Book Review: Daughter of Arden – Exile

About the Book:

“I will give you three days in which to choose your fate.”

No matter which choice Maleen made, it appeared bondage was the life her father lay before her.

In this retelling of the Grimm’s tale, “Maid Maleen,” war advances on the nation of Arden. To keep Princess Maleen safe, the king gives her two options: marriage to a prince she doesn’t love or retreat in a tower protected by the work of a Stone Sage.

Hoping that her beloved Prince Melanor will come rescue her, Maleen chooses the tower. In Exile, Maleen must not only come to terms with her decision, but with her family, her country, her place in old prophecies, and, ultimately, the heart of the Mighty One.

Daughter of Arden – Exile is the first in a trilogy following Maleen’s story and the fate of Arden. Wandering and Promise will release in 2023.

My Thoughts:

This book grew on me with each page I turned. At the beginning I wasn’t sure how I felt about Maleen and her perspective on the world. There was also a prophecy that the author introduces to us that seems to hover over and intertwine with all the other elements of the story.

As the story moves forward Maleen makes her choice. Choices define outcomes and following Maleen’s “exile” her perspectives begin to shift, hope starts to rise and the Mighty One is further introduced taking on a more active role in the tale. As Maleen grew so did my investment in the story and I found the ending satisfying enough to hold in the waiting, while also rich enough to long for the next book in the series.

Exile is a book about a young woman growing into her own. Follow Maleen’s journey as she discovers what is of real value and where the heart of the kingdom is to be found.

I received a free digital copy of this book for review. I am giving you my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Book of Enoch for Beginners

About the Book:

Embark on a journey through the Book of Enoch

The Book of Enoch is a fascinating yet often misunderstood apocalyptic text. It contains unique material on fallen angels, the great flood of Genesis, the final judgment, and the prophecy of a future messiah. This guide provides you with the necessary historical framework to examine and understand it, delving into the key events and figures of its stories, from The Book of Watchers to The Epistle of Enoch.

  • An engaging introduction—Dive right in with an overview that clarifies Enoch’s non-canonical status, explains how the work was rediscovered, and breaks down its place within Judaism and Christianity.
  • All five books—This guide explores all five books of 1 Enoch, providing valuable insight into the development of early religious beliefs.
  • Thoughtful examination—Divided into easily digestible sections, you’ll gain a thorough understanding of Enoch through a combination of smart summaries, key verses, and enlightening commentary.

Demystify the Book of Enoch with this comprehensive and compelling guide.

My Thoughts:

When I was in Bible College I was given a fifteen-minute overview on the Book of Enoch which generally dismissed it as not being worth reading. Many years later I delved into The Book of the Watchers more deeply to try to understand the general knowledge and worldview of the Jews of Jesus day. I was particularly interested in how the Book of Enoch might have shaped the thinking of the apostles considering how it is referenced and quoted in the New Testament. There are all kinds of varying opinions on the work and when I saw this book available for review I thought it would be worth a read.

The author begins with the history of the book, when it was lost, how it was found and then gives an overview of how it was rejected as being part of the canon of Scripture by all but the Ethiopian church. The author also ventures to show why, even though the book isn’t itself Scripture, it is valuable for understanding the Jewish framework in viewing many theological ideas, some of which are included in the canon of Scripture. He also makes a point of illustrating how much the book is incorporated into modern ideas, entertainment and philosophy.

This text is exactly what it says, it’s a book for beginners. The book does not include the entire text of the book of Enoch, but instead pulls out key quotes. The author makes a simple and straightforward overview of the sections of the book. I was hoping for a little more depth and discussion of some of the things that are debated about the book, but again, this book is what it was advertised to be.

The book is written so that you don’t have to read it cover to cover, but can jump around through the sections. My full disclaimer is that I haven’t read all of the book. I read the sections I was most interested in. I also read through the full text of the book of Enoch alongside the chapters of this book so that I would have the full background to what the author was discussing.

If you’ve never heard of, or never engaged with the book of Enoch, but find yourself interested, then this might be a good place to start.

I received a digital copy of this book and in exchange I am giving my honest opinion in this review.

Book Review: Holding the Line

About the Book:

Can she find the strength to heal the wounds of her past–and open her heart again?

A widow at just thirty years of age, Rose Finlay is determined to put all ideas of marriage and family behind her and pursue an independent life. But when she notices a young woman about to be led astray by a roguish aristocrat, bitter memories from her past arise, and she feels compelled to intervene. The unintended consequences of her efforts will ultimately force Rose to reexamine her life in a new light.

As the guardian of his two widowed sisters’ financial and domestic affairs, John Milburn carries heavy responsibilities for a single man. But he’s faced with his biggest challenge when his headstrong niece falls prey to the attentions of a powerful man who could ruin both her and her family.

When Rose and John join forces to protect his niece, they put everything they hold dear–including their growing attraction–in jeopardy.

My Thoughts:

Holding the Line is the third book in the Love Along the Wires series. While it can absolutely stand alone, you will get to know all the characters better if you start at the beginning of the series.

Of the three books, this one was my favorite. Perhaps it was the opening lines that I could relate to so well.

“There wasn’t too much in life that seriously chafed Rose Finlay,

unless it was someone trying to overlay their brand of happiness onto hers.”

Rose’s story is one of overcoming. While the books in this series are all about love and romance, Rose’s story is just as much about living with loss without letting it steal your compassion or your joy. In book one, Alice’s story is about love and independence. In book two, Emma’s story is about love and romantic perceptions. And in this third novel, Rose walks through a journey of translating pain into becoming a blessing and finding that maybe there is still joy to be found on the other side of injustice and betrayal.

This series is easy reading, with a dash of challenge and a lot of happily ever after.

I received a free digital copy of this novel and in exchange am offering my honest opinion.

Book Review: Hidden Manna on a Country Road

About the Book:

Connect with God in new and unexpected ways, seeing hidden manna all around you as you learn to pray while walking outdoors.

Prayer can be an intimidating mystery, even when we have practiced our faith for years. Yet God has hidden prayer prompts for us in nature, right outside our doors. These simple treasures can inspire deep connections with God as you uncover the spiritual truths hidden inside them. 

Sarah Geringer discovered many prayer prompts in nature during the worldwide pandemic. On walks with her beloved dog Memphis, she spotted reasons to pray scattered all around her, like the manna God provided for Israel’s sustenance in the wilderness. His loving provision of connections via nature lifted her faith during that challenging time. The metaphors she discovered will inspire your own prayers, whether you live in the country or city. The beautiful truths you encounter will sustain your faith through all four seasons of the year.

My Thoughts:

When I got this book I thought that it was a book about prayer walking. It’s not. It’s a book of devotionals that grew out the author’s prayer walks. If you are completely new to the idea of prayer walking then you might find some of the Sarah’s suggestions helpful. There are some references to what prayer walking looks like for the author and some suggestions/examples of the types of prayer walks that she takes, but the devotional content is the heart of the book.

The devotional entries vary vastly in content as the themes were prompts that arose through the author’s walks on a country road. The devotionals were laid out with reflection questions and overall I found the content engaging.

While I read a lot of books on prayer, I rarely read these type of devotional books so I’m not an expert on what’s on the market or how it compares to other offerings. I appreciated the author’s curiosity and the way that she shared the things that the Lord has been teaching her. I do think there are treasures of manna hidden away in this book.

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

And by the way…if you found yourself on this post looking for a book on prayer walking you might try Long Wandering Prayer by David Hanson.

Book Review: The Lost Melody

About the Book:

When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant’s father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman’s portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.

The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know. But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?

Fan-favorite Joanna Davidson Politano casts a delightful spell with this lyrical look into the nature of women’s independence and artistic expression during the Victorian era–and now.

My Thoughts:

Politano is a gifted writer and I always appreciate her novels. I will say that there was a point in this story when I wondered why in the world I was reading this book. Honestly, the author made the story of Huntswell come alive in a way that I could practically feel Vivienne’s panic and helplessness. But taking a deep breath to separate myself from the character, I kept reading and found within this story a beautiful melody of hope and healing.

Vivienne found that God’s ways and plans were so much richer and fuller and more fulfilling than she could have ever imagined. Rich with melody, and harmony, this novel speaks to how each of us can bring light into the darkness right where we are through the mercy and grace of God. It was a beautiful and emotional story worth reading.

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

Book Review: Bookshop of Secrets

About the Book:

A collection of lost books holds the clues to her family’s legacyand her future.

Hope Sparrow has mastered the art of outrunning her tragic past, learning never to stay anywhere too long and never to allow anyone control over her life again. Coming to Wanishin Falls in search of her family’s history already feels too risky. But somewhere in the towering stacks of this dusty old bookshop are the books that hold Hope’s last ties to her late mother—and to a rumored family treasure that could help her start over.

Only, the bookshop is in shambles, and the elderly owner is in the beginning stages of dementia and can’t remember where the books lie. To find the last links to the loved ones she’s lost, Hope must stay and accept help from the townsfolk to locate the treasured volumes. Each secret she uncovers brings her closer to understanding where she came from. But the longer she stays in the quaint town, the more people find their way into the cracks in her heart. And letting them in may be the greatest risk of all…

My Thoughts:

The book was well written, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The “tragic past” mentioned isn’t just something that has been outrun, but it plays a front and center role to Hope’s story. Then you add in Ronan and his own tragic past and it becomes clear that the secrets aren’t the fun to discover kind, but the hard to survive kind.

Weaving through themes of trafficking, family feuds, dementia, old grudges and the fight to rebuild a life the story slowly builds at first and then picks up the pace and intensity.

For all the hard themes, the book is clean and not overly descriptive of sensitive content, which I appreciated. The literary ties the author includes throughout are very well done and engaging to any bibliophile. As I’m a big fan of choosing the right book for the right time I’d describe this as an intense and layered kind of read rather than a light, Sunday afternoon type of novel.

I received a free digital galley of this book for review.

Book Review: A Seaside Wonder

About the Book:

In one evening, Indi’s world falls apart. Enter the shy professor her family mistakes for her fiancé . . . make that ex-fiancé.

Professor Philip West never wanted to return to Maine . . . or his grandfather’s miserable old house. But after his mother’s death, he’s now the guardian of a teenage half sister who doesn’t want anything to do with him. He longs to help her heal, but he’s exhausted and numb, desperate for relief of his own. Maybe that’s why he’s so easily distracted when he happens upon the little shop with an intriguing owner—one who happens to share a name with someone from his grandfather’s mysterious past.

More than a decade has passed since Indi Muir made the heartbreaking decision she’s never recovered from—though she’s certainly tried. She has a full life running her shop and creating the artsy pieces that fill its shelves. If she can just stay busy, she’ll keep her hurt and regret at bay. But when her ex-fiancé returns to Muir Harbor, he brings news that shatters her carefully built walls. Things only get worse when lurking danger comes calling at her childhood home.

The one bright spot amid Indi’s turmoil is the shy stranger who wandered into her shop months ago and his moody but lovable sister. As she confronts her past and the mysterious threat facing her family, she’s intent on helping Philip win over his sister. He just might win over Indi, too, if they can overcome old secrets and wounds, outrun rising peril . . . and take a chance on love.

My Thoughts:

You’ll want to start by reading the first book in the series: Autumn by the Sea. (Which is an excellent book). You could probably follow the story-line starting with the second book, but why miss out?

Melissa Tagg is an engaging writer. She made the story and the characters come alive. Even though the book entered into the pain of the past it never felt overly heavy as Tagg wove threads of hope throughout.

I like mysteries that aren’t related to murder and that was one of the draws of this series for me personally. Who doesn’t like a good treasure hunt, or a mystery of a long lost love, or the search for a missing granddaughter? And even though there were some shifts in this book that took the mystery into slightly darker territory I did still enjoy the twists and turns that it added to the plot.

The book leaves you with more than enough resolution to be satisfied, but leaves the mystery waiting to be solved in some further novel.

Overall, this is a good read about a beautiful and messy cobbled together family with a bit of faith and a hint of mystery set in the delightful context of a small town in Maine. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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

Book Review: The Bachelor and the Bride

About the Book:

Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society.

Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by marrying her in secret to protect her from her family, notorious grave robbers who were intent on keeping her working in the trade.

But their unconventional relationship is nearly over before it begins when, six months after they exchange vows, Gemma realizes her love for Barnabus is unrequited. To protect her heart, she leaves, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grow beyond a sense of duty.

When Gemma finally receives a letter from Barnabus, inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But she quickly learns that he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.

Heartbroken once more, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he’ll never see her again.

Yet as the couple follow the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London’s underground criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus both realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma’s life, might prove the means of saving Barnabus—and his lonely heart—as well.

But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they’ll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.

My Thoughts

I love the premise of the Dread Penny Society, which we are introduced to in the novel: The Lady and the Highwayman.

This is a series of stories within stories. Following a group of authors who write “Penny Dreadfuls” and have formed a secret society to help the poor and oppressed, Sarah Eden tells tales of romance and social justice, while including the actual penny dreadful stories as diverting, and enlightening, story inclusions.

And this series keeps getting better and better. I love how we get to bounce between the story that is unfolding and the Penny Dreadfuls that the novelists within the book are writing, as well as how cleverly the two parallel stories tie to together.

Gemma and Barnabus as engaging characters and you will find yourself rooting for them as their story twists and turns and makes you wonder how it will all turn out.

I recommend this book, but I’ll also say you will probably enjoy it more if you start at the beginning of the series.

I received a free digital galley of this story and am offering my honest opinion in return.

Book Review: The Bride of Blackfriars Lane

About the Book:

The Continuing Adventure of Jackson and Kit!
 
Detective Jackson Forge can hardly wait to marry the street-sly swindler who’s turned his life upside down. Kit Turner is equally excited to wed the handsome detective, and what better way to show her love than providing him with a gift any man of the law would love? She determines to bring to justice the men who years ago maimed his brother—despite Jackson’s warning to leave the past in the past. As she digs into the mystery of what happened, she unwittingly tumbles into her own history and endangers her future happiness with Jackson.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy Michelle Griep’s novels. They are multi-layered with rich characters and imaginative plots. The Bride of Blackfriar’s Lane is the second in a series. You’ll want to read The Thief of Blackfriar’s Lane first. (See my review at https://landofmysojourn.net/blog/?p=18761)

This is the continued story of Jackson and Kit. I appreciated how Griep moved us deeper into their relationship, exposing all those little beliefs that trip us up as we seek deeper intimacy and connection. And she did it in the midst of another riveting, kept me up way too late at night, page turning tale of intrigue and adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it to you.

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

Book Review: Resilient: Restoring Your Weary Soul in these Turbulent Times

About the Book:

The human soul has a built-in yearning for joy and beauty and all good things. But that craving for life has taken a real beating in the last few years. Join New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge as he gives you the tools you need to follow Jesus’ path of supernatural resilience so you can reclaim your joy, strengthen your heart, and thrive through the storm.

Between false promises of ease and comfort on one side and the sheer trauma of global disease and disasters on the other, people today are facing a shortage of peace, happiness, and strength. In Resilient, Eldredge reveals a path toward genuine recovery and resilience through Jesus himself.

Drawing on wisdom from Scripture and Christian tradition, and illustrated throughout with powerful, true stories of grit and survival, Resilient will help you:

  • Recover from the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Tap into the river of life that God promises his people
  • Learn to be patient with yourself–genuine recovery from spiritual and emotional trauma takes time and intentionality
  • Create a plan to foster resilience in your day-to-day life
  • Discover deep wells of freedom and strength through Christ who lives within us

Thriving requires a resilient soul. This book will help you find the resilience you long for when the world has gone mad–and discover in Jesus himself the strength that prevails.

My Thoughts:

Resilient builds on the thoughts introduced in Get Your Life Back. (See my review here: https://landofmysojourn.net/blog/?p=18644). You don’t have to read them both, but I certainly found it helpful.

I got the digital version of Resilient from the publisher, bought the hard copy and downloaded the audio book. I first listened to a chapter and then I read it. I take in some things better visually and some things better through listening. I’ve been digging into the idea of resilience this year and I didn’t want to just read this book, I wanted to deeply study and apply anything helpful. And this was a very helpful book.

Those of you who regularly read my reviews will know that I deeply appreciate Eldredge’s voice and that he has been influential in my own spiritual growth. So it may surprise you to know that I had to fight my way through the first part of this book. Not because of the content, but because of the language that framed it. Maybe more than ever I am feeling the dissonance of living in a culture outside of the American mindset. I could see the reality of the things he referred to, but I had to first say, “Oh, people think the end times will actually look like a zombie apocalypse?” before I could dig into the truth of what he was discussing. And that underlying truth was really beneficial! So I’d just say if the terms he uses to frame things seem odd, if the way that he presents something doesn’t immediately spark a connection, just keep reading and look for the heart of what he is saying. I’d also recommend praying over your reading. One thing the enemy of your soul doesn’t want is you engaging with something that can help move you toward renewal and restoration.

One thing in particular that I greatly appreciated in the content was John’s insistence at getting to the heart of the matter. He gave several of his own beliefs about end times and prophecies and yet he kept coming back to the fact that how exactly it plays out doesn’t really matter, but understanding that Scripture tells us that there are things that ARE playing out is the key.

The thoughts on desolation and renewal have been invaluable to me. The teaching on worry, anxiety and reclaiming both our minds and emotions is significant. I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and putting it into practice wouldn’t be transformed in some way.

There is a free 30 day module (two sessions: one morning and one evening) in the Pause App that you can work through as you read through this book. If you haven’t tried the free Pause App yet I recommend it to everyone! I started using it in 2020 and it’s a wonderful resource.

As I said, I’m digging into resilience. I’m reading all kinds of things on the subject. I’m listening to podcasts. I’m diving into the dynamics of belief, truth and spiritual warfare. And one thing that I’ll offer here in miniature (read the book for more) is that across the board, every resource I’m investigating leads me back to renewing our love for Jesus: remembering who He is, what He has done and letting the goodness of His character lead us back to a heart of surrendered worship. If you want to start today to renew your resilience then start with renewing your love for and intimacy with Jesus.

Bottom line: I bought the book and I received a free digital copy. And I highly recommend it.

As always, I am not required to give a positive review, but an honest one.