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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mrs. Robert E. Lee, The Lady of Arlington by John Perry

Mary Custis Lee was not only the wife of General Robert E. Lee, she was also the great granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington. She grew up at Arlington, in Virginia, which was taken by the United States Government at the beginning of the Civil War and is now the present day site of Arlington National Cemetery.

Mary had grown up as an only child and had a strong faith in God when she married Robert E. Lee. She survived years of separation from her husband and other personal tragedies with the help of that faith. This is an interesting look at life in Virginia before and during the Civil War, the attitude of Mary and her family as slave holders, and the years following the Civil War when her husband was president of Washington College.

The author based this book on previously unpublished private journals and papers. Of special interest are excerpts from Mary's prayer journal which give a glimpse into her spiritual life. I enjoyed learning more about Mary Custis Lee and felt the book was well written. I would recommend it for those readers who enjoy biographies.

The Butterfly and The Violin by Kristy Cambron

Sera is still recovering after being left at the altar two years previously. She immerses herself in her work and in finding a portrait she saw as a young girl - a portrait of a violinist with piercing blue eyes. As she searches for the painting, she meets William who may be the key to finding the missing portrait. Together, Sera and William search to unlock the mystery behind the painting's subject, Austrian violinist, Adele Von Braun.

How Adele goes from being a celebrated violinist in Austria and daughter of a high ranking member of the Third Reich to a prisoner at Auschwitz makes for a fascinating story. The book travels back and forth from the present time to the time of World War II. I thought the present day story of Sera and William not as engaging as I would have liked. However, I enjoyed reading this book for the story of Adele and how she went from a life of privilege to being a prisoner at Auschwitz. It is a story of beauty and hope in the midst of suffering and evil.

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Battle Against Hitler by Dietrich Von Hildebrand

Dietrich Von Hildebrand was a devout Catholic believer and a teacher of philosophy in Germany as Hitler was ascending to power. He openly denounced anti-Semitism and was targeted by the Nazis as an enemy of Germany. This memoir of his was written at the request of his second wife, Alice von Hildebrand. There is a brief account of his childhood and early adult years with the focus on the years 1921 to 1938. As von Hildebrand became more vocal in his opposition to the Nazis, he was dismissed from his professorship in Munich. He and his wife, Gretchen fled to Austria where they resided from until 1938 when Germany invaded Austria.

In Austria, von Hildebrand worked tirelessly through writing and publishing articles and giving lectures denouncing national socialism and anti-Semitism. He made every effort to influence the Catholic Church about the dangers of Nazism. Unfortunately there were leaders in the church in Austria who felt that moderate anti-Semitism could prevent people from breaking with the Catholic Church. There were others who did agree with him, but unfortunately Austria choose to compromise with the Nazis. After he fled Vienna, he found out that the Nazis had plans to assassinate him.

The second part of the memoirs contain his writings against the Nazi ideology. He kept writing even when his life was in danger and he was watched by the Gestapo. He was truly a man of great faith who championed the truth as the cost of his comfort and safety. He should be remembered along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his intellectual mind and his vocal opposition to the Nazis.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

Lily has just entered a new phase in her life as she sends her only daughter off to college. As a widow she begins the empty nest stage of her life alone. After a confrontation with her mother, she discovers she has a twin sister. Lily takes off to Australia in search of her twin with only a few facts to go on. In Melbourne, Australia, Lily meets Marcus who helps her in her search and has some family secrets of his own.

Through the midst of tangled and dysfunctional family relationships, bitterness and grief, Lily and Marcus work to deal with these issues by confronting them instead of ignoring them. There is so much family dysfunction and hurt it does not seem possible that relationships can be restored. In the end this is a story of hope and reconciliation in the midst of a great deal of pain and wrong choices.

The author's style of writing is engaging and I especially enjoyed the opening chapter describing Lily's fear of flying as she embarks on her journey to Australia. It was a entertaining way to ease into Lily's story. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it as an entertaining and thought provoking work of Christian fiction.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishers for this review.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

This book is a welcome addition to the Flavia de Luce novels. If you have not read any of them before I would suggest starting with the first one, "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie."

Flavia is a expert chemist and detective at the age of 12. At her home in England she was involved in solving a number of mysteries and in general getting into a whole lot of trouble. As a result she is sent to the same boarding school in Canada that her mother attended. She arrives in Canada feeling banished from her family and is homesick. It didn't take long for her to feel right at home as a corpse becomes dislodged from the chimney in her room. Solving the mystery of who the corpse is and how she met her death occupies most of Flavia's time. There is also a mystery about Miss Bodycote's Female Academy, the boarding school she is attending. Are the staff really who they seem to be? Can they be trusted? What about the three girls who have disappeared over the past two years?

This is an entertaining read for those who enjoy mysteries. There are some parts of the story that are unclear if you have not read the previous books so I would recommend reading those first before starting with this one if at all possible. All in all you will be thoroughly entertained by Flavia and her skill as a chemist and detective.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Field Guide For Everday Mission by Ben Connelly & Bob Roberts Jr

This book is exactly what the title says it is. It is a field guide to aid the Christian is living out his or her life in mission on a daily basis. Too often as Christians, we think of missions in terms of missionaries overseas or working in homeless shelters or soup kitchens. This is not about giving financially to missions or helping out a few hours a month in a ministry, it is about daily living as a missionary right where you are: in your neighborhood and community. This is a challenging book to read and even a more challenging book to apply.

The authors begin the book by posing six different questions that will be answered in the book: 1 - Who is my everyday mission field? 2 - What does an everyday missionary do? 3 - When does everyday mission happen? 4 - Where does everyday mission happen? 5 - Why should I even care about everyday mission? and 6- How do I share the gospel without killing the relationship?

This book is for the everyday Christian who is trying to live out God's mission where he or she is placed; the confused follower of Jesus who doesn't know how he or she can possibly live out God's mission and for the long time believer in Christ who is looking for something more.

The book is divided in six week segments with daily readings and application ideas. In all throughout the book, there are 101 ways to apply the principles discussed and put them into practice.

This book is a great resource for church leaders and to use as a small group resource. It is a book that can be referred to frequently. It is also helpful for lay people to realign their thinking about what mission is and how they can engage in mission on a daily basis.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic with Kanae Vujicic

I have read other books by Nick Vujicic so I was aware of his incredible life as a man without limbs and also as a man of faith with a worldwide ministry. His honesty as well as Kanae's as their share their stories as individuals and as a couple is truly remarkable. It is hard to imagine a life like Nick's with the daily challenges of living without limbs and it is nothing short of miraculous of how he lives his life as a husband and father.

This book is not only about the challenges that Nick and Kanae face because of Nick's disability, but it is also a story about relationships and some valuable insights they learned along the way. The book is a resource for anyone looking to find the right person to marry as well as being the right person to marry. The book would also be helpful to those who are married.

The book focuses more on the positives in their relationship and doesn't focus on the daily challenges that Kanae must face as Nick's caregiver as well as his wife. All in all, though, this is a truly inspirational story of which God's love is the center of it all. Both Nick and Kanae live their lives fully depending on God's love and care to see them through.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.