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.