Tuesday, February 21, 2017

You Carried Me

I'd heard of Melissa Ohden before in pro-life circles, but I'd never heard her whole story in-depth before. Therefor, I was super excited to have the opportunity to review her book. You Carried Me is a small hardcover book that I was able to read in two sittings. It's a short book, but it packs a powerful punch within its pages. The back cover says:

"Melissa Ohden is fourteen when she learns she is the survivor of a botched abortion. In this intimate memoir she details for the first time her search for her biological parents, and her own journey from anger and shame to faith and empowerment.

After a decade-long search Melissa finally locates her birth father and writes to extend forgiveness, only to learn soon thereafter that he has died―without answering her burning questions. Then her birth mother’s parents say they are unable to pass along Melissa’s letter. Years later, when she finally hears from the woman who carried her and gave her life, she finds out why. But the shocking truth is more than she can bear.

Yet even the most startling family secrets are eclipsed by the triumphant moment when Melissa becomes a mother herself in the very hospital where she was aborted. And she reveals how―through the miscarriage of her only son, the birth of a second daughter with complex health issues, and her own birth mother’s story―she gained a deep empathy for every woman who has had an abortion.

Like none other, this intensely personal story of love and redemption cuts through the debates surrounding a divisive contemporary issue to touch our common humanity."

I loved reading this book and learning more about Melissa's story. While it was heartbreaking at times, it was also uplifting and inspiring. I am so glad that God saved Melissa's life all those years ago and allowed her to be such a wonderful witness and testimony against abortion. Melissa mentions throughout the book people who have mocked her and accused her of lying about her story. I think this says something about the accusers - they are so hellbent on believing that abortion is fine, moral, not sinful, etc. that they refuse to believe anyone who has proof that actual babies are aborted, not just unrecognizable lumps of tissue. Melissa does provide copies of her medical records in the book, so no one can say she's making up her story anymore. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic of abortion, adoption, or Christianity in general.

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

Justice Delayed

I was so excited when I saw that Patricia Bradley was coming out with a new series. I loved her Logan Point series, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on the first book in her Memphis Cold Case series, Justice Delayed. Justice Delayed promised the same twists, turns, suspense, mystery, intrigue, and hint of romance that was present in the Logan Point books. The back cover says:

"It's been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn't actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, this case is personal: the person who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in that week--including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love.

With the perfect mixture of intrigue and nail-biting suspense, award-winning author Patricia Bradley invites her readers to crack the case--if they can--alongside the best Memphis has to offer."

I can't say enough good things about Justice Delayed - I was swept in from the first page and just couldn't put it down. I stayed up late reading it and finished it in 24 hours! I know it's a good book when I fly through it like that. Although at first I was a bit confused by the large cast of characters, I quickly got into the story and fell in love with all the characters. I'm looking forward to learning more of their stories in the next book in the series. There were plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and the ending was definitely surprising. I also have to mention that I loved the gorgeous cover, it was so well done and appealing. I love Patricia Bradley's books, and I can't wait for the next installment!

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

The Jesus Club

I initially decided to pick up The Jesus Club by Brian Barcelona because my oldest son is a freshman in high school, and happens to currently attend a public high school in California. I was curious to see how Brian was breaking in to share Jesus with high school students because my experience has been that public schools in California are very anti-Christian and it is very difficult to share anything about Jesus, the Bible, or prayer in public schools. The book description says:

"How a Simple Act of Obedience Is Igniting Revival in Our Nation's Schools

What happens when a teenage convert from atheism hears a challenge from the Lord--and decides to act on it? This true story is the catalyst for a move of God that is taking the high schools of America for Jesus.

Brian Barcelona, a dynamic leader on the forefront of youth evangelism, recounts how he answered God's call on his life with dramatic and miraculous results. Just a few months out of high school, Brian obeyed God's directive to return to his alma mater and preach the gospel to the kids in the Bible club. Suddenly lives began to be changed. Hearts were saved. Numbers grew. Soon other schools joined in, sparking a youth revival in which thousands of teens are letting Jesus heal their lives.

This remarkable story will inspire you to reach out to others, particularly young people, and believe that God will equip you for the call he gives you. Let your heart be energized through simple acts of obedience and watch as God does mighty things!"

I absolutely loved this book. I picked it up, figuring I'd read a chapter or two to start, and literally just couldn't put it down and read it in just a few hours. I was amazed at Brian's story and how he has followed and obeyed God, even when it didn't make sense to him. I was inspired and motivated to do more to reach high school students in my own community. The open doors Brian has found have truly been making a difference in seeing the salvation of thousands of teenagers. I appreciate his focus on changed lives - someone who claims salvation but has no change in their life has not truly received salvation.

However, there is a caveat to this book, and I lowered the review by one star due to it. I want to know what has happened to these thousands of converts - were they baptized after their salvations? Were they directed to and become members of a local church to continue their discipleship and walk with Christ? Were they given Bibles? The theology seemed a bit shaky at times as well. Brian doesn't appear to believe in eternal security, and makes claims of healings. Obviously I believe Jesus can heal people, but I'd like to see some documentation to back up these claims. This is a great book to read to learn about Brian's ministry and get inspired to reach high schoolers, but it would've been improved with more details for sure.

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

Control Girl

I don't think of myself as a controlling person in a typical way - I'm not the type of person who tries to control other people or other people's lives. However, I can be controlling in other areas of my personal life - my house, how things are run in the home, my personal life, etc. My tendency toward control tends more towards trying to keep my life under control, causing me to rely on myself to make my life perfect instead of trusting in God to work in my life in His will and His timing. Therefore, I thought Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible by Shannon Popkin might be a good book to read. The back cover says:

"Little fights with your husband and kids. Unhappiness when things don't match your version of perfect. Tension, anger, fear, anxiety--it all begins with a heart that craves control. When your perspective of how life should go replaces God's, you doom your quest for security, peace, and joy before it even starts.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Join Shannon as she shares what she has discovered about her own control struggles and
about God from studying seven Control Girls in the Bible. Whether it was Eve's desire to know instead of trust, Sarah's inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah's controlling hand on her family's future, each of these women's stories contain warnings and lessons for us today.

Learn how you too can lay down this burden of trying to control everything and find rest in surrendering to the One who truly is in control."

I absolutely loved Shannon Popkin's Control Girl. It was so easy and fun to read, with many examples and stories from Shannon's life that made me both laugh and cry. I could relate to many of Shannon's experiences and it really hit home. However, what I loved most about this book was that the entire thing was steeped in Scripture - each section gives a portion of the Bible to read before continuing with the lesson. Many contemporary women's "Bible study" books have one or two verses per chapter and then are filled with personal opinions, stories, etc. Shannon truly bases this entire book on the Bible and gives passage after passage to study on your own and through the book. I loved the seven examples of Biblical women given throughout the book - Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, and Miriam, all women who tried to wrestle control away from God and intervene to make things happen their own way. I highly recommend this book/Bible study to every Christian women.

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

Maybe It's You

Maybe It's You is the third and final book in Candace Calvert's newest Crisis Team series. Candace Calvert is a popular Christian fiction writer and fan favorite, writing medical dramas/suspense novels. Medical suspense is a personal favorite of mine, and to combine it with Christian themes makes it that much better. Candace is an excellent writer and has an uncanny ability to draw you into the story and make you feel like you know and personally care about her characters. The description of Maybe It's You reads:

"ER nurse Sloane Ferrell escaped her risky past―new name, zip code, job, and a fresh start. She’s finally safe, if she avoids a paper trail and doesn’t let people get too close. Like the hospital’s too-smooth marketing man with his relentless campaign to plaster one “lucky” employee’s face on freeway billboards.

Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive Sloane Ferrell.

Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past.

Can hope spring from crisis?"

I always enjoy Candace Calvert's books, and Maybe It's You was no exception. It was full of everything I love most about her books: a hospital setting, medical drama, thrills and suspense, mystery, and just a small touch of romance (I don't like heavy-handed novels that are pure romance novels masquerading as suspense novels, and Candace always stays on the right side of that line). The final Crisis Team novel had a page turning story and satisfying conclusion to both the book and the series itself. I highly recommend Maybe It's You to anyone looking for a Christian fiction novel that you can't put down - just start it in the morning instead of right before bed!

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

The Returning

I've enjoyed the Seer series by Rachelle Dekker, daughter of prolific and talented author Ted Dekker. This trilogy has included The Choosing (book one), The Calling (book two), and now, finally, The Returning (book three). I was excited that the last book finally came out so I could find out what happens to Carrington, Remko, Elise, and the other characters I've grown to love. The Returning occurs twenty years after book two, so a large gap of time has passed. The back cover says:

"They say the Awakening is coming.
That she’s the key.
But can she find her identity in the light
Before she perishes in the dark?

Twenty years have passed since Carrington and Remko Brant’s baby, Elise, was kidnapped and they were forced to leave her captive in the Authority City. Though they fled with the Seers far from Authority reach, they’ve never given up hope of rescuing their daughter from the man who betrayed them. Now Authority President, he’s ushered the city into a new era of “peace”―one where the Scientist Roth Reynard’s Genesis Serum has eradicated all memory of emotion or rebellion.

But the mysterious Aaron and his Seers are once again on the move, threatening the illusion the Authority has worked so hard to build. As the Seers send seven chosen warriors to rescue Elise and bring restoration to the Authority City, the lines are drawn for a final battle between light and darkness. The key to ultimate victory may rest within the strangely powerful girl who has felt forgotten but was never abandoned―a truth she’ll need to wage war against the powerful forces of evil."

Although I've enjoyed the entire Seer series, I have to say that the first book was my favorite of the series. It was the most twist-filled and exciting, in my opinion. The second book was almost as good, but didn't capture my attention quite as much as the first one. However, it definitely did pick up at the end when Remko and Carrington's infant daughter, Elise, was stolen by the Authority City. I was disappointed/excited that it ended on such a huge cliffhanger, knowing that I'd have to wait for the final installment, The Returning, to come out to find out Elise's fate. I was really surprised when I picked up The Returning and discovered that it takes place a full 20 years after Elise's kidnapping. Carrington and Remko are now middle aged, Elise is a grown woman, and they have another daughter, Kennedy. The book opens with them preparing to reenter the Authority City and rescue Elise reclaim the city in a battle for the ages. No spoilers here, but this is definitely a gripping story, although the fact that such a large time gap was skipped over made it hard for me to reconnect to the story at first. All in all, this is a satisfying conclusion to the Seer series. I hope that Rachelle has more stories up her sleeve for us soon!

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

Happily Homemade

I was really excited to get a copy of Happily Homemade: Cooking With Love by Rachel Schultz. I love cooking, and I love cookbooks, and this one looked great - a beautiful cover and the promise of 100 homemade, delicious recipes. The description reads:

"Cook up some love in your kitchen.

Does the question “What’s for dinner?” fill you with dread? Is the thought of looking for something to cook every day overwhelming? Popular food blogger and Pinterest celebrity Rachel Schultz has you covered in Happily Homemade, with 100 tasty recipes even a beginner can serve with pride.

Reinvigorating familiar dishes with interesting and unexpected flavor combinations, Rachel shares her go-to creations that always get rave reviews. Even with so much variety, Rachel’s approachable recipes include only ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. This gorgeous cookbook includes a photo of every recipe, plus essays and tips from Rachel (and her friends) on hospitality and making life easier in the kitchen.

Happily Homemade is all about celebrating food and joyfully loving others through cooking. Let Rachel show you how easy it can be to bring warmth and delight to everyone at your table by serving something happily homemade."

I'd never heard of Rachel or her blog/Pinterest fame, so I was going into this not knowing anything about Rachel or her food "style". To start with the positives, this is a gorgeous cookbook. The photographs are well done and inviting, and the tips and writing inside are interesting. The contents include Kitchen Tips and Charts, Menu Ideas (a feature I always enjoy), Breakfasts, Snacks and Appetizers, Entrees, Sides, Sauces, and Seasonings, and Desserts. Some of the recipes look appealing (Blueberry Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast, Loaded Skillet Fries, Hawaiian Slow Cooker Chicken, Greek Pasta Salad, Cherry Cake Bars) and others just made me think "what?!" or "ew" (Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowls, Beet and Kale Lasagna Roll-Ups, Raspberry Basil Whipped Butter, White Chocolate Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes, Cocoa and Zucchini Strawberry Shortcake). That being said, obviously I don't expect to love every recipe in a cookbook - no one will, but I wanted to give a few recipe titles to give you an idea of the range of recipes in this book. However, my main complaint with this cookbook was the fact that every main dish recipe in this book save one (and many in the other sections as well) serve just 3-4. I have never, ever seen a cookbook that gives recipes with such a small serving size. Most recipes serve at least 4, if not 6. The "serves 3-4" really put me off because with a family of 6 (let alone if anyone else is eating dinner with us), every single recipe would need to be doubled. I found this very bizarre and off-putting. However, this cookbook might be great for a couple or a small family. Just keep in mind that if you have a larger family size than 3-4 people, you will need to double nearly every recipe.

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