Monday, September 24, 2018

Lies by T M Logan

I liked this novel. Joe sort of accidentally sees his wife having coffee with another man. That sets off a world of lies. I like how we find out the truth as Joe does. We are as puzzled with what is going on as he is. There is a plot twist near the end that I did not see coming. I found Joe an engaging character. I really felt for him as he tried to unravel what was happening to him and why.

The only part of the novel I found less than good was the ending. I don't like it when the cavalry comes over the hill and rescues the surrounded settlers, so to speak. And this is what happens in the last suspenseful scene. Other than that, I felt the novel was well plotted.

Logan certainly emphasized the fragile nature of having a social media presence. One can use social media to ruin another, especially if the account is hacked. A suggestive post here and there. A Photoshopped image posted in the right place at the right time. As one character says, it is being tried in the court of public opinion and it can be brutal.

I recommend this book to readers who like a suspenseful novel that also includes interesting information.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

T M Logan studied at Queen Mary and Cardiff universities before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently works in communications and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children. Photo by Sally Utton.

St Martin's Press, 432 pages.

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

Pull It Off by Julianna Zobrist

If God asked me to do something unusual, something out of my comfort zone, would I do it? Would I be paralyzed by fear? Would I wonder what other people might think more than what God thought?

Zobrist is no longer bound by such fear and she wants her readers to have that same freedom. She wants to help us to find the origin of our fears and then maximize our true identities in Christ. We can then act with confidence, being creative and expressive. She looks at authority (why our decisions should be between us and God), identity (ours should be in Christ alone), and security (in God's love for us and how He created us).

The book includes many stories to illustrate her teaching. Most are from her own life but she includes examples from the Bible and other sources too.

There is a ton of encouragement in this book but what is missing is a practical strategy for actually working out what Zobrist teaches. There are no questions to ponder, no action steps to take (other than on buying the fashions you like).

And you may be a little confused, as I was, about the difference between identity and image. Our identity is secure in Christ but we are apparently free to embellish our image with bleached hair and fashionable clothes (as she herself does). Never mind Paul's admonition that women are to dress modestly and not have elaborate hairstyles. (I Tim. 2:9) And if I really have confidence in how God created me, why would I change my hair color?

This is a book for young career age women worried about fashion or fitting into society's concepts of beauty and acceptance. Older readers like this senior citizen might find some of the issues included ones dealt with long ago. Zobrist did inspire me, however, to take another look at a project I have been contemplating for years. Maybe I will pull it off.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Julianna Zobrist is an author, speaker, music artist, fashion muse, and social media influencer. She has appeared at numerous charity/professional events and venues around the nation. She has been featured in many publications. She divides her time between Nashville and Chicago, traveling with her husband Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs World Series MVP) and their three children.

FaithWords, 240 pages.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Mandela and the General by John Carlin Illustrated by Oriol Malet

I think this may be the first graphic novel I have read. I was impressed by the impact of combined text and illustrations.

This book gives readers a sense of the tension South Africans were experiencing in the mid-1990s. Mandela had been released from prison in 1990 and the first post-apartheid elections were set to take place in 1994. The whites feared reprisal and made ready a militia. A retired general from the South African military, Constand Viljoen, was asked to lead them.

As the book vividly portrays, it looked like violence would ensue. Mandela proposed meeting secretly with Viljoen. How those two would interact would set the stage for the future of South Africa.

I recommend this book to readers as a good way to get insights into the time of transition for South Africa. The text gives the flavor of the feelings of those involved. The illustrations are great, adding an impact one could not experience with text alone. This was a deadly time and some of the illustrations portray murderous scenes. A timeline has been included at the end of the book as well as a short historical vignettes of Mandela, Viljoen and their interaction.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John Carlin was South Africa correspondent and bureau chief for the Independent of London from 1989 to 1995. He interviewed Nelson Mandela and Constand Viljoen and was present during many of the events described in this book.
Oriol Malet is a Catalan artist whose illustrations regularly make the cover of Spanish magazines.

Plough Publishing House, 110 pages. This book releases November 5.

I received a complimentary digital ARC from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar

Escobar has given readers a fictionalized account based on a true story. Helene was a German woman who had married a Gypsy. When the Nazis came for her husband and children in May of 1943, she insisted on going along. She and the children went to Auschwitz while her husband was in another camp nearby.

Escobar has done a good job giving us a sense of what it was like in the camp. Helene was a nurse and worked with Dr. Mengele. He asked her to run a nursery and school for the Gypsy children. Upon that framework Escobar created a fictional account of Helene's experiences. Helen is portrayed as quite a forceful woman, asking for many supplies for the children. I couldn't help but wonder if that aspect of Helene was a bit of wishful thinking by Escobar. While Helene kept a journal in the book, none is mentioned in the historical note so I must assume the actions of Helene and Mengele are totally fiction. That Mengele was so accommodating to Helene just did not seem realistic from what I have read about him.

It was interesting to have a different slant on the period in that this novel concentrated on the Gypsy camp and how they were treated. Dr. Mengele's experiments were horrific as people were treated as less than human.

This novel will be appreciated by those wanting to learn more about Auschwitz, concentrating on the Romany.

You can read a sample here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mario Escobar lives in Madrid, Spain. He has a degree in history and has written much on the Inquisition, the Reformation and religious groups.
The book was translated by Gretchen Abernathy, a freelance translator working in both Spanish and English.

Thomas Nelson, 304 pages.

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

This is the Day by Tim Tebow with A J Gregory

Tebow wants his life to have meaning, to count for something good in the world. He could have squandered his professional football earnings but established the Tim Tebow Foundation instead. He takes an active part in making a difference for those in need.

Tebow wants our lives to have meaning too. He encourages readers to embrace this day, get out of bed and make a difference. This day is a gift from God and it is our responsibility to make it meaningful. Tebow shares many stories from his life to illustrate his encouraging teaching. He reminds us, for example, that failure will happen but wants us to keep trying. He also reminds us that what God says about us is much more important than what others are saying. He helps us persevere when obstacles come too.

He gives us an update on his life. When no team wanted him for quarterback he returned to his love of baseball, not having played since high school. He currently plays for minor teams associated with the New York Mets.

I recommend this book to those who have followed Tebow's athletic career. You'll get a good update on what has been happening to him in the last few years. You'll find out about his foundation and its work. You will also be encouraged to see each day full of opportunities to make a difference.

You can read the first chapter hereYou can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tim Tebow is a two-time national college football champion, Heisman Trophy winner, first-round NFL draft pick, ESPN contributor, and professional baseball outfielder with minor teams associated with the New York Mets. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Shaken, which was named the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2017 Book of the Year. His true passion is the work of the Tim Tebow Foundation, which he began in 2010. You can find out more about the foundation at https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/.

WaterBrook, 224 pages.

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Secret to Die For by Lisa Harris

I have mixed feelings about this novel of romantic suspense. Harris is a capable author and the novel has good scenes of suspense and romantic tension. I did have some issues with the way the plot developed.

One thing I can't tolerate is suspense due to poor police procedure. It happened twice in this novel. An attempt had been made on Gracie and she is obviously a target of the bad guys. Shortly afterward, police detective Nate takes her to a location all by himself. Of course they are attacked by bad guys and suspense ensues. Later in the novel Nate is transporting Gracie and another person when they are again attacked. Paige, Nate's partner had been with them but now the other car was twenty minutes ahead. What? Nate is with two people the bad guys probably want to attack and his partner is in a car twenty minutes away? That is just poor police procedure and poor thinking on Nate's part. And even though the police are dealing with expert hackers, the idea that their own system might be hacked is not considered until another suspenseful event happens. I really got tired of Nate repeatedly thinking he “should” have done this or that.

I had trouble liking Nate. He falls for Gracie and it seems to make him more dumb in his attempts at keeping her safe. I know he had a devastating experience previously but I just found him to not be the kind of competent policeman I like to see as a hero. I liked Gracie. She is competent and brave. Give her a badge.

I do like to learn something when I read fiction and in this case it was about hacking and how vulnerable the nation's infrastructure might be to attack. There was also information about healing from a traumatic event.

There are a couple of good plot twists at the end even though the plot was wrapped up very quickly by a minor character.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Lisa Harris is the winner of a Christy Award and two Best Inspirational Suspense Novel awards from Romantic Times. She has over thirty novels and novellas in print. She and her family have spent over thirteen years working as missionaries in Africa. You can find out more about her books and her life in Africa at www.lisaharriswrites.com.

Revell, 336 pages.

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Silencing Insecurity by Donna Gibbs

I am very impressed with this book. It is packed with practical information and workable strategies. I had no idea of the great influence insecurities have on our lives. Gibbs does an excellent job of identifying those things that impact our sense of identity, exploring the problems insecurities cause, and then giving great ideas to lead us to accept our identity in Christ.

I like how Gibbs identifies the many things that can hijack our identity. I was surprisingly shocked when she wrote that it was not the things that are the problems but it is when they are given control in our lives that they become problems. Suppose there has been a traumatic event. It becomes a problem when we form an attachment to that event, when we let it define us. We must separate our identity from the event. We are encouraged to understand that what God says about us is much more powerful than the negative impact of life experiences. Those events do not define us in God's eyes so we are not to let them define us in our own eyes. (532/2493) Easier said than done, perhaps, but Gibbs gives good strategies for identifying toxic thought patterns. She advocates an aggressive and persistent pursuit of the truth about us, leading to wholeness.

I was particularly struck by the importance of our growing to spiritual maturity. “And when we come to maturity in fully believing that God is who He says He is, we also mature in accepting that we are who He says we are.” (1519/2493 Italics in original.)

There are questions at the end of each chapter for personal reflection. This book could be used as a group study but it should be with trusted friends as the questions delve deep into sensitive areas of life. There is also a great Appendix, filled with Scripture to help you as you work to wholeness.

I highly recommend this book to readers who struggle with insecurities or have trouble believing what God says is true about you. You'll find excellent information and a practical strategy for growth. You'll be encouraged to live for an Audience of One.

You can read an excerpt at https://www.silencinginsecurity.com/.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Donna Gibbs graduated from North Carolina State University with a BA in psychology. She earned an MS in community counseling from Western Carolina University and a PhD in Christian counseling and psychology from Louisiana Baptist University. She is a licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor, a National Certified Counselor, a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, and an adjunct online professor of counseling for Fruitland Bible Institute. Previously, she directed A Clear Word Counseling Center. She has authored Becoming Resilient and is often featured on radio broadcasts. She and her husband have four boys. You can find out more at https://summitwellnesscenters.com/Photo Credit: Credit: Leigh Beddingfield

Revell, 192 pages.

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Gilded Curse by Marilyn Turk

I enjoyed this historical mystery set on the east coast during the time of WW II. Turk has done a good job of presenting the setting. Jekyll Island was where the millionaires vacationed in the winter. There was a clubhouse to enjoy and individual cottages. One of those cottages was owned by Lexie's family. But the depression and the death of her mother forces Lexie to plan on selling the cottage.

There is a mystery as Lexie had received a telegram asking her to return to the island. She hadn't been there for years. Someone seems to be searching the cottage even as Lexie arranges to have repairs made. Then there is an attempt on her life.

There is romance as Russell, the manager of the clubhouse and friend from the earlier years, has eyes for Lexie. She is unsure of where to place her affection as another vies for her attention.

There is detail to history too. There's a German submarine off the coast and concerns about the possibility of danger to those on the island.

There is also Christian message. Lexie severely doubts God's love for her. She is troubled by past events and we wonder if her faith will be renewed.

I appreciate the many issues covered in the plot. One is the loss of wealth and reduced living conditions for some while others continue to live in opulence. Another issue is mental illness and how one might relate to those so afflicted. There are also the issues of a possible curse and the love of God for believers. Discussion questions are included.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Marilyn Turk has been published in a number of magazines. A book of devotions including some of her lighthouse blogs was published in 2015. The Gilded Curse was published in 2016 and the sequel this summer. She lives in Florida. You can find out more at http://pathwayheart.com/.

Heritage Beacon Fiction, 258 pages.

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