Monday, May 1, 2017

Book Review: The Joy of Letting Go

I have always been a helicopter parent.

Our daughter is four years old, and I've played it safe since she was born.  Called the doctor if she had the slightest fever.  Panicked over every fall and every scrape.   Obsessed over all my shortcomings and failings as a mom.  In short, I've had a hard time letting go and trusting that despite my failings, and all the dangers of this world, she would be OK.

Then a few months ago, she contracted pneumonia.  She was hospitalized, and it was so severe that she had to be placed on a ventilator for several days.  It hit me, sitting in that hospital room, that I can't protect her from everything.  I can't fix everything.  I'm her mother, and I can love her and be there for her, but I can't prevent everything from happening to her.

When I was contacted by Litfuse about the chance to read and review Vicki Caruana's The Joy of Letting Go: Releasing Your Teen into Real Life in the Big World, I decided to give the book a try. Though I don't have a teenager (yet) I think this book applies to any parent that needs to let their child experience independence.  In fact, the back of the book notes that "letting go of your children doesn't happen with big milestones.  It happens day by day, beginning the moment your child enters your family."

The book contains 52 devotional readings, and are very easily read as each one is just a few short pages.  A "thought poke" for each reading includes questions or phrases to provoke deeper thought.  It also includes a Bible verse.  Despite the short format, these devotionals are packed with wisdom to help parents learn how to let slowly let go of your children.  I know it's something I need to learn, so if it's something that's on your heart, pick it up today.  You won't regret it!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my own and I received no compensation for my review.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life

Small-town girl Katie Brenner is struggling to make it on her own in London, living in a tiny apartment with strange roommates and struggling to make ends meet. She can’t help but envy her beautiful and put-together boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter seems to have it all–the great job, the perfect family and the most beautiful home and clothing. Katie works hard to prove herself to her office mates and to Demeter, and is devastated when Demeter suddenly fires her.

Coincidentally, Katie’s father and stepmother ask for her help in establishing their new glamping vacation business at their farm in Somerset. While Katie dreams of finding a new job, at the moment, she’s desperate to get away from the city and her troubles there. Katie retreats to her childhood home and throws herself in to creating marketing materials for her family’s business, along with setting up an experience that guests won’t soon forget. Before she knows it, she finds that their business is a thriving one. But when Demeter arrives for some time away with her family, life becomes more complicated. Suddenly, Katie must face telling her family the truth about why she left London. Will she make a life for herself in London, or stay in Somerset with her family?

Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel, My Not So Perfect Life is a fun novel about finding yourself. Katie is extremely relatable as a classic small-town girl longing to make a life for herself, with often disastrous results. Readers will root for her with the turn of every page. I loved her quirky family and their glamping business. At first it all seemed so far-fetched, but they made it work. Her romance with Alex was also great fun, though we all know the complications of workplace romances. This novel also explored how we portray ourselves on social media and the lies we tell others, and ourselves about the lives we lead. I’ve always been a fan of Kinsella, and this novel is no exception. Highly recommended!

This review originally appeared at Luxury Reading.  I received a copy of this book from Luxury Reading.  All opinions expressed are my own and I received no compensation in exchange for my review.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Review: The Mark of the King

Julianne Chevalier is a gifted young midwife in 18th century France. When a patient dies suddenly, Julianne is considered a murderer, and sentenced to life in prison. Longing to escape her life in prison, she agrees to be exiled to the fledgling French colony of Louisiana. In order to make the journey, however, Julianne must be married. Male and female convicts are paired together in marriage, so Julianne becomes the wife of the fiery and reckless, yet compassionate Simon LeGrange.

Once she is in the colony, Julianne is determined to try to make a new life for herself, but fears that there is no redemption for her past. She also hopes to be reunited with her brother Benjamin, whom she lost touch with after he became a soldier in Louisiana. When searching for answers about her brother proves to be dangerous for Simon, Julianne wonders what fellow soldier Marc-Paul Girard isn’t telling her about her brother’s disappearance. Will she find Benjamin and make a new life for herself, or will her past come back to haunt her?

Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King is a beautifully written historical novel of redemption and finding new hope. Julianne is a complex character who faces more trials in one life than any woman should. Marc-Paul is a good and honorable man who recognizes the good in Julianne despite her past, and longs to help her and Simon in their new lives. The novel portrays the struggle of colony life, from brutal practices and war-related combat to the colonists relations with Native Americans. At times some of the content can be quite hard to read, as there is some violence and disturbing behavior from characters in the novel. Rich with history and drama, this is a tale you won’t soon forget.

This review originally appeared at Luxury Reading.  I received a copy of this book from Luxury Reading in exchange for my review.  No compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: The Road to Enchantment

When she was a child, Willow’s father cheated on her mother and left their family in shambles. She and her mother moved to New Mexico, where she felt like an outsider among the Apache people. Her only saving grace in her mother’s strange and eccentric new life was Darrel, a young Apache boy who would become her best friend in the world.

Fast forward many years, and Willow is a musician living in Los Angeles. She finds out she’s been dumped, and that her mother has died in a tragic accident on the same horrible day. And when she returns to New Mexico to settle her mother’s affairs and sees Darrel for the first time in years, he realizes before she does that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child. She also discovers that her mother had financial problems. All she has left is her mother’s winery. Will it be enough? Will she be able to get back on her feet and figure out her next step?

Kaya McLaren’s The Road to Enchantment is a touching story that brings the past and present together, all told from Willow’s unique and subjective perspective. Earlier in her life, Willow viewed her mother as a selfish and strange person, but as the story unfolds, Willow begins to recognize her mother’s strengths and the positive moments that they had together. Though Willow is not perfect, she learns a lot along the way. In many ways, this book is a real coming of age tale, as Willow steps on to a new path and discovers what she really wants. This story is also about the family that we find during our journey through life, the people that come alongside us and lift us up when we fall. Darrel and his grandparents, full of wisdom and intense love for Willow, are those people.

I made my way through this book in just a few short days, and many of its words still resonate with me. If you love a good book about discovering yourself and appreciating the good people in your life, you’ll love this story.

This review originally appeared on Luxury Reading.  Luxury Reading provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.  I received no compensation and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: The Possibility of Somewhere

Eden Moore is on track to become the valedictorian of her high school class, despite the fact that she’s grown up in a trailer park with her often out-of-work father and stepmother. Since her birth mother left her when she was just a child, Eden’s only ever had one goal: to leave her small town and life there behind.

Her classmate Ash Gupta has never quite understood how Eden, with her sharp and sarcastic nature, could possibly become valedictorian. But when the two of them are thrown together to complete a class assignment, they begin to get to know each other for the first time, and Ash recognizes her intelligence and depth. The two of them couldn’t be any more different, considering that Ash comes from a rich and affluent family, but soon the two find themselves falling for each other. But when the two realize they are competing for the same scholarship, will it tear them apart?

The Possibility of Somewhere tells the story of two young people from opposite walks of life who share the same desire: to leave their small town and make their own way. Ash desires to leave his strict and wealthy family to pursue studies at Stanford, while Eden longs to leave the trailer park and rumors about her family behind to become a teacher. This is a feeling that any young person can relate to, and author Julia Day’s portrayal of two very different characters and how they interact is fantastic. There’s drama, there’s romance, and there’s family trouble, all of which make Ash and Eden feel like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.

Recommended for grades 9 and up, this book would be perfect to share with a young person who is wondering about what life may look like after high school. As an adult, I enjoyed the book very much.

This review originally appeared on Luxury Reading.  I received a copy from Luxury Reading, and all opinions expressed here are my own.  I received no compensation in exchange for my review.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book Review: Journal the Word Bible

Recently I had the opportunity to check out the Journal the Word Bible thanks to BookLook Bloggers.  Journaling bibles have become huge in the last few months.  My church has been hosting an Illustrating Your Faith connect group for some time now, and now I can actually go check it out! I've been using the same ESV Bible for as long as I can remember, so I was eager to look through a different one.

This Bible features a simple black cover, and as expected with a journaling Bible, it includes wide margins.  Even if you're not interested in creating artwork in your Bible, the margins provide a really nice space for notes.  The Bible includes larger text for easy reading, and the words of Jesus appear in red.  One very simple element of this Bible that I really enjoy is that each verse starts on a new line.  When following along during a sermon or Bible study, I think this makes it very easy to locate a verse quickly.  It also includes a black ribbon bookmark and elastic band that helps keep the Bible closed during travel.  The translation I received was the King James Version.

All in all, this is a great Bible that would be perfect for note-takers who'd like more space to record their thoughts, or artists who would like to illustrate their faith.  It's easy to read, well-designed, and light enough for travel too.

A copy of this Bible was provided to me by BookLook Bloggers.  I received no compensation in exchange for this review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Review: A Portrait of Emily Price

Art restorer Emily Price has spent her entire life trying to fix things, from her directionless younger sister to the priceless art she works to preserve.  A new project for her insurance firm takes her to Atlanta, where she meets Joseph Vassallo, who also works in her field.  He introduces her to his younger brother Benito (Ben), and sparks begin to fly.  Soon Emily finds herself helping to breathe new life in to a restaurant owned by Ben and Joseph's aunt and uncle, and falling hopelessly in love with Ben.  Emily has always been the picture of responsibility, which is part of the reason that everyone is shocked by her decision to accept a quick marriage proposal from Ben and return to Italy with him.

But what follows is not the fairy tale that either of them imagined.  Ben's father Lucio's health is failing, and his mother Donata is anything but welcoming to Emily.  Despite doing all that she can to attempt to fit in with Ben's family, she is unable to find a rhythm in Italy.  She buries herself in her own heart, hoping to create something of her own rather than restoring the work of others.  As she begins to open herself up, Lucio asks her to take on a special project at their local church.  But as Emily works on this special assignment for Lucio, she begins to uncover dark Vassallo family secrets, secrets that drove Joseph to America and a seemingly permanent wedge in their family.  Will Emily's meddling help the family to come back together, or will her presence make everything worse.

Katherine Reay weaves an interesting and compelling story of love and family in her most recent work, A Portrait of Emily Price.   It's no coincidence that Reay mentions Jane Austen's novel Emma within these pages, as Emily often personifies Emma in her insistence on striving to fix the problems of her new family, often with disastrous results.

Despite the problems in this family, we are reminded throughout this work of the importance of forgiveness and grace.  Emily so desires to bring restoration, but it is really Lucio that starts that process.  His character is one of my favorites within this novel, as he wishes to mend fences and restore his family to what it once was. He is also very accepting of his new daughter-in-law, despite her short courtship with his son.  And it is Emily's painting of Lucio that she begins to find her own talent and ability to capture life in her art.

I will say that while I devoured Reay's other works, I had a hard time getting through portions of this one.  Ben and Emily's relationship was incredibly rushed, and I think neither of them really knew or understood each other before they went to Italy.  It was difficult to believe that two newly married, virtual strangers could overcome the obstacles they faced upon their arrival.  But somehow, they overcame it all, which of course was a desirable outcome.  I also felt that the ending of the novel was rushed, after building up the characters.  I wanted to learn more about where they were heading, and the conclusion just wasn't that satisfying to me.  All of that said, Reay really does transport readers to Italy, and make them feel that they are walking down those beautiful streets with the Vassallo family.   If you're a fan of Katherine Reay, you're sure to enjoy her latest book!

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.  I received no compensation in exchange for this review, and all opinions expressed here are my own.