Thursday, April 19, 2018

Love, Amy review and giveaway


She came to China with a lesson plan. What she found was a new sense of purpose.

Amy Young traveled to China in the mid 1990s to teach English to educators. But she never expected the profound way they would enrich her soul. With the influence of the enchanting country and its extraordinary everyday people, Amy extended a two-year assignment to nearly two decades far away from home.


Starting shortly after her arrival, Amy shared her stories and her unique perspective through a series of letters. Her nine years of correspondence demonstrated a country going through growing pains: from political unrest to the SARS epidemic to budding prosperity. Amy battled language barriers, cultural faux pas, and invasive mice with nothing to lose. She even fought for her life with a potentially deadly illness, unsure if she’d survive to share her tale.


Throughout her journey, Amy drew strength from God and came to appreciate the beauty and power of an ordinary life lived well.Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China is one woman’s deeply moving journey of self-transformation. If you like humorous anecdotes, immersions in Eastern culture, and honest stories that aren’t afraid to dig deep, then you’ll love Amy Young’s heartfelt tale.

My review: I wasn't sure what to expect when I first picked this book up, but I found it to be a delightful collection of newsy updates on one young woman's journey to a foreign country. I love traveling and would of enjoyed doing something like teaching English overseas, so I had fun reading Amy's insights on adapting to a country very different from her homeland. I loved seeing how she adjusted, seeing how much she did so when her parents came to visit and where surprised by different customs or every day life there.
Not only did I enjoy reading the experiences, but I also loved Amy's sense of humor. This is an excellent book about another culture.
I received this book from Celebrate Lit in exchange for my honest review.


This post contains affiliate links.

About the author:
Amy Young is a writer, speaker, and advocate for embracing the messy middle of your one glorious life. Author of Looming Transitions, Twenty Two Activities for Families in Transition, and The Looming Transitions Workbook, she also created the blog The Messy Middle (www.messmiddle.com), has been a part of Velvet Ashes, (an online community for missionaries) from the beginning, and contributes regularly to A Life Overseas. Amy enjoys nothing more than being with her people, wherever they are in the world. She also enjoys cheering on the Denver Broncos and Kansas Jayhawks. After nearly twenty years in China, she returned to Denver and much to her shock, discovered she enjoys gardening.

Guest Post from Amy:
The tug for a life that is “Anything but Boring”
When I was in college the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Sarah Plain and Tall changed my life. You’ve probably seen it and been moved too. Sarah, a spinster by the standard of her day, moves from Boston to the fields of Kansas to consider marrying a widower and help him raise his children and work his farm. Her brother could not understand why Sarah would move from so-called civilization to the middle of nowhere. But the longing she felt for her life to matter resonated deeply with me.
I was in the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood. Like Sarah, I knew I could stay where I was and live a good life, but I wanted more. And so I moved to China.
Our world is one that loves big, change-the-world stories. I love them too. I remember reading The End of the Spear, the story of Jim Elliott and his friends who were martyred for their faith. I also lost myself in the stories of Gladys Aylward, William Carey, Lottie Moon, and Amy Carmichael. I remember reading about a missionary that had some worm pulled out of his stomach that was the size of a large snake. Disgusting! Fascinating! All for the gospel! The life of faith was exciting and God was on the move all the time! While it is true, the life of faith is exciting and God is on the move, it is also ordinary, boring, disappointing, and confusing. When I started compiling the letters I wrote from my days in China, I was embarrassed by what “first year Amy” said. She was so clueless, so uninformed, so willing to display her lack of cultural knowledge. I wanted to put my hand over her mouth and ask her to please pipe down because she did not really believe what she was saying. But she did, “first year Amy” could not know what “fifteen year in China Amy” knew.
These change the world stories I love? Turns out they have been more sanitized than I realized without showing the cultural and ministry progression that must have taken place.
Even now, knowing what I know, part of me wishes my newsletters contained miracles and throngs coming to Christ because of my work. I thought throngs and miracles were what a “real” cross-cultural worker would do. I thought that would show that my life mattered, like Sarah’s when she moved to Kansas. Don’t we all want our lives to matter? I believed that mattering was measurable. By compiling and writing this book the lesson Love, Amy has taught me is that too often we confuse size with significance. I still hear the whisper that says, “Amy, really? You wrote about the cultural beliefs that influence standing in line and you think that is worth people giving of their prayer, money, and time?” Part of me is reluctant even now to publish these letters because they are common. In truth, I am happy with my life and the contributions I have made. Of course I have regrets and wish I’d handled certain situations differently. But if all we hear are the spectacular stories, we can miss the gift our beautifully ordinary lives can be.
Who made it into the Gospels? A widow and her two mites. A boy and his few fish. She is described as offering out of her poverty. His common lunch was used to feed more than he could have imagined. Jesus did not tend to elevate those in power or those who seemed impressive.
My first year, a fellow teacher in China told me, “You’re lucky you’re still in your first year. Wait until your second year and you have told all your stories. You’ll have nothing to say in your newsletters.” Isn’t that the heart of what we fear—that we will have nothing to say with our lives? The secret to combating this fear is not that secretive. Show up and be present. Taken individually, these letters don’t add up to much, but put them together and much to my surprise, month after month I wrote an accidental memoir.
As ordinary as it is, I do have to say, life in China was anything but boring! If you love memoirs and want to hear stories that will make you laugh or cringe (and sometimes both), join me on a college campus in China.

Blog Stop list here.


Giveaway!
Grand Prize: A letter writing basket that includes a $25 Amazon gift card. (follow this link: )

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Hidden Side


New York, 2016
Natalie Abbott offers answers for hurting listeners on her popular radio program. But she struggles to connect with her teenagers, with her daughter in an unhealthy relationship and her son uncommunicative and isolated. When one member of the family commits an unspeakable act, Natalie is forced to uncover who she truly is under the façade of her radio persona.

New York, 1776
Mercy Howard is shocked when her fiancé, Nathan Hale, is arrested and hanged as a spy. When she’s asked to join the revolutionary spy ring in Manhattan, she sees an opportunity to avenge Nathan’s death. But keeping her true loyalties hidden grows increasingly harder as the charming Major John Andre of the King’s Army becomes more to her than a target for intelligence.

Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.

My thoughts: I was immediately drawn in to this story, though it was with a sense of foreboding, since I knew where it was going and that it would be a hard story to read. Heidi does a wonderful job of tying the past and present together through the stories of Mercy, Nathan Hale's grieving fiancé, Natalie, and Maelynn. I thought it was interesting to not only have the past and the present, but to also have the added story of the Abbott's teenage daughter as she navigates the halls of high school and the aftermath of a school shooting.
This book covers some difficult subjects, but Heidi handles them wonderfully. The story will have you thinking long after finishing the last page.
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.


This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, April 13, 2018


Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.

Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My thoughts: I loved the historical detail in this story! Houdini was a favorite of mine to read about when I was a kid, so it was fun to read a bit more about some of the elements I didn't know much about, like his distrust of spiritualist/mystics and how he got started as a kid. It makes me want to pick up another book about just him!
This story has so many layers, with the mystery in the 1920's of a man brought "back" from the dead to collapse and die on stage and then the mystery of why Wren wants to keep her real name a secret. I highly recommend this one!
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.



This post contains affiliate links.

Things I Never Told You


This post contains affiliate links.

It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine—as long as she manages to hold her memories and her family at arm’s length.

But with her middle sister Jillian’s engagement, Payton’s party-planning skills are called into action. Which means working alongside her opinionated oldest sister, Johanna, who always seems ready for a fight. They can only hope that a wedding might be just the occasion to heal the resentment and jealousy that divides them . . . until a frightening diagnosis threatens Jillian’s plans and her future. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart.

My thoughts: This book was so hard to put down! I love how the story is written from Payton and Jillian's point of views. Beth does an excellent job of dealing with some hard subjects, like how the family had dealt (or not dealt) with the death of Pepper 10 years prior and how they react to the news of Jillian's health scare. This book hit home for me.
I enjoyed getting to know the sisters and look forward to reading more about them in the next book!
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Who Do You Say that I AM?


This post contains affiliate links.

Do you know Jesus as He really is?
We can speak in abstracts all day long. We can ponder who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. But he wants our confession. He wants to know, “Who do you say that I AM?”
How we answer defines our lives both now and forever. This study in the “I AM” statements of Jesus will help women move from knowing about Him to knowing Him personally. Guiding them through significant questions Jesus asks in the Gospels—and the answers He himself provides—it will help readers:
Realize the truth of who Jesus really is
Grow in their ability to trust God and rely on Him fully
Find the calm and peace promised in Scripture despite life circumstances
Becky Harling has years of experience as a Bible teacher and women’s ministry leader. She empathizes with women and knows how to make Scripture come alive. Who Do You Say that I AM? will draw women deep into the Word for a true encounter with Christ, helping them become more confident, calm, and courageous in the faith.

My thoughts: I love how this Bible study is set up, going 5 days a week for 8 weeks, and the topic. The subject of "I AM" in the Bible came up in a sermon a while back, and I loved the opportunity to dig in even deeper with this book. I love how Becky uses scripture verses and reflection time, along with music and even some artistic creativity to speak to readers from all walks of life. I highly recommend this study!
I received this book from Moody in exchange for my honest review.

Coach Wooden's Forgotten Teams


This post contains affiliate links.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is known for his record-breaking run of NCAA championships and for working with some of the best players in the sport. His principles for success have been used by not only coaches and athletes, but also business leaders, entrepreneurs, and others. But his reach stretches even farther than most people know--into the hearts and lives of the people who learned the game of basketball on one of Coach Wooden's forgotten teams.

For nearly twenty years, John Wooden ran scores of summer youth basketball camps in California and other states, imparting wisdom and teaching skills to thousands of boys and girls between the ages of eight and fifteen. Most would not grow up to play professional or even college ball, but all of them found their lives changed by their interaction with the greatest coach who ever lived. In those camps, Coach Wooden also impacted hundreds of camp counselors and assistant coaches. This one-of-a-kind new book shares their inspiring stories and six fundamental lessons for a life of success and an unforgettable impact on others.

My thoughts: This book is a fun way to look at the wisdom of John Wooden and the influence that he had with younger generations through summer basketball camps. The book is easy to get through as it covers the six fundamentals, things like following instructions, being organized, and teaching wisdom.
Not only is this book a great one for basketball fans, but the insight is applicable for all walks of life.
I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Pelican Point


This post contains affiliate links.

A crumbling lighthouse is not part of the inheritance Army doctor Ben Garrison expects to claim when he journeys to Hope Harbor. Fresh out of the service, he wants only to unload the tower of bricks, decompress from years of treating battlefield trauma, and prepare to launch his civilian career.

Hope Harbor Herald editor Marci Weber has other ideas. She may not be a Hope Harbor native, but the small Oregon seaside town has become home--and she's determined to save the Pelican Point landmark.

Sparks fly as the two go head to head over the fate of the lighthouse. But when they start to cooperate, a different kind of fire ignites. And as they work together, might Hope Harbor heal the hearts of these two romance-wary souls?

Bestselling author Irene Hannon invites readers back to their favorite town for a story that will light a beacon of hope within their hearts.

My thoughts: I have enjoyed the wide variety of books that Irene Hannon writes, starting with her suspense stories and now reading this heartwarming series based in a small town on the coast. I loved the lighthouse that was introduced with this story, and the history that surrounded it. The characters were fun to get to know too! I highly recommend this delightful series.
I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.