Showing posts from 2015

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

Julie 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 m…

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, …

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 recei…

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 f…

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.

"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" by D.A. Carson. This is a daily devot…

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 fr…

A Review: "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 req…

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 daughte…

A Review: "Longing for Paris" by Sarah Mae

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 …

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 manag…

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" 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…

A Review: "Anything" by Jennie Allen

"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, bu…

A Review: "Hearts Made Whole" by Jody Hedlund

"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 adv…

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" 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…

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" 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 b…

"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 att…

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" 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. Othe…

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

"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 reflec…

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" 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" 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 relationship…

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

"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 servic…

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.


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.


A Review: "Steadfast Heart" by Tracie Peterson

Tracie 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 …