Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Prophetess

Jill Eileen Smith expertly brings the intriguing Old Testament character of Deborah to life in The Prophetess.   As a young woman in 1126 BC Israel, Deborah expects to live a typical life taking care of her home, a husband, and children.  When the male members of her family are killed by the ruthless Caananite Sisera, she finds herself married to a man she never would have chosen, and with the special, God-given gift of prophecy.  Will Deborah find the courage to let go of her expectations and become the wife, mother, prophetess, judge, and leader of Israel that God has called her to be? 

While relying on what little narrative is available about Deborah in Judges, Smith masterfully paints her protagonist— who can easily be perceived  as perfect and untouchable— as a woman who struggles with the doubts and insecurities that plague most women.  Can she learn to love and respect her husband as the man he is, rather than what she wishes he would be?  How should she deal with a daughter who displays the same stubbornness and fearlessness she herself has been accused of?  Why would God choose her  to judge His people? 

In addition to Deborah herself, Smith tells the compelling stories of many other Israelites.  The leader of Israel’s army, Barak, fights for justice and healing after his young wife’s brutal death at the hands of the Caananites.  Deborah’s daughter, Talya, gradually learns to trust the wisdom of her parents, rather than her own impetuous desires.  Fellow Israelite Shet struggles with bitterness and pride after his wife’s betrayal.  And Deborah’s own husband waits with excruciating patience and kindness to finally win his wife’s whole heart.  

Along with a beautifully realistic cast of characters and entertaining story-telling, Smith also prods her readers to delve into the very nature of God’s character, His promises, and His unfailing love for His people.  

I received a copy of this novel for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TMNT Party

Since I'm playing a good deal of "catch-up" on the new blog, here's a look at the boys' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle birthday party from last February:

Since the boys are only 22 months apart, and mostly have the same friends and interests, we decided to do a joint party this year.  We had it at our local gymnastics place, which saved me the time and stress I usually spend cleaning and decorating my house ...and was worth every last penny!  

The staff provided basic decorations (banner, table cloths, plates, utensils, etc.), which were luckily mostly primary colored, and thus went well with the TMNT theme the boys requested.  

Here are some of my favorite details: 

 Pizza cookies (of course!)

TMNT jello cups

 and Rafael cupcakes!

And just to prove how much fun everyone had...

Woodland Baby Shower

A few lovely ladies and I threw a woodland-themed baby shower this weekend for an absolutely adorable little man.  Here's a little peek.

Our dessert collection was pretty yummy...

complete with fox-shaped cookies...

and chocolate toadstool cupcakes!

We also put together a hot drink station...

with delicious add-ins ...

for our guests to make special creations...

in their own party-favor mugs!  
And let me just say, those mini-chalkboards from Hobby Lobby are awesome, and worth every penny.

Guests also had a chance to write a special prayer for baby E. and hang it on our tree.  

We finished up with (an obligatory, but luckily on-theme) baby shower game!  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Always Watching

When popular psychiatrist and radio host Wade Savage starts receiving suspicious gifts at his home, his father secretly hires the Elite Guardians Agency to protect him from a potential stalker.  Suddenly, the stalker begins to target everyone closest to Wade, including the body guard assigned to him.  Agency owner Olivia Edwards takes control of the case when her employee is drugged and critically injured in the line of duty.  Will her skills and expertise in the field be enough to outsmart a clever opponent, and will her emerging feelings for Wade prove to be a blessing or dangerous distraction?

Lynette Eason’s Always Watching takes readers on a fast-paced, suspenseful adventure with plenty of twists and turns.  While the story itself was most definitely action-packed, Eason’s characters were still well-developed and complex.  Additionally, Olivia’s journey back to her Christian faith was compelling without being overtly preachy, and the love story between she and Wade was entertaining without taking over the plot.  At times, however, the dialogue seemed awkward, and the nearly constant and poorly marked changes in narrative perspective caused some confusion.  That said, this novel will keep the reader guessing and engaged until the very last page.  

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hannah's Choice

Will obedient, hard-working Hannah Yoder manage to keep her family together along the banks of her beloved Conestoga Creek in 1842 Pennsylvania?  Will she give her heart to the best friend of her youth, who will allow her to stay in Pennsylvania, but expects her to embrace his Mennonite faith and illegal anti-slavery activities?  Or will a new, Amish farmer convince her to follow him into the wild unknowns of Indiana?  In Hannah’s Choice, Jan Drexler presents a deep and complex cast of characters whose choices each impact the others in significant ways. 

Firstly, the complicated issue of slavery brings a depth to the novel that many works of Amish fiction tend to lack.  Drexler delves into the struggle many in this time period must have faced: whether civil laws and authorities deserve obedience when they clearly oppose God’s laws. 

In many ways, several of the secondary characters in the novel proved more compelling than Hannah herself.  Annalise Yoder’s struggle with depression, her husband’s need to protect and guide his family, Liesbet’s willingness to do anything to escape the confining Amish faith of her childhood, and Adam’s God-given calling to fight slavery even though in involves breaking the law, all beg the reader to turn another page.  As a glimpse into a fascinating historical period, and a as a story with real and relatable characters, Drexler’s work is excellent.  

The central love story, however, leaves something to be desired.  While the choice Hannah must make between her two suitors is interesting enough, the story itself lacked passion.  While Drexler makes the point that true, lasting love grows out of friendship and shared faith, this reader would have enjoyed more opportunities to see this process in action.  The result was a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, and the question as to whether Hannah truly did make the best choice.  

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.