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.

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

1

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.

Announcing: A 24 Hour Reading Challenge

This Saturday I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’m doing a 24 Hour Reading Challenge.

And I’m not just participating in it, I’m also hosting it. 

Bookshelf

24 Hour Reading Challenge Defined:

It’s where you set aside 24 hours – for this one, it’s from Midnight on Friday night until Midnight on Saturday night – to read as much as you can.

I’m going super chill, so it’s a free-for-all as far as what you want to read. The category I’m choosing to read during the challenge is re-reading middle-grade childhood favorites. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that means – so if you want to see that journey, you can check out my Instagram Stories.

What A 24 Hour Reading Challenge is NOT:

-It’s not a contest to see who can read the most
-It’s not high pressure
-It’s not a time when you have to finish a ton of books

What a 24 Hour Reading Challenge IS:

-It’s a time for readers to have fun as they’re all reading at the same time
-It’s relaxing, rejuvenating, and rewarding
-It’s a time to see what other bookworms are reading
-It’s a time to pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read for a while

How to Join the Challenge:

Comment here or over on my Instagram telling me you want to join
Choose what books you want to read
Clear as much of your Saturday as possible so you can get more time to read

How to Participate in the Challenge:

-Read as much as you can/want
-Keep track of the number of pages you read/listen to. (Yes! Audiobooks count!) This challenge tracks the number of pages you read, not the books, so you can switch back and forth to keep your mind engaged
-Post pictures on Instagram Story (or any social media venue) throughout the day with the Hashtag #24HourReadingChallenge
-Fun Option: Tag me on your 24 Hour Challenge pictures so I can see them, too!

What I’ll be Posting in my Story:

-Updates on what I’m reading
-Where I’m reading (inside, outside, upside-down)
-Snacks I’m chowing down on during the challenge
-Number of pages I’ve read
-Anything else book related
-Plus, I’ll be re-posting what other people are posting with the #24HourReadingChallenge hashtag

I’m so excited because I already have several people from Instagram (including my mom!) interested in the challenge.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Getting Rid of Books?

Over the years I’ve collected an assortment of books of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. When I moved to a room with a whole wall of bookshelves, I was beyond happy. I finally had space to keep all my books in one place, rather than haphazardly homing them on every available space in my room – including the floor.

IMG_E7002

Last year when I moved to my darling little camper, my parents graciously allowed me to keep the use of my room back home, so most of my books stayed there. I did find space for a little shelf in my camper though – because how can you have a home without books? Although I started out with extra room, it wasn’t long until the shelf was stuffed and surrounded by books. (Which might be partly due to working in a bookstore, and therefore getting significant discounts on the books.)

IMG_0660

This summer while I was visiting home and switching out what books I wanted in my camper (which was a normal course of action) and I realized I probably wouldn’t always have space for so many books. So, I gathered up a box of books of about 40 books that I knew I wouldn’t be re-reading. I planned to do the same thing in subsequent visits, which was kind of rewarding (de-cluttering is my favorite) and also kind of sad (because owning books is also sort of a favorite).

As it turns out, that probably happened a lot sooner than I had anticipated. At the beginning of this year, I found out I was going to have to downsize my book collection sooner rather than later because I was moving all my stuff back home to a new (smaller) bedroom.

I wish I would have taken good before and after pictures – or even counted the number of boxes that I gave to thrift stores… But, the process was rather sporadic and I didn’t think about documenting it until I was too far in.

In the end, I chose about two-fifths (I’m guessing about 250-300) of my books to find new owners and carefully divided the rest onto bookshelves that I pilfered from around the house. My room now has four bookshelves, effectively making me feel like I’m surrounded by books whenever I’m there – a delightful feeling indeed.

I still have some books that I’m not sure where they’ll stay, as my shelves are rather full… Overall, I’m thankful and happy that I was able to keep so many delightful books,  as well as being thankful that the books I didn’t keep will be able to bless others.

14 Clean Fiction Book Recommendations

What is the loveliness I bring to you today, my friends? Fourteen delightful fiction book recommendations. Why did I choose the number fourteen? Quite simply because that gives you one book to read each day for the next two weeks. 😉

I’m going to attempt to have an order with these books, going from my 14th favorite, all the way up to the one that I’d push into your hands with delightful squeals if I could.

Okay, Lydia from the future here: I had no clue how long it would take me to try and pick 14 of my favorite fiction books. Add in trying to put them in order from least to favorite? Well, this has been a two-day project, but I’m pretty excited about how it turned out. I scrolled through hundreds of books I’ve read to pick which gems to share with you, and it was a delightful trip down memory lane.

If you’ve read any of these books – or end up reading them after browsing this post – I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts. Blessings!

14. The Hope of Azure Springs 
Read my review here. 

This book was a refreshing break from the all-too-familiar beautiful main characters that are so prevalent in fiction. I’m not very familiar with this author, but I look forward to reading more of her books.

13. Secrets She Kept
Read my review here. 

Cathy Gohlke is an author who doesn’t disappoint. I had a hard time choosing which of her books to put on this list – she yanks her readers into history and makes tedious tasks come alive. I chose this book because although I normally don’t like reading books with different timelines, she pulled it off perfectly. 

12. All Fall Down
Read my review here. (This book is representing a trilogy.)
The first time I read the trilogy I wasn’t sure what to think (as you’d see if you read my review), but then about a year later I listened to the trilogy and was blown away by how much I had missed during my first read. There are various parts of the story I don’t condone, but it’s brilliantly executed and the characters are incredibly flawed in the best of ways.

11. Rock Harbor Mystery Collection 
(This is representing a whole series.) 

Colleen Coble’s books fall into two categories for me: Either they’re too mysterious (or creepy, scary, etc…) so I don’t read them, or else they pull me in like crazy and have the best characters ever. I listen to most of her books vs. reading them, and I’ve felt like I’ve gotten to know her characters and settings so well. Most of her books that I’ve read interconnect at some point or another, and I’m excited and delighted by that.

10. Between Two Shores
Read my review here

Hello, plot twist. This was another author who I had a hard time choosing which book to put on my list. Her research is so thorough I always learn something intriguingly new while reading her books. I chose this book because there was a plot twist in it that I’ve never seen in Christian historical fiction, and it made my mouth literally dropped open when I got to it.

9. Counted with the Stars
Read my review here. (This book is representing a trilogy.)

I call Connilyn Cossette Queen of Biblical Fiction and that’s not a title I give lightly. She’s the only author who has all of her books represented (two series) on this list.

8. Thief of Corinth

I’d pull this book out right now for a re-read if I hadn’t lent it to someone. The storyline is compelling, the characters are frustratingly real, the twists and turns in the plot are exciting, and the writing is excellent.

7. The Lost Girl of Astor Street 
Read my review here.

Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the story is, too. The world-building is so well crafted that you’ll be sucked into the story and won’t want to emerge. It’s a slow-paced mystery with an emphasis on the characters, which is my favorite type of read. I own both the hardcover and ebook versions of this book, have given it as a gift, and recommend it often.

6. Thicker than Blood
(This book is representing a series.)

This series I randomly stumbled upon on kindle about six years ago. It combines all the elements you can think of to make a fantastic story, including characters who make me want to help them and yell at them and beg them to make the right decisions all at the same time.

5.The Number of Love
Read my review here. 

Espionage is my favorite trope in books. Books that take place during WW1 hold a very special place in my heart. And, characters who are brilliant (and yet obviously flawed) are incredibly entertaining. The Number of Love combines those three elements perfectly.  This story is so skillfully written that as soon as I finished reading it I lent it out so others could be as delighted as me. It was by far one of my favorite books of 2019.

4. Derwood Inc. 

Ah, a childhood favorite. This book is Middle Grade, so if you’re looking for a delightfully funny, whimsical, and silly read for you or your Middle Grader, this book is an excellent choice. I’ve read it so many times over the years I’ve lost count. In fact, I think it’s about time for me to pick it up again…

3. A Light on the Hill
Read my review here. (This book is representing a series.)

I went into this series blind – as in not knowing a thing about what it’s about – and therefore I was completely unprepared for the plot twists that occurred. Connilyn Cossette takes obscure Bible verses, researches them, digs into them, and produces books that whisk me instantly into the Bible times and makes that time period in history seem so much more alive and relatable.

2. The Bridge
Read my review here. (This book is representing a trilogy.)

Another childhood favorite – written by the same author of Derwood Inc., but incredibly different from that book. Goodness, folks. This trilogy was written for Middle Graders, yet it was one of my first tastes of non-picture books. My sister read the books to us when I was three, which is my first specific memory of being read to. I’ve read the books time and again since then, and have found them beyond delightful.

1. An Hour Unspent
(This book is representing a trilogy.)

All of the other series I’ve talked about in this post I’ve featured the first book – no matter which one was my actual favorite – because that made sense. But this book is the end of the trilogy, and also the only fiction book I’ve given five stars to in the last four years.
Normally the end of a series bothers me, but this book was everything I wanted it to be, plus more. It had the narrator I was hoping for, the espionage I craved, the character development that only a skillful author can provide, and a delightful plot. And therefore, it claims the #1 spot in this post, which is a high honor indeed.

There you have it, folks! Enjoy reading!

Quick Genre Stats: 
Historical Fiction = 6
Biblical Fiction = 3
Mystery = 4
Contemporary = 4 

 

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.

IMG_4627
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. 😉

IMG_4593-2

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. 

IMG_4598

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.

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

1

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.

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

1.jpg

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.

King’s Shadow {The Silent Years}

Today is my first day in a while that I’ve had off work without needing to go shopping or having company over. And, although I enjoy doing both those things sometimes, it’s so nice to spend a day just relaxing at home.

I sat out in the sun reading a nonfiction book and sipping coffee, journaling a ton, and then got caught up on housework and cleaned out my fridge because I’m going to be visiting my family for about two weeks.

This afternoon I took a nap and finished reading King’s Shadow. I’m excited about this for several reasons, including the fact that after being behind with book reviews for far too long I’m finally caught up! I’m so thankful for the grace the publishing companies/review sites showed me when life didn’t go according to plan and I got behind.

IMG_1921.jpg

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 384
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Title: King’s Shadow
Fiction

1.jpg

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court. The first, Salome, is the king’s only sister, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, a people God will never accept or approve.

The second woman, Zara, is a lowly handmaid who serves Salome, but where Salome spies conspiracies and treachery, Zara sees hurting people in need of understanding and compassion.

Powerful and powerless, Idumean and Jew, selfish and selfless–both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In July of 2017, I received the first book in The Silent Years series for review. It’s titled Egypt’s Sister (read the review here) and totally intrigued me. I’d never read a book that took place during the Silent Years before, and I right away set about researching that time period.

Over the last couple of years, I bought books 2 (Judah’s Wife which I gave three stars) and 3 (Jerusalem’s Queen which also got three stars from me) when they were released. The crazy thing I was didn’t even really like the storyline of either of those books, but the writing, world-building, and research were so well done that I kept going with the series. When this book was released I jumped at the chance to review it.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

My admiration for the author is strong. I can’t even imagine the number of historical documents she had to shift through to write this book, nor how much notetaking she had to commit to in order to keep everything straight. Considering the sheer amounts of Herod’sAlexandra/Alexander’s, and Mariamne’s that were mentioned in this book I’m amazed by how smoothly the storyline flowed and how well I was able to understand what was going on. Seriously though, why did everyone use the same names? (Actually, not seriously, I understand why.)

As far as storylines go, I thought the author made a bold (and wise) move by having the story be from the perspective of the “bad guy” – although you never feel like that when you’re reading. Most of the story is told by Salome, the sister of Herod, a person who was very loyal to him. Therefore, as we read about the atrocities that Herod committed, it’s through the eyes of someone who’s only seeing his best and always justifying his actions. If you were reading the book just paying attention to tone instead of content, then it would seem that everything that is going on is perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s only when you stop and consider what is actually happening that you realize how terrible it really is.

This perspective was well done and made the story flow in a way that I’m not used to. Instead of focusing on emotions that you’d normally feel while reading about someone in history doing horrible things, those violent acts were just stated as facts and then you move on. For instance, when King Herod had someone he’d loved very much be executed, he then went crazy for a while. Since we’re reading from the perspective of Salome, we focus on her sadness that her brother is having a hard time, and the way she tries to help him, vs. the fact that the man is a brutal, savage madman.

Because of this lack of emotion and the way Salome merely recites facts (“And then he had 300 Jews killed in a mad fit, but hey – the guy has to protect his throne.”) it made the book a lot more bearable to read than if it had gone into how horrible everything was. If this story was merely fiction I wouldn’t have liked the approach at all, but since it’s based on true facts I appreciated being able to read and learn this way.

The other perspective is from Zara (a made-up character) who is Salome’s Jewish handmaid. Her chapters weren’t very often, but she did provide an interesting balance to Salome’s cut-throat and scheming ways. Since her perspective isn’t really prevalent in the story I felt like we didn’t get to know her well as a character, but I have nothing bad to say about her.

The book covers about a 30ish year period of time, which isn’t something I generally like, but for the sake of this story, I think it was well-done.

I’ve learned so much through this series, and I find myself being satisfied with King’s Shadow as the final book.

CONCLUSION

There’s a lot of horrible stuff that goes on in the book. So much plotting, killing, torture (not in detail) scheming, lying, and un-holy relationships.

But, nothing was written in detail (probably about as much as if you were reading the Bible), and I think the author did a really good job of making the time period come alive without saying too much. I think I would recommend this book to people fifteen and older.

RATING

I’m giving King’s Shadow 4 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful to Bethany House Publishers for giving me a copy so I could review it for y’all.

Protecting Your Child from Predators

Warning: Hey folks! This review is going to be nice and vague, but it’s still not necessarily something I recommend for kids. So, proceed at your own decretion.

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 240
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Title: Protecting Your Child from Predators
Nonfiction

1.jpg

ABOUT THE BOOK

Read the back cover blurb here. (Since it’s a sensitive topic, I’m choosing not to post the back cover blurb on my blog since I have young readers.)

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I think this subject is one that really needs to be taught today. I became fairly aware of it when I began studying the subject of children’s ministry at churches. (I taught Children’s Church for fifteen months before moving to Kentucky.) When I read the blurb for this book it sounded like the authors really knew what they were talking about so I requested the book.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Obviously it’s not a fun topic to read about, but the authors did a phenomenal job of tackling an exceedingly difficult subject with gentle grace while not compromising the message.

The book is laid out in such a way that it’s easy to skip around and read the parts that are applicable to you and your life. After the introduction where they explain the purpose of the book, the rest of the chapters are divided into three different sections, each one focusing on a certain age group and how to best prepare children of that age to be safest. This is helpful because it means the reader doesn’t have to be overwhelmed trying to read the book all the way through – instead they can read it at the same pace their children grow.

Throughout the book, one of the authors shares many stories (with appropriate changes) from her years as a counselor. Along with the examples, she explains what could have been done differently, how parents should respond in each situation, and the best way to help children move on. (With the main emphasis being on what could have been done to prevent the situation in the first place.) In each example, I was impressed by how kindly the author approached what had happened. It was clear that she loves children and parents, and even when someone obviously did the wrong thing, she doesn’t pass judgment. Instead, she lovingly helps offer solutions. With that attitude being the overall tone, I can see how this book will be a huge tool to helping parents rectify abuse and wrongs that might have unknowingly been going on in their homes.

In addition to the true-life examples, this book is also full of statistics. A lot of those stats are rather disturbing and a good reason for people to read this book. But, in the midst of all that, I didn’t feel like the book was trying to scare the readers. Instead, it was informing us, then providing good tools for how to protect children. The authors continually took us back to the Bible and showed how we’ve been prepared to fight and that we aren’t powerless. This approach was very encouraging.

Although I didn’t enjoy reading the book, I did find it very enlighting and something that I feel like will help how I am around children (especially who I don’t know well) in the future. The writing style is easy to read which is perfect since it’s such a difficult topic. I read the whole book within five hours of unboxing it.

CONCLUSION

This is a book I highly recommend. It’s disturbing, yes, but it’s written with such grace and love that they make a hard, horrible subject something that can be read and received. I do recommend that it not be read by anyone under 18, possibly even older.

RATING

I’m giving Protecting Your Child from Predators 5 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the publisher for giving me a copy so I could review it here.