Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Club Review -- "Christmas Jars"

“Christmas Jars” by Jason F. Wright is the November book selection for my book club, and this is a book that my husband and I read together. (When our daughter was born, we started reading aloud to each other during her bedtime feeding. Several novels and the entire Harry Potter series later, we still read aloud to each other almost every night!)

“Christmas Jars” tells the story of Hope, the adopted daughter of Louise, and her quest to find the origin of some mysterious jars that appear each Christmas in her small town. I actually hesitate to tell my readers even that much about the story, since the book is so short!

Despite the book’s short length, this was a very good story. It was both engaging and heartwarming, and the message of giving at Christmastime came through clearly.

The only issue we had with the book was that the writing style was odd at some points. We felt it would have made a better short story than a book. It seemed to drag in places and then raced through others places.

I also felt that the “point” of the Christmas Jar should have been more “directed.” (I don’t want to give the story away to those who haven’t read it, so I am being cryptic here! If you have read this and want to know what I mean, leave a comment, and I will talk to you or email!)

Overall, we really enjoyed this little book. After reading it, we were of course inspired to start our own Christmas Jar!

We give “Christmas Jars”…….. 4 Book Worms!

"A Year with God" Review

“A Year with God” by R.P. Nettelhorst was sent to me as a complimentary review copy from Thomas Nelson Publishers, through their program called BookSneeze.

This book is a daily Bible devotional based on the words of God from the Old Testament. It is organized into sections such as Hope & Fear, Love & Hate, and Faith & Doubt. Each day lists a section of scripture that includes God’s words to his people followed by a short reflection on this passage from the author.

To begin, the thing I like best about this devotional is that each daily section is listed as “Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc.” rather than listed by a specific date. This makes it possible to read ahead if you like and does not make you feel so bogged down if you miss a day or two.

As far as content, however, this book was only okay. The author uses many different Bible translations throughout the book, and I felt as if he/she was picking and choosing translations to what would fit his/her musings the best. I also thought that many of the contemplations about the scriptures fell rather flat and were not very thought-provoking.

In addition, I felt that some things were incorrect theologically with this book. While I am no theologian, I do know the Bible, and I found several inaccuracies in the text. One passage says the following:

“Jacob had sent his children to Egypt to get food because they were facing famine. When they returned, he discovered they’d been accused of being spies and one of his sons, Joseph, had been imprisoned. To get him out, Jacob would have to allow the last remaining son of his beloved Rachel to go down to Egypt.”

Um…no….Joseph had been imprisoned earlier in the story, but at this point Joseph was second in command in Egypt. When the brothers came to buy food, Joseph kept Simeon behind in prison while the others went home to their father to bring Benjamin back. Maybe this was a typo, maybe not, but there were other questionable beliefs expressed in this book that I won’t relate here.

I would also like to mention that while a devotional book on the Old Testament is a wonderful thing, we as Christians should always be looking to Christ. The Old Testament points to Christ as the Messiah and should be read as such. We can learn a great deal about how to live our lives by thinking on the words of God from the Old Testament. I just always like to think how those words and promises in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ, and this devotional does not always do that.

Visit this link for more information.

I will give “A Year with God”….  2 BookWorms.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Embers of Love" Review

“Embers of Love” is the first novel in the latest trilogy ("Striking a Match" series) by Tracie Peterson. I received this book as a review copy from Bethany House Publishers (Baker Publishing Group).
The story begins in 1885 in Philadelphia as two young women, Deborah and Lizzie, graduate from college and begin their adult lives. Lizzie is engaged to be married to a wealthy future politician, Stuart, but she decides that she does not love him and flees with Deborah to Perkinsville, Texas, which is Deborah’s hometown. Texas is where the adventure really begins.
While Lizzie deals with her former fiancĂ©e, a possible new love in the person of Deborah’s brother, and her suffragette mother, Deborah is trying to find her place in the world. She went to college in order to return to Texas and take care of the bookkeeping portion of the logging business that her family owns. However, she finds herself drawn to the medical sciences and to the new doctor in town.
Overall, I think this book is what the Christian historical fiction genre should be. There are several characters involved in intertwining storylines, and the accounts are based on what was going on historically in Texas and in the United States at that time. Although at times this novel got rather “preachy” for my taste (about social issues, not about God), there were interesting points made about the issues of slavery, women’s rights, and the environment. I especially enjoyed reading this story from the perspective of a town that is a “company town.” I had heard of this concept before but didn’t really know what it was. The company that started the town in “Embers of Love” is a lumber mill company, and most everyone in the town works at or for the mill.
This book has many characters in it, but for some reason, it was easier for me to keep these characters straight rather than in the last book I reviewed, “The Thorn.” I also thought that “Embers of Love” wrapped itself up more easily than “The Thorn” did. Although not every story in “Embers of Love” completely played itself out, it ended in a way that did not feel abrupt. I also want to know what else happens to the characters in “Embers of Love” more so than “The Thorn.”
While I enjoyed this book, I feel as if I should warn those of you who might have trouble reading books with a medical storyline. Some scenes in the book are rather graphic, medically speaking, since the book takes place in the 1880’s in a lumber mill town (think accidents with sharp saws/axes with no anesthetic or antibiotics). I majored in science in college and worked in that field for nine years before my baby girl was born. While I didn’t exactly enjoy those scenes, I did appreciate the medical advances that were being discovered at that time in history and the interest the character of Deborah had in the medical arts. Just considered yourself warned. I know my husband would not really want to read some of those paragraphs! :)
I will be interested to read the second and third books in this series when they become available.
Visit this link for more information.
I will give “Embers of Love” ……. 4 Book Worms!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"The Thorn" Review

This book is one I received from Baker Publishing Group as a review copy. It is written by Beverly Lewis and is the first in a series of three novels (The Rose Trilogy) from Bethany House publishers.
I have only read one other book by Beverly Lewis (“The Shunning”), and it was so long ago that I don’t remember much about it.
This story is about two Amish sisters living in Pennsylvania. The younger, Rose Ann, has been baptized into the Amish faith and is currently dealing with courtship along with the daily care of her handicapped mother. The older sister, Hannah (‘Hen’ for short), left her Amish faith five years earlier to marry a non-Amish (English) man and is currently living in the ‘modern’ world.
Rose Ann’s best friend is the adopted son of the Amish bishop, Nick, who has not embraced the Amish ways. She also has somewhat of a courtship with another Amish boy, Silas, and he is the one with whom she can envision a future. Rose Ann seems compassionate and caring, and she is totally devoted to her faith.
Hen is married to Brandon, and is living in the modern world with him and her daughter, Mattie Sue. However, recently she feels conflicted with the way Mattie Sue is being raised in the modern world versus the way she was raised in the Amish world. She has a desire to return to her Amish roots, but she is not able to convince her husband to become Amish.
To me, this book was bewildering.  Maybe I am just not used to reading Amish books, but there were so many characters involved (especially minor characters who were mentioned once and then you were expected to remember who they were ten chapters later) and so many Amish words that I didn’t know that it made me dizzy at times. Also, the character of Hen frustrated me. She chose to leave the Amish way of life to marry someone else, but now five years later she wants to go back and wants her husband to convert to the Amish faith. She says that she wants this so that her daughter can be raised in a moral way. So, the only way to instill values and morals in your child is to be Amish? And she wonders why her husband is confused? I was.
Also, this book did not endear itself to me early on because of a casual wondering from Rose Ann. At one point she is thinking about her sister and her sister’s child, and the text says, “She wondered whether Hen and Brandon would have more children, or if Mattie would remain an only child, like Nick had once been. Rose could not imagine being so alone…nor would she ever wish it on anyone.” Well, as an only child (and the parent of an only child, currently), this statement bothered me to no end. Alone? Am I so alone? I have loving parents; an amazing husband; a precious daughter; wonderful in-laws; many caring aunts, uncles, and cousins; a fantastic church family; and more friends than I ever thought possible. Is that “so alone?” No. It is not. Okay…rant over.
I understand that this book is the first in a series of three, but none of the storylines were wrapped up at all. Almost every question was left hanging. With trilogies, there needs to be some carryover from one book to the next, of course, but this one just stopped abruptly.
I guess part of the reason I didn’t really enjoy this book is that I really don’t understand the Amish faith. From the book, it seems as if the Amish believe that you do not have God’s salvation unless you have been baptized into the Amish faith. Well, I have not been baptized into the Amish faith, but I do have God’s salvation through Christ. I guess if I read the other books in this series, I will need to just enjoy the story rather than analyze the theology behind the story!
Even though this book had some frustrating parts for me, the story was still pretty good and fairly well written. If I had more knowledge of the Amish ways, I think I would have enjoyed this book more. If you are a fan of Amish fiction, you will enjoy this book.
As far as “Bonnet Books” go, it was not that bad! Visit this link for more information.
I will give “The Thorn” by Beverly Lewis…2 ½ Book Worms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."