Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mother of Pearl by Kellie Coats Gilbert


Life couldn't be any better for Barrie Graeber, a high school counselor. She has a successful husband, a wonderful home, a great son, and the perfect daughter. Pearl is the high school senior every mother dreams of. She is a cheerleader dating the quarterback.
The perfect picture begins to crack when Barrie is taking Pearl home after a game. They happen to see the quarterback, Pearl's steady boyfriend, kissing her best friend.
Barrie tries to help Pearl cope with the betrayal. There is a sense of helplessness as Pearl shuts out her mother. One night Pearl comes home drunk, something Barrie can hardly imagine from her daughter. The tension mounts until one night the dreaded visit from the police. Pearl had been killed in a one car accident. And the unthinkable – Pearl was pregnant.

The novel follows Barrie as she pursues the real history of her daughters last weeks. When she finds out who impregnated her daughter, she must battle the system to see that justice is done.

What a great novel. My heart went out to Barrie as she tried to understand what happened and how to deal with it. It was so hard when she and her husband disagreed on the course of action. And when she had to fight “the system,” it was all too real.
Kellie has managed to capture the feelings of a mother as she faces the reality of a daughter who was not who she thought she was. This is a very touching and emotional novel. Well done! Discussion Questions at the end of the book make this a fine choice for reading groups.
This is Kellie's debut novel. I'll be looking for the next one.

Go to http://kelliecoatesgilbert.com/ to watch a video and find out more about the book and author.

Kellie Coates Gilbert is a former legal investigator and trial paralegal. She lives in Dallas.

Abingdon Press, 303 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Yellow Packard by Ace Collins


A brand new, specially ordered bright yellow 1936 Packard is at the center of this Depression era novel. Some are sure the car is cursed. Two people died because of that car before it was even delivered. And then the eccentric old woman who ordered the car dies under mysterious circumstances.
The next owners of the car at first experience great luck with the car. But then, their daughter is kidnapped and the car stolen with the ransom money in it.
Helen Meeker, a friend of the Roosevelt's, manages to get temporary assignment to the FBI. She is out to prove that women can be valuable assets to the FBI and to find the missing child.

Collins has written a well crafted novel. I loved Helen Meeker. She is tenacious. She has a sense of humor. She is smart. And she can catch bad guys, even when they've managed to elude all the men FBI agents.
The story is good too. The action slows a bit with each new owner of the car. But before long, the novel is zipping along to its climactic and heartwarming ending.

Watch a promo video here.
Publisher's product page.

Ace Collins has written for over two decades, winning numerous awards including three Golden Quills. He and his wife of thirty five years have two sons.

Barbour Publishing, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hailey's Paradox by Arnold Simon


The year is 2040. The Republican Party is now the Conservative Party, largely under the influence of the religious right. The Democratic Party has become the Alliance Party, a coalition of liberals and moderates.
Rev. Pawlings is the leader of the religious right. His great dream is to turn the U. S. into a religious state. They need the right man as a presidential candidate and they settle on Jarett Hailey, a well known paleontologist who believes in creationism.
The well laid plans of the religious right begin to falter when another scientist accuses Hailey of saying he believes in creationism but yet admitting that there is absolutely no scientific evidence for it.

The novel is the story of the controversial candidate as he struggles with his own beliefs and others try to manipulate him for their own gain.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this novel. There is a considerable amount of unacceptable language and immoral behavior. The Christians are portrayed as manipulating, swearing, unethical, immoral and horrible people. And the novel is not about creationism and science at all. As the author says at the end of the book, he is not an expert in either paleontology or paleobiology. “As it turned out, this mattered little, because the novel is not a story about either of those sciences. It's about a man who finds himself torn between science and religion.”
One would think there would have been something about fossils and creationism in the book, but there was not. There was just lots of swearing and sex and a man who sold himself out to politics.

You can find out more about this book at http://haileysparadox.com/index.html

Arnold Simon was born in Manhattan and raised in Belgium. He was an anti-submarine specialist, electrical engineer, and partner in a law firm before becoming a full time author. His first novel was A Break in the Storm.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Westwind Communications for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nowhere to Run by Amy Wallace


In this sequel to Hiding in Plain Sight, Ashley is being stalked. She reluctantly goes to a Mennonite community in Shipshewana, Indiana with her friend Maggie. She struggles with her faith in God as the terror continues.
The Mennonite community is mixed, that is, there are Plain People and those who dress more like the culture around them. The community is also a sheltering place. Ashley meets a woman who has been abused by her husband and is now hiding from him. When the abusive husbands comes to reclaim his wife, Ashley tries to help her see him for what he truly is.

This novel is a sequel and, unless you have read the first one, you may not be able to appreciate the full impact of this story. Many of the characters, including Ashley herself, had earlier traumatic experiences that play into this novel.
There is a great deal of character development and thinking in this novel. Ashley struggles with her faith in God, wondering why He is allowing all this to happen to her and the ones she loves. The action at the end is very exciting but most of the novel is Ashley working through issues inside.

One aspect of the novel I did not like was the police being portrayed as being so inept. Even though the police know Ashley and her loved ones are in danger, the stalker manages to outsmart various police agencies and hurt people. I understand this was necessary so Ashley could be the heroine in the story, but I certainly hope law enforcement is smarter than portrayed in this novel.

Wallace writes about internal struggles. She wrote this novel during a health crisis when she was asking the same questions Ashley was, Where is God when life hurts? Wallace was herself stalked when she was in college. She writes of Ashley's fear from her own experience. It causes the reader to think about the power a man has to destroy a woman's life, whether by stalking or by physical abuse.

Amy Wallace writes Dark Chocolate suspense, high action suspense that delves deep into heart issues. She is a homeschool mom, author, speaker, co-leader of a young writer's club, and avid chocoholic. You can find out more about her at www.amywallace.com and follow her blog at http://peek-a-booicu.blogspot.com/

Harvest House Publishers, 352 pages.

I received an advanced egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

It is WW II and Lt. Mellie Blake is being trained as a flight nurse. Her commanding officer suggests Mellie and the others in training take part in a morale building program, writing to soldiers in northern Africa. The letters are to be anonymous, handled through the commanding officers. Mellie is not excited about the opportunity. She is a loner and she doesn't think she is very beautiful. But she finally does her part and writes the letter.
By a quirk, Mellie's letter ends up in the hands of Lt. Tom MacGillver. Tom's father murdered (although somewhat accidentally) a famous person and Tom has been trying to escape his infamous name ever since. He figures perhaps writing anonymously would work. She would not know his name, not know his legacy.
Their letters crisscross the Atlantic and the two develop a deep friendship, never knowing who the other is. Then it begins to be love.
Both are transferred to Algeria and their paths cross. Will they be able to meet face to face and overcome their fears?

Sundin has written another great novel of the WW II era. She has done her research and readers will learn a great deal about the campaign in northern Africa, the role of engineers, and the role of that new breed of women nurses aboard airplanes taking the injured away from the front.
What a great idea for a romance novel! Two people falling in love through anonymous letters. And the interaction between the two when their duty assignments allow them to be in the same place at the same time, yet each one not knowing the other is the anonymous letter writer (at least at first).

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. If you like historical novels that are well researched and have a realistic romance included, you will like this one. There are discussion questions at the end of the novel so it would make a good choice for a reading group.
Mellie is a feisty gal and stands up to those who would put down this new breed of nurses who want to help the injured right near the battlefield. And Tom, well Tom has lots he needs to work out. If only he could be as honest in person as he is in his anonymous letters.

Sarah Sundin is the author of several novels and a finalist in the 2011 Reader's Choice Award. She received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. She is a graduate of the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy and works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. She lives in California with her husband and three children.  Find out more at www.sarahsundin.com

I am taking part of a blog tour, see other reviews of this book here.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 425 pages.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic



A book is coming out in a couple of weeks that tells an inspiring story.  You can read the first chapter of the book by clicking on the book's image at the right.

You can watch a video about Nick by clicking on the image below.


Nick Vijicic is a motivational speaker and the director of the nonprofit organization, Life Without Limbs.  Nick has become a great inspiration to people around the world, regularly speaking to large crowds about overcoming obstacles and achieving dreams.  A longtime resident of Australia, he now lives in southern California with his wife, Kanae.  Visit his website at www.LifeWithoutLimbs.org.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Every Christian Ought to Know by Adrian Rogers with Steve Rogers


There are some truths every Christian ought to know. We should know what we believe and why we believe it.
The material in this book was originally used in a new believers/new members class in the late Dr. Rogers' church. But long time believers were excited to finally understand why they believed what they did. The book was originally published in 2005 in hardcover but is now available in paperback.
This book contains the essentials of the faith. Rogers starts with the Word of God, giving lots of arguments for the Bible's accuracy and supernatural characteristics. Next is assurance of salvation. Every Christian should know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she is saved.
Rogers shows how the saved person can know that the salvation cannot be lost and why that is important. He also lets us know what happens when we sin and what we are to do about it. He tells us how to handle temptation, about baptism, how to discern the will of God, all about faith and how to have it, how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how to discover your spiritual gift, how to pray, and lastly, how to understand the Bible.

1 Peter 3:15 admonishes that believers should always be ready to give a defense for the reason they have hope. This book will help you form your defense for the biblical truths you believe. There are great discussion questions at the end of each chapter so this book could be used in a group setting.

Rogers has added stories to make the topics more interesting. He also added some humor, sometimes a little corny. Nonetheless, this would be an excellent book for a new or long time believer on the essentials of the Christian faith.

Dr. Adrian Rogers was the senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, a popular author, and respected Bible teacher. He served three terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 by the National Religious Broadcasters. He passed away in 2005. His son Steve Rogers carries on the radio ministry.

B&H Publishing Group, 278 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from The B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson


Dee Henderson is back and she is better than ever!
Paul Falcon is the top FBI homicide agent in the Chicago office. He is part of the well known Falcon family, owners of restaurants and other businesses.
Ann Silver is the Midwest Homicide Investigator. Covering several states, she gets called in when the local authorities need help. And she is good at what she does.
Ann visits Falcon and gives him a case she worked on. He realizes this case just might lead him to the paid killer he has been chasing for years.
But he also realizes he is taken by Ann Silver. There is something about her. As he pursues the case and gets to know Ann more, he realizes she is also a very complex person. She knows so many people, including some in his own family. She writes novels based on the true stories of people she knows. But she also has secrets, painful secrets she may never share with him.

Henderson has created the right mix of detective work and romance. Paul and Ann have much to work out so as Paul pursues her, there is much conversation and character development. Just when it seems the novel might lag, there is a new development in the assassin case that brings action to the plot.  Paul and Ann are Christians and Henderson does a great job of representing their faith.

I think Henderson had some extra fun writing this novel. But I am not going to spoil the surprise! If you are a fan of Dee Henderson, you will just have to read this novel. It will have you wondering...

Bethany House, 432 pages. Go here to see a book trailer, read an excerpt, get a Reading Group Guide, and see the publisher's product page.

Go to www.fulldisclosurenovel.com to find out more about the book.

Go to www.deehenderson.com to find out more about her books.

This book releases October 2, 2012. 

 I received an advanced reading egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott by Michael Oborn


Matthew Alcott had come from a prominent Mormon family in Salt Lake City. Previously married to the daughter of the stake president, he had been working as a historian in the archives of the L. D. S. church. “Took me three years to realize I was there to find and catalogue, nothing else. I find it. They hide it.” (223)
But he found something they were not able to hide. He discovered the last revelation of Joseph Smith. It was written the last day of his life, June 27, 1844. It had been hidden by Brigham Young under the cover leaf of one of his personal journals.
Smith had said that the ability to understand truth was inherited only by the male. Only men had the genetic tissues of right thinking. (224) The revelation promoted polygamy. “Monogamy was the devil at work...” (224)
Matthew is determined to write a book, an expose. His marriage was over and he was being kicked out of the church. Much of the novel is what happens to Matthew after he left Salt Lake City with the incriminating evidence.

As with any novel, it is hard to know how much Oborn has written is based on fact and how much of conjecture. Of Joseph Smith, he writes, “Between 1841 and 1844 the guy manages to marry on average one a month. Can you imagine? We're talking 'busy.' Some of those ladies had living husbands and children...” (167) Even with the federal cease and desist order in 1887, the polygamists went underground, Osborn writes. One historian estimates fifty thousand descendants alive today from the polygamous marriages performed underground between 1890 and 1906.

This is a roughly written novel. Much of the dialog lacks verbs or pronouns. About the Book of Mormon: “Get a copy...skim the book. Reading it, far too tedious.” (169) Elsewhere, Oborn starts a new paragraph, “Had called little brother from his editor's office.” (174) I found the style of writing very disconcerting and hard to understand.

The action jumps back in forth in time, too. It is the present, then four years before, then the present, then childhood, then present – all in a few pages. It made following the story more difficult, I thought.

Also, there is language as well as scenes that would make this book not suitable for Christian readers, in general.

Oborn says he wrote this book to entertain people with the women's issues playing a heavy subtext. I found the book too difficult to read just not well crafted enough to enjoy it.

You can find out more about Oborn and this book at www.michaeloborn.com.

Outskirts Press, 319 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy


It was Mark Twain who said that one should, first thing in the morning, eat a live frog. That would probably be the worst thing that would happen to you that day.
Brian Tracy uses that idea to suggest that you start your work with the biggest, hardest, and most important task of your day. That's just the first of many valuable goal setting and planning techniques he has included in this book.
Tracy has read hundreds of books and articles on productivity. He tried out the authors' suggestions. What worked he incorporated into his talks and this book.
His techniques are probably ones you have heard before. But going through this book is a good reminder, once again, how beneficial planning is to productivity.
Getting your goals and plans down on paper is so important. Just doing that, Tracy says, will increase your productivity. He has some interesting ideas on how to organize your goal into a plan. He encourages you to take action on your plan immediately and do something every day toward your goal.

Like any other book on goals and planning, it is the doing that is essential. Three key qualities, Tracy says, are decision (decide to tackle the difficult task), discipline (follow the principles he has laid out in this book), and determination (do it until it becomes a habit).

If you need a refresher on goal setting and planning, this book would be a good choice. The good news is that I listened to the audio of this book – borrowed from my local public library!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Blessed Church by Robert Morris


If you are called to be a shepherd, Morris is passionate about your being as good as you can be. “It's why I've written this book,” he writes. (63)
He sets out to address the principles upon which healthy churches are built. He writes, not only about the how-to, but the why as well. He knows about church growth. The church he founded in 2000 now has some 24,000 active members.

Here are a few of the keys to a blessed church:
“When faced with a major decision or challenge, don't make a move without first getting alone with God and obtaining His counsel.” (11)
“Growth without real health is unsustainable. If you want growth, pursue and monitor health.” (31)
“What spiritual injustice bothers you the most? Righting that wrong is a key to your vision for ministry.” (37)
“The true shepherd models where he wants the sheep to go. He leads by example.” (71)
“Here's a surefire way to spot a true shepherd: he is an equipper. He is able and eager to equip people to do the work of ministry.” (77)

Morris really emphasized the equipping of the saints for ministry, calling it the biblical model. (87) “Every believer is called to minister.” (90) Small groups are the training and practice ground for equipping for ministry.
He looks to Jethro's advice to Moses for the balanced pastor's role: pray, teach the Word, and raise up leaders. (He has an extended section on empowering leaders.)
Morris uses lots of his own experiences to help pastors understand how to discern their own vision, how to write it, etc. He is very honest about his ow life and the mistakes he has made. And, he is the first to admit his church is far from perfect. “We don't have all the answers.” (181)

If you are a pastor and are looking for a book to help you through your own process of casting a vision for ministry and church, this book is a good choice.

Food for thought: Morris on worship, “Excellence is lifeless if God doesn't show up.” (191)

Robert Morris is the Founding and Senior Pastor of Gateway Church, a multi-campus church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Since it began in 2000, Gateway has grown to more than 16,000 active members. Robert is featured on the weekly television program,The Blessed Life, seen in 80 million homes in the United States and in more than 200 countries around the world. He is the best-selling author of nine books, including The Blessed Life, From Dream to Destiny,and The Power of Your Words. Robert and his wife, Debbie, are the parents of three grown children and grandparents of two

Read the first chapter here.
Watch the book trailer here.

WaterBrook Press, 211 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press for the purpose of this review.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mortal Fire by C. F. Dunn


Emma D'Eresby is a professor of history at Cambridge, following in her grandfather's profession. She specializes in the history of torture. Her grandfather had studied an obscure seventeenth-century journal and had left her a portion of the journal he had copied. She is obsessed with being able to study the journal in its entirety.
The opportunity comes when she is offered a post at an exclusive university in Maine. This university has the journal in the library's rare manuscript collection so Emma leaves Cambridge to take the year long post.
Life for Emma becomes complicated as a colleague attempts matchmaking. Then there are brutal attacks on women she thinks might be the work of a sinister English professor. And most distracting of all is her growing attraction to Dr. Matthew Lyons, a handsome yet secretive man.

This novel is Dunn's debut entry into the genre of paranormal romance. While the novel takes place in America at an exclusive university in Maine, the writing style is British. If you like P. D. James or Elizabeth George, as I do, you'll like this book. If you want a novel that moves at a fast pace, this may not be the one for you.
There is definitely the paranormal, or supernatural, element in this novel. As the story progresses, the evil element builds. But there is a “good guy,” too, with abilities beyond that of regular humans.
The Christianity in this novel follows after the British style. It is not the evangelical, church going, kind of Christianity we expect in American novels. There is definitely a sense of good and evil, and Emma is squarely on the God side of the battle.

One warning. This book is the first in The Secret of the Journal series (chapter one of the sequel is included in this book). Usually, each book in a series is pretty much self contained and can be enjoyed on its own (especially the first in a series). That is not the case with this book. There are loads of loose ends left hanging at this book's completion. This novel could well have been described as “Part One” of the series, giving one the warning that only part of the story is told in this novel. Much more must come in the next novel to make full sense of this one.

If you like to read the kind of novel that will get the hair standing on your neck, read this one. But be prepared to wait for the sequel to finish the story!

C. F. Dunn runs a school in North Kent for children with developmental disabilities, dyslexia, autism, and other difficulties. She draws on her degree in history and a career in literacy development to create romantic thrillers with a historical twist. Find out more about her at http://www.cfdunn.co.uk/.

Kregel Publications, 359 pages.

Watch the video trailer here.
Read an excerpt from the book here.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher


Calvinism is “in” right now, but Dutcher is concerned. If we don't live our Calvinism, he writes, “we might just kill it.” (10)
He gives eight ways we squander Calvinism:
by loving Calvinism as an end in itself,
by becoming a theologian rather than a disciple,
by loving God's sovereignty more than loving God himself,
by losing an urgency in evangelism,
by learning only from other Calvinists,
by tidying up the Bible's “loose ends,”
by being an arrogant know-it-all,
by scoffing at the hang-ups others have with Calvinism.

Dutcher reminds us that, above all, we are to be faithful to Scripture. We must be sure our theology is rooted in Scripture, not some favorite author.
I'm a Calvinist through and through. I think it is the theological system that most closely aligns with Scripture truth. Is it perfect? No. No human system of theology can be. Dutcher writes, “When we refuse to let our theology dictate Scripture, we are free to live with larges doses of paradox.” (75)

To keep ourselves in perspective, he writes, “Everyday I ask God to show me how lost I would be without him.” (91)

Every Calvinist could benefit from reading this slim volume.

Cruciform Press, 111 pages.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The River by Michael Neale


This could have been one of those winners. The story has promise. Five year old Gabriel watches as his father sacrifices his life to rescue a fellow in an overturned kayak in The River. Then we follow Gabriel coming of age as he grows up under the care of the mother who had earlier abandoned him and his father. As a young adult, Gabriel goes on a trip with friends, back to The River where he has to face his memories and his fears.

The story line has great potential. Unfortunately the writing is very uneven. Between rare sentences of eloquence are pages of simple dialog and description. At times I felt I was reading something written by a middle schooler.
And the action is uneven. At times we spend a long time with Gabriel and a healing step in his life. At other times, it seems as if he overcomes some serious problem instantly.

As a Christian, I felt the spiritual aspect of this novel was all wet. Gabriel is to find his meaning in life in The River. There was the potential of having The River represent life in Christ. At times, it almost sounded like that was the intent. But the concept was never followed through. So, in the end, anyone – from animist to Unitarian – could find something “spiritual” in this book. There is no representation at all of God being the one to bring healing to Gabriel. Why this book would be published by a “Christian” publisher is beyond me.

I really can't recommend this book. The story line had so much potential. It is too bad the writing is not up to par and the spirituality is so vague.

Michael Neale is a writer, performer, and story teller. He is currently leading a multi-medial concert event known as The River with film imagery and musical score. He lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, with his wife and children. This is Neale's first book.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 320 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Woman's Right to Rest by Denise George


Are you exhausted, like so many women today? Is the very idea of Sabbath rest foreign to you because you have so much you have to get done?
Denise wants women to live with a sense of completion. She wants us to rest and she takes us through fourteen passages in scripture to show us how. These are biblical principles of rest. They remind us that rest is not selfish. It is, in fact, very scriptural. “God, himself, through his Word, gives us – today's Christian woman – the right to rest!” (22)
Denise highlights physical rest, mental and emotional rest, soul rest, resting in prayer, heart rest, the rest from forgiveness, the rest of contentment, the rest of commitment, resting in caretaking, resting in beauty, harmony and peace, the rest of selected memories, resting in friendship, resting in times of crisis, and the rest of heavenly assurance.
Denise's familiarity and understanding of scripture is profound. Her comments on Col. 3:12-17 and Phil. 4:8 are wonderful. You can read this book on your own as Denise has included personal suggestions that you can practice alone. These personal suggestions are a wealth of ideas for incorporating biblical rest into your life. You could also get together with friends and do the Group Bible Study, also included at the end of each chapter.

Regular biblical rest is essential to a woman's health and faith. Denise reminds us that biblical rest is a scriptural mandate, not a luxury. Biblical rest is not a “waste of time” but is a God given way to keep yourself living the deeply satisfying life God intended for you.

If you think you are too busy to read this book, you need to read this book. You will be blessed and empowered.

Denise George has ministered to women through speaking, teaching, and writing for more than three decades. She is the author of 25 books and more than 1500 articles in both Christian and secular magazines. She conducts writing seminars across the United States and teaches a writing course at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University. Her husband, Dr. Timothy George, is the founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School, theological advisor for Christianity Today, and the author of more than 30 books.
You can follow her at various places online:

Leafwood Publishers, 224 pages.  Publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Undaunted by Josh McDowell with Cristobal Krusen


As a Christian bookseller, I was certainly familiar with Josh McDowell's books on apologetics. I had no idea how he came to that ministry until I read Undaunted.
Josh (Jos) grew up on the family farm in Union City, Michigan. His father was an alcoholic, losing his management job, then running the farm into the ground. His mother had a thyroid condition and was obese. She was unable to do the household chores for the family, so a man was hired to work in the house and cook. This man molested Josh until Josh was old enough and big enough to make him stop.
By the time he was eleven years old, Josh considered himself the loneliest, most God-forsaken person on the planet. He turned his back of God.
Josh was at Kellog Community College harassing some Christian students when they challenged him. Josh had plans to become a lawyer so they asked him to disprove the reality of the resurrection, just like you would do so in a courtroom. Josh took up the challenge and went to Europe to investigate, checking original documents and interviewing specialists. The evidence for the truth of the Bible was overwhelming and Josh became a Christian.
Josh's story is more than just a biography of a boy with a difficult life making good. Josh takes us through the conversations he had in Europe and we receive a very readable lesson in apologetics in the process.

Josh's biography is meaningful in two areas. First, it is a good story. It is well written and really keeps your interest. It is an encouragement to anyone who has had a horrible childhood. With God's help, you too can live life undaunted.
Second, this would be a great book to give to an unsaved friend. Not only is the story good, but the reader is right along with Josh as he tries to disprove the Bible. All the evidence for the reliability of the Bible is laid out in an dialog manner, not like a textbook.

There is a book discussion guide available at www.bookclubhub.net.

This is the story behind the award winning film, Undaunted. Find out more about the film here.

Watch a trailer here.

Josh McDowell has given more than 24,000 talks to over 10 million young people in 118 countries since beginning his ministry in 1971. He is the author of More Than a Carpenter and The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He and his wife have four children and eight grandchildren. Find out more about Josh at his ministry at http://www.josh.org/

Tyndale House Publishers, 258 pages. Publisher product page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grace by Mac Lucado


Max Lucado has a way with words. “God answers the mess of life with one word: grace.” “Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.”
But do we really understand grace?
For each of us, grace begins with God stooping to rescue us. Then He saves, raises and seats us in the heavenlies. Earthly condemnation is gone.
To understand grace, we must understand who we are. Rebels. We deserve to die but we receive grace instead.
We rest in grace, resisting the thought that we can help Jesus along the way. We show grace to others. We confess our sin, knowing God's grace is bigger. We recognize the “thorn in the flesh” as God's grace to us.
God is generous to us. We have been adopted rather than rejected. We are heaven bound – guaranteed.

This book is classic Lucado. He skillfully retells Bible stories revealing God's grace in action. He adds a wealth of other stories too.
There is an extensive Reader's Guide – about the last quarter of the book. Each of the twelve studies opens with a Bible reading, then has a quote from the book. Additional Scriptures are provided for deeper study. Next come questions and a prayer, then an exploration section with thoughts to ponder and action to take.

Lucado reminds us how important grace is to us, and how important it is for us to show grace to others. “You are a billboard of God's mercy to those within your circle of influence.” Will this describe your life? “Grace happens here.”

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 240 pages.  Publisher product page.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Ultimate Conversation by Charles Stanley


God wants to have a conversation with you. He wants you to know Him. Intimacy with Him is His first priority for your life. (38) Stanley writes about prayer, “Its purpose is to strengthen and deepen your intimacy with Him.” (6)
Stanley reminds us that our perception of God is crucial to our prayer life. He helps us see who God is through Scripture, using the example of Nehemiah. “Nehemiah's story shows us that you and I have the greatest effect when we have an ongoing conversation with the Father and humbly submit to His direction.” (55)
He assures us that God is speaking to us today. It may be a whisper or the internal prompting of the Holy Spirit. We must remember that God has His own timing but He will reveal His plans to us.
Stanley reminds us how important it is to learn to hear God's voice. “God speaks to you and me through every situation, but hearing Him is dependent upon our anticipating and paying attention to His instruction.” (76)
Stanley uses Jesus' life and teaching as examples of intimacy, showing that interaction with God does not have to be challenging or confusing. Our conversation is centered on God.
We don't pray to get things from God. “The most important things to the Father are strengthening our bond with Him and enjoying profoundly satisfying and transformational fellowship.” (132) That's why we pray.

Stanley includes other teachings, such as dealing with childhood experiences, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, how God uses silence, overcoming obstacles, praying for others, and praying for our heart's desire.

What an encouraging book on prayer. There is much here for the new Christian and the seasoned one as well.
Sometimes we forget how much the Father desires conversation with us. Stanley has done well in reminding us how important the intimate relationship with the Father is.

There is a reading group guide available online.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), 256 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Friday, September 7, 2012

To Write a Wrong by Robin Caroll


This is the second in the Justice Seekers series and if you haven't read the first one, as I had not, you'll be missing out. Much of the character action in this book is based on the first one. While you will still appreciate the book for its action and plot, some of the character's behavior will be puzzling.

Riley Baxter is a writer for a southern magazine who's career needs a boost. If she doesn't come up with a good story soon, she'll be looking for work. When she is at the Angola State Penitentiary, wanting to make sure the man who killed her parents (previous book) does not get out on early parole, she comes upon a story that just might be the one she needs. It looks like an innocent man is in prison for a robbery he had nothing to do with. His family has lost their home but not their hope. Riley starts out on a crusade to clear his name - and endanger her own life.
Add to the story Hayden Simpson, Police Commissioner, who is interested in Riley.
And here is where the story gets a little confusing if you have not read the first one in the series. Hayden has a sister who is bipolar and he helps his mother keep her in line. He also has emotional baggage from the death of his father. And then there is Riley's brother and girlfriend who come in on the story, as well as another sister. All of them carry baggage from the previous book. All the relationships are a bit confusing without having read the first in the series.

Nonetheless, the plot in this novel is excellent. Riley struggles to forgive the drunk driver who killed her parents. This emphasis on forgiveness comes to a climax with an exciting ending. The families of Riley and Hayden are Christians and Christianity is well presented throughout.

This is a great novel. To receive the full impact of the story, however, make sure you have read the first in the series.

B & H Publishing Group, 355 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry Morgan


Six billion people on earth are religious. Chances are you have neighbors that are of a different religion than yours. But there are so many religions, how can you possibly understand them all?
Garry has provided a comprehensive look at over twenty religions. He begins with the largest religion, Christianity, with believers numbering nearly a third of the world's population. He reviews the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity, as well as Protestant and Evangelical Christianity.
He has six chapters on Islam, the world's second largest religion. He covers its beginnings, the Five Pillars, additional core beliefs, its theology, its varieties and issues, and finally, the very unorthodox Nation of Islam.
Other religions have extended treatment too, such as three chapters on Hinduism, the world's third largest religion, and three chapters on the various sects of Buddhism.
The other religions have brief reviews, generally just four pages. These are meant to be introductions to the topics and are by no means exhaustive or complete. He has included secular humanism since it fits his “working definition of religion as an organized system of beliefs that answers ultimate questions about life.” (138)
I learned that the newest religion is Baha'i, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, and emphasizes peace and unity of all religions. Ethical dualism, the concept of weighing good and bad deeds, originated in Zoroastrianism. People will often mix religions, such as the American Christian who looks at her horoscope every morning or the African Christian who takes his ill son to the native healer.

This is a good introduction to the major world religions. It is easy to understand. Each chapter takes just a few minutes to read so it won't for you to have a better understanding of those whose beliefs differ from yours.

Garry Morgan is Professor of Intercultural Studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He spent eighteen years of ministry in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania. He and his wife live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Bethany House, 175 pages. Publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fully Alive by Ken Davis


Are you comfortable? Have you become comfortable with being comfortable? Have you lost your joy? Do you want to soar again like an eagle?
Davis writes, “No matter how old you are, no matter your past circumstances or physical condition, you can live fully starting today.” (17)
He writes about his own wakeup call, when his young granddaughter went missing. He shares his own, “Noooo,” experience when he saw a photo of his overweight self. He shares the importance of exercise and his own journey to fitness (losing 60 pounds). He includes a section on the importance of friends, the encouragement and support they provide.
Even more important, Davis reminds us, is our spiritual life. Like Paul, we are to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. (Phil. 3:10) Davis shares his own experience of deepening his relationship with Jesus Christ.
He shares his experience of journaling. (”Dear Diarrhea...” - you have to read the book.) He relates the importance of expressing loves, yet making sure we understand we never expect human love to supply what only God's love can.

“When we are fully alive we function at the capacity we were created for in every area of life. We operate on all cylinders – mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually – doing what most glorifies God and brings Him joy.” (100)
It is not about us. It is about God. “You will never glimpse life at its best until you draw from an inspiration bigger than yourself.” (101) Glorifying God is the bottom line. “The glory of God is man fully alive.” (100) “So stand up! Fix your eyes on the goal, start moving, and keep moving.” (136) Make it your goal in life to glorify God by living fully alive.

Do you need an encouragement to get going, to be fully alive? Regardless of your age, this book will do it.

Find out more at www.kendavis.com/fullyalive.

Ken Davis is a best-selling author, frequent radio and television guest, and sought after speaker. He and his wife live in Franklin, Tennessee, have two daughters and six grandchildren.

Thomas Nelson, 225 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Who is Jesus? by Darrell L. Bock


Much has been written in the last decades about the quest for the historical Jesus. Some argue that the Jesus of history is very different from the Jesus we worship today – the Jesus reconstructed by the early church.
Bock argues that you can abide by historical Jesus study rules and still move toward a better historical understanding of Jesus that also explains the faith of his earliest followers. There is not a chasm between the historical Jesus and the Jesus we worship today.
This book grows out of a ten year study where an international group of Jesus scholars met for one weekend each summer, taking a close look at twelve core events in the life of Jesus. These scholars argue that a person can play by many of the historical rules and still appreciate that the gist of these events has been rendered in our earliest sources. Who is Jesus? is a treatment of the technical study that can be appreciated by non-scholars.
Bock takes us through the rules of historical Jesus study and then states the key rules used in this study. He then takes us through twelve events of Jesus' life with the following structure: considering the rules to see if they open the door for seeing the event as authentic, examining the objections, and considering how the relevant background opens up the event and what it means for understanding Jesus.
The events examined include John the Baptist and his baptism of Jesus, the choosing of the twelve, Jesus' association with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus and the Sabbath, Jesus and exorcism, Peter's declaration at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus' atriumphal entry, Jesus' temple act, the Last Supper, the examination by Jewish leadership, the examination by Pilate and crucifixion, and the women discovering the empty tomb.
After applying the rules of historical Jesus study to the twelve events, Bock concludes, “They affirm to us that the Jesus of history links to and discloses the Christ of faith.”

If you have been discouraged because of the attention recent studies about Jesus have received, you will be encouraged by this book. It will help you be more assured that the Jesus from the Bible is truly the Jesus of history.

Howard Publishing, 256 pages.

Watch a video about the book here

Darrell Bock is a New Testament scholar and research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. You can follow his blog here.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens


Teenagers are looking for something solid upon which to build their lives. Even if they have a Bible, they may not know where to find the word from God they need.
The latest Bible for youth, the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible, was developed to help teens find the truth they need. Along with the NIV text are a number of features designed specifically for teens. They were designed to help teens grow in their faith and find hope for the future.
There is an introduction to each book in the Bible. There are sidebars that contain “rock solid” truths found in the adjacent passage. These may be Christian beliefs as well as explorations of what other religions hold. Rock solid promises in the Bible (and what is not promised) are also noted.
There are also sections that highlight rock solid principles from the Bible. These principles are applied to relationships, sex, money, and much more. There are rock solid plans, helping teens to understand God's plans for life.
There are also character studies, unshaken people in the Bible who are examples of overcoming challenges. The attributes of God are also pointed out.
At the back of the Bible are a table of weights and measures, a reading plan, indexes of rock solid truths, promises, principles, plans, unshaken people, and attributes of God. There is a hundred page concordance and eight pages of maps.

This is a great Bible for teens, aged 13-16, and the questions, emotions, and circumstances they deal with every day. The indexes are really helpful as a teen can look up the notes on a specific issue. The NIV text is very readable for teens too. Young readers will certainly find this Bible helpful for building and defending their faith. This would be a great gift for any teen as the school year begins.

Zondervan, 1664 pages. Publisher's product page.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this Bible.

I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from The B & B Media Group for the purpose of this review.