Friday, February 12, 2016

The Secret To Hummingbird Cake


The Secret To Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale is an atmospheric tale chock full of Southern charm. Part chick lit, part inspiration, part Fried Green Tomatoes, this engaging and unique tale highlights the lifelong friendship between Carri, Laine, and Ella Rae. I was looking for a book that was a comfortable, fun, easy read that still packed an inspiring punch and was full of depth, and this one fit the bill. The book description reads:

"“Why won’t you just tell me what’s in that cake?” I’d been trying to get Laine’s recipe for years. We all had.

When all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.

In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food—especially dessert— is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family— even if the threat is something you cannot see.

In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws . . . from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way."

From page one, The Secret To Hummingbird Cake pulled me into the rich, layered, sometimes difficult world of Carri, Laine, and Ella Rae. I left this book wanting to be friends with them myself! I found myself longing for such a deep and rich connection with friends as they had in this story. This book wasn't quite what I expected - while fun, light, and humorous at times, it also touched on some incredibly difficult themes - love, heartbreak, infidelity, and loss. It's the type of book that can make you laugh out loud on one page and having you wiping away tears on the next. I was absolutely captivated by the small Southern town setting for this book - living in Los Angeles my entire life, I love getting the feel for small town charm that I've never experienced. I could vividly imagine the setting and characters and felt like they were real. While this is labeled as a Christian book, the faith and Christian themes are a very mild portion of the book and almost hinted at rather than outright stated in the story. I felt this element could've been a little stronger, but this book will appeal to a wide audience due to the subtleness of this element. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good Southern lit or chicklit read.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Lifegiving Home


I was super excited to receive a copy of The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. As a wife and stay at home mom, I'm always looking for ways to make our home more peaceful, relaxing, godly, and, well ... lifegiving! I eagerly anticipated its arrival and opened it up as soon as I got it. First of all, the cover of this book is just beautiful. It immediately gave me a peaceful, homey feeling. But let's move onto the inside of the book - the description reads:

"How to make home your family’s favorite place to be . . . all year long.
Does your home sometimes feel like just a place to eat, sleep, and change clothes on the way to the next activity? Do you long for “home” to mean more than a place where you stash your stuff? Wouldn’t you love it to become a haven of warmth, rest, and joy . . . the one place where you and your family can’t wait to be?

There is good news waiting for you in the pages of The Lifegiving Home. Every day of your family’s life can be as special and important to you as it already is to God. In this unique book designed to help your family enjoy and celebrate every month of the year together, you’ll discover the secrets of a life-giving home from a mother who created one and her daughter who was raised in it: popular authors Sally and Sarah Clarkson. Together they offer a rich treasure of wise advice, spiritual principles, and practical suggestions. You’ll embark on a new path to creating special memories for your children; establishing home-building and God-centered traditions; and cultivating an environment in which your family will flourish. (Don’t miss the companion piece, The Lifegiving Home Experience.)"

I absolutely loved this book. It was so challenging, yet so encouraging. I loved the month-by-month format that takes you through the entire year. I'm planning on getting the companion book/journal, "The Lifegiving Home Experience" to work through this book in depth over the next year. The fact that this book was written by a mother-and-daughter team made it feel extra special. I liked all the wonderful ideas given throughout and am excited to try them. I also felt challenged to welcome people into my home more often (which we should all do and practice, Christian hospitality). I highly recommend this book (and the companion piece) to every woman looking to improve her home and make it a more peaceful, restful, and meaningful place. This book will truly help you nurture your family and make your house a home.

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

The Gentle Art Of Discipling Women


I was excited to receive a copy of The Gentle Art of Discipling Women: Nurturing Authentic Faith in Ourselves and Others by Dana Yeakley to review. As a member of a large and active Sunday School class and care group leader, I frequently have the opportunity to disciple Christian women who are newer and younger in the faith. I sometimes feel unprepared or uncomfortable when called upon to disciple other women, so I'm always looking for tools to help me feel more confident in helping others. Books like this can be very helpful in the process of discipling others. The book description reads:

"Discipleship is a responsibility of every believer, yet many of us avoid doing it because we don’t know where to start. The Gentle Art of Discipling Women provides a framework for discipleship from the mentoring voice of a seasoned discipler. Dana Yeakley walks with you through the foundational principles of who you are in Christ and how you are uniquely equipped to pass along what He has taught you.

The book is divided into two parts:
Be a Disciple: Four foundational truths (We Are Becoming; We Are Forgiven; We Have Access; We Are Safe) strengthen our confidence so that we can pass along our faith.

Make a Disciple: Four questions (How Do We Create the Right Atmosphere? Who Do We Help? What Do We Share? How Does Discipling One-on-One Actually Work?) help us nurture a discipleship relationship.
The Gentle Art of Discipling Women will help each woman discover her unique gifting in discipleship through her relationship with God, her personality, and her story."

This book is divided into two main sections: Be A Disciple and Make A Disciple. I was a bit surprised when I first started reading this book - the first section, Be A Disciple, focuses on extremely basic principles of the Christian life. It started off as a bit of a slow read, however, it is a very good way to start the book - you can't disciple someone else if you yourself aren't grounded in the basic truths of the Christian faith. I appreciated that she took the time to make sure that we are fully versed in the basics of Christianity before we attempt to disciple others. The book really picked up and piqued my interest in the second section, Make A Disciple, which focuses on the main point of the book: the (gentle) art of discipling women. This gives very practical tips of discipling other women and I found it extremely helpful. I was able to glean several tips that I am excited to use in my discipling relationships. I highly recommend this to women's group leaders and mature Christian women who have the opportunity to disciple younger Christian women.

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

The Newsmakers


The Newsmakers is the second book I've read by Lis Wiehl, the first being Snapshot. I had trouble getting into that book so I was a bit worried to try The Newsmakers, but the description sounded so interesting that I decided to give it a shot anyway. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this book much more that Snapshot. I'm not sure if that's because the plot was just more interesting to me, or because it was co-written with Sebastian Stuart. Either way, The Newsmakers was a great book. The description reads:

"TV reporter Erica Sparks has become a superstar overnight. Is it due to her hard work and talent, or is she at the center of a spiraling conspiracy?

Erica Sparks is a beautiful and ambitious reporter who has just landed her dream job at Global News Network in New York. And while it was hard to leave Jenny, her cherished eight-year-old daughter, in the custody of her ex-husband, Erica is determined to succeed in the cutthroat world of big-time broadcasting. She can only hope her troubled past won’t come back to sabotage her dreams.

Although the wounds from her divorce are still fresh, Erica can’t deny the chemistry between her and her new producer, the handsome and empathic Greg Underwood. But a relationship is the last thing she wants right now.

On her very first assignment, Erica inadvertently witnesses—and films—a horrific tragedy, scooping all the other networks. Mere weeks later, another tragedy strikes—again, right in front of Erica and her cameras. Her career skyrockets overnight, but Erica is troubled. Deeply. This can’t just be coincidence. But what is it?

Erica will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. But she has to make sure disaster—and her troubled past—don’t catch up with her first."

I found this storyline intriguing and compelling from the very first page. We're thrust into the fast-paced and exciting world of Erica Sparks, who's grappling with balancing her high-powered career and the desire to be with her eight year old daughter, Jenny. We are thrown from one exciting event to the next, leaving your heart pounding and quickly flipping pages to find out what will happen. Erica's quest to find the truth kept me intrigued on every page. Although it was easy to dislike Erica at times (her ditching her child with her ex to pursue her career particularly grated on me), you still will feel compelled by her story in this plot-driven thriller. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.

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

The Quality Of Silence


The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton is a very unique and different thriller. With eccentric characters (Yasmin, an astrophysicist, and Ruby, her deaf child) and a novel setting (remote Alaska), this book caught my interest right away. A book based on a premise like this can either be really, really good or really, really bad, but I'm glad to say this one fell into the really, really good category. The book description reads:

"The gripping, moving story of a mother and daughter's quest to uncover a dark secret in the Alaskan wilderness, from the New York Times bestselling author of Sister and Afterwards

Thrillingly suspenseful and atmospheric, The Quality of Silence is the story of Yasmin, a beautiful astrophysicist, and her precocious deaf daughter, Ruby, who arrive in a remote part of Alaska to be told that Ruby's father, Matt, has been the victim of a catastrophic accident. Unable to accept his death as truth, Yasmin and Ruby set out into the hostile winter of the Alaskan tundra in search of answers. But as a storm closes in, Yasmin realizes that a very human danger may be keeping pace with them. And with no one else on the road to help, they must keep moving, alone and terrified, through an endless Alaskan night."

One of my favorite genres to read is a good suspense novel, and this one definitely didn't disappoint. I fell in love with the very unique characters and their plight. This is a novel that chilled me to the bone - literally and figuratively. I felt like I was in the windswept, frozen tundra of Alaska right alongside Yasmin and Ruby. Warning - don't start this one at night, or you'll be up frantically turning pages until the sun comes up! This is the first book I've read by Rosamund Lupton, but it definitely won't be the last. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense.

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Miriam


Miriam is the second book in the Treasures of the Nile series by Mesu Andrews. The first book in the series was The Pharaoh's Daughter, which was absolutely incredible. I've been eagerly anticipating the second installment in the series, so was super excited to receive an advance copy of Miriam. I definitely wasn't disappointed. The book description reads:

"The Hebrews call me prophetess, the Egyptians a seer.
But I am neither. I am simply a watcher of Israel
and the messenger of El Shaddai.
When He speaks to me in dreams, I interpret. When He whispers a melody, I sing.

At eighty-six, Miriam had devoted her entire life to loving El Shaddai and serving His people as both midwife and messenger. Yet when her brother Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he brings a disruptive message. God has a new name – Yahweh – and has declared a radical deliverance for the Israelites.

Miriam and her beloved family face an impossible choice: cling to familiar bondage or embrace uncharted freedom at an unimaginable cost. Even if the Hebrews survive the plagues set to turn the Nile to blood and unleash a maelstrom of frogs and locusts, can they weather the resulting fury of the Pharaoh?

Enter an exotic land where a cruel Pharaoh reigns, pagan priests wield black arts, and the Israelites cry out to a God they only think they know."

Mesu Andrews has worked her magic again: managing to bring to life a Bible story in a vivid, imaginative way, yet stay true to the Scriptures. I love her rare talent of fleshing out biblical stories with such detail, yet not deviating from the Scriptures. Oftentimes historical books based on Bible stories take extreme liberties with the story and twist it into a nearly unrecognizable version. This book definitely doesn't do that. I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction.

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

The Feathered Bone


The Feathered Bone is the first book I've read by Julie Cantrell, but I'm always looking for new books in my favorite genre - Christian mystery/suspense - so I decided to give it a shot. Besides the intriguing title and the appealing cover, the premise sounded very interesting. The setting, pre-Katrina New Orleans, is fresh and intriguing. I liked the missing-person angle and the how the plot focused on the effect a missing person has on their friends and family. The book description reads:

"“Feathers—no matter what size or shape or color—are all the same, if you think about them. They’re soft. Delicate. But the secret thing about feathers is . . . they are very strong.”

In the pre-Katrina glow of New Orleans, Amanda Salassi is anxious about chaperoning her daughter’s sixth-grade field trip to the Big Easy during Halloween. And then her worst fears come true. Her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears amid the magic and revelry—gone, without a trace.

Unable to cope with her guilt, Amanda’s daughter sinks into depression. And Amanda’s husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief. Before long, Amanda’s whole world has collapsed.

Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.

Set amidst the murky parishes of rural Louisiana and told through the eyes of two women who confront the darkest corners of humanity with quiet and unbreakable faith, The Feathered Bone is Julie Cantrell’s master portrait of love in a fallen world."

From the very first page, I was immediately drawn into the plot of The Feathered Bone. Julie Cantrell's writing is extremely poetic, lyrical, and has an almost magical quality to it. I loved how fleshed out all of the characters were and how detailed the plot was. I stayed up late because I couldn't stop turning the pages to see what would happen next. This is an absolutely unforgettable story. It was very emotional and at times brought tears to my eyes. Yes, it was sad and tragic, but it was also redemptive and thought provoking. This is the type of story that will stick with you long after you turn the last page. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good Christian fiction.

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