Wednesday, September 23, 2015

(Review) Battles of Destiny Collection No. 2, Beloved Enemy and Shadowed Memories by Al Lacy

Publication Date: January 16, 2007.
Publisher: Multnomah Books.
Genre: Historical fiction, Civil War.
Pages: 592.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 3 stars for Beloved Enemy. 4 stars for Shadowed Memories.

In Beloved Enemy, the time period is 1861.
The Abraham Lincoln family is apart of the cast of characters. The battle is the First Bull Run.
Each of Al Lacy's books point to a particular battle. He shows both Union and Confederate forces. He creates characters who will personalize the story.
Jenny becomes involved in spy missions. She and Buck fall in love. Their relationship causes friction in her family.
An additional plot is Buck has been given an important mission by President Lincoln.

In Shadowed Memories, the time period is 1862. The battle is Shiloh.
A soldier is wounded on a battle field. He has no memory of who he is. He does not have enough clothing, or battle gear to identify himself.
He is cared for by a beautiful woman named Hannah Rose.

My Thoughts:
Both stories are good, but I enjoyed reading Shadowed Memories more.
The plot of the amnesiac working to find out who is identity is, who his family is, and what side is he on, Confederate or Union, made it impossible to place the book down.
Both love stories are probable.
The war is not the back drop, but a main character. The war is constant, both swarthy and powerful.
A second reason I enjoyed reading Shadowed Memories more is several women are strong characters. The Civil War was fought primarily by men, but women worked as nurses, and helped in other supportive roles. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

(Review of Paperback and DVD Vol. 13) Israel's Mission: Becoming a Kingdom of Priests in a Prodigal World by Ray Vander Laan with Stephen and Amanda Sorenson

Publication Date: DVD Vol. 13, published June 4, 2015. Paperback book published July 14, 2015.
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Nonfiction, mission work, grace, God's story.
Pages: 208 pages.
Source: Free paperback book and DVD, from Litfuse Publicity Group and Zondervan.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Christian Book-paperback book.
Christian Book-DVD Vol. 13.
Amazon-Paperback book.
Amazon-DVD Vol. 13.

What's your mission?

God gave the assignment to His people thousands of years ago: to bring "lost sheep" back into the love and safety of His kingdom. He said to become a "Kingdom of Priests," and put God on display to show the world what He is like. It's still our task today. In this thirteenth volume of the That the World May Know ® film series, you'll glimpse the urgency and rewards of welcoming the strangers and prodigals the Lord longs to embrace. Discover the mission that can give your life - and the lives of those around you - greater meaning than you ever imagined.

Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the lands of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures. Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know ® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

Filmed on location at these Biblically significant sites in Israel and Jordan:

-Back to the Father's House - Negev Desert
-Show Them the Way - Timnah
-Prodigal Sons and Daughters - Qatzrin
-Return from the Far Off Country - Jerash
       -Welcome Home - Qatzrin

Israel's Mission Ray Vander Laan
The five lessons:

  1. Abraham, Sarah, and Three Strangers.
  2. Israel at Sinai: The First Great Commission.
  3. Jesus Renews The Mission: Seeking The Lost.
  4. The Lost Son: In A Far Country.
  5. The Seeking Father: The Lost Son Returns. 

Each lesson is about 30 to 35 minutes in length. The total length time on the DVD is 175 minutes.

My Thoughts:
From the first moment of lesson one and throughout all five lessons, I was engaged.
Ray Vander Laan is the speaker and teacher. He leads a small group of people to a remote archaeological place in a Bible land area, and teaches them the Bible story as it relates to God's plan for mission outreach to the world.
Vander Laan relates the Old Testament and New Testament in how God's plan has been unchanged from the beginning. God did not give up on man when we sinned, but created a redemption plan.
He is an animated speaker. He has a passion for the subject and this is infectious to the audience.
It is rare for me to be taught by a teacher who teaches with such dynamic enthusiasm.
The cinematography is breath taking. The camera sweeps the whole lens of the terrain, and takes a close-up look at particular geographical spots and archaeological places.
The lessons pertain to the society and culture of the Bible characters, but also other people groups are examined.
The stories examined in Volume 13 are:
  • Patriarchal society and what this meant in the wider scope of God's plan.
  • Ruth and Boaz. Boaz was Ruth's kinsman redeemer. 
  • The three men who visited Abraham and his gift of fine flour. 
  • The story of Gomer in the book of Hosea. 
  • Parables of the Lost Coin, Lost Sheep, and Prodigal Son.  

I'm excited to recommend this DVD and workbook for individual use, or group use.

The workbook completes the study on the five lessons. At the end of each DVD lesson, the viewer is prompted to work on the accompanying lesson in the workbook.
In the workbook, after the introduction chapter, are five lessons that accompany the five DVD lessons. In each lesson, it is broken down further by five shorter sessions. Each session is about two pages in length.
Each chapter ends with a "Think About It," "Reflection," and a verse to "Memorize."
Each larger lesson incorporates a deeper teaching on Bible culture, and other points of further explanation.
My first thought in reading through the workbook, is this is an excellent study to teach a new Christian, or a longtime Christian, the story of the whole Bible and how it blends and completes one another. It shows God's Kingdom plan. It shows God's big story of salvation. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

(Review) A Name of Her Own, Tender Ties Historical Series Book #1 by Jane Kirkpatrick

Publication Date: August 20, 2002.
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 400.
Source: In 2010, I won a copy from the author.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.


Historical links for more information:
National Women's History Museum
History of American Women blog

Time period: 1811-1812.
A Name of Her Own is a historical fiction account of  Marie Dorion. Marie and her family were apart of the Lewis and Clark expedition group. Her husband was a fur-trapper. They had two young sons. In the beginning, Marie's husband wanted her and the children to stay behind in St. Louis, she refused. The westward trek to the Pacific was physically and emotionally straining, especially for the young Dorion boys. Another woman was also apart of the expedition, Sacagawea.

My Thoughts:
I've had A Name of Her Own in my TBR pile since 2010. I'd planned to read the book in 2010, but other books kept covering it up. I'm glad to declare I've read the book and loved it. I have only 3 more Christian fiction books to read in my TBR pile.
I loved reading a Christian fiction book where the emphasis is not on a love story. The theme of boy meets girl, or girl meets boy, and their romantic tango has gotten boring.
A strong theme of A Name of Her Own is the survival of Marie Dorion, and her effort to provide and care for her young sons. A secondary theme is Marie Dorion's eye-witness to history.
She is portrayed as a independent minded woman. She is a resilient and persevering woman. The friction between Marie and her husband depicts their harsh and abusive life. Marie's intention is for her family to survive; however, her husband's perspective is different.
A Name of Her Own shows the tasks Marie and Sacagewea would be expected to perform. From the preparing of food and camp set-up, to the tiresome travel and the constant monitoring of children. While the men had their roles, the women also had important duties.
A Name of Her Own is not a "pretty" story. At times, it is difficult to read. The reality of Marie's life was brutal. Her losses, regrets, and consequences of actions caused her anguish. However, her reaction was often propelled by the decisions of other people.
A Name of Her Own is a memorable testament to Marie Dorion's life. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

(Review) Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig R. Koester

Publication Date: April 2, 2001.
Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Genre: Nonfiction, commentary on Revelation.
Pages: 223.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Christian Book

Revelation and the End of All Things, is a study of the book of Revelation in the New Testament.
Revelation has been a controversial and debated Bible book since the beginning.
Revelation is from the Greek word, apokalypsis, meaning an uncovering, a disclosure, and the unveiling of spiritual truth.
The book was written by the "beloved disciple" John, but he is not the author. John writes what he saw and experienced in a vision while on the island of Patmos.
Revelation 1:1 "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,"
The book of Revelation is filled with strange and unearthly images, and symbolism requiring translation.
I feel Craig R. Koester has written a highly readable exegesis on Revelation.
The beginning chapter is "Interpreting the Mystery." Koester begins by sharing what the early church fathers believed, progressing to the radical views of the Branch Davidians. In this chapter, he also examines several definitions; for example, despensationalists, apocalyptic literature, and Armageddon. The chapter ends on an interesting "note," songs we sing in church from the book of Revelation.
Other chapters:
Chapter 2---Christ and the Churches (Revelation 1-3)
Chapter 3---The Scroll Unsealed (Revelation 4-7)
Chapter 4---Trumpets of Terror and Hope (Revelation 8-11)
Chapter 5---The Beast and the Lamb (Revelation 12-15)
Chapter 6---The Harlot and the Bride (Revelation 15-19)
Chapter 7---The End (Revelation 19-22)

My Thoughts:
Every year I read a NT book twelve times in twelve translations. A couple of years ago I read Revelation in this fashion. When I began reading Revelation, there was an uneasy feeling, because the book is a "strange" book. Not strange as in a science fiction type thriller, but strange in that I have believed more of "other" people's strange interpretations and feelings, rather than on reading and studying the book itself. After a few readings of Revelation, I came to the conclusion it is not a book to be feared, it is instead a book of hope, because God has a plan, it is already in process, and he is sovereign. I have nothing to fear, because God is in charge. 
One of the best points about Revelation and The End of All Things, is the author exposes the varying views of interpretation. I enjoyed reading these views and feel more prepared in engaging in conversation.
A second point is symbolism is explained. For example, "666 means imperfection."
The angel's comments about the beast underscore that John did not write Revelation in a code, but used evocative symbols to convey multiple dimensions of meaning. Page 159.
Not long ago I read God's Final Word by Ray Stedman. The highlighted link will take you to my review.
I recommend both of these study books on Revelation.

During our current era in which selfishness, hatred, cruelty, self-entitlement, crime, violence, and murder is wide-spread. The Church needs to read the Bible, we need to hear the Word of Truth, we need the hope and peace God has given us In Christ Jesus. 

Illustrations are from Albrecht Durer.
Bible link courtesy of Bible Gateway.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

(Review) Esther: Royal Beauty, A Dangerous Beauty Novel #1 by Angela Hunt

Publication Date: January 6, 2015.
Publisher: Bethany House/Baker Publishing.
Genre: Christian fiction, historical fiction story of Esther.
Pages: 352.
Source: Free copy from Bethany House in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 stars for good.


A young girl named Hadassah hopes and dreams of being beautiful. A chance encounter with Queen Vashti stirred her heart.
The Old Testament story of Esther is brought to life by Angela Hunt. 
Esther: Royal Beauty is not a nonfiction piece, but a historical fiction story. Hunt fills-in with fictional details of Esther's early life before being called to the king's service for her beauty. Hunt fills in the details of Esther's intimacy with Xerxes, king of Persia. Hunt "supplemented" the Biblical story "with writings from the Greek chronicler Herodotus." The "Author's Note" gives a full explanation of how the historical novel was written.

My Thoughts:
There have been other books written on the same story.
All of these books are in the Christian fiction market. I did not include the nonfiction books, nor the Bible study written by Beth Moore.
Esther: Royal Beauty is an entertaining story, but it did not sweep me away. In addition, I did not feel a strong investment in the characters, period.
I love the Bible story of Esther. I did not love Esther: Royal Beauty.
If a reader is looking for an entertaining fictional story of Esther, then Esther: Royal Beauty is a good choice.
If a reader is looking for a Bible based (with no additional outside sources), then this is not the book for you.

What I liked about Esther: Royal Beauty:

  • I was given a new dynamic view of the royal palace and court of King Xerxes.
  • I was given a close-up view of Queen Vashti. 
  • I was given a close-up view of the royal children. 
  • I was shown a negative view of the predicament of Hadassah/Esther. I'm including in this reason her feelings and attitude.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

(Review) A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

Publication Date: December 2, 2014.
Publisher: Bethany House/Baker Publishing.
Genre: Christian fiction, Civil War.
Pages: 336.
Source: Free copy from Bethany House in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 stars for good.


Late winter, 1865, Missouri.
Abigail Stuart is a nurse caring for Confederate soldiers in a prison. She developed a "brief" friendship with a wounded soldier named Jeremiah Calhoun. He asked her to care for his Ozark farm, and ill sister, in the event of his death. Further, she accepted his proposal of marriage. After arriving on the Ozark farm, caring for the ill sister, mother-in-law, and farm is hard work. Life becomes complicated when a haggard and wounded soldier named Jeremiah Calhoun arrives at the farm. He states he is the "real" Jeremiah Calhoun.

My Thoughts:
What I did not like:
  • I don't care for the front cover, it's silly. 
  • I don't care for the beginning plot. I cannot imagine a young woman of any era, meeting a man who is a wounded prisoner, and soon afterwards marrying him. I understand Abigail's circumstances as a desperate woman in search of having a home and income after her duty as a nurse is finished. However, I feel she's naive and asking for trouble. 
What I did like:
  • The conflict between Jeremiah Calhoun and Abigail Stuart. The conflict and tension, as well as the magnetism between them kept me reading till the last page. 
  • The love story between Jeremiah and Abigail is a blend of attraction and yet a patient maturity. At times they are swept up in feelings, but decide to wait for a mature direction. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

(Review) Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

Publication Date: April 7, 2015.
Publisher: Bethany House.
Genre: Christian fiction, identity.
Pages: 336.
Source: Free copy from Bethany House in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars for good to very good.

Kellie Huddleston is a young woman in her early twenties. When the story begins, she looses her job, her parents have recently died, and the estate her father left is meager. In cleaning out her parents home, she finds paperwork kept hidden for many years. Kellie leaves California and drives to Tennessee to discover her true identity.

My Thoughts:
For the most part, I really liked this story.
The main theme of "identity crisis" is new in Christian fiction. I welcome the change as compared to the usual light romantic main theme.
In Finding Me, a romantic element is brought in to the story, but it is not a main theme, and frankly I feel it is not needed.
A business owner in a small town in Tennessee hires Kellie. People call him Kenmore. He is a link to her past. I liked Kenmore and found him to be an interesting character. He is low-key and understated, yet he creates a curiosity to know more about this man. I feel his character needed more presence and story. At times, I wanted to read about Kenmore and less about Kellie.
Kellie is in search of her true identity. I felt her feelings needed to be stretched out more, or developed more in the story. Her feelings of despair, anger, sadness, shock, and grief needed to be expounded on in more detail, and not rushed in order to conclude on the last page.