Friday, 18 January 2013

"Surprised by Oxford" by Carolyn Weber

Title: Surprised by Joy
        A Memoir
Author: Carolyn Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: 2011
ISBN-10: 0849946115

I requested "Surprised by Oxford" as I wanted to know more about Oxford and its history before visiting it. The author, Carolyn Weber, is Canadian and I found it very interesting to see the town through her eyes. "Surprised by Oxford" is a treasure trove of interesting information studded with literary quotations. Did you know there are signs of fish carved in the pavements by Christians during pagan times? That's just one piece of trivia I learned. I loved reading about the nooklike bookstores, the adverts for shows and plays stuck up on the glass in the bright red phone booths . . .

But this book is so much more than just a book about Oxford. It's the story of an agnostic student from Canada and her journey through the academic liturgical year to a relationship with a loving God as she becomes a Christian. She writes about her experiences and intellectual struggles with a refreshing transparency and honesty that had me laughing and crying by turn.

It's also the story of her developing romance and all its ups and downs with TDH (Tall, Dark and Handsome) who became her husband.

Although this book is often very down-to-earth, it also includes intellectual philosophical discussions and lectures which I sometimes found myself skipping over as some were abstract and hard to follow, others did not make sense to me.

I highly recommend this fascinating memoir, it's a long read, but a really good one.

Thank you to BookSneeze and Thomas Nelson for a free electronic review copy. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed above are my own.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Book Review: Strength Renewed: Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer by Shirley Corder

Book Title: Strength Renewed: Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer
Author: Shirley Corder
Publisher: Revell
Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2023-0

"Strength Renewed" consists of 90 devotions which follow Shirley Corder's cancer journey chronologically, but they can be read in any order as each one stands alone. Shirley's upbeat personality, laced with her lovely sense of humour, shines through this beautifully written book. She comes alongside her readers as she chats with honesty and transparency about the roller coaster ride of having cancer, her treatment, recovery and personal relationships. Her faith in God is evident throughout the book.

The meditations can be read on several different levels. Whether you want encouragment from the Bible, down-to-earth tips, words of hope, a short prayer or a connection with someone who really knows what the cancer valley is like because they've been there, you'll find it in this book. Shirley has included three questions in each devotion for those who wish to explore the cancer journey in more depth.

Shirley's prayer in the introduction is that "this book will strengthen your faith." My brush with cancer was many years ago, but I found much in "Strength Renewed" to strengthen my faith today.

I strongly recommend "Strength Renewed". It's an outstanding resource for anyone with cancer and for their companions on the journey through the cancer valley.

Shirley Corder is a registered nurse and a breast cancer survivor who has a passion for helping others as they go through treatment. She is a contributing author to several books, including four Guideposts anthologies, and has published many devotions. She lives in South Africa. Her website can be found at

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Book Review: The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

Book Title: The Baker's Wife
Author: Erin Healy
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: October, 2011
ISBN-10: 1595547525
ISBN-13: 978-1595547521

A lie-based scandal forces Audrey Bofinger and her pastor husband Geoff  to leave their church. One of their ministries is baking breads—think  rosemary-potato loaves—to give away, so “Rise and Shine”, a failing bakery, becomes their new workplace, as well as being a healing place for their family wounds.

Early one morning Audrey and her son Ed drive to the bakery through heavy fog. They crash into a motor scooter, which turns out to belong to Julie Mansfield. Julie’s blood is found at the accident site, but her body has disappeared without a trace.

What happened to Julie’s body? Where is it? This mystery lured me through the book and kept me wondering and turning the pages to the end.

Julie’s husband, Jack Mansfield, a police detective and also the man responsible for forcing Audrey and Geoff out of their church, blames Audrey for Julie’s disappearance. He's a self-righteous man who twists scripture to suit his purposes and believes that God owes him for living a good life. He has no compassion whatsoever. He’s vindictive and seeks justice at all costs.

Jack is a complete contrast to Audrey, who is the embodiment of compassion. She’s gifted with empathy, so much so that she experiences the pain and suffering of other people. She hears voices audible only to her and feels the weight of an unseen arm turning her in the direction she should go to bring comfort to someone. Jack and Audrey show two different responses to hardship and suffering.

This supernatural element of Audrey’s empathy made me feel a little uncomfortable, but it was not overdone and did not detract from my reading experience.

I loved the symbolism of bread and the bakery. Bread, like Geoff and Audrey’s ministry, is life-giving and sustaining.

If you like Christian fiction with well developed characters, deep themes, mystery and suspense, then this is just the book for you.

I highly recommend this intriguing book and give it a four star rating.

Thank you to BookSneeze and Thomas Nelson for a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Book Review: Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

Book title: Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus
Author: Joyce Magnin
Publisher: Zondervan
Date: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-310-33355-5

On Christmas Eve, 72-year-old widow Harriet Beamer falls while hanging her favorite ornament on the Christmas tree. She bets her daughter-in-law, Prudence, that her ankle isn't broken. But it is. To honor her bet, Harriet has to sell her comfortable house in Philadelphia and travel across the country to California to live with her son, Henry, and Prudence. However she's one feisty lady and decides to send Humphrey, her beloved basset hound ahead, while she makes her way there via the scenic route on public transportation. This makes for a delightful and often amusing read as we follow Harriet's adventures which range from stopping a thief in his tracks to dancing the cancan on the stage in Dodge City. We meet many marvelous characters along the way including David Prancing Elk and a snake-handling preacher

The thing that I really loved about this book is that it's about several other journeys. There's Harriet's journey to independence--all her life she has just let things happen to her, but now she's making her own choices and making things happen. She's an avid collector of shakers, so she starts by fulfilling a lifelong ambition to visit the Salt and Pepper Museum in Tennessee. As Harriet moves along and throws off her old ways, we see her discard her dresses and leather shoes for denim jeans and sneakers.

There's her journey into modern technology as she buys a Droid phone with GPS, which she calls Amelia, so she can find her way.

But the heart of the book is her spiritual journey. She yearns to feel God's pleasure in her and what she's doing again. She wants to know if she's still useful. Does God have a purpose for her or has she used up all her purpose?

This light-hearted book is an enjoyable read which will keep you turning the pages. I hope that Joyce Magnin will write a sequel.

I give this book a five star rating.

Thank you to Shelton Interactive and Zondervan for giving me an Advanced Reading Copy of "Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus" in exchange for my unbiased review.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Book Review: Stained Glass Hearts by Patsy Clairmont

Book title: Stained Glass Hearts
Author: Patsy Clairmont
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN-10: 0849948266
ISBN-13: 978-0849948268

Patsy Clairmont had fallen to pieces. She was emotionally and physically bed-bound, agoraphobic and dependent on drugs when God intervened and gave her a command of three words.Yes, just three simple words, but she obeyed them and her life changed. In Stained Glass Hearts- Seeing Life From a Broke nPerspective Patsy relates anecdotes and stories which show how God healed and pieced her together again.

The book is written in a light amusing voice, which makes it easy to read, but under the humorous surface there are depths of deep truths readers can apply to their own lives. Patsy does not hesitate to share her failures as well as her successes.

A feature which I really loved was the Art Gallery at the end of each chapter in which Patsy points readers to a world of wonder and healing found in books, scriptures, music, poetry, YouTube videos, prayers, and paintings. This feature would have been even better if links to the examples were given in the text.

God's light shines through the pages (or eReader screen!) as though they too were made of stained glass. Patsy shows that just as a craftsman makes a beautiful window from shards of colored glass, so God can take the hurting jagged pieces of broken hearts and fit them together with His grace and redemption to form beautiful masterpieces of lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written and interesting book and recommend it to anyone in the process of healing from some hurt, or wanting an uplifting read. I'll reread it, a chapter at a time, to refresh my mind with its wisdom, humorous insights and practical suggestions. I plan to take the time to follow some of the suggestions Patsy makes in the Art Gallery sections and discover the world of wonder in different art forms.

I give Stained Glass Hearts a five star rating.

Thank you to BookSneeze for a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed above are my own.