A Beauty So Rare | Tamera Alexander

This book is amazing. Boom. Done.

Oh, so you were looking for little more with this review? That’s fair, so how about: This book is really, really, reallllllly amazing, so read it! Like now!

Alright…alright…I’ll try and share my love for this novel in a only a few words…

My first thought after finishing A Beauty So Rare was that I didn’t give it permission to end. I was not prepared nor willing for this story to end. But it did anyways.

So rude.

But y’all. I cried. I sighed. And then cried again.

Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war–and still had one to fight.

Eleanor Braddock–plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty–knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects.

But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

From the USA Today bestselling author Tamera Alexander comes a moving historical novel about a bold young woman drawn to a group of people forgotten by Nashville society–and to the one man with whom she has no business falling in love.

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I love stories where you connect so deeply with characters, you feel like they’re friends. Not only is that the case with both Eleanor and Marcus, but Tamera also creates incredible secondary characters as well. I wanted to be friends with the good ones and slap the other ones. A couple of side snaps of “oh no you didn’t” would have worked too. (Clearly I would have fit right in post Civil War Nashville).

Another thing I loved about this book? The discussion of beauty. What makes a person truly beautiful and how do we live that out? This book (as well as her other ones) also have a way of making the character’s faith natural. There’s some books I encounter that make me cringe because it’s so blatant or over the top a.k.a. NOT REAL LIFE. So while faith is in the book, it’s beautifully done. You see the character’s development, you see why it’s important to them and how it impacts their life.

It also reminded me that Tamera Alexander’s books are absolutely worth waiting for. I’ve read every single one and want to read every single one again. If you haven’t encountered her books, my dear sweet friend you need to fix that right quick!

So readers, have you read any of Tamera’s books? What’s one of your favorite time periods to read?

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

(Thank you Bethany House for the copy in exchange for my honest review)

8 Books to Read in Your Early 20s

I’ve noticed recently I’m not one of the “young guns” anymore. Between having to use more facial products than ever before, to my knees having the ability to predict the weather, I’ve fully embraced this new life stage. I’m not saying I’m nearing retirement (only in my thirties internet), but professional athletes my age are close to throwing in the towel and some of my co-workers were in college after my 10 year reunion (how did this happen people?!).

I look back at college fondly, but of course there’s plenty of wisdom I could have used. Since college, there’s been some incredible books that have shaped much of who I am, so I want to give any of you young folks a head start with this list of eight books you should read in your early twenties. You know, ones that will stick with you. Unlike that Introduction to Philosophy book you pretended to have read by highlighting random paragraphs each chapter. Not that I did that. I would never…

Of course, if you aren’t in your 20s, I still think you should read these! :)

So here they are (in no particular order) along with a favorite quote:

1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan. There are few books out there that have caused a paradigm shift in my thinking. I never use the word paradigm, but for this book, it’s fitting. It opened up my eyes to so many convicting truths and moved truth I knew in my head into action with my heart.
“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust in Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

2. Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. How do I begin to describe this book? It’s a fast read and one you’ll cry in. It’s based on the true story of a homeless drifter whose life collides with a wealthy art dealer and his wife. The story these people lived out is incredible. You’ll leave a better person after reading this book, with an understanding of love in action and you’ll want to save the world.
“The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.” Denver Moore

3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice I talk about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien about every 14 seconds (not really, but just go with it). Why? They were geniuses. Lewis’ collection of World War II radio broadcasts on the fundamentals of Christianity are fantastic. He wrote them while his country was at war and being bombed nightly by the Nazis, so the truth in some ways, hits a little deeper.
“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

4. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. Simply put: Read this book. It’s the Mere Christianity of our generation. I’m pretty sure I highlighted something on every page. It’s an easy read (which is awesome considering the topic) and you’ll gain tons of insight. And if you don’t consider yourself someone of faith, I still recommend this one. I’d love to know what your thoughts are after reading it. Such a great book!
“Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and gave himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in Him.”

5. Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy. Tony Dungy is an incredible human being and just when I thought he couldn’t be more awesome, he did 4 Questions. He and his wife, Lauren, live out an inspiring story (full of some heart breaking moments) and it’s an incredible example of what it means to live your life fully following and trusting in Jesus. (Bonus: Speaking of sports, you should add Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes. Before you roll your eyes at me, he’s rad and he wrote the book in his early 20s. I think it’s a great perspective).
One of the most important truths I want to impress on you is this: You were created by God. You’ve probably heard that before – maybe so often that it has lost its meaning. So take a minute to let it sink in. You were created by God! Before you were ever born, He knew who you would be. You are designed with a unique combination of abilities, interests, and passions that has never been before and will never been seen in anyone again.”

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Curve ball right? I know it might seem random, but I love this book. We were created for a beautiful and adventurous story, but too many people lose sight of that. So why this book? I love how it reveals this, displays it and stirs your heart.
“Now he was [starving]. If he had stayed in the community, he would not be…If he had stayed, he would have starved in other ways. He would have lived a life hungry for feelings, for color, for love.”

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7. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. The lessons from ten Boom’s life have inspired people around the world. Her family hid Jews in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. They were turned in and sent to concentration camps (her Dad and sister would both die in them). Yet, they trusted the Lord in every situation. They were a light in the darkest of times. She is a beautiful example of courage and faith. This quote was said by her sister before she died in the Ravensbrück death camp: “We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” Wow.

8. Quitter by Jon Acuff. The vast array of sources young college-age dreamers have now is amazing (no really, when I was in college, email addresses were barely becoming a thing. I got my first email address then and thought I was so clever creating lapdogghizzy@hotmail.com. One of my many awesome choices at the wise ol’ age of 18. I’m sure it’s available if you’re interested in taking it over. I won’t mind). One source you should grab first? Quitter. Full of humor and advice from someone who has been there, this book will guide you in the path you want to go and hopefully save you from mistakes along the way.
“Your gift is never nothing.”

Honorable mentions include The Soul of Politics by Jim Wallis and Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner. Both were written in the 90s (gasp!), but have solid principles and were the first books to really open my eyes to social justice and Christians’ impact on culture.

Alright wise readers, what would you add to this list? Have you read any of these?

Turn Episode 102 or as I like to call it “Shady McShady Robbie”

Happy Monday and welcome to another recap/discussion of AMC’s Turn! If you haven’t watched the latest episode, then please be warned there are spoilers ahead. Check out previous posts here!

I have a confession. Sometimes the accents in this show are hard to understand. So I take this to mean I need to spend a summer in England. You know, I just want to be the best blogger I can for you, my dear readers.

As Abraham’s wife is praying (because she thinks Abraham brought on the plague that’s messing with their lettuce), I found myself thinking she’s annoying. Is that bad? I hope she gets on board once she finds out he’s spying.

I also want a secret floorboard to hide things in.

Alright, the creepy Shakespearean masked pyromaniacs that burnt their barn down? Way to be just what Abe and his wife need for nightmares.

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Photo by Antony Platt/AMC

I’m still not sure what to make of Mr. Woodhull (the dad). I believed Abraham from the beginning, but then who killed the British officer? And was it a good idea for him to tell his father all the other details? Now I’m nervous, he’s good with his son again, but what about the other people on this “list?” Some bad juju is gonna happen. Give it an episode or two…I’m telling you.

Ummm…did anyone else think Walking Dead was back on when they were getting the bullet out of Simcoe? Eeeeeeewwww! I’m curious why they kept him alive. Why not kill him with the rest of the folks?

Does anyone else think it’s strange that while the two countries are at battle, people are having gigs and theater parties? Did they not think the war would last that long? Are they too scared to do anything different? Questions, so many questions.

I think it’s time to give high fives to Anna. She is one bold lady. I totally understand since her husband is who knows where (last time I remember, he was hanging out in the stocks), but props to her. Those were some serious stakes, but she will stick by her cause.

Then the awkward scene. Ew. John Andre is a ho. And homegirl is probably a spy. (Dear producers, do we really need to show all that? We’re watching a spy show, not HBO). But I still vote she’s probably a spy. Why else would she be asking questions??

Robert (the mercenary) is shady. I feel that if the colonists paid enough money, he’d switch sides. Plus he don’t care! I thought he was going to slap that one British officer just because (you know, the one who had horses hanging out in his office). But now he’s on a mission because of the cap.

Alright, back to our other half of the spy ring, Benjamin and Caleb. I’m so glad John Simcoe thinks it’s so important to wear his wig, you know while HE’S IN JAIL. Even if it looked like a hot mess.

“Mock not or jest.” I might bring that phrase back (as long as I don’t get beat up for saying it after). I think I need to rewatch that scene too. Was the General upset for Ben breaking the “rules of war” or because he handled the raid without permission?

Photo by Antony Platt/AMC

Photo by Antony Platt/AMC

Let’s take a moment to talk about all things awkward during the little chat between Mr. Woodhull, Abraham, Anna and the Bruce. Sorry, I mean Robert..I’m still stuck on his Braveheart role. Robert’s clearly looking for Benjamin and then ansty Abraham made me nervous when he jumped at anything. Then the letter. Poor Anna just had to roll with it, whereas I would be thinking WHAT.THE.HEY did you just do??

Then shady Robbie decides it’s a great idea to take out a dead body. Was I the only one who thought “That’s how they stored dead bodies? What they hey were they going to do with them?? Gross.”

I’m glad Abraham is a smart guy and all, but how did he know that guy (with the unkempt hair) killed Joyce? And why is he Sleepy Hollow-freaky style? As I was trying to figure out these thoughts, crazy Rob comes out of no where and be stabbing people. Then he asks a spy to look after a spy. That should be interesting indeed.

We closed out this episode with Abraham telling Anna she’s done. Buddy, if you think Anna is gonna quit that easily, then you don’t know your friend.

I feel like I’m still in the stage of getting to know everyone, but I’m enjoying it so far. What about you guys? Have you had a chance to get to know Washington’s spy circle?

The Antelope in the Living Room | Melanie Shankle

I’ve been a big fan of Big Mama for years now. Right after I moved to Texas, my friends mentioned her blog and I’ve been reading ever since. She’s hilarious and will even have you tearing up on occasion. (In case you missed her interview, you can catch her 4 Questions here).

So when her latest The Antelope in the Living Room, hit the shelves, my book club quickly picked it up!

Welcome to the story of a real marriage.

Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it’s a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall.

In The Antelope in the Living Room, New York Times best-selling author and blogger Melanie Shankle does for marriage what Sparkly Green Earrings did for motherhood—makes us laugh out loud and smile through tears as she shares the holy and the hilarity of that magical and mysterious union called marriage.

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Did it matter that half of us in the club aren’t married and were reading a book about marriage? Nope. She shares from her heart and even if you aren’t married, you learn about life, love, friendship and lots of chuckles.

I mean it, I laughed out loud quite a few times. I’m pretty sure my co-workers were wondering why I kept laughing at my lunch. I’m cracking up thinking about some of the stories again. So the humor alone is worth the purchase.

I recommend this to anyone, no matter what stage of life. It’s refreshing to have a memoir written from the heart, that’s honest, enjoyable and you walk away better for reading it.

Have you check out her blog yet? What about you dear readers, what are some marriage books you’ve enjoyed?

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

Kicking off The Inklings Series!

Since I have the patience of a five year old, I can’t wait any longer! Next month kicks of the newest monthly series which I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT!! The Inkling Series will be a monthly post featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. I’ll announce the book the previous month (today’s post), so y’all have plenty of time to get the book (which I’m sure will be at your local library) and read it! Then the following month, I’ll have my review and discussion posted (for this book, it’ll post on May 21st).

Guys. I’m so excited!! Without further ado, here’s the first one!

The first read for the series with my favorite Oxford photo.

The first read for the series with my favorite Oxford photo.

I decided to kick it off with Screwtape Letters. There were so many awesome suggestions, but I picked this because I’ve had a copy on my TBR pile begging to be re-read. If you’re a fellow fan, I can’t wait to hear from you! If not, then I hope this series will spark your interest into all things Tolkien and Lewis :)

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

So any fellow fans? What’s your favorite read from these two Inklings?