Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Pursuit of Justice

Pursuit of Justice is the story of an FBI agent who is a) pursuing a serial killer who has been stalking her and b) solving the mystery and tragedies of the legendary Spider Rock treasure. I loved the ending.

After the story, the author, DiAnn Mills has included a note telling readers a little about her research process. It sounds to me like she had fun writing this story.

And it is a good story. It’s a combination suspense-romance. Bella, the FBI agent, and those she’s working to protect are always in a bit of danger. As she gets to know the people around her, Bella learns about forgiveness and love and trust. She overcomes the betrayals of her past, moving into a happier future.

As I was reading, I did wish for stronger character development and more of a sense of the danger the characters were in. I think because of the suspense-romance combination, the short time period for the story, and several characters moving quickly in and out of the picture, some of the things the author revealed to or told the reader didn’t feel real—they were hard to accept. I can’t say much more about that without giving too much of the story away. Even so, it was a good story, and I did love the ending.

One other note, and this is not the author’s fault, but Mills described Bella throughout the book as being auburn haired with green eyes. She mentions this several times. But the cover doesn’t match this description. I think the artist should have read the book. The cover became a distraction to me. That's not really fair to Mills.

If you enjoy light suspense/romance with a touch of mystery and Christian insight, Pursuit of Justice fits that category well. Thank you, Tyndale House Publishers, for sending me a copy for review.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: Good Morning, Lord

I am so thankful to Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending Good Morning, Lord for my review. This is just the kind of book I love! It’s a keeper I’ll probably reread several times.

Good Morning, Lord is a daily devotional written by Sheila Walsh to help us say, you guessed it, “Good Morning, Lord!” as we begin each day—whenever we happen to begin our day. (You’ll find no guilt or pressure here.) Each devotional begins with a proclamation—and the first one went right along with the theme of my blog: “Today I will look for evidence that you are in everything I encounter.” How fun is that?! It made me happy.

Following that statement is a short devotional, then two thought-provoking questions with space for journaling. After that we find a short prayer and a Bible verse taken from the New King James Version. The devotionals aren’t numbered, but there look to be about 108.

I especially like the look and feel of the book. It’s an attractively designed and embossed hardcover, with the shape and feel of a nice journal. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice gift for a friend and to anyone looking for a simple way to encourage a new or fresh devotional habit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Immanuel's Veins

There are so many things I’d like to say about Ted Dekker’s latest book, Immanuel’s Veins. But I can’t. I’d just give everything away. And you wouldn’t appreciate that from me.

You see, the whole book carries quite the enticing mystery along with its adventure. While you may suspect what kind of enemy you’re dealing with early on, Dekker doesn’t verify it until more than halfway through the book. Even then, he never, ever, even once uses the name. So if I say much at all, you can see how I’d just risk telling you everything.

I will say this: For reasons I won’t go into right now, I think guys will like this book. In some ways, it may be a triumph on their behalf. It’s a great reversal they’ll appreciate.

For me, though, the book was just a bit, well, a lot, too over-the-top gruesome for me. I understood that Dekker was trying to contrast good and evil and to show the truth of just how evil evil is. But there wasn’t much of the contrasting good, and what was there was always being tempted to go the other way. At one point, I even wondered if Dekker was planning to turn everything upside-down to show that everything was the opposite of what it seemed. I won’t tell you what came of that. You’ll have to read the book yourself—if you’re curious enough to endure its darkness.

I did love the last three pages. It was also fun to find, as one often does in Dekker’s books, allusions to familiar characters from the Circle series. If you’ve enjoyed Dekker’s most recent books (which lean more heavily on the gory, disturbing side), you’ll probably like this one, too.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Your Money God's Way

I was curious, but skeptical, when I chose this book for review. Much money advice for Christians isn’t based on Bible truths at all. Sometimes those who offer it mean well, but make assumptions about the Bible without really studying it. Other times, they are trying to guilt, manipulate, and/or finagle well-meaning Christians out of their money. Because we trust God and want to further His Kingdom by giving, sometimes we turn ourselves into rather easy marks.

But that’s the point of this particular book! Amie Streater devotes the whole first chapter of Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the 7 Money Myths That Keep Christians Broke to showing how the Bible is often misused to confuse Christians and how it should be used regularly to help Christians understand good stewardship so they can honor God with their money, then use what He gives to avoid debt, cover their own needs, give to others, and save for the future. Streater then goes on to reveal common money myths (or counterfeit convictions) which she counteracts with solid, in-context, biblical truth. It’s a wise and practical book. I plan to read it again!

Woven throughout the book are true stories of Christians who’ve made wise decisions or overcome poor ones. Streater shares her own story of debt and near financial ruin and changes she prayerfully made to turn her situation around. At the end of each chapter, Streater includes a prayer for wisdom, a summary of chapter points, and a list of solution steps readers can follow if the situation applies to their lives.

Streater writes with grace, not condemnation, but her message is powerful. Readers will know that she truly cares and wants to help them do the best they can with whatever God graciously provides.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Book Review: Out Live Your Life

Wow! Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado is one of his best books ever. Of course, I say that about all of his books; I was thrilled when Thomas Nelson offered this one for review.

Out Live Your Life is a series of messages taken from the book of Acts. Lucado offers basic, yet profound, lessons in Christian living based on the experiences of the early church. These 16 lessons are followed, as always in Lucado books, by a discussion and action guide, this one prepared by David Drury. This guide helps readers further explore the ideas in the book and effectively apply them to their lives.

Something else in this book that I really appreciated was a short passage of Scripture and a life application prayer at the end of each chapter. This one page addition to each chapter concisely summarizes the point and helps to drive it into the reader’s heart. If ever I want a quick refresher course, I can read these pages to remind myself of what I learned as I ask God to make it more real in my life.

I highly recommend this book to new Christians exploring what this life is all about, to seekers looking for the Truth of Christianity (as opposed to some of the confusing ideas floating around today), and to established Christians looking for a deeper understanding of service to Christ and their role in His Kingdom.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews is a small, attractive gift book with an uplifting message. Using biographical stories, Andrews shows how someone did something to change the world. Then he backtracks, showing how someone else influenced that first someone so that that person could change the world. Then he backtracks again, making the point that our smallest actions, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, can make a big impact, changing the world for better or for worse.

While I loved the look of the book and Andrews biographical choices and presentation, I noticed that the book left Something significant out. There’s no mention of God anywhere. Andrews gives all the glory to us. And though I know that God has given us free will, the ability to make good or bad choices, I also know that He is the One Who uses our actions, good or bad, to accomplish His purposes in this world. The back of the book says, “Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.” Yet, Who did the creating? For Whose purpose? And What is that power within? The answer to all those questions is God. He deserves the praise for creating and managing the butterfly effect.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Book Review: The Boy Who Changed the World

I really enjoyed reading The Boy Who Changed the World, and I think children will like it, too. As a parent, I loved that it wove the biographies of actual people into a simple story with a clear message. People, their connections, and related historical events are clearly identified, yet the book doesn’t read like a history lesson. Rather it’s a fun story with a bit of a mystery (Just who exactly was it who started the butterfly effect to change the world?) and an encouraging, stick-in-your-head moral for kids. Author Andy Andrews knows how to get and keep their attention while leading their thoughts where he wants them to go.

I also loved the artwork by Philip Hurst. Pictures are full of color and texture, with butterflies appearing on almost every page to subtly carry the theme. The illustrations effectively do their job of bringing the story to life on the page.

I hope lots of libraries will make this book available. It’s the kind I would have been drawn to during summer reading programs! But even if they don’t, parents or grandparents can get it for the children they love. It’s a book young kids will choose to read over and over again.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this book for my review!