Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scary Close by Donald Miller

From the publisher:
After decades of failed relationships and painful drama, Donald Miller decided he’d had enough. Impressing people wasn’t helping him connect with anyone. He’d built a life of public isolation, yet he dreamed of meaningful relationships. So at forty years old he made a scary decision: to be himself no matter what it cost.
From the author of Blue Like Jazz comes a book about the risk involved in choosing to impress fewer people and connect with more, about the freedom that comes when we stop acting and start loving. It is a story about knocking down old walls to create a healthy mind, a strong family, and a satisfying career. And it all feels like a conversation with the best kind of friend: smart, funny, true, important.
Scary Close is Donald Miller at his best.


I first discovered Donald Miller because my brother is a huge fan.  After reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller I was certain I wanted to read more of his work.  I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to review Scary Close.

I finished this book in a little over a day.  I couldn't stop reading it.  I now want to go back and re-read each chapter more slowly and let the ideas sink in.  But the first time around I had to keep reading, keep seeing where it was going. 

Recently God has been trying to teach me about vulnerability and relationships and I believe He placed this in my hands to read.  Life is about relationships, the good and bad ones.  Relationships are what makes up the adventures and pivotal times in our lives.  Casual, business, family, etc.  Each has an important part to play in our lives.  Donald Miller is vulnerable about his weakness and selfishness as a human.  He tells a memoir that will resonate with you in one way or another.  Your story won't look exactly like his but you will be able to glean wisdom about how to have intimacy in relationships in a healthy way.  And also how to look for healthy people to have those relationships with.

In the acknowledgements section he says that his goal was to tell a collective story that would connect us to one another.  To me that is exactly what happened in this book.  I don't know Donald Miller but through his book I was able to connect to his story. In so many ways it is my story.  And your story.  He wrote that the connection of the collective story has been healing for him and he is thankful.  What I want to say is that the story was healing for me--and I am so thankful.  

I highly recommend this book.

I received this book free from BookLookBloggers in exchange for my honest review.

If you pre-order Scary Close you will get Blue Like Jazz audio book FREE as well as the Scary Close soundtrack FREE.  Even if you didn't get those for free it would be worth it.  Go pre-order it now!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

From the publisher:
Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress. 

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Elizabeth Camden is a favorite author of mine.  Her stories have strong men and women.  Unswayed by each other in their personal convictions and yet still able to join forces together for good and love.  There is drama, romance, and God.  The way Elizabeth Camden shares God in her stories is never over powering but shared in a natural way through the lives, thoughts, and conversations of the characters.  Neither Anna or Luke are perfect but both have strengths that will be used in this story.

What I also enjoy about Camden's book is that she shares history that I had not known of, or focused on before and makes me want to visit places and learn more.  The setting of this book is the Capitol and Library of Congress.  Now I want to go and visit these places and really be amazed at all there is there.  Camden obviously took a lot of time to do research for this novel and it shows with her attention to detail and history.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty

From the publisher:
In the age of fingertip access to answers and a limitless supply of ambitions, where do we find the God who was birthed in dirt and straw? Sara Hagerty found him when life stopped working for her. She found him when she was a young adult mired in spiritual busyness and when she was a new bride with doubts about whether her fledgling marriage would survive. She found him alone in the night as she cradled her longing for babies who did not come. She found him as she kissed the faces of children on another continent who had lived years without a mommy’s touch.
In Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, Hagerty masterfully draws from the narrative of her life to craft a mosaic of a God who leans into broken stories. Here readers see a God who is present in every changing circumstance. Most significantly, they see a God who is present in every unchanging circumstance as well.
I was staggered by this book.  I had seen this book and passed it by for other books.  But when I saw it on a top ten list by Rachel McRae I felt I should give it a try.  It was in the first chapter that I began to feel God speaking to me.  As if He had waited for the right time to read this book and then placed it in my hands.  
Sara Hagerty's writing style is beautiful.  I was drawn into her writing the way I was drawn into Ann Voskamp's writing. Lyrical and raw.  When I was asked to tell what this book was about I said it was about adoring God when it seems He has forgotten you and how the pain we have in life turns to hunger for Him.  
In this book Sara gives such an amazing way for you to speak to God in faith, even when you don't feel like it.  To adore Him, when you feel He is silent.  Speaking God's word, words that He has inspired of Him, back to Him is adoring Him.  I tried this as I was reading the book.  I haven't been feeling that God is faithful and so I began saying a verse in the Bible that states that He is faithful.  Sara was right.  I didn't have to feel those emotions, but instead just had to speak God's word back to Him for it to make a difference.  A huge difference.  I cannot begin to explain what just this part of the book will do for my life.  And what it could do for yours.  This is just one example of the power of Sara's gift in sharing her story and walk with God.  
She shares that every bitter thing can be sweet because it creates a hunger for Him.  A hunger that only He can fill.  It does not mean that those bad things are good, but that we can see them in a new way.  A way that shows us that God is good...to us all the time.
This is a book I highly, highly recommend to others.
I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mothering from Scratch by Melinda Means & Kathy Helgemo

From the publisher:
Trying to follow someone else's rules for mothering can take the joy out of being a parent. But Mothering From Scratch shows you how to develop your own style that helps you be the best mom for your kids.

Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo provide a flexible, customizable approach to help you discover your optimal parenting style. 
This book appealed to me because the subtitle is "Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family."  Parenting can be mind-boggling and with so many different ways to do every parenting thing, you sometimes feel like you should be a certain way.  But this book, true to the subtitle doesn't make you feel that you have to be a certain type of mother.  Instead you are to find what works with who God has made you and how to love your family.

This book is full of personal stories that make you feel as if you are sharing with friends.  At the end of each chapter is something for you to respond to.  You can journal by yourself or you could even modify it do do as a group discussion. Then there are action steps to take as well.  This is a practical book that is also an encouragement for mothers.

I received this book free from Bethany Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Romancing Your Better Half by Rick Johnson

Product Details

From the publisher:
With wit and wisdom, Rick Johnson shows men and women how to communicate effectively with their spouses, recapture the feeling of young love, incorporate romance and intimacy into everyday life, understand each other's unique sexual needs, and more. Anyone who has been married more than a couple of years will find useful insights and solid advice that will strengthen their marriage now and into the future.


Something that was nice about this book, right off the bat, was that it wasn't just written for men or women.  Rather the book was written for both.  So you could read it with your spouse and both learn together.  Also, this book wasn't just focused on newly weds any particular length of marriage.  This could be helpful and beneficial to any married couple.

I liked that the book was not just theory but that at the end of each chapter there were practical things that you could do to romance your spouse.  Some were simple and others more time consuming but all were suggested with the intent of keeping intimacy alive in your marriage.

Marriage takes work but it can be fun and I think Rock Johnson tried to show both aspects.

I received this book free from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic with Kanae Vujicic

From the publisher:
Even though he was born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic created a “ridiculously good life.” But after dating disappointments and a failed relationship, he reached his mid-twenties worried that he would never find a woman to love him and share his life. 
Then Nick met Kanae and everything changed.  But even with undeniable chemistry, they would have to navigate twists and turns worthy of a romantic comedy before becoming "one" in marriage. 
 In Love Without Limits Nick and Kanae tell how they improbably found each other, fell in love, and then fought to overcome skepticism from others about their relationship. Filled with practical insights that will benefit any couple, this inspiring book describes a godly courtship and the early years of the Vujicics’ marriage and parenting journey. 
Above all, Love Without Limits is an inspiring reminder that when Christ is at the center of a relationship--even with serious challenges--true love will triumph.

Nick Vujicic is a remarkable man and in this very vunerable book he and his wife share their love story.  And it is their love story beyond just their own story.  Throughout the book they also teach and share.  The two of them want others to be able to share in a love like theirs.  I appreciated how they were upfront and practical about many things.  

Readers will be fascinated to see how Nick and Kanae's relationship work.  And yet, I think that while many will pick this book up because they are curious, they will come away from reading it amazed at how real love works.  Nick and Kanae will fight challenges most people never deal with, but they are doing it together in love and this book shares what love without limits looks like.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

At Home in Last Chance by Kathleen Armstrong

Kaitlyn Reed and Steven Braden have always had a similar philosophy of life: when the going gets tough, they get going--out of town and away from the problem. Now they are both back in Last Chance, New Mexico, and trying to start over. 

Kaitlyn is working to reestablish a relationship with the seven-year-old daughter she left behind six months earlier. Steven is trying to prove to his family that he is not the irresponsible charmer they have always known him to be. As Kaitlyn and Steven find themselves drawn to one another, one big question keeps getting in the way: How will they learn to trust each other when they don't even trust themselves?

With emotional depth and characters who leap off the page and into your heart, Cathleen Armstrong invites you to return once more to the dusty and delightful town of Last Chance.

As part of the "A Place To Call Home" series At Home In Last Chance is a story of two people who need another chance to begin again.  Katiyln and Steven are both looking for a chance of new beginnings.  While they are different they are similar in their search for belonging and love.

Readers will probably want to read the previous two books.  You can still enjoy this story but I believe that you will enjoy it more if you have more background to more of the characters that will be introduced in this book.

This book was easy to read and the themes here will make readers evaluate themselves and how the judge others as well as themselves.  The characters will chance as you read them.  Kaitlyn, for example, seems so hard and closed off, yet as you read you understand her and find that she is loving and gentle.

I received this book free from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren

From the publisher:
After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts—and the future of the resort.

Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?
This is one of Susan May Warren's Christiansen Family novels.  If you have not read any previous novels in this series I recommend that you do.  You can still enjoy the story and Warren's writing style but I think you will get more out of it if you read the other books in the series before this one.

Susan May Warren's writing draws you into the characters and storyline.  As a reader I felt drawn to Casper and Raina from the beginning of the book and wanted to see how things would work out.  However, the story is not just about Casper and Raina but about others in the Chrisiansen family.  The book even ends on a "cliff-hanger" about Amelia which will make the reader want to read the next book.  

This book has adventure, drama, romance, and strong family bonds.  Readers will enjoy this book and the series for many reason.

I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Top 10 Books of 2014

Okay, I finally made my top ten book decisions. This year was harder for me than normal. Even though my count was much lower than last year I feel happy to have read as much I did despite nausea so severe that I couldn't read and having an baby boy.  Also, I felt that the books I read this year really impactful.

Total number of books: 70
Total number of pages: 18,489

Here are my top ten of 2014 in no particular order.

Christ Object Lessons by Ellen White

Whenever I read Ellen White I feel challenged in my walk with God and encouraged. That is an awesome combination.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

Katie Ganshert is my favorite fiction author.  She combines amazing storytelling with themes that go beyond just a "fun" read. Her books last with you because she not only writes deep stories but you can tell she lives them out.

Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade

Becky Wade is the best Christian romance author you can find.  I use her as my measuring stick against other romance books.  Also, this book focuses on God in a way I didn't expect in a romance book.

Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish

It's hard to explain why I loved this book. But I did.  Maybe because it was written differnently or because the story was different. But I loved it.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Another book that I chose as a top ten, not only for the storyline, but for how it was written.  I like books that are different, and this one was.  It was a WWII novel but in a unique way.

Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe by Sharon Jaynes

Amazing and practical, this book was something I read through once but will definitely re-read.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

This book, for the first time, made me really focus on Jesus at Christmas. It made Christmas mean something more.  Amazing.

Set-apart Motherhood by Leslie Ludy

This changed the way I view being a mother. I loved, loved, loved this book. And I was challenged.  I recommend this to every mother.

Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis

I finally read it. He is way smarter than I am and I loved seeing how ideas I had heard about from others had probably come from reading his books.

Lean on Me by Anne Marie Miller

This and Set-apart Motherhood are probably the best books I read this year.  This book just struck a chord with me that I find hard to identify- except to say that I fear and long for community and this book is all about community.  I need to re-read it.

Honorable Mentions:

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
Looking back on reading this I feel like it was just a good read. Katherine Reay is an author I will keep coming back to.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I hated this book. Hated it. And then I loved it.  It makes me think about it long after I have closed the book and it also makes me think differently.

The Pursuit of Tamsen LittleJohn by Lori Benton
I love reading Lori Benton. Her books are thick and yet I never feel like I am eager for the story to end.

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Little known history and the love/sacrifice of/for family.

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar
One of the best Biblical fiction books on Rahab I have read. Didn't minc words and yet moved beyond just the fall of Jericho.

Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund
I have come to really enjoy Jody Hedlund as an author. Her historical fiction almost always reveals to me parts of history I had never known about before.

This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof
This is a novella, but would have made the top ten if it was a full length novel.  Her writing is superb.