Tag Archives: memoir

Spotlight on Memoir — The Wisdom of Winter

6 Sep

I am so pleased to spotlight the latest book by Jackie K. Cooper. His memoir, The Wisdom of Winter, released yesterday. The subtile, Reflections from The Journey, is perfect for the stories gathered over the last 30 years that Jackie shares. This collection promises to be something very special. You can discover more about Jackie and his book below.

Jackie will be joining our local book festival, Turning A New Page, in January as a panelist.

Jackie K. Cooper has spent the last three decades of his life gathering his memories of growing up in the South. He has studied the various seasons of his life and having reached the winter season, he offers reflections on lessons learned, the people who have influenced him, the role of God’s hand in his journey, and the good fortune with which he has been blessed. These stories are presented in a narrative format and are as easy to absorb as a conversation between two friends spending an afternoon on the porch on a breezy summery day. The tea is sweet, and the stories are a mixture of the funny and the sad, but still heartwarming. Cooper’s collection of his “wisdom of winter” is here to be shared, so open this book and let your mind be free to rest and relax, to listen and learn, to anticipate and appreciate.

Jackie K. Cooper was born in South Carolina and now lives in Georgia. He is the married father of two sons and the proud grandparent of a boy and three girls.

He is familiar to people living in the middle Georgia area as the “entertainment man” since his entertainment reviews run in newspapers and are shown on television there. His short stories have been used as commentary on Georgia Public Radio. He also keeps active appearing as an after dinner speaker for various events.

Cooper has lived an exceptionally interesting life and portions of it were contained in his first book “JOURNEY OF A GENTLE SOUTHERN MAN”. The journey continued in “CHANCES AND CHOICES”. His third book “HALFWAY HOME” was published by Mercer University Press in October 2004. His fourth book THE BOOK BINDER was published in the fall of 2006.

Happy Release Day — The Bucket List Journey Home

11 Jul

Happy release day to Amy Smith Hobbs. I know it must be a bittersweet day as The Bucket List Journey Home details the Amy’s experience of walking with her mother through pancreatic cancer. Find out more about this faith-building book below.

When Amy’s mother created her final bucket list, no one could have guessed how much healing it would bring. Sometimes, the greatest miracles happen in the most unexpected ways, and God shows His faithfulness even as life nears its end.

Amy S. Hobbs was a successful attorney in her home state of Georgia when her mother received a surprising diagnosis: stage IV pancreatic cancer, with six weeks to live. After leaving her job and bringing her mother into her home to start hospice care, the family was left with a simple question: What’s the next best step?

While deciding how best to live out the remainder of her life, Amy’s mother came up with a bucket list of all the things she desired to do. With sixty-nine items on her list, Amy’s mother and her family set out on a season of life-giving adventures.

Family and friends rallied together. Forgiveness was extended, and broken relationships restored. And Amy’s family found the courage and strength in Christ to face the inevitable with grace and joy.

This memoir is a sweet reminder of God’s goodness and unconditional love, and it is the perfect gift for anyone facing grief, loss, or terminal illness with their loved ones. Filled with powerful stories and heart-healing metaphors, The Bucket List Journey Home is a testament of God’s tremendous faithfulness in seasons of trial-from the support of Amy’s family and friends to the unwavering faith and courage of a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart.

Amy S. Hobbs is a Georgia native and attorney who was raised in the small town of Vidalia, but currently resides in Cumming with her husband and three children—who are her greatest joys. She is a proud alum of the University of Georgia and a small group women’s ministry leader at Browns Bridge Church. Amy now writes to tell her mother’s story—one of unwavering faith and courage to live life to the fullest. You can often find her at UGA football events, gardening, spending time on the lake, or on her front porch swing with family and friends. For more information, please visit author’s website at https://amyshobbs.wixsite.com/author.

Audiobook Mini-Review — Beautiful Country

15 Jun

I kept going back and forth on whether to review Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang. One of the members of a book club I am in recommended it after seeing it on Jenna Bush Hager’s book list. For those of you who only read Christian Fiction or clean reads, this book is probably not for you (the adult language alone will turn many off). Beautiful Country is a memoir of Wang’s childhood spent as an undocumented immigrant. Her parents brought her to America legally — they all had visas. But they let them lapse and spent a number of years in NYC working low paying, off the books jobs. Wang’s perceptions of prejudice, poverty, fear of discovery as a Chinese illegal immigrant are interesting, but . . . . My book club had mixed reactions. One member found the book boring and disliked some of the language and descriptions. Others felt is was just ok. One thing we all agreed upon was that our country’s immigration policy, then and now, is abysmal and in need of an overhaul. The book is from a child’s perspective, so we did not get answers to a few of our questions about her experiences. Wang is the narrator for the audiobook, which was a plus for me.

While I would never have picked this book up on my own, I admit I am glad I listened to it. A reader does not have to agree with the politics of an author to gain insight into their struggles and viewpoints. For more info, check out the details below.

(I purchase the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.

In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.

But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.

Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.

Qian Julie Wang is a graduate of Yale Law School and Swarthmore College. Formerly a commercial litigator, she is now managing partner of Gottlieb & Wang LLP, a firm dedicated to advocating for education and civil rights. Qian Julie’s writing has appeared in major publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Cut, and she has appeared on the TODAY Show, MSNBC, and NPR. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two rescue dogs, Salty and Peppers.

Book Spotlight/Author Interview — There Is Hope

25 Jan

About The Book

Book: There Is Hope

Author: Carla Huelsmann

Genre: Journal, devotional, memoir

Release Date: August, 2018

52 life lessons for those struggling with major illness will inspire hope and encourage those suffering to take back control of their lives.

Carla Huelsmann dealt with the daily impact of seizures since age two. Her life-long battle with epilepsy impacted all parts of her life, family, career, self-confidence, and independence until corrective brain surgery ended the seizures. Free from the debilitating seizures and their accompanying residues of doubt and fear, Carla Huelsmann lives independently and shares her story to help others along their own journeys.

Part journal, part devotional, and part memoir, this is a book of hope, faith, and inspiration. The book addresses the fears, challenges, and questions about the future those going through a major illness, debilitating injury, or life crisis may have. Designed as a traveling companion for those facing challenging circumstances, each one-page entry is accompanied by blank space for the reader to journal his or her own thoughts and prayers.

My goal is to give hope, help, healing, and resources. I want to walk alongside others and assure them they are not alone; there is hope. — Carla Huelsmann

Click here to get your copy!

About The Author

Carla Huelsmann earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Illinois University, subsequently taught grades five through eight, and now works for the US Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Louis, MO. The alumnus of a fiction-writing course at Southern Illinois University, and the CLASS Seminar with Marita and Florence Littauer, she is also the author of articles on her experiences, and is available to speak.

More from Carla

I want to inspire and equip others struggling with epilepsy or other major illnesses to take back control of their lives. Eighteen years after corrective surgery, I live a seizure-free life that I feel in control of. And, I want to share my story and lessons learned with others facing serious challenges. My goal is to give hope, help and healing and resources of helpful information in one book. I want to walk alongside them and assure them that they are not alone and there is hope!

I’ve dealt with seizures, epilepsy and their daily impact since the age of two. It has impacted my family, career, self-confidence, independence and much more. Through it all, family, friends and faith have provided bedrock sources of strength. In addition, timely interventions by doctors, new contacts, new techniques and self-discipline came at opportune times through perseverance.

Now free from the tunnel of doubt, fear and debilitating seizures, I’ve gathered up my collection of personal journals and thoughts in order to help others along their journey. “There Is Hope: Bloom Where You are Planted” is a devotional for someone going through major illness, major injury, or life crisis.

Author Q&A

When did you first realize you were a writer?

I realized I was a writer when I had brain surgery for seizures at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN on November 7, 2000.    After I had the surgery and during the recovery process of six years, I saw the desire to write and journal and learned so much from reading scriptures and seeing the power of the word of the Lord Jesus Christ take over in my healing process.  Waking up in the middle of night to write when I used to sleep, and hearing from so many people that I should write a book or movie about all my setbacks in life confirmed that.   

Who encouraged you in your writing?

Dr. Gregory Cascino at the Mayo Clinic was my encouragement to write at my one year check in November 2001. The confirmation came when I was married and my husband told the Doctor at the Mayo Clinic that I wanted to write a book, and he told him you should let her because she is not supposed to be able to do that typically after the type of surgery she had . . . .

What obstacles did you face in your journey to publication?

I faced many obstacles in my writing – searching for where to go to learn about publishing, how to market the book, and how to find a publisher..  I realized it is up to the writer to do that. Market, market, market! Proving yourself as new writer is not easy.

Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

I was a structured writer during my times as a school teacher. I wrote in the morning and after work from 7 pm – 10:30 pm every day for 9 months. I had a routine that If I didn’t have to work full time I could have a book written in 3 months. I want that back — I am single parent now and work full time. It is hard to get on the computer after work when I am on it all day.

What types of research did you pursue as you were writing this book?

I researched brain disorders and organizations specializing in those areas. I contacted doctors and patients and searched websites/organizaitons like the VA.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired to write my book when I had the surgery and the following counseling I received to learn how to rethink. After living my whole life with seizures, the medical setbacks I have had, and the struggle to learn, I wanted the stigma to be removed and be the person to put myself out in public to speak and write and help others overcome.

What would you like your readers to take away after finishing There Is Hope?

I want readers to take away from my book that there is a lifeline of hope, help, and healing, and that you are not alone. The Lord is my strength. I hope medical clinics, hospitals, and families will use it to save marriages and relationships, and that the VA will use it to help in small groups.

Readers always want to know what is up next for an author. Can you share about any works in progress?

I am in process of writing a novel. Title TBD.

Please tell us about yourself.

I have one daughter, and three brothers. I am Mary Kay consultant and work full time for the Department of Veterans Affairs. I like to walk, hike, exercise, and bike. I love camping, fishing, boating, and beach time. I enjoy traveling and meeting people. I also like baseball and sports. My family has a masonry company, and I love to design housing — I like to build things.


Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, January 13

janicesbookreviews, January 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 15

Older & Smarter?, January 16

Inklings and notions, January 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 18

For the Love of Literature, January 19

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, January 20

Through the Fire Blogs, January 21 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, January 21

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 22

CarpeDiem, January 23

Splashes of Joy, January 24

By The Book, January 25 (Author Interview)

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, January 25

God is Love, January 26


To celebrate her tour Carla is giving away the grand prize of an autographed copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click HERE to enter.


Book Spotlight and Author Interview (+ A Giveaway!) — Eric Odell-Hein

16 Nov

About The Book

Book: Finding My Son

Author: Eric Odell-Hein

Genre: Christian Memoir, Adoption

Release Date: February 21, 2018

Eric was perfectly happy being one half of a dual income, no kids family. Having the freedom to travel the world with his wife Christine, while indulging his hobbies and furthering his education and career, was a pretty sweet life.

Christine wanted to be a mom.

Though he was scared he didn’t have what it took to be a good dad, Eric wanted to fulfill his wife’s dream. After years of trying to conceive, however, the couple received a devastating diagnosis: infertility.

For Christine, adoption was the obvious answer. Eric wasn’t so sure.

In Finding My Son: A Father’s Adoption Journey, author Eric Odell-Hein offers an unfiltered view into the heart and mind of a man who has experienced the sometimes messy and often awkward process of becoming a father through adoption. Encouraging men to acknowledge the fears they don’t want to admit while advocating a thoughtful, deliberate transparency as the best approach to even the most unnatural, uncomfortable aspects of the adoption process. Eric shares his misgivings and mistakes with an honesty that does not deny his insecurities.

A valuable resource for any man considering growing his family through adoption—or anyone seeking to understand the process — this engaging memoir is a testament to the beautiful gift of adoption and a touching account of a father’s love.

Click here to get your copy!

About The Author


Eric Odell-Hein (PhD, MDiv, MRS, ThB) is the president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary. The teaching pastor at Summit Evangelical Free Church, he is also the author of Recovering Lost Treasure: Finding Christ in Ancient Myth, Symbol, and Ritual and Systems of Evil: A Study in Comparative Theodicy. Eric lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with his wife Christine and their son Ephraim. All three are passionate travelers.

More from Eric

Adoption was a scary prospect for me. My mother and all her siblings are adopted, and the family dynamic for them was challenging. So when my wife decided we should adopt, I initially responded with a flat-out “no.” But my heart changed, and I am strongly convinced that our son, who joined us via adoption back in 2008 when he was just two days old, is the greatest child in the entire world. If you knew where I was emotionally prior to adoption compared with where I am now, you would marvel at the change. My adoption book is for people like me, particularly men, who struggle with the enormity of the choice to adopt and the constant challenges of the process.

On a lighter and more personal side, when people learn about all the various aspects of my life, they often have to stop and process the seemingly incongruous pieces. Some people know me as a guy who has spent more than two decades in software and entertainment, primarily in various aspects of behind-the-scenes video game technology and management. My entire family plays games, and more often than not, when I get back home in the evening, I find my wife and son online with other members of the extended family playing Minecraft. Sometimes we’ll all get in an online session together, each one of us at our own TV on our own Xbox, and take on bad guys together in one game or another.

Other people know my intellectual side, where I have earned several degrees in areas of theology and religion, including a Ph.D., as well as serving as president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary. I previously published two books on academic topics (evil among world religions, religious symbology) and have more in various stages of development, the next one being a focus on the ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cosmogonic/chaos-order symbolism in baptism. As a teaching pastor, I have a reputation for sermons with an intense ANE contextual emphasis that are part sermon and part seminary course. Check out my most recent four-part series on the Odell-Hein Books Facebook page here.

I was born in Germany to an American family, and while my German-language skills have deteriorated, I love German music. I’m very excited that my favorite group, Juli, has a new album coming out later this year. It’s mild stuff compared to most of the rock or industrial music I listen to, but they’re good. Check out the first single from their upcoming album here. I’ll be one of the small handful of Americans who purchase the album on the day it first releases in the US.

When not working or playing games with the family, I read primarily academic ANE books. When we’re in the car, I love to subject the family to my go-to podcast, the Naked Bible Podcast. No, it’s not what it sounds like. If you want to hear a serious scholar tackle the ANE context for the Bible, start with Dr. Michael Heiser’s Exodus series (it begins with episode 255).

Q&A with Eric Odell-Hein

BTB: Many authors say that they have always been a writer. When did you come to realize this.

Eric: I remember sitting at my dad’s typewriter when I was a child and trying to write a story. If I recall correctly, I was inspired after reading The Lord of The Rings. Writing has been an interest since those early years. However, the desire to write lay dormant for several years. In my early thirties, after I finished my master’s thesis, I realized I still had the desire to write, and now I had some measure of confidence and skills to match the desire. But the desire and skills weren’t for fiction, but for non-fiction, particularly academic or quasi-academic instructive writing. After a couple of academically oriented books, I wrote this one, Finding My Son: A Father’s Adoption Journey, which is my first foray into popular-level non-fiction. 

BTB: What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

Eric: My writing schedule is very informal. Between having a family, two jobs, and volunteering in ministry, finding time to write is challenging. I try to give myself at least three uninterrupted hours, so when I find those chunks of time I can dedicate to writing, I always head outside and away from distractions. The time of year doesn’t matter. Even if it’s cold outside, I have heat sources that keep me relatively warm. I turn on some music and settle in with my laptop. Right now I’m sitting on the back patio, taking shelter from the rain under a large umbrella, with my favorite band, Juli, playing in the background. It takes me a bit to get into a good writing groove, but once I’m on a roll, I can really go. For a significant period of time, my job had me going to Montreal on a regular basis. Montreal is a great city, but there are also a lot of ways to get in trouble. I found that simply staying in my hotel room and writing was a great thing: my wife always knew where I was and I had quality time to write. 

BTB: How long does it usually take to write your books — from first outlines/ drafts to final edits.ER

Eric: It truly varies by style of book. I always start with an outline. For academic books, the outlines get progressively more detailed and I layer in citations and sources for every sub-point. For this book, I only created a basic two-page outline consisting of the chapter topics along with a handful of possible points I might want to cover. However, I quickly abandoned the outline. As this was a very personal story, sticking to the outline felt too manufactured, and one of my primary goals was to be transparent and authentic. The process turned out to be far more organic and personal. As a result of having some free time to write and finding that natural flow, the first draft ended up taking three days. That’s not normal for me. My first book, Recovering Lost Treasure, was the end result of thirteen years of research and writing, but it required significant academic research.

BTB: Can you tell us a little about what inspired your book.

Eric: I am an adoptive father, and despite my deep misgivings and fears when first considering adoption, it has been the most wonderful thing in my life. When my wife and I first started researching adoption and going to classes, all of the books we were instructed to read were authored by women. They were all excellent, and while they had a general target audience, they spoke from a certain point of view and seemed to resonate particularly well with my wife. I love learning — all information is good — but I sought something more. I wanted something that could speak to me where I was at. During the process and in the years that followed, I found that my particular set of challenges and experiences weren’t unique, and many other prospective adoptive fathers faced many of the same fears I did, and I’m sure many prospective mothers face the same challenges. I decided to use my personal experience, told from the husband/father’s perspective, to provide the type of resource I wish was available when I was going through the adoption process. 

BTB: What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing Finding My Son. 

Eric: It’s okay to have fears, questions, and doubts when going through something major like deciding to adopt. We don’t strengthen ourselves our or families by suppressing uncertainty. Instead, we need to accept that we have questions, openly acknowledge our insecurities, and work through the challenges with intentional transparency and authenticity. We need to be honest about who we actually are as opposed to a view of what we think we ought to be. It’s dangerous to use false expectations, either self-imposed or externally influenced, as a launching point for making decisions. 

BTB: Please share about your family, hobbies, and future WIP.

Eric: Christine and I have been married since 1992, and Ephraim joined our family via adoption in 2008. A great life became wonderful at that point. As a family, we love to play video games together. Ephraim and I always end our days by watching funny videos together. Individually, I spend a lot of time doing research on the ancient Near Eastern context of Judeo-Christian religion, which turns into books, sermons, college syllabi, conference lectures, and other nerdy things. That desire to write a work of fiction still simmers in the background, and I have completed the first five chapters of a novel based on Hittite-Abrahamic interaction in the ancient Near East. 

Blog Stops

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 6

Vicky Sluiter, November 7 (Author Interview)

Just the Write Escape, November 8

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, November 9

Simple Harvest Reads,  November 10 (Author Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, November 11

janicesbookreviews, November 12

Tell Tale Book Reviews, November 13 (Author Interview)

A Reader’s Brain, November 14

Inklings and notions, November 15

By The Book, November 16 (Author Interview)

Book Love (Featuring Gail Hollingsworth), November 17

Through the Fire Blogs, November 18 (Author Interview)


To celebrate his tour, Eric is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon certificate and a signed copy of each of his three books!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click HERE to enter.


Book Spotlight — Point of View

22 Apr

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, former Survivor contestant and Fox News anchor, was known as a conservative voice on The View. She certainly voiced her own very decided opinions. But over the course of her life she discovered that the opinions of others were very important to her, until she discovered it was God’s point of view that really mattered. Hasslebeck’s new book, Point of View, explores her faith journey. While I have not read this book, I know that there are many who would be interested in it. Please check out the blurb and the author’s info and decide for yourself.

Recognized from her roles on Survivor, The View, and FOX & Friends, celebrity Elisabeth Hasselbeck presents a deeply intimate journey of faith, told through the important moments in her life.

“Point of view,” by definition, is a particular attitude or way of considering a matter. Through her nearly two decades of broadcasting, Elisabeth learned the necessity of extracting the point of view of the person being interviewed on a particular topic or subject or experience. Doing so allows you to see issues and truths through another’s eyes. It requires a shift in perspective to see the story through their lens.

In this illuminating book, Elisabeth walks through the times — from her national celebrity days to her newest role as CBO (Chief Breakfast Officer) — where she saw something differently than how God wanted her to, and the path back to His point of view was sometimes rocky but always revealing. Sometimes God’s intentions for her were clear, yet other times she encountered situations so uncomfortable and blurry that she could only ask for His wisdom.

In this book, Elisabeth welcomes you into the many different, and often divergent, points of view that she has witnessed and learned from along the way. It is a journey that brought her to the ultimate point of view that she discovered in the Word of God — that until she sees herself as He sees her, she is not seeing at all. As you read through the pages here, she invites you to make the same discovery for yourself.

Daytime Emmy Award winner Elisabeth Hasselbeck was a co-host on ABC’s The View for a decade before joining the morning lineup as co-host of Fox and Friends in 2013. The author of the New York Times bestseller The G-Free Diet, she is also the creator of NoGii, a line of all-natural gluten-free protein bars. She and her husband, Tim Hasselbeck, an ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback, have three children, Grace, Taylor, and Isaiah.


(Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for a complimentary copy.)



Book Spotlight: Almost Gone

21 Mar

As a busy book blogger I cannot read and review every book that comes into my house. *sigh*  Spotlights help get the word out about books that I have no idea when I will get read. These books are ones I know many of my readers would be interested in, so I don’t want them to be neglected. Almost Gone by John and Mackenzie Baldwin is one such book. Check out the blurb and author info, and then decide if this book is one you’d like to read.


This is the never-before-told, riveting true story about a teenage Christian girl who was seduced online by a charming young Muslim man from Kosovo, and her father who ultimately worked with the FBI to save her from disappearing forever.

The Baldwins were a strong Christian family, living in Plano, Texas. When their seventeen-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, met Aadam in a random-match online chat room, she fell for his good looks, his charm, and his respectful conversation. He told her he lived in New York, and they began an online friendship.

But over the course of a few months, Aadam revealed that he actually lived in Kosovo and had only pretended to live in New York so Mackenzie would keep chatting with him. The more attached she became to Aadam, the more detached she became from her family.

John and Stephanie, Mackenzie’s parents, had no clue what was behind their daughter’s change in personality, her surprising interest in Islam, her suddenly modest dress, and her withdrawal from friends and family. When Mackenzie’s attachment to Aadam increased even more and they became “engaged,” she started making plans to secretly fly to Kosovo where she and Aadam would be married.

But twenty-five days before Mackenzie was scheduled to fly to Kosovo, John found out about his daughter’s dangerous plan when three of her friends came forward. John contacted the FBI, and asked for help. Though the FBI did not believe Aadam was trying to radicalize Mackenzie, they were concerned about his intentions, as that part of Kosovo was known for sex-trafficking, human-trafficking, and citizenship frauds. Kosovo was no place for an unaccompanied, naïve teenager to secretly travel and marry a stranger she knew only through online chats. Within the limited time remaining before Mackenzie’s departure, John and Stephanie had to confront Mackenzie and stop her before she would be lost to them forever.

Told from the viewpoint of both father and daughter, Almost Gone follows Mackenzie’s network of lies and deceit and her parents’ escalating bewilderment and alarm. More than a cautionary tale, this is the incredible story of unconditional parental love, unwavering faith, and how God helped a family save their daughter from a relationship that jeopardized not only her happiness, but also her safety.

John Baldwin is a deacon and has served in many ministries at Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. He also serves on the board of directors for High Adventure Treks for Dads and Daughters and Dads and Sons (HATS). This organization promotes father/daughter and father/son communication, leadership, and relationships through shared adventures such as white water kayaking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. By day, John is a business technology consultant working with the largest credit card banks.

Mackenzie Baldwin is a college student pursuing a double major in Psychology and Child Development. She is adventurous, enjoying activities such as rock climbing, camping, backpacking, and water sports. She is scuba certified and as a certified skydiver, she has made more than fifty solo jumps.

(A big thank you to Howard books for a complimentary copy of this book. I did not read this book, so this post is not intended as a review or recommendation.)

Book Review: The Place of Belonging

6 Jan

It’s not easy being the child of a single mother living in Big Sky country during the 1940s. But sometimes fitting in isn’t the best way to discover who you are. Faulkner’s story of a girl struggling to find her place in a blended Montana farm family explores how separation and loss can bring wholeness.

Jayne Pearson Faulkner was raised by a single mother and her grandmother in the 1940’s under the Big Sky of Montana. At the age of 14 she began sending manuscripts to Gospel Publishing House-many of which they published.  Eventually she was hired by them and began writing short stories for the weekly Sunday school publications. She attended Central Bible College while working at GPH and became a staff writer until she graduated.

She and her husband Stan were pastors for three years before becoming missionaries to the Philippines and later in the Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific.  She has been a freelance editing for Virtue Magazine as well as others.   The Place of Belonging is her first full length novel.  She laughs and explains, “I kept trying to cut it off at 2000 words.”  Once you read this book you’ll most likely wonder, as so many others do, when she is going to write her next novel!

My Impressions:

Jayne Pearson Faulkner’s memoir of her childhood in Montana’s Big Sky Country reads more like a coming of age novel than a strict biography.  The Place of Belonging is beautifully written in a quiet yet sure style that covers Jayne’s life from the age of  about 7 until just after her 13th birthday.  Being raised by a single mother and grandmother proved somewhat confusing and left for more than one unanswered question for young Janie.  She felt something missing and was forever standing on the outside looking in.  Then her world changes when her mother marries Gunder Pearson and moves to his farm.  A farm was the most wonderful place Janie could imagine.  Pearson tells her story from a child’s point of view and the wonder of the plains of Montana, the life of farmers in the 1940s and 50s and the struggles of fitting in show through her prose.  A very quick read, I found The Place of Belonging a refreshing break well worth the time.


(I received The Place of Belonging from Bring It On! in return for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)