Tuesday, May 24

Beyond All Measure, Postbellum Historical Fiction

"Beyond All Measure" was fine historical fiction that brought me back to my favorite place: Tennessee.  If you know me very well or read my devotional page, you must know that I'm madly in love with Gatlinburg, Knoxville, and anything Tennessee.  I think it's the most beautiful state in the country! 

"Beyond All Measure" takes place during an exciting time in our nation's history: the postbellum (after the Civil War) South.  In the middle of a love story, we begin to understand what it means to surrender our will to God (whose plan is always so much better than anything we could've come up with on our own!) and we also learn a bit about how our country recovered from perhaps the most devastating war our country has ever faced. 

This wonderful 1865 quote from Miss Carolina Berg sums up the lesson of the story perfectly:

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best--
Lovingly, its part of pain or pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

I must note, I like likeable characters (duh, who doesn't?) and I must also note that Ada, our heroine, is a very cantankerous woman who really isn't very likeable until the last half of the book.  Her character is rounded and changes through her circumstances into someone I would like and would want to call friend.  It's obvious that Wyatt, the hero of the book, who is very charming from the start, only likes Ada at first because she's pretty.  Or perhaps, much like God sees something in us of value when others may not, Wyatt sees something in Ada that no one else can.

"Beyond All Measure" is nice reading.  It may teach you a little history, it may teach you about faith, and it may touch your heart. Now y'all head over yonder to here and read the first 3 chapters of the book!  Decide for yourself whether it's something you'd take a fancy to.

This book was provided to my by the wonderful people at Thomas Nelson in exchange for a thoughtful and honest review.

Monday, May 23

When God Created My Toes!

When I asked my just-turned-7-year-old daughter what this book was about she said quite simply, "About how God created our bodies!"  True true.

This is a cute little story that my daughters, son, and I enjoyed.  It's written in the words of a cute (though mischievous, often trouble-making) little girl who wonders all about when God made her toes, her hips, her knees, and so on.  There's this underlying message, I'd say, that God loves us all the time: even when we're making messes with finger paints on the living room walls (Mom was NOT happy!), getting muddy in the garden, skinning our knees, and tying bonnets on our cats (who don't seem to like that, not one bit).

This is a cute story with nice illustrations and great messages.  It's also a quick read which holds both childrens and parents interest.  The words all rhyme which makes it that much funner to read.  My Olivia's favorite page goes:

When God created my hip, 
Did I hear him say, 
"Hip, hip, hooray!"?  
Did we do a double flip 
when God created my hip?

Lulu likes that part because she's a doing-flips kinda girl.  There's something I think every little one can relate to in this book, and I highly recommend it!

This book was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for a thoughtful and honest review.

Tuesday, May 3

Blood Covenant, an Intriguing Zondervan Read

Thousands of years ago, the words of Zechariah the prophet rang out,  
"As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit."  

Miss Lisa Harris based her most recent work of fiction on that scripture and on the reality of conditions for many African refugees who have lived through civil war and trials worse than anything most of us could imagine from homelessness to uncontrollable infectious disease outbreaks to famine to war and worse.  Dealing with even more than those problems with severe water shortages thrown in the mix, the refugees in the book Blood Covenant are surely in a "waterless pit."

While Miss Harris's story deals with a humanitarian crisis that spins seemingly out of control, it is laced with hope and reveals God's faithfulness to His people and our great need for Him.  I've been interested in Africa since I became a Christian 12 years ago because God has given me a heart for people who seem to have such a great need (we take clean water and education for granted so often, don't we?) and who it I can, in various ways and with God's provision, help.  I work with a non-profit organization called Into-Africa.org as many of my blog readers know.  That was why I was so eager to read this book.  It took me longer to read than most fiction books do because there's just so much information in it! It's an amazing story, the characters seem real, and the plot-line is marvelous, though disturbing when the reader realizes that, while this is fiction, the experiences of these African refugees isn't

Blood Covenant takes place in a fictional place in West-Central Africa called Dhambizao which, if it were real, would be next to Gabon on the map.  I was interested to find out what Dhambizao means.  It means the sins are their own.  I'm sure that's significant but can't figure out if it refers to the rebel soldiers, the main characters in the story, or the refugees. Perhaps it refers to all of them.  Of course, the rebel soldiers were men who did unmentionable things.  And, of course, we're all sinners in need of a wonderful and loving savior no matter how "good" we may be.  While most of the main characters in the story already believe that, they realize anew how much we need to rely on Him. We can't "save the world" as many of the people in this book would like to believe, but we can hope in One who can.

I highly recommend Blood Covenant!  It's a very inspirational read and one that you'll find it hard to put down.  You can even read the first chapter of it on-line at Amazon.com but don't buy it from them--buy it from Christianbook.com, they sell it for less (about $9 instead of Amazon's $10 or your local bookstore's $14-ouch!). This book is actually the 2nd in the Mission of Hope series, but it stands alone.  I didn't read the first book in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

I was provided a copy of this book by the wonderful people at Zondervan in exchange for a thoughtful and honest review.

Monday, May 2

Max on Life: Answers & Insights to Your Most Important Questions

We've loved Max Lucado's works since our little ones fell in love with Hermie the Caterpillar 6 years ago.  Mr. Lucado doesn't just speak to children's hearts, though, he has a special gift of being like Paul the Apostle "all things to all men."  He speaks to your heart through his many works that it seems God has put it upon his heart to write, and God has certainly given him some wisdom when it comes to answering the wide variety of questions he answers in his latest book from Thomas Nelson "Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions."

This book deals with questions that fall under the categories of Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, and Hereafter.  It deals with topics like grace, calamities, sex, money, heaven and hell.  On the cover, it looks like Mr. Lucado is just sitting back ready to answer your questions and give you advice in such a friendly, nonchalant way.  And it's the perfect cover, because his voice in this book is just that: friendly and nonchalant, conversational and not at all long-winded.

You can just sit down and read "Max on Life" from cover to cover, you can open to a random page and skim the contents, or you can use it as a resource when your friends or family members come to you with those hard questions and you need a little bit of quick insight.  I definitely recommend this book and, honestly, any book by Max Lucado.  He "speaks the truth in love" as God's word (Ephesians 4:15) tells us we should do.  If you head over to Amazon, you can read excerpts of the book through their "Look Inside" feature.

I received this book from the wonderful people at Thomas Nelson to facilitate an honest and thoughtful review.

The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity

I was interested in this book because it is historical fiction and is supposed to be a motivational, life-changing read.  Perhaps I expected too much from it because of all the hype I had read over this and Andy Andrews other books.  Perhaps from a secular perspective, it's extraordinary.  From a Christian perspective (and this book is supposed to be a Christian book... I think) it falls short.

For example, there's so much humanism here: "the one principle that will save humanity"?!  I believe God's word... there's one thing that can save humanity and it's not anything we can do in and of ourselves and I don't think it falls in to the category of a "principle."  I do believe we can and should do amazing things with the time on earth that God has given us but this book just seemed off.  It's hard to put my finger on exactly why, but even if I hadn't had that nagging feeling as I read through it, the highly anticipated answer to that question would still have been thoroughly disappointing!  What answer does the author tell us is the one principle that will save humanity?  (Spoiler Alert!) "Do something."  Yes, that's right.  "Do something."  All kinds of people with good intentions have "done something" throughout history who have not benefited humanity.  Let you imagination run wild with that truth for a minute.  People may read this book, take that "do something" to heart, and do something absolutely wrong, as good as their intentions may be.

At the end of the book, there is a short "personal declaration" which is what the main character and the other "travelers" (historical figures throughout time) conclude to be, I guess, the model to live by.  I found it very superficial and empty, something to read and sign off on to give your self-esteem a boost, perhaps.  We do need answers about how to live and we do need principles to live by, but don't go to some empty book about how you can be a "successful" person and "save" humanity... serve God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind to discover how to really live to serve humanity.  Go to God's word, and truly wise men like C.S. Lewis and Albert Mohler, to get much better advice than to just do "something."

Thomas Nelson provided me with this book to facilitate a thoughtful and honest review.