Book Review: The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

  • Title: The Edge of Belonging
  • Author: Amanda Cox
  • Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Family Relationships
  • Type of ending: Happily ever after
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: If you want a story that will warm your heart, absolutely, enthusiastically, yes!

Synopsis – from Goodreads:

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved.

In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.

My review:

I was thrilled to have the chance to be on the blogger team for The Edge of Belonging because it touches on two subjects of importance to me. One, Ivy Rose is adopted. I was adopted as an infant, and I grew up knowing that to be the case. It was never a surprise to me, and I never doubted the love my parents had for me. I didn’t grapple with some of the same things Ivy struggles with. But I have that kinship with everyone who grew up in a family other than the one they were born to. Two, the story deals with an abusive relationship. Back in my days as an assistant district attorney, I saw my fair share of abused women. My heart ached for every one of them, and I saw how difficult it was for them to break free from the situations in which they often felt trapped. I’m no longer a trial attorney, but that is one of the very few things I would consider getting back into prosecution for, helping women and children who cannot, in those cases, help themselves.

The story is told from two perspectives in time. We see one aspect of the story unfolding from Ivy Rose Lashley’s point of view in the present day, and another through the lives of those who will become near and dear to her, back in 1994.

The Edge of Belonging grabbed me from the get-go. Ivy Rose learns that her grandmother is very close to dying. She wants to go to her family, but her fiancé bullies her into staying, into attending a function that’s very important for her career. This fiance is a control freak of the highest order. He tells Ivy what to wear, how she’ll act. It took me just about half a second to figure out that he was No Good For Her, and it broke my heart for Ivy. I wanted to hug her and tell her she deserved better, and I wanted to punch rotten ol’ Seth into the next county.

Finally Ivy decides that family means more, and she leaves the important function to try to get to her grandmother before she passes away. When she returns home, the fiance makes his displeasure with what he considers Ivy’s selfish actions abundantly clear. He threatens to ruin Ivy’s life, to take away the things he provides for her, the job he got for her. Her cell phone is turned off. Her car is damaged so that it won’t start. The funding for her job dries up suddenly. With nothing left to hold her there, Ivy returns to Triune, Tennessee, where she grew up. There she faces the task of going through her grandmother’s house and sorting through the things she left behind. And as it turns out, sorting through those things may include learning the truth behind her adoption – and figuring out how she feels about Reese, her childhood friend.

Oh, y’all. This book. I’m not one to cry at books, generally, but The Edge of Belonging had me running for the Kleenex. For so many of the characters, it’s about their perspective on relationships, and how they’ve handled the pain of loss, the pain of life going not according to plan.

I used to handle Child Protective Services cases as an assistant district attorney, and Harvey reminded me of some of the kids we’d see in foster care. He’d built such a thick shell around himself to protect himself, to make sure he didn’t get close to anyone, because as a child, he’d learned that love meant pain. He’d learned that if you love someone, they’ll just leave you, and he wasn’t willing to open himself up to that hurt again.

Miriam’s pain was caused by her inability to have a child. For so long, she couldn’t get past wanting a child from a pregnancy of her own. She let that pain distance her from her husband, her community of faith, and even God.

Pearl’s husband died from cancer, and her son came back from the war so emotionally damaged that he ended his own life. She lost those she loved to circumstances she couldn’t control.

And Ivy and Reese. They both danced around things so much, I was about ready to reach into the pages and give them each a little shake. But Ivy learned from her fiancé that love meant pain, and she also feared losing her best friend. Reese saw that she’d been hurt, and he knew he never wanted to make her feel that hurt from anything he said or did.

This is a marvelous story of finding your place, of learning that family doesn’t necessarily mean blood ties, of working past old hurts to find soul-deep healing. Faith is an important aspect of the story – Thomas is a pastor, after all. But it isn’t a “beat you over the head with a Bible” story. Rather, it’s a faith that gently seeks to draw others near, and a faith that allows the characters wrestle with and work out tough decisions in prayer, and grow stronger as a result.

The Edge of Belonging is a story that will break your heart and put it back together. You will wax indignant, laugh, cry, and cheer. When I turned the final page, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends. It gets five enthusiastic stars and a wholehearted recommendation from me.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from Revell Reads. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Tuneful Tuesday: It’s That Season Again

Yes, indeed, it’s hurricane season. (Y’all thought I meant Christmas? Nah, that’s still a little ways away.)

A few days ago, it was looking like Louisiana was going to be getting a one-two tropical punch, and I don’t mean the fruity and delicious kind. We were looking at potentially two hurricanes hitting our state in very close succession. Now Marco has fizzled, but it remains to be seen how strong Laura will get before she hits.

I’ve got a song for that.

Doesn’t that music just sound like a hurricane strengthening and then blowing itself out? Amazing.

And then the question for anyone who’s ever been in the crosshairs of a storm….

That’s kind of where we are right now. Currently, we’re under a tropical storm watch. It remains to be seen how much stronger Laura may get out in the open water, and how far her impact will spread. We aren’t expected to get a direct hit, but with a big enough and strong enough storm, we could still get some rough weather. And there’s a big difference in having a house that will survive 80 MPH winds and riding that kind of storm out in your house. Not sure it would do my anxiety any favors to stay here if they’re predicting those kinds of winds!

So we’ll watch, and see what happens, and if need be, we’ll head out of town for a bit. Everyone else who may be reading and in Laura’s path, stay safe!

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Book Review: A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke

  • Title: A Private Cathedral
  • Series: Dave Robicheaux #23
  • Author: James Lee Burke
  • Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Yes (but probably not for the faint of heart)

From Goodreads:

After finding himself caught up in one of Louisiana’s oldest and bloodiest family rivalries, Detective Dave Robicheaux must battle the most terrifying adversary he has ever encountered: a time-traveling superhuman assassin.

The Shondell and Balangie families are longtime enemies in the New Iberia criminal underworld and show each other no mercy. Yet their youngest heirs, Johnny Shondell and Isolde Balangie, rock and roll-musician teenagers with magical voices, have fallen in love and run away after Isolde was given as a sex slave to Johnny’s uncle.

As he seeks to uncover why, Detective Dave Robicheaux gets too close to both Isolde’s mother and the mistress of her father, a venomous New Orleans mafioso whose jealousy has no bounds. In retribution, he hires a mysterious assassin to go after Robicheaux and his longtime partner, Clete Purcel. This hitman is unlike any the “Bobbsey Twins from Homicide” have ever faced. He has the ability to induce horrifying hallucinations and travels on a menacing ghost ship that materializes without warning. In order to defeat him and rescue Johnny and Isolde, Robicheaux will have to overcome the demons that have tormented him throughout his adult life—alcoholism, specters from combat in Vietnam, and painful memories of women to whom he opened his heart only to see killed.

A Private Cathedral, James Lee Burke’s fortieth book, is his most powerful tale, one that will captivate readers—mixing crime, romance, mythology, horror, and science fiction to produce a thrilling story about the all-consuming, all-conquering power of love. 

My review:

The Shondell and Balangie families are old families, big players in the criminal underworld in Louisiana. In Romeo and Juliet fashion, Johnny Shondell and Isolde Balangie have fallen in love. They run away when Isolde is given to Mark Shondell, Johnny’s uncle, as a sex slave. When he learns about the transaction between Mark Shondell and Adonis Balangie, Isolde’s father, Dave Robicheaux finds himself walking straight into the middle of a maelstrom. He’s sticking his nose in family business and customs that go back hundreds of years, and Mark Shondell doesn’t particularly like it. Trouble follows.

Dave Robicheaux has seen his share of hard knocks. Two wives untimely deceased, in and out of more than one police department, a recovering alcoholic, he still fights the good fight. He may be a bit rough around the edges, but he’s one of the good guys. He and his best friend, Clete Purcel, are in it up to their eyeballs trying to take down Mark Shondell and a centuries-old custom of trafficking between the Shondell and Balangie families. Add to the mix a supernatural centuries-old assassin called a revelator who appears in a ghost ship, and this is one mess Dave and Clete might not make their way out of.

A Private Cathedral is full of suspense, action, family drama, the unexplainable, and a little sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s hard to pin down allegiances sometimes, and there’s always the possibility that someone may switch sides. And James Lee Burke tells the story with his characteristic glorious, and sometimes philosophical, turns of phrase.

“I wondered if Pietro, the Balangie patriarch, believed he was part of it, reborn in the New Country, safe from poverty, forgiven for the sins he committed out of necessity in the service of a capitalistic God.”

“It was like waking from a bad dream as a child only to find, as the sunlight crept into the room and drove away the shadows, that your nocturnal fears were justified and that the creatures you couldn’t flee in your sleep waited for you in the blooming of the day.”

“It was one of those rare moments when the ephemerality of the human condition becomes inescapable and you want to smash your watch and shed your mortal fastenings and embrace the rain and the wind and rise into the storm and become one with its destructive magnificence.”

It doesn’t take long to get hooked into this story, and once you do, it pulls you along. The tale is compelling, and eerie, and takes you to some pretty dark places, and you aren’t sure where you’re going to end up until Burke ties all the threads together. There is betrayal and grief, loss and redemption. Buckle up and get to reading.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of A Private Cathedral through NetGalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t like.

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Book Review: South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber

  • Title: South of the Buttonwood Tree
  • Author: Heather Webber
  • Genre: Southern Fiction, Magical Realism
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Yes! If you enjoy Sarah Addison Allen, you will love Heather Webber.

From Goodreads:

Blue Bishop has a knack for finding lost things. While growing up in charming small-town Buttonwood, Alabama, she’s happened across lost wallets, jewelry, pets, her wandering neighbor, and sometimes, trouble. No one is more surprised than Blue, however, when she comes across an abandoned newborn baby in the woods, just south of a very special buttonwood tree.

Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton is at a crossroads. She has always tried so hard to do the right thing, but her own mother would disown her if she ever learned half of Sarah Grace’s secrets.

The unexpected discovery of the newborn baby girl will alter Blue’s and Sarah Grace’s lives forever. Both women must fight for what they truly want in life and for who they love. In doing so, they uncover long-held secrets that reveal exactly who they really are–and what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of family. 

My review:

Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe was a highlight of my reading last year. So of course I was thrilled to have the chance to read an advance copy of her latest, South of the Buttonwood Tree. The bar was set high, though. Could it live up to Blackbird Cafe? Oh, yes. It could, and did.

South of the Buttonwood Tree is set in the small town of Buttonwood, Alabama. Legend has it that folks can ask the buttonwood tree for guidance once a year, and failure to follow the tree’s advice (which comes on a button) is said to subject one to a curse.

Blue Bishop longs to escape the place where she grew up, to get out from under the tainted shadow of her family’s history. Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton is stuck in a failing marriage, burdened by her mother’s constant exhortation to “do better, be better” and trying to keep up appearances for the sake of her father’s political career. They both find themselves in the midst of the mystery when Blue finds a baby under the buttonwood tree with a button that says, “Give the baby to Blue Bishop.”

This book is, at the risk of sounding horribly cliched, magical. Heather Webber doesn’t just tell a story with her words. She creates an atmosphere, a world that the reader feels drawn to move into. The characters feel like friends, like people I could live next door to or down the street from. I want to visit The Rabbit Hole and see the blanket fort that Henry puts in. I want to see Blue’s studio and read the books she writes.

But the story. This is a tale of the grudges a small town can hold against people they assume they know, whether the grudges are warranted or not. A tale of secrets kept that should have been shared, of things that are most definitely not what they seem, of the ridiculous standards we hold ourselves to just to look good in front of others. There is mystery, suspense, deep love of family, even a little romance. This book brought me to tears more than once. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to hug characters and smack them. It felt like I said farewell to friends when I turned the last page.

Heather Webber has joined the short list of authors whose new books I’ll pick up without even reading the blurb. If you enjoy stories set in small Southern towns, where there’s magic in the air, and where the characters may be people you know, you need to read this book. You won’t be disappointed, and Ms. Webber may find her way onto your short list, too.

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t like.

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Write the Story.

Some time ago, I grabbed this little gem off the bargain books rack at Barnes & Noble.

It’s been rattling around my shelves, collecting dust, and today it caught my eye. The concept is pretty cool – you’re given a topic for a story, and several words to include in your story.

The book itself doesn’t specify, but it would appear that the goal is to help you expand your writing. I’ve never considered myself much of a writer, but at some point in the past, I picked it up and thought, hey, maybe this would be fun.

Never did anything with it…until maybe now? This enforced stay-at-home time, although chock full of work (I’m on the clock just like a regular day, only I don’t have to wear big people clothes or go into the office) and family stuff and meal prep and all, seems to lend itself to taking a crack at something new.

I think I’ll try my hand at writing based on these prompts. I know myself and my handwriting well enough to know that I won’t be able to fit a sensible story in the small space allotted. So I’ll post what I come up with here, maybe once a week-ish. Y’all be gentle, okay? NOT a writer. Just a goofball who might throw some words together and see what comes out.

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Book Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga, #1) by Andrew Peterson

  • Title: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
  • Series: The Wingfeather Saga, #1
  • Author: Andrew Peterson
  • Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Action & Adventure
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Yes! Outstanding for children and adults!

From Amazon:

Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art in the tradition of the original Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz storybooks.

My Review:

My ten-year-old is a voracious reader, and I’m always looking for good books that keep his interest but that are age-appropriate. We read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness together, and it is a hit! It’s the story of Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby, their mother Nia, and their grandfather Podo. They live in Skree, a country that has been under the oppressive rule of Gnag the Nameless for as long as the children can remember. Gnag is searching for the jewels of Anniera. But what could three children have to do with jewels?

This is a story of adventure, love for family, doing the right thing even when it’s hard, and faith. Podo is gruff and blustery at times, but his deep devotion for his grandchildren shines through even when he’s giving them a good chewing out. Janner may chafe at the repeated admonishments to look out for his younger siblings, but he loves them and worries about them.

Andrew Peterson has a quirky, engaging writing style, and the humor in this book has made us laugh out loud at times. (I mean, the fact that the nameless evil’s name is Gnag the Nameless? That’s hilarious!) It’s also a story of mysteries, of secrets not yet revealed. What do Nia and Podo know that they aren’t telling the children? Janner in particular is old enough to catch the glances that pass between the adults and to wonder what overheard snippets of conversation really mean.

This book is great for middle grade readers. It has some pretty intense descriptions of battles and physical characteristics of monstrous beings, so do keep that in mind if your child is sensitive to those things. (Mine is not. He listens to the story and the draws what he sees in his mind.) I’ve really enjoyed it as an adult, too. I can’t wait to read the rest of the Wingfeather Saga!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Westside King Cake Review

It’s that time of year in Louisiana – Mardi Gras season! Mardi Gras begins on January 6 each year and runs through the beginning of Lent. One of the best parts of Mardi Gras in my opinion is king cake. The seasonal pastry is available pretty much anywhere now, from your local Walmart to the fanciest bakeries.

A brief history of the king cake, from New Orleans Showcase:

“Mardi Gras season begins on January 6, of each year and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. One of the wonderful traditions of Mardi Gras, and probably the most delicious, is the King Cake.

“On the Christian calendar, the 12th day after Christmas is celebrated as the date that the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus. This day, January 6, is known by several names, including “Epiphany”, “Twelfth Night”, or “Kings Day”. The celebration of this event has evolved over the centuries, with each culture adding its own unique rituals. The New Orleans tradition, borrowing heavily from European influences, is believed to have begun in the 1870’s. As part of this celebration, it is now traditional to bake a cake in honor of the three kings – the King Cake. King Cakes are oval-shaped to symbolize the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors – purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. A small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is traditionally hidden inside each King Cake.

“In New Orleans, King Cake parties are held throughout the Mardi Gras season. In offices, classrooms, and homes throughout the city, King Cakes are sliced and enjoyed by all. Like the Biblical story, the “search for the baby” adds excitement, as each person waits to see in which slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who “finds” the baby will be rewarded with “good luck”, that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.

“The “traditional” King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, covered by poured sugar and sprinkled with purple, green and gold colored sugar. Today, many additional varieties of King Cake are also available by adding cream cheese, or other fillings to the “traditional” King Cake.”

You can get your king cake fix in a variety of forms, from the traditional pastry to king cake bites (made easy with crescent rolls), from bread pudding to cheesecake, from crack candy to cocktails (and there are all kinds of king cake-inspired cocktails out there!). The traditional pastry can be plain cinnamon, or it can be filled with fruit, cream cheese, or (my favorite) Zulu, a chocolate-coconut filling. There’s even a savory variety with boudin! I hope to get my hands on one here locally for my reviews.

King Cake Reviews

This year, I’m reviewing traditional pastry king cake options available to us on the Westside. I’m limiting my review to king cakes in West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order.

Walmart

We bought a king cake with strawberry filling from Walmart in Plaquemine.

The first thing I noticed is that Walmart has moved away from the traditional oval braided shape for its king cakes. Theirs is one solid oval of cake. As Brian said, that’s likely quicker and easier (and thus more cost effective) to produce. Still, the appearance is a bit disappointing in that regard. They also have the baby in a little plastic bag outside the cake, not baked in it.

As to the quality of the cake, our consensus is that it’s got a good flavor, and there is icing under the purple, green, and gold sugar, so you’re not just getting the crunchy sugar on top. But the texture is a bit packy and tough, and the ratio of filling to cake is lower than I prefer. (If you don’t care for all the filling, this might be a good thing for you.) Overall, the opinion is that if someone served it to us, we’d eat it, but we aren’t going to buy another one.

Rouses Market

Our selection from Rouses in Plaquemine was king cake with cream cheese filling. Thing One likes the cream cheese, but prefers to avoid the fruit fillings.

Rouses was better than Walmart. It wasn’t quite as packy, and it had a better filling-to-cake ratio.

The Poboy House

WOW. This was an amazing cake. First, they had significantly more filling (which is good for me – I like filling), and it was really good quality filling. It had a noticeable strawberry jam flavor, and that really bumped the whole thing up a notch.

Also, this is pastry, y’all. It’s not just cake. You can tell they took time to work with the dough to get the good flaky layers. This is the lightest king cake we’ve tried – as in, I can eat two pieces of it and not feel stuffed and miserable.

(And not for review purposes, as we stuck to strawberry for reviewing, but just because I wanted it – we also got the Zulu variety, chocolate/coconut. HOT DIGGITY. I can’t even tell y’all how good that was. It was chocolately, rich, sweet but not overwhelmingly so – my new favorite, right there.)

So far, this is the leader of the pack, the one to beat!

Benedetto’s/Caluda’s

Benedetto’s used to make their king cakes in-house. This year, they had them made by Caluda’s. This one was more like a big cinnamon roll with frosting than a king cake to our tastes. You can also see that they used sprinkles for decoration rather than the traditional colored sugar.

Sugah Rush Cakes/Port Allen Bakery II

In years past, we’ve gotten king cake from Port Allen Bakery. This year I went to Sugah Rush in Plaquemine, as it’s my understanding they use the same king cake recipe.

I wanted Sugah Rush to be my favorite. It smells SO GOOD when you walk into their store, and Port Allen Bakery (the original) has been our favorite donut shop pretty much since we moved here. And Sugah Rush was my second favorite. But the one we got had apparently had a little mishap with the filling – strawberry oozed all out one side, and the other side was left with mostly pastry. I liked that they put the icing on top of the sugar, though, and the filling had a good flavor. Not quite as jammy and rich as Poboy House, but very satisfactory. I’d buy it again and share it with folks.

This is probably not an exhaustive list. I understand that Tasty Cream in Addis and Mary Lee’s in Port Allen have king cakes as well, and there may be other outlets for them that I’m not aware of.

Our final verdict: Poboy House was our clear favorite. Sugah Rush came in a respectable second. Rouses was better than Walmart, although neither was rave-inducing. Benedetto’s/Caluda’s was good, but kind of in a category by itself as more like a breakfast pastry than anything else.

Westside folks, what’s your favorite king cake? Leave me a comment!

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Book Review and GIVEAWAY – The Fresh Start Bible

If we want to grow in our Christian faith, daily time in God’s Word is vital. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. The Fresh Start Bible from Gateway Press can help!

Fresh Start Bible

The Fresh Start Bible is an excellent resource for those who are new to the Christian faith and mature Christians alike. If you have a specific question you’d like to know more about, there are a series of them at the beginning, covering topics such as How Do I Accept Jesus?, Why Should I Be Baptized?, What Is the Lord’s Supper?, How Do I Deal with Anxiety and Worry?, and more. There are fifty-two topical questions in total.

The Fresh Start Bible uses the New Living Translation, which makes it easy to read and understand. I find it to be an excellent translation for reading when I’m trying to grasp the meaning of a Scripture passage.

The Bible is filled with notes and articles, and the introduction at the start of each book gives you valuable insight into the theme and history of the book. It’s also got a reading plan to help you get started if, like me, you sometimes struggle with knowing where to jump in to reading God’s Word.

Gateway Press has generously provided a copy of the Fresh Start Bible for me to give away. To enter, just leave a comment telling me your favorite Bible verse and your email so I can let you know if you’re the winner! Giveaway ends March 13, 2020.

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Tuneful Tuesday: Faith Edition

If y’all have kept up with my sporadic blogging over the years, you may know that life has involved unemployment, underemployment, and just about every financial struggle you can think of. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, for a fact.

But there have been blessings, too. Our current car was one of them. It’s a 2001 Honda CR-V, and it was a literal gift to us. I never expected God would hand me any really big blessings like that…until He did. I have been, and am, thankful for my little car. It’s the best car ever. But all things wear out, and the miracle of today isn’t promised for always. Thunderhorse (that’s the car’s name) is in the shop for the second time in two weeks with the same issue, and we’re now having to consider whether it might be time to look for a newer vehicle.

You might think, more reliable car, hey, that’s a no-brainer. But it’s not really an easy choice. On the one hand, I enjoy not having a car note. We’re also hoping to buy a house this year, and I’m not sure what impact buying a car will have on our ability to qualify for a mortgage. But on the other, my commute takes me over some pretty scary bridges and some roads on which I would not like to be left stranded. (Google the I-10 bridge across the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. If my car broke down on that bridge, the tow truck better come with a shot of Valium, because I would be hysterical. That bridge gives me the wiggins on good days.) And is the benefit of not having a car note greater than the stress and potential stress of waiting for the next problem? Because as much as I love Thunderhorse, he’s nearly 20 years old. He’s been well cared for, but there will always be parts that wear out and things that need money thrown at them. And I know myself well enough to know that, after this most recent experience, every bump and hiccup of the car will have me on edge. So. Which way do we go?

I’ve been listening to a podcast from Transformation Church out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Crazy Faith. It talks about having faith, real faith, that God is able to do big things. But we have to build up our faith muscles to get to crazy faith. We start with baby faith, that “faith as small as a mustard seed” that the Bible talks about, and move on to maybe faith. We see that maybe this that’s going on is God (but we might not actually KNOW it was God’s hand at work until we look back after the fact). And then there’s wavy faith – the faith that got Peter out of the boat and walking on the water to Jesus. That kind of faith gives us the ability to follow our Savior wherever He calls us, even if it’s over our heads and we can’t touch bottom.

That’s where I am right now. The song I chose for today, “Beyond Me,” reminds me that God may call me to come out deeper. That may be what He’s doing right now with my car. I can’t see clearly right now what the best choice may be. I can’t see clearly how this may affect our desire for a house of our own. But He sees the big picture. All He asks is that I trust Him and step out in faith wherever He may lead.

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond …

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And the Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great …
Take me to Your great unknown

Posted in Faith, Music, Tuneful Tuesday, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best of 2019 Book Giveaway Hop!

WHOOPS! I goofed and missed the detail that the hop goes through January 31. Thank you to the reader who pointed that out for me. So, the giveaway is ongoing, and I will give away another $10 Amazon card. The winner will be chosen from all comments made before 11:59 pm on January 31. (Sorry, Beth, you’re out of the running for that one! 🙂 ) So, comment away!

***GIVEAWAY CLOSED!*** The winner, as chosen by random.org, is Beth Minyard!

Welcome to the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop! All of the blogs in the hop will be sharing about books published in 2019 that they loved, and they’ll all be offering giveaways! Isn’t it fun to start off the year with a giveaway or three? You can find other blogs participating in the hop at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado, let me tell you about my favorite book of the year. It’s actually a series, not a book, because I’m extra like that.

The Kingdoms of Evernow by Heidi Catherine

The Kingdoms of Evernow by Heidi Catherine

I was introduced to the works of Heidi Catherine when she posted in a Facebook group looking for advance readers. I said yes to the first in the series, The Whisperers of Evernow, and I am SO GLAD I did! Heidi Catherine does a marvelous job of creating a believable world that you wish you could visit and characters you will cheer for, laugh with, and cry over. There is incredible good and unspeakable evil, and love that will sacrifice all woven throughout her stories. I can’t recommend the series highly enough, and you can read my review of The Whisperers of Evernow here. See if you think you might enjoy the series as much as I have. Also, you can grab The Whisperers of Evernow on Amazon – it’s available for free if you have Kindle Unlimited, or 99 cents if you don’t (and that’s an affiliate link – if you order through it, I get a little money and you get a good book).

To celebrate my favorite book of 2019, I’m giving one reader a $10 Amazon gift card. If you’d like to enter, just leave a comment telling me YOUR favorite book of 2019! Entries close Friday, January 17, or after eight people have entered, whichever comes first. Please be sure to leave the email address you’d like to receive the gift card at if you’re the winner. Thanks for reading and playing!

You can go check out other blogs’ favorites and giveaways at the link-up here:

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Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments