Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fiction Review: Vendetta by Lisa Harris

The suspense does not let up, even in the quieter moments of the latest from Lisa Harris. "Vendetta" gives readers solid character development and a mystery that reveals itself at a consistent and edge-of-your-seat pace. The style may remind some readers of CSI and other crime-solving television shows.

Ten years after her sister goes missing, Nikki Boyd works for the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force. She has never given up hope of finding out the entire truth behind her sister's disappearance, which may develop further when the abductor's signature shows up at the scene of another missing girl's case. As both Nikki and friend, Tyler, struggle with allowing God into their painful pasts and possible futures, various clues lead them closer to a surprising conclusion.

The ending does leave a very large opening for future books in the series. Readers will definitely anticipate the next installment.

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

Nonfiction Review: Defying Normal by Skip Heitzig and Jeff Kinley

"Defying Normal: Soaring Above the Status Quo" looks at the life of Daniel as inspiration for prayer and dependence upon God. The authors use basic storytelling and ample Scriptural support (sometimes too much New Testament for a book that's supposed to look at things from Daniel's Old Testament perspective), and they even surprise every so often with a fascinating fact or two. The applications, however, are fairly obvious from a basic read of Daniel. This is a book that goes off the pages of the Bible for extended, real-life applications.

We learn about self-control through Daniel's experience under foreign indoctrination, confusion and isolation. As Nebuchadnezzar's wise men were humbled by failure, humanity will fail its defiance of God and disregard for God's knowledge. We learn to live in balance between integrity and interaction with the world. As Daniel had courage and relied of God in prayer, so we must come to God with adoration, confession, petition and motivation, replacing anxiety with hope.

"Defying Normal" encourages its readers to influence the world by reaching up to God, reaching in to self and community, and reaching out to the lost. It's a great motivational book, but not an original one.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: NIV Zondervan Study Bible

Occasional colored photos. Pleasant layout with clear, green headlines. The usual study notes. Introductions that include author, historical and theological notes. And some index articles that go over basic doctrines and timelines - meant more for reference or for beginners than for new discoveries. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is your typical Bible. It's heavy in size, so not ideal for on-the-go, but perfect for in-depth study. I do not recommend it, however, if you already have a good study Bible.

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

Fiction Review: An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

"An Endless Christmas" by Cynthia Ruchti is a heart-warming story about one family's Christmas and the woman invited for a surprise proposal (as well as what happens after she says no). There were a few small matters that bugged me throughout the short novella. There was not much of a plot, the many family names were difficult to keep track of, and more than a few of Ruchti's short descriptions and references made absolutely no sense. Also - a pet peeve of mine - the book is told from one person's point of view until, about 60 pages in, Ruchti switches to another character's viewpoint, which she then proceeds to hardly use at all throughout the book - inconsistent style and story telling that might have worked better if Ruchti had begun each chapter with a short bit written from this other character's view. That said, Katie, our leading lady, deals with some real insecurities and bad family history that many readers will relate to. The main characters are interesting, and the family's holiday traditions quaint. As an only child with a small family, the picture painted here appealed to me as what a perfect family Christmas looks like. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to cozy up in front of the fire and enjoy some seasons greetings.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: The Imposter

I'm still not sure which imposter is "The Imposter" in Suzanne Woods Fisher's latest Amish novel, the first in a series titled "The Bishop's Family." I'm not really sure who the Bishop of the series is either. This first book's back cover description does not really give an accurate picture of what readers can expect, either. Fisher tells the story from multiple points of view: The back cover's Katrina, who struggles with a lost love. Teacher Birdy's slight crush on Katrina's father. The gambling problems of Katrina's brother, Jesse. And conflicts within the church led by Katrina's father, David. Although the book is slow moving with a very simple writing style, a huge revelation about half way through raises the stakes, and the characters' problems suddenly get real. No one gets married, but the story has a surprisingly satisfying conclusion, and Fisher does a wonderful job of creating relatable and thought-provoking, yet simple situations. "The Imposter" is full of hidden gems.

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