Monday, October 5, 2015

Hands Free Life

I was instantly intrigued when I saw Hands Free Life: 9 Habits For Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford. I've never read her previous book, Hands Free Mama: A Guide To Putting Down The Phone, Burning The To-Do List, And Letting Go Of Perfection To Grasp What Really Matters!, or read her blog, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. However, I feel like life today is just so much media and technology and not enough real life, hand on, relational interaction, so I knew this was a perfect book for me. Hands Free Life is a slim, easily accessible paperback that outlines nine essential principles, or habits to develop: Fill The Spaces, Surrender Control, Build A Foundation, Take The Pressure Off, See What Is Good, Give What Matters, Establish Boundaries, Leave A Legacy, and Change Someone's Story. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are "Hands Free Life Daily Declarations", and at the end of each chapter is a "Hands Free Life Habit Builder" to help you live out the principles in the book. The book description reads:

"We all yearn to look back to find we lived a life of significance. But is it even possible anymore? Considering the amount of distraction and pressure that exists in society today, living a fulfilling life may seem like an unachievable dream. But it is not—not with the nine habits outlined in this book.

New York Times bestselling author and widely known blogger, Rachel Macy Stafford, reveals nine habits that help you focus on investing in the most significant parts of your life. As your hands, heart, and eyes become open, you will experience a new sense of urgency—an urgency to live, love, dream, connect, create, forgive, and flourish despite the distractions of our culture. By following each daily Hands Free Declaration, you will be inspired to adopt mindful daily practices and new thought-processes that will help you:

• Make meaningful, lasting human connections despite the busyness of everyday life.

• Live in the now despite that inner nudge pushing you out of the moment toward perfection and productivity.

• Protect your most sacred relationships, as well as your values, beliefs, health, and happiness, despite the latent dangers of technology and social media.

• Pursue the passions of your heart without sacrificing your job or your daily responsibilities.

• Evaluate your daily choices to insure you are investing in a life that matters to you.

With a Hands Free Life perspective, you will have the power to look back and see you didn’t just manage life, you actually lived it—and lived it well."

I feel like Hands Free Life is such an important book for society today. I feel like we live in a time when everyone is too busy on computers, smartphones, and tablets to actually live. Additionally, we are less happy because we're constantly living our lives on the stage of social media to gain everyone else's approval instead of living for what makes us happy. I've been guilty of spending way too much time on media of different types myself, so I really needed this book as a reality check. Rachel has such a smooth, friendly way of writing that this book is hard to put down and easy to enjoy. I am excited to build these nine important habits in my life and can't wait to see the results. I highly recommend this book to anyone who reclaim and focus their life, and I'm anxious to read her previous book, Hands Free Mama, as well.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Moment Of Weakness

A Moment Of Weakness is the second book in #1 New York Times best-selling author Karen Kingsbury's Forever Faithful series. I reviewed the previous book, Waiting For Morning, a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to read and review book two. A Moment Of Weakness was originally published in 2000, but is being reprinted and given an updated cover by Multnomah. I usually enjoy Karen Kingsbury's books immensely - she is an extremely talented writer, and I usually finish reading her books with a spiritual takeaway to apply to my life. They're definitely not "fluff" books. Book two, A Moment Of Weakness, follows characters Jade Conner and Tanner Eastman. The back cover reads:

"Had they found each other again after all these years, only to lose everything that matters most?

As children, Jade Conner and Tanner Eastman were best friends—until scandal drove them apart. Then, one golden summer, they find each other again. Through endless days they share their hearts and souls and dreams of forever. Then, in a moment of weakness, they make a decision that will tear them apart for nearly a decade.

In their own separate corners of the country, Jade and Tanner have become fighters for religious freedom. Now Jade’s unfaithful husband is determined to destroy her in a custody battle that will rock the nation and shake people’s understanding of faith and freedom. Could Jade lose her only child because of her faith? Only one man can help her in her darkest hour. And only one old woman knows the secret about that summer and the truth that can set them all free."

The thing I most enjoyed about A Moment Of Weakness was that the characters were Christians, but deeply flawed in certain ways and definitely not perfect by any means. However, Kingsbury draws them out and they both have radical faith shifts and a much deeper, realer faith by the end of the book. I appreciate characters in Christian novels being real people, not perfect cardboard cutout Christians. The story is so much more realistic that way, and much more interesting as well. I have dealt with several of the weighty issues she touches on in this book and so I could really relate to it on a personal level. Karen is an extremely talented writer, and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dramatic, emotional Christian fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Deadlock by DiAnn Mills is the third installment in her FBI: Houston series. Having previously enjoyed the first two books, I was looking forward to reading this one. I love DiAnn Mill's perfect blend of suspense, mystery, action, faith, and romance. Some books advertise as suspense, but are really just a romance novel. I'm not a big romance novel fan, so I appreciate that she keeps the romance light and more in the background. Her writing style is taut, engaging, and keeps me turning the pages. This latest installment follows Special Agents Bethany Sanchez and Thatcher Graves. The book description reads:

"Two murders have rocked the city of Houston. Are they the work of a serial killer, or is a copycat trying to get away with murder?

That is the question facing Special Agent Bethany Sanchez, who is eager for her new assignment in violent crimes but anxious about meeting her new partner. Special Agent Thatcher Graves once arrested her brother, and he has a reputation for being a maverick. Plus, their investigative styles couldn’t be more opposite: he operates on instinct, while she goes by the book.

When hot leads soon fizzle out, their differences threaten to leave them deadlocked. But an attempt on their lives turns up the heat and brings them closer together, and a third victim might yield the clue that will help them zero in on a killer. This could be the case of their careers . . . if they can survive long enough to solve it."

Deadlock is a great addition to the FBI: Houston series. I really enjoyed the fast-paced storyline. This is definitely a book that will keep you up at night, turning the pages to race to the conclusion! Deadlock is action-packed, but sometimes the action made the character development take a backseat - that's my only complaint about this book, which is why I rated it 4 stars instead of 5. Honestly, this series would make a great set of movies or even a miniseries/TV show. I highly recommend Deadlock and the entire FBI: Houston series to anyone who enjoys Christian suspense novels.

I received a copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


I'm not sure why, but when I ordered Randy Alcorn's latest book, Happiness, I was expecting an average length trade paperback. I was (happily) surprised to receive a huge, 481-page hardcover. This is truly the definitive work on happiness and the Christian life. It's absolutely jam-packed with theology, historical resources, quotes, practical advice, and lots of interesting stories to add a cherry on top. The book is divided into four large sections: Our Compelling Quest For Happiness, The Happiness Of God, The Bible's Actual Words For Happiness, and Understanding And Experiencing Happiness in God. There's also an Introduction and two Appendices, plus exhaustive end notes. The book description reads:

"Christians are supposed to be happy. In fact, we are supposed to radiate joy, peace, and contentment that is so unmistakable and so attractive that others are naturally drawn to us because they want what we have. And yet, in today’s culture, the vast majority of Christians are perceived as angry, judgmental people who don’t seem to derive any joy from life whatsoever. So why aren’t we happy?

Unfortunately, many Christians are taught early on that God doesn’t want us to be happy (he wants us to be holy). In fact, many Christians are laboring under the false notion that God himself is not happy. But nothing could be further from the truth! God does want us to be happy. The Bible is filled with verses that prove that ours is a happy, joy-filled God who not only loves celebrations but also desperately wants his children to be happy. Why else would He go to the lengths He did to ensure our eternal happiness in His presence? We know that we will experience unimaginable joy and happiness in Heaven, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also experience joy and happiness here on earth.

In Happiness, noted theologian Randy Alcorn dispels centuries of misconceptions about happiness and provides indisputable proof that God not only wants us to be happy, He commands it. The most definitive study on the subject of happiness to date, this book is a paradigm-shifting wake-up call for the church and Christians everywhere."

Although this is a long, very theologically-intensive book, Alcorn manages to make it very interesting and accessible to the layman. Personally, in the last 11 years I've been a Christian, I've heard the phrases "God wants us to be holy, not happy" and "God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness" more times than I can count. I believe there is some truth to those statements, and they come from a good place and mean well, however the Bible also tells us that Jesus said, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:23). I think there is a healthy balance here. Yes, we absolutely need to be holy (1 Peter 1:16 - be ye holy, for I am holy). However, being saved Christians with the promise of Heaven should make us the happiest people on Earth! Alcorn makes an excellent point that no one will want to learn more about Jesus or become a Christian if we look miserable and unhappy all the time. I think this book is an extremely important work that should bee read by every Christian. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wicked Women of the Bible

In the vein of Liz Curtis Higgs' popular series Bad Girls of the Bible, Ann Spangler brings us a fresh take on the genre - Wicked Women of the Bible. I was super excited to read this book. We hear a lot about the men of the Bible, so I love to get a glimpse of the women featured in the Bible to see what lessons I can glean and learn from them as I walk the path of biblical womanhood. The back cover reads:

"What can Jezebel, the Bible’s wickedest queen, reveal about God’s holiness and power and even about his sense of humor? What about the Woman at the Well—the one with five husbands and a live-in lover? And what of the prostitute whose tears bathe the feet of Jesus in front of people who despise her?

There are also “wicked good” women like Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, Esther, Mary, and more. What do their lives tell us about God’s invincible love and his determined plan to save us?

In Wicked Women of the Bible Ann Spangler tells the stories of twenty wicked and “wicked good” women in greater detail. At the end of each story, Ann provides a brief section including additional historical and cultural background as well as a brief Bible study in order to enhance the book’s appeal to both individuals and groups.

The stories of these women of the Bible reveal a God who is not above it all but who stoops down to meet us where we are in order to extend his love and mercy."

Ann Spangler takes us through the stories of 20 women in the Bible - some wicked bad, some wicked good. Each chapter features a vignette of the woman's story, written in an extremely engaging fashion - part novelization to make it interesting to read, but based on the biblical facts and accounts. Then, she gives us a section called "The Times" for each woman, giving us a glimpse at the time in history each woman lived and the historical and cultural details that shed more light on their story. Finally, there's the "Takeaway" which features several questions for personal reflection or group discussion. I can't say enough good things about this book - it's highly readable and difficult to put down, yet you'll come away with many spiritual truths - it's definitely not a "fluff" women's book. I also have to mention the gorgeous cover. It's truly stunning and perfectly designed.

The only reason I took off one star is because I felt like she kind of threw Bathsheba under the bus in her chapter. I just finished reading Angela Hunt's Bathsheba (Dangerous Beauty) book, which is a fictionalized yet historically accurate book about Bathsheba, and she paints Bathsheba in a very sympathetic light. Hunt states in her end notes that all women bathed outside in their courtyard at that time period; Spangler claims no self respecting woman would've bathed outside in the courtyard in that time period. I'm not sure which one is accurate - I'm definitely going to do a bit more research on that.

However, that minor quibble aside, I absolutely loved this book. I highly recommend it to every Christian woman. This would make a great book to go through for a ladies' Bible study, small group, or book club. You'll be truly blessed by digging deeper into the accounts of these biblical women. Ann Spangler does a phenomenal job at making the Bible truly come alive.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Luther and Katharina

Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion by Jody Hedlund is an extremely unique book. It's a historical novel, but it's based on the real lives of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora. Much of the story is made up of historical facts, but it is a novelized account. Historical fiction isn't usually my favorite genre, but this book sounded so intriguing and I don't know much about Martin Luther so I really wanted to read it and learn more about both the Reformation and Martin Luther. The back cover reads:

"Katharina von Bora has seen nothing but the inside of cloister walls since she was five. In a daring escape, Katharina finds refuge with Martin Luther and seeks his help to pair her with the noble, wealthy husband she desires.

As class tensions and religious conflicts escalate toward the brink of war, Martin Luther believes that each day could be his last and determines he will never take a wife.

As the horrors of the bloody Peasant War break out around them, the proud Katharina and headstrong Martin Luther fight their own battle for true love, in one of the greatest love stories of history."

I've never read a book by Jody Hedlund before, but I've heard good things about her, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. She managed to turn what could be a dry account in a history book into an epic tale of love and rebellion. I loved learning more about Martin Luther and the Reformation. The story is tautly written and keeps you breathlessly turning the pages to find out what will happen next. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or anyone interested in learning more about Martin Luther in an exciting, interesting way.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

7 Secrets To An Awesome Marriage

I make it a point to read as many marriage books as possible, especially Christian-based marriage books, because every marriage can use improvement and I always want to learn as much as I can so I can be the best wife possible. So when I saw 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage: Strengthen Your Most Intimate Relationship by Dr. Kim Kimberling (foreward by Craig & Amy Groeschel), I knew it would be a good book to add to my collection. The book description reads:

"All of us want an enduring marriage, a beautiful marriage we can believe in. That kind of marriage happens through intimacy. Intimacy requires hard work and a guide. Dr. Kim Kimberling is that guide and this book and its tools will show you how communication and intimacy in marriage can be yours.

Kimberling offers insights like connecting every day in spite of what’s in the way, learning how to fight in the right ways, stopping the insanity of doing the same thing over and over even when it isn’t working, and finding that the best sex ever is well within the context of Christian marriages.

Once these 7 secrets are a part of your marriage, you can stand together and fight anything that would ever try to tear your marriage apart.

Whether you have just celebrated your first anniversary or your fiftieth, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage by Dr. Kim Kimberling is for you. If you have a good marriage, this book can help you have a great marriage. If you are struggling, Kim Kimberling will help you turn the corner and make your marriage into what you want it to be."

7 Secrets was a pretty quick and easy read. It has many basics that will help newlywed couples, but enough deep content to help couples who have been married for many years. My favorite part was the fact that he used real-life stories from married couples interspersed throughout the book to help illustrate the principles and how couples worked through their problems. It's always easier for me to apply principles when there are examples given, and Dr. Kimberling did a great job at that.

The seven steps he gives are: Stop (the insanities that hold us back), Start (the practice of putting God first, spouse second),
Connect (the art of listening and being present), Engage (how to fight right), Balance (scheduling for a better marriage), Mingle (sex as the mingling of souls), and Fight (the power of fighting together on the same team). Simple steps for sure, but steps that every marriage can benefit from in some way. Dr. Kimberling writes in a direct, forthright manner that is easy to follow. I highly recommend this book to any married or engaged couple who wants a Christian point of view on marriage.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.