Fresh Start Bible: Giveaway and Review

Many people wait until New Year’s for new beginnings, but any time of year is perfect for a fresh start. What better way to grow our relationship with God than learning more about His Word? The Fresh Start Bible is designed to help us do just that.

What’s Unique about the Fresh Start Bible?

The Fresh Start Bible uses the New Living Translation (NLT) for its biblical scholarship as well as easy-to-read, dynamic writing style. A forward by Jimmy Evans includes his personal testimony and 52 lessons he wrote that address fundamental questions, such as:

  • Who made me?
  • Why do people die?
  • How can I be saved?
  • Why should I be baptized?
  • Can I be saved without baptism?
  • How do I deal with anxiety and worry?
  • How do I build godly relationships?

After this foreword are the Old and New Testaments, and sprinkled among the books of the Bible are supplemental articles by church leaders. They are designed to break down practical teachings and inspire spiritual growth.

Following the Scriptures themselves is a section titled “Intersections” that examines major characters in the Bible’s narrative. Their purpose is to show God’s faithfulness and relationship with men and women through history. Finally, there are also full-color maps that show where Scriptural events take place, including:

  • Topography of Palestine
  • World of the Patriarchs
  • Ministry of Jesus
  • Paul’s Missionary Journeys

What Features Make this Bible a Great Gift?

My church has put a real emphasis on finding our “one,” at least one person God has placed in our lives to be a friend who needs Christian encouragement or an unbeliever who needs someone to point him to Christ. This Bible would be a great gift for my “one” or your “one” for a couple reasons:

  • The first page provides a special place to write someone’s name, your name, the occasion, and date.
  • An easy-to-use table of contents outlines the front matter, books of the Bible, and resources at the end of the edition.
  • Welcome letter by Pastor Robert Morris: This conversational letter invites new and seasoned believers alike to be intentional in reading God’s Word and also explains some of the resources.

My Review Summary

The supplemental material provided throughout this Bible makes it highly approachable and helpful, especially for seekers and new believers. However, readers should understand that none of this information adds to God’s inspired Word, nor do I think that to be the intent of the contributors and publisher. While these commentaries and practical insights offer guidance, readers should still exercise discernment and be aware that believers may disagree on certain areas of practice.

For example, one of the lessons by Jimmy Evans asks the question, “Why should I pray in tongues?” This question assumes that readers should pray in tongues, which is a debatable topic among denominations. Personally, I believe tongues was a unique gift fitted for a unique time period (the church in the book of Acts). However, I can respect Jimmy Evans and others who believe it still has a place today. As with any interpretation of Scripture, readers should exercise discernment and prayerfully examine Scripture and its context.

A Giveaway for You

All that said, I’m glad to find this new resource and look forward to sharing it with others, starting with you! This week, you can enter to win a free copy of the Fresh Start Bible here on the blog. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Like this post and add a comment, explaining why you would enjoy this Bible or why you’d like to give it as a gift.
  2. Share any of my related posts on Facebook or Twitter and tag me in them. (You must tag me so I’m aware that you shared the post and can add you to the drawing.)
  3. Do more than one to be entered multiple times!

“No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus wants to give you a fresh start.” Learn how you could win a copy of the Fresh Start Bible at KristenHogrefe.com.

As we close out this year and anticipate the next, may we cherish God’s Word, prayerfully study it, and seek to know our Maker and Savior more.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to the Blog About Network for hosting this giveaway.

Author Chat with Ruth Buchanan on Unseasonable, Her Comedic Christmas Novella

I’m excited to welcome author Ruth Buchanan to the blog! Her latest release, her Christmas novella Unseasonable, launched yesterday, and today, she shares with us about the story.

Florida hurricanes in winter are rare but do happen. Did any real-life hurricane experience influence this story?

Ruth: In a roundabout way, yes. In 2016, I was just putting the finishing touches on my novel Unbreakable when Hurricane Matthew blew over my home in South Florida. I hadn’t evacuated, and I hunkered down behind my aluminum shutters praying that the power wouldn’t go out (or the roof blow off). Under such circumstances, it was easy to imagine how my central characters would respond in similar circumstances. Particularly Ann Cooper, who has such a physically demanding outdoor job. 

The sisterly affection/antagonism between Rachel and Ann feels so natural. Did any of your real-life relationships help shape these character dynamics?

Ruth: Absolutely. I have two sisters, Lisa and Bethany. The sisterly dynamic Ann and Rachel maintain is based in part on my relationships with them. The three of us shared one bedroom when we were growing up, and we’ve shared apartments as adults, though not all at the same time. Even with grown siblings who get along well, it’s amazing how easily the pettiness of childhood creeps into our adult interactions.   

I also liked that Unseasonable shows Christmas isn’t confined to any seasonal expectations. Why is this message so relevant to our culture today? 

Ruth: “Christmas” as an American cultural celebration has really gotten away from its roots, with its explosion of materialistic tradition divorced from spiritual practice. At its core, the Christian observation of Advent calls for meditating specifically on the miracle of Christ’s physical incarnation, a truth with implications reaching far beyond seasons or even our earth itself, impacting the whole of cosmic creation. 

The authentic humor in Unseasonable is a trademark of your writing. What role do humor and authenticity play in crafting a story that will resonate with readers?

Ruth: Thank you for saying that! Humor and authenticity are absolutely central to how I seek to express myself as a writer. 

In fiction, we want to walk away with a sense that we’ve experienced something that really could have happened alongside characters who really could exist. It’s vital that my characters act like real people–sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes flat-out ridiculous. I love when readers tell me they laughed out loud during a story or that they would totally hang out with my characters. Or date them (ahem Moss). In my estimation, those are some of the highest compliments they could pay. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers about Unseasonable?

Ruth: I truly hope you enjoy it! My hope is that Florida residents will find their experiences mirrored in Unseasonable and that non-Florida residents will want to see what all the fuss is about.

Just don’t visit during hurricane season.


To learn more about Unseasonable, you can read my full review on Goodreads. I’m confident this short read will leave a smile on your face.

If you’re in the mood for a hilarious holiday read, check out Unseasonable by @RuthMBuchanan, available now on Amazon.


About Ruth:

Ruth Buchanan is a Christian freelance writer who holds degrees in ministry and theology. She writes fiction, non-fiction, plays, and sacred scripts. She’s an eager reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and the world’s most reluctant runner. Ruth loves Jesus, family, church, friends, and coffee. She lives and works in South Florida.

Two YA Authors to Read this Spring PLUS a Giveaway!

Spring weather in Florida is blissful and hints that summer is just around the corner! Maybe you have an official spring break, or maybe, you’re in my camp and don’t technically get one. Regardless, you can still hop in to some spring reading. If you’re a sunshine girl like me, I suggest grabbing a beach towel, some sun protection, and a book you’ve been wanting to read to enjoy the best of both worlds (in my case, Florida and fiction).

Perhaps you’ve finished your current read and are looking for something new. If you enjoy young adult fiction, here are two authors worth adding to your list. Also, be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post, because there’s a chance to enter a spring giveaway of 30 books (including one of my own) and a grand prize!

Emily Golus

Today, Golus’ sequel to Escape to Vindor releases, and I’m excited to share my review of Mists of Paracosmia with you. When Golus invited me to be an advance reader, I said yes, even though I was in the middle of wedding planning.

Golus spins another page-turning fantasy adventure in this sequel. This time, instead of Megan translating to Vindor, her younger brother finds himself there. Arden has been bullied at school, and when he hears there are Samurai in Vindor, he thinks he’s found his chance to train and teach the bullies a lesson when he returns home. However, though his journey, he learns the qualities that make a real warrior and hero are sacrificial, not selfish. Plus, Vindor’s problems are much larger than his own, and somehow, he must find a way to help.

I loved how Golus developed the sibling relationship between Megan and Arden. While Arden is trapped in Vindor, Megan is desperate to find a way to get him back—and risks everything in the process. We also see a more mature Megan in this story as she is now in college and learning what true friendship, and perhaps romance, looks like.

The ending was well-foreshadowed and still offered a delightful surprise. Why do the mists destroy memories in Vindor, and who controls them? This fantasy, with its well-crafted world building and lovable characters, offers a clean, thought-provoking, and memorable story readers of all ages will enjoy.

Lisa Mayer

Mayer’s first book in the Aletheian Journeys, The Arrow Bringer, released in March, which happened to be my wedding month. I had planned to read the book during my honeymoon travels but finished before I left because I had to find out what happened to the characters!

From the opening sentence, I was invested in Evie’s story. She’s dying of leukemia yet about to embark on the most important quest of her life, one that will decide the fate of her people and her soul.

Mayer’s descriptions are so vivid that the scenes spring to life in my imagination. Her world-building is masterful, and she makes me genuinely care about the characters. This story very much reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia with its redemptive theme. From what I hear, there’s a sequel, and I’ll be watching for it.

Spring Giveaway

Now through May 4, you have the chance to win thirty books and a $100 Amazon gift card! I’ve partnered with other Christian fiction authors in this event, hosted by Celebrate Lit, and am offering one of my own books, a Kindle copy of The Revisionary, as one of the prizes. I’d love for you to take home some good reads and the grand prize!

Click the image below to enter the giveaway or learn more at the Facebook event.

Do you already have books lined up for your spring reading? If so, please share in the comments!

Kristen

 

Tweetable

Two YA Authors to Read this Spring PLUS a Giveaway! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

 

Renegades Review: Inside a Superhero’s Skin

Is it possible that some villains are unlikely heroes, and that perhaps some heroes are a little villainous? Marissa Meyer’s Renegadesthe first in a young adult science fiction trilogy, trails two teen prodigies, both with superhuman abilities, but from different sides of the fence.

Nova, alias Nightmare, had expected the Renegades to save her when a villain gang murdered her family. But those lifesaving superheroes didn’t come. Instead, her Uncle Ace Anarchy, lead villain of the Anarchists, rescued her and made her his protege. But when the Renegades defeated the Anarchists in an epic battle, they killed her uncle. Two strikes give Nova reason to want revenge. Infiltrating the Renegades during their prodigy selection trials might let her do just that.

But then there’s Adrian, alias Sketch, the adopted son of two superhero Renegade Council members. Did I mention Nova herself had attempted to assassinate one of them a few days ago? Adrian wants justice for the villain Nightmare who almost killed his father and answers, because he thinks she knows who killed his mother.  Of course, he has no clue that Nightmare is Nova, the new superhero on his team who’s slowly stealing his heart. And naturally, she doesn’t realize Adrian has secrets of his own.

Fresh Twist on Superheroes 

Some of my students have raved about Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, and after reading Renegades, I can understand why. Her writing style is delightful and relatable, and in this case, offers a fresh twist on superhero fiction. She doesn’t redo a classic good versus evil or repeat the more recently overdone anti-hero trope typical in this genre.

Instead, she presents two protagonists on missions they sincerely believe will help make their world a better place. Their motivations make sense, and even as they seek to reach their own objectives, they knowingly or unknowingly begin to sympathize with each other.

The takeaway for me is to understand other people’s perspectives. The story reminded me of what Atticus said in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Meyer invites us to climb inside the skins of these two characters to empathize with them both. Truth is, if they want to defeat the real villains, they’re going to have to work together.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

I recommend this mainstream book to my fellow Christian fiction readers with one word of caution. Adrian has two adoptive “dads,” superhero leaders of the Council. This lifestyle is presented as normal, though at one point Adrian jokes that he was “obviously” adopted.

Although today’s culture views such a family unit as “the new norm,” the Bible makes clear that God designed marriage for one man and one woman in a covenant relationship (Genesis 2).

I do appreciate that Meyer does not make any explicit references to their relationship, but would encourage readers, as with all books, to be discerning.

Archenemies, the second installment in the trilogy, releases this November, and because I care about Nova and Adrian, I want to find out how Meyer develops their already complicated relationship.

Read on! What books have you finished recently?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Renegades Review: Inside a Superhero’s Skin – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Fighting Fear through Fantasy

At the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I met author Emily Golus, whose young adult fantasy, Escape to Vindor, won the Selah Award for its category. I was instantly drawn to her sincere, winsome personality and looked forward to reading her novel.

Last week, I read it. Yes, the story is incredible, but beyond that, I was moved by how much it personally challenged me.

Summary

Megan Bradshaw can defeat a sphynx when she’s imagining her alter-ego Selena in the fantasy world of Vindor, but in real life, she bombs oral speeches and dreads the idea of moving to a new school. If only she could be Selena all the time!

But when Megan gets her wish and finds herself transported to Vindor, she’s in over her head. Vindor faces a growing threat from a mysterious Shadow, and unless she can find the real guardian Selena, Vindor might perish. She, Megan Bradshaw, is a sham, and it’s only a matter of time until everyone finds out.

When reality hits that there is no other Selena to rescue Vindor, Megan must confront the Shadow and her own fears to save the world and creatures she loves.

Review and Take-Away

Golus’ writing, world building, and characterization are masterful, but what I loved even more was the theme for readers to apply to their own lives. When Megan discovers that the Shadow feeds on fear, she sees how fear controls her life and the lives of others. She develops self-awareness for the root cause of her fears and the lies they tell her.

We readers have seen the theme that love conquers fear before, but the way Golus develops Megan’s journey of discovery, climaxing with her understanding of the ultimate Love, truly touched me. It challenged me to identify and confront my own fears and take them to my God who is so much greater than them.

The spiritual thread runs seamlessly through the story in a quiet but confident way. Middle school and older readers will enjoy this book. I’m adding Golus to my favorite author list.

Return to Vindor

Perhaps the best Instagram news from last week was Golus’ post that there’s going to be a sequel. Readers can return to Vindor in 2019! You can follow the author for updates and more at worldofvindor.com.

What’s your latest favorite read and why did you love it? Share your thoughts in the comments. Happy reading!

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Fighting Fear through Fantasy – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Escape to Vindor: YA Fantasy Book Review by @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Adored: Book Giveaway & Review

Each year about this time, I start thinking about a daily devotional book to supplement my Scripture reading. Some of my favorites in the past have included Charles Stanley’s Every Day in His Presence and Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. When people ask me for recommendations, I sometimes hesitate because while I enjoy the ones I read, they might not be the best fit for everyone.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to Lindsay A. Franklin’s Adored, a daily devotional intentionally designed for young women (middle or high school age). The short selections for each day touch on issues relevant to today’s teens and offer biblical perspective on common struggles and questions, including:

  • Why should I attend church?
  • How can God’s promises help me weather life’s storms?
  • Does God care when I feel like an outsider and like I don’t belong?
  • How do I deal with bullying?
  • How can I invite God’s guidance into my life?
  • Is it possible to truly know God?
  • Why did God create me this way?

Throughout the daily challenges runs the thread of the reader being God’s adored daughter, someone who is precious in His sight. For young women today who constantly feel the world’s pressuring messages, telling them they’re not “good enough,” this devotional offers the much-needed grounding truth that they are unconditionally loved by and valuable to God.

Each daily reading begins with Scripture and ends with space to jot down notes, thoughts, or a prayer. Though not designed to be an exclusive daily reading, this devotional offers an excellent jump-start to a young woman’s daily quiet time. (Speaking from personal experience, I often need something to help focus my mind where it needs to be before diving deeper into God’s Word.)

A Giveaway for You

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to show a special teenage girl some love than give her something she’ll actually use to help build her relationship with God in the new year? There’s even space in the front of the book for you to personalize the gift.

Today, I’m excited to share a special giveaway opportunity. You can enter to win a copy of Adored! Here’s how:

  • Simply leave a comment below.
  • Share my Facebook post from my author page and tag me.
  • Share the Tweet below.
  • You can do one or all of the above!

I’ll announce the winner at the end of next week’s post, which by the way, you won’t want to miss! My friend and blogger Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com will be sharing tips on how to speak the truth in love.

Take time this week to let a teenager know how much you care and how much God adores her or him.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to The Blythe Daniel Agency for making this book giveaway possible!

 

Tweetables

Adored: Book Giveaway & Review – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway! Adored by Lindsay A. Franklin – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Giving God Your Future: A Review & Giveaway

women-of-faithbible-study-giveawayThe title of this Women of Faith Bible study immediately grabbed my attention. Since I was a teenager, I’ve wondered about God’s will, how to know it, and how to live it out each day. After all, doing God’s will today determines where I’ll find myself tomorrow.

Although my desire was in the right place, my motivation wasn’t. I mistakenly thought if I followed the straight and narrow, I’d be able to better manage my life with fewer surprises.

Instead, God’s will sometimes means I have just enough light to see the next step. For a planner like me, that’s been hard. (If you can relate,  chapter 3 “It’s My Life” is for you.)

However, the better we know God’s Word, the better we know God, and the more confidently we can trust him.

That’s why this study has resonated with me. In the foreword, Thelma Wells explains the the book’s purpose this way:

This courageous study will help you to become willing to trust God with your everything because He is the God of everything.

Amen!

Giving God Your Future: A Review

We pick up some books to help us unwind from a long day and entertain us with a story. This Women of Faith study is not one of those books.

It’s designed to be a companion, a tool for those who want to dig deep into God’s Word and learn more about His purpose for their lives. When I open it, I come prepared with my Bible, notebook and pen.

The introduction to each chapter begins with an example or story, along with a “clearing the cobwebs” question that makes sure the brain is ready to engage.

Yes, this book is a study, either for your individual quiet time or for use with a Bible study group. Each chapter breaks down further into sections, consisting of Bible passages to read and questions to consider. It immerses you in God’s Word as you learn more about who God is and what kind of plan He has for your life.

It’s organized into twelve chapters, ideally one for each week of the study. Each lesson concludes with “digging deeper” passages for those who want to spend some extra time learning about the topic.

The chapters also finish with a short section called “Trinkets to Treasure.” These “trinkets” are visual objects or imaginary “souvenirs” to help us remember the lesson itself. For example, chapter one talks about the role of the Good Shepherd in our lives, and the trinket is a “shepherd’s crook,” reminding us “that the Lord will lead us aright” (8).

At first, I thought, “That’s weird. It’s not tangible; it’s just a drawing.” Then, I came to chapter 10 where the trinket is a level. The study says, “We use them [levels] to keep things squared up around the house. We can use this little gadget to remind us to keep our lives squared up with God” (85).

The day before, I had used a mini level to hang a picture in my new house. I’m terrible with tools, but it did help the picture not be conspicuously crooked.

Aha moment! Now the trinket made sense to me. How I would love to have a level that would keep me lined up with God’s Word, reminding me His promises are always true and His Word is unchanging!

This experience taught me that there’s something in a Bible study for everyone. What resonates with one person might not with another. The bottom line, though, is that God’s Word holds the guidance and direction we need for our futures, and when we meditate on it, we won’t be disappointed.

Giveaway: Not One, but Three Studies!

I’m grateful to The Blythe Daniel Agency for the opportunity to review this study and give away, not just one, but three Women of Faith studies!

The winner of the random drawing for Giving God Your Future will also receive the other two, either for personal use or to share with someone else.

To enter, simply do one of the following: 

  • Leave a comment below. (It can be a comment about this post or something as simple as: Please enter me into your drawing.)
  • Subscribe to the KristenHogrefe.com newsletter.
  • Share this post on Twitter and tag me @kjhogrefe.
  • Share my Facebook post with your friends.

The winner of the random drawing will be announced on this blog next week.

On that note, you won’t want to miss next week’s post! I’m also going to share a sneak preview about my upcoming book with Write Integrity Press.

Until then, have a blessed week!

Kristen

 

Tweetable

Women of Faith Book Review & Giveaway – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)