I set high reading goals for myself… I read a lot. So to say a book is the best one I’ve read all year is pretty significant. This is one of those books that you need to recover from. By recover I mean change the way you function in life after reading it. It’s impossible to leave this book and not feel different. It put words on things I couldn’t articulate. It felt hard at times. It felt funny at times. It was eye opening.
The goal of the book is to help you create space for your soul to breathe so you can discern your next right things. This goes right along with my word for the year:
I got this word from Colossians 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” I started the year wanting to walk together with God, not running ahead, and to live in intentional Christlike community together with others. I wanted 2019 to be a year of community. A year of together. And this book goes right along with that theme and has helped me align myself more with the Lord.
One of the ways the book helps guide the reader towards creating space for our souls to breathe is to name the unnamed things. This is hard for me. I have a hard time putting a word on it. My go to is to push the unnamed things into a box and store them for later. But later that box comes tumbling down and all the contents fall out in a heap and cause chaos. This book encouraged me to spend time with the Lord to name the unnamed things so that I can process and deal with them instead of numbing out and pushing them aside til later.
The book also encourages the reader to seek out others. Live in community! God created us for community and we need each other.
The short chapters hook together like rings on a chain. As you continue to read through the book they build on each other. Each chapter ends with A Prayer and A Practice. The first time through the book I just read through these parts. I didn’t spend much time in reflection. My plan is to reread this book and go slowly, taking time to reflect on the questions and further ingest the material. This is definitely a book you read and reread. Work through it slowly so you can experience the great benefit of personal reflection.
The author writes with great clarity. She gives her stories freely but not in a condescending or trite way. She offers her experience as an example, giving God the glory for conforming her and teaching her. The reader can see how her life has been changed and that is so encouraging. Her voice is easy to “listen” to. As soon as I saw her reference Ruth Haley Barton I knew this was an author I would follow! Love Emily Freeman’s podcast as well. Don’t miss this book. It’s life changing.
Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the courage to write your own story.
A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England—a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author—and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.
Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.
More than 150 years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.
The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.
Talk about a major book hangover! This story… how can you put it into words. I connected with this story in a way I don’t normally connect with a fiction book. Everyone at some point in their life has felt some kind of loss. The struggle to let yourself feel it and get past it is real. Sometimes we never do. The depth of human emotion woven into the tapestry of this book is amazing. I laughed. I cried. I wished. I hoped. Ms Harrel writes amazing time hop novels. The story lines flow so seamlessly. They are so interwoven and it makes for a great story. I couldn’t put it down. One of my favorite parts of the story was when I saw reference to Ms Harrel’s other novel, The Heart Between Us. It wasn’t a glaring reference. It was so subtle like a small hidden present for those who had read the first book to capture and smile about. I LOVED that. If I hadn’t read her first book I wouldn’t have connected the dots. And I would have missed the treasure hidden there. (It has no impact on the story and if you haven’t read the other book it’s not a big deal… but for those who have it’s a super cute addition!) This will be one of my favorite books of the year I just know it. The writing is great. The plot is excellent. The relatability is outstanding. I could see myself in the characters. I could connect with them. I could feel their pain. I want to be friends with them. I want to know these people in real life! And the lessons they learn about themselves and God are ones we all so desperately need to learn. I love it when a fiction book speaks to things you are processing in your own life. This book was that for me. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. So well done. I’m glad to have read it. Don’t miss it! I received a copy from CelebrateLit bloggers. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at LindsayHarrel.com.
Guest Post from Lindsay
With every book I write, it seems God has something new to teach me. That certainly was true of The Secrets of Paper and Ink.
Lately, I am learning more and more about the power of our words. I’ve become more conscious of the words I speak over myself as well as what I say to other people. It’s more than “positive thinking”—the words we say ultimately contribute to the stories we weave, and I want my story to be as positive and hope-filled as possible, regardless of my circumstances.
I’ve also become much more aware of the lies that I tell myself—“you are not worthy, you are not enough, you will never achieve what you want to achieve”—and the need to replace those lies with the truths that God says about me. I have listened to Lauren Daigle’s song You Say on repeat lately, and it has become a theme not just of The Secrets of Paper and Ink, but one in the story of my very life.
So while I may not have experienced everything my characters have—I’ve never suffered emotional abuse, or been ostracized by my family, or been orphaned and alone in a world that seems against me at every turn—I have learned alongside them. I set out to write a book that would draw readers closer to the true healer and hope giver, and I ended up being drawn closer myself.
3 Page-Turners Under One Cover from Reader Favorite Michelle Griep! Can truth and love prevail when no one is as they appear?
The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady Cornish Coast, 1815 When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?
The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!) Dakota Territory, 1862 Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.
A House of Secrets St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890 Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.
Michelle Griep is an author that transports her reader into the time period of the story. Once again, she took me on a journey. I got to meet new friends and learn about myself through them. I love this about any book. Ms. Griep does it with such ease. The stories are entertaining and fun. Normally I don’t like short stories. I feel like they’re rushed and missing something. Such was NOT the case with these stories. They were well balanced and crafted to be perfect bites. I’m sure she could have elongated each story into a full book but I got just enough in the short form it didn’t leave me feeling like I missed out. I loved how the stories connected through the book. I didn’t feel jarred when I went from one story to the next. It’s a great read for a lazy summer afternoon, a cold winter night, or any other time when you just want to escape for a little bit. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
I received a copy of this book from CelebrateLit and the publisher. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones while rambling around a castle. Michelle is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild). Keep up with her adventures at her blog “Writer off the Leash” or visit michellegriep.com.
Guest post from Michelle
3 Reasons to Read Historical Fiction
Guest post by Michelle Griep
Believe it or not, some readers snub historical fiction, preferring instead to stick to contemporary reads. Several have good reason to, simply preferring one genre over another. But others have never given historical fiction a try. If you fall into that camp, here are some reasons you should consider reading a tale from the past.
Historical fiction books are not as boring as your high school history class.
Does the thought of endless names and dates make you break out into hives? Good news! Historical fiction is a painless way to glean some historic facts without mindless memorization. You can experience a different era and culture vicariously through heroes and heroines that live on the pages of yesteryear.
Makes for great conversation.
In a world that prides itself on keeping up with the Kardashians, dare to add a little cultural zest to your next dinner conversation. Reading historical fiction arms you with interesting tidbits of things that’ve happened in years gone by.
Because truth is timeless.
Some people yearn to go back to a simpler time. The truth is, though, that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the historic side of the fence. People have had tough issues to deal with no matter the era. . .but therein lies a great reason to read historical fiction: truth is timeless. Be it ancient, biblical, medieval, Victorian, or anything in between, truth never changes.
In my new release, Ladies of Intrigue, you’ll experience all these things and more. Find out about the smuggling trade in Cornwall in The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady. Learn about the rough and dangerous life on a military fort during the 1860’s in The Doctor’s Woman. Find out why the gilded age wasn’t as glittery as we often think in A House of Secrets.
Don’t be doomed to repeat history. Grab a cup of tea and master it with a great read!
A storied castle. A band of rebels. A nation chasing a centuries-old dream of freedom. And three women who rise above it all . . .
When Laine Forrester travels overseas to attend her best friend’s vineyard wedding, she expects to find the bride on the brink of a fairy tale life. But after a series of unforeseen setbacks, it seems the storybook lives they’d imagined are suddenly ripping apart.
With hopes of resurrecting a happy ending, Laine agrees to accompany the newlyweds to the groom’s home in Ireland—never expecting she’d be the one drawn in by its wide-open moors, backroads bordering the Irish Sea, and a mysterious castle that dares to keep its secrets hidden.
From the storied streets of Dublin to the shores of the Emerald Isle, Laine is drawn in to the land and its rich history. The castle ruins whisper stories of Issy—a photojournalist battling through the 1916 Easter Rising, and Maeve—the castle’s lady of legend, fighting for survival through the 1798 rebellion that started it all.
Spanning more than two centuries, Castle on the Rise unites the legacy of three women who must risk mending the broken places within—for life, love, and the belief that even through the depths of our pain, a masterpiece of a story can emerge.
Where to begin… I really love the setting and the inclusion of little know historic events. However, I felt like I needed to seek outside sources to fully understand what was going on. I needed a little more information that the book didn’t give. I liked each of the 3 stories well enough on their own. The writing is good and easy to maneuver through but I felt like the connection between the 3 stories was weak. I felt like I was reading 3 books at once. I expected a tie together and felt more confused at the end than I did in the middle of the book. The ending seemed rushed and didn’t really end in a way that fit the rest of the writing of the book. I wanted more connection between the stories and more explantation of the castle and what was going on there. The castle was the tie that binds but why and how? I feel like those questions are still unanswered. There was enough in each of the 3 stories to make them stand alone books and maybe it would have been more interesting had the series been written that way instead of with all the stories in one book. I felt like I didn’t know any of the stories well for a 350+ page book. The story didn’t really come together for me which I found a little disappointing.
I received a copy of this book from celebrate lit. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author of Christian fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of Bible studies, including the Verse Mapping Series. She is a passionate storyteller who travels to speak at ministry events across the country, encouraging women to experience a deeper life in the Word through verse mapping. Her work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal’s Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, and received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations.
Kristy holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing, and lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, and can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.
This book has tons of information. Tons. There’s a bullet point for everything. I could relate to a lot of the things the author wrote about. I bet most women could relate to a lot in the book. But while encouraging, the book lacked something. I have a hard time putting my finger on it. It was a total self-help book… I was overwhelmed by the do this and don’t do this. It was a huge list and I almost felt guilty for not being able to do a lot of the things she suggests to take the load off. The motivation at the center of most of the care seemed to be all self. What about God? I felt like he was an after thought in this book. Maybe my expectation was too high. The information was mostly legit but I failed to connect with it and was left rather discouraged by the sheer volume of things I needed to stop doing or start doing. I received a copy of this book from Revell. I was under no compulsion to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
Life is full of twists and turns. Relationships falter, careers fizzle, health fades. We may be faced with choices we never wanted to make or have situations pushed upon us we never expected. Yet in all of it, God is at our side — even when He feels far away.
Drawing on her extensive research into women of the Old Testament, novelist Jill Eileen Smith turns her pen to what we can learn about trusting God from women like Eve, Noah’s wife, Sarai, Hagar, Lot’s wife, Rebekah, Rachel, and more.
This book bridges the gap between women in the Bible and us in present day. It brings the Bible time women to life and brings their struggles into today. Women struggle with the same things throughout history. This book touches on many things that women today struggle with. We need this book. It doesn’t make excuses. It speaks into challenges and encourages the reader to look to Christ and the Bible for transformation. I highly recommend this book for all women, no matter what stage of life, no matter what stage of their Spiritual walk.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was under no compulsion to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.
Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.
Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.
My first experiences with Carla Laureano’s work was when I saw The Saturday Night Supper Club in passing. However, I couldn’t just pass it by. I read it and fell in love. Being a cake decorator and lover of cooking the book was right up my alley. And then came along Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe! The cover has macarons on it for goodness sake. I may have let out a tiny squeal when I saw that there was a book 2. It took me a day and a half to devour the book. All the puns intended. The flow of Ms. Laureano’s writing is just so captivating. The words make you read them faster. They beg to be read faster. There were moments of laughter, frustration, holding my breath as well as moments of tears. I loved all the talk of bread and pastry. (I wish there were recipes in the back of the kindle file!)
The characters were believeable, likeable, loveable actually! I want to have friends like Melody has Ana and Rachel. Those genuine friends who cheer you on, know you from the inside out, and love you even when you’re not at your finest or even at your worst. Melody and Justin – while I almost felt like it was too good to be true and that there needed to be a little more intense conflict within their story, I loved their romance. It was wonderfully sweet and tastefully written. I didn’t care if it maybe wasn’t what normally happens in real life, every girl hopes that to be real life; like a fairy tale. A modern day fairy tale. I’m so glad Rachel, Alex, and Ana were so involved in the 2nd book. A lot of times series novels can loose characters as they move on to subsequent books where the focus is on another character in the original book. I’m glad those 3 were an integral part of this book. It kept the story moving so much better. I found myself more interested and had an easier time getting into the book because I didn’t have to meet a ton of new characters. I kind of cringe at that part of reading new books. This book had none of that!
I would love to see these stories be made into a movie. I would buy that movie and watch it over and over. This is a great book and I would highly recommend it (and The Saturday Night Supper Club).
I received a digital copy of this book as a member of the Celebrate Lit blog team. This has in no way influenced my review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.
Guest Post from Carla
“Confessions of An Erstwhile Baker”
Like most females, baking is encoded somewhere deep down in my DNA. Call it nature or call it nurture, but at the earliest age, I figured out that the cute boy in my English class would talk to me if it involved chocolate chip cookies. Got my heart broken or had a friend betray me? I grabbed the mixing bowl and went for the brownies (even better if they’re served à la mode.) My friend was having a birthday? I made a cake drowned in pounds of buttercream.
I quickly graduated from the boxed mixes to the real thing when I got married and had a kitchen large enough to roll out dough. I would comb magazines for the best recipes and spend my weekends trying them out. I quickly became known for bringing beautifully iced Christmas cookies and delicious homemade cakes to work.
Then my husband and I moved our young family from Los Angeles to Denver, a relocation that was about 1000 miles northeast and 5000 feet up. Suddenly, every recipe I’d perfected in the previous eight years failed. Cookies burned to crisps, cakes fell, and don’t get me started on candy making. Gradually, I adapted my recipes (my beloved never-fail Toll House recipe took eight tries to get right) and even became an avid artisan bread-baker.
Then disaster. Or at least, what a baker would consider a disaster. After developing chronic health problems, I discovered that among other things, I was sensitive to gluten. The horror! In order to heal, I turned to the paleo diet, which eliminates all grains (there goes most gluten free recipes) and all processed sugars (there goes everything else). I’ve tried baking paleo-style, and while I can now make cakes that even my gluten-fiend family enjoy, it’s just not the same.
So what’s a once-obsessive baker do when she can’t eat her creations? She bakes for other people and goes on faith that they actually taste good… considering she can’t taste them herself.
It struck me that there was a spiritual lesson in that, and an obvious tie to Brunch at Bittersweet Café, which deals in large part with Melody’s faith journey. There are times when we have no idea if things are working out the way they’re supposed to, in which case we just have to trust the “recipe” and the input of friends and family who love us. Sometimes our instincts tell us when we’re off track, and sometimes we need that outside nudge from our “taste-testers” to put us back on course.
In any case, what Melody and I have in common is that we both bake to show our love for the people around us. And the process of baking my favorites, even knowing that I can’t enjoy them myself, can still be a selfless way to show people they’re important to me.
Fortunately, macarons, which happen to be made with almond flour, are still on the menu.
The Core of Christian Faith & Life A Study of Philippians By D.A. Carson
Wonderfully insightful and applicable, this book will help the new Christian and the seasoned Christian understand the basics. There’s always something new to learn. I love the personable feel of this book. The author is sometimes blunt and to the point but it’s such an effective way to communicate the message. It is easy to read, understand and apply the lessons. The book of Philippians came alive to me in a new way.
The book is divided into 5 sections: 1. Put the Gospel first. 2. Focus on the Cross 3. Adopt Jesus’s Death as a Test of your Outlook 4. Emulate Worthy Christian Leaders 5. Never Give up the Christian Walk.
I was encouraged and challenged throughout this book. It is definitely one I will go back to in the future.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
30 Days to Slow Your Pace, Savor Scripture & Draw Closer to God By Sarah Beth Marr
About the Book
Do you feel constantly busy but, deep down, constantly soul-weary? In this inspiring and practical book, Sarah Beth Marr helps you develop a regular practice of withdrawing from busyness to realign and refresh your heart, mind and soul.
If you feel distracted, burnt out, depleted, or overwhelmed, let Sarah Beth be your gentle and uplifting guide to greater personal peace and simplicity.
My very first thought was, “This book is gorgeous!” Isn’t the cover just beautiful. I was so attracted to the book because of the cover. Then I opened it and found beautiful biblically based devotionals that were both encouraging and challenging. Sarah Beth draws from scripture, her personal life experiences, others’ experiences etc to weave a beautiful text that is easy to read and understand. I found myself wanting to spend time quietly with the Lord and let him into the garden of my heart. The prayers are great and the reflection questions are perfectly paired with the devotionals. They help the reader connect with the Lord on an intimate level. I did feel the devotionals were a little long. They could have been shortened a bit and not lose any effectiveness. Other than that I loved this book.
I received a copy from the publisher. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
Numbed by grief and harboring shameful secrets, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group in 1943. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe in treacherous dogfights in the skies over France as the Allies struggle for control of the air before the D-day invasion.
Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, arranging entertainment for the men of the 357th and setting up programs for local children. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her work and urges him to reconnect with his family after a long and estrangement.
Despite himself, Adler finds his defenses crumbling when it comes to Violet. But D-day draws near… and secrets can’t stay buried forever.
Just like book 1 in this series, The Sea Before Us, The Sky Above Us takes the reader on a trip to Europe through the eyes of those on the ground, and in the air during WWII. Impeccably researched, this book makes you feel like you’re right there with the men and women who gave their lives for our country. The love story that moves along side the war and fighting lightens the air and brings the story more full circle to give the reader a picture of what it was like for the men and women of war in the time when they weren’t fighting. I loved the themes of grace and forgiveness and how the characters lives were transformed because of it. The Christian elements were well placed and natural in the flow of the story. They added another layer of depth that helped bring the story to life even more. There is so much going on in this story. It kept my attention well for the most part. I did find myself glossing over some of the fighting scenes. While they were wonderfully researched and well written I felt a little bored with the amount of detail.
I love Ms. Sundin’s writing and am looking forward to her future books! I received a complementary copy of this book as part of Revell’s blogger program. I was under no compulsion to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.