Sunday, November 30, 2014

Evening Prayers by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

About the book:
We want to turn to God at the close of each day, but often don't find the words to express our deepest feelings. This collection of prayers is one of the few daily devotionals especially intended for use in the evening. Blumhardt's words bespeak a certainty in God's nearness. The peace that flows from them comes from a firm conviction that God's kingdom is indeed on the way. In challenging times like our own, this reassurance can bring us serenity each evening of the year.

My review:
These prayers were written over a century ago. They were taken from the evening devotions Blumhardt held at Bad Boll in Germany and were gathered after his death. First published in 1971, this is a new and revised edition. A verse or two from the Bible is given and then the prayer, one for each day of the year.

I really liked the simple nature of the prayers. They are full of praise and thanks and are a great way to end the day. When he mentions suffering, it is with a view toward the coming kingdom. When he makes a petition, it is in a positive sense noting the good that will be done. When he mentions being tired or discouraged, it is accompanied by an acknowledgment of God's provision and strength. One gets a sense that God's kingdom is not something only in the future but is being worked out here and now as well.

This is a great collection of prayers with which to close each day. They are very positive yet without being overly emotional. They give a sense of trusting in God's presence and strength, and an assurance that He is working daily to bring His will to pass. Some Christians may be hesitant to use printed prayers but I found them to be very helpful. Sometimes at the end of the day my mind is too tired to concentrate, finding the right words to express myself to God. These prayers help me focus at day's end, thankful for what God has done and is doing. It is a good tool to help me just be quiet and reflect at the end of the day.

This is also a good book for those wanting to learn how to pray, since the prayers are good examples to follow.

Pastor Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842-1919) was born in Mottlingen, Germany. He studied at university with a view to a Reformed pastorate. He became disillusioned with the church and theology, however, and returned home to Bad Boll. He became quite known as a mass evangelist and healer. He served a six-year term in the Wurttemberg legislature, having run on the Democratic Socialist platform. He became disillusioned with politics and did not run for another term.

Plough Publishing House, 408 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Two Books on Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It (Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change) by George Marshall

We want to make sense of our world so sometimes we see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe – regardless of evidence to the contrary. Marshall advises nonprofits, governments, and businesses on how to better communicate on a subject people really don't want to hear about. He wanted to understand why some people do not believe in climate change and its human origin.

One could say this is a book about the psychology of belief in climate change. Even though we are experiencing more severe weather events, these are interpreted in light of prior assumptions and prejudices, confirmation bias and cognitive bias. Marshall notes the ineffective way climate change has been communicated. Timing is important. Concerns about climate change came on the heels of the fall of the U.S.S.R., lending itself as a target of conspiracy buffs. The anti-climate change people have done a good job in public relations, much better than those warning about climate change.

Marshall writes of climate change, “It is complex, unfamiliar, slow moving, invisible, and intergenerational.” (226) It is exceptionally multivalent, lending itself to many interpretations. We choose one that will help us manage our anxiety, one that we can best live with.

Climate change is a scientific fact,” Marshall writes. (231) A recent NOAA report informed us that October 2014 was the warmest on record, including the ocean's temperature.

Marshall's good book is a timely one, helping us understand why some people continue to deny climate change in the face of mounting evidence.

Bloomsbury USA, 272 pages.

Storm Surge (Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future), by Adam Sobel

Sobel studies extreme weather and climate. He also lives in New York City so it was with interest I read this book. He does a good job of detailing the day by day history of Sandy. He includes what the weather forecasters knew and predicted and how it was that the hurricane took an unprecedented turn to the west. Interwoven through the narrative of the storm's journey is a great deal of information on extreme weather, both in the past and the possibilities in the future.

I was surprised that 93% of the global warming is being absorbed by the ocean. It was interesting to read about the dynamics of hurricane formation and why a warmer ocean does not mean more hurricanes forming. He has an excellent section on ocean surge protection efforts, including that of the Dutch. I was surprised to find that the wobbling of the Jet Stream, allowing the frigid air of a Polar Vortex to descend into the U.S. midwest, is perhaps not caused by the decreased temperature differential between the arctic and the tropics.

I was impressed with the advances that have been made in long term weather forecasting. With more data gathered every day, the models are becoming more accurate. Sobel helped me understand the difficulty of preparing for extreme weather events – we just don't know what to expect until that warning is sounded mere days before. His book is a good wake up call to the potential weather extremes in our future.

HarperWave, 336 pages.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Temple by Robert Cornuke

The traditional site of Solomon's and Herod's Temples is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Cornuke says that much fought over location with the Mosque of Omar on it is not the right one.

Cornuke says he had accepted that location until he was introduced to the work of the late archaeologist and author Dr. Ernest L. Martin. He now calls the “mistaken placement of the temple location on the Temple Mount” the “greatest archaeological blunder of all time.” (35)

The true site, he says, is about a quarter of a mile due south, outside of Muslim control. The Temple Mount, he argues, is actually the site of Fort Antonia, housing some 10,000 soldiers and support personnel.

He uses his own experiences (such as his tour of excavation sites with Eli Shukron, Director of Excavations at the City of David in Jerusalem), Scripture, and historical accounts to prove his case. He reminds us that in 70 AD the temple was completely uprooted by the Romans, fulfilling Christ's prophecy that not one stone would be left standing. Following that, the exact location of the temple would be unknown for hundreds of years.

Does he prove his case? He certainly provides lots of evidence that seems to indicate his location is the correct one. One that impressed me was the presence of the Gihon Spring, a source of running water needed for many of the temple rituals.

You can go here to read a synopsis of Cornuke's argument and, scrolling to the bottom of that page, see drawings of the proposed location.

As Cornuke notes near the end of his book, this discovery has profound ramifications for the possibility of a third temple being built. Since he has already investigated the possible location of the Ark of the Covenant, which he also recounts in this book, nothing stands in the way.

This is a controversial topic and if you'd like to read evidence disputing Cornuke's caims, you can go here.

Robert Cornuke is president of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (BASE) Institute. He has participated in over 50 expeditions searching for lost locations described in the Bible and has been featured on major television networks. He is a former FBI-trained police investigator and SWAT team member. The author of nine books, he received his PhD from Louisiana Baptist University. He and his wife, along with their children, live in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado.

LifeBridge Books, 207 pages.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Swept Away by Cindy Loven & Laura Hilton

Swept Away Quilts of Love Laura V Hilton Cindy Loven
About the book:
Sara doesn't think she wants love. But her grandmother has other plans.

Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don't always go as planned.

Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past---and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but his heart is as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane's grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between Drew and his new employer's granddaughter.

Still, it doesn't take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn't what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts researching him online. What she discovers could change her life---and her heart---forever.

My review:
This is another fun romance in the Quilts of Love series. Drew and Sara are both tragic characters. Neither of them feel they are worthy of love. How they overcome those feelings makes for a good plot. Drew is a committed Christian but Sara has given up on her faith. How Sara comes to faith is another good part of the plot.

The character in the novel that troubled me was Grandma. She was a sweet woman but suffering from the beginning stages of dementia. She has mood changes that were disconcerting. I felt that aspect of the novel wasn't really cleared up in the end.

This is a nice addition to the series. I am always amazed when I read about yet another style of quilt. The one in this novel is based on a song.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read more reviews here.
You can find out more about the series and this book here.

A lifelong reader, Cindy Loven is an active church wife of a minister and mother to one son who is a home school graduate. Cindy and her family reside in Conway, Arkansas. Find out more about her at http://cindylovenwrites.blogspot.com/.
Award winning author Laura V. Hilton has penned many novels, including the Amish of Seymour series, the Amish of Webster County series, and the forthcoming Amish of Jamesport series. A member of ACFW, Laura is also a professional book reviewer for the Christian market, with over a thousand book reviews published at various online review sites. A pastor's wife, stay-at-home mom, and home school teacher, Laura and her family make their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. Find out more about her at http://lauravhilton.blogspot.com/.

Abingdon Press, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Destiny Defied by J. A. Marx

About the book:
A dramatic ship explosion frees eighteen year-old Riki from her captivity, but the island where she finds refuge is compromised. Unless she finds a power truly great enough to overthrow her dark past, she will choose death over returning to captivity.

Lord VĂ©tis, high priest of a cultic underground, will stop at nothing to reclaim their chosen one. Using black magic, he manipulates Riki and her self-assigned bodyguards, triggering a battle that consumes the entire island. The underground will never allow Riki to live out her dreams of a normal life without a deadly battle.

My review:
I think this would be a good fiction book about spiritual experiences for teens. The four young career guys on the isolated island for a week adventure have been friends since childhood. They do goofy guy things guy friends do. When they find Riki washed up on a beach, that changes the whole group dynamics.

This novel takes the reader to the world of occult worship, where a young girl was held captive and raised for a future in occult worship. Little by little, Riki remembers and reveals her childhood, as ugly as it is. But Riki was not the only survivor of the ship explosion and soon a deadly spiritual battle ensues.

We readers experience the stress on the guys' friendship as some doubt Riki's story while others aim to protect her. One of the guys has rejected his Christian faith and falls prey to the evil influence. There is some spiritual warfare but it is rather weak on the guys end. And how the spiritual warfare resolves I felt was rather weak as well. We don't read of any gruesome or intense spiritual battles. Actually, the guys are rather clueless to the spiritual nature of the battle, even though they see evidence of it that should jog their awareness.

The writing style is intense, reflecting the fast paced action. I felt the sentences were choppy at times but that might be something teens would appreciate. The end of the novel leaves us ready for the next book in the series.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.
You can read an excerpt from chapter one here.
You can watch the book trailer here.

J. A. Marx loves writing embattled spirit novels. Growing up in Colorado, she spent much of her childhood climbing trees and rocks, and riding horses. Countless stories filled her mind yet she never wrote any down until in her late 30s. She graduated from Colorado State University with a BA in Arts & Humanities. She and her husband live in Texas, close to their children and grandchildren. Find out more at http://jamarx.net/.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 358 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Suicide Pact by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

This is a book every American should read. It is not easy going. It's not the writing. Judge Napolitano is a fine writer. It is just that the material is so disheartening, reading about the unconstitutional power expansion of the president.

This book reveals actions of the U.S. Presidents that are miscarriages of justice and outright assaults on our civil liberties. “This book argues that the greatest trick the federal government ever pulled was convincing us that we should voluntarily surrender our liberties, just because the monsters who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks did not get caught beforehand.”

The book is in two parts. The first part is an overview of the history of presidential lawmaking and lawbreaking before 9/11. The second half concentrates on the presidencies of Bush and Obama.

The first part of the book is bad enough, reading about Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus. Then there were The Espionage Act of 1917, The Sedition Act of 1918 and The Alien Act of 1918. The Supreme Court would not temper these acts. The account continues with the actions of FD before and during WW II and The Smith Act of 1940.

But the most disheartening part of the book is about the Bush administration. His assault on personal freedom went beyond anything previously known. Reading the kinds of actions President Bush advocated on his watch almost makes me ill. The descriptions of the torture President Bush approved and Vice President Cheney directed is just sickening. The Bush administration was “driven by the idea of a completely imperial executive,” Napolitano writes. “Perhaps the legacy for which George W. Bush will best be remembered is his use of torture.” What a legacy!

The lies the Bush administration told about WMD and spying on U.S. citizens is chilling. Reading through the provisions of The Patriot Act Napolitano highlights shook me. And to think that by and large the provisions are still in effect, despite their unconstitutionality, is truly terrifying.

President Obama made promises to change conditions and made some initial moves to do so, but, in the end, has reauthorized many of Bush's policies. It is too soon to tell what his legacy will be.

This was a very hard book to read. It contains so many things I don't want to be true of the U.S. It does not make me proud to be an American.

As Judge Napolitano says at the beginning of the book, read this book but be warned. “There is no happy ending.”

Go here to find out more about the book, read a chapter and watch a book trailer.

Judge Andrew Napolitano is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Notre Dame Law School. He sat on the Superior Court of New Jersey from 1987 to 1995. He taught constitutional law at Delaware Law School for two years and at Seton Hall Law School for eleven years. He returned to private practice in 1995 and began television work the same year. He has been the Senior Judicial Analyst for Fox News since 1998. He is also Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and Distinguished Scholar in Law and Jurisprudence at the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He lectures nationally and has been published in national publications. This is his ninth book on the U. S. Constitution.

Thomas Nelson, 480 pages.


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar

At the outset, I need to let potential readers know that this book would not fall into the typical evangelical Christian category. Escobar writes about a crisis in faith and then rebuilding faith. The faith that is rebuilt, Escobar says, does not have to be that of what I would call typical evangelical faith. “I do not believe our souls are in mortal danger,” she writes, “even if we walk away from everything we once knew. I believe God is big enough to handle it.” (87) We are not to worry that our souls might be in mortal danger. Eternal damnation is not an issue, she says. (86-87)

That being said, I still think this is a very valuable book. There are many Christians who come to the point of feeling their faith is unraveling. Escobar has written this book for those people. I think she has created a valuable model, the Faith Shift Model, that helps explain the stages one goes through in initially forming faith, living it, questioning it, losing it, and then rebuilding it.

The first stage is fusing (believing, learning, doing). Some think their spiritual transformation stops here but there is more. Next is shifting (disengagement, uncertainty, longing). At this point, some return to the faith they learned as children. Others go to the next step of unraveling, where faith comes undone so it can be rebuilt (longing for mystery instead of conformity and certainty). Next is severing (cutting ties with institutions – some with God). Last is rebuilding (freedom, mystery, diversity).

Following this model, I am encouraged to know there is a process for rebuilding faith after one has experienced a spiritual crisis of faith. One can move forward and discover a new authentic faith. “There is life on the other side of a faith shift,” Escobar writes. “It's much harder to define, describe, and live out than anything we've previously experienced – but it's possible.” (128)

There are questions at the end of each chapter for personal use or group discussion.

While this book does not advocate rebuilding what I would call evangelical faith, it is a good book about the experience of questioning one's faith and/or church experience. I would recommend it for those who want to understand what many are experiencing today.

You can watch a video on the faith shift process here.
You can find out more about the book and read a sample chapter here.

Kathy Escobar is a pastor, writer, advocate, speaker, and spiritual director. She is the co-founder of the refuge, a mission centered and Christian community that has become a harbor for spiritual shifters in North Denver. She is an active blogger and the author or co-author of several books. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband and their five children. Find out more at www.kathyescobar.com.

Convergent Books (Crown Publishing Group), 227 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker

This novel is not at all what I expected. The novel is about Maviah, the daughter of a powerful Bedouin sheikh, once outcast and now recently returned. Enemies attack but Mavia escapes with the help of two of her father's warriors. They set off to seek the alliance of King Herod. Later, Maviah travels to Petra and after some time there, makes a brief trip to the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum, then back to Petra.

There is a great deal of Maviah's story before we even get close to Jerusalem. We finally meet Herod on page 150. Jesus finally makes a page and a half appearance at 223. Jesus appears in about thirteen more pages, four of which are a dream sequence. For a four hundred page book which says we will experience the Way of Jesus as we never have before, there was very little of Jesus to experience. The novel is, by far, about Maviah and her actions in trying to save her kingdom.

We did get to read what some of His disciples thought about Jesus' teachings as well as Maviah's response to encountering Him. I really liked this thought of Maviah when she meets Jesus: “I knew that he was Yeshua because I was sure that only the most powerful mystic could at once pierce me with such singular gaze and leave me feeling perfectly safe and unscathed.” (223) It was also interesting to read about being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee during a fierce storm when, suddenly all goes still.

I do think Dekker gives the followers of Jesus too much credit in understanding the true nature of the kingdom. Of Jesus' teaching, Nicodemus says, “Not yet and already. Paradoxes all, understood only by the heart, beyond the mind.” (221) I just don't think, reading the gospel accounts, people had that kind of understanding until after Jesus' death and resurrection.

Dekker says in his Author's Note that, while Maviah's journey is fictionalized, nothing else in the novel contradicts well supported historical records. While this is fiction, it reflects the attitudes and actions of the place and time. If you like historical fiction with a cameo appearance of an actual historical person, you'll like this novel. Don't expect this novel to be about Jesus, though. As Dekker says at the end of his Author's Note, “And this is only the beginning...” (402) It will be interesting to see if the next novel (A.D. 33) continues to center so much on Maviah or will have more of Jesus in it.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels. He is known for stories that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil. He lives in Austin with his wife and children. Learn more at TedDekker.com.

Center Street (Hachette Book Group), 415 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Love Without End by Robin Lee Hatcher

About the book:
Chet Leonard's life was forever changed when his seventeen-year-old son died and then, soon after, his wife walked out on their family. Over two years later, all he wants to do is hold onto his horse ranch and raise his remaining sons to be honorable men.

Kimberly Welch, widowed mother of Tara, a rebellious fifteen-year-old, has reached the end of her finances and nearly the end of her rope. She and Tara come to Kings Meadow to try to piece their lives back together again. Kimberly has no intention of becoming involved with the residents of this remote mountain community and certainly not with any man.

When 84-year-old Anna McKenna returns to Kings Meadow and to the Leonard ranch, she becomes an agent of change and healing for the two hurting families. With her help, Kimberly and Chet's families at last discover a love without end.

My review:
This is one of those novels that, when you finish, you sigh and think of how good it was. Hatcher is a master story teller and this is another great novel from her. The themes of restoration and finding second love were great. The characters were well developed and realistic. Both Chet and Kimberly had had terrible tragedy in their lives. Both were hesitant to move toward love but both needed it so badly. Both are trying their best to be single parents, and doing a pretty good job.

I liked the way the story unfolded, with flash backs to when Anna came to the farm during WW II and her time there. Revealing the back story that way really added to enjoying current one.

Yes, this is a romance – but of a slightly different flavor. Chet and Kimberly are older. As Hatcher says in A Letter From the Author, she has come to know that the crazy feelings that come with love aren't only for the young. I highly recommend this delightful romance.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heart-warming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of more than sixty novels. Find out more at http://www.robinleehatcher.com/.

Thomas Nelson, 320 pages. You can buy the book here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Brothers' Keepers by NLB Horton

About the book:
Archaeologist Grace Madison is in Brussels cataloguing looted antiquities when
her son's bride is attacked in Switzerland. Her day careens from bad to catastrophic when daughter Maggie, a hydrologist, disappears in France.

Coincidence is a luxury that Grace cannot afford. Particularly when near-fatal history---saturated in espionage---is repeating itself.

The Madison family converges on Paris. Frenzied research unearths the evil threatening the unorthodox operatives: a legend intertwining Solomon, Martin Luther, and the Fourth Crusade. Embedded like a taproot in the Ancient Near East, a cuneiform clay tablet is their only lifeline. And insufficient when they collide with a familiar enemy, and unwittingly reveal too much.

Deceiving them at every turn, an old friend stands at the end of the three-continent, four-thousand-year-old race. As they jeopardize hearts and lives, they discover that to save themselves, they must first rescue him.


Watch a book trailer here. You can read an excerpt here. And find out more at http://nlbhorton.com/.

My review:
Maggie, the daughter, was abducted before she could give a talk at a seminar. She was speculating on a water source for Solomon's Mines at Timna – a source that might still be available today and therefore very valuable. The motley group of the Madisons, their adult children and various Mossad and other intelligence operatives, have one half of an ancient scroll and are searching for the other half. The search takes them from Venice to various locations, including a snowbound chalet in Switzerland, just over the Italian border. They are being hunted by (probably) two groups of adversaries. They have quite a few suspenseful encounters.

This is a complex novel. There are many characters, good and bad, some who are not who they seem to be. There are characters from the first novel and I felt that not enough back ground material about them was included in this one so that I would feel sufficiently caught up, had I not read that first novel.

There are many locations, some of which I had difficulty visualizing. For example, Grace asks her son, “Do you have a plan?” She looks at his notes. “I see you're going to move along the outside of the Doge's Palace, cross the della Carta, then onto the right terrace.” That meant absolutely nothing to me. I have no idea what those buildings are or what they look like. Some adjectives would have helped.

There is a great deal of action, some of it I felt was a bit repetitive, confusing or not necessary. For example, part of the group left a snow bound chalet under attack by way of a steep downhill ski. The down hill scene was quite adventurous and full of suspense. At the bottom, that group was joined by some left in the chalet, the latter having driven down (the crunch of tires). The down hill ski scene provided lots of suspense, but was it necessary if the others could merely drive down?

The plot includes many references to historical people, events, and places. Luther figures prominently, as he apparently had the artifact at one time. Our heroes find clues to the scroll's hiding place from various carvings and paintings in various locations. At the end of this novel, it is very clear it is not the end of the story. A sequel is planned and needed.

All that being said, I really liked Horton's writing. This is a thinking person's novel. Statements are frequently made obliquely. One has to really pay attention to the dialog and references to understand what is being said. There is some really snappy dialog too. Grace is a delightful character. She is an older woman, very intelligent, and a committed Christian. Near the end of the novel (96%), she says, “I'm confused.” She asks her husband how various characters in the novel fit together. Whew. I didn't feel so bad that I was confused sometimes as well.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

After an award-winning detour through journalism and marketing and a graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, NLB Horton returned to writing fiction. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs accompanied (twice!) by heavy artillery rounds from Syria and machine gun fire from Lebanon. Calmly tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman. Driven uneventfully through Rome. And consumed gallons of afternoon tea across five continents. Her first novel, When Camels Fly, was released in May, 2014.The Brothers' Keepers her second in the Parched series, was released November 17, 2014. The third in the series will release in the fall of 2015.

RidgeRoute Press, 408 pages. Purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo

As an avid reader of fiction and nonfiction in about equal amounts, I also like to read about the craft of writing. This is November, the month when thousands of people commit to writing a novel in a month. Chris Baty is one of the originators of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and I did read his latest edition of No Plot? No Problem! Potential writers are encouraged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Don't think about editing, just write.

How ironic, I thought, that I was, at the same time, reading The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo. It is a book about writers and writing. DeSalvo draws from scores of books about writing, articles by authors, and her own experiences.

She advocates writing as a meditative act. One takes time to imagine the work and think about it. Then one writes, knowing there will be many opportunities to get it right. She helps writers work in stages, writing, revising, learning. She advocates fine tuning, going through the work sentence by sentence and word by word. Good writing takes time and thought.

She has a section on finding one's rhythm for writing and gives some deliberate practices. She suggests a writing partner and/or mentor. She thinks potential writers should always be carrying a notebook with them, jotting down ideas. She advocates writing a journal so who you were “then” will not be lost to you. As an instructor in writing memoirs, she teaches writing as discovery.

Always be writing. We are not born with talent, she says. We find it through deliberate practice. “No writing, to me, is a waste of time and every word a writer pens is potentially useful.” (101) In the end, “The writing process is still a mystery.” (234)

This is a good book for aspiring writers to understand how the writing process is viewed and accomplished by authors of a variety of genres. Besides getting some good writing tips, there is also a great deal of insightful thought about the art of writing. I think you'll be inspired.

What will you be writing today?

Louise DeSalvo is an award-winning teacher and writer. She is currently the Jenny Hunter Endowed Professor at Hunter College, where she started Hunter's MFA in Memoir program. She has published seventeen books and lives in Sag Harbor, New York, and Upper Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband. You can follow her blog at www.writingalife.wordpress.com.

St. Martin's Griffin, 306 pages.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Temperance's Trial by Hallee Bridgeman

In this first installment of the Virtues and Valor series, Marie Gilbert and her brother escape France as the Nazis invade. They are able to make their way to Britain. There, Marie, code name “Temperance,” becomes an intelligence trainee and than a wireless operator. She is the best the Brits have and when the time comes, she is sent back to France under the cover of being a seamstress. It was a very dangerous job and Temperance would ultimately experience the terrible treatment of the Nazis when captured.

The series is off to a good start and this installment leaves us hanging. I like it that Bridgeman has done her research and readers learn a great deal of history in her fiction. It seemed harsh that, while in intelligence training, the women were not allowed to make friendships. But, if they were captured and tortured, their lack of information about the other women might actually save them. The way the Nazi soldiers treated their captives was a revelation to me too.

While this is fiction, it is based on historical events. This story was inspired by the incredible Eileen Mary “Didi” Nearne, who served as a wireless operator in Occupied France under the code-name “Rose.” As in this story, she, her brother and sister fled the Nazia as the German war machine rolled into France. They eventually made their way to Great Britain. All entered service with the British Special Operations Executive. A group within SOE was called the F Section Networks. These networks were established in France to transmit and receive coded messages. It was one of the most dangerous duties assigned to those within the SOE. Bridgeman goes on to tell the story of Didi, her capture and imprisonment. She did survive the war, dying in 2010. It is an amazing and heroic story.

Temperance's Trial is part one of seven in a serialized story told in novellas. Each of the novellas is inspired by real people and actual events. They tell the stories of amazing heroines of WW II. Seven women of different nationalities, ethnicities, and social backgrounds come together as a team called the Virtues. I look forward to the next installment.

Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author. She and her family live in central Kentucky. When not writing novels, she blogs about all things cooking and homemaking at http://www.halleethehomemaker.com.

Olivia Kimbrell Pres, about 100 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novella through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

Garrison had been in Uganda for nine years, helping dig water wells, when he got malaria. He was forced to come back to the U.S. only to find that his grandmother had died. The grandmother who had raised him from age twelve after his parents died. He found out he was responsible for his grandmother's estate – including finding suitable homes for six cats. Cats to which he was severely allergic.

This is a sweet Christmas novella. I really liked Garrison. He is a good guy even if he is a little rusty in the social graces, having been in Africa for nearly a decade. I liked his vision of perhaps starting a house for troubled teens, helping them find their way. I felt for for him when reality set in and he knew he had to go back to Seattle for that job offer. He just seemed so lonely, however.

This is a great little book for cat lovers. Even if you don't like cats, this is a nice, warm novella. There a little romance too. It would be a good read for guys, since the main character is one. Can a guy end up a cat lover, even when he's allergic to them? You'll just have to read the book to find out. As a line in Carlson's novel says, “I wouldn't want to let the cat out of the bag.”

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than six million. She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, as well as The Christmas Pony and A Simple Christmas Wish. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at http://www.melodycarlson.com

Revell, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Motherless by Erin Healy

People say that a book is a “compelling” read. I may have said that about a book myself. But nothing I have read matches the compelling nature of this novel.

Their mother committed suicide – at least that's what the police concluded. An abandoned car at a secluded beach. No body ever found.

Then, seventeen years later, their father is in a serious accident. That is the beginning of the recession of the ocean of lies the family has lived under all that time.

Healy deftly tells the story, revealing the truth bit by bit. That was the compelling reading part. Each chapter revealed a little more, yet was a little more confusing. More than once I wondered what the real truth was. And there is an interesting twist, a change in perceived narrators, that caught me. It wasn't until I read the Reading Group Guide (which contains spoilers) that I realized the deception was deliberate. I too, as a reader was believing an untruth for quite a while. What an interesting literary experience paralleling the plot.

This is the truth: we all tell stories that we want to believe. We tell them for so long that we forget what we really know. Occasionally we convince others to believe them too.”

There is much to think about in this novel. What is your story? Is it true or something you have told yourself so long you actually believe it? Are you willing to change your story – to let the truth come out? Do you believe what your parents have told you about your childhood? How would you feel if you found out it was all a lie?

I would not really identify this novel as a “Christian” novel. There is a bit of spirituality at the end but it does not follow traditional evangelical thinking. Nonetheless, this is a very thought provoking novel about the lies we tell ourselves and others and about the places where the spiritual and the physical intersect.

Erin Healy is the bestselling coauthor of two books with Ted Dekker and an award winning editor for numerous bestselling authors. She has received wide acclaim for her own novels. She and her family live in Colorado. Find out more at http://www.erinhealy.com/.

Thomas Nelson, 368 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Journey Into Love by Nicola Neal

Neal shares how the Lord told them her husband, Simon, was to quit his job. Their church offered them a job and for seven years they worked with youth and children. They experienced God's provision in miraculous ways. Yet she struggled with pain, anxiety, and fear of failure. She took a sabbatical from ministry and spent time with Jesus, experiencing healing and a change within.

They came to feel they were to give their lives to the rescue and restoration of children and families in Africa but really didn't know what that mean. People prophesied over them that it was time to go. They met with their pastor and he encouraged them. Twelve weeks later they were in Uganda.

They are currently working in four slums on the west side of Kampala. The smallest has around a thousand people while the largest has over a million, living in extreme poverty, in a desperate situation with violence, death and disease. The Neals and their team hold healing crusades, praying for people. They have an ongoing work helping people come out of poverty for good.

This is a very personal account of her experiences. Rather than just giving a record of the events, she shares lessons she has learned through her life in Africa. She writes about the power of love, brokenness and sacrifice, what love looks like, and love casting out fear. Even though she and her husband had to return to England because of a critical illness he had, she knew they would go back. She had seen the need and knew she could not walk away from it. She shares a number of stories of children they have helped. Some just break your heart. The are all part of he author's journey into love.

This is a moving story of one woman answering the call to help the poor and needy. You will be encouraged and challenged by reading it.

You can go to their website, http://revelationlife.org.uk/, to find out the latest news about their work, find out the projects they are working on, and sign up for a newsletter.

Nicola Neal and her husband, Simon, are the Founders and Directors of Revelation Life based in Kampala, Uganda and were formerly part of the senior leadership team of Bath City Church. They are passionate about bringing this emerging generation into a life-changing encounter with their heavenly Father. Find out more at www.revelationlife.org.uk.

Destiny Image, 175 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Have Seen God by Klaus-DieterJohn

About the book:
Dr. John was trained at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world – Harvard and Yale. Yet he did not choose the route of a lucrative medical career in private practice. Instead, he chose to care for the poor.

It had been his dream since a child, growing up in Germany. He met his future wife in high school. Martina shared a similar dream of becoming a missionary doctor. They got the best medical training possible and then set out to be missionary doctors.

Dr. John took his family to places like Ghana, South Africa and Ecuador, before settling in the highlands of Peru. There he founded Diospi Suyana Hospital, an adventure he tells in this book. (The name of the hospital means “we trust in God” in the Quecha language.) The ministry also operates a dental clinic, a school and a children's ministry in Curahuasi, Peru.

Dr. John believes the stories told in this book have the power to change lives. When a medical student, he wondered if God was real. Through the founding of the hospital, God has become very real to him and to the people who have heard his story. He hopes that when people finish this book they will be more convinced than ever in the reality of a living God.

My review:
This is an amazing book. Time after time we read of God's miraculous provision in building this hospital. Medical supply companies who don't give away equipment would end up donating machines worth tens of thousands of dollars. Someone else would donate the shipping costs and use of containers.

But Dr. John is honest about the difficulties too, such as surviving a carjacking and having to “pay” the police when rescued. Not everything in the construction process went perfectly. He writes of dealing with a corrupt construction company, times of burn-out and depression. Setbacks often turned into blessings. An example is the time customs confiscated and kept the projector Dr. John used for his presentations. That resulted in a new satellite dish for the hospital.

Even when the future looked dim, God would provide a way. After removing three million cubic feet of earth, a freeze on construction and a $700,000 fine was issued by the Institute of Culture (possible Incan artifacts in the ground). A miraculous meeting with the president elect's wife Pilar Nores de Garcia sent the notice to the trash can.

Reading this book is a great encouragement that God is a God of miracles – today. It is not a literary masterpiece but is a good account of God at work today. I recommend it.

To find out the latest news about the hospital, watch videos, and sign up for newsletters, go to the Diospi Suyana website.

I am taking part of a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Dr. Klaus-Dieter John grew up in Germany. He met and fell in love with his wife, Martina, during his term as high school class president. The two bonded over their strong call to obtain medical degrees in order to serve the medical needs of the poorest of the poor. Dr. John began medical school in Germany, eventually completing his surgical training at Harvard and Yale in the U.S., as well as Johannesburg, South Africa. Martina was trained in both Germany and the U.S. and is a certified pediatrician in both countries.

Monarch Books (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 288 pages. You can buy a copy here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ordinary by Michael Horton

It is not fashionable for a Christian to be “ordinary” right now. We've been encouraged to be radical and revolutionary. We are supposed to transform our culture, change the world.

With all that hype, Horton wonders whether we have forgotten how to be a godly neighbor, parent, or co-worker. He writes, “...I am convinced that we have drifted from the true focus of God's activity in this world. It is not to be found in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary, the everyday.” (18)

He explores the long term Christian walk as opposed to the short spurts. He answers objections, reminds us excellence takes a long time, that ordinary isn't being passive and it is not falling prey to the latest reinventing of the church or Christianity. He covers a number of topics like revivals, ambition, “extraordinary” ministers and ministries, contentment, Christian “heroes”, and children in church services.

This is a book for the rest of us. He writes about being faithful to Jesus in an ordinary life. His book is dedicated to the Christians who cherish ordinary moments, “and to all those believers who consider their ordinary vocations in the world as part of God's normal way of loving and serving neighbors right under their nose each day.” (27)

He includes exercises at the end of each chapter that would be good for a small group to discuss and act upon.

This is a good look at how God, in general, grows His kingdom in the world. It is in the day by day interaction with our family, neighbors, and co-workers, not in the one time glitzy activity. Horton gets a little too theological at times for the lay person, I think. I found myself asking several times why a passage or topic was included in the book. Nonetheless, for those of us who have faithfully plodded to work each day, been Jesus to our family and neighbors, this is a very encouraging book.

Michael Horton is the author of over thirty books and is a professor at Westminster Seminary California. He also hosts the White Horse Inn broadcast/podcast, and is the editor of Modern Reformation magazine.


Zondervan, 224 pages.