Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Emma of Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick – the detailed hisory of this book is phenomenal

732156When I first requested this review copy, I didn’t realize that the book came as a volume. I’m half-way through the second book and have been enjoying the adventure this story has brought me on from the get-go. Although I’m not quite finished, I needed to get the word out as it is well worth the read.

The novels are written in the first person and in such a way that it literally feels as though you are experiencing everything the protagonist does. The details in the text also go above and beyond anything I’ve read in a long time. The time period and personalities are both very believable and realistic, showing that the author has done their research (paired with the incredible gift of their own imagination and the ability to write, of course).

The story is written with heart, adventure and gripping action. Jane also captures what we see in our own culture today, or at least what I’ve seen and experienced in my own life. Emma’s culture believes much as my own did (small-town America) did when I was growing up and since I share the same views of being in the world and not of it made this story come alive for me in ways that others don’t.

Jane Kirkpatrick paints Emma’s story in a historical setting. Her life isn’t perfect, but in the imperfection, God shines through. I think readers will appreciate the rich detail and our protagonist’s longing to live a life pleasing to God. Having this come as a volume to read at one time is a huge plus too for those who like to read an entire series together rather than having to hunt down the other books in the series. This was a great read!

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are my own.

Book Review: Christmas in Apple Ridge

13532254Warning: You will be reminded of the reason for Christmas by the time you’re through!

Reading Christmas books always puts me in the mood for the season. I begin to anticipate the season of Advent, Christmas carols, decorating my home, doing a little shopping, holiday baking and rereading the story of Christ’s birth.

Christmas in Apple Ridge: Three in One Collection was sent my way via WaterBrook Multnomah. It’s a collection of three novels in one and tells the stories of three couples as they discover the true meaning of Christmas and life.

In The Sound of Sleigh Bells, we meet Beth and Jonah. Beth is a business woman, mourning over the loss of her fiancé. Each year, she travels to find Amish goods to sell in the shops her family owns and one trip, she finds a carving that unites her with Jonah. Let the match-making begin! Jonah also has his own story and it’s their grief that brings them together – and together, they overcome and find more than they were looking for.

In The Christmas Singing, we meet Mattie and Gideon, childhood sweethearts who were pledges to be married, but just before the wedding, Gideon calls it off and marries another. Mattie, upset, moves away to start a business and be closer to family, only to return a few years later when Gideon finally tells her the reason for the failed engagement and the choices she has to make.

In The Dawn of Christmas, we meet Levi and Sadie. After both parties have experienced great heartache, life literally throws  them together. Yet, after both make feeble attempts at staying single, they come to realize that life may have had more in store for them after all.

Overall, each story was a great read and I plan on rereading them again in the future (next Christmas, perhaps). I would recommend them to anyone looking for an easy and truthful holiday read.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review; all opinions are my own.

Book Reivew: a touching read – not just for Christmas, but all year round

marriagecarolMarlee and Jacob have had it with their marriage. The final paperwork for the end of their marriage will be signed on Christmas Eve and while driving to that destination in the middle of a freak Christmas Eve blizzard, an accident leads to Marlee’s journey.

This delightful spin on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol takes the reader on a journey though Marlee’s past, present and possible futures. We see how love starts, how it can grow (both together and apart) and how the choices we make pile up like snowflakes.

Can man truly say when a marriage is over? What about God’s opinion? Doesn’t he have a say in the matter?

Now, I know I can’t throw much weight around as I’m not married. Have never been and there a chance I may never be. And that’s okay. I can still be an advocate for it and believe in what it stands for.

I found this read to be delightful, insightful, touching and even healing in my own life. Gary Chapman and Chris Fabry did an excellent job in piecing together Marlee’s story and how choices can destroy or improve one’s life. If it doesn’t make the reader consider the choices they’ve made in their own life, something is wrong. There is always room for improvement, married or not. There is power in small choices. There is hope, especially when one person turns toward another and begins to see them as valuable rather than focusing on the self all the time.

I urge you to pick up a copy of A Marriage Carol, whether at a store or rented from your local library (as I did…trust me, the waiting list is long). You will not be disappointed!

Book Review: This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley

Rick McKinley is the author of Jesus in the Margins and is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon. Rick speaks around the country on the topics of mission, leadership, and spiritual formation. Rick’s latest book; This Beautiful Mess is a modern approach to the theology of the Kingdom of God.
Originally this book was released in 2006, but this release has a newer hipper cover, an updated preface, three new chapters, and a small group conversation guide which would be great for churches.
This book reminds me of a contemporary version of “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence, or even a companion book to Brian Mclaren’s “The Secret Message of Jesus.” In his book, McKinley shatters the misconceptions around how we interpret the phrase “the kingdom of God” in scripture and gives his readers real and practical ways of living the Kingdm out.
McKinley’s voice is friendly and personable and much of his stories come straight from his working with his Portland church. This is certainly one of those books that could be read again and again.
Thank you to Multnomah Books for this review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review

(more than a) Book Review: “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller

I suppose I should start by stating that I’m not married nor have I ever been married, so I’m probably  the least apt to talk on the subject. I may not be an expert, but I do pay attention to my world, details and all, and well, based on all of that, I can definitely form my own opinion and apply truth to my own life when it comes to this topic…albeit a touchy one at times.

Why this book? Why read it if it doesn’t pertain to me? Truth is, it does. Tim Keller even says so in his introduction: “[The primary goal of this book] is to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible…and to help [singles] to stop destructively over-desiring marriage or dismissing it all together…a Bible-based marriage book will help each reader have a better idea of who he or she should consider as a prospective mate.”

I may not be married…

…and there’s a chance that I won’t be in this lifetime.

And that’s okay.

I am party of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Put like that, I am a bride.

And this book?

It has forever changed the view I’ve had on marriage my entire life, as well as hitting home views I already knew, but didn’t fully understand – and all of this is more so due to the culture I’ve grown up in, the books I once chose to read, and (thank you to) Hollywood, through the shows and movies I chose to watch. Even Disney…no one talks about what happens after or how the damsel lived before meeting her prince. Marriage isn’t at all what I once believed.

Eight chapters of “heavy” information…

Chapter 1 opens the discussion of Paul’s insight on marriage and how it differs immensely from the marriage views of today’s culture.  Tim Keller constantly makes a points out the profound mystery marriage is and how it changes us and how marriage was intended to reflect the gospel and the relationship with the triune God. Tim also makes a statement on how “compatibility” doesn’t exist and after reading it, I would tend to agree.

Chapter 2 opens the door to how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of all, not just those who are married and discusses how each individual is responsible for their own actions; their own self-centeredness and how I need to take personal responsibility for myself.  I can’t change the other person. The only person I can control is me.

Chapter 3 talks about love and how it is not strictly limited to romantic love (which is more of a feeling that will fade over time). Love is also an action and a choice.

Chapter 4 proves the following statement: Marriage is for helping two individuals become who God created them to be, which sets the reader up for Chapter 5, where Tim elaborates on three basic skill sets that with enable you to help your spouse become the person God created them to be:  truth, love and grace.

Chapter 6 teaches the reader what it means to embrace the other gender as God created them to be. Rather than disregarding a person because their differences don’t match your list of necessary qualities or because they are just too different doesn’t mean they should be shoved aside and not even considered. Notice the differences, acknowledge them, embrace them and thank God for diversity….it’s what makes them who they are and God intended those differences to compliment (not complete) those he made in his Image.

Chapter 7 deals with living as a single in this beautiful, broken world. Tim and his wife, Kathy, discuss the history of dating and how different cultures view marriage, delving into how some Christian circles paint the picture that a person is somehow not complete if they don’t have a spouse or a family. Singles are not incomplete, nor are they missing anything. We can learn from our brothers and sisters through the Church. And because this chapter really hit it home for me, I’d like to share the following lies our culture tells us as well as a few quotes from the chapter:

  • Lie :: Truth
  • “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life” :: God’s blessings are never earned by the level of our commitment.
  • “You’re too picky” :: God is not frustrated by your fickle whims and does not need broader parameters win which to work.
  • “As a single, you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work” :: while that statement may be partly true, God doesn’t not require emotional martyrs to do his work…marriage plays a huge role in his work too.
  • “Before you can marry someone wonderful, the Lord has to make you someone wonderful” ::  God doesn’t grant marriage as a second blessing to the satisfactory sanctified.

He doesn’t work that way. The gospel doesn’t work that way. I, along with many of you, have heard those statements directed at me many times and well…I’m not single because I’m too picky. I’m not single because of my imperfection. I’m single because he is good:

“I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because he is so abundantly good to me; because this is his best for me.” – Paige Benton Brown

How true is that!

And finally, Chapter 8 deals with the topic of sex and why it is best saved for marriage…not basing it on a “rule” the Christian religion follows, but basing it on God’s ultimate desire for his children.

Overall, a great book and while the writing is easy to read, the context is heavy…

…a book I wouldn’t recommend breezing through. Take your time. Read one chapter a week…or per month. However long it takes for this applied to truth to sink in. Pair it with Epheisans 5. Camp in it. The Meaning of Marriage is a definite must read and should be added to your own personal collection, whether you’re married or not. Get your own copy as I won’t be lending mine out any time soon…it’s that good.

Book Review: Though My Heart is Torn by Joanne Bischof

A great read!

Though My Heart is Torn by Joanne Bischof is the second book in her Cadence of Grace series.

Oh, how I wished I had read the first novel before starting this one! I was able to read through a few reviews and piece together what occurred in that portion of their story and discovered that Gideon and Lonnie were able to find love. Book two takes off with the gift of their son, Jacob, and the reader is taken on a whirlwind adventure that only life can bring in the discovery of another wife (Gideon’s). This story has so many twists and turns that you’ll want to read it all in one sitting!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multomah Publishing Group for this review.

Book Review: Secrets – we all have them

Secrets by Robin Jones Gunnsecrets-robin-jones-gunn-paperback-cover-art

…one novel in the Glenbrooke series. This is the only book I’ve read by this author and was quite an easy read, plus…I couldn’t put the book down and read it in about four hours. Jessica, the protagonist, is running from something in her past and has moved to Glenbrooke, Oregon to start over. When she first arrives, she’s involved in a car accident and meets Kyle, every girl’s dream guy. She has no money, goes without food for days and, in coming up with a new identity, she starts her life over. “Secrets” follows her journey to finding herself and finding God.

I really enjoyed the start of this series. The characters are great and easily relatable; the romance is sweet and yet still, adult. There is not sexual content, but the attraction of the two parties involved is still an important part of the story. And the portrayal of Christ in this novel isn’t pushy. It’s about the personal choice a person makes to follow Him.

Overall, this was a great read and I would recommend this to readers from middle school age to adult who enjoy Christian romance/fiction books.

**This book was obtained by WaterBrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Waking up to what God wants for me :: “A Sudden Glory” book review

Wake up. Start coffee. Get the kids up. Fix breakfast. See your husband off. Supervise teeth brushing, comb hair, and plant kisses. Load the van and bring the kids to school or see them off at the bus stop. Buy groceries. Pay bills. Drive to work and drive home. Do laundry. Cook dinner. Do Bible study. Answer emails. Pray and go to bed. Repeat.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll catch a glimpse of God today.

“A Sudden Glory” by Sharon Jaynes is one of the best and most moving books I’ve read in a long time. She shares her life struggles in teaching the reader how to see those special moments of God’s touch in our everyday life. We all have “dry” times in our life, when God seems so far away. But really, He has not moved, we are just either not seeing clearly or we’ve moved.

The daily drag of life can sometimes weigh us down. More than that, it can blind us to God’s glory. That’s what Sharon Jaynes is writing about in this book–the reminder to be alert for God, to press in to Him and long for His presence.

Even when we’re doing everything right, we can still miss out on the intimacy and elaborate grace God intends for us. We long for something more; maybe it’s a need we can’t even identify, but we still we feel it. So we DO what we are supposed to do. Yet, she writes: “Rather than ask God what he wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.”

“A Sudden Glory” is a beautiful, inspiring, challenging, encouraging and very real book, perfect for the individual to read and for a group setting (study guide included). She shares out of her own personal pain, the times she was angry at God and the times when His plans weren’t her own. This openness makes her writing even more compelling because life doesn’t always go how any of us expect. Most of us have been there, crying, disappointed, upset with God, desperately hurting, and we need the testimony of someone who’s walked through that and seen God glorified.

Sharon’s style of writing is fabulous…very conversational – like sitting at the kitchen table with a special friend, chatting about the things of life while sipping on Lattes. Every page of the book contains rich nuggets that would make wonderful teaching moments or even to expand on and make into sermons.

Multiple messages have been spoken regarding this topic and those I’ve heard have been frustrating simplistic and superficial. My relationship with God is neither. Even those of us walking with Jesus so closely, though, will still feel a longing for more, a sense of incompleteness. It’s not fair to the Christ-follower when pastors and teachers ignore that, giving pat answers, clichéd lessons, and leaving us all unsatisfied as to why we’re still longing when we’ve done everything they’ve said.

The fact is that as long as we are on this side of heaven, we will never be truly filled. The closer we walk with God, the more satisfied we will be, but the more we will be reminded of the beauty of heaven when nothing will cloud our vision, when nothing remains hidden or unanswered. When we see Jesus face to face, that’s when our deepest longings will truly be satisfied. Sharon Jaynes avoids all of the pitfalls of over-simplification here and gives us the hope of heaven.

She also gives us hope for the meantime while we wait here in this earthly place. Jesus came so that we could walk with God rather than be separated by this vast emptiness due to our sinfulness. We live in obedience, in worship, in gratitude, in communion with our God and He draws us close, giving us glimpses of heaven—glimpses of His glory. That’s how He responds to our ache for something more and it’s glorious.

Included in this book is a study guide for use with a small group or individually. I would highly recommend going through the study guide, not just to get the most from this book, but to go deeper in your understanding of Jesus and his love. That guide, in turn, will enhance and deepen your relationship with Him.

I’m part of a new church plant in Minnesota and this book will definitely be going into my personal library. It would be a great addition to our women’s ministry material!