Friday, October 06, 2017

Church of the Small Things

I am thrilled to review and recommend Melanie Shankle's latest book, Church of the Small Things (not an affiliate link, but takes you to the autographed edition at Barnes and Noble).

Church of the Small Things is a wonderful, lovely, encouraging, and thought-provoking collection of essays about the little things in life. And not just the little things, or that we should be grateful for those little things--although that is certainly true. But it's more about how we notice and remember the people in our lives. We sometimes remember them in big ways, but more often we remember them by the little things in their lives, and the little ways they made us feel special. Or the little things they said or did that made them uniquely themselves. 

I tend to read and then want to immediately apply what I have learned in my own life. What this book has done for me is make me more aware of what I may or may not be doing to help others see God. I am a teacher, and there are days I love my job, and days I don't. I often feel as if I fail in every way possible that a person can fail God. But I am reminded in little ways every day that what we say and do matters a great deal, and God can use everything I experience to shape me and help me grow and serve Him better. All I have to do is look and see. Listen and obey and be aware.

The most poignant story for me was in the chapter about her grandparents. It made me remember so many things about my own grandparents, and how wonderful it was to know them in my life. I lost a grandmother about a year ago, and this chapter made me tear up as I was filled with memories of her and my grandfather who passed 20 years ago, and how we were able to celebrate them this past summer together as a family.

In some ways this book reminded me of Emily P. Freeman's book Simply Tuesday. But it is distinctly Melanie and not Emily. And if you know anything about these ladies, you know they are definitely their own women, with their own voices on the page. 


Mostly, though, this book is a poignant reminder to be awake to the little things in our lives.

For more information about the book and its author, please go to the website for the book here: Church of the Small Things

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Summer at Bluebell Bank: a Review

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

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Of Mess and Moxie Review

Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious LifeOf Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure how in the world Jen Hatmaker would top her excellent book For the Love, and yet with this beautiful turquoise follow-up, she absolutely did. Of Mess and Moxie has heart, passion, a little bit of mess, and a whole lot of moxie.

I read this book with a pen in my hand and a lump in my throat. So much of what Jen Hatmaker wrote in this book resonated with me. I gleaned so much encouragement from her words, and even though many things she states are not new to me, they are fresh and full of moxie:

I don’t have to be who I was before. It’s never too late to change. It is perfectly fine to live in the world and love the world and yet still be devoted to Christ. It is never, ever too late for me to dream and be creative. Forgiveness is a process that takes a lot of time. Prayer matters. Stand. Tell the truth.

Jen Hatmaker is the friend we all wish we could meet for coffee: funny, snarky, and oh so very real. With her trademark honesty she relates her experiences in the church, in friendships, in family, and on television, with Biblical truths and encouragement for all her sisters around the world. This one’s for the girls, indeed. Moxie on, Jen.

View all my reviews

Thanks to HarperCollins for an advance copy to read for review. Part of this review is published as an endorsement of the book, and all words and opinions are my own. I am a member of the launch team for #OfMessandMoxie. You can preorder the book at your favorite online retailer.

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?

____________________

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!