Review: Distinctly You

In Distinctly You, Cheryl Martin does a wonderful job of pointing readers to see themselves in light of God’s beautiful workmanship, rather than the usual tendency to compare ourselves to one another. The book’s tagline “Trading Comparison and Competition for Freedom and Fulfillment” so aptly describes the meat of the book.

The book is helpfully divided into two sections. The first section is titled “Distinctly You Blockers,” which discusses the problems and lies, that keep us from realizing ourselves distinctly. The second section is titled “Distinctly You Builders,” and it discusses the truths that help us realize and fulfill our distinct role in God’s creation.

Due to Martin’s conversational, casual tone, this book was easy to read and understand. Martin drew upon much of her personal experience and personal stories, and I know I was able to relate to much of the feelings she had had at one point or another. She discussed her own struggle with body image, singleness, failed marriage, career, and so much more.

Over and over again, Martin emphasized that too often we are caught up with our own feelings and what we think others think. Yet, what we need to focus on is God’s truth.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that sometimes the chapters/topics seemed so random. I would have liked a bit more structure that would have knitted the whole thing together a bit more. The good part about this means it is incredibly easy to read a chapter a week, or even just a chapter a month.

If you’re looking for a good read that tackles issues of viewing yourself distinctly beautiful the way God made you, then I would definitely recommend this book.

FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


Review: City of Blades

Written by Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Blades is an action-packed urban fantasy novel, portraying an interesting world full of normal humans dealing with unexpected, fantastical moments of divinity.

Urban fantasy is an interesting genre, and the world-building by Robert Jackson Bennett is phenomenal. But, in the end, I still found the book lacking—largely due to the lack of character development.

Right from page one, I first started trying to get to know and care about a specific character, only to learn he’s rather irrelevant to the story at large. This wasn’t a huge issue, but annoying all the same.

Eventually, I did meet the main character, and I learn about her and others and watch them go about the fantastical world, fight, and strive to solve the mysteries. Yes, they did experience some transformation through the novel, but it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t quickly enough. Overall, I didn’t always feel like I really knew what made each character tick. This is a sequel, so there might have been more character development previously, but no matter, I want it in this book too.

The focus of the book and where the book excelled was clearly in the fighting scenes and the world-building. These are both excellent points for an urban fantasy novel, but for myself personally, I look for characters that I can really get to know and love and care about. If the character hurts, I want to be so close to them that I hurt too. I did not feel this way toward General Mulaghesh.

Additionally, the other problem I found in this book was the length—it just seemed to go on and on and on. Granted, it is a fantasy epic, but without caring strongly for the character, it was hard to stay engaged through the many pages.

Please note: This book was fraught with strong language.

FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for an honest review of this book.



Review: A Treasure Concealed


A Treasured Concealed by Tracie Peterson is a historical romance that grabs readers, takes them through an exciting story, gives them a taste of love—all while pointing to Christ, who never forsakes his beloved.

The heroine of the story, Emily, is living with her father in a mining town in Montana when Caeden, a young geologist, comes into the scene.

In this story, Peterson description of the 1890s mining town and people is interesting and compelling. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and Peterson did a phenomenal job in this story. In an interesting story with a fast-moving plot, I learned about mining and miners’ dreams.

Also, Peterson’s characters are strong and the plot is interesting. A Treasure Concealed is an easy read that moves quickly—I may have even finished it in a night or two.

My only complaint is perhaps a shortfall in the plot. I don’t want to spoil the book for you—because it is still worth reading—so I’ll only explain it briefly: Emily’s father is particularly protective of her in the Wild West, yet he quickly trusts Caeden, even inviting him into his home. This seemed inconsistent with his character, but I was able to get over this oddness as the rest of the book was quite compelling.

If historical Christian romance is your thing, check it out—this book is great!

FTC disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Review: Kindling Volume II

Literary Anthology of Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction

kindling vol iiThe team at Writer’s Edit has done a fantastic job of creating an anthology of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including both helpful tips for writers and memoirs.

Kindling Volume II has a mostly regular rotation between first a piece of fiction, then poetry, and then nonfiction.

This anthology is compelling because it brings together many unique voices covering a wide span of topics. Founding editor Helen Scheuerer, along with her editorial team, have done a remarkable job of curating the young anthology to ensure that only high-quality writing of engaging, excellent stories are published.

Based in Australia, Kindling Volume II features mostly Australian authors; however, some of their authors also hale from Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Overall, Kindling Volume II is especially interesting and useful for writers. Many of the nonfiction pieces are resources for writers, discussing topics such as query letters, writing contests, and patience in the submission process. Whether writers primarily want the tips or they want the examples of great writing, Kindling Volume II is a wonderful resource.

I would like to showcase two stories that I found particularly interesting and noteworthy.

First, “Dear Perfect Stranger” by Karen Morrow was my favorite fiction in the anthology. Its format is particularly unique in that the entire story is contained within a letter. Because of this, first person and second person are utilized over and over again in the story, resulting in a closeness between the character and the readers of the story. I won’t spoil the story by saying more, but know that it’s a beautiful masterpiece and well-worth it’s places in Kindling Volume II.

The second piece that I especially enjoyed was a nonfiction work entitled, “The Quest for the Magic Book.” In this piece, Kristin Prescott explains the magic book, which she defines as a book that turns children into readers. In her essay, Kristin Prescott explains how her magic book, Peter Pan, affected her attitude toward books and literacy. It’s a wonderful piece that long-time lovers of books will relate to, while with educators, librarians, and parents will find especially useful as these guide children in quests for magic books.

FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Kindling Volume II in exchange for an unbiased review.







What I read in January


The semester is in full swing, and I’ve found myself buried in reading—mostly for school and reviewing purposes.

So, during the month of January, I only finished two books:

  • Dangerous by Shannon Hale (but it was begun in December, so I’m not including it for my reading challenges.)
  • Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

So what else have I been reading? Well, here’s the full list…

  • City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card and others
  • In the Land of Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman
  • Ten Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
  • Kindling Vol. II

I’m in the middle of seven books. It’s overwhelming. And it’s not exactly conducive to finishing any one book either.

I’ve also been heartily enjoying Table Talk for my daily devotions. I’ll post some on that soon.

Happy reading!

Review: Cold Shot

Author: Dani Pettrey

Genre: Christian Fiction – Romantic Suspense

Stars: 3.5

Cold Shot is a novel about Griffin McCray, a park ranger with a past police department career, and Finley Scott, a forensic anthropologist. When skeletal remains are uncovered, Griffin and Finley start working together to solve the case. But the mystery continues to grow larger, and Griffin’s interesting past seems more and more complicated as his past college roommates come into the picture.

As a Christian romantic suspense novel, Cold Shot fits the typical stereotype of the genre—guy and girl work case together, girl is in danger, guy keeps her safe, they solve the case, catch the bad guy, and fall in love.

Cold Shot could be just that—but it’s more. Dani Pettrey filled the book with so much tension and mystery that I was flipping pages long into the night, finishing the book in a mere two days.

Griffin and his past are intriguing, more than the actual case. Pettrey reveals the nightmares that torment Griffin—can Finley take the nightmares away? Will Griffin be able to forgive himself? His friendships with his college buddies have gone bad—Griffin had abandoned the friendships—but when they all get stuck together to work a case, there’s hope of possible reconciliation.

The side characters of Declan and Parker (two of Griffin’s college buddies) are engaging, interesting, and developed. As Cold Shot is only the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series, there’s hope that they’ll be featured and further developed in their own novels.

The only problem with the story–the actual mystery and case lost my interest the further I got through the book. The characters, their development, and their relationships were fun and interesting, but the actual case they’re trying to solve didn’t hold my interest. Then again, maybe I’m just not patient enough for interrogations and case-related details.

If you’re looking for a Christian romantic suspense novel, I would definitely recommend Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey.

FTC disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Dangerous

Genre: YA Sci Fi

In Shannon Hale’s Dangerous, the heroine, Maisie Danger Brown, has an artificial arm and the dream of being an astronaut. She wins a free ticket to summer astronaut camp, and she does so well that she a few select other students are allowed to go out on a special trip to space. But there the unthinkable happens her and the other teens are exposed to alien technology. Maisie Danger Brown and her cohorts will have to work together to stop–what? This question will keep you paging through, flipping as fast as you can to find out what the predators actually are.

Dangerous is nothing like her Hale’s Goose Girl, yet even without the fantastical setting and princesses, Dangerous still engages her readers in this different genre. Maisie Brown is a strong character from the beginning, but she develops throughout the book, growing more responsible and strong. When a heavy weight is placed upon her, she bears it well.

Dangerous presents one of the strongest pulls that any story can: the need to keep one’s family and friends safe.

But there were some places where Dangerous fell flat.

The beginning was a little slow, and though astronaut camp was somewhat interesting, it didn’t compare to the tension later on. The portrayal of the crush and teen love was a little ridiculous, immature, and over the top. Potentially on purpose to show how Maisie matures, but still, it was perhaps too immature in the beginning. The other problem I had was that the monster at the end just didn’t seem that scary. Maybe it was because I couldn’t picture it, but it just didn’t scare me as much as I wanted it to.

[Unfortunately, this book was borrowed from the local library and read mostly in 2015, so it doesn’t apply to any of my reading challenges.]