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Title: A Soft Breath of Wind (A Stray Drop of Blook #2)
Author: Roseanne M. White
Genre: Christian fiction, Historical fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 360 pages
Date read: July, 2017

Zipporah is thirteen when the Spirit descends upon her, opening her eyes to a world beyond the physical goings-on of the villa outside Rome she has always called home. Within hours, she learns what serving the Lord can cost. Forever scarred after a vicious attack, she knows her call is to use this discernment to protect the Way. She knows she must serve the rest of her life at Tutelos, where the growing Roman church has congregated. She knows her lot is set.

Yet is it so wrong to wish that her master, the kind and handsome young Benjamin Visibullis, will eventually see her as something more than a sister in Christ?

Samuel Asinius, adoptive son of a wealthy Roman, has always called Benjamin brother. When their travels take them to Jerusalem for Passover, the last thing he expects is to cross paths with the woman who sold him into slavery as a child the mother he long ago purged from his heart. His sister, Dara, quickly catches Benjamin s eye, but Samuel suspects there is something dark at work.

When Dara, a fortune-teller seeking the will of a shadowy master determined to undermine the Way, comes into the path of Zipporah, a whirlwind descends upon them all.

So... Nina told me that this sequel was even better than the first book in the series. And as usual, she was absolutely right! I could not put it down and finished it in just one day.

While it is a stand-alone sequel, aspects of it definitely make more sense if you've read the first book, but the main character is no longer Abigail, but rather the next generation. Abigail still plays a major part though.

But where the focus of the first book was on finding Jesus, the focus here was definitely more on following him and thus didn't just make for excellent reading, but also had elements that were applicable to my own life (sort of like "The Yada-Yada Prayer Group" which I absolutely adore!). There were certain points where I worried Roseanna White would take the plot in a direction I didn't agree with, but fortunately that never actually happened, and I ended up finding one of the best books I've read all year :-)
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Title: A Stray Drop of Blood
Author: Roseanne M. White
Genre: Christian fiction, Historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 482 pages
Date read: July, 2017

Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected.

For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the Visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant... until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upsidedown. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?

Israel's unrest finds a home in her bosom, but their rebellion tears apart her world. Death descends with Barabbas's sword, and Abigail is determined to be there when the criminal is punished. But when she ventures to the trial, Barabbas is not the one the crowd calls to crucify. Instead, it is the teacher her master and Jason had begun to follow, the man from Nazareth that some call the Son of God...

Recommended to me by Nina who talked me into reading this even though I wasn't looking for historical fiction. I'm so grateful she did!

Beautifully written, this book blew me away, and I couldn't put it down. It would have been a solid 5-star book if it hadn't been for the certain death at the half-point mark. I understand Roseanne White's reasons for killing off this particular character and even kinda agree with them (it would have been a very different book indeed if she hadn't), it just detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the book at that point.

Fortunately the rest of the book made up for it, and despite my annoyance at that event, it still ended up being an altogether amazing book that I may have to add to my physical library at some point. I loved Abigail, I loved Ester and Cleopas and I especially loved Samuel.
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Title: The Potluck Club
Author: Linda Evans Shepherd
Genre: Chick-lit, Christian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 388
Date read: April, 2017

In the small Colorado town of Summit View, a surprising multi-generational mix of women from Grace Church meet once a week to pass a hot dish and to pray. But the Potluck Club, as they call themselves, is a recipe for disaster when they send up enough misinformed prayers to bring down a church. And the funny thing: the more they pray, the more troubles seem to come their way. It isn't until they invite God to the table that they discover friendship is the spice of life, and a little dash of grace, just like salt, goes a long way.

A nice, cozy novel about a prayer group in a small-town community. In style it reminded me quite a lot of "The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society" by Beth Pattillio as the plot very clearly takes backstage to getting to know the characters.

Of course - as per usual in such books - I grew more fond of some of the characters than others, but there were none I decidedly disliked (at least, not after I learned what made them tick) and all in all I really liked getting to know them, and enjoyed my visit with the Potluck Club.
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Title: Hinds Feet on High Places
Author: Hannah Hurnard
Genre: Christian
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 147
Date read: April, 2017

This book is a beautiful allegory dramatizing the yearning of God's children to be led to new heights of love, joy, and victory. Follow Much-Afraid on her spiritual journey through difficult places with her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. Learn how Much-Afraid overcomes her tormenting fears as she passes through many dangers and mounts at last to the High Places. There she gains a new name and returns to her valley of service, transformed by her union with the loving Shepherd.

It took me a lot longer to read this than I had expected from such a short book (almost a month!), but I discovered I couldn't read more than a few chapters in each sitting. In style it reminded me a lot of "Pilgrim's Progress", but that may just have been because of the naming of things.

I liked it :) As you can see from the rating, it didn't blow me away, but I thought it a very sweet read.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Breaking Free
Author: Beth Moore
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 289
Date read: December, 2016

Do you want to know God and really believe Him? Do you want to find satisfaction in God, experience His peace, and enjoy His presence? Do you want to make the freedom Christ promised a reality in your daily life?

In Breaking Free, Beth Moore embarks on a study of selected passages from the book of Isaiah, drawing several parallels between the captive Israelites and today's Christians, in order to show how to make freedom in Christ a daily reality. Moore teaches readers to remove obstacles that hinder freedom by identifying spiritual strongholds in their lives and overcoming them through the truth of God's Word - truth that will set us free.

I've only ever heard good things about Beth Moore's books, so it was with high expectations that I approached this book. Unfortunately it couldn't live up to my expectations. I found her main points interesting and relevant, but unfortunately her examples and anecdotes were much too vague for me to be able to draw any sorts of parallels to my own life. Her reasoning was not to lock the reader into thinking those were the only situations relevant, but unfortunately it didn't work for me.

At the end of the day, I remember her main focuspoint (escape satan's strongholds in your life, by seeing his lies for what they are, and focusing on Christ's truths instead) - which is the important thing, of course, though nothing I didn't already know - but nothing else... and I have no better understanding of how to apply that to my life than I did before reading this book.

So I guess I'd recommend the book to a new Christian - but "experienced" Christians (for want of better word) probably won't get much new out of it.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Undaunted
Author: Christine Caine
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 203
Date read: February, 2016

Using her own dramatic life story, Caine shows how God rescued her from a life where she was unnamed, unwanted, and unqualified. She tells how she overcame abuse, abandonment, fears, and other challenges to go on a mission of adventure, fueled by faith and filled with love and courage. Her personal stories inspire readers to hear their name called, just as Christine heard her own—“You are beloved. You are the hope. You are chosen”—to go into a dark and troubled world, knowing each of us possess all it takes to bring hope, create change, and live completely for Christ.

Christine Caine is an incredibly talented, passionate and inspiring speaker, and unlike in some of her earlier books, this comes across very strongly in her writing as well. Part of that might be that this book is a mix of a memoir and an inspirational book, and it's therefore easier to see how somebody might apply the lessons Christine tries to teaches in their everyday life, because she is very open about how she applied them. It all still boils down to how to actually hear what God has to say to you. Until you know how to listen, it doesn't matter how 'undaunted' you are with regards to following his plans for you.

I don't know if I'd say the book has taught me anything I didn't already know, but it certainly gave me a new appreciation and respect for Ms. Caine.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Penny Wise (Windy City Neighbors #3)
Author: Neta and Dave Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 313
Date read: October, 2015

The Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change!

I think it's time for me to take a break from Neta Jackson. As much as I wanted to love this book, it just wasn't very good (compared to her usual standards, that is). First of all, it took AGES to get started. Secondly, I got increasingly frustrated by the main characters continuing to make bad decisions. Thirdly, Neta Jackson painted her clues with a far too heavy brush almost from the very start. And fourthly - and most importantly, as I could forgive this other sins otherwise - it just lacked the poignancy and spirituality (for want of better word) that I've come to love and expect from Neta Jackson's books.

I'll probably still read the last two books in this series eventually, but I think I'll return to some of her older books first, to get my head back on straight.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Bad Girls of the Bible
Author: Liz Curtis Higgs
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 256
Date read: October, 2015

Women everywhere marvel at those good girls in Scripture-Sarah, Mary, Esther-but on most days, that's not who they see when they look in the mirror. Most women (if they're honest) see the selfishness of Sapphira or the deception of Delilah. They catch of glimpse of Jezebel's take-charge pride or Eve's disastrous disobedience. Like Bathsheba, Herodias, and the rest, today's modern woman is surrounded by temptations, exhausted by the demands of daily living, and burdened by her own desires.

Whether they were Bad to the Bone, Bad for a Season, but Not Forever or only Bad for a Moment, these infamous sisters show women how not to handle the challenges of life.

Unfortunately I wasn't terribly impressed by this book. It wasn't bad, just only okay. However, that was mostly because I a) didn't care much for Liz Higgs' writing style. b) already knew most of the points she made. I think for people who don't mind her writing style, and especially for new Christians who might not be familiar with all these bad girls of the Bible, it'll be a lot more appealing.

One thing I did like was the modern day retellings at the start of each chapter. I'd originally worried that they'd come off too cutsey, but with one or two exceptions, that wasn't the case at all. I especially loved the very last one about the woman with the alabaster jar. Very sweet and poignant.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Sacred Marriage
Author: Gary Thomas
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 304
Date read: August, 2015

Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply. Scores of books have been written that offer guidance for building the marriage of your dreams. But what if God s primary intent for your marriage isn t to make you happy... but holy? And what if your relationship isn t as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?

Everything about your marriage--everything--is filled with prophetic potential, with the capacity for discovering and revealing Christ s character. The respect you accord your partner; the forgiveness you humbly seek and graciously extend; the ecstasy, awe, and sheer fun of lovemaking; the history you and your spouse build with one another--in these and other facets of your marriage, Sacred Marriage uncovers the mystery of God s overarching purpose.

Very obviously written by a male for a male audience. He does try to make it generally relevant, but only succeeds about half the time.

He makes several good points, but gives very little practical advice. It's all put in general terms with very little - if any - time spent on how to put the advice into everyday use.

At the end of the book I had a very hard time remembering any specifics about what I'd read. Obviously not a book that spoke to me on any significant level. That's not to say I didn't find it applicable - I just missed insight into how to apply it.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Derailed (Windy City Neighbors #2)
Author: Dave Jackson, Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 320
Date read: August, 2015

Forced to give up his hard-earned retirement, Harry Bentley goes back to work as a detective. Receiving a bizarre undercover assignment that sends him across the country by train. Things suddenly go awry when it appears one of his new neighbors may be part of a smuggling ring and suspicion rises about his own son’s involvement in a major drug cartel.

As far as I can deduce, Neta and Dave Jackson took turns being the main writer vs. co-editor of this series, so Neta wrote (most of) the first one, Dave wrote (most of) the second one, etc. Unfortunately, while still being an able writer, Dave just doesn't have the same talent as Neta does, and it shows. The plot is decent enough, and I love the characters enough that I had problems putting the book down, but the writing is a lot more clumbsy, there's a lot more telling and less showing, and it just doesn't come across as effortless as Neta Jackson's books do. Nor did it come across with as strong and moving Christian message. This was a decent Christian book, but it didn't move me remotely as much as the earlier books did.

The book covers the same time period as "Grounded" which was a bit of a disappointment, as I was eager to see what happened next! But on the other hand, I did enjoy getting to see Harry and Corey together :)

The only thing I really, really, really didn't like was the epilogue. That knocked off an entire star by itself. It was sickeningly saccharine and tacky... I can't believe the Jacksons would stoop to that level.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Angry Conversations with God
Author: Susan E. Isaacs
Genre: Christian non-fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 252
Date read: June, 2015

Disillusioned, disenfranchised, and disinterested in anything churchy, Susan Isaacs knew of only one thing to do when she hit spiritual rock bottom at age 40.... She took God to couples counseling.

In this cuttingly poignant memoir, Susan Isaacs chronicles her rocky relationship with the Almighty--from early childhood to midlife crisis--and all the churches where she and God tried to make a home: Pentecostals, Slackers for Jesus, and the über-intellectuals who turned everything, including the weekly church announcements, into a three-point sermon. Casting herself as the neglected spouse, Susan faces her inner nag and the ridiculous expectations she put on God--some her own, and some from her "crazy in-laws" at church.

Very interesting and thought-provoking book. I love the idea of taking God to couple's counselling, because while at the end of the day, I'd be the one who had to change, hopefully - like Susan - my perception of God would have to change along the way.

And it brought up some really deep issues - do we expect everything to go our way, and that God will bless our every endeavour, just because we believe? How do we cope when God's every answer doesn't seem to be "yes and amen", but a door shut in our face? How can we see the big picture and trust Him when we're in the middle of the dark time of the soul? (I keep wanting to write "the dark tea-time of the soul" - darn you, Douglas Adams!)

Definitely a book that has given me a lot of food for thought. I found myself highlighting passages all over the place, so I'm glad I got it as an ebook!
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Where Are the Lions?
Author: Claus Tøndering
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 220
Date read: June 2015, April 2017

Many Christian novels describe the end times leading up to the second coming of Christ. But what might happen thereafter?

This novel takes place a few centuries into eternity. A group of scientists go an expedition to explore unknown areas of the New Earth.

Will they also solve the mystery about what happened to the lions?

I absolutely loved this book! It's an interesting account of what Heaven may be like, and broached some topics that I haven't otherwise thought about - how will we live? Will we work? Will we marry? Will we have kids? What does "eternity" mean for missing people or making plans?

Really fascinating story, that only served to make me homesick :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Lioness Arising
Author: Lisa Bevere
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: October, 2013

Awaken. The lioness rises from her slumber, a magnificent image of strength, passion, and beauty. Her mere presence commands the landscape, protects her young, and empowers the lion. In groups, lionesses become a creative and strategic force to be reckoned with, acting as one to change the world around them. You too are a lioness. In Lioness Arising, author and speaker Lisa Bevere offers the life and image of the lioness as a fierce and tender model for women. Revealing the surprising characteristics of this amazing creature, Lisa challenges women to discover fresh passion, prowess, and purpose. Learn what it means to be a stunning representation of strength, fiercely protect the young, lend your voice to the silenced, live in the light and hunt in the dark, and raise a collective roar that changes everything.

Lisa Bevere is a wonderfully, God-inspired speaker, whom I'm very happy to have heard "live" on several occasions.

Unfortunately her inspiration doesn't translate all that well to pen and paper, so while I liked "Lioness Arising" well enough, I wasn't as touched by it as I had hoped to be. Originally I thought her message just didn't work as well in the written word, so I got hold of an audio version of her book, read by Lisa Bevere herself, but it still didn't have the passion or the energy as her speaking has when you experience her on stage.

Even so, Lisa made a lot of good points in her book, so at the end of the day, I still liked it well enough to give it 3 stars.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Guilt by Association (Danielle Ross #1, a.k.a. "One By One")
Author: Gilbert Morris
Genre: Christian fiction, suspense
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 296
Date read: October, 2013

One secret links twelve strangers. One secret that could cost them everything. Danielle Ross's life keeps slipping out of control. First she must abandon her education to take over her ill father's floundering detective agency. Then, while pursuing a new case, Dani becomes a victim herself. She awakens in a strange place and finds herself surrounded by eleven other people. Among them are a doctor, a dancer, a German submarine commander, and a former Death Row inmate--all clueless as to why they have been brought together. The culprit relentlessly insists they are united by one dark secret and that their lives depend on their confessing it. Can Dani find the link between these strangers before time runs out?

One of my favourite books which I've read too many times to count. The evangelization does get a bit heavy handed at times perhaps, but it's kept within the concept of the story-line, so I don't think it would be too much - even to a non-Christian.

I know the story well enough by now that I remember most details, so it's fun to see how many clues I can pick up on before the characters themselves do. Unlike many other crime novels the clues are made present to the reader as well, which makes for a much more satisfying read :)

Still, my favourite parts of the story is reading about life in the silo and the backgrounds of the different people there.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?
Author: Pete Wilson
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 222
Date read: August, 2013

Pete Wilson reaches beyond the typical Christian response to offer frank understanding, honest encouragement, and real hope for your Plan B reality. Drawing on real-life stories from the Bible (David, Joseph, Mary, and Martha) and the present day, he writes to help you:
* Move past the feelings of crisis: panic, fear, paralysis, and overcontrol
* See God in your circumstances--even when he doesn't seem to be there at all
* Make peace with doubt, which can actually be an expression of faith
* Find hope through the redemptive power of community
* Ask the right questions in order to find real, satisfying answers
* Explore the relationship between shattered dreams and true spiritual transformation

Lots of questions, but no real answers. Basically this book gave a lot of examples of situations where people were forced into a Plan B, and then related their responses to it. But the only answer offered to the subject question is "Trust" ... and perhaps "Hope". Both true answers to be sure, but nothing I wasn't aware of already.

But to be fair, I don't exactly now what other kind of answer I was looking for... possibly just some more concrete examples of how to trust in God. Rather than just offering the platitude of "Let God be the editor of your life" (which doesn't even make much sense to me), I'd like specific instructions of how one goes about doing that. Probably impossible to give, as they're bound to differ from person to person, but in that case, just some examples of how real-life people set out to do it.

Unfortunately that's my problem with many Christian self-help books.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Come to the Table (SouledOut Sisters #2)
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 388
Date read: July, 2013

Kat may be new in her faith, but she's embraced the more radical implications of Christianity with reckless abandon. She invited Rochelle--a homeless mother--and her son to move in the apartment she shares with two other housemates. And she's finally found a practical way to channel her passion for healthy eating by starting a food pantry at the church.

Her feelings for Nick are getting harder to ignore. The fact that he's the interning pastor at SouledOut Community Church and one of her housemates makes it complicated enough. But with Rochelle showing interest in Nick as a father-figure for her son, their apartment is feeling way too small.

It's ridiculous how long time this book has been standing on my shelves. I LOVE Neta Jackson's books, so anybody would expect me to pick them up right away! But come to think of it, that's actually probably the problem... I have such high expectations of them, that I'm afraid they can't live up to them.

But I finally manned up and picked up the book yesterday... and of course I ended up reading it in no time flat, just like the rest of her books :) True, it doesn't quite live up to the level set by the Yada Yada series, but then none of her later books have, so I wasn't really expecting it to. I wasn't too fond of Kat in the beginning of the book, but she grew on me, as she grew in her walk as a Christian. And as always, it made me long for a church like the SouledOut church.

I wonder if this is the last in the series though? It did seem rather "wrapped up"...
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Title: Breaking Free Day By Day
Author: Beth Moore
Genre: Christian devotional
Rating: 3/5
# pages: Audiobook ~5hrs
Date read: March, 2012

Disclaimer: I bought this thinking it was the original "Breaking Free" and was very disappointed to discover that was not the case :( Instead, this is a devotional based on her book "Breaking Free", and my initial disappointment probably coloured my opinion of the book itself.

As devotionals go, it's pretty good though. It's probably mostly aimed at new believers, as it has a lot of easy truths; but even "old" Christians (like myself) will find some food for thought in it. Most of what she wrote I already knew, but there were a couple of gold nuggets that I would do well to remember.


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