Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Review: "Steadfast Heart" by Tracie Peterson

Steadfast Heart by Tracie PetersonTracie Peterson is one of my favorite authors. I have read many of her books and typically really enjoy her work. That being said, her latest release, "Steadfast Heart", just didn't do it for me. The book is advertised as a story about Lenore Fulcher, a young woman from Seattle who seeks true love instead of an arranged marriage, and Kolbein Booth, a lawyer from Chicago who travels to Seattle in search of his sister. He traces her to the Madison Bridal School only to discover that she is not there. Other central characters are Abrianna Cunningham, the ward of Mrs. Madison, and her lifelong friend, Wade Ackerman.

The book really fell flat for me. The characters lacked depth and the plot didn't really feel flushed out. I found the romance between Lenore and Kolbein to be completely implausible. They had only just met; he found her to be beautiful and she thought him handsome; then she leaves for San Francisco. Upon her return they are suddenly madly in love--but based on what? Having so many central characters made it difficult to relate to a particular character and didn't allow for great development of them.

 I definitely prefer her earlier works. I find that those books are Peterson at her best. This book was lacking in so many areas that I just can't recommend it. If you are new to Tracie Peterson, skip this one and try her earlier novels.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Bethany House Publishers through the Book Blogger program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Review: "The Secret of Pembrooke Park" by Julie Klassen

The Secret of Pembrooke Park"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" is the most recent Regency novel from Julie Klassen. Abigail Foster's family faces financial ruin due to a bad investment by her father. After being forced to sell their family home and find more reasonable accommodations, the Fosters are surprised to learn that a distant relation is allowing them to lease Pembrooke Park, a home that has been left vacant for nearly twenty years. Abigail oversees the work at Pembrooke and discovers that there is more to the manor, and family history, than meets the eye. Rumors of treasures abound and secrecy shrouds Pembrooke Park. Abigail finds herself in the center of the mystery, made even more intriguing when letters and old journal pages begin to appear in her mail.

This story drew me in completely with the mystery and intrigue. The romance is well-done and not overly sappy. The overall plot keeps the reader engaged from the beginning. The characters were well-developed and likeable. Having been a fan of Klassen's since the beginning, I found this book to be among her best works and definitely a significant improvement over her most previous work, "The Dancing Master". A charming book that I will definitely read again!

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Bethany House Publishers through the Book Blogger program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Review: "Same Kind of Different As Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

"Same Kind of Different As Me" is a collaboration, the tale of how two very different lives intersect. Told in the first person, authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore take the reader on a journey of their lives, both individual and corporate. Both were raised in the South, but with one being white and the other black, their experiences were vastly different. Moore grew up a sharecropper. It was all he knew until one day he hopped a train, did some traveling, and eventually settled in Fort Worth, Texas. Homeless and angry, he finds his way to the Union Gospel Mission. Hall grew up lower-middle class, but worked his way up in life to become an art dealer. His wife, Deborah, began to feel a call on her life to serve the homeless at the Union Gospel Mission. Hall went along half-heartedly, but eventually felt his heart begin to change the more they served. It was through their volunteer work at the mission that Hall and Moore met. Despite the major outward differences, they strike a friendship--one that has endured through the years.

This book presents so many issues for the reader to wrestle with. Poverty, homelessness (and the response to it), sickness and death. I found Moore's portion of the book fascinating to read because of his life experience. Not being able to relate, I found it extremely helpful to see things from a different perspective. Hall was a little more difficult to read through. Before he met Moore, he came across as a bit self-absorbed and materialistic. That changed, however, once he became serious about his faith and befriended Moore.

This is a wonderful book to help tear down stereotypes. So many themes of this book remain so relevant and are worthy of further discussion. There is a discussion section at the back of the book, which makes it perfect for individual reflections or for a small group discussion. This is an important book that would be a great starting point for thinking critically about issues like poverty, homelessness, and a proper response to both.

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Review: "Unplanned" by Abby Johnson

21556369"Unplanned" by Abby Johnson is an incredibly important book in the pro-life discussion. Abby Johnson was involved with Planned Parenthood for eight years, initially being recruited as a volunteer while as a college student. She worked her way through the ranks, eventually becoming the director of the Bryan, Texas, clinic.

Despite growing up in a pro-life family, Johnson never really thought critically about her position on the matter. She was captivated by the lofty ideals of Planned Parenthood:  reducing the number of abortions by increasing access to birth control. Drawn in by this proposition and by the chance to help women in crisis, Johnson started her career path at Planned Parenthood. During her time there, she came into frequent contact with volunteers from the Coalition for Life who gathered outside the fence surrounding the clinic to pray for an end to abortion. Through compassion and gentle discussions, Johnson began to see that maybe the people on "the other side" weren't as bad as they were portrayed by Planned Parenthood.

Then came the day she was requested to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. As she watched what happened to the unborn baby, she was horrified. It was that particular instance that caused a crisis of belief for her. She began to question everything she had ever done at Planned Parenthood. Her first stop was the nearby Coalition for Life who had won her over by their genuine care and concern for her, as well as their daily prayers for her.

"Unplanned" is a riveting book and an incredible look at the issue of unborn life from both perspectives. Because of Johnson's role with the organization, she offers a unique look at Planned Parenthood from the inside, revealing things that they would probably prefer to remain hidden (for instance, that they need to increase revenue by increasing abortions, something that goes completely contrary to their main talking point).

It is fascinating to read the thought process and beliefs behind why she wanted to work for Planned Parenthood. Her transformation from believing the pro-choice rhetoric and semantics to a Bible-believing pro-life Christian is amazing.

This book was initially published in 2010. It was recently re-released with an additional chapter containing follow-up information that has occurred since the book was previously published. Johnson and her husband launched a non-profit ministry called And Then There Were None, with the goal of assisting abortion clinic workers who wish to leave their work. So far, they have helped over 100 workers who chose to leave the abortion industry. Throughout the book, Johnson helps the reader to see that it's not just women seeking abortions who need help, care, and prayer; abortion workers are in just as much need.

"Unplanned" is an important book in the conversation of unborn life. Johnson is able to offer a unique look from both sides of the discussion. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to understand the "other side", no matter which side you may be on.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Review: "Vanishing Grace" by Philip Yancey

Presented as a follow-up to "What's So Amazing About Grace", Yancey returns to the subject of grace in his newest book "Vanishing Grace". In four sections, he confronts the issue of why, since we have such good news to proclaim, Christians continue to lose influence and credibility among the culture at large.

This book helps Christians to confront where we have collectively gone wrong with our approach to culture in general and non-believers in specific. The first section looks at how the Church has failed to demonstrate love and grace to those who need it most. The second section examines three models of ways to approach love and grace better. The third section takes a look at three pressing questions:  is there anyone else? why are we here? how should we live? The fourth section addresses how the Church should engage with our culture.

While the book as a whole was deep and thought-provoking, it was the fourth section that was the most convicting. In the first chapter, he looks at how Christians should be involved with politics. In the second chapter, he revisits the three models he discussed in section two.

This is a difficult book to read in that it really causes you to think and examine your approach to culture and non-believers. But even if it may be a difficult book to read, I think it's a necessary one.

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Review: "Wounded by God's People" by Anne Graham Lotz

This latest book by Anne Graham Lotz tackles a heavy subject:  woundedness. Not just any woundedness, but wounds inflicted by those who are part of God's family. Taking the biblical story of Hagar as her base, she takes readers on Hagar's journey and explores just how relevant Hagar's story is to our modern story. She also draws on her own personal journey through pain inflicted by other Christians to help the reader engage even more.

Whether the wounds come from Christians or not, our world is full of "the walking wounded". Pain abounds in our sinful, fallen world. Lotz takes a deep look at how wounds affect people and relationships. She also explores the key role of forgiveness in finding healing from wounds that others have inflicted.

This book is a wonderful tool, especially in this day and age. With so much hurt, both intentional and unintentional, every Christian needs to read this book to help overcome the brokenness and woundedness that occurs so regularly. I highly recommend this book, both for the individual and small groups to read and discuss together.

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Review: "Miracle in a Dry Season" by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Cover Art"Miracle in a Dry Season", the debut novel from Sarah Loudin Thomas, takes place in Wise, a tiny hamlet in the mountains of West Virginia. Casewell Phillips is a well-respected member of the community. He harbors a deep desire to marry, but hasn't found the right woman yet. Perla Long came to Wise with her daughter, Sadie, to reside with her aunt and uncle in order to escape her past, but finds it to be difficult to leave it all behind. Circumstances bring them together, particularly a severe drought which brings the community together in ways they would never have forseen.

The novel was full of likeable characters and some interesting sub-plots. The theme of sin, forgiveness, and God's grace ran strong through this novel. The story is mostly told through Casewell, which brings an interesting twist that isn't found in many Christian fiction novels. The characters are well-developed and the descriptions of life in this tiny Appalachian town are wonderful. This book was a nice debut novel and provides high hopes for future novels from this author.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Bethany House Publishers through the Book Blogger program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)