Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sweet Sanctuary

Title: Sweet Sanctuary
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Labels: Fiction | Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Recommended To: Women, Adult, YA
Contains: Clean.

Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | Kindle
Blurb From Goodreads: Lydia Eldredge longs to provide a sanctuary for her son, Nicky. But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him.
Dr. Micah Hatcher serves the immigrant population in Queens, but under cover of darkness he provides another service that must not be discovered lest his and his brother's lives be in danger.
When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings. Through unforeseen twists and turns, they seek a refuge of safety--for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God unexpectedly puts in their lives.
Sweet Sanctuary is probably one of the most unique books I've read in a long, long time. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, and this book seemed to be placed in a time period that is not often touched on--of course, I could be wrong on that, and simply haven't run into books based on this period of time. The plot itself was an interesting mix.

The overall basis of the plot had a budding romance, smuggling scheme, psycho-father-after-his-abandoned-kid, recover and redemption, and more. Everything intertwined with each other, drawing it all into a complicated life story of the two main characters. I liked that the romance between the two had some back story to it--an interesting, unusual one at that.

Each character seemed to have its own life, its own motives for why it did the things it did. This was definitely  a one of a kind book. It's got the complete package, twisted with new motives and turns throughout it. I would definitely recommend picking it up and giving it a try. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pray the Scriptures

Title: Pray the Scriptures
Author: Kevin Johnson
Labels: DVPR | Prayer
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: June 15, 2013
Recommended To: 12yrs--Adult
Contains: N/A

Buy It: AmazonKindle
Blurb From Goodreads: Pray the Scriptures is a 40-day prayer experience for readers hoping to energize their prayer life and draw closer to God through his very word. Using familiar passages of Scripture, the author guides the reader in the process of selecting and praying back to God the words of the text as they apply to the reader's life and circumstances. "Prayer starter" phrases jump-start the participant's practice of writing and speaking Scripture prayers.
Each day's entry includes an introductory devotional, a Scripture text, and concluding thoughts and questions for reflection, discussion, and further prayer.
When I first saw this book, I wasn't one hundred percent sure if I wanted to give it a shot or not. I wasn't really sure if it was going to be one of those stilted, teach-you-how-to-pray books, or if it would end up being worth my while. In my opinion, it ended up being pretty darn good.

Each "chapter" is one day, with forty chapters in all to cover the forty days this book is meant to cover. Each chapter starts off with a brief introduction to the passage that it covers and gets you focusing on the gist of it. I was kind of torn between the passage part of it. The passages are printed right in the book, which I like for convenience sake, especially if you're traveling and just want a short devotional type book to take along with you. On the other hand, the passages were printed in several different versions, including ESV, GW, MSG, NCV, NIV, NKJV, and NLT. I understand why the Johnson did it this way--some of these different versions elaborate more or give more vivid detail. But the downside to this is the fact that I don't necessarily agree with every one of these translations, and not all of them are translated literally. If you're someone who has a problem with one or more of these translations, you may want to consider that before you pick up this book. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from looking up the passages in the version you prefer and comparing them, which is what I plan to do.

After each passage, there are a few words or half a sentence prompts to get you started thinking and praying on these Scripture passages. I thought the prompts were good--just enough to get you going, but not too much to the point where it would manipulate the direction of your own thinking one way or another. At the end of each chapter, there are three discussion type questions that further help you reflect on what you've read and prayed over during that chapter. Overall I think this is a pretty good prayer devotional.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

The Winnowing Season (Amish Vines and Orchards, #2)

Title: The Winnowing Season
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Labels: Fiction | Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Recommended To: Woman, Adult, YA
Contains: Clean.

Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | Kindle
Blurb From Amazon: The tornado that devastated Kings’ Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them?
          On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and is fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.
          Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally. Book 2 of the Amish Vines and Orchards series asks: can the three faithfully follow God’s leading and build a new home and orchard in Maine? Or will this new beginning lead to more ruin and heartbreak?
Well, here I am again, reading books out of order. Haha. One would think I'd learn to stop and read in order, but nope. I guess what prevents me from learning my lesson and dropping this out-of-order habit is the fact that rarely do I come across a book in a series that can't stand alone enough for me to read and understand everything. The Winnowing Season is one of those books that can stand on its own two feet (so to speak) and not lose the reader.

The Winnowing Season is a continuation of the first book in the Amish Vines and Orchards Series, A Season For Tending. The first book compliments it by giving more back story into previous events, but The Winnowing Season has its own unique and individual story line as well. This is the kind of series I like--reading all the books in order gives you a deeper and richer experience overall, but you can still pick up any one of the books and read it separately.

This is definitely one of my favorites from Cindy Woodsmall. I've read several of her books, but this one really topped the rest, at least for me. I loved the character development, the real thoughts and feelings of the characters, the unique way each handled different situations. I felt like Woodsmall really brought the characters to life. Not only that, but there was a lot more controversy in this book than I personally have found in most Amish books--which I liked. There were all kinds of situations and dilemmas that arose, threatening each character in a different way. The ending impressed me as well--it wasn't quite what you'd call your typical happy-ever-after ending, and left me wanting to get my hands on the next book to find out what happens next. Definitely recommended!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Victim of Grace

Title: Victim of Grace
Author: Robin Jones Gunn
Labels: Religion | Christian Life | Spiritual Growth
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Recommended To: Women
Contains: N/A

Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | Kindle
Blurb From Goodreads: Robin Jones Gunn reveals poignant truths from her life as well as from the lives of women in the Bible as she flips the notion that we are at the mercy of circumstances. She asks, what if God has dreams for you? What if he is accomplishing those dreams in the midst of shattered hopes? When life doesn't go as expected, it's easy to feel like a victim. We look at the events that have gone wrong and view our lives as impaired. What if we could see our future as God sees it? Would our view radically change if we understood we are indeed victims rather than of happenstance? God, the Relentless Lover, has vigorously sought you. He has instilled dreams in your heart that are grander than you can imagine. But the route to their fulfillment often is through a path you wouldn't seek. What if God wants to take the hopes that tug at your heart and enliven them? Are you ready to live inside the mysterious joy of being a victim of grace?
Let me just start by saying that cover to this book sis gorgeous--both online and on the physical copy. So pretty! Anyway, I enjoyed, I enjoyed reading Gunn's Victim of Grace. It's a light read, and I found myself reading through quickly while still understanding all that she was talking about.

Victim of Grace is more or less about a concept that the things that seem bad in the moment--making us a victim--may actually be setting us up to be receivers of God's grace. We often don't see this in the moment, but rather realize it later, in retrospect, and sometimes not even then. It encourages us to have a more positive outlook as we wait for God to bring us full circle.

I liked that in each chapter, after Gunn talked about a person experience of being a victim of Grace, she went on to talk about a woman of the Bible who was also a victim of grace. Not all were obvious victims of grace--some of them we flat out have felt sorry for. But for each Gunn had a point about that woman that made it clear that they were indeed victims of grace. One thing I would have liked to have seen were more personal experiences from other women other than Gunn. Not that her life story isn't interesting or inspiring; I just enjoy reading from many viewpoints on a subject such as this.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Lone Wolf

Title: Lone Wolf
Author: Jodi Picoult
Labels: Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Recommended To: YA, Adult
Contains: Foul language; 1 short, suggestive scene; topics of life and death.

Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | Kindle
Blurb From Goodreads: On an icy winter night, a terrible accident forces a family divided to come together and make a fateful decision. Cara, once protected by her father, Luke, is tormented by a secret that nobody knows. Her brother, Edward, has secrets of his own. He has kept them hidden, but now they may come to light, and if they do, Cara will be devastated. Their mother, Georgie, was never able to compete with her ex-husband’s obsessions, and now, his fate hangs in the balance and in the hands of her children. With conflicting motivations and emotions, what will this family decide? And will they be able to live with that decision, after the truth has been revealed? What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?
Lone Wolf is probably one of the most interesting fiction book I've read. Picoult has woven a story real, living, breathing characters. I'll be honest, I didn't think one could write a book from so many different character viewpoints, all of which are written in first person. However, this book is written in at least six different character viewpoints, and not once did I get lost along the way, not once did I forget who's viewpoint I was reading. Each character has their own distinct voice, their own distinct past, their own distinct reasons for why they do what they do. The way she weaves these viewpoints is absolutely brilliant.

My favorite character viewpoint was Luke. Ironic, really, because during the greater part of the book he is in a vegetative state. Rather, intermittently he would have a short chapter, in which he would tell of some past experience with the wolves he lived with, and how the pack operated, and his own personal feelings. These intervals came perfectly, because it would set the stage for the following chapters. As you read through the book, you come to realize that the things pointed out relate very much to the motives behind the other characters actions and words, driving the plot along.

I really can't say anything about the plot itself--other than the blurb--because it is so realistic, so complex that I honestly don't know what I could say without giving away part of it. You'll just have to read it for yourself. One thing I did not like, however, was the language used. The first fifty pages or so are clean as a whistle, then as the tensions in the plot pick up, so does the foul language. I ended up keeping a thin sharpie marker with the book so that when I ran across these words I could black them out, because honestly, I would have to have to chuck the book because the plot and characters are fantastic--but I can't have myself, others, or my siblings reading that kind of garbage. Other than that, I was very happy with this book.

I bought this book, and therefore was not required to write a review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.