Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald

Book description:

Society beckons us to succeed―to achieve excellence in our appearance, our earning power, our family life. God Himself also beckons us to be women of excellence. But what exactly is He asking? If you’re hungry for God’s perspective on success in a society that bombards you with conflicting demands, feed on the truths of God’s Word that you’ll discover in these pages. You will not only learn to “approve the things that are excellent” but will also experience the joy of becoming God’s woman of excellence. This bestselling topical Bible study has helped over one million women over the past 30 years, and is newly revised and updated so today’s women can discover who God designed them to be in this day and age. Written by Navigator author and Bible teacher Cynthia Heald, the 11 sessions in this Bible study explore what your identity in Christ is and how you can best serve Him.

My review:

This was my first foray into the Becoming a Woman of … series. I can’t wait to read another one. Each chapter is built around a different facet of becoming a woman of excellence and has a large amount of Bible verses that are related to each idea.

As I went through the book, I found that I had a hard time getting all the way through each chapter in one sitting. I appreciated that there were numbered questions in each chapter because it made it easier to break it down into smaller components for those days that I just did not have enough time. My time has been very short lately!

By far, my favorite part of the book was at the end of the chapter when Heald shared “Reflections from an older woman”. I appreciated her wisdom and more personal thoughts. I find myself more and more interested in the wisdom of older women the older I get!

If you are looking for a straight-forward, no-nonsense Bible study on pursuing excellence, this is a good choice. I went through it alone, but I think it might be even more meaningful doing the study with a group or at least a couple of friends to share and discuss the applications of ideas. I think you can trust in a book that has been around long enough to warrant a 30th Anniversary Edition!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Approaching Apocalypse by Michael D. Fortner

Book description:

God destroyed the world once with a Flood, and the Bible says the next destruction will be with fire at the return of Christ. God is going to send fire from heaven from several different sources; from asteroid impacts, coronal mass ejections, and from a small 2nd sun that will come close enough to Earth to burn us with its flames! Yes, there are in fact many prophecies that reveal this information, going all the way back to the Erythraean Sibyl.

Today we look at a conjunction of planets or blood moons as signs, but they are not signs of the end of the world, because those things have happened many times before and will happen again. No, the signs that Jesus told us about are astonishing, and shocking. Like the prophet Joel said, there will be “wonders” in the sky. The prophecies tell us what the “signs in the sun, moon, and stars” will be before the global destruction hits us.

This book also presents powerful evidence that a nuclear war will cause the world to be covered with dark clouds, threatening to plunge the world into a nuclear winter. Then a large asteroid will impact, ensuring total darkness over the whole world. Then Christ returns during the Three Days of Darkness, prophesied mostly, but not only, by Catholics. The three days are the first three days of what will be nuclear winter, except Christ sends fire that will burn up the black clouds and saves the world. But that fire will itself kill many people.

It will be the Day of Judgment for sinners, but the Day of Salvation for the righteous who remain on Earth. Many people will repent too late to make the Rapture, and it is these who will continue the human race in the Kingdom of God on Earth.

This book is filled with many prophecies from the Book of Enoch, Sibylline Oracles, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and even Catholic and Protestant prophecies. It was written to warn God’s people to prepare in advance, so that they can better survive those terrible days that include the Great Tribulation and the Wrath of God at the end.

My review:

I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the first three books in this series and was eagerly anticipating book four. It was definitely worth the wait!

What I enjoy the most about Fortner’s books in general is his logical writing style. He puts forth an idea and then backs it up with Biblical evidence and explanation. I have found that after reading the books in this series I can go back and reread the Bible with fresh eyes and a new understanding, especially difficult to understand passages.

Specifically to this book, I loved reading more recent prophecies revealed by people in the 20th century. I know that some people might take offense and think that it is un-Biblical to ponder contemporary prophecies. I refer those people to Acts 2:17. I was amazed by some of the things I read in this book!

On another note, I liked the size of this book better than the other ones in this series. It was a little bigger and seemed to fit in my hands better. I’m not sure that the size of a book should impact a review, but since reading an actual book (as opposed to an e-reader or tablet) is a tactile experience, I thought I should mention it.

If you are interested at all in eschatology, this book is a must-read. Actually, you should start with book one and read all of them. However, I have to admit that this one was my favorite. It was a very compelling read. I finished reading it about a month ago and have only just now gotten to sit at the computer and write a review, but I have chewed over the information in this book more than any other book I have read in the last five years.

Finally, I have to say that this series of books is the one I go to the most when having conversations with friends about end times. So many times I find myself saying, “I read a book that talked about that. You should read this one.” It was a pleasure to read and mull over.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Like a River From Its Course by Kelli Stuart

Book Description:

An epic novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little—known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch.” He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism. Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

My review:

This is unlike any other book that I have read. Stuart gathered interviews from survivors and researched stories of WWII in the Ukraine to weave together the stories into one fictionalized account. It is a very powerful book to read!

It goes without saying that any war and especially WWII is horrible. However, Stuart manages to convey the strength of humanity and grace that survivors rested on to survive. This is one of those books that I found myself racing through because I was so invested in the characters and I couldn’t wait to see if my favorite ones survived. There were stories of loved ones that did not survive.

It is impossible to imagine the bravery that it took for some of the people to do what they did that allowed others, sometimes even strangers to survive. The sacrifices are sometimes too much to comprehend!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was that Stuart shared some stories of the German soldiers. She offered a balanced look, where some were completely dedicated to the cause while others hated what their country had become and sought to rectify it as much as they could, sometimes even paying the ultimate price.

If you are a fan of WWII fiction, especially if it based on actual events, this is a great book to read. I have already recommended it and loaned it out to a couple of friends.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Colors of Goodbye by September Vaudrey

Book Description:

What happens after the worst happens?
Before May 31, 2008, September Vaudrey’s life was beautiful. But on that day, with one phone call from the ER, her whole world―everything she knew and believed―was shaken to the core. Katie, her 19-year-old artist daughter, had been in a car accident and would not survive. How does a family live in the wake of devastating tragedy? When darkness colors every moment, is it possible to find light? Can God still be good, even after goodbye?

With the depth of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed and the poignancy of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Colors of Goodbye offers a moving glimpse into a mother’s heart. Combining literary narrative and raw reflection, September Vaudrey walks through one of life’s worst losses―the death of a child―and slowly becomes open to watching for the unexpected ways God carries her through it. It’s a story of love and tragedy in tandem; a deeply personal memoir from a life forever changed by one empty place. And at its core, Colors of Goodbye calls to the deepest part of our spirits to know that death is not the end . . . and that life can be beautiful still.

My Review:

As a parent, one of the things I fear the most is something happening to one of my children. As they grow older and start driving, each trip out the door is followed by a prayer for their safety on the road. Vaudrey loses her daughter in a terrible car accident. This book is the story of what comes next.

The thing that this book captures so perfectly is the feeling of loss after a death in a family. The feeling of lack of purpose and fogginess seems to be universal. Vaudrey’s description of the ordeal of the time in the hospital, organ donation, and arranging for the funeral was very difficult to read about. I appreciated her sharing the progress through all of the awful “Firsts”. Anyone who has lost someone close to them is familiar with the awful “Firsts”.

This book is for anyone who has experienced loss. Readers acquainted with grief can empathize with Vaudrey’s journey through grief and loss. However, we can take heart as she moves through the darkest valley and emerges with hope in her heart.

Grief is not an easy road to travel, but it is unfortunately one that we encounter throughout our lives. Vaudrey’s book is a story of her grief, but it is reflective of the universality of grief in the face of terrible loss.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman

Book Description:

Over 400,000 copies sold! Socially, mentally, and spiritually, teenagers face a variety of pressures and stresses each day. Despite these pressures, it is still parents who can influence teens the most, and The Five Love Languages of Teeneagers equips parents to make the most of that opportunity.

In this adaptation of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Five Love Languages® (more than 10 million copies sold), Dr. Gary Chapman explores the world in which teenagers live, explains their developmental changes, and gives tools to help you identify and appropriately communicate in your teen’s love language.

Get practical tips for how to:

Express love to your teen effectively
Navigate the key issues in your teen’s life, including anger and independence
Set boundaries that are enforced with discipline and consequences
Support and love your teen when he or she fails

Get ready to discover how the principles of the five love languages can really work in the life of your teenage and family.

My Review:

I have read all of the books by Gary Chapman about the Five Love Languages, so I was already familiar with the idea of Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and the others. My husband and I even joke around with each other about our love languages.

It is no secret to anyone who has raised teenagers or is currently in the trenches with a teen of today that raising teenagers is hard. Between shifting hormones, growing independence, higher-stake decisions, and the social minefields of our society, it is hard being a teen and living with one.

The biggest takeaway for me from this book is the reminder that it is difficult to demonstrate love to someone when your love tank is empty. It is easy for teens to siphon off more than they fill their parents love tank. It is easy for parents to focus more on helping their teen to build their future rather than filling their love tank. I appreciated the reminder to make sure that my teens’ love tanks are full!

This is a must read for anyone who has a teen, especially if you have not read any of the other Five Love Language Books. Chapman does it again!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Rooftop Growing Guide by Annie Novak

Book Description:

If you’d like to grow your own food but don’t think you have the space, look up! In urban and suburban areas across the country, farms and gardens are growing atop the rooftops of residential and commercial buildings.

In this accessible guide, author Annie Novak’s passion shines as she draws on her experience as a pioneering sky-high farmer to teach best practices for raising vegetables, herbs, flowers, and trees. The book also includes interviews, expert essays, and farm and garden profiles from across the country, so you’ll find advice that works no matter where you live. Featuring the brass tacks on green roofs, container gardening, hydroponics, greenhouse growing, crop planning, pest management, harvesting tips, and more, The Rooftop Growing Guide will have you reimagining the possibilities of your own skyline.

My Review:

This book was a lot more than I expected. I anticipated that it would provide readers with gardening plans or ways to arrange plants together to optimize space. I expected mostly space saving designs to make the most of limited rooftop space.

However, this book brought forth ideas that I had never considered for a rooftop garden. I especially appreciated the advice for irrigation concerns. I think the best part about a rooftop garden is that you would not have to worry about gophers!

These days many more people are concerned with eating foods that are pesticide-free and free from GMO’s. People who are allergic to gluten have to be concerned about contamination from crops grown adjacent to wheat fields. The best way to be assured that the food you are eating is as pure as you want it to be is to grow it yourself. Plus, there is a great deal of satisfaction to growing your own food.

The only thing I was hoping for in this book was strategies for use in a patio garden. Even though it was titled about rooftop gardens, I thought it might possibly suggest strategies for growing vegetables in patio gardens as well.

However, it delivers everything it should to get novice and experienced gardeners alike growing veggies on their rooftops. I especially enjoyed the pictures of successful rooftop gardens.

This book is a must-read for anyone who is looking for a how-to guide on planning a successful rooftop garden.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter

Book description:

She only remembers loving him. But he can’t forget the way she left.

Lucy Lovett can’t remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn’t remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan weeks before their wedding or moving to Portland, Maine. And she sure doesn’t remember getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself.

Zac was just beginning to get his life back on track after Lucy left him with no explanation. And now she’s back—vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. Has he been given a second chance with the only woman who stirs his passion and haunts his dreams?

Lucy knows she must unlock those missing months and discover why she threw everything away. And Zac knows that if he follows his heart he’ll win back the love of his life—but if Lucy’s memory returns, his would-be bride might say goodbye forever.

My review:

This book has such an interesting premise. Lucy can’t remember leaving Zac and still loves him as if she were going to marry him while Zac has begun healing from her leaving him. It is definitely not your typical romance novel.

Hunter did a great job with the plot of this novel. She didn’t give away too much too soon, yet gave readers just enough to keep us wanting more. It was definitely novel writing at its finest! I’m not sure that I found Zac and Lucy the most compelling characters that I have ever read, but the plot more than makes up for anything lacking in them, for me.

I thought the whole question of Lucy’s amnesia interesting and the mystery of how and why she lost her memory intriguing. Hunter deals with the power of generational strongholds perfectly.

I also thought the slightly sinister addition of Lucy’s new fiance to be a perfect addition to the story. It added a bit of tension to the story, without too many superfluous characters.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Hunter, but it surely won’t be the last! If you love romance novels with a hint of mystery, this is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The End of Law by Therese Down

Book description:

Berlin, 1933: as Hitler rises to power; the law–designed to protect and serve–becomes twisted to the will of those who dream of a pure Aryan race.

SS Officer Walter Gunther is intensely loyal to the Third Reich. His readiness to kill without question or remorse would seem to make him the ideal candidate to lead the T4 euthanasia programme. SS officer Karl Muller, a trainee doctor and engineer, is also brought into the programme, and assured that his work is consistent with the Hippocratic oath he’s due to take.

Their mandate: to kill the “unworthies”–not just the Jews, but crippled children, the mentally ill, homosexuals. Hedda, Walter’s wife and old acquaintance of Karl, has no idea of what their work entails. Until, that is, the fate of their families is at stake, and each must confront afresh the choices they have made.

This dark, tense novel is a compelling story of human tragedy, and man’s potential to revel in, or fight against, the evil actions of a corrupted nation.

My review:

This is unlike any WWII era book I have ever read. Down takes readers inside the minds of Germans on both sides of the insanity of Hitler’s regime.

This book really focused reader’s attention on other atrocities of the regime, namely the murder of humans deemed unworthy of life because they were disabled in some way, physically or mentally. It also illustrated the murder of homosexuals. It is accepted that Hitler’s regime murdered Jewish people by the millions, but other populations are not as represented. Their murders are brought to the forefront in this novel in a unique way.

It has been a long time since I sacrificed sleep to finish a book. This is the book that did it for me. I stayed up late just to finish it and then I couldn’t sleep because I kept thinking about it. The betrayals to Hedda were so many that it boggled my mind.

This book is a look into German society and how much loyalty to Hitler’s regime cost the Germans that followed him, either by design or by default. Parts of it were so, so hard to read, but it is necessary to be informed about the past so that it is not repeated!

If you are fan of WWII fiction, this is a great choice. If you have read numerous books of this era, like I have, this book offers a unique perspective that is much appreciated.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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An Unbroken Heart by Kathleen Fuller

Book description:

An argument. A crash. In an instant, Joanna’s world is changed forever.

One minute, Joanna Schrock was arguing with her parents, and the next, her parents’ lives were claimed in a hit-and-run buggy accident. Her body is broken, but her heart is in even deeper pain— after all, how do you cope with your parents’ deaths when your last words were spoken in anger?

After an extended stint in a physical rehabilitation center, Joanna re-enters her Amish life. But nothing is the same—not even her feelings for Andrew Beiler.

Joanna has loved Andrew since the age of twelve, and her feelings have not changed throughout the years. She is thrilled when Andrew wants to get married, but she wonders whether it’s love he’s feeling, or pity. As the couple’s wedding date approaches, Joanna isn’t overcome with the deep joy she was hoping to feel; instead, she’s wracked with anxiety and guilt.

Joanna hears God whispering to her, Be strong and courageous, but she’s afraid that courage looks a lot like walking away from her dreams and into the plan of her Heavenly Father.

If Joanna takes the first step toward healing, will it cost her everything she’s ever wanted? Or could God be changing the desires of her heart?

My review:

I thought this was a unique Amish fiction novel. It seems like many Amish novels take an idealistic view of the Amish. They are depicted as quaint and almost perfect. However, in this book, Fuller gives us a picture of a young woman that is arguing with her parents when one of the worst possible things happens and her parents are killed in a hit-and-run accident. I appreciated a look at an Amish girl that struggles with anger like the rest of us.

In fact, that is the best part of this book for me – characters that are not idealized or “perfect” but are flawed and struggle with mistakes and guilt and real-life problems. Some people don’t enjoy books where things don’t end happily for all the characters, but I do. I really enjoy books that are realistic and in real-life, things usually don’t end up happily for everyone. Sometimes life is about making great-tasting lemonade with the lemons we are given.

There isn’t anything not to like about this book. The pacing is perfect; I didn’t get bored, but didn’t feel like I was racing to the end to find out how it would all turn out.

I was so curious about what would happen to Cameron, but I felt like Joanna’s story kept me captivated enough that I didn’t feel like I had to rush through just to find out what happened to Cameron and Lacy.

If you enjoy Amish fiction, Fuller offers up a solid novel. After you read this one, you might consider reading other Amish of Birch Creek novels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston

Book description:

After losing her fiancé in a tragic accident, Veronica Fisher finds solace in the old recipes stored in her mother’s hope chest—and in a special visitor who comes to her bake stand to purchase her old-fashioned raspberry pies.

Veronica Fisher knows how lucky she is to be marrying her best friend. Seth Lapp is kind, hardworking, and handsome—but most importantly, he loves Veronica.

When an accident on the job steals Seth away from her, a heartbroken Veronica is certain she will never love—or be loved—again. Yet when she discovers a batch of forgotten recipes and opens a bake stand to sell her Mammi’s raspberry pies, Veronica picks up a regular customer who gives her heart pause.

Jason Huyard was with Seth when he lost his life—a memory that haunts him still. So when he seeks out the grieving fiancée to convey his condolences, the last thing he expects—or wants—is to fall in love. Nonetheless, Jason soon finds himself visiting Veronica’s bake stand every week . . . and it’s for more than the raspberry pies.

Now, as Veronica’s heart thaws, Jason can’t bring himself to tell her he was there when Seth died. Can he ever reveal where he was on the day her life derailed? Or will his secret rob them of the second chance at love they both want?

My review:

I enjoyed this book very much. It was different from the typical Amish novel but was a nice change. I had never read an Amish novel where the fiance was killed. It was easy to feel empathy for Veronica for her loss and for Jason wanting to reach out to her but struggling with his guilt. The characters were very compelling from the very beginning.

With these kind of books, it is kind of a given that the couple are going to get together by the end of the book. The only question is how they will overcome the conflict that could potentially tear them apart. I have to admit that there was a time in the middle of the book that I was wondering how Veronica would find out about Jason’s duplicity and thought it was taking a little bit too long to wrap up that part of the story. Other than that small criticism, the book was almost perfect.

I say “almost perfect” because I really thought there would be a recipe at the end of the book for raspberry pie. There are frequently recipes at the end of Amish novels that I like to try out. Veronica’s raspberry pies were such an integral part of the story that I thought for sure there would be a reward at the end of the book with a new recipe. I was disappointed that there wasn’t one!

However, I can’t fault the story or the author for the lack of a recipe in a novel. The story itself was a lovely love story that was entertaining to read. If you are a fan of Amish fiction, you will enjoy it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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