Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Nothing to Hide by J. Mark Bertrand

            The latest installment in the Roland March Mystery series lives up to all reader expectations. Roland March is wonderfully cast as a man wrestling with the faith of Christians in his life while also weighing the claims of the atheists he knows. He must balance this all with what he sees on the street as a Houston Homicide detective. Faith plays a very small role in this novel, but a key small role. The story line centers around a murder victim who is tortured beyond recognition, an FBI story that explains but doesn't explain the circumstances, and the involvement of Mexican drug cartels. Throw in a blast from Roland's past, and you have all the makings of a classic murder mystery mixed with international intrigue and government cover-ups. While Bertrand has a slight similarity to Dan Brown in that he incorporates a twist into the story that is somewhat given away fairly early, it doesn't take away from what is a very well written and fast moving novel. The author does a nice job and I will pick up any other novels that he may produce in this series.

 I give Nothing to Hide 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: Everything the Bible Says About Prayer

The title pretty well sums up this book on prayer.  While  not an exhaustive reference on prayer, this 126 page paperback contains the major Scriptures found on prayer grouped according to categories in chapters.  Some of these chapter headings include "Praying with Boldness, Elements of Effective Prayer, and Prayer in Times of Hardship and Heartache."  Each chapter begins with a short explanation and then the passages are quoted in various Bible versions with just a few notes here and there.
There is also a small appendix in the back of the book called "Thoughts on Prayer by Classic Christian Writers."  Spurgeon, Moody, Murray and others are quoted here for the reader's benefit.
This book is nicely arranged and would possibly make a nice gift for someone.  It is one of those books you can pick up and read quickly or just read the chapters that interest you.  While not anything spectacular, I would say I liked the layout better than the average compilation of Scripture passages around a common theme type book.
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Touching the Sky by Tracie Peterson

The second book in the Land of the Lone Star series, Touching the Sky tells the story of 2 very different sisters living in a post Civil war town of Corpus Christi, Texas.  The Marquardt family is made up of strong Union supporters but much of their community does not share their conviction.  Additionally, Captain Brandon Reid captures the heart of Laura Marquardt and is in command of the "colored Union troop" that resides in the town to keep the peace.  Laura's sister, Carissa, is engaged to marry a former Confederate soldier who has somehow managed to say all the right things to gain her father's approval.
But Carissa's carefree attitude and absorption with wedding preparations has not blinded Laura to the danger that could be in her sister's future.  Secretly meeting with former slaves to teach them to read, getting caught up in a dangerous plot, and then even being unsure of her own relationship with Brandon, Laura's life is far from the gentle and peaceful life she could have enjoyed.
The story was intriguing and I love the author's ability to bring you right into the Southern culture.  I look forward to reading the next book in this series.
5 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The Prophet by RJ Larson

Admittedly, I am not a fan of fantasy type fiction.  For some reason I was drawn to this book (maybe it was the eye-catching cover) and started reading I before I realized the genre.  The book centers around Ela who is chosen by the Infinite One to be a prophet.  She is accompanied by her disfigured younger sister and is immediately sent into a period of testing/teaching by the Infinite One.  It is at this point I began to take issue with the author's representation of what I assumed to be her idea of how God would operate in this fictitious world that had been created (and I confirmed this assumption by the list of questions to consider found at the back of the book).  God (AKA the Infinite One) just seems to torment this newbie prophet just to prove to her that she is utterly dependent on Him.

The storyline was mostly intriguing but it seemed to drag at certain points.  I can see now why there is a character list at the beginning of the book because I often lost track of all the similar sounding made-up names.
 So since I have not read much Christian fantasy, I have little to compare this with, but this work certainly did not convince me that I have missed out on much.

3 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Return to Sunday Dinner

Return to Sunday Dinner: The Simple Delight of Family, Friends, and Food by Russell Cronkhite is an inspiring invitation to this wonderful family tradition.  This beautiful hardcover cookbook is sure to leave your mouth watering and give you lots of recipe ideas to try out for your Sunday dinner.

In the beginning, the author shares his memories and ideas about Sunday dinner which may or may not resonate with the reader, but it definitely made me wish I had those kinds of memories.  A Sunday dinner where the whole family can gather to enjoy a delicious meal and the warm company of family and friends is worth aspiring to.  Cronkhite purposely has tried to pick recipes that are simple with ingredients that everyone can readily get their hands on (sorry Rachel Ray, but your recipes are often hard to pull off with our rural Indiana grocery store).  He has also included pictures with most of the recipes, but not all of them.  So for those of us who need to be able to visualize a recipe before being willing to try it, this cookbook could be lacking.

I just have two issues with the cookbook.  First, and I realize this is just a little thing, but the recipes are grouped together into meals rather than being divided into categories like a typical cookbook (e.g. main dishes, sides, desserts).  I'm sure that many will like this feature, but I was not a fan. 

My other problem with the book is a bit more complicated. With this being from a Christian publisher, my expectations were a bit higher for some sort of spiritual insight or at least Scripture interspersed.  I was pretty disappointed.  The meals are lovely, but realistically they would be difficult to pull off every Sunday for a family who has regular church attendance as a priority.  Cronkhite includes some suggestions for preparing parts of the recipes ahead of time, but these meals (really mini-banquets) would require the help of many hands to pull off after getting home from church.  I don't know about you.  But I don't like to face famished family and friends after arriving home from Sunday services and say "sorry, it's going to be a couple of hours before I can get this food on the table."

That being said, I am eager to try out some of these recipes, but probably not the entire meals as the author has them laid out and not on Sunday afternoon.

4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the Booksneeze program by Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.