Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My (Even-Though-It's-Not-Over-Yet-I'm-Still-Playing-Along) 2017 Reading Favorites


Even though the year isn't *quite* over yet—thank goodness, since I've still got 50 books to read to reach my goal of 200!—I'm going to play along today and talk about the best reads I enjoyed in 2017.  In the "Books Read in 2017" section at the bottom of my blog, you can see that I starred 22 books as favorites, so I'll have to narrow it down to my 10 most favorite. Before we get to that, though, I want to mention two things:

(1)  I'm hosting a fun giveaway that hasn't received a lot of entries yet.  This means your chances of winning a copy of Celebrate Every Season with Six Sisters' Stuff are really, really good!  Thick and glossy, this cookbook retails for $22.99.  It's full of yummy recipes, easy crafts, and fun ideas for every season of the year.  Whether you want this for yourself or for Christmas giving, you have to enter to win.  Take a look at this post for more details.  Good luck!

(2)  Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme.  It's a great way to discover new blogs, give some love to those you already visit, and, of course, add some intriguing new reads to Ole Mount TBR.  To join in, all you have to do is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read a few guidelines, make your own list, then have a good time hopping around the book blogosphere.  If you want to add some pizzazz to your Tuesday, TTT is the ticket.

Okay, here we go with my Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017:


1.  The Beautiful Mystery by Louise PennyI adore the Chief Inspector Gamache series, so it's not surprising that both installments I read this year made it to my favorites list.  All the books are excellent.  This one, eighth in the series, is an especially intriguing "locked room" mystery set in a remote monastery that does not allow visits by outsiders.  Until a monk turns up dead.  Gamache and his right-hand man are called in to find the killer.


2.  How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyThis mystery, ninth in the series, revolves around a dead woman who—Gamache is surprised to discover—is not just any old lady, but a celebrity with a very, very interesting history.  As he investigates her murder, Gamache also has to deal with personal and professional turmoil, all of which make this novel difficult to put down.


3.  The Forgetting by Sharon CameronThis was the first book I read in 2017 and boy, did it start my reading year off right!  This YA novel is unique and intriguing.  The less you know about it going in, the better.  Trust me, though, it's worth the read. 


4.  The Passion of Dolssa by Julie BerryI read this one, an even more unique YA novel, because it was nominated for a Whitney Award.  It ended up winning in the YA General category and also being selected as a Michael L. Printz Honor title, neither of which surprised me at all.  It's a lovely historical that's interesting, exciting, and well-written.


5.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa WingateAdoption stories always reel me in, and this one was no exception.  The novel tells a heartbreaking story based on the real-life antics of Georgia Tann, a money-hungry woman who basically sold babies for her own profit and gain during the 1930s and 40s.  Ultimately hopeful, it makes for an engrossing read.


6.  Worth the Wrestle by Sheri DewI loved this inspirational book about wrestling with your questions and doubts.  Dew writes in an uplifting, engaging way that just speaks right to my soul.  This is a life-changing book, which I absolutely adored.


7.  You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee EllisI enjoyed this quirky MG novel set in a locale (Provo, Utah) with which I'm very familiar.  It's about a young girl living in a trailer park who dreams of winning the lottery and making a better life for herself, her mother, and her younger sister.  It's a sweet read about appreciating what you have—even, maybe especially, when it seems like you don't have much at all.


8.  Wool by Hugh HoweyThis dystopian chunkster may look intimidating, but it's actually very readable.  The world it introduces is complex and fascinating.  I loved immersing myself in this one.


9.  Lemons by Melissa SavageThis MG novel is as bright and enjoyable as it sounds.  It stars two Bigfoot hunters who make a startling discovery right in their own backyard!


10.  My Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. MeyerI've long been a fan of the irresistible Jacqueline "Jacky" Faber.  Her adventures never fail to make me smile.  Since her creator passed away suddenly in 2014, I am reading the series slowly, savoring each book, knowing there will be no more.  This one, sixth in the series, is just as delightful as all the rest.

There you go, my Top Ten.  You can see the other 12 books I enjoyed most this year by scrolling to the bottom of my blog and checking out the titles on my "Books Read in 2017" list that have asterisks.  So, what do you think of my list?  Have you read any of these?  What were the best books you read this year?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!        

Friday, December 08, 2017

Based on Real-Life Events, Historical Novel Tells a Fascinating, Moving Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tennessee, 1939—Life for the Foss family is hardly glamorous, but they get by as best they can.  Living on a shantyboat on the Mississippi, they take what the river provides, carving out a life among the colorful riverfolk.  Members of the makeshift community stick to their own.  It's only when Queenie Foss' labor goes awry, progressing beyond what the local midwife can handle, that the family has to seek help elsewhere.  With Queenie and her husband in a Memphis hospital, it's up to 12-year-old Rill to keep her four younger siblings in line until their parents return.  When several days pass with no word from her folks, Rill starts to worry.  Then strangers come to the boat, snatching up all five kids.  Thrust into an orphanage under the tyrannical rule of a woman both cunning and cruel, Rill is terrified.  How could Queenie and Briny have abandoned their children?  What will happen to Rill and her siblings now?

South Carolina, Present Day—The daughter of a wealthy, well-respected senator, 30-year-old Avery Stafford is poised to follow in her father's footsteps.  Not sure how she feels about the prospect or about her upcoming nuptials, she's already a bit rattled.  A chance encounter with a nursing home patient who calls her "Fern" leaves Avery feeling even more unmoored.  She's never questioned her place in the world, or the word of her highly regarded family, but now she's forced to ask a troubling question: Who is Avery Stafford, really?

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a fascinating novel based on the real-life antics of Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children's Home Society from the 1920s through the 40s.  After brokering thousands of adoptions, Tann became the focus of a legal investigation that found her guilty of unethical and illegal behavior, which included fraud, kidnapping and child-trafficking.  Although the orphanage was shut down in 1950, Tann died before charges could be brought against her.  Through the fictional Foss family, Wingate brings the horrors wrought by Tann to vivid life.  What results is a riveting novel that is both compelling and touching.  Despite the disturbing subject around which the story rotates, it's a moving, hopeful tale with a predictable, but very satisfying ending.  I loved Before We Were Yours and I'm not the only one—the novel just won the Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction.  If you enjoy engaging historical fiction, you don't want to miss this one.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Simple, No-Fuss Recipes and Ideas Make Newest Six Sisters' Stuff Cookbook a Must for Every Season (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although I get most of my recipes online these days, I still love flipping through old-school print cookbooks.  It's fun to explore the culinary possibilities inside their pages, marvel at the drool-worthy food photos, and imagine the ooohhs and aaahhs such delights are certain to elicit.  Who cares if I never actually make any of the recipes?  It's a joy just to think about making them!

I've long been a fan of Six Sisters' Stuff, a website run by—you guessed it—six sisters.  These LDS ladies offer recipes, craft ideas, home decor ideas, etc. that are easy, down-to-Earth, and family-friendly.  I appreciate their no-fuss recipes, especially, because they feature common ingredients that are probably already in your pantry.  The recipes come with clear instructions and glossy photographs.  Bonus: the ones I've tried have been delicious.

Celebrate Every Season, the sisters' newest cookbook, is another fun one.  As its title suggests, the collection is organized by month and focuses on traditional U.S. holiday/seasonal cuisine.  There's a variety of offerings, including snacks, desserts, non-alcoholic drinks, appetizers, etc.  At the end of each month/chapter is a section called "Traditions," which gives additional suggestions for fun ways to celebrate the season.  These include craft/gift ideas, recipes (food and non-food), party tips, and more.  I haven't had the time to try any of the recipes yet, but I've definitely got my eye on some (I'm looking at you, Christmas Tree Brownies!).  

If you haven't quite gotten the picture yet, let me just lay it out for you:  This is a thick, beautiful cookbook that's bursting with awesome.  You definitely want to snag yourself a copy.  It would also make a lovely Christmas or birthday gift for any home cook who digs simple, tasty meals.  What a grand coincidence!  It just so happens that I have an extra copy to give away, courtesy of the lovelies at Shadow Mountain.  I'm even willing to brave the post office in December to get it to the winner by Christmas, so be sure to enter the contest.  See the Rafflecopter below for details. 

(Readalikes:  The Six Sisters have published five other cookbooks, all of which should be available wherever books are sold.  Also, be sure to subscribe to their website for lots of free recipes and more.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received two finished copies (one to keep, one to give away) of Celebrate Every Season from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you!

--

Want to win a gorgeous copy of Celebrate Every Season for your very own?  Use the widget below to enter.  Giveaway is open to readers with U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only.  Contest ends December 18, 2017.  Book will be mailed December 19, 2017—in plenty of time for Christmas giving 😀 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Steampunk-ish Alternate New York City MG Adventure Fun and Inventive

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

New York City has always been an exciting place full of life, energy, and mystery.  In the alternate city presented in York by Laura Ruby, it's even more so.  It's all thanks to the Morningstarrs, a set of twins who arrive in 1798 to create a technologically-advanced city full of wondrous marvels the likes of which the world has never seen.  The pair realize some of their ambitions, but disappear without a trace in 1855.  Their most enduring legacy?  The Old New York Cipher, a puzzle with clues based on the glittering city itself, ostensibly leads to untold wealth.  Now, nearly 200 years since the Morningstarrs vanished, no one has come anywhere close to solving the cipher.  Many doubt its existence, seeing the whole mess as a joke left behind by troublesome pranksters.

Tess Biederman doesn't agree with the skeptics.  In fact, the 13-year-old is determined to solve the cipher once and for all.  If she fails, her family could lose the home where Bidermanns have been living for one hundred years.  She can't let her beloved building, one of the original Morningstarr constructions, fall into the hands of some soulless developer.  Especially when he's about as sketchy as they come.  Along with her twin brother and their friend Jamie Cruz, Tess will solve the cipher.  She won't stop until she's able to save her home—and that will only happen when she has the Morningstarr treasure in her hands.  Of course, it won't be easy to solve a 200-year-old mystery, especially when you're not the only one hot on the tail of an answer that leads to wealth untold ...

From its striking cover to its action-filled plot, York—the first installment in a planned series—provides a fun, inventive adventure story that has timeless appeal.  It also offers a mystery that's intelligent and compelling.  Young readers will appreciate the nod to their acumen.  They might, however, be put off by the novel's length and detail, both of which do require some patience.  Their fortitude will pay off in the end as York really is an entertaining romp.  It definitely gets long, but it's worth it.  Mostly. True, I didn't absolutely love the book—I did enjoy it overall, though. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of York from the generous folks at HarperCollins.  Thank you!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Appalachian Snow White Retelling Inventive, Intriguing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Snow-in-Summer Martin lives an idyllic life in the lush mountains of Appalachia.  She frolics in the hills with her lovely mother and wraps herself in the magic of her father's abundant garden.  With a baby on the way, the Martins are all feeling especially content.  For them, life is simple but happy.

Everything changes when the infant and his mother die.  Paralyzed with grief, Lemuel Morton barely seems to remember that he has a daughter.  If it weren't for the kindly ministrations of Cousin Nancy, Snow-in-Summer would be completely forgotten.  Things get even worse when Lemuel marries a mysterious woman whom Snow is convinced must be a witch.  As life becomes increasingly difficult for the young woman, she makes a horrifying discovery—Stepmama, whose power feeds off the life force of others, has plans for her bewitching stepdaughter.  Very sinister plans, indeed ...

I find the people and culture of Appalachia endlessly intriguing, so when Lark recommended Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen to me, I knew I had to read it.  I've never been a big fan of Snow White, but the mountain setting with its natural beauty and magic, both charming and chilling, kept me riveted to the page.  The story is familiar, of course, but Yolen adds enough intrigue to make the tale interesting.  While I didn't absolutely adore the novel, overall I found it entertaining and enjoyable.  

(Readalikes:  A little like Fairest and Winter, both by Marissa Meyer)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, December 01, 2017

Mobile Bookshop Rom-Com A Warm, Fun Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's nothing 29-year-old Nina Redmond likes more than a swoony, satisfying happily ever after.  Whether that sweeping high comes from her own reading or from helping a hungry reader find the right book, it doesn't matter.  As a London librarian, Nina's greatest joy comes from seeing the perfect HEAs come to fruition.  If only she could find one for herself.

When Nina becomes redundant at work, she's adrift, wondering how to find meaning in her newly unemployed state.  Before she can talk herself out of it, she finds herself traveling to the Scottish Highlands to buy an old bus.  In her mind's eye, she can see what the rusty vehicle is truly meant to be—a mobile bookshop.  London has no need for such a thing, but the folks in tiny Kirrinfief do.  As Nina sets about turning her dream into reality, she becomes more and more comfortable in the tiny Scottish village.  Is it possible she's stumbled upon not just her life's calling, but also a place where she can truly feel at home?  Between her new business challenges, the attention of a handsome Latvian train driver, and the relationship she thinks she might be building with her enigmatic sheep-farming landlord, Nina's once humdrum life has taken some surprising, very intriguing new turns.  What's lurking at the end of that twisty road?  Could it be Nina's long-awaited, much sought-after happily ever after?  

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan is a warm, fun novel about the power of books to transform lives and communities.  It's also about the risk and rewards of taking a chance, even (especially?) a crazy one.  Nina's a lovable heroine whose passion will resonate with anyone who loves books.  Her antics are entertaining and it's easy to root for her happiness.  Perhaps Nina's HEA, especially with her business, comes without enough struggle (as was suggested by my friend Jenny in her recent review of this novel), but that doesn't bother me all that much.  I enjoyed this one, however far-fetched it may be.  This was my first foray into Colgan territory, but it certainly won't be my last.

(Readalikes:  I feel like I should be able to think of a million comparable titles, but nothing's coming to mind.  Help?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual innuendo, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  The Bookshop on the Corner came from my personal library, although I'm not sure how it got there.  #bookhoarderproblems

Thursday, November 30, 2017

YA Epilepsy Novel Compassionate, Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Emilie Day likes her small, predictable world which consists of comfortable, time-worn routines: going to school in her pajamas, binge-watching old movies, reading endless books, and spending time with her canine BFF.  With her therapy dog always by her side, she knows she can handle the epileptic seizures that sometimes overtake her.  Even though she's still grieving the loss of her dad, Emilie has her kind mother, her faithful pooch, and an orderly universe where she is safe from outside scrutiny and public humiliation.  It's enough.

When Mrs. Day decides it's time for Emilie to start attending public school for the first time in her life, Emilie freaks.  What if she seizes at school?  The thought of a bunch of judge-y strangers watching her flail around, maybe even pee herself?  Beyond terrifying.  Emilie absolutely cannot let anyone at school know about her epilepsy.  All she has to do is keep her condition secret for three months—the trial period her mom is insisting on—and she'll be back at home 24/7 where she belongs.

To her complete shock, Emilie immediately attracts the attention of the hottest guy in school.  Against all odds, Chatham York actually seems to like her like her.  Obviously, that will end as soon as he finds out what a freak she is.  When the inevitable happens, Emilie will have to choose—hide away forever or take a chance on a brave, new life.

The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle is a clean, uplifting YA novel about trying to fit in when you can't help but stand out.  It tells a hopeful story that will resonate with teens who feel out of place among their peers for any reason.  The tale is familiar and predictable, without a lot of originality to set it apart.  Emilie is empathetic, but not all that likable.  Her whining, self-pity, and selfishness make her hard to take at times.  She's more realistic than Chatham, though, who's too perfect to feel real.  Because of these issues, I didn't end up loving The Thing With Feathers.  I do, however, appreciate its timely messages about compassion, hope, and the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones in order to grow.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Thing With Feathers from the generous folks at Blink via those at PR By the Book.  Thank you!

  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TTT: Where in the World Did You Go, 2017?


I don't know how you're doing on your 2017 reading goals, but I'm still 54 books behind! My aim  was to read 200 books this year.  I've made the same goal for several years in a row and have never achieved it.  It looks like I probably won't make it this year either.  Oh well. I at least want to beat last year's high of 152 and it would be super swell if I could break my record of 186, which I hit in 2011.  We'll see.  

With this in mind, I've definitely been pondering which books I still want to get to before 2017 comes to a close.  So, I'm going to tweak the Top Ten Tuesday topic today and talk about the Top Ten Books I Want to Read Before 2017 Ends.  The *real* topic is the Top Ten Book on Your Winter TBR List.  Yesterday's high here in the Phoenix area was 81; with record-breaking heat still on the horizon, it doesn't feel very wintery here anyway ...

Before I get to my list, though, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  This is a great meme, which always helps me find new books to try and new blogs to love.  All you have to do to get on this party train is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read some quick instructions, make your own list, and start hopping around the book blogosphere.  Easy peasy.  You don't want to miss it!

Okay, here we go with the Top Ten Books I Want to Read Before 2017 Ends


1.  The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy—I'm actually cheating on this one since I finished it last night.  I wanted to mention it, though, because it has been one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it totally delivered.  The cover makes The Disappearances look like a horror novel, but it's not at all.  I'm not sure what genre it is exactly, but I loved the story's intriguing blend of mystery and magic set against a WWII backdrop.  It's an original, intelligent tale that is both enchanting and absorbing.  The Disappearances might just be the best novel I've read this year!


2.  I'll Keep You Safe by Peter May—I adore this Scottish author and his broody mysteries set in the Hebrides.  One of the lovely publicists at Quercus, who knows what a fan girl I am, just sent me a copy of his newest standalone, which doesn't come out until March.  I can't wait to dig in!


3.  As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner—I've enjoyed several of Meissner's books, so I'm excited to read her newest.  The novel doesn't come out until February 2018, but there's an ARC winging its way to me even as I write this.  The book is about a couple who arrive in Philadelphia in 1918, excited to give their young daughters a bright new life in the city.  When Spanish influenza hits, their dreams are shattered, and they must find a way to endure a harsh new reality.  The novel sounds sad, but compelling.


4.  Reading People by Anne Bogel—I've mentioned this book before, but I still haven't gotten to it so it remains on my TBR list mountain mountain chain.  I was originally drawn to this title because I thought it had to do with bibliophiles.  Not so.  It's about personality.  I've always been intrigued by pop-psy, so I'm definitely up for a read of this one, which happens to be written by one of our own.  Bogel blogs about books at Modern Mrs. Darcy.


5.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens—I try to re-read this holiday classic every Christmas.  It's timeless and inspiring.


6.  Far From the Tree by Robin Benway—Ever since experiencing the joys of adoption for myself, the subject has become a very tender one for me.  I'm always drawn to books about adoption, so this one has been on my TBR pile ever since it came out in October.  It's about what happens when a teen girl goes searching for her biological siblings. 


7.  The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth—I don't watch a lot of t.v., but I've recently become addicted to Call the Midwife, the heartfelt BBC drama based on Worth's memoirs.  It's a warm, funny, heartbreaking series that never fails to make me cry (which is why I only watch it when I'm alone).  I'm eager to read Worth's stories in her own words.



8.  My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood—Sisters and secrets?  I'm all in.



9.  The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller—I've enjoyed Keller's Appalachian mystery series starring Bell Elkins, so I'm intrigued by her newest, a YA sci fi adventure.  It sounds epic!


10.  The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor—I've never read anything by Gaynor, but I'm intrigued by this back-and-forth-in-time novel about the Titanic.  I find books about the maritime tragedy endlessly fascinating.  

So, there you go.  What do you think of my list?  Have you read any of these books?  What else should I read before the year fades away?  What are you planning to read in the next month or so?  I'd really love to know, so please leave me a comment.  I'll gladly return the favor.  

Happy TTT!      

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Welcome to Another Edition of My Dental Hygienist Is Cooler Than Your Dental Hygienist ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"Addictive tech is part of the mainstream in a way that additive substances never will be.  Abstinence is not an option" (9).

I don't know about the rest of you, but I see my dental hygienist to get book recommendations.  Teeth schmeeth!  We chat about what we're reading.  My hygienist ingests a lot of non-fiction, a genre I tend to avoid, so I'm always excited when she steers me toward intriguing, informational texts.  When she started telling me recently about Irresistible by NYU professor Adam Alter, I knew I had to read it.  I'm glad I did, too.  It's an utterly fascinating book that sheds a harsh, eye-opening light on the addictive power of modern tech.

Alter begins by defining behavioral addiction as different from alcoholism, overeating, drug abuse, etc.  Behavioral addictions, he says, "arise when a person can't resist a behavior, which despite addressing a deep psychological need in the short-term, produces significant harm in the long-term" (20).  He cites examples of people so obsessed with playing video games that they don't eat, sleep, or socialize off-line for days on end.  Others can't look away from their phones long enough to push their child on a swing or converse with their partner at a restaurant.  These obsessions are dangerous to the addict's health as well as to that of those around them in ways both physical (driving while texting, for example) and emotional (ignoring one's child or spouse).  Even more disturbing, Alter says, is that these devices, games, and apps are purposely engineered to be addictive.

As chilling as Alter's descriptions may be, he also offers a glimmer of hope.  He talks about successful treatments being used at recovery centers for behavioral addicts.  He also recommends setting limits on screen time, especially for young children, and encouraging them to engage in real-life interactions.  The best way to stop an addiction, of course, is never to start one.  To that end, Alter proposes monitoring the use of addictive technology—both in ourselves and in our children—very closely.  After all, he says, "There isn't a bright line between addicts and the rest of us.  We're all one product or experience away from developing our own addictions" (4).  

Although Alter discusses all kinds of scientific studies and terms, Irresistible is written in a conversational tone that makes it easy to read.  The topic is compelling, Alter's examples are spot-on, and his message of warning comes across loud and clear.  This is an important book, one that is both timely and life-altering.  You're definitely going to want to put down your iPhone and give it a read.

(Readalikes:  I don't usually read books like this, so nothing is coming to mind.  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Worth the Wrestle Insightful, Inspiring

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we're taught that if we follow the teachings of the Gospel faithfully, everything we experience in life will work out for our good.  Sometimes we foolishly expect this to mean we will never struggle—not financially, not in our relationships, not with our faith, not with the doctrine of the Church.  This is simply not so.  Everyone has their challenges, even if they are earnestly striving every day to live the Gospel.  When these complications come, how do faithful LDS people react?  How should we react?  We're taught to "hold to the rod", look to the Lord, and have faith that He knows what He's doing.  If we do this, we won't question our God, our faith, our Church leaders, the purpose of our challenges, etc.  Too often questioning is frowned upon because it is equated with doubt and unbelief.  But is questioning really so bad?

According to Sheri Dew—current CEO of Deseret Book Publishing Company, a former member of the Relief Society General Presidency, and a popular author and speaker—questions are good.  In her new book, Worth the Wrestle, she says questions should not be seen as threats to our testimonies.  Quite the opposite.  "...questions asked against a backdrop of faith," she says, "and with an earnest desire to learn always lead to spiritual growth and a stronger testimony."  Not asking questions can, in fact, block learning, progression, revelation, and whisperings of the Spirit.  


After offering these refreshing insights, Dew goes on to discuss related topics like how to receive personal revelation, how to stand as a witness even if we don't know everything, and how and why we need to wrestle with our questions.  Most meaningful for me, personally, was the section on understanding the personalized way in which the Lord speaks to us.  I also appreciated Dew's constant reassurance that although receiving answers takes both time and work, if you put in the effort, those answers will come.

If you've ever read a book by Dew or heard her speak, you know her words are always marked by her trademark warmth, wit, and down-to-earth wisdom.  No matter how profound the topic she's addressing, she makes it accessible.  This is the reason I love Worth the Wrestle so much.  It's deep, yes, but not so much that you have to re-read every sentence three times to understand what Dew's saying.  I came away from the read feeling enlightened and inspired, not confused or headache-y from trying to understand.  Dew's approach always resonates with me.  I read Worth the Wrestle at exactly the right time and highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for an insightful, uplifting, and inspiring read.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing's coming to mind.  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Worth the Wrestle from the generous folks at Deseret Book.  Thank you!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Episodic, Unfocused Plot Makes South African Historical Romance Less Enjoyable Than Expected

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lettie Louw has always felt different from her girlfriends, who are beautiful, flirtatious, and adept at attracting masculine attention.  Getting her heart broken as a teenager propels her to seek education, not love.  After medical school she returns to her small South African hometown to work in her father's clinic.  All around her, Lettie's former classmates are getting married and having children.  Love still eludes the young doctor, who throws herself into her career.  Fulfilled but still lonely, Lettie tries to ignore the aching in her heart, the longing for a blissful romance of her own.  

Marco Romanelli has suffered a broken heart of his own.  After risking everything to protect the Jewish woman he loved, being thrown into a Nazi concentration camp, and barely surviving with his life, he's still trying to recover his health.  When his brother invites him to leave their native Italy and join him in South Africa, Marco goes, hoping the warm, dry climate will help clear his vulnerable lungs.  The last thing he expects is to fall in love with his physician, an intriguing woman who doesn't recognize her own beauty and strength.  

As Lettie and Marco take tentative steps toward the kind of grand romance neither one of them ever expected to find, they encounter stumbling blocks big and small.  When a heartbreaking discovery threatens to tear their world apart, the couple will have to travel a crooked, unimaginable path that will take them in an unexpected direction.  Can their faith and love see them through?

It's hard to describe The Crooked Path by South African author Irma Joubert because, truly, the novel has no plot.  It tells a sweeping story that spans Lettie's lifetime, but it's an unfocused, episodic tale that plods along for nearly 400 pages without really going anywhere.  In trying to cover too much ground, it's unevenly paced, which makes it feel even longer.  I appreciate that the story is squeaky clean and uplifting without being preachy; still, the tome was a chore for me to read.  Maybe Joubert's prose was more impressive before being translated into English, but in the version I read, it's very passive, very flat, and very dull.  The characters are all (well, mostly) perfectly nice—they're also one-dimensional, boring, and pretty much interchangeable.  Overall, then, I just had a difficult time reading The Crooked Path.  While it comes to a satisfying conclusion, the read was not worth the effort for me.  Ah, well.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I'm not sure to what I can compare it.  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Crooked Path from the generous folks at Thomas Nelson via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

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Want more opinions of The Crooked Path?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by visiting the sites below:

Monday, October 23rd: Read-Love-Blog – spotlight
Thursday, October 26th: From the TBR Pile – spotlight
Friday, October 27th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 30th: Fiction Aficionado
Tuesday, October 31st: View from the Birdhouse
Wednesday, November 1st: OMG Reads – spotlight
Thursday, November 2nd: Reviews from the Heart
Friday, November 3rd: Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, November 3rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 6th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, November 7th: Write Read Life
Wednesday, November 8th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, November 9th: Read Eat Repeat
Monday, November 13th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram
Tuesday, November 14th: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, November 15th: Books & Bindings
Thursday, November 16th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, November 17th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, November 20th: Suzy Approved
Tuesday, November 21st: Splashes of Joy
Wednesday, November 22nd: The Sketchy Reader
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