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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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