Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Review: "Pilgrimage" by Lynn Austin

Pilgrimage"I've decided to accept the churning waves as an invitation from God to draw closer to Him, to dig deeper into His Word, to seek Him with all my heart and soul and strength. Most of all, to begin to pray to Him in a better way. Perhaps I will find a compass or a book of sailing instructions, or at least a life preserver. Maybe, just maybe, this pilgrimage to Israel will get me started on that new journey." (p. 14)

Historical fiction author Lynn Austin embarks on her first non-fiction work, "Pilgrimage", where she documents her experiences on a two-week trip to Israel. Austin traveled with a tour group starting in the southern end of Israel and eventually worked their way toward the north. She shares historical information about the places they visited combined with relevant Scripture passages and her own personal insights as to what those things meant to her.

The book gripped me from the start. Austin candidly explained that some recent personal changes resulted in a certain measure of spiritual upheaval. As she entered into this particularly dry season, she was looking for some times of refreshing and seized the opportunity to tour Israel when the chance presented itself. The story of how her journey began was compelling and relatable. The historical information and Scripture passages, combined with her personal insights added wonderful depth to well-known passages and gave a greater context for how to read the Bible. When she explained the Jewish concept of Sabbath and the Passover meal, it made me want to study my Bible more in the context of the Jewish faith in order to glean further insights.

The book included a number of illustrations depicting various landmarks and items around Israel. They added a nice touch to the book itself and helps the reader to have a better picture of some of the things that she is talking about.

I've been a fan of Lynn Austin for a long time and really enjoyed this non-fiction work. She did a spectacular job of really making Israel come alive by weaving together history, Scripture, and her own insights. I highly recommend this book!

(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.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Review: "The Prodigal" by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

"The Prodigal:  A Ragamuffin Story" by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett is Manning's final work. A fictional companion to his previous work, "The Ragamuffin Gospel", this novel is a contemporary retelling to the story of the prodigal son featured in Luke 15. Jack Chisholm is the lead pastor of a megachurch who spectacularly and very publicly falls from grace. With his marriage in shambles, his job gone, and no money left to his name, his estranged father tracks him down and welcomes him back home with open arms. Jack heads home to the small town of Mayfield, Texas, in order to pick up the pieces of his life. What he unexpectedly finds is the love of his father, reconciliation with his family, and the love of God.

The story draws the reader right in from the beginning. The characters are realistic and engaging. Father Frank is based on Manning himself, and there are elements of Manning's teachings shining through in Frank's dialogue. It's a wonderful reminder of how we all are broken, we are all needy, and yet God's love extends to us in the midst of our brokenness. It's a beautiful story with many thought-provoking moments. It left me wanting to sit down with Father Frank myself and learning from his fountain of wisdom!

The beautiful thing about this book is that Jack still had to live with the consequences of his choices, his sin. But he did find redemption and he embraced new calling on his life, one that he wouldn't have found any other way but through his sin. "...in every faithful life, there comes a second call when the first one is no longer sufficient, a call to deeper faith, hope, joy" (p. 170).

The reader's guide at the back of the book is helpful for a small group or book club looking to dive deeper into the message of the book. Highly recommend Manning's final work!

(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, October 16, 2013

A Review: "The Wall Around Your Heart" by Mary DeMuth

When others hurt us, it's so easy to put up walls to keep from getting hurt. But those walls do more than just keep others out; it keeps our pain and hurt inside, allowing it to poison our own souls. In "The Wall Around Your Heart", author Mary DeMuth breaks down the Lord's Prayer and explores how each statement can be used as a prayer for healing from hurt and broken relationships. A fabulous mix of personal insights and solid Scriptural teaching, DeMuth leads us on a profound and challenging journey to healing and wholeness.

She examines how the walls we build affect other people, as well as our relationship with God. She invites us to ask God in to these broken places in our lives and urges us to allow Him to do His work in our lives to bring about the healing that we just can't do on our own.

As I was reading this book, I was struck by the simplicity of some of the ideas (example:  God loves me, but He also loves the ones who hurt me) and just how impactful those statements are in the context of this journey. At the end of each chapter, there are questions for deeper reflection, making this a perfect read for a small group Bible study. I highly recommend this book and am eager to reread it, slowly digesting the truths presented here.

(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, September 16, 2013

A Review: "The Secret Keeper" by Beverly Lewis

The Secret Keeper, Home to Hickory Hollow Series #4   -     
        By: Beverly Lewis
    
"The Secret Keeper" by Beverly Lewis features the story of Jenny Burns, a young woman from a wealthy family in Connecticut who has always felt a bit out of place. Ever since she was a child, she always had a deep respect for Amish culture and heritage. Now that she is an adult, a friendship with Amishwoman Marnie Lapp along with her desire to live a Plain life leads to Jenny giving up everything, including her family, to settle in Hickory Hollow. She finds a mentor in Rebecca Lapp as she enters her time of Proving, the time for Jenny to decide to commit to living the Amish life. But when Jenny finds out a secret of Rebecca's, it puts her whole Proving in jeopardy.

The entire story was engaging and enjoyable. I thought Lewis did a fine job with illustrating the difficulties that an outsider would have with adapting to a Plain lifestyle, even one who longed for it with every fiber of her being. It was nice to see character tie-ins from previous novels. I enjoyed this fourth book in the "Home to Hickory Hollow" series, and will definitely keep my eyes out for the upcoming fifth book in the series!

(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, September 12, 2013

A Review: "The Miner's Lady" by Tracie Peterson

The Miner's Lady"The Miner's Lady" by Tracie Peterson tells the tale of two families, the Panettas and the Calarcos. Residing in the mining community of Ely, Minnesota, the families carry on a decades-old feud bought over from their native Italy. When Isabella Panetta and Orlando Calarco announce their love for one another and their intention to marry, it leads to a story of how forgiveness can overcome any obstacle. In their individual quests to save their siblings from falling into harm as a result of their love for one another, Chantel Panetta and Dante Calarco embark on their own journey of love and forgiveness overcoming all.

The characters are engaging and believable, although I did find some of the dialogue to be a bit over-the-top for the time period the story is set in. Being originally from Minnesota, I've really enjoyed this entire series since it's based in my home state. Peterson is one of my favorite authors who rarely fails to disappoint. This whole series has been great fun to read, and this conclusion to the trilogy truly fits the bill.

(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, September 9, 2013

A Review: "Unglued" by Lysa TerKeurst

"Unglued" by Lysa TerKeurst is a phenomenal book that helps women learn to make wise choices when confronted with their own raw emotions. Drawing on her own personal experience and biblical teaching, she shares what she has learned (and is learning) about submitting her emotions to the power of Jesus.

She addresses the fact that our emotions are God-given; our emotions help us to feel, connect, and experience life. But so often, women in particular are vulnerable to allow our emotions to run our lives. One truth that TerKeurst draws out in this book is that "God gave [us] emotions so [we] could experience life, not destroy it" (p. 16). This book is a fantastic manual to help women of all ages and stages experience "imperfect progress", which she defines as "slow steps of progress wrapped in grace" (p. 14).

Of especial importance are the chapters that help the reader define what kind of unglued you are. She explores four different types, two that stuff their emotions and two that explode with emotions, and offers sound biblical truth to help you on your journey of imperfect progress. One of my favorite quotes from the book comes from the chapter entitled "I Need a Procedure Manual":  "The human soul is designed to recognize and respond to the calm assurance of Jesus. When I am in an unglued place, I can invite a power beyond my own into the situation by simply speaking His name. I don't have to know what to do. I don't have to have all the answers. I don't have to remember everything I learned in Bible study last week. I just have to remember one thing, one name--Jesus" (p.110-111).

This book was absolutely outstanding. TerKeurst has an easy writing style that makes the material easily accessible. The subject matter is a neglected one that desperately needs to be discussed in the church. She does a wonderful job with balancing her own experiences and stories with what the Bible says about handling emotions. While there are no study questions at the back of the book, there is a companion DVD study which would be helpful for small groups to go through the material. I highly recommend this book!

(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.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Review: "The Prayer Box" by Lisa Wingate

"The Prayer Box" by Lisa Wingate tells the story of Tandi Reese who is escaping from her abusive husband. In an attempt to disappear, she heads to the tiny community of Fairhope on Hattaras Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After finding her elderly landlady, Iola Anne Poole, deceased in her home, Tandi finds herself commissioned with the task of cleaning out Iola Anne's beautiful old Victorian home. In the midst of her cleaning, Tandi stumbles upon the first of many prayer boxes, each box containing prayers written by Iola Anne, starting from the time she was a young girl. Reading the prayers helps Tandi piece together fragments of Iola Anne's life and helps bring healing to her own troubled past and present.

This book was the second Lisa Wingate novel that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The main characters had great depth and I loved the slow transformation of Tandi throughout the story. Overall, it was a great story. Faith themes were more subtly woven through the story, which was a nice change from some other Christian fiction novels available. A discussion guide at the back of the book lends itself nicely for use in a book club.

(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.)


Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Review: "What Once Was Lost" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

"What Once Was Lost" by Kim Vogel Sawyer shares the story of Christina Willems. After her father passes away, she assumes the directorship of a poor farm in Brambleville, Kansas. Fire strikes the poor farm one night, displacing the residents whom Christina has come to view as her family. While most residents are easy to find new placements for, the most challenging is Tommy, a young blind boy. He eventually is taken in by the mill owner, Levi Jonnson. The rest of the book details the challenges that ensue with rebuilding the poor farm, as well as the mystery surrounding why the farm house caught fire in the first place.

Overall, this was just an okay book. The characters felt a little two-dimensional; they didn't really come to life. The dialogue and interaction between the characters felt a bit stilted at times. The story was somewhat enjoyable, but definitely predictable. While there will be many who truly enjoy this book, I was not one of them. This won't be a repeat read for me.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Review: "The Quarryman's Bride" by Tracie Peterson

Set in St. Cloud, Minnesota, "The Quarryman's Bride" by Tracie Peterson features the story of Emmalyne Knox and Tavin MacLachlan. Emmalyne's father rules his family with an iron fist, showing very little love and compassion. After her younger sisters are killed in a tornado, she is torn apart from her fiancee, Tavin, when her father declares she can no longer marry but will be required to care for her parents, as is tradition for the youngest unmarried daughter. Tavin attempts to convince Emmalyne to elope, but she refuses out of a desire to honor her parents.

Eleven long years have passed. Emmalyne has faithfully served her parents and Tavin has performed a number of different jobs, traveling to different parts of the country, in an attempt to forget his love for Emmalyne. When Emmalyne's father returns to the quarry business he left eleven years ago, circumstances reunite the couple and they rediscover their love for one another.

Mental illness is a side plot that runs through this story. Emmalyne's mother suffers from depression and Tavin's sister suffers from severe mental illness occurring after the death of her husband. It's a great look at a common, but much neglected topic in Christian literature.

Overall, the story was good. The second book in the trilogy, it wasn't quite up to par with the first book in the series. There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged in the story.

(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.)

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Review: "Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron

"Chasing Francis:  A Pilgrim's Tale" by Ian Morgan Cron is a contemporary fictional novel following Pastor Chase Falson and his search for a renewed faith. Falson planted a large seeker-friendly church in Connecticut, but publicly declared questions regarding his faith in a Sunday sermon. The elders request he take some time off and he ends up in Italy at the request of his uncle, a Franciscan friar. Uncle Kenny urges him to explore the life and faith of Saint Francis.

Written in the first person, this novel reads like a memoir. Many times, I had to remind myself that I was reading fiction and not a biography. Cron did a decent job of creating a fictional account that weaves in details of Francis' life and faith, as well as his theology. I did find it a bit preachy at times, but it did make me a bit more interested in learning more about Saint Francis. For those that are inspired in that direction, there is an extensive bibliography and study guide at the back of the book.

Overall, the book was just okay. He raises some good points about looking to church history and learning from it in order for the church today to move forward. But the sermon that Falson gives in chapter 11 had a more "emergent church" than I am comfortable with. It was a decent read but will not become a re-read for me.

(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, May 27, 2013

A Review: "A Dream So Big" by Steve Peifer

"A Dream So Big:  Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger" by Steve Peifer (with Gregg Lewis) is a moving look at how one family's journey through grief led them across the world to Kenya, Africa and how God has used them mightily in that nation.

Steve and Nancy Peifer were not planning on having a third child, but God had other plans for them. Their son, Stephen, was born with Trisomy 13 and died eight days later. As they grieved for their son, they began to feel a need for a change of scenery to escape the all-consuming grief. They met with friends who had worked as teachers at Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids in Kijabe, Kenya. Though that meeting, they found out that there was a need for dorm parents. They signed up through African Inland Mission for a one-year stint, packed up their belongings and their two older sons, and headed for Africa. One year turned into over 14 years.

Over the course of their work there, they have each served in various capacities in the boarding school. Steve had occasionally helped with relief missions delivering food to the families of school kids in nearby villages. But it was entering a classroom and seeing an entire room of kids lying in the dirt because they hadn't eaten in days and were too weak to sit up that caused an eventual shift in Steve's focus and ministry in Kenya.

After soliciting donations, he launched a feeding program through area schools that would provide a hot lunch to students. After these programs began, enrollment increased. As Steve continued to ponder how to help the Kenyan people pull out of the dire poverty and hunger that they lived in, he decided to open computer centers to train students in technology in the hopes that they would be better equipped for the future. The programs have continued to expand and now include Kenyan leadership. Steve continues to work for Rift Valley Academy as their guidance counselor.

This is an amazing book that brings to light such a serious subject that most Westerners would probably prefer to sweep under the rug. The issue of hunger is foreign to most of us in America, but a life-or-death reality that occurs daily in so many other parts of the world. I felt caught up in their journey and found myself cheering them on as they opened their first two feeding programs, as they expanded to include more schools, as they opened their first computer center. It's a fantastic example of how God can use ordinary people for His glory, how God can turn grief into something incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend this book. Be prepared to have your perspective on life altered!

If you are interested in more information about Steve's ministry with the feeding programs and computer centers, please visit their website at kenyakidscan.org.

(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, May 8, 2013

A Review: "Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequist

"Bread and Wine:  A Love Letter to Life Around the Table" by Shauna Niequist is a collection of essays about life, food, hospitality, and experiencing those sacred moments that can only be found around a table. The book includes not only recipes to try, but there are discussion questions at the end for a book club or a cooking club. She also includes tips for hosting a dinner party, as well as ideas for easy weeknight meals that can be thrown together quickly.

I appreciated Niequist's heart that celebrates the union of food and the hearts of people, creating a unique fellowship around a table. Faith themes run strong through this book, especially as she dives into how gathering around a shared meal creates a special sense of community. "And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day--no matter where we are, who we are, what we've done" (p. 252).

She shares candidly about her life, her insecurities, her fears when her newborn son was ill, her struggles with having children. Her writing style and vulnerability with sharing make this book an all-around winner. I started by slowly digesting two or three essays at a time, but that quickly sped up to devouring the entire book; it's really just that good.

"The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a word that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health" (p. 258).

(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, May 1, 2013

A Review: "Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist" by Amanda Jenkins


Amanda Jenkins, author of “Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist:  Learning to Be Free” blew me away. I knew it was a book I was going to thoroughly enjoy when she referenced my favorite movie, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” in the fourth paragraph of the introduction. She absolutely kept me coming back for more with this book!

In each of the 12 chapters, she takes a look at different areas, such as vanity, parenthood, and her testimony, where perfectionism has a stranglehold.  Displaying a great amount of vulnerability, she shares her struggles openly and candidly. Various Scripture passages are carefully woven throughout each chapter to help the reader engage with the God who can help us overcome our perfectionist tendencies.

Amanda’s writing style and the subject matter left me feeling like I’d known her for years. I loved reading this book and hope to go through it with a small group to really dig deep into this subject matter. Whether a perfectionist or not, there are some great truths to be gleaned from this book. I would highly recommend this book for all women. There is a section at the back containing study questions and application points for each chapter, which makes it perfect for small groups, book clubs, or even individual study.


“Because, of course, the only way to experience life the way God intends is to choose Him day by day, moment by moment. To resist the urge to cling to my appearance, my money, my plans, my pride, and my dreams—and instead to fix my eyes on Jesus. To rest in God’s love, knowing I’m saved because of His grace and not because I’m perfect or even good. To pray for faith and courage enough to dive into the kind of life He wants for me.” (p. 158)

Jenkins expresses her hope for this book in the first question of Tyndale's Author Q&A:  

That my transparency would get readers one step closer to freedom from their own impossible goals; that it would open their eyes to the strangleholds we sometimes don’t even see, but shape the way we think and spend our time; that it would get us laughing at the stuff we hide; that when brought into the open, things like vanity, materialism and desire for recognition would lose their power/hold on our minds and hearts.

If you are interested in checking out the first chapter, please visit this link. You will not be disappointed!

(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, April 18, 2013

A Review: "The Passionate Mom" by Susan Merrill

Using the book of Nehemiah as inspiration for the material in this book, I was definitely excited to pick up this book. "The Passionate Mom:  Dare to Parent in Today's World" by Susan Merrill did not disappoint! The entire book is a treasure trove of fabulous principles that moms at all stages can implement to help parent confidently.

I loved the idea of creating a parenting book using the example of Nehemiah, a former cupbearer to the king of Babylon turned wall-builder for the city of Jerusalem. Just as Nehemiah's focus was on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem for the protection of his people, Merrill likens the role of moms to be a wall builder for our families and our children. There are ten different "bricks" that we can use to build the wall for our kids, including perception, passion, prayer, planning, and preparation. She discusses each brick at length and includes some ideas for "mortar" that we can use to help hold those bricks firmly in place. She also includes a wonderful chapter about the different "gates" (opportunities for our children to be tested in independence) that we open and close as necessary. That chapter includes a number of Scripture prayers that moms can pray as we begin to open those gates. At the end of the book, she includes a number of resources which can be found on her website, iMOM.

Overall, this was a fantastic book that is well suited for moms at all stages. This would be a great book to go through as a women's Bible study or a book club. There are so many wonderful application points that discussion would really be helpful to fully process all that you learn through this book.

(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.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Review: "Humble Orthodoxy" by Joshua Harris

The final chapter of Joshua Harris's last book, "Dug Down Deep", was entitled "Humble Orthodoxy". People loved that particular chapter so much that they expressed their desire that he write an entire book about the concept. Thus, the book "Humble Orthodoxy" was born. Taking the main points from the chapter of the same name and expanding on them, this short book (only 61 pages plus a study guide) is full of necessary and relevant truths that deserve to be discussed and wrestled with.

Since the word "orthodoxy" tends to be misunderstood, Harris starts off with a definition:  "The word orthodoxy refers to right thinking about God. It's about teaching and belief based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don't budge. They are the plumb line that shows us how to think straight in a crooked world" (p. 1-2). He then goes on to define humble orthodoxy as "we must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility" (p. 5). With those two definitions in mind, the reader is then ready to tackle the rest of the book.

Harris points out over and over that truth matters. Doctrine matters. But we need to allow the truth of God's word to shape and influence our lives first and foremost. We need to allow the gospel of grace to impact us so that we can go out and impact others. "...while we shouldn't be mean and spiteful in representing biblical truth, neither should we apologize for believing that God has been clear in his Word. The humility we need in our theology is first and foremost a humility before God" (p. 28-29).

This little book is so relevant for our time. Every believer should read this book, wrestle with the content of it, and allow the Holy Spirit to do a work. The study guide at the back of the book makes this book perfect to go through with a Bible study, book club, or even as an individual. The questions will really help take the material to the next level. Highly recommend this book!

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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Review: "The Icecutter's Daughter" by Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson is my favorite Christian fiction author, and her latest historical novel, "The Icecutter's Daughter" does not disappoint. Set in Waseca, Minnesota in the winter of 1895-1896, the story focuses on Merrill Krause and Rurik Jorgenson. Merrill lives on a Belgian horse farm with her father and four brothers where they earn a living harvesting ice, logging, and freighting. Rurik moved to Minnesota from Kansas to assist his uncle with his furniture business.

Prior to moving, Rurik and his fiancee dissolve their engagement. Their fathers arranged the match, and while Rurik desires to honor his deceased father's wishes, he can no longer hide that he simply does not love Svea Olsson the way that a husband should love his wife. A chance encounter brings Rurik and Merrill together and over the course of the next several months, they fall in love and begin to make tentative plans. The future is quickly put on hold when Svea and her older brother (and Rurik's best friend), Nils, show up, demanding that Rurik marry Svea. Scandal ensues and time begins to run out as they wait for truth to emerge. Will they ultimately learn to fully trust God in what appears to be a pretty dismal situation?

I found this to be a wonderful story. The characters were rich and well developed. The plot was well thought out and had enough twists and turns to remain engaging the entire length of the novel. The end wraps up nicely with a wonderful subplot of forgiveness and redemption. This is a great first novel in the "Land of Shining Waters" series. I look forward to the next book that Peterson has in store for us!

(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.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Review: "Organic Outreach for Families" by Kevin and Sherry Harney

"Organic Outreach for Families:  Turning Your Home Into a Lighthouse" by Kevin and Sherry Harney is the third book in the "Organic Outreach" series. The Harneys offer this definition:  "Organic outreach is not a program that every person follows the same way. It is an understanding of faith and life that releases every believer to share the love and message of Jesus in a way that feels right for them" (p. 11).

Consisting of three sections (Reaching your own family, Raising children of light in a dark world, and Turning your home into a lighthouse), each section offers practical information on how to become a light in your family (immediate and extended) and neighborhood. Kevin and Sherry take turns with authoring the different chapters, and their three sons also include brief stories and reflections throughout the book. Each chapter concludes with a "Becoming a Lighthouse" section with several ways to implement the principles discussed in the chapters in your own family.

As a mom of two small boys, I really appreciated the ideas in the book. As we are called to make disciples, it needs to begin at home. It caused me to reflect and reevaluate ways that I am introducing my boys to Jesus, as well as ways that I need to do better. I loved the stories that they told to show how the principles came to life in their own home.

This is a great, practical handbook full of ideas that can be implemented in your own home and neighborhood. It's perfect for families, but several chapters are perfectly appropriate for singles or couples without children.

(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.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Review: "Firefly Island" by Lisa Wingate

"Firefly Island" by Lisa Wingate is the third book in the "Moses Lake" series. Mallory Hale was working as a legislative assistant on Capitol Hill when a chance encounter allowed her to meet Daniel Everson, a biochemist working for the USDA. A whirlwind courtship culminates is a quick marriage and move to Moses Lake, Texas, where Daniel begins a unique job opportunity. Daniel is immediately immersed in his work, leaving Mallory to adjust to life as stepmom to three-year-old Nick and figure out a way to fit in rural Texas.

Questions are immediately raised about Daniel's new boss, who comes across as mysterious, demanding, and intimidating. As Daniel spends more and more time away from home, Mallory immerses herself in settling in. She starts a blog about her transition from city girl to cow girl. As she gets to know the people in her new town, she begins to see great needs there for things like education and making healthier foods available to all. The last few chapters of the book are dedicated to the unraveling of political intrigue.

Overall, the book was just okay. It was told in the first-person, which caused it to fall a little bit flat. The characters lacked depth. There were a number of interesting pieces to the storyline, but they felt a little disconnected from one another. It was a bit slow and unrealistic to start off, but the action picked up in the second half of the book. This was my first dive into a Lisa Wingate novel; I liked it enough to try another one, but I will "proceed with caution".

(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, February 28, 2013

A Review: "The Tutor's Daughter" by Julie Klassen

Emma Smallwood is the daughter of a tutor from Devonshire. Her father runs a small school for young men, Smallwood Academy. A young woman with a great love for books and education, she assists her father with the running of the school after her mother's death. Her father has sunk into a depression following the death of his wife, which has affected their prospects of keeping the school open. They are invited to move to Cornwall and provide a private education for twin boys, Julian and Rowan, younger brothers of two previous pupils, Henry and Philip Weston. Soon after their arrival, strange things begin to happen at night which lead to many questions surrounding what the Weston's could be hiding.

I have read and enjoyed every one of Klassen's novels. I believe this one is her best yet. Laden with intrigue, the story keeps you guessing at what kind of plot twist will come next. The characters are well developed and come across with great depth. There is plenty of complexity in the two main characters, Emma and Henry. My one minor complaint is that I would have loved an extra chapter or two or an epilogue to fully wrap up the storyline. Overall, this novel is highly recommended.

(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.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Review: "Deperate" by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

"Desperate:  Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe" by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson addresses the often overwhelming nature of motherhood. Mae is a mother of three young children who is in the trenches and barely on the other side of that common desperate feeling of moms with small children. Clarkson is an experienced mom with four grown children. Mae writes out of her current experience; Clarkson writes from the years of experience she has garnered.

There are 14 chapters, each one addressing a different aspect of motherhood. Topics include sin, selfishness, housework, purpose, and needing a mentor. Each chapter is introduced by a brief correspondence between the two authors. Then each of them write a portion of each chapter. There are discussion questions and an activity to do on your own at the end of each chapter to further allow the message of the chapter to sink in. There are also brief videos that correspond to each chapter for further depth.

Overall, this book was absolutely fantastic. As a mom of two young (and very active!) boys, I can really relate to the feeling of desperation. It is a wonderful book to go through on your own, or for a group to go through, or even for a couple of women to read through. There is much to discuss and process and all of it is good, solid material. "Desperate" is a must-read for every mom!

"You are exactly the mom your children need. He created you for these good works from before the foundation of the world, and as you walk this great call of motherhood with Him holding your hand, you will be amazed at how He weaves the beautiful thread of redemption through the pattern of your life. He brings light to the dark places through you, something you could only have accomplished by embracing His wonderful call and embracing these very precious children who were inextricably created as part of the design for your life."  ~Sally Clarkson, p. 187
  
(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.)

A Review: "The Lifegiving Parent" by Clay and Sally Clarkson

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