Tag Archives: hope

Holding on to Hope

Let’s Look for the Hopers

We all need some hope right about now, right?

This month at Do Not Depart, we’re talking about renewed minds, and I’ve written about holding on to hope. Join me at Do Not Depart for some verses and resources and amazing examples of spreading God’s hope.

Like Mister Rogers originally said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” We can associate that to hope, too. Let’s look for hopers together.
Holding on to Hope

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

Finding Good and Hope {Book Review – A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron}

World War II stories are hard and fascinating and certain ones offer stories filled with hope.

Hope is a main theme of A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson, 2015). The reader follows two intertwined storylines. One, a present-day story with Sera Hanover, newly married to William and an art curator who now has to help her husband fight a legal battle against his family. The other, a 1940s story of Kája Makovsky, a young woman from Prague who has to escape Nazi rule because her family is half-Jewish. She becomes an employee in London at The Daily Telegraph, but, as the Blitz occurs and the war gets worse, finds herself drawn back to Prague to find her remaining family.

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

I read The Butterfly and the Violinby Kristy Cambron last year, the first in this “Hidden Masterpiece” series, which was a fantastic debut novel. Like that first novel, A Sparrow in Terezin includes Sera as a common character. The dual storyline keeps the reader turning pages, following circumstances of both. The historical details and setting descriptions are fascinating and obviously well-researched. The reader can easily visualize both worlds in this story.

I found that, if I had to choose, The Butterfly and the Violin might be my preferred novel. Kája’s story in A Sparrow in Terezin is fascinating, emotional, and hard, as well, though the symbolism of the sparrow didn’t seem as inclusive as symbolism in the first novel. The author did an excellent job of creating Kája’s world changes, in Prague early on, in London as she settled into a new way of life, in London as the Blitz occurred, and later within the heart of German-occupied Europe. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this story was the inspection of good and evil, and how good and beauty could be found even when surrounded by immense evil.

Between these two novels, readers get a strong sense of two different perspectives of the terrors of World War II. I recommend fans of historical fiction reading them both.

What is a fascinating World War II story you’ve read recently?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook blogger program 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.

As Waters Gone By - Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, 2015)

Imagery, Analogies, and Hope {Book Review – As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti}

I’m always drawn to great analogies and setting details, and the most recent book I read definitely shares some of that.

As Waters Gone By - Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, 2015)

As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, 2015) introduces the reader to Emmalyn Ross in the midst of a very trying time. Her husband is imprisoned for a rash action and serving a 5-year sentence, which has become a 5-year pause on their marriage. Emmalyn sells their main home and moves to a small cottage they own on a remote island in Lake Superior, wanting a place of exile for the remaining 8 months of her husband’s sentence. Only, when she gets there, she finds more surprises (good and bad) than she expected.

This book features a slightly unique twist on third-person, past tense writing. While the writing remains past tense, the specific voice the author uses allows the reader to follow directly along with Emmalyn’s thought process, even to the point of reading Emmalyn’s train of thought switch mid-sentence. This immediacy helps the reader think and feel as Emmalyn is in the story.

At times in the early chapters, Cora and Bougie’s advice and anecdotes seemed more realistic than Emmalyn’s own thought processes. Some of Emmalyn’s internal analogies and insistent recurrent thoughts made me pause a bit because they disconnected the flow of the narrative. But this was a small distraction compared to the great plot and writing in this book. Most of the setting imagery and analogies were beautiful and heighten the visualizations of the environment. I found myself deeply caring about many of the flavorful and varied side characters by Chapter 4 (the side characters ended up being my favorite!), as well as loving the little island town (and wanting to visit!).

This book tackles so many more themes than just what it takes to make a marriage work. We reflect on friendships, work, family issues, children, lack of children, imprisonment, shelters, grace, communication, and hope. This book is a thoughtful, introspective read that doesn’t present a perfect ending, but does offer a hope-filled one.

What hope-filled book have you recently read?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program 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.

"Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can't." - from Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Growing from the Past into the Future {Book Review – Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner}

Historical fiction is one of my very favorite genres, and Susan Meissner’s historical fiction is in the top of that list.

Her most recent novel, Secrets of a Charmed Life (New American Library, 2015), just released this week!

A review of Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

The books opens with the reader meeting Kendra Van Zant, an American history major studying for a semester in England. Kendra arrives in the Cotswolds to interview 93-year-old Isabel MacFarland, a renowned painter who, prior to this point, has never agreed to an interview about her first-hand experiences of the bombings on London in 1940.

Chapter two quickly ushers the reader to 1940 England where we meet and follow 15-year-old Emmy Downtree for quite a while, from the time leading up to the bombings and years after. Emmy and her half-sister, Julia, are very close, but Emma strongly desires to get out the mess of a home her unmarried mother has made and become and wedding dress designer. She gains the opportunity to work part-time at a neighborhood bridal shop. But, as enemy forces draw closer to England, all of London’s children are evacuated to the countryside (or beyond), including Emmy and Julia. After months under the safe and nurturing care of Charlotte Havelock, Emmy is offered a once-in-a-lifetime meeting to begin a mentorship, and in her stubbornness to return to London, gets separated from Julia during the start of the bombings. The reader then follows Emmy’s multi-year search for Julia and efforts to heal into a somewhat normal life.

Susan Meissner has a masterful use of sensory details in both description and action with strong verbs and vivid analogies.

“As I pull up on to the driveway, the crunching of tires on gravel sounds like applause…” – p. 3, Secrets of a Charmed Life

Through both actions and emotions, the reader gains a strong sense of most of the main characters in just two chapters.

Besides incorporating stunning and obviously well-researched historical detail, this book makes the reader think starting from even page 10 with a discussion of the importance of history. This book considers the events, emotions, and implications of the evacuation on the children, parents, foster families, and neighbors. Even more than a fascinating story about these effects of war, this book is about learning to let go of hurt, appropriately handle the past, endure grief, manage fear, and hold on to hope through it all.

"Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can't." - from Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

I love that Susan Meissner writes Emmy’s chapters in a past-tense perspective and Kendra’s chapters in the present tense. At occasional times throughout the book, we return to the present tense and Kendra’s interview with Isabel. The present tense structure allows the reader to easily make the switch between the two eras. This book is divided into three main parts, and Part 3 holds some surprises that intrigue and delight. Throughout reading this book, I found myself hunched in empathetic pain with the characters at times, eyes brimming with tears at times, and smiling at other times.

“…when you make a choice, even if it’s a bad one, you’ve played your hand. You cannot live your life as though you still held all your cards.” – p. 298, Secrets of a Charmed Life

If you’re not sure yet about this book, just read the first chapter (available to read on Amazon and other locations). With the very last sentence offered in Chapter 1, I can guarantee you’ll want to read more.

Also stay tuned for a giveaway of this book on Monday!

What is some of your favorite historical fiction?

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

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.

The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

Filling and Overflowing Hope {Book Review – The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston}

I love, love, love when a book exceeds my expectations.

I honestly didn’t know how I’d like The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson, 2014) when I first received it for review. And I am more than happy to tell you that you’ll want to read it too. It’s a fantastic book.  The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

Ray Johnston is a founding pastor of a megachurch in California (Bayside, which has multiple campuses) and the founder of Thriving Churches International. In The Hope Quotient, he discusses how essential hope is to every aspect of life and seven factors to raise your hope to thrive in life.

By just the back cover copy, this book seems like a self-help, 7-step program kind of book, which is why I was a little skeptical. And, really, it does offer some direct, practical steps to take. But, it’s also so much more.

Plus, the introduction starts like this:

The first page of The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston

Inspiring from the start!

Ray spends the first three chapters of the book welcoming the reader into a conversation about hope. Ray explains how many people who feel tired, drained, overwhelmed are actually discouraged. And discouragement means a lack of hope. That lack of hope affects every decision, every thought, every interaction. But, hope. Hope changes it all. Particularly because that hope comes from grace-given love from God.

He offers the main point of the book right away:

“…thriving people thrive for one reason – they commit to things that produce inner strength and hope.” – p. xviii

The rest of the chapters support and detail that point, along with how to spill that hope onto others.

“The truth is the greatest gift you or I can give anyone is hope.” – p. 5

But the author doesn’t just state the positives of hope. He offers entertaining, inspiring, and powerful stories from his own experiences and others’ to surprise, put you in awe, and cheer. His tone holds a pleasing balance of goofy, clever humor and intriguing observations and calls-to-action. The numerous amount of stories, references, and quotes from others help support his mainstay that it takes a team to thrive.

This book covers topics from rest to personal gifts/skills to fear to community, all within the realm of building and sharing hope to live life for God. (Read here for an introduction to the chapter titles.) Divided into 17 chapters in 3 major sections, this book offers ideas you can incorporate into your marriage, family, career, and community, but without being hokey or judgmental.

This whole book inspires me to do two main things: take appropriate actions to make sure I stay encouraged (because that affects everyone around me) and make every effort to be an encourager to others (spread encouragement rather than discouragement).

“The discipline of asking ‘What can this person become?’ is crucial to fueling hope and achieving dreams.” – p. 167

How do you maintain hope in your faith and daily life?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest reviews. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

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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