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

Books

Book Review: Everything She Didn’t Say

About the Book:

In 1911, Carrie Strahorn wrote a memoir entitled Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, which shared some of the most exciting events of 25 years of traveling and shaping the American West with her husband, Robert Strahorn, a railroad promoter, investor, and writer. That is all fact. Everything She Didn’t Say imagines Carrie nearly ten years later as she decides to write down what was really on her mind during those adventurous nomadic years.

Certain that her husband will not read it, and in fact that it will only be found after her death, Carrie is finally willing to explore the lessons she learned along the way, including the danger a woman faces of losing herself within a relationship with a strong-willed man and the courage it takes to accept her own God-given worth apart from him. Carrie discovers that wealth doesn’t insulate a soul from pain and disappointment, family is essential, pioneering is a challenge, and western landscapes are both demanding and nourishing. Most of all, she discovers that home can be found, even in a rootless life.

With a deft hand, New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick draws out the emotions of living–the laughter and pain, the love and loss–to give readers a window not only into the past, but into their own conflicted hearts. Based on a true story.

My Thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book.  On one hand, it was a creative and honest “behind the scenes” imagining of the life behind the facts.  The book was well written and contained some helpful relational wisdom.  I found the overview of Carrie Strahorn’s life fascinating.  And yet, the book was easy to walk away from and in many ways it was a sad story of a woman who spent most of her life out of touch with her own desires and emotions.  The main character’s desire to live in the “happy lane” drove me a bit crazy as that kind of denial and diversion from real sorrow and grief isn’t a healthy way to live, though many employ those type of strategies.  Further, I found it nearly impossible to relate to the era, how men and women/husbands and wives related at that time, which again made it difficult to connect to the characters. Also, I found the book easy to put down as it was broken into unrelated sections and read like a journal rather than a narrative following a distinct plot arc (though the author clearly had things to communicate as she told the story of Carrie’s life). All in all, I would recommend this book for those who like biographies, journals and historical documentaries.  I wouldn’t recommend necessarily recommend this book if you are looking for an engaging fictional narrative story line as it moves slowly and has a slightly disjointed (journal-like) feel.

 

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


Book Review: Invitation to Retreat

About the Book:

“Come away and rest awhile.” Jesus invites us to be with him, offering our full and undivided attention to him. When we choose retreat, we make a generous investment in our friendship with Christ. We are not always generous with ourselves where God is concerned. Many of us have tried to incorporate regular times of solitude and silence into the rhythm of our ordinary lives, which may mean that we give God twenty minutes here and half an hour there. And there’s no question we are better for it! But we need more. Indeed, we long for more. In these pages Transforming Center founder and seasoned spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton gently leads us into retreat as a key practice that opens us to God. Based on her own practice and her experience leading hundreds of retreats for others, she will guide you in a very personal exploration of seven specific invitations contained within the general invitation to retreat. You will discover how to say yes to God’s winsome invitation to greater freedom and surrender. There has never been a time when the invitation to retreat is so radical and so relevant, so needed and so welcome. It is not a luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual life.

My Thoughts:

As someone who regularly leads others into spiritual retreats I have been eagerly awaiting my copy of Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Retreat and it did not in any way disappoint. Barton gives not only a solid background for why we should practice spiritual retreat, but she gives one of the most practical and detailed explorations of the different invitations that can be part of a retreat.  Alongside these invitations she offers “priming” questions for those who may be considering retreat and “practicing” questions for you to take on your retreat.  In fact,  I think one of the strengths of this book is that it is easily engaged with for both those considering retreat and for those practicing retreat.

Even having read many books on retreat I found this book to be impactful in my own spiritual walk and I believe it will be a valuable resource for anyone as they seek to grow in their life with God.  I’ve already ordered a hard copy for my library and I would recommend it to you.

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


Book Review: Caught By Surprise

About the Book:

After years of hiding her true nature, Miss Temperance Flowerdew is finally enjoying freedom outside of the shadow of her relations, so the last thing she expected on her way to work was to be grabbed off the street by a stranger and put on a train bound for Chicago.

When Mr. Gilbert Cavendish is called upon to rescue a missing woman, he follows the trail to Chicago only to discover that the woman is his good friend, Temperance. Before they can discover who was behind her abduction, they’re spotted alone together by a New York society matron, putting their reputations at risk.

Even though Gilbert is willing to propose marriage, Temperance is determined not to lose her newfound independence. But when the misunderstanding in Chicago escalates into a threat on her life, accepting Gilbert’s help in solving the mystery may lead to more than she ever could have dreamed.

Praise for the Apart From the Crowd series
“a true treat”–RT Book Reviews
“laugh-out-loud funny”–Library Journal
“fast-paced, festive, funny romance”–Booklist
“absolutely sparkles”–Publishers Weekly

My Thoughts:

Jen Turano’s books make me laugh out loud and for me personally that is a very rare and desirable quality in a book.  While set in a historical era, Turano’s characters carry a modern day flair for freedom, independence and disregard for strict protocol, which is part of what makes her stories so comical.

In this book there are multiple plot lines of mystery and mayhem as Gilbert and Temperance discover what is really important in life.

While this book is part of a series and reading the previous books will give you a much broader view of the characters, Caught By Surprise could be read as a stand alone novel.

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


Book Review: Fawkes

About the Book:

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Fawkes is a tale full of spiritual depth, tragedy, and hope. A beautifully written allegory for the magic of faith, with an achingly relatable hero who pulls you into his world heart and soul. A must-read for all fantasy fans!” —Lorie Langdon, author of Olivia Twist

“A brilliant book that fulfills every expectation. Brandes turns seventeenth century London into a magical place. I was captivated by the allegory of her magic system and how she blended that fantasy with history. I highly recommend this gripping and beautifully crafted book to all. It will leave you both entertained and pondering matters raised in the storyline long after you’ve finished reading.” —Jill Williamson, Christy Award-winning author of By Darkness Hid and Captives

“A magical retelling of the seventeenth century’s famous Gunpowder Plot that will sweep you back in time—to a divided England where plagues can turn you to stone and magic has a voice. Deft and clever, Fawkes is a vibrant story about the search for truth and issues relevant to us, still, today.” —Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author

My Thoughts:

Nadine Bandes is absolutely brilliant in her fantasy retelling of the Gunpower Plot.  She is able to take a time where all of Christendom was divided, where Catholics were killing Protestants, Protestants were killing Catholics, where slavery was a way of life, and get behind all of our associations, presuppositions and prejudices through this intriguing narrative.  In this fantasy world of color magic and a stone plague we get to follow a riveting story while asking deep questions of what it looks like to follow God well and what it looks like when we get it wrong.  I loved this novel and have continued to think about it long after I turned the last page.

I review for BookLook Bloggers


Book Review: Penguins and Golden Calves

About the Book:

Despite protests and warnings from friends and family, author Madeleine L’Engle, at the age of seventy-four, embarked on a rafting trip to Antarctica. Her journey through the startling beauty of the continent led her to write Penguins and Golden Calves, a captivating discussion of how opening oneself up to icons, or everyday “windows to God,” leads to the development of a rich and deeply spiritual faith.

Here, L’Engle explains how ordinary things such as family, words, the Bible, heaven, and even penguins can become such windows. She also shows how such a window becomes an idol–a penguin becomes a “golden calf”–when we see it as a reflection of itself instead of God.

My Thoughts:

I read this book in the 90s, but I didn’t remember much of it so when I was offered a review copy I thought it might be good to read it again.

I knew when I picked up this book that Madeleine L’Engle and I hold some vastly different theological views.  I also knew that L’Engle was a woman who loved Jesus, thought deeply about life and has things to teach me through her writing.

This book in particular, helped me wade through the vast differences in our opinions, because it was laid out in a rambling, conversational manner.  Instead of thinking of Penguins and Golden Calves as an author’s attempt to teach me something in particular I opened each chapter as if we were having a chat over a cup of coffee.  This is exactly what the book felt like to me.  L’Engle would say something I’d nod my head to, then she would say something startling and then she would continue on explaining her thoughts and pondering their context and implications for life.  It’s exactly what happens in good conversation.  Along the way someone says something that causes you to raise your eyebrows and then you ask, “tell me about that,” and sit back and listen to their heart.

I think this book was a good exercise for me in conversation, even though that was not its intent.  In today’s world many “conversations” happen over social media or in some type of print rather than sitting face to face across a cup of coffee.  I think it is infinitely harder to have a conversation over print, because I expect something written to be precise, thought out and an overall representation of a person’s thoughts.  I don’t expect something in print to be an exploration the same way that I expect a conversation to be a journey of discovery.  Learning to listen to Madelaine in her writing, whether I agreed or not, to hear her heart for the Lord and her heart for people became a fruitful exercise for me.  I would say that if you can’t do that, if you can’t wade through some of her non-evangelical viewpoints with grace while gleaning some very real wisdom from her writing then you should probably skip this book.

If you do, however, sit down to read Penguins and Golden Calves you will find some deeply challenging insights on the windows/metaphors/icons we use that help us grow in relationship to God as well as some very apt warnings of how the very things that we think are icons can become idols.   I also found her observations of how culture had changed over her lifetime and now looking back twenty two years to when she wrote this book another fruitful exercise.

Some of the most meaningful wisdom that I gleaned came in a random sentence or paragraph that was quickly past, but not expounded upon.  The book does ramble throughout many subject and opinions, yet it always comes back to a daily, living and active relationship with God.

 

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

 

 


Book Review: The Hope of Azure Springs

About the Book:

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance readers to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where the people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.

My Thoughts:

The Hope of Azure Springs is a endearing story of life, loss, love, the value of character and most of all the power of hope.

Em is a survivor and she has been living for one thing, to find her sister.  Caleb survived where his brother’s didn’t and he feels he must prove himself worthy.  Every person featured in this story has a past.  A love.  A loss. A wish.  A hope.

Drawing on the beauty of sacrificial love, the knowledge of the value of character and the understanding of how the ways that we relate have profound impact on others this heart-wrenching and heart-warming tale kept me turning the pages.  It is a book worth reading.

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

 


Book Review: The Story Peddler

About the Book:


Book Review: Send Down The Rain

About the Book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Mountain Between Us comes a new, spellbinding story of buried secrets, lost love, and the promise of second chances.

Allie is still recovering from the loss of her family’s beloved waterfront restaurant on Florida’s Gulf Coast when she loses her second husband to a terrifying highway accident. Devastated and losing hope, she shudders to contemplate the future—until a cherished person from her past returns.

Joseph has been adrift for many years, wounded in both body and spirit and unable to come to terms with the trauma of his Vietnam War experiences. Just as he resolves to abandon his search for peace and live alone at a remote cabin in the Carolina mountains, he discovers a mother and her two small children lost in the forest. A man of character and strength, he instinctively steps in to help them get back to their home in Florida. There he will return to his own hometown—and witness the accident that launches a bittersweet reunion with his childhood sweetheart, Allie.

When Joseph offers to help Allie rebuild her restaurant, it seems the flame may reignite—until a 45-year-old secret from the past begins to emerge, threatening to destroy all hope for their second chance at love.

In Send Down the Rain, Charles Martin proves himself to be a storyteller of great wisdom and compassion who bears witness to the dreams we cherish, the struggles we face, and the courage we must summon when life seems to threaten what we hold most dear.

My Thoughts:

I honestly don’t know what to say about this book.  Is Charles Martin a brilliant writer who crafts beautiful sentences and creates vivid scenes?  Yes.  Did this book keep me turning page after page? Yes.  Did Martin craft a story that was in many ways an unpredictable mystery?  Yes.  Did I like the book?  I’m not sure that I did.

Spoiler Alert….

Any author who introduces you to a character and kills him off again all in the first chapters of writing is a bold author.  In the early stages of the book the artistry of mixing together so many fragmented stories show Martin’s genius for crafting a tale.  It was the content of the tale that left me unsatisfied.

The only other novel I have read by Martin is “Long Way Gone,” which I loved.  In it I saw the beauty of the gospel clearly in the heart of the father.  This book held a significant message in regard to the power of choosing love or hate and the beauty of second chances and yet it was still a messy muddle of contradictions.  In all truth, the way that grace, justice, good and evil play out in each one of our lives is a messy muddle at times.  The thing is, the gospel isn’t a muddle and in this story it wasn’t clear.  In fact, I put the book down with a sense that I was supposed to give grace to Joseph (and others), because of what life had made (required) of them rather than because they (and all of us) are in need of the blood and mercy of Christ.  I felt like I was supposed to root for Joseph because he had a good heart, when in fact he was as full of evil as all of mankind (and not simply because of what he had endured in life).  And while we see a glimpse of the idea of substitutionary atonement in the life of two brothers, in the end, the redemption of Joseph’s life didn’t feel anything like real redemption.  “You are not condemned” is robbed of its power when the verdict is given due to your character, actions or efforts outweighing your evil, rather than being given by the pure mercy of another. I did appreciate the way that Joseph  was able to find freedom from self-condemnation, but it just wasn’t enough to make it a satisfying story.

If this hadn’t been sent to me by a Christian publisher and marketed as a Christian novel I would have just said, it’s a moving story that has hints of redemption in it.  But as I have higher expectations for a book that is promoted as having an author who is writing from the framework of the gospel I found myself disappointed.

I was sent a free galley of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: Becoming Dallas Willard

About the Book:

Dallas Willard was a personal mentor and inspiration to hundreds of pastors, philosophers, and average churchgoers. His presence and ideas rippled through the lives of many prominent leaders and authors, such as John Ortberg, Richard Foster, James Bryan Smith, Paula Huston, and J. P. Moreland. As a result of these relationships and the books he wrote, he fundamentally altered the way tens of thousands of Christians have understood and experienced the spiritual life.

Whether great or small, everyone who met Dallas was impressed by his personal attention, his calm confidence, his wisdom, and his profound sense of the spiritual. But he was not always the man who lived on a different plane of reality than so many of the rest of us. He was someone who had to learn to be a husband, a parent, a teacher, a Christ follower.

The journey was not an easy one. He absorbed some of the harshest and most unfair blows life can land. His mother died when he was two, and after his father remarried he was exiled from his stepmother’s home. Growing up in Depression-era, rural Missouri and educated in a one-room schoolhouse, he knew poverty, deprivation, anxiety, self-doubt, and depression. Though the pews he sat in during his early years were not offering much by way of love and mercy, Dallas, instead of turning away, kept looking for the company of a living, present, and personal God.

In Gary W. Moon’s candid and inspiring biography, we read how Willard became the person who mentored and partnered with his young pastor, Richard Foster, to inspire some of the most influential books on spirituality of the last generation. We see how his love of learning took him on to Baylor, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Southern California, where he became a beloved professor and one of the most versatile members of the philosophy department.

The life of Dallas Willard deserves attention because he became a person who himself experienced authentic transformation of life and character. Dallas Willard not only taught about spiritual disciplines, he became a different person because of them. He became a grounded person, a spiritually alive person as he put them into practice, finding God, as he often said, “at the end of his rope.” Here is a life that gives us all hope.

My Thoughts:

In all honesty I had trouble getting into this book at first.  I think that is mostly my fault.  It seems that I can’t remember that there is a significant difference between a biography and a memoir.  I like biographies, but I love memoirs and almost every time I start a biography I find myself vaguely disappointed until I reconcile myself to the genre.

However, once the author moved past the basic facts about Willard’s family and childhood and started to really speak about the Dallas’ development of thought and character I sincerely enjoyed the book.  And while I appreciated knowing the childhood facts and understanding how they played a part in the formation of the man, it was the spiritual formation, the heart of “becoming” that really made this book one I’m glad that I read.

In one sense I’m of just an age that the concepts that seemed so radical to Dallas Willard (and Richard Foster as mentioned in the book) are concepts that I took for granted in my own spiritual formation.  So in reading this biography it was enlightening to see how these ideas came to be introduced to the modern evangelical world through Willard’s teaching and writing.  Growing up as I did, comfortable in a number of different denominations, also made me deeply appreciative of how Willard sought to learn from the different expressions of faith.

While some of the context in the book, specifically the philosophical context, felt a bit over my head and not particularly engaging I did develop a deeper appreciation for the intellectual depth of thought that informed Willard’s writing.  This also led to a deeper appreciation of his work as his books, while deep and thoughtful, have never seemed “over my head” in intellect.

All in all, I would recommend “Becoming Dallas Willard.”  I would especially recommend it for those who aren’t as familiar with Willard’s books and teaching as it gives a very helpful overview of the contribution that Dallas made to the realm of understanding spiritual formation as well as giving a wise and thoughtful look at how modern culture perceives reality and how the reality of the Kingdom can be so easily overlooked or misunderstood.

Most of all I loved seeing how Dallas grew in his real and present interaction with the King and his Kingdom and hope that many others will find the sweetness of that reality as they reflect on how we become the men and women in Christ that we are meant to become.

 

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


Book Review: A Defense of Honor

About the Book:

When Katherine “Kit” FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she’s forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend’s missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she’s telling.

After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can’t matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn’t worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.

My Thoughts:

I’m a fan of Kristi Ann Hunter’s writing so when I saw there was a new series coming out I grabbed up the free prequel: A Search for Refuge.  And, I was a tiny bit under-impressed.  It was good, but it wasn’t the stand-out read that I was expecting. (Novellas have such a hard job, trying to tell a whole well rounded story in few words).

So I wasn’t sure what I’d discover as I opened the pages of A Defense of Honor.  Yet, I found myself happily and deeply engaged in the story and with every single page the novel grew on me.  Graham was a brilliant character full of kindness and curiosity.  It was fun to witness him discover himself as he sought his sister and encountered the mystery of Haven Manor.

This turned out to be a very satisfying read! I hope there will be more books to come in this series.

(And I would recommend that you read A Search for Refuge first because it truly does set the stage for this novel.  Besides, maybe you’ll love it.)

I received a free digital pre-release copy of In Defense of Honor in exchange for my honest opinion in this review, but the full release version is already on pre-order.


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.


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