Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Hidden Among the Stars

     BOOK REVIEW:   The year is 1938, and as Hitler's troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family's summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker's daughter, who is eager to help the man she's loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika's feelings and puts their entire plan---even their very lives---in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.
      Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika's story---and possibly to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she's built for a chance at answers, and maybe even new love.

     MY REVIEW:   Anymore, one must sort through the hundreds of books available to find one worth holding onto and passing around. This book is one of those rare few. A fiction novel, it explores life in Austria during Hitler's reign. Life changes in an instant, and Jews find themselves in a dangerous situation. Even the Gentile sympathizers are in danger, and no one can trust anyone. Greed runs rampant as homes are ransacked and possessions confiscated.
     This book is written in what I term "flashback form". The story of Annika is told through Callie's discovery of a book 80yrs later. Therefore, we read of both their lives, though predominately Annika's. It flips between the two in a manner quite easy to distinguish. Annika's tale is written in third person, and Callie's in first person. Callie's first person narrative felt a bit cliche at times, but not enough to spoil the book.
     While there is romance in this book, it is not the main stream as so many books are. It is understated, and while Callie's is unnecessary, Annika's is very relevant to the story. Without it many facets would be lost. I will say, however, that I was rather surprised at how it turned out. I can't explain more without giving anything away, but it was interesting to see how it all played out, or didn't.
     I really enjoyed this book. Another of Melanie Dobson's books I've read is Catching the Wind, which was just as good as this book, and written in the same manner---searching for a survivor of WWII.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Forever With Jesus

     BOOK REVIEW:   In Forever with Jesus, the sea kids learn that Jesus died for their sins, and that by believing in Him they will live in heaven forever. The cousins visit their grandparents for Grandma Pinky's 80th birthday. During their visit, their grandparents' neighbor, Mr. Higgins, passes away. Grandma reads the Bible and tells her grandchildren how wonderful Heaven is and how there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering. The children understand that they do not have to fear death because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him in Heaven.

     MY REVIEW:   I love Lee Ann Mancini's Adventures of the Sea Kids series. This is the fourth book I have gotten. The layout and the pictures are just beautiful and terribly cute. The lessons are simple, straightforward, and "Gospel-truth". Her objective in writing these books is: "to help children build a strong foundational relationship with Jesus". 
     This book is about death and Heaven. When Isabella asks why we go to Heaven when we die, Grandma says "Because we believe in Jesus, and He died for our sins. When you sin there has to be a punishment. Jesus took the punishment for our sins. Jesus did this for us because He loves us." The lesson can be easily understood by a child; it is simple and without unnecessary theology.
     This series is a wonderful one that any child would be blessed to have.

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

Crack Yourself Up Jokes for Kids

     BOOK REVIEW:   Any kid can be a comedian with a little help from CRACK YOURSELF UP JOKES FOR KIDS. This zany collection of one-liners, knock-knock jokes, riddles, puns, funny lists, and hilarious illustrations promises hours of fun. Just be careful. These are the kinds of laughs that make milk come out your nose---so don't drink and read!  Perfect for kids 6-12.

     MY REVIEW:   Who doesn't love a good book of jokes? This book is great for kids, and can even be enjoyed by adults. Many of the knock-knock jokes have the same punch line with just a different method of getting there, but there are several others as well. I never knew there were backwards jokes, where the answer is given before the joke. Truth be told, it rather takes the fun out of it. I don't know if I would call the illustrations "hilarious" but then I am a bit older than 12. There could be more of them, though. All the jokes are kid friendly, and even a (very) few reference God, for example: Two brothers, Jamie and Sam, were deciding who got to eat the last waffle. Mom cam in and suggested, "Boys, don't you think Jesus would want you to share? I think He would give his waffle to His brother."    "That's a good idea," Sam said. "Jamie, you be Jesus." 
     A few examples of what you will find in this book:

  • Health Inspector: "I'm afraid you have too many roaches in here."  Restaurant Owner: "How many am I allowed?
  • What's red and smells like blue paint? Red paint. 
  • Where do pencils go on vacation? Pencilvania. 
  • Little Girl: "Mommy, you've got some gray hairs.  Mom: "Yes, every time you don't behave, I get another gray hair." Little Girl: ''Is that why Grandma has so many?"
  • Susie was so excited that she put together a puzzle in just 10 days even though the box said 2-4 years.
     ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Sandy Silverthorne is an award-winning author/illustrator with more than half a million copies in print. His award-winning Great Bible Adventure children's series has been distributed in eight languages worldwide. Sandy has worked as a cartoonist, author, illustrator, actor, pastor, speaker, and comedian. Apparently it's hard for him to focus.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

How Joyful People Think

     BOOK REVIEW:   Two people can face the same type of adversity and have two vastly different reactions, even when they have the same background and worldview. What makes the difference? Perspective---the way they think about things. Right thinking matters, and thankfully it's something we all can learn to do.
     In this insightful unpacking of Philippians 4:8, pastor Jamie Rasmussen shows you how to focus your thoughts and attention on the things in life God has declared will make a meaningful impact on both your outlook and experience. It's the kind of thinking that has the power to change us, pointing us away from self-pity, anger, and resentment toward contentment and personal peace.

     MY REVIEW:   I quite enjoyed this book. It is practical and down-to-earth. It's easy to see that Jamie put a lot of time and research into it. I really liked how he studied and explained the Greek meanings of the words in Philippians 4:8. It is really neat to see what the root word is, how to pronounce it, how many times and in what importance it is used in the Bible, and how much more it means than what we think "whatsoever things are pure, lovely, true, just, etc" mean.
     This book is easy to believe---it feels accomplishable, like what it has to say can be made practical in our own lives, not a book of someone's saintly achievements that we can never hope to reach. How we think is really important, and the better we understand these different aspects of thinking, the easier it will be to emulate them.
     A few quotes I especially liked:

  • " 'And the God, who is Peace, will be with you'. Notice that the core of the promise is not Peace but God, who brings Peace. The promise is the very presence of God, a God who 'will be with you' as a result of your learning to embrace His prescribed way of thinking."

  • "God is much more concerned with a particularly different kind of thinking, which leads to a particularly different set of goals and results. This different kind of thinking involves altered perspectives and a more rigorous application than merely focusing on positives, possibilities, or problem solving. It requires learning to think in ways that God has clearly prescribed. It involves learning to think as God wants us to think. It's also the kind of thinking that will make us more mature in our personhood, more faithful to Him, more loving toward others, and more satisfied within. It's the kind of thinking befitting a follower of Jesus Christ."
  I received a copy of this book from BAKER PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Rumored Fortune

     BOOK REVIEW:   Tressa Harlowe's father kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Now Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it.
     It doesn't take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they're really up to. She'll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father's fortune---before someone else finds it first.

     MY REVIEW:   As the first book I have had read from Joanna Davidson Politano, I have to say my interest was decidedly piqued. I have a deep and abiding love of Historical Fiction, most especially that of the Victorian era. And one can hardly go wrong with a treasure hunt. Add a few suspicious "mourning" guests and a valiant hero and what more could you ask for?
     A few points against the book: 1) I was a little disappointed that Tressa didn't seem to be genuinely searching for this rumored fortune, especially as they so desperately needed it to quell the relentless demands for payment made both by town shops and laborers. Her time was spent mourning the loss of her father, painting exquisite designs upon her ceiling, and trying to decide whom to trust. Her search was one more of the analytical than physical, which I didn't mind, I just wish there had been a bit more physical searching. 2) I had the true villain picked out by the middle pages, though I did not predict the depths of his villainry. However, these are only mild downfalls, not enough to spoil the book.
     I would not say that this book is one of deep reflection and profound insight. However, the relationship Tressa had with God was very realistic. She struggled to feel Him near as she lost one precious anchor after another. But finally, when she has lost her final security, she is able to see how God will withstand though all else fall. Being a book set in a vineyard, there are several practical applications made in comparison to the pruning of a grapevine. While it seemingly kills or stunts the plant, it instead brings forth greater yield than ever imagined.
     And whatever you think you know about the fortune....... think long and hard. It is quite the opposite of what I expected. :)

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Thief of Corinth

     BOOK REVIEW:   First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm.  It's also filled with danger and corruption---the perfect setting for Ariadne's greatest adventure.
     After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father's home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city's corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.
     Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father's apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future---and very lives--- hanging in the balance.
     When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they've fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

     MY REVIEW:   Tessa Afshar is a favorite author of mine, and it was with great excitement I anticipated this book. It did not disappoint. Whereas the others of her books have been about a certain Biblical character, this one is about a fictional character in a Biblical setting, with a few Biblical characters having secondary roles. In "A Note from the Author" Tessa reveals that this book was written more for those who are not familiar with the Bible, those who would see no significance in the book focusing on a key character.
     Ariadne lacked a mother's love, and was taken from her father at a young age. By the time she returns to him at 16, she does not even realize how this has shaped her. She loves her father with all her heart, but cannot see that it is her own selfishness dictating her actions. When a daring adventure reaps serious consequences, she is able to discover the reality behind her choices and lay it aside.
     Ariadne was never drawn to the popular gods, but chose rather to rely on "The Unknown God". When later she is introduced to Paul, she at first rebels against a god who would demand the whole of herself. But through the tragedy mentioned above, when she is brought to the very end of herself, Ariadne is able to accept God. An added bonus: the rest of her family has accepted Him as well.
     For background (albeit very limited) on this story, read the end of Acts 17. Dionysius is a member of Areopagus, where Paul is invited to preach. In this story, Dionysius is Ariadne's brother, the particular member who invited Paul to Areopagus. The reason for involving him is Tessa fascination with his being such an intelligent man, yet choosing to follow God.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Culture of Peace

     BOOK REVIEW:   Have you ever found yourself in a conflict with a friend or family member, unsure of how to restore the relationship? Do you sometimes find yourself unintentionally looking for the worst in people, judging them more critically than they deserve? Have you ever wondered how to help and minister to someone stuck in destructive or sinful behaviour?
     This book offers a road map for Christians to pursue a culture of peace and restore healthy relationships at home, at church, and at work. Through these personal stories and short, practical chapters written by professional counsellors, you'll find scriptural advice on how to:

  • Respond to conflict---great and small---with forgiveness and reconciliation. 
  • Restore and counsel other Christians who are caught in sin. 
  • React to criticism with grace and humility. 
  • Guard your heart against unfair judgments of others. 
Whether you're a pastor looking for advice on how to counsel members of your church, or whether you're a church member looking for advice on how to reconcile with a friend, a culture of peace is possible. 

     MY REVIEW:   This book is rather like a "Handbook to Peace". It is only 100 pages long, and smaller than your average book---I'd guess 6'' x 4''. Each of the four chapters are written by a different person. They discuss: Building Real Relationships; Church Discipline; How to Take Criticism; and Charitable Judgment. The chapters are short and to the point, and filled with wisdom to take to heart. 
     The two chapters that stuck out to me the most are the last two on Criticism and Judging. Criticism is really hard to take, but here we can see how to let it be for good; how to accept and even rejoice in it and not let it take us down. And Judging is something everyone has done. This book shows some of the ways we do it constantly and detrimentally to us and the other person. But especially, how it is wrong and to avoid it. 
    I received a copy of this book from HENDRICKSON PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Bible and Archaeology

     BOOK REVIEW:   Ancient artifacts and the Bible illuminate each other in various ways, but it can be difficult to understand how this process works and how archaeological discoveries should be interpreted. In this book, Matthieu Richelle provides an enlightening perspective on these issues, showing how texts and material culture are in a fascinating "dialogue" with one another that sheds light on the meaning and importance of both. What emerges is a rich and balanced picture that enlivens our understanding of the Bible's message, increases our appreciation for the historical and cultural contexts in which it was written, and helps us be realistic about the limits of our knowledge.

     MY REVIEW:   I found this book to be very interesting. I don't follow archaeological discoveries, therefore this was all new to me. I quite liked that it was written in layman's terms, so it was very easy to follow and understand, and did not drag along. Matthieu discusses different aspects of archaeology and how it relates to the Bible. For example: the different kinds of writings discovered and the difficulties in dating and interpreting them; the debated theories of when discovered cities/monuments were built and by whom; how the progression of pottery indicates the period that civilization lived (though there were no details on the pottery itself); and more. There are also 31 pictures in the back of the book of different finds. The pictures are clear and interesting.
     The objective of this book is to better prepare the reader to consider the new discoveries being made in an unbiased and intelligent manner. I would say that purpose is achieved, though one needs to realize it is not a full-blown account. The book is only 208 pages long. It is this fact, however, that makes it practical for the general public.

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

When Through Deep Waters

     BOOK REVIEW:   Alicen McCaffrey finally has the life her mother always dreamed for her: beautiful home in Santa Monica, successful husband, adorable daughter. Then tragedy blows her carefully assembled facade to pieces. Worse yet---Alicen feels solely responsible. At rock bottom, she decides to accompany a childhood friend back to Red Lodge, Montana, where they spent summers together as kids. 
     The peaceful mountain landscape, accented with lush forests and small-town charm, brings back happy memories of time spent with her beloved, eccentric Grandma Josephine. Alicen starts to hope that perhaps things could be different here. Perhaps the oppressive guilt will lift---if only for a moment. 
     But when Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing mysterious figures near the river in the woods, she begins to fear she's completely lost her sanity, as it's rumored her grandmother did. Might there be more to Red Lodge than meets the eye? Could the voices and visions be real---and her only means of finding the healing she so desperately needs? Or will they prove to be her final undoing? 

     MY REVIEW:   I have never disliked a book as I disliked this one. It was eerie and weird. A psychological fantasy mystery---I should have expected this. I really don't know how it can be called a Christian book. References to God were extremely rare and always vague. For a fantasy book it could be good, but really, why is fantasy even considered good Christian reading material? 
     Alicen keeps seeing four children appearing and speaking to her about things her grandmother told her years ago. She hates their presence and can't make them leave. She attends a psychotic facility where the director is controlled by a frightful demon of her past---a horrid uncle who, while dead, still plagues her. She has an twisted need to placate her past sins by hurting those she is supposed to be helping, thinking their suffering alleviates her sin. 
     If the reason for writing a book is to demonstrate God and His Care in the life of another (albeit fictional), then Rachelle missed. I will admit, Alicen finds release from the terrible guilt and despair she carries, but as I mentioned above, it is vague and feels slightly Satanic, rather than being God who showed her true redemption. This is a book I would warn against. Even if slivers of truth can be found, it really isn't worth the influence of the rest of the book. 

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

Practicing the King's Economy

     When I got this book I expected it to be about spending and managing your money in a way that pleases and glorifies God. It was that and more. It wasn't inapplicable and boring like I expected. Different avenues discussed are job creation, equality, potluck vs soup kitchen, giving and tithing, and more. They are things I've never given much thought to. For instance, in potluck vs soup kitchen, the authors bring out the difference in operation, feeling, and effectiveness. Soup kitchens hand out labels, even without meaning to. There are those manning the kitchen, the well-to-do. Then there's the recipients, the destitute and needy. Potlucks, on the other hand, allow everyone to contribute and take pride in the meal. Everyone is equal; there are no labels. The relationship is everyone give and take, rather than one or the other giving or taking. But of course not every circumstance is going to be able to produce a potluck, and lets not discredit that soup kitchens are doing amazing work.
     The different avenues of this book are each given two chapters, the first to outline it, and the second to make it practical and practicable in real life. The authors are real and honest about what they are doing or not doing with the practices in this book. It is written in an interesting and profitable way. Much can be learned from it that doesn't even have to do with money. One thing that stuck out to me in the first chapter, about worship and giving, is this quote from C. S. Lewis:
          "I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them." 
And one from the author :
          "We are often told we ought to be willing and ready to suffer for Jesus' sake. What we've forgotten in the West is that this doesn't just mean being ready to declare Jesus with our lips if anti-Christian terrorists come charging in with AK-47's in hand. It means declaring Jesus with our lives, not least by willingly entering into the suffering of the world's poor, taking some of their economic burdens onto our own backs. If we want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, then costly generosity will be one way we share in the fellowship of His and His Church's sufferings. Indeed, in a day when most of us in the United States will never face actual suffering for our faith, embracing voluntary suffering through sharing may be one of the most Christlike acts we ever commit." 
     I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone.

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Breaking the Fear Cycle

     BOOK REVIEW:   The Bible calls us to "fear not" on many occasions. But just how do we accomplish that when every news item seems designed to get us wringing our hands? Using her own story as a catalyst, Maria Furlough discusses how to overcome fear for good. With practicality and passion, she shows us the steps we can take to bring those fears to God rather than act on them and to trust God with the future.
     When we give God full control over our lives, choosing His sovereignty over our own ability, we can break the cycle of fear, grow though suffering, and trust God to fulfill His promises of protection and peace. If you are filled with anxiety about your personal circumstances, the state of the world today, or even your fear-clogged social media feeds, you'll welcome this hands-on journey from fear to freedom.

     MY REVIEW:   I enjoyed this book, even though I don't feel like I struggle with the kinds of fears portrayed in this book. And yet, there are many things that I could take from it. The book felt honest and down-to-earth. Maria was not afraid to uncover her personal fears and trials. And I liked that the last section has several stories of different people who overcame their fears, which is always nice to see as it attests to the realness of a book and its author.
     A few quotes that stuck out to me are:
*Do not spend one precious moment of joy focusing on fear of pain. 
*...in my experience, peace is not something that is poured out over us until we first determine to jump into it. Obtaining peace is not a blissful walk in the park; it is a hard-won battle, and peace is the prize. 
*Our fears are not trustworthy. They are not based on truth, they do not know facts, and they are guilty of vast exaggeration. 

     Maria covers many things in her book, from realizing the lying character of fear, to realizing Who holds your future, to giving God control of your life (and your fears), to facing your fears head-on, to resting in God's Peace and being willing to go through whatever He has in store for you. It is quite the book.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Breath of Hope

     BOOK REVIEW:   With her younger brother Ivar in tow, Nilda Carlson is on her way to America to join her oldest brother Rune and his family in the northern forests of Minnesota. While she sees this as a golden opportunity, she has enough experience in life to know it won't be easy. The transatlantic voyage itself proves to be an adventure, and she hopes she will feel safe in her new home.
     Rune and Signe Carlson are thrilled that Nilda and Ivar are coming to Minnesota, but life on the Strand farm remains a struggle. Rune is trying to build a house for his wife and children, but Uncle Einar Strand, obsessed with his own ambitions, refuses to help. What's more, he forbids anyone from the community to step foot on his land, leaving Rune to toil on his own. When a tragedy lays bare the truth behind Einar's anger and isolation, the Carlsons and Strands will have to come together like never before to become a true family.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is the second in Lauraine Snelling's UNDER THE NORTHERN LIGHTS series. The first book is The Promise of Dawn. I did not read the first book, and I don't think it took much away from this one. There was some background that I would have liked to know, but overall I could follow the story very well.
     The only of Lauraine's books I have read are the RED RIVER OF THE NORTH series and Daughter of Twin Oaks. I don't think I would rate this book as good as those. I found it a little boring and something about the dialogue I didn't care for. But opinions aside, the book is written well. The characters are strong and faithful, responding properly to the trials in their way (except of course for the one causing said trials). They grew and were strengthened, met good people and forged new friendships, supported each other and reached out to others. Any Lauraine fan would like this book. 
  I received a copy of this book from BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Yes Effect

     BOOK REVIEW:   We all long to do great things. But sometimes the needs of the world seem so insurmountable that we just shrink back. When this happens we need stories of God at work---stories like those in The Yes Effect---to renew our passion. 
     Luis Bush, originator of the 10/40 Window concept, recounts a lifetime of watching God move through the "yes" of His people. From communist China to the slums of Cairo, these accounts show that when God works in us, we join His work around us. True transformation is sparked when we reorient our hearts, get in sync, with God's tenderness toward the oppressed, and regain compassion for the lost. 

     MY REVIEW:   I liked this book. It is focused on spreading the Gospel, even when you don't think you can effect anything. Luis uses multiple true-life stories of people who answered "yes" to God's call, and the impact they were able to make through that.
     A huge factor in being able to spread the Gospel to those in need, is being willing to go wherever you are called. And many times, it is not a place or circumstance that makes sense to us. We think our impact is best made doing huge things in far-off lands. But that is not always the case. Often we are called to witness to the people in places we think very unlikely. Father Sama'an, in Cairo, Egypt, witnessed to his garbage man, Quidees. After committing his life to the Lord, Quidees adopted a concern for the destitute living in "garbage city", and convinced Father Sama'an to visit with them. As a result, a huge brotherhood of Christians was formed, and the formerly destitute people began to thrive, and were able to keep 80% of Cairo's garbage off the streets and recycle it to support themselves.
     Luis instigated several movements focused on the people who are most often over-looked. The 10/40 Window is the tribes between the latitudes of 10 and 40 who were most unreceptive to the Gospel, and therefore, the most over-looked. This movement focused on reaching out to them. Another movement was the 4/14 Movement, which focused on children between those ages. They work with these kids while in their most formative years. There are many other movements, but for sake of time and not revealing the entire book here, I shall leave as is.

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

42 Seconds

     BOOK REVIEW:   Every interaction you have can be significant.  Forty-two seconds. That's the average length of Jesus' conversations as recorded in the Gospels. Of course not every dialogue Jesus had was written down, but this glimpse into His way of interacting makes one thing clear: Jesus deeply and eternally impacted people's lives through brief, everyday connections---and you can too.
     Jesus kept it simple, straightforward, and real. Read 42 Seconds as an inspirational primer or a four-week devotional and learn how to be like Jesus as you engage daily with those God has placed in your life.

     MY REVIEW:   This book is a paradox. It covers a deep subject, yet is an easy read. I found the pages flying by. The meaning is clear and straightforward.
     Witnessing does not come easily to me. I don't really know how. I've never discussed it with anyone, or really figured out how it is "supposed" to be done. 42 Seconds reveals that witnessing is not complicated, does not have to be hard, and is not "right" or "wrong".
     The book is divided into four sections. The first three focus on critical attitudes Jesus used in witnessing. They are: BE KIND, BE PRESENT, and BE BRAVE. Respectively,
-Realize that you can witness to the janitor, waitress, checkout attendant, everyone---no one is too low to be passed by.
-Be all there when to speak with someone---rather than being distracted or impatient, make them know you care, and give them your full attention.
-Have the gumption to stand up for what you believe, do the hard thing, and realize when something is worth fighting over and when you should just leave it be.
     The last section is titled BE JESUS. We all think we know Jesus and are following His Word, but often we mistake or misrepresent things. We need to be sure of Jesus' lifestyle and teachings, then follow them. A thought I liked was that most of us work on making our actions look right and letting thoughts and beliefs follow. But rather, we need to focus on our beliefs, then the proper thoughts and actions will follow.
     "Carl Medearis is an author, a speaker, and an international expert in Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations, promoting peacemaking and cultural, political, and religious dialogue for reconciliation. He and his wife, Chris, have three children and live in Colorado." (back of book)

  I received this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS and was not required to write a positive review. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Coach Wooden's Forgotten Teams

     BOOK REVIEW:   Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is known for his record-breaking run of NCAA championships and for working with some of the best players in the sport. His principles for success have been used by not only coaches and athletes but also entrepreneurs and leaders of all kinds. But his reach stretches even farther than most people know---into the hearts and lives of the people who learned the game of basketball in one of Coach Wooden's forgotten teams. 

     For nearly twenty years, John Wooden ran scores of summer youth basketball camps, imparting wisdom and teaching skills to thousands of boys and girls between the ages of eight and fifteen. Most would not grow up to play professional or even college ball, but all of them found their lives changed by their interaction with the greatest coach who ever lived. In those camps, Coach Wooden also impacted hundreds of camp counselors and assistant coaches. 
     This one-of-a-kind book shares their inspiring stories, along with six fundamental lessons from Coach Wooden for a life of success and unforgettable impact on others. 

     MY REVIEW:   I had not heard of Coach John Wooden before getting this book, but it seems he was the best of basketball coaches. Pat Williams has written several books about him---this one focuses on his work with summer basketball camps for kids. The first section outlines the week of camp, then the rest of the book takes Coach Wooden's life practices and teachings and shows us the great love and care this man had for any and everyone. There is so much to learn from him---the way he valued people; his humility in giving all the credit to his teams; how he lead by example, never asking anyone to live in a way he did not already; teaching his team how to be respectful, considerate, neat, and humble; and so much more. One person said "John Wooden tried harder than any man I've ever met to be like Jesus Christ". Not until close to the end of the book when Pat is telling us about John's life does it come out that he was a Christian, but throughout the book I wondered if he wasn't. 
     This book has countless interviews, etc, with people who met, spoke with, or were impacted by Coach Wooden. It also includes wise sayings of his. A few I especially liked are: "Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference" and "Don't blame others for what you don't have. Be thankful for what you do have". Maybe my favorite lesson Coach Wooden taught was to make everyday your masterpiece. Prioritize, and do what will mean something in the end. Make time for people and relationships. Help someone who cannot return the favor. Don't waste a day, but make it worth something. 
  I received a copy of this book from REVELL. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Running the Good Race

     BOOK REVIEW:   In Running the Good Race, read how Dennis Blue, a man guided by his faith:

  • survived the tragic loss of Dorothy's parents, John and Lucille Hacker, in a plane crash,
  • flew as a missionary pilot in the Amazon bringing supplies to missionaries and Indians alike,
  • discovered a stone-age tribe in the dense jungles of Amazionia,
  • negotiated a peaceful outcome to a violent labor strike in Venezuela,
  • assisted in the establishment of Ford Motor Company operations in the Asia-Pacific region,
  • worked at senior executive level to help change the direction of the Ford Motor Company, and always
  • let his personal relationship with Jesus guide his decisions.
"I want you, the reader, to experience what my wife Dorothy and I affectionately call our 'Open Door Policy'. God directed our lives through doors that He opened for us and turned our faith into our reality. Running the Good Race can be your story---if you let yourself be led through the open.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5

     MY REVIEW:   This book is a 429 page autobiography of Dennis Blue, covering his life from his birth in 1933 through his retirement from Ford Motor Company in 1988. A sequel will cover the next several years. This book was interesting to me because it was the era of my grandparents. The way of living and the customs of the day are similar to what I think my grandparents would have seen. And while Ford wasn't talked about much in reference of operations, it was interesting to read about it from Dennis' administration perspective. It sort of felt like an 'America Remembered' book, what with the period it covered. Except it was mostly out of America, but anyway. :) 
     I was impressed by the vast amount of dates quoted in this book. It's amazing! Dennis seems to remember the exact date for every single occurrence in his life, from relocating between countries, to meeting new friends, to unexpected fishing/flying mishaps. And the details are incredible. Surprisingly the book does not drag. It's all interesting to read. If you have the time. :) And there are many pictures of friends and acquaintances throughout the years, as well as aerials from flying in Venezuela, the many boats they owned from place to place, fishing prizes, and more. The book is written in such a way as to seem almost like a journal, if in a freehand font. It doesn't have the polish some books have, but it doesn't need it. There are a few instances of misspelling or awkward sentence structure, but nothing laborious. 
     A few humorous happenings I enjoyed: 1) floating too close to the shore and having the breath knocked out by a 10-pound iguana!  2) transporting a tractor to the depths of the Amazon with no roads, only rivers (complete with pictures) and 3) catching a 719-pound black marlin in Australia. 
     This book tells of Dennis' life working for Ford, fishing every possible chance, and having the faith to follow God's leading. 

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pasta Chili.....then.....Leftover/Spaghetti Pizza

I tried a new recipe last week---Pasta Chili. Basically your regular red chili soup, but with pasta (in this case spaghetti) added in, and cheese melted on top. It gets thick like a casserole, but has that chili-ish taste. With pasta. I can't find the original recipe, but there are 300 variations on Pinterest, which is where I got mine (of course 😉). 

Anyway, it wasn't a big hit. Of course, only half the family was here that night to sample it, but I don't think they would have been too cracked over it. Usually, I'm biased enough (being the cook) to like anything I make, but I didn't even care for it. I think with some variation I would have, but not as I made it that night. 

And as it goes, I ended up with FAR too much left over, and no one interested in eating it. Problem.

Then this evening, I for some unknown reason was thinking about a macaroni and cheese pizza I made last summer (also Pinterest). That led to the idea of making a pizza out of my leftover pasta chili. And I've heard of spaghetti pizza, so it would be basically that. Why not try it???

I made a basic pizza crust and pre-baked it 15min. Then i spread an inch of spaghetti-like substance over it. I then sprinkled on some chopped raw carrots. I don't know where that idea came from, but it seemed a good idea. Finally, some shredded co-jack cheese. Because all pizza needs cheese. 10min longer in the oven, finishing with a mild broil (to melt the cheese and make everything golden brown and bubbly. It also takes care of that slightly watery center that likes to present itself). 


I was impressed!! It turned out rather good. Definitely better than eating the plain leftovers. 
And the carrots were indeed a good idea. 

Monday, April 2, 2018


     BOOK REVIEW:   Is God dying? That's what some people think and want. They say Christian beliefs and our way of life aren't relevant anymore. but what critics and even many churchgoers don't realize is the life-changing importance of Christianity.
     Showing how the world without Christianity would be a dark place, Unimaginable guides you through the halls of history to see how Jesus' teachings dramatically changed our world and continue to be the most powerful force for good today. Learn:

  • How Christianity has stood against the evils of slavery (more than once), racism, eugenics, and injustices toward women and children. 
  • Why democracy, freedom as a universal value, and modern education and legal systems owe much to Christianity. 
  • How Christians throughout the ages have demonstrated the value of human life by sacrificially caring for the sick, handicapped, marginalized, and dying.
  • How people of faith are extending God's kingdom through charities, social justice efforts, mental health initiatives, and other profound ways. 
This provocative and enlightening book is for anyone concerned about where our world is heading. 

     MY REVIEW:   I was a little unsure about this book. I didn't know if it would veer into some strange theories, or present weird suppositions. But I was pleased with it. The book is divided into three categories: The World Before Christianity; The World Without Christianity; and The World With Christianity. The Greeks and Romans seem to be the main characters.
     The first section tells of life before Jesus' ministry. Superstition ran rampant. People were fearful of death and all things unknown. Life expectancy was very short. Anyone of a different race or standing were considered below par. And so on. There was a portion on the many god's of the Greeks and Romans, and Rome's evil rulers. It was interesting to read about them a bit.
     The second section is after Jesus' ministry, into the 1800's. Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Ludwig Feuerbach, Freidrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud are considered the "Big Five" who led us away from the Judeo-Christian setting. Then we have several prominent atheists who came onto the scene. They are followed by the communism crowd: Adolf Hilter (opposed by Winston Churchill), Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, and the Kim dynasty. It is shown how atheism is so deeply embedded in communism, and how spectacularly the original goal for communism failed.
     The last section discusses first how churches around the world are helping poor and needy people and enriching their lives. Then there are several chapters on why Christians were so hated by the Romans. He discusses how the hope, equality, and love that are so fundamental in Christianity were the things that drew people to it, yet it was also these things that so infuriated the rulers. The hatred then escalated after Nero blamed them for the fiery destruction of Rome.
     This book was written by Jeremiah J. Johnston. I found it to be written quite well, not dry or requiring massive effort to read through.

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Better Together

     BOOK REVIEW:   Ever feel like success in life is all about you? And even trying to "die to self" only makes you more self-consumed?
     The Bible certainly has a lot to say about "you", but it has even more to say about "us". In fact, there are over 100 passages in the Bible where the two words let us are used. Let us not give up meeting together..... Let us encourage one another..... Let us serve one another. Could it be that the only way to fix "me" is found in "we"?
     Sure, that all sounds good to the "people persons" among us, but what about those who prefer to go it alone?
     It turns out, the people who think they don't need community may need it most of all! In these pages, pastor Rusty George---a self-proclaimed introvert by nature---gives you the tools to "do life together", whether that feels natural to you or not. He shares such secrets as how to become more vulnerable, how to draw other people into your everyday life, and how to lean on others in times of need. Together we connect with God better. Together we heal better. Together we overcome fears, raise families, fight temptations, and bless the world better.
     Learn what it means to live in true community and find the fulfillment you've been looking for!

     MY REVIEW:   I really enjoyed this book. It's written very well, kept interesting and not dragging. I've not before given such thought to the importance of community, but I had to agree with all he said. Better together indeed!
     Not just going to church and engaging in brief small-talk while your spouse catches up with a friend; rather, inviting people into "you" and being vulnerable and willing to share your trials and insecurities. Rusty talks about several different fields in which together is better, and why.
     Temptations are better overcome when shared with others and held accountable. And knowing you are not the only one to struggle in whatever area can give the strength to believe in overcoming.
     More is accomplished (with less headache) together. When we are willing to let others help us with our important projects instead of stubbornly doing it all on our own we really do get more done, and with less stress.
     When facing a "scary" or hard circumstance, friends are what take you through. Circling arms and plunging forward is far more effective than tentatively advancing on your own. Rusty gives the example of surviving a haunted house with his friends in middle school. The only reason they didn't run screaming was their circled arms with one another (apparently if everyone pulled in different directions no one actually got away :)
     Rusty George has pastored Real Life Church in California for 11 years. He can be found at pastorrustygeorge.com. I tried to see if he has written any other books, but couldn't find a book page on his website. In the "about" section it says he has authored several books. On Amazon I found When God, Then You: 7 Things God is Waiting to do in Your Life and If/Then: Unleashing God's Power in Your Life. Both are books I want to read sometime.

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

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.