Book Reviews

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen | Book Review

(ICYMI: I switched blogs! I combined my blogs for this new writing and blogging chapter. You can find out all the details here).

Where my small town fiction readers at? If that’s you, I think you should keep reading!

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

I’ll start by saying this: this is a page turner. You want to find out what’s next, you want to know what’s going to happen. It kept me reading and if I remember correctly, I finished it in one setting.

It’s very much a small town novel. While there were a couple things I guessed were going to happen (but not in a way that ruined the reading experience), there were a few surprising bits that got my attention (if you’ve read it, message me. There’s one key thing I really REALLY want to discuss!)

It’s a page turner for sure and there were times when I wanted to sit characters down and tell them to make better choices, but isn’t that what good novels often do? I also like that it was an honest look at parent’s grief (not matter what you are grieving for). I liked that it showed how people do change and people can work at something they once thought lost.

Have you read any of Whalen’s novels?

(This was a Fall pick for SheReads.org. Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Book Reviews

The Church of Small Things by Melanie Shankle | Book Review

(ICYMI: I switched blogs! I combined my blogs for this new writing and blogging chapter. You can find out all the details here).

What can I say y’all? I’m a big fan of Melanie Shankle. I mean, we both love Jesus, books, tacos and have a soft spot for Texas. That’s a bond Internet. Her blog and her podcast (with Boo Mama) are some of my favorite things. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried (emphasis on the laughing). Seriously, the podcast cracks me up (I mean, her love of Teddy’s Organic Rosehip Seed Oil convinced me to purchase my first non cooking oil ever in my life). But that’s what I love about story – God uses everyone’s story to impact others.

Her latest, The Church of Small Things, is seriously for anyone!

Is my ordinary, everyday life actually significant? Is it okay to be fulfilled by the simple acts of raising kids, working in an office, and cooking chicken for dinner?

It’s been said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” The pressure of that can be staggering as we spend our days looking for that big thing that promises to take our breath away. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the small significance of fully living with every breath we take.

Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog tackles these questions head on in her fourth book, Church of the Small Things. Easygoing and relatable, she speaks directly to the heart of women of all ages who are longing to find significance and meaning in the normal, sometimes mundane world of driving carpool to soccer practice, attending class on their college campus, cooking meals for their family, or taking care of a sick loved one.

The million little pieces that make a life aren’t necessarily glamorous or far-reaching. But God uses some of the smallest, most ordinary acts of faithfulness—and sometimes they look a whole lot like packing lunch.

Through humorous stories told in her signature style, full of Frito pie, best friends, the love of her Me-Ma and Pa-Pa, the unexpected grace that comes when we quit trying to measure up, and a little of the best TV has to offer, Melanie helps women embrace what it means to live a simple, yet incredibly meaningful life and how to find all the beauty and laughter that lies right beneath the surface of every moment.

“But true success and prosperity comes when you are right where God wants you to be, doing what He has called you to do.”

Shankle has such a talent of drawing you in as a reader. Even if it’s a topic you don’t think you need – I’m telling y’all, she’s able to keep you interested (Example #234: I loved her books on marriage and motherhood). The overarching theme of Shankle’s latest is much needed. This idea of “church of the small things” is a beautiful reminder that God’s beauty, grace and love aren’t only found in the big moments and things in life. They are in the little pieces – whether those pieces cause you to cry from laughter or cry from hurt. The little pieces seem so simple, yet, all come together to create something beautiful.

I think you’ll be inspired and hopeful in your own story after reading more of Shankle’s story, so if you’re looking for a perfect Fall read (or a gift for someone), be sure to consider Church of the Small Things.

Also, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are quoted, so yep.

Have you had a chance to read any of Melanie’s books? 

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

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

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Space Between the Words by Michèle Phoenix | Book Review

“Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, and pressing on in faith.”

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.
“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Books dealing with recent horrific and tragic events will never be an easy read. It’s a painful revisit and a reminder of the broken world we live in. Phoenix’s story of loss, pain and the path to healing though, not only had me fully engaged, I was reminded that life is beautiful and precious. I enjoyed the modern day story, but also really enjoyed the historic piece of this novel. It was a piece of history I didn’t know and glad I now do.

We’ll never escape terrible events while we’re on earth. It’s a hard reality, but I’m thankful of the hope I have that this isn’t it. Dealing with grief, how our minds respond, to the healing we need and the time it takes, this novel will remind you to never waste a moment and when life deals us a heavy blow, all hope is not lost.

(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, Fiction

Her Memory of Music by Katherine Scott Jones | Book Review

I love watching authors release debut novels out into the world. What a journey and a joy it must be for authors! It’s especially fun when it’s a blogger friend realizing that dream! I forget when we first crossed paths on the Internet, but I’m so glad we did, because Katherine Scott Jones is awesome and such an encourager. I get to return the favor by helping spread the word about her debut, Her Memory of Music!

A single mother’s past catches up with her and threatens the stability of her new life with her young son in this multi-layered treatment of contemporary relationships. Loss is met with hope and grace as Ally learns to open her heart and trust dangerous secrets to those she’s learning to love.

 

If you enjoy women’s fiction, then definitely pick up this book. If you haven’t read much women’s fiction, then pick up this book. Not only is this a captivating story, but Jones weaves important issues throughout the novel effortlessly. Not overwhelming the reader, but drawing the reader more deeply in. And the music piece of the story? Such a reminder of how healing and beautiful music can be.

I thoroughly enjoyed every piece of the novel, from the character development, to a real life perspective to encouraging faith weaved throughout seamlessly and naturally. Don’t miss out on this one friends!

What’s a recent debut you loved?

(With thanks to author and Redemption for providing a copy for review)

Where to Buy: Amazon | BN.com | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

Ascension Of Larks by Rachel Linden | Book Review

Remember when I said I was only going to have a break in July and then there was silence for most of August too? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Here’s the thing. I bought a house. (It was the best birthday present I’ve ever given myself – ha!) I also thought it would only take a day or two to get said house in order. I’m so funny.

Anyway, I’m finally getting into a routine that doesn’t include unpacking boxes on the weekends and so back to blogging! I make no promises of regular scheduled programming just yet (I learned) and I’m still so behind on everything blogging, but it’s a start! So let’s dive in.

When globetrotting photographer Maggie Henry loses the only man she’s ever loved, she jeopardizes her rising career and steps in to care for her best friends’ three young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie’s star is rising fast. But she has a secret. She can’t let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.

With the shattering news of Marco’s death, Maggie rushes to the Firelli family’s summer home on San Juan Island and attempts to provide stability for the children as fragile, perfectionist Lena slowly falls apart. When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious photography competition, she finds herself unable to leave the only family she has during their time of need. Devastated, Maggie takes a series of photographs documenting their life in limbo.

A mysterious man appears on the island, and Maggie soon realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Daniel Wolfe, an award-winning Native American poet hiding in exile on the island, is responsible for Marco’s death. Maggie is both drawn to and repelled by Daniel, a sensitive, tortured soul with secrets of his own. Out of their loneliness and grief they form an unlikely friendship. Maggie develops her recent photographs, and she’s elated to discover that they are good enough for the photography competition. She still has a chance to win. But she must first relinquish the past so that she can move forward and embrace the reality of her unexpected life.

What to say about this book? All in all it wasn’t a bad read, but I didn’t connect with it. I would put it down, come back to it, then put it down again. I know part of the reason is I’m not a fan of best friends being in love with their best friend’s husbands and normally I wouldn’t pick it up, but since he died in a tragic accident, I was intrigued.

Outside of not connecting with the characters, there were some things that were introduced a bit too late in the story. If brought about earlier, they could have helped with story connection, character development and arc. I did appreciate learning about the island, the unique lives of the characters, and the children, I just wish I became invested more.

I do love this cover though and I’m also interested to see what’s next from Linden.

While this question has nothing to do with the book, how have y’all been? How was your summer?

(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, Fiction, Inklings

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien | Book Review

What can I say about The Hobbit? Here’s my review in one word: Awesomeness.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the greatest authors ever and if we’re being honest, I’ll stop being your friend if you say anything bad about his stories or him.

It’s been so long since I’ve read The Hobbit that it was like reading it for the first time. I forgot so much of it and I love Tolkien’s way of telling a story. I laughed at many lines, grew to love each character and was reminded again that Tolkien was a genius. If you’ve never read the books, put them next on your list!

He created a language, incredible story lines, creativity beyond most people and even today’s famous books are influenced by his story (I love me some Harry Potter, but you can’t help but notice the similarities with Lord of the Rings). I am so excited to see the movie coming out this weekend! Not sure how three movies will pan out, but I figure that’s just more Tolkien radness on the big screen.

In case you live under a rock and haven’t seen this preview, you’re welcome. How do you not get chills when Thorin starts singing?

After every read or re-read of Tolkien, I’m left with one single question: Is it too much to ask for Middle Earth to be real and for me to be an elf or rider of Rohan?

I didn’t think so either.

Book Reviews

In Memory of Denver Moore

When I decided to start this blog, I made a rule that I wouldn’t discuss a book I have already read (unless I reread it). And plus I would be posting way too often. Yet, only five blog posts in, I decided to break that rule.

On March 31st, 2012 Denver Moore passed away in his home at the age of 75. Denver and Ron Hall’s story, as told in New York Times Bestseller Same Kind of Different as Me, shares the powerful and inspirational story of an unlikely friendship between an art dealer and a homeless man hardened by the streets and how faith and an amazing woman named Deborah brought them together.

Y’all, I have never cried so much in a book. It truly is one of the most profound stories I have ever read. It’s always the first book I give to people when they ask for recommendations. This story truly changed my life. So if you are looking for your next read, this needs to be it.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Denver:

“The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”

Trust me, read it! It’s less than $10.00 on Amazon right now. Click here to get it!

Book Reviews, Photography

Some of My Favorite Photography Books

If you have had a chance to meander on over to the ever cleverly named tab “About,” you already know that along with writing about my favorite reads, I take pictures (in another life I was a wedding photographer). I love photography as much as I love reading. As I was going through my book inventory I found some favorites I think you’ll enjoy even without having to own a camera.

Cats of the Greek Isles – If you don’t like cats, then I don’t recommend this. But if you like cats and Greece, this one is a winner. It seems like cats there rule the streets and photographer Hans Silvester knows a thing or two about how to creatively capture them.

100 Photographs that Changed the World – Images have the power to speak thousands of emotions and story. This is a collection of some of the most powerful. Photojournalism at it’s greatest.

Bible Road: Signs of Faith in the American Landscape – I heart Jesus, I really do, so this book was a rather interesting and intriguing collection by Sam Fentress. Some people are creative in the ways they share about Jesus and if we’re being honest, some are rather strange.

Great Photographs of World War 2 – My passion in history can be thrown in with the rest of the reasons why I love being a nerd, but this books has hundreds of photos from the last great war. Some pretty powerful stuff.

Did I miss any?

Book Reviews, Inklings

Kicking it Off With Some Clive Staples | A Look at Mere Christianity

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. His creativity and writing style captivate me. I love reading the Chronicles of Narnia at least once a year. Powerful themes of life and love, yet incredibly enjoyable too.

I first read Mere Christianity when I was a teenager and while I remember enjoying it, I don’t really think I grasped a majority of it. So I figured it was time to read it again. I should have a better understanding at 30 right? I’m glad I did. While written in 1943 (and in Britain no less :)), there’s still so many provoking thoughts and ideas.

I’m not sure how any of these blog posts will go (let’s be honest, this is my second post), but I’m sure each one will look nothing like that last. So to kick off my first official “book review,” here’s some of the quotes I thought were worth highlighting.

“Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago.”

“It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.”

“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also that only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next, the Apostles themselves, who set foot on the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

“If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”

What’s your favorite(s) of Mr. Lewis?