Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Heart Most Certain - Review

Title: A Heart Most Certain

Back Cover Blurb: A Fresh Voice in Historical Romance! 
Lydia King knows what it's like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town's poor. But with her father's debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the moral society's president is her suitor's mother. Her first task as a moral society member—to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town—should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.
Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs—and hearts—truly align.
 

My Take: 

I love the cover! So pretty!

This was an interesting book featuring a topic not covered by many books in Christian fiction. I thought it was thought-provoking and helped give faces and a new perspective to a controversial subject. How can Christians best minister to those thoroughly lost and in horrible situations like prostitution? 

Today it is both easier and harder to move on from your past and get a fresh start. There are still those in the church who refuse to associate with anyone who has been in any kind of real trouble. How can we help if we see them as ... "less" worthy than the rest of us?

I thought it was unique to have both main characters come from a place of judgment and prejudice - but on different sides. Lydia was following the crowd of "moral" women who thought the people in bars and brothels were beneath them and should be eradicated and removed rather than rehabilitated or assisted. Mr Lowe believed the church was full of worthless hypocrites that didn't and couldn't care for those less fortunate and trapped in the "seedy" side of town.

Neither were totally correct and both wanted to please God. It was also interesting that both thought they weren't good enough for the other person to be genuinely interested in them as a spouse. Though their respect and admiration for each other grew, I could see the possibility that they would never end up together because of their steadfast refusal to think the other person genuinely cared about them.

Both had complex back stories that helped make their characters -- and their current reactions and feelings -- seem more realistic. 

It was a good book and well written. I want to thank the publisher for providing my copy, though it in no way influenced my review. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Shout in the Dark

I've been working on a book about Fibromyalgia for.... too long. Part of the problem is I wanted to write the book to help people struggling with this kind of.... fuzzy illness that isn't understood well by even members of the medical community. Nobody was there to answer my questions and I wanted to help educate, empower, and encourage people. The problem is that I am not always very inspired, encouraged, or empowered myself.

So, I'm writing this post more or less as a stress reliever for myself. I'm hoping that by putting my frustration into words and sending it out -- it will be a kind of therapy. So, only read on at your own risk.

I am feeling defeated lately. I'm alone, sick, tired, in pain, and I just want it to stop. I'm a Christian - so I keep thinking that I shouldn't feel this way. I should find the lesson, know God is with me, and have hope. I don't lie though -- so I don't feel any of those things. Like Paul, I have prayed and prayed for even part of it to go away. It hasn't. Unlike Paul, I don't feel like God's strength is being glorified by my weakness. I am a failure in every part of my life.

Here's the list: Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Asthma, Allergies, Chronic Migraines, Severe Insomnia, Hair Loss, Osler-Rendy-Weber (a blood disorder), Obesity, High Cholesterol, and a severe, chronic, and productive cough that nobody has been able to find a cause or treatment for.

It's not a life threatening list. I have had family members fight MS, Lupus, Cancer, Heart disease, and diabetes. I know my list isn't as serious as all that. Still.... The things I suffer from interact and trigger each other. Two of the most recent things are a particular problem that I can't seem to manage or overcome.

I had two boys. Both were miracles as I wasn't supposed to be able to have children. Both were born early - but both weighed almost nine pounds and I gained a lot of weight with each pregnancy. I retained water when pregnant - so much so that I had legs that looked like columns -- with none of the slimmer areas like around your ankles.

Those boys and the extra weight have weakened my bladder. Combine a weak bladder with a severe chronic cough and you have incontinence. Because physically I don't have an incontinence problem without the cough -- there is no fix for my incontinence. I don't cough a couple times a day. I cough nearly all the time. It's loud enough that we can't hear the tv, it aggravates my asthma, and sometimes it even causes my to throw up.

It won't kill me, but it means I can't do a lot of things. I love my church - and going. How can I when my coughing is a constant disruption and distraction? Plus the gross factor of over half of my coughing spells are productive. That is the case with most outings. We had a family friend who is almost like an adopted son visit and they wanted to meet at a restaurant. I took 4 different cough/cold medications and still had a cough that drew stares and eve some comments. I don't go out much, and it's hard to talk on the phone.

So, I'm isolated. My cats love me, but that's a total cliche, isn't it?

My husband. My poor husband. How can you have sex when you can't breathe and you're constantly peeing yourself? It's been months - and I can't think of a fix. I know he loves me - but it's hard for him. It hurts me that I know I am not meeting that need for him. He's only human too - and part of me does worry that eventually I'll lose him. He had enough to put up with without this last push. And the cough and incontinence aren't a couple months old. It has been years.

Yesterday I hit a new low. Showers are exhausting for me. Maybe that sounds ridiculous - but it's a fact. My husband calls it my "PSRP" (Post Shower Recovery Period). I take a shower so we can go somewhere, but I have to rest for 15 to 30 minutes afterward or I won't have the energy to do anything.

But this shower --- I coughed so hard and then this huge wave of nausea hit. I was so sick that I ended up getting out without even getting all the conditioner out of my hair. I was pretty much worthless for the rest of the day. I took that shower just after 5 pm.

So, when my husband called and asked me about my day... I just imploded. I didn't have anything worth saying. I hadn't accomplished anything and as much as I wanted to be positive and uplifting for my hard working husband - I was feeling defeated, worthless, deflated, exhausted, alone, and angry. I wasn't nice. I wasn't who I wanted to be.

I don't have any answers. I have tried tons of medications (prescribed and over the counter), essential oils, air purifiers, supplements... My next appointment isn't until the end of October. Pray for answers, healing, patience, and most of all for my attitude.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Flirtation Walk - Review

Summary: West Point History Comes Alive in this Warmhearted Romance

Trying to escape the shambles her con-man father has made of their reputation, Lucinda Curtis arrives in West Point, New York, determined to land a husband from the military academy. Campbell Conklin is first in his class and preparing to embark upon a storied career in the U.S. Army. Lucinda thinks Campbell will make the perfect husband . . . as long as he does not find out about her father.

Seth Westcott also has taken a liking to Lucinda. He's kind, smart . . . and working extremely hard to graduate last. Tradition states that the worst cadets are assigned to the cavalry out west. And west is where Seth must head to track the swindler who stole all of Seth's mother's money. Seth is smart enough to vie for the top spot, but life isn't fair and this is his chance to catch the man who ruined his family. It's too bad Campbell is all shine and no substance, but Lucinda will surely see through all of that, won't she?

My Take:

I had a conversation with a fellow Christian recently about Christian fiction. She said she never read it because it was like Wonder bread -- sweet and clean with some verses added but no real substance. I told her to try a couple authors and one of them was Siri Mitchell. 

I've read several of her books and they are normally very thoughtful, accurate, and seem to have more meaning the deeper you dig. This wasn't quite as deep as some, but after reading her author's note at the end, I know why she was fascinated by the characters and the story behind them.

I also loved how Lucinda's character is an exaggeration of how we all put on masks and try and please people to get what we want from them. I think there is too much of that going on in the church today -- and being more genuine about our struggles might help our ability to reach out to others and show God's work in our lives - rather than being seen as hypocrites and liars. 

Unfortunately, I've met many people like Lucinda's father. It is interesting to see how so much of her life was built on lies and manipulations - and her struggle to come to terms with her part in that -- and what kind of person she wanted to be. Unfortunately, I've also seen too many who, like Lucinda, believe that their past determines their future and that not even God could love and accept them. 

I loved learning about the Immortals (a term I'd never heard before) and understanding these were often good men who were loyal and honest, but just not driven by the same ambition as others -- or wanted to live every moment rather than focus on the rules and regimentation of training with some hope of living their lives in the future. I think balance is important in that area - and hard to achieve. What will we truly regret on our deathbeds? They may have the right idea.

I think it was wonderful to see a character like Seth - and many of his friends - who are military men wanting to protect their home and families. Many men and women in the military are just that -- caretakers and shepherds. They aren't barbarians and violent people as they have been portrayed. We should be thankful for them and the sacrifices they make for us and the country.

Although not my favorite book by Siri Mitchell, I enjoyed this very much. I thank the publisher for my copy, though it in no way influenced my review.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Risen - Review

Back Cover: A Powerful Novelization from Bestselling Author Angela Hunt 
Epic in scope, yet deeply personal, this novelization offers a unique perspective on the story of the resurrection. Roman Tribune Clavius is assigned by Pilate to keep the radical followers of the recently executed Yeshua from stealing the body and inciting revolution. When the body goes missing despite his precautions, Clavius must hunt it down.
His investigation leads him from the halls of Herod Antipas to the Garden of Gethsemane and brings him in touch with believer and doubter alike. But as the body still remains missing, Clavius commits to a quest for the truth--and answers that will not only shake his life but echo throughout all of history.
 

My Take: This was a wonderful book. It is a novelization of a movie coming out this month.

I liked the opportunity to see these events from a very different perspective. I think it resonated with me so much because I could relate to Clavius. He's a Roman soldier and thinks logically. He believes in the power of his ability (and the ability of Rome) to reason and come to the right outcome. He is a firm believer in duty and loyalty.

He's charged by Pilate to ensure Jesus' body is not stolen - and then to investigate when the tomb is found empty. He starts in one place -- with his own ideas about what happened and why. He is intelligent and fairly content with his world order. His one area of discontent is that he is tired of death. He's seen  and dealt too much it and doesn't have any faith in his gods to stop it.

I also approached the idea of faith like some scientist trying to dissect it and come to some logical conclusion. So I can relate to how he questions things and tries to make order out of the chaos of political machinations, zealots, miracles... He is open enough to see what has actually happened and how it may change everything.

I read in the author's notes that Rachel's character was cut from the movie and I think that's sad. Her story gave his context -- and allowed us to see a side of him that I don't think would be seen without her. I also thought her story was important in and of itself. A woman alone in that time period faced a lot of trials and I thought the way she dealt with that was very interesting.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sensitive

I broke a fingernail on Saturday. I'm not a high maintenance girly girl, but I do have long fingernails. I don't do much of anything with them - and breaking one didn't hurt my heart or anything - but it did make me think.

The nail had covered the skin on the end of my pinky. Breaking that nail exposed sensitive skin. It didn't hurt - but everything felt differently - and ... more.

I found myself constantly touching it -- and using it to touch other things. I would use it to pet my cats, feel the fabric on my couch, the cold of my water bottle ... It was like noticing all my everyday things in a brand new way.

The experience gave me a new appreciation for the blessings I'd been taking for granted. I found myself wishing that I could break the fingernail of my heart and soul so I could be like a child -- in awe-- aware of and discovering everything and everyone around me. Loving in that no-holds-barred - nothing held back kind of way.

So, today I'm thankful for a broken fingernail and the lessons it taught me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Irish Meadows - Review


Back Cover Summary: Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?
My Take:

I haven't read anything else by this author, so I wasn't sure what kind of story to expect. It was a surprise in a few ways.

First of all there isn't one main couple and the book isn't focused almost entirely on their story. It's the story of two couples. Neither relationship goes as expected and the relationships are as different as the sisters.

There is also the element of Catholic believers and practices, which isn't something you see a lot in Christian fiction. Since the story revolves around Irish immigrants, it is very appropriate.

I had a hard time with the characters for a while, especially Colleen. She really starts off as a selfish, immature, manipulative... not nice person. I guess she came by it naturally because her father was playing them all like a puppet master. I thought that for immigrants making their way in a new country -- they seemed a little weak willed and too easily led.

The story had a few twists and turns and little surprises but I think the men and the horses are what made me love this book the most. Gil and Rylan are very "swoon worthy" and I think I cried a little with the newborn foal with the bad leg.

The biggest thing for me with books is whether the characters feel like real people. The next is a satisfying ending. The last is a relationship (or in the case two of them) that progress  -- not love without any conversation or growth. Irish Meadows satisfies on all counts. This is an author I will seek out in the future.

This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am thankful, but it in no way influenced my review.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dauntless by Dina Sleiman - Review

Back Cover Summary: Though once a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest," her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king. 

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?

My Take:

I'm a big fan of the time period and Robin Hood, so I was super excited to read this book even though I wasn't familiar with the author. 

The beginning grabbed and held my attention. I didn't want to put the book down. I loved the way she became the leader of the ghosts in order to protect and provide for the children. She was educating them academically and morally. She resented God because of what happened to her family -- though she didn't share those thoughts with the children and rob them of their faith. I really believed she could be a real person who made the decisions she did for the reasons the book provides.

Timothy is also very authentic. He tries to be smart - even strategic - about what to do and when. You can understand why as he struggles to stand apart in a large family. When faced with how his decisions can hurt others, he is willing to change and reevaluated his goals. 

There is an outstanding and interesting supporting cast of characters, especially little Wren and Allen.

The end was tense and took an unexpected twist.

If I had one tiny grumble, it would be that I would have loved a few more exciting raids peppered in the story. 

I got my copy from the publishers and although thankful, it did not alter or influence my review.