Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely

Have you ever met with a friend at a coffee shop? You know, the kind of visit where the conversation ebbs and flows between fond reminiscing, thoughtful silence, fulfilling laughter, and hard truths of life. They are those rare occasions where you can be vulnerable with someone who's on your side, even when it's hard. Fiercehearted is like one of those coffee shop packages wrapped up in between two covers.

Holley's heart for the message she's sharing and its intended audience shines through on each page. With honesty and vulnerability, Holley bridges the gap between readers and author to share the lessons about leaning in and living a full  life of love and kindness (which certainly isn't always nice) she has gleaned through her own journey.

Holley's vulnerability in sharing her own past and struggles helps lend depth and credibility to her message.  While the call to live fiercely can feel  almost sermonized when shared  in the wrong ways, Holley comes across as walking alongside. You get the impression that maybe, at times, both author and reader are sharing some tears.

Yes, this book may invoke some tears. Holley lives out her message in the text going into topics that require some bravery and wrestling with hard emotions. Honestly, this is not a quick read if you want to get  the full impact, this is a  book to be read thoughtfully. 

5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book as part of the Revell book tour. The opinions expressed are my own and uninfluenced. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mercy Never Sleeps by Jamie Blaine

Maybe God still moves and speaks in mysterious ways—some even stranger than we might ever expect.

Jamie Blaine’s life isn’t exactly going as planned. When a twist of fate places the late-night psychiatric crisis guy on 24/7 call, his insomnia ramps up to desperate stages as he veers closer to becoming the very kind of person he’s trying to save.

After a well-meaning colleague offers a workbook promising “the divine secret of life,” Blaine throws himself into the stereotypical journey of self-discovery with hilarious and heartbreaking conclusions that are anything but clich├ęd.

Jamie travels time to untangle his own story of God through the wilderness, battling alligators, acrophobia, anaphylactic shock, Christian tricksters, Christmas, insomnia zombies, hymn-singing bridge jumpers, preteen bullies, paranoid ER patients armed with knives, hatchet-wielding housewives, septuagenarian pugilists, locust swarms, and ghosts of the present, future, and past.

If you’ve ever felt lost and stumbling, like you’ll never find your way to purpose, plans, or the promised land, Mercy Never Sleeps is a traveling companion, a field guide to making peace with your own rambling path home.
(excerpt from back of book)

Jaimie's books are filled with things you don't typically find in Christian literature: mental health crisis, spiritual doubts, sad stories with unknown endings and yet the presence of these topics adds a layer of truth and honesty that allows Jaimie to connect with his readers in a way that is so much more satisfying. While Mercy Never Sleeps  lends itself to a darker and jumpier tone that its predecessor Midnight Jesus there are still wonderful nuggets of truth when you look past the tension of the utter chaos and the  overlooked mundane. Jaimie's books reflect life in all its messiness and I love  having the privilege of journeying along on those pages.

As I mentioned  those familiar with Blaine's work may find Mercy Never Sleeps  to have a more jarring tone than his previous work as Blaine's own struggles with insomnia and what feels like compassion fatigue hold  a more central role in  the narrative. In the context of both books it helps illustrate how thin the line between helper and helped can be and just how equal we all are. However, reading Midnight Jesus first may help readers gain a greater understanding of the author (though both books can  be read on their own).

That said, even with the darker and more inward focus of the book, Blaine hasn't lost any of his ability to tell a story. Mercy Never Sleeps still has the power to hold a reader's story as Blaine's ability to share both the heart and detail of a recollection allow readers to enter into  the story and feel like they're in the story themselves. His narratives ebb and flow as the story demands adding in bouts of humour, reflection, and oddity that can only come from "life on a mission".  

4 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, September 11, 2017

The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snelling

The Promise of Dawn

Opportunities are scarce in Norway, so when Rune and Signe Carlson receive a letter from Rune's uncle, Einar Strand, offering to loan them money for passage to America, Rune accepts. Signe is reluctant to leave her home, especially as she is pregnant with her fourth child, but Einar promises to give them land of their own, something they could never afford in Norway.

But life in Minnesota is more difficult than Signe imagined. Uncle Einar and Aunt Gerd are hard, demanding people, and Signe and her family soon find themselves worked nearly to the bone to pay off their debt. Afraid they will never have the life they dreamed of, she begins to lose her trust in God. When the dangers of the North Woods strike close to home, will she find the strength she needs to lead her family into the promise of a new dawn?
(excerpt from back of book)

Lauraine Snelling is one of those authors I've always meant to look into but,  given how many of her books seem to center on Blessing, I've  never known exactly where  to start. With Snelling's newest series, Under Northern Skies, it seemed the perfect time to jump in.

  .In many ways I'm not sure how to categorize The Promise of Dawn
On one hand, it's a solid historical fiction. Snelling weaves an engaging picture of both the achievements and the risks facing new immigrants in  the early 1900's. While many recent historical fictions rely on a major historical event  or location to anchor their story, Snelling focuses more on the emotional side of things inviting readers to become anchored in the Carlson family themselves.  

As a result The Promise of Dawn  occasionally feels  like a character study of wife and mother Signe who solidly occupies the central role of the novel. Not that this is a bad thing. Signe's frustrations at her lonely and hard life, her love and concern for her family, her uncertainty of the future are the emotional anchors that draw the  reader in. Signe  is relatable on some level to so many with the honest portrayal of life  Snelling has laid  out on the page.

As a warning, I did find this book to have a slower start.  I'm not sure if that's part of the writer's style, the story itself, or my confusion over  the story's pacing (which made far more sense once I saw it as a character focus). That said, once the characters had  a  chance to develop, the Carlson's proved themselves to easily hold their own and this reader's attention.

For readers looking for a more  character driven piece this is a great option for the upcoming fall afternoons.

4 out of 5 stars.

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

GraceLaced​​ by Ruth Chou Simons

GraceLaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart  -     By: Ruth Chou Simons

Confession time.  
I struggle with  devotionals. After a few years of Bible college, it takes a lot of effort to approach books  without shifting into an academic and purely analytical approach. Which is why I was intrigued by Ruth Chou Simons new release Gracelaced.

Gracelaced is  one-part devotional, one-part journal, and one-part artistic display making for a unique experience. Each devotional is short, approximately 3 pages or less focusing  on a single unifying theme. Simons balancing time restraints by also adding in additional verses for reflection if readers have more time. The devotionals touch upon a range of important subjects while Simons inclusion of pointed reflective questions can leave readers pondering and reflecting on the subject matter throughout the day.Further, her structuring of the devotions under seasonal headings helps bring structure and a sense of the ebb and flow inherent to life.

Adding to this reflective  outlook, Simons  has filled the book  with  her own artwork. 
Personally, I find this to be one of the book's greatest strengths. Not only is Simons a  gifted artist but the artwork serves to support the devotional themes for reflection and certainly aided  this reader in moving out of my "textbook" mentality. 

Ruth Chou Simons has hit a wonderful balance, Her words are truth filled, challenging, and yet never without the grace proclaimed boldly on the cover. Her artworks gives tangible hints at the life that is poured out in each "season" of her text.

5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."