The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook, 2015)

Brokenness Turned into Trust {Book Review – The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert}

I’ve talked on this blog about every single Katie Ganshert book currently published. And I’m going to keep talking.

Tomorrow (on April 21st!), Katie’s fourth novel releases into this world, The Art of Losing Yourself (Waterbrook, 2015).

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert (Waterbrook, 2015)

This contemporary fiction novel introduces us to Carmen Hart, her husband Ben, and her troubled half-sister, Gracie Fisher. Carmen seems to have perfect life as a well-respected local TV meteorologist, but, as most of us know, nobody really has a conflict-less life. The novel deals with Carmen’s struggle over losing her family’s old inn, watching her admired Aunt Ingrid’s mind slip, working for the close bond she and her husband once had, and figuring out how to help her sister.

In the midst of Carmen’s perspective, we also get to read chapters from Gracie’s perspective. As a teenager who has dealt with more than she should’ve with an alcoholic mother, Gracie has issues of her own. But her inner dialogue helps all of us see that what one shows on the exterior doesn’t always reflect all of the inner turmoil occurring.

The first two pages drew me in with such emotion and powerful writing about miscarriages. We are thrust right into Carmen’s conflicts. Then, over the next several chapters, we learn more about Carmen, Ben, Gracie, Elias, Ingrid, and more. Gracie’s story kept me whispering to myself “one more chapter” often in the first half of the book. Then, as Carmen and Gracie’s stories intertwined more and more, I was so involved in the world that I was thinking about it even when the book wasn’t in my hands.

Katie weaves intriguing analogies throughout her story, including Gracie’s love for random facts and knowledge of the common emotional associations of different colors. Carmen often thinks on Mary Poppins references, which Katie writes so realistically that it just makes sense to include as we learn about Carmen’s character.

I love when books ask real questions about faith, as this book does often, including on page 151:

“…how do you know it’s God talking and not just your conscience?” (Gracie)

“Who’s to say our conscience isn’t one of the ways He talks to us?” (Elias)

How many of us have thought this same question? Multiple Bible studies exist focusing on this topic, so it’s obviously one of need.

This book considers trust, love (between sisters, friends, and more), the work a relationship requires, entropy, dementia, miscarriages, school culture, teenage growth, navigating friendships, relying on others, filling our holes with Truth, and more. While that seems like a lot for one book, this is one of the things Katie does so well: she writes about real life in a real way. (Bonus: the book doesn’t wrap every single conflict up in a perfect conclusion…because whose life does?)

quote from The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

I read The Art of Losing Yourself in less than 48 hours, but I’ll be thinking about it much, much longer than that. I also highly recommend mothers (or older sisters) and teenage daughters reading this together because of the two distinct perspectives represented here.

Check out The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert at your local bookstore, favorite online retailer, or library. Also stop by Katie’s website for behind-the-scenes information on the book and characters and more. (I love how Katie compiles these fun facts for all her books!)

For more about Katie and her books:

  • Read my review of Katie’s first novel, Wildflowers from Winter, here.
  • Read my review of Katie’s second novel, Wishing on Willows, here.
  • Read my review of Katie’s third novel, A Broken Kind of Beautiful, here.
  • Read a fun interview I did with Katie two years ago here.
  • Visit Katie’s website.

Which of the themes in this novel do you think you would relate to the most?

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 was not compensated in any other way.

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.

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House, 2015)

Different Kinds of Dreamers {Book Review – Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden}

In Elizabeth Camden’s newest novel, Beyond All Dreams (Bethany House, 2015), Anna O’Brien works one of only eight women librarians in the Library of Congress in 1897. She prefers to keep to the predictable environment of her map room, but, as a stickler for correct details, happens upon a 15-year-old navy report that seems filled with errors. As she looks into the details, she continues to be blocked from action by naval officials. Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House, 2015)

At the same time, she is assigned as a research librarian to the charming, but seemingly over-privileged congressman, Luke Callahan. As the two work together, they help each other more and more, and find out their opposing personalities mesh well in unexpected ways. They find out they even among their obvious differences, they (and most others around them) are still dreamers.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and this novel is filled with intriguing details about the late 19th century, libraries, cultural aspects for single men and women, working life for young women, politics, and more. These characters are (thankfully) realistic. They all have endearing attributes, but also have faults and must overcome broken pasts. The side characters and subplots of this book add wonderful depth and interest, including discussions about art, literature, marriage, special needs (and learning who a person really is), and breaking societal/economic stereotypes. All of the plot lines were captivating and unique in some way.

The main characters talk about faith at times throughout their conversations in a plot-appropriate and non-preachy way. The main faith themes covered include trust, forgiveness, breaking beyond broken pasts, and seeing beauty among the brokenness.

Some of the components of the ending seemed to tie up a little too nicely or completely, but the ending is mostly realistic and quite satisfying. The developed characters, historical elements, and compelling plots kept me turning pages and reasoning to read “just one more chapter” multiple times over.

I hadn’t read anything that actually made me interested in politics. What is a book you’ve read that interested you into a new time period or component of history/culture?

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.

 

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund (Zondervan, 2015)

New Christian YA Books with Historical Focus {plus giveaway!}

I’m a firm believer that adults can learn from and appreciate middle grade and young adult novels as well as the intended audience. Good middle grade and young adult focus on growth, observation of the world around, reflection on one’s place and how to affect that world, and the heart. They’re powerful genres.

Experienced Christian fiction novelist Jody Hedlund is branching into the young adult (YA) world with her newest release, An Uncertain Choice (Zondervan, 2015), set in 14th century.

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund (Zondervan, 2015)

 

I particularly love how Jody obviously researches every time period she writes about, so I’m going to highlight a few historical facts she incorporates into the story throughout this post.

Only on her parents’ deathbed does Lady Rosemarie find out about an ancient vow her parents promised in order to receive special blessing from the monks to have a baby. She must enter the convent at age eighteen and live a life of celibacy and service.

When her father’s most trusted friend enters her kingdom just one month before Rosemarie’s 18th birthday, he brings news of a second option within that ancient vow – if Rosemarie falls in true love and marries before her 18th birthday, she is excused from the convent vow. With this news, he brings three of the bravest knights and challenges her to give them each a chance and see if she falls in love. As the month progresses, foul play and conflict escalate, and Rosemarie battles with which choice she should pursue: marriage and possible betrayal of a faithful vow or true love with a husband to serve God jointly.

From the first chapter, Jody incorporates specific historical setting details, like “fresh rushes strewn across stone floor.”

Did you know? “Fresh rushes” were long green stems covering the floor and usually sprinkled with herbs to aid cleanliness and insulation in wealthy person’s castle. The stems may have been loose or some may have been woven into mats. Rushes may have been left for up to three months, which would have made truly “fresh” rushes to be particularly pleasing. (Sources: here and here)

In classic Jody Hedlund-style, numerous conflicts are present throughout the entire novel, keeping the reader turning pages to find out what happens. Jody successfully offers three varied personalities between the three knights, and allows the reader to learn about all three and watch Rosemarie’s growth.

Did you know? Marriages in medieval times were often arranged, though some were chosen by one of the spouses. Several components of wedding ceremonies practiced in medieval times are still common in traditional Christian marriages today, like the exchange of rings and the woman standing on the left, the man on the right. (Source)

Jody keeps the reader guessing for a while on the identity of the main enemy, as well as what Rosemarie’s final choice will be.

Did You Know? Monks practice tonsure – or shaving their heads – likely for a variety of reasons, including to show their renouncement of modern fashions and concerns, to emulate possible practices of Christ’s disciples, and to affirm their commitment to the monastery. (Source)

Jody includes conversation on marriage, choosing your own path, reflecting on God’s purpose for you, and living truthfully. Teens and young adults will enjoy reading this book for the topics, character emotion, and history.

“Marriage doesn’t put an end to one’s ability to serve God and bring him glory. In fact, I’ve seen many married couples who have done more for God together than was possible as individuals.” – p. 98, An Uncertain Choice

Jody also prefaces An Uncertain Choice with a novella titled The Vow. I definitely suggest reading this brief story first to get acquainted with Lady Rosemarie’s world, meet her parents, and understand the background of the circumstance she finds herself in when An Uncertain Choice opens. Even in a short novella, Jody knows how to ramp up the internal and external conflict!

"For it is often the hardest tasks that build the most character." - from An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Be sure to visit Jody’s Events page for more giveaway opportunities and unique content on the Noble Knights Blog Tour.

Noble Knights Blog Tour for An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Now, a giveaway! Jody is graciously offering one signed copy of An Uncertain Choice to one of you! (US residents only, sorry!) Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms of giveaway: This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end at the end of the day (Eastern) April 2, 2015. All entrants must be 18 years old or older. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget above. Incomplete entries will be deleted. Once a winner is selected, I will contact them via email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will select another winner.

What medieval story do you know most about? What fascinates you about this period in history?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as a part of Jody Hedlund’s launch team. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is an 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.

Shine Like Stars series on Philippians 2 at DoNotDepart.com

What it Means to Work to Shine

At Do Not Depart this month, we’re studying Philippians 2:1-18 together. It’s one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, and it’s always good to study it repeatedly.

I’m at Do Not Depart today sharing about what I’ve learned from Philippians 2:12-13 and what working with God can mean.

Join me at Do Not Depart today and check out the rest of the posts from this month on our Philippians 2 study!

Shine Like Stars series on Philippians 2 at DoNotDepart.com

5 Picture Books on Season Transitions {undergodsmightyhand.com}

5 Picture Books About Season Transitions

It’s March 4th – the first Wednesday of March! And that means it is World Read Aloud Day!

LitWorld.org hosts World Read Aloud Day as a way to communicate the need and importance of reading aloud with students and children. Reading aloud provides a model for reading, improves literacy, facilitates connection between parent (or teacher) and child, and celebrates and encourages creativity.

Visit LitWorld online for more information about World Read Aloud Day, as well as resources for home, school, and community. Join in on the fun on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #WRAD15 to find book recommendations and celebration ideas and post your own!

World Read Aloud Day 2015!

Need some ideas for World Read Aloud Day?

How about picture books on transitioning seasons?

5 Picture Books on Season Transitions {undergodsmightyhand.com}

5 Picture Books that Discuss Transitioning Seasons

Hi, Koo! by Jon J Muth

Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic, 2014) – This book of haiku poems (get it? Haiku… “hi, Koo!”) offers 26 poems on the four seasons while following an adorable panda bear through seasonal adventures. The haikus are gentle and fluid, and the illustrations are exquisite. Great for read alouds!

Tap the Magic Tree

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (Greenwillow Books, 2013) – This picture book remains one of my kids’ favorites. The book takes an interactive form and gives readers directions to follow (tap the tree and turn the page, etc.). As readers complete each action and turn the page, they see their actions “produce” results! Perfect for preschoolers, this book is fun to read aloud and have one or many kids help the tree in the illustrations transition through the each season.

Bunny's First Spring by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Bunny’s First Spring by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by David McPhail (Zonderkidz, 2015) – Sally Lloyd-Jones is the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, one of our family’s very favorite children’s bibles. She is able to tell a story with strong emotion and beautifully fluid, yet active phrases. Bunny’s First Spring introduces the reader to a young bunny who bounces in adoration of a spring world full of life and new growth. As the year progresses, the bunny grows and wonders if a tree dropping its fall leaves is sick or if winter means the earth is dying. The bunny’s mother and father assure that waiting will reveal the answer, so the bunny listens and watches nature until its own hibernation period. With a soothing rhythmic tone, this book is perhaps particularly appropriate as a read aloud for parents/guardians and preschool children.

Leaves by David Ezra Stein

Leaves by David Ezra Stein (Putnam, 2007) – This sweet book follows a young bear at the very end of summer and the wonder and discovery of fall. While the book focuses on autumn, all of the seasons are covered, ending with jubilation at the new growth of spring. Preschoolers again will love rejoicing with the bear in this book.

The Lion and The Bird by Marianne Dubuc

The Lion and The Bird by Marianne Dubuc (Enchanted Lion Books, 2014) – This book is plain beautiful, heart-wrenching, and endearing. Rather than the seasons being the focus, the book centers on the unlikely and perfect friendship between a farming lion and a journeying bird. The bird gets hurt and Lion helps bandage it, but the bird is unable to fly away with its migrating flock. The lion helps the bird recuperate through the cold winter as they enjoy a strengthening friendship. However, when spring returns, so does the bird’s flock. What will become of their friendship? This book also leans heavily on illustrations over words allowing younger readers to help narrate the story in their own words. My favorite line: “But winter doesn’t feel all that cold with a friend.” A beautiful book everyone needs to read – together.

How about you? What books will you be reading this World Read Aloud Day?

I am an affiliate for Signing Time and Amazon Associates. If you click on a Signing Time link or Amazon 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.