Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Martyr's Fire: Book 3 in the Merlin's Immortals series

Because I had not read the previous two books in the Merlin's Immortals series, it took me a while to get a full sense of the setting and time of "Martyr's Fire." And I still don't know why the author chose that title. But I enjoyed the book overall, especially a surprise cameo appearance by Robin Hood. The characters were fun and memorable, and I got the sense that if the series were more lumped together, a larger plot would unfold. As a single book, however, "Martyr's Fire" felt unfinished. The plot did not develop much, and I think it would have been better if the upcoming fourth book had been added to this book. I did, however, greatly appreciate that the chapters were short and easy to read.

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

Book Plot Description: Will this dangerous quest lead the outcast Orphan King toward an ancient secret—or to certain destruction? Posing as a beggar, Thomas escapes Magnus after fifteen men, who are calling themselves the Priests of the Holy Grail, arrive and take control of the castle through wondrous acts and apparent miracles. With the help of his longtime friend Gervaise, Thomas sets out on a journey that leads him to the ancient Holy Land. Unaware that Katherine and Hawkwood are watching over him, Thomas is tested in his beliefs and comes face to face with the ancient power that the Merlins and Druids have long been searching for. Enter the world of Merlin’s Immortals, where ancient secrets and evil conspiracies take you on a breathless adventure of discovery, intrigue, and hidden knowledge. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: NIV Essentials Bible

It is most definitely a marketing ploy to encourage readers to buy the full Bible versions that are included in part in the NIV Essentials Bible. It seems to include a mixed version of the Bible, with its text a combined edition from both the NIV and TNIV, a fact that makes it less trustworthy.

But I was very excited to receive my NIV Essentials Bible. It's full of wonderful study notes from six different study Bibles, my favorite of which is the Chronological Study Bible. If only they would put all the notes from all six versions in one Bible! I know I wouldn't mind the length!

It's long, as it is, and they called it "Essentials" for a reason. This is a wonderful Bible to read for the "best of" study notes, but I wouldn't make it my main Bible. There are better versions (my favorites are NKJV and ESV).

*Disclaimer: I received this Bible for free in exchange for my honest review of it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: An Elegant Solution

I gave up around page 100. Normally, I would not review a book without finishing it, but it was taking me forever to read this one due to its tedious details and lack of plot development. It seemed unfair to take a year to read it before posting a review. The story sounded interesting (summary below) as it involved science, mathematics and a mystery. But at page 100, the murder had just happened, the characters were boring and the action often difficult to understand. The author went on tangents describing so many different things, but never got into the actual story. So I gave up. I may try to finish it yet, but for now this review and 100 pages will have to suffice. Unless you're very intelligent and intellectual and enjoy extensive details with little plot development (as many classic novels possess), I can't recommend this book.

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

Description on website:

When the Rules That Govern Men Are Shattered,
All You Can Trust Are the Invisible Rules 
That Govern Life Itself

For math prodigy Leonhard Euler, the Bernoulli family have been more than just friends. Master Johann has been a demanding mentor, and his sons have been Leonhard's allies and companions. But this is a family torn by jealousy. Father and sons are engaged in a ruthless competition for prestige among the mathematical elites of Europe. And now, their aspirations may have turned deadly.

Lured into an investigation of the suspicious death of Jacob Bernoulli, his master's brother, twenty years ago, Leonhard soon discovers he's facing an elusive puzzle as complicated as any math equation. Surrounded by the world's most brilliant--and cunning--minds, Leonhard finds himself tracing an unraveling and invisible spiral of greed, blackmail, and murder. He'll need all his genius to find an elegant solution to this desperate battle of wills.

Review: Clear Winter Nights

Trevin Wax had the right idea when he decided to put several questions about the Christian faith into a story format.

A college-aged man is going through an identity crisis after leaving his fiance and questioning his right and obligation to take part in church planting when doubts about his faith surface. He goes to visit his grandfather for a short time, and while taking care of him, he ends up asking the former pastor several questions about Christianity.

I love the idea here. A story format makes these questions easier to discuss, and Wax has created believable characters and a touching story. However, I felt like the discussions did not go deep enough and that they felt a bit too pre-meditated rather than conversational. For me, personally, I did not leave with any shocking answers to big questions. I go to the non-fiction books for that kind of an eye-opener. "Clear Winter Nights" is more of a coffee table book in that it's a short and easy read. But it's a very good book for beginners seeking answers. I'm just not at that stage any more, having read several non-fiction books with better, clearer, longer answers.

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

Review: Return to Me

I enjoy reading books and watching movies that attempt to fill in the gaps of Old Testament histories and give faces and personalities to the people therein. Lynn Austin's "Return to Me," the first book in her Restoration Chronicles series, follows the story of Zechariah and his family as they return to Jerusalem after King Cyrus' decree. But the road is full of trials, and they don't end when the group arrives in Jerusalem. The Samaritan locals have adapted to pagan cultures and practices, and they don't like their new neighbors taking what they consider their land. Young Zechariah's best friend finds herself attracted to sorcery and other practices outside the Jewish faith, leaving Zechariah torn between his increasing faith in God and his love for his friend.

The book covers a lot of time, and skips quite a few years as well, all leading up to the big moment when you know God will call Zechariah to be His prophet. That moment isn't that big in the book, and it comes at the tail end. It also comes after a series of occurrences where Zechariah finds himself quoting Scripture that doesn't exist, something I wasn't quite sure what to make of. But the only real flaw of the book that bothered me was the inserted of modern ideas and characteristics that didn't seem to fit. Still, I enjoyed the book and couldn't put it down. And I definitely would enjoy reading the rest of the series when it comes out. The characters and stories ultimately won me over.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: NIV Ragamuffin Bible

Brennan Manning's message of God's grace and forgiveness comes across wonderfully throughout the bits taken from his writing and inserted in an NIV Bible. Of course, they have more effectiveness when in the proper context, and some of them are paired with passages that don't directly relate. But the tid bits provide practical wisdom and encouraging notes. They don't seem frequent enough. It's not a study Bible. Occasional devotionals and short bits of relevant thoughts that expand on what the passages say litter throughout. It's a nice extra Bible to have, but I wouldn't recommend it as a main Bible. Not if you really want to study The Word.

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Dear Mr. Knightley

"Dear Mr. Knightley" is basically a new "You've Got Mail" for literature lovers, especially Jane Austen fans. Except for a final ending chapter, the entire book is written as letters exchanged between Sam Moore and the anonymous man (Mr. Knightley) whose foundation sponsors her education.

Along the way she meets one of her favorite modern authors and develops a friendship with him. Along with her confessional letters, that friendship leads her to open up, make friends and grow as a person. Her character is a lot of fun because she often quotes from various literary characters in her responses to the people around her, but she also has a very deep and moving past.

I thought the letter format of the book, but Katherine Reay has Sam writing in prose that makes her letters more like fiction than entries in a diary. Although this means the letters come across as unrealistic (and far too revealing, at least at the start when the letters are only supposed to focus on her progress at school), their format is what makes them worth reading. And of course, every girl loves a good love story. This is a fantastic novel, especially considering it is Reay's first. Oh, yea, and I can't get over how cute and creative the novel's cover artwork is.

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: Every Waking Moment

I have to admit, I wasn't all that interested in the plot of "Every Waking Moment." The description of a young woman with a gift to bring people elderly people out of their shells was a bit too general for me, and it did take me a while to get into the book. But I had read Chris Fabry's addicting thriller "Not in the Heart," and I loved that book so much that I went out on a limb and requested to read his next book without hesitation. I'm glad I did. Chris has a way with plot and character development that keeps you on your seat. "Every Waking Moment" had me constantly flipping ahead, hoping to get a peak at the big secret, but I had to wait it out and get through the page-turner before I could find out the large conspiracy behind heroine Treha's life. I couldn't put the book down. Although the story didn't develop as well as "Not in the Heart," and I wasn't entirely satisfied with the book's conclusions, the book still proves what an amazing author Chris Fabry is. Go read one of his books. He'll take you on a great journey.

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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: The Governess of Highland Hall

I get the feeling that Carrie Turansky was highly influenced by Bronte and Austen novels when she wrote "The Governess of Highland Hall," especially "Jane Eyre." The story starts off with a Jane Eyre moment when Julia, straight from her time in India as a missionary, has an unpleasant encounter with a man on the road, not realizing he is her potential employer. Of course, she is bound to eventually fall in love with him. She soon meets William's sister, Sarah, who is busy reading "Pride and Prejudice." And (spoiler alert) there is a major fire in the latter part of the book. Not to mention William's recently deceased wife was not the best wife he could have - the product of an arranged marriage.

So, "Highland Hall" is very much so a rehashing of the Jane Eyre story with strong Christian themes and frequent Scripture references added in with care, a natural result of Julia's Christian upbringing and time as a missionary. The love story doesn't really develop like a Bronte or Austen story though, although fans of the two classic authors will absolutely love "Highland Hall." My only complaint is that the romance develops too quickly. Turansky does a great job of showing the emotions flying between the two and making their relationship very authentic, but William goes from seemingly unfriendly to friendly very quickly and both he and Julia automatically begin harboring feelings for each other right away. Turansky references the passing of deep evening conversations between the two, but never recounts any such conversations. She throws in a few other romances that develop well, although there are plenty of characters whom she switches between telling the story, some of which don't get any satisfying resolution. Still, it's a pleasant romance novel that any girl will love.

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

Review: God of the Underdogs

Matt Keller writes to those who are meant to be leaders, or at least that's the impression I got from his book "God of the Underdogs." Although I connect with a point or two (we must wait for the Pharaoh to call and use our gifts in the mean time), I had a difficult time truly taking anything away from the book. The two chapters that resonated with me on a slight level were at the very beginning of the book, and the rest of the book seemed to be about how God calls those of us who feel like underdogs to do big and great things. But what about daily life? What about those of us who don't feel called to the big things, but who want to make a difference in our small-life situations? There's some things that can be taken by long stretches while reading the book, and Keller's audio accompaniments (accessible via QR code at the end of each chapter) are a bit easier to enjoy, but overall I didn't feel like I fit any of Keller's underdogs. His connections to Scripture stories were sometimes a bit overstretched, and the majority of his book is Keller retelling those stories and then making quick applications. I did enjoy Keller's own inspirational story, though, and I'm sure that his book will impact a lot of people who are more in the right place to become the kind of leader Keller calls for.

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

Review: Saving Casper

To answer the question the title of this book seems to be going off of: No, Casper is not saved. That he holds to atheist beliefs is evident throughout the book he co-authored with Jim Henderson. The two wrote another book together in which they conversed about the churches they visited and what was best and worst about them. "Saving Casper" talks more in general about evangelical efforts to convert and save nonbelievers.

While I was very interested in what Casper had to say, I also constantly found myself wanting to yell at the book about what wasn't being pointed out in return to Capser's comments. Of course, since the point of the book is not to debate about what to believe and what not to believe, I suppose it's possible Jim has addressed my concerns in private. Still, Jim's insistence on developing relationships through connections and conversation bugged me a bit. The point is right - to love rather than hate - to act rather than speak - but the seeming statement that all debate is bad because it is full of hate (I may be exaggerating a bit here, but you get the point) hits me the wrong way.

I've always believed that God calls different people to different things, gifting them with different talents. To me, that includes debate, and while I'm no debater, I've found that watching skilled debaters consider major issues has helped me develop my own faith and find reason to defend my faith. I also think that there's a place and time for relationship-centered loving action evangelism, but that does not rule out the importance of speaking truth.

All that said, I would still recommend this book. I plan to reread it some day, as it has plenty to think about.

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: First Hired, Last Fired

There are plenty of ways I could nitpick Anita Agers-Brooks' "First Hired, Last Fired." For example, Anita doesn't get into much detail in explaining her principles, nor does she go beyond bullet points in drawing principles from the Bible (some of which seem far-fetched). She uses well-written and interesting stories (two versions of each - one negative, one positive) to illustrate her points, which will appeal to some and bore others. But, ultimately, I cannot give the book a bad review. Although it was not written to my learning style, it did inspire me to take a look at my work ethics and to give more of myself in the work place. In that sense, the book succeeded, and I highly recommend the book for anyone having attitude problems at work.

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

Review: Faithprints

Rebekah Binkley Montgomery's "Faithprints: Touching Your World For Jesus" is more of a handbook than it is a deep and thoughtful Christian nonfiction read. The book does not really address how to "touch the world" in our average daily lives. It's more for people looking for ways to be leaders in doing things like donating items after disasters, forming prayer groups and starting a book club. Montgomery provides steps (some which may seem obvious) and tips for each of her recommended leadership roles. Her personal stories and introductions are more interesting reads, but the majority of the book is slow going unless you specifically want to look at one particular suggestion she has. But most people will not take much away from this book because most people will already know what she provides, look it up on the internet, or pass because they're not leaders. I'm sure there's a market for this book, but I'm not a part of it. Points for an attractive concept, right heart and nice book cover, though.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Faking Grace

While I'm usually not a fan of fiction stories told in present tense, I found Tamara Leigh's laid-back style instantly charming in her lovely Christian romance, "Faking Grace." The story follows Maizy Grace Stewart, an investigative reporter with an empathetic heart that gets her into trouble. When she ends up working part time as a Lifestyles writer for the local paper, she decides to pretend to be a full-fledged Christian to help her get a job at a Christian publishing company. Along the way, she meets a handsome British man, falls in love, makes friends, and conflicts over whether or not she should deliver on the investigative story the paper she writes for has asked her to do on the publishing company. Of course, she ends up rediscovering her faith along the way, as well. I read the book in just a few days and found I could not put it down. The characters are realistic, enjoyable and still manage to make the reader think about the community, hypocrisy, sin and redemption of the Christian world. Despite its simple story, this has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. I wish it didn't have to end.

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

Review: Rules of Murder

Nothing against author Julianna Deering - but I just couldn't get into her book "Rules of Murder," a mystery supposedly written with the feel of an Agatha Christy novel (which I haven't read) about a series of murders revolving around a business and its young upcoming leader, whom also happens to find the love of his life and decide she's right for him in just 11 days. Unfortunately, for me, the pace of the book was not nearly as quick as the romantic relationship it tells of, and I did not enjoy it as much until the last 100 of 330 pages or so. The story was written well, it just seemed slow going for me. It took a few chapters for the action to start, and once that started the clues didn't unravel quick enough. I ended up reading ahead to find out who did it, and then I began to wonder how all these clues would lead to that end, an ending that wasn't explained thoroughly enough for me. As enjoyable as the characters were, their stories just didn't interest me all that much. I'm sure readers of classic mysteries will enjoy this book, but I, who do enjoy a good thriller or mystery book, just couldn't entirely enjoy it enough to come back for a future Drew Farthering mystery.

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

Review: 40 Most Influential Christians

It took me a while to get through Daryl Aaron's "40 Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today." It's definitely an intellectual book - one that can be thoroughly enjoyed by the intellectual mind or anyone wanting to learn more about the history of the Church and its doctrines. Rather than telling the Church's history as a history book, Aaron uses the founders and leading thinkers of Christianity, giving readers quick historical backgrounds and detailed looks at the beliefs these leaders held and how they influenced mainstream though in Christianity. I found myself pleasantly surprised by Aaron's lack of bias, although he clearly holds to traditional Christian doctrines. I made a lot  of underlines - too many to really take notes on. This is a keeper.

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

Review: Jesus on Every Page

I would love for David Murray to write a followup book to "Jesus on Every Page." Murray has done a fantastic job of giving the reader ways to find Jesus in the Old Testament, but I'd love to see him go beyond the general points and examples of "Jesus on Every Page" to provide more specific examples - a more exhaustive source - or perhaps an interactive study that gives the reader specific places to look. As for "Jesus on Every Page," Murray's point seems to be that the world was made through and for Jesus, meaning the Old Testament is more about Jesus than we'll ever know. Murray's more liberal stance of looking at the entirety of the Old Testament as a revelation of Jesus may bother some, and there were a few moments in his writing that required I read several times in order to full understand his points. But I made a lot of underlines in this book. It's definitely one I'll keep on my shelf for another visit in the future.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: Focus on the Family Les Mis Radio Drama

A few things bother me about Focus on the Family's radio drama version of Les Miserables. First, the character of Eponine is pretty much completely written out, part of an overall majorly thinned storyline. Second, Jean Valjean sounds way too much like John Rhys Davies, while the entire cast follows the usual trend of sounding British despite the fact that the story takes place in France (this hasn't bothered me so much in adaptations of other stories like The Scarlet Pimpernel, but for some reason, it bothered me here). The radio drama is still a good listen. I enjoyed it. Not to long. Easy to listen to. Relaxing. Redemptive story. But really, the musical did a far better job of adapting.

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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Review: What Every Christian Needs To Know About the Qur'An

I have to admit, when I started James R. White's book on Islam, I was fresh off reading another book about Mormonism and found myself uninterested, despite the fact that I do have a Muslim acquaintance. My interest increased when I made the connection that White also had a YouTube/Podcast response to "Christian homosexuality" I had recently listened to. Then, as I read further, I found the content more and more interesting. White delves deep into the history of Islam, its sacred texts and its modern beliefs and divisions. The defense of Christianity and criticisms of Islam he provides will fascinate anyone with an open mind and the patience to get through his wordy book. The book is full of long quotes and explanations that aren't always easy to understand. White's desire to be respectful and to use correct context is evident, but sometimes hurts his writing as he attempts to do too much. But I took a lot of notes and will definitely keep this book in my library for future reference.

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

Review: Working Women of the Bible

I'm grateful for Susan Dimickele's admission at the start of her book, "Working Women of the Bible." She states her lack of education on the topic and her perspective as a working mother coming to the Bible and looking for guidance. So far as I can tell, the fact does not hurt Dimickele's writing much - not in factual accuracy or doctrinal truth. She doesn't go too deep, and a lot of what she writes is repetition of what we already know. But I can't dislike the book. Dimickele uses her own experiences, a few select quotes from other authors (and I do mean few) and a few Bible passages (again, I really do mean few) to explore the women of the Bible - not so much with a feminist agenda, but with a look at what it means to be a working woman, to have the integrity of a working woman of the Bible, to be a Proverbs 31 woman, and even to work as partners with men. There are hidden gems in this book, and I'd like to return to it for another quick read and a more permanent discovery of those gems. Most women will enjoy this book. But it's not for those looking for deeper truths. Dimickele brings simple truths to light.

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

Review: Burning Sky

For her first novel, Lori Benton's "Burning Sky" shows an incredible amount of research and talent.

Main character Willa has returned home after spending twelve years in captivity with Indians - mostly happy years, but years in captivity, nonetheless. Her birth parents are missing, however, and men hardened with hatred from the Revolutionary War make adjusting to a new land and home difficult, especially when her parents are suspect loyalists and when she still clings to her adopted culture. The introduction of an injured Scotsman and two orphaned children to her path complicates things, and love and faith must find a way to survive amongst the hardships.

It's a beautiful, albeit long, historical romance that engages and holds the reader's attention. The story flows well, reads easy, and includes wonderful detail. Any fan of Christian romance will love this book. It's hard to put down.

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Unveiling Grace

Lynn Wilder is amazing, all at the grace of God, of course. Her book "Unveiling Grace" does a fabulous job of clearly laying out what the life of most Mormans looks like, all while showing God's amazing control over her journey in this autobiographical account of Wilder's own journey out of Mormonism.

Wilder weaves key Mormon teachings, both publicly touted and kept more secret, throughout her account, pointing out the strong contradictions between Mormon beliefs and Christianity, as well as the contradictions within the Mormon faith. But Wilder also has an incredible love for the Mormon people, one that allows her to tell her story in an easy and loving way.

It's a book you'll have to read more than once or take regular notes on to really solidify the great takeaways. If you're looking for a book on Mormonism that's more of a story than a straight-forward non-fiction, this book is for you. And if you're merely interested in different religions, this is a good book. This is a good book for any believer to read.

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

Review: Eye of the Sword

I have no idea why it took me so long to finally read Karyn Henley's fantasy book, "Eye of the Sword." I started reading it months ago and then set it aside in disinterest. A few days I picked it up again and could not set it down. I became entranced by the characters and their world full of angels, alchemy and magic.

The main character, Trevin, has fallen in love with a princess, but his heritage is unknown and his past is not pleasant, and the princess' first priority is to find the lost and stolen harps that may restore the stairway to heaven and put an end to the evil Reijus' expanding reign. Of course, as this is a trilogy, the harps are not reunited by book's end, and Henley definitely leaves her readers in suspense, wanting more. She pulled me in with Trevin's zero to hero story, and now I want to finish the series and return to the first book, which I never read (that did contribute a bit to how easily the book read, but I got the hang of it as it went on).

I recommend this book for any fan of fantasy fiction. It's clean. It has some Christian metaphors and parallels, but none of them are too obvious. It's just a fantastic book.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review of it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible NKJV

Why is it so difficult to find a good Bible these days? In the last year, I've received a few different study Bibles that included the kinds of study materials I love, but also came with either a liberal interpretation (i.e. The New Living and New Century versions) or, as in the case of "The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible," a Charismatic and Arminian interpretation of key passages. The least they could do for the more debatable passages is include references to both sides of the argument. It's rather disappointing, because, if it were not for the study Bible's clear view that you can lose your salvation and that the speaking of tongues still exists, this would be a great study Bible. And I still plan to use it, but with care. It has great every-day applications of verses, wonderful word definitions, and extensive notes. Any Pentecostal or Charismatic will certainly love it. I'm close to loving it.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookSneeze for my honest review of it.

Review: The World of Jesus

It's no surprise that Dr. William H. Marty is a professor. His book "The World of Jesus" reads like a text book, complete with both incredibly obvious or ridiculously difficult discussion questions at the end of each chapter. The only bits that do not read like a history book are the chapter openings, particularly useless narrative shorts based on Bible and history stories. But the book itself isn't entirely useless. It's a great history of the times leading up to and following the Gospel accounts. Reading the book brought back memories of my high school days when I loved reading my history text books. Unfortunately, this history book doesn't actually provide all that many insights for understanding the New Testament. It's mostly a flat history of people and places, but not so much culture or Biblical insights, and I only made about three underlines. But it's still a great read if you're interested in the history behind the Bible.

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

Review: The World of Jesus

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Review: A Noble Groom

Jody Hedlund's "A Noble Groom" is one of those Christian romance novels written to please the reader. There's nothing groundbreaking about it, and it follows the usual formula, but it's written rather perfectly, drawing in the reader with relatable characters and a story that keeps your interest. I had a hard time putting down the book, as it exemplified the way a man and a woman should interact, what a godly relationship looks like and what it means to rely on God and realize that He's always there, even for you, no matter how low on the totem pole you are.

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

Book Description:
Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

For nobleman Carl von Reichart, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor. 

Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic--unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love--but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.

Review: Revealing Jesus

Darlene Zschech's new year-long devotional, "Revealing Jesus," has many appealing, charming elements to it. I love that many of the devotionals come from a series of scriptures and are in order, reading like Darlene's own, personal daily devotionals as she reads the Bible. Darlene also includes a classic devotion at the end of each month not written by her. But her organization isn't the best, and not all the devotions line up with their month's topic. Truth is, I'm not much of a devotional person, as they never get deep into Scripture and most of the time involve feel-good messages. But most people will enjoy this new devotional book. It's made a good, encouraging read before bed each night, even if it doesn't stick with me.

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye

"Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye" reads far too much like a children's story, or, more to the point, like a Vacation Bible School drama based on a famous character of adventure. Holmes visits a scene or two, then he reads Scripture, often from memory, and then he proceeds to answer questions. The questions posed were interesting, and the book was a fun read, but it all seemed out of place and a bit too close to Bible Man.

Len Bailey offers plenty of fascinating points, and his narrative has the same feel as the original Sherlock Holmes stories, but as Holmes time travels to Biblical times, what he witnesses hardly seems necessary his conclusions. The trips serve only to point out where in the Bible Holmes can make connections.

I like the concept of Dr. Watson being the one with faith while Holmes stays critical of the Bible, but Holmes' character and his reactions to the miraculous things he witnesses make his character confusing and difficult to understand. And why would Holmes accept a challenge from a client to do Biblical research in the first place? It's not real mystery. It's theology and Biblical study.

Furthermore, the mystery behind the Needle's Eye, which allows Holmes to time travel, is never full developed. The beginnings of the machine come from the villain Moriarty, but where the machine takes Holmes seems to be determined by the mysterious client, who leaves calling cards with questions to be solved, both in Biblical locations and in Holmes' London haunts.

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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Reasons For Belief

Norman L. Geisler and Patty Tunnicliffe have written a page turner. Although I still had several unanswered questions, "Reasons For Belief" is filled their book with historical facts, philosophical reasoning, and science to give the reader what the title promises: reason to believe in God, Christ and the resurrection. We get information on the reliability of the New and Old Testament. We learn about sources outside the Bible that confirm Jesus' existence and death. A long list of prophecies fulfilled. Interesting facts about buried bodies that make Jesus' resurrection account all the more true. Geisler and Tunnicliffe cover a lot of ground, and there's still more room for a sequel! I highly recommend this book.

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

Review: God's Not Dead by Rice Brooks

Rice Brooks adds much to the increasing amount of information about evidence for Christianity. I suppose there's always a need for more on that, even if most of it is nothing new, because the idea of a new book gets people to pick up the book and proceed from there. So, in that sense, Brooks succeeds.

Brooks has several good ideas, particularly relating to atheism's reliance on faith and the system's philosophical faults. But the majority of the actual evidence he presents I have read before. It's good to have it presented in a new way, though, to solidify the information in my mind.

Brooks spends a good portion of the book reaffirming the Gospel message, which can be good for some readers, but annoying for others. He uses a lot of outside sources, which is great, but he also uses a lot of outside stories without going into enough detail about what specifically led the atheists in his stories to believe. He also repeats himself several times, and his sentence structure and organization can be difficult to follow.

The book is hard to get in to at first. With some patience and understanding, and the proper background, the book is beneficial. But agnostics and others looking for evidence for the first time would be better served with other materials out there.

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Dirty God by Johnnie Moore

In his book "Dirty God," Johnny Moore starts out with a beautiful, telling story of his encounter with a leper society. His tale segues into what seems to promise to be a masterful book about the God who loves sinful humans and offers them the gift of grace. A God who isn't afraid to use man, even in man's faults and mistakes.

And Moore's first few chapters meet that promise full-on. As Moore progresses, however, his thoughts become more and more material that I've heard before in a million ways. Maybe it's a message that needs to be heard again. The world needs Christians who are willing to act on their faith. But Moore's book did just become another encouragement to be like Jesus and be His hands to the weak and helpless.

It's a good message, but it wasn't what I expected. I wanted more Biblical details on specific ways God used man despite his faults and on specific ways Jesus became "dirty." Guess that will have to wait for another book.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review of it.