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Of Literature and Lattes–reconciliation

Of Literature and Lattes

by Katherine Reay

I enjoyed Katherine Reay’s The Printed Letter Bookshop and was excited at the opportunity to read another book by this author—Of Literature and Lattes. This book is also a clean read dealing with real problems and is, in fact, a follow-up to the first book. I liked both novels, but I didn’t feel the second was as well organized or flowed as well as the first. In The Printed Letter Bookshop, the bookstore is almost another character as is Maddie, its former owner whose funeral initiates the action in the book. We depart from a focus on Maddie and her bookstore in Of Literature and Lattes where some characters continue with the focus on Janet who works at the bookshop and is rediscovering her artistic talent as well as trying to reconnect with her ex-husband, her daughter Alyssa, and her mother. That is a lot of reconciliation to accomplish! 

Alyssa struggles when she discovers the success of her employer and his company are based on fraud, and she finds her only alternative is to return home. There she meets Jeremy, a new character who is also trying to start over both with a coffee shop he purchased and in his relationship with his seven-year-old daughter.

There are a lot of twists and turns as Alyssa tries to find employment. To her credit, she will take any job offered when she discovers no one in her field will hire her because she is under investigation by the FBI. Alyssa and Janet want to repair the long-term fracture in their mother-daughter relationship, but it is not simple. Meanwhile, Jeremy has difficulties with his ex-wife and his employees.

The storyline jumps around among the various characters and themes. The characters have to deal with ethical, moral, and legal issues and rely on the help of kind neighbors, family, and friends.

Although I found the first of the book to be a little disjointed, it came together as the story progressed. My favorite character is Becca, Jeremy’s young daughter. I enjoyed the novel, but did not make an emotional attachment to any of the characters. I assume there will be more books making it a series. Reay has written a number of fiction books based on her love of literature and especially the works of Jane Austin.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: 1. This book could be read as a standalone, but some of the characters’ relationships would be clearer if you read The Printed Letter Bookshop first.

  2. I included this in the Christian Fiction category because the characters’ relationship to Christ is a background theme providing moral and relationship structure.

Publication:   May 12, 2020—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

What before she had regarded as instances of Alyssa’s ingratitude, obstinance, and petulance were recast in light of her own issues of control, manipulation, and anger.

Father Luke had been telling her for months that her problem was no longer asking others for forgiveness, but accepting it herself. “It’s an odd form of pride, you know,” he had said over coffee one day. “You decide you know better than God and make your own ruling.”

Yes, the “bad” in life bumped down the generations with discord and pain, causing breaks and tumult as well, but it could be healed. It could be made new and, perhaps, made stronger.

Rooted in Deceit–the value of a painting

Rooted in Deceit

by Wendy Tyson

Rooted in DeceitWendy Tyson’s Rooted in Deceit is another stellar cozy mystery in The Greenhouse Mystery Series. Megan is the owner of Washington Acre Farms, a farm that supplies organic produce for her own café and organic store in Winsome as well as several restaurants in Philadelphia. 

Tyson dumps the reader into the story immediately with four major plot pieces. Megan’s mini-enterprise is almost ready to expand as her crew puts the finishing touches on the long awaited pizza farm restaurant. Her father Eddie and his wife of two years, Sylvia, arrive from Milan on business, swirling up lots of emotions and relationship issues. They will be staying in nearby Dartville at Peaceful Summit Yoga Retreat Center and Spa which may be competition for Megan’s café. Thrown into this mix is an artist and middle school friend of Megan’s, Thana Moore, whose work will be on display at the center.

Before you know it, Megan is up to her eyeballs in a murder investigation, without the help of boyfriend, veterinarian Denver, who is called to Scotland when his sister is in a serious accident. Megan has to come to grips with her feelings about her own family past as well as middle school shenanigans that come back to bite her and her former friends.

You’ll enjoy watching the plot unfold as Megan follows various leads. Some go to dead ends and others branch off into new possibilities. There’s never a dull moment in Rooted in Deceit.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in The Greenhouse Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  September 4, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

The day was hot and humid, a soupy late August afternoon that teased a cooling rain but delivered little more than sweat and sunburn.

“You and I both know people do inconceivable things for rational reasons, and conceivable things for irrational reasons. Crime rarely makes sense.”

…the right choice wasn’t always obvious at the time you were forced to make it. Life got complicated.

Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

by Karen Ehman

Keep it ShutHave you ever stopped to think about the “aweful” (and sometimes awful) power our tongues can have? Like, maybe, when you put your foot in your mouth…again? Or, perhaps, you have pondered the good in your life when someone spoke words of kindness and encouragement. Karen Ehman has written a special, down-to-earth book for those interested in taming the tongue: Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

This book is humorous and full of anecdotes. It is also biblically based and gets REAL about the issues that all honest women will admit arise in their lives from time to time—especially in this digital age.  Ehman addresses various problems of communication including listening, talking to God before talking to others, gossip, flattery, and anger. She shares verses from Proverbs as the original tweets, and they are powerful. It turns out the Bible has a lot to say about what we have to say.

Ehman concludes Keep It Shut by summarizing tips and tricks derived from the body of her book as a quick and easy way to refer back to those truths. She discusses ways to find time and opportunities to get away with God for a few minutes or hours to be grounded in Him so you can make Godly decisions about what to say and when to say it. She lists ten verses that will “help you watch your words.” She has questions to ponder to help you examine your motives and decide if something is gossip or not. Ehman doesn’t stop at the negative. She also includes “powerful phrases” to speak to various people in your life and Scripture verses, quotes, and phrases that you can photocopy and display around your home or office as reminders.

Keep It Shut had a surprisingly big impact on me, giving me a lot to think about. One example is the “white lie.” Yes, I do tell white lies occasionally to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Ehman discusses the dangers of that and offers alternatives. I recommend Keep It Shut for the humor, the chatty presentation, and the Godly truths found in its pages.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: Ehman addresses women in her book because psychologists have shown that women speak a lot more words every day than men (20,000 compared to 7,000). Of course there are exceptions, but in general women have a lot more opportunities to get in trouble because of things they say than men.  Men, the biblical truths in this book would not be wasted on you either!

Publication:   January 6, 2015—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off.

All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are “on purpose” people. God plopped them into your life for a reason.

When we harden our hearts and let every little offense poke a hole in our happiness, we only hurt ourselves…But when we soften our hearts with love for others, and toughen our skins against their barbs, we are better equipped to show the compassionate love of Jesus to a watching world.

I Can Only Imagine–the inspiration behind the song

I Can Only Imagine

by Bart Millard

I Can Only ImagineWhat will it be like for a believer in Christ to die and go to heaven? Bart Millard’s answer is “I Can Only Imagine.” If you have not heard this beautiful worship song, I encourage you to go to YouTube and listen right now. Then read the memoir I Can Only Imagine written by Bart Millard, lead singer and organizer of MercyMe and writer of this song. God inspired him to write the song, and he had it down on paper in ten minutes, but as legendary Christian singer Amy Grant told him, referring to his background, “Bart, you didn’t write this song in ten minutes. It took a lifetime.”

Millard’s memoir details what a movie by the same name could only highlight. A product of a severely dysfunctional family, he suffered extreme physical, verbal, and emotional abuse followed by a long period of neglect which could still be punctuated by paternal outbursts of anger. But through it all, God had a plan. This book details Bart’s relationship with God and the dual miracles He worked in the life of Bart and his dad. How could Bart’s father morph from a monster into a role model? How could Bart forgive his father for the horrible abuses wrought on him and go on to become a kind and loving father and husband himself? The answer to these mysteries is summed up in one word—God. More exactly, the miraculous power, love, and mercy of God.

The book also shares how the band MercyMe was formed and worked its way up the ladder in the dog-eat-dog competitive music industry while remaining true to God’s calling for them. Theirs was not a path of instant success, but it was one that glorified God and reflected His plan and goals.

This memoir is well written and honestly reflects the struggles Bart had in his personal as well as musical endeavors.  The part of the book that deals with abuse is, of course, difficult to read, but Millard shares enough that the reader understands the depth of what happened without being drawn into lengthy descriptions of the brutality. Millard shares his pain but also inspires with the wondrous miracle of God’s love.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson (W Publishing)  for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Memoir

Publication:   February 13, 2018—Thomas Nelson (W Publishing)

Memorable Lines:

But through all that noise in my life, whenever I heard perfect union of melody and lyric in a song, something traveled from my ears to my heart and made me feel alive.

I embraced the truth that no matter what happened or what Dad did to me, God was ultimately in control. I became more vocal about my faith, less afraid to ask questions about the Bible, and more confident to state what I believed. What I discovered is that there’s personal empowerment that comes with a relationship with Christ, and this, coupled with a newfound identity in Him, brings real healing to suffering people.

The maddening thing about verbal abuse is how the words you’ve heard replay in your head hundreds of times, even when the person is not around or has stopped saying those things to you.

We all face really hard seasons when it seems as if the entire world is against us, when we think we just cannot win. But when we keep standing strong, following the Lord, and obeying His calling, He will see us through and keep us on His path.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children

by Jodie Berndt

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult ChildrenWhat better way to start off the new year than with a book on prayer? Parenting doesn’t end where the empty nest begins, but the whole approach changes when our children become adults.

Jodie Berndt has written several books on “praying the Scriptures.” What she means by that is the very simple concept of taking scriptural promises and turning them into requests inserting a  name. For example, in praying for a child who has a job loss or financial difficulty, Berndt turns II Chronicles 15:7 (“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”) into a petition: “Help _______ be strong and not give up. Reward her for her work.” Praying the Scriptures is certainly a powerful way of approaching the throne of God with the pleadings of our hearts.

The format of the book is equally simple. The reader is encouraged to study the whole book, but can also go directly to sections that are of particular concern. Each chapter has an appropriate title and starts with a summary Bible verse. For example, “Praying for Protection from Harm” opens with Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him.” Next the author shares a real life story from her own family or from parents she has interviewed who have had this particular struggle. She inserts “prayer principles” in the story to add focus and for easy reference. One in this example chapter is “Asking God to put his angels in charge of your child’s safety encompasses more than just physical protection. We can trust Him to stand guard over their hearts and minds too.” The next section, “Poised for Prayer,” expands more on the parental attitude to prayer in this specific case. Most importantly, the chapter ends with “Prayers You Can Use” which holds two sections. The first holds a few Scriptures turned into prayers for parents to use for themselves as they turn to God by supporting their child through prayer asking for  wisdom and understanding while releasing the adult child to God’s care. The second is a longer section containing about a dozen prayers asking God to intercede in their child’s life.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children acknowledges that parents are just people searching for answers and help. It does not play a guilt game over past parenting faults (real or imagined). It just  leads the parent to find appropriate ways to pray without interfering. The book does not claim cookie cutter solutions to the many very difficult issues we all encounter as God works differently in each person’s life.

The challenge and help of this book can easily be extended to anyone praying for any other adult and even for oneself as you seek God’s will and help through a tough season. The personal accounts show how differently God works in each situation and are comforting as they show that you are not alone in your struggles. The verses that are aptly chosen give a quick and focused path to prayer, but certainly, anyone could use the same approach on their own in searching out Scriptures that apply to their situations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Notes: This book can be a bit overwhelming when read in one fell swoop, but having done that and with the bigger picture in mind, the reader can then zoom in on a particular chapter and apply its principles.

Publication:   December 5, 2017—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

The things you give to God in prayer—your worries, concerns, and needs—are the ties that bind your heart to his. Our struggles are his entry points.

The more we allow the Bible to shape our prayers, the more our requests will line up with God’s plans.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” I realized that it didn’t matter whose plan we were following; the outcome was up to the Lord. My job was to get out of his way.

God is not just interested in results; he wants relationship.

Indian Summer–a book of relationships

Indian Summer

by Marcia Willett

Indian SummerIndian Summer is one of those books that is difficult to categorize. Some call it a Romance, but it focuses more on relationships than on romance. Others see it as Women’s Fiction, and I agree that it would appeal more to women than to men, but I prefer to just call it a novel. Marcia Willett’s Indian Summer is the story of Sir Mungo Kerslake and his brother Archie who reside on the family property near a small town. The other characters’ lives intersect with the brothers’ in various ways. Some live on the property as tenants or renters. Others are visitors from outside the community. All have secrets.

Sir Mungo is a very social retired actor and director of some renown, and all of the characters relate to him in some way. Very likable, he is the ultimate good friend—hospitable, understanding, loyal, and trustworthy. He has the amusing penchant of looking at life through a director’s lens, seeing life events as the bits and pieces of a play. He adds a fun, dramatic flair to every situation.

Indian Summer was first published as a paperback in 2015. Thomas Dunne Books is now publishing it as a hardback. This my first book by this author, but won’t be the last. I enjoyed the gentle, understanding approach of the author to her characters. The story is written in such a way that it jumps between sets of characters within a chapter. That was disconcerting at first, but as the relationships became more apparent, these switches morphed into a flow appropriate to the plot.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Dunne Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Publication:   June 27, 2017—Thomas Dunne Books

Memorable Lines:

Her own world has swung back into focus and she realizes how very precious it is to her. She mustn’t risk it for this chimera of excitement and fun; for some brief sexual gratification. Yet how to extricate herself?

The trouble is, he knows by experience that it’s this part of the creative process that he really loves: sitting in bars with his laptop open, jotting down ideas; walking around new places; watching people and inventing little scenarios for them. It’s rather depressing that, when the time comes to sit down and actually write the story, his enthusiasm wanes.

Perhaps, thinks Mungo, that’s why the friends of our youth are so dear to us. To each other we aren’t grey and old and dull. We remember times when we took chances, acted courageously, rescued each other and gave each other support. These things remain. In their company we are the people we’ve always been: viable and strong.

Uninvited–rejection and relationships

Uninvited

by Lysa Terkeurst

UninvitedAll of us have experienced rejection of some kind in our lives, sometimes deep and profound, other times more fleeting but still painful. Lysa TerKeurst is a Christian writer and speaker who steps in to examine her own feelings of rejection through a Biblical lens and shares in Uninvited what she has discovered.

Lysa falls short of the “holier than thou” Christian speaker with all the answers. As she examines her topic, she exposes herself to scrutiny, sometimes painfully, sometimes with humor, but always being real. That openness invites the reader to trust her and to listen to what God has laid on her heart about rejection.

In many ways the book is about relationships—our relationship with God as well as with others. TerKeurst draws heavily on her own experiences and on Biblical wisdom to help us take a fresh look at how we interact with others, sometimes allowing past rejections to influence current attitudes.

I read this book over a period of a few weeks, usually a chapter at a time, sometimes a few chapters in quick succession. Having finished, I know I will want to revisit this book several times to study in depth the precepts TerKeurst and God (via the Bible) put forth. The passages I marked as important in Uninvited are numerous, exceeding copyright standards for inclusion in this review. Some have personal importance, some theological value, while others stand out for their timelessness.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian Living

Notes: Teachers, rejection walks hand in hand with bullying and we have to be sensitive to evidence of it in our students. TerKeurst shares with readers a special teacher in her life saying “I don’t remember a single classroom lesson she taught, but I very clearly remember the way she made me feel. She gave me hope that the worries weighing me down in the third-grade pecking order of my peers might not always be my reality. Yes, she made me feel exceptional.”

Publication:  August 9, 2016—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Today’s rejections, big or subtle, are like stealth bombs that zing straight to my core, locating hurts from my past and making them agonizingly present all over again.

Rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain. MRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.

Rejection never has the final say. Rejection may be a delay or distraction or even a devastation for a season. But it’s never a final destination. I’m destined for a love that can’t ever be diminished, tarnished, shaken, or taken. With You, Jesus, I’m forever safe…Completely loved and always invited in.

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