“In the Shadow of the River” ~ Ann H. Gabhart’s newest (a review)

#sponsor #partner

Hi friends! I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to read Ann H. Gabhart’s newest novel. Revell Reads sent me a copy of In the Shadow of the River, a story about a young woman living, of all places, on a steamboat. Here’s more about the book, plus my thoughts about it.

About In the Shadow of the River

Jacci Reed grew up on a steamboat from as early as she could remember. But one night, her mother grabs her out of bed, and tries to whisk her away…only to be met by someone who means them great harm. At great expense to herself, Jacci’s mother, Irena, escapes with her daughter onto another steamboat. On this one, Irena’s actor father takes them in. He’s the Duke, a leading actor on the boat’s performances.

Later, as a young woman, Jacci has joined her grandfather, and others, in the musical theater and vaudeville that the steamboat offers visitors. Every night, they dress up to sing, dance, and perform comedy and just a little drama. Jacci loves performing; perhaps more than that, she loves the gently rolling river that brings her to a new location each and every day. But a day is coming that may put her face to face with an enemy she doesn’t even know she has. And her very life may be in danger.

My thoughts about In the Shadow of the River

I’m always happy to run across an Ann H. Gabhart book. Several of her novels (Angel Sister, Scent of Lilacs, Along a Storied Trail) are books I’ll never forget, with characters I adored. I’ve always enjoyed the ways Gabhart takes unusual settings (Shaker communities in the 1800s, a southern town and its preacher’s family, Kentucky in the Depression years) and creates stories and people that are truly unforgettable. In her newest, In the Shadow of the River, she brings readers into the close-as-family ties of a troupe of steamboat performers, who’ve been together for years and years. (Except for the new performers hired here and there.)

We get to meet Jacci as a little girl of almost-six, in 1881. When an attempted kidnapping changes her home (and her mother’s) from a steamboat to a showboat (that’s also a steamboat), Jacci meets the grandfather she never knew she had. As her mother attempts to survive the attack, Jacci gains several new “aunts” in addition to her grandfather Duke. And she begins to settle into her new home, despite a deep sadness.

When we see Jacci again, she’s a young woman, grown and performing alongside her traveling showboat family. She is beautiful and doesn’t resemble her mother at all. She isn’t aware that that is really a dangerous thing, hiding a dangerous secret. Oh, and there’s Gabe; the son of the boat’s captain and Jacci’s “aunt” Marelda; who’s been reminding her since she was 5 that he was *not* her brother.

I loved this new world that Gabhart created. I’ve actually been on a steamboat (clearly, not in 1896), but never thought of the lives of the performers who’d have traveled on the showboats in their heyday. Jacci and her “family” are an incredible and fascinating group. There’s Jacci, who’s lovely but quite able to set good boundaries. Aunt Tildy, who’s an amazing cook and prayer warrier. Grandfather Duke, who’s never been much on parenting until his granddaughter entered his life. And mother Irena, who’s fierce in her protection of her daughter. And Gabe, Jacci’s “not-brother,” who’d do anything for her.

Once again, Ann H. Gabhart has created an unusual group of individuals living a *very* unusual life. And the secrets which are endangering Jacci’s life are believable and frightening. Here’s a wonderful book, with some sweet references to faith, for fans of historical fiction.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions shared here are my own.

“The Girl with Fire in Her Veins” ~ fab new fantasy from Dawn Ford (+ GA!)

#sponsor #partner

Hi there, my friends!

Dawn Ford has another wonderful book for you in her Firebird Series. This one is Book Two, and it’s called The Girl with Fire in her Veins, and you don’t want to miss it. Keep reading for more plus your chance to win.

The Girl with Fire in Her Veins JustRead Blog Tour

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Girl with Fire in Her Veins by Dawn Ford, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

The Girl With Fire in Her Veins

Title: The Girl with Fire in Her Veins Series: Firebird #2 Author: Dawn Ford Publisher: Expanse Books Release Date: April 25, 2023 Genre: YA Fantasy

Former servant girl Tambrynn struggles with her new firebird abilities, especially the internal fire she cannot control. So, she, along with her Watcher Lucas, and her grandfather Bennett journey to a hidden mountain keep to find the answers she seeks before she sets the kingdom aflame. But there’s a new dragon who’s targeting Tambrynn, a mergirl who wishes to manipulate her, and the froggen king, Siltworth, who hasn’t forgotten that Tambrynn destroyed his watery reign. When her father, the evil mage Thoron, attacks someone she loves, Tambrynn’s group is separated and she has to face another powerful foe alone. Is she strong enough to withstand the deluge? Or will she drown in the fire and the flood?

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | BookBub

More Books in this Series

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

About the Author

Dawn Ford

Dawn Ford writes fantastical YA stories with a fairy tale flair. The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes, formerly Kingdom Come, won the 2016 ACFW Genesis Award for the Speculative genre. Dawn also has a middle-grade twisted fairytale Woodencloak, which is the first of four books in her Band of Unlikely Heroes series. Dawn lives in Iowa with her husband.

Connect with Dawn by visiting dawnfordauthor.com to follow her on social media and sign up for newsletter updates.

Tour Giveaway

(5) winners will receive a signed paperback copy of The Girl with Fire in Her Veins plus a set of either star or flame themed Color Street nail strips chosen at random!

(2) winners will receive a signed copy of The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes along with The Girl with Fire in Her Veins nail strips

The Girl With Fire in Her Veins JustRead Tours giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight May 29, 2023 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on June 5, 2023. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to JustRead Publicity Tours Giveaway Policies.

Enter Giveaway https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

My thoughts about The Girl with Fire in Her Veins

Between the beginning and the end of a high fantasy novel series, there are the betwixt-and-between adventures. Like The Two Towers. Or The Silver Chair. The first wild adventure is over, but the final chapter of the story hasn’t been told. But the beloved heroes must fight; grow; become. To travel and to meet new individuals, whose characters aren’t always immediately visible. The heroes’ story definitely isn’t over yet. To reach the final stories of the series, there are first paths they must take, strength they must build, and weapons they must ply.

If you have read Dawn Ford’s The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes (click on the link for my review), you’ve met Tambrynn, the titular protagonist, along with her Watcher, Lucas. You’ve seen beasts and Tambrynn’s terrifying father, Thoron. And you’ve been introduced to the Kinsman, who watches over, redeems, and hears the prayers of his beloved ones.

In The Girl with Fire in Her Veins, Tambrynn’s quest continues. Now, her journey’s companions include her grandfather, Bennett; a fire dragon/woman, Audhild; Lucas, of course; and villains both terrifying and powerful. (Oh. And her father, Thoron, who’s still bent on his wicked plans.)

Tambrynn has discovered that she’s a firebird; yet she hasn’t yet been able to manage her firebirding abilities. And her (and the realm’s) enemies will fight her in order to wrest control over them from the Kinsman. Tambrynn doesn’t know what part she is to play in the fight between good and evil. Yet she, and her companions, must stand together, save each other, and hear the Kinsman’s voice, to keep from being captured, or captivated, by the wiles of their enemy.

Don’t miss Tambrynn’s story in the latest of Dawn Ford’s Firebird Series! You’ll cheer her on, and you’ll be engrossed as each of the companions brings their own gifts and wisdom to the fight. (Then, like me, you’ll be all too ready to read book #3, when it comes out–soon, I hope!)

Enjoy! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway! –Wren

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“The Secret to Happiness” ~ a review

#sponsor #partner

Did you know that author Suzanne Woods Fisher has a lovely series entitled about a beautiful, homemade ice cream shop, the Cape Cod Creamery? I’ve just had the privilege, courtesy of Revell Reads, of reading Book 2 in the series. It has a charming title AND a charming cover! It’s The Secret to Happiness. Let me tell you more about the book, and my impressions of it!

About the book

When you open The Secret to Happiness, you get to meet the cast of characters first, as Suzanne Woods Fisher opens the book with her characters’ names, ages, and mini-bios. First on the list is Callie, who’s 28, and was recently fired from her job. (And for WHAT a reason!) Next, there’s Dawn, Callie’s cousin. Also 28, she’s the part owner of an ice cream shop in Cape Cod. Her mother Marnie (third on the list) co-owns the creamery with her.

Then, there are some very interesting guys! There are some love interests of the owners of the Main Street Creamery; a cool little 6-year-old named Leo the Cowboy; and a professor who’s teaching a community class and is also the author of a self-help book called The Secret to Happiness.

Each of the female protagonists gets some face time as the lead in the story, and readers get to know these women’s own points of view. While you’d think that there would be some natural friendships and relationships, there’s much more beneath the surface in each one. They come together at the Main Street Creamery in some unexpected ways, as each one is hoping to discover exactly what the secret to happiness is.

“You can’t make everyone happy. You are not ice cream.”

Unknown, The Secret to Happiness

My thoughts

I fell in love with so many things that were part of my own first impressions of The Secret to Happiness. First, that wonderful title! Then, the marvelous sunshine-y blue cover with those amazing frozen bars. And last but not least, in my first impressions: the cast of characters. I knew immediately upon reading the their names and bios that I wanted to know more about them!

And, the author did not disappoint. I loved Callie and Dawn (and Marnie) even as I sympathized with their relationships and the challenges therein. I don’t think I’ve thought before as I’ve read a book, how much of our own internal dialogues are never spoken; and so consequently

, those around us (or close to us) miss some of the key parts of our stories. The conflict in this book is fascinating. And some of the time, the other parties in the conflict don’t even know that there IS conflict going on. The Secret to Happiness is part of what will eventually be a trio of books in the Cape Cod Creamery series. But the stories for each of these characters in this book, #2, are fascinating, captivating, and oh-so-readable.

I can’t complete my review without mentioning three other parts of the book that I loved. First, the quotes! Each chapter begins with one, and they’re fantastic and set the tone of the chapters (and the book, overall) beautifully. Second, the descriptions of the food! There are so many just-scrumptious-sounding descriptions of ice cream, ice cream bars, and other delicious food. (Suzanne Woods Fisher could be a food writer if she got tired of being a book writer!) And third. Leo the Cowboy! He is the most delightful character. What a kid. I cared for many of the characters in this book, but Leo stole my heart.

This was a truly lovely read. There was conflict, yes; but it was interesting and so true-to-life. I loved the characters and their inner dialogue. These were honest and showed their vulnerabilities, but also invited us, the readers, to love them and root for them. The Secret to Happiness was a delicious and marvelous read. I’m planning to find a copy of book #1 of the Cape Cod Creamery books. And I’ve read the first chapter of book #3–and I’m keeping an eye out for it! And even though I read The Secret to Happiness out of order, it was an absolutely wonderful book anyway. I recommend it to you!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions shared here are my own honest ones.

Marvelous read in a new genre for me: steampunk! “The Clockwork City” (a review)

#sponsor #partner

I’ve just read the most extraordinary book! It’s a steampunk novel by Shelley Adina called The Clockwork City, with a fabulous setting (steampunk Venice) and a wonderful heroine, Georgia Brunel. Lady (the dowager baroness, actually) Georgia Brunel, of Britain.

Steampunk: (n) a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.


About The Clockwork City

The Clockwork City (Amazon purchase Link)
Series: Lady Georgia Brunel Mysteries #1
Release Date: May 24, 2023
Genre: Steampunk Mystery (Clean)

April 1895. A painting holiday in Venice. A villa on the canal. A body in the water?

Lady Georgia Brunel, widowed a year, has been looking forward to her holiday in the Duchy of Venice with her companion, Millicent Brunel. The clockwork city’s annual art exhibition is in full swing, and old friends and new acquaintances make for an exciting social whirl. The married Lord Somersby would pursue her if he dared. Several members of the nobility, including those with connections to Lord and Lady Dunsmuir, make entertaining companions. And Georgia will never admit that Dustin Seacombe, the disheveled and irritating Texican Ranger who steps on one’s gown and will not confide his business in Venice, is the most interesting of all.

And then early one morning, the body of Lord Somersby washes up on the water stairs at the Brunel villa. An empty gondola floats nearby. Many assume it is an accident. The Duchy police assume a lover’s quarrel, with Georgia as their suspect. For there are powerful factions in the city who want this case solved and submerged as soon as possible. Georgia and Millie must act quickly to clear her name and discover the real murderer, before Georgia finds herself dancing with death instead.

My thoughts about The Clockwork City

So! This is a marvelous introduction to the steampunk world, if you haven’t visited there before! (I *think* that this is the first steampunk book I’ve read. I think!) Shelley Adina has created a remarkable setting, in the 1895 world of Venice, Italy. Canals, gondolas, the Doge–all clothed in the extravagant, lovely fashions of the end of the 1800s. Only this time: women are highly educated. They (alongside men) are scientists. Inventors. And creators (and pilots) of the steam-propelled airships, steam landaus, and more.

I suppose that steampunk could be classified as “fantasy,” since it rewrites our own history (see, for example, the “Texican” Ranger; the “clockwork” of the title; Nouveau Orleans and the Fifteen Colonies). These are fascinating! They provide a little “wink” to readers, as we realize and decipher the meanings and connections that Shelley placed in the book. So while there’s a quite perplexing murder mystery to solve, with many layers to unwind, this marvelous steampunk world is rolling along beside that mystery. Plus, Venice is always a fascinating locale.

I also adored The Clockwork City‘s protagonist and supporting characters. Georgia, Millie, and the Venetians and Europeans (and let’s not forget the Texican) are wonderfully created. There are backstories that we learn about some of them, but others are just hinted at. Plus, Shelley creates a Venice that these visitors find compelling and fascinating; but to them (and likely to the reader), it’s still a foreign land that they must navigate. And navigating a foreign culture when a murder has been committed? That’s particularly frightening, and at times, opaque.

I particularly enjoyed the children in this book. They’re also very interesting, yet Shelley never creates a false note in their portrayal.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Clockwork City, and the craft and skill that Shelley Adina displays as she invites us into 1895 and steampunk Venice. Whether you’re a steampunk fan or not, I recommend this book to you. Marvelous! It’s truly a magical read.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed here are my own honest ones.

Beautiful, redemptive novel: “A Path to Acceptance”

Sponsor #partner

I was privileged, some time ago, to read A Path to Forgiveness by Lisa James (what a deeply moving, incredible story). This is her second book in The Prodigal Woman Series, this time featuring Penelope, a young woman who’d been sold to a tavern owner (read: brothel). We meet Penelope about ten years after her introduction into this life.

A Path To Acceptance JustRead Blog Tour

Welcome to the Blog Tour for A Path To Acceptance by Lisa M. James, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

A Path to Acceptance

Title: A Path to Acceptance Series: The Prodigal Woman Series Author: Lisa M. James Publisher: Independently Published Release Date: May 19, 2023 Genre: Christian Romance / Fantasy

Wanton. Tainted. Immoral. These were all words that could describe Penelope. After being forced into a world of harlotry to cover her parents’ debts, Penny learned how to survive without feeling. When a mysterious man approaches Penny with an offer to free her from her situation, Penny soon discovers that leaving her tavern could not rid her of the reputation she gained as a harlot. Would anyone be able to see beyond her tainted past?

Abandoned by his father as a child, Ryland refuses to depend on anyone but himself. Surviving as a mercenary for wealthy landowners, he accepts an assignment to free a harlot from a life of slavery. Frustrated when he is forced to take her under his care, Ryland discovers there is more to this harlot than her beauty. Can her unshakeable faith bring him back to a Redeemer he has long since rejected? Discover the story of a tainted woman in A Path to Acceptance.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | BookBub

More Books in this Series

A Path to Forgiveness

About the Author

Lisa James

Lisa M. James is a Romantic Fantasy and Christian Fantasy author. Her novels have made the Amazon Best Sellers list for numerous categories, including: Fairy Tale Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, Christian Fantasy, and Religious Romance. She is committed to creating fantastical worlds with clean romances and diverse female leads. When not writing, Lisa can most often be found watching Disney movies or enjoying homemade chai. Connect with Lisa by visiting lisamjames.com to follow her on social media and sign up for newsletter updates.

Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will receive a paperback copy of A Path to Acceptance & a Vera Bradley Crossbody bag (plum pansies print)!

A Path to Acceptance JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight May 22, 2023 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 29, 2023. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to JustRead Publicity Tours Giveaway Policies.

Enter Giveaway https://widget.gleamjs.io/e.js

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

My thoughts

Penelope has lived in forced slavery as a sex worker for ten years. She was told how to survive it by the head harlot at her tavern. And later, interestingly enough, Penelope met the Redeemer; and she has lived in hope of his redemption even as her life stole so much from her. She lived the life of a prostitute on the outside, while inside she had the faith of a believer.

But not truly, any hope of rescue.

Until rescue comes indeed. After a handsome and mysterious man watches Penelope, and the comings and goings of the tavern for over a week, he leaves; only to return to take her away, at the request of Audora, a blind vintner who had been served by Penelope while having to stop at the tavern as her cart was repaired. Penelope finally agrees to leave with Ryland. But can she leave behind the inner damage that 10 years of forced sex work had done to her, as she gains freedom and the opportunity to work for Audora? Unfortunately, troubles follow her; but they’re those she’s never had to face in the context of freedom. Plus, war is coming for her new homeland; and it’s war with the Redeemers’ enemies, the sorcerers. Penelope has the Redeemer and she has the gift of faith. But will those be enough?

I absolutely fell in love with Penelope, and was captivated by her story, and by Ryland’s, the metalworker/weapons maker who sidelines as a mercenary. (Just the right person to rescue Penelope!) Lisa James is exceptionally good at creating characters she helps us to understand both inside and out (and we really come to comprehend the damage that Penny’s former life has left on her mind, soul, and even spirit). There’s not only our co-protagonists, Penelope and Ryland. There’s also Audora, the vintner; Tedley, her head steward; Benesh, Audora’s nephew; Luke and Noah, young brothers; and the warriors, priests, and other residents of her new village. She has to adjust to this new life (which still feels uncertain), and to be healed of the desperate pain of her past. It’s going to take a lot of events and interactions to take her down the new path that’s set before her. There’s even love waiting; but can she convince herself that, even with the Redeemer, she’s worthy of it?

This is absolutely a book you don’t want to miss. God’s redeeming and healing love–rescue of a woman from the sex trade (which Lisa James does describe obliquely, not flagrantly)–and the opportunity to see His hand at work in not only her life but in the events of her new land. It’s heartbreaking, marvelous, and so encouraging.

Be blessed–Wren

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“The Long March Home” ~ an unforgettable novel from authors Tosca Lee and Marcus Brotherton (a review)

#sponsor #partner

Absolutely breathtaking.

I’ve just had the privilege of completing The Long March Home: A World War II Novel of the Pacific. I began the book, fell in love with its characters, and felt my heart break at the experiences and cruelty of war. Revell Reads was kind enough to provide a hardback copy of this book for me. And now that I’ve completed it? I’m ready to sit down, open the book, and begin to read it again. It truly is that good. You’ll fall in love with its characters–and you’ll never forget them.

About The Long March Home

1930. Mobile, Alabama.

Jimmy, Billy, Hank. And Claire.

Three of these children grew up in each other’s shadows; Jimmy, his best friend Claire, and her younger-by-one-year-brother Billy. In early grade school, Hank joins the trio. Over time, the boys’ devoted friendship becomes a brotherhood; sometimes with Claire accompanying them on their jaunts, and sometimes just on their own.

Right before high school, though, Jimmy realizes that he’s utterly captivated by Claire. Suddenly, she’s not just Claire, his best friend; his playmate, his companion. She’s a stunning young woman, inside and out, that he’s completely lost his heart to.

However, war is looming. It’s on the edges of everyone’s consciousness; countries are falling to invading, powerful forces across Europe. (And also in the Far East, though that news isn’t quite as prevalent.) Jimmy’s father, who’s Mobile’s hard-line preacher, has planned his son’s life out to the nth degree; he wants to send Jimmy to seminary, so that Jimmy can avoid the draft, and so that the two of them can eventually preach together. (He also has very decided opinions about whom his son might date.) And this future is the very last thing Jimmy wants. He is desperate to get out of Mobile. But the girl he loves is bound by heart and family, to the very town he’s determined to leave.

Eventually, the three boys sneak off to Mississippi, where they can lie about their ages (and their lack of parental permission) at a recruiting office, and join the army. They are posted to Manila, in the Philippines. It’s lush. Full of gorgeous women, beautiful landscapes, and marvelous food. And their army pay goes a long way.

But the lyrical landscape isn’t going to stay that way much longer. Because the attack on Pearl Harbor is literally on the horizon. And the Imperial Army isn’t going to stop at Hawaii; they’ve got their sights set on the Philippines.

“…we’re gettin’ through this. The three of us—all home alive. That’s our only aim from here on out.”

The Long March Home

My thoughts

The Long March Home is the most exquisite story of friendship and love; of a brotherhood that’s born in childhood, woven more securely together over growing-up years, and forged into something immutable in wartime.

Inspired by true stories.

The Long March Home

Tosca Lee and Marcus Brotherton accomplish something incredible in this book. I actually forgot that I was reading the work of two authors writing together. In fact, until I finished the book, I absolutely forgot that I was reading fiction; the characters of The Long March Home are so compelling and so beautifully written that they really seem like actual humans. (In fact, this book is inspired by actual events and accounts.) And the coauthors create a voice, in Jimmy, that is so real and true.

But Jimmy’s story is not just that of a young man growing up in a small town. It’s the story of a human who is shaped by his friendships and his love…who’s then plunged into one of the most brutal war theaters imaginable; the hostile setting of World War II’s Bataan Death March. And the events which follow.

I can tell you that I felt many emotions, quite intensely, as I read The Long March Home. Some of those are obvious, like the deep affection I felt for Jimmy, his friends, his mama, and, of course, Claire. There is so much more I’d like to tell you, but I’ll only say this: don’t miss this masterpiece of a story. It is absolutely worth your time and attention. And I totally predict that, like me, you’re going to want to pick it right back up and read it again, when you’re finished.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Enter to win this fabulous “Love Your Mama” prize giveaway! (ends 5/31/23)

Hello darlings!

I love May! It’s even more beautiful than April and March. End of school’s spring semester, flowers finally beginning to bloom, and summer’s around the corner. Plus Mother’s Day–so we *have* to celebrate! I have a very special book, plus other wonderful goodies, to give away to one reader this month! I Love You, Mom! is cowritten by Blythe Daniel and her own mom, Helen McIntosh, and it is truly one of my personal “mom” book favorites. So someone is going to win a copy of this book, generously provided by The BlogAbout Blogger Network. The winner will also receive a lot of my other personal faves in the FINCHNWREN “Love Your Mama” Giveaway!

About the prize package for the “Love Your Mama” Giveaway

This prize package is centered around the precious book, I Love You, Mom! You can read more in my linked review of the book, here. Written as if from a beloved child, this book’s chapters express all the things our children might wish to say–in chapters moms can pick up to read either on a devotional basis or when they need it for encouragement. It is wonderful!

Here’s what one entrant will win in the “Love You, Mom” Giveaway:

  • I Love You, Mom: Cherished Word Gifts from My Heart to Yours, by Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh, hardcover book copy
  • Bath & Body Works Peach Prosecco Macaron Gentle Gel Hand Soap
  • Tarte’s Sugar Rush “But First, Hydrate” Skincare Set containing Don’t Hate, Hydrate Oil-Free Moisturizer and Cake Butter Body Butter minis
  • a Louisa May Alcott quote bookmark from Carrot Top Paper Shop with this lovely quote: “Keep good company, read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body and faithfully as you can.”
  • a hardback, mint green journal with “You Shine” outlined in silvery ink
  • a darling dish towel duo: one, in white, with “MOM” outlined in berries, flowers, and foliage; and one mint green one with white flowers, and white tassels

Here’s how to enter to win!

Just click on the highlighted link below that says, “Enter here!” That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter to win in a variety of ways. Giveaway closes on 5/31/23. US entrants only. One entrant will be selected to win all the items in the bullet-point list above. Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received I Love You, Mom from The BlogAbout Blogger Network. All opinions shared here are my own.

Finally–Natalie Walters’ third SNAP book! “Blind Trust” (a review)

#sponsor #partner

I was thrilled to receive a copy of Natalie Walters’ third book in her Strategic Neutralization and Protection Agency (SNAP) series–and it was as marvelous a read as all her others were! In Blind Trust, we get to see other beloved characters again (Brynn and Jack from Lights Out, and Elinor and Kekoa from Fatal Code), which is fantastic. (As I’m a gal who ALWAYS loves the epilogues of books.) But now, it’s time for Nicolás & Lyla–and a wild ride it is, as you’d expect if you’ve met these two in the earlier books!

About Blind Trust

The SNAP Agency is composed of a group of highly skilled individuals: a genius cryptologist and hacker; a spy detector; an explosives and munitions expert; and a woman who can go undercover almost anywhere without detection. (Not to mention the CIA agent who helps where she can, and the agency head who’s less visible and behind the scenes.) Together, this team networks with other government agencies to protect the United States and her citizens, and the daily lives they lead–without those citizens knowing they even exist.

Lyla is a wearer of fabulous footwear; a giver of lavish parties; and a woman who’s not only tough as nails but is fiercely committed to SNAP and her fellow agents. She will throw herself at any situation to protect them, and her own family, even if her impulsive and sometimes reckless nature makes her teammate Nicolás crazy.

When Blind Trust opens, Lyla is serving undercover in an operation designed to capture a physician who’s been pretending to provide medical care for veterans. Oh, he’s doing some work; but much of what he’s billing for has never actually happened. And the vets are suffering for it. When the operation threatens to derail, Lyla ignores Nicolás’s instructions on her earpiece, to protect the nurse and patients in the office.

And this is a pattern. One which Nicolás isn’t sure he can continue to handle. When a temporary opportunity arises that would allow him to employ his explosives know-how for six months away from SNAP, he seriously considers it. Because while he’s worried every time Lyla ignores orders to do what she thinks is best in a hostile situation, it’s more than just worry that he’s feeling. It’s his heart that’s engaged. And he isn’t certain he can really ensure her safety while his feelings are turning more…romantic.

My thoughts

Lyla isn’t *intentionally* being difficult. She’s doing what she honestly and truly believes is best for her team or her family, each and every time she disobeys orders. (She has a fascinating backstory which we learn in Blind Trust that exacerbates these situations.) But the fact that Nicolás is the one giving her orders–and the fact that she really hates getting told what to do by this exceptional, talented, gorgeous explosives expert–might have a lot to do with why she feels that she has to prove herself by doing the opposite of what he’s telling her to do.

Nicolás has a backstory as well. And it causes him to step carefully and watchfully (remember, explosives expert) even as he’s also being courageous and loyal. So the two of them test each other’s boundaries, leanings, and tendencies in almost every danger-filled situation.

And then…there’s also the intense attraction they feel toward one another; one that’s ever-so-obvious to their teammates, even though they think they’re keeping their feelings well-hidden (from everyone else AND each other). But talking about it is so difficult as neither knows if they’re actually on the same page.

Also! There’s the incarcerated prisoner who keeps sending Lyla threats. And that flash drive. And the danger that’s ahead of them, that neither can even imagine.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Blind Trust. Natalie Walters is exceptionally talented at creating believable, captivating characters. I was fascinated to read the story behind Lyla’s and Nicolás’s tendencies and choices. The things that made them so different also make them incredibly well-suited for one another. You WANT them to get together. You want them to solve the crime and stop the terrorists and the traitors.

Of course, you also want them to survive the book!!

Blind Trust is a fantastic journey into the behind-the-scenes work that unseen operatives and agents do to keep American citizens safe. Nicolás and Lyla, and their story and clean romance, are enthralling. This is a wonderful end to the SNAP series–if indeed it is the end. (Personally, I’m hoping that it isn’t!) I highly recommend Blind Trust and the other SNAP books, and Natalie Walters as well.

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. I’ve shared my own personal thoughts in this review.

“Waiting in Hope” ~ a devo for those who’ve suffered infertility (plus GA, ends 5/6/23)

#sponsor #partner

Friends, I have the kindest, most loving devotional to tell you about today. If you, or someone you know, has been impacted by the heartrending journey of infertility, this is the book for you: Waiting in Hope: 31 Reflections for Walking with God Through Infertility. FrontGate Media provided a copy of this book for me, and you can also enter to win a copy. Keep reading for more on the book, my own thoughts, and the chance to enter to win!

About Waiting in Hope, from the publisher

“Waiting in Hope gives women an uplifting, accessible resource to comfort, guide, and strengthen them through the journey of infertility. Featuring 31 reflections that address specific aspects of waiting and hoping, each chapter weaves personal narrative, Scripture, and prayers to encourage women longing for a child.?

Weary moms have their pick of hundreds of Christian devotionals and books offering encouragement for the trials of motherhood. Women who suffer miscarriage can also choose from a handful of resources, thanks to an industry trend making space for books on grief. But what about the one in eight women who face the heartache of infertility? Where can they turn for comfort and guidance while grieving their dreams and grappling with unfulfilled longing?

Waiting in Hope fills the gap for a biblically grounded, gospel-driven resource that specifically addresses the unique struggles of infertility. Offering 31 reflections filled with biblical wisdom, testimonies, and personal narrative, Waiting in Hope helps women work through their complex emotions, grow in their faith, restore strained relationships, and move forward in their journeys with perseverance and confidence in the Lord.?

  • Much needed Christian resource for the nearly 10 percent of women who face infertility, childlessness, and extended waiting for a child
  • Compassionate, biblically rich devotional that doesn’t give false hope or platitudes
  • Provides an infertility-specific, journal-like companion to use continuously throughout your journey

As seasoned infertility ministry leaders, Jenn Hesse and Kelley Ramsey have committed to help women turn to Jesus as their hope in sorrow. This book is the resource they wish they’d had ten years ago in the middle of their infertility grief. Women need to hear the good news that Jesus is with them in their wait, and that they can live a life of purpose regardless of how their wait ends.”

I truly love both the layout and content of Waiting in Hope. The authors have divided the book into four sections which speak to the emotional, spiritual, and relational journeys that women and couples endure as they walk through the different moments of infertility, as well as a section which speaks about IVF, adoption, not having children, pregnancy; what life looks like as couples move forward in the various ways they can. (There are also some excellent appendices, including one from Kelley’s husband Justin, who speaks wonderfully to husbands.) There are 31 devotionals which touch on these different subjects, illustrating the very real heartbreak that this journey (unsought by anybody) can force on its sufferers.

The writing of each devotional is intimate and real. There’s no sugarcoating here, but there’s enormous tenderness from people who have BEEN THERE. Know that this book has been written for you by women who understand; who’ve been where you are and have felt what you’re feeling. Yet they have written Waiting in Hope to come alongside you with true empathy and compassion, yet also with the truth that God is there for you, offering His love and understanding, and yes, His hope to you.

My thoughts about Waiting in Hope

I believe that Waiting in Hope is the kindest, most gentle and loving, Biblically-informed book on infertility I’ve ever come across. My own journey with infertility is long past, but I personally experienced many of the pains the authors share about. These included horrible endometriosis (for YEARS), numerous laparoscopies, cysts, and the monthly sorrow and disappointment after the periods showed up again. Not to mention the Mother’s Day roses handed out at church, but not to me (the woman who desperately longed for a child), or the women’s luncheon where the conversation centered around babies, children, their problems and joys. (Yes. I ugly-cried at my car.) I didn’t begrudge these moms their precious children; I just felt that my lack of them–and the pain I felt–was heavily spotlighted in those moments.

Waiting in Hope is a book which will deeply minister to women who are struggling with infertility. Coauthors Kelley Ramsey and Jenn Hesse have experienced this pain on a deep level; then, working together, they share their stories, talk with readers about the actual experience of infertility, and connect them with God’s deep love for them, in addition to including the Bible’s words about suffering and infertility.

Be prepared for tears as you read. (My kiddo is in college–but I still cried at times!) Waiting in Hope is such an incredible combination of understanding the suffering women can experience while conception still isn’t happening (for months or for years, or maybe, ever); plus the actual help that these gals need but perhaps don’t know where to look for it, or how to find it. Kelley and Jenn have such an obvious love for women in this situation. They beautifully speak on women’s experiences (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually), adding their own encouragement plus action plans at the ends of each chapter. These moments of “Reflect,” “Pray,” and “Act “offer readers the chance to move through their own suffering into the hope offered by God, alongside active steps they can take, to help and to heal. I particularly loved these sections, because I well remember how much of life can be spent in *waiting* during seasons of infertility. How healing to actually have actions to take.

Also, since this is a 31-day devotional, these consistent words and ideas of assistance and wisdom can flow over the reader on the daily as she moves, moment by moment, through this book. Reading, writing, praying, and steps of thoughtful action can help readers feel as though they are really healing and growing…instead of just *waiting* for pregnancy.

Something that I particularly adored about Waiting in Hope is the authors’ thoughtful use of Scripture in each chapter. I love how they have collected Bible verses about suffering and crying out to God; but just as importantly, about healing, help, prayer, and the huge love God has for each of us. I’m recording these myself in a separate journal to revisit and meditate over. Beautiful, meaningful, and encouraging, during not only seasons of infertility, but in ANY season.

Where you can buy Waiting in Hope

Purchase Waiting in Hope here. And while you’re at that website, check out the available freebies that you can sign up for or access, whether it’s Faith over Fear printable cards; a “First listen” audioclip of chapter one of Waiting in Hope (along with an interview with Kelley and Jenn); and Instagram goodies (@kelramsey and @jennmhesse). You can also check out the Waiting in Hope online community for more help and support.

Enter to win your own copy of Waiting in Hope

Blessed Freebies is giving away a copy of Waiting in Hope! To enter, just click on the giveaway link below and follow the directions. Giveaway ends on or after 5/6/23. Best wishes!

Giveaway link to enter to win Waiting in Hope

This is a book which will offer you so much love, wise counsel, and healing hope. Don’t miss it!

Be blessed! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from FrontGate Media. All opinions and thoughts shared here are my own honest ones.

“Do the Thing” – an interactive book to help you identify your calling with joy (& giveaway! ends 5/18/23)

#sponsor #partner

I have been so encouraged by reading Rebecca George’s Do the Thing: Gospel-Centered Goals, Gumption, and Grace for the Go-Getter Girl; and I’m very excited to tell you about it, plus an opportunity for you to win your own copy! The BlogAbout Blogger Network provided this book to me plus one copy to give away to a reader–and this is a book you’re definitely going to want to own.

About Do the Thing, from the publisher

Goal-Setters and Go-Getters

What’s your “thing”?

You may have a special cause, project, or talent you feel called to develop. But then fear and lack of clarity make it easier to avoid the “thing” than risk failing at it. Surely there’s a better way to view your calling than through a lens of striving and worldly achievement.

In Do the Thing: Gospel-Centered Goals, Gumption, and Grace for the Go-Getter Girl (Esther Press, April, 2023) by Rebecca George, Rebecca is an encouraging voice in your ear because she has had the same hesitations. With this generation’s drive, she knew she wanted to move past fear and into what she loved to do. She says, “Let’s not waste another minute of the all-too-brief time we have on this side of eternity.”

Do the Thing is part guide, part manifesto. It’s an interactive book, including a built-in study workbook, and access to video teachings by Rebecca. It beckons you to pursue the passions that stir your soul with grace and confidence.

On this journey, you will discover how to:

  • See your gifts and talents from a gospel-centered perspective.
  • Prioritize goals related to your calling as you move forward with gumption and grace.
  • Overcome negative thought patterns to work and create with the confidence of a go-getter girl!

Today is the day to take a brave step in a purposeful direction, using God’s Word as your compass to do the thing He has designed for YOU to do!

And, a little Q&A with the author, Rebecca George

Why did you write Do the Thing?

When I think about the last decade or so of conversations I have had with women and the themes that consistently come up, the topic of our “calling” is very common. I often see women struggle in the areas of insecurity, doubt, comparison and more. There are also moments along the way that can be tricky – when God calls us to something new, when we endure through a hard
season, and/or when God prompts us to lay something down in order to create capacity for a new “thing” He has for us to do. I felt compelled to share my own journey and struggles in these areas and lead women toward the truth only found in God’s word that will help us walk through these moments with more confidence and clarity.

Who do you think would benefit from reading the book? Could it be done as a study – group or individual? Does it matter what denomination I am?

Any woman who desperately desires to see her work and her calling from a gospel-centered perspective and wants to be faithful in the hard moments that we all bump up against. The way it’s packaged makes it really easy to do as an individual or a group. There is an accompanying 6-session interactive video series that would be great encouragement along the way if you’re doing it
alone (or a great way to kick off your sessions in a book club or small group setting).

I do believe women from different denominations would benefit from reading the book. At the end of the day, my aim was to look at the source, scripture itself, as our guide for the conversations we’ll have inside the pages.

If there is one thing a reader takes away from the book, what do you hope it is?

I hope she walks away believing and knowing the character of God more deeply and, as a result, who He has made her to be. An outpouring of that truth will help us more rightly see the work He’s given us to do.

My thoughts about Do the Thing

Were you ever taught, did you ever learn, how to walk out your calling? Because you have one. I have one. And not only do we have callings, God has given us gifts and placed us just so, in the body of Christ and in our particular locations and times, so that we can walk them out and come to know and love Him better. But if you are like me? Perhaps you stumbled into yours. (I freely admit that I did!) I learned SO much from the Bible. But I’d have been oh, so grateful, to have had a female mentor in the early years of my walk. (I was super-blessed to have one at some crucial times later, though!)

I’d have been thrilled to have had a copy of Rebecca George’s wonderful Do the Thing back in the day. Reading Do the Thing made me feel almost as if I were sitting with a mentor, talking about the issues of life, and examining those issues through Scripture. Rebecca takes readers step-by-step through so many key truths about ministry, and what we need to know or do, to do it well, including:

  • Christ in us; not only the hope of glory, but the power for all we do or hope to do
  • Learning how and why to persevere
  • Knowing that progressing in our callings includes not only the unexciting tasks, celebrating the faithful moments, and the crazy courageous ones, too
  • And this was a HUGE one for me: cultivating an unrushed heart. Rebecca’s sentence, “I tend to run through life with all cylinders on go,” is one I’ve said often myself, albeit with different words!
  • And a component of that one: doing vs. being. In fact, this one includes one of my favorite sentences in the book:

Our deepest places of struggle, when surrendered to God, can be the very places from which God moves in the most powerful ways.

Rebecca George, Do the Thing

In addition, she gives us practical tools that we can use to discern ways we’re shaped by God and how He might desire to use us. I really love the Prayer Prompts, Scriptures and Goals, and Do the Thing Manifesto sections she ends each chapter with. These are really wonderful writing exercises, which give you the opportunity to really think through, pray through, and write down what’s really going on in your own heart, and what God’s saying to you. And in addition to those cool tools, there is also a QR code enclosed in the book which takes you to some wonderful teaching videos of Rebecca that you can watch as you complete the chapters. These are both fun and full of kind and wise instruction.

I always imagine that in seminary, a Christian learns the ways that he or she can walk out a calling with grace, wisdom, and strength. But not all of us attends seminary. However, God can still make His wishes and desires for us known, and He does. I believe that Do the Thing is a kind, loving, and wonderful resource, both to equip us to grow closer to God and to minister effectively. I highly recommend this book. You’ll love working through it on your own, or with a group of like-minded friends. It will bless you, and bless you in your calling!

Here’s a bit from Rebecca on her new book:

Here’s how you can enter to win a copy!

The BlogAbout Blogger Network has provided a copy of Do the Thing for one FINCHNWREN reader to win! To enter, just click on the link below that says, “Enter here!” That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form where you’ll be able to enter to win in a variety of ways. Giveaway ends on May 18, 2023. One entrant will be selected to win. Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received Do the Thing from The BlogAbout Blogger Network. All opinions shared here are my own honest ones.