Friday, July 15, 2016

Foraged Flora by Louesa Roebuck and Sarah Lonsdale

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Part horticultural guide, part inspiration, this book is a delight. If you lean towards things free or inexpensive, have an artistic and creative bent, and love seeing nature with a fresh eye, you'll love this book. A few breathtaking options included.

With beautiful photography and helpful tips, this books is full of stories and quotes. I appreciated the comprehensive index at the back that lists florists, flora, and sources. Enjoyable for beginners or expert florists who crave new ways to capture the beauty and unending creativity of the natural world.

Whispering Vines by Amy Schisler

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Think of the culture shock! Imagine moving from Baltimore to Italy ... with a shared inheritance and a handsome and resistant Italian man on the other side. I enjoyed this clash of expections and the eventual romance that leads to a happy ending.

Good summer reading, if somewhat predictable.

Jilted by Varina Denman

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
How long should people just us by our past? How can we see others with fresh eyes, forgiveness, and hope? Can we forgive ourselves? How do we move forward into a new life and new relationships?

This happily-ever-after offers romance and promise, wrapped up in the story of a town's memories, the loving protection of others, and new possibilities for the future.

I recommend this for your summer reading list if you enjoy small-town neighbors, new beginnings, and redemption.

Summer in Good Hope by Cindy Kirk

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
A sweet summer read. Some romance novels are predictable and entertaining. This is that, but I was in the mood for something light and so I enjoyed the story.

A widow with kids. An available man next door. A small-town project they work on together ... with all the gossip and goings on only a little place provides. With names like Primrose and Marigold, you expect it to end well. It may not be the greatest story told, but it ends happily and makes the reader feel like you're visiting with friends. That's a good thing. Enjoy!

Until I Love Again by Jerry S. Eicher

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
This enjoyable and entertaining romance will help pass the time on vacation or long summer nights. Its glance into the life of the Amish highlights the joys and restrictions that define this culture.

I found myself sympathetic to Susanna and her family - both in their upholding and challenging of their history and culture. As a mom of 4 grown kids, I know that part of growing up is keeping things private, hiding from parents the things we think may hurt them or cause more restrictions. So it goes for Susanna - and the process of growing up is not easy for her or her family.

All in all, a delightful novel.

Great Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer by Albrecht Durer

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
A master indeed. Enjoyed looking again at this artist's work through adult eyes. I grew up with Dürer's woodcuts in a children's book of Bible stories. Loved the selection and breadth of art enclosed in this volume.

Moderns have become accustomed to "instant art" and modern scribblings - but Dürer's work reminds us of the enduring excellent and craftsmanship by those artistic geniuses who dedicated their whole lives and gifting to art. Inexpensive and ongoing pleasure provided in this volume.

An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation by Nyasha Junior

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
A valuable addition to African American and womanist theology. Would not personally relate to the agenda, except that I serve with feminist and womanist scholars where I have encountered similar viewpoints. Each scholar claims the right to draw conclusions from our research. Therefore, such a personal and professional slant on theology is acceptable among researchers.

Junior offers us theological scholarship through the particular lens of African American culture, American history, and womanist theology. Her theological reading, not necessarily in agreement with the Church's systematic theology or biblical theology, adds a contemporary voice to ongoing theological conversations and trends. She provides niche-theology by responding as a scholar who perceives the world as an African American woman. Every voice adds to an ongoing and evolving conversation.

That said, I read this as a Canadian raised to expect the integration of people groups. We may remember the strengths and weaknesses of our heritages and histories ... but we seek to move ahead. I was taught that our differences provide the foundation for contributions to society in a positive way. Historically, Canadians have celebrated and embraced the migration of people groups and our historical differences. Sure, we stereotype and sass each other with our tribes' strengths and weaknesses, the bad and good things we've been through and done, and rehash the stories of our parents, grandparents, and forebearers. But we preface answers to "Where are you from?" with "Italian-Canadian," "Hong Kong-Canadian," and "Sudanese-Canadian" - reflecting acceptance and pride in the legacy of our ancestors.

The ongoing grievances of African American slave histories are kept alive, constantly revisited, and rehashed as excuses for unresolvable racism and violence in the USA. That attitude is astonishing and depressing for outsiders. I felt Junior's resistance to a peaceful resolution or moving forward into a healthy future of racial reconciliation. She seemed uninterested in embracing racial, ethnic, or gender differences as a foundation for positive theological contributions.

While this volume adds many insights from the perception of American blacks, I'm not sure it adds (or wants to add) God's peace or healing for those reading and studying the Bible. Instead, it explains and promotes racial and black feminist divisions and distinctions from historical theology. That was disappointing.

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
I promise to review after reading a book from the publisher, but the few pages provided gave only a clue and not a holistic view of the novel. So far, I'd say I'd be interested in reading the whole thing. Tell me more.

A Bed of Scorpions (Sam Clair #2) by Judith Flanders

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
My first Sam Clair novel. I look forward to the next one/s. This was an amusing and entertaining novel, perfect for summer travel.

Sam Clair comes alive with all the quirks and personality traits of a book-lover. I learned a lot about the publishing industry, besides enjoying the story. There were twists and unexpected turns - enough to keep me coming back for the next installation.

I recommend this for a train trip or a weekend at the beach.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth Tucker

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
This book knocked me off my feet. Tucker asks why the Church still tolerates domestic abuse under the guise of wifely (or husbandly) submission.

I read and quoted Tucker's work for my dissertation, admiring her excellent research and writing, so helpful to historians and missiologists.

In this book, her piercing honesty and reflections on sufferings as an abused spouse  - and how a local congregation and fellow believers can support or discourage the hurting - broke my heart. Who knew?

Several of our friends are therapists and counselors. They hear these stories regularly and help the abused heal. For the rest of us, Tucker exposes the heartache of dashed hopes, the fear of physical and mental harm, and the escape from terror at home.

While her extreme honesty will make readers uncomfortable, it forces us to think about how we can be a refuge and sweet support for those who suffer domestic abuse - or a lack of safety in the Church or community. Highly recommended.

Evan And Darcy by Melanie Coles

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Pure fun - a surprising modern and imaginative twist on the Jane Austin book. I kept turning the page, hoping for a consistent and entertaining read - yup. Satisfying and entertaining.

Enjoyed it front to back. Recommended as summer reading.

The Naked Muse by Kelley Swain

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Oh my goodness! Completely unexpected and beautifully written.

I signed up for Figure Drawing when we lived in the UK. I expected a class on perspective, geometry, and line drawing. Instead, to my surprise, a woman walked into the room, dressed in a robe - which she proceeded to take off. She posed for us for 2 hours - while we drew the curves and lines of her body.  I stayed for 8 weeks of learning about the human figure.

Swain writes about the model as person and object in an insightful and astonishing way. Her descriptions and categories of heart and art sing to the reader. She does a wonderful job of explaining the skills and attitudes that make a life model successful (or not) and how important the work is to the development of the artist and art teacher.

I learned a lot years ago during class - and now again from Swain - about how the human body is perceived in art. I remember how the self-worth of the model showed up in the drape of a body and the poses. I wouldn't volunteer again for a "naked muse" class, but having attended, this book was enlightening.

In an age when women are exploited and trafficked for various reasons, I've highly recommended Swain's insights on self-exposure to friends who work with women, as well as those considering figure drawing courses.