Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Review: "The Painter's Daughter" by Julie Klassen

The Painter's DaughterJulie Klassen's newest novel, "The Painter's Daughter", focuses on the story of Sophie DuPont, a young woman who works as an assistant in her father's art studio. Located on the north Devon coast, the area is popular with many artists and poets, including artist Wesley Overtree. After departing for Italy and leaving Sophie in a serious situation, Wesley's brother, Captain Stephen Overtree, offers Sophie a solution. She is now faced with a choice, each carrying significant ramifications.

The story in this one took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I found my rhythm with it, the story really drew me in.  The main characters were really well developed and the plot flowed well. There was enough intrigue to keep things interesting and fresh. The visual descriptions for the locations truly made the reader picture the setting.

Julie Klassen has become one of my "must-read" authors. I have enjoyed most of her work; there have been a couple more recent novels that have not been impressive. However, this novel is definitely one of her better ones and I would highly recommend it even to people not familiar with her other work.

(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.)

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.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Review: "Longing for Paris" by Sarah Mae

Longing for Paris
Sarah Mae's latest book, "Longing for Paris:  One Woman's Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure--Right Where She Is", focuses on that longing for something for more than life as usual. For Sarah, that something more comes in the form of Paris. She became fascinated by Paris as a child, listening to stories told by her grandmother and mother of the years they spent living there. "It is this longing for Paris that leads me to explore my deeper longings" (p. xxv). Sarah takes nine chapters to examine some of the deeper longings commonly felt by women. Things like slowing life down and enjoying the simple pleasures, beauty and fashion, marriage, motherhood, and the idea of home are all discussed with hints of Paris and French culture thrown in. Weaving Scripture throughout, Sarah does a fabulous job of exploring these longings. It's especially helpful to know that these longings are common and that we are not alone in feeling them!

The end of each chapter includes a brief section of further meditation thoughts and a Scripture for deeper pondering. She also includes a "An Invitation to Paris" with some tips on bringing a bit of Paris to our everyday lives. The book also includes a group discussion guide which would be perfect for a small group or book club to work through. This was a great read and I found myself resonating with much of what she shared. I particularly appreciated her thoughts on motherhood, especially a section on discipline and identifying love languages.

(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.)


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Review: "For The Love" by Jen Hatmaker

"For the Love:  Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards" is the newest release 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. She's not afraid to tackle deeper issues like urging pastors to really examine their ministries and deeply care for themselves in the midst. On the flip side, there is a whole lot of light-hearted included as well. Laugh out loud moments abound, along with with tons of "I'm glad I'm not the only one!"

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.

(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, July 15, 2015

Quick Lit: July 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.

Those Who Save Us"Those Who Save Us" by Jenna Blum:  A brilliant debut novel that tells the story of Anna and her daughter Trudie. Anna is a young German woman who lives through the horrors of Nazi Germany. For fifty years, she refuses to share about that part of her life and all that was necessary for her (and her daughter's) survival. Fifty years later, Trudie is a professor of German history embarking on a research project in an attempt to understand what life was like for Germans under Nazi reign. She uncovers more than she bargained for. A fantastic, sobering look at life for Germans during Hitler's years of power. There is a fair bit of sex and some graphic violence as well, so be prepared.
 

Nobody's Cuter Than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship"Nobody's Cuter Than You" by Melanie Shankle:  This third memoir looks at the impact of friendship on our lives. She focuses primarily on her multi-decade friendship with Gulley, but also traces patterns of friendship through her life and what she's learned from them along the way. Of the three by Shankle, I think this one was my favorite. Loved it and resonated it with many portions of it.





Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul"Anything:  The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul" by Jennie Allen:  In this book, 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. This updated version also includes an 8-week Bible study for use in a small group. 




Reunion (Redemption, #5)"Reunion" by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley (re-read):  This final book in the "Redemption" series focuses on the idea of reunion, gathering together with family and friends and celebrating life and relationship with them. This book wraps up neatly the initial stories of the Baxter family, plus introduces several new characters and sets up the continuing story to be uncovered in a secondary series.





The Kitchen House"The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom:  This debut novel looks at pre-Civil War plantation life in Virginia. Orphaned while on board a ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia is brought back to the ship captain's plantation to serve as an indentured servant to repay debts left by her parents. She is placed in the care of the plantation's house slaves and raised as one of their own. She bonds deeply to them, despite their differences in color and, ultimately, status. This gripping story is a fascinating look at the culture and life of that time period, as well as how love, loyalty, and acceptance play out when everything is on the line.

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.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Quick Lit: March 2015

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy this month for "Quick Lit", short and sweet book reviews of what I've been reading lately.

Like Gold Refined (A Prairie Legacy, #4)
 "Like Gold Refined" by Janette Oke is the fourth (and final) book in the "Prairie Legacy" series. The series follows the story of Virginia Simpson, the middle daughter of Belinda (Davis) Simpson. Detailing the adventures of growing up, this final book is a nice conclusion to the series and to the Davis family as a whole. The drama level in this book is heightened, and the faith of this family is tested and taken to new levels. I had read these books years ago, but enjoyed them just as much on a re-read.



Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships"Growing Up Duggar:  It's All About Relationships" by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar is a personal book from the four oldest Duggar girls, sharing what it was like to grow up in their family. With chapters focusing on relationships with their parents, relationships with their siblings, and relationships with guys, these four girls share how their beliefs and background shape the way they interact with others and the world around them. While this book is definitely geared more for teen and 20-something young women, I enjoyed this personal look from the girls.




Emily of New Moon (Emily of New Moon, #1)"Emily of New Moon" by L.M. Montgomery. I confess:  I have never read the "Emily" series before. I was first introduced to the "Anne" series in high school and fell so much in love with it that none of Montgomery's other books could quite compare. I did start this book once years ago, but put it down because it just wasn't the same. The book did start a bit slowly for me at first, but I was quickly captivated. Emily's adventures, hopes, dreams, and worries drew me in and I fell in love with this novel.





In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"In Defense of Food:  An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan begins with the premise of "eat food, mostly plants, not too much". He spends the rest of the book unpacking this statement and what modern nutrition science has done to nutrition in general. The first two sections of the book were informative and read like a textbook at times, but the last section of the book contained what I thought was the most interesting and practical pieces of the entire book. It was in that section where he really explored the idea of "eat food, mostly plants, not too much". It was that section that gave me some small ways that I can begin to make changes to my family's diet and helped me develop a better, big-picture idea of where I want our diet to eventually be.


Emily Climbs (Emily, #2)"Emily Climbs" by L.M. Montgomery is the second book of the "Emily" trilogy. In this book, Emily enters high school, leaving New Moon Farm for the first time since her arrival there as a young orphan. The book is mostly set in Shrewsbury and follows Emily and her friends through their high school years. Emily continues her aspirations as a writer and finds limited fame through submitting some of her poetry and stories to magazines. Her friendships with her best friends, Ilse, Perry, and Teddy, continue to deepen, as does her friendship with Dean Priest. This book, for me, was not nearly as enjoyable as the first one. It feels a shade darker, a little more depressing, that the first book. I also found the relationship between Emily and Dean a bit creepy, given the 24-year age difference in them. I'll go on to read the third one just to see how the trilogy concludes. I do hope it improves back to the level of the first book!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Review: "7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness" by Eric Metaxas

Seven Men - Paperback"7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness" by Eric Metaxas presents mini-biographies of seven men and the faith that shaped them. The men featured include George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson.

I had previously read Metaxas's biographies of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, but was not as familiar with the other five men. This book taught me many things about each of these men. The character of each man shone through as Metaxas explored their lives. These biographies are well-written and detailed, with the amount of meticulous research shining through.

Washington gave up power for the greater good. Wilberforce dedicated his life to fighting the slave trade. Liddell gave up a chance to win in the Olympics by putting his faith first. Bonhoeffer defied the Nazis and was martyred as a result. Robinson broke the baseball color barrier. John Paul II surrendered his entire life to God and His service. Colson ended up serving time in prison, but developed a wide-reaching prison ministry as a result.

As a mom of two young boys, I am disheartened by the portrayal of men and manhood in popular culture today. A book like this is a true gem; I am excited to introduce my boys to the men in this book. This is a wonderful book that causes me to want to learn more about the men featured here.

(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, February 25, 2015

A Review: "Motivate Your Child" by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

"Motivate Your Child:  A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told" by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller is a practical resource for parents to help them build internal motivation in their kids.

The book is divided into two sections:  moral development in children and spiritual development in children. The authors say it best:  "The purpose of this book is to define those two tools [faith and a good conscience] and to provide you with hands-on strategies to give each of your children an accurate and reliable GPS for his or her heart. Passing on the faith to kids and helping them each develop a clear and strong conscience are strategic for success in life" (p. xii).

This resource is packed with valuable tips and insights that are suitable to parents with kids of all ages at home. This book will definitely become a valuable resource that we will return to again and again as needed while bringing up our two boys.

(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.)

A Review: "Supermarket Healthy" by Melissa D'Arabian

"Supermarket Healthy" is the latest cookbook from Food Network personality Melissa D'Arabian. In this book, she sets out to prove that eating healthy at home is easy, achievable, and affordable.

D'Arabian included a nice introduction as well as a list of her pantry staples.The cookbook is divided in to several main sections:  Breakfast; Snacks; Soups and Stews; Salads, Wraps, and Sandwiches; Veggie Mains; Pasta; Fish and Seafood; Chicken and Turkey;  Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Sides; and Dessert. Each section starts with a basic introduction and index of the recipes included in that particular section. Certain recipes include supermarket strategies (buying tips, ways to save, and insights about making choices while shopping), kitchen strategies (ingredient swapping, make-ahead planning, and time-saving tips), and entertaining strategies (ways to adapt the recipes to suit a larger gathering of people). Each recipe also includes a brief introduction of her thoughts on it.

As I looked through the cookbook, there were a number of recipes that I am eager to try. I appreciate that the majority of the ingredients are things that I either already have on hand or can easily purchase from my local grocery store--a nice change from some recipes that include highly specialized or difficult to find ingredients. The one downside to this cookbook is there are not enough photos of the food. I find that pictures help me to see how the recipe should look, as well as helping me to decide if I actually want to attempt to make it. I'm eager to get started with testing out some new recipes on my family in the upcoming weeks!

(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, January 11, 2015

A Review: "Steadfast Heart" by Tracie Peterson

Steadfast Heart by Tracie PetersonTracie Peterson is one of my favorite authors. I have read many of her books and typically really enjoy her work. That being said, her latest release, "Steadfast Heart", just didn't do it for me. The book is advertised as a story about Lenore Fulcher, a young woman from Seattle who seeks true love instead of an arranged marriage, and Kolbein Booth, a lawyer from Chicago who travels to Seattle in search of his sister. He traces her to the Madison Bridal School only to discover that she is not there. Other central characters are Abrianna Cunningham, the ward of Mrs. Madison, and her lifelong friend, Wade Ackerman.

The book really fell flat for me. The characters lacked depth and the plot didn't really feel flushed out. I found the romance between Lenore and Kolbein to be completely implausible. They had only just met; he found her to be beautiful and she thought him handsome; then she leaves for San Francisco. Upon her return they are suddenly madly in love--but based on what? Having so many central characters made it difficult to relate to a particular character and didn't allow for great development of them.

 I definitely prefer her earlier works. I find that those books are Peterson at her best. This book was lacking in so many areas that I just can't recommend it. If you are new to Tracie Peterson, skip this one and try her earlier novels.

(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.)

A Review: "The Lifegiving Parent" by Clay and Sally Clarkson

"The Lifegiving Parent" by Clay and Sally Clarkson completes the "Lifegiving" trilogy that also includes "The Lifeg...