Book Review: No Easy Jesus

I was really excited to join the launch team for No Easy Jesus by Jason Mitchell. I joined the group for two reasons: 1) I love celebrating an author’s book publishing accomplishment by participating on the book launch team. And, 2) I had no prior knowledge about Jason Mitchell’s book, but his title certainly intrigued me enough to sign up to join the launch team. When I started reading No Easy Jesus, I realized I was in for a great treat. This is a wonderful book.

No Easy Jesus by Jason Mitchell is available TODAY. I just reviewed Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (wife of Bob Goff), I think it is so fitting that both books share the same publishing release day – they felt so similar to me. In fact, I thought many times how Jason’s book would be a great read alongside Love Does or Love Lives Here. No Easy Jesus tackles the subject of believing in Jesus a step further. Jason gently leads his readers through tough topics like forgiveness, serving others, and the grit of our relationship with Jesus. He did this by being vulnerable about his personal life stories, Biblical truths, and encouraging his readers to press forward in their relationship with Jesus – even when it doesn’t seem easy.

This was a book I wanted to underline heavily (I read a PDF copy, so the opportunity to dog ear my copy was limited, but I do plan to get a hard copy of No Easy Jesus). I was challenged. I was encouraged. I was given a lot to chew on. I really like books that make me pause and wrestle over their content – No Easy Jesus does just that. Jason is a pastor and this book truly echoed his pastoral heart. I didn’t feel like he was beating me over the head with his words; instead, I felt like he was gently urging us to model our lives after Jesus.

In the launch team, Jason would do a weekly Facebook live broadcast. On the last broadcast, Jason fervently asked the launch team to pray for the people who would read his book. I think that simple request aptly shows his heart with his book. He could have easily focused on everything else, but he didn’t. More than anything else, Jason wants his readers to dive into a relationship with Jesus Christ that is deeper, richer and (ultimately) more fulfilling.

If you are looking for a book to encourage your Christian walk and point you to Jesus, I strongly recommend getting No Easy Jesus!

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Book Review: Love Lives Here by Maria Goff

Whenever I read a book written by a man and there is mention of his wife, I want to know more about her. Who is she? What’s on her heart? I remember thinking this when I read Bob Goff’s book, Love Does. He made his wife famous when he talked about his “Sweet Maria”. It stuck. I’m not sure Bob meant for his pet name for his wife to become what the whole world refers to her as, but for Maria, it did. I can tell you this, after reading Maria’s book, that pet name is an accurate description of Maria.

I’m thrilled to share that Maria’s book, Love Lives Here, comes out TOMORROW. I had the immense honor of being gifted a copy of Maria’s book by the publisher. This is my honest review.  By chapter five, I had laughed, cried and underlined SO MANY tidbits. That cycle of laughter, tears and many underlines became my personal anthem as I read Love Lives Here.

The subtitle is: Finding What You Need In A World Telling You What You Want. Love Lives Here was what I needed, but I didn’t know it. I knew it would be good (in fact, I was so excited Maria had written a book, I actually threw away my debit card in sheer (distracted) delight!), but I don’t think I realized how much I really needed Love Lives Here. Every word, every sentence felt like encouragement!

Maria shares stories of her childhood, stories from being a mom, and a lot of stories of being the introverted wife to an extroverted husband. She weaves in biblical truth. Despite their personality differences, Bob and Maria Goff are the same mindset: It’s about loving people the way Jesus does. You have a passion, go for it. Pursue it. That is YOUR unique, God-given purpose. Bob and Maria Goff just want to celebrate it. Maria’s writing is so calming. It makes you feel like you are at her kitchen table, drinking coffee and listening as she gently encourages you to press forward. Every time I would glance up from my book, I was a little disappointed I wasn’t actually having coffee with Maria.

As a mom of little children, I especially loved reading about the techniques Maria used as a Mom and the “why” reasoning behind the techniques and methods she did/does as a parent. I felt like I was getting a futuristic glance of the outcome of how my husband and I parent.

Maria doesn’t shy away from the difficult moments in her life, but as she shares them with us – her readers – you can feel the grace, the forgiveness. She represents Jesus that way – full of grace and forgiveness.

I cannot recommend this book enough. In fact, I’ve been telling everyone I know to get this book. So naturally, I’m telling you – get this book! It’s wonderfully written. It encourages you to pursue your dreams and let go of fear! Most of all, Maria Goff points her readers to loving others like Jesus.

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Book Review: Murder On The Moor

I love reading a wide variety of books. However, I would have never thought that the murder mystery genre is one I would especially like. But I find myself constantly picking up murder mysteries and enjoying every moment spent reading that genre. Just goes to show that giving a genre a chance can be very beneficial!

Bethany House Publishers graciously gifted me Murder On the Moor by Julianna Deering. I’m SO GLAD I got to read this book. It was so good. Murder On The Moor is actually part of the Drew Farthering series. Once I finished the book, I realized that it is book four of the series, but I never felt like I was left out or confused having “jumped in”  in the middle of the series. Murder On the Moor stood on it’s own. In fact, I can’t wait to read the other books in the series. I loved reading this because it felt like the classic crime novel. It felt like I was reading a Sherlock Holmes-esque book. I read other reviews that compared Julianna Deering to Agatha Christie. Based on what I know of Agatha Christie, I think this is a high praise and perfect compliment to Julianna Deering.

The Drew Farthering Series is set in 1930s England. In Murder On the Moor, we meet Detective Drew Farthering and his wife, Madeline. Drew is English and Madeline is American. Their sleuthing reputation is creating quite a name for themselves, which helps when working with the local authorities. In Murder On The Moor, Drew and Madeline are asked to help out an old school friend, Beaky, in his small village. The vicar has turned up dead, there is no motive, but a host of questionable characters and no leads. There were so many head-scratching moments as I read. I COULD NOT FIGURE OUT THE MURDER. Every time I had a suspicion, the book would dispel my theories and I would be back at square one. Halfway through the book, I finally gave up trying to solve the mystery before Drew and Madeline. Instead, I decided I would go along for the read to see what they uncovered. The conclusion shocked me. I couldn’t believe it. But I will say, it was well worth staying up past midnight to finish! I hate spoilers, so I’m not going to give any thing away.

I was so impressed with Julianna Deering’s writing. It was fun, descriptive, and kept you spellbound the entire time. The characters were well developed; you really had great insight into who they were as individuals.  The dialogue was engaging and wonderful. I felt like I was RIGHT THERE as the story unfolded.

If you want to try the murder mystery genre, but you aren’t sure where to begin, Julianna Deering is the perfect place to start. It won’t surprise me a bit if you are immediately hooked!

Book Review: Organizing For Your Lifestyle

When it comes to organization, I have to work really hard at it. I wouldn’t say it is something that comes easily or naturally. It is something that I prioritize because my life is easier because of organization. I’ve learned by trial and error. Along the way, I have developed a system that helps, but I still have to work at it.

In Jane Stoller’s book, Organizing For Your Lifestyle, it doesn’t take long to see that Jane is passionate about organizing. She begins her book saying that she is a single woman without children who travels a lot and lives in small spaces. Then there is me: mom of three kids, I don’t travel a lot. Talk about polar opposites! However, I found Jane’s book to be easily adaptive for my life. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to relate to Jane, but that simply wasn’t the case. Instead, I found a kind author who gets organization. She has easily broke it down in a way that wasn’t overwhelming! This book is Organzing 101. It’s concise and doable. It’s quick, easy tips to implement  no matter your lifestyle. Jane provides pictures and graphics so you can see how she folds clothes or how to store travel gear. This is genius. Sometimes you just need to SEE what the author is talking about to full understand. Jane gets this.

The book layout makes it the perfect reference guide. You could easily take each chapter to organize your life. Or you could flip to the chapter you need for your current situation. When I got this book, I saw she had a chapter on organizing books. Hello! I flipped there immediately. Any fellow bookworms know organizing books is basically our third happy place (first and second place being going to the book store and/or reading).

In approximately 7 chapters, Jane provides the science behind organizing and a happy life. From there, Jane efficiently takes you chapter by chapter as you organize every nook and cranny of your home. The book also covers staying organized while traveling. I particularly loved that chapter because when we do go on trips, I always wonder if I could be packing more efficiently. Turns out, according to Jane, there is a better way!

Woven in between organizing tips,  Jane shares personal stories. The reader really gets a sense that the organizational tips in Organizing For Your Lifestyle are really tips Jane uses in her daily life. She practices what she preaches!

I thoroughly enjoyed Jane’s book. I felt like I walked away with new and useful tips to help make my life run more smoothly. And when you have three children and a collection of pups in your home, you need all the help you can get!

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Book Review: Detention Land

I recently read the YA psychological thriller Detention Land by Susan Orion. This is the first in a series.

In Detention Land, we meet Roger. He is a super smart kid who ends up in Detention. A LOT. A lot of the reasons he is sent to detention is justified. By all appearances, Roger is that kid. The bad one. The one that seems to gravitate towards getting trouble. He seems to thrive being the trouble maker.

The further we read, the more we see that Roger makes bad choices because he is desperate for positive attention. He just doesn’t know how to get it. His parents are hard on him and disconnected. His teachers don’t care. Roger feels like no one in the world cares about him.

In Detention, there is a faceless voice who talks to him through the intercom. Roger imagines this female voice has big red lips (hence the cover art). In their conversations, She asks questions about why he does the things he does. Most of the time, Roger pleads his defense. It’s in those moments, you see Roger desperate for someone to be on his side. Instead of the other side. The side that points fingers at him and only sees his errors.

I couldn’t put this book down. I read it in one night. It created a lot of emotions in me. I was mad. I was mad at Roger’s parents, his teachers, his principal, the faceless voice. I felt so sorry for Roger. I wanted someone to invest in Roger. I wanted someone – ANYONE! – to care. Several days later, I was still livid. Soon my anger turned to heartache. My husband works with teenage boys who have substance abuse problems. A lot of times their addiction is spurred on by the belief that NO ONE cares. As I read this book, I kept seeing those young men my husband works with. After I finished the book, I went and talked to those guys. I asked them about Roger’s reactions. I asked them about the actions of the adults in Roger’s life. They told me that’s how they felt too.

Here is the thing: Detention Land made me sad. It provoked strong emotions in me. But it also made me more aware. It made me remember to extend compassion and kindness always – because I don’t know what someone else is battling.

This is the type of book everyone should read. You should read it and allow yourself to feel the injustice of what happens when a kid has no one in his corner cheering him on. Every child needs someone who believes in him. Having someone who believes in you can be the difference between success and failure.

Follow Author Susan Orion for more updates on her website.

 

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Book Review: I am Not Forgotten

I really enjoy reading memoirs, biographies and autobiographies of people. While I also appreciate fiction, connecting with another person’s story is truly enriching.

In Clara Stephens’ book, I Am Not Forgotten, she tells her life story. The foundation of her life is her faith in Jesus. Clara has scripture verses scattered throughout each chapter, some times even multiple verses within a page. I loved that. Clara makes sure she keeps the main thing, the main thing: her faith is most important.

Clara grew up in Nigeria. She faced hardship starting at a young age. She did not lose hope even when it seemed all hope was lost. She continued to trust the Lord. She continued to press forward. At times, reading Clara’s story, I found myself thinking, “WHAT? How can one person experience so much and still not be broken or downtrodden?”

As I soon learned in reading her story, that is not Clara’s way. Her hope and foundation are found in Jesus Christ. I was encouraged by how at each unbelievable turn of events (being held hostage by her uncle, later being kidnapped, etc), she does not lose hope. Clara would draw a strength from Scripture and press forward.

While she lives in the USA now, Clara’s story covers the process she underwent to migrate from Nigeria to the USA. Over the last few weeks in our country, we’ve seen a lot of conversations revolve around immigration. I appreciated reading Clara’s perspective.

Right after reading Clara’s book, I discovered that since publishing her book, Clara has embarked on a new endeavor. She has begun a nonprofit for women that includes mentorship, training and discipleship. You can read more about that from this newspaper article. 

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Book Review: Layla in the Sky with Diamonds

My husband works at Three Dimensional Life which is a substance abuse program. Every day, we see the effects in one’s life with a substance abuse addition. It is heartbreaking.

During the hippie era, there was such an immersion of music, freedom, and drugs. The use of drugs during the hippie movement and the thought process of people who claimed the hippie lifestyle is explored in this book, Layla In the Sky with Diamonds by Manbeena Bhullar Sandhu.

This a book that will pull on your heartstrings, for sure. It’s so well written; you won’t be able to put it down. However, it is also very realistic too. It is two fold – you see the main character, Layla, as a loving individual (and eventually a loving wife and mom). We see her childhood, and how she was raised. We meet her friends, we travel her adventures and her narrow escapes.  You see her as a flower child who may not have realized the significance and long term consequences of drug use. The naïveté of Layla also exposes the dangers of substance abuse. How it destroyed relationships with her family, friends, and children. I won’t give away an spoilers, but I will say while this book is set in the 1960-1970’s hippie era, the storyline is still revelant to today. It has a surprising ending that will fill the readers with hope.

Why should people read this book? Well, the book cover is AMAZING! But more than that, the story is so well written. I really enjoyed it. I was initially worried it was glorifying drugs, but to an addict, substance abuse is glorified in their lives. However, this story shoes that underneath the “glory” an addict mistakenly pursues, there is also tremendous grief that drives them.

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Book Review: Truth and the US Constitution

I recently read Truth and the U.S. Constitution Part 1 by John Beaman. This is a fascinating book about Christianity and the American Government. It’s a perspective I had not heard before, but I was willing to read it.

John Beaman says he hopes readers “learned something worth their time and that they might be able to use it in forming their opinions regarding religion and government. In the United States, we are blessed with the ability to form our own opinions and to speak them freely and this right is found in the U.S. Constitution. I hope that readers enjoy reading and learning about the importance of absolute truth in regards to interpreting the U.S. Constitution as well as the importance of Christian principles in the U.S. Constitution.”

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the ultimate basis of truth for which I live my life. As an American, I appreciate that our Founding Fathers wrote the Constituion as the foundation for how our country was built.

I love the fact that the United States of America is diverse and a melting pot of cultures and traditions. John Beaman’s book wrestles through defining truth. He also talks extensively about how you can take truth and apply it to the US Consititution for a better understanding. It was abundantly clear that Beaman is very passionate about defending the US Constituion. He has done quite a bit of research that only enhanced his book.

I think it is important to read different perspectives and opinions in order to form a well rounded opinion. Trust and the US Constituion by John Beaman provides a unique perspective to make for some lively conversations. You can find John Beaman on Facebook, Twitter and on his website.

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The Life Giving Home

Last year, a friend of mine sent me The Life Giving Home by Sally & Sarah Clarkson. She said it remind her of me. This compliment was so flattering and something that I pondered a lot while reading this book. I want to create a home that is life-giving, so my friend’s comment challenged me to heavily consider whether or not I was really accomplishing that goal.

This mother-daughter duo wrote a book about “creating a place of belonging and becoming”. Each chapter is based on a different month of the year. I spent 2016 reading one chapter a month. That is very unusual for me; I’m a fast reader, so to spread a book out through the entire year was different. But I really enjoyed the opportunity to read a book so life giving.

In The Life Giving Home, Sally and Sarah approach each month in such a unique way. They consider the timing of the year (January with its year of newness and the post-holiday craving for routine) and they gently and kindly help you consider ways to breathe new life into your home. In each chapter, they share traditions and routines alongside a list of things to consider for the month. In January, it includes establishing routines, including fun, and decluttering. They use stories from their family and as well as spiritual encouragement from their Christian faith.

I LOVE THIS. As a stay at home mom, I am constantly thinking about ways to improve our routine, ways to bring magic into our home and ways to keep things fresh and relevant to our present season of life. (When I refer to “season of life”, I’m not talking about the season of preschoolers and toddlers, as much as I’m talking about how different our life routine is in January versus July or October). Sally and Sarah’s book resonated with me so much. I LOVE planning celebrations and executing traditions in our home. I love decorating for the seasons. I am always looking for ways to better perfect our routine of running our home as well as teaching our kids how to be responsible active participants of our family.

I highly recommend this book. I’ve already started the January chapter to begin to read through The Life Giving Home for 2017.

Book Review: The Mark of the King

Bethany House Publishers graciously sent me The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green as a gift. As soon as it arrived in my mailbox, I promptly ripped open the package and flew through the first chapter. That is DEFINITELY the sign of a good book!

It is a historical fiction book that follows a female prisoner from Paris France to wild and new frontier of Louisiana. From start to finish, I couldn’t put it down.

The main character is Julianne. She is fierce, loyal, kind, and passionate. She takes on the rugged Louisiana with tenacity. Woven into the storyline are many other characters, but the author does a great job of keeping their voices distinctly unique.

I loved the history in the book. It is very evident that Author Jocelyn Green did detailed research of not just New Orleans, but also the french women prisoners who were forced to move to Louisiana. She also covers the tension between the Native Americans and the French and the British.

I do feel like I should issue a trigger warning: the storyline includes significant inclusion of loss of children and loss of spouse. The story inclusion of loss and grief is a part of the historical relevance of the storyline, but I did want to mention it.
Overall, this was a great read. I hope to read more books by Jocelyn Green.

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