Monday, November 15, 2010

Glass Road PR Book Tour for an Uncertain Heart by Andrea Boeshaar

I thoroughly enjoyed the book Uncertain Heart by Andrea Boeshaar.  I must confess I went in with doubts.  I realized after I received the book from Glass Road that it was book two in the Seasons of Redemption Series.  As a rule I do not read series out of order, I do not like wondering how we got where we are.  I do not like missing references that are clearly from previous books and I do not like the feeling of being dropped in the middle of a story.  I managed to quell my urge to go buy book one before plowing into book two.  I also am not a huge fan of historical novels. All that being said, I loved this book.  I never felt like I had been dropped anywhere.  I enjoyed the writing style, and the history.  I enjoyed the words from a different time (who says "valise" anymore?) and I enjoyed the story.

The story is compelling and made me realize how far we, as women have truly come.  I also enjoyed a sexy romance novel with not one hint of anything more than a kiss.  Some of the scenes were steamy by my standards, and yet nobody removed a stitch of clothing.  The romance between Sarah and Richard was innocent and pure, yet flirty.  They fed off of  each other from the first moment.  It was cute and a very good example of what love should be, on his part at least.  Sarah was a bit strong-willed and this caused her a number of problems had she been a little more willing to listen to people around her.   I found myself rooting for Sarah and Richard finally coming together at the same time and spending their lives in Milwaukee and having a family of their own.  I was trying to figure out how she would stay in the children's lives if that happened.

I wish the father had been less the bad guy.  He really had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  The story could have been more if he had been a bit more complex.  The author tried to explain it through the mother and the grandmother, but that excuse fell flat.  He was self-centered and did not seem to care much about his children one way or the other.  He wasn't even a man of his word, which in the setting of the novel would have made him quite a scoundrel.  Instead the author played it off like because he was rich, his dishonesty was acceptable in society.

The story was engaging and for me it was a "read it all at once" book, not unlike Karen Kingsbury.  I came away with a lesson and a good feeling.  I would call it a bit more than a beach read, but not too heavy.  It was light and fun.  I will now go out a search for additional books by this author.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

In The Grace of God, Andy Stanley takes us on a tour of God’s grace throughout the Bible.    He took Bible verses and stories I was familiar with and told them through the lens of Grace.  I never really considered the fall of Adam and Eve in that way.  I also really never considered discipline to be Grace.   The way Mr. Stanley explains it however, it is definitely Grace.  
Then in the retelling of Jonah I was quite convicted.  I thought much about my Ninevites.  I also thought much about my “vines”.  When I heard Amazing Grace before, I always thought of Jesus.  He paid for our sins with his life and through His Grace we are saved.    But I found this to be an in-depth review of his lineage, from Abraham to Jesus.  This was a great perspective.  It also reminded me that God uses imperfect people.  He even grants Grace to us imperfect people.  And some of the greatest Heroes of the Bible like David and Solomon were woefully imperfect.
All in all I came away from reading this book feeling better.  Knowing we don’t deserve Grace is often forgotten.  Being reminded of all the people who have gone before us who did not deserve Grace and were given it anyway makes me feel better about being a human.  I came away with a new lease on life and a renewed passion to grant grace whenever possible.  Even to those Ninevites in my life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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, October 15, 2010

Transforming Church in rural America by Shannon O'Dell Book Review

Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O'Dell is a great book for a pastor or leader who wants to grow their church.  Who doesn't want this?

I found this book informational mostly because I really don't know anything about the inner workings of a church.  I could also clearly see some of the things he referred to being problems in my own church.  I chuckle each time I leave my own sanctuary with its dedicated pews and brass plaques on everything from the Chandeliers to the stained glass windows.  I could only imagine the fight over removing some of these things.  Our church building dates back to the 1800's and even though it burned to the ground once it was rebuilt and dedicated to the original families that built building one.  Oh yes, what a fight that would be.

While I don't lead a church I can see where the information presented could be used in other work related areas and plan to use it with my own teams in the future.  This also gave me some ideas to get more involved in the church and offer my talents to helping build the team.

This book also made me reflect on church splits.  What caused them and where the two sides are now.  So as a non-Pastor I found this book brought me a lot of insight and wisdom I do plan to pass my copy onto my Pastor.  I don't hold out much hope for removing the brass plaques though.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East by Bryant Wright

Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East by Bryant Wright was a tough book to read. It wasn't that long and didn't use big words, but for the first 70 or so pages it repeated the same story again and again. For me it was a story I was already familar with. Abraham and Sarah did not trust God, yet again. She sent him to Hagar, Hagar bore Abraham a son, Ishmael, later Sarah bore Abraham the rightful heir --let the infighting begin.

After that story, the book began to take off. But honestly, if I had not had to finish this book to write a review, I probably would never have finished it. I never would have gotten to the parts of the story I did not already know. I had heard of Esau and Jacob, but I did not really know the whole story. I knew of Jacob's sons and the tribes of Israel and of course the story of Joseph, but again the fine details presented in a slightly different way were educational.

I found the geographical descriptions of the area enlightening. I also found it fascinating to consider Iran's role in Israel's plight. I've always had trouble identifying their "dog in the fight". Why have they cared about Israel so much, especially Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

This book helped me indentify their dog. It was like a lightbulb went off and I could say "Ohhhh I see." I still don't understand why he [Ahmadinejad] insists upon acting like a crazy little man, every chance he has at the world stage, but I get why he's angry now.

I also finally understand the difference between the Shiites and Sunis. I've always wondered what makes a Muslim one or the other. I am sure in this age I could have just googled that, but I never did.

I know that Jewish people have been and continue to be attacked and demeaned for their religion and ethnicity. I've never lived in a world where that was acceptable so I got a little annoyed at the author's recurrent warning against Jew bashing. I suppose there are some people who call themselves Christian who might need to hear that warning, frequently.

I did take the author's advice and re-read Jonah. He was right it was funny.

All in all I found the book interesting, if the author writes a new version, I would suggest telling the Abraham/Sarah/Hagar story once and giving the different points of view as some kind of supplemental chapters at the end.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Karen White -- The House on Tradd Street

I'm originally from Charleston, moved away more than a decade ago, but miss it very much. So I'm a sucker for Low Country writers, anything that allows me to travel back even in my mind. I enjoyed the premise, and I found the 3 main characters (Melanie, Jack and Sophie) developed well. Melanie's father was under developed and by contrast the Secretary in the Real Estate office was over developed. But I could even look past those flaws and still enjoy the book.

My biggest problem with the book is that Karen repeatedly opened false starts. One glaring example is the "weekend" with Marc Longo. She never even discusses that weekend in the moment, and later refers to it as an after thought when she is considering he might be gay. Later during the ghost walk with Sophie, she talks about how the common assumption about the ghost of Mrs. Sue Howard Hardy pining over the death of her stillborn child is wrong. "I knew differently, of course, having spoken with the grieving woman once while out walking with my mother when I was a little girl." And that's it; she never tells the reader what the grieving woman told her.

Another issue I have is the completely undeveloped relationship with Marc. It's like he's thrown in just to be the protagonist, and she has no interest in this character. We find out nothing about him, except what Jack and Melanie's father tell Melanie. He is brought in to move the story line along, and clearly the reader is supposed to believe he's a threat to Melanie, but there's never a show down. He's made out to be desperate and evil, but he never really does anything evil.

Melody Carlson -- Forgotten: Seventeen and Homeless

Let first say I've enjoyed other books by Melody Carlson. I loved A Mile in my Flipflops. I'm an adult so I don't usually read teen fiction, but I've also enjoyed the Carter House Girls series. This book just wasn't on par with those.

While I found the premise of the story heart wrenching and eye-opening, there was just too much to tell in the span of the short book. It also felt like the author may have been late for a deadline when she wrote the ending. Much of the book focused on a very short period of time and the week leading to the dance was given pages and pages of details. This is the style of writing I'm used to from Melody. There were a number of ways the author could have added details and developed characters, Genevieve, her friend at the nursing home could have been developed more, for example. The mother Character (Carlene) was so evil she felt one dimensional. And she's not even dealt with in the ending. It's like she never existed in the book at all.

But by far the most glaring example of this failure to develop plot lines was the ending. A few months of a huge transition is summed up in a couple of pages. I did not understand why the ending was given the bum's rush. There were so many questions I had when I finished reading this book, what happened to Cybil? Where is the mother? For that matter where is the father? Everything just seems to tie up in a neat little package and it seemed a bit unrealistic to me. I love the redemption story and learning to lean on others, but for everything to just work out perfectly seems a tad unreasonable. God is great and he can turn your life around, but to a non-Christian going through trouble and turning to God, they might expect everything will all of a sudden turn around and become sunshine and rainbows, and that's very misleading to put it mildly. God promised we would have troubles in this world; Jesus is to help us get through them, not to clear a wide smooth path.

Max Lucado -- Outlive your Life

With Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado comes in with another sure-fire winner.  He takes the reader through the book of Acts, but he blends it with today.  He shows the reader how to apply the lessons of the Apostles from many years ago, to our lives. It was a sucker punch.  Virtually every Christian in the world probably feels they could be doing more to spread the love and Grace of Jesus Christ.  Many of us feel we just don’t have time.  Many of us say we have too many things to do.  Many of us are wrong.  It’s time to step out of our clamshells and quit forgetting the bread.  We are not alone on this planet, and we are not the sum total of our number of friends on Facebook.  We don’t get credit for clicking “like” on a charity.  It’s time for Christians of all persuasions to get off the couch and get some skin in the game.
I’ve long been a fan of Max Lucado’s work.  I’ve read many of his books, and some have stuck with me.  I think this is another that will stick with me.  I’m torn because on one hand I want to share my copy with everyone I know and on the other I want to read it a hundred more times.
After reading this book, I had to ask myself why don’t I do more? 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <> 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.”