Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: God Forsaken

God Forsaken by Dinesh D’Souza is a brilliant read. I chose to read it as part of Tyndale House Publisher’s summer reading program—an opportunity to earn free books! But I’m so thankful for this prompting. I loved this book!

The book has multiple purposes, clearly noted throughout and summarized in the concluding chapter. (My high school English teacher would have loved D’Souza’s perfect research paper presentation skills. I know I appreciated them; they made the flow of his ideas so easy to follow. But that’s beside the point. The content of this book is incredible.)

Simply put, D’Souza comprehensively and systematically tackles all of the atheist arguments against the existence of God while also helping Christians understand why bad things happen to good people and how to cope with the resulting suffering all within the pages of one 13 chapter book. He refutes the arguments of atheists such as Nietzsche and Hawking while expanding upon the thoughts of C.S. Lewis and other great Christian thinkers who have written on this topic. His research is thorough and his personal ideas are clear. (He lost me for a little while at the beginning of Chapter 10, but then came at his point from another angle and brought me on board again.)

Those who enjoy absorbing new thoughts on these continuing debates, the existence of God and the problem of suffering, will most definitely want to read D’Souza’s new book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: The Shadow of Your Smile

Imagine losing all memory of the past 25 years of your life. In your mind, you are a college student studying to begin a career. Yet you find yourself living in the body of a middle-aged woman and in the home of a man who claims to be your husband and with two grown children you cannot remember raising.

This is Noelle’s story as invented by author Susan May Warren in her new book, The Shadow of Your Smile, book 5 in the Deep Haven series.

I loved reading this book and will be watching for the next one in this series, soon to be released. The Shadow of Your Smile isn’t your typical Christian romance. The primary couple in the story has been married for nearly 25 years. But this marriage has been touched by tragedy and the family is falling apart. The second tragedy, the one resulting in Noelle’s amnesia, forces everyone involved to reevaluate decisions they’ve been making, to consider what they really want out of life—and what God may want for them. It’s a story of faith, commitment, marriage, family, grief, endurance, and joy. It’s a story of fresh starts and forgiveness. It’s one I’m happy to recommend.

I earned my copy of this book by participating in Tyndale House Publisher’s summer reading program. This review will help me earn another book soon. Hooray!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: The Search Committee

The Search Committee is a truly unique book. I enjoyed reading it, though. There are some things I’d like to say about it, but can’t because it would give away the ending. I won’t do that to you. Thankfully, the author discusses these things in the reading guide at the end of the book—so, if you read the book, don’t skip that part.

The Search Committee is the story of a diverse group of people chosen by their church to find a new minister. Over the course of a year, they travel on weekends to visit different churches in three southern states to listen to pastors who have indicated a desire to move. Our denomination doesn’t use search committees, so this process was new to me. The characters themselves weren’t entirely comfortable with it, as they had to try to slip in unnoticed and not let people know they were thinking of luring their pastors away.

The story wasn’t really about one church’s search for a new pastor, though. Between accounts of visits to churches were chapters about the individuals’ lives—all the stories behind the story. The search committee was made up of people, not saints, who were serving their church while also living out their unique lives, recovering from their pasts, figuring out their presents, and looking toward their futures.

Living in the South for now myself, I didn’t feel like the author’s portrayal of this location was entirely accurate. Sometimes he was right on target, but most of the time, it seemed the book must have really been set forty or more years back in time. The author does say, in an interview at the back of the book, that the idea for the book came from his own experience on a real search committee.

I am reviewing this book, which I obtained on my own, as part of Tyndale House Publisher’s Summer Reading Program.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Tidewater Inn

I just finished reading Colleen Coble’s new book, Tidewater Inn, and I loved it! This is the first of her books I’ve read, but I’ll be catching up on others. Coble is a great storyteller, able to weave subtle Christian truths into her tales.

Tidewater Inn is both mystery and romance. When Libby Holladay witnesses the kidnapping of her best friend and business partner, she travels to Hope Island to help police find her. Sadly, she becomes the prime suspect in the case. At the same time, she learns that she has inherited the island’s Tidewater Inn from her father—a man she’d been told had died when she was five. Not only had he lived, he’d raised a second family, a family who has no interest in getting to know Libby.

Family is a huge theme in this book. Giving generously is another. The power to choose was my favorite: we always have a choice. We trust God to help us when right choices are unknown or difficult to make. Rewards for obedience, though not always what we expect them to be, will always be granted. God is faithful to His faithful children. The concepts of living as Jesus would live and leaving a legacy are touched on in this book, too.

I enjoyed the story and appreciated its messages. I’m happy to recommend this book to you! Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary eCopy for my honest review.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review: This Scarlet Cord

On the cover of the book, This Scarlet Cord, Publisher’s Weekly is quoted as saying, “[S]killfully conjur[es] up a fascinating version of Rahab’s story . . .” This statement is true. The fictional story is well-written and quite intriguing. Author Joan Wolf is a talented novelist.

Unfortunately for Wolf, though, Rahab was a real person. That makes this story historical, specifically biblical, fiction. And rule number 1 for historical fiction is that the author can’t mess with the facts. The author can use her imagination to fill in the blanks around the facts, but she can’t alter what is known to be true.

Wolf made so many alterations to Rahab’s story that I can’t even count them all. To document them here would spoil the story for future readers, so I won't get into them. The most prominent of these, however, though showing God’s great power to rescue His people from peril, also removes the beautiful message of grace found in Rahab’s appearance in the lineage of Christ. It also unjustly portrays the Israelites, especially Joshua, in a negative light.

If This Scarlet Cord were strictly a work of fiction, I would recommend it highly. It was a beautiful love story. As a work of biblical fiction, however, I can’t recommend it at all. The author took too many liberties with the Bible's part.

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review: The Stars Shine Bright

If you’ve been following the story of Special Agent Raleigh Harmon through her novels, written by Sibella Giorello, you’ll be glad to hear a new story is out! If you haven’t been following the story, each novel contains its own mystery for Harmon to solve. You can choose to start with the newest, The Stars Shine Bright, or start at the beginning and work your way through. I started somewhere in the middle, and still plan to go back and read the first few.

The Stars Shine Bright is set in Seattle, Washington. Harmon is in trouble for a desperate decision made during her last case. On temporary suspension and being investigated by the FBI’s version of Internal Affairs, Harmon accepts an undercover assignment knowing that if she does well, she’ll be able to keep her job. If not, it will be the end of her career.

Complicating matters are her mother’s involuntary commitment to a mental asylum and her fiancĂ©’s insistence that she just give up the job, move home to Virginia, and let him take care of her. The choice may be taken out of Harmon’s hands; if not, it’s one she’ll have to make.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Giorello has a gift for creating amazing, if not eccentric, characters and putting them in interesting settings. I also got a kick out of Harmon’s mini-soapbox sermons, rants that randomly roamed through her mind as she dealt with difficult people and opposing viewpoints. Also woven throughout the story are Harmon’s deep thoughts about living honestly (something that’s hard to do when you’re working undercover) and receiving and responding to familial love.

Readers who enjoy great mysteries will love this book. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review.