Sunday, September 25, 2022

A Gift of Joy and Hope by Pope Francis

About the Book:


In this encouraging book, Pope Francis explores the meaning of true joy and offers an inspiring message: even in dark times, the light of hope can shine bright. 

The past few years have been extremely challenging, but even in dark times, the light of joy can shine bright.
 
True joy, says Pope Francis, is not a fleeting sentiment or a short-term solution to suffering; it springs from a solid hope that nothing and no one can take away.
 
Gift of Joy and Hope is an invitation to embrace authentic beauty and a reminder to be open to encountering God, even in the midst of challenges. In this inspiring collection, Pope Francis encourages readers to change attitudes that exclude others; to reveal the deep dissatisfaction we all hide; and to overcome life’s challenges with courage and faith. He also challenges readers to hope without pessimism or doubt, to hope even in the midst of anxiety, to recognize the beauty all around us, and to let God show us how to deal with your doubts and fears.
 
This book aims to encourage readers to look outside themselves and believe that hope is still possible and that joy always has the last word.

My Review:

I am not a Roman Catholic yet I like this collection of encouraging and wise thoughts from the head of that church. Pope Francis shares wisdom from his life experiences, from the Bible, and from other spiritual disciplines. I appreciate the many biblical stories he uses as illustrations in this book.

Some of his comments were quite thought provoking. He writes of the burden of not being welcomed with a smile, something I'll remember the next time I encounter a stranger. In another passage, he asks whether we look down upon a person to show them contempt or to give them a hand to help them up. If we want to be free of sadness, he writes, serve another.

I have read scores of books on biblical interpretation yet Pope Francis surprised me with an insight on 1 Timothy 6:17. I had always thought the end of this verse meant that God has given us everything for our own enjoyment. You know, food, books, wine. We are to enjoy it all. But Pope Francis revealed a new idea to me. “God 'gives us richly all that we need for our happiness'...” (1035/2118) I have no excuse for not being happy with what God has given me. And I like his comments on Christian hope. It is not hoping something will happen but rather “expecting something that has already taken place.” (479/2118)

This is a good collection of encouraging thoughts and teachings on Christian living.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Pope Francis Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936, the son of Italian immigrants. He was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1969 and created a bishop in 1992. He became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was named a cardinal in 2001. In March 2013 he was elected Bishop of Rome, the 266th pope of the Catholic Church.

Worthy Publishing, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Stop Waiting for Permission by Stephen Chandler

About the Book


We each have a unique purpose in this life, one embedded within us by the Creator of the universe before time began.


Yet we rarely experience this greatness because the glory of God within us is still waiting to be uncovered. So we spend our lives running after the wrong goals. Eventually we burn out and stop believing that God has any bigger plans for us in light of our past failures and false starts.
However, Stephen Chandler believes God created everyone, including you, for greatness . . . and doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that destiny.

In Stop Waiting for Permission, you’ll discover the keys to unlock your unique calling and activate your innate, God-given strengths by

• identifying what’s holding you back
• discovering your unique genius
• maximizing your God-given greatness
• living in your purpose with perseverance

The time to act is now! Stop waiting for permission.

You can watch the book trailer here.
You can start reading the book here.


My Review


Chandler wants you to be great, finding fulfillment in using your unique gifting. “This book will show you how to prepare your life for the greatness God has planned for you.” (153/2224) That's a tall order but Chandler comes through with encouragement, good teaching and practical ideas.

I was taken aback at first. Greatness? But Chandler convinced me, “Shooting for average and seeking mediocrity is ungodly.” (213/2224) We were created for so much more than we often experience, a fulfilled life.

I was happy to see that Chandler includes practical teaching, not leaving us on our own to figure out how to do what he encourages. He reviews the wrong things that drive us, like fear. He helps us discover our genius. He is also realistic. He tells us this will take time. Self discipline is required. There will be pain. Nonetheless, we will find our purpose, the reason God has put us on this earth. I like that Chandler clarifies our ultimate priority. We are to please God by loving Him and making time for Him.

I recommend this book to Christians who want to know what God has for them. You'll get good teaching and some practical strategy to get you on your life long journey of serving God.

My rating: 5/5 stars.


About the Author


Stephen Chandler
is the senior pastor of Union Church based in Maryland. Since 2011, Union has grown from a group of fifty to thousands of people in weekly attendance, with tens of thousands joining live online every week. Stephen’s obsession with people, systems, and culture resulted in Union Church being named the fastest-growing church in America by Outreach magazine. A sought-after international speaker, he is unapologetic about helping leaders maximize their God-given passion. Stephen’s true legacy is his wife, Zai, and their three beautiful children, Zoe, Roman, and Jade. You can find out more at 
https://stephenrchandler.com/

Waterbrook, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, September 24, 2022

A Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice Henderson

About the Book

  
Fresh off her wolverine study in Montana, wildlife biologist Alex Carter lands a job studying a threatened population of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Embedded with a small team of Arctic researchers, she tracks the majestic bears by air, following them over vast, snowy terrain, spending days leaning precariously out of a helicopter with a tranquilizer gun, until she can get down on the ice to examine them up close.

But as her study progresses, and she gathers data on the health of individual bears, things start to go awry. Her helicopter pilot quits unexpectedly, equipment goes missing, and a late-night intruder breaks into her lab and steals the samples she’s collected. She realizes that someone doesn’t want her to complete her study, but Alex is not easily deterred.

Managing to find a replacement pilot, she returns to the icy expanses of Hudson Bay. But the helicopter catches fire in midflight, forcing the team to land on a vast sheet of white far from civilization. Surviving on the frozen landscape is difficult enough, but as armed assailants close in on snowmobiles, Alex must rely on her skills and tenacity to survive this onslaught and carry out her mission.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review

This is a novel for readers who like information about wildlife. Henderson takes us to the frozen north where we learn a great deal about polar bears, from research to poaching. There is a quite a bit about protecting the animals since that is the focus of the heroine. We read about the factors endangering the bears with an emphasis on climate factors caused by humans.

The plot is one filled with suspense. Unfortunately, much of the suspense is the heroine's own fault. She goes out on her own, for example, just after she had been rescued from a deadly situation. Of course, she faces another deadly experience. That way of creating suspense does not sit well with me.

There are many bad guys in the novel. There are two plot lines. One involves a murdered diver having found something and other is Alex's research being frustrated. The two come together in the end.

There does not seem to be any character growth of Alex in this novel although we do find out who her mysterious protector has been. While I think the plot is faulty, I do like the novel for all the information it contains and will be looking for the next one in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my review of the first book in the series: A Solitude of Wolverines.

 

About the Author

In addition to being a writer, Alice Henderson is a wildlife sanctuary monitor, geographic information systems specialist, and bioacoustician. She documents wildlife on specialized recording equipment, checks remote cameras, creates maps, and undertakes wildlife surveys to determine what species are present on preserves, while ensuring there are no signs of poaching. She’s surveyed for the presence of grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, jaguars, endangered bats, and more. You can find out more at http://www.alicehenderson.com/

William Morrow, 352 pages.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, September 23, 2022

Sanctuary by C L Tolbert Blog Tour and Giveaway

 

Sanctuary

by C.L. Tolbert

September 12 - October 8, 2022 Virtual Book Tour


Synopsis:

 

A Thornton Mystery

In SANCTUARY, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.

The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.

Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.

Praise for Sanctuary:

“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”

Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries

My Review:

This book is not so much a legal thriller as it is the story of a law professor helping a young woman accused of murder. There is a tiny bit of suspense near the end but that is not the focus of the plot by far. Some procedural details such as the taking of an affidavit are included but mostly we read of Emma going about methodically getting to the truth.

Tolbert has done a good job of immersing us in the culture of New Orleans. We really get a sense of the spiritual atmosphere in the city. There are also two major issues explored in the novel. One is being sucked into a cult. There is some good information about what makes a religious group an actual cult. Another issue deals with the parent child relationship that would cause a young person to be attracted to the cult atmosphere.

Emma is a good heroine, a law professor with a heart to help others. This is a good novel for readers who like one dealing in legal procedure with an emphasis on the discovery aspect rather than a courtroom aspect. Tolbert's writing style is an easy one to follow. This is the second novel I have read featuring Emma and you can read my review of Redemption here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

  

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 2022
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 9781685121464
Series: The Thornton Mystery Series, Book 3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twelve

The French Quarter was home to Stacey. She could relax there. She loved the winding streets, the ancient buildings, the ironwork on the balconies, and the festival-like spirit of Jackson Square. Plus, it was easy to blend in. With at least as many tourists as native New Orleanians, no one stood out more than anyone else. The exceptions ˗ the homeless, the street performers, and artists ˗ were part of the scenery. They blended into the background in a multicolor splash.

She needed money and had been watching the tarot card readers in the square. They made thirty-five dollars a read, plus tips. She could do that. She’d been taught the Celtic spread years ago and still had her deck tucked away with the rest of her stuff. It had taken her a few days to get squared away. Yesterday, she’d found a discarded chair on the street in one of the residential areas of the Quarter. She knew someone who worked at a pizza place right off of Pirate’s Alley, a small street next to St. Louis Cathedral. She’d asked if she could stash the chair behind their dumpster, and he’d agreed to it. That was helpful since she could store her things close to the place where she’d be reading. Now she just needed a small table or a box and a second chair, and she’d be ready.

Even though the city required a license and permit for the artists who painted in Jackson Square, there were no such requirements for card readers. But, every once in a while, the Jackson Square artists proposed an ordinance to the City Council to remove the fortune-tellers. So far, they’d been unsuccessful, and recently the readers had come back in full force. They added an ambiance to the area, especially when they burned their incense. She liked the way it smelled.

Stacey glanced at her reflection as she walked by a shop with a large plate glass window. She still wasn’t accustomed to her new look. She’d used some of the money she’d saved to purchase hair color and had dyed her honey blonde hair a dark brown. She’d also cut it much shorter with a pair of cheap scissors in hopes of disguising her appearance. She’d done it herself, and not very well. She didn’t like the jagged ends. But overall, it worked. She had to admit she looked like a different person and thought it was possible to sit in full view in the middle of Jackson Square, conduct tarot card readings, and not be recognized. At least not by the likes of police officers or others who might be looking for her.

She crammed her hand in her pocket, making sure that the wad of dollar bills she’d neatly folded and covered with several rubber bands was still there. One of the problems of not having a place with a door to lock was that you had to carry your valuables with you. She still had some of the money she’d saved from working at the Temple. She was frugal, eating only one meal a day, and that was a cheap one. But she’d been on her own for four days, and her money would run out soon. She hoped her plan to make more money in Jackson Square was a good one.

Stacey avoided shelters. Emma knew everyone in the city who ran them and would look for her at women’s shelters before she’d look anywhere else. But Stacey had found the perfect place to stay about three miles away from the Quarter—a small chapel in the middle of a cemetery in the Bywater District. It was called St. Roch’s and was named after the patron saint of dogs, invalids, and the falsely accused. The cemetery, the street, and the surrounding community were all named after the saint. Locals mispronounced the chapel’s name, calling it St. Roach’s. Even though the structure was crumbling, it still provided the shelter Stacey needed.

St. Roch’s had been built in 1867 by a priest who had prayed to St. Roch during the yellow fever pandemic in New Orleans, asking the saint to spare his community. Ten years later, when no one from his parish had succumbed to yellow fever, he made good on his promise, built the shrine, and dedicated it to the saint. It was a small chapel comprised of only two tiny rooms. One room contained a statue of St. Roch and his loyal dog, and the other room was filled with human prostheses, braces, glass eyeballs, glasses, false teeth, and praying hands, rosaries, and religious figurines, all offered to St. Roch as thanks for healing. Bricks on the ground in that room were inscribed with the word thanks and littered with coins. Over the years, a dusty haze had settled over the various prostheses at the shrine. The walls were crumbling, and a statue of Mary had started to disintegrate. Most people considered the chapel creepy, so creepy, that they avoided it at night, although tourists occasionally visited during the day. Rumor had it that voodoo ceremonies were carried out in the cemetery after dark, although Stacey never saw anything like that. She slept in the tiny room with St. Roch and his dog.

It took between forty-five minutes and an hour to walk to the French Quarter from the chapel, depending on whether Stacey stopped for anything. She woke up early in the morning and left the chapel well before any tourists might arrive. She usually walked to Decatur Street, then down to the Riverwalk Mall, avoiding Esplanade Avenue entirely. She liked the restrooms at the mall. They were clean and usually unoccupied early in the morning. She washed up and brushed her teeth. Once, she’d even shampooed her hair. She carried her bag of dirty laundry with her and would occasionally rinse out her things in the sink. What little makeup and toiletries she needed were easily picked up from department store samples. She walked back to the chapel before dark. At night, the same laundry bag served as her pillow.

By Friday, Stacey had found the second chair, a wooden box tall enough to use as a table, and an interesting scarf someone had stuffed in a Goodwill box along the side of the road. She’d decided to throw it over the makeshift table to give her fortune-telling booth some panache. She was ready for business.

On Saturday morning, Stacey walked to the Quarter, freshened up, grabbed her table and chairs from behind the dumpster at the pizza place, and set up her tarot stand, all before ten o’clock. She was pleased with the location. Only five feet from the steps of the St. Louis Cathedral, it was a prime spot. Tourists swarmed to the cathedral at all hours of the day and were already beginning to mill about. Within fifteen minutes, a middle-aged woman wearing a baseball hat, a neon green bandana, and pink tennis shoes, approached Stacey.

“How much do you charge?”

Stacey stood, her hands behind her back, and smiled. “Thirty-five dollars.”

“How long’s the reading?”

“It’s for fifteen minutes.”

“Okay.” She looked around the square. “Looks like that’s the going rate. But you need a sign. Let’s go.”

She sat down across from Stacey, perched on the tiny seat, and waited for Stacey to shuffle the deck.

Stacey mixed the cards a couple of times, then set the stack in front of the woman.

“Cut the cards into three smaller decks.” She’d noticed a man staring at them from a distance. He was too far away to see clearly. Perhaps he was staring at someone else.

The woman cut the cards.

“Now pick one of the three decks.”

The woman chose one.

Stacey fanned the cards from the chosen deck out in front of the woman and removed the other cards. She thought the man looked familiar. He started to walk toward them. As he approached, she could tell who he was. Raphael. He stopped on the stairs of the cathedral to watch.

“Choose fourteen cards.” Stacey glanced up at Raphael. He hadn’t budged.

The woman carefully chose fourteen cards and handed them to Stacey, who began laying them out in the traditional Celtic cross. The woman had chosen the King of Pentacles as card one, crossed by the Tower. The King of Pentacles, which represented business acumen, was in the position of present influence. And the Tower, which was a card of catastrophic or shocking change, and chaos, crossed the King, indicating the nature of his obstacles. The third card, placed under the cross, was the Death card. Death also represented change, and even occasionally, but rarely, death. Stacey froze. Had the cards picked up on what had happened to James instead of the woman’s situation?

Stacey sensed movement and glanced up. She flinched when she saw Raphael walking toward their table. Raphael stopped about a foot away from where she was reading, stopped, then crossed his arms.

“This is a private reading.” Stacey stopped laying out cards. Her heart was pounding.

“Interesting that you got the death card, don’t you think?”

“Sir, please leave. This isn’t any of your concern.” She didn’t want him drawing attention to her. She just wanted him to go away.

“I’ll leave. Sorry I interrupted.” He nodded toward Stacey’s client. “Thousand pardons, ma’am.”

“If you haven’t cut into my fifteen minutes, I’m fine.”

“Of course not.” Stacey smiled at the woman. “You’ll get your full reading.” She stood and turned toward Raphael. “We have nothing further to discuss.”

Raphael shrugged. “I’ve been worried about you, and so are a couple of other people. And just in case you thought that new hair color was a disguise, let me just tell you it isn’t. If I know who you are, so will others. They’d be very interested in knowing where you are now and what you’re doing.” He nodded toward the cards in her hand. “Good luck with that.”

“You need to leave immediately.”

Raphael started backing away. “I’ll be back.” He put his hand to his forehead in a farewell salute. “You can count on that.”

Stacey didn’t know if Raphael was threatening or warning her. But she knew she didn’t want him to come back to the Quarter to see her anytime soon.

Stacey glanced back at her client. “I’m so sorry for the interruption. Where were we?” She sat back down. “Oh yes.” She examined the cards. “Has a man in your life undergone a significant change, the end of a relationship, or even a death?”

“No, not that I know of.”

“Alright, well, let’s proceed.” Stacey watched as Raphael retreated across the square and took a right at Pirate’s Alley.

She continued to lay out cards for the woman.

The fourth card, the card of past events, was the seven of swords, the card of deception. As far as she was concerned, that card certainly applied to James. He’d deceived her from the very beginning. She’d fallen for his tricks. She couldn’t see through his deception at first, but she caught on, finally. The fifth card, the card of the present, was the Chariot, the card of courage and movement. She smiled. She was hoping to do something about the mess she’d gotten herself in. At least she wasn’t sitting in jail like a scared rabbit. For the final card in the cross, the card of the near future, the woman had drawn Justice. She held the final card in her hand for a couple of seconds before laying it down in front of the woman. Even though she hadn’t drawn the cards, Stacey still believed they were telling her story, not the woman’s. Justice, the card of fair decisions, gave her comfort.

“The final outcome, Justice, relates to karmic justice. It refers to legal matters as well, but generally, it’s telling you that all actions have consequences. Have your own actions contributed in any way to any of the circumstances you find yourself in today?”

The woman nodded. “I can see that they have. I’m not sure that a man in my life has met any sort of catastrophic end, though. Maybe something’s coming up. I hope not.” She shook her head, reached into her pocket, and handed Stacey three tens and a five. “That was fun. I love getting tarot readings.”

Stacey watched the woman walk off and thought about the consequences of her recent actions. She’d been trying to avoid that for months. It was so easy to blame others. It was also easy to turn a blind eye to what was going on in front of you. She was young, but she wasn’t stupid.

That day she had four other readings, making a total of $175.00. She was stunned. She’d made money at the temple, but they held on to it for her rent and food. So, she’d never had much cash, even though the temple made seventy-five dollars per massage. She packed up for the night, brought her table and chairs back to the pizza restaurant, stashed them behind the dumpster again, and tipped the manager. She was glad she knew the guy. That was the thing about New Orleans. If you knew how to get around, you could make things work for you, even though it could be a dangerous place.

She was starved and decided to treat herself to a shrimp po’ boy from Felix’s on Bourbon. She hadn’t had one in forever, and she felt like celebrating. And now that she had enough cash to last a few days, she could afford it. Plus, she wanted to walk by ETC to talk to the girl who was working in the back of the shop. She didn’t know who it was, and she didn’t care. But she hoped she could work out a deal with her. Pay her a little cash and get her to leave the back door open so she could start sleeping there at night instead of St. Roch’s. The chapel floor wasn’t comfortable, and the cemetery wasn’t safe at night. An option would be nice. It was worth a try.

***

Excerpt from Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert. Copyright 2022 by C.L. Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from C.L. Tolbert. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal's fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. OUT FROM SILENCE was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, THE REDEMPTION, was published in February of 2021, and SANCTUARY, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.

Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.

C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With C.L. Tolbert:
www.CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram - @cltolbertwrites
Twitter - @cltolbertwrites
Facebook - @cltolbertwriter

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and give away entries!
Click here to view Sanctuary by CL Tolbert Tour Hosts.

 

Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for C.L. Tolbert. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

 
I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

In the Pines by Kendra Elliot

About the Book

A national treasure hunt with a $2 million prize has driven obsessed fortune seekers to overrun the small town of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. The hunt’s cryptic clues and the lure of wealth have exposed the desperate side of human greed: theft, fights, trespassing—and even the motive to kill. Police chief Truman Daly craves peace in his town but has a murder on his hands instead. Now the big prize isn’t the only thing hiding in the pines. So is a killer.

When a young boy walks into the local café and claims his mother and baby sister have been missing for weeks, FBI special agent Mercy Kilpatrick investigates and exposes a disturbing twist in his story. Deep family secrets and lies that started sixty years ago have burst into the present, bringing with them deadly consequences.

Mercy’s and Truman’s investigations lead down a path of murder, revenge, and buried secrets to uncover two intertwined mysteries as dark as an Oregon forest.

My Review


This is the first book I have read by Elliot. I like her writing style. There is a good balance of the lives of Mercy, Truman and Evan with the ongoing investigation of a missing woman and child. I like the information about preppers and some considering themselves sovereign citizens, arguing they do not have to pay taxes.

While the plot progresses nicely, I am not sure it works well. The missing woman goes where to find help? The very people her husband did not trust? That just did not work. The treasure hunt was a nice side story, providing murders and some excitement. It also showed what people would do from greed.

I like the setting of the area around Bend, Oregon, the good characters, but a plot that doesn't work all the way.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author


Kendra Elliot
is a 
Wall Street Journal bestseller and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series, the Mercy Kilpatrick novels, and the Columbia River novels. She’s a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, an International Thriller Writers Award finalist, and an RT Award finalist. She was born and raised in the rainy Pacific Northwest but now lives in flip-flops. Visit her at www.kendraelliot.com.

Montlake, 333 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

To Win a Prince by Toni Shiloh

About the Book:


Can she stop herself from falling before she's too far gone?

As a fashion aficionado and best friend of the queen of the African island country Ọlọrọ Ilé, Iris Blakely dreams of using her talent to start a sustainable clothing line to help citizens in impoverished areas and honor the country's resources. But when she discovers that Ekon Diallo--the man who betrayed her best friend--will be her business consultant, the battle between her desires and reality begins.

Ekon Diallo has lost everything: his princely title, his material possessions, his friends, and the respect of his fellow Ọlọrans. To pay for his actions against Ọlọrọ Ilé, he's forced to assist the charismatic Iris Blakely--but he can't allow his heart to distract him from regaining his status.

Though they come from vastly different worlds, Iris and Ekon are both determined to reach their goals, and the only way to do that is to work together--if they can just keep their hearts from getting in the way . . .

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:


This is the second novel in a series and, while it reads relatively well on its own, one should read the previous book to totally appreciate this one. You can read my review of In Search of a Prince here.

Readers are taken to a fictitious nation in Africa where a royal is about to get a lesson in the consequences of wrong doing. Ekon's story is a good example of a snob, a man ungrateful for all the benefits he has from wealth. We wonder if God will change him. He would be a good man for Iris, a woman who wants to see the women of the country succeed. She is a good example of a person with the desire to be the hands of Jesus, helping others in the world.

The plot explores several issues. One is trying to see the best in a person, especially when they have really messed up their life. Another issue concerns the struggle one might face when admitting there is a God and coming to the point of belief. There is also the issue of having success and not wanting to admit needing the Lord at all.

While the plot is the typical romance and the outcome predictable, Shiloh provides a good setting with a different culture and social issues involved. The only thing I did not like about the novel was the multiple points of view, a writing style I just do not like and find disconcerting.

While this novel wraps up the immediate story, I could see a sequel as Iris' brother is now on the scene.

Ny rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Toni Shiloh
 (www.tonishiloh.com) is a wife, mom, and multi-published Christian contemporary romance author. Her novel In Search of a Prince has been praised by OprahDaily.com, Popsugar, Library Journal, and Booklist, and is a Parable bestseller. Her books have been finalists for the HOLT Medallion and the Selah Award. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Toni loves connecting with readers and authors alike via social media.

Bethany House Publishers, 368 pages

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Take Heart: Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith by David Powlison

About the Book:

It’s easy to lose heart in a world where many things can and do go wrong. Life is difficult, and there are struggles within and without, but we can take heart—the Lord is with us. He hears our cries for mercy. He knows our every need. He guides us, helps us, and strengthens us with his mighty right arm. Journey through a year with David Powlison, learning to “take heart” by meditating on his favorite Scripture passages, hymns, and biblical themes, exploring the ways God meets us with daily grace right where we live.

Drawn from David Powlison’s many decades of writing, teaching, and speaking, Take Heart is a yearlong devotional journey into the process of biblical change, where truth becomes clearer and our ears hear and our eyes see what God tells us about himself.

Learn to go to God for the help you need and hold fast to the daily mercy and grace he offers. And be reminded the promises of God are true and that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that no matter what you may be facing, you can live in real hope. 

My Review:

This is a daily devotion for Christians who are serious about growing in their faith. The collection from Powlison's writings contains a good balance of biblical encouragement and exhortation. Readers will be both comforted in times of difficulty and admonished to grow through them. I was happy to see the readings have practical applications. An example is January 26 where Powlison gives specific Bible passages to read as relevant to particular issues. Has someone been mean to you? Read Psalm 10.

While many of the devotions are designed to help in time of need, some contain great teaching on growth. Regarding 1 Timothy 1:5, “A 'good conscience' means you are learning to evaluate all things as they truly are. You are reorienting to God's own evaluation of himself and you, other people and circumstances, right and wrong, true and false, worthy and worthless.” (January 22) That shed new light on the meaning of the passage and required some time to think about what it really means to have a good conscience.

The book is a great collection of devotions for Christians who really want to grow in their faith. You will be comforted but you will also be challenged. Powlison had a good understanding of the condition of humans and their need for God, reflected in these devotions.

My rating: 5/5 stars. 


About the Author:


David Powlison, MDiv, PhD,(1949–2019) was a teacher, counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He wrote many books and minibooks, including 
Speaking Truth in LoveSeeing with New EyesGood and Angry, Making All Things NewGod's Grace in Your SufferingSafe and Sound, and Take Heart. David was also the editor of The Journal of Biblical Counseling

New Growth Press, 416 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher.. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, September 19, 2022

Finding Grace by Chip Tudor

About the Book

Jack is hired to find Grace Miller, a freshman at the University of Dayton who is missing. Her trail follows a descending path of degradation. And Jack, a new Christ-follower, must investigate with his faith intact.

Can he find Grace and if so, in what condition? Will he maintain his Christian integrity as he navigates a labyrinth of immorality? And finally, will he ultimately discover the meaning of experiencing freedom through God’s grace?

In a second storyline that began in Soul Pursuit, Jack seeks to expose Paxco, LLC, a company buying all the property in his neighborhood. Who owns it and what are they up to? The answer poses a greater threat than to just his neighborhood.

 

My Review

This is the second in a series but reads quite well on its own. You can read my review of the first one: Soul Pursuit.

Jack is a private detective and I like how he methodically follows leads to complete his assignment. In that respect, this novel is a good detective procedure one. Tudor adds a nice balance of Jack's private life with his investigative work. Jack is a new Christian and I really like how Tudor relates Jack's struggles to figure out this new life. In that respect, Tudor's novels are probably the best I have read when it comes to portraying the reality of living the Christian life. Tudor is also a clever writer with some great humor and pithy lines. My favorite in this novel might be on Jack observing a young fellow on a college campus constantly flicking and preening his hair, either a sign of sexiness or flees.

Tudor has included serious issues in his plot, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and getting sucked into a cult. Those make for good heroic work by Jack. But my favorite aspect of the novel is Jack growing in his Christian life. It is really authentic. I do hope there are more novels featuring Jack as he navigates his new spiritual reality while opposing the bad guys.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Chip Tudor has a diverse background. He has a degree in Police Administration from Eastern Kentucky University, a Master's degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, and a Master's degree in Religious Education from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. His work experience is also diverse, from construction to private investigator to freelance copywriter. You can find out more at https://chiptudor.com/.

Independently published, 220 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)