Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Acrylic Painter by James Van Patten

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
I took my first painting class to find out about brushes, paints, and other options. With this book on my desk, I could have saved myself the trip! 

Beautifully illustrated samples and photographs explain the tools and methods of painting with acrylics. Color wheel to framing - it's all here for the beginner. I enjoyed it very much because it explored the "why" of painting with acrylics and why we choose the paintings we create, as well as art theory.

I like the blank spaces beside the text, perfect for making notes as you go along. This is an interesting and useful primer for anyone interested in painting with acrylics.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

First comes love by Emily Griffin

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Choices determine how life goes. Some people choose "the right path," one decided by others. Some are "free spirits" who find their own path. And sometimes other peoples' choices and experiences limit our own.

Josie and Merideth are sisters, different as different can be. After the death of their brother, the family defines itself by the accident. The sisters wonder if the other sibling has made better decisions toward happiness. When Josie decides it's time to have a baby, she chooses a good friend as the father. Meanwhile, Merideth isn't sure she has the right husband or can be content in a marriage that is conventionally good but not exciting.

Told from each point of view, the sisters and their families work through life and issues of happiness and contentment together. Though the process may be unconventional, the ending opens up a future filled with possibilities and hope.

I became thoroughly engrossed in this strange and wonderful telling of the inner life and love of family. I'd happily read another by Griffin.

Teaching The Faith At Home by David Rueter

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Scripture teaches that parents are responsible for the indoctrination and training of their children in matters of faith. Rueter urges parents to teach the catechesis toward ritual confirmation to children of elementary school age. He notes today's trend for self-interpretation - finding oneself in the scriptural text - rather than the historical approach of letting the text speak to us.

Rueter views children as "blank slates" who probably are open to learning the basics of Christian faith, rather than assuming their resistance to religious formation. The author reviews the learning processes of children, their willingness to mirror their parents' faith during childhood, and the necessity of teaching the basics of biblical narratives, including the sacrificial cross and powerful resurrection of the Savior.  He insists that moral guidelines without the whole picture of Christ-with-us is less effective in producing life-long believers who life in a Christlike manner.

Rueter asks many questions along the way. He cites studies and history to prove the increased happiness and learning ability of those who follow the Way. Not light reading, but well worth considering.

Old Paths, New Power Daniel Henderson

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Written by a Western pastor for Western pastors, Henderson exhorts ministers to seek spiritual renewal. How? We should pray and preach just like the apostles did in the Early Church, rather than depending on programs and gimmicks.

The book is full of examples of "the richest church on earth" (American) and contrasting models from early church history. Henderson includes links and quotes from Christian leaders in his examination of power, distraction, and other issues undermining the church's influence. He encourages his readers to focus on leadership in prayer and sound theology based on scripture. There are practical how-tos for starting a personal prayer time, leading others in prayer, and preaching with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

This is a strong call for the American church to return to the basics of sharing Good News with a congregation, to change both them and the world around them.

On Purpose How We Create the Meaning of Life by Paul Froese

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Froese notes how every culture (and most individuals) look for purpose in living our lives. Packed with studies and personal observations, this book brings together environment, personality, and experiences that shape us.

An interesting look at purpose as "the personal meaning we give to any experience." If you're on the hunt to find out what gives life meaning, this reviews many paths that people pursue to self-discovery.

The open-ended "your purpose is whatever you believe it to be" left me unsatisfied. I don't want to be told what my purpose is by other people, but neither do I want life to be so meaningless that any path can get me to the goal. No journey I've ever been proves that to be the way home - or forward. Why would I entrust my life to a random self-assignment?

Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work by Robby F. Gallaty

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Disciples are followers of Jesus, ideally unleashed in their talents and areas of interest to multiply the work of God around them. Starting with what we can understand about God is the Hebrew method of education. Western (Greek) systems began with knowledge of self.

Jesus made disciples by modeling life, including his disciples in his work, mentoring his disciples in action, and releasing them into ministry. Do we do the same? This practical manual, packed with scriptures and real-life examples, shows us how to become better disciples as we train others.

You'll enjoy historical examples and interesting stories while you learn and grow in faith. Well worth the time to read it.

Sensing God Learning to Meditate During Lent by Laurence Freeman

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Sooooo.... I'm really late with this review. Lent has come and gone. Instead of clicking out, I'd like to recommend this book for your own spiritual discipline of 40 days, sometime this year.

We hear so much about meditation, usually from practitioners of Eastern religions and New Age combinations who are emptying their minds in order to find peace.

In contrast, Christian meditation sets aside daily cares and obligations in order to focus on the beauty, wonder, and goodness of God-with-us. With very practical tips on posture, attitude, and readings, Freeman offers 40 days of reflection originally designed for the Lenten season. I'm choosing twice-a-day disciplines in my own 40 days of stillness and seeking the Presence.

I recommend this for an immersion in thoughtful contemplation, a desire to be more compassionate, and in understanding God's desire for a relationship - communion - with his creatures. Enjoy!

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
It's no surprise that there's more in our houses than we can use. Some of us have cabinets stuffed with things we hoped would make us happy - or thinner - or better cooks - or nicer people.

Becker invites us to reexamine our goals and values "under everything you own". This little volume asks questions about what our possessions say about us. What they are doing to our well-being. What we best can live with ... and without.

An easy read, this is challenging if taken seriously. If you're new to minimalism - or living within your means - you'll enjoy this challenge.

Peaceful Neighbor by Michael G. Long

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Ah, Mr. Rogers. We know him as the mild-mannered, sweater-wearing gentleman who was a friend of preschoolers and somehow persuaded fabulous talents to appear on his show. I was fascinated by the puppets and watched more intently than my children did, chuckling at the descriptive names and watching for the train to round the bend. I was blown away by the musicians and artists who played for us.

Long explores the politics, faith, and deep convictions of this Presbyterian minister. Though his manner was mild on TV, Rogers dedicated himself to promoting health, wholeness, and non-violence between countries, races, and individuals. Though we may have forgotten many of his concerns since the show stopped, this book serves as a reminder of a storyteller with a compelling message - pacifism and reconciliation.

I enjoyed this book, recommend it, and will revisit it in the future.

Sit, Stay, Love by Mentink, Dana

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
I admit to being a sometimes dog lover. (I don't like all dogs, but I liked this one!)

Bring together an old dog, a pro athlete, and a fired schoolteacher, and you have the setting for this tale of friendship and love ... with expected complications.

A great summer read when you want to relax, have a good laugh, and enjoy a little romance. Especially if you like dogs.

What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
A complicated tale of adventure and mystery. I enjoyed this old-fashioned detective story filled with likeable and unsavory characters.

A text for help from an old friend sends Nikki into action. She's too late to save her Danny. Balancing professionalism with personal concern, Nikki and her partner Nate ferret out facts and circles around others' assumptions to find the truth.

A satisfying book that makes you want to read the next Mary Ellis novel.

Between Pain and Grace by Gerald Peterman and Andrew Schmutzer

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Our daughter suffers pain every day. She's in her mid-30s, but the pain started in her teens and has not let up. I've cried out to God for relief. Begged. Pleaded. Attempted to block the suffering.

This text balances God's absolute power and ability to intervene with the human story, our privilege to live in God's presence as his representatives. As we move through wonderful and terrible days, his love and grace surrounds and sustains.

A worthwhile read - and good questions at the end of chapters for discussion and support groups. Recommended.

Death by Sunken Treasure by Kait Carson

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Set in beautiful waters, a deadly game is afoot. Treasure lures and obscures the truth. And no one may be who they seem to be! Romance, diving, partnership, and policework. Two conflicting wills. Intertwined stories. It's all here.

This treasure hunt, starring paralegal and diver Hayden Kent, went in so many directions I felt dizzy at times. There were stops and starts, twists and turns that surprised me all the way through. I was stunned by the ending, the sign of a satisfying mystery. Enjoy this summer read.

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
So complicated. That's what I thought through this book of conversations and emotional rollercoasters. Cohen takes us inside the heads and hearts of surrogate motherhood with this novel. Does anyone act with complete altruism, or are good intentions and motivations stronger than that ... and worth hiding?

Those of us with children take parenthood for granted. Those who want children pine for them, long to hold a baby, and dream of raising children. Claire and Ben are such a couple. Romily is a single mom who has been Ben's friend for decades.

A stunning novel that keeps you engaged and wondering, page by page. After the final page, you may begin to breathe again.

Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story Anita Hughes

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
When you have a job to do, you try to do it well. At least that's Juliet's intention. She's smart, good at her work, and determined to persuade an aging musician to fulfill his contract. And Lionel considers resistance his best option.

The twists and turns of expectations in human relationships and resistance make this a story you want to finish. The descriptions of beautiful landscapes and surroundings - and a happy ending makes it worth the time. A good read for passing the hours at the beach or on a summer afternoon.

If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
A relationship - especially falling in love - is a funny thing. It imprints us with the soul of another. And some souls are more memorable than others.

Henry and Margot are students in love when they become separated ... when they choose separation. Years later, they meet again.

This touching story invites us to ask, "What do you recognize and value about the ones you've loved?" Well told with the details of affection and loss, I enjoyed this book.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Balanced Relationship Barometer: A Practical Approach To Achieve A Healthy And Fulfilling Love Relationship by Michael Gabriel

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Sometimes we plunge into romance and forget that he and she (we) are humans with real needs, backgrounds that influence us, and history that scars us or makes us soar.

This book asks us to examine relationships with those we love based on our needs, hopes, and fears. Do you know why you respond the way you do? Why you feel fulfilled or unsatisfied in your marriage or while dating? How can you fix what is broken and affirm what is going well?

I found the summaries and questions at the end of chapters the most useful part. I recommend this book and will use some of the questions and categories in marriage counseling sessions.