Monthly Archives: October 2012

Book Review: On Being A Servant of God by Warren Wiersebe

Cannonball Read IV #54

Warren Wiersbe’s One Being A Servant of God was assigned to me to read for School of Ministry, a class I take at my church. It was the second assigned book for this program and it was so small compared to the first one (Spiritual Leadership by Blackaby). I breezed through it and honestly, I don’t have much in the way of review here. I enjoyed it. It’s a simple book of a veteran pastor sharing in shorts two-three pages “chats” things he wished he’d been told as he was starting his ministry experience. I though the chats were practical and easy to follow, and one in particular – about saying yes to God and not being like Jonah – really stood out to me. It felt like sitting with an old friend, sharing a cup of coffee, and talking about life and God.

Simple but there you go.

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Book Review: In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols

Cannonball Read IV #60

Last year, Charisse’s second grade teacher gave me a bag of Christian novels to read. Some of them were western-y and not my usual fare, but one interested me right off the bat: In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols. It’s the story of a young woman who gives birth as a teenager and is forced by her mother to place her baby for adoption. She never knows if the baby is a boy or a girl, only getting to hold her for a few minutes thanks to the kindness of a nurse. Years later, that girl, Miranda, ends up in Abingdon, Virginia, drawing the attention of a police officer, who finds out that Miranda has a picture of his niece… and he becomes very curious about her.

I gave this book a relatively high rating on GoodReads. It’s not one of those books that say stays with you forever, but it was fun to read in the moment. I liked Miranda, but I was frustrated with her actions at first because she let her mom walk all over her. I guess that doesn’t matter much in the long run because there are people like that in real life, and I know people like that, but it still irked me. But she finally grew bold and started to make a life for herself. It was a good redemption story that I enjoyed.

There is also a second, much smaller story happening: Irish Gypsies are in town taking advantage of the small-town “let’s help people out!” mentality. The police officer, Joe, must deal with this. One gypsy in particular becomes entangled in Miranda’s life in the most unusual way and it really did surprise me. I wasn’t sure how well it fit in with the rest of the story, but it was unexpected nevertheless.

A fun summer read, or even something relaxing to curl up to the fire with during this cooler time of year.

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Book Review: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

Cannonball Read IV #59

My very favorite blogger is Angie Smith. I have reviewed all of her books on here (I think!) and have mentioned her several times in others posts. So when, in a post of her about God’s holiness, she mentioned The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, I ordered it online and waited impatiently for it to be shipped to me.

Sproul’s book is a very detailed looked at the holiness of God (big surprise, given its title!), focusing initially on Isaiah 6. He uses other verses from both the Old and New Testament to help readers understand God’s holiness.

I was talking to a friend about this book the other night, and he said, “I just love how Sproul makes these things so easy to understand.” A different friend in the room was like, “Um. No, it’s still hard to understand!” I would say his books fall right into the middle. They’re by no means light, fluffy beach reads, but he takes difficult concepts (in this case, the holiness of God, which is baffling if you ask me!) and makes them digestible. This isn’t the kind of book you race through. It’s the kind of book you read a chapter at a time, really answering the questions he presents and taking the time to read and reread and rereread. But in the end, hopefully all readers will, like me, have an entirely new understanding of God’s holiness.

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Book Review: The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

Cannonball Read IV #58

In The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle, we meet Cami Anderson, a vet whose life is suddenly really, really hard. She finds herself the divorced mother of a teenage daughter running a vet business of her own. Her closest friend is getting married and her daughter’s love life develops its own complications. Through it all, Cami is guided by the lofty goal of taming a wild, abused horse – a horse who somehow grounds her.

What a great read! You know, I really cannot think of anything about this book that I didn’t like. First of all, the characters, which are such a critical part of any story, were real to me, and funny, and easily deserving of my sympathy. What I think Kittle does well is put ordinary characters into real-life situations and The Blessings of the Animals is no exception to this. A divorce. Your best friend is your ex’s sister. Your best friend is getting married right after your divorce. Your Italian in-laws don’t accept that you’re getting divorced. Your daughter has problems in her own relationship. You have work troubles. Check check check. It’s all there. Some might argue that these things, all of these weird involvements and plot points, are too melodramatic, but I argue exactly the opposite – they make the book so much more real! I felt like I knew Cami and Olive and Gabriella and the rest of the supporting characters. I can handle any book when I feel like it’s about people I know who are my friends.

Oh, there was one thing that I didn’t love – the book was mostly told from Cami’s POV, but every once in a while, there was an odd chapter told from someone else’s POV. While I usually enjoy books like this, it wasn’t the best literary technique for this book, simply because too much of the book is from Cami’s eyes to make a few random chapters from other people worth it.

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Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Cannonball Read IV #57

I’d heard lots of good things about William Landay’s Defending Jacob, so I was stoked when it was finally available for me to check out from the library. I raced through it – nothing like a good thriller to grab your attention.

Defending Jacob is the story of Andy Barber, assistant district attorney in a small town, and his son Jacob, accused of murdering a classmate. Andy is shocked when it’s Jacob who’s charged with the murder and as a father, believes whole-heartedly in his son’s innocence. As the trial proceeds, much about Jacob comes to light that Andy never knew, and he must deal with these new truths as well as work to save his breaking marriage.

It’s been a while since I read this book, but there are three things I remember clearly about it. First, I hated the way some of the chapters were set up as transcripts of an interview. Why not just make it a normal narrative like the rest of the book? It was too gimmicky for me when the rest of the narrative drew me in.

Second, I really liked these characters, especially Andy. I’m not a parent, but if something happened and Charisse (my sister) were in this situation, my initial instinct would be to believe her and fight for justice for her, too. Landay did a great job of portraying the wide array of very intense emotions that a parent would go through if this were the situation, and likewise, he also did a good job of presenting the others players as well: other adults, students, and law enforcement officials.

Third, and here’s the place where I have to tread carefully so as not to be a spoiler: OH MY GOSH THE ENDING. I am not a fan most of the time of sneaky, twisty endings because they stress me out. But after Jacob’s trial is over (and it’s up to you to see what the outcome is), there is an event so intense that I was like, “DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN?”

It wasn’t a perfect novel, and it was one that I wasn’t sorry to see end. But I was happy enough to give it four stars on Goodreads, so that, in my approximation, is a worthy read indeed.

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Book Review: What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Cannonball Read IV #56

I am new to Laura Lippman but when I read the summary of her book What the Dead Know on my library’s website, I thought it sounded right up my alley. It was a delightful, although not scary, read.

The young Bethany sisters disappear one afternoon on their way to the mall and no one is able to find them or find any leads about where they might be. Three decades later, a middle-aged woman involved in a car accident claims to be one of the sisters. Police must determine if her story is true and if so, what happened to the girls all those years ago and why it took so long to find them. There are many complications along the way – the girl claims her sister is dead, her father is dead, and her mother now lives in Mexico. Finally, the truth is reveal, but it is a surprise to all who are involved.

I really liked this novel. It moved in time from the present to the 70s regularly, which works well for me as a reader. I am very non-linear like that when it comes to books so it worked to grab my attention and to keep me reading in order to find out what happened next. I also really liked the characters, especially Heather and the interaction she had with the social worker who was helping her.

There were some unnecessary characters, like the male detective – seriously, why is really necessary for characters to be horn-dogs? It didn’t add to the plot. But I guess if that’s my biggest gripe in a book, then it’s something small.

There were two things I really liked that caught me by surprise: one, the events surrounding the girls’ births. I don’t want to write anymore and give it away for people who like surprises, but it caught me off guard and made so much sense.

And then there was the big surprise at the end of the book. I’ve read a few reviews where people said they’d figured it out, so I’m either blind or really dense, but I did not suspect what happened to happen at all. And I loved it. I usually read plot summaries of mystery books because it stresses me out and I just rush through them, trying to find the “whodunit” part as quickly as possible, but I kept myself from doing it with the book and was so pleased because the ending was really shocking to me!

Totally a great fall mystery read!

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Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Cannonball Read IV #55

Insurgent by Veronica Roth picks up where the first book in the series, Divergent, left off. Tris has decided to leave her faction for the Dauntless faction. She is surrounded by brave, possibly stupid, angry young men and women, and when her factions discovers a secret plot by another faction, war is inevitable. Insurgent is the story of war, love, loyalty (to family and friends and lovers) and what it really means to be Divergent.

Insurgent was the nearly-perfect follow up to Divergent. It’s fast-paced and continues to develop the characters we first met in Divergent. In books like this, where a back story is alluded to, I am always curious about the back story as much as I am the present plot, so it was very good news that Roth shares the back story to most of the factions and to some of the characters. Tris struck me as times as kind of annoying and I was like, “You were bad-ass in the first book. Keep on being bad ass!” but overall I liked her. I especially liked to see her developing relationship with Tobias…

… which brings me to the part I didn’t like about this book. There are two places (I think it’s only two) where Tris and Tobias almost have sex. As soon as I read the first one, I sent a text to my friend Hillary, who’d already read the book, and was like “WHYYYYYYYYY?” I mean, sex is good and all but in a young adult novel? It completely did nothing to move the book forward and if you’d taken those scenes out, or replaced them with something less graphic/intense, it would not have made a difference to the story/Tris and Tobias’s story.

That said, I cannot wait for the next book to come out! I will want to reread the first two, or at least a very detailed summary, but it will be worthy reading for sure.

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