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Book Review: “The Inheritance”

The InheritanceIt’s been too long since I’ve found the time to read a Michael Phillips book. He remains one of my favorite authors, and his newest book, The Inheritance, reminded me why. This author is a master at creating memorable settings, and his characters within them are deep. Phillips takes us right inside their heads as he draws us into each carefully crafted scene. He reveals needed information at just the right time. The story moves slowly, but precisely, to reveal essential Truth.

The Inheritance is set mostly on Whales Reef, one of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. When clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch dies unexpectedly and without a will, the entire community is thrown into uncertainty. To make things worse, an obnoxious oil tycoon attempts to manipulate the situation in his favor, hoping to purchase the island, remove its inhabitants, and exploit its resources for himself. Only events set in motion more than sixty years before have the unexpected potential to save the islanders’ way of life and to restore what matters most.

As I reached the end of this book, it seemed to me that the whole thing was actually a prelude to the real story to be continued in the next book of this Secrets of the Shetlands series. I’m looking forward to reading it, hopefully soon! I recommend this book to fans of George MacDonald, Scottish historical fiction, and Christian fiction with a powerful take-away message for life. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: “Wicked Women of the Bible”

Wicked WomenWicked Women of the Bible by Ann Spangler is a simple retelling, in Spangler’s words, of twenty Bible stories involving women. In some of these stories, the women truly are wicked—as in evil. In others the women are wicked in the contemporary, ironic sense. For example, Spangler defines David’s wife Abigail as being wicked smart.

Though the stories are factual—these women did exist, Spangler presents them as historical fiction, telling readers what they may have been thinking or what their motives may have been. She includes footnotes throughout, citing sources and clarifying what’s fact and what is speculation on her part.

Following each story, Spangler includes a section called The Times. Here she presents cultural insights relevant to understanding what was going on and how the people of the day would have perceived events.

Spangler closes each chapter with a section called The Takeaway. Personally I think these sections hold the greatest value in this book. The Takeaway includes deep questions meant to help readers apply lessons from each Bible story to their own lives. This section makes the book useful for small group Bible studies, potentially prompting some lively discussions.

I thank Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: “The Methuselah Project”

The Methuselah ProjectThe Methuselah Project by Rick Barry was a surprisingly fun find. Barry has combined historical fiction, science fiction, action adventure, and romance to create one curiosity-grabbing story. Though highly unlikely, Barry is convincing. He leaves the reader believing it could have happened that way.

The story begins in 1943 in the skies over the Third Reich during WWII. When American pilot Roger Greene is taken prisoner, his captors use him as a test subject in an experiment that changes his physiology. Seventy years later is still a captive, and he hasn’t aged. When he finally escapes, it’s into a world full of technology and lingo he doesn’t understand. Greene must convince someone that his story is true before the people who imprisoned him catch up to terminate their experiment.

At the same time (in 2015), Katherine Mueller, a young woman raised by her uncle after her parents’ deaths, is in training to rise in the ranks of a secret society called the Heritage Organization. Her uncle has been grooming her for this most of her life, but, while she wants to please him, she also longs to be free of his control. He doesn’t approve of her career and won’t even let her choose her own dates. When the organization calls on Katherine to participate in a field assignment while her uncle is out of the country, all that Katherine knows of her world must change.

I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to fans of WWII fiction and modern day suspense. Kregel Publications sent me a complimentary copy of The Methuselah Project in exchange for this review.

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Book Review: “Glory Days”

Glory DaysMax Lucado’s new book, Glory Days, takes us through the Book of Joshua with courage and determination and God right by our side. I loved this book! It’s a quick read, but it’s full of knowledge and wisdom we Christians need. Someday I’m going to read it again, slowly, taking my time on all the questions for reflection included at the end of the book. For now, I’m savoring truths about Joshua and Caleb (my favorite as presented through Lucado’s eyes) and Rahab and several modern-day Promised Land dwellers whom Lucado introduces to his readers in this book.

Lucado starts out by explaining how we have three choices for our existence now: slavery to sin, free from sin but wandering in the wilderness, dwelling in the Promised Land. He then goes on to show us how we can experience that Promised Land life right now. Most chapters start with a Bible story from Joshua, some with a modern experience that parallels the Bible story in some way leading into that story. Then, as he reaches the end of the story, Lucado quickly switches, showing how we face similar challenges and can respond triumphantly by trusting in God to show us the way and to fight for us in order to glorify His name through us for all the world to see.

My words are not enough to express how highly I think of this book. Just know I recommend you read it! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

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Book Review: “The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis”

The Surprising ImaginationAt the beginning of this year, I challenged myself to read or reread as many of C.S. Lewis’s books as I possibly could. I thought I’d be able to get through them all. Silly me. His books must be digested slowly. I’ve only read seven so far—currently working on the Space Trilogy. Yet it’s been a worthwhile pursuit.

Because of this pursuit, when Handlebar Publishing offered me a complimentary copy of The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal for an honest review, I could not resist. It has also been a worthwhile pursuit.

Like Lewis’s books, this book must be digested slowly. As it says on the cover, it’s an introduction, an introduction to the writings of C.S. Lewis. Each chapter defines a different kind of imagination seen in Lewis’s works. Once the imagination is defined, the authors flesh it out by looking at examples of it used by C.S. Lewis or other authors. Finally, they choose one specific book by Lewis to focus on, making the particular use of imagination clear.

Not only does this book give an overview of Lewis’s work, it gives insight into his personality, Christian perspectives to consider, and writing advice. I’ve enjoyed this book and am happy to recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about C.S. Lewis, his beliefs, and his books.

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Book Review: “Hiding Places”

Hiding PlacesAs I read Erin Healy’s latest book, Hiding Places, I wondered several times, “Where does she come up with these ideas?” In this book, for example, she’s combined an elderly woman and an eleven-year-old girl, both mostly forgotten, ignored, discarded by their family with a homeless man-boy framed for a murder he didn’t commit with the history of some of the struggles of people with a Japanese heritage living in Colorado during World War II with an orphaned cougar cub with a resort hotel that has secret tunnels and, of course, hiding places. Somehow she took all of these ingredients (with a few more I haven’t mentioned) and arranged them together to produce a captivating story with a powerful message—or two.

Healy has a gift for taking her readers right into the heads of her characters, revealing their motivations, so that even when they’re doing wrong, you can’t help but hope things will work out happily for them in the end. I guess you could say she approaches these characters with compassion and teaches her readers to do the same—all while offering a story full of surprises and strange happenings. Healy’s books are always a treat! I recommend Hiding Places to you.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending me a complimentary copy of Hiding Places in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist”

Atheist Who Didnt ExistThe Atheist Who Didn’t Exist by Andy Bannister (with a foreword by Ravi Zacharias) is a brilliant read. Parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, as I struggled not to laugh out loud again and again one afternoon, my husband became quite concerned. I haven’t had that much fun with a book in a while!

At the same time, Bannister’s points are absolutely serious. Each chapter takes on one of new atheism’s arguments against the existence of God and shows where the argument fails. With subtle skill, Bannister takes readers from entertaining analogies to clearly made points.

In the first chapter, he tells readers the purpose for the book. If you are a Christian, he is equipping you to defend yourself against evangelistic atheists who love to debate and would like nothing better than to convert your way of thinking to theirs. If you are an atheist, his aim is “to clear away some of the weeds of bad arguments so that a more sensible dialogue can be had.” His hope is that you will “at least commit to being a thought-through atheist—perhaps a doubter, rather than a sceptic; somebody who is willing to think deeply and think well.” In other words, both Christians and atheists can benefit from reading this book. Agnostics and people of faiths other than Christianity will find ideas worth considering, too.

I thank Kregel Publications for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I enjoyed reading it and will refer to it again.

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Book Review: “It’s Good to Be Queen”

Its Good to Be QueenIt’s Good to Be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs is a book every woman should read. Told in the style of The Girl’s Still Got It, It’s Good to Be Queen is a detailed commentary disguised as a fascinating story full of practical truth women can strive to apply to life. The book is based on 1 Kings 10:1-13, the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon. Higgs takes this passage apart, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, to introduce readers to this historical queen. Sometimes she uses her imagination, but she always tells when she’s doing so. The Queen of Sheba was a real woman, and Higgs shows readers that we’ve much to learn from her. The ten chapters of the book teach traits we’re wise to develop in our lives and tell us, through the queen’s example, how we can begin to do so.

Each chapter starts with a fictionalized, personal letter from the Queen of Sheba that reads like a journal entry. This is followed by the verse or verses we’re looking at in the chapter then Higgs’ detailed commentary presented in a style that’s insightful and fun. The book ends with discussion questions, a study guide, and notes full of references to sources for further study and Bible passages to look up. Higgs has done her homework; this study is complete!

This engaging book is ideal for either personal or group Bible study. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: “The Bones Will Speak”

The Bones Will SpeakI just finished reading my first Gwen Marcey novel. The Bones Will Speak is actually the second book in this series by Carrie Stuart Parks, but it stands alone. (There were a few references to Gwen’s previous case found in A Cry from the Dust, but I don’t think these gave anything too significant away. I still plan to read the first book.)

I don’t usually compare books to television, but The Bones Will Speak could have been a cross between Criminal Minds and Longmire. Abandoned by her husband during a bout with cancer, Gwen Marcey lives in Montana with her teenage daughter. She works as a forensic artist whenever the local police department can afford to hire her and doubles as a profiler just because they need her to and she can. Technically, Gwen’s not on the case in this book, but the serial killer is after her . . . her daughter . . . and her dog. With the help of her best friend, Beth, a lady with a love for serious research, Gwen must solve the case to save everyone she loves.

Fans of detective and suspense stories will love this book. I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this review.

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Book Review: “The Curiosity Keeper”

The Curiosity KeeperThe Curiosity Keeper by Sarah Ladd has everything I love in a novel. It’s set in England in the early 1800’s. The heroine, independent yet vulnerable, is in peril. The reluctant hero, truly noble, is being thwarted at every turn. A great mystery must be solved or all will be lost for both—and for the people they love. A sweet romance results from the struggle. And . . . best of all . . . I hope and suspect . . . a new story is subtly introduced, giving me another great book to look forward to. (I really do want to know what will become of . . . I’d better not mention her name and risk spoiling the outcome for you.)

This story opens in London where Camille Iverness runs her father’s curiosity shop while he transacts mysterious business elsewhere. Not located in the best part of London, Camille longs for the countryside where she grew up—and for the love she knew while living on her grandfather’s estate. Her mother has been absent for eleven years, using the excuse that she’s caring for her once-ailing, but now healthy mom in Portugal. Camille feels the abandonment but has learned to take care of herself.

Jonathan Gilchrist knows abandonment of another kind. As the second son, he was free to pursue a satisfying career as the village apothecary with his father’s focus only on the heir. When his brother died, however, Jonathan found himself burdened with expectations he had no interest in and pressured by a father who cared only for the family’s status and wealth.

Camille and Jonathan meet when a stolen jewel becomes a mutual threat. Though strangers, they must rely on each other to solve a crime and save their futures.

Ladd tells an intriguing story that reveals the pitfalls of serving wealth rather than what really matters and the blessings of discerning what is trustworthy and worth holding onto. I recommend this book and thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.