Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard

I really liked this mystery. I liked Serena, a relatively new FBI agent. I liked the plot revolving around stolen masterpieces of fine art. I liked Serena's quirky aunt too.

Serena is on the FBI Art Crime Team. This put a bit of a twist on the regular FBI kind of novel. Two pieces of art are found missing from a local museum. Serena's friend Zoe works there so Serena is first on the scene.

The plot is complex as Serena investigates a number of leads and suspects. I was happy to learn some things about art in this novel. Serena feels passionate about recovering stolen art because she sees the loss of a painting as a loss of part of our common heritage. I liked this thought about art, “Art shows us ways of seeing the world that science can't.”

As the novel progresses and we get to know Serena more, we find that her grandfather had been murdered and the murderer never apprehended. Serena hopes that joining the FBI will help her find the killer.

Serena is a fun character. She really has a heart for her work. She also gets into odd situations that made me laugh. And I loved her aunt! She is a pistol packing woman who has more courage than fear. She added some laughs too. There are other great characters in the novel as well. I really like the snappy dialog between them. I can tell the author has put some thought into the character conversations.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. I look forward to seeing how Serena matures in her job. She is a heroine that has captured my attention so I'll be looking for the sequel.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy a good and complex mystery with a strong female heroine. You'll be entertained, you'll laugh, and you'll learn some interesting facts about fine art.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Sandra Orchard is a winner of the RT Reviewers' Choice Award, the National Readers' Choice Award and the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence. She and her husband make their home in Niagara, Canada.

Revell, 336 pages.

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

Catch a Star by Tamika Catchings with Ken Petersen

This is an inspiring story of how Catchings rose above challenges to become one of the top WNBA players of all time.

She shares how she suffered from hearing loss as a young person. She wore hearing aids and was tormented and teased by classmates until she finally tossed them in a vacant lot. Her parents divorced and that was a challenge she had to overcome too.

I was impressed with her desire to play basketball even at a young age. She loved the game so much as a teen her goal was to play in the NBA as there was no women's league then. Her father had played professional basketball and he taught his daughters how to play the game. Catchings says her hearing loss forced her to pay attention to subtle body movements, a plus for playing basketball.

She takes us through her high school experience and a state championship. Then her time at Tennessee with coach Pat Summitt and an NCAA national championship. She had an ACL injury her senior year and wondered about the WNBA draft. But she was picked third by Indiana Fever, a team in their second year. Catchings won WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2002. She was on three Olympic teams and brought home three gold medals. She was essential to Indiana Fever's first ever WNBA championship in 2012. She was MVP of the league, of the championship series, and Defensive Player of the Year.

But her skill on the court is only half the story. More important is who Catchings is. She came to a point where she realized basketball was the most important thing in her life. She let God into her life, becoming born again, and made God in control of her life. She knows she has been gifted by God and gives back to her community, especially through her Catch the Stars Foundation she established in 2004, helping young people reach their dreams.

This is an encouraging book. Catchings is a great role model for young athletes. She has an inspiring character and exercises strength and persistence. I recommend it to basketball fans and young people ready to be inspired to be the best they can be.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever was the WNBA's 2011 MVP, a three time Olympic gold medalist, nine time WNBA All Star, four time All American, and a member of the National Champion University of Tennessee Lady Vols. You can find out more about her foundation at http://catchthestars.org/.
Ken Petersen has written numerous books over the years and helped many authors in their writing and publishing. He and his wife live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Revell, 256 pages.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Publishing Dreams by Gina Duke

You want to write a book and have it published by an established publisher. Can it be done without the process of getting an agent?

Duke says it can. She had her first book, Organizing Your Prayer Closet, published by Abingdon Press without the intervention of an agent. She shares in this ebook what she has learned about writing and getting a book published.

She helps choose a topic and how to make it unique enough to be recognized as an original idea. Next is the title and book premise with ideas to make the book stand out. She has practical suggestions for doing research, for identifying the felt need for the book, how to network and get endorsements. She gives ideas to create a platform, including blogging. She has a good book format proposal included too.

This little book is full practical ideas with an emphasis on what you can be doing right now to get yourself into a position to be published. I really liked her suggestions for how to do a fifteen minute interview with a publisher, should you get one at a writing conference.

She reminds readers over and over to have patience. Her first book was accepted quickly but Duke is finding that is not the case with her next books.

To help readers get to work on the suggestions she makes, a link to download a free fourteen page workbook is included. That way, as you read you can actually begin working right away on the process.

Did you know that if you're writing fiction, the book must be written before a contract is signed but not with nonfiction? For nonfiction, a proposal, chapter titles, etc., is all that is needed. You write the book after the contract is signed. That's just one of the tips I learned.

There is loads of information in this book and I recommend it to all who desire to write a book and have it published by a recognized publisher.

You can find out more about the book at http://ginaduke.com/tag/publishing-dreams/.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Gina Duke is an award winning author with over 15 years of experience leading women's conferences. She is a content provider for iDisciple (a Family Christian ministry), WomensMinistry.net (a Jennifer Rothschild ministry), and Nashville's Family Christian Magazine. She has a BS in Organizational Leadership and is currently completing her Associates in Ministry. She lives in the greater Nashville, TN area. You can find out more at http://ginaduke.com/.

Gina Duke, 75 pages.

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Buckhead Dead by Deborah Malone

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. It has a murder to solve, a little suspense to navigate, and some delightful characters.

I like women sleuths and in this novel we have Skye and Honey. These two had done a remodel for an eccentric woman and enjoyed the celebration she threw to show off her new d├ęcor. They were stunned to find out the next day that the woman had been murdered some time in the night. There is a plethora of suspects, including Skye and Honey. They are determined to find the real murderer and clear their names. Throw in a treasure map Skye found in a desk she had loaned the odd woman and their investigations turn dangerous.

Skye and Honey are lively and adventurous women. Add Honey's cousin Ginger, an exotic dancer ready to have a new start in life, and the adventures get pretty crazy. I like how they try hard to gather evidence and interview all the suspects. Some of them are pretty odd too. It was entertaining to see how the women sort of bumbled their way through an investigation, right to the suspenseful end.

I enjoyed the setting of near Atlanta, Georgia. I enjoyed the sleuthing women. I enjoyed the mystery. It even had a little twist at the end that was fun.

I recommend this mystery to readers who like a quick novel with fun characters and a good plot. There is a hint of Christian faith that runs through the novel too.

I'm taking part in a blog tour of this book. You can find out more about the book, find links to other reviews, and read a guest post by the author here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Deborah Malone has worked as a freelance writer and photographer and has had many articles published. Her first novel, Death in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer's Category Five writing contest. She was nominated for 2011 and 2012 Georgia Author of the Year in Novel category.

Lamp Post Inc, 180 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Critical Conversations by Tom Gilson

This is an essential book for Christian parents. Teens are facing a situation like never before. They are surrounded by pro-LGBT messages. Parents need guidance in helping their teen grow up affirming biblical truths. Gilson has written this book for parents who don't know what to say when their teens have questions about what they are being told and what the Bible says.

He has divided the book into three parts. The first part gives us an overview, the big picture, and how we got here. He also includes the case for marriage between a man and a woman. The second part is about the relationship between parents and teens, such as keeping the conversation healthy with practical suggestions on how to keep the dialog open. Gilson encourages parents to keep God as a priority. He also writes about helping your teens relate to their LGBT friends. I was surprised and impressed with Gilson's explanation of the teen's rights and how to use them wisely. He is honest about the risk involved and advises practicing humility.

The last section contains short and practical ways to deal with the challenges students face. He writes about what a parent might do when their teen is called homophobic or intolerant. He covers many topics, such as “God made me this way.” He includes proposed dialogs a parent might loosely follow in a discussion with their teen.

I really liked Gilson's answer to Matthew Vines' claim that Paul didn't know about loving, committed homosexual relationships when he wrote Romans. Gilson does an excellent job of showing how Vines' claim is wrong.

I am impressed with this book. Today's Christian teens who want to practice biblical truth are doing so in a hostile culture. They will not receive encouragement from the world and greatly need it from their parents. This book gives parents a way to dialog with their teens and work through many issues. Gilson has added a resource list at the end of the book. He reminds readers that prayer is essential in all these endeavors.

Gilson is clear that this book is not for parents to use when their own child is questioning his or her own sexuality. For help in that area parents must look elsewhere.

I highly recommend this book to Christian parents who want to help their teens affirm biblical truths in a culture that may be opposing those very truths.

You can find out more about the book and read an excerpt at http://www.criticalconversationsbook.com/.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Tom Gilson is senior editor for apologetics with The Stream (www.stream.org) and was formerly national field director for Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance. He has written articles for a number of magazines and blogs at both Thinking Christian and The Point.

Kregel Publications, 200 pages.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Brush of Wings by Karen Kingsbury

This novel is the third in the Angels Walking series and to really enjoy it fully, one should read the previous two.

As with the other novels, Kingsbury highlights the role of angels in the lives of the novel's characters. This story centers on Mary Catherine. She is in need of a heart transplant and it looks like the chances of that happening are slim. Convinced the relationship between her and Marcus should not continue, she spurns his love for her and goes to Africa. The angels take on the task of preserving her life and seeing to it that her future is in line with the future God has planned.

Kingsbury has an interesting way of writing a novel. Even though there were suspenseful times in the story, the action moves along at a consistent pace and the prose is almost soothing rather than anxiety producing. The characters' personalities are well developed as there is quite a bit of contemplation by them recorded.

There were a couple of things I found a bit odd in the novel. One was the lack of description. I had a hard time visualizing people and places. We are in the presence of a newborn at one place in the novel and I kept waiting to find out what it looked like. I read much of what people thought about the baby and its importance to them, but I was left never knowing whether the baby had hair, was bald, the color of its skins, etc. I would have liked a little more physical descriptions of the scenes and people, perhaps at the expense of what characters were thinking about the scenes and the people.

The other concept I thought odd was the dislike of carbohydrates. There was a repeated emphasis on avoiding carbohydrates. In fact, Kingsbury writes, “Carbohydrates caused inflammation, illness, and disease.” I did a little investigation on my own and found that research results are really mixed. While refined carbohydrates cause inflammation, some studies found that fats and protein (especially casein) do too. One study found that high fiber intake actually lowered inflammation markers. With the conclusions so mixed, I wondered why the carbohydrate issue was mentioned so often.

I recommend this novel to readers who like a satisfying Christian romance that highlights the possible involvement of angels in our lives. If you like a high protein, low carb diet, your views will be reinforced too.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Karen Kingsbury is a New York Times bestselling author with more than twenty-five million copies of her books in print. Some of her award winning novels are in the process of being made into movies. She and her family live in Tennessee. You can find out more at http://www.karenkingsbury.com/.

Howard Books, 352 pages.

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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happily Ticked Off by Andrea R. Frazer

Tourette's Syndrome was something I had heard about but really knew nothing about it. This book is a good one to learn about the condition and how it affected one mom.

Frazer's son was diagnosed with the syndrome and her perfect world exploded. She looked for books with support, hope, and a little humor. Not finding any, she wrote one herself.

This is a very enlightening and informative book. I'd heard about the swearing outbursts but was surprised to find that less than ten percent of the kids uncontrollably curse. Her son had tics, twitches, coughs, etc. There is a great section where Frazer defines terms. That will help parents of newly diagnosed children know what the professionals are talking about.

Frazer is very honest about her experiences, especially how her son's diagnosis affected her. She tended to be a wreck from time to time. She and her husband tried to find out what caused their son's symptoms and what helped alleviate them. They were informed about drugs but tried some alternative treatment. She writes about their experience being told they needed an IEP. They entered a clinical trial.

Frazer herself went to counseling, trying to deal with her own insecurities. She tells great stories, giving a delightful sense of humor in the midst of this serious topic. Part of her honesty includes some swearing and vulgar language.

I learned a great deal about Tourette's, including how much research as to its cause and treatment is inconclusive. I liked that ultimately, Frazer found strength in her faith to make it through her experiences.

I recommend this book to those who want to know more about Tourette's and how one mom made her way through the experience. You can find out more about the book and follow her blog at http://happilytickedoff.com/.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Andrea R. Frazer is a former Hollywood sitcom writer. She and her family live in Los Angeles.

Armonia Publishing, 239 pages.

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

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit by Nicki Koziarz

This is a good book to read if you need a boost to persevere. Maybe there is a tough job project or you need to lose weight. Koziarz has gleaned five habits from the book of Ruth that will encourage you to persevere.

This is not a book about productivity. You won't find any techniques to help you prioritize or meet your goals. This book it about your attitudes. You are given five attitudes to have if you are going to persevere and not quit.

I'll give a couple so you can see the idea of the book. The first attitude is that you must be willing to be refined by God. God may very well mix things up in your life so that you can grow through it. It may mean adversity or some other tough experience. Koziarz encourages you to embrace the process. It is what God uses to remove impurities and improve your character.

Another habit is staying open to the movement of God. Your day (or your life) may not be going the way you had planned. Maintaining this habit means having attitudes of humility and surrender.

Koziarz tells lots of stories about her own experiences to illustrate the five habit areas. The book is very readable with bits if humor to lighten up the serious topics. At the end of each chapter are quotes to remember and challenging questions.

This is a soul searching book to see if you have the attitudes that make for a woman who perseveres. If you identify yourself as a “quitter,” you will find some encouragement to evaluate your attitudes and change them. I would have liked to see more practical steps and suggestions as to how one's attitudes can be changed. At the end of the book I understood what attitudes I should have but was lacking a plan to get them incorporated into my life. There is additional material available – videos and study books. I would think working through this book in a group setting would be much better than trying to do it solo.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Nicki Koziarz is an author and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband own a fixer upper farm just outside Charlotte, North Carolina. You can find out more at www.nickikoziarz.com.

B & H Books, 224 pages.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Shadows by Travis Inman

Do you ever wonder what the impact of one decision might have on the rest of your life?

Inman has created a world for us where we are privy to the aftermath of one decision Justin “Flip” Grey makes. While he is away at a banking convention, he is confronted by a voluptuous woman and propositioned. His decision is life changing and we get to see its fruit.

Inman takes us down parallel futures. In one future, Justin refuses the temptation of the woman. In the other, “Flip” succumbs. How their futures differ is eye opening.

I like this technique of showing two possible futures. It really made me aware of the decisions I make and the results that may follow. I like how Justin must confront his weak areas to continue on his successful path.

This book is a little like a fairy tale. The results of the one decision are almost more than life itself. The extreme separation between the two futures serves to really emphasize the results of decisions. It also shows how the one decision determines the future of his wife and children.

There is one aspect of the novel I found less than satisfactory and that was the alcohol. I can see “Flip” getting drunk but I didn't like Justin and those mentoring him being so taken with liquor. There was quite a bit about the taste of fine scotch and its celebratory use. If you have any trouble with alcohol, this book may not be a good one for you. The scotch was made to sound very good and I don't even drink alcohol.

Other than the issue with the use of alcohol, I recommend this book. It certainly paints a very serious picture of what happens as a result of decisions we make. It also shows the importance of mentoring. There's a good discussion guide at the end so this would make a good choice for a men's reading group.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Travis W. Inman grew up in West Texas and worked as a cowboy. He graduated from seminary in Dallas then served mission fields in Mexico and South America. He has applied his skills to a variety of fields, ranging from marketing to criminal justice. He also served in the United States Army. Writing has been a life-long passion. He and his wife live in Idaho. You can find out more at http://www.traviswinman.com/.

Elk Lake Publishing, 243 pages.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I'm Sick Now What? by Dr. Andrew Butterworth

You're a Christian and you get sick. What do you do? Do you stand on God's promise of healing and refuse to seek medical help? Do you discard the concept of divine healing and call your doctor?

As a physician and Christian, Dr. Butterworth offers a balanced approach. He first explains why there is sickness in the world. He reminds us of the promise that it will be eradicated in the future. He looks at the role of humans, both ourselves and others, Satan, and God in sickness. I really like his reminding us that all sickness is subject to God's sovereign rule. He looks at the purpose God might have in our sickness, exploring the relationship between spiritual healing and physical healing.

He then looks at issues that might prevent our healing, such as unforgiveness, wrong belief, pride, and sexual sin. He gives very good practical steps to overcome each issue.

Lastly, Butterworth looks at the relationship between God's medical wisdom and God's supernatural healing power. He gives the case for both, adding many of his own experiences. He also looks at the relationship of faith and medical treatment. He includes specific insights on praying for God's intervention.

I really appreciate his discussion on the teaching that physical healing is part of the atonement, Jesus' death and resurrection. Butterworth makes a distinction between the effects of living in a sin corrupted world and the effects of our own sins. Those who “claim their healing” confuse those issues, he writes.

I am impressed with this book. Butterworth writes from his knowledge and experience in both the medical field and his role as pastor. Though he has prayed for healings and seen miracles happen, he has a balanced view of supernatural healing and healing through medical means.

I highly recommend this book to those looking for a balanced understanding of God's supernatural healing and the use of medical treatment for healing. The book is full of insight, encouragement, and practical suggestions.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Dr. Andrew Butterworth is a pastor at Junction Church, Johannesburg, South Africa. Trained as a doctor at the University of St. Andrews and then the University of Manchester, he worked in various hospitals around the United Kingdom's Greater Manchester area before transitioning to public health and church ministry. He and his wife live in South Africa.

Whitaker House, 256 pages.

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