Tag: Christian

The Best Books I Read in July (2019)

So…normally, I pick the top three books I read in a month. This time, that’s just not possible. Because I read some really good books in July.

the secret life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner. This was from my TBR pile, so I didn’t review it. What happens when a steamy romance writer gets saved and falls in love with a preacher? This made me laugh so much, as, apparently, Sarah and I were separated at birth.

ayesha at last

Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin. This also didn’t get a review, as it was my cultural book of the month. Pride and Prejudice in a Muslim community? Yes, please! I enjoyed this immensely, and I loved the look at a Muslim community. And, of course, a good Pride and Prejudice retelling does not go amiss.

three ways

Three Ways to Disappear, by Katy Yocom. This book was emotional, full of family drama, and tigers. And so good!

the mcavoy sisters

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets, by Molly Fader. More family secrets and drama, but a much happier ending. Life on a Great Lake, secrets from the past, and a troubled relationship between two sisters.

 

the book charmer

The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins.  If i could physically give you a copy of this book—I would! I don’t even like small towns, and I’d move to Dove Pond. A librarian who hears books talk to her, a town in trouble, and the outsider who’s the only one who can save it. Please do yourself a favor and read this!

the merciful crow

The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen. Have you ever read a fantasy novel that sucked you in from the very first page, that made the culture come alive, and had characters that lived and breathed on the page? This is that book. I’d have read this straight through except work. I could NOT put it down!

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Book Review: Redwoods and Whales: Becoming Who You Actually Are, by Phil Joel

 

redwoods and whales
Image belongs to Emanate Books/Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Redwoods and Whales: Becoming Who You Actually Are
Author: Phil Joel
Genre:  Spiritual, Christian
Rating:   5 out of 5

Redwoods and Whales offers a warning and a promise:

The warning: Don’t become that beached whale, trying to live in a foreign environment.

The promise: You will find freedom when your identity is centered under the safety of the Divine.

Life is tough. Depression, addiction, suicide, violence…they’re all commonplace in our society, and they make it hard to know where to turn. Despite the “connectedness” of our social media word, many people feel alone and adrift. But we have a choice:  we can choose to seek God and His true nature, and we can choose to live healthy, purpose-filled lives.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book, but Redwoods and Whales brought inspiration and hope while acknowledging the sometimes-bleak world around us. The casual tone combined with the chatting-with-a-friend feel of the book makes it easier to soak in the deep message in this book.

Phil Joel is a musician and an artist. Redwoods and Whales:  Becoming Who You Actually Are is his debut book.

(Galley courtesy of Emanate Books/Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews

of fire and lions
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Of Fire and Lions
Author:  Mesu Andrews
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Abigail is just a girl when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem—and the temple. Abigail is taken captive and finds herself serving four Hebrew boys destined to become powerful princes in Babylon, including the kind and caring Daniel. Abigail falls in love with Daniel, but the king’s machinations keep them apart, and soon Abigail finds herself lost in another city, with nowhere to turn.

Seventy years later, Daniel and Abigail have been married for years and have children and grandchildren when Daniel is once again called to serve the new king. Abigail’s family is full of anger and malice, but she’s kept secrets about her early years, secrets that might tear Daniel from her for good, and secrets that might have a chance of mending the rift in her family. But she will have to overcome her fear with faith if she’s ever to know true fulfillment.

Of Fire and Lions is a richly imagined tale that brings Biblical stories to life. Daniel and the lions’ dent. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The exile of the Hebrews. These things come to mesmerizing life on the page. And Abigail—Belili—and Daniel come to life as well:  their struggles, their trials, and their faith drawing the reader in. This is an exceptionally detailed and vivid re-telling of some familiar Bible tales, but with so much life added to the story.

Mesu Andrews writes biblical fiction. Of Fire and Lions is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Ministry of Ordinary Places, by Shannan Martin

 

ministry of ordinary places
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

 

Title:  The Ministry of Ordinary Places
Author:   Shannan Martin
Genre:   Nonfiction, Christian
Rating:   5 out of 5

Many people dream of big ministries in places they feel at home in, surrounded by people like them. Shannan Martin found that that sort of ministry wasn’t her destiny at all. Instead, she ended up in a working-class neighborhood in Goshen, Indiana—okay, a neighborhood where sometimes finding a job to work at is hard—an ordinary place, surrounded by ordinary people who might be wildly different on the surface, but who are alike at heart:  struggling and in need of love.

Truly paying attention to both the big things and the small can open your eyes to the truth in the world around you, and Shannan built a home amidst people who were willing to do life together—no matter how hard that is at times. Sometimes, when God calls people to ministry, it’s not a Billy Graham-style of ministry. Instead, it’s smaller, quieter, and has a profound effect on the people around us, the people who make up our lives.

This book. This book. Usually when I read nonfiction, I can only read a few pages at a time, but I wanted to read large chunks of this at a time. Shannan’s writing is so powerful and evocative, full of truth that touches the heart and opens the mind to broader ideas of home—and what that can look like.

Shannan Martin is a writer and speaker. The Ministry of Ordinary Places is her newest book.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Chosen for Christ, by Heather Holleman

chosen for christ
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:  Chosen for Christ
Author:  Heather Holleman
Genre:  Nonfiction, Christian
Rating:   4 out of 5

Most people spend their lives in search of something:  marriage, career, prestige, a better job, more education…but these things we plan on often leave us frustrated and searching for more. What if we started living as if we were chosen for a person, Jesus Christ, instead of a plan? A calling is about more than a plan. Turn that old way of thinking on its head and embrace your true identity.

Chosen for Christ is all about embracing your identity as being chosen by Christ—and what that really means for you and your life. This book was both inspiring and uplifting and gave me a whole new way to think about things. An excellent read!

Heather Holleman is a wife, mother, college teacher, and author. Chosen for Christ is her newest book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Return of the Song, by Phyllis Clark Nichols

returnofthesong
Image belongs to Gilead Publishing.

Title:   Return of the Song
Author:   Phyllis Clark Nichols
Genre:   Fiction, Christian
ating:   4.2 out of 5

Caroline Carlyle lost her fiancé six years ago and lost her music as well, at least the ability to finish the song she was writing for him. Now her days are a pleasant haze of piano lessons, church, and time spent with her neighbors. She doesn’t have the to heart to try anything new.

But change starts when Caroline hears someone playing her song—in her home—one night. The mystery of her stalker starts to stir things up, and soon Caroline is searching for her childhood piano, which leads her to Kentucky and a mysterious, reclusive gentleman. Change is coming—even if she’s not ready for it.

This was a calm, soothing read, with a vividly-realized setting and characters. It’s a quiet book, and one I enjoyed very much. I don’t know a lot about piano music, so some of the nuances were lost on me, but I loved every single page, and I was not expecting the resolution to the mystery of her stalker.

Phyllis Clark Nichols was born in Georgia during a hurricane. Return of the Song is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Gilead Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Warfare: Winning the Spiritual Battle , by Tony Evans

warfare
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   Warfare: Winning the Spiritual Battle
Author:   Tony Evans
Genre:   Christian
Rating:   5 out of 5

So many people have problems they’re fighting:  depression, drug use, anger, divorce, financial problems…the list goes on and on. But these are just the symptoms of a much greater problem. The real battle isn’t with these issues, it’s with the devil and his armies.

Tony Evans shows us how to fight these enemies—and win. He shows you how spiritual warfare is impacting your life and those around you, what effect these enemies are having, and the weapons at your disposal. He’ll show you how to become a victor over the enemies in your life. This truly is a war.

Tony Evans uses powerful teaching in an easy-to-understand style as he lays out the battles facing us every day, before he turns to the weapons to use to fight back, and the power that stands behind us. This a wonderful, powerful book for all Christians to read.

Dr. Tony Evans is an evangelical leader, pastor, and speaker. Warfare: Winning the Spiritual Battle is his newest book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Things I’d Rather Do Than Die, by Christine Hurley Deriso

things I'd rather do than die
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   Things I’d Rather Do Than Die
Author:   Christine Hurley Deriso
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Jade Fulton is a senior in high school who only hangs out with her best friend. She spends time with her family:  her brother, half-sister, stepmom, and her dad. She watches high school drama from the outside and can’t wait to go away to college. Until her father is diagnosed with aggressive cancer, and her world just doesn’t make sense anymore. Then she’s held hostage in the gym where she works, locked in a dressing room with Ethan Garrett.

Ethan is the star quarterback, popular, high-achieving, and a Christian. He has his life planned out:  a scholarship to prove he’s not like his abusive, alcoholic father, life with his cheerleader girlfriend, and growing in his faith. But when he’s locked in the dressing room with agnostic Jade, he soon starts to ask himself questions he thought he already knew the answers to.

Their shared ordeal creates a bond between Ethan and Jade that lingers back in their regular lives. But those questions—and answers—they shared while locked in the dressing room cause them both to realize that what they always had in life is no longer good enough.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints and people marking this book as DNF…because it’s Christian, and they think Christians are too judgmental and close-minded. Which seems a bit hypocritical, considering they automatically refused to read it. And Christians are the ones who are judgmental? Right. Sure, some Christians are judgmental. Just like some people who aren’t Christians are judgmental. Judging an entire group by the actions of a few is never the right choice.

I was impressed that Ethan is a teenage boy with a strong faith. You don’t see that much. Here’s the thing:  Ethan actually listens to Jade and starts asking himself and others questions as he learns from her remarks. He realizes he needs to make some changes to the way he thinks, especially about non-believers. I found his wishy-washiness with his girlfriend and the way he kept taking her back pretty annoying, but he’s a teenager. He’s still learning.

Jade has a sizable chip on her shoulder because of her family history, her experiences with racism, her feelings about religion, and her dad’s illness. She’s plenty judgmental, but she’s too close-minded to see it. She does some stupid things during the story, but she learns and attempts to grow from them.

Christine Hurley Deriso is a YA author. Things I’d Rather Do than Die is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: God Speaks Your Love Language, by Gary Chapman

God Speaks
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   God Speaks Your Love Language
Author:   Gary Chapman
Genre:   Christian
Rating:   4 out of 5

Millions of people say The 5 Love Languages saved their marriage. Now Gary Chapman applies those love languages to God and those who follow Him.

Some people see God as an impersonal, far away deity, but He is really an up-close-and-personal Father who chooses to speak to us in the language we are most comfortable with. This book both reveals ways that God speaks to us in each love language and shows us ways we can speak to Him and learn new love languages.

I’ve never read The 5 Love Languages (Yet. But I did just buy it, after reading this), yet the author speaks so candidly and simply that all the concepts are easy to understand and relate to. I loved the sections on different forms of worship!

Gary Chapman is the author of The 5 Love Languages. His newest book is God Speaks Your Love Language.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All Your Life, by Darryl Dash

how to grow
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life
Author:   Darryl Dash
Genre:   Christian
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

I want to call you to do ordinary things that will make an extraordinary difference, not just in your life but in the lives of others.

This quotation sums up the entire book in one simple sentence. This isn’t a complex book, full of convoluted to-do lists. Instead, the author offers simple, basic tenets of faith—praying, reading the Bible, involvement in a church—to build a foundation on, followed by “extra” things that can be added on after the basics are mastered. (Hint:  the basics are never completely mastered.) The conversational tone and examples from the author’s life make this easy to read and apply. I highly recommend it.

Darryl Dash is an author, pastor, and church planter in Toronto. How to Grow is his new book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)