I want to call you to do ordinary things that will make an extraordinary difference, not just in your life but in the lives of others.
This quotation sums up the entire book in one simple sentence. This isn’t a complex book, full of convoluted to-do lists. Instead, the author offers simple, basic tenets of faith—praying, reading the Bible, involvement in a church—to build a foundation on, followed by “extra” things that can be added on after the basics are mastered. (Hint: the basics are never completely mastered.) The conversational tone and examples from the author’s life make this easy to read and apply. I highly recommend it.
Darryl Dash is an author, pastor, and church planter in Toronto. How to Grow is his new book.
(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)
As individuals, we are always searching for more; something bigger, better, more meaningful. No matter what we have, we want more. We want our lives to matter more, to be about more, to experience the grand, larger-than-life moments.
Do Something Beautiful shows you how to take the simple, everyday moments in your life and look at them differently, turning “ordinary” into “beautiful.”
The voice in the book is conversational, putting the reader at ease and making it feel like a chat with a friend—not an academic lecture. Anecdotes from the author’s life and stories from people he’s met bring his points to life, making this an engrossing and eye-opening read.
R. York Moore is an evangelist, a speaker, a revivalist, an abolitionist, and an author. Do Something Beautiful is his newest book.
(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: Hurricane Season Author: Lauren K. Denton Genre: Fiction Rating: 4.5/5
Betsy and Ty Franklin run a dairy farm in southern Alabama. Ty is busy with the cows, while Betsy works constantly to manage the farm’s operations. They have a good life, although their inability to have children is tearing them apart. . When Betsy’s younger sister, Jenna, drops her two daughters off at the farm so she can attend a two-week art retreat, their quiet life at the dairy is turned upside down.
Jenna’s free-spirited days are over. Instead, she spends her days managing a coffee shop and caring for her daughters. She yearns for the days when she pursued photography, but that dream took a back seat when she got pregnant and her boyfriend split. Now, she’s offered a two-week stay at the Halcyon artist retreat, and a chance to pursue her dreams and change her life.
With the most active hurricane season on record underway, Betsy and Ty try to save their marriage, while caring for the girls and working to keep the dairy safe from approaching storms. Their lives are in turmoil, and they must wait on Jenna to decide her course before they can move past the storms that fill the hot summer air.
I loved this book! These two sisters are so different, but they both struggle against the truth of their lives—and what they will do about those truths. Betsy and Ty’s relationship is troubled now, but their love for each other shines strong even in the darkness. I related to Jenna and her dreams—and her struggle to decide between chasing those dreams, and the life she has now.
Lauren K. Denton is a USA Today bestselling-author. Hurricane Season is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)
Megan Jacobs spent her life being careful, being in the hospital, and watching her sister, Crystal, live life to the fullest, while Megan dreamed about the future, what she would do when she was no longer sick. Three years ago, Megan got a heart transplant, but she’s still playing it safe, living with her parents and working at the library while she yearns for more.
Then, Megan’s heart donor’s parents give her their daughter’s journal, and Megan finds someone she identifies with in the pages. She also finds an unfinished bucket list and decides to fulfill all the items on the list, pushing past her comfort zone as she fights her tendency to play it safe.
When Crystal decides to come with her, Megan hopes they can repair their fragile relationship. With Crystal at her side and her old friend Caleb—a fellow heart transplant recipient—encouraging her, Megan thinks she has all the support she needs to complete her audacious journey. But will she be able to overcome her fears and embrace her new heart?
I related to Megan so much. Her fear of change and of new things is so familiar, as is her desire to travel and to write. So familiar. She’s been through so much, and it’s easier to coast along with the status quo, than to risk failure. Even when Megan has stepped out in faith, she still falters, but the love of those around her propels her forward. This is Crystal’s story, too, the “perfect” sister who is driven by her ambitions even while her marriage is failing. Stepping out in faith and changing is just as hard for Crystal as it is for her sister, but the two don’t even realize they have this in common. I loved this book and highly recommend it!
When you’re on the playground with your kids, you expect to have fun and be silly. You don’t expect your entire life to change in an instant, when a small boy jumps off the jungle gym and lands on your head, breaking your neck, but that is what happened to Katherine Clark in May 2009.
Katherine was paralyzed from the neck down, and doctors diagnosed her with quadriplegia and said she’d never walk again. She had emergency spinal surgery that night, but the doctors told her husband she was no longer the same person. They expected her to be a burden for the rest of her life. They expected her to feel sorry for herself and accept her new, horrifying reality. They were wrong.
Instead, God worked a tremendous miracle in Katherine’s life. Her time in a rehab hospital was marked with frustration and tears, but her trust in God was accompanied by progress every day. By the middle of July, Katherine had learned to walk again and returned home. She experienced the deep, abiding love of God, even in the midst of overwhelming pain and trouble, and she clung to Him and His truths to see her through.
I wanted to read Where I Endbecause of the similarities to my own medical history (a stroke 4 ½ years ago because of an unsuspected birth defect, given a 98% fatality rate, told by a doctor “You’ll never be normal again.”) It is terrifying when your life changes in a single instant, but the experience can be a profound blessing. Katherine Clark tells her story with openness and honesty, and the reader feels her pain and her fear, as well as her hope and her joy. If you need something uplifting in your life, this is the book for you!
Shay Benson loved her younger brother, Caden, so much she would do anything for him. That “anything” landed her in prison, where Caden left her to her fate. Now, after having served her time, Shay is determined to start her life over and forge a future she can be proud of, leaving Caden—and the rest of her bad memories—behind. Homeless and with nowhere to go, Shay enters a church looking for a warm place to spend the night, and maybe some answers.
Pastor Drew is struggling to raise his children in the wake of his wife’s death three years ago. All he can feel is the pain of her loss, and everything else, including the kids and his church, takes a backseat. Desperate for a change, Drew goes to his church looking for answers, and meets Shay, another seeker. The two become friends as Drew tries to help Shay get back on her feet. Their friendship blossoms into something more, until Shay’s past and a secret threaten to end her dreams of a future for good.
I don’t typically read a lot in the romance genre, although I used to. It’s just not my favorite anymore. However, I do make an exception for Debbie Macomber, as her characters and stories are usually so engrossing. Any Dream Will Do was no exception, and Shay has a dark past that left her struggling to find herself in her present. These characters face many obstacles as they slowly grow to love each other, and their struggles are believable and realistic. If you’re looking for some light reading with a great message, Any Dream Will Do is a great choice.
Catriona Menzies-Pike lost her parents in an airplane crash when she was twenty, and spent years floundering. Then she started running, and found a way to move through her grief.
There have always been obstacles for women runners, from cultural constrictions to clothing to men considering it flat-out dangerous. Catriona talks about these problems when she talks about running, and she talks about some of the (underrated in the public eye) triumphs of women in running as well.
The Long Runisn’t a book about some grand triumph in flashy Rocky Balboa style—it’s more about the quiet sort of triumph, one filled with personal satisfaction, accomplishment, and contentment with your own ability. The history of women runners is interesting and frustrating at the same time—why did men find women running so threatening?—and I learned a lot from reading it.
If you have any interest in running or the women’s movement, give The Long Run a read.
The truth is, there is no writing happening lately, unless it’s for school or a work email. I just don’t have the brainpower. I have been feeling COMPLETELY overwhelmed with work/school/life and everything I want to accomplish…
Until I realized that wanting to do too much actually results in me doing nothing. Not with any degree of proficiency, anyway.
So…for now, I’m limiting myself to blogging/book reviews, work, school, and Holly Lisle’sFind Your Writing Voice and How to Find Your Writing Discipline workshops. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony.)
I just need to let some things go for a bit before I lose my grip on everything.
In May 2012, Kim Dinan and her husband sold all their stuff, quit their jobs, and headed out to travel the world. The Yellow Envelope is their story.
On the surface, Kim Dinan had it all: a good marriage to a husband she loved, a good job that paid well, the home she’d dreamed about filled with friends and activities that she enjoyed. But inside, she wondered: is this all there is? Kim concluded that no matter how great her life looked, she would never be truly happy if she didn’t reach for her dreams.
So, she and her husband, Brian, sold their house, quit their jobs, and set off to travel the world. Before they left, they were given a gift: a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away as they saw fit. Through Central America, Nepal, India, and beyond, Kim and Brian encountered the world in all its splendor and squalor, overcoming obstacles to their dreams, their travels, and their marriage, as they learned the truth behind their quest for happiness—and how to give.
The Yellow Envelope is about a woman reaching for her dreams, and finding happiness along the way. The travel stories are inspiring, but not as inspiring as the way Kim goes after what she knows will make her truly happy, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. The message behind the actual yellow envelope is also life-changing and worth embracing. I recommend reading this if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, want to travel, or simply need a change.
After he graduated from college, Andrew Forsthoefel decided to walk across America, really listening to what the people he met had to say. Walking to Listen is the tale of that journey.
Andrew Forsthoefel went out the door of his home in Pennsylvania with a backpack and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He’d just graduated college and was ready to start his adult life…but he didn’t know how. So, he decided to walk across America, wrestling with the hard questions he asked himself every day. Everyone he met would be his guide.
From winter in Appalachia to Death Valley in August, Andrew experienced the true breadth of American geography, but it was the people he met that truly inspired him. He met kindness and fear, diversity and prejudice as people told him their stories. He faced loneliness and fear, but love and hope carried him through his amazing journey.
Walking to Listen is the story of one man on an incredible journey, but it is more than that. The people he meets, the encounters he has are truly inspiring and bring hope for the future amidst the darkness permeating our culture. This book…sure, it’s narrative nonfiction about a journey, but it is so much more than that. The people Andrew met gave me so much hope, and made me want to reach for more. Not only does this book showcase the true diversity of this nation, but it gives a face to the human experience. I highly recommend reading this.
(Galley provided by Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.)