“Purple Moon” by Tessa Emily Hall

SSummary

Selena doesn’t believe in fairy tales anymore. With her dad out of the picture and her mom checking into rehab, Selena is sent to stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin, Whitney, for the summer on Lake Lure. Whitney wants nothing to do with Selena, and Selena befriends neighbor boy, Austin, who she knew as a kid. Austin invites Selena to join him for a Christian youth camp where Selena encounters the same God her dad used to preach about years ago when life was good in Kentucky. Selena feels welcomed by Austin’s group of Christian friends, but their call to faith makes her feel conflicted with her past and the scars she is still trying to hide, including her past with smoking and drinking. Selena feels attracted to Austin’s faith and joy, but when Whitney’s boyfriend starts paying attention to her, Selena feels even more confused about who she truly is and who she will become.

The Pros

Purple Moon is a well-written novel with a great message and a powerful protagonist. Selena struggles with insecurity and plenty of emotional baggage from her broken family, unhealthy relationships, and a history of smoking and drinking. Her story is one young adult readers will admire and relate with—the search for self and purpose in the midst of peer pressure. Through Selena’s relationships with her mom, Austin, Christian friends, and non-Christian friends, Hall provides realistic circumstances through which Selena must make decisions and ultimately decide who she wants to be and what she will live for.

Selena encounters many issues that teenagers today must deal with, including teen drinking, premarital sex, partying, and abusive relationships. Rather than shying away from these issues, Hall faces them head-on through Selena’s experiences, and ultimately provides readers with a positive example for dealing with these issues.

The Cons

Many of Selena’s issues stem from her relationship with her cousin, Whitney. Whitney is a spoiled teen who has been given everything she wants and is aggravated by the fact that Selena is coming to stay with them for the summer. While I got the impression that Whitney had always been bratty, her hatred of Selena seemed a bit unfounded. Whitney doesn’t hide the fact that she wants nothing to do with Selena, though they used to play together as kids. As a reader, I wanted a better understanding of Whitney and why she was so angry with Selena—perhaps for insecurities of her own—and what created the huge rift in their relationship.

Conclusion

Purple Moon is a great, inspiring read for young adults with a relatable protagonist and great examples of Christian living. Read more about author Tessa Emily Hall on her website, and get a copy of the book on Amazon!

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“Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty” by Angela Hunt

Summary

As a young girl, Bathsheba receives a prophecy asserting that she will one day be mother to a man who will affect the fate of Israel. Her family protects her, knowing that Bathsheba’s extraordinary beauty makes her vulnerable to the desires of men. When her father gives her in marriage to Uriah, the warrior, Bathsheba and her family are confident that her fate is sealed and Uriah is the man who will give her this legendary son. But Bathsheba cannot conceive, and Uriah is sent off to war.

Nathan, the prophet, falls for Bathsheba’s beauty at a young age, but God tells him she will not be his wife. Instead, Nathan keeps special watch over Bathsheba from a distance, even after taking a wife and having daughters. When Nathan receives a vision of King David seeing Bathsheba’s beauty and taking advantage of her, Nathan knows he must help protect Bathsheba. God gives him visions of the future, of the son who will build a temple in Israel, and the fate of King David who killed a man to take his wife.

Bathsheba and Nathan tell the story of the ramifications of David’s sin as God’s wrath is poured out generation after generation, from death, to war, to rape, to plagues on the lineage of King David.

The Pros

Angela Hunt took great care in preserving the Biblical accuracy of Bathsheba’s story. While there was no prophecy of Bathsheba’s future son, Bathsheba’s story otherwise lines up with scripture, and the author does not take liberties that alter the meaning of the original Biblical narrative. Hunt masterfully weaves historical detail through the story, creating an intricate tapestry of ancient Israel and the Biblical legends that inhabited it.

Rather than focusing on the single event that makes Bathsheba infamous, Hunt expounds on Bathsheba’s story, showing the impact not only on the woman herself but the fallout in King David’s house for disobeying God. This story is not just about Bathsheba; this book gives insight into the struggles of King David and the lineage of destruction that befell his house.

Bathsheba’s story inevitably deals with some disturbing subject matter, including rape, murder, and warfare. While some material may not be suitable for younger readers, Hunt’s telling of the events is in no way graphic; the author makes these scenes palpable through an emotional connection rather than visual.

The Cons

For a book entitled, Bathsheba, by the end of the book, I still felt that I didn’t really know Bathsheba. This is partially due to the fact that so much happens during the course of the novel which follows Bathsheba from her first meeting with the King until she is an old woman. Because the book is fast-paced and plot-driven, Bathsheba’s character is only faintly sketched out. Similarly, the relationship between her and David is so complex, an entire novel could be written centered around their marriage and emotional healing. My only complaint would be that I wish more time was spent delving into Bathsheba’s character and her relationship with David.

Conclusion

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty was a powerful telling of the Biblical narrative with compelling themes of forgiveness and faithfulness. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting deeper insight into Old Testament Israel and a new perspective on one of the Bible’s most controversial female figures.

You can purchase your copy of Bathsheba from Bethany House, or grab a copy from your local library!
Hunt, Angela. Bathsheba Reluctant Beauty. N.p.: Baker Pub Group, 2015. Print.

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“A Love Like Ours” by Becky Wade

LoveSummary

Lyndie James and Jake Porter were best friends till Lyndie moved away with her family to California. Twenty years later, Lyndie’s back in town hoping to land a job exercising Jake’s Thoroughbreds to supplement her income as a children’s book writer and illustrator. While she’s much the same spirited, tender-hearted girl who cared for wounded animals and believed in God and miracles, Jake is calloused to the world after serving as a Marine in Iraq and suffers from PTSD. Jake is hesitant to let someone in, to allow someone to see the dark inner workings of his mind. Lyndie sees Jake as her next project, her next wounded soul to heal. As Lyndie prays for God to heal her old friend, she finds that getting close makes her vulnerable to hurts of her own.

The Pros

In A Love Like Ours, Becky Wade gives readers a meaningful story filled with personality, humor, and sigh-worthy romance. Many of the characters have great depth, including some endearing secondary characters like Lyndie’s downstairs neighbor, Amber. Readers will enjoy a smooth read with the unique backdrop of Texas horse country and insight into jockey life.

Wade also shares insight into family dealing with sickness; Lyndie’s sister, Mollie, has had cerebral palsy since birth. So much of Lyndie’s faith is built from her experience watching her sister and her family trust God through all circumstances. Being Mollie’s sister changes who she is and how she sees the world, also enabling her to see past Jake’s stoic exterior.

Jake Porter’s struggle with PTSD is a relatable story for so many readers; Jake lost his faith in the war, and thinks he doesn’t deserve God’s grace or anything good in his life. Jake’s faith journey though the story is a wonderful portrayal of God’s redeeming love.

The Cons

While Wade’s writing is descriptive, at times, the pacing sags with description and seemingly irrelevant storylines. For example, Lyndie and Amber force each other to go out on dates which brings a little more humor to the story, but some of the scenes seemed unimportant or too long. Overall, the book was evenly paced.

Conclusion

A Love Like Ours is a fun, faith-based romance. If you’re looking for more than a trivial romance, this one’s a good pick. You get an interesting story, great characters, a picture of God’s faithfulness, and a “tall, dark, and brooding” Texan.
Get your copy at Baker Publishing or at your local library!

Wade, Becky. A Love Like Ours. N.p.: Bethany House, 2015. Print.

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“Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe” by Max Lucado

MiracleSummary

After separating from her charming, cheating, NFL superstar husband, Chelsea Chambers moves back to her Texas hometown with their two kids to run her family’s Cafe. Chelsea is anxious for a fresh start, but when she learns that she’s inherited a $86,000 debt from her grandma, that another cafe’s setting up shop down the road, and her philandering husband is moving back and trying to make amends, Chelsea begins to think her plan might not go as smoothly as anticipated. Enter Chelsea’s guardian angel, Samuel, disguised as Manny, the new barista. Manny has a few ideas to help bring in business, including a “God Blog” where people can post ask one question and get answered–by God Himself. But as people begin to flock to the cafe, some people get answers they don’t want to hear, and others are forced to ask new questions that draw them out of their comfort zones.

The Pros

Max Lucado’s book, co-written with Candace Lee and Eric Newman, offers a quirky take on the role of Guardian Angels along with some other interesting concepts, such as the God Blog. What one question would you ask God given the opportunity, and how would He respond? Readers will enjoy the light humor and the small town feel of the novel.

The Cons

For a novel of 184 pages, this story attempts to cover too much ground. Outside of the cafe, Lucado glosses over issues of infidelity, broken relationships, poverty, cancer, Alzheimer’s, unforgiveness, the power of prayer, betrayal and others. The reader is whiplashed from storyline to storyline, never able to delve into the issues and truly experience or glean from the characters’ experiences. There is little depth to this novel, though it had the potential to be an impactful read, especially in regard to the “God Blog.”

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a light, fluffy read, this is the book for you. You can get a copy of this book at Thomas Nelson or your local library.

Lucado, Max, Eric Newman, and Candace Lee. Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café. N.p.: Thomas Nelson, 2015. Print.

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