When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.

My Review:

I have throughly enjoyed the previous books in this series and did not expect this one to be any different. I was not disappointed. Ms. Warren tends to tackle the core of humanity in her books, and keeps you interested for the next one with characters that interwoven throughout each book. The Christiansen family is one that comes in many shapes and sizes. Grace is different than some of the other siblings in that, I didn’t see her as brash or outgoing like the rest, but instead, she seems more like her mom or that is how I felt.

Without giving any spoilers, I felt this book really talked about the hard part that someone might face if they knew they had a disease that would disable them in the future. The romantic side of me said “Awwww…” and then the practical side of me that lives with a spouse with a mentally debilitating disease said “Wow. I know it is not as romantic as all that. It can be a trail of tears for sure.”

I found that maybe the most ironic of all, was that the sentence that touched me the most from this whole book was in Ms. Warren’s Note from the Author. She states two stories about friends of hers. One that nursed her young husband through early onset Alzheimer’s, cared for him until she couldn’t anymore, divorced him and married someone else and how it haunted her.
Then another woman that married a man with brain cancer, nursed him through it, until he died three years later. She commented how the second woman felt robbed.

I read that and stopped to think. The one woman only lived with it for three years and felt positively, while the other, it was a long process.

As someone that it is a long, slow process of watching your spouse go downhill mentally, I know what that woman felt that left her husband for someone else. I also, know that it would not be easier to leave and find someone else.

All that to say, this book is not just a happy story, but one that you will set down and think. It has some romance in it, and it geared with topics that are more appropriate for an adult audience, not teens. I found that it really walked you through the emotional turmoil of the characters without seeming overly dramatic.

One of my favorite parts of this story was the talk of the food. I am not a seafood lover, but I love cooking, so it was amazing to me to read about the food!

If you visit this site now, there is a contest going on with your own food creations. You could win a kitchen aid mixer.
http://whenifallinlove.susanmaywarren.com/giveaway

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With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

In the shadow of the nation’s capital, Kate Livingston’s respectable life as a government worker is disrupted by an encounter with the insufferable Trevor McDonough, the one man she’d hoped never to see again. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and business is the only reason he has sought her out now.

Despite her misgivings, Kate agrees to Trevor’s risky proposal to join him in his work to find a cure for tuberculosis. As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor’s past, his hidden depths fascinate her. However, a shadowy enemy lies in wait and Trevor’s closely guarded secrets are darker than she ever suspected.

As revelations from the past threaten to destroy their careers, their dreams, and even their lives, Trevor and Kate find themselves in a painfully impossible situation. With everything to lose, they must find the strength to trust that hope and love can prevail over all.

 

My Review:

Where can I start? It seems there are books that you read that you can put down and forget that you were reading them. Then there are others that the characters pull you into their world, tie their hearts to yours, and make you forget where you are at. This was one of those books. For the time I spent reading this Advanced Review Copy, I  felt like I was battling out the fight against TB myself. If there is a book that will make you grateful for medical advances, this one will certainly do the trick.

Ms. Camden is a talented writer. I feel like when I finish one of her books, she leaves you with a longing for more. Only the best authors have that talent. Her stories are not mundane, they touch on topics that you may not have thought about throughout history.

The underlying storyline as well, which spoke about a scared, illegitimate child that is fighting not only a horrific disease, but a nation of scared people that fight him and his goals will touch your heart as well.

This is a book you will want to preorder now, if you enjoy historical fiction.

 

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Parenting…ones of life’s hardest jobs, but only because of all the other stuff

I was musing today on my job as a parent, and the thoughts were sort of spilling forth over tea and scones that an amazing friend made.

We both have four sons. Mine are older than hers, but since we are both about the same age, and grew up together, I find it humorous that so far, we both had four sons. I don’t know if she will beat me and have more, but we will see!

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One of my greatest fears in life is that I will fail my children and they will hate me for my failings. I struggle with the fear that can grip me in almost a paralyzing way, and cause me to actually be more on edge.

I am working through learning some valuable lessons at the moment, and I don’t think it is going to be an easy one.

I realized that I often tend to have the rungs on my priority ladder a bit mixed up. I am on the bottom rung, I can usually find a way to take whatever people throw at me. Next is my children and husband and last up is outside friends/family/groups I volunteer for.  Now, you may think….”That is an odd order of things.”

Well, it really is, because when I realized, that the people on the top of the ladder in my priorities were others outside my family. I let my supposed self sacrifice bubble over and effect my children and husband, our family life among other things, not mentioning my health, children’s health, sleep or eating habits. I realized that my “self-sacrifice” has not always actually been so great for people.

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I love serving others. It gives me joy to make others happy! But  often I figure that if it effects my own schedule, food plans, or anything like that, that is not really that important. We are supposed to lay down our lives, be self sacrificing, and deny ourselves things, right?

But then I started noticing how I felt stress from trying to serve in so many ways, looking to give to good things, and feeling the expectations of people that enjoyed the fact that I was willing to be there. Little seeds of resentment would pop up when I was taken advantage of, the recipients were not grateful or I realized that yet again, I had not only changed my plans, but my children had skipped dinner because I was “helping” someone else.

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I also found that the high stress lifestyle has been wearing on me. The chronic exhaustion, lack of sleep, lack of good food or any food sometimes and other things limit my brain power to do the things I want to do. Writing, for instance. I felt selfish carving out time for something that was just for me. Gardening fell by the wayside, meal planning, meal preparation,  and others.

I realized while working hard at a camp this summer, when it was so relaxing compared to my daily schedule, that something may be wrong with how I have been working things out.

1) Jesus required rest while He was ministering. He didn’t think it was selfish when He said no and went away from everyone.

2) When I feel those seeds of resentment, they trickle up to the people I serve. My children generally first feel the effects, then my other friends, family and groups. Even other drivers probably don’t appreciate it….especially like when I accidentally make mistakes while driving. No, I wasn’t on my cell phone or using the radio. I actually pay attention better on a cell phone than off, if you can believe that. It is a wonder I even have a license sometimes, I am a much safer walker/biker. The backlash from my irritation of some people taking advantage of me, leads to me taking it out on the innocent.

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My conclusion is that parenting is one of the hardest jobs I have ever set out to do. But one of the things that make it the hardest is all the other decisions I make on a daily basis. If I seek to be self-sacrificing, am I really serving others, or being selfish by ignoring my children at times or myself?

There is a time for everything, and sometimes there is a time to be bone crushing tired from serving others, but likely not almost everyday.

We can be better servants if we seek to rearrange the ladder, and let the blessing trickle down on others than going the other way around and me being bone dry after a week of hard labor.

 

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Transparency…is it overrated?

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It is a beautiful morning this morning! I woke up before 6 am this morning, and since I was unable to fall back asleep, (which is what I usually do), I proceeded with a quiet, normal morning for me.

I worked on catching up on my work on the computer, checking email, thinking about the bills that need to be paid. I moderated comments on the Naturally Born site that I am a moderator on and checked to see if there were any questions that I might be able to answer. I headed over to NotQuiteAmish blog, and pinned a few posts as well as commented on a few. It is my week to do so as my helping with promotion of the blog.

The episode of ER that I had stopped in the middle of last night was waiting for me on the computer, so I finished the last few minutes of it, before considering the rest of my responsibilities. My dreams had been full of swirling thoughts and decision making. How should my son’s high school transcript look? Should I close the windows of the house before 10 am to keep the house cool? What should I make for dinner so that the house stays cool? What is the best price for gutters on the house? And last, but not least, how can I convince my husband that buying a Harley Davidson leather jacket is not the best investment of his money and really doesn’t look good?

I gave up to read a book, which was about a man that was rejected by all for his looks, but sought after for his brains and money. He seeks revenge for how he is treated, but when that feels empty, he finds life in trusting Jesus with his life and found that forgiveness was more fulfilling than revenge. It wrapped up rather quickly, but other than getting uncomfortable laying on the bed with the book, was satisfying.

I began to think about transparency. You see, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how I live my life. The daily struggles are what each family or head of household faces can be wearisome at times.

We can seek to hold up a front before others. We wear makeup to appear that we have perfect skin, we pin lovely meals on Pinterest, hoping others or even hope that we might make them one day.

One thing I realized is even when you know the right answers, sometimes it is hard to actually get it done.

You see in what I detailed in my morning routine, I left out a lot of stuff, the mundane hard parts of the morning. They are the things that are better left unsaid, spoken in private, but leave your heart aching sometimes. There are days when it is the mundane that leaves my heart feeling empty, worthless and longing for more.

It is then that I ask myself, who am I? When I describe myself, do I only see my value in what I can do for myself or for others? Or do I have value just if I was just me?

I found that doing things for others is very fulfilling, but also empty. Often people start to see you as valuable for what you can offer them, and not as a person anymore. They seek you out when they need help or support, because they know they can count on you. The problem is when you need help or support, your relationship is mostly one sided and they generally are too busy with other real friendships to help you out or even just visit at times.

Earlier this year, I sat at a party, surrounded by people that knew me and felt like I was in high school again. I was the one everyone knew who I was, but no one really knew me. They knew the surface things, but not who I really was, and frankly, didn’t care all that much to dig into it. They either figured it wasn’t worth it or it wasn’t all that interesting.

So, I ask all of you, how many of your friends do you really know? If they were struggling, would you really know it? Do you have a friend you care about, but realize that you don’t know much about their life other than what you see in public?

I would like to challenge you to dig beyond the facade and get some transparency with one or two people in your life. No, not everyone needs to know your business, certainly not on a public blog. But you shouldn’t find yourself the person that everyone knows, but no one cares enough to know when they need more than a casual friendship.

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Summer Days

I have not been as good about carrying my camera and keeping track of the memories of what we are doing. I think chronicling the school year got me tired of it!

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We have had some great days though! The boys were excited that their cousin came back from his trip, and they had a nice day with him before the 4th of July.  I caught this picture through my window, while they were having fun imagining stories together on the porch.

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We went over to my sister’s house and the children had a great time playing in the dirt at her house and eating snacks. She had it all color coordinated.

P1070782They had fun playing football and trying to avoid the neighbors cars as well.

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P1070781 The children perched in the back of the van to see the show!

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P1070787 T. birthday is coming up and he got a new bike and a backpack that has a water bladder in it. We have been going to the park playing with family and friends. My niece just turned 16 as well.

I have been doing a little reading as you can see from the reviews and trying to relax a bit for the rest of the summer!

 

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Critical Condition by Richard Mabry

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

Book Description

Dr. Frasier couldn’t save the gunshot victim on her front lawn. Now she’s fighting for her own life.

It began as a quiet dinner party honoring Dr. Shannon Frasier’s colleague, but became a nightmare when a man was shot on her lawn, reviving emotions from a similar episode a decade ago. Then a midnight call from her sister, Megan, causes Shannon to fear that her sister is on drugs again.

Her “almost-fiancé” Dr. Mark Gilbert’s support only adds to Shannon’s feelings of guilt, since she can’t bring herself to fully commit to him. She turns for help to her pastor-father, only to learn that he’s just been diagnosed with leukemia.

Shannon thought it couldn’t get any worse. Then the late-night, threatening phone calls begin, the rough voice asking, “What did he say before he died?”

With everything around her in a critical state, simply staying alive will require all the resources and focus Shannon has.

My Review:

Medical suspense that is well written is sometimes hard to find, but Richard Mabry knocks it out of the park with this book. Shannon witnesses her first boyfriend being shot and the PTSD that follows her is revived when another man is shot on her lawn.  There were a few story lines to follow in this book, I would love to see another book about Megan and her future journey.

Richard Mabry gives us an inside view of the life of a busy surgeon that has witnessed many hard cases, but shows us the heart of the matter so to speak. Megan and Shannon are also PK’s, which means the turmoil of having issues with dealing with Christianity is also addressed.

I felt like this book was well balanced in giving you a very exciting suspense story, combined with dealing with emotional issues that we know everyone faces. I really have enjoyed books by this author and will be reading more by him when I get the chance!

This book was provided for me by BookLook Bloggers, the opinions contained herein are solely my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

 

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In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

Destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God, Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi’s, love. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation.

But God has other plans for her life. While everyone considers Ruth an outcast, she is astounded to find one of the most honored men of Judah showing her favor. Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz is irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the haunted eyes. He tells himself he is only being kind to his Cousin Naomi’s chosen daughter when he goes out of his way to protect her from harm, but his heart knows better.

Based on the biblical account of Ruth, In the Field of Grace is the story of a love that ultimately changes the course of Israel’s destiny and the future of the whole world.

My Review:

Tessa Afshar is very skilled when it comes to the retelling of a biblical fiction story. She can make you dig deeper into the bible, find things hidden in the story that you never thought about before. There are many biblical fiction stories written on the book of Ruth, but this one find some other tidbits that you will marvel at. Once again, I found myself thinking about how there were some really incredible women from history and in the bible, that really were quite amazing. This story will get you thinking about how brave two young widows were, when one older, one younger struggled to survive in a very hard time. They became the forerunners of King David and ultimately, the line of Jesus. This story is very chaste, and is not full of romance, but has an underlying theme throughout of love and devotion, much like the bible has. If you let your teen daughters read the bible, they will enjoy this story that makes them want to dig into their bible more.

This book was given to me for review from NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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