Monday, February 25, 2019

A Woman's Battle for Grace: Why God is More Than You Expected and Everything You Need by Cheryl Brodersen

A Woman's Battle for Grace: Why God is More Than You Expected and Everything You Need by Cheryl Brodersen

4 stars

"The victory has already been assured to you by the Champion of All Grace. Jesus trains our hands for war and leads the way in this conflict. He has supplied you, by grace with everything you need to win the prize. Victory is near."

A Woman's Battle for Grace focuses on understanding grace. Brodersen presents the case that women often do not truly live by grace because they don't understand it. This novel focuses on breaking down what grace is and it's multilayered facets. She presents grace as a battle to be won and that we exist in a battlefield with many minefields to conquer.
"This book is for those who:
~struggle with condemnation.
~never seem to meet their own standards of perfection.
~feel overly burdened to meet the expectation of others.
~never feel as though they've done enough or done it well enough.
~constantly struggle with insecurities.
~are always trying to please others.
~feel substandard to other women.
~still deal with shame over the past.
~can't seem to conquer their temper.
~feel defeated.
~long to be a better person.
~want more spiritual power in their life.
~want to make a difference in their world.

This novel has great insight into grace. Grace is an area of my life where I struggle with tremendously just because I have the tendency to set high and unattainable expectations on people. This novel was really a blessing in teaching me many valuable lessons that I need a little extra guidance in walking with right now. The people in my life are also struggling with receiving and giving grace, so this novel has given me a deeper insight and knowledge beyond what I had before. Brodersen has a lot of great theological discussions and insights. Her commentary is generally spirit-filled and Bible-based, which are pluses. I also felt like God was placing the list of grace that she defines in the early chapters and my co-leader and I wrote a Bible study guide on the topic of grace with her definition. It was a convicting Life Group, not for my girls, but for myself as well. This book offered a way for Jesus to convict me in areas that I would've stay blinded to if I had not picked up this book when I was called to.

"If we don't realize God's favor, we'll walk in defeat rather than in purpose, wisdom, and victory!"

There is a drawback of this novel for me and it's a completely personal opinion. I'm going to be honest, Cheryl Brodersen isn't always the easiest person to like. In fact, there were many times when she was sharing stories about her own graceless acts that I felt uncomfortable at her complete inability to see how reckless and hurtful her actions are in the moment. Which is convicting to read about and I had to give Cheryl a lot of grace for actions and it was good to see how God convicted her heart in the moment because she was usually very selfish and her experiences could be frustrating to read about. Despite how hard it was for me to jive with Cheryl at first, I began to let God convict my heart on the message being presented and this minor drawback fell away.

"Grace is God's infusion of spiritual power to do what we can't do naturally. God never intended for us to try to live the Christian life in our own strength. If the abundant life were doable in our own strength, we would have little or no need for God. The fact is He call us to a life that is spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible without the power of His grace working in and through us. This spiritual power is so great, so perfectly sufficient for every need, that it's worth the battle to experience it!"

There are some powerful messages in this novel about what grace is, the enemies of grace, the power of grace, the beauty of grace, the strength of God's grace when we are disobedient, grace's importance and how it cancels out Legalistic (or religious) living. I walked away from this book with convictions and wisdom that I lacked before. Is this the best Christian Living novel? Not in my opinion, but it was what I needed and if you are struggling to let God's grace fuel you sufficiently in your life, then this is a novel for you.

Grace is God's way of saving us, forgiving us, cleansing us, and transforming us so we can be qualified to be His instruments of grace."

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.25

Plotastic Scale: 4

Cover Thoughts: I absolutely adore this cover. It's one of my favorites that I've come across for Christian Living recently.

Thank you, Netgalley and Harvest House Publishers, for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read A Woman's Battle for Grace? What are some of your favorite Christian novels? Let me know down below in the comments! 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Books I've Read in 2018 #48-50

Hey, everyone! Today I posted a video about some books that I read in July 2018. I know I'm late, but my opinions still stand.

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges- 5 stars I absolutely adored this one. It convicted me and pushed me to think more about my own spiritual life and the choices I make. It was a convicting and wonderful novel.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli- 3 stars I wasn't a fan of this one. The mystery was a joke and the way these people treat one another made me upset. I dislike when people are friends with toxic people and instead of calling out toxicity, they excuse it as them just being them. No, thanks. Simon deserved better friends.
LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff- 4.25 stars This one went in a direction that I applaud. I'm so excited for the future books in this series and this was probably one of the best scifi novels I read in 2018. Check out my review here.

Recommend the Most:
LIFEL1K3 is probably for the vast majority, but I would recommend The Pursuit of Holiness the most.
Books Reviewed: 1
Books Rated Over 4 stars: 2
New Favorites: 1
Books That Changed My Life:1

Owned: 1
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them? Let me know down below in the comments!

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

4 stars

"At first, they blame the air."

One day a college student comes back to her dorm after partying and falls into a deep sleep. She doesn't wake up. Then the sleep overtakes another student in the dorm and then another. The town of Santa Lora finds itself under the mysterious and elusive spell of deep sleep and no one knows where this disease has come from or what it wants from those that it claims. The Dreamers is an odd novel. It's very magical-realism but has tongue-in-cheek jabs at conspiracy theorists who don't believe that bad and mysterious things happen. It's a fun novel. I was so excited for this novel because it's odd enough to be right up my alley and the premise just sounds haunting. I am attracted to stories that have undertones of disbelief and dark themes. I want to preface that while this book tackles dark themes and topics, it doesn't not really feel like a dark novel. The tone feels very dreary and almost like you yourself wading through a dream. It's weighty while feeling weightless. Light while drowning in darkness and kind while showing the cruelness of the world. It's a novel of walking contradictions. A novel of humanity wrapped up into a small town and an odd virus that causes people to succumb to sleep. Karen Thompson Walker is a great writer. Her prose is strong and consistent throughout. One of my favorite things about her style is that her sentences are concise and to the point while retaining an air of infinity almost as if the period was more of a comma that wants to say more, but has that to say too much would be detrimental to the story. It's beautiful and captivating. However, it doesn't work in terms of characters. It works for the story and the elusiveness of consciousness and dreams, but I was never sold on any of the characters we follow because I didn't find myself becoming immersed in their minds, but only wading through their happenings like a random bystander.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.25

"There is kindness in not telling. There is love in covering up.

This novel follows multiple narratives. Mei is the one we follow the most and she is a young college student who is the roommate of the first victim to succumb to the sleep. I liked her narrative and her story took me by surprise, but I don't know if I would say if I was connected or even rooting for her. Sara is a teen whose father works at a janitor at the college and has been preparing for the end of the world. I really liked her narrative. It was filled with innocence and ease, but I felt disconnected from her and wanted to see more into her thoughts and terror. Ben is a new father who lives next door to Sara's family. I found his story to be the most interesting. Out of all the stories his made me the saddest, but even then, I didn't really feel like I was connecting to his emotions. We also follow Rebecca, but not out-right. She is taken by the disease early on, but her story is interesting because a baby is forming inside of her as she sleeps. I loved her ending and the way Walker wrapped up her ending.

Character Scale: 4

"The only way to tell some stories is with the oldest, most familiar words: this here, this is the breaking of a heart."

I do recommend this novel to people who enjoy novels that are very different. This is a quiet and slow-moving novel that will not be for everybody. I think that this novel will be a favorite for a lot of people and I recommend picking it up if it sounds interesting to you.

Plotastic Scale: 4.25

Cover Thoughts: I love the cover and the blocked lettering. It fits really well and it just looks nice.
Have you read The Dreamers? What are your thoughts on it? Do you plan on picking it up if you haven't? Let me know down below in the comments! 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay

5 stars

Not That Bad is a prolific essay collection that explores rape culture in society through the eyes of those who have been raped or have been impacted by the rape of someone important in their life. We see stories from women, men, trans women, and trans men. We see a spectrum of inclusivity in a story that has one dominating theme: many believe what happened to them was not that bad, but the trauma that they struggle through shows how the “not that bad” incident leaves behind scars that hurt and don’t always lead to healing or forgiveness. This essay collection is intense and at times unsettling. Unsettling because these situations happened and there are people who walk around thinking actions of rape or frisky or public exposure are okay. This isn’t an easy collection to read. It will hurt your soul and make you cry for humanity. If you walk away from this not shedding a tear, I applaud you for your lack of apathy because every story had me shedding a tear or weeping or gasping in shock and clutching my heart. These stories hurt. The pain these survivors face hurts, but their stories bring healing and an opportunity to shine a light on rape culture that we need to look dead into the eyes of. I listened to the audiobook of Not That Bad and it was an experience. An experience because each essay is narrated by the one who wrote it and feels like a hard, but healing exercise of speaking their truth to unmask the larger truth of societal rape culture.

Here are some of my favorite pieces:
*Fragments tackles the fragments of rape culture and small moments of Aubrey Hirsch’s life that have left her remembering the branding of rape culture upon her own life. “You can recognize the tension between I am a body and I have a body, but you are unable to resolve it.”
*The Sun explores the trauma of rape and the destructive tendencies that arose throughout Emma Smith Stevens’ adolescent years. This one focuses on mental health and is one of the grittier stories that left me feeling very panicked and overwhelmed.
*Stasis focuses on the obsession with beauty and body size in Hollywood. I’m biased because I love Ally Sheedy, but I loved this essay.
*The Way We Are Taught to Be a Girl tackles the topic of sexual assault from both girls and boys that children face at young ages. xTx has faced a lot of trauma and it’s heartbreaking to see sexual trauma arise from such a young age in someone’s life and continue to be a dominating and pertinent factor.
*Floccinaucinihilipilification by So Mayer was fantastic! This one focuses on suppression of abuse and intergenerational trauma and abuse. I’ve never heard an essayist tackle this topic before, but it’s one that I believe fully (generational curses are no joke and they can bring large burdens to one’s soul and experience).
*The Life Ruiner also tackles the inability to recount a lot of the memories to cope with suppressing the severe trauma that Nora Salem faced. I believe that essays like this are so important to shedding a light onto the pain that rape brings and how it’s so traumatizing that the mind tries to block it out of existence.
*All the Angry Women by Lyz Lenz is about a bible study where women gather with their anger. It focuses on the turmoil of a suppressive Christian household and the right to find faith outside of upbringing as well as using anger for healing and to bring women together in solidarity. “My anger is still homeless.”
*Good Girls by Amy Jo Burns follows a small-town scandal of a piano teacher and the effects it has on the girls who came forward and the problem with being labeled a good girl if you are quiet but also a good girl if you let the man hurting you continue hurting you. Small towns are frustrating and cases of apathy like this hurt my soul.
*Why I Stopped by Zoe Medeiros tells how she refuses to talk about what happened to her and the healing that she tried to find in telling it to people and how she was only met with judgment and misplaced guidance. My biggest takeaway is the importance in not analyzing someone who has been abused and how it shapes them. It’s not fair to them and it’s their story to tell.
*Picture Perfect by Sharisse Tracey is my favorite of this entire collection. I cried for so long and my heart felt like it had been ripped out while Tracey was recounting how her father ripped away her innocence. This is an important essay because it touches on the struggle to maintain a proper black family to those who respect them in the community, the struggle with judging family members and community, the hurt of church members refusing to help because it’s not their business, and the pain she has to face when asked to look at her dying father. This was powerful and I walked away forever knowing Sharisse Tracey’s heart and hurt.
*Why I Didn’t Say No by Elissa Bassist hits all the punches with why our society has to put confines around girls submitting to men sexually. She deconstructs problems with media and how this contributes to women submitting to men. Her story was also one that I think happens to a lot of young women in relationships when they find themselves in a nonconsensual situation and the impact it has on them.

This is an essay collection about survivors and warriors. These are the people to celebrate because they speak even when it opens wounds. I can’t recommend this collection enough. There was one essay I had massive issues with, but I won’t mention it in my review, but if you are curious why I was bothered by the essay I’ll be happy to talk about it privately. Not That Bad is a fantastic collection that I think everyone needs to read.

Cover Thoughts: Not a favorite by any means, but I’m here for the content not the cover. 
Have you read any of Roxane Gay's novels? Did you read Not That Bad? What are some of your favorite audio nonfiction reads? Let me know down below in the comments!  

Monday, February 11, 2019

January Reading Wrap-Up & Reading Goals

Hey, everyone! I know I'm a bit late in posting a wrap-up, but the beginning of my February has been busy and consistently filled with things outside of my blogging life. So far this month has been absolutely amazing. My January was the start-up to coming back to college for my junior year. It was a really productive and spiritually renewing month.

Books Read in January:
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Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant- 5 stars This was a fun ride! An expedition in which the crew is all connected to a past incident which has revealed that mermaids exist (people still doubt it). I loved the science, the characters, and the horror. Highly recommend! Check out my review here
Amity by Micol Ostow- 1.25 stars I read this for a year. LOL I was not a fan. It wanted to be a great horror novel, but it was just bad. Check out my review here
The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King- 5 stars It was so great to be another King novel. It was a wild ride and a much better book than it's predecessor. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote- 5 stars This was a reread for me and I listened to the audiobook. It was an interesting experience. I still think that this is one of the finest constructed true crime novels and it paved the way for many journalists and researchers. It was interesting to revisit a story I already know well. Check out my reviews here.
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary ChapmanI- 3 stars I wanted to love this one, but I thought it was just okay. I love to discuss Love Languages and think the concept has a lot of merit, but I wasn't really a fan of the novel itself. It was just a decent read.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen- 4 stars The premise of a young woman being sucked into a morality twisted by a doctor with ulterior motives is so interesting and intriguing. I loved the first half of this novel, but the middle changed the story into a whole new novel and I wasn't a big fan of the latter half. Check out my review here.
She's Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You by Chrystal Evans Hurst- 5 stars This was so good. I loved the topics that Hurst covers and the boldness of sharing her life. She presents a convicting novel filled with a lot of heart and even more of Jesus's love. 
Love Looks Pretty on You by Lang Leav- 4.75 stars This is hands down my favorite poetry collection. I felt this deep connection to Leav's poetry and I walked away feeling as if I had connected to more poems than ever. Check out my review here.
I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan- 3.5 stars I wanted to love this one. A podcast that tackles whether or not a murder was committed by the person who was sentenced for the crime. It brings up a lot of pain and heartbreak, but the story felt empty, emotionless, and boring. I am disappointed.

Overall Thoughts:
 I read 9 books! This is pretty awesome considering how busy I was. I read a lot of great books in the month and gave 4 books a 5-star rating! If I were to rank the books in order, they would be:
1. In Cold Blood
2. The Drawing of the Three
3. She's Still There
4. Into the Drowning Deep

2019 TBR:
*She's Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You
*I Know You Know
*The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts

Currently Reading/Hoping to Finish in February:
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Already Finished: Finding Selah, Not That Bad
  Netgalley ARCs: A Woman's Battle for Grace, The Dreamers, the mermaid's voice returns in this one, A Darker Shade of Magic
I started reading Helter Skelter again and hopefully I'll finish it soon.

Books I Want to Try to Get To:
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I didn't get to Snow White Learns Witchcraft or Dark of the West, but I'm going to try. I'm excited to pick up all of these and I'm hoping to find some gems!

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I started Dumplin' in January, but didn't finish it and now I'm #13 on the waiting list again.

Books I Own:
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How was your January? Did you read any books that you have to recommend to me? Have you read any of these books? Let me know down below in the comments!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Books I've Read in 2018 #45-47

Hey, everyone! Today I'm talking about three books that I read last year that were absolutely amazing! These three books are some of my favorite from the year and I can't recommend them enough.

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The Mermaid by Christina Henry- 5 stars This book is so beautiful and heartbreaking. It will definitely not be for everyone, but it is the type of whimsical, historical, heartbreaking, and feminist book that I look for occasionally. It checked all of my boxes and makes me so happy when I think about it. Check out my review here.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis- 5 stars The audio narration for this one is fantastic. This was my first experience reading the beloved story and I loved it. I think it's absolutely brilliant and it's one that I just want to gush about all day long. 
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds- 5 stars This novel is so important. It is written in poetry and I listened to the audiobook (which is narrated by Reynolds himself). This story is hard-hitting and tackles all the reasons why young men get stuck in the cycle of gang violence.

Recommend the Most:
All of them! Each novel appeals to a different audience. The Mermaid for the lover of fairy tales told in dark and historical ways, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the fantasy fan, and Long Way Down for those who want to read contemporary novels.

Books Reviewed: 1
Books Rated Over 4 stars: 3
New Favorites: 3
Books That Changed My Life: 0
Owned: 0

Have you read any of these books or plan to? Let me know down below in the comments!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Books I Want to Read in 2019

Hey, everyone! I'm here today with something I've never done before. I made a big giant list of books at the end of 2018 that I wanted to prioritize in my reading life, but also I'm not holding myself accountable for if I don't read them or not. I just really wanted to look at a key set of potential reads for the year. I don't expect to pick up the majority of these because I'm a mood reader, but these are some books that I want to consider dipping my toes into this year. The downside is that this list doesn't include books that I've recently bought in 2019. Will I complete this list? No, but it's fun to make!

20 Physical Books
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20 Audiobooks
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I actually finished The 5 Love Languages, She's Still There, and I Know You Know since writing this list!
Backlist ARCs
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This is a pretty ambitious list and I want to at least read half of the books here this year. Will I do it? One can hope!

Have you read any of these books? Which ones do I need to make a priority to in 2019? Whatever you recommend I will read!

What I've Read in August & September (I'm Not Gone, Just Busy)

Hi, everyone! Wow, I miss blogging. I miss sitting down and writing my posts that don't get much attention, but make me so happy to writ...