Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review: The House That Love Built

The House That Love Built by Beth Wiseman is a book packed full of fun surprises! She starts with two broken people: a young widow with two children who’d been abandoned by her father as a young teenager and a recently divorced man who chooses to act out his bitterness toward his ex-wife by purchasing a large home in the small town where she’d always dreamed of living: Smithville, Texas, the town where the movie Hope Floats is set. Because this home is in need of many repairs, Owen, the divorced newcomer, quickly meets Brooke, the young widow, who just happens to own and run the local hardware store.

As these two become friends and strive to help each other work through their brokenness and toward forgiveness, they encounter one person after another after another in need of their love and compassion. Hunter, the troubled 17-year-old, is my favorite of these. He complicates the story greatly when Owen attempts to help him turn his life around only to learn that Brooke was emotionally wounded by Hunter and wants nothing to do with him.

Love, forgiveness, and emotional healing are the beautifully-explored themes of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and most definitely recommend. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for the complimentary eCopy I received in exchange for this honest review.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: A Clearing in the Wild

A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick is an extremely well-written novel. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I began to see where Kirkpatrick was going, I became engrossed. Then, in my opinion, the story ended perfectly. I was glad I’d kept reading!

Based on a true story, A Clearing in the Wild is the story of a young woman finding her grown-up place in the religious community of Bethel, Missouri. Wilhelm Keil, the leader of this community, makes all decisions for the community and holds all property in his name. When Keil announces that he is sending Emma’s husband and eight other men west on a one to two year journey to find new land for the community, newly wed Emma finagles her way along. Readers get to watch Emma, her marriage, and her Christian life mature.

Discussion questions at the end of the book help readers process its themes. An interview with the author reveals the history and fiction of the story with a promise of a second book to come in this series.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and to those concerned with women’s issues.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: A Matter of Trust

A Matter of Trust is Lis Wiehl’s best book yet. The first of her Mia Quinn Mysteries, written with April Henry, A Matter of Trust is a complex crime story, full of surprises and suspense. Mia Quinn is a newly widowed mother of two who has just resumed her position as a prosecutor. As she struggles to balance work and family alone, she faces unique challenges with both of her children and financially, as she discovers some secrets her husband had been keeping from her. When her best friend and fellow prosecutor is murdered, Mia is assigned to the case, but only accepts it on the condition that she can keep working another case, one she believes must be pursued, though her boss and others do not agree. As readers try to figure out who done it, they’ll also be wondering how Mia will manage all she must.

One theme subtly woven through the book is that people and circumstances aren’t always what they seem to be. Mia and the other characters in the book make all kinds of assumptions about the people they encounter throughout the book only to learn that they are wrong, for good or bad. What matters is doing the right thing as far as you are concerned and placing trust carefully where it has been earned. Forgiveness, compassion, and giving others the opportunity to make things right when possible are also stressed.

I enjoyed reading this book and will look forward to the next Mia Quinn Mystery. I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending this one in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Shattered

Shattered by Dani Pettrey is the second book in her outstanding Alaskan Courage series. I’ve enjoyed both stories which revolve around the McKenna family—three brothers and two sisters who run an outdoor adventure business in Yancey, Alaska. Shattered is the story of youngest sister, Piper, doing all she can, against all odds, to prove brother Reef’s innocence in a brutal murder. Helping, along with her other siblings, are Deputy Landon Grainger, a long-time friend of the family, and Darcy St. James, a determined reporter who also believes in Reef’s innocence.

Author Pettrey describes herself as a writer of inspirational romantic suspense and says she loves this genre because it combines the” thrill of adventure” with “nail-biting suspense,” a “deepening of her characters’ faith,” and “plenty of romance.” This story definitely does all that while focusing on the relationships of an interesting family that promises to grow with each new book. I can’t wait to see which family member will find his or her life’s mate next—and what mystery or challenge the McKenna’s will have to safely solve in order for that to happen.

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Reclaiming Your Heart

As I mentioned in my review of Secrets over Sweet Tea, Reclaiming Your Heart, also by Denise Hildreth Jones, is its companion book—the non-fiction book that clearly explains concepts illustrated in the work of fiction. I love the way Jones planned that out! She has lived what she teaches, and she teaches it well. Both books minister effectively to those who are willing to be open to the message Jones presents.

In Reclaiming Your Heart, Jones talks about ways that people or life events can cause people to shut down their hearts. Some run away. Some hide. Some indulge in addictions. Others indulge other people—to their own detriment. But people who live with shut down hearts live mostly alone and in pain and are unable to pursue God’s best for their lives.

Jones uses the analogy of playing a round of golf to help readers understand that, just as they must choose the right club for the right circumstance on a golf course, they must let God help them choose the right responses to each circumstance as they live their lives. (I don’t play golf, but I still understood. Jones explains everything well.)

Once readers grasp that concept, Jones goes on to present several chapters on different kinds of heart responses to life’s harsh circumstances: performing, disappointment, control, criticism, shame, anger, fear, and weariness. Jones explains problems that develop from each of these and how the reader can overcome and heal. Each chapter identifies a lie that a person who chooses each kind of response believes and the truth that must replace it for healing to occur. Throughout the book, Jones shares Scripture, insightful analogies, and her own life experiences to help readers understand. She closes the book with a chapter full of good advice for continued living with a fully reclaimed heart.

If your past is impacting your present in such a way that you feel you have no future, Reclaiming Your Heart is the right book for you. I thank Reclaiming Hearts Ministries for arranging to have Tyndale House Publishers send a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Secrets over Sweet Tea

Secrets over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones is the fictional companion novel to her non-fiction book, Reclaiming Your Heart. I’ll be reviewing that book in the near future, as soon as I finish reading it. But I think it’s important for readers to know that the books complement each other. They don't have to be read together, but can be for greater insights into what Jones is trying to teach. Secrets over Sweet Tea is a fictional story that helps readers see how the concepts presented in Reclaiming Your Heart apply. They get to watch, so to speak, as characters in the book who have chosen to shut down their hearts in defense of this world’s pain learn to see how and why they responded the way they did, then how to make things right, reopen their hearts, and really live.

Writers of fiction are taught to show, not tell. Jones is really good at this. Due to the nature of this book, though, she’s cleverly included mentors in the story who do quite a bit of telling as they counsel those who’ve been hurt. These mentors have lessons of their own to learn, too, so we get to see their counselees, who’ve taken the lessons to heart, turn around and remind their mentors of their own teachings. It’s clear that Jones really believes the message she’s teaching can help change people's lives for the better. It's one she’s learned through personal experience and wants her readers to experience for themselves.

I’ll write more about that message when I review Reclaiming Your Heart. For now I want to focus on Secrets over Sweet Tea, the stories of three people who’ve been deeply wounded by life and their recoveries in the small Southern community of Franklin, Tennessee. These characters and their friends are amazing—and so is the community. If all the restaurants Jones mentions in this book really exist, I need to go visit that town! I enjoyed the story and its message. I’m happy to recommend this book.

I thank Reclaiming Hearts Ministries for arranging to have Tyndale House Publishers send a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.