Lizzie and Jane by Katherine Reay | Book Review

If this were, say, a pictorial review, it would look something like this:

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You know it’s a good book when…

All the buzz you have heard about Katherine Reay’s Lizzie and Jane is 125% true. I want to hug this book and tell everyone to read it. Right now. Sigh…where to start…where to start? I’ll start by saying this is most definitely one of my favorite books of 2014.

Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She’s lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she’s losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

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Y’all. I laughed out loud, I wiped away tears quite often and then thought of certain parts and started laughing all over again. I finished this book in one sitting. I only moved from the couch once while reading, but only because I needed water (I didn’t want to pass out and I was parched). My stomach was screaming at me, but that didn’t matter. I needed to finish.

For all you foodies, get this book! Oh my goodness, the way Reay described the food was so delicious I wanted to make all the things. But that would have turned into a disaster, so I just went back to reading instead. I’ll be waiting for the release of the official Lizzie and Jane cookbook though…hint hint publishing world! :).

Not only is Reay an incredible and talented writer, quickly drawing in the readers and creating characters you absolutely adore, but this story is something everyone can relate to. It’s about family, about relationships, about life. Having an older sister who I love and adore, a story about sisters (even if their story is different from mine), hit home. Plus, having experienced major health scares with both my parents, one being my Dad getting cancer when I was a teenager (I’m thankful everyday for God’s healing in both), probably explains my waterworks while reading this book. ;)

But even if you haven’t dealt with these specific issues and your family dynamics are very different, this story is one you need to read. We all have relationships in our life that may have brought hurt or we were the reason for hurt or any number of things. Yet, what’s beautiful is it’s never too late to seek healing and redemption.

Plus I heart Nick!

Lizzie and Jane officially releases next week, so you’ll probably want to pre-order today. For real. Like right now.

As mentioned this is one of mine, but what are some of your favorite reads of 2014?

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

(Thank you to NetGalley for the copy in exchange for my honest opinion)

4 Questions with Jolina Petersheim | Author Interview + Giveaway

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Jolina Petersheim’s debut novel The Outcast, as it was nominated for the INSPYs. I became an instant fan after that book – it’s incredible. She recently released her sophomore novel The Midwife and I can’t wait to read it! Anyway, I’m super excited she joined in 4 Questions so all of you fine readers can get to know her more (and read her books!)

Jolina Petersheim is the award-winning author of The Midwife and The Outcast, which Library Journal gave a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. The Outcast also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller, and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, World Magazine’s Notable Books, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and The Tennessean. Jolina and her husband’s unique Amish and Mennonite heritage originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughters. Whenever she’s not busy chasing her toddler or tending her newborn, Jolina is hard at work on her next novel. Visit her at jolinapetersheim.com.

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4 Questions

1. What is something about your life right now that you would have never imagined 5 years ago?
Five years ago, my husband and I purchased a piece of land in a valley in Tennessee where we imagined we’d spend the rest of our days. However, now that we’ve built a house and lived here for three years, we’ve decided that we’re at a pivotal point in our lives when we should make drastic changes, while our children our still malleable and young. Therefore, right now we’ve got totes and boxes stacked in corners, and my countertops and cupboards are about as clutter-free as they’re ever going to get. At the end of the month, we’re moving to a quaint solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin (yes, right before winter hits!). Believe me, I never imagined this transition five years ago!

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
When I was nineteen, one of my dearest friends had a heart attack. Instead of going to see her in the hospital, I traveled fourteen hours to Pennsylvania to attend a wedding with my boyfriend and his family. Soon after we arrived, I received the phone call that my friend had died. I was beyond shocked; I was at the point in my life where I felt invincible and therefore believed everyone around me was invincible as well. Oftentimes, I cannot process life or death by sitting still, so I started walking. My boyfriend followed me. We walked together down to pond, and I cried while sitting on the dock. He didn’t say anything, but when I looked over, he was crying, too. It was one of the hardest and most beautiful moments of my life. And though I regret not getting to see my friend one last time, I know that God turned that hardship around for good, and through her death, I was able to see the beautiful soul of the person—my future husband—who was sitting beside me.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Though I didn’t know it at the time, the day I got married was one of the happiest of my life. I was honestly very terrified to join my life to another’s because I struggled to relinquish my control (I still struggle). But I felt God telling me that this was the person he had for me, and I had to surrender and trust him. I am so glad I did—six years later, I can honestly say that marrying my husband was the best decision I ever made, and I love him more as our life journey continues to unfold. 4339_510613341082_1370885_n

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
More often than not, the moments you will later hold the closest aren’t the ones that are necessarily “easy.” For instance, some of the memories dearest to my heart are of us newlyweds living in an apartment adjacent to our grocery store, working side by side in said grocery store, building our house together, the nights of sleep deprivation during our firstborn’s first year, burying our miscarried baby on our land, holding our second little girl less than a year later, and now—packing up to transition to another part of the nation. Life isn’t easy, but looking back – and sometimes even while you’re living it – you can tell that life is, indeed, good.

Thank you so much Jolina for stopping by and sharing with us! I loved hearing a bit more about you :). Readers – if you haven’t picked up one of her books, you must! And because I’m a fan of giveaways, check it out below!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

RECAP: The Walking Dead Episode 502 or as I like to call it “What is This Fresh Devilry?”

Welcome to another Walking Dead recap! As always, this post has spoilers from the episode, so if you haven’t seen it yet, feel free to read previous recaps first!

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Well. Where shall we start with this one?

While this didn’t carry the same non-stop action as last week’s season opener, my blood pressure was still all over the place and I was stressed out and tense the whole episode. Why? The whole time I kept waiting for something to happen. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. The show, as I’ve mentioned, cares nothing for my nerves.

I have to start by saying this had one of my favorite openings – but only because it made Rick look baller. They were slowly walking up a hill and there was some epic theme music. You can’t go wrong with that. Just saying.

As I mentioned, it was slower, so the first part of the episode showed different conversations going on. We see Tyreese and Carol discussing what they’re going to share with the group versus what they aren’t. I had a hard time concentrating though, because the whole time I was focused on the stream water they were filling their water bottles up with and ALL THE GERMS. Um. nasty. There could be walker germy germs in there people. Carol asks Tyreese why he doesn’t want to share about the girls (and seriously, why the hey would you?!) and his response is “I just need to forget.” I don’t blame him.

They continue showing the group walking through the forest and we see Michonne reach for her Katana, but nope…the Termites took that one. No worries though, she takes down a walker with no problem.

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I don’t know what weapon makes Michonne scarier, but this is definitely doing the trick! Photo by Gene Page/AMC

We continue to see Rick and Carol interact and he even looks to her, asking if she “will have them.” I appreciate his outreach, but let’s be real, Rick’s the leader. The next conversation we zoom to is between Carol and Daryl. Nothing much is said (they almost don’t need to) and Daryl promises not to push. Carol then steals Tyreese’s line and says “I just need to forget.”

Just when I’m thinking this episode will just be a bunch of catch up convos, Daryl senses a presence and we see a creepy shadow/figure pass through the night. What joy is mine.

Enter in Father Gabriel. He’s on top of a rock trying to kick off walkers. Our crew comes and saves the day and it’s clear this fella has no idea what to do with walkers. I kind of believe him when he says he’s been hiding, because who throws up after being attacked at this point in the game? I did have to chuckle at the look on everyone’s face. Not only were they skeptical, they definitely had a WHO IS THE GUY? look.

I don’t blame them for being skeptical. Even after the episode finished, I still don’t know what to think of him.

People are just as dangerous as the dead. Don’t you think? – Father Gabriel
No. They’re worse. – Daryl

Rick decides to let Father G take them to this church of his and he cracks some terrible jokes along the way. Awkward.

They reach the cute little church and go through making sure there isn’t anything shady. I wish I could hear their thoughts as each looked at the drawings, the Last Supper image, Bible verses…in such a twisted world. They’re expressions certainty pointed to much deeper thoughts.

We learn Father Gabriel survived by himself for so long because the church had just finished a canned food drive before it all hit the fan. Sounds like a bunch of shenanigans to me. Where did the rest of his “flock” go then? Wouldn’t a few have survived? I sense something fishy is afoot. At least the whole group is determined to stay together though. The splits STRESS ME OUT.

Rick doesn’t trust Father G (don’t blame him) and has a chat with Carl about protecting Judith. He reminds him no matter what, he is not safe. Never let your guard down. Yet where do we find Carl when Rick comes back? Outside in the back where no one can see him. Some things haven’t changed.

Then there’s Bob. Probably the most random character of the group. He’s become Mr. Optimistic and spouts off random things. I can’t deny him that, but I’m thinking it means he won’t be around much longer. Daryl and Carol are off getting water and he’s talking to her about second chances. Tara and the two lovebirds are off to find ammo. I can’t tell you much besides that because I kept expecting things to pop out and people do be attacked.

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Oh Glenn….what’s in store for you? Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Finally Rick and team come across the place Father Gabriel was talking about with the extra food. We also comes across a bunch of creatures from the blue lagoon. Let me tell you, those were the nastiest walkers yet. EW. The team decides to jump in the water with said creatures (sounds like a good idea, but not really) and we learn Father G cannot even kill a walker. How has he survived this long? Seriously. He’s either the world’s biggest liar or just really lucky.

Then Bob. Of course it would be Bob. He gets attacked by most disgusting walker of all time. He manages to get away, but we also aren’t too sure he came away unscathed.

This episode has produced more questions than answers. Like the mysterious sign at the back of the church:

“You’ll burn for this.” I mean, wha???

We get a break in the stress of the episode while everyone is eating a nice hearty dinner. Abe toasts to survivors, while making his case for DC. We also get Mullet Man’s one line of the episode claiming there’s infrastructure set up that’s able to withstand the epidemic. Tara also comes clean to Maggie and all is well between the two (which I’m glad, there’s enough stress going on. I don’t need more internet).

I have one quick question. I need to know why windows shades are open with candles glowing. Calling all walkers!!! Come surround our little church please! Survival 101, team. Pay attention.

Then the last 8 minutes of the episode decide to get all kinds of batty.

First, Rick warns Father G that if his secret harms his family/crew, he’ll kill him. No big deal. Carol tries to run away (WHY?!), but Daryl stops her. They see the kidnap car and off they go in the middle of the night to chase it and hopefully find Beth. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that. Bob is outside the church crying and then gets knocked out by a mystery man. I have no idea why he was outside by himself. The only reason I can think of is he knows he was scratched or something by the water walker.

Why end on that note though, when the Termy psychopaths can end things for us! You thought last week was disturbing. Silly readers, that was nothing compared to what we see. They have Bob tied up and cut off his leg and had a little BBQ.

Vile.

Why not top it off with Gareth telling Bob how tasty he is as he takes a bite. What in the actual fresh Hades Internet? Creepiest scene ever.

P.S. The dude Tyreese thought he killed isn’t dead. Cool.

Alright readers, all you – what are your thoughts? Join in the comments or on Facebook!

(If interested in previous recaps and Walking Dead discussions, just go here!)

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin | Book Review + Giveaway

“If we deny God, our lives aren’t worth living.”

I feel smarter after reading Lynn Austin’s books, I really do. Especially with her latest series, The Restoration Chronicles. She has the incredible talent of packing her novels with historical research that would make my grad professors proud and yet not drowning the reader or overwhelming them. It’s the perfect blend of a master storyteller and bringing to life the Old Testament.

In Their Darkest Hour, Where Would Hope Be Found?

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king’s palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future–of family and love–seem impossible.

In Keepers of the Covenant, acclaimed novelist Lynn Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.

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As I mentioned when reviewing the first in this series (Return to Me), this story is so rich.  From the background (I found the viewpoint of the exiles during Esther’s story fascinating), to the characters and their individual paths. Also, as with the first, this isn’t a fast read, but you’re so drawn in, you don’t notice and I was sad to see it end.

It’s also amazing how we can learn from the characters in this story with the historical era and culture being so different. Yet, that’s what Austin is able to do. While keeping her story accurate, the characters are relate-able and you find yourself connecting with many of them on a deeper level; understanding their struggles, feeling their pain and again deepening your faith. Can you tell I’m a fan of Austin? :)

If you’ve read this one from Austin, did you have a favorite character? Do you find yourself drawn to biblical historical fiction?

(Thank you to Litfuse for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

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

Lynn Austin is back with the next book in The Restoration Chronicles series, Keepers of the Covenant. Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.

Lynn is celebrating with a Kindle HDX giveaway and a live author chat webcast on October 21st.

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One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle HDX
  • Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 21st. Winner will be announced at the Keepers of the Covenant LIVE webcast event on October 21st. Connect with Lynn for a fascinating evening centered around God’s unwavering love for His people. She’ll be hosting a Biblical fiction book club discussion, giving away prizes, answering your questions, offering an exclusive peek at the next book in The Restoration Chronicles, and much more!

So grab your copy of Keepers of the Covenant and join Lynn and friends on the evening of October 21st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)


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Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!

Kept by Sally Bradley | Book Review

If you’re into losing sleep, go ahead and read this book. A few bloggers had already shared how they stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading Sally Bradley’s debut novel, but I thought to myself, I’ll totally be able to stop at a decent hour. Totally.

The dark circles under my eyes said otherwise.

The next day I was legitimately angry I had to go to work. Clearly they did not understand my desperate need to finish this book. Life can be so unfair.

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman. Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again. When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.

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Kept is one of the most honest novels I’ve read and not in a “share inappropriate details or use language for shock value” kind of way. It doesn’t need that, yet it doesn’t shy away from discussing how life is lived for many people today. It’s real life and shows how messy that can look. This isn’t a book where only one character needed redemption either. They all did in their own ways.

And that’s the beauty of this story and why I stayed up WAY too late reading it.

Yes, some of the characters were already believers, but last time I checked (meaning when I looked in the mirror), accepting Jesus is only the beginning. Life will continue to happen and we will always be in a refining process. We can sometimes be quick to judge, not want to understand or just wash our hands of things and people, but it’s often when we check our hearts and see people how God does, that we’re humbled and get to see transformation happen. And Miska’s story? So beautiful!

While this story falls under Contemporary Romance, y’all it is so much than a love story. It’s a wonderful story and a beautiful picture of redemption. This is a fresh and much need voice in the CBA market and I look forward to more of what Bradley writes!

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book? I love when a debut book turns into an incredible surprise!

(With thanks to the lovely author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble