Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: The Shape of Mercy

Susan Meissner is quickly joining my list of favorite authors. Now that I’ve read two of her novels, I’ll definitely be watching for more.

Like Lady in Waiting, The Shape of Mercy is two books in one—a contemporary story tied to one from history. The format of The Shape of Mercy is a little different and, though the historical event really happened, this time, the character in the story is fictional. But the character, Mercy, truly helps us understand the tragedy of the event—and, perhaps, the loving sacrifice of One in another most important event (see John 15:13).

When the elderly Abigail Boyles hires 20-year-old Lauren Durough to transcribe Mercy Hayworth’s journal, neither realizes what she’s gotten herself into. As Mercy’s account of the Salem Witch Trials unfolds, Lauren must face truths about herself that she had been blind to. Abigail also must deal with a past that has haunted her for years. The lessons they learn in the end are beautiful indeed.

The stories are compelling and the book has great take-away value, too. A novel doesn’t get much better than that. I gladly recommend this book to you, and thank Waterbrook Multnomah for sending it to me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Fasting

I've been curious about fasting for some time, knowing it’s a spiritual discipline practiced in the Bible and throughout history, but the reasoning behind it is something I haven’t been able to grasp. It always sounded to me as if people were saying that if I sincerely wanted something from God, fasting was the way to get it. That sounded somewhat selfish or manipulative to me, so, from that point of view, I was hesitant to practice fasting.

In his book, Fasting, however, Scot McKnight has made things clearer for me. McKnight defines fasting this way:

"Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life."

In other words, when something happens that grieves you and that you know grieves God as well, fasting is the natural response. Some people eat extra when they grieve. Others stop eating altogether. Fasting is much like the latter, only when you fast, you are grieving with God as you plea for Him to make things right and trust His Will, regardless of His response. On p. 168, McKnight says, "Perhaps what we need to become deeper in fasting is bigger eyes and bigger hearts . . . greater sensitivity to the plight of others and the grievousness of life’s sacred moments." He portrays fasting as a compassionate response.

McKnight explains this in depth, showing how fasting is also a prayer of the whole self, involving the physical with the mental and spiritual. He shows how fasting is practiced biblically and how it has been practiced traditionally. He also explores problems, misunderstandings, and dangers associated with fasting to provide the reader with essential wisdom and advice.

This book was truly helpful to me. For a greater understanding of this ancient practice, I recommend this book to you. Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for sending it for my review.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: The Mountains Bow Down

The Mountains Bow Down is the third book in a series about FBI special agent Raleigh Harmon. Though part of a series, the book stands alone. I haven’t read the first book. I found the second book interesting—I described it as a Mike Hammer-type mystery. But I loved this book! It is so different from the first (not Mike Hammer-ish at all), yet the main character remains true. I’m going to have to go back and read the first book now.

The Mountains Bow Down is set on an Alaskan cruise. Raleigh's aunt has invited her and her mother for a vacation. Aunt Charlotte is helping with a movie in production. Raleigh serves as an FBI consultant for the lead actor.

But the vacation ends when the lead actor’s wife is found dead. Most think it’s suicide, but Raleigh sees murder and sets out to prove it. The FBI sends the ever-annoying agent Jack Stephanson to help her solve the case.

Complicating matters is the fact that Raleigh’s mentally unstable mother doesn’t know Raleigh works for the FBI. Raleigh struggles to protect her mother, yet wrestles with her conscience over living a lie—even to protect someone.

I loved the setting, the story, the characters, and the underlying themes of this novel. If you enjoy a good mystery, I recommend this book to you! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this novel for my review.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review: Circle of Fire

For the past few months, I’ve been reading through the Journeys of the Stranger series by Al Lacy. These books are just plain fun! Fans of Louis L’Amour or old-fashioned TV westerns like Bonanza will enjoy these. The mysterious good guy always gets the bad guys, saves the town, and rides off into the sunset, waving good-bye to the girl—his fiancé, Breanna Baylor, of the Angel of Mercy series—and preaching the Gospel to everyone he meets along the way.

In Circle of Fire, the fifth book in the series, owners of small ranches are being terrorized by a band of outlaws trying to force them to leave their homes and dreams. Sheriffs in two counties suspect one of the big ranch owners is behind the harassment, but can’t prove anything.

At the same time, the legendary John Stranger has problems of his own. He’s been framed for murder and must clear his name. And what’s more, he must do so without his amazing horse, Ebony, who is recovering from a gunshot wound, obtained in an attempt on his owner’s life. To learn how Stranger avoids the hangman’s noose and saves the small ranchers of western Montana, read Circle of Fire, another great story of how truth and justice prevail.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review: Deadly Ties

The story of the Crossroads Crisis Center continues with the second book in the series, Deadly Ties. I liked the first book, Forget Me Not, but Deadly Ties was exceptional! Such a great story. I’m looking forward to reading Book 3, Not This Time (available Spring 2012).

Though Deadly Ties is a sequel, the story is self-contained. You don’t have to read Forget Me Not to understand it. Characters from the first book are included in this second story and, in a minor way, their story continues, yet enough detail is given that new readers won’t be lost.

The Crossroads Crisis Center is an agency in Florida created to help people whose lives are in danger, who have immediate, desperate needs. Lisa Harper was a client, became an employee, and has just become a doctor on staff. Deadly Ties is her story, past and present. By her side is Mark Taylor, a former Shadow Watcher now head of security for the owner of the Crossroads Crisis Center. He loves Lisa, but feels he must earn her love, rather than just accept it, and fears failing her in any way. When Lisa’s situation becomes desperate, both characters have much to learn about God’s perfect provision and unconditional love.

If you enjoy suspense thrillers with a hint of romance and a deep Christian message, I recommend Deadly Ties. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending this fun book for my review.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review: The Rhythm of Secrets

The Rhythm of Secrets was a challenging book for me. I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience, yet I did admire the writer’s skill and found the overall story interesting. The novel covers two time periods—the end of World War II and the midst of Vietnam—and moves through four locations: New Orleans, Chicago, Hawaii, and Thailand. Patti Lacy has done an astounding amount of research to bring this based-on-a-true story to life as an historical novel.

The 1940’s part of the story is told through flashbacks as a mother introduces herself to the son she gave up for adoption at that time. This part of the story takes about two-thirds of the book, then Sheila, once known as Sheba and then Sylvia, must decide whether to help her new-found son rescue his fiancé or leave him alone to preserve her marriage, lifestyle, and happily-ever-after façade.

The theme of the book is grace and the ending is perfect, though difficult to get to. The “music literature” theme woven throughout the book adds interest, and Lacy directs readers to enjoy listening to some of the music themselves at her website. The book ends with two pages of discussion questions for reading groups.

Thank you LitFuse Publicity Group for sending this book for my review.

By the way, Patti Lacy is having a book club party to celebrate this book's release. Click here to learn more about all the things she's giving away!