Prayers for a Hurting World at Do Not Depart

Praying about a Hurting World and Modern Day Slavery

This month at Do Not Depart, we’re looking at ways we can pray for various hurts our world is enduring right now.

I’m at Do Not Depart today raising awareness about modern day slavery, three big ways we can pray, and lots of links to ideas on how we can act today and organizations doing big work to eradicate modern day slavery.

Please join me at Do Not Depart, share your ideas, and join us in praying today.

Prayers for a Hurting World at Do Not Depart

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Book Review – Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Standing between Stephanie and her dream is one hundred pounds of lovable trouble.

It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink: Meet up with Agnes Wharton in a small town in California, retrieve the reclusive author’s valuable new manuscript, and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent.

But Agnes’s canine companion, Sweetness, decides to make a break for it before Stephanie can claim her prize. Until Agnes has Sweetness safely back at home in Eagle Cliff, Washington, Stephanie will never set eyes on the manuscript she needs to make her dreams come true.

When Stephanie tracks the runaway mutt to a campground, she meets Rhett Hastings—a man also on the run from a different life and a costly mistake. Rhett agrees to help Stephanie search for the missing dog . . . thus launching a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.

Once Sweetness gets added to the mix, it’s a recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest.

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed the first in the author’s Love Unleashed series, Sit, Stay, Love, and loved the book’s well-written, realistic characters and fun action, and I’m glad to say Fetching Sweetness continues that trend.

In Fetching Sweetness, the author begins with ample action and pumps up the conflict right away. Unlike the first book in the series, it took me a little bit longer to relate to Stephanie, one of the main characters. She’s a bit unlikable at first, but we need to see this ‘beginning’ point in her to witness the change that occurs as the journey progresses.

As with the first book, the dialogue in this book is overall very realistic, fun, quick-paced, and interesting. All of the characters (even side characters) have faults (helping them be realistic and relatable, too), and this book focuses a lot on doubts, past hurts, not knowing the future, and trying to trust and grow. Genuine, non-hokey faith conversations are so hard to write in fiction, and this author does a fairly decent job of these conversations throughout, though there were a few spots that seemed a touch unrealistic coming from the characters as they were presented.

This author incorporates other unique analogies throughout that add to the quality of writing, and as a writer, I enjoyed several of the writing and reading analogies used. The dogs involved become some of the most dynamic side characters and increase the reading enjoyment. The ending wraps up a bit too quickly and almost-perfectly, but it’s still a sweet, enjoyable ending to another fun fiction read.

“That’s why people love novels. Fiction tosses up the truth about life that we’re too blind or preoccupied to see.” – p. 178, Fetching Sweetness

To read more about the book, the author, and check out other reviews, check out the Litfuse page here.

You can also enter Fetching Sweetness prize pack at the Litfuse site between now and August 24th for a chance to win a copy of this book and other fun prizes!

Fetching Sweetness Dana Mentink

Since this is a theme of this book, How have you learned about God through failure? Share in the comments below.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Book Review – The Things We Knew by Catherine West

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the Book (from the publisher):

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

My Thoughts:

This novel deals with very important topics and themes, like trust, truth, forgiveness, redemption (especially in choosing to turn back, which is great to focus on), and healing. The book’s plot moves steadily, sometimes driven by action, sometimes by dialogue. I also appreciated that each of the siblings has a different personality, with different issues and reactions to the stress impacting themselves and their family.

A few stylistic writing choices bogged down the writing for me. Many of the sentences started incompletely (ie: “Didn’t want to…” instead of “She didn’t want to..”) for many of the characters. I don’t mind that technique used sparingly, but too much narration for too many of the characters used this style. I feel like if it had been used with just one character rather than all, it could be a voice choice that wouldn’t slow down reading. Flashbacks are used quite frequently to convey knowledge. (Some readers will be fine with this; some readers might not like it as much.)

I also felt the dialogue had some inconsistencies where a character would say one thing (about another or in reaction to), yet the scene right before or after would show something different, and readers were to believe both. The dialogue was stilted at times (particularly the romance and the faith-focused conversations). It’s really hard to write natural dialogue, especially when also trying to insert faith conversations that feel honest and true, and this is very subjective. For me, personally, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. There’s some discussion on hope that falls a little flat, as well, particularly because much of the book carries such a melancholy tone (which feels appropriate for much of what the characters are feeling).

What readers might get most out of this book is that each person deals with conflict and obstacles differently, and the quicker we look to each other and truly see each other, the better we can help one another.

What novel about families has impacted you recently?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

STUFF. It’s everywhere. Lurking in corners and closets, spilling onto counters and coffee tables, creating havoc everywhere we look. And it’s not just the physical clutter that weighs us down. Oh no, it is the stress of overbooked schedules, and the weight of life that sometimes feels oppressive and totally out of whack.

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup feels your pain–she has been there too. Through personal stories, Biblical truth, and practical action plans, she will inspire and empower each of us to finally declutter not just our home, but our mind and soul as well. Unstuffed is real, honest, and gets right down to the question we are all facing–how can we take back our lives from the stuff that is weighing us down?

In this book, together we will:
• Create a comprehensive vision for our homes, and make instant changes to improve its overall function.
• Discover that more closet space is not the solution, and instead learn how to set strict limits for the stuff we bring in.
• Overcome the frustration of dealing with our kids’ influx of stuff and implement practical solutions for keeping the chaos at bay.
• Recognize the pitfalls of an overstuffed schedule BEFORE it gets out of hand, and instead learn to combat the culture of busy that keeps us running from one thing to the next.
• Finally conquer that mountain of paperwork that threatens to tumble down around us at any moment.
• Let go of the guilt that gets attached to gifts and instead learn to separate our loved ones from their stuff.
• Begin to cultivate our real friendships while eliminating the toxic relationships that weigh us down.

My thoughts:

The author blends practical with inspirational in a fairly well-rounded (for the intended audience) book in Unstuffed.

When picking up this book, it’s important to realize from the start that the book will not focus solely on decluttering physical possessions. Thankfully, the subtitle conveys this right away: “Decluttering your home, mind, and soul.” The book is organized into three main sections (Home, Mind, and Soul), with three chapters in each section tackling different components, like living areas, storage, kids, schedule, paperwork, gifts, and soul aspects of living (friends, wellness, and spiritual). The author uses both personal anecdotes along with practical step-by-step lists to offer what she’s learned and researched about decluttering our lives – physically and mentally. She incorporates a few faith-based statements throughout, but especially focuses on spiritual ‘decluttering’ and focus in the very last chapter.

A few aspects to consider: This book will be most helpful to its intended audience, which is first world, middle class with an overabundance of material stuff and crowded schedules. If outside of that group, this book will either be not useful, or possibly frustrating. However, considered within the intended audience, she begins with the physical stuff because many readers feel like that can help them gain some sanity if they’re in a position many middle class Americans are with too much all around.

The practical tips begin right away (on page 17), and her ideas will likely help much of her intended audience. If readers have researched decluttering techniques at all, many of her tips will have been heard or read before, but can still serve as good reminders. Perhaps more helpful is how she includes examples of applying those tips before or after each such numbered list of tips. The second section of the book is perhaps more useful because it deals with the why of decluttering (and why we get so cluttered in the first place), which allows readers to reflect and look at ways to change (and ways to accept grace). I particularly appreciated her thoughts on balance.

"We want to believe we can create balance. But balance comes from rest." - Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

There is also a DVD study available to accompany this book, as well as an app and website with access to many of the resources discussed in the book.

What books or articles have helped you refocus on what matters?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Jesus as High Priest (study on Hebrews 4:14-5:14 at DoNotDepart.com)

A High Priest of Encouragement

This month at Do Not Depart, we’re studying Hebrews 4:14-5:14 and learning about what Jesus as High Priest means to our walk in faith.

Today, I’m writing about Hebrews 5:7-10 and what spiritual resources are available because Jesus is our forever High Priest.

Join me today and share what you’re learning through these verses, and please check out the rest of posts from this month.

Jesus as High Priest (study on Hebrews 4:14-5:14 at DoNotDepart.com)