Saturday, October 24, 2020

Spiritual Intelligence by Kris Vallotton

We're familiar with IQ (intelligence quotient) and the newer EQ (emotional quotient) but SQ? Vallotton introduces us to the spiritual (intelligence) quotient. It deals with the divine connection, that part of us that has access to the mind and wisdom of Christ. We can learn to live from that source rather than just what we know in our minds.

I like Vallotton's example of a smart phone. Such a phone contains lots of information within itself, in its memory. Connect that phone to wi-fi and it has the ability to access almost unlimited information. We Christians experience something similar when we access the mind of Christ.

I like Vallotton's insight into actually hearing from God through the Spirit and understanding what is being said. It is hard, he says. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit takes time. He experimented and became more confident, partly by missing it so many times. (53) He does give us some practical keys, suggestions for learning to understand the Spirit.

Here is another insight I think very clever. People would come up to him, saying they had a word from the Lord for him. The Lord had given him a special number years ago. If the person mentioned the number, Vallotton would know the message was truly from the Lord. (55)

Vallotton went a bit into a couple of areas I don't like, namely the give to get ten times back idea and the idea we can create reality with our faith. Other than that, I really appreciate this book. It is good for understanding Scripture such as 1 Cor. 2:16, indicating we have the mind of Christ. Vallotton helps us learn how to allow the Spirit to guide our lives. He has included a number of personal experiences to illustrate his teaching. The book has a charismatic, or spirit-filled basis and encourages tapping into spiritual gifts. This book is a good challenge to live Spirit led.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kris Vallotton is the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and Bethel Media. He is also the founder of Moral Revolution and Bethel School of Technology, as well as chairman of Advance Redding. He is a bestselling author, having written more than a dozen books and manuals. He is also an international conference speaker and leadership consultant. He and his wife live in Redding, have four children and nine grandchildren. You can find out more at Photo Credit: © Lucas Sankey

Chosen, 224 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.)

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Refrain Within Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: The Refrain Within

Author: Liz Tolsma

Genre: WWII Fiction

Release Date: September 29, 2020

To save a life, would you betray everyone you love?

Hungary in 1944 is a dark place. The Nazis have invaded and turned the country upside down, their evil making its way into every life.

Clarinetist Eva Bognar is engaged to conductor and composer Patrik Kedves, happily planning her wedding. At first she doesn’t think the war will affect her directly; everyone around her can be trusted to do the right thing. Then her Jewish best friend and sister-in-law Zofia goes missing–and instead of the Gestapo being to blame, a friend says it was Patrik who led Zofia away. Has he betrayed Eva and everything the family stands for?

When the rest of the family’s lives are directly threatened, Patrik’s secrets must come to light. The Bognars flee for the border in hopes of getting out of the country to the safety of Palestine. Eva must put her life and the lives of everyone she loves in the hands of the very man who betrayed her–and they may not all make it out of the war alive . . .

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Tolsma gives us a touching look at Hungary in 1944, after Germany had invaded the country. We see how people existed during the oppression. People still fell in love and got engaged. Some worked to undermine the Germans with resistance activities. Several of the characters are musicians so a prominent theme in the book is how music is essential to well being.

A major issue in the plot is truth. At one point Patrick says, “Sometimes we have to lie to protect those we love.” (Loc 3722/4819) He had lied to his fiance and her family as to his secret resistance activities. Zofia had kept her activities a secret from her husband. I can see that issue leading to a good discussion on a reading group.

One thing I don't like in novels is suspense as the result of poor choices by characters. In the early part of the novel, the characters knew the danger of Nazi rule yet still did unthinking acts. I read statements like, "How could they have done that? They knew better?" (Loc 786/4819) “Maybe we should have taken more precautions.” (Loc 2108/4819) Near the end of the novel, when Eva realizes she had not checked to see if they had been followed says, “How stupid of us.” (Loc 4269/4819) I really felt the characters acted too naively for the situation they were in.

Readers who like WW II fiction will appreciate this one. It will give you insight into the conditions and life of those in Hungary during that time.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

About the Author

Passionate might best describe Liz Tolsma. She loves writing, research, and editing. Her passion shone through in her first novel which was a double award finalist. On any given day, you might find her pulling weeds in her perennial garden, walking her hyperactive dog, or curled up with a good book. Nothing means more to her than her family. She’s married her high-school sweetheart twenty-eight years ago. Get her talking about international adoption, and you might never get her to stop. She and her husband adopted three children, including a son who is a U.S. Marine, and two daughters.

More from Liz

This is the third book in a series all set around music. The first heroine, Anna in The Melody of the Soul, was a violinist. The second heroine, Natia in When the Heart Sings, sang beautifully. So what did I choose for this heroine?

When I was in fifth grade, the band teacher from the middle school came to our class and encouraged us to join. She brought instruments with her for us to try. I really wanted to play the flute. I thought it was very feminine. But all the girls wanted to play that, and I would have to be really good to get a good chair. So I decided on the clarinet. I played all through middle school and high school, making first chair a couple of times. I participated in marching band and in solo and ensemble contests, earning a couple of first places in state competitions. Even after my “career” ended, I continued to play from time to time. I still play in church. I love the rich, full sound of the instrument. When played well, the clarinet is beautiful. It can be playful and happy or dark and sad. It can skip and it can cry. I’m very glad now that I chose the clarinet instead of the flute.

That’s why the heroine of The Refrain Within plays the clarinet. In fact, she comes from a family of clarinet makers, and her family stamp on the barrel of a clarinet means a great deal to her. As God would have it, my editor, Janyre Tromp, is also a clarinet player. Between the two of us, we worked hard bring out the unique aspects of playing clarinet, like the callous that forms on the inside of your bottom lip.

Eva is a special character to me because we share this passion for the clarinet. There have been many times throughout my life that my clarinet has skipped with me and plenty of times when it has cried with me. Music is God’s beautiful gift to us, and I thank Him for the opportunity to share some of that with you in The Refrain Within.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 23

Among the Reads, October 23

Maureen's Musings, October 23

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 24

Texas Book-aholic, October 24

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, October 25

deb's Book Review, October 25

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 25

By The Book, October 26

lakesidelivingsite, October 26

A Baker's Perspective, October 26

Inklings and notions, October 27

CarpeDiem, October 27

Mary Hake, October 27

For Him and My Family, October 28

Reflections From My Bookshelves, October 28

Emily Yager, October 28

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 29

Older & Smarter?, October 29

Genesis 5020, October 29

Betti Mace, October 30

Christian Bookaholic, October 30

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 30

Artistic Nobody, October 31 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Simple Harvest Reads, October 31 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Rebecca Tews, November 1

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 1

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 1

Connie's History Classroom, November 2

Where Crisis & Christ Collide, November 2

Splashes of Joy, November 2

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 3

As He Leads is Joy, November 3

Bigreadersite, November 3

Pause for Tales, November 4

Hallie Reads, November 4

Southern Gal Loves to Read, November 4

Amanda Tero, author, November 5

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, November 5

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, November 5


To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. 

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(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, October 21, 2020

The Return by Nicholas Sparks

Sparks is a great story teller and this is another good novel about the power of love, both romantic love and the selfless, giving kind of love. The character development is mediocre. Each of the main characters has huge secrets that are very slowly revealed. I wondered if I would ever know what happened to Trevor in the Middle East and why he experienced PTSD. I wondered if I would ever know why Natalie was so hesitant to allow herself to love Trevor. At times I was frustrated with unexplained actions by characters and got a little impatient.

Two aspects of the book I really liked. One was the setting. I felt Sparks did an excellent job of anchoring the story in the location. I felt like I was there. I also liked learning about bees.

But I was also troubled by one aspect of the plot. Trevor and Natalie fall madly in love and after two weeks of various times together, without much of really getting to know each other, they walk hand in hand to the bedroom. I almost quit reading right there. That such a beautifully crafted love would turn almost immediately to physical desire just turned me off. By the end of the book I was satisfied with the total story but as a reader, I felt I had been deceived. I didn't like it. That scene could have certainly been rewritten so as not to be deceptive without changing the ultimate story at all.

The plot revolves around misunderstanding, past hurts, forgiveness and restoration. I felt the whole story was a bit predictable but then, that's probably why we read Sparks. We love it when everybody gets to live happily ever after. While not his best novel, it was entertaining.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Nicholas Sparks is a popular author with over 100 million copies of his books sold. His novels include fifteen #1 New York Times bestsellers. Eleven of his books have been made into motion pictures. You can find out more at

Grand Central Publishing, 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, October 20, 2020

Dangerous Pursuits by Susan Hunter

I enjoyed this novel, the latest in the Leah Nash series. The co-owner of a small town newspaper, I really like how Leah gets involved in solving murders. She is a good amateur sleuth, taking risks, making leaps in investigative thinking, getting herself in precarious situations, and ultimately identifying the murderer. She is also feisty in her defense of a print newspaper, going head to head with a competing online news service.

Hunter's writing style is good. I like how she balances Leah's unusual sleuthing activities with relationship issues. And Leah does have relationship issues, often being abrupt or critical. Forgiving are the two men who love her. Yes, two. And there is a hint at the end of this novel that the guy I am rooting for may have a chance.

I like the supporting characters, especially Miguel. Everyone should have a sidekick like him. And Courtney. Could there be a more ditsy and ineffectual receptionist?

This is another good novel in the Leah Nash Mysteries. The plot is good with a fine, even though expected, twist at the end, leading to a quick but of suspense. I have enjoyed seeing Leah mature as I have read through all the books in the series. I will definitely be looking for the next one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Susan Hunter spent years as a reporter and then managing editor of a small daily newspaper. She then worked at a university in publications and marketing, also teaching a few classes in English composition. She and her husband live in rural Michigan.

Severn River Publishing, 420 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, October 19, 2020

Certain Threat Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book: Certain Threat

Author: Kimberly Rose Johnson

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Katrina White’s garage explodes and she fears someone is out to get her.

Not long after Katrina overhears two people talking about robbing the bank where she works, her attached garage explodes. With the help of her neighbor, Frank Davis, she escapes the burning home after a storage shelf falls over, trapping her beneath it.

The co-owner of Protection Inc. has one thing on his mind for the week of Christmas—rest and relaxation, but when his favorite neighbor needs his help he calls in his team. Unable to turn their backs on someone Frank clearly has feelings for, the co-owners agree to help out Katrina.

When things escalate, Frank is certain of two things—he cares a lot for Katrina and he can’t let anything happen to her.

Join the team of Protection Inc. this Christmas where love is in the air even in the midst of danger.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

I enjoyed this contemporary romantic suspense. Johnson's writing style is straight forward and easy to read. There are no confusing plot twists. The character interactions and dialogue are good. The romance is done well with one developing in this novel and another expanding from a previous novel. I appreciate the setting, especially Warm Beach. Having been there many times, I do wish Johnson would have included more description, such as glimpses of the snow capped Olympic Mountains across the sound.

This is a good book for readers who like a straightforward novel with a clear plot and understandable characters. You will not be distracted by clever literary techniques but will find a good spiritual message tucked inside.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Award winning author Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing. She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.

Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

More from Kimberly

Certain Threat was one of my favorite books to write. There are three point of view characters. Two have been in the series from book one and the third is a new addition in this book.

I adore Frank, the hero of this book. The man is tough, honest, and always does his best to do the right thing. He’s a good example for his younger business partners who like to do things their own way, especially Carissa.

For me the most fun part about writing this book was getting inside Frank’s head. He comes across as tough and sometime gruff, but he is a marshmallow on the inside when it comes to Katrina, his neighbor. Katrina brings out a side in Frank we haven’t yet witnessed and it was a blast to write—no pun intended. LOL you’ll understand when you read the book.

I look forward to writing future books in this series and going deeper with the rest of the Protection Inc. team and their friends.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 19

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 19

Worthy2Read, October 20

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 20

Texas Book-aholic, October 21

Inklings and notions, October 22

deb's Book Review, October 22

Betti Mace, October 23

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, October 23

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, October 24

Mary Hake, October 24

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 25

April Hayman, Author, October 25

Splashes of Joy, October 26

Artistic Nobody, October 26 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, October 27

mypreciousbitsandmusings, October 27

Aryn the Libraryan, October 28

CarpeDiem, October 28

For Him and My Family, October 29

Daysong Reflections, October 29

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 30

Bigreadersite, October 30

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 31

Blossoms and Blessings, October 31

Simple Harvest Reads, November 1 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Bizwings Blog, November 1


To celebrate her tour, Kimberly is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(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.)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Praying for Emily by Tom, Kari and Emily Whitehead with Danelle Morton

This is a very touching story. I am impressed with the honesty of Emily's parents as they share their journey. We readers follow along as they see the bruises then receive the diagnosis. We share in their momentary celebrations and grieve with them on the setbacks. Then there is a relapse, indicating the cancer had become resistant to the standard therapies. There is the suggestion to arrange hospice. Then there is the hope of a new type of treatment.

In addition to being a very well written memoir, this book is very informative. I found out how a bone marrow transplant works, including the high dose of chemo and full body radiation wiping out the bone marrow, making room for the healthy cells to grow.

I learned about T cell therapy, how the cells are harvested from the patient's blood by separating them in a specially designed centrifuge, growing them, attaching a synthetic molecule giving them the ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells, then reinfusion, increasing their presence in the blood stream. The engineered T cells continue to kill cancer cells until they are gone. While the therapy had been tried on a few adults, Emily was the first child to experience it. And it did not go well. Soon it looked like Emily would die.

There is a very positive aspect of this memoir, revealing the faith and dogged determination of Emily's parents. Emily is a trooper through so much of the treatments. And there are special people who come alongside like Nurse Karli and her well planned illustrated treatment explanations for Emily. There were university students like Becky and Ariana and dedicated family members.

There is an agonizingly realistic side to the memoir too. Emily's parents were desperate at times, moving Emily from one hospital to another and then back, unsure of where the best treatment for Emily was to be found. They second guessed their choices. They alienated one doctor with their decision and subsequent reversal. Such raw honesty will certainly encourage other parents in a similar situation.

I highly recommend this captivating memoir, well written and informative. It will inspire your.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Tom, Kari, and Emily Whitehead are cofounders of the Emily Whitehead Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for pediatric cancer immunotherapy research. Emily's story has been featured in Ken Burn's PBS documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, HBO's VICE Special Report: Killing Cancer, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Parents magazine, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, Fox News, CNN, and the Stand Up to Cancer telethon. The Whitehead family travels worldwide as keynote speakers to inspire others and advocate for research funding to develop less-toxic childhood cancer treatments. When they aren't traveling, Tom works as a journey lineman for Penelec of First Energy, and Kari is a registered dietitian and research project manager. Emily attends high school and plans to become an artist or filmmaker. They live in Central Pennsylvania.

Danelle Morton is a journalist and author who has collaborated on sixteen books including four New York Times bestsellers.

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.)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Sowing Season by Katie Powner

About the Book:

Forced to sell his family farm after sacrificing everything, 63-year-old Gerrit Laninga no longer knows what to do with himself. 15-year-old Rae Walters has growing doubts about The Plan her parents set to help her follow in her father's footsteps. When their paths cross just as they need a friend the most, Gerrit's and Rae's lives change in unexpected ways.

My Review:

This is certainly a touching novel. Having been raised on a farm in western Washington and being of Dutch descent, Powner has done a good job of creating Gerrit and his dedication to the dairy farm. His stubbornness and decisions to put the farm before the needs of his children is very real. I could understand how he had alienated his children and his wife. Right on for character construction there.

I appreciate the interesting correlation between Rae's teenage social interaction development and the older Gerrit's struggle with the same. Powner added another young person, Morgan, painfully figuring out what the future held. I was engaged in how these people really tried to figure out new experiences and relationships.

One aspect of the novel I found lacking was the setting. Gerrit felt the land was very important to him. He loved it and he loved working outside. But we readers never really saw what he would have seen, the snow capped Cascades to the east or the towering Olympics to the west. Was the farm flat or with hills? Were there pockets of trees as is often the case in western Washington farms? I at first thought the story's location was up north towards Lynden where there are so many Dutch farmers. But then it became clear the location was farther south and close to I-5. I would have liked to see the narrative grounded more distinctly in its location.

This is a touching novel and I recommend it. Older readers will appreciate the struggles Gerrit had in trying to find his way after life as he had known it for decades suddenly changed. The novel is a very good debut effort and I will certainly be looking for the next one from this author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Katie Powner grew up on a dairy farm in the Pacific Northwest but now calls Montana her home. She has worked alongside her husband in youth ministry for over a decade and is a mom to the third power: biological, adoptive, and foster. In addition to writing fiction, she blogs about family and advocates for more families to open their homes to children in need. The Sowing Season is her debut novel. You can find out more at Photo: E.A.H. Creative Photography.

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.)

Backlash by Rachel Dylan

The emphasis in this novel is character relationships more than suspense. Many of the characters are from the first book in the series. This plot concentrates on Layla, a CIA Agent and Izzy, an NCIS Agent. Both women come under investigation and must defend themselves to save their careers. Layla is being accused of being a double agent and Izzy is a suspect in the murder of a colleague who assaulted her when she was in the police department. There is some sporadic suspense as the leader of a cartel wants to kill Layla. This is a result of an operation happening before the events in this novel.

A central aspect of Layla's part of the plot is a mole in the CIA and her location being repeatedly revealed. Crooked law enforcement officials seem to be a popular plot point right now and finding one in this novel disappointed me. Izzy's part of the plot dealt with sexual assault. That brought added interest to the novel as I am not sure Layla's story would have been sufficient.

There is a very good Christian message in this novel as Layla reconnects with Hunter, a man who previously hurt her deeply. Forgiveness and honestly is essential in re-establishing their relationship. He has had doubts about his faith and that is addressed well.

The end to this novel is a bit quick. When Layla's issues are finally cleared up, all of a sudden Izzy's are too. That seemed a bit unrealistic to me.

This is the second in a series but read well on its own. You can read my review of the first in the series, End Game, here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Rachel Dylan is an award-winning and bestselling author of legal thrillers and romantic suspense. She has practiced law for over a decade, including being a litigator at one of the nation's top law firms. Her works have won the Holt Medallion, the Maggie Award, and the FHL Reader's Choice Award. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their five furkids. You can find out more at Photo: Erika Aitken Photography.

Bethany House, 320 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.)