Sunday, May 21, 2017

"The Cottage" Book Review

Mysteries abound in many family trees, and even more so if that family heritage and lineage is unknown to us.  Thus is the case of Alonnah "Loni" Ford, and American businesswoman who is suddenly thrust into a legacy she never knew existed.  This is the main theme of "The Cottage", one of many fiction books by author Michael Phillips.

The setting for "The Cottage" is a modern 2006, and the aforementioned Loni Ford has her life given quite the surprise at the death of one Mr. Macgregor Tulloch.  Macgregor Tulloch turns out to be a distant relative on her mother's side and the former laird (lord - as in landlord) of Whales Reef, Shetland Islands, Scotland.  His death and the subsequent search for an heir to his title leads to Loni, and she becomes the heiress to the island.  Yes - you read correctly - the island - and the entire estate therein.

Loni at first decides that she would rather sell it and continue with her life in the States unaffected by the situation.  Her boss, Madison Swift, convinces her she should at least go to the island and see exactly what all of it entails.  She, out of sound advice and her own curiosity about her unknown genealogy, decides to do just that.  This proves to be a bit bewildering and challenges Loni in ways she never considered.

As in many of these cases, there are often others who claim to have a part, or all, of family inheritances.  There is another on the island who claims that he is the rightful heir to the estate in its entirety.  Thus enters one bitter fisherman by the name of Hardy Tulloch.  This man joins the efforts of an oil tycoon from Texas to try to get the island in Hardy's name, with less than honorable plans. Sort of like making a deal with the devil.

References to the reformation of Christianity in Scotland, the development of the Quakers, and the details of the change in how aristocracy works among the people makes for another interesting part of this story.

Sometimes visiting your childhood home and taking time to listen to God amidst the confusion reaps peace and clarity one doesn't expect.  Thus is the case for Loni as she travels back to her grandparents in America after the confusion of all that transpires.  It is there that she finds that the Lord has a surprise or two, and gives her the peace she needs to continue her journey.

A small island, villagers with big hearts (and big mouths), letters and a journal from the past, and a wool factory all take their place in this very delightful book.  Of course, let me not forget to mention the island's Chief, an interesting man by the name of David Tulloch, whom many of the islanders believe to be the rightful heir.  You'll have to read the book yourself to see how his presence changes the grande scheme of things.

While "The Cottage" is Book 2 in the series Secrets of the Shetlands, it stands alone very well.  Once again, I'm thrilled that Bethany House provided this book for me to read and review.  Michael Phillips is becoming one of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading more of his books.

Twists and turns, questions and sometimes surprising answers, and a little bit of romance make this a read well worth your time.

"The Cottage" by Michael Phillips gets 'two thumbs up' from me!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"When God Made You" Book Review

My heart has a soft spot for children's books.  So when I have the chance to read a new one I take it. Partly because I'm always looking for good books to read to my grandchildren, partly because I love giving books to kids as gifts, and partly because I really enjoy reading them myself.

The latest book I've looked at is "When God Made You" by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow.

This book has a fun quality to it that definitely stirs the imagination.  The message throughout the book is that God makes each of us as unique individuals, thinks about every detail of what makes us that unique person, delights in each one of us, and has a part in His story for every person He creates. Turner puts it so beautifully in his words:

"That you - yes, YOU - in all of your glory, bring color and rhythm and rhyme to God's story."

The story encourages children to discover and explore the world around them, and use the talents and passions that God has given them to make a difference.  It encourages imagination, creativity, and love for one another.  It's rather empowering and encouraging to children, giving a message of love, hope, joy and kindness.

The illustrations are a bit unusual, but colorful, rich, lavish, and fun.  Catrow uses a unique style of his own to bring across the visual splendor of the book that was unexpected, but grew on me as it continued.

My only concern while reading the story is that Turner writes things like:

"You, you, when God dreams about you, God dreams about all that in you will be true."

"You being you is God's dream coming true."

"Over YOU, God was smiling and already dreaming."

My wish is that the author would have used more biblically accurate words instead of dreaming like:  

"When God thinks about you, God thinks about all that in you will be true,"  
"You being you is God's plan/desire coming true," 
"Over YOU, God was smiling and already planning."  

It may seem a silly thing, especially when you consider the fun rhyming that is throughout the book, and it may even seem a little technical.  But when I read the word dreaming, I thought to myself, "Does God dream?  Where in the Bible does it say God dreams?"  When I consulted a few resources about it, I found nothing to verify that God dreams.  We know that God creates all things, and that He has a plan, purpose, and desire for our lives.  But when you replace plan, purpose, and desire with the word "dream", it places God in the light a bit less than Who He Is.  It places Him in the light of a dreamer, who really doesn't have full control over what happens in our lives, and removes His status of Sovereign Creator and Lord.  And that is where I have a problem.  God isn't a dreamer.  He is our Creator, our Maker, Lord of All, and definitely in full control.  

Now, having said that, I can see where it appears harmless to use the word "dream" in place of these other words.  Perhaps Turner thought that children could relate to God better if they thought God was dreaming about them.  Perhaps God really does dream about us before He creates us.  I don't know that He doesn't necessarily dream about us before He creates us.  All I know is that God didn't reveal anything about His "dreaming" anything in the Bible, and that's all the authority I have and need in which to defer.

My point is, that when we are reading stories to children about God and His nature, we should be very careful about the words we use.  We want children to know God makes them with pride, thought and joy.  That they are all incredible individuals God created, that He delights in them, and that they have purpose in His plan.  The overall tone of this book does indeed have a beautiful, wonderful way to encourage children to be bold, brave, creative, unique individuals.  That part I dearly love.  But with the use of the word "dreamer", I'm hesitant to read this to a child.  If I did end up reading the book to any child for some unknown reason, I would have to explain that God is not a "dreamer", and would have to tell them that the other words like - thinks, plans, creates, desires, and hopes - are a better way to describe God.  Because I want them to have the reverence for God that He deserves, and requires, and I want to stress to them that God really IS in control and always watches over them.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  My only wish is that I could give it a big thumbs up because the overall tone is wonderful.  Unfortunately, I really can't because God is not a "dreamer".

I give this one a "proceed with caution and discernment", with the forewarning of the need to reinforce the true nature and status of God in His full sovereignty should you decide to add it to your collection.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Nourishing Meals" Book Review

This cookbook is really a wonderful resource.  We have people in our family who have food intolerance, sensitivity, and food allergies, so I wanted to have something on hand to prepare food for them. When I saw this cookbook I was attracted to the thought of whole, wholesome, allergen-free cooking.

There are many recipes for meats, veggies, meals, breads, smoothies, desserts and more!  The ingredients are easy to find, and the recipes are easy to follow.  Not only are these good for ensuring safe eating for those with food issues, they are really good, whole, wholesome foods.  Even if you do not have allergies or intolerance to specific foods or ingredients, you can use this cookbook for great recipes overall.

In addition to the recipes, they have information about different, common food allergies.  They address processed foods, the importance of whole foods, organics, and eating a "plant-rich" diet. There is information about gluten intolerance - which is becoming quite common - and the symptoms, where it may be hidden in foods, and what it's all about.  The authors provide information on why food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise, food additives, toxins, gmo, and the effects all of these have on our bodies.

So as well as being very informative to explain the process and effects of food intolerance, allergies, and sensitivities, you get recipes to use that will help ensure you're eating well, and eating within your own - or other's - sensitivities.

I was privileged to receive this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.  My review is honest, unbiased, and I do recommend this cookbook for everyone!

"Nourishing Meals" gets a 'thumbs up' for certain!