Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Restoring Christmas

Novellas usually have little character development due to lack of space, but I love them anyway - especially Christmas novellas. But "Restoring Christmas" is a nice surprise. Author Cynthia Ruchti gives readers that home-grown warmth and detailed character backgrounds. The romantic leads, Alexis and Gabe, both have dark pasts that enable them to connect as he films and she designs for a home restoration project. The landowner, Elsie, also grows on readers as we learn small bits of her family history. There were a few small details that bothered me about the book, however. At the start, Gabe is the one more sensitive to Elsie's feelings, but about half way through he trades places with Alexis in that regard. There were also a few moments when I had trouble connecting the dots or following what was happening. Still, "Restoring Christmas" is a lovely story about putting others first and moving past material desires during the holidays. Ruchti also includes subtle, but strong Christian themes.

*I received this book for free. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: First Words of Jesus

"First Words of Jesus" is a refreshing overview of the nativity story and its connection to Jesus' final days on earth. Author Stu Epperson, Jr. does tend to be a bit repetitive, and some of his points are a stretch, but perhaps that is the radio host in him coming out. I did appreciate Epperson's use of Scripture, old hymns, and lesser known facts, but all the extras seemed like a bit much. Each chapter begins with a few quotes and ends with a few pages of relevant verses and dull discussion questions. Epperson organizes the book based on Jesus' questions to his parents when they find him at the temple. Basically, Epperson connects Joseph, Mary and the rest to the need to seek Christ and then focuses the end of his book on Jesus' mission. Epperson offers several subtle opportunities for the unbelieving reader to accept Christ. To be honest, I did not get much out of this book, but I believe it to be a good Christmas read and perhaps a good choice as a gift for someone interested in learning about the Christian perspective on Christmas.

*All opinions are my own. I received this book for free.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: NIV Faith and Work Bible

As a fairly conservative Christian working in a very liberal theatre environment, a Bible with insights on faith in work has great appeal. There is great potential for discussion of cultural issues and spiritual warfare here. However, the NIV Faith and Work Bible seems more interested in giving theological points on how our day to day work is a part of God's greater plan.

David Kim's introduction states the editors' goal was to incorporate the redemption of our motivations, relationships and world. Essays in the back of the Bible give a bit more insight on why editors focused on the Gospel story and doctrinal standards, but honestly I expected more general principles and perhaps Biblical character examples. Reading through the notes, I found more than I expected from an initial scan, but I still wanted more.

Here are a few additional pros and cons of this edition:

- The layout and larger print work very well for easy reading and a pleasant feel
- The "storyline" sections (basically bullet points of the Bible's events) spread throughout seem more written for beginners in the faith an felt unnecessary
- Examples from specific professions will appeal to visual and emotional learners, but felt irrelevant and uninformative to me
- Book introductions could have been organized into sections and had little to say about faith and work
- The inserts on doctrine are sparse and include only a paragraph or two that specifically apply the topic to faith and work

*Disclaimer: I received this Bible from BookLookBloggers. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Review: Culture by A.W. Tozer

"Culture" is a compilation of various A.W. Tozer works, but the selections are poorly organized and occasionally disconnected from the subject matter. I do, however, enjoy Tozer's philosophical style. He has an eloquent way with words, and although he rarely uses Scripture, he has a firm grasp of orthodox Christianity. "Culture" discusses the following:

- Worship in everyday life as Jesus chooses to involve us in his plans
- Changing the Bible to fit modern sensibilities and why that does not work
- What the church should look like
- What the church does look like when shallow and modified for culture's sake
- Patient courage of the Christian
- The world as a spiritual battleground
- False security and wealth and position
- The modern church's wrong desire to do good without submitting to Christ's lordship
- Son of earth versus son of heaven
- The difficulties of the Christian life
- And more.

So this is a good book, but readers may learn more from reading these selections in their full context.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Moody Publishers. All opinions are my own.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Women in the Church

Phew! With quite a bit of effort and time (several months), I finally managed to get all the way through "Women in the Church," a collection of academic essays meant to defend the complementarian position, especially in regards to that controversial passage in 1 Timothy 2. I consider myself an average intellectual capable of reading more academic material, but the essays here are mostly written for those who will have a strong understanding of grammar and the Greek language. Certain chapters were extra difficult to get through because of a regular use of Greek words that I had no ability to even guess how to pronounce. There were some good points here - and bits and pieces were more readable, especially an interesting roundtable discussion at the conclusion of the book. I am sorry to have to give the book such a low rating (2/5 stars) when I do feel that overall these essays helped my own understanding of a biblical position on womanhood, but I nearly gave up reading the book multiple times, and I feel most readers will not have the patience to finish. Chapters examined specific words in 1 Timothy and how they were used throughout history, the culture of the time 1 Timothy was written, and various egalitarian positions. There is a lot to take in here. If you're willing to wade through deep and complicated waters, give the book a try.

*I received this book from Crossway. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: The Berenstain Bears' Book of Prayers

"The Berenstain Bears' Book of Prayers" contains "nearly 50" rhyming prayers for your child's daily routines. It will be up to you to help your child place these easy to remember, easy to recite prayers in their appropriate situations. The board book can be ready like a storybook, but isn't really written that way. It contains prayers for the morning, God's creation, joyful praise, thanks, friendship, bravery, mealtimes, unpleasant emotions, forgiveness, comfort, bedtime and more. This is a great way to teach your young one to pray all day in every situation and to include God in every moment.

*I received this book from Worthy Publishing. All opinions are my own.

Review: God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon

"God Made the Sun" and "God Made the Moon" are adorable, well-illustrated die-cut stories for the little ones, quick and easy to read. Although not all the rhymes are all that creative or rhyme well, these are simple stories that begin and end with God's blessings. As you read through with your child, he or she will see a peer go through a day (or evening) of fun and adventure. You can help your child understand that even in these daily routines, God's light shines down. In fact, both cardboard books begin with the same little ditty: "God made the moon/sun to smile down on earth, and fill the dark with light (it shines to light our way). The moon/sun reminds us of the love God sends to us each night/day. The moon story features a little girl, while the sun story features a little boy. The moon story also includes a few more pages with specific spiritual themes - the little girl praying, a comment that God watches from above. Both books include cutouts on each page of a sun or moon that makes the books more interactive and fun.

*I received these books from Worthy Publishing. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bible Review: NKJV Word Study

I received the digital version of this Bible from the publisher (all views are my own). The digital layout was necessary, but frustrating. Links to word descriptions at the back of the chapter were difficult to use and inconvenient. There wasn't much to study here beyond the word descriptions, which were informative, but direct and obvious - not very revealing or interesting. The book introductions were also very short. They include a list of words to watch out for, but do not give much in the way of summaries for ideas found in those words. There's also an excessive amount of underlining for words that have "word studies" in other books of the Bible. I give this edition three stars because one, it's the Bible and you can't go wrong with the Bible, and two, maybe, just maybe, you'll find the word studies beneficial. In fact, the digital version may be easier to use than the print version.

Fiction Review: Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon

With just a few books, I have become a great fan of Irene Hannon's suspense work. Hannon's perspective and writing style are unique. She always includes the antagonist's point of view, and she always builds up to an exciting, edge-of-your seat finale. I was slightly disappointed by "Tangled Webs," though.

This installment - the final and third of the "Men of Valor" series - has a slower pace and less interesting climax - albeit just as dangerous. Hannon's particular habits that I find disagreeable were also still there: Introducing a new point of view late in the book and nearly instant attraction between the romantic leads. Still, having read the two previous installments in the series, I enjoyed learning what happens with the third brother.

The "tangled webs," themselves," were interesting enough. Dana is recovering from a hostage incident in New York while Finn recovers from his army trauma. A drug producer wants the two off of the land he uses and finds a way to blackmail the local police chief to help him. There is not quite as much character development here as in Hannon's other books. I would have enjoyed having more than a chapter or two to look at the drug maker's motivations. The police chief's character is probably the most realistic and relatable of all the people who appear in the book. The novel is also lacking in spiritual themes or insights.

So - it's not Hannon's best, but fans of Hannon's previous work and anyone out for a simple romantic suspense novel without much depth will enjoy "Tangled Webs."

*I received this book from Revell. All opinions are my own.

Devotional Review: Earth Psalms by Francine Rivers

I am not normally one to enjoy or get anything out of a devotion book, but I connected with "Earth Psalms" by Francine Rivers. It wasn't necessarily because of the subject matter - some of the allegories and lessons drawn from nature were stretched - but the beautiful photos, quick hymnal and Scriptural quotes, and specific lessons drew me in. Each lesson seemed to connect with a previous lesson - there are 52 total - encouraging me to rely on God's faithfulness and to live my life accordingly. I found simple, but profound truths in each entry. I find myself wanting to return and read through the book again now that I've finished it. The book is written to be a weekly devotional, but works just as well, if not better, as a daily devotional.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Tyndale. All opinions are my own.

Fiction Review: Open

I love David Gregory's choice to make a coffee-table, short story novel. I'm sure the simplicity of his writing style and his direct aim to connect the Bible with modern-day dilemmas will attract beginners in the Christian faith. Personally, however, I found his writing a bit too simple and his story a bit lacking in depth. Connecting Emma's breakup with Scripture seemed like a bit of a stretch, and her own ignorance of the Bible was realistic but bothersome. I longed for thought-provoking conversation and insight, but instead, when Jesus invites Emma to witness the events of the Gospels, the reader gets what he or she has read before in the Bible. All this is not to say I dismiss the book entirely. I enjoy the concept, and there are a few moments to connect with, but I do not care much for Gregory's non-descriptive writing and think the story is more written for the inquiring mind than the more mature (but still growing) believer.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Tyndale. All opinions are my own.

Review: Pop Manga Coloring Book

As you can probably tell from the cover image, "Pop Manga Coloring Book" contains beautiful, surreal sketches of manga girls, the majority of them wrapped up in nature in one way or form (tentacles, animal friends, fantastical hats, etc), and a few of them having rather soulful, sometimes creepy eyes. The large coloring book has a nice, flat lay to it. The pages have a good thickness for coloring (although they're so detailed, pencils may be more appropriate than markers - prepare to spend a lot of detailed work and time one these drawings). Personally, I did not care for the addition of a small creature that pops up frequently with tips. The creature got in the way of some of the drawings, and the tips spoke to me like I was a child who didn't know red from green, pencil from pen. I'll admit, though, that the idea was cute and very fitting for manga.

*I received this book from BloggingforBooks. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: NIV Holy Bible for Girls Journal Edition

The NIV Holy Bible for Girls Journal Edition has a fun, hard cover that mimics the look of a journal, complete with elastic wrap. The pages are about the usual thickness, the text is small, but easy to read, and the book itself has a nice flat lay to it. The Bible includes lines on the edge of each page for notes, but depending on how many notes you take, you may have to write very small to fit in your thoughts. There is no commentary or additional notes to go off of for your study, either (if there were, the book would be much larger than its easy to handle size). I found that this is a good Bible to take with me to Bible studies or to take notes in as I read other Bibles with larger commentary. It gives me the opportunity to have all the points that stand out to me in other books and Bibles in one place.

*I received this book from BookLookBloggers. All opinions are my own.

Fiction Review: When Love Arrives by Johnnie Alexander

Dani accidentally gets caught spying on Brett. She hopes to find a way to embarrass him after he spoke ill of her mother's pilot career in an interview. But can she maintain bitterness when he asks her on a date? Johnnie Alexander provides an relaxing read in "When Love Arrives," but not without a few flaws.

Dani's motivations felt unrealistic. Perhaps it might have been more believable if her mother had committed suicide after the plane crash or if she had made more of a connection between her step-father's mistreatment and the crash. Dani's emotional response to her father's harsh words and actions is more interesting, but is treated almost entirely separate from her motivations for revenge and plays a very small role in her character growth. I did, however, relate to the character's insecurity.

Brett's character arc is also worth the read. Readers don't really get a solid conclusion on one plot point, but Brett's desire to be a better man and take responsibility for his child (outside of wedlock) is inspiring. Other character names can get a little confusing, but their stories are moving and made me want to read the first book in the series. This book stand well on its own, but I liked it enough to want to find out what happens next, especially in a subplot romance.

*I received this book from Revell Publishers. All opinions are my own.

Nonfiction Review: Christ in the Sabbath

What is the Sabbath? Does it mean "to cease"? Or is it meant to reflect a life lived under God's blessing? Rich Robinson lays out basic principles behind the Sabbath that most anyone can agree on: The Sabbath is a day to remember and sanctify. The Sabbath is a communal and humanitarian day.

In his book "Christ in the Sabbath," Robinson gives an overview history of the Sabbath - first as a blessing guarded by refrain from work, developed into a regular time in which the land itself rests for a year, brought into the New Testament period in which various sects had differing views on what was allowed or not allowed, and "completed" in Jesus Christ's own jubilee ministry. The book also includes a few chapters on relevant New Testament passages, focusing on what Jesus and Paul said about the Sabbath. According to Robinson, Jesus invites the weary to himself and fulfills all the kinds of rest of which the Old Testament speaks. Where God is, we find rest.

Other topics include the Sabbath among modern Jewish practices, the development of Sabbath practices within the Christian church, and modern arguments for and against Sunday worship. Robinson's points on how Christians began to worship on Sundays were particularly insightful.

Of course, with so much to cover in one book, there is much that is not covered. The book felt more like an overview of the Sabbath, rather than specifically of Christ in the Sabbath. I was disappointed that groups like the Seventh Day Adventists were not explored in more detail. The chapter with modern viewpoints was short and quick. The final chapter with suggestions for how to apply the Sabbath to our own lives also seemed somewhat contrived. But Robinson's own Jewish background added a nice personal touch, and anyone interested in a history of the Sabbath will get a lot out of this book.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Moody Publishers. All views are my own.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Devotional Review: The Bard and the Bible

Now here is a devotional I can enjoy! Bob Hostetler pairs short Shakespeare quotes with Scripture verses and fun facts. The one-page devotions themselves are interesting to read, even though some pairs seem a stretch. Also, the devotionals are organized by each work of Shakespeare, rather than by topic. Perhaps I would have found more depth in my daily devotions if they had been organized by topic to reinforce what I had read previously.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
Astronomer David Bradstreet does a wonderful job of laying out the universe in clear language. But although his aim is true and straight - to reconcile science with religion - his book "Star Struck" is more of a very basic history and explanation of the "wonders of creation" than a specified list of ways those wonders line up with the Bible. That's not a bad thing. It's all fascinating information. But very little of it will actually help me defend my faith.

A bit disorganized in its chapter order, "Star Struck" covers:

- Ancient cosmology,
- The "goldilocks" location of Earth and its place in the universe,
- An overview of the planets of our galaxy, with a chapter focusing on the Sun and the Moon, and another chapter on Mars (and Martians),
- A history of the Telescope revolution, Galileo and the Catholic church,
- The age of earth (Bradstreet believes in an old-earth),
- Asteroids, stars, and dark stuff,
- Aliens and life on other planets,
- The future of space travel,
- How galaxies are formed and how far they are from the Earth,
- The Big Bang Theory,
- And end of the world scenarios.

The few Faith applications include:

- Scientists like Galileo and a Catholic priest, who discovered the orbit of the earth around the Sun and the expansion of the Universe from a Big Bang,
- A brief consideration of Atheism and Deism,
- A few chapters on God as creator and sustainer,
- The encouragement to separate Biblical prophecy from Astronomy, with a mention of a few possible real-world scenarios that could fit end-time prophecies,
- A chapter on God's calling for Christians to consider both science and religion,
- The theory that the dust mentioned in Genesis (which man is mad from) could be star stuff,
- And binary star systems as another example of how God uses community and complementarity.

Overall, "Star Struck" will give Christian readers a greater appreciation for God as creator. The book is a quick and easy read, which features multiple photos and illustrations, including some color inserts.

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fiction Review: A Lady Unrivaled

I've really enjoyed taking the journey with Roseanna M White's Ladies of the Manor series - and I don't really recommend reading "A Lady Unrivaled" without having read the first two books - you can, but it might take some time to get the backstory straight, and besides that, when familiar characters from previous books make small appearances or find new redemption, the read becomes all the more satisfying having read the entire series.

White's first book was an enjoyable romance with a slight thrill, but her second book in this series showed improvement with darker themes and more intriguing characters. Now in this final installment, we have near perfect plot development - albeit with a somewhat quick finale - and a very gratifying conclusion. I particularly enjoyed the character of Kira, a Russian ballerina sent to spy on Rushworth and Catherine for information on the Fire Eye red diamonds. White includes a servant's viewpoint in each book, a nice counterpoint to the richer society at the forefront of the stories. Kira begins as someone who wants to gain independence and material wealth and ends as one who appreciates the people around her and the God who sustains her.

Lord Cayton also goes through a spiritual journey as he forgives himself for past sins, embraces his young daughter and falls in love with the optimistic Ella. And Ella is bright and entertaining in her pursuit to stop the curse of the Fire Eye diamonds once and for all. Where those diamonds end up after violent encounters and kidnappings is also a wonderful way to end the series. Although, I confess, I am sorry to see these beautiful characters go.

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

Fiction Review: The Christmas Angel Project

The weather is beginning to feel like fall, and it's the perfect time for a heart-warming Christmas novel. Given the length of short feel-good stories like "The Christmas Angel Project," and given my previous experience with Melody Carlson, I expected an interesting premise with little character development but was pleasantly surprised.

Of course, there's not much space to delve into each character, but Carlson's 2016 holiday novel progressed at just the right pace, with a dash of romance toward the end and enough time spent with each character to "wrap" you up in their tales. (Although it did take some time to get each of the characters straight, since the story is told from all four girls' perspectives.)

Here, we have a small book club that bonds together after one of their own suddenly passes away. But their friend left behind special gifts for each of them. Inspired, the ladies find ways to give back to their community and grow out of their own circumstances.

The redemption found is quite beautiful and would work well for a film. The conclusion involves a few Bible passages, but other than that the spiritual themes are not very strong and the women who find romance never stop to check to make sure their men are believers.

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Between Pain and Grace

"Between Pain and Grace" is an interesting textbook-style read, but it's not exactly what you might expect from a book on pain and suffering. Authors Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer touch briefly on God's overall narrative and His desire to involve mankind in the process, but beyond that readers do not get much of a theological debate on why God allows evil to exist. Instead, "Between Pain and Grace" is the "Biblical Theology of Suffering" - or systematic theology on suffering - that its subtitles says it is.

The authors define suffering and look at specific instances of pain and suffering found in the Bible, spending time on a few random topics like mental illness, toxic families and sexual abuse, and more often than not bringing the reader back to the idea that suffering flows out of a context of a broken communal ecosystem.

More specifically, the authors address:

- What is sin?
- Does God suffer?
- Is the church engaged as it should be in misery and lament?
- How should the church respond to suffering?
- What is the role of righteous anger, tears and so on?
- Does suffering come from a biological or spiritual cause?
- What is the proper Biblical response to suffering?

Peterman and Schmutzer write that the three part task of the Christian is to help alleviate suffering, facilitate godly suffering, and prevent future suffering. They conclude that - just like the disciples who questioned the role of the cross in Christ's ministry - we must struggle to understand the role of suffering in God's plan.

Overall, "Between Pain and Grace" did not quite come together for me, especially since I am not a part of its target audience - pastors and those going into ministry. There is some great material here, though - even with a few sections that seemed irrelevant or confusing. I didn't make a lot of underlines, but I did get a few takeaways. But I would caution the potential reader to know what they will be reading to avoid false expectations.

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

Review: Live Fearless Adult Coloring Book

I don't normally write my reviews in pro and con format, but for this adult coloring book - Live Fearless - I felt what I had to say was simple enough for that format.

... Margaret Feinberg includes full-sized pages opposite of her drawings for reflection on verses. She suggests using your coloring time to memorize each verse.
... There is a nice selection of verses and some pretty floral drawings.
... The size, weight, and paper of the book lay out and fold nicely for coloring.

... The drawings themselves, especially the text of the verses, are very detailed and, thus, extremely difficult to color in. I didn't even try and decided to give to a friend who would enjoy it more.
... There are only about 20 drawings to color in.
... I would love to see a longer devotional to go with each verse.
... The hashtag given - "livefree" - does not really work because too many people use it for other things.

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

Review: God Made You Just Right

The very first illustration of "God Made You Just Right" reminded me of myself as a child. The same short, brown hair. The same little girl with a trunk full of dress-up clothes and accessories. Surely every adult (and child) will see themselves in this adorable children's book, just over 20 pages long with drawings of boys and girls - African, Asian, American. Each page spread includes one or two sentences that remind us God created each detail of our lives, from physical to spiritual, made special to fit into His grand purpose. He even "picked those tickly spots right on your tummy and your toes!" The picture book ends with Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

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

Review: Punderdome - A Card Game

I love puns. I love games like Apples to Apples. Combining the two sounded like a fun idea. But I think I'll stick with my spur of the moment puns - they're more fun. I've seen mixed reviews for the Punderdome game, so maybe there are people good enough at puns to make this game work, but my dad is pretty amazing at coming up with puns, and this game just did not work for him. The game includes topic cards that you're supposed to pick two of and use to create a pun in 90 seconds. Then the judge picks a winning pun for each round. It all sounds good, but coming up with puns using the topics is just plain difficult. On the bright side, there are some puntastic jokes on the back of each card.

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: Zacchaeus and Jesus

Read about Zacchaeus and Jesus. Then flip the book over and read about Jesus and Zacchaeus.  What a creative idea to make a story more interesting and interactive for kids! Dandi Daley Mackall's enchanting rhymes focus on God's redemptive powers. The first person narrative also makes it easy for the reader to imagine him or herself as Zacchaeus. And the actual pictures are exactly what you would expect from a children's book.

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Fiction Review: Missing by Lisa Harris

The second book in the Nikki Boyd series, "Missing" by Lisa Harris is a constant page-turner. Murder and fake prescription drugs mingle with a father's grief over his recently deceased wife and a detective's growing affection for the man. Family politics interfere, and the case of a missing woman becomes personal when a dead body is found on a boat connected to the family.

After becoming invested in Nikki Boyd's character from the first book, I was slightly disappointed there was not further development on her missing sister's case. Harris also has a tendency to create a climax before the reader and characters have a chance to solve the mystery. But the build up and suspense is even greater here than the first installment, and Harris also has a strength in her ability to include a romance that does not dominate the plot.

You do not have to read the first Nikki Boyd mystery to enjoy or understand "Missing," but I highly recommend reading the entire series as it develops.

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

Review: Today's Moment of Truth

I was relieved to find out that "Today's Moment of Truth" was not just a collection of excerpts from Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg books - although much of the content is similar. This is my kind of devotional - as it is more intellectual, but still includes a verse and thought for each day. Here we both have reminders to praise God and reasons to believe in and praise God. The actual "devotions" cover everything from creation to science to world religions. They're short and simple - which would normally bother me (I prefer detail) - but as paired with Scripture they work well and come alive again as new truths.

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

Fiction Review: The Promise of Jesse Woods

"The Promise of Jesse Woods" reads much like a memoir, alternating between the main character's present time and his first childhood summer spent at a new home with new friends. The people he meets along the way drive the compelling novel forward, even with its laidback pace. In the present, Matthew returns home to stop the woman he loves from marrying another man. In the past, he meets a young girl and boy from the wrong side of town. Injustice rears its ugly head, and the reader quickly becomes engulfed and enraged. The book wraps up nicely, strongly implying a theme of redemption. The concluding remarks on Matt's need for a real savior - Jesus - feel a bit forced, and one can't help feeling slightly disappointed in the character resolution. But ultimately it is author Chris Fabry's gift for immersing readers in the rich and vibrant story that prevails. One can't help but feel that Fabry knows his characters backwards and forwards.

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

Nonfiction Review: If In Doubt by Rhys Stenner

I applaud any believer who can clearly lay out the reasons for his or her beliefs. Pastor/Author Rhys Stenner certainly knows how to direct his readers back to the Gospel. In his book, "If In Doubt," Stenner makes numerous Scripture references as he attempts to give a "clear view of the truth." He uses the metaphor of a spy glass zooming in closer and closer to a defined picture. The book covers creation, morality, the Bible's reliability, Jesus' deity, the afterlife, and the end times.

In terms of content and style, though, there is little originality and what is given is oversimplified. The one thing Stenner had going for him was his British origins - which may have given him a unique and interested perspective, had he used it more. As it is, Stenner brushes over topics in favor of spending the majority of the book outline what most people will already know Christians believe. Readers are much better off checking out a book by Lee Strobel or the likes, where more detailed answers to "doubts" will be provided.

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

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Nonfiction Review: God's Devil by Erwin Lutzer

I greatly appreciate Erwin W. Lutzer's ability to state a profound idea in a simple sentence. "God's Devil" follows in this line, recounting God's grand plan and how Satan fits within. It is only because I expected more detail on Satan, himself, that I give "God's Devil" a slightly lower rating. Here, Lutzer never goes into great detail about Satan - instead choosing to give some general advice on where to spot sin in our lives, the lies of occult systems, and other various principles. But Lutzer is very on point when discussing Satan's motives and lies under the watch of God's control. The author contrasts Satan's desire to pulverize with God's desire to purify. Lutzer never explicitly explains how God's control over Satan and evil works with what the Bible says about no evil or temptation coming from God, but an answer is hinted at. The complicated topic of obedience to God and God's authority over all creation is also lightly touched on. There is a lot to mull over in "God's Devil." Again, the answers are not always there in black and white, but Lutzer ties everything back to Christ's triumph and the Christian's victory in Christ.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: 50 Crucial Questions

I normally don't care for books that make countless references to other products, but John Piper and Wayne Grudem actually give straightforward detailed, but concise answers to their "50 Crucial Questions" on the roles of men and women as put forward by the Bible. It only took me one day to read, but I made several highlights in my copy. Answers deal effectively with how our roles in church and home affect society, what is meant by "submission" and "head," how to correct abuses of the Bible's position, how Jesus treated women, what roles women played in the Bible accounts, and much more. The authors' position sticks clearly with the view that men and women are equal but complementary. It's not an extensive defense, but it is thorough.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Nonfiction Review: How to Be an Atheist by Mitch Stokes

I'm not entirely sure why Mitch Stokes titled his book "How to Be an Atheist." And only about a third of his book addresses his subtitle, "Why Many Skeptics Aren't Skeptical Enough." In fact, some of Stokes' own skepticism seems to hurt a Christian's defense as much as help it. Unfortunately, Stokes sandwiches his quest to lay out and debunk various versions of Atheism with jargon. His second section on science is particularly difficult to follow. However, if you can wade through some of the more complicated sections, you'll find some great - oftentimes unconventional - points.

In summary, Stokes discusses philosophy, what we are able to see and know, and the "fork" of fact and experience. According to Stokes, science is based on theory and inference to the best explanation, both of which are influenced by personal beliefs and sometimes unreliable evidence, which satisfies the experiment but contradicts other equally satisfying evidence for the same situation. I found Stokes' discussion of an atheist's morality fascinating. I had never seen detailed explanations for morality from an atheist's point of view before. It was great to find information beyond the typical "Atheism equals no real morality" line. Stokes covers the evolutionary, nihilistic, and "state of brain" theories which match naturalism. According to Stokes, naturalism equals a lack of true free will and purpose. It also fails to define "well-being" and "ought" without relying on sentiment, and it leaves the door open for morality to evolve into something we would currently consider wrong. He ends his book rather suddenly with the idea that morality is not person-independent since it relies on God's character, but rather human-independent.

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

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Lord, Change My Attitude by James Macdonald

"Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late" by James Macdonald uses the Old Testament Israelite wilderness story and various New Testament passages to look in detail at the Biblical view of complaint, coveting, criticism, doubt, and rebellion. Macdonald addresses the opposite of each of these negative attitudes and ends each chapter with insightful questions. There's also a great study guide at the end of the book. (I wish I had realized this. I would have preferred to do the study while I read the book.)

I greatly appreciated Macdonald's strong reliance on Scripture. There's a lot more to take in here than you might initially think - this is definitely a book I will keep on my shelf.  It's also important to note that Macdonald never falls into the pit of the Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel movements. Macdonald focuses on how our attitudes affect our spiritual lives. Without submission to God, we will feel like we live in a wilderness. The format is a bit crazy - three or more fonts, lots of bold (including all Scripture references) - but you get used to it.

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Fiction Review: The Valley of the Dry Bones by Jerry B Jenkins

Jerry B. Jenkins has improved miles since his more recent books, which were more word-for-word Scripture than narrative. In "The Valley of the Dry Bones," he still opts for quoting the Bible over re-wording it to fit the modern tongue. In a way, I appreciated this for once, since the context was end-times prophecy and using Sola Scriptura seemed more sensitive to the less Charismatic Christian.

After reading an inconsistent and poorly written Prologue, I was relieved to find the entire book was told from Zeke's perspective. Although Jenkins' writing style is still a bit elementary, I did find the premise and characters interesting. Terrorism, water mongers, life and death are all at stake in an abandoned, drought-stricken California (which could use better description from Jenkins, as I kept imagining a Mad Max desert wasteland). A small group has stayed behind to witness to those who could not move out of the state. Among them, Zeke begins to hear directly from the Lord. A sequel must be in the works (here's hoping), since the conclusion, while wrapped up well, did not give any purpose (or hint at a future purpose) for Zeke's communication with God.

There are some very nice side stories. Zeke and the group's doctor confront their pride. A threatening seller of water has a beautiful character arc in which he comes to know Jesus. The local American Indians also consider Christ's message. The group's pastor deals with his wife's impending death. And the government enters the scene for suspected terrorism, as well. None of it is particularly realistic, nor is the action all that prevalent, but "Valley of the Dry Bones" was indeed a surprisingly enjoyable read. And as far as Jerry B Jenkins books go, it's not half bad.

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

Fiction Review: Land of Silence

It took me a great deal of time to become invested in "Land of Silence," but about a third of the way through I found myself drawn to the characters, even though I found their stories somewhat dull and episodic.

Elianna - the woman whose bleeding Jesus healed - tells her story in first person, and author Tessa Afshar does a beautiful job of creating Elianna's more reflective moments. These were the moments that kept me reading as Elianna dealt with bitterness, illness, guilt, her need for a loving father, and her hope for a family of her own. I could not put it down once I got into it. However, I have to say that I did not particularly care for Afshar's "this happened, then this happened" writing style. Conversations seemed scripted, and even with her simple style, Afshar often uses larger, jargon wording.

The story is well developed once it begins to really unfold - Elianna works for her family's fabric business and deals with unwanted attention from a Roman soldier - but the conclusion feels rushed. The ending brings together all the heart-felt themes Afshar builds up, but does not go through to the crucifixion and resurrection. But I did enjoy the realistic characters and the way Afshar brought different people from the Bible together so well. I would be interested in reading another book from Afshar, as this was my first of hers.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Rescuing the Gospel

Erwin W. Lutzer begins his history of the Reformation with some background figures such as John Wycliffe and John Huss. He goes on to give a chronological telling of Martin Luther's life and views, then spends the second half of "Rescuing the Gospel" writing more by topic than chronology. Lutzer concludes with a quick overview of who came after Luther and a poignant call to keep the Gospel message distinct.

Readers will appreciate Lutzer's clear and compelling writing, as well as his ability to make statements without coming across as one-sided. Key theological issues such as the sacraments and salvation are discussed, but all in the context of history and in short order. Personally, I would love to read even more details about the theological issues at stake, not to mention more about how those issues are still relevant today. However, what Lutzer does have to say about modern relevance is helpful and worthwhile.

As far as the history presented goes, much of it can be gleaned from watching the fictionalized movie "Luther" or from other media. But the way in which Lutzer frames the history makes his nonfiction account the kind of book you cannot put down. The hardback edition has a great feel in your hands, as well, and includes color pictures of documents and paintings in an easy-to-read layout.

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

Fiction Review: Murder Comes by Mail

The murder in question does not happen until around page 80 and the rest of the action is slow to unfold. But A.H. Gabhart does have strong character development in "Murder Comes by Mail." Readers need not have read the first book in the "Hidden Springs" series to easily follow the mystery. The characters stand on their own for the most part and are easy to invest in, although some important descriptors are not thrown in until halfway through the book. The book really is more of a slice of life story as lead character Michael interacts with friends and family, and deals with one murder after another. But Gabhart fails to create a solid build up of clues. The pieces that are given really have nothing to do with the conclusion. Michael's possible love interest also feels thrown in, perhaps as a set up for a more solid character arc in future books. And what little faith elements Gabhart included were very cliche and lacked any depth. Still, I did enjoy the book, so I gave it four stars in spite of my nit picking critique. As a side note for more sensitive, conservative readers, one minor character is a female pastor, but that does not affect the story.

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations" is not so much about how to have a conversation as it is about how to 1) approach conversation and 2) create situations for conversation. Although the book includes helpful points on how to share and illustrate your faith, it comes across as more of a book on evangelization than on how to have a conversation.

Authors Mary Schaller and John Crilly summarize with the reminder to 1) notice people, 2) pray silently and publicly, 3) ask questions, and 4) listen. While I certainly appreciated what they had to say about prayer and notice, about a third of the way through the book turned boring and inapplicable for an introvert like myself. As one who has conversations, particularly on Facebook, with acquaintances about God, I expected to learn more about how to speak and what to speak. Also, I listen to debates and podcasts in defense of Christianity frequently and did not 100% agree with the authors that asking and not telling is the only and best way to share the Gospel.

Honestly, much of this book felt like it was one large promotional tool for the authors' organization "Q Place." I can't say the book is not an important read, but it did not register with me, and I felt there was much left unsaid. As a side note, for those who may care, one of the authors is Catholic (but doesn't talk like on at all), both authors use several translations of the Bible including the NLT and the Message, and they do may references to controversial authors like Rick Warren. These are important factors, but they don't really influence the quality of the book.

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

Nonfiction Review: Girl Defined

"Girl Defined" is a great book for younger women and a good beginning for those just starting to search out what Biblical womanhood looks like. However, personally I found the content was geared more toward teenage girls who compare themselves to the models on TV and in magazines. Very little of the book actually looks at specifics of what the Bible says about women. The majority of what Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird is concerned with real-life examples and cultural pressures, which I appreciated - I just didn't find it particularly applicable to myself. The authors do constantly point everything back to the glory of God and focus on placing your identity in God. They contrast three pillars of culture-defined womanhood (sexual freedom, independence, and liberation) with three pillars of Biblical womanhood (helping others, producing life, and nurturing relationships), and include their own personal stories, as well. The book is a short and quick read that many will find relevant and encouraging, but readers should expect strong, simple and concise points over deep, thought-provoking theological material.

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Unparalleled

I was pleasantly surprised by the way Jared C. Wilson presented many of the same points I have read before in new and thought-provoking ways. His book, "Unparalleled," presents the Christian Gospel through the frame of how it perfectly and uniquely fits real life. Wilson discusses how Christ's sacrifice satisfied God's wrath and allowed God's grace, and he presents that grace as separate from other works-based faiths. "Unparalleled" also uncovers the way the Trinity explains our need for love and relationships, considers how Christianity defines human-kind as worth-while in itself (not just for its use), balances fallen man with the sacred nature of life, gives clear Biblical support for Christ's claims, and concludes with a strong and orthodox presentation of the Gospel message and call to salvation. Wilson's stories and points are eloquent and worth a second read. I will be going back to take notes on this one.

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

Nonfiction Review: Feisty & Feminine

Penny Young Nance covers topics including sexual assault, marriage, abortion, terrorism and international politics in her book "Feisty & Feminine." Since she writes for women and comes from Concerned Women for America, several of the chapters focus on "women's issues," and reveal facts that I hadn't considered before. Still, her conservative points are sometimes one-sided, and I felt there was much left uncovered. I do wish that Nance had provided summary talking points and more relatable examples in addition to the high-standard profiles with which each chapter concludes. Instead of setting an example of how a woman can be both strong in this world and a conservative, this book really just gives one conservative's opinion on politics and provides unhelpful tips on how to be an "Esther woman." Readers will find the chapters informative and interesting, just not all that applicable.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fiction Review: The Reluctant Duchess

Readers will certainly enjoy Roseanna M. White's first "Ladies of the Manor" book, "The Lost Heiress," but I highly recommend that they quickly move on to the followup, "Reluctant Duchess." While "Heiress" had elements of suspense, love and redemption, those devices are increased doubly in "Duchess." Here we have the captivating story of Rowena Kinnaird, who escapes one "forceful" man by agreeing to marry another. Brice Myerston has his work cut out for him, however, as he struggles to earn Rowena's trust, prove he is a true and worthy gentleman, help Rowena to deal with the negative self-image her family has left her, and all the while protect his new bride from murderous plots and "cursed" jewels. White conquers subjects of rape, parent-child relationships, abuse, pride, forgiveness and redemption. Some readers may be skeptical when Brice claims to hear from God or Rowena chooses to believe in more active supernatural activities, others may dislike that White waits until more than 50 pages in to begin using different characters' points of view (the author also skips ahead in her timeline once or twice), but White's skill at creating a great story will win any reader's heart.

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

Nonfiction Review: They Were Christians

"They Were Christians" includes the bios of a great selection of Christian men - some of whom most readers will have never heard. However, Cristobal Krusten only includes one woman (Florence Nightingale), and, as a writer, I could not help but cringe in frustration at his occasional change in writing style. Krusten cannot seem to decide whether he wishes to write in narrative story or in usual biographical third person. I honestly do not mind either style - it was a quick and easy read - I just wish Krusten were consistent. Personally, I did not find Krusten's chapter introductions and closings relevant or needed, but many readers will enjoy the chance to know the author's own life story better. Also, the histories presented were inspiring, but did not include as many reflections on the faith and what these people believed as I would have liked to have read. A quick word of caution to more conservative, traditional readers - Krusten does briefly imply he has a Pentecostal background and that he "heard" from God at a young age.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nonfiction Review - Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark

Addie Zierman's writing style is blunt. The author is not afraid to use a bit of language here and there or to briefly mention taboo subjects like sex with her husband. "Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark" follows her road trip with her two toddler sons, mostly covering time behind the wheel or behind a bottle of wine. The journey is depressing, yet oddly comforting. After several chapters of reflection on the fired-up emotions of her youth and her inability to "feel" God, Zierman gives an accurate and poignant conclusion: "Every now and then God appears to his people in the blazing fire, but it's less often than I always thought. And his silence marks the pages of the biblical narrative more than I ever knew. It asks for our trust, for our hope. If I'd thought about faith as a journey in my life, I'd never pictured anything average. I'd imagined the same spontaneous and whimsical road trip I thought I'd be taking. As it turns out, this version of my faith journey is every bit as fictional as the road trip I'd imagined. Maybe faith has never been anything more than this slow, steady process of change." "Night Driving" is a quick and easy read that will remind readers that they are not alone.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fiction Review: Miriam by Mesu Andrews

Mesu Andrews has a plain, straight-forward writing style that reminded me of Lynn Austin. Still, Andrews' novel "Miriam" is proof of a great deal of research, even with its modern feel and lack of detailed descriptions. Readers may find the more Bible-based story refreshing after so many film versions of Moses and Exodus. "Miriam" follows its title character, Moses' sister, and her nephew Eleazar, during the ten plagues of Egypt, which last several months and affect all who live there. And it is in character developments and relationships that Andrews truly wins her readers over. Eleazar is a bodyguard for one of Pharaoh's many sons, worried about protecting his family and a romantic interest, Taliah. Both he and Taliah deal with difficulties trusting a wrathful God and with anger toward God for years of slavery and other circumstances. Meanwhile, Miriam is God's prophetess and a natural healer and midwife for Israel. But when Moses arrives to deliver God's people, Miriam struggles to understand God's power and wishes God would use her once again. She also has a sweet romantic side plot. The book deals with the reason for suffering, the real meaning of freedom, spiritual slavery and doubts that most any Christian will relate to. The story is not really about Miriam, but about the journeys of those around her, some of whom have very real (and very annoying) faults. I look forward to Andrews' next Treasures of the Nile Novel.

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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Christ or Chaos

In "Christ or Chaos," Dan DeWitt poses the question of how a Christian struggling with faith in college would approach his beliefs versus a newly converted atheist. While the hypothetical character of Thomas and friend who represent this are largely unused and rather disappointing (I would love to see a version of God's Not Dead that plays out in a more realistic, one-on-one conversational way), DeWitt's perspective is a refreshing take on what many before him have said. There is little new here, however, and while what DeWitt has to say will help many a beginner or agnostic, it will not play out so well in real conversation with atheists.

I did appreciate the author's admission of presuppositions from both sides of the debate. He also considered philosophical ideas, concluding with the discussion of where our morals, hope and reason for being come from. DeWitt writes that given the atheist, evolutionary point of view, matter would have to be eternal, impersonal and nonrational. Furthermore, he says, "With the majority of people in the world holding a religious perspective of some kind or another, evolution would indeed be helping people endure, but it is clearly not leading them to a true picture of reality." Atheism cannot be proven scientifically and takes faith to believe. Meanwhile, all of creation attests to God's existence.

DeWitt's most important asset in "Christ or Chaos" is his use of multiple sources from both atheist and Christian authors, which I have not seen as much in other books. His philosophical ideas fill only 100 pages, but they pack quite a punch for those already interested in bolstering their faith.

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

Nonfiction Review: Christ Among Other gods by Erwin W. Lutzer

It's been used before, but I'll use the metaphor here, anyway. When authorities are looking for counterfeit money, they study the real thing so they can recognize the fake. That is exactly what Erwin Lutzer does in much of his book, "Christ Among Other gods." It is not quite the study of comparative religion I expected, but the book contained tons of nuggets of wisdom (mostly philosophical) which now occupy several pages of my notebook.

Throughout his book, Lutzer always returns to the faulty belief that all religions are equal. "Finite gods can harmonize their diverse attributes because they make no claim to objective truth," he writes. "Error does have this advantage over truth: There are many ways to be wrong, but there is only one way to be right. Error is of necessity always broader than truth." Lutzer seeks to establish Christianity as unique and points out that man has come to define religion as the meeting of his expectations, desires and experience rather than as the seeking of truth.

This book does make occasional pit stops to defend Christ and the Gospel, speaking to concerns about the virgin birth, eyewitness testimony and more. But "Christ Among Other gods" is largely a philosophical book, pointing out basic shortcomings of other belief systems and focusing on tenets of the Christian faith. Lutzer even briefly covers topics like predestination, judgment (Hell), and miracles. He obviously writes more for a Christian audience, but his points may serve well for the agnostics out there, as well.

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

Fiction Review: Playing the Part by Jen Turano

Although the book could use some extra character and plot development, Jen Turano's "Playing the Part" is an enjoyable read once you give it a chance. It did take me a while to feel invested in the story, but a mysterious mansion and its equally mysterious owner will intrigue any romance fan. And once the action begins and secrets unravel, the story becomes far more interesting.

Actress Lucetta Plum takes refuge with Bram Haverstein after one of her "devoted fans" believes he has won her in a card game. Bram's grandmother, Abigail has taken Lucetta in and attempts to match her with her grandson. Lucetta's situation gives Bram the opportunity to play hero multiple times, but her independent nature and means lead her to struggle with whether Bram is one admirer she may allow into her life. When Lucetta is kidnapped, she lightly covers the only spiritual content of the book, noting that she only calls on God when in need. Turano leads the dramatic climax on for a bit too long, and when her leading lady visits her estranged mother, the resolution seems incomplete. The same is true for Abigail's resolved relationship with her estranged daughter, Bram's mother. Their reconciliation seems to happen off-page. The aforementioned mysterious mansion brings in yet another element that seems thrown in and resolved without development. Still, readers will more than likely love the revelation of Bram's true occupation and enjoy various shenanigans, such as Lucetta's run-ins with a goat named George. The story is romantic, even if the character development could use some work.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Kids Book Review: Busy, Busy

"Busy, Busy" by Eileen Spinelli is an adorable children's board book perfect for mothers to read to their children as an assurance of their love. The illustrations and cute rhymes introduce kids to various animals and insects as they go about their God-given purpose (although, God is not mentioned in the book). The rhymes conclude with "Mommy's busy, always busy. But she'd never be too busy for a cuddle-up with you." I can easily imagine my young self giving my mother a giant hug after that final line.

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nonfiction Review: The Consequences of Ideas by R.C. Sproul

In "The Consequences of Ideas," R.C. Sproul summarizes the thoughts of various historic philosophers, from Aristotle and Plato to Thomas Aquinas and Friedrich Nietzsche. Sproul's descriptions are mostly clear and concise, with occasional commentary or Christian response. I would have appreciated more explanations of how these ideas affect the modern world (the "consequences" are not actually discussed much) - especially since these are complicated ideas that seem silly and meaningless at times - but I understand the limitations of length. Ideas discussed include physical and nonphysical reality, being and nonbeing, phenomenal and noumenal worlds, knowledge and existence, cause and effect, Skepticism and Religion, Existential Faith and Existential Atheism, society and ethics, and much more. Skimming through the book to take down notes, I found my understanding of these philosophies increased. The book may well be worth a second take.

Note - I did use an e-reader version of this book, and several of the informative charts provided were cut off.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Study Review: Jesus - Listening for His Voice

My attitude toward Bible studies has changed since I last reviewed a Kay and David Arthur "40 Minute" group study, so I thought I would give it another try, as I've wanted to get back into a regular reading of God's Word. I found myself once again disappointed, however, with "Jesus: Listening for His Voice."

While I enjoy the format of the study (questions with text provided), I do not see the point of asking questions like, "What did you learn from marking so and so." Other questions did not seem to have answers. The remaining questions did point me to look at the text in detail, but that was not enough to give me any actual insight, which is sorely lacking aside from an occasional side box pointing out one thing or another. With no actual teaching included, groups are left to make their own (possibly faulty) guesses.

Ultimately, though, what really bothered me about this study was that its material seems irrelevant to the promised topic. The first of six sessions did provide some explanation, defining listening as hearing God speak through His Word. Beyond this, the study seemed to expect participants to merely apply the principle of listening while reading the passages presented - something that you could do with any study.

Other small issues bothered me. Some questions had too little white space for answers while others had too much white space. And the study glosses over certain passages in favor of spending more time on other passages.

I do like how marking various words and pieces draws your attention to what is at play in each passage, but you will need a solid group with solid answers if this study is to be successful.

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