Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Inklings of Oxford: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Their Friends Text by Harry Lee Poe, Photography by James Ray Veneman

If the only reason you buy this book is for photographs, you have more than gotten your money’s worth! This is one of the best books I’ve seen for photographs. This will not be just a book you want to put on your coffee table and leave there. Your going to want to pick it up and look at it over and over again. If you have traveled to England and specifically Oxford, this would be a great commemorative book of your trip.
Then we get to the text. It is part history, part biography. Oxford is a city of such rich history. The book follows mainly C.S. Lewis’s life and then Tolkien’s when they intersect and later form the Inklings. The members of the Inklings gathered together to share their writings and to help each other improve their craft. History has been forever changed because of what went on during those meetings. The book covers 60+ years of history, and as an added bonus, includes basic maps and information for one to take their own walking tours of Oxford and see the sites photographed and mentioned in the book
I found myself more distracted by all the beautiful pictures when trying to read the book. It took a lot of concentration to just sit down and read the book, as I just wanted to sit and look at all the pictures and dream of England! But both the text and the photographs are great. After having read several biographies of Lewis, but only one on Tolkien, I found there was much still to learn about these men. Seeing where they lived and the places they saw gave color to their lives and writings. This is one book you will not be sorry to own. Even if you are unfamiliar with Lewis and Tolkien, get the book simply for the gorgeous photography of Oxford, England.
I received this book free from Zondervan for the purpose of this review.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Wedding Invitation By Alice J. Wisler

Samantha Bravencourt has received a wedding invitation for her friend’s wedding in North Carolina. She is looking forward to catching up with some of her college friends, but things don’t quite turn out the way she expected. However, she gets some unexpected surprises by running into other people from her past, people she never expected to see again, which take her back to her time spent in the Philippines teaching refugees before they came to the USA.
The story goes back and forth between 1993, the present day, and Samantha’s time in the Philippines in 1985 and 1986. Sometime it can get confusing which year the story is taking place, but that is my only “complaint” about the story. I enjoyed the story, especially it’s connection to the Philippines, after having traveled their myself a few years ago. The characters are all interesting and unique. I enjoyed getting to know the various people in Samantha’s life.
I received a copy of this book free from the author for the purpose of this review.

For an article about Wisler's writing go here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

What do Stephanie, a college student researching a family mystery in Columbia, SC and Camden, a photographer in NYC have in common? A house that was a stop on the underground railroad and a runaway slave who stole a family’s treasure. Camden, after not getting paid for her last photography job and having no other jobs lined up, decides the only place she can go is the one place she felt safe growing up, her grandmother’s home, Crescent Hill. However, when she arrives, things are not as she expected. Will she be able to figure out her next step? How will Stephanie’s journey help or harm Camden’s? Will both women be able to find the answers they are looking for?
While the first couple chapters took the time to set up the characters and the story line, once I got into the story, I was hooked. It was a quick read and I managed to read most of the book in just a few hours. I was intrigued by the story line and wondered how things would all work out. Would the bad guys find what they were looking for or would the truth be found out? Once I got into the book, I didn’t want to put it down. It was a great mystery that had me hooked! I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries or historical novels set around the Civil War. Dobson did a great job of weaving faith and suspense into a great novel!

I received this book from Kregel for the purpose of this review.

It's Christmas in my mailbox!!!

I have gotten several new books lately, including 4 new ones today, and read 4 of them over the weekend. So look for these reviews soon:
The House of Hope: God's Love for the Abandoned Orphans of China by Elisabeth Gifford
The Names of God Bible (God's Word Translation)
Decision Points by George W. Bush
The Inklings of Oxford, Text by Harry Lee Poe, Photography by James Ray Veneman
A Woman's Guide to Fasting by Lisa E. Nelson
Ciao, Bella by Ryan Phillips
A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Girlfriends Guidebook: Navigating Female Friendships

Relationships are complex. People don’t come with user manuals to help us figure each other out. While over the years, many have written books on dating and marriage, far less books have been written on friendships. The Bible defines a friend as one who “sticks closer than a brother” and one who “would lay down his life for you” (Proverbs 18:24 and John 15:13). In our social media culture, it seems that true friends, Biblical friends, are often very hard to come by, and very precious when they are found. When other relationships break down, we go to our closest friends. But what do we do when there is a rift between close friends?
Marian Jordan gives three key points vital to friendships that she further breaks down in the bulk of the book. First, as women, we need to make sure we allow God to fill our emotional needs. We can’t seek our boyfriend or spouse or other friends to fill that emotional need. Secondly, we need to realize our own sin nature has an adverse affect on promoting godly relationships. Our pride, envy and jealousy can get in the way and create such baggage that when left to grow will only destroy our friendships. Finally we need to understand and practice the characteristics of godly friendships.
As a child, I had a period when I had just changed schools and was lonely. One very wise teacher shared some advice that I have not forgotten. She told me, “if you want to have friends, you must be a friend.” This book was very much a reminder of that. With the backdrop of traveling, Marian Jordan does a great job of illustrating the joys and heartaches of friendships, and how we as women can have godly friendships. I highly recommend this book to any mom wanting to improve her friendships and to teach her daughters about godly friendships. I recommend this to any ministry leader wanting to teach a series on godly friendships or to do a weekend or week long retreat. While I suspect this book was meant for women around the ages of 16-30, it could be used for women of all ages, the world over. This book will be an invaluable resource for this generation of women!
I received this book free from PR by the Book for the purpose of this review.
For more information on Marian Jordan or her ministry, Redeemed Girl Ministries, go to:

Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii by Robin Jones Gunn

Let me just say, I read this whole book in under 3 hours! And I had a huge smile the whole time. I planned on just reading the first hundred pages or so before going to bed, but I could not put the book down! For those of you who grew up reading Robin Jones Gunn’s books about Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, and Katie Weldon, this book picks up 4 years later after Sierra goes to Brazil. 
Sierra has spent the last four years as a missionary in Brazil. Her friend, Mariana, who has helped Sierra as her translator over the years, convinces Sierra to go on a vacation to Sunset Beach, Hawaii. This vacation comes at the perfect time for Sierra. She has some decisions to make about her future in Brazil or what her next step might be. Mariana’s intention is to go to Hawaii to meet guys and have a good time. Will both girls find what they are looking for? Or will God surprise them at Sunset Beach?
I grew up reading Gunn’s Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen and Katie Weldon books starting first at the end of elementary school and junior high and continuing over the last 15 years. They are books that I have read and reread, revisiting those old friends. Reading Sunset Beach was like catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I can’t wait to read Gunn’s book, Cottage by the Sea (Summer 2012) which tells what happens next in a book about Erin Bryce, Jordan’s mother. Robin, you did a great job on this book!!! I can’t wait to keep reading!!

I received a copy of this book free for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

Travel with Patti Lacy … to China
No instant coffee or tea. Yes instant friends.
Sue and I land in Beijing, where Sue vows to show me the China foreigners never see. Yep, I’m shaking in my comfortable touring shoes!!!

Soon, the people of China (even little girls!) embraced me despite (or perhaps because of) their fascination with my big feet, ugly shoes, “watery” (blue) eyes, “washed out” skin, unacceptable use of the left hand, and “gorilla-like” height. And I will never be the same for that lavishing of love.

On China: Day 1, Sue and I wandered the maze of hutongs and befriended The Turtle Man, who shared his love for his home and his pets.

At first children shrank away from the big bad stranger but soon trumped my attempt at a smile with Chinese wonders of pearly teeth and dimpled cheeks.

This little boy offered a hug…kinda.

Even the dogs warmed up to an invader of the American type.

The glimmer in an eye, the flash of teeth, speaks “Hello” in every language. Praise God for the lack of scowled faces, clenched teeth, tight lips. We were ushered into the neighborhood mah jong parlor, where locals begged to have their pictures taken.

Cooks waved us toward alleyway diners. Isn’t this a GREAT sign? Not sure of the last foreigner who found this place, but certainly East Met West this night!

Amazingly, a couple we’d met earlier in a local park strolled by. A whistle and holler brought Jessica, a Berkley grad and current Beijing schoolteacher, and Brad, a Danish scholar with, according to Sue, perfect Mandarin (the fink), to our table, where we received fab touring tips and insight into the hearts, minds, and souls of China. Yeah, this dinner cost around 24 yuan (less than $4.00), or $1 buck apiece (6.75 yuan=$1). Yeah, Sue and I treated them. Aren’t we generous??!!

On Day 1, the people of China embraced me, a practice that continued.
Did they like me or just pretend to be welcoming? I don’t know.
Did I like them? No. I loved them.
Questions: Would you go to China if your story—and God—called? Are you hesitant to embrace new people, new practices? Would you have been afraid to wander the hutongs of Beijing?
About the Book
A storm the size of Texas brews when Gloria Powell and Kai Chang meet in a Dallas hotel. They have come to discuss the future of Lily, the daughter Gloria adopted from China and the sister Kai hopes to reclaim. Kai is a doctor who had to give up her little sister during the Cultural Revolution and has since discovered that an inherited genetic defect may be waiting to fatally strike Lily.

Gloria's relationship with her daughter is tattered and strained, and the arrival of Kai, despite the woman's apparent good intentions, makes Gloria fearful. Gloria longs to restore her relationship with Lily, but in the wake of this potentially devastating diagnosis, is Kai an answer to prayer...or will her arrival force Gloria to sacrifice more than she ever imagined?
Watch the book trailer!!
About the Author
Patti Lacy graduated from Baylor University in 1977 with a BS in education. She taught at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, until she retired in 2006 to pursue writing full time. She and her husband, Alan, have two grown children. Visit Patti at

Here is my own person review.
Reclaiming Lily
by Patti Lacy
If you had adopted a child from another country, and then several years later you are contacted by a member of that child’s family, how would you react? Would you be scared that person would be trying to take your child away? Or would your child try to cut all ties with you and your family to get to know their biological family? Would you want your child to get to know their biological family? What if this family member had information about the biological family’s medical history that could impact your child? Would that change how you feel?
This is the situation that Gloria Powell finds herself in. Several years earlier, she and her husband adopted a child, Lily, from China, who they renamed Joy. Lily’s sister Kai Chang has found them and has information about inherited genetic problems that Lily may face. Gloria’s relationship with Joy is also in shambles, meaning Kai’s presence may hurt Gloria’s relationship with Joy even more. Will Gloria be able to let Kai and Joy get to know each other? Will Joy be able to figure out who she is and have answers to why she was given up for adoption?
This is one of my new favorite books. I didn’t want to put it down. I brought it to work with me and read it on my breaks and stayed up as late as I dare reading it until I finished it. It is a fresh look at some of the challenges of adoption and raising kids who have ties to both the country of their birth and where they were raised. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in China, adoption, or just enjoys a good read!

I received this book free from Tywebbin tours for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fyodor Dostoevsky By Peter Leithart

 Fyodor Dostoevsky
By Peter Leithart
Series: Christian Encounters Series

Fyodor Dostoevsky, was a prolific 19th century Russian writer, who is probably most famous for his work, The Brothers Karamazov. This biography is set up as a conversation between Dostoevsky and his friend, Maikov after dinner one evening. It is almost as if Maikov is interviewing Dostoevsky or that Dostoevsky is reminissing about his life. He shares about his childhood, spending time in Darovoe. Then he moves on to talk about exile in Siberia. The majority of the book is about Dostoevsky’s  two marriages, struggles with debt, and his writings.
While a relatively well known author, many people know very little about his life. Even taking a Russian literature class in high school didn’t teach me much about him other than what he wrote and that he wrote about the common people, the peasants. Like many of the Russian stories I read, it was hard to keep the various names straight as they can be similar. Once you get passed that, it was a good biography and I learned a lot about Dostoevsky’s life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Spiritual Warfare for Women by Leignann McCoy

What would happen if we took a soldier and dropped him in the midst of the battle without any kind of training? How likely is it that the soldier would survive? Yet that is exactly what we tend to do as Christians. After we get saved we are dropped in this spiritual battle that many of us know nothing about. Do we take the time to learn about this battle and teach others about it? Or do we just stay ignorant about it, wondering why things are happening around us? McCoy’s book shows us our enemy and shares with us some of his tactics. It is like reading a war manual about our enemy.
While this book may be a bit slow going, it is a vital book for any woman who desires to be dangerous for God by fighting against Satan and his demons. I highly recommend this book to any woman in leadership or ministry. This book will help you teach others about Satan’s tactics and how to be victorious in the battle.
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this review.