Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finding God in the Dark by Ted A. Kluck & Ronnie Martin

I first requested this book because of the title. At one time or another, every Christian faces personal challenges that make them lose sight of their faith in God. One seemingly tragic event can alter our lives because we wonder why God would allow it to happen.

Let me just say that I expected this book to be filled with advice and biblical truths from these two authors. And truthfully, there were some Biblical insights but not nearly what I would have expected there to be. Instead, the authors gave personal accounts of everything that had gone wrong in their lives that marked years of questioning God. One of the authors, Ted Kluck, even went so far as to say that for awhile he did his best to avoid people when he was at church and gave three descriptions of fellow church-goers. The "How You doin' college kid" who asks how you are doing just so he can talk about himself, the "How are you really doing lady" who means well but pressures you into talking deeply by making creepy eye contact and putting her hand on your shoulder. And finally the "How's work going guy" who really doesn't care how work is going for you, but asks you so that he can talk about how awesome HIS job is. This same chapter opened with a quote from Madonna.

In the next chapter, the other author, Ronnie Martin dives deep into his experiences as a failed musician. He thought God was leading him to play music as a profession, but later came to realize that he only wanted to be a musician for selfish reasons which actually had nothing to do with God. This would have been fine if the author had stopped there, but instead he went on to say that a majority of Christian artists feel they are doing ministry but in actuality they are also doing it for selfish purposes. While this may be true, I felt this was quite a broad statement to make. How could you possibly understand the motives of total strangers? To the reader, it just sounds as if Martin is making a generalized statement so that he doesn't sound as bad.

So as you can see, this book is not what I really expected to read!

Both of the authors explained how they had sinned and tried to justify those sins before they turned towards God. But in my mind, when I think about reading a book called "Finding God in the dark: Faith, disappointment and the struggle to believe" I really thought it would be more about facing hardships in our lives. Death, sickness, financial upset, failed relationships or things along those lines. Instead it was more about how much the authors had screwed up their lives and then they made themselves sound glorified. At two different points in the book, the authors mentioned smoking cigarettes as a way to cope, and how we want to picture God as our cosmic drinking buddy. Hmm...I can't say that I've ever though of God as my drinking buddy.

All in all, I really disliked this book as you may have guessed. There were a few portions of this book that are biblically sound, but besides those points, I couldn't identify with anything in this book. I rate it as 1 star.

I received this book free from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

This week I had the privilege of reading and reviewing "Unstoppable" by Nick Vujicic. As you may have noticed, Nick was born without any arms or legs. He does have one tiny foot that allows him to write, type and do a few other things on his own, but for everything else he relies on his caregiver.

Nick is truly an inspiration to all despite the fact that he deals with an array of challenges on a day-to-day basis. He has dealt with self doubt, suicidal thoughts, being bullied, and went through periods of time where he wondered if God truly loved him. Through all the difficulties he has faced, Nick has come to realize that his disabilities are not his downfall. He now rejoices in the fact that he was born with disabilities because he realized that those disabilities are what made him the man God created him to be. He can reach hundreds of thousands of people for God just because of them. He trusts God with each day he has been blessed with. As Nick said in chapter 3, "Just having faith is not enough. You must live your faith by putting it into action each and every day." When we have a crisis, it is sometimes hard to recover from emotionally. But if you look at your hard times as an opportunity for learning and growth, you will likely bounce back sooner and stronger.

Nick has also been an inspiration to people with similar disabilities and other hardships because he doesn't let his lack of limbs keep him from doing anything he wants to do. He still surfs, skateboards and travels all around the world!

Nick also shares the story of how he met his beautiful wife and how God got them together. I also learned that Nick's wife recently had a baby boy and he was born with all of his limbs!

This book is an uplifting inspirational story to all! I give it 5 stars!

I received this book free from Multnomah Waterbrook Publishing to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One Perfect Life by John MacArthur

"One Perfect Life: The complete story of the Lord Jesus" is a blended version of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. MacArthur also blends in parts of the Old Testament that prophesize Jesus' birth, death and resurrection to make one complete story of Jesus' life. It is similar to a Bible except that the Bible verses are gathered from various books of the Bible to complete one story.

There are 11 parts to this book divided into 215 readings. 

I. Anticipating the Lord Jesus Christ
II. The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
III. The Beginning of Jesus' Ministry
IV. From Passover AD 27 to to Passover AD 28
V. From Passover AD 28 to Passover AD 29
VI. From Passover AD 29 to Passover AD 30 
VII. The Final Journey to Jerusalem for Passover AD 30
VIII. The Passion Week of The Messiah AD 30
IX. The Upper Room on the Night Before His Death
X. The Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension
XI. New Testament Reflections on the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Below each reading, there is a Reference Guide which includes definitions of the terms used, the references of where to find it in the Bible, verse-by-verse explanations, and a history of the subject. I enjoyed the way it was written as it was very easy to understand. I also loved that the Bible verses were written in the New King James Version.

This was the second book I have read by John MacArthur, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it. I think it would be excellent to use as a daily devotional, Bible study or in a Sunday School class, especially around Easter. It is quite a large book but there isn't a tremendous amount of reading as the Reference Guide takes up half the page throughout most of the book. I think the best way to read this book is to pair it with your Bible so you are able to cross reference the verses. 

I rate this book as 5 stars and would highly recommend it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Fairest Beauty

I bought this book last week after I heard excellent reviews on it from all of my favorite blogs! :) I love anything to do with fairy tales and princesses so of course, I was interested when I heard about it!

"The Fairest Beauty" is written as a new twist on the classic story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Many of the characteristics are still the same. Sofie (Snow White) visits "The house of the Seven", who aren't exactly dwarfs but rather misfits and outcasts. She receives a poisonous apple from a mysterious visitor and later finds out it was her evil stepmother. 

But still there are enough differences in the stories to keep you glued to the pages for hours upon end! Sofie finds that she has not just one Prince Charming seeking her, but two! Although the second one was quite by accident. Although Valten Willhelm (future duke of Hagenheim has been Sophie's betrothed since they were children, Duchess Ermengard faked Sophie's death when she was a young child and kept her as a scullery maid. No one but a few servants knew Sophie was still alive. Valten and his family had presumed she was dead until a former servant of Duchess Ermengard  suddenly shows up in Hagenheim telling of Sophie's whereabouts. 

None of the Willhelm's know the elderly woman but they all believe this tale is worth checking out. Unfortunately, Valten has suffered a broken leg and is unable to travel by horse. The journey must wait a few weeks until he can walk. Valten's younger brother Gabehart, who is mischievious and immature decides to take matters into his own hands and rescue the damsel himself. Why should his brother get all of the glory? Gabe decides it is his time to shine and sets off immediately to find Sophie. He would return in a few weeks to deliver Valten his bride.

What no one could have guessed though, was that Gabe would fall in love with Sophie. Will they break their own betrothals to be together?

I had a hard time putting this book down! I read it in a matter of two days and lost a few hours of sleep. ;) I would highly recommend this book and I rate it as 5 stars! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

82 of my favorite chapter books for girls!

This is a chapter book list based on my favorite books as a child! Yes, I was one of those nerdy little kids who grew up to be a nerdy little adult. I read ALL the time when I was a kid and I probably still would now if I had the time. ;) I have read all of the books I have listed here except for the last 15 or so of the Mandie books! I remember one summer when I was around the age of 10, and I read well over 100 books from May to August.

The ages for these books listed range from 6 to 12 years. As you can see from the list below, most of my favorite books were in a series. *Many of these books are written for both boys and girls, but a majority of those listed are for girls.*

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis:
  1. The Magician's Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle
The Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
  1. Little House on the Prairie
  2. Little House in the Big Woods
  3. Farmer Boy
  4. On the Banks of Plum Creek
  5. By the Shores of Silver Lake
  6. The Long Winter
  7. Little Town on the Prairie
  8. These Happy Golden Years
  9. The First Four Years
Little House on the Prairie: The Rose Years by Roger Lea MacBride & David Gilleece: 
  1. Little House on Rocky Ridge
  2. In the Land of the Big Red Apple
  3. Little Farm in the Ozarks
  4. Little Town in the Ozarks
  5. On the Banks of the Bayou
  6. On the Other side of the Hill
  7. New Dawn on Rocky Ridge
  8. Bachelor Girl
Little House on the Prairie: The Caroline Years by Maria D. Wilkes:
  1. Little House in Brookfield
  2. Little Clearing in the Woods
  3. Little Town at the Crossroads
  4. On top of Concord Hill
  5. Little City by the Lake
  6. A little House of their Own
Little House on the Prairie: The Charlotte Years by Melissa Wiley:
  1. Little House by Boston Bay
  2. On Tide Mill Lane
  3. Across the Puddingstone Dam
Little House on the Prairie: The Martha Years by Melissa Wiley:
  1. Little House in the Highlands
  2. The Far Side of the Loch
  3. Down to the Bonny Glen
  4. Beyond the Heather Hills
The Passages Series (Adventures in Odyssey) by Paul McCusker:
  1. Darien's Rise
  2. Arin's Judgement
  3. Annison's Risk
  4. Glennall's Betrayal
  5. Draven's Defiance
  6. Fendar's Legacy
Grandma's Attic Series by Arleta Richardson
  1. In Grandma's Attic
  2. Treasures from Grandma's Attic
  3. More Stories from Grandma's Attic
  4. Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic
The Three Cousins Detectives by Elspeth Campbell Murphy
  1. The Mystery of the White Elephant
  2. The Mystery of the Silent Nightingale
  3. The Mystery of The Wrong Dog
  4. The Mystery of The Dancing Angels
  5. The Mystery of The Hobo's Message
  6. The Mystery of The Magi's Treasure
  7. The Mystery of The Haunted Lighthouse
  8. The Mystery of The Dolphin Detective
  9. The Mystery of The Eagle Feather 
  10. The Mystery of The Silly Goose
  11. The Mystery of The Copycat Clown
  12.  The Mystery of The Honeybees' Secret
  13. The Mystery of The Gingerbread House
  14. The Mystery of The Zoo Camp
  15. The Mystery of The Goldfish Pond
  16. The Mystery of The Traveling Button
I have since found out that there are at least 30 of The Three Cousins Detective books, although I have not read any of the newer ones. ;)

Janette Oke's Animal Friends by Janette Oke:
  1. The Impatient Turtle
  2. New Kid in Town
  3. Prairie Dog Town
  4. Pordy's Prickly Problem
  5. Spunky's Diary
  6. A Cote of Many Colors
  7. The Prodigal Cat
The remaining books that were not part of a series:
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser
  • Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
  • The Mandie Series by Lois Gladys Leppard (I would list them all but there are at least 38 books in the series!)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Scent of Lilacs by Ann H. Gabhart

Today I am reviewing "The Scent of Lilacs" by Ann H. Gabhart! I absolutely loved this book and loved reading about Jocie growing up in Hollyhill. After visiting Ann H. Gabhart's website I saw that "The Scent of Lilacs" is only the first of three books written about Hollyhill! The second is "Orchard of Hope" and the third is "Summer of Joy".

"The Scent of Lilacs" is set in Hollyhill, Kentucky and is written with an old-fashioned southern charm. It follows the story of 13 year old  Jocie, David (Jocie's father), and Aunt Love while each of them are struggling with their own personal battles and secrets. Jocie's mother and sister left her and her dad when Jocie was only 5 years old, so Jocie has spent much of the last 8 years wondering when they will return, or why they left in the first place. Why didn't her mother take her too? But there are more secrets involved than Jocie could possibly understand. The only people that Jocie has ever been able to depend on is her daddy and Wes, who has become somewhat of a grandfather to her even though they aren't biologically related. Aunt Love lives with them, but it seems like she is always in trouble with her aunt for one thing or another. Why is she so hard on her? Little does Jocie know, that Aunt Love is working through her own trials and tribulations.

While Aunt Love helps out as much as she can, David is consumed with making sure Jocie knows she is loved and safe. Meanwhile, he is dealing with his own issues as he acts as interim pastor at their local church. How will people accept a divorced preacher? David's problems are multiplied when his oldest daughter returns home from California unexpectedly. Of course he's happy to see her, but what brought her home? Will she stay here? Or is it just a matter of time before she leaves once again?

I loved this book for so many different reasons! Even when the characters were dealing with their own grief and heartache, they still remember God's promises to them and they are constantly quoting Bible verses. Jocie learns the importance of prayer as God answers two of her biggest prayers, and she learns that family isn't always the people you share your genetics with. Hollyhill is a true definition of what real family is. I would highly recommend this book and I rate it as 5 stars!

Available March 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*I received a free copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group to give my honest unbiased opinion.*

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reasons for Belief by Norman L. Geisler & Patty Tunnicliffe

This week I was able to review "Reasons for Belief: Easy-to-Understand Answers to 10 Essential Questions" by Norman L. Geisler and Patty Tunnicliffe. It answers many of the common questions of why Christianity is the one true way to God, and takes a first-hand look into the life of Jesus.

The first subject we look at in this book is truth, and the fact that there is only one true way to get to heaven. Too many people believe that  "all religions lead to God" or "all religions are true" but this book provides Scientific evidence of why this is not possible. It also lists definitions of different beliefs such as Pantheism, Theism, Deism and Atheism, and compares the four. Obviously not all of these beliefs can be true. To say one is true would automatically mean one of the others is false since they contradict each other.

Some of the other topics covered in this book are: "Is Jesus God?", "How do we know God exists?", "Are the New Testament documents close enough to the recorded events to be reliable?" And that's just naming a few!

I agree with the title in saying that this book is easy to understand. While I did enjoy reading it, I would probably recommend it for a younger audience such as Middle School or High School age kids. The authors did an excellent job of explaining all concepts and truths, but they put quite a bit of emphasis on repeating the concepts. I can see where this would be extremely beneficial for younger readers, especially in a Homeschooling, Sunday School or Youth Group setting.

Regardless, I think this book is an excellent tool in helping people understand why we believe what we believe. Evidence is backed up with Bible verses and extensive research. The only way I think this book could have been improved would be to have included more information about Creation and the Scientific aspects of what we as Christians believe. I would rate this book as 4 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whit's End Mealtime Devotions by John Avery Whittaker

This week I got to review "Whit's End Mealtime Devotions: 90 Faith-Building Ideas Your Kids Will Eat Up!" by John Avery Whittaker (with help from Crystal Bowman and Tricia Goyer). My 6 year old was especially excited about this review since she listens to Adventures in Odyssey every night before bed!

Unlike most devotional books, these daily tidbits do not need to be read in a certain order. There are three categories of devotionals listed in this book: Any Day Mealtime Devotions, Holiday Devotions and Theme Devotions. The Any Day Mealtime Devotions are pretty self explanatory and contain a wide variety of topics from the Creation of the world to the 10 Commandments. The Holiday Devotions contain 15 different devotions for holidays such as Birthdays, Good Friday, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The Theme Devotions are a collection of 11 devotions that contain themes such as Pirate Night with a search for treasure, or Home on the Range Night with a camping theme.

Each night's devotion contains a Mealtime Prayer, Appetizer, Main Course, Table Talk and Vitamins and Minerals. The Appetizer is usually a fun fact, an activity, or a question to get the discussion started. The Main Course is the topic of discussion and may contain a Bible passage and thoughts to go along with it. Table Talk is the question and answer time. "What was the most exciting part of the story?" Or "If you rode in a fish's belly, would you get seasick? What do you think it would be like?" Finally, Vitamins and Minerals is the summary of the story and closing thought.

We usually do devotionals as a family right before bed, so the concept of reading it at dinner time was a bit different for us but it ends up working quite a bit better that way. Dinner time is always difficult for us to get our 6 year old to sit through. We try to play games, ask questions and make it fun, but it is still usually difficult for her to sit still for the duration of the meal. This devotional has definitely changed that for our 6 year old. It has made dinner time fun and exciting, and it gives her something to do! At the same time, it's encouraging to know our family is spending time in God's Word together! I am so blessed that we can make family memories in this way.

This Devotional is set to release on March 31, 2013! I would highly recommend this book and rate it as 5 stars. :)

I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers to give my honest unbiased review.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Persecuted by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea

Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea is written about many of the different types of persecution aimed at Christianity all around the world. I knew persecution of Christians still existed, but I really did not understand how many people around the world suffer from it on a daily basis, or to what extremity. I was not aware that some of the worst countries guilty of the persecution of Christians were China, Vietnam, North Korea or Cuba. Of course I expected Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia to top the list with all of the terrorism occurring in the last couple of years, and they made the list as well. All of these accounts are backed up with notes at the end of this book listing where the information came from, whether it was a magazine, book, or website. 62 pages worth! It also includes an index of topics at the end of the book which includes names of political leaders, countries, religions and names of those persecuted.

These authors share hundreds of stories of Christians being persecuted for their faith. Here are just a few examples of what they share:

In 2011 in India, when Graham Staines and his two sons were burned to death by an armed mob, the Indian Supreme Court justified a reduced sentence for the criminals involved saying that the murder was an act of passion against "proselytization". (Meaning: To convert someone from one religious faith to another.) Graham's sons were only 9 and 6. There is so much more to this story I could share with you. In so many cases similar to this one, the police and judiciary system do next to nothing to help the persecuted or to punish the criminals involved.

Things may not be perfect for us here in the United States but I am so thankful that we are able to share our faith and shout it from the rooftop if we so wish. So many of these people who live in these countries are not allowed the same liberties. For many of these people, they are not allowed to go to a public church and must do all of their worship in homes. (Which is often still illegal.) So many of these people are not allowed to own a Bible, have Christian cd's or cassettes, or own any type of Christian literature. And if they do, they may get thrown into prison, labor camps, house arrest or are sometimes beaten and tortured.

Read this book. To be honest, I found so many of these stories to be disturbing and sometimes even hard for me to read. But the reality is that they happen every single day around the world. I will always think of them now, and I will continue to pray for them.

I give this book 5 stars and would highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Kingsbury Collection: Three Novels in One by Karen Kingsbury

Where Yesterday Lives, When Joy Came to Stay, and On Every Side are the three books included in this Collection.

These three stories fit together as one collection but each one can be read individually or in any order as they are not related stories. There seems to be a common theme throughout these three stories. Prayer. Throughout each of the books, the central characters are dealing with issues that they know they can't solve alone. Sometimes the prayer is done first by a friend, but the main character always turns back to God for help.

In each book, the main character is dealing with some kind of problem where they need to trust in God. In "Where Yesterday Lives", Ellen Barrett is dealing with the death of her father and forgiveness towards her sister. In "When Joy Came to Stay" Maggie Stovall learns that you can't hide anything from God. The truth will always come to light. In "On Every Side" Jordan Riley learns that she can't hold onto her bitterness.

Out of all three of these novels, I found "Where Yesterday Lives" to be my favorite. Of course I may be a little biased because the story takes place in Michigan and I am a Michigan native myself. ;)

"Where Yesterday Lives" is the story of Ellen Barrett, a young newspaper reporter, who receives word that her father has suffered a heart attack and passed away back home in Petosky, Michigan. Ellen dreads making the trek back to her hometown because of the animosity between her and her four siblings, but most of all to Jane. Ellen can't understand why Jane speaks to her with such hatred, or why they aren't close like they were when they were children. Jane thinks Ellen has had the perfect life. The perfect job, the perfect husband. What more could she want? But Ellen's life isn't the fairy tale everyone believes it to be. Her marriage is falling apart and she doesn't know if she even wants to fix it.

It seems each one of the Barrett children is carrying a burden unknown to the others. Will they be able to sort out their differences and pull it together for their mother in her time of need?

In some aspects, I found each book to contain a sad story. Usually I am a fan of happy, uplifting stories so these three were a bit different from what I usually read. But I appreciate that Kingsbury writes about true to life stories and issues that so many of us deal with. Throughout the sadness though, there is an uplifting promise of God's faithfulness and love.

I rate this collection of books as 4 stars!

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group to give my honest unbiased review.