Shadow of the Storm By Connilyn Cossette – Book Review

Shadow of the Storm 

By Connilyn Cossette

Find it on: 

Third Person

Fiction

352 Pages

About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

In the Depth of the Storm’s Shadow, Only Truth Can Light Her Way 

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

Why I Choose this Book: 

I read the first book in the series back in May and really enjoyed it. When I saw the second book was coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it, too.

What I Thought About this Book:

The book had so many beautiful descriptions in it. I savored the words and flew right into the world they were portraying. I was stuck between wanting to read the book as fast as possible to find out what happened next, and to slow down and drink in the way the words swirled together. 

I also found the first third of the storyline to be fantastically gripping. Then came a plot twist I had 100% not expected. The plot twist nearly made me drop the book. It was crazy. It’s probably my lack of mercy, but I had a really hard time with how the main character dealt with what happened. I won’t say more because of spoilers, ya know, but I’m still not sure I feel like it was adequately addressed in the rest of the book. That’s what took the book from a very solid four stars down to three stars. 

There was also a fair bit more romance in this book than I remember being in the first book, which also took the book down a little bit for me. 

Conclusion:

All in all, Shadow of the Storm was compelling, beautiful, and really helped the Exodus from Egypt come alive for me. Miss Connilyn does a fantastic job of skillfully weaving her words together and I look forward to reading the third book when it’s published. 

Rating: 

I’m giving Shadow of the Storm 3 out of 5 stars and 6 out of 10.

*I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing*

Answers to the Most Important Questions about the End Times By Dr. John Hart: Book Review

Answers to the Most Important Questions about the End Times
By Dr. John Hart 

Find it on: 

Narrative 
Non-Fiction
189 Pages

About the Book (Back cover Blurb):

For everyone who is curious, confused, or even fearful about Jesus’ second coming, the Antichrist, the end of the world, the book of Revelation, and biblical prophecy, Dr. John Hart clearly and respectfully offers real, biblical answers. He reveals exactly what God’s Word says as well as what it doesn’t say, explaining how it impacts your family and friends. This slender volume answers everyone’s most-asked questions, and even includes a list of Bible references for further study.

Why I Choose this Book: 

I haven’t read very much about the end times, so I was pretty curious to learn more about it from people who have studied the matter extensively. 

What I Thought About this Book:

Unfortunately it wasn’t really my style. Now this is going to sound quite lame, but the fact is, I like stories. I like being able to relate to people. Don’t get wrong, nonfiction books are great – but I don’t feel a draw toward a book when it’s just fact after fact. I literally don’t know a single thing about the author from reading the book (except that he’s obviously studied the end times). I am able to engage in a book much better when they illustrate points by telling short stories that are true. Since we’re studying the end times though, I can see how that didn’t exactly fit into the picture. (All that to say, you’ll probably like the book, so you should check it out.) 
 I did learn stuff from reading the book though, and although I didn’t agree on 100% of his interpretations, it was encouraging to see how often he quoted or referenced the Bible. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of references, so yay for authors who really take the Bible as the authority. 
The book discusses questions like “Who is the ‘False Prophet’?” “What is the Role of Israel in the End Times?” “What Nations Will be in Power in the End Times?” and many other similar ones. There were some explanations that didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but I have a feeling that if I would study the matter more throughly, then they would. 
Conclusion:

Overall it’s a pretty good overview of what the end times look like. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but that’s only because it wasn’t my style. 
Rating:


I’m giving Answers to the Most Important Questions about the End Times 3 stars out of 5, and 4 stars out of 10. 

*I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

A Beauty Refined By Tracie Peterson: Book Review & Giveaway

Hey y’all! I get to be part of another book release blog tour today. How much fun is that? So, without further ado, here we go: 
A Beauty Refined 
By Tracie Peterson 

Find it on: 

Third-Person
4 Points of view (I think)
Fiction
320 Pages


About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

Phoebe Von Bergen is excited to accompany her father when he travels from Germany to purchase sapphires in Montana. Little does she know that her father’s plans–for the gemstones and his daughter–are not what they seem.

Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Meeting Ian has changed everything. Phoebe is determined to stay in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger as the deception begins to unravel.

Why I Choose this Book: 

I’ve read a couple of other Historical Fiction books by Tracie Peterson that I enjoyed a lot. Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, as long as they aren’t too romantic. Note: After I read this book and didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, I looked back and saw I only gave two stars to the last Tracie Peterson (co-authored) book I read… 

What I Thought About this Book:

Hum… This book. It had so much promise. And then it fell rather flat for me. It still (barely) squeaked 3 out of 5 stars for me though (4 out of 10), and so I figured the best thing I could do was write a pros and cons list for you. 
Reasons I liked the book:
* The plot was intriguing 
* I liked the main character (at least to begin with) 
* The writing style felt unique to me. For a while I couldn’t tell if the writing was actually a pro or con, but it drew me in and kept my interest, so I decided it was a pro
* Although I wouldn’t say the main characters were unique as far as characters go, they were easy to distinguish from each other and I never got them confused 
* I liked Kenny and felt as if he was well-written 
* Hearing about the jewels was interesting 
* I liked where it was set and reading about the lifestyle the FMC (female main character) was used to
* As someone who cooks a lot, it was pretty cool to hear all the meal descriptions 
Reasons I didn’t like the book: 
* It felt like the author took a great story and massacred it. I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed the story far more if it had just been told from one point of view. As it was, we saw something happen, then heard about it as the next character found out about it, and then again with a third character. It was tedious and made the book feel really slow
* The Romance. Oh help us all… It wasn’t that anything necessarily inappropriate happened between the FMC and MMC (male main character), but wow. I have a huge, huge, huge problem with the romance in most books because it’s like “Oh, look! A good-looking human. I’ve never fallen in love before even though I’m twenty-two years old, but I think I’ll do so at this very moment after seeing him twice in my life.” Please, no. I would consider what they had to be infatuation, or a crush. Not love.
I don’t think the book would have lost anything if it would have taken out the “romance” and it probably would have garnered at least half a star more from me. (I don’t recall the romance being a huge part of the story, it was just glaring.) 
* A lot of the story ended up feeling trite and cliché and made me want to shake my head
* I wish we wouldn’t have had so much of the MMC’s backstory… I found the FMC much more interesting 
Conclusion:

There was a little bit of violence near the end, but not too much detail. There were certainly good points in the book, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, mostly because I didn’t enjoy it. 
Rating:

I’m giving A Beauty Refined 3 stars out of 5, and 4 stars out of 10. 

*I received this book free from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review*

Oh! And yay, happiness! There’s a giveaway. (Remember, just cause I don’t like a book doesn’t mean you won’t!) Enter the giveaway here

The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron: Book Review

Yay, everyone! I get to be part of a blog tour. How much fun is that? Today I’m posting a book review for Kristy Cambron’s latest book, The Ringmaster’s Wife. 

Back when I signed up to review this book I never imagined I would be sitting in a hospital waiting room in North Dakota with my adopted dad in open heart surgery as I wrote this review. I guess it’s true that life is full of surprises. 

The Ringmaster’s Wife

Find it on: 

Third-Person
4 Points of view (I think…)
Fiction
368 Pages



About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.
Why I Choose this Book: 

I’ve read Kristy Cambron’s other two books and really liked one of them, and was rather disappointed in the other. I figured I had a 50/50 chance on either really liking or feeling “meh” about her third book.

What I Thought About this Book:

Humm… I think I’ve done so much editing recently that I’m having a hard time just appreciating a book, so please keep that in mind throughout this review. 

Scene by scene I enjoyed the book. There were some beautiful word pictures, the setting was fairly well developed, and there wasn’t questionable content (yay!). The characters also started out with promise. 

Unfortunately, the story didn’t exactly make sense to me. It felt disjointed, as if a bunch of scenes were thrown together to create a partial story that didn’t have much of a plot line  I kept waiting for a lightbulb moment to go off and have everything make sense, but that never happened. There was a slight lightbulb moment around page 330, that if it would have been at page 30, it would have totally changed the trajectory of the book and would have made a huge difference. Since that didn’t happen though, the book was a fail for me. 

Conclusion:

I’ve seen a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews floating around for this book, which means my assessment isn’t very popular and therefore you probably shouldn’t take my word for it. Instead, y’all should read some other reviews and see what other readers are saying about the book. 

Rating:

I’m giving The Ringmaster’s Wife 3 stars out of 5, and 4 stars out of 10. 

*I received this book free from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review*

Yankee in Atlanta By Jocelyn Green: Book Review

I finished multiple books during the last few days and so this Monday is going to be my “Review Day” where I post three or four of them. I hope y’all enjoy seeing what I’ve been reading and maybe choose one or two books to add to your own reading list. To see a complete list (and reviews) of the books I’ve read in 2016, you can check out my Goodreads list. If you have any books you’d recommend, I’d be delighted to hear from you. 
It’s that time again where we get to choose where Annie goes for this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two WeeksAnd our destination is… Bosnia and Herzegovina!

Yankee in Atlanta 
By Jocelyn Green

Find it on: 

Third-Person, Multiple Views
Fiction
416 Pages


About the Book
(Back cover blurb)

When soldier Caitlin McKae woke up in Atlanta after being wounded in battle, the Georgian doctor who treated her believed Caitlin’s only secret was that she had been fighting for the Confederacy disguised as a man. In order to avoid arrest or worse, Caitlin hides her true identity and makes a new life for herself in Atlanta.

Trained as a teacher, she accepts a job as a governess to the daughter of Noah Becker, a German immigrant lawyer, who enlists with the Rebel army. Then in the spring of 1864, Sherman’s troops edge closer to Atlanta. Though starvation rules, and Sherman rages, she will not run again. In a land shattered by strife and suffering, a Union veteran and a Rebel soldier test the limits of loyalty and discover the courage to survive. Will honor dictate that Caitlin and Noah follow the rules, or love demand that they break them?


Why I Choose this Book: 


It appears to be a spy book and starts out with the MC masquerading as a man to fight in the Civil War. Now that, my friends, is a big grab for me. 

What I Thought About this Book:


I had such high hopes for this book and it started out SO well. I read the first two books in the series just so I would be ready for this book and not miss out on anything. Both books 1 (see review) and 2 (see review) received three stars and I was pretty sure this was going to be a four star book because it was so promising… And instead it barely squeaked in with three stars. What in the world?

First of all, I was wrong about the premise. Caitlyn isn’t a spy. She’s only a solider during the prolog. She’s a governess. (I must confess, I didn’t read the whole back cover blurb because I like being surprised. After reading the book I guess I would have had lower expectations and therefore might have enjoyed the book better if I had finished the back cover.) Still, the book was still redeemable, despite the two most exciting elements not panning out… Yet, it wasn’t redeemed. 

Instead I felt like there was far to much focus on romance and some of it was too detailed and I ended up skim reading sections. A fair amount of one of the sub-plots was how one of the characters from a previous book dealt with being abused and (sorta) forced into prostitution. I’m guessing that if I was working with ladies who were dealing with those issues this book might have come in handy, but I’m not, and it didn’t. (Hence the skim-reading.) 

The ending was also an eye rolling experience for me. I felt like one of the characters jumped out of character and did something that in reality, they would never do. And then *boom* so many pieces fell into place at just the right time for a happy-ever-after. Obviously that kind of stuff can happen, and when it does in real life it’s so cool, but in fiction it feels very… fictional. 

So, with all of these issues why did the book still garner three stars? Because, despite all that^, the book was captivating at times and the characters really came alive and were well developed and individual. I liked the story, although it wasn’t what I was imaging, and I enjoyed finding out what the characters were doing after the last book. 

I learned a lot about the war and how the civilians lived in Atlanta and all the problems they faced. The book reminded me once again how horrible war is. This series has brought the Civil war alive from the perspective of the women during that time. I commend the author on what seems like through research. 

Conclusion: 


I was pretty sure I wouldn’t read any more books in the series… But, then I saw the next book IS about a spy, so we’ll have to see. I sadly won’t recommend this book because of the romance I had to skim-read, but other than that I think it was nice. 

Rating: 


I’m giving “Yankee in Atlanta” 3 out of 5 stars, 4 out of 10 stars. 

*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

When Others Shuddered By Jamie Janosz: Book Review

When Others Shuddered 
By Jamie Janosz 

Find it on: 

Narrative 
Non-Fiction
208 Pages


About the Book (Backcover Blurb):
When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up is the story of eight women called to serve God and who, in doing so, changed the world. They lived at the turn of the century, rubbing shoulders with the well-known men of their time, like John Rockefeller, Marshall Field, and Dwight Lyman Moody.
These women—Fanny Crosby, Mary McLeod Bethune, Nettie McCormick, Sarah Dunn Clarke, Emma Dryer, Virginia Asher, Evangeline Booth, and Amanda Berry Smith—were unique. They were single and married, black and white, wealthy and poor, beautiful and plain, mothers and childless. Yet, each felt called to make a difference and to do something—to meet a pressing need in her world.
These women wanted to live lives less ordinary. Their stories inspire us to follow God’s calling in our own lives. They teach us that each individual person can make a difference. These eight women will show you how God can use your life to change the world.
Why I Choose this Book: 
It’s encouraging and inspiring to read about people who have done great things for God and have lived their lives to the fullest. I like to read about their lives so I can “learn their secrets” so to speak and use my life to bring glory to God. 
What I Thought About this Book:
This book reminded me of a compilation of “book reviews” of the eight ladies’ lives that were featured. There were about 20-25 pages devoted to each woman and gave a general overview of their lives and notable accomplishments. 
There were a couple of ladies who I found myself wanting to learn more about (Evangeline Booth for instance), and then one or two who I knew a moderate amount about (like Fanny Crosby). Overall I enjoyed reading the book and it made me want to make sure I was living the life that God has for me so at the end of my race I can hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 
These ladies accomplished some pretty impressive feats and overcame many of the barriers of their time. They worked through personally difficulties and triumphed even when things were difficult. It is inspiring indeed to think about what all they went through and how they still emerged victorious. 
Sadly, there were several things about some of these ladies that I don’t want to mimic in my own life. There were times when their ministry took away from their families and several had falling apart marriages which made me sad. Obviously no one is perfect, and this was a good warning to live a life that pleases God in all aspects. (Also, just as obviously, this was a very brief overview of the ladies’ lives and so I have no clue what full stories are.) 

Conclusion: 
The book had a lot of good information, but the writing style wasn’t one I particularly enjoyed. Although I didn’t see typos, there were times where it was very redundant and didn’t feel well edited. That might just because I have editing on my brain right now, though. 

Rating: 
I’m giving When Others Shuddered Three Stars (five out of ten).

*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

Copy Vs. Create & Life in Community: Book Reviews

Create Vs. Copy 
By Ken Wytsma 

Find it on: 

First-Person 
Non-Fiction
180 Pages


About the Book (Backcover Blurb):
Today’s leaders simply can’t succeed without putting creativity in their toolbox. If you don’t think you’re creative, that may sound discouraging. But take heart: creativity can be taught and practiced, and Create v. Copy shows you how.
This short, punchy book explores various aspects of creativity and imagination and leads you toward a healthy, confident, more innovative life mindset. It celebrates the good news of your God-given capacity to create and helps you harness it to take charge of your life, navigate changing times, and ultimately, flourish and succeed. 
Having traveled to dozens of countries, founded the leading international conference on justice and theology, and collaborated with scores of nonprofits, Wytsma is uniquely fit to help us be culture-shapers in a world of global change. He blends theology, history, and cultural observation to show us what being God’s creative image-bearers might look like today.
Whether you’re a parent, CEO, pastor, or politician, this fresh look at contemporary leadership will challenge the way you view your position of influence, and it will equip you to adapt and thrive in our perplexing yet exciting cultural climate.

Why I Choose this Book: 
It’s about being creative. The title drew me in and made me curious. 

What I Thought About this Book:
There were some elements of this book that I really liked, and several of the chapters hit the four star mark. I especially liked how the author pointed out that God is creative and that we are created in His image and are supposed to live creatively. The first time I heard that concept (about five years ago), I was shocked and delighted. To think of creating as a way that we can be like our heavenly Father is amazing. I still enjoy pondering that idea. 

I think that somewhere the author mentions he didn’t write this book for artists, and I really got that vibe. I was imagining something whimsical and thought-provoking and, well, now that I think about it, probably something that wasn’t as practical as Create Vs. Copy. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the book, but I didn’t click with the author and there were times I felt like I was sloshing through the words. The book was focused more on the theoretical side of creativity than I was prepared for. It’s kinda like finding a suit when you’d been prepared for a multi-colored, twirling dress. 

Conclusion: 
Only a few chapters made me really sit up and take notice, but I think a lot of people will enjoy this book. It’s also got a cool style going on inside with various drawings and big red boxes with words. 

Rating: 
I’m giving Create Vs. Copy Three Stars (five out of Ten).
*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*


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Life in Community 
By Dustin Willis 

Find it on: 

First-Person 
Non-Fiction
186 Pages

About the Book (Backcover Blurb):
When people live in community moved by the gospel and marked by the Spirit, great things happen.  They commit to one another. They grieve together, sing together, eat, pray, and play together. They love, serve, honor, encourage, and provide for each other gladly. And they live on mission together. Hearts are healed, walls come down, and outsiders come in. No competition. No pretense. No vain conceit. Just full hearts breaking bread and giving freely.
It is nothing short of amazing.
Most of us live in a shadow of what God intended for us. Life in Community calls us into the light. Reclaiming Scripture’s stunning vision of gospel-centered community, it inspires us to live in love unbounded. Read it, live it, and join the movement: Help unleash the power of extraordinary community.

Why I Choose this Book: 
I’m trying to reach out and be more a part of the lives around me. It’s so easy to huddle in my office and seclude myself at work, but I want to really live and to touch lives and be touched by other people’s lives. 

What I Thought About this Book:
I enjoyed the book. It was insightful, rooted in scripture, easy to read, and filled with paragraph-long real-life stories that made it easy to relate to. 
The author does a great job of exploring what the Bible has to say about the way we’re supposed to live life. We can’t pull into ourselves and live an abundant, Godly life. Instead, we’re told to be involved with other people’s lives. We’re supposed to bare one another’s burdens, not forsake the gathering of believers, be hospitable, confess our faults to one another, and the list goes on. None of those things can be accomplished if we don’t interact with others. 
In Life in Community we learn practical ways to put these principles into practice and to live lives that make a difference and draw people closer to God. 

Conclusion: 
It was a good book, helpful, easy-to-read, and encouraging. 

Rating: 
I’m giving Life in Community Four Stars (Seven out of Ten).
*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*