Between the Wild Branches by Connilyn Cossette {Book Review}

After not opening my computer for nearly three months the faithful device has shuddered and puffed and barely refused to function. We already crossed the hour mark since I began trying to log onto my WordPress account to write this book review and alas, it won’t cooperate. So, what I’m going to attempt to do is write this post, email it to my phone and copy and paste from there. Formatting might be a bit of an issue, but you’ll get the point. 

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodread

Pages: 368

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers 

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Title: Between the Wild Branches

Author: Connilyn Cossette 

Fiction 

Why I Choose this Book

When I say Connilyn Cossette is my favorite author of Biblical fiction what I really mean is that I devour her books, recommend them endlessly, and await with eager anticipation for her latest release. I feel completely honored to have reviewed each of her books and talked about them all across the internet and bring them up more often than any other author’s books in day-to-day conversation.

What I Thought about the Book

Unfortunately, this book review took me a bit of time to get around to writing. That’s mostly because I took a while reading the book because when someone likes an author as much as I like Miss Connilyn then it’s hard to come to grips with the fact that not all of her books are for me. And, that’s sadly the realization I finally had to admit to when it came to this series. 

Miss Connilyn’s writing is magnificent as always. Her characters are well developed. Her setting is rich and full of color, immersing the reader and taking them away on the wings of their imagination. 

But the story? It wasn’t for me. The main character is a fighter for sport and although the story in no way condones such behavior, that’s a storyline I’ve never enjoyed reading. The story isn’t hugely graphic, but there was enough that it soured the book for me. 

 Conclusion 

I will excitedly read Miss Connilyn’s books in the future, but sadly this is one I won’t be re-reading. 

Rating 

I’m giving Between the Wild Branches 3 out of 5 stars. Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of the book so I could post this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Shadows of the White City

It’s a cloudy spring day here in Kentucky and I’m sitting by my open door with rapidly cooling coffee, singing birds, and peaceful piano music. The perfect setting for sharing my favorite read of 2021 with y’all, right?

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 400
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Title: Shadows of the White City
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads. 

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?

Why I Choose this Book

 Will I ever not want to read a Jocelyn Green book ASAP? Probably not. Her writing is beautiful, and even if I don’t like the setting or plot, I still enjoy how she weaves the storyline so convincingly and pulls me into the book. 

What I Thought about the Book

The first book in the saga – Veiled in Smoke – was set in a place that I don’t enjoy reading about (Chicago), during a time period I don’t like reading about (the Great Fire), and yet I still ended up enjoying the book because Jocelyn’s writing is amazing. Going into Shadows of the White City I expected some of the same, aka, not enjoying the setting but being wrapped up in the writing. 

But, ohhh, was I wrong. This story may have changed my mind about books that are set in Chicago because I enjoyed it so thoroughly it gave me a new appreciation for the city. It takes place in 1893 during the World’s Fair, and was incredibly interesting to read about. Jocelyn does a fantastic job of weaving historical facts into her stories without making it feel like she’s cramming information into her books. For instance, in this book, one of the main characters gave tours at the World Fair, and sometimes we as the reader got to go along and experience it with the guests. Such a brilliant way to write the cool facts into the story.

Not only did we get to see the intriguing setting of the World’s Fair, but there was a compelling plotline and interesting, and multi-layered characters to round out the reading experience. At the beginning of the book, I was a bit unsure of how I would enjoy the large time gap between Veiled in Smoke and this one, but Jocelyn pulled it off magnificently well and wrote a book whose main character was a middle-aged woman in such a way that she felt relatable. 

There weren’t any characters whose point-of-view I disliked reading from, which is rare for me when it comes to a book with multiple POV. Each of the characters who we got to follow had compelling stories – from Sylvie with her need for control to Rose with her hunger for answers. Kristof was delightful and sweet and I could feel his pain as he tried to figure out the correct way to be a good brother. 

The exploration of lost and pieced together families, cultures colliding, the danger of the era, and a lack of answers kept me from putting down the book. I wanted to read more, more, more. When I got to the end of the story and all the pieces had slid into place I was thankful that I’d gotten to go along for the literary adventure. It’s my current favorite of 2021.

Conclusion 

This book is the second one in the saga, but it can easily be read first or as a standalone. (If reading it first, it will give a few spoilers.) I enjoyed the story a lot and can’t wait to read Jocelyn’s next release.  

Rating 

I’m giving Shadows of the White City 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of the book so I could post this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Talking with God

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodrads
Pages: 160
Publisher: Chosen Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Title: Talking with God
Nonfiction

Why I Choose this Book

I love praying, but I also know that I have a narrow mindset when it comes to prayer, and I want to learn and grow. The things I pray about are often close to me, rather than praying in a way that could change the world. It’s so easy for me to see the difference prayer makes when I’m praying for something specific and see it come about, but I want to learn to pray more for things that I might not see answers to during my lifetime. 

What I Thought about the Book

The book is small – just about six and a half inches tall and 160 pages. It’s also beautiful and embossed and shimmery – the kind of book you can leave out on your coffee table and other people happening by will pick it up and read a few pages. It also has a bookmark attached, which is nice and convenient. The book reminded me of a devotional, but it wasn’t one and I appreciated that. 

The author says that there are twelve different parts to prayer: Praise, Waiting, Confession, Scripture Praying, Watching, Intercession, Petition, Thanksgiving, Singing, Meditation, Listening, and once again, Praise. Each part has a chapter devoted to it, where the author explains why it’s important, biblical examples of when/how it was done, and a few easy ways to put that part of prayer into practice. 

Often times my praying looks more like a conversation with a close Friend, which is good. But I also need to balance the fact that my Friend is also the Creator of the universe, and therefore deserving of great respect and honor from me. I appreciated how he pointed that out in the book. 

The book was easy to read, encouraging, and a good reminder that I need to look beyond what I can see and hear, and ask God to help me know what to pray for. 

Conclusion 

I’m very thankful God allows us to talk to Him, and I want to continue to learn and grow with how I talk to Him. This book was a good resource and I am thankful to have read it. 

Rating 

I’m giving Talking with God 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Chosen Books for sending me a copy of the book so I could post this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Make Their Day

Last night I did the first Overnight at my job – that’s where a group, most often a school or youth group, come to the Museum in the evening and get to watch DVDs, do a scavenger hunt in the dark throughout the exhibits, eat a late night snack, then spend the night. Sounds pretty great, right? It’s a fun way to help make people’s day more fun, which leads right into the book I’m reviewing today…

Find the book on: AmazonGoodreads
Pages: 144
Publisher: Bethany House
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Title: Make Their Day
Nonfiction

About the Book

You dream of making your presence really count in the lives of others, but you don’t know where–or how–to start. You want to be remembered as a woman who scattered kindness to everyone she knew, but you feel like your busy schedule constantly gets in the way. 

In this practical and deeply touching guide–inspired by her book Reach Out, Gather In–popular author Karen Ehman gives you 101 actionable ideas you can implement today to truly make a difference in the lives of other people. Make Their Day is filled with creative ideas to connect with your family and friends on a deeper level throughout the year. This book will help you develop habits of kindness, reconnect with friends and family, and make encouraging people a priority. You’ll be able to put these ideas into action in real time with everyone in your life–even if hospitality doesn’t come naturally to you or you don’t think you have time. 

Let’s outshine the negativity and hatred in our world, and reach out to others with love, just as God intended.

What I Thought about the Book

The concept of this book is beautiful – giving practical, fun, imaginative, and sometimes whimsical ways to bless other people. It gives ideas that will work for all different budgets, ages, and stages of life. It compasses ideas for multiple different groups of people. It starts with how to bless your Circle of Friends, moves on to Your Family, next is Around Town, then comes Across the Miles, Those who are Hurting, Among the Household of Faith, then the author scatters in a few ideas for the Holidays, and gives a strong ending with things you can do by Opening Your Home. 

I grew up in a very giving and celebrating family where doing special things for people – both who we knew as well as strangers – was a common practice. But, I’m aware this isn’t everyone’s background, and therefore this book is a great way to come up with very doable ideas and ways to bless others. (Plus, it gave me a lot of great new ideas!)

The author did a good job of offering a wide range of ideas – some cost money, some cost time, and some just require a few minutes of set-up, then keeping an eye open for when a situation appears for when you can bless someone. 

The book is also super easy to read. It’s short, simple, and sweet, as well as having a nice design. Each idea takes between 1-3 minutes to read, so it’s easy for even a busy person to pick up for a few moments and be inspired. 

Conclusion 

Unfortunately, even though I like the concept and content of the book it wasn’t my style. It reminded me of a compilation of 101 short blog posts, and while I enjoy reading blogs I’ve discovered over the years that I don’t enjoy books that remind me of blogs. Of course, this is incredibly subjective, and why I went ahead and still gave the book four stars because I do like the idea. 

Rating 

I’m giving Make Their Day 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of the book so I could post this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

A Portrait of Loyalty {a fantastic end to a series}

People! YAY! I get to share another book review with y’all – but unlike the last few where I felt slightly lackadaisical, this book is a for-sure winner for me.

This is the third book in The Codebreaker Series, and if you feel inclined you can read the reviews for the first two books here and here. (I really like this series, just so you know.) If you’ve read any of these books – or the Shadows Over London series – you should let me know in the comments so we can chat!

And now, for the review:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 384
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Title: A Portrait of Loyalty
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Zivon Marin was one of Russia’s top cryptographers until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee to England after speaking out against Lenin, Zivon is driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits. But never far from his mind is his brother, whom Zivon fears died in the train crash that separated them.

Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and re-creating photographs. With her father’s connections in propaganda, she’s recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove if she ever found out.

After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily that soon takes over their hearts. But both have secrets they’re unwilling to share, and neither is entirely sure they can trust the other. When Zivon’s loyalties are called into question, proving him honest is about more than one couple’s future dreams–it becomes a matter of ending the war.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

This is the third and final book in the series, so I went into it with excitement as I’d been awaiting the story for a long time. I’m pretty picky with my series endings, and they quite often disappoint me, so I was a little bit nervous to pick up the book and dive in. Recently I’ve not been in a readerly mood, so most of the books I’ve read in the last few months have fallen short of my expectations, so I was also a little worried. 

Then I started reading. And, Roseanna M. White did it again – she wrote a book that was delightful, fully immersive, had complex characters, and a plot that kept me wanting to read. 

Due to life being really busy I had to read the book throughout a couple of weeks, but it’s the kind of story I could have easily swallowed in one sitting. Every time I picked the book up I was sucked back into the story, eagerly anticipating what would happen next. 

Although the storyline was very interesting, it wasn’t exceedingly fast, which means I was able to get to know the characters and really delve into the time period, instead of just wanting to flip pages as fast as possible. The plot covered the topic of propaganda and (essentially) photoshopping photographs which is something I didn’t realize was happening back during the first World War. That was interesting to read about, and the author did a great job explaining it in an easy-to-understand way that also just blended into the story. 

The characters were ones I enjoyed reading about. I especially enjoyed watching Lily (the main female character) and her sister, Ivy, interacting. I’m one of five sisters and reading a book that correctly portrays a good sister relationship makes me happy. Their bond was so deep and even amid war, they were able to find joy and laughter together. 

While we get to watch Lily and her sister’s relationship, we also get that with Zivon (the main male character) and his brother. (Which is funny because I didn’t realize until just now how the stories parallel each other.) Zivon spends a good portion of the book trying to find his brother – who he’s not even sure is still alive – and we get to see how much he loves his brother.  

Another side of this book was getting to read from the point-of-view of two not-so-great characters. We got to know them a lot better than we normally get to see this author’s “villains” and I enjoyed that and the character arc that they went through. 

CONCLUSION

I liked it a whole lot. I lent the book to a friend literally as soon as I finished it so that she can read it and I can have someone to discuss the story with. 

You’ll get more out of the story if you read the series in order, but I do think this book could be a standalone if you wanted to read it that way. 

RATING

I’m giving A Portrait of Loyalty 4.5 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy A Portrait of Loyalty from the publishers. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone. Thank you to the author and publisher for sending me this book!

And Then She Began Reading Again

I rarely get my computer out any more. It sits in my cupboard alongside my clothes and languishes. Okay, maybe that’s being a bit dramatic, but you get my point.

I also barely read these days. That, I suppose, is a matter of perspective, but I went through June and July without finishing more than a handful of books. My grandpa died in June, and while it wasn’t unexpected, it was emotional and exhausting. I spent the ensuing couple of months not being overly dedicated to my goals or trying to accomplish much other than work, quality family time, and rest.

But now. Now I’m ready to get back into the saddle and begin getting back on track with life. One of my goals for this week is to read for an hour and fifteen minutes each day. This is because I got into the habit of watching Youtube when I got home from work instead of reading or learning. And while the stuff I watch on Youtube isn’t bad – and is even helpful in some instances, it isn’t the way I prefer to spend my time because while it can be good, it can also be a huge waste of time.

So, that huge introduction is to catch you up on my life and let you know that I finally finished a book to review for y’all. It’s a small book, but due to the above circumstances took me a long time to read. And now, my friends, the review…

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 187
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Title: Healing Family Relationships
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Every family is hurting, and the wounds that come from our relatives can be deeper than all others. Conflict within a family can range from daily frictions and annoyances to rage and hatred and eventually estrangement. We want things to be different but have no idea where to start.

After 25 years of ministering to families, Rob Rienow believes reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel–reconciliation with God and one another. You will come away with specific steps you can take in your relationships with your family members to pursue peace and healing in your homes. Each chapter includes key biblical examples as well as present-day stories of families who have experienced God’s help and healing–including the author’s own miraculous healing of his relationship with his father.

Our families can bring out the best, as well as the worst, in all of us. May this book guide you in making your home and family a blessing in a broken world.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I’m actually exceedingly blessed to have super good relationships in my family – something for which I’m very thankful and don’t take lightly. Still, this book looked interesting and of course, I can always learn something new.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Is it dramatic to say this book is small but mighty? Because that’s the way I felt about it. The first couple of chapters had me kinda nodding my head, but not sure what I thought about it. The author had some good points, but since he’s a new author to me, I had to develop some rapport with him before I felt like I could really get on board with what he was saying.

I’m not sure where that point in the book happened, but partway through the 187 pages, I found myself eager to pick up the book and learn more. The author does a great job of finding balance between using the Bible, examples from his own family, and examples from people who he’s known, in order to produce a solid book.

One of the big things I look for while reading nonfiction is how practical a book is – if a book makes good points, but has no practical application, then what’s the point? Also, as a relational person, I don’t like books that seem impersonal. The author covered both these facets really well. I felt like I was actually getting to know the author and learned a lot from his life as I read. He wove his story throughout the chapters, drawing me in and making me feel the pain he experienced, and ultimately the joy when things went well.

This book is one I consider to be simple. It’s not a hard read. It’s not got huge words and a vocabulary that will make you pull out your dictionary. And, while I do enjoy books that stretch my understanding with large words, for the purpose of this book having one that was easy to read and understand was important and a good choice.

CONCLUSION

There were a few small things that I didn’t agree with the emphasis that he put on it, but overall I really appreciated this book and the author’s point of view and stance. He brought up several things that I feel are really important and most people skip over in life. (Like praying through generational issues.)

This is a book I would recommend to people who are struggling with family relationships.

RATING

I’m giving Healing Family Relationships 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.

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.

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. 😉

1
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.

Ice Cream and Fire

Y’all, yesterday I switched off days with a co-worker. Because of that and another day switch, it meant yesterday was my 8th day working in a row. I’m sure there are plenty of people who can pull that off without a hitch, but for me it was a mite bit much. Except it wasn’t because I didn’t really end up working.

See, I mentioned a coworker that it was my 8th day working, and my manger overheard me. (Said manager is amazing and really cares about his employees; seriously, I thank him on a daily basis for being so thoughtful.) Well, he determined that I’d been working too hard and needed to rest, so he worked it out so I could go home after I’d worked less than half my shift. The only problem was I like my job so much that I really didn’t want to leave. So, after I clocked out I just hung out there talking and reading stuff on my phone.

Then, he finally convinced me I should head home and sit in the sun to read a book, and so that’s what I did, complete with a delicious Birthday Cake Bash Ice Cream Cone with Sprinkles. (Yes, please!) That meant that today (on my actual off-day) I have been able to catch up on a boatload of things I’ve been behind on.

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After being behind with my reviews for months, I finally submitted four reviews to different publishing and review sites, plus I read a book and wrote a fifth review. So, enjoy, folks!

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 176
Publisher: Chosen Books
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Title: Fire!
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

The world has wandered so far from God that nothing short of revival will reignite the fires of awakening. But God is about to set the world ablaze, and the nations will burn for him once again.

In this book, filled with empowering inspiration and astonishing real-life stories, pastor and speaker James Levesque offers twelve biblical principles to help you return to the passion you felt at the beginning of your faith–and carry the torch to your community and nation. This book is an exhortation to action, to ignite the fire inside you and see your life activated for signs, wonders, and miracles. Say goodbye to powerless Christianity and become a burning brand for God.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I regularly read books that I hope will challenge me and help me grow more into the person who God has created me to be. This book seemed like it would be perfect for the job.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

To keep things simple, we’re going to go with a list of things I did and didn’t like for this review.

What I Did Like:

-The author did a good job of speaking the truth with passion and not shying away from calling this generation of Christians out on what we’re doing wrong. I agreed with a lot of what he said about how we need to go back to being passionate about obeying and serving God. He mentioned that America is pretty much a Third World country when it comes to how spiritual (or non-spiritual) we are, and that seems like a really appropriate description.
-The books is full of enlightening, practical ways to serve God better and more fully. It doesn’t just tell us what’s wrong in the Church today, it then helps us go to the Bible to find solutions.
-It was an easy to understand book – meaning it spoke in layman terms and although it challenged my thinking, it didn’t challenge my brain to try and figure out what the author was trying to say.

What I Didn’t Like:

-I didn’t agree with a lot of what the author had to say. Yes, there were nuggets in the book that challenged me and helped me in my walk with God, but there were also things that I really don’t agree with, and therefore I won’t be recommending the book or reading more by the same author.

For Instance:
*At one point the author is talking about dreams God has given us, and he says “When God gives us a dream, we are usually nowhere near the full manifestation of that dream. But through the pits of life, God’s dream will never leave us. As a matter of fact, it is what sustains us through every trial. Your dream will make a way. (Emphasis mine.) Um, excuse me? I do agree with the basic concept of what I think the author is saying – when we’re focusing on what God has called us to do that helps us push through the hard times, etc…. But it’s God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God’s love (etc…) that sustains us and makes a way, not a dream He’s given me.
*The author has a section about how God will do this and that, etc… where he names multiple things that God will do in your life after you have the right attitude and belief about giving and receiving. And, while I believe that many people are not receiving God’s full blessings because of a wrong attitude or belief about God and His nature, I also didn’t agree with the dogmatic approach the author took while talking about this subject. (Yes, the promises in the Bible are true, but there are some promises who were made to certain people, and not to all generations of Christians.)

-There were a lot of other small instances throughout the book that left me shaking my head, disagreeing either with the tone, the conclusion, or the example given in the book.

CONCLUSION

I got some good things out of the book. It challenged me to seek God with more passion and reminded me that God has got to be first place in my life, no matter what. This book also helped remind me to study what I read and match it against God’s Word to see how it lines up. Because of the discrepancies I found, despite the fact that there were some really good parts of this book, I won’t be recommending it.

RATING

I’m giving Fire! 3 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the publisher for giving me a copy so I could review it here.

An Unexpected Bookish Meeting

Y’all, here it is! The last book I read for review while I was on vacation. (Whew, getting all these reviews written is fun, but kinda hard because I let them build up since I didn’t have my computer with me.)

Fun story before I get into the review: I was reading this book in Mexico where our family goes on vacation each year. We stay in a small fishing village that isn’t in a touristy area.

As I was reading I posted about the book on my Instagram Story (y’all can follow me here if you want, I often post reading updates). A friend commented and said that it looked like a book she’d enjoy reading.

Now, plot twist: It turns out this lady was on vacation with her husband and their four young children only about a half an hour away from where we were staying! Crazy, right? As it turns out, we invited them over for supper one night and I hurried to finish reading the book before they arrived so I could give it to her. It was fun to have that random bookish/friendish connection in a different country. And hey, I’m glad she commented on my story. 😉

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 208
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Title: Homeschool Bravely
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Quiet the voices of “not good enough” and step courageously into guilt-free homeschooling

Many homeschool parents have a long-term relationship with self-doubt. “Did I make the right decision?” “Could someone else do this better?” “Am I robbing my kids of something by not sending them to ‘regular school’?”

What if there’s a better way?

Not a 3-step technique or a shiny, new curriculum, but a change in perspective that transforms the way you plan, teach, and homeschool?

Homeschool Bravely teaches you to see homeschooling as a calling, helps you overthrow the tyranny of impossible expectations, and guides you through the common bumps in the road, including how to:

  • juggle school and parenting with toddlers at home
  • teach a struggling learner
  • plan with the end in mind
  • accept your own limitations without feeling guilty
  • stay the course even in the face of criticism

Reclaim your hope, renew your purpose, and transform your homeschool. Because the truth is: God will use every part of your homeschool, even your fears, faults, and failures, to weave good plans for your kids.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Despite the fact that I’ve read a lot of parenting books, I’ve never read any homeschooling books. That seemed like a fact I should remedy, and this book caught my eye, partly because of the title, partly because the cover is black.

Disclaimer: I’m not a parent, I don’t think I have the answers to parenting, homeschooling, or raising kids. I simply enjoy studying the subject and seeing how I can (very, very loosely) apply the principles I learn to myself, kids in my life, and maybe in the far distant future my own kids. Plus, it’s pretty fun to learn when there’s no pressure. But, as always this review will, therefore, be quite subjective, but will hopefully provide a unique point-of-view compared to the reviews written by parents who actually know what they’re doing.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I found it surprisingly interesting. The author is a blogger and a lot of times a blogger-turned-book-author is a hit or miss for me when it comes to style – there’s no middle ground. This one was, thankfully, a total hit. Her writing style was engaging, her tone honest, encouraging, and at times funny, and her stories were ones I could relate to from the perspective of an adult who grew up being homeschooled.

The author used to be an elementary school teacher, which felt like it gave her added credentials while talking about homeschooling vs. public schooling.

There were some things in the book I didn’t fully agree with (more related to her views on various things, rather than what she actually did), but those things were minor enough that they didn’t take away from the book for me.

For me, the most interesting part of the book was when she gave different suggestions of things to do with kids. It’s so intriguing to hear about things little kids can do for fun that are actually educational as well.

CONCLUSION

If y’all are interested in this book, you should check out her website (The Unlikely Homeschool) or look her up on Instagram. I watched some of her Instagram stories as I was reading the book and that really helped her to feel more relatable and alive to me.

I generally don’t recommend parenting books as a non-parent on my blog (because that’s weird), and the same goes for homeschooling books. But, I did enjoy reading this book.

RATING

I’m giving Homeschool Bravely four out of five stars – Moody Publishers was very kind to send me a copy of this book so I could review it.