Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Waiting for Morning

Waiting for Morning is Book Two in The Brides of Last Chance Ranch series by Margaret Brownley. In this book, we meet Molly Hatfield, a young woman doing all she can to make life good for her 14-year-old brother, Donny, who was paralyzed in an accident as an infant. When the town where Molly and Donny live burns to the ground, Molly answers an ad, applying to be Eleanor Walker’s heiress. All she has to do to inherit the Last Chance Ranch is learn everything there is to know about ranching and agree never to marry.

Enter Caleb Fairbanks, the new doctor in town. (Also Lucy’s younger brother from one of Brownley’s other books, A Vision of Lucy. I loved that Brownley worked him in!) Recruited by Ms. Walker to serve as a veterinarian for her horse, he meets Molly and Donny en route to the ranch. His offer to help Donny learn to be more independent is met with resistance, suspicion, and a touch of hostility.

To learn how it all works out, you’ll need to read Waiting for Morning. I’m happy to recommend this light-hearted series. (Note: Reading the books in order is not absolutely necessary. References are made to the previous book, but Molly’s story is hers alone.) I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review: Sisterchicks in Gondolas

I’ve been meaning to get to the Sisterchicks series by Robin Jones Gunn for some time now, so I was thankful when Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent a complimentary copy of Sisterchicks in Gondolas for my review. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this series, but I like what I found. Sisterchicks in Gondolas is actually the sixth book in the series, but each book stands alone, telling the story of two women travelling together. In the book I read, sisters-in-law Jenna and Sue travel to Venice, Italy to cook for a men-in-ministry retreat. They live in a refurbished palace, sleep on the roof, become acquainted with several townspeople, and sample gelato all over the place.

The story has a simple and light-hearted feel, yet Jenna and Sue both carry deep pain. The message of healing, forgiveness, and starting anew is subtle, but profound. I loved the way Gunn delivered it.

I also loved reading about Jenna and Sue’s adventure through the historic town, their daily discoveries, communication struggles, and means of finding fun. I plan to soon read some of the other books to learn what Gunn has other Sisterchicks up to. I'm happy to recommend Sisterchicks in Gondolas to you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Right Where I Belong

Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee is the third in a series, of sorts, for middle and early high school age girls. The three books contain independent stories, yet share characters and some settings. Right Where I Belong is the story of Natalia, a high school senior from Spain whose father has just divorced his third wife in favor of yet another. Rather than share life with a potential new stepmother, Natalia decides to move to the states with Maureen, the woman her father divorced. Maureen is also the person who led Natalia to the Lord, so Natalia is hoping Maureen will help her grow in faith. There are many surprises in store for Natalia in Tampa, Florida, USA.

Like the other two books in the series, Right Where I Belong has many similarities to a familiar Bible story—in this case, the story of Ruth. I wouldn't say it’s a contemporary version of Ruth’s story, though. It’s just fun to compare and contrast. Like Ruth, Natalia makes an unexpected choice, ultimately choosing to follow God first of all—always. I’m happy to recommend this book which I received from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this honest review.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: The Girl in the Glass

I spent a day in Florence once—and thought it was enough. But, after reading The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner, I’d like to go back—for about a month—with Meissner as my tour guide! Her book does exactly what her main character, a travel book editor, hopes a potential author’s book will do: it makes you feel you’ve been there if you haven’t and long to go back if you have—with a whole new appreciation for all that is there.

As in Meissner’s other recent works, this book gives the reader two stories in one, alternating between a contemporary story and a fictionalized account of an historical character, in this case Francesca Eleonora (Nora) Orsini, granddaughter of Cosimo I de Medici. Nora's story is of her tragic childhood in Florence during the Renaissance. The contemporary story is shared by two women, Meg Pomeroy and Sophia Borelli, whose lives intersect in Florence and have much in common with Nora of the Renaissance. Together, Meg and Sophia must learn, as Nora did, the true meaning of renaissance.

I was totally drawn into the stories in this book and thought they all ended perfectly. Not only will this book appeal to those who enjoy great novels, but also to art enthusiasts, travelers, and those with an interest in the human mind. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Review: Lovelier Than Daylight

Lovelier Than Daylight, the third installment in the Saddler’s Legacy series by Rosslyn Elliott, was also my favorite. This story revolves around the Westerville Whiskey Wars of 1875 and 1879—though, for the purposes of her story, Elliott combined them into one event. In Elliott’s words:
“In this novel, people of faith grapple with difficult questions about the use and abuse of alcohol, questions that still cause controversy and divide families and churches. My aim was to depict all of these opinions and show how one family might have handled the decisions that faced them under the circumstances. I did not try to advocate one point of view or elevate one believer above another, but instead aimed to hold up a mirror to a historical event that still has the power to cause us to examine our moral choices.”
In my opinion, Elliott achieved her aim and did so effectively. After reading this book, people on opposite sides of this fence will have much to discuss. This book will indeed make readers think.

Aside from that, the story itself is intense. On her way to college, Susanna Hanby stops to visit her sister only to learn that her sister has left her husband and abandoned her six children. She is missing and may even be dead. Susanna finds the children in two different orphanage-type homes. With the help of her aunt and uncle, Ann and Will Hanby (introduced in Book One of this series), Susanna must find a way to rescue the children and reunite the family.

In the meantime, aspiring reporter and brewery heir Johann Giere wrestles with career choices and struggles to earn Susanna’s respect. He longs to help her family, yet is hindered when she blames his family’s business for causing the troubles in hers. The tense situation in Westerville will either draw them together or drive them forever apart.

Thomas Nelson Publishers gave me a complimentary eCopy of Lovelier Than Daylight for this honest review. Readers who enjoy considering how complex issues can play out in life will find much to contemplate within the pages of this book.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Unending Devotion

Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund is a totally unexpected, unique read. Disturbing at times, this historical fiction novel takes its readers to a moment in history rarely covered in this genre. I greatly appreciated the new information about the development of America's logging industry, now greatly reformed compared to what it was back then!

At the beginning of this story, Lily Young, a woman who grew up as an orphan, travelling from caregiver to caregiver with her sister, is travelling through the logging camps as a photographer's assistant. Oren, the widowed photographer, is more father than employer and is fiercely protective of Lily. Lily gives him plenty of challenges, though, as she boldly goes wherever she feels she needs to go in her search for Daisy, the sister she raised, now a runaway living quite perilously. Lily plans to rescue her from the life that has now imprisoned her and doesn't hesitate to rescue many other young women along the way.

Connell McCormick, the son of a logging baron, seeks only to please his demanding and often unreasonable father--until he meets Lily, who challenges him to consider how his father's business is impacting people's lives. He'll be challenged to choose: his father or his conscience and his heart.

Control is the theme woven throughout this read. Is God in control? Or does He need our help? Are we at the mercy of our circumstances? Or are there positive ways to work for change? As the story unfolds, Lily and Connell discover the answers they need.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I was thankful for the insights I found in this story.

Book Review: The Weight of Mercy

The Weight of Mercy by Deb Richardson-Moore is her story of her first seven years in full-time ministry--seven years in the unique pastorate at the Triune Mercy Center. Originally, this center was a traditional church. Over time, however, it developed into a ministry to the homeless of its community. When Richardson-Moore became its pastor, though, she began to realize that simply providing free food and clothing for people may not be the best way to minister to them. Her book outlines her thought processes over problems she identifies, issues she encounters, opportunities she takes hold of, and developments within the ministry that worked well and, sometimes, not so well.

As one would expect, ministry at the Triune Mercy Center was challenging for Richardson-Moore and her staff. By the end of one month, she determined she'd commit to just one year--and wondered if she'd make that. She did, however, and found herself staying for much longer than that.

Though I didn't always see eye-to-eye with Richardson-Moore, I liked where we landed, author and reader, by the end of the book. She opened my eyes to often unconsidered complications and consequences within this kind of ministry while showing some of the great good that can be done. We do the best we can for those God brings into our lives, then leave the outcome in His faithful hands. We may not be perfect, but our God is always at work in all people's hearts.

I thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy of this insightful book for my honest review.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: Fearless Daughters of the Bible

Fearless Daughters of the Bible is a fifteen week study of 22+ women of the Bible. Each chapter tells the story of one biblical woman or group of women. As readers learn about character traits and strengths displayed in these women’s lives, stories of historical or contemporary women who also displayed these traits or strengths are brought into each lesson for greater understanding. Readers see God at work in and through His daughters. They see Him calling, teaching, using, and greatly blessing the efforts of women devoted to Him.

Author J. Lee Grady is not only an award-winning journalist and ordained minister, but also the father of four daughters. He believes the potential contributions of women to God’s Kingdom are often overlooked or dismissed, and so he strives to inspire women to serve God faithfully and with confidence however He leads. Through this book, Fearless Daughters of the Bible, Grady shows that God has a purpose for the women of His Kingdom that we can take seriously.

Also woven into the text are messages of encouragement and healing for women who’ve suffered abuse. Women who’ve been mistreated will find some comfort here.

The studies themselves do not go into great depth. Grady retells the stories in his own words, then moves right into the life application. However, the summaries are well written. Curious readers can easily dig more deeply into the Bible on their own. Each chapter begins with a quote from a well-known woman. Each ends with discussion questions and a personal message to the reader, presented as a message from our Heavenly Father.

Overall, I appreciated Grady’s big picture of God at work in and through women found all through God’s Word. I loved seeing that Jesus, Paul, Philip, and even Peter, greatly valued the ministry contributions women make. I also appreciated the generous amount of life application found in these stories useful to both women and men. The stories of women in the Bible are included by God’s design with messages applicable to both genders.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, published by Chosen, in exchange for this honest review. It's one I definitely recommend!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: You Be Sweet

Slowly, but surely, this California girl’s southern vocabulary is increasing. Thanks to a new cookbook by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson, I now know what You be sweet means. And it’s much nicer, than Well, bless your heart, let me tell you. If you don’t believe me, click here to read what I’ve learned about that phrase.

You Be Sweet is a collection of down-home desserts. Each chapter or group of desserts opens with a story by Wilson describing a food-oriented event in a small southern town: a holiday, a baby shower, a visit to a relative, a bake sale. Wilson helps her readers see how food helps people connect socially. After all, we all have to eat!

The recipes themselves are Caldwell’s contribution. I loved her comments introducing several of them, telling whom she collected them from or who loves to eat what most. These were an extra-sweet, gently southern touch. Several of these recipes just demand to be created. I look forward to working my way through these. Others seemed a bit complex. Rosemary may have been able to teach Georgia to bake (Chapter 2), but she’d have found a greater challenge in me. Maybe I’ll work my way up. The collection includes a little bit of everything, from cakes, pies, and cookies, to fruit desserts, ice cream recipes, punch, and frozen hot chocolate. I’m going to start with the Sour Cream Blueberry Pancakes with Cinnamon Honey Syrup!

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy of this cookbook for my review. I recommend it to all fans of dessert!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: A Path Toward Love

A Path Toward Love by Cara Lynn James is the story of a widow in a pickle. Katherine Osborne knows her hasty marriage was a terrible mistake. Yet, now that her husband is gone, all she wants is to quietly live out her life managing the orange groves in Florida that she inherited. Creditors are calling, though, and her parents are pressuring her to return to the wealthy, society life she left behind when she eloped. Desperate for funds, Katherine strikes a deal with her dad. What she doesn’t know, though, is if the deal will grant her freedom to live her life as she desires or keep her in bondage to that which she longs to escape.

The story starts slowly, but builds in intensity as Katherine’s plight becomes layered with distress upon distress. Yet, Andrew, the man who loves her, and her Aunt Letty work together to help her see where to go for guidance and relief. God gives the message she needs to hear through an unexpected source.

As I read, I did find some of the characters, such as Katherine’s parents, Roger, and Andrew’s aunt to be unrealistically manipulative and blinded by wealth and society to truth. I realize that, to a point, their behavior was true of the upper classes of that time in history, yet I would hate to believe that any parent would be that unaware of a child’s needs. Still, I enjoyed the book, and thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing a complimentary eCopy for this honest review.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Last year about this time, I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts for the first time*. (Yes. There will be a second time someday!) I loved it so much, I went right out and bought copies for my mom and daughter-in law. Now I’ve discovered her new One Thousand Gifts Devotional and just may have go out buying copies for gifts again.

This book is just that inspiring!

To begin with, Voskamp’s writing style is truly unique. It’s a combination of poetry and literature and rambling sentences full of devotion to God and living His way. Voskamp paints pictures with her words that one can’t help but see clearly. It’s almost like visiting her farm every day.

Better yet, Voskamp helps her readers understand what really matters in this life: developing a genuine attitude of thanksgiving that carries one into God’s Presence and keeps one there. All the time.

Her first book introduced the concept. This second helps readers practice on a daily basis as they read and reflect on sixty grace-related devotionals. In fact, the book includes lines at the end of each chapter for personal gratitude lists with a numbered set of lines at the back of the book for listing one’s own noted one thousand gifts.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I’ll most definitely have to add it to my list of one thousand gifts. I earnestly recommend this book to you.

Note: I did not read Voskamp's first book for review. I purchased it on my own and read it just because I really wanted to.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: Mended

Mended: Pieces of a Life Made Whole is the third book by author, speaker, and blogger Angie Smith. It contains 31 devotionals developed from posts on her blog, a blog she started in order to journal her way through the pain of losing a child. Over time, Angie learned how to let God mend her heart. In this book, she gently leads her readers to do the same.

Each devotional starts with a verse or two of Scripture, moves into the text, and concludes with one or two life application ideas. Angie’s devotionals are observations from life that help bring more of God’s truth to light. My favorite was one she called “Sketched.” In this particular devotional Angie shares how she sketches the future in her mind, but is sometimes confused or disappointed when reality doesn’t color it in the way she anticipates or hopes. She is learning to let God complete her sketches His way in His time. She is learning to trust in His outcomes rather than her own.

If your heart is in need of healing and you are looking for a short devotional to nurture your thoughts, I recommend Mended to you. I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review: A Season for Tending

A Season for Tending is the first book in a brand new series by Cindy Woodsmall. I loved the story; this may be her best yet! The characters, themselves, though, were my favorite feature:

Rhoda Byler is a young woman with a gift for growing things. She also has a gift for understanding people deeply. And sometimes, when people are in danger, she senses it. Unfortunately for Rhoda, instead of people being grateful for her warnings, they feel threatened by them. In their minds, premonitions plus growing things equals witchcraft.

Samuel King is the oldest of three sons working together to manage the struggling family apple orchard. Samuel not only carries the self-imposed burden for this orchard, but also for the behavior and needs of his younger siblings, girlfriend, and her younger brother.

Jacob King, slightly younger than Samuel, has just returned from a few years of living and working in the Englisch world. Though he seems to be doing well back among the Amish, he carries painful secrets from his time away.

Leah King, the oldest sister of the King family, yet younger than her brothers, struggles with the freedom of her rumschpringe. Determining to make wiser choices than some she has made, she still longs to leave the Amish, but does not know how.

Together, these four and their families must find a way to save two businesses: Rhoda’s Rhode Side Stands and the King Family Orchard. I enjoyed reading of their efforts and am looking forward to the next book in the Amish Vines and Orchards series.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy of this book for this honest review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Borders of the Heart

“Part thrill ride, part love story, Borders of the Heart is a tender yet gripping odyssey of hope.” This synopsis from the back of the book says it perfectly, though the thrill ride part is bigger by far than the love story part. It’s a story of letting go, of trusting God in the midst of sorrow, of doing the right thing, and of letting God and the people He puts in your world work together to heal your heart. Borders of the Heart is a brilliant read.

The main character, J.D. Jessup, is a loner, working on an organic farm in Arizona, more for the education that comes from experience than for a salary. When he finds a woman near death in the desert, he can’t bring himself to turn her in as an illegal. Rather, he determines to help her, even against her wishes, and finds himself running for his life, hunted by a ruthless killer.

As readers follow J.D. and Maria’s story, the mysteries of both Maria’s objective and J.D.’s past will gradually be revealed. I recommend this book to fans of the action/adventure genre and thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Author Q & A

Q: Your newest novel, Borders of the Heart, addresses heavy topics such as illegal immigration, the U.S./Mexico drug trade and the cost of compassion. Where did you get your inspiration for the book?

A: Our family moved to Arizona in 2008 and since then I’ve known I wanted to write about this area of the country, a rich, desert existence with problems and possibilities. This book is not as much an “issue” book as it is a book about people who have to deal with lots of those issues as part of their daily lives. I don’t have an ax to grind on the topics, but I did want to show how real people are affected by these contemporary topics.

Q: Several of the characters in Borders of the Heart are dealing with things from their past. What lessons do your characters learn along the way?

A: The past is huge for each of us. I’m convinced many are “stuck” by something in the past that holds us back from being all God wants us to be. A reader will walk through that process with the main character, J.D., and I’m hoping they’ll see an authentic struggle.

Q: J.D. Jessup is faced with a very difficult moral dilemma when he weighs the decision to follow his boss’ very clear direction or his own heart when he discovers Maria near death. What lessons does this story provide for your readers?

A: Every choice we make in life comes with a cost. If we say yes to one thing, we may have to say no to something else. The choice J.D. makes is a good choice, and even good choices can lead to disastrous and deadly results. Can you believe that God is involved in even the difficult circumstances? I think that’s a huge reveal in this story for me. Does everything have to work out perfectly in the end in order for God to be glorified?

Q: How does the concept of redemption figure into your story? Was it gratifying to write about redemption? Why or why not?

A: A lot of people don’t like the word “saved.” It’s old fashioned and not in vogue. I think the term is loaded with truth because if you’re on the verge of death and someone “saves” you, you know exactly what that means and how grateful you would be. Characters in this story get rescued from certain death and when the stakes are that high, I can’t help but get emotionally involved in the story.

Q: How does the concept of grace figure into your story? Was it gratifying to write about grace? Why or why not?

A: Grace is when we’re treated better than we deserve. Yes, characters discover that in the book as well. I love the concept of grace in such a gritty, tough story because you’re not expecting it. You’re expecting A+B=C and when grace invades, it catches you by surprise.

Q: Borders of the Heart clearly demonstrates that sometimes there is a cost to compassion. What made this an important story element for you? Why was it important for you to show that sometimes there is a cost for us when we behave compassionately?

A: You’ve heard the saying, “Freedom isn’t free.” The one who acts with compassion usually absorbs the pain of someone else. This is a picture of the cross, of the sacrifice made for us in Christ. This is another thread you’ll discover throughout the story.

Q: Have you ever been faced with a real-life hard choice or ethical dilemma like your main character J.D.? If so, what was your dilemma and did you feel like you made the right choice?

A: I’ve never had to decide whether to leave a person for dead or not, but I think every day we have a chance to sacrifice. Sometimes it’s a small thing, like taking time for your children when you have something REALLY important, like writing a few more paragraphs. I haven’t always passed those tests. My contention is, the details of everyday life will show what we’ll do with the big decisions. If you choose well in the small moments, the moments when no one is looking, you’ll choose well when a huge decision comes your way. Conversely, if you don’t see the little things as important, you might not make a good decision with the big decision.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Borders of the Heart?

A: Borders of the Heart is at its core a love story. You will root for J.D. and Maria to survive and solve the mystery of what’s really going on in Tucson. And I hope readers will take away the truth that what looks impossible to people is possible with God’s power. Even if something looks hopeless, it’s really not when God is involved.

To view the trailer for this book at the author's website, click here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up

As you might have guessed from the title, When to Speak Up & When to Shut Up by Dr. Michael D. Sedler, is a book about improving one’s communication skills—especially in conflict situations. There are times to speak up, even when one would rather bite one’s tongue, and there are times to be silent, even if one is dying to shout. Sedler helps his readers to discern these times. Along with each type of situation discussed, Sedler uses personal experience, the experiences of people he’s worked with or known,the experiences of historical figures, and examples from the Bible to help readers more clearly understand. Each chapter contains lists of things to consider or steps to take to handle situations more wisely. The books closes with Sedler’s personal testimony.

The book is short and easy to understand. It covers a good variety of communication circumstances: family and work and society situations, checking motives, asking questions, and handling anger well. It covers the advantages and disadvantages of speaking up and remaining silent and, in the end, shows how to use either effectively when one must take a stand.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Chosen Books. I thank the publisher for sending it in exchange for this honest review.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: Starring Me

It’s not often that I like a sequel better than a first book, but, in the case of Starring Me, this is the case. I enjoyed reading First Date, a contemporary story with elements from the stories of Esther and Daniel, but Starring Me was even more fun to read.

Also a contemporary story with recognizable similarities to a biblical one, Starring Me moves Kara McKormick from supporting role to lead. In this story, she’s auditioning for a role as a co-star on a brand new TV show for teens. She knows the show’s male counterpart has already been chosen, but his identity is being kept secret. Also unknown to her is the fact that his parents set up the auditions in a way that would allow them to choose his co-star. Knowing he’ll be working with her closely and over a long period of time, they want their son to find a co-star who shares his faith in God.

In addition to the fun story, this book offers some great insights into setting priorities, showing kindness, putting others above self, why Jesus matters, how God works in our lives, caring for those in need, maintaining strong family relationships, being a friend, and getting a good education.

I’m happy to recommend this sweet story, especially to junior high or early high school age girls. Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary eCopy for this honest review.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: Darkness Rising

Darkness Rising, Lis Wiehl’s sequel to Waking Hours, is a fascinating read. A supernatural thriller set in East Salem, it picks up where Waking Hours left off. Though the main characters, Dani and Tommy, solved the mystery of the first book, they quickly discover there is a mystery behind the mystery yet unsolved. Further, the fate of the world may depend on them, with the help of friends and relatives unwittingly drawn into the quest, stopping events being put into motion by the forces of darkness rising. As Darkness Rising is Book Two of a trilogy, this book also concludes at a satisfying moment, while leaving the reader eager to get hold of the final book, Final Tide, due out in September of 2013.

Oh, dear! That’s a long way away!

In case you can’t tell, I am really enjoying this series. The characters, both new and old, are fascinating and unexpected. I liked how Wiehl and her co-author, Pete Nelson, chose to have them come together and how they related in positive ways under extreme circumstances. Discussions between Dani and Quinn about how people’s brains work and how chemicals can affect them and how these relate to autism, teenage hormones, and brain tumors were intriguing and clearly explained. I also appreciated the subtle historical thread--with an obvious fictional bent. Wiehl and Nelson researched quite a variety of non-fiction topics to enhance this great fictional book.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review. I recommend this book to fans of supernatural mysteries.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review: To Love and Cherish

To Love and Cherish is the story of Melinda Colson, a young woman who went from high society in the late 1800’s to near poverty when her parents died, leaving her and her brother destitute. To survive, her brother left to earn his fortune on the sea. Melinda became a lady’s companion.

It’s this job that takes her to (the fictional) Bridal Veil Island, off the coast of Georgia, where she meets and falls in love with Evan, the gamekeeper. Expecting a proposal to rescue her from her life as a lady’s companion, Melinda is disappointed and begins to doubt Evan’s love. This is the story of two people learning to trust each other’s love when neither acts or reacts as anticipated.

I loved the setting for this story. Bridal Veil Island, fictionally located between St. Simon’s and Jekyl (now Jekyll), at a time when wealthy people travelled south for the “season” to pass the time until the harsh winters of their home states passed, sounds like a beautiful place. I was greatly frustrated by the spoiled wealthy and eager-to-please-them supervisors and such. I don’t think this island would have been a pleasant place to work. Yet somehow Evan and Melinda manage to sort everything out, effectively learning how to love and cherish one another along the way.

I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of the book, the second in a series by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller, for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: Grace

Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine is Max Lucado’s most powerful book yet. When I’ve read his other books, I’ve paced myself—about a chapter a day to savor and think slowly through. I enjoy reading his books that way and will probably go back and do that with this one, too. But I was so drawn into this one that I just kept reading, all the way through.

Lucado covers all aspects of grace. He writes of God’s gracious nature, His mercy, His desire to forgive, and His compassionate, Fatherly love. He writes of our sin and makes it clear that we need grace. He speaks the truth in love, but he does not soften the necessary blow. He writes of saving grace and sustaining grace, of receiving grace and giving grace. His message throughout is clear and true. He presents the Gospel, teaches how to live the Christian life, and tells us of our future hope.

Each chapter has both Bible story and life application woven into it. Lucado shares his personal experiences and those of others whose actions, needs, and testimonies help us better understand. He opens each chapter with a page of three or four Scripture verses or relevant quotes, chosen to introduce that chapter’s point. The book closes with a reader’s guide written by Kate Etue.

No one weaves words together to communicate clearly and concisely like Lucado does. My heart was touched by the message in this book which so simply reflects the Message of my favorite Book.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review. I particularly recommend it to anyone who has ever believed their life is messed up beyond God's grace. This message will help open your eyes to the glorious Truth.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day

If you, like me, sometimes have trouble keeping the basic beliefs of the many different religions of the world straight, Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day can be a helpful resource. Now, when I hear something about a particular religion and am curious for more detail, I can refer back to this book for a quick synopsis.

Broken into 40 chapters, the book first defines religion, for the purposes of the book, then gives a basic overview of several religions. Author Garry R. Morgan, Professor of Intercultural Studies at Northwestern College, provides historical information and the major points of the beliefs of these religions. In some cases, he breaks a particular religion down to present different aspects over several chapters. In other cases, he lumps some of the smaller religions together to cover what they all have in common in one chapter. He concludes each chapter with An Extra Minute, an extra tidbit of information readers may find interesting.

I appreciated Morgan’s comment at the end of Chapter 2, which sums up the content well:
This book endeavors to present each religion in a straightforward way, so that a reader who is a follower while perhaps disagreeing with certain assessments, would say the description is truthful and fair.
I think Morgan has been truthful and fair, providing a great resource to help people from different faith backgrounds to greater understand each other’s point of view. If you’re curious about other religions, this book will be a great starting point for research you might want to do.

I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: Prayers of a Stranger

Prayers of a Stranger: a Christmas Journey by Davis Bunn is such a beautiful story! I was so touched by it that I read it through mostly in one afternoon. It’s a story of deep loss, grief, and a struggle toward healing. It’s the story of a couple in pain, who still manage to minister to those all around them, reaching out to neighbors and co-workers, setting boundaries where needed, always sticking up for what is right. When those neighbors and co-workers reach out in love right back, God uses their overtures to bring healing all around.

As I read this comparatively short story (only 210 pages, but they were enough), I especially loved the parts set in Israel. The author made me want to travel there myself! I was proud of Amanda and Emily for leaving the tour bus. I also loved how the characters throughout the book interacted with each other: with forbearance, forgiveness, understanding, wisdom, compassion, honesty, boldness, and encouragement. Lucy’s story in particular filled my heart with hope.

This Christmas, you simply have to read Prayers of a Stranger!

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review. I was blessed to read this book.

Book Review: The Widow of Saunders Creek

The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman is the story of Corrie Saunders, a promising artist turned Army wife, then widow. Seven months after her husband’s death in Iraq, Corrie moves into the family home, her husband’s inheritance from his grandparents, now hers. Corrie begins to sense a presence in the house and comes to believe her husband is residing there as a ghost.

Corrie’s husband’s cousin, Eli, who is renovating the house for Corrie, knows better, though. Those who’ve inhabited the family home for decades have all sensed this presence and witnessed ghostly things. Eli believes it’s time for these beings to leave, but must convince Corrie.

Though the story has supernatural/spirit world/culture of superstition elements, it’s really a story about overcoming grief, of learning to let go of what is gone and of trusting God as one moves forward with life. Corrie must overcome what is holding her back, tempting her to hang on to her husband as if he were still alive instead of gratefully embracing God’s new gifts.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I enjoyed reading it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: House of Mercy

House of Mercy by Erin Healy is her best book yet! (And I really enjoyed reading the other three.) The cover itself demands the book be read, then, once the chain of events begins to unfold, you’ll just have to know how it masterfully ends. If you choose to read this book, don’t stop at the end. Continue to read Healy’s following author’s note which includes her personal testimony about what was going on in her own life as she wrote the book.

As the story opens, Beth, trying to help someone she cares about, makes one serious error in judgment followed by another even more serious. The consequences of her actions spiral unimaginably out of her control. As she prays for mercy, God promises to give it. Even so, Beth can’t predict or dictate God’s means of answering her prayers for healing and restoration for her family. She can only trust that God will do, in His own way, what is best for all.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I’m happy to recommend it to fans of supernatural thrillers full of mystery, emotion, and intrigue.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review: You're Stronger Than You Think

I just finished reading You’re Stronger Than You Think by Dr. Les Parrott. On the cover, this book promises to teach readers how to leverage their strengths. It also says, on the back cover, that this strength ultimately comes from God. But Parrott doesn’t talk much about that—even in the chapters about The Power of Your Soul.

I was a little disappointed in this book. I chose it from Tyndale House Publisher’s selection of books for review because I’ve come across this concept of leveraging strengths in a few places over the past year and was curious to learn more. This book tells me why I should leverage the strengths of my mind, heart, and soul, but, to learn more about my personal strengths and how to leverage them, I need to take the online strength profile (for a small fee) and purchase the life application workbook. Both are optional tools, but the book alone has very little to offer practically.

The book is divided into six chapters in three sections: The Power of Your Mind, The Power of Your Heart, and The Power of Your Soul. Of the three, I was most intrigued by The Power of Your Heart. I especially liked the first chapter in this section—Feel Vulnerable: There’s Strength in Owning Your Weakness. Each of the three sections ends with a brief personal evaluation and a few simple life application ideas. The strength of this book is a bit of common sense encouragement for those who feel they can’t accomplish what they want.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Accused

I liked the book, Accused, by Janice Cantore, though it was hard to get into at first. It’s the story of Carly, a recently divorced police woman who is trying to earn her way back to patrol after being sent to work in juvenile because of negative publicity from a shooting incident. Because of all she’s suffered, including her father’s death to cancer, Carly has a very cynical attitude—she doesn’t trust anyone—especially not the teenage boy who has been accused of murder and has asked for her help.

This is why the book was hard to get into. When the main character seems tough and unreasonable and starts taking out her frustrations on the innocent, well, it’s difficult to care what happens to her. But God cares about the tough and unreasonable, even when they’re taking out their frustrations on others. He is faithful to work in, and even through, their lives. Cantore shows her readers this as Carly’s story unfolds.

Along with watching Carly change and mature, I enjoyed the conspiracy-theory mystery of the book. By the fourth or fifth chapter, I was hooked. Halfway through, I couldn’t put it down. And now I’m looking forward to the sequel, Abducted, due to come out soon. I’m happy to recommend this book. (I obtained it on my own to participate in Tyndale House Publisher's summer reading program.)