Sunday, July 31, 2011

Barcelona Calling by Jane Kirkpatrick

Annie Shaw is a romance writer. She has had one book sell well but is now struggling. Her last didn't sell all that well and her publisher is stalling on the present manuscript.
Annie has four close friends who help her, giving her ideas of how to promote her upcoming novel and then participating in the schemes. Annie wants to be a famous author and is willing to do just about anything to see that happen.
The top choice is getting Oprah to recognize the book – that would make it an instant bestseller. One friend knows Oprah's dog groomer so Annie gets a dog and an appointment. Disaster (and repair bills) result. Another try is Oprah's previous chef. A tipped candle and fire sprinklers douse that plan. No matter what Annie and the friends try, another disaster results.
Annie stumbles on and on, trying to get her latest novel to “work.” She meets with her editor and is slightly attracted to him. They try to rewrite parts of the novel and spruce up the ending.
Annie's newest novel is somewhat biographical, telling the story of her trip to Barcelona and meeting the handsome man who wants to marry her. When her friends arrange for him to visit her in the United States, Annie must make a choice.

For me, this was not a rewarding read. I have read several of Kirkpatrick's historical novels and, in general, liked them. This contemporary, humorous style is something new for her. It was silly. The humor in the book is sort of “slap stick” comedy. It is almost as if Kirkpatrick heard of a funny disaster, (like a dog getting loose at a pet groomers, knocking down things, breaking bottles) and then was determined to find a place for it in her novel.
The romance in the book was unrewarding. We hear of this mysteries Jaime, a character in Annie's book based on the real fellow she met in Barcelona. When he comes to visit Annie, the whole scene is very anticlimactic, kind of odd, actually.
In the end, the novel is redeeming in that all five women realize a change in their lives for the better – something they did not even know they were looking for. One finds a man. Another starts eating healthier. One decides she and her husband will adopt a child.
And Annie realizes she does not want the fame she craved. She'll go back to teaching and perhaps write children's books.
But then the very last scene in the book kind of ruined it for me. Oprah comes to hear of Annie's book after all. I see that Kirkpatrick might mean this to be a “lay it all on the altar” kind of experience. Annie has given up promoting her book, then, boom, Oprah hears of it.
However, throughout the novel the level of Annie's struggles were not spiritual at all. She never struggles in prayer to God about her writing. The novel is pretty light hearted, no serious ruminations about what God wants for her life. So for the last scene to have spiritual overtones is totally out of character for the rest of the novel.
I think the last scene is just supposed to be funny – you tried so hard yourself, Annie, and now it just happens, almost accidentally. To me, it almost validates Annie's attempts to promote her book. The answer to success is Oprah after all.
Some may find this style of writing fun to read. I did not.

Zondervan, 320 pages, releasing September, 2011.

I received an egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Safe from the Past by Patricia Mauro

Patricia came from a very poor family, earning her first paycheck through a federally funded summer youth program. That summer she learned that if you do everything in your power to achieve, people will notice. She set a goal of making it through college, her only hope for having a “normal” life.
She relates growing up in an anger filled home. When divorce loomed, her father kidnapped Patricia and her sister. Their mother fought to get them back but then abandoned them, leaving them in the care of an abusive woman. When her mother did come back, they lived on welfare and the kindness of others. Her mother met a man but the relationship quickly turned into drunken fighting.
Her mother encouraged her to go to college, instilling in Patricia a sense of survival and resourcefulness. Although her step-father had money, Patricia was given none and had to rely on aid and loans. She made up her mind she would succeed.
She tells of her college years, working, and having her meals provided during breaks, when the cafeteria was closed. It seemed like her mother was heading toward a second divorce. Patricia dreamed of graduating and providing her mother and sister with a decent place to live and with food to eat (without food stamps).
But her dreams were interrupted by an incident where her mother, drunk, fought with Patricia's younger sister, Kim. Their was taken in for rehab. Their step-father left. Kim began college. Their mother, alone, ultimately became so unstable she was taken to mental health facility. Through Kim, Patricia was reunited with her birth father. At first nervous, she found him to be a nice man.
Patricia did graduate from college and managed to obtain a job in New York City, working for the DTC for thirteen years. She obtained her MBA, met a man, married and moved to Texas. She now has two children.
She wrote this book for her children to remind them that with God, all things are possible.

As is often the case with a self published book, this one lacks the polish of a well written book. The story is inspiring but not captivating. The reading level, I would guess, is about high school. Patricia does not explicitly talk about her faith, nor does she talk about going to church etc. A reader looking for faith in God as the stabilizing factor in Patricia's achievement will be disappointed. This might be an encouraging book for a teen in a troubled family although Patricia got many “breaks” in her college experience.

Author: Patricia worked in New York City's financial district for thirteen years in the field of securities operations. At that time, she went on to obtain an MBA from New York University. She and her husband moved to Dallas, TX in 2001 where they are raising their two children.
During her time in NY, Patricia wrote an article entitled "A Tribute To My Mother" which was published in "The Recovery Journal" in 1999. Her book is a continuation of that tribute and serves to spread the message to those in similar situations that good news is on its way to children considering a higher education but who are afraid to dream. 

I received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of this review.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Six Liter Club by Harry Kraus

There are so many problems with this novel I don't know where to start.

First, the author is a man and the main character is a woman, Camille. Both are M.D.s and perhaps Kraus thinks that's enough. But it is not. At one point a secondary female character says, “A man cannot possibly understand what I'm going through.” (89) Exactly. Kraus may think he understands women and how they act and what they think, but he has missed it by a mile.
As an example, this book is way too sexy to be a “Christian” book and to be seen from the woman's viewpoint. The male's sex drive is much stronger than the woman's (I think) and Kraus must have projected his own desires onto Camille. At one point Camille touches sexual areas of herself, so to speak, in the shower. This scene was not necessary and totally outside what I would call Christian fiction.
Camille is hesitant to have sex with her boyfriend, not because of morality but because of mental issues stemming from her childhood in Africa. Ultimately, Camille does not have sex with her boyfriend, not on moral reasons but because his “two timing” her is found out. Kraus missed a good opportunity to have Camille (at least) think about the moral nature of sex.

And Christianity in the book? The only Christian seen throughout the book is the wife of an alcoholic wife-beater who sticks with him. She is portrayed as having the faith that her son, the patient of Camille's who lost six liters of blood, will live. But again, Kraus missed an opportunity to have her as a stronger Christian influence.
At the end of the book, the last three pages, Camille has a spiritual turn around. It is almost as if Kraus remembered this was supposed to be a Christian book and added those last three pages. Upon finishing the book I had the same sensation as when I hear a testimony where someone spends twenty minutes graphically telling of their sinful life and then ends with, “Oh yeah, then I got saved.” The end.

I'm in a reading group that read this book and to a person, we would not recommend it. You cannot pass it on to a nonbeliever because there is nothing about the gospel in it. You wouldn't want to give it to a fellow Christian.

There is nothing I can recommend about this book to the Christian reader.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), 384 pages.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Idea Man by Paul Allen

Paul Allen was interested in chemistry and machines as a kid. At Lakeside he was introduced to computer programming and Bill Gates.
A few years later the two teamed up. They wrote the BASIC software to go with the MITS Altair 8080, a small computer that was assembled by the buyer. When a contract was required in 1975, a company name was needed. Allen & Gates sounded too much like a law firm. Paul suggested Micro-Soft (microprocessors and software). Bill suggested a sixt-forty split as Paul had been employed during the writing process while Bill was at Harvard.
They continued to adapt the code for the new processors as they came out. Their aim was “to provide all language software for every microcomputer on the market.” In Nov. of 1976 Paul left MITS and moved full time to Microsoft, the name they registered in New Mexico. Bill quit college, asked for 64-36, and Paul agreed. A formal partnership agreement was signed Feb. 3, 1977.
Paul says, “...I couldn't stop thinking about a time when everyone would be digitally connected, with instant access to information and services.” He notes an article he wrote in January of 1977 predicting an internet kind of phenomenon.
Their company continued to grow and Paul asked Bill to reconsider the 64-36 split. Bill would have none of it. “My partner was out to grab as much of the pie as possible...”

After having been at Microsoft for eight years, Paul decided to leave. He writes about owning the Portland Trail Blazers, his buying the Seahawks after getting his request of a new stadium, his investment in SpaceShipOne and winning the X Prize, creating the Experience Music Project, purchasing 80% of TicketMaster, his work at getting sports updates online, investing $500 million in the upstart DreamWorks, losing $8 billion in the cable business, establishing the Allen Institute for Brain Science, his owning the (then) fourth largest yacht in the world, trips to Africa and efforts to find new ways to supply electric power and clean water there, and his being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. When treatment for it resulted in remission, Paul decided, “I want more than ever to cram as much as I can into life.”

Allen is brutally honest about his Microsoft years, about the first half of the book. The second half of the book is all about the money, where he invested it, his losses, and what he hopes yet to accomplish with it. Having finished the book, I can't really say I know Paul Allen. I do know what he did with his money, however, and perhaps that is what it was supposed to be about afterall.

Portfolio Hardcover, 368 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Interpret Dreams and Visions by Perry Stone

Perry Stone had a vision in 1996 that he shared with others at the time. It was of two tall things with roiling black smoke. It was not until 9/11/2001 that its significance was revealed.
Stone believes that God speaks to believers today and he explains why and how God does so. He takes an in depth look at dreams and visions in the Bible and draws principles from them. He tells how you can recognize the origin of the dream, from God or Satan.
He addresses warning dreams and whether they can be changed by prayer. He recognizes that women are often more receptive to God speaking through dreams and suggests men pay attention to their wife's dreams.
He deals with why God uses symbols in dreams and what the symbols mean (using biblical principles). (He has an interesting aside on whether there are female angels or only male.)
He tells lots of stories from his family, verifying the role of dreams in the believer's life.
Not every believer will receive dreams from God. There is a sensitivity to the spiritual that is required.
If you cannot remember your dreams, Stones says not to be concerned. If a dream is from the Lord (and not the pizza you ate), it will stick with you for several days.
Stone is charismatic. Nonetheless, this is a very balanced and biblical explanation of how God speaks to believers through dreams and visions.

Charisma House, 256 pages.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mugabe and the White African TV Program

One family’s stand for Justice – catch the story on PBS 7/26!

I'll be blogging about the book Mugabe and the White African later this month, but I wanted to let you know
that Point of View will air the documentary Mugabe and the White African on Tuesday, July 26th.

The film tells the story of Mike Campbell and his family of three generations of Zimbabwean farmers as they attempt to keep their farm under Mugabe's "land reform."
Watch the trailer for the documentary below and visit the PBS Point of View website for your local listing. http://

The book Mugabe and the White African (Lion Books,
distributed by Kregel Publications, July 15, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-7459-5546-9, $14.95) written by Mike Campbell's son-in-law Ben Freeth provides more detail regarding the family's struggles and court battles.The book chronicles the deeply moving and life-threatening struggle of a Christian family from Zimbabwe to protect their legally owned farmland, to protect the lives and livelihoods of all those working on the farm, and to live to see justice.

Freeth lays bare a beautiful but lawless land fouled by fear. A 'Clockwork Orange'
state where racism, greed, and violence are ultimately humbled by almost unimaginable
courage. Richly described, bravely chronicled, and utterly compelling. 

-Mike Thomson, Radio Foreign Affairs Correspondent, BBC

Ben Freeth has an extraordinary story to tell. Like that of many white farmers, his family's land was "reclaimed" for redistribution by Mugabe's government. But Ben's family fought back. Appealing to international law, they instigated a suit against Mugabe's government in the SADC, the Southern African equivalent of NATO. The case was deferred time and again while Mugabe's men pulled strings. But after Freeth and his parents-in-law were abducted and beaten within inches of death in 2008, the SADC deemed any further delay to be an obstruction of justice. The case was heard, and was
successful on all counts.

But the story doesn't end there. In 2009 the family farm was burned to the ground. The fight for justice in Zimbabwe is far from over--this book is for anyone who wants to see into the heart of one of today's hardest places and how human dignity flourishes even in the most adverse circumstances.

Read an

Read the Press Release

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glastonbury Tor by LeAnne Hardy

Hardy has woven a very good novel around the history and legend of Glastonbury. The Glastonbury Tor is a hill in Glastonbury that still has a 14th century church tower standing. It, and the Glastonbury Abbey, have many legends associated with them. The oldest is that St. Patrick and a group of hermits settled there after his return from Ireland. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have visited with Jesus when Jesus was still a child. The legend also says Joseph returned after the crucifixion with the cup Jesus had used in the last supper, a cup Joseph used to catch blood from Jesus at the crucifixion. Known as the Holy Grail, it was the quest of King Arthur and his knights.
Until two thousand years ago the sea washed right up to the foot of Glastonbury Tor. Now a peninsula, it looks like an island when approached from some directions. The old Celtic name for Glastonbury means “Island of Glass.” Perhaps this is why the Isle of Avalon is often associated with Glastonbury, as are legends of King Arthur.
In Celtic mythology, Avalon was considered to be a meeting place of the dead, where faery folk lived. The Tor was believed to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld.
As early as 1100 AD there was monastic presence on the Tor. The Monastery of St. Michael is mentioned in a 1243 document. That church was probably destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. The church was then rebuilt in the 14th century with only the tower still standing. The monastery fell into ruin after King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries (c. 1535), during the English Reformation. The last Abbot was hanged on the Tor (just as Hardy recounts in her novel) in 1539.

Hardy has woven all of those elements of legend and history into her novel. Colin Hay is seventeen. As he sees his mother die from a tragic childbirth, he blames his father and attacks him. Convinced he has killed his father, Colin flees. He heads to Glastonbury, seeking protection and a way to somehow cleanse himself of his sin. On his way he befriends a family who read an English Bible, against the law in King Henry VIII's England.
He is taken in at the Glastonbury Abbey and plans for his orders as a monk. Even when word reaches him that his father is alive and wants him to return home, he stays at the monastery.
Colin is witness to a troubled time in England's Christianity (1539). King Henry has thrown off Catholicism (to be able to divorce his wife) and established the Church of England. Colin suffers through the King's soldiers looting the Abbey of anything of value, from the silver clasps on the Bibles to the lead in the artistic windows. He is helpless as the Abbot and others are accused of treason against King Henry and hanged.
Hidden from the soldiers was the treasured olive wood cup. The Abbot had convinced Colin to keep it in his possession. Opposing Colin is an evil Father Bede who wants the cup, believing, “When I raise the Holy Grail and call upon its power, all men will fall at my feet and worship.” (201) Colin finds himself in a spiritual battle with Father Bede and the evil Gwyn ap Nudd, whom Bede worships.
Colin learns, “It takes a different kind of courage to do what is right when everything in you wants to do what is wrong.” (212)

Hardy has crafted a very good novel based on the legends and historical events surrounding the Glastonbury Tor. It is a good novel for teens (adults, too), showing a young man in a time of turmoil standing up to what God has called has called him to do. I highly recommend it. You'll read a good story and learn some history too.

Go to the author's website

Kregel Publications, 239 pages.

I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

40 Days to Better Living: Optimal Health by Dr. Scott Morris

Morris wants his readers to remember that God has called us to an abundant life. He wants us to have optimal wellness, “being able to fully enjoy the life we have been given.” This book provides opportunities to do so through being inspired by people whose lives have been changed by the Church Health Center.
At the beginning of each of the six weeks, Morris relates a true story, then daily has a format to allow the reader to reflect and grow. He begins with morning reflection. This paragraph is an encouragement of God being with us on the path. He covers goal setting, expectations, setbacks, thankfulness, balance, music, as well as other topics.
Next comes an emphasis on your faith life. A thought provoking question about faith is used as a starting point for recording insights into your own faith walk. You are prompted to think about your faith life and what you might like to change. You are asked to read passages of Scripture and reflect on them.
Next is a medical section with an inquiry to your medical condition or history. You are encouraged to think about setting goals regarding the state of your health. You learn how to take your pulse, about blood pressure, concern about medication side effects, symptoms of stroke, the importance of water, and other topics.
An encouragement to movement follows. It may be a very short exercise or stretching motion. It may be as simple as an encouragement to walk a block farther that day or to breathe deeply. It may be a more intense activity to get your heart rate up, lifting your mood.
Then there is a section on work, exploring how you feel about your career and/or volunteering tasks. Perhaps there are aspects of work you'd like to change, such as what you eat during your breaks.
Each day has a section on your emotional state, such as recording daily highs and lows and the circumstances around them. There is encouragement to relax, to record your expectations, to overcome setbacks, and to keep a journal.
Family and friends comprise the next paragraph. Asking a friend to help you along your journey is suggested, as is identifying those around you who will encourage you during a difficult time.
Nutrition is the last subject covered, including what foods you buy, how you shop, and what your favorites foods are. You are encouraged to think about what you might want to change about your eating habits, creating goals. You are encouraged to read food nutrition labels, change to healthy snacks, and use low calorie substitutes.
Finally, there is an evening wrap-up with a meditation on an encouraging Scripture and prayer.
At the end of the book, Morris reminds us that we now have the skills necessary to continue the journey toward wellness. Setbacks might happen but these forty days have established a foundation to which you can return when you need to. We are reminded that God will give us the strength and endurance we need.

Included are additional resources, recommended reading, and websites.

This book is the first in a series of practical books dealing with specific health issues.

Barbour Publishing, 176 pages.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

King's Cross by Timothy Keller

This is an extended meditation on "the premise that Jesus' life, death and resurrection form the central event of cosmic and human history as well as the central organizing principle of our lives."  (x)  The world and how we fit into it are clearly understood by looking at the story of Jesus.
Keller follows through the gospel of Mark in a very readable commentary.  He uses examples from literature and life today to illustrate the truths Mark records.
Keller gives many insights into the life of Jesus and what they mean for us.  For example:
From Mark 9:19-29 Keller reminds us that, like the boy's father, we do not have to have perfect righteousness or total belief.  "You must admit that you are not righteous, and that you need help.  When you can say that, you are approaching God to worship."  (121)
"The gospel is the ultimate story that shows victory coming out of defeat, strength coming out of weakness, life coming out of death, rescue from abandonment."  (230)  Keller encourages us that we can have the same story by accepting what Jesus has done for us.

This book is for anyone desiring insights into Jesus' life and what it means to us today.  Keller does not, in general, delve into the Greek.  This is not for the scholar.  This is for the person desiring to meditate on the events in the life of Jesus.

Dutton, 238 pages.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tombstones and Banana Trees by Medad Birungi and Craig Borlase

Medad was a typical six year old boy in a typical village in western Uganda. Medad's father had five wives and the home compound was crowded. His father decided to relocate and abandoned Medad's mother and family, pushing them off the trucks as they were leaving. Medad's mother was a Tutsi who had fled Rwanda and the Hutu. They were left alone and shamed.
So begins Medad's story, one he says shows “how a boy who begged to die by the side of the road grew to be a man who was able to forgive.” (24)
They had no clothes but on their backs. They didn't even have a pot to cook in. But God provided. Nonetheless, Medad tells of the curses and spells placed on them and how he hid from those who would beat him. Some of his relatives were Christians and helped them, but there were some “Christians” were not good to them.
He did well in primary school and was accepted into high school, the fees to be paid by his oldest sister. But as he went to her house to collect the money, he was met by a messenger telling him she had been murdered. Some of his other sisters were raped.
His mother finally scraped together the money for high school fees and he worked for his room and board. He became involved in a gang. He was confronted with the unconditional love of God at a concert and after struggling with the concept of forgiveness for some time, was converted. He began to forgive those who had hurt him and his family.
He began giving his testimony. He prayed for his father and they were eventually reconciled. He finished his schooling, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, married, worked for various ministries, got fired and called a heretic, was refused ordination in the Anglican Church (was commissioned as a lat evangelist, then was finally ordained in 2004), and now has a fruitful ministry.

His life is a testimony to the power of forgiveness. He says, “Unforgiveness not only gives demons the right or ability to torment us, but it also prevents God from forgiving our sins. Now this is serious...” (152) “If you have a hard time forgiving others, the love of Christ isn't flowing through you. … Start working on your relationship with your heavenly Father so you can come to know of His great love for you...” (154)
He calls his life “a journey along the winding road of forgiveness...” (187) He is convinced, “Of all the people in the world, there are none stronger than the people who are able to forgive.” (196)

Medad's is an encouraging story. It also says much about the people of Uganda and the church there. It is also a call to forgiveness each of us needs to hear.

David C Cook, 208 pages.

See for Medad's ministry.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Short Life Well Lived by Tom Sullivan

Brian O'Connor is a husband, a father, a lawyer, and is blind. He's the lead prosecutor for the Metropolitan Boston District Attorney, where he has spent ten years. Though he was born in a tenement in South Boston his parents provided him with the education that allowed him to be where he is today.
He has a loving wife, Bridgette, and a son, Tommy and daughter, Shannon. Life is good. Tom even helps coach little league, where Tommy is a pitcher. But at an exciting game, Brian hears a crack, not from a bat, then hears his son screaming. Tommy has broken his right arm pitching.
The news at the hospital is not good. The break is odd and further tests show cancer. Thus begins a long battle for eleven year old Tommy.
The story is written from Brian's viewpoint and we share his frustration. While Bridgette has a strong faith in God as a practicing Catholic, Brian does not. We participate in the dialogue between Brian and the chaplain at the hospital. We wonder too as Brian asks how one can love a God who lets your young son die of cancer. (There is much discussion on how a good God can allow such evil to happen.)
Tommy is amazing throughout the chemo and the declining days. (You have to know from the title that he dies.) He has talked with the chaplain too and he knows where he will be when he dies.

This is a very touching story. The author is himself blind so the life of Brian is very realistic. I was disappointed that there was not a clearer identification of what is required (what one must believe) to end up in heaven. There is much talk of belief in God but not the necessity of a saving belief in Jesus. Clayton and Brian do talk about Jesus and Brian does come to the point where he has “clearly embraced the one true and everlasting God.” (240)

Howard Books, 256 pages.

I received a copy of the book from Glass Road Public Relations for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Radical Together by David Platt

This is not a pleasant book to read. Who wants to be confronted with the reality that your church may more resemble a country club than the community of faith God desires?
Platt realized that sometimes churches “can – unknowingly and unintentionally – actually prevent God's people from accomplishing God's purpose.” (3) Yes, the church may be doing “good” things. But, “We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in order to experience the great things of God.” (9)
He uses the example of their losing their house in New Orleans (Katrina). Is your community of faith willing to put all the programs and activities before the levee and ask God to sweep them away if they are not what God wants?
Platt argues that “the ultimate goal of the church is to take the gospel to all people groups,” so, “everything we do in church must be aimed toward that end.” (88) “We organize our churches as if God exists to meet our needs, cater to our comforts, and appeal to our preferences.” (105) What motivates a church to God's purposes “is a glimpse of the sovereign, holy, majestic God who is worthy of all worship, who is high and lifted up. This vision alone will compel a church to radical, risk-taking, death defying obedience to the purpose of God in the world.” (109)

The question that consumes Platt: “How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?” (125)

There is a great discussion guide at the back of the book for small groups and leadership teams. The six sessions help guide leaders through discussion and planning, discerning God's purposes.

Multnomah, 158 pages.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

Trevor was an Olympian gold medalist in skiing but a freak accident on a run ruined his knee and his skiing future. He has settled in Redford, teaching rock climbing and running white water rafting adventures. He has a passion to rescue others, volunteering for the local search and rescue. His passion comes out of his own loss in childhood.
Natalie owns an art gallery next to Trevor's storefront. She creates images in clay. She has to create those images to clear her mind of the images within. Her eidetic memory will not let a face disappear from her sight until she has worked the image out in clay through her hands.
Tragedy occurs when Trevor rescues a toddler caught in the jaws of a mountain lion. The child lives but has lost an arm. The toddler is Natalie's nephew and she is shunned by her traumatized sister-in-law.
Trevor tries to help Natalie adjust to the horrifying event. As they get to know each other more, deep hurts in both of them come to the surface.
Lurking in the community is an evil presence. Something is bent on drawing Trevor into another rescue operation. Toddlers are being taken yet left where they will be found. Haunting pictures of the children are sent to Trevor. He can only think of the death of his younger brother. Is someone out to cause him harm?

Heitzmann's book is well written. It will keep you reading to the very end. The characters are developed well and I liked how they worked through their inner pains. In the end, I even felt compassion for the villain. And I learned about eidetic memory, something new for me.
This book is sort of a sequel to Indivisible, Heitzmann's novel that came out in 2010. While it is not necessary to read the earlier novel to appreciate this one, one would understand Police Chief Jonah and his wife Tia much better if one had done so.
Characters in the book are Christians but the religious aspect of the novel is not overdone.

There is a reader's discussion guide at the end of the book so this would be a good choice for reading groups. There would be plenty to discuss.

WaterBrook Press, 336 pages.

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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Ambition by Lee Strobel

Eric Snow was a very successful software entrepreneur who cashed out at the right time. Then he felt the call of God on his life and he started Diamond Point Fellowship. The church's popularity has mushroomed and Eric is a very successful pastor.
But he begins to wonder if what he is doing is all he can do. Wouldn't he have more influence to see God's agenda brought to pass if he went into politics? A senator from his state is soon to be indicted for tax evasion and the governor is talking of appointing Eric to the remaining term. But appointing a pastor might not be so good for the governor's future so he asks Eric to resign from the church. Appointing an ex-pastor sounds much better.
Right at the time Eric is considering what he should do, two miracles happen in his church during the elder prayer meetings. The associate pastor is convinced God is moving in the church, a sign that Eric should stay with the church as it becomes more influential within their community.
Garry Strider is a newspaper reporter. His girl friend has just moved out because she goes to Diamond Point and now is convinced living together is not right. Strider sets his sights on Diamond Point. He wants to find some dirt.
Add to the mix a corrupt judge who is in the hands of the mob. He turns out to be the rival prospect for the senator's replacement.

You can tell as you read through the book that Lee Strobel is an apologist. Several of the dialogues contain declarations of evidence for the faith. The dialogues are well done, however. They do not appear to be staged, just to add information.

This book explores the role of the church in community and politics and whether one should put one's faith in politics to further God's agenda. There is also an interesting dilemma the church faces when miracles begin to happen. Not wanting to look like a crack pot church, the staff is initially hesitant to admit to true miracles. What does a church do when God acts in an “embarrassing” way? 

This was a well done fiction debut for Strobel. I'll be watching for his next one.

Zondervan, 288 pages.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Return of the Anti Christ by Patrick Heron

Heron shares his latest insights on biblical prophecy. He takes a “literal” meaning of Scripture as much as possible. “So the Abyss is somewhere in the depths of the bowls (sic) of the earth, under our feet.” (45) Combining 1 Pet. 3:19,20 and 2 Pet. 2:4 he says, “It says this Abyss is inhabited by both spirits and angels.” (45) The Abyss is also called Tartarus.
In preparation of identifying the Anti-Christ, Heron writes about angels. Angels eat food and get their feet washed. (50) There are women angels with wings in Zach. 5, but, “Nowhere are we told male angels have wings.” (50) He concludes, “So we can say with certainty that angels are men. Not humans as we are. But men nevertheless but of a spirit nature.” (52) He also argues that “God has features which resembles men.” (52) We will some day see His face. (53)
Since the Abyss is an actual place within the earth, the smoke that arises in Rev. 9 is actual smoke too. (57) (He likens the event to a volcano erupting.)
He identifies the Anti-Christ based on Rev. 9:11. He is an angel, a spirit man. His name is Abaddon in Hebrew Apollyn, or Apollo, in Greek. He is a spirit man who have been incarcerated, locked up in Tartarus since the time of the flood of Noah. (65) He is a spirit being so he has supernatural abilities. (He is not a human possessed by Satan. 89) Tartarus is beneath the sea. (79)
He is an advocate of the secret Rapture. Regarding the “falling away” of 2 Thess. 2:3, Heron says this is not an apostasy. The word really means “departure” and refers to the Rapture.
He says the New Jerusalem is pyramid shaped and the Great Pyramid is an earthly representation of it. (192) The Great Pyramid was built by fallen angels. (195)

Heron lives in Ireland. He said something about the U.S. that was news to me. It “seems to be a done deal,” he says, that an alliance between Canada, the United States and Mexico has been established with a new currency called the Amero. (83)
Heron dances between the literal and the figurative. The Abyss and smoke in Rev. 9:2 are literal but the locusts in Rev. 9:3 are figurative and are angelic beings. (58)

As with anyone writing on biblical prophecy, I would encourage the reader to be discriminating. Some of Heron's insights are surprising, such as the Anti-Christ is actually an angel. In some areas, I think he's missed it. But then, according to Heron, we Christians will be gone for that whole show anyway.

You can find more from Heron at

Ambassador International, 208 pages.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When Lightning Strikes by Kay and Bobby Brunson

The odds of being struck by lightning are one in 750,000. (44) It happened to Bobby.
With writing from Bobby and his wife Kay, we relive the event. The paramedics had given up as there had been twenty eight minutes of no heartbeat and no pulse. But when the monitor sounded, they scrambled back inside the ambulance and resumed work on Bobby.
He was taken to the nearest hospital. His body did not look well and had to be restored from its lengthy shutdown. Some told Kay there was no hope. Even if he did recover, the brain damage... He developed double pneumonia as he continued to physically deteriorate.
Finally, on the tenth day, came the first positive event. Bobby became responsive and cooperative. He began to talk about what he had seen.
When he was able to go home, the reality of having to live on this imperfect earth hit him. It was overwhelming. Heaven was where he wanted to be. He became emotionally distance. He was still recovering physically and could not work. There was financial strain as they went a year without a regular paycheck.
Eventually word got around and requests started to come in for Bobby to tell his story. A liveliness returned to him as he encouraged others with the reality of his experience. He understood God had sent him back for a purpose.

Heaven is perfect, Bobby says. The colors are in their purest forms. “Water is in its purest, perfect state as it gently moves along the shore.” (25)
He did not miss his family. Bobby says that whatever that emotional attachment is that causes us to miss an absent family member doesn't exist in heaven. “I didn't forget them; I just didn't miss them.” (27) “There is no concept of time passing or of missing anything.” (28) “In heaven you don't have to try to be Christ-like; you are Christ-like.” (28) There is a peace that goes to the deepest core of who you are.
The people he saw in heaven were all active. “Everyone was lively and full of purpose,” (39) He met and talked to Jesus whose perfection he cannot describe. When Bobby inquired, Jesus said, “I'm coming back soon – sooner than you think.” (38)

The Brunsons say of their book, “This book [is] meant to show you the love and character of God and the truth of the eternal place we have with him.” (95)
It does, in only 98 pages.

You can order this book from Amazon or at

I received a copy of this book from the authors for the purpose of this review.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weird by Craig Groeschel

We want to appear normal, right? Groeschel did until the tragic death of a college coed woke him to the seriousness of life. He began studying the Bible and realized what it taught was anything but normal. It was weird.
What's “normal” in today's society is not working. Groeschel encourages us to quit being normal. Be weird, the God kind of weird.
He begins with time and how we live in it. “God will often give you more than you can handle so you can learn to depend on him rather than on yourself.” (32) He helps us unplug from the “busy machine” and encourages Sabbath. He suggests asking, “Is it wise?” when confronted with a decision or invitation.
Next he looks at money, reminding that God has richly blessed us. “As long as we live in pursuit of more stuff … we will never life in true abundance.” (71) We don't think we are rich because some marketer has convinced us we can't be unless we can afford their product. The weird view: “Gratitude for all we have and stewardship of its use for the good of all.” (71) Live with contentment and generosity.
He shares his thoughts on love and marriage. He reminds us to focus on God for fulfillment, not our spouse. “If we focus on God first and view our spouse as his gift to us, we stop expecting another person to do what only God can do.” (110) And, “If the grass looks greener somewhere else, it's time to water your own lawn.” (111)
He writes about family relationships, raising children to need and intimately know God, maintaining fidelity in your marriage, resisting sexual temptation, and helping your kids understand God's plan for sex.
Groeschel notes we must always be aware: “The current of normalcy will pull you away from God at every opportunity you let it.” (191)
He ends with four questions to help give clarity in discerning what God wants you to do with your life, your God-given objective.
His primary motivation for writing this book is that “we've made lukewarm synonymous with normal” for the Christian life. (231) Quit being normal. Be weird.

“Normal is to strive for the center of what the world lives like.
Weird is to live to be in the center of God's will.” (120)
“...[W]eird people know that everything is spiritual … We live aware of God moment by moment. He is not a part of our lives; God is our life.” (127)

This is a good encouragement to live the life God has called us to – for new and seasoned Christians alike. I highly recommend it.

See more about Groeschel's ministry at and

Zondervan, 238 pages.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Christians and the Common Good by Charles Gutenson

What does it mean to apply the Bible to our community life? How should a Christian be “political”?
Gutenson came to the point where he saw disconnects between his life of faith and what it seemed Scripture taught that life should look like. He came to understand that “the extent to which our basic failure to see the relationship between Christian faith and political engagement was at the root of many of these disconnects.” (5)
He proceeds to investigate the implication of Christian faith and its intersection with political life. He reveals the abuse of Scripture to further political agendas. He suggests a method for discerning God's intentions and develops guidelines for reading Scripture in a way that avoids common errors. This is not an easy process.
We are to be “imitators of God.” Gutenson explores God's nature and the implications for our lives, developing eight guidelines. He reviews Scriptures and gives a summary of how God expects us to live together. He then looks at the sorts of policies and institutions that would encourage that way of life. He looks at living in a pluralistic culture, respecting the separation of church and state yet seeking to have government serve a kingdom agenda, and the problems that arise from putting too much trust in the political process.

Gutenson has written this book to begin discussion. His goal is to open dialogue.

This is not an easy book to read. It requires serious thought as one reads through the book. I could see it used as a resource by one planning to initiate a discussion on the subject. The book would function best, I think, when the people reading it are also involved in discussing the issues.

Brazos Press, 171 pages.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Desert Gift by Sally John

Jill Galloway has made a success of marriage. She has had a long standing syndicated radio talk show on marriage and now her first book is coming out. Just as she and her husband Jack are getting ready for a California book tour and long needed vacation, he tells her he is not going with her. He wants out. He wants a divorce.
Jill is shocked and is ready to cancel the tour but he pushes her in the taxi and sends her on her way. Jill, with the help of her friend and associate, manages to fulfill a few of the speaking engagements but finally breaks down. The rest of her schedule is canceled.
Jack has moved out and has his own place. He doesn't understand really what is happening to him. He just knows he does not want to be with Jill right now. Perhaps it was the minor car accident he had. It was only a bump to his head and a few stitches but he's been different since.
Jill tries to keep her self together and ends up at her sister's home. Viv helps but suggests Jill needs to go to their parents, in the desert. There, Jill has time to think and heal. She tries to talk to Jack but their phone calls are not helping. Jill helps her sister with the business their mother had, transporting elderly people to events. Jill meets Agnes, an angel of a woman with insight that Jill desperately needs.
Then Connor Jack and Jill's son arrives from Europe with a girl and plans for marriage, soon. The stress increases and Jack expects that Jill will help organize the wedding, putting their own problems on hold.
Jill learns more and more about herself, the baggage she carries and her drive to be the wife with all the answers. Her attempts at getting Jack to counseling are fruitless. Jill sees that all the rules and guidelines she talked about on her show and in her book, well, they hadn't worked. She cancels her radio program. How can she ever talk to others about marriage when her own is ending?

Sally John has created a realistic story of a husband and wife who, after twenty five years of marriage, have ceased to be the friends they once were. She describes the frustration of Jill wanting to understand, wanting to know what it was, what she has done, and what she can do. Sally John has also allowed the reader to know the relief Jill experiences when God actively works in her life to reveal so much she has hidden from herself. And then Jack allows God to work in his life.

She ends her books with: “Thank you for traveling this side road with the Galloways. I hope the journey blessed you with laughter, tears, and a general sense of reassurance that God does indeed love you unconditionally, passionately, and wildly.” (379)
Well done.

See more about the author at and see her blog at

Tyndale House Publishers, 379 pages.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris

Like meeting a sibling he never knew existed, Morris discovered the Holy Spirit. He had grown up in a church but one that avoided the Holy Spirit as much as possible. Now he has had twenty five years to develop an intimate relationship with God in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Morris is the founding pastor of a sixteen thousand member church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He knows that the “fruits and gifts and fellowship of the Holy Spirit are all available for us today...” (68)
Morris suspects that most Christians have been misinformed about the Holy Spirit. He has written this book so others can experience the amazing relationship with Him too.
He introduces the Holy Spirit as the Helper. He dwells in the believer so that we are never alone. He helps you know what to say and what is sinful. He is your Friend. “[A] real friendship with Him can change your life.” (21)
Morris explains how the Holy Spirit talks and how to listen. He reminds us the Holy Spirit is a person and reveals His personality. The Holy Spirit has all the attributes God has.
He says, “The reason more Christians don't know the will of God is that they don't have a friendship with the Holy Spirit...” (47) The Holy Spirit knows everything and He has committed Himself to be your teacher. The Holy Spirit can be grieved.
Morris spends some time explaining Pentecost and that the experience is available today. He speaks of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (regeneration) water baptism, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Jesus baptizes into the Holy Spirit). He reviews the biblical evidence for the three baptisms in the New Testaments and the foreshadowing and symbolism in the Old Testament.
He asks, “Have you ever experienced an immersion in the Holy Spirit that brought supernatural power and help into your life?” (108)
He explains the meaning of charismatic, “Charisma is the instantaneous enablement of the Holy Spirit in the life of any believer to exercise a gift for the edification of others.” (123) He looks at the categories of gifts and then explains the operation of the gifts, paying extra attention to tongues, including his own experience.
Many Christians living a life of defeat and failure are living without the power of the Holy Spirit. Morris encourages the reader to allow the Holy Spirit to be your friend.
A discussion guide is included.

WaterBrook Press, 198 pages.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Can America Survive? by John Hagee

Hagee wants you to be afraid, very afraid. He wants you to “think the unthinkable!” (68) Of various possible tragedies, he says, “Think it can't happen? Think again!” (7, 8, 60, 65, 67, 70, 150, 154, 201, 214, 230, I know, I got tired of it too)
The unthinkable has happened before (such as the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic). He says America is heading into a “perfect storm of human error driven by the winds of complacency and overconfidence...” (5)
Hagee bothers me when he says, “The welfare state has far more voters than those who pay taxes to pay for the demands of the welfare legions. Washington's present solution is to tax those who are working day and night to give it to people who are sometimes social parasites, who are able to work but refuse to do so.” (10) (In 2008, there were 216,885,357 taxpayers in the U.S. In 2010 census there were a total of 308,603,513 people in the U.S. with 91,718,156 not paying taxes, that includes too old, too young, unable to work and those without jobs. USA reported that January, 2010, there were 37 million on food stamps, nine million on unemployment, and four million on welfare. Now, do those figures support what Hagee said? Let's see, 50 million out of 308 million, nope! I think Hagee's wrong.)
Hagee bothers me when he writes about electromagnetic pulse (EMP). “Here's what EMP does. ...[I]t kills electrons.” (17, repeated again on 66) Hagee is no physicist! EMP causes intense magnetic fields that burn out power lines, surges. (See for a good (and true) explanation of EMP)
He predicts, “There will be a nuclear war in the Middle East unless prevented by military force.” (54)
He bothers me when he is vindictive. For example he says, “I'm confident that if a nuclear attack happens with this administration, and if there are enough people left in Congress to vote on a given bill, someone will quickly craft a bill calling the 'the rich' to pay for the damages created by a nuclear attack and someone else will craft a bill blaming George W. Bush because the attack happened!” (72)
He reviews the country's financial history. (Nixon, a Republican, took the dollar off the gold standard, 80) (So, according to the chart on page 87, the U. S. deficit really started to get bigger in 1980, continuing through 1996, hmm, that's Reagan and Bush, Republicans, then a surplus from 1997 through 201, that's Clinton, a Democrat, then an even bigger deficit from 2002 through 2008, hmm, that's Bush,a Republican) He notes the increased expenses with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (The chart on page 99 really shows how the trade deficits increased during George W. Bush's presidency!) Hagee predicts “soon, we may very well witness the death of the dollar...” (103)
Concerning Israel, Hagee believes this land was given to Israel 3,500 years ago. In his eyes, Israel is beyond criticism. Israel is important “because World War III is about to begin over the failure of humanity to recognize Israel's historic right to the land.” (108) It is obvious from Ezekiel 38, he says, Russia and Iran are planning a “brazen and massive invasion” of Israel. (145)
He addresses the criminalization of Christianity and the agenda of the ACLU.
The latter third of the book is Hagee's position on biblical prophecy. He covers the basics of interpreting prophecy and notes those already fulfilled, at Jesus' first coming. Hagee believes, “We are the terminal generation.” (181) “The generation which sees the rebirth of Israel is the terminal generation.” (193, hmmm, didn't Hal Lindsey say something like that 35 years ago?) “God tells us when, how, and where the world will end...” (181) He lists “ten prophetic signs clearly indicating that we are the terminal generation and that we are well on our way on the road to Armageddon.” (182)
“...[T]he next prophetic the rapture of the church.” (201) “The rapture could happen any second...” (206) The church will escape the horror of the tribulation. (203) BUT, only if you are watching for Him. “...[I]f you want to go with Him, you must be watching for Him.” (210)
The last fifty pages of the book are about the tribulation. If you are watching for the rapture, you won't be here so you can skip this part.
Hagee bothers me when he makes statements he cannot prove. For example, “Consider this fact: every military weapon ever invented has been used in combat.” (191) If you have studied logic, you know that in order to prove that statement is true, Hagee would have to have knowledge about every single weapon ever invented – in all of time and all over the world. (Perhaps in a village in Mongolia a thousand years ago someone invented a weapon, tried it on his brother, then discarded it...)
Hagee bothers me when he says, “God is sovereign!” (182) yet also notes that his ministry basically “fulfilled” one of his “ten prophetic signs” by providing over $17 million to bring 23,000 Russian Jews to Israel. (194) It must be a powerful feeling to know you are helping a “sovereign” God out by fulfilling a prophecy!
Hagee bothers me when he says if you want to go in the rapture, you must be watching for it. (210) The implication is that if you aren't “watching,” you'll be left behind, even if you are a Christian.
Hagee bothers me when he criticizes those who attack the doctrine of the rapture. (211) Since the secret rapture was not “revealed” until the 1830s (that is another story in itself), there were 1830 years of believers who had never heard of a secret rapture, let alone believe in it!
Hagee bothers me when he has a paragraph describing what Richard Hoagland believes about Dec. 21, 2012. Hoagland has claimed advanced civilizations have lived on the moon, Mars, and some moons of Jupiter. Why was Hagee watching a SyFy TV program (his footnote source)? (Go ahead, Google Hoagland.)
You can surmise that I am no Hagee devotee. Please be discriminating when you read this book.

Howard Books, 260 pages

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins

Jannie McNeil is maliciously infected with Lyme disease and three coinfections. Her husband is an academic in the medical realm and promotes a short-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme. But there are some who experience long-term chronic Lyme symptoms. One such person was the wife of the man who infected Jannie. He watched his wife suffer and finally die because of misdiagnosis and then refusal of needed treatment. He figures if Brock McNeil's wife experiences chronic Lyme symptoms he'll change his mind and promote long-term care.
But Jannie's husband has other ideas. He has been having an affair and when Jannie gets sick, he thinks she is faking it to win his sympathy and have him come back to her. The situation only gets worse as their daughter is threatened. Can Jannie convince anyone she is really ill before it is too late?

While this is a work of fiction, Collins writes from her own experience. She was hit with Lyme in 2003. Many of Jannie's experiences were ones Collins experienced. Brock McNeil is fiction but represents a combination of researchers who still deny the existence of chronic Lyme as an active infection. The Lyme wars go back decades, Lyme-literate-doctors believing long term antibiotic treatment is effective while powerful groups, like the CDC, deny the existence of chronic Lyme as an active infection. As Collins explains in her afterward note, the testing for the disease as described in the novel is based on actual methods. Collins' note at the end of the novel is revealing. Be sure to read it. You'll find out that a great deal of the medical background in the novel is real. A shameful affair, politically tainted, one doctor says.
Collins says she wrote this novel to tell a good suspense story. But more than entertain, she wanted to shed light on this whole difficult issue.

Collins has written a great suspense novel. I highly recommend it. It will keep you reading late into the night.

B & H Publishing Group, 352 pages.

I received an egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.