Focused by Julie B. Cosgrove

This the first book of Ms. Cosgrove’s I have read. I have never seen a Christian fiction novel dealing with the subject of middle age and all the new struggles that come with it: aging, empty nest, insecurities about personal value, appearance, and starting a new chapter of marriage without children. While I have not experienced some of the issues her character Christina did, the author was very accurate in describing the emotions and confusion that goes with this time of life. I still enjoy the books about young women stepping into the prime of life, but I found it refreshing to read about the years to come. This is a great read for those facing that time, but would be good also for those who have yet to experience it.
Christina was close approaching her 50th birthday, and her only son had recently moved out. After years of nurturing and focusing on her son, she was suddenly left in limbo. The reality of how her marriage had shifted after years of putting all her energies into raising her son and caring for her home and family, hit home in a hard way. Who was this man she was left with? She didn’t know him, nor did he seem to know her. She could remember the handsome young guy she fell head over hills in love with, but the one that lived with her wasn’t him anymore Too make matters worse she had lost both her parents a few years back. She felt so alone. The curtain has dropped and she glaringly sees what her life has become, and in some ways only what she perceives it to be.
After what she terms a “non-fight” with her husband Jeff that morning, she allows her menopausal emotions to run way, calls in sick to work and on impulse takes off to her parents old summer cottage miles away. Stranded there by unexpected flooding and taking refuge in the home of two seniors she knew as a child, she is reunited with her old boyfriend, their son, who is visiting. (Don’t worry, no adulterous affair happens.)
Sitting in the old cottage, surrounded memories she is able to do some real soul searching and crying. There she feels the Lord speaking to her about her life. She decides then and there she is going to make big changes in herself, her attitude, and her marriage. Of course decisions like these never come without being tested. I liked the fact the story dealt with real life feelings and obstacles. This helped me relate even more to the characters.
The title is so appropriate. As with most women their early years are focused on raising a family and all the responsibilities that go with it. The change was so gradual she didn’t realize she had become focused on how she expected things to be; focused on how she felt her husband should be, focused on what her needs were in the marriage, focused on what others thought of her, focused on taking care of others and neglecting herself, and in all this focusing, she forgot to focus on God. Mixed in were all the misunderstandings that go along with a couple that has quit communicating. This is real life! There are surprises and lots of wonderful humor along the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Ms. Cosgrove did a brilliant job of genuinely portraying this time of life we must all face. I look forward to reading more of her books! I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Deeply loved by Keri Wyatt Kent

So many devotional books are . . . well rather mundane and dry. When I started this one, I wasn’t expecting much more than just a daily essay and a scripture to read. I was blown away! Yes it has devotions and scriptures but it is much more. I have to say it is one of the most powerful devotional books I have read. It isn’t so much the concepts that are covered; I was familiar with many of them. What makes it so unique is HOW Ms. Kent presents them and the wonderful suggestions she shares to apply them to your life!
Shortly after I started reading the book I got very sick for 3 weeks, and didn’t do much but rest. This book was such a blessing! I read, I studied, and even in my depleted state I was able to do the daily “Presence Practice” suggested at the end day. These weren’t only easy to implement, but they influenced my life in a big way.
Each day is written in such a way that the message in it becomes very intimate and personal; as if it was prepared just for me. It lighted a path for me to have an even closer relationship with God and helped me realize where I had drifted away from Him. The personal experiences she shared really helped me connect to the points she was making.
I found this book highly inspirational and motivational in seeking a closer relationship with the Lord. Even after I had finished the daily reading, the scriptures and thoughts I read continued to resonate in my heart and mind. My book is highlighted, underlined and has many notes written in it. I plan to read it many more times. Call it a “devotional book” just doesn’t do it justice! An extraordinary book!
I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book by Lois Rock

This sticker book is perfect to put in a child’s Easter basket. With so many people wanting to get away from all the holiday candy, this is a great alternative. It also is wonderful reminder of the true meaning of Easter, Christ’s death and resurrection.
The book is more than just children’s activity sticker books on the market. Its quality and construction is like a regular paperback book.
The story is told on a child’s level of understanding. It is great how they got the message across without being wordy. The pictures are colorful and well-illustrated. These are definite positives for keeping a child’s attention. With their participation and adding the stickers as you read I believe not only will they listen but the will also retain more.
There are many children’s sticker books out there, but this one had several features that definitely made it top of the line. The stickers were also bright and colorful and there was a generous number. I liked how sturdy the stickers are for little hands to handle without tearing. Torn stickers always frustrate my grandchildren.
My favorite thing is because of the quality of the book, it can be a part of the child’s permanent reading library. Each time they read it they will be proud that they had a part in “making” it. A very nice book!
I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Les Misérables (Radio Theatre) Audiobook CD

Les Misérables
Focus on the Family

I must confess I have never read Les Misérables or seen the movie so my mind was a fresh canvas for this book on CD. My experience with Focus on the Family has always been positive. Anything I have purchased from them has been beyond excellent and Les Misérables proved to be the same quality.
We had a long car trip to make, so my husband and I listened to it on the road. I must say the 3 CD’s of 169 minutes were over way too soon! We thoroughly enjoyed it and were sorry to have it end. The Focus on the Family Theatre did an outstanding job in every area, from the cast, to the production, to the music. Everything was so vivid I could picture each character and scene in my mind.
The story takes place in 19th-century France, a time of great political turmoil. Ex-convict Jean Valjean had paid his time, 19 long years for stealing bread for his sister and children, and numerous attempted escapes. He is released but to be marked as an ex-convict the rest of his life. This guarantees him being an outcast as long as he lives. This only fuels the bitterness and hatred he is already filled with.
The first person to show him respect and kindness is Bishop Myriel. Valjean repays this by stealing his silver and running off in the night. When captured and brought back to the bishop, the godly man tells the police he gave him the silver and gives him even more. The bishop tells him God has spared him, take the silver, and live a new life for the Lord. Although not immediate, the wise man’s words and benevolence have an impact on Valjean.
Six years later and he is living under the alias Monsieur Madeleine, a wealthy factory owner, and well respected mayor of a town. His life has become the epitome morality, sacrifice, and generosity.
His rescue of an injured man alerts Inspector Javert, a guard at the time of his long imprisonment, to who the mayor may really be. Javert is as filled with hatred and unforgiveness as Valjean is now filled with forgiveness and love.
Once again Valjean is pursued and on the run. Even in the face of these cruel turn of events, Valjean continues to live his life for Christ as many harrowing, and unjust circumstances are thrown his way. Not once does he waver in his deep love for others, nor counting the cost for doing what is right in the face of impossible obstacles.
The story beautifully portrays a Christian hero whose rewards and praise would only come when he meets his Maker. It is entertaining, inspiring, and emotional. I can’t wait to listen to it again!
I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Fierce Compassion By Kristin and Kathryn Wong

I was familiar with the horrors of Civil War slavery and the cruel mistreatment of Negros, as this is part of our U.S. History education. What I was not aware of was that Chinese immigrants in the latter part of the 1800’s and even into the early 20th century were also forced into slavery and abused.
How rare to find a well written, interesting book that also has something to teach. The Wong’s certainly changed my perceptions and opened my eyes to this other horrific time of human slavery and exploitation in our country. Fierce Compassion was several things rolled into one. It was a history lesson, a biography, and an inspiring Christian story.
In my mind, California’s Chinatown was a quaint gathering of Chinese establishing a home in America. This wasn’t the case at all. Chinatown was created in 1882 when Chinese, no longer needed for mining or railroad work, were looked upon as a threat to jobs for Americans. The Exclusion Act of 1882 crammed more than 70,000 Chinese in San Francisco into a 12 block area. If any dared leave the area, they would be harassed and attacked. With it being illegal for them to marry Americans and men could not bring wives and women from China legally. With these problems and the shortage of food and work, they turned on their own to survive. The area became a hot bed of crime, human slavery and a thriving sex slave trade at the expense of innocent and unknowing young girls. Chinese girls were purchased under the cover of giving them opportunities, while some were abducted then smuggled into the U.S. Here they were sold into a life of prostitution and treated like animals. The book begins with the heartbreaking story of one of these girls.
Donaldina Cameron was the perfect example of being a faithful Christian, minding her own business, making her plans and then God calling her, totally unexpectedly, to serve Him. A friend visits the family and shares about the Mission House in Chinatown and the great work being done there to rescue slave girls. She suggests Donaldina visit and serve as a sewing teacher to the girls; she agrees to go for 1 year. The visit became a calling and she became director of the Mission.
From that point on she gave her life to rescue and care for these young women. Her job was exhausting, extremely dangerous, and heartbreaking. Prostitution, venereal disease, and drug addiction are common knowledge due to our access to print and media information, but in that era Christian, upright people knew little of the details. You can imagine how shocking and even repulsive these things were to a gentile woman such as Donaldina who had lived such a sheltered life.
Not only did she face and deal with the things, she met them head on with compassion and faith in God, never thinking of herself. Her rescues and dealings with the Chinese criminals and gangs revealed in the book are astounding. She reminded me of Amy Carmichael who gave her life to rescuing the Temple children of India. Ms. Cameron gave her entire life to these scarred and hurting girls. Her story is nothing short of amazing.
I liked the pictures throughout the book of Ms. Cameron, the Mission and the children. These, and the rich details about the girls, their situations, challenges Donaldina faced, and the rescues, combined with the skilled writing of the Wong’s, truly brought this book to life! I know I have already said a lot but truly I am a loss of words to convey what a wonderful work this book is. You will definitely want to read it!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the authors in exchange for my honest review. I am not required to write a positive review.