Saturday, November 26, 2016

Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund

John Newton is a youthful, adventurous sailor when he first encounters Polly Catlett. Her sweet voice and pretty face draw him, but it is her personality that captivates him. Devout and responsible, Polly is Newton's opposite in many ways. As they interact, attraction and passion begin to bind them together. But Polly's concerns regarding Newton are realized when his drunkenness gets him caught and impressed into the English Navy's service. As time passes, Newton's waywardness intensifies and Polly must choose to lay aside her hope of a joint future with Newton. Will Newton and Polly spend their lives pursuing desires that keep them apart from each other? Or will they embrace an amazing grace that can bring love and restoration into darkness and shame? Read more in Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund.

Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund snagged my attention at the beginning and carried it along a path to the depths of human depravity and the heights of miraculous, life-altering grace. The journey was unpleasant at times. Newton's irresponsibly was annoying and his later actions were disgusting. Even after his conversion, I found it difficult to really like him. That being said, I appreciate that Hedlund stuck reasonably close to the known historical facts and didn't gloss over Newton's behavior to make him more palatable. Some elements of the story that I enjoyed were: the humorous banter between Newton and Polly, Polly's character development, Newton's conversion, Mr. Catlett's stand for moral integrity, and the spiritual themes of grace triumphing over sin.

While Newton & Polly is not my favorite book by Hedlund, I do think it is well-written. I'm sure there are some readers who can can stomach Newton's descent into depravity better than I did and I don't seek to dissuade anyone who enjoys reading historical romances from reading Newton & Polly. My dislike of the story is based more on Newton's character than Hedlund's writing.

Read an excerpt from Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Sunday, October 30, 2016

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood: Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom by Sarah Humphrey

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood: Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom (Abingdon Press, August 2016)

Nourishment for a mother's soul through 40 days of devotion and . . . doodling!

Wouldn't it be marvelous if mothering came with a concrete set of instructions---an easy recipe we could follow? Instead, motherhood challenges women to find their faith, their true selves, and their family through daily doses of trial and error. It is a brilliant and healing time of life that is full of joy, pain, and beauty with a small side of crisis (and humor). What mothers do not know, they learn. And through this lifelong process of learning, they nurture and care for the most precious gifts on earth: children. In a modern society where moms often have a full and busy plate, these 10 minute daily devotions focus on six key topics of motherhood:

-Self-acceptance
-Self-care
-Reconciling with grief, hope and expectations
-Generosity
-Presence
-Forgiveness

In addition to the devotions, these beautiful pages are adorned with handmade illustrations to help you refresh from long days or even occasional sleepless nights. So, grab your colors and a little quiet time for yourself while doodling at the kitchen table. You will be grateful you did!

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2dPEdIC

My Review:

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey is the first coloring devotional I've done that focuses specifically on motherhood. The devotional section doesn't take long – probably five minutes or so to read, pray and respond – so I do it in the morning. The coloring pages take longer and give me something to look forward to doing after the littles are in bed for the night.

The devotionals are split into eight sections, each one containing five teachings. I found that some of the devotional thoughts were a combination of Biblical teaching and a sort of positive psychology or theory. I know that sounds odd, but I'm not sure how else to describe it. For example, in the first section, the author placed a heavy emphasis on name meanings as relating to a person's identity. I found it difficult to buy the concept that the meaning of my child's name is indicative of their strengths or potential struggles. I know that Biblical people often had names with special meanings, but I just wasn't convinced on this particular concept.

Some of the coloring portions are simple and some are complex. I prefer the simpler ones because I don't have a lot of extra time and can finish them without staying up overly late. Additionally, adding some outlining or coloring the background are possibilities to extend the coloring time if I want to. On some of the more complex pages, I had to leave a portion uncolored and return to it at a later time. In general, the illustrations were whimsical and reflected the devotion's theme well.

In conclusion, 40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey was enjoyable to read and color. I wasn't on board with everything Humphrey said in the devotions, but I still liked it overall.

About the author:



Often considered a dreamer and silly heart, Sarah Humphrey uses inspiration from her most beloved career, motherhood, to fuel her passion for writing, creative movement and teaching. She has and is authoring several books and children's books. Sarah currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and three beautiful, bouncy kids.

Website | Facebook | Twitter |  Instagram



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

Kacey Fairing's return to Mercy Falls, Montana, dredges up memories of her old flame, Ben King, from the moment she arrives. Determined to stay focused on reconnecting with her daughter, healing emotionally from her last military tour, and functioning as the lead pilot of PEAK Rescue, she refuses to harbor any interest in Ben when she learns that he's also back in town. However, when Ben and Kacey are paired together to work PEAK Rescue, old secrets begin to emerge and the brokenness of their past is exposed. Neither Kacey nor Ben think they are interested in healing or reconciliation, but spending time together resurrects their original passion. As truths emerge and circumstances spiral into danger, they must turn to the One who created them for love. Read more in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren.

Wild Montana Skies is the first full-length novel in Susan May Warren's Montana Rescue series. The prequel novella, If Ever I Would Leave You, concentrates on Ian, Sierra, and Esme. Although the prequel is not as well-written as Wild Montana Skies, I do recommend reading it first as it explains Ian and Sierra's relational history.

The first paragraph of Wild Montana Skies hooked my attention. The strong opening demonstrated admirable talent and creativity by Warren. Naturally, I wanted things to work out between Ben and Kasey and it was a pleasure to observe their spiritual and relational development. Unique phrasing, descriptive prose, complicated romance and breath-taking danger forged together into a captivating and memorable novel.

I recommend Wild Montana Skies to readers who love a well-written adventure novel with plenty of romance. Warren has officially catapulted herself into my top five favorite novelists and I'll be checking out some of her previous releases while I wait for the next novel in the series, Rescue Me, to be released next year .

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson

Evangeline's privileged life as the ward of her cousin, King Richard II, sometimes feels more suffocating than blessed. When the king awards her in marriage to his most trusted adviser, Lord Shiveley, Evangeline's desperation peaks and she escapes the night before her nuptials. Disguising herself as mute, she travels with a band of servants led by the handsome and kind Westley le Wyse to Glynval. When her deception is uncovered, Evangeline finds herself in danger of Lord Shiveley's search parties and a broken heart. Will Evangeline find the absolution she craves as well as redemption for her past deception? Can a relationship with Westley survive such a shaky beginning? Read more in The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson.

The Silent Songbird is the seventh novel in Melanie Dickerson's Hagenheim series. The novel works as a stand alone, but I do recommend reading the earlier novels as it's enjoyable to encounter some of the previous characters and I think her earlier works are better quality. Mixing The Little Mermaid with Medieval England, the novel's strength lies in Dickerson's creativity. She blends the enchanted fairy tale “feeling” with elements of mystery, deception, romantic expectation and spiritual truth. Unfortunately, at times the dialogue felt stilted or choppy and the prose lacked the beauty present in other novels by Dickerson. In my opinion, The Silent Songbird isn't Dickerson's best showing, but it is worth reading. There are positive elements to enjoy and fans of the Hagenheim series will want to read it to keep up with the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free via netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal is part of the Living Expressions Collection by Tyndale Publishers. The introduction invites you to “connect with God in a fresh, new way” through creative expression (drawing, coloring, journaling, etc.) that supplements prayer and meditation on Scripture.

The journal's cover is eye-catching and the inside pages are tastefully illustrated. Each entry is two pages long and most coordinate a prayer, a Scripture, illustrations to color, and a lined space for writing thoughts and prayers. The lined space is limited and easily filled up, but there is usually blank space that can be used for overflow. Lest the journal be too uniform, the topics vary and sometimes there is simply blank space instead of lined space or a Scripture thought with no pre-written prayer. While coloring and journaling comprise most of the encouraged artistic activities, some suggest making a collage or drawing.

A few other things I liked about this journal:

It's challenging: The prayers often express thankfulness and then ask God for personal growth (which we all know can be difficult).

It's flexible: On days that you have plenty of time, there are pages with space for a lot of intricate coloring. For busy days, there are some that don't require coloring or very little coloring. The pages and thoughts don't compile, so you can skip around as needed.

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal would make a lovely gift for a woman of any age.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spiritual Warfare for Your Family by Leighann McCoy

In Christian circles, spiritual warfare ranges from being unheard of, to being ignored, to being embraced in a mystic sort of way, and everywhere in between. In Spiritual Warfare for Your Family, Leighann McCoy aims to educate the reader regarding what spiritual warfare is, the importance of spiritual warfare, and how to successfully fight to protect yourself, your family and other loved ones.

There are several chapters that explain the basics of spiritual warfare – what it is, why it happens, where it happens, etc. She addresses some hard questions like, “Why did God create the devil?” and “Why do we still struggle with sin if Jesus has already won victory and empowered our lives?” I felt most of the information was Scripturally sound, though at few things might have been a bit edgy.

After the basics are laid down, McCoy moves into tactics to fight the enemy. Although these lessons are framed as tactics within the concept of spiritual warfare, most of them are basic Christian living principles that people just need to put into practice. Forgiveness, love, prayer, resisting fear, surrender to God, etc.

Lastly, McCoy offers several chapters that address particular life stages and common issues in homes. These down-to-earth principles offer suggestions on how to try to prevent situations from happening as well as what to do if they have already happened. I appreciated her honesty as she shared her own failings and what, in hindsight, she believes she should/could have done differently.

Some of the lessons I gleaned from this book included: 1.) Confess your worst fear. Then focus on God, not you. 2.) Give up your own will completely. 3.) Tear down the “High Places” in your life.

McCoy points out that she isn't a prosperity preacher advocating health and wealth if you serve Jesus. Living the Christian life is often more about surrender and sacrifice than pleasant desires and luxuries. Even the basic principle of forgiveness can be terribly difficult if the wrong has been severe enough. I think that most Christians would find parts of this book challenging to put into practice, but the application of difficult principles can lead to spiritual growth and victory in the spiritual realm.

Overall, I think Spiritual Warfare for Your Family: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Children by Leighann McCoy is worth the time to read. I plan to keep it and read it again in the future.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman

Guilt-ridden by the mistakes of her past, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a crusade to free captives from enemy prisons. She's determined to serve, train, and protect the children traveling with the crusaders even if it means sacrificing her life. Sir Randel Penigree feels much the same as he's haunted by past battle experiences. As Rosalind and Randel join together to lead the children, they are drawn to each other in spite of the fact that neither of them intends to ever marry. Will Rosalind and Randel find atonement for their past mistakes or will the shadows of the past lead them to lifetime isolation?

Courageous is the third novel in Dina L. Sleiman's Valiant Hearts series and features Rosalind and Randel, supporting characters from Chivalrous. The beauty of their love story lies in the divine redemption that overcomes the past, purifies the present, and lights their future path. It was a pleasure to observe the individual character development at each stage and how it later led to relationship development and romance. That part of the story was excellent. However, I was uncomfortable with the crusade setting. My knowledge of the Middle Age Crusades is limited, but I've always viewed them as misguided and unethical. The author did not glorify the crusades and created a worthy cause for fighting. Yet, the fact it was a crusade and that there were children involved just didn't sit well with me.

Courageous is my least favorite in this series by Dina L. Sleiman, but I'll keep it because I enjoyed its love story and its predecessors. If you've read Dauntless and Chivalrous, you'll probably be interested in Courageous.

Read an excerpt from Courageous by Dina L. Sleiman on the publisher's website.

Or read my reviews of Dauntless and Chivalrous on this blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."