Friday, November 25, 2011

The Christmas Singing

Book Description

Series: Ada's House Series | Publication Date: October 4, 2011

After Gideon coldly broke her heart, can the warmth of the season revive Mattie’s hopes?

Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve.

Three years later, will learning the truth behind his rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?

Spend Christmas with the Amish in this story of love, romance, heartache, and restoration.

My Review:

This short, easy to read story is ok, but not something I would highly recommend.

Though Mattie is funny, quirky, and a bit scatterbrained, the rest of the characters are quite dull and lack depth.

The storyline is very predictable – you basically know what is going to happen right at the beginning of the book.

I was also disappointed that there really wasn’t much of a Christmas theme to the story at all.

Overall, it’s a quick and easy short novella with a bit of romance and humor, but I was not at all impressed with it.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Press through their Blogging for Books program.  That in no way influenced my opinion of it.

Valley of Dreams

Book Description

Wild West Wind November 1, 2011

Addy Lockwood's mother died when she was little, so Addy traveled with her father's Wild West Show and became an amazingly skillful trick rider, likened by some to the famous Annie Oakley. When her father died, she continued to work with the show, having nowhere else to go.

Now Addy has discovered that "Uncle" Jason, the show's manager, has driven the show into debt, and he's absconded with what little money was left. Devastated, Addy decides to try to find the hidden valley where here father had dreamed of putting down roots. She has only one clue. She needs to find three huge stones that look like fingers raised in a giant hand. With Chief, a Sioux Indian who's been with the show for twenty years, and Micah, the head wrangler, she leaves both the show and a bundle of heartache behind and begins a wild and daring adventure.
My Review:
In this new series debut, Lauraine Snelling has done her usual stellar job of putting the reader right back into the early 1900’s. The details of life during that time are amazing and a joy to read about. The plot moves along quickly and draws the reader in. The characters are lively and unique with just enough mystery to keep you wondering about them.
I love Cassie – her strength of character and unshakable determination after the betrayal of someone she trusted as family make her one remarkable young lady.
I can’t wait for the next book in the series to be released – this book leaves you longing to know more.
I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House publishers.

House of Secrets

Book Description

October 1, 2011

When her father orchestrates a surprise trip to the summer house of her childhood, Bailee Cooper is unprepared for what follows. What is intended to be a happy reunion for Bailee and her sisters, Geena and Piper, quickly becomes shrouded by memories from the past.

Together again, the three sisters sift through their recollections of fifteen years ago...of an ill mother, and of their father making a desperate choice. They vowed, as children, to be silent--but one sister believes the truth must now be revealed. Yet can they trust their memories?

Mark Delahunt arrives in the wake of this emotional turmoil. Determined to win Bailee's affection, Mark becomes the strong fortress for her in this time of confusion, and what was once a tentative promise begins to take root and grow. Caught between the past and an uncertain future, can Bailee let God guide her to heal the past and ultimately to embrace love?


My Review:

This book deals with some very difficult issues. The overall feel of the book is very dark and a bit depressing, yet I just couldn’t put it down. The author does a wonderful job of drawing the reader into the story and making you feel what the characters are feeling. I also thought the author did a good job of portraying true Christian love and friendship in Mark’s character.

The book appears to be very well researched and the author seems to have a very good understanding of mental health issues and the impact they have on the families.

Though the Gospel presentation is a little weak (us “accepting God” rather than repentance) it is there and the issue of our sin, the necessity of repentance, and our need for a sinless Savior are mentioned.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of the book from Bethany house publishers.

40 Ways to Get Closer to God



Book Description

September 1, 2011

Sometimes faith demands action. This practical book gives Christians ideas for how to adjust their hearts to get closer to God.

Each chapter contains a unique challenge and a brief explanation that puts the challenge in context. Exercises include acts of service to others, extended prayer, Scripture memory, fasting, a day of gratitude, media fasting (no TV or Internet), evangelism, and much more. The challenges are broad in scope, allowing people with varying personality types and learning styles to benefit from them.
My Review:
Overall, I found this book to be lacking in several areas. My biggest concern, however, is having a book about getting closer to God that doesn’t present the Gospel first. We all know that there are tares amongst the wheat, and we cannot assume that everyone who picks up a Christian book is already a Christian. And an unbeliever cannot get close to God without first repenting and believing the Gospel.
Some of the steps are biblical but are so basic that true Christians should not need to read a book to do these things. Perhaps it’s just a sad reflection of the church today that Christians need to be told to pray and study their Bibles.
Some of the steps go beyond what God has said. God hasn't promised to sanctify us if we abstain from watching TV, and we need to be very careful to make promises that God hasn't made. While some of these things may be a good idea, and may even be beneficial, to claim that they will truly draw us closer to God if God Himself has not said so is a very dangerous thing. If we "fast" from TV and replace it with prayer and Bible study, we will grow - but its not the TV fast that caused the growth, but the prayer and Bible study, which are means that God has ordained for our sanctification.
My other concern with this book is that it is full of aestheticism and quotes from known mystics/contemplatives. A brief flip through the book makes it abundantly clear that the author has embraced the mysticism that is growing so prevalent in the Evangelical church today. God has given us the true means of grace revealed in the Scriptures, and we don’t need man made practices or practices borrowed from Eastern mysticism to grow close God.
I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House publishers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Christmas Journey Home: Miracle in the Manger

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Book Description Publication Date: October 5, 2011

During Isabella Alcantara’s seventh month of pregnancy, her parents and siblings are murdered in gang- and drug-related violence, simply because their home was targeted by mistake. Isabella knows she was spared only because she now lives in a different location, but she knows too that the same thing could easily happen to her and her husband, Francisco. When her grandfather offers to hire a “coyote” to bring them across the border to America, she agrees. But Francisco and Isabella are abandoned by the coyote and left to die. Francisco then valiantly sacrifices himself to get Isabella to safety. Homeless, nearly penniless, pregnant, and alone, Isabella determines to find a way to honor her promise to her beloved husband.

 Living on one of the smaller spreads along the Arizona border, Miriam Nelson becomes furious with God and turns from her faith when her  border patrol agent husband, David, is killed in a skirmish with drug smugglers. Though her mother and young son do their best to woo her back from the anger and bitterness that have overtaken her, they make little headway.
Two widows—one driven by fear and a promise, the other by bitterness and revenge—must make their journeys along different pathways, but with the same destination: a barn full of animals that stands waiting for them on Christmas Eve. Forced to face their personal demons, Isabella and Miriam soon discover a common yearning that will bind them together in a most miraculous way.

*Description Source


This was the best Christmas story I think I have ever read. It is not a warm fuzzy gooey book but it is a very powerful story with a clear Christian message.
I found this book to be riveting - I read it in less than 24 hours. I found that I genuinely cared what happened to the characters, and found myself engrossed with the story.
At first I was a little unsure about a Christmas story dealing with such a hot political issue, but I found that it really helped me see all sides of the issue with much better understanding. The book is not for or against illegal immigration - there is no "winning side" - but it does bring to light, in a very powerful way, many of the issues on both sides.

I would highly recommend this book!

The Christmas Note

Image Source
Book Description:Publication Date: October 25, 2011

From author of The Christmas Hope series, which has enthralled millions of readers, comes a new inspirational novel about an unlikely friendship between two women, but one that will change each of their lives forever.

Gretchen Daniels has recently moved into an apartment with her two children to be closer to her mother, Miriam. She and her children are building a life together in a new community when a mysterious young woman, Melissa McCreary, moves into the apartment next to them. She has few possessions, little personality, and keeps to herself. One day, a local landlord who is looking for Melissa knocks on Gretchen’s door for assistance. Melissa’s mother has died and in the coming weeks the landlord needs Melissa to empty her mother’s apartment. Gretchen reaches out and offers to help, but the apartment is a gut wrenching shamble of a home. There is little worth saving except for a few photos and a note that is discovered on the crate beside the bed. It is unfinished but in the two scribbled lines, Melissa discovers she has a brother and a sister that she never knew about. Even more shocking, she begins to uncover family secrets that show her who she really is. Can two very different women embark on a journey that explores a long-buried need for forgiveness, hope, and redemption?


My Review:

This is a powerful Christmas story that I would recommend.
The two neighbors seem like unlikely friends, yet as the story unfolds it is refreshing to see how God brought them together during a holiday season that could otherwise have been very difficult for both of them, and changes each of these ladies through the events in the book.
The characters are very real a relatable. The author did a wonderful job making their feelings and emotions real to the reader.
The plot has a few unexpected twists that really keep the book moving and keep the reader guessing.
The only thing that I thought was missing was a real Gospel message.  A true Christmas story should include the true significance of the season.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book through the publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Dug Down Deep


Book Description

May 17, 2011

What are you going to build your life on?
Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you’ve never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God’s word.

With humor, conviction and compelling insight Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith—God, scripture, Jesus, the cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the church. Don’t settle for superficial faith, dig deep.

My Review:

In this book Joshua Harris has done an excellent job making systematic theology understandable and clearly communicating why it is important.
At first I didn't like the casual style of the book. I'm used to reading more scholarly books and I was afraid this would be too dumbed down and important theological concepts would be missed, but that didn't end up being the case. It is written more as a  journal; as his story of how he came to understand these important biblical truths, than as a scholarly systematic theology. I found that stories he told really made the concepts he was trying to convey become very clear.
If you are looking to grow in the faith and to make sure that your faith is built on a firm foundation, this book is a good start.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah.