Non-Fiction Review: Scott Dannemiller’s “The Year Without A Purchase”

I loved this book! And as I laughed – out loud – no less than three times just in the Introduction, you can believe me when I say this book is hilarious. Mr. Dannemiller recounts his family’s experiment with honesty and humor, weaving together a great read.

Reading through the Dannemiller’s experiences stirred strong feelings of thankfulness. The book is not written as a scathing chastisement of consumerism, but as a priority and reality check for our lives. I am now newly aware, and immensely grateful for the abundance of things I possess, and how much more I can share with those around me.

I am also extra grateful for the family and friends I have. While I prize spending time with the people in my life, The Year Without a Purchase gave me many ideas for making that time more meaningful in the immediate, and fostering cherished memories. 

This is a book that sparks conversation. Previously I had never heard of the “Wise Men Gifts” tradition, of only giving three gifts at Christmas. That concept, and many others prompted some cool conversations for me and my family. We may not implement everything the Dannemiller’s did, but the discussions their ideas sparked will bring us our own family traditions, values, and memories.

Highly Recommended!

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

Non-Fiction Review: Timothy Dailey’s “The Paranormal Conspiracy”

This book is a definitive example of 1 Peter 3:15, one of the best I have come across. There is a fine line between articulating what you believe and clearly explaining why you hold those convictions, opposed to screaming your view at whoever is listening and walking away with a self-righteous sniff. This book is definitely the former.

Mr. Dailey is a professor, and I would love the chance to sit in his classes, as his writing style is that of a great teacher, clear and concise, with a well-researched, documented foundation. I learned a great deal about the history behind different movements and ideologies, but was never overwhelmed. The topic of “The Paranormal Conspiracy” is weighty, and takes time to work through, but is completely worth the time. I came away with greater understanding and clarity of the world around me, and how to relate to it through my faith.

I was reminded of Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness”, two of my favorite books to recommend. I see this as a great compliment to add to the stack the next time I loan them!

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

Non-Fiction Review: Elizabeth George’s “15 Verses to Pray for Your Husband”

This book isn’t released until September 1 of this year, and I’ve already personally recommended it to someone! I’m also planning to make this book my go-to for any wedding gift I will need in the future. It is amazing.

Personal fact, I am newly married. I’m so thankful I came across this work now, early on in my own marriage, as the fundamentals within are, and will be, so impactful for my husband and myself. It felt like long-standing blinders were coming off with each page, a deeper understanding of my husband in his roles, and a new clarity as to how I can best support him as his wife.

The work is not very long overall, but each page is packed with insights that explain and round-out the portions of a husband’s life to pray for, and the verses Mrs. George chose. It took a few days for me to work my way through the whole book, but I was completely refreshed and energized by the end!

I appreciated that Mrs. George often quoted her husband, his books, and his research, so that the reader could be assured that what the author was sharing was not assuming what a husband needs, but responding out of real experience and conversation.

You can hear the echoes of the strong bond of the author’s marriage in the way she writes, as well as the love she has for her husband, and for her readers. I loved Mrs. George’s encouraging and conversational style, it will make you eager to move mountains! I can’t wait to read more of her work.

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

Non-Fiction Review: Brandon D. Crowe’s “The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption”

P&R Publishing’s mission is “to serve Christ and his church by producing clear, engaging, fresh, and insightful applications of Reformed theology to life.” In that endeavor, they have hit the mark every time! I am now in the habit of picking up their latest releases, to see what new insights I may learn and wrestle with from the pages of the excellent works they produce.

There, in short, is how I came to be reading “Message of the General Epistles”. This book is incredible. Over and over I experience the rush of new understanding, of the “ah-ha!” moment. I have a feeling, as I work through these pages, and reflect upon the questions at the end of each chapter, that as I read through this book again later down the road (for it is MOST DEFINITELY going on my permanent shelf), that I will still learn more the next time, and the time after that.

This book takes an investment of time and focus. While written so anyone can read and understand, it still requires a methodical approach to fully comprehend.

I particularly like the fact that the author takes many of the ten-dollar words we hear in the church, and breaks it down for those who didn’t go to seminary, and don’t happen to have a dictionary nearby. And even beyond that, he then illustrates the concepts through specific Biblical text, and provides clear daily application. Mr. Crowe’s writing style has a great teaching quality to it, flowing from one point to the next seamlessly. I find myself journaling many notes, writing down quotes to mull over later and explore more fully.

This is a book to be shared. As I’ve read through, I’ve peppered my family and friends with “did you know…” and “what do you think about…”. While the application is firstly very personal and inward looking, the conversations and discussion it will bring with others help to fully round the experience.

I cannot recommend this book enough!

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

Fiction Review: Marty Wingate’s “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

Just released today – Between a Rock and a Hard Place!

I had a lot of fun reading this book. When I received it, I didn’t know it was part of a series, so it took a me a second reading of the first chapter to really understand the characters and how they all fit together. But it was worth the time, as these are characters you definitely want to meet!

It’s probably against some rule to giggle your way through a murder mystery, but I couldn’t help it – Pru is such a fun, real character, and the situations Ms. Wingate wrote her into were so funny. I couldn’t put the story down!

Ms. Wingate’s love for, and knowledge of, gardens comes through from the first page to the last. Yet she doesn’t talk over the head of her reader, but shares her enthusiasm for the beautiful outdoors in such a clear way, I could almost smell the flowers Pru walked through in the book. It definitely made me want to get out and take a walk, once I finished reading! 

The mystery had many layers, and kept me guessing until the end, with surprises I didn’t see coming. I definitely want to go back and check out the first few books in the series, to know these characters better!

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

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.