Sunday, January 27, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "It's Not Supposed to Be This Way" by Lysa Terkeurst

Book Summary (Amazon): What do you do when God’s timing seems questionable, His lack of intervention hurtful, and His promises doubtful?
Life often looks so very different than we hoped or expected. Some events may simply catch us off guard for a moment, but others shatter us completely. We feel disappointed and disillusioned, and we quietly start to wonder about the reality of God’s goodness.
Lysa TerKeurst understands this deeply. But she's also discovered that our disappointments can be the divine appointments our souls need to radically encounter God. In It's Not Supposed to Be This Way, Lysa invites us into her own journey of faith and, with grit, vulnerability, and honest humor, helps us to:
  • Stop being pulled into the anxiety of disappointment by discovering how to better process unmet expectations and other painful situations.
  • Train ourselves to recognize the three strategies of the enemy so we can stand strong and persevere through unsettling relationships and uncertain outcomes.
  • Discover the secret of being steadfast and not panicking when God actually does give us more than we can handle.
  • Shift our suspicion that God is cruel or unfair to the biblical assurance that God is protecting and preparing us.
  • Know how to encourage a friend and help her navigate hard realities with real help from God's truth.
My thoughts... The tagline of this novel couldn't be more relevant to myself or my family. We've been through a lot of difficult circumstances: cancer, loss of loved ones, financial debt, difficult job situations, isolation, depression, sadness, fear....and the list goes on. Sometimes it's hard not to feel like we live in a never ending survival mode. There are so many truths presented in this amazing book, I couldn't begin to unpack them all in a short summary. I literally felt like it was so personal, and I know other readers will as well. Lysa's compassion, honesty, hope, and trust in God really reached across the pages right into my heart...because she's not just giving us her word that everything is going to be ok. She's using her heart-wrenching experiences to share God's Word and His promises.
     In one chapter Lysa talks about a physically painful situation she went through. For several days she begged God to relieve the physical pain she was experiencing. She didn't understand why God was not giving her relief from her suffering. Later, after doctors discovered the problem and did surgery, her surgeon came and spoke with her. Basically he said that Lysa's survival was a miracle, as her body had already started to decay on the inside. The truth God revealed to her through that situation was that if He had answered her prayer for relief, she would've given up trying to find the solution to her issue. She would've died thinking that the problem was solved, when in fact it was killing her. God uses our pain, our suffering, for our good. We may not always know the reason at the time, but with time we will see that He truly does "work all things for the good of those who love Him."
     Lysa has an amazing testimony, and she openly shares it with her readers as an encouragement through the very difficult circumstances of life. I'm recommending it to everyone I know...because I think we've all whispered the words, "it's not supposed to be this way" in our hearts in one season or another. 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "With This Pledge" by Tamera Alexander

Book Summary...Elizabeth "Lizzie" Clouston's quietly held principles oppose those of the Southern Cause--but when forty thousand soldiers converge on the fields of Franklin, Tennessee, the war demands an answer. The Carnton home, where she is governess, is converted into a Confederate hospital, and Lizzie is called upon to assist the military doctor with surgeries that determine life or death. Faced with the unimaginable, she must summon fortitude, even as she fears for the life of Towny, her fiancĂ© and lifelong friend.
As a young soldier lies dying in Lizzie's arms, she vows to relay his final words to his mother, but knows little more than the boy's first name. That same night, decorated Mississippi sharpshooter Captain Roland Ward Jones extracts a different promise from Lizzie: that she intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate his leg.
Lizzie is nothing if not a woman of her word, earning the soldiers' respect as she tends to the wounded within Carnton's walls. None is more admiring than Captain Jones, who doesn't realize she is pledged to another. But as Lizzie's heart softens toward the Confederate captain, she discovers his moral ground is at odds with her own. Now torn between love, principles, and pledges made, she struggles to be true to her own heart while standing for what she knows is right--no matter the cost.

My thoughts...Our family travels to Nashville,TN around twice a year and last summer I had the privilege to take a tour of the Carnton home. I was fascinated by the history and the grounds of this beautiful historic landmark. As I read With This Pledge, I was thrilled with the way that Tamera Alexander wove so much of the history into the novel. It is obvious that she has done extensive research, including side stories that actually took place within the walls of Carnton. All of the characters, even the fictional ones, came to life through her expert storytelling. I had a hard time putting the book down!
     Lizzie and Roland's story was one of my favorites by this author! I loved the chemistry that was created between these two that began with the first few pages of the book. Lizzie's compassion for those in need complemented Roland's physical and emotional vulnerability. I also appreciated the way that the author addressed the varying perspectives of those living in the North and South at the time of the Civil War. It was an honest portrayal of the prejudices and struggles of both sides of the battle, and ultimately showed how God can bring clarity to the heart and mind, even in very difficult circumstances.
     I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would also recommend the novella, Christmas at Carnton, written by the same author.

*I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.*


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Bound Heart" by Laura Frantz

Book Summary (Amazon): Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning--together.

My thoughts... The first time I saw the cover of this novel I was drawn in. What a beautiful image of the main character, Lark, and the place where this epic tale begins. I can picture in my mind the cliff's edge where Lark lived with her Granny on the Isle of Kerrera in Scotland. It definitely makes me wish I could go there myself. The amazing amount of detail put into this novel breathes life into its characters and settings as we are taken on a journey that begins in Scotland, moves on board a ship to colonial Virginia, and even to the Caribbean Islands. The sights, sounds and smells come alive and create a feast for the senses. 
The novel definitely stays true to its genre of historical Christian fiction, including the Christian faith of the characters (without being "preachy"). The hardships of life in Scotland and the reality of how lives can be turned upside down because of deception and bribery are not sugar coated. Even as they were forced upon a ship bound for America, Lark and Magnus came face to face with human depravity. The horrors of slavery and life on a colonial plantation, as well as a sugar plantation in the Caribbean Islands, were written realistically, but not in overwhelming graphic detail. While there was much hardship, the strong bond between many of the characters offered support, care, and the will to press on. In several instances, Lark was approached by men who wanted to court her, and accepting them could've made her life easier. In each situation, Lark sought God's guidance and made sure that whoever she accepted would share her faith. I also loved the bond between Magnus and Lark. They grew up together on the Isle of Kerrera, and developed a dedicated friendship in their early years. That deep friendship continued throughout the novel, as they both wanted what was best for the other, which is a true depiction of Biblical love. You will delight in the journey you'll take with Lark and Magnus! Devotion, faith, endurance, and love are all beautifully depicted in this novel. I highly recommend it!

Personal takeaway...We can trust God with our deepest fears, greatest losses, and need for love. He is faithful to walk with us through all of these.

I LOVE this fun cookie cutter and recipe that came with my copy of A Bound Heart! Can't wait to try it out! 

**I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinion, which I did.**