"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Promises She Keeps, by Erin Healy

5 out of 5 stars

The Promises She Keeps
Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson (2010)
ISBN 978-1-59554-751-4

The Promises She Keeps is a deeply compelling story about love and the decisions we make about what we do with the time we have in this life. The back of the book almost makes it sound like a romance, but instead the novel delves into the power of love as a whole, and what it means for our society. The novel tells the story of a young woman with cystic fibrosis, and the people who influence her in her quest to be eternally remembered after she dies.
The book is very suspenseful, and I liked the mystery elements that were included. Promise, the heroine, survives some accidents that really should have been fatal. These events were very thought-provoking as I tried to reason why Promise was able to survive. Chase, another character, often quotes well-chosen Bible verses that only piqued my interest in Promise's story. The antagonist, Porta, is a practicing witch who serves to counter Chase's argument that love is the most powerful concept of all. The dichotomy of these two characters is, in my opinion, what drives the book and makes it so fascinating.
Without giving away any spoilers, the ending of the book is so full of suspense and is so well-timed that I couldn't put it down.
The writing was phenomenal , the message was deeply inspiring, and the book was just simply a good read. You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy it, either. The author doesn't appear to be trying to convert anyone. The book carries with it a message that could be appreciated by anyone.
Frankly, this is a superb book that deserves a wide audience.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Billion Reasons Why (Fiction by Kristin Billerbeck)

Three out of Five Stars
Katie McKenna is a special education teacher who has given up on her past as a singer in New Orleans. Giving up that past means that she's decided to marry a man from her church in an effort to erase the memories of a passionate relationship gone bad back home. But when her ex shows up and invites her to sing at his brother's wedding, Katie finds that she is confronted with a choice between the passion of old and the stability of the present.
There is plenty of romance in the story, particularly for anyone who enjoys the movies and music of the 1940s. I thought the references to the old classics were sweet, and they made the story much more entertaining.  The writing style is very good, with plenty of imagery to help the reader become more involved in the story. And you can't beat New Orleans for the setting of a novel.
The major thing that didn't quite work for me was the characterization. There seemed to be so many inconsistencies in several of the main characters. Is Dexter passionless and predictable, or is he a sweet guy who sends roses every week? Does Eileen like Dexter or not? Does Eileen like Luc or not? And Katie's mother seems to flip flop so much you'd think she was a beach sandal. Issues like these made the story less enjoyable for me
I will say, however, that the main characters were fun to read, particularly Luc.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes simple romances with interesting plots and settings. It's an easy, fun read.
A Billion Reasons Why
Kristin Billerbeck
Thomas Nelson, 2011
ISBN 978-1-59554-791-0

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Goodreads First Read book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Truth of the Cross, by R.C. Sproul

Five out of Five Stars

R.C. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross  is nothing short of an amazing piece of theological writing. It discusses the necessity of Christ's atonement in light of the sins of man. It also goes into detail about the substitutionary act that was Christ's death, and covers who exactly benefits from the atonement. There is also a chapter on the five points of Calvinism that explains the historical depth of Calvinism.

I admit that I was nervous about reading this book because of Sproul's reputation as a first-class theologian. As a layperson, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to follow his writing very well. However, Sproul is a master of the written word. He takes this subject and makes it easy to understand with his captivating writing style. As a result, I found the book to be a fairly easy read  - which helped, because the subject matter is so thought-provoking.

I finished this book before church this morning, and I found that what I learned in this book opened up the Bible to me in ways I never imagined. I understand so much more about what Christ's sacrifice truly meant, both for those who lived before His time and for those who lived after. In terms of this understanding, I feel that The Truth of the Cross is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read, and I don't use that hyperbole lightly.

A chapter toward the end of the book does a pretty thorough job of explaining the five points of Calvinism from a layperson's perspective.  Sproul explains that Calvinism actually stems back to the time of St. Augustine, and that people tend to misinterpret the idea of limited atonement. He explains that limited atonement only means that Christ died for believers, which I feel is important for people to understand.

Whether or not you are a member of the reformed church, I believe that this book is inspirational and leads to a better understanding of the sacrifice that was made on Calvary. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Christ, God, and what is expected of Christians.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crazy Love

I didn't realize how much debate there is in the theological community over this author until I'd read this book. I am not a theologian in any sense, but here is my layman's perspective of this book.

I appreciated the first section of the book, which examined God's character as He shows Himself in the Bible. I am impressed with Chan's challenge of the American church and its members to look within themselves to see if they are truly following God's word. The second part of the book focused on ways in which we as Christians can examine ourselves. It gives guidance on how to allow God to lead us in the path of the righteous.

The book was good in that it absolutely caused me to examine my life as a Christian more closely. However, the writing style was not as riveting as I had hoped it would be, which made it difficult to keep my interest for long periods of time. But, as with many issues of a spiritual nature, perhaps this book is best read slowly and deliberately, leaving time for prayer.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in stepping up their spirituality.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Francis Chan
David C. Cook (2008)
ISBN:   9781434768513

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Thorn

Four out of Five Stars

This is the first in a trilogy of books about two Amish sisters. One has left the Amish community for a passionate marraige with a non-Amish man, but has come to regret the decision. The other sister is faced with making a decision between her best friend, a non-Amish man she has so much in common with, and an Amish man who will provide her with the faith-based life she needs, but seems not to have a great deal in common with her otherwise.

The dichotomy between the two sisters is the most interesting part of the book. It is almost as though they are older and younger versions of the same person. It will be interesting to see how the trilogy plays out to see how much the younger sister is influenced by the choices of the elder.

This book is certainly better than most fiction about the Amish that I have read. It was well-written, and I felt as though most of the characters had true human emotions. It's tough to review the first book of a trilogy, since many of my concerns about the characters in the book were obviously left unanswered. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books to see how well the story stands as a whole.

This isn't a silly romance, nor is it a deeply serious book. Recommended for any older teenage girl or adult who wants a book that is a good, solid, middle-of-the-road book. I am eagerly awaiting the second book in the trilogy.

The Thorn (Rose Trilogy #1)
Beverly Lewis
Bethany House (2010)
ISBN13:   9780764205743

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beguiled (Fiction)

The styles of the two authors blended together nicely. This was a very well-written book, with the perfect mesh of adventure and romance. The crime novel portion was interesting, although the ending was as predictable as these things usually are. The religious aspects of the novel, while important, definitely took a back seat to the crime aspect of the story, so I think that anyone, Christian or not, would enjoy this book. It is not at all preachy.

I'd recommend this novel for anyone who is interested in a crime novel that isn't too terribly intense, with light romance thrown in for good measure. And I very much hope that this won't be the last collaboration of these two authors.

Deanne Gist, J. Mark Bertrand
Paperback, 332 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Bethany House
4 out of 5 stars

There's a first time for everything...

Well, I've succumbed, as I always knew I would, and have joined the ranks of the bloggers. But this is something I truly believe in - the sharing of information about good books. And I have to say that I'm excited about this new endeavor of mine. We shall see what comes of it!