Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Review: "The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay

The third novel by Katherine Reay, "The Bronte Plot", follows the story of Lucy Alling. Lucy works for an antiques dealer and interior designer where she primarily manages the rare book collection. She often uses somewhat shady methods to achieve her goals, which eventually ruin a couple of important relationships in her life. She learns about her family history, and discovers that there are three generations of people in her family using similar shady methods for personal gain. After taking a trip to England with her ex-boyfriend's grandmother, she begins to find the courage to change and thus starts her redemption. She owns up to the choices she made and willingly accepts the consequences of her actions.

I found it difficult to really get into this book. The main characters really felt under-developed and a bit flat. The writing, while mostly good, jumped around and it felt like there were sections of it missing. The relationship between Lucy and her boyfriend, James, was a perfect example of this; it wasn't fully developed and was a little confusing at times. However, I did enjoy the section of the story pertaining to the trip to England. It was rich with literary references and made me want to dig into a Bronte novel. The descriptions of the sights were such that the reader could truly picture the scene.

I think "The Bronte Plot" was a decent read, and I liked the idea of the book. But the whole thing felt a bit flat and under-developed to me. Personally, I think Reay's best novel was her debut one, "Dear Mr. Knightley". I may try her future novels, but they are not must-reads for me.

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Review: "Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook" by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison

I had never heard of the Trim Healthy Mama plan. The cookbook sounded interesting, so I thought I'd take a look at it. Let me start with the positives about the cookbook. The pictures they included with the recipes are beautiful (and there are ample pictures scattered throughout the book. There is a lengthy introduction regarding how to use the cookbook, including sections on what equipment to have handy, how to stock your pantry, and descriptions of their healthy special ingredients.

Now for the downsides. The book has a TON of recipes in it. It feels a bit overwhelming to go through it (it comes in at whopping 512 pages!). Many of the recipes sound intriguing, but nearly everything requires their special ingredients. I simply don't have the extra money or time to hunt down these ingredients. I prefer cookbooks that create healthy meals using more commonly found ingredients.

While a beautiful book, it's not a book for everyone, and it's not a book for me.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Review: "The Legend of the Christmas Cookie" by Dandi Daley Mackall

"The Legend of the Christmas Cookie" by Dandi Daley Mackall is a lovely children's Christmas story about the significance behind Christmas cookies. The book tells the story of Jack, a young boy who's feeling a little lost at home since his dad went away to find work. He comes home one day to discover his mom making Christmas cookies for the needy at church. They use carved wooden shapes to create the cookie shapes, and his mother uses this opportunity to teach Jack about the meaning of Christmas cookies--how they were used to tell people the story of Jesus' birth.

This is a sweet story complete with colorful illustrations from Richard Cowdrey. My boys enjoyed looking through this book and will like it even more once the Christmas season is upon us and we make our own batch of Christmas cookies. This book will definitely take a place in our regular rotation of Christmas read-alouds.

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading Lately

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for this month's quick lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of a few books I've read in the past month. You can also find me over at Goodreads if you are interested in other books I've read or reviewed.

Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness"7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness" by Eric Metaxas. I can't say enough good things about this book. Metaxas tells the story of seven women, including Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, and Corrie ten Boom. He truly brings these women to life on the page thanks to his conversational story-telling style. I was blown away by how these women allowed themselves to be used of God in incredibly powerful ways. This book, along with his previous book "7 Men", introduces modern readers to stories that need to be told. Men and women alike need to be exposed to these true heroes of the faith, especially in light of our world gone mad.

For the Love of God: Volume One: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word"For the Love of God:  Volume One" by D.A. Carson. This is a daily devotional following the M'Cheyne reading plan. Over the course of a year, you read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once. Each day, the reader goes through four chapters of Scripture. In volume one, he selects one of two passages and provides a one-page commentary on that particular passage. In volume two, he chooses from the other pair of passages. This is by far the best devotional I have ever encountered. It's a fabulous way to get beyond fluff and go deeper into Scripture. Carson does an excellent job helping the reader understand the passage at hand and how it fits in God's overall plan. Highly, highly recommend this devotional.

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse"Call the Midwife:  Shadows of the Workhouse" by Jennifer Worth. Her second memoir, this book didn't really include anything about midwifery. Instead, it was divided into three sections and essentially focused on three separate stories. The first section told the stories of Jane, Peggy, and Frank who all grew up in the workhouse. The descriptions of the conditions for the poor who lived there were disturbing and appalling. The second section contained the story of how Sister Monica Joan was accused of shoplifting and the ensuing consequences of her actions. The final section was the story of Joseph Collett, a elderly man she came in contact with on her community rounds. The entire book had a very different flavor than her first book. Each section reads almost like its own separate mini-book. Enjoyed it, but not as much as the first one.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards"For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker. This is my third dive into a Hatmaker book, and each one keeps getting better. This collection of essays is divided into four separate sections:  yourself, your family, people around you, and faith and church. It's hard to describe this book because of the range of topics and voices scattered throughout. Humorous, witty, deep, and thought-provoking are all terms that come to mind. She speaks a lot to wives and mothers, but all women will benefit from the wisdom that shines through her writings. It's truly a fun book to read, yet still manages to challenge you in the process.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Review: "7 Women" By Eric Metaxas

Eric Metaxas's latest book, "7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness", is a collection of mini-biographies of seven women selected from various periods in history. He includes Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. Metaxas writes in an utterly captivating way and truly brings these women to life on the page.

At the start of this book, the only woman I really knew much about was Corrie ten Boom, thanks to reading her book, "The Hiding Place", earlier this year. I had only a small amount of knowledge regarding the other women (including one I had never heard of before). After slowly making my way through the extraordinary stories of these ordinary women, I am blown away by how they allowed themselves to be used by God for great purposes. My personal favorites to read about were Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, and Corrie ten Boom.

By writing about these women in this book and the men from "7 Men", Metaxas gives us a wonderful gift. In our world gone crazy, we need to learn from these figures who have done amazing and mighty things simply by being available to be used by God for His glory and good purposes. Every man and woman should read and learn from the stories captured in these two books. What wonderful stories to share with our children to give them true heroes to look up to. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

"The Bible says we are to humble ourselves, and in reading the stories of great men and women from the past, we inevitably do just that. But in humbling ourselves in that way, we ironically gain a far greater objectivity and a far better vantage point from which to see things" (p. xx).

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Review: "Lazarus Awakening" by Joanna Weaver

Lazarus Awakening by Joanna Weaver"Lazarus Awakening" by Joanna Weaver is the third book in the Bethany trilogy. The previous two books focused on Mary and Martha. This book features the story of Lazarus and how his story of being raised to new life can help us as believers find new life to live fully in the love of Christ. She gets to the heart of the issue:  by getting the knowledge of God's love from our heads to our hearts, we can truly find life and love the way Christ intended. She uses beautiful biblical insights that help the reader view this well-known story with fresh eyes.

This newly expanded edition includes a bonus chapter designed to help readers determine what is truly holding them back from Christ's love. A study guide is included that would be perfect for individual or group use. This is an excellent book that many will benefit from reading and studying.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Review: "Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, & Me" by Lorilee Craker

"Part memoir and part Anne super-fan book, this book will interlace Anne's and Maud's stories with our own yarns, taking you from the red-dirt beaches of Prince Edward Island to the ginseng fields of Korea. Along the way, you may uncover truths about your own search for identity, finding yourself in places you hadn't thought to look." (p. xiii)

Lorilee Craker's book, "Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, & Me:  What My Favorite Book Taught Me About Grace, Belonging, & The Orphan in Us All" is a rich, moving look at her own story of being adopted, adopting her daughter from Korea, and ultimately how "Anne of Green Gables" helped her discover her own sense of identity and belonging. She weaves together her story, her daughter's story, Anne's story, and author L.M. Montgomery's story, sharing poignantly how each adult faced their own sense of lostness and brokenness, and how she is using these experiences to help her daughter navigate these own feelings as well.
I truly enjoyed this book. Craker does a wonderful job of sharing the stories and weaving Anne's story throughout. I loved her chapters on friendship, marriage, and transitioning to motherhood. My favorite chapter was probably the very last one where she chronicles her last visit to Prince Edward Island. She shares a bit more deeply about about how PEI shaped Montgomery's life and how home and belonging can truly be found. I am eager to re-read the books and watch the movies after reading this memoir!

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)