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/

 

 

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Read: April 2017

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Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

For fans of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood (but especially Gilmore Girls), Graham’s autobiography provides readers with stories of her childhood, education in becoming an actor, and personal insights and memories of filming  such beloved TV roles. This was a very quick read for me (<48 hours) since her writing style follows a “stream of consciousness” dialogue. If you’re a fan of GG, as I’ve been for years, this is a fun, lighthearted, pop-culture read!

Book read via: public library

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Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

This continuation of the Baxter family series features a love story of more recent characters Cody Coleman & Andi Ellison, plus takes a look back at how it all began with John and Elizabeth Baxter. Love Story will be released on June 6, so look for an in-depth book review closer to that time. (Update: my book review is now available!)

My thanks to Edelweiss for this digital ARC!

Cruelest Month
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Reading The Cruelest Month, third in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the week of Easter was fortuitous since the book takes place at the exact same time! However, there’s nothing holy about the murder that takes place in Three Pines after someone is literally scared-to-death after a seance. Or is there more to this death than meets the eye?

It took me a while to personally connect with this story compared to the first two books in the series, but once the characters are established and Gamache returns to Three Pines to investigate, my interest was definitely piqued!

For new readers of Penny’s “Gamache” series, I recommend reading these in order for ease of recurring character and plot development continuity.

Book read via: public library

Cover of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

This award-winning middle grade story is told in free verse poetry and was a lightning fast read (literally a few hours at the most on a Friday afternoon). Yes, this is a book about a young man who loves playing basketball, but interwoven is a beautifully supportive family dynamic where the words “crossover” come to mean more than just a way of handling the ball.

A well-deserved recipient of the 2015 Newbery Medal and a 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award that I should have read two years ago!

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

The Optometrist and I picked up a hardback copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle several summers ago, which is a fun memory! It’s not very lengthy and we enjoyed reading it aloud together, along with a little help from the audio version checked out from the public library, excellently narrated by Stephen Fry.

It’s funny, I’ve knit three Hitchhiker shawls over the past few years and watched the movie years ago, but honestly couldn’t remember anything substantial about the plot, so reading the original inspiration was a fun experience to tie everything together!

Book read via: home library

The Silver Chair
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Narnia is always a magical and inviting place to visit, no matter how old you are. My parents gifted me with a paperback set (exact copy of the cover above) for Christmas when I was ~8 years old and I would unequivocally say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is probably one of my all-time favorite books.

And yet, I haven’t ever finished reading the entire Narnia series. Well, I can’t say that’s entirely true because my 5th grade teacher read the entire series aloud to us throughout that school year upon returning to our classroom after recess each afternoon. And I also remember loving the BBC movie version as a young girl – especially marveling at how they made Puddleglum’s hands and feet webbed!

I’m now just one book away (The Last Battle) from finally reading all seven Narnia books!

Book read via: home library

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Hope Heals 
by Jay and Katherine Wolf

If you haven’t heard the testimony of Jay and Katherine Wolf before, it’s one that will forever leave an impression on your heart of what God’s faithfulness looks like in the midst of unknowable human suffering. Their autobiography centers around the event that forever changed their lives: Katherine having a massive stroke at the age of 26. Their marriage is one that is covered with God’s grace and a real-life inspirational example of “loving one another in sickness and in health.”

Or if you’re interested in watching and hearing more about their story, check out this 20 minute documentary on YouTube.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel

Last summer I signed up for a 3 month subscription to the Book of the Month club and this was my personal selection for July.  The opening premise of “a little girl is riding her bike and inadvertently falls into a pit that contains a giant metal hand” might sound a little bizarre – it did to me – but I’m glad I gave it a chance! This sci-fi scenario is grounded in believable ensuing possibilities: research motivations, military involvement, linguistic breakthroughs, and developing love interests.

After finishing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with The Optometrist I was excited to start another sci-fi adventure with him. And now we can look forward to reading book two of the Themis files, Waking Gods, which was released at the beginning of April and the digital ARC awaits us on my Kindle!

What I’m learning, as a relative new comer to sci-fi, is that the genre is much more approachable than I once believed. Like a lot of other genres: this book was fun, well written, kept me wanting to know what would happen next, and contained characters for whom I developed affection.

Book read via: home library

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The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

John Green’s (The Fault in Our Stars) endorsement of this series immediately piqued my interest, “[The] weird, beautiful, unapologetically apocalyptic Last Policeman trilogy is one of my favorite mystery series.”

A brief scenario of this apocalyptic mystery: an asteroid is headed for Earth and will make impact in the next 6 months, so what should Detective Hank Palace do when he discovers a suicide is actually murder?

As a reader, I’m excited all three books in the trilogy have been published so I don’t have to wait to read books 2 and 3!

Book read via: public library

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May brings the end of the school year and the kick-off for summer reading! Books from series like the Dresden Files, Narnia, The Penderwicks, Gamache, and Alaskan Courage are on my short list for right now!

Books: December Edition

Several sick days during finals week (when the library was busy with students, but slower for me not having to provide any instruction) afforded me lots of glorious time to stay at home to rest, drink tea, and read, read, read! And then, with the semester ending and visiting family over Christmas, I had even more time to read! And somehow, I forgot to post this before 2017 rolled around…so here is my December reading recap!

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Good Behavior by Blake Crouch
Oh how I love anything by Blake Crouch! The Pines trilogy was so engrossing and Dark Matter was my favorite book read in 2016 (twice). Now, after finishing Good Behavior, I realize why I enjoy Crouch’s books so much: he writes descriptively and draws the reader in, which helps vividly envision scenarios and characters’ mannerisms, allowing the stories to mentally come to life and remain with you long after the last page is turned.

Comprised of three novellas stories, “The Pain of Others,” “Sunset Key,” and “Grab,” we meet Letty Dobesh, a seasoned criminal who is smart but her past choices and addictions haunt her life post-prison and influence the decisions she currently faces. The stories each stand alone, so there really isn’t a cohesive flow between the three. Yet, after each short story/novella, Crouch provides additional commentary about the story, its creation, and/or how it was adapted for TV; a neat, insider’s glance behind the scenes, allowing the reader to understand this slightly disjointed structure.

While I haven’t seen the TNT series, I’m curious about it simply because Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, plays Letty. Talk about an actress not wanting to be typecast and playing a diverse range of characters!

My thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC!

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Greenglass House by Kate Milford

I saw this listed as a Kindle daily deal in early December, and as I always do, first looked to see if my library had this in the youth collection, which we did (which means I probably ordered it…)! Free beats a Kindle deal any day!

This is an inviting story, perfect for cold, snowy weather, drinking hot chocolate nestled near the Christmas tree, and escaping into a world where two children are solving ongoing thefts and mysteries in a unique, snow-bound inn. Although this is a children’s book, the reading level is advanced (upper elementary for sure) and the plot requires some attention to remember different characters, various names, and details about the mysteries that unfold.

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What Light by Jay Asher

I received a three-chapter preview of this Young Adult novel from NetGalley, and it propelled me to request it from our public library. Jay Asher is best known for his book Th1rteen R3asons Why, which has become a well known, go-to YA story about the tragic impact of bullying.

In comparison, this Christmas story is much more positive and sweet. Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm and each year they travel from Oregon to California to sell their trees, so she has two lives and two sets of friends divided around the holidays. This year, however, she meets a cute boy whose past is shrouded in speculation and rumor, and she must decide whether to accept him as he is, or be fearful of his past. This YA novel includes positive messages of acceptance, fresh starts, and openness towards the future.

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Submerged by Dani Pettrey

While I’m pretty familiar with Inspirational Fiction authors, Dani Pettrey had never been on my radar until seeing one of her books as a Kindle daily deal. Again, I opted for checking my public library first to see if any of her books (especially starting with Book 1 of a series) were available. Thankfully, several were, including Submerged, the first in her Alaskan Courage series.

Although I’ve never been to Alaska, I was easily whisked away to the small, fictitious, coastal town of Yancey where Cole McKenna and his adventurous siblings work together with a friend from years past to uncover the motives surrounding a series of interconnected murders. This Christian fiction story includes themes of forgiveness, letting go of the past, the bonds of family, and an assurance in God’s faithfulness.

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Shattered
by Dani Pettrey

After devouring Submerged I grabbed Shattered, the second book in the Alaskan Courage series, at my public library and enjoyed it equally as much as I did the first! The McKenna siblings return once more, with sister Piper and family friend Landon being featured as the main characters in this installment, as they collectively work to prove the true identity of someone who has killed their brother’s friend.  Themes in Shattered include dependence on God, being open to love, truth prevailing, and loyalty among family members.

I’ve also realized my favorite books are written with a strong sense of place, which allows me to fully immerse myself in the writer’s world, and this series definitely whisks me away to an inviting, fictitious place!

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A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

I began reading stories surrounding the Baxter family in 2008 and have read every.single.one.of.them (this is the 24th) over the years – wow!  This is definitely the longest series I’ve read and endeavored to keep up with, but the characters leave imprints on your heart and it’s always cozy to return to beloved friends found between the pages.

However, Kingsbury shares a brief backstory about all the characters in the preface, so you can be completely new to the Baxter family and still enjoy this sweet story of love, honesty, forgiveness, family relationships, and the birth of Jesus at Christmastime.

My thanks to Edelweiss for the digital ARC!

 

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/

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday.

A time of repentance.

A time to remember from ashes we have come and to ashes we will someday return.

A time to study the last 40 days of Christ’s life and ministry on this earth.

A time to anticipate His sacrificial death on the cross.

A time to rejoice in His life-giving resurrection.

A time to hope in Jesus’ second advent.

I find it fitting that our spring ladies Bible study begins tonight and that our curriculum is The Family of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury.

What an appropriate season to draw closer to the life of Christ and ponder His earthly familial relationships within the framework of Scripture. I read the stand-alone novel, upon which the study is based, last winter and found it insightful and moving, with a well-connected story arc. I can’t wait for our Bible study participants to experience scripture told through Kingsbury’s storyteller lens.

In addition to journeying through this study with such sweet sisters in Jesus, The Optometrist and I are going to join Margaret Feinberg’s #LentChallenge to read through the Gospels over the next six weeks. Maybe you want to join in, too? If so, click the link above for more information and to download the reading guide. Throughout this journey the key question she wants us to ponder as we read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is what do you most need to read but least want to hear?

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With these two scriptural avenues as guides I pray my heart will be open and willing, my soul receptive and obedient, and my mind challenged and changed throughout the next forty days, and beyond.