Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby: A book review

Before my friends get too excited, no, I am not expecting a baby!  However, I found this book was available for review and since I do hope and pray to have a baby sometime in the (hopefully not terribly distant) future, I felt it would be a fun and perhaps insightful read. It was!

While there were quite a few things I already knew (facts that I've picked up along the way, mostly the well-known type), there were things I didn't. Plus I liked Erin MacPherson's writing style.....that of a good friend or (I would imagine) a sister.  Down to earth, funny, straightforward but kind.

What I liked about this book:  Erin focuses a lot on the Christian side of pregnancy.......scriptures, prayer, talking with God. All very important and often overlooked or underestimated tools and comforts that would prove invaluable during pregnancy and deliver and of course, all those years you will be raising your baby!

What I didn't like about this book:  Nothing, really. Though I will say Erin admits that she is anything but a medical expert and it's if you're looking for a pregnancy guide that is "technical" or full of a doctor's advice, this is NOT the book for that.  It's very in-depth and very insightful, but it's not a medical guide.

I would give "The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby" 3/5 stars.

Thank you to Booksneeze and Thomas Nelson publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my original and honest review.  You can find your copy at major retailers such as Christian Books ( and Amazon (, amongst others.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Raveled: A Book Review

"Raveled" by Anne McAneny is a page-turner, a riveting read about a fictional small town in North Carolina where the secrets are dark as blackstrap molasses and just as deeply hidden at the bottom of the barrel.  But even secrets abysmally deep have an astonishing way of winding their way back up to the surface, forcing their way through the cracks of confused, bothered minds and wrestling consciences.

Allison Fennimore is the protagonist in "Raveled," and she has returned to Lavitte 16 years after a grisly crime involving two teenagers truly unraveled her life, her family and the entire small town.  Allison has returned to find answers. Will she find what she has come for?  At what cost?

As the truth of the terrible events of 16 years prior begin to slowly resurface, you will find yourself drawn to Allison and perhaps even a few of the other believable and either likable or despicable characters. You will desperately want to find out how the story ends.

To my friends who do not or cannot read graphic descriptions, please note that there are some mild to moderate graphic descriptions within this book, though given the subject some of that is not unexpected in an adult novel involving crimes and so forth.

I give "Raveled" 4/5 stars.

Thank you to Farrington Press, the author Anne McAneny and Net Galley for a complimentary ebook copy of "Raveled." Please note that my review is original. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lie Still: A Book That Will Not Let You Lie Still Until You've Read it Front to Back!

"Lie Still" by Julia Heaberlin is a riveting novel. To me it was an artful, slightly dark but emotionally genuine cross between the almost laughably shocking Deep South gothic story (think "Steel Magnolias," "Fried Green Tomatoes," or "The Secret Life of Bees") and something like the compelling, raw "The Lovely Bones."  Every page will compel you to stay and read more.

From external appearances Emily, the protagonist, would seem like any other woman in her early 30's: happily married to a strong man, healthily pregnant with their first child, living out the usual dreams of housewife.  But Emily finds herself reacquainted with a past she would rather erase or at least let go of for good in a dramatically unexpected fashion when she and her husband move from their New York City apartment to the small but colorful and secretive fictional town of Clairmont, Texas. It is fictional only in name, as the events that happen in the town and the past that twines its way amongst the residents (particularly the women who belong or compete to belong in "the club") will strike the reader as anything but fictional.  In fact, Clairmont and all that occurs in this book will probably stay with the you for a very long if the whole account happened in real life.

Of course the author not only wrote a compelling piece of fiction, she had a message behind the story. A worthy and yet too often overlooked or ignored message.  I deeply appreciated the transparency of the main character and the truths thread throughout this book.  There are a few slightly graphic descriptions that are nevertheless masterfully used. I mention them as just a warning to anyone who does not feel they can or want to read anything slightly graphic. But like I said, this book is an original work and even the graphic parts contribute to the story as a whole, not detracting from it in the least.

I would give "Lie Still" 4.5/5 stars.

Thanks to Random House Publishing Group and Net Galley for a free advanced copy of this book for me to read in exchange for an honest review.  Please note that my review is original.  The publication date for "Lie Still" is set for July 2, 2013.  Look for your copy then! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rock Harbor Search and Rescue: A Light Mystery for Kids and Pre-Teens

Recently I read "Rock Harbor Search and Rescue," by Christian author Colleen Coble, a mystery written for middle school to pre-teen children.

Emily is the protagonist, a girl in her very early teens who faces the usual ups and downs of a young teenager. But Emily is unique in her interest in the Search and Rescue (SAR) that is an important facet of the Rock Harbor, a town bordering one of the Great Lakes.  Her dream is to get a puppy of her own to train as a search and rescue dog, a dog that will help her with what she wants to be when she grows up: a search and rescue leader like her grown-up friend, Bree.

Emily's plans take a decidedly negative turn when suddenly she finds herself accused of a crime of theft that she didn't commit. The accusation puts Emily's dreams of getting a puppy to train in SAR on hold. Emily knows she is innocent, but how will she prove it?

This is a fun mystery. Of course for me it was a light read, as it's gauged for kids and young teens. But I was interested in checking out some of the new Christian fiction for kids and pre-teens. I was not disappointed, as I think the book would be appropriate for and enjoyed by this age group.

Thank you to Net Galley and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the free e-book copy of this book in order to procure my honest review! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

All in Good Time: A Book Review

"All in Good Time" by Maureen Lang was a great read!  I thought it might be good, given the description of it. The book has a different plot and a different location than any Christian historical fiction I recall having read, and honestly I'm quite glad it does!

Dessa Caldwell, the protagonist, understands what it is like to have a past darkened with mistakes.  But she also knows personally what the grace of God can do to wash away her sins and give her a bright future.  This knowledge spurs her forward in her dream to open Pierson House, a refuge for former prostitutes of all ages in the bustling new city of Denver, Colorado, a city pulling itself up by the roots from the gold rush that brought so many people and all of their foibles and sins to the city.

Henry Hawkins is the owner of the most successful bank in town but he, too, harbors secrets about his past.  However, he does not know the grace of God or the extension of that grace through others, and the burdens of his past are an awful weight to bear.

What happens when Dessa and Henry collide?  Will their hearts and lives be changed for the better? Will Dessa get to see the dream God has planted in her heart to help fallen women come true? And will Henry's life, solitary and cold, ever change?

Things I liked about this book: I really enjoyed the fact that it is a historical novel, and the period of history as well as the geographical location.  I also appreciated the realness of the characters, flaws, misgivings, shame, joy and all.

Things I didn't like: None that come to mind.

I would give this book 4/5 stars! And I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates good Christian historical fiction with a strong but realistic undercurrent of true grace.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pay It Forward: A Morning of "Ordinary" Blessings

"You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.....You will be blessed coming in and blessed going out." - Deuteronomy 28:3,5

I'm nearly certain most of you have read or heard these verses from the Bible a time or two. I know I have. And I have gratefully witnessed the blessings of God poured into my life in various ways, big and small, since I first accepted Jesus into my life as my Savior and my Lord.  But today I just have to share a little incident that reminded me in a bigger way than usual how much my God loves me and chooses to bless me in the city and in the country, coming in and going out! I am so thankful!

Today has been a rather ordinary day, the usual Monday, nothing too exciting. I had to run to the store to drop of a prescription at the pharmacy and pick up a few items while there. I ended up in line behind an elderly woman who seemed to be taking much longer than usual for dropping off a prescription. I was tired and wanted to be home more than anything, but I didn't feel impatient with her so much as I did with the pharmacy crew (there were several of them who seemed like they didn't have much to do and could have taken my prescription in a moment). So honestly, I felt a little impatient but I realized that's just the way it is sometimes, and waited for my turn.

The elderly lady turned to me after she was done and apologized, to which I of course smiled and honestly responded, "Oh, it's okay!" because I know in my heart that it's good for me to have to wait does build patience. And it was okay.

Fast forward about 25 or 30 minutes and I've found my small list of items, much smaller than my typical grocery run, a list including a book on sale that I'd been wanting to buy and was excited to find at a decent price at long last.  I could have checked out on one side of the store, but decided that I wanted to try the one checkout that was open on the side I had entered originally. And there she was, the elderly lady who had been before me in line at the pharmacy! I smiled at her, feeling a little sheepish as I hoped she wouldn't think I had followed her, as of course I had not even expected to see her again.

Then the unexpected happened.  I had barely begun to load my few items onto the express checkout belt when she looked at the cashier and said, "I would like to pay for her items, too!"  I was stunned. I do mean stunned.  I looked at her and quickly responded, "Oh no, you don't have to do that!" She smiled and laughingly said, "I know I don't have to but I'm going to!"  So I thanked her profusely and said I'd never had anyone offer to pay for my groceries like that before, what a pleasant surprise. The cashier was as pleasantly surprised as I was, and both of us were beyond impressed.  The cashier said, "Now that's pay it forward!" I smiled and said, "Yes, I will have to pay it forward!"

I told the elderly lady I would pray that God blessed her for her generosity and kindness. She was excited to get to treat me. And I was thrilled that someone would want to.  And humbled by the fact that I had chosen to be sweet and smile at her both times I encountered her, because it really makes it easier all around if people would just be kind and respectful to each other.

So, how do I feel this morning? Blessed.  It was not a massive grocery bill, and perhaps to some it would not seem so significant. But to me, it was a big deal. How often does the person in front of you choose to bless you, a random grocery shopper they don't know and probably never will? For me, it was the first time. I feel like God just wanted to brighten my day and remind me how much He loves me and looks after my most basic and yet critical needs......and He chose to show me through a willing, ordinary elderly lady who happened to be at the grocery and the pharmacy the exact same times as I.  And I am so thankful . . . . . and excited to pay it forward.