Thursday, December 29, 2011

The 60 Minute Money Workout

Periodically, I like to stop and read a book on finances, which is why I picked up the 60 Minute Money Workout by Ellie Kay.  Thankfully, we are currently in a “healthy” financial state, but I find it important to always keep fine-tuning our finances.  This book offers a hodge-podge of financial information, but lacks a clear systematic approach (as found in Ramsey’s books).  The actual money workout is merely a way of dedicating regular time either by yourself or with your spouse to your home finances.  While this system was not particularly useful in our home, I could see how a home on the brink of financial disaster could benefit from it.  However, I didn’t consider this to be an actual step by step financial plan (although maybe I am just a diehard Ramsey follower).

I would say I picked up tidbits of useful information throughout the book.  She does an especially good job on the topics of saving money and being frugal.  That would be the strength of this book.  However I just felt that there are other books on this topic (of finances in general) that are better. 

4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Journey to Christmas

Journey to Christmas, a 2 DVD set, is a 4 episode reality series where 5 individuals are brought together to experiene the Christmas season in the holy land.  The fact that I am not an avid reality show viewer is probably the biggest reason for my more negative review of this series.  I found myself disinterested in the friendships developed among the 5 travelers and only mildly interested in their running commentary of their take on this holy land experience.
The 5 people were made up of 3 women and 2 men with each one coming to this journey with a unique purpose.  Drew was probably the most outspoken and direct (no surprise that he is a radio talk show host) stating that he was in a "crisis of faith" and trying to decide waht he believed about God.  Dusty is a singer/songwriter and Nazreth is a visual artist, and both of these women are profess belief in Christ.  Rory is an international relations analyst from both Jewish and Christian backgrounds but is himself an agnostic.  Kim is a first nations youth worker, Christian, and spends her journey trying to find out if Jesus was "tribal" or if this is just "white man's gospel."  As you can probably imagine, the mix provided quite an array of thoughts and opinions as they saw the sights of the holy land.  So, obviously, a lot of the opinions expressed, I did not agree with (plus I will mention that there was the occaisional taking of God's name in vain).
On the other hand, it is good to understand the true details of the nativity and rid ourselves of some of the "Christmas card" images we may have in our minds.  However, a trip to the holy land will not necessarily convince an unbeliever of the truth of Jesus Christ, but will deepen the faith of a believer (as expressed by some of the participants). I am sure they have a much fuller understanding of the Christmas story by having experienced the landscape of the holy land firsthand.
I just couldn't get into the whole "reality show" side of this series.  I found it distracting at some points and just plain dull in other parts. I would have enjoyed just a regular documentary - but, hey maybe I'm just boring like that. 3 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of these DVDs from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Check this series out for yourself at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do you like Amish fiction?  Do you enjoy reading a good Christmas book this time of year?  Then check out The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall and let me know whether or not you liked it.  I would love to see your comments.  I have read Amish fiction by a variety of authors, but I am eager to read a book by this author.  Here's a link to the first chapter : .

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Job 38-42 Word Biblical Commentary by J.A. Clines

            Clines concludes his comprehensive work on Job with this volume. While the volume is large (it weighs in at slightly over 500 pages) for a commentary on five chapters of the Bible, there is much more than just commentary here. The first two hundred pages of the work focus on the Biblical text itself, providing a fresh translation as Clines works within the Hebrew text. The work, like most WBC volumes, is written in a way that scholars and pastors alike will gain benefit. There are portions that a lay level reader may struggle to grasp, but this is a necessary result from working from the original languages and using technical terms in some areas. Clines’ commentary is strong, and reflects a knowledgeable and capable understanding of the scriptures. The final three hundred pages are study tools, including the usual scripture and author indexes. However, Clines does something interesting in that he includes a two hundred and fifty page Bibliography in which he lists just about everything ever written on the book of Job. The Bibliography in sorted in various ways, and includes a section sorted by subjects found within the book, which is particularly interesting. The works are listed without comment, but just the amount of resources listed is impressive. 

I would give Clines’ commentary 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs is the second half of the author's rendition of the biblical story of Ruth set in 18th century Scotland.  I love to read historical ficiton, but had never read anything by Higgs.  I was thoroughly pleased by this well-researched story of love for God, country, and family. 

The main characters changed and grew as the narrative progressed.  The one potential down side to this novel was the predictability sensed by the middle of the novel.  It is, after all, following the story of Ruth, so you know, in a general sense, where it is going.  But this combined with the triple love story could be easily overlooked for those like me who prefer more adventure than romance.  The author keeps you turning the pages as you become swept up with the beautiful countryside and fascinating folk traditions of Scotland during this time period.  I only wish I had read the precursor Here Burns My Candle first. . .

I give this book a wholehearted 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nearing Home by Billy Graham

Nearing Home by Billy Graham is a book of tender insights on aging presented by one of America’s most beloved evangelists. Though I certainly did not endorse all of Graham’s ministry practices, I was curious what his last words would sound like.  Interestingly he writes that “growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life.”  A nearly 93 year old Graham shares his hopeful expectation of a home in heaven (reunited with his beloved wife), but also concedes that there are more than just “aches and pains” associated with growing old.

Through Scripture quotations, numerous stories, and personal experience he gives practical advice and spiritual guidance for how a Christian should handle retirement, aging, and death.  Graham is honest and often blunt regarding his own experience with growing old.  However he continues to share his love for God and hope of a heavenly home to all who will hear. 

4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a fair and honest review.

For Men Only by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn

While it is not especially long (190 pages including all endnotes), the Feldhahn’s little guide for men is insightful and thought provoking. From the moment you open the book and find a small “quick start” guide in the front of the book for men who don’t want to read the whole thing, but only get the meat of it, you get the feeling that you are reading something written by a couple who has grasped in some way the nature of the husband/wife relationship. The book has a fairly simple premise and goal: rather than being a comprehensive marriage manual, it takes a slightly different tack. The authors conducted a national survey of women and from that took common threads and themes and built a profile, or better terminology might be a picture, of a woman’s mind. They spend the chapters of the book fleshing out that picture by identifying a man’s general perception about what his wife is saying, and then explaining what she is actually trying to communicate. The chapters are easy to read, and the research is strong. The downsides are that because the book is based on a survey, there is very little textual support for any of the premises that are established. That being said, if you understand the limitation of the scope of the book, then it is an excellent little volume for the bookshelf of anyone who is married or heading in that direction! I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. I received a free copy of this book from the blogging for books program in exchange for a fair and honest review.