Sunday, June 10, 2018

Nonficion Review: Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough

Maria Furlough surprised me with nugget after nugget of Bible-based wisdom in her book "Breaking the Fear Cycle." Maria tells her own heartbreaking story of a lost child and how God met her in the pain and helped in her desperation. We are not in control of the circumstances of our lives, Maria writes, but God does have control. The one thing we do have control over is our heart, which we should focus on God's wisdom. Our fears are unworthy of our attention, but God loves us. He is trustworthy. He is truth. His promise of peace is real. Maria also gives practical advice for application with tips on how to pray without focusing on the details of our fears.

This is a book I have already taken notes from and will want to return to for further digesting. I am also anxious to share the book with friends and family... and you.

As a side note for those more sensitive to doctrinal differences: At one point Maria mentions baptizing her baby and at another point she quotes from the devotional "Jesus Calling."

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Christian Nonfiction Review: Sex, Jesus, and the Conversation the Church Forgot

Lately, there have been so many books, sermons and cultural issues revolving around sex and the "conversation the church forgot" that I feel like the conversation is no longer being forgotten. When I first started reading Mo Isom's "Sex, Jesus, and the Conversation the Church Forgot," I expected this would be the same old look at what the Bible has to say with bits of testimony thrown in. However, I found pieces of myself in Mo's story, and as I read, Mo's talent for words and getting to the heart of a matter caught my attention... at least for the first half of the book. I almost wish Isom had expanded more on some of the original ideas she presents early in the book: true purity, false exaltation of self, and the relationship between our inherent worth and purpose and God's purpose for sex. However, my markups stopped around page 46. I do think I'll keep this book for a second read and more markups later on, though.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Nonfiction Review: Long Before Luther

Nathan Busenitz's "Long Before Luther" is a good overview of church history from the perspective of reformation doctrine. However, I expected the author to include more historical context, and the majority of the book reads more like a college essay than an academic book for the lay person. And much of the content is repetitious. I did appreciate that Busenitz made it a point to define the doctrines at stake before moving forward, and that he actually included some excerpts from early church fathers' writings at the end of the book in addition to the many quotes he uses throughout the book. The subject matter is certain important, and the first few chapters alone make the book worth a read, but I imagine there are better books out there that address the questions more thoroughly.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fiction Review: The Theory of Happily Ever After

Kristin Billerbeck's "The Theory of Happily Ever After" is a charming romance novel filled with surprising and enjoyable pop-culture references and realistic, relatable characters. While Dr. Maggie Maguire's recovery from a breakup does include a few too many emotional ups and downs, her search for purpose and and self-understanding is ultimately simple, but profound.

Some readers may complain that the dramatic conflict with her ex is resolved too easily off-page, but the story really is more about Maggie's character development than it is about a crazy "kidnapped" trip on a single's cruise ship. I do think there was more opportunity for surprise that was lost on the early revelation of who Maggie's publisher was, as well as a harmless "boy toy" bartender, initially under suspicion.

Billerbeck writes in first person present tense, which normally would bother me, but in this case reads easily enough. The author clearly knows how to tell a captivating, descriptive story.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Fiction Review: First Impressions

Like most women, I'm a great fan of Jane Austen's tales of romance. So reading "First Impressions," a modern retelling of "Pride and Prejudice," I didn't really care that there wasn't much character development or detailed descriptions. I just enjoyed the novel for what it was. I chuckled at the irony of people whose lives so closely resemble the characters in a play version of "Pride and Prejudice" they are acting in, and took pleasure in discovering the minor changes author Debra White Smith made to adapt the story to a modern sensibility.

If you know anything about "Pride and Prejudice," you'll know the plot. A man and a woman (Eddi and Dave) initially dislike each other, but come to love each other over time. The initial attraction happens perhaps too quickly in this version. I felt like I had missed a good portion of the story when the first chapter began. Also, Eddi (Smith's version of Elizabeth Bennet) is a strong female lawyer, and I would have liked to have experienced some of her court cases to get a better sense of her as a person. I did, however, love Smith's take on Eddi's younger sister and Dave's younger brother, which I won't spoil here. But there is a strong spiritual undercurrent to their stories.

For those who are nit picky, there are a few things worth mentioning. Smith implies once or twice that she would support couple pastoring (and by implication female pastors). According to her bio, she and her husband actually co-pastor a church. Smith also chose to start telling a piece of the story from a third person's point of view more than 80 pages into the book, which always throws me off and is a pet peeve of mine. The last thing that slightly bothered me is that in the town play the characters are putting on, Calvin (aka Bingley) and his sister are slated to play Bingley and Jane in the play. Brother and sister as lovers. No thank you.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Fiction Review: Pelican Point by Irene Hannon

I read the first book in the "Hope Harbor" series by Irene Hannon a while ago and was not too impressed. Unlike her suspense novels, the original "Hope Harbor" was slow-going and lacked a satisfying conclusion. Still, Hannon's talent for creating characters and situations the reader will care about is very much-so prevalent.

A few "Hope Harbor" books later, "Pelican Point" is still slow-paced, but a definite improvement on what I had read before. However, when it comes to putting to words how I felt about the book, I have an easier time describing what I didn't like than what I did like. So first, let's just say that, yes, it's a worthwhile read that I never put away for long before picking it back up to read more. But I have to be honest about the faults of the book. I cared more about the side characters than I did about the main couple. Some things happened too quickly, and what was probably meant to be a suspenseful finale felt like an afterthought. And one of my pet peeves is when a romantic interest sparks too soon, goes through a "I think he may like me, but what if he doesn't" sort of phase, and then never really gives us enough memory-making, shared moments to establish a believable relationship.

By the way, a question for Ms. Hannon... why in the world are you so fascinated with the word "pussyfooting"?

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Nonfiction Review: Talking About God

"Talking About God" narrates real-life conversations the authors have had with non-believer friends. However, given that the authors never really state where these stories come from or how they were recorded, I'm not sure how accurate the dialogue is, especially when so much of it felt preachy and tailored to meet the authors' purposes. The conversations all come at a point in time when God has already worked on the friend's heart and the person is as close as they can get to salvation before making the final crucial decision to follow Christ. While the backstories of these people are good to consider, I would have appreciated at least one or two conversations that better show the reality of resistance most Christians meet when discussing matters of faith with non-believers.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.