Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When I Lay My Isaac Down

Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances
By Carol Kent
NavPress, 2004

In 1999 Carol Kent's world came crashing down. Her son, J.P. - her only child, and a naval officer with a promising future - shot and killed his wife's ex-husband. With plenty of witnesses and his capture a short distance away from the scene of the crime, J.P. was immediately arrested and jailed. This book tells the story of how Carol and her husband, Gene, were able to come to terms with this tragedy and of how their relationship with God was not terminated, but deepened and strengthened.

The Kents were blessed to have an incredible support system that carried them through J.P.'s imprisonment, hearings, and trials, and that continues to lighten their burden now that he has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Even in this dark outcome, they have found meaning and purpose to their lives.

Carol uses her family's story to encourage others who may be going through their own unthinkable situations. Each chapter concludes with questions to help the reader discover God's power in whatever circumstances s/he may be facing. Though Carol continues to have her own difficult days, her faith remains unshakable and yours can too.

I look forward to reading the follow-up book, A New Kind of Normal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just Ask Mom

Everything She Told You When You Weren't Listening is in This Book
by Nancy Malone
CPO Publishing, 2008

Okay, I'd admit it - I didn't listen very closely to my mom when I was growing up. I usually had my nose in a good book. And that's what Just Ask Mom is - a good book.

Desperate for answers to your troubling laundry questions? They're here. Don't know how to manage your money? Look no further. Not a whiz in the kitchen? Nancy tells you how to become one. There are chapters on everything you need to know to run your home and life successfully.

Full of pithy Momsense, this book is a great gift for college students living away from home for the first time, for newlywed couples, and for anyone who didn't listen to their mom when they should have been paying attention.

I borrowed it from the library first, but now I'm going to buy my own copy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Through the Valley of the Kwai

From Death-camp Despair to Spiritual Triumph
by Ernest Gordon
Harper, 1962

The book's cover is uninspiring and belies the story within its pages. I hadn't thought I would be so captivated by a World War II account, but the subtitle intrigued me, and I was not disappointed. Indeed, I could hardly set the book down.

At one time, Ernest Gordon had considered being a missionary, but he had turned his back on his faith by the time of the war. Captured by the Japanese in 1942, he joined POWs in camps in Changi, Chungkai, Kanburi, and Nakawm Paton. There he experienced all that a POW could experience - starvation, disease, physical and verbal abuse. The Japanese were creative in the tortures they devised. Gordon was also involved in the building of the bridge over the River Kwai.

A resident of the Death House for a period, Gordon was not expected to live, but the kindness of Christian, "Dusty" Miller, and another friend, Catholic "Dinty" Moore, Gordon survived malaria, diphtheria, and a host of other ailments. When he was released to a small shack his friends had built him within the camp, Gordon was invited to teach other prisoners about God. He didn't know much himself, but armed with a Bible, Gordon read it cover to cover, and discovered that Jesus was a man the prisoners could relate to, believe in, and trust. As a result of what they learned, the camp was transformed. POWs who had treated each other in the manner of animals, now showed loving-kindness, compassion, and caring.

I won't spoil the story by going into any more detail. Read it for yourself; it's a fascinating story!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Crime Brulee

a Culinary Mystery with Recipes
by Nancy Fairbanks,
Wheeler, 2001

Carolyn Blue, food writer, is on assignment in New Orleans. Her husband and several of their friends are there as well for a meeting of the American Chemical Society - a great opportunity to mix business with pleasure. But when Carolyn's best friend, Julienne, disappears from the first dinner gathering after a nasty spat with her husband, Nils, Carolyn is the only one to suspect that something sinister has happened. When no one else (including the police) seems interested in actively looking for Julienne, Carolyn takes on the task herself.

Midway through our heroine's harrowing search, I was pretty sure I knew which of three possible culprits had committed the dirty deed, and the conclusion of the book confirmed my suspicions. Still, this was a good read, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. The reader also gets a vivid tour of New Orleans and a strong sense of its inhabitants.

Several of the mystery series I read have comical or humorous elements; I wouldn't include this series among them.

The Missing Girl

by Norma Fox Mazer
Harper Teen, 2008

A psychological thriller, this book should definitely give the reader the creeps. Five sisters are circumspectly watched by a man who has worked hard to maintain a life of anonymity. We get into the minds of each of the girls, as well as the mind of the predator. What happens when he abducts one of them will change their lives forever.

Mazer's writing style exactly captures the thought lives of each of the characters. She creates a vivid story that teen readers will not soon forget.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

90 Minutes in Heaven

a True Story of Death and Life
by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey
Fleming H. Revell, 2004

A New York Times Bestseller, I was looking forward to reading this book, which had been recommended to me by a friend. It tells the story of a pastor who was in a serious (even fatal) car accident, died, went to heaven, and returned to earth 90 minutes later. Not only is it miraculous that he came back to life, but that he survived the multiple surgeries and pain that followed.

I had expected the book to deal largely with the 90 minutes Don Piper spent in heaven, as per the title. Instead, there are a couple of chapters on his time there, and the bulk of the book is devoted to the details of his accident, his time in hospital and recovery, and how his experience changed his life and allowed him to touch the lives of other people as well. I did find parts of the story touching, and I don't doubt its credibility, but I do wish he'd gone into more detail about what heaven is actually like. Of course, those who have come near death, are in hospital, and/or are in serious pain, may find that the book meets their needs entirely.

Cec Murphey, who is the book's real writer, did a better job with Franklin Graham's Rebel with a Cause. Here there is far too much repetition, and it strikes the reader as amateurish.

Perhaps we get more of what we're after in the companion volume, Heaven is Real: Lessons on Earthly Joy - from the Man who Spent 90 Minutes in Heaven. If I read it, I'll let you know.