Monday, May 22, 2017

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream

I was excited to read this novel chosen as the Whidbey Reads for 2017. While the novel takes place on a fictional island in the San Juans, the author notes that she borrowed heavily from Whidbey Island of which I am a resident and native.

The plot revolves around an event that happens once every hundred years. For six nights a bay on a small island glows, tiny creatures giving off light. The event has been a part of native lore, passed down from generation to generation. Researchers descend on the bay. One of them has an ulterior motive and that will change the destiny of many.

I enjoyed this novel, mostly because it takes place nearby. The characters were not developed as well as I would have liked. The character driving the plot is Rachel, an organic chemist who is obsessed, hoping to find an answer to her physical pain in the luminescent animals. She is probably the best developed character although it took nearly half the book to find out the source of her physical pain. Other characters help provide a subplot that I thought was a little far fetched.

I was disappointed in the ending of the novel – not what happened to whom but how it all came to be. I felt the plot was moving forward but then it all seemed to spread out and just end.

I recommend this novel to those who would like to get a flavor of life in the Pacific Northwest and the San Juan Islands. You'll learn some about sailing and boat repair too.

My rating: 3/5/stars.

Ashley Ream got her first job writing for a newspaper when she was sixteen. This is her second book. She and her husband live in Seattle. You can find out more at http://ahream.com/.


Flatiron Books, 320 pages.

Author photo by Eric Stone.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray

I am impressed with the depth and honesty of these 40 devotions. They were initiated during a time when Gray was on a three year journey navigating the mysteries of her soul. She collected whispers from God as He healed her and restored her joy. She invites readers along on what has become her daily practice to listen to God and be refreshed. The devotions are not light nor fluffy but are opportunities for readers to investigate and express heart feelings. She suggests finding a quiet place and using a journal. She provides plenty of journal prompts.

The format of these devotions is unique and provides several ways for readers to respond. Gray has comments and then a related Bible passage. Next is an imagined message from God, a written prayer to Jesus and a few more comments from the author. Questions for reflection follow, then prompts for personal prayer on the topic. Last is a challenge for an activity related to the topic. I like those challenges. They provide a combination of spiritual practices and practical living ideas. We are encouraged to read Scripture slowly and then eat slowly as well. After instruction on listening to God we are encouraged to listen to the sounds of nature.

These are good devotions for people who are ready to grow and are willing to think about issues in their lives. Gray writes about the choices we make, about hurts and healing, about when our life doesn't match the dreams God has put in our hearts, and much more. She is honest in writing about her feelings and asks the same of us. These are not light devotions. They are probing, revealing and healing.

There are a few aspects of these devotionals with which I am uncomfortable. Gray includes whispers from God, imagined statements He makes to us. I get a little nervous when people presume to verbalize messages from God and that is the case here. Another area of concern is the use of Scripture passages. Can we take something God specifically said to Israel, for example, Isaiah 62:4-5 where God would name Israel “delight," and apply it to us today? Another example is applying Mark 1:11 to us when God was specifically speaking of Jesus.

With those reservations, I do recommend this devotional. The devotions are good and I really like the areas where Gray asks readers to respond. Working through the book would be a journey in self discovery and healing. There are additional resources available and you can find out more about the book at www.thebonniegray.com/whispersofrest .

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Bonnie Gray is an inspirational speaker, retreat leader, and the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace. Her writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, Dayspring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. You can find out more at http://thebonniegray.com/.

FaithWords, 400 pages.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Killing Room by Richard Montanari

The Killing Room

by Richard Montanari

on Tour May 15-26, 2017

Publisher Synopsis:


Nothing will ever be the same again...

In the heart of Philadelphia’s badlands, Homicide Detectives Byrne and Balzano are called out to a particularly chilling crime scene. Once the pillar of the neighborhood, an abandoned church has become a killing room. At first it looks like a random act of violence. But then a second body is found, and a third. Each crime scene more disturbing than the last, each murder more brutal. And it soon becomes horrifyingly clear that a cold, calculating and terrifyingly precise mind is at work. With very few leads, and a mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead, Byrne and Balzano are faced with challenges they could never have imagined as they race against time to hunt down their killer, before it’s too late...

Discover what readers around the world already know: Richard Montanari’s novels are “relentlessly suspenseful” (Tess Gerritsen)


My Review:


I enjoyed reading this novel. It is a good combination of detective work and character thought and information.

This mystery has a definite religious bent to it. Someone seems to be arranging murders that represent the seven churches in Revelation. I liked that aspect of the plot. I learned about how the Catholic Church closes up church buildings and what happens to them afterward. The plot itself is complex. The motivation for the murders is kept hidden until the end. That kept the plot going and kept me guessing who the actual murderer was.

I found a couple of aspects of the novel that puzzled me. Balzano is married with two children. Her husband is also a policeman. I want to know how she juggles two children with her many hours of police work. There is mention of taking the children to school and daycare, but what happens when she is called out at night or has a long surveillance shift? That missing aspect of her life made her character seem flat to me. The other issue is with Byrne. He did one action that seemed fuel for dismissal yet came through unscathed. And at the end, he did some things that I just didn't understand. Again, actions that I would think would lead to dismissal. That made his character seem larger than life and a bit unrealistic.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy a good mystery with a complex plot and plenty of character involvement. Some of the murders are a bit gruesome so beware.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Number of Pages: 328
ISBN: 0062467441 (ISBN13: 9780062467447)
Series: Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne #6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

When she was a young girl, before the night embraced her with its great black wings, and blood became her sacramental wine, she was, in every way, a child of light. To those who knew her in those years she seemed a studious girl, quiet and polite, given to watching clouds for hours on end, oblivious, as only the very young can be, to the crushing poverty that surrounded her, the chains that had enslaved her kind for five generations.
She was six years old before she wore a pair of shoes she did not share. She was eight before she buttoned a dress someone had not stained before her.
For the longest time she lived inside the high stone walls of her mind, a place where there were no shadows, no demons.
In her thirteenth year, on a night when the candles fell cold and the moon was not to be found, she met the darkness for the first time. Not the darkness that follows day, descending upon the earth in a deep violet blush, but rather that which dwells within men, men who travel the hardpan roads, gathering to them the mad, the fallen, the corrupt of heart, their deeds the silt of backwater lore. On that night a seed was sown in her body, her spirit.
Now, these many years later, in this place of misery and wretchedness, in this house of seven churches, she knows she belongs.
There are no angels here.
The devil walks these streets. She knows him well – his face, his touch, his scent – because in her thirteenth year, when God turned his head, it was to the devil she was given.
She had watched the young man for more than a week, having first spotted him on Market Street near the Eleventh Street station, a gaunt figure etched on a granite wall. He was not an aggressive panhandler – indeed, his nearly skeletal body and spectral presence would not have presented much of a threat to anyone – but was instead a man reduced to mumbling incoherently to passersby, commuters rushing to and from the station. Twice he had been moved along by police officers, offering no resistance or response. His spirit, it seemed, had long ago been purloined by his addictions, the siren call of the streets.
On most nights, after the evening rush hour, he would walk Market Street toward the Delaware River, toward Old City, stopping those who looked like an easy mark, cadging the occasional handful of coins, grubbing the infrequent cigarette.
She always followed him at a safe distance. Like most of his breed he went unnoticed, except to those like him, or those who would use him. On those rare occasions when he found a homeless shelter with room, he would stay the night, but would always take up position outside the Eleventh Street station by 6:30 a.m., beginning his cycle of despair and degradation all over again.
Once she followed him into a convenience store on Third Street, and watched as he pocketed high-sugar foods – honey buns, Ding Dongs, TastyKakes – all with one yellowed eye on the convex mirrors at the end of the aisle. She watched him wolf down the food in a nearby alley, only to throw it all up moments later.
On this day, when temperatures are predicted to drop below zero, she knows it is time.
Bundled in four thin sweaters and a pea coat ripped at both shoulder seams, the young man stands shivering in a doorway on Eighth Street near Walnut.
She approaches him, stopping a few feet away, still mostly in shadow. He looks up. In his watery eyes she sees herself, and knows the spirit is stirring.
‘Spare change?’ he asks.
It is as if she can hear the bones clattering in his chest.
He is in his twenties, but the skin around his eyes is purplish and sallow, the stubble on his face already gray. His hair is greasy beneath his watch cap. His fingernails are bitten raw. Blisters bubble on the back of his hands.
She remains in shadow, holds out a gloved hand. At first the young man is skeptical, but when she steps into the light, and he sees her eyes for the first time, he knows. He takes her hand as a hungry man would accept a crust of bread.
‘Do you remember your promise?’ she asks.
He hesitates before answering. They always do. In this moment she can all but hear the wheels turning, the fevered reasoning in his mind. In the end they remember, because this is the one vow they all know will one day be recalled. A single tear rivers down his scalded cheek.
‘Yes.’
She glances down, notices a dark stain blossoming on the front of his trousers. He is wetting himself. She has seen this before, too. The release.
‘Come with me,’ she says. ‘I will show you what you need to do.’
The young man steps forward on unsteady legs. She helps him. He seems to possess no weight at all, as if he were sculpted of steam.
At the mouth of the alley she stops, turns the young man to face her fully. ‘He will need to hear your words. Your exact words.’
His lips begin to tremble. ‘Can’t I tell just you instead?’
‘No,’ she says. ‘Your contract was with him, not me.’
The young man wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. ‘Then he is real after all.’
‘Oh, my, yes.’ She points to the dark niche at the end of the alley. ‘Would you meet him now?
***
Excerpt from The Killing Room by Richard Montanari. Copyright © 2017 by Richard Montanari. Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.
 

Author Bio:

Richard Montanari is the internationally bestselling author of numerous novels, including the nine titles in the Byrne & Balzano series.
He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Catch Up With Richard Montanari On:
- Website
- Goodreads
- Twitter
- Facebook

 

Tour Participants:


Click here to view the The Killing Room by Richard Montanari Book Tour Participants
 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Glasgow Kiss by Alex Gray Giveaway

Glasgow Kiss

by Alex Gray

on Tour May 8-31, 2017

Publisher Synopsis:


Eric Chalmers is one of the most popular teachers at Muirpark Secondary School in Glasgow. Gentle and kind, he is the one adult students trust as a confidant. So when precocious teenager Julie Donaldson accuses Chalmers of rape, the school goes into shock. How could a deeply religious family man like Chalmers do such a thing? With some students and teachers supporting Julie, and others standing by Chalmers, life at Muirpark is far from harmonious. And then the situation gets much worse – Julie Donaldson goes missing, and the police are called in.
For DCI William Lorimer, this is the second missing persons case in a week. He's had too many sleepless nights worrying about a toddler who has been missing for several days. Julie's disappearance adds a further burden to Lorimer's already overstretched workload. With each day, the likelihood of either girl being found alive diminishes, and Lorimer finds himself racing against the clock to save innocent lives.


My Review:


I have enjoyed reading the DCI Lorimer series. This is the sixth in the series but can be appreciated without having read the previous novels. Gray did a good job of holding my interest by including two cases Lorimer is working on. One is a child abduction while the other is a missing person, soon found to be a victim of murder. The two cases were distinct and did not confuse the plot.

The strength of this Lorimer novel is the character development. I enjoyed learning more about Lorimer's wife, Maggie, and her teaching. Her minor involvement in the murder case is supplemented with important events in other characters. A well liked teacher is falsely accused of rape and we see what effect that has on his life and career. A student has a father who has just been released from prison and we read how the young man deals with that troubling influence.

The novel takes place in Scotland and Gray frequently has characters speaking local dialect. I found that to be somewhat distracting. That was a minor issue in an otherwise good novel.

This is a good police procedure novel that has much character emphasis. There is essentially no suspense. I recommend this novel to those who would enjoy a novel of methodical investigation taking place in Scotland.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Harper Witness
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0062659162 (ISBN13: 9780062659163)
Series: DCI Lorimer #6
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

They were walking a little apart now. Her face was in profile, half shaded by the overhanging trees so that he could not make out her expression, though from time to time he would sneak a glance to see if she was looking his way. Her long pale-golden hair was twisted into plaits, leaving the cheekbones naked and exposed. It should have made her seem like a child but instead she looked older, more remote, and Kyle wished she’d left it loose as she usually did, burnished and glimmering in the afternoon sunshine.
It hadn’t always been like this. They’d walked through Dawsholm Park loads of times, sometimes hand in hand, dawdling by the grass verges, snatching the chance to have a quick kiss.
But now, Kyle thought gloomily, these halcyon days were over. Halcyon had been Kyle’s favourite word last term. His English teacher, Mrs. Lorimer, had explained that it derived from a Greek story about a mythical bird that in the middle of winter made its nest floating upon the Aegean seas. The bird had magical powers to make the waters calm and the winds drop. Kyle loved that story and had used the word in his own mind to describe his relationship with Julie. He’d even dreamed of them once – floating together like that bird, side by side, waves lapping gently against their boat. Something made him shiver suddenly and the girl turned to him, a question in her eyes. Kyle shook his head, too full to speak. She was still watching him and must have seen the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed back the tears.
‘All right?’ Her voice was full of concern, but not for what was happening between them. Not for that.
‘Aye, fine,’ he replied but failed to stifle the sigh escaping from his chest. Would she stick with him out of pity after seeing his battered face? Part of him wanted to have Julie around, her warmth and loveliness blotting out the misery of the last two days. But deep down he knew he’d lost her long before his father’s release from prison.
‘Kyle?’
‘What?’
‘D’you want to talk about it?’ She had stopped walking now and was looking at him, frowning. ‘It might help . . .’ Her voice trailed off in an unspoken apology.
Kyle shrugged. He hadn’t talked about it to anyone though he’d done a fair amount of listening. His gran’s house had been full of talk: recriminations, wild accusations and shouting. But that was because women did that sort of thing. And because Kyle was Gran’s favourite, the youngest of her three grandsons. His brothers and his gran: they all had something to say about what Tam Kerrigan had done, and not just to him. That was one reason why he was here, with Julie, to escape from all of the talk. But also he’d been interested in the bit about the murder victim, in spite of everything. What happened to a dead person at a post-mortem examination?
He’d looked up stuff on the net, reading in a detached way about incisions and bodily fluids, not really making a link with the dead man his father had killed. Even the illustrations on the Internet site hadn’t put him off. It was like selecting bits of vacuum-packed butcher meat from the supermarket shelves and not seeing the animal they’d come from. Not like in the school trip to France where you were in no doubt about the origin of your dinner. One of the lassies had nearly thrown up that time someone had served up a chicken with everything still attached, the yellow claws curled over the platter and the head all to one side; you could imagine its squawk as the neck had been wrung.
‘Kyle?’ Julie’s voice broke into his thoughts and he looked up, seeing her staring at him, a tiny crease between her eyes.
‘Och, I’m okay,’ he told her, then dropped his gaze, unable to bear the kindness in her face. ‘The bruises’ll be gone in a day or so. Probably by the time we go back to school,’ he added.
‘Are you going back right away?’
Kyle shrugged again. ‘Why not? Can’t see what good it’ll do me to hang around the house.’ He paused to let the unspoken words sink in.
Keeping out of the house meant keeping away from his father. They walked on again in silence but this time Julie reached out for his hand and he took it, feeling its warmth, glad to have her there. It would be okay. There might be folk staring at him, curious to know the truth behind what the papers said about Tam Kerrigan, but if Julie was there, even as a friend, he’d manage all right. All summer they’d talked about the advantages of being in Fourth Year, both excited, dropping the pretence of being too cool to show it. His mouth twisted at the memory. That had been another person, a young carefree creature whose whole life had stretched before him like an open road. Now that person was dead and gone, his boyhood behind him for ever.
---
Excerpt from Glasgow Kiss by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2017 by Alex Gray. Reproduced with permission from Harper Witness. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:


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

Connect with Alex Gray on her Website & Twitter.

 

Tour Participants:

Click here to view the Glasgow Kiss by Alex Gray Book Tour Participants
 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Harper Collins. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of THE RIVERMAN by Alex Gray. The giveaway begins on May 7th and runs through June 1st 2017.
a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Good Book by Deron Spoo

Many people today are not familiar with the Bible and its major concepts. Some might find the Bible intimidating. Spoo has taken 40 chapters from the Bible, those containing the big ideas of the Bible, and has tried to make them understandable and personal.

The format of the book includes each Scripture passage so the book can be read without having a Bible nearby. The chapter in the Bible is followed by comments from Spoo and then a small section with comments and questions for reflection.

I appreciate Spoo's comments. He sometimes adds cultural or historical information to help readers understand the major theme represented by that particular Bible chapter. He also adds stories to illustrate the themes. I didn't see the significance of some of the stories, such as what was found upon demolishing of the Alton Towers Corkscrew roller coaster.

This is a good book for people unfamiliar with the Bible who want to know its major themes. It is good for someone who looks at the Bible and has no idea where to begin to understand it. It is also a good book for Christians who don't regularly read their Bible, to be reminded of these themes and experience them in a fresh way. It would make a good forty day time of Bible refreshment, such as for Lent or Advent.

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

You can find out more about the book at http://www.readthegoodbook.com.
You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past 16 years, Spoo has quided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. His television devotionals, “First Things First,” reach 100,000 people each week. Spoo is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife have three children.

David C Cook, 400 pages.

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

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? by Jennifer Grant

Midlife is a period of transition. It can be a troubled time or one full of opportunity. Grant shares her thoughts on her experiences and the lessons she has learned. Some of her stories are about ordinary events while others are life altering.

I enjoyed Grant's thoughts on getting old. I could identify with many of her examples and emotions. Midlife is a crazy time for many women and reading her stories helps us know what we are experiencing is not so abnormal. Her insights are good and range from marriage and parenting issues to the danger of comparing ourselves with others.

My favorite part of her book was actually the beginning where she explores the whole concept of memories. She reminds us we are not merely the sum of our life events. Memories help us see how we've grown and help us appreciate the blessings we have today that we might otherwise overlook.

A note for evangelical readers: Grant is uncomfortable with the concept of God sending some to heaven and others to hell. “I am hopeful that all things and all of humankind and all of creation will ultimately be renewed by, and reconciled to, God.” (Loc. 1921/2194)

I recommend this book to readers who are looking for some insight into the experience of midlife. You'll have a few laughs and get some help in making it through this time of transition.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jennifer Grant is a writer, editor and speaker. A former health and family columnist for the Chicago Tribune, she is the author of five previous books. She is a graduate of Wheaton College and Southern Methodist University. She is a longtime member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and lives in the Chicago area with her husband and their four children. You can find out more at http://www.jennifergrant.com/.

Herald Press, 192 pages.

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Transformed by Christy Wimber

I was attracted to this book because of the subtitle: Challenging myths about the power-filled life. I've read lots of books about the charismatic movement and the spirit filled life. Most of them seemed unrealistic, all about victory and success.

Wimber's book is honest and realistic. Finally, someone in the movement is willing to write about the tough times and the sacrifice, sweat and suffering required for spiritual maturity. I really like her honesty. “It's alright to admit that life is sometimes hard.” (23) We can admit that sometimes the path God is leading us on does not make sense.

Wimber is a pastor and I like what she writes about worship. It's not right to accommodate today's culture, she says. “We cannot influence something which we ourselves conform to.” (79) I like her emphasis on paying attention to what God values, not what we like.

Wimber is also honest about sickness, suffering and healing. I really like how she admits that we don't really understand it all. She writes about grace and about her dismay in that a healthy fear of the Lord is often absent.

I highly recommend this book to those who have been put off by the overly enthusiastic books about the spirit-filled life. You'll find here an honest look at the charismatic life. I really identified with what Wimber has written and was encouraged too.

Food for thought: “A healthy fear of the Lord empowers grace and saves the soul.” (185)
Here's more food for thought: “There are lots of ministries which work but were never God's idea.” (192)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Christy Wimber is an author, speaker and pastor who has traveled around the world. She planted a Vineyard Church in 2006 and continues to travel, equipping the church. She and her husband live in Yorba Linda, California, and have two children.

Monarch Books, distributed in the U.S. By Kregel, 224 pages.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson

This is the second in the Evie Blackwell series. While there were some references to the previous book, this novel reads well on its own.

Evie is on a state task force to solve cold cases. The plot follows the current investigation of a college woman gone missing years ago, the case never having progressed to an arrest. Do to the nature of the plot, this is a novel of police procedure. Except for a very brief experience near the end, there is no suspense in the novel.

This is very much a character driven plot. Much of the novel is about Evie and, David, another cold case investigator. They share an office and talk about their cases. Much of the novel consists of detailed conversations about the investigations, options for further investigation, theories and speculation. I felt some of it was repetitive. We also learn much about Evie and David and their dating lives. David is dating a popular singer so we also learn quite a bit about concerts and the life of a music star. There are also long passages of character thought, especially Evie. Evie and David are Christians and there is a good presentation of the Christian viewpoint and the gospel.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a police procedure novel that is much more about the characters involved than suspense. I felt it slow going but then I like a quick moving plot with plenty of action. With that in mind, I would like the book to be about a hundred pages fewer. A reader who likes getting lost in the lives of the investigators is much better suited to enjoy this novel.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Dee Henderson is the author of numerous novels. Her books have been nominated for several awards. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois. You can find out more at http://www.deehenderson.com/.

Bethany House Publishers, 432 pages.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to Overcome Worry by Dr. Winfred Neely

We certainly live in a time when many worry and have great anxiety, including many Christians. Neely considers worry a serious issue and has written this little book to help us overcome it.

Neely reminds us early in the book, “In the New Testament, worry is the sinful response of the human heart and mind to real difficulties and problems in life.” (29) Worry is an expression of unbelief, he says, and “...habitual worry is a trait of someone who is not in an intimate relationship with God (Matt. 6:31-32).” (30)

That really got my attention. Worry is a serious issue! Neely takes “be anxious for nothing” very seriously. But he also gives us great instruction on triumphing over worry. His suggestions are not easy actions. We must trust God, expecting His peace in the midst of problems. He reminds us of the enabling power God provides, of the necessity of taking everything to God in prayer. We must be making the choices to exercise faith and trust in God, requiring living in the power of the Spirit.

Neely has included useful Appendixes. The first is a good one on prayer while the second gives a number of Scriptures for suggested meditation. The third includes questions for individual reflection or group discussion.

This is a short but powerful book. Neely doesn't hold back in reminding us of the seriousness of the sin of worry. I am impressed with his instruction. He uses stories from his own life as illustrations.

I recommend this book to those who are willing to face their worry and begin the serious task of conquering it. You will find a great deal of help in this little book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Winfred Neely is a professor of hermeneutics, homiletics, and pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. He has served as a missionary in Senegal, West Africa, for nine years. He is also involved in a global equipping ministry. He and his wife have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

Moody Publishers, 112 pages.

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Essential Amish Cookbook from Lovina Eicher's Amish Kitchen

Publisher Synopsis:

Join Amish cook Lovina Eicher in her kitchen as she prepares recipes used every day in countless Amish homes in Old Order Amish communities across North America. Many of the more than 100 recipes are richly illustrated with step-by-step photographs to help you learn Amish cooking as if you were in Lovina's own kitchen. From hearty main dishes to substantial sides – plus a generous sampling of scrumptious cakes, pies, cookies, and other delectable desserts – learn how to make the hearty simple dishes that the Amish cook together and serve at home, church services, and weddings.

My review:

This is a beautiful cookbook exploring the recipes of Amish life. Lovina learned to cook from her mother and has carried on the tradition. She uses essential ingredients that every home would have on hand. The recipes included are for hearty eaters and may be rather surprising to modern cooks. Lovina uses lard. Yes, animal fat. Many of us grew up eating it and turned out just fine. Lovina uses all white flour (bread flour) in her bread recipes. Don't expect any whole wheat recipes here. There is plenty of sugar used too. Her Apple Crisp recipe has a total of 2 ½ cups of sugar in it!

There were some surprises in this book. There is a recipe for Thick & Chunky Salsa. I was surprised that it had brown sugar in it. There is also a Venison Bake for those deer hunters out there. Some of the recipes are basic, like making ketchup and relish.

I always like to make at least one recipe when I review a cookbook. I noticed that my rhubarb plant was flourishing so I decided to make Lovina's French Rhubarb Pie. It was really sweet and a bit flatter than I am used to. It contained 2 cups of rhubarb and I think next time I'd increase it to 3 cups of rhubarb and decrease the sugar a bit.

I must add a little critique of the way the book is printed. Page numbers are at center top. That made it harder to find the page numbers and recipes. I would have preferred page numbers on a corner. Also, some fragrant chemicals were used in printing the book. People with breathing issues from certain chemicals may have difficulty using the book, as I did.

I do recommend the book to those who are interested in cooking and baking the way the Old Amish do today.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Blueberry Banana Bread Demo Video.



About the Author:

Lovina Eicher is the author of the syndicated column, Lovina's Amish Kitchen, which appears in 40 newspapers around the United States and on a weekly blog maintained by her editors. She is the author of several cookbooks. Lovina and her husband have eight children and live in rural Michigan. (Note: Because Lovina is Amish, there are no photographs of her.)

Available from Herald Press, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
Herald Press, 296 page.

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

Crossing the Street by Molly D. Campbell Giveaway

Crossing the Street

by Molly D. Campbell

on Tour May 9 - July 7, 2017

 Book Details

Genre: Women's Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Number of Pages: 290

Purchase Crossing the Street on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads


Publisher Synopsis:


This wasn’t the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn’t expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn’t have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down.
As summer comes around, Beck’s life is unsettled in every way. And that’s before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn’t even know existed.
Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it’s time to cross the street.
CROSSING THE STREET is a funny, touching novel that brims life’s complexities. Filled with characters both distinctive and welcomingly familiar, it is a story that will entertain and enlighten.


My review:


I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is a delightful story with engaging characters. I really like Beck (Rebecca). She is a captivating character, a heart of gold yet writing erotic novels on the side (it pays the bills). And I like Bob (Roberta) even more. An eight year old with a world of hurt in her past, she has a personality that grabbed and made me want to give her a hug.

The story is a good exploration of relationships, family, marriage, friends, and dating. And one other relationship, that of an addict to drugs. The way the author dealt with that issue really revealed the human aspect of becoming an addict. There were many scenes and conversations that would be great material for reading group discussions.

A note for my regular blog readers: this novel contains a little vulgar language and casual sex, although it is not described at all. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a heart wrenching yet thoroughly enjoyable novel of a variety of relationships. There is a good bit of humor sprinkled in the story that brings a periodic lightness to an otherwise serious novel.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Read an excerpt:

My life isn’t exactly bright and shiny. My name is Rebecca Throckmorton. I live in a small town, and I muddle along as best I can. Four scenes from my world:
Scene one: I am at the grocery store. Aimlessly wandering down the produce aisle, looking at the grocery list, as usual, in my mother’s elegant hand. What the hell is a rutabaga, and why do we need one? Suddenly, I see my father, who is long gone from our family—divorce. He is wearing a gold golf shirt, his khaki slacks, crisp and unwrinkled. His hair from the back is a bit silvery, as I am sure it would be after being away from our family for all these years. My heart lurches—He’s back! He came back! I abandon my cart and nearly bowl over a woman studying kiwis, knocking the one in her hand to the ground. I don’t even stop to apologize, because my dad. I come up behind him, breathe in his cologne—yup, Eau de Sauvage. I reach out to touch his shoulder, and he turns around. I gasp. The man is definitely not Dexter Throckmorton. Instead of a Roman nose, this guy has a schnozz. There is awful hair growing out of his nostrils. His eyes are not velvety and black, like my father’s—they are a watery gray and clouded with cataracts. He hears me gasp and asks, “Do I know you?” I abandon the rutabaga and rush out of the store, grocery list still crushed between my fingers.
Scene two: My sister’s wedding. I am wearing a sleeveless, misty green satin dress with two small lines of silver sequins along the bodice. The misty green is reflected in my coloring and makes me look slightly vomitous. I feel about to vomit, since my sister Diana is marrying my former boyfriend, Bryan Dallas, who stands at the end of the aisle, beaming, his horn rims polished so highly I worry that he might start a fire with their refractions into the balcony. As D comes down the aisle on my mother’s arm (see divorce, above), my mother looking for all the world like an aging Audrey Hepburn in a slender tube of taupe silk, I look down at my bouquet and stifle the impulse to hurl it in my sister’s smug, highly-made-up-with-false-eyelashes-and-dewy-lip-gloss face.
Scene three: Me and my girlfriend, Ella Bowers. I sit with her in front of the TV. We like to watch really old reruns of Lawrence Welk that I found for her on the Family Network. Ella pats down her soft, fluffy lavender white hair, and every time Myron Floren comes on comments how much her mother “just loved that man and his accordion.” I nod and agree, because I don’t intend to hurt her feelings—Ella is eighty-three, and I don’t want her to get riled up and have a stroke. I notice my cut glass tumbler of iced tea is empty, and I offer to go into the kitchen of her cozy bungalow and get us each some more.
Scene four: My day job and what really pays the bills. I get home from my part-time job at Starbucks at four. I stretch, try to do the downward facing dog, and fail, as usual, about three quarters of the way down. My cat, Simpson, ambles over for a purr, and then I go and pee, change into sweats, and sit down at my computer, where I pound out a scene in which four orgasms occur within the space of twenty minutes between Travis and Crystal, who are extremely talented genitally. My latest book, Boys on the Beach, is under contract and due at my publisher in two months. When I think about this, sweat pools into the cups of my bra, because I am behind schedule, and erotica pays the bills, not venti lattes.
There you have it.
 

Author Bio:


Molly D. Campbell is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Award winner and the author of one previous novel, Keep the Ends Loose. Molly blogs at http://mollydcampbell.com. Also an artist, Molly’s work can be found at http://www.cafepress.com/notexactlypicasso. Molly lives in Dayton with her accordionist husband and four cats.
Catch Up With Molly: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Tour Host Participants:

Click here to view the Crossing the Street by Molly D. Campbell Book Tour Participants

Here's Your Chance to WIN!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Molly D. Campbell and The Story Plant. There will be 1 winner of 1 Amazon.com Gift Card AND 3 winners of 1 eBook copy of KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE by Molly D. Campbell. The giveaway begins on May 1st and runs through July 8th, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.
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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Providence Book Promotions. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace

It's important to know what we Christians believe and why. Wallace wants us to understand our faith and know how to defend it. He wants us to know how to make a persuasive case for Christianity.

This, and the other two books Wallace has written, are unique in style in that he blends his experience as a cold case detective with his expertise in apologetics. Reading about some of the cases he has worked on is a good break from the intensity of reading about defending the faith. He also makes good use of his case work as examples about the nature of evidence, proving a case, making judgments, etc.

Wallace's work is timely and essential reading for Christians. We are in a time when many Christians are unable to counter the arguments of atheists. This book provides an interesting and effective way of evaluating the nature of those arguments.

Many Christians do not even know of the evidence supporting Christian faith. Wallace does a great job in presenting the evidence and helping us know how to share that evidence with others. This is a great book for parents, helping them answers those penetrating questions their teens are asking about faith.

He includes answers to common challenges to Christian faith, such as the claim that Christian faith and science are incompatible. He also has an evidence locker, a list of resources to make our case. He includes books and online ministries. Other items were to be available at the book website but as of this review the site was not live.

This is the final book in a trilogy by Wallace. God's Crime Scene made a case for God's existence and Cold-Case Christianity made the case for Christianity. I highly recommend all three books.

You can watch the book trailer here.

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

My rating: 5/5 stars.

J. Warner Wallace is a cold case homicide detective who has been featured on Dateline, Fox News, and Court TV. A former atheist, he is the author of Cold-Case Christianity and God's Crime Scene. He has a master's degree in theology and lives in California with his wife and their four children. You can find out more about Wallace and listen to his podcasts at http://coldcasechristianity.com/. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

David C Cook, 224 pages.

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Word Centered Church by Jonathan Leeman

I am very impressed with this book. I think Leeman has definitely identified a serious issue with the church in America. We give lip service to the importance of God's Word but do we really believe that it is the most powerful force in the universe? Do we really believe that it needs to be central to our church life and ministry?

Do we think the latest program will get people involved in ministry? Leeman says it is the transforming Word of God that will get people to surrender their lives and yield to Christ. This necessary work of the Word must begin in the pulpit and continue through the life of the church.

Leeman explores the theological basis for a Word centered church. He emphasizes the work the Holy Spirit does, necessary because of the condition of the unsaved man. Human persuasion or the latest glitzy program will not do it. Only the Word of God can free the sin enslaved heart. Leeman also gives some very practical suggestions to help pastors understand how to make the Word central, how to preach it and how to have it reverberate through the congregation. He includes teaching on having the Word central in singing and in prayer.

We should be looking for one thing, Leeman says, when we gather with a church: God's Word. Everything else should be “either a platform for the Word or evidence of the Word's life-changing power...” (889/1946) I wonder what would happen should a church governing body use that as a criterion for church ministry.

This is a serious issue. We are to make sure people join church because they love the gospel, not because the church is “cool.” There is a high chance someone will join a church and be deceived into thinking he is a Christian yet not be converted by the gospel. (818/1946)

I highly recommend this book to pastors and church leaders. It will challenge you to evaluate your ministry and reflect on whether you are trusting in creating the right ambiance or the power of God's Word to bring people into your church.

Food for thought: “One thing is necessary in our churches – hearing God's Word through preaching, reading, singing, and praying.” (169/1946)

Note: This book is an updated edition of the 2011 book, Reverberation: How God's Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director of 9Marks. He has a Ph.D. In theology and has been an interim pastor. He is the author of numerous books and articles. He serves as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and is an occasional lecturer at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife and their four daughters live in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Moody Publishing, 192 pages.

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