Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: The Promises She Keeps

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” –Isaiah 58:11

I read this verse this morning after finishing The Promises She Keeps last night. I think if the book were to have a theme verse, this could be it. Erin Healy has written another intriguing story with a powerful message.

Promise is a young woman dying of cystic fibrosis. The desire of her heart is to become famous before she dies, so people will remember her.

Porta is an elderly woman, a practicing witch, who believes immortality can be found and claimed. She is determined to do so, no matter the cost—even to people she should love.

Finally, Chase is an autistic man with unusual gifts. Having memorized the Bible in four translations, he often speaks it to communicate his thoughts. He sees and draws people as trees with corresponding life-giving or taking properties. He’s caring and perceptive, yet those around him don’t always understand what he is trying to say.

The Promises She Keeps is the story that results when these three lives intersect in a small, west coast town. The ending wasn’t entirely satisfying—some questions were left unanswered, minor threads unresolved—yet the message of the book was clear and is one people need to hear today. I recommend this book and thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending it to me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: The Search

Suzanne Woods Fisher has a gift for creating characters. The Search is the second of her books I’ve read, the third in the Lancaster County Secrets series. As I read Fisher’s stories, I just fall in love with the characters, both main and incidental. I appreciated that she even gave me a glimpse into what became of Jorie, the main character from her last book, in this one. It’s always nice to know how things turn out after the book covers close.

In The Search, for mysterious reasons, Mammi decides she wants to spend some time with her granddaughter, Bess, whose father, Mammi’s son, moved to another community after his wife’s tragic death. With a little white lie, Mammi manipulates things in order to get her way and Bess comes for a summer visit.

At the same time, Lainey O’Toole, on her way to the cooking school she’s been carefully saving her money to attend, suffers a car break-down in the town she grew up in. She marvels at God’s way of answering prayer. She had hoped to spend some time in that town in order to set some things straight from her past—things that involve Mammi and Bess. Rather than use her school tuition to fix the car, Lainey takes a job in a bakery, determining to make the best of the situation and to spend one more summer in her home town.

From there, the book is full of surprises as these sweet, spunky, and somewhat crusty characters get to know one another, revealing each other’s secrets and moving into an unexpected future covered with God’s provision and grace.

I recommend this book—and hope Fisher plans to write more in this fun series! Thank you to the Litfuse Group for sending a complimentary copy of The Search for my review.

Note: Suzanne Woods Fisher is giving away an iPad this month! For details, click on the Litfuse link above.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: The Real Skinny On Losing It

I really had a lot of fun with this book. Though I generally stay away from books about weight loss, the subtitle for The Real Skinny on Losing It intrigued me. I just had to read the true confessions & divine revelations of a former yo-yo dieter, suspecting the book had more to do with physically becoming the person God intended one to be than with how to lose weight.

It did. Michelle McKinney Hammond writes with humor, encouragement, compassion and insight. Her style makes me smile! She tells of her experiences being what she thought was too thin, then weighing more than she wanted to. She goes beyond telling women what to do physically, helping them explore root issues such as fear, self-esteem, peer pressure, and such. Throughout she refers to Bible stories, retelling them in fun ways, but not misusing the text to make points about health that aren’t truly biblical (as many diet books do). She helps the reader understand what God helped her understand about appreciating His creation for what it is. She encourages the reader to find a healthy balance between accepting oneself as is and setting reasonable goals to strive for the size one wants to be.

And that’s really what women need to do. On page 19, Hammond asks, “How is it that women can become Supreme Court justices, walk on the moon, and birth babies (which is the most complex achievement of all) and still not be able to get on top of their issues with weight?” The insights she shares in this book can help women succeed in this area as well.

Thank you, Tyndale House Publishers, for sending this book for my review.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Lady in Waiting

Two books in one! I loved this novel. Lady in Waiting is the stories of two women from different times who, through mysterious circumstances, come to share the same ring. The first woman is a contemporary antique dealer living in Manhattan, waiting to see if her suddenly-in-trouble marriage will survive. The second is Lady Jane Grey, a young woman who really lived, who reigned as Queen of England for nine days. Her story has intrigued me since I first heard of her, and I loved the way Susan Meissner portrayed her, telling her story through the eyes of her fictional servant, Lucy, and giving a victim of tragic circumstances much dignity.

My favorite line from the book is found on p. 238:
“Faith to Jane was not something to be bargained with or leveraged. It was to be as subtle and unstoppable as the beating of your own heart.”
The theme of the book is choices and how much power we all have over our own. Jane’s faith was one of three significant choices she made in her short life. I appreciated the way Meissner used Jane’s story to show that even when our choices are severely limited, we still are able to choose what really matters in the end.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, for sending this book for my review. I am sure I will read it again!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: The Liturgical Year

Last year, well, really from November 2009 to November 2010, I took a walk through the Christian calendar, trying to understand what it is, what it means, why it exists. Coming from a not-so-liturgical denomination, I was curious to know more about this practice. The Liturgical Year would have been a great resource for me!

Written by a Benedictine nun, this book clearly explains what the liturgical year is, why Catholics and other liturgical denominations recognize it, how it came to be a tradition of the Church, and its potential value to those who take it seriously. It then defines each element of the liturgical practice from the basic Sunday to the familiar Christmas and Easter, to ordinary time, feast days, and recognition of saints. (I had skipped over the saints in my study, but Sister Chittister explained why they are included in the Christian calendar. Their lives show us how the Christian life should be lived and that it can be done. They encourage us to continue on.)

Sister Chittister’s passion for this subject shines clearly through every chapter of this book. Her explanations are clear. Her testimony is inspiring. I enjoyed reading this book.

This quote from page 6 sums up its essence:

The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we are—followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.

The rest of the book shows how this works! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending it for my review.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: Make Me Like Jesus

Michael Phillips is without a doubt one of my favorite authors of all time. Influenced by George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis, his books, both fiction and non-fiction, teach deep truths about the Fatherhood of God, discovering Truth, and learning to live like Christ. Make Me Like Jesus falls into the non-fiction category. It’s short, but packed with insight, a book to savor slowly. Phillips opens with a warning to potential readers that asking God to make one like Jesus is a dangerous prayer— that if they aren’t truly ready to pray it, they should wait to read the book.

Each chapter after that explores one of the prayers of Jesus, its impact on His earthly life, and what it means to those who follow in His footsteps, choosing to pray and act likewise. Phillips also includes his personal testimonies about experiences surrounding the use of these prayers. These help to make his points, further helping to bring God’s Truth to light.

I first read the book in 2005 and recently read it again. Both times I found it to be challenging and meaningful. I know I will read it yet again. If you're seeking what really matters in life and aren’t afraid to pray dangerous prayers, knowing God’s answers will ultimately make you more like Christ, I recommend this book to you. It’s worth your time.