I have been given the opportunity to do some reviews on some books from a few different publishers. Some of them do not quite fit into the focus I have for Living Infuzion, but obviously have some good information. Here are some of my perspectives on some pretty good books! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jonah: Still full of Impact!

Glorious Mess By Mike Howerton
(Encountering God’s relentless grace for imperfect people)
This was such a good book! I really enjoyed it, and I will be going back through it to glean some teaching elements. I found out there are some teaching aids online to help with this kind of thing. You can find them HERE:
This book is basically a study of the book of Jonah, the prophet of God that is now famous for his little trip inside (probably) a whale. Mike Howerton uses this backdrop to compare Jonah to us here in this point in history. Turns out we still get caught in the same traps that Jonah did. All things from hearing God’s voice, and understanding his call to being discouraged when things don’t go the way we expect.
The book is broken into 5 Acts, and then into 20 chapters divided among the acts. Act 1 is “Listening to God’s Voice”. Act 2 is “Running from God”. Act 3 is “Getting out of your Glorious Mess”. Act 4 is “Seeing God Work”. Act 5 is “Embracing God’s Amazing Grace”. You can get an idea of where the book goes.
I think I most identified with the “Running from God” section. God speaks to us and sometimes it hurts. Usually it leads us into a different direction than we want to be going. To follow God’s voice may not feel good at first, but when we choose to walk in his ways, we will be fulfilled. It was a long trip with Jonah, just as I expect it to be a long trip for me.
I loved the tone of this book. There were lots of pop-culture references, and humour that kept the pace moving. It must be because Mike Howerton is a kid of the 80’s… just like me!
Here are some words from Pastor Howerton:

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Sarai: A Novel - Jill Eileen Smith

Sarai is a beautiful woman, spoiled by her father and used to getting her own way.  When her half brother Abram asks for her hand in marriage, she agrees with one condition.  He must never take another wife.  Sarai's father thinks this is restrictive but agrees to the union with his own condition, she must give Abram a son and heir.  Sarai eagerly agrees.  As the years go by and still no child, Sarai becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain.  She longs to have the strong faith of her husband, but struggles as she her womb remains empty and the years pass on.  To what lengths will Sarai go to keep her end of the bargain? 

Jill Eileen Smith does an amazing job at breathing life into the biblical story of Sarai and Abram.  Sarai's struggles with her lack of children are incredibly heart wrenching.  Abram's faith is so incredible that one cannot help but be challenged by it.  The whole theme of repentance and forgiveness is beautifully woven throughout the book.  This is the first book in the Wives of The Patriarchs series and I cannot wait for the next.  This is a must read!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Messenger - Siri Mitchell

Siri Mitchell's latest novel takes the reader to the city of Philadelphia in 1778 during the Revolutionary War between the British and the Colonials.  Hannah Sunderland is a Quaker and as such takes no sides in the war. That is until her twin brother joins the Colonials and ends up in jail.  She meets Jeremiah Jones, a Colonial spy who needs to gain access to the jail to fulfill a very important mission.  The two soon develop a plan.  Hannah will spy for him which gains her access to her brother, since who would suspect a Quaker.  The only catch is that she refuses to lie.  Along the way she begins to question whether her Quaker beliefs are the right way to follow God. 

I loved the backdrop of the Revolutionary War.  The struggle that Hannah has with the faith she has grown up with and what she feels God calling her to do is powerful.  Jeremiah has his own struggles with anger and bitterness.  Both learn to rely on God for their ultimate strength.  This book draws you in from the very first page and doesn't let go until the very last word.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Chasing The Sun - Tracie Peterson

In book one of author Tracie Peterson's Land Of The Lone Star series, we meet Hannah Dandridge, a young women raising her younger siblings on a Texas ranch while her father returns to Mississippi to care for his ailing mother.  News soon comes to her that her father is missing and possibly dead, and has left instructions for her to marry his much older business partner, Herbert Lockhart.  To make matters worse, the son of the previous ranch owner, William Barnett, returns and claims the ranch is his.  Torn between honoring the wishes of her father and the growing attraction she has for William, Hannah will have to search out God for the right path to follow.

Tracie Peterson weaves a wonderful tale of intrigue, obsession, and prejudice in the middle of the war between the states.  Hannah is a women torn between honoring her father and being independent. Filled with many twists and turns along the way, we are left on the edge of our seat to see how it all ends.  Hannah is a strong women in a time when women were considered weak and frail.  I loved the gumption she had when a threat to the ranch by the Comanches comes across her path.  I cannot wait to see the next in this series.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heroes and Monsters: An Honest Look at the Struggle within All of Us By Josh James Riebock

As a Gen X’er, reading a book by a guy known for his Gen Y style was tough. Since I work with several Gen Y’ers I sort of took a bit to get into this book, but I did get into it. Maybe it is my ADHD brain, but this is the best “captured thought” book I have read. Some people spell out the internal thought process, but in Heroes and Monsters, Josh Riebock really gets the randomness of thought, and how we think and we jump around all over the place, but he does it with and interesting style and with clarity that creates suspense in what will happen next and how all of these events will link together. This book goes through several major events in the life of the author and the way he processes them, endures and comes through to the other side of them.
As we go through the different points and struggles in life, I think most people can identify with the thoughts and the experiences that Josh goes through, from ending up in a corn field with a drunken father, to the struggle of avoiding the temptation to cheat on a spouse given the opportunity, and the loss of a parent and the utter chaos that happens as you process that kind of trauma to the emotions… the absence… the loneliness.
There are several visual elements to the book (by Derek Geer) as well, which I loved! As an artist I loved the insertion of full-page pictures, and the use of visual elements within the text itself to help illustrate a point. Read the book, and you can see what I am talking about.
Because of this book, which was my first exposure to Josh Riebock, I will have to look into some other books by this author too… He’s a very talented, visually expressive writer.

Here is the official trailer for the book:

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Called to Contoversy by Ruth Rosen

Absolutely fascinating! I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but I sure got a lot out of it!
This is the Story of Moeshe Rosen and how he first grew up as a Jew, and then how he made the connection of the Hebrew Bible to the Jewish man named Jesus of the New Testament. Things done in secret lead to a profession of faith that Jesus was the Messiah to the Jewish people. Moeshe does the unthinkable. He accepts Christ as Messiah, and begins to work in the Jewish community to tell others the same. I have thought the same thing since I ran into some writings by David Stern. If Jewish people would just read the New Testament, they could see who this Jesus is. Some aspects of the Christian church need to stop seeing Jews as the people that killed Jesus, and see them as those lost, just like any other spiritually lost person. Moeshe takes the message of the Gospel… the message of the Messiah to the Jewish people. He is likened to be the Jewish Billy Graham.
One of the first stories stood out to me… Moeshe at his mother’s death bed. She is unsure of her eternal destiny (as many Jewish people are). He begins to tell her about the certainty of Jesus and heaven and she slips into eternity with such anger that it really made me think. How would I feel if my child tried to convert me tome something that I did not agree with as I was dying? It raises other questions… How does the Gospel of love create so many angry people? Why do people hurt the Jewish people? Why is there such ridiculing that comes from the lives of Jewish people that is aimed at Christians? In the Jewish culture, how many of those people are culturally Jewish rather than religiously Jewish? Who follows the “faith” in ritual only?
In all, this is an incredible biography written by the daughter of a man that had a passion for his people, and for Christ, and even though many would say that there is no matching the Jewish faith to Jesus, he saw it and shared it with great impact! Definitely a good read.
I was provided a free copy of this book for review by Booksneeze, and was not required to give a good review.

The Last Plea Bargain - Randy Singer

Jamie Brock is a prosecutor who is known for never offering a plea bargain to any case that comes across her desk.   Her resolve is tested though when a prominent defense attorney is charged with the murder of his wife and manages in the process to cause a massive log jam in the court dockets.  Criminals start to run the judicial system by refusing plea bargains and swamping prosecuting attorneys desks.  This leads to felons walking free on the streets.  Faced with many tough decisions along the way, will Jamie be able to hold onto her convictions and protect the reputation of her father?  Or will she set it all aside to convict a man who murdered his wife?
Randy Singer has written a masterful book that kept me hooked to the very last page.  Jamie's struggles with her convictions and her ethics clashing with her desire for justice are gripping.  The book takes so many twists and turns, it made it extremely hard to put down.  Mr. Singer is a genius at the legal thriller.  I sincerely hope to see the character of Jamie Brock again!!

Check out the trailer for the book below, then go run to your local Christian bookstore to pick it up!!!

I received a complimentary advanced reader copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for review purposes. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flirting with the Forbidden (Finding Grace in a World of Temptation) By Steven James

Steven James uses his skill as a storyteller to dig into the thoughts and reasons of some significant Biblical characters.  Of course, there is some artistic license used in telling their stories, but from what I saw, the thought processes that he writes are very plausible for their situation.  I know that sometimes I look at people in the Bible and see them as these people that don’t make mistakes, and that they don’t struggle with sin and temptation.

The one that stood out to me most was the one about Joseph, and just the way he struggled with temptation to commit sexual sin.  In my life I see situations where men obviously don’t care about sexual purity, but I do.  I really strive for it.  As someone in ministry, it is something that I have to do as a commitment to God, and as covenant to my wife, and as an example to other men.  I have always liked the Joseph story, but never saw all the little things that should have been like a flag of warning.  It does appear that Joseph was conflicted about this temptation.  It seemed like he was saying “no”, but providing the opportunity for “yes”.

Mr. James then provides practical advice based on the things that are described in the story sections.  He looks at things like how to resist temptation, bitterness, disappointment, and each section leads in with a scripture just to give the reader some context. 

I think this is a really great book.  I think that in a culture that seems to think there is no such thing as sin, that Flirting with the Forbidden is timely and can begin to show people how they actually are before God. 
Here are some thoughts from Steven James:

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Words Spoken True - Ann H. Gabhart

Ann Gabhart's latest novel, Words Spoken True, is set against the backdrop of the political and cultural tensions of Louisville in 1855.  Adriane Darcy is an unconventional woman.  Raised in the offices of her fathers paper the Tribune, Adriane prefers writing newspaper articles as opposed to attending the many galas and luncheons that a proper lady should.  Stuck in an engagement she is unsure of, she meets the editor of her father's paper, Blake Garrett a one of these functions.  Sparks fly instantly, but he is the enemy.  Meanwhile, poor Irish women are being brutally murdered by the River Slasher, and Blake is doing what he can to try to solve the case.

From the very first page this book grabbed me.  Adriane is a very complex heroine.  She is torn between her love for the written word and what her father's wishes are, to marry Stanley Jimson.  She struggles with staying true to her heart amid her developing feelings for the editor of the competing paper.  The ongoing mystery of the River Slasher is weaved throughout the book and only resolved in the last few pages.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.