Sweetbriar Cottage Book Review

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This was the first book I read by Denise Hunter and I was pleasantly surprised. I completed the book within three days. She captured my full attention throughout the entire book.

The story line was uniquely constructed. It is not the typical love story at all. Noah and Josephine Mitchell are under the impression that they are divorced but accidentally discover it was never finalized. A few simple signatures are all that is required. However, that is not what transpires. The two heartbroken people end up spending time together against their free will, discovering there was more to the failed marriage than they realized. Each is strong willed, devastated by the past wounds, and overflowing with sorrow.

Throughout the majority of the story, the two are at odds, especially in their faith. Noah is a believer, in contrast, Josephine’s faith was shattered with an unanswered prayer at a tender age due to tragedy. I think there could have been more depth in the faith section. But overall it worked nicely.

” But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone–including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s, heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?”

This is one my favorite book of this year, furthermore, I will be checking out other books by Denise Hunter.  Sweetbriar Cottage gets five stars from me. This is a delightful summer read! The winter scenery might help to balance out the hot summer afternoons.

 

What a couple other authors think:

 “Sweetbriar Cottage is a wonderful story, full of emotional tension and evocative prose. Josephine and Noah, though deeply wounded, are easy to love in this story of second chances and unconditional love. Hunter slowly feeds critical pieces of backstory to keep the pages turning. You’ll feel involved in these characters’ lives and carried along by their story as the tension ratchets up to a climactic and satisfying conclusion. Terrific read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” –FRANCINE RIVERS, bestselling author of Redeeming Love

“Denise Hunter is, hands down, the best romance writer out there and never disappoints. Layered with likable characters, rich setting, and a compelling plot, Sweetbriar Cottage is unputdownable. Highly recommended!” –COLLEEN COBLE, USAToday bestselling author

 

About the author:

Denise Hunter has garnered multiple awards for each of her books, which include being a two-time Holt Medallion Winner for Finding Faith and Surrender Bay. ( She’s also an outstanding drummer!) She lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons.

Favorite Bible Verse: Deuteronomy 31:6a “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you.”

Love Story: A Novel

Karen Kingsbury has remained my favorite author for a few years now. I quickly discovered that her books were truly life changing fiction. Not only has each book been a rapid page turner but each book has uniquely drawn me closer to Christ.

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I was delighted when I had seen on my Facebook news feed that Karen Kingsbury has another book coming out. Love Story: A Novel (The Baxter Family) will be released June 6th. This book must be on your summer reading list.

I had previously met the Baxters on several occasions. I recently hung out with them in the Christmas novel. The family is an ideal overflowing with love and laughter. Additionally, they have a passion for pursuing Christ. This precious family is not without their faults or hardships.

I was pleasantly surprised with the story line in this book. I had not expected that John Baxter would share his love story (from his deceased wife Elizabeth)  with his granson. The story was captivating. It was discussed previously that they had a son who was adopted, but the details had not been previously revealed. Furthermore, why the family does not indulge in alcohol is included.

I simply love that all the characters from other books in this series are included. Such as Bailey Flanigan or now Bailey Paul. Bailey’s and Brandon’s love story continues as they welcome a precious child into the world making the beginning of a new chapter. Furthermore, Cody Coleman makes an appearance. He encounters hardships along with life altering decisions. How can he honor God in the midst of all the chaos? Each love story mentioned is priceless and precious.

Bottom line: I would most defiantly recommend this book to anyone. People of all ages can enjoy this book. My only disappointment, as usual, was that I finished it in under a week. You don’t need to read any other books related to this in order to read this one.

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Description:

“From the day they met, John and Elizabeth were destined to fall in love. Their whirlwind romance started when they were young college students and lasted nearly thirty years—until Elizabeth died of cancer.

So when John Baxter is asked to relive his long-ago love story with Elizabeth for his grandson Cole’s heritage project, he’s not sure he can do it. The sadness might simply be too great. But he agrees and allows his heart and soul to go places they haven’t gone in decades. Back to the breathless first moments, but also to the secret heartbreak that brought John and Elizabeth together.

At the same time, Baxter family friend Cody Coleman is working through the breakup of his complicated relationship with Andi Ellison. He is determined to move on when a chance sighting changes his plans—and heart. Can Cody convince Andi to give their love another try, or is it time for them to say goodbye, for good?

As school comes to an end, Cole presents his report on the love story between his grandparents John and Elizabeth Baxter. It is a tale that touches the hearts of the entire family, and one that causes Cole to better understand his own beginning.

Whether you’re meeting the Baxter family for the first time or finding them all over again, Love Story will stir your heart and remind you of the generational impact of love and the eternal bond of family.”

Check it out on Amazon

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What I’m Reading Wednesday

At any given moment, I am reading an abundance of books. Typically, I have two books for online Bible Study, a book for personal Bible study and/or Christian living book, one fiction book, and two textbooks. In addition, I read an Old Testament and New Testament book of the Bible. I have been eager to write this post for you.

Currently, for the first term of my semester, I am reading Caring for People God’s Way. Additionally, I am reading Theories of Personality.

The past several weeks, I have been reading the Armor of God by  Priscilla Shirer in my one online Bible Study. Then, in a few short days, I will begin assisting with my other online Bible Study using the book Discovering Hope: Beginning the Journey Towards Hope in Chronic Illness by Cindee Snider Re.

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Recently, I finished reading Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible: Flawed Women Loved by a Flawless God. I was amazed at how well Liz taught with humor, clips of fiction writing, personal stories, and emphasis on the Bible in a unique way. I am a zealous fan of Wendy Blight’s writing and her teaching. Liz used a similar format in her book, which captivated my attention.I would recommend this book to any women. This book examines the lives of Sari, Haggar, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel. Be prepared to see these women as well as their stories in a new light.

Product Description From CBD.com is as follows, “Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible is the latest of Liz Curtis Higgs’ “girlfriend theology” Bible study. Combining contemporary fiction with a verse-by-verse commentary, she explores the “slightly bad” lives of a few Old Testament women. Far from evil, yet slightly bad, these women from the book of Genesis stubbed their toes along the rocky path of righteousness. Sound familiar? These ancient sisters aren’t a whole lot different from us. Laced with humor and built on solid research, this book will bring you to the realization that God loves you just the way you are. Flaws and all!”

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Fiction Book. The biggest downside to this book is in the fact that it is the final book in the Bailey Flanigan Series. This is a sweet ending to the series. I simply adore how Karen Kingsbury includes the characters struggles as well as their time with God. Even though it is fiction she has a way of not only pulling the reader into the story but also challenging and strengthening their faith as well. You feel as though you have become friends with the characters. Beautiful tear-jerking wedding was included. Without a doubt, her books are life changing fiction.

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This is my personal Bible Study book. I began it a few short days ago so I don’t have much yet to say about it. Book description from CBD.com, “The book of Philippians calls you to see beyond your present circumstances and discover the authentic joy awaiting you in Christ. Get ready to explore this uplifting book through the tried-and-tested inductive study method – with an added writing step to help you treasure each word!”

 

When Chronic Pain and Illness Take Everything Away: How to Mourn Our Losses

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When Chronic Pain and Illness Take Everything Away: How to Mourn Our Losses is a practical book for anyone who battles a chronic illness or chronic pain. Esther is an inspirational individual who has thrived in many aspects of life despite chronic illness, without a doubt she is a role model. Reaching out as a compassionate friend she gently teaches her readers about the grieving process and coping with chronic illness and chronic pain. She is transparent with her faith journey as well as her struggles and victories.

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Grief is an overwhelming aspect of chronic illness that threatens to take over. It breaks a person down. Those facing chronic illness and chronic pain grieve the person he or she was before the pain, their past, broken relationships, shattered dreams, and the person they had hoped to become. Chronic illness alters every element of life. At times, with the pain and additional symptoms, those with chronic illness don’t want to deal with the emotions. However, emotions are healthy and a part of life.

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Personally, the emotions tend to hit me like a ton of bricks in a delayed reaction. Grief with chronic illness was no different. I get consumed with daily life not processing what I am going through on an emotional level. Maybe you can relate. Once the emotions hit it is overwhelming. I officially got my diagnosis in my late adolescent years. I took a season to grieve all the things I missed out on like prom and mission trips I had planned out. That season I grieved the friends I lost.

I have worked through a lot of the grief but there is still some work to be done. Support is essential when working through it. This book provides a positive outlet for grief. One of my favorite things is that there are writing prompts to assist the reader in constructively working through emotions.

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Amazon description: “Chronic pain, illness, and disability take so much away. Sometimes it seems as though they take everything we have ever loved and held dear.

Our physical abilities and our jobs. Our current passions and future dreams. Our finances and our friends. Our sense of community and our ability to engage the world in ways we could before.

Chronic pain takes away our sense of self and who we always thought ourselves to be. How in the world are we supposed to deal with this fact?”

Make sure to pre-order your book here! In addition, feel free to drop by Esther’s blog: Life in Slow Motion.

Uninvited

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Less than. Left out. Lonely. Rejection wasn’t new, yet this time, it would be less painful to rip my heart right out of my chest. I poured out the emotions, “God they promised they wouldn’t leave me. How could they?”I had spent plenty of time wandering the playground alone or reading my Bible in silence at lunch. I figured shedding the shell of shyness was key to overcoming rejection, to leave behind those times I was uninvited.

Entering into college I felt like I was on top of the world socially. I had my youth group, the teens from the retreat I passionately poured into my high school years, and the girls on my floor. (Of course, finding a guy friend in order to get a ring by spring couldn’t hurt. Just Kidding! If you don’t get that joke go find a kid who goes to a Christian college.)

I was hopeful that even though I had chronic pain I would soon have solid answers to it and a treatment plan. Steroids don’t make life as a college girl easy. Emotions explode pretty much everywhere in a confused mess. Nothing was going as planned but it could only get better, or so I thought. Thanksgiving weekend I found out I had a triple (Yes I have three kidney’s) kidney infection that was severe lasting a total of four months.

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I had always reached out to a particular group of friends checking in on everyone. I figured if no one heard from me someone would check to see if I was alive. I desperately wanted to just have a conversation about anything. Once someone reached out it wasn’t in a loving manner, leaving me in tears. From that conversation steamed rejection from a group of Christian friends. I felt unwanted, isolated, and brokenhearted.

It is a few years later as I sit on my bed writing this. My life is anything but typical.  God is on the move in my life providing me with a small group of friends who I cherish dearly and like a weirdo I do point it out to them that I am thankful they are in my life. The Lord is providing me with women to pour into through online Bible study, which I am forever grateful for. He has blessed me with the stability and faithfulness of my mom who has refused to walk out or give up. There are many days- even in those ‘safe’ places where I feel less than, left out, and lonely. Rejection is a knife leaving a deep scar regardless the colorful story attached.

Past rejections impact daily life more than we are aware of. Making us self-conscious. We throw up walls and harsh words out of fear. It seems at times we girls take things to heart a bit more.

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I would like to personally invite you to an online Bible study featuring Lysa TerKeurst new books Uninvited.

“In Uninvited, Lysa shares honestly from her own struggles with rejection and gives readers concrete truths to combat the lies our old Enemy hurls our way. You can stop feeling left out, because even when you are overlooked by others, you are handpicked by God. You can change your tendencies to either fall apart or control the actions of others by adopting healthy ways to process your hurt. You are designed for a love without limits, a love that will never let go.

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With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa helps readers:

  • Release the desire to fall apart or control the actions of others by embracing God-honoring ways to process their hurt.
  • Know exactly what to pray for the next ten days to steady their soul and restore their confidence.
  • Overcome the two core fears that feed our insecurities by understanding the secret of belonging.
  • Stop feeling left out and start believing that “set apart” does not mean “set aside.”
  • End the cycle of perceived rejection by refusing to turn a small incident into a full blown issue.”

This Women’s online study will dig deep into God’s word, build lasting friendships, pray with one another, in addition to reading and discussing the book.

Even when you’re overlooked by others, you are handpicked by God.
This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited Book Blog Tour which I am delighted, excited, and honored to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers. Make sure to check out http://www.uninvitedbook.com.
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To RSVP: Please e-mail: hopefulspoonie@gmail.com
I will be assisting in leading two studies with the book. The first is God-Living Girls. God-Living girls is for women God-Living Girls is for women with chronic illness and/or pain. The book will be completed alongside Proverbs 31 Ministries from September 6th- October 14th. I highly encourage all teen girls and women to check out God-Living Girls even if you aren’t interested in the study, the group has a lot of excellent resources.
The second group also meets  in a private Facebook Group, which you will be able to join starting August 15th. We will begin September 6nd as well, but we will be doing the study at a slower pace for about ten weeks. Feel free to ask questions!
Please share!

Brush of Wings: A Book Review

I had the honor of reading and reviewing Brush of Wings, which is the third book in the  Angel Walking series by Karen Kingsbury. The first two books were beyond excellent. The concept of the book reminds me of the television show Touched by an Angel. Reading the first two books is the only way this book will make sense.

I love how Karen Kingsbury keeps Christ as the main focus of the book. You see the characters wrestle with God and strengthen their relationship with him. The reader also sees the struggles the characters encounter as well as how they cope with it as young adult Christians.

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The characters come to life! Completely amazing.  Mary Catherine is a young woman with a passion for serving the Lord. She is full of life.She had a medical condition, however, she refused to tell anyone. Her health spiraled out of control. Despite warnings from her doctor, she ventures to Africa on a mission trip. Her best friend is Sami..\ Marcus Dillinger, is possibly the most persistent and patient guy. He pursued her with all his heart, praying for her daily. He crosses oceans to try to save Mary Catherine when she became critically ill, on deaths door step.

I truly felt a bond with Mary Catherine because of her medical condition and her passion for mission work. She, like most of us with an illness didn’t want to be a burden or to worry those she loved. She hid it so well that it caused a tragedy. The reader sees the struggles of all the she faces due to her condition. Again, most of us with illness can relate to this, illness changes lives no matter how hard we fight it.

The four friends have been on countless adventures, but this book topped them all. There were surprises and excitement in each chapter. They assist in running a teen program for teens involved in gangs.

“The team of angels walking is busier than ever in this epic battle between life and death. A Brush of Wings is a poignant tale of love, sacrifice, and the power of faith” (Kingsbury).  The team restlessly and fervently prays for each of these people and for an unborn baby who will one day impact America. He will be a modern C.S. Lewis. Each angel appears in human form to assist with the storms. In addition, the angles battle demons that the people are unaware of.

The ending was amazingly unexpected and perfectly beautiful. The biggest disappointment is that this is the last book in the series. Though the book is fiction Karen Kingsbury writes a book that does more than entertain. It also helps the reader grow in faith and in their relationship with Christ. I love how she includes scripture throughout the book as well.

The Family of Jesus

I have been reading a lot lately; my newest author discovery is Karen Kingsbury. I noticed she has written many books, similar to Melody Carlson. Of course, curiosity got the best of me. Caving I gave in and brought the first book in the Angles Walking Series (by the way I highly recommend those books!) which I breezed through in a weekend. I enjoy Karen Kingsbury style of writing. She is creative and Christ-centered.

Typically, I read  contemporary  Christan fiction books with a pinch of romance. The Family of Jesus is a Biblical fiction book. I was not familiar at all with this genre. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about it. It was an amazing fiction experience that deepened my walk with Christ. The book is written from several points of view including Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist, Elizabeth, James, and Zarachria. Karen Kingsbury assists in bringing the Bible to life. Her words help the reader to experience God and his word in a new way – helping us consider details that are not included in the Bible. Especially, the emotions that must have consumed each of these individuals. It was like stepping into the Bible story and watching the events unfold such as Mary telling Joseph she was pregnant or John the Baptist convicting people and leading them to the Lord. The book was more than a good read, it helped me grow spiritually.

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While reading The Family of Jesus I had been doing some Gospel reading during my quiet time. I found myself going deeper in my time with God. I was encouraged to slow down during my Bible reading time and meditate more on the Scriptures.

God can use anything to bless us, bring Him glory, and bring us closer to him- even a fiction book.

Here is a short sample of the book:

“Jesus was not with them. “I know I saw Him.” Mary clung to Joseph, her face filled with fear. “He was with John when we left. He wouldn’t have stayed in Jerusalem, would He?” Joseph’s heart beat hard, his breath jagged and uneven. “We’ll find Him. Come on.” Together they searched the entire caravan, but Mary was right. Jesus was not with them. Terrified and begging God for answers, Mary and Joseph turned around and traveled as quickly as they could back to Jerusalem. They found Elizabeth and Zechariah first. Mary’s relatives were still in Jerusalem and John was with them. But none of them had seen Jesus.

Three long days passed and finally Joseph was out of answers. Never had he been so scared and confused. This time no angels spoke to him, no strangers came up to them to tell them things they didn’t know about their son. He was simply missing. Finally, on the third day, Joseph ran with Mary to the temple courts and there— sitting among the teachers—was Jesus. From a distance they watched, relieved and frustrated. The teachers seemed mesmerized by Him. He asked questions, but more than that, He provided answers. Tears filled Mary’s eyes as she watched their son. “Why would He do this?” she whispered. “Make us worry?” “Look at Him.” Joseph held Mary close, still at a distance from Jesus. “The teachers are amazed at His under- standing.”

Mary listened quietly. “Yes.” Her frightened eyes turned to Joseph’s. “But three days?” Jesus must’ve known they were there. He finished His conversation and then hurried over. “Son, why have You treated us like this?” Mary gathered Him in her arms, clearly as relieved as she was upset. “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.” Jesus looked from Mary to Joseph and back again. “Why were you searching for Me?” His face looked as innocent as summer. “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” The words stabbed at Joseph’s heart. Though he loved Jesus with his whole being, this was the first time he truly understood his place. He was Jesus’s stepfather. Nothing more. Though Jesus returned with them to Nazareth, and though He remained obedient, His words stayed with Joseph. Never mind the rescue from Bethlehem or Egypt. It didn’t matter what Joseph had done to protect Jesus or how much he loved Mary. Forget the reality that Joseph had been there from the beginning. Joseph would never be Jesus’s father. That role belonged to God alone. “He has a different purpose,” Mary said to Joseph one night after they returned to Nazareth. “He does not belong to us. I understand that better now.” “Yes.” Joseph pulled her into his arms. “It scares me, Joseph.” (From karenkingsbury.com)

The words stabbed at Joseph’s heart. Though he loved Jesus with his whole being, this was the first time he truly understood his place. He was Jesus’s stepfather. Nothing more. Though Jesus returned with them to Nazareth, and though He remained obedient, His words stayed with Joseph. Never mind the rescue from Bethlehem or Egypt. It didn’t matter what Joseph had done to protect Jesus or how much he loved Mary. Forget the reality that Joseph had been there from the beginning. Joseph would never be Jesus’s father. That role belonged to God alone. “He has a different purpose,” Mary said to Joseph one night after they returned to Nazareth. “He does not belong to us. I understand that better now.” “Yes.” Joseph pulled her into his arms. “It scares me, Joseph.” (From karenkingsbury.com)