Friday, September 30, 2016

Experiencing God Through His Names by Sheryl Giesbrecht

Giesbrecht has crafted devotions for 31 days, each one centering on a name of God. She gives us information about the name, related Scripture references, and a prayer. Her desire is that readers would not only read the information but also use the devotion as an opportunity to experience God.

We learn about God as our provider, protector, sustainer, shepherd, sovereign, healer, and much more. Many of the names will be familiar to those who have read other works on God's names, such as El Roi, the God who sees. Giesbrecht recounts the story of Hagar and the use of the name, reminding us that God sees everything, knows everything, and understands everything. There are some names that might not be as familiar, such as El Olam, highlighting the eternal nature of God.

This is a good book for those who have not studied the names of God and the character traits they represent. The devotions are very readable and practical. Giesbrecht shares her own experiences, helping readers engage in the reality of experiencing God. She also includes a prayer with every devotion. The prayers are a practical way to put into practice incorporating God's character traits into daily faith.

The devotions are two to three pages long and are very encouraging. This book would be a good choice for a month long emphasis on God and His character traits. There are no passages to look up nor questions to answer so each devotion can be complete in a few minutes. It would be easy to apply the devotional to the various areas of life.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Go here to enter a drawing to win one of ten copies the author is giving away.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sheryl Giesbrecht is a radio personality, author, and speaker. She served as Focus on the Family's columnist for Pastor's Wives for four years. Her articles and devotions have appeared in many magazines. She also contributes to Crosswalk.com and is a regular blogger for BibleGateway and Lead Like Jesus. She is a missionary with International Christian Ministries and is the founder of Transformed Through Truth, Inc. She has a B.A. From Biola University, a master's in ministry and a doctorate in theology. You can find out more about her and her ministry at www.FromAshesToBeauty.com and www.TransformedThroughTruth.com.

Bold Vision Books, 112 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Deadly Encounter by DiAnn Mills

Mills has given us a complex FBI suspense novel. The plot and motives were so intertwined I knew who the bad guy was near the end but had no idea why he did what he did.

The lead female character is Stacy, a veterinarian who finds a body on her Saturday ride as a Houston airport ranger. Along with the body is a dog and a drone that has been shot up. Mills says in a note that there are such rangers, volunteers who ride the many acres surrounding the airport, checking for illegal activity.

Enter the FBI in the form of handsome Alex. He's a special agent assigned to the case. Finding the disabled drone brings in the possibility of terrorism. But the dead man seems to have no background leading to terrorism and the dog was not his.

Mills has added a couple of extra aspects to the plot. One is Witt, a twelve year old with an IQ of 147. His parents are totally irresponsible and abusive. Stacy is working on adopting the young man. Another is a deadly and contagious disease Stacy unknowingly introduces into the community. We find out that the disease is part of the complex plot and motive structure.

I was a little surprised that this was the first in a series. Stacy has been estranged from her parents and is now trying to reconnect. Alex had a investigation where he trusted a woman who subsequently betrayed him. These two aspects of the characters' past have an impact in this novel and I would have liked to know a little more about both situations.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy an FBI suspense novel with engaging characters and a complex plot. You'll learn a bit about airport protection and dogs and their diseases.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling of several romantic suspense novels. She has won two Christy Awards and been a finalist for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader's Choice, and Carol Award contests. She and her husband live in Houston, Texas. You can find out more at http://www.diannmills.com/.

Tyndale, 390 pages.

Downfall by J. A. Jance

I have been reading J. A. Jance for years, beginning with her Beaumont novels set in Seattle. It took me a while to appreciate her novels set in Arizona but now I'm hooked. Whether you've read the previous Joanna Brady novels or not, those who like reading police procedure mysteries will enjoy this one. Jance deftly includes background material so this novel can be read as a stand alone.

I like Joanna Brady as a sheriff. She is a gutsy woman. In this novel she is pregnant with the latest addition to her family while her oldest is off to college. She already has much on her plate when a double homicide is revealed. Joanna uses her staff and her own efforts to find out why two women were thrown off a nearby peak.

Jance gives us a good combination of personal interest and police adventure. We have come to know Joanna and her history. Here she is dealing with the recent deaths of her mother and stepfather, preparing for the memorial. We see an additional aspect of Joanna's strength as she handles that while working on the homicides.

I like the characters Jance has woven into Joanna's ongoing story. Her second husband, the first having died, is an amazing man. He supports Joanna and her work without reserve. And then there is Marliss Shackleford, Janna's nemesis and irritating newspaper reporter. How Joanna handles her in this novel shows Joanna's growth as an elected sheriff. I was pleased to see Joanna's increasing reliance on her Christian faith too.

I recommend this novel to those who appreciate learning about southwestern Arizona while reading a good police procedure mystery with a good deal of suspense.

You can read or listen to an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

J. A. Jance is the bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, and other novels. Born in South Dakota and raised in Bisbee, Arizona, she and her husband live in Seattle, Washington, and Tuscon, Arizona. You can find out more about Jance and her books at http://www.jajance.com/index.html

William Morrow, 400 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Love Our Vets by Welby O'Brien Giveaway

Love Our Vets Welby O'Brien
Perhaps you know someone struggling with PTSD. Maybe it is your spouse or family member. O'Brien has written an insightful and very practical book for spouses and friends of those experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

O'Brien lets us know that there is no easy solution for those in a relationship with a veteran with PTSD. She has found a principle consistent for a successful relationship, however. It is faith (connection with God) and love (connection with others) that heals and nourishes the relationship.

She explains PTSD, reminding us of the horrendous atrocities vets experience. They get locked in an emergency mode, living as if the original trauma might occur at any moment. She also describes the difficulties living with a person experiencing PTSD and suggests steps to get back to where one is not hijacked emotionally. One may not ever get over PTSD, but one can learn how to handle it better and have good relationships in spite of it.

I found a few of O'Brien's insights surprising. She says you cannot get others, such as friends or family members, to understand what it is like to live with a PTSD vet. She writes, “...one really cannot know what it is like to live with it until they do it.” (33) You can educate your friends, but don't expect them to “get it.” Another insight is about the self guilt a spouse might feel. “There is not some magic thing we should be doing to fix them.” (34)

O'Brien has included practical information for those living with vets. She writes about things that might trigger a PTSD experience, such as weather. She has tips for spouses when vets insist on having guns in the house. She includes ideas for expediting processes at government agencies.

She also includes a section on wisdom gleaned from people who love their vets. She shares the thoughts of many and this really gave me a sense of what others are going through. For the spouse of a vet, this is good encouragement to know that you are not alone.

O'Brien sums it up: “You may always have to walk on egg shells to some degree. Don't let it stop you from living and being you.” (171) There is a great deal of practical information and encouragement in this book to do that.

There is a limited discussion guide included. You can also find out more about the book at www.loveourvets.org.

You can watch an interview with Welby O'Brien here. I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Welby O'Brien holds a Master's Degree in counseling (Portland State University) and a teaching degree (Biola University). She has written or contributed to several books, is the founder of Love Our Vets support network, and is the wife of a veteran with PTSD. You can find out more about her and her books at http://welbyo.com/.

Deep River, 225 pages. You can buy a copy here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Good Spy Dies Twice by Mark Hosack

This novel reminds me of the complex spy novels of decades ago. The Russians are pitted against Americans and there is a secret group of powerful people working to take over the world.

Our main character is a flawed hero. An investigative reporter with a hit show, Jack falls apart on air, pursuing the conspiracy surrounding the death of a man he sent to investigate a strange and sometimes humming sound in Russia. Fast forward to Jack married and on his honeymoon. Little does he know his wife has brought him to a remote Alaska ski area because of her own investigations.

Conspiracy lovers will enjoy this novel. It is full of complex characters and plot twists. There are underground super secret facilities in the Alaska mountains. There is a spy from the Cold War who is still working with a group to establish a New World Order. There are lots of suspects as Jack tries to figure out the good guys and the bad. There is even a secret code that needs to be discovered and figured out.

The plot in this novel is quite complex. There are many characters to keep in mind and many of them are not who they pretend to be. There is plenty of action, some of it the kind one only finds in spy novels.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy an involved contemporary spy story with roots back in the era at the height of the Cold War.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mark Hosack is the author of this novel and Identity. He writes screenplays and lives in Los Angeles with his family. You can find out more at http://markhosack.com/.

Wide Awake Books, 324 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Improbable Planet by Hugh Ross

Is Earth special or is it just one of many similar planets? Is the fact that various life forms thrive on Earth a happy coincidence or evidence that the planet was specially designed?

Ross presents recent and new information on the number and complexity of the features essential to human existence, originating in a variety of scientific disciplines. He shows that Earth is an exceptional planet with an exceptional history, resulting in an abundance of life and a variety of species.

Ross goes into detail about the formation of the moon and the solar system, the requirements of habitability on Earth, the precise timing of the required gases and tectonic movements, the amount of sunlight required at various stages, and much more. There are nearly 40 pages of footnotes, showing how many scientific articles Ross has used.

I found that some of what I was taught in my youth is no longer considered true. Ross writes, studies “indicate that Earth never carried a rich, or even a dilute, supply of prebiotics.” (97) There was no such thing as a “primordial soup” that was taught decades ago. Another issue that has been misrepresented in the past is the complexity of the stages of life development. Ross reports, “The difference in structural complexity between simple anaerobic bacteria and photosynthetic bacteria employing a phycobilisome antenna may be compared to the difference between a bicycle and an automobile.” (110)

Ross suggests it is no accident that Earth is in the best possible location in the cosmic neighborhood for life's existence and survival. The number of factors that had to come together, the sheer difficulty of life developing on earth, is amazing. That God planned and prepared Earth for humans seems a reasonable explanation. Ross argues that a power and intelligence beyond nature is the most reasonable response to the question of the leap from nonlife to life.

The information in this book may be a bit technical for some readers. Nonetheless, this is an important book on the continuing developments in the investigation of the origin and survival of life on Earth. Ross makes it clear that when one truly investigates all of the scientific literature available, it is reasonable to conclude that something or someone beyond ourselves had a hand in the formation of Earth and the development of life. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in origins.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Hugh Ross (PhD, University of Toronto) is founder and president of Reasons to Believe (www.reasons.org). He is an astronomer and a member of the pastoral staff of a church near Caltech. He has addressed students and faculty on over 300 campuses in the United States and abroad on a wide variety of science-faith topics. He is the author of several books and lives in the Los Angeles area.

Baker Books, 285 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Counterfeit Comforts by Robia Scott

Scott thought “having it all” would lead to a fulfilling life. But successful dancing and acting careers left her feeling unfilled. She even tried New Age spirituality and self-help books. Nothing took away that need for Someone bigger than herself. Then she became a Christian.

Scott shares her own experience of still struggling with bulimia, a remnant from her teenage dancing days. Crying out to God, she sensed Him telling her she had too many counterfeit comforts. When she experienced disappointment or discomfort, she did not run to the Holy Spirit for comfort but something else, usually food.

Scott shares with us how we can be set free from those things that deceive and control us. She writes about choices, the Holy Spirit giving us opportunities to decide. She realized God was not going to make the decisions for her but He would be right along side her. She recommends journaling and being transparent with God. She shares her “on the floor” times when she is open to God, asking Him to show her the roots of her behavior. She includes teaching on spiritual warfare, the process of spiritual growth and the tools we have been given.

I really liked this book. Scott is very practical with her suggestions for spiritual growth and healing. She shares many of her own experiences so we have an idea of how the process works. I highly recommend this book to those who want to know how to recognize counterfeit comforts and deal with them. You'll find great encouragement and good strategy here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Robia Scott began her professional career at the age of sixteen as a dancer and actress in Hollywood. After twenty years in the industry, she walked away from it to follow her calling to ministry. Her ministry specializes in helping believers appropriate all God has promised. She and her husband are the founders and senior leaders of Deeper Life Church in Redondo Beach, California. They live in Orange County with their daughter. You can find out more at www.robiaministries.org.

Chosen Books, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kit Kat & Lucy by Lonnie Hull DuPont

Like many of us, DuPont had family pets in childhood but had spent two decades of adulthood without pets. Then a marriage, a move to Michigan and a stray cat changed that.

DuPont, adopted, had been trying to find her birth mother. She did manage to see her but never meet her. Letters to her went unanswered. She received word that her birth mother had died right around the time the first stray cat, Kit Kat, showed up. The cat helped her through the emotional process. DuPont also relates how the two cats they took in helped her with her anxiety issues. Holding the cats and rocking with them in her lap was very soothing.

This is a good book to show the connection we can have with animals and the healing opportunities they offer us. As a person with a few cats in the house myself, I enjoyed all the fun stories. The DuPonts had tried to leave the cat at another farm, and that the cat would travel eight miles back to them was amazing. I also learned a few things about cat care, such as the technique to use when moving to a new house.

DuPont's writing style is soothing. There are no particularly well crafted sentences that stood out. There is just the gentle and thoughtful account of how cats helped her heal areas in her life and provided a great deal of satisfaction.

I recommend this book to cat lovers or those considering getting a cat as a household pet.

You can download an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lonnie Hull DuPont is an award-winning poet, book editor, and writer. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she is the author of several books of nonfiction, including five compilations of animal stories under the pseudonym of Callie Smith Grant. A member of the Cat Writers Association, she lives in rural Michigan with her husband and their cats.

Revell, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.