Book Reviews, Fiction, Nonfiction

Recent Reads Roundup | Round #1

Alright, so I’m trying something new with this roundup. I wanted to share some more of the books I’m reading and thought up this idea. Some I may have posted to my Instagram, but there’s some others as well! Be sure to share some of your recent reads!

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner: We have a summer book club for WaterBrook and Multnomah (you should join the fun here!) and this one is our August read. I’m a big fan of Susan’s and this one is a new favorite.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: An important piece people should all read.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: I remember seeing this book everywhere when it was first released last year (props to the publishing team at Flatirons!). I added it to my list and finally decided to grab a copy and see what the fuss was all about. The verdict? I can’t resist a fantasy book with magic and mystery y’all! With feelings of The Night Circus, this was just the book I needed to escape into. Got the sequel waiting for me!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: I’ve read this a few times, but there’s still bits I forget each time I read it. Just a heads up, if you love the book like I do, don’t see the HBO movie that came out. There were just too many changes. I get there needs to be some to make it work for a movie, but when things/people/events are changed that played a major role in a character’s development, I’m not okay with that.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann: What a fabulous read! There were many things I learned from reading this book, one of the main things being that I’m going to pass on any opportunity to hike through the Amazon for weeks on end. As much as I’d love to encounter a 27 foot anaconda or cyanide-squirting millipedes (and many other nasty nasties that while reading about caused my face to be locked in a perpetual look of horror), I think I’ll just read about them instead. 🙃 Fascinating book though and highly recommend!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Part thriller and part sci-fi, but a creative concept that kept me reading. I skimmed over some way-beyond-my-brain-physics-science, but overall I enjoyed it. I was really curious how it would all turn out and liked what the author did. If you like thrillers with hints of sci-fi, this might be for you.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: This one was hard to put words to after I first read it. Many have called it unconventional and that’s spot on. It’s different from what I normally read. It won’t even be for everyone. But! I’ll also say this is the kind of book where 10 different readers will come away with 10 different responses of what hit them the most. Grief, empathy, what could have been…so many themes and pieces. If you want to try something creative and different that hits you deep, check this one out.

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Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Everyday Holy by Melanie Shankle | Book Review

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If y’all have been around the blog for a while, then you know I’m a Melanie Shankle fan. Her humor and writing always have me laughing and leaving encouraged. Her latest devotional is no different. Sharing every day stories from her life, Shankle’s daily devotions encourage, remind and teach about God’s truth in the everyday. How much I need this! There’s been quite a few daily devos that were just what I needed and when I did. It’s something I’m so thankful for during this season.

I also have to say, this book looks and feels so fancy…I’m a fan! Beyond the hardcover, there’s really nice paper (I know that’s a terrible description, but my brain cannot come up with the right name, weight or style of said paper, but trust me, its legit) and I love the cover. Honestly, this would make a great gift for yourself #treatyoself or a woman in your life!

What devotional or book is ministering to your heart right now?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

It seems to be a rite of passage for every woman: you wake up one day and think, “Wait. THIS is the life I signed up for?”
We’ve all been there. Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog, is just brave enough to say it out loud. And Everyday Holy is your invitation to reexamine your life and find the little pieces that create a beautiful picture of a big God.

On any given day, you may be asking yourself:

  • Is Instagram making me crazy, or am I actually supposed to have a perfectly curated cup of coffee on my artfully rumpled throw blanket every morning?
  • Doubts about my faith are normal, right?
  • Is eating cookie dough straight from the fridge fine as long as it’s organic?
  • Could it be that loving my family well is my spiritual gift?

It’s a common theme: Am I okay? Is my life significant? And how do we measure significance, anyway? Melanie’s hilarious and poignant insight offers you the deep breath of relief that God is working in all the moments, no matter how big or how small. In 100 devotions, Everyday Holy: Finding a Big God in the Little Moments invites you to see your life as God intended: rich with opportunity, significance, and beauty, even on days that feel overwhelmingly ordinary.

If you’re looking for the line that connects the dots, Everyday Holy is for you. If you wonder where God is in this mess or how exactly He’s working behind the scenes, this book is for you. Whether you feel overwhelmed or disillusioned or frustrated by how your life feels, there’s room for you at this table. And here’s the best news: We’re all in this together.

Book Reviews, Fiction

ColorFULL by Dorena Williamson | Book Review

“Celebrating Colors God Gave Us.”

One thing I hear often is “I’m colorblind, I don’t see color.” While I understand the intent and desire, it shouldn’t be our response. Why do I say this? Because God made color and He made people look different. And He did because He is creative and loves diversity. I’m so thankful to follow a God who creates that way. If everyone were the same, the world would be so boring.

I love finding books for children that show them this beautiful truth. The truth that, though they may look different from each other, they are all God’s children. This book is fun, the illustrations adorable and I love that it celebrates this.

Finally, not only is this a cute and important story, there’s also “Parent Connection” in the back, which comes with a verse, short discussion and questions that will help parents talk more with their kids. I love that idea and that it’s rooted in Scripture!

I highly recommend reading this to the littles in your life! Any recent children’s books you’re loving?

(Thank you to B&H for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Why be colorblind when we can be colorFULL instead?

Imani and Kayla are the best of friends who are learning to celebrate their different skin colors. As they look around them at the amazing colors in nature, they can see that their skin is another example of God’s creativity! This joyful story takes a new approach to discussing race: instead of being colorblind, we can choose to celebrate each color God gave us and be colorFULL instead.

Bookish Radness

10 + A Few Books For Your Summer Reading

(So I originally posted this last year, but since life is life, I haven’t had a chance to put together a new list. Instead I added a few to this one. With summer coming though, didn’t want y’all to miss out on any possible new reads!)

It’s almost Summer time!! I’m not sure how I’ll handle summer weather that isn’t the same temperature as the surface of the sun, but I think I’ll manage. I moved mid-August last year and I had to wear a light sweater at night. I still don’t compute that one, but looking forward to zero chance of snow as well (It snowed on May 18th, which is a no for me).

With summer comes lots of reading time! Whether 4th of July by the pool, summer vacations, or finding that extra time we don’t normally have – I’m all about the summer reading lists. I tend to have a pile 5 times the size I know I’ll be able to read, but no matter! I like to dream big. So I put together a list for y’all who are looking for some more books to snag. I decided to stick with books all released in the past few-ish years (Sorry Tollers and Jack, but you know how much I love you).

Maybe next year, I’ll plan ahead and have a list of all new releases, but let’s not be hasty Internet. Also, if you’re wondering why I chose 10, I have no idea. It’s the first number that popped in my head. #Professional

1. Redwall by Brian Jacques. I bought this about 4 years ago. As with many books, I was right on top of getting to it. Anyway, this is for those who have a soft spot for stories like Secret of The NIMH, An American Tail (#FievelLove) and other such animal fantastical stories. An entertaining read and if you enjoy it, there’s about 574,875,439 in the series.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I’m simply going to say it’s a page turner. Also please tell me your thoughts when you finish. That’s pretty much the only reason I’m adding this book, I need more people to discuss this with! That and it’s a great pick for fans of thrillers. (Heads up, there’s language)

3. The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner. If you enjoy time slip novels, definitely add this to your list. The time period she focuses on, is one that I always find fascinating. If you’ve never read a time slip, then here’s a great place to start!

4. Life After by Katie Ganshert. I promise I’m not just saying this since we published it. It’s truly a beautiful story. Truly Katie’s best.

5. The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim. A different take on dystopian that I thought worked really well. Not at all what I was expecting, but enjoyed it quite a bit. Later this week will be my review of the story’s conclusion, The Divide.

6. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge. Inspired by one of the all time greats and plus it takes place in one of my favorite cities in the Universe, so of course I have to include it.

7. Blur by Steven James. What’s a summer read without a thriller or two? I’ll be reading the third (and final) in the series this summer as well. Don’t read it in the dark by yourself though…

8. A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander. She’s one of my go to for inspirational historical reads. I have yet to be disappointed with her stories!

9. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Judge away, but y’all…I loved this book. It’s by the same author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so if you enjoyed that, this might be one for you.

10. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It’s The Hunger Games to the third power and it takes place on Mars. It captured my attention and I hope to finish the series this summer as well.

Here’s some 2018 additions:

What are some of the books on your summer reading list?

Book Reviews, Fiction

With Love From The Inside by Angela Pisel | Book Review

I love fiction. For so many reasons. One being that fiction can bring about topics and issues in a different way than a documentary or nonfiction book would (although I highly recommend those). This is one such book.

I loved that the author decided to write about such a story. A story about Death Row, the relationships we hold most dear and dealing with the past. Pisel deals with heavy topics, but in an engaging way. She was also able to keep me guessing on key parts of the story. The development of our two main characters was another strong piece of the book.

There were things I didn’t expect that came into play and a story like this forces the reader to think about what it is like for men and women on death row. After reading books like Just Mercy and watching 13th, this provided another view point worth thinking about.

What’s fiction novel that made you think about a social issue?

(This book was published by Putnam, and Imprint of Penguin Random House)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

ABOUT THE BOOK

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom. Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account. Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down. No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.

Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

Fiction

World-Building: The Promise of Something Greater | Guest Post by David Wiley

Today I’m welcoming my friend David Wiley on his newest release! Hope you enjoy!

When I sat down to write Monster Huntress, I didn’t know much about the world in which it was taking place. I knew the type of world I wanted, but it transformed and evolved over the course of revisions, always growing either in size or in the details. While the story of Monster Huntress visits only a small portion of the world I’ve created, there are some lessons I’ve learned from J.R.R. Tolkien that have had a ripple effect toward my approach to worldbuilding. The biggest of those lessons was to provide the promise of something greater.

What I mean by that is there is something more out there beyond what the reader is experiencing. There is a larger world, other events going on. There is a rich history, filled with named heroes and battles and events that can be referred to over the course of the book. The reader doesn’t need to know what the Wizard Wars were, for instance, but knowing that there was some massive war hundreds of years ago is important to provide the experience of an aged world. After all, we still refer back to events and wars that waged hundreds, and thousands, of years ago. The same will hold true in a fantasy book, unless it is a newly-formed world. Even new civilizations likely stemmed from somewhere with a history on that world.

Some writers might take the “cut it” approach to those things, and my own editor prodded at some of those. I took a few out but kept others, because I wanted to provide depth to the world – it has a history, after all, even if I haven’t written it yet. It opens the door for significant events to be explored later in shorter forms of fiction, or even a spin-off book that covers some of those things.

There is a scene in the book where Ava comes across a statue of four famous, yet nameless, heroes from the past. Here is the small scene:

The landmark of her journey, a tall statue made from an aquamarine granite, loomed just ahead. Its features were smooth and worn from the weather, their individual faces indistinguishable, but she could still make out the original image carved by the sculptor. It was depicting a trio of men and one woman, a party of unnamed individuals that performed heroic deeds long ago during the Wizard Wars. When Ava was close enough she could read the short inscription at the base of the statue which read: “These four warriors fought to maintain the balance in the world. They fought bravely and their sacrifice for the side of the Light will forever be remembered.” The rest of the words had been worn down to the point where they were no longer legible.

Ava sat in her saddle and contemplated the deeds of these bold warriors from the past. Had they not acted perhaps the world would be radically different than the world she was living in now. It was clear, from the inscription that remained, that these four were important in shaping history.

This scene was much longer, originally, giving some physical descriptions and some speculations on their individual roles. Yet I like the concise nature here. It gives you enough to emphasize their importance in making the world like it is, yet doesn’t steal the scene away from the main character. Look for more worldbuilding scenes like this to appear as the world I’ve built continues to grow. After all, Monster Huntress is set in a world with 13 kingdoms. By the end of book one, she’s only set foot into two of them, so the possibility for growth is quite large as she goes on more adventures in the Young Huntress Series.

Want to get started on Monster Huntress? Grab a copy today!

Want to learn more about the world I’ve built? Check out the earlier stops on the tour and meet some of the characters!

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Weaver’s Daughter by Sarah E. Ladd | Book Review

I remember when Sarah E. Ladd released her debut novel and I’ve been a fan ever since then. Her latest release takes you again back to England, with a story of family, changing times and of course, love.

I really appreciated the tension of change and community Ladd looked at. Was there one right answer? How did these communities deal with industrial change that took jobs away from people, but also sought to move industries forward and make them more efficient? I think of the ways life has changed during my lifetime, growing up in such a technological world, and that while it has changed in very different ways, we can see some of the same effect changes have made on industries today. What an interesting and scary time that was for England.

I also really appreciated that the ending was fitting and accurate. A satisfying ending to an entertaining read. If you enjoy historical romances with family and loyalties tested, be sure to snag a copy of The Weaver’s Daughter.

Do you have a recent favorite historical read?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions? Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder — including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father’s pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed. Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort out the truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family’s livelihood and legacy.Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls – even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Love and Faith

I Want to Be Dangerous

My church is currently going through a series called DANGEROUS. Each week we look at the lives of the people in the Bible who were dangerous to satan, the people who showed up on his radar as people to watch and go after. I’m loving it! Not only because it’s been great, but it has reminded me of the truths in Screwtape Letters and as we all know, that’s one of my favorites from Lewis. Anyway, we’ve talked about Jesus, David, and Esther.

After each sermon, I’ve been randomly thinking of ways I need to be more dangerous. Do I trust my own strengths or do I trust Jesus’ strength? Do I wait for His timing? Am I seeking Him daily through His Word and prayer? Do I trust Him in the battles?

It’s been convicting and encouraging at the same time. I don’t have much more to add (plus it’s been 900 years since I’ve blogged), but I encourage you to look at those people who kept satan on his toes and, what do you say? Let’s be dangerous together!

(If you’d like to watch the sermons, check out the sermon videos here!)

And for chuckles, here’s a video from one of the sermons. Each week, some of the staff members do something dangerous and I got to stare my fear of heights in the face. Like for real. I have two things to say: 1. Sorry for the scream. 2. I had to sign a waiver, so legit dangerous 🙂

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

ICB Prayer Bible for Children by Thomas Nelson | Book Review

Help your children develop a heart for prayer with the new Prayer Bible for Children. This colorful Bible in the ICB version, the simple translation children can read and understand, highlights the most famous and beloved prayers featured in the Bible throughout the text. To put prayer life into practice, the Bible comes with a free prayer journal and a handy pocket on the back flap to carry it!

Prayer can be challenging and fearful for children to grasp sometimes, and the new ICB Prayer Bible will help show children that God loves to hear from His children and loves answering prayers.

With 160 pages about prayer and special features that show how God answers prayers throughout the Bible, you and your family will love to study this special Bible together! Featured throughout the text are the most famous and beloved prayers featured in the Bible. From Abraham’s prayers to the Lord . . . to Jesus praying before his crucifixion . . . to the way Paul prayed for the churches he planted, this Bible will teach young readers about a God who loves to hear from His children and loves answering prayers.

Special features include 160 full page prayer articles throughout the Bible. These special pages help children learn how to pray, to not fear prayer, and to see within the Word how and when God’s people prayed. The 64 colorful decorative pages will feature kid-friendly scripture prayers, topical poem prayers and fun questions and answers kids have about prayer. To put prayer life into practice, the Bible comes with a free prayer journal and a handy pocket on the back flap with to carry the prayer journal.

I love coming across books that are meant for children, but after looking through, know the adults reading with the child will be just as encouraged and engaged. This Prayer Bible for Children by Thomas Nelson is one of those!

I really loved the prayers throughout this Bible. While they are for children, so many of the words ring true for adults. Part of one of the prayers from the book of Zephaniah reads:

“Lord, I don’t need to be afraid. You, my God, are always with me…You sing over me with delight. My heart is peaceful and happy.”

It also comes with a 64 page prayer journal. It’s a fun extra for the young journaler in your life. It’s lined and matches the Bible design. This is right in the age range of my oldest niece, so I look forward to giving this to her!

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews

Books and Blogs – Do They Still Hang Out?

Are book blogs slowly going away? I don’t have an answer to this, but I’m curious to hear all of your thoughts. Is how we share our love of books changing? I find myself gravitating towards the Instagram world of books, but I do still read some blogs.

I don’t have any great revelations, but I thought I’d bring this to the table, since it’s something that’s been on my mind. A little bit because of my job, but honestly, mainly for myself. I don’t blog as much. I don’t have time as I once did. I would love to review and read more books from publishers, but I can’t commit to a full blog post, so I don’t request as many. I usually end up buying my favorite authors’ latest releases, but I do miss getting to read and share beforehand.

*Updating this post to include Goodreads as another absolute favorite. I check reviews there when checking out new authors or books and love to post what I’ve read!*

I’d love to hear your feedback on any and all of these questions:

Readers: Where do you go for book reviews? Is your main source blogs? Or a mix of places?

Authors: When looking for influencers, is a blog required? Do you have a preference?

Fellow Publishers: Are blogs still a requirement to join your reviewing programs? Would you be open to having links to an Instagram post or FB post count in the same way? Is this on your radar?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!