Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

Life is Messy and Wonderful {Book Review – Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker}

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, with playful hilarity, shameless honesty, and refreshing insight, assures readers they have all the pluck they need for vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives.

Jen Hatmaker believes backbone is the birthright of every woman. Women have been demonstrating resiliency and resolve since forever. They have incredibly strong shoulders to bear loss, hope, grief, and vision. She laughs at the days to come is how the ancient wisdom writings put it.

But somehow women have gotten the message that pain and failure mean they must be doing things wrong, that they messed up the rules or tricks for a seamless life. As it turns out, every last woman faces confusion and loss, missteps and catastrophic malfunctions, no matter how much she is doing “right.” Struggle doesn’t mean they’re weak; it means they’re alive.

Jen Hatmaker, beloved author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF, offers another round of hilarious tales, frank honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie. Whether discussing the grapple with change (“Everyone, be into this thing I’m into! Except when I’m not. Then everyone be cool.”) or the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”), Jen parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere who, like her, sometimes hide in the car eating crackers but also want to get back up and get back out, to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold.

My Thoughts:

This is a delightful and insightful read!

True to her trademark conversational style, Jen Hatmaker had me taking turns tearing up at thoughtful parts and laughing harder than I’ve laughed in ages at others (some of the how-to lists!) and promptly reading sections of both types out to my husband and calling my mom to read parts to her. This book is written specifically for women, but men can enjoy quite a bit as well (especially husbands who are also parents who love to laugh with their wives who may or may not spontaneously read sections of this book out loud).

This book doesn’t flow from one chapter to another building upon a central theme, necessarily. Instead, it’s more like a collection of short stories/anecdotes. This doesn’t necessarily diminish the reading experience, but it’s helpful to have that understanding from the start.

Jen is honest with her questions about parenting, about faith, about community, and honest about her love and gratitude for community and growth. I marked multiple quotes to return to when I need a thoughtful take as well as when I need a smile or hearty laugh. My most favorite chapters were ones focusing on parenting, faith, suffering, home, marriage, and creativity. (Chapters 5, 7, 10, 11, 22, and 23, if you’re curious.)

One of my favorite aspects of Jen Hatmaker’s writings is that she doesn’t think she knows all the theological answers out there and she’s clear on that. But she’s willing to have those tough conversations and figure out how to love people.

 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

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.

Run With Me by Sanya Richards-Ross (Zondervan, 2017)

Running the Race {Book Review – Run With Me by Sanya Richards-Ross}

Run With Me by Sanya Richards-Ross (Zondervan, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

Run With Me by Sanya Richards-Ross (Zondervan, 2017)

For as long as four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross can remember, life has been measured in seconds—the fewer, the better.

The Jamaican-American sprinter has been a star track and field athlete since she first began racing, ranking No. 1 in the world and bringing home Olympic and World Championship accolades. A role model for runners around the world, Sanya’s incredible success is matched only by her spirit both on and off the track.

From her early days running in Jamaica to her final race, Sanya shares the importance of determination, courage and faith. She uses the 4 Ps—push, pace, position and poise—a model created by her coach, Clyde Hart, to approach and tackle every obstacle. In her book, Sanya reveals how these strategies have helped her and will help kids learn how to run their best race in life.

Run with Me is Sanya’s story—her wins and her losses—chronicling her unique triumphs and trials with fame, family and faith. Written purposely for the 8-12 audience, this book will inspire kids to pursue their dreams at full speed.

Run With Me has a beautiful embossed cover.

My Thoughts:

Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross’s story is an inspiring one of perseverance and dedication to developing her God-given gifts in running. Split into four main sections of her training plan and life plan–push, pace, position, and poise–we follow her journey from beginning to race at age seven in Jamaica to her Olympic experiences for Team USA.

This book is easy to read and accessible for a range of ages. It’s written mainly to middle grade and young adult readers, and is a fast read. The chapters are short, allowing readers to pick up the book frequently even if they only have a few minutes to read at a time. Each chapter contains a sidebox with an extra story or anecdote, and each ends with a summary thought connecting Sanya’s life experiences to her faith. While the language itself can easily be read by upper elementary students, middle schoolers might benefit a bit more from the discussion of dedication to craft and life planning.

Much of the faith tie-ins and life lessons are simple, but a few in particular stuck out to me, particularly in Sanya’s realization that she would transition into another phase of life beyond Olympic running, as well as the benefits of her continued honesty and support from her family throughout her life.

 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

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.

Book cover of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

Book Review – As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

Book cover of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

About the book (from the publisher):

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

My thoughts:

4.5 stars!

This one is up there as one of my very favorite Susan Meissner books now!

As her usual, this historical fiction is well-researched and well-written, but a few other things raise its quality as well. From the very first chapter, this book is heart-wrenching and remains so throughout. Several of Susan’s other books are dual POV and set into two timelines. This book, instead, is from four points of view – Pauline (the mother) and three sisters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa. We spend time in 1918 and 1919 at the start of the Spanish flu epidemic (such an interesting time period!), then move to 1925 and 1926. I particularly enjoyed this setup. Most of it is written in present tense, though there are past tense flashbacks within scenes in nearly every chapter. In other books, this sometimes bothers me and breaks up the flow of reading, but I only paused once or twice at these points in this book, so it barely interrupts the reading experience and includes such vivid character reflection and emotion that it supplements the story well.

The action starts right from the beginning and never lets up, some of it of a quieter intensity than the rest, but intense nonetheless. All of the characters are very introspective, perhaps abnormally so, but you’re so pulled in to the reading that it’s okay. Even with that commonality, all of the character voices are distinct. I cared about each character (particularly Maggie and Evelyn), and thought about the characters even when not reading. The side character’s internal journeys (particularly Jamie and Conrad) are equally intriguing and add depth and additional layers to the story.

This book, with its strong introspection and deep-feeling themes, causes the reader to reflect, as well, particularly on the themes of life, death, moving past hurt, hope for the future, effects of war and loss, recognizing that each of us has experienced pain, and seeing each person as a life whose story matters. While the story is white-focused, immigrant side characters are included with value for their stories too.

I do want to offer a small trigger warning that if you have lost someone very recently, you may want to wait to read this book until after a bit of time passes. We lost an extended family member unexpectedly last year, and I likely couldn’t have dealt with reading these heavy themes within the few weeks right after that, though I am very glad to have read it now. That said, you may find comfort in diving into these themes while it is fresh, and if so, this book looks at loss from several perspectives.

This book releases on February 6, 2018! Preorder at Amazon or your favorite book retailer now.

Check out various quotes from As Bright As Heaven added by myself and other readers at Goodreads.

Disclosure: I received a free ARC copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

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.

A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Deep and Wide {Book Review – A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker}

A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

As a host and guest judge for HGTV and DIY Network (My Big Family Renovation, Brother v.s. Brother, Tiny House Arrest), Brandon Hatmaker understands what it takes to rehab a home. But after twenty-plus years of working with the local church (and as husband to bestselling author Jen Hatmaker), he has an even greater understanding of what it takes to rehab an everyday faith. In A Mile Wide, he helps readers see more clearly how the gospel works in us and eventually through us to transform an anemic spiritual life into a deeper, fuller, and more effective faith.

Offering fresh perspective on eight essentials of Christianity—the gospel, identity, scripture, discipleship, kingdom, mission, community, and justice—Hatmaker provides biblical insight and practical applications that tap into the richer life Christ promised his people, individually and as a community. God wants more than simply to save us; he’s also determined to transform us, restore us, and use us to reveal the coming of his kingdom right here, right now.

My thoughts:

It took me a long time to read this book. And I think I needed to take it slow.

I have so many notes and parts marked to go back and read and consider and discuss. And also? To do something about.

One of the author’s main intentions in this book is that our faith is to be lived out daily and in all areas of our lives. Not just within the church family. Not just within our town. Not just in monetary donations abroad. But in all aspects.

I marked over 50 quotes (my norm might be 10-12). I have pondered what’s in this book, shared it with others, and more.

The author approaches this material with a straightforward yet conversational tone. He uses anecdotes from own experiences as a pastor, a father, a community member, and more to show his own lessons learned (without ever being condescending or judgmental). He also uses biblical stories to exemplify gospel in action, especially focusing on how Jesus was and is the prime example of mercy translated into action (p. 164), with closer looks at a few select verses.

Written mainly to those who are already believers, the book is split into two main sections (“The Gospel in Us” and “The Gospel Through Us”) and nine chapters that expand on the previous discussion. Each chapter ends with discussion questions that would be best used with a partner or group, as this book definitely warrants discussion and implementation.

I highly recommend reading this book after reading Love Does by Bob Goff (my review of that amazing book here) for a fantastic look at loving and faith through action (with the foundation on why and mercy and love received from God) and in our daily lives. I also recommend it for any leaders within faith communities, as many discussions are on mobilizing folks in genuine and welcoming ways.

What’s one of your favorite books that affecting how you live your faith daily?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

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 Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

{Book Review – The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber}

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

About the book (from the publisher):

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2017)

For fans of Ender’s Game and Blade Runner comes a story of video gaming, blood, and power.

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel—Earth’s charming young playboy—the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

From the award-winning author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, step into a diverse cast of characters spanning from the electric metropolises of earth to the chilling alien planet above, in a story of re-finding yourself in the midst of losing the one thing you love. Before it all evaporates.

My thoughts:

I was excited to finally read a Mary Weber book. (The Storm Siren series is on my to-read list! I hear the world-building is great in those books.)

This young adult novel is set in a dystopian and intriguing future world after World War IV. Told in alternating third person points of view between Sofi and Miguel, I found Sofi’s character arc to be the strongest and most developed. There’s much to like about Miguel, but I found I wanted a little more of how his past affects him and what his true motivations are much earlier in the book.

The premise is absolutely intriguing and includes a fight against human trafficking. However, I found myself a little too confused about the details of the world and how it works (particularly the FanFights, as well as the government structure) until about the fifth chapter. But, if you can stick it through that confusion, there’s enough to follow and pickup subsequent details in later chapters. I also found too many side characters (particularly within the Corp higher ups and governmental officials) were thrown at us in the first ten chapters or so, making me having to pause reading and flip back to figure who was who again. The characters in the second half of the book are much more streamlined and easier to follow.

The plot keeps the reader’s attention in this book, along with themes of misplacing and gaining trust, governmental challenges, ethical issues, and family bonds. A YA book club would find much to discuss from the book.

The discussion questions in the back are framed well and allow readers to dive deeper into the themes within the book. In fact, some of the discussion questions (like about Miguel’s internal character arc) gave me a better understanding of some of the themes and characters than I found within the novel itself.

For fans, there will be a sequel, coming in March 2018! Check out the info about Reclaiming Shilo Snow, which is already available for preorders, too. I’m intrigued enough (and the cliffhanger!) to want to check out the sequel next year.

Reclaiming Shilo Snow by Mary Weber (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

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.