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Archive for the ‘The Weekly Read’ Category

stripperRequesting a book with a title like this, How to Pick Up a Stripper, is a bit risky. First, your first-grader will try to read the title out loud and you’ll worry that she’ll ask what a “stripper” is and you’ll have to start an uncomfortable conversation. Second, you won’t want to read it in public lest someone get the wrong idea. And third, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the content is way more practical than the gimmicky title might suggest. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Booklook Bloggers program in exchange for my review.)

Though Todd Stevens’ wife, Erin, did start a ministry to show kindness to women working in a nearby strip club, the book is less about that particular effort and more about how showing kindness can go a long way in reaching people with the good news of Jesus.

Todd Stevens is the pastor of Nashville’s Friendship Community Church, a group of people who are committed to giving more to their community than they take and showing people God’s love on a daily basis, without strings attached. Their efforts include hosting an Easter Egg hunt for the city, and a separate one a week earlier for parents of special needs children that is just as fun and amazing as the other one; buying lunch for the person behind them in line; catering a meal for the employees of a strip club; and stopping to help stranded motorists. They’ve created a church culture that seeks ways to help people outside of the church walls, for no other reason than to show God’s love. Often those acts of kindness lead people to the church, but it’s not the goal.

It’s such a refreshing approach to outreach, and I found myself, while reading the book, becoming more aware of needs around me. Particularly convicting was Stevens’ commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan. These words were so convicting, I had to tweet them, mostly so I’d remember it for myself later.

I think that’s my biggest takeaway from this book. That if I’m busy and overcommitted and in a hurry to get from one place to the next, I’ll miss chances to show people kindness in the name of God. And I’m beginning to believe that unless people see more radical acts of kindness from Christians, they won’t listen to any of our words proclaiming good news.

How to Pick Up a Stripper is not a guidebook  with steps to follow about how to start a particular outreach. Instead, it’s a book full of compelling stories about how kindness has changed people’s lives. Add it to your list of must-read books about evangelism. And be ready for questions and strange looks if you take the book out in public.

But maybe that’s the first step in doing something out of the ordinary.

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When MaryLu Tyndall writes a book, you should read it.

When she writes a mermaid story, you should put it at the top of your to-read list.

Tyndall, who is known for historical fiction involving pirates and ships and islands and tropical locations, has ventured into new territory with her latest release, Tears of the Sea. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

First, can we just pause and admire this book cover?

tears of the seaI’m learning to love and appreciate the work that goes into a good book cover, and this one is stunning.

So, the story. Perdita lives a cursed life roaming the ancient seas as a mermaid and for 300 years she has sought to break the curse. Every 10 years, she is given one month on land as a human to find a man willing to die for her. Her heart aches for release and all her efforts thus far have been for nothing. Savion Ryne is a defender of his father’s kingdom and sails to overturn Natas’ rebellion. When he falls off his ship during a storm, Perdita is there to rescue him, though he doesn’t know it. As her time on land approaches, Perdita thinks Savion could be the one to free her, but he resists all her charms. And as the month comes to an end, Perdita will face her toughest choice yet.

Everything I love about Tyndall’s previous stories is present in this one. Characters with strong traits. A plot that never gets dull. Conflict. Tough choices. Highs and lows. (And if you’re a fan of The Little Mermaid, you’ll find some similarities at the start. But this is not a retelling of any story I’m aware of.)

You can read this as just another entertaining story, or you can seek the deeper story Tyndall intends. This is not just a mermaid story but an illustration of eternal love and redemption.

I was eagerly awaiting this story, and I read it in a day. I’d gladly read it again and again.

Tears of the Sea is as beautiful on the pages as it is on the cover. Cozy up with this story as the days get cold. It’ll warm you from the inside out.

 

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I never used to be a person who jumped at the chance to read a Ted Dekker book, but when I read a book of his earlier this year, my heart was changed, and I am a new fan. His latest book, A.D. 30 is not the sort of book I would expect from Dekker, who is known for more thriller borderline horror types of stories, but it is one of the best biblical fiction books I have read. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

AD30-211x300This story of Maviah, the outcast daughter of a Bedouin ruler, is epic. And I mean that in the literary sense. Maviah is an unlikely hero sent to deliver a message to save her people. But along the way, she is diverted from her mission, which proves as dangerous as she imagined. But on this journey, she also encounters Yeshua, and her world tilts again.

I could not stop reading this story. It lives up to my standards for biblical fiction–of bringing familiar characters to life and engaging my imagination for life in biblical times.

My only complaint is that I did not realize this book would be continued in a sequel, A.D. 33, so I was not prepared for the end. It comes to a conclusion, yes, but not in the sense that the story is over. I am completely hooked to the plot and characters and will eagerly await the next installment of the story.

I am fascinated by Dekker’s ability to write in first-person from a female character’s perspective. But it’s believable and captivating. I could read this book again and again just to savor the sentences and story flow.

An unexpected but marvelous story from Dekker. If you’re like me and have never given his books a chance, change that with this book.

Also, Maviah’s story was not the only hook. Dekker’s explanation for how this story came about hit on where I’m at with my spiritual journey. And the story backs that up.

Check out the trailer below. And find out more about the author here.

Have you read any Ted Dekker books? What ones would you recommend?

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I am unashamedly in love with England. I’m not sure if the love preceded the college semester I lived there or if that semester only intensified my feelings, but pictures, shows and stories of England leave me with a longing like it’s home.

willowgroveUntil I save up a whole lot of dollars, books are my substitute for travel and Sarah Ladd’s Whispers on the Moors series is a ticket to England without leaving home.

The third in the series, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, has been my favorite so far. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my review. And to read about the two previous books in the series, check out my reviews of The Heiress of Winterwood and The Headmistress of Rosemere.)

In this story, Cecily Faire is taken from her home as punishment for indiscreet behavior, and after being educated at Rosemere, she accepts a position as lady’s companion to a dying woman at Willowgrove Hall. There, she is confronted by her past as she tries to start anew. Nathaniel Stanton, steward of Willowgrove Hall, carries secrets and awaits the day he can be free from his position. Cecily and Nathaniel must decide if their respective pasts will keep them from a future together.

Ladd creates such likable characters in a charming setting, and I wanted so badly the best for each of these characters. (I also wanted to buy a plane ticket and tour the moors of England!)

A cup of tea, a rainy day, even some cold winter nights would be the perfect companions for these stories. And if you’re waiting for the return of Downton Abbey, these are a happy distraction until January.

This series has gotten better with each story, and I’m looking forward to the next series of stories from Ladd.

For thefull scoop on the book’s release and to read other reviews, click here. Read on for more about the author and a fun giveaway she’s hosting for the book’s release!

About the author: 
laddSarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing.The Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.
Find Sarah online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Award-winning author Sarah E. Ladd examines how to escape the clutches of a tainted past in the final installment of her Whispers on the Moor series. A Regency-era novel, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall cleverly shows that even though our pasts may be shameful or painful, God can take the darkest personal histories and turn them into the brightest futures.

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Celebrate with Sarah by entering her Kindle HDX giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 2nd. Winner will be announced November 3rd here.

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rare birdRare Bird is the kind of book I usually try to avoid. Books are an escape for me, and stories of tragedy are ones I don’t often want to consider because they’re just too hard to read.

How incredibly selfish of me. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program.)

While I wish no one ever needed to read this kind of book much less write it, I’m so grateful that Anna Whiston-Donaldson poured out her grief journey on the pages of this book. Losing her son Jack at 12 years old in a freak neighborhood accident–unthinkable. I related to her thoughts about doing enough right things to keep her family safe and feeling like a failure when it wasn’t enough. Whiston-Donaldson is real and raw about the stages of grief, about unexpected losses of friendship after a tragedy, and how hard it can be to go on. And yet, her story is inspiring. It does not gloss over the reality of pain and suffering, but it doesn’t leave it as hopeless either.

This book made me cry real tears for a boy I never knew. I laughed at family stories so vivid I felt like I was there. And I felt the edges of terror creep into my soul as the depths of grief sought to overtake this family. A couple of times I even uttered, “no way,” at the visions, dreams and messages she received about Jack after his death. (I am not one to quickly believe in messages from beyond, but I also haven’t experienced that kind of loss yet, so what do I know?)

Rare Bird is a beautiful story. And a terrible one. And I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like it. You don’t have to have experienced loss to read this book but if you have had a loss like hers, it’s a must read. Whiston-Donaldson’s words are tender and poetic at the same time they’re jarring and harsh. It’s a glimpse into grief that few of us see firsthand.

A word of caution to those sensitive to language: Whiston-Donaldson uses words that some people might find offensive. But in the context of grief and loss, they are entirely appropriate.

An unforgettable memoir about an unimaginable tragedy and an incomprehensible faith that sustains.

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It’s quite a feat to write an Amish novel that doesn’t read like your typical Amish novel but Elizabeth Byler Younts has done it and I couldn’t put this book down. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my review.)

promise to cherishThe story takes place during World War II, when Eli, an Amish man is sent to work in a camp as a conscientious objector and is later transferred to the Hudson River State Hospital to assist the nurses in caring for those with disabilities. There, he meets Christine, a nurse, and though they aren’t friendly at first, their common work brings them together. When Christine faces trouble she can’t escape, Eli offers her refuge in his Amish community. But their friendship brings more trouble and invites a visit from Christine’s past that almost destroys their relationship.

Yes, it’s partially set in an Amish community. Yes, it’s a romance. But the story was so well-written and so captivating that I forgot it was an Amish book. That is what I love about Younts’ stories. They draw on her Amish history and experiences but they are not the typical worn-out stories like some in the genre.

I look forward to more of Younts’ work and appreciate the blend of family history and American history she takes in this series. A great follow-up to her debut novel, Promise to Return. Though they’re part of a series, you don’t necessarily have to read them in order. I actually liked this second book better than the first (and that’s no insult to the first book!)

If you’re less than thrilled with the Amish fiction offerings out there, then I recommend this book. I read every Beverly Lewis book I could get my hands on when we first moved to Amish country but quickly grew bored. That’s not a problem for me with Younts’ books.

Visit the author’s website to learn more about her and her Amish heritage.

What do you like or not like about Amish fiction?

If you’ve never read it, would you ever consider it?

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The-Mason-Jar-cover-e1412111942122I just don’t know what to think about this book. It had a lot of potential, but I didn’t feel it lived up to it. The premise was interesting, but there were some major flaws in the writing. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

I was confused about some scenes and dialogue exchanges where the person I thought was talking wasn’t the person talking. There was a lot of backstory dumping where readers are given loads of information about what happened in the past. And in the early chapters, the lead character is informed that the book her ex-boyfriend wrote is about her except he changed her name, but we have no evidence of a name change. She is called “Eden” throughout the story. And on the back cover, she’s called Savannah, but I never saw that name in the book.

The author compares the story to a Nicholas Sparks tale. I’ve not read any Sparks; I’ve only seen The Notebook. And the only real comparison I saw was the inclusion of a scene between the two leads that takes place in a downpour. From what I know of Sparks, this is classic.

I just couldn’t get into the story. I cared just enough to see how it turned out. And the cover is gorgeous, which is really the highlight for me. I’m sorry I didn’t like it more. I think it could have been great, but for me, it fell way, way short.

Read on for the official launch celebration information.

James Russell Lingerfelt‘s debut novel, The Mason Jar, is hot-off-the-press and causing quite the buzz. It’s even been optioned for a feature film and is in pre-production.

Catch the spark by entering James’ Kindle Fire giveaway!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Mason Jar by James Russell Lingerfelt

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 19th. Winner will be announced October 20th at James Russell’s blog, Love Story from the Male Perspective.

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