Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book of Days by James Rubart

“What if it's true? That our lives are written down, recorded, every one's life?”

His wife had asked Cameron that, years ago, before she had died. He'd teased her about it then. “What, like some cosmic yearbook” But his father, right before he died, had told Cameron he must find the book with all his days in it. Cameron had brushed off his father's semi-lucid ramblings for eight years.
But now Cameron is losing bits of his memory and he fears he is traveling down his father's dementia strewn path. He is desperate to believe the book exists and is determined to find it. He plans to take time away from his business and search for this unknown book in Oregon.
Ann, foster sister to Cameron's wife, is longing to find out about her mother. She has a photo that is leading her to Oregon as well. While Cameron and Ann have always had an antagonistic relationship, they agree to meet in Three Peaks to pursue their individual mysteries.
Three Peaks has its own mysteries and people determined to keep them hidden. The town also has its own religious guru who is bent on finding the book at any cost.

Rubart has written another fine novel. His father began to loose treasured memories in 2000 and Rubart found Psalm 139:16 a great comfort. Rubart knew that his father's memories would be returned to him when he crossed over into eternity. (377) And then he got to thinking. What if God's “book” could be found on earth?
This is a fine story, well written and thought provoking. I highly recommend it. The discussion questions at the end would make this a great read for book groups.

Find out more at

B & H Publishing Group, 381 pages.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

God created us with a longing to be filled. “God made us capable of craving so we'd have an unquenchable desire for more of Him; and Him alone.” We must “make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only one capable of satisfying them...” (16)

Lysa calls us to recalibrate our souls – spiritually, physically, and mentally. It isn't about the scale. It's about the battle that rages in the heart.
The basic question: Do we love and rely on food more than we love and rely on God? We have to be honest and admit we crave food more than we crave God.
We were made for more than satisfying our taste buds. We were made for more so we can know Him better. Lysa encourages us to intentionally position ourselves to experience God. That involves being willing to deny ourselves. She embraces 1 Cor. 10:23, realizing that food is not sinful, but giving up some food may be spiritually and physically beneficial.
We tie our happiness to the wrong thing – food. We must learn to attach our happiness to the only “eternal stability” there is. Satisfied, fulfilled, complete people find their joy in Christ (John 15:9-12). Incomplete people think an accomplishment, a person, a food will fill them up. “Expecting anything outside the will of God to satisfy us is idolatry.” (159)”After all, remember the ultimate goal of this journey isn't about making me a smaller sized person but rather making me crave Jesus and His truths as the ultimate filler of my heart.” (125) “If we fail to understand how to fill our souls with spiritual nourishment, we will forever be triggered to numb our longing with other temporary physical pleasures.” (129)
Lysa has written a penetrating book on the real reason we over eat. She deals with why diets don't work, how to face emotional eating, and thinking life is just not fair! She reminds us that it is not about choosing the right food. It is about living God honoring lives. She has convicted me!

Great resources accompany this book. There is a DVD series as well as a free 21 day devotional you can have emailed to you (see below).

Lysa is the co-founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

FREE 21 day challenge:
Author website: http://www.lysaterkeurst/

Zondervan, 213 pages.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Glaen by Fred Lybrand

College student Annie is trying to deal with her mother's recent announcement that her parents are getting a divorce. A mysterious white haired professor, Glaen, shows up on campus and offers Annie a class in which she must write an original work of nonfiction. She plans to write about Christian relationships.

She has two theories and wants to put them to the test. Theory 1 is traditional dating, exclusive, a time of getting to know each other, often with intense romantic desires. It is a date-break-up routine. Hoping for the right relationship usually ends up in a misery cycle. Theory 2 is the more old fashioned idea of engaging in social activities before courting, and includes emotional, financial and spiritual aspects. The long term goal is marriage with courting a way for God to reveal His will to all involved. She finds that both kinds of relationship building actions can disastrously end in hurt.
Newton as an example, Glaen helps Annie begin to observe how God made things to work. If Annie can observe relationships and have faith God designed a way they truly work, she will discover what she is looking for.
She discovers lies, such as there is no harm in acting married. Dating like that only causes pain and heartache. Other lies include, God has only one person for you to marry, if you follow the right process you will have a great marriage, men and women are the same, and so on.
Romance is a trap. Romance is about the unusual and exciting so it leads to sex, the highest aim of romance.
Through experiences and personal interactions, Annie learns why relationships go bad (truth, love and freedom are missing). “The most important skill for success in relationships is Control-Free-Relating.” (131)
The author has added a summary at the end of each section, highlighting the truth contained in that part of the story.

Lybrand's book is an example of one writing a novel to explain a truth or convey a message. Rather than weaving the message throughout the novel, the message is the novel. It is painfully apparent through out the book that Lybrand has a message and has created scenes to convey that message. For me, it was to contrived.
I received an egalley of the book from the author for the purpose of this review.
Free study guide:
Learn the principles in Glaen:
The Barnabas Agency/ISBN: 978-0-578-04652-5/softcover/171 pages/$14.99

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Fight of Our Lives by William Bennett & Seth Leibsohn

If you think President Bush could do no wrong and President Obama can do no right, you'll love this book. If you think it is America's responsibility to be the savior of the Middle East, you'll love this book. If, however, you tend to be a little more objective, this book may just irritate you.

It's been ten years since the tragedy of 9/11. Most Americans assumed the response to the horror of that day would be short work. Yet the lead instigators remain at large, the authors remind us, and the U. S. appears to be unsure about the continuation of this war on terror.
The authors seek to refocus American attention on the war against radical Islam and the necessity of the defense of our culture. They believe “we are in the fight for our lives right now, the fight for our very survival, the fight for Western democracy...” They believe the next presidential vote could very well mark surrender.
Their focus is on the natures of the threat and the response we should be completing. The authors speak highly of President Bush and his war rhetoric. They quote him, especially his “Islam is peace” speech at the Islamic Center of Washington, very positively.
They praise the Bush administration “for getting a lot of the war right” and criticize the Obama administration for getting “a lot of the war wrong” and then disdaining and scorning it. They are critical of president Obama's new priority of “ending wars abroad, not winning them...”
They do admit that by the 2008 election the nation was war weary. That was because the Bush administration did not keep the motive for the war in the forefront, they argue.
Regarding the Iraq war, the authors can't believe that anyone would criticize “military action against a regime whose record of barbarism and terrorism was virtually unparalleled.” They are unhappy with Obama apologizing for anything America has done.
The authors show that the Koran is much more violent than the Bible. There are “several active commands to jihad and physical violence in the Koran.” The authors are dismayed that there are too few Muslims willing to speak out and call for reform. They note that American Muslims have failed to call for moderation.
The authors argue that, “America as a strong force in the Middle East did not bring terror to our shores.” It is not because America is “occupying” any place in the Middle East. Of Islam, they say, “It is a corrupt philosophy that, when acted upon, has led (and will lead) to untold slaughter and death.”
In the Epilogue the authors say there needs to be a great relearning. We need to teach history without denigrating our own story. We need to cultivate heroes and statesmen. We need to be reminded of our great moral and intellectual inheritance.

One failure of the authors is to note how Bush's Iraq war changed the balance of power in the Middle East. For example, the authors say, “Given the current trajectory, Iran will become a nuclear power on the watch of President Barack Obama.” The Iraq war destroyed the long standing war between Iraq and Iran. Powerful Iraq balanced powerful Iran. Now, with Iraq in shambles, Iran is a rising and very threatening power.
Another failure of the authors is that they say nothing about areas of horror other than in the Middle East. If the U.S. Is to be the savior of the world, shouldn't we have gone into Darfur? (Oh, that's right, there's no oil there.) Do we only go to war when thousands of Americans get killed and not when thousands in another country are killed?
And, help me here. Why was it OK for Bush to say Islam was a “religion of peace” shortly after 9/11 but it is terribly wrong for Obama to say that now? Now “it has become jarring, if not offensive, to constantly be told – lectured at – that Islam is a religion of peace.”

I have really mixed feelings about this book. Maybe we have lost our focus. Maybe we should fight radical Islam. I am just not so sure invading Iraq (or any other Middle East nation) is the answer. Despite what the authors say, I think America's presence in the Middle East prior to 9/11/2011 (bases, military personnel) did precipitate feelings against America.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Possession by Rene Gutteridge

D. C. detective Vance Graegen is burned out after investigating a sniper case.  Wanting to make a new life for his family, he quits the force and moves his wife and son to California with plans to open a sandwich shop.  When they arrive they find the mover is holding their possessions for ransom.
It soon becomes clear that Vance has more to worry about than his possessions.  Someone is out to ruin his life altogether.  Secrets from his past emerge to haunt him.  He tries desperately to control the situation while suffering from headaches and hearing voices - post traumatic stress from the sniper case.  And then his wife and son are kidnapped.
I have read several books by Gutteridge, her humorous ones.  This is the first of her serious fiction I've read.  At first I was disappointed.  For two hundred pages I was nearly bored.  But I persevered and was rewarded.  The second half of the book is a true page turner!  The plot is based on true accounts of moving companies that Gutteridge read about.
I still think Gutteridge's best writing is in the area of humorous novels. 

Tyndale House, 366 pages.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

People of the Book by Kathi Macias

Farah is a young Muslim woman in Saudi Arabia. During the month of Ramadan she has committed to deepening her devotion to Allah. She fasts and prays and is dismayed when she does not feel any closer to Allah. Then one night she has a dream and Isa, the prophet Jesus appears to her. He says he is there to draw her to him. She is puzzled by the experience.

Nura is Farah's cousin. Unlike many other young Muslim women, Nura's father allows her unlimited access to the Internet. She begins to frequent a chat room in which Muslims discuss Jesus. There she meets Sara, a young woman in the United States. While Sara is of Muslim descent, she is now a Christian.
But Sara has her own problems. Her brother Emir has been shot in a gang incident and is near death. He is in rebellion to God. Sara and her parents are concerned about his salvation.
Nura and Farah become believers in Isa (Jesus) but their new found faith is discovered. The consequences are deadly.
Macias has woven an interesting story around Islam and Christianity. One learns much about what it means to be a Christian in a country where such belief is forbidden.
I love it when an author writes about the Pacific Northwest in a way that rings true: “There was a hint of moisture surrounding them, but scarcely enough to be noticeable to two teen aged girls who had been raised in the Pacific Northwest. Rain was simply a way of life, and unless it came as a deluge, they seldom even bothered with umbrellas.” (58)

I received and advanced copy of this book in egalley form from New Hope Publisher for the purpose of this review.

Author's website:

Author's blog and a trailer on the book: 
New Hope Publishers, 318 pages.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life Promises for Success by Jim Tressel

How would you define success? Some think it is having money or ascending the corporate ladder. Tressel says success is not about what we have or what we've done. It's about who we are.
Tressel understands it is hard in our society to keep success in proper perspective and not base our sense of self-worth on what we do. He should know. As head coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes since 2001, he led the team to bowl games, Big Ten titles, and a national championship. It's not achieving your goal, he says. “The thing we should most enjoy about any endeavor is the road we travel together to get there.” (9)
Through quoted sayings, Scriptures, poems, stories of successful people, and his personal thoughts, Tressel encourages readers to be the best they can be. It is a life long adventure.
There is a peace of mind from knowing that you have done your best. You have to have faith , placing your trust in something bigger than yourself. You have to have belief, the outward expression of that faith.
For those who want to reach their full potential, Tressel says, “you first need to keep in mind that achieving excellence means becoming the best person you can possibly be...” (61) You could be a stellar performer, but if you are not living an upright life, you won't achieve your full potential. He inspires his readers to have hope. He calls for humility and love. He gives encouragement in overcoming adversity, being persistent, being selfless, overcoming setbacks, teamwork, etc.
My favorite of Tressel's quotes: “Hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone expects of you.” Henry Ward Beecher (37) My favorite of his own writing: “Promise give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others...” (187)
This book would make a great gift for a graduate or anyone else needing inspiration.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review.

See: and

Publisher information.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello

FBI Agent Raleigh Harmon is back in the Pacific Northwest. She is on an Alaskan cruise, hoping to gain perspective on her life. She is engaged but also unsure that is the future she desires. Her ticket was a gift of her quirky Aunt Charlotte who believes rocks can cure spiritual wounds. Along with her aunt is her mother, still slipping on the slope of dementia, and Charlotte's strange friend Claire.

Raleigh had entered the FBI as a forensic geologist and she looks forward to contemplating her engagement to DeMott as she hikes the hills while the ship is the in various Alaskan ports. But murder ruins her plans.
On board is a Hollywood movie crew and the lead actor's wife turns up murdered. Raleigh combines forces with the ship's head of security, a Dutchman with an expansive handlebar mustache. When word of the crime gets back to the Seattle FBI office, Raleigh's nemesis Special Agent Jack Stephanson flies up to work on the case. The FBI Agents have only five days to solve the crime before the ship arrives back in Seattle and all of the suspects escape.
Giorello has again crafted another exciting novel. We readers sympathize with Raleigh when her mother seems to have a complete breakdown and must be hospitalized. We share Raleigh's frustration with Claire's odd behavior. We cheer for Raleigh as she and Jack and the Dutchman try to unravel the many deceptive layers in the lives of the movie actors and crew. And we hold our breath when Raleigh is faced with death at the hands of an exceedingly strong man. What Raleigh lacks in strength, she gains by using her wits.
I am glad Raleigh is back in the Pacific Northwest. It makes this good read even better. And the best news? In the next book Raleigh is going undercover in Seattle. The bad news is that I'll have to wait until March of 2012 to read it!

An Advanced Reading Copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for the purpose of this review.

About the author:
Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Sibella and her other books at her website.

Start the series fresh with this great deal! Pick up a copy of Book 1 for your Kindle or Nook for only $2.99! The Stones Roll Away is the critically acclaimed award winner that kicked off the Raleigh Harmon series.
Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Mountains Bow Down by giving away a Cruise prize pack worth over $500.00!

 One Grand Prize winner will receive: 
  • A $500 gift certificate toward the cruise of their choice from Vacations To Go.
  • The entire set of the Raleigh Harmon series.

I am participating in a blog tour of this book.  If you would like to see other reviews of this book, go to and scroll down to this book tour.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

The introduction of a counterfeit always creates confusion. Wax thinks the greatest threat to Christianity may be the seeds of destruction being planted within the church by the introduction of counterfeit gospels. People are drawn to counterfeits because they are easy and require less of us.

While the counterfeits may lead to heresy, they are generally a dilution of the truth or a truth out of proportion. The salvation message may remain but passion and fulfillment are missing.
The church faces a three fold crisis. “First, we have lost our faith in the power of the gospel to change a life.” Second, we lack gospel clarity, thinking the message needs to be “packaged” or tweaked. Third, we are losing our community distinctiveness where church is an obligation. (14-15)
Wax says the gospel is a three-legged stool: the gospel story (the grand narrative), the gospel announcement (Jesus bore the penalty for our sin), and the gospel community (our response, a life long expression of gratitude in a corporate life). A counterfeit gospel chips away at one of the legs. Wax details each of the legs and then evaluates the six most common counterfeits.
Wax argues that the gospel must be presented in the context of story. He gives the four main movements of the gospel, taking the reader through the primary scenes: creation (harmony with God), fall (harmony is shattered), redemption (God's rescue plan), and restoration (eternal harmony). Humans are wired with a desire to find the purpose and meaning behind our individual stories. This can only be found in the gospel story. (40)
The gospel story has to include the gospel announcement which is centered on Christ. Personal transformation testifies to the power of the gospel but is not the gospel. The presentation of the gospel includes Christ's life, death, resurrection and exaltation as Lord. He explains why each of these aspects of the life of Christ are essential to the complete gospel. Our response to the gospel, in the form of repentance, is essential.
The first counterfeit Wax deals with the the therapeutic gospel. It's diagnosis of sin is superficial, seeing sin as merely in the way of our happiness. We make pursuing happiness the goal of our life. “God wants me happy,” trumps all.
There is The Judgmentless Gospel, neglecting God as judge, sometimes appearing as universalism. The Moralistic Gospel is when traditional morality is preached but the saving work of Christ is neglected. The Quietist Gospel ignores the evil realities in the world that the gospel is to address. It is indifferent to the injustices in the world. The Activist Gospel unites people around a social action or political agenda rather than the gospel.
Wax takes each of the counterfeits and identifies their weaknesses, the area of the whole gospel they neglect, why they are attractive, how we can counter them, how to know if we are caught up in one and then what to do if that is the case.
He ends his book with insights on how to tell the whole gospel in evangelism and suggests some very useful tools.
Wax has added relevant Scriptures at the end of each chapter. The reader can pick up the Bible and verify Wax's writing. He also includes charts detailing each counterfeit gospel making identifying them easier.
This book is essential reading for Christians. It is a good reminder to stay on the road with the full gospel and not get sidetracked to a lesser form of it.

An advanced egalley of this book was provided by Moody Press for the purpose of this review.

See Trax's useful website:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Invisible World by Anthony DeStefano

It's an invisible world. DeStefano says if you do not recognize that, you are missing out on a big piece of reality, in fact, reality itself. “You can ignore the invisible world as much as you want, but the invisible world is not going to ignore you!” (143)

Have you ever had the feeling that something mysterious or supernatural has just occurred? While some of these experiences may be attributed to human abilities yet undiscovered, we cannot reduce all of them to materialistic causes. Many of the most important things in life, DeStefano says, do not come to us through our physical senses. Yet we live life as if what we physically experience is all there is.
He wants to make the spiritual world more clear to us. He hopes that when these invisible realities are not so unfamiliar to us, it will be easier for us to act our moral beliefs, our lives will be fuller, and we will experience a lasting sense of peace.
With respect to God, DeStefano reminds us that He is “other” and there is a definite limit to what we can know about Him. Yet God did decide to become visible, in the form of Jesus.
He acknowledges that there have been many angel stories recently made public and we cannot distinguish the true from the phony. Reports of seeing angels are just too subjective. The truth, however, is that they do exist. Spiritual beings are an essential part of Christianity and all the other major religions of the world.
Angels “'talk' directly to the spiritual part of our nature.” (52) They impress concepts upon our minds and souls, DeStefano writes, nudges that may bypass the brain. Angels are observers and cannot read our minds.
DeStefano reminds us that just as there are “good” angels, there are evil ones as well. They were not created that way but chose that path. Many people do not believe in the evil angels and DeStefano admits that their existence and actions are hard to understand. Also called demons, they don't usually show themselves (despite popular movies). Demons don't want people to believe that they exist so they stay hidden.
He notes that humans have an invisible aspect to them and is convinced that the Christian view of humans is the most balanced – humans being body, soul, and spirit.
DeStefano knows we need help in living life and it comes from God to us in the form of grace. “Grace is all about actualizing, to a degree not humanly possible, all your God-given potential.” (132)
He ends his book with our invisible destiny – our existence after death. He reminds us there are automatic consequences from the life we have lived.

DeStefano has written this book for the general public skeptical of spiritual beings. He is the first to admit, “This is not meant to be a theology text book.” (86)
That being said, here are a few of my observations about the book. DeStefano uses all of the right terms (sin, unrepentance, choose, heaven, hell, judgment). He concentrates, however, on a relationship with God and nowhere presents the actual saving gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection. Because of this, even though the book is advertised as within evangelical Christian belief, some may be uncomfortable with the lack of emphasis on belief in Jesus as essential to a true relationship with God.
One particular aspect of DeStefano's writing about angels is unbiblical, I think. “They don't speak,” he says. “They don't express their thoughts in words.” They communicate, “through some kind of direct mind-to-mind contact we don't understand...” (64) He seems to be precluding angels speaking audibly while it appears there are accounts in the Bible of angels doing just that. God, the ultimate spiritual being, certainly speaks audibly as some heard Him at Jesus' baptism (thinking it was thunder – see John 12:29).
Also of angels he says, “Since angels don't have bodies, they don't have neurological systems.” (73) They don't process their thoughts through brain cells. They don't have to process their thoughts as they are in full possession of facts immediately. (74-75)
Something about that doesn't sit well with me. Just because angels are invisible does not mandate they be without bodies. There are accounts of them appearing in the Bible in bodily form, especially in the Old Testament and in the New Testament book of Revelation.

So, who should read this book? DeStefano may have aimed this book at the confirmed materialist, the one totally skeptic of the spiritual realm. However, sometimes he writes with the assumption the Bible is true and the reader will believe what it says. For example, “Any one who thinks hell doesn't really exist should go back and read those [Bible] passages...” (180) At other times he writes as if the reader has never heard of the Bible. For example, “There happens to be a very famous book that God wrote called the Bible! In this book you can find...” (189)
So I am not really sure who should read this book. It might be appropriate to give to your atheist friend but I would suggest you read it along with him and clarify any misconceptions that arise. This book may convince your friend that the spiritual world really does exist. It would not bring him to salvation, however, and may even leave the impression one can have a relationship with God without belief in Jesus. Saving belief in Jesus is certainly not discredited in this book! It would just need to be proclaimed through personal contact after your friend has read the book.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Doubleday, 206 pages.

Watch the video trailer.
Go to the author's website.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Resurrection by Mike Duran

Stonetree was named after the petrified oak that sits on a nearby hillside. It was an apt name for the town – once a lively community but now as spiritually dead as its namesake.

And then a miracle happens. A boy, dead and being remembered at his funeral, comes alive again. The one whose touch brought him back to life is Ruby, a working mother and patient wife of her cynic husband Jack.
The resurrection creates excitement in the town. Some are convinced Ruby is a godsend and come to her with their healing needs. Others are convinced she is a witch.
Ruby is torn. She does not want the publicity but has a tender heart toward the desperate who come to her for help. She knows she is part of something bigger than herself. Could it be that it is finally time for the breaking of the curse over the valley? What is to be her role in the spiritual warfare surrounding the community?
Her pastor, Rev. Clark, really doesn't believe in much of anything. He struggles with believing in a God who would let his sister die while doing good work in Africa. And how could he trust a God who let his own marriage fall apart? He reconnects with his old professor, Keen, a writer about the myths of religion. Keen subtly pulls Clark toward participation in worshiping the ancient gods ruling the area.
Ruby finds out that there had been a similar resurrection in the town about 90 years ago. What did that have to do with the spiritual oppression that now lays over the town? As she continues to make attempts at understanding her role, she is gunned down by a distraught husband who had demanded Ruby heal his wife before she died.
Clark is inspired to confront Keen and his ungodly circle of cohorts. But the confrontation turns deadly as Clark learns of the evil Pantheons, the ancient gods in control of various cities. With subjects like Keen, the Pantheons plan to cover the entire nation with their evil. Clark has been groomed by Keen to be the next human sacrifice the Pantheon periodically requires.
Is it possible? Will the town be saved from the evil that has suppressed it for so long?

Duran has written an excellent spiritual thriller. The reader certainly experiences the serious warfare going on between oppressive evil and the emerging spiritual life from God. We also sense the deadly control the Pantheon has over the town and the local church. Spiritual warfare becomes very real and a matter of life and death.
Duran has added a “ghost” to the characters in the novel. I would encourage you to read his afterward about ghosts if the concept troubles you. Christians, in general, do not believe in ghosts but Duran gives a plausible biblical argument for the possibility of their existence.

 In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

You can find out more about Mike Duran at

Buy the book from CBD. 
I am participating in the CSFF Blog Tour.  If you would like to see the reviews posted by others on the Tour, see the links below:"> Noah Arsenault"> Brandon Barr"> Red Bissell"> Book Reviews By Molly"> Keanan Brand"> Kathy Brasby"> Grace Bridges"> Beckie Burnham"> Melissa Carswell"> Jeff Chapman"> Christian Fiction Book Reviews"> Carol Bruce Collett"> Valerie Comer"> Karri Compton"> Wanda Costinak"> Amy Cruson"> CSFF Blog Tour"> Janey DeMeo"> Cynthia Dyer Greene"> Nikole Hahn"> Katie Hart"> Joleen Howell"> Bruce Hennigan"> Becky Jesse"> Cris Jesse"> Jason Joyner"> Carol Keen"> Emily LaVigne"> Shannon McNear"> Matt Mikalatos"> Rebecca LuElla Miller"> Mirtika"> Nissa"> John W. Otte"> Gavin Patchett"> Sarah Sawyer"> Andrea Schultz"> Tammy Shelnut"> Kathleen Smith"> Donna Swanson"> Jessica Thomas"> Steve Trower"> Fred Warren"> Dona Watson"> Phyllis Wheeler"> Nicole White"> Dave Wilson

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Missing by Lynette Eason

Lacy's teen aged daughter Bethany is missing and she goes to her old high school flame, U. S. Marshall Mason Stone, knowing he will help.  She knows he'll help because he is Bethany's father.  She just hasn't told him yet.
Thus begins the "Love Inspired Suspense" novel from Steeple Hill, the inspirational division of Harlequin.  The plot is pretty good and the action kept my interest.  Mason and Lacy must get beyond old hurts in working together to find the kidnapped girl.  A local deputy was Mason's best high school friend but also the one who caused the rift between Mason and Lacy.  His working the case adds to the tension. 
There is a discussion guide at the end of the book so this would be suitable for book groups, especially those who read romance novels.  The characters are or become Christians and there are several issues to discuss.  For example, unwed Lacy was sent away by her pastor father to have her baby away from the prying eyes of his church members.  Also, while God had forgiven the sins of the past it is hard for people to accept that and live in the present.  And, how does one trust God in the face of such a potential tragedy?
This is the kind of book I like to read in late evening and it was very satisfying for that.

Steeple Hill, 215 pages.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury

It is every adoptive parent's nightmare.  After four years of bliss with their wonderful Joey, a judge rules that the original adoption was illegal.  The biological father had been in prison and the biological mother had forged his signature.  When he is released from prison he finds out he has a son and demands he care for Joey.
The social worker has no choice.  It's the law.  The adoptive parents are distraught.  And little Joey?  He cries.  He hates being separated from his "parents," even for the couple of weekends the judge mandates as a workup to the final transfer.  And then the biological father angrily grabs Joey, bruising him.  The social worker can't prove it isn't the fall the biological parents claim.
This book is a real tear jerker.  I have to admit, I did look at the end of the book before I finished it.
Kingsbury has done a great job pitting the love of adoptive parents against the rule of law.  And where does God fit into all of this?  Is it God's will that Joey go back to his biological parents?
This is a great book.  And now it is a movie.  We are going to discuss the book and then watch the movie at the next reading group meeting.  What a treat.  There is a reading group guide at the end of the book too.

Center Street, a division of the Hachette Book Group, 368 pages.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

In this third story of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon, Hugh travels to Oxford. He left Bampton Castle, where he is bailiff (general overseer of operations), to remedy his solitary state. He goes to Robert Caxton's stationer's shop with the cover task of buying some parchment and ink. But his real goal was to see and court Kate, Caxton's “comely” daughter.
He pays a visit to a teacher he had at Balliol College, Master John Wyclif. Wyclif is greatly disturbed for his books have been stolen. He implores Hugh to find them and thus begins Hugh's third adventure.
Hugh faces opposition on every side. There is another suitor after Kate and he is a nasty man. And in the task of recovering the stolen books, evidence is lacking. Hugh has to use his wits to determine an effective method of discovery.
I really enjoyed the writing style of Mel Starr. He is a master of creating beautiful sentences. It felt like I was reading a novel from a generation ago when authors, I think, spent more time in perfecting their craft. This novel was a joy to read.
At the front of the book are two additions that help the reader. The first is a glossary. Having it at the front of the book is a brilliant idea. (Many times I have struggled through a book to find an unannounced glossary in the back. It is too late to use it then as I have already finished the book!) The other great feature is a map of Oxford as it was around 1375.
This is a well written book. If you enjoy fine literature (and a good whodunit), you'll like this book.

I am participating in a Litfuse Publicity tour for this book. If you would like to see the other reviews from this tour go to -

Find out more about Mel Starr at his website:

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Kregel Publications, for the purpose of this review.

Publisher information.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lucky by Glenn Packiam

When you think of a “lucky” person, do you think of someone who has won the lottery? Someone who has had a few big breaks you never got? Successful people usually don't mention luck. Talent and hard work generally predict success. But even the successful have experienced a break here and there.

Real “luck,” according to Packiam, involves the arrival of the kingdom of God. Jesus announced it using makarios, “fortunate, happy.” Today we would say, “lucky,” such as, “You lucky guy, you get to go on vacation.”
Jesus described the lucky in His Sermon on the Mount and Packiam concentrates on the four beatitudes found in Luke's gospel. He uses stories from the Bible, his own experiences and those of others to explain our luck. He sums up Jesus' message, “Lucky you, for the kingdom of God has come to the unlikely and the unlucky.” (35)
We believers are in that period of waiting for what we know is ours, like a child waiting for the bicycle he knows his parents have bought him for Christmas. The kingdom is “not yet” as well as “now.”
Religion says the rich are blessed. Jesus said the poor are blessed. They are lucky – the powerless, the God-dependent. The spiritually hungry are lucky as God is preparing a feast for the future as well as feeding us now.
Mourners God promises to bless include those with deep remorse and repentance for sins. They also include those suffering unrelated to God's discipline. In the midst of mourning God brings hope. Those who are rejected on this earth because of their love for Jesus will have a blessed future in eternity.
Discussion questions at the end of each chapter make this a great book for small groups.
We have not become lucky for our own enjoyment, however. “In Christ, we have become lucky so we can become God's image-bearers and His luck-bearers to the world. The kingdom of God has come to us so that it might come through us to others.” (63)

I was provided a copy of this book by The B&B Media Group, Inc. on behalf of the publishers, David C. Cook, for the purpose of this review.

Publisher information.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Curiosities of the Civil War by Webb Garrison

Garrison has made a compilation of many little known “curiosities” of the Civil War. It became clear to me early on that Garrison's level of curiosity is much higher than mine.
Was I really interested in Rev. B. C. Ward, a Congregationalist pastor from Illinois, who tried to recruit an infantry company composed of ordained clergy? (52) Was I really interested in the many accounts of severely handicapped men who fought in the War? Or the people who lost limbs, or the Major General who was afraid of horses or the Union Admiral and Confederate Major General who had migraines?
Sections in the lengthy work include the roll of women, hostages, and horses in the War, weapons used, role of “coloreds,” rivers, flags, quotes from leaders and newspapers and soldiers' diaries, sounds, friendly fire, brave adventures of wives, unusual names of boats, cost of the war, condensed milk and coffee paste, undercover agents, the only woman positively known to be killed in combat, pay scales, and much, much more.
I did find some items interesting. “Richard Thomas, leader of a band of Confederate irregulars, made a name for himself by dressing as a woman and calling himself 'the French Lady.'” (65) Maj. Gen. William Sherman had captured Confederates march at the head of the column as the Federal forces approached Savannah, Georgia to test for buried torpedoes (land mines). (66) U. S. Army Lt. Gen. Scott was too heavy to sit in a saddle. John Wilkes Booth could often be seen riding a one-eyed horse. A battle was fought at Glorieta, New Mexico, in 1862 “later described as being 'fully as furious as Gettysburg.'” (129) President Lincoln believed himself to be the illegitimate son of a man named Inlow. (219-220) Lincoln died in a bed John Wilkes Booth had once slept in. (222) Pvt. Jim Hanger became the first man to have a leg amputated during the Civil War. (404)
If you like those kinds of tidbits, you'll like this book.
Garrison was convinced of the value of his work. He writes, “...many of the 'curiosities' briefly treated in this volume loom to sudden and perhaps crucial importance.” (528) I'm not convinced. The value of this book would be, I think, to someone wanting to write a novel about the Civil War. The hundreds of little known facts included could provide added color to any plot. I seriously doubt many will read this book from cover to cover (as I did). The bibliography is large and the three columned 16 page index is adequate and is essential to this type of book.

I was provided with a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 528 pages.

Publisher information.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Danger on Her Doorstep by Rachelle McCalla

I like the last book I read in the evening to be a rewarding novel, but not too thought provoking.  McCalla's novel of mystery and romance was perfect.
Maggie's father died under somewhat suspicious circumstances even though the ruling was death by accident.  Maggie has inherited her father's properties and returns to her small Iowa hometown to fix up and sell them.  She hires Gideon, the town sheriff who has just been relieved of his duties, to do the repairs.  Gideon's brother is in jail for drug making and distribution and Gideon is out of law enforcement until he can prove he was not protecting his brother's illegal actions.
As Maggie and Gideon work, it becomes evident someone wants something in the house.  A break in occurs and the basement has been searched.  The action escalates with threats and attempted arson.
McCalla combines a growing attraction between Maggie and Gideon with their move to solving the mystery of the house and its hidden contents.  Maggie is a Christian and Gideon becomes one so it is fun to watch their developing feelings for each other.  And the mystery is pretty good too.  There are even discussion questions at the end of the book for reading groups.
This small book is one of the Steeple Hill, "Love Inspired Romance" mass paperbacks from Harlequin.  It reminds me of the dime novels we had when I was a kid.  (OK, so maybe they were more than a dime...)  Being part of the "inspirational" line, the novel is great reading for Christians.

Steeple Hill, 214 pages.

Publisher information.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Handle With Prayer by Charles Stanley

Stanley sees three prayer principles in Jeremiah 3:33. First, God encourages us to pray. He wants us to come before Him and wait for His Word. Second, God promises to answer. God is sovereign and His answers may be “No,” or “Wait.” We must trust God's answer is what is best for us. Third, God promises He will reveal what is hidden. He will give divine wisdom and understanding that is needed.
“[God] desires to illuminate your mind and heart until you are conscious of Christ's mind within you.” (18) But you must be submissive to God in absolute obedience, no matter what He asks of you.
Stanley gives Elijah's confrontation with the Baal prophets as an example of praying with authority and humility. He gives several prerequisites if we are to go to God with a sense of authority. (30-34) Daniel is an example of praying with fasting.
Stanley uses Nehemiah as an example of praying with a burden. He goes through the aspects of a prayer burden that must be understood to recognize a burden from the Lord and respond to it properly.
Stanley looks at the expectations of our prayer being answered and God's attitude toward blessing His children. “There are six conditions,” he writes, “that must be true in our lives if God is going to answer our prayers.” (69) After going through the conditions he suggests eleven reasons for God not answering fervent and godly prayers with a “yes.” Stanley then helps the reader understand how to pray in the will of God.
He uses Joshua as an example to show that we need to listen to God. “We often make the mistake in our prayers of talking too much and not listening enough.” (106) We need to be ready to act when His instructions are clear.
Next, Stanley helps the reader understand how to pray for others and for whom we should be interceding on a regular basis (including our enemies). He says, “'s battles are won or lost in the place of prayer, not on the battlefield of everyday life. … God wins His battles through men and women who intercede on behalf of the kingdom.” (127) He encourages readers to find spiritually minded people who will stand with them in prayer. Prayer is the most powerful weapon in spiritual warfare. “God has given the present-day church the same amount of authority and power over satanic forces as He did the first-century church.” (141)
The last 70 pages of the book is an excellent study guide. There are suggestions for leaders (in general) and then suggested goals, discussion questions for each lesson and activities to do before the next session. The study guide is very complete and would make this study a good one for a beginning leader.
This is an updated version of the book originally released in 2000.  It is in hardcover at $16.99 but is still a great value.  The book is 220 pages long.

I was provided with a copy of this book by David C. Cook Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Publisher information.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nehemiah The Wiersbe Bible Study Series

Nehemiah was a leader who cared about the traditions of the past, the needs of the present and the hopes of the future.

Wiersbe's study of Nehemiah's leadership is divided into eight lessons and is designed to be used by individuals as well as small groups. The lessons do make reference to Wiersbe's commentary on Nehemiah, Be Determined, but the necessary passages are quoted in this study. Having the commentary as a resource, however, would provide additional insights and background material.
Each lesson begins with questions to get the reader thinking about first impressions. Next are questions to help examine the context of the passage, its meaning and application. Additional questions allow you to focus on your own situation. Wiersbe notes that these personal questions may be uncomfortable but are necessary for looking into the mirror of God's Word.
Each lesson ends with a going forward section, giving one the opportunity to write down what needs to be done to live out the truths discovered. The final section of each study reminds us to ask God into the process of spiritual growth.
Wiersbe brings out several characteristics of Nehemiah the leader: a caring attitude, a dependence upon prayer, an ability to do God's work, wisdom in approaching those in authority, concern for God's glory, ability to encourage others in the face of opposition and the threat of division, providing for the spiritual needs of his people, helping people see the provision of God's grace, and encouraging them to dedication in their relationship with God.
The suggestions for leaders are great. A novice small group leader would find plenty of help for leading these studies. The introspective questions make this study suitable for individuals to do on their own too. You might want to call a friend to join you as the thought provoking questions will soon have you sharing your thoughts on the subject.

David C. Cook, 140 pages.

This book was provided by The B & B Media Group on behalf of the publisher, David C. Cook, for the purpose of this review.

Publisher information.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze

While not technically a sequel to Forget Me Not, two minor characters in that novel take the lead in Deadly Ties. One should read Forget Me Not before this one.

Mark Taylor is a former Special Operative and is now providing security for a couple threatened by a mafia type group. He falls in love with Dr. Lisa Harper, who has repressed the memories of her childhood abduction. She has been forbidden by the mean second husband of her mother to have any contact with her mother. Lisa, now with the financial means, plans to remove her mother from the abusive marriage.
Mark feels compelled to protect Lisa and her mother but his efforts are all to lame. The mother is beaten nearly to death while walking to the party celebrating Lisa's becoming a doctor. At the time of the attack, Mark and Lisa have a eyes only for each other. (This was the first of what I considered many unrealistic scenes in the book.) When Lisa visits her comatose mother in the hospital, she is abducted. (That Mark is in the hospital, and his old team of special ops people are with him, yet he does not protect Lisa, was the second unrealistic scene in the book.)
Lisa has been abducted by the mafia type group at the request of the evil stepfather. She, along with other women abducted for a price, are on their way to Mexico where they will be sold. Even though Lisa leads classes in self defense she remains virtually defenseless (more unrealistic aspects of the novel).
While I could go on, I think I have given an idea of my evaluation of this novel. To me, Mark was somewhat of an antihero. He never did the right thing to protect those he loved. Lisa, while being transported across country, manages to sneak out a bathroom window and call Mark, again, something I think rather unrealistic. Mark comes to her rescue, courtesy of the FBI in a number of cars. After some discussion, it is determined that the transport will go on with mark posing as one of the drivers. A woman FBI agent decides to join the abducted women. Through electronics, she remains in contact with the FBI during the entire adventure. (Tell me, when they get to their destination, the women are not searched? One of the women even keeps a flashlight with her! At the trafficker's Mexican home, the FBI agent gives Lisa a small crystal pin to wear. “It's a video camera and streams everything you're seeing and saying right to our people.” P. 287. Where did the FBI agent have that? It is too unrealistic that the trafficker and guards did not strip the women of their, what, purses, pockets?)
And then there is a strange scene when the abducted women finally arrive at their Mexico destination. Mark and Lisa have a nice relaxing chat while the evil human trafficker and his guards stand around, apparently unconcerned that a “driver” is having a head to head lengthy discussion with one of the abducted woman. (Another unrealistic scene.)
I just cannot recommend this book. It is not up to the tight plot construction, well developed (and realistic) characters, and snappy dialogue that I require for recommendation. The only redeeming factor in the book is that the Christianity experienced my the characters is well done.

This book was provided by Multnomah Books for the purpose of this review.

You can find out more about the author at:

Publisher information:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rest in Peace by Frances Divine

Victoria Storm runs the Cedar Chapel Lodge, a senior boardinghouse that she inherited from her grandparents. The pet store owner is found dead and while the coroner rules it an accident, Victoria suspects it was murder. When she and her fiance Benjamin begin to uncover evidence, Miss Maggie, one of her lodgers, goes missing. And then there is that pesky woman Benjamin has hired as his secretary who seems to be after him.
This is the first of the Home Town Mystery series I have read by Devine. It became apparent early on that there have been earlier novels about these characters by the author. While it was still a pleasant read, you will find the story much more rewarding is you are continuing on with the series.
This was definitely a “cozy” mystery. The action was slow and methodical. There are no gruesome murder descriptions and there are interesting elderly characters. The audience for this novel is certainly gray haired.

I was provided an egalley of this novel by Barbour Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Publisher information:,4585.aspx?Tab=Books

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fire Season by Philip Connors

Connors spends summers in a 7'X7' fire lookout at 10,000 feet in the Gila Wilderness (northern New Mexico, south and west to the Grand Canyon), an area preserved, unroaded, unpopulated. On most days he can see 100 miles in every direction. He's “seen lunar eclipses and desert sandstorms and lightning that made [his] hair stand on end.” (4) He has watched deer and elk and seen pine trees explode.
“The life of a lookout,” he says, “is a blend of monotony, geometry, and poetry, with healthy dollops of frivolity and sloth.” (6)
He weaves in the history of the area as he recounts his experiences. It had been the policy of the Forest Service to put out all fires as soon as possible. By the late 1960s, however, it became evident that the practice had warped whole ecosystems. Some fires were tentatively let run unchecked at the end of the fire season. The results were positive and controlled burns are now allowed.
Connors tells of leaving his winter bar tending job, packing boxes to be later delivered by mules, and then hiking the five and a half miles with his companion pound dog, Alice. He cleans his cabin of rat droppings, dead deer mice, moths and dirt (some wilderness hiker has broken a window). He is ten days on, in this place of over a million uninhabited acres, then four days off. He hikes the five and a half miles every other weekend to rendezvous with his wife and take a shower.
Readers are treated to Connors' eloquent account of solitude, the whisper/whistle/moan/roar of the wind, shedding of the social world, radioing in weather observations, braving snakes and battling insects.
At one point a fire is heading directly toward him. He reviews his options. If all else fails he could tread water in the cistern for a couple of hours. Maybe he would be rescued by a helicopter. He might have to resort to his fire shelter, a sort of tent that reflects radiant heat and traps breathable air.
It is a dangerous line of work. Yet, he says, “If there is a better job anywhere on the planet, I'd like to know what it is.” (4)
Connors' book was a delight to read except for the excerpts from Kerouac's journal written while Kerouac was a lookout in 1956 in the Mt. Baker National Forest. Kerouac's strange ramblings mar Connors' fine prose, but not enough to keep me from recommending this book.  It is a great tale of solitary adventure. 

ecco books, 256 pages
An advanced reading copy of this book was provided by ecco books (HaperCollins) for the purpose of this review.

Shrouded in Silence by Robert L. Wise

Dr. Jack Townsend and his wife Michelle, biblical Greek scholars, are noted for their books on the defense of Christianity. They are in Rome, trying to find the lost ending of the Gospel of Mark. They are convinced the missing part of the manuscript was torn off the original document and remains hidden somewhere in the old city. Their research assistant finds a long forgotten storeroom under the Vatican and the search for the fragment intensifies.
Dr. Albert Stein is a scholar who was humiliated when his latest work was soundly critiqued by Townsend. Stein is in Rome to accomplish two tasks. He wants to somehow destroy Townsend and also prove that the early church fathers were wrong. Stein believes Gnosticism is the true “gospel” that the early church tried to suppress. He believes that the kingdom is to be taken by force, by use of physical strength. He is ready to use any means he can to accomplish his goals.
A bomb explodes in a Rome underground subway tunnel and it looks like it is the work of an anti-American faction. When the Townsends' research work is written up in a newspaper, it is noted they are Americans and they quickly become a target of the fanatic bombing group.
In the midst of this tension, a mysterious man approaches the Townsends claiming to be a descendant of the first century family that acquired the missing fragment of Mark. As Jack and Michelle trust this man to take them to the place where the manuscript is supposedly hidden, they may be heading to the discovery of the century, or to their deaths.
Wise has crafted a well written novel involving the scholarship centered on the verification and preservation of biblical manuscripts. Through character dialogue, one learns much about the topics. Reading this novel is a painless way to learn some important aspects of Christian history. Even if one is not interested in the history aspect, this is an exciting novel about contemporary scholarship and the lengths some are willing to go to make a name for themselves in the academic world.

Abingdon Press, 333 pages.

I was provided an egalley of this book by Abingdon Press for the purpose of this review.