Monday, February 19, 2018

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

  • Print Length: 169 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (August 14, 2017)
  • Publication Date: August 22, 2017

  • Book description
  • When we're young, it's easy to believe in the supernatural, the mysterious, the enchanted. But as we grow older, we learn to be more "rational" and more confident that reality is merely what we can see. Even as Christians who believe in the resurrection, we live as if miracles and magic have been drained from the world.

  • As Mike Cosper wrestled with his own disillusionment, he found writers, thinkers, and artists like Hannah Arendt, Charles Taylor, James K. A. Smith, and David Foster Wallace whose words and ideas reassured him that he was not alone. And he discovered ancient and modern disciplines that shape a Christian way of life and awaken the possibility of living again in an enchanted world. 

  • Exquisitely written with thoughtful practices woven throughout, this book will feed your soul and help you recapture the wonder of your Christian walk.

  • My thoughts: 


  • It's a book about the spiritual disciplines, and there are many really good books on that subject, such as the following: 

    1. Renovation of the Heart and its companion volume: Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice
    2. A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines
    3. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us
    4. Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life
    5. Building Y0ur Spiritual Core: 101 Creative Ways to Connect with God 
    6. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

  • But in Cosper's book, it's the additional information surrounding his explanation of each discipline that I found so appealing. 

  • He says that "The world we live in conditions us for doubt.... Spiritual Disciplines are an anchor for faith, hope, and love in the midst of a life that feels like it's crumbling.... The disciplines open the opportunity to live in another world.... There is more to the world than what we can experience through our senses.... We need an appreciation toward scripture that runs deeper than doctrines and head knowledge."  

  • Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • "We need to preserve the Bible's character as personal speech exchanged between the Lover and the Beloved. The voice that rings from the Bible is the voice of the one we long to hear from, long to know, long to find rest in."

  • "The presence of mystery in the world is an invitation to wonder, and a world without mystery is a world of despair."    

  • "Once we find ourselves hungering for God, we will seek a whole new way of being in the world."

  • "Living in another world begins when the Spirit whispers life to a dead soul. Once awakened, the soul knows a hunger that nothing else will satisfy." (Jesus's parable of the hidden treasure in the field tells it all.)

  • "A life oriented around the spiritual disciplines is the pathway to experiencing the joy of God that is already ours in Jesus. The disciplines reshape our awareness and perception." There is no fast track to growth, but it is only through growth that we experience the Kingdom of God. 

  • He advocates setting up a "Rule of Life"--a set of commitments to frame our days, marking them with habits and practices that orient us to God's Kingdom

  • More quotes

  • "God is already delighted with you, even before you get your act together. So what do you sense the Lord is inviting you to do as you reflect on creating your personal Rule of Life in the days ahead?"

  • To sum up: We enter a better world when we enter God's Kingdom. It's a world that offers deeper comfort to the soul and makes more sense of how the world is. It's not easy to live a Kingdom life, but the rewards far, far outweigh the emptiness of living in the material world.  

  • I was given a copy of this book to read through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest opinion. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Inspiration: Lord teach me ...

Lord teach me
That your plan unfolds
As I follow the desires you put in my soul. 

As I follow the way of unselfish service.
And as I let one thing lead to another. 

--The Celtic book of Days 
by Ray Simpson

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

  • Print Length: 470 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Teen; Reprint edition (October 1, 2017)
  • Publication Date: October 16, 2017

Book description:

"I dare you…" 

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs—until the day her uncle swoops in, and Beth finds herself starting over at a school where no one understands her. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does. 

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock—with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him. 

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image is risking everything for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

My thoughts

I had been feeling bad that I hadn't gotten around to reading this, McGarry's debut novel, or any of her other ones. Since Dare You To was first published in March, 2013, McGarry's published about NINE more books. Busy, busy author! 

But she has a similar formula for many of them, so I suppose it doesn't matter that I'm not reviewing her latest book (which has the same formula) but her first.  

So what is her formula? Frequently, she writes about a golden boy or girl who falls for forbidden fruit--a girl or boy from the wrong side of the tracks and whose parents and sometimes friends object to the match. 

Had I not been required to read Dare you To to fulfill an obligation to NetGalley, I would not have read past the first few pages. 

She is a good writer, and popular with teens. I do not object to McGarry's formula, but I do find her gritty writing style not my cup of tea. Prostitution ... drug dealing ... alcoholism ... physical abuse ... criminal behavior ... this book has it all. 

I am happy that McGarry redeemed Beth Risk, a parentified child, from her atrocious home life in the end, and that her mother and her mother's boyfriend were safely locked away in prison for years to come. 

It did seem a stretch that someone with Beth's background would make as many strides as she did in three short months' time, once she started living with her uncle and met (and fell in love with) golden boy Ryan Stone. 

In reality, I suspect Beth Risk would remain deeply damaged for many years instead. 

But it's a novel, and if you like gritty stories, you will probably love Dare You To and the rest of the books in the series. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

All things new by John Eldredge

All things new: heaven, earth, and the restoration of everything you love

  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 26, 2017)
  • Publication Date: September 26, 2017

  • Book description

New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge offers readers a breathtaking look into God’s promise for a new heaven and a new earth. This revolutionary book about our future is based on the simple idea that, according to the Bible, heaven is not our eternal home--the New Earth is. As Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew, the next chapter of our story begins with "the renewal of all things," by which he means the earth we love in all its beauty, our own selves, and the things that make for a rich life: music, art, food, laughter and all that we hold dear. Everything shall be renewed "when the world is made new."

More than anything else, how you envision your future shapes your current experience. If you knew that God was going to restore your life and everything you love any day; if you believed a great and glorious goodness was coming to you--not in a vague heaven but right here on this earth--you would have a hope to see you through anything, an anchor for your soul, "an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God" (Hebrews 6:19).
Most Christians (most people for that matter) fail to look forward to their future because their view of heaven is vague, religious, and frankly boring. Hope begins when we understand that for the believer nothing is lost. Heaven is not a life in the clouds; it is not endless harp-strumming or worship-singing. Rather, the life we long for, the paradise Adam and Eve knew, is precisely the life that is coming to us. And that life is coming soon.

My thoughts: 

It seems that this slice of escatology isn't written about or preached about frequently these days, which makes this book feel somewhat fresh and new. However the idea of The Restoration of All Things is a foundational doctrine for my husband's church, which has embraced this doctrine since the mid-1800's. In my own church, I haven't run across anyone being aware of the idea.

The idea of the Restoration of All Things, of course, comes straight out of the Bible.

Eldredge opens the book just after any questions might be raised as to who, exactly, gets to live on earth eternally. By doing so, he handily skirts the need to deal with inevitable controversy over the judgment day and hell.

I assume that Eldredge is a Universalist, meaning that he believes all people will be saved and live eternally on earth. There are scriptures to support that. I wish he would've cited them.

The scriptures he cites about the Restoration of All Things include but are not limited to the following:

Isa 51: 11
Isa 60: 5, 17-20
Isa 65: 17-19
Rev 21: 1-5
Rom: 8:19-23
II Pet 3: 5-7
I Cor 3: 13-15
Acts 3: 19-21
Mark 3: 1-6

He supports his thesis with quotes from N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen and others. 

Not far into the book, he gets long-winded and boring. Frankly, my imagination is strong enough to imagine for myself what a restored earth might be like. I didn't need to read that all of the pets I've owned will be restored and reunited with me and, of course, all of my loved ones. 

For people who lack the imagination (if there are any), he's speculated in great detail about how things will (or might) be ... not sure when ... after Christ's millennial reign? 

I don't believe he answered that question, either. He makes no claims to being a Biblical scholar or a theologian, so maybe that's simply asking too much. 

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, February 09, 2018

Book Blogger Hop--Have you met any authors? If so, who have you met and where?

To join the weekly blog hop, go to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
Guidelines: Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end on Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book-related question. The hop's purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers and receive new followers on your own blog.

This week's question: Have you met any authors? If so, who have you met and where?

I've met dozens of authors over the years at Romance Writers of America regional conferences in Seattle, at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas, at regional and national SCBWI conferences, and at our local RWA's conference, the Inland Empire chapter (located in Spokane, WA).

Once at a SCBWI conference in Bellevue, Washington, I struck up a conversation with Jay Asher, who'd recently published 13 Reasons Why. He was standing by himself, looking shy and a bit nervous. I asked him about his next book and he told me about his plans. 

Later my friend leaned into me, whispering that it was a ballsy thing for me to do. He was (and still is) a big name in YA fiction. Authors are still human, but it seems like the bigger their name, the more frightened us mere mortals are of talking to them.

Another time, our local RWA chapter (IECRWA, Spokane, WA) invited Nora Roberts, who was on a multi-city book tour, to eat dinner with us. The very gracious lady went around the room meeting each (about 20) of us. She wanted to know our names. When she met me, she looked into my eyes and held my hand for an uncomfortably long time (in my estimation).

But I'm not complaining. I was very happy to meet her and, during dinner, to be entertained by some of her funny publishing stories.

New Routines: (Celebrate the Small Things)

To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is visit the Celebrate page on Lexa’s Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you’re grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life. This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit)
Along with Lexa, her wonderful co-hosts of Celebrate the Small Things are:
L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

I'm celebrating a new routine, which is enabling me to get far more done each day than I'd been able to for the past two years. I've moved my writing from the third floor (formerly my son's bedroom) to the basement and into my scrapbooking room.

The reason? From the time of his birth, our grandson and his mommy have been living with us. He's now two years old and can break through every barrier to get upstairs and pester grandma. He gets plenty of my attention, but he doesn't need all of it!

(In this picture, he's sitting in his grandpa's KitFox. Boy oh boy, does this little guy love airplanes.)

He doesn't yet know how to open doors. So my retreat to the basement to work is safe ... for now.

Have you started any new routines recently that are working especially well for you?

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff

  • Print Length: 331 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (February 1, 2013)
  • Publication Date: January 29, 2013

Book description:
Paris, 1919.
The world's leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.

My thoughts

This book held my attention from beginning to end. I learned quite a bit about the climate in Europe right after WWI, when treaties were being drawn up and the borders of various countries were expanded or shrunk. Apparently, Ms. Jenoff's master's thesis was on World War I, so she knows what she writes about, which is utterly important in historical fiction.

But the history was never intrusive and besides, that wasn't my primary fascination with the book.

I loved the love story between Margot and Georg, and the secrets that virtually everyone in the novel kept from each other. My heart both ached for Margot and grew frustrated with her intense difficulty to choose between loyalty to family (and earlier promises) and the ability to be her own person. A modern woman might not have as difficult a time as she, however we need to remember that this was 1919. Social expectations were different for women then than they are now.

I also love Ms. Jenoff's writing style. She is very thoughtful and wise.

And I was surprised (to the point of it taking my breath away) by nearly every one of the seemingly endless twists. I think there was only one that I had an inkling was coming.

A very enjoyable read.

This book was given to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

IWSG: What I love most about the romance genre

Hosted by: Insecure Writer's Support Group

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

This month's question: What do you love most about the genre you write in most often? 

Right off the top of my head, I can think of seven reasons. There are probably more, but seven covers it pretty well:

  1. I love a book with a happy ending, which is required for it to be called a romance
  2. I love that romance novels can also incorporate all other genres, although the love story will always be the primary plot
  3. I love seeing how two people, generally a man and a woman, (although there are m/m and lesbian romances) learn how to overcome their weak traits and become better people by loving each other
  4. I love seeing how true love makes sacrifices to overcome all external barriers to love
  5. I love the romantic tension
  6. I love the opportunity to step into others' lives and live them vicariously
  7. I love the enormous variety of tropes. They are so much fun, such as "man thought dead returns," "forbidden love," "beloved enemy," "friends become lovers," "enemies become lovers," and so on. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Top ten books that have been on my TBR pile the longest and I still haven't read!

Hosted by: That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week, bloggers are asked a bookish question, the answer of which revolves around our top ten of whatever the question asks. Do you have top ten book lists? Then join in the fun. This week's question focuses on the books that have been in our TBR pile the longest and still haven't been read.

Well, I have 800 books in my e-book TBR and I haven't counted the paperback books that line the shelves of several very large bookshelves in my house. But the physical books are older and have been around for decades. Most were bought at used bookstores, which was one of my favorite haunts until electronic books came along.

So the following are my top ten e-books that I am determined to read this year, as they are NetGalley books, and I really want to get my review rate to the recommended 80% or higher.

These are 10 of the books I plan to read in 2018, that've been at the top of my TBR for quite a while. 

Are any of these books in your list? 
Have you read any of them? Which ones? Did you like them?

Monday, February 05, 2018

52 Ways to Grow your Faith by Greg Peter Farah

  • 52 Weeks to Grow your Faith

  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publication Date: September 3, 2012

Book description52 Ways to Grow Your Faith will do what it says AND give you freedom. Your spiritual growth strategy does not have to be limited to reading and praying. Try growing spiritually while walking, driving or working out. 52 Ways to Grow Your Faith will jump-start a stalled faith, provide a road map for a new faith, and energize an active faith. Use this resource with friends in a weekly study group or on your own - but get ready to grow and connect with God in a busy, noisy world.

My thoughts: The book is just what the description says it is--quick and easy ways to grow your faith, especially for people who don't have much time for reading and praying. Or especially for people who may not like to read and/or aren't comfortable with spending a lot of time praying. Those traditional ways just don't work for everyone. 

Fortunately, there are other ways. Some of the more obvious ones include appreciating the beauty of this world, sharing your testimony with a friend (or a stranger) and listening to their story. He encourages serious involvement in small groups. 

There are also more methodical ways to grow, such as setting a time (and an alarm) to sit and just be with God, if for only five minutes. 

Mr. Farah also suggests ways to grow through the arts, such as listening to contemporary worship music, attending Christian concerts, and reading through an old church hymnal. 

(So many of the old hymns were deeply meaningful! But many of the new ones are, too.)

All in all, this book was breezy, light reading--maybe written for people who don't like to read (or don't have much time to). The suggestions are probably best for new Christians, youthful Christians, and too-busy Christians who need their faith rekindled. The right reader might love this book.  

But if you seriously want to grow your faith, deep calling to deep, you need to get serious about the spiritual disciplines. I suggest you try any or all of the following books:
  1. Renovation of the Heart and its companion volume: Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice
  2. A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines
  3. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us
  4. Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life
  5. Building Y0ur Spiritual Core: 101 Creative Ways to Connect with God 
  6. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
  7. Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

52 Ways to Grow your Faith was given to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

52 weeks through the Bible by James Merritt

52 weeks through the Bible: fall in love with the book that changed everything

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2016)

Book descriptionRead and Be Changed
For thousands of years, God's word has penetrated human hearts and transformed lives. So why does the Bible often collect dust on our shelves? Why don't we mine the wisdom filling its pages?

Pastor James Merritt, author of the bestselling 52 Weeks with Jesus, invites you to view Scripture afresh and fall in love with the book that changes everything. These simple weekly readings will help you...
  • gain a big-picture view of God's message to you
  • apply practical life lessons from the Bible's stories and teachings
  • discover more about your destiny—on earth and in eternity
As you explore the lives of Israel's wisest kings, God's powerful prophets, and your amazing Savior, you'll see how every subject and story in Scripture paints a picture of God's plan for humanity—including the story God wants to write with you.

My thoughts

I really, really enjoyed Dr. Merritt's heart for God. I wouldn't subtitle the book "Fall in love with the book that changed everything," but "fall in love with the Author of the book that changed everything." Slightly different, but of course, that's what this book is really about: learning about God's plan for this world and the people in it, both of which he loves so much. 

Dr. Merritt's God-loving heart shines through on every page as he highlights 52 of the most important scripture passages and themes of the Bible. 

If you're already familiar with the Bible, you probably won't find much new here. There wasn't a passage he highlighted that I hadn't read many times before. But the order in which he combined them was very effective, as well as what he had to say about each theme. 

If you're a newer Christian, this is a MUST READ. 

This book was given to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, February 02, 2018

Book Blogger Hop--Do you prefer to blog about a specific genre, or do you have an eclectic blog?

To join the weekly blog hop, go to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

Guidelines: Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end on Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book-related question. The hop's purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers and receive new followers on your own blog.

This week's question: Do you prefer to blog about a specific book genre or do you have an eclectic blog?

I blog about several book genres, as well as some book discussion and writing posts, but I don't consider my blog terribly eclectic. I review Christian Nonfiction books, Young Adult fiction, including YA Romance, and Inspirational romance, mostly historical. 

A remodeled scrapbooking room (Celebrate the Small Things)

Late in 2003, my daughter-in-law invited me to a scrapbooking party at her house. For years, probably decades, I'd been talking about "doing something" with boxes of loose photos, which I stored in my linen closet. That night at the party, I saw a sampling of beautiful ways to showcase family pictures.

I'd always loved being crafty, so when I saw all those products--colored marking pens, cutters, patterned papers, colored cardstock, stamps, ink and a whole lot more--I was in heaven. I knew I would combine my love for art with "doing something" with the family photos.

As the years wore on after 2003, I became an avid scrapbooker and collector of scrapbooking supplies. For over a decade, I worked only a few blocks from a Michael's and a Joann's, which was conveniently located next door. During my lunch hour, I would often happily wile away the hour, browsing the new products and shopping for sales.

For a while, my scrapbooking room was located in my son's old bedroom, along with the other bedrooms on the third floor. He had vacated it several years prior to marry and start a family.

Still, a lot of room swapping went on during the years 2004-2010, when my two adult daughters moved out, back home, out again and home again (one of them). Hubby's and my offices/scrapbooking rooms got moved around like checkers on a checkerboard, especially when both daughters (one with a husband and two kids) lived here at the same time. For a while, hubbie's office was in our bedroom!

Eventually, the girls cleared out. Our six-bedroom house now has two dedicated offices, a dedicated scrapbooking room, two guest bedrooms and our master bedroom.

Three years ago, a cement wall in our basement, in my scrapbooking room (!) sprung a leak. Right before Christmas! There was an inch of water all over the floor and swiftly flowing out into the basement at large. 

Considering that it was Christmas time (with all of its busy-ness), that I was expecting guests for Christmas Eve dinner the following evening, and I was working long hours to enter a manuscript in the Golden Heart before the deadline, my heart developed an electrical problem. 

I spent an evening in the Emergency room at a local hospital while the doctors worked to get it to stop beating like a runaway locomotive. One that had also jumped the track. 

Anyway, a few days later, we removed everything from the room, tore out a bunch of sheet rock and patched the leak. The room was usable again, but we didn't have money to fix the sheet rock until this fall. Our son-in-law does all of the repair jobs on our house. When he fixed the sheet rock, I asked him to make some other improvements as well.

I asked him to paint the whole room instead of only the area over the patch. The yellow (original color) was cheerful, but I wanted a more neutral color that wouldn't interfere with choosing colors for layouts. I chose a beige that is the same color as the floor and the new counter tops.

Yes, new counter tops! My son-in-law built a wrap-around counter, which enabled me to eliminate two fold-up tables.

I had collected so many supplies over the years that every square inch of wall space was taken up with shelves. The room was so busy that it was sometimes overwhelming. So when I started putting everything back into the room again, I was determined to leave an empty wall.

I succeeded. The other three walls look crammed, for sure, but the wall that I stare at is refreshingly empty.

Here's some pictures:

The white is where Jon patched the sheet rock. 

Though hoping to limit shelves, these eight-footers had to go back up.

Wrap-around counter top where two tables (8' and 4') had been.

Shelves filled again on the wall that'd sprung a leak
Couldn't do without shelves on this wall

This wall still has a table and three shelves. 

Aha, but there is a bare wall! (Where there used to be 3-7' shelves.) 
Another reason to celebrate!

To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is visit the Celebrate page on Lexa’s Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you’re grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life. This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit)
Along with Lexa, her wonderful co-hosts of Celebrate the Small Things are:
L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog
What are you celebrating today?

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