Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Ministry of Ordinary Places Waking Up to God's Goodness Around You By Shannan Martin

Sometimes the challenge in life isn't looking for  a way to break out of the mundane but to break in, dig deep, and see the meaning and opportunities that stare at us from within our everyday routines. In The Ministry of Ordinary Places Martin challenges readers to see the world of opportunity staring back at us in our neighbours, our communities, and the realness of the places in which we live. Martin urges reflection on the reality of a life of service that finds it's traction in coffee shared over dishes, watching out for our neighbours, and loving those who cross our path where they are not where we think we need to be. 

I appreciated the gentle firmness with which Martin shares her message, the way she gently points out the availability of people to love, connect, and work alongside when we're willing to listen to God's call and set aside our own expectations and aspirations for society's standards.

Martin brings a warmth to her writing and accessibility to her message that makes her instruction seem reachable. She doesn't just speak community she invites readers into her community letting their journey light up each page with their triumphs and sorrows.

So many of these life growth books preach community over and over again and why not it's an obvious lesson in our tech laden, isolated society. Martin shares the same message but weaves it into her own past showing that sometimes the most natural things can be the hardest, demanding both  the biggest sacrifices, fiercest tears, and best rewards. I love that Martin is simply unable to speak about community without bearing her heart for her own, the authenticity and earnestness shining through her vulnerability.

4.5/5 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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson


I first discovered Liz Johnson through her Red Door Inn series and fell in love with the charm and characters she brought to life in P.E.I.

A Sparkle of Silver has a very different feel than Johnson's earlier series, here characters are plunged into a double mystery of a decades old lost treasure and the true identity of main character Millie's great-grandfather following a summer marked by a romantic triangle.

Honestly, after having loved Red Door Inn so much, I struggled, at first, to engage with A Sparkle of Silver.  The mystery and intrigue were well  written but not the charm I originally hoped for and possibly expected thanks to some preconceived hopes. 
Then came George. George softened the characters around him, even those reading a journal decades later, and brought the charm and context that hooked me emotionally. Every story needs one of those characters.

Of course, Grandma Joy and Millie's relationship was also  brilliant. As someone who grew up with lots of grandparents and adopted grandparents, the way Johnson portrays the relationship complete with ups and downs of dementia from Millie's perspective was touching. Her worries over caring for the woman who raised her, her concerns over increased needs, and wondering which "version" of grandma she would encounter felt so real. Now, Grandma Joy did seem to have quite a few lucid days during this story for a dementia patient but the extent of her condition wasn't overly explained so I'll give a little artistic and medical license for how beautifully Johnson crafted their relationship and the messages she imparted through it. I loved how in a lucid moment Grandma Joy lays out her continued worth despite no longer having constant, ready access to her memories. So touching when the elderly and those who are loosing their memories are often undervalued.

The Chateau  was  definitely the star as far as setting  goes. I didn't get the same "locked in" feeling when it came to geography as I have with other books. While The Chateau was alluring enough to make me want to go on a few old house tours myself, the rest of the story felt as though it could be happening in any small town across North America in the summer. Not a bad thing but hard to place within the "Georgia Coast"  as the series title implies.

As far as  the plot itself, Johnson has woven sweet romance into a backdrop of gentle mystery (for instance one death feels very glanced over)  providing a easy and entertaining read.

4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book as part of the Revell Reads tour in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hope Your Heart Needs: 52 Encouraging Reminders of How God Cares for You by Holley Gerth


Holley's books have heart. Her obvious love for God and her audience come shining through each of her pages. Hope Your Heart Needs  is an interesting book, while the title points out the intent of reminding readers of God's care, each little chapter (averaging only a few short pages) serves more as an introduction to a different name and aspect of God's character. What a brilliant and solid way to introduce true hope to readers.

The chapters themselves are easy to read, mostly consisting of life lessons Holley has experienced and scripture verses which all point back to  the  thematic name of each chapter. At first, the easiness of the read had me concerned that the book would be more fluff than substance (certainly not what I expect from Holley) but as I read on each chapter read more as a gentle invitation to discover God's character reinforcing the call of hope and care the title offers to readers. Holley uses scripture to present biblical evidence for God's nature while providing human examples of how that nature intersects with the human heart in the  messy, beautiful complexity that is faith and relationship.

Physically, the book is a great carry long, smaller than the average book, it's easy to slip into a bag or a friend's hand when they need a pick me up ;) 

4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book as part of the Revell Reads Book Tour, the opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fake or Follower by Andi Andrews

Fake or Follower: Refusing to Settle for a Shallow Faith

If I had to choose a different theme for this book it would be following through on faith in a consumerist culture. Andi adamantly encourages readers to be active  in their faith, discontent in merely receiving. I found Andi to be straightforward in her message and tone, almost to the point of abrasiveness, until her personality comes through the pages and the initial abrasiveness begins to read more as urgency in love.

This makes sense as Andi covers a wide variety of topics that are heavy in nature dealing both with the individual and communal. I really appreciate this widespread coverage in her work in light of the church existing as one made up of many. Her information on identity, healing, and reconciliation are all important but it's the fact that she frames her message within love that makes it so powerful.

That love really comes through thanks to the honesty and vulnerability Andi infuses into each page. These aren't the lessons of a removed teacher but someone who has walked through grief, wrestled with confusion in the face of our society, and remained passionate about her faith. There is a definite feel that Andi does not write a single word she is not actively trying to live out each day in her own life. Each chapter ends with the "making it real" section to help readers assess and apply the contents to their life in an achievable way. This is so refreshing in a world where so many try and set standards above and beyond the plausible or healthy. 

My one sticking point in the book was chapter 6 Introverted Extrovert. As an introvert myself, I've struggled to find my voice in and outside of the church due to the misunderstanding surrounding the term. I found that Andi tended to lean more to the common understanding of introversion being preference or personality rather than  a method of recharging  which was disappointing. 

Andi's style is definitely more "in your face" than I'm used to but her message is an important one of urging the church to live out their calling and lives passionately. At the very least Fake or Follower  promises to inspire  important reflection and conversation for those involved in the North American church.

4 out of 5 stars.

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