Monday, March 30, 2015

March's Review Round-Up

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

Soul Friends by Leslie Parrott

Lethal Beauty by Lis Weihl

How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Bonus! I also wrote a bookish post triggered by C.S. Lewis' Four Loves. Click here to read Loving Just Because.

Coming up in April:

The Wood's Edge by Lori Benton
The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall
The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets
The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall
The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall
Against the Flow by John Lennox
Buried Secrets by Irene Hannon
Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman
Better All the Time by Carre Armstrong Gardner

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: "A Harvest of Hope"

A Harvest of Hope by Lauraine Snelling is the second book in her Song of Blessing series, but it's also the 19th book set by the Red River in Blessing, North Dakota. These books tell the story of this community from its beginning when Ingeborg Bjorklund arrived from Norway with her husband and a few friends. Now Ingeborg is a widow for the second time, her children are grown and married and raising children of their own, and the small settlement is growing into a sizable town. Immigrants are coming from all over the world seeking a better world for their families, and (most of) the people of Blessing are doing all they can to accommodate them.

In the first book of this series, Miriam Hastings came from Chicago to work as a nursing intern in the community’s hospital. Now Trygve Knutson is determined to convince her to stay permanently. But Miriam has plans for her life, plans to return to Chicago to work in the hospital there and to finish raising her five orphaned siblings. She would never have left them if the internship weren’t required for her education, but maybe, just maybe, the God she doesn’t believe in has a plan for Miriam—and her large family, a plan that required Miriam's presence in Blessing.

I’ve read almost all of Snelling’s Red River/Blessing books and loved getting to read this latest update on the community. I like finding out what Ingeborg and the other Bjorklunds are up to in each book, what they are learning about God and community, what new experiments they are trying in order to make life better for all, and how they help each other through whatever trials come along. I also enjoy meeting the new characters that Snelling brings into each book and following their stories. Snellings on-going themes are progress, growth, faith, and community.

Fans of historical Christian fiction who are especially interested in immigration to America, westward expansion, and the technological advancement that went with it will enjoy this book. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review: "Skin in the Game"

Skin in the Game by Rick Lawrence is a short book but a difficult read. If I had to tell you in one sentence what it’s about, I’m not sure I could. I do know that skin in the game is taking a risk and that Lawrence wants us to understand that walking with Jesus involves risk; that stepping out in faith is not playing life safe.

Lawrence’s message is confusing, though, because he uses a lot of analogies. Analogies usually help to clear things up and bring understanding, but Lawrence used analogies to explain analogies to explain analogies until I was so busy trying to grasp how they all related to each other that I lost track of why. I got totally lost in one chapter, trying to understand the analogies, until I realized that I already understood the familiar concept he was trying to explain and, therefore, didn’t need to understand the analogies. It was a relief to move on.

Lawrence also had a common habit of using Bible stories to make his points (as opposed to pulling his points from the Bible stories themselves). He would even add little bits to them in order to tweak their message to make them better fit his. There were several times when I set the book aside in order to go read the Bible story he was citing because I knew it didn’t say what he said it did. The little bits that he added (or, in one case, removed) don’t seem significant, but Lawrence only added them to make them “prove” his points. I’m not saying that Lawrence’s points were bad or wrong. He had a lot of good things to say. But he misused Bible stories in order to say those things (which makes all of his analogies suspect).

Finally, Lawrence seemed to think he could read Jesus’ mind, telling readers what Jesus was thinking, what His motives were, as He interacted with different people. But Jesus’ thoughts and motives are pure speculation. Lawrence presented what he thought Jesus was thinking as biblical fact.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. The book's not one that I can recommend.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: "By Your Side"

I always look forward to reading Candace Calvert’s new books--for so many reasons! And By Your Side, the first in her new Crisis Team series was as good, if not better, than I’ve come to anticipate. It’s the story of ER nurse Macy Wynn, Deputy Fletcher Holt, and the on-going community crisis that keeps their paths crossing.

Though this is a new series, readers first met Fletcher Holt in Calvert’s last book, Life Support. In By Your Side, Holt has temporarily moved from Houston, Texas to Sacramento, California to help his mom, who is recovering from chemotherapy, while his dad is away.

Macy, on the other hand, has lived in or close to the Sacramento area all of her life. Raised in foster care, though, she’s never felt at home anywhere. Providing a home for herself and the girl she considers to be a sister is her dearest dream.

Calvert’s strengths are characters readers quickly come to care about (though Macy makes it hard because she’s afraid to let anyone care about her), escalating circumstances, and the settings Calvert describes. By the time I finish reading one of Calvert’s books, I’m ready to go visit wherever it took place. As for Sacramento, I got to visit there just a few months back. Calvert described everything just as I still see it in my mind.

If you enjoy medical dramas with a touch of romance, I recommend By Your Side. I received my complimentary copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for this honest review.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: "You're Loved No Matter What"

A few weeks ago, I told my husband I was noticing that several of the books I read, those that would be classified as topical Bible studies or devotionals, did a great job of defining the issue and telling the reader why the issue had to change, but they never told the reader how. They were good books, and I enjoyed reading them. But they left me wanting to know the “how.”

Holley Gerth tells her readers how!

Her newest book, You’re Loved No Matter What, tells readers how to free their hearts from the need to be perfect. Her style is fun and personal, like she’s writing a letter to you. She even promises hugs when we meet her in Heaven—or sooner. The message: she really cares about her readers and wants to help them overcome this all-too-common struggle with perfectionism.

The book is thorough, covering every cause of the problem and outlining many possible cures. Holley uses personal illustrations, Bible passages, and information from other books to make each point, and she makes each point clearly. I learned so much from this book; it’s one I’ll read again. (And since this is the first book of hers I've had the pleasure to read, I'll be seeking the others, too!)

If you are a woman who struggles with perfectionistic tendencies, I recommend You Are Loved No Matter What. Revell sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: "Anna's Crossing"

Anna’s Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher is not her typical, sweet Amish story. This book is set further back in time (in 1737), to help readers understand how and why the Amish, then known by other names, came from Germany (and Switzerland) to America. Fisher has done her research, putting fictional characters on what was a very real ship, and recreating one voyage, as much as it’s possible to do, for readers to experience through words.

It’s not an easy read. Those crossings were not pleasant for those who endured them. But Fisher tells her readers in a note at the end of the book that she spared us a lot of the details in order to keep the book from being too depressing. Still she provides enough detail to help us understand this voyage wasn’t a pleasure cruise. These details also revealed the beliefs (by their reactions to circumstances) and determination of those early Amish immigrants.

I was delighted to realize on the very first page, however, that Anna’s Crossing has connections to Fisher’s other books. Anna and other characters are the ancestors of Fisher’s Lancaster County characters. Significant elements of Anna’s Crossing are introduced to readers in Fisher’s Christmas at Rose Hill Farm.

I recommend this book to fans of Amish fiction, historical fiction, and Fisher’s other books. Anna, Baird, Felix, the Bauer family, and others are characters worth getting to know.

Revell Books sent me a complimentary copy of Anna’s Crossing in exchange for this honest review.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February's Review Round-up

Here are the links to February's review posted at Wildflower Faith:

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer

I loved this book! Click on over to find out why.

Coming up this month on this blog:

Anna's Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher
You're Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth
Skin in the Game by Rick Lawrence
By Your Side by Candace Calvert
A Harvest of Hope by Lauraine Snelling