Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review of C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian by Gregory S. Cootsona

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 I love the works of C.S. Lewis. I've loved reading about him and learning about his life. I think he has an amazing way of being able to explain elements of the Christian faith. And I think that he has a beautiful gift of storytelling. I "met" Lewis through the Narnia stories as a child. I then moved into some of his nonfiction as I got older. And then as a mother, I've had the pleasure of sharing Narnia with my children and introducing them to some of his nonfiction as they grow.


Gregory S. Cootsona takes a new approach to looking at Lewis' life. Instead of a biography or a critique of his specific works, Cootsona looks at various crises that Lewis faced in his life, how his works reflect the crises he was going through, and how we, as Christians, can be encouraged and learn through Lewis' work.

The premise of the book was very interesting. It's true that, when readers consider Lewis' life, we can see several crises that he encountered- from the death of loved ones to difficult school situations to a crisis of faith and belief. Lewis' life and works were shaped by these things that he encountered. Cootsona breaks these down into three categories for the organization of the book- The Crises of Atheism, The Crises of Christian Faith, and The Crises of Human Life. Within each category, he looks at instances in Lewis' life and examples from his works.

As a long time Lewis fan, I found parts of the book interesting. I thought that occasionally it was rather wordy and difficult to follow. And there were some elements of Lewis' life in which I hold a different opinion than that of the author. I also had thought the book had a rather long introduction with so much explanation about how the book was going to be structured that I was losing interest before I actually got the real "meat" of the book.

If you enjoy reading about Lewis and his works, this read may be worthwhile. I think, perhaps, it would be easier read in "bites" instead of trying to digest the whole thing at once.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Review of Magnolia Market by Judy Christie

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Magnolia Market is the second in a Christian fiction series from Judy Christie. I haven't read the first, and this one was easy to read as a stand alone novel. Having enjoyed it, I'd like to go back and look for the first and look forward to others in the series.


From the book's description:
Fresh starts aren’t nearly as glamorous as they appear. And love isn’t any easier the second time around.
Avery Broussard was savoring her long-dormant optimism. It was the first anniversary of her husband’s death, and she was finally going to buy the dress boutique from her former mother-in-law. After a year of saving, the deal was nearly done. Avery was about to get her life back.But every deal in Samford, Louisiana, can change at the whim of a Broussard. After being unceremoniously ejected from the very boutique she planned to buy—the boutique she herself had rescued from ruin—she becomes a woman without a future . . . suddenly at war with her late husband’s family.
When carpenter T. J. Aillet begins working for the Broussards doing manual labor, he overhears enough to know that Avery is being victimized. Soon enough, T. J. is lassoed into the squabble by his family connections, his good heart . . . and the undeniable attraction he feels toward Avery.But the Aillets are no strangers to Samford society—and T. J. knows what happens when you cross the Broussards. Could these two misfits ever make a start together? Or will the pressures of Samford society pull them apart before they even get a chance to try?

 Magnolia Market doesn't have a "preachy" tone at all. Both of our main characters- Avery and T.J. are Christians and the things they say and do throughout the book reflect this. But there isn't any particular "message" to the book. It is just a good, clean interesting read with a little bit of romance.

The characters were well developed. I found myself getting to know them and liking them as I read. The story line was interesting and compelling, and I looked forward to having time to read it. There wasn't anything particularly deep and moving about Magnolia Market, but it was simply just a good and enjoyable, light read.

I give this one 4 stars and a PG rating for content.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.




Review of Every Valley: Advent With Scriptures of Handel's Messiah

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Handel's Messiah is still one of the classic musical performances of Christmas. Throughout the years there have been multiple versions of this beautiful, classical Christmas music. And one can't help but be drawn into worship with the first strains. In fact, when I read the title of this book- Every Valley: Advent With Scriptures of Handel's Messiah- the words of the Messiah began ringing through my mind. And so I loved the idea of this book. From the description:

 Handel's Messiah is one of the most beloved musical works of the western world, playing an especially sentimental role in many people's Christmas traditions. The libretto of the work, taken directly from the King James text of fourteen books of the Bible, has turned many otherwise forgettable phrases into memorable, singable, cherished lines of Scripture.

This gift-worthy book will delight and inspire classical music fans and those for whom Messiah is a beloved Christmas tradition with essays exploring the theological, historical, and pastoral implications of the Scriptures that make up Handel's Messiah.
Forty reflections journey in order through the oratorio, taking the reader deeper into less-often studied texts like Malachi 3:3 and bringing new light to oft-recited passages like Luke 2:9-14. Each reflection offers the libretto from Messiah, the same passage in NRSV, and a brief commentary on the text, written by a respected scholar or pastor. Readers can peruse the book at leisure or examine one reflection per day throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.

 And I wasn't disappointed. There are forty meditations in this book so that it can be used during Advent and throughout the twelve days of Christmas. Each meditation begins with a Scripture phrase from Messiah. The reference for the phrase is also given so that you can look it up and read it in context. Then the context of that phrase in the Messiah is given, the words of the classical piece. And then there is a brief commentary with something for the reader to think about as he meditates on this Scripture.

 Any music lover or fan of the classical piece will enjoy these Advent reflections. I love that the words of Messiah are are the basis for the meditations. And I also love that the passages from which those words are taken are there in context as well. I didn't know the Biblical context for each part. The reflections are thought provoking, leading the reader to really think through the Scripture. 

Every Valley is a great personal Advent devotional, or it would make a beautiful gift- especially for a music lover.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

How Do We Know the Bible Is True from New Leaf Press

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 The Bible tells us to be ready always to give an answer for the hope that is in us. I think this means that we need to be ready to tell people not only what we believe but also why we believe it to be true. How Do We Know the Bible is True (Volume One) from New Leaf Press is a resource to help believers be able to do just that.


How Do We Know the Bible Is True is written by a collection of well-known and respected authors such as Steve Ham, Jason Lisle, Bodie Hodge, Georgia Purdom, and Ken Ham. These authors tackle various topics including the Trinity, miracles, polygamy, The Da Vinci Code, contradictions in the Bible, the virginity of Mary, the age of the earth, and many more. Twenty-eight chapters of information help readers to "give an answer."

The information in the book is presented in a scholarly manner with many references and complete bibliographies to document the information presented. But, at the same time, the information is presented in a simple enough way that the lay person reading can understand. Although I'm not a science or history expert, I was able to easily understand the references in the book.

The topics covered were very good ones to chose, as they are some of the common topics that critics of the Bible want to bring up. I've often stayed quiet when I heard one of these common issues brought up because, even though I was sure of what I believed, I didn't know enough to defend my position. The authors give Christians tools and resources to be able to explain why they believe. They don't shy away from the difficult issues. Instead they tackle them head on, letting readers know the criticisms they may encounter and how to answer those.

You can see the book trailer here:


I'm glad to have How Do We Know The Bible is True as a great reference and resource.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.




Monday, December 8, 2014

Review of Susie's Hope: A Touching Movie About An Amazing Dog Rescue

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

I'm the owner of a much loved dog. She's a rescue dog. I love dog stories, especially stories about rescue dogs. Show me a sweet dog that is rescued from danger or destruction, and I'll probably tear up at the story. So I watched the movie Susie's Hope.

Susie's Hope is based on a true story. From the movie's description:
Based on the true story that successfully passed Susie’s Law in North Carolina, which seeks stricter punishment for animal abusers, Susie’s Hope brings to life the inspirational relationship between pit bull attack survivor Donna Lawrence and Susie, a pit bull-mix puppy found beaten, burned and left for dead. Recognizing reflect and abuse were to blame for the tragic attack that nearly claimed her life 10 months earlier, Donna resumes the battered animal and accepts her as family. Together, they learn to heal, love and forgive as thyey lead a historic effort to seek justice and protection, not only for Susie, but all animals. Starring Emmanuelle Vaguer (40 Days and 40 Nights), Burgess Jenkins (Remember The Titans) and Andrea Powell (Ender’s Game, The Twighlight: Breaking Dawn Saga: Part 2), Susie’s Hope is an incredible story of love, loss and redemption.
The puppy, who was later named Susie and who would be involved in passing Susie's Law increasing punishment for animal abuse was found in a park in Greensboro, NC- not very far from me! You can read more about Susie and see some adorable photos on the Susie's Hope website here.

The movie itself was a little slow at the beginning. But I was very interested in the story, and that kept me wanting to watch to see what happened. If you are going to watch this as a family movie, know that there are a few graphic scenes of Susie, badly burned as a puppy. You can see some of those pictures on the website here to know if it's too much for young kids.

Overall, I thought the movie did a good job in portraying this touching story. To see the love that the whole town had for an abused dog was moving. And, following the story of the passing of Susie's Law which has brought stricter punishment for animal abusers was compelling.

Susie's Hope is definitely a movie worth watching. And you can win your own copy using the Giveaway Tools below.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this movie in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Giveaway:
Win one copy of Susie's Hope on DVD. Enter using the Giveaway Tools.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

 



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review of The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks

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I'm a big fan of historical fiction. It's one of my favorite genres. And, call me crazy, but there's nothing like picking up a big, thick book to begin reading. For both reasons, I was thrilled to begin reading The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks. You can read more about the book on the Kregel website here.


From the book's description:

Description:
In 1536 it seems the entire known world is changing--strange new lands are discovered and the Reformation is challenging Rome and its power. In England the king’s declaration of a new church and dissolution of the monasteries overturns the customs and authorities of centuries. In the new world order, spies abound and no one can be trusted.
To Brother Pacificus of the Abbey of St. Benet's in Norfolk, it looks like his abbey alone will be spared dissolution. But this last Benedictine house is mired in murder and intrigue. Then when Pacificus falls under suspicion, more than his own dark past comes to light, while the body count keeps rising. Pacificus's fate becomes entwined with that of three local children after their parents are arrested for treason and heresy. Protected only by this errant monk, a mysterious leper, and a Dutch eel-catcher, the children must quickly adjust; seeking their own identity, they soon find that neither parents nor protectors are quite what they seem.
Based on historical events, this post-medieval mystery is laced with romance, fueled by greed, and punctuated with bouts of feasting, smuggling, and jailbreak.

I was very intrigued, largely because this time period is one that my kids and I had read about last year in our homeschool history. And, it's a very interesting time period. People were being killed for their faith- either because they were Roman Catholic and the pendulum had swung to King Henry being Protestant or because they were Protestant but against the state church. These brave people fought to get the Bible into the language of the common people and to reform the church from her corrupt practices.

As I began reading, I had some difficulty really getting into the story. The book is written in second person, as if the writer is talking to the reader. It's also written in present tense, as if it is unfolding as the reader reads. Both of these are very uncommon approaches in a novel, and it was a bit off putting at first. I struggled through the first few pages, but then I was immediately drawn in by the content of the story, and I didn't really worry about the writing style.

The information in the book is very thorough. I felt as if I knew enough about the time and setting to really "get" the book, and I thought the author did a good job of conveying relevant details so that I would know what was going on. The characters in the story were very compelling. The main character- Pacifus, the monk- drew me in immediately. I felt as if I got to know him well- even through the unusual story style. Other characters were developed well also, and I really enjoyed getting to know them as the story unfolded.

Much goes on in the book. It's nice and long. Despite the fact that it's long and that several key things are going on at once, I felt as if the author did a good job tying it all together. There were a few times it felt as if the story was a little overwhelming, with too much going on. But, soon it would all be pulled together, and I would be comfortable with where the story was going again.

I can definitely recommend this one. If you are a history buff, it is a must read. Despite the unusual writing style I truly enjoyed it. I was sorry to see it end, even as I was glad to read the culmination of events. I give it 5 stars and a PG-13 for content (because of violence).

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.






Monday, November 10, 2014

Review of If You Follow Me by Pam Rhodes

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Last year I reviewed Casting the Net by Pam Rhodes, a novel featuring a young curate at a parish church is a small English countryside village. Despite some doctrinal disagreements, I quite enjoyed the read. So I was excited to read the next in the series- If You Follow Me.


In this installment, Neil- the curate- has just announced his engagement to Claire (who is a professed atheist but has slowly become closer to Neil's faith.) At their engagement party, Claire's first love and father of her child walks in after six years of living far away in Australia. Neil and Claire handle this challenge to their relationship even as Neil deals with a jealous former girlfriend, and all of the challenges of being curate of a village church.

I love the setting of the quaint, country village. The characters are charming, and the author did a good job helping me get to know them as I read. The events of the story are sometimes touching and sometimes humorous. And, buried beneath, there's quite a lot to be learned about relationships and human behavior.

As with the first book (which was actually the 2nd in the series), there were quite a few doctrinal issues that I had. However, I was able to enjoy it as a fun and sweet read.

I give this one five stars and a PG for content. You can find it on the Kregel website here. Or you can find it on Amazon here.



Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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