The Masterpiece (Book Review)

The Masterpiece Book Cover The Masterpiece
Francine Rivers
Christian Fiction
February 6, 2018

Roman Velasco is a successful artist. The book weaves his story with his personal assistant Grace Moore. It starts in the present and goes backwards through each character's childhood, weaving back and forth to the present day. It shows the pain each character experienced, the way they responded to it and ultimately the growth of each character.

My Thoughts

I have read Redeeming Love and the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers and I thought the books were engaging and thought-provoking.  The theme of The Masterpiece is strong, and I appreciated what she was trying to do.

I use a rubric to rate books I review. There are five categories each scoring between 2-10 points. (Warning:  There are spoilers in the rest of the review.)

How engaging is it? 6 points. I could put it down and do other things. There was more action in the second half of the book.

How do I feel about the book? 6 points.  Not bad. Not good.  Often a good book, just not the right one for me. Gleaned a few nuggets from it.

Style – 6 points. Wasn’t detracted or impressed. A chain-restaurant experience.   As a Christ follower growing up with a difficult childhood, I found many of her references both in Grace’s childhood and adulthood hard to believe. It is not the way I would talk (overtly using Christianese). I am passionate about my relationship with God and love to share how His love had made me whole with people who are interested. I would have preferred a book that layered in faith, abuse and everything in between instead of using direct words.  That being said, I recognize writing is subjective and I think this technique is common in Christian Fiction.  My opinion also seems to be in the minority, if you are interested in this book I would encourage you to check out the many positive reviews on Amazon.

Character, Theme, Plot, Setting 4 points.

  • A couple of times she retold a scene using the almost the same words. It was a long book, I would have preferred she used tighter writing.
  • The book starts with acknowledgments. I wish it would have been at the back of the book. It had spoilers.
  • In the scene in Italy, there were some errors that could have been easily fixed with an internet search.  Saint Peter’s Basilica does not require a hefty admission fee, it is a church and free to visit.  Also, the Sistine Chapel is at the end of the visit to the Vatican, not tucked away in the corner part way through the museum.
  • There was a scene where Grace gave the landlord her first and last month’s rent as a security deposit. A few chapters later when she left the house, she said she forfeited the security deposit and last month’s rent.
  • Rome was working on painting a rare landscape piece and the author spent a lot of time talking about how much it was going to mean to Grace only to have him sell it off to someone else. I would have liked to see the piece come back into play later in the book.
  • Given the irony of how closely their childhoods paralleled, I would have liked to see their reactions be more surprised.
  • About halfway through the book, I figured out how the book was going to end.  I wish it hadn’t been so obvious.
  • Both characters “pressed the heels of their hands against their eyes.” I would have liked to see the unique traits of each character.

Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation – 8 points.  Few to no errors.  Only subjective or preference issues.

  • She used the word sardonic four times. I realize this is a preference issue, but she used it so many times in Redeeming Love I’ve come to strongly dislike the word.
  • The writing wasn’t as strong as it could be.  For example, “Grace opened her locker, switched out her textbooks.”

Her other books were solid four stars. In my opinion, this book is a high three-star or low four-star book. The rubric agreed with me as came out to 30/50. That is a high three star. I am choosing to rate it a three star because I feel anything higher would disrespect her other books.

I would recommend it to someone who wants to know more about God’s redemptive love in easy to understand the language or someone who enjoyed this genre.

Summarize the book in one sentence. You are not defined by your past.

I have received a copy of this book from Tyndale House for an honest review of the product.

100 Days to Brave (Book Review)

100 Days to Brave Book Cover 100 Days to Brave
Annie F. Downs
October 24, 2017

You are braver than you know and stronger than you think.  In this faith-based devotional book, Annie Downs shares with honesty and humor, tips on how with God's help you can to show up and be the best version of yourself.  Is fear holding you back? Spend the next 100 days discovering how you can be brave.

This devotional book is divided into twelve sections.

Brave Enough to Start
Brave Enough to Be You
Brave Enough to Believe God
Brave Enough to Dream
Brave Enough to Work Hard
Brave Enough to Love Others
Brave Enough to Face Change
Brave Enough to Persevere
Brave Enough to Pursue Healing
Brave Enough to Serve
Brave Enough to Be Where You Are
Brave Enough


What I liked

The physical book – The book has raised lettering on the cover,  a bookmark and smooth, thick pages.

Layout – Each day has a Bible verse, a short bit of teaching, encouragement or stories from Annie’s life and a takeaway.

Content – I am glad I had the opportunity to read this book. It was encouraging as it kept being brave on the forefront of my mind each day.  I’m learning to accept life works out the way it was meant to and to be brave–do the thing while I’m still afraid.


“While I am making mistakes, I am not a mistake.  Remind someone you love that God doesn’t make mistakes.”

“Speaking kindly to yourself will make you brave.  List three things you are thankful for about yourself.”

“God knows we need to dream in pieces because we would be too scared of the whole puzzle.”

I would recommend it to

Women who are looking for a Christian devotional book that will use Scripture, stories, and wisdom to encourage them to not let fear hold them back.  I plan to buy a couple of copies for friends, the book would make an excellent gift.

Summarize the book in one sentence.

“You are braver than you know and stronger than you thought possible.”

BookLook Bloggers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Be Present in 2018


A new year
Falling like a blanket of snow,
Untouched by life.

The possibilities of January are endless. New beginnings spurred on by hope. We make New Year’s Resolutions, resolutions that are all too soon lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Studies show that by February 80% of our New Year’s resolutions have failed.

Two years ago, I was feeling stuck and tired of not moving forward, so I decided to try something new. Instead of lists of endless goals, I choose a phrase for my year. And it worked. By taking all my big plans narrowing them down to a single focus, I had clarity. At the end of the year, I had built habits that are still in place today.  Each year since then I have chosen a phrase and allowed life to unfold organically adding layers to the foundations I began in 2016.

Small changes over time = Success

Self Control in 2016

I knew I needed to make changes in many areas of my life. I wasn’t eating healthily, exercising regularly, and I was spending too much time on Facebook and not enough time in the Bible.  I had tried many times and failed in the past.

Self-control encompassed all the areas of my life. If I made any small change in the right direction, I could count it as a success. That was motivational because I knew I had the rest of the year to tackle all the other areas. I didn’t have to get everything right, I just needed to focus one thing.  Since it takes 66 days to form a habit, I started with exercising three times a week and downloaded this 66-day calendar and hung it on the wall in my bathroom.

After the chart was filled with checkmarks, I felt confident and ready to add another habit. About eight months in, I kicked my hand weight that I had left sitting in the middle of the floor and fractured my right foot. I worried about losing my exercising habit,  so I started swimming–something I fell in love with and still do today.

Be Still in 2017

In 2017,  I was happy with the new habits I had, but I was struggling with anxiety, insomnia, low energy, joint, and muscle pain.  I realized I needed to reduce my stress. and chose the phrase, “Be still and know that I am God.”  That meant stepping back from teaching and leading and learned to not fill every moment of my life.And, it’s ok to say no and it’s ok if everyone doesn’t like me. I became more reflective and focused on what filled me and let go of what didn’t.

It was a great year of being still, and I was surprised when I looked back over 2017 and found I was more productive than I thought.  I went to the rec center 108 times, spent time daily in the Word, began journaling three hand-written pages each day, joined Toastmasters, joined North Ridgeville Writer’s group, and submitted and got my first acceptance letter for devotional I wrote.

Be Present in 2018

As I thought about 2018, I realized I tend to live life evaluating the past or planning for the future. This year, I chose to live in the moment and allow life to unfold at the pace it was meant to. To me, this means not over-thinking and over-planning. It means I’m willing to show up and be seen. To be authentic, and honest with myself and those around me. I chose to embrace done—not perfect. To let go—I am not responsible for anyone else but myself. To let God be God. I look forward to next January and seeing how being present shapes my year.

How about you? In 365 days, when you reflect back over 2018, what one thing would you be happy if you accomplished? Chose a word or a phrase and let that shape your year. Blessings to you and Happy New Year.


2017 Going Crazy


Since the kids were babies, our family has Christmas tradition. Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, after the children were snuggled in their beds, James and I would sneak upstairs and whisper, “We’re going crazy.” They would scream in delight as we picked them up, carried them down to the warm car. They would drink hot chocolate and eat popcorn while we drove around town singing Christmas songs and looking at the lights.

They got older, and the cheers turned to groans each year when James and I succeeded in surprising them. They would try and come up with all kinds of ways to remember for next year. James and I would wait for the perfect night to catch them by surprise.

In 2015 and 2016 the kids flipped the tables and surprised James and me. You can read about that here. This year, I wondered how we could surprise the kids since they are living away from home.

Going Crazy 2017

On December 4th, James and I picked Catie up from the airport after her three-month internship in Germany. Jon was planning to stop by the house and see Catie when we got home. From the backseat of the car her phone rang.

“Mom, Jon can’t make it tonight. Are we free for him to come over tomorrow?” Catie asked.

“Sure,” She hung up, and I peppered her with questions. How was her flight? Was she tired? Was she hungry? We have leftover pizza at home.

As we pulled into the driveway, Jon’s car was there. I smiled as Catie ran and hugged her brother.  My family was back together. We stood around the foyer making small talk. Catie sat on the bench by me, Jon leaned back with one foot on the wall and James sat on the stairs.

“I’m tired. But it’s going to be a while until I get some sleep.” Jon said.

“Why is that?” I wondered if he had to go to work this late at night.

“Because we are going crazy.”

I sat silently as the words hit my forehead and sunk into my brain. Then Jon was on the other side of me on the bench, and I was rubbing both my kid’s backs at the same time and trying to hide my ugly-face tears.

They send James and me upstairs to on put our pajamas. Jon opened the door to the backseat of his car and James, and I piled in.  The had popcorn, hot cocoa for James and mint tea for me.  Jon started the playlist of contemporary Christmas music, and Catie brought up the route list on her phone.

“How did you guys plan all of this with Catie in Germany?” I asked.

“We were trying to figure out how to surprise you and knew you would think Catie would be exhausted after traveling all day,” Jon said.

“Why did you say Jon couldn’t make it?” I asked Catie.

“Jon called to ask me what kind of popcorn and drinks to get. He didn’t realize I was already in the car with you. He caught on and asked me yes and no questions. I pretended to be rescheduling.”

“You guys got me good. Aren’t you tired?” I knew she had woke almost 24 hours ago to begin her trip home.

“I’m fine, Mama.” A typical Catie response. We came to the first house and Jon, Catie and James chatted about what kind of lights they liked. The weather was unseasonably warm at 61 degrees, so we rolled down the windows as we watched the lights dance in sync with the music on the radio.

As everyone chatted, I sat trying to absorb the night. The blur of houses, laughter, cool breezes, warm tea and my babies. Both in one car. I could reach out and touch them at the same time.

Thank you, Jon and Catie, for the best Christmas gift ever. I love you guys to the moon and back.








How to Thrive–and not just Survive–This Holiday Season

The holidays should be a time of fun, memories, and celebrations. But, all too often we scroll through  Facebook, finding our friends snuggled by the fire with glittery lights and hot cocoa.

While our day consists of kids arguing, the third batch of burnt cookies wafting through the air and the realization the gifts we haven’t ordered my not be here by Christmas.  Check out the video below to watch my second Toastmasters speech.