Category: Books

Book Review: The Artful Match

About the Book:

Cara Bernay has never fit in. At loose ends in 1881 London after a near tragedy costs her a job, she befriends a carefree artist. With his help, she begins planning a new life and developing her own artistic talent. But soon Cara finds herself at odds with the artist’s brother–a handsome but arrogant earl forcing his brother back to a “respectable” life.

Henry Burke, the Earl of Morestowe, feels the weight of growing financial burdens. Despite misgivings about Cara’s mysterious background, Henry sees she’s a positive influence on his brother Langham and on Henry’s young ward, and he strikes a deal with her to return with them to their estate.

But the family has their own secrets, and when all the secrets come to light, Langham, Henry and Cara all have choices to make.

My Thoughts:

I almost never read a third book in a series without reading the preceding books, but this book caught my interest so I decided to give it a try.

It was clear that there was a fair amount of backstory that I was missing, but the author did try to keep me up to date so the lack of prior information wasn’t confusing. And I’m curious enough now that I’ll probably go back and read the other books.

Oddly enough, the character that I connected to the most was the earl’s brother; the migraine afflicted, substance abusing artist. I think it is the mark of a good writer that all the characters in the book are well developed and that you can really see inside the lives of more than just the main character. That said, Cara’s impulsive idealism made for an interesting story.

There were clear indicators that the character’s had more than a passing relationship with God, even though some of their understandings were off at times. In fact, those struggles with false beliefs are what makes the characters so very human.

The writing felt light and easy to read, even when the subject matter was serious. All in all, I am glad that I read this novel and I’ll look forward to reading more by Jennifer Delamere.

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

Unhurried Lent Day 33: Book Review – Glorious Weakness

Recap: The main idea in these Unhurried Lent posts is that I’m taking time each day during Lent to slow myself down by reflecting on and creatively responding to a theme.

Something Weak

When I started to think of this theme I thought, “I could just put up a selfie and that would say it all.”

And then I thought, this is a great opportunity to review Alia Joy’s book Glorious Weakness.

About the Book:

As a girl, Alia Joy came face to face with weakness, poverty, and loss in ways that made her doubt God was good. There were times when it felt as if God had abandoned her. What she didn’t realize then was that God was always there, calling her to abandon herself.

In this deeply personal exploration of what it means to be “poor in spirit,” Joy challenges our cultural proclivity to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” She calls on readers to embrace true vulnerability and authenticity with God and with one another, showing how weakness does not disqualify us from inclusion in the kingdom of God–instead, it is our very invitation to enter in.

Anyone who has struggled with feeling inadequate, disillusioned, or just too broken will find hope. This message is an antidote to despair, helping readers reclaim the ways God is good, even when life is anything but.

My Thoughts:

First I want to say that Alia is a beautiful writer and that this book has some really encouraging and powerful things to say. BUT, as it says in the introduction, this book is not for everyone.

Alia’s story spans a number of themes and I kept getting broadsided by things that I didn’t see coming. If you have had medical or sexual trauma in your life or you have unresolved/unhealed wounds around transitions, family, church, mental illness or end of life losses take some caution approaching this book. When the publisher’s description says this is a deeply personal exploration they aren’t kidding. These are the kind of stories that I hear often as a spiritual director and several times I set this book aside feeling a weight of compassion fatigue just from reading what Alia so openly shared. It is one thing to hear tears dripping through your telephone line and have the opportunity to be present with someone. It is another thing altogether to read about raw pain and have no way to interact with the one telling you the story.

The thing that I love is that in the telling of these deeply moving and personal stories Alia kept finding the places where God was filling her own lack with His fullness, even when she couldn’t see it. I also loved how she kept returning to the idea of living out the language of hope in the midst of our circumstances.

In summary I think that Glorious Weakness was a beautifully written, but emotionally demanding memoir of finding God in our weakness and seeing His hand-print of glory on our lives.

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

Book Review: The Governess of Penwythe Hall

About the Book:

https://amzn.to/2FKC6oe

Cornwall was in her blood, and Delia feared she’d never escape its hold.

Cornwall, England, 1811

Blamed for her husband’s death, Cordelia Greythorne fled Cornwall and accepted a governess position to begin a new life. Years later her employer’s unexpected death and his last request for her to watch over his five children force her to reevaluate. She can’t abandon the children now that they’ve lost both parents, but their new guardian lives at the timeworn Penwythe Hall . . . back on the Cornish coast she’s tried desperately to forget.

Jac Twethewey is determined to revive Penwythe Hall’s once-flourishing apple orchards, and he’ll stop at nothing to see his struggling estate profitable again. He hasn’t heard from his brother in years, so when his nieces, nephews, and their governess arrive unannounced, he battles both grief at his brother’s death and bewilderment over this sudden responsibility. Jac’s priorities shift as the children take up residence in the ancient halls, but their secretive governess, and the mystery shrouding her past, proves to be a disruption to his carefully laid plans.

Rich with family secrets, lingering danger, and the captivating allure of new love, this first book in the Cornwall series introduces us to the Twethewey family and their search for peace, justice, and love on the Cornish coast.

My Thoughts:

Sarah Ladd is a captivating writer who excels at telling stories of intrigue and romance. I enjoyed the setting of Cornwall and another look at free-trading apart from what I’d seen on Poldark. I found the book entertaining and engaging. The only other thing I’d mention is that Sarah Ladd writes clean stories with a pinch of faith, rather than stories where the characters exhibit a vibrant relationship with Jesus. So if you are looking for a well written tale, this is your book. If you are looking for a story that is particularly Kingdom oriented this one won’t fit the bill.

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

Book Review: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

https://amzn.to/2Ot1h1t

About the Book:

Since Eugene Peterson first wrote this spiritual formation classic nearly forty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been inspired by its call to deeper discipleship. As a society, we are still obsessed with the immediate; new technologies have only intensified our quest for the quick fix. But Peterson’s time-tested prescription for discipleship remains the same?a long obedience in the same direction. Following Jesus in this way requires a deepening life of prayer, and throughout history Christians have learned to pray from the Psalms.

Peterson finds encouragement for today’s pilgrims in the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), sung by travelers on their way to worship in Jerusalem. With his prophetic and pastoral wisdom, Peterson shows how the psalms teach us to grow in worship, service, joy, work, happiness, humility, community, and blessing. This special commemorative edition of A Long Obedience in the Same Direction includes a new preface taken from Leif Peterson’s eulogy at his father’s memorial service.

My Thoughts:

This book wasn’t actually what I expected based on the title.  Nor was it the particular style of writing that I have come to associate with Eugene Peterson, though I suspect that comes from the fact that this is a much older work than the ones I have been reading.

I would describe the book as a devotional style reflection on each of the Psalms of ascent. I found that some chapters carried a lot of weight and impact as I read them, while others seemed to ramble about more than a little.

I can recommend the book. It is worth reading. I found that there were particular passages that stayed with me long after I read them. In fact, the title alone has had impact on my life, even long before I cracked the cover. But it won?’t be added to my list of Peterson favorites. Maybe it will become a favorite of yours?

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

Book Review: The Warrior Maiden

https://amzn.to/2OsnZH0

About the Book:

This fresh reimagining of the classic tale takes us to fifteenth-century Lithuania where both love and war challenge the strongest of hearts.

When Mulan takes her father’s place in battle against the besieging Teutonic Knights, she realizes she has been preparing for this journey her whole life,and that her life, and her mother’s, depends on her success. As the adopted daughter of poor parents, Mulan has little power in the world. If she can’t prove herself on the battlefield, she could face death, or, perhaps worse, marriage to the village butcher.

Disguised as a young man, Mulan meets the German duke’s son, Wolfgang, who is determined to save his people even if it means fighting against his own brother. Wolfgang is exasperated by the new soldier who seems to be one step away from disaster at all times or showing him up in embarrassing ways.

From rivals to reluctant friends, Mulan and Wolfgang begin to share secrets. But war is an uncertain time and dreams can die as quickly as they are born. When Mulan receives word of danger back home, she must make the ultimate choice. Can she be the son her bitter father never had? Or will she become the strong young woman she was created to be?

My Thoughts:

I find Melanie Dickerson a bit hit or miss for me. Some of her books I’ve loved. Some of her books are enjoyable, but forgettable. I think for me this falls into the second category. I found The Warrior Maiden to be an easy and agreeable read, but it’s not a book that will stick with me in the long run. I’m not sure that I found the characters or the story altogether believable, but it was a nice enough way to idle away a Sunday afternoon.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Book Review: Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram

About the Book:

The Enneagram opens a remarkable window into the truth about us, enabling us to see how image, wounds, lies, triggers, and default responses shape us every bit as much as our faith. But simply diagnosing our number doesn’t do justice to who we are. Nor does it necessarily change us or our relationships. Transformation happens as we grow in awareness and learn how to engage and reflect God’s image. And relational repair then results as we apply Enneagram insights to the rhythms and grooves of our ordinary daily lives. For those who have learned about the Enneagram and wonder “What’s next?” this handbook is the answer. Filled with exercises to engage, challenge, encourage, and sustain, Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram will help us grow in greater awareness and lead us to spiritual and relational transformation. Including new insight on the Enneagram and the Harmony Triads, and offering helpful “Soul Resources” in the appendix, this handbook can be used by individuals or groups.

My Thoughts:

I’m looking forward to reading this book. I was sent an unedited, review copy and in this instance I found the unedited version too difficult to read so I decided to set the book aside and wait to keep reading until I can purchase a copy, which is today (release day).

But this is something I’ll share from the brief section of the review document that I did read. I’m paraphrasing as the version I have is not the final text.

Who is this book for?

This is not an introductory text to the Enneagram. It is for individuals who want to grow, transform and bring health to their loving and life.

This book is recommended for spiritual directors, healthcare professionals, coaches and pastors seeking to help their clients integrate and grow in awareness, healing and love of God, others and self through practices, questions and exercises. This book is for those seeking to bring God’s presence and empathy to disharmonious people and systems.

Final Thoughts:

If you have never before engaged with the Enneagram then this book will not be for you. If you are exploring this topic for the first time I’d recommend you start with Ian Cron’s The Road Back To You and then follow up with Suzanne Stabile’s The Path Between Us.

Book Review: Shadow Among Sheaves

About the Book:

A Timeless, Beautiful Allegory of the Biblical Love Story of Ruth and Boaz

The Great Rebellion of 1857 was a remarkably bloody business. At a time when Britain’s imperial influence in India was sparking brutal clashes on both sides, no one could have expected Rena, an Indian woman, to marry a British officer nor do they understand her decision to follow her mother-in-law to England after her husband’s tragic death. 

Once the two widows are in Abbotsville, the stern yet compassionate Lord Barric attempts to help them despite his better judgment. Soon he is torn between the demands of reputation and his increasing desire to capture Rena’s heart for his own.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Shadow Among Sheaves. The re-setting of the story of Boaz and Ruth into England with an Indian widow was thought provoking. The characters were well developed and the writing was vivid. Over all I found the story engaging and would recommend it.

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

Book Review: Restoration Year

About the Book:

This 365-day devotional is comprised of short readings that guide you on a year-long journey of restoration. Each devotion features a Bible verse, a devotion, and a closing prayer or inspiring challenge that will equip you to pursue lasting transformation in your life and relationships.

Packaged to appeal to both men and women, the devotional will cover a variety of topics, including relating to God, understanding who God really is, sustaining friendships, deepening relationships with family members, understanding the future God has planned for us, and more.

Let this year be your restoration year.

New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge offers readers a journey into lasting transformation in their relationships, their interaction with God, and their joy in life.

My Thoughts:

I really like this devotional. I find it thought provoking. I especially like how one day might approach one aspect of an idea or issue and the next day might approach the same idea from another angle.

These are short readings. There is a verse in the heading, but it may be a loose connection to the idea rather than being foundational to what is being discussed. There is a question for prayerful reflection at the end of each section.

I’ll say again, I do like these readings, but I should also say they are in no way a substitute for Bible study. They are more supplemental readings to challenge you in the ways that you think, live and relate to the Lord. And it is for that purpose that I recommend this book.

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

Book Review: A Return to Devotion

About the Book:

Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed–loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.

William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.

They’ve spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, find a new path for the future together?

My Thoughts:

Return to Devotion is a compelling story of love, forgiveness and learning to live under a mantle of grace. Following a novella (A Search for Refuge) and the first book in the series (A Defense of Honor), Hunter continues to invite us in to the world of Haven Manor and her inhabitants.

The story of Daphne was compelling. Though Daphne’s character seemed so self-protected from the reality of the world, we are invited to join her on her journey from allowing her imagination to deceive her to the place of allowing her imagination to be visionary, grounded in love and truth. The prospect of finding grace and living in it, the reality that forgiveness is a new foundation for life and the truth that love pursues are all aspects of this sweet romance.

William is also key in this story as he wrestles with what it looks like to truly consider people apart from their station and what family honor truly means. I enjoyed the development of his character.

All in all A Return to Devotion was a sweet and uplifting continuation of this series.

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




Book Review: Flights of Fancy

About the Book:

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania. Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner. Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy reading Jen Turano’s novels. They make me laugh and strike the imagination. In Flights of Fancy Isadora is clearly a character out of place. Her background has not prepared her to be a housekeeper, but circumstances have left her no choice except to succeed. And truly, I loved how when confronted with all the areas of her life in which she measured herself and found herself wanting she refused to wilt into a corner, but instead leaned into learning how to be a better woman.

Ian is a character backed entirely into a corner by his family’s need, a collection of orphans and some crazy antics that come with life on the farm. (The cow…oh how I laughed at the cow!) Though Isadora seems woefully unequipped for the job she is available and determined.

As circumstances build, secrets abound, and the humor and chaos I’ve come to expect from Turano fills page after page. Sparks fly and Ian and Isadora learn valuable lessons about life and love.

I adored this book and would highly recommend it if you want a lighthearted and enjoyable story to brighten your day.

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