Saturday, May 18, 2019

Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack - by Alia Joy

Cover Art

About the book:

As a girl, Alia Joy came face-to-face with weakness, poverty, and loss in ways that made her doubt God was good. There were times when she felt as if God had abandoned her. What she didn't realize then was that God was always there, calling her to abandon herself.

In this deeply personal exploration of what it means to be "poor in spirit," Joy challenges us to embrace true vulnerability and authenticity with God and with one another, showing how weakness does not disqualify us from inclusion in the kingdom of God--instead, it is our very invitation to enter in.

My review:

This book really made an impact on me.  Alia Joy made some great points about how we view our weaknesses and the weaknesses of others.  We need to see others the way God sees them and love them, even if it's uncomfortable.  I resonated with her struggle over her calling, feeling like she should do more or have a different life than the one she has.  I could relate to some of her struggles as I am dealing with some health issues, too, but she has so much more to contend with between her health issues and her bipolar disorder, not to mention what she's gone through already in her life.  I really felt for her as I read her story.  Her belief that God is good even amidst all of her struggles, was inspiring, and something I struggle with, as I'm sure many people do.  We need to cling to hope and remember that God is good, no matter what.  She had a way of writing that was very poetic and lyrical but also hard-hitting.  More than once tears came to my eyes as I thought, "me, too.  I have felt that way, too."  I would recommend this book if you're struggling with weakness, poverty or suffering or want to better understand and be there for people who are dealing with these things.

I received this book from Baker Books.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

           The Author

  1. Alia Joy

    Alia Joy

    Alia Joy is a speaker, writer, and ragamuffin who weaves beauty through even the most broken stories. Her raw vulnerability and unique perspective make her a trusted voice writing about mental and physical illness, abuse, race, body image, poverty, and hope....
    Continue reading about Alia Joy 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Weddings, Willows and Revised Expectations - by V. Joy Palmer

About the book:

Seventeen years after being orphaned, Apryl Burns and her twin sister Courtney have their own expectations for life. While Courtney continues to shine at everything, Apryl holds fast to the mantra that as long as her potato chip stash remains intact, then she’ll be fine.

But when their beloved grandmother ends up injured and unable to manage her struggling antique store, Courtney makes it their mission to revamp the business and save what’s left of their family’s legacy. Despite rampant doubts in her abilities, Apryl finds herself trapped under the weight of family loyalty as they transition to a wedding venue decorating service. Soon she’s forced to ask (translation: blackmail) their grandmother’s renter/handyman, Chance McFarland, for help, an arrangement that is made even worse by the fact that Chance is her former (ahem, and current) crush.

Chance knows a few dozen things about family loyalty, which is why he begrudgingly agrees to Apryl’s insane plan. While Apryl claims they’re archenemies, the girl Chance only glimpsed in their teens starts to emerge, stealing what remains of his heart.

But expectations are a powerful thing. Amidst the glamorous weddings and swaying willows, can those old expectations be revised into something new?

My review:

I really enjoyed this story about unrequited love, low self-esteem and unconditional love!  Apryl was hilarious!  She had such a funny sense of humor and I wanted to be her best friend.  I loved Chance, too, and how he was trying to be a better man and depend on God to make the right choices.  Their banter was very amusing and the romance was sweet.  I liked how honest the book was about Apryl's doubts that God was good and her struggles to believe she wasn't a failure.  This story really showed how much of a profound impact how our parents treat us has on how we view ourselves and on the choices we make.  I was reminded again how much God loves us and pursues us as I read this story.  I liked the supernatural element.  It was interesting to see how Apryl and Courtney, with Chance's help, started a business decorating for weddings with their grandmother's antiques.  I would highly recommend this book if you like humorous love stories.

I received this book from JustRead Tours.  I was not compensated for this.  All opinions are my own.
Weddings, Willows, and Revised Expectations by [Palmer, V. Joy]

When He Found Me - Road to Refuge 1 - by Victoria Bylin


About the book:

Once a strong Christian, third baseman Shane Riley lost his faith the night he injured his knee in a freak car accident. Determined to return to professional baseball and to find the sister he treated badly, Shane retreats to Refuge, Wyoming. There he meets Melissa June “MJ” Townsend, a single mom battling the virus that causes cervical cancer.

MJ wants nothing to do with the handsome athlete—no doubt a womanizer considering the stories in the news. But when a mistake results in Shane renting her garage apartment, they become friends. That friendship blossoms into something deep and pure, leaving MJ with a painful secret to tell. Even more complicated, she discovers an unexpected tie to Shane’s missing sister—a wounded woman who wants nothing to do with the perfect brother who scorned her.

My review:

Whew!  What a roller coaster ride this book was!  The characters were wonderful, though I did find MJ's mom and Shane's sister, Daisy, a little frustrating.  I really liked MJ and how strong and wise she was, to be dealing with her health issue while being a single mom and how she tried to be smart about Shane.  This book really showed some consequences of premarital sex and that it's not all fun and games.  I liked Shane a lot, too.  He was really an upstanding guy who had made some bad choices and was struggling with his faith.  He wasn't perfect but I admired how he treated MJ with respect.  There was some sweet romance and some suspense.  I liked the different spiritual discussions they had as Shane had turned his back on his faith, MJ was a baby Christian and Daisy doesn't know if she believes in God.  They all had a lot of baggage to deal with and it wasn't sugarcoated that grace covers everything but there are still consequences to sin.  A cool aspect to the story was that MJ found old letters in the attic and learned about a possible ancestor and some bad decisions she made and how her life turned out.  If you enjoy stories about real issues with some romance thrown in, you should check it out!

I received a Kindle copy of this book from JustRead Tours.  I was not compensated for this review; all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Sewing Sisters' Society - A Second Chance Romance Collection 1 - by Ruth Logan Hern

About the book:

Hattie McGillicuddy might not look like your typical matchmaker, but Hattie makes things happen in the little town of Second Chance, South Dakota. With the arrival of the railroad and official statehood, Hattie’s determined to bring brides west, and not just any brides. Brides who need the wide open prairie as much as the prairie- and the prairie men- need them! Three pioneer stories of unlikely love are woven around a little town full of homespun characters that take us back to another place and another time but with the same faith, hope and love we cherish today.

Macy can’t sew a lick, and she’s come to town with a sacrifice and a secret, but when Hattie’s first apprentice is attracted to the pastor of the only church in town—the man raising her illegitimate son— will the truth set her free? Or make her leave the town and her son behind?

Unjustly accused, Nellie comes west to escape the law. She has a way with tucks and gathers, and every Western town could use more tucks and gathers. She’s determined to improve the drab look of the prairie and manages to brighten hearts as well. But will her quick speech and firm ideas of women’s suffrage draw Levi Eichas closer or send the somber carriage maker running?

Grief has robbed Ann Hazel, but when her aunt pushes her to go west and help an ailing Hattie McGillicuddy turn hems, Ann’s shamed into it. She’s managed to avoid life for awhile, but when Sol Eichas’s nanny comes down sick, Ann reluctantly agrees to help. As she winds her way around Sol’s heart and home, can the two troubled souls leave the past behind to embrace a future together?

My review:

I enjoyed this series about strong women who strive to follow God and also aim to make their own way in the world. I liked how each story was about a woman in the small town of Second Chance who knew each other so you saw characters from previous stories show up in the next story. I loved Hattie and how wise and strong she was. There was sweet romance and a lot of good Biblical wisdom as the characters struggle with forgiveness, letting go of the past, overcoming fear, being truthful and many more life lessons. There were some interesting predicaments. I'd recommend these stories if you like western romance.

I received this book from Just Read Tours. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions are my own.

Very Enjoyable! A Most Inconvenient Love - Prairie Brides 1 - by Ruth Logan Herne

A Most Inconvenient Love by Ruth Logan Herne

About the book:

Sober businessman Seb Ward may have come from a wealthy lumber-baron family in Minnesota, but he knows that appearances can be deceiving, and that his illustrious family is pretty dysfunctional. Being in another state has provided the buffer he sought from his father’s misdeeds, but when a little boy shows up on a train… a little boy who looks enough like Seb to be his own child… Seb’s faced with a dilemma. Raise the boy as his own, or let his mother suffer the embarrassment of “a brother by another mother.” And when the boy takes a shine to the Rachel Eichas, the newly contracted school teacher, Seb can’t help but do the same. But Rachel was raised by an unloving, business-first father and there’s no way she’s looking for those same qualities in a husband. Can she see through Seb’s focus and drive to find the loving man within? 

My review:          

I loved the characters of Seb and Rachel in this book! Rachel was so practical yet was drawn to Seb and had a hard time denying her feelings amid possible scandal. Seb was so honorable, even at the expense of himself. The story dealt with the importance of telling the truth, protecting your family, forgiveness and being cautious in love. There was a lot of Biblical wisdom in this book and a lot of sweet romance. I liked the conversation about how women's roles were changing and they were gaining more independence. I'd recommend this story if you like historical romance.

I received this book from Just Read Tours. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Unexpected Champion - High Sierra Sweethearts 3 - by Mary Connealy

The Unexpected Champion (High Sierra Sweethearts, #3)

About the book:

City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons' supposedly lost grandson. But now that he's out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She's not like any woman he's ever met--comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don't have, both realize they've stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won't stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

My review:

This was an exciting and amusing story set in the Wild West!  I liked the seeming opposite personalities of John and Penny and found them and their banter amusing as they tried to survive a kidnapping and bring the bad guys to justice.  It was interesting to see how John, a Pinkerton agent, went about investigating and trying to figure out who was behind their kidnapping, from breaking into buildings to disguising themselves and learning information.  I also liked how Penny thought deeply about the right and wrong of things and tried to discern whether John was doing the right thing or not by being underhanded and deceitful sometimes in trying to discover who the bad guys were and arrest them.  They were both Christians but Penny seemed to struggle more with his vocation.  There was plenty of excitement, from shootouts to fights to murders.  There was some romance.  It worked pretty well as a stand-alone but other characters from previous books were featured prominently.  I would recommend this is you like Westerns or historical fiction.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Delight! 'A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh' - Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley 1 - by Carolyn Miller

About the book:

Can a very proper noble lady find a future with a fossil-hunting man of faith?

As the daughter of Viscount Aynsley, Caroline Hatherleigh knows every rule of society—and she’s always followed them precisely. It’s simply the way things are done in her world. When she visits south Devonshire and encounters a fossil-hunting scientist and his sister, her assumptions about what is right are shaken. She is suddenly confronted by questions she has never considered about the importance of friendship and faith—and her comfortable understanding about how the world works is thrown off balance.

Gideon Kirby loves science, and hunting down proof of past lives is a joy he won’t willingly give up. But his scientific leanings are being challenged by both his personal beliefs and by local smugglers in the Devonshire countryside. And every day his sister’s illness is becoming more desperate and her care grows more demanding. Adding a proper Viscount’s daughter to the mix is a complication Gideon never expected—especially since he has a secret that demands he stays far away from this young woman he’s falling for in order to protect his beloved sister.

When a mysterious stranger visits the village, that secret is set to be exposed, no matter how Gideon fights. Then tragedy strikes in a smugglers cave. And the threat of scandal may lead to broken hearts and passionless propriety. Will the shaky bond these two have managed to build be strong enough to overcome their differences—or will the trust they’ve withheld from each other end up tearing three lives apart?

My review:

This was another wonderful story by Carolyn Miller!  I loved seeing Caroline Hatherleigh grow and change throughout the story as she starts to care more about other people than herself, especially as she sees the faith of the Kirby's and starts to really examine the Bible and her own beliefs.  There's a good explanation of the gospel.  I also enjoyed the talk about fossils; it was a unique aspect you don't see often in Christian fiction.  The romance is sweet as secrets keep Gideon from sharing his feelings and Caroline believes he is below her station, yet they are drawn to each other.  I ended up really liking Caroline and Gideon was wonderful, if a bit slow to communicate his feelings.  He cared so much for his sister and was willing to give up his own future to make sure she was protected.  Both he and his sister had a strong faith even as they dealt with her poor health and their terrible circumstances.  Gideon's friend was very amusing and I really enjoyed the banter between him and Gideon and Caroline.  There was some suspense and action, also.  I highly recommend this start of a new series and can't wait to read the rest!

I received this book from Kregel Publications.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fascinating! 'Of Fire and Lions' - by Mesu Andrews


About the book:

Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she'd perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. Now, as Daniel's wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she's safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear--until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar's palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili's tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone? 

Ultimately, Yahweh's sovereign hand guides Jerusalem's captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.

My review:

This novel was fascinating as we see what life would have been like for the Jews taken as captives to Babylon and for a young girl trying to survive in a strange land.  I can't imagine how frustrating it would have been to not have any say in your future and to be at the whim of capricious kings.  I liked imagining Daniel's wife, if he had one, and what she might have been like.  I also liked the different times we see, from Belili as a young captive to her time years later in Babylon and Media.  It made the story even more interesting to jump around and see parts of her past.  Belili was a wonderful character, very strong and stubborn, sometimes speaking before she thinks.  She was very relatable.  I couldn't imagine going through all that she did and I could understand the choices she made and how hard it would have been to choose Yahweh instead of the easier way.  I liked Daniel a lot, too, and Mesu Andrews succeeded in making him more real   I tend to look at Bible heroes as almost perfect.  She made him a bit of a workaholic and I was also disappointed in something he failed to do; she also showed his fear when he knew he was going to the lions.  The scenes with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den were amazing!  The faith element was wonderful as we really see Belili's faith get weaker and stronger depending on her circumstances until her trust in God grows and her faith isn't influenced by circumstances anymore.  There's also some suspense and some romance.  I would highly recommend this book if you like Biblical fiction.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Very Interesting! "American Omens: the Coming Fight for Faith" - by Travis Thrasher

About the book:

In this taut thriller that depicts a future where belief is dangerous, faith is deemed hatred, and a group of powerful elite keeps watch, the Reckoner has come to wake up America.

The year is 2038 and Cheyenne Burne is a brilliant young programmer working for Acatour, the world's top technology firm. Her father converts to Christianity, and he suddenly disappears without a trace. When a stranger hands Cheyenne a coded message that sends her on a collision course with a clandestine group of believers, she must put her life in the hands of those following a man known only as the Reckoner. He claims he wants to bring back true faith in Christ to America and also reveal the forces behind the disappearances of the many renowned people who publicly declared their Christian faith.
Operating in the shadows and living off the grid, this mysterious prophet assembles a ragtag team--including a former bookseller whose store was shut down for selling prohibited books--to help him take the battle for transparency to the top. With a ruthless FBI agent closing in, can Cheyenne and the others expose the truth and lead a return to God in America before it's too late?   

My review:

This was an interesting story about what the future of America could look like if the country keeps heading in the direction it's going, where the Christian faith is tolerated less and less and people are being monitored even more than they are now.  It was suspenseful as the story alternated between three viewpoints, one who was sent to find the man behind it all using any means necessary.  While I found this book interesting I thought it was going to be a little more exciting than it was.  It did have some action.  The story felt like it was building up to a grand event but was a bit of a letdown for me.  I found the characters interesting and I really related to Will, the bookstore owner because He was a man of faith but kept trying to do everything in his own power instead of talking to God and asking for His help.  He wanted to be in control of his own life and I can relate to that.  It's hard to let go sometimes.  The gospel was clear in the story and it was interesting that Cheyenne wasn't a Christian and didn't really understand faith or why her father would choose this life.  The story left some things open-ended so I wondered if there will be a sequel.  If you like futuristic stories you might like this one.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.       

Check out the Book Trailer!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Fascinating! "Within These Lines" - by Stephanie Morrill

About the book:

Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to a Japanese-American internment camp.

Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

My review:

This was a wonderful, fascinating story I had a hard time putting down!  I didn't know very much about what Japanese-Americans went through during World War II, especially what living in internment camps would have been like.  It really opened my eyes to the hardships they endured and how terribly they were treated by the government and sometimes also by other people. It made me angry to see the injustice but fascinated with how Evalina and Taichi dealt with it.  I loved these characters!  Evalina was a wonderful person, full of passion and principles.  I loved how she stood up for what was right, even though sometimes she spoke before she thought.  And stubborn!  But definitely in a good way.  Taichi was such a sweet, respectful guy.  I liked his honesty, bravery and how much he cared about people.  They really had a lot to overcome and the story kept you guessing whether or not they would make it.  There was a little bit about faith such as church is mentioned and Evalina prays at different times for people.  The writing is great and I highly recommend this wonderful story!

I received this book from JustRead Tours.  This is my honest opinion. I was not compensated for this review.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Very Enjoyable! 'Who the Bishop Knows' - The Amish Bishop Mysteries 3 - by Vannetta Chapman

Who the Bishop Knows

About the book:

What You Don’t See Might Hurt You

Every year, residents of the small Amish community in Monte Vista, Colorado, look forward to the Ski Hi Stampede, the state’s oldest professional rodeo. The rodeo is always good, clean entertainment for the hardworking farmers of the San Luis Valley. But this year, the Stampede turns deadly for one Amish man. Did rodeo fans see an unfortunate accident? Or something more sinister?

Amish bishop Henry Lapp is known far and wide for his uncanny ability to draw and remember the smallest details of anything he’s seen, skills that have served him well in past investigations. He was at the rodeo that day. The problem? He didn’t see Jeremiah Schwartz’s death.

With a murderer on the loose and members of his community being threatened, Henry must act fast. But can he solve a crime he didn’t see? This time around, Henry will have to rely on his keen sense of human character and observation, skills he’s honed in his role as bishop, if he hopes to crack the case.

Who the Bishop Knows is a story of accepting our talents, putting one another first, and trusting that God will care for His children.

My review:

This was an enjoyable story with an intriguing idea.  I hadn't read the other two books in the series yet, which I definitely want to do and would recommend reading first as it would have helped some with the backstories.  I found it fascinating that Henry has this ability with his drawing to remember details that he doesn't even realize he saw.  I really liked the characters; Henry seemed so wise and his fiance Emma like such a sweet lady.  They seemed like a great couple and it's nice to have a love story in the older set.  There was also a little bit of romance with a couple of the younger ladies and men who knew the deceased.  I liked that Naomi had a good head on her shoulders and was guarding her heart with an Amish boy who was a bit of a player.  The main characters have a strong faith in God and we see Henry, especially, have long prayer and Bible reading times.  There was some exciting action but overall this was a slower story, however, it wasn't boring.  I've read other books by Vannetta Chapman and she's a good writer that always keeps it interesting.  I would highly recommend it if you like Amish books.

I received this book from Harvest House Publishers.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Meet the author

Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. Her novel Falling to Pieces was...
Read More >