Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Garden of Madness

Reading through the Book of Daniel, I’ve wondered at times how it was that proud King Nebuchadnezzar managed to hold onto his kingdom during his seven years of insanity. God willed it, of course, but how did events play out? In her new book, Garden of Madness, Tracy Higley uses her imagination to give readers one possibility.

The book is a work of historical fiction. Several characters are mentioned in the Bible and in other historical documents from the time. Other characters, including the main character, Princess Tiamat, are Higley’s inventions. Higley explains more about this in a note following the story.

As for the story, I loved it! Princess Tiamat was a fun character who cared deeply for the people in her life, longed to be loved in return, and determined to seek truth whatever the cost. And the truth of this novel comes straight from the true story of the Bible in which this fictional story is set: the cause and resolution of King Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years of insanity.

Though Garden of Madness is a work of historical fiction, it’s also a turn-the-pages-quickly, conspiracy/suspense thriller. I enjoyed reading this work and recommend it to you. Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: Arms of Love

Something dark and sinister from Adam’s past is holding him in bondage to anger and fear. Not even Adam knows what it is, but his girlfriend’s mother knows it’s there. On her deathbed, she makes him promise not to marry Lena until he finds freedom from it.

Adam decides to keep his promise by letting Lena go altogether and enlisting in the new country’s army, though to fight goes against his Amish beliefs. Before he can act, however, he has many challenges to face.

I enjoyed this highly unpredictable story that somehow managed to end the way I’d hoped it would for everyone involved.

The first question in the Reading Group Guide at the end of the book is: “What similarities and differences did you find between the colonial culture of the Amish and the current renditions of the Amish?” I had noticed so many throughout the book! I’m curious now to know how these came about. I appreciated this story of these people in this early American setting.

In addition to the Reading Group Guide, Arms of Love also includes a four week Bible study written by the author.

To fans of Amish fiction, I recommend this book. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Days with Jesus, Part 1

Days with Jesus, Part 1, is described by Author Jim Jackson as a docuvotional—part documentary, part devotional. In this book, Jackson walks us through the first ten chapters of the Book of John with 31 devotionals, a few pictures, and a corresponding website with video footage of the land where the events of Jesus’ life took place.

Each four or five page chapter starts with a story—a modern day scenario or a look at the Bible story from a unique point of view. Jackson then goes on to give his readers more information about the culture, history, and even science of the situation. He makes his point: a life application principle from the story or a deeper truth about Who Jesus Is. Then he closes the chapter with four or five questions for the reader to contemplate.

Just for fun, Jackson scatters asterisks throughout the book. The reader can turn to the back of the book for more information: Jackson’s favorite Sesame Street character, a scientific fact, historical or biographical information about an event or person mentioned, and other loosely relevant tidbits. I made sure not to miss any of these!

I would especially recommend this book to new and growing Christians or to those trying to understand the truth about Jesus. However, anyone interested in a deeper look at Jesus’ life as presented in the Book of John will like what they find here. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author with a simple request that I read it, if interested, and write this review.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: The Messenger

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell is the story of a young Quaker woman living in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. When her twin brother, who left The Meeting in order to join the rebellion, is arrested and thrown in jail, Hannah is desperate to visit him, though her church has forbidden it. Tavern owner and spy Jeremiah Jones sees an opportunity. He uses his connections to get Hannah a pass to visit her brother in exchange for her services as a messenger. Hannah delivers messages to help the prisoners escape in order to visit her brother.

Though I appreciated the deep lessons learned by Hannah and Jeremiah throughout the story, I struggled to enjoy this book. There was very little action other than Hannah sneaking back and forth to and from the jail. More than story and plot, it was Hannah and Jeremiah taking turns sharing their thoughts about what they were doing. The book was finally starting to claim my attention when it ended abruptly. I know that authors are supposed to leave their readers wanting more, but this particular story didn’t really seem to end. Perhaps Mitchell has a sequel planned.

Mitchell does present the reader with a unique glimpse into the lives of individuals during Revolutionary War times, the struggles of the colonials, and slavery as it existed back then. She emphasizes the value of all people in God’s eyes, grace, compassion, and standing up for what is right no matter the cost to oneself. She also shows that no one denomination is superior to another. So long as different churches are faithful to God and His Word, they must learn to respect one another and each other’s means of worship.

Revolutionary War history enthusiasts will appreciate this book. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for my honest review.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review: Wildflowers from Winter

Katie Ganshert’s premiere novel, Wildflowers from Winter, is a winner! (And she promises a sequel about one of the other characters at the end; I will be watching for this!)

Wildflowers from Winter is the story Bethany Quinn, a successful renovation architect who has worked very hard to put the tragic circumstances of her childhood behind her—almost as if they never happened. For ten years, she’s avoided contact with her mother and has totally ignored her beloved grandfather and best childhood friend.

When tragedy strikes both of these people, though, Bethany is forced to return to her hometown. There she learns about the good she lost in attempting to sever the bad and the truth about the God Who carries people through.

I didn’t like Bethany at first, but Ganshert meant it to be that way. One of the other main characters said it well when he bluntly told Bethany that she just was not very nice. But Bethany had deep hurts that kept her from caring as most people do. Reading the story of how God healed these hurts was a hopeful thing—like wildflowers in Spring.

I’m happy to recommend this book and thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for my honest review.