Friday, December 6, 2013

Giving away some of my favorite Christmas presents: books

Is the way you now celebrate Christmas influenced by how your family celebrated it when you were a child? 

My parents made a big deal of it. I was raised Catholic, so we went to midnight mass, then were allowed one present. But the next morning gifts flowed out from our tree in every direction. I remember the exquisite agony of anticipation and the pleasure of finding my name on yet one more gift.

When my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas, he asked me what I wanted for a gift. Frankly I was taken aback that he thought “gift” was singular! Now, I wasn’t expecting pearl necklaces or anything too fancy, but even as an adult I looked forward to gifts, with an s, if you please.

But one of my favorite memories of Christmases past was getting a book. Christmas afternoon, my sister and I would curl up on our twin bed, each with a new Nancy Drew book. Boxes of new clothes and games and sweet-smelling stuff were left stacked under the tree while we lost ourselves in yet another mystery.

That’s still one of my favorite things. As many books as I have on e-readers and review piles, I still love to get a Christmas book and curl up and read. All things murder, suspense and thriller (no horror) are especially fun when I want a “no-think” read.

 I want to pass my receiving-a-Christmas-book pleasure on to you. So I am giving away  reviewer copies (if you’re not opposed to re-giftings) of a few books I’ve recently acquired. The following (except for A Man Called Blessed which I’m reviewing for Booksneeze) are not official book reviews but impressions that some of my recent reads have had on me.

Share a comment between now and December 17 on how you are influenced by Christmases past or on one of your favorite memories and I will put you in the draw for
                                                 A Man Called Blessed 

                                                 A Million Little Ways

                                                    Preemptive Love 


A Million Little Ways—Emily Freeman Emily proposes that we make art with our lives—it’s what happens when you dare to be who you really are. I enjoyed her refreshing invitation to be open to the creative being you are meant to be and her candid exploration of the things that hinder us, of the critics and the idols and clamor that get in the way. The book exudes the beauty, the freedom and the joy of embracing the million little ways God comes out of us.

Bread and Wine—Shauna Niequist Wow, come and dine and laugh and fellowship.  Even those of us who consider the kitchen a place of necessity more than enjoyment will find it hard to resist this celebration of hospitality and curry and open doors and enchiladas and all things made right as we gather around a table. A delight to read slowly, with food!

Kisses From Katie— Katie Davis I’m slow to the table with this one, but in case you haven’t read this remarkable young woman’s response to God’s heart—do. You don’t have to go to Uganda and adopt gazillion children to be willing to open your hand and heart right where you are, but Katie’s story certainly challenges us to remember faith without works is dead. After reading this, be ready to have her and all her children show up in your prayer time! An incredible testimony of the possibilities of a willing life in the hands of a mighty God. 

Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One heart at a Time—Jeremy Courtney  Another beautiful story of how God can change the direction of your life through a “chance” encounter, even when you feel totally unequipped for the direction it’s headed. Join this family in Iraq as love becomes their means to help thousands of Iraqi children get life-saving heart surgery.

A smattering of fiction ( I don’t gravitate toward Christian fiction because I often feel my well-meaning sisters and brothers try desperately hard to clean up and save everyone before they are murdered or mucked with, but the following are just a few of the fiction pieces (apart from my Harlan Coben and co.)that have landed on my bed stand recently.

A Man Called Blessed—Ted Dekker & Bill Bright
 Just what would the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant mean to Jews, Muslims and Christians, and how would it affect the prophetic rebuilding of the Temple? Dekker and Bright engage us in this fast-moving suspense involving assassins, politicians, monks and mystics on a quest for the Ark.
A Man Called Blessed not only brings unexpected twists to the tensions of the Middle East, but probes spiritual considerations such as what would happen if Christians really believed God is a present help in time of danger, and could a relic, even one as sacred as the Ark of the Covenant, still contain the presence of God?
Love and hate, villains and unlikely heroes, Arabs and Jews— tensions rooted in the heavens and played out in the desert all come together in this satisfying read.
I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher.

Havah- Tosca Lee
I read this a while back, but the impression that still lingers is of the hope and love God reveals as he calls Eve into being the first time and then again, the last. My spirit leaped with the way Lee portrays God’s call to life. This book, this memoir of Eve, deeply impacted me with the terrible weight and cost of sin as Adam and Eve saw it spread through their children and children’s children.
I did want to get out from under it in places, and did suspect God still showed Himself more gracious to this first family during their lives than Lee reveals, but overall, her exquisite storytelling carried me through to the glorious end. Looking  forward to reading her Iscariot: A Novel of Judas.

Still Alice—Lisa Genova
This is one of those works that that transcends the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Beautifully written, expertly researched and poignantly delivered.  Explores the dynamics of family, friends, and coworkers when one of their own starts forgetting that she is the professor, not the student, forgetting where she lives, and forgetting the faces that she’s bathed, and kissed and held dear.
Early onset Alzheimer’s steals much of the brilliant Alice’s memory, but in the end she is Still Alice. Loved it.  

What Alice Forgot—Liane Moriarty
Seems the name Alice is a popular choice for memory issues. This Alice’s memory loss comes from a head trauma from a fall at the gym. When she regains consciousness, she discovers she has lost the past ten years. She has no memory of children, the present state of her relationship with her husband, or how she has changed in ten years.
Alice sees herself revealed from an outsider’s perspective (much is shown through her friends and family) and is perplexed by the person others describe.
Until the day she remembers. . . .and has to choose.
Liane Moriarty’s exploration of who you were and who you are is thought-provoking and entertaining. I did think the ending deflated a bit, but still enjoyed this read. (Not a “Christian” read—some language.)
No matter how you celebrate--may the real Gift and the Best Story be yours in fullness of grace and glory.


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