Something Needs to Change

291417: Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need

By David Platt / Multnomah

This title is a must read. The message is timely. If you’ve been lukewarm about missions, this book will change your outlook. It’s realistic and compels you to consider the urgency of meeting the world’s spiritual needs. I have family members and acquaintances who have devoted good portions of their adult lives to missions. I thought of their commitment and heart for missions on nearly every page. Now I understand more clearly why they’re so passionate about bringing the gospel message to non-believers.

I appreciate how David Platt addresses how church families’ priorities can be skewed toward wrong priorities. I’ll confess that I’m guilty of thinking my church needs just one more really great youth program, or women’s program, or social media presence to bring people in the door and fill the pews. These may be important outreach tools, but as Platt points out these are not essential traits of a church according to the Bible. His list of essential traits totals 8, and the top 3 are Preach His Word, Share the gospel, Pray fervently and frequently.

I wasn’t so sure what to expect once I realized as a reader I was going to follow Platt and his hiking team through the harsh and rugged Himalayan peaks and villages. At points the content was difficult. I appreciate that such tough subjects were handled with care.

David Platt surely excels as a writer in this book. Each chapter is a polished gem with an important message for Christians. Platt addresses how people must assess how best to use their God given talents for the Lord. He is careful to emphasize how a well thought out plan is needed before launching into action. This preparation is important because poorly thought out plans aren’t sustainable. Likewise he encourages Christians to fully prepare themselves spiritually prior to following a gospel spreading path.

His prose never meanders. It’s concise but also lyrical. I really enjoyed his well written conclusion. Something Needs to Change is an engaging book, you will find impossible to put down. Once you’ve arrived at the end, you’ll take Platt’s message to heart.

I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Holy Roar

212262: Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship

By Chris Tomlin & Darren Whitehead / Thomas Nelson

The title captured my attention. One look at the by-line, and I knew this book was a must have for my personal library. Its structure is marvelous. It’s a look at seven Hebrew words for praise. Each chapter begins with words shared by Pastor Darren Whitehead. His insight on scripture is thought provoking. The selected quotes from history’s great Biblical commentators and pastors are well chosen. These thoughts are immediately followed by Chris Tomlin’s narrative on the creation of some of his great worship anthems. It’s a pairing that’s as smart as honey and tea, and silver and gold. Each chapter closes with a list of Bible verses to look up. You’ll complete this task with enthusiasm and delight in the discovery of reading familiar verses with a fresh outlook.

It’s a reader friendly 128 page book. At its close, you’ll think of friends who should read it next. Holy Roar is a satisfying book for a time of personal devotion. Members of worship teams and small group Bible studies would also all love it.

People who enjoy Christian worship music will never sing a Chris Tomlin song again without appreciating the inspiration behind each creation.

Summer Writing and Reading

I met a June deadline and since then I’ve composed only note card sentences and business emails. My output with the written word over the last month has been meager. Yet, I’ve been busy if you measure my productivity in pounds of honey extracted from my bee hive, ample produce baskets harvested from the gardens, and my research notes from our state’s archives. Yes… pouring over 18th century primary source documents is where I’ve been spending my time. I’ve discovered some real gems back in the vault and among all the cataloged boxes. Facts I’ll use when my next deadline is near.

I’ve always been fascinated with primary source documents. Whether it’s photos, town reports, school reports, or tax inventories; each item has a story to tell. The vast library of digital images we have available at our fingertips is a great research aide. But nothing compares to holding the real thing in my hands.

While I’ve spent hours reading, researching, and interviewing people, I feel each step has opened up five more paths. I haven’t sifted out all the pieces I need, but I will push on. A September deadline is looming. All my inquiries and fact gathering will need to be crafted into a story. One that I hope is of interest to others and worthy of publication.

Writing coaches always tell you to read and read widely. This I’ve done. The best part of the long summer days is settling down after supper for a good stretch of night time reading. I’ve been happily immersed in many books since June, and each one has been a pleasure to read.

I also took a leap and joined a writer’s group. I’m careful with how I invest my membership dues, but this just made sense. I’ll give it a try for a year and decide later if the return on investment is positive.

The writing life is more than choosing active verbs and smart quotes. It’s fair to say, I’ll be a better writer as a result of my hours spent reading and researching.

Ever Faithful

289583: Ever Faithful #3 Ever Faithful #3

By Karen Barnett / WaterBrook

Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett is a delight to read. The spirited dialogue flows smoothly and the pacing is spot-on. Historical fiction fans will savor every twist and turn. Barnett’s third novel in the Vintage National Park series is complete with a mystery, romance, and fascinating sub-plots. Like the previous novels in the series, the historical details are accurate and increase the book’s appeal.

Set in Yellowstone National Park during the Depression, the focus on the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) allows readers to get a glimpse of their contributions to our National Parks. While telling their story, readers are treated to some insights on the challenges these men faced prior to joining up, their backgrounds, and their hopes during a desperate time in America’s history. You’ll also laugh along with them as you experience their antics around camp. Nate Webber is a natural leader and a bright star in the story.

When the spotlight is away from the CCC camp, we meet three young ladies who are regular seasonal employees at the park. Elsie, Mary, and Rose are best friends who have spent many summers together but soon will be stepping into new life stages. Mary and Rose are close to college graduation with their future before them. Elsie finally has raised the necessary tuition and plans to attend college in the fall. Their friendship is a key ingredient of this story.

Ranger Brookes and Ranger Vaughan are also characters to love. Ranger Brookes, (Elsie’s Dad), is wise and kind-hearted. Ranger Vaughan not so much. When we first meet him, he is brash, condescending, and not very likeable.

The characters in Ever Faithful are vibrant. If there’s a fourth book planned for this series, I vote for seeing their stories continue a few years later at Glacier Park. At the end of Ever Faithful, some of the characters move north anyways due to employment or college so let’s see how their lives might unfold at this national park on Montana’s northern border. There’s more to tell with Elsie, Nate, Charlie, Red, and Mary. Readers would love to meet these characters again and not have to say goodbye quite yet.

I appreciate how Karen Barnett weaves a little science and reflections on the natural world into her novels. In Ever Faithful, her characters take hikes, enjoy scenic views, and interact with wildlife. Naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts will love this story.

Another strength running through this book is all the ways the characters were empathetic. We see Elsie, as a teacher, demonstrate acceptance and tolerance of different learning styles. Mary recognizes that supporting people and encouraging their dreams is an important part of every relationship. Elsie’s Mom, shares how forgiveness needs to be bestowed and living in the past is not a recipe for future success.

This is a book you’ll naturally want to share with friends. But you will ask for it to be returned because you will not want to lose it from your bookshelf. I read the previous two novels in the Vintage National Park series. I received an advanced readers’ copy of Ever Faithful from WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

A Way to Garden

A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach shares insider tips from beginning to end. Her experience is vast. Everyone will benefit from her words of gardening wisdom f9781604698770_3D.pngine tuned by many growing seasons. Gardeners’ will make this book a top shelf title for their resource libraries. The scales are tipped toward flowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses. The section on viburnums and hydrangeas are especially helpful. Essential vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes get their due, but it’s the work Roach does with creating floral mosaics that will have you picking this book up again and again.

She emphasizes the importance of extending the season by planting early blooming varieties and well as choices for the waning summer. “Early, middle, late” is the mantra she encourages gardeners to adopt for success. Year round interest is another point in her plant selection strategy. Roach is a true plant collector and speaks about what fun it is to finally secure a sought after variety to showcase in your garden.

All her links and suggested resources are right up to date adding to the educational appeal of this book.

She addresses the most common mistakes gardeners make and offers remedies. One is the tendency to settle just a single plant in the bed, instead of creating a mass effect with three, six or nine of the same type. Her words on mulch are informative and you may never mulch the same way again. She addresses how to evaluate a plant when you’re not sure if it will thrive in your growing zone. Roach says, “Try these varieties in two different locations around your property. If it’s not successful in either one, then just pot it up in a container and treat it as an annual.”

A Way to Garden is not just a how-to book. Roach is a true naturalist and shares many personal observations and reflections. I copied several phrases on index cards to reflect on later. I love that she calls seed catalogs our textbooks in a horticulture correspondence course. I received an ARC of this book from Timber Press, an imprint of Workman Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

A Silken Thread

290122: A Silken Thread A Silken Thread

By Kim Vogel Sawyer / WaterBrook

Choose this book next! Even if your to-be-read pile is a towering stack. You’ll be glad you spent time with Laurel, Willie, Quincy, the Rochester Family, and more. It’s a satisfying read with a detail rich plot.

Travel with Kim Vogel Sawyer to the fairgrounds of the 1895 Atlanta Exposition. Her account of this three month event is her starting point for telling a great story. Thirty years have passed since the end of the Civil War but racism and war memories pulse through the thoughts and actions of many characters. This story exposes how divisions based on skin color and economic standing perpetuate and inflict deep emotional injury. Hurtful remarks, jumping to the wrong conclusions, and more instances of social injustice are part of the narrative. The end proves what matters most. Good character, loyal friends, family, and faith.

The author demonstrates an expert ability to share a Christian message within a historical fiction novel. I never found it preachy or heavy handed. Just true words of wisdom shared from the heart. She even uses the title to remind us that God is always at work trying to draw us closer to Him. Sometimes it’s a fragile silken thread that he holds us by, but He is always there. More than one character speaks about the importance of seeking God’s direction when traveling on the path of life.

Even though this was a time when women were also denied many opportunities, most of the leading female characters possessed can-do attitudes who got back on their feet despite life altering setbacks. Miss Warner, Mama Millard, and Laurel are resilient and forward thinking characters.

Langdon Rochester takes the meaning of obnoxious to new heights. Throughout the book, you suspect he’ll come to a reckoning moment. This is just one of the storylines that keeps you reading to see how it’s going to turn out in the end. While you might anticipate some closing scenes, a good number will resolve in a surprising fashion. There is one major unanswered question that lingers at the end. Perhaps we can meet these vibrant characters in a sequel and discover the solution to this puzzle and more.

I recommend this book with enthusiasm. I reviewed an advanced readers’ copy from WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for my honest review. #ASilkenThread

QueenSpotting By Hilary Kearney

9781635860375_3DQueenSpotting by Hilary Kearney is like “Where’s Waldo?” of the insect class. It’s a must read for both experienced and beginning beekeepers. The queen spotting challenges range from easy to advanced. The answer key appears at the back. Interspersed throughout the educational visuals are Hilary’s accounts of apiary management and swarm catching. As a resident of Southern California, Hilary works year round managing her own hives, rescuing errant swarms, and educating others about honey bees. She launched her own business, Girl Next Door Honey, in 2012.

It’s a handsome book, readers will enjoy referring to over and over. Her enthusiasm bubbles up and spills over into her writing. Never stuffy or formal, you’ll chuckle when she uses the phrase “pollen pants” as a substitute for pollen baskets.

She clearly works at the master level of beekeeping. Her advice for building proficiency in queen spotting is helpful and accurate. At the book’s conclusion, you’ll likely want more from this beekeeper and entrepreneur. You can find more words of wisdom on Hilary’s Girl Next Door Honey website or popular social media accounts.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review of this publication. #QueenSpotting #NetGalley

Daughters of the Northern Shore

099120: Daughters of Northern Shores Daughters of Northern Shores

By Joanne Bischof / Thomas Nelson

The men are valiant and the women resilient. These are the lead characters in Daughters of the Northern Shore written by Joanne Bischof. It’s a plot that moves at a moderate pace at first, but finishes like a 50 yard dash. Initially you wonder how all the parts will weave together. We meet Northern European immigrants, a prodigal son, a deaf sibling, moonshiners, and a band of abusive and racist thugs. The action soon heats up to a feverish pitch. A strategy devised to end the thug’s tyranny is as good as any top-rated TV crime drama. Once it’s set to action, you’re right there with them in the smoke, confusion, and volley of ammunition. With the women safeguarded at a faraway location, you’ll root for the Norgaard Brothers and their allies, hoping they will emerge unscathed. No spoiler alert here. You’ll have to read the book to discover the outcome.

The post Civil War setting is unique and draws quite a story line out of an often overlooked consequence of sending thousands into battle during a time when sanitation and medical procedures were primitive.

Cora shares wisdom that soothes troubled souls. Eventually Haakon, the prodigal son, accepts the gift of forgiveness Cora describes and stops running from the consequences of his bad choices. At the conclusion, Haakon gains his heart’s desire.

There are no straw characters here. Tate Kennedy, the Doctor, Mrs. Sorrel, and Sibby are secondary characters with power. They unveil mysteries and take action when called upon. This book is a sequel to Sons of Blackbird Mountain. I did not read the first book, but this in no way hindered my interest in the sequel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and appreciated the author’s remarkable word choice. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange of my honest review.

Of Fire and Lions

291867: Of Fire and Lions Of Fire and Lions

By Mesu Andrews / WaterBrook

Mesu Andrews masterfully shares a great story with us. Characters come to life as if you’re going through their day with them. The dialogue flows easy and the family dynamics are so realistic. The scoundrels and evil doers say and do just enough to make them loathsome. Some readers don’t care for books filled with ancient Babylonian names. There is quite a roster of them in Of Fire and Lions, but don’t let it be an obstacle to this recent release. The character list at the opening is a great resource.

The starting point for this book is the Bible’s Book of Daniel. There are some gripping events that are accurately told in this historical fiction book. Three Jewish exiles survive a fiery furnace. Lions with insatiable appetites take no action, even though Daniel is sealed inside as easy prey. As you walk through these events with the characters you are drawn into an epic story that gives you new insight into the Babylonian Empire. Andrews’ research leaves no stone unturned.

Of the author’s three most recent releases, I have to say Miriam was my favorite. I read Isaiah’s Daughter and enjoyed it. Miriam was a Christie Award finalist two years ago, and Isaiah’s Daughter won the top award in historical fiction last year. This newest release, Of Fire and Lions, covers a lot of ground. Seventy years of captivity to be exact. A consistent, impressive story thread throughout the story is Daniel’s rock solid faith in his one true God. He remains steadfast despite being surrounded by a culture that is is hostile to his beliefs. This is captivating enough, but the transformation of some of the fictional characters is just as gripping.

In her author notes, Mesu Andrews writes that she hopes her fiction will drive readers to Scripture to delve deep on Daniel and the experience of the exiles. I know I turned to Ezra to look further into the historical record of Sheshbazzar and his role in the return to Jerusalem.

My goal was to finish this book by its release date. I was on track until I found myself savoring the book and not wanting it to end. This behavior is familiar to all readers who just don’t want to have to say goodbye to a good book. I received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. #OfFireandLions #NetGalley