Friday, February 17, 2017

The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Newcomer (Amish Beginnings Book #2) by [Fisher, Suzanne Woods]

So why did I pick an Amish novel? I have a pretty firm stance against reading them, or I thought I did, until in the weakness of the moment, I requested this one.

And how to describe the book? I guess I will give my viewpoint in two different ways. As far as writing, Suzanne did a fine job. The story was interesting and while it hopped around a lot from person to person, she was good at keeping things flowing, so you could always follow along. In some ways, I like when books do that so you can keep up with what is going on in everyone's life without the waiting and wondering.

The setting is the 1730's, Amish coming over from Germany to settle the New World. I don't know how pioneer people lived at all back then, so that part I'm not going to critique. I imagine life to be immeasurably hard and fraught with trials both with claiming land and taming land.

On the second side of it, it just didn't seem very accurate to the Amish lifestyle I am familiar with. For one, the cover, Amish as a whole do not like their picture taken. Now, I realize today, some of that may be changing with certain groups, but for sure the early Amish, would not have appreciated a book cover like that. The bishop was a strong, determined man--that part definitely had its accurate elements, I would say. But the newcomer coming in and taking over? I again would say that Amish would tend to be slow to accept new people, but then again in a frontier like they were living in, maybe someone with direction and guidance was what they needed.

I don't know, I know Amish fiction is extremely popular, I just find it to be a little unrealistic to the real Amish culture. That aside though, Suzanne does have an interesting style of writing and her story can keep you reading through to the very end.

I received this book from Revell Publishing and am not required to give a positive review.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cherish by Gary Thomas

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The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage

I have read a few marriage books in the last couple of years. My goal is to read 2-4 a year. They often challenge me and convict me to put more effort into my own marriage. I just wish I could somehow memorize the words and imprint them on my life permanently.

But this book has got to about top all the books I've read lately. And yes, I might say that about everyone, but this one is good and definitely worth reading. Cherish, one simple word, but it really can revolutionize a marriage.

Cherish, to put your spouse's needs and desires above your own, to make a conscious effort to seek out the best in your spouse, to affirm them, to be kind, to do things for them. It's showcasing your spouse's strengths while you're willing to step back in the background and let them succeed. Cherishing calls us to go to war against contempt, speaking spitefully to your spouse will kill a relationship. It's noticing and honoring your spouse, seeing them as a real person. One thing I really liked that he said is it's believing your spouse is Adam or Eve, as in, they are the only other person in the world. How easy it is sometimes to compare our spouses worst flaws with our friends' spouse best-in-public-performance. To see our spouse as Adam or Eve is to not even recognize that there are other options. I can't say it as good as he did.

Cherishing is studying your spouse, learning what makes them tick, what they like, and how to best serve them. It's looking at them and truly listening, not being distracted by technology. It's taking an interest in their dreams and asking questions.

It's a lot of things I have not been doing well, but it's a lot of things my husband has been doing extremely well for me. The temptation when reading this book was to think of the few ways my husband responded that didn't feel cherishing instead of analyzing the myriad of ways I responded that showed a lack of cherishing. If scores had been kept, I would have lost. He is good at this cherishing thing and I have a lot of room to improve.

Gary Thomas is a well-known author, having written 18 books, one of them being Sacred Marriage. That is another book I would like to read sometime

I was given this book by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley

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I think I'm starting to realize that fiction doesn't have quite the hold for me that it used to. I know there are some out there going, Yay, she's finally getting it. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop reading fiction, it just means, well, I don't know for sure what it means. I think it means that my tastes are growing pickier and it's harder and harder to find a good fiction that I love, love, love.

I will say that I am becoming a bit more of crime, mystery reader and I'm not sure if I like that or not. I get tired of the stories that you can tell from the first chapter or two how the book is going to end. And often these mystery books don't have the surety. This one sure didn't.

I enjoyed the story line. A group of airline stewardesses are smuggling diamonds into the states. One doesn't like doing it and wants to stop, but her "boyfriend" slips them in her purse anyway. She hides them and then is killed.

The "killer" is put behind bars and 18 years later, when the main story opens, there's a letter found saying he is not the real killer. Anyway, through a series of events, the true story comes out and it is totally different than what you expected.

I know that was vague, but I don't plan to give away the story. I thought Patricia wrote a very good, solid piece of fiction. It was interesting, it kept my attention, and made my heart pound a little. But I also felt like it lacked a little something. When a book is called Christian, I expect that there's going to be a bit of God in the book. I expect that the hero/heroine will either be a solid Christian or will be strongly influenced to become a Christian by a good friend or something like that. I think there were a couple people in the book who were classified as Christians, there was a bit of God talk, but it wasn't an overarching theme. And considering how dangerous and life-threatening some of the situations were, it just seemed like a bit more emphasis might have been placed on God and prayer and things like that. That is just my take on it.

I received this book from Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Patch on the Peak of Ararat

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Written by Gary Bower
Illustrated by Barbara Chotiner

Ah, do you remember the old children's book, "This is the House that Jack Built"? It built line upon line and repeated all the previous lines, like "This is the house that Jack built.... This is the cat that ate the rat that lived in the house that Jack built. This is the dog that worried that cat that ate the rat...." And so on. I haven't read that story in years and so I might have messed it up, but you get the idea.

Anyway, this book is built like that. It talks about the "ark that proceeded to park on a patch on the peak of Ararat." And then it talks about Noah's and Noah's sons and the door and the ramp and the animals and the rain and so on and so on. It's a fun little story to read.

The pictures are unique. I'm not quite sure what the word is to describe them. When I looked at them one description that came to mind was chainsaw carvings. Sort of a rough and square cut figures. But they are nice, not realistic, but still nice.

The book says it's juvenile nonfiction, so I'm not sure what age bracket they would put it in. It's a nice hardcover book, so obviously not too young because the pages could easily be torn. I struggle with giving an age to books like this. My almost two-year-old likes this book, but she is very easy on books and so I let her have all these kinds of books. But I know if we ever have other children, the story might change. I would say probably 3-8 year olds would enjoy this book.

I liked this book. There is another book by Gary called "The Beautiful Garden of Eden." It is also in the series "a Faith that God built" so I'm not sure if it would be the same rhyming structure or not.

I received this book from Tyndale House and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In the Shadow of Denali by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

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I like Tracie's writing and I've read one other book written by her and Kimberely that I liked. This one was good, but not as good.

The main character is a 20 something girl who has only ever known the backwoods of Alaska. She has this persistent optimism that almost doesn't seem like it could be real. And there might be where I struggled a bit with the book. I don't consider myself a pessimist, but maybe I am more than I think because Cassidy was perpetually smiling, laughing and lost in her thoughts and it sort of bugged me. I just don't know too many people like that. So maybe instead of thinking that she was a little immature and underdeveloped, I should try to emulate her more and be more positive and cheerful regardless.

Anyway, she does have a trust and dependence on God that is definitely worth emulating and she does want to share her faith with those around her. She wanted to be a Daniel. Her father was the same way, a careful, plan ahead and take precaution trail guide who looked out for those under his leadership and depended heavily on God.

And of course, there was an eligible man who shows up on the scene, angry and bitter at God for the fact that his father died while climbing Mount Denali under the guidance of Cassidy's father. At the end of the book, it was fully revealed that he didn't die, he was killed by his business partner who was also making the climb and of course, the eligible young man gave up his anger, made things right with God and secured the hand of the young eligible woman.

My takeaway from the book is to depend on God, to trust Him, to cry out to Him and to work on being a bit more of a positive person. I did enjoy the book and will try to read the rest of the series when it comes out. This was the first book in the Heart of Alaska series.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing me with a complimentary copy. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

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Why we can stop trying so hard.

This was a good book. I know that can be a bit of a cliche as I say that about a lot of books and I mean it about a lot of books. So what makes this book a good book? This simple takeaway. "I am not enough." That is a simple sentence, only four words, but terrifying in it's meaning. We live in a culture where you have to be enough. You need to be the best, you need to accomplish things. You need to be skinny and beautiful and rich and successful and on and on and on. And that's a hard load to carry. But if can believe and live out that sentence that "I am not enough" and if we can claim Jesus' blood and His help to be enough for us, our lives will be radically changed. We don't have to join the rat race of success-driven people who must, must, must perform. We can step back and "stop doing things for God, and start doing things with Him." God is enough and He can take the weight off your shoulders, the backpack as Jennie describes it and you can walk free with Him.

A few quotes from the book, "When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, God moves through you."

"When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, you know freedom."

"We are not defined by our worst or our best; we are defined by our God."

"Our confidence comes from believing God can do anything, then stepping back and letting Him."

Jennie offers seven streams of God's Enoughness: fulfillment, connection, rest, risk, hope, grace and calling. God is enough for whatever we have to face in life and we can rest in that.

My only mild complaint about the book is that I have an uncorrected proof, which isn't a problem, but there were some grammatical errors in the book. I am guessing these will be fixed before the final printing, but it did disturb the flow a little at times.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and was not required to write a positive review.

By the way, Jennie is the found of IF:Gathering "which exists to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation to live out their purpose." I saw there will be an IF: Gathering in the small town where we live on February 3 and 4. I think this might be a televised thing from the main gathering, but I don't know that for sure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit: Part 1

So this year, on Tuesdays, I have been studying the Beatitudes. If any of you read my book reviews, you know I read this amazing book on the Beatitudes a couple months ago. It was called "Momentum" by Collin Smith. I highly recommend the book. I am now rereading it slowly on Tuesdays and trying to let it soak in. I want the concepts of the Beatitudes to sink deep into my heart and to change me.

"Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for they shall see God." This is the first step, the first thing that must happen before any of the other Beatitudes can be exercised in my life. Do you know that this is the only Beatitude with a promise in the present tense?

So what is poor in spirit? In a nutshell, it is humility. It is recognizing that apart from God, I have nothing, I am nothing, and I can do nothing. This is not a "I can't do anything, ask someone else" mentality. It is recognizing that God gives the abilities that I have and without His help, I am nothing.

It is hard. I like to do things and take the credit for it, thank you very much. I like to be independent and be responsible for doing my own thing. But that is not how this Beatitude works. I must fully depend on God for everything.

The next question is how can we see God in the present tense? How can heaven be found here on earth? Have you looked around lately? Doesn't seem so heavenly. There are constant murmurings of unrest. There are terrorist attacks. Young fathers die, leaving widows and tiny children. How can this Beatitude be true. The last part of Isaiah 57:15 says this. God speaking, "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit." God will dwell with the humble. God with us, that is our taste of heaven on earth.

Thomas Watson says, ""If the hand is full of pebbles, it cannot receive gold." I must come to God empty-handed. "Empty-handedness will release you from the idea that God owes you." Collin Smith.

God owns us, He does not owe us. He has done so much for us, there is nothing we can do to fully repay that debt except to live in humility and complete dependence on God.

More points on this coming later.