Thursday, March 9, 2017

Home To Paradise

Home To Paradise is the third and final book in Barbara Cameron's popular Coming Home series. I hadn't read the first two books in the Coming Home series, but the third can definitely be read as a stand alone. The author gives a good synopsis of the series in the beginning, the end, and the first chapter of the first book is included in the back as well. The back cover says:

"Rose Anna Zook has watched her two older sisters marry two Stoltzfus men and has always thought she and John, the third Stoltzfus brother, would marry, make a home together, and have children. But John has other ideas. He’s enjoying his Rumschpringe in the Englisch world a little too much and isn’t interested in returning to the Amish community—especially to marry.

Rose Anna is determined to bring her man back into the Amish fold. John is equally determined to live his life free and unencumbered. Who will win this battle of wills? Will love prevail?"

Home To Paradise was a sweet, fun Amish romance. It was a typical romance novel - a predictable plot that you know is going to end up with the main characters together by the end of the story, but that's part of the enjoyment. You don't have to worry about what's going to happen, so you can just enjoy the story. I loved taking a peek into the Amish life, and this was a unique story because it followed three sisters who happen to fall in love with three brothers. Cameron's writing is smooth and easy, and she effortlessly takes the reader into the charming life of the Amish. I also enjoyed the fact that she included authentic Amish recipes in the book. I can't wait to try them! I recommend Home To Paradise to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction or Christian romance novels.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in order to provide an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

The Hum Of Angels

I was originally interested in reading Scot McKnight's new book, The Hum Of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us because I've always been interested in learning more about angels. Angels are mentioned quite a bit in the Bible, but in general people have so many misconceptions about them. Additionally, many people just kind of ignore them completely, even though in the Bible they hold quite important roles. The Hum Of Angels promises to clarify and answer common questions about angels. The book description says:

"Would You Recognize an Angel if You Saw One?

The majority of earth’s inhabitants believe in Angels. Yet so few of us can claim to have seen one. Why?

Perhaps it’s because in order to encounter one, we first have to learn what to look for and how to look! We live in a world where the natural and supernatural overlap. Angels are constantly on mission from God and constantly at work in this world.

From the Garden of Eden to the Book of Revelation, Scripture is filled with hundreds of references to these wondrous creatures. In this creative work, Scot McKnight explores what the Bible says – and doesn’t say – about these majestic beings. And that’s deeply important because angels are still on mission today. They express God’s love, confirm His presence, and even lead humans in redemptive worship.

Don’t just believe in angels. Learn how to recognize these messengers of God that are all around us and know how God might be using them to affect our lives.

Most People Believe in Angels.
It’s What we Believe About them that Matters.

Believing in angels is one thing. But how can we know what angels are really like – especially when our preconceived notions have been mostly shape by sensationalized misinterpretations of these wondrous beings?

To help sort things out, Scot McKnight untangles fact from fiction on topics such as:
* Do loved ones become angels when they die?
* Can we hear from angels?
* Is there a hierarchy of angels?
* Do we have a specific guardian angel?
* Should we be scared of angels?
* Are cherubs and seraphs different creatures than angels?
* Do angels have wings?
* Are angels worship leaders?

The Hum of Angels illuminates what the Bible says about these heavenly beings; and it helps you to understand the deepest truths about one of God’s most magnificent and yet misunderstood creations."

The Hum Of Angels is divided into four parts: In Defense Of Angels, God's Loving Presence In Angels, God's Loving Advocacy From Angels, and God's Loving Transformation Through Angels. Scot writes in an easy to read style, and it's interesting and fun to read. There are many real-life stories interspersed throughout which also help you stay engaged and interested. However, I did not realize that Scot is Anglican, and therefore this book has a heavily Catholic-type-leaning in its theology, conclusions, and beliefs. I highly caution discretion and discernment while reading this book because it can tend toward the mystical. However, Scot does evenhandedly answer many questions and clear up many misconceptions about angels, so this was a worthwhile read.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in order to provide an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Door To Freedom

After reading Jana Kelley's first book, Side By Side, I absolutely couldn't WAIT to pick up the sequel, Door To Freedom! I loved the story of Michael, Mia, and their children living and working in Sudan while trying to (covertly, as it's illegal there) share their Christian faith. Side By Side and Door To Freedom are based on true events. If you haven't read Side By Side yet, do pick it up and read it before reading Door To Freedom! The book description of Door To Freedom says:

"It's rough and it's smooth. It's dark and it's light. It's a masterpiece. It's us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.
In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister's sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom, the freedom that only comes when you trust God's sovereignty more than manmade security.

Part of New Hope Publishers' line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader's eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors."

I loved Door To Freedom so much - I just couldn't stop turning the pages. I was captivated by the rich descriptions of Sudan and its people, and I learned so much about the Sudanese culture and the Muslim religion. Not only that, Jana provides an insider look at what it's like for Christians living in Sudan and how difficult it is to evangelize there. My only complaint is that I wanted to learn some more about characters and stories that we didn't receive much, if any, followup on. I see that this is a two book series, but I want more! I hope Jana returns, if not with this particular series, with a new series of books based on missionaries. She's a very talented writer and this book kept me up late into the night, wanting to find out what would happen. I highly, highly recommend both Side By Side and Door To Freedom to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction, especially about missionaries.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in order to provide an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Angels: God's Supernatural Agents

I was interested in reading Angels: God's Supernatural Agents by Ed Rocha because I'm always interested in learning more about biblical topics. Angels aren't taught on very often, and I was interested in learning more about them. The back cover says:

"After a powerful experience in the presence of the Holy Spirit, Ed Rocha began to witness healings, signs, and wonders--and angels. Now he shares remarkable insights about these holy messengers. This practical and biblically grounded book is packed with real-life stories about supernatural encounters. Through an exploration of Scripture, Rocha answers questions like
· Where do angels live?
· How do angels deliver messages to me?
· Are guardian angels watching over me?
· What does it mean that healing is "in their wings"?
· Can I pray to see angels?

Angels--God's Supernatural Agents will stir your heart to realize these powerful and majestic servants of God are bringing you his healing, strength, and deliverance."

This book started off okay, but then it veered so far off that I can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Let me start off with what I appreciated about it first. Rocha is extremely clear that we are not to pray directly TO angels (or saints, or lost loved ones, or anyone but Jesus and God), and I greatly appreciated the clear emphasis on that. Many people think that they should pray to angels or saints, but the Bible is very clear that we have one intercessor, Jesus Christ. I also appreciated Ed's clear explanation on what exactly the Bible does and does not say about angels. However, what I didn't appreciate was the fantastical claims Ed made throughout the book with no proof or information to verify his claims. He explains how at his church they had hundreds of pictures of angels that had been taken in their church, and leads the reader to hope the pictures exist, then explains that his pastor managed to gather up EVERY SINGLE PICTURE and destroy all of them. Then he claims he has ONE left on his phone, and he might show it to you if you come to one of his meetings. Um, no. I don't appreciate the game playing - it just makes him look shady and shifty, and does nothing for the credibility of his claims.

I received a copy of this book from Chosen in order to provide an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Tightropes and Teeter-Totters

If you want a funny, down-to-earth book about marriage, motherhood, and everything in between, Lisa Pennington's new offering, Tight Ropes and Teeter-Totters is definitely the book for you! The fun and attractive cover was what first drew me to the book, and once I opened the pages and read the introduction, I had trouble putting it down. The back cover says:

"Lisa Pennington knows how to get up after losing her balance, even with a full house, a not-so-full bank account, and never enough energy. In her latest book, she offers readers:
Strategies for finding balance in marriage, motherhood, and bad moods
Playful yet biblically based tips for turning hard days around
Inspiration for shaping obstacles into opportunities
Ways to respond to irritations with gratitude
Enthusiastic encouragement for living out God’s purpose.
For every woman who wonders if her satisfaction in life will ever match her dreams, Pennington has real-life answers full of hope and humor."

I loved this book because of the fresh ideas. I loved the "BALANCE" (Begin, Assess, Learn, Account, Notify, Change, Endure) acronym that Lisa applies to each area of life, helping me to find and apply balance to absolutely every corner of my life (seriously, no topic is left behind!). Lisa covers marriage, motherhood, friends, money, speech, moods, and more in this comprehensive book. One of my favorite parts of Tightropes and Teeter-Totters was how Lisa uses so much humor to impart wisdom. I loved reading stories about her mishaps, foibles, and embarrassing moments because I could relate so much to her life! The transparency and honesty in this book was so refreshing. Lisa never pretends to be perfect. In fact, she painstakingly communicates how she's coming along beside you to change and find balance, because she struggles with it too! I read the topical chapters in order from areas I'm currently struggling the most in to the areas I'm currently struggling the least in, and you can definitely skip around the chapters choosing the topics that you need help with the most. This is destined to become a well-thumbed reference book in my library! Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in order to provide an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Treasures In Dark Places

I selected Treasures In Dark Places: One Woman, a Supernatural God and a Mission to the Toughest Part of India by Leanna Cinquanta because I'm interested in missions work and the cover was captivating and haunting. The back cover reads:

"Captivating True Story of God's Supernatural Love at Work

As a child, Leanna's young world pulsed with adventure, including emergency moves across the country in an old Dodge Dart with a dismantled airplane strapped to the roof.

By age fifteen, she had become an equestrian champion with sights fixed on the Olympics. Then, in a series of stunning revelations, Jesus appeared to her and revolutionized her life. A few years later, not expecting to return alive, she wrote a will for her parents, left everything behind, and embarked for northern India with a one-way ticket and a mission: to rescue people trapped in darkness.

This firsthand, often-supernatural account follows the rigors, heartaches, and miracles of a life propelled by faith into one of the poorest and darkest places on earth. Leanna's fearless determination to shine Jesus' light into the shadows--whether helping the destitute in small villages or reaching girls abused in the sex-trafficking trade--will thrill and inspire you to believe his power can change even your most trying circumstances."

I was expecting a book focused on Leanna's mission work in India: after all, that's what the cover, title, and description imply. The introduction starts the book off in a promising way by telling a story about a beggar girl she witnesses in India. However, it takes an abrupt turn from there. The first chapter (the entire 249 page book is divided into just 5 chapters, making it difficult to read) shifts to Leanna's life story from the day her parents met up and continues up to her present through the fourth chapter. Her childhood was nomadic and strange, and she grew up poor and homeschooled while being uprooted what seemed like every year to go live in another shack/dilapidated house. Her childhood upbringing and poverty seems almost more due to the deliberate choices of her parents than to actual poverty. She communicates a lengthy, ongoing, nightly hallucination/dream over about 40 pages that had me wondering about her mental health and stability. Finally, in the fourth and fifth chapter we get a small glimpse into India. Unfortunately, the stories she shares are completely disjointed, unconnected, are not presented chronologically, and don't have any resolution. I was looking for a book telling the story of her missionary work from the beginning to the present day. I got a meandering and at times strange memoir of Leanna's life from birth to present with a couple of stories of her missionary work in India mixed in. If you are looking for Leanna's life story, this is the book for you. If you're looking for a book about missions, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

I received a copy of this book from Chosen in order to provide an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge

I read and reviewed Karen Ehman's book Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All back when it first came out. While I liked it, it just felt like there was something missing and I had trouble truly connecting with it. Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge provides the missing piece to the puzzle that Keep It Shut just didn't provide - and that's the take-away action plan. The back cover says:

"Zip It empowers readers to put into action the advice and commands of Scripture concerning the tongue. The New York Times bestselling book Keep It Shut covered many topics, including anger, truth-telling, people-pleasing, our digital tongues online, and gossip. Because there are more than 3,500 verses in the Bible that relate to our words and our silence, Keep It Shut only scratched the surface of these issues. Karen Ehman now takes a deeper look and offers practical how-to’s that will inspire you use your words to build, to bless, to encourage, and to praise.

Each of the forty interactive entries includes a Scripture verse focus for the day, a story or teaching point, and reflection questions with space for readers to write their answers and thoughts. Each entry ends with both a challenge that will help you carry out the directive in the verse and a prayer prompt. Rather than a traditional devotional,the entries in Zip It build upon each other, equipping you with new habits in how to, or not to, use words."

I really, really needed this book. Words and the tongue are some of my greatest struggles in my Christian walk. Honestly, what woman (and man, really) *doesn't* struggle with their words? Whether it's gossip, criticizing, foolish talk, hurtful words, angry words, or any other combination, everyone struggles in some way with this. Like the Bible says in James, the tongue is a "fire, a world of iniquity ... that defileth the whole body ... and it is set on fire of hell ... an unruly evil, full of deadly poison that no man can tame". Zip It gives a comprehensive plan to conquer your speech, regardless of what type of sin you struggle with. Each of the 40 days of challenges include a Scripture verse to focus on, an illustration/lesson, "Today's Takeaways" to apply to your life that day, Lessons For The Lips (practical tips and challenges for the day), and a prayer to pray over your day to seal your intentions and seek God's help. I highly recommend this book to every Christian struggling with issues of the tongue. This book will help you overcome your struggles.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in order to provide an honest review. All opinions are my own.