Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Review: "Anything" by Jennie Allen

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul"Anything:  The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul" by Jennie Allen details her journey of offering God everything by praying "God we will do anything. Anything" (pg. xiii). She shares bits of her story to show how she came to know Jesus, and how finally got the point of being willing to offer everything for God's service by being willing to do anything He wanted.

Divided into three parts, she shares openly and honestly about how she arrived at the place of anything. The first part focuses on her early years and common obstacles that people may find in their own journey to anything. The second part addresses the actual praying of anything and the immediate implications that brought in her life. God called her to start writing and speaking, and called their family to adopt a young boy from Rwanda. The third part discusses the ongoing realities of life after praying anything. She doesn't sugarcoat the difficulties she and her family have gone through, but she emphasizes that there are plenty of amazing, beautiful things that have come about for them.

Originally released in 2011, this book was recently re-released in 2015 to include an 8-week Bible study. Designed for small group study, the study contains a plan to read through the book and includes a corresponding Scripture study and two projects to help deepen the truths learned.

I really enjoyed this book. The first part of the book felt a little slow to me and had me wondering if I was going to actually like it. The second and third parts captivated me. I would highly recommend this book for individuals and small groups.

(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, June 24, 2015

A Review: "Hearts Made Whole" by Jody Hedlund

Hearts Made Whole (Beacons of Hope, #2)"Hearts Made Whole" is the second in the "Beacons of Light" series by Jody Hedlund. Centering of lighthouses in bygone years, she features a strong female lead loosely based on a real-life female lighthouse a keeper. Showing their strength and courage in the face of an extremely challenging job, Hedlund weaves a sweet and complex story. This story brings back Ryan Chambers, previously introduced in the first book of the series, as a Civil War veteran in desperate need of a job. Struggling with addiction after his war injuries, Ryan quickly realizes he has a lot to learn before he can fully assume his new duties. Caroline Taylor took over the running of Windmill Point Lighthouse after the death of her father. Despite her flawless keeping of the light, the lighthouse inspector replaces her with Ryan simply because she is female.

The story unfolds over the course of nearly a year. The characters are well developed and enjoyable to read about. As the challenges and adventures unfold, the emotional depth of the characters grows and they become more real as the story progresses. The lighthouse setting is creative and adds a romantic feeling to the book.

I really enjoyed this book. The story is highly engaging and I would highly recommend this book. Despite it being part of a series, it could easily read as a stand-alone novel. I'm eager to read the next book in this series!

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Quick Lit: June 2015

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.

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture"Introverts in the Church:  Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture" by Adam McHugh. As an extreme introvert, I loved this book. His focus is primarily on how the church today has a bias toward the extrovert. A couple chapters, while still interesting, were not necessarily applicable as they were written more for pastors or other church leadership. Overall, this book helped me understand my personality a whole lot more and he managed to articulate things about the introvert personality that I've never been able to put into words, things that I've noticed about myself but never quite attributed to being an introvert. I found myself shoving the book into my husband's (an extrovert) hands and having him read certain passages--"please understand me!" This is a great book for introverts to read, as well as for extroverts who want to understand the introverts in their lives.

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness"The Total Money Makeover:  A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness" by Dave Ramsey. I learned so much about money through this book. His plan includes seven baby steps, starting with saving $1000 in an emergency fund. The steps build on one another and, in context of the whole, make complete sense. While not everything is going to necessarily be for everyone, I think there are elements that can work for every family and income level. A great book on finance.



 
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess"7:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker. Completely. Blown. Away. By this book. She, along with a few friends, took seven months, identified seven areas of excess (such as food, clothing, spending, and waste), and fasted one area per month. Each chapter reads like a journal of her experiences and all that she has learned, both personally and from research that she has done. This book is not just about fasting, but it's also a call to action to help those in her community--to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world who looks at our excess and can't believe what they see. Can't recommend this book highly enough.

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn 
"Sparkly Green Earrings:  Catching the Light at Every Turn" by Melanie Shankle. Written by the author of the Big Mama blog, this funny, quirky memoir of parenthood had me laughing out loud at parts and quietly nodding along at other parts. A light, quick read.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quick Lit: May 2015

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for this month's quick lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of books I've read in the past month. This month was a little bit slower for me, but I have a few that are in process that I'm excited to share about in next month's Quick Lit!

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride"As You Wish:  Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes.  I don't remember when I first saw "The Princess Bride". I do remember I loved the movie and have seen it many, many times since that initial viewing. Even though I haven't seen in years now, it's still one of my favorites and, oh, the quotes from this movie! Reading this book was a real treat. I loved the behind the scenes stories; they make me very eager to re-watch the movie and see what kinds new things I notice now having read about the making of the movie. There were plenty of laugh out loud moments as well. If you are a fan of "The Princess Bride", this book is definitely for you!

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands"The Best Yes:  Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands" by Lysa TerKeurst. I've read a couple other books by Lysa TerKeurst and love them. It's incredibly easy to relate to her and her stories on the journey of marriage, motherhood, and life. Her latest book is focused on helping women discern between what is good and what is best. Too often, we find ourselves saying "yes" in order to please others, avoid disappointing them, or out of sheer guilt. But saying "yes" all the time can have some big consequences for ourselves and our families. This book helped me so much to begin thinking about the decisions, both big and small, in my own life to see what is going to be the best decision I can make for me in my stage of life. Highly recommend this book!

Return (Redemption, #3)"Return" by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley (re-read). This third installment in the Baxter family series focuses primarily on only son Luke--his choices, the ramifications of those choices, and his ultimate return to his family and his faith. This book fell a little flat for me, but I think the point of the story and relationship principle of returning are important ones to discuss.






Rejoice (Redemption, #4)"Rejoice" by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley (re-read). The fourth book in the Baxter family series focuses on the oldest daughter Brooke. When her young daughter fights for life and recovery from a drowning, her marriage is threatened. With Brooke's recent return to faith, she clings to her faith in the dark days ahead of her and seeks to find joy in all things. Even with much uncertainty before her, joy helps bring her through the difficulties of her marriage and gradual healing of her daughter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Savor" by Shauna Niequist

Fans of Shauna Niequist, rejoice! Her new daily devotional, "Savor", debuted in early March. The book itself is beautiful. Cloth-covered hardback with navy edged pages. Ribbon bookmark to mark your place. Definitely lovely to look at.

Each devotion begins with a verse or two and concludes with a question or thought for further reflection. The devotional material itself is drawn heavily from her previous three collections of essays. The stories may seem familiar, but put in devotional format, they feel fresh. Interspersed throughout are new recipes, complete with a brief introduction to each.

This book is not meant to be read quickly over the course of a few days. I did read the introduction and flipped through to some important dates in my life:  birthdays for me, my husband, and my kids, our anniversary, etc. I loved the stories and thoughts recorded for each day. I'm very much looking forward to digging in deeper to this daily devotional.

"This collection is my attempt at paying attention, at clearing away space and noise, and inviting you to hear the drumbeat, too. God's always speaking, always. He's always moving, always present, always creating, always healing. The trick, at least for me, is paying attention The trick is savoring"(p. vi).

(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, April 14, 2015

Quick Lit: April 2015

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for this month's quick lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of books I've read in the past month.

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times"Call the Midwife:  A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times" by Jennifer Worth. I watched the first three seasons of the show over the course of the last year, but hadn't read the book yet. I love the show, and was pretty excited to finally pick up this memoir. I was not disappointed. Worth shares about her personal experiences as a midwife in London's East End, an area replete with poverty, crime, and overcrowded tenements. It provides a plethora of background information on the nuns she works with, as well as common pregnancy and post-natal practices that were common for that time period. I find that I am now watching the fourth season of the show with greater appreciation and greater depth than before. The only downfall to this book was a section toward the middle with a gratuitous description of prostitution. Otherwise, it was a great book, and I look forward to reading her follow-up book.

The Set-Apart Woman: God's Invitation to Sacred Living"The Set-Apart Woman:  God's Invitation to Sacred Living" by Leslie Ludy. This book is a call for women to reevaluate their priorities and lives, to examine where Jesus fits in their lives, and make adjustments to put Jesus in His rightful place in our lives. Using biblical truths, personal stories, and practical ideas, Ludy discusses many areas where women can exchange areas of weakness for stronger commitment to Jesus. The message in this book is clear and definitely needed in our day and age.




Big Little Lies"Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty. This was a great, engaging read. I felt it started off slightly slow, but quickly picked up speed. The characters had a certain depth and appeal to them, which made them completely believable. The elements of the mystery were expertly woven throughout, and left the reader wondering who did it and who is actually dead.






In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #6)"In the Company of Cheerful Ladies" by Alexander McCall Smith. This sixth book in "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series picks right up where the last one left off. There was less mystery in this novel and a greater focus on both plot and character development. It was an overall thoroughly pleasant, quick read.






Redemption (Redemption, #1)"Redemption" by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley (re-read). It has been several years since I last read this first novel in the Baxter Family series. Kingsbury and Smalley teamed up to write a series of five novels, all focusing on one family, in order to examine key relationship concepts. This book focuses on the idea that love is a decision. A great book with a great relationship reminder woven throughout.





The Furious Longing of God"The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning. This book has been on my "to-read" list for years. Now that I've finally gotten the chance to read it, I wonder why on earth I waited so long! It's a beautiful book that reinforces the wild, radical love of God for people. Each chapter concludes with a couple of questions for reflection which will help the reader really reflect and internalize the message he puts forth in each chapter. Highly recommend.




Remember (Redemption, #2)"Remember" by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley (re-read). This second book in the Baxter Family series focuses primarily on one of the other children in the family, as well as continuing to advance the plot line for the whole family. This book introduces the relationship concept of remembering, how memories play an important role in strengthening relationships. Great relationship encouragement in this novel.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Review: "The Set-Apart Woman" by Leslie Ludy

The Set-Apart Woman: God's Invitation to Sacred Living"The Set-Apart Woman:  God's Invitation to Sacred Living" by Leslie Ludy is the latest installment in her "Set Apart" series. In this day and age when culture and media bombard us with messages of materialism, do what feels right, and truth is relative, a book like this brings a necessary and challenging message to all women who long for something deeper.

This book is a call for women to reevaluate their priorities and lives, to examine where Jesus fits in their lives, and make adjustments to put Jesus in His rightful place in our lives. Using biblical truths, personal stories, and practical ideas, Ludy discusses many areas where women can exchange areas of weakness for stronger commitment to Jesus. Some topics she covers include media and entertainment, gossip, anxiety, and self-promotion. Each chapter concludes with study questions for both personal and group discussion, making this a great book to go through with a small group or book club or for deep reflection on your own. There is also a list of recommended reading at the back of the book full of Christian biographies and books to help you deepen your walk with Jesus.

I greatly appreciated the messages in this book. Ludy doesn't mince words and her call for Christian women to live a life of full commitment to Jesus is a necessary one in today's church and world. Each chapter left me thinking about my own life and how I can apply her challenges to my daily life. While some of her points in the book were rather repetitive, this book is a much-needed call for women to get serious about their faith, urging us to pull out of lukewarm living and run headlong into Jesus.

"What if we as Christian women got serious about our pursuit of Jesus Christ? What if we became broken over our sin, desperate for undiluted Truth, and willing to radically follow Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Imagine how modern Christianity could change" (p. 17).
  
(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.)