Friday, October 31, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay's debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was one of my favorite reads last year. And I wasn't the only one to love this book. Katherine has won several awards for her debut, and they were all well-deserved. So when her second book came out, I knew I had to snap it up! Here's a blurb, and we'll chat on the other side:)

Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She's lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvyc elebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she's losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

Ok. First off, this book made me hungry--and in a good way! I'd love to actually meet Lizzy and let her cook for me, because the woman has skills. Setting all that aside though, let's talk about the rest of this book; Lizzy's slow evolution in releasing her past, reestablishing her future, and reclaiming a relationship with her sister...along with finding a handsome man along the way.

One of the things I really enjoy about Katherine's books is how the romance she adds to her stories is always at a slow burn.  It's not the central theme, yet it is still 100% there. I so enjoy watching her characters' lives progress as they work through change and sometimes pain, yet still find happiness--and not simply by falling in love. Lizzy & Jane was no different. Of course with Jane having cancer, this was a hard read, but Katherine handled the situation beautifully. I loved how these two sisters find healing in their relationship after years. I also really, really loved how caring for Jane helped Lizzy rediscover why she's a chef and how she can use that talent.

All together I loved this book. The characters were all rich and so well written. The romance well placed and incredibly sweet. The plot full of healing and restoration. And the ending brought them all full circle and into a new place that left me with hope and joy for their futures. Always a great way to read The End:)

I happily give Lizzy & Jane 5 out of 5 stars and you can purchase Lizzy & Jane  here.

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Meet Katherine Reay:
What to say? . . . I am a writer, a wife, a mom, a runner, a tennis player, a tae kwon do black belt (how random is that?), a wanna be chef, a disorganized housekeeper, but compulsive vacuumist, and a horrific navigator. One of my son’s favorite stories to tell friends is that I tend to argue with the car’s GPS before going my own way — sure that I know better. It’s a gift…

It’s hard to introduce myself in a few adjectives. We are all such a complex and unique jumble of attributes — God made us that way and he isn’t done yet. So I may have some new adds tomorrow. I started my professional career in marketing and I’ve morphed into a novelist. I like this much better. Fiction is powerful stuff, I think. It allows us to convey truth in meaningful and palatable ways — one reading of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and you’ve got the whole gospel Narnia-style without ever leaving an amazing adventure.
But to have a really good story — you have to engage a complex and authentic character. If I can relate to/empathize with/care about a character, then her journey becomes mine and I learn about myself and the world around me — perhaps in ways I never imagined. And that’s provocative…

You can connect further with Katherine at her website:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quotable Wednesday

I loved this quote. It piggy-backed on my Monday post and as a parent, was something I needed to hear. Some days I feel like motherhood has stripped me of all my personality and abilities. I feel like it's not enough. But you know what? That is a lie.

Straight from the pit.

We need to know and understand the Truth of raising these little ones with deep roots in God, fully assure of their purpose for what they were created and full of an unshakable faith. It doesn't matter if you're a mom that works or a mom who stays home, we are all moms and we are all shaping lives of those precious little ones we've been blessed with.

And we are still these amazing women God created us to be. He wove into our purpose and life stories this moment of motherhood. It will be over in a blink. It's not the beginning or end of our story, but only a part of it. A huge part. An incredibly important, shape-your-life-forever part. But it is not all you are.

You are God's. His daughter who is raising another of his children, and in the process he's still raising you:)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tired Mama?

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Life as a mom is busy, isn't it? Work. Car lines. Taxi cab. Soccer practice. Homework helper. Homeschool mommy. Chef. Dry cleaner. know the list goes on. And in the midst of it all, you're trying to raise a little one. 

Trying to make the right decisions on behavior, what they read, who they hang out with, when to say "yes" and when to say "no", it all can just become one big drain. There are plenty of kisses and hugs, but there are also days where you are their least favorite person. Where tantrums, eye rolls, huffs, and sarcastic comments abound along with tears--from both of you. You simply want to lay your head down and give in, give up.

But we can't. See, we're planting seeds in their life. Watering them and caring for them. Feeding them, and I'm not simply talking their veggies. It's messy and tiring, but it's what needs to be done for a harvest. Think about a farmer. Think about not only the dirt and grime they accumulate when getting their crop ready but how tired they are. The long days and nights without anything to show until slowly, they see a little green peeking above the ground.

It can still be covered by dirt on a windy day, but it's there. And it starts to grow. The harvest, however, won't come unless that farmer continues to care for it.

And that's us. Like that farmer, we must continue caring for our seeds. We cannot grow weary in doing good for our children. Tired, for sure, but not so weary that we give up. Not if we want to see the harvest of their life grown strong for God. It won't happen overnight. Many days it'll feel like what we're doing makes no difference. But it does.

Every time we discipline in love. Every tough "no" we have to say. Every responsibility we issue that meets an eye roll. Every thing we have to take away because we know it cannot be in their life. And yes, every laugh and all counts.

So keep on doing good, mama. For at the proper time you will reap a harvest sweeter than anything else ever planted.

What do you do to combat the mommy-weariness you sometimes feel?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bookshelf Friday - Kept by Sally Bradley

Today's book is another I literally stumbled across. After reading the blurb I snapped it up, and the timing was perfect! I got a cold and needed to rest, so I curled up with this book. Tough times, I tell ya, but somebody had to do it:) Here's the blurb for you all, and we'll chat on the other side!

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago's lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman. 

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father's sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can't help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she's longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again. 

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who's gone too far and done too much. 

There was so much to love about this book. First off, the setting of Chicago was well described. I actually want the apartment Miska lived in, and that's saying a lot because I'm not a city girl. Second, the plot delivered a huge dose of hope. It may have come out of dark places, but isn't that where hope is needed the most and the backdrop with which we see it the best? And the characters? They were fully fleshed out and incredibly believable. Because of this, at times the book was hard to read. It's not a light, fluffy story, though Bradlely does an amazing job with layering in humor throughout her dialogue and character interactions. It was one thing I loved about Miska and Dillan, they'd make each other laugh which made me laugh. Still, it was hard to watch the choices Miska made, even if they were completely believable. Also, I struggled at times with Dillan's internals. It wasn't the negative thoughts or biases he portratyed internally at times--because as Christians we can all struggle through those thoughts--it was that I'd like to have seen him come to grips with them in a more concrete way. To acknowledge that perhaps, his heart needed a little changing too. While this was shown by the end in his actions, I'd have liked to see the full internal of these changing thoughts as well.

All that being said, this was a very well written and truthful book. It doesn't shy away from any of the hard issues many people are facing today. The lies they believe as truths and the actions they think are perfectly normal to take. It also deals with forgiveness and redemption in a beautiful way, and the hope that it leaves with the reader is the entire point of this story. God is seen in a big way, and that made me enjoy the story all the more.

I happily give Kept 4 out of 5 stars and you can purchase it here. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quotable Wednesdays

I think this quote hits at the heart of one of the hardest things for us humans to do. Forgive ourselves. Our mistakes can play over and over and over again in our minds. But what if we looked at forgiving ourselves as CS Lewis suggests here? That to not forgive ourselves is setting ourselves above God?

If you've sat at his feet and asked for forgiveness, no matter what it was for, he's forgiven you.

Now it's time to stop playing God and forgive yourself.

Let it go.

And move on.

In complete freedom. Yes, there are consequences to our sin and poor choices, but there's also freedom when we release them.

I challenge you to lay it all at his feet and live in that freedom today:)

The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. John 8:36 (MSG)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spiritual Reflexes

I'd planned on posting last Friday, but due to being under the weather and my internet being down, well, I just missed it:) But I'm back today, feeling tons better and with wi-fi that works. So let's get a move on!

I took my kiddos to the doctor lately, a trip we all look so forward too...but it's necessary, so we go. While there, he performed this little test:

Praisaeng on Free Digital Photo's.

and my daughter's leg went flying.

She didn't think about it. It was a reflex. That is because a reflex, as defined in the dictionary, is an action "performed without conscious thought as an automatic response to a stimulus".  My Little didn't put any thought into her reaction, her body was conditioned to react the way it did.

Made me think. When I run into tough times in life or moments where I'm at a loss what to do, what is my spiritual reflex? Do I reach for my Bible? Hit my knees in prayer? Seek God's wisdom? Or do I fold under pressure and stress?

What about you?

Because we all have moments where life is hard. Sometimes it can seem to hit us from all angles, and the only way we'll make it through is if our reflex is to reach for God. No thought, no hesitation, but an immediate response to cling to Him. 

And He'll be there. Every time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Short Break:)

I am currently with my BFF taking our youngests on a short trip to visit The American Girl Store while they're still young enough to want to go. Time moves too fast! And I don't want it to pass me by, so that means I'm gone today and Wednesday from here, but will be back Friday.

Breaks are good. Breaks to spend time with the people around you are even better! Take a second this week and have coffee with someone dear to you, call your mom, or hug your kiddo extra close. Stop and breath in the moment and take a mental picture! They're the best photos around.

Have a great week, friends!