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book reviews

Book Reviews

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker – Book Review

ForthLoveBook Description:

The popular writer, blogger, and television personality reveals with humor and style how Jesus' extravagant grace is the key to dealing with life's biggest challenge: people.

The majority of our joys, struggles, thrills, and heartbreaks relate to people, beginning first with ourselves and then the people we came from, married, birthed, live by, live for, go to church with, don't like, don't understand, fear, struggle with, compare ourselves to, and judge. People are the best and worst thing about the human life.

Jen Hatmaker knows this all too well, and so she reveals how to practice kindness, grace, truthfulness, vision, and love to ourselves and those around us. By doing this, "For the Love "leads our generation to reimagine Jesus' grace as a way of life, and it does it in a funny yet profound manner that Christian readers will love. Along the way, Hatmaker shows readers how to reclaim their prophetic voices and become Good News again to a hurting, polarized world.

Review:

Oh where do I start?!

"Live long enough and it becomes clear that stuff is not the stuff of life. People are." This is just one quote. I'd like to quote the whole stinkin' thing!!

Great book! Love this book! You have to read this book!! Seriously!

Have you ever liked something so much before that you can't even find the words to describe how it made you feel? That is exactly where I am today!

For the Love is written in such a way that you feel like Jen Hatmaker is sitting there with you, chatting like you were best of friends. You feel like you are laughing with her, crying with her, and learning more about grace with her. If you are familiar with her voice, as I am, then you hear her speaking each word you read. She's my new BFF (she just doesn't know it yet)!

There is humor out there in the real world we live in, and Jen points it out. She doesn't sugar coat things, so don't dig into this book expecting it to be all hilarious. There are some jagged points in there too. Maybe it is different for everyone. It will all depend on you, and what you need to get out of her writing.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of humor in there especially in the Thank You Notes. I found myself making thank you notes to people in traffic, in line at the grocery store, and even in church. Wouldn't you like to know what they are!?

This book has challenged me to live life with more humor and integrity. Jesus' extravagant grace IS the key to dealing with people. I will re-read this For the Love again, and again because I need a little bit of her wisdom each and every day!

P.S. Have tissues for Chapter 11, and be ready to laugh out loud in Chapter 12! I can't say too much about this book without giving it all away!

Jen Hatmaker, I sure wish there was a devotional book to pair with this title. 🙂 Signed, Your new BFF!

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced reader ecopy of this book!

Book Reviews

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney – Review

Hellofromgillespies-smallBook Description:

THE PERFECT READ FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON
It's time for the annual holiday letter from the Gillespie family…. 

New from the author of The House of Memories
For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth….
The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.
Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways…

Review:

First of all, I have to admit that I am one that gets drawn to a book by just looking at the cover. It's probably not the best way to pick books, but it is one of the ways I do.  Just so you know, I have read books with kind of boring book covers too, but I am more likely to pick up a book if it has a nice cover. With all of that being said, I really liked this cover because it seemed so inviting.

Let's get to the review.

Besides the cover, the blurb about this book was very intriguing. We all have that one friend that does a letter every year to update us on their goings on, and I for one enjoy them. I've even written one or two of them over the years. So, when I read that Angela Gillespie wrote everything that was on her mind instead of the regular sugar-coated news, my curiosity got the best of me.

The story is a quick and enjoyable read. It goes in several different directions, which kept me on the fence about several characters. By the end, I had laughed out loud, cringed, and sympathized with each character. I will say that there was a bit of repetitiveness in one area, but by the end of the book I understood why. It did play a part in everything, but it did seem to drag on. All in all, I was very pleased.

This is the first book I've read by Monica McInerney, and I must say that I do plan on reading more of her work. I enjoyed this book so much that I recommended that our book club read it, which we did.

I hope you read it, and let me hear your thoughts!

 

Book Reviews

The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning – Review

The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story Book Cover The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story
Brennan Manning
Fiction: Religious & Inspirational
Zondervan
October 28, 2013
Paperback
288

Book Description:

From the inspirational author of The Ragamuffin Gospel comes a powerful contemporary retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jack Chisholm is 'the people's pastor.' He leads a devoted and growing megachurch, has several best-selling books, and a memorable slogan, 'We have got to do better.' Jack knows how to preach, and he understands how to chastise people into performing. What he doesn't know is anything about grace. This year, when it comes time for the Christmas sermon, the congregation at Grace Cathedral will look to the pulpit, and Jack will not be there. Of course, they will have seen plenty of him already---on the news.

After an evening of debauchery that leads to an affair with his beautiful assistant, Jack Chisholm finds himself deserted with chilling swiftness. The church elders remove him from his own pulpit. His publisher withholds the royalties from his books. Worst of all, his wife disappears with their eight-year-old daughter.

But just as Jack is hitting bottom, hopeless and penniless, drinking his way to oblivion, who should appear but his long-estranged father, imploring his prodigal son: 'Come home.'

A true companion piece to The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Prodigal illustrates the power of grace through the story of a broken man who finally saw Jesus not because he preached his greatest sermon or wrote his most powerful book, but because he failed miserably. Jack Chisholm lost everything---his church, his family, his respect, and his old way of believing---but he found grace. It's the same grace that Brennan Manning devoted his life to sharing: profound in nature and coming from a God who loves us just as we are, and not as we should be.

'A wonderfully written story that is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.' ---Publishers Weekly, starred review '. . . the consummate final tale. What they have created is the Ragamuffin at his best, full of hope, full of love, and finally, full of belief in the goodness of God.' ---Phyllis Tickle, founding editor, Religion Department, Publishers Weekly

'Brennan Manning's last work continues the powerful message of grace and forgiveness that has transformed so many lives. The Prodigal will transform you too.' ---Mark Batterson, New York Times best-selling author of The Circle Maker

Review:

First of all, I have to tell you that this is one of those books that you just don't want to end. Instead of reading a whole chapter at a time, you read a couple of pages to make it last a little bit longer. The characters come to life, and before you know it you feel like you really know them.

Jack Chisholm, 'the people's pastor,'  has problems. I know that we all have problems, but don't we sometimes put "the pastor" on a pedestal?  We tend to look to them when we have problems, but have you ever stopped to think that he may have problems too? This book reminded me that they are just people too.

Jack's slogan was "We have got to do better." This is so true. We do need to do better. When Jack was faced with the consequences of his actions, he nearly gave up. His father finds him, and brings him home. It just happened to be on Christmas, and probably the best gift he had ever received...a second chance.

Throughout the story, we follow Jack down the streets of his hometown. We are able to close our eyes and see the streets, the people, the bar where he thought he could get away, and the day Jack started doing for others with many of the townspeople joining in. We are reminded that no one is perfect, that communities are supposed to come together, and most importantly, about grace.

The slogan Jack used at the megachurch he started is right, we have got to do better. Read this book. Gain from the story, it is written in such a way that it is not preachy, and I hope that you get as much out of it as I have.

Book Reviews

The War on Christmas – Review

The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression Book Cover The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression
Bodie Hodge
Religion & Spirituality, Christian Living
Master Books
October 31, 2013
Paperback
144

Book Description:

Find the truth about Christmas and the Christian's response to a culture that seems to be declaring war on traditions and the Bible!

Christmas - with its holiday lights, bright packages, and nativity displays - has become a controversial frontline in the increasingly intolerant culture wars. Whether or not to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," how to refer to the tree, and just how "biblical" Christmas may actually be is debated online, during city council meetings, and in courthouses each year.

Filled with family get-togethers, office parties, breaks from school and festivities, Christmas should be a time of peace and love - not arguments over who can celebrate what and where or when. So why has so much controversy clouded this sacred holiday? Nativity scenes are nixed and even the word "Christmas" is considered offensive by some. Get the facts behind the history, relevance, and biblical connections of this beloved holiday:

  • Is it a bunch of pagan symbols or traditions "Christianized" for the celebrations?
  • Why is a Christian concept of Christmas so important for those who don't believe in Jesus?
  • Most may say Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but are we truly worshiping Him or just celebrating the earthly gifts we give ourselves?

Review:

Honestly, I read this book rather quickly. It was pleasing to see how these authors connected Christmas to the Bible, and gave the scriptures for readers to read it for themselves. I was not able to reference my Bible as I read, but you better bet your booty that I will the next time I read it.

With all of the hoopla going on with Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson, and A&E, I think it is very important that people go to their Bibles and read everything for themselves. This applies to everything!

The saying you hear at Christmas time, Jesus is the Reason for the Season, is right. Christians believe this, and will stand their ground when disputed. Take this book for instance! There is a War on Christmas. There are lots of people wanting to take "Christ" out of Christmas, are they non-believers or just wanting to be politically correct? Believe it or not, sometimes being politically correct means that you are not proclaiming your faith.

This book proves to me that there are people out there that aren't afraid to put their beliefs out there, make a stand for them, and try to reach those that are in doubt.

The different sections of this book are:

What about Christmas? - Confusion and Misconceptions - It's All Baby Jesus - How Christmas Came to Be - The War on Christmas

Read this! Study the timeline! Study the facts! Study the Bible right alongside this book!

Let's keep Christ in Christmas! If we keep Christ in our day, everyday, then why should Christmas be any different?

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Reviews

Men of Sunday – Book Review

Menofsunday.coverBook Description:

Step into the locker rooms and living rooms of NFL players and their families to see how a close relationship with God guides football's biggest stars.

In a behind-the-scenes, off-the-field glimpse into one of America's most beloved sports, Men of Sunday reveals how Sunday's greatest rely on God to face issues such as drug abuse, family crisis, injuries, and temptations resulting from fame and fortune.

Compiled from dozens of interviews, Men of Sunday marks the intersection of two Sunday traditions: faith and football. Inspired by the league's "systemic shift" toward embracing Christianity, Bloomberg writer Curtis Eichelberger shows how God is a source of comfort when facing the unique challenges of life in the NFL and the everyday challenges of maintaining strong families and building character.

Featured personalities include

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis

New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Mike Singletary

Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis

Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy

San Diego Chargers pastor Shawn Mitchell

Danisha Rolle, wife of former Tennessee and Baltimore defensive back Samari Rolle

And many more Men of Sunday is a must-have for any football fan, teaching the invaluable lesson of trusting in the Lord—both on and off the field.

Review:

This book was not really what I expected it would be, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I expected it to be more like a Chicken Soup for the Soul for Football Fans. A small insight into their Christian lives, and it is, but it is so much more.

Not only do we get to read about some of their personal walks with God, we also get a feeling of what it is like for them on the field. How some of them struggle with how to be a Christian while playing a pretty brutal game, and how they work through it all.

As a Christian football fan, I was anxious to learn about my fellow Christians and stars of the NFL world. I was pleased to read about the team pastors, coaches, and wives. I was sucked into their world for just a few minutes while I read their stories. My heart broke as they dealt with horrible loss, and at the same time rejoiced for them when God answered their prayers.

I don't typically re-read books, but this is one that I know I will read again. It is a great book, and you would be crazy not to pick one up for yourself.

I received a free copy of this book via BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review. Thank you, BookSneeze.

Book Reviews, Giveaways

A Walk One Winter Night – Review & Giveaway

UPDATED! Winner Announced 12/11/13 Be sure to enter!

From the back of the book:

What started as a simple, late night stroll to clear his head from the pressures and hassles of life turned into a life changing moment.  

Are your eyes open to the wonder you might experience on a walk of your own?

Review:

This review has me bumfuzzled. Why?

I absolutely love this book! Love it!

So, why would it be so hard for me to write a review on a book that I really, really love?

I am afraid that I will not find the right words to express how I feel about this book, but I am going to try. Here goes nothing.

This book is just shy of being a 7-inch square hardback book. It has 96 pages, and some of the prettiest artwork ever. It is small and simple, but this little story has a huge impact!

Al Andrews wrote this story about a man taking a walk on a cold winter evening “to clear his mind of all the clutter and stress of the season.”  The man walks by a front yard that has the nativity scene displayed. He would normally walk on by, but on this cold and rainy night something caused him to stop.

I won’t tell you what he witnessed, or what he saw. You will have to get the book to see for yourself. But I will tell you some of my thoughts after I finished this book.

My very first thought was that I needed to share this book. I wanted my husband to read it, my mother, sister, grandmother, best friend, church family, everyone!

My second thought, I only have one copy and I can’t possibly pass it around to everyone by Christmas. I must buy several copies. Must!

My third and final thought, how in the world am I going to express to the world how much I like this book!

Below I am going to post a little more about A Walk One Winter Night, and Mr. Al Andrews. If you would like your very own copy of A Walk One Winter Night leave a comment on this post, and tell me one thing your read about Mr. Al Andrews.

Good luck!

 

A WALK ONE WINTER NIGHT INSPIRES DOVE-AWARD
WINNING ARTIST’S NEW CHRISTMAS SONG Two Christian music veterans unite to bring audiences a “real Christmas story”

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 23rd, 2013—Prominent counselor to many artists and acclaimed inspirational speaker Al Andrews recently signed on with The Worthy Publishing Group to publish his latest title, A Walk One Winter Night: A Christmas Story (Freeman Smith, September 2013) based on a poignant holiday experience. Burnt out on the hustle, bustle, and expectations the holidays can bring, Andrews took a late night stroll and wound up rediscovering his real passion and the true meaning behind the Christmas season. This simple message has spoken to the heart of audiences, and will help readers rediscover the joy of wonder and what is real in the season.
Al sent his initial draft to a few trusted friends in the music business in order to get early feedback. As the written word so often does, the book struck a major chord with Dove-award winning recording artist and GMA female vocalist of the year, Nichole Nordeman. “Every once in awhile you come across a story that helps you tell your own,” said Nordeman,“From the very first page of A Walk One Winter Night, I recognized that the characters around the manger had become distant and no longer dear. Icons, not the fragile and weary souls they were. In this beautiful story, I saw them differently, maybe for the first time ever. And they jumped off the page and right into the music of my heart. ‘Real’ is a song that’s deeply personal for me. I hope it captures the same wonder of the beautiful book that inspired it.”
Nordeman will be performing “Real” throughout the fall tour of The Story, alongside artists Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant, Matthew West, Selah, and Rawsrvnt. Tour dates and ticket information can be found at www.thestorycd.com/tour/. “Real” will also be featured on Capitol Christian Music Group’s album WOW Christmas, available nationwide in October.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Al Andrews is a counselor, author, and speaker. He is the director of Porter’s Call, a non-profit offering counsel, support, and encouragement to recording artists and their families. He is founder of Improbable Philanthropy, a charity that aids children in crisis through the sale of his children’s book, The Boy, the Kite, and the Wind. To learn more about Al Andrew’s visit http://www.itsalandrews.com; follow his daily journey on Twitter @itsalandrews.
Worthy Publishing Group (www.worthypublishing.com) is a privately held, independent voice in Christian and inspirational publishing, based in Nashville, Tennessee, comprised of three divisions. Worthy Books publishes a boutique list of trade titles across a broad spectrum of genres, including current events, biography, fiction, devotionals, spiritual and personal growth, and specialized Bibles. Ellie Claire is a line of gift and paper expressions, and Freeman-Smith is a value-priced, impulse book imprint.

Thank you to Worthy Publishing for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews

Runner by Patrick Lee – Book Review

Runner
  Book Description:

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Breach launches his explosive new thriller series featuring former Special Forces operative Sam Dryden

Sam
Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on
the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of
the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot
and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men with one
clear goal—to kill the fleeing child. After Dryden helps her evade her
pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can
remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the
government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She
only remembers the past two months of her life—and that she has a skill
that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.

Dryden,
who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago,
agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to
protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them
both. Although Dryden is only one man, he’s a man with the
extraordinary skills and experience—as a Ranger, a Delta, and five years
doing off-the-book black ops with an elite team. But, as he slowly
begins to discover, the highly trained paramilitary forces on their
heels is the only part of the danger they must face. Will Rachel’s own
unremembered past be the most deadly of them all?

Review:

Great book!   **Available February 18, 2014**

I love a fast read that I can just escape into, and that is exactly what you will get when you open this book. It is an action-packed mystery with twists and turns in it that keep you guessing. It is suspenseful with a little sci-fi thrown in for good measure. I liked that it was unpredictable. I get bored with books that I can predict each move, and I promise this isn't one of those books.

As for the characters in the book, for the most part, they were all likable at one point or another in the book. Even if it was only for a page or two.

My favorite character was Sam Dryden, and then Rachel. Sam was the tough teddy bear kind of guy, and being an ex-Ranger, Delta and black ops man he had to be in great shape. I am trying to figure out who would make a good Sam Dryden in the movie. It really should become a movie. While reading this book I pictured Rachel just like Dakota Fanning's character in Man on Fire just a little older. She's a lovable little girl, even after learning all her deepest, darkest secrets.

I am pleased that this book is the first in the Sam Dryden series.  I will be reading the next one!

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews

Merry Humbug Christmas by Sandra D. Bricker – Review

Humbug
Book Description

A Merry Humbug Christmas
features two holiday romance novellas from hilarious and heartwarming
author Sandra D. Bricker. — the perfect gift to yourself or someone
else at this most wonderfully stressful time of year.

In "Once Upon a Jingle Bell," A Bah! Humbug
cruise to the Mexican Riviera is Joss Snow’s answer to this year’s
quest to avoid the holidays completely; at least until she’s rebooked on
a different kind of cruise altogether. Candy canes, holly wreaths,
reindeer and ornaments seem to be stalking her on the 12 Days of Christmas holiday
cruise extravaganza. An escape back to land is her only goal . . .
until she meets a kindred spirit in rugged Irishman Patrick Brenneman,
and then the game is on! Avoid Christmas festivities at all costs . . .
except maybe for that one stop under the mistletoe.

In "It Came
Upon a Midnight Deer," Reese’s guilt over abandoning best friend Joss on
their holiday tradition of avoiding all things Christmas is trumped by
the joy of her recent engagement. Meeting Damian’s family for the first
time on idyllic Sugarloaf Mountain is about as far from that Bah! Humbug
cruise as she can get, and Reese can hardly wait to get there. But from
the moment they hit that deer in the road just two miles from the
cabin, everything seems to go wrong. There are no drummers drumming or
pipers piping this particular year! And once she sets her future
in-laws’ family cabin ablaze, she’s pretty sure there won’t be even ONE
golden ring in her future.

Review

Light-hearted, fun, and enjoyable read!

I love Christmas just as much as the next person, but I have considered skipping it once or twice. I felt a little connection with Joss Snow as she wanted to go on a Bah! Humbug cruise to just get away from it all. Of course, it didn't really work for the Kranks when they tried skipping Christmas, and it didn't really work out for Joss either. Why in the world would I think it could work for me?

Ms. Bricker has a great way of writing that makes you melt into the pages of her stories. I was on that Christmas cruise, I heard the bells on Connie's bracelet jingle. I saw the ugly sweaters, and heard the music. I was there!

Then, I found myself two pews back from Reese singing her heart out in church giggling to myself as she screeched out O Holy Night. I gasped when they hit the deer on the snowy mountain road, too.

This is one book, but two stories that will take your mind off of things. Pick it up, relax and just sink into the stories. It's a feel good book, and you will feel good after reading it.