Interesting story & storytelling format (Worlds Collide – Alison Strobel)

While I’m not really a close follower of the Hollywood world, I always find myself getting sucked into the tabloids as I wait in line at the grocery store.  For some reason, the lives of the celebrities are interesting and engaging and just so weird.  They seem to do the strangest things that leave me to wonder, aren’t they just normal people?   Why don’t they act that way?  So when I saw the synopsis of Alison Strobel’s Worlds Collide, I was intrigued.  What would it be like for the world of a celebrity and a “normal person” to collide?  I was brought back to 7th grade and dreaming about Leo. 🙂

Jack and Grace are worlds apart, but when they literally collide, they are drawn into a strange friendship and relationship that grows as they continue to get to know each other.  Strobel chose an interesting way to tell Jack and Grace’s story, via proxy, as the story is seen through the eyes of Jada Eastman, celebrity biographer, hired to write the couple’s life story.

I was intrigued by Jack and Grace’s story, and also their faith journeys.  Although a tad cheesy, I did enjoy this book.  I fell right into the couple’s story, Grace’s particularly, and felt like her conversion was well-written and not too preachy.  Overall, this was a quick read, funny and interesting.

Thanks, Waterbrook Multnomah, for the review copy of Worlds Collide in exchange for my honest opinion.  Just a heads up, the ARC is riddled with typos!!

Insightful look into gluten/wheat sensitivity (Wheat Belly – William Davis, MD)

As a person living with Celiac disease, I am always intrigued to find out more about gluten sensitivity and intolerance.  Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis is an interesting book that provides a lot of good information regarding wheat free diets and how they can be beneficial to the average American’s health.  My diet is gluten free so my autoimmune disease does not continue to hurt my body, but many people these days are interested in the gluten free diet as a way to lose weight.

Some points that stuck out to me from Wheat Belly (no pun intended, ha):

  • The connection between eating wheat and behavior in schizophrenics (shocking, seriously)
  • The glycemic index of wheat and how eating a piece of wheat bread affects our blood sugar
  • The amount of weight Davis’ patients lost on average from modifying their diets to exclude wheat
  • How wheat has changed over the many years and how its modifications have affected our ability to digest it
I have known since December that wheat was not good for me due to my autoimmune disease; however, I did not know how harmful it can be to others.

Thank you, Dr. Davis, for your research and insight into gluten’s effect on our bodies.  Please keep it up and continue sharing your message with our land of processed foods!

Gluten free foods are all the rage, but what do you think?  Wheat?  No wheat?  Just a hype?

Captivating historical fiction (Stealing Jake – Pam Hillman)

Let me first off say that I rarely read historical fiction.  It’s not that I don’t like it (because I often do), but more that for some reason it just doesn’t end up on my radar.  So, when I come across some good historical fiction, I really appreciate it.  Case in point: Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman.  I really enjoyed the story and the writing.  Not all Christian fiction is the quality I would expect a publisher would actually publish, so I’m pleasantly surprised when I read a well-written and well-edited Christian fiction novel.  And with Stealing Jake, I was pleasantly surprised.

It was a well-written, interesting, engaging story.  Hillman’s characters were captivating, as was her plot.  While there were definitely some cheesy moments, Livy and Jake’s store captured me from the beginning.  Livy loves on and works with orphans at an orphanage with Mrs. Brooks.  Beyond that though, she is working hard to try and gain the trust of the local homeless children.  Her desire to make amends is revealed throughout the novel, and helps to push the plot along as mystery ensues.  I enjoyed Livy’s faith journey as well, not too overt, but still an important part of the novel.

I really enjoyed reading Stealing Jake.  The characters were interesting, and the plot really kept me engaged.  I was proud of my deduction as I read…I figured out the thief/problem right from the get go, although that didn’t detract from my experience reading the novel.  Overall, a great historical fiction read!

Thanks, Tyndale, for the complimentary copy of Stealing Jake in exchange for an honest review.

Heartbreaking novel (Waiting for Morning – Karen Kingsbury)

When confronted with the idea of forgiving someone for killing my family, I faltered.  Could I really do that?  I can imagine my anger (along with the pain) would be crippling and would limit me to living in the prison of unforgiveness.  As much as I would hope that I could forgive, I know it would be a difficult journey, only possible with God’s help.  With all of that said, I loved reading Karen Kingsbury’s novel Waiting for Morning.  It was hard to read–heartbreaking and painful–but it was well worth it.

Hannah Ryan waits for her husband and two daughters to arrive home after their annual camping trip.  Instead, police officers arrive at her door with bad news.  As she fights to understand what happened, she loses her faith, living in bitterness.  Her heart changes as she pursues justice for her loved ones.  And in the midst of it all, God continues to work.

I really enjoyed reading Waiting for Morning.  It was, as with all Karen Kingsbury novels, well-written and interesting.  But it was more than just that.  It confronted hard questions about forgiveness, moving on, and pain.  And at the heart of it, trusting in God when it feels like he has abandoned you.  As I read, I cried, I rejoiced, and I cried some more.  I felt the freedom in forgiveness, and I felt the pain in the bitterness.

As Hannah grapples with hard questions (Why does God “let” bad things happen to good people, people who love him?  And more importantly, how do those “good people” respond to God when their understanding of the world collapses?), I found myself living in Hannah’s pain.  More than Hannah’s pain though, SPOILER ALERT!, I found myself profoundly feeling Jenny’s pain.  Every slight from her mom, every terse word between the two, and I found myself crying.  Maybe it’s the middle school teacher in me that feels middle school pain so well.

This was a heartbreaking novel, yes, but it was also life-giving as God redeems as only he can do.  Thanks to WaterbookMultnomah for the review copy of Waiting for Morning.  These ramblings are my honest opinions.

Fast paced and entertaining novel (Falls Like Lightning – Shawn Grady)

Silas is a smokejumper with only one regret…the way he left Elle all those years ago.  And now, in the direst of circumstances, they meet again.  This time though, he might not have the chance to apologize, as they might now survive what they find in the Desolation Wilderness.
What a story!  I really enjoyed reading Shawn Grady’s Falls Like Lightning.  It was fast paced, intriguing, and well-written.
While the cover made me skeptical (kind of cheesy, in my opinion), I was impressed with Grady’s storytelling.  His characters popped from the page as they fought for their lives in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada.  As a former California girl and Desolation hiker, I loved imagining Silas and Elle hiking through the terrain with which I’m familiar.  From my favorite lunch spot on the top of Mt. Tallac, you can see way out into the Desolation Wilderness.  
Grady did an incredible job describing the area and the terrain, as well as captivating the reader with a thrilling plot line.  I would recommend this book to a reader looking for fast paced action with a hint of Christian themes.  I am thankful for the complimentary review copy from Bethany House.  My opinions are my own honest ramblings.

Sweet, simple story (Sweet Sanctuary – Sheila Walsh & Cindy Martinusen Coloma)

I recently finished reading Sweet Sanctuary by Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen-Coloma.  Wren is a single mom raising a sweet 10 year old son, Charlie.  She is happy in her small town and glad to be in a safe place to hide from her past.  But when her grandmother shows up unexpectedly and asks her to plan a party (that includes her siblings with whom she has tenuous relationships), Wren’s world is thrown for a loop.  She finds herself growing and changing as she finally accepts truth within her relationships…with her siblings, her son, and her new man friend.

I was expecting the book to be slightly cheesy (it is a Women of Faith novel, after all), and it was, but I appreciated that it wasn’t overly cheesy.  Wren’s faith journey and her growth were believable, and her freedom from guilt really resonated with me.  I appreciated that this novel had a well-rounded feel to it.  It wasn’t simply a Christian romance fiction story, it had an air of mystery (family drama) and some action (just wait until the end), and because of that, the story had more depth.  And really, who doesn’t want to be a small town librarian?!

Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of Sweet Sanctuary.  My opinions are my own, honest ramblings.

A new favorite (Softly & Tenderly – Sara Evans & Rachel Hauck)

There are few books that keep me up reading until after midnight, and even fewer that keep me up until 2am thinking about the characters!  I loved Softly & Tenderly, the latest novel by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck.  I hadn’t read the first in the series, The Sweet By & By, that shared the first part of Jade’s story, but it didn’t matter.  I was able to quickly get into the story and figure out who everyone was as I began the novel.

Jade is overwhelmed and feels as if her life is just falling apart as some really hard stuff happens.  I felt the pain as Jade’s heart broke and her world shattered.  How does one recover from the pain of an affair?  Especially when that affair has produced a tangible being, and that tangible being is what you’ve been dreaming of and waiting for since you married?

I appreciated the supporting cast of characters and felt connected to Beryl and June as they both hurt and grieved and loved and felt.  I felt righteous anger at Max and Reb and was disappointed as I continued to invest in their lives.  I was torn as Jade was torn between her first love and her commitment.  And mostly, I was affirmed in the importance of our maintaining our integrity in our commitments.

The characters were so real and so, at 2am, when I was finally drifting off, my last thoughts were of Jade, Max, Asa, Beryl, and June.  Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for providing this e-book to review.  I truly enjoyed the story and look forward to (hopefully) another collaboration between Sara Evans and the talented Rachel Hauck!

Quick, funny Christian chick lit (Restless in Carolina – Tamara Leigh)

Bridget Pickwick Buchanan is on a mission and not much is going to stand in her way!  I loved reading Tamara Leigh’s Restless in Carolina.  I have read the two other books in the Southern Discomfort series, but if you haven’t, it wouldn’t matter.  All three books are good stand alone books.  I really liked the first two, and this one definitely did not disappoint!

Bridget is a widow and is slowly shedding the pain that has plagued her since her husband died and left her in alone in her hometown.  Her family has been through great upheaval as family secrets have come to the surface and Bridget’s wonderful Uncle Obe has worked to make amends.  And he needs money to make the amends he is set on…which means his estate needs to be sold.  And not just to anyone, at least not while Bridget has some say in it!  Enter JC Dirk, the man with money and green intentions, and an interest in the Pickwick property.  But there are secrets that are hidden and other people with different intentions.

I laughed aloud as I read this novel over the course of a few hours.  Even though it was a quick read, there was a depth that I find and appreciate in all of Tamara Leigh’s novels.  Bridget’s fears and her confusion and her steps toward faith were all understandable and seemingly realistic.  I love when I can find myself overcoming my own real life fears as I walk with a character through their fears.

 

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah, for the review copy of Restless in Carolina.  My opinions are my own, honest ramblings.

Heartbreaking but amazing novel (The First Gardener – Denise Hildreth Jones)

How do you deal with incredible loss?  Denise Hildreth Jones’ latest novel, The First Gardener, is the story of Mack and Gray London, governor of Tennessee.  They question God, life, love, everything as they grieve and live their lives.  They are helped along by their friends and family (a hilarious cast of characters…mainly Eugenia’s buddies) including the gardener for the governor’s mansion, Jeremiah.  Jeremiah’s heart is expressed through flowers and their meanings, something not always well received by Mack.

As I read this novel, I was amazed by the depth of the characters and their pain.  I cried as I was blown away by the hurt and the emotions.  Jones is a beautiful writer, and her portrayal of Mack and Gray as they struggled through the pain that filled their lives.  While reading, I had to stop and just take in the pain and, before I knew it, I found myself praying for Mack.  Then I realized that she was a fictional character.  Oops.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel, just like all of Denise Hildreth’s books (especially The Will of Wisteria) and would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good (but hard) story of redemption and love and life.

Thank you, Tyndale, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!