Tag Archives: growth

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

A Fix-It Girl Reads About a Fix-It Girl {Book Review – A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay}

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

My thoughts:

See how “fix-it girl extraordinaire” is listed in that first sentence above from the publisher’s back copy? That’s how I knew I’d at least be able to relate to some of Emily Price’s inner workings as I read this fun, yet layered novel.

We meet Emily as she’s just arrived in Atlanta on a new art restoration job and at the same time meet brothers, Joseph and Ben. Hints of backstory are dropped here and there, but we are fully in the present as we witness differing personalities between the brothers and Emily realizing how she may be able to help both at her job and at the Joseph’s aunt and uncle’s restaurant.

As we follow along, we see that Emily’s want to help and fix things is fantastic in the art world, but sometimes becomes overbearing or a burden in other aspects of life, like with her sister Amy. Broken relationships abound both in Emily’s family and in Ben and Joseph’s, and this is part of what makes the story realistic and easy to both follow and relate to.

I love how the setting transfers from Atlanta to Italy, and we as readers get to witness some of the author’s lovely descriptions of sunflowers, of small Italian villages, of art once beautiful and ready to shine again. The descriptions of art restoration are lovely, full of questions and perspective from Emily’s point of view, and readers without art knowledge (like myself) can still be captivated.

The romance is a whirlwind one that might bring some readers out of the story for a moment wondering how realistic it could be, but the author makes it work, partially by leaving it imperfect yet a place for grace. Readers will love Lucio and many of the other side characters and both cheer for and be challenged by the more difficult relationships and sometimes slower (yet realistic) growth. One of Emily’s most important trials is learning, when the time is right, to sit with others in a pain rather than attempt to fix it and that’s a guide for all of us.

Oh, and after you read it, please come back here and tell me what you think of page 264 because that was one of my very favorite pages.

A Portrait of Emily Price is intriguing, thoughtful, and lovely, and is among my favorites of Katherine’s books. (My favorite favorite is Lizzy and Jane!)

Check out Katherine’s other books, including Dear Mr. KnightleyLizzy and Jane (which I reviewed here) and The Bronte Plot (which I reviewed here), and read more about Katherine on her website.

What is one of your favorite novels that includes either international travel or broken families (or both)?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author as a part of the launch team. 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.

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Growth and Healing {Book Review – Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas}

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2015)

From the back cover:

When family tragedy derails Henry Philips’s college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. The only things that can tamp down his grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and an unexpected friendship with sweet but unusual preteen Mayfair Hoffman.

Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister, Margaret, despite her spray of freckles and cute, up-turned nose, has a completely different effect. His grandmother’s caretaker, Margaret, is always around, ready to push his buttons, and it seems at first that she doesn’t care about his troubles.

Henry soon realizes, though, that Margaret’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries. Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as potential tragedy collides with growing hope in a warm story of family bonds and the surprising ways healing finds us all.

My thoughts: 

Set in 1976, this novel takes place in a rural setting with an old-country feel. With a wide cast of characters—in ages and in circumstances—the plot remains interesting throughout. There’s a touch of magical realism to this novel, as well, which adds an intriguing component. I also appreciate how this author weaves in some difficult storylines, particularly with marriage, parenthood, and what constitutes as true family.

I found myself remaining a bit disconnected from the two main characters throughout the whole story. I actually came to care more about many of the side characters, like Frank and Angie, Grandma Emily, Perla, Mayfair, and even Clint. These side characters are defined, interesting, and all offer something to the story and/or experience growth during the story. Several of the romantic moments between the main characters seemed a bit forced, but the story also focuses on the impact of truly loving people of all kinds, which helps redeem the story.

The story’s main focus is how genuine care for people makes a difference in our lives, and that just because someone is genetic family doesn’t mean they offer the most love. I found this to be an interesting (and relatable) topic for Christian fiction, so I’m glad the author included it. Even with some character chemistry missing, the plot’s action will keep the reader interested.

What lesser-tackled topics and themes do you love to see in novels?

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 and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies 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.

Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker

Listening and Learning {Book Review – Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker}

Ever since my son was 1 or 2 years old, I’ve said that I’ve learned much more from being parent than I ever did in the years in was a public school teacher. And that statement keeps growing in truth.

Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker shares numerous examples of this growth in her book Small Talk: Learning from My Children About What Matters Most (Zondervan, 2014). This memoir-style book follows Amy Julia’s journey through several years of parenting two, then three, children, including one of whom has Down Syndrome. This series of stories encourages readers and highlights how we can see grace in the small moments of our lives.

“In the midst of snow days and sickness, in the midst of yelling and tears, grace enters in.” – p. 12, Small Talk

Amy Julia tells the story in present tense with some past tense reflections to draw readers in. She lets the reader know in the introduction that this is not a how-to book. She utilizes a lot of “I think” and “I wonder” and “I understand” sentences to show her own thought processes and conclusions on what she’s learning as she grows along with her children.

My favorite components of these stories are the family conversations. The dialogues between children (child-to-child and child-to-parent) are so realistic and so pure. Any parent can identify, and, as a parent of a child with multiple special needs, I especially relate to many of those conversations and specific fears. She doesn’t present herself as perfect, and these thoughtful stories help spur reflections of the reader’s own family and circumstances.

She covers holding on to certain things, letting go of others. Her children help her realize the importance of forgiveness, understanding, growth. She recounts stories of waiting, of tragedy, of community, of understanding dependence, of marriage. All while exploring God’s presence in all of it.

The reader won’t leave this book with all the answers, and the reader might not even agree with all of the author’s conclusions. But the book will allow readers to marvel in the insightfulness of children and the ability to reflect and grow, no matter one’s situation.

“…But the reminder of God’s promises quiets my soul. A gentle encouragement to trust. This Christian life of ours if messy and mysterious and beautiful. Like water, running down and spilling over.” – p. 219, Small Talk

What have you learned most from your children?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher (through the BookLook bloggers program) in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Disclosure: 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!

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Battling Storms - a book review of The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh

Battling Storms {Book Review – The Storm Inside by Sheila Walsh}

What do you do during life’s storms? Do you buckle down and wait it out? Take cover? Face them head-on?

Battling Storms - a book review of The Storm Inside by Sheila WalshSheila Walsh discusses many of these storms in her new release, The Storm Inside (Thomas Nelson, 2014). Specifically written to women, this book discusses ten common “storms” we often encounter in this age and culture and how to combat the lies those struggles push on us.

“We must not let the temporary way we feel distract us from the personal truth that we all are valuable to our Father.” – quote from inside flap

I love how each chapter is formatted. Sheila starts with a personal story about experience within that particular storm, then defines the storm in more detail and its impact, then discusses biblical stories of that storm. But she doesn’t leave each chapter there. She takes the reader through the storm to a more positive place of growth. The chapters cover heartbreak, disappointment, unforgiveness, shame, regret, fear, insecurity, insignificance, despair, and rage.

Each chapter focuses on one storm and a place of (not easy) recovery. For example, the chapter on regret has a subtitle of “From Regret to Rest.” The chapter on disappointment says, “From Disappointment to Hope.” Each chapter also ends with reflection and action questions, plus a prayer.

In every chapter of this book, I found some statement I related to. Sheila continues to reiterate that we all have value to God, and our feelings do not always determine truth. Her writing is straightforward, but she also uses some unique analogies that keep the reader interested. (Example from page 3: “…as common as rain in Seattle or backpedaling from a politician.”) She tackles real issues with depth, like the church often failing those who are grieving or “deserve” versus “worthy” (one of my favorite sections). She also asks questions along with the reader, like why it often feels like God ignores some prayers but not others. While she doesn’t have all the answers (who here does?), every chapter is very Scripture-based.

This theme expressed on page 40 recurs throughout the book:

“[When we trust God], it’s not that we won’t hear the screeches of the enemy’s lies in the night, but we will refuse to chart our course by them.”

What storms have you faced lately? How do you remember the truth of God’s presence and love?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Signing Time. If you click on a Signing Time 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!

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Learning from the Mess - a Five Minute Friday post {undergodsmightyhand,com}

Learning from the Mess

I passed by a church sign a few weeks ago that read, “Thank you Lord for the cross.”

Some folks might feel something so terrible and devastating is awfully hard to express gratitude towards.

And it is.

But, look at the beauty that came after the devastation.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Learning from the Mess - a Five Minute Friday post {undergodsmightyhand,com}

My family’s own struggles are nothing compared to what Christ suffered.

But there are things I’ve learned through parenting a child with special needs that I never want to unlearn.

My child, with all his “extra” needs and all his beautiful aspects, teaches me so much about growth and life and even God, who he’s just beginning to grasp.

I’ve learned that:

  • Smiling beats ignoring.
  • Hard work often brings satisfaction more intense than the end product.
  • Perseverance leads to progress.
  • Gratitude spurs perseverance.
  • A hug heals.
  • Dancing is a great way to express joy. 
  • Jumping up and down is a great way to exhale frustration.
  • Challenges inspire creativity for options.
  • Together works better than fighting.
  • Listening and observing (usually) reveal more than talking. 
  • Genuine smiles, especially from a child, cheer up the grumpiest grumps.

I’ve learned all this from mess. From the messy everyday, from extra challenges thrown our way, from my children (thankfully) interrupting my messy ways.

In all this mess, there’s beauty. There’s opportunity to say “yes” to my husband, my kids, my God.

There’s opportunity to renew, to remember, to love, to share grace. All from saying “yes” to the mess and the growth and beauty within it.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

What have you learned from your mess? How have you practicing saying “yes” within that mess?

———-

It’s been quite a while since I’ve joined Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday. Five minutes without edited, where “we write without worrying if it’s just right or not.” This week’s prompt is “mess.Join in on the five minute fun, won’t you?

Five Minute Friday