Romance with a Twist | Posted March-27-2014 I cut my teeth on Christian fiction by Frank Peretti, so I was happy for the chance to review his latest. He didn't disappoint. I was more than halfway through the book before I figured out what was going on, and only then because the author spelled it out for me. Was this all one big magician's stunt? An alien experiment? Perhaps a nightmare? Something that could be explained?
It's not often that I am totally in the dark, but this story remained a mystery for a long time. When the characters and I finally figured out what was going on, the situation got tense as they tried to figure out how to ensure a happy ending.
By the way, I didn't include ALL of the publisher's teaser above, nor did I read any of the summaries before reading the book. I'd recommend that you do the same, because they're all jumping ahead and answering the big question that makes this book so intriguing. That, or I am the only person on the planet who didn't "get" how this was possible from the get-go.
I thought I'd wear a hole in the protective cover of my e-reader from how quickly I was flipping the pages. There just wasn't a good spot to take a breath, put the book down for the night, and come back to it. Peretti really drew me into this one. I couldn't tell the bad guys from good ones, and I had no clue how this would end until the last.
The suspense in this book should appeal to those readers who like an edgy twist, while the power of a life-long love should satisfy the romantics among us. Thanks, Mr. Peretti!
I received this book free from the publisher through netGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Disturbingly Real, Hard to Put Down | Posted March-27-2014 Don't read this book if you want to go on believing that justice always prevails. Don't read this book if you prefer your heroes perfect and sinless. Don't read this book if you want to guess the ending before you are halfway through. But if you are looking for suspense, thrills, and a story that draws you so far in that you're afraid to even jaywalk, this won't disappoint.
I did not read The Priest's Graveyard, the story of a vigilante priest who exacts justice on criminals who've slipped through the system, but I didn't have any trouble picking where this second book begins. As Danny does his time in an experimental prison with a new set of rules, he finds himself in the middle of a game of vengeance, power, and insanity. Renee is pulled in, and with the help of a former cop, must find a way to determine who the mastermind is behind the twisted game they are forced to play. All the while, Danny is struggling with his vow of non-violence, unsure of how he'll keep his promise when he is surrounded by threats, torture, and now the involvement of the woman he lives for.
The reality of life in prison is fascinating, albeit difficult to think about. Dekker paints an all-too-real picture of the culture that exists within the walls of this alternative society, drawing us into a world where normal rules don't apply, where only the strong survive, where prisoners enter as men and leave as monsters. And where sometimes, innocent people can't escape from the living hell they've been thrown into.
Although I prefer Dekker's fantasy novels, I can't deny that I was unable to put this book down, except for those times when I was very disturbed and needed to step away from the pages. It was that real. And it has renewed my zeal to pray for those in the criminal justice system, whether guilty or innocent of the crimes they are being punished for.
PARENTAL RATING: This one earns an R in our house, due to the realistic depiction of violence. Considering the style and setting of this story, it was totally appropriate. However, my girls are a bit too sensitive for this level of gruesome, and, to be honest, I had to skim through some parts myself, to be sure I could sleep at night.
**I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.
Dekker and Lee at Their Best! | Posted March-27-2014 Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Havah) are probably two of my favorite authors, so finding out that they’d teamed up on a new series was great news. This is the first of The Books of Mortals. I’d read the predictions that this series would rival the Circle Trilogy/Series but seriously doubted that would be possible. After all, those were just epic portrayals of God's master plan for humanity. Well, maybe the predictions were on to something.
I LOVED THIS BOOK! The violence that sometimes prevents me from finishing a Dekker book was manageable this time (maybe Lee’s feminine touch helped out a bit), and I fell right into this almost-real, almost-fantasy, could-be-the-future setting. The allegory is strong, just like I prefer, and the plot had the characteristic twists and turns that keep us Dekker fans coming back for more. I did predict one major event (a little disappointing), but there were enough sneak attacks to make me feel that I didn’t know what would happen next. I liked that there was a bit of resolution but the journey of Rom and his companions is far from over. I’ll be the first in line for book 2, Mortal.
You've Never Read Genesis Like THIS! | Posted March-27-2014
There aren't enough starts to rate this book, which remains my favorite.
Put aside the flannel-graph figures of the Adam and Eve, and the coloring pages of the Garden of Eden. This book fills in the details behind the well-known Sunday-school story, from the creation of Eve until almost a millennium later. Beginning at the moment that God ("the One") calls out "Wake!" to the woman he's just taken from Adam's side, Eve tells us the joys, pains, victories, and mistakes of her life.
The first part of the book describes life in the garden, showing us how the perfection of that world really looked. The animals and humans communicated with each other without the need of spoken words. Beautiful sights and sounds made up the paradise that housed these first inhabitants, and the author's descriptions were both detailed and poetic. (At this point let me caution future readers that some content is a bit mature. The marital relationship was handled delicately but with more candor than would be appropriate for teenagers.)
Hearing the story from Eve's perspective made so many points come alive, such as the first sin. I felt as if I was there with her as she neared the tree and fell into the serpent's trap. And even though I knew what she'd do, I was begging her not to. I felt the emotions along with Eve throughout the exile, in the adjustments she and Adam had to make in living outside of paradise, and the stages of life and death that she learned about. The child-like innocence she possessed and the fact that she'd lived in a perfect state, gave her a unique perspective.
As the story and the years go on, sin and its effects on the world are more and more prevalent. I was reminded of how truly sad this life is, in comparison to what the Creator intended.
Even knowing the important details in the Biblical account, I never became bored. I loved the way the author delved into the interesting extra things that the Bible doesn't mention. For example, how did the exile play out? How did Adam and Eve learn to survive after the exile? What did the mark on Cain look like?
The story showed things such as the beginnings of idol worship, the evolution of arts, how the Fall affected Adam and Eve's relationship. And none of these elaborations took away from the facts I know from the Bible. If anything, I finished this book with a greater understanding of God's love, the effects of sin in our lives, and how beautiful the second Adam's sacrifice was in reconciling us to the One.
Action-Packed Thriller | Posted March-27-2014 These immortals don't play around. Thinking they must earn their way back to God's favor, they have been exacting justice on sinners for thousands of years. Is there a bit of us in their story? Do we try to buy God with what we qualify as good works, or are we willing to accept Christ's sacrifice as enough?
I had a hard time keeping up with all the characters introduced in the first few chapters, but the excitement of the story took off quickly and drew me in. The descriptive writing made me feel like I was watching it all happen. I appreciated that the descriptions didn't go into gratuitously gory detail, though, a fact that put this book on the list of those I'd recommend to teens. My girls will be very happy to hear that, since it's not often that a thriller passes my apt-for-my-teens test.
I figured out a couple of the surprises in the plot, but I'm ultra-sensitive to foreshadowing and can't fault the author for that. Overall I enjoyed reading this action-packed thriller and look forward to more from this author.
I received this book free from the publisher through BookSneeze®.com in exchange for an honest review.
Corny, But a Quick Read | Posted March-27-2014 This begins as a funny--okay, let's go ahead and say it--a corny story of a self-declared neighborhood watch officer encountering a mad scientist, his android sidekick, and a subdivision full of monsters. Within a few chapters, this silly book becomes a serious look at each and every person who claims to be a Christian. Are we really living what we say we are, or have we stopped part of the way into this abundant life we claim, walking around as half-dead monsters?
Matt Mikalatos uses a ton of goofy humor to make the point that although we may be masquerading as born again and full of life, it's possible that inside hides a spiritual vampire, zombie, werewolf, or worse. An equal-opportunity monster-killer, Mikalatos covers all the bases in Christianity, from conservatives to Catholics to independent "generic" Christians. We learn what makes a monster and then are challenged to look at ourselves and deal with what we find. Night of the Living Dead Christian is a quick, easy read that will leave you thinking about what's lurking inside you for a long time after you finish.
NOTE: NetGalley provided me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Devotional Version | Posted March-27-2014 Author Stormie Omartian has done it again! Taking The Power of a Praying Wife a step further, this devotional captures all the feel of her former books, with a practical method for putting these prayers into regular daily use. The topics are divided into three categories--me, him, and us--which rotate throughout the 100 days. This takes the focus off of "God, fix him," types of prayers and invites the reader to look inward and see where God might be wanting to work in her own life, and then to look at her marriage as a partnership.
Each of the 100 days offers an easy-to-read explanation of that day's prayer topic, including supporting scriptures and specific instances when this prayer may be needed or particularly useful. The prayer then wraps this all together in a way that each woman can either read it as written or adapt for her individual circumstances.
The topics range from broad, such as number 31, "When I Long to Excel in All I Do," to very specific, as in number 80, "When He Must Make Peace with His Father". This book can be read straight through to get the maximum benefit of the "I, he, we" pattern, or can be taken out of order when a specific prayer need exists.
This is definitely a book every married Christian woman should read, and one that would make a very timely gift for a new bride. There is a lot to be learned within the pages of the devotional, and a lot to be gained from the prayers that will follow.
Get Ready to Have Your World Shifted | Posted March-27-2014
I listened to this as an audio book read by the author himself, and am I ever thankful for that pause feature on my mp3 player! Every few minutes, I found myself pausing to take notes or to process what I'd just heard. I am sure I'll be wading through some of those ideas for a long time.
The book starts by outlining the status quo--the person loving life in his safe little world, content to watch other people have adventures on reality TV and keep a nice distance by spending most of his free time on the couch. But occasionally something happens that rocks his world. Maybe he has an encounter with someone much less fortunate, or he goes on a short-term missions trip. How does this person work through what's happened to him and let it help shape his future?
Jeff Goins issues the challenge of stepping into those opportunities, recognizing the impact they can have on our lives, and then figuring out how to put into perspective these paradigm shifts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book doesn't advocate running off and doing abnormal things just for the sake of the adventure. Instead, the author encourages us to use these experiences to teach us that life isn't all about ME.
I was particularly encouraged by the section that explained why reaching out to meet a need often hurts us more than it gives us that warm fuzzy feeling, because it causes us to recognize how small we are and how broken the world is.
I'm particularly interested in the implications he makes for young adults, who are typically on a quest to find themselves. Goins recommends that instead of looking at the world as it revolves around me, find a need that calls to my heart and determine what I can do to help meet it.
So many people came to mind as I worked my way through these chapters. I will be recommending this to older teens and twenty-somethings, as well as to anyone coming on short-term mission trips. This book would be a great debriefing tool for mission teams, especially for those people who don't know what to do with the reality-check they've just been exposed to. And I'd definitely recommend it to other long-term missionaries, as it's a nice tool for examining our motives and our vision.
If you want to be wrecked, of if you have been and you don't know where to go from here, get your hands on this book.
I received this book free from christianaudio in exchange for an honest review.
Funny but Insightful | Posted March-27-2014
With her slightly corny, offbeat sense of humor, the author draws you in and makes you won't to hear what this silly gal has to say. She addresses the insecurity and self-doubt that every girl faces, then gives practical advice about how to shift your way of thinking and acting in order to reflect the value God places on you.
Each chapter focuses on a different part of the body, explaining the significance of this part. How does it reflect the beauty God put in you? How can you guard that specific part and use it to glorify God? Some are obvious, such as the eyes, the ears, and the heart. But what about the shoulders? The knees? The stomach?
"Chew on This" at the end of each chapter provides scriptures to look up, questions to think through, and thoughts to journal. An appendix with recipes and lists for random things Annie has mentioned within the chapters, such as onion soup, ends a quirky but very real, very relevant book.
I would definitely recommend it for teen girls, although the advice and truths apply to those of us who are a bit older, as well. :)
**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, courtesy of netGalley.com.
Diviner, by Bryan Davis, is the third book in the Dragons of Starlight series. In the first two books, a few brave heroes leave their planet to travel to a world where they seek to free people who have been cruelly enslaved by dragons. They meet up with other humans and a few dragons who are working toward the same goal, and find that some from both worlds have special powers. While learning how and when to use these powers, various wrong choices are made, leading to more and more trouble along the way and separation of the team. We find our team of heroes coming back together in Diviner, but still not sure of each other or of their powers. They must rely on each other, but complications over romantic feelings, competition, and mistrust could threaten their mission.
The spiritual implications of this book are very strong. Just like those who are enslaved to sin and don’t even realize life could be different, the slaves on this dark planet seem oblivious to the freedom they could experience. As the warriors work out plans to end the slavery, they find that the slaves themselves aren’t on board with a fight for their liberation. Fear of the unknown, of possible failure, of not knowing how to survive without their cruel taskmasters—all this keeps them from rising up to break their chains. One of the characters sums it up this way on page 333,
“How could someone who had never known freedom understand the reality of living without chains?”
There are also similarities between the well-meaning members of the team and modern-day Christians. These fighters are warring against an unseen evil, something that goes deeper than the shackles and whips that control the slaves, just as we war against powers and principalities. They lose sight of this often, though, and engage in battle against specific people, or more often, dragons. Their hearts are in the right place, but misguided attempts to do the right thing without seeking guidance from the Creator ends up hurting people in the process of trying to save them. I was reminded of how many times this happens to us in the modern world.
Even though this is geared towards teens, it’s an enticingly complicated book (and series) that kept me turning pages in the wee hours of the night. It is written for ages 13-16, according to Zondervan, but I’d advise caution if your teen is sensitive to violence. Several people are burned by the dragons, and the depiction of the cruelty the slaves endure is pretty graphic. You also won’t want to read this one without having read the first two, or you’ll be lost from page one. If you feel your young reader is up to the challenge, this would be a great book for parents to read around the same time, as the themes touched on could lead to some very good discussions. And if this sort of high-paced adventure interests you, check out the companion series written for adults, Tales of Starlight.
**NOTE: Thank you, Zondervan and NetGalley, for providing a free e-copy of this book to me for review.