Friday, December 20, 2013

"The Key to the Middle East" by Derek Prince

Derek Prince shines a unique light on the Middle East in this book where current events and the Bible collide.  As a soldier in the British army, Prince was actually in Jerusalem and lived through the birth of the Jewish State, the Six Day War, and several other prominent events in the history of Israel.  There is even a section in the back of the book chronicling many of these events.  Did I mention that Prince has a history degree?  That helps.  Another great section at the back of the book is a guide encouraging readers to visit Israel and support the Jewish people.  The meat of this book involves Prince detailing specific events in the Middle East and pairing them with Bible passages.  While I do not necessarily agree with every "Bible connection" he makes, it does make for an interesting read and some great food for thought.  Prince is also brutally honest, speaking out on how his native land of Britain was not always the best to the Jewish people.  He also tackles the history of antisemitism in the Church.  For those that are unfamiliar to the Middle East, there is a section towards the front of the book that serves as a quick introduction of the countries in the Middle East and why newscasters all around the world are constantly focusing on Israel.  There is also an emphasis on praying for the peace of Jerusalem, which is nice and oh so important in this tumultuous time.    

"Dateline Jerusalem" by Chris Mitchell

Filled with fast-faced journalistic detail and current events, this book cues readers in to what is going on in Jerusalem.  History from years gone by and our current era are included.  Informal interviews with natives of the Middle East are included.  Mitchell mentions the conflict that there is over the infamous Holy Land.  Having physically been to Jerusalem, Mitchell tells stories of not only what happened but how he felt spiritually.  He mentions the phenomenon where Muslims today are having dreams of a man clothed in white light telling them that He is Jesus and to follow Him.  In terms of religion, Mitchell also quotes Muslim leaders and shines the light on what fundamentalist Islam is all about.  Readers shock in horror as they read quotes from terrorist leaders extolling people to murder Jews and wipe Israel off the map.  This book is difficult to read at times--not difficult in a scholarly sense, but difficult in an emotional sense.  Mitchell does not sugarcoat the situation in Israel but rather gives readers an honest account of this highly debated over piece of land.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Pilgrimage" by Lynn Austin

Beautifully written and wonderfully descriptive, this book follows the author's journey through Jerusalem.  We see the sights she sees, hear the sounds she hears, smell the smells she smells.  Spiritual analogies are made as Austin makes new discoveries in Israel.  Quotes from both the New and Old Testament are brought to life as historical and geographical context are put in their proper place.  Additionally, the culture of the Jewish people come out as Austin describes the Weeping Wall, the communal Sabbath, traditional dress, and much more.  There are hand drawings interspersed throughout the book.  However, the pictures do not always line up with what is being discussed in the same few pages surrounding the picture.  One thing missing is photographs, which would have surely made the book stand out more.    

Friday, December 13, 2013

“Take Flight: A Sisterchicks Devotional” by Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan

“Take Flight: A Sisterchicks Devotional” by Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan is a fun and enjoyable gift book.  The chapters—if you could even call them that—are very short and not more than a few pages.  With quotes and pictures and nice large font, this book is great for women on the go who don’t have too much free time on their hands.  There are Bible verses referenced every so often, and the book does carry a Christian undertone.  However, this book could be read by anyone.  It isn’t so much of a devotional in the sense of being a deep study tool.  Still, it’s a nice book for women who want to quiet time to themselves.  The blue font, crisp pages, and color hardcover binding are all added plusses.  There are quotes from other Sisterchicks series books in this book.  Whether you see this as the authors merely using what they have or trying to push their other books is up to you.  Irregardless, with this book, you will share in the authors’ stories of happiness, sadness, hope, travel, imagination, and more.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"The Smart Woman's Guide to Planning for Retirement" by Mary Hunt

Well written with well-divided chapters, this book is a great reference for women of all ages.  Despite the title, the basic principles also apply to men as well.  From saving for the future to paying off debt, this book gives plenty of tips.  What's great is that several financial options and perspectives are given so the reader can pick what works best for them.  Additionally, there is glossary in the back for financial terms that will come in handy.  There are plenty of referenced websites, banks, and financial institutions.  While this book is not too technically deep, there are some formulas and tables thrown in.  This is a quick reference that will make saving for retirement seem manageable and not daunting.

"An Elegant Solution" by Paul Robertson

Set in the time of Euler and Bernoulli, this book follows the complex life of intellectuals.  As each character vies for a spot in the Basel University, sparks fly.  Things get even more intense as murder and the plague emerge.  Is a professor killed so his job is open, or was he merely a victim of the plague?  Such questions abound.  The writing style of Robertson really puts readers back in time.  The problem is that modern readers are not used to the style.  This book is a great read, but it is a slow read.  The old style of speaking can be choppy and takes some time.  Still, there are nice intricacies in this story that make it interesting.  Architecture, theology, trade work, societal norms, fashion, and more are discussed.  The way mathematics and physics ties in is fascinating.  There is enough detail to follow along but not so much detail as to confuse readers.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"A Million Little Ways" by Emily P. Freeman

This book is short and all about how to bring out your inner artist.  There are some religious undertones inserted throughout.  All in all, the author encourages readers to find what they enjoy doing and keep doing it.  Childhood dreams and fears are challenged as Freeman relates anecdotes both from her life and others lives as well.  I am not going to lie and say this book is one of its kind because it isn't.  There are plenty of self-help books on discovering your passion.  This isn't even the first one with Christian undertones.  However, for those that like Freeman's writing style, this book hits home and delivers.  While this book can be for any readers, it definitely feels as though it is geared more towards women.  Also, this is just me, but I felt a bit of housewife undertones.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I'm just pointing out how I perceived the book audience to book.  Prepare to look back, look inward, and look forward as you continue to discover more of yourself.  Have a little fun and let your inner artist come out.    

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Martyr's Fire" by Sigmund Brouwer

I want to preface this review by saying that I am a bit biased when it comes to Brouwer's books.  He is one of my all-time favorite authors, and he has yet to let me down in his literary endeavors.  This book is no exception.  The style with which Brouwer writes keeps you turning the pages, holding onto the plot until it slips out from underneath you like a rug.  This book is the third in a series about a ruler in Magnus.  His empire rises and falls as a new band of Druids posing as priests of the Holy Grail sway the public opinion with carefully crafted "miracles."  Literally running for his life, the protagonist Thomas is constantly wondering who is friend and who is foe.  Katherine is following Thomas in his flight.  At times, both perceive the other as the enemy.  Yet, both are hiding a love for the other.  Matters are complicated as Isabelle--another character who is seen as a potential foe--hides her own love for Thomas.  I also enjoy how Brouwer intertwines romance in his novels that is sweet but not graphic.  The twists and turns in the story will captivate readers.  While I have not read the first two books in this series, I managed to follow along without any problems.  The only complaint I have is that the back cover speaks of the characters venturing to the Holy Land of Jerusalem while the book only covers this on the last few chapters of the book before ending.  I suppose I'll just have to read the next book to find out what happens next.  ;)  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Samson: A Savior Will Rise" by Shawn Hoffman

This book is highly gripping, and the best and worst part of it is that it is based on real-life events.  Samson is a family man with a beautiful wife and children.  Problem is he's Jewish, the Third Reich is in power, and it's the onset of World War II.  Living in a ghetto, Samson and his family are deported to a concentration camp.  This is after Samson--a boxing champion--assaults Nazi guards who are beating up a young Jewish boy.  This one decision to intervene in someone's life will eventually cost Samson everything.  Once in the camp, Hoffman goes into detail following each member of Samson's family as they are tortured.  Mengele is a crazed Nazi scientist--if you could even call him that--that is enraged at Samson's sheer defiance and bravado.  When Samson is called to box for Nazi entertainment, he talks smack and challenges the notion that Jews are inferior.  If he is so inferior, Samson argues, why is he always winning boxing matches?  Eventually, Mengele rips Samson's family apart in an effort just to cause Samson emotional pain.  Based on thorough research, Hoffman describes some of the brutality inflicted on Samson's family.  The sad part is that these acts were committed on many Jews in the Holocaust.  An interesting side character is Kolbe, a Polish Catholic monk.  He is in the concentration camp because he hid Jews.  Kolbe often speaks of God and faith while Samson either listens intently or openly questions Kolbe.  This book will really get readers thinking.  It's easy to have faith in God when things are going well.  But for victims of the Holocaust, we see in this book how it is not so easy to tell them, "just have faith."  This book has a happy ending and a sad one all at once.  Starved, ill-rested, beaten to the point of death, and hanging on by stitches and scabs, Samson is both a victor and a loser.  Free and living in South America with illegal papers, Mengele is both a victor and a loser.  But all of that depends on what your definition of winning is.  I highly recommend this book as an eye-opener to all.  I just don't recommend that you read it right before going to bed--it will haunt you.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Perfectly Matched" by Maggie Brendan

Sadly, this book let me down on many occasions.  Let me back up a bit.  The story revolves around Anna who is mail-order-bride.  She gets married to Edward based on a few written correspondences in response to a mail-order-bride ad.  When they are married and the book begins, Edward gives her a list of chores to do.  Anna is discouraged, and things get more complicated between the couple when Anna wants to take pets into her home to care for them but Edward does not want pets to disturb his orderly life.  As the book progresses, it gets pretty hot and heavy.  Throughout the story, while Edward is a bit OCD, he is portrayed as handsome and romantic.  Additionally, throughout the book, Anna gets Edward to bend his will to hers through sexual manipulation.  This books gives very bad messages to women.  Firstly, it give the message that a marriage can turn out perfectly with someone you've just met and don't really know all that well.  Secondly, it gives the message that women can get whatever they want by seducing men.  As if that wasn't enough, this book was just plain uncomfortable.  It wasn't as subtle as other romance novels I read.  It felt like a dirty novel written for men.  Disgusting.    

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Return to Me" by Lynn Austin

This book was a superb read that was immensely well-written.  Starting off with a scene where the Babylonian king consults Daniel, the story hits the ground running.  After the reader understands that the Babylonian empire is about to crumble, the story quickly transitions into the Persians taking over.  Readers follow Babylonian exiles Iddo, Zechariah, Dinah, Yael, Yeshua, and others--some characters biblical and some fictitious.  When King Cyrus declares that the Jews can return to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple, there is indecisiveness.  Some Jews stay and some Jews leave.  Zechariah leaves his father behind as he follows his grandfather Iddo to the forsaken Promised Land.  There is drama between Iddo and his wife as she does not want to leave Babylon.  Yael is a prime character as she is a young girl that is friend to the young Zechariah.  I should point out that Zechariah and his family age throughout the book--readers see Zechariah go from a young boy to a full grown man.  Anyway, Yael is ensconced in sorcery and eventually begins to mingle with the Samaritans neighboring Jerusalem who are incredibly hostile to the Jews.  Yael is an insider of sorts because the Samaritans honor her for her abilities as a "seer" who can tell the future "by the stars."  Tension grows as religious Zechariah--training to be a priest--falls in love with Yael, a sorcerer condemned by the Torah.  I liked how Austin wrote about pagan ways but kept it relatable.  In the 21st century, not many readers can relate to the thought of multiple gods, but people can certainly relate to the danger and temptation of psychics and astrology that is still popular today even in America.  I won't give the entire book away, but the suspense will keep you turning the pages as you wonder what Zechariah will do--what he will compromise and what he will not when it comes to his faith.  You also will wonder what will happen to Iddo and Dinah's marriage.  Many important faith questions come up as dialog goes back and forth between characters who support and oppose the work of the Jews.  On a side note, readers will understand much better exactly who the Samaritans are that are mentioned in the Bible as this historical book gives a good backdrop to the history of the Samaritans and the Jews.  Also woven into this story are Zechariah's dreams written in the Bible.  What I loved is how Austin wrote the book to relate some of Zechariah's dreams to troubles going on in his life.  Now, when it comes to dreams and prophecy, it's hard to know what is really meant.  However, the American public sometimes goes overboard trying to over-spiritualize everything while ignoring context.  This book puts context to a lot of what is written in the Bible while adding some literary freedom, of course.  While characters like Ezra and Nehemiah aren't mentioned in this book, it packs a lot of time and history into its pages.  I can not recommend this book enough.  There is drama, romance, action, redemption, spirituality, and so much more.         

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"First Date" by Melody Carlson

This short book really surprised me.  I thought it'd be superficial and a quick boring read designed for teeny-boppers.  I was wrong.  As the pages kept turning, I found myself engrossed in the story.  The plot was detailed while not being too complex; I could put the book down for a couple days and come back without missing a beat.  I also liked how this book was culturally relevant and current.  References to iPads and Facebook were made, and you could not really tell that this book was not written by a teen.  It's not an easy task for a middle aged writer to write a teen story that seems real.  Anyway, Carlson accomplished that.  I also like how this book is not graphic but does not shy away from serious topics.  The issues of date rape, chastity, peer pressure, and more are addressed.  There is real life drama as we learn about the characters' families--from divorce to racism to death.  I also liked how when discussing makeovers, Carlson weaves into the story how everyone has a different type of beauty.  For instance, one character wants to look like another girl with long hair.  However, when she goes to a stylist, she is encouraged to get a short haircut because not everyone looks good with long hair.  This is just a small thing, but it gets the point across to young readers that they don't have to look like everybody else to be beautiful.  I recommend this book to others.     

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"True Love Dates" by Debra Fileta

The title of this book is a play on words of sorts to the famous book entitled "True Love Waits."  While this book is an interesting read and quite the page-turner, I still think "True Love Waits" is a better book in many regards.  That book is deeper spiritually and literally.  This book is simple.  However, I do not mean that as an insult.  This book goes over many basic principles of how to date inward, outward, and upward.  So, in other words, the author encourages getting to know yourself, getting to know others, and getting to know God.  With a bit of practicality thrown in, there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter, as well as a section towards the back of the book where Fileta goes over common counseling questions.  I think Fileta's experience as a professional counselor make this book a bit more appealing.  Sure, she may not be saying anything that other books on "Christian dating" don't say.  But, her background gives her opinions a bit more credibility.  Due to the nature of some topics discussed in this book, I would say it is for mature readers and not youngsters. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Why Still Care About Israel?" by Sandra Teplinsky

Wonderfully written and researched, Teplinsky does a phenomenal job of articulating the swirl of controversy surrounding Israel.  She uses Bible verses from both the New and Old Testament to show that the Bible in no way supports the idea that God is done with or doesn't care about Israel anymore.  She touches upon replacement theology as well as Antisemitism.  There is even a section of the book that goes through Church history and how there have been countless edicts throughout the years that have tried to rid Christianity of its Jewish roots--sometimes killing Jews in the process.  Another interesting part of the book dives deep into how the media does not portray Israel accurately.  There is even a vague reference to a Italian photojournalist who, in 2011, did an expose on how much media from the Middle East is staged (Google Ruben Salvadori).  Teplinsky also goes in depth on fundamentalist Islam and what the Quran says on eradicating Israelities.  This is an eye-opening read for people of all faiths that will make people think twice before demonizing a persecuted people who is currently fighting for its right to exist.  I also liked how the author threw in Yeshua and Yahweh in her vocabulary of this text.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Wounded by God's People" by Anne Graham Lotz

Following the story of Hagar, Lotz elaborates on how an Egyptian slave was hurt by the great patriarch Abraham.  From having to leave her home in Egypt to having to act as a concubine to having to be cast out into the wilderness, Hagar's life was not easy.  Interwoven with this story is Lotz's own stories of how she has been wounded by Christians.  The chapters are divided into segments that align with the Genesis story.  Lotz has a lot of wisdom but is a bit lacking in the knowledge department.  In one part of her book, she talks about "Jehovah."  For those that don't know, Jehovah is the result of rabbis stripping YHWH of its vowels and trying to make it have the vowels of Adonay (means "lord" in Hebrew) in favor of their man-made traditions.  This gets us Yehovah, and when the letter "j" came around about 400 years ago, the name "Jehovah" stuck thanks to a king by the name of James.  "Jehovah" is not God's Name.  His Name is YHWH.  Additionally, at one point in the book, Lotz alludes to Christians not working on Sunday and makes them out to be "obedient."  The Sabbath never is or was on Sunday.  It is Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset.  The Sunday Sabbath is a result of Constantine's pagan edicts in the 360s AD.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Chasing Hope" by Kathryn Cushman

At first I thought this would be a boring sports novel.  Was I wrong!  This story sticks with you from beginning to end and will pull at your emotions.  Sabrina is an honor student who used to be heading to the Olympics to “run for God.”  Her plans changed when she was diagnosed with a juvenile form of arthritis.  Dreams crushed and friends gone, she is a bitter young lady.  After losing her ability to run like a pro, she constantly thinks poorly of herself.  Even when her boyfriend showers her with attention, she pushes him away because she feels he is out of her league.  Sabrina’s well being gets even worse when she encounters a young woman who has star running potential but who wastes opportunities by drinking and getting mixed in with the wrong crowd.  As Sabrina eventually begins to coach the young hooligan—you’ll have to read and find out how THAT happens—both women begin to admire the other and eventually become friends.  The friend parts takes a long while, of course.  Overall, this book is very inspirational and will make you wonder about your place in this world and how you can make a difference in someone’s life. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

“A Home for My Heart” by Anne Mateer

I read through this book in 2 days—not just because I’m a book reviewer and am used to that but because I really enjoyed the story.  The premise for the book is that Sadie works in an orphanage and gets promoted to head matron.  Then, her long time beau suddenly proposes to her.  Sounds great, right?  The only problem is that the head matron is not allowed to be married.  Sadie’s boyfriend Blaine wants her to quit her new job and marry him.  Drawn to her own dreams, Sadie tells Blaine to wait.  Hurt and impatient, Blaine leaves Sadie behind.  As I’m sure you can gather from even such little information, there is a lot of emotion leaking through the pages as we enter Sadie’s mind.  Things get further complicated when she meets a new man named Earl who showers her with attention.  Meanwhile, her new assistant at the orphanage constantly flirts with both Earl and Blain.  With some good old 1900s drama, this book will keep your interest.  When you get to the end, you will be surprised by who you judged and what characters’ motives really were. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Trapped" by Irene Hannon

Full of suspense and wonder, this books will keep you turning the pages in anticipation of both good and bad news.  As Laura's step sister goes missing, she begins to develop a relationship with the PI she has hired.  At the same time, Darcy--the runaway teen--ends up staying with a new friend.  Most stories that focus on runaways or kidnaps are pretty one-sided.  In other words, you know right away who the "bad guy" is.  However, Hannon managed to pull of a literary feat by not immediately letting the reader know who was good and who was bad.  Until you make sufficient headway in the book, you really don't know whether you admire or hate Darcy's friend.  When the story goes sour for Darcy (I won't tell you who is the "bad guy"), it gets serious.  In many stories where women are kidnapped, there is usually some rape involved.  In this story, there is none of that, but it does not seem any less real.  Hannon paints a picture of a criminal who is obsessive compulsive and who has control issues, planning on eventually raping Darcy.  However, that never happens.  The reason why I bring this up is because most people want the suspense of a kidnap story but don't want the depressing and graphic details of a young girl being violated.  While there is some violence in the book, I would not classify it as R rated.  Overall, this book is appropriate for women of all ages and will be a good teaching / discussion tool for young women to teach them the dangers of who they trust.  As you will find out, the "bad guy" doesn't always seem that bad at first.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"She's Twelve Going on Twenty" by Kim Camp

Divided into three main sections--body, mind, and spirit--this book tackles the many ways in which young women struggle to find their identities.  Each chapter covers an interesting topic from both a spiritual and a real-world approach.  There are even stories thrown in to give the reader more depth into each circumstance.  Things such as fashion, friends, influences, media, video games, relationships, and more are expounded upon.  There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter for daughter and mother to go through either together or separately.  Also interesting is the fact that the author touched upon divorce and how that can impact young women.  Food issues are also discussed.  While this book is intriguing enough to be read on its own, I would recommend it more as a reference for mothers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"What Once Was Lost" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Set in the late 1800s, this story revolves around many interconnected lives that are quite fluid.  Relationships blossom and relationships become distant.  But I'm not just talking about romantic relationships--I also mean friendships and business acquaintances.  Sawyer did an excellent job of fitting the others characters in.  You had just enough to know how they felt but not so much that you were distracted from the protagonist.  Also, there was not much romance in this book.  There is some, and the protagonist does end up marrying the other leading male character in the book (come on, is anyone surprised?).  However, what Sawyer managed to pull off was making the reader really fall in love with the people in the book.  Instead of some frilly historical fiction book where the characters act all 1800s flirtatious, her story was laced with plausible life circumstances, real life emotions, and not so pleasant travesties.  But the book felt real and you could feel yourself immersed in the story, in the small Kansas town.  I also enjoyed how the life of a little blind boy was tied into the plot.  The spiritual connections drawn based on his are truly deep and will hit you when you get to them.  I could go on, but, in essence, I highly recommend this book.  I had an advanced reading copy.  The only thing I was not too fond of was the protagonist would often say she felt things "in her breast."  I'd prefer the expression "in her heart," but that's just me.  Other than that, I enjoyed the book.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Icing on the Cake" by Janice A. Thompson

There’s an overweight baker who happens to catch the eye of a muscular heartthrob.  Baker Scarlet may consider herself too fat, but Armando’s cultural background causes him not to view her as heavy (to him, she’s “normal”).  Also, Scarlet has another gentleman caller in her life called Kenny.  This book gives a good lesson to girls that their weight won’t necessary keep guys away.  That isn’t to say women shouldn’t strive to stay healthy and eat their vegetables.  Readers learn from Scarlet’s life how true diet and exercise are better than any “crash diet” out there.  Girls who may not be a size 2 will know that they can still be viewed as attractive.  Another interesting part of the book was how real life events—from other characters—were woven into the story.  This wasn’t just some cute love story with 2 characters being the center of the universe.  No.  In Thompson’s book, we learn about the struggles and joys of Scarlet’s friends, her extended family, and even Armando’s family.  This makes the book more connectable to the reader.  Not everything in the book is realistic, but there’s just enough plausibility to make you want to keep turning the pages.  J     

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Sticking Points" by Haydn Shaw

As someone who works with a variety of coworkers from different generations, this book stood out to me.  I found it interesting how Shaw broke up most people into a couple generational groups and then delved deep into what makes those people who they are.  Shaw focuses on what he calls ghost stories, which are essentially historical events that shaped each generation.  From financial changes to terrorism to technological updates, this book explains how and why each generation is different than the others.  Shaw also gives readers steps for overcoming generational differences, along with stories of both good and bad examples of conflict resolution.  This book is great for companies, managers, employers, and just readers in general.  Besides being applicable to the workforce, this book will also help friends and family better understand each other.  As you will learn from this book, we're all speaking the same language.

Monday, August 5, 2013

“Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience” by Carole P. Roman

“Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience” by Carole P. Roman is a delightful book about learning and overcoming difficulties in life.  Out of all of Roman’s pirate books, I have to say that this one is my favorite.  Besides being full of great artistic pictures, this book really hits home on handing emotions.  Pepper the Parrot doesn’t know his left from right.  This subsequently gets him embarrassed in public.  Then, he gets frustrated, angry, and even cries.  Now, adults may know their left from their right, but we can all identify with not knowing something and getting embarrassed / upset over it.  The book also emphasizes kindness in teaching others, along with some humor thrown in for good measure.  There is even a tip included for little ones to remember their left from their right.  All in all, this is a great book. 

"Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life" by Carole P. Roman

"Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life" by Carole P. Roman is the introductory book in the Captain No Beard Series.  It introduces the main characters—animal and human alike.  Those familiar with Roman’s books will notice a slightly different style of art in this book.  It looks less like watercolor paint and more like marker.  However, the art is still detailed and nice.  One picture is even repeated twice in the book.  This book has good literary lessons for children.  Besides using alliteration, there is a scene where the characters look up a word in the dictionary and appear to be having fun doing so.  In terms of teaching kids the value of chores, there is also a part in the story where the “crew” works together to clean the pirate ship.  Towards the end of the book, there is a part where the children eat cookies before dinner.  How early before dinner is not specified, but I can only hope is it in the afternoon during some sort of snack time as opposed to directly before supper. 

"On Distant Shores" by Sarah Sundin

“On Distant Shores” by Sarah Sundin is set in the World War II era.  Georgie is a nurse, and Hutch is a pharmacist.  Both have fiancés—“sweethearts”—back home.  However, while both are away from their significant others, they develop a relationship with each other that starts out as friendship and grows into something more.  Georgie misses Ward but is frustrated when he doesn’t support her goals.  Hutch misses his fiancé but is frustrated when she seems too distant.  Both remain loyal to their fiancés until drastic events in the book take place.  What drastic events are these?  Read the book and find out for yourself.  The detail in this book was sufficient for a historical fiction novel taking place in the 1940s.  Readers will see the sights of Rome as they follow the war torn characters.  There is a bit of astronomy discussed, along with Greek mythology.  Both characters are religious in the book and religion comes up every now and then with regards to quoting Bible verses and trusting in “the lord.” 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Is College Worth It?" by William J. Bennett with David Wilezol

This book is an excellent resource for all young student considering their future plans.  The authors take a good look at our current post-secondary education system and offer some practical advice.  They lay out the black-and-white numbers of tuition and debt, as well as the likelihood of getting a job upon graduation.  What I especially enjoy was how the authors suggested people give a second look at community college, associate degrees, and trade schools.  While these alternatives tend to be looked down upon, the authors demonstrate how they are very lucrative and require great amounts of skill and hard work.  Also interesting was how this book dives into the political direction of many schools and the biases that are taught in some institutions.  While this book gives a list of some schools that they recommend, I must stress that this is just a resource for students and should not be their only reference.  The schools listed in this book are few and do not cover all of them.  While this school put a slight emphasis on evangelical and Christian learning institutions, I was a bit sad they did not include Jewish learning institutions.  After all, Jews highly respect the Tanach (known to Christians as the Old Testament) and are known to have high levels of both intelligence and work ethic in education.   

"The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good" by Peter Greer with Anna Haggard

With all the books out there on charity and "doing good," it was interesting to read one on its apparent dangers.  While this book covers stuff like financial ruin, volunteer betrayal, and family crises, it focuses much more on the heart of the do-gooder.  Readers come to understand that doing good works does not guarantee blessings--Christian karma as the book calls it.  Readers will also grasp how they can be incredibly selfish even when they are serving others.  For instance, if you have a charity organization named after you with your face plastered all over media, pride can start to slip it...if it has not already.  This book was a fun read that held my attention.  What I didn't like so much was one nuance in the book where Pharisees were discussed.  The book gave the impression that the "heavy burdens" the Pharisees placed on people were related to biblical law.  However, historically speaking, the Pharisees pushed man-made tradition on people.  Yeshua (Jesus) promoted the Torah (Matt 5) and did not consider it a burden.  However, I perhaps I am being too harsh.  Very few mainstream Christian teachers know the difference between the Torah and the Talmud.  

"A Simple Change" by Judith Miller

I'm not going to lie--this book started off a bit slow.  However, once I got a good hundred pages in, things started to get really good.  The protagonist is torn as she has several men competing for her attention, the stress of moving to a new place, and the sadness associated with her dying mother.  As a city girl coming to Amish country, the woman does not fit in exactly.  Things get complicated when an unexpected family friend visits her.  Add in the drama of thievery and fires and you've got once suspenseful novel.  This book was full of twists and turns.  Set in the 1800s, there was enough details to understand that time period but not so much detail to make readers want to fall asleep.  I also liked the psychology of this book.  It had a happy ending (surprise, surprise) but was also filled with real-world problems that aren't so fairy-tale.  This includes abusive men, dangers of walking alone, and others.  While the dangers in this book aren't horrifying or graphic, they do help paint a story that is realistic and not just fantasy. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

“Prairie Song” by Mona Modgson

This book is set in the post civil war time period.  The main protagonists are moving across America to venture out west for a brighter future.  One is a widow, while the other is a woman who just abandoned her soon-to-be-husband at the altar.  The drama between the woman and the man she abandoned at the altar could have been played upon, but unfortunately it wasn’t.  The two left on good terms, closing the door on any readers’ expectations for conflict.  A captain has his eye on the widow, but she is cold to him since he delivered the news of her late husband’s death.  A trail hand worker and Miss Cold Feet both think ill of each other and find the other detestable.  However, that doesn’t stay that way for long.  There is also drama when certain characters are accused of stealing and when certain characters are fighting the deadly addiction of alcohol.  What I liked about this book was how it paralleled two love stories.  So many books just focus on one.  My only complaint about this book is the binding.  The margins are not wide enough, so you have to bend the book extra far to read certain parts.  However, overall, this was an entertaining read that held my attention.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

“Buy This Land” by Chi-Dooh Li

This book opens up in a most unusual fashion.  The author describes his initial life journeys and briefly hints at his feelings of not quite knowing who exactly he is in the world.  As the son of a diplomat, the stories told about his early life are quite fascinating and will intrigue readers whom have never known that sort of lifestyle and family travel.  Eventually, the book takes a slightly (and I mean slightly) religious turn where Li explains how he converted to Christianity.  He never comes off as pushy in the book, and this book is first and foremost a non-fictional account about the leader of a non-profit organization.  What I also like is how this Christian did not just write a vague book about love and purpose.  No.  He wrote a book about his compelling need to take the Bible literally and go out and help the poor.  This is really admirable.  As the pages turn, readers will understand the immense complexities and hardships that go into such a gargantuan task.  Culture and language blend effortlessly as Li takes you through his ventures into war-torn Central America to help the rural poor.  He helped the poor by giving them land deeds that they eventually pay back.  I love how he didn’t just give the natives a handout.  Li explained how giving people freebies did not give them any sense of dignity—the people must work back their spirit of humanity to earn the independence they so surely covet from their wealthier counterparts.  Some people may think that helping the poor may be too big of a task.  They may think they’re not smart enough, don’t have a large enough network of help, don’t have enough resources, etc.  But what I love about this book is that readers see start to finish one man’s dream of doing something worthwhile to help others.  Readers may never do what Li did, but they will know it is possible.  At, if nothing else, readers will be humbled knowing that there are those in the world doing great things for the poor.  It’s all to easy to think we’ve got everything all figured out and that we’re “good people” because we donate money here and there.  But this book will make you stop and think what one person really can do.  This book also will challenge religious people.  While Li never goes into specific detail about his particular doctrine / creed / denomination, he does stress how he must help the poor.  Regardless of what people believe, all arguments seem to diminish when you realize people are fulfilling one of the key parts of Yah’s desire—to love others and help the poor.  Li may not have everything figured out spiritually (who does?), but he is taking a step in the right direction by pursuing the mitzvah of helping the poor.  As for the book and the author, I say well done.

And Li, if you’re reading this, read Leviticus 25.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Perfecting Kate" by Tamara Leigh

When I first cracked this book open, I was expecting it to "get good" at maybe around page 100.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was hooked into the story-line in the first chapter alone.  I get lots of books to review, and this is a rarity.  The style with which Leigh writes makes you feel as if you are right inside Kate's shoes.  Kate's a short and--um, er--pleasantly plump thirty-something single woman.  She suffers from infertility and was dumped pre-altar from her fiance when he discovered she could not conceive.  This artist is depressed and lets herself go.  One day, she is stopped on the street for a makeover, which will be featured in an upcoming style / fashion magazine.  She obliges and then starts to go out with the makeup artist who found her.  However, things get complicated when she also becomes interested in a local client she is painting for.  Emotions flare as Kate's boyfriend tries to change her and as Kate struggles to find her faith.  I won't reveal too much, since this is a book you'll want to savor for yourself.  While there is romance in this book, it is not graphic.  There really isn't any swearing.  This are religious undertones but nothing too pushy.  Many women will find themselves connecting to Kate at some point.  She's an average woman who yearns to be herself but isn't quite sure how.  Read this book and find out how she figures it out.  A great read.   

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Brood X" by Michael Phillip Cash

When I start reading any book to review, I see how I like it.  If I find it boring or just bad in general, I tend to just rush through it.  However, very rarely do I get a book that I disdain so much that I can not even bear to finish it and have to just put it down.  This book is one of those.  The book started off crudely with talk of drugs / alcohol.  But I put up with that and kept reading.  Then, there is a crude remark about a woman's rear end.  This was frustrating.  Then, there were X-rated writing and references to porno.  This was the point where I just had to put the book down.  I was expecting a book about cicadas, not some perverted fantasy novel.  This book is downright disgusting, and I am recycling it.  People may not like my opinion, but I am entitled to my opinion.  I am not a paid reviewer.  I review books for free and give my sincere opinion.  Women ought to avoid this disgusting book that will offend them.  Men ought to avoid this perverted book, leave fantasy land, ask a real 3D woman out, and treat her with respect. Females are not objects and--unlike insects--they have more to do in this life than reproduce.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Strangers on the High Sea" by Carole P. Roman

Cute and colorful, this book is an adventure book for children that will teach them life lessons and give them giggles.  In this installment of the "A Captain No Beard Series," baby Cayla comes along for the fun.  The captain and first mate try their best to keep Cayla safe and out of harm's way.  When a scary ship approaches them, the crew ask what they should do.  After some discussion, it is decided to go with what they know and not talk to strangers.  As the foreign ship approaches, the crew gets scared, and we even see how ominous the other crew looks--with a crab and pit bull!  However, the strangers eventually leave for a surprising reason.  This reason is one I will not spoil.  Find out for yourself; it will give you a laugh.  The illustrations are very well done, and the font is appropriate.  In some pictures, the crew holds baby Cayla in dangerous positions--sitting on the captain's shoulders, being held sideways like a doll with one hand, etc.  For children with younger baby siblings, this could be a good teaching moment for parents to tell their children how not to hold babies.    

"If You Were Me and Lived in France" by Carole P. Roman

This colorful little book is a helpful guide for youngsters who want to learn more about France.  With this book, children will learn France's capital, geographic location, and popular monuments.  Readers will also learn popular terms, such as currency, boys' names, girls' names, places of shopping, sports, and more.  At the back of the book is a guide for how to phonetically pronounce said French words.  In terms of cultural diversity, this book is great at promoting racial tolerance and friendship.  I also liked how the illustrations included different types of people in France.  Not everyone looked the same, and there were even black people.  The fact that not everyone in a different country looks the same is a lesson children should learn early on.  In one part of the book that addresses France's independence, there is a drawing with soldiers holding guns.  Whether or not adults like that is up to them, and they may use their own discretion.  However, the soldiers are marching and not shooting anyone in the picture.  Speaking of illustrations, I liked the use of graphics for the little girl's shirt in this book.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"A Noble Groom" by Jody Hedlund

This book is about a young widow who is waiting for her new future groom (a stranger) to immigrate to America.  However, in the meantime, a mysterious man shows up and wins her heart before he arrives.  What's interesting about this book is how much it surprises you.  For instance, readers will be taken off guard when they realize that there is a word play with the title.  They will also be surprised when they realize when and where this book takes place.

Overall, this book held my attention.  I was able to read it in a day, albeit with some breaks in between.  The romance in this novel is not graphic, so that is nice.  My only complaint about this book is that I wanted more depth.  It wasn't until the end of the book that the widow's intended groom shows up, and there was very little dialog (or argument)  between him and the mysterious man.  I would have wanted more of that and more drama.  Still, this book was very well written.

There was some action and drama as the troubles of the poor in this time period and location were addressed.  There was also murder and fire and blackmail.  When's the movie coming out?  :)  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"DJ's Lullaby" by Lucy Rivas Enriquez and Illustrated by M.A. Moisa

This book is so nice it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It speaks of a woman who is waiting for her baby.  She has all the characteristics of a great mom.  It's even humorous when an illustration has the mother in a box that is labeled "mom parts."  The mother has arms for hugging, lips for kissing, legs for running / playing, etc.  There is a cute part where the author explains where babies come from.  It is essentially explained that children are angels from heaven.  That was nice and should make children feel special.  To be honest, I didn't realize this book was about an adopted child until I read the last page.  And I think that's the best part of this book.  If someone is reading this book with their adopted child, the child will feel all the love from the book and realize that an adopted child is just like a birth child when it comes to love.  I also liked how the illustrations were a mix of artistic mediums.  Sometimes it looked like there was marker, other times watercolor paint.  Overall, this is a great book that will touch the hearts of readers with a story of love and belonging.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Kathryn the Grape's Piece of Love" by Kathryn Cloward (illustrated by Christine Winscott)

This children's book features a young girl Kathryn the Grape who has a school assignment to write a short answer about how she helps the world.  Kathryn gets extremely nervous and is worried she won't have anything to write by the time the teacher asks everyone to share.  Then her magical butterfly friend Maggie helps her not to worry.  Negative thought are compared to dams built by beavers.  Kathryn meditates and then uses her magical devices to push her worry away.  She eventually comes up with something to share with the class on how she helps the world.  What other students write is also included in the book.  The illustrations are nice, and the book holds your attention.  There is a nice theme of love and kindness and even equality (there is great gender and ethnic diversity in the book).  However, another theme--which I'm sure you've already picked up on--is magic.  Some do not want their children reading anything that refers to magic or new-age concepts.  Others think it's no big deal.  Decide for yourself.     

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Better Days" by Rachel Hamilton

This small book of poetry will give readers a nice break in their busy lives.  There are poems about love, life, struggles, and so much more.  There is even a humorous poem about fixing copier jams thrown in.  What I liked best about this book is how honest it is.  When reading this, I could tell Hamilton was not trying to please anyone--readers, publishers, publicists, you name it.  Rather, she was just telling the story of her life how she does best--through lyrical expression.  From the beginning of the book, you will  be drawn in.  On page 6, we read, "When was the last time you listened and really heard?  When was the last time you looked through your eyes and really say?"  In terms of audience, I will say this book is not for very young readers but for young adults and up.  While there is nothing graphic in the book, there are references to romanticism and one instance of the word "shit."  In terms of religious undertones, this book used the words "God" and "Lord" and "Universe" every now and then, but it wasn't a main theme in the book.  As a professional book reviewer, I tend to read books fast.  I read Hamilton's book in one sitting, but I could imagine myself reading it on a lawn chair on a porch on a nice breezy day.  It's that kind of book.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Freefall to Fly" by Rebekah Lyons

This book is written in a quasi-journal, quasi-memoir fashion.  Rebekah, the author, tells a tale of her early adulthood to her current life situation.  We read about her early marriage, her children, her ambitions, and her life-altering move to New York City.  Readers will not always feel all warm and fuzzy reading this.  The book talks about death and also about the struggles of raising a special-needs child.  You will read about Lyons' transformation into the woman she is today, but you will also read about the pain of who she was.  This book is raw.  However, I would like to say that the main audience for this book is young wives or young mothers.  Those who do not fit those categories may not like this book, may find it boring, and may even find it whiny.  This book has a specific audience.    

Monday, April 15, 2013

"If you were me and lived in Mexico" by Carole P. Roman

This book is just one in a series about different world countries.  This one focuses on Mexico.  It is simple enough for children to understand, but, to be honest, people of all ages can learn from this book series.  The book goes over the country's capital, geographic location, popular tourism sites, sports, and a major national / cultural holiday of that nation.  Readers will also learn some words in the native language of that country.  For this book, since we are in Mexico, reads learn some Spanish terms for names, monetary units, food, and more.  There is even a page in the very back of the book that helps readers with pronunciations if they are unsure how to say certain phrases that are used in the book.  As a children's book, I like how this book was geared to both girls and boys.  As we turn the pages, we see both the boy and girl characters getting involved in learning about Mexico.  This series is great in that it not only educates children on social studies but that it promotes peace and cultural / ethnic equality.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox" by Sybrina Durant and Illustrated by Donna Marie Naval

This book is a cute little story for teaching young ones how to tie ties.  Got a young boy who thinks ties are annoying?  Show him that ties are fun with this adventurous story.  While the main audience is little children, I must admit that people of all ages can learn how to tie a tie with this book.  I am past childhood but have been asked by friends to help them get ready for formal events and help them tie their ties.  Much to my chagrin, I did not know how to tie a tie properly.  Now I can use this book to quickly remember how to tie a tie.  In this book, the story is fun, the font is playful, and the illustrations are emotional.  There is even a free song that goes along with the book.  You can find the catchy tune at, which the author sings with a nice crisp voice.  I liked this book very much and thought it was cute.  It's one of a kind.    

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Stuck in the Doldrums" by Carole P. Roman

This children's book has a pirate theme and teaches young ones valuable lessons.  While the title says the book focuses on sharing, there is really more to it than that.  Ideas such as cooperation, friendship, altruism, and kindness in the face of adversity are also covered.  I also thought it was cute that there was the title "a captain no-beard story" throughout.  The story will hold readers' attention, and the end is quite surprising.  Even though it is a children's book and not a suspense novel, I was pleasantly surprised to get to the last page of the story and read something I was not expecting.  The illustrations are lovely in this book, and they resemble vibrant watercolor artwork.  I also liked how the text pages had illustrations and graphic designs on them and were not just plain white (as some children's books are).  The font was also fun and appropriate for this pirate story.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Princess Onyx" by Clarissa and Illustrated by Jason Brooks

This is a short children's book about the struggles of young African-American women.  Written for her granddaughter, the author writes a story that has real-life family connections.  In the story, the grandmother (Tata) consoles her granddaughter (Jaydah).  Jaydah thinks she is ugly and cries because the other kids in school are being mean to her.   So, Tata tells Jaydah a story where Jaydah is a princess.  The princess goes out to play with the common people, which includes white people.  Jaydah realizes how mean people can be when the common people push aside another black girl so the princess--also black--can play with them.  It is at this point that Jaydah understands segregation.  At the end of the story, Jaydah understands that she should be nice to people even when they are mean.  I wish there was a friendly white person in the book who was nice to Jaydah, but--overall--the story is nice.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Get Lost" by Dannah Gresh

 I thought this book would be like all the others I've reviewed that are on the topic of true love from a Christian perspective.  However, this one was unique.  It did not give a lot of what we'd call "practical tips" for abstinence and remaining pure.  Rather, it focused on getting lost in the Creator.  Part II of the book is a ten-part series that brings girls through steps to understanding what the Creator's love really is.  There are music suggestions, prayers, Scripture verses, and even space for prompted journaling.  The pages were pretty too, with some cool black-and-white graphic designs.  I like this book because it addresses the root cause of many girl problems.  The issue is not merely physical--the bigger issue at hand is girls looking for love and wanting to be wanted.  This book addresses the root cause tactfully.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was a fun read and held my attention.  It also delved a little into the Hebrew language as it dissected Bible passages, which was nice.  My only complaint was a chapter in Part III of the book that seem to insinuate that all Christian women should be stay-at-home homemakers.  That aside, this was a fine book.  I received an advance reading copy.  Aside from one typo I found, the grammar was excellent.