Saturday, December 11, 2010


Happy Snowflakes Christmas
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Isaac Newton by Mitch Stokes

This book is part of Thomas Nelson's Christian Encounters series, a group of biographies designed to bring to light the Christian faith of historical figures.

I normally love biographies and have really appreciated the Christian Encounters series. I love getting new insight into the lives of famous people, particularly their faith. However, I was very disappointed in this one. While I would normally read a book like this in a day or two, this one took me months. It is very dry and slow going.

There is very little new insight into the life of Isaac Newton. It is predominantly about his scientific and mathematical discoveries that we all learned in high school. Only a very small portion of the book covers his personal life and there is even less about his faith. The author brings up the topic of Newton's anti-trinitarian views, but does not give it any thorough analysis. It seems like much of the book is just rehashing his correspondence with the Royal Society and other scientists of his day.

Overall, this book was disappointing, though it might be valuable for homeschool purposes.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Vigilante's Bride

Sent to marry a man she does not know by the leadership of Aldersgate Home for Girls, young Emily McCarthy sets out on the stage coach for Montana.

Vigilante Luke Sullivan robs that very stage coach to reclaim the money stolen from his Pa, only to find that Emily is about to marry his archenemy, an evil man named Bart Axel. He opts to kidnap her rather than send her off to be married to Axel. Taking her to the orphanage that grew up in, Emily and Luke both start new lives in Montana. Her help proves to invaluable at the orphanage as a teacher and Luke set out to find what happened to so much of the herd that seems to have disappeared.

This fast paced story is a thrilling tale of vigilantes, cowboys, Indians, land disputes, cattle rustling, and all that made the Wild West wild. It is a page-turner that keeps you hanging onto every word until the very end.

While I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House, that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

In Every Heartbeat

By Kim Vogel Sawyer

Libby, Bennett, and Pete all grew up in the same orphanage. Now heading off to college, life is taking them in new but different directions. Faced with the challenges that all young college students face, a rift begins to form in their relationships. When Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete’s family, their relationships are really put to the test.

When I first began reading this book it felt more like junior fiction to me. I also found myself annoyed with Libby and her feminist attitude. That being said, in the end I loved the book. It’s a very good picture of the struggles we all have as young adults, and God’s grace comes shining through in Libby’s life in an amazing way.

This is a beautiful story of friendships, love, forgiveness and redemption. I would recommend for both teen and adults.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Love's First Bloom

By Delia Parr

In this beautiful piece of historical fiction young Ruth Livingstone's life is dramatically changed when her father, a minister to fallen women, is charged with murder. Though a woman of faith, her father uses the network he has in place for rescuing women leaving a life of prostitution to send his daughter away with a small child.

Ruth humbly assumes the role of the Widow Malloy, staying in the home of one of the couples who helps rescue these women, with a rambunctious two year old to care for while waiting for her father to be acquitted.

No one knows her true identity, but a few newspaper men are determined to find her, including a man known to her as Jake Spencer.

This book is a beautiful story of a daughter's love for her father, of forgiveness, and of true faith that is evidenced in good works.


Unlocked is the beautiful story of Holden Harris, a teenage boy locked in the prison of autism and Ella Reynolds teenage drama star and daughter of a major league baseball player.
Ella and Holden had been friends as small children, before Holden began to slip away into his silent world at the age of three. As their parents’ friendship fades under the stress of Holden’s strangeness, Ella and Holden lose contact.
At the beginning of her senior year, Ella witnesses her boyfriend bullying a one of the special needs kids – one whose quirkiness frightens most. Later that same student stops outside her drama class, mesmerized by the music. As their friendship unfolds, God’s mighty power is made known in miraculous ways.
In this book, Kingsbury addresses some very tough teen issues, as well as things many adult women struggle with. From autism to bullying and suicide, these issues are dealt with thoroughly and biblically.
This book offers a rare glimpse into the world of autism.  Kingsbury offer a look inside the mind of an autistic teen with what it just might be like to be trapped inside your own mind. Though we really don’t know what it is like to be autistic, or what causes the strange behavior, reading this book will give you a much deeper understanding of people with autism.

This book is very powerfully written and I highly recommend it.
I must mention that a complimentary review copy was provided to me by Zondervan, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

You can read a sample here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Within My Heart

By Tamera Alexander

This is the story of Rachel Boyd and Dr Rand Brookston. Rachel is a young widow who is struggling to keep her promise to her late husband and keep their ranch afloat while raising two small boys, one of whom has been causing much mischief. Though getting by with the help of this small community, Rachel is still hanging onto deep-rooted fears.

Rand Brookston is a doctor who has come west to set up a medical clinic in this small town, while hiding from his own fears.

Brought together by a medical emergency, these two must begin to learn to trust one another.

Set in post-civil war Colorado, this is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction. The characters are well developed and believable. The storyline draws you in and holds you until the end. The book was clearly very well researched and the struggles of the pioneers are brought to life.

I would have liked to have seen more Christian faith come through in this book, but overall it was a great story.

I must mention that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Take Three

Take Three is the third book in the Above the Line series. This is the continuing story of Christian filmmakers Keith Ellison and Chase Ryan. While their first film was a success, family problems and budget issues threaten the project.
This is a brilliantly written story that tugs at your heartstrings. The characters draw you into their lives and come alive to you. The issues they handle are issues that face many Christians and Kingsbury handles them in a biblical way that will encourage you in your walk with the Lord. The strong thread of faith weaves through the story just as Kingsbury readers have come to expect. 
For long time Kingsbury readers appearances from the Flannigans and the Baxters give you a glimpse into their continuing stories. However, if you have not read Karen Kingsbury previously, keeping track of all of the characters might prove to be difficult.
Overall, this was another homerun by Karen Kingsbury.
I must mention that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Has Christianity Failed You?

By Ravi Zacharias

This book is written for those struggling with questions of faith and those who have left the church.

Throughout the book the author attempts to answer questions such as “Who is Jesus?”, “What Does it Mean to be a Christian,” and “Does Prayer make a difference?”

I say “attempts” because most often his answers are vague and the chapters ramble on with endless illustrations and anecdotes. I found that the excessive use of illustrations actually detracted from the book and often muddied the waters rather than clarifying the point he was trying to make. He says on several occasions that he doesn’t want to use theological terms, yet often theological terms are what best describe theological ideas. To refuse to use them assumes that the reader is either ignorant or unable to learn “big words.”

I did find the last two chapters to be quite worth reading and deserving of a resounding “Amen” in that he finally gets to the root of the issue – churches who have compromised the gospel and have made promises that God never made, leading people to feel that they have been let down, when the truth is that they had the wrong expectation of Christianity in the first place.

Overall, it was a bit of a tedious book to read and I was left feeling that he didn’t thoroughly answer the question that he posed in the book.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary copy of the book from Zondervan, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Love is a Flame

Let me start by saying what this book is not. This is not just another self-help book. This is not Christian happy talk about how great your Christian marriage should be. This is not psychology.

This is reality. These are true stories written by the people who lived them. Some of these couples have survived difficult things like adultery, pornography, and separations. Others are lighter stories of things we all do – unrealistic expectations we bring into marriage, misplaced priorities, and falling into the “busyness” of life. Some will make you laugh, others may bring tears, but all of them will show you how others have kept the flame alive.

If found this book to be thought-provoking and encouraging. The format makes it very easy to read and enjoyable. Each of the stories is short, three to four pages, and ends with reflections by James Bell. I started out intending to read a couple of stories per day but I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one afternoon.

This book is great for anyone – newly engaged couples to those who have been married for years. There are valuable lessons contained in these true stories that we all can learn from.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House publishers, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sixteen Brides

By Stephanie Whitson

This is a story of Civil War widows who set out with the dream of claiming land in Nebraska through the Homestead Act, only to discover they had been tricked by the land agent who had actually promised them as brides to the men in Cayote, Nebraska.

Several of these courageous women stay behind in the up-and-coming town Plum Grove to follow the dream of owning land, a daring prospect for women on their own.

At first it was difficult to keep track of so many primary characters, but as the story unfolds it gets easier. The characters are all very distinct and well-developed. Each comes from a very different background, yet together they make a great team and lifelong friends.

A thread of romance runs through the novel as these ladies begin to move past there lost husbands and begin to notice the local men who have helped them out.

Christian faith and values also come through very strongly in this story.

Life on the Nebraska plains comes alive as the author gives a great peak into the lives of those on the Plains after the Civil War. From raging prairie fires to quilting bees and house-raisings this is historical fiction at its finest.

I will be looking forward to more novels by Stephanie Whitson.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House, however that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hearts Awakening - by Delia Parr

Set in the 1840’s on Dillon Island, a privately owned island and home to an apple orchard on the Susquehanna River, this is a story of a plain spinster (Elvira Kilmer) and a young widower named Jackson Smith. Both are hiding from their past.

Smith hires Kilmer as a housekeeper so he is free to work his apple orchard while she tends to the house and two small boys. Smith quickly sees her as an answer to his problems, yet what he proposes is quite unconventional.

The story is rich in detail, emotion, and faith. The characters are endearing and vibrant. The plot is rich and fairly fast moving. The details of island life during that time come alive in this book.

Unlike much of the Christian fiction of today, this book really is Christian. Faith, forgiveness, and redemption are strong themes throughout.

I would strongly recommend this book to all Christian historical fiction lovers.

I must mention that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Somewhere to Belong - by Judith Miller

Set in the 1870’s in the Christian cooperative community of Main Amana, Iowa this is the story of two young women, Johanna Ilg and Berta Schumacher.

Johanna is a kind, compassionate, and respectful young woman who has grown up in Main Amana. Though she longs to see the outside world she knows her home is Main Amana. She is given the task of training Berta Schumacher in the ways of life in the Amana Community.

Berta is a spoiled and rebellious daughter of a physician who is forced to move to Main Amana when her parents decide a simpler life would be best for all of them.
Berta antics were good for few laughs, but nevertheless the plot was fairly predictable - with one exception near the end.

The characters were rather flat and I really had a hard time connecting with either one of them.

It is clear that the author put a considerable amount of research into this book. There is great detail in the political structure of the colonies. She clearly understood what the gender roles were and how they all worked together as a community. However, there was very little detail in regards to the theology of the people, which would seem to be more important in a Christian Community.

Overall, it was a decent book, but not great.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book, but that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

She Walks in Beauty

The opulence of the Gilded Era. Splendor, beauty, and extravagance. Elaborate dinners, majestic balls, and fancy gowns.

These are the things that are commonplace in Miss Clara Carter’s life. Clara is a young debutante striving to learn the rules of social engagement in a time when appearance was everything. Tasked by her overbearing Aunt and father with catching the eye of the seasons most eligible heir, Clara finds herself trying to maintain her own identity in a world that defined the worth of a woman by her waist size and her ability to entertain. Her every move ends up in the social columns of New York’s best newspapers. However Clara is an intelligent young woman who would much prefer to continue her education and look to find true love. As young girl her mother had sung “Just as I am” to her many times. Is it possible that God could love her just as she is?

This book has all the makings of a great novel. Well-developed characters that are rich and deep. Just enough mystery to keep you wondering. Friendships that are strained by the pressures of high society. Family secrets, trickery and deceit.

This is the first book I have read by Siri Mitchell, but it won’t be the last.

I must mentioned that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book, however that did not in anyway influence my opinion of it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hunter's Moon

The book begins with CJ Baxter, a novelist, returning today Adelia as his grandfather is dying. His life is in shambles; he is getting divorced, has a lawsuit pending, his wife has frozen his assets and there is a warrant for his arrest. His family has long been the family with power and influence in Adelia and with that came dark family secrets. With his brother now running for senate, CJ becomes a liability as he digs into his families past.

The book begins very slowly, but as it unfolds it proves to be a very interesting and suspenseful story. A great amount of detail is put into developing the characters and the small town of Adelia comes alive to the reader.

While I overall enjoyed the book, I do have a few complaints. While it is meant to be a Christian book, there is very little content that deals with faith. There is a reference to CJ’s recent conversion, yet we aren’t told anything about it.  It seems that the author wants the reader to see CJ growing in faith, yet there is little Scripture or prayer involved. There are many difficult issues brought up; adultery, domestic violence, and bitterness to name a few. Most of these issues are left unresolved and there is little about forgiveness or repentance. It seems that there could have been many opportunities to share the gospel of grace with these situations, but it never happens.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book, however that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Never Say Never

This is the first book I have read by Lisa Wingate, but it certainly won’t be the last. This book was very entertaining with characters that are deep, well-developed, inspiring and funny.

The story is told by two different individuals; two women generations apart tossed together by a hurricane. While it took a few chapters to get used to switching between to two ladies, I found that reading the story from two perspectives interesting and refreshing.

Donetta Bradford is an older married woman who has lived a quiet life in the town of Daily, Texas. She sets out to go on a cruise with two of her friends, leaving behind a husband who she is convinced doesn’t love her anymore.

Kai Miller is a young single woman who comes from a broken home lives a rather rootless existence as a cruise ship employee. She prefers to be aloof and is quite content to be alone. The two characters meet while trying to escape a hurricane and Kai ends up in Daily with Donetta.

This story has it all – a hurricane, a rescue, romance between Kai and Donetta’s nephew, humorous encounters with the people of Daily, and inspiring stories of survival and faith.

I will definitely be reading more from Lisa Wingate.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, however that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not a Sparrow Falls

By Linda Nichols

This is a story of God’s love, of Providence, redemption, forgiveness, and God’s preserving power.

The first eleven chapters move very slowly. They mostly contain background details and I found it very hard to connect with the characters during this time. I had nearly given up on the book when things really turned around. Chapter twelve begins a most wonderful story that will touch your heart. The characters that seem so dry at the beginning come alive later and draw you in. It ends up being a very richly written book.

The book focuses on two people hiding from their past - Alasdair, a Presbyterian minister and prominent radio pastor who was recently widowed and left with three children, and Bridie – a fugitive from both the law and her past. A chance encounter with Alasdair’s teenage daughter leads Bridie to accept a position as nanny in Alasdair’s house.

This haunting story stayed with me several days after I read it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us

Are you considering homeschooling but don't feel like you have the perfect homeschool family? Not sure if it will work for your family? Then this book is for you.
 This is not a book of how to's, Sonya Haskins does not present the "right" or "wrong" way to homesschool your children but rather dispells the many myths of homeschooling and gives great advice on how to homeschool in a number of different manners and how to make it work for your family.
Haskins clearly understands that not each child is alike and not each family can homeschool in the same way. Being a blended family with only one child, I found this to be very refreshing. So many homeschool books assume that mom is a stay-at-home mom and that there are several children being homeschooled.
The author also clearly demonstrates how real life is homeschooling and how character development is one of the most important aspects of training our children.
Haskins also deals with issues surrounding budget problems, handling friends and relatives who don't understand homeschooling, dealing with special needs children, and socialization.
This is great book for anyone considering homeschooling or who feels that they just don't fit the homeschool stereotype.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Hidden Flame

by Janette Oke and Davis Bunn

This brilliantly written book puts you on the streets of first century Jerusalem, giving you a front row seat for many of the events recorded in the book of Acts. From the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira to the stoning of Stephen the reader witnesses first-hand moments that shaped the early church through the eyes of Abigail; a young believer and the focus of this story.

It is the second book in the Acts of Faith series, however the authors have done a great job of filling in the necessary background information to make this book easily readable on its own. I have not read the first book, but had no trouble picking up the story line.

Caught between the Jewish leadership and the Roman rulers, the early church is fighting for their survival – even as their numbers grow daily.

Many of the characters are actual historical characters- the apostles, Martha, Rabbi Gamaliel (the Apostle Paul’s teacher – still known as Saul in this book). All of the characters are rich and deep; you will laugh with them, cry with them, and pray with them.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book, however that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

How to Reach Your Full Potential for God

By Charles F Stanley

I have really struggled writing this review. I admit I have very mixed feeling on this book. At first, I really did not like it. It took me a long time to read the book, not because it was difficult to read but because it just didn’t grab me. I really didn’t find myself interested in it at all. I found his writing style to be very basic, almost like it was intended for a junior high Sunday School class. He seems to avoid theological terms at all cost and often over-illustrates his point. One illustration is helpful, more than that is simply annoying.

However, once I finished the book I found it kept coming back to me. I have really been looking at the daily events in my life and thinking “What would God have me do here? How can I use this to glorify God? Am I reaching my full potential in this area of my life?”

After much thought and prayer I’ve realized that if you like self help/motivational books you will probably love this one. I’m someone who prefers to approach these things through biblical exegesis and the teaching of sound doctrine, so to me this book read like a 1980’s self-help book. However, there is value in that.

Bottom line: if you like self help, you will love this book. If you are looking for something deeper, you might find it hard to read, but there is a valuable message for all Christians in this book.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book, however that in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sense and Sensibility (Insight Edition)

If you love Jane Austen, you will love this edition of Sense and Sensibility.

I admit I was at first a little skeptical of reading an “insight edition” as often I have found, in the past, insights to be annoying and often detract from the story. That is not the case in this edition of Sense and Sensibility. I found most of the insights to be very helpful and often amusing.

This timeless classic is brought to life in even greater detail through the insights included in this version. It includes many fascinating details from Jane Austen’s own life which help explain her perspective on many different situations. Many of the insights have to do with bringing the rich cultural details out to a generation who may not immediately relate to life and places in the early 1800’s.

For those who have loved (or even hated) the many movies and mini-series’ based on this book, you will find frequent comparisons, applause, and criticisms of the film versions.

The faith that is evident, though not always clearly, is brought out and given Scriptures references for throughout the book. I found these very interesting as I had never thought of Sense and Sensibility as a Christian book before.

This is definitely a book all Jane Austen aficionados will love. If you've never read Jane Austen, I strongly recommend you make this the first one you read.

I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book, however that in no way influenced my opinion.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Silent Governess

An absolute masterpiece of historical fiction!

The Silent Governess is a beautifully written tale of mystery, romance, family secrets, friendship and faith set in a nineteenth century manor house.

By chance circumstance Olivia Keene overhears a secret of Lord Bradley. Compelled to take a post in his home, while she hides a secret of her own, she is quickly accepted by the other servants as well as the children.

The characters are deep, rich, and intriguing. The plot is full of unexpected twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end.

Set in a time where women were ladies, men were gentlemen, and propriety was held in high regard Julie Klassen does a fabulous job of clearly describing the inner working of an English manor house. The intricacies of the relationships between the servant, the governess, and the lords and ladies are brought to light in great detail. Quotes at the beginning of each chapter from writings of the time provide background for each chapter and shed light on what the roles of each character would have been.

If you love historical fiction set in the Regency era, you will love this book.

While I did receive a complimentary review copy of this book, it in no way influenced my opinion of it.