Book Review: The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

For those of you who migrated from my old blog by the same title (hosted elsewhere), to those who followed me even further back, you’ll know I’m a huge believer in hospitality and care, in transparency and connection. I’m also a firm believer in acts of kindness – actions speaking louder than words – and that “lifestyle evangelism” should be the base of every professed Christ-follower’s testimony. Life should be about building relationships and putting people first and love in action is a HUGE thing.

When I read the synopsis provided for blogger-turned-author Shannan Martin’s The Ministry of Ordinary Places, I was hopeful that it would “click” in a very real way and I was not disappointed. Overall, Ms. Martin presented a thought-provoking meandering memoir that felt like sitting down to chat and get real with an old friend.

It was a poignant reminder that there is a whole great big world of people craving connection right in our own backyards. Foreign mission fields and big campaigns aren’t for everyone, but in today’s society with it’s sprawl and heated differences, it can be difficult to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) Sometimes, we get so much out of being the answer, the solution, the giver, or the one who knows best that we forget that there is experience in blessing in serving others and allowing oneself to be served. There are blessings and opportunities in all the ins and outs of our boring, everyday lives.

There is so much beautiful reflection in this book of encouragement and inspiration encouraging us to be neighbours and friends. It is not new information, just a real-life reflection on how the author was uprooted from a comfortable situation and had to find opportunities and connection in a new environment. It was non-fiction that I couldn’t put down – she spoke to my heart in an authentic lyrical way.

My only slight disappoint was that some of the stories reflected upon weren’t very “deep” or “gritty” but I pushed that aside as perhaps they weren’t the author’s stories to tell and she kept them superficial for anonymity purposes. Overall, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of this one if you want to expand your fences, listen carefully, and learn to see opportunities in the ordinary and mundane.

Published by Thomas Nelson. Publication Date: October 9, 2018

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and/or author. All opinions are my own.

#TheMinistryOfOrdinaryPlaces #NetGalley

Book Review: Secrets at Cedar Cabin by Colleen Coble

While a warm and fuzzy historical romance will always be my first pick for escapism when it comes to books, a close second is a fast-paced thriller or mystery and Colleen Coble always delivers in that genre. I’ve read a number of her titles in the past and find them enthralling and still manage to sleep at night. Win-win.

Drama & Suspense With A Good Dose of Romance

Secrets at Cedar Cabin is the third release in the Lavender Tides series and I read it as a standalone a few weeks ago without any issue. (I’m a little behind in posting my reviews… life has been a little hectic lately. Reading is a must. Reviewing was shelved.) This contemporary novel is rife with drama and suspense while focusing on human trafficking and the sex trade.

Of course, romance is entwined with all the excitement and the good guys win in the end. (If only real life were so tidy.) The whirlwind mystery left me guessing until (almost) the end. Likeable, flawed characters. Family secrets. Descriptive settings. Some kick-butt scenes. It has it all.

Coble is a Christian author and as such, her books are clean as far as content, but theme’s are still adult. I don’t find the faith aspect overdone, but appreciate the struggles and humanity of the characters. Easy to read and not too graphic – but still intriguing and sometimes infuriating – it was an entertaining book overall.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from ThomasNelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2019 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Book Review: No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Do you ever read a book that absolutely captivates you, but you don’t actually like it? That was this book. It was uncomfortable to read, not because the author wrote poorly, but because it was so relevant and so well-written. Katie Ganshert’s No One Ever Asked dived into issues of race and prejudice and social inequity without batting an eye, and she did it well enough that it was troubling to read even in contemporary (Christian) fiction.

… disheartening, infuriating,
and filled with promise.

The worst part of this novel is that it is set in the present day. Ganshert shed light on issues of ongoing racial disparity and discrimination, social justice, poverty, privilege, and inadvertent ideology. In closing, it was a tale of hope, respect, forgiveness, and the remarkable ability to overcome tragedy and injustice.

Our cast of characters (many of whom I did not like at all) came from different backgrounds, with lives intersecting amidst tense socio-economic-political situations – and it was, dishearteningly, based (or stemmed from) recent events in the US. Each character struggled with issues of faith, issues of conscience, and issues in their relationships. Each had a very narrow view of how things should be and the stumbling to accept change or walk in forgiveness or expand perspective – and recognize that everyone is living a flawed and imperfect life despite their backgrounds – was a common thread.

This emotionally charged drama was a very real reminder presented in make-believe that we are so much more than the colour of our skin. It was also, for myself, the reminder that being a white female in today’s society, living a fairly comfortable life, means that I am privileged enough to never, ever truly know the struggles that still exist – today for other races. It was a novel that was at times disheartening, infuriating, and filled with promise.

(Bonus points to the author for including accurate details on how living with Type 1 diabetes is life-altering, but not the end of the world. A small segment, but we could relate to the poking and the bleeding and the counting and the questions…)

Tomorrow, I will share a review of a non-fiction book I just finished that chronicles hope in a very moving way as a counterpoint to the heartwrenching awareness created in this novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley with thanks to the author and/or publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Publication Date: April 3, 2018

Book Review: The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

Delightful, emotionally-charged historical fiction

The Hope of Azure Springs is an amazing debut title by author Rachel Fordham that I was pleasantly surprised by. Christian fiction can at times be dry as dust, but this novel surpassed all my expectations! It contained elements of romance, danger, mystery, and small-town charm.

Set in historical Iowa, our plain-Jane heroine is an orphan train sibling who shows remarkable strength and resilience. Of course, her personal experiences have left a mark on her, but she is just absolutely charming. I don’t want to elaborate too much because I don’t want to spoil the book, predictable as elements of it may be.

Our hero is the town sheriff and of course, depicted as being absolutely swoon-worthy. He has his own personal history to deal with and current obstacles that he has to overcome. He’s stoic, handsome, stubborn, and sometimes oblivious, but also good-hearted and courageous.

The depth of the story is in the lesson of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, to acknowledge that attractiveness is more than skin deep, to see beyond a charming face to the heart that lies beneath. The story also beautifully chronicled a tale of loss, self-worth, family, friendship, healing, and hope. I was moved to tears by the eloquence with which certain passages were written. This was a well-paced novel that I did not want to put down (and may have stayed up way too late reading.)

A 4.5-star rating for sure. This is a definite recommended read for anyone who enjoys squeaky clean historical romance. A delightful escape from the grey skies of February.

I was provided with a copy of this publication via NetGalley with thanks to the publisher and/or author. All opinions are my own.

Publisher: Revell Publication Date: July 3, 2018