Book Review Time!

Y’all, I haven’t posted any book reviews in August so far, but we’re about to change that! Today we have both a nonfiction and fiction review. Have you read either of these books?

The Lifestyle of a Watchman

by James W Goll

Find it on:

Amazon
Goodreads 

First Person • Nonfiction • 304 Pages

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About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

Unique, Powerful Call to the Front Lines of Prayer

From bestselling author James W. Goll, a strategic prophetic leader in global intercessory prayer, comes an in-depth journey into the heart of what it means to be a “watchman on the wall.” Designed for serious worshipers and intercessors, this unique 21-day journey will help you move to the front lines of prayer–becoming more alert to the presence of God and praying his will with confidence.

With reflection questions, devotional prayers, and practical application, this book will help you
– discern the specific spiritual atmosphere around you
– discover the strategies of God for certain times
– pray more effectively for others
– understand how to intercede for current events

Walking in the lifestyle of a watchman means that you can be the sentinel that God is calling his mature intercessors to be. Learn to partner with the strategies of heaven and step boldly into your calling.

Why I Choose this Book:

Although prayer has always been a part of my life, I know I don’t pray enough, nor do I always pray the way I should. I’m working on becoming much more intentional about praying.

What I Thought about this Book:

Mr. Goll’s writing style is one that works well with the “average” person. I didn’t feel like he was talking down to the reader, and yet it was easy to understand what he was writing. Sometimes with theological books, I’m left going “Wait, what in the world does that even mean?” Thankfully that wasn’t the case with this book.

This book is supposed to be read over twenty-one days – one chapter for each day. I have a hard time keeping pace because I’m always chomping at the bit to finish a book. But, when I started the book I made the decision to go at the correct pace and try and implement what I was learning, and I’m glad I did.

I’ve always known that prayer was important, and this book really stresses that truth. In today’s age we have phones (etc…) constantly at our fingertips and therefore don’t experience many of the quiet moments like before (waiting in line, while taking a break, etc….). It’s more important than ever to be intentional to not only set aside time for prayer, but to also snag those moments throughout the day. I’m in awe of the fact that we can pray anywhere and at any time and I want to take advantage of that blessing.

Mr. Goll’s book talks about different types of prayers and different types of people who are called to pray for specific things. (Prophetic prayer, prayers for the church, etc….) He also highlights various prayer warriors at the end of each chapter. He includes a mixture of living, biblical, and historical people, with each person having made a difference in the world through their prayer.

The book contains a lot of scriptures – something I’ve always appreciated when it comes to a nonfiction book about studying the Bible/learning to have a closer walk with God.

Conclusion:

Some really good points were brought out in this book, but I was also a little bit surprised at some of the points that weren’t talked about in the book. Overall though, the book was well written and I would recommend it to people who are seeking to grow closer to God.

Rating:

I’m giving The Lifestyle of a Watchman 4 out of 5 stars, and 7 out of 10
*I received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review


♦♦♦♦♦

Befriending the Beast 

by Amanda Tero

Find it on:

Amazon
Goodreads 

Third Person • Fiction • 106 Pages

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About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

Belle has returned unannounced to the castle to restore her relationship with the king, her father. Her hopes are dashed with the devastating message: “The king refuses to see you.” Convinced that God has led her home, she is unwilling to return to Lord and Lady Kiralyn. Time is running out for the decision that will change her life. When tragedy strikes, will she and her father be pulled further apart or knit together? Could she stay at the castle even if she will never see her father again?

Why I Choose this Book:

I don’t generally read books with magic, so I grew up not reading fairy tales. I’ve always been slightly curious about the genre, so when I find a fairy tale retelling that is void of magic, I’m interested in reading more. The author was offering to let me read the book in exchange for an honest review, so I signed up.

What I Thought about this Book:

Sadly I think my lack of growing up with fairy tales lowers my ratings on fairy tale retellings because I don’t have the built-in love and fangirling that most readers of retellings have. From the reviews I’ve seen a lot of readers really enjoyed the twist of having the “beast” be her father instead of some romantic interest. I’m guessing that if I’d grown up with the original story I would have been really intrigued by this new look at the story.

This story was well written, with the descriptions being especially, well, descriptive. The main character also felt like she was well thought out and stayed true to her character the whole book. I liked the setting and the dialogue sounded like it fit the time period well.

Overall, I didn’t really find the book to be incredibly interesting, but I did enjoy reading it. There were a couple of times that I decided to read just a couple more pages because I was interested in finding out what was going to happen next.

Conclusion:

If you enjoy fairy tales, then I recommend this.

Rating:

I’m giving Befriending the Beast 3 out of 5 stars, and 5 out of 10

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review 

The Lost Girl of Astor Street – Book Review

The Lost Girl of Astor Street 

By:  Stephanie Morrill

Find it on:

Amazon

Goodreads 

First Person • Fiction • One Point of View • 352 Pages

Find clue hunt/giveaway information, plus author interview here.

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About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

When her best friend vanishes without so much as a good-bye, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail takes on the role of amateur sleuth in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. Given that Piper’s tendency has always been to butt heads with high-society’s expectations of her, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t give a second thought to searching for answers to Lydia’s abduction from their privileged neighborhood.

As Piper discovers that those answers might stem from the corruption strangling 1924 Chicago—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

Perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Anna Godbersen, Stephanie Morrill’s atmospheric jazz-age mystery will take readers from the glitzy homes of the elite to the dark underbelly of 1920s Chicago.

Why I Choose this Book:

This is at least the fourth post in which I’ve talked about The Lost Girl of Astor Street in the last month, so you probably are getting tired of hearing how excited I am about it. The solution? Just read the book for yourself and see how cool it is. =)

Quick overview though: I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since Stephanie first mentioned she was writing it in 2014. I was intrigued right away, and the book did not disappoint.

What I Thought about this Book:

It was a total surprise. I’m not sure what I expected, but Lost Girl blew my ideas out of the water and pretty much amazed me. I was sucked into the world, intrigued by Piper’s point of view, and throughly enjoyed getting to know the characters better.

And, on the subject of characters, let me talk about them for a bit…

Piper – First of all, she has an incredible name, so cute. Second of all, I was pretty impressed with how very different she was from Stephanie’s other main characters. Piper was unique, experienced growth, and although I couldn’t always relate to her personally, I felt like I understood her. She was also very realistic, so yay!

Lydia – Lydia is a rather uncommon name in books, so it was a little bit weird to be reading about one (since I share the name). I’ll have to say, the plot twists with her were a total surprise to me. I liked her character, she was a good balance for Piper. It makes sense that the two of them would be best friends.

Walter – Goodness! I was caught between wishing the plot would go somewhere that it didn’t, and thinking YES! Finally, a book that gets it right! In the end, my happiness for the part Walter played in the story won out. I liked him a lot, and could relate to the relationship he had with the other characters quite well.

There are obviously a lot more characters I could talk about, but those were my top three I felt like discussing. On to the plot….

It’s a mystery. I knew that, but somehow I sorta forgot that when I began reading the book (probably because the other books Stephanie has written aren’t mysteries). It didn’t take long for the mystery part to erupt though, and erupt it did. The pacing of the book was really well done. The plot had twists. The mystery was intriguing. Altogether it was a fantastic book, and one I’m looking forward to re-reading after I receive the hardback copy I bought.

Conclusion:

I don’t condone all of Piper’s actions by any means, and there was some violence, etc…. For the most part though, it was kept vague and I was happy with it. Way to go, Stephanie!

Rating: 

I’m giving Lost Girl of Astor Street 4 out of 5 stars, and 8 out of 10.

*I received this book from the author

Characters, Inns, and Secrets, Oh My! (The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill – Book Review)

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

By  Julie Klassen

Find it on:

Goodreads 

Third Person • Fiction • Multiple Points of View • 448 Pages

 

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About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood–along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.

Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family’s inn. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane finds herself The Bell’s owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.

Feeling reluctant and ill-equipped, Jane is tempted to abandon her husband’s legacy and return to her former life of ease. However, she soon realizes there is more at stake than her comfort. But who can she trust to help her? Her resentful mother-in-law? Her husband’s brother, who wanted the inn for himself? Or the handsome newcomer with secret plans of his own . . . ?

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane struggles to win over naysayers and turn the place around. Can Jane bring new life to the inn, and to her heart as well?

 

Why I Choose this Book:

Of late it seems as if covers have had far more power to grab me in than they used to have. This cover was so beautiful that I read the blurb, and when it didn’t appear to be too romantic, I requested the book. I still think the cover is the most eye-pleaseing one I’ve seen in some time.

What I Thought about this Book:

The book was slloowww getting started. I spent the first while wondering who the main character even was. As the story picked up a bit, I was surprised to find myself beginning to get intrigued. By the time the book was nearly over it was difficult to put down. (As in, reading far into the night.)

I felt as if I’d come to now the characters and I wanted to figure out what would happen to them next. There was good character development – I went from not liking any of the main people to being able to see why they did what they did and it making sense. I also enjoyed the setting. It seems like a lot of research went in to making the book realistic, and even though I had a few quibbles here and there, overall I felt like I was sucked into then world.

The plot was nice, but it’s a mostly character driven book, which I enjoyed. It reminded me of a Jane Austen book, which make sense considering the setting and time period. There wasn’t a huge amount of romance, but certainly a realistic amount that was handled well. (Yay for balance!)

Conclusion:

If I had the second book in the series at my beck and call, I’m pretty sure I would be picking it up before the day was over.

The objections and hesitancies I have for this book are very few. There are some things that obviously aren’t acceptable, but they were portrayed as such. So, happy day!

Rating: 

I’m giving The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill 3 out of 5 stars, and 6 out of 10.

*I received this book from Bethany House Publishers

A Completely Befuddling Book “Of Stillness and Storms”- Book Review

Of Stillness and Storms 

By Michèle Phoenix

Find it on:

First Person • Single Point of View • Fiction • 336 Pages

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About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

“I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing.”

It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing.

At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.

Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.

Why I Choose this Book: 

 

It’s a contemporary about missionaries – specifically struggling missionaries. It sounded intriguing.

What I Thought about this Book:

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

 

I literally had no clue what I was getting into. Of Stillness and Storms was gloriously beautiful. Heartbreakingly honest. Terrifyingly real. Horrible, amazing, gripping, totally wrong, and completely spot-on all at once. Each page was one more waving red flag, screaming about the train wreck that was taking place, slowly, one word at a time.

The writing, the storyline, the whole concept, was exceptional. The tension between the main character (Lauren) and her husband’s (Sam) understandings of how God works and the compound effect of those views was expertly told.

Sam. Ugh. He changed so little throughout the book. His idealism at the beginning is basically the same at the end. Only the settings changed. His fierce desire to live largely and his devotion to his own convictions ironically make him appear predictable and stagnant by the end. You just know he isn’t going to change, and Lauren’s palpable frustration is shared. In spite of – perhaps because of – her mistakes, she seems like the most living character in the book, because she’s acting like a real human. Sam’s single-mindedness glazed his vision, and his undoing was when he stopped taking Lauren’s input into whatever equation he was using to find God’s will. He ended up being an absentee control freak – which sounds like an oxymoron, but is so true.

It was intriguing because it’s not easy to tell exactly where everything fell apart. You can see the seeds early on (the book contained large portions of flashbacks), but the only real barometer we have is Lauren’s response. If Lauren and Sam were completely united in their mission, the story would look completely different. What’s disconcerting is that Sam could still be a stubborn control freak and no one might ever know. He would probably look like a great missionary and person to most people, and Lauren’s support would validate that. As it is, our sympathy with Lauren’s humanity cues us that something is off with Sam, and by the end of the book, it is tragically obvious.

 Conclusion

This book is by far the best one I’ve ever read in regards to TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and the challenges they go through. I’ve grown up around TCKs, and many of my closest friends are TCKs. Sometimes I feel like one myself. It came to my attention a few years ago (when visiting some missionary friends), how there are so many misunderstandings when it comes to TCKs, and that can be a huge problem.

With my job I have the privilege of hanging out with missionaries a lot. I’ve heard stories that are comparable to this one, but with incredibly beautiful grace and mercy filled endings. I’ve seen how real the issues this book dealt with can be, and how much heartache can spring forth when miscommunications take over. This book handled the topic so vividly that it made me want to recommend it to everyone.

Unfortunately there were some borderline issues in this book – a couple scenes that I’m not comfortable recommending, as well as several words. There were also a couple of places that I couldn’t tell if they were using God’s name in vain or not (you’d have to see the writing style to know why it was confusing), so that was a disappointment. Also, the whole premise is rather disturbing (but, in like a really honest, needed type of way). Therefore I can’t exactly recommend it to everyone. But! Depending on your personal guidelines, you might want to check the book out.

Rating 

I’m giving Of Stillness and Storms 4 out of 5 stars, and 8 out of 10.

*I received this book free from Litfuse*

Pursuing Gold – Book Review

Pursuing Gold

By Cynthia L. Simmons

Find it on:

Third Person • Multiple Points of View • Fiction • 308 Pages

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About the Book (Backcover Blurb):

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.

 

Why I Choose this Book: 

I rarely comment about covers, but this book pretty much dictates I do so. When I received an email asking if I wanted to review this book the cover hadn’t been released yet. The premiss looked interesting because Historical Fiction without too much romance is pretty much my favorite. So, after reading the blurb several times and deciding that there weren’t any red flags, I excitedly signed up.

Then the book arrived with the above cover. And, well, I kinda lost interest in the book. (Sorry!) I’m sure there are some people who would find that cover promising, but to me it made the book look boring. It was with reluctance that I finally settled down to read the story. Then, crazily enough, the book was really interesting and drew me in right away. So, this is one book I wouldn’t have signed up for if I had seen the cover, but happily I hadn’t.

What I Thought about this Book:

I enjoyed it a lot – it wasn’t what I expected, and that’s a good thing. The book felt very well researched but without too many details to bog the story down. At the end of the book I felt like I understood some of what happened during the Civil War better, so yay.

I especially enjoyed Peter and Mr. Roper’s interactions. Mr. Roper was probably my favorite character even though his scenes were rather brief. The characters were fairly different from each other, and for the most part their actions were believable.

Peter and Mary Beth had a some romance intertwined with their character arch (obviously), but it was done in such a way that, although it wasn’t always completely believable, I actually appreciated it. I hate it when the romance in books is founded on misunderstandings and non-communications, and that was blessedly absent (from what I can remember) in this story. So yay, Miss Cynthia! I applaud you.

The book held my interest and made me want to find out what would happen next. The plot wasn’t incredibly unique, and there were a few things that made me go riigghhhhtt, but for the most part it was well-written.

Conclusion

The book takes place during the Civil war and there’s some violence and threats and people killed (although no direct war scenes). It wasn’t too graphic though, so that was nice. There were also several places in the book that weren’t edited as well as I would have liked, but nothing too horrible.

Overall I appreciated the book, and would like to read more from this author in the future.

Rating 

I’m giving Pursuing Gold 3 out of 5 stars, and 7 out of 10.

*I received this book free from Litfuse*