Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: An Adventure Awaits

   Bethany House Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Elizabeth Camden's Against the Tide in exchange for an honest review.  Meet Lydia Pallas, a half-Greek, half-Turk young woman who knows exactly how to order her life to protect herself from the chaotic past she has known since she became an orphan. As a language shark of multiple tongues she has landed a job as a translator for the Navy during the late 19th century that enables her to live above the poverty she knew as a young girl. While working under Admiral Fontaine, she meets Alexander Banebridge whom also has known a life of loneliness and disappointment. However, after his conversion to Christianity he leaves the world of opium trade to conquer the dark cloud that resides unbeknownst to the common American family.
    Bane recruits Lydia to help him banish the opium trade. In the process they find love and come to test where love can lead them. Bane and Lydia both come to terms with their pasts and find hope within one another. It is often when we see something of ourselves in someone else that we find ourselves at home in their arms. In the face of the dreadful Professor, an opium drug leader, Bane and Lydia find their purpose in life can be the work of a duet, rather than flying solo. Only time will tell if their will and courage can bring them through the adventure together.
    Camden has an easy way with words and a good grasp of the historical context of the subject. Not every author brings through such accuracy throughout their work. Against the Tide is more than an historical novel. It explores the depth of human emotion; the joys of love, the loneliness of self-exile, sorrow in loss, bravery in the face of adventure and determination to finish well. Even if the reader is not one to relish historical fiction one would still relate to the emotional depths that are delved into.
     I absolutely was captivated by the descriptive scenery and vivid pictures portrayed. I was transported to Boston in the late 1800s in a matter of pages. Camden created a heroine that wasn't overly macho or lost her femininity. Lydia Pallas was written with grace, eloquence and a strong spirit. She isn't the damsel in distress that needs her knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet. Though her character has flaws and she did need some rescuing, she needed a man to come into her life to show her the way to our shining Light, Jesus Christ.
     The more I think about it, the more I realize that Against the Tide has left a lasting impression upon me. I will be quick to read Camden's next adventure. May you be carried as well into her adventures and find true North.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review: A Chronicle of Miracles

     BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing provided a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review.  Miraculous: A Fascinating History of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles by Kevin Belmonte is a nice account of God's handiwork through the ages. People throughout time have looked for signs and guideposts to indicate that a supreme being lives, is at work in their lives and to find hope life is not in vain. Miraculous first looks at the biblical record to note the more renowned miracles for the most part. Subsequently, in Part Two wondrous accounts through extra-biblical history are noted.
    Belmonte didn't fill the pages with grandiose miracles entirely, which no doubt need to be counted. However, he also included miracles that could only be deemed as such in hindsight. Some miracles are an accumulative effect of days of work such as Moody's meetings. Yet, no one should deny God's definitive signature on the work that was accomplished. The author also provided historical context to the commonly-read miracles of the Bible, so the layman can gain a deeper appreciation for exactly what God showed to his people.
     Usually, when I review books I post my review within a day or two of completing the book. However, I allowed this book to settle and simmer a couple of weeks. I enjoyed reading Miraculous, but I wasn't jumping up and down to dive in. I appreciate the acquired knowledge. Honestly, I preferred the second half, possibly due to the novel nature of the stories included. Maybe that is why I didn't know exactly how I felt overall about the book. There was a lot of ground covered, centuries worth in fact. It was a lot to digest and every morsel was worth it.
     Reading Miraculous also led me to conclude that the awesomeness and wonder of the Bible stories I read often have lost their lustre. God is still working, but my eyes aren't always looking. Belmonte wants to instill that sense of bewilderment and amazement back into our beloved Christian heritage. It is when we lose that wonder our faith suffers. We may not even realize that. So, maybe this book isn't the whirlwind of miracles I was expecting. It brought something much deeper, profound and intimate back into my spiritual life. This book is perfect for Christians in their various walks at different points. Now, I pray that we all have our eyes wide open and hearts willing to witness the Miraculous.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Read and Believe

     Bethany House has blessed me with a complimentary copy of Real Life, Real Miracles: True Stories That Will Help You Believe.  The news is filled with tragedy day after day. Many wonder where God is when atrocities occur. God is in the here-and-now. He didn't use up all His powers in times of old. In Real Life, Real Miracles authors James L. Garlow and Keith Wall want the reader to be encouraged as they read glimpses of God's presence in the lives of ordinary people. They introduce people who have been miraculously healed, assisted and protected. These encounters will fill you with hope and possibly open you up to divine encounters.
     The pages are filled with people facing desperate situations and trying circumstances. Many want to give up their will to live or lose their hope to heal. In their times of need, often at the crux of the unfolding drama, His light infiltrates the darkness and hope abounds. Some would say these moments are mere coincidences or chance encounters, however, these human beings will refute that and claim to know the Divine. Miracles are more than fortunate moments of chance, fate or luck, they are encounters with God, his presence and intervention. They are reason-defying, unfathomable-but-true events that only lend credence to His glory.
     At some points my analytical side wanted to investigate and calculate some of the stories. Yet, as I reminded myself of the nature of faith,  I was in awe at what God does in the midst of our current time. Every day is filled with heartache and yet, every day is filled with miracles great and small. Not all miracles are going to be world renowned, especially since many are quick to scoff at such thingsIn Real Life, Real Miracles Garlow and Wall taught me not to always pass by the little nuances of life that may hold supernatural significance. The spiritual world may not be tangible at all times, but when God does allow the supernatural to touch down on earth I want to make sure my eyes are open and my heart is engaged enough to recognize His still, small voice.
     The stories in Real Life, Real Miracles are of people who either had their eyes open to see the miracle before them or eyes that were opened in hindsight of their miracle. I couldn't count the number of times I shook my head in awe within its 257 pages. Every story kept my attention and made me wonder at the grand love, infinite grace and awesomeness of our God. This book is inspiring, enlightening and a joy to read. Garlow and Hall will reaffirm, strengthen or bring you to faith. This volume will leave the reader knowing only God can intervene and give one a real miracle.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: A Life Changer

     In exchange for an honest review Handlebar Publishing and Thomas Nelson Publishing furbished a complimentary copy of Bold as Love: What Can Happen When We See People the Way God Does.  Bob Roberts, Jr. is a pastor hailing from Texas with a heart to match. They say everything is bigger in Texas, well that includes Roberts vision for living out his faith. Jesus didn't know a stranger and called us to love as He does. Yet, in today's world of high-tech gadgets and a whirl-wind of a world many people don't even know their neighbors next door. Roberts wants you to step outside and engage with the world at hand and possibly from afar.
     In Bold as Love  the author confronts Christians with the sobering reality of our daily interactions, or lack thereof. Can anyone say that your life is different because you are a believer? Do you know no stranger? As our world becomes more integrated with the world at large and more of our neighbors come from various religious backgrounds we need to befriend them and understand them. What that requires of us may be scary or come at a cost. But, isn't that the point to live out your love boldly?
     I was surprised and excited as I stepped into Roberts life. His love is bold and takes precedence over any fear. It is inspiring to see how one man's vision can lead many others to come out of their comfort zones and develop relationships that may last a lifetime. His vision has led him across the globe and back and has helped Muslims, Jews and Christians among others, to learn it is okay for our worlds to collide and propagate an environment where questions are allowed. His focus is not for inter-faith tolerance, but for multi-faith love.
    As I read I was required to look inside at my own heart and some of it I didn't like. Bold as Love lays out a practical way to reach out to others letting go of fear, living in faith and serving from the heart. Reading Bold as Love was an eye-opener, yet a real treat to read.
     This book would be great for many Christians, if not all followers. Roberts is honest and blunt. He doesn't shy away from sharing his misgivings in certain situations. He puts his love on the line as Christ does, as should we all. Bold as Love is a book of beauty, love and great boldness.