Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

3 Surprising Packages of Hope


Kimber here. I bet you think Her Crankiness is… 100% cranky, right? So do I. (Don’t tell Mom, okay? Let’s just keep this our little secret.)

But every once in a while Mom surprises me. Not that I’m surprise-able. But …

Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Mom and I read a trio of books recently that were … surprising. They were quite different from each other, too. Think dogs and cats. (Well, okay. Maybe not cats. But you get the picture.)

Anyway, the first book is a delightful new Christian romance from Kim Vogel Sawyer. The second is a non-fiction “travel tome with a twist” from Joseph F. Smith, M.D. There’s also an historical fiction novel by Kristin Hannah.

All get an Official Thumbs Up from Her Crankiness. Here’s why (short version):

From This Moment (Multnomah/Waterbrook, 2021)

By Kim Vogel Sawyer


Always reach for hope.

Main Characters

Raised in the foster care system, Jase Edgar has recently moved to Kansas from San Antonio. But the newly minted youth pastor faces a crisis of faith related to the loss of his fiancé. Rachel’s life – and their plans to minister together as church planters – was cut short by a drunk driver. And Jase can’t make sense of something that doesn’t make sense.

Kenzie Stetler, brownie baker extraordinaire, left home because she couldn’t join a church that based the promise of heaven on a list of dos and don’ts. But she has a heart tug to return home and share what’s she’s learned about grace with her family.

Lori Fowler works with Kenzie at a local fabric and quilt shop. Outwardly bubbly and perspicacious, Lori’s also a girl with an eating disorder, an estranged, angry dad, and huge struggles with self-worth. Yikes trikes!

They’re all part of the family at Beech Street Bible Fellowship in this refreshingly candid and faith-affirming story about love, loss, hope, and second chances. Scriptural truths are skillfully weft into this gentle story without getting preachy. The text also neatly sidesteps trite cliches and empty platitudes related to tough questions about why bad things happens to good people.

Agile & Engaging

Strong writing, rich, robust characters, and a lithe, agile plot undergird this highly engaging story. More than a few surprises and unexpected plot twists will keep you turning pages until the end. No ferhoodling!

Marinated in grace, From This Moment is an insightful, inspirational read. Echoes of mercy and whispers of love shine through every chapter. I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting.

If your hope tank is running on empty, From This Moment is for you! A delightful, uplifting read.

Our Rating: 4.0


Making Jesus Unforgettable!

An Extraordinary Way to Internalize the Gospels – And Pray Always

By Joseph F. Smith, M.D.

Does the title sound like a mouthful? Does “internalizing the Gospels” sound like a snoozefest? Give this book a chance. It’ll wake you up.

Cuz Making Jesus Unforgettable isn’t another “dusty, cobwebbed” Bible study rimmed with abstract concepts and blackboard theory and zero relevance to everyday life. Nor is it another dry-as-the-Atacama-Desert lecture or a one-way monologue.

Nope. This is an entertaining. exuberant ride through the Gospels with Jesus as your traveling companion. You could even call it “fun.”

A Roadmap

Think of Making Jesus Unforgettable as a roadmap as you begin a journey chockful of interesting and engaging sights and stops. Along the way you’ll discover 49 “distinct and memorable Landmarks.” Each Landmark will trigger the memory of a unique story that’ll be easy to recall. You can start or stop at any Landmark. Take your time. Revisit them as often as you want. Explains the author:

“Instead of being an observer, you will be an integral part, actually the star, of each of the forty-nine stories that make up this great journey. By participating in the action, you will be able to commit the stories to memory more easily.”


At over 400 pages, this prodigious volume may seem like “a bridge too far” for some. It’s not. Chapters (or “landmarks”) are fairly brief and broken down into bite-sized pieces that are easily digestible. Clever and engaging.

If you’re looking for a fresh look at the Gospels or just want to know more, pack your bags and join the journey of discovery in Making Jesus Unforgettable.

Note: We aren’t rating this title. It’s not that kind of a book. For more, see: JesusUnforgettable.


Winter Garden (2015)

By Kristin Hannah

Historical Fiction

It is exactly 12:12 a.m.

I started this historical fiction novel in the late afternoon. Mesmerizing from chapter 1, I couldn’t put it down until now! There’s so much heart and soul, such joy and anguish packed in its 391 pages, it beggars description. But I’ll try:

One Word & Two Sisters

Summing up this remarkable story in one word? Miraculous. Three more words also fit: “For my children.”

The story centers on two sisters, Meredith and Nina Whitson. Meredith is organized, efficient, and composed. Even when her beloved father dies and her marriage is crumbling.

“Born to be wild” Nina is the exact opposite: a free-wheeling professional photographer who flits in and out of the family and its orchard business whenever it suits.

Both are estranged from their detached, taciturn mother, Anya. Mom radiates all the personal warmth of the Polar Ice Caps. And the sisters aren’t too keen on each other, either. Their father’s death exposes cracks in their filial facade. Without his peaceful presence, mom and daughters soon descend into enmity and accusation.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Hannah weaves a clever story-within-a-story that’s riveting as Anya begins to tell her daughters a “fairy tale.”


Set in Leningrad during the bitter cold and desperate hunger of 1941, Anya’s “fairy tale” centers on a simple Russian girl who falls in love with a prince. Listening spellbound, the daughters slowly realize there’s more truth to the “fairy tale” than they ever imagined. When it moves to modern-day Alaska, something miraculous is in the wind.

An Epic Combo

Astonishing in its clarity, blazing in its intensity, this searingly epic story combines elements of history, family, redemption and romance into a masterful tale that’s both burning hot and as cold as ice. Its crackling prose is so sharp, it cuts.

Kristin Hannah is at the top of my New Favorite Authors list. Her writing is both shattering and soothing at the same time. It’s the kind of writing that’ll keep you up until the wee hours and the final page. Winter Garden is no exception.

Our Rating: 4.5

2 thoughts on “3 Surprising Packages of Hope

  1. Okay, my turn to be in a mood.

    God, the Son of God, the Bible, Biblical and church history are my life’s focus. I was going to buy “Making Jesus Unforgettable,” even though I believe the Bible already does that, but it pinched a nerve. There are some things that make me instantly cranky. Referring to 1st century Judea and Samaria as “Palestine” is one of them. Jesus never walked around “Palestine.” The name did not exist before the 2nd century.

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