Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Prophetess by Jill Eileen Smith

Jill Eileen Smith's newest book The Prophetess takes the familiar story of Deborah and adds a fictional twist,

"Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she'll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai--and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan's armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God's calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped?"

The Biblical account of Deborah can be found in Judges 4 and 5. The details the Bible gives of Deborah's life are pretty slim. The story is one that has always interested me though. One can't help but wonder about Deborah, the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. What was she like and how did she end up with that role?

Jill takes the Biblical account and creates a fictional retelling of the details surrounding her life. Obviously, to make a full book out of such a small piece of scripture is going to involve a lot of speculation. I think the author does a good job of staying true to the story while providing a retelling that was both interesting and mostly realistic.  You get  a sense for how Deborah might have been as a wife, mother and woman in general. It's fascinating to think about what such an important woman might have been like fulfilling those roles.

 It is obvious that Jill took a lot of time research the period in which the story is told. She brings to life the culture and location in which the story takes place. You really get a sense for how tense and terrible the time of oppression was. Reading the story and imagining the setting really gave it a lot of richness for me.

While I really liked a lot about the book, I found myself just not interested in it at times. I had a hard time finishing this one. While it is entertaining, it didn't hold my attention. I found myself easily putting it down and eventually picking it up just so I could finish it. The book spans such a long period of time I think it's hard to connect with the characters, especially initially.

The book is an interesting retelling of an imperfect woman that God uses during troubled times. While it wasn't exactly my favorite, I can appreciate a lot about the book. If you are a fan of Biblical Fiction, you might enjoy this one.

I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anchored by Kayla Aimee

I didn't get much sleep last night. Surprisingly, that had little to do with my 12 day old baby. Instead, I fault Kayla Aimee. The woman drew me in with her story and it just wouldn't let me go. Ignoring all my better judgment, I stayed up late to finish this book while baby slept. I was exhausted come her 2 am and then 6 am feeding, but it was nothing a second cup of coffee couldn't fix.

A little about the book--
"You count a pregnancy by weeks and Kayla Aimee had only ticked off 24 of the 40 when she unexpectedly went into labor. She thought her church upbringing had prepared her for every circumstance but when tragedy struck and threatened to take the life of her newborn daughter, it felt as though once solid ground had turned to glass beneath her feet, destined to shatter everything she held sacred.
When swept into a story of suffering, we all find ourselves vulnerable, questioning everything we thought we knew as we wonder, “Where is God in this?” With everything feeling as fragile as her one and a half pound daughter, Kayla finds herself asking that same question as she faces  her greatest fear: that she may have finally become a mother just to lose her only child. 
Both poignant and humorous, Anchored recounts Kayla’s gripping story of learning to navigate her newfound motherhood in the most unexpected of ways, from holidays in the hospital and middle-of-the-night phone calls to the joy of coming home. With vulnerability and plenty of wit, Kayla lays bare her struggle to redefine her faith, her marriage, and herself within the context of a tragedy she never saw coming. For anyone who has felt their faith in God falter, Anchored extends a gentle invitation to join her as she uncovers a hope that holds."  
In the re-telling of her story, Kayla could have written herself as a saint. She could have glossed over the rough moments, drew a nice spiritual conclusion and called it a day. However, the beauty of this book is the truly raw and vulnerable moments when she exposes the cracks in her own faith. This book may not have any cut and dry answers on how best to deal with grief, but it offers a huge assurance that "...if God was sovereign then he could hold my hurt. (p. 104)"

It's not just a touching story with some nice insights on suffering. This book really got to me on a level most rarely do. Her story is not my story, but I could relate to some of the feelings she had along the way. When she cried out, "this was not wonderful, this failure of a body. This was flawed. I was flawed. And it was going to cost my daughter her life.(p. 36)" I have thought those words so many times in dealing with my ICP. During the later days of pregnancy my liver cannot handle the insane amount of hormones. Things begin to function incorrectly and potentially my own body poisons the tiny life it harbors. When I was first diagnosed I remember how broken I felt. Why couldn't I just function normal? My body was faulty, messed up and it was going to kill my baby. I wanted nothing more in the world to protect my child, yet inside me was a dangerous and hostile environment.

Over the years and pregnancies, I have gotten better at dealing with these feelings, but they never really go away. My ICP has remained mostly under control and nothing tragic has struck us yet. However, each time I have seen those two pink lines, a knot of fear wells up inside me. I always wonder, how bad is it going to be this time? How miserable for me and how dangerous for the baby? I can do little more than guess until my body beings to rebel against me. At night I would lie there, afraid of my own fear. Because if I was afraid, it meant something fearful was looming and I wasn't prepared to admit that. This pregnancy was particularly hard for me on that front. I finally just had to admit the fact that yes, something bad could happen. That God was in control and while there was a chance things wouldn't be okay, I could rest in Him. And as the crying baby in my arms can attest, things were indeed okay.

You don't have to be a micro-preemie mom to glean insight from this book. You don't even need to be a mom or someone currently facing loss. Maybe you have never experienced this level of suffering, or perhaps you have gone through even greater devastation-- at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. Kayla's raw and honest insights transcend the situation and speak into any level of pain. Beyond that she is a fantastic story-teller and author. I was really glad to be the only one awake while reading this book. Certainly, my husband would have thought there was something seriously wrong with me. I don't think I have ever cried so much through a book. It wasn't really even the tears that made me appear manic, but the fact that something on the very same page would make me laugh. She manages to make the story of her most intense and personal trial entertaining.

The same day I read this book, a couple I know well was leading worship at church. The husband shared a story that I hadn't heard before. He and his wife had lost a baby at around 26 weeks. She knew the baby had passed within her and that laboring to deliver a deceased babe loomed ahead. While at the hospital, she sang this hymn to the nurses and doctors--

God Hath Not Promised

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

We sang the song at church and it really touched my heart. I thought that it really fit with the theme of the book.

I really enjoyed this read and find myself still processing everything. This is a book I would definitely recommend reading, just maybe not in a public place- because I promise it will make you cry.

I received a copy of this book from B&H in exchange for me honest review.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Calling by Rachelle Dekker

About the Book

The Calling, by Rachelle Dekker is the second book in her Seer series. Here is a quick rundown of what the book is about.
"Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk. 
As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels—he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out. 
With dissension in his own camp—and the CityWatch soldiers closing in—Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing."
It would be easy to compare Rachelle to her father, Ted Dekker. Both of them write excellent and unique stories that touch on a spiritual level. One could also compare her dystopian style to authors like Veronica Roth or Suzanne Collins. However, Rachelle has her own clear and individual style. I thought that she really stepped out of the shadow of other authors and wrote her own story.

This book really appealed to me on three different levels. First of all, the storyline of Remko's family. Remko and Carrington are continually fighting for both their ideals and their family. Things are growing more and more dangerous within the city. The stakes are higher and people are being executed regularly. Remko and his team risk their lives over and over to try and turn the tide. For Remko though, things have changed. He no longer has nothing to lose. His wife and daughter now greatly depend on him. He struggles with whether or not Aaron's ideals are worth the risk. As a mom, I really connected with this aspect of the story. I want so badly to provide safety and security for my children. I want to protect them from the world and its dangers. However, the Lord doesn't promise us a comfortable and safe life.

Next the book deals with Remko's own spirituality. He lives amongst the Seers, yet he doesn't really prescribe to their beliefs. His wife and most all those living in his community were called by Aaron himself. This causes him to question why he should fight at all, why not run to safety? Remko doesn't wish to surrender his cares and would much rather rely on his own strength. And he is strong, he is capable. However, when he finds himself in a situation where his own strength isn't enough-- he will come face-to-face with his weakness.  

Finally, the book deals with questions of free will and humanity. Without giving to much away, Gold has devised a new way to gain control of society. He and the Scientist are willing to go chilling lengths to achieve their goals. The book asks a lot of questions about what makes us human and the nature of our free-will. The book raises a lot of deep questions, especially in it's final chapters.

The book has a range of characters. Woven into the main story-line are a numerous side plots between secondary characters. The other characters, good and evil, really added a lot to the story. We even get a few chapters from the perspective of Gold himself. The book really picks up speed in the last quarter. Rachelle has quite a few surprises in store for the readers.

As I mentioned, this book is part of a series. The first book, The Choosing, I haven't read. For first time readers of the series, The Choosing is obviously the ideal place to start-- I didn't feel to lost or confused with what was going on though. I do plan to read The Choosing soon, as I really enjoyed Rachelle's style and the characters.

One last thing I would like to mention is the quality of the physical book itself. Sometimes I get a book that just feels good in my hands. This is a thick book with nice quality paper. The cover is printed on a thick pearlescent card-stock and the spine stands out on my shelf. I know this might not mean much to some readers, but I really appreciate a good story and well designed book.   

About the Author

The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through storytelling. The Choosing is her critically acclaimed debut novel. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair. Visit her online at

Finally, a little Q&A with Rachelle herself--

In the book you talk a lot about surrendering to fear. What does this look like and how does this help us to not be afraid? I think sometimes the natural reaction to fear is to hide from it, or try and push it away. It’s the idea that if we can’t see it then it must not be there, but we all know that unless dealt with the unseen things often come back to bite us. The only way to face fear is to walk through it; surrendering to Father God and letting Him reminder us of our true identity. Only then do we really see that the light within us is always greater than the fear we face. 

Carrington struggles with the pain that comes from watching Remko miss the Truth that was so clear to her. What encouragement would you give to others that have loved ones who do not yet share their faith? Everyone needs to take the journey. For some, truth comes more easily, and others have to struggle to see it. It can be incredibly hard to watch someone you love miss the truth right in front of them, but don’t forget that the Father is still God, and He holds them in His hand. So love those that struggle restlessly and trust that the Father is ever-present, even in the darkness. 

Do you relate to any of the characters in The Calling in terms of how you’ve faced and handled fear in your life? How so? Of course, every character I write ends up having some reflections of things I’ve faced personally. You can only write what you know, as they say. I, very much like Remko, have the tendency to be in “my head” too much when faced with fear, and I struggle to let go of the need for control and simply surrender. That’s one of the main reasons I decided to write this story. 

What do you hope readers will take away from the story? I hope they take a moment to see themselves as children of the Father. I hope they see that true freedom and fearlessness rest in surrendering, and that when they stand with the Father than nothing can stand against them. There is incredible peace in that truth, and I hope, like I am beginning the experience, that readers feel that same peace.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I Will Follow Jesus by Judah and Chelsea Smith

I'm always excited to check out a new children's book. This book, I Will Follow Jesus is written by Judah and Chelsea Smith. I have been reading through the stories slowly with the kids in the evenings. It has given us some nice, quiet moments amidst the big changes our family is going through. 

This book is presented as a Bible Storybook. It is in no way comprehensive, but it does cover many stories from the Bible-- Old and New Testament. The book is written in a way that is easy for preschool aged children to grasp and enjoy. I did think at times that the language of the book was bordering on "cutesy", What I mean is, there are times when the language could have had more depth and not been so oversimplified. This book is great for getting kids familiar with Biblical characters-- but I would stress reading the actual Bible with your children too!  

I really liked the specific "I Will Follow Jesus" pages, interspersed throughout the book. These pages take a break from the stories and offer a chance for the kids to interact with what they are learning. They are sort of short devotionals with questions for the kids to think about. They also offer a short, sentence long prayer. There are also pages that are personal exerts from the authors lives.

What I really loved about this book were the illustrations done by Alexandra Ball. They are gorgeous. The color scheme and style give the book a modern feel. My children really enjoy flipping through the book just to see the pictures. The overall feel and quality of the physical book is really nice.

Overall I think that the book does accomplish its goal. It asks "what does it mean to follow Jesus?". The stories and questions presented within have challenged my kids (especially my 5 year old) to really contemplate this question.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review.    

Friday, March 18, 2016

New Life

I have been enjoying a little blog break while this-- 

became this!

She arrived four days late and quick as a flash. Elsie was born at noon exactly, 6pds and 15oz. I am still just in awe of how lavishly the Lord has blessed us. There have been rough moments, all three children crying at once, a uterine infection and overall sleep deprivation- but this last week has been so, so sweet. 

Today is my second day back to normal life- my husband has gone back to work. Things have been surprisingly uneventful. Despite seriously missing having my husband around, it's been nice getting back to our regular routine. 

I have some great book reviews coming up this month! There are quite a few titles in my stack that I can't wait to get into. This Monday I will be part of a blog tour for Rachelle Dekker's new book, The Calling. I am so excited to share this book with you!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bedtime Snuggles by Patricia Reeder Eubank

 Bedtimes Snuggles by Patricia Reeder Eubank is a sweet book to snuggle up with. This simple rhyming board book is one both my children enjoyed.

As the sun goes down on the farm all the animals are getting tucked in. They snuggle up with their momma and get ready for bed. Bunnies, mice and even raccoons are included. At the end of the story from inside the farmhouse, momma snuggles and prays with her little one before bed.

There are a few awkward rhymes, but for the most part the book reads smooth. The cover is extra sturdy and the board book pages feel like they will hold up over time. The illustrations are especially sweet and dreamy. All the pictures are bathed in a cozy golden glow. It's a delight to look at and to read.

Thanks to Worthy Publishing for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review.