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One of my favourites things is listening to stories.

We each have them. The story of how we came to be — of what shaped us and transformed us. The words that describe us. The gritty and grace-led moments that spread their way across the pages of our lives. It’s uniquely ours.

And the stories that I love most are the ones that feel authentic and messy. The ones that grapple with real-life questions and face them head on, rather than hiding beneath filters or Instagram-perfect poses. The ones that point to an over-arching story that reaches far beyond our day-to-day lives. The story that points us to Christ. To a greater story.

This is the premise that immediately drew me to Sam Collier’s book.

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I usually inhale books. The pages dance beneath my fingertips, blurring and whirling as I hungrily suck in words. But every once in a while, a gem is uncovered. A book so meticulously crafted, I can’t help but savor it, letting it steep and soak into the recesses of my imagination. It’s a pleasant surprise to unfurl the first chapter and immediately know, this one’s a keeper.

Set the Stars Alight was that book.

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When it comes to the church, we all have stories. Some stories are of ones where we feel welcomed and included, comfortable and free to worship; while others are stories of pain and confusion, uncertainty or discomfort.

I remember my first few months away at college, hopping from church to church in a small prairie town, trying to find the one that felt most like home. One Sunday evening, while out for a walk with a friend, we encountered two elderly ladies on their way to an evening service in the school gym. I’ll never forget how excited they were when we agreed to join them, how overjoyed they were to show us off to the other attendees during after-gathering cookies and coffee. The love of Christ radiated off our new, white-haired friends. That church wasn’t the one for me, but I’ll never forget that feeling of being welcomed so warmly. That was what I was looking for in a church family: community, a warm and open invitation, and most of all, Jesus.

In Traci Rhoades new book, “Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost,” readers are invited to look past the denominational differences that separate us and instead find Jesus amidst the differing worship styles. As she says, “We don’t all practice our faith the exact same way, but our God is big enough to embrace all the ways we encounter Jesus. And Jesus sits at the head of the table. Always.”

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Happy summer everyone!

I can smell someone grilling BBQ outside of my window, and I am so ready for nice weather and sunny days spent by the lake (with a good book of course!) We’re off on a few getaways this summer so I am excitedly loading up my Kobo with new books. I’m not sure why I didn’t get onto the e-reader train earlier, because my suitcase has never been lighter!

And as always, here are a few book reviews from this past month. This is part of my 2019 Reading Challenge and while we’re now HALFWAY through (where did the time go?) you’re more than welcome to jump in! If you’re not part of the Facebook group, be sure to join us there too.
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I don’t know about you, but I usually have two or three different types of books on the go at the same time. I hop from one to the other as the mood strikes — flitting from biography to theology to general fiction. But when it comes to relaxation, there’s no genre I love more than a fast-paced suspense/mystery novel.

That’s why I was excited to review this new book: Justice Delivered by Patricia Bradley — and with its big plotlines, true-to-life characters and multiple twists and turns, this novel did not disappoint.
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“Once We Were Strangers” is a story about the blossoming friendship between two men: Shawn and Mohammad, a writer and a Syrian refugee. This book is a tangible response to the age-old question, “Who is my neighbour?” and “How do I love them?”

We live in a world where fear presides: where reports about shootings and bombings and murder and hurt dominate the news cycle. With such uncertainty and fear, it can be difficult to know how to respond to global issues like refugees and immigration. Instead of reacting with compassion, our gut response is often to turn away in fear or to simply ignore the problem, thinking that it’s too big for any one person to solve. That’s why stories and conversations like this are so important to share.

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My son loves to read (almost as much as I do) and was so excited when I told him we got to review a book together. We spent the past week hovering by the mailbox and when this sweet story finally arrived, he was all too eager to dive in!

It’s not often that you want a book to lull you to sleep. But this lovely, little bedtime story aims to do just that!

“Don’t Close Your Eyes” is a beautifully illustrated, rhyming book that is the perfect way to end the day with your littles. Using some reverse psychology, young listeners are challenged to keep their eyes open — even if those eyelids are feeling heavy! Written by Bob Hostetler and illustrated by Mark Chambers, this “silly bedtime story” is sure to be a hit for toddlers and preschoolers alike.

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Ever since I was young, I’ve loved a good mystery. I still remember the feel of a new Nancy Drew book in my hand: soft and smooth with unbound excitement lying in wait. There was nothing like the familiar creak of those yellow-spined stories as I’d bury my nose into their fresh pages.

Mystery. Suspense. Thrillers.

These are still the genres I gravitate towards the most; the books I pluck from library and bookstore shelves most often. That’s what drew me to this new book, Mind Games by Nancy Mehl — the allure of a rollercoaster ride of mystery and suspense.

And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

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Doesn’t this title just say it all?

As a bookworm… (or should I say, book addict?)… even the cover of this book just gives me a little thrill of delight. Books, books, books, everywhere!

**Happy sigh to find someone who just SO gets me.**

From the author of the popular blog, Modern Mrs Darcy, this book is filled with dreamy quotes and personal-essays for the most obsessive of readers. Each page explodes with warmth and charm and the kind of secret joy that can only be found when ink meets paper.

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Every town holds secrets but only a few remain potent enough to wound and destroy a century later. The Reckoning of Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright illuminates the hidden parts of human nature — our desire to keep sin and shame hidden — as stories collide in this dual-narrative, century-crossing mystery.

From the Publisher:
“For over a century, the town of Gossamer Grove has thrived on its charm and Midwestern values, but Annalise Forsythe knows painful secrets, including her own, hover just beneath the pleasant facade. Yet her strange and sudden inheritance of a run-down trailer home–full of pictures, vintage obituaries, and old revival posters–leaves her wholly unprepared for how truly dark and deadly those secrets may be.

A century earlier, Gossamer Grove is stirred into chaos by the arrival of controversial and charismatic twin revivalists. The chaos takes a murderous turn when Libby Sheffield, while working at her father’s newspaper, receives an obituary for a reputable church deacon hours before his death. As she works with the deacon’s son to solve the crime, it becomes clear that a reckoning has come to town–but it isn’t until another obituary arrives at the paper that they realize the true depths of the danger they’ve waded into.

Two women, separated by a hundred years, must unravel the mysteries of their own town before it’s too late and they lose their future–or their very souls.”

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Overwhelmed.

It’s a word that is probably all too familiar to most of us. From school and work, to relationships, societal pressures, inner pressures, anxiety, and general feelings of unworthiness — there are so many things that can bring us to the place of feeling overwhelmed.

And that’s why the premise of this book, “Not the Boss of Us” by Kay Wills Wyma, intrigued me: “Too much to manage and not enough time or energy to do it? What if instead of being overwhelmed with life you could be overwhelmed by Truth with its grace, hope, peace, and love?”

Sounds like a much needed reminder, right?

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Book Review: Grace Like Scarlett by Adriel Booker
Grieving with Hope After Miscarriage and Loss

Four years ago, my son was stillborn. I was at such a loss as to how to process this sudden and unexpected death and wanted someone to tell me that what I was feeling was normal, healthy even. I found it challenging to find good, recently published books that taught about grief from a Christian perspective — books that taught and reinforced a theology of suffering and grief through a Christ-centered lens.

When we openly share our grief, we are reminded that we are never too broken or damaged for God. This is why I am so glad to finally start seeing these sorts of books on the market.

Grace Like Scarlett is a beautiful look at one mother’s journey with miscarriage, all the while centered around the transforming, redeeming, and healing power of Christ. Adriel shares her story with raw-hearted honesty and vulnerability. She doesn’t shy away from the gritty but instead invites us to look at it from a new perspective.

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