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: 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.







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: Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy

Dinty W. Moore amuses and instructs in the book Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy.

The wit, humor, and sarcasm of Moore makes this small book a success.

I read most of it in an airplane ride, and it made me laugh and smile while I would have been otherwise bored and sulking.

This small book includes twenty questions from famous writers and twenty responsive essays by Dinty Moore. The topics include a little bit of everything—even a cannibal cameo from the famous essayist Montaigne.

Although many are more traditional essays, the book also includes essays that push against the normal form of an essay. There’s an essay written on napkins, an essay that uses Google Maps, and an essay composed entirely of Facebook posts.

If you’re a writer, Moore’s book includes helpful advice, and just down-right funny things you can relate to.

Moore can take something like the em dash, and  in a humorous essay actually show how it’s useful and how it’s harmful. Nothing is a dry matter for Moore.

And even if you’re not a writer, I’d imagine it would still be an interesting book.

A couple of my favorite essays in the book are:

  • “Dash It All”
  • “Have You Learned Your Lesson, Amigo?”
  • “Why I Trained My Dog to Post”
  • “Clogged and Stupid and Weary”

I did enjoy this book; however, there were numerous times when Moore’s humor was too crass and inappropriate for my taste. Read with care.

FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

A strange library? More like Haruki Marukami’s strange, yet brillant, mind.

A library with a scary old man, a creepy basement room, and a labyrinth of tunnels. A man clothed in sheepskin, a mute girl who still speaks, and a terrifying black dog with frightening eyes.

The Strange Library by Haruki Marukami has all this and much more whimsical, fantastical scenes showcased within a sinister plots.

This was the first piece of literature I had read of Haruki Marukami, and, trust me, his writing is top-notch. For The Strange Library, the actual diction and syntax begins simply, but even that is fitting because it is told within the perspective of an adolescent boy. He has simple prose that’s meaningful and interesting dialogue that draws the reader in.

This review is particularly difficult for me to write because through I finished this short book within two days, I was surprised and confused for days after.

I’m confused because the end of the book wasn’t much of a resolution.

It left me wondering—wondering about the mysticism, the symbolism, and what Haruki Marakumi meant by writing this story. Was it simply his imagination, perhaps a dream? Or was deep meaning and real issues woven throughout the story?

It’s my assumption that, at the very least, The Strange Library provides commentary about the importance of human interaction, but certainly it must mean so much more.

The Strange Library is a quick read, amusing, and left me wondering.

Read it and tell me what you think.

I plan on reading more of Haruki Marukami’s work, although I’m hoping that his other pieces provide more resolution and less questions and confusion.

Book Review: The Fold

The Fold by Peter Clines is a sci-fi book that frightens in the first chapter, fascinates and hooks in the second chapter, reveals huge twists in the middle, but dries out during the final portion.

The Fold took an sci-fi ideal that could be cliche, but Clines transformed it and revealed a surprising twist. Unfortunately, as it further developed, I eventually cared less and less about the characters until I didn’t care about them at all. They could live or die — I didn’t care much anymore.

However, I’m not ready to completely knock the book because the beginning truly did scare me, which is hard to do. I was interested all the way to the middle, but then the last third of the book was just disappointing. But, if sci-fi is a genre you enjoy, Peter Clines’ The Fold might be a great book for you.

Please note, this book had some inappropriate material and strong language.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this unbiased review.