Book Review: The Beauty Book

Thomas Nelson provided me with a copy of The Beauty Book by Nancy Rue, (author of “The Lily Series”), to review. This is a book meant for seven- to eleven-year-old girls, and deals with issues like hair and skin care, make-up, body piercings, tattoos, (?!?), and weight. It’s written in the style of a magazine, with lots of real questions and answers, quizzes, and journaling activities, (called “The Lily Pad”–cute).

I really wanted to like this book. The idea of a book that deals with these issues from a Christian appeals to me as a parent. Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with the implementation, as the idea falls flat, in my opinion. While it does explore real issues that girls may face, I think that it could also end up putting ideas in girls’ heads, (especially girls on the younger end of the suggested age range). For example, weight…this is something that isn’t even on my seven-year-old’s radar, and while it might be for some, I don’t want to start her thinking that this something she needs to worry about. The same could be said for any of the other issues explored–frizzy hair, bad skin, etc. At such a young age, I don’t think girls need to be told that these are matters of concern, (it’s different if the girl brings it up herself, as a matter of personal concern), and they’re not even issues that every girl will face before the onset of puberty.

The other thing that I really dislike about this book are the “Talking to God About It” sections. I really hate the idea of forced prayer like that for any age, but especially for young children. I really don’t want my chid praying a prayer written by a person I don’t know, for a purpose I don’t really “get.” And the fill-in-the-blank nature of many of the prayers is just annoying…prayer shouldn’t be treated like one of the quizzes in the book, or a test, or anything other than what it is–praying to God.

Maybe this book will work for some families, but certainly not for ours–I can’t recommend it at all.

Book Review: “Eyes of Justice”

Thomas Nelson publishers was kind enough to provide me with a complimentary copy of the newest installment in Lis Wiehl’s “Triple Threat Series”–Eyes of Justice. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since last spring, when the third book in the series came out. By now, I’ve become very invested in the professional and personal lives of reporter Cassidy, FBI agent Nicole, and federal prosecutor Allison. You can imagine my shock, then, when one of the Triple Threat Club had been murdered by chapter three!

When Nicole and Allison find their friend Cassidy murdered in her own condo, they’re determined to get justice for her. Their first thought is to pin the blame on Cassidy’s abusive ex-boyfriend, cop Rick McEwan. But Cassidy had angered a lot of criminals in the course of her reporting…could one of them have sought revenge? But when the killer starts targeting the rest of the Triple Threat Club, it becomes clear that the motive was bigger than Cassidy’s past relationship or reporting. Can PI Ophelia help Allison and Nicole before it’s too late? Or will the entire Triple Threat Club fall victim to a crazed killer?

I’m curious to see if this series will continue. Obviously, the original Triple Threat Club no longer exists. The author, however, did leave it open for a new Triple Threat Club to form, with a new member, which would allow for the series to continue on. I guess only time will tell, but I’m hopeful, because I really don’t want to say goodbye to Nicole and Allison yet. Like the earlier books in the series, I lovved this one, and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) reading more!

Book Review: “Waking Hours”

Thomas Nelson was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of the first book in Lis Wiehl’s newest series, (the “East Salem Trilogy”), Waking Hours.

I’ve been a fan of Wiehl’s writing ever since I read the first “Triple Threat” novel a few years ago, so I was hoping for something along those lines. In some ways, I wasn’t disappointed. There is plenty of mystery and suspense in this story, which focuses on the murder of a New York high school student. Was another teenager responsible for her death? It’s up to Dani Harris, a forensic psychiatrist, to solve the case. Reunited with an old high school love interest, there’s a healthy dose of romance thrown in, as well as a mysterious, supernatural bent to this murder, and another crime in town.

In some ways, this reads like a Christian version of Castle, (or the corresponding Nikki Heat books), so you’d think I’d love it. But I’m not a huge fan of supernatural mysteries, so I had a more difficult time getting into this story than you might expect. On the other hand, if you’re a big fan of books like this, (think Frank Peretti), you’ll probably love it. Like the “Triple Threat” books, it’s well-written, has good characters, and will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Book Review–“Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy”

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, is one of the best biographies I’ve had the opportunity to read. I’ve been wanting to learn more about this Lutheran hero, so I was very excited when Thomas Nelson sent me a copy to review. It’s a pretty long book, (over 600 pages), which may seem intimidating, but it’s so well written and fascinating that you can easily forget you’re reading a biography.

I’m familiar with the story of Bonhoeffer’s bravery and sacrifice in World War II, so while I enjoyed reading about that, what I was really interested in, and what this book provided amazingly well, was the story of Bonhoeffer’s early years. What shaped him into the man he would become, a pastor involved in an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler?

I was surprised to find that when Bonhoeffer was growing up, he didn’t have the Christian upbringing I assumed he had. While his mother was a spiritual person, she didn’t think that attending corporate worship services was necessary, and his father wasn’t a believer at all. Bonhoeffer actually feared telling his family of his decision to go into the pastoral ministry, as it wasn’t an “approved” profession to them.

Of course, the more familiar part of Bonhoeffer’s story was also exciting, and went into more detail than I’d previously had the chance to read. It’s a tense, riveting tale, and really makes the reader think about what his or her own actions would be in the same situation.

This book made Bonhoeffer more real to me; helped me understand the decisions he made and the actions he took. I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, whether the world, military, church, or Lutheran varieties!

Quote of the Day

I’ve been enjoying the “Triple Threat” series by Lis Wiehl. I’ve especially been able to relate to it lately. When I was reading the second book, just after I learned I was pregnant, one of the main characters had a miscarriage. Even though I know it doesn’t work that way, part of me thought to myself as I read, “I wonder if it’s ‘bad luck’ to read about someone having a miscarriage when I just learned that I’m pregnant.” No, I don’t really believe in luck, but the mind works in weird ways.

Anyway, after I found out that our baby had been lost, I realized I could relate to the series even more, especially this quote from the third book, and especially the part about the imaginary club (because I’ve learned only through this experience how true it is)–it really captured my feelings on this whole thing:

“A few weeks ago, Allison had miscarried, joining the imaginary club of Mothers Without Children. Only there was no color-coded ribbon to wear, no walkathon or T-shirt. Nobody talked about it. It was the kind of secret that women whispered to each other–if they said anything at all.” Lis Wiehl’s Heart of Ice

Book Review–“Heart of Ice”

Thomas Nelson was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the newest installment in Lis Wiehl’s “Triple Threat” series, Heart of Ice, to read and review. I have been a big fan of this series since I read the first novel two years ago, and this book was the best one yet, the kind of book that you keep reading until the middle of the night, just to find out how it’s going to end!

As far as mystery novels go, this one was a little different, because the reader knows who the villain is right from the start. (She leaves a trail of death and destruction in her wake, leaving Portland wondering at what seem to be random and unrelated crimes.) The triple threat club, on the other hand, doesn’t have a clue, and they’ve unwittingly let the killer get close to them, and to their families.

Elizabeth Avery seems like someone you’d want to get to know–she has a glamorous, albeit mysterious, past, she’s beautiful, she’s fun, and she seems to be exactly what you want her to be. But she’s hiding the fact that she’s really Sissy Hewsom, a woman who won’t let anything get between her and what she wants. A cold-blooded killer at age 13, she’s managed to cover-up her past, but hasn’t changed a bit.

Identity theft and actual theft are just a game to her–and she’s so cold-hearted, she doesn’t even hesitate at the thought of killing an innocent child. She manages to trap unsuspecting people in her web, using them to commit crimes she doesn’t want to dirty her hands with, including arson, several murders, and even setting one man up to “commit suicide” to further hide evidence.

How will the triple threat club ever realize the truth about Elizabeth? Will Cassidy discover it trying to find out the motive behind the murder of her television station intern? Will Allison learn the truth when talking to her deadbeat sister who has come to live with her? Or will Nicole be able to step back from her personal problems long enough to put two and two together, before someone very close to her becomes Elizabeth’s next victim? Who will discover that the beautiful girl-next-door is really a vicious killer with a heart of ice?

Book Review–Hand of Fate

I recently finished Hand of Fate, (provided to me by Thomas Nelson publishers) the second novel in the “Triple Threat” series by Lis Wiehl. I’ve had the book for almost a year, but I wanted to wait until closer to the third book’s (Heart of Ice) publication–waiting a year between books one and two was awful, and I didn’t want to make that mistake again!

I really like this series. The first book, Face of Betrayal, was very exciting and suspenseful. I enjoyed being introduced to and getting to know the main characters in that book, and I was really looking forward to learning more of their back stories in future books. Because I enjoyed the first book so much, I had high hopes for Hand of Fate. I wasn’t disappointed!

The second book in the series focuses on the murder of radio personality Jim Fate, who also appeared in Face of Betrayal. As the “triple threat club”–FBI agent Nic Hedges, federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, and TV reporter Cassidy Shaw–begins to investigate Fate’s untimely death, they come across many people who had motive and opportunity for murder. But who really did it?

The reason I like this series so much is because I don’t know “whodunit” by the third chapter. Actually, I had no idea who the murderer was until he (or she) was actually revealed. I don’t find these to be typical suspense novels, because most are so very predictable. Instead, these books feel more like reading an episode of 24.

My only complaint about this book is that, also like 24, a whole lot of bad stuff seems to happen to all of the main characters in a very short amount of time. You have to wonder if three friends can all really go through that much trouble together. That seemed a bit far-fetched to me, but those were really side stories; the main story I found to be excellently written, with just enough suspense to keep me reading all night.

Book Review: “The Liturgical Year”

As a conservative Lutheran, the structure of the Church Year is very important to me. From the beginning of the new year at Advent, to the season of Feasts and Festivals, to the teaching time of the year throughout the season of Pentecost, I mark my days by the flow of the church year even more than I do that of the calendar year.

Given my deep appreciation for the church year, and it’s usefulness in teaching and ordering our days, I was very excited to read The Liturgical Year (part of the Ancient Practices series) by Joan Chittister. This book is an excellent introduction to the concept of “Liturgical Time,” especially for those Christians who may not be familiar with the idea of having a specific routine of days in the church.  The author summarized the church year well by saying:

The liturgical year is the process of coming back year after year to look at what we already know, on one level, but are newly surprised by again and again…

There were, of course, a few things in the book that didn’t sit quite right with me (emphasis on Marian feasts, for one, and a sense of mysticism, for another), as the book was written by a Roman Catholic, but the Lutheran church shares much history with the Catholic church, so I found it to be mostly beneficial.

I also appreciated the author’s description as to *why* we live a liturgical life:

We do not live a liturgical life to look good to other people. We do not develop a liturgical spirituality to affect a kind of spiritual dimension in our lives. And we certainly do not go to Mass regularly to avoid hell. We live a liturgical life in order to become like the One whom we follow from the manger to the Mount of Olives.

Great resource for those wanting to understand more about the basis and practice of the church year!

Book Review: “5 Cities that Ruled the World”

Douglas Wilson’s book, 5 Cities that Ruled the World, about how major cities throughout time (Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York) shaped global history is a fascinating read. I can’t say that I know enough about each city to identify any possible bias regarding their histories, and I’m little surprised at the exclusion of some cities, namely Constantinople, but I think that this is a great book for understanding world history.

Each city’s story is contained within one chapter. Things that are revealed about each city include its history (origin, major leaders, and wars and other events), its effect on the world stage, and its current state.

I found that the chapter on London contained the most “unknown” information. I guess perhaps I just didn’t know much about London history, especially the *very* early years (did you know London burned 15 times before the year 1300?!?).

My only real complaint with the book has nothing to do with its content, and instead is an issue with the materials. I can’t stand what the cover is made of–it’s a paperback, made of a textured paper, and I find it weird to touch. Other than that, the book is a great tool for learning more about our world’s major cities, and how they shaped the society in which we currently live, even from across the centuries and around the globe.

Book Review: “Rick and Bubba’s Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage”

I had never heard of authors Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey before reading this book, but now I wish I had!  Rick and Bubba’s Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage is the funniest book I’ve read in quite awhile. It’s like a combination of Chris Fabry (the Christian aspect, as well as the humorous look at marriage and the difference between the two sexes) and Jeff Foxworthy (the whole redneck thing), and that combination makes for some hilarious, yet clean, reading.

Even with the hilarity, there is some truth that can be found in this book, as far as how men and women are different, and what can make a marriage work (or not!). Even while laughing at the stories Rick and Bubba relate from their own marriages, I often found myself thinking: “I do that, too!” or “I think we’ve had that conversation before.” Humor and hyperbole can make the truth easier to see and admit to, and even though I could see myself and my marriage in some of their stories, the way the truth was delivered left me feeling like we’re not alone in how we interact, instead of feeling angry or ashamed that I’ve been found out!