Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Reviews- 2012

My goodness, we're into March & I haven't yet posted a "Book Reviews" page for 2012.  So here goes.  I'm reading a ton of things at present, but I'll hold off on reviews until I actually finish them.

  1. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives - Richard Swenson - (see my posts on the book here) This book is revolutionary, and stands as a direct challenge & wake-up call for modern American life.  Certainly as followers of Christ, with the model set by God of Sabbath rest, and the model of Jesus Himself taking time in the wilderness and outside of cities to pray, rest, and have times of retreat and recharging, we should be more diligent in the pursuit of "margin" in our lives.  Swenson does a wonderful job laying out a critique of the marginless life, and spends a good portion of the book offering encouragement and ways to begin building margin into your life.  I greatly appreciated and highly recommend this wonderful book. 
  2. What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage - by Paul David Tripp - My ladies Bible study group has read through this book since Fall of 2011, and it has been so challenging, thought-provoking and encouraging.  Tripp continually reframes marital stressors & conflicts in spiritual terms and challenges us all to focus on being more like Christ in the way we love & submit to one another.  The marital picture he paints-- one of reconciliation, grace, and understanding our humanity in light of Christ's sacrifice for us-- is rich and wonderful; every woman in our study has been wowed and challenged by Tripp's words.  Highly recommended.
  3. Walk By the Spirit In Your Homeschool Decisions - by Marilyn Howshall - This booklet is one in a series about homeschooling topics.  Because I heard so many raves about this particular installment, I purchased it late last year (you'll notice that, for a paperback booklet, it comes at a dear price).  It has truly been one of the more important homeschooling books I've read, and frankly, an encouragement to me as a believer.  Howshall offers encouraging instruction about listening for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit as we go through life in general, and homeschooling in particular.  I feel both free in my homeschool decisions, and wonderfully constrained in the way I lean in to hear the voice of God, after reading this small book.  Highly recommended for anyone, particularly for homeschoolers.
  4. My Lady Ludlow - by Elizabeth Gaskell - (free on Kindle) - Having watched BBC's delightful series, "Cranford", when I saw the Kindle version of this book (one of the 3 books BBC interwove to make the movie version of Cranford) offered for free, I snatched it up and began reading.  As with other of Gaskell's works, I find her writing far superior to Jane Austen's in character development & the inclusion of real-life scenarios (like death of major characters, true disappointment in love, etc.).  This book was enjoyable and insightful (particularly for fleshing out the history of Lady Ludlow and informing some of her decisions seen in the movie).  This is an enjoyable little book that would be particularly enjoyable to fans of Austen or Gaskell.
  5. Sixty Acres And A Bride - by Regina Jennings -  I picked up Regina's novel one afternoon, and finished shortly after midnight.  I literally could not put the book down until I'd finished! This excellent repackaging of the biblical story of Ruth (during the era of post-Civil War reconstruction, in Texas) includes historical information and details of life that ring true, giving rich flavor to the wonderfully spun tale.  I particularly appreciated the cross-cultural awareness of Rosa's struggles to adapt to life in a new culture.  The careful attention given to slowly unraveling Rosa's past (growing in understanding of her as the story progresses), and the way Jennings helps the readers to understand her culture of origin, made the story more earnest and compelling.  This is one of those books that left me gasping as I turned the pages, hoping for answers and resolution.  It was a great example of Christian historical fiction, and I recommend it.
  6. Lord, Teach Us To Pray - by Andrew Murray - In college, I began reading Andrew Murray, at the encouragement of a godly friend, and since that time, whenever I have opportunity, I seek to learn from the writings of that godly man.  I snatched up this book for free on Kindle, and enjoyed slowly reading through it.  As our family dynamics have changed, I have sought to continually pursue God and yield to Him, even though the methods/practices may change over time.  So reading books like Murray's, about prayer, press me to continue pursuing God, continue letting Him change my perspective, and continue to know Him through prayer.  Like any Andrew Murray book, I highly recommend this book.
  7. Witness (Seeds of Christianity) - by E. G. Lewis - I snagged this book for free on Kindle, knowing nothing about it except the small description. It's easily a 5-star book, and one I believe I'll want to return to again and again.  Having picked it up to read last night, I couldn't put it down until I finished this afternoon. Not only does Lewis weave in wonderful true-to-life details about Jewish culture, law, and experiences, but he paints such a rich picture of cultural differences. First- he provides such a rich "background" to understanding the cultural differences between the Jews & the Roman culture around them, and later, he gives clear contrast between the common, ruddy Jewish shepherds who were invited by angels to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and the proud, richly-tuniced, ritually "clean" Jewish Pharisees in the temple. Though this story is not centered on Jesus, His birth, childhood, and ministry are woven into the fictional tale of the coming of age of a Bethlehem shepherdess.  This novel boasts not only rich historical detail, cultural insights, and biblical perspective, but Lewis grabs the heart of the reader with a love story with two very likable, good-willed characters. I appreciated every single bit of this novel, so much so, that after having a record of downloading nearly 400 Kindle books-- ALL FREE-- I purchased my first Kindle purchases today, books 2, 3, and 4 of this series, so I could continue reading the saga of the little shepherdess, Rivkah. Truly, moving frugal old me to hit the "buy now" button is a success indeed. :) Read this book! You won't be sorry!
  8. Disciple (Seeds of Christianity, book 2) - by E.G. Lewis - The second in this series, Disciple continues telling the story of Rivkah, who we met as a Bethlehem shepherdess.  She is now a middle-aged woman, and through her family's life in Jerusalem, we meet the apostles, Stephen (the first martyr) and come to a greater understanding of what a tense situation it was for early Christians, as they sought to be faithful disciples of Christ, brothers to one another, careful recorders of what had occurred in Jesus' lifetime, and witnesses to the (understandably) hostile culture around them.  These books are great at giving a sense of not how things "had" to be, but how things could have been, for early Christ-followers.  I am learning so much about the cultures of the times, and enjoying a rich sense of the historical context, without feeling like I'm reading a series of lectures.  This series is truly excellent!
  9. Apostle (Seeds of Christianity, book 3) - by E.G. Lewis - In this third book in the "Seeds of Christianity" series, 'Apostle', we continue to follow Lewis' characters, She'muel and Rivkah, as they settle into roles of servant leadership in the Antioch church.  Through their eyes and social circles, Lewis gives the reader a true-to-life description of what could have happened in local churches during the times of Paul's first and second missionary journeys.  We come to understand trade routes, intercultural marriage (i.e., Jewish-background Christian marrying Pagan-background Christian), Roman culture, the lascivious nature of free sexuality during the times, and what challenges the early church faced as it grew beyond its historical Judaical roots.  In a truly incredible way, Lewis masterfully provides rich historical context without sacrificing a highly engaging fictional narrative.  Lewis has done a wonderful job weaving in cultural details, historical facts, and biblical insight into the lives of She'muel, Rivkah, and their children.  Read this book!  Read the series!  I highly recommend it.


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