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Julie

Book Reviews

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica – Review

PrettyBabyA chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica (taken from book description)

How is it possible to like and dislike a book at the same time? That is really how I feel about this one. I will do my best to describe this one to you, but it won’t be easy to describe without giving it all away. I will try my best!

Setting

Chicago.  Picture cold, and rainy.

Characters 

Heidi. Wife to Chris. Mom to Zoe. Bleeding heart kind of soul who works for an adult-literacy charity.

Chris. Husband to Heidi. Dad to Zoe. Investment banker. Pretty boy. I admired this guy.

Zoe. Typical pre-teen. Hates everything. Vegetarian.

Willow. Says she is 18. Homeless with a baby. Loves Anne of Green Gables and the library. After her parents passed, she was placed in a foster home. Has lots of secrets that are revealed up until the very end of the book.

Like I said before, it would be very difficult to describe this one without spoilers.

It is told from multi-character point of view – Heidi, Willow & Chris.

Heidi keeps seeing the same girl at the train station wearing an army green jacket, carrying a worn leather suitcase, and a baby, named Ruby. One day she approaches her, and asks if she can buy her dinner. Willow says no. But Heidi doesn’t give up. This becomes a theme in the book. She tells Willow how to calm the colicky baby, and that she will be diner if she changes her mind. And she does! Willow and her baby show up. Heidi has given Willow her raincoat to wrap the baby in, and her business card.

Obviously, Willow calls her because Heidi ends up bringing Willow and Ruby home to a horrified husband and daughter. She tells her husband that it is only for one night, but one night turned to two, and two to three, and so on.

This act of kindness on Heidi’s part became something more twisted.

You will learn:

Where Willow and Ruby came from.

What happens next!

 

Why this title is in the mystery-thriller genre.

But, you will have to learn all of this for yourself, because if I continue telling you about it there will be lots of spoilers. And I’m not spilling the beans.

For me, this book was most definitely a page-turner. I read devoured it in 2.75 days. Are you wondering how I could like and dislike it at the same time if I devoured it like that?  Well, I didn’t like the way it ended. Let me clarify. It isn’t a bad ending, but it really wasn’t a good ending. It was abrupt. Make sense? In my opinion, I felt like the author could have taken a little more time on the ending.

Would I recommend this book? I don’t know. I did recommend this book to one friend before I finished it. Then I finished it, and kind of changed my mind. Here is what I am going to say to anyone that asks about this book.  There are lots of mixed reviews, and maybe you should check those out before you commit to reading this one.

There is so much more I want to say about this one. If you read it, or have already read it and still want to chat about it – email me! I’d say comment below, but then it would spoil it for everyone else.

anotherchanceranch at gmail dot com

Special thanks to Harlequin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Reviews

Lifted from Darkness by Alexa M. Foster – Review

Lifted from Darkness | juliekmccomas.com

Lifted from Darkness on Amazon

Book Description:

On the outside, Alexa lived the life of a cheerful married woman whose entire life seemed poised for greatness. On the inside, she continued to hide the shadowy secret of a splintered world of torture that she endured for ten years at the hands of the man whose lies she believed.

When she first met Jim, she was nineteen years old. Immediately captured by his charming personality, Alexa began an ardent love affair with him. What originated as controlling emotional abuse developed into a traumatic depiction of physical and psychological violence, illustrating the intense complexities of love and fury, passion and brutality.

In this touching work of inspiration, Alexa reveals the entangled suffering and sadistic manipulation experienced by living with an abuser, and carries you with her through the shocking events that led to her escape from the chasm of fear and intimidation. Along the way, Alexa exposes the heartbreaking effects domestic violence played on her identity as she moved toward true healing and a life of personal fulfillment and success with a faithful trust in God.

Review:

Recently, I was given the opportunity to read and review this book from Booklook Bloggers. The book description you see above is not the description I read when trying to choose my next title. Here is the description I read:

Lifted From Darkness picks you up and slams you into the unbelievable, but true story of a naive young woman’s spiritual and physical battle to escape a 10-year sentence, trapped as a prisoner of domestic violence. Live the horror and celebrate the harrowing escape as Alexa rebuilds her life and rises through the corporate world, achieving national recognition as the president and CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation.

Now, let me tell you, Chapter 1, page 1 grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the very last page. The blurb that I read while trying to choose my next book hit the nail on the head! Dead on! It does pick you up and slam you into the unbelievable!

This was a difficult read.  Let me explain.

This isn’t a fictional character living in an abusive marriage. This is a real life woman facing emotional and physical abuse. It was hard to read about knowing that all of these things happened in real life, and happen all the time in the real world.

I only put this book down a few times, because I had to find out what happened to Alexa. I’m happy to say that it has a happy ending, and you will be blown away.

One last thing, if you read this book and you walk away from it without trying to see how God is working in your own life, then you need to read it again. That is huge in this book!

Book Reviews

Diary of a Jackwagon by Tim Hawkins – Review

diary of a jackwagon | juliekmccomas.com

Diary of a Jackwagon on Amazon

Book Description:

Popular Christian comedian Tim Hawkins shares his hilarious perspective on life in the 21st century.

In this wide-ranging, long-awaited book, comedian Tim Hawkins holds forth on everything from family, culture, and music to church, parenting, and education. Readers will enjoy laughing their way through the book, always feeling good about the clean and sometimes inspiring material they are laughing at. Chapters include riffs on marital communication (“marriage needs a challenge flag, like in pro football”) aging (“the diabolical orifice witch hunt”), worship music (“pick the right key, because I’m not Barry White and I’m not a Bee Gee”), and fatherhood (“There are no manuals for parenting. Color-coded warning labels or open-ended prescriptions would be just as helpful.”)

For fans of Jim Gaffigan’s Dad Is Fat and Food: A Love Story, Tim Hawkins’ hilarious first book reveals that for life’s many difficulties, laughter is the best medicine-when there aren’t any pills left.

5 Blooms Review | juliekmccomas.com
Review:

This book is funny! FUN-NY!

Let me tell you about reading this book. My husband and I were headed to a business meeting in Colorado, which was about a 9 hour drive, and we had planned to listen to a book on the way there. Little did I know that I would be the one narrating the book. I figured that I would read a story or two, and he would get tired of hearing me read, but that isn’t what happened.

He laughed! Out loud!

When I would finish one story, I would ask if he wanted me to continue and the answer was always yes! So I quit asking. That was the fastest 9 hour trip ever. We laughed, we remembered stories that resembled his, and we laughed some more.

We were at this meeting for several days, then we went to see the kids, and when we headed back I just assumed we’d listen to the radio and carry on with our usual debriefing. Not this time. My husband got in the pick-up, and asked me if I was going to finish reading the Jackwagon book.

So, I did.

I honestly, don’t know if I can give this book a better review. For my husband to want to continue reading this, laughing out loud at almost every chapter/story, and recommend it to others…that in itself is a five-star rating!

To this day, we still make reference to silly little quips and quotes from Diary of a Jackwagon. Especially, Jackwagon. It has been one of my favorite words for years!

Buy this book! This is a book that you will be able to devour in one day! A month, two months, or a year later it will be just as funny!

Well done, Tim Hawkins! Well done!

Thank you to Booklookbloggers for allowing me to get an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews

How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck – Review

how to catch a prince | juliekmccomas.com

How to Catch a Prince on Amazon

Book Description:

Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could’ve been.

But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife s appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever.

Review:

I’ll just get this out of the way right now. I’m a Rachel Hauck fan. I haven’t read any of her books that I didn’t like. So, I knew going into this one, that it was going to be another good one. I just didn’t realize how good.  I call books like this fluff, and I do not mean any disrespect at all when I say that. I like fluff. It’s kind of like Marshmallow Fluff, you just can’t put it down. It’s one where there aren’t too many plot lines, and characters to keep up with. It is a fairytale sprinkled with faith!

These characters are Royals and Elites; they are not your typical Dick and Jane, but as I read through their enchanting story of love, regret, and forgiveness they seemed more down to earth than Royals and Elites are usually depicted.

How to Catch a Prince is the third and final book in The Royal Wedding Series by Rachel Hauck. I did something a little different with this series. I read this book before I read the second book in the series, Princess Ever After. Why would I do that? Let me tell you. I’m usually one to start reading a series of books with the first book and not stray out of order until I am finished with the series. This time I wanted to see if this was a book that would stand alone, or if it was dependent on the other books in the series. I am happy to report that How to Catch a Prince can stand alone. Now, with that said, I will be going back and reading Princess Ever After because I love this series, the characters, and Rachel Hauck!  Whether you start on the first book, Once Upon a Prince, or not is up to you, but if you like romantic fairytales then this book, as well as the others are for you!

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a free ecopy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker – Book Review

ForthLoveBook Description:

The popular writer, blogger, and television personality reveals with humor and style how Jesus' extravagant grace is the key to dealing with life's biggest challenge: people.

The majority of our joys, struggles, thrills, and heartbreaks relate to people, beginning first with ourselves and then the people we came from, married, birthed, live by, live for, go to church with, don't like, don't understand, fear, struggle with, compare ourselves to, and judge. People are the best and worst thing about the human life.

Jen Hatmaker knows this all too well, and so she reveals how to practice kindness, grace, truthfulness, vision, and love to ourselves and those around us. By doing this, "For the Love "leads our generation to reimagine Jesus' grace as a way of life, and it does it in a funny yet profound manner that Christian readers will love. Along the way, Hatmaker shows readers how to reclaim their prophetic voices and become Good News again to a hurting, polarized world.

Review:

Oh where do I start?!

"Live long enough and it becomes clear that stuff is not the stuff of life. People are." This is just one quote. I'd like to quote the whole stinkin' thing!!

Great book! Love this book! You have to read this book!! Seriously!

Have you ever liked something so much before that you can't even find the words to describe how it made you feel? That is exactly where I am today!

For the Love is written in such a way that you feel like Jen Hatmaker is sitting there with you, chatting like you were best of friends. You feel like you are laughing with her, crying with her, and learning more about grace with her. If you are familiar with her voice, as I am, then you hear her speaking each word you read. She's my new BFF (she just doesn't know it yet)!

There is humor out there in the real world we live in, and Jen points it out. She doesn't sugar coat things, so don't dig into this book expecting it to be all hilarious. There are some jagged points in there too. Maybe it is different for everyone. It will all depend on you, and what you need to get out of her writing.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of humor in there especially in the Thank You Notes. I found myself making thank you notes to people in traffic, in line at the grocery store, and even in church. Wouldn't you like to know what they are!?

This book has challenged me to live life with more humor and integrity. Jesus' extravagant grace IS the key to dealing with people. I will re-read this For the Love again, and again because I need a little bit of her wisdom each and every day!

P.S. Have tissues for Chapter 11, and be ready to laugh out loud in Chapter 12! I can't say too much about this book without giving it all away!

Jen Hatmaker, I sure wish there was a devotional book to pair with this title. 🙂 Signed, Your new BFF!

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced reader ecopy of this book!

Reviews

Feathers – Faith in Flight Podcast

featherspod

Feathers Podcast by Amy J. Bennett

Let me just say that I feel like half of this post was written by Amy J. Bennett, because well, I have copy and pasted her words here to describe her podcast, #Feathers, as well as her little bio. Amy, I hope you don't mind.

Now, on to the good stuff!

I found Amy years ago, when she blogged at Permission to Peruse. Honestly, I can't remember how I found her (it's late and my brain just isn't working). But, I loved her immediately! She's one of those people that I could see myself hanging out with. Going to Women of Faith with, or SheSpeaks (I really want to go to SheSpeaks!).  After you check out Amy, her blog, and her podcast, you will love her too!

Amy J. Bennett – her bio, in her words.

I’m a 36 year old working mom of two daughters and one son.

I married my high school sweetheart Scott 16 years ago.  I graduated from college with a Computer Science degree 2 years later and have since been working with a large bank in Charlotte, NC as a developer.  I’m lucky enough that I get to work from home several days a week.  Scott began his dream job as a State Trooper 11 years ago.

We are in a suburb of Charlotte just inside South Carolina called Fort Mill where we both grew up raising our own family.

I started blogging in 2002 when I was pregnant with our first daughter Emma.  In fact, you might have passed through my old blog Permission to Peruse in the past.  In the Spring of 2013, I moved to this new home.

In short, this is a lifestyle blog written by a Christian mom in the Southern suburbs.  One of my favorite things to do is sit with friends over coffee at Starbucks right around the corner. Often, these posts are just what we’d talk about if we did the same.  So why do I share it in print and in public?  Well, I have a feeling we go through a lot of the same things.  I need to hear a “me too” more often than I’d like to admit and I’m sure you do too.  I’m hoping as I reflect on life, we both can grow together.

Feathers – Faith in Flight – the following are Amy's words.

Feathers is a podcast which shares stories of God speaking and His people having just enough faith to believe Him and obey.

Each week we interview one guest who shares their story of faith. Perhaps God called them to something which seemed scary or crazy and they had to trust Him and obey or perhaps God asked them to travel a difficult road and asked them to remain faithful to Him.

I hope Feathers inspires you and encourages you to take flight in your own faith.

If you click on the Feathers – Faith in Flight link then you will be able to see the list of women Amy has interviewed so far on #Featherspodcast.  Personally, her interview with Natalie Snapp is what encouraged me to start blogging again. Thanks, Natalie!

Doesn't Amy sound like someone you'd love to hang out with at Starbucks? Do me a favor…head over to her blog amyjbennett.com, and watch the video about her southern accent. You will love her even more after that.

Be sure to check out her Feathers story, their adoption story, and the 50 Random Acts of Kindness but don't feel like you have to stop there!

Now, with all good things it seems something bad comes with it. Not always, just seems to be common. So, let me just say that Feathers is on a brief hiatus. It's cramping my style, I'm not gonna lie. BUT, Amy said that it will be back. (I heard that in that crazy Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, did you?) There is more good here than bad! This gives you a chance to go through and catch up with all the earlier episodes! When you do, come back and tell me which one encouraged you!

 

 

PinTest, Recipes

Chicken Chile Relleno Cheese Dish

Chicken Chile Relleno Cheese Dish

Chicken Chile Relleno Cheese Dish

First things first, I found this recipe on Pinterest. I borrowed the photo from Buttoni's Low Carb Recipes. And lastly, I changed the name of the dish from Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole to Chicken Chile Relleno Cheese Dish. Long story short, my husband will not eat casseroles. His mom made casseroles all the time, and apparently, they weren't very good ones. Hence, Cheese Dish instead of Casserole. Crazy, but it's true.

Words cannot describe how yummy this dish is! And it's low carb!!!

To make this dish, you have to roast poblano peppers, and I hadn't done that before. It was surprisingly easy! The recipe calls for onions, and I don't do onions, so I left those out. I used more garlic than the recipe called for, and it turned out delicious!!

It has been added to our meal rotation, and we are looking forward to making it again.

Pinterest for the win, again!

Be sure to go grab this recipe at Buttoni's Low Carb Recipes!

Confessions

A Light Bulb Moment

IdeaLightbulbsmJust the other day I had a light bulb moment. Have you ever had one of those? Some times I feel brilliant after the light bulb goes off, and other times I feel kinda slow. You know… the why didn't I think of that sooner thought.  On this particular day, I felt kinda slow.

Let me explain a little bit.

When I first started blogging, a long, long time ago (2006), I tried to stay away from the touchy topics like religion and politics. I mean, aren't those the topics we avoid most of the time? I know we do at all of our family events, and even church groups. Sometimes it is best to just talk about the weather, sports, or ailments. It's just safer! No arguments, no hurt feelings.

All of that was okay when I first started blogging. But now, the blogging world has blogs about faith/religion, and I feel compelled to write more about my faith, or what God is doing in my life. I want the world to know, and what better place to shout it out than the World Wide Web/Internet/Cloud/Whatever you call it! (I am SO not a techy person!)

Don't worry, I am not going to even try to touch the whole political topics. I just wouldn't know where to begin! The only political advice I will ever give is this…are you ready?…Vote! There ya go, you've got my political advice. 

For the longest time I felt like I shouldn't dip my toe in the religious/faith-filled blog posting because, well, I am not a perfect Christian. (Screeching halt!) Wait! No one is a perfect Christian. No one! 

I felt like I wasn't far enough along in my walk with Jesus. Wait, wait, wait! This might be true to some, but to others I might be a lot farther on my walk than theirs and hopefully we could chat on our walk.  Aren't we supposed to help each other?

Why shouldn't I write about something I am excited about? Why shouldn't I share all that God has done for me? Why shouldn't I step out of my cramped little box where I try to please everyone? You know, it really is comfy in there though. I'm not staying in that little box anymore. I'm taking a leap of faith.

What are your thoughts? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?