Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gifts From Heaven compiled by James Stuart Bell (book review)

Gifts From Heaven: True Stories Of Miraculous Answers To Prayer compiled by James Stuart Bell is a collection of 40 real-life examples of God's answers to our everyday prayers. Reminiscent of articles found in Reader's Digest a couple decades ago (and maybe more recently, I haven't read one in years), these brief glimpses will leave you feeling refreshed and hopeful in times of grief or if you're stuck in a period of wandering.

Whether it's the miraculous healing of cancer, an angel watching over a baby in NICU, or walking away from car wrecks that should have been catastrophic, everyone will find something here that is close to home and touches their heart.

The story that touched me the most while reading through this book is one that took place in Germany in 1946, when a 13-year-old girl came down typhus. She became very ill, entered into a coma, and only survived by God's grace and the power of prayer. But the story doesn't stop there. Not only did God heal her from the immediate danger of typhus draining her life, but He also healed her womb from the long-term effects of the typhus so that she was able to overcome the doctors' verdict and become a mother in due time... Having bore two children myself, despite being told I could not have children, I found this particular story to be a reminder of my own story. This helped remind me to take the time to appreciate God's graces in my own life.

Borrowed from life's lessons all over the world and spanning decades, Gifts From Heaven could easily be read straight through, or taken in as a 40-day devotional to help you reconnect and feel closer to God and all of his miraculous possibilities for your life. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Editor (copied from back cover):
James Stuart Bell is a Christian publishing veteran and the owner of Whitestone Communications, a literary development agency. He is the editor of many story collections, including Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters; Heaven Touching Earth; and Encountering Jesus, as well as the coauthor of numerous books in the COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE series. He has cover credit on more than one hundred books. He and his wife live in a western suburb of Chicago.
Helpful Links:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Paul The Apostle: A Graphic Novel by Ben Avery and Mark Harmon ~ book review

Paul The Apostle: A Graphic Novel is the first installment in a futuristic "sci-fi cartoon creature Bible idea" by Ben Avery and Mark Harmon. This graphic novel is very well illustrated with beautifully bright pictures and an easy-to-follow layout. The language and graphics used throughout are intended to appeal to an older child, I'd say 10-12+ unless they've got an expanded vocabulary or you're reading through it with them.

The storyline itself is thorough enough for adults to find it a worthwhile read, if you're the graphic novel reading type (my paw goes up). It's primarily excerpts from the book of Acts, with snippets and references from 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, John, Mark, Job, and Philippians. Almost every page has Bible reference verses listed at the bottom, so you can easily open your Bible for further study or to see the bigger picture behind each specific scene.

I got this book as a gift for my 10-year-old step-son who finds Bible time at our house to be "boring" and entirely unappealing. He would much rather read the adult-themed graphic novels he gets at his mom's house. This book seems to be a fair compromise for him, and is the third Christian-based graphic novel I've managed to get him to read (and put on his "keep" shelf to re-read) while at our house.

I did find one typo, and one place where they randomly refer to Saul as Paul in the middle of a conversation, before he says he's using a new name. For a project of this magnitude, that's not something I'm going to complain about, just mentioning it in case anyone else would find it off-setting. I'm giving this book 5/5 stars and eagerly await a chance to read the next installment, Peter The Apostle (not yet published).

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from the publisher through BookCrash, for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Authors (copied from inside book):
BEN AVERY is a children's pastor by day and a comic book writer by night. His comic writing career started when he adapted George R. R. Martin's The Hedge Knight novellas into comics. Since then, he has written over thirty graphic novels for publishers like Zondervan, Image, Marvel, Random House, Kingstone Comics, Lamp Post, and numerous smaller press publishers. He has also adapted numerous books of the Bible into graphic novels, including The Christ, a project putting all four Gospels into a single narrative. He lives in Indiana with his wife and five kids.
MARK HARMON is a professional illustrator for kid's books, comics, comics for kids, and anything in between. He currently lives in the small town of Mountain View, Wyoming with his wife and three kids. His professional career started at the age of ten when he won a coloring contest. Ever since then people have been breaking down his door to get him to work for them. Okay, so that might be a bit of a stretch. You get the idea though, right? His clients include Scholastic, Lamp Post, Benchmark Education, Warner Press, and many more. 
Helpful Links:

Beartruth Collective (they're currently offering a free download of the first 50 pages of the book here, and are working on a Study Guide for Paul The Apostle)

Purchase from Beartruth Collective (both e-book and print formats available)

NOTE: These pictures are to give you an idea of the format and overall graphics in Paul The Apostle: A Graphic Novel. The brightness of the colors has been dulled by my camera, and the actual book is much more brilliant with a beautiful contrast between hues.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell ~ book review

Still Waiting: Hope For When God Doesn't Give You What You Want is about learning to wait with grace (if not patience). Ann Swindell combines her personal journey of praying for healing from an incurable condition with that of the Bleeding Woman found in the New Testament. While Ann's condition is bound to be different from whatever pains and weaknesses you are enduring, her candid openness about such personal issues should compel us all to look upon ourselves, each other, and our relationship with God with more honesty, grace, and compassion.

The underlying presumption Ann makes is that we're all waiting on God to answer a prayer of some kind. And that waiting takes its toll on us. No one likes waiting. And most of us tend to get this idea that our timetable and God's timetable somehow line up; they don't. Sure, some prayers are answered immediately, and others take a few months or years. But what about those prayers that don't get answered for decades, or until we see Christ face-to-face? Yet, most of the time, those prayers seem to be about the matters that are the most pressing to us. So what do we do? We wait.

Ann reveals and discusses the various experiences that go along with that kind of waiting - brokenness, weakness, high cost, lack of identity, offensiveness, shame, suffering, and risk - while weaving her own expanded version of the Bleeding Woman's story into the narrative so that we can get a better understanding of the sheer desperation that overcame this woman as she reached for Jesus and his healing.

While there are no definitive solutions waiting for us in this book about waiting, there are discussion questions at the back to help you apply some of the lessons in your own journey. Personally, I've spent the last few years praying for healing from an abusive past. I started out feeling broken, then weak for not being able to just "move on" on my own. I've felt extreme levels of shame, and lost my own identity more than once. I've spent hours upon hours crying, praying, and screaming to God begging for His help to overcome my obstacles. And in the end, I'm still waiting. Just like the Bleeding Woman was. Just like Ann still is. Just like you probably have at some point. It's a long and painful path, but Ann's testimony and vivid story can help shine a little light on the trail and show you that sometimes waiting is the best thing you can do. 4/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Ann Swindell is an author and a speaker who has written for CT Women, Relevant, Deeply Rooted, Darling, the Gospel Coalition, and (in)courage. She holds an MA in writing and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing, and she makes her home in the Midwest with her husband and daughter. Connect with her online at annswindell.com.
Helpful Links:
     Purchase From Tyndale.com
     Purchase From Amazon.com
     Purchase From ChristianBook.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson ~ book review

Treasured Grace is the first book in the Heart Of The Frontier trilogy by Tracie Peterson, a historical fiction series set in the late 1840s western frontier of the United States. The trilogy focuses on three sisters (Grace, Hope, and Mercy) who lost their parents and now must rely on God's strength to endure. Grace secures safety and care for herself and her sisters by marrying a Reverend headed west from St. Louis to Oregon by wagon train. However, when the Reverend dies en route, the sisters' future becomes unclear and they seek refuge at the Whitman Mission for the winter.

Tracie has entwined historical events and situations into a beautiful story of God's redemption for those who seek Him. She reminds us that no matter how many hardships we face or how much pain we hold in our past, the key to our future lies in forgiveness and mercy through a personal relationship with God. Each of the characters in Treasured Grace has a story to tell, and a path that only God can reveal.

Treasured Grace does contain graphic scenes of violence pertaining to the Whitman Mission massacre and the abuse of the white women and children following that tragic event. I would not recommend this book for those who are faint of heart.

Overall, I'm giving this book 5/5 stars and look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy (Beloved Hope and Cherished Mercy).

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Tracie Peterson's love for history and research fuels the bestselling stories she writes. She is the author of over one hundred novels and the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award. Tracie and her family live in Montana.
Suggested Links:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Full by Asheritah Ciuciu ~ book review

Full: Food, Jesus, And The Battle For Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu is a close look at Asheritah's own struggle with food fixation, and the long journey she's been on to replace her out-of-control desire for food with a deeper desire for Jesus. This is not a recipe book or a "how to eat well" manual. Instead, Asheritah shares practical, personal, and Biblical wisdom to help us learn why we have trouble stopping ourselves after "just one more bite", what the real enemy is (it's not the food), and how we can strengthen our personal relationship with Jesus in order to truly rely on God to satisfy us.

Each chapter has study questions and a link to online bonus material, which includes videos, bookmarks, journal pages, and more. Asheritah combines her radiant sense of humor with her passion for God in a way that leaves you feeling refreshed and eager to dig deeper into Jesus to seek the fullness that you long for. She discusses diet fads, fasting, calorie counting, fixation triggers, how to enjoy food according to God's plan, and important notes about how our church communities can help ease food fixation issues within their ministries.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone dealing with food fixation on a first-hand or second hand level. So if you're sitting there thinking "I don't have a problem with food fixation, but my daughter/co-worker/friend does", then this book will provide you with invaluable tools to help your loved ones overcome the grip food has on them, while strengthening their bond to Christ. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Author (copied from back cover):
Asheritah Ciuciu is an author, speaker, and blogger. She grew up in Romania as a missionary kid and studied English and Women's Ministry at Cedarville University in Ohio. Her passion is helping women find joy in Jesus through a deeper walk with God, and she shares personal stories and practical tips on OneThingAlone.com. She's also a regular contributor to FortheFamily.org and Ungrind.com. Asheritah is married to Flaviu and together they raise their spunky children in northeast Ohio.
Helpful Links: