Book Review: The Invoice will make you think


What if you had to pay for your perceived happiness? Not your actual happiness but how happy someone else says you are based on factors they determine and measure. I imagine if this were the case there’d be a lot less folks portraying picture-perfect lives on Facebook.

So in ‘The Invoice‘ by Jonas Karlsson this guy gets a bill for his happiness quotient, and he completely disagrees with the charges. I mean, the bill is egregious. He owes millions of dollars (actually kronor, which it turns out is Swedish currency; who knew?) and he doesn’t feel like his life is that great to owe so much. Especially when friends who he thinks have happier lives owe less than him.

See how this book will make you think? Cool, eh?

So he sets out to prove how crappy his life is so that the people who decide such things will lower his bill. In the process he discovers that maybe his life isn’t so bad afterall.

Quick, quirky read that made me think. And since I like thinking, I give the book 3/5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

 

Book Review: The Tea Planter’s Wife


tea-planters-wife

Two things attracted me to The Tea Planter’s Wife at first glance: the beautiful cover and the intriguing title. I wanted to know who this woman was and what her life was like. In the cover art she looks troubled and deep in thought. With no other information about her other than her husband’s profession I wanted to read what was it that made her sit on this balcony looking quite forlorn.

And the book didn’t disappoint. I loved it! The characters captivated my interest from the very beginning, and the slow reveal of everyone’s secrets kept me reading with great anticipation of how all of this was going to work out in the end.

I mentioned secrets. There’s several secrets in this book, which kept me pondering most of the time. Even when I knew the secret, I wondered how on earth the other characters were going to respond once the secret was out. Author Dinah Jefferies doesn’t just come out with the secrets either, but draws them out with subtle hints and sometimes just enough details to lead you to guess 2-3 different possibilities. This is very skillful storytelling on Jefferies’ part.

The relationships in the story are quite complicated too, from a sister who is over-attached to her brother and gets in the way of his marriage relationship, to a secret child whose very existence threatens to tear apart the marriage, to the tea planter himself still grieving the loss of his first wife and child. I like reading about complex relationships because struggles like that usually reveal characters’ true selves along with their strengths and weaknesses.

Having not read much historical fiction set in the 1920s, I enjoyed the time period, with mentions of ’20s fashions (flapper dresses!) and the worldwide impact of the Great Depression in America comes into play as well. The story is not set in America (plays out in Ceylon, modern Sri Lanka, an island off the coast of India) yet investors around the world were impacted by the American market crash.

Overall I’d say it’s a fun little piece of historical fiction.

I received this book free from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

Book Review: Prayers for New Brides


This bookĀ is the kind of book I wish someone would have handed me back in 1999 when I was preparing to get married or after the wedding when I was struggling to figure out what in the world I was doing as a new wife.

My impression of marriage back then was love, living together, sex, and doing whatever weĀ wanted together. It’s the thing you did when you loved someone and didn’t want to ever be apart from them. Isn’t that how they portray it in books and movies? Attraction, romance andĀ a pretty dress, a honeymoon and happily ever after. That’s all there is to it.

Despite both my husband and I being believers in Christ, I didn’t really understand back then how marriage is supposed to beĀ a picture ofĀ Christ’s relationship to the church, and even now, after 11 years of marriageĀ and five years widowed, it’s still something I’m trying to figure out. Better pre-marital counseling, a Godly wife as a mentor, and a resource likeĀ Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress might’ve helped me recognizeĀ that sooner and resulted in a more God-honoring marriage.

What I like about Prayers for New Brides is that it’s organized in short, 2-3 page chapters that make it easy to use as a daily devotional. With 40 chapters, this book works nicely as a 40-day devotional, complete with suggested prayers and Scriptures.

You know what would be a great way to use this book if you’re a bride planning your wedding and about to say “I do”?Ā Adopt this a group study, of sorts, forĀ you and your bridesmaids to do together, reading, discussing and praying for your marriage in the 40 days leading up to your wedding. Bonus: Involve the mother of the bride and your future mother-in-law.

What if you’re already married? Well, every marriage could use prayer and a little refreshment, so use the 40 days like touch up paint to strengthen the marriage you’re in.

Single? Whether you’re single and waiting for the right one or single again on the other side of a divorce or death, the prayersĀ and discussions about God’s design for marriage are healthy considerations for determining what kind of future marriage you desire and for understanding what went wrong in a first marriage orĀ how to do things different if given a second time around.

Prayers for New Brides would also make a nice addition to an engagement or bridal gift or even to a recently married woman who could just use a little encouragement.

I’m giving away my review copy to a randomly selected bride, whether you’re recently married, soon to be married, or married many many years. To enter, simply comment on this post with your wedding date and year. Winner will be randomly selected on Oct. 1, 2015.

Book Review: The Gospel of Yes


What if we looked at God’s word and the Christian life as a series of yes’s instead of a list of “thou shalt not’s”?

This is the theme Mike Glenn explores in his book The Gospel of Yes.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group to review, but the reason I chose this title is because my pastor has preached for years “put your yes on the table,” meaning telling God yes to whatever he has for you instead of limiting God with fear-based no’s. But the book wasn’t really about us saying yes but about God saying yes.

This is a paradigm shift for those of us who grew up with our faith being about all the things we shouldn’t do — what I refer to as the “thou shalt not’s.” It is true that there some things God says no to. Glenn writes,

“God said ‘no’ to sin because it violates his holiness, but wanting us not to break his laws is not his number-one reason for opposing sin. He hates sin because it destroys the people he loves.”

Glenn’s point is that in a way even His “no” to sin can be looked at as a “yes” to something better.

But avoiding sin alone is not enough, is not true Christianity, i.e. following Christ. For one, we can’t avoid sin completely. We are born sinners and we will struggle with sin of all kinds as long as we are on this Earth, in Satan’s lair. So living a faith that’s based on performance of what we don’t do isn’t going to work.

Glenn turns that idea around and looks at the things to which God says “yes” and he finds yes’s in creation, in the cross, and to us.

God is never going to say yes to sin, so this isn’t a book that will leave believers thinking they can do whatever they want in the name of God being a yes-man. But it challenges us to look at God’s word in a new way and explore how God might be trying to give us a “yes.” This book will certainly challenge and expand your thoughts.

Book Review: When God Makes Lemonade


“When God Makes Lemonade” is a collection of 68 short stories about people’s bad experiences and the good that came out of it.

Publisher’s description:

In When God Makes Lemonade, author Don Jacobson has collected real-life stories from around the world that show everyday folks discovering unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances. Some are funny, others are sobering, and more than a few will bring tears of amazement. But these true stories all have one thing in common: hope.

There’s no question that life gives us “lemons,” like issues with health, employment, and relationships. But when those lemons become lemonade, it’s as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot summer day.

It’s true that in life “stuff” happens, but as you’ll see in these stories, lemonade happens too!

It reminded me of the kind of stories you find in Guideposts magazine or the book (and website) I Am Second, where people tell how God used tragedy to bring them closer to Him.

The stories are short and quick yet captivating reads about all kinds of trials, from cancer, to losses of life, to relationship struggles, and more.

Great for reading in short stints while in a doctor’s waiting room or the car rider line at school.

In telling his own story of accidentally shooting himself, author Don Jacobson clearly iterates the theme of the book:

“God can, and does, use life’s worst moments to invite us into life’s greatest blessings.”

You can share your own lemons-into-lemonade story at www.godmakeslemonade.com.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeĀ®.com <http://BookSneezeĀ®.com> book review bloggers program.

Book Review: The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick


Some time ago, a counselor friend sent me Leslie Vernick‘s emotionally destructive relationship test. A relationship I was in had just ended, and what was left was big a ol’ emotional mess.

I took Vernick’s online test (which is the same as is in the book), and was shocked at the results. I knew the relationship had issues, but I was sincerely shocked at just how emotionally destructive it really was, at how emotionally damaged I was, and at how destructive I had become.

I read Vernick’s entire book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It, this year, and it’s quite an amazing guide for identifying emotionally damaging behaviors in yourself and others, for determining what to do about them, and for getting past the damage.

So here’s a few things I learned:

Thing No. 1: A destructive relationship is not the same thing as a difficult one.

This is key, because while all relationships will likely have some elements of difficulty, not all relationships will become destructive. It’s important to discern the difference, and the relationship assessment does a good job at helping you identify difficult vs. destructive, using a scale of always, often, sometimes, seldom and never.

Thing No. 2: Discern the difference between your problem and your partner’s problem.

Vernick says that we often get stuck in destructive relationships because we work on fixing the other person in ways that are beyond our control. We can’t change other people, only ourselves.

Thing No. 3: Who do you, Lord, say that I am?

One of the most damaging things to come out of my destructive relationship was a shattered self-image. I was told by my partner and by my own mind that I was a liar, untrustworthy, selfish, prideful, a hypocrite, and so on. After it was all said and done, I didn’t know what was true. Was I really all of those things, and if so how, and why?

It was a very taxing mental and emotional exercise to work through what was true and what wasn’t. Vernick’s approach on this was to not to listen to others but to seek what God had to say. The Holy Spirit will convict for sins and wrongs; we don’t need other people to do the Spirit’s job. Self-image shouldn’t be based on what another person says I am, but about who God says I am.

Viewing yourself how God sees you is beautifully humbling because I know that I do not deserve to be seen that way. Scripture uses phrases like most-precious possession, without fault, and His masterpiece, and I’m like, “But God, I’m a filthy rag.” Isn’t grace wonderful??

Finally, Thing No. 4: Let It Go

Culture, society and even the church tell us that the key to healing or growing or achieving what we want to achieve is to do more. Read your Bible. Get involved in ministry. Seek counseling and wisdom. Better yourself. Etc. And all those things are good. But they will never result in the stability that only God can give if we continue to hold on to things like … unrealistic expectations, negative emotions like anger or bitterness, and lies.

The last chapters walk through how to let go –here’s a clue: it’s a choice — and methods that will help.

This book has been a huge help to me as I have tried to process all that happened and all that’s leftover in the aftermath. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who is in a difficult relationship, currently or in the past, and needs help working through it.

Book Review: Beauty for Ashes by Dorothy Love


Christian romance is not usually my cup of tea, but I gave Beauty for Ashes a try anyways. To be fair, the book is part Christian romance, part historical romance, and the historical elements were the parts I enjoyed best.

The premise:

“She’s a beautiful young widow. He’s a Southern gentleman with a thirst for adventure. Both need a place to call home.”

To get “home” Carrie and Griff both have to deal with family issues — Carrie with her brother and his new hard-to-get-along-with wife, and Griff with his estranged brother and father who he felt disowned them long ago.

The spiritual issues with which the characters wrestle are mostly about searching for happiness and trusting God to take them there. The characters are challenged with hard economical times in the post-Civil War South and they’ve all suffered losses, whether it be losses of life, jobs or status.

Carrie keeps hoping things are going to turn around and get better, but that’s not what seems to be happening. The more she prays for blessing the more it seems that hard things are put on her. In the midst of this, her friend said something to her that resonated deeply with me:

“You want to please God. You want to be happy. You’re not sure whether one precludes the other.”

Ever been there? I have.

I didn’t know when I started reading Beauty for Ashes that this was the second book in author Dorothy Love’s Hickory Ridge romance series, which is a testament to how well Love inter-weaved the backstory of the first book Beyond All Measure into the pages of this one.

While I don’t usually read romances, Christian or otherwise, I like historical fiction and enjoyed the historical parts of this book. Twenty years ago, teen-aged Heather loved reading Janette Oke books, which were set in the 1840s expansion into the West. Beauty for Ashes reminded me of Oke’s books, for it’s focus on true historical times, the struggles of the people, and their reliance on God to get them through tough times.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeĀ®.com <http://BookSneezeĀ®.com> book review bloggers program.