Friday, April 30, 2010

April Favorites

These are my top reads in April.

My First Read-Aloud Bible. Retold by Mary Batchelor & Penny Boshoff. 2010. February 2010. Scholastic. 256 pages.
Sixteen Brides. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 352 pages.
She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 400 pages.
Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock. 2010. January 2010. Crossway. 272 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: Scandalous

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. D.A. Carson. 2010. February 2010. Crossway Publishers. 173 pages.

Nothing is more central to the Bible than Jesus' death and resurrection. The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. Attempts to make sense of the Bible that do not give prolonged thought to integrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are doomed to failure, at best exercises in irrelevance. Jesus' own followers did not expect him to be crucified; they certainly didn't expect him to rise again. Yet after these events their thinking and attitudes were so transformed that they could see the sheer inevitability that Jesus would die on a cross and leave an empty tomb behind, and absolutely everything in their lives was changed.

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus is a collection of five messages from D.A. Carson. The five messages are:

The Ironies of the Cross (which focuses on Matthew 27:27-51a)
The Center of the Whole Bible (which focuses on Romans 3:21-26)
The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb (which focuses on Revelation 12)
A Miracle Full of Surprises (which focuses on John 11:1-53)
Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus (which focuses on John 20:24-31)

I would definitely recommend this one. I thought each message was well written and quite relevant. I especially enjoyed The Center of the Whole Bible and A Miracle Full of Surprises.

Here are some quotes from "The Center of the Whole Bible"
When I do university missions today, for the most part I am speaking to biblical illiterates. The hardest truth to get across to them is not the existence of God, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, Jesus' substitutionary atonement, or Jesus' resurrection. Even if they think these notions are a bit silly, they are likely to responds, "Oh, so that's what Christians believe." They can see a certain coherence to these notions. No, the hardest truth to get across to this generation is what the Bible says about sin.
Sin is generally a snicker word: you say it, and everybody snickers. There is no shame attached to it. It is so hard to get across how ugly sin is to God. (41)

We live in an age where the one wrong thing to say is that somebody else is wrong. (42)
What is sin to one group is not sin to another group. But not only does the Bible insist that there is such a thing as sin, it insists that the heart of its ugly offensiveness is its horrible odiousness to God--how it offends God. (42)

"I'm looking for the kind of God I can believe in," you say. But this stance is both tragic and foolish, is it not? For it presupposes that the "I" is the ultimate criterion, the ultimate god. Surely, the real question is, "What kind of God is there?" Otherwise you are simply manufacturing your own god, and that is what idolatry is. (45)
While some of these messages are lengthy--especially when compared to traditional chapters--each one is broken into sections. So the book does remain reader-friendly.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More on Christian Fiction

Yesterday I wrote a post called Theology Matters?!? It was supposed to be on Christian fiction. It wasn't until I thought about it--really thought about it--that I realized I was focusing more on general (secular) fiction, in how Christianity is presented in general when it comes to fiction.

What makes a book "christian fiction"? The fact that the author is a Christian? The fact that it's published by a Christian publisher? The fact that it is sold in Christian bookstores? The fact that it has family-friendly, faith-friendly content? The fact that the primary audience is intended to be Christian?

I suppose you could define it as fiction written by Christians for Christians. But is that all there is to it? Is Christian fiction written for unbelievers? Is it written for the seeker community? Is it written to help readers figure things out? Is it meant to reflect the Christian life, the Christian experience? Is it meant to reflect humanity? Or is it meant to reflect God? Or is a bit of both? Is it supposed to be about asking the hard questions or providing the right answers? Is the purpose to provide an enjoyable, entertaining story? Or is it supposed to have more substance, is it supposed to engage the reader and help them reflect on their own lives, on their own beliefs?

Is it fair to even use the label Christian fiction? In a way it makes sense. But it at times seems a little too broad. Because when it comes down to it, it is not a proper genre on its own. It consists of many, many genres. Contemporary chick lit. Contemporary mysteries and thrillers. Fantasy. Science Fiction. Suspense. Supernatural. Contemporary Romances. Historical fiction. Historical romances. So yes, some Christian Fiction books are "bonnet" books. Historical fiction set in traditional, old-fashioned, conservative communities. Nothing too terribly edgy. But there is more to "christian fiction" than that.

Reading is subjective. That's a given. Some readers have one or two genres that they're super-comfortable in and that's what they want to read. Some readers read a bit more broadly. But no matter how broad or how narrow your reading tastes are there are always going to be genres, authors, books that are not going to fit you right. That doesn't mean I advocate never ever trying new authors or new genres. But I think it's important to realize that it's more about you than the book, the author, the genre.

I am not a big fan of mysteries, detective stories, thrillers, and suspense novels. So the mere fact that there are christian books out there in these genres to choose from, well, it doesn't change my tastes. I'm still not drawn to them. Not because they're "christian" but just because they're mysteries. I read the occasional premise--especially for blog tour offers--and I just can't seem to work up any enthusiasm.

I think Christian fiction is a bit unique in the challenge it faces. Because not only does it have to battle the stereotypes of the label "Christian fiction", it has to battle the stereotypes for each of its genres. Because people can be a little harsh when it comes to judging both.

I love historical fiction. I love historical romance. So for me, Christian fiction has a great variety of authors to choose from. It is easy for me to find Christian authors to love. I'm just getting started it seems. There are so many authors out there whose books I still want to read. And I have found so many great authors already. But I know there are more to discover in the years ahead. And I'm excited about reading in this genre--reviewing in this genre!

I don't see the genre as flawless. I don't think it is perfect with no room for improvement. I have read some books with incredibly human, incredibly complex characters whose stories I have just fallen in love with. But I've read a handful of books with one-dimensional characters that just fall flat. I've read some books with incredible detail and rich settings. And books where the writing is just incredible, just beautiful. And others not so much. But I think that's just part of the reading experience in ANY genre.

Is it fair to judge a genre by one or two books or by one or two authors? Well, I think it happens. I honestly can't say I blame the person for giving up. If I was trying a new genre--say science fiction--and I read a handful of books and hated each of them, I don't know that I'd keep seeking other books from that genre. I might assume that there weren't any "good" books out there. And in a way that makes perfect sense. Why waste your time on something you think you won't enjoy in the end? There isn't enough time to get to all the books you want to read--especially if your TBR pile is anything like mine--so it only makes sense to have priorities. But still, I would hope that there would be people willing to give new authors, new genres a chance.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: April 18-24

This week I...

finished Matthew in the Holman Christian Standard Bible
finished Acts in the ESV Thinline Bible
read Isaiah 1-5 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: Theology Matters?!?

Yes, I know I'm a week late in participating. But this topic took some consideration. And I'm still not sure I can express myself clearly. Amy is still having doubts about Christian fiction and her post is inviting others to share what bothers them about Christian fiction. Specifically,
today's question is really about what your theological deal breakers are. What ideas about God do you see presented in Christian fiction bother you?
Does theology matter to me even in fiction? It depends. On how you define theology. And on how seriously you take fiction. First, I want to say that theology matters to me. I think theology isn't stuffy or boring. I don't think it's irrelevant or impractical. I think theology matters in how you and I live our lives. Our beliefs shape our experiences. Or they can. I guess that you could argue that it's more our experiences that shape our beliefs. But that's a whole chicken-versus-egg thing that I'm not going to explore. At least not today. So theology does matter to me.

But. Theology does not equal denomination. Not even close. Does it matter to me what denomination gets featured in Christian Fiction? Not really.

Second, I don't read Christian fiction for theological purposes. I don't read fiction books to define, shape, reinforce, or challenge my theology, my beliefs. When I want to learn about God, when I am seeking to know God, to have a relationship with God, I don't turn to fiction novels for inspiration or advice. I don't necessarily turn to Christian non-fiction either. Because while there are nonfiction books out there that I find to be biblically sound and edifying, there are just as many (if not more) that aren't. There are nonfiction books I wouldn't recommend to anyone. No, when I want to learn about God, when I want to know God, when I want to seek a closer walk, I turn to the Bible. There is no other book out there for me that can do what it can. It is the Word of God. It is God-breathed. It is powerful. It can convict me. It can shape me. It can comfort. It can heal too.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
I'd also recommend reading Psalm 119.

The Bible is the one book by which I judge every other book. Fiction included. Not that I always take my fiction that seriously. Most of the time, I don't really apply (m)any (biblical) judgments to the fiction that I read.

Third, it all comes down to the basics. For me. What does a book say about God? What does a book say about Jesus? About the Holy Spirit? Does the book say anything contradictory to the Bible? Does a book say that Jesus is not the Son of God? Does a book deny Jesus' miracles? His resurrection? His virgin birth? What does a book say about humanity? about sin? about our separation from God? Our need for a Savior? What does a book say about the church? Does it present the church as a community of imperfect people who love God but are still struggling in their personal lives? Does it present the church as shallow and one-dimensionally perfect? Does it present the church as a hateful pack of hypocrites? What does a book say about the Bible? Does it take the Bible too lightly? Does it see as an invention of man? Does it see it as mythology, as fiction? Does a book speak reverently of Christianity? Or is the tone of the book mocking? Is Christianity presented as one big joke?

I hate to see Christianity misrepresented.

I hate to see Christians painted as mean, hateful, finger-pointing, slogan-chanting, oh-so-spiteful, not-a-kind-bone-in-their-body group of individuals.

Then again, I hate to see Christians portrayed in the other extreme as well. The anything-goes, nothing-really-matters, love-is-the-answer-for-everything, everyone-is-heaven-bound, what-works-for-you-is-good-for-me, God-is-who-you-want-him-to-be, there-are-no-absolutes, pick-and-choose variety.

The truth is what we believe does matter. Love is real. Very real. And it can be powerful. It can be life-changing. It can be wonderful. It can change lives. And compassion and grace are wonderful, wonderful qualities. I am all about grace. We are saved by grace. And grace isn't to be taken lightly. It isn't to be taken for granted. Grace matters. Love matters. Kindness matters. I believe in treating others with respect and dignity. But that doesn't mean that all discernment goes out the window. Not every representation of God--of Christianity--is going to be good, to be right, to be true. Some books may get it wrong just a little bit, others may get it wrong completely. Some books may be marginally questionable. And a few might actually be dangerous. At least to those who take their fiction too seriously and the bible not seriously enough.

To clarify, I'm talking basics here. I'm not talking about denominational stuff. Or the little stuff. Like how often to take communion. Or if tattoos are wrong. Or if motorcycles are only for heathens. Or if it's okay to drink beer and smoke. Or if it's okay to dance or play cards. Or if it's okay to listen to rock music. Or whatever. I'm talking essentials. Like Apostles' Creed essentials.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Salon: Week in Review: April 11-17

This week I read

Matthew 20 - 24 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible
Acts 1 - 15 in the ESV Thinline Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word

Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word. By Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach. 2010. Crossway. 160 pages.

Most conversations I've had with non-Christians about the Bible end up there sooner or later: It's all a matter of interpretation. Sure, you say it means that Jesus is God and that sex outside of marriage is wrong and that heaven is only for Christians, but maybe for me it means that Jesus was just a good teacher and sex with anyone is OK as long as you both want it and heaven is for everybody. It's all just a matter of interpretation.

Actually we've been conditioned to think like that. It's part of the whole philosophical movement called "postmodernism," and over the last few decades it has infiltrated the TV shows that we watch and the classrooms that we sit in. Postmodernism teaches (among other things) that when I come to a piece of literature such as the Bible, what matters is not what it means but what it means for me. And that might be different from what it means for you. And that's OK.
But the truth is that it's not OK. There is a right way and a wrong way to interpret the Bible. This book is about equipping you with the tools you need so that you can read and study the Bible yourself. (This book isn't about how you should let others tell you what to think or how to believe. It is about letting the Bible speak for itself. For it is only when you study the Bible for yourself that you become grounded. Otherwise you might go back and forth and back and forth depending on who you're listening to at the moment. When you know what the Bible says, you can test the messages you hear, and the books you read.)

The first chapter, "What The Bible Is and How We Should Approach It" focuses on the Bible as the divine Word of God. The infallible Word of God. It points out that the Bible is anything but out of date. It is living and active. But it also stresses that the Holy Spirit is essential to one's understanding of the Bible.
Someone who isn't a Christian (i.e. the 'natural person') won't be able fully to understand the Bible, no matter how many qualifications or degrees in theology he or she may have. We should be wary of the "expert" on television or the professor who's written the latest controversial book about Christianity. It's easy to bow to what seems to be impressive knowledge, but if they don't have the Spirit of God working within them, then they have no hope of grasping the Bible's message. (21-22)
It continues,
On the other hand, all Christians can understand the Bible for themselves, since all Christians have the Spirit . . . Yet we need continually to express our dependence on God for a right understanding of him and his ways. He is the one who grants insight. So we must pray. Pray before you open the Bible. Pray when you get stuck and don't understand. Pray again when you do understand it--say thank you! Pray, pray, pray! (22)
The remaining chapters focus on individual tools. Not every passage, chapter, verse will need every tool to be understood. But each tool has its usefulness.
  • The Author's Purpose Tool
  • The Context Tool
  • The Structure Tool
  • The Linking Words Tool
  • The Parallels Tool
  • The Narrator's Comment Tool
  • The Vocabulary Tool
  • The Translations Tool
  • The Tone and Feel Tool
  • The Repetition Tool
  • The Quotation/Allusion Tool
  • The Genre Tool
  • The Copycat Tool
  • The Bible Time Line Tool
  • The "Who Am I?" Tool
  • The "So What?" Tool
Dig Deeper is a practical book. It gives you the tools. It walks you through using the tools by providing several examples for each one. It gives you homework if you choose to indeed dig deeper. It urges you to implement these tools in your own life, in your own studies.

Here's a description of the Author Purpose Tool.
Since the biblical writers were inspired, their purpose is God's purpose. That means that one of the biggest and most helpful questions we can ever ask of a passage in the Bible is simply, "Why did the author write this?" If we glean one or two insights along the way, but miss the overall purpose of what the authors are saying, then we haven't really understood them at all.
I loved this book. I did. I loved reading about these tools. I can't wait to put them in practice. To see if I can put this book to good use.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book Review: What Does God Want of Us Anyway?

What Does God Want of Us Anyway?: A Quick Overview of the Whole Bible. Mark Dever. 2010. Crossway. 128 pages.

The Bible has been the subject of numerous and varying opinions.

This small book contains three even shorter books: "The Message of the Whole Bible," "The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made," and "The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept." In each section, Mark Dever presents the overall message, keeping things focused on the big picture. Some may not think of the Bible as one book telling one story, but that is exactly what the Bible is.

Each of the three sections has discussion questions which would make this one easily adaptable for group reading. (Though you wouldn't have to read it as part of a group to benefit from it.)

What did I like about this one? It's straight forward. It's meant to be read and understood by anyone. I think it's simple enough that it would be accessible to new Christians looking to read the Bible perhaps for the first time. Yet substantive enough that any Christian could benefit from reading it. (I think there are plenty of people who could benefit from this refresher course actually!)

I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: April 4 - April 11

This week's Bible readings:

April 13-20 in the Daily Chronological Bible
Matthew 7-19 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible
finished Luke in the ESV Thinline Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review: Raised With Christ

Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock. 2010. January 2010. Crossway. 272 pages.

"What did Jesus come back to life again?" This was the surprised reaction when a young Englishwoman heard about the resurrection of Jesus. She was drinking coffee with other mothers, including my wife. It seems almost impossible to believe that she had never heard that Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. She hadn't rejected the gospel. No one had ever told her about it!

How many other people do we know who would have a similar reaction? It is much more comfortable for us to assume that our relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers have already dismissed the gospel than to think they have never heard it.

Without Jesus' resurrection there is no good news at all. John Stott said, "Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed."

I loved, loved, loved this book. For me, it was an amazing read. It reminded me of why I read Christian nonfiction in the first place.

I feel I learned so much--so very, very much--by reading this one. I can honestly say this one made me think. In a good way. It made me pray.

The way Adrian Warnock presented his message, well, it worked for me. The way he incorporated the Bible, how he relied on Scripture, that's what I'm looking for. Always. I don't want anyone telling me what to think, what to believe, what's right and what's wrong...if they can't back it up. I want to encounter the Word of God when I read Christian nonfiction. I also appreciated Warnock's use of quotes from Christians (preachers, theologians, writers, etc.) throughout the centuries. Some of these quotes were oh-so-amazing.

Raised With Christ is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sounds simple, right? Chances are at some point that you've contemplated what the cross means to you, means to the church, to the faith. But have you given equal attention to what Jesus' resurrection means? How his resurrection impacts you still today?

Do you have to be a scholar to appreciate this one? NO! This one could be for any believer. For anyone earnestly seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's straight forward. It's relevant. It's message is essential.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Blogger Hop

If this is your first time visiting, welcome! I'm glad you dropped by! I review christian books (fiction and nonfiction) for all ages. Please leave a comment, feel free to leave a link to your own book blog! I'll try to visit you in return.

This is my second week participating in Crazy-for-Books' Book Blogger Hop! I signed up for this site and my Young Readers site last week. And I had a lot of fun visiting other book bloggers!

Last week, I discovered three new blogs that I really like. Playing by the Book. WhatMissKelleyIsReading. And Stories From My Bookshelf.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: She Walks In Beauty

She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 400 pages.

"Get dressed, Clara. In your visiting costume. We are going out." My aunt's words were at once both commanding and precise--as precise as her posture: a series of ninety degree angles, seated upon one one of my bedroom chairs. She was perpendicular in the extreme.
There were far more important matters to consider than geometry, however. I bit the inside of my lip to hide the smile that threatened to escape. We were going out! And we never went out. We never went anywhere. Not since Aunt moved in with us the month before. Several times I had been given permission to visit with my friend Lizzie Barnes, but only in the company of Miss Miller, my governess.
Set in New York City. In 1891. Clara Carter--like it or not--is about to make her debut in New York Society. She'd hoped for one more year, at least. (Though in an honest moment, she'd admit she would much prefer never to debut at all.) But when Clara's aunt learns that the De Vries brothers have returned early from Europe, all plans changed. Clara must catch herself a De Vries. Catch herself an heir. It is her duty, according to her father, Dr. Carter, to marry well, to marry money.

Clara is having to relearn just about everything. How to sit. How to stand. How to walk. How to make conversation. (There are so many things that she's not allowed to talk about!) How to dress. How to eat. Even how to sleep. You see, her aunt is insisting that Clara's waist be eighteen inches. She must wear her corset twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Laced so tightly, that everything becomes a struggle.

Of course, some things she's just beginning to learn. How to cut someone (socially). How to dance. How to flirt with a fan. How to be noticed.

Clara's aunt insists that love doesn't exist. That love has nothing at all to do with marriage. But Clara doesn't want to believe it. She feels that love is out there, that she could be throwing away her chance for real love, lasting love, for money.

Clara's life of operas, balls, and dinner parties might seem fun. But appearances can be deceiving. Clara learns that lies and secrets seem to be at the center of almost everything. Is it worth it? Is being popular, is being one of the "it girls" worth sacrificing everything?

I really enjoyed this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 4, 2010

10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2010

In selecting these titles, I tried to balance between listing fiction and nonfiction. I think it's important (for me) to read both, to review both. I could have probably listed at least another dozen books that I wanted. But. I tried to keep it to just ten!

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. Revell. July 2010.
Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper. September 2010. Crossway Books.
While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin. Bethany House. October 2010.
With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life. Edited by John Piper and David Mathis. September 2010. Crossway Books.
Maid to Match. Deeanne Gist. Bethany House. June 2010.
The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 150 Stories from the Bible. By John H. Walton & Kim E. Walton. September 2010.
Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake. Bethany House. August 2010.
God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by James M. Hamilton Jr. Crossway Books. November 2010.
Love's First Bloom. Delia Parr. Bethany House. September 2010.
Evangelicalism: What Is It and Is It Worth Keeping? by D.A. Carson. September 2010.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Sixteen Brides

Sixteen Brides. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 352 pages.
As the carriage pulled away from Union Station, Caroline Jamison almost panicked and called out to the driver, "Wait! Don't go! I've changed my mind! Take me home!" Her heart racing, Caroline forced herself to turn away. St. Louis isn't home. And home doesn't want you. Daddy told you that in his last letter. Still, there were times when she entertained a desperate few minutes of hope.
Mr. Hamilton Drake, organizer of the Ladies Emigration Society, has convinced sixteen women to travel with him to Nebraska. He talks big. Promises much. Urges women to "TAKE CONTROL of their own DESTINY by acquiring LAND IN THEIR OWN NAME" (13). Each woman, of course, has their own reason for wanting a new start, a second chance. Many are widows. Many lost their husbands in the Civil War.

But when the truth comes out, that Drake has advertised these women as potential brides seeking husbands, that Mr. Drake is being paid by these men for the opportunity of meeting and dancing with these women, well, the truth is too much for some to handle. Caroline and a handful of other women get off the train early. Decide to settle in Plum Grove instead. Decide to work together. Filing four claims, but living together communally where their homesteads meet. Piling together their resources, relying on everyone to give it their all. These women show great determination and spirit. Caroline. Sally. Ruth and her son, Jackson. Hettie. Ella. Zita. These are just a few of the characters we come to know and love within Sixteen Brides.

I loved this one. I just love, love, loved it! I loved these women. Especially Ella, Ruth, and Caroline. I loved the men who became the love interests: Jeb Cooper, Matthew Ransom, Lucas Gray. I loved this community. I loved spending time with these characters. They were so human, so flawed. And the story was oh-so-satisfying. Definitely recommended for those that love historical fiction and/or historical romance.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: March 28-April 3

This week's Bible readings:

Galatians in the NASB Bible
Luke 9-17 in the ESV Thinline Bible
Matthew 1-6 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible
April 9-12 in the Daily Chronological Bible (NIV)

I reviewed:

Love Finds You In Homestead, Iowa. Melanie Dobson. 2010. March 2010. Summerside Press. 320 pages.
Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose & Provision in Suffering. Edited by Nancy Guthrie. 2010. February 2010. Crossway Books. 176 pages.
As Young As We Feel. Melody Carlson. 2010. March 2010. David C. Cook (Pub). 352 pages.
God's Little Princess Devotional Bible. By Sheila Walsh. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 352 pages.
My First Read-Aloud Bible. Retold by Mary Batchelor & Penny Boshoff. 2010. February 2010. Scholastic. 256 pages.

I'm currently reading:

Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock. 2010. January 2010. Crossway. 272 pages.

Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. by Starr Meade. Illustrated by Tim O'Connor. 2010. February 2010. Crossway. 288 pages.

She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 400 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review: My First Read-Aloud Bible

My First Read-Aloud Bible. Retold by Mary Batchelor & Penny Boshoff. 2010. February 2010. Scholastic. 256 pages.
Making Our World

Long ago, when God
began to make
everything, the earth
was dark and empty.

God said, "Earth needs light."
And light appeared. God
made the sun to shine by
day and the moon and stars
to light the night.

God was pleased with what he had done.
What did I think of this one? I really liked it. While it doesn't have every story in it, it has a good variety of stories. By reading this book cover-to-cover, you get a good idea as to what the Bible is all about. You can see how the stories are interconnected. You can see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Not perfectly, mind you. In particular, I found the gap between Moses sending the twelve spies and Joshua's leadership a bit jarring. No mention of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years because of their unbelief, because of their inability to take God at his Word. And there's no Golden Calf either. The Israelites aren't quite presented as they are in the Bible: complaining, mumbling, disbelieving, disobeying, prone to bickering.

But. For the most part. I really liked this one. I found it age-appropriate. The stories are presented simply.

Here are how the Ten Commandments are presented:
God said to Moses, "These rules will help my people every day: Put me first and love me best. Don't worship anyone but me. Don't use my name carelessly. Keep one day each week as a resting day with me. Obey your father and mother. Don't hurt others. Keep love between a husband and wife special. Don't take what isn't yours. Don't tell lies about other people. Don't be jealous of other people and want what they have." (54-55)
And here is the Lord's Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, may everyone know and love you. Come and be our King. Give us today the food we need. Forgive the bad things we do. Help us to forgive others too. When we want to do something bad, help us choose to do good instead. (187)
Each story is on a two-page spread. With colorful illustrations. Some stories are more interconnected than others. For example, David has five stories.

I thought they did a great job in choosing what to include. There were some stories that I was surprised but quite happy to see represented! I expected to see some of the usual stories--Daniel in the Lion's Den, Jonah, David and Goliath, Noah, etc. But I wasn't expecting to see stories about Elijah, Elisha, Joash, Jeremiah, Ezra and Nehemiah. Some of these are among my favorites. Of course, I would have appreciated even more. Like a Hezekiah story would have been awesome. But. I'm still pleased with what it did contain.

I also loved how they covered the New Testament. I loved how they included so many stories from the book of Acts. How they showed that God kept working in people's lives--in believers' lives--after Christ ascended. I also loved the balance of stories from the gospels. How they included stories covering Jesus' teachings, his miracles, his parables, and, of course, his life story.

Definitely recommended if you have little ones!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 2, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

This is my first week participating in Crazy-For-Books' Book Blogger Hop. But it looked like fun.

Here at Operation Actually Read Bible I review Christian books (fiction and nonfiction) for all ages (children to adult). I am also hosting a perpetual challenge for reading the Bible. (You do set your own goals.) You can read more about that here.

If you review Christian books, please let me know by leaving a comment! I'll be sure to visit your site!

Have you read any good Christian fiction lately?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Review: God's Little Princess Bible

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible. By Sheila Walsh. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 352 pages.

Every girl is a princess, the daughter of a King...the greatest King who created and rules over everything!

God's Little Princess Devotional Bible features Scripture selections from the International Children's Bible (ICB).

Here are some of the other features of this book: "Down In My Heart", "Beauty Secrets", "Bible Princesses", "My Hero", "Take A Bow", "I Adore You!", "Princess Charming", "Worthy of Love", and "Royal Truths."

The "Take A Bow" features share a dramatized skit for mothers and daughters to perform together. "I Adore You!" focuses on songs, music, praising God. "Princess Charming" is all about manners and etiquette. "Bible Princesses" focuses on women from the Bible. "Down In My Heart" focuses on memory verses. Each feature serves a purpose. I suppose that is where the "devotional" part comes in.

If you've got a young girl in your life--daughter, granddaughter, niece--then she may enjoy this one. Especially if she loves pink. Especially if she loves dressing up. Especially if she's a girly-girl. But not all girls love these things. Some of these activities ("devotions") may be more appealing than others.

I am not such a big fan of this one. But that doesn't mean you won't be. I would have liked to see more Scripture, less devotion. More emphasis on sharing God's Word, less attention on the activities and extensions. It depends on the reader I suppose. Different people learn different ways. And for some I think these activities, these dramas, these devotions could be just what someone needs to have God's Word come alive for them. To make it relevant. To make it real. For me, both as a child and an adult, I would have wanted more Scripture. But that's just me.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: As Young As We Feel

As Young As We Feel. Melody Carlson. 2010. March 2010. David C. Cook (Pub). 352 pages.

Marley had hoped that her former high-school friends might've grown up by their thirty-fifth reunion. Unfortunately she was disappointed. Oh, most of them had matured somewhat, at least externally. She observed more bald heads, wrinkles, and gray hair than she recalled from their last gathering, and she was relieved to see that many had let go of old cliques and social boundaries. But others, like Keith Arnold, were still jerks.

As Young As We Feel is the first book in a new series by Melody Carlson. And I'll gladly admit it has an interesting premise. Four women, all in their fifties, have one thing in common: they're all named Linda. Abby. Janie. Caroline. Marley. These four met in first grade, decided to go by their middle names forever more, and form the 'Four Lindas' club. They didn't necessarily stay friends after grade school, and certainly not after high school graduation. With three of the four moving out of their hometown of Clifden, Oregon. One to L.A. One to New York City. One to Seattle. This thirty-fifth high school reunion brings them all together--but not quite the way they expected. You see, Cathy Gardener, another classmate, drops down dead in the middle of the reunion, right there on the dance floor. Her death acts as a catalyst to these four taking the time to reanalyze their lives and their need for friendship.

By talking with each other, they learn that they have so much in common. They're unhappy, unsure, depressed, restless, emotionally drained. They feel hopeless, lost, lonely. They feel life has let them down. What can they do to reconnect with their lives? How can they turn their lives around? What can possibly inspire them to live life again?

Friendship may just be the first step in their journeys.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible