An archive of this Sojourner's Journey – Reflections, book reviews, and other random thoughts

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Book Review: Holy Solitude

About the Book:

Our faith is full of heroes who experienced God powerfully in solitude. From Hagar and the Hebrew prophets to Jesus in the wilderness to Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena, we see how escape from the toil and temptations of daily life can open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to the still, small voice of God. In the vast desert or a tiny room, solitude–frightening for some and a welcome reprieve for others–is far from an antisocial self-indulgence but rather is an opportunity for transformation and empowerment to serve God’s people ever more deeply.

While most of us can’t take weeks–or even a few days–for private retreat, Holy Solitude offers readers thoughtful inspiration and practical devotional activities such as taking a solitary bus ride or baking a loaf of bread for a neighbor. Daily reflections introduce readers to figures in both Scripture and Christian history whose stories of discernment and discipline are a guide for our own spiritual practices as we seek to know God more fully and follow Christ more faithfully.

My Thoughts:

This book came to me toward the end of Lent when I was already engaged with several other Lenten devotionals so I waited until more recently to take a look at this devotional.

From the sub-title I suppose I was expecting something along the lines of Nouwen or Manning, or even something like Preston Yancey’s Out of the House of Bread.  I was expecting something both poetic and practical.  The devotionals are practical, but for me personally they lacked the poetic.  I found myself missing the depth of beauty and the mystery that I was looking for in the writing style.  The entries were just a bit too direct for me and I never found myself deeply connecting to the material.

Honestly, I can think of a number of friends who might really like this book.  So, all in all I have to say it wasn’t for me, but I could see it being very good for logical, practical and straight-forward types of readers.  I think that the discussion questions could be helpful for small groups or families that might want to work through this together.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and I am basing my review on the samples of devotions from each section that I engaged with as I decided I didn’t want to give it the time to engage with all the devotional entries.

Book Review: More Than Meets the Eye

About the Book:

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

My Thoughts:

More Than Meets The Eye is a story of overcoming.  Overcoming the circumstances of a harsh world.  Overcoming prejudice. And most of all, overcoming our own flawed perspectives, because when it comes to our perspectives there is often much more going on than meets the eye.

I always appreciate that Witemeyer’s characters are real down to earth people with a mix of flaws, complicated motives and true desires.  I loved Evangeline’s character.  I loved the loyalty of the siblings.  I loved the comic relief and the unconventional romance(s).  This was an all around fun read that possessed depth along with a sense of hope.

 

I received a free digital copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: A Most Noble Heir

About the Book:

When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl’s heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope–believing that once their marriage is sanctioned by God, Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between pleasing Hannah and living up to his father’s demanding expectations.

At every turn, forces work to keep the couple apart, and a solution to remain together seems further and further away. With Nolan’s new life pulling him irrevocably away from the woman he loves, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

My Thoughts:

A Most Noble Heir was one of those books that fell right in the middle for me, I didn’t love it, but there was nothing that I particularly disliked about it either.  It’s a good and well thought through story with believable characters.  There are numerous twists and turns in the plot and like Nolan you wonder if he will get his happily ever after with Hannah.

I think that the reason I didn’t love the book was the way the story progressed over such a long period of time with a fair amount of detail and a rather slow pace.  I felt more like I was watching a mini-series than living inside of a story.   While, on occasion I can find it annoying to read a book where the author draws me into every new chapter and I can’t find a place in the story to set the book down, this book was a little too easy to set aside in the middle of the story.

So if you are looking to do some casual reading with a book that you can pick up and enjoy and put down as needed without any compulsion to stay up until 2 am reading then this might be the story for you.

 

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

Jesus Calling Coloring Book Review

About the Coloring Book:

Enjoy peace in the presence of the Savior as you relax and reflect on the words of Jesus Calling® through this gorgeous new Jesus Calling® Creative Coloring & Hand Lettering. Favorite Jesus Calling quotes and scriptures are selected to hand letter—with a tutorial in the front of the book and faint guidelines on each lettering page—alongside 100 beautifully detailed coloring pages.

Book includes quotes from Jesus Calling, 100 pages of intricate coloring designs, a tutorial and templates to learn basic hand lettering, and perforated pages.

In addition to the beautiful, intricate adult coloring book art, enjoy learning the art of hand lettering with a simple guided tutorial and templates for hand lettering throughout the book.

In the same way that the bestselling devotional offers a moment of peace during your busy day, so this new coloring book will remind you of His still, quiet voice in the midst of a bustling world.

My Thoughts:

If you like adult coloring books this one is lovely. The pages are thick and the paper texture is smooth. The pages are also perforated if you want to tear a page out and post it somewhere. The designs are intricate which means you aren’t going to finish one in one session. The beauty of that is that each page also has something encouraging, either a verse or Biblical idea, for you to meditate on as you are coloring. On every other page the words are very pale shadows so that you can trace over them and practice learning to do hand lettering. (This is really nice as several of my friends have purchased books just on hand lettering and here you get a two for one book).

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Book Review: The Wounded Shadow

About the Book:

The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?

My Thoughts:

This is not a stand alone novel.  Following the prequel (By Divine Right) and books one and two in the series (The Shock of Night and The Shattered Vigil), this is a continuation of a complex and slightly dark tale.

The Darkwater saga draws you into a brilliant series full of creativity, with a broad expanse of world building and in depth character development.  Truthfully, I was sorry to see the series end making the final pages of the book move a little too quickly for me.  As beautifully written and intricately complex as this series is I’m sure that I will revisit it again.

The Wounded Shadow has all the twists and turns and depth that I have come to expect from Patrick Carr.  The Darkwater Saga is now listed among my favorite fantasy series.

 

I received a pre-release digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

And honestly, I loved it.

Book Review: The Weaver’s Daughter

About the Book:

Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?

Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder — including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father’s pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort out the truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family’s livelihood and legacy.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls – even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

My Thoughts:

This regency novel has little to do with the ballroom setting you might expect from this genre and instead focuses on the political and social upheaval in England’s wool and weaving industry in the early 1800s.  Prejudice, bitterness and an inability to listen to any viewpoint other than your own are all aspects addressed within this plot.  Love, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and gender roles are also strong themes.

The plot was fast moving and engaging.  I must admit to a high level of frustration with the stubbornness and narrow-minded thinking of some of the characters, which I believe was the author’s intent.  The love interest in the story wasn’t overdone, which I appreciated.

As for the fact that this book is marketed by a Christian publisher I have to say that this book is not a book that is presenting a gospel message.  The novel is merely reflective of the times when it speaks of church.  The author speaks of right, wrong and moral living, as well as forgiveness, but the gospel or any type of intimate relationship with God is absent from the story.

And, I’m happy to say that there was not a single kidnapping in the novel.  I’ve a running joke with a friend that all the regency novels I’ve read over the past few years have included at least one abduction, so the fact that it was absent from this plot made me very happy.

All in all it was an interesting read.

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

Book Review: Winning Miss Winthrop

About the Book:

Years ago, the man who stole Catherine Winthrop’s heart rejected her–and she’s never recovered from the grief. Now tragedy has brought him back into her life. This time it isn’t her heart he’s taking, it’s her home and her family’s good name.

Jonathan Carlew’s serious demeanor and connection to trade, not to mention the rumors surrounding his birth, have kept him from being a favorite of the ladies, or their parents. Now, suddenly landed and titled, he finds himself with plenty of prospects. But his demanding society responsibilities keep pressing him into service to the one woman who captured his heart long ago–and then ran off with it.

These two broken hearts must decide whether their painful past and bitter present will be all they can share, or if forgiveness can provide a path to freedom for the future.

Set in the sumptuous salons of Bath, Regency England’s royal breeding ground for gossip, Winning Miss Winthrop is the first volume in the Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series. Fans of the wholesome and richly drawn first series won’t want to miss this new set of characters–or appearances by their old favorites.

“Fans of Christian Regency romances by Sarah Ladd, Sarah Eden, and Michelle Griep will adore Carolyn Miller’s books!”
–Dawn Crandall, award-winning author of The Everstone Chronicles

My Thoughts:

First, if you have read my other reviews of regency novels you will know that I have a bit of a pet peeve for how often a kidnapping shows up in the plot.   I am happy to say that there was no kidnapping in Winning Miss Winthrop so that alone raises it in my opinion.  Bu seriously, this novel was engaging.  While I might admit to becoming a bit frustrated with how the main characters refused to actually talk through the past, I loved the fact that each character was real and multi-faceted.  I also appreciated that the alternate love interests weren’t villains and I must say that I am looking forward to the novel that is surely to come about Jonathan’s sister.

I also appreciated the theme of how distorting bitterness can be along with the accompanying theme concerning the evil of gossip.  And while the lessons were in the story, the novel never felt instructional.  In fact, Catherine surprised me several times by breaking the mold of societies expectations to follow her own heart in ways that certainly would not have been prescriptive for a young lady of her era, but showed real courage and liveliness.

And while it is a new series, character’s from Miller’s other series do show up in the story so you might want to read them first, starting with the Elusive Miss Ellison.

 

I received a free unedited digital pre-release of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Book Review: The Pandora Box

About the Book:

While investigating mysterious happenings at a state mental hospital, journalist D.J. Parker learns the location of a famous cache of diamonds stolen during World War II. What she doesn’t know is that the federal government has secretly been following the case for years. With an old journal to lead the way, she sets out aboard a yacht that once carried the infamous Herman Goering and embarks on a thrilling treasure hunt that could prove to be the adventure of a lifetime… if the captain and his partner don’t turn out to be crooks. And the FBI officers following D.J. are really working for the FBI, and if the horrendous secret Dee uncovers during the investigation has absolutely no connection to the famous jewels. But just how long can a secret remain a secret? And more importantly how can a person know whom to trust?

My Thoughts:

The Pandora Box was a fast paced adventure novel that I didn’t want to put down.  In the spirit of her hero, Nellie Bly – America’s pioneer female journalist, D.J. Parker is up for adventure in the pursuit of a good story.  But somehow things become personal when a man that she hopes to help dies and leave her a treasure beyond her wildest dreams…if she can only find it.

D.J. is a lovable, but wildly impulsive character, which lands her in more than one tight place.  Her heart is good, but her decisions don’t always follow her good intentions.  So, when she starts off on a wild treasure hunt she ends up roping her best friend into the mix and teaming up with complete strangers as the lure of riches grows to outweigh common sense.  A fast paced and exciting adventure follows.  My only real disappointment was to find out that there aren’t more D.J stories out there waiting to be read.

 

I received a free digital galley (unedited version) of this novel to read  in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Book Review: The InnKeeper’s Daughter

About the Book:

A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown

Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.

All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse.

Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.

My Thoughts:

I was surprised how much I liked the book.  While I do love Regency novels sometimes I find them a bit on the overly dramatic side.  In The Innkeeper’s Daughter elements of suspense and intrigue were present and even intense at times, but not overdone.  There were a number of plot twists and turns.  I love it when an author includes events that I couldn’t predict that still seem authentic to the tale.

The characters were real, with their own hang-ups, false beliefs, deep desires and well kept secrets.  The introduction of Mr. Nutbrown and his oddly endearing mental instability was truly a brilliant move to add interest to the story.

As a Christian novel God is very much a part of the story, but only in so much as each character interacts with Him.  This is not a book that is teaching about God as much as it is a book about characters who have a relationship with God and are growing in their understanding of Him.

While this book is not marketed as a part of a series, there were references back to Brentwood’s Ward, which I have not read.  It did not detract from the story except that I did find myself wondering what I might have missed by not reading the first book.

All in all, I found The Innkeeper’s Daughter to be an entertaining read and I’d recommend it.

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I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Book Review: A Song Unheard

About the Book:

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

My Thoughts:

A Song Unheard follows after A Name Unknown (click title to see my review), but could be read as a stand alone book.

Willa is part of an unusual family, a family of orphans who chose each other and learned what they needed to survive the streets of London.  They are thieves.  Good ones.  So good, in fact, that they have attracted the eye of the government who has need of their skills in the war effort.

I really enjoy Roseanna White’s writing.  Her characters are well developed having believable motivations and weaknesses, alongside rather extraordinary skills.  I enjoyed reading about Willa and Lukas and their complicated relationship.  I also appreciated that fact that the author had a German officer with a multi-faceted character providing discussions on belief, ethics and assumptions and how our thoughts on those subjects send us down different paths.

All in all, A Song Unheard, is a well written story with intrigue and interesting characters that provides enjoyable and insightful entertainment.  I would recommend it.

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