Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son

I’m so happy! I’ve been terribly jealous of moms with daughters since Vicki Courtney wrote 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter. Now she’s written 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son. If you are a mother of sons ages newborn to 18, you need to read this book!

Conversations include:
  • Don’t define manhood by the culture’s wimpy standards. It’s OK to be a man!
  • What you don’t learn to conquer may become your master.
  • Not everyone’s doing it!
  • Boyhood is only for a season. P.S. It’s time to grow up!
  • Godly men are in short supply. Dare to become one!
Each conversation is covered in three to four chapters and is intended for mothers to have with sons. Yet, Courtney includes ideas for dad’s too—and recognizes that some topics are more comfortable between fathers and sons. Each conversation ends with a section called Dad:2:Dad which directs the reader to Courtney’s website for a list of activities, tools and resources her husband used with their sons. Readers are also invited to add their own suggestions to the list there.

Throughout the book, Courtney offers practical advice, personal experience stories, and wisdom from other sources. She helps mothers understand what lies their sons are hearing in today’s culture and tells why it’s essential and how to give sons truth at an early age (and also at any age in case your sons are already approaching adulthood).

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I highly recommend this book! I was thrilled to receive a complimentary copy of my own in exchange for this honest review.

Book Review: The Doctor's Lady

This book wasn’t what I expected. I knew it was about a marriage of convenience between two people who wanted to establish a mission among native Americans in the early 1800’s, but I thought it would tell about them establishing the mission. Instead, it’s the story of their journey from New York to Oregon, first by ship, then by wagon, to establish the mission. It’s the story of how they learn to care for one another through all the hardship they endure along the way. It’s also the story of how they learn to overcome their own ideas and recognize their own weaknesses, so they can more fully rely on and submit to God.

I liked this book.

After the conclusion, Jody Hedlund explains that the book is based, pretty extensively, on the true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman—and their travelling companions. Narcissa and one of those companions, Eliza Spalding, were the first white women to cross the Continental Divide and travel to the West. They did this in 1836. Hedlund used Narcissa’s journals as the primary source for this book, The Doctor’s Lady.

If you enjoy historical fiction (in this case, mostly truth) with subtle, but powerful, messages about trusting in God and building a strong marriage, I recommend this book. I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: The Encounter

I could not put this sweet story down! The Encounter is Stephen Arterburn’s parable about the power of forgiveness, as opposed to resentment, in a person’s life. After three divorces, pain killer addiction, and a failed suicide attempt, Jonathan Rush is desperate for help. His pastor sends him to Fairbanks, Alaska, the place where resentment and anger began to take over in him, to learn what he can about the mother who abandoned him. Jonathan is skeptical, but agrees to follow his pastor’s advice.

Along the way, he meets a local reporter, Erica Bingham, who chooses to help him, off the record, just because she’s curious. This story, which is a very quick read, tells of each stop they make on the way to discovery and the freeing lesson Jonathan learns as the story ends.

Following the story, Arterburn tells of two true stories that merged in his mind to create the parable. He talks about lessons he’s learned along the way and asks follow-up questions to help the reader consider more. I appreciated this section of the book, but the story, which spoke clearly for itself, was my favorite part. Anyone who struggles with anger, resentment, or the inability to forgive will benefit from reading this book. Those who just love a happy story should read it, too!

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy of this book for my review.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: Refuge on Crescent Hill

“The Bristow Mansion has guarded its secrets for generations. Until now . . .”

This statement from the cover of Refuge on Crescent Hill defines the novel perfectly! As a minor character attempts to solve an old family mystery, others stumble upon a mystery of their own. Perhaps deep secrets from the past can save Camden Bristow’s future.

As the story opens, Camden is without a job or a home. In desperation, she returns to the only home she’s ever known—her grandmother’s house, Bristow Mansion. Sadly, she just misses her grandmother’s memorial service by only a few days. Yet she quickly learns that her grandmother, in spite of Camden’s neglect, has left everything to her.

The town wants the property, though, and is determined to get it through unethical means. With new acquaintance Alex Yates’s help, Camden must find a way to save her childhood home and carry on her grandmother’s legacy.

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson is a contemporary novel with an historical mystery. The main characters don’t even realize they are solving a mystery; they are just trying to solve a problem. Yet they uncover secrets as they go and stumble upon something bigger than they ever expected. I loved the way this story unfolded! I’m happy to recommend this book, and thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy for my review.

Special Note from Kregel Publications: Refuge on Crescent Hill will be available on Amazon Kindle FREE for one week starting October 31! (And if you don't own your own Kindle, Amazon will let you download a free reader, so you can enjoy Kindle books on your PC.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is for Real for Kids

Last year about this time, I reviewed the book, Heaven is for Real. I loved it! And now I get to review the children’s version, Heaven is for Real for Kids. This book is absolutely precious. If you have young children, you must read it to them!

When Colton Burpo, now 12, was 4, he almost died. While in the hospital, he had an experience of visiting Heaven, talking with Jesus, meeting relatives who’d died, whom he’d never met, but who recognized and were happy to see him. After his experience, Colton knew things he couldn’t have known unless he’d actually visited Heaven. And his descriptions of what he saw there were consistent with what the Bible says, though a child his age wouldn’t have in-depth knowledge of biblical descriptions of Heaven.

The grown-up version tells the story from Colton’s father’s point of view. The children’s version tells kids, in Colton’s own words, what Heaven is like. Each page has a picture, a sentence or two about something Colton saw in Heaven, and a corresponding Bible verse. Colton himself told the artist how the pictures should look. Words, illustrations, and Scripture together paint a beautiful picture of Heaven, helping the reader anticipate going there someday. Colton’s story closes with a prayer for the reader to say.

The book opens with a letter to parents from Colton’s parents. It closes with a Q & A section giving parents more information about Colton’s experience. Heaven is for Real for Kids is a hopeful book for children and their parents to enjoy.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary eCopy of this book for my honest review.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: His Steadfast Love

I usually enjoy historical novels set during the Civil War. I struggled with this one, though. To me, the forbidden love that was the focus of the plot was unreal. It couldn’t have existed. This made the rest of the story unbelievable as well.

His Steadfast Love opens with Amber and Kent meeting for the first time at her father’s church. Kent is a soldier from the North, stationed in Texas just before the war. Amber and Kent see each other at church four or five times, always surrounded by other people. Then Amber’s father invites Kent to Sunday dinner. Accompanied by Amber’s brother, Kent and Amber take a walk on the beach where Kent suddenly tells the brother and sister that he’s opposed to slavery. Amber and Daniel are offended at his disapproval of their way of life, but suddenly Daniel sees a few dolphins and Kent takes the moment to pull Amber into his arms to ask if he can call on her. He had just picked a fight with her and before that they had hardly talked—ever. Amber asks Kent to please wait.

The two don’t see or communicate with each other for six months. Then Kent shows up for an unexpected visit. His purpose: to tell the family that the nation is at war, to declare that he is on the Union side, and to ask if he can keep in touch with Amber. Her dad says absolutely not and sends Kent away.

It seems to me that six months before the Civil War, tensions between the North and South would have been so strong that Amber and Kent would never have been attracted to each other. He probably wouldn’t have even been welcomed into a Southern church. But even if he had been and they had been interested in one another, they didn’t have time or opportunity to develop the deep and committed love that is the basis for the whole story. This made the book very difficult to read.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review: A Sound Among the Trees

Marielle Bishop doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into when she agrees to move into her new husband’s dead first wife’s childhood home with the grandmother who raised the first wife so that the first wife's children won’t have to move from the only home they’ve ever known. She starts learning quickly, though. Either the house is cursed or haunted, or something deeper is going on.

I can’t say much more without giving crucial information away. But Susan Meissner has done it again. I love this story which, like her others, blends the present with the past teaching those who live now what those who lived then learned. A good section of the book contains Susannah Page’s Civil War letters which help the women of this story, Marielle, Adelaide, and Caroline, discover what’s really going on at Holly Oak, so that healing can take place at last.

Caroline was my favorite character. She’s the dead first wife’s mother, Adelaide’s daughter, and the mentally disturbed, drug addicted runaway who returns to Holly Oak with an urgent message for all. Hers is a story of redemption and grace and restoring the past by helping those headed into the future. Sometimes God uses those who've suffered deeply to bring healing to those who may not even realize they are in pain--and that's a truly beautiful thing!

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Note to the Publisher: Though I'm a dedicated Susan Meissner fan, I almost skipped this book just because of its cover. You decapitated Susannah! Why, oh, why, oh, why would you do that?!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: Shadow in Serenity

Shadow in Serenity is a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption—and of learning to trust God’s power to forgive and redeem. This story touched my heart.

Carny Sullivan is a single mom, a widow, raising her son in the safe, small town she fell in love with when she fell in love with her husband. Having grown up in a carnival environment with two con artists for parents, Carny treasures stability, security, and honesty.

When Logan Briscoe comes to town offering a deal too good to be true, Carny knows right away it’s a scam. But, in the town’s desperation for economic improvement, no one will believe her. Carny must find a way to prove that Logan is a fraud before he forever disappears with the life savings of all her friends.

At the end of the book, author Terri Blackstock shares the story of how God led her from writing for the secular romance market to writing Christian novels. Shadow in Serenity was originally published under a different title for the secular world. Blackstock has reworked it—and redeemed it, so to speak—giving a beautiful, and true, message to a great story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I’m happy to recommend it to you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review: The Christian Zombie Killer's Handbook

I guess I’m a sucker for a good gimmick. When I saw the title, The Christian Zombie Killer’s Handbook: Slaying the Dead Within, my curiosity got the better of me. I had to give the book a look. (If I’d have had to pay for it, I would have been able to resist, but since Thomas Nelson Publishers was offering an eCopy for free in exchange for this review . . .)

It’s a good book. Author Jeff Kinley alternates chapters between the on-going fictional Zombie story analogy and some good solid biblical instruction. Personally, I didn’t really care for the Zombie story—I think Zombies are a guy thing. If that’s not a fair statement, let’s just say Zombies aren’t my thing. They're the least intelligent monster out there, after all. But the analogy was interesting and the teaching was right on target—clearly stated, easy to follow and understand. If Kinley’s goal was to present this message to an audience of people who might not otherwise be interested in learning about humanity’s sin nature and what the Bible has to say about conquering it, then he found an interesting way to reach that goal.

Then again, when I showed the book to my teenage son, he was pretty skeptical. I guess he’s not a sucker for a gimmick like his mom.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: Waking Hours

I just finished reading the first book in Lis Wiehl’s new East Salem series. Yay, Lis! I’ve read and enjoyed all three books of her other series, but with those I had some concerns. For this series, Wiehl has a new co-author, Pete Nelson. Perhaps that made all the difference. Or maybe Wiehl started this new series in order to take her stories in a different direction. Either way, I really liked this book.

Waking Hours is a supernatural thriller/mystery. When a gruesome murder takes places in East Salem, New York, forensic psychiatrist Dani Harris is called to assist the DA. Tommy Gunderson, an old friend from high school, formerly a pro-football player, now studying to become a private detective, is also drawn into the case when one of the teenage boys he mentors is called in for questioning.

Dani invites Tommy to be her assistant and the two go to work together in an X-Files kind of way. Tommy is a growing Christian who suspects there’s a spiritual battle going on, not just a physical crime. Dani is all science. If you can’t see it and prove it, it shouldn’t be a concern.

Because of the gruesome nature of the murder and supernatural elements introduced at the beginning of the book, I at first thought, I’d walked into a horror story. But it doesn’t go that direction. The supernatural element is almost a side story—and will be continued in the next book. The mystery itself gets solved satisfactorily within the human realm.

I’m happy to recommend Waking Hours to you and will be watching for the next book in the East Salem series! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.