Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Prayer Wheel

     BOOK REVIEW:   The Prayer Wheel invites you into the rich world of faith illustrated by a stunning medieval artifact that resurfaced in 2015 in a small art gallery near New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The seven paths of the twelfth-century Liesborn Wheel, arranged in a circle around the word Deus (God), lead believers---now as in times past---to encounter and apply the transforming truths of the Christian faith. The book you're holding tells the remarkable story of the wheel, guides you through its teachings, then provides beautiful, contemporary prayers for personal or group use. As you pray, you will discover new ways to speak to God about your everyday concerns and deepest longings, and find your faith powerfully refreshed. 

     MY REVIEW:   When I got this book, I expected it to be about the prayer wheel. I was looking forward to hearing how it got started, then how on earth it got completely lost, and finally, how it was rediscovered. But alas, the book actually is the prayer wheel. There is a brief introduction that explained a few things on its invention, loss, and rediscovery, but then the rest of the book is actually praying the paths of the wheel, once a day for seven weeks.
     Despite that disappointment, I did enjoy the book. I've never heard of the prayer wheel before, and it intrigued me a bit. Patton Dodd, Jana Reiss, and David van Biema co-authored it, and they did a wonderful job. Something like this could very easily become idolized, and worshiped, and God taken completely out of it. But they seem to have done a careful job to keep that out. This is simply a guide to prayer. It's not something I'm really comfortable praying through as they suggest, but just to read through it, there are many truths to behold.
    The book itself is beautiful---hardcover, about 6 x 8, and 200 pages long. There is one spread to a day, seven spreads to a week. Each day is portrayed as a chapter, and each week a section. At the  beginning of each section the prayer wheel is illustrated, with that week's path highlighted. It is all very simply and easily laid out. Each day has a brief blurb on that subject on one side and a prayer on the other.

   I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS and was not required to write a positive review. 

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies

     BOOK REVIEW:   When it comes to the realm of biblical studies, students of the Bible are often overwhelmed, both with the sheer volume of information and with all of the unfamiliar terms, concepts, and topics. Like any other field of study, the serious study of the Bible has developed a specialized vocabulary. The key terms in this important field are defined in The Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies. It provides clear, concise, and accurate definitions to help students of the Bible make sense of the specialized language of biblical studies.

     MY REVIEW:   This book would be very helpful to a Bible student, and even to just anyone looking for clarification on a specific term relating to Bible study. The many different things explained include important ancient documents, notable historians, specific events from the Bible, the many different Bible translations, terms of study, people groups of the Bible, and more. It is a compact book of 209 pages, roughly 4 x 7 in size and paperback. It would be an interesting book to read through on a whim sometime, just to become familiar with the different terms and explanations. 

  I received a copy of this book from BAKER BOOKS  and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions here are my own. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Farewell, Four Waters

     BOOK REVIEW:   In fourteen days, the life she knew would end on the streets of Kabul.   All Marie needed was a few stamps and signatures--the mandatory paperwork necessary for the Afghan government--and she could hold literacy classes in the rural town of Shektan. Her hope: Afghan women would learn to read.
    Suddenly, shots resonated. An aid worker killed at an intersection in Kabul. The community scattered. Most decided to say farewell. Not Marie; she chose to stay, to teach. But she was unaware that this choice would make her a pawn at the center of a local feud.
    Kidnapping was Marie's worst fear. She didn't know treachery was more deadly. 

     BOOK REVIEW:     Farewell, Four Waters is a story of an aid worker's frantic last two weeks before a sudden departure from her Afghan home. A story revealing deep roots, helpless desperation, swirling events too swift to process, and finally, the finding of God through it all. 
     Not a true story in itself, but each event is true of one person or another known by the author. Kate McCord is a pseudonym. To protect those involved, she could not tell her own story, or even use the real names of the people in this book. But some events are her own, and everyone is inspired by someone touching her experiences there. 
     This book, while not actually nonfiction, tells us a bit of the life and customs and unrest of an aid worker in Afghanistan. It is certainly not a bed of roses, not easy in the slightest. But very rewarding. In the Author's Notes, Kate discloses that in a way, this really is her story. The events may not be quite the same, but the feeling, the closeness, the finding God---they are. The book is not written in the usual smooth flow of a fiction story, but rather, reading more through the mind of Marie, hearing her process what is going on. Short. Almost choppy. Making sense of swirling events that cannot be fully understood. The loss. The helplessness. Feeling alone, yet very much there. A story full of feeling. Feeling that cannot be expressed fully without being written this way. It works. It's beautiful. 
     Kate McCord has written two other books, both of which I have read. In the Land of Blue Burqas is a nonfiction book about her actual time in Afghanistan. Why God Calls us to Dangerous Places is self-explanatory in the title. Not so much on her time there, as on why she went, and how it affected her, her family and friends, and the Afghans she met. All three books are well worth reading. 

  I received a copy of this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Cross and Christian Ministry

     BOOK REVIEW:   Today, the cross is sanitized. It adorns churches, dangles from necklaces, gleams from lapels. Yet in the first century the cross was a grotesque and abhorrent image, a symbol of evil, torture, and shame.
     Which of these is the cross that calls us to Christian ministry? The one made of shiny precious metals? Or the one fashioned of rough wood and stained with the blood of Christ?
     In The Cross and Christian Ministry, D. A. Carson explains what the death of Christ means for ministry and why the focus of ministry must be on what is central, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through his exposition of 1 Corinthians, Carson explores the issues of factionalism, servant-leadership, and shaping "world" Christians in order to present principles for dynamic, cross-centered worship that compel us to share the Good News.

     MY REVIEW:   This book took me a bit to get focused on, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. D. A. Carson is not a name I am familiar with, but it seems I have heard it somewhere.
     The centrality of the cross seems to be disappearing amidst the "pleasing" Gospel being preached in many circles today. Carson here brings it front and center and reminds why it has to be there.
     One point I especially liked was the message of the "foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1Cor 1:18). There are many distinctions dividing people today, but the only one that matters is "saved" vs "unsaved". Another is the example of Paul, whe was not able to preach on any account without drawing it to the cross.
     More than just the cross itself, Carson talks of the life and character of a truly cross-centered Christian. They will suffer with Christ as well as share His Glory. They will boast in the Lord, not in any way themselves. They will not judge harshly, for they know they cannot see the whole picture, and that judging is for God alone.
  I received a copy of this book from BAKER BOOKS, and was not required to write a positive review. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

In the Words of Jesus

     BOOK REVIEW:   No individual has had a greater impact on human history than Jesus Christ. In just three short years, this humble carpenter challenged, enlightened, and transformed those around Him with words of wisdom, grace, truth, hope, and love. And through His words and actions, He provided indisputable evidence that God always had been and always will be among us.
     In the Words of Jesus distills Jesus' most profound teachings from the four Gospels and reflects on what His message meant---not only during His brief ministry on earth, but also for us today.

     MY REVIEW:  This is a small, leather book. It looks like a Bible in many ways. The idea is a good one. The book is divided into chapters and divisions about different qualities and teachings of Jesus. For the content itself, a verse or section is quoted, then a short reflection given. I did not read through the whole book, but it seems simple and easy to follow. I do however have a few faults with it. The pages are too thin for the ink used. You can see words from the back of the page on the front you are reading. And it uses the New Living Translation. I have nothing against that translation, I simply prefer the King James. This would have been a good thing to have mentioned on the back cover, in my opinion.

I got this book from If you are not already involved in this program, you should definitely check it out. For a quick explanation: you earn points for reviewing Tyndale books and use these points to get free books!! If you are interested in joining, let me know and I'll give you a code that will give you 25 points when you sign up!!

Gardener's Log book

     This book is pretty neat. It has documentation for five years so you can chart the progress of your plants and keep record of what you've planted, etc. It includes a Zone Chart so you can see what zone you are in (turns out I was wrong about mine! gasp). Next are nine spreads in which to record bloom and harvest date of each of your plants for each of the five years. Following that, is the main body of the book: winter, summer, fall, and spring checklists, notes portions, and plotting graphs. Everything from telling you when to prune, plant, mulch, plan, stake, order seeds, and more. At the end of the book are a few articles on topics such as When and How to Compost, Container Gardening, Pruning Basics, and a few more. Each includes websites, books, and articles where more information can be found.  Then there is a place to write down your suppliers and sources, and finally, a small pocket to keep a few things in.
     This book is paperback, with a slightly reinforced cover. It is 8''x 6'' with 240 pages. It is spiral bound with a string closure. While not quite what I expected, it is a very handy book that I'm very happy to have gotten.

 I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Light on the Hill

     BOOK REVIEW:   Though Israel has found relative peace, Moriyah has yet to find her own. Attempting to avoid the scorn of her community, she's spent the last seven years hiding behind the veil she wears. Underneath her covering, her face is branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods, a shameful reminder of her past captivity inn Jericho and an assurance that no man will ever want to marry her.
     When her father finds a widower who needs a mother for his two sons, her hopes rise. But when their introduction goes horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee for her life. Seeking safety at one of the newly established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face and the enemies---and unexpected allies---she will encounter on her way.

     MY REVIEW:  This is the first of Connilyn Cossette's books that I have read. She writes Biblical fiction; not about Bible Characters, rather, Bible Happenings. This book is written of the Cities of Refuge inhabited by Levites and open for falsely accused manslayers, etc.
     The entirety of this book but for the introductory chapters have Moriyah on a frantic journey to a City of Refuge. She is pursued by the man she is to marry because she accidentally---well, that would be a spoiler. 😊  This makes the book very interesting, not slow and boring. It made me appreciate cars. And GPS. And shoes versus leather sandals. And hotels!
     But to the authenticity, it felt too familiar between Moriyah and the men she encountered. I have in mind that men and women didn't communicate except when married and few special circumstances. I understand it had to be otherwise in this book because of the storyline---Moriyah is escorted by a man whom she (of course) falls in love with---but it takes away from the authentic feel of the book.
     There were, however, some very good lessons in this book. Moriyah hides her face behind a veil for she has the mark of a temple priestess which draws stares and whispered condemnations. She withdraws into herself and in so doing, sets an unconscious wall against God, then despairs at His seeming absence from her. As she finds acceptance and peace in her life, she is able to let down that wall and let God in. He hadn't been drawing away from her, she had been keeping Him out, though unknowingly.
     I enjoyed this book, though the repeated dangers got a bit long at times. It is a light read with subtle lessons. And I enjoyed the culture insight, some of which is into the lifestyle of the Canaanites which was interesting to compare, both to the Israelites then and to the world today. 

  I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

An Unexpected Role

     BOOK REVIEW:   The devastation of a ruined summer. The gift of a second chance. Can Josie learn the lessons she needs in order to discover her true self?  After a humiliating event and overwhelming peer pressure, 16-year-old Josie flees her home to spend the summer with her Aunt on a South Carolina Island. Her fresh start turns into the summer of her dreams as friendships grow, romance blossoms, and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. However, when tragedy strikes someone close to her, Josie realizes there are more important things than her reputation. As she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also discovers who God wants her to be.

     MY REVIEW:   I did not realize when I requested this book that it was a Young Adult book. I know, it's easily seen in the book review, but I got caught on the last sentence and wondered how the author would bring that about.
     To review this book on the basis of how I viewed it would be unfair, as I have discovered I do not like Young Adult fiction. It's all hormones and drama and sulking and really horrible judgment calls. Josie annoyed me to no end with her drama and pouting. But to review it from the perspective I can imagine it being written from, it is actually pretty good. I know teenagers really do face the bullying and poor self-image and lack of perspective expressed here. And I like the way God is brought into the story. Josie's mom is a Christian (maybe Catholic, from the sounds of it) and encourages Josie with Bible verses. Aunt Lily is less so, but there is that dynamic there. And the good guy also has a relationship with God. By these, this book would be Christian, but it's still Young Adult, which I still don't like.
  I received a copy of this book from BOOKCRASH and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Burden is Light

     BOOK REVIEW: Forget success, comparison, and applause. There's a better way to measure what matters.  Cemetery headstones are as diverse as the people they represent. But all have one thing in common---the birth and death dates are always separated by a small dash. Our whole lives on earth come down to that dash.
     Most of us want to have our eventual dash reflect truth and goodness, beauty and joy, depth and meaning. Imagine the peace of knowing you will have no regrets as you finish this race called life because you lived each day in a way that mattered for the moment and for eternity. New York City pastor Jon Tyson wants to make sure that is the story of your dash.
     But that doesn't come easy. Your story is not neutral or unopposed. A constant tug-of-war between the ways of this world and the wonder of the gospel competes for your attention.....and your heart. The Burden is Light shows how to overcome the distractions that lure us to "mislive" for prosperity, pleasure, and performance. There's a better way forward. Discover it and you'll find your voice and purpose through a beautifully countercultural, God-centered life.

     MY REVIEW:   I have never heard a more clear, comprehensible description of life on earth. A simple dash, the smallest line between birth and death. A sliver of space and time granted each of us. No time to fall under the influences of Comparison, Competition, Control, Cursing, Complacency, Judgment, Pride, or Distraction. Jon dedicates a chapter to each of these habits, or mindsets, and why we can't allow our precious dash to be whisked away by these things. He then gives the antidote, or reverse mindset---the right way to live.
     One section that stood out to me was on Comparison, and several reasons it comes so forcibly to us. Sometimes it is a false sense of identity, or a lack of one. Or a fear of living less than those around us. Whatever the reason, living in a constant comparison with those around you will never leave you feeling successful, or even important. There are always going to be people better than you in different areas. But when we put our identity and security in Jesus, we are freed from the burdens of comparison.
     Another section I want to reference is Control. We as humans do not like feeling helpless. And being human, we think we actually can control life. There are different reasons for trying to control people and circumstances around us. A prevalent one is Fear. Fear of being ignored or passed-over, fear of rejection or losing those we love, fear of the consequences of what we see happening around us. But when we try to control everything, we always lose. "Control is an illusion. The more we seek to mitigate risk by seizing power, the more we drive people away and distance ourselves from God. Rather than securing our future, we jeopardize it." (pg 69)"The reverse to Control is Surrender. Surrender to God, to let Him rule our lives, rather than trying to control it ourselves.
     The last section I want to mention is Judgment. "When we walk around judging people rather than advocating for them, we facilitate the work of the Enemy in their lives. When we read the Gospels, we find it wasn't the immoral but the self-righteous who were the biggest hindrance to the mission of Jesus in the world." (pg 136) In place of judging others on the tiny picture we can see, we need to extend Mercy. The same Mercy God extended to us.

   I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS. I was not required to write a positive review, all opinions expressed are mine. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Scribe

      This is the fifth book in Francine Rivers' Sons of Encouragement series. And it is about.... Silas.
Francine Rivers is a favorite author of mine, so I was really looking forward to this book. Especially as I like books about Bible characters we don't hear much about.
But I'm afraid I was disappointed. I couldn't keep my attention focused, and for only being a novella, it sure took long enough to read through.
This disappointment will not, however, keep me from reading the rest of the series. I will hold out hope that of the five, I will find at least one that is worth reading all the rest.
To look to the subject of the book for a bit, Silas is a character I would only know as having sung with Paul in prison. Francine takes "creative liberty" with Silas's roles, but one would need to if attempting many pages on him, as we are not told much in the Bible. I like thinking about those people who are mentioned but a little. Another approach I liked, was the "humanness" portrayed of Paul and Peter. Told from the perspective of Silas traveling with them, we can see how very "human" these great men were, which makes me appreciate their witness all the more.

I got this book from, which, if you aren't aware of it, you should become so. You collect points for reviewing Tyndale and NavPress products, posting on social media, inviting friends, and a few other bonus activities. You then use these points to get....... free books!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Masterpiece

     BOOK REVIEW:   A successful Los Angeles artist, Roman Valesco appears to have everything he could possibly want---money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly-hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman's past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn't know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist---an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison. 
     Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it's as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together.....until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship---and both of their lives---forever.

     MY REVIEW:   Francine Rivers is a favorite author of mine, and this book is just as exceptional as her others. But there is one let-down---Grace is divorced. And Roman's indecorous lifestyle is sometimes rather bluntly portrayed.  But for the book itself and it's message I give a high rating. The story is exceptionally well-done. Francine flips between past and present, of two different people, in no apparent chronological order. It takes a truly gifted author to succeed at that without confusing or exasperating the reader.
     If you do read this book, be sure to look in the very last pages, behind the author's notes, and discover the inspiration for the cover. We are only shown a fragment of the picture, and in the back of the book, you can see the whole thing.
     The fact that no sin is too large, nor sinner too evil, to be saved by God is very well-expressed in this book. As I neared the end, I didn't have a clue how on earth Francine was going to be able to make Roman "good" by the time she ran out of pages. But she found a way!! And not an unrealistic, fell-out-of-bed-on-the-right-side-and-never-sinned-again-and-sold-all-his-possessions-to-give to-the-poor-and-lived-a-saint-with-no-temptation-of-former-life way. But rather, a dramatic conversion, then help from a faithful pastor and friend.
     I will say, I wish Francine had included images of some of the graffiti mentioned. Some of it sounded really neat. I liked how she described both the paintings themselves, and the creation of them. She must have put in a lot of time researching all this!
     I really enjoyed this book, and read it through with no interruption. You don't have to struggle through deep theology, yet there is a message to be grasped, and you won't walk away wishing to regain those wasted hours.

  I received a copy of this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS and was not required to give a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Judah's Wife

     BOOK REVIEW:   To be silent would be to deny their God. to defy would bring the wrath of the king.   Seeking quiet and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she'll have peace. But the very nation Judah was named for has been conquered by a cruel king, who decrees that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws or risk death for following the laws of Moses.
     Judah's father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands Judah to pick up his sword and continue the fight---or bear responsibility for the obliteration of Israel. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband's decision---what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?
     The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah's wife, who learns that love requires courage.....and sacrifice.

     MY REVIEW:   This book looked interesting because of who it is written about. I've heard a little about the Maccabees, and they always sounded like an interesting people in a time we know very little about. Angela Hunt took much of her material from 1 and 2 Maccabees, which are found in the Apocrypha. Mattathias and his five sons are historical figures, as with several other characters. There are a few fictional characters as well to lend perspective. The wives are fictional in account, though these men were most likely married.
     This book is written from both Judah and Leah's perspective, and in first person. I am not a huge fan of first person, but this book was done quite well. The author also refrained from making her pages stretch with an overload of "he was wearing this" and "she was wearing this" and "this is how the other person's clothes affected the first person".
     Judah's father started the stand against the king's decrees, and led his family and the remnant of faithful Israel into the desert to train and prepare an army. Upon his death, he commissioned Judah to carry on in his stead. Judah led his fledgling army of farmers courageously, relying on "HaShem" to grant them victory. There was a time or two near the end when they were defeated for entering battle in the wrong courage, but as a whole they were devoted to their God. When Israel determined to name Judah their king, or high priest, he refused. The honor goes to God; he was content merely to be a vessel.
     Judah seemed a little unrealistically "good" to me, but at the end of the book, it comes out that Angela fashioned him to be a type of Christ. His defense of his people, unconditional love and care for his family, and leadership aura now make sense.
     Leah struggles to the point of bitterness with her loss of a peaceful life since Judah is leading the army of Israel, but as she learns of God's Love for her and talks with her mother-in-law, she comes to realize peace comes in many forms. She can eventually see Judah's love for Israel is a reflection of God's love for His people.
     Angela Hunt has written over 100 books. This book is the second of her "Silent Years" series. The first  is Egypt's Sister, a novel of Cleopatra. This is the first of her books I've read, and I think I may have to keep my eye out for more from her.

I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, and was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Seasoned Chicken Potatoes and Green Beans

For supper tonight, I tried a new recipe--Seasoned Chicken Potatoes and Green Beans.

I love crockpot meals that you can put together over lunch and serve 5 min after you come home. SO handy. :)

As usual, I made a larger batch than called for. Plus, my chicken and green beans were half frozen. So, rather than the stated 4 hours, mine was cooking for 6 hours (that, and the fact that 6 hours later was when I got back to it 😊).

Sadly, we didn't really like the taste of this dish. If you'll notice at the bottom of the recipe, it reads: Note- Do NOT use lemon juice out of squeeze bottle and expect this to taste good!  Wanna guess what I did?     "....Ha! Watch me!!...."

I don't know if real versus store-bought lemon juice really makes that big a difference or if we would have even liked it with real lemon juice, but store-bought was not very good. Bother!! 

A Force So Swift

     BOOK REVIEW:   A gripping narrative of the Truman administration's response to China and the triumph of Mao Zedong's communist forces in 1949---an extraordinary political revolution that continues to shape East Asian politics to this day.   In the opening months of 1949, U.S. President Harry S. Truman found himself faced with a looming diplomatic catastrophe---"perhaps the greatest that this country has ever suffered," as the journalist Walter Lippmann put it. Throughout the spring and summer, Mao Zedong's Communist armies fanned out across mainland China, annihilating the rival troops of America's one-time ally Chiang Kai-shek and taking control of Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities. As Truman and his aides---including his shrewd, ruthless secretary of state, Dean Acheson---scrambled to formulate a response, they were forced to contend with not only Mao, but also with unrelenting political enemies at home. Over the course of this tumultuous year, Mao would fashion a new revolutionary government in Beijing, laying the foundation for the creation of modern China, while Chiang Kai-shek would flee to the island sanctuary of Taiwan, and the subsequent wars in Korea and Vietnam.
     Drawing on Chinese and Russian sources, as well as recently declassified C.I.A. documents, Kevin Peraino tells the story of this remarkable year through the eyes of the key players, including Mao Zedong, President Truman, Secretary of State Acheson, Minnesota congressman Walter Judd, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the influential first-lady of the Republic of China.
     Today, the legacy of 1949 is more relevant than ever to the relationships between China, the United States, and the rest of the world, as Beijing asserts its claims on the South China Sea and tensions endure between Taiwan and the mainland.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is difficult to review, because while I enjoyed it and was not bored, I could not read much at a time, and I can't tell you everything I read. It is history, so there is MUCH to recall. It was written very well, and was easy to follow, just a lot of information.
     This book seemed to be more about Truman and America's response to China's problem than the actual take-over of Mao's Communist army. And politics are not something I can wrap my head around. From what I can gather:
     Truman was lost on how to respond in a way that would avoid catastrophe and be effective, while his aids very firmly believed in completely opposite responses.
     Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of China who is fighting Mao's army, is losing both battle and hope, and his wife Madame Chiang goes to America to gather support while he hides away for several months.
     Madame Chiang, while using everything she has, is unsuccessful in gathering enough support for her country.
     Mao Zedong is working with Stalin of Russia and is successful in taking over China, all but the island of Taiwan, the last Nationalist refugee where Chiang Kai-shek and his remaining people are taking cover. 
     And how I understand it, America's withdrawal from China in the end led to an invasion of South Korea, and North Korea's attack, and the war in Vietnam. America's non-committal response to the forces of communism gave these leaders the freedom to invade their surrounding countries.
     ---"Kevin Peraino is a veteran foreign correspondent who has reported from around the world. A senior writer and bureau chief at NEWSWEEK for a decade, he was a finalist for the Livingstone Award for foreign reporting and part of a team that won the National Magazine Award in 2004. He is the author of Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power."---

   I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS and was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Missing Isaac

     BOOK REVIEW:   When Pete McLean loses his father in the summer of 1962, his friend Isaac is one of the few people he can lean on. Though their worlds are as different as black and white, friendship knows no color. So when Isaac suddenly goes missing, Pete is determined to find out what happened----no matter what it costs him. His quest will lead him into parts of town that he knows only through rumors and introduce him to a girl who will change his life. What they discover together will change the small Southern town of Glory, Alabama----forever.
     With vivid descriptions, palpable atmosphere, and unforgettable characters, debut novelist Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into the rural South of the 1960's----a place where ordinary people struggle to find their footing in a social landscape that is shifting beneath their feet.

     MY REVIEW:   This book----where to begin? For starters, it is a novel. A romance novel, even. A contradiction really, because it is a good romance novel, and that's next to impossible to find. I don't like the term romance novel because it embarrasses me to admit I read them, but I do. Maybe if I say romance novel often enough I'll get over it...... Bother.
     But still, there is something about this book..... I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'll try my best. It has Southern charm. It is warm and inviting. And it has life. And morals. And characters you'd wish to see in real life. And though I can't exactly tell you why, it will find a home near my Francine Rivers and Cathy Gohlke books on that coveted "you simply MUST read this book" shelf.
     Isaac wasn't in the story long, but he affected the whole book. His disappearance brought Pete to Dovey's neighborhood. The mystery of it is kept alive til the end, and is the force behind Pete's never-quite-settled soul. The characters remaining are some blacks, some backwoods country folk, some well-to-do, kindly cotton farmers. The whole atmosphere of the book is one of unity amongst a divided people, peace in troubled days, and love despite fear. It bothers me that I can't describe what I liked about it! Maybe part of it is while it's a romance, it is the meeting and growing together of two authentic, sensible people in comparison to the often irritating, clinging-to-the-unimportant-always-running-on-feelings characters we usually read about. These are characters I wish we would see more of.
     And now I have to stop or I'll completely run it up in my mind and be disappointed next time I read it, not to mention give a false review of what it's actually like. Dear me....

     I received a copy of this book from REVELL. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. 




Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Until We Find Home

     BOOK REVIEW:   For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.
     With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees. . . .if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing---spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends---has ill prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the threat of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home, the people who have become her family.
     Set in England's lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

     MY REVIEW:   Cathy Gohlke is a favorite author of mine. She hasn't written many books, only about 6 or 7, but the three that I read---Promise Me This, Band of Sisters and Secrets She Kept---I absolutely loved. Her books have a rarely-found depth and meaning with a drawing story and amazing characters and plot. She is one of those authors whose name alone will make me grab her books without reading the back.
     But this book was really disappointing. It was really boring, until the last few chapters, and not really worth reading again. Her main character, Claire, was a selfish, shallow, pouting girl who couldn't function because life wasn't handing her the roses she thought she deserved. Her male character was good, being the logical head in the household, but not enough to combat Claire's character. Lady Miranda wasn't as bad, but not really good either. Unlike Cathy's other books, this one is a shallow romance, an uninteresting one at that.
     I did however, like the children's characters, though they were dampened by the others. Jews and Germans and Frenchmen were not liked among the English. These five children were French Jews, and not only that, but Miranda then took in 6ish German Jews. Needless to say, the children had to learn they were not enemies. I especially like Gaston, the eight or ten year old French lad. I will say, Cathy did a really good job incorporating their native language in a way we can understand. Mainly exclamations, please and thank you, yes and no. And I love the French language, and always enjoy reading it in a book. But Gaston's character was exceptionally well-done. Nearly as good is Josef, the German lad who is Gaston's age. There was one lass who didn't seem to be mentioned in the story. She was named in the end and I hadn't remembered about her.
     I could see there was a goal aimed for in this book, which, if accheived, would have been amazing. But I found it fell short.

   I received a copy of this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Be the Hands and Feet

     BOOK REVIEW:   Do you want to be a messenger of God, spreading the greatest news ever told---but you don't know where to start? Or maybe you are eager to share your faith with others, but you can't get past feeling a little awkward, or you fear being seen as pushy or uncool? Regardless of what might be holding you back, Nick Vujicic has written this inspirational and compelling book for you.
     As one of the world's foremost evangelists, who has overcome severe physical disabilities, Nick understands the hesitant feelings and has learned how to share Christ in ways that you will find comfortable and fulfilling. 
     Detailing never-before-told stories about his life's journey, including spiritual challenges and near-death experiences, Nick provides examples of ways he has shared his faith with others---from family members to strangers to presidents and prime ministers. In this engaging and motivating book, he offers innovative ways in which you can help others walk in faith, too.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is different from Nick's other books in that it focuses on his ministry and our own, instead of telling his own story. There is some telling of his life in this book, to be sure, but to a different end. In the last chapter he writes "My wish for you now as you complete the reading of this book is that you feel stronger as a Christian, and that you will be inspired to draw upon your faith when faced with challenges in life. I also hope you are encouraged to share your faith with those who've yet to join your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. In these pages, you've read many examples of ways you can do that, I hope some of them have inspired you to find your own so that you too can one day walk into the gates of Heaven surrounded by those you've recruited to join you in a joyful everlasting life." 
     I am at a bit of a loss what to write further. I really like this book. It was encouraging and practical. Nick has no "you should tell people about Jesus, but you know, I understand if you don't feel like it, you can just smile at them too, that works" message. We have GOOD NEWS to tell, and we have to tell it, regardless whether it makes us uncomfortable or conspicuous. Yet, as much as I enjoyed it, I don't quite know what to draw your attention to. All of it I guess. There you go----read this book people. Then you'll know what I read. :)
     One thing Nick emphasized was outreaches. Help a group of people who can't get help otherwhere's and be their light. It's a great opportunity to help them and minister to them. And support outreaches. Group together and reach people. Preaching here, but what better can we do with the time we've been given than to share our joy with others? As in the above quote, "walk into the gates of Heaven surrounded by those you've recruited to join you in a joyful everlasting life". How more profitable can you get?
     To find more books and information on Nick and his ministries, visit

   I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

     BOOK REVIEW:   A gentlewoman in reduced circumstances, Miss Rachel Ashford lives as a guest in Ivy Cottage. With her meager funds rapidly depleting, she is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. Her friend Jane Bell and the other village women encourage her to open a circulating library with the many books she's inherited from her father. As villagers donate additional books and Rachel begins sorting through the volumes, she discovers mysteries hidden among them. A man who once more broke her heart helps her search for clues, but both find more than they bargained for.
     Rachel's hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and finds fulfillment in managing her girls school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what---or whom--- has captured each man's attention? The truth may surprise them all.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is the second in Julie Klassen's Tales from Ivy Hill series, the first being The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. I must say, I expected this book to close a few doors from the other one, but not so. Rather, a whole new story is opened up, only eventually closing a door or two toward the end. And leaving ever so many more open. Now we shall have to wait for the next book and hope it finishes everything off.
     The society of the portrayed time did not allow for women to be ought but lovely eligible fawns, sitting primly in their parlors and socializing with only just the right people. So when Rachel Ashford's family loses their fortune and she is forced to provide for herself she is swept from top tier to bottom rung of society. And of course in this book she is pursued by two very eligible men, but disdained by each of their mothers, which just breaks her poor heart and she has a time trying to decide which man makes her heart pitter patter fastest---the one she has loved forever or the one who has proposed and lives in her childhood home.
     Mercy Grove has troubles of her own. Her parents have decided to deed her house to her brother if Mercy does not agree to marry their suitor. Either way she will lose her precious school and the young lass who's to become her charge. What to choose, dreams or means? Either way she loses.
     As far as historical fiction novels go, this is a nice fireplace story. I liked it better than the first book simply because I didn't have as many expectations, though I still like others of Julie's books better. I did like the idea of the circulating library. Basically what we have today but with a membership fee. And Mercy's school for girls is such a lovely idea, as girls weren't typically schooled in those days. These girls also tended to be lower class, with few opportunities.
     On a different note, if you are familiar with Pride and Prejudice, you will recognize several references to it (my favorite coming from Lady Catherine DeBourgh's rant to Lizzy), which, if you are a fan of that book, is rather neat.
     More books by Julie can be found at To find more about Ivy Hill, visit

I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So Great A Love

     Children's books are tricky. There are some really good ones out there (Berenstain Bears; Golden Books; Winnie the Pooh; Curious George). Then we have, not so good ones. Not to mention there are many varying classes of "good" and many varying classes of "bad". And when reviewing a children's book, you are not only rating the book itself, but also putting it up against your favorites and worst.

     So, this book. 

     I like it. It is hand drawn, which is really neat. Kristie Wilde has a degree in Forestry and is a very talented artist (she was commissioned to "illustrate interpretive signage...along the Highway 108 corridor through the Sierra Nevada mountains"!!), both of which serve her well with this book's illustrations. I'll give an example:

This is a spread, minus the words.

     This is definitely a child's book. The words are very simple ("He wants to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks.") but very true. There are ten spreads, each a different expression of His Love. At the end there is a bible verse for each picture.
     This book is the second book in Kristie's "Joyful Creation" series. The first one is "Made for a Purpose", reviewed here.
     More can be found of Kristie Wilde at and

    I received a copy of this book from BOOKCRASH. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Unexplainable Church

     BOOK REVIEW:   God wants to astonish the world with His Grace. And when we study the book of Acts, we see that He does it by transforming ordinary people to do extraordinary things in Jesus' name. Are you ready to be used by Him? 
     The Unexplainable Church is an in-depth study of the power of grace to change lives, starting with our own and moving out to those we influence. It features:
  • a verse-by-verse study of Acts 13-28 (50 lessons over 10 weeks)
  • Many biblical, theological, and historical insights
  • Text-based discussion questions that truly provoke thought
     Erica is a masterful Bible teacher with infectious passion. Through strategic observation questions she guides you deep into the text and challenges you to apply it honestly. 
     Do this study and you'll learn a life-changing lesson about how the kingdom grows. It's not about gifted people, but about God transforming average people and gathering them into a mighty force. It's all grace, and it's an invitation to each of us. The question is, Will you except it?

     MY REVIEW:   This book is the second in a series. The first is An Unexplainable Life, which I am currently going through. 
     I haven't finished the first book, therefore I haven't even started this one, but it looks like the first one, taking up where it left off at Acts 13. If anything, the lessons look a little shorter, but they're still 3-5 pages long. The cosmetics of the book are the same--watercolor cover and chapter headings. The questions are written in blue font with plenty of space to answer the questions. 
     One thing I especially like about these books is that they plunge straight through Acts, every verse. If nothing else, it's a good way to read through Acts. It's different than just reading through the book, because you're stopping every several verses or so to study what you read and what it means and why it's there. 
    Another thing I like is the accounts Erica includes of her own experiences, etc. They really lend common ground to the books.
     Erica Wiggenhorn is a women's author and speaker. As I understand, these are her only two solo books, but you can find more about her at

    I received a copy of this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS. All thoughts and intents are my own.