Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Summer at Bluebell Bank: a Review

Available 2 August 2017! Summer at Bluebell BankSummer at Bluebell Bank by Jen Mouat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great debut from author Jen Mouat. My friend recommended it to me as something to read that is the same flavor and feel as Maeve Binchy, and I would agree.

Friendship, family, memories and loves lost and found again. These are just a few of the things Mouat brings into light throughout the novel, in the charming setting of small-town Scotland, with a summer home and a bookstore supplying plenty of fun as a setting.

This book has a lot going on, and by the end a whole large cast of characters that might feel a tad overwhelming. Nevertheless, I liked it very much and would recommend it to fans of Binchy and similar British women's fiction writers.

From the publisher:

Returning home is never smooth sailing…

Summoned by her childhood best friend, Kate Vincent doesn’t stop to think. Instead she books at one-way ticket from New York back to Wigtown, Scotland, leaving her glittering new life behind. Scenes of idyllic holidays at Bluebell Bank with the Cotton family dance in her mind, but not everything has stayed the way it once was… Especially when her first love, Luke, returns to town.

Emily Cotton never expected one email, sent off in a wine-fuelled daze, to bring her old friend barrelling through the front door of her dismally failing bookshop. But life for the Cottons isn’t what it once was; Emily’s brothers are hardly speaking, her beloved grandmother isn’t quite the same and Emily…well, Emily is the one most in need of Kate’s help.

Kate has given herself until the end of the summer to stay in Wigtown. Can she bring the Cottons back together, and save the family who once saved her?

**Thank you to NetGalley for an ebook review copy.**

View all my reviews

Monday, July 03, 2017

Jane of Austin - Review

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and SensibilityJane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this revisit of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility." It's a retelling without being a page-by-page modernization of Austen's classic tale of sisters who must make their way in reduced circumstances, with wit and verve and the limitations of Edwardian England.

Having the tale told from Jane and Collum's points of view is really great (they are the Marianne and Colonel Brandon characters). It adds depth to the story and makes Jane (Marianne) a deeper and more likeable character overall.

In fact, I enjoyed everything about this book--except the subtitle. I think Jane would recoil at the fact that "sweet tea" gets a mention, because she is all about the purity of the tea leaf and in fact even states that sweet tea isn't real tea at all. (It brings to mind a quotation from NCIS's Ducky, when Dr. Mallard says tea bags aren't real tea, but "tea dust in a paper pouch.")

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys modern-day Austen retellings, tea of any kind, romance, and/or Texas.

View all my reviews Thanks to NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

If I Run: a Review

If I Run (If I Run #1)If I Run by Terri Blackstock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very suspenseful and kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could. If you like good suspense stories, look no further. However, if unresolved endings or "cliffhangers" are as frustrating for you as they are for me, then you will likely end the book with a sense of incompleteness. When I agreed to read this book for review, I didn't know it was the first in a series. Now I am anxious for the next books in the series!

Good Christian suspense that steers away from preachiness and feels realistic, relevant, and current.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

WE Can Do This!

You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God OffersYou Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers by Tricia Lott Williford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had my doubts...but isn't that the way it goes? The woman with so many doubts, trampled by circumstances and just life, has doubts that she can do anything.

When I signed on to do this book launch, I didn't think I would be chosen. I had never heard of the author or her story, even though I'm familiar with so many Christian women bloggers. And yet, I was chosen. I savored this book, taking it slow, trying to glean every last word of wisdom from its pages. I am working on internalizing the truth that I have more confidence, faith, and love than I ever give myself credit for. I am healing this summer from a school year that was so difficult and draining that I doubted whether God had called the right woman to room 733!

You--and I--WE can do this. We can trust God and His Word to remind us of the confidence and strength He's already imparted to us.

Thank you to Tricia and Peter for the opportunity to read, review, and help recommend this book to everyone.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 30, 2016

Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell

I am working on catching up on book reviews. The irony is, the review for this book was written on paper in the front cover, and I found it when I went to loan this book. Oops.

So, with apologies to Siri Mitchell for not posting this on my blog many months ago, here is my review of the wonderful Flirtation Walk.

https://www.amazon.com/Flirtation-Walk-Siri-Mitchell/dp/0764210386/

Publisher's description:


Trying to escape the shambles her con-man father has made of their reputation, Lucinda Curtis arrives in West Point, New York, determined to land a husband from the military academy. Campbell Conklin is first in his class and preparing to embark upon a storied career in the U.S. Army. Lucinda thinks Campbell will make the perfect husband . . . as long as he does not find out about her father.

Seth Westcott also has taken a liking to Lucinda. He's kind, smart . . . and working extremely hard to graduate last. Tradition states that the worst cadets are assigned to the cavalry out west. And west is where Seth must head to track the swindler who stole all of Seth's mother's money. Seth is smart enough to vie for the top spot, but life isn't fair and this is his chance to catch the man who ruined his family. It's too bad Campbell is all shine and no substance, but Lucinda will surely see through all of that, won't she?

Pattie's Review:

Secrets. Identity. The characters are all dealing with identity issues long before modern psychology was in the picture. Lucinda is wondering if she can change. Can she leave the past behind and forge a new identity? Can Seth lose his first place standing and get to the bottom to win the assignment in the wild west? And can their mutual attraction survive their attempts to change their very identities, or is it merely pretense?

I found myself intrigued long after I finished the novel by the idea that change can indeed be wrought, but often at a great price. True change must begin in the heart, and by God. Yet there is something to be said about masks and personality shifts. The core of our personalities: can they change? Should we try? These are not easy questions.

The novel is intriguing and the characters are multilayered and complex, as are all of Siri Mitchell's characters. No stock characters here. No predictable plot, either. She remains one of my favorite authors in the Christian market, mainly because her books make me think. And what more do we want from good literature?


#flirtationwalk #sirimitchell #bookreviews #BethanyHouse

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A Simply Tuesday Giveaway

A year ago we were unpacking boxes and making our Georgia house a home. A year ago I stared at the mountain of boxes in the garage, thinking I'd never make my way through them all (still haven't, to be honest; but it's down to only a handful of my own stuff rather than the family's, and they're stored in the garage's perimeter). A year ago I didn't have a job. A year ago I had just finished reading Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman, and I was mulling over how in the world I could be happy with the small and mundane of life.



I hope you haven't forgotten about this book. I haven't.

A year after reading it for the first time, marking the advance copy (pictured on the left) with my notes and observations, I have been thinking about how I can incorporate the "It's simply Tuesday" idea into my own classroom this coming year. I would like for my students to be thoughtful and observant, and maybe I'm being idealistic in believing brand-new high school students will be able to settle down into this--but I'm going to try anyway.

In the spirit of sharing and collaboration, I am going to give away the pretty, shiny, new copy pictured on the right. To enter, please leave a comment below. If you share this giveaway on your social media platform, let me know. (I can see the shares on Facebook, but if you share on Instagram or Twitter, tag me with @pattierwr so I can give you an extra entry.)

The winner of the book will be chosen on Tuesday, July 12 - sometime in the evening Eastern time.

Finally, for the observant reader who may not have heard: Yes, I got a teaching job for the fall! I'll be teaching freshman English at my daughter's high school. The rest of my "summer break" will be sprinkled with planning, professional learning opportunities, and meetings.

**The winner...Deborah! Thanks so much!** Comments will now be turned off.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summertime

SUMMER. For teachers (and substitute teachers), summer is always highly anticipated. However, I have not even accomplished half of what I've set out to do, and summer's nearly half over.



My tendency is to beat myself up over this. Why do I insist on doing that? Every time. Every day. 

So, today I'll write a list of things I have accomplished, and one in progress, just to see where I am at the moment.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Brazen by Leeana Tankersley

Don't tell Leeana, but I do not feel brazen. At all.


In fact, it's the subtitle of the book Brazen that reached out and grabbed me: "The Courage to Find the You That's Been Hiding." Yes. YES. That's me.

I've been a fan of Leeana Tankersley for a while now. In fact, I just realized  I wrote about her first book, Found Art, as a part of a blog tour six years ago. Then we worked together over at Wives of Faith for several years, she as columnist, me as (grateful) editor.

You can imagine how excited I was to hear about this book. I signed up for the tour as fast as I could, and the book arrived just as I was finishing Looking for Lovely, feeling a bit tender. I wish I could say this book soothed my heart, but it has continued to prod at the tender places instead. (This is how the Lord works on me--over and over and over again with the same message till I get the point.)

So what is the point? That I need to learn more about how to be and to listen, rather than do and accomplish. At least, that's where I am at the moment.

Brazen explores the idea of being brazen: without shame, without artifice, being honest and open and real and vulnerable before God, and learning how to recognize "soul bullies," those inner voices that are not of God but to which we listen. The prose is, as always, poetic and lovely, gentle but firm.

I'm still working my way through the book at this writing, because Leeana's book is so rich and full of wisdom, it's impossible to read quickly (or without a pen or highlighter in hand!).

Each chapter has a "reflection and expression" prompt that I'm responding to in my journal. It also has a "brazen board" suggestion for artists; Leeana describes it as a "storyboard for your soul" (I'm not doing that just yet).

I think reading this book right on the heels of the Lovely book was actually good. I believe these books are twins, in a way: sisters from different mothers, challenging and comforting, encouraging and pointing straight to Jesus.

I'll keep reading, and you go get a copy, okay?

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Disclaimer

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and help in promoting the book. No affiliate links are included here. The photo used in this post is my own.

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

Annie F. Downs is probably one of the most conversational writers I've ever read. Internal monologue? Check. Questions? Check. Answers? Sometimes in the form of more questions. Check.

Enter her latest book, Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Hernandez @mdez

Looking for Lovely sounded like a great book for me. Collecting moments? Yes. Loveliness everywhere? Yes, please. I'm still in awe that not only did my copy of the book come in an envelope complete with party confetti, it's signed by the author!


It's like a party!

And then I started reading. And it was hard.

I'm not sure why this book was such a difficult read for me. Is it because so much of it touched the tender parts of my heart? Because I completely related to the self-loathing and pain and "broken crazy" Annie Downs describes?

Yes. Yes, I think, to all of the above and more.


 It has become even harder for me in recent years to believe in the deepest parts of me that I am truly worthy of the love of God - of the sacrifice of Christ - of the calling of the Holy Spirit. Years of rejection and self-doubt have caused me to brush off compliments and think it's all for you and none for me. I am not awesome. I am not worthy. Yet, the Word of God says otherwise, doesn't it? Yes, ma'am, it does.

Hence, my struggle.

Enter Downs and her lovely teal and confetti-sprinkled book that begins with pain and talking about quitting and beauty and something she calls "broken crazy" - a phrase that is just general enough of a descriptor to be completely identifiable - and you have a perfect storm of Pattie tears.

Music and painting nails and nature walks and traveling around the world. These are the lovely things. These are moments for Annie; may we find our moments too.




I recommend this book to women, mostly, but to anyone looking for lovely in the pain and brokenness of life. For it is in the brokenness that light shines through - and stained glass can be formed from pieces - and mosaics can be designed from shards - and our perfectly imperfect selves can allow the light of Jesus to shine through and be glorified.


This book is a lovely follow-up to Emily P. Freeman's Simply Tuesday from last year. Where Emily's book is about finding beauty in the ordinary, Annie's book is more about finding beauty in our painful situations.


Annie's own prayer for her book is found here.

To learn more about the book you can go to the book's website here.
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Disclaimer:

No affiliate links are included. I was given an advance reader copy from the author and her publisher in exchange for my honest review and promotion of the book. Except for the first photo, all other photos are my own.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Looking for Lovely Preorder Goodies

 www.lookingforlovelybook.com 

One week from today, I will be posting two separate book reviews for two wonderful books by two women I greatly admire: Looking for Lovely and Brazen.

For today, here is a promotional preview for all the preorder goodies you can get for Annie F. Downs's book Looking for Lovely. You can access the website by clicking the graphic or here: www.lookingforlovelybook.com

It's spring break here, so I should get to writing...

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Where did January go?

No, really.

Where did it go?



I am sitting here on a Saturday morning, typing between coughing fits (Yes, I went to the doctor. Yes, I have bronchitis, so yes, meds and I am drinking lots of water.), incredulous that I haven't written much at all since November.

I have been journaling a bit more, which is good for me personally. But even that has gone by the wayside in favor of more time with my family and more time reading. I still have the burning in my heart to write a book, and I have been jotting down ideas and thoughts toward that topic and those things to explore.

I have also been working. Ten months ago when we learned we were moving to Georgia, I started the process of applying for a teaching license and filing applications with both the high school where my daughter attends and the colleges in the area. Now I am working as a substitute teacher in her school, and twice now I've had long-term assignments. This has taken all of my previous online writing time and channeled those energies into the classroom. It's funny to me that several people have asked me if I want to teach. It's more that I feel I have to. It's not perfect, peaceful, or always fun, but it's where I feel most purposeful.

One thing I must address is this: My work with Wives of Faith (www.wivesoffaith.org) is complete. The ministry closed its doors last week, and so ends my seven years of online ministry with that wonderful group of ladies. You can follow Sara Horn for more info about her ministry, which I hope to continue to support with my friendship and my love for her and her books.

As for a "one word 2016" - I never got one, so I'm not too worried anymore about whether or not I'll get one. Maybe it's "teach" or "work" or even "don't stress out so much, for the love!"

I have several books to review in coming weeks that I haven't gotten to yet (major apologies to the authors! I have been talking them up on social media and in my friendship circles, I promise!), so I will be posting book reviews.

So...what's new with you? How's 2016 for you? Are you sick of political stuff yet? :)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

And...it's a bust.

And...it's a bust. I wasn't able to finish even the first few chapters of my novel this year.

I'm continuing to see that writing nonfiction is more my thing than fiction. But what really threw me was the long-term substitute teaching position that fell into my lap without any warning the second week of November.

I just might not have what it takes to finish a book, after all. I guess time will tell.

2015's NaNoWriMo is a bust, but I'll still keep reading and writing and book reviewing here at Fresh-Brewed Writer as long as I am able.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

National Novel Writing Month 2015



And now...fiction. I'll be working on a novel during the month of November. We'll see if I actually finish this year!

In Conclusion: 31 Days of Friendship


“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even though I've written about friendship for an entire month, I feel as if there is more to say. It's interesting that on September 30, I wondered if I'd have enough for 31 full days--and now that it's October 31 I still have several other stories and topics I haven't even touched.

As I conclude my series, I'd like to offer a list the characteristics of a good friendship.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 30: What does the Bible say? Part 5 {31 Days of Friendship}



For this last entry into the "What does the Bible Say about Friendship" miniseries in my #31daysoffriendship series for the Write 31 Days challenge, I would like to talk about Jesus.

When I was a child growing up in a Christian home and going to church, we sang many songs about Jesus being our friend. I'm not really sure I knew what it meant until I felt Him in a more real sense, in college and in sad times, when I was going through some of the situations I've described in this series with friendships, and during my parents' divorce.

The Gospels tell us about Jesus's disciples (there were 12), his closest friends or the "inner circle" of best friends (there were 3), Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, and of course the group that traveled with Him and His disciples as he preached and taught about His Father (unnumbered and many were unnamed, but we know they were present).

There are many analyses out there about the friendship model Jesus set for us: have a circle of friends, a tighter circle of confidantes, an adopted family of friends. The list could go on and on. But I wonder sometimes if it isn't supposed to be that complicated.

Here is what Jesus says in John 15:

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Love first. Love God first, then love each other, and joy will abound. Pretty simple.

This is my last Bible-related post, and it's going to be online late after a busy week. So maybe as I write this with a tired brain and a full heart, I'm feeling a bit sentimental about ending this series on my blog about friendship. I wonder if we worry about friendships too much. Maybe we need to spend more of our time cultivating our friendship with Jesus, with His Father, more than with others first. If we let the friends be our primary focus, maybe that is missing the point. Let's put our focus on Jesus, and on learning God's Word, and cultivating that relationship first, before we worry about whether or not Jane* likes us or if we should invite her for coffee, or whatever. I know that the Lord will lead me where He wants me, and He has often placed people in my path (oh who am I kidding, every day I exit my house I talk to people outside my social circle!). He has provided me with friends before, and He will do so again. He already has for me here.

Tomorrow will be my wrap-up post about my friendship series. I hope you'll join me, and if you've enjoyed my musings on friendship, I hope you'll let me know - or better yet, share with one of your friends.



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*Jane Austen nicknames are used in this series, and all month I never used Jane. So here she is!

Mini-series on What does the Bible Say about Friendship?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.