Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What the Heart Sees


What the Heart Sees is a collection of three novellas by Kathleen Fuller.  A Miracle for Miriam is about a young lady who was once very hurt.  She carries that pain with her every day of her life, but masks it under being busy.  Seth is recovering from a horrible car accident which has made him see what his priorities in life should be.  Can both of them find the healing they need?  Josiah has returned to Paradise with intentions to leave as quickly as he can.  Can he avoid the demons from his past or will he ultimately confront them and put them to rest?  He believes he is fighting alone, but he has forgotten the tenacity of his youthful best friend, Amanda.  She is excited to see her friend back, but cannot understand why he has changed so much.  In A Place of His Own, we find out that friendship and faith can overcome that which seems impossible alone.  What the Heart Sees is the final novella in this book.  The Amish community is recovering from a deadly car accident.  The survivors are moving forward with their lives, all but one who has fled to get as far as he can from the pain.  Christopher must decide if he can come to terms with what happened and truly live again.  Ellie must share her pain and accept her disability.  Will their friendship help them overcome the tragedy?
 
I enjoyed reading these three stories.  The issues confronting the characters are issues that many people face and these tales can help us to grapple with forgiveness, love, faithfulness, and hope.  I found parts of Miriam's tale to go a bit slowly, be somewhat repetitious, so I can't say that was my favorite of the three.  I do believe the middle book about Amanda and Josiah is my favorite because of the faithfulness of her friendship.  The final story is the most complex of the three, but not to its detriment.  This book offers many hours of entertaining reading and I award it 4 out of 5 pieces of bacon. 

Kathleen Fuller is a wife and mother as well as an author of novels, novellas, and short stories.  She has degrees in early childhood and special education.


Trouble was, her heart refused to cooperate.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Thousand Gifts


Why doubt the dare to fully live?  Now and right here.  Why not let all of life be penetrated by grace, gratitude, joy?  This is the only way to welcome the Kingdom of God. 

Ann Voskamp is a farmer's wife and a mother of six.  Her days consist of chores, homeschooling six energetic, messy children, and working her way through a pile of laundry that never seems to get smaller.  The work seems endless.  Her life has not been without greater trials than those as her sister died before her eyes in childhood.  There has been pain, betrayal, and sorrow.  Surrounded by all this misery, Ann wondered, how can I have faith, "how do we find joy...?"  Her search brought her to her knees and led her to look, with new eyes, at the world around her.  VosKamp writes of her journey to eucharisteo, living fully, finding joy and invites her readers to undertake their own journey.

I was so excited to see this book arrive in my mailbox.  I put away the book I was currently reading and opened One Thousand Gifts.  Within a couple of pages, I knew this wasn't a book to read through in a weekend.  This is a book to read slowly and savor.  To pause and pray over the words VosKamp is speaking.  Her writing style is uniquely hers and I felt as if she were speaking right to me.  At times, it seems that it is one soul speaking to another.  The questions she asks, the challenges she throws out to God, the sadness of a soul wondering how can life be joyful and good in the face of so much suffering are thoughts that so many have had, myself included.  The answers she shares are hope filled and inspiring.  I doubt that a true seeker could read this book and not be changed.  I absolutely love this book and it will be one I treasure and read over and over again.  It is one that will be marked up, left near wherever I sit to read.  I give this book a 5 out of 5 pieces of bacon, but it deserves far more. 


Ann VosKamp is a farmer's wife, a mother of six and a writer.  She also has travelled with Compassion International. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Duggars: 20 and Counting


We count every one of our children as a blessing from God.  But we understand that supersize families are unusual these days, and we've grown accustomed to the stares, questions, and comments wherever we go.  We also understand that there's a lot of curiosity.

 
Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar love children and it's a good thing because their firmly held belief that children are blessings from God and that birth control is wrong have resulted in them having 19 children, to date!  After the birth of their fourth baby, the questions started.  "Are they all yours?"  "You do know how that happens?" "How do you support them all?"  Many of these questions have been answered through the TV series on the Discovery Channel, but Michelle and Jim Bob thought they would write a book to answer these questions and provide more of an insight into their busy family life.  Along with sharing their religious beliefs and financial plans, they include their family history, how they "train and correct" the children, and organizational tips.  Readers also get to see plans for their 7,000 square foot house and family recipes.


Many days I climb into bed, exhausted from parenting four children all day.  I can not imagine having 19.  Since the Duggar family has been brought into the spotlight, I've wondered, "how do they do it?"  I watched the TV series and was interested in the organization of the household as well as their methods of raising the children.  This book provides even more information on those topics, tips that readers can use.  I really enjoyed reading this book, not only because of the tips, but for the reassurance that it doesn't matter if you have 4 or 19, that, yes, it's hard, but you can survive and enjoy it!  It's easy to see they love each one of their children and the life they have together.  I think it's important for a reader to approach this book as a parenting book instead of a book about celebrities because that is how the Duggars wrote it.  My initial concerns that this would be a feeding of the media frenzy were laid to rest by the end of the book's introduction.

By the way, did you know that their kitchen pantry has a roll up garage door that opens to the driveway so that they can get their groceries from the car right into the storage area?  That is some smart thinking and just so cool! 

I give The Duggars: 20 and Counting 4 out of 5 pieces of Bacon.

The Duggars: 20 and Counting was written by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Plain Proposal


Saul didn't know it yet, but Miriam was going to marry him.

Miriam's summer stretched before her and she anticipated it with much excitement.  Her cousin was on her way to visit; getting away from some troubles.  Miriam was in her runschpringe, a time of freedom for Amish teens.  Then there was Saul, the man Miriam loved and was determined to catch the eye of.  This wonderful time was sure to end predictably, she thought, with her cousin going home, Miriam joining the church and marrying Saul.  But life is strange and unpredictable and soon things happen that she never could have imagined.  Will life ever be the same?  Will her faith hold up no matter where she goes?  Is Saul really the one? 


Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman is one in the series of Daughters of Promise.  This book was a very interesting read and I found myself unable to put it down.  There are twists and turns that are very unexpected and compelling.  Wiseman transports her readers to Miriam's home from page one.  For a reader who complains about the predictability of Amish novels, I would say, "try this."  If you love that same predictability, do not fear, there is much to capture you as well.  I would give this a 4 out of 5.
 

Beth Wiseman was an award winning journalist until 2008 when she decided to write novels full time.  She is currently contracted with Thomas Nelson to write a certain number of Amish themed books, but she does have her first non-Amish book releasing in 2012. 

Plain Proposal was written by Beth Wiseman, published by Thomas Nelson

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fragile



In a small suburb of New York City, everyone knows everyone else.  It's more than a friendly wave of acquaintances; it's a life long knowledge of who your neighbors are.  People keep an eye on each other, helping out when they can.  It sounds idyllic.  Unfortunately, it's also a place where high school cliques never seem to get outgrown, old mistakes are not forgotten, and skeletons don't stay quietly in the closet.  In Fragile, Lisa Unger explores how "fragile" our communities, relationships, and even ourselves can be.

Maggie fled as a young adult, seeking someplace where she wasn't under the town microscope.  Adulthood brought her back where she married and settled down to raise their son.  While people around town have their problems, Maggie does her best to help them.  All is well until one of the town teens disappears.  Maggie uses all her psychologist skills to help with the case.  What she discovers may be more than she can handle.  Things begin to fall apart and she is forced to question her trust of those closest to her.  Life in "small town USA" becomes a nightmare and she doesn't know if she can handle it.

Overall, I enjoyed the book because it stood the cliched concept of the perfect small town on its head.  It is easy to look around our communities and see the good, but in reality, so much more can hide just under the surface.  Be warned that parts of the book are hard to read, that the subject matter is very serious.  If you have a difficult time watching the newscast of your nearest city, you might want to skip this read.  Otherwise, looking past the events into the characters, their thoughts and feelings, you will have a very interesting read.  The Ruminating Reader awards 3 out of 5 stars.  It falls short of 4 stars as due to the subject matter, I do not know if I will be rereading this anytime soon.


Lisa Unger is an award winning, bestselling author. Her novels have been published in over 26 countries around the world.  She lives in Florida with her family. 


Fragile is written by Lisa Unger and published by Shaye Areheart Books.

 

The mind, the psyche, adjusted better to catastrophe than to uncertainty.  She hoped she'd never have to find out either way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saving Leonardo

 
You can have a strong Christian faith as long as you do not force it on anyone else.  It doesn't matter what we do with our bodies because they are just muscle and bone.  You can live whatever lifestyle you want because there is no reason not to.  These beliefs and others are among issues covered by Nancy Pearcey in her book Saving Leonardo, A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on the Mind, Morals, and Meaning.  After establishing how Western thought was split into two halves, she takes arguments from society, liberal philosophers, and even scientists to reveals the conspiracy to the extract all Christian thinking and belief from the public square.  She dissects the vocabulary used by these people and helps the reader understand the plans they have.  In doing so, she teaches the reader how to respond to the arguments of secularism.  She delves into the two paths that have led us to this current state.  She reveals how modern film reflects the post modern beliefs now accepted by society.  She even shows how these philosophies have invaded our churches, especially targeting our young people.  Pearcey closes her book by offering instruction to Christians on how to respond to secular arguments.  Furthermore, she suggests how we can begin to replacing all these bad thoughts and culture with good thoughts and culture.  The goal to be returning the two separate halves to one complete being.

Nancy Pearcey was an agnostic before becoming a Christian.  She has written or co written a vast number of books and articles.  She has spoken to a variety of audiences on matters of philosophy, faith, culture, science, and worldview.  Pearcey is currently a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.  She is also a wife and homeschooling mother of two. 

There are many Christians who are not aware such issues exist.  There are many Christians who believe we should stick to our Christian communities and leave the world to itself.  There are many who believe that what is happening is bad, but do not have an idea of how to fight it.  This book would be a wise choice for anyone.  Secularism is not going to go aware if we ignore it.  We cannot fight it by suggesting a blind faith.  If we are to engage in battle, we have to understand the tactics of the enemy.  This book is an excellent tool for anyone seeking to understand and combat the current worldview.  I highly recommend it for parents and those who work with young people so that they can understand what the next generation is facing.  If we blindly turn away from this now, we have no right to remark on the direction our world is going.  Furthermore, it will help each and every person see how Secularism is sneaking into our personal lives, to address areas in our lives where we are weak in our faith and beliefs.

This is a 5 on The Ruminating Reader Scale, chew this slowly and digest it.  Then go back for another serving!

Saving Leonardo A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on the Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey.  Published by B&H Publishing Group.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II

Many people have heard the saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole. Larkin Spivey has collected personal accounts, combined them with history and the Gospel in Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II. There are prayers and words of wisdom from generals, enlisted men, prisoners of war, and even civilians who perished because of war. The faith of these men and women is written into 365 daily devotionals. The book is enriched with maps, pictures, and summaries to help you better understand the war. Even if you are a studied history reader, you will find remembrances unknown to you.

This was an exciting book for me. I greatly enjoy history and liked reading personal accounts of those who were involved in the battles of World War II. The faith that these people had in the face of such horribly circumstances is just incredible. The ways God worked during this time are indeed mysterious and amazing. There are many references to war in the Bible, not just the battles of the Old Testament, but comparisons in the New Testament so that a book about faith during war times is very appropriate. I gained some new information regarding some of those comparisons, things that you would only learn through talking with someone knowledgeable of military things. This book would make a great gift for someone who has served in the military.

Larkin Spivey is a retired Marine Corp. officer who served in Vietnam. He was a student of The Citadel and returned there to teach as well. He has taken his experience and Christian faith and written seven books. Besides writing, he travels making personal, television, and radio appearances to speak about his faith and patriotism.

I award it 5 out of 5 stars. Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II is written by Larkin Spivey and published by AMG Publishers. I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Deep Trouble

Stranded and left for dead by those she trusted, Shannon Dysart is rescued by Gabe Lasley, not a prince or knight, but a simple rancher. Together, they set out to find a city of gold, one of the fabled seven. They must deal with the harsh sun, a pack of ruthless robbers, and their mixed feelings for each other. Will Shannon learn what real treasure is? Will Gabe do what is right or turn his back on his instincts?

Deep Trouble was written by Mary Connealy who is an award winning writer. Connealy has published over ten books. Deep Trouble is the second in the Wild West Weddings series. She lives on a ranch out West with her family.

I like and disliked this book. My primary complaint is several allusions to intimacy among the characters. I think Connealy goes further than she needs to, even when these references are among married characters. The book is well written and does not need them. My reasons for liking this book are numerous. It is good adventure. There are several exciting scenes that are in the spirit of other great adventure books/movies. There's mystery surrounding the cities of Gold, horse chases, life threatening landscape, and much more. Another reason to like this book is the way she handles the Gospel and moral theme of this book. I've read many books where it seems written in as an after-thought. In this book it flows so naturally that you cheer as the characters learn the lessons placed in their path and may even stop to consider the lesson for your own life.

This book will be released in May 2011. I award it 4 out of 5 stars. Deep Trouble is written by Mary Connealy and published by Barbour. I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Conspiracy in Kiev


Conspiracy in Kiev is the first book in the Russian Trilogy by Noel Hynd. We meet Alexandra LaDuca who is in her comfortable position with the Department of Treasury. Almost before she can believe it, she is working undercover with the Secret Service on an important mission in Ukraine. Once her adventure begins, the action doesn't stop until she's crossed several continents and experienced enough danger to last a lifetime. She meets many people and doesn't know whose side any of them are on. Sometimes, she's not sure which side she's on. Her life is changed forever by what happens and she if forced to reexamine her faith and all that she has ever believed.

I highly recommend this book to someone looking for political intrigue, adventure, mystery, and suspense. I actually read the second book in the series, Midnight in Madrid, first, so I was excited to go back to the beginning and see how it all started and I was not disappointed. LaDuca and the other characters are a mix between well developed people and stereotypes, but no one was so over the top as to be unbelievable. I really enjoyed Hynd bringing in real world events. If you're looking for a gift for a reader in your life (or yourself), check it out!

Conspiracy in Kiev is written by Noel Hynd and published by Zondervan. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Honey For A Child's Heart

"Every parent by words and choices furnishes the heart and mind of a child, for good or for ill," writes Gladys Hunt in Honey For A Child's Heart. Hunt, a mother and grandmother, has compiled a list of books that she believes will give children insight into the world (near and far), of truth and things that are good. She also thinks these books encourage good imaginations in addition to teaching a good use of language. Beyond a simple list of recommended reading, Hunt delves into the philosophy behind her choices. She challenges some of the modern myths regarding children's literature and advocates parent's making the final decision regarding their family's reading.

I have read many positive reviews about this book and was excited to have the chance to review it myself. I was pleased to see it is more than just a list and explores what qualities make a book good as well as fantasy and realism. The lists contain many beloved classics as well as some books that are destined to be classics in the years to come. I like how she broke many of the lists down by genre making it easier to find books that will engross your child's interests. Her "special occasions" list is very useful as well.

There really are many wonderful books out there and I look forward to sharing them with my children. The difficult part will be to not read ahead, but savor the experience with my family. Whether you're a seasoned family reader or just beginning, this book will definitely go a long way in helping you enrich your book choices.


Honey For A Child's Heart
is written by Gladys Hunt and published by Zondervan. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Lord's Prayer

R.T. Kendall wrote The Lord's Prayer, Insight and Inspiration to Draw You Closer to Him. He discusses who should pray the Lord's Prayer and when. He then, in a sense, dissects the prayer, analyzing each line. Throughout, he uses other Scriptures to support his claims. He draws from his personal life and anecdotes from the lives of others as well. He gets right down to the root meaning of words, in the original language. He presents several challenges to his readers regarding their personal lives and beliefs.

When I received this book, I admit, I was a bit reluctant. I had received three books on the Lord's Prayer around the same time and this one ended up on the bottom of the stack. It was a case of saving the best for last. Kendall's writing style is very approachable. He could have been sitting across from me having a chat. He is very easy to understand. He gets his points across without being repetitive. He concisely answers the challenges that his readers may have on issues such as the existence of evil. He encourages us to strive for daily dependence on God and to not take ourselves too seriously. I found it interesting that he wrote this book for believers and non believers. I think both audiences would benefit. This book is a keeper and is something I will read again.

The Lord's Prayer
is written by R.T. Kendall and published by Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Trusting God Even When Life Hurts

In Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, Jerry Bridges addresses questions about suffering in the life of Christians. A personal time of study and prayer evolved into this book on the sovereignty of God. Can we trust Him? Why does God allow suffering? Does He love us?

It has been my experience that books on suffering are best read when one is not suffering. I started this during a difficult time in my life and had to lay it aside until I was through that time. When I picked it up again, I found it to be helpful in understanding some of what I experienced. I liked the fact that there were many Scripture references and quotes from other Christians. The last two chapters on God's love were important to grasping the previous chapters and leaves us understanding why we can trust God. I would recommend this book if you're looking to read on the topic of suffering, hard times, and difficult situations.

Trusting God Even When Life Hurts is written by Jerry Bridges and published by NavPress. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Where Hearts Are Free

Where Hearts Are Free is the third book in the Darkness to Light series by Golden Keyes Parsons. Bridget Barrington's life seems bright and full of promise. She belongs to a wealthy family and is much loved by them. She has fallen in love and hopes to spend the rest of her life with the man of her dreams. Phillipe Clavell also looks to his future with hope. Although his family has suffered great religious persecution and they have been separated by financial ruin, he looks forward to fulfilling his indentured servant hood soon and returning to his family. In the middle of such promise, their lives seem to unravel. Bridget learns that her family is arranging a marriage that is most distasteful to her. Philip is concerned about his brother who is still indentured. He is also crushed by Bridget's proclamation and the impossibility their relationship seems. Most frightening of all, Bridget's very life is in danger. Can these obstacles be over come?

This book follows, what I think, is a typical Christian Romance Novel pattern until the end where there are some events that surprised me. It did put a different twist on the whole book. If you're looking for a story with a lot of writing about the character's faith, this is not for you. There is very little from Bridget about that and where the other characters mention it, at times, it seems like it was added as an after thought. The story, over all, was good and I found myself cheering for the good guys, booing the bad guys, and by the end, wanting just a bit more (but in a good way). Despite the time difference, it is not hard to identify with the characters. This is an entertaining read. It has sparked my interest in the other books of the series as well.

Where Hearts Are Free is written by Golden Keyes Parsons and published by Thomas Nelson Publishing. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Me I Want To Be

John Ortberg wrote The Me I Want To Be > Becoming God's Best Version of You . He emphasizes the fact that we are made by God for a purpose and our qualities are His workmanship. Ortberg believes that there are ways we can be more authentic and fulfill our purpose, which is not what we do, but who we are. The closer we become to being who God created us to be, the closer we will be to God. Ortberg points out some lies and misconceptions Christians can have that keep us from being our best selves, from believing truth.

I admit, when I read the book cover and the first few pages, I was afraid this was another Christian Self-Help book full of cliches and New Age ideas. As I read further along, I began to see that I was wrong. I think Ortberg may have erred in the naming and publicity of his book; that both are misleading. This book is actually a great study on some of the common mistakes in the ways Christians view themselves, their circumstances, and God's divine plan. So much would be rectified if we changed our attitudes about those things. I know that my attitude has improved after reading passages that challenged several excuses I had been making.

I know this book also has supporting material such as group study guides and dvd sessions which would make this a great study for a small group, Sunday school class, or even just a group of friends.

The Me I Want to Be is written by John Ortberg and published by Zondervan Publishing. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament

Several times the New Testament tells us that the disciples remembered prophesies and/or that the events of Jesus' life and death were foretold. Have you ever wondered just what prophesies they were talking about and what Scriptures spoke of the coming Christ? If you have, this book is for you. The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament by Nancy Guthrie takes you through the Old Testament, showing you how God's plan unfolded. This book can be started on January 1 or you can pick it up on any other day of the year. There is a Scripture Index to help you cross reference your regular Bible reading or just to find a specific portion of Scripture. These features make the book an easy tool as well as a devotional.

I have found this book to be a great enrichment to my quiet time. It is wonderful to watch the purpose of God unfold through the history of His peoples. My understanding and appreciation of Scripture is increasing every time I use this book. It would make a great tool for someone who wanted to learn how the events of the Old Testament lead to Christ but feels intimidated by some of the larger apologetic books. It is approachable, useful, informative, and enlightening.

The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament is written by Nancy Guthrie and published by Tyndale Publishing. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Good Morning, Lord

The Christian book market is flooded with devotionals. I've browsed through many, really read a few, and treasure a small handful. Sheila Walsh has written Good Morning, Lord - I Don't Know Where You're Going Today, But I'm Going There With You. This one is definitely a keeper. Each devotion is short, just two pages, but it will challenge you to think of your walk with the Lord, your treatment of others, and your view on life. The first part of each devotional is a statement, "Today I will..." It's something that sticks with you through the day, challenging you to be the person God wants you to be. There's a short reading, a couple of questions to think about (and space to record your answer), a short prayer, and a Scripture. It really sounds pretty typical for a devotional, but her approach is thought provoking which makes this a rare and wonderful book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com
book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Anne Bradstreet


D.B Kellogg wrote about Puritan Poet Anne Bradstreet for Thomas Nelson's Christian Encounters biography series. I remember reading Mrs. Bradstreet's works in high school and college, but not much about her personal life. D.B Kellogg writes about the history of Puritans, the reason for their journey to the New World, life in New England, and, of course, the life of Bradstreet. She also includes portions of Bradstreet's works. By understanding the historical information, the reader is better able to understand and appreciate the poetry.
The first half of the book contains more history regarding England, Puritans, and New England than information about Anne Bradstreet. I found this to be a bit disappointing as far as being a biography about Bradstreet. I do think the writing itself and information given was very interesting, but then again, I love history as much as I do literature. In the second half of the book, Kellogg steps up her information as specifically pertaining to Bradstreet. She also includes more poems than she did in the first half of the book. At first I was disappointed in the seeming lack of detail for Bradstreet's life, but after some thought I realized we're fortunate to know as much as we do. It's only because her father and husband were prominent politicians that we have as much information preserved as we do. The life of a "good" Puritan woman was unremarkable and thus there wasn't a lot of record keeping regarding such a life. I think this book is well worth the read for someone who loves history and/or literature because it covers both so well.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Christian Mom's Idea Book

Ellen Banks Elwell wrote The Christian Mom's Idea Book to have hundreds of tips and suggestions from moms in one place. The book is broken into small chapters covering a wide range of topics from Birthday Parties to The Doctor's Office to Laundry and Organization. She suggests that her readers may want to skip to sections that interest them the most instead of reading the book from cover to cover. She has interviewed moms that she knows as well as some professionals.

What I really appreciate about this type of book is that it is available when I need it. I have a few of them sitting on a shelf and when I find myself wondering what to do about a problem, I can open a few books and glean from others. Elwell covers a huge range of topics and many of her suggestions are very helpful. She has a very open attitude and understands that not all of her tips will help every mother out there. This book is very reader friendly.

This book is published by Crossway Books. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Beyond Opinion

Ravi Zacharias is an author and general editor of Beyond Opinion, a collection of essays about "living the faith we defend" published by Thomas Nelson. There is a wide range of topics such as challenges from youth, Islam, Atheism, and science. Ravi himself writes about the existential challenges of evil and suffering. This book covers more than just matters of the mind and reaches into the heart with topics such as "the role of doubt and persecution in spiritual transformation" and "idolatry, denial, and self-deception."
Do not be intimidated by some of the biggest names in Christian apologetics! This book is very readable and understandable. It isn't something you will sit and read from cover to cover, but essay by essay. Some of it you might not find applicable at this time, but may come back to later. I think this book is good for opening the eyes of the reader, to make them aware of some of the issues out there that non Christians have. Additionally, I think it's a great jumping off point to further exploration of apologetics. Someone who doesn't see a need for such studies may find themselves having a change of mind/heart. This book would also make a great gift for a student heading off to college where many of these issues will come up. All in all, one of the best apologetic books I've read in the past few years.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I Am Hutterite

I admit that I am curious about certain small religious communities, such as the Amish, so when I Am Hutterite, by Mary-Ann Kirkby became available for review, I was excited. She starts her book by giving us glimpses into one of many Hutterite colonies in Canada. She provides some historical information about the religion as well as her family's background. We are given peeks into certain aspects of a Hutterite day and special occasions in the colony. She writes of increasing tension between the colony leader and her family which leads to her parents leaving the colony with their seven children. From there, the book explores how the author and her family adjusted to this new world.

I was very interested in learning about how the people worked together in the colony. I also think their philosophy of education is interesting, mostly in the early years. Kirkby showed many of the advantages of living in such a community as well as the disadvantages and the reader is easily able to understand why her parents made the decision they did. My biggest negative criticism of the book is that I feel it could be better organized. She skips around a lot through the calendar year and also through the years of her family's history. As a reader, I would have appreciated a more chronological writing style. Overall, I do recommend this book because I believe it gives an accurate and balanced view into the Hutterite community.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Heart Mender: Review and Giveaway!

One of my favorite genres is historical fiction so I was quite excited to read The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews. The main part of the book is set in 1942. A young woman is still grieving the loss of her husband and finds herself angry most of the time, even with those who love her most. A young man has also lost everything he had and doesn't even understand exactly how he went from his German U Boat to washing up on the Florida shore. Can they make peace with themselves? Can they forgive those who have caused them pain? The answers to those questions determine the course for the rest of their lives. The secondary part of the book comes from the personal experience of the author who made an interesting discovery outside his home. His curiosity quickly became an obsession and drove his determination to find some answers. This book is a record of his discoveries as well as some talented tale weaving.

A word of caution, this book was previously published as Island of Saints, although it does contain extra information at the end regarding the characters/people involved. Overall, I thought this book was fantastic and found myself staying up too late at night just to turn another page. I honestly had no idea that the Gulf of Mexico was so involved in WWII and think it's shameful that this information is still concealed today. My one issues with the book is that forgiveness is supposed to be a main theme, but I don't feel Andrews allowed his characters to fully express how they resolved this issue; almost as if it was a forgotten point. This omission in no way damages the rest of the story for me though as I just love the ending. Which, of course, I am not sharing with you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dwelling in His Presence

Dwelling in His Presence: 30 Days of Intimacy with God is another fantastic book/tool by Cynthia Heald. She uses the familiar format, beginning with a conversation between Father and child. From there, each chapter has a Scripture, a reading, a few questions, a quote, and a prayer. The questions are mostly reflective, prompting the reader to examine her mind and heart. This is not one of her more in depth studies, but an excellent book to direct your thoughts to the Lord. The reading does not take too long, but will stay with you through your day.

While I do highly recommend this book, I will caution you that most of this content was previously published in In the Secret Place of the Most High. You may want to go check your bookshelf before ordering this. I really like the pretty hardcover that comes without the fuss of a dust cover. This would also make a wonderful gift.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Growing With Purpose

Growing with Purpose, Connecting with God Every Day was written by Jon Walker and is published by Zondervan. This is a day by day devotional, just one page for each day. There is a Scripture, then Walker writes something related to that. Some of the pages are meant to challenge the reader's personal life while others are just stories to reflect on.
Over all, I must say, this is nothing special and does not rank in my "must have" list. I found it to be light on the theology and high on pep talk. There are many lapses into Christianese which would make this book a difficult read for someone who is searching or even a new Christian. I also found myself going to my Bible to make sure Scripture wasn't taken out of context and his interpretation was accurate. So really, treating this as a quick feed did not work. Again, that is my general overview. I do think about a quarter of the devotions did prompt me to deeper thinking. So it might be wise to look at this book as an appetizer instead of a meal.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Angel Fall

"Angel Fall" was written by Coleman Luck, published by Zondervan. The story begins with three children/young adults facing a big change in their lives. They are leaving the home of their mother in the United States to live with their father in England. Very soon they find themselves in a whole other world facing problems that are larger than anything they've ever imagined before. In fact, the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. The world they are in is filled with fantastic creatures, powerful magic, much good and much evil. Will they fulfill their calling? Will they survive? Will the world be saved?

This book has been a challenge to read. Long descriptive passages give way to long dialogues, both repetitive at times. The characters are stereotyped and I felt like I knew what they'd do before they did it. Nor did the characters mature much through their adventures. Several themes were borrowed from other fantasy books. I felt like the author was trying too hard and didn't know if he was writing fantasy or allegory. For a book that was compared to the works of Lewis and Tolkien, it falls far short of the higher goal.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Swope's Ridge

"Swope's Ridge" was written by Ace Collins and is the second in the Lije Evans Mysteries series. The first book, Farraday Road was a very good read and I was excited to receive the sequel to review as well. Lije continues the search for the cause and perpetrators of his wife's murder. He now knows that it is connected to the property he owns, but he doesn't know much more than that. His search takes him back to World War II and outside of his own country. At the same time, he is working on a case defending a man accused of a terrible crime for a terrible reason. Will he find the answers he is looking for? Will another innocent man face the death penalty?

As I said, the first book was well written and the sequel is the same. It took some turns I did not expect. Some of the historical occurrences were intriguing as well. I thought that perhaps they were created by Collins, but later learned they are based on fact! For someone who has read quite a bit about WWII, this was exciting. I was satisfied with the ending, as much as someone can be who is anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. As far as I know, there is not one in the works as Collins is working on other projects. Still, I highly recommend this book and its prequal as well written and highly entertaining.

"Swope's Ridge" is written by Ace Collins and published by Zondervan. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Plain Paradise

Plain Paradise was written by Beth Wiseman and is one in the series of A Daughter of Promise. Seventeen year old Linda is soon coming to the end of her rumschpringe, a time of increased freedom before being baptised and her life ahead seems clear. She'll join the church and marry her beloved Stephen. Suddenly she finds out that she was adopted and her birth mother very much wants to get to know her. What will this mean for her future? What is family? These and so many other questions linger to challenge her faith and all she has ever known.



Although this book is part of a series, I was able to read it as a stand alone. There is a helpful family tree included in the front should the reader have any questions regarding relationships. I found the first part of the book to be excellent. There were unexpected plot twists and themes I found to be unexpected. I admit, I read the first half in one afternoon. I was very disappointed in the other half of the book though. It seems to succumb to some of the more cliche Christian novel resolutions/endings. I also thought there were a few themes/raised subjects that were never brought to fruition and wrapped up. For an amusing read, this book is okay, but I don't think it counts as one of the better modern Christian novels.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Philippians

Philippians is part of the Life Change Series published by NavPress. The book of Philippians found in the Bible is just four chapters long, but each is a gold mine of wisdom. This study helps the reader find it in a slow and steady way, which I believe leads to a better understanding. The basic method follows the pattern of inductive study, but adds other benefits like questions challenging you to think about your life and apply what you've read. There are also plenty of ideas for groups working on this study together. There are areas set aside for further study or further thought allowing you to determine the depth of your study. The last few pages of the book contain a long list of study aids you can use to further study Philippians or any other book of the Bible.

I admit that I was sceptical when I requested the book to review. I have done many studies that ended up being shallow and overly simplistic, which I believe does a disservice to the Bible and the believer. I am happy to say, I was wrong. This is an excellent study to do alone or in a group setting. The book is thoroughly explored and there is plenty of writing work to do to record what you learn. And there is plenty of food for thought to challenge you as you go about your day. I highly recommend this study and look forward to doing more from the Life Change Series in the future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible Songs

100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs written by Stephen Elkins is obviously geared towards children, but it is a pleasure for an adult to share as well. This hardcover also comes with a CD in a plastic pocket inside the front and rear cover. The illustrations are pleasant and my children had many questions that lead to good discussions. The stories were carefully worded, even some of the more challenging ones such as Abraham and Isaac. I was disappointed that the reason Jesus died on the cross wasn't really spoken of, that was one thing that should not have been glossed over, but I believe it will at least give us a starting point for a good discussion. My 4 year old keeps asking every day to read more and will listen for as long as I read the stories. There are, as the title says, 100 songs on CD. My children loved listening to them. Unfortunately, one of the discs did not want to come out of the plastic sleeve. When I did get it out, it was scratched and it skips and jumps through 3 or 4 songs. I have not tried a disc repair attempt as of yet. If I had paid for this book, I would have returned it for one that did not have this problem. Over all though, it is a delightful book and I do recommend it.

100 Bible Stories 100 Bible Songs written by Stephen Elkins published by Thomas Nelson

Exposure

Kaycee Raye is fairly certain that what she sees is real. The problem is that she is left with no evidence to prove it to anyone else. Especially since she is nationally famous for having many fears. Although terrified, her problems are her own until they pull in someone very close to her. Suddenly lives are at stake. The question is, "why?" Could the visions from her dreams of blood, screams, and a yellow floor have anything to do with this? This book also tells the tale of a young widowed mother who needs to make some big decisions in a hurry. Will she be able to live with the results?

If you are looking for something suspenseful, something to make you go check under your bed and in your closet, this book is for you. In fact, after reading this book, you'll think twice before you start your computer up again. There were a few parts when it was so intense that I put the book down for a bit. I did enjoy the ending so much it made me cheer out loud. The two stories come together in non stop action that is sure to please any reader.

Exposure by Brandilyn Collins Published by Zondervan

When Love Blooms

A young woman leaves her comfortably wealthy life to live on a ranch with strangers. A mother prepares to leave her children and this world behind for the next. A man lives with pain that he's had since he was a child. These three people must learn to live and love in ways completely new to them. The young woman finds that her true desires for the future are unlike those she's held onto all her life. The mother learns that planning for something doesn't mean it will happen as expected. The man searches for forgiveness, not for himself but the people of his past and is able to face the future with hope.

Since I have read many Christian romances, I felt confident that I knew how the book would end and I must admit, I was right. However, I was pleased to find that some of my predictions regarding middle of the book events were not accurate. I enjoyed the way the book transitioned from character to character and found it greatly enhanced the tale. I found it easy to pick it up and read in small installments between my daily tasks. For its genre, it is a good read.
When Love Blooms by Robin Lee Hatcher Published by Zondervan

It Happened In Italy

For most of the world, the triumphs and tragedies of World War II are fading into history. For some people, it's something they carry with them every day. Elizabeth Bettina writes of her journey from the former to the later. Unlike many people today, Bettina at least had an idea of her family's past and was able to visit with her family in Italy. While there, she discovered the secret of the town her people came from; not a shameful secret, but a beautiful testimony to the generosity and kindness that live on in the human nature. All across Italy, entire towns were involved in running camps for Jews that were completely unlike the camps in other European countries. As the Nazi regime spread, towns in Italy helped Jews escape to safer locations, Bettina discovered.
This book was a pleasure to read from start to finish. I enjoyed reading about the way her exploration snowballed from meeting one survivor, then another, and another to meeting those who helped Jews survive to those who desire to recognize these events. The book is written in a very friendly style that is easy to read. There are many pictures included throughout the book, instead of just in the middle. I know this is just the beginning of the story and hope that someday she will share more of her discoveries.

It Happened In Italy by Elizabeth Bettina, published by Thomas Nelson

The Noticer

Homeless. Jobless. Depressed. Lonely. The Noticer by Andy Andrews starts out with a young man (Andy) who is in such a state. As he tearfully contemplates his position one evening, he is joined by a mysterious older man who leaves him with some advice and three books. To borrow a cliche, that was the first night of the rest of his life. Over the course of the next few decades, this stranger, known as Jones, appears several more times to help Andy and others in their town. He comes with a listening ear and thoughtful, perspective changing words. The book ends with Jones leaving a visible reminder of all that he has taught them over the years.
I believe this book is not so unique and unusual in today's market. It feeds to the idea that everyone wants to have a tangable experience with the supernatural. Most people would like to have someone in their life who could give them insight (or perspective), instruction how to live. The book itself is encouraging and presents some very good points. I will most likely read it again, not just for the story, but for the perspectives presented. Andrews, in writing this book, presents himself, in a fashion, as a "Jones" to his readers. It remains to be seen if his words are as effective.
I read this as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger Program.

In the Footsteps of Paul

Ken Duncan is the author and photographer of In the Footsteps of Paul. This book contains pictures of places Paul the Apostle is thought to have seen or visited. There are also pictures of art work relating to his life. Accompanying the pictures are quotes from the Bible as well as various other authors, preachers, and thinkers. The book is divided into three major sections, The Making of a Man, The Mission of a Man, and The Destiny of a Man.
I opened the book with much excitement because I appreciate good photography and good writing. Ultimately, I was not disappointed. I thought the work was very well put together. I did not like the few pictures that showed modern towns/cities because they did not seem to relate to Paul. While he certainly may have passed through the area, it is a sure thing that it looked nothing like it does now. Nor is there any way to picture the place as it once may have been because it is so modern at this time. The book is, in the end, a coffee table book, not a scholarly work (but I did not expect it to be so, thus I was not let down). It is one I will be proud to leave out and hope that my visitors look through. I know I will browse through it time and time again.

Midnight in Madrid

Midnight in Madrid by Noel Hynd is a mysterious who done it, who has it, and why, story filled with international conflict, political intrigue, art theft, organized crime, terrorism, and the complication of personal relationships. Other reviewers have likened it to The Maltese Falcon and The Da Vinci Code. I believe it has a bit of the Bourne trilogy in there as well. When the book begins, Alexandra LaDuca is enjoying a much needed and deserved rest from her last case. She is suddenly called to Spain and asked to discover the location of a Christian carving called The Pieta of Malta(100). As she travels through Europe in pursuit of the truth, her paths cross and parallel a wide range of other characters. She doesn't know who she can trust, if anyone. Little does she realize, there is a deadline to her case.
Again, this book was not something I would normally pick up, but I was very pleased with the selection. I found the characters to be a mix between well developed people and stereotypes, but no one was so over the top as to be unbelievable. I noted that this is, I believe, the second in a trilogy. While there are a few references to the first book, Midnight in Madrid can stand on its own very well. It is very likely that I will seek out the first book and will be sure to catch the third when it is released. If you are looking for a fast paced adventure/mystery, be sure to give this a try.

The Unseen by T.L. Hines

For the most part, I feel pretty safe when I am out in public. I also feel fairly secure in my own home. It is an advantage to living in America. The Unseen by T.L. Hines stands our sense of security on it's head. Then, just at the time you begin to feel comfortable again, he increases the intensity of the book. It is sure to keep you unsettled right until the end.
Our main character is Lucas. Uncertain about his past, insecure about his present, and not even thinking about his future, he spends his days watching people and imagining fantasies about them. What he learns is that things are often not what they appear to be. While this may be common knowledge to many, he learns that this is true, not just in the public eye, but also behind closed doors. What he learns requires him to take action. These actions cause him to run for his life, but in the end, he has run into a life that he never thought was possible; a life just as real as those he watched for so long.
I do not often read thrillers, but this book was a great read. If you think thrillers are predictable, I highly recommend this to you as it is anything but. I would definitely consider reading another book by Hines.

The Great Eight by Scott Hamilton

Ever since I was a little girl, my mother watched ice skating on TV. It wasn't long before I began to watch with her. I came to love the sport, until the drama of the mid 90s, when I didn't actively pursue viewing it. I always tuned in when one performer was on though, and that was Scott Hamilton. He was always a happy, energetic performer with such skill that I wondered if there were any boundaries for him. My life now does not include a TV feed, so I haven't watched ice skating in a long time, but I've always noted with interest when Hamilton is in the news. In that way, I've followed the news of his cancer and his tumor. I was excited to see he had a new book out and began to read with much enthusiasm. I wish I could say the enthusiasm stayed at a high level, but it has fluctuated during the reading of The Great Eight.
I loved the stories he had to share from his life and some of his points are very good, relevant, and true. Honestly, I can't pinpoint my exact problem with the book. I feel uncomfortable with the idea that the goal in life is to be happy. I think his great eight can certainly make life better, but it doesn't mean you will be happier. And ultimately, not all his points are backed up biblically. He does pull some scripture in, which is good, but at other times it is based solely on his personal experience, which for me, is a bit too much "church of Scott."
To summarize, it's a great read about his life and how he has managed to not just survive, but thrive through his illnesses. It has great principles on being honest with yourself and others. As a book on personal growth, it needs to be rooted in something more. On my 1-3 rating scale, I give it a 2.

A Gift of Grace

A Gift of Grace was written by Amy Clipston and will be published by Zodervan this spring.

A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston begins with Rebecca Kauffman returning to her home and husband, Daniel, after being away for nearly a month to see to the estate of her late sister and brother in law. When she returns home, she brings her two teenage nieces with her. The pages that follow detail the adjustment they all must make in living and working together. Rebecca and Daniel go from having a childless home to having two teenagers. Lindsey and Jessica go from living a very modern life to the simple life of the Amish. All four explore not just their faith, but their innermost feelings on relationships. The book ends with some difficult choices that the characters must make and yet remain true to who they are. Around these four, there is a swirl of friends and family, each dealing with what life has handed them.
Ms. Clipston does an excellent job in the development of this small community and in explaining their ways and beliefs. The character interaction is believable and realistic. As I closed the back cover I was left with a feeling of wanting more; not because the story was not ended well, but because the peaceful atmosphere of the book was appealing. It was a very enjoyable and refreshing read.

Christianity in Crisis

I actually have had some further thoughts and hope to have time to expound on them later, but due to the shortness of time and space elsewhere, here are my thoughts in brief.
In Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff presents the beliefs of several well known preachers/evangelists. He shows what they believe, how they "prove" their beliefs, and finally what the basics are of solid Christian faith. Some of the names are from a past generation and not as recognizable, but just about any Christian today would recognize several of the persons mentioned. These men and women believe that we are all entitled to prosper financial and physically. That if we are poor and/or unhealthy, it is our own fault due to lack of faith. Furthermore, they believe if we speak our desires as if they were truth, they will come to pass in our lives and we can be rich financially, physically, and in any other area we so desire.
I was very pleased with this book. The information was presented in a very orderly manner. He slowly walks the reader through the material step by step so that you fully understand the arguments being made. Additionally, Hanegraaff ends by sharing information on how to know what you believe so that you can test the preaching of anyone. Aside from knowing from personal Bible study, what the Bible says, knowing how to test the words of others is a one of the best skills to have. More and more people are looking for answers these days with the economy being a challenge for many, illness rates at an all time high; many would like to believe that they can have better in this world. Many would like to believe that they can change their lives. To a certain extent we can, but we must remember Who sits on high. We must remember where our treasure should be. We must remember that we cannot see the big picture.
I highly recommend this book if you have questions regarding these preachers and their beliefs or if someone you know does.

Prayer Starters for Busy Moms

Once upon a time my daily devotional life went something like this: Wake up, eat breakfast. Grab my Bible, journal, study, and whatever devotionals I had at the time. Read from the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. Journal as led. Read from a devotional or two then spend time in a deeper study; spending an hour or more with my books. Then I would pray. For an hour. That was just my morning time. I would often crack one of the above books during the day and my Bible went everywhere with me. There were also many opportunities during the day to talk about the Word with others. So, I spent hours every day in His Word and in prayer. Then I graduated college, got married, got a job, and eventually started having kids. My spiritual life came to a stand still. Feeling guilty, I've made attempt after attempt to reinvent it. I finally came to the realization that I don't have to spend hours and hours in reading and prayer as I used to do. It was freeing!

And so, I can appreciate the book Tracy Klehn wrote called Prayer Starters for Busy Moms: how to pray all day and still put the laundry away. Inside the covers of this small hardcover book are 365 ideas to help you jump into prayer. Each page contains an idea or two. You can use just one a day or you can use several. There are no dates with the ideas. The book is broken into topical chapters covering many concerns of a woman's life. There are also many quotes and a bibliography in the back. You can also write down your own ideas or prayers in the note section at the end.

Not only has this book helped me start praying when I otherwise would not have, but it has gotten me praying about things I might not have prayed about. The small size makes it easy to tuck away next to the sink to read before starting dishes or next to a chair where I nurse the baby. I was definitely praying more while this book was within sight and that's a good thing! I think that many readers would have the same experience.

Prayer Starters for Busy Moms is written by Tracy Klehn and published by Bethany House. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Common Prayer

Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals is a new book providing a template for fixed prayer throughout the day. It has different prayers for every morning including notating important world events and/or people, quotes to think on, and songs to sing. There is a set of mid-day prayers and a different set of evening prayers for each day of the week. Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro wanted to provide a resource through which believers across the world could be unified in their daily prayers; this book was the result of their efforts.

I was excited to receive this book and looked forward to using it. It is very easy for me to get caught up in the activities of the day and forget to pray. I also tend to get stuck in a prayer rut where I feel like I just pray the same thing day after day. This book has definitely helped me get past that rut. I haven't been able to do all the prayers every day, but having the book handy helps me to pray a bit whenever I happen to have the chance. It's a great tool to have. I will warn readers that a few of the morning prayer sets have seemed a bit political to me; not in the Democrat/Republican way, but in subject matter. One example would be the death penalty. I felt a bit disappointed to see a matter that could be taken disruptively, but was able to refocus my prayers using what was there as a jumping off point. Overall, so far, I don't feel it ruins the book or its purpose though. I still recommend this for daily use.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals is written by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro and published by Zondervan. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Sacred Journey

The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster explores the idea of pilgrimage, a sacred journey. Foster tries to discuss how God sees pilgrimage. He looks at the question of "why?" He has chapters about before, during, and after the journey. He believes that pilgrimage is an essential part of life, necessary even, if you call yourself a Christian.

Perhaps my expectations for this book were too high, but I was very disappointed. I began reading and it wasn't long before I was reaching for my Bible, commentary, and other such tools. I found his theology to be off. He'd start with a solid idea, but then take it a step or two further than he should have. I wondered just who Foster was and he is an English author and adventurer. He is not a theologian. I even wondered if he was a Christian. I don't have a problem reading a book by someone who isn't, but I had been lead to believe that this volume was written by one. I also found issue with his bouncing back and forth on his assertion that pilgrimage must be a physical journey, not merely a mental/emotional or otherwise process versus the non physical journey being okay. It's as if he wanted to say that it must be physical, but he didn't want to offend anyone unable to make such an undertaking and had to have a back door for himself. I cannot recommend this book. The topic is intriguing, but the work itself, not so much.

The Sacred Journey is written by Charles Foster and published by Thomas Nelson. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Flight of Shadows

Flight of Shadows is the second in a series by Sigmund Brouwer. Caitlyn Brown is not a normal woman, she has the blessing and curse of wings. The blessing is the beauty of flight. The curse is not only is she different from so many people, but she doesn't know who can be trusted and who cannot. Her difference makes her very valuable to people in power. Flight of Shadows tells us of her journey to learn of her past while trying to stay alive from one day to the next.

I have mixed feelings about science fiction because a lot of it is predictable and cliched. I think this book rises above the usual. Aside from writing about life in the future, there is a solid story line of people and their personal journey's. There is mention of what happened in the first book, so you can read this as a stand alone novel. I admit, I will probably seek out the first book because the second has peeked my interest.

Flight of Shadows is written by Sigmund Brouwer and published by Waterbrook Press. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Chasing Francis

Chase Falson has lost his faith in a big way. The founder of a mega-church, he has a breakdown in front of his congregation on a Sunday morning. The other church leaders quickly give him a leave of absence and everyone is left wondering how to put the pieces back together. For Chase, it isn't about putting his church back together, it's about putting himself back together. His journey takes him to family in Europe where he learns about Francis of Assisi. As Chase learns of Assisi's faith, he rediscovers his own. He's not alone on his journey, but is surrounded by friends who help him.

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron sounds appealing on many levels from the whole idea of mega church development (the good, the bad, the ugly) to life long friendships to Francis. I enjoyed most of Chase's journey, the sites he saw and the thought process he went through. His excitement is almost tangible as are his low points. Over all, it was an enjoyable read. I do wonder if the author took liberties with some of Francis' beliefs, stretching what the man said to meet a more modern perspective. I can't say for sure either way as I have never studied Assisi. I make my claim based on study of the time in which he lived. I also have some questions about some of the actions the Franciscan monks make. I think over all, they are interesting characters, I just don't find some of their actions believable.

Over all, I think this book will make most readers think about their lives and their journey. I think many people will be curious as to St. Francis and want to learn more. Those two things were the main goals of the book, according to author's words included in the book. Having met those goals, the book would be a success. Personally, I give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Chasing Francis is written by Ian Morgan Cron and published by NavPress. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Wedding Quilt for Ella

A Wedding Quilt for Ella by Jerry S. Eicher tells the tale of Ella Yoder, a young woman whose life in the Amish community seems well established. She is ready to leave childhood behind and marry the man she loves. They are getting ready to build the home where they will live together. Their families are excited too. Before any of that can happen, tragedy strikes and her beloved is taken from her. There's her heartache of crushed dreams and reminders of him around every corner. There are questions of "what next" for a young Amish woman. At the same time, her community is turned upside down by seems to be a series of traumatic events. The quilt Ella was making for her new husband and home still rests on the frame, partially done. As Ella decides to finish it, she gets inspiration and courage to face her new life.

Overall, this book is a pleasant read. The characters are well developed. There are enough issues raised to maintain the reader's interest. Ella and the community must face the question of God's love, something many people can relate to. Parts of the book are very thought provoking, but not preachy. As this is book one of the Little Valley series, so there is much more of Ella to come, but this book can also stand alone without the others of the series.

A Wedding Quilt for Ella is written by Jerry S. Eicher and published by Harvest House. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Living in the Companionship of God

You may go to church, read your Bible, and give your tithe, but do you have a working relationship with God? Speaker and author Jan Johnson poses this question and more in her retreat guide Living in the Companionship of God. She says that God wants to "have meaningful conversations with us, weep with us, celebrate with us, and be our soul's companion. To help us move towards this ideal, she wrote a book that can be used during a personal or group retreat or even our personal quiet time. The first chapter discuses the question of why retreat? Other sections touch topics such as pleading with God, thanking God, weeping with God, and more.

Jan Johnson is an experienced writer with nineteen books and thousands of Bible studies to her name. She has spoken at retreats and conferences. Johnson holds degrees in in Christian Education and Spiritual Direction.

I was not able to take a retreat, so I used this book during my quiet time. I do think it would be better for a retreat or any period of time when the reader is certain to not be interrupted. Johnson gives many opportunities to reflect and meditate on what has been read as well as chances to write. She is quite firm in her belief that the reader needs time to process what is learned/experienced. I believe this book is a great tool for such surroundings. Realizing that God desires to spend time with us, not just have a token of our time here and there is amazing. He wants us to come to Him with our joys and our sorrows as we would a friend. He is here to protect and comfort us as such, but more so because of who He is. Whether you're looking to enrich your personal quiet time or taking a longer retreat, this is a very good tool.

Living in the Companionship of God is written by Jan Johnson and published by NavPress. I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Invitation to the Jesus Life

Everyone is familiar with the question of "What Would Jesus Do?," but few people actually ask, "How would Jesus do?" In Invitation to the Jesus Life, Jan Johnson gives us plenty of food for thought and practical application. Johnson encourages the reader to think about attributes that Jesus had and how we can practice those same disciplines in our own lives. She definitely challenges her audience to step outside their comfort zone.
I enjoyed this book very much. I was pleased that not only did it come with application ideas at the end of each chapter, but there is a group study guide in the back as well as a thorough bibliography. I have lots of other books to look into now. Just don't be mistaken and think this is an easy step by step guide. There is a lot of opportunity for introspection and personal challenge. This is a book I am proud to have on my shelf, although I think it will spend a lot of time in my hands instead.
Invitation to the Jesus Life by Jan Johnson published by Navpress

Return to Sullivan's Island

Return to Sullivans Island by Dorthea Benton Frank Published by HarperCollins Publishers

I had a chance to read and review this book through Mom Central. I send many thanks their way because I did not even know that there was a new DBF book coming out and she is one of my favorite modern writers. Before I get into the official review write up, let me just say this: "go get this book." It's out, in stores, get thee gone people. I love her writing style. So many times she hits on the true emotions and thoughts a person has. Sometimes crazy things happen to her characters, but that's true to real life. And then she uses a fantastic setting, the coast of South Carolina, a place steeped in history and salt water. It's just fantastic! When I read her books I know I will laugh and cry, possibly at the same time. So there's my unofficial review in general, where I drool all over. Now here's the official write up which will find it's way to amazon sometime today in between diaper changes and slicing stuff for our cook out.
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A new generation is stepping up on the history drenched Sullivans Island. What happens when the ghosts of the departed (all dearly for the sole reason that they're family) come head to head with modern life? Beth Hayes, the daughter of Susan Rifkin is about to find out. Dorthea Benton Frank takes us into the world of evening cocktails, sandy beaches, and rocking chairs on porches to witness what the Hamilton family is up to now. Most of the family is scattered around the globe, but Beth, fresh out of college, comes home to make sure all stays well with the Island Gamble.
Benton Frank stays true to the spirit of her other books. You will want to laugh and cry and not put the book down until you are finished. As the story unfolded, I kept making guesses as to what would happen with Beth and those around her. I was right only on a few minor points. Benton Frank was able to bring out surprise after surprise and keep me on the line until the very end. Return is as tightly written as her other novels and she continues to bring her other much loved characters in when you least expect it. I highly recommend that you add this to your summer reading list. Just make sure you have access to a library because when you finish, you'll want to scoop up more of her books.