A Match of Wits by Jen Turano

When I first started writing book reviews, I had never heard of Jen Turano, but now that I’ve read a couple of her books, I’m seriously hooked!  She has such an amazing way with words, and a really delightful way of storytelling in general.  This book was no exception!

The book opens up with Agatha Watson, a reporter with the New York Tribune, finding a pig in her hotel room.  Seriously.  If that wasn’t enough to grab your attention from the very start, then I’m not sure what would be!  The pig (who is extremely opposed to being called a pig, and has to be referred to by name – Matilda) becomes a very important part of the story, as Agatha has to save her from inevitable doom if she stays in the hotel, and chooses to take her along on her adventures after leaving.  Agatha’s desire to save Matilda says a lot about her character though, and not just that she IS a character (although that’s partially true), but that she really does want to save the people/animals in her life that are facing injustice.  That carries through to everything she does – and is a huge reason why she’s travelling with a bodyguard.  Agatha has written stories that have angered a whole lot of people, because she’s shared things that many people prefer not be shared… and she is trying hard to right the wrongs that have been done by others.  Along the way, she meets up with an old friend, Zayne Beckett, and decides that he needs to be helped.  She drives her bodyguard crazy, finds out that her companion is also a bodyguard, and a whole lot more… the book is filled with surprises, and is a whole lot of fun to read.  While in many ways the ending was “predictable”, the way they got to that point definitely wasn’t.  This book was definitely worth reading, and had me laughing out loud at points – I will be keeping it to read again!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

 

A Match of Wits Cover

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NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women – Compact

This Bible is absolutely gorgeous!  With an Italian duo-tone sea glass/Carribean blue embossed cover, beautiful pale blue ribbon to mark the page you’re on, lots of blue ink on the pages, devotions on blue backgrounds, and lots of “delicate” details, this Bible is a welcome change from all the women’s Bibles that have pink covers and brown details.  It’s an NIV (New International Version) Bible, but also includes 366 devotions in it from many of the Proverbs 31 authors.  Each devotion takes up one page, and they are placed in the area where their main Scripture is located.  As someone who receives the daily devotions via email from Proverbs 31, I really thought these devotions were good.  They were long enough to have things that made you think, but not “too” long to read on a daily basis.  They also weren’t things I recognized having read before – huge bonus!

There are sections at the back with short biographies about each author who has work included, an index of devotions by author (in case you have a favorite author, or just want to see the other devotions by any of these authors), and a general topical index.  Each of these are really great information if you’re interested in finding out more.

The only thing about this Bible that could be seen as a “negative” is that with it being the compact version, the font is pretty small.  It’s the perfect size to put in your purse or into a backpack, and as I mentioned before, it’s really gorgeous, so it would be great to carry around!  I have long carried a Bible in my purse, but it’s bigger than this one and doesn’t have any devotions included in it.  I think it might just be time to change my Bibles around!

For more information (including the ability to view some of the pages for yourself!), please check out this site: http://www.zondervan.com/niv-real-life-devotional-bible-for-women-compact.

I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

 

Bible Cover

365 Moments of Peace for a Woman’s Heart

The introduction says that this book was written with the prayer “that as you read, you will see and understand God’s wonderful plan for you, a plan designed to reveal your incredible worth and beauty.  In seeking, you will find more treasure than you ever imagined.”  I found that prayer to be something that was clearly evidenced in the readings.  Each day includes a verse at the beginning, a different verse at the end, a short devotional, and a prayer that you can make your own.  They are each easy to read, and make it easy to come away with a little nugget to consider throughout the day.  It only takes a few minutes each day to complete, and is great for women who are busy or don’t feel like they have enough time to do an in-depth study on a daily basis.

I really appreciated how many versions of the Bible were used in this devotional – not just the ones that are more familiar (NIV, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB), but a few that may be less familiar too (God’s Word, NCV, ICB, NLV).  Devotionals tend to stick with the tried and true versions that are commonly used across the board.  It was great that this one used versions that people may not have in their houses or see very often, because it really helps you to consider Scriptures in a different way when you see verses you might “know” in words that are different from what you’re used to.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould

As someone who absolutely loves to spell (and all things related to spelling), I was captivated starting with the first sentence of this book.  Bea was also a fan of spelling, and all through the book you’ll see her spelling words out.  But she’s not the only one who spells, and her nemesis Ben, who was in spelling bees with her in school, also spells to her.  They kept trying to “one up” each other with their spelling abilities, and it continued through the entire book.

At the start of the book, Bea finds out that her sister and Mamm are going to be heading to Montana to visit with her sister’s in-laws.  They planned the whole trip without ever talking to Bea about it, and intended to have her go along.  She found this out from Ben, in the midst of their spelling not so nice words to each other, and was nowhere near happy about it.  Bea rushes home to confront her sister and mother, and her sister is really pretty nasty to her.  As a result, Bea decides that she wants to find a job, which would give her a reason that she couldn’t leave town.  She finds one, helping a family with their triplets.  Wouldn’t you know, Ben is helping the family too.  While they spend a good amount of time driving each other crazy, they do eventually start courting.  Then everything gets crazy, some really shocking stuff happens, and they part ways.  It takes awhile for them to work things out, but they do eventually get back together, and the book ends with more words being spelled to each other.  This time, it’s not about spelling words to make little digs – they’re kind words, happy words, loving words.  Just the way that it should be.

This is book 4 in a series, The Courtships of Lancaster County, but not having read books 1-3 of the series, I really didn’t feel like you “needed” to read them in order to appreciate (and enjoy!) this book.  That’s not always the way it is when you read a series, so it was pretty great in this case!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write a positive review – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Becoming Bea Cover

A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears

The second book by this author was really (really!) well written.  It centers on the story of two people:

Eliza Cantrell – Axel’s mail-order bride who “sets out on her travels a week early” because she’s “impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store”.  On the way her train gets held up, she gets hit upside the face by the pistol of a robber, and once they get to town, she needs stitches.

Will Stanton – he’s Axel’s business partner, has no true desire to be in business and really wants to be a doctor instead.  He meets Eliza when she first comes to town, because he’s summoned to help stitch her up.  While he wants to be a doctor, and is really quite good at it, he’s also scared to be a doctor because of something that happened with a patient many years ago.  His fears are concerns are well portrayed, and you can see the struggle he continues to have in deciding if he should take a chance by going to school or just stay home and run a business that’s struggling.

Once they figure out that the man Eliza was coming to see is none other than Will’s business partner (that took a little while, but they did finally get there!), Will sets her up helping him with running his store until Axel gets back to town.  Eliza goes to live with a lady who has an empty boarding house, and quite the personal story.  Her friendship with Mrs. Lightfoot is something that helps both of them though, and I appreciated watching it throughout the book.

While the main story is about Eliza and Will, we can’t forget about Axel.  He’s the groom-to-be, the one Eliza came all this way for, and the one who was missing when she got to town.  I thought that a large amount of the story with Eliza and Will was predictable, but was honestly completely surprised by some of what came into play with Axel and his part in all of it.  As someone who reads a whole lot of books on a very regular basis, surprises like that aren’t easy to come by!  Kudos to the author for making the story so real, and so easy to relate to, but also for not making things easy to figure out.  That definitely takes talent!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

For more about this book and author:

http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/a-bride-in-store/348010

$10 Great Dates by Larson & Arp

This book is written by two couples, Peter and Heather Larson, and David and Claudia Arp.  It’s a really fantastic book, because it gives ideas that are good, relatively simple, and fun – and did I mention that they’re cheap??  The book is called $10 Great Dates because it’s literally a book of ideas that are super fantastic date ideas, but ones that aren’t expensive (although you could always spend more, ha ha!).  Not only that, for anyone is even remotely challenged in planning details, they list them all out!  Each date idea takes about three pages, gives you a general idea behind what they’re going for, and then gives details:

The Idea – the premise behind what you’ll be planning to do.

Before Your Date – things to prep beforehand.

On Your Date – a detailed list of the things you need to know about what you’ll be doing.

Talking Points – a list of questions to ask each other or things to consider with each other while you’re out.

Great Date Takeaway – a few sentences that give you a great thing to work on or think about working on going forward from your date.  These can be simple, or they can be a little bit more detailed, but either way they are thoughts that are definitely worth considering!

The book is filled with 52 creative date ideas, perfect for you to use one a week for a full year.  It even has a section at the end with a list of Cheap Child Care Options.  As someone who has two young kiddos and no family anywhere remotely close, I really appreciated that section.  There were some great ideas in there, and definitely a few that I think we should consider taking advantage of!

One idea that I really liked was close to the front of the book, and talked about going to a free workshop at a home garden center, having breakfast together, buying plants with each other (I mean, when the workshop is free, you can have a lot of fun for $10!), and enjoying that time thinking about something new with each other.  We’ve done free events at garden centers with our kiddos, but haven’t considered doing something like this together – just the two of us.  It could be a lot of fun!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Move On by Vicki Courtney

When Mercy Meets Your Mess.  What a great way to describe this book!  That’s what mercy is all about though, changing the way you look at your “mess” and messy situations.  The reality is that we ALL have those messy situations in our lives… but what we do about them is what defines us as people, and shows others who we really are.  Will we live like pigs, being happy in our mess?  Or will we move through the mess, into a better life?

The author started the book by telling readers about her son, and how he shared some “bombshell news”.  She was quick to say that we’re “all a mess” though, no matter what kind of news we’re sharing, or what’s happening in our lives.  That’s the beauty of God’s mercy – it’s available to ALL of us, no matter what we’ve done, or what messes we get into.  She tells us that “this book is for those of us who are weary of hiding and pretending.  It’s about finding the courage to come clean about the messes we are.”

There was a section that really spoke to me, because of friends who are struggling right now.  It was under the heading “You Are Not Alone” and said that “when we open up to others about our struggles, others can walk with us in the valleys”.  I feel like this is SO true.  People don’t know they can walk with us if they’ve never heard us talk about taking walks in the first place.  Our struggles in life are always easier when we have someone (anyone!) to walk WITH us.  This book kept coming back to that point, that we all need to have people who help us see that we’re not alone.  And beyond that, we all need to BE that person for other people.  No matter how blessed our lives have been, we all have an area we can identify with, something that we can do to really be there for others.  The question is – are we doing it?

Each chapter ended with a section called “Coming Clean”, a page of questions for personal reflection.  They would also be really great for discussion with a study group or book club, but they’re questions that really make you think about how you can apply the things you’ve learned as you’ve read through the book.

All in all, I’d say that it was well worth the read, and it’s a book I would highly encourage others to read as well!  You won’t walk away from the book as the same person – you’ll come away with a lot of thoughts and ideas of how God will use you in the lives of others.  More than that, you’ll see that maybe you need to allow someone else to be used by God in yours.

On a design note, I really appreciated how the cover of this book is of something active.  It’s a person clearly walking/running in the rain, with a gorgeous bright umbrella… moving.  I would have thought that a book titled “Move On” might have had a picture of a moving truck, with boxes being loaded into it, but there was clearly “movement” in this picture, and it really fit.  So, to the team who worked on this cover – nicely done!

The author has a really great personal website:  http://vickicourtney.com/.  It’s definitely worth checking out!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Move On Cover