Free of Me

It’s not about you.

And how often do I make EVERYTHING about me?

“What about me?”  “Why didn’t I get…?” “Do they not like me?”  “Are they talking about me?”

So much of our insecurity is rooted in self-focus, in holding a mirror up to ourselves and trying to measure our circumstances around us in that light.

But what if it weren’t about you….

This book is about so much more than insecurity, though for me, that’s a big takeaway.  The idea that so much of my own insecurity could evaporate by focusing on God, and God’s plan in any given situation, is both comforting and incredibly challenging all at once.  I haven’t fully digested it yet, as I just finished the book, however, I’m sure there’s life application in it somewhere!

Sharon Hodde Miller talks about seven mirrors we use to reflect our lives, when we shouldn’t be using mirrors at all.  I promise the analogy will make piles of sense if you read the book for yourself, and for now you’ll just have to trust me.  But I was convicted and challenged about making church about me, making my friendships about me, making my appearance about me… and more.

Culminating in how loving God sets us free, and why we were designed to love and serve others… this book was so refreshing.

It’s no wonder Ann Voskamp has said that this book “may be one of the most important truths of our time.” (according to the front cover of the book… I don’t know Ann personally, though I wish I did, and I don’t think we live too terribly far from each other……. but I am not a stalker lol.)

I digress.  A lot, actually…. back on track here.

Our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives–our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith–and it negatively impacts each one. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we get stuck in insecurity.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. Drawing from personal experience and Scriptural insight, Sharon helps readers

· understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
· learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
· experience freedom from the burden of self-focus

If you’ve been yearning for more than a self-help faith, then this paradigm-shifting message of true fulfillment is for you.


What others say about Free of Me:

“One of the best things for a healthy marriage, workplace, parent situation, or any calling is to realize the world is not orbiting around our axis. True joy is found when we realize there is a bigger story to tell. In Free of Me, Sharon paints this picture more beautifully than anyone I know.”–Jefferson Bethke, author of Love That Lasts

“Sharon spotlights the crippling disease of self-focus and shows us how to break free from its entanglements. If you want to walk in God’s life-giving truth, this book will help you do just that!”–Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In a culture captivated by self, this book is a must-read.”–Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

Sources:  All quotes came from the covers of the book.

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

free of me


A Dangerous Legacy

My last Elizabeth Camden book pulled me in thoroughly, so I was quick to get a hold of this one as well.  A Dangerous Legacy is first in a series Camden has named “Empire State.”  The characters drew me in right away.  I finished the book in two days.  I actually had even planned to spend New Year’s Eve reading it, but…. that would have been anti-social so I opted to be a decent human being instead 🙂

Like I said, I loved the characters.  Siblings Lucy and Nick Drake are endearing, hard-working, and brave.  I loved that about them!  Sir Colin Beckwith appears to be arrogant, but he’ll grow on you so quickly!  There are sinister characters at play too, though, and Lucy and Nick have to fight hard against a dangerous family fight waged before they were even born.

Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming–and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy can’t deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they’ve been waging over their rightful inheritance. But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

I loved seeing the inner workings of Reuters and the Associated Press agencies in their earlier years, and the part of me that always wanted to be a writer/journalist growing up wistfully imagined a life where I got to send transmissions into one of the agencies that I’d picked up from somewhere around the world.  I love the life I have, so I quickly put the thoughts to bed, however, it didn’t stop my love of this plot line in any way.  I also loved the historical details put into the early years of indoor plumbing.  I found it fascinating, especially having just finished another book set in Chicago in the 1890s (ten years prior to this one) where tenement housing was a reality for a couple of the characters.  Tenement housing (I had to look it up) was housing complexes built where multiple families shared tiny spaces, and there was no running water.  Families often had to walk good distances and up or down many flights of stairs for access to pumps to get water, and it was often unclean and the source of sickness and death.  This story involves pressurized valves that allow hot and cold water alike to flow up multiple stories in a building, and it was fascinating.

If you have a love of historical fiction as I do, please check out this book.  It’ll be a quick, short read if you give it a go.  I love love loved it!  Stay tuned in 2018 for Empire State # 2, which switches its focus to be more about Nick than Lucy.

dangerous legacy

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Where We Belong

Oh my stars, this book.  This beautiful, wonderful book.  Historical fiction is my jam to begin with, so I knew I was going to like this book.  But I didn’t know I was going to adore and devour this book.

Where We Belong is the story of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora Hawes, who do not fit the mold of the 1890s Victorian era society they were born into in Chicago.  They’re well-read, they’re intelligent, and they’re adventurous; and they’re determined to find what God’s purpose for their lives might be.

The story, crafted wonderfully by Lynn Austin, details so much of the adventure, in pieces woven expertly together.  Just when you feel like you need more information in order to understand what’s about to happen, Austin goes back and delivers exactly the information you need to continue.  The story criss-crosses through the lives of the sisters, plus their butler, Soren, and their ladies’ maid, Kate, as the crew travels across the Sinai Desert to find a rumoured ancient biblical manuscript.

I can’t give you more information than that, but I can tell you that at times I was so enthralled by this book that I couldn’t imagine having done anything but read.  It’s a good thing it’s Christmas break, because I spent the majority of my last 3 days (including being up WAY too late last night finishing) reading it.  I related so deeply to the characters, especially to Rebecca, that I couldn’t stop.  If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a book hangover now that it’s finished and I blasted through 470 pages so quickly.  I’ve taken a break for most of today, though I may start the next adventure tonight.  Time will tell.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, though there was an element of that woven throughout the characters’ stories… but I appreciated the lack of romance in this one.  I really wanted the adventure and the history, and I sure got both.

This is my first Lynn Austin book, but if the rest of her historical fiction is as delightful as this was, I’ll certainly be back.

I was even more surprised and delighted to find that the story, while truly a work of fiction, is based on the lives of two real-life sisters.  I won’t give you any more detail than that, because to do so would give away important plot points, and I know you don’t want me to do that.  But I promise, when you get to the end of the book, you’ll want to read the very last page at the back that gives you the details of the real-life sisters that Lynn Austin based her work of fiction around.

“Join two incomparable sisters on adventures that span the decades and cross the globe.”

where we belong


Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



Dangerous Illusions

This book was full of twists and turns and I just did not see them coming.  I obviously can’t tell you any of them — it’ll ruin everything.  But know that it all flows together very well, and it will keep you turning page after page… after page… after page.  Especially toward the end, you will not want to stop reading.  I conveniently saved the end of the book for a 4.5 hour flight, so I had little to do BUT read, but nonetheless, it was a great read.

As usual, Irene Hannon crafts characters that will draw you in and make you care about them immediately.  She’s a master at her craft.  I think this is my third of her books?  But it’s my first of her suspense novels rather than just her contemporary romances.  I’ve read both of the books in the Hope Harbor series, and am looking forward to the third one coming out in 2018, but I digress.  This first book in the Code of Honor series has suspense, intrigue, and thrill galore.  I can’t wait now for the second one to come out in 2018.

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death–and puts Trish under police scrutiny–her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn’t certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge–and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn’t just dangerous . . . it’s deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon captures readers with a mind-bending story that will have them doubling back to retrace their steps–and figure out what they missed!

I highly recommend it, as I have with the other two books of Hannon’s that I’ve read.  I’m a bit in awe of a writer who can jump back and forth between two rather different fiction genres as she does as well.

Check it out, and please let me know what you think!


Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Fierce Hearted

I listened to this book as an Audio Book using my Audible membership, because I can knock them off in 3 days in the car.  It was a real treat to do it this way, actually, because Holley Gerth narrated the audio book and when you listen to a book narrated by the author, you get a real sense of the passion they had for what they wanted to communicate.  I’d started to read it in real life before bed, but then I also started doing an Advent devotional and I was finding I’d fall asleep before I got a chance to keep reading Fierce Hearted, so I got it in Audio Book format.

It was delightful.  It was a mix of personal anecdotes and stories, blended with Biblical truth, and infused (a nod to the Tea chapter — chapter 18) with humour, all aimed at helping women be fierce, brave, and exactly who God designed you to be.

Every day we struggle to find more freedom, joy and purpose. What if the solution isn’t trying harder or being better but embracing the fiercehearted woman already inside us?

A fiercehearted woman looks life in the face and says, “You can’t beat me.” She lives fully and loves bravely. She never gives in, never gives up, and never lets go. She dares to be who she is—imperfect and beloved.

In her most powerful and personal book yet, bestselling author, counselor and life coach Holley Gerth empowers and encourages women not simply through “how to” but by life-changing, heart-freeing “me too.” Join Holley on this journey to becoming a fiercehearted woman and discover what she did: the freedom and courage to embrace life, love, and faith to the fullest because your struggles can no longer hold you back.

You can tell that Holley Gerth has been involved in counseling and life coaching by the way she writes, asks questions, and invites her readers to dig deeper into what’s holding us back from being fierce and brave.  Since that’s one of the things I’m delving into in 2018 — becoming fierce, becoming brave — I highly recommend this book.  It’s an easy read with the personal stories Holley infuses into the Biblical truth and sage advice.

Are you ready to live fully and love bravely?  Start 2018 off with this book and be inspired to make a plan to do so.


Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Deadly Proof

This was a great book!  For the most part, it kept me company on a train ride to and from Toronto (because who wants to DRIVE to Union Station!?  Not this girl!!), so I read the latter half of the book in one day.  Awesome!

Kate Sullivan is a lawyer who’s just been tapped to be lead counsel in a “corporate cover-up lawsuit against Mason Pharmaceutical.”  She knows this case could make or break her career, but as the case unfolds, what she didn’t expect was that it could also ruin friendships, and even put her in danger.

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James is still haunted by mistakes made while serving overseas. Trying to forget the past, he is hired by Kate to look into the whistleblower’s allegation and soon suspects that the company may be engaging in a dangerous game for profit. He also soon finds himself falling for this passionate and earnest young lawyer.

Determined not to make the same mistakes, he’s intent on keeping Kate safe, but as the case deepens, it appears someone is willing to risk everything–even murder–to keep the case from going to trial.

With characters that were well developed and engaging — some set up so you’d dislike them right from the start, and others that you just don’t see coming — Rachel Dylan crafts a story that “rivals a John Grisham novel,” or so says Dani Pettrey in a quote they used on the front of the book.  I’ve read Dani Pettrey’s books before and as a great suspense writer herself, if she sings high praises, I’m all in.  Another award-winning author is Lynette Eason, and her endorsement was printed on the back of the book.  How could I go wrong?

Well, I didn’t go wrong at all.  Pettrey and Eason weren’t kidding.  This book was fantastic from start to end.  It reminded me of the tv show “The Practice” that was on years ago, in the way things were described.  Granted, I haven’t seen it in years, but still — that’s the imagery it evoked.  I’ll absolutely be keeping my eye out for Rachel Dylan in the future, and with my new Amazon Audible subscription, maybe my books-to-read list can shrink faster and I can get there!

I highly recommend you give it a try!  And if you’re curious about the other authors I mentioned, check out Always Watching (Lynette Eason), book 1 in the Elite Guardian series (I haven’t read the others, though they’re on the 500-book-long list….), or Cold Shot (Dani Pettrey).

Have you read Deadly Proof?  What did you think?

deadly proof

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



Gracelaced ~ a review

Ruth Chou Simons is an artist and author who has written a stunning devotional that takes you through different seasons of the heart.  The tag line is “Discovering timeless truths through seasons of the heart.”

I haven’t done any part of the devotional yet.  There’s a part of me that rebels against the idea that I could start with fall, when I got the book, since the devotional starts with winter, and I’m just particular that way.  I like to do things in order.  Who jumps around books out of order?  That’s madness!  (Apologies to those of you who’d have no problem with it.  I actually kind of admire you!  I just can’t live like that, haha.)  But I digress.  I am, however, planning to start it the day that fall gives way to winter, and enjoy every moment of it.  The artwork is spectacular, and there are plenty of places for reflection, deep thought, and responding.  There are also accompanying scripture references for you to be able to “delve deeper” into each topic — topics such as dwell, ask, broken, masterpiece, pruning, new, rejoice, forgive, held, light, and peace.  I’m very excited to go through this devotional.

I highly recommend that you also check out Ruth’s website —  There you can find journals, note cards, and prints — all featuring this stunning artwork.  Some of it may or may not end up on my Christmas wish list…. I absolutely adore word art.

You can order the book here or on Amazon.  If you get it, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I know I’m going to!  The art alone is worth the buy — paired with scripture to match each season?  I’m in!



On Love’s Gentle Shores | A Book Review

This book did the same thing to me that the first one in the series did.  It really, really, really made me want to visit Prince Edward Island.  The description of the Island, the red sand, the music, the kitchen parties……. For pretty much that reason alone, I jumped at the chance to review this book by Liz Johnson — On Love’s Gentle Shore’s.

It’s the third in a series set on Prince Edward Island.  I’ve read the first, The Red Door Inn, and enjoyed it.  I missed the second one though (I didn’t realize there had been one in between when I said yes to reviewing this one), and while this book can stand alone, I would suggest that you’d get much deeper character development for the supporting characters (Marie and Seth, Caden and Adam) if you’ve read the other two.  I missed the back story behind Caden and Adam, who are featured in this book as well — but I at least had Marie and Seth’s stories from having read The Red Door Inn.

This is a story of healing, love, and reconciliation.  It’s a bit predictable, but, aren’t most contemporary romances?  It’s a quick, easy read, but it made me smile in many places.

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

I recommend this book — especially if you have a yearning to check out Maritime life.  I also highly recommend it if you’ve already read The Red Door Inn or Where Two Hearts Meet (which I’m tempted to pick up to fill in the back story gaps).

Have you read Where Two Hearts Meet? What did you think?



Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


The Two of Us | A Book Review

This book, while predictable, was a good read.  I enjoyed it, as I have both of Victoria Bylin’s other books I’ve read:  Someone Like You and Together With You.

After two broken engagements, Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she’s focusing on God and her goal to join an international aid organization as a nurse practitioner. But when her 18-year-old sister, Lucy, calls with an invitation to her Vegas wedding, it throws a wrench into Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner has recovered from the injuries he sustained as a police officer–on the outside. Inside, he’s yet to heal from losing his partner in the tragedy, but finds some solace in keeping an eye on her young adult son, Sam, who’s asked him to be best man at his wedding.

Mia expects a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake, who views the marriage a little differently. As Jake’s and Mia’s lives slowly become more intertwined, could his courage and her caring heart be enough to bring them a lifetime of healing?

I loved the sister dynamics written in between two very different women — Mia and Lucy — who love each other fiercely anyway.  I thought that Victoria Bylin did a beautiful job writing Claire’s character — someone battling Alzheimers Disease, and the effect that can have on the person and those around her.  It sounds like Bylin has personal experience with the disease, and I have a new sense of compassion built in after reading Claire’s character.

I also really enjoyed that throughout the book, Mia is battling through the decision whether she wants to look for love again, or whether she wants to join an international medical aid organization and pursue her passions.  I enjoyed the character’s trust that she’s good without a relationship, because she has God.  I am in that place myself, but where I found that we (Mia and I) differ is that I don’t have prospects in front of me, but who knows what my future holds 😉 ?

I recommend this book as a good beach or hammock read.  Check it out, or any of Victoria Bylin’s.  And let me know what you think!


Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Under the Summer Sky

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book to start with.  It took me a few chapters to be able to see through how much I really didn’t like the antagonist and was annoyed by her, before I could actually get into the plot of this book.

Granted, contemporary romance isn’t typically my favourite genre, so you’ll have to take my words with a bit of a grain of salt, I suppose.  I prefer historical fiction and Westerns, and so this was a bit of a one-off.  I picked this book because it’s set in Savannah, Georgia.  A few years ago, I went to Savannah for a week on vacation and I honestly think I left a piece of my heart there.  It’s SO beautiful, and idyllic, and replete with absolutely stereotypical Southern charm — plus, the history is rich (and I’m a nerd like that), they have pirate stories, and they have dolphins.  I was hoping to be brought back to my Savannah trip with this book.  And in many ways, I was.  If you’ve been to Savannah, this book will bring back memories.  If you’ve never been, I suspect it will make you want to (and I highly recommend that you do).

But I digress.

Once I got past how much I disliked the antagonist (though, to be fair, she’s set up instantly to be disliked, which is usually the point of having an antagonist — so Melody Carlson hit her mark on that one) I did really enjoy the book.  I read it very quickly, which is also not typical of me — but I wanted to find out how it ended.

By the time I got to the end, the only real criticism (and that’s too strong of a word, I think) I had left for this book was that I think it came to a conclusion too rapidly.  Another 10-20 pages could have drawn some of the details together a bit better without feeling like the book came to a crashing halt.  I remember getting to the last chapter, and realizing that the book was 20 pages shorter than I’d initially though because there’s a preview to another book at the back, and realizing that there was no way all the details could be tied up to my liking in like 8 pages.  I suppose it’s a compliment if you just don’t want the book to end and it’s come to that inevitable point too soon, right?

At any rate, here’s the press material for “Under a Summer Sky” by Melody Carlson, which I recommend if you’re looking for a light, quick, airy, summer romance novel:

High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Savannah, house-sitting and managing an art gallery for a family friend. The house is luxurious in a way that only old money could make it, and the gallery promises interesting days in a gorgeous setting. Yet it isn’t long before her ideal summer turns into more than she bargained for: a snooty gallery employee who’s determined to force her out, a displaced adolescent roosting in the attic, and two of Nicole’s close childhood friends–who also happen to be brothers–vying for her attention.

With a backdrop of a beautiful historical city, incredible architecture, and even an alleged ghost or two, combined with the opportunity for romance . . . anything can happen!

Bestselling and award-winning author Melody Carlson invites readers to spend the summer surrounded by beauty and tantalizing possibilities for the future.

I see as I look at Amazon for the press material that Melody Carlson has a line of historical fiction as well — that’s where my heart loves to read, so I wonder — has anyone read any of her historical fiction novels?  Do you have any to add to my gigantic ‘to be read’ pile?



Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.