Drawn In Bible Study “Esther – Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble” by Eugene H. Peterson/The Navigators – Book Review

Drawn In Bible Study “Esther – Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble”

Published By NavPress/Tyndale House Publishers  June 20, 2017

Genre: Devotionals, Personal Growth

Pages: 80

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Color with Friends. Be Drawn In to Scripture.
An unlikely queen. A murderous enemy. A miraculous turnaround. The story of Esther is breathtaking. Through study, coloring, and conversation, discover how to find your voice and grow your faith during times of trouble.

Deepen your friendships as you gather around Scripture for coloring and conversation. Drawn In offers simple four-week Bible studies—perfect for groups or personal devotions. Coloring quiets your heart and mind so you can enter fully into Scripture’s stories. The Bible’s passion and personality come through in The Message, surprising new and old Bible readers alike. Discover the delight of being Drawn In.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Eugene Peterson partners up with The Navigators to bring a new and really fun way to study the book of Esther with a coloring book bible study!

Although I have not previously done a Bible study written by Eugene Peterson or The Navigators, I was really excited to do this study as it included two of my favorites: the book of Esther and coloring. I was a little apprehensive about how in depth the study would be as it seemed to be such a short book, however I found that Peterson and the Navigators had been careful not to neglect the importance of the actual study while offering the fun addition of an adult coloring book. It was really wonderful to ponder the Bible passage and questions to be answered while I colored the accompanying pages. I found that I spent longer considering the passage I read each day when I took the time to color the picture attached to the questions I was to answer. Add to this the relaxation that coloring brings to the mind and body and this was a perfect study for me. I was also very pleased with the actual study that was presented. The questions were very pointed and as I had to ponder them longer I found myself truly searching for what I would have said or done in a situation or recalling what I had done in the past. I have done studies on the book of Esther before but this study focused itself on the reasons why each of the characters acted in a certain way and if you agreed with their response or if you would have acted differently. It was thought provoking to consider how I would handle becoming the wife of a “heathen” king who was easily led by those around him. Another question that I found interesting was how I would have handled Haman and his evil intents while not being vengeful. So often we read a book or passage of scripture we have read several times before and yet never placed ourselves in the situation and considered if we would answer God’s calling in the same way. Peterson also pointed out an interesting happening in this powerful little book: God is not overtly seen or spoken of at all in the whole book, rather He is in the background, working and showing His children how to follow Him by serving. I had not realized this happening before and it gave me a new interest as I read to search out the subtle ways I could see God working in each situation that was included in Esther. I really enjoyed doing this study and coloring the pages that went with each chapter. I have already recommended it to several of my friends and am planning to purchase a copy for family members for either birthday or Christmas presents. I am also looking forward to purchasing the Drawn In study on the book of Ruth  as well as the study on Mary, the mother of Jesus, as I believe they will be just as good or better than this one has been.

I received a free copy of this book from NavPress/Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll – Book Review

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll

Published by Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press  June 01, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 320

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Two recovery specialists.
One murder.
A hunt for the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine becomes a race of survival.

Former Army MP Landry Parker fell into the recovery specialist role quite by accident—to help her ailing father. Now that she’s on her own, she is determined to prove herself and honor her family legacy.

After being shot in the line of duty, former police officer Nickolai Baptiste became a recovery specialist, and he’s good at his job—maybe even the best.

A potential client pits Landry and Nickolai against one another to find the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine map that was stolen from her murdered husband, and the potential payday is too enticing to pass up. The trail takes them from New Orleans to Weaver’s Needle in Arizona where legend claims the mine is hidden. Landry and Nickolai are no strangers to adventure, but the unlikely partners quickly discover there’s someone after the treasure and there are those who want to ensure the lost mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountain stays lost forever.

Can Landry and Nickolai work together despite their distrust of each other to save the legend before more innocent lives are lost? Will they find the real treasure isn’t the gold, but something more valuable. . .true love and understanding?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Robin Caroll’s newest venture into the world of recovery specialists (ie treasure hunters) promised excitement, adventure and romance but fell quite a bit short of its goal.

Having read some of Ms. Caroll’s collaborative work with Colleen Coble, I approached her latest story with some happy anticipation, hoping for a good plot with well developed characters. I was somewhat disappointed with the story as it went along given the anticipation that Ms. Caroll built at the beginning of the story was not well carried with the fleshing out of the plot. She begins her story with two characters, Landry Parker and Nickolai Baptiste, who are recovery specialists called to bid on the same venture – to find a map that possibly leads to gold mine in Arizona. With the circumstances surrounding the map’s disappearance both Landry and Nickolai are reluctant to sign on but neither can afford to pass up the finders fee that’s offered. As they take their respective paths to seeking out the details of how and why the map went missing they both find that all  answers are leading to Apache Juction, Arizona and its surrounding towns. Both Landry and Nickolai have personal financial reasons for taking this case and as they find themselves working together they have to remember that there can only be one collection fee given for the map’s finding. The question Ms. Caroll then presents is whether working together will keep them safe or make them more of a target for whomever stole the map? And further will this case bring them together forever or keep them divided as they seek the map and the treasure it indicates exists. With the plot presented there is much room for an author to really make the characters involved come alive and create a real feeling of danger and excitement. However, I found the “excitement” and “danger” to be rather lukewarm and not anxiety-inducing in the least.  If you are going to write about brakes failing or a napalm fire breaking out in a hotel room and you want your readers to really be afraid for your characters you have to be very descriptive with the details of those happenings and the reactions of your characters. I never really felt fear or anxiety for Landry or Nickolai, rather I felt like the “danger” was an afterthought added to make the story seem more interesting. And the random angry lady involved in the wreck caused by Nickolai’s failed brakes was really annoying and not helpful to the scene at all. Another inclusion that bothered me was the random inserts of Apache ceremonies and rituals that were not well connected to or explained within the story. Usually those scenes are inserted to explain the actions of participating characters but I was halfway through the book before I finally understood the reason Ms. Caroll included them. Furthermore, the character that was to carry out the decisions of the Apache council was not revealed until the last two chapters; making him unhelpful to the carriage of the plot. And the whole ending where Nickolai was given the choice of “saving Landry’s life if he gave up his memories of the location of the gold mine” was so very weird and not possible I laughed and shook my head when I read it. This is supposed to be a Christian book so why do the Apache have any power over who lives and who dies based on one person’s choice? That power rests in the hands of Almighty God who does not give the power of life and death to any man! Not good, Ms. Caroll! Finally, Ms. Caroll’s “bad guy” was so evident from the first third of the book that I was bored with his revelation at the end. I find that the best “bad guys” are those who are concealed or are working unsuspected alongside the “heroes” until the end and their revelation comes as a shock to all those involved. Not that all criminals are masterminds but I do expect fictional ones to be capable of more stealth than your average sneak thief or drug dealer. I did find some redeeming qualities in this book so all is not completely lost. I was very happy with the way in which Ms. Caroll dealt openly with the mental illness Nickolai’s sister suffers from. She showed that Schizophrenia is a real disorder and that those who suffer from it often harm those who are closest to them in very brutal ways. And when Ms. Caroll showed that faith in Christ is the best way for any Schizophrenic to find the strength to overcome their tendencies, that impressed me and made me see that her intentions were headed in the right direction. I was also glad to see that Ms. Caroll had Nickolai see that the blame for his parents deaths was not his to carry. His family had no history of mental illness and his sister’s actions were not unlike those of her friends, therefore her condition was not to be anticipated or realized until it turned violent in a tragic way. Additionally, the romance between Landry and Nickolai was fairly well written, with a sweetness and carefulness that I have come to expect from Christian Romance. I was a little against it at first, given that Nickolai was an unbeliever but was happy to see them together at the end of the story. So although there were some things that were good about this story, I’m not sure I will be recommending this book to anyone as it was rather disappointing. I hope that Ms. Caroll will spend more time honing her craft before she writes another like this. For avid readers of adventure/dramatic stories she will have to make her writing much sharper and more descriptive if she wishes to have devoted fans.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter – Book Review

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Published by Thomas Nelson Fiction  June 13, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 320

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Denise Hunter’s most recent release not only answers her readers love of romance but undertakes the challenge of a Christian marrying a non-Christian.

Denise Hunter is a favorite author of mine because she always takes issues head on, refusing to give any quarter to untruth, while still providing loving relationships for her characters. Her latest story is one that I think has much to teach and I, for one, found myself convicted several times while reading. Ms. Hunter begins her book with a predicament – a couple who believe they have been divorced for 18 months suddenly find out that the paperwork was never signed by a judge, meaning they are still married. Both are expectedly upset, but this plot provides excellent material for Ms. Hunter to examine their relationship in detail.  Neither Noah Mitchell nor Josephine Dupree have truly moved on from their divorce, given they were so deeply in love. But both were also hurt deeply by the other and have yet to forgive each other or themselves for allowing the hurt to happen. But as always happens when God is working in people’s lives, they find themselves having to face what happened when they are accidentally stranded at Noah’s ranch during a fast set-in snowstorm. Without cell signal and eventually without electricity, they will have to find ways to work out a truce and keep from freezing to death. Given time to talk, they slowly start to ask and answer the questions they didn’t make time for before. As they work through the pain of what happened, they will be further challenged as they set out to find Noah’s runaway horse, becoming stranded miles from shelter when their snowmobile runs out of gas. Learning to work together on their trek home will bring them closer together and give them a chance to take a good look at their past. How they met is told in flashbacks between the present day story: Noah and Josephine met three and a half years ago when Noah came into her new barber shop for a long overdue haircut. Knowing she was new in town didn’t stop Noah from stopping in as it meant he didn’t have to go to further away Ellijay whenever he needed a trim. One look at Josephine and Noah knew he was in trouble; she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He quickly decided to help her with her build out to expand her shop, paying no heed to the advice of his friend and pastor Jack who warns Noah not to lose his heart until he knows her beliefs. Working together quickly leads to dating and within six months they were engaged and married by Christmas. But Josephine carries a secret, one that, without being told, becomes the breaking point for their marriage. Josephine grew up in a small town on the “wrong side of the tracks” in a single-wide trailer with her mom and mean step-dad. After her mom dies when she’s twelve she continues to live with her step dad, Eddie, as she has no other living relatives who will take her in. A drunk and a gambler, Eddie makes a deal one night that if his buddy beats him at poker he can have anything Eddie owns as payment. This deal will spell tragedy for Josephine as she is the item that Eddie’s buddy, Shark will claim as his for whatever purpose he decides. Rather than protecting her Eddie allows Shark to rape Josephine on multiple occasions, telling her no one will really love her and she is only good for one thing: sex. And after “friends” at school start rumors about her promiscuity with a fellow student, Josephine decides to own that label: she will give her body to men, but only when, where and with whom SHE says. Given this upbringing, Josephine has no idea how to handle God-fearing, respectful Noah who loves her enough to wait for sex until after marriage. And her fear of never being loved unconditionally will be realized throughout the months of their marriage in which Josephine pushes Noah to prove his love repeatedly. Needing complete acceptance, she commits the ultimate betrayal – an affair – desperately wanting to know if Noah loves her enough to stay with her anyways. When he turns away and requests divorce, Josephine decides Eddie was right and no one will ever really love her unconditionally. Fast forward to present day – Noah and Josephine are stranded out in the ever-dropping temperatures, miles from anyone’s home or property. As they fight to get home, they will find that forgiveness is waiting and all they had to do was ask. Josephine will find that the love she craves from people can be found only in the One who is capable of unconditional love. Noah will discover that Josephine isn’t the only one who needs to be forgiven, and that his pursuance of a relationship with her was wrong as she was an un-believer when they got together. Ms. Hunter takes all this hurt and pain and points her readers to the true Source of healing, never shying away from making her characters real and raw. I have known several people who have walked a painful road like this and I believe they would say as Ms. Hunter does, that God gives his children rules to follow to keep them from hurt and sorrow. Noah was so enamored by Josephine that he forgot to look to God for leadership in their relationship. He assumed because she talked about going to Sunday School as a child she was a Christian, never imagining that such a “nice” person didn’t have a relationship with God. How much Noah gave himself to endure when he failed to discuss this critical point. I was glad to see Ms. Hunter be very candid in her take on this issue – she leaves her readers in no doubt that what Noah did was wrong and that he was responsible for much of their marriage trouble. Josephine as an unbeliever acted wrongly as well, but the expectations for her were much different than for Noah. Ms. Hunter had her come to realize her deepest needs and turn to the One who could help her be forgiven and changed. How good it was to read a story that not only explored the dangers of “unequally yoked” relationships but also included true forgiveness and re-found love. I was so very pleased to see that Noah and Josephine were able to forgive each other and find deeper, more lasting love because of placing their marriage in God’s hands. I will most certainly be recommending this book to others as I believe the truths included in this story are vitally important and relevant. Very well done, Ms. Hunter! Please keep writing these challenging love stories that include such truths that needs to be learned by so many Christians today.

I received this E-book free of charge from Thomas Nelson Fiction via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.