Healing and Hope

This past September, I had the privilege of sitting in a day-long class with authors Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren in which they talked about a story equation. Hauck actually mentioned her story question for her newest book, The Wedding Chapel: What if a wedding chapel had set empty for sixty years, never having hosted a wedding?

wedding chapel cover

Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook spent years building his wedding chapel in the small town of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, by hand for the woman he loved. But time, war and circumstances tore his beloved Collette Greer away from him. For sixty years, the wedding chapel has sat empty, a monument to love.

Former Heart’s Bend resident, Taylor Branson now lives in New York with a new husband. After eloping with Jack Forester, another former resident of the small town, Taylor questions whether she rushed into the marriage after a whirlwind elopement. She loves Jack, but her family doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to lasting marriages.

Meanwhile, Jack’s success as an advertising executive stems from his desire to belong. His childhood left a lot to be desired and he struggles to express his love to his new wife.

These four people are brought together when Taylor takes an assignment to photograph the wedding chapel in her hometown. Through conversations, flashbacks, and letters, the truth of Collette’s and Jimmy’s relationship comes to light.

While many parts of the plot were predictable, Rachel Hauck once again draws readers into the story, making them feel welcome and a part of the community. As a resident of Nashville, I have visited many a small town exactly like Heart’s Bend. The Wedding Chapel is a story of forgiveness and hope. A story that expresses that some dreams are worth waiting a lifetime for.

***Zondervan Fiction and Booklook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Experience the Bible in a Unique Way

When I was in college, a guy named Eugene Peterson translated some of the Bible (the new testament and Psalms) into modern-day language. I enjoy reading The Message in order to get a different perspective on passages that I’ve heard and read several times over the years.

the message 100

Now anyone who would like their devotions tweaked a little bit more can read The Message 100. Broken down into 100 devotions, this book is written in chronological order. With insights into each passage, updated language, and Biblical passages combined to give a complete picture of the story, readers can study God’s word in a fresh and unique way.

While The Message 100 is a great devotional tool, it is a little difficult to find specific passages. This is not something you’ll want to take to church and follow along with during the sermon. This book is designed to be a study tool, to enhance your devotional experience, and perhaps point out some ideas and points you may not have known before.

With the holidays approaching, this might be a great gift for someone who plans to delve into God’s word in 2016.

****Tyndale Blog Network provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Re-imagined Fairy Tales

There are a few people who are rewriting fairy tales in a unique and interesting way, and Melanie Dickerson is the best. In her latest work, The Golden Braid (available everywhere Nov. 17), we meet her latest heroine.

the golden braid

Rapunzel has lived her entire life sheltered by her mother. The one thing she longs for more than anything else is to learn to read. And while her mother promises her it will happen, Rapunzel is beginning to doubt her assurances. When they pack up to move to the large city of Hagenheim, Rapunzel believes this may finally be her opportunity to get her greatest wish.

On their way, two ruffians attach Rapunzel and her mother, Gothel. The women are rescued from a knight, whom Rapunzel turns around and rescues right back. The two of them don’t get along at first, but Rapunzel refuses to let Sir Gerek’s surliness scare her away from getting what she’s longed for.

When Rapunzel defies her mother and takes a job at the castle, she learns a secret that changes everything she believed true.

The interactions between Rapunzel and Gerek are humorous and entertaining. As the two of them struggle with their internal emotions as well as their identities, they are drawn to each other more and more. And through everything, Rapunzel places her trust and her future in God’s hands.

I love how seamlessly Dickerson took an event from her previous book, The Princess Spy, and put it in this one from different character’s perspectives. This is only the second of her books I’ve read so I’m not positive, but she may do this with her other books. After reading a second one of hers, I just might have to read an earlier one to check into that.

Thomas Nelson Fiction provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Beyond “I Do”

This September, when I was at the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference in Dallas, Texas, I noticed a certain name popped up a few times. At the first dinner, the keynote speaker happened to sit at my table (in the seat next to me). Bill Myers asked those of us around the table what we were working on, then we got on the topic of editors. His endorsement was for Deborah Raney. The next day, I sat in an all-day class led by authors Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. They mentioned a book by Deborah Raney. And, as it turns out, at the banquet and awards gala, Deborah Raney and her husband joined my table. At the time, I knew I had one of her books in my queue for review and after hearing her name so many times (as well as reading the previous book in this series), I looked forward to it.

another way home

Danae Brooks longs for nothing more than to be a mother, but such a simple thing for her sisters is turning out to be a heartbreaking challenge for the middle Whitman daughter. Her husband Dallas seems to become less and less interested in the fertility treatments and doctor’s visits, and Danae feels alone and miserable.

When she decides she’s had enough for a while, that it’s time to take a break and focus on something other than herself, she ends up volunteering at a women’s shelter. While there, she realizes what blessings she has in her life. Her husband loves her and she doesn’t fear him like the residents of the shelter do their exes, her supportive family surrounds her and lifts her up in prayer, and even though she hasn’t yet been given the deepest desires of her heart, she has a beautiful home and Dallas’s job gives her the freedom to not have to work.

One of the women from the shelter asks Danae to keep her young son over the Thanksgiving holiday. After discussing it with Dallas, she agrees. What they don’t expect is to keep the boy for longer. As the couple struggles with what God wants them to do—falling in love with Austin will make giving him back that much more painful—they grow closer to each other, their families, and the Lord.

While my preferred reading (and writing) is romance, it’s wonderful to see authors writing about life after the engagement and wedding. Everything doesn’t fall into place after a couple says their vows. There are challenges and choices to be made that can tear apart families or draw them closer together. And bringing the reader inside those critical moments is where Deborah Raney excels.

***Abingdon Press provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The True Heart of the Mountain

I’m not someone who keeps up on the news and current events very well. But I do remember five years ago when some men were trapped underground in a collapsed mine for many, many days. As the world watched with the miners’ family and friends while people came together to rescue the men, I held my breath along with them.

the 33

Now movie-goers can experience the events that happened underground in The 33. Starring Antonia Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Juliette Binoche, this film shows the determination and grit of the residents of this Chilean town as they join together both above and below the collapsed mine to survive. It brings to life the fact these miners, who the world watched come out of the mine one at a time after being trapped for 69 days, had families and friendships. They were real people with real problems—babies on the way, affairs, alchoholism—but when necessary, they band together to survive.

The makers of the film (Warner Brothers and Alcon Entertainment) did an excellent job inflecting humor once in a while so the movie doesn’t drag the viewers down with the heaviness of the situation. If you’re looking for an uplifting story of hope, friendship, and survival, check this one out in theaters on November 13, 2015.