Sunday, June 30, 2013

Anomaly by Krista McGee

It's summertime...which means it's the perfect time to get lost in a few Christian fiction novels!  This one is a real page-turner (I read it in 2 days!)  I can easily see this book being turned into a movie someday.

Anomaly is a sci-fi story set in the future.  The world has been destroyed by a nuclear war and the only survivors are a group of scientists who had been developing and creating an underground facility to sustain life.  The scientists have created a new society in which humans are genetically designed to be devoid of emotion and each have certain skills to be used to benefit the community.  They decided that taking out emotions would be the best way to prevent people from hurting each other and destroying the small remnant that remained.  So the question is raised...what would a society like that look like? A society without anger, without jealousy, without lust, yet without love and without faith.

The main character, Thalli, is an anomaly...she can feel...and she has questions.  The problem is that humans who get sick or have emotions are considered dangerous to the society and are annihilated.  This story is about her adventure in discovering who she is and who her real Designer is, while keeping her quest hidden from those who would consider her curiosity a threat. 

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a stretch from reality, yet it raises some interesting questions.  The suspense and a few twists and turns keeps the story moving.  There is also an element of romance, which is presented in a pure and tasteful manner. 

This book is the first in a triology.  The only bad part about reading it now is that I have to wait until July 2014 for the next book, Luminary, to come out!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Popular by Tindell Baldwin

I may be in my mid-30's now, but I remember my heartaches and teenage mistakes like they were yesterday.  Maybe if I had read such an honest testimony as is given in this book, those mistakes could have been avoided.

Movies show us the glamorous side of being popular, going to parties, drinking, and having casual sex.  In her book, Tindell shares her story in the hopes that teenage girls can understand the other side not commonly talked about.  She wishes she had known "not more cold facts and statistics, but more of the emotional reality...The challenge is that while the feelings are real, they are fleeting, and the pain that follows is not."  She says making the right choices "might mean you're lonely today, but it also might mean you aren't scarred tomorrow...It's true that God can bring beauty from a pile of ashes, but rising from the ashes is not easy or fun - it's so much better to avoid that type of death."  Tindell then shares about her Christian faith and how Jesus has made all the difference in her life.  She says that her desires weren't the problem, but the way she was filling them was.  I'm sure it is not easy to bare your soul for the world to see, but in doing so I believe that Tindell will be able to connect to girls where they are, and then show them a better way.

I would recommend this book to all teenage girls and the adults who love them.  It may keep some girls from making the same mistakes.  It may help parents find the right words to explain "why" not to make certain choices.  It may also allow others to develop an understanding and compassion for girls trying to navigate through all the emotions and decisions that come during the teenage years. 

On a side note - I think it would be beneficial if Tindell's parents wrote a book.  According to her, they provided a loving, stable home and were able to show her unconditional love even through her rebellion and bad decisions.  They must have a ton of wisdom to share!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Plastic Donuts by Jeff Anderson

If you are looking for a SHORT, easy-to-read book on biblical giving, this book may be for you!  Being only 109 pages and measuring just over 4" x 6", it doesn't take long to read.  My first impression was that it could have been condensed into a great blog post...but instead was drawn out enough to make it book-worthy to increase circulation.  That being said, the main point is a good one.

The title was taken from an experience the author had when his daughter gave him the gift of a plastic donut.  His delight in this simple gift led him to wonder if God views the gifts we bring Him in the same way.  Is there a certain amount or type of gift that pleases God the most?  While there are a few points discussed, I think the answer is best summed up in this quote. "When the gift amount matters to us, it can matter to God too.  When the amount doesn't matter to us, it doesn't matter to God."  Gifts that are sacrificial and given with a pure heart are more meaningful than a pre-determined amount or percentage.

There are many Scriptures referenced in these pages related to giving.  This book will help you to evaluate your own level of giving and possibly view your gifts with a new perspective.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Multnomah Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The World of Jesus by Dr.William H. Marty

I must preface this review by admitting that world history, or any history for that matter, is not my area of expertise.  While I normally avoid books that I think will be over my head, the subject of this one caught my attention.  So I opened it up hoping that it was written in a way I could understand.  For the most part, I was not disappointed.

Understanding the culture and history in biblical times is beneficial for understanding the Scriptures.  This book does a great job at taking the books of the Bible and blending them with what was happening historically.  A major focus is the 400 year span between the testaments.  The author consistently relates the historical events of the day to the impact it had on the Jewish community.

The first few chapters were amazing.  In the Introduction, Dr. Marty gave an overview of the Old Testament (Abraham to the Exile) in just 4 pages!  Then Chapter 1 begins with the return from the exile.  What was so neat is that in telling about the events, he pulled in the minor prophets and characters so that is was easy to see how everything fit together.  Normally these books in the Bible seem so disjointed to me because I can't see how they chronologically fit.  Now I have a better understanding of the place Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and others have in history.  I also got some questions answered such as, "Why did the Israelites begin to be called Jews?" and "What is Hanukkah?".

The middle chapters became a bit more confusing for me, mainly because they focused on those years not referenced in the Bible.  I could recognize some key terms and players that I had learned about in high school history classes, such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Herod the Great.  However, I think someone who had a better grasp on their Greek and Roman history would benefit much more from these chapters!  This book would be a great companion for someone studying this time period because it makes connections between the political events and the impact the events had on the Jews.

This brings me to the end of the book, which again was more to my level.  I enjoyed learning more about the religious parties that are referenced, yet not explained, in the Bible: the scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, and the Essenes.  I also liked the Conclusion which summarized those detailed chapters that I had trouble with earlier, from the exile to the birth of Christ.  (The glossary at the back is a nice touch too!)

While this is a history book, it is much easier to read than a textbook.  The only thing that would have been helpful to include for visual learners, but was left out, are maps (yep...I struggle with geography too!)  Overall, this is a good book for anyone who wants to understand the world Jesus was born into. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Blessed Woman by Debbie Morris

I enjoy when I can hear familiar stories from the Bible, yet view them from a new angle.  That's what Debbie Morris does in this book.  She shares the insight and lessons that she has learned from reading about 12 women in the Bible.  Some women are commonly spoken about, such as Eve, Mary, Esther, and Naomi.  Others such as Jael, Zipporah, and Miriam are less often referenced.  These women all have something to teach us today, and Debbie beautifully explains their stories and helps us make relevant applications.

One lesson that stuck out to me was from the life of Zipporah.  Her name doesn't ring a bell?  It didn't for me either.  She was Moses's wife.  They were married before the whole "burning bush" incident.  Anyhow, once he got the call on his life to go to Egypt and free the slaves, her attitude went south.  It wasn't in her plan.  She set out to accompany Moses to Egypt, but somewhere along the line Moses sent Zipporah and his sons back to live with her father (Exodus 18:2).  She missed witnessing God's miracles.  Debbie writes "Despite her faults, I love Zipporah.  She gets me thinking about how much my bad attitudes can cost me.  She reminds me of what I will miss out on if I choose to be grouchy instead of gracious when things aren't going right". Point attitude matters!

Being a small group leader, I also like the in-depth study guide for each chapter included at the back of the book.  There are journal questions women can complete prior to the group meeting, icebreaker and discussion questions, and suggestions for prayer. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Press in exchange for an honest review.