The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof ~ a review

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Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

~ My Review ~

I. Am. Speechless.

It is not often that I give a book five stars. Yet every word within these pages makes it worth such a rating. Upon finishing I closed my kindle and simply sat for a while, with my head in my hands, tears in my eyes, and a sweet ache in my heart. It isn’t your typical light-and-fluffy romance novel. This book is powerful, with a depth that makes it stand out vibrantly among the many, many stories that cross my path. I laughed and cried,  groaned in frustration and cheered with joy, through each obstacle Charlie and Ella faced.

Behind the Cover for The Lady and the Lionheart:

One of the greatest things about this book (as with her others) is that it is an emotional roller coaster ride–without a fast-paced, action-packed story line. Each character simply reached out and wrapped themselves around my heart. I couldn’t help but be moved by the ups and downs of Charlie, Ella, Holland, and all the other dear characters I’ve grown to love.

It’s not just about the circus life, lions, nursing, or even a love story. It’s about the healing, redemption, and grace that can only come through God.  L&L was compelling, leaving me wanting more every time I finished a chapter. I lost  quite a bit of sleep in my eagerness to find out what would happen next. And then that epilogue…oh, be still my heart. Joanne Bischof KNOWS how to end a book.

If I had to describe Joanne’s writing in one word, it would be cadence. Because everything she writes has a gentle, natural ebb-and-flow of emotional conflict. The stories roll along in a way that invites you to pull up a chair, settle in with a mason jar of lemonade, and just visit with delightful, albeit fictitious, friends. Joanne doesn’t just write down heart-warming stories; she pours her heart out for us to read on ink and paper–especially with this, her latest and finest work thus far.

So five stars for The Lady and the Lionheart. And a hearty Brava to you, Joanne. *doffs top hat*

~ About the Author ~

Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne Bischof lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their homeschooled children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.

You can find Joanne on:

Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // YouTube // Her Blog

 

Find this book on:

 Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes&Noble

READ MY OTHER REVIEWS OF JOANNE’S BOOKS

Be Still My Soul // Though My Heart is Torn // My Hope is Found // This Quiet Sky

Am I a Friend of Sinners?

With all the troubles going on in our world only getting worse as time goes on, a verse keeps coming to my mind:

For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

It’s so much easier to judge unjustly. To pick out sin, point to our Bibles, and wield judgments left and right. No questions asked. No understanding offered. After all, what they’re doing is SIN. They’re wrong to sin like that. If we are kind and understanding, they’ll think we condone their sin. We can’t do that! They need to be told how wrong their sin is so they will be ashamed and repent.

But Jesus didn’t do that, did He? He hated sin, but loved the sinner. He offered the hope of redemption to those lost. He came to redeem, not condemn.

My favorite example of this is in John 8:

 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus, to condemn the woman, to prove their own righteousness. But Jesus saw the woman just as He sees every single other person: as a broken sinner who needs Him, His love, His free gift of salvation. He saw her not as someone who needed to be condemned, but as someone who needed forgiveness and salvation. He sees us as we are: broken, dirty, far separated from Him, and He stretches out His hand to us. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is simply that we as Christians have already realized our need to be saved and accepted the gift of God’s grace. Non-Christians have not, and they won’t until they see our love for God and our love for them–despite their sin.

It’s such a difficult balance: loving without condoning.  Which is one of the reasons I love the song Jesus, Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns so much. This song has been challenging me lately to be kinder, more merciful, and yet at the same time more just.

Isn’t it interesting how loving with God’s love, rather than pointing fingers, helps strengthen your convictions and your genuine desire to point others to Christ and His saving power? Shouldn’t we be heartbroken over the souls on their way to Hell because of their spiritual blindness, rather than condemning them for being a sinner just like you and I?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 6:23 (emphasis added)

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Boldly but lovingly speaking truth–of sin’s penalty and God’s justice, mercy, and love–is what God called us to do. Not to back down because we might hurt someone’s feelings or offend someone. Not to judge unjustly as we shout and wave our picket signs over our heads. Not to forget our own past sin and the extent of God’s saving grace.

It’s time to take the planks out of our eyes so that we can clearly see to actually help people and point them to Christ. We need to remember Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy for us, and then seek out those still lost in sin to share God’s love, grace, and mercy with them.

“Oh Jesus Friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”

Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh — a review

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Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?

~ My Review ~

If you are looking for a fun, light-hearted romance just right for Valentine’s Day, this is the book for you! It is sweet, charming, and hilarious, with memorable characters and an adorable setting–I mean who doesn’t love vintage and bookstores? The plot was so unique, especially in that a couple writing paper hearts to each other, to be read and enjoyed on Valentines Day, is a beautiful way to invest in your marriage. I hope to someday begin the tradition myself😉

One of the things that really stood out to me was how sweet and gentle paced the romance was. It happened at a believable pace, and there wasn’t “too much too soon”. Honestly, every time I opened the book, it felt like I was visiting friends. Abigail, Jacob, Kate, and the hilariously dear Valentine Volunteers all hold a special place in my heart. Delightfully romantic, Christian, and sweet, Paper Hearts has made its way onto my “favorites” shelf. Take my word for it–you don’t want to miss this fantastic book!

Oh, and by the way, here’s the ADORABLE book trailer for this darling book!

~ About the Author ~

Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright.

 

You can find Courtney on:

Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // Her Blog // Goodreads // Instagram

 Find this book on:

 Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes&Noble

One Word 2016

One Word 2016 | Everyday Encouragement

A few years ago, I started the tradition of picking  one word to ‘define’ my year. Or rather, asking God to give me a word to study in the year to come. This word is meant to  help guide my  devotions, helping me grow as a follower of Christ and helping me to learn more about  God. It’s a teaching/learning thing, and it’s challenging and convicting

In 2014, my word was FAITHFUL. (you can read more on this word here.) By the end of the year I thought I’d failed God in learning about  and practicing this word, but God hadn’t failed me. He was…faithful. And I saw His faithfulness in new ways every day that year. Through it all, He was faithful with love and forgiveness.

For 2015, God gave me the word HOPE.  At first I thought maybe He would give me a potential spouse in the ‘here’s-some-hope-for-your-future’ kind of way. And maybe He did, but the young man hasn’t stepped forward yet. I don’t know. What I do know is….a lot of things seemed to go wrong in my life in 2015. Almost to the point where I overlooked the good and forgot to appreciate the beautiful, like new and lasting friendships forged.  And as I was crying out to God about how unfair it was for Him to give hope to some and not to me this year, He ever so gently reminded me that through all of this, I have the Hope–certainty–of eternal life with Him. I have the Hope–certainty–that He is with me always, no matter what happens in my life. And maybe, just maybe, He allowed all those things to go wrong in my life so that I would find my Hope–certainty–and security in Him alone.

So as 2016 approached, I once again prayed and asked God to give me a word for the new year.  The very next day, I heard the song Thrive by Casting Crowns.  After that there was no doubt: 2016’s word would be THRIVE.

This year’s verse is John 10:10-

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

And this year’s goal? To develop a stronger prayer life, possibly inspired by War Room🙂

This year is fresh and new like the snow outside my window. I don’t know what this year holds, but I know Who holds this year…and my life…in Hi hands.

 

 

Thrive//2016

Merry Christmas!

 

Never been a huge Francesca Batistelli fan, but I heard this song a few weeks ago on the radio and it was too good not to share🙂

Also, I found this picture on facebook last night  and in it’s simplicity, it describes why we celebrate Christmas.

(click picture to go to source)

 

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Merry Christmas!