even a strong believer can’t find a good way to refute, with humble love and grace.  This leads to a real understanding of who God is.  I grew up in church and accepted Christ as my personal Savior at a young age, so I have no personal concept of how one could not believe that.  Dee Henderson has been one of the biggest influences in helping me see from other’s perspectives, in helping me understand why it’s not as easy for everyone.  She demonstrates how to love others to Jesus.  It’s an amazing gift that she has and I can’t describe it adequately.

Another favorite aspect of Dee’s books, which Unspoken illustrates very well, is the way her characters re-appear.  I absolutely love the unique way that she has of interlacing her characters.  Characters from her first books appear in Full Disclosure!  I loved hearing from some of them after so many years!  It’s just as exciting to see that characters from Full Disclosure have prominent roles in Unspoken.  I love that Dee’s characters aren’t locked up in their own books, but they travel from book to book and we get to see their relationships grow as well.  We get to know them and we get to revisit them.  It’s very unique.  I don’t know of another author that does this as well as Dee does.  (I love that she’s been mentoring Dani Pettrey in how to do this though!!)

I adored the gentle romance of this book.  I feel that the patience and constancy of Bryce’s character exemplifies Christ’s romancing of us – He is endlessly patient with us and is constantly there waiting for us to turn to Him.

I have other favorite things to share, but since I don’t want any spoilers in this review, I’m going to end.  I will however end with the wonderfully exciting news that we don’t have to wait another whole year for the next one…only half a year.  Undetected will hit the shelves in May, 2014.  And from the little that I was able to gather so far on her website, it appears that one of the characters for Undetected is related to one of the characters in Unspoken!!  LOVE it!!!  I’m so excited.

May 2014 is going to be an amazing month…a new Dee Henderson book AND a new Dani Pettrey book!!

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

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It’s so much fun to discover a fun new author…even more fun when that discovery comes by winning a contest! I had been looking at My Stubborn Heart on the bookstore bookshelf for quite a while, but with so many other books by authors I knew that I wanted to purchase, and not knowing this author, it ended up on the back burner. Of course, now all of Becky’s books are on my Must-Buy/Must-Read list.

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly Becky captured my attention in this book. I immediately fell in love with the characters. I live with my 85-year-old grandmother, so the cute relationship between Kate and her grandma (and Grandma’s menagerie of friends) was familiar and enjoyable.

The setting was enchanting, an old family estate in need of restoration. Of course, with an estate to restore, we need a handyman. I always enjoy a story with a handyman. I have no idea why, but I don’t think I’ve read a handyman story yet that I didn’t like. Silly, but true!

Our handyman in this book, Matt, was really hurting and far from God. He is in need of restoration himself. When Kate, Grandma and friends arrive on the scene God meets them right in the middle of all the crazy fun and heart-bearing moments.

I enjoyed the realistic manner in which the characters interacted. Our experiences shape the way we see and react to things and how we therefore expect others to react. In the same way, our characters were shaped by what they had experienced. They had expectations of each other and God that stemmed from their experiences and their perceptions of them. It was also refreshing that our characters were not perfect. Even the characters who were following God closely sometimes acted on their own and didn’t do things as God would have guided. These aspects made for a story that can not only be enjoyed but related to and the lessons applied to our own lives too.

Becky is a wonderful writer who knows just how to grab your heart and pull you into the story. She throws in just enough humor and fun to keep you laughing while you learn with the characters to trust God to see you through. I am now really looking forward to Undeniably Yours!

A Passion Most-Pure by Julie Lessman

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This is the first book that I’ve read by Julie Lessman – in fact I was very excited to have won it in a contest!

 A Passion Most-Pure is a book full of drama.  To be honest, almost more drama than I wanted to deal with.  I couldn’t stop reading it though, because it’s kind of like your own family…even when there’s drama that you don’t want to deal with, you’re invested in making sure it works out okay in the end.

Julie created characters that are so real that you feel as if they are your family or at least, close friends.  That fosters a genuine care for each of them, their situations and decisions – even when they are making hurtful decisions.  You hurt when they hurt, you laugh when they laugh, you love the people they love, even if sometimes you don’t want to.

Probably my favorite thing about this book is the very natural way that God is a part of their lives.  From the beginning you have a cast of characters that is very diverse in their beliefs.  From everyday Christians to Sunday Christians to those who want nothing to do with God and live lives fully on their own terms.  In that, Julie writes in a way that makes God in our everyday lives so natural.  It’s a working example of how we can practically have Him in our everyday lives.  She shows the very real necessity of knowing God’s Word and how it truly is a source of help and comfort in our lowest points as well as a beacon of guidance always.  She also shows how vital it is to have a Godly mentor, someone that we share our hurts, beliefs, doubts, sins and love with.  And I love the way she shows the importance of family, even when it’s less than perfect (aren’t they all?) and full of hurt – even so, God puts us together to support one another and see each other through.

So, parts I struggled with:

  • The drama – it was almost soap opera like and more than I truly wanted to deal with.  With that said, life is messy and full of drama and this book shows how God is in the midst guiding us through.
  • The focus on the physical in this book was difficult for me.  One reason I read Christian fiction is to not deal with this aspect.  Never did I feel that she stepped over any bounds in explanation or anything, she is very adept at letting you know where it was headed without the details.  Again however, life is messy.  We are not perfect.  God gives boundaries to live with in – which is a main point of contention in this book – and when we’re not walking closely with God (and even when we are, if not being accountable) we can find ourselves in these very real situations.  As much as I didn’t like it, it’s a reality in our world and needed to be addressed.

Parts that I love:

  • The well-developed characters that you just can’t help loving, even though sometimes you don’t want to deal with them.  I’m so grateful that God sees the potential and doesn’t give up on us as in my humanness I am more apt to do.
  • The variety of settings, from Boston to Ireland to the war-ravaged France.
  • The positive portrayal of a Christian marriage and what it looks like.  God honoring marriages are not the norm these days, so it is very nice to see an example to emulate.
  • The aspect of forgiveness, shown in various ways throughout the book.  I love the way Julie went straight to the scriptures to help one of the characters see the need for this and exactly how to do so when she thought it impossible.
  • The everyday aspect of living with Jesus – not just the knowledge of Jesus, but how knowing His Holy Scripture can make such a difference in how we perceive and react to things.  Although never mentioned or suggested, it leads one to want to memorize Scripture, have it hidden in one’s heart so that it can make a difference in our lives the way it did for the characters in this book.
  • The believability of it.  Life is messy, but some of the issues in this book could have felt forced or not real.  As much as I didn’t like the sin and the outcomes, Julie told this very twisted tale in a very plausible way.  And the grace and faith she wove into it was just as convincing.

In summation, obviously there were more parts of the book that I loved than parts that I struggled with.  This book touched a chord with me.  At one point the heart-wrenching pain I witnessed caused me to leave the book and spend time worshiping God.  At another point I was so thankful that of all the ways my sister and I have struggled, we didn’t have to deal with what these sisters were dealing with, that I stopped reading to let my sister know.  As I finished the book, even though it was 3:30am in the morning, I couldn’t help myself, I had to write down my feelings about it.  This book may deal with things that my heart doesn’t want to see, but this book literally drew me into the arms of Jesus for comfort and guided me in ways and reasons to incorporate my love for Him even more into my everyday life.  I highly recommend this book.  I don’t believe you can read it without being touched by God.  I so look forward to what God has in store for me when I read the next two books in this series, A Passion Redeemed and A Passion Denied.

“Unbelief puts …

“Unbelief puts circumstances between us and God; Faith puts God between us and our circumstances.” – Diann Hunt

I follow a blog of Christian authors who are dear friends to one another.  Diann is a member of that blog.  She is also battling ovarian cancer.  Battling is the correct word because from the posts I’ve seen from her friends she is really, really struggling – having more bad days than good.  Even the doctors at a point of saying there’s nothing else they can do.  But we serve an amazing God who is the Great Healer.  I have no idea what His plan is for her, whether He is ready for her to come home to be with Him or if we get to enjoy her more here on earth.  But, in the midst of the diagnosis and pain, this quote shows an amazing understanding of our beliefs and her dependence on Him.  If you think of it, say a prayer for her today please.