Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Stars Collide" by Janice Thompson

Interesting to say the least, this book is about an on-stage couple that becomes an item off-stage. The protagonist Kat plays Angie that is in love with Jack, who is Scott in real life. In an effort to boost ratings and increase publicity, the producers want Kat and Scott to pretend to be a couple so the paparazzi will cook up some stories. Craziness ensues. The drama escalates as Kat's grandmother is stuck in the past and suffering from memory loss and confusion. Family secrets come out, and love blooms. Several characters pray and refer to the LORD. However, the only time the name of Jesus is mentioned is when a pastor performs marital vows. This story is engaging, but around the 150ish page mark, things slow down. However, around the late 200s, the pace picks back up again.

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Live like you Mean It" by T.J. Addingotn

As captivating and facetious as the title may be, this book poses some serious questions for readers to ponder. Issues like why you are here, what god wants for you, how you respond to God, and more are covered. With each, there are Bible verses included, although the book isn't stock full of them. The author tends to relate a lot of lessons to his own life and circumstances with those he has encountered. He even dives deep into the personal issues of heart failure and how he recovered. For new believers, many of these chapters will possibly ignite a fire in them to be proactive for Christ. For those that are a little more well versed, some of the concepts can seem redundant. However, for those Christians, this book serves best as a reference book to look up a particular question when the time arises as opposed to chugging straight through the book.

"Always True" by James MacDonald + FREE Giveaway

This book covers five telltale promises of the Lord. They focus on fear, despair, failure, doubt, and faltering. With each promise, there are two chapters. One is stock full of Bible verses in bold that explain how God has been true in the history of the world. The other is a bit more theologically deep and makes sure readers really "get" what they were supposed to learn. What's nice is that there is a Bible verse to memorize for each promise. Some personal stories and eyewitness accounts are included that will engage the reader. At first I was skeptical about whether or not this book would be just about prosperity gospels. However, I feel there is enough evidence in the writing to point readers towards God and His everlasting peace more than just answers to prayers. The writing is not the most riveting at times, but the promises highlighted in the book make it an excellent resource whenever one falls into a trap of lies and needs a quick reminder that God cares for them and will never leave them nor forsake them (see Hebrews 13:5).

Want this book for FREE? Leave a comment with your email. Cite how God has kept His promises in your own life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Never Been Kissed" by Melody Carlson

As is expected, this book of Carlson's is jam packed with drama. The protagonist Elise is about to turn sixteen and--as the cover implies--has never been kissed. The book is not about some plan to get kissed. Rather, the plot follows Elise, her friends, and the people she interacts with at her new school. When she gets the attention of a "taken" guy, things get complicated when he starts to email her. Later, stakes rise when the notion of sending raunchy photos arises. Sure, Elise only goes so far as to send a swimsuit picture (still bad), but she is humiliated when everyone in school is forwarded an pic of her naked. The pictures is not of her but looks like her. People turn on Elise as many believe she has sent this picture that everyone believes is her. While the drama can be over the top and the ending is somewhat predictable (I was still surprised with twists, but I figured out half of the mystery of who was really framing Elise), important themes arise. They are that teens should know that not everyone is who they seem online. They also learn how sending or even suggesting sending others raunchy photos can come back to bite them. What I think is missing is more of a notion that even sending the swimsuit photo was bad; sure, it's implied, but not enough. Also, while Elise eventually gets her name cleared (surprise, surprise), in real life, this does not always happen. When girls start to go down bad paths, there isn't always a way out, even if they are innocent of what they are being accused of. Still, the book will keep young readers engaged and educate them in serious matters while still keeping a bit of a focus on God, forgiveness, and redemption. There's even a contrast between boys and what true love really means. There is a bit of an epiphany / monologue from Elise at the end.
Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

"Fatal Judgment" by Irene Hannon

Sadly, after the first few chapters, I asked myself, "Why am I reading this?" The book is about a man from the military that is set to protect a woman who works in American law. She needs protection because her sister was shot and detectives worry that she may be the killer's next target. I realized that, through the course of 300+ pages, I would not be surprised as the man and woman fell in love, solved the big murder mystery, and got married. And, well, that's kind of what happened. Also, while published by Revell, this book is not very spiritual, in my opinion. There are some short prayers when characters are at the end of their ropes and the mention of church, but, besides that, the book is a tiredly predictable action romance novel. Plus, the romance between the two characters seems at times a bit more based on lust (especially when readers get to hear the man's thoughts in his own parts of narration). Plus, at times, the woman appears to be the cliched weak woman in need of a strong man. This just made me roll my eyes and go, "Come on!"

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Real Skinny On Losing It" by Michelle McKinney Hammond

While this book's title may be reminiscent of another book by a diet mogul, the author's voice is unique. Hammond spends the first half of the book sharing her experience with body image. Her successes and failures are juxtaposed for all readers to see. The concept of yo-yo dieting is dissected, and the author gives her two cents on why she thinks they are unsuccessful. After the reader has come to like the author with her full share of phrases (girlfriend, you know, etc), they take her a bit more serious when she dives into the how of weight loss. Hammond speaks of many popular diets that she used--what she did and did not like. Taking a bit from each one, she tries to encourage readers to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Spiritual fitness is incorporated into the book, as well. Some Bible verses are quoted, and some are only alluded to with footnotes. Also, at the end, there is a short list of recipes from the author herself.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"The Search" by Suzanne Woods Fisher

This is the 3rd book is Fisher's Lancaster County Secrets series. I read the 1st one a while ago and don't remember all the details. Still, with this book, I did not fee like I was missing anything. I get the impression that the series has a consistency is its location and Amish culture; each book is a new story and not a continuation of other books like sequels.

In this book, two stories are paralleled. One is of fifteen-year-old Bess that comes to a PA rose farm from Ohio to visit her grandmother (both towns are Amish). There, she meets Billy, a handsome Amish boy. Back home, another boy named Levi is said to have chased after Bess. Anyway, in PA, Bess is smitten with Billy and goes on a roller coaster of emotions as she realizes she is Billy's second choice. Will she keep returning to Billy when his other beau keeps dumping him? While this sounds very juicy, not much of this story is told. Most of the book focuses on the other female protagonist, Lainey. She is a twenty-five-year-old girl who is not Amish. Lainey bakes for a living and finds her way back to the PA rose farm. She meets an Amish man Jonah that catches her attention. Lainey faces inner turmoil as she faces what to do with her life and whether or not to switch over to living Amish.
More drama arises in the book as secrets about family are revealed. Also, the book is written in multiple perspectives that frequently change back and forth. A little bit of Dutch is included and translated when utilized. This book may not be what readers expect from the back cover, but they will certainly enjoy reading about the Amish lifestyle.
Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Small Space Organizing" by Kathryn Bechen

This tiny book is a great reference for anyone who lives or will be soon living in a small living space. There are several chapters covering different living areas, themes, and more. The chapters are broken up with short paragraphs and bold topics above each for reference that is both quick and easy. The central points that Bechen drives into readers is that they must minimize their possessions, go green, and maximize what little space they have. There is even a section for those with children. Websites are included for those that need help finding what to get (lists of what to get are included, too). What I really like is a small set of interviews at the end of the book. They are discussions with those that live in various types of small living quarters. Although this book is published by Revell, I did not find this book to overtly religious or spiritual at all. This is a great book, and I think I'll give it to my mother.

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron

This is one of the first genuinely good books I've read in a long time that adequately meshes good storytelling with sincere Christianity. The protagonist is a pastor of an evangelical mega-church; his name is Chase. One day, when faced with an already deteriorating faith that is given the big kick with the death of a beloved child, Chase tells his entire congregation that his faith is no more. When confronted by his church elders, he is told to take some time off. Emotionally spent, Chase travels to Italy to visit his uncle Kenny who is a Franciscan priest. Through a long pilgrimage that continues even after Chase leaves, Chase comes to know what St. Francis was really like, what he did, and what he taught. Kenny and his other Catholic priests / monks take Chase around to view places of historical importance in the church and even allowed Chase to see poverty firsthand and let him help. Chase even learns what it means to be a true follower of Christ, not just a so-called Christian. Of course, at the end, Chase regains his faith. However predictable this ending may be, the passage to get there is heartfelt and real. The pages keep turning as readers see themselves in various parts of the story. As a Catholic, I like how bits of Catholicism from the liturgy to cathedral to transubstantiation are introduced in a positive way without being overbearing. Chase doesn't convert to Catholicism in the end, but he does grow closer to God through various Catholic venues. He even prays to St. Francis after a while. At the end of the book, there is a lengthily study that includes excerpts followed by questions with space to fill in answers. Christians of all types can learn more about God, worship, and themselves with this book. Best of all, due to the construction of the book, they will most likely want to live out what they learned.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Posers, Fakers, and Wannabees" by Brennan Manning and Jim Hancock

I've got to say that this book has the funniest title I've yet to lay eyes upon. Nevertheless, it goes deep into many spiritual matters that make it anything but comical. The Poser is written of as someone that is in each and every one of us. The Poser constantly has us put up a facade and prevents us from examining who we really are. He or she is like the Pharisees of Jesus' time who claim to be pious but are anything but. Through anecdotes, stories, and quotes from theological writings, the authors make their points. The Bible verses and stories that are quoted seem to be from a more modern translation. Readers can think of that what they may. While packed full of insight, my main criticism of this book is that it is not exactly a page-turner all the time. I can liken it to a physics textbook. You know what's in the book is important and that you should know it; however, sometimes you have to really make yourself read it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Becoming a Woman of Influence" by Carol Kent

This book has good intentions but did not exactly "wow" me. It discusses how women can and should mentor other women. Many examples from the New Testament with what Jesus did are given. Real life stories from women are included, as well. However, the book doesn't focus on women influencing men or young children. It just deals with women mentoring other women. A big thing that caught my attention was the translation of the Bible verses included. I am not exactly sure which it is, but it is definitely not KJV, NKJV, or NLT. The words seem more modern. A lot of that modern speech may help some readers understand Kent's points more. However, for me, I prefer the other translations. That's just my personal bias, though. A nine-week Bible study is included, which is nice. It shows how Kent wants mentors to not just have good intentions but actually know what they are talking about when they talk about God.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"This Is Your Brain In Love" by Dr. Earl Henslin

This book primarily deals with love in marriage, so it is not recommended for younger readers. The science included in it ranges from nutrition to neuroscience and is not too complicated--just a bit of extra vocabulary. Couples and marriages in broken down into categories that are interesting to say the least. The way the book is arranged, it is half story and half self-help. I believe the author wants married couples to be more happy and in love. There is some spirituality in the book, but it is by no meas a treatise on theology. Brain imbalances are covered a bit and are presented in an unbiased fashion that do not cast shame. Extra sections that deal with hormonal women and addicted men may be offensively pigeonholing to some or helpful to some. I wouldn't take every bit of advice to my heart when married, but it is an intriguing book that will make people perk up their eyebrows and go "Huh?"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Precious Moments Storybook Bible

This cute little book is best suited very younger children. It is very large when it comes to the size of the written letters. There are pages in the front that talk about God and allow the small child to write down family heritage and facts about him- or herself. The only downside to this is that it is not a complete children's Bible. Rather, specific stories are included side-by-side vibrant illustrations in the Precious Moments cartoon style. This book should get youngsters interested in the Bible until they are big enough to read the entire Book on their own at a later age. It may be best for this to be read to children piece by piece. For adults, it's a nice respite in their day that is quick. Plus, unlike regular doctrine, many people forget the minute facts of particular Bible stories. Let this book refresh your memory. After all, God's stories are the best around. :)