Thursday, September 25, 2014

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin Book Review

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin Book Review
Book Summary:
Kate Darby works for a distinguished advertising company in California and seems to have it all; the career, the beauty, a loving grandmother, etc. Yet, deep inside Kate is longing for more. 

While driving on the San Miguel Highway, which according to the state of California was only the twenty-sixth most dangerous road in the state, Kate swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor. Kate was on her way to take care of her grandmother who had recently suffered a stroke. Kate then becomes trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Petrified, Kate offers a prayer that changes her life. 

Nick, a handsome and confident writer, is the person who comes to Kate's rescue. Nick just happens to live in the same small town that Kate's grandmother lives.  When Nick sees Kate's car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action and saves Kate. Nick doesn't realize that from that one act of bravery, he is going to swept off his feet by Kate.

Nick, a man who previously lived in the fast lines, is a recent convert to Christianity. Nick has vowed to not date for a year, yet now that he has met Kate Darby, that vow may prove to be difficult.
Kate Darby has no plans to get involved with one of the locals in her grandmother's small town. Yet, something about Nick draws her to him. 

My Review:
Until I Found You,  by Victoria Bylin, is a sweet romance filled with faith promoting messages.  I really enjoyed a lot of the characters in the book, although my favorite character was definitely Nick. Nick is a honest, good, and kind man, who has a life changing moment. Not that Nick was a bad person before by any degree, he wasn't, he simply decided to prioritize his life, and let God become a part of it. I appreciated the courage this character had and his dedication to living a life full of goodness.  Even though Nick is a fictional character, he reminded me of different men in my life, like my father, and husband, who are kind, service oriented men, who strive to be Christlike. You can't have enough men, or women in the world like that in my opinion.

There were several quotes that I really enjoyed reading in Until I Found You.Victoria Bylin has a strong voice in her writing that really makes you ponder and think about your own life. I appreciate when an author can do that.   It was hard to narrow down which ones to share with my blog readers. So, here are a few of my favorites:
  • While observing California Condors with Kate and Marcus, Nick starts to take pictures of the cave that the condor's called their home. Nick ponders that "Tin Canyon was a simple place. It was home to an ancient species with simple needs. To eat. To breed. To survive." The part I love is when Nick then thinks, "Human beings had the same needs, but they also had an intelligence that set them apart from the bests of the field. Condors acted on instinct and the drive for self- preservation. Men had the capacity to make moral choices that sometimes called for sacrifice (pg. 106)." It is true. Sometimes in life we are faced with difficult moral decisions, that do call for sacrifice. Although, in the end our lives are eternally blessed for making virtuous choices that will not only bless our lives, but bless the lives of others.
  •  In one part of the book Kate is struggling with being strong. She is terrified of a world that doesn't make sense to her. "She wanted to live the way Nick did- with the courage to face life head-on, unswayed by impulse or fear. She wanted his faith in a power greater than herself, a loving father who would take care of her." "God," she whispered. "Are you real? (pg.178)" I don't know about you, but sometimes life can be so difficult. Trials come into our lives that we don't understand, or are devastating to us or loved ones around us. That is where hope, faith, and trust in God come into place. I honestly don't know how I would have been able to have gotten through life to this point, without the knowledge that I have a God and Savior who watches over me and loves me unconditionally.
Like I mentioned earlier, overall Until I Found You, had a sweet story line. The only thing that I wished while reading this book was that it went at a little faster pace. I enjoyed reading the story and I wanted to see how it ended, however, it wasn't the type of book that I couldn't put down and wanted to read through the wee hours of the night. I felt the storyline just moved a little on the slow side. 

To purchase your own copy of Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin you can CLICK BELOW to be taken to Amazon. 
Want to find out more about Victoria Bylin's books? You can CLICK HERE to go to her Twitter page, CLICK HERE to see her on Facebook, and CLICK HERE to go to her website.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the Baker Publishing Group Bethany House Blogger Program for this review. The opinions expressed in my review are unbiased and reflect my honest judgment and opinion of the book. 

"Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin's Book Review" first appeared on my blog, Artistically Shauna, on Sept. 25, 2014. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Twirl by Patsy Clairmont Book Review

Twirl  by Patsy Clairmont Review

I love it when I finish reading a book and it is full of notes and underlined parts. At that point I know I have had a connection with a book and that it is a book that has impacted my life.

Twirl by Patsy Clairmont is a wonderful book full of humor, inspiration, and motivation. Who wouldn't love to read a book like that? I have to admit, up until now I haven't read any books by Patsy Clairmont. However, I am now a huge fan and I can't wait to get a hold of another one of her books. 

Twirl is full of short easy to read chapters where "Patsy's hope is to help her readers maintain a dynamic view on life with activities and choices that lead to renewal and peace." While reading Twirl I found myself laughing one minute and then in deep thought the next minute. One of my favorite parts of the book is at the end of each chapter Patsy asks several questions for you to ponder. At the end of the "Read" chapter  Patsy ends with a quote that I just love. The quote says, "I like a book that invites me in, treats me with respect, and one I can exit with my integrity still intact". Don't you love Patsy's voice as a writer? Patsy then concludes the "Read" chapter by asking questions like:

1.       Why do you read?

2.       What authors peak your language?

Some of the other chapter titles are: Bloom, Rest, Laugh, Pen, Brave, Sparrow, Be, Story, etc. There are 26 chapters/topics that Patsy discusses in Twirl.

I can't express enough how much I enjoyed reading this book. Twirl is a book that I will go back and revisit often. I feel it Patsy's words helped me learn new things about myself as well as taught me how to pay better attention to what my mind, body, and spirit needs. So, thank you Patsy for that.

I wanted to share with you a few more quotes that I loved from the book Twirl. I have also included the page number so that you can find the quote easily once you run down and purchase your own copy of this outstanding book. It was extremely hard to narrow down which ones to share, because like I mentioned earlier, my whole book is practically underlined with quotes I loved.

"Kindness never loses its charm." ~ pg. 46 

"Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away." pg. 43

"Let's make good choices, pace ourselves, listen to our bodies, establish healthy boundaries, and soak up a fresh outlook." pg. 113

You can find Twirl here at Barnes and Noble and here at Patsy's website. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program ( I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

This "Twirl by Patsy Clairmont Book Review" first appeared on my blog, Learn and Grow Designs, on August 19, 2014. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer Book Review

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer Book Review

Book Summary:
Caroline Lang is an undercover investigator whose most recent assignment is to go undercover as a factory worker at Dinsmore's World-Famous Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas. A suspicious accident has occurred at the factory and Caroline wants to figure out what really happened. While Caroline is undercover as a factory worker she is also compelled to help children be free of heavy adult responsibilities and have the opportunity to pursue their own educations. This stems from Caroline's fervent faith, difficult childhood, and compassion to make a difference. 

The heir to Dinsomore's World-Famous Chocolate Factory, Oliver Dinsmore, has his own investigation to conduct. Oliver poses as a common factory worker known as "Ollie Moore", to find out all he can about his family business before he takes it over from his father. 

Caroline and Oliver become fast friends until they realize they have different opinions about the role of children working in the factory. When three children are in desperate need of help, Caroline and Oliver find it very difficult to continue to keep their identities hidden. They feel as though fate may have brought them together, until all is revealed. 

My Review:

I was really looking forward to receiving a copy of Echoes of Mercy, by Kim Vogel Sawyer in the mail. The story sounded intriguing and I love the time period in which the story takes place.
Echoes of Mercy did not disappoint. I really loved the characters in the story. Each character was so believable and as I read the book it was if I was watching the characters unfold on the big screen in a movie theater. I was such a big fan of Caroline and Oliver throughout the story, and not once did they disappoint. 

The parts of the book that talked about child labor really pulled at my heartstrings. I love teaching and working with children. I know how important and education can be. My heart went out to all of the young children who spent their days working hard labor for literally pennies,  at such a young tender age, missing out on learning how to read and write, and the joys of childhood. 

A part that I loved from the book is when Oliver asks a minister a few questions because he feels inadequate to be praying to God. In regards to communicating with God, the minister said, "The more we talk to Him, the closer our relationship with Him grows, just as with any earthly relationship. So don't worry so much about how you speak to Him, son. Just talk to Him (Echoes of Mercy, pg.133)." What a beautiful reminder. God loves us all no matter our circumstances and he wants to hear from us. 

I love that this book has a mystery, a sweet romance, it can tug at your heart strings, make you gasp, smile, and leaves you feeling happy. It has all of the story elements that I enjoy. Echoes of Mercy is a nice easy read, and the perfect book to lose yourself in on a warm summer's day. 

To purchase your own copy of Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer you can CLICK HERE to be taken to Amazon, CLICK HERE to be taken to Barnes and Noble, or CLICK HERE to shop at Water Brook Multnomah. 

Want to find out more about Kim Vogel Sawyer's books? You can CLICK HERE to go to her Twitter page, CLICK HERE to see her on Facebook, and CLICK HERE to go to her website.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. The opinions expressed in my review are unbiased and reflect my honest judgment and opinion of the book. 

This "Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer's Book Review" first appeared on my blog, Artistically Shauna, on June 21, 2014. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World Book Review

How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World - A Modern Book of Hours to Soothe the Soul, is a book written by Sophia Stuart, the creator of  Sophia lived a crazy life with no true relaxation. Soon Sophia found herself in front of a surgeon who told her that she had three tumors in her throat that needed to be removed, and that she needed to take at least a month of medical leave to recover. This is when Sophia's world seemed to come crashing down on her. 

My Review:

How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World gives us a little glimpse into Sophia's life, her journey, her struggle to get through her trial of heath issues, as well as tips on how to take care of ourselves better. Sophia also shares her beautiful photography of photographs taken during her day to day life as well as her travels abroad. The photographs are absolutely beautiful, calming, and relaxing. 

Sophia's book, How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World, is broken up into three sections. The first section, "Morning" the reader is given ideas to inspire us for the day ahead. The second section, "Afternoons" we are given fun tips on how to enhance our lives and find more joy in our journeys. In the last section, "Evening" we are given ideas on how to exhale, unwind, and leave the day behind.

One of my favorite parts of the book were the lists in the back of the book that give you ideas on how to make yourself your own "Kindness Kit", movies, music, and book suggestions to help you while recovering from an illness or to simply help let life slow down for a while. 

At the very beginning of the book the author says, "During the Middle Ages women of noble birth would have a book of hours, a devotional object that gave them room to pause, to take a moment, to become spiritually refreshed." While pondering this idea the author thought that "perhaps a modern book of hours was needed: some beautiful images and a few carefully chosen words to inspire and soothe a troubled soul."

I also like how the author said, "Please take time to look after yourself. Find the gloriousness in your everyday life. Relish the delightful sparks of inspirational magic. You are important. You matter." Sophia then encourages us to not wait until we get sick like she did to start taking care of ourselves. 

Overall I enjoyed this book and I thought that it was unique in its contents and structure. I appreciated the thoughtful ways that the author shared with us on how to better take care of ourselves. When I received this book to review in the mail I was going through my own health struggles. I went four months, from December to April of this year being incredibly ill, going from doctors appointment to doctors appointment, seeing specialists, having several major tests done, and being confined to a bed while my husband had to take on being Mr. Mom to our two young daughters. 

To say this was a trial would be an understatement. I had many moments of sadness and frustration as doctors couldn't figure out what was going on with me. I didn't like seeing and feeling my body deteriorate. I didn't like hearing my sweet daughters ask if I was ever going to get better. I didn't like seeing the extra stress it caused on my husband as he was trying to take care of me, the girls, the house, and still focus on his work. I felt bad and helpless having to just take a step back from life and watch it move on without me. 

So, reading this particular book at the time I read it couldn't have been more perfect timing. It made me realize that I didn't have to feel so guilty about basically having to check out of life for a little bit, that sometimes we have to take care of ourselves, sometimes we have to focus on our own well being not just the well being of those around us. That is not being selfish or self centered, it is taking care of the beautiful gift God has given us called life. 

I am happy to say that I have almost made a full recovery from my illnesses. Some of my health issues will be an ongoing battle the rest of my life, but to have a light  back in me again, as well as hope, and happiness emerge, I will take that any day.

My only thing I would like to have seen a little more of in How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World would have been more of Sophia's writing, a little more substance to balance the gorgeous photography. The author has such a wonderful writing voice that I would have loved to have heard more of it. 

With that said, I do think that this book is a sweet book, full of positive affirmation, encouraging thoughts, and wonderful tips. 

Want to find out more about Sophia Stuart? You can click here to go to her Pinterest page, click here to go to her Twitter account, and click here to go to her website.

To purchase your own copy of How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World - A Modern book of Hours to Soothe the Soul  you can click here to go to Hay House Publishing or click here to be taken to Amazon.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment and opinion of the book. 

This "How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World Book Review" first appeared on my blog, Artistically Shauna, on May 25, 2014.