Browsing Category

Book Reviews

Anchored In - Book Review | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews

Anchored In – Book Review

Book Description:

Problems can make you feel like God is far away, but they can also be the very things that bring you closer to him.

Anchored In isn’t a book of Christian cliche’s or sweet stories to warm the heart but rather an authentic look at the hard parts of life. It challenges us to stop running from and clinging to the past, and to grasp tightly to the only unshakable Anchor that is able to sustain our souls through the storms of life.

Micah shares personal stories, such as her father’s abandonment of her family, and couples them with biblical application to offer real-life glimpses of God at work. She offers inspiration to live a life full of God’s power rather than one that causes us to turn away and be paralyzed by problems.

Living anchored in God’s presence is a beautiful gift that few truly experience simply because they do not understand the key to God’s power – surrender. Or if they know to surrender, they do not know how to let go of the problems that consume their lives. Through simple, tangible steps learn to surrender in every season of life.

Hearing from God is not reserved for a chosen few, but rather promised to those who believe. If you are longing to experience God’s power in a deeper way, this is a journey for you.

Review:

We have all been through trials of some kind, and some are worse than others.  When we go through these trials we need to be reminded that we are not the only ones that have problems, and that we will get through them.  Anchored In is just that! It is full of encouragement that we all need as we struggle, and a gentle but oh so truthful reminder that we need to stay Anchored In to our faith.

One of my favorite quotes from Micah is “God’s power is present to people who pursue it.”

How true!! How true!! How true!!

Seriously, how have I missed this all this time?

This is a honestly written story of Micah’s journey, and how she found an anchor.  It is perfectly blended with stories and scriptures, and each chapter ends with questions just for you and a prayer too.

Anchored In: Experience a Power-full Life in a Problem-Filled World Book Cover Anchored In: Experience a Power-full Life in a Problem-Filled World
Micah Maddox
Personal Growth, Religion & Spirituality
Abingdon Press
September 5, 2017
eARC
240
Received an advanced eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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.

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

The Girls - A Book Review | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews, Reviews by Lindsey

The Girls – Book Review by Lindsey

Book Description:

An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong—this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.
 
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.
 
Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction.

Review:

Summer of The Girls

Evie is a Californian teen fumbling her way through the summer of 1969. She grows bored with the monotony of boys, beauty treatments, and hanging with her dull best friend. Until, one day, she sees The Girls walk through the park – no cares, intriguing, and unapologetically head turning. Evie cannot stop thinking about the girls she saw. She sets out to befriend Suzanne, the dark, wild haired girl of the group. They give her a summer that will define the rest of her life.

I read the first chapter of The Girls and honestly did not know if I could finish this book. It is grisly. This book unsettled me in a way you cannot stop thinking of a bad dream you had. I would go ahead and warn anyone that might be sensitive to gory scenes to beware. Please don’t take this as I didn’t enjoy the summer hit. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her writing is sometimes overly detailed, but overall beautiful with so much feeling.

The story is a renamed retelling of Charles Manson and his infamous girls. I have always been interested in aspects of their cult and notorious crimes. The story itself is unoriginal, but there’s twist. I am applauding the author’s insight into the mind of Evie, the unheroic protagonist of the tale. I remember the feelings Evie sorted through throughout the book as my own feelings from adolescence. I “got” Evie. I was Evie at one time. A revisit into my own times as a teen where I put myself in possibly bad or dangerous situations. Emma Cline puts words to thoughts and feelings we all have, but never say out loud. This was a fast summer read. It has been a few weeks since I have finished this book, and I still feel stuck in 1969. I highly suggest it if you need something gritty that might rub you the wrong way.

 

The Girls: A Novel Book Cover The Girls: A Novel
Emma Cline
Fiction, Historical Fiction, Thriller
Random House
June 14, 2016
Hardcover
355

A Fierce Love | juliekmccomas.com
Book Reviews, Faith

A Fierce Love – Book Review

Book Description:

Love is easy to give when you are getting it back. Are we still called to God’s plan of how to love when we are getting none in return? Shauna Shanks’s brave journey through obedience reveals the outcome of when we dare to follow God’s ludicrous outline for love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Wrecked with news of her husband’s affair and his request for a divorce, Shauna finds herself urgently faced with a decision. Does she give up and divorce her husband and move on, or does she try to fight for her marriage? The former choice seems to contradict God’s plan for how to love, such as “love never gives up,” “love is patient,” and “love is kind.”

Taking God at His word and assuming the love chapter was really meant to be followed literally word by word, she not only finds herself falling in love with her spouse again, but also falling in love with Jesus, which changes everything.

First Corinthians 13 presents an audacious, illogical, and irrational context of how to love, meant to be applied to every marital context not just the fairytale marriage. If God’s instructions seem illogical and audacious, you might just expect the same kind of results in return!

This book is not air-brushed. It was written in the midst of the author’s deepest trauma, and she purposefully did not edit out her mistakes and failures during that season. This book will resonate with women who do not feel like the picture-perfect Christian woman with the fairytale life and marriage. A Fierce Love is the story of a train wreck and reaching out to God not in the calm but in the chaos and finding hope for the future.

 

Watch Shauna talk about her new book, A Fierce Love, and answer all of our questions.  Loved being able to see this live last night!

Review:

I loved A Fierce Love!

Let me clarify.  I hate that Shauna and Micah had to travel this road.  I hate that anyone has to travel this road, whether it is the husband having an affair or the wife that has an affair.  It isn’t pleasant at all for anyone.  If you are one of the few that know our story, then you know that we have been down this road and we have come out on the other side stronger than ever.  Loving this book does not mean that I love what happened to them, it means that I love that they have shared their story with us.  I love that they are still writing the rest of their story.  No, I do not have any inside scoop about another book or a Hallmark movie (which was mentioned on the live chat), I mean that they are still doing life together.  They are still in this love story.  I love that Shauna listened to God, and applied the Love Filter to her life.  I love this book!

A Fierce Love is a book of life, hope, heartache, and healing.  Divorce happens, and it happens a lot.  I’m not judging.  I have friends, family and even my husband has been divorced.  A preacher man that I am “friends” with on the Book of Faces pointed out that even God has been divorced.  I’ll leave the scripture right here so you can read it for yourself.

Jeremiah 3: 8
New International Version (NIV)

I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.

I know that is a completely different blog post, but it is written right there in the Bible.

Back to the book, A Fierce Love.  When we get married, we make a vow before God, family and friends, and lots of weddings are in churches. LOTS!  We want God there when we are in the midst of all the wedded bliss, but when we are wronged we often forget to bring God into the situation.  This book is a wonderful example of how we can go to God, listen to God, and obey God in what seems like the end of our world.  Don’t get me wrong, this happily ever ending won’t happen for everyone, even with God being in the situation.  But shouldn’t we be willing to bring Him into more of our situations?

Oh I seem to be getting off track here, let me see if I can wrap it up with something about the actual book.

A Fierce Love is a book that I recommend to everyone!  Men and women! I admire anyone that is willing to showcase a terrible time in their life to remind us that God is good.  They are willing to share their story in hopes that someone will gain from it.  I’m sure there will be haters out there, because anytime God is glorified the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.  (Sorry!) Just shake it off! (I know, sorry! Couldn’t help myself!)

Love this book! Go get it! Read it! Share it!

A Fierce Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage Book Cover A Fierce Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage
Shauna Shanks
Nonfiction, Christian, Marriage
Zondervan
June 27, 2017
eARC
240
Received an advanced eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.