Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Review: Seeing the Unseen

Seeing the Unseen by T.W. Hunt is a quick read, just a few more than a hundred pages, but it’s packed with the wisdom that Hunt acquired while recovering from a lengthy illness. During this time, Hunt considered the spiritual realm and all that it has to offer. He shows his readers how everything changes when view their temporary physical lives through the lens of God’s eternal Kingdom. He shows how their prayer lives take on deeper meaning in light of God’s greater purposes.

The book was difficult to read at first. It didn’t seem to have a clear outline. I often felt like Hunt was throwing random thoughts out at me one after another. Some were brilliant, but I couldn’t find anything to grasp hold of. I wanted him to slow down, tell me more about each point, and show me how one thought led to another. I couldn’t figure out his overall message to me.

This started to change in chapter six where he presented seven factors for infusing prayers with faith. In chapter seven, he told how he is learning to experience each of these personally. In chapter eight, he gives a summary of the points of the book, which makes the meaning of the earlier chapters clear. I was thankful for this and was engrossed to the end of the book.

If you long for a deeper prayer life and a clearer sense of God’s Presence in your life, Seeing the Unseen can help you find what you’re looking for. Hunt will help you cultivate a growing faith.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Review: An Unlikely Suitor

An Unlikely Suitor is the fictional story of the Scarpelli women. Italian immigrants living in New York, mother and daughters barely make ends meet working as seamstresses in a sweat shop. When oldest daughter, Lucy, finds them a better apartment and work situation, everything starts to change. And when she befriends wealthy socialite Rowena Langdon, the Scarpelli women find themselves transported to a whole new world.

This story shows the stark contrasts between rich and poor as they existed in the late 1800’s. It also shows what can happen when people ignore those lines in favor of friendship, loyalty, and love. Full of secrets, surprises, and complications of all sorts, An Unlikely Suitor is a fascinating story.

Unique to this book, as far as I’ve seen, is a chapter by chapter summary telling what’s fact and what’s fiction along with pictures of some of the fashions of the day with their descriptions from the book printed once again underneath. Fans of this era will enjoy this bonus! Thank you, Bethany House Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: The Waiting Place

The Waiting Place by Eileen Button is a collection of autobiographical essays summing up the thoughts she wrestled with in the waiting places of her life. We all live in waiting places from time to time. We wait to grow up. We wait to die. We wait to find a spouse, a job, the courage to pursue a dream. We wait for church to end, for news of a loved one’s health, for our babies to be born, and for our spouses to come home. We spend a lot of time waiting, but Button’s essays show that this time doesn’t have to be wasted. God is there. He may simply be holding our hands, working behind the scenes, or teaching us something significant. The key is to trust Him through it and learn all we can. When the time is right, as Button has done, we can reflect back on these times with greater insight.

Button is blatantly honest as she shares her stories. I really appreciated this. In the stories that I could relate to, and there were several, her observations were right on target. It’s always an encouragement when someone else has experienced something you’ve been through and come out learning many of the same things. It’s even better if they’re reflecting on something you’re just going through, letting you know they made it through okay. I like the way Button put her thoughts on these experiences into words.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a free eCopy of this book for my honest review. I truly enjoyed the read!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: Spring for Susannah

Running from tragedy, shy Susannah agrees to be the mail-order bride of her best friend’s brother-in-law, a civil war veteran trying to make a new start in Dakota Territory. Jesse doesn’t know what to make of a bride who can’t seem to form a complete sentence, but he meant his wedding vows, even if they were spoken by proxy. He’s determined to make this marriage work. Susannah, however, lives in fear that he’ll be too disappointed and send her back to be alone in the city.

Jesse’s character is strong. He grew up in a Christian home and stands firm in his beliefs. He dreams of doing great things for God as he settles a harsh, dry, threatening land. He wants to share that dream with Susannah, the woman he has chosen to love sight unseen—and voice unheard, though sometimes he despairs of ever getting through to her. Each chapter starts with a random italicized prayer uttered by Jesse about his marriage.

Susannah’s character is wounded. Sometimes she wonders if there even is a God or if He cares much about her. Yet the seed of her life died in the city. Through Jesse and a series of unexpected challenges, God is preparing her heart to sprout and bloom. Spring for Susannah tells how.

I loved Susannah and Jesse’s story. It reminded me a lot of Young Pioneers, but it wasn’t quite as innocent. There were times when I felt the author was giving a little too much information. But getting past that, Spring for Susannah is a very hope-filled, historical Christian fiction novel that tells of God’s patient, loving work in people’s lives. I thank the LitFuse Publicity Group for sending a complimentary copy for my honest review.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review: Enemies of the Heart

Enemies of the Heart is the second Andy Stanley book I’ve read; I appreciated both books and will be watching for more! (The Grace of God was the first. You can read my review of that by clicking here.) Stanley truly has a gift for bringing truth to light and making it clear.

In Enemies of the Heart (previously released as It Came from Within), Stanley identifies four emotions that have the ability to control us whether we’re aware of their presence or not. After an introduction, where he compares physical heart health issues to emotional heart health issues, Stanley defines the four emotions: guilt, anger, greed (fueled by fear), and jealousy. Next he tells how each impacts us and what specific steps we can take to combat them effectively. Just as exercising and eating right are habits which help to keep our physical hearts healthy, there are emotional health habits we can practice, too. Stanley gives his readers simple, practical, wise, and biblically sound Christian living advice.

Even if you don’t think you struggle with any of these emotions, I recommend this book to you. Stanley reveals ways these often manifest themselves even without our knowledge. We have to be aware of our heart problems in order to treat them. For readers serious about emotional heart health, prayerfully reading this book is like a check-up for the soul.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of Enemies of the Heart to me in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review: The Quotable Rogue

What a great idea! In his book, The Quotable Rogue, Matt Lewis has come up with 32 topics of interest to Americans today and has presented a collection of quotations by Sarah Palin on each. He closes with a chapter of quotes by others about Sarah Palin. Technically, Lewis didn’t write the book, but he assembled it, and he did so well.

If I had a book like this for every political candidate, voting would be much simpler. Instead of sorting through the confusion of what the media and others say Palin said, I can read her actual words on subjects I’m concerned about. (In the introduction, Lewis gives examples of specific ways some people have twisted her words to make her look silly.) The Quotable Rogue makes Palin’s stands on issues more clear. It also reveals more of her character. Until I read this book, I kind of had the impression that Palin was like a cheerleader who’d decided to run for class president. The Quotable Rogue paints a much more respectful picture. Quotes in the book show Palin to be highly intelligent, solid in her beliefs, and tough enough to get in there and do whatever she believes needs to be done. She also has a great sense of humor about politics.

I appreciated the insights I gleaned from this book. Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary eCopy for my honest review.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: A Vision of Lucy

A Vision of Lucy is the third book in the Rocky Creek Romance series by Margaret Brownley. I enjoyed the story so much that I’ve already ordered the first book in the series, so I can learn how Sarah ended up married to . . . Oops. Better not give that away. Though I don’t find knowing the answer myself a problem. I know the story’s going to be good anyway!

In A Vision of Lucy, Lucy Fairbanks is an aspiring professional photographer who gets herself into one pickle after another trying to line up the perfect shot. The bulkiness of her equipment doesn’t even keep her from climbing trees and such in order to take great photographs. Unfortunately, few of her family and friends appreciate her skill. They find it more of a nuisance than anything and wish she’d find herself a man, get married, and settle down.

On one of Lucy’s escapades, she accidently meets the mysterious wild man about whom rumors have been flying all over town. When she realizes he isn’t really wild, she sets out to reveal the truth.

Her quest is what this story’s about.

Adding interest to the book are mysterious photographic advice quotations by Miss Gertrude Hasslebrink of 1878. These appear at the beginning of each chapter, adding a touch of historic humor and foreshadowing something to come.

If you enjoy lighthearted Christian romances in historical settings, I recommend this book to you! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy for my review.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book Review: Shattered

About the Book: Author Melody Carlson has a gift for storytelling and knows teenagers well. Cleo’s story was captivating, and, though the consequences she faced were extreme, they weren’t unrealistic. As Carlson intended, Shattered is a this-could-happen story, warning teenage girls of how quickly they can lose control once they begin to make wrong choices. All Cleo does, at first, is sneak out of the house to go to a concert—a Christian concert, no less. But the unintended consequences completely shatter her world.

A Caution to Parents: (Note: The following is not a criticism of the book. For the right audience, I highly recommend it!) If your daughter has already chosen to follow Christ and lives in obedience to Him and to you, this book may encourage her and affirm her decision. It may even help her to help friends who are struggling to do right things. However, if your daughter is making rebellious choices or seems to be sitting on the fence, this book may be more of a how-to manual than a cautionary tale. I’ve seen teenagers use books like this that way—writing off the consequences as fiction, while learning how to misbehave and get away with it—for a time—from the main character.

Again, I’m not criticizing the book. I’m just suggesting, as always, that parents carefully consider where their daughters are spiritually and how they may respond to the story before giving it to them. Books can be helpful, but parents shouldn’t rely on them (except for the Bible) to guide their children morally. Prayer, honest communication, and mentorship from trusted leaders and friends should come first—always.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review: When Sparrows Fall

When Sparrows Fall is the story of the redemption of Miranda Hanford, widowed mother of six. Deeply entangled in a cult-like church, Miranda panics when her pastor orders all church members to immediately sell their property and move to another location. She has no intention of selling or moving, yet her pastor knows her darkest secret and threatens to tell if she refuses to cooperate. As Miranda fasts and prays over her desperate situation, God brings help in an unexpected way.

I loved this story. Miranda’s children were adorable, and author Meg Moseley brought out each of their personalities for her readers to enjoy. And, though Miranda’s choices often seemed strange, Moseley explained the history and psychology behind each. Readers can’t help but sympathize with Miranda and cheer her on to the end.

Likewise, Moseley made Miranda’s brother-in-law into a character the reader could struggle along with. Earnestly trying to help Miranda and her children, he has his own ghosts to chase away. He makes mistakes and realizes it, but he doesn’t give up on the family he’s coming to know. His heart for them is in the right place.

I recommend this story of truth, mercy, forgiveness, and God’s amazing love. I received a complimentary copy from Waterbrook Multnomah for my honest review, and I enjoyed the read!

Book Review: No Place Like Holmes

No Place Like Holmes is the first book in a series for preteens based on the concept of Sherlock Holmes. American 12-year-old, Griffin Sharpe is sent to live with his uncle in England for the summer in order to experience the culture his mother grew up in. This uncle, an aspiring inventor and private investigator himself, just happens to live in the same building as Sherlock Holmes. The uncle believes investigations should be conducted scientifically and scoffs at the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes. Griffin, however, notices everything, and shares the talents of the famous detective. Though the uncle is unhappy at first about Griffin’s arrival, he learns to appreciate Griffin’s observations as the two team up on a case in which London’s fate itself is at stake.

I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so I really enjoyed this book and am happy to recommend it. However, I did wonder how much of the Sherlock Holmes comparison preteens would understand. How many 12-year-olds have heard of Moriarty and Watson and Baker Street and such? Not knowing of these things won’t keep them from enjoying Griffin’s story, but, without that background knowledge, kids will miss some fun elements of the story. Maybe they know more than I think they do. Or maybe, Griffin will inspire them to read Sherlock Holmes, too!

Also woven into the story are Griffin’s personal challenges. He is lonely because he is different—so intelligent that he scares friends away. He longs to befriend this uncle he’s met for the first time, but struggles not only with his uncle’s rejection of him, but also of God. No Place Like Holmes is the story of a 12-year-old learning to get along in the world, but not of it, independently, almost, for the first time.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending this fun book free to me for my honest review.