Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: "Miracle in a Dry Season"

Miracle in a Dry Season is the story of a small town in West Virginia in the summer of 1954. It’s also a story of gifts, judgment, superstitions, misunderstandings, sin, repentance, and forgiveness—and not necessarily by, about, or for whom you would expect. Our God uses ordinary people and extraordinary circumstances to work miracles every day. Miracle in a Dry Season illustrates this truth beautifully.

New author Sarah Loudin Thomas has a gift not only for writing stories, but for creating characters, both likable and not so much, then for helping the reader to empathize, understand, and come to care for each one. The small town setting in a not-so-long-ago world was perfect for their introductions. Their shared experience was just right for helping all characters develop and grow. Casewell Phillips and Perla Long may have been the main characters, but all held great value in this well-told tale. (I think Frank and the twins were my favorites of all.)

I’m not usually drawn to novels like this one, but I appreciated the message of Miracle in a Dry Season and will be watching for more by this author. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August's Review Round-up

For those of you who hate to miss a book review, anywhere. . . anytime, here are the links to reviews I posted at Wildflower Faith this month:

Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Isn't it interesting how similar the covers of these two books are? The stories inside are dramatically different! I recommend both books.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: "Mark of Distinction"

My mom tells me she doesn’t like to read romance novels because she always knows how they are going to end. In other words, she always knows which two people are going to get together by the end.

That is not true of the Price of Privilege Trilogy, a retro-gothic, historical, Christian fiction mystery/romance. I just finished reading the second book in this series, Mark of Distinction. Throughout this book, Julia has three suitors. And, technically, she’s married to one of them! Though a change in identity has, at least temporarily, taken care of that. As Lord Pierson’s daughter, the Emerald Heiress, instead of Julia Elliston, orphaned daughter of a controversial atheist, Julia has a whole new world of challenges to overcome in this second book.
Further, she still has no idea who is trying to help her and who is using her for his own ends. Readers have no idea either, and that’s what makes this series so brilliant.

The ending to Mark of Distinction perplexed me, though. Everything seemed to resolve itself just a little too quickly, too easily, too perfectly. If this were the end to the series, which it actually could be—except that I know it’s not, I would be dissatisfied. Instead, I’ll just have to wait to see which cornered miscreant comes out swinging in protest when the final book comes out next Spring.

I earned my copy of this book through the Tyndale Summer Reading program. I am reviewing it for credit toward another book.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: "Saving Amelie"

It was the picture on the cover and the plight of the little girl that drew me to want to read this book. But the story inside was so much more than simply Saving Amelie. When Rachel Kramer, a woman born in Germany but raised in America, visits Germany with her father, she has no idea what her father has gotten her into. She is the perfect Aryan woman, and the Nazis, with her father’s cooperation, have dark plans for her. When a childhood friend asks for help getting her deaf daughter out of Germany in order to save Amelie's life, Rachel discovers what’s intended for her as well and makes her escape with the help of an American journalist.

While in hiding, Rachel learns that all is not as she was raised to believe it was. In order to save herself, Amelie, and the people around her, Rachel must relearn a few things about God, His love, life, and the whole human race.

I enjoyed this story as whole and greatly appreciated all the historical details woven in. Author Cathy Gohlke introduces readers to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church, Oberammergau and its Passion Play, and the people of Bavaria during World War II. Readers also learn about the more sinister eugenics movement, Mein Kampf, the SS, and Hitler Youth.

Though this story was intense and heartbreaking at times, it ended beautifully. I was glad I chose to read it. I earned my copy of this book through the Tyndale Rewards Program. I’m choosing to review it for a Tyndale Summer Reading point.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon

I just learned that my reading friend, Tressa, of the Wishful Endings blog is hosting a read-a-thon next month. I've never participated in such a thing, but it sounds like fun!

The read-a-thon will run from September 8 to 20, and the goal will be for all participants to whittle away at their ever-growing TBR piles. I don't yet know exactly which books I'll be reading between September 8 and 20, but here is a list of the books I plan to read next month:

The Hedge People by Louise Carey
The Rescuer by Dee Henderson
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate
Never Ever Give Up by Erik Rees
Hooked by Les Edgerton
Palace of Darkness by Tracy Higley

As usual, that's looking a little ambitious, but it is a read-a-thon after all. From September 8 to 20, I'll post updates on my progress along with my usual book reviews.

If this read-a-thon sounds like fun to you, too, clicking on the picture will take you to Tressa's sign-up blog post. Please let me know if you decide to play! I'll be cheering for you!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: "Echoes of an Angel"

I don’t know how I missed Ben Underwood’s story a few years back when it was in the news, on the internet, and on several talk shows, but I’m glad I found it this week in his mother’s new book, Echoes of an Angel. I just finished reading this amazing story of his life, as told by Ben’s mother, Aquanetta Gordon.

In a way, Echoes of an Angel is really Aquanetta’s story as it was impacted by raising Ben. It’s her testimony of God’s care for her and her family, of God’s work in her life and the lives of her children through all the circumstances they experienced. These experiences became extraordinary once Ben came on the scene.

For those who don’t know, Ben Underwood lost his eyes to cancer as a toddler. He taught himself to see, though, using echolocation. With Aquanetta’s encouragement, and often determined stands on his behalf, Ben learned to ride a bike, play video games, wrestle, and play basketball. He even gave driving and surfing a try. Echoes of an Angel tells how God used his life, is still using his life, in fact, to encourage people all over the world.

I’m happy to recommend this book which I obtained on my own and am now choosing to review for credit in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program. This true story is a powerful testimony.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: "When I Fall in Love"

As promised, I’m ready to review the third Christiansen Family novel today. When I Fall in Love was more than I expected it to be! I knew I would be reading Grace Christiansen’s story, but I also got a few more threads of Owen’s, started in It Had to Be You. And Susan May Warren started Casper’s story, too. Oh, the heartbreak, turmoil, and confusion! And that’s all I can say about that without adding a spoiler warning to this review.

I really liked this book.

As for Grace, her character has to be the sweetest of the whole family. When her family forces her out of her comfort zone by sending her on a cooking retreat in Hawaii, she pretty much thinks she’s going to die. And when they ask Owen’s former hockey teammate Max, who just happens to be going to the same school, to keep a protective eye on her, she’s even more mortified. Of course, Max isn’t any happier about the arrangement than she is . . .

but then they meet for the first time . . .

neither knowing who the other is just yet . . .

and a beautiful story is born.

Fans of Susan May Warren know this is more than just a beautiful story, though. Grace and Max learn some profound lessons about faith, trust, and abundant living in Christ—lessons they’ll share, I’m sure, with Casper and Raina and Owen and Amelia and any other characters who find their way into the next books.

I earned my copy of When I Fall in Love through Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program. I am reviewing it to earn credit toward one more book!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review: "Evergreen"

I’ve really been enjoying Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family Novels this year. I’m actually reading the third one right now—to be reviewed next week. But I took a break to read Susan’s second novella in the series, Evergreen. The first of the novellas told how the parents of the Christiansen family, John and Ingrid, met and ended up married. Evergreen tells what happens when they face the empty nest.

One year into that circumstance myself, I found a lot to love about this book. My favorite takeaway, however, came from the one thing that most perplexed me. You see, in the Christiansen Family Novels, John and Ingrid are the voices of experience, the sage mentors to their newly-grown children. In Evergreen, they are a very human couple wrestling with life issues that threaten to tear them apart. At first, I had trouble accepting this; it seemed like a change in character, especially for John.

Then I realized just how true to life it is. Older couples can share the wisdom that comes from life experience. They will be able to encourage younger couples because they have been there and done that. Yet they will still have issues of their own to work through as life continues to throw new circumstances and trials their way. No matter how old we get, we’ll never know it all. We’ll always have to remember to put our ultimate trust in God and to seek out His wisdom.

I recommend this book to fans of the series it comes from and to anyone, male or female, discovering the world of the empty nest. Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Book Review: "Raw Faith"

“You know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” –James 1:3-4

Regarding these verses, Kasey Van Norman, author of Raw Faith says, “The testing of our faith isn’t evidence that God has forgotten us; in fact, the opposite is true. Our trials prove to us and to others that we are genuine children of God whose faith is strengthened by these changes and hardships.”

Kasey knows about changes and hardships, trials and testing. She was married, raising two young children, and launching a new ministry when she got the news that she had cancer. Just that quickly, her whole world changed, and as she fought for her life, she wrestled with God, angry and frightened, yet determined to cling to her faith. Her book, Raw Faith, documents her personal battle, including actual journal entries and powerful lessons learned. Kasey learned that faith isn’t about what God does, but Who He Is, and she wants her readers to know this, too—especially those who are fighting faith battles of their own, enduring the unimaginable and asking God, “Why me?”

Kasey’s story encouraged me greatly! I’m happy to recommend it to you.

No one sent this book to me to review. I obtained it myself and am choosing to review it for credit in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: "Spiritual Misfit"

God moved her to Nebraska to get her out of her comfort zone, to take her away from childhood misconceptions, and to open her heart and mind to Him. Spiritual Misfit is Michelle DeRusha’s story, her testimony of God’s gentle work in her life.

Michelle starts at the beginning, documenting the particular event and the circumstances of her upbringing that led her, first, to live in fear, then, to reject belief in God. Michelle tells how she chose to keep this rejection private, attending church and going through the motions just as if she believed. She then goes on to tell how God used her children, her community, and all that was beyond her control to help her begin to consider His Truth.

My favorite chapters were “Why Not,” “Taking a Mulligan . . . Again,” and “Beloved Misfit.” I appreciated the natural progression of the entire story which started out as a simple testimony then subtly started exploring significant topics of the Christian faith through Michelle’s experiences. And I got a kick out of Michelle’s sense of humor toward herself, her environment, and life in general. If you enjoy reading the stories of God’s personal work in individual lives, you may like this book.

I received my complimentary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.