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Great New Biblical Fiction

Book Review – Esther: Royal Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel Book #1) by Angela Hunt


I enjoy reading Biblical fiction, but with a story like Esther I was concerned that it has such a well-known plot that the book would be boring and utterly predictable.  When I saw the cover and read the series name, I thought perhaps the author had just created a story loosely based on the story of Esther found in the Bible.  What I actually found was that the author challenged my preconceived notions about what Esther was like.  And I believe she had legitimate grounds for doi216954_1_ftcng it while staying true to Biblical facts and including her findings from extensive historical research.


So even though I knew what was ultimately going to happen in this story, I was intrigued by the journey that Esther followed.  Harbonah, a eunich who is the king’s closest personal slave, also tells his side of the story throughout and adds another dimension to a story that will leave you feeling a range of emotions.


Obviously, this is a fiction novel, and some things are made up.  The author includes a note at the end to aid the reader in picking these things out.  Also, given the nature of the story of Esther and her being brought into the king’s harem, this may not be a great book for young, less mature readers.  I think the author has handled this well, but some readers are sure to be upset that their G-rated version of Esther does not hold water.  Xerxes was a typical, pagan ruler who was immoral in his ways with women and did things that were disturbing in the way he ruled.  However there is such beauty in this novel that Angela Hunt brings out because of the spotlight she shines on a faithful God who loves His people who are not always faithful to Him.


5 out of 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Sweet Bedtime Reading

Book Review- Really Woolly: Nighttime Lullabies by Bonnie Rickner Jensen and illustrated by Donna Chapman


Having seen the adorable Really Woolly illustrations before, I was pretty excited to check out this book.  The illustrator has truly done a beautiful job and all of the pages of this sturdy board book (with padded cover) are so cute.  When you flip through this book you will typically see a verse (verses are taken from the International Children’s Bible) along with a rhyming poem on the left side and a prayer on the right side.  If you read one of these with022952_1_ftc your toddler aged child every night at bedtime, you would have enough for about 20 days.


Your little one is sure to love the little creatures found in this book, and the themes of thankfulness, peace, and lots of references to God’s creation will soothe them as they transition to bed.


My only problem with this book is that the word “lullabies” in the title makes me think of music.  I was hoping these would be little songs to sing to our little  ones at night.  We have another board book which has sweet poems that can be sung to the tunes of popular lullabies.  It is a favorite in our house.  So I thought this would be similar, but was somewhat disappointed to find out that was not the case.


4 out of 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson as part of the Booklook program for bloggers in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Really Good Biblical/Theological Work on Leadership in the Church

A Review of Shepherding God’s Flock by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner
Eleven contributors wrote essays for this volume, including Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, Gregg Allison, and Bruce Ware. The introduction makes it clear to the reader that this book is not designed to be a popular-level “how-to” book, but rather a study of what the scripture says about church leadership and how it has been fleshed out in church history.
In chapters 1-4, the authors deal with what church leadership looked like in the New Testament. How much of the Old Testament concept of elders translated over into the New Testament? How did the concept develop in the Gospels? What about Acts and the epistles? These chapters lay a very solid foundation of what the Bible actually says about the role of the “shepherd” in the church.
Chapters 5 and 6 enter the annals of church history and cover how the papacy developed in the Roman Catholic Church. These two chapters are a fascinating history of the development of leadership in that particular church, and the extremes that bad theology can lead to when left unchecked. Evangelicals would do well to watch a442566nd be warned, for while we do not have a pope, we are constantly threatened with the elevation of little papal figures who gained great influence and authority through their popularity.
The next few chapters of the book deal with how leadership has manifested itself in various evangelical traditions. Chapter 7 deals with Presbyterian church leadership. Chapter 8 touches on Anglican views of church leadership, and chapter 9 launches into the Baptist history of having a plurality of elders within their churches. I thought that each of these chapters was fair and gave a good representation of the various positions. The authors make no bones about the fact that they are all Baptists, and so come from a certain perspective.
Chapter 10 deals with an overall biblical theology of leadership, and the book closes with a chapter on practical applications of biblical church leadership. Overall a very good book for those seeking to dig in to what the Bible says about church leadership and how it has been manifested throughout church history.


I would give it five out of five stars.

Another Solid Addition to the Kregel Exegetical Library

A Review of A Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett
The launch of the Kregel Exegetical Library series of commentaries have been a nice addition to the body of scholarship in the world of commentaries, and this recent addition is no different. Duane Garrett brings some good Old Testament firepower to the task.
The first 145 pages cover introductory material. It would be helpful for a pastor who is preaching 425510_1_ftcthrough Exodus to not just skip this. Garrett correctly dismisses the documentary hypothesis without spending too many pages discussing it. He spends a couple pages describing his translation philosophy, which is helpful since he provides his own translation throughout. This is followed by a large section on Egypt itself. Egypt plays a huge role in the book of Exodus, and a basic understanding of that country and culture is very helpful in understanding the book. This is followed by a section on the date of the exodus event itself. Garrett does not come to a conclusive decision on this, but fairly lays out the evidence for the various opinions. His strength here is his reliance on the authority of the Word- there is no doubt that the exodus happened. It is the exact placement of it in ANE history that can prove challenging. Garrett then deals with the potential location of Mt. Sinai, and thus the possible routes of the exodus itself. Overall, the introductory material is helpful for understanding the book.
Within the meat of the commentary you find the strength. Much like the other volumes in this series, the author begins with his own translation of the text. I am a translation nut, so I love these sections, especially because of all the explanatory notes for why the translator made the decisions he did. This section is followed by a short structure section that gives a brief outline of the text. This is followed by the commentary. Each section closes with some theological points to consider. These are helpful in formulating the main ideas if one is preaching that particular text.
Overall, this is another solid commentary that combines the things I love about this particular series: it is technical in that the author works in the original languages and explains his decisions, but it is practical and helpful in the preparation of sermons from the text. Good job by Garrett.

I would give it five out of five stars.


I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.

the book I closed without even finishing

Book Review: Mercy’s Rain (An Appalachian Novel) by Cindy K. Sproles


I will start out by stating that I found this book utterly disturbing – to the point that I did not even finish it.  I think that is a first for me since I usually will try to hear the author out all the way to the end.  Some might say that I am too “tender” to handle the content, and that could be a fair analysis.  Some might say 443619_1_ftcthat the subject matter struck a little too close to home, and that also might be true.


But I want to give a little bit more explanation as to why I had such strong opinions about this book right away.  The story takes place deep in the recesses of the Appalachian mountains in the late 1800’s when life was hard and the mountain people were somewhat backward.  From the first page, you are pulled into a scene where the “Pastor” commits horrible crimes all in the name of God.  He belligerently quotes Bible verses hurling them at people like weapons while he is himself an evil man.  I think many would call him abusive and point out that there have been an unfortunate number of individuals thru history to claim the name of Christ and then abuse those under them (and they would be right).  But it is too mild to say that this man was an abuser.  He was a serial killer with a deranged mind.  It goes way beyond abuse.  Plus, the “Pastor” described in this story, and anyone else who twists Scripture to excuse their sin, is not truly a Christian.


Being married to a wonderful husband who also is a pastor has also made me realize what an easy target his profession has become.  Whether it is pastors who are more concerned about lining their own pockets or pastors’ daughters who have gone bad, people seem to enjoy seeing the hypocrisy in it all played out before them.


Maybe if the “Pastor” had been a more believable character who was abusive (and left out the over-the-top murders), then it could have been insightful to learn how abusers can be so cruel and manipulative, yet so subtle to the general public.


One last note.  Sometimes people will read a book like this and think it would be great to recommend to a friend they may know who has been through abuse.  Please do not.  To hand someone a fiction novel to help them deal with their real life pain seems pretty insensitive to me.


3 out of 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Fun cookbook to share with your “cubs”

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Country Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult (Living Lights, a Faith Story) by Mike Berenstain


Our two little ones love to help me in the kitchen, and when I saw this book I knew it would be so much fun to try with them.  This beautiful hardcover, full-color cookbook contains 40 recipes divided into recipes for breakfast, lunch, main dishes, and dessert.  The difficulty of the recipes ranges from simple assembly type recipes (such as a fruit salad) to recipes that would require a lot more supervision (baking cookies).  The age and ability of your child will determine how much of each recipe will be hands-on.  The target age of the cookbook seems to be the same as the other Berenstain Bear books, probably ages 4-8.


_240_360_Book.1542.coverI like how the food is really geared for kids.  For example there is a recipe for bunny biscuits and as you would suspect, they are shaped like the face of a bunny.  Young kids often get excited by that and so that makes the whole cooking experience so fun for them.  There is a little bit of narrative from the Bear family in between the sections, and pictures throughout (along with photos of the actual food in each recipe).  And if you are not familiar with the Living Lights series of Berenstain Bears, then you will want to know that this book does contain some Christianity evidenced by a prayer and Bible verse found at the end of the book.


I would not call this a “healthy” cookbook necessarily, but many of the recipes do contain fresh ingredients such as vegetables, fruit, – and of course, honey!  What else would bears eat?  Often you can make easy substitutions to make the recipe more suited to your family’s needs as well (such as whole wheat bread for white bread).  The recipes mostly call for ingredients that you probably have on hand or could easily find at your average grocery store.  However the recipe for green lasagna (which is said to be an actual recipe from Jan Berenstain, who created the Berenstain  Bears with her husband, Stan) calls for a box of spinach lasagna noodles.  If I can find those I would love to try the recipe.

So my son was pretty excited to flip through the book and we already have a few recipes picked out to try tomorrow.  This looks like a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen.


5 out of 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan as part of Thomas Nelson’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for a fair and honest review.


The Home Stretch of Pregnancy

baby love


As much as I have tried not to keep track of the weeks, it is hard to stay completely oblivious.  Between doctor’s visits and constant “when are you due” questions, there are very few days that go by that I am not reminded of how much time I have left.  Now that I am past 35 weeks – the end is certainly in sight and I am looking forward to meeting the newest member of our family.

Even though this is our third child, I don’t think you ever get over the excitement of it all.

What will he look like?

What will his personality be like? And oh yeah, you do start to see personality even when they are very young.

How will our family dynamic change?

And when is he going to get here anyway?  Not that I am in any hurry to get to the whole labor and delivery thing. . .

Will the labor and delivery go smoothly and will he be born healthy?


And as the nightly combination of back pain and some Braxton Hicks seems to keep me awake I am faced with a choice.  I can either consider the answers to all of these questions to the point of worry or I can trust God with these things.  It reminds me of some familiar verses:

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Luke 12: 22-26

So I’ll let you know how things go as the last few weeks progress. I hope to get a few more posts in before the baby comes and things get a bit hectic for a little while.


Karen signature




Great Bible Story for Young Readers

Book Review- Adventure Bible: A Father’s Love (Zonderkidz I Can Read level 2) Pictures by David Miles

I am often skeptical of Bible storybooks which feature one story randomly chosen from Bible, but I really was pleasantly surprised to read this particular book.  Not only is it a great beginner reader for your child, but I liked the way this well-known parable was presented.


As part of the “I Can Read!”  series of books, this book is labeled as a 2 which is described on the back of the book as being a “high interest story for developing readers.”  Each brightly illustrated page has about 2 or 3 simple sentences with easy to understand concepts.  So this would be ideal for an early reader who maybe still requires some help.


One of the things I like most about this book is the title.  Rather than calling it “the prodigal son” they have chosen to focus on the Father’s love.  The illustrations are engaging and the story is simplified for a young child to understand.  At the end of the book, the love of the father is compared to the love of God the Father.  The last page has a verse and a “Words to Treasure” section just like in the Adventure Bible.

This is such a great parable told by Jesus because of what it teaches us about the love of our God.  I think that makes it a terrific book to share with your child as they are learning to read (or just to read it to them).

5 out of 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz as part of the Booklook blogging program in exchange for a fair and honest review.




An interactive Bible storybook for toddlers

Book Review: Lift the Flap Bible by Karen Williamson and illustrated by Louise Anglicas


Finding books that will keep the attention of active toddlers can be difficult, but this book is likely to be a fun way to introduce Bible stories to your little one.  The back of the book states that it is geared for children 10 months and older.  This hardcover book has thick pages with study flaps to lift all throughout it’s eight Bible stories.


The first story in the book is the story of Noah with the classic teensy tiny ark with a few animals popping out of it.  No281300_1_ftcrmally I would be very negative about such a fairy tale type representation of what I believe to be an actual event, but I quickly realized that the book is illustrated with a lot of playful and silly creatures.  Obviously the goal of this book is to entertain and not necessarily to teach young children very much about the Bible.  And isn’t kind of funny to think about a pair of smiling alligators on the ark and two elephants playing with a beach ball.


The other stories included are Moses in the bullrushes, Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah, the birth of Jesus, the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowd with a boy’s lunch, the parable of the lost sheep, and the man lowered through the roof of a house to be healed.


This book is cute and engaging for a very young age group.  However the illustrations are not very accurate and your child will likely learn little more than just “stories” with no point.

3 out of 5 stars


I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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