Monday, January 30, 2017

Psalms: the book for all occasions

Psalms is a collection of poems, songs and prayers which express praise, worship and confessions to God. The book contains 150 psalms which express the heart and soul of humanity. The shortest psalm is only two verses (Psalm 117) and the longest psalm is 150 verses (Psalm 119)! The psalmists experience the depths of despair and the heights of joy and God brings them out of their struggles. David was the most prolific psalmist who wrote 73 psalms. The psalms are said to be written between the time of Moses (around 1440 BC) and the Babylonian captivity (586 BC). With so many psalms, it was hard to choose just a few to discuss; however, I’ve chosen psalms which have great meaning to people I know as well as ones which stood out to me as I read.


First, Psalm 40 is my husband’s favorite psalm. His favorite band, U2, used Psalm 40 as inspiration for their song, “40.” It was written by David and speaks to waiting patiently while doing God’s will. While we wait, we can love God, serve others and tell others about him. Verse 1 opens this theme directly, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Waiting patiently for the Lord is not easy but David received four blessings for he patience: God had 1) lifted him out of this despair, 2) set his feet on a rock, 3) gave him a firm place to stand (verse 2) and 4) gave him a new song of praise (verse 3). Blessings are often not received until a trial of waiting. For instance, my husband and I recently bought a car. We waited for years for our own car. From balancing sharing a car with my mom and then getting a gift of a car riddled with problems, we patiently waited for the day when we could get our own car. Then this year, God rewarded our patience with a great deal and a car we love to drive.


Second, Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, a leader of one of the temple choirs. This psalm speaks about living holy lives and trusting God for our future. The psalm opens discussing how the wicked seem to prosper: “always carefree, they increase in wealth” (verse 12) but the righteous have lasting rewards. After the riches of this earth will fade away, the righteous has something which cannot disappear: God. Verse 27-28 states “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” One verse stood out to me and speaks to those who feel as if they have failed and cannot return to God. Verse 26 says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” As you and I live our life, despite our best efforts to live a Christ-like life, we will fail. We will have moments of weakness. However, as long as we cling to God in those moments, we will have renewed strength.  


Third, Psalm 103 is a psalm of David which speaks of God’s great love for us and what God does for us tells us what he is really like. Verses 8-10 tells us who God is. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (verse 8). He will not accuse, harbor his anger forever or treat us as our sins deserve (verse 9-10). My favorite verses is 11-12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his live for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” These two verses are great joy for believers. Since the east and west can never meet, it is symbolic of God’s forgiveness. When He forgives our sins, He separates it from us and doesn’t remember it. People will remember their sin and dwell on it. However, when we place our trust in Christ and seek forgiveness, God forgives and forgets. Our record has been wiped clean and we can live with a new slate. Although this doesn’t mean we won’t sin again because we will; but when we truly seek forgiveness from God, he will remove our sin.


Lastly, Psalm 112 is a psalm about the advantages of having faith in God. God guards the minds and actions of those who follow his commands. Verse 1 states, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.” To fear the Lord is to have great reverence and respect for God and His Word. The Hebrew word for fear, yirah, have a wide range of meanings in Scripture. It can mean a fear of impending danger. However, it also means the idea of wonder, amazement, astonishment, gratitude, admiration, and worship of God. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is an overwhelming sense of the glory, worth and beauty of the One True God (Parsons). If we have fear and trust in the Lord, we “will have no fear of bad news” and our hearts will be “steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (verse 7). This verse is one of the reasons why that I do not fear the future. Despite the discord in our country and the world, I trust that God is in control and all will work for His good. Many people will be dragged into the debates, the arguments and great anger will ensue, but I refuse to do so. I have faith in the Lord and no man can change that. 


The book of Psalms is a great source of encouragement when feeling afraid or a host of other emotions. It is also a source to go to when facing struggles and difficult times. For the psalms which I have featured, these psalms teach us that if we wait patiently for the Lord, we will be blessed. Trusting in God will give us riches that will never fade. God will help us in our moments of weakness. God has great love for us and He is a forgiving Lord. Lastly, fear of the Lord helps us be unafraid in the world around us. Although it sounds too good to be true and sometimes we will fail. Sometimes, we will get inpatient, we will falter in our trust, and the fear in the world around us will overpower us, God is a forgiving God and he will welcome you back. All you have to do is turn to Him.

References:

Parsons, John J. (retrieved 1/29/2017) The Awe of the Lord http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Eikev/Yirah/yirah.html

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Evelyn, After: a story of one woman's path to rediscover herself

Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone is the story of one woman’s journey after she discovers that her husband is cheating and may have been involved in a terrible accident. Evelyn Tester is a 41 year old wife and mother whose whole world has been torn apart. Her husband, Dr. Gary Tester, a psychiatrist, has been sleeping with a patient. Evelyn does the unthinkable, she looks up the woman which leads her to her husband, Noah. Evelyn finds herself befriending Noah without telling him who she really is. The news breaks about a young girl’s death and Evelyn begins to suspect her husband’s involvement. She carries secrets that could blow everyone’s lives apart. Will she tell the police about her suspicions? Will Noah ever find out who she is?


Evelyn, After is told in alternating timeline with events before and after a certain incident. The incident isn’t clear until the end of the book. However, the reader sees two Evelyns. The before Evelyn who is reeling from her discovery of her husband’s infidelity and the after Evelyn who decides enough’s enough and she to go down a dangerous path. I found the story to be a typical story of a woman who discovers her husband is cheating and she seeks out all information about the woman and her life and discovers the person she was before she became someone’s wife and mother. Despite the typical storyline, I enjoyed Evelyn, After. The story did have a few twists and turns to keep me intrigued and turning page after page. I recommend Evelyn, After.

Evelyn, After
is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and Audible
and

on Barnes and Noble in paperback and Audiobook

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds: a beautiful story of one woman's life through changing times

The Woman who breathed two worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yok is a beautiful story about one woman’s life in a changing world. Chye Hoon was born in 1878 of Malayan-Chinese descent and raised with deep and meaningful family and cultural traditions. As a young girl, she often rebelled against the role she was destined to play and as she approaches marriageable age, it becomes clear that no one wants to marry her. Until one day, when she was 20, a man does marry her and the story switches to her life as a beloved wife and a mother of their seven children. The winds of change are in the air and Chye Hoon and her husband, Wong Peng Choon, must decide where they go in a changing world. The British began to take control of the area and Chye Hoon fears her traditions are fading. Will she be able to pass on the traditions to her children in the hopes they will still be passed on to future generations? Will the life she has known no longer exist?


The Woman who breathed two worlds is an amazing story with such details and depth that it is long; however, extremely enjoyable. I enjoyed Chye Hoon as the fiery young girl, then as the devoted wife and mother. The title has several meanings in the story which I will not give away before their discovery as you read is a part of the story. I loved the details in the descriptions of life in China and surrounding areas, the complex history and the people who lived there. While the names were confusing and took some time to get straight, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I loved that the story is based on the author’s ancestor’s life from birth to death and she does it so well. I highly recommend The Woman who breathed two worlds. Take your time and soak in the story of this wonderful and amazing woman.

The Woman who breathed Two Worlds
is available on Amazon

in paperback and on the Kindle

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Promise of Rayne: one woman's choice between her family and her dreams

The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Dees is the story of Rayne Shelby, a woman who has spent most of her life in the shadow of her family’s powerful name and history. While trying to earn their approval, she seeks perfection while managing the family lodge. Until one day, when one mistakes dashes her dreams and jeopardizes her future. She realizes that she faces a choice: defy her family or deny her dreams. Levi Harding remembers the brief romantic night he had with Shelby as teens and was deeply hurt by her rejection. But when Rayne comes to him seeking help, he cannot resist. The spark is renewed between them but their new relationships is put at risk as a wildfire threatens everything they hold dear and old family secrets are revealed. Will Rayne and Levi be able to hold on to their relationship? Will the family secrets tear them apart?


The Promise of Rayne is a classic story of woman held tight by her family’s control and power and the man who seeks to break her of that hold. I enjoyed Rayne as a woman who cherishes her memories of her beloved grandfather and resents her uncle’s hold on her and refusal to let her grow. I also enjoyed Levi as the man from the wrong side of the tracks who sees Rayne as the brilliant woman she is and is drawn to her. The story has drama, suspense and shocking turns as the story unfolds. I recommend The Promise of Rayne.

The Promise of Rayne
is available with all major booksellers

in paperback and eBook

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Two great news books from Carol P. Roman

Today I have two new books from Carole P. Roman to review. First. One to Ten: Squirrel’s Bad Day. In a forest, Squirrel drops his acorns in the river and he is very sad. Rabbit teaches him how to deal with the problem. He tells Squirrel to rate the problem from one to ten. One being no so bad and ten being the absolute worst. Other forest animals give examples how they turned their different situations where it seems to be the wort and then they figured out how to turn it around. For example, when a game of baseball was interrupted by rain (a 10) turns in to a game of jumping in the puddles (a 1). I enjoyed this book as a story to help children deal with difficult situation and draw positives from it.


Second, If You were me and lived in…Israel is a journey through the beautiful country in the Middle East. The readers learn a brief history of the country as well as the modern day food, culture and life in Israel. Common celebrations such as Purim, the celebration in remembrance of Queen Esther. Is discussed as well as the unique reading form in Israel. They read from right to left as opposed to the rest of the world who reads left to right. This book is another great addition to an outstanding series.


I highly recommend One to Ten: Squirrel’s Bad Day and If You were me and lived in…Israel for any family and school libraries. They are highly educational, fun and enjoyable!

Both titles are available
on Amazon

in paperback and on the Kindle

Thursday, January 12, 2017

It is Well: the sudden changes of life

It is Well by James D. Shipman is the story of one man’s journey as his world drastically changes around him. The story opens at the funeral of his wife, Helen, Jonathan Beecher sits quietly as the service proceeds around him. His 15-year old daughter, Mary, as his side and his sons, Matthew and Luke as well. After the funeral, Matthew breaks the news that he is joining a construction company in the Pacific. Fast forward to December 7, 1941, the news of the Pearl Harbor Attack reaches his small town in Washington. He worries about his son, Matthew and now his son, Luke, who joins the service with this fellow countryman. Back home, Jonathan must deal with the economic strife the war brings on his hardware store, no word from Matthew and Luke, off at boot camp and Mary becoming very familiar with a local police officer. As he tries to live day-to-day, Jonathan meets Sarah Gilbertson and the attraction is immediate. However, Jonathan holds back due to a promise he made his late wife. Will Jonathan allow himself another chance at happiness? Will Matthew and Luke return home safely?


It is Well is a dramatic story filled with the struggles and dangers on the home front as well the battlefields. The story switched between Snohomish, Washington, Wake Island, and the European battlefields as the reader sees life on the home front with Jonathan and his daughter, Mary. The atrocities of the Wake Island occupation by the Japanese and the horrors of the battlefields. The story is filled intense drama and heartache as well as sweet memories of love and happiness. I highly recommend It is Well for its realistic portrayal of life during World War II.

It is Well
is available in paperback and Kindle
with Amazon
and
in paperback and audiobook

with Barnes and Noble 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Christy & Todd: The Married Years series

I have grown up with Robin Jones Gunn’s books. I reviewed The Christy Miller series, The Sienna Jensen series and Christy and Todd: The College Years and The Katie Weldon series last year. I’ve finally been able to finish the Christy and Todd: The Married Years series. Forever with You is the first book in this new series and it picks up immediately after the Katie Weldon series ended. Christy has an announcement to make and her plans to tell Todd are interrupted when a series of events prevents her from sharing the news. Soon they will face trials and hardships that will test their marriage, their faith in God and their faith in each other. They must learn that plans will go awry and new dreams will be pursued together. Will they stand firm together as the tough times come?


Home of Our Hearts is the second book in the series. The story begins as Todd and Christy make ready to start their journeys to the weddings of Todd’s dad in the Canary Islands and Christy’s friend, Katie, in Kenya. Everything seems to go smoothly until a sudden medical emergency seem to derail those plans. Despite the bumpy start, the two are on their way. Christy begins to question where she and Todd are meant to be at home as she sees her father-in-law and her best friend enjoy their adopted homes. Will she and Todd ever find the home of their hearts?


One More Wish is the final book in the series which begins with Christy’s 26th birthday as she makes a birthday wish. She makes a wish and realizes she forgot one thing to wish for. She and Todd begin to discuss having children and Christy questions if she’s ready for a family. When their dear friends, Doug and Tracy, face unexpected trials, Todd and Christy’s resolve for their future family is tested. She sees what could possibly change when children do arrive. Will Christy ever be ready for children of her own? Can she make one more wish?


Christy and Todd: the Married Years has been a series of nostalgia as the earlier series are referenced and old friends are met again. Although I found Christy still a little na├»ve about what it means to be a wife and possible future mother, I enjoyed seeing her grow through her trials. If you grew up the Christy Miller and her friends, you will enjoy this series. Ms. Gunn as continued Christy and Todd’s story in a new series, The Baby Years, and I will review those books when the final book is available.


Friday, January 6, 2017

In the Blue Hour: a story of grief and life after loss

In the Blue Hour by Elizabeth Hall is the story of one woman’s journey to restore her life after the sudden loss of her husband. Elise Brooks is trying to live life after her husband, Michael, was killed in a sudden car accident. Plagued by visions of the accident, ravens and other omens, she sets on a path to find out if her husband is trying to reach her, trying to point her on the path she needs to take now. Despite the objections of her best friend, Monica, Elise sets on a trip from the mountains of northern New Mexico to the mountains of Tennessee. Along the way she learns the truth about herself, her husband and her family’s past hidden from her for so long. Will Elise be able to move on with her life? Will she be able to see her loved ones in the blue hour?


In the Blue Hour is a great story of life through grief and a journey to a home long forgotten. The title refers to the blue hour where the sky deepens into “a deep ice-blue at dusk” where, according to the story, the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest. The story is rich will Native American folklore and omens which drive the character on her journey. I enjoyed every character as they are needed for the story. No one character seemed out of place as Elise struggles with what she knows and what she sees. It is an excellent story all around and I highly recommend In the Blue Hour for its take on grief, the Native American themes and the great story of how our loved ones never really leave us.

In the Blue Hour
is available on Amazon

in paperback and on the Kindle

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Who is to Blame?: a story of social division in 19th century Russia

Who is to Blame? By Jane Marlow is an historical story about two families – one noble, one serf. Elizaveta Anatrev is a peasant girl in a village in the grain fields of Russia. As her father forbids her to marry the man she loves, Elizaveta finds herself in a situation she cannot possibly escape. On the other side, Count Maximov and his family struggle with a situation caused by deceit and corruption. Set in the 1840s-1860s as the disconnect between the classes gets wider and wider until Russian Emperor Alexander II issues the Emancipation Manifesto which frees the serfs. And social chaos erupts but who’s to blame? Who is able to live the life they deserve? Will a balance between the classes be achieved?


An in-depth story set in a country with a complication history, Who is to Blame? displays this complicated time with an intertwined story of serfs and landed gentry with no clear answer as to why events occurred. With so much going on in the story, it is hard to discuss any details without giving something away. However, the story feels so very real as serfs starve while the gentry feast. While classes have stereotypes about how the other lives, works and behaves, it becomes clear that there are no real winners in this world. I recommend Who is to Blame? to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a very real situation.

Who is to Blame?
is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

in paperback and ebook

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth: love or hate it, we've all been there

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is a story set in a place that many of us either relish or dread: high school. The story opens in the eighth grade with Cally Broderick being called into the office for neglecting to do her homework. While she is there, she unwittingly extends an act of kindness to the awkward kid at school. This sets off a chain of events which leads to a shocking event. Fast forward three years, Molly Nicoll is the new English teacher at the high school, she finds Cally, and her classmates in their junior year. Each chapter gives a different perspective of the same high school. You have the brain who must live up to his parents’ expectations. The talented dancer, the jock, the screw-up and all the other characters we seem to meet in high school. Their stories intertwined into a climax which leave the students and teacher baffled by the turn of events. Who will see their dream come true and who just wants to survive high school?


The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is set in Mill Valley of Marin County, California, an area of affluence and privilege. However, inside this high school we see the same issues and attitudes that this story could be set in almost any high school in America and the events could still resonate with us whether we enjoyed high school or were happy it was over. I highly recommend The Most Dangerous Place on Earth as a story that our actions have consequences and those consequences can follow us for the rest of our lives.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
on January 10, 2017

in hardcover and ebook