Called Out

The sun-dappled leaves swaying in the breeze outside my room fairly shout that Spring is here. The early morning hour is my favorite as I sit in the stillness and soak in inspiration for the rest of the day. A day full of scurrying, laughter, life, baby hugs, and remembering my own childhood. Earlier while folding the laundry for the one-year-old I came across a pair of purple sleepers that I remember wearing. But surely I was bigger than that in those far-off memories, wasn’t I?

I’m still at my oldest sister’s house and don’t have plans to leave. Today marks the two-month mark since I’ve been to my little home. I miss my home and life, but I’m also thankful I can be here.

And now, book review time.

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Title: Called Out
Nonfiction

Called Out

ABOUT THE BOOK

Too often we lean into the wrong things and burn out. We buy society’s lie that our worth is our work, our value is our vocation, our calling is our career. Confusing what we do with who we are wreaks havoc on our bodies, our souls, and our relationships.

Called Out is a deeply personal book from Paula Faris, the beloved on-air reporter for ABC News and former co-host of The View. She shares her journey through conquering fears that nearly kept her from the high-profile, high-stakes world of broadcast journalism, and then the dangers when that world threatened to consume her. She burned out and faced public humiliation, physical breakdowns, and family struggles. But along the way, she heard God gently calling her out of that dangerous place. As she struggled to find who she was outside of what she did, she discovered her true purpose and true calling. Today, she is the host of ABC’s popular podcast Journeys of Faith.

Written with passion and conviction, this book reflects on what it truly means to be called, how to move past the fear holding you back, and how to walk in God’s path for you.

Why I Choose This Book

Quite simply because the Afterward is by Max Lucado, and he’s an author whose work I really appreciate.

Several times as I was reading the book I saw what felt like influences of Mr. Lucado’s writing style, but still done in Miss Paula’s own voice, so that was a plus for me.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I’ve watched the news, but I don’t watch the news. As in, it’s not an everyday activity for me. I’m familiar with the words ABC News, but don’t know much about them, and I’d never heard of The View. So, I really had no clue who the author was, or why it was such a big deal for her to change her job. Therefore, it took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from its pages.

The Pros 

-The book is interesting and the author is a good communicator. She takes lessons she’s learned both from her life and the lives of people she’s interviewed at her job to produce a book full of wisdom. The stories she sprinkles throughout the book were intriguing and I was never bored as I read. She’s also honest in her approach – sharing openly where she’s messed up, which takes a lot of courage. The book is practical as well, which is always something I look for while reading nonfiction.

-There’s a difference between your vocational calling and your life calling. I grew up being taught that, but according to this author the distinction isn’t widely known, so she does a good job distinguishing the two. She then goes on to explain how they can work in tandem with each other, and why it’s so important to get this aspect of life right.

-I don’t think the book was written for a Christian audience. This can be a plus because it can reach far more people than if it had a nitch market, and I think that the message she shared was important and can help many people. She’s also open and shameless about the fact that she is a Christian – talking about how God slowly changed her heart over the years and citing Bible verses to back up what she’s saying. For the most part, I appreciated the balance, but this does lead me to my first con.

The Cons

-Although the author does a fantastic job of sharing her faith in Christ, there were times when I felt like it seemed as if she gave other religions just as much credence as Christianity. For the most part, the book felt balanced, but there were times when it seemed to lean towards the “of you’re sincere, then you’ll be fine” type of mindset. I don’t think that’s what she was actually meaning to imply, but it was a bit of a gray area.

-Mostly I liked her writing style, but there were a few times where she seemed redundant, or something that was supposed to be funny fell flat for me. That’s entirely a preference thing though, so it didn’t bother me too much.

-I wasn’t a big fan of the way she formatted some of the book – with interviews from various people over the years. The interviews were great, but how they were added to the book wasn’t my favorite. But, this was a very small con for me.

CONCLUSION

I don’t agree with everything the author said and did – when have I ever? But overall, this book was a win for me. It was well-written, the message was one I’ve worked on my whole life, and the author was very real and honest which seems like it would take a lot of courage since she’s a public figure who is already a household name to many Americans.

RATING

I’m giving Called Out 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Stay

When I opened this package from Bethany House I’d totally forgotten which books they were sending out for review, so it made me laugh. Being in the middle of quarantine and receiving a book that says Stay seemed very timely indeed. 😉

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 224
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Title: Stay
Nonfiction

Stay

About the Book

As women, we are exhausted. Our hearts are being wrung out to dry–squeezed and yanked in every direction. We take care of everyone but ourselves. We’ve gotten lost in bedtime routines and our Costco lists. We have lost our voices in the storm of everyday life. We need to be reminded to reach inward and heed the quiet voice whispering, Stay.

This book is for anyone who longs for a connection with God and his people but can’t seem to escape the haunting feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear. Through raw, authentic stories, (in)courage writer Anjuli Paschall invites you to stop running from your pain and to recognize that the deep end of your story is the way to intimacy with Christ. Alongside Anjuli, you will encounter a loving God who invites you to stay with him at the table of your soul, where you are free to spill the milk, to fumble through your words, to embrace the awkwardness and the joy, and to taste and see that he is good.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOok: 3 Pros and 3 Cons

The Pros:

-The writing was beautiful, lyrical, peaceful. I didn’t read the book – I soaked it in, taking time to breathe deep, savor the words, and really think about what the author was saying. I felt rejuvenated each time I picked it up and paused my crazy world to read for a few moments.

-The author had a way of drawing the reader in, sharing her deepness, her faults, her triumphs. It was like sitting down and listening to a well of wisdom be spilled out along with enough craziness to remind you that the person in front of you was human, full of mistakes, and searching for the perfect way to live life, just like everyone else. I felt like I was with the author, feeling the dust from the trailer park by the river, standing in the corner watching the strangers spin in and out of her parent’s home, sitting in her small, newly-married apartment, as she realized yet again that she’d forgotten to take out the trash. Relating to an author is something that really helps me remember the message behind the words I read, and this author pegged that feeling.

-Emotions aren’t bad, but so often I think they are. I choose the ones I want to call my own and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, accept, or dwell on the ones that I don’t like. And while there’s some merit to this way of living, mostly it creates a battle within me as I lie to myself over and over again, convincing myself that whatever I want to be true is, when that’s not the case. This book was all about accepting and owning your emotions. Which is so important, and something I need to get far better at. But, that’s also what leads me to my first con.

The Cons: 

-When it came to the message of the book, I felt like it was too one-sided. Yes, emotions are important and it isn’t healthy to simply push them away, but I felt like the author didn’t have enough balance in her message. While accepting the emotions and processing them, I think it’s important to also be careful with how much power you give them.

-The author talks multiple times about how her only purpose in life is to be loved by God. And while that is part of the equation, loving God is also very important (which highlights the above point about the book not being as balanced as I like).

-There were various small mentions of things that I don’t agree with.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, my cons list was way smaller than the pros because I really liked this book. I do plan on re-reading it in the future and hope to read other books by the same author.

At the same time, the things that did make it to the cons list were big enough that I’m (sadly) dropping the book to three and a half stars.

RATING

I’m giving Stay 3.5 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

3 Words that Will Change Your Life

It’s Monday morning. Saturday was spent reading. Sunday was spent resting. And Monday? Monday will hopefully be spent working. It sounds like a blanced week, right?

I haven’t yet complied all the results from the 24 Hour Reading Challenge, but I do have a book review due, so that’s what today’s post is. This book was delightful, so the review was a breeze to write. Enjoy!

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: 3 Words That Will Change Your Life
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

One tiny little sentence can change your life. Ready for it?

“God is here.”

It may sound obvious at first, but truly understanding these three words is the key to more happiness, less boredom, more rest, less rush, more love, less drama, more peace, less fear.

A deeply satisfying life doesn’t require a sabbatical, a mission trip, or a New Year’s resolution. As long as God is glorious enough and near enough, you can enjoy the life that is truly life–not just the cheap substitutes we’ve settled for.

This book will help you move from just enjoying the good moments in life to worshiping the God who is right here, right now. This movement will exponentially increase your happiness, peace, and contentment. It will allow you to shake off the guilt and shame of sin and see yourself as God sees you. Learn how to recognize God’s impact on your life and find the joy he’s been waiting to give you.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In my never-ending quest to be more like Jesus, learning to rest in His presence is high on my list of things I’m learning to do. This book’s about The Secret to Experiencing the Joy of God’s Presence so it sounded perfect.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

On the second page, the author wrote something in caps and followed that up by saying “And your inner grammar nerd was very disappointed that I left the cap locks on?” and then went on to explain why he did. That had been exactly what I’d been thinking – rather than focusing on what he was saying. And what he was saying did need to have the caps lock on when I went back and re-read it. I knew at that moment that this book was going to be a winner for me, and it was.

This guy. He’s real, hilarious, challenging, and someone who I want to learn more from. He writes a truth-filled book in a way that makes it easy to read and hard to put down. I laughed more while reading this book than I have in a long time, and that’s saying a lot considering its nonfiction.

The book has funny little sketches and an abundance (but not overabundance) of footnotes that insert a level of humor into a message that people need to hear.

It’s easy to forget the purpose of life. To get so caught up in what is going on around you, that it suddenly feels like the stuff that’s happening is the reason for life. What the author points out is that everything in life should point us – as children of God – to God. That means that the good should remind us of Him because every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and everything bad should remind us of Him, because He works all things together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

The book is chocked full of practical examples and laughable examples, and nod your head in happiness examples. God is here, with us. And because of that, we don’t have to be dependant on the things around us in order to dictate how we feel. That’s a huge lesson I’ve been working on learning, especially during this quarantine. I’m not doing as well as I’d like with putting that into practical usage, but I am getting better.

When it comes to negatives, the list for this book is short. The only things I remember sticking out to me were: 1) He says we can trash talk the devil, which I think is very unscriptural. And 2) He talks various times about drinking wine. I don’t think it’s wrong for some people to drink wine, but I think it needs to be talked about carefully because it can be a stumbling block to some people, and I felt like the way he was talking about it here could cause some people to stumble.

CONCLUSION

This is one of those books that I’ll be recommending, re-reading, and continuing to learn from. I realize his writing style might not be everyone’s, but it is mine and I can’t wait to read more of his books.

RATING

I’m giving 3 Words that Will Change Your Life out of 5 stars, it was delightful, helpful, and a shoo-ine-in for re-reading. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Veiled in Smoke

Hello, my friends. It suddenly occurred to me that although I’m fairly busy helping my family who recently moved, this is also a great time for me to work on catching up on my reading for review.

I’ve got about five more books on my to-be-read-asap-list, so get ready to be introduced to some pretty great books. 😉

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 416
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Title: Veiled in Smoke
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

As soon as I saw Jocelyn Green had released another book I requested it from NetGalley. Miss Jocelyn has a way of making history come alive in the most dynamic ways, and I’ve learned so many cool facts from her books.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Once I had downloaded the book and actually paid attention to the cover, I was struck by two thoughts 1) That the cover was one of my favorite of all time and 2) That the book must be about the Great Fire of Chicago. It turns out I was right (which I would have known if I would have read the back cover), so I put the book away for several months so I could get into the right mood to read it. I’m not sure why it is, but the Great Fire has long been in my top three least favorite periods/events in history to read about.

Eventually, I felt ready to delve into the book, so I began reading and was reminded once again why I like Miss Jocelyn’s writing so much. Much like when I read A Refuge Assuredthis book was able to take a time period that I intensely dislike, and turn it into an interesting story.

We have four points of view that we follow, and the story is written in third person. We follow passionate and loyal Meg, logical and then infatuated Sylvie, calm and inquisitive Nate, and high-strung and desperate Stephen. Meg’s story was the main focus, although she only gets a little more page time than the other three.

There are so many little details in the story that makes the time period come alive – like how dead birds, overcome with smoke, fall from the sky during the fire. Reading that description transported me from a cold spring day in Ohio to a dark night surrounded by chaos and flames in Chicago. I highlighted a couple other descriptions as I read them, delighted by Miss Jocelyn’s word choices.

Clouds of dust turned her skirt a sepia tone below the waist, as if she were climbing out of a daguerreotype. 

and

The moment of his need and her meeting it was embroidered on her memory in shining thread. 

In addition to her lovely writing, Miss Jocelyn’s books always stand out to me because of how well researched they are. Plus, her plots are never dull, filled with enough momentum to keep the reader intrigued but never enough to overshadow the character’s growth and development. There’s a whole mystery to delve into, plot to uncover, and truth to find. The plot twists didn’t shock me, but they were well-written.

Based solely upon personal preferences, this book was not one of my favorites. I’m very aware that each element I disliked is probably a reason someone else would like it, and that’s the beauty of reading a wide range of books and authors.

The things I disliked in Veiled in Smoke include:
-Stephen’s narrative. He has great character growth, and I see the importance of his story, but it wasn’t for me.
-One of the characters is hurt in the fire, and although I think it added a very important element to the story, was tastefully written, and assuredly did not add too many details… Well, I’m very squimish about little things like the words scar tissue (yes, that’s silly of me, I know), and so that part of the story made me grimace.
-As mentioned before, the time period isn’t one of my favorites, so that sadly took the book down in rating for me. That doesn’t mean that I think the book isn’t well-written, researched, or executed, it just lowered my enjoyment of the story.

CONCLUSION

Although this story wasn’t a personal favorite, it was clean, free from too many details regarding violence and destruction, and tackles some pretty serious things with grace.

It takes place during a huge fire, there’s chaos, people die (and are killed), there are injuries, homelessness, pain, suffering, one of the characters has some pretty serious PTSD from the Civil War. Plus, the book features an insane asylum. Despite all that, the book isn’t overly dark – although obviously, it isn’t light and fluffy.

RATING

I’m giving Veiled in Smoke out of 5 stars, although if I didn’t dislike the time period so much it probably would have gotten a higher rating. I’m thankful for NetGalley for sharing a copy of the book with me.

Like Flames in the Night {the ending of a beautiful series}

If the question was “Who has something exciting and uplifting to share today?” I’d be raising my hand, bouncing in my seat pleading Pick me! Pick me! And then this is what I’d share with you:

Renowned and award-winning author does it again! 

Then, after the cheering dies down, I’d tell you about how Connilyn Cossette – who I affectionately refer to as The Queen of Biblical Fiction – has published yet another fantastic book.

If you’ve been around Noveltea long, you’d know that I’ve talked about her books a lot. I started out by reviewing her Out from Egypt series, (Counted with the Stars, Shadow of the Stormand Wings of the Wind). Those books blew me away and left me wanting to read more, and like, right away, please!

Then the Cities of Refuge series began. I requested the first book and went into it completely blind, was shocked, amazed, and couldn’t wait to read more. During the last two years I’ve excitedly reviewed A Light on the Hill, Shelter of the Most High, Until the Mountians Falland now I’m exceedingly happy to get to share my thoughts on Like Flames in the Night – the final book in the series.

Also, you should all take a moment to look at the books together. They are so beautiful that I keep taking them off my color-coded bookshelves so I can just gaze at how seamlessly they go together.

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 380
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Title: Like Flames in the Night
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander’s kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger.

Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted.

When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam’s thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he’s come to love?

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Um, yeah. I don’t think this needs further explanation. 😉

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WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Books with espionage in them are my favorite. Stories with strong-willed girls who get themselves and others into danger aren’t really my cup of tea, but if said girl is fighting to keep up with a slew of older and successful brothers? Well, I can read those books all day long.

Tirzah is the youngest daughter of Moriyah, and little sister to a bevy of successful Hebrew spies – the lives of whom we’ve followed in the first three books in the Cities of Refuge series.

To begin with, Tirzah wasn’t a character I liked or related to – she seemed too set on proving herself to care about the safety of others. Then, partway through the book I began to see her character growth and maturity kicking in and I started cheering her on. Her character was so well-written, and her character-arch was played out beautifully. She felt real, flawed, strong, and yet weak at the same time.

Liyam drove me nuts. He, too, was written in a skillful way that made me want to yell at him to pull out of his pity-party and really see the world around him. When he took on the role of a mercenary I had no clue what to think. That part was written exceedingly well and left me cringing and horrified, while simultaneously amazed by how well the plot was climbing and dipping and twisting and turning.

The middle of the book was by far my favorite, although the plot continues to grow until the end where we have a beautifully wrapped-up series.

CONCLUSION {with slight spoilers}

Yeah. There’s a lot of content in this book that I wouldn’t deem to be exceedingly suitable for young teens. There’s a lot of talk of death, torture (although it doesn’t go into detail), and how the soldiers misuse the girls in the lands that they take captive.

I felt like it was written with care and is fine for anyone sixteen and older, but it does have sensitive content.

Overall, this is a beautiful story of following God’s leading even when it’s scary and having the courage to stand up even if it might cost you your life. It’s a delightful wrap to one of my favorite series.

Spoiler: While acting as a spy, Tirzah is scared for her safety multiple times, and as part of her cover ends up spending multiple nights in the same room as a guy – who everyone thinks is using her, although nothing actually happens. 

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RATING

I’m giving Like Flames in the Night 4 out of 5 stars. I’m incredibly thankful for the author sending me a book so I could share my thoughts with y’all. And now, you should really buy the book, or at least request it for your library.

Before I Called You Mine

Three Random Facts for Today:

-I’m keeping a mental countdown until I’ll be able to turn the water back on in my camper. After 105 days of hauling all my water in buckets and making sure nothing goes down the drain, I’m looking forward to using a faucet again.

-Budgeting is one of my current favorite things. Tracking each penny I spend and planning out what I can buy instead of being impulsive is some serious fun.

-Even living on my own in a camper I still lose my silverware and food storage containers. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that I must by mistake forget it at work. (I sometimes leave it in the breakroom to dry after washing it, and yesterday I did see someone else using my spoon which is perfectly okay, and also made me feel better about it because I couldn’t figure out how in the world I could misplace it in my tiny home.)

And now, review time…

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 368
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Title: Before I Called You Mine
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there’s only one match she’s committed to now–the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first-grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In an act of unprecedented first-glance-book-cover-judging, I took one look at this book when it showed up in my inbox and decided it wasn’t for me. For some crazy reason, my brain instantly slotted it on the Nonfiction-Prepare-For-Marriage-Advice shelf and I didn’t give it a second thought. Therefore, I missed out on the chance of requesting a physical copy for my bookshelves. (Which I’m now sad about.)

Fast forward a few days and I was browsing NetGalley (an e-book review site) and this book popped up again. I took the time to actually look at it this time and not only is the cover simple and beautiful, but the premise is intriguing. A book about a single lady wanting to adopt? I instantly downloaded the book and started reading.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

It was in the evening when I began reading the book and I seriously didn’t want to put it down. The rollercoaster of emotions that I went through as I read the first two-thirds of the book makes me want to read more by this author.

As a single person myself – just a few years younger than Lauren, the main character, – I found that sometimes half of my brain was engaged with what I was reading, while the other half zoomed around trying to figure out if I ever could do what Lauren was doing. What would it look like if I, too, adopted? Although I’ve never felt strongly that I will adopt, it’s always been something I’ve considered a possibility, and this book felt like a scarily realistic view of what the process would look like. The details and emotions were so clear and well-written that I wasn’t at all surprised in the author’s note to discover that the author has an adopted child.

There are so many things I want to discuss about this book and I was going to include a spoiler section until I remembered that the book isn’t even published yet (it releases next month). So, I’ll just keep my spoilers to myself since I can’t discuss them with people who have already read the book. (If you buy the book, you should message me so we can talk together.)

Lauren was frustratingly unlike me. Except for her emotions surrounding adoption I couldn’t relate to her at all. Partway through the book she makes some choices that really annoyed me – keep in mind, she was totally staying in character and I think the author did a fantastic job writing her. Just, she made me want to clap my hands in front of her face and be like “No!” It was also about this time that I had to put the book down (after hours of reading) so I could go to sleep.

My annoyance at Lauren and a time-hop the book took (one of my least favorite things in fiction) made me kinda dreading finishing the book, so I didn’t pick it back up for a couple of weeks. And that, in turn, lowered my rating from 4 stars to 3.5, but this is purely subjective and something that probably won’t bother most readers.

All in all the story is packed full of emotions, has a worthy storyline, and has interesting and unique characters.

CONCLUSION

The first two-thirds of the book was magic. I just wanted to read for forever and was completely immersed in the story. The last third wasn’t my favorite, but I don’t think that’s any reflection on the story or the writing, it’s just a preference thing.

All in all the book is clean (it has a few kisses, but nothing inappropriate that I remember), void of violence, and doesn’t use bad language.

RATING

I’m giving Before I Called You Mine 3.5 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the generosity of the publishers for giving me an e-copy of this book so I could review it for y’all. This is a fantastic read for anyone who is considering (or knows anyone considering) adoption, or if you’re looking for a heart-tugging and beautiful read.

The Art of Friendship

This morning I woke up on my couch – where I’d moved in the middle of the night after getting annoyed at the rain dripping on me from the little skylight over my bed. The adventures of camper living continue and I’m thankful for a warm and dry place to sleep.

Last night I set my alarm for 6:00 so I could make sure I’d get in blogging time before leaving for work at 8:30. My routine has been a bit off recently and yesterday was the first time in several weeks where I felt like I was back in the swing of things.

Do any of you thrive on routine? And if so, do you have recommendations of how to thrive even when there isn’t routine? Because I seriously need help sometimes. 😉

And now, a review:

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: The Art of Friendship
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

In this age of limitless digital connections, we are somehow lonelier than ever. This isn’t just bad news–it’s dangerous news. Loneliness puts us at greater health risk than smoking or obesity, but we would sooner label ourselves overweight than admit we are lonely. It is a secret that is killing us.

Contrary to all our efforts, the answer is not found in more connections, but deeper ones that mirror God himself as the originator of friendship and the original Friend. The Art of Friendship walks with you into a greater understanding of how God has equipped you to be a friend and to have meaningful friendships. With step-by-step guidance, you will begin to strategize how to fulfill your divine calling as a friend. And through God’s Word, as you come to understand the depth and width and breadth of God as Friend, you will discover that the spiritual discipline of friendship is both life-changing and life-giving.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Friendship – I’m learning more about it. The ins, the outs, and what place it has in my life.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

The first half of the book was solid for me – I would have happily given it four stars and was looking forward to continuing to read. Then the second half of the book ended up not really hitting the right chords for me and I had a harder time getting through it.

Three Pros:

-The author writes in a real, amusing, identifiable way. She has hard-hitting truths, funny anecdotes, practical advice, and biblical examples. She seems like she’s lived an interesting life, and I felt like I got to know her through the pages of her book.

-The first half of the book talks about what friendship is, the importance of friendship (including looking at what the Bible has to say about it), how to be a friend, and things we can work on in our own lives. I flew through this part and appreciated it a lot.

-The overall message of the book was an uplifting look at friendship and how we can build deep and enduring friendships in an age when “friends” are sometimes considered to be a number on social media. She also talks a lot about what it means to love in the way that the Bible tells us to, and that was encouraging.

Three Cons:

-The second half of the book is when I stopped nodding my head and agreeing with most of what I was reading. She talked about friendship like a menu where you choose your various friends like you’d choose a meal in a restaurant. Her example probably has merit and holds up when you dig deeper, but it just felt really weird to me and I didn’t like the idea behind it.

– Most of the time I felt like she had a balanced view on friendship, but sometimes in the second half of the book it seemed like she was saying “Be a good friend so people will be a good friend to you”. And while there isn’t anything wrong with wanting people to be a good friend to you, I felt like the attitude behind why we should be a good friend felt off.

-She talks about “Covenant Friendship” like what David and Jonathan had. And, while I agree with some of what she said, she went to an extreme that I don’t agree with.

CONCLUSION

I appreciate the first half of the book, but I don’t agree with everything in the second half. I wouldn’t discourage people from reading it, but it’s not a book that I’m giving a huge recommendation. Still, it’s a neat look at friendships.

RATING

I’m giving The Art of Friendship out of 5 stars. I’m so thankful for the generosity of Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of this book so I could review it and share it with y’all.

Listen Well, Lead Better

This morning I was super confused. I was trying to figure out if it was Friday or Saturday morning, and it took far too long for me to finally arrive at the conclusion that we were still near the beginning of the week. It took another fifteen minutes or so for it to suddenly dawn on me that it was Tuesday, not Wednesday. So, there’s that.

The funny thing was, I was so relieved and excited when I realized I still had most of the week to live. So, with that in mind, I’m going to attempt to write a book review before hurrying off to work. Enjoy, my friends. 😉

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: Listen Well, Lead Better
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Why do so many leaders prioritize their speaking skills when communication studies show we spend more time listening than reading, writing, or speaking? The reality is, most people are below-average listeners, and it’s keeping them and their team members from reaching their potential.

In Listen Well, Lead Better, Steve and Becky Harling share 10 practices that will help you be a more effective listener and leader. Learn how to ask better questions, make people feel heard and valued, and create an open and positive culture. Strong listeners also enjoy greater credibility, navigate conflicts better, and foster more engaged teams. Above all, the lessons here will help you hear from God more clearly and gain his wisdom on all matters in life. Becoming a better listener will transform how you lead and relate to everyone.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Learning and growing and becoming more of who God wants me to be is a never-ending pursuit of mine. Learning to listen better seems like a perfect step to take while continuing on this journey. Plus, with my job I sometimes get to do various types of leading, so this book seemed very applicable to my life.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Short Answer: I really liked it.

Longer Answer: Hello, friends. I have a book that I really like and would be delighted to tell you about. In fact, I’ve already started recommending it to my friends at work. I told my boss all about it – mostly because he’s one of the best leader-listeners I’ve ever met and so the book kept making me think about him.

Every chapter in this book covers a topic that I think would be helpful for anyone – not just the leader, although that is the main focus. The authors (a husband and wife team) share candidly from their own lives, letting us learn from their mistakes, as well as see their victories.

Reading the book will help you discover how you can become more self-aware without becoming self-obsessed (a huge difference), figure out how to view and engage in conflict in a constructive manner, ask helpful questions, and show people that they’re valued. Each chapter ends with a list of questions that you can ask yourself and other people to gauge where you are and help you grow to where you should be.

The last chapter talks about how we should take the time to stop the busyness of life each day and listen to God. I was delighted that they included that, because no matter how successful you are as a leader (or person) and no matter how well you listen to people, if you’re not listening to God, then your life will never be all it can be.

CONCLUSION

I really enjoyed reading this book. It helped me grow, inspired me to listen better, and made me want to give out a dozen copies to friends. It’s equipping, easy to read, and quotes the scriptures to back up the points they’re trying to make.

RATING

I’m giving Listen Well, Lead Better out of 5 stars. I’m so thankful for the generosity of Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of this book so I could review it and share it with y’all.

Historical Fiction for the Win {ON WINGS OF DEVOTION}

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 400
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: On Wings of Devotion
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster–a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But as nurse Arabelle Denler watches the so-dubbed “Black Heart” every day, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their paths twist together and he declares himself her new protector, she realizes she has her own role to play in his healing.

Phillip Camden would have preferred to die that day with his squadron rather than be recruited to the Admiralty’s codebreaking division. The threats he receives daily are no great surprise and, in his opinion, well deserved. What comes as a shock is the reborn desire to truly live that Arabelle inspires in him.

But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Did I read the back cover blurb before requesting this book for review? No, of course not. All I did was read the first book in the series – The Number of Love. You can read my gushy review for that book here. That pretty much sums up why I jumped on the chance to get this book for review when I found out the release date.

And good news for you! This book can totally be a stand-a-lone. It will only give minor spoilers to the first book in the series if you read them out of order which is a huge plus. The books contain a lot of the same characters (as well as guest appearances from other series) which will make your heart do a happy dance if you’ve read those other books.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

December was one of my most busy months to date with long work hours and a lot of life happening, therefore I didn’t get to talk about this book as much as I wish I could have with y’all. It also meant I had to separate my reading time to over the course of a week, rather than downing it all in one gulp. And yo, folks, that was hard to do because I didn’t want to put it down.

With her delightful writing style, thoroughly developed characters, intriguing plot, and phenomenal world-building skills, Miss Roseanna blows the reading world away once again with a fantastic book.

Crack the book open and you’ll instantly be whisked away to the world of World War One, viewing life from both the civilian and military side of things. I highly recommend you give yourself several hours of reading time before you sit down with this book, because you won’t want to put it down.

This book was a tale of loyalty, selfless caring, and showing God’s love to others. Arabelle is a nurse who is wholly devoted to helping others – be that a hard-to-love father, a faithless-human-who-I-won’t-name-cause-of-spoilers, her patients, random strangers, and everyone in-between. I’ve always considered myself a loyal person, but am exceedingly thankful that I haven’t had my loyalty tested to the max like Arabelle. Her emotions were so easy to understand and relate to, and I rooted for her the entire book.

Camden – the main male character – wasn’t my favorite character, but I don’t think he was supposed to be. He’s thoroughly written, has highly redeeming qualities (among his black-hearted ones), and has a family who I really liked.

Most of the time when I read a book that changes perspectives I have one perspective I like the best, but in this book, everything flowed seamlessly and I enjoyed getting to see the world no matter who’s eyes I was looking through.

The spying element was different from the last book, and I’m still not sure how I felt about how one of the plot-trains ended, but it was still well-done.

CONCLUSION With Slight Spoilers

SPOILER: From the back cover blurb y’all can assume that Arabelle and Camden are romantic interests in the story, so no spoiler there. My issue with their relationship is that Arabelle is a Christian throughout the book, and Camden isn’t. The Bible talks about how we shouldn’t be yoked together unequally, etc… and so it always bothers me in Christian fiction when this type of relationship is a common element.
END of SPOILER

As for the rest of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend this series (and Miss Roseanna’s previous series) to anyone who enjoys Historical Fiction or wants to give it a try.

I can’t wait until the next book by this author comes out!

RATING

I’m giving On Wings of Devotion 4 out of 5 stars. I’m so grateful for the generosity of the author and publisher for sending me a copy of this book so I could review it and share it with y’all.

The End of the Magi

I have two days off in a row, and I’m not even sure what to think about that because this happens so rarely. I’ve had Write book review on my to-do list for multiple days now, but let’s be real… When a book doesn’t blow you away – but doesn’t actually have anything wrong to rant about – well, it can be hard to sit down and tackle said review. But here I am.

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 384
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Title: The End of the Magi
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Following his vision of the coming Messiah, the prophet Daniel creates a select group of men who will count down the calendar to the arrival of Israel’s promised king. Centuries later, as the day nears, Myrad, a young magi acolyte, flees for his life when his adoptive father and others are put to death by a ruthless Parthian queen.

Having grabbed only a few possessions, Myrad escapes the city, and searching for a way to hide from the soldiers scouring the trade routes, he tries to join the caravan of the merchant Walagash. The merchant senses that Myrad is hiding secrets, but when the young man proves himself a valuable traveler, an epic journey filled with peril, close escapes, and dangerous battles begins.

With every day that passes, the calendar creeps closer to the coming Messiah. And over everything shines the dream of a star that Myrad can’t forget and the promise that the world will never be the same.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

The cover is cool, the synopsis is intriguing, and we were approaching the Christmas season, so I thought Why Not?

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Sadly, I found why not; it’s because Biblical fiction is a big hit or miss for me, and so, therefore, I shouldn’t have ventured into the land of a new Biblical fiction author while getting a book for review.

First off, let me clarify, it’s not as if there’s anything wrong with this book. It didn’t appear to disregard the truth of the Bible at all, nor was the plot silly. The details were well written, and it’s clear the author excels at his craft.

Just, this book wasn’t for me.

If I hadn’t gotten it for review, I wouldn’t have continued reading, simply because it’s not the style I like. It’s more about the adventure and less about the plot or character development. We follow the main character as he escapes danger and joins a trade caravan, then most of the book takes place traveling across the desert.

Plenty of action happens along the way – although not with an excessive amount of gory details, so that’s a plus. There were a few places where the characters were fleshed out, but by the end of the book, I still didn’t feel like I knew any of them very well – although I could tell you how to become an expert archer while riding a galloping horse.

There were a few slight things I had issues with, but mostly that’s because they took all the things I always imagined about the magi, and totally flipped them around and totally changed them. But, the keyword here is that they did that with the things I imagined, not the things that were clearly spelled out in the Bible, so that’s not actually a problem.

One thing that I didn’t like is mentioned down below but is a spoiler, so read at your own risk.

 

(SPOILER: The way the magi got the gifts they gave to Jesus was by stealing gold from the royal treasuries. Now nowhere are we told in the Bible that this didn’t happen, but it doesn’t seem likely to me, and seemed to make the gift less special.) 

 

 

CONCLUSION

This seems like it would be a great book for a teenage boy looking for an adventure story. Obviously, girls can read it too, but it seems like it’s aimed more at guys, especially since there are only three female characters in the whole story (I think), and one of them is a bloodthirsty queen. 

I don’t plan on reading more by this author, but I’m sure a lot of people would really enjoy his writing style.

RATING

I’m giving The End of the Magi 2 out of 5 stars, although Amazon and Goodreads I’ll be rating it 3 Stars, because there really isn’t anything wrong with it. I’m thankful to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy so I could review it for y’all.