Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Back cover says, "Haunted by the unknowns of their pasts, two women search for answers along the shores of Lake Michigan." I wondered how the stories of a Chicago socialite who had broken her engagement to a wealthy man and an elderly Dutch immigrant who's been asked to write a memoir for the town's semi-centennial celebration would coincide.

Well, it's a masterful story. Lynn Austin skillfully weaves the struggle of Anna, the socialite as her family pressures her to reconsider her marriage to her former fiancé with the remembrances of Geesje de Jonge, who recalls her journey from the Netherlands as a young girl to the wilderness area that is now Holland, Michigan. Anna's new-found faith is part of the problem with the fiancé. And a recurring nightmare about a shipwreck troubles her until she realizes perhaps it really happened. Geesje's memoir writings take her far beyond what she intends to give the celebration committee, but they help her recall her deceased daughter who left home at a young age. Faith plays an important role in Geesje's story, too.

The characters are fascinating, and there's plenty of conflict and soul-searching. I won't be a spoiler, but I will say that you'll love how the story ends. I'd like to see Austin write a sequel to continue both women's stories.

Image source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/waves-of-mercy/377900

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Long Road Home by Dr. Earle L. Wilson & Lawrence W. Wilson

Full title: The Long Road Home: How God Forms Our Prodigal Souls, Wesleyan Publishing House.

I read this book straight through, but I am going to go back and take it a chapter at a time.

Both authors are pastors, and they present a thorough study of the parable of the prodigal son in easy-to-read style, organized in 30 readings. Using verses excerpted from the scripture story, the authors examine the roles and attitudes of the prodigal, the father, and the son that didn't leave home. Each reading includes questions for self-examination at the end. I recommend the book for either personal or group study. If I could give it six stars, I would.

You can order from Wesleyan Publishing House at this link. It's also available on Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was offered a review copy via email, and I requested to review it. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Image Source: LawrenceWilson.com.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Room with the Second-Best View by Virginia Smith

This is the third book in the Tales of the Goose Creek B & B series. Millie and Al Richardson are still working on renovations for the stately old home, the one they bought with the intention of opening a bed and breakfast inn.

Things are moving along well until progress is interrupted by plans for a wedding, the Goose Creek 150th anniversary celebration---and Millie's accident.

Like the earlier books, the reader is reminded of small-town life as in Mayberry (the Andy Griffth TV show) or Mitford (Jan Karon's fictional town). Little towns are special because very few people mind their own business. In this installment, everyone except the bride and groom wants an elaborate wedding. And there's dissension among residents about the anniversary celebration as well as who will be the best person to head up the Main Street program. Things do work out in the end, but there's plenty of strife and humor along the way.

I love this series. Being from a small town myself, I recognize the characters, because they remind me of someone I know. You can enjoy this one without reading the earlier installments, but I encourage you to check out the entire series. I can't wait for the next installment.

I have reviewed the other books on this blog here.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harvest House Publishers. I did not request a review copy and was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Friday, September 16, 2016

One of the Few by Jason B. Ladd

Subtitle: A Marine Fighter Pilot's Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview, Boone Shepherd Publishing.

Jason B. Ladd is US Marine fighter pilot and Iraq war veteran. At first, I thought the title was based on the Marine Corps advertising slogan, "The Few. The Proud. The Marines."

The book is Ladd's spiritual autobiography. Growing up as a military dependent, he lived in many places in the world. He met his future wife on a military base. He describes his transition from a secular worldview to a Christian worldview by relating his development as a Christian to his training and growth as a member of the military. In other words, he used the military thought processes he acquired in his training to search for Truth.

Ladd said that he was thoroughly prepared to be a military pilot but poorly prepared to be a husband and father. Each chapter starts with a quote from a secular worldview followed by a quote with a Christian worldview. In my opinion, he shared a bit too much detail about the military training. There is so much jargon associated with the military that a civilian risks losing the author's train of thought in all the detail and explanations.

The most impressive section for me was the part where he dealt with the glorification of alcohol use in modern society, especially in the military. How refreshing to hear a "real man" suggest that abstinence is even possible, and even preferable, to risking alcohol addiction.

Promotional materials says the book will "connect strongly with parents, students, spiritual seekers, aviation enthusiasts, Christian community, military service members and veterans, men desiring to understand faith, women desiring to explain their faith." Well that includes just about everyone I know. It is a great book, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. One of the Few was a 2016 Indie Book Awards Finalist.

And I'll let you in on a secret. The title is based on a phrase in scripture from the parable of the wedding feast: "Many are called, but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14 (KJV).



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I did not request a review copy and was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary by Diana C. Derringer

Subtitle is 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Published by CSS Publishing, 50 pages.

This is a collection of short plays based on Bible stories. They can be used in worship services as well as other church gatherings. Some are designated as “sermon starters.” The first page of each drama includes a list of specifics to help the organizer plan and collect props. The list includes time (how long it lasts), theme, scripture reference, church year season, suggested use, summary, character list, props and costumes needed, sound equipment requirements, lighting, and setting. Most skits are five minutes or less, but there is on that lasts 15 minutes.

I can see this collection being used year-round. Christmas and Easter are represented, but other seasons are included, too. There’s even a Father’s Day skit. These plays are a great way to help people identify with Bible characters and apply scriptural principles to their own lives. The book is available on Amazon here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from CSS Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Delilah:Treacherous Beauty by Angela Hunt

The third book in author Angela Hunt's Dangerous Beauty series, Delilah is an interesting read. The story of Samson and Delilah is one of the Bible's most famous love stories. Samson, an Israelite, is a judge and Nazirite, dedicated to God at birth by his mother. He has the gift of incredible strength, which gets him in trouble with the Philistines, the political rulers of the time. The Bible doesn't tell us about Delilah's ethnicity or country of origin. She's most often portrayed as a bad girl, a conniving woman, as in the 1949 movie, Samson and Delilah, starring Victor Mature and Heddy Lamar.

Hunt tells the story by alternating viewpoints between Samson and Delilah. Since the Bible gives no backstory on Delilah, she creates a fictional one. Abused by a Philistine, Delilah was rescued by traveling merchants, and taken out of the danger zone. She takes up residence with a widow who weaves for a living and runs a travelers' stop on a major trade route. Delilah has a baby by the Philistine who abused her and raises her son with the help of the widow. Samson enters the picture after the widow's death. He lives with Delilah and helps her raise her son. She hides him from the Philistines from time to time.

In the Bible story, Delilah betrays Samson by finding out the source of his strength, his long hair. She arranges for the Philistines to cut it while he's asleep. When they capture him, he is too weak to break free. As Hunt presents it, Delilah loves Samson, and he loves her. But she still betrays him. She's present when he dies in the Temple of Dagon, taking the Philistines down with the temple.

It's a fascinating read. As always, Hunt presents known historical details accurately. She fills in what the Bible doesn't tell with plausible fiction. I alternately felt sorry for Samson and Delilah. She loved him. He loved her. Ultimately, her betrayal led to the downfall of the Philistines. Was it part of God's plan for her to betray him? Read the story and decide for yourself.

FYI, if you are fuzzy on the Bible account, here's a summary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Habits for Our Holiness by Philip Nation

Full title: Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out (Moody Publishers, 2016).

Most Christians desire to be more holy, because they think they should be. But, many don't know exactly what holiness means. For me, it means being "set apart" for God, but not set apart in the sense that you withdraw from the world. Easton's Bible Dictionary defines holiness as "consecrated to God's service." That involves a lot of things.

Author Philip Nation shows us how we can dedicate ourselves to knowing God better by practicing certain spiritual disciplines. Two other authors have addressed spiritual disciplines at length: Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Both list certain disciplines that bring us closer to God. Nation uses some of these familiar disciplines and adds a couple more. He places a different emphasis on the quest for holiness. Not only should we be holy in our dedication to God in our private life. We are also commissioned by Jesus to be active in the world, providing an example and leadership to others who want to be close to God. The promotional material for the book puts it this way: "By showing how the disciplines have their greatest power when practiced in community and on mission, Philip Nation gives Christians a bigger reason—and greater desire—to pursue spiritual disciplines."

I've read books on spiritual disciplines before, and I expected this book to be similar. However, it is only similar in the fact that it explains spiritual disciplines. Nation's approach is refreshing because he's saying that we should not only use disciplines to become more holy. We should use them to be better witnesses for our faith. I recommend the book to anyone interested in the spiritual disciplines. It will breathe new life into your quest for holiness.

Nation is a teaching pastor and assistant professor who is also associated with LifeWay Christian Resources.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I did not request a review copy and was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”