_ From the author’s website:

Max On Life, Answers and Insights to Your Most Important QuestionsWe have questions.  Child-like inquiries.  And deep, heavy ones.  In more than twenty-five years of writing and ministry, Max Lucado has been the receiving line for thousands of such questions.  In Max On Life he offers thoughtful answers to more than 150 of the most pressing questions on topics ranging from hope to hurt, from home to the hereafter.  He responds to the day-to-day questions--parenting quandaries, financial challenges, difficult relationships--as well as to the profound:  Is God really listening?


Presented in an interesting format, each page is a question or statement that desires a response. Max Lucado answers in a short, concise, conversational method. The chapter headings are alliterated titles: Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, Hereafter. An index in the back of the book offers a further delineation of topics. His final offering of advice is to writers, encouraging them to find God’s voice in their writing and share it with the world.

As is expected from Max Lucado, the Biblical wisdom is sound and encouraging. His voice shines through each page, giving the reader the feeling of sitting across from Mr. Lucado, holding a conversation. He uses Scripture to build a foundation for the reader to search a little deeper into God’s Word for strength and solace.

I am still reading and digesting the food for thought and soul within these pages. Using it as a quick devotional in my homeroom high school class has opened some great discussions with the students. This is the type of book that makes an excellent gift for a friend or loved one needing some encouragement. It is also a great tool to reach someone who might be closed to listening to advice from God’s Word, but open to reading someone else’s questions and finding answers.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson through Book Sneeze for free.
From Net Galley preview:
Following her mother’s funeral, and on the verge of her own mid-life crisis, Anna Larson returns to the home of her youth to sort out her parents’ belongings, as well as her own turbulent life. This unique family home is situated on a picturesque coastal tributary and filled with an assortment of nostalgic memories. But Anna soon learns that more than just her past resides along the banks of the Siuslaw River; her future will be discovered there as well. For the first time since childhood, Anna begins to embrace her native heritage and river roots. She finds healing and hope, restores some old relationships, initiates some new ones, explores romance, and begins to grow into the woman that God intended her to be. By transforming her old family home into The Inn of Shining Waters, Anna creates a place of healing—a place where guests experience peace, grace, and new beginnings.

I received this book to preview from Net Galley as an advance copy for free. The book is set for release August 1, 2011.

What struck you the best about the book?
I’ve read several other books by Melody Carlson. This, like the others, presents the characters as normal, everyday people. Anna Larson is a woman who needs to find herself, her identity. For most of her life, she has lived under a forced identity given to her by others. Her mother-in-law is manipulative and cunning, making Anna believe she is not suited for anything more than a glorified servant. Melody shows Anna’s emotional journey from a crushed violet to a blooming, thriving flower. Anna struggles with her desire to stay in her hometown. Guilt over leaving her college-bound daughter haunts her. This internal conflict colors many of her actions and reactions to others around her. The external conflict is mostly centered around her finances or lack thereof. Both conflicts are subtle yet strong enough to give the reader a desire to see how the conflicts are resolved. Woven throughout is the flavor of Anna’s native heritage. Unique stories of the Suislaw tribe of Anna’s grandmother eventually help Anna reach a place where she can find what she’s been seeking.

What struck you the worst about the book?
It was difficult to wade through the first 50 pages of backstory. Much of it is repeated to others later in the book. It would work much better if the reader only received the parts of the backstory absolutely necessary at the beginning. The rest would easily fit into other parts of the story when Anna unfolds her past to her friends.

How did the story make you feel?
I appreciate the difficulties Anna faced concerning who she is and her place in life. I empathized with her desire to begin again, away from the place and people who smothered her. Her gradual growth into herself and understanding her worth in the eyes of the Lord gives the reader a sense of satisfaction at the end of the story. I am looking forward to reading the sequel which is already in the works.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books. She is the author of novels for both teens and women including Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon, Limelight, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which has been optioned for production as a Life-time Television movie. Her adult novel, Homeward, won a Rita Award. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult com-mittee in central Oregon. Visit Melody's website at www.melodycarlson.com.

Book Review of Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann

From the author's website:

An inseparable bond.  An insatiable force.

Battling his own personal demons, Police Chief Jonah Westfall knows the dark side of life and has committed himself to eradicating it. When a pair of raccoons are found mutilated in Redford, Colorado, Jonah investigates the gruesome act, knowing the strange event could escalate and destroy the tranquility of his small mountain town. With a rising drug threat and never-ending conflict with Tia Manning, a formidable childhood friend with whom he has more than a passing history, Jonah fights for answers—and his fragile sobriety.

But he can’t penetrate every wound or secret—especially one fueled by a love and guilt teetering on madness.

From best-selling author Kristen Heitzmann comes a spellbinding tale of severed connections and the consequences of life lived alone.

What struck you the best about the book?
It is definitely in the category of suspense! From the very beginning, action keeps the reader’s attention. One tense moment leads to the next. Character development is outstanding. Although there are many characters, each one is distinct. None of them are passive in that they all change throughout the story. Without spoiling it, I can say that Jonah, Miles, Piper, Tia, and the secondary characters each have pivotal moments throughout the story. More than one plot speeds the action along. It’s like reading several mini stories all interwoven into one.

Kristen’s phraseology is amazing. “The breeze titillated the trembly aspen and bore the scent of golden banner and Queen Anne’s lace.” She uses words to describe scenes, emotions, actions in a way that is different and unique.

What struck you the worst about the book?
I expected a Christian novel. What I found is a smattering of Christian philosophy and truths scattered throughout what could otherwise be considered a secular novel. Much emphasis is placed on women throwing themselves at Jonah. References and even flat-out statements regarding sensuality don’t seem to fit the genre. Although no actual foul language is used, more than once a character swears. Whether this is true to life or not, the purpose of a Christian book should be to encourage the reader to aspire to living a more godly life.

How did the story make you feel?
The story stirs up the emotions. Getting involved with the problems in each character’s past draws the reader into the emotional aspect of the story. What I found difficult is that there were few places a reader could recuperate emotionally to prepare for the next problem. The characters constantly faced one dilemma after another. If one character dealt with a problem, the next character had a worse problem to deal with.

Part of the ending is unexpected. Another part of it I guessed about a fourth of the way through the book. I’m not sure if the last chapter is supposed to leave the reader with a feeling of contentment since the one plot throughout the story is resolved. However I don’t know how to take the last line of the book. Maybe it was meant to leave the reader unsettled. Maybe I’m just missing the meaning.

Overall, I would recommend this book to most people, but I won’t be putting it in my classroom library for my high school students to read.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. It in no way influences my review of this book.

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