The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson Review

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Synopsis: Five women from different walks of life have become close friends through their book club–enjoying one another’s company even more than they enjoy the books. So when the leader of the book club unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the four remaining friends are stunned. They relied on Abby for inspiration and motivation. She was the glue that held them together, and they’re sure that without her the group can’t continue.
When the group gathers “one last time” to open a bag Abby’s husband gives them, they find Abby had made each of them an angel ornament for Christmas, crafted especially for each woman and accompanied by a sweet and personal note. Inspired by their beloved friend, together Cassidy, Louisa, Grace, and Belinda decide to commit themselves to becoming Christmas Angels to others in need. Each woman will use her life situation and talents to reach out and help others in her own unique way–little knowing that her own life and her relationships will be changed forever.
Fan favorite Melody Carlson is back with another touching Christmas story sure to grip readers’ hearts and perhaps inspire them to become Christmas Angels themselves.

My Thoughts: I read The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody last year and loved it so I was excited to read her newest Christmas story. This book follows 4 women who are grieving the loss of their close friend and decide to become “angels” and do special things for those in need. Each woman is struggling with something and learns something through their experience.

I liked the relationships between the women. They were all very supportive of each other and helped each other through their times of need. Each characters personality was unique and they were very well developed. I also liked the lessons that were learned along the way.

I wish the story would have focused a bit more on Christmas, everything happens in the days leading up to Christmas but it’s not a very “Christmasy” story. The story was also very predictable at times and I found the pacing to be slow.

Overall this was an okay story but I don’t see myself revisiting it in the future.

My Rating: 3 stars

I received this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

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Bottled Joy bite valve water bottle review

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I have started receiving products to review and thought that I’d review some of them on my blog. First up is this bite valve water bottle from Bottled Joy. It is a 27 ounce bottle that comes in 1 of 4 nice colors (blue, green, purple, and pink). I got purple and I really like the pastel lavender shade.

I’ve had many problems with water bottles in the past. A few months ago, I had a flip top bottle in my lunch bag, sitting on the middle console of my car as I was driving to work. By the time I got to my destination (20 minutes later), there was water all over my lunch and in the console, which ruined the papers that were stored there (not to mention the fact that I only had a few tablespoons of water left and a very soggy lunch).

Since then I’ve been on the hunt for a better bottle and I believe I found it in this. I was concerned that it would be difficult to sip from but it is very easy.It flows very well but stops quickly. I am also thrilled to say that this bottle has not leaked yet!

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It has a wide opening that makes it very easy to clean and to put ice in it.  It is BPA free and has a handle that is convenient for carrying.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this water bottle and would highly recommend it to anyone who is tired of leaky bottles.I am actually going to be purchasing another one for my daughter as she needs a new water bottle for school.

You can purchase this here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JTXE16C?m=A369ODYKD0FJIR&ref_=v_sp_widget_detail_page

I received this at a discount or for free in exchange for an honest review.

 

Breaking Free by Jennifer Slattery Review

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Synopsis: Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters. Women s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage?

My Thoughts: This story is an eye opening look at what addiction can do to a person and how it  affects the people around them. Trent has fallen into a pit of alcoholism and gambling. His wife Alice is trying to deal with the effects of his choices. The author never sugar coats the situation, she shows how a person can truly hit rock bottom. She then shows how God can pull us out of any pit and set us back on the path.

I loved all the characters in this book. They were all developed very well. Alice is a devoted Christian woman who learns what it means to trust in God and to forgive and show grace. Trent, whose intentions are good is caught up in a trap of gambling and alcoholism, thinking that “this will be the last time”. I also loved Alice’s friend Beth, who is supportive of Alice and never gives up on praying for her.

This book shows a great look at addiction and how it can take a hold of a person. It had some surprises and a great ending. I would definitely recommend this book.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Open by David Gregory Review

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Synopsis: It wasn’t the end of the world. It was just the end of Emma Jameson’s world. Fresh off the heels of a devastating breakup and floundering in her career, Emma is struggling to come to grips with why God allows so much pain in our lives, why He seems so absent when she needs Him most, and why the Gospel accounts–our supposed guide for how to lead a contented Christian life–feel so completely irrelevant.

Then one day, a mysterious envelope arrives in Emma’s mailbox with the word Open written on the outside. Inside the envelope is a card bearing the following message: “For a real adventure with Jesus, go through the nearest open door.”

Skeptical, but having absolutely nothing to lose, Emma steps through the pantry door, only to find herself instantly transported back to the first century, where she is taken on a personal tour of various Gospel accounts by none other than Jesus himself–an experience that radically challenges Emma’s perception of the Gospels and what it really means to be a Christian.

My Thoughts: This book was very unique. It almost reminded me of visiting Narnia when Emma stepped through the pantry door and ended up in the New Testament.

Through her adventures in the first century, Jesus teaches Emma lessons about how to remain in him and to be a Christian. Emma also witnesses some key events from the Bible (Jesus walking on water, Mary anointing him with oil, the last supper) and Jesus explains things along the way.

The story was interesting and a fun adventure. I was a bit disappointed in Emma’s reaction to Jesus…if I walked through a door and ended up in the first century, face to face with Jesus, I think I would be astounded and amazed. Emma’s acceptance of the situation seemed a bit too quick and she didn’t seem fazed by being in the presence of the Savior of the world. To be honest, I wasn’t too fond of Emma as a character. Something about her made it hard for me to connect with her.

I loved Jesus in the book. He was how I picture him to be…patient and kind with a sense of humor. The scenes with him teaching Emma were my favorite.

Overall, the message of the story was very good. I gleaned some good information from the teachings about trust, forgiveness, and abiding in Christ. I would recommend this book to any Christian who want to go on an adventure with Jesus.

My Rating: 3 stars

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch Review

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Synopsis: Once a celebrated writer, M’s greatest success came with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. The book was called The Reckoning, and it told the story of Jan Landzaat, a history teacher who went missing one winter after his brief affair with Laura, his stunning pupil. Jan was last seen at the holiday cottage where Laura was staying with her new boyfriend. Upon publication, M.’s novel was a bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough.

That was years ago, and now M.’s career is almost over as he fades increasingly into obscurity. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him. Why?

From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to The Reckoning, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails.

My Thoughts: I loved Summer House With Swimming Pool so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read this book. Unfortunately, it really fell flat. It started out good, albeit confusing, but the storyline was intriguing. I was expecting a thrilling stalker story with a whodunit mystery thrown in. Around the middle of the book it became very slow and the story felt stagnant, like it was stuck. I became extremely bored and completely lost interest.

I skimmed to the end and although there were some surprises, they weren’t enough for me to recommend this book. I love twists but the pacing of this book was so slow building up to them that they didn’t have as much effect. By the time I got to them, I just wanted it all to be over.

My Rating: 1-star

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

God Bless Us Every One by Eva Marie Everson Review

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About the book:

Charlene Dixon—called Charlie by family and friends—is devastated at the recent loss of her job. 
For the last five years, the twenty-seven-year-old has blossomed as the activities director of an exclusive all-girls school. But when a misunderstanding with the headmistress leads to a pink slip right before the holidays, Charlie packs up her dreams and returns to her grandmother, Sis, who raised Charlie as her own in the mountains of North Carolina.

When Charlie arrives—broken and confused—Sis immediately puts her granddaughter to work behind the scenes of the local school’s Christmas play, A Christmas Carol. Charlie prickles at working with Dustin Kennedy, the drama teacher and her old crush from schooldays, but is even more put out at that the choice of the Dickens’ classic for the holiday performance. When she discovers her estranged father’s involvement her world turns on its head once more. But when Sis and Dustin encourage her to take a deeper look at the story behind A Christmas Carol, Charlie learns about trust, faith, and forgiveness and the needs of people in their own community.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2bUfaqD

About the author:
 
 
Eva Marie Everson is an award-winning speaker and author of The Road to Testament, Things Left Unspoken, This Fine Life, Chasing Sunsets, Waiting for Sunrise, Slow Moon Rising, and The Potluck Club series (with Linda Evans Shepherd). She is the president of Word Weavers International, Inc., a member of AWSA, ACFW, RWA, the director of Florida Christian Writer’s Conference, and the contest director for Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. She and her husband make their home in Casselberry, Florida.
My Thoughts: I love the cover of this book…it was the main reason I wanted to read it. The story focuses on Charlie, who has hit a rough patch, and is returning to her hometown for Thanksgiving. Her path crosses with her old crush and a romance ensues. It also revolves around an upcoming production of A Christmas Carol. The main story parallels Charles Dickens’ life (the main character’s name is Charlie and she and Charles Dickens both have strained relationships with their fathers, named John).
I found the background information about Charles Dickens interesting but the parallels to the main story seemed a bit too coincidental.
The characters were not very developed and the romance moved very fast. I also found that the main character was over-dramatic about  certain situations.
I liked the theme of forgiveness and the overall message of the story.
Overall, this was a good Christmas story but it wasn’t as enjoyable as I was hoping it would be.
I received this book from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

Really Bad Girls of The Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs Review

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Synopsis: In her best-selling book Bad Girls of the Bible, Liz Curtis Higgs breathed new life into ancient stories depicting eight of the most infamous women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Delilah. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, Bad Girls already has helped thousands of women experience God’s grace anew by learning more about our nefarious sisters.

And there are more where they came from! With Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Liz reveals the power of God’s sovereignty in the lives of other shady ladies we know by reputation but have rarely studied in depth: Bathsheba, the bathing beauty. Jael, the tent-peg-toting warrior princess. Herodias, the horrible beheader. Tamar, the widow and not-so-timid temptress. Athaliah, the deadly daughter of Jezebel. And three ancient women whose names we do not know but who have much to teach us: the ashamed Adulteress, the bewitching Medium of En Dor, and the desperate Bleeding Woman.

The eye-opening stories of these eight “Really Bad” women demonstrate one really life-changing concept: the sovereign power of God to rule our hearts and our lives with grace, compassion, and hope.

My Thoughts:  This story is presented in a very interesting way. The author shares the stories of these “bad girls” in the Bible (some of which were not so bad, in my opinion) by opening with a fictional story of a woman in a similar situation taking place in modern times. The author definitely can write an interesting story, these fictional stories really helped me to look at these Biblical stories in a fresh new way. I was able to understand the situation much better and relate more to some (but not all) of the characters.

After the fictional story, the author presents the Biblical story, breaking it down piece by piece, sharing a bit of the scriptures and adding her thoughts after them. It took a bit for me to get used to this format but I really enjoyed this because it was a good way to dissect the story and look at small things that I would have missed otherwise.

Lastly, there is a section on what we can learn from the bad girl of the chapter. I found this section to be well done and a good application for each story.

Overall, this was an informative book but also very enjoyable. The author has a way of making the scriptures come to life and made the stories a lot of fun to read about. It was also comforting to read about some of these less-than-perfect women and see how God still used them to fulfill His will and purposes. My only problem with this book was that at times the author tried too hard to be cute or funny and came off as cheesy  or even a bit fake.

I would definitely recommend this to any woman who wants to learn more about the “bad girls” of the Bible.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.