Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book Review: "Trim Healthy Mama Plan"

Chemistry was one of my least favorite classes in high school. I didn’t care much more for it when I helped successive children through it in their high school years. I think this is why I struggled to read the Trim Healthy Mama Plan. It felt like chemistry class.

Don’t get me wrong. The teachers for this class are friendly and entertaining. They want their students to succeed. But the material is still chemistry. It’s not what you eat or how much, but how you combine it: meats with veggies but never potatoes, fruits with grains, etc. Several chapters in I was still struggling to understand what foods I could safely serve together without forever ruining my family’s health and metabolism.

Then I realized that my family is healthy right now, and I wondered if God really meant for meal preparation to be so complicated. I put the book away. I may use it as a reference from time to time, and I’m interested in trying some of Pearl and Serene’s recipes, but the plan as a whole is too complex. Everything in moderation (except for gluten, soy, and dairy) works for me.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: "Worship Changes Everything"

In the final chapter of her new book, Worship Changes Everything, Darlene Zschech says, “My prayer is that God, through the teaching and inner working of the Holy Spirit, will use Worship Changes Everything to deepen, widen, strengthen, and nourish you in worship; to help you live, love, pray, praise, work, walk, serve, give, overcome—to breathe—in the presence of God.”

A few paragraphs later, she continues, “I pray that your heart will be stirred by the glory and presence of Jesus, and that with every fiber of your being you will recognize and acknowledge that He alone is worthy of all our praise.” If you long to learn how to live with a continual awareness of God’s presence and with a heart that worships Him all day long, Darlene wrote this book to encourage you.

Part One: The Heart of Worship was my favorite part of the book. These six chapters were all about Who God Is and why He Is worthy of our worship, praise, and gratitude. They led me into worship as I read. Part Two: The Hands of Worship was more practical, telling readers how to worship not only at church but also through every aspect of life, looking toward eternity. Both sections contain relevant Scripture references, Darlene’s personal experiences, and quotes from well-known Christian leaders, both historical and contemporary, to help readers understand each of Darlene's points.

If developing a heart of worship is something you want to learn more about, I recommend this book to you. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #5

Five weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:
Almost done!
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 109 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Finished!)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Finished!)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 303 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Currently on page 111 of 261)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Currently on page 39 of 296)
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray (Started! Currently on page 26 of 329)
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 35 of 124)
One week to go! Like this past week, it'll be a busy one, though. Celebrating Christmas and New Year's with my family are the higher priority. I'll post my final update on January 1st!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #4

Four weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 96 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Finished!)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Finished!)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 124 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Currently on page 61 of 261)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Currently on page 188 of 251)
  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Started! Currently on page 16 of 296)
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray (Not started yet)
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis (Started! Currently on page 9 of 124)
Yes. I slipped another one in there. I don't know if I'll have time to finish it or not, but I just had to start one more C.S. Lewis book this year. This one has been calling to me since I started writing my series on prayer, The Conversation Begins, at Wildflower Faith.

  • What books are calling you to read them soon?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: "All Is Calm/All Is Bright"

This book showed up on my doorstep as a happy surprise. I love Colleen Coble's books. They are always the perfect combination of romance, suspense, mystery, and insight. All Is Calm/All Is Bright is actually two stories for the price of one, novellas for Christmas set in places familiar to Coble's fans: Bluebird Ranch and Hope Beach. This means readers get to learn what's going on in the lives of familiar characters while discovering the fates of some of the minor characters from Coble's books.

The first story is set at Bluebird Ranch. I haven't read the series places there yet, but I wasn't lost. The short story stands alone just fine. In this story, Lauren Everman goes to the ranch to hide. Her cousin is framing her for a crime she didn't commit. Brendan Waddell, a visitor to the ranch, decides to investigate on her behalf, though he's not convinced she's innocent.

The second story, set on Hope Beach, was used in two of Coble's series. I loved all of the subtle updates on the lives of characters from all of the stories involved. The main story, though, involves Delilah Carter, manager of Tidewater Inn. Someone is trying to kill her. Sheriff Tom Bourne is determined to discover who, protect the girl, and give her the best Christmas ever.

If you enjoy short Christmas stories around this time of year, I recommend this book to you. I received my complimentary copy from The Fiction Guild in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review: "The Wedding Chapel"

Rachel Hauck’s books breathe romance like no one else’s do. Brides, princesses, beautiful dresses . . . and now a forsaken wedding chapel in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee. Who doesn’t want to read a book about a sixty-something-year-old wedding chapel that has never been used?

What I love most, though, is that Hauck’s books always dig in deeper than that. Her newest book, for example, The Wedding Chapel, is the story of secrets, deception, abandonment, misunderstandings, discovering the truth—and doing something about it, trusting in God’s Spirit to help a person make what’s gone horribly wrong right.

The Wedding Chapel tells the stories of two couples. Taylor and Jack are newly married but neither is sure their marriage is real or meant to stick. When threats come at them from both sides, they must learn to communicate, to fight together for what they both know that they want. The other couple, Jimmy and Collette, were high school sweethearts pledged to be married before the war took him away. They were not to see each other again for more than sixty years. When a sudden decision reunites them, they must decide if the hurt of the past makes a future impossible or not.

My favorite scene was the one where Jack’s last foster father, the one who gave him a home before he aged out of the system, revealed something that brought incredible healing to Jack’s heart and then offered something, once again, that Jack needed almost more than anything, something that Jack was finally ready to receive.

If you enjoy books about broken and messed up people learning how to depend on God to help them figure out how life works best, I recommend The Wedding Chapel to you. I thank Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #3

Three weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
    I'll finish this one this week!
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 74 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Currently at location 1310 of 3430)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Currently on page 87 of 130)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Currently on page 357 of 382)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 53 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Currently on page 312 of 368)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Currently on page 23 of 179.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Started! Currently on page 23 of 261.)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Currently on page 123 of 251)
  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Not started yet)
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray (Not started yet)
Though I only finished one book this week, I'm really close to finishing three more. Next week's update will have several more strike-throughs. Do you read your books in batches or one at a time?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Book Review: "Longing for Paris"

Sarah Mae longs to visit Paris, a city her own mother lived in for a few years and told her stories about, capturing her imagination and her heart. But Sarah has family and ministry and a life to live in the city where she is.  Sarah wants both. This wrestling with desires that seem incompatible for the time being has led her to write an amazing book, Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure—Right Where She Is. I’m so glad I got to read it!

Sarah begins by telling readers about this wrestling and how it led her to try to find Paris right where she is. (She even started with a hunt for croissants!) In the chapters following her story, she discusses aspects of Paris that she has learned to find and enjoy anywhere. She writes about savoring life, enjoying beauty, and living all-out for Christ. She also writes about marriage, family, service, and adventure. She teaches readers to find the things they most long for right where they are in order to live lives full of purpose and delight.

Anyone who feels stuck or in need of inspiration will find value, motivation, and fun ideas in this book. I highly recommend it and thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending a review copy to me.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Old Year's Race-to-the-Finish Reading Update #2

Two weeks ago, I posted my list of books I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2015. Here's where I stand today:

  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Finished!)
  • The Tears of Dark Water by Corban Addison (Currently on page 57 of 439)
  • The Bronte' Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • Audacious by Beth Moore (Finished!)
  • Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon (Currently at location 1204 of 3430)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown (Currently on page 23 of 130)
  • Saying It Well by Charles Swindoll (Finished!)
  • Breaking Free Day-by-Day by Beth Moore (Currently on page 291 of 382)
  • A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love (Finished! Read my review here.)
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Currently on page 32 of 380)
  • The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (Currently on page 27 of 368)
  • All Is Calm - All Is Bright by Colleen Coble (Started! Currently on page 11 of 179.)
  • Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae (Started! Currently on page 45 of 198.)
  • Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (Not started yet)
  • Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech (Currently on page 64 of 251)

Two more books for me to review arrived on my doorstep before December began. One was not expected so soon, the other a surprise! But I do try to finish reviews within a month of the time I receive the book, so I'm adding these two to my list, giving myself permission to be late if I must be:

  • Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
  • Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray
What kinds of reading goals do you set for yourself? Do you set ambitious goals, then give yourself permission to fall short of reaching them? Do you set strict goals and make them high priorities? Do you set reachable goals and find joy in surpassing your personal expectations?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: "A Respectable Actress"

Just out of the blue, Surprise! - The Fiction Guild sent me a copy of Dorothy Love’s new book, A Respectable Actress, for review. I thank them; I enjoyed this read.

So many things to love about this book.
  • The setting: Savannah and St. Simon’s Island in Georgia. I’ve had so much fun in recent years visiting the modern versions of both, so reading the history was fun for me.
  • The characters: imagined from the lives of real people. The author tells more in her note following the story. I also enjoyed meeting a character from one of Love’s books that I’ve yet to read but hope to someday, Celia Browning Mackay from The Bracelet.
  • The era: just after the Civil War. Characters in this book are still recovering, but the focus is on a newcomer to the area, one untouched by the event.
  • The plot: a murder mystery, but not just any murder mystery. Every time it seems to be solved, the main character discovers another loose end, bringing all conclusions into question again . . . and the story goes on. India Hartley just will not let anything questionable go.
Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the uniqueness of Dorthy Love's newest book.