Monday, November 28, 2011

Love and War

If there was one book this year that I would recommend to all my friends and family to read, it would be this book. Even those who are not married would benefit from reading Love and War as it is about relationships.

No one told me about the risk I was taking when I choose to get married. It is a risky endeavor. The odds of staying together are against us. There will be attacks on our marriage. In some ways, I wish someone had told me this when I first got married. Maybe someone tried, but I was just too doe-eyed to really comprehend what I was doing. Now I look like a deer in the headlights when I think about marriage. I am grateful for John and Stasi Eldredge who seek to tell the truth, the brutal and honest truth about marriage, and it is not all candy and roses.

Here is just a few pieces of wisdom from Love and War:
The Bible begins and ends with a wedding.
Marriage is hard.
Once you get married, you both need friends.
God uses marriage to transform us.
You can't look for God's favor in your work while your marriage is a travesty.

Like I said, you have to read this book. It will open your eyes to why marriage is so hard and why being in a relationship requires more our of you than you even thought you had to give.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Journey to Christmas

I thought I would enjoy watching this DVD as I prepare for the holiday season. It would be a great way to remember who really is the focus of Christmas and why we celebrate this holiday, i.e. holy day.

The 4-part series follows the pilgrimage of 5 people who get to see the holy land for the first time during the Christmas season including a visit to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. The viewer gets to live vicariously through Nazreth, Drew, Dusty May, Kim, and Rory as they experience this journey. These people get to see, touch, hear, taste, and feel what it was like to live during the time of Jesus, and we, the viewer, get to follow their journey.

These 5 people represent a cross-section of our current culture and their backgrounds are different as is their faith. Nazreth, Dusty May, and Kim all have a faith in Christ but each have a different perspective of how God is involved in their lives. Drew is struggling with what he believes saying that he is at a crisis of faith. Rory is an agnostic whose father was disowned by his Jewish family when he married a non-Jewish girl.

The questioned posed throughout the series is, "Is there more to Christmas?" At the end of the series, I wondered, "Is there more to this video?" There was no life-changing event for Nazreth, Dusty May, and Kim who went home from Israel with a continued faith in God. This was not true for the men of the group. Throughout the series, Drew and Rory are grappling with their faith and what they believe as they tour these historical and Biblical places. Yet, at the end, they are no better than when they started. Drew is still struggling with believing in God who he feels is distant from him. Rory is still an agnostic with an appreciation for the religion of his friends and family. I respected the honesty of these two men as they struggle with faith; however, the drama of the series led me to think that they might experience a new found truth to bring them to a salvation knowledge of Christ. Instead, they got to go on the trip of a lifetime and see some interesting stuff without it ever changing their lives. It was a letdown for me.

Tyndale has provided me a free copy of this DVD series in exchange for my review which I freely give.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks

As this setting the book is 1984, I would have enjoyed reading this book when I was a girl in junior high. The main character, April Grace, is navigating junior high life as all young girls do. I related to the character and the struggles she faces growing up and trying to fit in. I certainly would have enjoyed reading this book when I was her age.

Also because this book is set in 1984, I do not know if young girls today will relate to the story. The absence of technology (computers, cell phones, apps, etc.) was very noticeable. When April needed to get a hold of her dad, I wondered why she did not just call his cell phone. Then I remember that there were no cell phones in the 80's. So the book is dated, but it is a nice enough story to make it readable and enjoyable.

Thomas Nelson has provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for this review which I freely give.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shadow in Serenity

I have been a fan of Terri Blackstock for years and have never been disappointed. This most recent book of hers is a reprint from a previous book. She updated the story and incorporated the story of redemption. I appreciate how the redemption story is weaved into the book without being forced or preachy.

Carny, the protagonist, is a new person after leaving the carnival life, becoming a Christian, and settling in the town of Serenity, Texas. When Logan Brisco comes to town, she see him for the con he is. As much as she tries to discredit him, he sees the truth of what he is doing. In the midst of this, they are falling in love.

The story had many unexpected twists and turns, yet it was an easy read that kept me interested from cover to cover. Terri Blackstock really does have the gift of storytelling, and I appreciate that she has used her gift to honor God.

Zondervan has provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for my review which I freely give.

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Little Prayer of Mine

It is always a delight to review a children's book. I miss the days when I would curl up with my kids before putting them to bed so we can read a good book together. This is one of those good books that I would have read with my young children.

The book is a child's prayer written in rhyme. Each 2 page spread is a 4 line poem that rhymes on the second and fourth line. The young child thanks God for many things and asks God for help in doing the right thing. The book is written so that the main character is never defined as a boy or a girl. Each 2 page spread includes a young boy and girl doing the things that are said in the prayer. So it could be either child saying the prayer.

This is the kind of book that you will read over and over again.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fierce Beauty

This was the first book I have ever read by Kim Meeder. She has lived an amazing life as she has had to overcome adversity in her life. However, she did not stop at overcoming but has also helped others to do the same. In this book, she encourages the reader to see the beauty around us to see the beauty within us.

The premise of the book is good; however, the execution was lacking. Some of the stories, although interesting, did not connect with the point being made. Quite a few stories were repeats from precious books (Hope Rising, Blind Hope, and Bridge Called Hope). I would have expected a 4th book from this author would contain new and different information instead of more of the same. For this reason, I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars. It does have potential to be a really good book but it feels to be a repeat of previous material.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reclaiming Lily

Joy was a young orphan in China who is adopted by Andrew and Gloria. They bring her back to Texas and raise her as their own. However, Joy was never really an orphan. Joy is Lily, the fourth daughter of the Chang family who had to place their daughter in an orphanage because of governmental restrictions. Lily's sister, Kai, has devoted her life to find Lily and to find a cure for polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disease that has plagued her family.

Adoption, disease, teenage rebellion, and family devotion are weaved throughout the story. In some ways, there were too many elements causing conflict in the story. Most of these elements are resolved at the end of the story, but some are not. For example, the story hints at turmoil in Gloria's life because of her dad's infidelity, but that story line is never resolved.

The storyline stuttered too much for me. The flashback to China is deep and descriptive as the authors uses too many words to set the tone. Then the story flies through 2 years of relationship building after Kai and Lily meet for the first time. I just had a hard time with the pace of the story.

I give the book a 3.5 out of 5. It is neither good not bad. Just okay for me.

Bethany House provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for this review which I freely give.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Ride of a Lifetime

Whoa, cowboy! That thought crossed my mind while reading this book, but not in a good way. On page 102, a character curses using the s-word. That took me aback, but I tried to overlook it. The word was repeated on page 103 by one of the main characters, and again on page 141 and page 238. Now I am offended. I do not read books from Christian publishers so that I can be exposed to filthy language. My daddy once told me that people who swear do so because they have nothing better to say. It seems to me that the author did not have anything better to say. It's a shame as this book could have been a good book.

I read to be inspired, encouraged, and uplifted. I most enjoy stories where there is a change of heart. There may be some sin in the life of a main character, but in a good book, the sin leads to repentance and a change of heart. I can read these kinds of stories because I know that the bad part of the story was part of the path of redemption. The swear words peppering the story were not necessary, were offensive, and did not add any redeeming quality to the story. For that reason, I cannot recommend this book even though the rest of the story was decent enough.

Thomas Nelson provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for this review which I freely give.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Three Cups

This book is a good tool to use as you teach your children to be responsible with money. It is a read aloud kind of book, but it is also a springboard for discussion as kids learn about money management. I like the visual aid of using 3 cups to keep the money as you watch it grow. I also like the simple way a bank account is explained.

What I did not like is that the giving cup is mentioned last both in the list of where to put the allowance and then in what to do with it. I have taught my children that giving comes first. There is a Biblical basis for this idea as God told the Israelites to celebrate Shavuot where the first fruits of the harvest are to be brought to the temple as a part of worship. However, this book does not refer to the Bible in any way. Even with the giving cup, the child is encouraged to do good but not necessarily because they want to honor God with their money. Like I said, this book is a springboard for further discussion. It is more generic in it's purpose for saving, spending, and giving.

Thomas Nelson has provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for this review which I freely give.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nearing Home

Billy Graham has given us another meaningful narrative a he encourages us to seek God in all areas of our lives. Retirement is no different from any other life change such a graduating school, getting marriage, or having children. Sometimes it is forced upon us, but more often, we have a choice. In this choice, we can plan for it, seek God's will, and be blessed by our obedience. Or we can stumble upon retirement and live aimlessly with no goals or passions.

I had never thought about retirement in this way. I just saw it as what you did when you were done working. Instead, if we are seeking God, we never stop working for His kingdom. We are useful and needed here on earth until the day He calls us home. We are useful and needed no matter how young or old we are.

"Retirement isn't something that just happens if you live long enough, and it isn't even a reward for your years of hard work; it is a gift from God." These are words to live by!

Thomas Nelson has provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for this review which I freely give.