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.)