Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Bad Girls of the Bible" Review

Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs was sent to me by WaterBrook Press through their Blogging for Books Program. This is a new edition of the original book that was published in 1999. It is a (mostly) non-fiction book that takes ten of the Bible’s best known “Bad Girls” and tells their stories. More importantly, the book helps us see how we can hopefully keep from making the same mistakes that they did.
Bad Girls of the Bible begins each of its chapters with a fictional, modern retelling of the Biblical account of each woman. It then goes through most of the scripture for each account and discusses the choices that were made in each situation.
Let me say first that this book is an easy read. It flows well, and it is easy to relate to the actions of the women in the Biblical accounts that were chosen to be studied. I am not in total agreement with all of the points that were made theologically, but I would have to go back and study the book more in depth (perhaps with other women) to truly determine what I think about that.
The first caution I have about this book is that I think authors walk a very fine line when they fictionalize the Bible. I’m sure it can be done very well, but it can lead to a lot of speculation. While I can be forgiving of this in historical fiction novels set in other time periods, I have a hard time with doing this using accounts from the Bible.
The thing that was most off-putting about this book for me was the language used in the book. Not bad language, of course, but the way that the author used the words “Sister” and “Girlfriend” in relation to her readers so often. The author writes like she talks, I’m sure, and while that makes the book easy to read, it also makes it sound strange. But, that is just me. Others might like this sort of reading.
One other thing about this book is that I think is an issue is the labeling of girls as “good” or “bad.” This bothered me all the way through the book. It was not until the very end of the book that the author gives this note as part of her conclusion:
“…It’s simply this:  Good Girls and Bad Girls both need a Savior. The goodness of your present life can’t open the doors of heaven for you. The badness of your past life can’t keep you out either. Not if you truly desire the forgiveness and freedom Christ offers.”
So, I guess that helps to redeem the labels a little bit.
Overall, this book was pretty good even though there were parts of it that I didn’t really like. I might have enjoyed it more as part of a small group study or something.
I will give Bad Girls of the Bible… 3 BookWorms

Click here to download the first chapter of Bad Girls of the Bible.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from WaterBrook Press through their Blogging for Books Program. 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.”

"Transforming Prayer" Review

Transforming Prayer:  How Everything Changes When You Seek God's Face by Daniel Henderson was sent to me as a review copy by Bethany House Publishers. It is a non-fiction book that discusses why prayer should be more than what we as Christians have made it and how we can go from an ordinary prayer life to one that is extraordinary.
The author starts with a personal testimony of how he came to see that his prayer life was far from what it should be. He spends several chapters giving thoughts on what prayer has become in the modern church and on what it really needs to be. Rather than making requests of God from a long ‘grocery’ list, the author feels prayer should be a time of communion and fellowship with God, where we worship and praise Him and seek His face.
I was personally convicted while reading this book, because I know my prayer time is not what it should be. It also reminded me of another book that I read several years ago (I can’t even remember the title of it) that showed how to pray directly from the Bible. I really enjoy doing that, and I try to do that when I can.
Most of this book is spent describing the ‘why’ instead of the ‘how,’ but if you stick with it, you will get to the ‘how’ towards the end. Chapters 14 and 15 are very helpful chapters on how to best go about changing your prayer life, as are the Appendices. There are discussion questions for each chapter at the back of the book, which would be very good to use in a small group setting.
Overall, I think this book is a great tool for those who truly want to grow and change in the area of prayer.
I will give Transforming Prayer… 4 BookWorms


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.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Spring for Susannah" Blog Tour

Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers and LitFuse Publicity.
From the Publisher:
Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.
When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.
Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her-and his faith in God's perfect plan-slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.
When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.
She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.

My take:
I was really excited to read this book, because the setting is one of my favorites—Dakota Territory in the 1870’s—right out of Little House on the Prairie, one of my all-time favorite series. (This book takes place even earlier in the history of the Dakota Territory than when Laura Ingalls Wilder was there, and farther north, but the stories of the first homesteaders are still told.)
I will start with the things that I liked about this book. I enjoyed the progression of Susannah and Jesse coming to love each other during their marriage. I loved how Jesse used his humor and his love of music to draw Susannah out of her shell. I appreciated how Susannah was able to come to a realization that how she was raised (in strict Victorian fashion) might not necessarily be based on truth and that, with faith and confidence in God, she can be more than she ever thought she could be.
However, this book did not have the same thrill for me as other homesteading tales or other plots involving mail-order brides. It seemed that the main plot of the story ended about three quarters of the way through the book. From there, the story took a strange turn that just seemed to spin out of control and also seemed disjointed from the tone and the flow of the rest of the book. I won’t go into details about the plot so that I do not ruin the story, but the characters seemed to undergo a personality transplant over the course of just a few pages. New characters that were integral to the story were also introduced too close to the end, which seemed to me to be a ‘deus ex machina’ (See the end of my blog post for a description of this)--characters that were only introduced in order to add unnecessary plot lines to the story. The novel to me was muddled overall as well. The story is told in third person and is told from the perspective of Susannah at times and from the perspective of Jesse at times.  But, it was not balanced (it was told from Susannah’s perspective more) and so it felt odd and forced when the story was told through Jesse.
I will also say that I would rate this book PG-13 (Or maybe even ‘PG-married’). The intimacies portrayed are within the boundaries of marriage, but the descriptions go farther than I prefer in the novels that I read.  Because this book will be read by unmarried individuals, I feel the author should have taken better precautions at helping those who are single to keep their thoughts pure.
While the historical setting for this novel was right up my alley, I felt there were too many things that missed the mark.
I will give Spring for Susannah … 2 ½ Bookworms.

Blog Tour Kindle Giveaway and Facebook Party:

This Blog Tour is also sponsoring a Kindle Giveaway with the winner to be announced at a Facebook Party on June 28th. Click the graphic below for more details and to enter the contest.

For more on this blog tour, click here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through Litfuse Publicity. 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.”

***Explanation of 'Deus Ex Machina' (from Wikipedia)
A deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.The deus ex machina is often considered to be a poor storytelling technique by critics because it undermines the story's internal logic, although it is sometimes employed deliberately for this reason.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tyndale Summer Reading Program

Hi, Everyone!

I recently signed up for Tyndale's Summer Reading Program, and I wanted to get the word out to other book lovers!  Here is the information and the link to sign up:

Welcome to the Tyndale Summer Reading Program
The Tyndale Summer Reading program is a great opportunity to earn rewards for reading and sharing about the books you read. When you sign up you'll earn points towards free books when you read books from our summer reading list and share about the books you read in a variety of places including personal blogs, retails sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc), and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Here's what your points will get you:

--For every five books you read you'll earn a free book.

--The top three point leaders at the end of the summer win $50 gift cards for books.

---Everyone with at least one point will be entered to win a free e-reader.

--Plus we'll introduce more great promotions throughout the summer!

Click here to sign up!

If you sign up for the program, leave a comment and let me know!

-- Shoopette

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Beyond All Measure" Review

“Beyond All Measure” by Dorothy Love was sent to me as a review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers. It tells the story of Ada Wentworth, a Yankee from Boston who, in 1871, finds herself displaced to the hills of Tennessee. Ada arrives in Hickory Ridge to be a lady’s companion to Mrs. Lillian Caldwell Willis and plans to stay only long enough to make the money required to start her life over on her own. Ada has been let down by nearly everyone in her life, and she doesn’t plan to rely on anyone else but herself in the future…not even Lillian’s nephew, Wyatt Caldwell.
Wyatt is the local lumber mill owner in Hickory Ridge who has been living in Tennessee to take care of his Aunt Lillian, who was like a mother to him as a youth. But his dream is to return to Texas and start a ranch of his own. Until now, this dream was only his, but since the arrival of Miss Ada Wentworth, he wonders if this dream could possibly be shared.
Both Wyatt and Ada are dealing with their pasts:  Wyatt the aftermath of the Civil War and Ada the overturned life she left back in Boston. Will their lives and hearts ever be able to trust each other or God again? And will the hurts of a town torn apart by the recent Civil War ever be truly healed?
To begin, I thought this book was a nice read. Although it was not one that I would stay up until 2am to finish, I completed the novel easily in several days, and I was interested in what would happen to the characters in the end. I thought the relationship between Wyatt and Ada progressed neither too slowly nor too quickly. There was also more to this book than just a romance. The town was torn apart by the Civil War, and they are, of course, still recovering, both economically and relationally.
I especially enjoyed the community in which this story takes place. The town of Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, came alive for me, and I took delight in the various people who made up the population of this small town. Of course, this was mostly due to the fact that I spent most of my childhood years growing up in the same area that was described in this book! At one point Hickory Ridge is described as “a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains,” which describes the small town where I lived (south of Knoxville) very well.  Because of this, the setting of this book was endearing to me.
While I did enjoy this book, it did feel somewhat disjointed at times. I’m not sure if I can really explain exactly why I feel this way. I guess it was that it sometimes felt as if the characters’ conversations jumped around a lot when they were talking to each other, or that the events in the plot occurred sometimes without much rhyme or reason.  The main characters, Wyatt and Ada, could have been more well-defined. I also was a little confused as to the characters’ relationship with God. At the beginning of the book, neither Wyatt nor Ada professes to have a faith in God. By the end (hopefully without giving too much away!) they both seem to believe in God, but I’m not sure when that faith actually took root.
On the whole, I enjoyed this historical fiction novel, mostly because I loved the setting and the townspeople of Hickory Ridge.
I will give “Beyond All Measure” by Dorothy Love…3 ½ Bookworms.

Read my review online at The Christian Manifesto here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Thomas Nelson 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.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Fairer Than Morning" Review

Fairer than Morning by debut author Rosslyn Elliott was sent to me as a review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers. It tells the story of two people in early 19th-Century America who become involved in an unlikely friendship.
Ann Miller has lived her entire young life on a farm in Ohio where her father is an expert saddle-maker and a circuit-riding preacher. After the tragic death of her mother, she is tasked with the raising of her younger sisters. Ann dreams of marrying her sweetheart, Eli Bowen, but her current age, her duties at home, and even her own insecurities keep her from doing so.
Miles away in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Will Hanby has made a choice that will affect his entire future. The illnesses and eventual deaths of his parents and sisters have forced him and his brother into indentured servitude. After his term with a farmer is completed, he goes to Pittsburgh to sign away the next five years of his life again, this time thinking that the city will lead to a broader scope of life and knowledge. His hopes, however, are soon dashed as the reality of life with a cruel master hit him with full force, both figuratively and literally.
Several years later when Ann accompanies her father to Pittsburgh on business, Ann discovers Will’s plight and instantly has compassion for him. Through Ann’s actions and those of her father, Will discovers the Source of hope that can be a light in the darkness of his life. After Ann returns to Ohio, Will is determined to one day seek out the family who gave him the courage to endure his unfathomable situation.
When reading historical fiction, it usually takes several chapters for me to really get into the story and drawn to the characters. That was not the case with this book! I was attached from the very beginning, especially with the story of Will. The author has such a remarkable way of introducing the characters, the setting, and the background that I fell into the story instantly.
This novel was much more intricate than I had anticipated. There were so many turns in the story that I never guessed exactly what would happen next. Even towards the end, I was not quite sure which way the author was going to go with the main plot. The subplots in this book, especially the mentions of the Underground Railroad, made the whole novel historically rich and gave the novel substance. I was also overwhelmed with the intense portrayals of both compassion and hatred in this novel. The evil of man (often in the name of Christianity) that came at the hands of some characters horrified me; however, I was extremely moved and convicted by the compassion that can be shown to others when we allow the true light of Christ to shine through us.
A critique of this novel would be that I felt not all of the storylines were wrapped up at the end. This could be because there is a second novel to come next year in this “Saddler’s Legacy” series. Still, it seemed as if a couple of the characters were left hanging. Also, I felt this book was a little bit ‘wordy’ in places. I love to read, but I get bogged down sometimes when it comes to extensive descriptions of places and actions. I like to be familiar with the settings and the feelings of the characters. In fact, this is what made the novel so easy to read in the beginning, but after these people and places have been established, it is easy to get repetitive when too much detail is given later on in the book. I will also warn the readers that some descriptions in this book are vivid in detail, especially in relation to the cruelty that Will endures under his master.
The best part of this novel for me was discovering that the characters in this book were actually real people in history. It is amazing that so many details of their lives were put into the story by the author. Although most of the events and some of the people in the book are fiction, a lot of the elements are true, which I think is fascinating.
Fairer than Morning is easily the best historical fiction novel I have read this year. I look forward to reading more books in this series and from Rosslyn Elliot in the future.

I will give Fairer Than Morning… 4 ½ BookWorms!

You can read my review of this book online at The Christian Manifesto here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, Thomas Nelson. 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.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Too Rich for a Bride" Review

“Too Rich for a Bride" by Mona Hodgson was sent to me as a review copy by WaterBrook Press and is the second book in the ‘Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek’ series. (You can read my review of the first book in the series, "Two Brides Too Many," here.) This novel continues the story of the Sinclair Sisters as they each move out west to Cripple Creek, Colorado. Ida’s story, the oldest sister, is told in this novel.
Ida Sinclair has finished her business school training and has joined her sisters, Kat and Nell, in the mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1896. She is excited to work for the successful businesswoman, Mollie O’Bryan. Even though her sisters want to see her set her up with a suitable man, Ida has only one goal in her mind, and that is to make her way in the male-dominated world of business.
As much as she tries to stay away from it, Ida finds herself somewhat involved with two different men – Colin Wagner, a lawyer in town, and Tucker Raines, the traveling preacher. As Ida’s business involvement gets more and more entangled, she finds herself at a crossroads where she must decide what or Who should be first in her life.
After reading the first book in this series, Two Brides Too Many, I found that I enjoyed this second novel, Too Rich for a Bride, even more. I thought the writing in the second one was better than the first. I also enjoyed the story a little more. It was hard for me to relate to the characters in the first story, but this one’s main character, Ida, really hit home for me.
As in the first book, the secondary characters in this novel really make the story. Hattie, the owner of the boardinghouse, is so true-to-life, and Mr. Boney is both odd and charming. I really enjoyed the story of Tucker Raines, the traveling preacher. I thought this aspect of the story added so much depth and faith to the tale.
I also thought that the author did a great job balancing the portion of the story involving the role of women in business as well as in the home. This could have ended up being a push for all women everywhere to never be involved in work other than being at home and/or raising children. I am a stay-at-home mom myself, but I thought the aspect of women in business was handled well. I do not want to give away the ending of the book outright, so I will just say that I thought a good balance with that topic was achieved.
“Too Rich for a Bride” was an enjoyable read that will be especially appreciated by fans of Christian historical fiction.
I will give “Too Rich for a Bride” by Mona Hodgson… 3 ½ BookWorms.

Check out this review on The Christian Manifesto site here.

This title was published on May 3, 2011.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, WaterBrook Press. 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.”