Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dining with Joy, by Rachel Hauck

Witty, captivating, and with a sound ring of Truth, Dining with Joy is an absorbing page-turner. Joy Ballard, daughter of a renowned cooking show host who left his offspring to run the show at his untimely death, is hiding the awful secret that she can't cook. Luke Redmond, a talented chef who failed as a restauranteur, seems to be Joy's way out. The chemistry between Joy and Luke as they each work through their own baggage, and the sinister rivalry of television cook Wenda Devine, make the plot especially delicious. The characters are intense and genuine, and the narrative of two individuals who are truly seeking the will of God is inspiring.

I grew up devouring Grace Livingston Hill's novels, but it's been a number of years since I've picked up a Christian romance. Not since living out my own, real-life love story have I sought out a fictitious one--mostly because I'm too busy for it. When this book came up for review, though, I was intrigued to dive into it. I quickly noted one thing about Hauck's writing that reminded me why I was such a fan of Hill: her story and characters model those things which are true and right while still being real and relatable. The way Luke and Joy try to keep their passions in check while seeking God's will first is uplifting. Instead of igniting wrong passions and unrealistic expectations, this novel has made me thankful for the relationships I do have (with God and with my husband), and it has made me appreciate once again the many qualities about my husband that first attracted me to him. Dining with Joy is an excellent work of fiction--I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the series!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon O'Dell describes his journey from being the pastor of a vibrant, growing metropolitan church to pastoring in a city in Arkansas with a population of 88. He details the struggles of growing a small, traditional church that says it wants change, but resists it. O'Dell relates personal anecdotes and gives advice to those who wish to see growth in their local church.

When I first received this book, I was a little skeptical, because I've seen this type of book before: some guy was successful, and now he thinks his method will work in your church. I was pleasantly surprised, though, by several things in the book: 1) O'Dell is not as concerned with growing a big congregation as with growing his individual congregants (a line he uses several times in the book.) 2) While he admits to being an "emergent-type" guy, O'Dell portrays sound theology throughout the book. 3) O'Dell gives advice to those seeking change, but it's not specific (style of worship, type of dress, etc.); his advice is more general and principle-based (i.e. excellence in worship, leaders casting strong vision, etc.). The only red flag I saw is that O'Dell has been there less than a decade. On one side, that is amazing, because he has seen tremendous growth in just a few years; however, the book would have greater strength with time-tested evidence to prove that the principles in this book work for more than just temporary growth.

Like every book, there are some ideas with which you will not agree, some statements that will cause you to stop and think, and some genuinely great ideas. All in all, this is definitely a book I would recommend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Treasure of God's Word: Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible

This is a beautifully-bound gift book, with a hard imitation leather cover and gold-trimmed pages that make it feel somewhat like a Bible. It's designed along the lines of a devotional book, as it contains a selection of Scripture passages from the KJV grouped according to topic (i.e. God's Compassion, God's Holiness, Our Hope, etc.) and interspersed with mini-articles on the 400-year history of the KJV.

As an English major who grew up on the KJV, I was curious to read this book. I was impressed with the quality of the book's presentation, but based on the description, I expected it to be filled with information regarding the history and influence of the KJV. Instead, it is filled with a plethora of topical passages from the KJV with only a scant 22 pages of information about its history and influence. While the mini-articles contain interesting facts the average person might not know (such as, the KJV contained the Apocrypha through the 1769 version), the articles felt too short and trite, like a brief overview instead of an anniversary tribute. The copyright page even says that two of the articles were adapted from! The KJV is certainly something worth celebrating, as its impact on the English language has been quite profound, but I think this book falls short of doing it justice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Book Sneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Love and Respect for a Lifetime, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

"Women absolutely need love. Men absolutely need respect. It's as simple and as complicated as that." Love and Respect for a Lifetime is the condensed gift version of Dr. Eggrichs' book Love & Respect. It is a beautifully-bound edition filled with attractive layouts highlighting important quotes and quality stock photos illustrating the various points throughout the book. In six mini-chapters, the basic biblical principles of love and respect in marriage are stylishly presented, highlighting important truths for a healthy, God-ordained marriage.

This book is an easy read--I read it carefully cover to cover in about twenty minutes. However, there are many deep truths and important biblical principles that take time to digest, making this book a great resource for future reference. Love and Respect for a Lifetime is filled with Scripture and a healthy God-centered approach to marriage. This beautiful edition is the perfect gift for a wedding or anniversary, assuming the couple already has a desire to please God in their marriage. I would not recommend this book to a couple who are having serious marital problems, though, as it is too much of a generalized overview for that scenario. If one or the other partner is selfishly uninterested in sacrificing to make the marriage better, then it will probably take more than a series of quotes and suggestions to make a difference. However, for willing hearts and committed couples, the biblical advice in this book could make an OK marriage great! Especially from the start!

Monday, September 20, 2010

100 Prayers, 100 Praise Songs by Stephen Elkins, Ill. by Tim O'Connor

100 Prayers, 100 Praise Songs is a devotional-type book of prayers for children with accompanying music for each prayer. When I first saw the book, I thought "Great, what kind of quality prayers could be included in a book of 100 of them?" The answer is, fantastic ones! While this book is geared toward young children, it is filled with famous prayers from Bible heroes, poets, authors, and historical figures. Accompanied with tastefully vibrant illustrations, each prayer focuses little minds on God--and teaches them to pray! The song that accompanies each prayer is conveniently marked at the top of each page for easy reference.

This book came in the mail just as we were beginning serious potty training with our three-year-old. Since each prayer is rather short, I figured this would be a good book to read during sits in the bathroom, to accommodate the varying lengths of each visit. We'd typically read 3-5 prayers at a time, unaccompanied by the music because of our location. Although we didn't go through the book as a devotional one prayer at a time, my little guy--who relishes books in general--absolutely loves it! He even calls it his other Bible. Ha! The prayers are short enough to keep his interest, and usually something on each page sparks a conversation--including the artistic illustrations. This book makes a great addition to our library, and we love having a tool that helps us teach the many facets of prayer. Today I even caught our sweet boy reading this book to his "baby" who was "going potty"--he was teaching his doll the same truths we're trying to instill in him!

The only disappointment for me was that we can't just pop the CD in and let it play all the way through. The music is just too upbeat and the voices too grating for that. But I imagine that for one song at a time--as was intended--it would be about right. Once our newborn is old enough to participate in family prayer time with his older brother, we'll probably revisit this one for its intended purpose. I have no doubt it will be a big hit.

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