Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hurricane Season, by Lauren K Denton

Hurricane Season, by Lauren K Denton, is a story about family, self-reflection, and redemption.

Jenna is a young single mother who's made a string of bad decisions.  She decides to follow a life-long dream and heads off to a photography retreat, hoping to rediscover her passion.   She leaves her two girls with her sister and her husband, Betsy and Ty Franklin.  Betsy and Ty, who own a dairy farm, and are dealing with their own demons, are suddenly thrust into the roles of caregivers for their two young nieces.  What is originally supposed to be two weeks becomes open-ended, and Jenna and Betsy both struggle with finding their individual purpose in life, as well as re-defining their relationship with one another.

This was a really warm and lovely book, and one that I read quickly.  I honestly didn't know which direction Jenna was going to choose, which made the build-up and the ending all the more satisfying.  I appreciated the detail and attention that Denton paid to the relationships of all involved... parent and child, sister and sister, husband and wife.  I felt invested in every single character, which is always the hallmark of a good book. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming, in equal measure. 

An overall beautiful story, and one that very much mirrored real life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Imperfect Justice, by Kara Putnam

Imperfect Justice is a classic legal thriller with just the right amount of tension.  Kaylene Adams allegedly shot her daughter and then was killed by police.  The police and the media present it as an open and shut case, but attorney Emilie Wesley believes a different story.  She knows that Kaylene was being abused by her husband, would never dream of hurting her girls, and was looking for a way out of the unhealthy and violent relationship. Joined by Kaylene's brother, Reid Billings, she works to uncover the truth and secure a safe future for Kaylene's surviving daughter.  
This the second book I've read by Cara Putman.  I previously read and enjoyed Beyond Justice, so I was looking forward to reading another one.  I was especially excited to see Emilie Wesley, a roommate who held a smaller role in Beyond Justice.  Once again, Putnam did not disappoint.  Her characters are well developed and likable (except the ones that are not supposed to be likable!)  Emilie and Reid made a lovely and interesting pair, and their story felt believable rather than forced.  Their scenes always brought a smile.  The romance was skillfully woven with the mystery, and neither one overpowered the other.  
Imperfect Justice, along with Beyond Justice, were just very enjoyable books.  Well-paced, interesting, and easy to read.  They are not in same league as John Grisham thrillers.... but they don't try to be.  They do something a little bit different, and they do it very well.   

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Rescue, by Jim Cymbala

The Rescue, by Jim Cymbala, is a collection of true stories:  True stories about people who were lost, broken, and spiraling into a life of drugs, depression, and despair.  They are the stories of people who were lost... and then found.  People who healed, recovered, and found new hope.

This was a quick read (I read it in one afternoon), and a decent book.  I walked away with mixed feelings though.  It was well-written, and the stories were touching, but after reading a few, they all felt like the exact same story with different details.  Person has a tough life;  person turns to drugs or alcohol or other unhealthy self-medicating to escape the pain;  person gives up on life; person eventually turns to God and starts life anew.

The stories were inspiring to be sure, and feel-good endings are always nice.  They just felt a little... redundant.  Still, it was a well-written book, and a good little reminder about the redeeming power of faith.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Book Of Joe, by Jeff Wilser

I'm not ordinarily a fan of books about political figures.  In fact, up until The Book of Joe, I don't think I'd ever read one.  But what little I did know about Joe Biden interested me, and I liked the tagline: "The life, wit, and (sometimes accidental) wisdom of Joe Biden.

As it turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  It did, of course, discuss his political trajectory, but it spent just as much time - if not more - talking about Joe the person, which is what I found fascinating. From a young boy with a painful stuttering problem, to a confident (but never OVER-confident) young man, to a husband and father who endured the greatest of tragedies.  He was, and is, a man of great integrity and principles, and the boy next door who just wants to enjoy his ice cream cone, and this author described it all so very well.

Joe Biden carried, and continues to carry, wisdom from his mother, most notably the admonishment she gave him when he was just a boy:  "No one is better than you.  And you're not better than anyone else." These are words that Biden absolutely took to heart, as he remains by all accounts, a real, humble, relatable man.

Excellent, touching, and at times very funny account of a great man.  A good read even if you're not particularly interested in his politics.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Saturday, February 3, 2018

How To Fix A Broken Record, by Amena Brown

How To Fix a Broken Record is one woman's journey of learning to let go of past wounds, to love, to be herself, to say yes to a life that served her, and no to the things that did not. Woven through the deeper themes in the book was a delightful recounting of bad dates, hair snafus, nerdy clothes, social media, music, and stories from The Waffle House.

I enjoyed this book so very much.  While the author and I led different lives, there were so many parallel similarities that I often found myself tearing up at her ability to so deeply "get it."  This is a book that I think anyone could relate to, particularly those who struggled to fit in, to find ourselves, and to get rid of the old negative voices from our past.

Her writing style is warm, casual, and conversational.  I didn't feel like I was reading a book; I felt like I was having coffee and danish with a girlfriend... talking about big things, small things, and everything in between.  And laughing.  There would definitely be laughing.

Finally, while her faith so clearly guides her, the book never once felt preachy or heavy-handed. Instead, it was honest and sincere.  She writes about Jesus in a similar way to the way she writes about her husband... in a way that lets the reader know that she takes the relationship seriously, but not without injecting her natural lightheartedness and humor.  One of my favorite lines: "I'm also pretty sure that Jesus would never invite anyone to play Candy Crush Saga."

Lovely, funny, and touching book.  Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Faithful Finance, by Emily G Stroud

Faithful Finance, by Emily G Stroud, is a guide book, from a biblical perspective, on how best to handle and control your money instead of letting it control you.

Stroud, an MBA and CFA, is clearly knowledgeable, and she organizes her thoughts well.  She writes in a warm, conversational style that makes a topic that could be rather dry into something that is easy to read.  The book is broken up into ten chapters, and covers everything from saving to budgeting to managing debt and more.

This is a great book for those looking to learn more about managing their finances in a responsible way.  My only caution would be that if you've already read a lot of related books, this covers very similar information.  I have read several things by Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey, so this book did not contain a whole lot that I had not already heard.  Still, it was presented well, and was easy to understand.  If you're new to the idea, and/or have had difficulty connecting with other authors' interpretations, this book is an excellent place to start.

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

In The Middle Of The Mess, by Sheila Walsh

In The Middle Of The Mess is about struggle, darkness, and ultimately hope. It is a lovely book full of practical suggestions, by someone who has spent her own time deep in the trenches.

As someone who is intimately familiar with hopelessness and even suicidality due to bipolar, I so much more appreciate the perspective of someone who has actually been there herself, rather than an expert who is only talking about book knowledge and hypotheticals. Walsh has lived it, and she shares her experiences, her struggles, and her strategies with such honesty and grace. With her strong faith, her daily practices of mindfullness and awareness, and her carefully cultivated social connections, she overcomes and even thrives. It is both an inspiration and a strong testimony.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when she talks about the importance of her "sister-friends", those friends who are so close that they can go to each other with anything, without reservation and without judgement. My illness has required that I find and recognize those sister-friends in my own life, and I've come to realize that their presence has been every bit as vital as medication and therapy. Walsh understands this so very well.

Overall, this is a wonderful and inspirational book full of practical advice for any Christian who might find themselves "in the middle of the mess."