The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (Review & Giveaway)

About the Book

The Austen Escape Katherine ReayAfter years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

Amazon // Goodreads

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Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer (Review)

Bringing Maggie Home Kim Vogel SawyerDecades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery, 
and a Rift Spanning Three Generations

Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.

Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s over-protectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.
 
When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?

Amazon / Goodreads

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Befriend by Scott Sauls

Befriend: Creating Belonging in an age of Judgement, Isolation, and Fear by Scott Sauls wasn’t quite what I expected in this book. But that’s not at all a bad thing.

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In a world where much of our communication with others is via Facebook, text messages, instant messages, 140 characters on Twitter, or photos on Instagram, we’ve lost a lot of personal interaction. An opportunity to go deeper. Be more understanding. Give a piece of ourselves to others. In short, we’ve limited ourselves to our circle of friends online and in our cell phone contacts. How many of us even take the time to send a personal, meaningful email to a friend or family member?

What Scott Sauls encourages readers to Befriend is to step away from the computers, to put down the cell phones, and make real connections. And again, the challenge is to step outside our circle of influence and get to know people who are different than us—the poor, the wealthy, people with different political views, the disabled, and children to name just a few.

At the beginning of the book, Sauls offers three ways to read his book: read a chapter a day (to ruminate on each challenge), as a small group study, or reading it through in one or two sittings. I can definitely see the advantage and potential for deeper friendships as well as servant opportunities that would benefit a small group.

Even reading Befriend in a few sittings challenged me to reach out to others. Others who don’t live in my neighborhood (or city or country). Those who have less (or more) than me. People who view life through different eyes than I do. Because in the end, my relationships should be a reflection of Jesus, and he hung out with every type of person.

***The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams

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Sixteen year old Sarah has spent her life in the shadows—the shadows in the halls of school, the shadows of her family, and mostly in the shadow of her out going and vibrant twin sister, Annie. With crippling social anxiety, Sarah panics when she has to perform in front of a group, speak with someone or any attention is placed on her. The only person she has felt like she can be herself with is her boyfriend. Then one day, Garrett breaks up with her and Sarah is left alone. And even though Annie has quit competing in beauty pageants, gained weight, chopped her hair and added piercings, she still gets all of the attention from her parents. Over the course of one week, Sarah and Annie start to do something they haven’t done in years: talk to each other. And through those conversations and time spend together, Sarah feels heartache, pain, anger, and hope with Annie by her side.

Let me just say this…Wow!! What an emotionally charged book. While this book is not overtly Christian (there is no mention of anyone in the family having a relationship with God or even going to church but there is one passing mention of Christ), it is an excellent study on strained relationships. Familial relationship, friendship, romantic relationship, and academic relationship are all included. As Sarah spends time with Annie, she begins to learn her vibrant, outspoken sister is hurting too. She finds the desire and courage to protect and defend her sister, to stand up for injustices done to her. The guilt from not knowing pressures her—shouldn’t twins feel when something is wrong? With narrative told from Sarah’s perspective and poetic diary entries from Annie, the whole story is slowly revealed to the reader, leaving them torn open and hurting with both of these sisters by the end. I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with sibling relationships and for any teenagers struggling to find their place in the school hierarchy. I also recommend you read it with a box of tissues near.

Available for purchase Aug. 25, 2015

***Zondervan and BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

A Woman’s Guide to Healing after Rejection

As a woman who is almost forty and has not been married or in a serious relationship with a man before, Left at the Altar did not seem like a book I could get anything out of. And so, it sat on my bookshelf for months.
Determined to get back to writing reviews and clearing off my bookshelf, I finally opened the cover of Kimberley Kennedy’s book and could not put it down. Kennedy shares her story of heartbreak and the ultimate rejection from the man she was planning to marry leaving her the day of their wedding rehearsal, the day before their wedding.
Baring her soul, weaknesses and all, Kennedy shares her downward spiral after she was left at the altar along with many other women’s stories of hurt and rejection, some choosing to stay in their relationships and some leaving them. One thing I really appreciated about the author’s insights was that she included stories from and about women who are single and have chosen to remain that way. She showed that being happy and whole isn’t about a relationship with a man for everyone.
The main emphasis of Left at the Altar is that no matter how we are rejected by the people in our lives, God always loves us and is always there. Using the story of Leah, a woman who was rejected by her husband but eventually learned how much she was loved by God, Kennedy shows that rejection is not something that is new. She shares the path she took to recover from her own rejection, warning readers that everyone’s paths will be different by they can know they are never alone.