Monday, October 31, 2011

Shelf Awareness Newsletter

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The publication booksellers turn to for news on the book industry is now publishing a version for book lovers! Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers is a FREE emailed newsletter with reviews on the 25 best books publishing each week along with author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways and more. Right now they’re running a contest for new subscribers. Check out the button at the left to sign up for the new publication and to be entered for a chance to win a great book!

Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

Georgie Gail is the telephone switchboard operator in turn-of-the-century Brenham, Texas. She is a headstrong and capable woman. She is proud of the fact that she is self supporting and has her own little home, even if it is owned by the SWT&T Company.
Hot shot Texas Ranger Lucious Landrum is assigned an undercover job as a telephone salesman and repairman. He's to go Washington County to flush out and arrest the notorious robber, Frank Comer. Over his objections, Landrum, sets out to meet his contact, a Miss Georgie Gail, switchboard operator for the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company.
Now known as Luke Palmer, the Ranger and Georgie get off to a troubled start. Tempers flare as each tries to assert their authority in the telephone business at Brenham. Luke can't help falling for Georgie, and she for him. He certainly had no intentions like those, and besides, it interfered with his undercover work.
Georgie is a bird lover and is determined to prevent birds from being killed and used as decoration on women's hats. Her bravado gets her in trouble and Luke is right in the middle of it.
Then Luke gets wind of the next train robbery. He knows he can round up the gang but no man in town will help him. Could he possibly ask Georgie to help him with this dangerous task?

Gist has created a pretty good story. She's done her research (as noted in author's note). Many of the events in the book actually happened to Texas Rangers. There really was an arrest like portrayed in the novel. There really was a bird conservation movement around this time. Eventually a tariff act banning the importation of wild bird parts was passed in 1913. The town of Brenham is real and many of the celebrations and contests in the novel did happen (the Maifest still celebrated every year).

Love on the Line is an enjoyable read. There is just the right mix of history, romance and adventure to keep one eagerly turning the pages. And there is humor thrown in from time to time to keep it light. The Christianity of the characters is believable. I loved the epilogue! That Bettina! Who would have thought...!

Find out more about Dee at

Many other reviewers on this blog tour.  See their reviews.

Buy this book from

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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Love on the Line iPad2 Giveaway

Enter to win an iPad2; RSVP for Facebook Party on 11/8!
Deeanne is thrilled to introduce Georgie and Luke to the world in her latest novel, Love on the Line. To celebrate Deeanne's publisher, Bethany House, is hosting the Love on the Line iPad2 giveaway an Author Chat on Facebook! Enter today and follow the link below to RSVP for  Deeanne's rip-roarin' Facebook Party!      

One fortunate winner will receive: 

  • A Brand New iPad2 

  • An Autographed Hardback Copy of Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at Deeanne's Author Chat Facebook Party. Deeanne will be wrapping up the Love on the Line celebration by chatting with friends new and old! So grab your copy of Love on the Line (it's okay if you don't have one yet- you might could win one!) and join Deeanne on the evening of November 8th for a rip roaring book chat, a little trivia and lots of giveaways (books, and Amazon, iTunes & Starbucks gift certificates)!

Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller

Miller has been around for seventy-four years, pastoring, learning, making mistakes. “So walk with me,” he says, “and will tell you the whole truth.” (16)
He's been through all the ministry fads of ministry so his advice is just down to earth and practical.
He writes thirty five letters, sharing his insight how on as many subjects. He writes about his own “call to preach,” the importance of a denomination (and how to get along in one), the mopes, how to deal with eros (use your brain and no other part of your anatomy), parenting (he thought the nursery workers would put his son's picture up at the post office), the emergent church (a heresy without any arguing points), Jesus (how He has been made a political issue), mission (“Churches that ignore their communities will not grow, and churches that will not globalize don't matter much.”), bulletins (how they reveal who the church is: bowling leagues, or, mission projects), spiritual depression (the only way out, ministry!), team leading as player-coach (“Never ask your people to do anything you have never done and wouldn't do.”), vision, blahs (playing it safe is the killer), nets (friends catch us), difficult people, sermons (there are no bad short ones), humility (it's amazing how much can get done in a congregation if we don't care who gets the credit), among others.

Miller adds some humor to this serious book. He mentions seeing “a man carrying a Tim LaHaye prophecy Bible, which is sort of like the NIV except it glows in the dark.” (38) He can also be blunt. “Teach your people they have an obligation to the world. Don't take them to the Holy Land where they will stay in five-star Western-style hotels and walk 'where Jesus walked.' … He walked among the sick and dying.” (111)

Miller spent thirty five years being a pastor. He then taught seven years at Southwestern Baptist Seminary and is now at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, as research professor and distinguished writer-in-residence.

David C Cook, 256 pages.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

erasinghell by francis chan & preston sprinkle

Chan would love to erase hell out of the Bible, especially after watching his grandmother die, convinced she would be in torment for eternity. He struggled with it.
He decided to write a book about hell. It scared him because so much was at stake. “Too many people were at stake.” (15) He prayed and fasted to prevent his own desires from twisting Scripture to gratify his own personal preferences.
Chan says his book is much more than about hell. “Its a book about embracing a God who isn't always easy to understand, and whose ways are far beyond us; a God whose thoughts are much higher than our thoughts; a God who, as the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things...has the right to do WHATEVER He pleases.” (17) Since His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, “Expect, then, that Scripture will say things that don't agree with your natural way of thinking.” (17)
With that introduction, Chan moves on to distinguish what we want to believe and what we could believe, given biblical evidence. He looks at universalism as well as what the “will of God” means. He investigates Jewish literature to get a sense of the concept of hell around the time of Jesus (which Jesus and N.T. writers did not “correct”).
I was surprised that, “there's no evidence from the time of Jesus that the Hinnom Valley (gehenna literally means “Valley of Hinnom”) was the town dump.” There is no “archaeological evidence that this valley was ever a dump.” (59) The first recorded suggestion is from a rabbi in the thirteenth century, and then only as an analogy. Chan shows that Old Testament passages reveal that the Israelites engaged in indolatrous worship there, sacrificing children to Canaanite gods. It became a fitting analogy for God's place of judgment. Jesus lived and taught in the era of this understanding of gehenna and “His views stand in line with the dominant first-century Jewish view of hell.” (74) Chan thoughtfully goes through Jesus' comments on hell. “Jesus chose strong and terrifying language when he spoke of hell. I believe He chose to speak this way because He loves us ans wanted to warn us.” (86)
Chan then reviews what the New Testament writers said about hell. While Paul never used the term he did address the fate of the wicked, writing of eternal wrath, indicating “God will severely punish those who don't bow the knee to King Jesus.” (103). John's vision of wrath in Revelation is terrifying and is “forever and ever.”
Chan reminds his readers that the threat of hell is important to Christians too. Jesus threatened hell to those who curse their brother (Matt. 5:22), to those who thought they'd end up in paradise but, in fact, didn't know Jesus (Matt. 7:22-23). James writes about the use of the tongue and Revelation speaks to being lukewarm.
Chan works through Rom. 9:22-23, “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” to show His mercy and glory. He reminds us that our perspective is not God's. Out thinking is inferior to His. “Everything about Him and all He does is perfect.” (133) It may be impossible for us to figure out God but we must not submit Him to our reasoning. God is not embarrassed by His actions. “It's time to stop apologizing for Him and start apologizing to Him.” (138) “...[W]e need to stop explaining away hell and start proclaiming His solution to it.” (146) He urges his readers to make sure they are reconciled to God and are not in danger of hell.

Chan is hard hitting but he is humble. This prayer will give you an idea of his heart:
Please forgive me, Lord, for wanting to erase all the things in Scripture that don't sit well with me. Forgive me for trying to hide some of your actions to make you more palatable to the world. Forgive me for trying to make You fit my standards of justice and goodness and love. You are God; You are good; I don't always understand You, but I love You. Thank You for who You are.” (139)

Chan writes, “As I have said all along, I don't feel like believing in hell. And yet I do. ...I joyfully submit to a God whose ways are much, much higher than mine.” (141)

Chan's book is slim, a mere 150 pages (less when you subtract the pages of footnotes). Add to that an appendix of FAQs and a bibliography. Certainly you have the time to read such an important book.

Discover more at

Francis Chan has a BA in youth ministry and an MDiv. He was in youth ministry for six years and senior pastor for sixteen. He is a church planter and Bible college founder. He is on the boards of World Impact and Children's Hunger Fund and travels extensively on mission trips. He is a popular teacher, speaker and author (Crazy Love, Forgotten God). He and his family live in California.
Preston Sprinkle has a PhD in New Testament. He has taught biblical studies in England and Ohio and currently in California. He has authored many scholarly articles and worked on several books. He currently serves on the pastoral staff of a church in California, where he and his family live.

David C Cook, 171 pages (plus an excerpt from another of his books).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Webb Hart

Mary Lynn and Jackson Scoville were finally being accepted in Charleston. After ten years, Mary Lynn had finally been invited to be in the Charlestowne Garden Club and Jackson in the Carolina Yacht Club. There three daughters would get the education and cultivation the city offered. If Jackson handled their investments right, they'd be set for life. Recently Mary Lynn has been going to church...alone.
Catherine, the oldest of the Scoville girls, hadn't scored high enough on the SAT to suit her father so she was on leave from the cross country and track team. Jackson quizzes her with impromptu SAT questions.  He is determined to have their daughters in the best of colleges.
The family goes to England for their traditional after Christmas vacation. On the intercontinental flight, Jackson realizes he has left his reading material on the first airplane. He fidgets so much that Mary Lynn gives him her copy of The Message New Testament to read. He devours it and in England buys a compete Bible. Upon their return he immediately meets with the rector.
Jackson gets saved and before long Mary Lynn's social life falls into ruin. Jackson commits social suicide, bringing a smelly homeless person into the house during Mary Lynn's luncheon she's been planning for all year. He uses the microphone at an informational school meeting to share the gospel. The invitation to the debutante club, gone. The reputation she had worked so hard to secure, ruined.
When Mark, an old flame, asks her to leave Jackson, take the girls and marry him, Mary Lynn is tempted. Will Mary Lynn's deep need for social acceptance destroy their family? Is Jackson crazy or is he just in love with God? Mary Lynn has many questions to face.

Having been born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, the social circle Mary Lynn aspired to enter just seemed crazy to me. But, the author is a South Carolina native and I have to assume she has portrayed life as it is in the south.
I found the first half of the book rather tedious. But when Jackson started reading the Bible and talking to their pastor, the book got exciting. So make it through the first part and you will be rewarded. (Unless you're from the south – then you might find the first part exciting too.)

Beth Webb Hart is a South Carolina native. She has written several books and is a speaker and creative writing instructor at schools, libraries and churches throughout the region. She and her family live in Charleston. See more about her at

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 320 pages.

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

Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig

Terry's mother Carola Jean married at age fourteen (1948) and became a tenant farmer's wife. Terry was born eleven months later into a house without running water. Sister Vicki arrived. At age sixteen, as mother of two under two, Carola was broke and divorced (for the first time). Carola took the children to Colorado and her family. She married Davy. Little sister Patricia was born. Carola sent the two older girls to their biological father “for the summer” but did not return to pick them up – until nearly two years later.
In that time Carola had divorced and remarried Davy and sent Patricia to live with Davy's parents. They moved to Texas where Davy worked in the oilfields. (Terry would not be allowed to contact her biological father again until she was eighteen.)
Another sister was born. Carola frequented bars. She and Davy fought. (Terry would wake to find a man climbing out of her mother's bedroom window, Davy being gone for work.)
Then a move to Colorado. Carola got migraines and was often in a fog. Terry learned to care for her sisters (she was in the fifth grade). They took in a niece, to make six girls under the age of twelve in the house. More boyfriends while Davy was away for work. More moves. Terry continued to care for her younger sisters, sometimes when her mother was hundreds of miles away with a boyfriend. Another move.
When Terry was fourteen she overheard a friend ask Carola if she wasn't too hard on Terry. That experience released Terry from the burden of trying to please her mother.
Another move. When Terry began high school she was asked where she was from. “What could I say? I am from everywhere and nowhere.”
Carola divorced Davy and married “Mr. Rodeo.” The girls transitioned to life on a farm. Then Carola's short nursing career ended under suspicion (drugs). Soon Carola and Mr. Rodeo were fighting, then one night, gun shots. Carola took her girls to Davy, now living in California. He took them in. After a few months Carola took the two youngest girls back to Texas to divorce Mr. Rodeo. She never came back. Though not asked, Terry would not have gone with her. “Life had become more painful living with Mama than living without her.”
Davy had to work in Nevada but the girls stayed in California, Terry taking care of them. She graduated from high school and began taking some college level courses and working.
Her Mama called, asking her to move closer to Texas. Terry and a friend did, finding jobs. Her mother attempted suicide at age thirty-three. Terry was visiting and managed to get her to the doctor before she bled to death. Terry was eighteen. Carola was admitted to a mental hospital. Terry became responsible for her two sisters there (one having been sent to their birth father). When Carola was discharged she never came for her children but Terry ultimately insisted they go live with her.
Carola married twice more before she died in 1974 of an accidental drug overdose.
Terry ends her memoir with a reunion tour of “the sisters” through Texas towns.

Terry's writing, at times, is well done. For example, “The small oasis of normalcy and nurture that year and a half in Grand Junction came at suppertime, when my sisters and I gathered around our kitchen picnic table.” And, “Mama's fury had become as bitter as the howling winds sweeping through an icy canyon. No matter how hard we tried, we constantly fell short...” The majority of the writing, however, is nondescript, near boring at times. Perhaps that reflects her conflicted view of her mother. “That's how it was with Mama. One moment I admired her more than anyone, and the next I wished she would become someone else.”

Don't expect any “Christian witness” in this book. In an interview at the back of the book Terry is asked how she was so “resilient.” She said she always felt connected to something greater than herself but does not identify who or what that was. She adds that taking care of her sisters gave her a great sense of purpose. This is a great story of one woman's survival but none of the credit or glory goes to God.

Terry Helwig went on to marry (husband Jim of forty years) and they have a daughter. She graduated with an MA in counseling psychology and for many years was a human development specialist, writing, lecturing, and leading workshops on personal growth and spiritual development. She is the founder and curator of The Thread Project. She and her husband currently divide their time between South Carolina and Florida.

Howard Books (the Christian imprint of Simon & Schuster), 304 pages.

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

The Spirit Who Speaks by Peter H. Lawrence

Lawrence (who died in 2009) attended a conference in 1985 where John Wimber spoke. Wimber's words of knowledge convinced Lawrence that God can speak today and is willing to do so.
He studied Scripture, knowing that the Spirit spoke through the Word. “Most Christians accept that God communicates through the Bible, but some go on to say that today God speaks to us only through the Bible.” (25)
It was the “only” that concerned him. He found three reasons he could no longer accept the “only.” Logically, if God spoke then (to the prophets, to Peter and Paul), He speaks now. Christians throughout history have claimed that God spoke to them. Lawrence saw nothing in the Bible that precluded the Spirit speaking today.
Lawrence shares his own fledgling attempts at hearing the Spirit in his Church of England congregation. He shares where he got it wrong, then began getting it right. God who speaks lives inside every born again Christian, and it is only right, he says, “we should all expect Him to speak to us by His Spirit.” (50)
He began to experience prayer, not as a chore, but as an adventure. We should “expect to hear Him and know Him within our innermost being,” looking “regularly for God's direct communication to us.” (59) He shares his own experiences of speaking in tongues and praying for healing, being very honest about the times he was, and was not, obedient to the Holy Spirit. He gives suggestions for hearing and responding to the Spirit in a group setting. He tells how the Holy Spirit goes outside the meetings, proclaiming the kingdom. He gives examples (his own and others') of word of knowledge, emotional healing, physical healing, and dealing with demons, including exorcisms, and the breaking of soul ties and blood lines. He gives biblical examples as foundations for the supernatural events. He also gives teaching on testing the spirits and how to regulate (test) words to be given publicly. He ends his book with the account of his own brain tumor.
In his chapter, “Signs and Blunders,” he openly shares his errors. “Sometimes we can get it wrong,” he says, “yet better that than not try at all.” (167)

A study guide is included at the end of the book. Some of the suggestions/questions include the actual practicing of hearing the Spirit and then ministering. Because of that, this book would be a great one for an individual or group of people who desire to see the Spirit actively moving in their lives.

It's been decades since I read Nine O’clock in the Morning about the revival of the charismatic movement in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Lawrence's book is similar, showing the Holy Spirit's work in England. If you believe the Spirit is no longer active in believer's lives, this book will irritate you. If you want to get an idea of how the Spirit could be moving in your life, today, you will find this book to be a treasure.

David C Cook, 235 pages.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

God makes lemonade created by Don Jacobson

“The stories in this book,” says Don, past owner of Multnomah Books, “are about everyday folks who are surprised by unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances.” (xiii) These real-life stories are from people in all kinds of circumstances. One thing they have in common is hope.
The stories include a marriage saved by cancer, priceless lessons learned from being fired, a woman who rediscovered her artistic ability because of an eye injury, a job because of empty Coke bottles, a ministry rising out of the overdose death of a son...
Most of these stories could be called “ordinary” in every sense of the word. They are experiences you've had or heard others have had. But, as one writer says, “Except that to me, the experience was anything but ordinary. Indeed, it was the extraordinary encounter I needed to reorient my life.” (165)
So the stories are not unusual. There are, in general, no awe inspiring appearances of angels or miraculous healings. They are just events that happen in the course of life. What is amazing, however, is the timing of the events. They happened right when needed. And the other amazing aspect of these stories is that the event was observed! How often do inspiring events happen in our life and we just fail to “see” them? Maybe we are too busy or too self absorbed. Perhaps the major lesson I learned from this book is that awe inspiring and life changing events are happening around us. We just need to be looking for them and be open to their inspiration.

This is not a “Christian” book in the sense that Christianity or a “Christian” experience is rare in it. Most of the stories are inspiring in that people change their lives for the better, but not because of God or Jesus. There were a couple of stories where God received the credit, so to speak, but that was rare. This book is in the style of Chicken Soup for the SoulTM series. I was a bit disappointed in it, hoping for more glory given to God.

Jacobson's desire is that this series will help fund initiatives to serve single mothers and their children through the LemonAid Foundation.
Jacobson wants to hear your story so go to and share it there.

Don Jacobson has spent twenty-five years in publishing, including serving as the president and owner of Multnomah Publishers. Don's wife has been mentoring mothers for more than a decade.

Lemonade Books, LLC, 319 pages.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

God Wins by Mark Galli

“This is a book that uses Love Wins as a starting point to talk about key theological issues...” (xviii)
Love Wins is full of questions. Galli starts out by distinguishing questions. Questions driven by faith and those driven by self-justification can be very similar. “God is pleased with the former, but not so pleased with the latter.” (4) We think pretty highly of ourselves and our questions. Galli notes, on the other hand, that God frequently doesn't even bother to answer questions posed to him by biblical characters.
Love Wins is “ultimately thin and sentimental,” Galli says. “It does not communicate the gravity, the thickness, the mystery of God.” (18) He suggests we begin with God, transcendent, One who sits above us in the heavens. He commands, we obey.
Galli truly does use Love Wins as a stimulus to discuss theology. He spends much of his book speaking theologically on various topics. In that sense, this book is not specifically an “answer” to Love Wins. It is a good review, however, of the theology of sin, forgiveness, the incarnation, atonement, and the resurrection. He does note where Love Wins falls short of the accepted (by evangelicals, historically) understanding of those doctrines.
Galli's book reads more like a conversation rather than a theological text. He likens the theology contained within Love Wins to that of nineteenth-century liberalism yet notes that it is “boldly orthodox on a number of doctrines that nineteenth-century liberalism denied.” (56)
He points out a problem in Love Wins with respect to salvation. The entire discussion in Love Wins is that the human will is free, autonomous, and able to choose between alternatives. It assumes the will is not fallen, that it needs no salvation, and that it doesn't even need help. “This is not the biblical picture of humankind but the Enlightenment picture, which turns out to be fantasy.” (71) Instead, we are trapped in our sin. Only God can liberate our wills. That happens through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That is the gospel.
He takes issue with a distortion of the gospel in Love Wins, “a near-perfect example of works-based righteousness.” (82) He thinks the lack of context of Jesus' work, “will likely create serious misunderstanding.” (84)
Galli gives a brief overview on the Bible's teaching on hell then addresses the misunderstandings of it in Love Wins. He writes, “The discussion about hell and judgment in Love Wins hinges on a problem about what God is like.” (101) But the discussion goes off on the wrong course and is a distortion of the true Christian story. “Time and time again, where Love Wins attempts to retell the biblical story, it results in a serious misrepresentation of the real story.” (106) Galli points out several cases of “creative exegesis” in the book. He says, on some points “the book is quite misleading, and in some cases, misinformed.” (118)
On the title of Bell's book, Galli says love requires a free response and, according to Love Wins, “freedom is defined as the ability to choose to do good or evil. ... Love wins, then, because even if people reject God, God lets them retain their freedom, which is the highest expression of God's love.” (131) As Galli notes, in this theology, what really wins is freedom of choice. “Love Wins exalts that very American virtue to the highest place, making free choice the human value upon which our destiny is determined.” (131) In this theology, people get what they want. Galli says this is opposite biblical teaching of a sovereign God. It is God who accomplishes the work of salvation, Galli writes. God wins.
Galli admits that this biblical view of salvation means we will have unanswered questions. “The apparent contradictions of God's love and justice are in fact two sides of one biblical paradox.” (148) There are perplexing questions, but we put our trust in God.

Galli has included an extensive study guide. He notes that Love Wins has stirred up a renewed interest in the key doctrines of the Christian faith. He has created a discussion guide for readers to find what Scripture has to say on these issues.
Galli has also provided a list of books for further reading and an essay on how to charitably engage those with whom we disagree.

Mark Galli is a historian and has been an editor of Leadership, Christian History and is currently senior managing editor of Christianity Today. Prior to that he was a Presbyterian pastor for ten years.

Tyndale house, 224 pages.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

Camden Bristow had been a successful photographer based out of New York City. Her images of international events had yielded many magazine sales and given a good lifestyle, until six months ago. While a magazine had bought and used the photos from her last trip to Indonesia, she had yet to be paid. And now the magazine had gone bankrupt. Jobs had dried up and Camden was running out of money.
Forced out of her apartment, she decides to head to Ohio, to Grandma Rosalie. Growing up, Camden had spent summers at Crescent Hill, the Bristow family mansion. She had roamed the hill and watched her grandmother work glass. While she hadn't seen her grandmother in years, they had written to each other.
When Camden arrives in Etherton, she is shocked to find that her grandmother had passed away just a few days before. She has inherited the old run down house – and trouble. But her step sister is in town too and threatens to contest the will. Someone thinks there is a treasure in that house and is determined to find it, no matter the trouble it may cause.  Camden hears noises in the house.  Is someone else living in the house?
The city mayor is not playing fair. The old mansion needs expensive repairs, repairs Camden could never afford. If the city condemned the property, they could get it without paying a cent. Then Camden finds the condemnation paper on the front door.

Stephanie Ellison-Carter was sweltering in the South Carolina sun, wondering how she was going to write her history term paper. Her professor wanted a paper on an unsolved mystery in the history of the U.S. She finally decides to visit her aunt and hear about the mystery in her own heritage. The Ellison family had been wealthy in colonial times. The Yankees stole some of the money. But there had been the jewels, heirloom pieces made in Britain, reward for a family loyal to the Crown in the 1700s. Worth millions, no one knew where the jewels were. Stephanie's aunt gives her a journal passed down for generations. Miriam Ellison recorded news of their own Carolina plantation slaves in the 1850s. A descendent of Miriam's maid claims the maid's husband stole the jewels and headed north on the underground railroad, heading for a place known as Crescent Hill.  She decides to follow the mystery and heads to Ohio.

This is a satisfying Christian mystery and romance.  One learns a bit about the Underground Railroad while reading a quickly developed plot.  The romance is nicely done and the Christianity of the characters is just right.

NOTE: Refuge on Crescent Hill will be available as a free download for Kindle, for one week, beginning October 31.  (Remember, you don't have to own a Kindle to read a Kindle ebook.  You can read the ebook using a widget for your computer.)  

Melanie has written other great novels.  Check out her website.  A former corporate publicity manager for Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than eighteen years.  She and her family live in Oregon.

Kregel Publications, 270 pages.

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead

This is the second novel in Lawhead's Bright Empire series, following The Skin Map. In this installment, Kit is still on the quest given to him by his grandfather, to restore the skin map, a map that charts the hidden dimensions of the universe. Wilhelmina is in seventeenth-century Prague and is wildly successful in introducing coffee to the community. She is becoming more of an expert in ley travel, even using a mechanical device to identify their placement.
As Kit pursues his quest, he travels to Egypt and meets Thomas Young, a scholar and archaeologist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Kit leads Thomas to Anen's tomb and participates in its “discovery.” Under Anen's head is a square of something wrapped in linen. Within is an irregular square of parchment “covered with a wild scattering of the most superbly etched symbols in dark blue.” (228)
In another section of the novel, Douglas Flinders- Petrie travels to the thirteenth century to meet Roger Bacon. Douglas shows him a copy of the skin map. Bacon asks about a key to decipher the document, to uncover what the coordinates represent.
Mina and Kit cross paths at her coffee shop but Burleigh is right behind them. Kit manages to escape into a Stone Age era and is befriended by a group of beings, much like Abominable Snowmen. He begins to understand their culture and language and participates in the building of a bone house for an elder.
At the end of this novel, Kit enters the bone house and immediately plunges through its floor. Kit knew he was covering great distances. He lands near a lake and sees a fellow whose torso is covered with tiny blue symbols...

The transforming action in this series is ley travel. It consists of using the lines of electromagnetic force that are found embedded in the earth. Using these lines, one can make great leaps in dimensional reality, including distance and time. It is not the same as traveling forwards and backwards along a single time line. Each separate reality has its own history and progression in its own time.
Lawhead has a note at the end of this novel that explains essential parts of his plot. The idea of a many-dimensioned universe has been around for some time. Einstein laid the theoretical groundwork for the idea and now the concept is useful for theorizing about many aspects of the universe. Lawhead's characters bounce around a multidimensional universe. They land in any possible alternate world, depending on the exact use of ley travel.
In this realm where traditional thinking about reality breaks down and experts disagree, non-experts can enter into the discussion. Lawhead writes, “That being the case, why shouldn't a novelist participate in the conversation?” (385)

I look forward to the next volume in this series, arriving in about a year. At this point there are too many loose ends to understand the “moral of the story,” so to speak. I trust any (Christian) spiritual aspect of the series will become clear then.
At times I get a little lost in the story line, traveling not only in time but in distance and dimension as well. Having a year's time in between installments doesn't help. When the series is completed, I will perhaps read them, one right after the other.

Author's website:
Buy this book from

There are many participating in this blog tour of The Bone House.  See other reviews:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Honestly by Johnnie Moore

“This book is about becoming spiritually healthy by identifying and combating soul sickness that threatens to weaken our faith and inhibit it from producing the appropriate actions in our lives.” (16) Hypocrisy threatens the livelihood of our faith. Healthy Christians face hypocrisy straight on.
Moore knows about hypocrisy. He grew up in a church where everyone faked living the wonderful Christian life. The phoney smile of his parents hid a marriage heading for disaster. The phoney smiles of their pastor to whom they went for help hid his affair. Moore's world fell apart with the divorce and his father's attempted suicide (in his presence).
Moore knows hypocrisy hurts yourself and others. Moore asks his readers to go with him on his journey to authentic faith. He takes you through his doubting God, then visiting Bosnia and Rwanda, seeing the reality of evil, and then knowing there must be a real God.
He outlines five steps to becoming serious about your spirituality: pray, read the bible, think, write, do. But it is the “doing” that is the problem. “Do what God tells you to do. It's not enough to just believe. … And it's a matter of life or death. All the spiritual passion and activity we can muster will be totally useless if we never decide to submit to that truth and actually practice it in our daily lives.” (95) The challenge is the battle of your will. We must daily submit our will to His.
Part of our trouble: “we care too much about what the Bible says and not enough about what it means.” (103) Churches need to let go of things not essential to salvation. The devil wants to keep your mind off eternal things. “We need to transform our thinking. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for us to know God better and show His love to the world.” (107)
Why does God allow our lives to be hard? Perhaps it is for us to learn the lessons we can learn only by persevering in hardship.
Today, being a Christian is easy, provided it is just an internal and selfish faith. Moore encourages his readers to start living what they say they believe, and see God at work. He gives several inspiring examples of people doing exactly that.
“Our soul is begging us to turn away from what we think is important and focus on what really is important. The remedy for our dissatisfaction is paying attention to our soul and to God's desire for our lives, and to live for the glory of God and the good of man.” (195)
Moore has written this book “to help you crawl out of the mire of Christian culture, to discover real faith, and begin to see your world through fresh eyes.” (198) He wants you to have a living, breathing, experimental faith.

Visit for videos and other resources to help you on your spiritual journey.

Johnnie Moore is a vice president of Liberty University, where he also serves as the campus pastor and a professor of religion.

Harvest House Publishers, 203 pages.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean

There is an imposter out there posing as real Christianity. “We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people... Yet these young people possess no real commitment to excitement about religious faith.” (6) Like sports, religion is “a good, well rounded thing to do.”
This new behavior has been termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Dean notes that three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christians. Yet fewer than half actually practice their faith. (10) While youth groups do provide social ties, they seem less effective for faith. (11) Teens are getting the message from the adults, Christianity is not that big of a deal, God requires little, and the church is basically a social institution. She calls this theological malpractice and asks what would happen if the church really preached the life-changing, radical gospel.
She lists the guiding beliefs of moral therapeutic deism:
  1. A god exists who created and order the world,
  2. God wants people to be good and nice to each other
  3. The central goal in life is to be happy and feel good about oneself
  4. God is not involved in my life except when I really need God
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Dean participated in the National Study of Youth and Religion and lists their findings: most American teenagers have a positive view of religion (because they don't give it much thought), most American teenagers mirror their parent's faith, teenagers are “incredibly inarticulate” about their faith, a minority of teenagers say religious faith is important (they are doing better in life on many scales than their peers), and many teenagers embrace the moralistic therapeutic deism described above.
Unlike other books on the results of the survey, Dean concentrates on this question: “how can the twenty-first-century church better prepare young people steeped in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism for the trust-walk of christian faith?” (22) The key, she says, is the faith of parents and congregations, the sources of the spirituality teens emulate. “Put simply, churches have lost track of Christianity's missional imagination. We have forgotten we are not here for ourselves...” (37) Teens are being offered little to which they will be devoted. “...[W]e can expect the faith of the young people we love to reflect the faith we show them.” (39)
“The question lurking beneath the data surfaced by the NSYR is, 'Do we adults love Jesus enough to want to translate the Christian conversation for our children?'” (122) She gives guidelines for translating our faith to the next generation.
She writes, “So at the end of this project, I find that I have arrived at only two conclusions with any confidence. Here is the first: When it comes to vapid Christianity, teenagers are not the problem – the church is the problem. And the second: the church also has the solution.” (189)
Resources for countering Moralistic Therapeutic Deism are highly devoted teenagers and highly devoted congregations. It can be done, she writes. But it does not happen by accident.

Kenda Creasy Dean is Associate Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. She worked on the National Study of Youth and Religion and is the author of several books.

Oxford University Press, 254 pages.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Thinking Life by P. M. Forni

Forni wants “to get as many people as possible to get serious about serious thinking.” (xv) The “good life is the thinking life,” he says. (xv) “Good thinking, however, doesn't just happen; it is the result of personal commitment.” (3)
We think we don't have time for good thinking. That means we must bypass “the ever-present temptation to divert and amuse ourselves...” (4) He has several suggestions for prioritizing activities, leaving time for deep thinking.
Attention is the bedrock of thinking. Chronic time poverty results in continuous partial attention. Forni suggests we concentrate on whatever we are doing, no matter how mundane.
Good thinking requires reflection and introspection and he speaks to their necessity and their benefits.
It is important to think before we act. When you've seen someone do something stupid, haven't you said, “What was he thinking!” He probably wasn't!
Patience is a necessary virtue and he gives some tips on thinking and emotions. He tells us how to be proactive and how to choose between options. He explains creative thinking, that which comes before the “Eureka!” experience.
He notes that is debatable whether one can be “taught” to be an outstanding thinker. He does, however, give suggestions on taking the first steps in this endeavor.
Forni ends his book with an encouragement to be thoughtful in both its senses: be a thinker, be considerate.
He says, “In our ever more complex and vexing world, we need increasing amounts of outstanding thinking to solve our problems and to chart our future.” (136)
Practical suggestions for action are included at the end of each chapter.
“This book has given you an alternative to the life wasting of the age of distraction.” (169) I hope this review has given you something to think about!

St. Martin's Press, 170 pages.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beaded Hope by Cathy Ligget

Four women end up together on a mission trip to South Africa. Each had their own selfish reason for being there.
They couldn't have been more different. Gabby had recently experienced a miscarriage, another miscarriage. She and her husband Tom knew that this was their last chance to have their own child. While Tom was agreeable to adoption Gabby had seen a a bad experience in her family and was adamantly opposed to the idea. When her church sponsored the mission trip, Gabby thought she could get away from her husband and her pain.
Cassandra was a successful news anchor who was getting past her prime. She knew the station was working in younger women. She needed a big story. She heard about the mission trip and talked the station manager into letting her go with her video camera. Perhaps she would get an expose, something notable.
Heidie had planned to go on the mission trip with her high school aged step-daughter Katie. But Katie has just found out she is pregnant. Perhaps the two can figure out what the future holds for them during the school break while they are in Africa.
Each of the women is transformed by those they meet in South Africa. They not only bond to each other but to the women they have traveled to help. Their lives have been changed forever.
Ligget's novel is a great read. It was rewarding to see how God worked in each of their lives. There is an interview with the author as well as a discussion guide at the back of the book. This would make a great choice for a reading group.

Inspired by a nonprofit organization by the same name, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this novel goes to support Beaded Hope. See more at their website,

Cathy Liggett knows whereof she writes. She went on a mission trip to South Africa and realized how quickly one could become attached to a person. She experienced the living conditions, some suffering from AIDS, and children being born HIV-positive. She even patterned a character in the novel after a women she met on her trip.

Tyndale House Publishers, 381 pages.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lethal Remedy by Richard Mabry, MD

Sara had married Jack Ingersoll, another doctor. Jack could not take the death of their baby from SIDS. He seemed to blame Sara and a divorce soon followed.
But now Sara must still work with him at the hospital as he has the only hope for a young woman who has been infected with “the killer” virus, Staph luciferus. No antibiotic will touch it. Jack has developed a drug that has been promising so far. But Jack is under pressure from the pharmaceutical company developing his drug. They want perfect results as they need this drug to keep their company from going under.
It seems at first this drug is one hundred percent effective. Then patients begin to develop a variety of autoimmune diseases. Sara and others try to gain information on the drug but are stonewalled. Jack and the drug company will not acknowledge any problems with its use.
Then Dr. John Ramsey, mentor to many, is infected by the deadly virus when pricked by a needle not disposed of in the proper way. Sara and others are desperate to find an answer to possibly deadly side effects of the wonder drug before it is too late. To make matters worse, it seems as if someone is out to kill her.

Mabry mixes lots of medical information with the mystery aspect of this novel. At times I was almost overwhelmed with the medical terms. His novel does reveal the desperate nature of the world of drug development and promotion.
I was a little unhappy with the ending. There was lots of buildup through the novel but the end was quick and abrupt.
Nonetheless, I like Mabry's books. They are great medical thrillers and have characters who live out their Christianity well.

Abingdon Press, 290 pages.

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zombie Church by Tyler Edwards

“There are zombie churches among us,” Edwards says. Genuine life has been lost and in its place is something...scary, lifeless. On the outside everything appears normal. People smile. People are personable. But you sense something is missing.
Some say it is so bad we should give up hope for the organized church. Edwards admits the church has flaws and gets things wrong. But, he says, “The church was instituted by God and He has a plan for her.”
At the core of the church's problem, Edwards says, are Christians who are not living what they say they believe. He has written this book “to address the problem, reveal its significance, and illuminate the path to healing this condition...” His “goal is to identify what is missing and look at possible ways to fix it so that the church can become what it was created by God to be.”
Zombies don't produce anything. They just wander aimlessly, consuming everything in their path. “When a church exists without purpose, it slowly turns into a Zombie church.” But God is gracious and willing to breath the life of the Spirit back into Zombis churches.
The church used to make demands of people but now there is a fear of turning someone away. No commitment is required. We should expect Christians to live out their faith. We should expect commitment. We should avoid the “dead weight” Christians who don't. “Basically, the undead contaminate the living.” (51) We must maintain a relationship for the purpose of restoration.
Belief dictates our actions. If we don't act, it's because we don't really believe. “If we don't live for God, then the truth is we don't really believe in God.” (54) We need to be motivated by love.
Edwards gives the symptoms of a zombie church. He describes the heart problem, apathy.

There is a simple cure: do something. Zombies are not intelligent – their brains are rotten and useless. (121) Edwards reminds us we are to love God with all our minds. Read Bible passages because you want to, because you want to know God better. He uses the parable of the talents to shock us out of our complacency. Why aren't we using our “talents”? “We don't really believe the master is coming back. It's that simple.” (143)

We are to evangelize. Sometimes we make it too hard. “Evangelism is simple: tell others what you know and let them decide what to do with it.” (146) Don't try to do God's work in your own human effort. Learn to utilize the awesome creative power of God.
Edwards suggests, “I think that God is bored. I think that God is bored with the petty faith of our American churches. When was the last time we did something that would require God to act?” (151) “What if we had a vision so big that only God could get credit for it if we pulled it off?” (152)
Edwards observes that the exodus from traditional churches is happening for a reason. “[People] are weary of showing up at the doors of the church looking for answers and leaving with a sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction.” (166) He reminds us of the importance of being in a community – church. “The church cannot really be the church until we engage in community with each other and invest in the world around us.” (173)
Surviving a zombie church, “...realizing what's going on and doing something before it's too late is key.” (178) Ultimately, it is up to us. “We are not responsible for others. We are responsible for ourselves. So don't worry about what everyone else is doing: get your part right. My final appeal to you,” Edwards writes, “is this: love.” (210)
“All it takes is one: one person who sets Jesus as their focus. One person dedicated totally to Him. One person willing to follow Jesus whatever the cost. One person who has life. The life of one can give life to many.” (120)

Tyler Edwards is the lead pastor at Cornerstone Chriswtian Church in Joplin, Missouri, where he works to help people learn how to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and look like Jesus - so they carry out the mission of Jesus to the world.
He graduated from Ozark Christian College with bachelor's degrees in both Biblical Literature and christian Ministry.  He has written articles for Lookout Magazine, spoken at various campus ministry events in Missouri, and served overseas in Mbale, Uganda.
Tyler loves cheesy horror films.  He is particularly fond of movies like Dawn of the Dead, The Signal, and 28 Days Later, where zombies run wild and threaten to infect an entire town.

Buy this book from Amazon.

Kregel Publications, 211 pages.

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