Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: "Wild Montana Skies"

Wild Montana Skies is the first book in a new series by Susan May Warren. This one is fun! It will follow the lives and adventures of a search and rescue team. In this first book, readers meet the team, but the focus is on a temporary new member, Kacey Fairing, who grew up in the area and has strong ties to the community. She left, however, to join the Army, hoping to heal her heart after a devastating loss. Now she's back to recover from physical and emotional injury and to fill in for the team's pilot, recovering from a recent crash.

The book also focuses on country music star Ben King, whose father leads the search and rescue team. Ben also grew up in the community and left to make a new life for himself after his own devastating loss. On his return, he discovers that he lost much more than he knew and he's tempted to run away again. But family ties are strong. His father and others need for him to stay in town.

Wild Montana Skies is a beautiful story of coming home, of offering and receiving grace, of letting God do the work that only He can do for the good of his children, no matter what they've done. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to you. Revell sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Review: "Girl Talk"

I'm so happy I found this book! Girl Talk is a 52-week devotional for young teen girls. I hope my daughter will enjoy it. If you have a daughter in this age group, you'll want to check it out.

This devotional is more comprehensive than most, yet it's still easy to understand. Each starts with a Bible verse, followed by a story about a teenage girl. Daily journaling pages with prompts follow these. Each of the 52 devotionals ends with a prayer.

I love that the author, Lois Walfrid Johnson, encourages her readers to memorize the 52 Bible verses as they work their way through the book, pointing out the fact that by the end of a year, they'll have 52 messages from God secured in their heads for Him to remind them of as needed throughout their lives. Johnson also suggests that her readers find mentors to talk with about new ideas and lessons they want to apply. "Not every problem is suddenly solved," she writes, "but the right person can help you see what's happening from a different viewpoint. Instead of feeling alone, you know there's someone who wants the best for you."

Finally, Johnson tells her readers to share their thoughts with Jesus as they work through the book, to ask Him what He wants them to know and to tell Him what they need His help with. Girls who read this book will over the course of a year will develop the disciplines of Bible study, Scripture memory, fellowship with older believers, and prayer.

I thank Zonderkids for sending a complimentary copy to me. I'm happy to share my thoughts through this review.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Book Review: "The Cottage"

The Cottage by Michael Phillips is one of his best books yet. The second book in his Secrets of the Shetlands series, it is a fairy tale of sorts. From out of the blue, American Loni Ford has inherited an island off the coast of Scotland and must decide what to do with it. In making her decision, she will learn about duty, destiny, heritage, and community. As she moves into her future, she'll learn to value her past. And of course, she'll have to learn where to turn when others threaten to destroy what she's been summoned to preserve.

As with many of Phillips's books, The Cottage is rich in Scottish history. The Quaker movement plays a significant role as well. Readers will also learn more about George MacDonald and his teachings about the Fatherhood of God.

If you enjoy deeply thought out Christian fiction anchored in history and full of maturing characters, you will want to read the two-book Secrets of the Shetlands series. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Book Review: "The Devoted"

The Devoted by Suzanne Woods Fisher is the third book in her Bishop's Family series. In this book, the bishop is learning how to shepherd his flock, to guide them away from dangerous mindsets slowly working their way into the community. His children are learning significant life lessons, too. Eldest son Jesse, once irresponsible and in trouble, is now running a business, learning to mentor others, and thinking about bigger life decisions. Second daughter Ruthie has secretly earned her GED and is trying to decide what to do with it and with whom. The bishop's sister, who left the Amish community, is back, as their physician, defining this role and discovering, at last, the kind of life she really wants to lead.

This book, the whole series in fact, is rich in wisdom and full of developing characters. It kept my highlighter busy while I savored both the story and its messages. I highly recommend The Devoted to fans of Amish and Christian fiction. Revell sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Book Review: "Newton and Polly"

I chose Newton and Polly, the fictionalized story of John Newton and Polly Catlett, as a book to review because:

a) Jody Hedlund wrote it. I've enjoyed every one of her books I've read so far, including Luther and Katharina, also based on the lives of real people.

b) the cover is gorgeous. A gorgeous cover promises a beautiful story, right? (I'll get back to that thought.)

c) I love the song, Amazing Grace (written by John Newton), knew a little about its history, and wanted to learn more.

About halfway through the book, I was ready to close it for good though. John Newton did not start life as a likable character. His choices went from bad to worse no matter what loved ones advised, wished for him, and warned him about. As the consequences he faced grew equally harsh, I got to the point where I just didn't want to read any more. I like to cheer for the heroes of the books I read, not watch characters plunge into deep despair because they refuse to choose what's right. Hedlund couldn't have presented this darkness more perfectly; it was just hard to take in. (I see this as a testament to her skill. She truly brought John Newton to life.)

I kept reading, though, and I'm so glad I did. When the wretch that was John Newton finally saw what God offered and surrendered completely, the story did indeed become at least as beautiful as its cover. Polly's story made the whole thing twice as meaningful.

If you enjoy seeing historical characters come to life in this manner, you will want to read this book. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy to me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Book Review: "Earth Psalms"

Francine Rivers's newest book, her first devotional, is a beautiful must-read for anyone who loves exploring God's creation. This hardcover book, co-authored by Karin Stock Buursma, has a beautiful, colorful cover. Inside it contains 52 "reflections on how God speaks through nature." Each reflection is short, just a few pages of thoughts born of Rivers's experiences and observations. They are illustrated with beautiful, sometimes whimsical, color photos of God's world. They also contain relevant Scripture and quotations from well-known Christian leaders. Some also contain random, interesting facts about the plants or animals pictured throughout the book. Each devotional ends with an idea to reflect on, a practical application, and a prayer.

I enjoy Rivers's calm and thoughtful presentation of each reflection. I love that the concept for the book is based on Romans 1:20, "For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, [we] can clearly see his invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature. So [we] have no excuse for not knowing God." This is a book that I will turn to often when I just want to contemplate God's Presence and His creative side. I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy. It is my pleasure to recommend this book to you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Book Review: "A Royal Christmas Wedding"

Oh, yay! I've been waiting for this story since I finished reading the first book in The Royal Wedding series. Author Rachel Hauck introduced these characters there, and I believed they were destined for each other. Hauck made us wait for that story, though. But her main character has been waiting as well. Prince Colin caved to family pressure and dropped the ball, leaving Avery to attend her high school senior prom and figure out life from there on her own.

I love that Hauck brought Avery back to the Kingdom of Brighton. I also love that she created and resurrected a long-neglected Brighton tradition to help Colin and Avery work through their issues and decide their futures. I also get a kick out of Madeline & Hyacinth, a talk show host team that can't leave royal bachelors alone. Readers aren't meeting them for the first time in this book. Their mischief was entertaining again.

This story does stand alone if you haven't read the previous books in the series, though characters from past books make appearances that could be spoilers if you plan to go back and read those books. I recommend A Royal Christmas Wedding to fans of romantic Christian fiction and of Christmas novellas. Zondervan sent a complimentary copy to me, so I could share my opinion of the story with you.