Book Review | The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

subway girls susie orman schnall

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Book Review | To Have and To Hold (Autumn Love Stories) by Betsy St. Amant, Katie Ganshert, and Becky Wade

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‘Tis the season for pumpkins, spice, leaves falling, love in the air!

First and foremost, thank you to the authors for allowing me to be an “influencer” of these novellas. These were quick reads, but with amazing depth.  Each story was rich with romance, uncertainty in how to reach out to love, silly faux pas that ensued with each of the believable main characters, humble lessons learned and believable end results! It was the first time I’d read from each of the three authors, but I would definitely read them again.

In each of the three stories, I could see myself, a woman who has been scorned once before, but is ready to accept fault and try again. And each of the characters developed nicely throughout their stories. I loved these and recommend these to any reader who loves Hallmark movies. These stories could easily fall into those feel good, happy ending scenarios!

Book Review | The Domino Effect by Davis Bunn

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I loved this book!!  It follows the story of Esther who is a high risk analyst at a very high profile bank.  Her ability to see trends and decipher some kind of pattern in her bank’s behavior alerts her that something heavy will affect the stock market and result in a 2008 mirror effect of today’s economy.  She goes to her bosses with her urgent intel, only to find out that they have an escape plan for what’s coming, and she’s not part of it.

Among the constant urgency that can be felt throughout the book are two additional subplots: one is that her brother was in a very tragic accident that left him in a nursing home and she is the only survivor in her family to take care of him.  Due to his dependency on her, she is forced to deal with some painful memories from their childhood.  And in addition to visiting him on a regular basis, she also meets a man who has quite an effect on her, and helps her learn to let go of some things and to love again.

I enjoyed the overall story line, even though I’ll admit, some of the banking and economical words were over my head.  But even for a layperson reading this novel (hoping it’s not prophetic!), it’s a simple read with depth page after page.  I would definitely read another book by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Larissa Murphy

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Eight Twenty Eight was a very easy, yet emotional read.

Larissa Murphy writes a first-person account of meeting a young man and falling in love with hopes of a picture perfect wedding, only to have those dreams shattered when her new love survives a very tragic accident that changes both of their lives forever.  She writes deeply about the love that she has for him which was maintained during learning what it’s like to live with someone who can’t do things by themselves anymore.

Ian and Larissa, both young Christians, demonstrate intense faith amidst great tragedy.  Much of what is in the book comes from Larissa’s journals during that time, and she struggles very candidly with whether or not she has the level of love needed to continue the new relationship with Ian.  Trust in God becomes a new trial and she questions God’s grace and purpose in all of it.  But with a renewed sense of who she is and who God is making Ian, she pushes forward to care for, live with and pursue a relationship, and ultimately a marriage with the man she knows God had in mind for her.

It’s beautiful how she writes through the pain, allows us to see the heartache, and the hunger for God during her questioning, struggles and uncertainty.  With raw emotion, she details exchanges between herself and Ian’s family, friends and others whom she encounters.  And she’s not afraid to admit her anger during her grief.  I enjoyed this book a lot and shed many tears through its pages.

The flow of the story was disjointed at times, and I believe it was because her emotions were the focus of the story and not a chronological timeline.  It’s still understandable, but that would be my only con.  Other than that, a great read about faith being strengthened, relationships growing and grace persevering.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through B&H Publishing and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | No More Perfect Marriages by Mark and Jill Savage

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Wanting a perfect marriage is typical of newlyweds and romantic hopefuls.  And for a while after the wedding bells are rung, things seem to be just that.  But then dust settles and life takes over, and the real “US”es start to show.  Could it mean that a perfect marriage is unattainable?

Instead of answering that question, I think the question should be, “Are we focusing on what marriage is really supposed to be?” Because the truth is that, if we are, we will realize the truth of what Mark and Jill have written about in their new book, “No More Perfect Marriages”- there is no perfect marriage.  They give very real and candid examples from their own lives and long-standing marriage, which I found to be incredibly admirable, and they discuss many changes that many of our marriages may face.

Understanding that each marriage is unique (remember two of us are becoming one), we have to also understand that both people are bringing their pasts, experiences, understandings, expectations, and realities to the center.  And trying to blend those things doesn’t always work out without understanding, grace and forgiveness at the ready.  So needless to say, we need help for our marriages, picture-perfect or not.

One section of the book that I loved was right in the beginning.  They addressed the masks that we wear.  In any marriage, it’s easy to resort to old habits or hide when we don’t get our way, but the problem lies in what those actions do to our spouses.  We need to be realistic and admit when we let selfishness creep in where God wants us to put the other first.  It’s hard, but can be done with Christ’s help.  And Mark and Jill show us how.

I also love how they laid out some God-tools- relevant for all of us, and practical items that we need on a daily basis to consistently put our spouses first, and recognize how our behavior affects each other.  This book has some additional links for support, a link to Jill’s page (http://www.jillsavage.org/) and many fun, practical ideas for how to get over trying to pretend our marriages are perfect.  You’ll love their honesty, raw emotional stories and uplifting outcomes.

This book is (dare I say, PERFECT) for marriages of any length of time, those who are thriving and those who are struggling.  There is help, and these two, along with Gary Chapman are some great Christian resources!

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I received this book, free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I am very thankful to Moody Publishers for giving me this advanced reader copy, and providing me an opportunity to post about it with all of you.  Pick up your copy today!

Book Review | Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter

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This book garners five stars from me!!  I loved each delicate moment.

Eden Davis is on the run.  She and her son Micah have witnessed the murder of Eden’s husband and Eden knows they are not safe anywhere, as the marshals left to protect them have been murdered as well.

The story begins in a restaurant off of the freeway, where Eden and Micah are having a quick breakfast.  After she and her son return to their booth from a bathroom run, they realize a book bag that had all of their cash inside has been stolen!  And to make matters worse, the car she’s driving is unreliable and in desperate need of repairs.  She is able to make it to a shop to get the work started on it, but has to create new names and identities for herself and Micah.

In need of a job to pay back the shop for the work on her car, and to get back on the road to get to a cabin she’s planned to get to, she stops at a ranch where she meets the Callahans and is able to begin work.  Through months of secrecy and trying to maintain her cover while she plans her journey to the cabin, Eden finds herself enjoying the hospitality of everyone at the farm.  She is guarded and trying to protect her son, but also begins to feel love like she’s never felt.  While Eden determines whether to trust and love again, Beau Callahan is falling for her and Micah.

This story was so well written, and very easy to follow.  I loved the characters, the Callahan family, the way you could feel the urgency for Eden’s safety, the intensity of her protection over Micah, and the love that bled through Beau’s interactions with her and her son.  It’s a wonderful love story, and one that takes time to build up, but is done with grace and ease.  There are no boring lulls, or ends left untied.  I highly recommend for a story that reassures your hope in lovable Christian fiction!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher’s BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Death on Hold: A Prisoner’s Desperate Prayer and the Unlikely Family Who Became God’s Answer by Burton Folsom Jr and Anita Folsom

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Death on Hold was the first book I’d ever read that was based on the life of an inmate.  Very intense at times, somber and sad at others, but told from the perspective of the one who lived the moments.  It’s an amazing story of growth, love, forgiveness and God’s redemption.

Mitch Rutledge made some bad choices after his mother passed and his dad abandoned him and his siblings.  He took to the streets and followed the path of drugs, alcohol and gangs.  Finding his “family” in the gang worked for a length of time, but eventually landed him in trouble.  He made a decision to take a life, and as a result, was found out by the law, and prosecuted.

Mitch’s story is told primarily by Mitch, however he begins to develop relationships with some families outside of prison; people who want to show him hope, the Gospel and love.  These families that wrote to him shared their perspectives through this book as well.  It’s beautiful to see their hearts and viewpoints during court sessions, meeting Mitch in the “yard” and during their prayers as he had to wait to see if he could get off of death row.

To Mitch, a young man who couldn’t read or write, it took a while to find out what the letter writers were saying, but he began to study English and believe that he had value.  Fellow inmates would read him the letters of those who wanted to teach him about Jesus, and as a result, he learned to read and write, and took what he was learning from his friends and the Bible to heart.  He ended up becoming repentant, and became a person known in prison for staying neutral and defusing tough situations.

Read this book to learn the story of a man who is rehabilitated, learn about Jesus in a new way, and/or see the work of the Lord behind bars.  No one is out of His reach!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace by Terri Roberts

forgiven terri roberts

This book was incredible!  I started to read it simply because I teach on the topic and struggle of unforgiveness in our lives.  A video that I show to my students incorporates the “crazy” forgiveness reaction given to a family whose son murdered multiple children at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.  The video has interviews from a pastor in that region, first responders who struggled to understand what happened, and an Amish man who shared that forgiving the family was mandatory in his heart, for himself, but also for the family to heal.  The video’s purpose is to get the person watching it to respond or talk out the reasons they agree/disagree with the reactions of those in the video itself.  I’ve often been intrigued by this story as it is not a common scenario in our culture today, of those who have been wronged.  We see much more and hear more about the injustice, than see the love in peoples’ hearts to forgive.

Reading a first person account from someone whose child murdered other people gave a glimpse into a positive way to move forward from something incredibly tragic.  But not only is the mother’s forgiveness significant in this story, it’s the people who were most affected: the other parents whose children were murdered.

Terri doesn’t just share the events of that day, “The Happening” as the Amish refer to it, she also shares history from their family and some events she pieced together that help her cope with how her son could do something so horrible.  But the other benefit to reading this book is that she doesn’t stay in the anger or bitterness, but gives Scripture and lessons learned along the way to help others (and herself) continue to surrender the hurt to Jesus.

She is very well-spoken, and hides nothing.  It’s a refreshing book on the life of a woman whose life was changed the day her son committed an act of murder, followed by his own suicide.  But her strength, encouragement and hope speaks volumes.  Her story of forgiveness and love amidst tragedy is a story that will stay with me for a very long time.

When anyone hears of the Amish shooting at Nickel Mines, I pray that the thought brings to mind the powerful aspects of forgiveness, letting go of bitterness, showing love when it’s undeserved, and blessing others through adversity.  Please read this book if you struggle with unforgiveness.  This mother shares so much of her faith, her thankful spirit, her struggle to understand, and her will to let go through Christ.  It’s a great story, and one that I pray keeps getting passed on and on.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Publishing’s book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Love Arrives in Pieces by Betsy St. Amant

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This is the follow-up novel to “All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes” by the same author.  I have not read that book, however this author hints back to some valid points in this story, but not too much to make the reader feel like he/she is out of the loop.

What a sweet love story!  Stella Varland was a beauty queen who unfortunately went through a divorce, and becomes reunited with a past boyfriend when she begins work on an old rundown theater in her community.  The same boyfriend who previously had dated her sister, and broke both of their hearts.  In desperate need of healing and mending her brokenness, she exhibits a quiet nature most women have, the ability to hide when necessary.

Without spoiling the beauty of the story, there are people who cross Stella’s path who give her material pieces for a project she is working on, and sometimes nonmaterial nuggets for her heart to heal/mend.  The mosaic that results is not only for her growth and healing, but also for those around her.

I loved the subtle romance, the godly nature of Chase Taylor longing to protect and help Stella, and the humor between Stella, her sister Kat and their mother.  The book is witty, flows nicely, and is not without conflict, but it definitely has a feel good ending. I truly loved every page.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers (http://booklookbloggers.com) book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | I’m Happy for you (Sort Of…Not Really) by Kay Wills Wyma

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I loved this book!  Kay Wills Wyma has such a way with words.  The topic is one that women everywhere can relate to, and I love the humor she infuses into her stories.  In answering a question that makes most of us squirm, she really points us in the right direction of how to recognize when we are in the business of comparison, but also what it says about us, and how to deal with our insecurities that are motivated by our socially driven culture in America.

One of the stories she shared was about having women over in her home for bible study, and then all of the sudden getting consumed with the idea that her girlfriend Alyssa opened the fridge and found whatever shape the lettuce was in that had been placed in a towel from possibly two weeks prior!  I could not stop laughing.  I’ve had similar moments when I’ve realized there were chicken parts in the garbage and a friend just lifted the lid!

If you’ve not had that type of panic moment in the presence of other women, you may not get the gist of this book, but there are so many other examples she illustrates that I’m sure you’ll connect with.

I highly recommend this book for the pure joy of laughing at the parts of ourselves we wish we didn’t have. But I also recommend reading it to see how she redirects us back to the arms of our Father for comfort and contentment.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher’s Blogging for Books book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”