Summer Reading

For weeks now I have been trying to find time to write about my summer and the time has just stayed so allusive. So, I started trying to think about what is keeping me so busy – just the ordinary! Cooking meals for my family, picking up the house, making a t-shirt quilt, giving the dog a bath, doing my Bible study homework, schooling my son, spending time with people and reading.

Yes, I love reading! This summer I participated in the Tyndale Summer Reading Program. They put out a list of books on June 1. For every 5 books that you read and write a review which you post on 3 review sites, they will send you a FREE book of your choice (on their list). YUP – Free! So I read and read and read. I got books from the library, from friends, on my Kindle, at a used book store, and even from my Mom’s library. At the end of the summer, August 31, I had read 86 books with Tyndale! And I came in 2nd place – 1st place read 95 books! Tyndale graciously sent me a gift card to Amazon!

But, throughout the summer people asked me if I had favorites. Indeed yes! There were a few that I really didn’t like, but overall, most of the books were great. But, I’m posting my favorites here in no particular order. Some are fiction, some non-fiction. I also read all of the Focus on the Families Imagination Station books and I thought all of them were fabulous (ages 6-10).

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The Advocate by Randy Singer – From the beginning I found this book completely compelling and did not want to put it down! Even though it was a departure from the author’s norm of contemporary fiction, this historical fiction was completely riveting. I also learned things about Roman society that I never knew before and I loved how Mr. Singer even treated some known facts with humor.
Essentially, Mr. Singer has written a book with the idea that Luke and Acts sound like legal briefs – would it be possible that they were written to a lawyer, Theophilus, to get him caught up to date to prepare for Paul’s trial before Nero? So we get the story of Paul woven in the book, but also the fictional parts about Theophilus and how he fit in Roman society. Of course Mr. Singer has done extensive research into Roman society to bring many details to life – from the vestal virgins to the gladiator games to the problems in outlaying provinces. We even get an understanding for why Pontius Pilate acted as he did.
Fabulous book – one of my new favorites and I highly recommend it! Great read for both men and women!

The Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg – Incredible book! One part that really hit me was how, although this is a fiction book, Joel Rosenberg has told a story that is true. There were some escapes from Auschwitz; the escapees tried desperately to get the news out about what was happening there and to keep more Jews from getting on the trains to death; and even that some people even in the camps sent letters trying to warn family members about the concentration camps. So many of the events in the book were factual and meticulously researched by the author. Yet the story he weaves is both fascinating and horrifying.
At the beginning of the story I wondered how the characters being introduced would tie together but as the story progressed I found myself hoping they would be the ones saved – and some were, and some weren’t.
Another part of the book I enjoyed was the tie in between the Christians and the Jews, and how at one point one character tells another that the “question shouldn’t be, ‘Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for trying to save Jews?’ The real question is, ‘Why aren’t all the Christians here?’” Later Jedrick says that he is helping them (escapees) “because the Bible teaches us to love the Jews.”
And finally I really appreciated the epilogue which tied up so many loose ends! This book was riveting and made me think of how Christians should not sit back, confident that justice will prevail – that atrocities cannot happen in this modern, “civilized” society. I highly recommend The Auschwitz Escape!

All Right Here by Carre Gardner – What a wonderful, sweet book! Ivy, from a large family with 4 girls and a boy, desperately wants a baby. Unfortunately, the adoption wait lists are long. But she gets a ready-made family when the 3 African-American children next door are abandoned by their mother. Her husband upfront confesses that he does not love them but will do the right thing; her family readily accepts them; and her in-laws reject them, not only because of their skin color but also because they are not their “own”. To add insult to injury, Ivy’s sister-in-laws keep getting pregnant and are continuously rude to her.
This books deals with mostly ordinary life – family dynamics, challenging teenagers, fidelity in marriage, alcoholism, and balancing priorities. It all takes place in a quiet Maine town. Since my own teenage son enjoys cooking I enjoyed watching Deshaun figure out cooking – the only problem was I didn’t have the ingredients to make some of his food but I noticed I made a plain grilled cheese sandwich for myself the very next day! I really enjoyed All Right Here and look forward to reading the stories of the other siblings – and I hope Ivy’s in-laws wake up and see their self-centered behavior.

Visible Threat by Janice Cantore – Fabulous book! The writing and attention grabbing of this was outstanding – as well as the way a sensitive topic was broached without being graphic. Unfortunately it does deal with a subject, human trafficking which needs to have light brought on it but is not for the faint of heart – I wish it did not even exist.
Officer Brina Caruso was kidnapped as a child. As an adult she wants nothing more than to save innocents. She unwittingly finds herself involved in a human trafficking case, which then becomes personal.
Brina is also seeking God – desiring to know where He is in situations like this and why is there evil anyway. I love how her mother Rose continues to have peace and even says, “All any of us can control is how we respond when tough times come. This does not diminish God or his Sovereignty in my mind.” There were lots of really good conversations about God in this book – like, “If he is a good God, why would he stop something in your life that will make you stronger, make you a better person?”
Great book! I highly recommend it for its fast paced, intriguing story with real questions being responded to by the characters.

Firewall by DiAnn Mills – I could not put this book down and I stayed up way too late reading it! From the beginning I was drawn in and wanted to know what would happen next! Would they figure out the master mind behind all the evil before it was too late? Would anyone else die? Firewall begins innocently enough. Taryn Young is on the way to the airport with her brand new husband – they are leaving for their honeymoon. But then an explosion rocks the airport and with that the race begins to find the perpetrator of such chaos causing so many deaths of innocent travelers. Each time Taryn and the FBI agents working with her get close to solving the mystery, another twist occurs and it wasn’t until the very end that all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
I liked how different types of Christians were portrayed in this book. Initially Taryn’s thoughts about God were those of disbelief, “For years she’d given God respect only on occasional Sundays, living every moment for the next breakthrough technology.” And she hadn’t attended church regularly since she “entered the world of science and accepted her professor’s nonexistence of God.” Yet at the end after all the difficulties and trials she endured she thinks, “How very good of God to take a tragedy and weave it into a blessing.” Claire, Taryn’s friend, is a Messianic Jew who consistently invited her to church. And FBI Agent Grayson is a committed Christian who early on tells Taryn that God is not only with them but “He’s in control.”
Awesome book! I highly recommend it for those who like thriller books – lots of action and injuries!

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch – Oh.My.Goodness! What a fabulous book! I thought this was going to be another mommy blogging book when I stared it. And it was good – “My youngest child told me the other day that she wanted to be the president of the United States. ‘Really?’ I asked. ‘Because you want to change the world?’ ‘No,’ she answered. ‘I want to be the boss of you.’” And Kristen confesses that her family is THAT family – the one whose children throw tantrums in Target and the one who the emergency room nurses know by name and the one who struggles living godly lives, where the husband struggles with pornography and the wife struggles to not shop too much.
BUT THEN Kristen took a trip to Africa with Compassion International that rocked her world. What could she do to change her world, she, just a mom with dirty laundry and dust bunnies galore. This is what she did and her response to other moms is “Dear moms, love God; love others. It’s a simple response to His great love for us. You don’t have to do something big for Him; just do something because your yes matters! He can make something beautiful from your life too.”
What I loved about Kristen’s book was I didn’t leave it feeling guilty for not doing what she did or feeling like I should. Instead I felt like she was saying do something that is my passion that honors God. Fabulous book and I really want my book club and all my friends to read this one! Wish I could give it more stars than 5!!!

Lead…for God’s Sake by Todd Gongwer – WOW! What an amazing book! I read it because it was on Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program but I am blown away by it! It is the story of a high school basketball coach who is having problems with getting his team motivated – and he doesn’t seem to have any time to spare for his wife or two kids. His firned Grant tells him to lead one way, with either rewards or discipline. But the janitor at the school starts teaching him other ways to lead – through the heart. All in leadership should read this book – it is never too late to lead well – and even more specifically, young men should read this book! Incredible book!!

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke – Cathy Gohlke is such a wonderful writer of historical fiction and this book is no exception! She masterfully weaves the story of two identical twins separated at birth – one to grow up in a privileged American family and the other in a common German family in Oberammergau. They are being studied by the Dr.’s Verschuer and Mengele (later known for his atrocious experiments on human subjects in concentration camps) as part of a study on eugenics.
Thus the author writes an intriguing story with romance, suspense and history. I loved how she even included Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the book and how the characters change as they realize the sacrifices others are making for them – and the ultimate one made for them by Christ. Ms. Gohlke also made a dig into today’s society by having a character say, “I suppose nothing like this could happen in America.” To which another replied, “Banning prayer from schools? Stripping crucifixes from walls? That would be like taking down the Ten Commandments in the United States. I’ve never been a churchgoer, but I can’t imagine such a thing happening. The churches, even the people who aren’t church goers, would never stand for having their rights stripped away like that.”
I also enjoyed how this book was about Nazi Germany, but did not show the concentration camps but rather the ordinary Germans living with Nazi bullies all around them. How easy it was for ordinary, nice people to turn on others. I highly recommend this book – it was great and I found it hard to put down. I received this book from TBCN in return for my honest opinion

A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll – I really enjoyed reading this book because it explained so much to me about the differences in the greater church body. At one point the author discusses how some churches have become shallow and entertainment oriented. He likens it to a barbecue restaurant known for its spicy sauce. When the managers want to appeal to more people they water down the sauce to make it less spicy. While some may not have liked the spicy sauce, no one likes the watered-down, weak sauce. “What is true for barbecue is also true for biblical teaching. Nobody likes weak sauce.” At another place Mr. Driscoll talks about young men and how they just are not found in churches. Singe, twenty something males are as “rare at church as a vegan at a steak house.” At another point in the book the author discusses the differences between the beliefs of different denominations, or, as he calls them, tribes.
Mark Driscoll has lots of statistics and numbers to back up his statements. He is a pastor of a large church and discusses his particular beliefs. He brings to light so many things I had never thought about in my own Christian life and I highly recommend this book for those who are believers – to not only make you see what you are believing but also to understand what other believers believe and understand the differences better.