Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fiction Review: Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin's "Where We Belong" has compelling Christian themes and interesting characters, but slightly suffers from a rushed ending and a lack of descriptive language. The book is several hundred pages, so the reader expects more from their investment.

Sisters Rebecca and Flora have inherited a large sum of money and a passion for knowledge from their father. These factors eventually lead them to the Sinai desert searching for ancient documents that will prove that the Bible has not been altered over the years. Along the way, Lynn Austin alters course to tell the reader about the girls' past. She also spends two small sections of the book telling the story from the viewpoints of servants Kate and Soren.

The back and forth between time periods provides an opportunity to better get to know the characters, and Austin gives the reader enough to earn her investment. However, Flora comes across as a stick-figure character, too reliant on Rebecca, while I never could decide if Rebecca was helpful or too forward in her demands and manipulation of her sister. Even when Austin gives us an entire section from Flora's perspective, it is difficult to understand her character or to read from Flora's perspective so soon after reading from the perspective of Rebecca's strong personality.

Toward the end of the book, Rebecca develops a romantic relationship with an agnostic, largely driving her quest to find proof for the Bible's reliability. That quest, which provides the outline of the majority of the book, does not lead to much adventure (beyond some trouble with a Bedouin) or discovery, and its conclusion was a bit of a let down. And when Rebecca finally gives the conversion of her beloved to Christianity over to the Holy Spirit, his "aha" moment comes in a quick and unbelievable manner. Perhaps this part of the story would have been best served by saving a section of the book to be told from his perspective, so the reader could know how exactly God prepares his heart for that final moment of realization.

The redemptive and religious themes of the story are woven well, however. I greatly enjoyed the sisters' desire to find God's purpose for their lives and their mantra that only God knows the time our lives will end. Soren and Kate's street backgrounds also lead to happy endings reminiscent of God's own adoption of Christians through Christ.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Nonfiction Review: Enjoying God by RC Sproul

RC Sproul (rhymes with "soul") has a talent for language and storytelling. In "Enjoying God," he takes the attributes of God and puts them in easy-to-understand terms. Some attributes are thought-provoking theological questions and others are simple traits that have already been covered too often by other authors. But Sproul makes them fresh and enlightening again. We consider the definition of truth, the uncaused cause and more. Here we have one of the great theologians whose work is full of profound quotes worth underlining.

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

Review: Loving My Actual Christmas

I love a good Christmas book, and let's be honest, we can all relate to the hectic nature of the holiday season. However, "Loving My Actual Christmas" seems to be written more for the mother with a large family. The author writes from experience, and her experience is with a family. Alexandra gives tips for controlled chaos, but the majority of her book is her day to day journal of the advent season, making an effort to remember the important things. And in that, I can relate. I appreciate that she gives  a piece of Scripture to go with each thing she's trying to remember. But in the end, I really don't get much from reading someone else's journal, nor am I a mother. "Loving My Actual Christmas" is a book I would recommend to those who like the journal style of writing, parents, and those who easily learn from others' example. Personally, though, I was bored by the book and ready to give it away to the next reader.

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

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Fiction Review: Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

Having read all of Lisa Harris' previous Nikki Boyd books, I was disappointed that Nikki's saga with her sister's disappearance should come to an end in a book in which Nikki barely appears. For those who have not read the other books in the series, however, "Vanishing Point" will prove to be page-turner with no knowledge of the previous books required. Harris opts to solve the mystery of the Angel Abductor from the point of view of the detectives originally put on the case. Spanning the story over several years gives the reader ample time to get to know the characters and their dilemmas, from father troubles to sick relatives. The question of where God is in the midst of pain is posed and given a light, pat answer. And most of the story lines are wrapped up nicely. There's a bit of romance in there too. I enjoyed getting the overall picture of the long race to find the killer. But for readers invested in Nikki Boyd's character, the conclusion really does not satisfy. We can only hope for another book that fills the holes.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart

My worry with a book like "31 Verses to Write on Your Heart" is that the verses will be taken out of context. I also have a difficult time with relating to and learning from short devotions. And while those were both still issues with Liz Curtis Higgs' book, I appreciated that she broke each verse apart to get to the truth behind each passage. But there was very little to take away from her memory verse tips for easier memorization. They all seemed cookie-cutter, straight from the book, obvious to me. Then again, I am not a great memorizer of Scripture (although I certainly wish I were!). For most readers, though, I could still recommend this book for its treatment of these important verses (many of which you will probably recognize - this book does not get its worth from originality).

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

Fiction Review: Behind the Scenes

The previous book I read by Jen Turano was good, but not great. However, reading "Behind the Scenes," I could not put the book down. Even with a great portion of the book taking place in one evening, the story went at a quick pace. I loved the struggle behind a woman balancing her faith with the strength and ideals of a "modern" woman. Permilia Griswold secretly writes a society column for a major newspaper, using her wallflower status to her best advantage. But how does romance fit in with independence? Especially when death threats collide the two. Although the resolution to the thrilling page-turner was a bit odd and a slight let-down, Turano created likeable characters and ridiculously fun situations that most readers will love.

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

Review: The Whole Bible Story

Why read a book like "The Whole Bible Story" when you can read the real thing? Does this book include extra historical background to make it worth reading? Not really, unless you count the occasional illustrative graphic. But you can find similar graphics in certain editions of the Bible. Is the book easier and more interesting to read? Not really. There are versions of the Bible that put the real text in every day language. Does the book sort the Bible story in a more chronological manner? Yes, but again there are Bibles out there that do the same thing. Sorry. I'm not sold.