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Archive for the ‘The Weekly Read’ Category

Annie Downs doesn’t consider herself brave, but she’s done the next right thing in her life, even if it’s scary. Her latest book, Let’s All Be Brave, is a call to all of us to be courageous in whatever our lives require. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

braveDowns doesn’t demand that everyone pack up and move across the world. Bravery doesn’t require everyone to do the same thing, and what looks brave in one person’s life will look different in someone else’s. That’s one of the highlights of this book for me: that the brave thing is individual. Downs doesn’t offer specifics for being brave but principles and stories of what bravery has looked like in her life.

She tells great stories about the leaps she’s made in her life and encourages readers to take those kinds of leaps in their own lives. Her brave moments have included a move to Nashville when she knew no one, a move to Edinburgh, Scotland after she’d found community in Nashville, accepting her singleness in this stage of life. I was challenged by the idea that bravery isn’t always saying “yes” to something but sometimes it’s saying “no.” I hadn’t considered that before.

I appreciate the overall message of this book, but on complaint I have is that the chapters felt disconnected from each other. I didn’t get a sense of one flowing into the next. It was easy to read a chapter and walk away for a while, which meant it took me longer than I expected to read this book.

That said, if you’re feeling stuck or like you don’t know what’s next (or you do but you’re too afraid to say it or do something about it), then this book might be the nudge you need to go for it.

HOW TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY

And in case you need another nudge, I have a copy to give away! Leave a comment here on the blog about why you want to read this book, what bravery means to you or anything else you’d like to say, and I’ll enter you in a drawing. I’ll pick a winner on Monday, Sept. 22, so you have through the weekend to enter.

Want to know more about the author? Check out her website and blog:  http://www.anniefdowns.com/

And you can preview two chapters here.

 

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Once a faithful fan of Food Network shows, I’m in a bit of a drought. I got a little burnt out on the drama. Or maybe I just needed a break. Lucky for me, though, there are novels that take the idea of cooking competitions and give you a backstage look at the people participating.

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is one such book. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

The book’s author, Betsy St. Amant, is a woman I’ve heard a lot about from other authors of her genre, and her writing is just as fun and witty and romantic as the hype. All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is a sweet (ha ha!) story of two friends, Kat Varland and Lucas Brennan, who have so much more between them than friendship but who are afraid to risk losing what they have for finding something more.

Kat dreams of opening her own bakery. Meanwhile, she’s stuck working at her aunt’s bakery making the same cupcakes day after day: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. Kat likes to experiment with flavors, and it seems her baking is riskier than her life. Her best friend Lucas is the high school football coach and a willing participant in Kat’s baking escapades. Because he believes in her abilities, Lucas signs Kat up for a spot on a cupcake competition reality show. When she wins a spot on the show, Kat convinces Lucas to come with her to Los Angeles. And the baking isn’t the only thing that heats up.

As their feelings for each other deepen and blossom, each of them must decide what it is they really want from life, and they’re each faced with a decision about their dreams.

I loved this story. Maybe because I like to cook and bake with my husband. Maybe because we were friends before we were more. Maybe because it was just a good story about love and sacrifice and dreams.

I’m adding Betsy St. Amant to my list of must-read authors. And I’ve got another foodie favorite novel to add to my growing list.

Here’s more about the author: BStAmant-257

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana with her young daughter and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.

Find out more about Betsy at http://www.betsystamant.com/

And here’s how she’s celebrating the release of her book!

Don’t miss Betsy St. Amant’s latest fiction release, All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes. A “sweet” tale of two best friends and the choices they make between dreams and a possible “sure thing,” St. Amant’s novel is sure to satisfy your romantic-fiction craving.

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Betsy is celebrating with a fun Kindle giveaway and a Love & Cupcakes Facebook party!
One winner will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle
  • All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 18th. Winner will be announced at the Love & Cupcakes” Author Chat Party on 9/18. Betsy will be hosting a “sweet” book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at her next book project!

 
So grab your copy of All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes and join Betsy on the evening of September 18th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!

 

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It has taken me a decade to pick up a book by Deborah Raney, despite glowing recommendations from trusted friends.  Ten years ago, I attended a writers’ conference where she was on faculty and in my ignorance of the industry back then, I’d never heard of her or her books. Times have changed for the better, and even though I follow her on Facebook, I still hadn’t read anything by her until now.

Home-to-Chicory-Lane-PKWhen an author has been writing books for a long time, I often don’t know where to start. Should I read their early works so I get feel for their style or just start with something new? I took the plunge on Raney’s latest, Home to Chicory Lane, when it was offered for review by Litfuse Publicity Group. (I received a free copy of the book.)

And it’s just as delightful as I might have expected. Raney has an approachable charm to her Facebook posts and I find her writing to be the same. Home to Chicory Lane is the first in a new series focusing on the Whitman family. In this one, we meet the cast of characters, led by parents Audrey and Grant who have recently turned their family home into a bed-and-breakfast. On the opening weekend of the inn, their newly wed youngest daughter shows up unexpectedly, without her husband, and her parents suspect trouble.

The book is equally balanced between the two storylines: Landyn and Chase, the newlyweds, and Audrey and Grant, the new business owners. Other family members make appearances and it will be fun to find out what further antics are in store for this family.

I’m more and more fond of these family saga type of stories and the focus on individual characters in separate books. In this one, particularly, I enjoyed the banter between siblings and the real-life emotions that surface in families during times of stress and trial. This is not a picture-perfect family that makes you want to puke. The Whitmans are pursuing dreams and struggling financially and facing hardships, and though their love for each other is apparent, there is no shortage of angry outbursts or words spoken in stress.

This was just a realistic family that drew me in to their lives. (And the Midwestern setting didn’t hurt. I’m a bit homesick for the Midwest these days.)

So, don’t be like me: Don’t wait 10 years to read a book by Deborah Raney! You’ll be missing out on some enjoyable fiction.

Also not to miss: this $200 B&B giveaway as part of the book’s launch. Read on for the details about how you can win!

The first book in Deborah Raney‘s new Chicory Inn series, Home to Chicory Lane, introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Deborah is celebrating the release of her new series with a $200 B&B Weekend Getaway and a Facebook author chat party.

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One winner will receive:

  • A B&B Weekend Getaway (via a $200 Visa cash card)
  • Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 9th. Winner will be announced at the Home to Chicory Lane Author Chat Party on 9/9. Deborah will be hosting a heartfelt book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at the next book in the Chicory Inn series!

So grab your copy of Home to Chicory Lane and join Deborah on the evening of September 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

 

 

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Seattle pastor Eugene Cho has a new book out, his first, and it is SO Overrated.

No, really. It’s Overrated.

That’s the name of the book.

Overrated.

I didn’t have to even read one page to know that this book is not to be taken lightly. (Disclaimer: I received an advance e-copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

Cho does not mince words. He does not coddle. He does not accept excuses.

He asks the question that needs to be asked: Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?

He puts it like this:

And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. I’m guilty of wanting to change the world, of wanting to make a difference but doing very little to back that up.

Overrated BookCover-3DSo this book is hard to read. It’s like seeking advice from a friend who tells you not what you want to hear but says the hard things and challenges you to do what needs to be done.

While it’s a book about justice and the Christian’s role in justice, it’s also about discipleship and generosity and intentional living and passion and purpose. It’s about these things working together in the life of a disciple of Jesus so much that the world can’t help but notice.

And Cho does not speak as one who has done it all perfectly with impure motives. He does not preach what he doesn’t live. He offers his own confessions, failings, and wrong motives as testimony that this call is not just for other people but for him as well.

Here are five of the most challenging statements, for me, Cho makes in the book:

“Isn’t that what makes discipleship so uncomfortable and challenging? God often leads us on journeys we would never go on if it were up to us.” (26)

“I believe you cannot credibly follow Christ unless you pursue justice.” (43)

“The inescapable truth about justice is that there is something wrong in the world that needs to be set right.” (52)

“We should be about the marathon, not about the transactional sprint for instant justice gratification.” (105)

“We cannot speak with integrity about what we are not living. We don’t need more dazzling storytellers; we need more genuine storytellers. And the best way to become a better storyteller is to simply live a better life. Not a perfect life, but one of honesty, integrity, and passion.” (178)

I could go on. Nearly every page contained a nugget of truth that lodged in my heart and wouldn’t let go.

ChoOverratedFascinateGraphic

I forced myself to read it slow, take one chapter at a time and really let the words sink in.

And it doesn’t have to stop with the end of the book. As part of the message of the book, there’s a 5-day challenge, by e-mail, to help you avoid being overrated. Click here for more information about that.

The book officially releases Sept. 1, but if you preorder it today, you’ll have immediate access to an interactive e-copy. Find out more here.

I’d put this book at the top of my list of recommended reads for churches, youth groups, ministry workers, seminaries–really anyone who desires to do good in the world because of their relationship with Christ.

Overrated won’t condemn you for your actions, or lack thereof, but it will challenge you to let your life be about more than Twitter-style justice and passionate ideas. It’s encouragement to dream big, yes, and think hard and press on in the long run.

Cho often ends his Facebook posts and even a chapter or two with these words: Your move.

After reading this book, I firmly believe that.

It’s my move. What will I do with the challenge set before me?

Will I let myself be overrated and ineffective? Or will I seek the bigger picture and let God lead?

Will you?

Your move.

My move.

Because God is on the move.

And He’s going with or without us.

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A book combining food and family secrets was almost impossible to resist, but I’ve got mixed feelings about my experience reading A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy through the Blogging for Books program.)

table-windowThe book focuses on Juliette, a food writer and youngest heir in a French-Italian family with deep cooking heritage. She tells the story in first person, and frankly, I was a bit bored in the beginning. I didn’t care much about her life, which didn’t seem all that bad, and although I was excited about the inclusion of recipes, I also felt they were intimidating and inaccessible to someone who hasn’t been raised with such a rich knowledge of proper cooking techniques. I did enjoy the cooking theme in the story, though, and Juliette’s appreciation for food. Her family was likable also and the characters were vivid and memorable.

Unfortunately, I was almost halfway through the book before I really started to enjoy it. Juliette tests the waters of online dating and that storyline started to propel the rest of the book. I took a liking to Neil, the doctor with whom she begins communicating. Their exchanges are cute and probably saved the book for me.  The ending was abrupt, offering less closure and more questions. Thankfully there was an excerpt of the next book included at the end of this one. Still, I wasn’t sure going in that this was a series and the ending kind of caught me by surprise, but not in a good way.

I mostly wanted to read this book as research for the novel I’m writing because the theme is similar: a young woman floundering in her present uncovers a family secret that could shape her future. I’m not sorry I read it, and I’m interested in the next one to see where the storyline goes, but I kind of hoped for more from this one.

If you want to make yourself drool, head on over to the book’s Pinterest page, though. In a word: yum!

 

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I had high hopes for this book, maybe too high. When I read the description for The Trail by Ed Underwood, I thought it sounded a bit like The Shack. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Tyndale House in exchange for my review.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t measure up to the quality of storytelling found in The Shack, and I found it overall not as interesting as I’d hoped.

the trailThe Trail is a parable about discovering God’s will and it centers on a couple, Matt and Brenda, who are trying to make a decision about Matt’s job prospects. Their friends send them in to the woods to meet an old mountain man/preacher, Sam, who is supposed to take them on a weekend journey in the mountains and teach them principles about discovering God’s will.

I liked the principles and thought they were useful statements in the life of a Christian. And I appreciate the idea of the book because we, as Christians, often make the concept of finding God’s will too difficult.

However, I really couldn’t identify with any of the characters. Matt seemed like a selfish jerk. Brenda was a little bit flighty and weak. And Sam was sometimes just hard to believe as a person. He preached a lot and the conversations between the characters were not realistic. I also wasn’t sure whose point of view we were supposed to be reading most of the time. There were clues, but it was awkward.

I almost couldn’t finish the book and ended up skimming the last couple of chapters just to be done with it.

I did take away a few good principles, but the effort to find them just wasn’t worth it for me.

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For those who doubt their life or story matters, this is a collection of stories to convince you otherwise.

speakSpeak: How Your Story Can Change the World is a sometimes-gentle, sometimes not, kick in the pants for everyone, not just writers or storytellers or speakers, to tell our stories. And it is equal parts inspiring and convicting. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Zondervan through the Booklook Bloggers program.)

The author, Nish Weiseth, is the founder of one of my favorite blog spaces, A Deeper Story, and though I haven’t read a lot of her work, in particular, I love the mission of the site and the stories shared there. So, I’m pleased to discover I love Weiseth’s writing as well.

And her message–that stories are more powerful than all the labeling and stereotyping and arguing policy that goes on–is timely. Over the two days that I read the book, I watched online arguments erupt and devolve into hatred among strangers over stories about a group of Muslims using a community room at a local rec center for a religious observation and about whether a 37-weeks-gestation body found in a garbage can should be called a “fetus” or a “baby.” (I digress a little but only to show the relevance of Weiseth’s work.) It is situations like those–and so many more–that call for stories. That urge us to know people for who they are not what we think they are or should be. Weiseth calls us to ask questions, to listen, and to tell our stories in an exchange of humanity. She writes,

This book is a call to do just that– to change the game by telling the stories of our lives with courage, honesty, and integrity. It’s a call to acknowledge that each of our stories is a small piece of the greatest story–God’s continual work and transforming power in our lives.  (24)

One of my favorite features of the book is the reprinted blog posts at the end of each chapter illustrating how a specific story changes the way we see a particular issue or stereotype. I love that Weiseth shared her book space with other writers to add another layer to the work. And though she has written a book and lives in Salt Lake City as part of a church plant, Weiseth is also a mother to two young children and immersed in the daily routines of life and family. She insists that our lives don’t have to look like a Hollywood movie to matter.

Most people are living life by daily fulfilling the obligations set before them. … And though you  may be living what seems like an ordinary life, faithfully doing what God has placed in front of you to do means you are actually living an extraordinary story. (183)

Not a book just for those who communicate for a living but one for anyone striving to live a life that brings more of the Kingdom of God to earth. Our stories, our journeys, our trials and triumphs, matter. And, as Weiseth says, they can be the catalyst for change in someone else’s life.

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