Saturday, January 31, 2015

January's Review Round-up

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

Gospel Formed by J.A. Medders

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

I happily recommend both of these books! You can click on over to Wildflower Faith to learn why.

Coming up in February on this blog:

The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets
Where Rivers Part by Kellie Coates Gilbert
Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey
Life with a Capital L by Matt Heard

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: "Steadfast Heart"

According to the back of the book, Steadfast Heart by Tracie Peterson is the story of Lenore Fulcher. Lenore is a young woman whose father is so anxious for her to marry that he is pressuring her to court one of his business partners—a man who is seventeen years older than she is. Lenore prefers to wait for true love, but she decides love-at-first-sight might be just the thing she needs when she meets Kolbein Booth, a lawyer from Chicago searching for his sister, who ran away from home.

Though the book does tell Lenore’s story, I felt that her best friend, Abrianna Cunningham, was really the star of the book. Readers meet her in the second chapter, and she pretty much takes over from there. She reminded me of Anne of Green Gables, an determined orphan, full of mischief, opinions, and dreams—objectively critical of self, but absolutely in love with everyone else. I couldn’t help but feel a little confused and disappointed when Lenore’s story came to a happy conclusion, leaving Abrianna’s still hanging, even though the book clearly stated it was Lenore’s story. Thankfully, Steadfast Heart is Book One of a series. I’m looking forward to reading more about Abrianna in Book Two. (I’m hoping to read more about Militine, too!)

Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this book’s setting in Seattle, Washington in the last 1800’s. Fans of Christian fiction will appreciate the Social Gospel message that Abrianna lives out for all her friends to see. Her theology tends to get a little garbled (delightfully so—part of her personality and upbringing), but her heart is always in the right place. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: "Hope Crossing"

I’m so glad I waited, well, unintentionally, to read the complete Ada’s House Trilogy by Cindy Woodsmall compiled into one book. Hope Crossing contains The Hope of Refuge, The Bridge of Peace, and The Harvest of Grace—three separate but connected stories. They build on each other in a unique and just-right way.

In The Hope of Refuge, readers meet Cara and Deborah and Ada. Their stories, especially Cara’s begin to unfold. The book ends on a satisfying note, but the story picks up again in The Bridge of Peace. In this book, however, we get to know Lena. Her story joins with the others; the community grows. In The Harvest of Grace, we meet Sylvia and read her story as the stories of the first four women continue to a perfect ending for all.

As in all of Woodsmall’s books, her characters experience some seriously intense moments which can cause high anxiety in the reader. Yet Woodsmall has a gift for gently turning each situation around, unexpectedly and at just the right time. Characters in this trilogy must deal with grief, addiction, homelessness, abandonment, abuse, stalkers, infidelity, birth defects, low self-esteem, and more. They must learn who they are, how to overcome their circumstances, trust in God, and how to forgive. Woodsmall also puts a strong emphasis on equality and teamwork among men and women. All of her characters are (or become) independent and strong, yet faithful contributors to their community.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Hope Crossing in exchange for this honest review. I enjoyed reading the trilogy and recommend it to Amish fiction fans.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review: "Always on my Mind"

The fourth Christiansen Family novel, Always on my Mind, by Susan May Warren continues Casper’s story, started in the previous book. He and the woman he loves, Raina, have some major issues to work through. Sadly, Raina just wants Casper to go away, so Casper must learn what it means to love someone who has rejected your love, to want and pray for God's best for her, whether he's in her life or not.

A shared interest in a local, unsolved mystery from the past, however, gives Casper the opportunity to help Raina see him as a faithful friend and leads both into a treasure-hunting adventure, with Casper finally seeking the treasure that first triggered his interest in archaeology.

Casper and Raina’s story wasn’t my favorite of the Christiansen series, but I appreciated the way Warren presented issues such as adoption and abuse from thought-producing angles to help readers see complications that turn what seems black and white to gray
, I highlighted words of Christian wisdom throughout the book. I found the parallels between Raina and Aggie interesting; I love it when authors take little side trips into history. I also enjoyed the continuation of Darek and Ivy’s story. Life doesn’t end with a wedding. Married couples have problems to struggle through, too. Now I’m anticipating Amelia’s book, gently introduced in this one, knowing I’ll finally get to know this youngest daughter of the Christiansen clan while reading updates on her five siblings.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Always on my Mind for this review. I recommend the entire series to you.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: "Price of Privilege"

I never saw the ending coming, but Jessica Dotta got it exactly right! I just finished reading Book 3 of her Price of Privilege Trilogy: Price of Privilege. Dotta knows how to tell a story well.

Price of Privilege picks up, of course, where Mark of Distinction leaves off. Julia has achieved her happily ever after at last, but one man is determined to steal it away from her and chooses to do so by destroying her and her new husband’s reputations. The two are forced to seek refuge with Julia’s unpredictable, calculating, and self-absorbed father. Once again, Julia’s fate seems out of her control; she exists at the mercy of powerful men seeking to use her life for their selfish gain.

The new character in this book, Jameson, was one of my favorites. His unique means of instructing and encouraging Julia through all of her trials was both fun and insightful. I would love to read more of his experiences in Africa!

And Julia’s maturing faith was a beautiful theme of this book. Though a new Christian, she is one forced to grow quickly by circumstances that threaten to destroy her. When she can trust no one else, she learns to call on her true Father.

I enjoyed all three books of this series and am happy to recommend them. Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review: "Walking with Bilbo"

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this year I'm reading through several of the devotional eBooks I've collected as they've been offered for free. I don't have to review these; I received them with no strings attached. If I like them, though, I will. I really liked Walking with Bilbo by Sarah Arthur.

Arthur tells us up front that Tolkien didn't intend for his book, The Hobbit, to be a Christian allegory. Because he was a Christian, though, his book can't help but carry several Christian themes. Arthur's book picks up on these and helps her readers to understand them and apply them to their lives. The book contains twenty-two short devotionals. Each explores a portion of Tolkien's story, compares it to a passage from the Bible, gives the reader a list of questions to consider, and closes with a list of Bible verses to read for further insight.

This book was fun to read and easy to understand, yet its truths were valuable and practical for life. As I understand it, this book was written for teenagers, but I believe Christians of any age can glean worthwhile insights. I recommend Walking with Bilbo to Christian fans of Tolkien's works and to anyone looking to deepen their walk with Christ.