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

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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.

Book Review: Keturah

About the Book:

In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

My Thoughts:

I generally really like Bergren’s writing so I was very excited to see her releasing a new series, but I have to say that this wasn’t my favorite of her works.  There were positives to the story.  I appreciated Keturah’s journey back to God and to herself after struggle and suffering.  I appreciated the way that the injustice of the time was dealt with on multiple levels.  And yet, the characters each seemed to have only one real facet, whether that was a striving for independence, compassion, a need to prove themselves, I just found all the players in the story a bit too one note for my taste.

If you have an interest in reading about Nevis in the 1700’s and the history of the era then you’ll probably enjoy this novel, but I just didn’t love it.

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

Book Review: Out of the Ordinary

About the Book:

Rollicking New Release from Humorous Historical Romance Author Jen Turano

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail.

My Thoughts:

Jen Turano writes humorously laugh out loud, out of the ordinary regency novels.  While the story was far fetched, it was also fun.  And while the story was fun, it wasn’t without a deeper layer of truth.  I enjoyed reading Out of the Ordinary and will look forward to Turano’s next release.

It should be noted that while you don’t have to read the previous books in this series to understand the story, I believe having previous experience with the characters makes this story even more enjoyable.

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

Book Review: Holding the Fort

About the Book:

Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

My Thoughts:

Regina Jennings takes us out west to Fort Reno for a good bit of laughter and a little bit of romance.

Louisa Bell is a complicated character.  Having grown up in a dance-hall environment she lacks a lot of knowledge (and restraint) that most ladies of the day would exhibit.  She does, however, have a good heart, a sharp mind and a desire to live an honorable life.  While the story seemed a bit far fetched at times, it was entirely enjoyable.  Holding the Fort was a good, light-hearted read.

I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion,

Book Review: The Sacred Slow

About the Book:

If yesterday’s word was “simple,” tomorrow’s word will be “slow.”

Our culture is shifting from fast food to health food both physically and spiritually. Self-care, soul-care, life coaches, and spiritual retreats all show our dissatisfaction in quick fixes and fast faith. The Sacred Slow is an invitation to unhurried honesty before God. Formatted as 52 experiences, The Sacred Slow reminds readers on every page that God never wanted to use them: He always wanted to love them.

Experienced devotionally or in small groups, each chapter features a short but unexpected reading and two options for application: a thought focus or a heart exercise. The content is the overflow of Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s thirty+ years as a spiritual mentor to leaders and learners. The tone is personal, practical, and penetrating. The fruit is sustainable (as opposed to event-based) intimacy with God.

My Thoughts:

I haven’t finished the book yet so it is hard to give an opinion.  Since I have been asked to give a timely review I will comment on what I can.  The author says that the book could take weeks or up to a year to work through and she did not underestimate the time needed to engage in the exercises assigned with each chapter.  In truth I’d call the whole thing more of a workbook then a book.  Each short chapter is followed with an extensive assignment.  The type of work that the author is asking the reader to engage with is both fruitful and fairly mainstream in regard to counseling or coaching practice.

I’m liking the areas of this (work)book that I have engaged with, however, slow is a good overall descriptor for this undertaking.  If you are simply looking for a good book on the topic of rest or unhurry there are other books that I would recommend, but if you are are willing to engage in a series of activities designed to evaluate and alter the way in which you engage with the world, this might be the book for you.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Book Review: You Are The Beloved

About the Book:

Seven million copies of his books in print! This daily devotional from the bestselling author of such spiritual classics as The Return of the Prodigal Son and The Wounded Healer offers deep spiritual insight into human experience, intimacy, brokeness, and mercy.

Nouwen devoted much of his later ministry to emphasizing the singular concept of our identity as the Beloved of God. In an interview, he said that he believed the central moment in Jesus’s public ministry to be his baptism in the Jordan, when Jesus heard the affirmation, “You are my beloved son on whom my favor rests.” “That is the core experience of Jesus,” Nouwen writes. “He is reminded in a deep, deep way of who he is. . . . I think his whole life is continually claiming that identity in the midst of everything.”

You Are Beloved is a daily devotional intended to empower readers to claim this truth in their own lives. Featuring the best of Nouwen’s writing from previously published works, this devotional will propel the canon forward as it draws on this rich literature in new and compelling ways. It will appeal to readers already familiar with Nouwen’s work as well as new readers looking for a devotional to guide them into a deeper awareness of their identity in Jesus.

My Thoughts:

If you know me then you probably already know that I’m a fan of Nouwen’s reflective and insightful writing.  This new devotional is good, but it is honestly much like some of the other collections of Nouwen’s writings.   I’ve only looked at a month’s worth of entries so far, but I’ve yet to come across a reading that I’m not familiar with.  So, if you are already familiar with Nouwen’s works you might enjoy this book while finding that it’s nothing particularly new.  Also, I had trouble seeing the connection of a number of the entries to a deeper awareness of our identity in Jesus.  They are all good for reflection, but maybe not as closely connected to the title as I would have hoped.

On the other hand, if you aren’t familiar with Nouwen’s writings, this book might be a reasonable choice, but honestly, it’s not where I’d recommend you start.  If I was making a recommendation for daily readings I’d say start with The Only Necessary Thing and read one quoted section a day.  That will give you a much broader and more well rounded context for Nouwen, how he thinks and how he writes.  Then if you are looking for another Nouwen devotional you might move on to this book and other books like Life of the Beloved, With Open Hands and Show Me The Way (which is a particularly excellent Lent devotional).

All in all, I’d say this book, You Are the Beloved, is a good choice for an in-between Nouwen reader.  It’s a nice collection of quotes to spark reflection.  But it isn’t my favorite collection.

I was sent a digital pre-release copy of this book for review in exchange for my honest opinion, which is written above.

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Book Review: All Things New (Part 2)

About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge offers readers a breathtaking look into God’s promise for a new heaven and a new earth.

This revolutionary book about our future is based on the simple idea that, according to the Bible, heaven is not our eternal home–the New Earth is. As Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew, the next chapter of our story begins with “the renewal of all things,” by which he means the earth we love in all its beauty, our own selves, and the things that make for a rich life: music, art, food, laughter and all that we hold dear. Everything shall be renewed “when the world is made new.”

More than anything else, how you envision your future shapes your current experience. If you knew that God was going to restore your life and everything you love any day; if you believed a great and glorious goodness was coming to you–not in a vague heaven but right here on this earth–you would have a hope to see you through anything, an anchor for your soul, “an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God” (Hebrews 6:19).

Most Christians (most people for that matter) fail to look forward to their future because their view of heaven is vague, religious, and frankly boring. Hope begins when we understand that for the believer nothing is lost. Heaven is not a life in the clouds; it is not endless harp-strumming or worship-singing. Rather, the life we long for, the paradise Adam and Eve knew, is precisely the life that is coming to us. And that life is coming soon.

My Thoughts:

As I mentioned in a previous post, twenty three years ago I came face to face with the truth that this book communicates and it changed my life.  I love that Eldredge has brought his skill of communication and his passion to write All Things New.  This is a book about hope.  A book that helps us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Eldredge starts us off with an amazing reminder.  “What we ache for is redemption; what our heart cries out for is restoration.  And I have some stunning, breathtaking news for you: restoration is exactly what Jesus promised.”  We lose sight of this.  I lost sight of this.  All around me I see grief and loss and despair.  I need to be reminded again and again of the “anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:9) and this is a book full of truly stunning reminders of that which is true.

Eldredge delves deep into the teachings of Christ about the restoration of all things, teaching that have been largely lost or overlooked in the modern church, truth meant to encourage and sustain us through every hard thing.

“If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner – might even come today – you would be one happy person.  If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair.   If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.”

This is a book of hope.  A book of expectation.  Understanding the truth of the palingenesia (the renewal of all things) can truly be revolutionary.  I know it turned my life upside down and gave me the courage to follow Jesus along roads that I could never have trod if I wasn’t confident that truly nothing is lost.

I love this book and I hope you will consider reading it.

 

I received a free review copy of this book from the author for review, however, all opinions written here are my own (and I’ve already bought copies to give away because I really, honestly, deeply love this book).

Book Review: The Mission Walker

About the Book:

This story is not about avoiding death. It’s about living life.

Immerse yourself in the amazing story of Edie Littlefield Sundby, who, after being told she had only 3 months to live, survived 79 rounds of chemotherapy, radical liver and lung surgeries, and then walked 800 miles along the California Mission Trail, averaging 14 miles a day, and stopping at life-giving missions to revive her body and her soul.

When she finished she yearned to walk the mission trail from its start – in Mexico. But no one had traversed that trail in 250 years.

As you will learn in the pages of this book, Edie doesn’t care about what some deem impossible. It is that spirit that has allowed her to live, despite the odds.

With fading strength and only one lung, she walked another 800 miles through the rugged mountains and deserts of Baja Mexico to the California border. In a walk of triumph, of harrowing adventure, and of spiritual enlightenment, she carried her mortality in every step and in the process opened up a profound communion with God and his creation, and the true meaning of life.

And all of this with a terminal cancer that was chasing her every step of the way. It still is, and she continues to walk with it every day.

For me, walking is a transcendent physical, emotional, and spiritual experience, like dancing. “If I can move, I am not sick.” That is my alternate reality. And I believe with all my will in that reality. So when cancer strikes again and again, I walk to stay alive.

Life is the greatest adventure there is. Why stop our adventuring because someone says the end might be near?

For those who crave a spirit of adventure, who ache like Edie to know what our bodies and spirits are truly capable of, this book is a must-read. A true testament to faith, courage, and the power of hope.

My Thoughts:

I had mixed opinions about this book.  I’d have to give it an average – it’s OK – three stars.

One one hand, I liked it because it’s a story of setting out after a goal and pursuing a dream despite all odds and who doesn’t love a story about overcoming?  I also appreciated the history that I learned on Edie’s journey as she included her research and imagination about the priests and their work in all of the missions that she visited in California and Mexico.

What I struggled with in this book were the connections and the assumptions.

First, let’s talk about the connections.  The first quarter, or maybe even third, of the book was given over to the story of cancer and the struggle of treatment.  I’ve had more than my fill of medical scenarios in my own life and I don’t really enjoy reading about them so I could have skipped that part.  Yes, the cancer set the stage for the walks, but the proportion of time given made cancer as much of a theme of the book as the walks themselves, which wasn’t something I was expecting based on the book’s marketing.  And though we are often reminded even through the end of the story that another appointment is upcoming there is absolutely no wrap up to the medical aspect of the story, no report on the long awaited and much talked about appointment, no two sentences to give an update at the time of the books publishing.  Instead the theme that is such a predominate part of the book is left hanging.  As a reader I expect that if you take me along on your journey you will at least have the courtesy to not drop me off before the destination that you have been pointing me toward.

And the assumptions…I found myself concerned with many of Edie’s viewpoints. I struggled with the viewpoint that being at home and hanging out with family and enjoying the simple things isn’t really living life.  I love a grand story or an epic experience as much as anyone, but I don’t think they are the measure of whether you are really living. I also struggled with her desire to push through, overcome and fulfill a dream in contrast to the lack of honor she gave to her body including not stopping for days of rest.  I recognize that she made choices that were all her own, but I  personally had a hard time enjoying aspects of her journey when they seemed so contrary to values that I hold.  I love stories of pilgrimage, but I guess this book showed me that I really do have my own opinions about good and not as good ways to go about a pilgrimage.

But all in all, I’m glad I read the book.  A tale of pursuing something you are passionate about no matter the cost is one worth reading.  And Edie’s story is certainly one of passion.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 

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