Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker: A Book Review

New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, with playful hilarity, shameless honesty, and refreshing insight, assures readers they have all the pluck they need for vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives.

Jen Hatmaker believes backbone is the birthright of every woman. Women have been demonstrating resiliency and resolve since forever. They have incredibly strong shoulders to bear loss, hope, grief, and vision. She laughs at the days to come is how the ancient wisdom writings put it.

But somehow women have gotten the message that pain and failure mean they must be doing things wrong, that they messed up the rules or tricks for a seamless life. As it turns out, every last woman faces confusion and loss, missteps and catastrophic malfunctions, no matter how much she is doing “right.” Struggle doesn’t mean they’re weak; it means they’re alive.

Jen Hatmaker, beloved author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF, offers another round of hilarious tales, frank honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie. Whether discussing the grapple with change (“Everyone, be into this thing I’m into! Except when I’m not. Then everyone be cool.”) or the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”), Jen parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere who, like her, sometimes hide in the car eating crackers but also want to get back up and get back out, to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold.

My Review: I have some very mixed feelings about this book. From the start, I wanted to love it and the very beginning of the book set me up to do just that. Jen was very intentional about emphasizing that this book was for every woman. She specifically listed women in most all scenarios of life and it made me feel included from the start. That feeling is very important to a woman who doesn’t always feel like she fits.

Unfortunately, the content of the book did not match her statement. This book was supposedly written for every woman, but about 90% of it was geared toward mothers. Much of the content made me feel like it was assumed that the reader would be a mom. This was disappointing and only served to make me feel less included. I realize that Jen is a mom and I’m sure that much of her life story revolves around her kids, but don’t set up a book to be for “every woman” if it’s not. Just saying it is, doesn’t make it so.

I also was unclear as to the whole point of the book. There was some humor and a few relatable things scattered throughout it, but mostly it seemed like a random, eclectic set of thoughts on parenting.

It really saddens me because even toward the end of the book, Jen talks about being aware of who is around you and realizing that not everyone is in the same place in life. She talks about women whose stories are outside the lines and she acknowledges that sensitivity to that is needed, but yet her book doesn’t live up to her words. While on this subject, she makes the statement “It means considering the stories around the table before launching into an assumed shared narrative.” I absolutely love the idea of this, but if her readers are those seated around the table, she surely is not considering their stories before launching into an assumed shared narrative.

I wanted to appreciate her acknowledgement and consideration so much, but how could I when the whole book is about being a mom?

Those of us women who live lives that are outside the lines, don’t need anymore reminders that we don’t fit in. The infertile certainly don’t need to hear sections on “How to plan a family” in which she jokes about her husband glancing at her, and becoming pregnant.

It’s not that I expect her to not want to write about her experience in parenting, but acknowledge that your target audience is moms. Not. Every. Woman.

One last major issue I have with this book is the theology of it. Jen makes comments that seems rather flippant and disrespectful toward Jesus. She also embraces sinful lifestyles in the name of inclusion and love. While we are certainly called to love, we are not called to ignore sin or embrace it.

One last thing I loved was near the end. She encourages her readers to fangirl their friends. Cheer and support them and be their biggest fans. I love that thought and wholly believe that we should be supporting each other and cheering each other on.

It makes me sad that this book had such an opportunity to really speak to every woman, but it sadly just fell so short. The idea of making sure all women felt included and being considerate of who is around you, is an awesome, awesome thing and I absolutely believe it should be more recognized that not all women “fit the mold” Unfortunately, I finished the book feeling more glaringly left out than before.

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

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Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer: A Book Review

When Danger Arrives, It’s More Than Just Her Heart on the Line

Grace Mallory is tired of hiding. She hungers for a normal life, perhaps even a suitor like two of her friends in Harper’s Station have found. But when the man she believes responsible for her father’s death discovers her whereabouts, survival takes priority.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His fellow telegrapher, the mysterious Miss G, has been the ideal companion. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–over the wire has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intends for him. However, when he intercepts an ominous message and discovers her life is in peril, Amos must shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My Review: Love, suspense, humor and a little bit of mystery make up this lovely story centered around Grace and Amos. I thought Grace and Amos were the cutest couple and I loved watching their romance unfold. I think it’s really neat how they were able to communicate with each other in a way that most others could never decipher.

I love that Amos isn’t the “typical” heartthrob male lead. He’s a bit of a geek, but he proves many times throughout this story that he is brave, heroic and selfless. I enjoyed all of the characters and the story-line of this book. I loved the town full of women, who somehow seem to keep accumulating men!

This is a sweet love story, but ultimately it is a story of redemption. It is a story about how God plans our steps, redeems our stories and creates beautiful things out of the ashes of our pain. I love the quote near the end of this book:

“Only a master weaver could intertwine dark and light threads in such a way that all one saw was beauty when looking back at the finished tapestry.”

This is a beautiful depiction of how God cares for us and works in our lives.

My only complaint regarding this novel is that I was unaware that it was book 2 in a series. I really hate reading books out of order, so I’m once again bummed that publishers don’t more clearly label a series as such. This book can easily be read solo, but I just prefer to read a series from beginning to end.

I do highly recommend this book!

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

 

Karen Witemeyer

Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyerwrites historical romance to give the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at http://www.karenwitemeyer.com.

I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck: A Book Review

I’ll Push You

Patrick Gray, Justin Skeesuck

Two best friends, 500 miles, one wheelchair, and the challenge of a lifetime.
Friendship takes on new meaning in this true story of Justin and Patrick, born less than two days apart in the same hospital. Best friends their whole lives, they grew up together, went to school together, and were best man in each other’s weddings. When Justin was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, Patrick was there, helping to feed and care for him in ways he’d never imagined. Determined to live life to the fullest, the friends refused to give into despair or let physical limitations control what was possible for Justin.

So when Justin heard about the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek through Spain, he wondered aloud to Patrick whether the two of them could ever do it. Patrick’s immediate response was: “I’ll push you.”

I’ll Push You is the real-life story of this incredible journey. A travel adventure full of love, humor, and spiritual truth, it exemplifies what every friendship is meant to be and shows what it means to never find yourself alone. You’ll discover how love and faith can push past all limits—and make us the best versions of ourselves.

My Review: I’m not even sure where to start with this review. This book touched my heart in so many ways that I’m not certain I will be able to do it justice. The description above tells you the story of what this book is about, so I am going to focus on what I found within the pages of this book.

This is the true story of two best friends and their journey, not only a journey across 500 miles, but in all of life.

Never in my life have I dog-eared so many pages in a book.

The friendship between Justin and Patrick blows my mind. It also inspires me and fills me with hope and determination.

People often ask Justin and me what makes our friendship so strong. Our answer is simple; We choose to share life’s adventures. I make his “I wonders” mine and he makes my  “I wonders” his. We pursue life together. We always have.

Friendship is fiercely important in my life and I absolutely love the way they view their friendship. This is exactly the way I want my friendships to be. I feel like so often in this world, friendship takes a backseat to everything else in life. We live in a busy time and everyone is running in a million directions and it feels like friendships are the thing that gets pushed aside. It’s so easy now to maintain a friendship using social media or other modern technology. And, while those are great tools, they can be a hindrance to the true connection of friendship.

Would you press pause on your everyday life and take a 500 mile journey with your best friend? Would I? And, would you do it with the commitment that Patrick had to Justin? “I’ll push you.”

Those three words may sound simple, but they are powerful beyond anything I can grasp.

Patrick knew he would have to take care of all of Justin’s basic needs. He would be responsible for feeding, clothing and bathing his friend, yet he didn’t hesitate. In this self-centered world, we see “friends” who won’t even keep a commitment for a coffee date, and these friends are committing to a 500 mile journey that is going to be beyond challenging, and quite realistically impossible.

I can’t even fathom.

This is a privilege. It may be work at times; it may mean I’m the first one up in the morning and the last to bed, but to have the opportunity to tangibly express my love for my friend, to serve him, is a gift I cherish.

Patrick considered taking care of his friend a privilege. The opportunity to serve and show tangible love to our friends should be viewed this way. What a gift!

The bible says Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. What does this look like? I think it looks exactly like the friendship between Patrick & Justin.

Along their journey, they met many people who not only impacted their journey physically by helping to lighten their load, but they impacted them spiritually and emotionally as they shared true community among each other. This is a picture of what the church should be. A place where all are welcome and loved and where we carry each others burdens, lighten each other’s loads and live life side by side.

Sitting here in this square in the middle of Spain, I’m thinking of all the damaged relationships that could be healed and the broken relationships that could be mended if we all chose to stop the distractions, rest in the presence of those we love, and keep them close.

This. I have seen and experienced too many damaged and broken relationships in this life and I think it’s because we don’t know how to love completely, sacrificially, deeply, transparently, unselfishly.

We have to pursue each other. We have to make time for each other. If we want to have deep, meaningful relationships in our lives, we have to be willing to lay down our lives for our friends. This might not mean literally dying for a friend, but it might mean giving up a convenience, sacrificing some time, showing up when you don’t feel like it, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent.

As adults it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we must pursue one another, even when it gets in the way of our own priorities. We can tell people how much we love them, how much they mean to us, but this means nothing if we don’t pursue them. We have to pick up the phone, make time to be together, get in a car and make the drive, or hop on a plane and fly across the country. Like it or not, we are what we do, not what we say we will do.

We live in a world where the mentality is “me and mine first”. If my needs, wants and desires and those of my immediate family are satisfied, I might have a moment or two to spare for you. That is NOT the way to pursue a friendship. To value a friendship, you must be committed to it, and your efforts and actions must reflect that.

In this unique friendship, we see at the forefront, a willingness by Patrick to push Justin on this 500 mile journey. What we may not realize is Justin’s willingness to be pushed. Think about it, how difficult would it be to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough with your friend, to let him bathe you, clothe you, feed you? There is a humble servant in both of these men. They both know what it means to lay down their lives for each other.

How often are we afraid to be vulnerable in every day life? To open up and let someone in?

Another thing that really resonated with me in this book is the transformation that took place in Patrick during their journey. He realized that his priorities weren’t where they should be and he acknowledged that he had a hard time letting go of control, allowing God to lead and letting others help him in his journey. He felt in order to succeed and do things right, he had to do it perfectly and completely, without help. As he struggled with allowing others to come along side them to help push and pull Justin through the trails, he realized that embracing his limitations, and allowing himself to be vulnerable were his greatest strengths.

We can’t do everything on our own, and we weren’t meant to. God desires that we live life together, support, encourage and lift each other up. We are meant to live in community and fellowship with one another. This means living in a way that is sacrificial, selfless and vulnerable.

Along the journey of Justin and Patrick, we see the most beautiful picture of friendship I’ve ever seen, except in biblical history. Their friendship inspires me more than I can say. I want so desperately to be the kind of friend that they exemplify, and I want to have friends like that too. The reason Patrick and Justin’s friendship works so well is because they are BOTH committed to each other.  I’ve never been in a position to push a friend 500 miles, or to bathe or feed them when they could not bathe or feed themselves, but I’d like to think that if the circumstance ever arose, I would joyfully say “I’ll push you.’ and consider it a privilege.

I highly recommend this book to every person EVER. *I received a copy of this book free of charge from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. 

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June: A Book Review

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night, which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client. If Tatum is reading his emails right, her virtual Prince Charming is funny, smart, and talented—and he seems to think the same about her. Too bad he’s spending his summer across the ocean in Ireland…not that Tatum would be allowed to go on a date anyway.

But over the course of the summer, Tatum will learn that sometimes going after what you want means breaking all the rules. And when Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way. A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, Christina June’s IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith.

My Review: This is the perfect summer read! I was first drawn to this book because it has such a pretty, eye-catching cover and an intriguing title. I also love that it is a YA book. The plot is a very modern day Cinderella story, which I found to be quite  fun to read.

The characters are very likable and the story is well-balanced. This story is about friendship and romance and it’s about following your dreams, learning something new and rethinking what you thought you knew. I love that Tatum has a lot of spirit and determination, and I love that she isn’t afraid to consider that she might be wrong about something or someone. I enjoyed reading the correspondence she had with other characters via email, as well as the conversations she had verbally. There is just something about this character that I really found refreshing.

This is such a sweet story that leaves an impression and a smile on the face of the reader.

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

Ruth: Discovering Your Place in God’s Story: A Book Review

Color with Friends. Be Drawn In to Scripture.
Struck by tragedy. On the fringes of society. Seizing upon hope. Ruth didn’t wait for hope to arrive. She sought it out and grabbed hold of it. Compelled by need, animated by faith, she dared to leave the only land she knew. Ruth’s resilience and resourcefulness offer you a creative vision to navigate life’s inevitable struggles, trust God, and hold fast to his irrevocable hope.

Deepen your friendships as you gather around Scripture for coloring and conversation. Drawn In offers simple four-week Bible studies―perfect for groups or personal devotions. Coloring quiets your heart and mind so you can enter fully into Scripture’s stories. The Bible’s passion and personality come through in The Message, surprising new and long-time Bible readers alike. Discover the delight of being Drawn In.

My Review: This is such a cool idea. A combination of adult coloring book meets bible journaling, in a simple and unique bible study format. What an incredibly awesome way to deepen your study or scripture and awaken your creativity at the same time. We often don’t see scripture as being relevant and alive in our modern age, but it absolutely is, and this combination of bible study and creativity really allow us to see the Word in a fresh new way.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review.

Some Small Magic by Billy Coffey: A Book Review

She whispers, “I’m supposed to take you home.”

“Not yet,” Abel says. “Please, just not yet.”

All Abel wants is a little bit of magic in his life. Enough money so his mom doesn’t cry at night. Healing for his broken body. And maybe a few answers about his past.

When Abel discovers letters to him from the dad he believed dead, he wonders if magic has come to the hills of Mattingly, Virginia, after all. But not everything is as it seems.

With a lot of questions and a little bit of hope, Abel decides to run away to find the truth. But danger follows him from the moment he jumps his first boxcar, forcing Abel to rely upon his simpleminded friend Willie—a man wanted for murder who knows more about truth than most—and a beautiful young woman who was already on the train. From Appalachia to the Tennessee wilds and through the Carolina mountains, the name of a single small town beckons: Fairhope. That is where Abel believes his magic lays. But will it be the sort that will bring a broken boy healing? And is that the magic that will one day lead him home?

My Review: Billy Coffey writes such unique stories. This is the second book I’ve had the pleasure of reading by him, and I am so impressed with his imagination and creativity. It’s refreshing to find an author in Christian fiction who writes in such a distinct way.

I absolutely fell in love with Abel in this story. He’s a broken child in the world’s eyes, but in reality he is a wonder, filled with hope, faith and love. I really enjoyed the most unlikely friendship between he, Dumb Willie and Dorothy and I loved traveling with them on their journey. They truly were characters that came alive on the pages.

This story is so full and rich and has a depth that is hard to explain. It’s full of mystery, intrigue, hope and a little bit of whimsy. It’s a story that reminds us that things aren’t always as they seem, people aren’t always what you judge them to be and faith is more powerful than we often realize. This book leaves me thinking, and I like thinking.

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

True to You by Becky Wade: A Book Review

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. However, when John, an adoptee, is diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his ancestry.

John enlists Nora’s help to uncover the identity of his birth mother, and as they work side by side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. But can their hope for a future survive their wounds from the past?

My Review: This was such a sweet story. From the very first page, I found myself thoroughly enjoying every character that is introduced. The author does a great job displaying the unique personalities of each one. I absolutely love Nora and her vocabulary.  I loved watching Nora and John’s relationship build and their story unfold.

I also loved joining Nora and John as they researched and discovered the story behind John’s adoption. This story was sweet and light, but at the same time, it had some heavy tones for our characters to work through and I love how that all played out.

I appreciate so much the promise of redemption that the author weaves into this story and the reminder that God strengthens us and equips us to deal with those things in life that we can’t change.

I’m excited that the book cover seems to indicate this will be a series. I look forward to getting to know Nora’s sisters more in their upcoming novels.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

 

Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and now lives in Dallas. A favorite among readers of Christian contemporary romance, Becky has won a Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and an INSPY Award. Learn more at http://www.beckywade.com.