Thursday, October 30, 2014

October's Review Round-up

Here are this month's links to reviews I posted at Wildflower Faith:

Citizen by Rob Peabody

Into the Canyon by Michael Neale

Reviews coming in November to this blog are:

A Mom's Prayers for Her Son by Rob & Joanna Teigen

Having a Mary Heart by Joanna Weaver

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: "To Everything a Season"

To Everything a Season by Lauraine Snelling is the first book in the Song of Blessing series. But it’s the 18th book in the Blessing saga which rotates around Ingeborg Bjorklund, her family, her community, and her solid relationship with Christ. This installment is especially tender—one readers who’ve followed Ingeborg's story won’t want to miss.

As in many of the other books and series set in Blessing, North Dakota, this series focuses on a member of the family who is coming of age, making decisions that will impact the course of his life. Ingeborg’s nephew Trygve Knutson is that focal point. Tired of traveling to manage a crew that digs wells for farmers in nearby and not-so-nearby communities, Trygve believes he’s needed in Blessing, available to serve his family and community. Uncle Hjelmer, who sets up the well-drilling jobs, isn’t happy about Trygve’s choice, but Trygve is determined to make this change in his life.

New characters to the town are Miriam Hastings (a student nurse from Chicago sent to train in Blessing to learn how nursing is done differently in a small-town setting), Manny McCrary (a troubled 12-year-old with a broken leg and a defensive attitude), and Father Thomas Devlin (a mysterious Anglican priest seeking work in the field of carpentry).

I haven’t yet read Snelling’s Home to Blessing series (Astrid’s story), but I didn’t feel lost as I plunged into Song of Blessing. Snelling tells just enough to keep readers who haven’t read the earlier books up to speed without revealing critical details from the previous stories. I don’t yet know how Astrid got from high school to happily-married doctor, but I can read her adventure later without feeling I spoiled anything for myself by reading this book first. Therefore I can recommend this book to readers new to the town of Blessing as well as to long-time fans. Anyone with an interest in American history in the early 1900’s, westward expansion, immigration, and Christian fiction will appreciate this book.

Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Contrasting Approaches to Friendship

Something interesting happened in my reading world the other day. Two of the books I’m reading had little discussions about how different people approach friendship. The approaches presented were complete opposites. I thought it was funny that I happened to read them on the same day. Neither book is about friendship; the non-fiction one included the approach in order to explain a concept, the fiction one to develop a character.

In the first book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the author describes a friend of his whom he’s identified as a connector. This person, Roger, thinks of every person he ever meets as a friend. If he can get your name, address, and birthday, he will send you a birthday card every year—just to let you know you’re important to him. He does this even if he only met you in the airport while waiting to catch a plane, spent just a few minutes with you, and will most likely never see you again! At the time the book was written, Roger had 1,600 people in his address book!

Roger knows these relationships aren’t deep (Gladwell calls them “weak-ties”), but Roger likes people and people like him. One of his greatest joys in life is introducing friends with similar interests to one another, so they can become friends, too. The term “connector” fits because Roger connects himself to other people and then to each other. The book was written before social media came to exist, so I can only imagine how many “friends” Roger has now. According to Gladwell, he values every one.

The second book, Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson, introduces us to Ann Silver. Ann knows that life is short and that she doesn’t have time to fully invest herself in the lives of every person on the planet. She enjoys meeting new people, but she's selective about which people she calls friends. People like and respect Ann. Those she chooses as her friends consider themselves privileged and like spending time with her. They trust her with the deepest details of their lives.

Ann values her privacy, so she protects the privacy of her friends. This means she doesn’t talk about one to another except in general and positive ways if one happens to come up in conversation. She never goes out of her way to introduce them to each other. If they happened to show up in the same room and the same time, she’ll happily make the introduction. Otherwise, it’s none of her business whether or not they ever meet. With Ann, once you’re a friend, you’re a friend for life—unless you betray her trust. If Ann were to use social media, and that would be unlikely, she would probably have very few friends—by choice.

  • Realizing that these are two extremes, which kind of friend do you tend to be?
  • Which kind of friend would you most appreciate?

Today I'm sharing this post with the linky party at A Little R & R.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: "A Love Undone"

Cindy Woodsmall has a gift for putting her characters into impossible situations, and her new book, A Love Undone, is especially heartwrenching.

Andy Fisher, whom readers met in Cindy’s Christmas novella, The Dawn of Christmas, is a grass widower with a young son. A grass widower is a man whose wife has left him. She’s still living, therefore, he’s still married and must remain so, except in extreme circumstances, until his wife dies—even if this means he has to live alone for the rest of his life.

Jolene Keim, the oldest of five children, is also alone because of circumstances beyond her control. Many widowers have tried to court her, but she’s given her life to another cause. When Andy and Jolene meet while working together on his uncle’s farm to save a group of rescued horses, he believes she knows his situation—until it becomes clear that both of their hearts are involved in what can never be.

I wasn’t surprised by the book’s eventual resolution, but I still enjoyed reading how it all played out. I was touched more than once by each character’s sacrificial determination to do what was right for others in spite of the cost to self. God sees when His children suffer in this way. He rewards in His time and in His way.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. I recommend it to Amish fiction fans.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: "Storm Siren"

When I read Mary Weber’s author biography, I knew I had to read her book . . . any “ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives” deserves to have the first of these books read.

I was thoroughly engrossed, but the last five paragraphs nearly killed me. Please write fast, Mary! I’m ready to read the next book.

As you might have guessed from her description of herself, Mary writes fantasy novels. In Storm Siren, she has created a land at war, a land full of royalty plotting behind each other’s backs, slaves with secret powers, monsters who can climb inside people's skin, tall dwarves, man-eating horses, and mystery. Readers are cheering for Nym, an anomaly in this world, a girl with the ability to control the weather who would be sentenced to die if what she is were to become known. One woman does know, however, and purchases Nym to be her slave in order to train her as a weapon for the war.

Nym is tormented emotionally. She sees her gift as a curse, trusts no one—especially herself, and only wants to hide where she will do no one else any more harm. She carries the scars of her life on her arms. But she is suddenly surrounded by people who seem to believe there is good in her, who want to help her succeed, to become what she’s truly intended to be.

I received a complimentary eCopy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this honest review. I recommend it to fans of great adventures in invented worlds.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: "Abraham"

When I was little, I read a lot of biographies. Most, naturally, ended with an account of the person's death. I always cried. My poor parents . . . I must have drove them crazy. But I think it's one sign of a gifted writer, not just a tender heart, to be able to bring someone to life through a book in such a way.

This is what Charles Swindoll has accomplished through his book, Abraham. He has taken the familiar Bible stories about this incredible patriarch and brought the man to life--to the point that when I read about his death, I actually wanted to cry, though I've known these stories since childhood.

Swindoll doesn't just record a biography, though. While it's true that each chapter records an event from or observation about Abraham's life, each also has a practical life application for today's reader. Abraham lived. His story is included in our Bibles to teach us about the choices we make and about the God we serve and about His work in our lives. We may have existed on this planet millenniums apart from each other, but Swindoll's book shows us that our lives may not be so different after all. Some aspects are dramatically different, but principles for living are much the same.

I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. I recommend it to readers who enjoy reading biographies and studying God's Word.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: "The River"

Beverly Lewis's new book, The River, approaches Amish life from a different angle. As the story begins, two sisters who have left their Amish upbringing behind in order to live English lives are invited home by their brother after several years away. Their parents' anniversary is the occasion and their father's failing health is the draw they need, though both return with fear and trembling.

Tilly is happily married and raising twin daughters, but Ruth is still single. Her parents and siblings can't help but hope that her visit will draw her back to her roots. Her former beau, the reason for her departure, hopes to influence her as well. Tilly, however, is determined to protect her sister from the lifestyle they chose to leave, even from Ruth, herself, if need be.

Unusual for Beverly Lewis, this sweet book stands alone. It's a story of reconciliation, acceptance, and familial love. It's a story full of secrets kept finally revealed, so that healing can take place. It's a quick read, a little predictable, but one that leaves the reader feeling happy that all has finally ended well.

I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I recommend it to fans of Beverly Lewis and Amish fiction.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: "The Story Keeper"

Wow! This book was worth waiting for! It initially got lost in the mail, but finally found its way here. I loved reading it!

The story is romantic, but it's not a romance. You may have to read it to figure out what that means. It's the story of a New York editor who finds a mystery on her desk. The quest to solve it leads her back to her childhood home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It brings her face to face with a reclusive and angry author and gets her emotions all tangled up with a longing to help the impoverished children of her community of origin to escape as she did.

I loved the themes of individuality, family, community, ancestry, and history. I also enjoyed learning about the Melungeon people and reading about the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I appreciated seeing the way that Jen and Evan and Rand and Sarra matured as their stories progressed. Lisa Wingate's book has given me a lot to reflect upon.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of The Story Keeper in exchange for this honest review. I gladly recommend it to you!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Book Review: "Prescription for Life"

If you are concerned about your health . . .

If you want to stay as young as you can be physiologically (even as you age chronologically) . . .

If you want to do what is in your power to maximize your lifespan . . .

If you want to avoid some of the world’s most common, yet most dreaded, diseases . . .

You will want to read Richard Furman’s book, Prescription for Life.

The three strategies he offers are pretty basic: eat healthy foods, maintain a healthy weight, exercise. But the information that he packs into the book about these strategies and about how our bodies work is quite useful. A lot of the information in the book was new to me, and I've been paying attention to these strategies since my college days.

After those three sections (the first 2/3 of the book), when Furman started delving into specific diseases and all the studies done that show why his prescribed strategies can help us avoid them, I felt the book started to get a touch repetitious. I realized, however, that Furman just really, really, really believes that the diet and exercise program he prescribes will help his readers to live long and healthy lives—unless they get eaten by a lion or something like that. He has packed all the data he can into this book to convince his readers of this, too. He knows he’s asking a lot of the average reader, therefore he must provide ample evidence in order to talk his readers into committing to his plan.

I will have to think long and hard about actually giving up all cheese. But I will remember the information gleaned from this book and apply quite a bit of it to my life. I do want to be healthy and to avoid, if at all possible, the suffering that comes with heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and dementia. If you feel the same way about your life, I recommend this book to you.

I received a complimentary copy of Prescription for Life from Revell in exchange for this honest review. I am thankful I had the opportunity to read this helpful book.