Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review: Overextended . . . and loving most of it!

Overextended . . . and loving most of it! by Lisa Harper is an unusual book. It wasn’t what I expected, but I was thankful for the opportunity to read this book.

Most of the book is autobiographical; it’s Lisa’s account of the past year, a year full of devastating heartache and unexpected challenges. She truly was overextended, as the book says, yet she found ways to keep on going, doing all that God called her to do. She uses her story to tell us what she learned. She does this by scattering brief Bible studies and life insights throughout the book, worked into the story at relevant points. Chapter 4, Blasting through Burnout, gives readers a simple, step-by-step acrostic to use whenever they feel overwhelmed. Quotes by well-respected writers and church leaders enhance the content of each chapter.

In the final chapter of the book, Lisa includes a prayer for herself and her readers. I think this part of her prayer most clearly sums up the intent of the book:
Lord Jesus, . . . If anyone besides my immediate family reads this, please use this imperfect prose to help rip off the unnecessary burdens they’re lugging around as well. I pray they will be light enough to take whatever leap of faith you’ve called them to.
As Lisa continues living her overextended life, which now includes the blessing of an adopted daughter from Haiti, I’ll be whispering prayers for her, and others like her, whenever God brings this book and its lessons to mind--whenever I feel overwhelmed. The insights Lisa shared through her experiences will help me with this.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of Overextended for this honest review.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Review: Born of Persuasion

Born of Persuasion, the first book in the Price of Privilege Trilogy by new author Jessica Dotta, reminds me of classics such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca, stories of dark mystery in which the innocent heroine is drawn in by a mysterious and powerful man only to wonder if she’s gotten herself in over her head, curious to know the truth, yet fearing it as well. Only in Born of Persuasion, Julia Elliston has three mysterious men to deal with: 1) Edward, the childhood sweetheart she’s secretly betrothed to yet was torn away from, so that she no longer knows where she stands; 2) the anonymous guardian who controls her life and is threatening to send her away to Scotland to work below her station as a ladies’ maid; 3) Mr. Macy, the wealthy, yet secretive recluse who promises her everything she longs for if she’ll only trust him.

The story, set in 19th century Great Britain, is full of fascinating characters, secrets, questions, complications, and unexpected twists and turns. I was only sad that it didn’t end. I’ll have to wait for the next book. Dotta leaves her readers in a good place, though, answering just enough of the questions to leave them feeling satisfied, but leaving just enough mystery to entice them to read on.

Tyndale Publishing House sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I’ll be watching for more by this new author.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Stranded

Book Three of Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series is just as exciting and intriguing as the first two books. In Stranded, the stories of the McKenna siblings continue, this time focusing mostly on Gage. The family has just signed a contract with an Alaskan cruise line to provide adventure excursions for interested passengers in each port. Gage’s job is to travel on board the ship, training these passengers for camping, kayaking, and hiking adventures. Gage thinks this new aspect to his job will give him just the diversion he needs to forget Darcy St. James, whom he met in Book Two, Shattered.

As Gage makes his plans, Darcy’s friend and former partner begs her for help with her latest undercover, investigative reporting assignment. Darcy thought she’d given up that kind of reporting, but Abby sounds desperate. Darcy heads to Alaska and greets her friend only to learn that Abby’s gone missing by the very next day. Darcy determines to find her whatever the risk.

Fans of romantic suspense with a Christian message will love this story. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy for this honest review. I enjoyed reading it just as I enjoyed reading both Submerged and Shattered. I’ll be watching for the next McKenna story, Silenced, next year.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: Fatal Tide

I would classify Fatal Tide, the third book of The East Salem Trilogy, as pre-post-apocalyptic. In other words, the good characters in this book are working to defeat the evil characters in order to prevent a world-changing-and-definitely-not-for-the-better event. To complicate matters, some of the bad characters are demons. Thankfully, some of the good characters are angels. It’s a classic good versus evil story with an absolutely brilliant, and God-glorifying, ending.

Like most science fiction works, this one contains a lot of scientific, psychological, and medical technobabble. It’s all relevant to the story, though, and explained clearly and often enough that the reader doesn’t get too bogged down in it. There’s also quite a bit of violence as the forces of good and evil collide. But there’s also mystery and intrigue, action, adventure, and a touch of romance—just enough, but not too much. If those sound like the ingredients of a story that you appreciate, you’ll want to read Fatal Tide. Just be sure to read Waking Hours and Darkness Rising first.

I’ve enjoyed following main characters Tommy Gunderson and Dani Harris, along with their unusual assortment of friends, throughout this series. The ending caught me by surprise, but I thought it was perfect! I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for me to review for you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: The Miner's Lady

The Miner's Lady is the third book in Tracie Peterson’s Land of Shining Water series—and it was just as fascinating to read as the first two books. This book is the story of two Italian families living in the same town with all of the grown men from both families working in the same mine. Sadly, the two families have been feuding for three, going on four, generations. They work together peacefully, but tolerate no other contact.

For this reason, Chantel Panetta is quite flustered when she learns her younger sister, Isabella, has fallen in love with Orlando Calarcos and plans to marry him in spite of the feud. The couple hopes that their marriage and any resulting children will bring peace to the two families. Chantel fears a more grave outcome for the two, yet agrees to help them in their quest. When she runs into friction from Orlando’s brother, Dante, life really gets complicated.

As in the first two books, this one not only blesses the reader with an inspirational story, but also provides an historical glimpse into the life of immigrants in America in the late 1800’s who settled in Minnesota and took up particular occupations in that state. I enjoyed learning about the Italian (and Finnish) miners, their families, customs, and community. I appreciated Peterson’s story-telling ability and getting to know her characters, watching them learn how to choose what’s right, even stranding against such strong forces as tradition and family loyalty.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of The Miner’s Lady in exchange for this honest review. I’m happy to recommend this book.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review: Burning Sky

Burning Sky is an exceptional first novel by its author, Lori Benton. It’s historical Christian fiction just as the genre should be. Set in America’s northeast just after the Revolutionary War, Burning Sky tells the story of a young woman forcibly taken from one home only to have her new home destroyed by violence and disease. When she returns to her original home, she finds her parents’ cabin abandoned. She also finds a wounded man dying on their property. She must nurse him back to health as she struggles to make a new place for herself in a somewhat hostile environment.

Though she trusts no one else, Willa Obenchain, called Burning Sky by the Mohawks who adopted her, clings to the God she loves. In one of the most beautiful passages of the book, she realizes that, though everything she loves has been destroyed, if she’s still breathing, God still must have a purpose for her life. Her challenge is to find that purpose with God’s faithful guidance. The whole book is a testimony to what God is able to do when people offer Him faith like that.

I loved reading this story and am happy to recommend it to you. Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Note: To order this title from Amazon.com, click on the book's picture. The link will take you to the book's page on that site. I'll receive a small commission for any purchase you make through that link, so thank you if you do!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Wounded Women of the Bible

Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts by Dena Dyer and Tina Samples is one of the most encouraging Bible studies I’ve read in some time. I recommend it to all women, not only those who are hurting. Anyone involved in women’s ministry must read this book, too—and keep several on hand to give away. The book is also suitable for small groups; a study guide is included at the back of the book for this purpose.

Each chapter of this 13-chapter book tells the story of a woman (or women) from the Bible who was hurt in one way that women are, sadly, still hurt today. The authors take turns within each chapter exploring the Bible story (or stories, when more than one applies to the issue at hand) and sharing their own similar or related experiences or those of other women they know. As readers learn how God worked in the biblical woman’s life—or what went wrong if she refused to allow His healing work in her life—readers will gain hope and confidence in the God Who Sees Them and Who is working faithfully.

Lessons are true to God’s Word and applicable to life. They are presented with sensitivity and empathy. They range from mild, everyday stressors to the harshest traumas of life. They have value for individuals and for reaching out to other individuals in pain. Kregel Publications sent a complimentary copy for me to read for review, but I know I will read it again. Dyer and Samples have provided a meaningful Bible study and a resource, too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review: Dark Halo

Dark Halo—where to begin? This book came as quite a surprise. If this had been the first book in the series, I probably would have steered clear of it. But it’s the third in a trilogy and I really wanted to learn how the story ends. What started out as the story of a teenage ballerina with a halo led to a full-blown spiritual showdown with Satan himself.

Who’d have guessed?

Here are a few random thoughts about this book:

1. I liked it. Shannon Dittemore is a talented writer with a knack for telling a great story full of subtle, spiritual truth. She captured my attention with the first book in the series, Angel Eyes, and, though I had a few reservations about the second book, Broken Wings, Dittemore finished the trilogy triumphantly.

2. There’s a lot of meat tucked into this story if the reader is watching for it.
  • Though angels and demons are battling it out, God is sovereign over all creation. No one on either side does anything unless He wills it or allows it. (No. He is not portrayed as a character in this book. Dittemore wisely refrained from that, revealing His Presence by having characters talk about what He was allowing or commanding.)
  • One character learns to forgive someone despicable and even to care what becomes of his soul.
  • Other characters learn that when God says no, He sometimes means not yet.
  • The main characters learn that personal failure doesn’t mean the war is over.
  • Satan is portrayed not as a hideous monster who repels, but as an attractive being who knows how to lure his prey in. Characters who know he is evil and are aware of his schemes still struggle with temptation.
These are just a few examples of truths worked into this book.

3. My one disappointment was that Brielle (the ballerina) never went to God for help. When confused or tempted or up against a wall, she either tried to stand on her own or consulted humans or angels. As I read the story, I kept telling Brielle that she needed to stop and pray. (Yes. I talk to characters in books or movies. They rarely listen to me.)

4. Though the story is well-told and full of truth, I still have a few reservations about the fictionalization of angels and demons and such. With the popularity of truly fictional, supernatural beings like vampires and zombies and witches and werewolves, readers need to remember that angels and demons and Satan and a spiritual realm really do exist. They need to know what the Bible says about these, pray faithfully, and stick close to God, so they'll stand strong against temptation and so others will come to know Him. Dark Halo communicates most of that well, but if readers classify it all with other supernatural stories, they’ll fail to take the message seriously. For that reason, I would caution parents to be aware of their teenager’s spiritual maturity, to read the book themselves if their teenager does, and to talk openly about issues of concern.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: The Prayer Box

Tandi Jo Reese has no idea that she’s made a life-changing discovery when she finds a closet full of mysterious boxes full of letters to her former landlord’s Father. Unable to resist, Tandi starts reading the letters, though she’s really been hired to clean the house that was left to the church next-door after her landlord’s death. When Tandi realizes that the letters are really prayers and that there’s one box full of them for every year of Iola Anne Poole’s life from her tenth year on, Tandi becomes protective of the letters—and even more determined to read them all.

At the same time, Tandi is trying to make a new life for herself and her two children, a life that she hopes will begin in the happiest place she ever knew as a child. Visiting with her grandparents on Hatteras Island was the one bright spot in her troubled life. She moves to the island because she longs for a stable refuge.

Though the story is contemporary, Iola’s story is woven throughout (as Tandi reads the letters), giving readers a sense of history—and the fun of two stories running parallel. As Tandi makes discoveries about the kind of woman Iola Anne Poole was, she also makes decisions about the kind of woman she wants to be—especially as she learns she has a choice! Iola’s past and other people’s opinions of her did not define her; Tandi fights to make this true for her life as well, in spite of opposition from people who'd rather she not change.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of The Prayer Box for my honest review. I am so thankful I got to read it. I recommend it to you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review: Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold

Harriet’s back! And I still want to be just like her when I grow up. Well, maybe I don’t want to be quite so gullible or quick to jump to wrong conclusions. But I like her adventurous spirit--and her bright, red sneakers!

In the first book, in case you haven’t read it yet, 72-year-old Harriet Beamer travels from Pennsylvania to California by rather unconventional means and learns all kinds of lessons along the way. In this second book, Harriet Strikes Gold, Harriet is now living with her son and daughter-in-law, getting used to her new town. Of course, Humphrey the dog is with her, and he’s still eating all the donuts he can get his paws on. But Harriet is feeling a little bit discouraged. She hasn’t made any new friends, nor does she want to. She wonders if her family really wants her there or if they feel obligated to care for her in her senior years. And worst of all, there is no room in their little house for her salt and pepper shaker collection.

Things change quickly, though, when a neighbor from down the street takes Harriet to visit a real gold mind, then tells her about placer mines for lease. Harriet is picturing herself panning for gold with Humphrey when a teenage girl and her father approach with the opportunity of a lifetime, and Harriet’s new adventure begins.

This book was so much fun, I read it straight through. It ended just perfectly for everyone involved. I’ll be watching for book 3. I thank Zondervan Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review: Redeeming Love

About a third of a way through this book, I was becoming anxious. The main character’s choices were so dark—and getting darker all the time. Even as I reached the last one hundred pages, Angel continued to choose wrong. She was hurting herself and everyone around her—even when she was trying to do right! Redeeming Love is a painful book to read.

However, when Angel finally got the point, which wasn’t even the point that I’d expected her to get, I decided the book had been well worth my time. Francine Rivers is a gifted storyteller who presents the message she’s trying to convey in unexpected, yet meaningful ways.

Her personal testimony, shared just before the reading group guide, was a touching bonus. She gives God all the credit for the content of this book and tells her readers why.

Redeeming Love is a retelling of the Bible’s Book of Hosea, set in the mid-1800’s during the California Gold Rush. Angel is a young woman who was sold into prostitution as a child and was never able to escape. Michael Hosea is the farmer who obeys God’s voice to marry her, even against her will. The result is a story of determined love based on choice and Angel’s discoveries about all that entails.

Supporting characters, their stories, and the lessons they learn add much value to the message of the book. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending it to me in exchange for my review.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Finding the Good in Grief

If you are struggling through a time of grief, for any reason, I highly recommend John F. Baggett's book Finding the Good in Grief: Rediscover Joy after a Life-Changing Loss to you. It’s a short book, clearly written and easy to understand, yet it is packed with insightful and comforting information. Baggett wrote the book after finding his own way through grief after mental illness stole his son. Baggett writes from a place of experience and empathy.

Walking readers through the traditionally identified stages of grief, Baggett defines each. Then he takes readers a step further, showing the positives of each stage—why God gives these to people who hurt. Baggett also identifies ways people get stuck in the different stages instead of moving forward toward healing. He explains the problems this can cause and helps readers see what they can do, if they are stuck, in order to move toward healing again. Baggett closes each chapter with the story of someone who has experienced and triumphed over the stage covered in that chapter. The final two chapters help readers see how they will eventually be able to help others who are experiencing what they have endured and how readers can look forward to new and more positive life experiences that they may enjoy once they’ve worked their way through grief.

Insights I gained from reading this book will definitely stick with me. I am thankful to Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: Beyond Ordinary

Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis is a unique marriage book, combining autobiography with gentle advice. Justin and Trisha write in the final chapter that their goal in writing this book is to help both couples whose marriage is in crisis and couples whose marriage is okay, but just ordinary.

The book takes readers from the earliest days of Justin and Trisha’s relationship to current day. Each of the twelve chapters, though, identifies something significant about the relationship at the point of time covered. Justin and Trisha take turns talking, telling that segment of the story from his or her point of view. Then, together, they tell what they’ve learned from the experience. They share with great vulnerability in hopes that God will use their story to save or strengthen other marriages.

It was a privilege to read this book, and I’ll gladly recommend it to anyone looking for information that can help to bolster and better their marriage. As the Davis’s say in Chapter 11, “We have to choose oneness . . . because none of us drift toward oneness.” Beyond Ordinary will encourage couples as they make this daily choice.

I obtained this book on my own and am choosing to review it for credit toward Tyndale’s Summer Reading program. For more information on marriage and parenting, visit the Davis's blog: RefineUs.org.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist

When my copy of this book came in the mail, I sat down to admire it and noticed a small smudge of residual sticker goo on the front, right beside the title.

Oh, no!

I immediately went to work attempting to scrub it off. Then I realized I’d made a small indentation in its place.

Oh, no!

I rubbed at the spot a little more to try and smooth it out. Then I sat back, reread the title of my new book, and laughed out loud. “Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist”—oh, yes, this book was written for me!

Chronicled in this book are Amanda Jenkin’s efforts to find freedom from the burden of perfectionist tendencies. Each of the twelve chapters explores an area where the temptation to be a perfectionist is strong: vanity, money, recognition, relationships, parenthood, plans, pride, testimony, obedience, diet coke (striving to give up minor addictions that threaten to take the place of God in our lives), happiness, and freedom. The parenting chapter was my personal favorite, though all spoke to me in some way. Jenkins uses subtle humor, personal experience, and Bible study to explain her journey and help readers with theirs.

The book concludes with a healthy section of discussion questions for personal or small group use. Each chapter includes key Scripture verses, life application, and prayer. It’s easily one of the best and most useful discussion guides I’ve seen in some time, though it really digs deep. Small groups will get the most of it if participants already know each other well.

I earned my copy of this book by participating in Tyndale’s Summer Reading program and was not required to write this review. But writing the review may help me earn another book! I’m also pleased to recommend it to you.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: Prototype

PrototypePrototype by Jonathan Martin explores the concept of Jesus being the first, and therefore our example, to define a new way of being human. Throughout the book, Martin attempts to explain how Jesus, through His life, death, and resurrection, showed us how to live in such a way that other people will begin to grasp what our future in heaven will be like right now. On the first page of his epilogue, Martin tells us that he has not attempted to say anything novel. He is simply trying to explain the New Testament term for Jesus, “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18), in modern day terms. He defines the church as a “community of new humans entrusted with the task of making the future present.”

Martin has some beautiful ideas. The first three chapters of the book are brilliant. After that Martin’s style becomes a little more rambling as he presents his ideas more subtly through stories of his and other people’s experiences, sometimes through the experiences of Bible characters. The final chapter is a conclusion which ties the beginning to the end, clarifying the whole. He closes with a powerful letter to the church, encouraging her to identify and focus on her role on earth right now while resisting the strong temptation to be something less.

I chose to review this book as part of Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program, but obtained it myself. Readers will find Martin’s presentation unique and will be challenged to think about their role in Christ's church.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: Rosemary Cottage

I truly hope that Raine from Rosemary Cottage will make happy appearances in future books of this series by Colleen Coble. Raine is the one-year-old star of the book, though she’s not one of the main characters. She was just a delightful member of the cast. The book is really about her uncle, Coast Guard officer Curtis Ireland, who is raising her with the help of his early-morning-and-in-all-weather surfing aunt. The story opens with a prologue telling how the two of them came to be caring for Raine.

Rosemary Cottage is also the story of Amy Lange, the owner of Rosemary Cottage. Amy has come to Hope Island to investigate her brother’s death. The rest of the world is content to accept that it was a tragic accident, but a mysterious e-mail has convinced Amy there is more to it. As she investigates, she considers moving her midwife practice to the island and living in Rosemary Cottage permanently.

When Amy learns that her brother, Ben, signed Raine’s birth certificate as her father yet kept the relationship a secret from his family and that Raine’s mother was killed just a few weeks before Ben, she begins to wonder if it’s all related to the mysterious e-mail. Curtis agrees to help Amy investigate even as tensions arise over Raine’s guardianship.

Though Rosemary Cottage sounds like a sweet name for a sweet romance, the book is also full of action/adventure, mystery, conspiracy, and suspense. As reader’s learned in the first book of the Hope Beach series, Hope Island isn’t always a quiet, little town for a peaceful getaway. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: Rescue Team

Rescue TeamRescue Team by Candace Calvert is the second book in her Grace Medical series. This story is set in Austin, Texas and picks up the story of Kate Callison, briefly introduced in the first book. Kate has moved from San Antonio to become the interim ER director at Austin Grace Hospital. Running from a painful past, Kate has held nursing positions in several states. She hopes this position, this location, will finally be one where she can safely stay. Even so, she’s taking her time unpacking her moving boxes and is keeping her eyes open for other potential jobs.

Kate meets search-and-rescue worker Wes Tanner under tragic circumstances in the Austin Grace ER. When she learns that his purposes conflict with hers, she attempts to keep up a wall between them. The last thing Kate wants is to be rescued.

I was enthralled by this story of forgiveness and compassion. As Kate learns to forgive herself for mistakes of her past, Wes learns to forgive, and even to understand, those whose mistakes have hurt him. Calvert shows how God can bring the unlikeliest of people together in a grand revelation of His character which brings healing to their hearts.

A bonus that I’ve enjoyed in this series is Calvert’s description of cities through her character’s dates. In the first book, Trauma Plan, readers got a glimpse of San Antonio. In Rescue Team, they learn a bit about Austin. Medical drama, romance, travel, and a moving message of God’s love: if you like these, you will enjoy this book.

Note: I was not required to review this book. I won a copy from the author in a giveaway! I like Calvert’s books and am happy to share word about them with you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Review: The Quarryman's Bride

The Quarryman's BrideThe Quarryman’s Bride is the story of Emmalyne Knox, a young woman who chooses to sacrifice her personal dreams for the future in order to honor her parents. In doing so, however, she finds herself a victim of abuse and neglect. With great courage, she entrusts her circumstances to God, believing He will use her life to bless the people He has placed her among. Hers is a story of trust in, faithfulness to, and reliance on God.

In contrast, Emmalyne’s former love, Tavin MacLachlan, also a victim of her circumstances, reacts to their broken engagement by running away from everyone he knows and loves—Emmalyne, his family, his God. When trouble at home calls him back to help his family, his own spiritual and emotional healing begins.

I love this story! I love seeing how an author, like Tracie Peterson, can show, even through fiction, how God can work in the lives of people who place their trust in Him and how He also can work through life events to bring the runners home.

Note: victims of abuse may find the opening chapters of the book to be stressful. They also need to know that the outcome presented in the book is only possible when all people involved choose to listen to, trust in, and follow God. However, the story offers hope of reconciliation, something all people need.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: The 4 Seasons of Marriage

The 4 Seasons of MarriageIf you’re looking for a book packed full of ideas for strengthening your marriage, I recommend Gary Chapman’s The 4 Seasons of Marriage to you. In this book, Chapman uses the seasons of nature as an analogy for the possible states of a marriage. If a marriage is strong and thriving, it is a summer marriage. If a couple is on the brink of divorce, their marriage is deep in the cold of winter. Chapman’s purpose in writing the book is to help couples move toward or maintain the blessings of spring and summer.

Chapman starts by defining each season of marriage and identifying the emotions and actions that go with each. Then he provides a questionnaire couples can fill out to discover, if they haven’t already figured it out, what season their marriage is in. He follows that with seven strategies for improving one’s marriage. He closes with a question and answer section and a group or couple’s discussion guide.

The seven strategies were the heart of the book. No matter what season your marriage is in, implementing these ideas will be a benefit. One of them, of course, is learning your spouse’s love language. That chapter gives a brief synopsis of Chapman’s brilliant book about this.

Throughout the book, Chapman is very conscious of all possible reader circumstances. He often writes to the spouse who is struggling to save a marriage though the other spouse has given up. He provides concrete examples of how such a spouse can adopt his ideas and, hopefully, reach the other’s wounded heart. And, though marriage is a team sport, Chapman puts the burden for positive action on the individual. We don’t manipulate our spouses into changing for our good; we initiate positive change within ourselves for our marriage’s good.

I enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to you! This is one I obtained on my own just because I wanted to read it, but it moved to the top of my TBR list when it showed up as one of Tyndale’s Summer Reading selections.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review: The Outcast

When Rachel Stoltzfus, an unmarried Mennonite woman, refuses to repent of her sins, which would include naming the father of her child, she finds herself all but shunned by her sister’s community and unable to return to her own. When her sister’s husband blackmails her into leaving the community entirely, she fears she and her son are entirely alone. Thankfully, her Englisch driver recognizes her plight and invites her to stay with her for a time. Rachel plans to begin a new life, yet is drawn back in touch with the Mennonite community through unexpected ties to her past which threaten to expose not only Rachel’s secrets, but so many more.

The cover describes this story as a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter. There certainly are many similarities, but it is unique, too. I loved that the sisters are named Rachel and Leah and that their descriptions, personalities, and fates are similar, yet unique, to those of the Rachel and Leah from the Bible's book of Genesis. I also found the use of narrators interesting. The story’s telling goes back and forth from Rachel telling it from her point of view to Amos telling what he sees from his place in Heaven. Amos is Rachel’s sister’s father-in-law, whose funeral we attend in Chapter One.

The Outcast is Jolina Petersheim’s first novel, born from her Mennonite heritage. I’ll look forward to reading more by this new author. Tyndale House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: Undeniably Yours

Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade is the story of what happens when you take one unimaginably wealthy heiress and have her threaten the dream of one incredibly determined cowboy. One would expect sparks to fly, but Wade doesn’t give her readers what they would expect. Undeniably Yours is a compassionate love story, the story of a woman recovering from a life of heartache and the first man ever whose cared to protect her—even if it costs what he wants most for himself.

I enjoyed reading this sweet book. Not only did I get to discover what become of Meg and Bo, I also got to watch as Meg overcame the hurts of her past, discovered God’s good plan for her life (and the wealth He’d bestowed), and, in turn, helped many others to do the same. That’s about all I can say about that without risking spoiling the story for you. I am hoping for a sequel or two, though. I think three or four members of the supporting cast could find the loves of their lives with a few more pages devoted just to them.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I recommend it to fans of contemporary Christian romance books.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: Backyard Horses

Backyard HorsesBackyard Horses by Dandi Daley Mackall is the first book in her Horse Dreams series for middle-elementary-aged children (probably most appealing to girls). Ellie James, the main character, is ten-years-old and in the fourth grade. Her younger brother, Ethan, is deaf, so she and her best friend, Colt, have both learned sign language in order to communicate more easily with him. This also allows them to send secret messages to each other in public places, such as in their classroom at school.

Ellie loves to daydream. She also loves horses. Her favorite daydream is about owning a horse, a Hamilton Royal Champion Horse. Some of the other girls at school have their very own perfect show horses, but Ellie is still waiting and praying for hers. Begging her parents and crying to them haven’t brought this horse into being, so now she’s trying prayer. Backyard Horses tells us what comes of that.

I enjoyed reading this clever story and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to parents looking for good books for their children to read. Positives: Though there’s a mean girl in the story, Ellie and Colt both handle her with patience and grace. When adults in the story make mistakes, Ellie is respectful and polite, yet stands up for what is right in creative ways. Ellie’s relationship with her family, best friend, and school teacher are all quite sweet. Best of all, Ellie learns some significant lessons about God’s nature and prayer. The message of 1 Samuel 16:7 is the subtle theme of the book.

I obtained this book on my own; no one sent it to me. I am choosing to review it for credit toward Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: All in Good Time

All in Good TimeAll in Good Time by Maureen Lang is the story of two people whose secrets are keeping them from fully living life. Henry Hawkins’s secret has kept him from enjoying friendship, social events, even close family relationships. He fears if he lets himself get too close to anyone, they’ll learn what he wishes he had never done. He’d rather maintain a false reputation than develop healthy relationships.

Dessa Caldwell’s secret, on the other hand, has prompted her to throw herself fully into ministry to women who may be seeking alternatives for their lives. This same secret is keeping her from her dream and longing for marriage and a family, but that’s a sacrifice she feels bound to make. One must live with the consequences of one’s actions, after all. But how does that philosophy apply to the women she’s trying to help? If she sentences herself to a life without grace, how can she offer it to those who need its hope?

All in Good Time is an intriguing, historical Christian read set in Denver in the late 1800’s. It is the second book in Lang’s Gilded Legacy series. I’m looking forward to going back to read the first book!

No one gave me this book for this review. I obtained it myself, then learned I could review it for points in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: When Mockingbirds Sing

When Mockingbirds SingBilly Coffey’s newest novel, When Mockingbirds Sing, kept me guessing to the end. It’s kind of a bizarre story, but gives a worthwhile message at the end. A few questions are left unanswered, but I suspect that was intentional. Coffey’s next book, which comes out in March 2014, will be set in the same town. I’m already curious to see what will happen next in Mattingly.

When Mockingbirds Sing is the story of a little girl named Leah and her invisible friend, the Rainbow Man. Leah and her family are new to the town. Because Leah is quite shy and tends to stutter—a lot—her parents throw her a birthday party and invite the whole town. There Leah meets Allie who chooses her as her new best friend. Barney, the town’s toy maker, brings an easel as Leah’s birthday gift. This is where the troubles begin.

Leah’s mysterious paintings seem to predict the future and quickly divide the town. Is she gifted or cursed? And is the Rainbow Man real? Each person, including Leah’s parents, Allie, Barney, and the town’s minister, must choose what to believe and how to respond to this young girl.

I received a complimentary copy of When Mockingbirds Sing from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this honest review. I was thankful for the opportunity to read this intriguing book.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: Still Lolo

Still Lolo is the story of one young woman and her family’s spiritual journey, from her childhood to the night of the tragic and devastating accident that put their faith to the test up to right now.

On December 3, 2011, Lauren Scruggs stepped out of a small airplane and into the path of its propeller. (In Chapter 19, Lauren’s father walks readers through the scene of the accident, clearly explaining how such a thing could happen—and did.) Miraculously, Lauren survived, though she lost her left eye and hand. (Lauren’s father also explains just what a close call it was: a miniscule measurement meant the difference between a clear miss, the injury, or death.)

But the book isn’t just about the accident or Lauren’s recovery. Family members take turns (with the help of Marcus Brotherton) telling about significant events of their lives leading up to the accident and how God used these to prepare the family the handle the trauma victoriously, in complete dependence on Him and with the abundant help of caring community. This book is packed full of lessons learned, faith in our sovereign God, generous gratitude, and praise.

Readers who are inspired by testimonies and biographies will want to read this book. I borrowed it from my local library in order to participate in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: You Don't Know Me

You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren is a story of secrets and honesty and forgiveness and second chances and trusting God to help with it all. I really enjoyed reading this book! It’s the sixth of the Deep Haven Novels, though these books don’t have to be read in order. (I still haven’t gotten to books 1, 2, and 3, but plan to very soon, I hope!) Each of these books is set in the small tourist town of Deep Haven, Minnesota, and tells the story of some of the inhabitants there.

You Don’t Know Me is the story of the Decker family. Nathan and Annalise appear to be the perfect couple with three nearly perfect kids. Middle child, Colleen is the only one Annalise worries about. Colleen’s attraction to Tucker, the boy Annalise has branded bad news, is cause for great concern.

Greater concerns are coming, though. Agent Frank Harrison has news about the man Annalise testified against twenty years ago . . . when she was still Deidre O’Reilly . . . before she entered the witness security program and changed her whole identity, a little fact she neglected to mention to her family.

I won’t tell you any more, except that Susan May Warren came up with the perfect solution to this tragic dilemma while weaving many essential truths about Christian living into the tale. (I was most touched by Helen's struggle and growth.)
I’m happy to recommend this book which I obtained on my own just because I wanted to read it.