Thursday, February 2, 2023

January 2023 Reading Recap & February 2023 TBR

My January 2023 Reads: 

I read lots of poetry in January and I have no regrets. 

  1. The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

  2. Walking With My Angel by Adam Scott Campbell - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

  3. Woman of God by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - This novel surprised me. It's a general market fiction novel that held some things I don't enjoy (occasional profanity, irreverent attitude toward God), but it also contained a religious depth that I appreciated. More conservative readers might be offended by a woman in a church leadership role or the occasional mention of gay/lesbian inclusivity in the church. Overall, I enjoyed reading the novel and appreciated Brigid's authentic journey to/with God.

  4. The Last Chance Cowboy by Jody Hedlund - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

  5. Poems by C. S. Lewis -  ⭐⭐⭐½ - This collection reminded me of the poetry I read in college. While I appreciated its literary excellence, I only liked a handful of the poems. 🙁

  6. Everything is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels - ⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

  7. Peace in the Midst of the Storm by Kaleb Thompson - ⭐⭐⭐ - Read my review.

Expected February 2023 Reads:

If January was the month of poetry, I think February is the month of nonfiction. 📚
  1. The  Glass Road by Alyssa Schwarz.

  2. The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz. - Yes! I read this book in January, and I'll be reading it again in February as it's my local book club's monthly selection.

  3. Write Better by Andrew T. Le Peau.

  4. The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy.

  5. An Explorer's Guide to Julian of Norwich by Veronica Mary Rolf - Currently reading and I absolutely love it!

  6. The Sound of Light by Sarah Sundin.

  7. Return From Tomorrow by George G. Ritchie and Elizabeth Sherrill.

  8. Endless Grace by Dan Wilt and Ryan Smith. - Prayers inspired by Psalms 76-150 - Currently reading.

What will you read this month?

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Book Spotlight: Relational Reset by Laurel Shaler

Relational Reset JustRead Blog + Review Blitz 

Welcome to the Blog + Review Blitz for Relational Reset by Laurel Shaler, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

Relational Reset Title: Relational Reset 
Author: Laurel Shaler 
Publisher: Moody 
Release Date: February 2019 
Genre: Christian Living (non-fiction)

From the author of "Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events" comes this Selah Award Finalist on a topic everyone can relate to: Relationships. So, are your relationships all that you want them to be?

Despite our best intentions, we all have blind spots--bad relational habits that are keeping us from enjoying our relationships fully. And since relationships stand at the center of all we are and all we do, if we can learn to do relationships better, every aspect of our lives improves. Whether you struggle to overcome past wounds, insecurity, blame, or envy, it's time to reflect on your relational habits and reset them so that your relationships can be all you want them to be.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub


When we develop empathy for others, act from realistic expectations, and take responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we gain freedom from the negativity that weighs us down and holds us back. When we toss off the weight of unhealthy patterns, we experience renewed strength and confidence . . . and a restored ability to move forward in our relationship with God and our relationships with others. As a counselor and a professor of counselor education and family studies, I wrote Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits That Hold You Back to help you do just that.

My prayer for you is that this book will equip you to reclaim what God intended all along: healthy, whole, nurturing, loving, satisfying relationships. This can happen regardless of your past and within the many types of relationships in your life. Just think of the freedom you will feel and how much better you’ll sleep when you aren’t staying awake worrying about relationships. Even when others won’t participate in improving a messy relationship, you can learn to be your best you and feel better for having done so.

About the Author

Laurel Shaler

Dr. Laurel Shaler is a licensed mental health professional and a Professor at Liberty University . She has contributed to many well-known publications including Lifeway's Journey, Guideposts, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. Laurel is the author of "Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events" (David C. Cook, 2016) and "Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back" (Moody, 2018). She regularly speaks on a wide variety of topics, and has been interviewed by Building Relationships, Focus on the Family, and more. Most importantly, Laurel is a follower of Jesus Christ and seeks to share His love with others. She and her family live in the Deep South.

Connect with Laurel by visiting to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.

Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will receive a print copy of the book and $25 Amazon gift card!

Relational Reset JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight February 1, 2023 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on February 8, 2023. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Ebook available international. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Enter Giveaway Here

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Book Review: Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels

About the Book:

It was just one of those nights. One of those crazy, impossible nights that change your life. Forever.

When guitarist Michael Sullivan gets kicked out of his band (and his apartment), landing a record deal seems an impossible dream. And nothing about Michael's prospects points toward a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year's Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It's addressed to his uncle, with whom he shares both name and living space, but his uncle is going out of town . . .

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989--as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is falling apart, and anything seems possible--Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures.

My Thoughts:

Though Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels starts on New Year’s Eve of 1989, it’s a tale of family, dreams, and responsibility (or lack thereof) relevant to any generation. Michael Sullivan, the main character, is an underperforming, self-focused, immature twenty-something. I disliked him from the beginning which made it hard to enjoy the book. He grows as a character and turns decent for the last 1/3-1/4 of the novel, but I never felt invested in the story.

Opposite Michael, the female lead, Natalie Wheeler, is highly talented, proactive, (mostly) mature, and committed to excellence despite having her own obstacles. She’s quite a foil character to Michael, but their relationship isn’t an enemy-to-lovers tale. Rather, it’s an unlikely friendship that grows out of loneliness and impending loss.

Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels contains some excellent themes about the importance of forgiveness, viewing obstacles as helpful for growth and new opportunities, finding family outside of biological kin, working hard to accomplish goals, and realizing every person has a backstory that affects their actions and attitudes. This story isn’t my favorite of Erin Bartel’s novels, but offers good themes, fun vintage music references, and plenty of depth for readers who manage to like the book’s main character.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Book Review: The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz

About the Book:

In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley's father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Blythe quietly awaits the crowning of a new king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.

No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with her maid in tow. He has his own problems--a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.

In this whirlwind of intrigue, ambitions, and shifting alliances, Blythe yearns for someone she can trust. But the same forces that draw her and Everard together also threaten to tear them apart.

Read an excerpt from The Rose and the Thistle on the publisher's website.

My Thoughts:

Reading The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz made me want to visit Scotland. The descriptions of the beautiful scenery and the historical details immersed me into the story. I could picture the fog over Edinburgh, Everard riding on his mount, the garden at Canongate townhouse. The combination of the setting and historical elements created an absorbing plot and revived some history I’d forgotten. I googled for information about King George I and everything I read confirmed that Laura Frantz researched this story well.

Both main characters of The Rose and the Thistle, Everard and Blythe, interested me from the start, but I do wish they had met sooner in the novel. Once Blythe arrives at Everard’s estate, sparks start appearing and I enjoyed their slow-burn romance. The blossoming of their love allowed them both to grow individually and in the relationship. I especially liked how Everard’s love for Blythe helped her overcome her certain issues.

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz is a stand-alone novel for historical romance fans who enjoy slow-burn romance, historical detail, and beautiful prose. Five stars!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Fiction Meets Real Life: Bertha Palmer Edition

This is a fiction-meets-real-life post. I read Jocelyn Green’s Veiled in Smoke back in 2020 and loved the novel.  One of its characters suffered from “soldier’s heart” – what we would call PTSD today. The author handled the situation with sensitivity and the book gave me the push I need to get professional counseling for my own PTSD. I’m still reaping the benefits of that counseling.

This novel also awakened my interest in Bertha Palmer, a side character in the novel, but a wealthy, widowed, businesswoman in real life. Her winter estate in Osprey, FL, sits about 45 minutes from my home and is now known as Historic Spanish Point. I’ve visited many times and I always love walking the grounds.

A year or more ago, I visited a Little Free Library and found the book, Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honore Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota by Frank A. Cassell. It sat in my TBR for months, but in December 2022, I finally cracked open its pages to find a fascinating read that illuminated my hometown's history.

And that's the story behind this book photo.

Read my review of Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green.

Read my review of Suncoast Empire by Frank A. Cassell

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Book Review: Peace in the Midst of the Storm by Kaleb Thompson

About the Book:

Anxiety and fear seek to prey on the damaged and create heavy burdens that scar the soul, being heartless and insensitive to the lost, unkempt, and broken-spirited in a troubled, unwholesome world. However, they do not reign for eternity, as faith, resilience, and empowerment remain planted from within to help overcome pressing obstacles, regardless of how difficult they may be.

Peace in the Midst of the Storm primarily focuses on the beauty of positivity, selflessness, and honorable confidence that symbolizes the importance of light being present within darkness. This book also holds accountability in facing the realization that as life may prove frustrating at times, giving up is never an option! This shows that regardless of our mistakes, life does not promise us that we will remain positioned in negativity. What we were in our pasts will not seep into who we have grown to be as positive individuals. What we have now realized is that we often must prepare to speak victory over our storms and, as we continue to encourage ourselves to do that, we will overcome anything.

My Thoughts:

In Peace in the Midst of the Storm, Kaleb Thompson invites the reader to join him in being “passionate in denouncing negativity of any kind (page 32).” The poetry in this collection seems so deeply personal that I’m remiss to critique the narrator’s experiences and feelings. Rather, I’ll note that the purpose of this collection is to encourage the reader toward wholeness and wellbeing. The poetry presents a compelling, recurrent message about setting boundaries and leaving toxic relationships. It also emphasizes career empowerment and financial success.

The poems in Peace in the Midst of the Storm Thompson are written in easy-to-read, contemporary English. Sometimes, the narrative tone switches from prayerful lines to prophetic declarations within a stanza. All the poems adhere to a freestyle form to express powerful thoughts and strong feelings, but the lack of ending punctuation stood out to me. Depending on the reader’s tolerance for grammatical deviation, this may or may not be an issue.

Recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational, freestyle poetry.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.