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The Crying Bird - Book Review | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews

The Crying Bird – Book Review

Book Description:

May Johnson used to be an ordinary wife and mother. Now, she’s a middle-aged millionaire, grieving the loss of her family. The only living relative she has left is her smothering younger sister. May’s sanity is already threatened when tensions rise, so she sets out to find solitude in Florida. However, life has other plans for her.

Animal encounters, unlikely friendships, sisterly squabbles and hilarious scenarios take May on an unforgettable journey from the depths of grief to a new life. But, will she embrace it?

Review:

Funny books are so hard to come by these days.  Wait, let me rephrase that.  Good, clean, funny, PG books are hard to come by these days.  Every once in a while I will read a book with a funny part, and it is refreshing.  This book fits that bill.  Sure, it’s about a woman that has lost her family, and that is sad, but it doesn’t dwell on it.  Isn’t that how it is in real life?  Don’t we deal with death, and then keep living?  Or that is how it’s supposed to work.  The main character, May Johnson, does exactly what we all want to do when we lose someone close to us.  She shuts down.  When she finally gets enough of her little sister trying to help her, she runs away.  Again, wouldn’t we all like to do that sometimes?

This is a story that many of us can relate to. It is a little sad, but it is also, fast-paced, witty and heartwarming!  You not only get May Johnson’s point of view as the griever, but you also get the point of view of her sister, as the caregiver.  There are unlikely friendships, good deeds, and conversations with a bird.  Please tell me that you talk to animals too.

This is E.J. Stillings debut novel, and it is a winner! I absolutely love this book!  I will be suggesting this book to my IRL book club, and I just know they will love it!

My Bird Story

Now, let me tell you about what happened here the same day I finished this book.

the pigeon | juliekmccomas.com

It was a Sunday afternoon, I was settling in to read a little and nap a lot.  I had just finished this book, The Crying Bird by E.J. Stillings, and decided that I would get a drink of water before I fell asleep.  I went to the kitchen sink, and sitting in front of the kitchen window was a pigeon.  I couldn’t believe it.  I grabbed my phone and started snapping pictures.  We live in the middle of nowhere, seriously, and I’ve never seen a pigeon out here.  They are all in town.  I don’t know why, but they are.  I noticed that there was a band on it’s little leg, so I started trying to get all the number off it.  That is harder than it sounds.  Several pictures later I got it.  I got some bird feed and some water and set out to make friends with this pigeon that I started calling Pete.  Pete the Pigeon.  Anywhoo, he wouldn’t eat or drink unless I was holding the plate.  I knew he had to belong to someone.  I took the number and got online.  Believe it or not, I found the owner!  Through Facebook and text messaging, he told me that it is a homing pigeon (I had figured that out) and they had had a trial run of the homing pigeon race.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I never knew they raced.  I ended up catching him, who ended up being a her, put her in a pet carrier, and returned her to her rightful owner. I thought it was funny that I had just finished reading this book, and then had an encounter with a bird that very same day.

Get this book! You won’t regret it!

The Crying Bird Book Cover The Crying Bird
E.J. Stillings
Women's Fiction, Contemporary
Emily Jordan Stillings
January 7, 2017
eBook
216
Received a free copy from E.J. Stillings in exchange for my honest review. Thank you, E.J..

The Day the Angels Fell - Book Review | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews

The Day the Angels Fell – Book Review

Book Description:

It was the summer of storms and strays and strangers. The summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident. As he recalls the tumultuous events that launched a surprising journey, Samuel can still hardly believe it all happened.

After his mother’s death, twelve-year-old Samuel Chambers would do anything to turn back time. Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Samuel begins his search for the Tree of Life–the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back. His quest to defeat death entangles him and his best friend Abra in an ancient conflict and forces Samuel to grapple with an unwelcome question: could it be possible that death is a gift?

Haunting and hypnotic, The Day the Angels Fell is a story that explores the difficult questions of life in a voice that is fresh, friendly, and unafraid. With this powerful debut, Shawn Smucker has carved out a spot for himself in the tradition of authors Madeleine L’Engle and Lois Lowry.

Review:

Oohhh, this is such a good read!!

There is so much to talk about but finding the right wording is proving to be difficult for me.

This is a Young Adult book, and this 46 year-old woman loved it! I’m still a young adult, right?! (hello?) I’ll take that silence as your agreement. Most adults have dealt with death, fear and/or loss, so we can relate to these things.  It might be more of a fantasy time book for some young people that only have their imagination to go on.

Remember when they used to talk about the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other?  That is kind of how the good and evil is portrayed in The Day the Angels Fell, except the angels aren’t the little guys on Samuel’s shoulder but the actual people in the story.  It was pretty easy to figure out who was good and who was evil, and seeing how each of the characters responded to them was captivating.   The darkness and creatures defined evil so well.  The Tree of Life might have been a gift at one time, but the way Mr. Smucker has described death being a gift makes so much sense.

A lot of books these days seem to bounce around, and this one is no different.  You will bounce back and forth between the past and the present, but it made the story that much better to me.  I liked the way they were woven together.  I really liked the relationship between Caleb and old man Samuel. (That’s all I’ll say about that.)

This book is a page turner that deals with grief, death, loss, good and evil, and it will not disappoint!!

I received this book from Revell via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The Day the Angels Fell Book Cover The Day the Angels Fell
Shawn Smucker
Spirituality, Fantasy
Revell
September 5, 2017
eARC
320

The Sacrament of Happy - Book Review | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews

The Sacrament of Happy – Book Review

Book Description:

Imagine hearing your physician tell you that chips and queso contain more nutritional benefits than kale and quinoa.

In her new book, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World, Lisa Harper unveils a similarly extravagant, unexpected surprise, declaring that happiness is a gift from God that we can unashamedly enjoy.

Wearing the twin hats of both seminarian and belly-laughing adoptive mom, Harper builds upon solid theological scaffolding for happiness in a warm, vignette style. She dismantles the old-school idea that joy, not happiness, is the truly spiritual emotion of the Christian family and asserts that Christ-followers are actually called to happiness . . . to such a deep conviction in the unmitigated goodness of our Creator-Redeemer that we are free to feel and express genuine joy, fulfillment and contentment, regardless of personal and global tumult.

Harper’s personal story includes such happiness killers as sexual abuse, the death of loved ones, and heartbreaking failed adoptions. Yet she writes on themes like:

“The lost sacrament of laughter”
“Happiness is not the absence of sadness”
“Tuning out the Pharisees who try to mute your happiness in the context of spiritual maturity”

This book goes well beneath most people’s surface understanding of happiness, gently guiding readers closer to the heart of God . . . with naturally a few genuine guffaws to enjoy along the way.

Review:

Lisa Harper is a God-send!   The End.

Oh, you mean you need more of a review than that?  Well, alrighty.

Lisa Harper is a down to earth, God fearing woman that loves life!  She writes books that are so easy to read, it is like a conversation with a dear friend.  Honestly!  She tells stories that tug on your heartstrings, and then others that make you literally laugh out loud!  She has been through some crappy days, and she chooses to cultivate happy.

The Sacrament of Happy is a collection of stories that show us that God does have a sense of humor.  It shows us that we can choose happy, how to get happy, and how happy changes the world.

I recommend that you get a hard copy rather than an ebook, because you will want to highlight several parts of this book.  You will want to remember some of the wisdom of Lisa Harper.  Another reason you will want to highlight is because you will start a story and will know what the main points are, but by the end you have laughed so hard that you might forget what you were supposed to learn from it all.  It could just be me though.

I don’t re-read a lot of books, but I will keep this one around to read every now and then.

The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World Book Cover The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World
Lisa Harper
Women's Christian Living
B & H Books
May 31, 2017
eARC
208
Received an advanced eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
The Space Between Words Book Review | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews

The Space Between Words – Book Review

Book Description:

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Review:

This is two stories set three centuries apart.  It’s about a present time woman learning how to heal, live and love from a woman in the past.

The story is well written and well plotted.  With that being said, some of the details seem a bit questionable.  The historical backstory of the Huguenots (French Protestants) fleeing from France to avoid persecution was quite interesting, and has made me want to research that piece of history.  There is a bit of a mystery, and I have to say that there is quite a twist that I never saw coming.

This book was easy to put down, and hard to pick up again.  But… every time I read it, I enjoyed it.  I really like this book, and I would recommend it to everyone.  It is a great story of friendship, healing and hope. It is also considered a Christian Fiction novel, but it isn’t preachy by any means.  There is a bit of romance thrown in, but that does take a backseat to the mystery.

I hope you’ll read this one, and let me know how you like it!

The Space Between Words Book Cover The Space Between Words
Michele Phoenix
Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Contemporary
Thomas Nelson
September 5, 2017
eARC
336
Received ARC from Thomas Nelson publishing via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

the sea of galilee | juliekmccomas.com
Faith, Travel

One of My Favorite Places on Earth – Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee was so peaceful that day. It was almost hard to imagine a storm big enough to make the disciples fear for their lives happening here.

“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!””

Matthew 8:23-27

on the sea of galilee | juliekmccomas.com

The Sea of Galilee isn’t exactly the kind of “sea” you are thinking about.  It is a lake.  Sea means basin, so it is a large basin of water.  My family spent lots of time on the lake when I was a kid, and I have some of the best memories from then.  But, I cannot remember there ever being a storm so big and bad on the lake that we were scared for our lives.  Granted, the boats we were on had motors, and were not an oversized canoe looking boat.

While I sat on the tour boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee I felt a calm like I’ve never felt before.  I could say it was because I love being at the lake, in a boat with fish jumping all around me, and bonus, it was a beautiful day.  But I don’t believe that was the reason.  I believe with all my heart that it was because I asked God to be with me, for the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the places Jesus spent time, and He did! I can’t explain it, but there were only a few places I had the same feeling, and I believe it was God answering my prayer.

selfie on the sea of galilee | juliekmccomas.com

This was at the beginning of our boat ride, and we were so thankful that it was a calm day.  We both have issues with motion sickness, and had even thought about skipping the boat ride.  We are so glad we didn’t miss it.

at peace on the sea of galilee | juliekmccomas.com

Let me tell you what is happening in this photo.

This is my dear, dear friend Sandy.  She was brave enough to embark on this journey with me, to put up with me for 24/7 for 16 days, and I love her more today than ever! She has truly blessed my life!

On the right you can see the platform that I was sitting on, and taking in the absolute beauty that surrounded us.  I was imagining the people looking across the lake at the crowd of people gathered to hear Jesus teach, and them heading in his direction to see what all the fuss was about.  I don’t know what Sandy was thinking about while she stood at the side of the boat, but I know she was at peace. (We discussed it later.)  The men in charge of the boat tour started playing worship music as we headed back to shore, and we were singing along.  It was perfect.  I can close my eyes and put myself right back on that boat, and I can feel that calm all over again.

God is so good about calming things in me.  Being on the Sea of Galilee reminded me that I always need to ask God to calm my storms.  I have known that all along, and going half way around the world didn’t suddenly bring that to light.  I just need to remember that daily.  I can almost hear Him saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Church of the Small Things | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews

Church of the Small Things – Release Day!

YAY!! It’s release day for Church of the Small Things!  Run to get your copy today!! Okay, maybe not run, but walk, click a button, or drive, whichever works for you.

Did I mention that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, wrote the Foreward?  Another reason to get it!

Click here for my thoughts on Church of the Small Things.

I promise that you will love this book!

 

Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up A Life
Melanie Shankle
Christian Living, Humor, Religion
Zondervan
October 3, 2017
224

Imagined Nativity Scene | juliekmccomas.com
Faith, Travel

I’ll Never Look At A Nativity Scene The Same Again

Most of us have been taught about the birth of Jesus all of our lives.  We have been told how there was no room at the inn, and we have visions of Mary and Joseph in a stable with baby Jesus in a manger.

By definition, a manger is a trough or an open box in a stable designed to hold feed for livestock.  All my life I’ve imagined a stable and a manger to be made of wood, and be a cute little scene for the story of the birth of Jesus.  I imagined a wooden manger filled with soft hay for the newborn baby.

Manger with straw | juliekmccomas.com

Does this look about right?

Well, hang on to your hat because it isn’t the kind of manger used those days.

A Real Manger | juliekmccomas.com

See what I mean?

Did you have a “What?!?” moment like I did when I first saw it?

The “stable” that Mary and Joseph went into was not a cute little barn looking stable.  It was a cave.  Yes, really.

In the Holy Lands, cities are built on top of cities and churches are built on top of what people considered to be sacred sites.  Below you will see the entrance to the cave where people believe Jesus was born.

Entrance - Jesus's Birth Place | juliekmccomas.com

Today there are several very steep steps going down into the cave.

14 Point Star | juliekmccomas.com

This is the 14-point star that people have placed in the spot they believe Jesus was born.  Almost everyone wanted to kneel down and touch the star.  I honestly don’t believe that this is THE spot where Jesus was born, but I do believe that it resembles the true location.  This is just my opinion, and I know that I could be wrong.

Manger Location | juliekmccomas.com

This was several steps away from the 14-point star, and it is where people believe the manger was that He was placed in.  Here again, I’m not sure this is the exact location, but we played along nicely.

When we think of babies being born into this world we imagine softness.  Soft hay, a wooden manger and not a hollowed out stone, a barn with the moonlight and stars shining bright not a dark cave.  No wonder we like to use the pleasant looking nativity scene at Christmas.  I for one, will never look at a nativity scene the same.

 

Faith, Travel

Spending Time Abroad

Several months ago, March actually, I was asked if my husband and I would be interested in going to the Holy Lands. He couldn’t take off for the 16 day trip, but I could. I talked to my friend, Sandy, and she could get away too. So, for the last week, we have been in Israel! 

We’ve tried new things, taken adventures, walked where Jesus walked, and floated in the Dead Sea. This has been a great trip for both of us! We can now read the Bible and remember what they looked like because we’ve been there.

Coming to the Holy Land is such a personal journey for each individual. Everyone sees the same thing, but we all walk away different. Touched in our own ways. I will never be able to describe this trip. Sure, I can say where I’ve been, but there are some experiences that are just indescribable. This is one of them.

The take away from this is that every Christian should make this trip.