New movie: Hillsong – Let Hope Rise Trailer exclusive

I love Hillsong. If you know praise and worship music at all, you probably recognize the name and have sung their songs countless times.

I’m excited to let  people know about a new film that Hillsong has coming out. It looks really fabulous! If you have any heart for music whatsoever, I guarantee that this will touch your heart.  Check it out:

You can like the film on Facebook as well: http://bit.ly/HLHR_FB

Here’s the official synopsis for the film:
“Hillsong–LET HOPE RISE” chronicles the spectacular and unlikely rise to prominence of the Australia-based Christian band, Hillsong UNITED. Directed by Michael John Warren, the film follows the band they labor to record their next album and explores the history of Hillsong, a 30-year journey from a tiny church in the Sydney suburbs to a vibrant international ministry. The movie culminates in a transformational concert experience spotlighting the humble hearts behind this worldwide sensation.

Doesn’t it look fabulous?

Book Review: Reservations for Two

Reservations-for-Two - croppedReservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge
Genre : Romance
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Date April 21, 2015

In this second installment of the Two Blue Doors series, Juliette D’Alisa visits her family in France and Italy. With her new boyfriend, Neil McLaren and the mystery of her grandmother’s mysterious stranger unfolding before her, things are as unsettled and crazy as ever for Juliette. This roller coaster doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon either. Her mother’s illness is a terrible stress on the whole family and Juliette’s travels right before opening a brand new restaurant may not be the best timing. And this new boyfriend? It’s a long distance relationship that isn’t necessarily easy to juggle.

One thing is becoming clear though: Juliette is much closer to figuring out who the mysterious man in her grandmother’s picture is. With the possibility of interviewing her grandmother’s sister and also tracking down some of the places she lived, Juliette is much closer to solving that mystery.

With the same wonderful devotion to food and recipes, Lodge has once again created a beautiful story where food (good food!) becomes one of the main characters. When Juliette is having a difficult day, she might retreat into a special dessert or a main course that takes all day to prepare. And once again as she ponders the current situations she’s dealing with in her life, she retreats into her recipes and her love of cooking and food. And thankfully, Lodge allows us to do the same. I was delighted while reading the first book to discover that the very recipes our main character is enjoying were also part of the story for us. Each chapter ends with a recipe that came from somewhere within the story. This allows the reader to make an even deeper connection with the characters and the story as they share the experience of making the same recipes. I love that!

Juliette’s struggle with her mother’s disease, her grandmother’s heart wrenching story and juggling her own romantic adventures are poignant and heart wrenching at times for the reader. There were moments that I was reading and wanted to yell at Juliette and I did find myself close to tears a time or two. One of the magical moments of reading this book for me came when I found myself so intensely involved in the story that I had to stop and think about Lodge crafting not only Juliette’s adventure, but her grandmother’s. I had been so involved with it, that it felt like I, too, had discovered a batch of letters and I couldn’t wait to read and see what the next one had to say.

I loved this book as much (if not more) than the first one. (And a shoutout for the Doctor Who references again – yay!) If you love food, romance, travel, or adventure, you’re going to absolutely want to own this series so you can read it more than once and make the recipes too!

 

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Book Review: A Table by the Window

51RxRvTROPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge
Genre: Romance
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Date March 2014

Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life around food and family. As the youngest of a family of restauranteurs and professional chefs, she knows food. She also understands the dynamics of having a very boisterous and involved family. French and Italian roots run deeply through her blood and everyone knows everything about everyone else’s life. So when Juliette finds a mysterious photo of her grandmother and a handsome young man, she’s intrigued. The man looks exactly like her older brother, but he’s a stranger. So who is this handsome man with her grandmother?

On top of that, her brother Nico has decided that he wants to open a restaurant, but the last time he had one, Juliette got personally involved and it led to disaster. When Nico asks her to be his partner, she’s just not sure of what she should do.

And when Juliette, the only unmarried person in her family, begins to think about dating, it nearly sends her off the rails to imagine juggling all of it.
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Book Review: The Pharaoh’s Daughter

41smGE6SgcL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Pharaoh’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews
Genre: Historical
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Date: March 17, 2015

So a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…no wait. Wrong story. There once was a baby that was sent down the river in a basket. There we go. Right story! Everyone knows that one don’t they? Basket is found by Pharaoh’s daughter and very long story short – everyone lives mostly happily ever after. But this, Pharaoh’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews, is a completely new glimpse of this tale. The title give you the clue that it’s obviously told from one of the key players we don’t often hear about: Pharaoh’s Daughter. I still figured I knew everything that was coming. I figured wrong.

From the moment I picked this book up, it was different, unique, and fascinating. Anippe was raised with the understanding that Anubis hovered around every corner. At any time, he could show up and steal you to the afterlife. For a child, this was not a pleasant thought. And knowing that you are someone else’s namesake in order to fool Anubis into taking you first? That adds an all new level of stress and terror.

Mesu Andrews took a story that we all know and she didn’t just breathe new life into it – she recreated it completely. When I picked this book up, I figured it was another historical novel retelling a Bible story. They’re okay. I like them. I enjoy the insight into my favorite people from the Bible. But those books don’t always get me excited about reading. This book absolutely shocked me with how good it was. This was so much more than anything I’d imagined!  I mean really – I know the Moses story. I just read through it for my own personal devotions a few weeks ago. But this book had me so on edge, I had no idea what was coming next! I loved it!

If you want rich historical detail, beautiful characters and intricately woven storytelling, this is most definitely the book for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Don’t miss this one!

Book Review: Unbound by J.B. Simmons

22851464Unbound by J.B. Simmons
Genre: YA, Supernatural
Publisher: CreateSpace
Date: September 1, 2014

Elijah Goldsmith is having trouble sleeping. Well, to be more exact, he’s having some serious nightmare issues. Dragons. Destruction. Chaos. Mayhem. These dream adventures have it all. And the best part? They’re always the same. So why is a well to do privileged young teen having recurring nightmares about a place he’s never visited?

Partner that nightmare with the fact that Elijah is currently in the process of applying to work with the International Security Agency as a spy, and that’s a lot for anyone to juggle. Let alone a teenager.

And then there’s Naomi. She’s gorgeous. Smart. Talented. And she believes that she knows the secret behind what’s happening in his dreams and it’s bigger than both of them can even imagine. more »

Book Review: The Adventures of Pajama Girl

61qpzJnpFsL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Adventures of Pajama Girl: The Coronation of the Cupcake Queen by Sandra Hagee Parker
Genre: Children’s
Publisher: Worthy Kids
Date: March 3, 2015

Ellie is a very special little girl with some very special pajamas. Every night when she goes to bed, her pajamas let her take a journey to a special place. So when she chooses to wear her cupcake pajamas, sweet adventures soon follow!

With a land of amazing cupcakes, sweets, sprinkles and her Sis by her side, Ellie is excited to explore and face this new adventure. But she soon finds out that all is not perfect in this land. The sprinkles are missing and there can’t be a coronation of the new queen without them. It’s up to Pajama Girl to save the day.

With adorable illustrations and excitement for the kids, Parker has created a fabulous new universe for kids to enjoy. Perfect for a bedtime story or afternoon nap, kids will want to sit down and read these adventures again and again. This is certain to be a book revisited often in your homes. You know the ones – they turn raggedy with love and quickly become memorized from so much reading? Yeah. This one’s already looking like it will be one of those classics. When you add in the wonderful storyline that allows for endless further adventures, it’s a sure bet that this will become a favorite series for young readers and their families.

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Book Review: Remnants – Season of Fire

511XNkUORkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Remnants: Season of Fire by Lisa T Bergren
Genre: YA/Sci Fi/Supernatural
Publisher: Blink
Date: March 3, 2015

Andriana learned a great deal on her first mission as a Remnant. She has also gone through tremendous loss and growth. She’s a different person than she was before all of this began. But she still has a lot to learn.

Now she and her Remnant team are facing new dangers, higher stakes in their missions, and she has to struggle with a brand new concern. Is it possible that Keallach, the man she was raised to see as nothing but evil and out for his own ends, could be saved? Could he be brought back into the fold to help the Remnants achieve peace through the land? She thinks so, but her Remnant brothers and sisters aren’t so sure. And the more time she spends with Keallach, the more lost in this mystery she becomes.

Lisa T. Bergren’s Remnants series is amazing. She once again treats us to beautiful realms, deep emotions and adventure that just doesn’t stop. While I was reading, it wasn’t unusual for me to get so lost in the world, that there would be jolt when I had to come back to reality. I want to say that I devour these books, but honestly, I think they devoured my mind! I didn’t want the reading to end. When I got to the last page and saw that the next book isn’t due out until 2016, I was unhappy to say the least. I know Lisa and I understand how much she’s juggling, but I really wish she could write faster!

These books are perfect for anyone who loves Divergent, The Hunger Games, or the Maze Runner. In fact I have found the Remnants series surpasses these books in nearly every aspect. Bergren has always been an incredible storyteller, but the plot she’s put into place this time is breathtaking. There’s always something happening that keeps the reader guessing and wondering what is around the next bend for these amazing characters. There are very few areas where the pace slows. Most often, you’ll find yourself completely caught up in the adventure and frantically turning pages to see what’s next. This is the kind of book that begs “just one more chapter” and then leaves you flailing in the wee hours of the morning, wondering what you’re supposed to do now that you’ve finished it.

I’m seriously unsure what I’m supposed to do with my time between now and 2016. I’ll probably be that annoying little fly buzzing around Lisa’s ear begging for news of the next book. In all honesty, I’ve never been disappointed by a book from Lisa Bergren and I can’t recommend them highly enough for anyone who loves books. She’s a favorite and has earned her well-deserved spot on my list of favorite authors.

You Can’t Rejoice in That!

mg1Y7TAYou know recently, I went through a long, difficult cancer journey. Nearly a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. This resulted in multiple surgeries over a very short few weeks, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy and re-learning basic skills like eating and talking. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I stepped out every single day in faith and honestly, I still am.

A few weeks ago, something absolutely crazy happened to me. I was walking into a store with my teenage daughter when my jeans slid down over my hips at an alarming rate. Now thankfully I was wearing a long shirt and had fast enough reactions to halt what could have been a really embarrassing situation, but it did result in me finally realizing that I probably need to buy new clothes.  I’d been putting it off because I didn’t want to spend money on clothes when I’m still losing weight. My daughter elbowed me and said, “Mom, it’s probably okay to get a new pair of pants now.” So I did. And I was over the moon delighted to buy slacks that were TEN sizes smaller than what I wore a year ago. TEN! That’s huge.

You see, a year ago, when I was diagnosed, I had an unhealthy attitude about food. I ate often and I did not eat healthy portions or healthy recipes. I excused everything with some reason it was okay. I had a bad day or I had some great news and wanted to celebrate. I did not eat well. As a result, I was obese. I admit that fully. I know now and I knew then that I was overweight. I hated pictures of myself and I often hid from the mirror. I didn’t want to see my overweight body.

So then I got cancer. And I lost weight. It’s going to happen when you’re unable to eat for six months. It’s also a natural side effect of radiation, chemo, and sickness. I lost a lot of weight. Nearly 80 pounds at this point. And I would be lying if I said I weren’t happy about that. Was the method a good one? No. I’m not advocating that anyone use cancer as a weight loss method. That’s silly. It was a miserable terrible journey and I was horribly sick for a lot of it.

However, relearning how to eat has also reset my bars. I look at food differently. Drastically differently. Right now it’s not a pleasure to eat as much as it is exercise. I have to analyze every portion and see if it’s something I even CAN eat. Many foods are still off of my menu because of pain, difficulty in eating or unhealthy side effects. Then I need to figure out my energy level and how to approach it so I don’t tire my jaw, tongue and neck out too much. I’m not complaining by any stretch! A few months ago, tasting food wasn’t even an option for me. So every bite is a blessing and I rejoice in it. It’s still not a healthy attitude toward food. I’m obsessed on the other side of things with all of my analysis and weighing what I can and cannot eat. However, I know that this is just the swing of the pendulum and I’m praying that I can come to a healthy middle ground soon – where food isn’t exercise but it’s not my constant indulgence either. Something in the middle would be fabulous.

That weight loss….it’s bothering some people that I delighted in buying clothes 10 sizes smaller. Like, it’s really bothering them. Enough that I got several messages, texts, and emails admonishing me to NOT be happy about an unhealthy weight loss. I was told that it’s wrong to rejoice in something that was so unhealthy! After all, it’s not a good way for anyone to lose weight, so I shouldn’t promote it as such. (Seriously – if anyone is out there and wants to ‘catch’ cancer in order to lose weight, I’d like to suggest that therapy would be something they strongly consider.)  The whole attitude and response stunned me. I mean, I’m not saying anyone should go and get cancer in order to lose weight. And I’m not saying that being sick, unhealthy, or not eating is a good choice either. But I am saying that when each and every day – sometimes each hour or moment – is a monumental struggle to do simple things like breathe without throwing up or sit up without losing consciousness, then fitting into slacks you haven’t worn in over a decade is a victory.  And it’s one that I’m going to rejoice in.

I don’t, in any way, believe that God allowed me to have cancer to lose weight. I believe that through my cancer journey, one (just one!) of the lessons I learned was my unhealthy relationship with food. And that has changed. I rejoice in that and at this point, I’m not going to apologize for it.  I admit that I’m not thankful for cancer. I wish I wouldn’t have needed to go through that. But I will be thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and I will work each day to apply them to my life in the right way.

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Review: Who Buries the Dead by C.S. Harris

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Click here to pick up your own copy!

Who Buries the Dead: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery by C.S. Harris
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Date : March 3, 2015

One might think that Sebastian St. Cyr would stop placing himself in the center of danger now that he’s married and has a child. After all, that normally settles people down into a more quiet and sedate sort of life. Especially when there’s a title and London society to consider. This isn’t quite the case for our hero though. Unable to allow himself to rest when there’s a murderer on the loose, Sebastian’s determination is underscored by the brutality of these particular crimes. After all, this isn’t just a mugging gone wrong or a simple stabbing. The poor victim, Stanley Preston (a wealthy plantation owner that’s working his way up in society) has been beheaded in a most gruesome way. And the murder seems to be connected to his own collection of…well…human heads.

As the first time I’ve picked up a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve never considered myself much of a mystery reader, but in recent years I’ve developed a fondness for J. D. Robb’s In Death series and I’ve always loved historical fiction, so I thought this might be a good fit. I am very happy to report that it most definitely was a good fit.

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Television Review: Agent Carter

agentcarter-agent-carter-9-reasons-why-it-s-crucial-to-the-marvel-cinematic-universeI rarely review television shows. I’m not sure why this is. I review films and books and products but television isn’t usually something about which I offer commentary. Perhaps it’s because there are so many outlets covering television that it feels like an already saturated medium. There are so many more experienced and profound people than myself offering opinions. Who wants to read mine? However, I’m breaking that pattern to talk about the ABC television show, Agent Carter.

Confession: I’m a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) geek. Note, this doesn’t mean I’m a comic book or graphic novel geek. Far from it. I have my own expert named Shell that I pepper constantly with questions when it comes to that side of things. The films and TV shows encompass my knowledge. I know for many this may completely void any opinions I have. That’s fine. The numbers of Marvel’s fanbase show that I’m not a minority on that. Marvel has introduced an entire new audience (that’s still growing I might add) to comic heroes and stories. And they’ve done it well.

I have, for most of my life, completely eschewed comic book films and television shows.  I just wasn’t a fan. (The only exception to this was Lois and Clark. I loved that show.) Enter Captain America: The First Avenger. Here I found a story grounded in reality (WWII) that had fantasy enough to stretch the imagination (super soldier program) and a hero that understood evil and didn’t embrace some ‘dark side’  or dark tactics in order to save the world. This was a hero that I could introduce my kids to without reservation. Captain America was seriously one of the good guys. I could and did get behind that.

So if you understand Cap’s story through the MCU, you also know Peggy Carter. Peggy is a key player in Cap’s world and in his life. She’s also one of my favorite characters. Without her encouragement and support, I don’t think Cap would be exactly who he is. She helped him break out of that dancing monkey routine and challenged him to more. To me, it feels like Peggy makes the people around her strive to be better and achieve more. So when ABC announced a show centered around Peggy, I admit that I approached it with some level of trepidation. Were they going to mess it up by bringing her to television? Would they shortchange her character in order to fit her in a shorter format? I knew Peggy could be the central character and hold a show, but did the writers? Producers? Would the network require a different Peggy to fit their ideals? Obviously I had a lot of questions and really, the track record on network shows I love isn’t that fabulous. So I tentatively stepped up to watch this show. And, with more than a little fear, I allowed my kids to watch with me.  That took a big step too because if their hearts were broken or the shine was taken off of one of their beloved characters, I would need to be the person to pick up the pieces. But I took the chance. And I am so glad that I did.

Agent Carter, a short form series with only eight episodes, excelled far beyond my expectations. In fact, it blew my hopes out of the water in the best way possible as well. Whereas most television shows struggle to find their footing, voice and personality in their freshman year (see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – big fan now but I had to choose to stick with it in the beginning), Agent Carter fit into the puzzle like a missing piece that had been lost and was now found. Each episode felt big and beautifully cinematic. The historical aspect of the show was well done and vivid, bringing to life a time that we don’t often see in entertainment. There are many shows and films about WWII, but not as many for what happens after.

With many shows and films, I’ll find myself asking where the creators want to take us. Did they really mean to do that? Often, the missteps in voice or tone take me out of the story enough to begin analyzing things from a writer’s perspective. This makes it not entertainment for me as I begin to see catalysts, storylines, climax, and characterization from an educational perspective. Agent Carter, for me, didn’t suffer that. I was able to stay ‘in’ the story. So much so that each week felt like I was sitting down to a new film – not a new episode of a television show. When each episode ended, I was ready for the next one to begin. I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes or cringing. I was fully engaged each and every week. Even cameos by beloved characters were handled with grace and style. New characters (Jarvis, Sousa, Thompson) were crafted with care and deliberation. Choices were made that planted seeds into the larger Marvel Universe. This series was expertly handled with a deft hand to even the most minor of details.

Rather than feeling like this was something a group of writers sat down to create, this show fit so well into the MCU that it felt like Peggy’s story had actually happened and we only just now had found the ‘lost tapes’ that allowed us to see those missing years.

I thoroughly enjoyed all eight episodes of this show and I cannot wait to own them myself so that we can watch Peggy’s story chronologically from Captain America: The First Avenger through Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yes, we’re those sort of geeks in my house and we’re all quite happy that ABC chose to pick up this series. So ABC, may we have some more please?

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