Monday, August 25, 2014

Becoming Bea book review

Becoming Bea (The Courtships of Lancaster County, #4)

Becoming Bea 

Ben and Bea have always irritated each other. But when their friends push them together, can they cease bickering long enough to fall in love?
My Review: 8/10
This book is the best of it's kind. I've read some Amish fiction before, and I'd read the previous book, Minding Molly, and I felt like the author did a really great job of showing another side to the story; both Molly and Bea have distinct voices.

The book is aptly named and you really get to see a transition as a young woman grows up. I thought her changes were natural; being thrown into helping raise children with no previous knowledge, accidentally overhearing some brutally honest words about your character from a friend, being separated from your family, all of these are things that would naturally mature and grow a person. So well done.

I don't know how realistic Don's character/situation is for the Amish, but I thought Bea's reaction to him and his actions was appropriate. I could have done without him as a subplot, but perhaps there will be some redemption for him a subsequent book.

The themes of forgiveness and trust and vulnerability were all beautifully done. I could understand where Bea was coming from in her fear and frustration and doubt. And I thought it was a little ironic that she was called overbearing. Perhaps Molly rubbed off on her more than she realized?

The storyline is interesting and the characters and their relationships are engaging, but ultimately, the charm of this book comes from Bea's voice: her introspection, prayers to God, her flaws and growth and insights along the way.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Miracle in a Dry Season book review

Miracle in a Dry Season (Appalachian Blessings, #1)Miracle in a Dry Season 

It's 1954 and Perla Long's arrival in the small town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.
Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor...until he meets Perla. She's everything he's sought in a woman, but he can't get past the sense that she's hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla's unique way with food brings both gratitude and condemnation, placing the pair in the middle of a maelstrom of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

My Review: 3/10
This book was more contemporary than I usually go, but I thought I'd step outside of my normal and give it a try. I wondered if perhaps this was a new time period for the author as well; a couple of things struck me as just not right. For example, I just couldn't see a serious fear of witchcraft being used as a subplot for a story set in 1954.

I liked that Perla never revealed the details about Sadie's conception, not even to herself.

I liked the themes of forgiveness, applied in different ways, each unique to the situation.

I liked that Casewell was human, often not even realize his faults, like bing judgmental, when he thought he was being morally strong. I liked the honest portrayal of this man, who has an interest in Perla, but then upon hearing the truth, writes her off. His struggle in learning how to forgive Perla for betraying him before she belonged to him, was a new concept, definitely Christian. I thought it was well done.

And I thought it was interesting for a Christian book to paint a villain into a pastoral position. This would have been refreshing and an excellent opportunity to teach that that sometimes wolves wear sheeps clothing, that just because someone professes to be of God does not mean that they are impervious to sin and corruption, etc. Instead this character took a story that was sweet and made it taste rotten.

*SPOILER* Attempted rape from a pastor?! I know that it happens. I just wasn't expecting to stumble across it in this book based on the synopsis. Just because it didn't go very far, didn't mean i was able to gloss over it like it never happened. And it seemed to serve no other purpose in the book than to paint Perla as a victim and add drama to the story. Completely unnecessary.

And the sermons... where the pastor was telling the congregation that they needed his, not God's, but his forgiveness- why did no one contradict him?! This was 1954, not the dark ages, most people could read and had access to the Bible. The moment when he had them drop to the ground, face first, and crawl up to his feet... Oh it was nauseating. Even after he had been driven from town and Casewell took over preaching, I never felt like those things were properly addressed or any attempt was made to rectify the numerous wrongs. The snake was removed, but it wasn't enough; the poison needed sucked out too.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Balancing It All book review

Balancing It All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose

Balancing It All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose

“How do you do it all?”

That’s the question that wife, mom, actress, and best-selling author Candace Cameron Bure is often asked. And it’s a question that women everywhere are asking themselves as we seek to balance all of our roles, responsibilities, and opportunities.

So, how do we do it? Working since the age of 5, Candace has been in a balancing act for nearly her entire life. She is the first to tell you that there is no miracle formula for perfect execution in every area of your life, but there definitely are some lessons to be learned, lessons that come to life in Candace's story.

Come along and dig into Candace’s story from her start in commercials, the balance-necessitating years on Full House, to adding on the roles of wife and mom while also returning to Hollywood. Insightful, funny, and poignant, Candace’s story will help you balance it all.

 My Review: 9/10

I recently read Candace Cameron Bure's previous book Reshaping It All and enjoyed the family stories and recipes and Biblical motivation. I guess I expected this book to be exactly the same format but with the focus on balance this time. It is entirely different and I liked it better! I got it on loan from the library, but I think I'm going to have to get my own copy because there was so much I want to be able to refer back to. It's stuffed full of advice with personal application, ideas and wisdom.

I thought it was great that she shared her private journal entries when they were applicable. It showed me that no matter how great your love for God is, we all have moments when we feel super distant and like we're messing everything up. I think sometimes we might be afraid to let those feelings out, thinking that if we say it or write it, then they become a permanent truth. But that's just the devil at work, trying to make us fearful, ashamed, guilty, etc. The truth is that we need to acknowledge our feelings and deal with them, work through them and then we can move on. Then we can see that those times of weakness did not define us and they did not last.

I also loved her remarks on marriage and child rearing, especially: "People talk about marriage being a 50-50 give and take situation, but it's more than that. It's more than compromise. It's about giving 100%, finding your role in that relationship and honoring all aspects of it." Yes! I just had to explain a smaller scale of this to my two girls. I explained that while compromise is awesome, sometimes they need to sacrifice- that's what love is. And being completely unwilling to love one another is what was causing a lot of their fights. Ms. Bure is right on about this. Her Biblical wisdom on respecting your husband was also exactly right. It also happens to be a very unpopular viewpoint in our culture, which makes me appreciate her speaking up even more. Those gems are quotes that I might make into art or include in wedding cards.

Lastly, I was very strongly impacted by her illustration of a prayer partnership with her friend. Immediately, I thought, what a great way for me to grow closer to God, keep perspective of my prayers and blessings and also be held accountable; it's easy to pray something like, "God, please help me to get in better shape and eat right!" and then forget about it, do nothing to change your life, your habits, your self discipline. But having someone to whom I'm sharing my prayers with, knowing that they are praying for me too, and updating each other on prayers that have been answered, reminds me of the things I say I want, and helps motivate me to make changes too. I've implemented this with my sister in law in the last week and it has already been making a difference in my life, in ways I wasn't expecting.

In short, I recommend  this book so much that I will likely buy it for others. It has been a God send.