Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: Arms of Love by Kelly Long

I recently had the opportunity to review Kelly Long's Amish Beginnings novel, Arms of Love.  As I think I've recently mentioned, I have really enjoyed the Amish genre lately, and Ms. Long's book is no exception!  This was a really great story, and I found myself completely wrapped up in the plot, and feeling like I was a part of the characters' lives.  

Without any spoilers, I'll give a brief summary:  the book begins with main character Adam Wyse making a promise to his neighbor, who is great with child and feels that God has told her that she will not survive the birth of her fourth child.  This neighbor is also the mother of the young woman, Lena Yoder, who Adam loves dearly.  The promise he makes will break his heart as he faces tough decisions regarding his faith and the civil war.  Adam is a good man with a sincere heart who is often overlooked because of his intellectual brother, whose greatest desire is to become a bishop.  Revelations from not only Adam's past, but that of his father, will shape the eventual outcome of this story.

I was unfamiliar with Kelly Long before reading this book, but I'm so glad that I made the choice to read and review!  She's an excellent writer, and I am already looking at reading some of her other novels.  A great feature at the end of the story is a Reading Group Guide... whether or not I have the opportunity to read this with a group, I do plan on spending some time reviewing and answering the questions on my own.

Five star read- highly unpredictable, and highly recommended!  Thanks to the publisher for providing the book in exchange for my honest review!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Faith and Other Flat Tires - Andrea Palpant Dilley - A Review

I was recently given the opportunity to review Andrea Palpant Dilley's Faith and Other Flat Tires. The title causes the mind to wander a bit, and I suppose a prospective reader would assume the book was: 
 a- an atheistic view of why Christianity doesn't work 
b- the usual, expected, "I followed Jesus, this horrible event happened, I was mad at God, but now this good event has happened or this person has come into my life and therefore, I've come full circle and love Him more than ever."

Neither option sounds especially appealing to me. The first, because I do follow Jesus, and it does work. The second, because I know that not every follower's story wraps up so neatly with a bow on top. Life is messy and hard and doesn't always resolve in less than 400 pages. 

 I was pleasantly surprised to read this coming-of-age story that did not come full-circle. The author is by no means old, but has written this memoir of her life thus far. Her parents spent time as missionaries in Kenya, and the horrific experiences they witnessed are not lost on Andrea, even as a child. She lives her life, feeling like she does not fit in anywhere... that when she is in Kenya, she doesn't "belong", but when she returns to the States, she doesn't really feel that she belongs, because she has spent so much of her life out of the country. We travel with her from the point of childhood blind faith, through her teenage years and removing the "Jesus fish" from the back of her car, into adulthood, where she realizes that life is not like a Hallmark Channel movie. To expect things to be neat and orderly and sensible removes the humanity from life. Andrea deals with serious doubt, and at the end of the book, she still lacks answers. 

 I enjoyed reading this book, and {like most of her readers, I would imagine} found myself in the pages of the story. I caught glimpses of my life, and related to Andrea on many levels. I am typically not a memoir-reading kind of gal, but truly enjoyed the stories she included. I recommend this book for those seeking and doubting and lacking answers. Will it solve anything for you? Probably not. But, it will remind you that you are not alone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Faithful to Laura by Kathleen Fuller

I recently finished reading "Faithful to Laura" by Kathleen Fuller. I enjoy the Christian Amish/Mennonite genre, and so when I had the opportunity to read and review "Faithful to Laura", I willingly jumped at the chance! Fuller does not disappoint in this novel. To my knowledge, I've never read any of her writings previously, but I will keep my eye out for her books from now on. She has this great way of describing the characters, and you actually feel like you know them by the time you get halfway through the book. I adored the story of Sawyer and Laura, and how they find common ground to connect and form a relationship. Both come from outside the community, and struggle with fitting in for different reasons. They have lots of baggage, but once each can convince the other to trust, Sawyer and Laura find that they're not so different. One thing I appreciated about this novel was how respectful the author was of the characters' relationships with God. The Amish tend to have a quiet faith, from my understanding, and while Fuller certainly included plenty of tidbits and anecdotes about the character's spiritual lives, she didn't go overboard or attempt to proselytize in this story. {And, so that you understand my perspective, I am a follower of Jesus... I just get frustrated sometimes when authors make faith seem so simple and easy and concrete. It's not.} I am grateful for the opportunity to read and review this book, which was provided to me by the publisher. Any opinions expressed are my own, and I did not receive any compensation for this review.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Choice - Robert Whitlow - A Review

Three or so years ago, when I first got an iPhone, I downloaded the Kindle app and set out to find free books that were actually GOOD. A challenge, for sure. After a good bit of searching, I found a free legal thriller {Christian genre} by Robert Whitlow. I read it in a day or two, and immediately set out to purchase the other two books in the series. It was SO good! Since that time, I peruse the free Christian fiction offerings to see if Whitlow has any new freebies, but have yet to find any others. Fast-forward to a few days ago- I was given the opportunity to read and review Whitlow's book, The Choice. Super psyched! It was a digital version, so I had immediate access to it, and managed to read it in three days. I adore Whitlow's writings, because it's deep, personal, and full of action. I always find a personal connection with the characters, and Sandy {the main character in The Choice} proved to be no exception. Whitlow is obviously no stranger to the legal world, as he is a practicing attorney in North Carolina. He infuses just the right amount of accurate information without overloading the reader with confusing legal jargon. I recommend The Choice without reservation. The only negative criticism I might offer is that the plot's a tad predictable... or perhaps I'm just intuitive? Either way, you'll find yourself hooked into the plot from the beginning, cheering for and crying with the characters, and before you know it, you'll be like me- on the search for another great read from Robert Whitlow. {This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for a review. Any opinions expressed are original and my own.}

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Outlive Your Life - Max Lucado - A Review

We only have one life to live. It's really sobering when you realize that we only get one chance at this life we've been given, and each decision you make on a daily basis is building the legacy you'll leave, piece by piece. I received a copy of Max Lucado's book, Outlive Your Life, to read and review from Thomas Nelson Publishing. To be honest, it took a while to read the book, because I knew that I could fly through the book and not allow the content to penetrate my heart and life- but that's not what I wanted! I was determined to soak in every tidbit of theological truth, as well as each great story or anecdote that so perfectly helps me to apply the theological truths. It's so helpful to realize that God doesn't just call the extraordinary to do His work on Earth... in fact, if you follow Jesus, He will use you wherever you are for His purposes. God has planted you where you are purposefully, not arbitrarily. It's a good reminder to me that nothing in this life is without purpose. God uses all of it! This book follows the same general writing style that Lucado uses in all of his other books... it's a bit, errr, fluffy, if you will, but the fluff is not without purpose. If you're looking for highly intellectual, deeply theological writings, then Outlive Your Life probably isn't for you. But that doesn't mean that the book isn't good! We all have our preferences, and I know that even my own preferences vary from day to day. As the mother of a preschooler, I don't always have the time or mental capacity for a book that requires me to figure out word meanings as I read... this book is an easy read with tons to absorb and apply. In fact, I think I'll read it again...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Great Gifts *Giveaway Link*

I don't know about you, but I love finding *THE* perfect gift. However, I am not extremely successful an absolute failure at it... So, I generally resort to the practical and necessary. Not exciting, but hey- better than forgetting, right? I happened to stumble across a new blog this morning, because they're having a giveaway for a Linksys EA4500 wireless router. This would actually be not only a great Father's Day gift for my hubby, but also a necessary one. Our router has been acting up for a while now, causing annoyances all the time! He'd be thrilled, I'm sure... He is certainly a Geek Dad! :) If you'd like to enter to win the contest, you can do so right here! May the geekiest dad win!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

choices do not always equal judgment

This morning I read a blog from one of my favorite mom bloggers, and it resonated with me on many levels.  The gist of the blog {in case you don't want to read the entire thing} was about the "trend of deriding those bloggers who write anything considered "alternative". They are accused of being holier-than-thou, of judging others, of making others feel bad about their lives, of presenting an impossible image, and above all, of pretending to have the perfect life".  

Wow.  After writing a blog about "mompetition" and some areas where I needed to be less competitive, I was accused of being judgmental and making them feel bad about their parenting choices.  In hindsight, though I wrote that blog with no intention of hurting feelings, I can see how the tone might have come across as haughty.  I shared some things that I'm passionate about, and how I need to be less judgmental about  my choices.  Yet, I was still accused of judging by saying I needed to judge less.  If you can possibly understand that, God bless you. {can you send me an email and explain it to me?}

You see, after years of community in an online group of friends {we connected on a parenting website when we were all pregnant with our first children}, I decided to be really transparent about an area where I was struggling.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the path that conversation would ultimately take.  To make a very long, emotionally damaging story short, several of the ladies {who I would've referred to as some of my closest friends, albeit only in the virtual world} began ripping me apart, limb from limb, accusing me of being judgmental and opinionated for sharing some of my choices {breastfeeding, choosing not to fully vaccinate, attachment parenting, not taking narcotic meds after a c-section because I didn't want to endanger my breastfeeding or bonding relationship with my newborn}.  One gal even went as far as to say that I was "without tact".  I was absolutely heartbroken, and it rocked me to the core of my being.  

In "real life", I had never been accused of being judgmental or opinionated.  I really contemplated why, and determined two things: one, the written word can often be read in a different tone than it was originally intended; and two, perhaps I feel a greater freedom to share about my decisions when I'm writing {not getting interrupted every two sentences is empowering! ha!}.  

I love what a commenter wrote on the original blog I mentioned.  She said that the "crunchy" life choices tend to be more research-based.  I'd never thought about it that way.  But yes- I do tons of research about practically every decision I make {from parenting to food purchases to laundry detergent}.  So, when I make a decision, I feel a great deal of certainty {granted, any decision as a mom is subject to change at any given moment!}.  Perhaps, then, when I share about a choice I've made, it comes across as being haughty or proud {in a negative way}, because I am so certain after doing hours of research.

We all have the privilege and responsibility of doing our own research and making our own decisions.  When reading about other people {especially other moms} and their choices, we would all do well {myself included} to refrain from assuming malicious intent.  So hard.

So, what about you?  Have you been accused of being judgmental when you share a decision?  Have you ever been in a situation where you were offended by someone else's certainty?