Monday, October 12, 2015

Book review: "An Endless Christmas" by Cynthia Ruchti

Christmas books are not my thing.  So when I got Cynthia Ruchti's newest novella, An Endless Christmas: A Novella (Worthy Publishing), I was a bit confused as to why I had agreed to be part of this blog tour.  As the stories' Binder family let's go of Christmas traditions each year to just live and enjoy each moment, I'm glad I let go of mine of not reading Christmas stories.

Only grandchild of a large family, Micah Binder, invites his girlfriend to his family's week long Christmas festivities in northern Minnesota.  As if staying with your boyfriend's family for a holiday week, in a tiny technology free cottage in freezing cold Minnesota for the first time wasn't stressful enough, Katie gets proposed to immediately upon walking in the door.  She tells Micah NO, in front of his entire family.  The novella follows Micah and Katie's journey as she toughs out Christmas week and becomes acquainted with his family.  Seemingly perfect, the story just brushes over the little facts pointing out the Binders' flaws but never really telling you what they are.  The story runs similar to this, a little rough around the edges, lacking in some basic plot building, but magical when all is said and done.  It is cheesy in all the right ways.  As I was reading I was picturing a made for TV Christmas movie and wanting a family holiday of my own like that I was reading.  So much seems to go wrong throughout the week, but the way the family bands together and accepts one another's differences (and they are wide) is beautiful.  I found myself thinking about their story long after I closed the book.  If there were a follow up novel or novella I would definitely read it.  I guarantee you, you will find part of yourself somewhere in these pages, and I hope when all is said and yourself will celebrate an endless Christmas.

And shout out to the author who lives in a pretty cool state! ;)

An Endless Christmas: A Novella will be released TOMORROW October 13, 2015.  I strongly encourage you to grab yourself a copy of this quick read!

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?  I've always loved putting out the nativity set!

Note: This novella was provided to me for review as party of a First Look Blog Tour by Worthy Publishing in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: "Justified" by Varina Denman

Choosing to review Justified: A Novel (Mended Hearts Series Book 2) (David C. Cook), by Varina Denman was a risk I was willing to take having not read the first installment of her Mended Hearts series.  The past and future installments have skirted there way to the top of my to read list.  In no way did I feel the story was slighted from having not (yet) read Jaded.

Fawn Blaylock's life is experiencing a season of upheaval due to her untimely pregnancy.  Unwed and ostracized by her small town, local church, and well-to-do family she has to learn not only how to fend for herself, care for her future child, but also who she is outside of the titles implemented upon her by her small town society.  Fawn learns to hope in her future, in grace, in love and romance, and in faith.  As past choices, not only her own but those of her parents, haunt her she is shaped not only by the consequences of those choices but by what those choices teach her.  Denman has brilliantly woven together honest characters.  Your heart will fall and soar as you follow Fawn's journey.  As she finds her faith you may find some new truth revealed in your own.

I definitely recommend this read.  It's a light and quick but the story has enough depth to keep you interested and on the edge of your seat.  I think I may be becoming a fan of Denman, I felt pretty attached to these character quit a few days after finishing reading and didn't want to let them go!  Purchase your copy on Amazon

Justified: A Novel (Mended Hearts Series Book 2) was released June 1, 2015.  What's the most recent truth you've learned from a novel?
Note: I received this book as part of the Justified  blog tour from Radiant Lit.  I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Review copy provided by the publisher for Radiant Lit Blog Tours.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Review: "If You Find This Letter" by Hannah Brencher

Dear Hannah Brencher,

     Your book If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers (Howard Books) is poignantly beautiful.  I've sat on this review for months not knowing what to say.  There aren't words to accurately describe the beauty of this book.  Hannah, you are an exquisite writer, and the fact that you used that gift to anonymously reach out to others is amazing.  It's those simple acts of beauty, the things that are so innately us that we don't truly believe they could really make a difference that often mean the most.  Little handwritten notes tucked in secret places, because who doesn't like to find little treasures and who doesn't like to receive hand written notes.  Hannah, thank you for pouring out your words on the page in the most human way you could.  Thank you for showing your fears, failures, insecurities, and your heartbreak.  I highlighted your words, and posted them for the world to see as my heart felt understood.  I cannot describe how much your words have meant to me.   This is the most phenomenal memoir I've read in some time.  I think it describes the millennial generation to a "t."  Keep on writing, even if no one ever knows it was you.

Another girl who used to be in love with October, but death made it feel hollow,

If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers was published March 10, 2015.  Instead of leaving a comment here, go write something with a paper and pen for someone you know or don't doesn't really matter...just go leave your beautiful words somewhere.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: "The Tomb: A Novel of Martha" by Stephanie Landsem

When I was asked to review Stephanie Landsem's latest, The Tomb: A Novel of Martha, (Howard Books) I was thrilled.  The first thing I'll say is, even though this is part of a series, don't feel like you have to read them in any certain order. I stumbled upon one, then read this one, and have yet to read the first and I honestly don't feel as if I've gained less from the experience because of it. I should have posted this review in March, I just didn't have the words to say what I needed to say (and I'm still not sure I do). Growing up in the church, I thought the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus was par for course, but as I talked about this novel while reading it I discovered many people don't know.  That makes this the perfect read for them.  Everyone will relate to one of the characters.  I had always understood Mary more, and maybe it's the season of life I'm in, but I sooooooooo get Martha.  Every time she lamented that "there's much to do" my heart broke a little in understanding.  The desire to do what's "right" and the heavy weight of responsibility that she gets so lost in is incredibly relatable.

The way Landsem weaves her imagination into a story that doesn't have a lot of details is intriguing. I implore you to journey through Martha's journey.  Maybe see her and her siblings through some fresh eyes.  Your new insight may just take your breath away.  I mean how could your life not change after you saw Jesus raise your brother from the dead?  Everything would change, and to explore the possibilities of how she could have been before hand with so little knowledge of her is so intriguing.

Perhaps Martha was not as prim and proper as she seems.  Landsem takes us through the journey of a mistake that perhaps Martha made.  This mistake not only changed Martha's life, but her entire families.  One choice seems to haunt and define her, driving her "need" to do everything by law.  Her mother's death early on first put a huge responsibility on Martha as homemaker and caretaker.  As her father passes on when her brother is not quite a man that only increases these responsibilities along with the desperation of keeping her mistake a secret.  While her secrets eat at her she finds them necessary not only to keep her families standing intact but for survival.  Then Jesus comes.  Martha has that inner war so many of us do.  Will she let Jesus change her, or is there always too much to do?

The Tomb: A Novel of Martha was released March 17, 2015.  What part of the Martha, Mary, Lazarus story do you relate to the most?

This book was provided for review by Howard Books/Stephanie Landsem.  All thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: "The Beautiful Daughters" by Nicole Baart

I had the honor of being selected to review The Beautiful Daughters (Atria Books) by Nicole Baart.  We meet Adrienne (Adri) Vogt in Africa, the farthest place she can get from her small town Iowa, best friend Harper Penny, and the past that haunts them both.  Adrienne is summoned back to Iowa fives years after leaving, and forces to face her past.  Harper exiled herself as well, and unknowingly dove into a much scarier present reality she must escape.  A tale about friendship, love, and mystery you will spend the entire novel trying to figure out who done it and what will happen next.  The best friends must face each other, what happened those five years ago, and how it will shape their future. 

This novel is full of so many twist and turns and has so many rich layers.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Baart weaves intense themes throughout her story; abuse, death, and sex trafficking are brilliantly tangled through the story and the characters.

Baart has an innate ability to form the characters in such a way that they are intrinsically human.  I was surprised by how anfractuous this novel was, but that is it's hidden gem!

Now that you've read through this, and most certainly want to read it yourself there are two ways to do it.  Click on the title name at the top and follow the links to purchase it yourself! 
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!  Yes, I'm so excited to tell you I get to give this away!  How to get my copy, one entry for each way!:
1) Subscribe to this blog
2) Comment with one book you've read this year that you've liked most and why
3) Comment with which Nicole Baart book is your favorite/why or why you want to read this one
4) Share the link to this blog through your preferred social media outlet, you MUST leave the link to your share in the comments so I know to credit you an entry!

You have until 11:59 pm (cst) April 28, 2015 (THE REALEASE DATE!) to enter!

Good luck and happy reading!

This Arc was provided for review by Nicole Baart.  Opinions are my own, and were free to be both good or bad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: "A.D. 30" by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker is by no secret my favorite author.  Like any other release day, I rushed to the nearest bookstore and patiently waited as the bookstore had to truck to the basement to find me a copy of A.D. 30 (Center Street) which they hadn't put out yet (AND IT WAS ALREADY LATE AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING)! 

This day was also different then any other release day of my favorite author's new book for me.  My dad died that night.  Needless to say, it took me a while to read.  Me, the one who actually reads more when she is stressed because it's a break from the world, read less.  I read less, because it was hard.  There are some deaths within the first couple of pages, so...yeah.  I grieved with Maviah.  Through Maviah, I felt as if someone understood me, understood what I was going through.  I know, I know, she's a fictional character, but isn't it amazing how God uses story to change us?! To restore us.  To reach us...

I have read ALMOST every Dekker work and this one is simply different.  While I would still say that like his other novels, it is a parable-it crosses over to the biblical fiction realm.  The story however, is more inventive than any other piece of biblical fiction I've read.

Maviah is a slave, a single mother, a forgotten daughter.  Her world is turned upside down and she finds herself no longer a slave, but a queen, on a mission to save her kingdom.  She begins a journey to find Herod (yes, that Herod) and convince him to ally with her and save her people. She is accompanied by two of her dad's most trusted me, one of which is enamored with Yeshua.  On there journey, they stop and visit Mary, the mother of Jesus, who insists of meeting with Maviah.  Once Maviah experiences Jesus, she is changed.  That's what stuck with me the most.  Although, this was only the beginning of Maviah's journey.

She has yet to face deception, captivity, the feign of freedom, captivity again, deception again, and difficult decisions.  I know every Dekker book comes along and I say "THIS ONE'S MY FAVORITE!"  This one is so different, and for so many reasons I hold it close, and the story was SO good!  I have more pages dog-eared, and phrases underlined, and exclamations in the margins.  Dekker just gets it!

I'll leave you with this.  In the novel Maviah learns that Jesus is the only one fit to judge.  BUT he does not throw a stone at us.  Meditate on that truth and let me know what stuck out to you!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: "The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen" by Tosca Lee

Photo credit: NetGalley

Right when I was a few chapters into Tosca Lee's The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen (Howard Books) she released her free e-book Ismeni: Prelude to the Legend of Sheba, which I quickly devoured before continuing.  I implore you to read Ismeni before you pick up Sheba; simply because it so greatly enriches the story.  Lee's ability to breath life into a lesser known biblical character is astounding.  Her research is impeccable, and lends believability to the "fiction" facets; leading the reader (at least this one) towards the actual Bible stories to uncover what was real and not real.  This is her magic.
Bilqis (Sheba) is a bit of anomaly for that time.  She is mysteriously beautiful, and at a time when kings rule she stands on her own two feet as a Queen.  Sheba is definitely no pushover and should probably write a dating advice book on how to intrigue a king (or ya know...the average guy).  This was a time where many gods ruled, allegiances were given in full and yet shifted quickly, and Sheba's losses and "salvations" throttled her into a position of power.  Often positions of power lend to lives of isolation, and Sheba's was no exception.  She met her match in King Solomon (from the North) with whom she engaged in a battle of wits via written word until she finally had to decide to take a risk.  Unknowing whether or not her decision was fearless or reckless she went toe to toe with the wisest king.  Perhaps the tell of a great writer is one who can humanize even the most beloved characters, showing even their faults that most would like to scan over.  If so, Lee is a great writer (and having read all of her work, I believe she is).  This story is messy, mysterious, and gripping.  I definitely recommend it.

The Legend of Sheba was released September 9, 2014.  What intrigues you most about the Queen of Sheba?

This book was provided to me for review by NetGalley.