Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden

Linden has crafted a good novel of character development woven through a story of changing relationships.

The story revolves around Maggie, a very successful professional photographer. While on location in Nicaragua, Maggie receives a phone call from her good friend Lena. Lena's husband, Marco, is dead. Maggie makes arrangements to fly to the Pacific Northwest and be with her friend on San Juan Island.

The narrative concentrates on Maggie while we learn of the relationships between her and Lena and Marco. Linden uses flash backs to fill in the history and that works really well. We follow Maggie as she helps her friend who seems to be avoiding grief. And then another tragedy occurs and Maggie must make serious decisions about what she wants in life and in her future.

I like how the story developed. I like how we find out about the friendships between the three, going back to college years. I like how Linden makes us think about the choices made regarding career and relationships, sometimes furthering one at the expense of the other. I like how we follow Maggie as she works through her feelings and grows. I like the island setting in Washington State.

I was disappointed in the spiritual emphasis of the novel. While there is a bit of Christian influence, there is also another form of spirituality that over shadows the Christian influence. The novel is published by a “Christian” publisher and I expected a stronger Christian theme of spirituality from the book.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy one concentrating on character development through overcoming adversity. There are discussion questions included so it would be a good choice for a reading group.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Rachel Linden is an international aid worker whose travels have taken her around the world. She has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College. She splits her time between Seattle, Washington and Budapest, Hungary where she lives with her husband and two children. You can find out more at http://www.rachellinden.com/. (Portrait by Mallory Macdonald)

Thomas Nelson, 336 pages.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Put the Disciple Into Discipline by Erin MacPherson and Ellen Schuknecht

I'm not a parent so I cannot write a review of a parenting book from experience. Nonetheless, I do have some observations about this book. This is a critical review so is a long one.

Ellen starts out by declaring that she thinks many of the parenting experts have gotten it wrong when it comes to discipline. They fail to communicate about discipleship and fail to help parents know how to teach their kids to desire right and know the love God has for them. That's what this book is about.

She identifies four pillars the authors look at with each topic. Discipleship not discipline: disciple kids' hearts to want to behave, let the Bible be your guide. Desire, not obedience: teach kid's to desire what is right, do not demand thoughtless obedience. Connection, not control: show them you care. Growth, not assistance: let kids solve their own problems. The authors explore a number of topics using those four pillars.

There is a great deal I liked in this book. I like how the authors remind parents that every little behavior is about a whole lot more, revealing inner character. I like how they remind parents the necessity of prayer and being led by God. Parents are to look at each situation as an opportunity to speak to their child's heart. I like that they emphasize parenting by example.

But there were also a few things that bothered me. One was mixed messages. On the chapter Drifting Apart, Ellen writes: “We have to make our relationship with our preteens and teens less about what they do – their clothes, their performance at the soccer game, their decisions to wear all black – and more about who they are.” I would think that what kids do and wear on the outside is an indication of who they are on the inside and that parents should pay attention to their children's actions. This is one of the mixed messages from the authors because in the chapter Free to Be Modest, Ellen writes: “...you have to intentionally work to get to know the reasons behind her clothing choices. Make it your aim to find out … the reasons behind her clothing choices.” So which is it, we don't have concern about what our kids wear or we do?

Another mixed message is about the inner character of a child. The authors fail to recognize the effects of the Fall in many places. In a letter to a concerned parent, we read, “I honestly believe that kids like James and Will aren't inherently mean or destructive or even disobedient at heart.” I disagree, especially if the child is not saved. We know from Scripture that the heart is deceitful. But then, in the chapter about conflicts, “We have to overcome our natural bent to handle things in an unhealthy way.” Here it seems the authors do recognize the natural bent in the unsaved to sin. So which is it? Are children not inherently bent to sin or are they?

Much of the authors' philosophy of parenting relies on the child's ability to make wise choices. They suggest lots of talking with the child, perhaps so they can choose future behavior or rethink bad behavior. This would only work for older children, ones who have the ability to reason way beyond immediate feelings and desires. I have no idea how the authors' techniques could work with young children. Also, I think we need to remember that the Bible tells us the heart is deceitful. I can just see a young teen figuring out that he can avoid punishment by being willing to talk about his behavior, promising better behavior in the future.

Unfortunately, the theology in the book is fuzzy. In the chapter about faith, they write about knowing who Jesus is and what he's done. We are told that knowledge is followed by passions and a desire to be intimate with God. There was never a clear message about salvation and the transformation that occurs in a child's spirit. There is never a reminder to talk with your child about saving faith or leading them to accept Jesus as their Savior.

There are some techniques that bother me as well. They use aversion tactics. When writing about outbursts of anger, we are told, “give your kid something else to do – something helpful – at that moment when the spark flares...” Is that truly helping the child deal with the anger and its cause? Here is another suggestion I find unsatisfactory. “So the key for when your kids are ungrateful is this: simply ignore it. Shrug.” Walk away and take treats and special stuff with you. Is that using the occasion as a teaching opportunity? And in the chapter about bullying, Erin says she was taught by her mother to say with a dull voice, “I don't care about that anyway.” She was told that no matter how much she cared, she was not to show any emotion to the bully. I think that is setting up a child for hiding emotions and hurt.

I do recommend this book but with reservations. It is a good one for parents who want to be intentional in their parenting. The authors provide many examples of parenting moments and how their techniques work. They even provide some examples of bad parenting moments and the lessons one can learn from them. I would suggest readers seriously think through the suggestions given. There are many good ideas in this book but some I do think need further evaluating before using.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Erin MacPherson is the author of The Christian Mama's Guide series, the Hot Mama series, and Free to Parent. She cohosts the popular So Here's the Thing podcast with Kathi Lipp, speaks at MOPS, appears on various radio shows and podcasts, and writes for magazines and publications. She and her husband are the parents of three young kids. You can find out more at www.ChristianMamasGuide.com and www.erinmacpherson.com.
Ellen Schuknecht is the author of Free to Parent and the forthcoming A Spiritual Heritage. She and her husband live in Austin, Texas, near their three adult children and their spouses, and their eleven grandchildren. After spending more than forty years in education as a teacher, counselor, and school administrator, she currently serves as the Family Ministries Director at Veritas Academy. You can find out more at www.familywings.org.

Faith Words, 240 pages.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Forbidden by F. Stone Giveaway


Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket

by F. Stone

on Tour June 19 - July 7, 2017

Synopsis:


Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.
The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city's bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.
Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.
When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah's eternal wrath.
CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hit man on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.
What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

My Review:


This novel got off to a bit of a rough start for me with choppy writing and unclear scenes. About a quarter of the way into the book, however, the writing became smooth and the scenes well developed. The narrative is action packed and full of suspense to the end.

The characters are larger than life. I had difficulty liking them. Eliza is a widow suffering from debilitating PTSD. Stone describes the PTSD graphically and it gave me a new appreciation for those who suffer from it. Eliza is a survivor and it seemed out of character for her to quickly develop affectionate feelings for her captor. And I did not like Sharif. He is a conflicted character, rough one moment and tender the next. He becomes a more tender man as the novel progresses but is someone I would never trust, unlike Eliza.

Potential readers need to know that there is a graphically portrayed attempted rape scene included. Those having survived a similar experience may have difficulty reading this book. There is also vulgar language and swearing by many characters.

Those interested in one possible future of Muslim countries might like this book. Stone portrays well the mixed messages of potential unity verses the intense desire for power by some leaders.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Romance, International Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 2016
Number of Pages: 363
ISBN: 0995150907 (ISBN13: 9780995150904)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

An armored truck with a mounted machine gun roared up behind the two police motorcyclists. Something is terribly wrong. She ducked deeper behind the luggage and stared into the darkness. She desperately searched for a rational explanation. A cold knife pierced her core.
After speeding through intersections and red traffic lights, the vehicles came to a sudden halt. Gate hinges squealed in protest. The impulse to leap from the back of the truck fought with her intense need to remain hidden. If it were not for the armed vehicle at the rear, she would have jumped and disappeared into the night. In another moment, the opportunity vanished.
The vehicles lurched forward. Through the flap’s opening, she saw a massive iron gate. High walls extended on either side. The vehicles stopped.
The motorcyclists drove to either side of the truck. The armored vehicle surged forward, nearly crashing into the back of the supply truck (where Eliza is hiding). Eliza scrambled to put more of the luggage between her and the mounted gun. It bore down on her as if it had spied her. She gasped.
Eliza strained to hear a pleasant greeting, an apology for the change of plans, anything that would tell her heart to stop its thundering in her chest.
Someone shouted, “Ikhrog men al Araba,” then in English, "Get out of the bus!"
“Stay together,” Charlie called out. At first the volunteers sounded merely annoyed, but their mood rapidly deteriorated.
“Charlie, there’s a mounted automatic weapon on that truck. Something’s not right here.” The man’s alarm ricocheted through his companions. Quick footsteps reminded Eliza of nervous horses in a corral – wild-eyed, snorting and circling as they searched for an escape.
Charlie attempted to calm his group. "I’m sure this will all make sense. I'll see why there’s been a change. Who’s in charge here?” he called.
Scattered thoughts fed her fear. The unmistakable sound of large guns being maneuvered sucked the air from Eliza’s lungs. Near the supply truck, she heard the ping, ping of a cell phone, then the trembling voice of a woman crying, "Ralph, pick up the phone. Please. Oh God …." The woman screamed. With a blast of gunfire, her cries stopped. Bullets pierced the canvas and shattered a suitcase in front of Eliza.
Her body trembled violently. In minutes she would be killed. The luggage offered no protection. Terrified to make any sound, yet frantic to hide, she pressed her backpack to her chest. She gasped as if starved for oxygen. Tears ran down her cheeks as she heard the terrified people and Charlie beg for their lives. This is only one of my nightmares. I’ll wake up and everything will be fine.
The truck with the mounted machine gun swerved around the supply truck. Deafening sounds of machine gun blasts and screams tore through her chest. She plunged down among the luggage.
A man came into her view as he lunged toward the gate. A police officer ran after him and fired several shots into the man’s back. The American dropped, bloody and lifeless.
Suddenly, an armed man dashed to the rear of the supply truck and saw her. She gasped. Oh my God, he's going to kill me. I've got once chance. Get his gun. Her martial arts training kicked in. She lunged forward. As they grappled, both fell.
Falling on top of him Eliza punched his groin. He cried out in agony. She crab crawled on all fours toward his weapon several feet away. Too late she saw a boot aimed at her head.
She ducked for cover under the supply truck. Too late. The cop stomped on her head, ramming her forehead into the pavement hard. Her momentum pushed her under the truck’s back end.
Dazed, she checked to see if he followed her. He was struggling to free his boot, snared in her scarf. A gun’s muzzle appeared, aimed in her direction. Bullets ripped through her coat’s shoulder. Puffs of down feathers stuck to the sweat and blood on her face.
I’m hit. Get out. Run. Eliza kicked and crawled out from under the truck on the far side of the killers. The deafening gunfire and screams surrounded her. Her mind froze. She pressed her body into the truck’s solid frame.
More bullets smacked the ground near her. More vehicles arrived. Bright headlights blinded her. She turned away to shield her eyes. Desperate, she ran an erratic, aimless course. Silhouettes of shapes, helmets, guns and bloody bodies flashed in front of her. Keep running. Dodge. Find cover. She ran like a wild animal, blind to the teeth that would tear her apart.
When the thunder from the machine gun stopped she glanced back. The man at the machine gun tumbled head first off the truck. His companions continued to fire their weapons, but now toward the gate. More shots came from behind the blinding lights. The men ran toward the front of the supply truck. Riddled with bullets, their bodies twisted and fell.
Silence.
Eliza gazed in bewilderment at the tall form appearing in the light. He raced forward past the open gate, his weapon raised in her direction. More men followed behind him. She ran, searching for cover.
He shouted, “Tawakaf and am, la tatharak Kiff.” Then in English, “Stop where you are. Don’t move! Stop.”
A short burst of gunfire. Bullets struck the ground a few yards in front of her. She skidded to a stop. Breathless, she turned toward the gunman. She could not make out his face below the dark helmet. He wore a police uniform like the killers had – black from head to toe. If not for his vehicle’s headlights, he would have been invisible. He raced toward her, his weapon held steadfast in her direction.
***
Excerpt from Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone. Copyright © 2017 by F. Stone. Reproduced with permission from F. Stone. All rights reserved.

Book Trailer:


Author Bio:


On our cattle ranch in Alberta, when an animal was in distress or injured, I was put in charge of nursing it back to health. Never mind that I was just a kid and hated the sight of blood, but I had to muster up the courage to apply home remedies. My survival rate was pretty good. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would progress to nursing – humans. After one year into nurses training, I bolted. Bed pans and chronic diseases pushed me in different direction; a career of dealing with drug addicts, murder, suicide, fatalities, and biker gangs. In 1983 I graduated with honors as a paramedic and worked in the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services.
For the next twenty years, I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. I loved it. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I gained the fodder for creating intense novels.
My creative DNA shocked me when I was driven to write a dystopian / paranormal / romance novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild. After taking several writing courses, I presented the manuscript to Omnific Publishing who published it in 2011. Just when I thought I could get my life back, another story took me prisoner – Forbidden. I couldn't believe there was this kind of story within me and desperate to be told. I resisted. It was futile.
Retired and focused on home life, I’m back to being a mom to four pets and one husband. We travel and taste the excitement of other cultures. In between adventures, I’ve dabbled in water color painting, photography, needle work, gardening – the list goes on. In my next life, I plan to explore the cosmos.
I’ve learned a few things in my seventy years. Thoughts are powerful. Intention is everything. Passion is the key to success.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Click here to view theForbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone Tour Participants
 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for F. Stone. There will be 1 winner of 1 $10 Amazon.com Giftcard AND 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Forbidden by F. Stone. The giveaway begins on June 18th and runs through July 9th 2017.
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 I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy in this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Praying With Eyes Wide Open by Sherry Harney with Kevin G. Harney

We may think of prayer as something we do at a specific time, perhaps with our morning devotions. Harney wants us to experience prayer through the flow of life. Her passion “is to see ordinary followers of Jesus grow into natural prayers who talk to God, listen to God, and interact with God at all times, in all places, through all circumstances.” (12)

She suggests we pray with our eyes wide open. She means that both literally and figuratively. Literally, with our eyes open we will be more aware of God's creation and people. Figuratively, we will be more aware of God's presence and His work among us.

She studied Scripture and found that nowhere are we commanded to close our eyes when we pray. She gives many examples of Bible characters who prayed with open eyes. She also found examples of lifting hands rather than folding them. And she found that the Bible records people kneeling, standing, and sitting when praying, depending on the circumstances.

Harney really helps us understand our attitude towards prayer depends a great deal on what we believe about God. She provides Scripture to help us understand how God feels toward us. She encourages us to pray with our ears open so we can be aware of the many ways God speaks to us. She wants us to pray with our hearts wide open, seeing who God is and praying with passion. And she wants us to pray with lives wide open, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.

Harney has included many personal stories as illustrations of her teaching. She also gives many practical suggestions for prayer, including prayer prompts and ideas for putting her teaching into practice.

I have read many books on prayer. I really like this one from Harney. She gets to the root of our attitude toward prayer, a result of our attitude toward God. She is convincing in her encouragement to pray at all times and in all places. I highly recommend this book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Sherry Harney is the leadership development director at Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, California, and the co-founder of Organic Outreach International. She speaks regularly about prayer, spiritual formation, leadership and organic outreach for local, national, and international groups and events.
Kevin G. Harney is lead pastor of Shoreline Community Church and the author of several books, studies and articles.

Baker Books, 224 pages.

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

This futuristic novel has an overwhelming amount of technological devices and virtual reality. It took me a while to understand what was going on and I would have appreciated a better introduction or set up to the era. Virtual gaming is the entertainment of the day and Sofi is a master at coding. She and her team direct and aid her brother, Shilo, as he battles virtual and real situations.

The novel reminded me of the Hunger Games. There is the same kind of intense competition as competitors face potentially harmful situations. Some of the competition involves real items. Sometimes blood is spilled. Other parts of the competition are virtual and the competitor's team works madly to write code to change an aspect of the player's protection or ability.

There is lots of adventure and suspense in this novel. Shilo goes missing when the competition is sabotaged. Sofi is sure he is still alive and is determined to find him. That leads her into all kinds of dangerous situations, including encountering aliens.

I was looking for a moral aspect in this novel and failed to find it. I did find several references to casual sex by some of the characters, including Sofi at age 17. I did not find any redeeming point to the story in the end. There was no mention of spirituality that I recall, even though the book is published by a “Christian” publisher. There will certainly be a sequel as we are left with a glaring undetermined outcome to Sofi's experiences. Perhaps there will be a well presented virtue in the next book.

I recommend this novel to older teens who love gaming, coding, and reading about virtual reality. Those who like science fiction in general might also like it as there are aliens who help earthlings in this era after a great war. The writing about gaming and coding was a bit confusing to this senior citizen but younger readers may understand it easily.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Mary Weber is the author of the award winning young adult novel Storm Siren, and the Storm Siren Trilogy. She is a popular conference and school speaker. She and her husband live in California. You can find out more at http://www.maryweber.com/. (Photo credit: Mary Kathleen Photography)

Thomas Nelson, 352 pages.

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Joyful Inspirations Coloring Book by Robin Mead

Coloring books are popular today, encouraging us to slow down our frantic pace and relax. This coloring book allows readers to do that and be inspired by Scripture verses and quotes.

I really liked these illustrations. I had to concentrate on the intricate design and the colors I chose, taking my mind off of any pressing matters. I really liked that there was a Scripture on the page too. I could concentrate on the truth of that verse while I was coloring.

There are a variety of illustrations, from city scenes to gardens. There are some that are just fun, like swimming fish and (potentially) colorful butterflies.

Here is a page I colored and part of the one next to it, just waiting for my artistic talents. I appreciated the Scripture on the page. I could focus on it while coloring.

I recommend this book to those looking for a coloring book that is both relaxing and inspiring. It would be great for budding artists too as Mead has added tips for coloring. She helps potential artists choose the medium (pencils, crayons, etc.) and gives suggestions for mixing colors and ways to fill in shapes. This is a fun and inspiring book all around.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Robin Mead is an artist who combines her background in social work, studies in Fine Art, and love of expression to create joyful depictions of life. A native of New York, she and her husband of 27 years now live near Athens, Georgia. You can find out more about her and see her portfolio at http://robinmeaddesigns.com/home-3.

Faith Words, 96 pages.

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

The Parables of Jesus Coloring Book Devotional Illustrations by Laura James and Text by Katara Washington Patton

Adult coloring books are popular, encouraging people to slow down in our frantic culture. This book presents the opportunity of relaxing through coloring and being inspired by parables of Jesus. The text page contains the text of the parable, from one of a variety of translations, then a devotion based on that parable. A prompt for spiritual reflection or a prayer is included as well.

Next is a blank page and then a page including an illustration that can be colored. I found this odd as there is a blank page in between the text and the illustration. When coloring the illustration, opposite it was a blank page, the text for the illustration being on the previous page. I would much rather have had the text opposite the illustration. I could have then reviewed the parable while coloring. As presented, the text and illustration seemed disconnected. I suppose it allows for removing the text and illustration pages and displaying them, as the backs of both pages would be blank.

I found some of the illustrations a little disconcerting. The unusual positions of mouths and the oddly tilted heads seemed to make me less relaxed, not more. (An illustration I colored is to the left.)

I found the devotions based on the parables to be insightful and encouraging. I do recommend this book to those who enjoy coloring or doodling. You will have the opportunity to do so as well as read good devotions based on the parables.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Laura James provided the illustrations. You can find out more about her and her art at http://laurajamesart.com/. (Photo credit: Janis Wilkins)
Katara Washington Patton wrote the devotional text. She has written and edited Christian books for children, teens, and adults and created supplemental materials for books by T. D. Jakes, Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. She has a M.Div. From Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. (Photo credit: photobyvega)

Faith Words, 192 pages.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pulse by L. R. Burkard

I have read several novels about the aftermath of an EMP but this is the first I've seen for teens. It is a combination of entertainment and information. The narrative is from the viewpoints of three teens. We follow the alternating first person accounts of their experiences after technology and electricity become nonexistent. We learn much about an EMP, what it is and what happens as a result.

The three viewpoints give three very different responses to the disaster. One teen lives on a farm in a very strong Christian family. We see how farm life has prepared her and her family for survival. Another teen lives in the city in an apartment with her family. They struggle greatly to survive after their grocery store food supply is cut off. The third teen lives in a rural home with her family totally unprepared for such a disaster.

There are many issues teens could discuss after reading this book. There is the entire complex question of making choices, such as feeding one's own family verses giving food to others. There is also the issue of stealing, implying that it is not so wrong when done to provide for the survival of loved ones. There is also the reality the teens must face. Suddenly beauty habits are meaningless when just surviving is paramount, and getting rid of lice! There is also a good discussion on listening to what God is telling you to do. And ultimately, how does a family protect themselves from marauders? Do they kill others? What is a Christian's responsibility to those in need, to those starving?

The novel is also a bit preachy. There is a monologue on the importance of having guns with which to defend ones self. There is another monologue on how biased the media is, being selective in what news they report to the public. Another one speaks to judgment on America, suggesting the parallel to Sodom and Gomorrah. (I found it interesting that the concentration was regarding sexual sin and totally ignored Ezekiel stating that the sin was being overfed and unconcerned, failing to help the poor and needy as well. Ezek. 14:49)

This is a very realistic and gritty novel dealing with the issues teens will face should there be an EMP. Teens are made aware of how people behave when they are desperate, including Christians when they are defending their own food supply. While very well written, I found the novel troubling. I would suggest that parents read this book along with their teens. There is much that should be discussed while reading it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Linore Burkard attempted her first novel at age nine. After college, marriage and children, she began writing novels in earnest. Her first published books were historical romance with Harvest House. The Pulse Effex Series in her first youth fiction suspense series. She lives in Ohio, is the mother of five, and homeschools her youngest. You can find out more at http://www.lrburkard.com/ and http://www.linoreburkard.com/.

Lilliput Press, 258 pages.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Time Sniffers by C. S. Lakin

I'm now a senior citizen but as a teen I loved science fiction. This novel is one I thoroughly enjoyed now and would have devoured then.

This novel has everything that makes science fiction so much fun. There are adorable aliens and really scary ones too. There are lots of advanced scientific technique and gadgets. There is space and time travel, with rips in the fabric of space time. There are great teen characters who must save the world from evil.

That brings up the allegorical nature of the story. Lakin has crafted a good plot that parallels the introduction of evil into our world and its growing influence in our society. A subtle aspect of the battle against the evil forces is how the teens have to work together. Each teen has a unique skill and only as they work together can they counter the many facets of the evil aliens.

I recommend this novel to teens who love science fiction involving the battle between good and evil. You'll be entertained by some great science fiction scenes and you'll be encouraged to think about overcoming your obstacles and working with others.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

C. S. Lakin writes novel is numerous genres, focusing mostly on contemporary psychological mysteries and allegorical fantasy. Her novel Someone to Blame (contemporary fiction) won the 2009 Zondervan First Novel competition. She also writes historical Western romance under the pen name Charlene Whitman. She has published twenty novels and eight writing craft books. Her award winning blog, www.livewritethrive.com, offers insights, instruction, and encouragement for writers. She currently works as a freelance copy editor and writing coach, specializing in helping authors prepare their books for publication. She edits for individuals, small publishing companies, and literary agents and does more than 200 manuscript critiques a year.

354 pages.

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Race for the Flash Stone by K. Patrick Donoghue

Donoghue has created another good story combining fantasy, mystery, adventure and archaeology. This novel is the second in a series and I highly recommend that Shadows of the Stone Benders be read first. It really sets the background for this novel. This novel concentrates more on the magnetic stones introduced in the first novel and the ancient people who created them.

One aspect of the book I really like is the imaginative attempt to tie together many of the mysteries of archaeology. Ancient myths are combined with archaeological finds to create a narrative that may explain much of the mystery. It is a fictional story but an entertaining one that poses many plausible possibilities.

For example, we learn through the memories in the stones that a planet sized asteroid passed by earth in prehistoric times, causing vast changes on the earth including a great flood. New mountains rose while other land sank into the sea. Only a few survived. Some of them had understood magnetism to such an extent that they could save their memories to stones.

Those stones are the focus of Dr. Cully and his friends. He tries to figure out the puzzling map his uncle left him. Understanding the map would allow him to find the evidence he needs to prove to the world the ancient civilization existed. His exploration leads to a great deal of adventure and suspense.

Donghue has a writing style that is generally good. He does have a habit, however, of not writing the narrative in chronological order. A scene will open in juxtaposition to the end of the previous scene. Then, through the thoughts of one of the characters, we find out what happened in between the two scenes. That narrative style occurred so often that I got tired of it.

This book is the second in The Anlon Cully Chronicles. I would highly suggest you read Shadows of the Stone Benders first so you understand the background for this novel. You can read my review of it here.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy an Indiana Jones type of adventure. You'll be entertained and read some interesting ideas about archaeological mysteries.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kevin Patrick Donoghue is the author of The Anlon Cully Chronicles. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife and two sons. You can find out more at https://kpatrickdonoghue.com/.

Leaping Leopard Enterprises, 358 pages.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Getting the Gospel Right by R. C. Sproul (reissue)

The 1990s saw emphasis on ecumenism and two documents were produced, hoping for greater unity between Roman Catholics and evangelicals. Evangelicals and Catholics Together came out in 1994 and The Gift of Salvation in 1997. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals expressed their distress over the latter document in 1998, considering it seriously flawed. Sproul gives careful scrutiny to The Gift of Salvation paragraph by paragraph in the second part of the book.

Sproul points out the differences in belief between Roman Catholics and evangelicals. For example, Roman Catholics and evangelicals agree that justification is based on the righteousness of Christ. Roman Catholics say the righteousness is infused sacramentally while evangelicals say it is imputed to us but is not inherently ours. The Gift of Salvation is vague on the issue, not affirming or denying the imputation. (67-68) He identifies other places where the document is ambiguous and points out “how deeply divided the historical Roman Catholic and evangelical views of salvation really are.” (91)

After the publication of those documents, there rose the issue of unity among evangelicals – those signing the documents and those in opposition to them. Evangelicals on both sides came together and created a document about the gospel to restore and strengthen evangelical unity. It is called The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration. Sproul provides the text of the document in the third part of the book and follows with comment.

This book is a repackaged edition of Sproul's book that originally came out in 1999. I am not sure of the relevance of the book today, some twenty years after the document in question was issued. Sproul does comment on ecumenism in general and the documents that are produced. He notes that they must be ambiguous and use evasive language, minimizing differences.

Sproul is a scholar of Reformed theology and writes like one. He has included much historical background and theological information in this book. Much of the book may be beyond the interest and comprehension of of most lay people. I recommend it to those interested in recent ecumenical documents and a critique from a Reformed theologian.

My rating: 4/5.

R. C. Sproul has been a seminary professor, pastor, and is the author of more than one hundred books. He is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and the chancellor of Reformed Bible College. His teaching can be heard daily on the program Renewing Your Mind. He is also the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

Baker Books, 240 pages.

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ekklesia by Ed Silvoso

The church we see today is nothing like that described in Acts. Jesus said the gates of hades would not prevail against the church but that is certainly not what we are seeing today. Why and how can that change?

Silvoso looked at Scripture and the contemporary church to rediscover the church as Jesus designed it to be. He shares what he has learned about the church as well as a strategy to develop it. He notes that the characteristics of the early church included people devoted to their leaders' teaching, provisions for needs, constant growth, and signs and wonders in the public square.

Silvoso offers many challenging thoughts, such as how church planting happened, how leaders were developed, the vital role of meals, marketplace ministry, the true meaning of ekklesia, baptizing a nation (including Spirit led social action), and much more.

I think the greatest impact of this book is that ministry takes place in the marketplace. Believers are trained to do ministry day in and day out. It is not church staff but believers who advance the kingdom of God. The average believers were the ones who influenced society in the early church. Silvoso gives many encouraging examples from his own ministry and that of others how believers are transforming agents. He also gives practical ideas on being such a change agent.

This book is certainly a welcome challenge to spiritual leaders and lay people. I recommend it to those who want to know how Jesus meant believers to live and minister today. Yes, the strategy includes being immersed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Silvoso provides a good study of the idea. Perhaps it is time to put away anti-charismatic thinking and really get serious about how the church can be a transforming agent today. This book will inspire you and give practical help to get you on your way, whether you are a pastor or a lay person.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5.

Ed Silvoso is the founder and president of Harvest Evangelism, Inc., and also of the Transform Our World Network, which is composed of thousands of pulpit and marketplace influencers across the globe. He is widely recognized as a visionary strategist and solid Bible teacher who specializes in nation and marketplace transformation. He has been trained in theology and business. He has written several bestselling books on the topic of transformation. He and his wife have four married daughters and twelve grandchildren. You can find out more at www.transformourworld.org or www.edsilvoso.com.

Chosen Books, 272 pages.

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dark Deception by Nancy Mehl

The suspense plot might be a familiar one. A woman in witness protection is in danger. The man she identified as a killer is now out of jail due to some issues with the evidence. In fact, the authorities now think he may not be the killer after all. The U.S. Marshall involved in the original case goes to the witness to give her the news. The witness, of course, is in immediate danger and the U.S. Marshall must protect her. This results in a great deal of suspense.

This novel has a very complicated plot. Near the end of the novel, the U.S. Marshall is explains it all. I was reading an ebook but I think it would have taken many pages in a print edition. In the midst of the explanation, another character says, “One thing that confuses me. Well, one of the many things that confuse me, I should say.” (Loc 3294/3516) And later the same character says, “Wow. This whole thing is so convoluted it almost hurts my brain.” (Loc 3312/3516) Yes, that's how I felt too.

I would recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a very convoluted plot involving several people who are not who they appear to be. The character development is relatively well done. There is also a clear presentation of the gospel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Nancy Mehl is the author of over twenty books. She received the ACFW Mystery Book of the Year Award in 2009. She has a background in social work and writes from her home in Missouri, where she lives with her husband. You can find out more at http://nancymehl.com/home/.

Bethany House Publishers, 320 pages.

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler

I really liked this book on prayer. God wants to hear from us, Detweiler says. There is so much that can hinder us from praying so she helps us work through those mountains.

Most of the book is material to help us on that journey of learning to pray with confidence, boldness, and grace. The chapters alternate. First is the teaching, including instruction and illustrations from biblical and modern stories. The following chapter contains suggestions on how to apply the previous teaching. Scriptures to read, questions to journal and one question for discussion are all included.

The last quarter of the book is a resource section. It includes twenty one devotionals. Each has a suggestion to journal, to meditate, a short devotional, a written prayer, and a statement to declare. Next are guidelines for doing a personal spiritual retreat. Next are guidelines for fasting.

I am impressed with this book. Not only is it good teaching on prayer, it also includes practical help in moving those mountains that impede us in our prayer life and obedience to God. She writes about shames, pride, perfectionism and more. One section I really appreciated was her writing about experiencing rejection in the area to which we feel we are called. Detweiler says God will use that heaviness we feel in our hearts. She encourages us to use that sense of desperation as a driving force for prayer. Another meaningful section was on the steps she went through in her healing of sexual abuse.

I think the strength of this book is in the opportunity Detweiler gives readers to journal their responses to the questions she provides. She offers a free download of journal pages that complement the book and offer additional growth opportunities. She has also included instructions for doing a ten week study with this book.

I recommend this book to women who want to grow closer to the Lord and each other through prayer. It would be a good resource for those wanting to start a women's prayer group and for women beginning their prayer journey.

You can download the Introduction and first chapter here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Sue Detweiler is a wife, mother of six, author, and pastor with more than twenty-five years of experience in marriage, ministry, and education. She and her husband recently relocated to plant Life Bridge Church north of Dallas, commissioned as church planters with The Foursquare Church. You can find out more at http://suedetweiler.com/.

Bethany House Publishers, 256 pages.

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

Executive Actions by Gary Grossman Giveaway

Executive Actions

by Gary Grossman

on Tour June 1 - July 31, 2017

Synopsis:


In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke gets an assignment that turns his world upside down. His investigation uncovers a plot so monstrous it can change the course of America's future and world politics. Roarke discovers that presidency is about to fall into the hands of a hostile foreign power. The power play is so well-conceived that even the U.S. Constitution itself is a tool designed to guarantee the plot's success. With the election clock ticking, Roarke and Boston attorney Katie Kessler race at breakneck speed to prevent the unthinkable. But they also know that it will take a miracle to stop the takeover from happening.


My Review:


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It was well crafted with believable characters and a timely plot. At times I felt like I was reading the background story to today's headlines. I am not much of a conspiracy buff but I was intrigued by this novel. The plot was realistic, with a planned takeover of the U.S. government seeming entirely possible.

Grossman did a great job of combining information and suspense. I learned much about the constitution and its instructions on the transfer of presidential powers. I really like it when I gain some knowledge reading fiction, especially when it is expertly woven into the plot.

I highly recommend this novel. It has a believable plot that is full of suspense. The characters are realistic and captivating. Readers who enjoy Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn novels will enjoy this one.

A note to my regular blog readers: this novel contains offensive language and casual sex.

My rating: 5/5 stars.


Praise for the Executive Series:


“Executive Actions is the best political thriller I have read in a long, long time. Right up there with the very best of David Baldacci. [A] masterpiece of suspense; powerfully written and filled with wildly imaginative twists. Get ready to lose yourself in a hell of a story.”
Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author

“Break out the flashlight, and prepare to stay up all night … Once you start reading Executive Actions you won’t be able to put it down.”
Bruce Feirstein, James Bond screenwriter, and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

“Executive Command mixes terrorists, politics, drug gangs and technology in nonstop action! Gary Grossman creates a … horribly plausible plot to attack the United States. So real it’s scary!”
Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Plan, Cold Choices, Red Dragon Rising

“Moving at break-neck speed, Executive Command is nothing short of sensational … Executive Command is not just a great book, it’s a riveting experience.”
W.G. Griffiths, award-winning, bestselling author of Methuselah’s Pillar, Malchus

“Executive Command ramps up the excitement … A truly bravura performance from a master of the political thriller!”
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, New York Times bestselling co-author of Lincoln’s Last Days, Uncommon Valor

“Intricate, taut, and completely mesmerizing. Grossman expertly blends together globe-spanning locations, well-researched technology, finely crafted narrative, and intriguing characters to create a virtuoso tale. Highly recommended.”
Dale Brown, New York Times bestselling author

“Executive Treason is more chilling than science fiction … You’ll never listen to talk radio again without a shiver going down your spine.”
Gary Goldman, Executive Producer, Minority Report; Screenwriter, Navy SEALs & Total Recall

Book Details:

Genre: Political Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Diversion Books
Publication Date: January 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 556
ISBN: 1626811059 (ISBN13: 9781626811058)
Series: Executive #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
by Gary Grossman
CHAPTER 1
Washington, D.C. Sunday 22 June
“Topic one. Theodore Wilson Lodge. Presidential material?” bellowed the host at the top of his Sunday morning television show. He directed his question to the political pundit to his left. “Victor Monihan, syndicated columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is Teddy ready, yes or no?”
“Yes,” Monihan shot back. You had to speak up quickly on the lively program. There was no air between questions and answers. “If the cameras could vote, he’d be a shoo-in.”
“But they don’t. So again, will it be Mr. Lodge goes to Washington?” quizzed the host of the revamped McLaughlin Group. The reference to the Frank Capra movie was lost on most of the audience. Even AMC and Turner Classics weren’t running very many black and white movies anymore.
“Absolutely.” Monihan didn’t take a breath between thoughts. The host hated dead air. Pause and you’re dead. Someone else will jump in. “He’s totally informed, he’s had great committee assignments and he can do the job. Congressman Lodge comes off as a highly capable leader. Trustworthy. The all-American boy grown up. And he positively looks like a president should look … presidential.”
“So a tan and a good build gets you to the White House?” the host argued.
“It means I don’t have to worry about him taking my job.” The overweight columnist laughed, which made his belly spread his shirt to a point just shy of popping the buttons. The joke was good, but he lost his platform with it.
“Roger Deutsch, freelance writer for Vanity Fair, right now Lodge is trailing Governor Lamden. Can Teddy make it up?”
“No. With only two days before the New York primary, there’s no way Lodge can do it. He doesn’t have the votes. And there’s not enough time to get them. Henry Lamden will be addressing the Democratic Party at the August convention in Denver. But even when he gets the nomination, he’ll have a hard time against Taylor.”
The discussion expanded to include the other members of the panel. They talked about Montana Governor Henry Lamden’s qualities. About President Morgan Taylor’s rigid persona. About the voters’ appetite. And back again to the possibilities. “Is there any way Lodge can do what fellow Vermont favorite son Calvin Coolidge did: go all the way to the White House?” the venerable host rhetorically asked. The panel knew this was not the time to reply. Turning to the camera the host said, “Not according to my watch.”
This was the throw to the video package from the campaign trail.
Teddy Lodge smiled as he sat on the edge of his hotel bed to get closer to the TV set. He was half-packed. The rest would wait until the videotape report concluded. Lodge pressed the volume louder on his remote.
“It’s on,” he called to his wife, Jenny.
“Be right out,” she answered from the bathroom. Lodge tightened the knot on the hand-painted tie he’d been given the day before. The gift, from a home crafter in Albany, would go into his collection and eventually into his Presidential Library. But first he’d wear it for the cameras. She’d see it and tell everyone she knew. More votes.
Mrs. Lodge leaned over her husband and hugged him as he watched himself on TV. “You look great, sweetheart.” He agreed. The footage was perfect: Lodge in the thick of an adoring Manhattan crowd, the wind playing with his wavy brown hair, his Armani suit jacket draped over his arm. He came off relaxed and in charge; less like a politician than an everyday guy. An everyday guy who saw himself as President of the United States. And at 6’2” he stood above most of the crowd.
Lodge knew the unusual statistical edge his height provided. Historically, the taller of the two major presidential candidates almost always wins the election. And he was considerably taller than President Morgan Taylor.
The host obviously wasn’t a supporter. But the coverage counted. He hit the bullet points of Lodge’s career.
“Teddy’s been fast-tracking since college. He graduated Yale Law School and has a graduate degree in Physics at Stanford. The man speaks three languages. He worked on various government contracts until he decided to return to his country home in Burlington, Vermont, and run for State Assembly. Two years later, so long Burlington, hello Washington. Mr. Lodge went to Capitol Hill as a young, energetic first-term congressman. He distinguished himself in international politics and now serves as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He’s as close to a rocket scientist as they come in Washington. He heads the House Committee on Energy and understands the complexities of the issues. But is he going to the White House?” the moderator asked in his feature videotape. “New Yorkers will decide Tuesday.”
And with that set up came the obligatory sound bite. It couldn’t have been better if Teddy Lodge had picked it himself. It was declarative and persuasive. The producer of the video package must have been in his camp.
“Tomorrow the world will be different. More dangerous. More hateful. Different times need different leaders. Make no mistake, there are no more safe harbors or promised lands. Unless … unless we make better choices today than yesterday. Better friends tomorrow than today.”
As he watched, Lodge remembered the clincher was yet to come. Things like that just didn’t get cut. He was right.
“So come with me and discover a new America. Come with me and discover a new world.”
Thunderous applause followed; applause from the audience at a Madison Square Garden rally.
Eighteen seconds total screen time. Unbelievable on McLaughlin. But Lodge was not an easy edit. He’d learned to break the sound bite barrier by constantly modulating his voice for impact, issuing phrases in related couplets and triplets, and punching them with an almost religious zeal.
Like everything else in his life, he worked hard at communicating effectively. He punctuated every word with a moderately-affected New England accent. Whether or not they agreed with his politics, columnists called him the best orator in years. Increasing numbers of them bestowed almost Kennedy like reverence. And through the camera lens, baby boomers saw an old friend while younger voters found a new voice.
The video story ended and the host brought the debate back to his panel. “Peter Weisel, Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Tribune, What sayest thou? Can Teddy un-lodge Lamden?”
“Unlikely.” Weisel, a young, black reporter, was the outspoken liberal of the panel and a realist. “But he’ll help the ticket. He’s a strong Number Two. A junior pairing with Governor Lamden can work. The flip side of Kennedy-Johnson. Let the Democrats make him VP. Besides, his good looks won’t go away in four or eight years. TV will still like him.”
Theodore Wilson Lodge, 46 years old and strikingly handsome, definitely could pull in the camera lens. He had the same effect on women and they held far more votes in America than men. The fact was not lost on the show’s only female contributor of the week. “Debra Redding of The Boston Globe, is Lodge your man?”
Without missing a beat she volunteered, “There are only two problems that I see. One, I’m married. The other – so is he.”
What a wonderful way to start the morning, the congressman said to himself.
***
Excerpt from Executive Actions by Gary Grossman. Copyright © 2017 by Gary Grossman. Reproduced with permission from Gary Grossman. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:


Gary Grossman is a multiple Emmy Award-winning network television producer, a print and television journalist, and novelist. He has produced more than 10,000 television shows for 40 broadcast and cable networks including primetime specials, reality and competition series, and live event telecasts.
Grossman has worked for NBC, written for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald American, and the New York Times. He is the author of four bestselling international award-winning thrillers available in print, eBooks, and Audible editions: EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, EXECUTIVE TREASON, EXECUTIVE COMMAND and OLD EARTH. (Diversion Books, NYC) and two acclaimed non-fiction books covering pop culture and television history – SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL and SATURDAY MORNING TV.
Grossman taught journalism, film and television at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC and has guest lectured at colleges and universities around the United States. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Emerson College in Boston and he serves on the Boston University Metropolitan College Advisory Board. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association and The Military Writers Society of America.

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Tour Participants:


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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gary Grossman. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $15 Amazon.com Gift Card AND the opportunity to Suggest a Character Name for the Next Book in the Executive Series! The giveaway begins on June 1 and runs through August 3, 2017.
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 I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.