Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: We Be Big

Oh, Rick & Bubba. I first heard of these two when Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me their Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage to review about a year and a half ago. I’ve never heard their radio program, except for exerpts included on the CD that came with that book. But, because I did enjoy the book, I chose We Be Big, again courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishers, to review as well.

Though it wasn’t exactly what I expected—there was less humor and more story—it was a quick and inspiring read. This book is their autobiography. (Their autobiographies?) The two radio personalities alternate chapters, starting with stories of their boyhoods that led them from sports into radio with an eventful bout of Spanish in-between. As their career developed, their spiritual lives grew. Both men clearly show God’s hand on their lives and career until the book becomes not just two autobiographies, but a testimony to God’s faithful work.

On p. 51, Rick writes, “God has a plan. Sometimes I wish He would take a minute to explain it to us and not make us rely totally on faith. Nevertheless, I figure that, too is simply part of the plan. We just have to have patience and then, when we look back, we see things happened for a grander purpose.” We Be Big reveals that purpose now that Rick and Bubba can look back and see how God’s plan played out for them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Mine Is the Night

I don’t know how Liz Curtis Higgs did this. The Bible's Book of Ruth is only four chapters long, yet she wrote two novels spanning just over 900 pages based on that simple story—and kept me in suspense through both though I know the story well. I read the first book, Here Burns My Candle, last year about this time and finished the sequel, Mine Is the Night, today. I highly recommend this series.

Mine Is the Night picks up the story as Elisabeth and Marjory (Higgs’ Scottish versions of Ruth and Naomi), newly widowed, return to Marjory’s home town of Selkirk. Once wealthy and titled, they are now destitute and dependent on the kindness of Marjory’s distant cousin, Anne. This novel is the story of all three women from that point in time.

Higgs tells a fascinating story in an intriguing and well-researched setting. On occasion she uses a Scottish word for effect. These are italicized, so the reader knows to find their meaning in the glossary in the back. All of the characters learn and grow, and the reader can’t help but care what happens to them. Young Peter and Charbon the Cat added just the right touch of fun.

I loved that Higgs carefully tied up all the loose ends, even resolving minor issues from the first book that I’d forgotten all about. These were sweet surprises that showed her writing skill and made the story feel complete. If Scottish history or novels based on Bible stories interest you, you’ll like reading this series.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, for sending it for my review.

Book Review: Quiet Thunder

The sixth book in the Journeys of the Stranger series isn’t really about John Stranger at all. Stranger makes two appearances in Quiet Thunder, influencing characters in the story as only he can. Yet the story is really of two young men who are unlikely friends—an American Indian and a white American soldier at the time of General Custer.

The actual historical event aspect of this Journey of the Stranger novel is unique to it, too. The other six books are pure fiction set in the days of the Wild West. Quiet Thunder takes us to the Battle of Little Big Horn and involves real people who were part of that historical event. I enjoyed the story, told in Lacy’s western style. But it was more of a stand alone historical novel than one of the Stranger’s journeys.

Quiet Thunder begins just before the births of the two main characters and spans the first 25 years or so of their lives. Readers see their friendship begin and deepen in spite of battles over land and rights. Their encounters become less frequent and more challenging as tensions mount between their cultures. Yet Quiet Thunder and Thane Tyler determine to remain true friends and to honor their status as blood brothers through all that takes place.

In the introduction, Lacy tells us that he wrote this book to honor his wife’s family history. If this time period interests you, I recommend this book.

No one sent this book to me for review. I purchased it myself because I've enjoyed books from this series.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: A Trail of Ink

A Trail of Ink: The third chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon by Mel Starr was quite unique. It took me a while to read the language comfortably as the author wrote in first person in the Old English language of the day. A glossary in the front of the book helped with this, and once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed the book.

Hugh de Singleton reminded me of Sherlock Holmes in an earlier time period. A bailiff and doctor, he also solves crimes when necessary. In this case, he’s trying to discover who stole his friend and mentor’s collection of valuable books. At the same time, he’s courting Kate and fending off assaults from a competitor for her heart.

Many aspects of medieval history touched on in this book were interesting. Books were valuable because they had to be hand-copied. Scholars traded what they had in order to make copies for themselves. If you ordered one from a bookseller, he found someone to make a copy for you and you might have to wait three months for it! The legal process was complex and unmerciful. The courtship process was amazingly simple, except for the dowry. I got a kick out of reading about it.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and medieval history will enjoy this book. I thank the Litfuse Publicity Group for sending a complimentary copy for my review.

To visit the Litfuse Publicity Group Blog Tour for this book and learn how to enter a fun contest, please click here. To purchase the book, click on its picture, above.

Book Review: Scars of a Chef

Until I read Scars of a Chef, I thought anyone who could follow a recipe could cook. I’ve persisted in this belief for years, though personal experience has told me differently. Perhaps I should have put two and two together: cooking is not an exact science, but rather a grand science experiment. Rick Tramonto (along with other chefs mentioned in his book) is an extraordinary food scientist.

I was amazed at the amount of work required to learn how to cook like he does. His story is fascinating—of studying for decades to become the master chef he is and of his spiritual development along the way. I may not be a foodie, but I learned much about them while reading this book.

And his testimony just about made me cry. I love learning the stories of how Christ draws people to Himself. These reaffirm my own faith and prompt me to pray all the harder for loved ones who haven’t come to know Jesus—yet.

As a bonus, Tramonto closes each chapter with a recipe. If I had any doubts about my above conclusion, these affirmed it for me. I can read these recipes, but I don’t even recognize half the ingredients. One calls for horseradish foam—I wondered if I’d need to find a horse with rabies. Then I noticed he included a recipe for the horseradish foam. One ingredient—2 iSi N2O cream chargers. Sounds like rabid horses to me. I don’t think I’ll be preparing these recipes—though most of them sound really good. Instead I’ll be passing the book on to my brother. Perhaps he can cook someday for me!

If you enjoy inspirational biographies, whether or not you cook well, I recommend this book to you! Thank you, Tyndale House Publishers, for sending it for my review.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: A Cowboy's Touch

I've read several books by Denise Hunter over the past few years, but A Cowboy's Touch is her best yet! I love a sweet story with a positive message, characters to care about, and settings I'm curious about. (I've always wanted to visit Montana!) That's what this book is. Abigail Jones is an investigative reporter from Chicago suffering from hypertension. Her concerned family sends her to visit an aunt in Moose Creek, Montana, so she can get some rest. But she soon meets a little girl whose bicycle has been stolen and finds herself working for a cowboy with a mysterious past.

This sounds like the recipe for a perfect romance, but Abigail and Wade are fallible humans who carry hurts from their pasts. As I read, I often found myself thinking, "No! No! No! Don't do that! You'll regret it; don't you see?" They didn't. So I kept reading, wondering how it could possibly ever turn out well. (Talk about hypertension!)

Doesn't that make for the best of stories? I'm happy to recommend this one and thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending it to me. And I'm hoping there's a sequel or two--for Dylan and/or Shay's and maybe even Marla's sake!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Book Review: Deeper into the Word, New Testament

Keri Wyatt Kent’s Deeper into the Word, New Testament, is a collection of 100 word studies. She has taken 100 words from the New Testament, researched their meaning and usage, and shared her insights with us. The book has an informative tone, providing the Greek words along with historical and cultural notes and cross-reference comparisons that give the words clearer meaning. For each word, she tells of passages where it is used and gives references for further research. Each entry is one to two pages long.

My only suggestion: I would have found a pronunciation guide for the Greek words helpful. Seeing a word is one thing, but being able to say it aloud or even in my head makes it more memorable. But the book does have an appendix of helpful websites in the back along with an index of all the Greek words used in the book. In the introduction, Wyatt Kent encourages us to follow her lead, using these back-of-the-book tools to do word studies of our own. Perhaps the example of her reflections and curiosity about pronunciation will prompt readers like me to do just that.

I’d like to thank Bethany House Publishers for sending this reference for my review. It was a privilege to read this book.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: God's Promises Devotional Journal

Recently I received the God’s Promises Devotional Journal from Thomas Nelson Publishers for review. The journal wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I wasn’t disappointed either. It is an attractive, hardcover devotional journal—as it says it is. Within, there is one half-page devotional thought for each day of a year. The lower half of each page has a question to consider and lined space for the reader’s personal answers, ideas, and prayers. The text is green to match the leaf theme of the cover and gentle background design inside.

The devotionals themselves come from the published works of several writers. Some are my favorites: Max Lucado, Catherine Marshall, Sarah Young, Barbara Johnson and more. Though I have most of these writer’s books already, it’s nice to find specific thoughts singled out in a different format to be considered in another way. Other writers have recently been introduced to me: David Jeremiah, R.C. Sproul, Sheila Walsh, Anne Graham Lotz, Henry and Richard Blackaby, and more. I was thankful for the opportunity to read a little more of their work. And then there were several authors who were totally new to me and a few from a publication called God’s Daily Answer.

Though it’s already March, if you’re looking for a devotional journal with thought-provoking questions for growing ideas in your mind, you can easily jump in anywhere with this one. The God's Promises Devotional Journal will help you enjoy nuggets of wisdom from respected authors while cultivating your own thoughts.