Monday, February 27, 2017

Land of Silence

    BOOK REVIEW:   Before Christ called her daughter.....Before she stole healing by touching the hem of His garment.........     Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father's textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.
No physician can cure her. No end is in sight.   Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body, heart, and soul?

    MY REVIEW:    I have read one of Tessa Afshar's books (In the Field of Grace) and completely loved it. When I saw that she had written another I instantly grabbed it. The combination of her writing the book and the topic she wrote about intrigued me--I was curious to see what kind of story would be written about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' skirt. The book did not disappoint. However, with as little as is said about the woman in the Gospels, LAND OF SILENCE is more fiction than Biblical. And yet, Tessa wrote a story that fits well with the known culture of those days--it reads with a believable ring.
I am the kind of reader who can especially enjoy a particular thread of  a story, and when it is severed, I can be quite dissappointed. This book was one that almost threatened to do so--I had to read a bit of the end to assure myself that I wouldn't be too disappointed to finish it. 😊
One thing I especially liked in the ending of the story was the forgiveness Elianna finally gave to those who had hurt her in life. For most of her life, she was burdened with bitter thoughts towards her father, plus a few other characters as time went by. When she finally forgave them, her burden was lifted. This is what I call a trully "happy ending", and it really makes the book worth reading.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God

     BOOK REVIEW:  Who doesn't have questions about God? But where in the world can you go to get answers?    Eric Metaxas has been there, so he gets it. That's why he's written this shockingly down-to-earth book on the big questions everyone asks (but not always out loud). Totally conversational and sometimes flat-out hilarious, this book asks:

  • How can a good God create a world that has evil and suffering?
  • Is God anti-sex?
  • Doesn't science make God obsolete?
  • What's the real story on miracles?
  • If God is everywhere, why go to church?
  • Don't we already have God within us?
  • Isn't God too busy running the universe to care about the details of my day?
These questions (and many more) get no-nonsense answers that don't hide behind dull theological language. So get the lowdown (and more than a few laughs) on what are probably the most important questions anyone has.

     MY REVIEW:   I was a little skeptical when I started reading this book, but found it to be rather well-done. For instance, in answer to the question of why God allows evil in His world, Eric answers: "God allows evil to exist because He gave us all free will, and He wants us to exercise that will. It would be meaningless to have the ability to make choices if there were only one option available--if, for example, there were only good in the universe"
Another answer I liked was to the question of why God cares for all the little things in our lives if He has the whole universe to control. Eric replies that God is all-knowing and all-loving and to assume that He doesn't see everything that happens to us it to negate His omnipresence and love. 
This is an interesting book to read--it is written in question-and-answer form, as though listening to a conversation. The context itself is worth reading as well. 

         I received this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mini Chicken Turnovers

 For supper tonight we had Chili and Mini Chicken Turnovers.

These are really good, though slightly tedious to make. They can be really fun if you get into it.

They can be eaten hot or cold--both are good.

The first time I made these, my brain atomatically filtered out the "mini". Imagine my surprise when I cut out that first 2-inch circle, and realized what I had just comitted myself to.

As you can see, it can be a bit of a process to make them.
--But it is definately worth it!!

Cake Pops


                                       Hmmm, I have six small piles of icing, all different colors. 
                                                              What should I do with them?? 
                                                                        Wait--I know!!! 
                                                                    I'll make cake pops!

                                                             And I'll have my sister help!

                         It would have been brilliant to, had my coating chocolate not been too old. πŸ˜‰   

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

God's Easter Miracles

  This is yet another book from Lee Ann Mancini's series, Adventures of the Sea Kids. The subject is Easter. All the sea kids go to Sunday School and have an Easter egg hunt. Three of the eggs have crosses on them. Any kids who got these eggs would get a special prize. Jimmy got two, and his autistic friend, Paul, wanted one, but Jimmy didn't want to give him any.
During class, the preacher came in and asked the children to pray for a little boy who had gotten hit by a propellor. The teacher led the class in praying for an Easter miracle.
Later at home, Jimmy prays for two miracles: that the little boy would be all right, and that Jimmy himself would have a change of heart and give Paul one of his eggs. Jimmy got  his miracles and more--when Paul got his special prize, he gave it to the little boy who had gotten hurt. Both Jimmy and Paul learned that just as getting is fun, giving is even more fun. Next Sunday the teacher tells the class that they have been blessed with many miracles from God, and that they can show love to each other just as Jesus did when He died for them.

    I received this book from the author through BOOKCRASH in exchange for my honest review. 

Be Bold

   BE BOLD is a devotional coloring book written by Ellen Elliott. Each spread has a devotional and Bible verse on the left, with a coloring picture and saying (taken from the verse) on the right. There are about 30 spreads, plus a few lined journal pages at the end.
  The book is about 9x9 square--big enough to be easy to use, yet small enough that it doesn't take up a lot of space. The coloring pages are somewhat of an abstract design, but not overly complicated. You can put effort into it, but not feel overwhelmed by all the tiny details.
   This looks like a really neat book, and would make a great gift--it scores major brownie points with little sisters. 😊


     I received a copy of this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Last Operative

  BOOK REVIEW: Jordan Kirkwood's career as an NSA intelligence operative has taken a toll. His two adult children are little more than acquaintances. His wife has been patient and supportive, but she deserves better. That was one reason they were going to meet in London. HE wanted her to see Europe like a tourist. But horrifying intelligence confided to him in Frankfort on the way changes everything. The threat is grave--worse than 9/11. And someone inside the NSA may be behind it all. Jordan's deepest secret--one unknown to even him--will be unmasked during his most dangerous mission, but first he must figure out who he can trust, with the fate of his country in the balance.

  MY REVIEW:  The Last Operative is a rewrite of Jerry Jenkin's 1987 The Operative. The publisher suggested he rewrite the story to fit today's audience. So he did, changing the antagonist, the main character's last name, and a few other things. He also experimented with a new dialogue structure, omitting any "he said/she said" sequences. I found it to be very well-done--I had no problem keeping up. In fact, it seemed to make the story more of an eye-witness account than a retelling.
  I like thrillers, and this was no exception. One of the main reasons I liked it is the international intrigue involving NSA, CIA, and Interpol.
  Jenkins spends the first half of the book building the foundation, bringing in background information, and thoroughly outlining the events bringing on the case. The action itself comes out in the second half when Jordan is "saving the world". Many books like this would be tedious at best, but I enjoyed this one.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pursuit of Justice

     BOOK REVIEW:   For centuries, the legend of the Spider Rock treasure has lured people to West Texas with promises of unimaginable wealth.  And it just claimed three more victims.      Did they fall prey to the legend's curse or just get too close to someone else's discovery? To investigate the murders, the FBI calls in one of its most promising up-and-comers--Special Agent Bella Jordan. What they don't know is that one of their prime suspects is deeply connected to the past she's been running from for fourteen years.
       As Bella begins to sift through evidence, another murder and threats on her own life convince her she's hunting an experienced killer. . . . .and he's not working alone. To catch the suspect before he catches her, Bella must draw on all her skill and instinct and finally gather the courage to face the memories she's tried so hard to forget.

      MY REVIEW:   Bella Jordan is sent to her hometown on a case--to the place she vowed never again to return to. And put in charge of a case involving people from her past--whom she has vowed never to see again.
     Carr Sullivan has a colorful past, but is now born again in Christ and living for Him, with plans to start a home for troubled boys. But everything is turned upside-down when three men are found dead on his property--shot with his gun. Suddenly his ranch is inhabited with sheriffs, deputies, and FBI agents, and all his plans are on hold. Why is this happening? And who is doing it? And how does Carr clear his name?
      I thought this was a very interesting book. There is the given romance between Carr and Bella, but it is nicely played-down--some authors can really over-do it, but DiAnn did a good job. The storyline was really good--things kept happening and new things kept being brought in.
      Pursuit of Justice is preceded by Breach of Trust and Sworn to Protect.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Still Life


       This book is the second in Dani Pettrey's Chesapeake Valor series. It can be read separate from the first book, but is about the same people and uses some flashback, so reading the first book is helpful.
        I enjoyed this book. The plot was very interesting, albeit a disturbing one, and I liked the range of characters involved. However, I could have done without the over-emphasized romance between team members. It was over-done and unrealistic.
        Avery Tate attends an opening for an art exhibit in which her friend (Skylar) modeled, but is worried when Skylar doesn't show up. She is even more worried when she finds out that Skylar's picture has been switched out--and her picture looks vividly more real than the rest, which is not a good thing considering the theme of the photos. Avery enlists the help of Parker Mitchell, crime scene analyst, to help her track down Skylar. Trying every avenue they can find, they are not having much success. It doesn't help that Skylar isn't the best of characters and is known for being flighty and untrustworthy.
        There is an unexpected twist in the ending, one that I was not in the least expecting. It really made the story more interesting, and the villain more demented.
        I enjoyed watching things play out, though as I mentioned above, the plot is a little disturbing. It reminds one of the horrible evil out there, and the twisted thinking and actions that are brought on by it. If you don't like books that make you feel as though you are the one being watched, then I wouldn't recommend this book or the first one. But if that doesn't bother you, then you may enjoy it.

                 I received this book from BETHANY HOUSE in exchange for my honest review. 

Cold Shot

      BOOK REVIEW:     Four best friends. And then one went missing.....   In college, Griffin McCray and his three best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore Police Department, Declan Grey would head to the FBI, and Parker Mitchell would study to become a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled.
       Now years later, Griffin has left the police and his friendships behind. Still trying to forget a case that went bad when he was a SWAT team sniper, he's living a quiet life as a park ranger at Gettysburg. Quiet until skeletal remains are uncovered near Little Round Top--and they aren't Civil War-era.
       Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Grey steps in to take over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes that he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he--and those he cares about--are going to escape a downward spiral of crime, danger, and murder.

        MY REVIEW:     This is the first book in Dani Pettrey's second mystery series, Chesapeake Valor.  I enjoyed the book, but I don't think this series will be as good as her first one.
        The mystery line was very well-done in my opinion--interesting and full of twists. The remains of a young woman, buried within the last year, are found in the woods. As the team works to identify the victim, they realize the killer is watching them and determined to keep them from discovering who she is. It was interesting to see how they finally figured out who the victim was and why she had been killed. And of course, finding her killer (which, by the way, you won't be able to figure out).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Your Next 24 Hours

        I really liked this book--it was very well-written and put together.
        The power of kindness. In this book, Hal Donaldson declares that being kind is revolutionary. He outlines several different mindsets that allow you to be kind, including specific ways to show kindness. There were a few things that stuck out to me:

"Life's windshield is large and the rearview mirror is small--because what is in front of you is far more important than what is behind you."  If you spend all your time worrying over the past, you lose sight of the future, and the present becomes the past. I often have to make myself stop and look forward--what's past is past and unchangeable.

"In most instances, people are more inclined to listen if you make your words count--and less inclined if you let your words mount."  Again, I was struck by this. Do we start conversations to learn about the other person or have an excuse to talk about our own amazing selves?

"One sentence spoken in anger or haste can be completely forgotten by the speaker and, years later, be quoted verbatim by the recipient."   I have been on both ends of this and it's true! The speaker may not mean what he says in haste, but he recipient doesn't know that, and often struggles with it.

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies." --Nelson Mandela   Hal quotes a lot of people, and I like that. He puts his thoughts and theirs in his book, making it apply to all. This quote is an especially important one--I've seen too many people try it and it never works.

If every person who read this book showed kindness to a friend, who showed kindness to a friend, who showed kindness to a friend, what a world we would live in!

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." --Mother Teresa  

                       I received this book from BAKER BOOKS in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Made for a Purpose

    Made for a Purpose is written and illustrated by Kristi Wilde, and is the first in her JOYFUL CREATION series. As stated on the back cover, "This delightful book appeals to the -why- in every child, inspiring them to discover God's wisdom displayed in the world around, as well as within them". Each set of pages shows a different animal, and explains why they have their particular distinctive "mark", such as webbed feet on ducks, eyes on the tops of frog's heads, and the turtle's hard shell.
    The book itself is a regular 8x8-sized softcover kid's book. The pages are smooth but with a textured look, which is really neat. And it is not a long book at all, only eighteen pages, which works well for young children who lose interest quickly. The pictures are also really good--they are clear and simple, but not boring. It's the perfect blend between enough to look at while reading the words, and so much that nothing stands out. It actually looks like Kristi painted them. If so, she did a fantastic job! One thing I especially liked about them is for each animal, she has several of that type, rather than only one. It seems to solidify her point in some way.

   I recieved this book from the author through BOOKCRASH in exchange for my honest review. 

The Chamberlain Key

         Timothy Smith says he has made the greatest discovery of our day--an encrypted code in the oldest Hebrew texts of the Bible. He realized that he and his father both had six sons then a daughter. What family in the Bible had the same? Jacob and Leah. And the chances of such happening is fairly small. He went to Genesis 30, to the verses that tell of Jacob and Leah's family, and in the Hebrew text, found his own name, Timotheus, encrypted at an equidistance of sixteen, with his wife's full, unusual name right beside it. He believes he has found a "key" to discovering other codes in the text. He has found many other encryptions, including links to the Rocio Madonna legend of the Catholics. But the greatest thing is the dire warnings he believes he has found and will continue to find.
          I found this to be a very interesting and well-written book. I was interested the whole way through. I really liked Smith's style of writing--he kept it simple but informative, and had a good overall sense that he believes what he's writing about, but understands that others may not.

           I received this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Pecan Pinwheels and Cast-Iron Nachos

Our new favorite cookies---Pecan Pinwheels

This is actually the second time I made these--they are extraordinarily good! They take a bit of work to make, but are well worth it. 

If your mom is anything like mine, she is always ok with having lunch just show up, especially if you make her something like Cast-Iron Nachos

This is simply chips, hamburger, beans, cheese, and toppings layered on top of each other and baked for a few minutes. They are really quite good, and terribly fun to eat (just try it--I guarantee eating dirrectly from the pan will taste much better than putting some on a plateπŸ˜‹)  I didn't have any tomatoes or green chilies or olives to "decorate" these with, so I used frozen chopped peppers. They lended a really yummy taste--I was pleasantly surprised! I think they should be added to the recipe. 

Troublesome Creek

         BOOK REVIEW:   Copper loves life on Troublesome Creek. But the waters that nearly stole her life so long ago now bring change she doesn't want to face.
         With a step-mother determined to transform her into a proper lady, a loving father still bound to his painful past, and a suitor bearing the promise of a whole new life, Copper faces the biggest crossroads of her life.
         Her passions run as wild as the churning waters of Troublesome. But perhaps her heart will lead her into calm depths she's never known before.......

          MY REVIEW:    This is the story of Laura Grace (Copper) and her life in the hills. I found the book to be interesting, not quite what I was expecting, but different in a good way.
          Copper loves her mountains, her family, her life. She is devastated to find out that her step-mother wants to send her to school in the city. She determines not to go, and with the help of a friend plans her "escape", should the need arise. This results in Copper meeting a most unusual friend.
          I enjoyed reading about Copper's life and interests. I also enjoyed the way the author used flashback to tell the story between Copper's dad and her real mom. It made the story's fit together in a unique way--less of the jump between stories that often result in having one story than the second one years later.

God Among Sages

SAGE: a profoundly wise person; a
person famed for wisdom
      When I first got this book, I was afraid I'd have to wade through it, but as I started reading, I really enjoyed it.
      The book is divided into three sections:
The Historic Christian Portrait of Jesus Christ. This section talks about Jesus Christ--His life and ministry, His deity, etc. For instance, five divine prerogatives Jesus invoked are: Forgiving sin, Accepting worship, Answering prayer, Raising the dead, and Judging humanity. These are things only a divine being is able to do, and Jesus did them all--this proves that he was indeed God in human form.
Two statements about Jesus and His ministry that I especially liked are: All things in life should be motivated by a love for God and then, as an extension, a love for one's neighbor. and "The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God (C.S.Lewis)". 
Four Major Leaders of World Religions and Jesus. In this section, Jesus is compared with the leaders of the four major religions: Krishna (Hinduism), Gautama (Buddhism), Confucius (Confucianism), and Muhammad (Islam). In each comparison, the life of the world leader is explained, as well as the main points and beliefs of that religion. Then they are compared to Jesus and Christianity. A quote I especially liked from one of the comparisons is: "The Buddha himself is not essential to the core of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths constitute the heart of the Buddhist philosophy. The Buddha serves in the valuable roles of example, inspirer, and teacher. But the truths of Buddhism stand independent of the pathfinder. On the other hand, historic Christianity is all about Christ--emphasizing His person, nature, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus Christ reconciles God and humanity because He is both God and human. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) and therefore is the very essence of the faith."  
Christianity and the World's Religions. One of the focuses of this section is the relation of the world's religions to each other. Some say that all religions are the same because we all worship the same God. But Kenneth Samples explains that that is not so--each religion has a different view of God Himself, plus different doctrines, and these views and doctrines contrast with each other.
       A note in conclusion: "It is a prudent thing to place Jesus alongside the spiritual sages, because in doing so, we realize that the most extraordinary people who have ever lived pale in comparison to the Lord, the Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God. Seeing Jesus vis-a-vis the world's religious leaders gives us breathtaking perspective on the greatest person in history."

                     I received this book from BAKER BOOKS in exchange for my honest review.