Read: August 2017

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The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

An embarrassingly long time ago The Optometrist gave me this book as a just-because gift, of which I proceeded to read about 99%. At the beginning of the month, a few minutes and a few pages later, I had finished this encouraging call to make your house a home based around your style and budget. While The Nester’s style is a bit more shabby chic than I prefer, her exhortation of it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful is a mantra I’m longing to embrace wholeheartedly in both my home and work spaces.

Book read via: home library

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Solo by Kwame Alexander

What Kwame Alexander did for basketball in The Crossover, he has now done for music and in Solo.  Check out my full book-review of Mr. Alexander’s recently published YA novel.

My thanks to Net Galley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/

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Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the queen of crafting memorable Italian American stories, and my love of her writing goes back to the early 2000s when my best friend and I discovered and fell in love with Big Stone Gap.

This, her newest novel, takes place in post WWII Philadelphia with a feuding family who own taxi cab businesses, their African American dispatcher who longs to find her passion, a fledgling but loyal local Shakespeare company, and an Italian ambassador with an American doppelganger in South Philly.

Of her work, I must say Very Valentine and The Shoemaker’s Wife have been my favorites, but Kiss Carlo was very memorable and included diverse characters and a firm sense of place.

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

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Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life by Melanie Shankle

Last July I read The Antelope in the Living Room and found it to be laugh-out-loud funny juxtaposed with moments to ponder the less-than-perfect, but still beautiful moments of marriage. So when I had an opportunity to request a digital ARC for the upcoming release of her new book (on October 3), I said, “Yes, please!”

If you are a fan of Melanie’s books and/or the Big Mama blog, I think you’ll also enjoy her newest offering that centers around finding God and appreciating the small, everyday moments of life.

“I’ve learned that the best way to live is to look for God in the church of small things. The church of small things is where God does his best work. The church of small things is where the majority of us live every single day.” 

Look for a more detailed review on October 3rd!

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

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The Brutal Telling by Louise Penney

I can’t help but think about what the statistical number of murders per capita would be if Three Pines were a real town. Probably similar to the statistics from Cabot Cove in Murder, She Wrote.

5th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the beloved Inspector has returned to Three Pines to investigate yet another murder, this time of a Hermit whose cabin is filled with world-renowned treasures, but whose identity and personal history remain elusive, except to a local resident.

Stories of fear and deception and secrets long preserved come to light when Armande Gamache is determined to find answers to these unknown questions and, of course, also find the killer.

Book read via: public library

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Book Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander

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Solo by Kwame Alexander

What Kwame Alexander did for basketball in The Crossover (read in April), he has now done for music in Solo. And as in The Crossover, he subtly layers the title with various meanings and applications.

Blade Morrison is a guitarist and songwriter, whose father is a famous rock ‘n roll guitarist and musician. Having grown up amid opulence juxtaposed with perceived neglect, Blade is on the cusp of adulthood and anxious to strike out on his own; away from the limelight of his father’s career and drama of his substance abuse. If only the parents of his girlfriend wouldn’t be so determined to keep them apart, he could confidently move forward into the future, fueled by young love.

In the mean time a heated argument with Blade’s sister and father reveal unknown family secrets, which cause a shift in Blade’s priorities and motivations. These changes result in him taking a broadening journey, allowing him to realize neither his music nor his existence are solo endeavors.

This book trailer features a brief interview with Kwame Alexander about his personal interests and inspirations in writing Solo.

Alexander is the 2015 Newbery Medal and 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award recipient, but to learn more, please visit his website kwamealexander.com

My thanks to Net Galley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/

Book Review: Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

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Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

For fans of the Baxter family, their story continues! The past 24 books in this broad series have focused on the Baxter children, their families, and friends over the years. But in Love Story, the patriarch of the family, Dr. John Baxter, is prompted by his grandson Cole to talk about his early years of meeting and falling in love his (first) wife Elizabeth for Cole’s school project about family history.

In addition to the Baxters, we are reacquainted with friends of the family featured in other books – namely Andi Ellison and Cody Coleman.

Revelations are shared that open lines of communication and offer hope of redemption given by Jesus. Themes include seeking God’s will, forgiveness, recounting struggles and losses from the past, but rejoicing in God’s gift of the present with optimism.

To learn more about Karen Kingsbury’s books, visit her website  http://www.karenkingsbury.com/

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

 

 

January Journey

You know, I often think to myself, “Yes! I’ve got it all put together! Watch me go!” and then God gently reminds me, “Wait a minute: you’re not done yet! Remember I’m in control and I want to constantly refine you to make you more like me.”  Oh yeah…

So, January has been quite the month of the Lord refining me, namely working on the way I view myself and the way that I mentally “talk” to myself (come on, we all do it). Having a personality type squarely in the Type A category I am often very task-oriented, detail driven, appreciate competence, and have difficulty giving myself grace when I make a mistake.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, I’m a firm believer that the right book finds you at the right time and right now Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When you You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild is the book that has found me. Given to me by my Momma for Christmas (yet picked out when we attended one of Jennifer’s Fresh Grounded Faith conferences in the fall), it’s come at a perfect time to help me replace negative self-talk with positive, truthful self-talk.

Jennifer’s analogy is to picture your internal dialog being organized in a personal “thought closet.” Are these words that are taking up residence kind or self deprecating? She also writes that the hateful words we often call ourselves (stupid, dummy, idiot) are words we would never allow someone else to use to describe or to say about us. That hit home, I tell you.

I feel I work very hard on serving others, but I must remember that if I’m not taking good care of myself mentally, this is eventually going to spill over and impact the well-being of my relationships and my marriage, so taking time to be kind to myself is a healthy investment to myself and others.

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He’s still working on me
To make me what I ought to be.
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He’s still working on me.
Joel Hemphill

What is the Lord teaching you this first month of the new year?

Books: September Edition

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Giddy Up, Eunice: Because Women Need Each Other by Sophie Hudson

Since this book is so new, I had to wait a while for it to arrive from InterLibrary Loan, but once it arrived and I began reading, what a gift it was! Sophie outlines the inter-generational relationships of three pair of women from the Bible: Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1), Ruth and Naomi (book of Ruth), and Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1) – how both older and younger generations of women need the support of one another. She interweaves her own personal stories, some filled with deep vulnerability, some with chuckle-worthy humor, but overall it was a complete package of encouragement and truth I didn’t know I needed to hear/read.

I rank this as the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year!

Furthermore, even before having access to this book, I had signed up for the new Beth Moore Bible study, Entrusted, a study of 2 Timothy, with an inter-generational group of women at my church. I’m in the thick middle of a “sacred echo,” where God is getting my attention with some of the same themes in Giddy Up, Eunicementoring, inter-generational friendships, purpose, love, and service.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ~ Romans 12:10 (ESV)

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The Fireman by Joe Hill

When I heard the premise of this book earlier in the year, I was intrigued: an epidemic is sweeping the nation, where the spore “Dragonscale,” is infecting people, causing them to catch on fire. Yet, one man, The Fireman, has somehow figured out a way to tame the flames. Even though this apocalyptic book clocks in with 752 pages, I found it a fast and compelling read, suspenseful and exciting, but not overtly scary (which surprised me since Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King). Additional themes include altruism, group dynamics, and reliant trust on those who become your “family” during hard times.

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The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

This was featured prominently in the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading list. When it was on sale for Kindle earlier in the summer, I went ahead and took advantage of the discount. While some raved about this book, I simply found it heart-stirring as kindness is shown and attempts at understanding are given among several unique inter-generational relationships (there’s that sacred echo again). Additional themes include the expectations we have for others and the importance of accepting people as they are.

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Armada by Ernest Cline

In April I mentioned reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which I enjoyed so much I requested the audio book version (narrated by Wil Wheaton) and listened to it with The Optometrist in May. It was a treat for me to “read” it once more, this time with the added bonus of being able to discuss it with him (or discuss it after I had woken up from taking a nap in the car).

When I saw Cline’s newest book at the public library a few weeks ago, I promptly grabbed it and decided it would be our next read-aloud together (even though I’m sure Wil Wheaton’s performance for this one is equally fun). As I read it, there were many “Am I saying this right?” moments to my husband, since he’s the gamer/sci-fi aficionado, but I hung in there as I learned some additional  gaming/sci-fi lingo and occasionally earned “+10 nerd points” from The Optometrist when I remembered a quote or situation from an existing book or movie.

The premise follows a similar trajectory as Ready Player One: everyday video game playing teenage nerdy types are tasked with a life-changing video game challenge. But this time the ante is upped when our hero Zack is tasked with helping save the world after he discovers there’s more than meets the eye with Armada, his favorite video game.

Ahead in October are several contenders for our university’s 2017 common read initiative!

 

Book Review – Angels Walking Series, Book 3: Brush of Wings ~ Karen Kingsbury

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Each of the heavenly and human characters featured in Angels Walking and Chasing Sunsets return in Brush of Wings. Brush of Wings picks up where Chasing Sunsets left off resolving questions about Mary Catherine’s health and her relationship with Marcus, what the future holds for Sami and Tyler, and their collective friendship with teenaged Lexi. These relationships support the angels’ overall mission of ensuring the successful birth of a child who will grow to be a mighty proclaimer and defender of the Gospel.

Kingsbury’s personal mission of dietary health and her preference of musical artists is woven throughout the story’s plot, which blurs the line between fiction and reality. The reading level, vocabulary, and young adult characters make this book accessible to newer readers, as well as crafting a compelling, page-turning story for her long-time followers.

Review Rating: 3.5/5

Click here for my book review of book 2, Chasing Sunsets.

To learn more about Karen Kingsbury’s books, visit her website http://www.karenkingsbury.com/

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

Book Review – Angels Walking Series, Book 2: Chasing Sunsets ~ Karen Kingsbury

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The angels walking mission continues as God’s heavenly messengers are given instructions on how to encourage, guide, and protect a small interconnected group of humans on earth. The charge to Jag and Aspyn, the two volunteering angels, is to watch over professional baseball player Marcus and free-spirit Mary Catherine, friends of Tyler and Sami, from Angels Walking book 1. Danger from two warring gangs threatens not only Marcus’ goal of opening an inner city youth center in Los Angeles, but also those who want to take refuge there. Meanwhile, Mary Catherine’s desire to seek thrills and live life to the full is hampered in ways that she never could have anticipated. Will Jag and Aspyn succeed with their mission? Will the physical and spiritual challenges Marcus and Mary Catherine face stand in the way of their relationship?

More gritty than Kingsbury’s other writings, Chasing Sunsets presents believable scenarios of spiritual battles won through fervent prayer and the human struggles of keeping secrets at the expense of finding love.

To learn more about Karen Kingsbury’s books, visit her website http://www.karenkingsbury.com/

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/