Non-Fiction Review: Rachel Anne Ridge’s “Flash”

Imagine, if you will, that feeling when someone asks you for a book recommendation. You pull one from the shelf, press it into their hand, and extol the virtues of the tale within, usually ending with the phrase “you have to read it!”.

Alas, I cannot place my e-book into your hands, but it is with the same fervor that I highly recommend this work!

I wasn’t expecting to be so impacted by this memoir. It sounded like a fun, interesting read, which it definitely is, but it also turned out to be exactly what I needed at the moment. A breath of fresh air, and new perspective on my day-to-day. Mrs. Ridge writes with a clarity of thought and voice that made this work an absolute treat to read.

While you can finish reading in one sitting, the Bible truths Mrs. Ridge brings out, illustrated with life stories, will take you a while to mull over. I wrote down many quotes and takeaways. For example, “what I do comes from who I am, not the other way around,” and “Character is really only as good as the relationships around you. Honesty, love, generosity, and truth must have an object, or they remain theories rather than becoming realities in our lives.”

Instead of just focusing on how to get out of the valley, back to the sunshine, Mrs. Ridge takes the time to look around at the valley, learning what it can teach her, and what she can take away for others. As she said, “God moved Saul from his own little world, by means of a frustrating mission, into a place of encounter.” If we only focus on getting out, getting over with, getting done in our lives, we may miss the bigger picture. I know I am fully guilty of focusing too much on what I do, and not who I am, and often, forgetting Whose I am. Stepping back and getting correct perspective has begun to change my day-to-day life for the better.

I admit, I wasn’t expecting that from a story about a stray donkey!

Flash is a character that will stick with you for a while! I appreciate Mrs. Ridge sharing him, her family, and part of their journey with us.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

Fiction Review: Anne-Laure Thieblemont’s “The Collector”

A new Le French Book review!

If it’s not overtly clear by now, I have nothing but the highest respect for the publisher Le French Book, and the people who work there. The ability to translate not just words, but feeling, nuances and great story, opening up a new dimension of great authors and works to English-speaking audiences, is something I admire greatly.

“The Collector” has a very fast pace – a one-sitting read. Make sure to set aside a little time when you get this book, because it will be very hard to put down until the final page!

This is the start to a new series for this author, but it is not her first work. Ms. Thieblemont knows and owns her voice, starting out with strong confidence that carries through the whole book. This was refreshing to read, when there are so many other books that take a few chapters to really warm up. To be immersed in the story from page one, to feel the enthusiasm with which the tale is told from the start, made “The Collector” fun to read, even outside of the actual plot!

It was neat to see a new perspective on French life, through French eyes. I got a look at life in Paris, rather than the countryside focus of the Winemaker Detective. It was interesting to read the Parisian nuances, things I’ve not yet come across in character descriptions set in other places in France. It’s similar to the use of “pop” vs. “soda” here in the United States – little identifiers that round out a person’s background and personality. Once again, I’ve learned something new.

The book is set in the world of art, and Ms. Thieblemont’s descriptions make that world vivid and stunning. The colors, the textures, the contrasts, all were expertly created for the reader. I enjoyed lingering among the display, even as the story compelled me onward.

It will be interesting to see where Marion’s story goes from here! I look forward to finding out.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Non-Fiction Review: Leslie Ludy’s “The Set-Apart Woman”

I’ve been refreshed through works by Leslie Ludy in the past, and was eager to get a copy of this latest title. I like her writing style, a very raw and real tone that feels like you are sitting with her while she shares with you.

This book came at the perfect time, as I am entering a new life season, and needed a reminder of how to always make sure to put Christ first. Along with reminders of the importance of practical day-to-day prayers, quiet time, and service, Leslie focuses on reestablishing the motivations behind why we do what we do. As she says; “God has promised that when we build our lives around His priorities, He will multiply our time and effectiveness and make sure all our needs are taken care of.”

She goes in-depth into different areas of our lives where we might struggle to put Christ first, reminding readers to ask, “When people see this part of my life, are they drawn closer to Jesus, or are they merely impressed with me?”, because, “there should be no area of our life that is exclusively ours. Rather, every area of our lives should be exclusively God’s.”

I was strengthened, edified, and convicted while reading this book, writing notes over and over in my journal to continue ruminating on later. I like the fact the chapters are laid out for both group study and personal study – allowing readers the chance to go over what they are learning multiple times, from different perspectives.

One part I especially liked is when Leslie is talking about Jesus being our all, and lists out who He is to us by His different names, by verse. I plan to spend some extra study on just that portion of that chapter, as it really brought the larger picture of what she was saying down to a very personal level.

This is a work that will leave you thinking and mulling over new insights, but would be especially good for newer believers, as Leslie helps to lay a foundation of truth that would be very good to start with when a new believer is first studying who Jesus is and what He means to them.

The biggest take-away I received from this work came in these two quotes from Leslie:

 “Whether we are recognized and applauded or disregarded and overlooked, it should make no difference to us. A woman who has taken up her cross to follow Christ cares only about knowing Him and making Him known.”

“Imagine the freedom of being unconcerned whether people appreciated your unique talents, personality, or acts of service. Imagine if your only concern was making Jesus known, even if no one ever remembered your name.”

May it be so.

 I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Fiction Review: Mary Ellis’s “Midnight on the Mississippi”

A cute and interesting story. This is the first of a new series by Ms. Ellis, and it sets the books to come on a great foot.

I really like the character of Nicki, she is very real and believable. It draws the reader in to have her as our entrance to this world. I especially liked the great use of dialogue between the characters. That is something I have a hard time getting right, so to see it well done is always a treat.

The blurb on the book talks about the characters turning to God to help them with their problems, and other than a few statements of what they believed on a certain point, I didn’t really see that happen. It was still a well-grounded book, with characters who knew what they believed and stood firm within it, which I enjoyed.

The pacing and focus of the story seemed a little odd at some points, with the author lingering or hurrying through different scenes at times. While working to establish the characters for this new series, it sometimes felt as if the mystery plot was pushed to the background.

The extensive descriptions of the food the characters enjoy made me hungry! I’ve been to the area in which the book was set, and it pulled on those memories of smells and sights, making my stomach wish for more! I always like books that can give you the whole immersive experience with their descriptions.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

 

Fiction Review: Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry’s “The Book of the King”

A recommendation review!

The primary genre I read for pleasure is allegory, particularly fantasy-based. So upon learning of this series, I was interested to see what kind of introduction it created for the younger reader into the genre. 

The Book of the King is the first title in The Wormling Series. Five titles in total, each at just about 300 pages each, this is a good step for younger readers transitioning to longer series. This would be a good lead-in to other young adult series that I fully recommend, such as those by Donita K. Paul or Patrick Carr.

I absolutely love the writing style that Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Fabry use in The Book of the King. The language and cadence are perfectly balanced, and really draws you in. As this is targeted at a younger audience, they do an incredible job of “show, don’t tell” description, without going overboard and getting long-winded. They speak TO the intended audience, not down AT them.

At only 300 pages, the story moves at a brisk pace, but there were several times it felt like the reader was almost being rushed along past the story, instead of getting to participate in it. There were times it was a little blurry as to what was happening in the action scenes, or when there is dialogue between several characters at once. Perhaps, if I were to go back and re-read the work at an intentionally measured pace, it would clear a bit. Also, this is the first book, and usually it takes at least one book for any series to get its footing.

Wait, it ended there?! But we were just getting started on the quest!

The ending comes up rather abruptly, at least to an older reader. Looking at it through the lens of a younger reader, we have just gotten through one epic battle, have geared up for the next part of the journey, and set our foot on the path to it. It is a natural break, and a good hook for them to want the next book.

An interesting read.  I’ll have to look into the rest of the series.

Non-Fiction Review: John Antal’s “7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution”

“Contented men do not lead rebellions.”

Mr. Antal has the gift of the pithy quote. This whole work was filled with little gems, perfect for storing and bringing out in conversation.

The strength of Mr. Antal’s personal quotes are matched only by his great use of quotes by historical and venerated figures. You can feel the depth of his research, the solid foundation upon which he has built his facts and thesis.

Each chapter is focused on a key attribute of leadership, broken into smaller components that are a part of that attribute. These are shown to us through the lens of a specific figure in the American Revolution, with a story-telling style that I enjoyed. The way the history is wrapped into the present on each point is very well done, and made for a very meaty read.

I have a great love of history, fostered by excellent teachers. I love that no matter how many times you learn about a subject, there is always more to know. For example, I did not know previously that Henry Knox was a bookseller, or that Benjamin Franklin was 70 years old when he helped edit the Declaration of Independence.

The greatest strength of the book is that the author understands what makes people tick.

“You cannot lead effectively unless your organization understands your vision and acts upon it.”

“…a leader must make his team members feel the cause as much as understand it”

These quotes both exemplify much of the author’s thesis about the American Revolution, as well as his writing style. There is a good balance between the historical focus, and the leadership focus, neither overwhelming the other. I recommend this work as a teaching tool for those first learning about the Revolution, to round out what they are learning and give them more to chew on.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

 

Non-Fiction Review: Iain M. Duguid’s “Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace”

That moment when everything “clicks”. You know it. That “ohhhh!” instant.

Reading Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace was one long, continual moment of new understanding. It is the latest release in the series The Gospel According to the Old Testament, which I am now eager to get my hands on in its entirety!

Seriously, this work is amazing. I almost don’t even know where to start in my hearty recommendation!

Often, while studying the Bible, we focus on the “big” moments, the triumphs of faith and the faithful. I’ve only ever had a handful of studies that got down into the nitty-gritty of the patriarchs’ life, and looked at the rough edges as well as the refined product. But this is the first time I’ve read a study that emphasized those rough edges as shouting the Gospel from the Old Testament. This is a work that reminds us that while we should strive to live worthy of our final heavenly reward, Christ is here, along the daily path with us, as well.

But we so easily seemingly forget that. In our headlong rush through life, we are often guilty of not waiting on God to do what he has promised, or trusting we will end up where he is leading. Many times we find ourselves trying to give God a “little assistance.” Human nature is so focused on our aspirations, so used to certain “norms” that God has to step in and shake us up, so we will get outside of our self-imposed boxes, and see the full extent of his plan.

How come we desire the blessing more than we desire God himself?

Praise the Lord for Grace.

Through the lives of Isaac and Jacob, this book reminds us over and over of the powerful God we serve, and how his plans and blessings for us are beyond the short-term things we are so often running to. He shakes up our “normal” and proves over and over that his favor is not measured by man’s yardstick, his Grace cannot be earned.

This is a reminder I needed, and will continue to need. And re-reading this book is a great place to start! The extra questions and readings at the end of each chapter are great study and small group material.

I really like this hard-hitting and transformative book. I know you will as well!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

Fiction Review: “Flambé in Armagnac” – Le French Book

I’ve just finished reading the next Winemaker Detective book, Flambé in Armagnac, being released this summer! Previous reviews will tell you of my great affinity for this series, and I have no hesitation in saying each one is better and better.

The opening was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time – taking an everyday item or occurrence, in this case, buying a yearly calendar, and spinning it to draw the reader in with a great visual hook. I re-read it about three times for the sheer pleasure of a cool bit of writing, those little moments in books that stick with you even when the other quotes have faded.

At this point in the series we *know* there’s going to be a mystery or some puzzle to solve, so the authors turn our expectation around on itself by introducing an insurance claim for Cooker to investigate. To still keep us on our toes, however, they add a few layers to what is going on, several mysteries at once to solve. It makes for a busy, but exciting read.

Flambé in Armagnac is interesting in that the resolution and explanation comes straight from the culprit’s mouth, unlike the previous works where we are looking back and someone else is explaining it. In this case, it was the best way to bring conclusion to everything that had happened, and also show the authors’ strengths in varying their style, even within the same series.

As always, food, wine, and even more food, but this time the reader isn’t just treated to the sights, smells and tastes in consumption, but also while preparing the dishes! I liked the expansion of this central part of these works – it made it feel more accessible to me, as a reader without much prior knowledge of the French plate.

Beyond all the mysteries and food, there was another, slightly veiled theme that stays with the reader, to muse upon once the rush of solving the puzzle passes. That being, how far-reaching and impactful the actions of one family, even one person, can be on those around them. This is the first time where not only the great cuisine but also the mystery can be pulled out and looked at in the context of the reader’s own life and experiences.

We get to know more about Virgile, and hear from his point of view a great deal. This was one of the best aspects of this book to me, as we finally start to really understand him not just as apprentice, but assistant, and heir-apparent to Cooker’s legacy. Seeing from his view also gave us more moments of intentional humor and joking, which made this book both a fun, and at times, funny read.

I cannot wait for you to get your own copy!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.

Non-Fiction Review: Jim Defede’s “The Day the World Came to Town”

It’s been a while since I have sat down and read a book cover to cover, and I enjoyed this one immensely! The story-telling style, the pacing, and the story itself made for an amazing work that I am definitely adding to my personal library!

I was in 8th grade science class when I learned something had happened to the twin towers. And then….nothing. For the next four years of secondary education, I didn’t learn about it in school, or really even talk about it in any class. This book taught me several things about that day that even up until this point, I personally didn’t know – starting with the fact that ALL of United States’s airspace was shut down.

And that’s where the work starts, with what happened to all the other planes up in the air, heading to American airports. The story is fascinating and will definitely inspire you to get out and help your neighbor!

I learned the facts of 9/11 in the many works I’ve read since then, and I still wonder about never learning about it from my schooling. Was it because it was still so soon, so raw? Or because we were old enough to understand what had happened and had “experienced” it, our educators felt we didn’t need it added to our history lessons? I might go and ask my parents and grandparents about how long it took the JFK assassination or Pearl Harbor to show up while they were in school. Perhaps my experience is unique. All I know is I wish it hadn’t taken me 13 years to find this book! (published in 2002)

I can’t say enough good about this work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Fiction Review: Jessica Dotta’s “Born of Persuasion”

When I received this book I knew it was part of a trilogy, however, I did not know until I finished that it was in essence a very long chapter one, not a standalone work. I personally am not a fan of series that don’t make each work a complete tale within the whole of the overarching story. If an author is worried about bringing readers back, they should not default to the cliff-hanger, “tune in next thursday,” gimmick, but strengthen the work they already have. A great story, a well-crafted world, will bring the audience back again and again.

The pace of this work was much slower than those of my most recent reviews. This gives the reader time to completely understand the feelings and mindset of Julia, as we see everything from her point of view, and her perception.

However, we are told the tale by future Julia, looking back on everything that happened. I thought this was a neat twist on the “unreliable narrator,” as Julia gives us no reason to doubt or rethink anything that is happening, until she herself throws out a “what if” or “perhaps” into our reading.

The action doesn’t really pick up until about the last third of the book, and while I liked the opportunity to get such an in-depth look into Julia’s mindset, I felt it work was so focused on character development, it didn’t allow itself to just relax and tell the story.

An interesting read, just be forewarned that you must invest in the trilogy as a whole to complete the story.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley.