Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review

It's New Year's Eve folks! "Where has the time gone?" I hear you say.

2011 has been a big year for the Book Review Sisters.  We started this blog in April, not sure what we were really doing with it.  Initially we were aiming to be more cultured by attempting to read all the books on the BBC Big Read Top 100.  Well, that quest didn't last long and in 6 months we have not ticked off a single book from that list (that we hadn't already ticked off).  The way I look at it, reading is for enjoyment.  If I don't enjoy the book, why torture myself with it?

It didn't take us long to move into doing book reviews on genres we love.  This year we've posted nearly 50 reviews, which is not bad considering we started reviewing in May and both Jess and I have very young kids to keep us busy.

In May we had 193 hits, and August was a turning point which saw us jump to more than 600 hits.  December we have recorded our busiest month yet with in excess of 1400 hits! Thank you to all our readers for coming along to our blog, I don't think we ever imagined 10 people would be visiting us :)

The top 10 countries our visitors have come from are:
  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Ukraine
  4. Germany
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Russia
  7. Canada
  8. Romania
  9. Netherlands
  10. Malaysia

We hope we can continue to bring you interesting reviews and musings throughout 2012 :)

Every year is different, and every year different to everyone.  Some years are delightful, some eventful and some years you are more than happy to say goodbye to.  But we hope that no matter what sort of year you've had, you are able to look back and see that God has been at work in your life.  He is holding you when you sorrow, guiding you when you are lost, smiling when you are rejoicing, providing when you are in need.

 
"For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the LORD, "plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to
give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11


Love,
Helen & Jess

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas From Us


Jess and I want to wish all our friends and readers a joyous Christmas, as we take the time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour.  May you all have safe travels and happy times with friends and family.

We will be taking a break, so we'll see you again in a weeks time :)

God Bless!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6


Friday, December 23, 2011

New Year Book Releases

Here's a list of new titles from some great authors whom we recommend.  These will be released early 2012.  Lots to look forward to!


The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden
- Historical Romance -

Available 1st January 2012
Order now: Fishpond AU | AmazonKindle

The last thing Libby Sawyer and her father expected upon their return from their summer home was to find strangers inhabiting a house that had been in their family for decades. Widower Michael Dobrescu brought his family from Romania to the town of Colden, Massachusetts with a singular purpose: to claim the house willed to him long ago. Since neither party has any intention of giving up their claim, a fierce legal battle ensues between the two families.


When important documents go missing from the house, Libby suspects Michael is the culprit. Determined to discover the truth behind the stolen papers, Libby investigates, only to find more layers of mystery surrounding Michael and his family. Despite their rivalry, Libby finds herself developing feelings for this man with the mysterious past.


As a decision about the house looms in the courts, Libby must weigh the risks of choosing to remain loyal to her family or give her heart to a man whose intentions and affections are less than certain.  

The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter
- Contemporary Romance -
 Available 3rd January 2012

Order now: Fishpond AU | AmazonKindle

Two high-school sweethearts, a wedding reenactment, and one absent-minded preacher. Is it a recipe for disaster or a chance for a new beginning?

Shay Brandenberger is a survivor. She's lived through a crazy childhood, a failed marriage, and single parenthood-with her confidence intact.

But not for long. Because when Shay participates in her town's Founder's Day wedding reenactment, she finds herself face-to-face with the one man who takes her breath away and leaves her weak in the knees: Travis McCoy.

Travis is back in town after years way on the rodeo circuit. His one regret in life is breaking Shay's heart when they were high-school sweethearts. He's determined to get it right this time.

So when their Founder's Day "marriage" is accidentally made official, Travis seizes the day. Can Shay put aside her pride to let Travis help her, or will their accidental marriage be dissolved before it can begin?


The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
- Historical Romance -
Available 1st January 2012
Order now: Fishpond AU | AmazonKindle

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt--and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?


Observing both brothers as an "invisible" servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?


On her journey from wellborn lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of "serve one another in love."


Blue Moon Bay by Lisa Wingate
- Contemporary -
Available 1st February 2012
Pre-order now: Fishpond AU | AmazonKindle

Heather Hampton returns to Moses Lake, Texas, to help facilitate the sale of a family farm as part of a planned industrial plant that will provide the area with much-needed jobs. Heather's future fiancée has brokered the deal, and Heather is in line to do her first large-scale architectural design--if the deal goes through.

But the currents of Moses Lake have a way of taking visitors on unexpected journeys. What was intended to be a quick trip suddenly morphs into Valentine's week--with Blaine Underhill, the handsome banker who just happens to be opposing Heather's project. Spending the holiday in an ex-funeral parlor seems like a nightmare, but Heather slowly finds herself being drawn into the area's history, hope, and heart.
 

In Too Deep by Mary Connealy
- Historical Romantic Comedy -
Available 1st February 2012
Order now:  AmazonKindle

In 1866 Colorado, Ethan Kincaid agrees to a marriage of convenience with the same casual disregard he gives every decision. Audra Gilliland, young mother of two, accepts his proposal because she wants to stop being a burden to her newly married stepdaughter.

And suddenly both of them are in far deeper than they'd planned.

Ethan doesn't expect Audra to affect him so profoundly, and when she begins to, he's terrified of the pain he's felt before when someone he loved was seriously injured on his watch. He's determined that his new wife will do as he says so he can keep her safe from the dangers that lurk on their ranch.

Audra has been cared for all her life by one man or another--and they've done a poor job of it. Now she's planning to stand up for herself. And her new husband had better agree or get out of her way!

What will it take to transform two wayward hearts fearful of getting in too deep into two trusting hearts ready to risk falling deeply in love?


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bargain Priced Ebook: The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Download for $2.03, limited time only.

Here's a hot pick bargain priced ebook for you.  Now, I haven't read Melanie Dickerson's books before, but she is high on my to-read list for two reasons: 1) She is recommended by other reviewers and authors I respect, and 2) She writes medieval historical fiction.  Such a rarity to find Christian medieval fiction, and I just love the medieval period.

Here's the blurb from the book:

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

The Kindle version of The Merchant's Daughter is currently $2.03, but will only be so cheap for a limited time (I'm hearing just a matter of days).  So if you're interested, you'll have to download it quickly.  Make sure the price is still $2.03 before you download, in case the price has gone up already.

Don't sweat if you don't have a Kindle.  You can download the Kindle software onto pretty much any device - your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device etc. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Available @
Fishpond AU
& Amazon | Kindle
There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson Publishing, 4th October 2011 

“There You’ll Find Me” is a Young Adult novel by Christian author, Jenny B. Jones. The story revolves around Finley - an eighteen year old girl, still coming to terms with the death of her older brother. Armed with her brother’s travel journal, she goes to Ireland in an attempt to see and experience the same Ireland he did. 

Finley’s journey finds her crossing paths (and butting heads) with a famous teen heartthrob, and a crotchety old woman who is dying of cancer. Both relationships she fights against, but in the end they challenge her to face the truth about herself, her brother – and God. 

This year, for the first time in many years, I have been reading YA novels again. And of the several I have waded through lately, “There You’ll Find Me” is definitely my favourite. It’s a more mature YA. Finley has real and relatable issues – without the massive chip-on-the-shoulder. She’s strong, but has to deal with her prejudices. 

Beckett, a teen Hollywood star, is more than what is said about him in the gossip magazines. He’s a surprise package, and I loved the banter and misconception that characterized his relationship with Finley. The deepening of their understanding of each other is compelling, and the burgeoning nature of their relationship is tastefully intertwined with the deeper themes of the book.

I really enjoyed the depth brought to this book by the passion and meaning that Finley derives from her music. I also loved the fact I was able to do some armchair traveling of Ireland. I found that these two elements, coupled with Finley’s quest to find a God she feels has gone silent on her, gave this book a warmth and substance I often find lacking in YA novels. Since it’s clear from the beginning that Finley is searching for God, there’s no surprise “witnessing” component from an obscure not-so-likeable character who’s been lurking in the wings just waiting to pounce. This gives the book a genuine, non-preachy quality. 

This is quality reading. My only complaint is that it came to an end :). I am truly pleased to have discovered the writing of Jenny B. Jones.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas: Something to Cherish

Good Morning everyone! We've got only 6 days until Christmas! Wow how time flies. Life is so busy in the lead up to Christmas. This week is our second last installment of "Keeping Christ in Christmas" by the ACWF of the Hunter.


Today you will be treated with words from Kathlyn, Sandy and John. Enjoy reading Kath's take on Simeon's encounter with Christ, Sandy shares her heart for Keeping Christ in our education system and John takes us through current day Bethlehem.

May we all keep remembering to keep Christ where he is always - at the centre.


An Old Man and a Baby

Simeon stood beside his open window looking toward the temple. He held up his hands to the Almighty God, Adonai.

“Lord, you promised I would not die before I saw Your Holy One. It is over 400 years since we returned from exile and still we wait for the comfort of Israel, the Messiah You promised.”

A whole minute slipped by before words came again. “Lord, I’m old and tired but I trust in You and Your promise. Yours is the glory, the honour, dominion and power.”

Pigeons on the ground outside his window cooed and crooned in the stillness that followed.

Warmth infused the old man’s body. An urgent desire to go to the temple griped him. He strode as fast as his aged body allowed him, out the door, down the steps of the pathway, then up the hill toward the temple. He rushed through the courtyard and up the steps, four... eight... ten... two to go. He stopped. Anna was there as usual. Their eyes met. Some time ago Simeon had told Anna that God had promised him he would see the Lord’s Messiah. An understanding passed between the two.

Simeon moved forward, up two more steps and toward the Holy Place. As he did so he noticed a young, very young he thought, mother and baby. A strong, attentive man shepherded the mother and child. Judging by the age of the child, probably almost six week, she’s bringing him for dedication, Simeon thought.

Joy swelled in Simeon’s heart. He thought he would burst. The couple had notice him too. He walked toward them and took the child in his arms. Moved by the Holy Spirit, a song of praise and thanksgiving issued from Simeon’s lips and rent the air. “Lord, now let me die in peace for my eyes have seen the Saviour... ”

The mother of the child looked very surprised as she listened to Simeon’s song. He also prophesied to her about the child’s and her own future.


Anna realised Simeon had seen and was holding the Messiah. Quickly, as fast as an eighty-four-year-old woman could, she gathered people to come and see the baby.

****************************** 

On the 40th day after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph travelled the six kilometres from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to have him dedicated. The law required this. It became a precious memory which she tucked away in her heart and later revealed to Saint Luke (Luke 2:21-40). About 700 years before Jesus was born God promised through Isaiah (7:14) that He, Jesus would be born of a virgin. God also promised that the birth would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). 

Why don’t you, right now where you are, ask Messiah Jesus, the King, what He would like you to do for Him in honour of His birth, His death and His bodily resurrection? He did it all for you.

© Kathlyn Fauchon. December, 2011.



Keeping Christ In Christmas


This morning my husband took a Veggie Tales Christmas DVD for the children in his Special Religious Education (SRE) classes to view. The veggie tale demonstrated, in its own inimitable fashion, that Christmas is really a time of giving and making the point in the tale that because God loves us He gave His only Son – born in a manger.


Last evening in our small Bible study group, somehow the discussion got around to how much more likely a Christian comes to believe as a child rather than as an adult. That is not to say it does not happen but a young mind is generally more open and available. Some adults we know do not even want to talk about God.



At this time in my life I wish I could give a Christmas present to Jesus of more SRE teachers and SRE-teacher mentors for the primary schools. I have wondered if I should not just take the plunge and sign-up. Yet, after praying about it, looking at my passions, experience and talents I believe that my involvement is in more of a support role.

Obviously for someone to be a SRE teacher, she (or he) must be available a day during the school week. I have talked to a few who say they would like to but know they will be away for a period during the school year. I wonder if being there even 80% of the time would be better than not at all.

Others have said that they find it hard to commit to doing it on their own (I would certainly be in that category as I have nil experience). What if two or even three of these got together and shared the role? This would be a way to give, grow together, mentor a candidate and have Christian fellowship.

Perhaps the response not to pursue because “I have already done my part” is the one that saddens my heart – as I do not believe the Bible ever tells us to stop serving the Lord. Perhaps one who has taught could go along side a novice to mentor and then “release” him or her. Then perhaps move on to the next one?

What about you? Have you thought about it? Have you been burdened by the missed opportunity to reach children for Christ? One way to help to keep Christ in Christmas is to keep Christ in the schools.


Sandra Singleton-Turner

2 December 2011


COME WITH ME TO BETHLEHEM THIS CHRISTMAS


Come with me as pilgrim or tourist to Bethlehem in the land of the Bible. Though it is caught up in the sovereignty disputes between Palestinians and Israelis Bethlehem remains a special place in the minds of Christians all over the world. Its significance transcends the seemingly intractable disputes over territory.


Our visit is to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, said to be the third oldest Church in the world.

Exterior View


The first thing we notice is the very low doorway at the entrance. Apparently this was to prevent attackers from riding their horses into the building - a reminder of past wars that have plagued the Holy Land.


The Church is large, with columns on either side, and empty of furnishings and seats. The remnants of ancient paintings cover the walls. People are everywhere - pilgrims and tourists alike. Some have come just to look, others have come to pray. We notice that the crowds are moving towards a set of steps leading down under the church. This is the focus of our visit as we have come to see not the spacious building, but what lies under the church.


As we make our way down the steps we find ourselves in two rooms, cave-like in appearance. In the second and smaller of the two, there is a group of pilgrims singing Christmas carols, in a language we can't recognise, but in tunes that are very familiar. Their joyful singing captures our attention and transforms us from being purely tourists. With warm and open hearts we join in spirit with those pilgrims. "O little town of Bethlehem"....... 'Away in a manger...."


In a few minutes we find ourselves alone in that cave-room. And then we see the Star. A large silver Star is set in an alcove on the floor, on one side of the room. Engraved on the Star are words in Latin which someone in the room with us translates: 'Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary."


Suddenly, the truth fills our minds. This Star proclaims that we are in the actual place, or near enough to the that place where God came to earth, born in a stable cave.


We know that no future celebration of Christmas will be the same for us. Santa Claus and Christmas Dinners may be part of the festivities, but we know that, at the heart of all our celebrations, is the greatest truth.


Christmas is Christ, once born in a stable cave in Bethlehem, and now living in our hearts. And our Christmas giving to others is a grateful sign of that wonderful gift of God to us all.


John Seddon

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

Available @
Fishpond AU
& Amazon
Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret. Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans. The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?

This was the first book by Julie Klassen that I read. I must say that I loved it. A couple of weeks ago I reviewed The Lady of Milkweed Manner, Klassen’s first book. The Girl is the Gatehouse also features a young woman disgraced and sent into exile by her family. Mariah lives with her handmaid, Dixon in an old Gatehouse attached to her Aunt’s property, Windrush Court. After the death of her aunt, Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate and it is here that Mariah meets him.

Many things happen throughout the book – there is a mystery surrounding the poorhouse across the road, Dixon has several men vying for her hand in marriage and Mariah is writing under a pseudonym in order to pay the bills and follow her passion for writing. Amongst all this, Mariah learns that when things seem at their worst, there is always a light around the corner.

I loved this book and thought quite often of my Jane Austen books. I enjoyed the depth Klassen puts into the story. She makes sure that everyone’s story is told. How she maintains a firm grasp on so many characters is beyond me but she does it so well! Through all this she still keeps Mariah and Matthew at the heart of the story. Their road to each other is not simple but beautifully told.

Julie has won herself a fan with her beautifully told stories!

Book Review: The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

Available @
Amazon
The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded. Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills. But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption. This epic novel gives readers a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman.

After having read Laura's latest book, "The Colonel's Lady" and it instantly became one of my absolute favourite books, I was keen to get a hold of her earlier two books.  "The Frontiersman's Daughter" has been sitting on my bedside table for a few weeks now because her books are not something I like to squeeze in a chapter here and there between toddler tantrums and nappy changes. I like to get in good sized chunks of reading time when I'm lost in a Laura Frantz book, so I have a chance to get completely absorbed in the story.

Laura weaves such a clear picture of her characters world it's like living inside her mind and seeing it exactly how she sees it. I was amazed at the intricate details of frontier life - from the day to day chores necessary for survival, to the herbal concoctions used to treat various ailments. Some readers may require a little more action in the story, but I thoroughly enjoyed the intricacies. They were included so naturally it only enhanced the clarity of the setting and characters in my mind.  This is my favourite kind of historical fiction, because I like to fully immerse myself in the the past and see, hear, smell, feel and taste what life was like then.  By the end of this book I was using expressions like "tarry" and "law!" :)

Lael is an interesting girl, and the story follows her from the age of thirteen until she is twenty one.  I confess it took a little while for me to warm to her simply because I didn't understand the environment she was in.  But as I read on and the way of the rugged frontier in colonial Kentucky became known to me, I came to admire her fortitude and determination. 

One thing is for sure, Laura can sure create a hero!  Lael's tale takes us on a journey through her love life over the years, and she struggles to understand her overwhelming feelings and past hurts as she tries to find her place in the world.  There's a regular frontiersman, an Indian and a doctor all caught up in her melting pot of emotions.  Laura created them all flawed, yet endearing and enchanting in their own way.  I was able to understand and identify with her confusions and even the allurement of the Indian chief which would have been such a taboo in that time.  But Doc Justus is certainly the crème de la crème :) And that gorgeous Scottish accent just makes him all the more appealing.

As usual for Laura's books, there's an undercurrent of mystery running through the story.  A lovely balance of romance, history and intrigue.  Although Colonel McLinn still has my heart, if he's not available I'd happily run off with Doc Justus :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas: Why I need to remember the reason for the season

Morning Everyone! We hope you have had a lovely weekend and it wasn’t too busy. I am really grateful that we are able to promote Keeping Christ in Christmas as I’m so busy that I am forgetting myself. I was talking to my husband last night and saying how I was so busy either triple booked or events overlapping that it was impossible to attend many of these things. I complained that I didn’t even get a chance to stop and remember why we celebrate Christmas! So that proves that we really do need to keep Christ at the centre of Christmas as it’s easy to forget (even for a Christian) during the “silly season”. I vote we should rename it the “stressful season”! :) 

Two of our members Jo-Anne and Jeanette have written a piece each on their perspective of keeping Christ in Christmas. I enjoyed these a great deal and I hope you will as well :) 

shepherds-pic-book
The Damascus Gate
 
Josh and his father had been hard at work shepherding the sheep on their family farm north of Jerusalem.

As they wearily walked into the front room of their farmhouse, Josh called out

“Are you there Mother?”

“Coming,” she replied from the next room. “I just have to roll out the beds for the night, and I have prepared some food for supper…”

“How is my grandfather?” Josh asked her anxiously as she finally appeared at the doorway.

His mother’s face creased with worry.

“He’s no different to when you saw him this morning. I hope we will be able to share Passover with him one more time but that won’t be for several months and somehow I don’t think he will be with us by then,” she said sadly. “Before we break bread, could you take him some of this soup?” she asked ladling steaming lamb broth from an old clay pot warming on the fire.

“And don’t forget to take the lamp; we will have to bring him down soon.”

Josh nodded quietly, his heart felt heavy at the thought of losing his beloved grandfather. As he climbed the stairs leading to the coolness of the roof where Daniel lay, he asked God for strength and wisdom to say the right words.

His lamp shed a pool of soft light as he knelt beside the old man.

“Here, grandfather, I have bought you some of your favourite soup,” he spoke softly, afraid to startle Daniel who appeared to be sleeping.

“You’re a good boy Josh,” he said opening his eyes. “But first I must tell you about the angels.”

“Do you mean the ones you saw a long time ago when you were a little shepherd boy?” asked Josh. He had heard the story many times before but never tired of hearing how the angels appeared to his family so long ago.

“Yes, I will always remember the beautiful light and the sound of those angels singing glory to God,” said his grandfather. “And after they had told us about the Messiah being born, of course we had to go and find Him to worship Him.”

“We ran all the way to Bethlehem and found Him tucked away in a small cave at the back of that old inn near the Damascus Gate,” said Daniel. “His mother and father welcomed us. There was such a feeling of joy in the air!”

“Was He a beautiful baby?” asked Josh knowing that his grandfather was waiting for him to ask.

“Of course – the most perfect baby you will ever see. And He smiled at me,” said his grandfather in awe. “I have always carried the memory of His love in my heart and I know that soon I will see Him smile at me again.

On hearing these words, Josh felt comforted. He knew with relief that his grandfather would finally be at peace with his Lord and Saviour God’s dear son Jesus.

“Come on grandfather, time for your soup,” he said “It’s getting cold.”

Jo-Anne Uphill 


CHRISTMAS IS COMING

Baubles and bon-bons
Tinsel and trees
Christmas is coming.
What great shopping sprees.
Presents and parties
Fruit of the vine,
Christmas is coming
We’ll have a good time.
Santa & sleighbells
Friends come to stay
Christmas is coming
A great holiday.
Hey, wait a minute,
Something’s not right
Christmas is coming
Yes - that starry night.
Shepherds and stable,
Sweet-smelling hay
Christmas is coming
It’s Jesus’ birthday.
Christ has gone missing
Who pushed him out?
Christmas is coming
but what’s it about?
We’ve all forgotten
Jesus who came -
Christmas is coming
Let’s honour His Name.
Let us remember
Jesus is King
Christmas is coming
Let’s praise to Him bring.
Jeanette Campbell – Nov 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review: Desecration (Left Behind Series, Book 9) by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
Desecration by Tim Layahe & Jerry B. Jenkins

His Excellency Global Community Potentate Nicolae Carpathia, no longer pretending to be a pacifist, has ordered every Morale Monitor armed as he prepares to travel along the Via Dolorosa and then onward to the temple, where shocking surprises await. The lines are drawn between good and evil as God inflicts sores upon the flesh of those who have taken the mark. Meanwhile His chosen ones flee to Petra, where they watch anxiously as GC fighter planes appear overhead and bombs begin to fall.

This is the 9th book in the Left Behind Series.  I am starting to feel like the members of the Tribulation Force - desperate for the end!  Still three more books to go.

Ok, there are still a lot of things going on.  New characters appear, bringing a bit of fresh air with them.  Sorrow continues as more Tribulation Force members are lost.  I keep wondering as the series wears on whether the founding Tribulation Force members - Rayford, Chloe & Buck will remain to the end. I find myself hoping so, but at the same time wondering if the authors will allow such a "perfect" ending :)

There is one thing for sure I am sick of: Nicolae.  But of course, there isn't supposed to be anything endearing about him, since he is the devil and responsible for the ruination of the world.  I can't wait for the last book just to see him get what's coming to him.

There's a fair amount of action in this book, so it does keep you fairly well entertained.  It has finished on a cliff hanger, and I found myself reaching for the 10th book only to find I haven't yet collected that from my friend.  I wonder if the series could have been condensed a little? I can't imagine how it was to be reading this series when it was first published, waiting months between releases.  I'm not sure if my interest would have carried on for thirteen books in that capacity.  But as it is, with all books out and available, it is my mission to complete it!

Left Behind Series Website

Other books in the series we've reviewed:

  1. Left Behind
  2. Tribulation Force 
  3. Nicolae
  4. Soul Harvest
  5. Apollyon
  6. Assassins
  7. The Indwelling
  8. The Mark 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Australian Christian Writer’s Fellowship of the Hunter: A brief history and Jenny’s Letter

Morning Everyone! We’re so excited to bring you the first instalment of “Keeping Christ in Christmas” for the month of December. We’ve decided to start off with a brief history of the ACWF (Australian Christian Writer's Fellowship) of the Hunter and then let you guys read the letter that inspired the group to write about keeping Christ the centre of Christmas. 

Hope you enjoy this!
Jess :) 

Jenny Bray travelled from Morisset to Eastwood in Sydney to attend the ACWF meetings. After some years she decided to start a branch in Morisset. Meetings began in the Baptist Church Hall in 1993. 
 
Over the years we have had many members. Currently we have 15 writers, both men and women. We have published several books that provide great reading and cover most genres. "Times of Friendship" is still available. Our latest publication, "QUENCH" a devotional to refresh your spirit is available through Koorong Books. 
 
Dear Friends,
 
Christmas is coming and we celebrate the birth of our Saviour. When the first Europeans came here they established Christianity as our country’s faith. Our laws were based on Christian principles. However it would appear that in these latter years there have been moves to discount our foundational faith and replace it with political correctness and doubtful ethics.
 
Christmas Carols are gradually being phased out of our schools and stores. They are no longer heard on our streets. Manger scenes are also discouraged in various places where they usually appeared, especially in schools where Christmas was always a joyful time and the message of why Jesus came was emphasised.
 
All this anti Christian movement is being mooted in the name of political correctness. We don’t want to offend our “new neighbours.” It would appear that our new neighbours are being used by some anti-Christian faction to attack our Christian faith. That is rather ludicrous considering that, from the beginning of this nation, there has been other belief systems. e.g. Aboriginals were already here with their beliefs; the Jewish faith. Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and other religions. Whilst respecting Australian law, they have co-existed and worshipped freely, as they wished. Furthermore, excluding the extremists, many of our new neighbours have suffered indignities, dangers and discomforts to get away from the terrors, persecutions, poverty and other horrors in their own country. Surely they don’t want to be the “scapegoats “of some anti Christian spirit here.
 
In addition to political correctness there is a danger of commercialism drowning out the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas trees, decorations, presents, Santa Claus etc can take over the real meaning. I am not suggesting we get rid of them. They are part of our way of celebrating but let’s make known that JESUS really IS the REASON for the season.
My point in writing this is to ask all Christians to actively “take back” Christmas for our country. I would emphasise that in “taking back Christmas” we do so with the utmost integrity and love. Not belligerently or by disparaging others.
 
Remember Christmas is a time to celebrate JESUS and His wonderful message of love and forgiveness.
 
Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” What a wonderful message for a nation in turmoil. Let’s get to it friends. JESUS IS the REASON for the SEASON—spread the good news.
 
Blessings and a Happy Christmas to You,
Jenny

Friday, December 2, 2011

News: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Christ in Xmas Hello everyone! Helen and I are happy to tell you about this month’s special activities. I (Jess) am part of The Australian Christian Writer’s Fellowship – the Hunter Region writing group. We meet once a month over the course of 12 months. The group's founder Jenny Bray has written a letter expressing her concern about how the true meaning of Christmas is being slowly overshadowed in our Country. She wants every Christian to find their own unique ways to remind people of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Our writing group decided to use our God given skills and write in story, poem, letter etc about Keeping Christ in Christmas. So for the month of December, every Monday we will publish work from members of the group - starting with Jenny’s letter on Monday!

So stayed tuned and we hope you enjoy reading some of the great work by the people in our group.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
When Clara Endicott and Daniel Tremain's worlds collide after twelve years apart, the spark that was once between them immediately reignites into a romance neither of them thought possible.

But time has changed them both.
Daniel is an industrial titan with powerful enemies. Clara is an idealistic journalist determined to defend underprivileged workers.

Can they withstand the cost of their convictions while their hearts--and lives--hang in the balance?
 
Elizabeth Camden’s debut book "The Lady of Bolton Hill" was a great read. She has given her readers a lovely story filled with conflicted characters. The main one being Daniel Tremain. I struggled to like Daniel for much of the book. His need for revenge and his unwillingness to even discuss matters of faith made him difficult to like. Having said that, haven’t we all met someone who was consumed with one thing or another and as a result couldn’t see the truth in front of them? Daniel’s journey to God was one that I felt was genuine and when the book ended, I knew he was right with God, yet he still battled with anger and the need for control.

Clara and Daniel spark and clash together beautifully. I like that Elizabeth has given them genuine conflict that can seriously make or break a romance. She has gifted Clara with a compassionate, honest, caring heart and combined it with strength and resiliency born from her faith in Christ. Together these traits have made her a great journalist and a truth seeker – sometimes to the pain of the ones she loves. 

Overall, this is a great book. I’m eagerly awaiting Elizabeth’s next book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: Aussies and Ebooks Survey - Win a $15 voucher!

Morning all! Hope everyone has had a lovely weekend, and particularly our American friends - hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.

You'll have to excuse that this is going to be a short post. I cut my finger with a knife on the weekend and had some stitches, so I'm not able to type very well!

Christmas is coming up, and it's got me thinking about presents. Which has me thinking about Kindles ... hmmm ... yes, I'm still undecided on the matter. But I'm starting to think that I would like one. I'm torn because I just have to have my books in print as well. I need to see them sitting on my bookshelf! But the lure of the convenience of having lots of books so easily at my disposal is getting stronger. And I do like the benefit of being able to read at night without switching the light on :)

Can I have both please?? I would gladly pay for the more expensive print copy if it came with an electronic version as well!

Ok, what I want to know today is directed as Aussies. The Kindle has only been available out here for a few months. I have a survey below which asks some questions regarding your use of ebook readers. All survey participants will go into the draw to win a $15 voucher for use at Fishpond, an Australian discount book/movie/music seller. Great for buying Christmas presents! And delivery is free in Australia :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review: What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad have been on the move--four towns in two years. Each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is.

Sarah Dessen's books were the first I happened upon the YA shelf when I started searching them a couple of years ago for something other than paranormal fiction.  "What Happened to Goodbye" is her latest book, and the second of hers that I've read.  She is not a Christian writer, but I find her books clean and respectable, though this one in particular had about three swear words.

I really enjoy Sarah's style.  In "What Happened to Goodbye", McLean is somewhat forced by circumstances to be herself for the first time in a couple of years.  She makes new and interesting friends, and has to deal with her feelings of resentment towards her mother regarding her parents breakup.  I like the heroines that Sarah creates.  Whilst being outsiders in their environment, they don't let their uniqueness get them down.  Her focus is on the heroine dealing with and making peace with her family issues.  I'm sure these issues are something most teens can relate to.

What I love about Sarah's writing is that she makes scene settings poignant and meaningful.  She ties it in with the character's feelings.  It's very clever and paints such a clear picture of the circumstances, irony and emotions that are truly lying under the surface.

I thoroughly enjoyed "What Happened to Goodbye".  I loved McLean (though, not her name!) and her next door neighbour Dave is a cute, likeable nerd who is serving community service for a past demeanor.

Book Review: The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
As Charlotte drew closer to the looming grey edifice that was to become her temporary home, she could not help but notice the secretive shuttered windows. Then she noticed the milkweeds...
 
Even a proper vicar's daughter can make a mistake--and now Charlotte Lamb must pay a high price for her fall. To avoid the prying eyes of all who know her, she hides herself away in London's forbidding "Milkweed Manor," a place of mystery and lore, of old secrets and new birth.

But once there, she comes face to face with a suitor from her past--a man who now hides secrets of his own. Both are determined, with God's help, to protect those they love. But neither can imagine the depth of sacrifice that will be required. 
 
It’s been so lovely to have a change of scenery – a trip to England is just what I needed after spending the last few books on the American Frontier. This book enthralled me from the beginning and held my attention until the very end. I did not know how this book was going to end. Charlotte’s plight just gripped me and her poise and grace through everything was beautiful to read. Truth be told, to me this book was bittersweet. As a mother myself, I don’t know if I could have made some of the decisions Charlotte made and yes her heart was heavy from such decisions


Julie Klassen has given her readers a beautiful, poignant story of love – sacrificial and honest love that is hard to capture. I was also fascinated by the lives of wet nurses, early medicine and lying-in hospitals for unwed pregnant women. 

I have left this book feeling satisfied and also still longing for Charlotte to have had everything to complete her life rather than most of everything. A beautiful, engaging read.

Book Review: Composing Amelia by Alison Strobel

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
Can a brand new marriage withstand the weight of generations-old baggage?
 
Newlyweds Amelia and Marcus Sheffield are recent college grads trying to stay afloat in LA while searching for their dream jobs. Marcus hopes to become a mega-church pastor. Amelia has an esteemed music degree and longs to play piano professionally. The Sheffields are clearly city people.


But when a small town church offers Marcus a job, the couple’s dedication to their dreams and each other is tested. After a risky compromise is made, Amelia falls into a dark emotional place, where she finds skeletons she’d fought hard to deny. In desperation, she calls out to God. But why can’t she find Him? While Amelia struggles, Marcus learns news that nearly crushes him. He must lean on his faith to withstand the pressure… or risk losing his wife forever.


P1050316
Me with "Composing Amelia" at the beach

It is no secret that I relish being able to read an Alison Strobel book! Her latest book is certainly no different. I can vividly recall by half way through the fourth chapter I wanted to smack Marcus for his behaviour and attitude! Mind you, Amelia was at the receiving end of my readers wrath a few times too with her actions as well. You might be wondering if I actually enjoyed the book considering I had such a strong reaction to the characters. It’s because of those strong reactions that I loved the book, and it’s what propelled me through the book at lightning speed. 

When an author is able to inspire such strong emotional reactions from a reader I know it’s good – even if the emotions are uncomfortable, difficult or frustrating. Alison has certainly made for evocative reading.


Amelia and Marcus are a young Christian couple trying to make ends meet, reach their dreams and be Godly spouses towards each other. That’s not easy at the best of times, let alone what these guys go through. Even when I despaired at the decisions these two people make, I still liked them. By and large Marcus and Amelia have been shaped by their formative years with parents that have been less than stellar in their child rearing. They have made little room for God to change them and make them whole unto him. Of course it takes them a while to figure out they need God to shape them not their family. 

This book touched me deeply on many levels, most which are too personal to go into, but it was worth the read. Alison again gives her reader’s difficult people and situations and shines God’s grace and love upon them. Answers do come, but they are not easily solved and the reader knows the journey is still going for Marcus and Amelia. The most important thing though is that they are now letting God travel along their journey to wholeness. 

Can’t wait to read more from you, Alison!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November Feature Author: Laura Frantz – Interview & Book Giveaway


I am SO excited to have for you today, Christian historical fiction author, Laura Frantz! Laura is just the nicest lady and the author of "The Colonel's Lady" - which is -if you've been following our blog you'll already know - one of my favourite favourite books. (See my review.) "The Colonel's Lady" is her latest book release. Her two previous books, "The Frontiersman's Daughter" and "Courting Morrow Little" were both Carol Award finalists.

We're giving away a copy of Laura's book "The Colonel's Lady", see the end of this interview for how to enter. Would make a lovely Christmas present for yourself, or someone else :)

1. Thanks so much Laura for joining us on our blog today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Any hobbies you have?

Oh, Helen, thanks so much for hosting me here. I’ve become quite a fan of your sisterly blog, so much so that I wish I had a Helen or Jess instead of one brother, wonderful as he is :)! Love the questions you’ve asked. As for hobbies, I love to write, obviously, and cook, bake, do cross-stitch, and be with my family. Only not in that order! I love to take walks and be in the woods or by the ocean. I’m so thrilled with the natural world and see the Creator everywhere.

Helen: We're so humbled that you're a fan of our blog! We do love doing this blog together.  The internet is a blessing that we can do a project like this even though we live miles apart. And that we can meet with lovely people such as yourself!

2. Your latest book, "The Colonel's Lady" instantly became one of my absolutely favourite books, and largely because of the faint-worthy Colonel McLinn! What resources do you utilise when creating your heroes? 

Thanks for being smitten with McLinn! I confess I am, too. As far as creating memorable heroes, I really don’t know how it’s done, except that I imagine myself the heroine in my books and enjoy discovering what makes my heroes tick, so to speak. I always cover a project with prayer which really helps created godly heroes, or heroes that grow in godliness. Redeemable heroes are delicious :) to write and then read.

3. What has drawn you to write historical fiction?

Reading historical fiction. I’ve been a fan since I was a little girl, always choosing history over anything else. Guess I’m kind of hard-wired that way. I rarely read contemporary books but gobble up history, biographies, old journals and letters, historical fiction, etc.

Helen: I love history too! But took me a long time to discover that there was such a thing as historical fiction .. and then when I did, it was like, "Wow, this is just the best thing ever!" :)

4. How much time do you usually spend on the research element for your books? Do you visit locations and conduct interviews?

It seems like I do more researching than reading fiction. Nearly every day I’m researching which is hard to keep track of because it’s not like work to me. I have a hard time turning the research off! My little house is overflowing with history books, mostly of the early American or colonial periods, which are my favorites.

5. Can you tell us about any of your current works in progress, and any books that are coming out soon?

My next book will release in September of 2012 and I’m a bit giddy as I wait for a title and cover any day now. My publisher is known for their beautiful covers and they never disappoint so please stay tuned… This upcoming one is a rags to riches story of an apprentice and two sisters, both of whom fall in love with him. He only chooses one, of course, and lots of historical fireworks ensue!


Helen: Love the sound of this new book! Hmmm ... two sisters, hey? ... ooh the intrigue!

**Make sure you check out Laura's blog, she has announced her new book title there this week!**

6. What books did you read as a teenager?

Ever heard of Victoria Holt? She was the queen of romantic suspense in my day and was so prolific, writing under a variety of pen names. I just adored her writing and still have some of her books. I think that’s why my books have a suspenseful element in them, thanks to her. I read anything historical I could get my hands on really, even the “bodice rippers” back then, something I don’t do now. I’ve been convicted to keep my mind and heart clean for the Lord and since there’s so much God-honoring fiction out there it’s easy to do.

Helen: No, I haven't heard of Victoria Holt.  But you're right, it's so wonderful to have such a vast and diverse array of Christian fiction. 
 
7. Whose writing do you admire?

My favorite historical writers are Liz Curtis Higgs, James Alexander Thom, and Allan Eckert. Heavy historical reading with the last two but stellar stories. I learn so much when I read these three authors – about history and the craft of writing excellent fiction. Allan Eckert was a friend of mine who recently passed away and I’m sad no more will come from his pen. But he leaves a wonderful legacy of books.

8. When you get writers block, what do you do to try and get out of it?

I’m afraid I’m one of those writers who have writer’s flood instead of block! I have a hard time shutting the writing channel off. Sometimes I do have trouble deciding which path a plot should take. Then I take a long walk. I try to walk 2-3 miles a day normally. Research says walking or exercise in general boosts creativity and I really think this is true. Some of my best ideas come while walking and I have to keep a pen and paper handy :). Plus walking is a great anecdote to writer’s rear, the old author malady.

Helen: Oh you're one of those blessed people without writers block! I'm a Class A procrastinator, prone to getting bogged down with semantics and it freezes my ability to write.   Definitely taking note of your walking advice :)

9. If you could be any fictional book character for a day, who would you be, and why?

Oh, what a wonderful question! I think I’d be Margaret in North&South, the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. I love the BBC drama of the same. She falls in love with John Thornton and it’s quite a story!


Helen: You really have my curiosity peaked regarding this North & South! Since you mentioned it to me before, I've bought the DVD and just waiting for a good time to watch it with Jess. Hopefully this Christmas :)
 
10. What do you know about Australia, and is there anything in particular you would like to see if you came for a visit?

I’m so curious about Vegemite. Did I spell that right? I’ve heard it’s an acquired taste but it sounds so good. Kind of like American peanut butter? Not sure. My grandmother toured Australia years ago and fell in love with it. I remember her talking about it when she returned. I think it’s charming that people refer to it as “Oz.” I didn’t know that until recently. I’m so thrilled my books are in some Australian and New Zealand libraries! That’s so humbling and inspiring. And I’ve been able to connect with readers like you and that means so much to me. You’re the best! And God bless you.

Helen: Vegemite, yes you spelt it correctly! I think it must be an acquired taste, but we don't notice since we're reared on the stuff.  I mean literally.  All our kids are having it on their toast almost as soon as they start solids.  Interestingly enough, they don't flinch or look surprised on their first taste - they just take it right in their stride.  I think you will find it's nothing like American peanut butter.  I don't know how that tastes, but one thing I hear from all Aussies who have been to the US is that your food is generally sweeter than ours (even bread).  And vegemite is not sweet.  I wouldn't call it sour though ... I actually don't know how to describe it! A common mistake is to try it for the first time with a spoon, and this is just wrong wrong! It should be tried on toast - sparingly - and with butter.

Thanks again so much, Laura, for doing this interview with us :) It's such a pleasure to be able to promote you and your wonderful books to our readers - many of them Aussie!


Find Laura on the Web

http://www.laurafrantz.net


Laura's Books

The Frontiersman's Daughter
Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded. Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills. But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption.
Courting Morrow Little
Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love? This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.

The Colonel's Lady
In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father's place as scrivener. Before long, it's clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own--some of which have to do with her father's sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?


Book Giveaway!

Ok, here's your chance to win "The Colonel's Lady"!  This is a beautiful book which I heartily recommend, so make sure you get your name in the draw.

To enter the competition, you just need to complete the form below.  Entries must include a valid email address, or we won't be able to contact you if you win!

All information provided remains confidential and will not be given to any third party.  Your email address will only be used by Book Review Sisters to contact you in the event that you win.

If you are contacted and advised you are the winner, you will have 1 week to provide us with the address for postage of your prize.

Entries close Thursday 24th November 2011

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