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.**

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Review: The Dinner List

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle My rating: 4 of 5 stars I heard about this novel last month. It sounded great, because who hasn't m...