Undaunted: Student Edition | Christine Caine

“Each had come to Greece expecting legitimate employment. All had brought with them dreams, hopes, and aspirations to do something more with their lives than their own families had ever dreamed possible. All of those tender, youthful dreams had been shattered beyond anyone’s worst fears.”

As you know, I love story and how it impacts others. Christine Caine’s, founder of the A21 Campaign, story is no different and Undaunted Student Edition: Daring to do what God calls you to do is a book all teens (and adults should grab a copy of Undaunted for themselves) should read. Trust me on this one.

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In Undaunted: Student Edition, Christine Caine uses her dramatic life story to show teens how God rescued her from a life where she was unnamed, unwanted, and unqualified. She tells how she overcame abuse, abandonment, fears, and other challenges to go on a mission of adventure, fueled by faith and filled with love and courage. Her personal stories inspire teens to hear their name called, just as Christine heard her own—’You are beloved. You are the hope. You are chosen’—to go into a dark and troubled world, knowing each of us possess all it takes to bring hope, create change, and live completely for Christ. Part inspirational tale, part manifesto to stir readers to lives of adventure, Undaunted: Student Edition shows the way with spiritual wisdom and insight.

Sharing her personal story, the pain, the hardships and the healing, Caine shares her heart and how it shaped who she was and how the Lord worked through it to remind her of beautiful truths: the God made us, chooses us, is always with us and loves us deeply.

And He redeems us.

Throughout the pages, Caine encourages students to hold on to hope. It’s a touching story of how Christine and her husband are spreading that hope through the work they do with human trafficking as well as spreading the gospel and equipping the church and people around the world.

“God help me not to close my eyes to other people’s horror or ignore injustice. Help me fight the injustice you hate. Help me value people and speak up for those who have been silenced. God, you have loved, chosen and healed me, and I want to help others be set free. If anything-anything!-like this happens in my lifetime, help me not to sit back and pretend it does not concern me.” After a visit to Auschwitz before starting the A21 campaign





“He does not ask, Are you capable? He asks, Are you willing?”

I also liked the discussion questions at the end of each section; questions for students to wrestle with and work through.

The way the Lord has worked through Christine and her husband is inspiring and this book gives a glimpse in that journey and path that got her where she is today. So teens, youth groups and anyone else reading, be sure to grab a copy of this one. You’ll come away changed.

(Thank you DJC Communications and Zondervan for the readers copy in exchange for my honest review!)

Return to Me | Lynn Austin

I mean seriously Lynn Austin, do you know how to write a bad book? I doubt it. Return to Me is an in-depth and fantastically written story about the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon back to J-Ru (my college professor always called Jerusalem that and it kinda stuck with me :) ).





After years of watching his children and grandchildren wander from their faith, Iddo’s prayers are answered: King Cyrus is allowing God’s chosen people to return to Jerusalem. Jubilant, he joyfully prepares for their departure, only to learn that his family, grown comfortable in the pagan culture of Babylon, wants to remain.

Zechariah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the comfort and success his father enjoys in Babylon. But he soon begins to hear the voice of God, encouraging him to return to the land given to his forefathers.

Bringing to life the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Return to Me tells the compelling story of Iddo and Zechariah, the women who love them, and the faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.

Based on the prophet Zechariah along with Austin’s incredible research, the world of the Jewish exiles is brought to life with vivid descriptions and a reality check of what it was like for those returning. It wasn’t easy and it was hard. People easily slipped away while others grew from the experience.

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Oh man! The history and descriptions of this novel are so rich. Even if you aren’t a history person, I do believe you’ll come to appreciate the background and research. This brings to life the stories of scripture in a beautiful way. Because let’s be honest, how much do you know about the minor prophet Zechariah? You know how much I knew? Well, I had to double check if he had his own book. So win for me.

That’s probably one of my favorite things about the start of this new series. Austin does not mess around when it comes to historical research and because of it, there’s a great new series fans of biblical historical fiction will want to dive into.

This isn’t a book you’ll fly through (I think it could have been broken into two books), but it’s definitely worth the read. It spanned over several years, so there were some parts of the story that weren’t as in depth or focused (whether on individuals or couples), but that’s what makes this one great. The focus isn’t on the individuals as much as it is on what it took to rebuild the temple.

As I’ve said, this is the start of another great series. One I definitely look forward to.

Are you a Lynn Austin fan? Have you had the chance to dive into any of her novels yet?

I think I’ll go re-read her Chronicles of the Kings series again while I wait for the next in this series.

(Thank you Bethany House for the Advanced Reader Copy! I was provided a copy in exchange for my honest opinion).

Deep in the Heart of Trouble | Deeanne Gist

“Are you packing a pistol right now?”

That quote, right there, is one reason I really enjoyed Deep in the Heart of Trouble by the wonderful Deeanne Gist. Was this a girl asking a guy? Nope, this question was asked of our lead Essie. I won’t give you her answer, but it made me laugh. I get asked if I’m packing heat all the time!

Another reason I liked this book? I needed – not wanted – a sequel to Courting Trouble where we first met the Spreckelmeyer clan. In Courting Trouble we encounter 30 year old Essie who is determined she will find herself a husband. The story is full of character’s mistakes, reality of what can happen when we let our guard down, how easy it is to compromise, dealing with the consequences and how beautiful grace can be. Even with that, when it ended, I thought “boo! That didn’t end how I wanted.” But then the wonderful word known as sequel appeared. In!

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In Deep in the Heart of Trouble we find ourselves four years after the end of the first book.

Texas bloomer girl Essie Spreckelmeyer (Courting Trouble) is still just trying to maintain her balance. The president of the local velocipede club has had her fair share of pratfalls, but her present situation is unusually perilous. Running her father’s oil company in this male-dominated boomtown was difficult enough before arrival of handsome, headstrong Tony Morgan.

I’m such a fan of Gist’s book and this one was no different. She’s so funny! I enjoyed the maturity of each of the characters and how they grew as people and to each other. Toss in a little mystery & intrigue and you got yourself a winning combination. Plus the changes the main characters go through aren’t over dramatic, cheesy or unbelievable. So yes, I shall continue to read through all of her books, because they are fantastic!

I’ll end with one more funny quote:
“There were only three reasons a woman’s name should ever appear in the Corsicana newspaper: being born, getting married, and keeling over dead. To provoke a full article not just in Corsicana Weekly but in newspapers scattered across the country was nothing short of appalling.”

Do you enjoy Gist’s novels or this time period? Have you read this one? What’s your favorite historical read and author?

P.S. I don’t really get asked if I’m carrying a weapon, just in case you weren’t sure if I was joking.

3 Bibles & 4 Reasons to Grab Them

You know what I love? Creativity and the chance to express yourself. That’s one reason why I love some of the latest bible editions from the ever wonderful Zondervan. Whether you’re looking for one for yourself or as a gift, there’s plenty to choose from!

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Also, there may even be a giveaway at the end. That’s all I’m saying.

So here’s a little about each one and 4 reasons to buy them!

Sports Collection Bible, NIV (Football)
The Sports Collection Bibles in the New International Version (NIV) offer fans of basketball, soccer, and football a way to show their enthusiasm for both the Bible and their favorite sport! This version—specially geared for football fans—includes: Presentation page for gift giving and personalization, thinline size with easy-to-read print, perfect to take anywhere, Words of Christ in red and ribbon marker.
1. It’s the perfect size to take to bible study or church. As much as I love my study bible, that thing weighs 37 pounds. Plus there have been occasions where my phone fails me and I have no bible.
2. Jesus’ words are in red. I’m partial to bibles with red letters (Thank you DC Talk), as I find it rather helpful.
3. To all my single ladies who love sports – You come with a football cover bible to church, guess what? You’ll grab the attention of fellows who love football. I kid people! I kid! So I guess that’s not a real reason, but it’s fun and if someone decides to talk football with me because of it – bring.it.on. I’ll talk about the Saints all day baby allllll day! (Except last Sunday’s game. That game is dead to me).
4. It also comes in two other versions: the best sport of the universe (soccer) and basketball.

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Animal-Print Collection Bible, NIV (Zebra Print)

Perfect for kids and teens on the go! Ideal for home, school, or church use, the Animal-Print Collection Bible, NIV offers the following features: Complete text of the New International Version, Words of Christ in red, ribbon marker and handy elastic closure.
1. This little guy is perfect to keep in your purse or work bag.
2. Look how cute this is?!?
3. Y’all it comes in Giraffe and Pink print. Do you know how much I heart giraffes? I’d have a pet one if, oh it wasn’t illegal and I didn’t live in an apartment. Although, it’s two stories, so I think one would fit…
4. This one also shows red letter love.

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Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens, NIV: Build and defend your faith based on God’s promises
Feeling uncertain about your life? The world? Your future? Looking for something secure to hold onto in turbulent and confusing times? Wanting to know more about God? Address your questions and build a steadfast foundation for your faith with the NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens. Find traction for your beliefs and promises for your future. Discover constant and concrete truths rooted in the unchanging love and promises of God.

1. What a wonderful time my teenage years were, except not. Let’s throw our hands up for a decade of awkwardness! No really, I would win. Between braces and my stellar wardrobe choices, guys, I got this covered.

But it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a teenager, especially during this day and age. First, let’s all take a moment to THANK THE LORD social media didn’t exist when I was ages 11-college. Lord knows what kind of mischief I would have gotten into. But it adds a whole new level for teenagers today and it’s scary! Scary where they search for their value and scary all the messages they are constantly bombarded with. But with a solid foundation based on beautiful Truth, those teenage years can be fulfilling and amazing. With everything else included in this Bible, it’s a great place for teens to start!
2. The “extras” in this bible are great. Whether real life examples of other students, deeper looks into God’s promises, encouragement about God’s word, His principles and all around truth, this is an awesome bible for students to dive into!
3. It has a hard cover so can take a beating in a backpack.
4. There’s plenty of room to add notes and highlight favorites passages!

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Aren’t these great?! To end I want to host a giveaway! Why? Because these are all fantastic bibles and I want to get the word out about them because nothing can change a life like His Word :) . All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you’re entered to win the bible of your choice! If you want to earn extra entries, here’s a few easy ways (just leave a comment each time you do). P.S. On a random note if you’re curious why I don’t use rafflecopter, it’s because it hates me. It never works on my computer – tried everything they suggested too. Apparently we’re not meant to be. Rude right? ;)

Be sure to leave a comment! Leave one by 10/23/13 at 11:59 (CST).

(Thank you DJC Communications and Zondervan for the copies to review!)

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The Duck Princess | Zach Wilkinson

Recently, I’ve been part of the fantastic Start Experiment, a community of people punching fear in the face and pursuing their dreams (whether it’s to run a marathon or write a book). I’ve connected with awesome and incredible people and one such connection was this one! Zach Wilkinson is a writer and illustrator and I get to share about his new children’s picture book!

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to The Duck Princess!

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“The Duck Princess” is the wonderful story of a duck named Juniper, a monster and a bear wizard. Juniper faces a problem she thinks she can’t overcome but finds out the solution was within her the whole time. Written and illustrated by Zach Wilkinson, with photos by Paul Jarvis, this beautiful children’s picture book will take kids of all ages on a journey of self discovery and friendship through mountains and streams, forests and fields.

This sweet children’s book is such a creative use of different artistic elements – mixing photography and illustrations.

Plus, the lesson is one we can all hear, but especially the younger ones – don’t judge a book by its cover and you never know what you can learn when you take the time to listen to someone’s story. Because, as we all know, it’s often in those times, we’re pleasantly surprised.

I think my favorite illustration was the monster. Especially him hanging out in the tree – so cute! It’s fun, it’s unique and one I wouldn’t mind reading to my little nieces. :)

(Thank you Zach for the review copy!)

Garden of Madness | Tracy L. Higley

One of my Masters classes I really enjoyed was an Ancient Greece history class. While not my normal area of study, it was one of my favorite classes. There’s something so fascinating about those days so long ago. (We all know my obsession with The Mummy movies). The massive empires, the constant changes, the Biblical history that’s tied in and the lessons we can learn are a few reasons it fascinates me.

So if you’re anything like that, with interests in ancient times and biblical history, you need to pick up one of Tracy L. Higley’s books. And one I recommend: The Garden of Madness.

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The untold story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter
For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.

Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an opulent yet oppressive life in the palace. But her husband has since died and she relishes her newfound independence. When a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own freedom is threatened.

As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.

In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, Tia must decide if she is willing to risk everything—her possessions, her gods, and her very life—for the Israelites’ one God. Madness, sorcery, and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion as Tia chooses whether to risk all to save the kingdom—and her family.

The life of Nebuchadnezzar a fascinating one, and following a story about his seven years of madness, was an intriguing interpretation to read. Suspense, mystery, love and history all mingled into a fast paced book I didn’t want to put down.

And even if you aren’t an ancient history fan, I think you should still give this one a chance, it might change your mind!

The Doctor’s Lady | Jody Hedlund

Even if this story were completely fiction, I would have still loved it. Finding out its based on actual people made it that much more awesome. That’s why I so thoroughly enjoy historical fiction, it brings to light amazing stories of the past.

The Doctor’s Lady by, one of my favorites, Jody Hedlund follows the story of the first white women to cross the US and enter into Oregon territory.

Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

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Just so you know, I’m gonna turn history geek right about…now!

Based on the true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (yes, my first thought was Malfoy), who left the east coast to be missionaries to the Nez Perce tribe in 1836 among the Oregon territory. She was one of the first two white women to cross the continent overland, and she had the first child born of American parents in the Oregon Country. Although this wasn’t in the novel, her and her husband were killed by the Cayuse in what would become known as the Whitman Massacre after a measles epidemic in which they blamed them for the deaths. Don’t worry, that part was left out of the novel, because that would be depressing.

Hedlund not only brought this amazing story to life, once again she created characters you quickly attach to and a story that is incredibly fascinating, empowering and encouraging to follow where the Lord leads, no matter how crazy it might seem.

If the name Jody Hedlund is on it, I promise it’s going to be a great read.

A Bride Most Begrudging | Deeanne Gist

I can’t help but smile when I think of this book. I loved it! Like, I’m going to actually purchase this one and I’m going to get her other books right quick, because Deeanne Gist had me from page one! My friend Liz recommended this one and since we read the same style books, I had no doubt her suggestion would work out. It did!

A Bride Most Begrudging is hilarious too. I kept laughing at both Constance and Drew. Oh, she is a fire cracker folks. But that made her all the more loveable. I loved the storyline, the characters and how it all worked out; although I may have teared up, yelled and sighed in the process. Plus such a fascinating time period! This history nerd was loving it!

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Any ship arriving from England means good news for Virginia colony farmers. The “tobacco brides” would be on board–eligible women seeking a better life in America, bartered for with barrels of tobacco from the fields.

Drew O’Connor isn’t stirred by news of a ship full of brides. Still broken-hearted from the loss of his beloved, he only wants a maid to tend his house and care for his young sister.

What he ends up with is a wife–a feisty redhead who claims she is Lady Constance Morrow, daughter of an Earl, brought to America against her will. And she want to go straight back to England as soon as she possibly can. She hasn’t the foggiest notion how to cook, she dares to argue with her poor husband, and spends more time working on mathematical equations than housework. What kind of a wife is that? Drew’s Christian forbearance is in for some testing.

Headstrong and intelligent, deeply moral but incredibly enticing, Constance turns what was supposed to be a marriage of convenience into something most inconvenient, indeed.

Seriously a great read and I look forward to more from Gist. I also learned this was Gist’s debut novel – what a way to kick things off! Have you read this one or any of Gist’s? What did you think?

Scarlet | Marissa Meyer

After reading this second installment, I’ve decided Marissa Meyer’s is one of my favorite YA authors. Scarlet is Y.A. at its finest folks! Here’s what book two is all about:

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

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I wasn’t sure how this series was going to transition adding more characters and yet connecting the two stories. I really enjoyed Cinder, so I was afraid it was going to turn into a hot mess of confusion.

But Meyer did a fantastic job and at the point when I knew how the stories were going to collide, I had one of those “ahhhha!” outloud type moments. I heart those moments, even if it scares strangers around me.

As with Cinder, there’s characters you adore. Take Thorne…that charming scoundrel! Yes, I did just use scoundrel and no, I’m not 97 years old. But it’s the perfect way to describe him. Such the charmer. All the characters are great!

And Kai, get your shenanigans TO.GET.HER. You’re really beginning to make me angry.

Meyer really knows how to end a book on a cliff hanger, so the only upsetting thing about finishing the book is I have to wait until 2014 to continue in the Lunar Chronicles.

Marduk’s Tablet | Tracy L. Higley

Some of my favorite movies are the mummy movies with Brendon Fraser. Don’t hate, I heart them. Ancient mysteries, suspense, a mysterious man who can rock eyeliner and tattoos (yes please), all the while keeping you on your toes! The ancients colliding with modern times. I’m telling you, no matter what part the movies are on, if I walk in, I’m watching them.

So when I came across Tracy L. Higley’s Marduk’s Tablet about an ancient tablet with mysterious powers, betrayal, adventure and secrets? Girl, you know I’m in.

I loved the suspense! I have to admit there were parts where characters were having deep conversations and I had to speed through (more like jump from paragraph to paragraph) because I needed.to.know what happened next. No time for chit chat people, there’s a cray on the loose!

I liked the characters Higley created, some shocked me, some I wished were real so I could be friends with them and the storyline was exciting and intriguing. Plus there’s some interesting ancient history woven throughout the story. Makes me want to take more history classes :) .

Emilie Nazzaro saw her father’s obsession with Marduk’s Tablet lead to his betrayal and murder. Now, she’s been charged with deciphering the symbols on this centuries-old piece of clay, which legend says contains omens with healing powers.

On a harrowing journey through Israel and into ancient Babylon she tries to uncover the secrets surrounding her father’s death – but will she stay alive long enough to learn the truth?

If you enjoy some ancient history, Higley has a new release out as well! Be sure to check out So Shines the Night!

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