Tag Archives: reviews

Who Do You Think You Are: Review

My generation doesn’t know who they are. We are constantly trying to define ourselves by which start-up, which brand, which branch, which group, which career, which university, which personality . . . get it? We want so badly to be someone, but at the same time, we don’t want to be like everyone. It is a dilemma to be sure, and many of us are approaching adulthood and struggling through identity crises. But there’s good news. However, for Christians, our identity has been defined, and who we are has been cleared. We are in Christ.

This was a very timely read for me. I feel like I could read it again already, although I have just finished it about two weeks ago. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Washington State, presents a very easy, clear, and challenging look at our identity as found in Ephesians in his book Who Do You Think You Are? I thoroughly enjoyed this journey through Ephesians because it challenged my ideas of identity and finding my identity in what I did or who valued me. Rather, as Driscoll points out, our identity is bound up in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Driscoll walks through each section of Ephesians and shows us what our new identity in Christ looks like. What does it mean to be redeemed? How does my interaction with others change? How do I act if I really believe I am forgiven? This book was really helpful for me to hold up a model for what my life ought to look like since I have been bought with a price, and since my identity has been changed. It was an encouragement to see how I could let go of the things that were holding me back, and at the same time it was a challenge to actually let go of those things that are holding me back. I am now a child of God. What happened in my past cannot weaken His power or grace. I cannot grovel in my past failures, or boast in my successes, because all of it has been stripped away, and I have been given a new persona. I am Christ’s image-bearer here, in this world, for this time.

Driscoll has also been preaching the same series at his church in Washington, so I have been listening along online. It has been great for me to really revel in the Gospel and in the finished work of Christ and what that really means for my life. Listening and reading to the same message has challenged me to seriously think through how I am living and who I view myself as. Because that view really does invade and influence the rest of my life and interactions.

I would highly recommend this book for any Christian who has ever struggled with their identity in Christ and what that practically looks like. If you have ever wallowed in guilt and wondered how to rise up from it? If you have found yourself struggling with pride and wanted freedom to truly serve Christ, then this book will help you to explore who you now are and what the new you should do and look like.

Where Treasure Hides: Review – 28 Days of LOVEliness style

So, I think that this fits into the 28 Days of LOVEliness just fine, since the book I’m about to review is definitely a love story! Where Treasure Hides by Johnnie Alexander Donley is a historical Christian fiction novel set right before and during the second World War. It is a story that will take you from England to Holland to Germany, through France, and all the time it will keep you wondering how everything is going to work out in the end.

Alison Schuyler was born in America, but moved to Holland to live with her grandfather when she was just a child. Her family has owned an art gallery for ages, and she is a budding artist herself. She works closely with her grandfather and a few other close friends at the gallery, but as the war approaches, they find it necessary to start protecting Holland’s art legacy from plundering Nazis. Among that legacy are some famous and irreplaceable works of art, but just as irreplaceable are some of the family’s own additions to the gallery.

Across the water in England, a young man named Ian is serving Britain in the Queen’s army. A chance encounter while traveling puts Ian and Alison in the same train station in Waterloo, and ends up changing both of their lives. Though they both return to their respective duties and lives in Holland and on the war front, they will never be the same after having scones together near Waterloo station.

During the long hard war, Alison and Ian both face their own struggles and challenges, sometimes life-threatening. But all the while, they hold out hope that eventually they will meet again. As it happens, they do. But, it is not as easy or as “happily ever after” as we all would have hoped.

I’m going to let you discover what happens to them for yourself, rather than spoil the story.

Where Treasure Hides is definitely an intriguing and interesting book. Especially if you are interested in historical Christian fiction. I was not blown away by this book. The storyline was not completely new nor gripping, but I did enjoy the story, and it did bring out a new aspect of WWII that I had never really contemplated or considered. The book also comes with discussion guide in the back. This book, being Christian fiction, is completely clean. It would be a great family book, especially if your children are studying WWII or have questions about that time of history (I think that probably pre-teens and above would enjoy this book most). It is a little on the long side with 357 pages, but if you can carve out some time, and you are interested in the topic and genre, then I would recommend picking it up.

Have you read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!!

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I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Birds Without Wings: Review

I cannot now bury my friends without bringing to mind the atrocities and the realities that they lived through. I cannot leave them in the ground without thinking of the joys they experienced, the pains they knew, and the questions that they never had answered.

This is the feeling that I was left with when I closed the last page of Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres. The book is set in the early 1900s in Southwestern Turkey. de Bernieres chose a really unique style of writing that mixes the reader into a small, tight community and instantly builds connections with the different families in the town. He then zooms out and looks at what is going on in the world at large and what is happening on the bigger scale. The story follows not only the small town of Eskibahçe, but also the life of Atatürk, the battles of World War 1 and the Turkish War for Independence. I won’t share too many details, because that is the beauty of the story. If you’ve read my review of Island of the World, I would say that this book falls into a similar category. The driving storyline is not so much towards a main action, but rather centers on people and life.

I have very mixed feelings on sharing this book. I absolutely loved it. I found it fascinating and enthralling, especially because I am living in this part of the world and I found it completely relevant and enlightening for my own personal life. The book is so beautifully written as well. de Bernieres has a profound vocabulary and a beautiful story-telling style that is very pleasing to a literary mind.

However, I must also offer up a disclaimer. This is not a  family book. The book is candid and raw and honest. It shares realities of a time that people shouldn’t be proud of. As de Bernieres shares, there were very Holocaust-like atrocities that took place in this part of the world that no one talks about or knows about. de Bernieres doesn’t hold back on his descriptions of what happened, nor does he camouflage realities with gentle language. So, if you have any qualms about reading books with vulgar depictions and language, than I would advise that you not read this book. I will say that my intrigue was heightened by my living in Turkey and my understanding of the area and the cultures that were being referenced. If this is not a topic that you are interested in, then this is not a book that you should just pick up out of the blue. It is significantly long, and it will work its way into your heart and mind, so choose carefully. However, if this is an area of the world, or a time period that interests you, don’t hesitate to pick this book up, because it is a beautiful and honest depiction of life in this part of the world.

If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!!

Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning: Review

Christians usually do not talk about depression, because believers are – so I thought -not supposed to experience it. Depression is seen as a moral failing. To admit to it is to admit weakness and sin.


I recently read the book Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning by Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt. The book addresses the topic of Christian depression. As the quote above signifies, this is a topic that is often avoided, or written off as a spiritual problem, without addressing the physical issues that are at times connected to clinical depression. In my opinion, it is true that depression can come from spiritual issues, but after reading this book, I have also realized that depression can also be a very physical problem, and it may require medical help, and it will certainly require time and love in dealing with the problems.

I had always been of the opinion that if someone suffers from depression, that is their problem, and they need to just toughen up and get over it. Tommy Nelson, a pastor from Texas, and Steve Leavitt, a Christian counselor, both give detailed accounts of their journey through depression. Through their stories, it was clear that even people who are serving God can fall into severe depression, and they can require medical help to get back on track. This part of the book, the story telling part, helped create the backdrop for all of the advice and help that was offered in the second half of the book.

In the second part of the book, Leavitt provides a lot of details and advice concerning depression and how to deal with it. Leavitt looks at where depression comes from, what it feels like, how to know what it is, and what is actually happening physically in your body.

In the third part of the book, Leavitt looks more specifically at how to recover from depression. He addresses the issue of medicine and how to know when and what to take. He also looks at strategies to implement into your life to help you deal with depression in relationship with those around you.

Overall, I felt like the book was well-written. I found it very easy to read, and interesting. I do think that this is a topic that is important for Christians to understand. The book was grounded in Scripture, but also dealt with very practical issues for people going through depression. Anyone who has been feeling like this is a problem in their life would benefit from this book and the advice it has to offer. I certainly think that anyone who is struggling would realize that they are not alone, and this book can offer some encouragement and direction for where to go next.

My one biggest critique of the book was that the tone presented by Pastor Tommy Nelson was difficult for me to swallow. I have looked him up online, and he has indeed been very successful as a pastor and spiritual guide, but I still found it difficult because his tone came across as arrogant. In my opinion, it was the biggest problem of the book. I kept expecting that he was going to resolve his self-sufficiency when he talked about how God helped him through the depression, but it never really came.

I still recommend the book, especially for anyone who is going through, or has a loved one who is going through depression. It was helpful and informational in a way that often seems to be lacking in Christian spheres. Nelson and Leavitt honestly do offer helpful advice and ideas. But in the end, it does all come back to God, and who He is, and what He’s doing in your life.

Remember this: Anything that feels like the end of the world is not what it appears to be. Have hope. God is the God of hope. He is not a God of fear, worry, and stress. Grab onto his hope like a lifeline, and cling to it.

This Momentary Marriage: Review

I pray that we will all recognize the deepest and highest meaning of marriage – not sexual intimacy, as good as that is, not friendship, or mutual helpfulness, or childbearing, or child-rearing, but the flesh-and-blood display in the world of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.

This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper was an amazing book. I haven’t read scores of marriage books, but this one is one of the best of the few that I have read. I really enjoyed Piper’s frank approach to several important but sometimes difficult issues in marriage.

I think that sometimes I want to read marriage books that will allow me to think that marriage is about the two of us, and making us happy, and how to make life the fairy tale we wish it were. This book was not that at all, and it was actually a breath of fresh air. It was so encouraging to read because it was constantly reminding me of the true purpose of marriage and why we marry in the first place. Marrying Jeremy was something that I was so excited about, and that has been so good for the last three years, but when you really get down to it, we married because God put us together and because God wanted us to create a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church.

That relationship between Jesus and the church is not always beautiful. The church turns away, she does things to disappoint her Savior, she fails over and over again, but that never severs the tie between the two. Jesus put Himself out there to redeem the church and to keep her. He has given her a covenant that He will not leave her, and that is a promise that we can count on. In the same way, the relationship between a husband and wife is a picture of this. Regardless of how hard a marriage may be, how painful, disappointing, or unfulfilling it may be, it is not about us at all. Christ does not forsake us when we mess up, when we disappoint Him.

Piper uses this foundation to build his philosophies on other aspects of marriage. He reminds us at the end that we must have the primary things – our underlying philosophy of marriage – down before we can worry about the secondary things. Taking care of the primary leads to taking care of the secondary – not the other way around. So, of primary importance then, is that we understand that marriage is something that God does, and it is something that is for God’s glory. After that we can start to consider how those truths affect money and families and service and careers, but not before.

In this book, Piper addresses biblically several key and heavy issues in marriage. He talks through biblical sex, singleness, hospitality, having and raising children, and divorce and remarriage. The thing I love about this book is that Piper always uses the Bible, and he explains things simply and clearly. He doesn’t fudge or walk around difficult issues, he simply addresses the problems that we face with biblical answers.

I would highly recommend this book for any couple, or a single man or woman as well. Again, I felt like it was a breath of fresh air. It let me take away the responsibility I sometimes feel for making our relationship perfect. That’s not what we are called to, we are called to faithfulness and accurately displaying Christ’s covenant relationship with the church. These are very important issues, especially in today’s Christian marriage sphere. These issues need to be talked about and addressed, and I feel like this book provides a very good foundation for a Biblical philosophy of marriage.

Living Close to God: Review

Gene Edwards gives us a book in Living Close to God (When You’re Not Good at It): A Spiritual Life That Takes You Deeper Than Daily Devotions that takes us with him through his journey to a closer relationship with God. Edwards points out several ways to make God a part of your everyday life and how to make sure that you are learning how to have a really deep and personal relationship with your Savior whether or not that is your natural inclination. Edwards shares several ideas for how to incorporate aspects of our physical lives into ways to enrich our spiritual lives. He talks about walking and eating and how these things can relate us back to God throughout the day.

One of the main points that Edwards points out is that a relationship with God is not only for the learned or the educated. Rather, Jesus came and ministered to those who had never had a formal education and could not read the Scriptures for themselves. He taught even them how to walk with Him and how to truly know Him. So, in our day and age, there is no reason to believe that one must be educated or have a deep knowledge of theological concepts in order to know and walk with God.

Rather, there are lots of simple ways to develop a relationship with the God of the universe by learning how to use scripture to talk with Him, by learning how to walk and slow your heart so that you can reflect and dwell on Him, by putting reminders in little places so you will stop and think about Him, by putting a song in your heart so you are constantly praising Him. These are some of the ideas that Edwards shares to help us learn how to commune better with God.

I have to say that when I first started this book, I was really excited about it. I felt like this was the kind of book that I needed right about now, something that would re-invigorate my love and desire for God. I will say, though, that I was rather disappointed with this book. I think that there are a couple of reasons for this.

To begin with, I personally did not appreciate the literary style of the book. I am not saying that it was poorly written, but it is not a style that I appreciate. The author tended to repeat himself and give emphasis in places where I felt it was unnecessary. It read to me like a book written for simple people. Perhaps that was the aim of the book, and there is absolutely no problem with that. I just do not enjoy books written down to an audience.

The other problem with this book is that I think it is very difficult for an author to adequately write about a spiritual experience in a way that his audience can understand and share without cheapening or lessening the importance of the experience. I am not doubting Edwards’ journey to a deeper relationship with God, but there is something that happens between his heart and the paper that makes it difficult for that journey to retain the intensity and the excitement that it must have had for him. I don’t think this is a foreign concept. Surely you have experienced moments which to you were tremendously meaningful, but when you go to tell your friends, you cannot do the moment justice. I felt like this was a bit of a problem with the book. In trying to describe a relationship building with God, it is hard to write that in a way that other people are going to understand, because of the very fact that what has happened is special between you and God.

The final thing that I will say in critique of this book is that I was very disappointed with the final chapter. I am not sure what background Edwards is coming from in writing this book, but he spoke negatively about the church in the final chapter saying that if you strive to have a deep relationship with God, the church may cause problems for you, because there are people that don’t want you to actually know God, but rather to just go along with what has been prescribed. I am not saying that the church is perfect, but I do hope that in the true church, the true body of Christ, those who have believed in Him, His death and resurrection, and the fact that only faith in Him can secure eternal life, and that are living in expectant hope of His return, that there is a desire for every believer to have a vibrant and real relationship with God.

I personally would not recommend this book, though my reasons are mainly personal with the exception of the last chapter. I would not say that the writing of this book is anti-Biblical by any means, it just was not a book I enjoyed or found extremely helpful in my Christian life.

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I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group to review. I received it through their Blogging for Books program which allows bloggers to sign up and receive free books in order to write reviews for the Publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Mountain Between Us: Review

Anniversary weekend road trip reading! Jeremy and I like to read books together when we have the chance. That hasn’t happened much in the last two years, because it is a little awkward to read aloud on the minibus or tramvay. (We do however share headphones and listen to comedy radio, and that’s not much better!) Anyway, back to the point of this post.

We were road-tripping for our anniversary trip, and we chose this book together to read while we were away. We have read two other books by Charles Martin together before, and we really loved them, so we decided to check out another of his books. So, without further ado, a synopsis and my thoughts . . .

The Mountain Between Us: A Novel by Charles Martin is the story of two people in the middle of their busy lives, one about to get married, one in the middle of a doctoral career, who are trying to beat a storm in the west to make it back to the east coast without ruining any of their plans (including surgeries and a wedding rehearsal). When all of the flights from Salt Lake City are grounded, they get into a charter plane together hoping to make it to Denver before the storm does. But, they don’t make it to Denver. Instead, they crash land in the middle of uninhabited, vehicle-forbidden wilderness with only the supplies from the land and their small charter plane to help them survive.

Their time in the wilderness forces them through many difficult issues in their lives and asks some very hard questions of each of them. The story follows their race against death to make it somewhere where they can get help. But a month with only each other for company and danger constantly following them forges them into a friendship that few others would understand. Ben is an active doctor from Jacksonville who talks very frequently of his wife, Rachel, but won’t give voice to the problems they’re facing. Ashley is a journalist who is excited about the prospect of marriage, but not necessarily her groom. Both have a lot to wrestle with and the reader is allowed a little peek into their thoughts and turmoil as they make their way through the barren landscape in search of help.

Of course I’m not going to tell you the ending, but I will tell you that it doesn’t end the way you expect it to. 🙂

To be completely honest, I was a little disappointed by this book. Not because it was bad, don’t get me wrong! It was a good story, and Charles Martin is very adept at building and developing characters. That is probably his strongest suit in story-telling, and it is a good one to have! The story was well developed, and the characters are deep. But, I was still disappointed by a two things in particular.

Let me address them point by point. The first thing that I was disappointed with was that while Martin still developed the characters well and had deep problems and emotion woven throughout, I felt that the nature of the book led to difficult conversations. When you have two people trapped together for a month with only each other for conversation things can get worn out quickly. The characters were still well developed, but I was disappointed with the dialogue at times. Perhaps the banter and sarcasm might have been realistic, but as a reader I got tired of the same jokes being made. That was the one literary thing that bothered me about the book.

The other thing that bothered me was not so much literary, it was moral. I do not expect to agree with every author that I read, and I am not so close-minded as to reject everyone that does not agree with me on every point. However, that being said, I had previously really appreciated Martin’s morals and worldview in his books and in this book there were two subjects that were came up in which I was disappointed with the outcome. It is not because I expect Martin to agree with me on these points, but it is because they are highly debated and I have strong convictions on both. These two issues are abortion and lying. I was surprised that with the two topics, Martin does not include much dialogue or discussion about the morality of these issues, but simply makes statements and moves on. I was a little jolted in my mind at the brevity which he allotted these issues. It is not that I necessarily disagree with everything that Martin says in his book regarding these issues, I am just surprised that they were not drawn out anymore than they were.

Those are my two critiques of the book, but overall it was an emotional and gripping story. I keep wanted to say that it is action-packed, but it isn’t really. I mean, they are stuck in the snow for a month! But it is an adventure story, and a story of the heart and journeys that the heart has to make. I would recommend this book, because we really did enjoy it and it does raise issues that are important to think through. But if I were choosing now, I would read it before his other books (namely When Crickets Cry and The Dead Don’t Dance (Awakening Series #1)).

Let me know if you pick it up! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!! It is sometimes hard to write these reviews because I am tentative to share some of the best parts of the book because I don’t want to give ANYTHING away!!

Have you read any books by Charles Martin? Which was your favorite? If not, what are you waiting for?

The Last Plea Bargain: Review

Justice. Grace. Which one is heavier? more important? easier? Which would you choose?

I guess that depends on what side of the issue you are on.

Jamie Brock is most definitely on the side of justice. The thought of exhibiting grace rarely seriously crosses her mind. And for good reason. Jamie has not been the recipient of much grace, it seems. The man who murdered her mother has still not received his just punishment, and so many others have abused the grace that others have exhibited. For her, it is a matter of integrity.

But everything changes as one case after another begins piling up and pieces to puzzles she didn’t understand before start falling into place. So many questions come up, and she is unsure who she can trust and where she should turn. It could end up costing her her life, and the lives of those she loves. What will justice do for her then?

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The Last Plea Bargain by Randy Singer is a legal thriller that forces you to think through these questions. I read The Justice Game by Singer last year and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to see this book scheduled to be released this year. Randy’s books have a way of making you think and ask difficult questions. He will not put a proposition before you and expect you to agree with him, and I really appreciate that in an author. I also learn a lot when I read Singer’s books. He is a good author/teacher, and that makes it fun to read books outside of my general area of understanding. Singer has given us a story that is fast-paced and exciting, but also includes a lot of thought-provoking questions. There are a lot of twists and turns to the story, so you are constantly guessing what is going to happen.

On a critique side, there were times when I felt that there were maybe too many twists, and I myself never knew who to root for or support. It was not enough to ruin the story, but at the end I was maybe a little disappointed with some of the resolved relationships and exposed secrets. If it were up to me, those things could have stayed secrets, so I could keep liking the characters! This is a novel, there ought to be some suspension of reality in the mind of the reader, so the critiques I have would not cause me to not recommend the book.

On the contrary, I would highly recommend this book. Sometimes it is hard to come across good, solid fiction written from a biblical worldview that is not offensive and yet is set in the real world and deals with real world issues. This is one of the few. You won’t regret it, I promise!

I don’t want to giveaway the ending . . . but I would love to giveaway the entire book! Want to win a copy? To enter leave a comment with your instinctive answer to the opening question – justice or grace? The giveaway will be open until next Wednesday, April 11. I will announce the winner on Thursday!

What are other people saying? Here are a couple other reviews of The Last Plea Bargain to check out!

Thoughtful Convergence

Tammy Cook Blogs Books

Reviews by Molly

Jeff Randleman

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I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.