Before I Called You Mine

Three Random Facts for Today:

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

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

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

And now, review time…

THE STATS:

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

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ABOUT THE BOOK

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

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

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

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

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

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

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

RATING

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

The Art of Friendship

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

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

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

And now, a review:

THE STATS:

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

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ABOUT THE BOOK

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

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

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

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

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

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

Three Pros:

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

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

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

Three Cons:

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

RATING

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

Wait, I’m Reviewing A Beverly Lewis Book?

This is one author I never thought I’d be reviewing on my blog. 😉 I was pleasantly surprised, although probably not in the way you’d think. Enjoy the review!

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 320
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Title: The Tinderbox
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

With her Amish parents’ twentieth anniversary approaching, eighteen-year-old Sylvia Miller stumbles across a surprise–the old brass tinderbox her clockmaker father keeps in his Lancaster County shop has been left unlocked. Against her better judgment, Sylvia opens the cherished heirloom, not realizing that what she is about to discover will splinter apart her happy life.

Sylvia’s bewilderment grows when her father confronts her about snooping in the box. To her amazement, the respected convert to the Old Order reacts as if he has something to hide.

Burdened by the weight of his deception, Earnest Miller decides he must reveal the details about his past to his beloved wife, Rhoda. The long-kept secret alters everything for the close-knit family, jeopardizing Earnest and Rhoda’s relationship, as well as threatening Sylvia’s recent engagement to the preacher’s grandson.

Can the Millers find a way forward through the turmoil to a place of forgiveness and acceptance?

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I’ve heard about Beverly Lewis books for years. From everything I’ve heard I knew she didn’t write my style books, but I still was curious and wanted to give them a try. When this one was offered to me I thought it sounded interesting without sounding too romantic, so I requested to review it.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

When I thought Miss Beverly’s books wouldn’t be my style I was correct. But, as I read this book I found it surprisingly interesting. So, let’s hit my three pros and three cons.

Pros:
1. The worldbuilding was amazing. This was my favorite part of the book. Whenever I picked up The Tinderbox I felt my world slip away as I entered the story in the book.
2. The differences in speech were done well enough that it emersed me in the story instead of confusing me. I’ve read a couple of books featuring Amish over the years and the authors always throw in some Pennsylvania Dutch words here and there to make it seem authentic. Most of the time though, those attempts just annoy me. But, in this book, they felt natural and helped the story along.
3. Although how everything played out annoyed me, I thought that everything the characters did seemed like very reasonable actions. The characters felt real and multi-layered, and I did like the relationships they had with each other.

Cons:
1. This book was nice and idyllic, which I’m sure was the point. For me though, I like a bit more of a plot. I guess if I cared more about the characters then I would have been more invested in how their lives played out. As it was though, I found the pace too slow.
2. How things were dealt with – while being very realistic – bothered me. Of course, this is 100% preference and probably wouldn’t bother everyone the same way.
3. Neither the “reveal” to the secret nor the plot twist (I think that’s what it was?) surprised me at all.

CONCLUSION

If this was a book written by one of my favorite authors I probably would have given it two stars because it wasn’t my style. As it was, I was very pleasantly surprised although I don’t think I’ll be reading more of Miss Beverly’s books. I am impressed by her writing though, and especially her worldbuilding.

**Content note: Two of the POV characters are a married couple that are having issues – as the back cover says. I thought everything was tastefully written, but it does allude to how bad their relationship problems are affecting every part of thier lives.

RATING

I’m giving The Tinderbox three out of five stars – Thank you to Bethany Publishers for giving me a book to review.

Visiting Yellowstone Vicariously​

This book was one I had a lot of fun reading because it made me feel like I was in Yellowstone and y’all… goodness! I want to go there so badly!

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads

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ABOUT THE BOOK

A man who can’t read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain “requirements.” Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.

Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I read a book by the author a few years ago and although I didn’t really like it, I wanted to give the author another chance. Plus, one of my dream destinations is Yellowstone, so to read a book that takes place there sounded like just my thing.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

All throughout the book I was so into it. The culture surrounding working at Yellowstone was spot-on (or at least I imagine it was). it pulled me into the world there and felt so real. Even though I had several other books I was reading I kept coming back to this one because immersing myself in the book was great. The fact that we got to see the world of Yellowstone both from the perspective of someone who had grown up there and someone who had grown up in a totally different environment was pretty fantastic.

I also liked the characters which was a huge plus for me. I didn’t agree with a lot of what they did and some of their actions and reasonings made me want to facepalm, but I still liked them. They were real, flawed, hung up on their problems, and reacted to everything they went through in what felt like a realistic way. They were also caring, kind, hard-working, and easy to relate to.

The plot was also really interesting to me – apparently, I have a “thing” for the trope of an adult not being able to read and trying to hide it. I hadn’t realized until this book how much that type of thing interests me. That part of the story was so well written and had me coming back to read more as much as any other plot point.

There was definitely romance and at times it did kind of take over the story, yet for the most part I liked the balance it kept and didn’t find it to detract from the story at all. (Which is big because if I remember correctly I really disliked the balance of romance/plot with the other book I read from the same author.)

So, with all these great things to say about the book, why did I only rate it three stars? Good question. I was so close to rating it four stars and that was surprising and delightful to me. Then I got to the end. Y’all. I felt so let down. Not by the “twist” because I had figured that out, but by how it was delivered. There was so much build-up then plop. We were dropped to the ending in such an anticlimactic way.

CONCLUSION

Despite the ending, I still felt like the book was very worth reading because of the emphasis on Yellowstone. Also, it makes me want to read more books by the same author, so yay. (And the cover was cool enough it makes me want to buy a physical copy of the book.)

As for content, there’s a lot about fires, arson, and a childhood tragedy regarding a house fire. Plus, there’s a fair amount of kissing, etc… but never in detail.

RATING

I’m giving Ever Faithful 3 out of 5 stars – Thanks, NetGalley, for giving me an ebook copy so I could review it!

October 2017 In Review

{Y’all. October was a long month – in the very best way possible. It felt like SO much happened and fit into that 31 day span. And now November has been rushing by far too fast, so… We’ll just pretend like this month review isn’t nearly half a month late.}

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What I focused on in October:

  1. Lots of busyness with juggling my two nonwriting jobs during a busy time with my retreat job
  2. Catching up on book reviews and, well, lots of reading
  3. Soaking in being home in October/learning/life/family time/being sick

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Reading Update

Fiction: 8
Nonfiction: 7
Book Reviews: I’m not sure, but I know I caught up from previous months
Audio Books: 7
{Yeah. I read a lot.}

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Traveling

Nights Gone: 5
New States or Countries: None

{Craziness, I felt so very happy and blessed to get to stay in beautiful Ohio during the entire glorious month of October. That hasn’t happened in October for a while.}

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Goals

In October of 2017 wanted to….

  1. Write Weekly Goals {YES! – I might have missed part of one week}
  2. Eat Paleo (except coffee) 21 days {Loosely – very loosely translated as paleo, but YES}
  3. Get to bed by 10:30 10 times {Ha! I totally lost track}
  4. Switch winter/summer clothes {YES}
  5. Vlog 4 times {YES}
  6. Blog by 9:30 20 times {YES – I think so anyway?}
  7. Edit 10,000 words on Echoes {Cute. No.}
  8. Read 3 non-fiction books {YES}
  9. Get writing program on computer & Work on Plotting book {YES to the first and NO to the second}
  10. Focus on getting into the correct rhythm at coffee shop {YES}
  11. Catch up on reviews for all the books I’ve read in the last few months {YES}
  12. Blog about: Coffee Shop Job, 25 Before 25 Update, Birthday Musings, Monthly Review, and Take part in at least 2 Link-ups {I did one link-up, one tag, so counting that}

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What I’ve Been Learning

 

Y’all. I read a treasure trove of fantastically wonderful nonfiction books in October. There were so many four and five star reads it makes me wish I could always have so much “success” in the books I choose.

Calm, Cool, and Connected reminded me to continue working on something that I’ve been trying to implement into my life for a while. Technology and social media are wonderful as tools, but I am adamantly against them being masters. It’s so easy to turn to my phone whenever I have a few free moments and either browse online or else read a book, or even just “clean up.” (I can’t stand having notifications or excess things on my phone.) BUT! It’s not healthy or who I want to be when I’m always turning to my phone. I’m trying to get much better at being detached from my technology and really only getting on it when I have a certain purpose in mind. (I’m still on it a lot, but working at only doing so intentionally.)

True Identity was another hugely helpful book because it’s something I’ve been working on learning for years now. My identity and satisfaction can’t come from what I accomplish because when it does I never feel satisfied or good enough because it’s simply impossible for me to do enough to make myself happy. But, I don’t need to be enough or try and do enough. Because who I am, where my worth comes from, is who I am in Christ. And yes, I’m still working on doing what I can and should do, but there’s a huge difference between that and the pressure I’ve put on myself for so much of my life.

In addition to learning from reading, October was good for learning from other things, too. I went to a weekend retreat where I very much enjoyed turning my phone off, put it away, and just focusing on people and God and what I could learn. That weekend provided a lot of food for thought and reminded me where I currently am and where I’m heading and how thankful I am for various things.

Vlogging was another area where I spent some time learning and growing in October and having a lot of fun at it. I’m so glad I took up that new venture in life.

And folks, this is what happens when I don’t review the month right away – I begin to forget what months I learned certain things. #OhWell

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Other 

 

As I mentioned above I went on a weekend retreat. It was with my group from church and it was lovely. I work at a retreat so I’m used to doing all the little behind the scenes things and being a part of the staff. Therefore it was SO WEIRD to be on the other side of the line – being an actual attendee. (It wasn’t at the retreat center where I work though.) I wasn’t really looking forward to attending because serving is much more of my comfort zone… but I knew that if I was going to be an attendee with anyone, I would want it to be with the group I was going with. It ended up being fantastic and I am so thankful for that weekend.

I had fun randomly going to my adopted parent’s house a few times, including once for the night. There are some months where I don’t get to see them, so getting to hang out three times in one month was pretty great. One of the times I took my little brother so we could have some brother-sister time because we don’t get to hang out as much as we used to.

In addition to everything else, I watched the Children’s Hosptial Marathon in Columbus with my best friend while her husband ran the half marathon. I also spent some time hanging out at my sister’s house, worked on editing Echoes, and musing over the fact that I’m now a quarter of a century old and how that actually doesn’t change much. I also spent huge amounts of time inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) gushing over how glorious October is and how thankful and happy I am to live in Ohio, especially during this time of year.

Near the end of the month, I was delighted when one of my most wonderful friends in all of forever came early to surprise me. Hosanna was planning on helping out at a retreat I was working at, but having her come early was simply amazing because then we got to spend some good, quality time together outside of work.

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What were some of your highlights for October? (Or was that so long ago that you already forget?)