Monday, April 16, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Like Winter, grief has a season.
Life, however, returns with Spring.

As a young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built the life she dreamed of during her trailer-park teen years. An unexpected call from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa.

Determined to pay her respects to her past while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. The unexpected inheritance of five hundred acres of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. When Bethany is left the land, Evan must fight her decisions to realize his own dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany's vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God to her childhood doesn't seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love, and a peace that she is not even sure exists?

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert was a sweet, quick read that portrayed clearly the importance of forgiveness, God, and love. The plot line was straightforward and somewhat predictable, but it still held my interest for the entirety of the novel. It was a great read for a quiet evening after a long and exhausting day.

Wildflowers from Winter also had some important themes and topics that it explored. The novel clearly showed the effects of closing oneself off from God and others because of harsh circumstances. It in turn revealed the changes that love and turning to God can bring to relationships, character traits, and the quality of life in general. Another theme that became clear throughout the novel was the pattern of grief that a person experiences after the death of a loved one. Katie Ganshert did a wonderful job outlining the struggles that grieving people experience and how they are able to find solace and peace in God and those He places in their path.

The characters of Wildflowers from Winter were developed well and each was very different in their characteristics and flaws. The flaws of the characters were clearly evident, and it was easy to relate to the struggles that each character experienced in some way.

Overall, I really enjoyed Wildflowers from Winter. The plot line was fairly simple but still enjoyable. The themes and characters were well developed and really portrayed realistic situations and characteristics.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Own Worst Enemy by Janet Davis

Sometimes your biggest obstacle is yourself.
You know you do great things if you must stopped getting in your own way. But most days, self-doubt, fear, and the seductive whispers of insecurity have you second guessing yourself -before you have even started.

Writer and speaker Janet Davis shows you how to break the destructive cycle of shame and self doubt to achieve your full potential. Through lessons from her own life and examples of modern and biblical women, she reveals that every woman is called to shine, and you are no exception.

Learn how to break destructive patterns in order to live out your purpose in God's kingdom, bringing the sense of fulfillment you've been longing for.

My Own Worst Enemy was a wonderfully reflective read that I spent a couple of weeks using as part of my quiet time reflecting and with the Lord. I loved how Janet Davis intertwined stories of herself or other women that she knew with the women of the Bible and displayed clearly how both modern and biblical women struggle with the same issues of insecurity, pride, etc.

Each chapter was clearly and concisely written and included wonderful discussion and contemplation questions before and after the chapter. I was able to create quite a bible study for myself with this book. I think that this book would make an excellent book club read for women or even a bible study group.

Overall, I thought this book was excellently written and both motivating and convicting as I absorbed each chapter. I would highly recommend it to any woman, whether she is struggling with emotional/self esteem issues or not.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Garden of Madness by Tracy L. Higley

For seven long years Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the king Nebuchadnezzar to recover from his madness and return to his family and his kingdom. Driven from the throne to live as a beast, her father prowls his Hanging Gardens, hidden away from the world.

Since her treaty marriage over seven years earlier, 'Tia' has lived an rich yet oppressive life in the palace. However, her husband has died, and she relishes her new found independence. When a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the gruesome death, even if her own freedom is threatened.

As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mag Shadir plots to expose the family's secrets and set his own puppet on the throne. Tia enlists the  help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband's brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notion of the gods even as he opens up her heart to both truth and love.

In a time when few give their hearts to to the true God, Yahweh, Tia must decide if she is willing to risk everything -her possessions, her gods, and her very life -for the Isrealites' one God. Madness, sorcery, and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist's deadly potion as Tia has to choose whether to risk all to save the kingdom -and her family.

The Garden of Madness by Tracy L. Higley, is, as author Tosca Lee put it, "an exquisite story of intrigue, elegantly told and rich with all the flavors of ancient Babylon." This novel was extremely well written and researched. I could easily imagine myself in ancient Babylon along with the Daniel, Tia, and Pedaiah. Even though the book was based on the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar, the plot line was still wonderfully woven with secrets, intrigue, and unexpected twists which kept me glued to the book. The tone of The Garden of Madness was also well developed. For example, at times when Tia was struggling with the spiritual battle she felt around her, the tone was extremely oppressive and dark, and the reader actually felt the darkness and evil that surrounded Tia. At other points the tone was one of madness and actually made me feel dizzy.

The characters of the Garden of Madness were beautifully well written and developed as well. As a reader, I could easily identify with Tia and picture her in my mind. Her growth and development throughout the book were heartwarming to see, and her changing opinions as she learned more about God gave her new perspectives on life and relationships that brought an incredible turn in the story. Pedaiah was also an enigmatic and changing character. One was able to see his wisdom, love, and kindness as the story progressed, and it made him even more likable. I also enjoyed seeing Tracy Higley's perspective of Daniel as well as his wise words to both Tia and Pedaiah.

Some of the themes that I saw in the Garden of Madness were the importance of love, especially God's love for all people, Jews or Gentiles regardless. This novel emphasized the fact that God's love is not for one people group alone. Another theme was that a relationship with God affects all parts of that person's life: their love for others, their worldview, and their relationships with others. There are several parts at the end of this book where it was incredible to remember the power that God gives those who believe in Him against the evil of the devil.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I cannot wait to read more of Tracy L. Higley's Seven Wonders of the Ancient World novels.

I received this novel for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through in exchange for an honest review.