Sunday, December 29, 2013

What happened to Public Enemy Number 1?

Was Alcatraz the best thing that ever happened to Al Capone?  The notorious gangster was originally sent to a prison in Georgia on a conviction of tax evasion, but was moved to Alcatraz after law enforcement realized he was receiving special treatment.  While in Alcatraz, Capone attended a church service held by a traveling preacher.  It was at this service that he requested prayer and admitted a need for a savior.  Time Magazine quoted Thweatt (the preacher) as saying  "At the close of the talk, Capone's face seemed to radiate, and when I asked those prisoners to stand who felt the need and will to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, he was the first to rise."
Only a few months after Capone's conversion, dementia set in.  Even with a degenerative mental illness, he continued to profess Christianity until his death in 1947.  He was buried in a consecrated cemetery reserved only for believers.  When the Catholic church was questioned about their decision to allow Capone to be buried next to his father in the consecrated cemetery, the priest replied that the Catholic church recognized Capone's penitence (repentance) and salvation.
You can confirm this data yourself by reading the March 24, 1939 edition of the Los Angeles Times.  This article was also ran by the St. Petersburg Times on March 25, 1939.
It is widely accepted that Al Capone was a notorious mobster responsible for much crime including -although it has never been proven! - the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, where 7 gangsters were gunned down with each one having no less than 15 shots fired into them (photo of actual crime scene shown below).
 God gave salvation to Chicago's Public Enemy Number 1, and He will give it to you as well.
According to the Bible, God offers salvation to anyone who will accept it (John 3:16), and because we have all screwed up everyone needs salvation.  (See Romans 3:10-12 and 3:23).  God sent his son, Jesus, to die for us (Romans 5:8).  If we accept Christ as our Savior, it doesn't matter how terrible our past is -- the future is bright (Romans 8:1).  This verse reads, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."  This promise is good for everyone who belongs to Christ -- it doesn't exclude anyone because of their past.
If you've ever wondered exactly how to get from being where you are now to being a child of God, it's pretty simple.  A sincere prayer in your own words reflecting what is on your heart is all that is necessary.  I've provided a sample prayer here, but you can use your own words.  
"Father God, thank you for your son, Jesus.  I'm a sinner, and I know I cannot save myself.  I need a Savior.  Jesus, I believe you died for my sins.  I believe you rose from the grave.  Please forgive me of my sins.  I turn to you, Jesus.  Come into my heart, fill me with your Hold Spirit, and make me the person you want me to be.  Thank you, Lord Jesus.  Amen."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sweet Mercy - Ann Tatlock

Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock is a well written novel about a young lady in the midst of entering adulthood.  Eve is faced with the knowledge that someone she loves is a criminal and not turning him would make her a criminal, too.  As an adolescent, she sees everything in black and white.  The grayness of the situation confuses her, and she is forced to re-evaluate everything she has believed about right and wrong.
As I read this novel I saw quite a bit of myself in Eve.  I could relate to her journey from a black-and-white, judgmental mentality to a more empathetic, understanding being.  This is a difficult journey for one who wishes to be empathetic to others without compromising their own personal convictions.
On the back of the book the description begins by saying that this is a "stunning coming-of-age drama set during the Great Depression and prohibition."  I found this to be a very accurate statement.  I was drawn back to my own coming of age days as an adolescent constantly trying to determine where she stands on a multitude of subjects.  I don't think this novel could have been better written.  I am a better person for having read it.
There is some romance in the book, but very little as compared to the Christian fiction romance genre.  I would consider this to be in a slightly broader, historical fiction genre.  It is a deeper read than most of the books published by Bethany House, but the quality of the writing and plot is consistent with the Bethany House reputation.
In my opinion, Ann Tatlock's experience is reflected in this novel, as I am sure it is in her over twenty other novels already released.  Ann won the 2012 Christy Award for the Contemporary/Standalone category.
This book was a free gift from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Conair Infiniti Pro Spin Air Rotating Styler

Round brush + hair dryer.  I recently came into ownership of what is possibly one of the best inventions for hair styling in the last ten years.  All those years spent trying to round brush your own hair so you could look like you walked out of a salon?  Wasted once you try this gadget.  It does it for you!
As a cosmetologist myself, I can vouch that round brush styling is a craft that takes a while to master.  Now, you don't even have to try -- just partially dry your hair using your regular hair dryer.  Before it is completely dry, start using the spin dryer on sections of hair until you have finished your hair.  Easy peezi.  You may have seen this on TV before, and - yes - it works EXACTLY as advertised.
One caveat is that because the barrel is equivalent to a 2" round brush (that's a big one) it works best on medium to long hair.  I love it for my hair, which is just above shoulder length.  However, it doesn't work for the back of my head which has shorter layers than the front.  That said, I use this tool every single time I dry my hair now.  It adds volume and curl that sticks around until the next shampoo.
This retails for $59.99, but you can find it on sale at Walgreens every now and then for $49.99 or at Amazon for around $39.99.
Thank you, Conair, for coming up with this handy tool!  Now... if you can just make a smaller size in this, say... 1.25"?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Bride for Keeps - Melissa Jagears

I am very excited that I got to read my first Melissa Jagears novel!  In A Bride for Keeps main character Julia agrees to move to Kansas to marry a friend of a friend.  Everette isn't expecting her and has had bad luck with mail order brides before.  After four bad experiences, he gives up on the marriage market.  This story is about how two very different people marry while still strangers and learn to love each other.
I have to admit that the mail-order bride theme is my all-time favorite plot.  It can be spun in different ways, and it never lets me down.  This book is no exception.  The author did a fantastic job creating these characters and the plot is fascinating.  I was hooked the entire way through the book.
My only critique is that I didn't find the attraction quite tangible enough.  I think it would have been more interesting if Julia's conflict had been increased by an attraction to Everette.  In other words, I didn't think her attraction to him came through at all in the book until the very end.  It seemed to me like she was forcing herself to reconcile to the idea of being attracted to him while he, meanwhile, was fighting emotions.
I saw another review that said this book was "physical."  It is most definitely not physical.  I may have misunderstood that reviewer, but in my opinion it erred on the conservative side even when compared to other Christian fiction.  The author did a very tasteful job of highlighting Julia's past abuse and did not directly spell anything out.  It took me until close to the end to make sense of exactly how she had been abused.
Overall, my opinion is that this is an extremely talented writer with a gift for storytelling.  I'll keep an eye out for more books with her name on them!
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective, unbiased review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rosemary Cottage - Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble hits a home run again with her newest novel Rosemary Cottage!  Rosemary Cottage is the second in her Hope Beach series.  The first book in the series is Tidewater Inn, which I also had the pleasure of reading.
Both books will hook the reader right from the very beginning.  In my opinion, Colleen Coble's strength is in mystery and she wields her power well in the Hope Beach series.  The ominous presence of mystery resides on Hope Beach, but romance and encouragement are still present.
After reading countless books written by this talented author, the Hope Beach series is so far my favorite!
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

A Most Peculiar Circumstance - Jen Turano

So far, I have had the privilege of reading both the first and second books in the "Ladies of Distinction" series.  The first, A Change of Fortune, was a spectacular hit and I couldn't wait to get my hands on A Most Peculiar Circumstance.  
One thing I like very much about Jen Turano's writing is that she keeps the characters from the previous books in her series involved as the series grows, so the characters you know and love from the first book reappear in the second book.  
Another thing that keeps me reading her books is that the plots are wild and crazy.  There are no limits to the creativity of her imagination.  I always feel like I am on a rollercoaster ride.  
This particular book started with the main character in jail and a handsome rescuer saving the day.  The romance and mystery wound up in the book kept me tuned in the entire time.  Even with my crazy, packed-out schedule I found time to squeeze this book in.  If you like golden era romance/mysteries, you'll love A Most Peculiar Circumstance!
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.