Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: A Stillness of Chimes

Childhood friends Laura Gantt, Sean Halloran, and Cassie Bright (along with Cassie’s little sister, Tig) vowed they’d always watch out for one another. Then they grew up and two moved away. But now they’re all back in town at the same time, and they need each other—whether all three want to admit it or not.

Laura is in town for her mother’s funeral. An only child whose father drowned twelve years ago, Laura is the sole heir, responsible to settle her mother’s estate. Rumor has it, however, that her father didn’t really drown. Rather he faked his own death and went into hiding. Members of the small community in Georgia have started catching glimpses of him, insisting he’s alive and well. With the help of her friends, Laura must uncover the truth while helping Cassie discover the meaning of her own mother’s disconcerting change in behavior.

A Stillness of Chimes is a mystery that kept me guessing until the end. But it’s also a story of faithful friendship and patient love, of steadfast loyalty to those who don’t always deserve it yet receive it anyway from people who choose to care about them when given every reason to simply walk away. I appreciated this story and thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review. Meg Moseley is an author whose books I’ve come to watch for. A Stillness of Chimes did not disappoint!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book Review: Every Waking Moment

Every Waking Moment is the story of an unusual girl with a curious gift and the people who care about her. Treha Langsam has no memory of her childhood. She has a job she loves and makes enough to get by. She enjoys living simply. She’s not especially attractive and her eyes move constantly, so people who don’t know her either don’t see her or choose to avoid her. But those whose lives she has touched love her, are protective of her, and want to help her, though she doesn’t understand why.

The story begins when the nursing home Treha works in gets a new director who doesn’t understand or appreciate Treha’s gift. This same director doesn’t understand why a documentary team with big dreams sees value in filming the stories of the elderly in their last days. As the director pushes for unwanted change, the former director, the documentary teams, and residents of the nursing home find themselves working together to help each other, to help Treha, and to make some profound discoveries that will impact lives far beyond what any of them would have imagined.

I loved this story of connection, compassion, care, justice, mercy, and moving forward. It is one that I had passed over on a first opportunity, but I’m glad another came along.  (I borrowed this book from our local library and chose to review it as part of Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.) The characters in this story are worth getting to know. Their insights are worth remembering. Every Waking Moment is a novel that’s worth the reading time. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Coloring Quandary

This week, I'm reading a book by Chris Fabry called Every Waking Moment. I will be reviewing the book next week, but already I'm loving this touching story.

My quandary, though, is that I borrowed it from the library which means I can't highlight or underline text or scribble notes in the margin. And this book needs a lot of that!

Thankfully, I keep a quote journal for just such emergencies. I'm recording the best, most thought-provoking sentences in it for future pondering.

I love quotes that strike me as true! If I own the book, I discover them in, I'll highlight or underline in a color that matches the cover of the book. (Basic yellow highlighting or black or blue ink is just too ordinary for words that have value--unless they happen to match the cover of the book. And bright colors are just so much fun!) Sometimes I share these quotes on GoodReads or Pinterest or Twitter because great words must be read. And if the quote provokes a train of thought that just can't be stopped, I'll record my thoughts on this blog labelled Words Aptly Spoken.

How about you?

  • Do you write in your books?
  • Do you use a particular highlighter or pen?
  • How do you collect the quotes that catch your imagination?
  • Have you found ways to share them with others?
  • Why do you choose to share or not share?
  • What book most recently read has demanded further thought, greater digestion of ideas?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: Heart of the Country

First, I watched the movie.

It was sweet, but it left me with a lot of questions. It seemed to me there was something really significant just under the surface, but I couldn’t quite grasp whatever it was.

So I read the book.

Within just a few pages, I started finding answers to my questions and figuring it all out. By the end of the book, I felt like I’d wrapped myself up in a warm, fuzzy blanket. I was content with this story.

Heart of the Country by Rene Gutteridge and John Ward is the story of two prodigals who happen to marry each other while running away from their feelings about circumstances at home. Thankfully, when their fairy tale life meets harsh reality, tempting them to run from each other, those families do what families are meant to do. They help the prodigals find their way safely home.

The characters in this book are amazing. Each must struggle with deep emotions and battle his or her own set of issues. They learn, they grow, they make mistakes and say words they regret. But when it really matters, they come through for one another, their imperfect love revealing many aspects of the perfect, sacrificial, merciful, protecting, graceful, abiding love of God.

I am happy to recommend Heart of the Country to you!

No one sent me this book to review. I got my own copy. I am choosing to review it for credit in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Loving Just Because

“The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” -The Love Dare, p. 46

People rarely talk about why they love their parents or children. They just love them. Our parents and children are our people, related by blood, set into families designed by God. In extreme situations, like those involving abuse, people may walk away from these relationships, but as a general rule, parents and children, even siblings, don't wonder if they'll be able to stand being related to one another for the rest of their lives. They just accept that that's the way it will be. They love each other in spite of all quirks. They love each other in spite of life. Together they muddle through come what may.

Marriage is different, though. Because spouses choose each other, they sometimes feel the need to analyze and justify it. The authors of The Love Dare point out that couples say things like, “I love her because she's such a great cook.” “I love him because he's so charming.” “. . . she's so thoughtful of others.” “. . . he's so responsible.” “. . . she makes me happy.” “. . . he makes me feel good about myself.” And so on.

The trouble with this is that if the because ceases to be, the door is open for love to go with it. That's when marriages fall apart. Those things may draw couples to each other, but they won't keep them together for life.

Our relationship with God teaches us a better way. Just as we choose to get married, we choose whether or not to be part of God's family. God started it. He loves us because He is love. (1 John 4:8 and 16) When we choose to respond to His love, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and because of Who He Is, our awe-inspiring God. Those becauses will never change (Hebrews 13:8); it's a relationship of unconditional love.

As human beings on a spiritual journey, we have to learn this concept over time. We may start out loving God because He saved us from our sins, because He provides for us, because of things we expect Him to do for us or in our lives. For this reason, sometimes our relationship with Him, from our side of things, stands on shaky ground. It's when we learn to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15), that we've learned unconditional love.

And we share the lesson with our spouse. (Giggle. Not the “slay me” part. The unconditional love. If your spouse is trying to kill you, please run!)

Seriously, we love each other because we chose each other. We set that choice in stone when we said, “I do . . . for better or for worse.” We don't have to wonder if we'll be able to stand one another for the rest of our lives. We just decide that we will. We love each other in spite of our quirks . . . in spite of life. Together we muddle through. We are each other's people, related by commitment, brought together by God for life.

It's not always easy, but when couples settle the matter once and for all that they are together forever come what may just because that's the choice they've made, that's a solid foundation on which God can build. It's something He will bless! Count on that. We don't love because of how our spouse looks or acts or what our spouse says or does. We love because we chose.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Review: I'm No Angel

It all started with a Tweet: “I quit being a VS model to become a Proverbs 31 wife.” Kylie Bisutti had no idea anyone would want to hear her story, but once they read that simple message, they did. So she told it in her book, I’m No Angel: From Victoria’s Secret Model to Role Model.

The beauty in this story is all in God’s patient work in one young woman’s life and in her obedient response. Kylie loves the Lord. She loves her husband. She cares about young women, like herself, who are being pressured to do whatever it takes to be beautiful in the world’s eyes. Kylie's eyes were opened when her eight-year-old cousin threatened to stop eating, so she could grow up to be beautiful like Kylie. Kylie decided that being a Victoria’s Secret model wasn’t the kind of model she wanted to be. I’m No Angel is her testimony.

The book concludes with a 30-Day True Beauty Makeover: a daily devotional, divided into five relevant sections, to help young women develop truly beautiful lives as they seek God’s will for their lives. Each message is profoundly simply, focusing on one important truth. Women who wrestle with self-esteem issues will benefit from reading this bonus section of the book.

No one sent me this book for review. I obtained my own copy and chose to read and review it for Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys biographies and testimonies of God’s work in His people's lives.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Epic Grace

“Hey, Janet! Have you read this yet? It looks interesting. Did you like it?” my husband asked, holding up Epic Grace. I had earned the book through the Tyndale Rewards Program* but hadn’t gotten to it yet. I decided it was time.

A few days later I learned it was on Tyndale’s Summer ReadingProgram list. Bonus!

Whatever journey I took to get around to reading this book, I’m glad I did. Now I’m recommending it to my family. I’m happy to recommend it to you, too.

Author Kurt Bubna writes of God’s grace from every angle. He encourages readers to receive it, to share it, to offer it, to live it. He applies it to every aspect of life: marriage, parenting, habits, finances. The subtitle explains the content well: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot (translation: a sinner saved by grace). Bubna shares stories from his life, from the Bible, and from people he’s come to know along the way to help us understand each idea he presents. He presents solid truth with a gentle sense of humor that makes it easy to read and grasp. Two recurring themes of the book are trust God and encourage each other. It’s all about appreciating and sharing God’s grace.

Twenty-two short chapters and a discussion guide written by a pastor, husband, father, and grandpa, Epic Grace is an easy read that’s worth your time. I’m glad my husband reminded me it was waiting on our shelf.

*Note: Clicking on this link will take you to Tyndale Rewards where you can sign up to earn books, too. You'll start out with extra points for signing up through the link, and I will earn some, too!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Review: The Prayer Box

Tandi Jo Reese has no idea that she’s made a life-changing discovery when she finds a closet full of mysterious boxes full of letters to her former landlord’s Father. Unable to resist, Tandi starts reading the letters, though she’s really been hired to clean the house that was left to the church next-door after her landlord’s death. When Tandi realizes that the letters are really prayers and that there’s one box full of them for every year of Iola Anne Poole’s life from her tenth year on, Tandi becomes protective of the letters—and even more determined to read them all.

At the same time, Tandi is trying to make a new life for herself and her two children, a life that she hopes will begin in the happiest place she ever knew as a child. Visiting with her grandparents on Hatteras Island was the one bright spot in her troubled life. She moves to the island because she longs for a stable refuge.

Though the story is contemporary, Iola’s story is woven throughout (as Tandi reads the letters), giving readers a sense of history—and the fun of two stories running parallel. As Tandi makes discoveries about the kind of woman Iola Anne Poole was, she also makes decisions about the kind of woman she wants to be—especially as she learns she has a choice! Iola’s past and other people’s opinions of her did not define her; Tandi fights to make this true for her life as well, in spite of opposition from people who'd rather she not change.

I'm posting this review as a participant in Tyndale's Summer Reading Program. The Prayer Box is a book I truly enjoyed and am happy to recommend.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Still Lolo

Still Lolo is the story of one young woman and her family’s spiritual journey, from her childhood to the night of the tragic and devastating accident that put their faith to the test up to right now.

On December 3, 2011, Lauren Scruggs stepped out of a small airplane and into the path of its propeller. (In Chapter 19, Lauren’s father walks readers through the scene of the accident, clearly explaining how such a thing could happen—and did.) Miraculously, Lauren survived, though she lost her left eye and hand. (Lauren’s father also explains just what a close call it was: a miniscule measurement meant the difference between a clear miss, the injury, or death.)

But the book isn’t just about the accident or Lauren’s recovery. Family members take turns (with the help of Marcus Brotherton) telling about significant events of their lives leading up to the accident and how God used these to prepare the family the handle the trauma victoriously, in complete dependence on Him and with the abundant help of caring community. This book is packed full of lessons learned, faith in our sovereign God, generous gratitude, and praise.

Readers who are inspired by testimonies and biographies will want to read this book. I borrowed it from my local library in order to participate in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Note: I'm sharing this review with First Friday Book Faves.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: A Table by the Window

I was totally captivated by A Table by the Window right up to the moment when I realized it wasn’t going to end.

Then I was devastated. Somebody should have given me a heads up.

But then I might not have read the book, and I’m glad I read the book—even if I do have to wait for the sequel to find out how the story ends.

A Table by the Window is the story of Juliette, the youngest of five siblings whose parents met on an airplane while emigrating to America, one from France and one from Italy. Juliette’s grandmother, a pastry chef, has just passed away, and Juliette has inherited a mystery. As she follows clues to solve it, she finds herself solving the mysteries of her own life, discovering who she is and what she wants aside from being the youngest adult member of a restaurant dynasty and meeting that flamboyant family's expectations.

As a bonus to a well-told story, most chapters end with recipes for dishes that Juliette either eats or cooks over the course of the book. I enjoyed reading through the recipes, whose instructions include a touch of humor, but I don’t think I’m skilled enough to try many of them. Most included ingredients I’d never heard of. I was surprised to learn, however, that the sugar cookies I bake every Christmas are Bavarian. Their recipe is in this book. It is one my family knows well.

The story itself  is a perfect read for a quiet afternoon. I will be watching for the sequel. I recommend the book to you.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

For the Love of Summer Reading

Did you know that Tyndale House Publishers has a Summer reading program? Truthfully, it’s one of the reasons I’m launching this blog. It’s not the only reason, but it’s the one that convinced me to move forward with the idea.

Jay-Niles Memorial Library: One of my favorites!
I love to read! And I love Summer reading programs. I was heartbroken as a kid when the library told me I was too old to participate anymore. When I had kids of my own, signing them up for the Summer reading program was a priority every year. If we happened to live somewhere that didn’t have a Summer reading program, I made one up complete with a chart, stickers, and prizes. And I made let my kids participate clear through high school.

Now they’re all grown up, but Tyndale House Publishers has a Summer reading program for grown-ups. For every five books read and reviewed, readers get to choose a new, free book. (Who needs charts and stickers when one can read for books?!) This is the third year I’ve played.

Last year, though, I felt like book reviews totally dominated my blog over the summer months. That caused me some personal stress. I write devotionals to encourage my readers to grow in God’s Presence anywhere. Jesus loves us and wants us to learn to live in His Presence. The books I read often encourage us in this, so the occasional review is a good thing. But I want devotional thoughts to be the emphasis of Wildflower Faith.

So I’m moving my book reviews to this new space. If you follow me on Twitter or Google+ or Facebook, you’ll still see announcements of new reviews just like you do when I post at Wildflower Faith. You may not even realize you’ve clicked to a different blog. If you’ve just found me for the first time on-line, my sidebar and connect page offer ways for you to get these notifications, too. If you don’t see your favorite, please be patient. This new blog is a work-in-progress.

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll post this blog’s first review! I can’t wait to start sharing thoughts about the books I’ve read with you.