Review: A Love Like Ours – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. A Love Like Ours. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.

It’s amazing how many times over the last few months God has provided a good book on an otherwise icky day. Yesterday, it started snowing in late April! Needless to say, the rest of the day was cold, gloomy, and quite windy in general. Fortunately, I received an advanced copy of Becky Wade’s newest novel, A Love Like Ours, which made my day seem suddenly bright and warm. :)

The third book in Ms. Wade’s acclaimed Porter Family Novels series, A Love Like Ours, follows the youngest son, Jake Porter. The consummate Marine, Jake ends up injured and diagnosed with PTSD after his Humvee hits an IED in Iraq. Although he’s built a new life for himself as the head trainer at the Whispering Creek Ranch in Holley, Texas, Jake remains emotionally distanced from his family and employees. When his childhood best friend, Lyndie James, arrives back in town looking for a job exercising the ranch’s thoroughbred horses, Jake finds himself opening up to the one person he thought he had lost forever. Together, Lyndie and Jake discover the secret to racing the one horse that no one believed would run and find second chances in some of the most unlikely places.

Interwoven with Jake and Lyndie’s adventures with thoroughbred racing, A Love Like Ours ultimately tells a tale of God-given hope and renewal in the face of life’s toughest challenges. The novel follows the Porter family and other much-loved characters from Ms. Wade’s earlier novels, Undeniably Yours and Meant to Be Mine, while (finally!) delving into the brooding and mysterious persona of Jake. Lyndie’s sunshine-type personality and exceptional loyalty to Jake makes her a perfect foil, with just enough complexity and challenges of her own to make her absolutely believable in an already exciting cast of characters created by Ms. Wade.

Overall, I would highly recommend A Love Like Ours, as well as the other books in Ms. Wade’s Porter Family Novel series. Within the series, A Love Like Ours stands alongside Undeniably Yours in terms of the caliber of its plot and writing, with Meant to Be Mine following exceptionally close behind. Although the novel involves such heavy themes as family health challenges and PTSD, these scenes are expertly countered with adorable moments related to Lyndie’s book illustrations and laugh out loud encounters that make Ms. Wade’s books must-reads on my bookshelf. Additionally, Ms. Wade includes a strong cast of secondary characters, including some introduced in her earlier novels, that make for an all-around enjoyable novel for fans of the contemporary Christian genre.

Readers who enjoy great contemporary Christian romance, believable characters, and Western/Texas settings will definitely want to read A Love Like Ours. With relatively quick pacing, well-developed characters, and a setting that feels comfortable, yet complex, A Love Like Ours should join the must-read lists of Ms. Wade’s fans, especially those who enjoyed her other Porter Family novels.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Love Like Ours!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – A Love Like Ours
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Review: Detained – Don Brown

Don Brown. Detained. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

Have you ever run across a topic that seems to pop up everywhere? My husband watched the television show JAG years before I knew him and continues his affection for the show in spite of my hesitance in watching it with him. However, when I received an advanced copy of Don Brown’s most recent novel on the same subject, it looked oddly intriguing.

Detained begins The Navy JAG Series by acclaimed Christian author, Don Brown. Following much-loved characters introduced in his earlier novels, Detained focuses on Navy JAG Officer Matt Davis, who is charged with defending two alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp. His clients are innocent Lebanese nationals caught in a web of false charges and politics that spans the world and threatens the lives of American citizens at home and abroad. When Emily Gardner, a TSA lawyer, is unexpectedly nominated as General Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, she discovers the truth behind a widespread conspiracy and the real enemy at work behind Matt’s court case.

In a rapid-paced thriller reminiscent of Davis Bunn’s greatest novels, Detained encapsulates the best aspects of the Christian suspense genre. Filled with intriguing and unpredictable moments, Mr. Brown writes a convincing and well-developed tale of political maneuvering, legal cunning, and military prowess that will fascinate readers.

Overall, I very much enjoyed reading Detained and will likely track down Mr. Brown’s other novels at the library at the earliest opportunity. I found his characters to be well-rounded and interesting, while his pacing and storylines were also expertly done. One of my favorite scenes of the book also involved a high-speed car chase that made this Top Gear fan cheer! In terms of content, a movie-version of the book (which would seem entirely conceivable) would likely be rated PG-13 as a result of terror events and torture-related sequences, even with its clean language and content. Otherwise, my only issue with the book related to the very first chapter of the book, which contained nearly 100 pages, for no particular reason that I was ever able to figure out. The remainder of the novel contained standard chapter formatting and only a few typographical errors.

Readers who have enjoyed Mr. Brown’s previous novels following Navy JAG officers Zach Brewer and Diane Colcernian will love the continuation of their story and expansion of their world in The Navy JAG Series. Additionally, fans of Christian suspense novels, such as those by Dee Henderson and Davis Bunn, will also find Detained and Mr. Brown’s other books to be an interesting extension of the genre. After reading Detained, I have the distinct feeling that my husband and I will be watching JAG and he’ll likely end up reading this novel and Mr. Brown’s other books, too.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan for the advanced copy of Detained!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Detained (The Navy JAG Series)
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Our Guest Post from Melissa Tagg’s Blog

Hi Everyone!

Thank you so much for your enthusiastic response to our guest post at Melissa Tagg’s blog!

If you still want to check out the original post, you can visit Melissa’s blog at http://www.melissatagg.com/giveaway/grantwriting-guest-giveaway.  However, we also wanted to preserve the post in its entirety here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.


Grasping what it means to be called ~ a guest post

Do you know what’s the absolute best part of writing a book? It’s when the book is all done and out there in the world and you, as the author, hear back from readers. I had the wonderful delight of hearing back from a reader, Brittany, shortly after From the Start’s release.

One of the things Brittany told me in her email is that she specifically connected with the grant-writing and philanthropy piece of this story. Here’s part of what she said:

UntitledI love that she resonated with that angle in From the Start! And I was curious to hear more about her background in the nonprofit world. So Brittany and her husband, James, worked together to write this wonderful guest post. I found myself nodding all the way through the post and I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

*****

UntitledIn From the Start, the concept of philanthropy permeates much of the story.  Kate’s mother writes a grant that establishes the James Foundation, a medical missionary nonprofit in Africa.  Colton creates a foundation and must determine what to do with it.  Kate herself wants to make her own impact on the world by helping write the annual report for her mother’s nonprofit, or simply making a difference through her writing.  Even Kate’s dad gives back to his community through his work at the Maple Valley Scenic Railway and Museum (aka The Depot).

When you think of philanthropy, what does that mean to you? 

It could mean raising money for a favorite nonprofit, like Kate and her mom.  Or, it could look more like the large-scale giving that only seems possible by wealthy business people, actors, and athletes, like Colton, through formal foundations.

Not everyone goes through life as a grant writer or creates their own foundation.  Some people volunteer at their church, help at their child’s preschool, or put a contribution in the offering plate on Sunday.  Others work at nonprofits, start their own businesses, or help manage government programs to assist people in their community.

James and I have both been blessed with opportunities to work in nonprofits, foundations, universities, and churches. These experiences have provided us with the opportunity to serve our neighbors in a variety of ways – ranging from community development work in some of our country’s poorest communities to contributing to the formation of broader concepts and ideas surrounding philanthropy in an academic setting.

Doing any kind of work that serves our neighbors and families is hard and fraught with obstacles.

We as humans, corrupted by sin, are always tempted to put our own interests above those of others – including, sometimes, our families. Even if we find ourselves motivated to do something good for someone else, even more roadblocks tend to spring up in our way. Foundations don’t support a program that could transform a community you’re working in. The family member that you’re trying to help becomes combative, insular, and uncooperative while you’re coming to his or her aid. At times, organizational bureaucracy, the self-interests of others, and our own frustration and tiredness affects our work.

Thankfully, as Christians, we can take joy and comfort in the gift of Jesus Christ, who won for us eternal salvation when He rose from the grave on that first Easter Sunday nearly two millennia ago. Through His ministry on earth, He gave us a perfect example of how we can love our neighbors and families, and, in turn, be of service to them. In His death and resurrection, He showed us perfect love and perfect mercy – a love and mercy that saves and frees us to be loving and merciful to others. It is in this great Easter message that we find our strength and joy in the midst of all of the struggles and hardships we endure while serving our neighbors.

It is only by starting with Christ’s gift to us that we can live out our true calling in this life (our vocation) to be of service to those around us.

God created us all with vocations – callings of service. That calling includes the work that we could perform for society, such as teaching, business, philanthropy, construction, accounting, law, medicine, farming, or any other kind of job. We have callings to our families – to be good fathers and mothers; sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; etc. We have callings in our churches and our communities. This may be volunteering or donating money. It could be as simple as praying for someone in need or providing an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.

Long before we were married, we often discussed the enormous impact that our extended families have had on our work.  While James’ parents worked in various churches and human service organizations, my parents served as avid volunteers, those people who always seem to help in a million little ways.

Together, we’ve discovered that there is something incredibly fulfilling to know that we, as a family, can be used by God for big and small things.

FromTheStart_300rgbSometimes, we’re grant writers, like Kate and her mother, writing the big grants to government agencies and foundations that systematically change the work of an organization on a large scale.  Other times, we find ourselves involved in much smaller tasks like helping family with chores or volunteering for a church event.

In each of our lives, God calls us to do good work.  We may be called to be parents, children, friends, students, teachers, pastors, business owners, good employees, or even grant writers.  Through God’s grace, we are joyful for these opportunities and eager to share our time, talents, and treasures for the benefit of others. This is certainly hard work and, by ourselves, we are definitely not up to the task. However, thankfully, it’s not up to us.

God gives us all of the tools that we need to be of service; lays out the opportunities for us to share our gifts; and even gives us the will to do these things.

By the end of From the Start, Kate and Colton finally discover what it means to fully grasp one’s vocation in life.  It’s likely nowhere close to anything they once imagined, but, in following God’s will for their lives, it is exceptional and perfect.

*****

James and Brittany first met as graduate students at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, where they spent several years sharing milk and cookies over endless conversations about Christian philanthropy and giving.  After getting married and working at universities and nonprofits across the country, they co-created the Books and Biscuits Blog (www.BooksandBiscuits.com) about books, cooking, and their other adventures.

Exciting News at the Books and Biscuits Blog!

Hi Everyone!

We have some really exciting news to share with all of you!

In honor of Melissa Tagg’s newest release, From the Start, she invited us to write a guest post for her blog.  It just went up this morning and we’re thrilled to already see such an enthusiastic response to it! :D

If you’re visiting us for the first time from Melissa Tagg’s blog: WELCOME!!!  We are very excited to have you visit and would love to connect with you further.  Feel free to explore the blog and visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/booksandbiscuitsblog).

If you’re a regular visitor or Facebook fan of the Books and Biscuits Blog, be sure to check out our guest post on Melissa Tagg’s blog (http://www.melissatagg.com/giveaway/grantwriting-guest-giveaway)!

-The Editorial Team

Review: From the Start – Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg. From the Start. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.

From where I’m sitting writing on my computer, it’s a particularly grey and wet day. Fortunately, it makes for a perfect day to curl up with a good book. I just received a copy of Melissa Tagg’s most recent novel, From the Start, from Bethany House Publishers and am excited to share it with all of you. :)

From the Start continues Melissa Tagg’s stories of the Walker family of Maple Valley, Iowa, who are first introduced in the e-novella, Three Little Words. Kate Walker, the older sister who keeps the pulse of the family, struggles with her career as a screenwriter and novelist in Chicago. When news reaches Kate of a devastating tornado that strikes the heart of Maple Valley, she rushes home to help her family rebuild the town. Unbeknownst to Kate, her older brother and his best friend, who just happens to be recently-retired NFL quarterback, Colton Green, also arrive from Los Angeles with a similar mission in mind. In the midst of rebuilding Maple Valley landmarks, Colton discovers healing among the close-knit townfolk and an answer to prayer in Kate, a talented writer who can save his career by finishing his memoir. When further disaster strikes, Kate and Colton must choose between walking away and discovering what happens when they place their futures in God’s hands.

In From the Start, Ms. Tagg comes into her own as an accomplished writer, finding her own style and pacing in a Midwestern setting that feels like home. Building on a world first created in Three Little Words, From the Start brings together an excellent cast of characters around a storyline that feels real and driven by the external and emotional events that will connect with the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. The novel’s central theme, finding one’s purpose, also feels particularly timely and well-constructed without feeling overdone, as it depends on a combination of situations and sub-themes that feel unique to Ms. Tagg’s work.

Overall, I was thrilled with From the Start! By the end of the book, I felt like a teacher who cheers when a student simply nails an ambitious assignment (or when an organization finally receives a nearly-impossible grant). I’ve read multiple of Ms. Tagg’s novels and From the Start is her best book yet. She manages to combine her style, reminiscent of Rachel Hauck and Becky Wade, with the purely Midwestern feel of Susan May Warren and Denise Hunter. Although the novel has a few minor edits, I could not get enough of Ms. Tagg’s character development and plotline. Brilliantly conceived, From the Start opens up new opportunities for Ms. Tagg to build a highly successful series around the Walker family and the town of Maple Valley.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Ms. Tagg’s earlier works will definitely enjoy From the Start, as it furthers characters and settings from her previous works. Additionally, fans of light-hearted, contemporary Christian fiction, including that of Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter, Becky Wade, and Susan May Warren, will also want to check out From the Start. If that’s not enough of a recommendation for you, I went to sleep late and woke early just to finish the book! :)

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for a complimentary copy of From the Start!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – From the Start
Christianbook.com – From the Start