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Book Giveaway!

Good morning and happy Monday! We are less than a week away from celebrating Easter and all Christ accomplished through His resurrection. I didn’t purposely time this post for this week, but I’m glad –and think it’s fitting—to do something a little bit joyful on my blog today.

It has been too long since my last book giveaway, so I’m offering up this brand new copy of Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke. (Did you read my review of it? Check that out here.) It’s all crisp edges and smooth pages… just the way I like a new book to feel. To make it yours, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with the name of a Christian fiction book you think I should read.
I need inspiration!

This giveaway is only open to entrants with a U.S. mailing address (I’m so sorry if that excludes you! For shipping reasons I’m keeping things simple.) Feel free to give me more than one book suggestion if you like, but only one comment/entry per person please. Next Monday morning (4/22/19) the giveaway will close and I will use a random number generator program to choose one winning comment. If you’re the lucky winner, I’ll contact you through email to get your mailing address so I can send you your lovely prize! ❤


Ramblings

Thoughts on Black by Ted Dekker

Hello book friends! You haven’t seen me in a while! I’m not going to apologize, because these last weeks have been full, happy, lovely ones for me with family—a birthday party, time with my nieces, a rabbit show (really!), ordering pizza, encouraging sermons from my Pastor, joyful choir practices, and sitting on the front step listening to light rainfall. Of course there were a few down moments in there too—sore throats and such—but overall I am just full to the brim with all the restful, joyful feelings of spring and new growth right now. I hope you are too, and ultimately whether you are going through rough times or good, “…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:13)

I’ve just finished the book Black by Ted Dekker: the story of a man who is torn between two equally compelling realities. Thomas Hunter—the protagonist– wakes up in one world whenever he falls asleep in the other, and to quote the back cover, “…in both, catastrophic disaster awaits him….may even be caused by him.” My feelings about this novel are almost as starkly mixed as Hunter’s dual lives. I found myself on a teeter totter of excitement/love versus frustration/dislike as I worked my way through it.

…excellent cover styling for this series, if you ask me.

I really enjoyed the sheer creativity of Dekker in Black. The entire concept is new and fresh… and interested me right away. Which of Hunter’s “dreams” is the “real” world? One is decidedly modern and realistic, the other is a sort of fantasy/allegorical land filled with strange creatures and characters. Dekker didn’t hold anything back when he created this other world, as every description is full of color and imagination. There’s almost a touch of the quirkiness of Alice’s Wonderland, but with much more meaning, thought, and truth behind every element.

Conversely, there were times when I felt the storyline was bogged down with repetitive or excessive writing. Occasionally imaginative steered into ridiculous or distracting, and many of the supporting characters felt wooden. I came across someone else’s thoughts on Black (I’m not sure where) and the reviewer said they wished that Dekker had written the book later in his career when he had more writing experience under his belt– and I tend to agree. I think that the book has a lot of promise but needed additional editing and polishing.

I plan on reading the next book in the series, Red, and reserving judgment until then. If Black was just the rocky start of setting the scene for all the shining potential of the premise, then I may yet end up with a favorite series in my hands. 🙂 Cross your fingers for me!

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, In the Field of Grace

I really had no intention of reading another Tessa Afshar book so soon! Back in January I reviewed Land of Silence; besides that, I have an ever-growing pile of works by unknown (to me) authors begging to be given a little time. But In the Field of Grace popped up in the audio book section of the library, and I gave in. I haven’t had a good audio book in a while… I can listen with my phone using free services like Hoopla, but lately I’ve been struggling to keep my phone charged. For that reason alone I tend to prefer audio books on CD rather than digital format. Someday I’ll get around to buying a charging cable for my car…

In the Field of Grace, ©2014 by Tessa Afshar, Moody Publishers.

In the Field of Grace is a retelling of the story of Ruth (from the Biblical book of the same name) with imagined details filling in the areas of her life we don’t know from Scripture. Afshar conjectures what Ruth’s Moabite backstory may have been like; considers her daily life in Israel; explores her relationship with Naomi.

The difficulty in writing this book, in my mind, is that I think most Christian women have read and heard the Old Testament passage preached so many times that they have already imagined for themselves many of the unknown particulars of the account. Challenging those interpretations makes it difficult for them to feel as if this could be how it “really happened.”

Afshar does a wonderful job, as usual, of painting with words a vivid world, but somehow it felt disconnected from the Biblical account to me. Maybe it’s the aforementioned problem (though I tried to have an open mind.) Mostly, however, I thought the romance between Ruth and Boaz was exaggerated and modernized in a way that somewhat cheapened the known Biblical narrative (which I’m sure was not Afshar’s intent). By way of example, in this fictionalization Boaz is instantly enamored with Ruth’s beauty upon first sight. Her eyes, her height… I actually rolled my eyes when he notices her long slender fingers (which are covered in dirt from working in the fields all day but still manage to be alluring!) Despite Afshar’s efforts to show that Boaz is a Godly man of character, the over-romanticizing detracted from Boaz’s words of blessing a few minutes later. This is because it felt as if he only showed her kindness, in large part, because she was so attractive to him. Would the wealthy landowner have shown the same generosity if she had not been beautiful, or was just too dirty, tired, and gaunt for him to notice her lovely features? Something in my gut tells me the real Boaz would have.

Ruth’s life also takes on a more precarious nature . She is nearly killed by thieves; struck down with heat stroke in the fields; is burned and suffers from smoke inhalation after beating back a fire in Boaz’s field alone; and… well, I’d better stop before I give away crucial spoilers. I wouldn’t mind the suspense if I wasn’t left wondering if most of the excitement was set up just so Boaz would have a couple opportunities to carry Ruth home in his arms, trembling with concern and hidden ardor.

But wait! Despite some of the issues I take with the book, I really don’t mean this to be a scathing review. I’m rating this 3 stars–lower than Land of Silence or Bread of Angels–but I wouldn’t say it’s devoid of merit. In keeping with Afshar’s signature style, there are plenty of moments of spiritual reflection throughout the book that are thoughtful and encouraging, so if you’ve enjoyed her other titles you will find similar here. I also particularly liked Afshar’s rendering of Ruth’s background in Moab as well as her relationship with Naomi.

In closing, have you read any other books based on the life of Ruth? Also, what are your favorite verses from the Biblical account?

 

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He Leads Me

I don’t usually write about non-fiction on this blog but I recently discovered a new company producing Bible studies and other tools that I thought you might enjoy hearing about– The Daily Grace Co. I’m not sponsored in any way, I just stumbled across their website, http://www.thedailygraceco.com, and I thought they had some beautiful, enriching products.

Since Daily Grace happened to be having a warehouse sale at the time, I bought a number of different things to try– a few studies, some highlighters designed to not bleed through the thin pages of your Bible, and a set of Bible verse cards. So far I’ve only worked through one study, so I’m not ready to vouch for the quality of their entire line… but I really liked this study on Psalm 23 called “He Leads Me.” It’s a short study, meant to be finished in two weeks, and works carefully through each verse and line of the beloved chapter.

The study includes prompts to read and write out the chapter, as well as including the daily lessons on each verse or individual line. Almost every day includes three or so questions to help you think through and absorb the meaning of the section. I appreciated that the study was encouraging and refreshing to my soul, but it didn’t feel fluffy/lacking in substance.

Keeping that in mind, I did sometimes wish there were a little more content for days when I had time to do a longer study (maybe optional cross-reference suggestions? Bonus questions in the back of the book for further reflection?) but seeing as this was only designed to be a two week study I really can’t fault it much for that. I’d like to try another Daily Grace study on the book of Isaiah next and see if that gives me more meat to chew on.

If you check out their website, let me know what you think. Also, what Bible studies do you recommend and use often?