Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz

Image result for a moonbow night by Laura Frantz

After fleeing Virginia, Temperance Tucker and her family established an inn along the Shawnee River. It's a welcome way station for settlers and frontiersmen traveling through the wild Cumberland region of Kentucke--men like Sion Morgan, a Virginia surveyor who arrives at the inn with his crew, looking for an experienced guide. 
Though he balks when Tempe is appointed to lead his team through the wilderness, it isn't long before Sion must admit that her abilities may outmatch his own. But can the tenuous tie they are forming survive the dangers waiting just around the bend? 
With her signature sweeping style and ability to bring the distant past to vivid life, Laura Frantz beckons you to join her in a land of Indian ambushes, conflicting loyalties, and a tentative love that meanders like a cool mountain stream.
(excerpt from back of book)

A Moonbow Night reminds me of the  landscape it takes place in, you never know what the next bend may bring. Laura Frantz is a skilled storyteller, weaving together her characters and their worlds like the pieces  of  a  tapestry. Every story unfolds just as she intends without anything being revealed before its time. Considering how often historical books can fall into a predictable outline the way Frantz was able to tease out a story, allowing characters and readers alike to live within the not knowing was  refreshing and kept me on the edge of each page.

Franz also excelled at breathing life into her main characters, giving them the highs, lows, and quandaries  one would expect to see in believable characters. The slow glimpses into the inner working of Sion and Tempe seemed less like revealing a character and more like getting to know someone.

That said, I do think one of the main weaknesses  of A Moonbow Night is that the same care and concern developed for the central characters (or annoyance in the case of one) didn't necessarily translate into the same care for the rest of the cast. Aside from Nate and Cornelius I would be hard pressed to name the other men on the team or what their motivations were.  This lack of development made some of the scenes at base camp feel less impactful as I wasn't as invested in those characters.  

For anyone who loves historical fiction and desires a strong plot with mystery, solid characters, and lots of heart I would strongly recommend giving Laura Frantz a try.

4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book as part of the Revell Reads book tour in exchange for my honest opinion.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

For the Record by Regina Jennings

For the Record

Betsy Huckabee has big-city dreams, but nobody outside of tiny Pine Gap, Missouri, seems interested in the articles she writes for her uncle’s newspaper. Her hopes for independence may be crushed, until the best idea she’s ever had comes riding into town.

Deputy Joel Puckett didn’t want to leave Texas, but unfair circumstances have made moving to Pine Gap his only shot at keeping a badge. Worse, this small town has big problems, and masked marauders have become too comfortable taking justice into their own hands. He needs to make clear that he’s the law in this town–and that job is made more difficult with a nosy reporter who seems to follow him everywhere he goes.
(excerpt from back of book)

For the Record was my third foray into Regina Jennings creative workings and, hands down, my favorite to date!

I adored Betsy's character. Her imagination, her stubborn streak, her fierce loyalty and dreams all equally balanced with her very believable flaws to present the most human of Jennings heroines yet. With her personality leaping off the page, I was curious how Jennings would pair up (because let's be honest in this genre someone is going to get paired up) such a vibrant character while not overshadowing the other.  But while Betsy draws in a readers heart as she chases her dreams Joel draws in the sense of mystery and urgency as  he seeks to tame Pine Gap and his aching past.

Together these characters made a formidable pairing that kept me hooked for hours.

One thing I appreciate about Jennings is her environment, to set herself apart from her contemporaries I find Jennings has a real ability to insert humour that is accessible  to the reader and would still have been appreciated by  the locale. The treasure trove of Pine Gap humour and mountain quirks easily transports readers into the charm or danger depending on the scene that would be expected of the mountain town and had me longing for a few days walking the forest trails myself. Jennings, at their best, has the ability to infuse charm into her worlds and the people within them and that is what makes the characters come to life.

With such strong characters and setting, the story itself was a lovely post-holiday read that wasn't  hard to follow but still gives lots of enjoyment as readers find out the truth behind the standoffish deputy and walk with Betsy as she wrestles what  cost her dreams are worth. For the Record has strong biblical messages and a satisfying resolution to each  story line Jennings introduces.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

Without Rival

There is a reason we look at others as rivals and limit ourselves to comparison and competition. We have an enemy assaulting our mind, will, and emotions in the hope that we’ll turn on ourselves and each other. It’s a cycle that isolates us from intimate connections, creates confusion about our identity, and limits our purpose.

In Without Rival, bestselling author Lisa Bevere shares how a revelation of God’s love breaks these limits. You’ll learn how to stop seeing others as rivals and make the deep connections with your Creator you long for–connections that hold the promise of true identity and intimacy.

(excerpt from back of book)

Without Rival is my first introduction to Lisa's work and it was certainly an introduction. Tackling the topic of rivalry is not an easy one but Lisa presents a well rounded approach to the topic that feels full of openness and common sense wisdom. Lisa's personality seemed to leap out off the pages,  allowing me, a relative newbie to her work, to more easily enter her work and assisted me in looking through her eyes. Lisa's passion for women and their ability to live vibrantly within God's calling on their life shows on each page. 

I personally enjoyed the variety of ways  and the thoroughness which Lisa brought to her book. Whether it was looking at gender issues, self image, our understanding of God, or even the value of rivalry Lisa laid out intriguing lessons and arguments regarding her views on the role  these aspects should vs. how they do play out in everyday life. Her layout, especially in the first half of the book was also helpful as the  chapters felt more connected and strengthened by one another.

While there are  areas where are theology diverges(mostly in the final chapters), Without Rival sticks close to scripture for much  of its inspiration allowing the majority of the book to appeal beyond denomination preference.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

God Made You Nose to Toes by Leslie Parrott

Help little ones understand that God created each part of their bodies so they can enjoy life and everything in it. In this delightful padded cover board book by well-known author and family therapist Leslie Parrott, children can follow along with Toucan––with a great big nose––as he helps them learn God loves each one of them completely.
(excerpt from back of book)

Alright, after lots of heavy reading it's so refreshing to jump back into children's books again and refreshing definitely describes this new offering from author Leslie Parrott.
I adore this book and know my kids will too.

The book itself is a solid board book construction which is perfect for any family with a chewy toddler (please tell me the eating books stage is quick, right?)and filled to the brim with beautifully coloured and vibrant images that are sure to drawn the attention of any little one.

The story itself was wonderful to read out loud with an easy rhyme following a young boy and his toucan friend as they explore their senses and their body from "nose to toes". I really enjoyed how the format is familiar (I've lost count how many times 'head, shoulders, knees, and toes gets sung in a day) but takes it a step further by  connecting these parts with their purpose and the ultimate message that they are good gifts from God.

As  a mom to two littles, I can easily see this book holding their interest until they enter the school system if not a little further.

5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker

Out of the Spin Cycle

Alright, first things first, this blog is primarily focus on reviewing books and that's just what we're going to do.

Out of the Spin Cycle is a re-release, first published in 2010, Jen's presents 40 easy to read devotionals aimed at helping moms find peace in the midst of the chaos that life with children can be. Each chapter starts of with an analogy or story, moves  into a brief lesson, asks 1-2 questions, and ends with a recommended response.  The format is quick, easy, and at times surprisingly thought provoking. 

As a  former native speaker of sarcasm, there were times when I felt a little uncomfortable with the tone of Jen's stories. however, I was able to temper this by noting Jen's own honesty about her  weakness for sarcasm and her gratefulness for her editors  keeping her accountable in this area. It was also reassuring  to  realize that the sarcasm never traveled beyond the analogy without a clear noting of it's sarcastic undertones. When it came to teaching and scripture Jen was all business.

This really shows in the quality of the  teaching. I so wish personal timelines had allowed me to read a chapter a day to get the full effect of this book but time wasn't exactly on my side for that. However, as I read through I was struck by Jen's passion for women, especially  moms, who  are tired/stressed/and looking for Jesus. 

4 out of 5 stars
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Prayer Saturated Family by Cheryl Sacks

Image result for The Prayer Saturated Family by Cheryl Sacks

With a fresh, flexible, real-world approach, bestselling author Cheryl Sacks shows how you can integrate prayer into your daily family life, including how to:
· Get everyone on board and involved
· Experience a fresh sense of God’s promise and purpose for your family
· Overcome spiritual opposition coming against your household
· Shift the spiritual atmosphere in your home to one of greater peace and joy
· Make an investment in your children’s faith that will last a lifetime
(Excerpt from back of book)

Prayer is one of those weird topics within the church. It's foundational, everyone has heard of it, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of teaching on the topic in my experience and most people are afraid to ask questions. This is why I love books like this. Cheryl takes readers through different styles of prayer, ways to incorporate prayer into families at all stages of life, and easy to follow "how-to's" she has encountered over her own life  and research.

I really appreciated the care Cheryl takes to go through the highs and lows of families in each of their  glorious stages from no children to empty nesters and everywhere in between. The  31  day guide at the end of the book gives a wide variety of topics and suggestions to help families practically expand their own understanding of prayer and how to become more intentional about incorporating prayer into areas that may not be naturally apparent in our busy lives.
As I said, I love useful  how-to's  and this book provides  them :)

On the flip side, I would recommend this for people who have been in the church for  some  time  and already possess a more balanced view on the role of prayer for one main reason. Cheryl's writing, at times, slips into a very "health & wealth"/  "name it &claim it" mentality that  can be dangerous. Without acknowledging that, sometimes, even prayers for what we perceive to be good things can receive an answer of no or not yet, we run the risk of turning prayer into a one way request line for a Santa Claus God. I think she  tempered this somewhat with her incorporation of worship but for someone new to faith an explicit statement that prayers are not wishes and sometimes the answer isn't what we want would have been nice to see stately more strongly and clearly.

3.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Waves of Mercy

Chicago socialite Anna Nicholson retreats to the Hotel Ottawa in Holland, Michigan, after breaking her engagement with her wealthy fiancé. Filled with questions about her newfound faith and troubled by a recurring nightmare, Anna finds solace in Derk Vander Veen, a seasonal hotel worker who plans to go into the ministry.
Prompted by a request from her son, Geesje de Jonge begins to sift through memories of emigrating from the Netherlands almost fifty years ago. As she writes them down for the Semi-Centennial anniversary of the town’s settlement, her story takes on a life of its own as she honestly and painfully recalls her regrets, doubts, hardships, and joys. Her story captivates Derk, who sees similarities between Geesje and Anna, and wishes to bring the two together.
(excerpt from back of book)

Waves of  Mercy is two books for  the price of one. Balancing between the story of Anna, Geesje, and Geesje youth, Lynn Austin artfully weaves a world where  characters are unafraid to address real fears and doubts while experiencing believable highs and lows within life. I will admit it took me  a few chapters  to adjust to the shifts between Anna, Geesje, and Geesje's teenage years. As a reader who gets very immersed in her books  (hence the many late nights trying to read just a few more minutes) the  shifts in time periods and characters  initially jarred me out of the  story. However, as the book progressed and I became more involved  (specifically with  Geesje's story) I was eventually able to make the first person shifts without loosing that encompassing effect.

As with any good story,  I  quickly found myself latching onto a character - in this case Geesje. While I struggled to find  a connection with Anna until the last pages of  the  book Geesje leapt off  the  pages with  a depth that's hard to find. I loved the dimension Lynn was able to work into her character and the honesty with which she addressed Geesje's doubts and struggles as her  faith collided  with life events. 

While I quickly guessed Anna's story line, Geesje's story line kept me guessing throughout, not so much in plot points but in her reactions  and responses to those events. Austin was skillful in her ability to lead readers  through events that, while greatly  removed through time, still felt real, relatable, and successfully invites readers to enter into the story.  Love is such a powerful connector but I loved  how Austin does not rely on the traditional love story to carry Geesje along. I honestly cried along with Geesje as she  made her decisions time and time again and loved the portrayal of relationship that involved  such commitment, decision, and sacrifice.

This was a perfect way to jump in Lynn Austin's writing and would make a perfect Christmas gift for any lover of historical  fiction or true love stories on  your list.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."