Thursday, January 19, 2017

Your Miraculous Potential by Wayne Chaney

Chaney challenges readers by asking if we are good representatives of the kingdom of God. He suggests we might be living beneath our spiritual potential. He wants us to release the power of God in our lives.

He emphasizes the importance of hearing from God and responding in faith. We will see the miraculous, he says, in ways that are pleasing to God. It starts with having a passion to know God and His ways. He helps us understand hindrances, how to place ourselves in the right position, and how to recognize God's voice.

Chaney illustrates his teaching with stories from his own life, others he knows, and from the Bible. I really appreciated his own stories. He is very honest and shares a story of when he was sure he heard from God, followed through, and … nothing. Nonetheless, he encourages us to keep our ear to God, remain sensitive to His leading, and respond when He speaks.

I found it interesting that Chaney distinguished supernatural works not birthed out of an intimate fellowship with God and those authored by God. That might explain some of the craziness that has come out of the Charismatic movement.

This is a good book for Charismatic Christians about learning to hear the voice of God and then responding. Chaney gives good general instruction on the different ways God speaks and how we can position ourselves so that we are not hindered from hearing God.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Wayne Chaney pastors Antioch Church of Long Beach, California. He and his wife are cast members of Oxygen Network's television series, Preachers of L.A. Chaney has also appeared on several other television shows. He has a radio talk show on Sunday mornings and has served on many boards, task forces, and committees. He is married and has three children. You can find out more at www.waynechaney.com.

Whitaker House, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper

This novel is an amazingly well written one to be a debut effort. The present day murder mystery and the death of a teen decades ago are deftly intertwined in the well crafted plot. I was amazed at how the two events played back and forth as layers of lies and deceit were peeled away.

The setting is a drought stricken town in rural Australia. The desperation of the farmers and the effects of the drought on the town in general were very well portrayed. The relationships among the people of the town revealed well the underlying feelings. I especially appreciated the turmoil Federal Agent Falk experienced as he returned to his home town for the funeral of the man who had been his friend in teen years. He had been implicated in the death of the teen girl those decades ago and his presence causes a great deal of unrest among the locals. And when Falk realizes the death of his friend may have been murder rather than suicide, the anger and animosity in the town escalates.

This novel is a great murder mystery. It is also a great study in human relations, showing how past hurts affect present day relationships. The characters are well drawn. The setting of the parched Australian land is well described. As the plot unfolds and the mystery becomes more complex, there are some twists that kept me turning pages. I'll be watching for the next novel from this author.

I recommend this novel to mystery fans. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jane Harper worked as a print journalist for thirteen years. She lives in Melbourne with her family. You can find out more at http://janeharper.com.au/.

Flatiron Books, 336 pages.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hearing From God by David Stine

Stine's book is one of those rare ones that not only gives great encouragement but also includes practical suggestions for following through. Stine reminds us that God wants to communicate with us and that we must put ourselves in position to hear Him. He gives us precise suggestions, examples of how it works from his own life, and forty days of journal pages where we can follow his method and record our responses.

This is by far the best book I have read on hearing from God. I was a bit apprehensive at first. Using the scientific method to hear from God? But I was greatly impressed with what Stine has written. He is clear that hearing from God could never be reduced to an exact science. Using the approach he advocates, however, does give us a means to hear from God more clearly and then apply it to our lives.

Stine has developed a five step method based on the scientific method. It includes determining a time and place to meet with God, being still and worshiping, reading and praying (making observations, asking application questions about growth, obedience, direction, sin, promises, accountability), then listening and writing, and finally sharing and obeying. He includes great examples from his own life how he has used this method and the results that have come from it.

Stine reminds us that it takes time to establish a new habit and it takes time to develop our ability to hear God's voice. He asks for a forty day commitment of thirty minutes a day. He provides the format in the last half of the book, giving forty days of worksheets with Scripture passages and space to journal our responses.

I highly recommend this book. Is there any more important skill for a believer to develop than hearing from God? Stine has done an excellent job of explaining the philosophy of his method, giving examples of how it works, and then providing us with the materials to do it ourselves.

Don't bother with this book, however, if you are not willing to make the commitment for which he asks. Stine reminds us that there is no promise that God will respond to those who seek Him half heartedly.

Food for thought: “God's Word has sustenance that provides exactly what we need at the right time and in the right way, but we have to set aside time to seek out His message in order to find it and receive it.” (876/3596)

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

David Stine is the lead pastor of DC Metro Church. He has a master's in practical theology and a doctoral degree in leadership from Regent University. He lives in the larger DC area with his wife and their four children.

Howard Books, 320 pages.

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith

Smith has provided readers with a complex plot in this mystery. It is London in 1920. Events in Russia have forced some of that country's royalty to find refuge in London. Poppy Denby, reporting on arts and entertainment for The Daily Globe, gets involved when there is a murder at an exhibition of Russian art. A Faberge Egg is missing from the exhibition. Poppy and her friends are determined to unravel the mystery of the murder and the theft.

One reason I like this series of mysteries is because of the effort Smith takes to be accurate in historical detail. While she includes historical information at the end of the novel, she also includes some information about White and Red Russians at the novel's beginning. Much of the plot revolves around those two groups of Russians and their attempts to obtain the Faberge Egg and the information it contains.

The narrative is mainly the 1920 era but we do go back periodically to 1917 – 1918 Russia for events leading up to the 1920 action in London. In the process, we learn about the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and the treatment of the Tsar Nicholas and his family. We also learn about the Faberge Eggs and that some of them had secret compartments.

This is a complex novel with many characters. Smith provides a list of characters at the beginning of the book. That's a good idea as some characters are not who they seem. It's also important to know whether the Russian characters are White or Red.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a complex plot involving a number of characters. I think the plot was more complex than I appreciate. At the end, I really didn't understand why some of the Russians behaved as they did. I did like the attention to period detail, the dialog, music, etc. And I do like Poppy as a character and will be looking for the next in the series.

You can find out more about Poppy Denby and the novels at http://www.poppydenby.com/. You can read my review of the first in the series, The Jazz Files, here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Fiona Veitch Smith has worked as a journalist in South Africa and the UK and is now an Associate Lecturer in Journalism at Newcastle University.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 336 pages.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Moving Forward by John Siebeling

Siebeling looks at various issues that hold us back in our spiritual walk, such as emotions, worry, habits, anger, and more. He gives encouragement to overcome the issues, giving information from a variety of books, studies, and the Bible. I found the book contained great encouragement but frequently lacked practical strategy.

He writes, “We have to make the decision to change and then discipline ourselves to make choices that will produce the new habits we want in our life (willpower).” (79) And, “Breaking free from life-controlling issues isn't easy.” (97) One of his “simple 'starter steps'” is “Quit the habit.” (98) He makes encouraging statements like, “You need to make the choice to be done with that way of living.” (98) Sometimes I felt Siebeling told me what I should be doing without providing the tools I needed to do it. At other times he did have some good suggestions, such as the questions he provides to help in making good decisions. Sometimes he gives the idea and leaves the work to the readers. For example, “For every worry, find a promise in God's Word to address your situation.” (67)

God's grace gives us the power to walk away from anything holding us back,” Siebeling declares. (102) Nonetheless, he also writes, “Some emotional hangups require self-discipline and practical lifestyle adjustments; others may require addressing more serious underlying issues or getting professional help.” (51) He also suggests professional help may be necessary when dealing with “life-controlling issues.” (97) It seems that, while God's grace gives us the power, we may need professional help as well. I would have preferred knowing practical ways of seeing God's power at work within me.

This book contains lots of instruction. For example, “Choose to be faithful to what you started. Faithfulness has rewards, so keep working even when it's hard.” (148) Here's another: “Make tithing your top financial priority each month. Find a way to make it work and adjust the rest of your budget to fit around it.” (157,158) If you respond well to that kind of instruction, along with some great stories illustrating the principles, you'll love this book. If, however, you need some practical coaching on how to keep working even when it's hard and finding a way to make tithing a priority, you will have to look elsewhere.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John Siebeling is the founder and lead pastor of The Life Church, located in the metro Memphis, Tennessee, area. He is the author of several previous books and has a weekly television program.

Baker Books, 224 pages.

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn

Kindness is a simple concept but what a difference it makes in the lives of others - and our own. In fact, Feldhahn says the factor above all others that helps us thrive is not how we are treated but how we choose to treat others. Our happiness starts with the choice to be kind, especially when we don't feel like it.

Unlike other books I have recently read, Feldhahn not only encourages us to be kind but actually gives us lots of strategies to do so. It's not easy as we live in a culture of unkindness. We have to be purposeful and persistent. Feldhahn gives specific yet simple steps to help us be kind to our spouses and to others in general. She includes thirty suggestions for husbands, another thirty for wives, and then a final thirty for being kind to another person in general. She even helps us find out what we might be doing to sabotage our relationships.

I was surprised that Feldhahn writes that a decision to be unconditionally kind takes away the power of others to make us crazy. She also informs us that kindness is not the same as being nice or not rocking the boat. Being kind does not mean avoiding challenges.

I am impressed with this book. I expected the encouragement and the stories as illustrations. What I didn't expect was so many practical ideas for showing kindness. Her chapters containing the thirty days of suggestions are great. Her ideas on the eight types of kindness are great too.

I highly recommend this book for all readers. We need to practice more kindness and this book is full of practical ideas to help us on the way. Feldhahn says it takes thirty days to change our thinking and habits but again, there is plenty of material in the book for that. She even provides a website where one can get an assessment and sign up for thirty days of emails with encouraging ideas.

Food for thought: “It is only when you are actively kind to someone who is not kind to you that you see the true power of Christ-like kindness.”

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Shaunti Feldhahn received her graduate degree from Harvard University and was an analyst on Wall Street before becoming a social researcher, best-selling author and popular speaker. Her books have sold more than two million copies in 23 languages. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and their two children. You can find out more at http://www.shaunti.com/.

WaterBrook, 224 pages.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Riverman by Alex Gray Giveaway

The Riverman

by Alex Gray

on Tour January 9 - February 15, 2017

Publisher synopsis:

Fans of atmospheric police procedurals will love watching Glasgow vividly come to life with the shocking twists and turns that have made Alex Gray an international bestseller
When a dead body is fished out of Glasgow’s River Clyde the morning after an office celebration, it looks like a case of accidental death. But an anonymous telephone call and a forensic toxicology test give Detective Chief Inspector William Lorimer reason to think otherwise. Probing deeper into the life and business of the deceased accountant, a seemingly upright member of the community, Lorimer finds only more unanswered questions.
What is the secret his widow seems to be concealing? Was the international accounting firm facing financial difficulties? What has become of the dead man’s protégé who has disappeared in New York? And when another employee is found dead in her riverside flat these questions become much more disturbing. Lorimer must cope not only with deceptions from the firm, but also with suspicions from those far closer to home . . .

My review:

This is a great novel to read during these dark winter evenings. The plot is complex yet engaging. I enjoyed how the facts of the case were uncovered bit by bit. It took dogged determination on Lorimer's part to get to the root of the mayhem. The police work is methodical but kept my interest throughout the novel. I felt the ruminations of the characters were well balanced with periodic action. The point of view jumped around a bit at the beginning but the threads were brought together as the novel progressed.

Relationships are an essential aspect of this novel. They are more important in this novel than those concentrating on action. In two of the marriages, there was some concern about the husband having an affair. I liked how those concerns brought a sense of reality to the characters.

This is the first novel about DCI Lorimer I have read by Gray. I could tell there was some back story I had missed, such as between Lorimer and his wife, but this novel reads very well on its own. I really enjoyed the setting and the focus on the river in Glasgow.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy the European style of mysteries, with methodical plots that uncover the mystery layer by layer.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedurals
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 10th 2017
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0062659138 (ISBN13: 9780062659132)
Series: A DCI Lorimer Novel, #4
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

April
THE RIVERMAN
The riverman knew all about the Clyde. Its tides and currents were part of his heritage. His father and others before him had launched countless small craft from the banks of the river in response to a cry for help. Nowadays that cry came in the form of a klaxon that could waken him from sleep, the mobile phone ringing with information about where and when. It wouldn’t be the first time that he’d pulled someone from the icy waters with only a hasty oilskin over his pajamas.
This morning, at least, he’d been up and doing when the call came. The body was over by Finnieston, past the weir, so he’d had to drive over the river towing a boat behind him on the trailer. He was always ready. That was what this job was all about: prompt and speedy response in the hope that some poor sod’s life could be saved. And he’d saved hundreds over the years, desperate people who were trying to make up their mind to jump off one of the many bridges that spanned the Clyde or those who had made that leap and been saved before the waters filled their lungs.
George Parsonage had been brought up to respect his river. Once it had been the artery of a great beating heart, traffic thronging its banks, masts thick as brush-wood. The tobacco trade with Virginia had made Glasgow flourish all right, with the preaching of commerce and the praising of a New World that was ripe for plucking. The names of some city streets still recalled those far-off days. Even in his own memory, the Clyde had been a byword for ships. As a wee boy, George had been taken to the launch of some of the finer products of Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry. But even then the river’s grandeur was fading. He’d listened to stories about the grey hulks that grew like monsters from the deep, sliding along the water, destined for battle, and about the cruise liners sporting red funnels that were cheered off their slipways, folk bursting with pride to be part of this city with its great river.
The romance and nostalgia had persisted for decades after the demise of shipbuilding and cross-river ferries. Books written about the Clyde’s heyday still found readers hankering after a time that was long past. The Glasgow Garden Festival in the eighties had prompted some to stage a revival along the river and more recently there had been a flurry of activity as the cranes returned to erect luxury flats and offices on either side of its banks. Still, there was little regular traffic upon its sluggish dark waters: a few oarsmen, a private passenger cruiser and the occasional police launch. Few saw what the river was churning up on a daily basis.
As he pushed the oars against the brown water, the riverman sent up a silent prayer for guidance. He’d seen many victims of despair and violence, and constantly reminded himself that each one was a person like himself with hopes, dreams and duties in different measure. If he could help, he would. That was what the Glasgow Humane Society existed for, after all. The sound of morning traffic roared above him as he made his way downstream. The speed of response was tempered by a need to row slowly and carefully once the body was near. Even the smallest of eddies could tip the body, filling the air pocket with water and sending it down and down to the bottom of the river. So, as George Parsonage approached the spot where the body floated, his oars dipped as lightly as seabirds’ wings, his eyes fixed on the shape that seemed no more than a dirty smudge against the embankment.
The riverman could hear voices above but his eyes never left the half-submerged body as the boat crept nearer and nearer. At last he let the boat drift, oars resting on the rowlocks as he finally drew alongside the river’s latest victim. George stood up slowly and bent over, letting the gunwales of the boat dip towards the water. Resting one foot on the edge, he hauled the body by its shoulders and in one clean movement brought it in. Huge ripples eddied away from the side as the boat rocked upright, its cargo safely aboard.
The victim was a middle-aged man. He’d clearly been in the water for some hours so there was no question of trying to revive him. The riverman turned the head this way and that, but there was no sign of a bullet hole or any wound that might indicate a sudden, violent death. George touched the sodden coat lightly. Its original camel colour was smeared and streaked with the river’s detritus, the velvet collar an oily black. Whoever he had been, his clothes showed signs of wealth. The pale face shone wet against the pearly pink light of morning. For an instant George had the impression that the man would sit up and grasp his hand, expressing his thanks for taking him out of the water, as so many had done before him. But today no words would be spoken.There would be only a silent communion between the two men, one dead and one living, before other hands came to examine the corpse.
George grasped the oars and pulled away from the embankment. Only then did he glance upwards, nodding briefly as he identified the men whose voices had sounded across the water. DCI Lorimer caught his eye and nodded back. Up above the banking a couple of uniformed officers stood looking down. Even as he began rowing away from the shore, the riverman noticed a smaller figure join the others. Dr. Rosie Fergusson had arrived.
‘Meet you at the Finnieston steps, George,’ Lorimer called out.
The riverman nodded briefly, pulling hard on the oars, taking his charge on its final journey down the Clyde.
Excerpt from The Riverman by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Alex Gray. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins | WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.
Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers' Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.
A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Connect with Alex Gray on her Website & on Twitter.

 

Tour Participants:

Click here to view the 'The Riverman by Alex Gray' Tour Participants

Don't Miss Your Chance in this Giveaway!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and William Morrow. There will be 3 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of The Riverman by Alex Gray. The giveaway begins on January 9th and runs through February 23rd, 2017.
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 I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Eden The Animals' Parable by Keith Korman Giveaway

Eden Keith Korman
Korman has crafted a fictional account of some of the gospel events as seen though the eyes of animals, especially a dog. Eden is a faithful follower of Jesus and is near to see and hear what Jesus experienced and taught. Imagined events and conversations have been added, including supposed dialog.

As is often the case when fictionalizing the gospels, there are a few instances of straying from the gospel accounts. Matthew 26:15 says Judas asked for payment to betray Jesus. Korman portrays Judas as a troubled man who, after a conversation with the chief priests, finds the bag of silver outside the doors in a blind alley. Matthew 27:5 says Judas threw the money into the temple before hanging himself. In this novel, the bag of silver is found at the feet of Judas' hanging body. John 19:14b tells us Pilate told the Jews, “Here is your king.” Korman has the son of Herod the Great saying it. Also, after Jesus experienced the temptation in the wilderness, He is described as “beaten.” I would have rather had Jesus described as victorious. Those may not be earth shaking deviations from the gospel accounts but I did find them disconcerting.

Readers who are familiar with the gospel accounts may enjoy this tale. It gives a different slant and interpretation of many of the events. I found it off just enough from the gospel accounts to be distracting. The use of “thee” and “thou” on occasion was odd too. I did appreciate the thought provoking portrayal of the Hollow Man, a shadowing figure sowing evil in the hearts of Judas and the crowd. I would not recommend this book to those unfamiliar with the biblical gospel accounts.

You can find out more about the book and its animals at https://www.edentheanimalsparable.com/.

I am participating in a blog tour of this book. You can find other reviews here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Keith Korman is an American literary agent and novelist.

Liberty Island Media, 183 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review.