Monday, September 21, 2015

The Finishing School by Valerie Woerner

About the book:
The Finishing School: How One Book Nerd Began Living What She Learned (Nyree Press, August 2015)

Are you tired of waiting for change to happen in your life? Do you feel stuck, even though you want to live more intentionally?

In today’s world, our most precious pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream, shopping trips for things we don’t need, bad habits we can’t seem to get a handle on, and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it? That’s the challenge.
After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to good use and start actually living it out. You will hear about her journey through victories and plenty of failures and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your own life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

About the Author:
Valerie Woerner is passionate about inspiring women to live a life of peace and joy. She is owner of Val Mari Paper and design prayer journals and other products inspired by her own desire to connect with God in a real way in everyday life. She was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, and resides in a sweet, simple bungalow with husband Tyler and daughter Vivi Mae.

Margie’s Comments: I am very impressed with Valerie Woerner’s The Finishing School. Based on the concept of young ladies being sent to finishing school to refine their social skills, Valerie has come up with a “program” of learning about and seeking refinement in our spiritual lives. After a chapter of introduction, she begins the study by focusing on the foundation of our relationship with the Lord: prayer and Bible study.

At the end of each chapter, she has a section entitled “Homework.” Here, she sends you either to the workbook that accompanies this book —you can order from her online shop (—or to her website to download the chapter worksheet. She also lists resources to read for more information. Also in her shop are journals of all kinds, for both men and women, if you like having everything together in one place.  

She suggests at least three ways to read The Finishing School, tailored to each person’s learning strengths and abilities, knowing that some topics may come easier to some than for others. After discussing prayer and Bible study, the author also covers other topics, such as setting goals, dealing with distractions, learning self-control, and many more. Each chapter is short, easily read in just a few minutes, but depending on your desire for gaining victory in each area, she suggests you take as much time as you need in digging deeper into each topic. Her southern way of talking adds to the easy conversational style, making you feel like you’re sitting in her living room having a nice chat over tea or coffee.

The Finishing School is a great individual study or small group study, one that I highly recommend for anyone who is seeking a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord. I especially like the chapters on living more simply, setting boundaries, and getting enough rest, living within margins. I plan to re-read the book at a slower pace, so that I can work through each chapter to gain as many benefits as possible from this study. 

(I received a copy of The Finishing School from the author and LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Until My Name Is Known by Sonya Contreras

About the book:
Until My Name Is Known (Bull Head Press, July 2015)

The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt is a love story between God and His people. God woos His people to Himself as He prepares them to leave. Before leaving, God must fight Pharaoh for possession of His people. See how God changes all people: some for the better, others not. None stay the same. How will He change you? Can you trust a God who destroyed a nation before your eyes? Would you want Him as your Friend?

See God free His people from Egypt’s bonds before a watching world. Trace His finger in the lives He touches. The time: 2450 BC. The Place: Old Kingdom of Egypt where Pharaoh is god. His people worship him. Israel’s God arrives. He challenges Pharaoh. His power touches all people. They must change. Some do not concede. They suffer. Others yield. They find freedom.

Until My Name Is Known brings all to see the one true God. Read it to see Him. Today’s historians and archaeologists puzzle over the fall of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, but the world at that time heard of God. The world knew that He is the Lord. His Name was proclaimed in all the earth.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:
Growing up with five sisters, Sonya Contreras asked God many questions, even when she did not like His answers. Graduating from Cedarville University and Institute for Creation Research with a Masters Degree in Science Education did not stop her questions. Marrying her best friend and homeschooling their eight sons, she found that dreams do come true, in spite of unanswered questions. Trusting God, who knows all answers, she shares questions that matter weekly at

Find Sonya online: website, Twitter

Margie’s Comments: 
Until My Name Is Known by Sonya Contreras is a well-researched biblical fiction, retelling the story of Moses’s call to set God’s people free from slavery in Egypt. The events of this first book in a series covers the burning bush through the crossing of the Red Sea and the Egyptian nation’s destruction when the water closed over the army following the Israelites. While the story is historically accurate, I had trouble getting into it because of the author’s lack of sentence structure variation, which is an indication of telling rather than showing. Also, several times through the book, I questioned the choice of POV character. For example, instead of experiencing the burning bush through Moses’s eyes and ears, we read of it after the fact through Zipporah’s extreme bias against her husband’s God. Instead of making the characters come alive and be “real,” these POV choices in most cases made them wooden and static. Finally, as a Christian and a strong proponent of God’s Word and its importance in the life of the believer, I like to see a strong spiritual thread in fiction. But it needs to be such an integral part of the story that it flows naturally out of the characters themselves. I don’t need to be hit over the head with the “theme” over and over again. In Until My Name Is Known, the theme of God's name being known throughout the world is inherent in the biblical story and in Moses's life, so having it spelled out for the reader, even to the very end, is redundant and frankly insults the reader's intelligence. As a freelance editor who has worked for several traditional CBA publishers, i couldn't help noticing several technical issues with the typesetting, mostly with word breaks and capitalization choices that could easily have been avoided by checking with the industry-standard dictionary and style manuals. However, once I acknowledged these deterrents to reading the story for enjoyment, I was able to skim through the book, appreciating the author's research and how she wove it into a fictional account that is accurate to the Scripture and the time in history.