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Book Review: When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Posted by Julie on August 3, 2016 in Book Review, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |
When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Book Description:
Gwen Marcey takes death in stride. Until she’s faced with her own mortality.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before Gwen can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others.

Gwen suspects a connection between the rapist and the “accidental” deaths that are happening around town, but the local sheriff has little interest in her theories. When her digitally-obsessed teenage daughter joins her, Gwen turns her attention to a second assignment: going undercover in a serpent-handling church. She could get a handsome reward for uncovering illegal activity—a reward she desperately needs, as it seems her breast cancer has returned. But snakes aren’t the only ones ready to kill. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?

In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects.

This was a ride, and a wild one at that. I am deathly afraid of snakes. I can’t look at stuffed animal snakes, cartoon ones, none of it. So I wasn’t sure how I would do with this book that tackles snake-handling in church.

I confess, I couldn’t read it at night. There was only one scene that was scary for me, but the thought of it made me read during the day, and I really enjoyed it. It is obvious the author thoroughly researched this book. The characters were so well-developed, especially Gwen. This is not the first book in her series, but it definitely can stand alone. I learned a lot about her. Single mom. Cancer Survivor. Forensic Artist.

I enjoyed her daughter working with her, and that I could not figure out why was good, and who was evil. As Gwen kept saying, “Trust no one.”

I hope you trust me, though. When Death Draws Near is a suspenseful plot I’ve never run across before that keeps you on edge. It’s dynamic, humorous at times, and full of action.  I definitely recommend it.

To purchase When Death Draws Near, click here.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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SURRENDER STORY: Tanya Eavenson Interviews Characters from RESTORED

Posted by Julie on March 8, 2016 in ACFW, encouragement, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender, Writing |

Julie’s Note:
Throughout this year I’m featuring posts from guest writers on surrender. It can be on basically anything, and you do NOT need to be an author. To sign up, click here (to post between now and March 31) and/or here (to post between April and June 30.)

Today, Tanya Eavenson interviews her characters for her novel, RESTORED. Thank you, Tanya!

What’s the most romantic thing Elizabeth has ever done for you, Steven?

 

Steven raised a brow, meeting Elizabeth’s gaze.

 

“You can tell her.” Elizabeth smiled. “I had a feeling Julie was going to ask.”

 

“My sweet wife planned a surprise trip to St. Michaels, Maryland, for us to stay at the Inn at Perry Cabin, but we never made it. Anna Mae came down with a fever. She had also planned a trip for us on a yacht, something I had wanted to do since our college days. It was the most thoughtful thing anyone had ever done for me.”

 

What’s the most romantic thing Steven’s ever done for you, Elizabeth?

 

“I couldn’t believe it, but a month later he surprised me by booking flights to Maryland. The view from the Inn at Perry Cabin was stunning, but what stole my breath was the candlelight dinner we shared on the yacht I previously rented.”

 

Do you both have a favorite song?

 

“Yes,” they said in unison. Steven grinned. “Elizabeth got me hooked on Oceans by Hillsong United. It resonated with me, dealing with my cancer. God allowed me to go through the unknown. I felt like I was sinking and my faith was shaken. I couldn’t see a future, but even in my doubt, the Lord remained by my side. He made Himself visible by sending Elizabeth back into my life.”

 

What simple gesture does Steven do that melts you every time?

 

Elizabeth looked down at their joint hands. “It’s this, entwining our fingers. His touch.”

 

How soon after meeting Elizabeth did you know she was the one?

 

“We were in college.” Steven glanced at Elizabeth and chuckled. “Do you remember when we played Zechariah and Elizabeth, how awkward we looked?”

 

Elizabeth smiled. “Oh yes, I was a sight with that pillow stuffed under my dress. I can’t even recall how many times it slid out of place. I delivered the pillow several times and even fell once. I don’t think I did John the Baptist’s mother justice.”

 

“You captivated me. I had been working up the nerve to speak with you when we were casted together. Later that year when Mike set us up on that double date with John and Nicole, I knew you were the one. I had fallen in love with you.”

 

Who said, “I love you” first, you, Elizabeth or Steven?

 

“Steven first told me he loved me when we were in college. Then many years later when God brought him back into my life, I was the first to say that I loved him.”

 

What is the most caring thing Elizabeth has ever done for you, Steven?

 

“Being there for me through my cancer.” Steven kissed Elizabeth’s hand. “It was her strength, her support, the love she showed me, even seeing her in prayer. She spent hours in the waiting room at the cancer center. Love is more than words, it’s shown in action.”

Tanya Eavenson interviews her characters from RESTORED.

Tanya Eavenson interviews her characters from RESTORED.

About RESTORED:

Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://ow.ly/YhprC

iTunes: https://itun.es/us/0XoMab.l

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/YhpB1

DSC_0729b_edited~ Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

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Book Review: Kelly Tough by Erin Kelly and Jill Kelly

Posted by Julie on May 28, 2015 in Book Review, God's Word, Julie Arduini |

Book Description:81g0HcX146L._SL1500_

Do not let the title Kelly Tough fool you. This is not a “be all you can be, no pain–no gain” story. Toughness is overrated. And being Kelly Tough, well, you are about to find out what that really means and why it just might matter to you.

Kelly Tough is a story of love and hope: a love between a father and a daughter—Buffalo Bill’s former quarterback, Jim Kelly, and his oldest daughter Erin. Erin shares a deeply personal account of the love a family can have for each other during the darkest times, and a greater love that a heavenly Father has for you.

Whatever circumstance or heartbreak you find yourself overwhelmed by right now, it is not the end of the story. In fact, it just might be one of the greatest chapters as you, like the Kelly’s, find strength in weakness, hope in the midst of heartache, and joy in spite of suffering.

Yesterday I shared why I wanted to review Kelly Tough. Today I share why it might be the best non fiction book for the year.

As soon as I opened the first pages, tears started to form. It’s more than the lovely remarks people made or the foreward by Peter King. I truly believe this book is covered with God’s fingerprints and anointing. It was something I could have highlighted nearly every page, several lines. It was more than a book about NFL quarterback Jim Kelly and his family or recent cancer treatments. It’s a book for all of us.

Kelly Tough is written by Jim’s oldest daughter, Erin, and his wife, Jill.  Erin is in college now but writes with such authenticity and skill that I hope her future includes writing full time. She is generous with her memories and family experiences, even when they cloudy any image fans might have of the Kelly family. Thing is, she’s most generous with her faith. To have watched her beloved brother, Hunter, pass away, and then watch her dad battle cancer, you can tell through the grief and hard questions, she’s got a rock solid faith.

And no matter what your past or current situation, she wants you to consider having a solid faith in Christ, too.

Kelly Tough is something I want to aspire to as Erin shares many examples of what that means. It’s more than not quitting. It’s not just good manners that Jim instilled in the kids.  You need to read what Kelly Tough embodies.

The book was inspiring, emotional, informational and one I’m still thinking about even though I closed the cover quite awhile ago. One tidbit I was so impressed by was Frank Reich, the backup quarterback for the Bills when Jim was active. I’d read about his faith years and years ago but Erin and Jill did a tremendous job showing what Christlike is all about. The man was a servant on the field, content to be in the shadows while Jim saw the activity and got the accolades. When Jim was in such pain from the cancer and treatment, many of his teammates and former opponents came to cheer and encourage Jim. But Frank? What a takeaway visual on how to walk the walk, so to speak.

There’s so much I want to say because I loved Kelly Tough that much. But it’s a book you need to read, whether you’re a football fan or not. I think you’ll be impressed by what Erin shares and how well she does. I sure was.

To purchase Kelly Tough, click here.

I received Kelly Tough from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Kelly Tough, Part One

81g0HcX146L._SL1500_I’m going to take two days to cover and review Kelly Tough by Erin and Jill Kelly. Today I want to give the backstory on why I wanted to review this book.

Most everyone knows I’m from Upstate NY. Although my hometown is Corning, I received my BA from the State University of New York at Geneseo. It was 1990-92 when I was there.

The school for the most part was divided into two categories: Upstate NY and NYC/Long Island. Now remember the time frame. Come Superbowl time, it was the Buffalo Bills and NY Giants. Talk about a battle. No, not the football teams. My friends.

When it came down to that one kick that unfortunately didn’t give the Bills a win, my dorm shook. No lie. The uproar between upstate and downstate probably scored on the Reichter scale.

Those were the Jim Kelly years and Geneseo was close enough to Buffalo somehow as an Upstate-er I felt a connection. There were times we heard the players used our track or were on their way to party at the exact places we were at. We had friends of friends of friends who had been to parties. He was part of my college scene by association and again, with that Superbowl moment, embedded into my college memories for life.

It seemed fitting as I graduated and moved on, the Bills kind of faded as well, at least as far Superbowl invitations and national fanfare. I’d hear Jim Kelly news here and there but I was busy carving out my place in Upstate NY.

The next phase where I felt a connection was after college, after marriage, after children. I was evolving as a woman of faith—not as tied to approval as I once was, but still not where I am today. It was the darkest time of my life. My dad was dying. My husband was on the precipice of moving to Ohio for a new job. Our baby was still sick with multiple breathing issues that often had her hospitalized. I wasn’t healed from her near death and how it came at a doctor’s hand. I heard about a women’s luncheon at our local radio station where Jill Kelly would be sharing. I knew Jill was married to Jim and that they had the little boy, Hunter. I thought it would be a nice break to see what she had to say.

Jill’s testimony remains a spiritual marker in my life. As she shared life with Hunter she talked about how each ER visit to them could mean his last. Our situations were different yet I knew that fear she spoke of. How many ER trips we’d endured. Our pede even gave me his personal cell in case I needed it. He had to convince me she was going to live to see her first birthday. When Jill spoke, the grief imploded and I sobbed as she spoke. She was so honest about her past and where her faith was at that moment. Where Jim was at spiritually. Then she shared a verse that was helping her through it all—the therapies, the ER visits, caring for her daughters, encouraging Jim.

 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

I grabbed that verse and held on for dear life as we navigated more grief, sickness and change. I followed the headlines as Hunter left this world. I never forgot that verse. As our daughter stabilized I prayed for the Kelly family. I couldn’t even fathom the depth of their grief.

Fast forward and I then read about Jim’s cancer. I lifted up prayers and continued to follow headlines. When I read the cancer came back, I felt my gut drop. I wanted to do something for them, still remembering how Jill’s talk gave me the courage to move forward in faith. How so many great college memories were intertwined with Jim and the Bills. The only thing I could think of was to pray. I wrote one out on the Facebook page, returning that same verse to them in their great time of need.

During this time I saw Erin’s posts on social media. As difficult as her situation was, a young woman already fluent in grief, sharing their journey to encourage others. I saw such a gift in her writing and a maturity in her faith.

And here we are. Kelly Tough is Erin’s account of her life and faith and I want to say more than that, but I’ll wait for my review tomorrow. But for a family I’ve never met, somehow when I read the Kelly name, I always perked up.

And I think I always will.

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Book Review: Be the Blessing by Paula Mowery

Posted by Julie on September 14, 2013 in Book Review, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

blessing

Addy is a pastor’s wife who knows when Conrad shows up, he has a message not only to bless Addy, but bless others. Conrad challenges her to be the blessing, and she experiences blessings in return as she leaves her comfort zone and is intentional about blessing others. When Addy is in need, she realizes she can still be a blessing.

This is the second release from Paula Mowery and it’s a powerful one that can be read in a sitting and still give an impact.  When Addy decides to be the blessing she encounters different situations I know I’ve probably walked past and never thought about, or just did it without thinking. Be the Blessing demonstrates that when we’re intentional and follow that still, small voice challenging us, we’re imitators of Christ. That’s powerful.

Like I mentioned, this is a quick read, yet full of emotional moments we can all relate to. I highly recommend anyone who desires to step out and love like Jesus get a hold of Be the Blessing. You won’t be disappointed.

To purchase Be the Blessing, click here.

I received a .pdf of Be the Blessing from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Thankful: Holly’s Thankful for Steven

I met Jesus today. He was about 6’2″, slender and walked with a slight limp. He’s has 3 surgeries to repair his broken back, but everyday he experiences excruciating pain. He’s got a beard speckled with grey, auburn and black hair. While we talk he nestles his hands under his chin and plays periodically with his beard. He holds a cigarette in his left hand, which is mostly ignored. His eyes speak volumes, as do the dark circles under his eyes. He wears a black hooded sweatshirt, jeans and work boots. A former Hells Angel, I see the tattoos on his hands and neck testifying of a past life. He’s been sober 17 years now.

 

Not exactly what you hand in mind was it? Ya. Well, me either.

 

 Matthew 25:37-40  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

What did I do when I met Jesus today? I listened. He had a lot to say.

 

I was sent on specific mission today: Listen to people’s stories. It seemed a bit odd considering the circumstances. Less than 5 weeks ago, a flood devastated our area. The news has stopped talking about it. Our congregations have stopped talking about it. And when people seemingly stop talking about someone or something….well, it’s forgotten. In hearing people’s stories, my hope is to spark action. How do you not react when you meet Jesus?

 

Let me get back to him. He’s the one with the story after all. It all started about 6 years ago. His wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which needed to be removed. The doctor ended up botching the surgery so badly, they needed to do 3 more surgeries in order to “fix” the damage he had done. During her recovery, Steven (that’s his real name) had been suffering stomach and backaches. Trying to put food on the table for his family, being that he was the only one working, he kept putting off going to see the doctor. When his wife forced him to finally go the doctors found he had stage 3 cancer. His 16 year old, decided to move in with her boyfriend and his family. She proceeded to get pregnant and have a baby who was born blind. Because her boyfriend’s stepfather was a registered sex offender CPS gave her baby to Steven and his wife. They are living purely on disability– after surviving cancer Steven broke his back at work (as mentioned earlier). His daughter proceeds to have another baby, which immediately gets taken away and given to Steven and his wife to take care of.

Two weeks later, the flood hits Steven’s home.

 

 

 

 

His heartbreaking story continues…and it doesn’t get better. Not at all. For 45 minutes as we stand out in his driveway–as he talks, I stand with mouth agape.  Water still standing in his yard. His house is INCHES away from being condemned. He proclaims that God has provided for him and his family every step of the way, but that he has lost faith in man. He shares example after example of how people had let him down. With a heavy heart, I let him know we will continue to help and pray. He thanks for me listening and we part ways. Me on to my next story….him on to more work.

 

I walk away thankful for having heard Steven’s story. It’s an extraordinary one I know, but it’s real-life. The story of a man who continues to stand on Jesus His Rock. Even when the waters rise and the rains fall. Mostly, I am thankful for Steven.

 

Holly is a 27-year old closet writer who doesn’t write nearly as much as she should. She’s a self admitted coffee addict and isn’t looking to break her addiction anytime soon.

 

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