Saturday, December 17, 2011

Behind the Veils of Yemen - Book Review

Book Description: When Audra Grace Shelby and her husband felt God calling them to minister in the Middle East, she was fearful--how would she raise her children in the heart of conservative Islam? Armed with prayers and a faith that always seemed too small, the family made the move to Yemen, enduring deadly illness, uncertainty, and the unnerving experience of being Christians in an Islamic culture. Yet God was at work, and Audra was invited to see what few Christian women have seen: behind the veils of Muslim women. Here she shares about the friendships she forged, about the opportunities to minister when her new friends' hopes shriveled and their own religion faltered--and how the grace of God touched lives in the midst of an enemy stronghold. With humor, passion, and honesty, she shows readers glimpses of life deep in the heart of Islam and the yearning heart of our loving God.

Review: This book chronicles some of the time Audra Grace Shelby spent with her family in Yemen. She opens by discussing the difficult journey to the mission field, one that included a life-threatening illness for her husband. It moves into stories from their first weeks/months in Yemen. She chronicles how she built relationships with the women in her community, most importantly, Fatima, her Arabic tutor. Shelby details how these relationships continue to be built by detailing some of her encounters with the Muslim women and their personal, probing questions of her life. I could feel Shelby’s awkwardness in some of the situations she described. I loved the honesty Shelby portrayed throughout this book. She was honest about her struggles – with the culture, the heat and the inconveniences present when working in a developing country. She is also refreshingly honest in her conversations with God outlining her questions and doubts. These conversations happen repeatedly throughout the book, often accompanied by the lesson God has shown her. I really enjoyed this book and it was a remarkably quick read. The storytelling style in this book made me want to keep reading. My only lingering question is what happened after they returned to Yemen after the birth of their fourth child. The follow-up at the end doesn’t really address that and I was left wondering what happened to Fatima, did the seeds of the gospel ever see harvest? I felt the book was missing a couple of chapters. Even with that, I recommend this book to anyone interested in missions, life in the Middle East or both.

Baker Publishing gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Baker's Wife - Book Review

Book Description: Before Audrey was the baker's wife, she was the pastor's wife.  Then a scandalous lie cost her husband a pastoral career. Now the two work side-by-side running a bakery, serving coffee, and baking fresh bread. But the hurt still pulls at Audrey.  Driving early one morning to the bakery, Audrey's car strikes something-or someone-at a fog-shrouded intersection. She finds a motor scooter belonging to a local teacher. Blood is everywhere, but there's no trace of a body.  Both the scooter and the blood belong to detective Jack Mansfield's wife, and he's certain that Audrey is behind Julie's disappearance.  But the case dead-ends and the detective spirals into madness. When he takes her family and some patrons hostage at the bakery, Audrey is left with a soul-damaged ex-con and a cynical teen to solve the mystery. And she'll never manage that unless she taps into something she would rather leave behind-her excruciating ability to feel other's pain.
Synopsis:  Audrey and her husband Geoff were leading a church in their small town when a lie-filled scandal took it from them.  They decide to stay in town and make a living by turning a hobby into a successful business.  They work together operating a bakery and use the bakery as a way to minister to the community.  Unfortunately, an accident and disappearance shatters their life, putting Audrey under a cloud of suspicion.  A wayward ex-con ends up in their lives and carries secrets of her own.  Through a hostage-taking, Audrey is forced to solve the mystery of the disappearance in order to save her husband and son. 
Review:  This book was not at all what I was expecting.  It started slow but I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it once I got into it.  I liked the suspense in the book but I was somewhat disappointed in the ending.  It didn’t really “fit” with the rest of the book.  I can’t really put my finger on exactly what my complaint is, it just felt somewhat forced in parts.  I’m not saying that makes it a bad book or even one I’m sorry I read, it just wasn’t my favorite.  One thing to note… I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about Audrey’s “gift” of being able to feel other people’s pain/sickness.  I know the author explains it as feeling extreme empathy/compassion for others but I’m still a little uncomfortable with it.  It’s not enough for me to not recommend the book to others, it’s a good book, I’m just not sure how others may react to Audrey’s gift.  All in all, it was a good book; not my favorite but a good book all the same.
Thomas Nelson Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Attracted to Fire - Book Review

From the Back: Special Agent Meghan Connors’ dream of one day protecting the president of the United States is about to come true. Only one assignment stands in her way. After the vice president’s rebellious daughter is threatened, Meghan is assigned to her protective detail on a secluded ranch in West Texas. Unfortunately, working with Special Agent in Charge Ash Zinders may be as tough as controlling her charge. Ash has a reputation for being critical and exacting, and he’s also after the same promotion as Meghan. But when the threats escalate and security on the ranch is breached, it becomes clear this isn’t the work of a single suspect—it’s part of a sophisticated plan that reaches deeper and higher than anyone imagined. And only Ash and Meghan can put the pieces together before it’s too late.

Synopsis: Meghan is a Secret Service agent assigned to a team who's job is to protect the Vice President's daughter. The job isn't easy since the daughter doesn't really want to be protected and someone is trying to kill her. Meghan's job is also complicated by the fact her boss, Agent Zinders is a sexist who doesn't think women belong in the Secret Service. As the book progresses, Ash sees how wrong he was and as he and Meghan work together to save the VP's daughter, their attraction for one another grows.

Review: This book took a while for me to get into but once I did, I couldn't put it down. I stayed up WAY too late a couple of nights reading. :-) I liked Meghan's character but then again, I'm partial to strong female characters. I thought Mills did a good job making Meghan's character strong but not so over-the-top she came across as borish or difficult. The story progressed quite well and there was enough intrigue and tension to keep you occupied and wanting more. There were times here and there that the story was a little far-fetched but not so bad I quit reading. It was pretty easy to figure out who was the "bad guy" but Mills kept you guessing as to how Ash and Meghan were going to resolve the situation. I like a book with likable characters and this one had that. I felt the ending was a bit contrived in parts but overall, it was a good book.

I'm not sure why I haven't read Diann Mills before but I plan to read more of her work soon. I'm glad to have found another new author.

Tyndale House Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.