Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pray the Scriptures - A Book Review

Pray the Scriptures is a book to help guide your prayer life.  If you've found yourself struggling around prayer, this is great book to pick up and try.  Kevin Johnson lays out 40 days of "lessons" around topics as varied as Jesus Your Shepherd (Day 1) to Love God, Love People (Day 11) to Abiding and Bearing Fruit (Days 39 and 40).  Each theme centers around a section of Scripture and Johnson writes a brief intro.  There are brief statements where you can respond to the Scripture in prayer.  Each day/chapter closes with several questions to guide reflection and discussion.  The Scriptures quoted in the book come from multiple translations so you have an opportunity to see different ways God's Word is expressed.

I think this is a great book for someone wanting to build a stronger prayer life.  Each day is fairly straightforward and doesn't take long at all.  It also revolves around some of the strongest themes in the Bible and that's a great intro into studying the Bible.  The book's layout also helps you journal your thoughts as you process what you're reading.  Praying the Scriptures is a great way to build a prayer life that's more than slinging requests at God.  This book sets up a "system" by which you can learn to listen to God's Word and hear His message for your life.  If you keep a notebook, you could easily complete the day's reading and record your answers elsewhere.  That would allow for multiple uses of the book and you would be able to see how your prayer life changes over time.  I also think the book could be easily used by a group as part of a Bible Study.

This is definitely a nice find and I'm glad to add it to my study repertoire.

My Score: 4.5 bookmarks out of 5.

Note: Bethany House gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Made to Last - A Book Review

From the Back: Miranda Woodruff has it all.  At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up.  So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show - even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.  When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth - and to her.  Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight?  And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

Synopsis: Miranda Woodruff is the star of a TV home show but the networks are talking about making changes.  To try and save her show, Miranda reluctantly goes along with a scheme her manager cooked up to fake a husband for publicity's sake.  The man they picked for the job, Blaze, is the farthest thing from the fiance Miranda was in love with.  Matthew Knox is a disgraced reporter who is struggling to find a story that will make up for the mistakes in his past.  He takes on a profile piece on Miranda hoping it will lead to something more.  As time moves along, Miranda's secret gets harder and harder for her to keep.  She also finds herself strangely attracted to Matthew.  Once Matthew discovers Miranda's secret, it's only a matter of time before others do.  Miranda struggles to keep her personal and professional lives separate without losing the best things in both.

My Review:  This is Melissa Tagg's debut novel and in some ways, that's obvious.  Some of the storyline is almost too implausible to keep going.  It is also a novel that's harder to get into.  But, I'm glad I stuck with it.  While I think some of the decisions both Matthew and Miranda made and make in the story are mistakes, I like the way Tagg folded them into the story.  Both characters had their flaws but both were easy to like too.  I also liked that there were a couple of simpler plot lines running through the novel that influenced the way Miranda and Matthew acted.  While it's a love story, there was a bigger picture involved as well.  All-in-all, this is a fun read and I'm looking forward to Tagg's next book.

My Score:  3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

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

The Miner's Lady - A Book Review

From the Back: When Chantel Panetta's younger sister claims to be in love with Orlando Calarco, Chantel knows there is no hope.  The Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families.  Yet, unable to resist Isabella's pleas, Chantel agrees to help her sister spend time with Orlando...only to have a run-in with Dante, Orlando's brother.  Chantel can't deny the attraction that flares when she's with Dante.  But when a tragedy occurs at the mine, is there any hope that the hatred has simmered between these two families might be resolved?  Or will Chantel and Isabella's hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding?

Synopsis:  Chantel Panetta has just returned from visiting family in Italy and discovers her sister Isabella is in love with a young man named Orlando.  The only problem with this relationship is that Isabella's family and Orlando's family have been fighting for three generations.  Chantel reluctantly agrees to help Isabella.  In the midst of their meetings, Chantel meets Dante, Orlando's brother, who is quite disapproving of the budding relationship.  Chantel finds herself attracted to Dante and does what she can to quash those feelings.  A tragic accident at the mine in their town harms the girls' father and the accident ends up driving the two couples closer together.  The Calarco patriarch sees the growing attraction and supports resolving the family feud though her son does not.  As the novel progresses and love grows, Orlando's father only grows stronger in his resistance to their relationships.

My Review:  This was a fun read even though it was quite predictable.  It's the classic love story with a family feud backdrop.  However, Tracie Peterson writes in such a way you enjoy the characters and find yourself wanting the relationships to work out.  There were times I could feel the frustration of the characters as they wanted to resolve a silly disagreement but were torn between breaking off a relationship and following their heart.  While it's a simple romance story, it was quite an enjoyable read and just what I've come to expect from Peterson's work.  I definitely recommend picking it up if you're in the mood for a good love story.

My Score:  3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Simple Change

From the Back:  When her parents decide to sell their home and move to the Amana Colonies, Jancey Rhoder must make a difficult decision.  Should she give up her beloved teaching job and her carefree life in Kansas City to go with them?  Her suitor, Nathan Woodward doesn't want her to go, but Jancey feels she must give the new life a try.  Her mother is sick, and these next few months may be the last Jancey gets to spend with her.  But will this move spell the end of her relationship with Nathan?  And while life in Amana is far more mysterious and challenging than Jancey expected, will she choose to return to the city, or will she make this unique place her forever home?

Synopsis:  Jancey Rhoder is living a happy life in Kansas City spending her days a volunteer teacher. She lives with her parents and is somewhat surprised when her parents tell her they are moving to the Amana colonies.  Jancey makes the tough decision to leave behind her teaching and her boyfriend Nathan Woodward to follow her parents.  Life in the colonies is strict - jobs are assigned, families eat together with other families, and all decisions are made by the elders.  Jancey settles in to a routine, cleaning the men's quarters each day and care for her ailing mother in the evenings.  She nurtures her love of teaching by tutoring the young daughter of their neighbors.  Through tutoring Madelyn, Jancey meets Ritt, Madelyn's older brother and begins to fall for him.  During her cleaning routine, Jancey finds money and evidence linking the money to a crime in Kansas City.  She agonizes over what to do.  As her assimilation into the Amana way of life continues, how will Jancey reconcile her future?

My Review:  I wasn't overly familiar with Judith Miller when I chose this book to review but I think I've found a new author to enjoy.  I also wasn't familiar with the Amana Colonies but did some research after reading and the book provides excellent insight into their way of life.  The story-line was a little different since the Amana lifestyle is different - it wasn't your typical love story.  This novel is more storytelling around Jancey and a love story springs up.  I liked Jancey's character and her struggle between the strict way of life and her love for her family was relatable.  Miller was able to make me dislike Nathan all the way through the novel and cheer at the end when he ends up out of Jancey's life.  The developing love story between Jancey and Ritt is tender and simple and doesn't feel rushed.  All in all, this is a sweet story and a fun read for a lazy weekend.

Score:  4.5 bookmarks out of 5.

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