Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller

After a sheltered life in Pittsburgh, Hope Irvine is ready for a new adventure. When her father takes a position as a preacher in a railroad car converted into a traveling church, she’s thrilled at the chance to accompany him. While accommodations in their new chapel car home are tight, Hope couldn’t be happier putting her musical skills to good use and ministering to the people of West Virginia alongside her father. But when their chapel car arrives in Finch, West Virginia, they find a coal mining community that has hit hard times and is suspicious of outsiders
(excerpt from back of book)

The Good:
One thing I know I can count on from Miller is at least one character who will grab my attention. The Chapel Car Bride  is no exception. The character of Luke is so refreshing as Miller chooses to have him visibly wrestling with how to live out his faith in real life scenarios. Luke's imperfections are so relatable (jealousy, family concerns, love) that his character leaps off the page to the point of overshadowing the rest of the cast.

I also appreciated the details Miller put into  the town of Finch to help it find it's foundation. While I am unfamiliar with the realities of coal mining and the towns that sprang up from the workers, Miller walked a careful line to bring her characters realities to life without exiting the narrative. While I appreciate a good world-builders it is so much sweeter when you don't have to exit your immersion in the story to get the details and Miller captures this wonderfully.

The Interesting:

The character of Nellie fascinated me. Although a secondary character, Miller easily allowed Nellie the most character growth and a sequel featuring Nellie would certainly not be outside the realm of possibility. 

The Frustrating:

While I found the plot interesting with  the  mining safety, the love triangle, and the illegal activity threatening the main characters. I found Hope and her father became overshadowed by  Luke and their own story line. This made  them  forgettable at times and left feeling more like plot devices at others rather than the central characters they should have been.

Overall I enjoyed this read. There was ample plot line and world building for an enjoyable afternoon read, however, thanks to the main  character getting overwhelmed by her own plot line, this is probably a one time read for me.

3 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, May 26, 2017

Indescribable By Laura Story and Jesse Reeves

Confession time, I'm a  life long fan of colouring books. Whether it was at Grandma's house as a child or curled up with dormmates in college, there is something relaxing and inspiring at bringing pictures to life with vibrant colours. This also means I'm always on the hunt for a good colouring book to add to my collection.

Indescribable by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves tries hard to live up to  its name but I'm going to do my best anyway :)

First Impressions.
 For the sake of full disclosure, I squealed when this book arrived. It is a paper cover but still weighted and feels like solid quality. The  colours are vibrant and shiny (which my two little ones immediately spotted and were drawn to like magpies). The pages are durable with the wonderful added bonus of perforated pages for easy detachment or simple laying flat which can make a world of difference for colouring in small spaces.

Closer Inspection.

One of my annoyances with adult colouring books is their extremes. Either a book is so detailed it takes forever or it's so simplistic there isn't any challenge. Indescribable has pictures on both ends resulting in variety. I love that I can find a picture regardless of my time frame, tiredness, or attention span.  There is also a strong variety in the themes of the pictures. Indescribable takes its cues  from Chris Tomlin's hit song. This means that each page brings to life different lyrics  and elements of the beloved song adding interest and selection that is an unusual highlight for the genre.


I'm not convinced the paper is thick enough to keep some of my darker markers from bleeding through (although pencil crayons colour like a dream). You may also be at risk for humming  Indescribable after colouring for too long ;)

5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Taking My Life Back by Rebekah Gregory


On April 15, 2013, Rebekah Gregory and her five-year-old son waited at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to support a friend who was running. When the blast of a homemade bomb packed with nails and screws went off three feet away, Rebekah’s legs took the brunt of the explosion, protecting her son from certain death. Seventeen surgeries and sixty-five procedures later, she finally made the decision to have her left leg amputated.
(excerpt from back of book)

Gregory states early in her book that she sees herself as a survivor and her book bears testament to this statement. Although her book does spend a large portion of time exploring the events which took place at the 2013 Marathon and her following recovery, Gregory also spends much of the book guiding readers through  the life events and challenges that helped shape her into the woman she is today. This ability to see Gregory through milestones from childhood to the present  help bring her response to the 2013 tragedy and events following into a wider context and far more impactful story.

The stories themselves are compelling. Gregory paints her life with passion and is unapologetic in her testimony. There is a real sense of Gregory's heart within these  pages as she speaks of those closest to her, particularly  her little boy Noah. It is here, in  Gregory's ability  to convey emotion that the book shines brightest.

Structurally, the book felt somewhat disjointed at times creating an effect which was jarring in a way that was separate from the content.   This combined with sections where Gregory was still obviously working through the accompanying negative emotions (for example internet trolls) left portions of the book feeling disconnected by presenting very different tones and voices.

Rebekah Gregory is a gifted speaker. For fans of human interest or biographies Gregory's story is well worth the time for its passion and human perspective on a widely known tragedy. That said, the story structure does lend itself more strongly,at times, to spoken rather than written word.

3.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd

A Stranger at Fellsworth is the third installment of Sarah E. Ladd's  Treasures of Surrey series. As one unfamiliar with Ladd's work, I can safely state that reading the previous two novels are not a requirement for full enjoyment of this book but if they are of the same quality they are definitely worth looking up as well.

I found myself enthralled by the plot. First, I loved how relatable I found the characters. Although originally from better circumstances, Annabelle comes across as a relatable woman trying to find her way in  the world. Her struggles, while both frustrating and amusing for former servant Crosley, seemed all to familiar after living in a girls dorm during my college years.
The relationship between her and Owen Locke also seemed far more natural than the genre usually allows. Ladd's ability to pace out her characters interactions adding in understandable obstacles from personality and history allow characters to breathe and grow. 

I also loved the breadth of characters. Aside from our stalwart hero/heroine there were some wonderful characters to flesh out the different levels. Hannah added an innocence to the story and helped move the plot along without feeling like a mere plot device. The villain(s) of the story were more complex with some even drawing curiosity or sympathy for the choices that led them to their position. I really enjoy when a secondary character doesn't feel like a plot device  and Ladd makes sure to give each of her players their own history to drive them.

There were a few loose ends related to the story, things like the eventual outcome of the wrongdoers and what exactly happened to Locke in the past. However, I acknowledge these may have been previously answered and only are minor notes for someone like me who wants all the answers :)

Sarah E. Ladd delivers a strong tale filled with living breathing characters who are driven by story rather than device. I cannot wait to journey along with more of her creations.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

(Re)Union by Buxy Cavey

First off, I love the versatility of this book and if my thoughts  are somewhat disjointed I apologize sometimes information takes more time to come out fluently  than time allows  :)

(Re)Union at it's heart has a simple message, easily condensed into 30 words or less and yet has  the ability to touch hearts and shift the worlds of its readers be they   "seekers, saints, and sinners."This is because Cavey presents not just  a book about the church,  or evangelism, or religion  instead he presents  a book about Jesus and how everything about faith points back to God in all his wholeness not just aspects and facets.

I was struck  by the versatility with which Cavey opens up his message. Filled with easily relatable cultural references alongside solid Biblical and theological understanding, Cavey doesn't insult his readers intelligence but simply introduces them to Jesus in ever increasing measures  (for example the one, three, and thirty words sections exploring the good news). This result in a book that is truly reader friendly in layout and material (although application and reception may be harder), and  is easily accessible to anyone willing to take a look, which,in my option, is how the gospel should be given.

For some more conservative or traditional evangelicals, the message of( Re)Union may come across as shocking. Though acknowledging many traditional ways of presenting the gospel (Romans Road, 4 laws) he also acknowledges the  sense of incompleteness the bring to the gospel and the need to broaden the picture. For some, it may be difficult to adjust to this new presentation of a Jesus-centered gospel rather than an Easter-centered one. For those who are patient enough to get through any reservations they will find Cavey presents a well-thought out and obviously well researched message of hope and  maybe even healing.

Bruxy Cavey is a talented writer who presents engaging stories, a sincere heart for people and faith, and a solid gospel message that it accessible to all. I cannot wait to see how the study version unfolds  during it's  release next year.

5 out of 5 stars

"An Advanced Reader Copy was provided courtesy of Menno Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon

Image result for sandpiper cove hannon

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities--including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn't looking for love either--but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam's help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different--and better--future planned for them than either could imagine.
(excerpt from back of book)

Sandpiper Cove is Irene Hannon's second installment in the Hope Harbor saga.  Hannon does a solid job of creating a new and separate story within the familiar faces and space of Hope Harbor. In fact, I was surprised to find that BJ and Eric were barely mentioned within  Lexie's story but was pleased to see it gave both Lexie and Adam their own space to grow and develop as characters.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was pleased to see personal favourites from Hope Harbor's first installment were back . I was surprised to see how easily Hannon introduces new facets to both Luis and Charley as readers see them through the new eyes of Adam and Lexie (and can I just say, still not a fan of fish but Hannon makes Charley's tacos sound amazing!) It's so gratifying to read further into a series and see secondary characters who were so beloved in previous editions finding their own  ways to grow through the series.

The story itself I found to have a much more  solid pacing than its predecessor. I found Hannon to employ wonderful pacing when it came to unraveling Lexie's history, Adam's growth, and Brian's wrestling. Each of those stories could have easily felt out of place in the predominantly romance based book but Hannon allows the deeper plots to support her central story while also allowing a more natural entry point for discussion on faith.

Unfortunately, the general awkwardness that I found in following BJ and Eric's mental processes in the first book were still present in Lexie and Adam's story. While I felt the characters were more in line with their given age and life experiences, the awkwardness (which in fairness does seem prevalent in the genre) made reading jarring at time and caused me to have difficulty engaging the story until the internal monologue was finished.

Hanon's books are consistently easy reading and show wonderful skill in her ability to build world and environments for her characters. For fans of contemporary romance, Hannon's books are great for curling up with on a rainy, Spring day.  Non-fans of the genre may find themselves struggling with the awkwardness this genre seems to promote.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Revell and Baker Publishing Group."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lucky Few by Heather Avis

 When Heather and Josh Avis decided to grow their family, adoption and Down Syndrome were never in their plans. Yet after adopting three children, two of whom have Down Syndrome, they quickly discovered that God's best for their life would be found in the most unlikely places, and how lucky they were to have journeyed there.
(Excerpt from back of book)

So, my husband probably rolled his eyes a little when I said I was reading another book on adoption. Every few months one slips onto the nightstand and usually sparks some wonderfully interesting discussions. This time, though, I was curious to see how Heather and Josh Avis had been taken on their own journey to parenting 3 very special little ones full of life, love, and loss while maintaining  the view  that they are "the lucky few" a view point that may seem sadly unusual for those looking in for the first time. Having finished this read, I count myself lucky for having  stumbled upon this gem of a book.

Heather has the wonderful gift of being able to infuse her personality into each word she writes. You don't just get a sense of her message but her heart and passion as well.
 Reading the book, I felt, was less being presented someone's story and more of being invited to share in it for a time being. Heather's writing is inviting and engaging as she seeks to introduce their own unique form of normal.

Although Heather keeps her tone more upbeat, she does not shy away from sharing both the highs and the lows of their adoption journey. For some, this may make the book an uncomfortable read.

You see, as you read about surgeries, family celebrations, the questions of family and strangers , navigating  life  with medical equipment, , and everything else that the Avis' have encountered and welcomed into their lives over the last decade it becomes apparent that it is no superpower but  rather their strong faith and willingness to say yes in scary situations that have allowed them into being some of "the lucky few." . Although adoption tends to be  a hot topic to begin with, to be truly open and vulnerable while protecting the children involved is a delicate balance that  Heather handles with grace. To see her openly talk about challenges with bonding, the joys of toddlerhood  in both easy and hard time, to see her own journey of understanding the other when it comes to birth families both present and apart are discussions that anyone considering adoption should be  aware of and this book serves as a gentle introduction to these important topics.

For myself, I loved sharing, even if only over a few pages, Heather and her family's journey. Heather's openness on the pages and  the sheer familiarity of family life that she shares with grace and humour allows for a read that is both eye-opening as well as  page turning. I'll confess, after  hearing the doctor's initial prognosis on one of the lovely Avis children I quickly popped over to the picture section to check on their  progress, with such engaging stories it's hard not  to root this family forward.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.