Book Review: Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm
by Ryan Stevenson

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir, Christianity

AtD

Singer and songwriter Ryan Stevenson shares the story behind his hit song “Eye of the Storm.” Years of struggling in his personal life and his musical life led to doubt and depression. Stevenson had to learn to fully rely on God, to allow Him to be in charge of his dreams and ambitions, but it wasn’t a quick realization, a “flash of inspiration” that fixed everything at once. It took time and some very dark moments, which Ryan lays bare for us in this book.

It’s never easy to read about the difficulties of someone else’s life, and Stevenson had a lot of them. From watching his mom die of cancer, to his wife having a miscarriage of twins, and to Stevenson’s own bad choices that nearly ruined his life. Through all of this, Stevenson had a love for Jesus, though I’m not clear on where his faith really stood. Still, there’s inspiration to be found in the pages of this book.

I appreciate the humble and vulnerable way that Stevenson wrote about his history. He found some success throughout his life, but suffered many setbacks. And he never holds back from taking the blame for his own mistakes. His wrong choices, mingled with things that were out of his control, caused some of the problems he had. Yet, along with the understanding that he should, and could, trust God in everything, he also came to learn that his mistakes did not have to define him. That, as long as he allowed it to happen, God could wipe them away and he could move on from who he used to be.

Though I have not had nearly the hardships in my life that he had, I gleaned plenty of insight from Stevenson’s story. In particular, it was a reminder when I really needed it to continue to do plug away at my writing, which feels stalled at the time of my writing this review. But rather than waiting for a big, obvious lit-up path (which I didn’t even consciously realize I was doing until now), I should be faithful to the work as I know to do it. God may or may not open doors for me, but waiting around for something to happen feels more like giving up than trusting God to use my abilities as he sees fit.

One thing I want to mention for anyone who may read this book–I think it’s important to be clear that not everyone hears that “still small voice” quite so clearly as Stevenson did so many times in his life. If we assume that God will lead us in this way, and we never feel an obvious nudging of the spirit, we may feel like God has abandoned us in the way Stevenson felt at times during his life. Even if we never experience a monologue from God, a whisper in the wind, we can still follow God faithfully, and he can use us in ways we’d never expect. I don’t want to discount Stevenson’s account of how God spoke to him, but it is not the only way, and for those of us who do not have those experiences, we should not feel less important to the kingdom.

With that in mind, I do recommend this book for Christians who could use some inspiration in trusting God in the storms, or for those who enjoy Ryan Stevenson’s music.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harvest House Publishers for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Notebook Collection, part 6

I’ve been putting off posting about my most recent notebook acquisitions for a few months now. I don’t know why. But I realized today that, since my husband and I are going on an anniversary trip in a few days, I’m likely to have more soon. So it’s time to get caught up.

If anyone is interested in the previous posts as my smattering of notebooks became a collection and has grown:
Post #1
Post #2
Post #3
Post #4
Post #5

notebook 1

It’s not very often that I add a notebook to my collection that is full-sized. Most of those that catch my eye are about half the size of the standard 8 1/2 x 11. This one is not only full-size, but has hard front and back covers, with an indented, condensed image of a map of the world. I still can’t explain my apparent fascination with maps on my notebooks, but I really like the way it looks.


notebook 2

Everyone knows about the flippy sequins that are all over everything these days, right? I used to think it was silly, but at some point, I realized how it might be soothing to flip them back and forth while sitting and reading or something. But I didn’t want it on just anything. My husband got me a large blanket of this type, which was perfect, because we keep our house pretty cool in the winter, and I am usually found under a blanket. More recently, I spotted a notebook at Meijer with the exact same color pattern of flippy sequins…it seemed like destiny. Granted, it might not be the easiest notebook to actually write in, but given the rate I’m going through these notebooks, that won’t be an issue for a long time.


notebook 3

Don’t let the size of the picture fool you–this notebook is quite small. Still not the smallest I have though. My husband insisted on me getting this one at WinterJam in February. Building 429 is amongst my favorite bands, and “Fear No More” is my favorite of their recent songs. (though the honor of my favorite song of theirs overall still belongs to “Where I Belong”). Concert t-shirts are good too, but this kind of souvenir definitely appeals to me a lot.


notebook 4In my previous notebook post, I shared my discovery of novel journals, an in particular, the Sherlock Holmes one I had picked up. While these notebooks are seriously amazing to me, I have read very few of the classics that they are based on. I had seen somewhere that there was one for Anne of Green Gables, which not only have I read, I loved! However, I was finding these sporadically in different locations, and was at the mercy of which books they had. The price online wasn’t preferable at the time either. Then I happened to see this at Meijer, of all places, and so now it’s mine. I haven’t been able to bring myself to take the plastic wrapper off of it yet though. Many of the notebooks I buy are wrapped in plastic, but always have a flap with adhesive to open the package easily. I tend to take the book out to look at it or take a picture, then put it back until I’m ready to start using it. Keeps it clean while it sits and waits. But this one doesn’t have a flap, it’s just completely sealed. So once it’s out, it’s out for good.


This is half of the most recent additions to my collection. I prefer to share shorter posts since the first few that were so long (since I share the story behind every notebook). So some time next week, I’ll post about 4 more. And then we’ll see if after our vacation, I have another post to make. (I’m just as likely to return with a stack of books as notebooks, now that I’ve found my way back to reading so much.)

Do you have any favorite notebooks? Feel free to share!

Book Review: A Soldier’s Promise

A Soldier’s Promise
Crystal Lake #2
by Laura Scott

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian romance

Soldier

Derek wants nothing more than to be a father to his recently motherless daughter Lexi, but there are some seemingly insurmountable obstacles to that dream. As he tries to outrun some of those obstacles, he’s in a car accident that forces him to stop his flight in Crystal Lake. There, he and his daughter are helped by ER nurse Julie, who has her own burdens to shake off. Will these three find what they’re looking for in each other?

This story is about a novella-length, about twice the length of the previous one. And it did have more substance than the previous book, even allowing for a fairly serious storyline to be tied up. Unfortunately, even with the shorter format, there’s a good deal of repetitiveness in the narration, especially involving the main characters’ inner turmoil about their individual situations (as well as their joint situation). I appreciated Derek’s characterization, but felt Julie left a lot to be desired in, regarding having much of a personality.

Most likely because the story is so short, it has the unfortunate common situation where two characters who have only just met develop feelings for each other very quickly. This particular relationship moved to kissing more quickly than I prefer, especially for a Christian read. And so much of the romance we see them develop revolves around them admiring each others’ looks.

I appreciated that Julie wanted to share her faith with Derek, and by extension, with Lexi. I don’t recall it being wrapped up in the story, but it certainly wouldn’t have to be, realistically speaking. I think there was a good foundation there for the future, though (their fictitious future that won’t likely be in any future books, of course). There was one theology point I didn’t agree with, but I won’t mention it here.

As the second book in a series of similar stories, and both being decent, but not stand-out reads, I don’t plan to move on in this series. However, if you are interested in a short, sweet, clean romance, this book can easily be read as a standalone in the series. I thought we might get a bit more of a glimpse of the characters (as a pair) from the first book than we did, since they all work in the same hospital. Please be sure to check out other reviews, as there are plenty who liked it more than I did.

Find out more about A Soldier’s Promsie

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Book Review: Spark (DNF)

Did Not Finish: Spark
Swipe
#4
by Evan Angler

My rating: DNF, no rating
Genre: YA dystopian, Christian

The decision to set aside a book that I most likely won’t finish is never easy, which is why I’ve only done it twice before. But this one was even harder, because it was book #4 in a series. Unfortunately, the series apparently doesn’t have an end at this time, and book #4 is a major departure from the 3 before it. The author always seemed a bit eccentric, but it went way too weird for me in this book.

One of the biggest issues I saw in other reviews was that the author left behind the characters that we spent so much time with in the first three books in favor of some new people. I don’t think I would have minded that so much on its own. However, the main character of this book had this strange way of referring to herself. She was “Ali Without a Name,” but there was no explanation of that (considering that she clearly did have a name, I’d have liked to know the story behind this). Then sometimes she or someone else would refer to her in other ways like “Hungry Ali” or “Naughty Ali.”

This, amongst other things, caused me to get that “just hang in there until things make sense” feeling. And then I cheated a little. My son has read all 4 of these books, though it’s been several years. But still, I asked him if any of these things that were making no sense would eventually be explained. He said pretty much no. I decided to call it then, about 1/4 of the way in.

Still, I liked the previous 3 books enough that, even though it’s been 7 years since this book was published, I hold out the tiniest bit of hope that the author will continue the series. If that were to happen, I’d come back and finish this book in preparation of the next. Unless that happens, though, I have no desire to find out what’s going on with Ali and the Tinchers.

Find out more about Spark

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Tech

Finished Reading: The Tech
by Mark Ravine

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Procedural, thriller

tech

A seemingly ragtag group of FBI agents are thrown onto a new team together, headed by Alexandra Cassidy. On her first day, a bank robbery forces her to hit the ground running. But the team is able to close the robbery case surprisingly quickly. And the next case. And the next. It is soon apparent that there is more to meet the eye, both with these different cases, and with the office’s IT guy.

On the surface, The Tech comes across like a police procedural-type story. And pretty early on, the IT guy, Mike, is shown to be somewhat of a high-tech super hero. But the further I got into the story, the more it just felt weighed down by so many things. By the point I began to realize that the cases are connected, I was struggling to keep going. I think this is mostly chalked up to a lack of depth in many areas.

I never felt much of a connection with any of the characters. In the first chapter, we’re told about each of the 5 members of Alexandra’s team, and I had a very difficult time keeping them separate in my mind throughout most of the book. That may be partly because their personalities, backgrounds (somewhat), and even their looks, are kind of just dumped on us all at once. And this continues to be the case in varying degrees with each new character introduced. I’m not given much chance to find out who they are for myself.

The interactions between the different team members were stilted as well. And all I can really say about Mike is that I was pretty sure I got what his deal was from early one…and I never liked him. He was essentially a vigilante, and there was never really any repercussions for the liberties he took.

The main thing the story has going for it is the intricacies of the plot. The author clearly mapped out his ideas in detail, and the threads can be seen tying it all together. I have a lot of respect for the work that went into the story. However, I think it needed further editing and refining. I didn’t care for the style, which might have just been personal preference, but it felt very redundant at some times and full of contradictions at other times. I don’t know how well I followed the details of the story, sticking instead to a wider view.

I’ve read a lot of self-published books recently. Though this book was published by someone other than the author, it has the feel of a self-published book. The thing is, I can give a lot more allowance to a self-published book, because those authors don’t have the resources of a publishing company behind them. But this book felt like it needed a lot more editing work. I don’t know how any paid editor lets a book get past him with two characters in close proximity being named such similar names as John and Don (I still don’t really know which of those guys was which). I personally wouldn’t be able to recommend this book to be read by others, however, please note that the book has all positive reviews besides mine (at the time of me posting this). So if it does sound interesting to you, please read the other reviews and consider checking out the book.

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more about The Tech

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Weekly Writing Update: 6/14

It has been a little over a month since I wrote one of these updates, and that is due to the sucking void of an online game I fell back into last month. However, I have recently realized that part of the reason I let myself ignore my writing for so long is because I was waiting for feedback from a couple of beta readers for “Outcast,” and without that, I was unable to do much more. I had figured I’d just keep working on the story myself, but the truth is, there wasn’t much more I could do without their feedback.

One is now done, and I just need to get her notes from her. What she’s told me so far is that she really liked it, more than Pithea, and that a few underdeveloped areas stuck out to her, because of how good the rest of it was. I’m happy with that, considering that as soon as I thought much about one of those areas, I could see exactly what she meant. I’ve already started thinking of ways to make it stronger, and will begin working on that this week.

Because the date I had planned to publish “Outcast” was pretty arbitrary, and because I can see now that it needs more work than I’d hoped, I am not pushing for the publish date I’d originally hoped for. But I should still be able to have it out by fall.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).

Book Review: A Lady of Esteem

A Lady of Esteem
Hawthorne House #0.5
by Kristi Ann Hunter

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

Lady of Esteem

Though the ward of a man of wealth, Amelia grows up mostly alone. She feels more at home amongst servants, and not just those of her own household, than the aristocracy. This provides for some awkward moments when she catches the eye of a marquis with a bad reputation. As Amelia heads toward the age where she will no longer be anyone’s ward, her circumstances change in a way that leaves her with no idea where her future will take her, or if she’ll be able to see any of her friends anymore.

I got this book for free on Amazon, and at this point, I’m really glad the book and its following series were put on my radar. This book itself is a short read, but gave me a good feel for this writer, who was new to me. I liked the characters and enjoyed the short, sweet story of Amelia finding a home.

Amelia herself is a good example of a Christian woman, keeping to her morals and being a good example for others. The marquis, Anthony, is a recent convert, and while he struggles with knowing that his old reputation will follow him no matter how he acts now, he also has moments of contemplating going back to his old ways. These two complement each other very well.

There was one glaring coincidence that brought the story down for me a little, and a few points where I was just confused about what was going on in the moment. And I have no idea in the end if Amelia turned 21 during the story or not. It was approaching and was something she was really concerned about, and then…nothing really happened involving that.

Overall, I enjoyed this short read set in the Regency period. If you think you might be interested, it’s still free on Amazon as of the time of me writing this review. It also includes the first chapter or so of the first full novel in the series that follows. I have to admit, I got completely hooked with just what I read there. I’m really looking forward to reading the book that follows this one!

Find out more about A Lady of Esteem

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

May in Review

I read 9 books last month, which is pretty good considering that I all but stopped reading right about the middle of the month. For Mother’s Day and my birthday, as a joint gift, since my birthday is always near Mother’s Day, my son bought me the latest expansion and a month of game time for a particular online game that used to eat WAY too much of my time…and clearly that has not changed. I’ve managed to just stay away from it for quite a while, but had recently been a bit jealously watching my son and husband play together. Not a bad move on my son’s part, but I clearly need to learn to find a balance with my free time.

Here are the books I read in May:

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace by Johann Twiss (4.5 / 5)
Deep State Stealth by Vikki Kestell (3 / 5)
Time Benders: The Machine by J.B. Yanni (2 / 5)
Healing Her Heart by Laura Scott (3.5 / 5)
Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (5 / 5)
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
A Lady of Esteem by Kristi Ann Hunter (review pending) (4 / 5)
Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt (4 / 5)
The Green Dress by Liz Tolsma (4 / 5)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 1 re-reads*. My favorite book from May was 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace. I finished 1 series, continued 0 series, and started 2 series…sort of. One is a series of novellas/novelettes that I’m not sure I’ll continue. The other was a short story that precedes a series of novels, but I’m not diving into the rest of the series yet. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

*One of the re-reads involved listening to the author read a few chapters of his book every night live on Facebook/YouTube to beat the quarantine blues. I count it the same as listening to an audio book.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.