3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · LGBTQIA+ Books · non fiction · religion

New Release | She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams

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She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams 

Published: November 8, 2018

Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press

Pages: 200

Genres: non fiction, LGBTQIA+, religion

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: modern day religion, real trans people’s stories, church and the LGBTQIA+

Foodie Vibes: sensible healthy meal to fuel your mind and body

 

Synopsis:

Jonathan S. Williams was three months into pastoring a new, evangelical church plant when his father confessed a secret: he was transgender. His father, Paul, a prominent evangelical pastor, soon became Paula, and Jonathan’s life and ministry went into a tailspin. Feeling betrayed by his mentor and confidante and scared that his church would lose funding and support if Paula’s secret was exposed, Jonathan sunk into depression and alcoholism.

She’s My Dad explores Jonathan’s long and winding journey toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and acceptance of his father as well as his church’s journey to become one of the few fully LGBTQ-inclusive, evangelical churches in America. Jonathan and Paula offer insight and encouragement for those with transgender family members, empathizing with the feelings of loss and trauma and understanding that even being LGBTQ-affirming doesn’t mean the transition of a family member will be easy. Jonathan writes of his family’s continuing evolution, the meaning of remaining loyal to one’s father even when she is no longer a man, the ongoing theological evolution surrounding transgender rights and advocacy in the church, and the unflinching self-scrutiny of a pastor who lost his God only to find God again in his father’s transition.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

She’s My Dad tells the story of Jonathan’s Dad transitioning to her true self, Paula. The book is honest about the challenges, learning process and love that goes into having a family member transition. The process is made even more complex, because Paula is a pastor in the Evangelical church. 

I liked that the chapters alternated perspectives between Jonathan and Paula, allowing the reader to better understand the story from all perspectives. I didn’t realize the focus in religion would be so great. I’m not religious, but I learned a lot about churches excluding or choosing to include LGBTQIA+ people. I think the book could be very helpful and validating for people who are religious and identify as LGBTQIA+. 

While it was hard to hear Jonathan’s struggles about his dad transitioning, it was honest. For awhile he didn’t seem very kind to Paula, which bothered me. I think a lot of people can relate to the loss and confusion they may also feel. I feel like the book focused on the church a lot, and maybe would have been more well rounded by including a wider variety of experiences. 

Overall, an honest, educational and heartfelt book about Jonathan and his dad, Paula’s story. 

  • In the book, Jonathan refers to Paula as his dad, so to my knowledge I’m not misgendering anyone. But if I’m wrong, please correct me.

 

Answer me this:

How can churches work to better serve their LGBTQIA+ congregation?

4.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christmas · contemporary fiction · Holidays · Short Stories

ARC Review | Christmas in Cape Cod by Nan Rossiter

Answer me this: 

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? 

 

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Christmas in Cape Cod by Nan Rossiter

Published: October 30, 2018

Publisher: Zebra

Pages: 79

Genres: Christmas, holiday, short stories, contemporary fiction

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: feel good holiday reads, the true meaning of the season, short stories for a bad day 

Foodie Vibes: mulled wine, homemade Christmas cookies

 

Synopsis:

With Christmas just around the corner, Asa Coleman has his hands full keeping up with his young son Noah’s rambunctious spirit. Whether he’s playing Santa or keeping a furry surprise under wraps, the joy Asa feels in Noah’s delight is all he could ask for as a single father. His best friend Maddie Carlson has been more than helpful throughout the season’s sometimes overwhelming rush of activities, and she can’t help but see how well she fits into their lives. But as always, something holds Asa back from accepting the happiness he deserves. Except this year, when it’s time to open gifts, something special might surprise them all . . .

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Zebra, and Nan Rossiter for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Christmas in Cape Cod is the perfect short book to curl up with after a stressful day during the holiday season. The story takes place on Christmas Eve and Day. It’s such a perfect feel good holiday read, that you can’t help but be in a better mood after reading. The author shows us the true meaning of the season with these characters. Filled with all the quintessential holiday activities: baking homemade cookies, mulled wine, leaving food for Santa, going to church, exchanging gifts, and decorating the Christmas tree, you can’t help but enjoy yourself. So I say get a cup of hot cocoa, a few Christmas cookies and curl up with this great book on a chilly night. 

 

Add to Your Goodreads TBR

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Medical · memoir · non fiction

Dispatches from the Heart: Transplanting One Heart and Transforming Many Others by Ed and Paige Innerarity

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Dispatches from the Heart: Transplanting One Heart and Transforming Many Others by Ed and Paige Innerarity

Published: June 6, 2018

Publisher: River Grove Books

Pages: 202

Genres: non fiction, memoir, medical

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: using faith to get through a difficult time, heartfelt stories, inspiring reads

Foodie Vibes: healthy foods that protect your heart

 

Synopsis:

Ed Innerarity was a regular guy: He liked to fly fish, ride his bike, and laugh with his family, and he attended church every Sunday. He also had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy and needed a new heart. Ed refused to even consider a heart transplant until his doctor gave him two options: Get a heart transplant or check in to a hospice care facility. He didn’t want to die.

Dispatches from the Heart is a compilation of emails from friends, family, and the authors themselves describing Ed’s journey through the heart transplant process. Full of compelling, inspiring, and often witty insights into this life-changing event, Ed and Paige share the challenges and triumphs they both faced before, during, and after Ed’s life-saving surgery.

This book is a tribute to those who helped make a second chance at life possible, an invitation into the intimate inner dialogue of a family ever changed, and a beacon of hope for those who may be part of a similar journey.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, the author and publisher for the ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me.

Dispatches from the Heart is the life journey of Ed, who needs and ends up receiving a heart transplant in his 60s. The touching insightful memoir highlights the importance of healthy life choices. Even if they can’t prevent illness, they can help the person live their best life during the struggles and potentially slow the progression of the health issue. Ed has cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition in which the heart gets weaker and less efficient over time. Due to his family history he got tested and knew he would eventually succumb to the same disease his mother passed away from. 

The book is a unique look into the journey a lot of families go through. Knowing you need an organ transplant, but not knowing if you will get one. His story is told through different forms: passages from him and his wife looking back, emails from him or his wife, email responses from loved ones, photos, song suggestions, and occasionally short descriptions of the medical terminology. It gives an authentic look what the family was going through during this difficult time. The family looks towards their faith a lot during this challenging time, as they do throughout the rest of life as well. 

I liked that he highlights the important of pre-hab while on the waiting list for a cardiac transplant. It shows the importance of strengthening your body before the transplant, so you can have the best chance for a good outcome. 

While the outlook is extremely positive, it may be difficult for people who are struggling with the transplant process, because they may not see themselves in his process. While he struggled, as well as his family, it wasn’t shown that much. That’s fine. Completely his choice what he shares, but it could alienate some people who are struggling to deal with and relate. 

Overall, an enlightening, inspiring book that shows Ed’s journey in the organ transplant process. A great read for someone who may know someone going through something similar and wants to know more about it. 

4 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christmas · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · Holidays · romance

Release Day | Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle

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Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle

Published: October 16, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 352

Genres: Christmas, holiday, contemporary romance, contemporary fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: cozy reads, small businesses, books that remind you of the reason for the season

Foodie Vibes: hot chocolate with a fire roasted marshmallow and beautifully decorated Christmas cookies

 

Synopsis: 

A holiday retelling of You’ve Got Mail that will make you fall in love with the Christmas Season!

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.

Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the town’s Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?

Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?

When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Griffin, and Nancy Nail for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Dear Santa is a sweet heartfelt Christmas story that reminds you of the true reason for the season. Angela owns the Heart of Christmas, a one of a kind shop that’s been in her family for years. They sell high quality hand made Christmas decorations. When a new big box style Christmas store comes into town, Angela’s business takes another hit on top of her already foundering business. The book encourages us to look at what’s really important to us, our families and our communities. Will Angela get some help from Santa this year?

I loved the setting. A quaint beachside town isn’t what you first think of for a Christmasy book, but it works perfectly. The passion Angela has for her town, the history and townspeople absolutely makes the book so special. You can feel the true magic of the holidays on each page. The descriptions of her Christmas store made me feel as if I was right there, surrounded by all the twinkly lights, fresh cut trees, and handcrafted ornaments. The scent of gingerbread and peppermint mochas waft through the air. The book is such a cozy holiday read that I can’t get enough.

However, there isn’t much romance. The story focuses more on Angela’s love for her family, business, and town than a new love interest. At least until the last, maybe 20%. It’s very sweet and happily ever after, so that helps. Also there was a lot of tension and arguing in parts. Completely authentic to the story, but sometimes you don’t want to read about stress and tension. Luckily most is about the wonderful moments of Christmastime. 

All together, Dear Santa captures the true magic of Christmas with all the cozy feels. 

 

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

4 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christian · Christian fiction · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · romance · suspense

ARC Review | Delayed Justice by Cara C. Putnam

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Delayed Justice by Cara C. Putnam

Published: October 16, 2018

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Pages: 368

Genres: suspense, contemporary, Christian fiction, romantic suspense

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: justice, the MeToo Movement, good men and supportive friends/family, rediscovering your religion during difficult times

Foodie Vibes: peppermint tea to soothe your jangled nerves

 

Synopsis:

She had long given up the desire to be loved. Now she only needed to be heard.

Jaime Nichols went to law school to find the voice she never had as a child, and her determination to protect girls and women in the path of harm drives her in ways both spoken and unspoken. As Jaime, now a criminal defense attorney, prepares to press charges against someone who wronged her long ago, she must face not only her demons but also the unimaginable forces that protect the powerful man who tore her childhood apart.

Chandler Bolton, a retired veteran, is tasked with helping a young victim who must testify in court—and along with his therapy dog, Aslan, he’s up for the task. When he first meets Jaime, all brains, beauty, and brashness, he can’t help but be intrigued. As Chandler works to break through the wall Jaime has built around herself, the two of them discover that they may have more to offer one another than they ever could have guessed—and that together, they may be able to help this endangered child.

This thrilling installment of the Hidden Justice series explores the healing power of resolution and the weight of words given voice. And as Jaime pursues delayed justice of her own, she unearths eternal truths that will change the course of her life.

 

Review:

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. As always, an honest review from me.

First of all, trigger warning: child sexual abuse

Most of the book references child sexual abuse, the healing process, disclosing to friends and family, and testifying. Nothing is described in detail, graphic or otherwise. 

  • If you’re concerned about being triggered by certain content, feel free to ask me for clarification about any potentially triggering content, in the comments. Or send me a direct message on Twitter if you prefer.

Now onto the book review …

Jaime was abused by her uncle at the age of 8. She didn’t tell anyone then. Now as an adult and after much counseling she feels strong enough to report his crime and press charges. Will her words and an old journal be enough to convict this esteemed military man? Or will he do anything to stop her form “ruining his life”?

It was nice to see the day to day realities of a survivor. The struggles and the triumphs, all the hard work, and the support from loved ones. Too often the media glosses over the day to day moments after a certain point in the survivor’s story. Not so in this book.

However, I had mixed feelings about the romance storyline. I don’t like when the, you need a man to make it all better, myth is perpetuated. But it’s also unrealistic to think that no survivor will experience romance and also look for comfort in their partner. The ending also wrapped things up a little too conveniently for me.

All in all, another good novel supporting the Me Too Movement of our generation. 

 

Question: How can we continue to support survivors in our lives?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christian · Christian fiction · mystery · romance · suspense · Uncategorized

ARC Review | A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

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A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

Published: September 18, 2018

Publisher: Revell

Pages: 336

Genres: suspense, mystery, Christian fiction, romance

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: conspiracy theories, books that cut close to reality and freak you out too

Foodie Vibes: coffee, coffee, coffee to keep yourself awake & reading so you can’ quickly find out what happens

 

Synopsis:

Psychologist Grace Callahan has no idea that she has a secret–one worth killing for. But when she finds out one of her clients has been murdered, she quickly realizes that the computer security specialist wasn’t simply suffering from paranoia.

Detective Nate Quinn has just been cleared for active duty after a bombing killed eighteen people, including his partner, and left him dealing with PTSD. His first case back on the job involves the murder of Stephen Shaw, and his only lead turns out to be an old friend, Grace Callahan–and her life is in grave danger. Someone believes Shaw gave his psychologist information before he died. Information they are willing to kill for.

With her signature pulse-pounding suspense, Lisa Harris takes readers deep into the heart of fear in this race against the clock.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Revell and Lisa Harris for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Another good novel from Lisa Harris. Not my all time favorite from her, but still a good solid suspenseful mystery. It was nice to get back into the world of police detectives solving mysteries in Christian fiction.

I enjoyed the world of conspiracy theories with good reason. The book was so psychologically terrifying. The fact that these things could happen in real life is so scary. Hackers attacking the power grid and leaving our country without power for months. The impact it could have on our country and so many people is terrifying. Such an interesting premise! There was a lot of action, physical and mental, that kept me reading, reading, reading to find out what happens.

Despite all the action that I loved, I didn’t really like that the murder mystery involved a psychiatric patient in any way. In this case, the patient wasn’t a suspect (not a spoiler), but there is so much stigma and stereotypes that I’m wary of books that even associate therapy, mental health, etc. with anything negative. Also a key to solving a major part of the mystery was overlooked until much later. If I were there, I would have found the object right away by doing a simple but thorough search. If the characters stopped to think for 2 seconds the detective and psychology would have found it. So frustrating!

Overall, a compelling mystery that unfortunately had a few nuances that bothered me. Loved the conspiracy theory ascent though.

 

Are you more of a murder mystery, psychological thriller or horror novel reading? Tell me why in the comments 

4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Christian · memoir · non fiction

Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer by Harmony Dust

 

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Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer by Harmony Dust

Published: May 1, 2018 

Publisher: Monarch Books

Pages: 231

Genres: memoir, non fiction, Christian

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: inspiring memoirs, Christianity helping people, sex industry workers looking for support/to get out of the life

Read with food: anything you find delicious and nourishing because you deserve to enjoy life in a healthy way

 

Synopsis:

At thirteen, after being abandoned by her mother one summer and left to take care of her younger brother, Harmony becomes susceptible to a relationship that turns out to be toxic, abusive, and ultimately exploitative. She eventually finds herself working in a strip club at the age of nineteen, and her boyfriend becomes her pimp, controlling her every move and taking all of her money.

Scars and Stilettos is Harmony’s stark, honest, and ultimately hopeful story of how God found her in that dark, noisy place, led her back out, and prompted her to help others who are trapped as she once was. It exposes the realities of the commercial sex industry and inspires hope that freedom and healing are possible for those involved. Harmony has since graduated magna cum laude from UCLA where she also completed an MA in Social Welfare, and now leads Treasures, an outreach and support group to women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking. Through the Treasures Trainings, she has provided training to help launch outreaches in over 120 cities on six continents.

 

Review:

I won this ebook for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, the author and publisher for the copy. As always, an honest review.

If you’re like me you’ll walk away from Scars and Stilettos inspired, a little ad, and wanting to tell everyone you know about Harmony’s story. She grew up in a very unstable and abusive home. She learned at a young age that her worth depended on other people’s opinions of her Boyd. Eventually she got into stripping to support herself and her pimp boyfriend.

I appreciated Harmony’s honest. She didn’t sugarcoat her life, nor did she give such graphic details purely for shock value. I found it interesting to learn why someone might get into the sex work industry, her life outside of her career, and what she really wanted for herself. Turns out, she was incredibly unhappy with her career and many other aspects of her life. The inspirational part begins when she starts going to church and slowly building her self esteem. The writing was inspiring, showing how her positive choices and help from others in her life led her to where she is today. Harmony now runs Treasures, a non profit outreach group for women in the sex work industry and victims of sex trafficking. I honestly can’t say enough great things about this memoir.

There are very few criticisms of Scars and Stilettos, except that I wish there was more about her transition after quitting stripping. The book seemed to skip over some of that.

Overall, an inspiring story that can help a lot of people.

 

 

About Treasures:

Our mission is to reach, restore, and equip women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking to live healthy, flourishing lives, and train others to do the same across the globe.

 

  • If you’ve been inspired by Harmony’s book and want more information about her organization, check out her website for the non profit Treasures

 

  • For a list of ways to get involved in a big or small way click here

 

  • Treasures even has an Amazon Wish List that makes it super easy to to help purchase items the organization needs to help so many women 

 

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · feminism · non fiction · religion · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Religious Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist by Lauren Shields 

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The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Religious Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist by Lauren Shields 

Published by Beacon Press on May 15, 2018

Pages: 192

Genres: non fiction, religion, feminism

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: social and personal experiments, feminist reads, learning about religion with modern interpretations

Read with food: whatever you want and your body needs, because it’s important that you do what’s best for you

 

Synopsis:

A young feminist finds herself questioning why “hotness” has become necessary for female empowerment–and looks for alternatives.

Looking good feels good. But in a society where looking good is posited as being strong, while negotiating for better pay is statistically proven to damage our careers, is it fair to say that wicked eyeliner, weekly blowouts, and a polished Instagram feed are the keys to our liberation? If so–if “hot” really is a good enough synonym for “empowered”–why do so many of us feel, deep in our bones, that the sexy-as-strong model is a distraction? Is “pretty” still the closest to power women can get? Why is looking fierce an acceptable substitute for living in a world where women are safe?

Inspired in seminary by American Muslimahs who wear the hijab for feminist reasons, Lauren Shields took off what she calls the Beauty Suit–the “done” hair, the tasteful and carefully applied makeup, the tight clothes and foot-binding shoes–for nine months. She’d really only wanted to do an experiment. Instead, her life–especially her views on what constitutes “liberation”–changed forever.

Rooted in feminist theory and religious history, and guided by a snappy personal narrative, The Beauty Suit unpacks modern American womanhood: a landscape where the female body is still so often the battleground for male ideals, and where we struggle with our rights as human beings to define and exercise our freedom.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

Lauren Shields’ year of religious modesty, for herself, prompted her to write this book to share her thoughts about the journey. Overall the book reads as a bit disjointed, but that’s fairly in keeping with such a complex multi dimensional experiment. Throughout she’s figuring out for herself how to define her religion, other religions, modesty, feminism, the modern culture, and more. The author has a background in religious studies, so she’s very well versed in these topics. The book reads as an educational text combined with a memoir.

I enjoyed all the new information that I gained, especially the alternate interpretations of modest dress within a religious context. I also enjoyed the in depth discussions about feminism, both relating to religion and culture in general. 

However, there were some topics in which I disagreed with the author including women’s empowerment versus self objectification. Also it came across to me that Lauren believes being spiritual is less than being religious. I’m not sure this was what she was trying to convey, or maybe it’s what’s true for her personally. But that aspect bothered me. Also, I wish there were more written bout the actual modesty experiment. Much of the book was a lesson about religion, modesty, feminism, and cultural norms. 

In general, I enjoyed The Beauty Suit and learned more about religion, especially in a modern cultural context. I think this would be a good book for young women who are religious but struggle to connect feminism, choice and strength with some traditional religious teachings. 

 

How many of you want to take off the “beauty suit” defined by our culture?