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Keeping The Feast by Paula Butturini

Paula Butturini and John Tagliabue, both foreign correspondents, met in Italy, fell in love, and married several years later. Shortly after their wedding they were given assignments in Communist Warsaw Poland. The time is at the beginning of the Polish revolution. John is critically wounded by a sniper’s bullet and their happy carefree life they had known in Rome no longer existed plunging them into a horrible nightmare of events.

Paula, in her own words, tells of her struggles to overcome John’s many surgeries, his bouts of clinical depression, his treatments by numerous psychiatrists,and the birth of their daughter. She is not only trying to survive John’s illness, but also the death of her mother by her own hands. Love, food and Italy is the sustaining factor throughout the entire book. One must read the book to see how the simple daily selection of food, preparing the meals, her memories of family dinners and the ritual of eating three meals together each day at the kitchen table played such an important role in the healing of two people and stabilized their very existence. The love of Italy’s countryside, good friends and good food healed a hurting family.

An enjoyable read, but lacked substance. One learns a lot about ‘old world’ Italian cooking and the role food plays in the lives of Italian families. The story clearly points how the simple ritual of selecting, preparing and eating food can become an important step in the healing process.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Sense and Sensibility, Insight Edition by Jane Austen

The story centers around two sisters – Elinor and Marianne Daswood. The love and loyalty between the sisters is astounding, but they do not understand each other. Elinor is a quiet, sensible and sensitive young lady cheerful and putting others first. Marianne is just the opposite. She has a quick temper, speaks before thinking, is often rude and is full of herself. Her wishes and desires come first regardless of who is hurt.

The family lives in late 18 century England where a person is judged by breeding and wealth, looking down on the working class. Circumstances change in the sisters lives and they are forced to move from the family homer to the country. Their half-brother has good intentions as to their welfare, but is overruled by his wife. Through the goodness of a distant cousins and friends, the sisters remain in polite society. Both have feelings for two gentlemen of the upper class, but whose feelings do not appear to be in their favor or any chance of marriage. What transpires in the lives of Elinor and Marianne along with their friends leads to some interesting conclusions.

Jane Austen has always been a favorite author of many. However, this is a reprint of the original book first published around 1811. The trivia and notes that highlight this “Insight Edition” in the right margin is very distracting, and at times I found the story rambling without anything worthwhile being said.

Jane Austen fans who want to reread the book will, no doubt, purchase the reprint for the interesting trivia, but I found it very hard to follow, due to the inserts in the margin, and to only hold my attention for short periods of time.

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

When Heaven Comes Down by Che Ahn

What drew me to this book was the promise of accounts of “firsthand experience of revival around the world.” By nature a skeptic, I want to believe more than anything! I want to see God’s face. One of my favorite verses in scripture is Mark 9:24, when a boy says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I sometimes feel overburdened with knowledge about God and lacking (and craving) intimacy with God but not always knowing how to get that. Che Ahn does provide personal stories about encounters with God, but ultimately, I think he misses the mark by focusing – I think – wrongly on what he calls the Glory of God.

Ahn’s thesis is that we can invite God’s Glory (yes, capitalized) and in so doing invite supernatural healing, interaction, and intimacy. I found, however, that his evidence was anecdotal at best. On pages 62 – 68 he gives several stories of healing and even raising someone from the dead. But in none of these instances is there any detailed proof or evidence other than Che Ahn’s word. It isn’t that I think he is lying, but if this book was written to those who do not already agree with him – those like me who are seeking intimacy – then he failed as those who do not already agree with him are too skeptical to change their minds based upon the word of an author they don’t personally know. In fact, in one situation that really stuck with me was where he prayed for a person injured and looking dead from a car accident. Ahn admits that the man was not dead but does nothing to dissuade onlookers from thinking that when the man moved he was raised from the dead! It is that kind of trickery that I am disillusioned with.

Overall, an interesting look through the eyes of a very charismatic preacher into the world as he sees it, but not anything that brought me closer to intimacy with God. Ultimately, I believe the book failed to live up to its promise to show me how I could experience the Glory of God.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Fool’s Gold by Melody Carlson


Hannah is a missionary kid (otherwise known as MK) from the island of Papua New Guinea north of Australia. She is visiting her Uncle’s family in America for the summer while her parents crisscross the country raising money to return to New Guinea. Her cousin Vanessa and Aunt Lori are shopaholics – obsessed with the latest fashion, designers and brand names. They are embarrassed by Hannah’s ‘Aussie’ clothes. Hannah feels lost and out of place with
Vanessa’s friends and the whole shopping scene.

Hannah takes a job with her Uncle’s company supposedly to earn money for her continued education in New Guinea. Soon her coworkers have her spending more money than she has, getting a credit card, and buying expensive clothes she neither needs or can afford. She becomes obsessed with fitting in with the crowd. She seems to have left her faith as well as her Bible behind in New Guinea as she strives to fit in with the other wealthy kids – living for the moment. Hannah is soon finds herself head over heels in debt and doesn’t know how to cope with her situation.

A must read to learn how Hannah solves her debt problem and returns to her faith. Did she come to recognize what she valued most? Did she learn that all that glitters is not gold? Melody Carlson has a excellent command of the minds of teenagers, especially the rich, and what influence peers have on each other.

Highly recommended for teenagers and parents. You will become a fan of Ms. Carlson.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Closer by Jim and Cathy Burns

Like many couples, my wife and I have read through – or at least started – many devotionals. Some are simple one-pagers that don’t bring much more than a kind of mini-sermon, while others like Closer give much more. Each of the 52 devotions has Bible reading, a quick story illustration, and then poignant questions that prompt discussion.

I found that working through the devotions with my wife that the book was really just a jumping off point. We spent much more time on the discussion questions. In this way, Closer was very successful in drawing me and my wife together.

The one part of the book that didn’t make a lot of sense to me was in only doing 52 devotions, one per week. If you are like me, even if you are busy, you probably want to do a devotion daily. I found that my wife and I would go through a new so-called weekly devotion each day. I understand that the authors did this so that they wouldn’t burden those of us with limited time, but I felt that a simpler 30 or 60 devotion span would have been easier for users who wanted to do devotions daily or over a period of time. And let’s face it – most of us don’t do this every day anyway.

Overall a good devotional. Not too heavy and not too light. Something that you can do every day or once a week. Above all, though, it is a great jumping off point for conversation – which is what really draws couples closer.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge

All too often in our society we conform to the lie that marriage will inevitably fail as, after all, all good things come to an end. But that isn’t how it’s supposed to be. It is supposed to last a lifetime. The vows are supposed to mean what the words do, not what we pour into the words. In John and Stasi Eldredge’s book I found a message that transcends the societal pressures, and lives up to its message that the best things in life, like marriage, are hard work but not only worth it but exciting and rewarding.

Drawing generously on their previous works, the Eldredge’s offer an honest look at marriage from the perspective that they share that we humans are made male and female on purpose with unique needs and desires. This isn’t Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – we aren’t talking about language barriers and differences that separate. We are talking about the way that the sexes compliment each other when understood correctly. What I liked most about this book was the honest and open peek inside this marriage that most likely assumed was always and would always be perfect. After all, they literally wrote the book(s) on the sexes! But what I found was a marriage that in many ways mirrored mine. The early struggles, the tough choices, coming to the edge of choosing to quit. The Eldredges opened themselves up to the reader and I can’t see a relationship that wouldn’t benefit from reading it.

For Valentines day, this year or any, you could give flowers or material goods or you could give a book like this one that says to your spouse that you are in it for life. Highly recommended.

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Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

Olivia Keene, at a early age, has the ability to cipher sums. Her father, being proud of her ability, often took her to the local pub and racetrack, placing wagers on her ability to give the correct answers. Around the age of twelve, something happened and her father lost interest in her, drinking to excess, becoming very quarrelsome, and making Olivia’s life miserable.

Coming home late one night she surprises a man trying to strangle her mother. She grabs a fire iron, striking him on the head and he falls to the floor. Thinking she has murdered the man, her mother encourages her to flee from the home and go to St. Aldwyns, a girl’s school where she might obtain a position.

On the way, Olivia overhears a conversation revealing a secret she should not have heard. Lord Bradley, occupant of the Manor, and whose secret she had overheard, forces her to take a position in the nursery, caring for his two young cousins. This way he could assure himself of her silence. Keeping her own secret, Lord Bradley’s secret, and his contempt for her makes for a very stressful life.

The story is moving, mysterious, and romantic as the writer keeps you focused on the life of a Governess in an English Manor where nothing is as it appears to be. Mrs. Klassen did a excellent job of holding my interest to the final conclusion. I strongly recommend you read the book to see if Olivia’s and Lord Bradley’s secrets are exposed, what impact the secrets have on the lives of those living at the Manor. A must read for those who enjoy historical fiction, you will become a fan of Mrs. Klassen and look forward to reading all of her books.

This book was supplied by the publisher as a review copy.

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

When I saw that Eternal on the Water was going to be the January’s First Look book selection, I have to be honest and tell you that I didn’t know much about either the book or its author, Joseph Monninger.  However, the blurb regarding the book was enough to incite my curiosity.  So, I sent my message and eagerly awaited the arrival of this novel and the opportunity to discuss it.

I would love to be able to say that the book lived up to the promises in the blurb from the start.  Alas, the opposite was true.  In sticking with a current trend in fiction, the ending was revealed in the prologue.  I am not sure why this trend exists.  For me, it is akin to skipping to the last couple of chapters of a book, just to see how it ends.  I personally prefer to be kept in suspense, wondering what might happen in the next chapter and around the bend.

Still, I kept going.  The book is only 344 pages long, which should be an easy two-hour read.  Unfortunately, it was actually very slow going.  The lead male character (Cobb) is on sabbatical tracing Thoreau’s trip down the Allagash river.  It is here that Cobb meets Mary.  Stories about crows and pretentiousness about Thoreau ensue for about six chapters.  It is here that we meet the Chungamunga girls and the story picks up for a little while.  But, like the river, this story ebbs and flows, picks up speed during the rapids and then slows to a babbling brook.

There are many references in the novel that make me wonder if there is a companion novel where the characters show and if I am missing something.  While I live my life in randomness, I am not sure if I appreciate that in what I read.  There are many points where Monninger interjects comments that had me checking several pages earlier to make sure I didn’t miss something (and no, I didn’t).

In the last few chapters, Monninger almost redeems the story…almost.  The resolution leaves you wondering if you would help your loved one make the same choices if faced with the same inevitable ending.  If you knew there was nothing you could do to change the fact that life would end, would you help it to end on his or her terms?

I end in the middle on this novel.  I again rate a book based on its re-readability.  I would probably read this one again, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my have-to read pile.

This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.simonandschuster.com for more information on this book.

The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke

The story begins in Jerusalem A.D. 33 just six weeks after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. A group known as the Followers of the Way, led by Peter, a disciples of Jesus, is gathering believers by the thousands. This group is dedicated to peace and brotherly love, converting Jews and Greeks to the teaching of Jesus. A group known as the Zealots is dedicated to the overthrow of the Roman rule.

Abigail, a beautiful young woman, is one of the believers. She has two suitors desiring her hand in marriage. One is a wealthy Jewish merchant, with strong ties to the Sanhedrin, the council of Jerusalem’s religious leaders, who is looking for a mother for his two young children. The other, a young Roman legionnaire, who only wants to possess her because of her beauty. Abigail doesn’t want either one of the men, but fears she has no say in the matter as the ruling council and her guardian will decide what is best for her. She only wants to stay with the believers and do the work she feels the Lord has called her to do.

Jerusalem is in turmoil as the religious leaders and the Roman Governor wish to stamp out the fledging church. The cruelty, trials and death that Abigail and the believers face keeps the reader turning page after page. The authors clearly depict the uncertain times of first century Jerusalem along with the Roman cruelty and debauchery. Roman games play a part in the book as well, particularly the arenas where the final conclusion of one man’s revenge and the conversion of another.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages – believers and non-believers. Bunn and Oke did it again. They are two of the best contemporary authors of religious historical fiction.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.

Becoming a Woman of Faith by Cynthia Heald

 One in her Becoming a Woman of […] series, Cynthia Heald examines the issue of faith in Becoming a Woman of Faith. In this volume, Heald examines the question of faith, doubt, and how we can increase our faith in God.  The book is arranged in 11 chapters, each dealing with a different idea or area of faith.  Heald starts with showing you how God proves he is faithful.  She then walks through overcoming doubt, how we can put faith into action, how to keep our faith going, and several other areas of faith.
I love that Heald takes an in-depth approach to faith and provides many, many examples in scripture throughout the study.  She interjects personal thoughts on faith throughout the study as well.  There are scriptures for memorization and suggestions for ways to increase our faith.
I will be the first to tell you that I am not a Bible scholar.  I need more direction when it comes to studying and understanding God’s word. From that perspective, Heald’s book along does not offer this.  I think it would work much better for someone who has a much more in-depth working knowledge of God’s word.  For beginners, it could leave you wanting more.  In all fairness, Heald’s book does state up front that some additional references (Bible commentary, study Bible with references, etc) can be helpful when going through this study.  
Still, I think beginners can still get some insight into walking in faith, even if it is a little ahead of where a beginner would be in studying the Bible.  There are a lot of thought-provoking questions that really do a great job of having the reader study and ponder the meaning of God’s word, leaving you with more knowledge and understanding than you had in the beginning.  I would certainly recommend this book and will be looking into other books in this series.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.navpress.com for more information on this book.