The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle

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From the book:

The paranormal answer to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Jesperson and Lane are turning the Victorian era upside down in this bewitching series from John W. Campbell Award winner Lisa Tuttle.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.

According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft.

But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.


My review:

Reading the description of this book made it sound like it was going to be fabulous. Unfortunately, it didn’t fully live up to its expectations for me. While I did enjoy parts of the story, I found that I just couldn’t really get lost in this book for some reason.

Now, let me clarify…the book is not bad. It is fairly well-crafted, with plenty of little twists and a variety of interesting characters. However, I simply had trouble staying interested. Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps you should try it for yourself and prove me wrong. Let me know if you do! 🙂

Thanks to Random House Publishing Group-Hydra and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own!! 🙂

 

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Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz

AViSFrom the book:

Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space.

The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction. They end up on a cargo ship bound for the stars.

But they are not the only cargo on board. Some of it is alive…or used to be.

Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.


My review:

I bet I know what you’re thinking (because it’s the same thing I was thinking when I first saw this book)…this has to be a joke, right? A spoof or parody or something? I imagined I would be laughing my way through this book, while the author poked fun at Amish fiction.

Then I started reading it. Wow! Not only is it not a spoof, it is a terrifically well-written piece of science fiction. Kerry Nietz managed to take three forms of fiction that I’m not a huge fan of (space opera, paranormal/vampire fiction, and Amish fiction) and mesh them into a remarkable story that I couldn’t put down. The core of this story is not about Amish vampires in space–they are simply a rather interesting medium for a discussion about what is truly important to you. What do you truly rely on when the proverbial chips are down: tradition, pop culture, or something bigger than all that?

I never thought I’d find myself recommending a book called Amish Vampires in Space, but I can’t seem to recommend it highly enough. You definitely need to read this 🙂

The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole

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From the book:

THIS BOOK MAY READ YOU

Ours is a hurried age, in which speed is deified and waiting is demonized. Ours is a cluttered age, in which noise is the norm and images constantly clamor for our attention. And in our hurried, cluttered age, faster has become synonymous with better, and experience has become a substitute for intimacy.

Welcome to The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure from Fast Faith. Formatted as fifty-two experiences in unhurried honesty with God, The Sacred Slow reminds readers on every page that God never wanted to use them; He always wanted to love them. The tone is personal, practical, and penetrating. The fruit is sustainable (as opposed to event-based) nearness with God.

Experienced devotionally or in small groups, each chapter features a short but thought-provoking reading and two options for application: a thought focus or a heart exercise. The content is the overflow of Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s thirty-plus years as a spiritual mentor to leaders and learners.


My review:

I’ve been thinking about thankfulness a lot in the past few weeks. ‘Tis the season, after all. I’m thankful for so many things great and small: for family, for friends, for a beautiful place to live, for those of you who (for some strange reason 🙂 ) have chosen to follow my blog and read my reviews…thank you! For the past few months, I’ve been nursing my mom back to health after complicated back surgery, drug mix-ups in the hospital, and useless physical rehab stays; it has been uber-stressful, to say the least! But all of that has made me so thankful for God placing me where I am, so that I can be here to help her.

In the midst of all that has gone on lately, I find myself thankful for one more thing: The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole. This “Holy Departure from Fast Faith” has been such a blessing: a heart-searching, mind-focusing, stress-releasing exercise in slowing down and paying attention to God, that I have been savoring.

And that is exactly what this book is meant to do: it “invites you to willfully live in Him moment by moment by faith” (p. 9). It helps to remind you that you experience God not just in those big, exciting moments in that big, exciting church service or revival meeting, but in the quiet, peaceful moments curled up in your bed, simply talking to Him or reflecting on the path He has led you down. He is always there; you need to slow down and feel for Him, look for Him, listen for Him.

It’s so easy to be distracted in this world we live in. Dr. Chole’s book is an invitation to step away from all of that and reclaim the devotion, the peace, the quiet yet powerful love that God offers us every moment of every day. I am so grateful that I have this book on my desk, to remind me to take some time with Him. And I look forward to growing my faith throughout the “fifty-two experiences in unhurried honesty with God” that it provides. I definitely recommend you pick up your own copy today!

Many thanks to Handlebar Media for the copy of this amazing book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Last Will and Testament of Captain Nemo by Mary Schlegel

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About the Book:

From the tragedy of The Little Mermaid, and the mystery of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, comes the truth that ties them both together: the story of the love that saved a life and started a war, of the quest that became an obsession…of the seaman who, for love of a mermaid, became a legend.


My Review:

This short novella was recommended by another author, so I decided to check it out. I quickly found that it has so much to offer! It is a fantastically imagined mash-up of two stories we all think we know: The Little Mermaid and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Schlegel managed to blend the beautifully melodic cadence of the classics from which this story springs with a steampunk-like twist to bring fresh, new life to the old tales.

And though it is a quick read (Around a half an hour, unless you keep getting interrupted like I was. Grrrrrr!!!!),  you get sucked into the story world so quickly that it feels more than complete. It’s a terrific after work wind-down read or bedtime story.

I’m glad I grabbed a copy, and I’d highly recommend you get your own! Great read from an author I look forward to reading again. 🙂

 

Two Books by Frederick Buechner

 

Today, I present a double-header set of reviews: two inspiring books by Frederick Buechner. Both are quick reads, but pack quite a punch. First up, A Crazy, Holy Grace.

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From the Book:

When pain is real, why is God silent?

Frederick Buechner has grappled with the nature of pain, grief, and grace ever since his father committed suicide when Buechner was a young boy. In this essential collection of essays, including one never before published, Frederick Buechner finds that the God who might seem so silent is ever near. He writes about what it means to be a steward of our pain and about this grace from God that seems arbitrary and yet draws us to his care. And he tells about the magic of memory and how it can heal old wounds with memories of past goodness and graces from God.

Buechner’s best writings on pain and loss, covering such topics as the power of secrets, loss of a loved one, letting go, and resurrection from the ruins, reveal that pain and sorrow can be a treasure—an amazing grace.

Buechner says that loss will come to all of us, but he writes that we are not alone. Crazy and unreal as it may sometimes seem, God’s holy, healing grace is always present and available if we are quiet enough to receive it.


My Review:

A Crazy, Holy Grace is a book I normally probably would not have picked up. I’m a fiction reader—that’s where I find my book joy. I mean, it’s a collection of essays. I used to be an English teacher. I’ve read more than my share of essays, and I have a serious dislike of them! Yet, I was inexplicably drawn to this book. And I must admit, it touched my heart.

The section where Buechner talks about being a steward of your pain–of sharing your pain with others, in order to help them get through their pain–struck me, how we should not talk about our pain, but talk out of it. What a simple, but profound idea—an idea that can completely change our relationships. An idea I intend to put into practice.

And there is so much more in this small volume! Definitely worth the read.



And now, The Remarkable Ordinary…

buechner 1From the Book:

You may not be able to see it—your life may seem boringly predictable and your work insignificant, until you look at your life as Frederick Buechner does.

Based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, Frederick Buechner reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. He reflects on how both art and faith teach us to pay attention to the remarkableness right in front of us, to watch for the greatness in the ordinary, to use our imaginations to see the greatness in others, and to love them truly and well.

As you learn to listen to your life and what God is doing in it, you will uncover the plot of your life’s story and the sacred opportunity to connect with the divine in each moment.

Pay attention, says Buechner. Listen to the call of a bird or the rush of the wind, to the people who flow in and out of your life. The ordinary points to the extraordinary God who created and loves all of creation, including you. Pay attention to these things as if your life depends upon it. Because, of course, it does.


My Review:

This book really hit me in the feels. I have flagged so many passages, the book won’t even stay closed anymore. His work is infinitely quotable. Buechner’s writing is easy-to-read, yet so profound and poignant that you can’t help but tear up at the beauty and the simplicity of what he is so eloquently writing about.

Buechner really does make you think about the little, seemingly insignificant (or the huge, ground-shaking) moments of your life and how life-altering or life-affirming each can be. But most importantly, how each moment can draw you closer to God, if you will only open your eyes to His leading. Beautiful!

Both The Remarkable Ordinary and A Crazy, Holy Grace speak of some of the most pivotal moments in Buechner’s life. But each book looks at them through different lenses, showing how those moments can affect us in more than one way, depending on where we are in our own lives and in our own walks with God.

A good book to me is one that can change you, change the way you see the world around you. And that is exactly what these books by Frederick Buechner have done. I’d highly recommend you read them both, with a box of tissues and a highlighter or some page flags in hand. 🙂 I can’t wait to share my copies with friends!

Many thanks to Handlebar Media for the copies of these books for review purposes. I was not required to give positive reviews. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig

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From the book:

When you stare into the abyss, it also stares into you.

The bullet that rips into Cole “Tox” Russell was never meant to kill. It was meant to send a message. Only one man is skilled enough to have taken the shot, a rogue Special Forces operator who vanished months ago.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend could be right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team are forced into another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is harnessing the power of a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.


My Review:

Ronie Kendig has done it again—written a book I couldn’t put down! I really enjoyed reading the prequel novella to this series, The Warrior’s Seal (which is free on Kindle, if you’d like to get to know Tox and his crew), and I was impressed with the first Tox Files novel, Conspiracy of Silence (you can check out my review here). But Crown of Souls surpassed them in my eyes.

Cole “Tox” Russell has deepened even more as a character, torn between love and justice. And the plot was full of so many twists, turns, and whaaaats??, that I couldn’t help staying up way past my bedtime to keep turning the pages. And did I regret it the next morning? Absolutely not! The read was definitely worth the bags under my eyes!

With shades of some of my favorite suspense authors, like Steve Berry and David Baldacci, Kendig has crafted a series that I want to keep reading (and re-reading!). Here’s hoping a new installment of the Tox Files comes soon!

Many thanks to Bethany House for the copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women by Lindsay A. Franklin

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From the book:

In an ever-changing world, we can be certain of one thing: we are beloved by God. Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women tackles tough topics girls face, from bullying and social media to friendships and dating, all the while showing readers how infinitely precious they are in God’s sight.

Each day features an easy-to-read, relevant devotion paired with a scripture verse and journaling space to help readers reflect on the day’s message. With honest, poignant, and sometimes humorous text, every page will speak to the pressures and changes girls face, giving them real-world applications to find God in their hearts and in their lives. Perfect for everyday use, Adored will resonate with girls searching for truth and guidance. Gift givers will love this highly designed book featuring a beautiful, foiled cover, and two-color interior pages.


My Review:

What an “adored-able” devotional! Lindsay A. Franklin has designed a beautiful collection of thought-provoking and heart-touching reflections on God’s Word. From love to justice, from beauty to pain, these devotions cover just about every topic a young woman would be concerned about. And they are written in an easy-to-read, conversational tone that will speak easily to the hearts of teenaged girls.

If you know a young woman who longs to draw closer to God and to understand His Word more deeply, I’d highly recommend you get her a copy of Adored.

You can learn more and even get a free sample! Just hop on over to the Zondervan website.

I received a copy of this devotional from Handlebar Media in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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