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.