Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering: A Book Review

9780764214110A Regency-Era Costume Party Should Have Been an Amusing Diversion, but it Seems Wherever Drew Farthering Goes, Mystery–and Murder–Are on the Guest List

Drew and Madeline Farthering arrive at a Regency-era house party at Winteroak House, excited to be reunited with old friends, including Drew’s former Oxford classmate Talbot Cummins. Tal is there with his fiancée, Alice Henley, and though many present seem worried about the couple, nobody is prepared when Alice dies from an apparent overdose. Tal refuses to believe she’d taken the drugs intentionally, and a dark question arises of whether the death is an accident or murder.

The police have their own information though, and Drew is shocked when they arrest someone he’s trusted and admired since his childhood–someone who’s been smuggling drugs into the country for years. Stunned by what has happened, Tal begs Drew to get to the bottom of everything, but Drew has never felt more unsettled. Questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, Drew doesn’t know whom to trust, and he’s not ready for the secrets he’s about to uncover–or the danger he’ll bring down on everyone he holds dear.

My Review: This is the 4th installment in the Drew Farthering Mystery series, and it does not disappoint. Drew finds himself again playing the amateur sleuth, along with his new bride and friends. As usual, the mystery is intriguing and keeps you guessing.

This series is so much fun to read. It’s light-hearted, yet full of everything a cozy mystery should include. The characters are all so endearing.  Set in 1930’s England, this series captures the time and place quite well, and makes you feel at once like you are there.

One thing I really appreciate about this series is how the author interweaves profound and insightful biblical truth into the story, but does it in such a way that it feels natural and fits well with the characters and the story. This is a rare find amongst Christian fiction and I love that. Often times, the Christian themes of a book feel forced or overdone to me. Not so with this series.

Highly recommended to fans of a good quality cozy mystery series. I look forward to the next installment!

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

 

Julianna Deering

Julianna Deering has always loved British history and literature and is particularly a fan of the classic mysteries written by Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas and now works for an attorney specializing in wills and estate planning. She lives outside Dallas, Texas, where she loves to quilt, cross-stitch, and watch hockey. Learn more at www.juliannadeering.com.

 

This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes: A Book Review

Book Description

_140_245_Book.1833.coverA supremely funny pastor to Millennials, with a massive social media following, tackles the thorniest of subjects—depression, sexuality, divorce, life online, and more—with a rare combination of uproarious, self-deprecating humor and profound, biblical truth.

My Review: I was not familiar with Sammy Rhodes prior to this book, and I was very much intrigued by a book about awkwardness. I myself am an introvert, and I’m all too familiar with awkward encounters!

My feelings on this book are kind of mixed. It’s a book about awkwardness, so I feel odd saying this, but at times the book felt awkward to me. The first half of it dealt with subjects that I can’t relate too, such as divorce and pornography. I did manage to take away a few bits from these chapters, but they felt a bit awkwardly written and at times, I felt like a little too much information was revealed?

The second half of the book really turned around. I felt like he became more comfortable in his writing and I found the subjects very relatable. I absolutely loved the chapters on friendship, introverts and social media. There were a few things he said that I thought were really profound, and made the book worth reading to me.

As for humor, there are moments when he is truly funny, but there are also times when I think he is just trying too hard. But, if you think about the point of the book, it’s to embrace your awkward. We all try too hard at times. We all want to be accepted. We all long for approval.

I think this is an honest book, with a measure of insecurity. I think the author is on a journey, just like the rest of us, to find a place where he can truly be himself. I applaud him for publicly including us on his journey.

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

Eleanor by Jason Gurley: A Book Review

My Review: When I first decided this book looked interesting, I didn’t know a lot about it. I read a little bit of the description, but I stopped halfway through. I don’t like spoilers, and even some things in a book’s description can be too much foreknowledge for me.

So, I was really surprised when about a third of the way through, this book took a unexpected turn. What I thought was more of a straightforward (though, deeply moving) story, turned out to have quite a bit of fantasy mixed in. It took me a little bit to process this and switch my mind over to the unexpected genre, but when I did, I was captivated by this story.

This is a beautifully written, lyrical book. It is so unique in it’s style that I can hardly think to compare it to anything I’ve ever read. I think what I loved most about this book is that the author wasn’t afraid to present us with raw, real emotions. This book is full of dark sentiments like regret and resentment, but it’s also strong on love.  The characters in this book all have things in their past that haunt them, and they all have to live with circumstances that have been created out of the brokenness of their lives and the lives of those before them.

There isn’t a lot of happiness to be found in this book. It’s definitely not a light read. You have characters in this book that have been so damaged by life. The scene is grim and it often feels hopeless, but there is a glimmer of hope that shines through and it is beautiful to watch it unfold.

There were parts of this book that confused me, but in the end, it was all explained well. I don’t think this book would be for everyone, but it is truly well done and I’m glad to have read it.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JASON GURLEY is the author of Greatfall, The Man Who Ended the World, and the fiction collection Deep Breath Hold Tight, among other works. His stories have appeared in the anthologies Loosed Upon the World and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! He was raised in Alaska and Texas, and now lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

February Reading Round-Up!

In a lot of ways it feels like February flew by, but in others, it felt long! Reading-wise, I think it felt a bit short. (Even with the extra day thrown in!) All in all, not a bad month, but I know I can do better. I completed five books in the month of February, and they are:

All books were pretty good reads. A Long Way Down was probably my least favorite of the month. It was one I decided to read since I couldn’t decide on which “Book-into-movie” I wanted to read last month, so I added it to my list for this month. The Secret to Hummingbird Cake and Vinegar Girl were both review books and I enjoyed them both very much. The Gauguin Connection was recommended by a friend and fulfilled my February Reading Challenge, which was to read a book recommended by a friend. I loved the protagonist in it, and I’m excited to know that there is a whole series awaiting me. And, last but not least, I’d Know You Anywhere was a book I randomly picked up from the library on a cold and dreary night when all I wanted to do was curl up and read. It was my first book by Laura Lippman and I enjoyed it enough to be interested in reading more of her work.

My total for the year is now 11. 64 more to go to reach my yearly goal of 75! Here’s to a bookish March!

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler: A Book Review

9780804141260ABOUT VINEGAR GIRL
William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew retold as Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestseller

Anne Tyler’s retelling of The Taming of the Shrew asks whether a thoroughly modern, independent woman like Kate would ever sacrifice herself for a man. Its answer is as individual, offbeat, and funny as Kate herself.

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and her uppity, pretty younger sister, Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work—her preschool charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has his own problems. After years in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, Dr. Battista’s work may not ever be realized.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying—as usual—on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. Will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

My Review: I’m shamefaced to say that I have not read much Shakespeare in my life, save for required high school reading. I’ve always thought the stories were neat, but the Shakespearean language although really cool, can be somewhat confusing for recreational reading. That’s why I was excited for the chance to review Vinegar Girl. A modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl is a fast-paced, light, enjoyable read.

There are several things I love to see happen when I read a book. One is that I feel immediately invested in the story and/or characters. Another is the speed in which I finish a book. I could not believe how quickly I was reading through this book! I believe the adage “Time flies when  you’re having fun.” applies when reading a book. Another thing I love is when I finish a book and I’m immediately checking to see what other books are available by that author or in that series. All of these things happened during the reading process of this book!

I definitely enjoyed reading Anne Tyler’s interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew. It makes me want to 1. Actually read Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (I don’t recall that one in high school) 2. Read more works by Anne Tyler. (I’ve never read anything else by her) And 3. Read more of Shakespeare’s works retold by novelists in the Hogarth Shakespeare project.

Vinegar Girl is a great read and the characters are quirky, fun and full of personality. I highly recommend this book.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ANNE TYLER was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her twentieth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale: A Book Review

_140_245_Book.1817.coverWhen all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.

In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food—especially dessert— is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family— even if the threat is something you cannot see.

In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws . . . from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way. 

My Review: There is a lot to love about this book! This is a story about friendship, and not just any friendship, but deep, authentic, I’d-do-anything-for-you friendship. This book describes the kind of friendship that has always been the goal of my life. The story centers around three friends and their lives, but the heart of the book revolves around their friendship.

This book has heart and depth. Getting to know the girls in this story was so much fun. Their friendship felt so natural and flowed easily. Even though this is a fun read, it is also a story full of pain, tragedy and loss. The difficult circumstances dealt with in this book are handled very, very well. It felt very authentic and I applaud the author’s sensitivity to the subject matter. I don’t often become overwhelmed with emotions while reading, but this book brought me to tears.

Probably my most favorite thing about this book was the fact that two of the three girls were married and unapologetically housewives. There was no shame or condemnation in this, and it seemed to be considered quite natural, which as a very happy housewife, I found refreshing!

There was one thing about this book that I greatly disliked.  (spoiler ahead) At the beginning of this book, both happy housewives were also without children. Neither seemed interested in motherhood, especially the one. She was emphatically uninterested in being a parent and seemed decidedly child-free. To read a novel with a happily married, child-free housewife was awesome…until you guessed it, BOTH women ended up having babies. I could understand the one, but the other was clearly not interested in being a mom. This felt so out of character and it frustrates me that a woman cannot be considered happy and complete unless she has a child. I would have loved this book beyond measure if the character had remained true to character and stayed child-free and happy. I know most women want children, and that’s absolutely wonderful for them! I completely get that they have that desire, but not every woman does.

Despite this frustrating flaw, this was a wonderful book and I greatly enjoyed it.

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

About the Author

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren.

Journaling the Bible

Recently, my dear friend Amy and I both acquired journaling bibles. Shortly after this, we felt inspired to start a weekly scripture journaling that we would share via Instagram. We’ve only been at it for a few short weeks, but I have been so blessed by it already.

I’ve never been a good notetaker or journaler, and it’s always been challenging for me to “write” in my bible. However, since taking the plunge into this, I have felt so inspired. Journaling the bible has stirred up so much in me, and it’s caused me to see the word in a fresh new way. I feel so blessed to be on this journey with my precious friend.

I thought I would share an example of what we are doing. If you are on Instagram, you can follow our posts by searching for #ourheartshisword #weeklyword

This week’s word comes from the book of Isaiah, chapter 43 verse 19.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

IMG_7524

This week, I felt drawn to Isaiah 43:19. In this passage, Israel is in captivity. They’ve lost everything and their faith is shaken. They’ve failed God time and again. Even though God has done incredible things in their past, they need a renewal of faith for the future. They need to look ahead, instead of to the past.

Often times, we get too focused on the past. Our failures, mistakes and disappointments. It’s so hard for us to look ahead and to move forward. We have to quit looking behind us and focus our attention on what lies ahead. We need to fix our eyes on what God wants to do in our future. Dwelling on the past will keep us from moving forward with the new thing God wants to do in us! Maybe you have regrets, constantly asking yourself “What was I thinking?” Don’t let the past keep you trapped. It’s time to rise up and move on. Regret won’t move you forward. It will keep you stuck in the past. Learn what you can from your past, and begin to move forward with God. The old is passed away. The former things are gone.

But, God wants to do a new thing in our lives! Do you not perceive it? He wants to grow you. He wants to renew you. He wants to show you himself in a new way. It’s so easy to get comfortable in our walk with God. To stay with what is familiar and safe. To say, “God has done so much with me “here” where I am. Why bother moving?” We can easily get “stuck” where we are. But, just like we need to move beyond the mistakes and failures of our past, we also have to be continually moving forward in our faith. We can’t stay where we are. Even if it’s comfortable there. God wants to spring up something new in us! What new thing does God want to do in your life?

My prayer for those of us journaling this verse and all of us reading this, is that we would be people who look ahead with anticipation. That we would be movable and ready to go wherever God takes us. May we leave the past behind us, and spring forth with God! May we grow and flourish as we fully embrace the new things God wants to do in and through us!