Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Different Kind of Love Story by Landra Young Hughes with Holly Crawshaw

Landra was a young teen when her family came under fierce media scrutiny. Her dad was a successful pastor who was under (false) attacks. Landra responded to the family crisis by controlling the only thing she felt she could, her food intake. The action developed into a potentially deadly eating disorder.

Landra is open and honest about her experiences, sharing the truths she has learned from them. She helps us understand the shame and lies that pervaded her life. She encourages us with the healing that came out of honesty. She admonishes us to be kind to ourselves, to stop being the mean girl inflicting inner pain. She includes practical suggestions for conquering whatever obstacle is in front of us. These come from her own experiences and trust in God's wisdom.

This is a good book for teens and young women. The length is not overwhelming. Hughes and Crawshaw have a very readable writing style with many personal illustrations and a good dose of humor. Hughes is familiar with the influence of current media, like television, movies and social sites. Young women would relate to many of her experiences and insights. I recommend this book to young people desiring to understand and live out who you are in Christ, embracing the real you without shame. Unfortunately, the galley I read did not include any questions for personal reflection or group discussion.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Landra Young Hughes is the daughter of prominent pastor Ed Young Jr. and Lisa Young of Fellowship Church. Landra has a passion for seeing people maximize their God-given potential and embrace their God-defined self-worth. She and her husband lead Fellowship Church's Norman campus and live in the Norman, Oklahoma area with their daughter. Photo credit: Ej Young.
Holly Crawshaw is a writer and editor. She was on staff with North Point Ministries for eight years. Holly currently serves as lead writer to life stage strategies at Orange/The Rethink Group. She lives in Cumming, Georgia with her three daughters. Photo credit: Farrah Power Photography.

Baker Books, 176 pages.

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

Friday, February 21, 2020

Naked and Unafraid by Kevin Gerald

What an encouraging book. Gerald uses several experiences in David's life to encourage us to live a vulnerable life. He emphasizes David, celebrating upon the return of the ark, nearly naked yet dancing with joy. In contrast is David's wife, inside, safe but criticizing. Do we want to stay safe and be critical or are we willing to be adventurous and vulnerable?

One of my favorite parts of the book was the formula Gerald uses to renew the spirit of his mind, detailed in a previous book. It's a good tool to battle the negative internal talk. He calls it FAITH: (Loc 1401/2718)

  Focus on the positive
  Affirm yourself
  Imagine God doing something good
  Trust God in everything
  Hope for the best.

There were some surprises in the book, like the role of stress and the importance of fun. (Put your fun face on.) And there were some hard parts, like owning our whole story, even the parts over which we had no control. Another was Gerald's teaching on Psalm 119:165b, not being offended.

My favorite quote: “Pain is unavoidable, but staying hurt is optional.”

This book is a good general encouragement to be all God has called us to be. Gerald's writing style is a good one as he provides encouraging stories along with his teaching. Questions for personal reflection or group discussion are provided at the end of each chapter.

You can find out more at www.nakedandunafraidbook.com.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kevin Gerald is a popular speaker at international events and conferences. He provides leadership training through his organization Team Church. He founded and currently pastors Champions Centre, one of the largest nondenominational church in the Northwest. He and his wife live in the Seattle area. You can find out more at http://kevingerald.com.

FaithWords, 272 pages.

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

Unmaking the Presidency by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes

I had no idea there so was little law governing the behavior of the U.S. President. Like many Americans, I suppose, I assumed what has become the behavioral norm of civic minded presidents was somehow governed by rules. Not so. A president possess powers well beyond anything I imagined. We Americans have trusted a president would act in a manner within those powers to benefit the country, not himself or his friends. Civic virtue was assumed.

Most important, the authors claim, is the oath of office. It attempts to harness the office holder so that “presidents make earnest efforts to use their office on behalf of the country.” (22) The oath imposes duty and obligation. (23) But it only works when the president honestly means what he says when he recites it. The presidency doesn't work as we expect in the absence of good faith. The authors note Trump is not a hypocrite in this regard. “He doesn't pretend to civic virtue.” (31)

With respect to a president's speech, I was shocked to find that the Supreme Court has ruled that a president is entitled to immunity from liability. (98-99) The president can say something for which a private citizen would be held liable, yet with immunity.

It has become the norm that the Justice Department be apolitical but that is not mandated. (187) Federal prosecutors work for the president, for example. He can fire them and order them not to proceed with a particular investigation. The president can legally fire a special prosecutor or limit his power. (213)

Modern presidents have the power to do a great deal more than the founders...ever imagined.” (236) The office is especially vulnerable to personality, the authors note. Presidential speech about foreign countries, for example, be it a well crafted talk or a midnight tweet, is operational as foreign policy. (238) Domestic declarations must be approved for funding and there Congress has some control.

I was shocked at the broad powers the president has. In years past, civic responsibility ruled behavior. We have had centuries of developing the public expectation of the president's role. (189) Current behavior is at odds with that traditional understanding but is not necessarily opposed to constitutional laws.

I highly recommend this book. I learned a great deal about the role of the president, as defined by the Constitution, as we have come to expect it be fulfilled, and as evidenced in current behavior.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes are the executive editor and editor in chief, respectively, of Lawfare. Hennessey is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a CNN contributor; she was previously an attorney at the National Security Agency. Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of several previous books. Author photographs by Paul Morigi.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 432 pages.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Collision of Lies by Tom Threadgill

I enjoyed Threadgill's novel. It is a cold case mystery with an unusual premise. Three years ago a school bus was hit by a train. All the children died. Or did they? One of the parents has received a message supposedly from her child. Amara, a San Antonio police detective decides to pursue the possibility.

The plot is complex. It takes quite a bit to convince Amara, and us, that there is a possibility the children are alive. If that's the case, then there is the complex problem of how the accident was set up, who the unrecognizable bodies in the bus were, where might the living children be now, and how could Amara possibly retrieve them? All these questions are methodically dealt with in the novel. What I thought was an unreasonable plot turned out to be explainable, although I am not sure I understand all the science explanation. One of my pet peeves is an ending where the cavalry comes over the hill to save the lone cowboy. Well, I got a little peeved with this book.

The character development was good. I am always a bit leery when a male author has a female heroine. I did like Amara although my favorite character was the medical examiner with such a quirky personality.

Unfortunately, the Christian aspect of the novel is lacking, even though it was published by a “Christian” publisher.

This is the first in a new series by Threadgill and I enjoyed this one enough that I'll be watching for the next in the series.

You can read an excerpt here and watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tom Threadgill is a full time author and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He is currently on the suspense/thriller publishing board for LPC Books, a division of Iron Stream Media. He and his wife live in rural Tennessee. Photo Credit: © David M. Humphrey

Revell, 400 pages.

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

Tiny Habits by B J Fogg

I've read scores of books on forming habits so why would I read another one? Fogg proposes a new framework for developing change in our lives. His idea is to design new habits in tiny steps so that the motivation and ability are both high. He gives us the tools to evaluate the effectiveness of possible habits and our motivation to do them. He suggests establishing habits we can do in 30 seconds or less. He helps us understand the role of emotions in establishing habits. He informs us on the strategic nature of having prompts. He invites to celebrate our successes, something essential to cementing the habit.

I learned a great deal in this book, clarifying why I had been unsuccessful in habit making before and how to make habits the easiest to do. I learned I could redesign my environment to help in habit formation. Fogg provided strategies for growing habits and for stopping unwanted habits. He included many ideas for establishing habits in a work environment too.

Fogg has included many encouraging stories of people who have successfully established positive changes in their lives. He also includes a number of helpful lists and charts in his Appendixes as well as providing additional resources at TinyHabits.com.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

B J Fogg, PhD, founded the Behavior Design Lab at Standford University. In addition to research, Fogg teaches industry innovators how human behavior really works. He created the Tiny Habits Academy to help people around the world. He lives in Northern California and on Maui.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 320 pages.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ishmael Covenant Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

   His marriage in tatters and his career ruined by lies, Diplomatic Security Service agent Brian Mullaney is at the end of his rope. Banished to Israel as punishment by his agency, he's assigned to guard a US ambassador and an insignificant box. Little does he know that this new job will propel him straight into a crisis of global proportions.
   Inside the box is a messianic prophecy about the fate of the world. And a dark enemy known as The Turk and the forces of evil at his command are determined to destroy the box, the prophecy, and the Middle East as we know it. When Ambassador Cleveland gets in the way, his life and his daughter's life are threatened--and Mullaney must act fast.
   Now agents of three ancient empires have launched covert operations to secure nuclear weapons, in direct defiance of the startling peace treaty Israel and its Arab neighbors have signed. And a traitor in the US State Department is leaking critical information to a foreign power. It's up to Mullaney--still struggling with his own broken future--to protect the embassy staff, thwart the clandestine conspiracies, and unmask a traitor--before the desert is turned into a radioactive wasteland.
   Fans of Joel C. Rosenberg, Steven James, and Ted Dekker will relish the deadly whirlpool of international intrigue and end-times prophecy in Ishmael Covenant--and will eagerly await the rest of this new trilogy.

You can read an excerpt here. You can buy a copy here.

My Review

   This is a good novel for readers looking for insights into the history of the Middle East and the conflicts the region has experienced. Brennan provides a great deal of information on those areas as well as the current political tensions. There are periods of suspense and character introduction interspersed with paragraphs of historical and current religious and political context. An Author's Note at the end clarifies what aspects of the novel are based on fact.
   The novel has a very complex plot and Brennan takes a long time to set it up. There are a number of confusing political manipulations going on. There is a plethora of characters with similar sounding foreign names. Thank goodness Brennan has provided a two page list of characters at the beginning of the book.
   There is lots of head hopping. An example is the last paragraph on page 183, seen from Mullaney's viewpoint. The first paragraph on the next page is of a “he” viewpoint, but it took me a few sentences to see it was from a terrorist's viewpoint. Granted, there was a line break and the point of view is not first person but the frequent jumps in perspective broke the rhythm of reading for me.
   Potential readers should realize this is the first book in a new series. It is not a stand alone and the novel ends in the midst of an exciting scene. The next novel will need to be read to make sense of this one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

   Terry Brennan is the award-winning author of The Sacred Cipher, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, and The Aleppo Code, the three books in The Jerusalem Prophecies series. His latest release, Ishmael Covenant is the first in his new series, Empires of Armageddon.
   A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Brennan accumulated during his 22-year newspaper career. The Pottstown (PA) Mercury won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a two-year series published while he led the team as the newspaper’s Editor.
   Starting out as a sportswriter in Philadelphia, Brennan became an editor and publisher for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York and later moved to the corporate staff of Ingersoll Publications (400 newspapers in the U.S., Ireland and England) as Executive Editor of all U.S. newspaper titles.

   In 1996, Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending 12 years as VP Operations for The Bowery Mission and six years as Chief Administrative Officer for Care for the Homeless, both in New York City.
   Terry and his wife, Andrea, now live in Danbury, CT.
   You can find out more at www.terrybrennanauthor.com and follow him on Facebook (TerryBrennan) and Twitter (terrbrennan1).

Kregel Publications, 320 pages.

Giveaway 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Anointed With Oil by Darren Dochuk

How the concept of capitalism and free market economy became such an integral part of evangelical Christianity had been a mystery to me. There was certainly nothing in the Bible advocating or promoting big business and huge profits.

This book helped me understand the influential role oil barons played in the evangelical movement. I was made aware of the idea that oil was a natural resource God had given to America. Oil magnates considered themselves true patriots, using their profits to assure Christian culture and capitalism did not fall in the face of foreign influence. So big was the influence of oil money that World Wide Pictures (Billy Graham) made their first movie (Mr. Texas,1951) about a rancher turned oil man who found peace in Christ. The second movie was called Oiltown, U.S.A.

I even found out how the big business of oil turned toward the Republican party. When Democrats in power put restrictions on oil production, Republicans rose in anger, supporting the profitable oil industry. Eisenhower, developing the God and country and God and business themes, gave out oil grants. The relationship was cemented as oil money supported missionary work. Oil companies promoted themselves as the ultimate example of American free enterprise, especially against the threat of communism.

This is a huge book with just short of 600 pages of text and another 100 pages of notes. I am glad I could extend the check out time at my local public library. I am glad I read it as it helped me understand much better the current close relationships between capitalism, the Republican Party, and evangelical Christians.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Darren Dochuk is associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and a prize winning author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt. He has edited several books on American religious history. Born in Alberta, he now lives in South Bend, Indiana.

Basic Books, 688 pages.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Fateful Fall Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book


Book:  Fateful Fall
Author: Erin Unger
Genre:  Christian Romantic Suspense
Release Date: August 9, 2019

Private Investigator Ava Worthington and her partners head to the mountains to solve the death of a farmer’s son who was discovered murdered in an outhouse on the property. Without local cowboy Cory’s protection, Ava won’t get the chance to follow leads as the killer tries to stop her investigation. But Ava’s falling for Cory against her better judgment. She should be working and not pining after a cowboy. And Cory doesn’t want a relationship. His successful career was destroyed by a woman he trusted, and he won’t make the same mistake twice.

One suspect after another is cleared from Ava’s list until she’s sure she has the real killer targeted in her sights, but he’s hunting her, too. How will Ava and Cory find the killer and admit their love before they are buried under a mountain of secrets?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

I enjoyed this Christian romantic suspense. The emphasis is on the romance as there is little suspense. Unger does a good job of introducing us to the characters we will see in more novels in the series. There is just enough of the character background kept hidden so readers will want to read the next book. I liked the location and the scene descriptions made want to see the Smokey Mountains some time. The Christian faith of the characters is presented well. The mystery itself is a bit complex and there is a good twist near the end to make the resolution a surprise. This is an entertaining book for an evening of relaxation.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author


Erin Unger was raised in the hills of Virginia, exploring abandoned houses and reading the scariest books she could find. After marrying so young it would make a great romance novel, she has enjoyed an exciting life with her hubby. But her fast-paced life sometimes rivals the suspense in her books thanks to all her mostly grown children and a couple grandkids.

More from Erin


Come join us for the best Fall Apple Festival at Stoneridge Lodge and Farm! We’re waiting to welcome you to our delightful event. Take in the scent of hot apple cider and apple butter simmering over a warm fire. Check out the best hay maze this side of the mountain. And catch an act or two amongst the trees and river, where country dancers will kick up their heels and entertain you all day. And jump aboard our hayride, which trails through the prettiest parts of the Blue Ridge mountains this side of Virginia.
And don’t forget the delectable homemade meals ready for purchase. You’ll get the best funnel cakes and fried cookies you ever had, too.
But please do forgive the murder or two happening in the background. We have Ava Worthington and her investigation team on the books to take care of it. You’re probably not in danger…really. It’s just a family issue. You’re not related to the owners, are you? Because you should be fine if you’re not… Anyway, don’t let a little thing like murder keep you from making our annual fall festival a family tradition.

Blog Stops

Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Erin is giving away the grand prize of a $45 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.