She’s Still There by Chrystal Evans Hurst

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Shes still there

 

Just a few weeks ago one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Ann Voscamp, featured an excerpt from author Chrystal Evans Hurst new book She’s Still There.  After reading it, I knew this was a book I had to have.  She’s Still There is for any woman who can’t seem to find the girl she use to be. The girl with big dreams, ideas, and plans for her life. And as Chrystal would say, She’s Still There. 

First let me say, Chrystal is hilarious. I found myself laughing so many times while reading this book. Especially at her reference to the #fatdemon.  My favorite chapter in this book is one titled Precious Cargo: Carry Your Contents Carefully.  Chrystal tells the story of falling asleep at the wheel at a red light in her town. (This story is unbelievably funny to me because it sounds like something I would do.) Many passers-by call the police concerned about a woman who has either passed out, or is dead sitting at a red light in her car. When the police come…and wake her up, the officer reminds Chrystal that she is carrying precious cargo. You see, her husband and kids are asleep in the car as well. Chrystal then gently reminds us that we are carrying precious cargo as well. We are here to do a job. God loves us and we have value.

I think the real beauty in this book lies in the honesty and vulnerability of Hurst’s own story. She was willing to share and be real. Because of that, it is easy to relate to her. Further, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother who has lived some life. I always appreciate learning from someone who has actual life experience! I highly recommend this book to any woman, in any walk of life, who needs a bit of encouragement. I requested a copy to review from BookLookBloggers. I was not required to give a positive review.

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

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to wager her heart

 

Tamera Alexander is by far one of the best story tellers in historical fiction. Her attention to detail, realistic characters, and ability to convey genuine emotion make every novel she pens one that I will read over and over again. To Wager Her Heart is no exception. Like the two books that precede it, To Whisper Her Name and To Win Her Favor, I was captivated from the first chapter. I quickly became invested in the story of Alexandra Jamison and Sylas Rutledge.

Alexandra Jamison is a young woman who has known tragedy and loss. Looking for purpose, Alexandra takes on a teaching position at Fisk University and loses what is left of her family. She meets an undignified Sylas Rutledge who becomes an important friend despite her first impressions. I love the way this story unfolds! I so appreciate the way the relationship between Alexandra and Sylas develops.  I also enjoyed the history Tamera Alexander included regarding Fisk University and the Jubilee Singers. There is a moment in the beginning of the novel where Alexandra mistakes a generous colleague for a maid.  It was in that part of the story, that I began to appreciate how well Tamera Alexander creates flawed characters that we can fall in love with! I was literally embarrassed for the main character…I felt what she felt. This is the mark of a great novel.

If you love historical fiction, To Wager Her Heart is a must read!  I am admittedly a huge Tamera Alexander fan and I am always aware of when she has a new release coming out. I have read every single novel she has written and they are all fantastic. However, I must say, the Belle Meade Plantation Novels have been my favorite. You do not have to read them in sequential order as they easily stand alone. But you should definitely read the entire series! I was given an Advanced Reader’s Copy by the publisher. I was not required to give a positive review. ( I would have purchased this book anyway…it was on my MUST READ list.)

Book Review: Heart on the Line

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Heart on the line

 

I never miss a new Karen Witemeyer novel! I really enjoy the way she writes historical fiction. Heart on the Line is another well written story by one of my favorite authors. It contains all the essentials for a good read: a strong woman, a hero in the making, and a few twists and turns to keep things interesting.

Heart on the Line is the second full novel in the Ladies of Harper’s Station series. This story continues the story line of the women who have come to call Harper’s Station home. These ladies have created a community where women live independently and provide for themselves. They own stores, run the school, and farm all on their own. Grace Mallory is the town telegraph operator who came to Harper’s Station after witnessing her father’s murder. She has made this town her home, but longs to stop looking over her shoulder. Grace meets another telegraph operator who shows up to help just in time.

There are some really interesting twists in this fun story.  I found the love story in this book refreshing. Grace’s love interest isn’t a perfectly handsome and wealthyman in a tailored suit.  Heart on the Line makes for great summer reading and should definitely make your short list. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by its publisher. I was not required to give it a positive review. All opinions are my own and I have not been compensated. To find more books by Karen Witemeyer check out her website at KarenWitemeyer.com.

Fantastic Retelling of Sense and Sensibility!

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Jane of Austen

 

This my friends is a Jane Austen retelling done well! One of my all time favorite Jane Austen novels is Sense and Sensibility.   Jane of Austin is a funny, interesting, and lovely rewrite by author Hillary Manton Lodge. Lodge does a masterful job weaving in the original story to her current day rendition. It is was so fun to catch all the moments that were from the original.  I think the best thing about this book, is that while it echoes the Jane Austen original, it has its own authentic wonderfulness.

I think sometimes when authors attempt to do a retelling, it goes south fast because they either missed what was great in the original, or they fail to make it their own in fear of butchering a classic.   Jane of Austin is none of the above. Author Hillary Manton Lodge tells the story of three sisters who lose everything and must leave their family home in San Francisco. Celia, Jane, and Margot Woodward move to Austin when a kind but exuberant relative offers them housing and a chance to start over.  In Austin, Jane meets the oh so handsome Sean Willis (see John Willoughby) who whisks her off her feet. We all know where relationships with a John Willoughby will take you. Even though I knew what was coming, I read late into the night just to be certain.

I really do hope that this novel makes its way into becoming a movie. I loved it and I can’t wait to pass my copy to a fellow Jane Austen enthusiast. I received a complimentary copy of this book from BloggingforBooks. I was not required to give a positive review and I have not been compensated in any way.

About the Author

Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship at Northwest Palate magazine. A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and exploring new walking trails. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon.

Uncommon Summer Reading

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My gracious I love this new book by author Carey Scott! I love it because it challenges me everyday to live differently, to choose to live Uncommon. This book is a standout from the  white noise that can be Christian Living books. It is the perfect summer read for a mental reset and a refocusing of life in all areas. I highly recommend this book to any woman who feels like she is stuck and desperate for some encouragement.

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Uncommon addresses many of the real struggles women face everyday: forgiveness, kindness, leadership, and courage. No matter where you are in your walk with God, there is something in this book for you. Author Carey Scott spends each chapter encouraging us to live uncommon. To be generous, forgiving, loving, kind and to have faith to name just a few of the topics she covers in this book. In each chapter you will find her personal reflection, stories from the Bible, scripture, a personal challenge, and a prayer.  I couldn’t have stumbled upon a better daily quiet time guide. It isn’t a Bible study, but you certainly could use it as one.

“No matter the mistakes you’ve made, the bridges you’ve burned, the moral failures you’ve committed, the painful words you’ve spewed, the hurtful things you have done… no matter your fears and insecurities, no matter your long list of excuses… with Jesus, you have all you need to be uncommon.”
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I first stumbled upon author Carey Scott on her blog, careyscott.org. I have always found her writing to be so practical and challenging. This new book releases in July, but it can be preordered now! You should check it out! Because I already knew and was confident in Carey Scott I requested an advanced copy of this book.  I was so excited to read it! I am so glad I did! I was not required to give this book a positive review and I was not compensated in any way.

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This post was inspired by the book Uncommon: Living a Life or Purpose and Pursuit by Carey Scott. Preorder and submit your receipt details at http://careyscott.org/uncommon/ by June 3oth to receive a PDF download of the Uncommon Companion Study Guide, exclusive access to Carey’s “Diving Deeper” video series and 5” x 7” printable of 10 Ways to Live Uncommon.

An Eater’s Guide Across America

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My husband and I are attempting to travel all fifty states with our two boys before they graduate from high school. As they are still young, we have plenty of time, but so far we have made impressive progress! We live on the East Coast and have driven to California and back on a crazy six-week National Park Extravaganza! Oh how I wish I had this book on that trip!! Road Food is an incredible resource for finding the local favorites all across the States. This fall we are taking a two-week New England trip and I am so excited to try some of the hidden gems in this 10th edition of Road Food. 

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In September, we will be traveling to Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts in a two-week sprint to experience New England. I am excited to discover all of the great eateries listed in this book!  Road Food  is divided up regionally which is incredibly helpful. Most of the places listed are in towns that you might pass through while traveling on interstates. The listings include well visited towns and cities. For instance, I am from Knoxville, but most of the restaurants listed in Tennessee are in Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga. The establishment listed for Knoxville is Litton’s, which is a fantastic hamburger joint. It truly is a fantastic place to eat! I used their listing of Litton’s as a barometer of what the author’s recommendations might look like.

Currently, we live in Virginia and I also approve of the listings for our local area. Goolrick’s Pharmacy in Fredericksburg is a really neat place to grab a milkshake at the counter of an old-fashioned pharmacy you will likely not find anywhere else. Also listed is the Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville where I have personally eaten numerous times. The parking lot is almost always full, but the line is worth it. They make their own pickles and even have a fun selection of homestyle desserts.

I am so excited to get on the road and start our New England adventure. Road Food will stay in the car so we always know where to eat! This truly is an incredible resource! I love it! I was given a complimentary copy of this book by BloogingforBooks. I was not required to give it a positive review. All opinions are my own and I have not been compensated.

 

Lovely Summer Read!

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Sweet Magnolias

After reading Celeste Fletcher McHale’s debut novel, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake,  I have been anxiously awaiting her next novel. If you have not read The Secret to Hummingbird Cake, you must! I recommended it to more friends last year than I can remember. This new novel by McHale is also a page turner and an excellent choice for summer reading.

I love the use and reference to the magnolia in this novel. The central character in this book, Jacey, is both strong and soft, much like the magnolia. Jacey suffered PTSD from an experience she had in the flood waters of the Mississippi.  She doesn’t want to remember the terrible day that her life was forever changed, but she also can’t forget.  Mostly, she can’t forget the man she spent three days with during the flood, Colin. They had an instant connection, but somehow in the turmoil of rescue, they lost one another. In this novel, Jacey and Colin try to find their way back to each other.

I enjoyed this book for its southern flair and interesting twists and turns.  Like any good book I read, I managed to finish in just a few late night binges. I didn’t love it quite as much as McHale’s first novel,  but I would definitely recommend it without hesitation. I would have loved a little more page time between Jacey and Colin. Other than that, this book is a must read! I was given a complimentary copy of this book by its publisher and BookLookBloggers.  I was not required to give this book a positive. review. I have not been compensated in any way and all opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Sacred Privilege

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Sacred Privilage

 

I knew I wanted to read this book the minute I saw the title and the author! Kay Warren is the wife of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church.  I hold Rick and Kay Warren in high esteem because of the way they live out their lives and the way they have served the Lord in their years of ministry. Reading Sacred Privilege was like sitting with Kay Warren over coffee and asking her all of my burning questions about her life as a pastor’s wife. Fourteen years ago I married a pastor and I always appreciate wise counsel from a woman who has walked the road I am on and done so with grace.

This book is for wives of pastors of all distinctions. Kay Warren does not just write for the lead pastor’s wife, but to all pastor’s wives.  She has amazing wisdom to share! I enjoyed the entire book, but I had a few take aways that I will remember forever.

  • From Chapter 2: My husbands most valuable resource in ministry is me. Above everything else, I am vital to his work in ministry and visa versa.
  • From Chapter 6: I should not be afraid to use my own live as an example. My own struggles are meant to encourage others.
  • From Chapter 7: I need to nourish my own inner life. Warren uses an illustration from High Call, High Privilege by Gail MacDonald in this chapter.  He says, “Untended fires soon die and become a pile of ashes.” How true this is!  I cannot be of help to anyone if I have allowed my own fire to go out.
  • From Chapter 7:  I would also like a coffee mug that says Easy Like Sunday Morning. 
  • From Chapter 9: I should live the same in my private life as I do my public life. So good!

 

There is so much good stuff in this book! The five take aways I listed are the ones that really stood out to me. I honestly could have listed ten more. If there is a pastor’s wife in your life, consider getting this book for her. It would make a lovely mother’s day gift! I was given my copy by the publisher. I am passing it on to another pastor’s wife because I think it is that well written. Sacred Privilege is easily five stars! Kay Warren, thank you for barring your soul for all of us pastor’s wives. We so appreciate the encouragement, wisdom, advice, and love you put into every chapter.

Grown-ups Like to Color

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Recently, my younger sister came to stay with me for a few days.  She brought a few coloring books and some fine tipped markers with her. Anytime there was quiet or we were sitting around watching a movie, she would color. My two boys quickly became interested and joined her.  There is something cathartic about coloring. I have to admit, I often wondered about people who found time to use a coloring book. However, I am finding that there is something to it!

I love this small, purse sized coloring journal. It has a lovely color, and is the perfect size to fit in your purse for a long wait, or a car ride. Each journal entry takes two pages, There is a scripture, prayer, and blank lines included for each entry.  Some entries are fully illustrated, others leave room for coloring.

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I think this journal would be perfect for anyone really, but specifically it would make a great Mother’s Day gift. I requested my copy with my sister in mind, but now I find that I would like to keep it for myself! It’s setup is ideal for a quick morning quiet time. Nothing intense, just a straight forward reminders to choose joy, be kind, not to worry, and to rest.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by its publisher. I was not required to give a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Adventure Awaits!

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We Stood Upon Stars

 

Two summers ago, my family of four set out on an adventure of a lifetime. We drove from Virginia to California and back on a mission to see as much of America’s preserved wilderness as possible. All together we visited 14 National Parks in a mere six weeks! It was an incredible trip that made us thirsty for more. Since then, we have found our way to two or there more National Parks on the East Coast. However, nothing quite gives you the goose bumps like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Arches and Zion.  Because of our trip, I felt a kinship with Roger W. Thompson, author of We Stood Upon Stars.  I knew I had to read this book, for no other reason but to feel like I had a friend who has the fever for adventure.

We Stood Upon Stars is a collection of essays about Thompson’s mostly west coast adventures. He writes about many of the places I have traveled in a light but meaningful way. I love his conversational style and random musings. I also love that he includes illustrations with tips and recommendations for those who might venture out. Once you have seen a giant Sequoia or walked through Yosemite Valley…you know the next thing you must do is go back and do it again.

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Thompson’s description of the Badlands is just how I remember them:  untamable, broken, and beautiful. While words could never describe Yosemite…Thompson does a much better job than I could ever do.  He says it feels like a fantasy…and it absolutely does. I feel like this book is for anyone who has experienced the amazingness that is the landscape of the United States…or for the person who has never seen any of it.  I loved reading it. If We Stood Upon Stars doesn’t make you want to get out and have an adventure, nothing will.  I received a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books. I was not required to give it a positive review. All opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ROGER W. THOMPSON is a successful entrepreneur, collaborator, adventurer, and writer. He’s spent his career building innovative businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition to creating the first mission tourism resort in Haiti with the Hands and Feet Project, he’s produced surf films, built skate parks, and outfitted adventure trips. Alongside his wife, he travels, surfs, snowboards, and fly-fishes—and is teaching his two young sons to do the same.