Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Table by the Window, by Hillary Manton Lodge

From the Publisher:

Heirloom recipes, family secrets…and a chance for love

The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?

After the death of her grandmother, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.

Inspired by her grandmother’s evolving story, Juliette resolves to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, she finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a long-distance relationship simmering, Juliette faces life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary life and Neil, a man a world away in more ways than one? And is it possible her Grandmother’s story can help show the way?

My Review:

The Plot -- I enjoyed the plot of this book and the subject matter. I love cooking, so reading about others with a passion for cooking interested me. I liked the mystery of the Juliette's family secret and the struggle that she had with deciding the direction of her life.

The Characters -- I feel that the characters fell a little flat. That being said, they were very likable. While they could have been more developed and more complex, they are still interesting as they are.

The Writing -- I think that this book was written in such a way that it flowed easily and made you want to keep turning the pages for more!

What I didn't like -- I didn't like that the book didn't tie up loose ends. I assume that there will be a sequel. If you like sequels, you'll like this book. I'm not a big fan, myself. I prefer stand-alone novels.

What I did like -- RECIPES!!!!! And cooking techniques. I loved all the cooking stuff and want to bake now!!

Summary -- This is a 3-star book. I enjoyed it and don't feel like it was a waste of time, but neither was it memorable. If a sequel was put in my hands tomorrow, I'd read it. If it is more than a month from now, I will have completely moved on with my life and forgotten this book.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, by Dan Jurafsky

From the Publisher:

Stanford University linguist and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky dives into the hidden history of food.

Why do we eat toast for breakfast, and then toast to good health at dinner? What does the turkey we eat on Thanksgiving have to do with the country on the eastern Mediterranean? Can you figure out how much your dinner will cost by counting the words on the menu?

In The Language of Food, Stanford University professor and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky peels away the mysteries from the foods we think we know. Thirteen chapters evoke the joy and discovery of reading a menu dotted with the sharp-eyed annotations of a linguist.

Jurafsky points out the subtle meanings hidden in filler words like "rich" and "crispy," zeroes in on the metaphors and storytelling tropes we rely on in restaurant reviews, and charts a microuniverse of marketing language on the back of a bag of potato chips.

The fascinating journey through The Language of Food uncovers a global atlas of culinary influences. With Jurafsky's insight, words like ketchup, macaron, and even salad become living fossils that contain the patterns of early global exploration that predate our modern fusion-filled world.

From ancient recipes preserved in Sumerian song lyrics to colonial shipping routes that first connected East and West, Jurafsky paints a vibrant portrait of how our foods developed. A surprising history of culinary exchange—a sharing of ideas and culture as much as ingredients and flavors—lies just beneath the surface of our daily snacks, soups, and suppers.

Engaging and informed, Jurafsky's unique study illuminates an extraordinary network of language, history, and food. The menu is yours to enjoy.

My Review:

I loved this book!!! First of all, I love words. I love etymology. I love food. I love knowing the origins of food and how foods have evolved over time. This book was totally my thing!

The subject matter was right up my alley so that kept me interested, but the quality of information was also very good! The chapters followed a format that seemed to continue throughout the book. The author introduced a food, it's country of origin, what it was, what changed about it, where it traveled to, and so on until voila! we have the common food that we know of today. Fascinating stuff. Each chapter also ends with a brief paragraph about what the evolution of language/ food teaches us with a real-life, and often moral, application. That was a nice touch.

I was very surprised by some of the things I learned such as ketchup didn't originally contain tomatoes and it's not as American as you might think. Fish and chips didn't originate with fish. I learned what salad, salsa, fleur de sel, and flour all have in common. Also, ice cream and fireworks have more in common than the 4th of July. You'll have to read to find out more!

I enjoyed seeing the way words are used in menus. Words give us clues as to the caliber of the restaurant and if you read a menu carefully, it will also clue you in to the price range of the food being served.

I highly recommend this book if you are a lover of etymology, and even more so, if you are a lover of food.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Here to Stay, by Melissa Tagg

From the Publisher:
After playing nomad for five years, Blake Hunziker has finally had enough of adventure. Not sure what reception he'll get from everyone back in Whisper Shore, he's stunned at not only a warm welcome from his hometown but also a job offer. The job is his if he can successfully pull off the annual Christmas Festival. If only he knew the first thing about coordinating events...

If there's one thing Autumn Kingsley knows, it's Whisper Shore. For years, she's been stuck running her family's inn when all she wants is to see the world. Now she has a visit scheduled from a potential investor who could take over the inn, as well as a dream job offer in Paris. But with just two weeks to whip the inn into shape, her chance at escape is a long shot.

The Hunzikers and the Kingsleys may not get along, but Blake knows Autumn's the only one who can help him. She agrees to a trade--she'll help with the Festival and he'll help with inn repairs. But what was meant to be a simple deal quickly becomes much more than that when the guy who's done running away joins forces with the girl who can't wait to leave.

My Review:

I loved this book! I loved the drama between the two families and the history there, I loved the setting and the idea of an old inn and a more modern hotel. The characters were well-developed with good personalities and a history and emotions. This love story unfolds in the midst of controversy and drama, while Autumn and Blake decide to act like Christians despite the history between the two families... The plot is very good.

This is a great book and I highly recommend it.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Until I Found You, by Victoria Bylin

From the Publisher:

Finding each other was only the beginning . . .

When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life.

It's Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She's not planning to get involved with one of the locals.

Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn't expect to be swept off his feet by the car's occupant. He's made a vow--no dating for a year--but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he's met Kate Darby. . . .

My Review:

This was my first Victoria Bylin book and I really enjoyed it! There was a lot of suspense written into this story with Kate's accident and her grandmother's health and a few other things that kept me turning page after page wondering what happened next and where Nick would become the hero and how they would fall in love.

I feel like this story was very realistic in the way that it dealt with the struggles that a "baby" Christian goes through when leaving the old life behind. A relationship with God is a growth process and while you're no less saved at the beginning of the process than you are when you're further along in it, it's a gradient of growth that this book reflects. From the struggles of leaving the old temptations behind and counting the cost of your desire versus God's plans for you, to being ashamed of and disgusted by your old life, to accepting that it's your history and God has used it to shape you into who you are... this book was spot on.

The characters were very likeable. I preferred Nick over Kate, because he was less flaky. Kate was just very uncertain about everything and started to annoy me.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable book. I really only had one problem with this book... Nick had told himself that he wasn't dating for a year... and yet everything he did with Kate during that year implied that he was dating her... right up to the giant leap made from his no-dating vow to what happened when the year was up. The words of the book continued to stand by his no-dating vow, yet his actions in the book clearly showed otherwise. If you're not dating her, why are you kissing her all the time and well, dating her? I also have a problem with the frequency that Kate stayed at Nick's house, even though nothing happened. Why place yourself in that situation? At one point, she didn't go to her grandmother's house because she didn't want to disturb her or wake her... something like that. Not really a good excuse, and it seems like that was exactly what it was... an excuse. I can understand an emergency situation or at one point, the roads being too icy and it being too dangerous. But for a Christian book, I don't feel like this always demonstrated the highest of standards. I'm not sure I would recommend this book to a young (spiritually or age-wise) Christian based on the example set by the characters.

I highly recommend this book based on quality and based on the story, but suggest reading it with an understanding that as a Christian we should set our standards high and recommend using discretion when recommending it to a younger audience.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Undetected, by Dee Henderson

From the Publisher:
When asked what he does for a living . . .

Commander Mark Bishop is deliberately low-key: "I'm in the Navy." But commanding the ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada, keeping her crew trained and alert during ninety-day submerged patrols, and being prepared to launch weapons on valid presidential orders, carries a burden of command like few other jobs in the military. Mark Bishop is a man who accepts that responsibility, and handles it well. And at a time when tensions are escalating around the Pacific Rim, the Navy is glad to have him.

Mark wants someone to come home to after sea patrols. The woman he has in mind is young, with a lovely smile, and very smart. She's a civilian, yet she understands the U.S. Navy culture. And he has a strong sense that life with her would never be boring. But she may be too deep in her work to see the potential in a relationship with him.

Gina Gray would love to be married. She has always envisioned her life that way. A breakup she didn't see coming, though, has her focusing all her attention on what she does best--ocean science research. She's on the cusp of a major breakthrough, and she needs Mark Bishop's perspective and help. Because what she told the Navy she's figured out is only the beginning. If she's right, submarine warfare is about to enter a new and dangerous chapter.
My review:
This was my first Dee Henderson book and I was very disappointed. Based on my reading speed according to my Kindle, I estimated this book to be about 500 pages long, and was only off by 19 pages. I've read books that length a lot faster than I read this one!

The first 20% or so of the book was pretty much all submarine stuff or Navy base stuff. I was bored, but pressed on. It was just all too technical and uninteresting and I was waiting for the book to get more personal. Which kind of happened, eventually. This book has a LOT of Navy talk and submarine talk and scientific discovery type stuff. If you want to read a romance, I'd suggest picking up another book because the love story part of the book comes very slowly and is disappointing when it does come. If you want a less romance-heavy book that has some interesting information, then this one is good. I, personally, was not that interested in the subject, but it was informative.
Another reviewer identified on Amazon as "Kathleen" really summed it up when she wrote, " I slogged through paragraph after paragraph of fine detail about submarines and their workings, I had to wonder. Was this really written by a woman? It felt like a man’s writing to me. Very analytical with emphasis on settings rather than characters. The author’s in-depth research impressed me, as I assume her descriptions of submarine life are correct. The plot was laid out well, despite what I thought was too many unnecessary details."

The characters had layers, but not really. There was a lot told about them, but not a lot shown about them. There wasn't a lot of emotion to this love story. I was turned off by Mark. I don't want to give away a spoiler, so I'll just say that I feel like he came on very strong. Too much, too fast not just for Gina, but for the development of the love story. I think he was a gentleman and there were some things I respected about his character, but I just wasn't into the way their story unfolded.

Gina was... weak and insecure and needy and I think she could have used some serious weekly "dates" with a counselor rather than another boyfriend or two. She grew and matured throughout the story... but when? How? What really changed? One minute she's insecure and the next thing you know, she's independent-ish and strong.

I feel like this book could have been written with half the words and been just as interesting. While I made it through the book, I wouldn't call it good. It was just ok. I am sorry to say that I cannot recommend this book to you based on personal preference and interest. It was well written and if you're into the Navy thing and submarine details and all of that, you'll really enjoy it. Just don't expect a sweep-you-off-your-feet romance.
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Stubborn Heart, by Becky Wade

From the Publisher:
Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When her grandmother
asks Kate to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance,
takes a leave of absence from her job as a social worker, and the two of them set off.

Upon her arrival in Redbud, Kate meets Matt Jarreau, the man her grandmother has hired to renovate the house. From the first moment
she meets Matt, Kate can't help but be attracted to him--he's got a combination of good looks and charisma that draw and tug at her. But she knows there's zero chance of a romance between them. Matt's in love with his dead wife, and even if he weren't, Kate realizes that she's way too ordinary for him. For Matt Jarreau is no ordinary guy. Kate discovers that he was once a great NHL hockey player who left the sport when his wife--an honest-to-goodness former Miss America--was diagnosed with brain cancer. Matt's been hiding from people, from God, and from his past ever since. Yet Kate is absolutely determined to befriend him, to try to reach him, to help him in some small way.

No, Kate's not looking for love. She knows better than that by now. But when the stilted, uncomfortable interactions between Kate and
Matt slowly shift into something more, is God finally answering the longing of her heart? Or will Kate be required to give up more than she ever dreamed?

My Review:
I hated this book. No, I loved this book. I don't know!! It was a great book, it just hit too close to home.

Matt has this brooding thing going on that makes you want to love him to release him from his inner turmoil. Kate has this need to rescue him from himself. They were both fairly well-developed characters and the supporting characters were awesome as well. Each character in this book was unique and had their own personality and set of quirks. Becky wade does an amazing job with this.

I probably related to Kate more than I've ever related to any character in a book, ever. Kate is 31 and still single and very much struggling to reconcile that fact to God's will and her desires. "The hardest and the truest thing was the supremacy of God's will, which meant that no matter how much she had prayed for a husband and a family, she wasn't guaranteed that she'd ever receive what she asked for." Ouch. See why I hated this book?

But there were some valuable gems in there like this quote from one of the old ladies,

"'Women who've made peace with living alone,' she stared, counting off one finger, 'and women with healthy self-confidence....' She counted off a second finger, then cocked her head at Kate. 'Are you getting this?'

"Kate nodded. 'Women who've made peace with living alone and women who have a healthy self-confidence...'

'Can always, but always, afford to be picky.'"

One thing that I did not like about the book was the lack of spiritual depth. Kate heard God's voice and followed, but then she basically quits talking to God after she does? Yet she's still hearing his voice? She rarely seems to pick up her Bible and spend any real quality time with God. Matt has virtually no relationship with God, but then something changes but it seems like that is never really acknowledged between he and Kate. So Kate is falling in love with the "perfect guy" who has nothing to do with God and... the only problem is that he's not playing hockey? Not that he doesn't have any relationship with God, to speak of, but that he isn't playing hockey. Alrighty then. As someone who probably could be in a relationship if I were willing to settle for someone without a relationship with God... this really bothers me. I've met a lot of "perfect" guys, but you know... if they don't have an active relationship with God, they aren't quite as perfect as I thought they were. And it seems like this was never an issue for Kate when, in a Christian novel, it should have been. In fact, God shouldn't have been telling Kate to wait for the sake of Matt's hockey career in this book, God should have been telling Kate to wait for the sake of Matt's relationship with Him.

This was another good book by Becky Wade. I do recommend it, but in my opinion, it is not her best   book so if it's the first of hers that you ever read, don't be afraid to read more of hers, because the others are much better.

I was under no obligation to review this book.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Meant to be Mine, by Becky Wade

From the publisher
Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood.

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

My Review
Another winner from Becky Wade for sure!! I loved this book! Using a minor character from her book Undeniably Yours, Becky focuses on Ty and Celia's love story. And boy is it an amazing love story!

This book is filled with amusing, snarky banter between Ty and Celia. Ty is as lovable as his brother, Bo, from Undeniably Yours. You will fall in love with Celia and her daughter and you'll get to know the Porter family a little better.

True to form, Becky has created fantastic characters, excellent dialogue, and sufficient interaction between the characters to justify their romance.

This is a very sweet love story! I highly recommend Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Undeniably Yours, by Becky Wade

From the Publisher:

Winsome and Romantic--the Perfect Summer Read!

When Meg Cole's father dies unexpectedly, she becomes the majority shareholder of his oil company and the single inheritor of his fortune. Though Meg is soft-spoken and tenderhearted--more interested in art than in oil--she's forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of her father's empire.

The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father's thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo's determined to resent the woman who's decided to rob him of his dream. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them--her wealth, his unworthiness, her family's outrage--and earn the right to love her.

But just when Meg begins to realize that Bo might be the one thing on the ranch worth keeping, their fragile bond is viciously broken by a force from Meg's past. Can their love--and their belief that God can work through every circumstance--survive?

My Review:

Oh my, I love love loved this book!!! I read it in one day and could hardly put it down.

The setting was incredible. A sprawling Texas ranch owned by an oil tycoon... in my head I saw acre upon acre of lush green pasture with the most beautiful and magnificent thoroughbreds grazing. I could see it, because Becky painted that picture for me. She did an awesome job!

And the people... ahhh!! I definitely fell in love with Bo! So masculine and strong and trustworthy and safe and protective and full of integrity and a southern gentleman and... I'm swooning. Meg... so sweet and beautiful and vulnerable and strong and sensitive. The secondary characters were just as amazing. Each of them had something unique that made them easy to keep separate and identify and remember. There wasn't an overwhelming amount of secondary characters and the ones that Becky did use were very well used and strong. I loved them! You will absolutely love the characters in this book.

Becky does an incredible job with the story. She creates a lot of interaction between the characters and not just individual introspection without any outward action. This book draws you into the story and makes you want to know what's going to happen next, while wanting to stop to savor the moment. This book went way too fast in the way that your favorite newborn is suddenly twelve years old. You missed nothing but just wanted to stop time to enjoy every single moment of this book.

I loved the spiritual message of complete trust in God's will for your life and His love for you and that His plan is for good things.

I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this book! I wouldn't change a thing!

I HIGHLY recommend Undeniably Yours!!!

This book was offered for free on Amazon at one point in the past, so I got it. I was under no obligation to review it. It was just that good.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

She Walks in Beauty, by Siri Mitchell

From the Publisher:

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

My Review:

I loved this book!!! It has been sitting on my Kindle for a very long time waiting to be read. I am so glad I finally read it!

There wasn't a lot of spiritual matter in this book; however, it was present and everything else was Christian-appropriate. The historical parts of this book were fascinating... the ways women tortured themselves for the sake of beauty is just crazy.

I enjoyed the characters in this book as well as the storyline. I was not planning to write a review because this was just a "just because" book, but it was so good. The author must have done a fantastic job showing instead of telling because I could see Clara dancing and see the parlor or whatever was happening in each scene.

If you enjoy a good, long book (that doesn't drag), great characters, a fantastic story, and an interesting time-period... read this book!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rachel (Wives of the Patriarchs, book 3), by Jill Eileen Smith

From the Publisher:

Beautiful Rachel wants nothing more than for her older half sister Leah to wed and move out of their household. Maybe then she would not feel so scrutinized, so managed, so judged. Plain Leah wishes her father Laban would find a good man for her, someone who would love her alone and make her his only bride. Unbeknownst to either of them, Jacob is making his way to their home, trying to escape a past laced with deceit and find the future God has promised him.

But the past comes back to haunt Jacob when he finds himself on the receiving end of treachery and the victim of a cruel bait and switch. The man who wanted only one woman will end up with sisters who have never gotten along and now must spend the rest of their lives sharing a husband. In the power struggles that follow, only one woman will triumph . . . or will she?

Combining meticulous research with her own imaginings, Jill Eileen Smith not only tells one of the most famous love stories of all time but will manage to surprise even those who think they know the story inside and out.

My Review:

This book surprised me by its length. I wouldn't have thought that there would be so much more to write about the story of Jacob and Rachel. What I loved so much about this book is that the author used the details the Bible gives us and as far as I can tell, used the accurately, but also filled in some of the gaps with her own imagination. One example is that we're never told about the mothers of Rachel and Leah, but they have mothers who take an active role in the book.

I don't know about you, but every time I've read about Jacob and Rachel and Leah, my thoughts have been "poor Jacob". I have never really read the story from the perspective of Rachel or of Leah, but the author focused more on Rachel and Leah than Jacob. It was interesting to consider things from their perspective.

One thing that I didn't like about the book was that I felt like a lot of time was devoted to who Jacob slept with that night. Details weren't really given, I just felt like a lot of focus ended up being on that. And a lot was implied through his and Rachel's interactions that I felt the book would have still been just as good without.

This book was very well written and I was happy to discover that this author has many other similar books about various Bible characters. I highly recommend this and hope to read some of her others one day.

*I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Sunday, May 4, 2014

To Whisper Her Name, by Tamera Alexander

From the Publisher:

Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a man shot as a traitor to the South, is shunned by proper society and gratefully accepts an invitation from "Aunt" Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation. Expecting to be the Harding's head housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned when she learns the real reason Elizabeth's husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Not finding the safe haven she expects, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a Southern man who seems anything but a Southern gentleman.

Branded a traitor by some, Ridley Cooper, a Southern son who chose to fight for the Union, is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him. Determined to learn "the gift" that Belle Meade's head horse trainer and former slave, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley harbors secrets that threaten both their lives.

As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for "betraying" the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again.

My Review:

I actually purchased this book. That's how much I liked the last one that I read by Tamera Alexander. This book did not disappoint.

The characters were great! Tamera creates some really stubborn female characters who are very resistant to being loved. Olivia was no exception. Ridley (love the name!) was charming. Uncle Bob was wonderful. Elizabeth was sweet, and surprising. General Harding was an interesting paradox. I really enjoyed the characters and, once again, Tamera did not fail to deliver well-developed characters. My only complaint was that some of the female's names were too similar! Lizzy, Livvy, Elizabeth... I had to really think to keep track of who she was talking about.

There are some surprising twists to the plot that make this book very worth reading. You'll think you know a character, but then they surprise you...

Tamera draws a brilliant analogy between Ridley gaining Seabird's trust and his courtship of Olivia. At first it's subtle and then there is one paragraph that just makes you say, "ooooh!!! Genius!"

I really enjoyed the plot of the book. The romance was good although it seems like it happened very suddenly... at one point, I wasn't sure whether I missed a couple of pages of something happening or not. I would have enjoyed more dialogue between Oliva and Ridley.

The historical facts are fantastic. I want to visit Belle Meade!

This was a great book. :) I recommend it!

Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life, by Sarah Jakes

From the publisher:

Don't let your past keep you from a full future.
Like every girl, Sarah Jakes dreamed of a life full of love, laughter, and happy endings. But her dreams changed dramatically when she became pregnant at age thirteen, a reality only compounded by the fact that her father, Bishop T.D. Jakes, was one of the most influential megachurch pastors in the nation. As a teen mom and a high-profile preacher's kid, her road was lonely. She was shunned at school, gossiped about at church. And a few years later, when a fairy-tale marriage ended in a spiral of hurt and rejection, she could have let her pain dictate her future.
Instead, she found herself surrounded by a God she'd given up on, crashing headlong with Him into a destiny she'd never dreamed of. Sarah's captivating story, unflinchingly honest and deeply vulnerable, is a vivid reminder that God can turn even the deepest pain into His perfection.
More than a memoir, Lost and Found offers hope and encouragement. Perhaps you, like Sarah, find yourself wandering the detours of life. Regardless of how lost you feel, you, too, can be found.

My Review:

Where do I even begin? I'm not sure how I first heard about this book, but I distinctly remember that from the moment I did, I wanted to read it. This book called my name and after reading it, I think maybe it was the voice of God that was leading me to it. As I began writing this review, the tears were still drying on my cheeks and my face still puffy from crying.

I am finding it difficult to review this book from my normal angles -- the quality of the writing, the word choices, the flow of the book, whether or not the point was made, etc. I really can't tell you much about any of those things except for the last... I got the message. Loud and clear. I'm sure that the writing was fine, although at times I was a little like, "What is she talking about???? Huh???" but I didn't miss the message. I recommend this book from the stand-point of a book reviewer; no doubt about it, Sarah's story is inspiring.

From the perspective of a woman needing the message that God had for her in the pages of this book, I highly recommend this book. Sarah has been through a lot of difficult things based on poor choices that she has made in her life, and even in the times that she lost sight of the fact that God has a plan for her, God never lost sight of Sarah.

I've made mistakes... a lot of them. I have suffered the consequences of my poor choices and have been in the depths of discouragement over my sins, my disappointment in myself, feeling like a failure, feeling like I've let others down, like I've let myself down. I have wondered, despite what I know to be true, if I have stood in the way of God's plan for my life and irreversibly altered my destiny. But the unchangeable truth is that God is God and I am not. God says, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). The God I serve is bigger than my sins and before He laid the foundations of the earth, He mapped out the plan of salvation. Nothing I do can ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (see Rom. 8:38, 39). This is the message of the book.

Sarah tried to direct her own life and create what she thought she should be doing. It was only when she fully surrendered her pain and her past to Christ that He began to work out His plans for her that would allow her to shine for His glory. "Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Ps. 46:10). When we quit trying to steer our own destiny, when we "cease striving" and know that HE is God, He is a God of love, He is a God who does not fail, He is a God of mercy and grace, He is a God who abounds in goodness, He is a God with a plan, He is the creator, the sustainer, the alpha, omega... When we stop and realize that He is the I AM, then He can work out His plans in us that will exalt Him above all.

I relate so much to many parts of Sarah's story. Not necessarily the specific scenarios of her life, but where her heart was, her personal struggles... the symptoms might look a little different, but the struggle is the same.

As 2013 wrapped up, I passed my wedding day that didn't happen, still dealing with the pain of a broken engagement only one month prior... As painful as it was, God's grace flowed out of that experience. All I have ever wanted is to be married, to have children... I was so close. In her book, Sarah writes, "What are you willing to sacrifice on the quest for God's will? Are you willing to give up on what you want, how you want it, and when you want it? Or are you so obsessed with having everything right now that He stops fighting with you? God let me have my way. He gave me everything I asked for, and it all tore me apart. I had a successful husband, a beautiful home, amazing children, and a wonderful family. It just didn't seem as pretty anymore once I finally got it." I thank God for not giving me everything I asked for; because I almost had it... and in hindsight, it wasn't that great. I still hurt; not over my loss of J, but over the loss of the dream, the what could have beens... of being in that position in the first place, led there by desperation, loneliness, and settling for less than what God desired for me. Led there by my own insecurities.

I hate that I'm single at almost 27. It is painful, it is lonely, and it is discouraging. I wonder if my poor choices throughout my life have robbed me of what my heart desires most... not punishment, per se, but just forcing God to move on to plan B (or C or D...). "This is a reminder that one detour doesn't cancel our destination. These words are for the whispers that haunt us and tell us life is over. This book is for your shattered pieces. You have been beautifully wounded." I wonder what God's plan is for me... I question whether or not a husband and children are part of that plan. I struggle with knowing that what I desire is a God-given desire placed in the heart of man, from the moment Adam realized that all creatures except him had a mate and God created Eve to be his help-meet. What I desire is not sinful or bad, but yet God chooses to not give me my desire right now and I don't know that He ever will. I think He wants me to desire Him, His will, His plan more than any ideas I might have for myself. I have been beautifully wounded, and through Lost and Found, I have been reminded that God has a plan that is not altered by my poor choices; He is just waiting for me to say yes. Waiting for me to sacrifice my own will in exchange for His."You have to try to trust Him with the parts of you that still hurt. He's not expecting perfection. All He needs is a yes."

"If there is anything more devastating than heartbreak, it has to be the feelings we carry when we feel we've lost our destiny. When the things we hoped for feel so incredibly out of reach, we resent our surroundings because it's not what we envisioned. Somehow during these times we must learn to thank God for His provision. I'm convinced how you handle a setback will determine the strength of your comeback." This is not the life I envisioned, but it's the one I have. "Even though your life may not be what you wanted, it's still a life that someone else isn't here to enjoy. It's yours." Lately I've been trying to thank God for His provision... for the character He's building in me through these painful experiences. For the opportunities that I've had to be independent and strong and learn to do things on my own because I've had no other choice.

In addition to those included above, here are a few other quotes from the book:

"Maybe we aren't as lost as we think we are. We just can't see beyond the shame of being lost in the first place."

"Perhaps our biggest issue is not that we can't see ourselves; it's that we can't accept that even when we're broken, His love for us has not been distorted."

"When God chooses to trust us with grace, it's because He believes that we're capable fo doing things better than we did before.

Merciful God that He is, He doesn't just leave us in our misery to suffer. When we learn to find peace in trial, He knows that our season of suffering can come to an end. So often we look for Him to calm the storms of our lives. But there are times when the storm can't go away because we need the rain. 

Can you stop being afraid of the thunder long enough to feel the rain?"

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.