Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: "Neversaid"

Neversaid by Carol Lynch Williams is a powerful book, a quick and intense read. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what was really going on, what the author hadn’t yet revealed, and what would result.

It's the story of a week in the life of twins, girls just turned sixteen. The girls take turns telling the story from their points of view, Sarah through prose—Annie in poetry. Their family is falling apart. Annie has a secret that has changed her behavior, her appearance, and her attitude, in some ways for the better, some for worse. Her parents want her to change back. Sarah is concerned, but she has her own problems. She struggles with severe social anxiety and has just lost her first boyfriend. Her parents want her to be like her sister was.

Though the story, written for teenage girls, drew me in and held my attention, I was disappointed in the total absence of God. Neversaid is published by Zondervan’s Blink division, and Zondervan publishes Christian books. Blink is meant to be hopeful, not necessarily Christian, so Zondervan can get the books into places where Christian books can't go. But hope does not exist without Christ. If a book doesn't help teens understand this, what does it matter where it can go? It offers nothing other than what secular books do.

The issues these two young women were trying to handle on their own were too big, and yet so real. I would have loved for the author to show, not tell, how teens can talk to God about these issues, know He cares, sense His guidance to people who can help, and see the changes He can make in people’s hearts. Even if their parents are distracted and self-absorbed, teens don’t have to handle the stuff of life all on their own. God’s there.

But He wasn’t in this book. Not anywhere.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review: "Ransomed Dreams"

“With the flash of a bullet, Sheridan Montgomery’s world ceased to exist.” And a Side Roads series novel demanded to be read! Each stand-alone story in this series tells of people whose lives get bumped off the main road, away from their intended path. In Ransomed Dreams, Sheridan Montgomery’s life is changed forever when her husband, Eliot—U.S. ambassador to Venezuela—is shot. He survives but struggles to recover, both physically and emotionally. Suffering from post-traumatic stress herself, Sheridan is content to exist quietly by his side, tending to his needs and hiding from the world, a too-dangerous place.

When her sister calls her home to say good-bye to her dying father and to learn unsettling truths about her family now coming to light, Sheridan’s life switches paths again. Hiding is no longer an option. Sheridan must step into the open and learn to live with people—to love, to commit, to forgive.

Ransomed Dreams is a beautiful story, revealing truth and grace. I earned my copy through Tyndale Rewards but was under no obligation to review it. I simply enjoyed the book and chose to recommend it to you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: "The Miracle in the Middle"

The Miracle in the Middle by Charlotte Gambill is a book about perseverance, about trusting God with all you encounter while traveling from point A to point B. Gambill explains the excitement of the beginning and drive we feel at the end, then shows how the middle tempts us to give up, turn back, stay put, or change course. Her purpose is to encourage us to continue on toward the goal.

Using Bible stories and life experiences, Gambill tells readers how to respond to a variety of possible experiences often encountered in the middle, ending each of the eleven chapters with thought-provoking action and prayer points.

Overall I liked this book which contained several useful insights. The analogies Gambill chose made her points clear and memorable. There were a few places where she tweaked the Bible stories to make her point, presenting her thoughts about what may have been going on in people's heads as Bible fact; this was a concern. But I still appreciated all of the encouragement I found to stay the course whenever I find myself in the middle.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Book Review: "Wild in the Hollow"

I’ve never met Amber Haines, but I know her well. As Emily Freeman asks on the back of the book, “How can a woman with a story so different from my own be telling my story too?”

Wild in the Hollow is Amber Haines’s story, her memoir, beautifully told in a style all her own. Some passages made me cringe, others made me cry. The final chapters inspired me—to celebrate life, to enjoy the gift of God, to reach out to others who hurt and find my hurts healed in the reaching. Those chapters cheered sheer triumph. I'm still celebrating!

Wild in the Hollow shows readers how life is a series of phases to overcome and learn from. Just as our children grow in and out of phases, God’s children do, too. He is patient with us as we learn. He nurtures, He parents, He gives us what we need. Each phase has its own beauty, its own pain, its own potential, and God uses it all, drawing us to Him, drawing us into His community. When we refuse to grow through a phase, we get stuck, but God stays there with us, waiting us out, ready to lead us on. And if ever we’re feeling unsatisfied with life, we’re probably desiring something other than Him. Our longings most likely mean we need more of Him. More of Him that we can share with others who long, too.

At least that was my takeaway. I’m glad Amber chose to share her story and that I had the privilege of reading it. I recommend this book.

I received a complimentary copy of Wild in the Hollow from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: "Hope Harbor"

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon is more than a sweet Christian romance. It’s a story of community. It’s a story of hurting people finding healing in community. It's a story of God's anonymous work through people, places, and circumstance.

In this book, we meet Tracy Campbell, a widow running a struggling cranberry farm with her uncle and his wife. We also meet Michael Hunter, a burned-out executive from Chicago who is seeking peace from his past. We meet Anna the recluse whose only social activity is rescuing all the wounded animals she finds in the woods behind her home. And we meet Grace, the new-to-town teenager whose desperate loneliness leads her to make a life-changing mistake that threatens to destroy her family.

We also meet a lot of quirky characters who contribute as the wounded find their way: Charley, Floyd, Reverend Baker, and Father Kevin. These fill out the Hope Harbor Community in a joyful way.

Set in Oregon with ties to Chicago, Hope Harbor is the story of God at work behind the scenes with everyone’s best interests at heart. As Michael says in one scene, “It’s odd how life rarely turns out the way we plan, isn’t it? I tend to grumble about the unexpected twists and turns, but my wife always called it divine Providence.”

Readers who enjoy following intertwining story lines, seeing the author show how everything can work together for everyone’s good, will be inspired by this book. I received a complimentary copy from Revell in exchange for this honest review.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Book Review: "Drawing Fire"

Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore is the first book in her new series, Cold Case Justice. A cliffhanger of sorts, part of the story comes to a conclusion, but part does not. When I reached the end, I felt as if the author or publisher had torn the book in half and only given me the first part. I’ll be watching for the rest of it.

A victim of the crime during which her parents were murdered, Abby Hart has kept her real identity a secret for most of her life. Friends and family who know who she is fear the unknown murderer will come after her if the truth becomes known. But Abby wants justice for her parents more than anything else. As a homicide detective, she has dedicated her life to putting killers in jail, offering closure to victims’ family members like herself. If revealing who she is will help to catch her parents’ killers, Abby is willing to take the risk.

I enjoyed reading this book, getting to know the characters, watching them find answers that lead to more questions that take them where they don’t expect to go. I look forward to discovering where the answers found in this book will take them next.

Fans of police drama will enjoy this book and others by Janice Cantore. I received a complimentary eCopy from Tyndale House Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.