books to read this season

Deidra Riggs aptly dubbed this year, “The Year of the Books.”

After being inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee’s list of Summer Reading recommendations, I decided to post a list of my own.  (Granted, there is a significant amount of overlap, I admit.  Apparently we have a very similar taste in books.)

However, since a sizable chunk of my readership resides in the southern hemisphere, I’ve decided not to call it a Summer Reading list, as many of you are heading into winter and will soon be sitting in front of the fire place drinking

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Whether you’re donning sandals or slippers these next few months, do yourself a favor and settle down with one (or all) of these books:

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Team Us: Marriage Together

by Ashleigh Slater

 

Watch this space!  I had the privilege of pre-reading a copy of this soon-to-be released book by Ashleigh Slater, and I’ll be posting a review later this week.

As an appetizer, this is an easy-to-read book, filled with encouragement to think of yourself and your spouse as members of the same team.

In a world where tension and internal competition between couples are rife, this is a much-needed book and is likely to bless and enhance many marriages in the months and years to come.

Stay tuned for more ..

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A Fall of Marigolds

by Susan Meissner

 

I fell in love with Susan Meissner’s writing when I read her novel, A Lady in Waiting.  Her latest book, A Fall of Marigolds, was no exception.

In fact, I received a copy that I had won in a blog giveaway the day before Mother’s Day, got a tummy bug, stayed in bed and read the whole thing within 24 hours.  It was captivating.

With masterful grace, Susan weaves the stories of two women from different generations together in a tale of loss, grief, healing, and hope.

Her story caused the depths of empathy to be stirred within me, and kept me thinking about the characters long after I put it down.

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Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts

by Vivian Mabuni

 

Providentially, I won a copy of this moving story on another blog giveaway, and I’m convinced it was meant to be.  I wrote some of my impressions in a review that can be found here.

If you know anyone who has been affected by breast cancer in any way, this book is for you.

 

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Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom

by Lisa-Jo Baker

 

If you’ve clicked on this blog before, you’ve likely caught me gushing about this book far too many times already.

Like here.

And here.

Oh gosh, and here, too.

And did I mention I got to interview Lisa-Jo, as well?  Post here.

 

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A Promise in Pieces

by Emily Wierenga

 

If you’re looking for a gentle, moving work of fiction, look no further.

I’ve written two posts about Emily Wierenga’s A Promise in Pieces — one on my blog, and one for Ungrind Webzine.

The writing is so graceful and fluid, it will carry you from page to page without you even noticing.

Just read it; you can thank me later.  😉

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Compared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment

by Sophie deWitt

 

Sophie deWitt’s Compared to Her is one of the most searched for posts I get on my blog.  If you’re female and you’ve ever struggled with comparing yourself to other women, you will definitely be able to glean much from this gem.

My interview with my friend Sophie can be found here.

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Seekers of the Lost Boy

by Taryn Hayes

 

This middle grade children’s novel is the perfect holiday read, either as a family or to give to your kids to read on their own.

The story is set in South Africa, and follows a homeschooling family as they seek to find the original writer of a message in a bottle.  This book is not only enjoyable to read, but is also very educational and thought-provoking.  Highly recommended.

Read my full review here.

 

 Books that are on my “Must Read” list:

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Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough

by Kristen Welch

 

Kristen Welch is the author of the We Are THAT Family blog, and founder of The Mercy House in Kenya.  I have the utmost respect for Kristen’s worldview, and particularly her parenting philosophy as she shares it on her blog.

All of the reviews I’ve read of this book so far have been glowing, and everyone says you will not be the same after you’ve read it.

Take the challenge, and say Yes.

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Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look

by Emily Wierenga

 

I’m thrilled to be on the launch team for this upcoming memoir, and even more thrilled to be getting a review copy in the mail very soon.

I adore Emily’s writing voice, her gentle spirit, and her masterful, graceful way with word pictures.  I had the pleasure of reading the first two chapters already, and they are dripping with beauty.  I’ve picked up snippets of her compelling story through her blog, but look forward to reading this memoir, particularly as it addresses a topic dear to my heart:

Home.

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The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

by Myquillyn Smith (a.k.a. “The Nester”)

 

I admit, I followed the hype about this book, but didn’t really intend to pick it up until I read Lisa-Jo Baker’s post about it.  I had assumed it was more of an interior design book, and .. well .. that’s not really my thing.

But after reading about the impact this book had on Lisa-Jo, she persuaded me to request it from the library.

 

Return to Me Cover

Return to Me

by Lynn Austin

 

Speaking of the library, I was walking past the Express Book shelf this evening on my way to the Children’s section, and this book jumped off the shelf into my bag.

It couldn’t help itself.

It just knew that Lynn Austin is in my Top Three Favorite Christian Fiction authors, so it just had to land itself in my bag.

I read the entire Chronicles of the Kings series years ago, and not only did they leave a lasting impression, but they caused my understanding of Old Testament history to be much richer and far more cohesive.

I’ve read more Lynn Austin books than my ten fingers can count, and all have been delightful.  If you don’t read this one, read something of hers.  She’s incredibly gifted.

***

Well, that’s it from me for now ..

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

surprised by motherhood – a review and a giveaway

Last week I had the privilege of telling Lisa-Jo Baker‘s readers why her new book, Surprised by Motherhood, is different from other parenting books.

I may have included a Shrek reference.

To read what I wrote on her site, click here:

http://lisajobaker.com/2014/03/why-a-mom-of-three-compares-my-book-to-multi-layered-cake-and-includes-a-shrek-reference/

This week I’m over at Ungrind Webzine, sharing my original review of Surprised by Motherhood.  And there’s a giveaway!  So be sure to click over and enter to win a copy — you won’t regret it.

My review starts like this:

 

I’ve been that mother who has cleared off four shelves of bread at the grocery store while on hands and knees, crawling, straining, grunting to reach her son’s lost Matchbox car that he “didn’t think would fall down there.”

I’ve been that mother who has run out of wipes at the fancy-schmancy restaurant with no changing table, and left her four-month-old baby on a cold tile floor so she could crank out some more paper towel to wipe away the oh-no-you-didn’t blow-out diaper, only to find a flowing pool of pee streaming out from the stall upon her return.

I’ve been that mother who has left the peed-on sheets on the mattress in the middle of the night, laid a beach towel on the carpet and called it a bed.

 

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I’ve been that mother who has pushed a double stroller in front of me while pulling a grocery cart behind me, navigating aisles and lists and nonstop toddler grabby hand requests.

I’ve been that mother who has crouched, dripping in a bath towel, to scoop up goldfish from a wet hardwood floor, serenaded by the sobs of a distraught little girl.

I’ve been that mother who has lost her own mom and can testify that the burning sting of the bottomless hole never quite goes away.

And I’ve been that mother who never thought she could love quite as fiercely and unconditionally as she loves her children — those gifts on temporary loan from above.

And Lisa-Jo Baker gets that. She gets all of that, and so much more.

 

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If you are a mom who feels you won’t survive one more dirty diaper, one more frivolous sibling squabble, one more “Mom? Mom! Mo-oomm!!” then Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom, was written just for you.

 To read the rest of this review and enter a GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a free copy of this fabulous book, click here:

http://ungrind.org/2014/surprised-motherhood-review/

And by the way, this book is published by Tyndale, and they have a great Tyndale Rewards program where you can earn points and get FREE books and other products!  Totally worth it.  Sign up here: http://tyndalerewards.com/

 

I’ll leave you with this quote from Lisa-Jo, to encourage you in the high calling of motherhood:

 

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Photo Credits: Lisa-Jo Baker

 

a promise in pieces – a book review

ImageI had the great privilege of receiving a preview copy of Emily Wierenga’s debut novel, A Promise in Pieces, and let me tell you — it was an absolute delight to read.

The pages trace the tale of a woman named Clara, who reflects at the turn of the century on her life-changing experience as a young nurse during World War II.  Clara reveals the details of her memoir in a Caravan of relatives — an audience which includes her grandson, Noah, whose attention is locked on his grandmother’s life story.  The extended family has embarked on a road trip which will culminate in a momentous occasion, one that will publicly evidence the lasting fruit that has resulted from Clara’s life’s work.

Looking back on the decades, Clara re-lives the joy and the pain of her experiences, the regret of hesitation and the reward of stepping forth in faith.  She re-lives the immeasurable ramifications of the brutal war, and yet sees the Lord’s hand, sewing threads of hope into the remnants of worn, faded fabric.

With seamless precision, the author is able to weave back and forth between eras, like stitching two sides of a reversible quilt into one treasured piece of material.

A Promise in Pieces is a story of overcoming fear, of loving even when it’s risky, of forgiving even when it hurts, of remembering even when it’s sore.  It’s a story of God’s faithfulness, of His sovereignty, and of His power to save.

Author of Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Save My Children: The Story of a Father’s Love, Emily’s first published novel comes across as naturally as breathing.  I envy her ability to write with such seemingly effortless fluidity.

With masterful grace, Emily carries her reader along as on a raft drifting down a winding, lazy river.  Her soothing voice flows with a current so gentle, you’ll be disappointed when your boat reaches the shore.

The effects of Emily’s craft could be likened to the feeling of an autumn leaf being lifted on the wings of the wind — yet that imagery would imply a haphazard, directionless course.  No, this story is intentional, and full of purpose.  Besides the beauty of the language, I particularly enjoyed seeing the full circle of sacrifice consummated by fulfillment, as portrayed in Clara’s narrative.

If you appreciate the art of good writing, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of A Promise in Pieces.  A delightful read indeed.

I heartily commend this book to you, and look forward to more gifts like these pouring forth from Emily’s gentle soul in the future.

From the author’s website

A Promise in Pieces releases April 15th, 2014 and is part of Abingdon Fiction’s Quilts of Love series, and I will be donating a percentage of all of the profits made from pre-orders to World Help’s Rescue Homes project, HERE.

ALSO, if you tweet or FB about your pre-order, using the hash-tag #PromiseInPieces, you will receive another Quilts book free of charge with your order!

To pre-order a copy of A Promise in Pieces, click here.
To find Emily online, visit emilywierenga.com.

an infinite journey – a review

An Infinite Journey - CoverAndrew Davis’ book, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, is a real diamond in the rough.

I received a free copy for review from the publisher, Ambassador International, and to say that I was pleasantly surprised would be a gross understatement.

What first drew me to request this book was the raving review written by Tim Challies.

Upon receiving my own copy, I was amazed to find praise from D.A. Carson adorning the cover as well.

My respect for both of these thinkers and writers was a sturdy preface indicating the quality of the content to come.

I was not disappointed.

Davis’ main premise is this: We are all on two infinite journeys – the external journey of the gospel’s advance to all nations, and the internal journey of sanctification (pp. 17-18).  Davis points out that “these two journeys have one goal: ‘the praise of His glory’ (Ephesians 1:12, 14)” (p. 21).

Why are the two journeys called infinite?  Not because they will never be accomplished, but because they both require the infinite power of God in order to take place.

An Infinite Journey is an attempt to organize the Bible’s teachings on sanctification.  As outlined by the author, “… all of Christian maturity can be found under four major headings: Knowledge, Faith, Character, and Action” (p. 29).

Davis uses thorough precision to touch on a myriad of topics in each of these categories, and I found him to be a down-the-line, biblical thinker.  It was refreshing to find a present-day author churning out such solid truth with equal conviction.

I was particularly challenged by this premise near the beginning of the book:

“The Church needs to reclaim a Bible-saturated, Spirit-drenched emphasis on both of these infinite journeys, learning that they are absolutely intertwined.  It is impossible for the Church to make progress externally to the ends of the earth if there are no Christians mature enough to pay the price to go as missionaries and martyrs.  And it is impossible to make genuine progress in sanctification if the people only read good Christian books and stay in classrooms, but refuse to get out into the world as witnesses.  These journeys are mutually interdependent: without progress in one, there can be no progress made in the other” (p. 24).

The chapter that impacted me most was the one entitled, ‘Reliance on Christ.’  God really used that chapter to convict me of my own reliance on myself, as opposed to genuine faith and trust in God.  I was able to see how I have shifted my weight from leaning wholly on God to depending on my own strength (or lack thereof).  This chapter reminded me that God not only initiates salvation, but He brings it to completion, and every step I take in between is purely through His sustaining grace.

One component that I had never considered before was what Davis calls the ‘two-sided coin’ of faith (p. 153ff).  He explains the definition of faith as found in Hebrews 11:1 — “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  According to Davis, the Greek word for ‘conviction’ as used in this verse actually refers negatively to a sense of rebuke or reproach for sinfulness that leads to repentance.  As such, faith has two components, namely the positive looking forward and assurance, and the negative aspect which causes us to see our sinfulness and turn from it.  Previously, I had always considered both parts of Hebrews 11:1 to be synonymous, as opposed to complimentary.

A criticism I’ve read about the book is that its hefty length deters churches from being able to digest it piece by piece, as for a weekly Bible study.  I understand how this could be a hindrance, but I don’t think that should be a reason for not using the book.  To overcome this hurdle, perhaps one leader could read the whole book, highlight key premises for the group, and choose six or eight topics to focus on in depth for discussion purposes.

Another potential criticism could be a tendency to emphasize works over grace.  Though the book is filled with things we are commanded by God to do, I believe the author would be the first to argue that none of these good works could ever be accomplished apart from the grace and strength of God.  Towards the end of the book, I started to feel a bit heavy from the weight of all the requirements of Scripture on a believer, but then the Lord reminded me of Davis’ initial premise, that both of these infinite journeys require the infinite power of God.

An Infinite Journey is a book I would highly recommend not only to pastors and others in full-time ministry, but to laypeople as well.  It is an extremely valuable resource, as it addresses nearly every conceivable component involved in the path of becoming more like Christ.

I would especially encourage missionaries, spiritual mentors and evangelists to obtain a copy, as it is a worthwhile tool for new believers seeking to navigate the forthcoming and lifelong journey of sanctification.

Though it is best read cover to cover, the book could also be useful as a topical reference to answer specific questions regarding certain aspects of the Christian life, such as emotions, self-reliance, or stewardship.

Thank you, Pastor Davis, for this gift to the Church at large.  It is evident through your testimony that you are a man who walks the talk.  May this book be used to encourage many in their growth toward Christlikeness, and may you see the fruit of your labor.

To order a copy of An Infinite Journey, click here.