Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Covenant Child

Covenant Child is an amazing story. It’s sad—heartbreaking, actually— and full of unimaginable pain, but it points readers to the truth of God’s incredible love, mercy, patience, and grace. The story is an allegory of each person’s journey toward faith and the decision to accept or reject God’s Truth, to believe what He says or be misled by Satan’s selfish and hurtful lies.

I loved the way author Terri Blackstock told the story with twins in order to make the truth about choices more clear. When their father dies in a plane crash, three-year-old Kara and Lizzie are taken from the only home they’ve ever known, from their stepmother, Amanda, who loves them and who intended to raise them faithfully as her own. Though legal technicalities continue to keep Amanda, the stepmother, from the girls, she determines to carefully preserve their inheritance for when they come of age. But this truth is kept from Kara and Lizzie, and their heads are filled with lies. Finding their way to the life they were meant to lead is the challenge they both face.

Following the story itself is an insightful author interview and a reader’s discussion guide. Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary eCopy of this book for my honest review. I’m recommending it to everyone!

Book Review: Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus is an unexpected ton of fun! I enjoyed the adventure—and you will, too. In fact, you may even decide you want to be just like Harriet when you grow up, but that would be the opposite of the point of the book. While on her trip, Harriet learns to accept herself and others just as they are.

When 72-year-old Harriet loses a bet to her daughter-in-law requiring her to move cross-country, Harriet decides to make the journey by city bus. She sells her house, ships her belongings and her dog, and hops on the first bus she sees, intending to let it take her as far as it will.

But city busses don’t travel very far, so Harriet must learn how to travel from city to city, sometimes taking busses, taxi cabs, trains—and many unexpected things! She trades in her fashionable shoes for a pair of red high tops and learns to use a smart phone with its GPS. Along the way, she encourages the people who momentarily cross her path, collects memories in her journal, and sends salt & pepper shakers from each location to her new home.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review—I eagerly recommend it to you!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: Crazy Dangerous

Crazy Dangerous is a great story from beginning to end. Written primarily for teenage guys, it has a little bit of everything they’re known to love: action, adventure, mystery, suspense, supernatural elements. There’s even an unattainable girl, admired from afar.

The book has some deeper, more disturbing themes, though—mental illness, high school bullying and violence, and dabbling in the occult. Author Andrew Klavan researched and presented the mental illness issue especially well.

The overall theme of the book, printed on the cover, is “Do right. Fear nothing.” This is a great message for teenage guys. Yet, in order to do right, the main character often disobeys his parents and breaks laws, the message becoming, “The end justifies the means.” But lives are at stake, time is short, and, in the cases when he does try to communicate with adults, they don’t listen to him. So it’s all kind of sticky. This concerned me at first, but a) the father often talks with the son about better ways he could have handled things and b) the discussion guide at the end of the book brings these points to readers’ attention, helping them to think them through. These would be discussions worth having with a teenage son, if both parent and son read the book and if they enjoy talking about the books they read.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary eCopy of this book for my honest review. I was thankful for the opportunity to read it. The story was intense!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: Trauma Plan

Trauma Plan is the story of victims striving to regain control over their lives—or, really, to turn their lives back over to the One Who never lost control. Riley Hale is an ER trauma chaplain, counseling those who suffer while recovering from a vicious assault that caused what may be permanent nerve damage. She is determined to overcome her disability and get her life back on track—to return to her former job as an ER nurse.

Dr. Jack Travis works part-time at the same hospital as Riley, but devotes most of his time to the free clinic he runs. Unfortunately, from his point of view, suburbia has encroached on his clinic. Wealthy neighbors fear those who use the clinic and are determined to shut it down.

When Riley and Jack meet, he invites her to volunteer at the clinic, hoping her influential last name will give the clinic some neighborhood clout. Riley accepts, hoping to prove through her work there that she is fit once again to be an ER nurse.

Author Candace Calvert has used her own experiences as an ER nurse to write a beautiful story of empathy and compassion, trust, and God’s sovereignty and grace. Subtle truths are woven throughout. As readers get to know each amazing character, they can’t help but cheer them on as the intensity builds right to the perfect conclusion. Tyndale House Publishers sent this book for my honest review. I’m happy to recommend it to fans of contemporary Christian fiction.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: Stand by Me

Stand by Me by Neta Jackson is the story of the idealism of youth meeting the experience of, ahem, maturity. It’s “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” meeting “These older women must train the younger women.” The slow-growing relationship between Kat and Avis is beautiful, brilliant, and unique. I just loved doing my best to absorb all the wisdom contained in this story.

Fans of Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series, which I have not yet read, will find that group in this story and, as I understand from the Reading Group Guide in Stand by Me, a deeper look at Avis’s character. Though this is a new series, SouledOut Sisters, Yada Yada fans will want to continue what they started here. On the other hand, Jackson gives more than enough information to keep readers who are meeting these characters for the first time, like me, totally in the loop. I never felt lost, enjoyed the current story and characters, and look forward to someday reading the Yada Yada books.

Themes touched on in this story include: homelessness, domestic violence, church politics, racism, inner city ministries/social services, salvation, Christian growth, mentorship, economic issues, and more. The series is set in Chicago and revolves around members of the SouledOut Community Church.

I’m happy to recommend this book and thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing me with a complimentary eCopy for my honest review.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review-Need You Now

Need You Now is the first book by Beth Wiseman that I’ve read. I hear it’s something new for her, too, as she usually writes Amish stories. Need You Now is the contemporary story of an average American family who moves from the big city to a small town, hoping for a fresh start for one of their teenagers who’s been experimenting with dangerous things.

Small town living brings a whole new set of challenges, though. Need You Now is the story of how this family learns to resist temptation, make right choices, and lean on God faithfully throughout every day. It’s a story of Christian living. It’s a story of relationship with God. It’s a story of marriage, parenting, friendship, faithfulness, forgiveness, and trust. It’s a story of finding your way when there seems to be no way through prayer and devotion to God.

In a way, the main character in this book is the family. Each member had a challenge to overcome and something unique to offer the group. There were no stereotypes here, and Darlene and Grace’s new best friends enhanced the story greatly in their supporting roles. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Beth Wiseman in this new niche.

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review--Quiet

You might not be able to tell from reading a blog post, but I’m a pretty quiet person. I like to read, learn, think, reflect, and absorb. I dearly love people, but I prefer them in ones or twos, so I can offer my full attention. This is a good thing!

Susan Cain will tell you why in her amazing book about the psychology, personality, and power of the introvert.

I loved this book! Cain is the first person I’ve ever come across who agrees with me that one can be quiet without being shy. There is a difference! I’ve always said so, but nobody listens to me.

And now I know why! Did I mention I love this book?

The book is divided into four sections. The first, The Extrovert Ideal, shows how our society has changed over the past 70 or so years, becoming obsessed with extroversion, and reveals some problems this has caused. Cain explains the strengths and weaknesses of both introverts and extroverts, that both have something valuable to offer, and why balance is necessary.

The second section explores the biology and psychology behind quiet tendencies, asking the question, “Can introverts become extroverts through training and determination, or are they what they are?” (This section gets pretty technical, but is fascinating if you'll choose to hang in there.)

The third section explores the Asian culture which tends to focus on the introvert. Cain focuses here on the experiences of Asian-American teenagers often caught between both cultures.

The final section is full of practical advice for both introverts and extroverts on how to get along with one another—particularly within a marriage and at work. Cain helps introverts determine when they need to stand their ground and when it helps to fake it, becoming a pseudo-extrovert. She also tells how to do this without over-stressing yourself or becoming insincere. She closes this section with a chapter for parents and teachers of introverts on helping them successfully transition into a world that often won’t accept them for who they are.

Throughout the book, Cain gives examples of well-known and respected introverts who used the strength of this bent in order to make great contributions to society.

I recommend this book to all introverts.

I also recommend this book to all spouses, parents, and teachers of introverts. (This book should be a college text for teachers in training!)

I especially recommend this book to every extrovert who has ever been tempted to ask an introvert why she is so quiet. (If you’ve yielded to that temptation, this book is required reading for you!)

Face it, I just recommend this book—and I thank Susan Cain for writing it.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. The book is actually published by Crown Publishing, though. It is a well-researched and carefully written, secular psychology book.