Friday, August 28, 2015

The Plain Choice

The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life is Sherry Gore's life memoir. She details how she came from having a troubled childhood, to becoming a Christian, to choosing to live the Amish lifestyle. I was super excited to read this book, because I've always been interested in the Amish and I know that it's extremely rare for any outsider to ever successfully join and be accepted by them. The book description reads:

"Raised in a broken family and emotionally overlooked, Sherry Gore grew up without a solid foundation, a prisoner of her own poor choices, and at times without hope. A series of terrible mistakes left her feeling wrecked and alone and a sudden tragedy threw Sherry into an emotional tailspin too powerful to escape.

Sherry hangs by a thread, unable to see how she can go on living, until it happens: on a morning of no particular significance, she walks into a church and BAM the truth of Jesus’ forgiving love shatters her world and cleaves her life in two: She goes to bed stunned; she wakes up a Christian.

Unwilling to return to the darkness of her former life, Sherry attacks her faith head on. Soon the life Sherry Gore remakes for herself and her children as she seeks to follow the teachings of the Bible features head coverings, simple dress, and a focus on Jesus Christ. Only then does she realize, in a fit of excitement, that there are others like her. They are called Amish and Mennonite, and she realizes she has found her people.

The plain choice that Sherry makes is not easy – and life still brings unexpected pain and heartache - but it changes everything for her, as she becomes one of the few people on earth to have successfully joined the Amish from the outside.

She has found her place. And her story proves that one can return from the darkest depths to the purest light with the power of God."

This is a super quick read, a very short book (192 pages). I was surprised at how short it was. However, it's concise and to the point. Sherry tells the story quickly and manages to condense it briefly into this small book. I was wondering how she allows photographs, computers, etc. and the answer is because she isn't Old Order Amish - she's actually Amish/Mennonite. So truly, we don't get a real look at the very secretive traditional Amish. However, this is still a fascinating look at the different groups of Amish people and how they differ from one another, and how they're similar. I truly enjoyed reading Sherry's story. I learned a lot and find it extremely interesting when people choose to join groups such as these. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys memoirs and/or the Amish/Mennonite lifestyle.

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's Good To Be Queen

It's Good to Be Queen: Becoming as Bold, Gracious, and Wise as the Queen of Sheba is the latest offering by prolific author Liz Curtis Higgs. I always enjoy Liz's insightful, honest, and thorough examinations of Bible characters, so I couldn't wait to read her thoughts on the Queen of Sheba. The Queen of Sheba isn't a character I've seen delved into much, so I was excited to learn more about her and see what wisdom could be gleaned from her story. The back cover reads:

"Sheba Journeyed Across the Desert with a Caravan of Riches,
Only to Find the Greatest Treasure of Them All. So Can You.

When it comes to famous queens of the Bible, we know the good one, Queen Esther, and the bad one, Queen Jezebel. Now meet the wise one, the queen of Sheba, who traveled to Jerusalem to test the mind and heart of a king.

Her quest for wisdom will surprise you, challenge you, inspire you, change you. This wealthy royal from antiquity will show you how to live boldly, seek after truth, ask the right questions, encourage others, receive graciously, and honor the Lord above all.

Shedding new light on this ancient biblical role model, Liz Curtis Higgs unveils timeless wisdom for all who aspire to please the king of Kings."

What I appreciated most about this book was how Liz didn't read into the story more than what God put there in the Bible. Drawing on the biblical account and reliable historical resources, she gives us an accurate account into the story. I was surprised at just how much could be gleaned from her story. Chapters included delve deep into the heart of the Christian woman today: It's Good to Be Bold, It's Good to Be Open, It's Good to Seek Wise Counsel, It's Good to Be Humbled, It's Good to be Honest, It's Good to Encourage Others, It's Good to Praise God, It's Good to Give Generously, It's Good to Receive Graciously, It's Good to End Well, and It's Good to Be His. It also includes an excellent study guide, perfect for turning this book into a life-changing Bible study. I highly recommend this book to every Christian woman. The Queen of Sheba has a lot to teach us all.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Sea Keeper's Daughters

The Sea Keeper's Daughters is the third book in Lisa Wingate's A Carolina Heirlooms/A Carolina Chronicles series, following The Prayer Box and The Story Keeper, both of which were excellent. There are also three short stories which I haven't been able to read yet: The Sea Glass Sisters, The Tidewater Sisters, and The Sandcastle Sister. Lisa Wingate's books tend to be hit or miss for me (some I've had to force myself to finish because they were so slow), but this series is definitely a hit for me. The premise of the third book is this:

"From modern-day Roanoke Island to the sweeping backdrop of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Roosevelt’s WPA folklore writers, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny.

Restaurant owner Whitney Monroe is desperate to save her business from a hostile takeover. The inheritance of a decaying Gilded Age hotel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may provide just the ray of hope she needs. But things at the Excelsior are more complicated than they seem. Whitney’s estranged stepfather is entrenched on the third floor, and the downstairs tenants are determined to save the historic building. Searching through years of stored family heirlooms may be Whitney’s only hope of quick cash, but will the discovery of an old necklace and a Depression-era love story change everything?"

The beauty of the Carolina Heirlooms novels is their ability to sweep you away into the magical, lush world of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Her writing is lyrical and transports you straight into the world of the characters. She has a magical quality to her writing that makes you feel like you're a part of the story. Reading this book was like a warm hug - it's the perfect summer beach read. Not too heavy but not too light, it's a great way to pass a summer afternoon. There's just enough intrigue to keep the pages turning. I highly recommend The Sea Keeper's Daughters to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lazarus Awakening DVD Study Pack

I recently read and reviewed Joanna Weaver's (revised, updated) book, Lazarus Awakening, and loved it - so when I saw there was a companion DVD and study guide pack, I knew right away I wanted to check it out! This package come with a 3-disc DVD package and a companion study guide for the Lazarus Awakening book. The DVDs were beautifully filmed in the Holy Land, which makes this even more special. The product description reads:

"Journey to the Tomb of Lazarus…and Hear Jesus Call Your Name

Mary worshiped. Martha served. But what did Lazarus do to experience Jesus’s lavish love?

Filmed in the Holy Land, this DVD companion to Joanna Weaver’s book Lazarus Awakening explores the incredible truth that Jesus loves us apart from our works or our worthiness. He wants to call us out of our tombs and into friendship with Him.

Designed for use with the book and companion study guide, this three-disc DVD Bible study is formatted for both individual and group use, with content suitable for both men and women.
· In-depth Bible study: Features eight 15- to 17-minute video sessions.
· Bonus “Israel Moment” videos explore the life of Christ and the Holy Land.
· Designed for use with the study guide and book.
· Leader’s guide, promotional material, and retreat format included."

This companion DVD pack is the perfect complement to Weaver's book, Lazarus Awakening. There are eight weeks of sessions (which you can streamline with the book as well; the book has instructions for studying it in an eight week format) and bonus content. The study guide gives you plenty of space to write and take notes in, which I appreciate - I am an avid note taker! I truly believe you will get the absolute most out of Lazarus Awakening by using this companion DVD set and study guide. I can't recommend it enough. The DVDs are very professionally produced and I love seeing the sites of the Holy Land. The questions in the study guide are deep and thought provoking. Get this set to go with your copy of Lazarus Awakening - it will truly deepen your understanding of the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

I received a copy of this product from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mirror Images

Mirror Images is the debut novel of Laurie Norlander. It won the 2012 Women of Faith writing contest, so I figured I'd give it a shot even though I'm often hesitant to try a new author without a recommendation. The premise sounded strong and intriguing, and it's one of my favorite genres - suspense. The book description reads:

"They say seeing is believing... What if they’re wrong?

That's Maddy's dilemma when she sees her volatile ex-boyfriend at his identical twin's funeral. It's the first of many surprises as Maddy quickly discovers nothing is as it seems in the close-knit community of Churchill, Wisconsin. Despite lingering feelings for Nic, Maddy’s skeptical of claims that his millionaire brother committed suicide. Her suspicions turn to horror when Maddy stumbles across evidence the man was murdered - and Nic may be responsible.

Maddy's search for truth plays out against the backdrop of small town politics and a personal struggle with doubt. When a second tragedy tangles Maddy in a web of danger and betrayal, how far will she go to unmask the killer?

Mirror Images is a riveting romantic suspense novel woven with insights on friendship, forgiveness, and the power of faith.

Laurie Norlander’s debut novel, Mirror Images, was named the 2012 Grand Prize winner of the Women of Faith writing contest."

While this was a good book, I feel like it needed a bit of work. The plot was excellent and suspenseful, but the writing was choppy and confusing at times. I had trouble keeping up with what was going on at points - the story could've used some good editing to make the flow a bit more streamlined. I also had trouble keeping up with the characters at certain points - there were a lot of important characters and some were mentioned too briefly for me to remember them by the time they showed back up again. However, I do feel like Laurie shows a lot of promise. I think with a bit more writing under her belt, she will be an excellent new writer to watch. I recommend trying this book if you enjoy good Christian suspense.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Sacred Marriage

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas is a fresh look at God's purpose for marriage: holiness rather than happiness. This is an updated, revised version of his classic work which was originally published 15 years ago, in 2000. I've never had the chance to read the original book, although I've always wanted to, so I was excited to read this new, updated release. The book description reads:

"Happy is good. Holy is better.

Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply. What if God’s primary intent for your marriage isn’t to make you happy . . . but holy?

Sacred Marriage doesn't just offer techniques to make a marriage happier. It does contain practical tools, but what married Christians most need is help in becoming holier husbands and wives. Sacred Marriage offers that help with insights from Scripture, church history, time tested wisdom from Christian classics, and examples from today's marriages.

Sacred Marriage reveals how marriage trains us to love God and others well, how it exposes sin and makes us more aware of God's presence, how good marriages foster good prayer, how married sex feeds the spiritual life, and more.

The revised edition of Sacred Marriage takes into account the ways men's and women's roles have expanded since the book was first written. It has been streamlined to be a faster read without losing the depth that so many readers have valued.

Sacred Marriage uncovers the mystery of God’s overarching purpose. This book may very well alter profoundly the contours of your marriage. It will most certainly change you. Because whether it is delightful or difficult, your marriage can become a doorway to a closer walk with God, and to a spiritual integrity that, like salt, seasons the world around you with the savor of Christ."

Many people's goal in getting married today is a life of unending bliss and happiness. As any person who's been married for a number of years can attest, that is impossible. Two sinners joining in marriage for life will never be able to live without at least some problems, no matter how in love they are. Unfortunately, many times when a husband or wife gets to the hard part of marriage and realizes that life isn't a fairytale, they quickly turn to divorce and look for a new person who they hope will make them happy. Gary Thomas turns this idea on its head and shows us what the Bible has to say about marriage and its purpose. Any married person will be helped and blessed by this book. Yes, marriage can (and should) make us happy. However, marriage is an excellent tool God uses to accomplish His purpose - making us holy and more like Him. I highly recommend this book to every engaged or married couple. It will shift your focus off of yourself and onto God and your spouse.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Secrets She Kept

Secrets She Kept is the first book by Cathy Gohlke I've read. It caught my attention because it blends history, suspense, romance, and more - several of my favorite genres. I especially love World War II era fiction, so it made the book even more interesting. Hannah is on a mission to discover the secrets of her mother's mysterious past, a quest which takes her to another country and relatives she didn't know existed. Secrets She Kept seamlessly blends the past and present and unfurls a satisfying ending. The book description reads:

"All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love―but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future."

Secrets She Kept definitely didn't disappoint. First of all, the cover is gorgeous. A good cover is so important to setting the feel of a book before you even open it - and this one is eye catching and perfect. The story itself was compelling and emotional. I couldn't stop reading, wanting to know what would happen to both Hannah and Lieselotte. Hannah's journey is perfectly paced and page turning. I enjoyed the way the chapters flipped back and forth between mother and daughter - it kept the tension building and made it difficult to put down. The prose was lyrical and at times haunting. This is truly one of those fictional books that will deeply affect you in a profound way. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.