Compassion Without Compromise by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau

Book description:

Loving, Biblical Answers on Homosexuality

In the next year at least one of these things will happen in your life:
• A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it.
• Your elementary-age child’s curriculum will discuss LGBT families.
• Your company will talk about building a tolerant workplace for LGBT co-workers.
• Your college-age child will tell you your view on homosexuality is bigoted.

Are you ready?

In their role as pastors, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau have seen how this issue can tear apart families, friendships, and even churches. In this book they combine biblical answers with practical, real-world advice on how to think about and discuss this issue with those you care about. They also tell the story of Ron’s personal journey from same-sex attraction and sexual brokenness to healing.

Truth does not preclude kindness–and a good dose of humility is necessary to love our neighbors. With sensitivity and winsomeness, this book will offer an honest but inviting message to readers: We are all in need of the healing that can only come from the truth of the gospel.

My review:

This is the first book of this kind that I have ever read, so it was very informative for me.  The topic of homosexuality is everywhere and it is difficult to know how to reconcile biblical mandates to love one another with alternative lifestyles.  Barr and Citlau offer a well-written book to help readers navigate the tricky waters.

I was impressed with the logic presented in this book.  Whether you agree or disagree with what the authors’ viewpoint, I think anyone could appreciate the logical arguments they put forth.  It isn’t easy to write about such a hot button topic without becoming too emotional, but Barr and Citlau achieve it.

The most helpful part of the book for me was the question and answer section at the back of the book.  I haven’t experienced most of the situations personally, but I feel more confident about how to respond in a manner that would be pleasing to God.

If you are interested in learning more about how to “love gay friends without losing the truth” this book provides a lot of information in a short, easy to read book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Kristine McGuire

Book description:Behind the backdrop of our daily lives, a hidden war is raging. The players are as powerful as they are invisible. What’s on the line: your very heart and soul.

Are you ready for the battle?After spending years as a medium, witch and ghost hunter, Kristine McGuire emerged from behind enemy lines to reclaim her identity in Christ. She brings unique insight, revealing Satan’s 7 favorite battlefields as well as the most effective tactics he employs in the battles we face everyday.

In this essential guide to the spiritual war zone, you will learn 30 battle-tested strategies for victory from a spiritual warrior who has been there. Kristine’s simple but powerful insights will empower you to engage your enemy without fear . . . and, in the power of Jesus, to win.

My review:

I thought this was a very interesting book, especially since it was written from someone who has spent time on both sides of the war.  I really appreciated the straightforward way McGuire wrote.  She didn’t sensationalize spiritual warfare, but neither did she fail to convey the very real conflict.

I enjoyed the questions at the end of each chapter.  It gave me a chance to review information from the chapter and personalize it.  I especially liked the “Take Action” section that gave ideas on how to put the information into practice.

It does seem that a lot of the information McGuire shared is common to books about spiritual warfare, but what makes this book unique is that she shares her testimony and experience.  I’ve read several other books that stress the importance of putting on the armor of God, for example.  However, the section of common battlefields was really eye-opening.

Overall, this is a really informative book that is a very quick read.  If you are interested in learning more about spiritual warfare, it would be a very good choice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Watch for the Light

Book description:

Though Christians the world over make yearly preparations for Lent, there’s a conspicuous lack of good books for that other great spiritual season: Advent. All the same, this four-week period leading up to Christmas is making a comeback as growing numbers reject shopping-mall frenzy and examine the deeper meaning of the season. Ecumenical in scope, these fifty devotions invite the reader to contemplate the great themes of Christmas and the significance that the coming of Jesus has for each of us – not only during Advent, but every day. Whether dipped into at leisure or used on a daily basis, Watch for the Light gives the phrase “holiday preparations” new depth and meaning. Includes writings by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Sylvia Plath, J. B. Phillips, Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, Henri Nouwen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Kathleen Norris, Meister Eckhart, St. Thomas Aquinas, Karl Rahner, Isaac Penington, Madeleine L’Engle, Alfred Delp, Loretta Ross-Gotta, William Stringfellow, J. Heinrich Arnold, Edith Stein, Philip Britts, Jane Kenyon, John Howard Yoder, Emmy Arnold, Karl Barth, Oscar Romero, William Willimon, Johann Christoph Arnold, Gail Godwin, Leonardo Boff, G. M. Hopkins, Evelyn Underhill, Dorothy Day, Brennan Manning, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Romano Guardini, Annie Dillard, Martin Luther, St. John Chrysostom, Giovanni Papini, Dorothee Soelle, C. S. Lewis, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Philip Yancey, J. T. Clement, Thomas Merton, Eberhard Arnold, Ernesto Cardenal, T. S. Eliot, John Donne, Gian Carlo Menotti and Jürgen Moltmann.

My review:

This is not your typical Advent devotional book.  Each day challenges readers to recognize and embrace the true meaning of Christmas through the depth of the writings.  Obviously the authors of the compiled writings are gifted writers, with great minds.  Having all of the writings gathered together in one volume results in a very special book that will result in readers rejecting the commercialization of Christmas and gain a deeper appreciation of the momentous occasion that Christmas is.

It is too easy to get trapped by the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  We are so busy shopping and decorating and cooking and cleaning that we don’t take the time to reflect on what we are actually celebrating.  The writings in this book are a great resource to redirect our efforts into the true meaning of Christmas.

Not only do we get distracted by the commercialization of Christmas, but it can also be an emotionally challenging time for some.  It is a stressful time of the year, and we need to take the time to reflect and give thanks for the greatest gift ever given.  This book helps with that as well.

This is the book for anyone who wants to experience a Christmas with more meaning and appreciation than ever before.  It would make a great gift and is one that could be read year after year.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Handlebar in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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A Beautiful Reflection by Sarah O. Maddox

Book description:

Susan Strasbourg, a beautiful and very conservative Christian girl, and Jim Hitchenson, a handsome, sophisticated Atlanta bachelor fall for each other at a company convention. They soon discover their lifestyles are miles apart. In his world she would be considered prudish. In her world he would be considered “wild.” It is no surprise that when their values and beliefs intersect, the result is conflict. Will they really be able to resolve these seemingly unsolvable conflicts? Will their love prove to be true and lasting?

My review:

This is a very sweet and easy to read book.  The characters of Susan and Jim are easy to connect with and care about.  Despite being a romance book, it was not predictable, which is always a plus.  Throughout the book, I really had no idea whether Susan and Jim would end up together or not.

It was inspiring to read about Susan’s dedication to her faith and commitment to living a life pleasing to the Lord.  I think this book would be an amazing source of comfort and guidance to young women who are seeking a God-pleasing marriage.  The discussion questions at the end are thought-provoking and help guide young women.

I also thought the supporting characters and story lines were equally compelling and interesting.  Maddox provides readers with a lovely book that is a quick read.  I will definitely pass this one on to my daughter to read.

If you like clean romance books with characters who live to please God, this is a great choice.  It is a short and sweet book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Book Crash in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Rebels by Jill Williamson

Book description:

The Safe Lands have long kept the true meaning of Liberation secret from their people. But after being sentenced to Liberation themselves, Mason and Omar soon discover the truth.

Levi watched his brothers’ public sentencing and tries to hold out hope they are still alive, He is forced to focus his attention elsewhere, however, when his new wife, Jemma, is captured and made the Safe Lands’ newest Queen. His only choice to save Jemma may be to take up Omar’s old role of undercover vigilante, leading the rebels in their quest to overthrow the government. But will Levi’s new role be enough?

Meanwhile, Jemma’s sister, Shaylinn, is ready to give birth to the “Safe Lands’” children … but not even Ciddah is sure they can be delivered safely in the midst of a rebellion. And Mason must face the fact Omar’s illness could be fatal.

If they can all unite their efforts, together they may be able to expose the Safe Lands’ lies to the people. But if they fail, they will all surely die.

My review:

I had already read the first two book in this series by Williamson, so I was excited to see what happened next to Levi, Mason, and the others from Glenrock.  It took me a few pages to fully immerse myself into the story and remember all the slang terms that Williamson uses in the Safe Lands, but once I did, I couldn’t put the book down.

This is definitely my favorite book from this series.  Williamson does a great job in bringing all the characters to a realistic conclusion, which I particularly appreciated.  The plot moves along very quickly and holds the attention of the reader throughout the book.  In this book, more than the other two, the Glenrock people take the opportunity to share their faith with the Safe Land people and the Below Grounders, which was nice to read.

If you have read the previous two books in the series, this one is a must read.  I’m not sure how easy it would be for someone to pick up the storyline if they hadn’t already read the other two.  The book really takes off running and the relationships between the characters aren’t reviewed much, so it might be hard to enjoy this one without reading the other ones.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Bachelor by Stephanie Reed

Book description:

In this sequel to The Bargain, Betsie Troyer is back home in her Amish community where she knows she belongs, free from the confusing Englisher way of life. She and Charley Yoder have made promises to each other, and her life is back on track–until Gerald Sullivan shows up with his young daughter, asking for Betsie’s help. He’s on his way to find his estranged wife, and begs Betsie to take young Sheila in. When she agrees, Betsie’s carefully planned life is shaken up again. Sheila’s newfound faith is troubling to Charley–and his attraction to another girl is beginning to be a problem. But how can Betsie confront him when she is still trying to confront her own feelings about Sheila’s brother, Michael? Keeping the peace between the Amish man she’s always loved, a twelve-year-old Englisher girl, and a draft-dodging hippie is more than she ever thought she’d have to deal with in her simple, orderly life. Still, Betsie is convinced she can keep things from falling apart completely. Then during her best friend’s wedding, tragedy strikes and her world is upended. She has to make a decision: does she love Charley or Michael . . . or is she craving a deeper love that only God can give? The compelling second novel of the Plain City Peace series, The Bachelor deftly weaves together the strands of a solid, simpler time with the turmoil of an era of change, revealing the strengths of both in its powerful narrative.

My review:

I haven’t read the first book of this series, The Bargain, but that didn’t take anything away from this book for me.  I thought Reed did a great job with introducing her characters to new readers.  In fact, one of my favorite parts of this book was the way Reed slowly revealed the true heart of each character.  It seems like a lot of authors either give away everything to soon, or don’t fully realize who the character is.  Reed hits exactly the right balance of telling readers about the characters and letting us make our own judgments about them.

I thought the plot and the message in the book was very good as well.  I have read a lot of Amish fiction, but I have to say that I learned a lot about the Amish lifestyle and beliefs in this one.  It seems like Amish fiction either romanticizes the lifestyle, or goes to the other extreme.  Reed educates readers while entertaining us, which is the best part about reading!  I also appreciated the unusual time period in which the book was set.  You don’t see a lot of Amish fiction set in the 1970’s.

The only negative thing I have to say about this book is from the very last page.  It is the absolute worst thing for a reader to get to the end of a great book and then discover that the sequel isn’t due out for some time.  In this case, readers have to wait until Winter 2016!  I was very sad to learn I would have to wait that long, because I really enjoyed the characters and the story and can’t wait that long to find out what happens next!

This is a very entertaining book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Chia Bookbook by Janie Hoffman

Book description:

Mamma Chia founder Janie Hoffman presents recipes for incorporating superfood chia seeds into flavorful smoothies, snacks, meals, and desserts.

Chia is a powerful little seed with incredible health benefits. In this mouthwatering recipe collection, Mamma Chia founder Janie Hoffman invites you into her kitchen to learn the secrets of incorporating this ancient superfood into modern meals from breakfast to dinner and happy hour to dessert.

My review:

After reading Hoffman’s other book, Chia Vitality, I was really excited to read this cookbook to get ideas on ways to incorporate chia seeds and gel into every day eating.  This cookbook does exactly that.

As far as cookbooks go, this one is not particularly large, but it does have a lot of recipes that are easy to execute, with ingredients that most people would have on hand in the kitchen.  I really like the flaps on the cover that readers can use as bookmarks.  It is such a small detail, but it helps with the overall user-friendly experience of the book.

The only criticism I have about the book is that I wish it had the nutritional information broken down at the end of the recipes.  That would make the book more helpful to readers who are counting carbs or calories, or sugar.  I understand Hoffman doesn’t really address chia seeds as anything other than a natural superfood, but I think a lot of readers want to know the breakdown of what they are eating.

My favorite recipes are the ones for the smoothies.  I didn’t make every smoothie, as described in the book, but adapted to use other ingredients I already had.  My other favorite part of the book is the instructions on how to make chia gel, specifically how to make different quantities of chia gel.  I’m not a very adventurous cook, so I really appreciate clear, precise directions.

If you are looking for ideas on how to incorporate chia into every meal and snack, this book offers a wide variety of options.  I can’t wait to read Hoffman’s next cookbook!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

Book description:

An Ancient Island Holds an Ancient Secret . . .

Nick Hennessy, 
a young Texas journalist yearning for his big break, finds himself in Europe–his assignment, to investigate the alarming disappearance of invaluable Grecian antiquities. Nick has the credentials–and cover ID–to unearth the truth. And he knows just the researcher to help him…

Carey Mathers, fresh from her studies in forensic archeology, has accepted a job with the prestigious Athens Institute for Antiquities–a dream come true, really, particularly when the Greek isle of Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse, was a particular focus of her research.

Dimitri Rubinos, for whom the Greek islands represent his life, holds on by his fingernails to the family charter boat business. But his country’s economic chaos isn’t the only thing that has turned his world on its head…

My review:

I have read other books by Bunn and enjoyed them very much and one of my friends is a huge Bunn fan.  I thought I would enjoy this book a lot more than I did.

The beginning of it is pretty slow, which I’m ok with.  Sometimes it takes awhile for a book to get to the “hook” where readers just can’t put it down.  Finally, around page 100, my interest was piqued and I started to feel like I was at the point where I would be carving out time the rest of the day to finish the book.

Sadly, the momentum did not continue.  I finished the book, but it was with the thought that I really didn’t care if Carey and Nick figured out the mystery or not.  I had more interest in what would happen with Dimitri.  I thought a lot about why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would and the answer lies in the characters, namely Carey.   Each character generated some interest in me, but it wasn’t sustained.  The character of Carey was a little paradoxical – she was an orphan, who traveled halfway around the world only to discover that the place that hired her was now closed down due to the economic collapse of Greece, but she meets a friendly Greek family who instantly become her best friends.  Yet she is portrayed as emotionally detached due to a betrayal by her college sweetheart.  For me, it just didn’t add up.  The character of Nick equally lacked integrity for me.  I was never clear on what caused him to be so callous and distant.

Despite my criticism of the characters, I did enjoy parts of this book.  Bunn did an excellent job in bringing the headlines of the economic collapse in Greece to life for me.  I feel like I really got an understanding of the cost to the people of Greece.  I always enjoy books that help me to understand something that I’ve read or heard about elsewhere a little bit better.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make the book a winner for me.

If you are a die-hard fan of Davis, you might enjoy this book.  If you are looking for a Davis Bunn book to read for the first time, I would probably recommend that you start with one of his others.  This one wasn’t my favorite.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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God’s Greatest Gift by Deborah Burch

Book description:

God’s Greatest Gift, written and illustrated by accliamed artist, Deborah Burch, is a lively, rhythmic and heartfelt story about a child discovering that he/she is a blessing from God. It demonstrates that every child living in our wonderous world is a unique and miraculous creation. Parents will enjoy sharing this special message time and time again with their greatest gift. 10.5 x 9 Hardcover with dust jacket, 32 brilliantly illustrated heavy duty pages

My review:

I love the bright and colorful illustrations throughout this book.  Each page offers a visually stimulating illustration related to the text.  The text itself winds its way through the pictures, which increases young readers interest in the words and pictures.  This book is great to read aloud to pre-readers, as the text is written in simple rhyming couplets and consists of the question about God’s greatest gift.

I read over this book myself before I read it with my son, so I knew the answer at the end was “you”.  However, when reading it with my son, after the first question in the book about God’s greatest gift he answered “Jesus”.  When the answer was revealed at the end of the book, it led to an interesting discussion.  Without a doubt, God’s greatest gift to us is Jesus.  However, for me personally, it was impossible to understand the depth of God’s  sacrifice of His only son until I had children of my own.  My son is older than the target audience, so I’m not sure younger children would be able to participate in a discussion like that, but it might open the door to similar discussions.

My favorite part of this book is the activity at the end where Burch challenges readers to find seven of one item in each illustration.  My son and I had a great time racing each other to see if we could be the first to find which item is replicated seven times.  Some of the pages were challenging!

If you are looking for a bright, colorful book that would be an excellent read aloud for young readers, this is a great choice.  Sometimes it is difficult to find a book where the illustrations hold the attention of very young children long enough that the parent has enough time to read all the words on the page.  This book keeps the text simple enough that parents have enough time to read the text and then talk about the illustrations with their child.  That is a big plus in my mind!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Book Crash in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Heretic by Henry Vyner-Brooks

Book 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.

My review:

One of the reasons why I love reading historical fiction so much is because I always learn something.  I was really excited to read this book because I freely admit that my education was lacking about events in England in 1536.  I was impressed with the depth of information Vyner-Brooks included in the book and the way he brought the characters to life.  I learned a lot in the course of reading this book.

When the book arrived in the mail, I was overwhelmed by the size of it.  It is a really long book!  I have to admit that I was completely lost at the beginning of it.  The story takes off and introduces a lot of characters in the first few pages and I found myself wondering who the important characters were going to be and what was going on.  Eventually it all came together and I was able to determine what was happening.  I probably would have enjoyed this book more if more background information was given at the beginning, but I freely admit that it was probably due to my ignorance of the time period and not due to any deficit on the part of the author!

If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will love this book.  The length of it really gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the time period and in the lives of the characters so you really feel like you get to know them.  I recommend it for a long enjoyable weekend of reading while being curled up in front of a fire!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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