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, July 26, 2012

The Gifted - Ann H. Gabhart

"Jessamine Brady has been in the Shaker Village for half her young life, but in spite of how she loves her sisters there, she struggles to conform to the strict rules. Instead she entertains dreams of the world outside. When Tristan Cooper seems to step out of those dreams to entice her into the forbidden realm beyond the Shaker Village, her life turns upside down.  Will Jessamine be able to survive the storms of the world? Or will she retreat back to the peace of Harmony Hill?"

This was my first foray into fiction involving the Shaker  movement.  While some of their beliefs baffled me, I can appreciate the desire for the simple things.  I enjoyed reading this book.  I loved the little journal entries that would be inserted every now and then by Sister Sophrena.  It added another dimension to the story telling.  This book is one that I would recommend as a good one for packing in the bag to read at the beach or camping.  I'll have to go back and check out the other Shaker books written by Ann H. Gabhart!!!

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

Inescapable - Nancy Mehl

"Lizzie Engel is used to running away. At eighteen, she left her Mennonite hometown, Kingdom, Kansas, with plans never to return. But five years later, the new life she built is falling apart. Lizzie knows she's being followed, and she's certain the same mysterious stranger is behind the threatening letters she's received. Realizing she'll have to run again, the only escape Lizzie can manage is a return to the last place she wants to go. Once she arrives in Kingdom, Lizzie is confident she'll be safe until she comes up with a new plan. In reacquainting herself with the town and its people--especially her old friend, Noah Housler--she wonders if she judged her hometown and her Mennonite faith too harshly. However, just as she begins to come to terms with her roots, Lizzie is horrified to discover the danger she ran from is closer than ever.  No longer sure who to trust and fearful for her life and the lives of those around her, Lizzie finds she has only one place left to run--to the Father whose love is inescapable."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I love Amish fiction and I also love suspense as well.  This book takes both of those and rolls them into one amazing read!  It grabs you within the first few pages.  Lizzie is one tough cookie who has had alot to deal with.  Having left her Mennonite community years earlier to escape criticism and rejection, Lizzie is forced to return and hide once she begins to receive mysterious letters threatening her.  Lizzie is quite jaded towards those in her old community, but is quickly taken in by a kindly woman.  This book is definitely a great read!! Anxiously awaiting the second book early next year!! (And frankly it can't come soon enough!!)

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

When Hope Blossoms - Kim Vogel Sawyer

"Amy Knackstedt hopes a new start in Weaverly, Kansas, will help heal the pain of losing her husband and provide a better future for her three children. But her new neighbor, Tim Roper, is not pleased to have an Old Order Mennonite family living next to his apple orchard. Tim left the Mennonite faith years ago and doesn't want any reminders of his former life. Yet when circumstances throw Amy and Tim together, they form a friendship that surprises them both. Will past hurts always be a barrier between them, or will this tentative relationship blossom into something more?"  (Publisher's description)

I was tearing up at points with the struggles of life and loss that each of the main characters goes through.  Kim Vogel Sawyer has written a beautifully woven story from beginning to end.  It is a picture of two different ways of dealing with personal loss.  Tim tries to deal with it on his own and only ends up isolating himself and running from any emotion or attachment.  Amy deals with it by embracing her faith in God and putting her trust in Him.  That's not to say she doesn't have her struggles either though.  The ending is completely satisfying and enjoyable.  I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend 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.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Redeeming Church Conflicts - Review By: Jason

Redeeming Church Conflict By Tara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling
It’s sad that such a book exists.  In a group of people that come together in the name of love and family, there are bound to be conflicts.  The Church of Jesus is filled with people, and people choose to become followers of Jesus.  Sometimes those same people lose track of that one they are following.  If over time (because these things rarely happen in an instant) someone becomes hurt or angry for whatever reason in the church, it can lead to conflict… between members of a church… between a church and its pastor… between pastors of different churches.
Barthel and Edling work as mediators in church disputes.  They are hired to help a church work through a conflict.  Usually when they come, it would seem, things are quite a mess.  But with experience, and training, and strong biblical focus they are able to help in many cases.
The scriptural focus of this book is Acts chapter 15 where there is a conflict in the first century church.  They draw on this passage (and many others) to give good, sound advice from God’s perspective.
Conflict in the church is a reality.  As long as people struggle with their flesh there will be the conflict.  I find it interesting that one of the main ideas that these mediators bring into a situation is that in all things the parties in conflict should focus on the eternal, and not on winning the conflict.  When people’s own interests become their focus conflict rises.  When people focus on the health of the church, this perspective allows for solving the conflict.
This book is a very practical text.  It is focused around case studies from their experience.  Some were successful, while others were not.  Discussion questions accompany each chapter of the book.  The reader could easily take this book, and use it as a guide to help in their own situation.  An interesting read.
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, July 10, 2012

Relentless Pursuit: God’s Love of Outsiders Including the Outsider in All of Us

This is a very thoughtful and challenging book by Ken Gire.  As someone that has been in the church for a long time, I think the thrust of this book is that God is chasing us... relentlessly!  Have you heard this phrase?  “They are on their spiritual journey in their search for God.”  To an extent, that is true, but if you look at Scripture, you see that God is the one pursuing us... wooing us... refining us through our experiences.  Like the Good Shepherd, he will leave the 99 to go after the one.  God loves us... no matter what.

Gire also discusses the outsider.  It is the person that knows rejection and hurt from those that do not show love.  He goes through some of the obvious aspects from the bible, but he also expands the idea to include those that are not accepted today.  He describes his own battle with ADHD, and the challenges that go with that, even in his life today.  Most importantly, he shows how we all have those areas of insecurity in us.  We have those places where we don’t want others to see.... Jesus loves us even in those places.

I have found several quotable quotes that I used as Facebook statuses to make some friends think and consider.  Each chapter begins with a biblical quote, and a quotation from a notable person.  Each chapter ends with discussion questions. The book as a whole also draws heavily on the poem "The Hound of Heaven" written by a man that ran from God, but that God pursued like a hound.

I think this book is an excellent to shift from the modern perspective of the Gospel of us searching for God into realizing that God is pursuing us... every part of us.

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

NLT The Way Bible

The Way (A Bible using the New Living Translation)
I remember this bible from when I was young.  I am pleased to see that they are adapting its flavour to the modern reader.  I am writing my review from an advanced readers copy.  There may be minor changes to the version that you buy.

The Way has become known for its edgy photos, its cutting edge testimonials, and its relevance to the culture.  Of course, the Bible itself is always relevant, but when it comes to study bibles there is a purpose to how it frames the scriptures. 

Originally, The Way used the Living Bible (a paraphrase).  This version uses the more reliable New Living Translation (note that it is a translation). 

Within the pages of this Bible some study aids for the reader have been inserted.  Each book of the Bible has an introductory section to set up the purpose of the book, and to show how it is relevant to the modern reader.

There are contributions from writers in different parts of the Christian world, some well known, some just everyday Joe and Josephine.  

“Living in the Way” is a writing section that is inserted that describes an aspect of the human element in a particular biblical story.  It draws the reader in and shows how people and human nature has not really changed in thousands of years, and that we all are still in the struggle of right and wrong.

“Lament” seems to be a section to clarify something about a story.  Anyone that has read the Bible knows that there are places where you can get confused.  These passages sort of frame an issue and then explain the theology in modern language.

This Bible has some QR code squares within its pages.  They link to many of the different articles and writings.  I found them to be hard to use.  The camera on my phone could not focus on the squares because they were too small.  I tried two different apps to test them.  I hope this is changed for the official printing.

Overall, this is a great Bible.  I think I would recommend this to the older teen, or the young adult.  Welcome back, “The Way”.

Advanced Reader's Copy of the Bible has been provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Available at your favourite bookseller from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Short-Straw Bride - Karen Witemeyer

"No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.  Years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.  Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?" (Publisher's Description)

This is my first time reading a book by Karen Witemeyer and let me tell you it won't be my last.  The  novel had me hooked from the prologue.  I loved the fieriness of Meredith and the protective nature of Travis.  It had me laughing out loud at quiet a few points.  I enjoyed the dance that was their courtship.  The devotion that Travis had for his brothers and for Meredith played into many of his decisions, good and bad.  The supporting characters of the rest of the archer clan just rounded out the book beautifully.  I would love to see more stories about the Archers, especially Crockett.  This book is an excellent read for sitting out on the lounger in the backyard (where no one will look at you funny for laughing out loud!)

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.

Love in Disguise - Carol Cox

Ellie Moore is a women full of spunk and ingenuity.  Having lost her job working as the personal assistant to an actress, Ellie happens upon a job opening with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  Her abilities to complete transform herself into someone else win over the reluctant agents.  She travels to Arizona disguised as Lavina Stewart, a middle-aged widow to investigate missing shipments of silver from the local mines.  Soon after arriving she realizes she must also create another persona.  Lavina's spunky niece Jessie soon appears.  Mine owner Steven Pierce soon becomes entangled in Ellie's two different characters and Ellie's own heart.  When the thieves start to attack Lavina and Jessie, will Ellie be able to solve the case before they become successful? Or before she loses her heart to Steven?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  I loved the two completely different characters that Ellie makes for herself.  They are each completely different, but at the same time also each make up a part of who Ellie is.  This is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to everyone looking for a good mystery to pack along on summer vacation.

"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".

Touching the Sky - Tracie Peterson

"When Laura Marquardt first meets Brandon Reid, their encounter is anything but pleasant. But when the two are seated together at a dinner party, they soon find that they share similar interests--Laura desires to educate blacks, and Brandon, as a white officer over colored troops, eagerly supports her cause. When Laura's sister, Carissa, marries her Confederate beau, Laura finds herself in a difficult situation when she overhears plots to kill Union soldiers. Though in her heart she feels she should share this information with Brandon, Laura fears she will betray her sister's trust and possibly endanger her sister's life. And when Brandon's motives for pursuing her come into question, her heart is even more conflicted. Where is God leading her?" (Publisher's description)

I was very excited to review the second novel in Tracie Peterson's Land of the Lone Star series.  This novel was very hard to put down.  Tracie Peterson made me feel like I was back in post-Civil War Texas.  The decisions that Laura had to make, the choice between family loyalty and the developing feelings for Captain Reid were wrenching.  The beauty of God's grace in every situation was woven beautifully throughout the story.  I eagerly await book three in the fall!

 "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".