Book Review: The Lady of Galway Manor

About the Book:

In 1920, Annabeth De Lacy’s father is appointed landlord of Galway Parish in Ireland. Bored without all the trappings of the British Court, Annabeth convinces her father to arrange an apprenticeship for her with the Jennings family–descendants of the creator of the famed Claddagh Ring.

Stephen Jennings longs to do anything other than run his family’s jewelry shop. Having had his heart broken, he no longer believes in love and is weary of peddling the “lies” the Claddagh Ring promises.

Meanwhile, as the war for Irish independence gains strength, many locals resent the De Lacys and decide to take things into their own hands to display their displeasure. As events take a dangerous turn for Annabeth and her family, she and Stephen begin to see that perhaps the “other side” isn’t quite as barbaric and uncultured as they’d been led to believe–and that the bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty are only made stronger when put through the refiner’s fire.

Travel to the Emerald Isle for another poignant and romantic story from the enchanted pen of Jennifer Deibel.

My Thoughts:

The history of Ireland is so heartbreaking. This story brings the struggle to life reminding us that we can’t just lump everyone together and make broad statements about entire people groups. By bringing curiosity and compasion to the foreground Deibel tells a story of wounds, of love, of priorities rearranged and of hope. Beautiful and difficult the relationship between Stephen and Anna, the Irish and the English, challenges us to open our hearts and see past the hurt to the person standing right in front of us.

I received a free digital galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Enchanting the Heiress

About the Book:

Miss Harriet Hancock enjoys playing the role of eccentric heiress, using her wealth and influence to cleverly and anonymously better the lives of those in Newmarket. Though she keeps people at a distance to protect a years-old secret, when her friend pleads for help on a personal project, Harriet can’t resist. Stable hand Jonas Fitzroy would do anything for his twin sister, even if it means seeking out the woman whose meddling ways have made him wary and suspicious. The last thing he expects is for Miss Hancock to request his help in writing a book. Intent on revealing her underlying plan, Jonas agrees.

As they work together, an unexpected friendship forms. But when things don’t go according to Harriet’s plan, she’s left wondering if good intentions might not be enough. Is there a way to mend the broken pieces of her life? And will Jonas give her another chance at his heart?

My Thoughts:

This is the third book in the series and I think you need to at least have read the previous book (Winning the Gentleman), about Jonas’ twin sister, to fully understand the context of this story.

Kristi Ann Hunter writes books that both entertain and challenge. I found this book both delightful and difficult. In today’s culture, as in the book, it is easy to justify a slight shifting of facts to allow someone to save face or to avoid conflict. This book explores where subtlety, manipulation and lying meet and the dangers of crossing those lines. Another aspect of the story that I found compelling was the challenge to live life rather than to just observe it. The author explored the difference between contentment and detachment as she explored Jonas’ relationship with the world. Enchanting the Heiress was a compelling and enjoyable story, but it also gave me much to consider. I’d recommend it to you.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: To Treasure an Heiress

About the Book

1906

Beth Tremayne has always been drawn to adventure. During her childhood, she fed that desire by exploring every inch of the Isles of Scilly. Now, after stumbling across an old collection of letters and a map buried on her family’s property, she’s found more adventure than she ever anticipated in the hunt for pirate treasure. But in order to discover where the clues lead, she must search alongside Lord Sheridan, a man she finds insufferable.

Sheridan has spent years pursuing whatever archaeological interests pique his imagination. And when he discovers that Beth’s search connects with one of his far-removed pirate ancestors, he can’t help getting involved. Plus, he finds her irresistible, even though she insists he stole a prized possession of hers.

As they work together following different clues and drawing closer to danger, they start to piece together a story of tragic love and piratical adventure. But which treasure will bring the greatest surprise–the one they find in each other or the one just out of their reach?

My Thoughts:

While still full of depth this book contained more humor than the other books that I have read by Roseanna White. I found it delightful.

This is the second book in the series and you will need to read The Nature of a Lady first. I loved how the first book in the series was all about finding your place by settling in and this book was about finding your place by letting your roots give you wings. Both books reflect on the power of community, connection and how we are not meant to live a self-sufficent life.

I kept turning the pages and throughly enjoyed Beth and Sheridan’s story. I recommend this book to you and am looking forward to the next book in the series. (But you’ll be glad to know that this book doesn’t end in a cliff-hanger).

I received a free digital galley of this book to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Aging Faithfully

About the Book:

Would you like to grow in life-giving ways as you age? Do you have the courage to let go of former ways of thinking to receive God’s love and life in new ways?

As we age, we experience the loss of physical stamina, independence, and career fulfillment. Yet within each of these losses is a holy invitation to grow. God calls us to let go of our need for accomplishment and embrace the gift of fruitfulness so that we might be transformed in this final season of our lives. In Aging Faithfully, spiritual director Alice Fryling explores how to navigate the journey of retirement, lifestyle changes, and new limitations. In this season of life, we are invited to hold both grief and hope, to acknowledge ways of thinking that no longer represent who we are, and to receive peace in the midst of our fears.

We all age differently, and God calls each of us to new spiritual birth as we mature. When we embrace the aging process, we grow closer to God and experience his grace as he renews us from within. Whether you are approaching the beginning, middle, or end of your senior years, you are invited. Come and be transformed.

Aging Faithfully includes questions for group discussion and suggestions for personal meditation.

My Thoughts:

I am definitly not the demographic for this book with the target audience being in their 60s, 70s and 80s. However, with the impact of long-Covid and watching those I love in older generations age I found myself curious to see what Alice would say about aging faithfully.

With a focus on transformation there was a lot that was applicable to my own life. I find I’ve been reflecting a great deal on her question of what it looks like to let go of what we are losing.

If you are curious about how to receive the reality of aging as a gift rather than a curse, this book might be for you. Even at 48 it gave me plenty to think about.

I received a free digital galley of this book to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Never Leave Me

About the Book:

In the last stages of a genetic disease, Ellen Creighton has decided to live out her remaining days at the estate of her longtime friend Harrison Burlington. Harrison cares deeply for Ellen, but as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, he’s never allowed himself to get serious in a relationship. However, he’s desperately trying to save her by finding the holy water that is believed to heal any disease.

When he locates two flasks, Ellen refuses to drink one of them because she believes the holy water killed her sister and father. In an effort to convince her to take it, Harrison ingests the contents first, and when Ellen witnesses the effects, she can no longer deny the power of the substance in the bottles. Dangerous criminals are also seeking the holy water, and Ellen soon learns they will go to any lengths to get the powerful drug–including sending her back into the past to find it for them.

Bestselling and award-winning author Jody Hedlund plunges you into the swiftly flowing river of history in a race against the clock in this breathtaking, emotional second Waters of Time story.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the series, following after Come Back To Me. The premise of the series is interesting and imaginative. The pace of the book keeps you on the edge of your seat and some of the twists of the story are unexpected. I enjoyed this series and if you like time travel and intrigue then you’ll want to give these books a try.

I received a free digital galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: To Disguise the Truth

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/346Ygjd

About the Book:

When a man arrives at the Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency, anxious to hire them to find a missing heiress, Eunice Holbrooke realizes her past has finally caught up with her . . . and that she may no longer be able to hide under the disguise that has kept her safe for so long.

Arthur Livingston’s goal in life is to make his mark on the world as a mining industrialist, but after the man who could help him achieve his goal is murdered, Arthur feels compelled to seek justice for the family–but he’s left with more questions than answers after the eccentric Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency refuses to take on his case.

Desperate to conceal her real identity and avoid the irritatingly handsome Arthur, Eunice takes on a different case that requires her to go deep undercover and entangles her in one troublesome situation after another. When other secrets come to light, Eunice has no choice but to confront her past, hopeful that it will set her free but knowing it could very well place her life–and the lives of those she loves–in jeopardy.

My Thoughts:

This series has a romping and ridiculous tone throughout, bringing you improbable, but entertaining stories. Eunice’s story is intriguing, with an unexpected past and unexpected redemption. Shining a light on the injustices of the insane asylum system of the day alongside an enlightening tale of family manipulations Turano covers a lot of ground with this novel, all the while making you smile with her trademark humor and a bit of romance. As expected, I enjoyed this novel and if you are looking for a humorous, but far from fluffy read, then I recommend the series to you.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Proposing Mischief

About the Book:

Only one person can give her the freedom she seeks–but is it worth the risk?

Maisie Kentworth is being forced to stay on her parents’ ranch. After a short-lived relationship with the wrong man, she’s worried about inflaming things further between her former beau and her protective family. Left to rue her mistakes, she keeps busy exploring the idle mine at the edge of their property, where she discovers a great treasure.

Boone Bragg is also stuck. With his parents on vacation, the management of Bragg Mining falls on him, and one of his advisors wants him as a son-in-law. One wrong move, and Boone will end up either offending an associate or marrying a woman he can’t endure.

While closing up a spent mine, Boone gets two surprises. One is a spitfire farm girl who’s trespassing with a pickax, and the other is the amazing crystal cavern that she’s discovered. Suddenly Boone sees a way to overhaul the family business. With part of the cavern on Kentworth land, Boone makes Maisie a proposal that he hopes will solve all of their problems. Instead it throws Joplin into chaos, and it will take all of Maisie’s gumption to set things right.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes you just need a light and humerous story to unwind with and that’s the type of book that Reginna Jennings provides. A quick read full of the mischief the title promises, I enjoyed the unlikely story of country girl Maisie and distracted businessman Boone. The geode cavern was fascinating and the story endearing.

I was given a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Journey Toward Wholeness

About the Book:

Enneagram Wisdom for Stress, Balance, and Transformation

In everything from health care and politics to technology and economics, we are experiencing feelings of loss, anger, and anxiety. In the Enneagram’s wisdom, our number determines how we respond. We automatically move to another number when we’re feeling stress and to yet another when we’re feeling secure. Such moves may help us feel better temporarily but don’t last.

For those who want to dive deeper into Enneagram wisdom, expert teacher Suzanne Stabile opens the concept of three Centers of Intelligence: thinking, feeling, and doing. When we learn to manage these centers, each for its intended purpose, we open a path to reducing fear, improving relationships, growing spiritually, and finding wholeness. Drawing on the dynamic stability of the Enneagram, she explains each number’s preferred and repressed Center of Intelligence and its role in helping us move toward internal balance. Using brief focused chapters, this book provides what we need to deal with the constant change and complexity of our world to achieve lasting transformation in our lives.

suzanne stabile
Q&A with Suzanne Stabile  
How would you describe your book to a curious potential reader? Suzanne Stabile: We seem to find ourselves in a particularly tumultuous time when anger and anxiety—about politics, the environment, religion, technology, economics, and just about everything else—are pervasive and stress inducing. In The Journey Toward Wholeness I’m using Enneagram wisdom to teach strategies for managing stress, and I’m encouraging and teaching methods for balancing the three Centers of Intelligence; thinking, feeling, and doing. It is imperative that we find a way to restore appropriate ways of being in the world with people who see things the way we do, and with people who don’t.

What are some of the key themes in this book? Suzanne: In addition to learning how to manage everyday and extreme stress, there are three key themes in the book.
1. Liminality—This is the threshold between where we’ve been and where we’re going. Enneagram study and work are especially helpful in such difficult liminal times. In fact, while liminal space can be extremely challenging, it may very well be the most, maybe the only, teachable space in which we do the work to learn how to make it so. When I submitted the idea for this book to IVP, I had no idea we would have experienced the greatest time of liminality in decades by the time of its release.
2. Centers of Intelligence—It’s important to find balance within the Centers of Intelligence. Learning to use each Center for its intended purpose and recognizing how to bring up the Center that is repressed in each Enneagram number is an important theme.
3. Transformation—We tend to conflate our understanding of change and transformation. Change is when we take on something new. Transformation is when something old falls away, usually beyond our control.

How do you see this book as distinctive among other Enneagram books? Suzanne: My book is a deep dive into the Enneagram that also happens to be practical. It’s not for people new to the Enneagram. I want it to teach people how to manage their stress in healthy and productive ways, rather than falling inline with lazy, destructive behavior that is harmful and doesn’t alleviate stress in the long run. Along with that, I am teaching how to find balance in thinking, feeling, and doing. It involves bringing up the Center we least prefer and working with it consistently.

What else would you like readers to know about this book? Suzanne: This book involves more than reading. It will be work, personal work, if people are to reap its benefits. But, as I say in one of the chapters, “My grandchildren would say, ‘Grams, the juice is worth the squeeze.’”
 

My Thoughts:

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to find much in this book that I hadn’t already heard in Enneagram Journey podcasts or the Life in the Trinity seminars that I have done, but I found much that I could think over and apply to my own transformation. The second half of the book was particularly helpful for me. So I would just say that even if you have done a “deep dive” into some of these topics it might be helpful to dive a little deeper still.

I like the way the book is arranged and the way Christ is honored in the midst of the teaching. This is a book I can recommend.

I recieved a free unedited galley to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Every Word Unsaid

About the Book:

Augusta Travers has spent the last three years avoiding the stifling expectations of New York society and her family’s constant disappointment. As the nation’s most fearless–and reviled–columnist, Gussie travels the country with her Kodak camera and spins stories for women unable to leave hearth and home. But when her adventurous nature lands her in the middle of a scandal, an opportunity to leave America offers the perfect escape.

Arriving in India, she expects only a nice visit with childhood friends, siblings Catherine and Gabriel, and escapades that will further her career. Instead, she finds herself facing a plague epidemic, confusion over Gabriel’s sudden appeal, and the realization that what she wants from life is changing. But slowing down means facing all the hurts of her past that she’s long been trying to outrun. And that may be an undertaking too great even for her.

My Thoughts:

I wrestled with what to think about this book. I appreciate Kimberly Duffy’s ability to write in such a way that you are drawn into the story. This book was no exception. In fact, the pain that Augusta felt in the relational distance in her family almost pulsed off the page. And yet, I didn’t really like the characters and I couldn’t really believe their faith. Honestly, I also didn’t really want to read about a plauge, relevant or not, so maybe it was a perfect storm.

It’s a difficult thing to be caught up in a book without really enjoying the story. There was a lot of tension and in a show of excellent writing Duffy made me feel it. I also felt the beauty and contrast of India, which is a setting that she obvioulsy loves and excels at sharing.

Spoiler Alert…..

But Augusta’s journey just rubbed me a bit wrong. There was the sense that becoming serious meant that she was mature, but I don’t believe seriousness in writing is any type of a sign of maturity. To see the world in all it’s beauty and brokenness is something that never seemed lacking in Augusta so I think the real sign of maturity is not that she became a “serious” writer able to put what she saw into words, but that she was able to begin to see herself, her wounds and her selfishness. And yet, even that fell a bit flat for me, because the intimacy of relationship with Christ that enables transformation never made it’s way to center stage in the story.

I wasn’t too fond of Gabriel’s character either, so in the end, while this book was beautifully written it isn’t one that I particularly enjoyed. You might have an entirely different experience with the characters and content so I’ll encourage you to see for yourself if this book is your cup of tea.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Love Letters

Wow!  It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged anything apart from book reviews.  But here I am with thoughts in my head and fingers on the keys.  But I have to issue a warning.  This post contains spoilers for the movie Free Guy, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it then come back.

Now that you have been duly warned…

I can’t stop thinking of the scene where Guy takes over for Millie as she awkwardly tries to disentangle herself from a relationship with an AI character.

I’m a love letter he says.  I may love you because of my programming, but I had a programmer. 

I’m a love letter.

Here is a character inhabiting her virtual world who is tuned into the little details of Millie: bubble gum ice cream, swings, coffee just the way she likes it, her favorite song.  He knows her.  He desires her.  He pursues her in a way that is in keeping with his character as a good guy. 

He’s her love letter.

I was feeling grumpy yesterday, a bit melancholic and at loose ends.  As I was walking and laying all my emotions out before the Lord I kept waiting for that sense of His presence that I so cherish.  But it wasn’t there.  In all honesty, I just felt alone.

But I saw under my feet a host of autumnal leaves in a rainbow of shades from gold to flame.  And I could hear the wind stirring the pine needles.  And the light filtered through the forest canopy in these brilliant illuminating rays.  And the sun made golden edges of the clouds that it used to hide.  And the squirrels chattered at each other as they danced up and down the tree trunk.  And the crispness in the air swirled around while the startled pheasant flew directly over my head.  And I thought: love letters.

There are days when I might not feel the presence of God directly, but there are love letters written all through my world that speak of His passion for me.  They are everywhere I look.

And then there is the Word.  Larry Crabb titled his beautiful book about the Bible 66 Love Letters.  The words on the page, the words hidden in my heart, they also speak.  They speak of a God who knows me.  A God who desires me.  A God who pursues me in keeping with His own character as hero of the story.  They speak of one who laid down His life for me and rose victorious over death.  They speak of great and precious promises that are too great for me to comprehend.  The Word hems me in with love and grace and mercy and conviction and comfort and joy.  Love letters.

Some days I feel God, so very present, so very personal.  And some days He seems far away, but I know that for now He is just out of sight.  And in the meantime, he has written me love letters.