Monday, January 30, 2012

Alienation by Jon Lewis

This is the second in the CHA.O.S. Series (Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural).

The situation is grave. CHAOS believes the Thule are nearing completion on a machine that will allow them to create traversable wormholes. Once that happens, the Thule will invade earth and kill all the humans. Time is running short.
Colt and Oz are supposed to transfer to the C.H.A.O.S. Military Academy in a few days. But a mysterious virus us loose in the world. No one knows the origin of the virus and there is no known antidote.
Then Colt finds out that when he was six, his DNA was successfully merged with Thule blood. Did he have alien DNA in his body? Is he going to be the one the Thule legend called the Betrayer? The one who would destroy the Thule civilization?
When Colt and Oz finally make their way to the Academy, they find that Danielle is going too. The three begin their training in the simulator but it turns deadly when the simulated opponent tries to kill Colt.
A shape shifter has invaded the Academy. The Thule want to stop Colt, no matter the cost.

Author Lewis was inspired by the biblical story of David in writing this novel. It is young Colt against the giant Thule. Like David, Colt overcame an unlikely beginning and betrayal to become a warrior and hero.

These novels are action packed. Lewis writes for the DC Comics family of publishers and he has brought that same kind of graphic action one sees in comics to this C.H.A.O.S. Series. I was happy to see that colt relies of God, finally, at the exciting end of this novel. I did feel that, even though his grandpa is a committed Christian, Colt lacked spirituality in the first novel of the series.

This is great sci-fi for teens. There are monsters, jet packs, futuristic weapons, and lots of action. It makes me remember all over again why I loved sci-fi as a teen.

See more at

Jon S. Lewis is the author of Invasion (the first in the C.H.A.O.S. novels) as well as the coauthor of the bestselling Grey Griffins trilogy and Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles. He also writes for the DC COMICS family of publishers. He resides with his family in Arizona.

Thomas Nelson, 249 pages. Publish information.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

River's Call by Melody Carlson

River's Call is the second in The Inn at Shining Waters series. Clark and Anna are now married and running the inn on the Siuslaw River. Lauren is off at college.
Anna receives a desperate call from Lauren. She is very ill and Anna makes arrangements for her to come to the Inn to recuperate. It becomes apparent that Lauren has morning sickness. Lauren is pregnant.
Eunice, mother of Anna's deceased first husband is a manipulating woman. She insists Lauren marry the boy, Donald, and live with her. Eunice and Donald's mother make it happen. Eunice is wealthy and can provide for all the needs of Lauren and her family.
When Sarah is born, Lauren does not do well. Anna invites her and the baby to come to the river inn for a while. While there is some bonding, Anna is disgusted with Lauren's behavior and the two part with strong words.
Over the years, Anna tries to remake the connection with Lauren. But Lauren remains aloof. Sarah does come to the inn for summers and Anna forges a strong relationship with her granddaughter.
In the turmoil of her life, Lauren turns to alcohol and prescription drugs.

This novel is a good study on character and forgiveness. Anna, Eunice, Lauren and Sarah are all women with strong feelings and with lots of hurts. How they manage to work through the pains and the misunderstandings is a strong theme in this book.
There are other interesting aspects of the novel as well. The era is the 60s and the Inn has no TVs. Some guests are at a loss, not being able to see the cruelty of the Viet Nam war on a nightly basis.
But others find healing by the quiet river. When Lauren is at her lowest, she senses the river calling her. She responds to the river's call and finds her own healing.
Another major theme is the mother daughter relationship, first between Anna and Lauren and then between Lauren and Sarah. The 60s and 70s were turbulent times for families and Carlson does a great job recreating that in this novel.
We also learn more about Anna's native American heritage, an added plus.

My only criticism of this book is one I often have with sequels. While it is not absolutely necessary to read the first in the series, doing so would certainly help readers understand the complex relationships in the novel, especially between Eunice and Anna. A one page synopsis of book one, at the very beginning of the book, would be helpful. Unfortunately, I rarely see this in sequels and it is missing in this one.

And we know there will be another in the series. Sarah is missing, apparently run off at age sixteen. I trust we'll hear her story in the next book.

Melody Carlson is the author of more than 200 books, including the Teenage Girl series. She is the winner of the RITA Award and has been nominated for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. She and her husband live in central Oregon. See more at

Abingdon Press, 305 pages.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now by Ruby Hillsman

Do you feel like you are making the same old mistakes, over and over again?
Over the years, Hillsman heard people talk about the mistakes they had made, wishing they could live their life over again. She writes to encourage them – there are others who feel the same way. She writes to encourage those who didn't listen to caring people – it's never too late to start. She encourages people to use what they know now to live their life. She also encourages people to learn from the experiences of the stories in this book.
She relates experiences from her own childhood and the lessons learned from them. She then moves on to her school years, and some work experiences. She gives the lessons she learned when the schools integrated in the mid 60s. She shares lesson from playing basketball, lessons from nursing school (on and off the campus), from working in the medical field, the psychiatric unit, the oncology floor, and from a variety of circumstances like sales.
Many of Hillsman's lesson are just good psychology. For example:
“1) Learn to be comfortable within your own skin. It is what you were born with, and unless there is trauma to it, it is not going anywhere. 2) A person does not have to buy into other people's opinion of him.” (88)
Hillsman concludes that it comes down to what we will do with what happens to us. Two people will have the same experience. One rises above while the other becomes bitter. We have to decide. We have to try. No one else will do it for us. “Positive changes requires letting go of faulty ideas, negativity, senseless behaviors, and/or toxic people while making essential sacrifices and taking consistent steps in the direction we are pursuing. Learning the right way to do things requires being steadfast.” (139)

The book lacks proper editing. For example, here is one lesson she learned: “You fight a fire according to the type of fire that you have; never fight fire with fire or more fire.” (39) Here is another: “If a person does not learn the right things to do, then she seems to do what she thinks is right.” (116) She writes, “...we are all born very unique and different...” (128)
Sometimes the language was a bit too “down home” for me, such as hearing “which women were knocked up when they got married...” (38)
Some of the lessons are easy to say but hard to do. For example, “”If and when someone does you wrong and you survive it, do not worry about it. Pick yourself up, and get on with things. It is just a temporary distraction that we allow to keep us from doing the things we need to do. ...” (41)
Sometimes she shares a lesson with no suggestion as to how to live it out. For example, regarding trauma and loss, “Learn healthy ways of handling or expressing any anger... Learn to absolve ourselves of self-blame. … Learn how to restore trust in others... Learn how not to be a victim again...” (43)
Sometimes the lessons are just a bit simplistic. For example, “The lesson I learned was that the right attitude is everything.” (119)
For me, the lessons she learned about premarital sex left much to be desired. Evangelical Christians will have trouble with her advice on it. “I saw that it was best not to have sex with someone if you are not willing to spend the rest of your life with her. That cannot be much fun.” … “When dating and in establishing relationships with others, it seems best to learn to become friends before becoming lovers.” … “It seems best to stay away from one-night stands.” (123)

Reading this book would be frustrating to many people. It would probably be best received by those from a similar cultural background as Mrs. Hillsman.

Ruby Hillsman has been a registered nurse for over thirty years. She was a retail business owner for more than twenty-two years, a minister's wife for twenty years and a part-time instructor. See more at

Westbow Press (a division of Thomas Nelson Publishing), 141 pages.

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

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Ultimate Prescription by Dr. James Marcum & Charles Mills

What are you putting in your mouth? Is it healthy for you?
Dr. Marcum asserts, “We've got to conclude that much of what we as a society are dumping into our bodies is wrong. Our diet is not helping us live healthy lives. As a matter of fact, the foods we are eating are hurting us...” (13) Marcum says we are still believing the lie of Satan, “Go ahead and eat it, you won't die.”
To get to the “ultimate prescription” for healthy living, we need to go to the One who created it. Included is more than just the foods you eat and the inactivity you experience. It includes your thoughts, worship and your love.
“Disease is often just a symptom of a life being lived out of step with the reality of how we were designed to live.” (33) Marcum “came to realize that health is a by-product, an end result, of a love relationship with God.” (41) For optimal health and well-being, it is essential we know and worship God. Marcum says you don't begin your journey back to health at the doctor's office. You begin with the Bible. (53)
He says the laws God set down at creation are vital for health. He goes through the creation days to reveal the essential nature of light, breath, water, plants, sunlight, and sleep. He writes of the healing nature of love, receiving and giving it. He gives practical suggestions for improving your nutritional intake.
“...[T]he truth is, chronic illness is not caused by a lack of pharmaceuticals. Breaking the divine laws of health is the real culprit.” (65)

I was really surprised at a few of Marcum's revelations. For example, cow milk is not good for you. “Milk doesn't build our ones. Instead, it causes our bodies to neutralize the intruder, thus actually removing calcium from our bones.” (146)
And a 2003 landmark study revealed “that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good.” (38) “The total number of iatrogenic [inadvertent physician-induced] deaths is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251.” (39) (See the abstract:
Marcum is not anti-medicine. He is a board-certified behavioral cardiologist. He includes in his book several Appendices giving specific medical information regarding symptoms and treatment of heart conditions.

This is not your typical book on health. Marcum really believes God set health laws in motion at creation. His is good advice for gaining and maintaining health the way God intended.
Marcum has included a discussion guide which would make this book a great choice for small groups centered on health.

Dr. James L. Marcum is a board-certified behavioral cardiologist with a thriving practice at the prestigious Chattanooga Heart Institute. He and Charles Mills co-host Heartwise, a call in radio program. Dr. Marcum also hosts two television programs and is a popular speaker on health care topics. He lives with his wife and two children in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Tyndale House Publishers, 247 pages.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey

The setting for this novel is Paris, occupied by the Nazis. The Germans had been distressed to find that many of the priceless pieces of art kept in the Louvre had been moved before they arrived. When Hitler was rattling sabers in the summer of 1939, the arts community of Paris believed him. August vacations were canceled at the Louvre and packing and crating had begun in earnest. Many works of art, such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo, and the Mona Lisa, had been evacuated the moment Hitler unleashed the Nazi blitzkrieg on Poland. They were safeguarded outside the city. This novel centers on the Mona Lisa and Goring's desire to have it as part of his extensive art collection.
Now, the occupation of Paris is nearly over. The resistance expects the Americans any minute. They are disappointed to find that the Allied troops will by pass Paris and head directly for Germany. Then Leclerc's tanks storm into Paris and liberate the city.
But the battle for Paris and its fine pieces of art is not over. Near Berlin, Reichsmashall Hermann Goring admires his art collection, but acknowledges he is missing something. He needs a “priceless” art object to ensure his safety after the defeat of German. He sets his sights on the Mona Lisa. A member of the resistance, an employee of the Louvre, and two OSS agents from Switzerland are assigned the task of retrieving the famous painting before the Nazis do.

This novel is actually a sequel to The Swiss Courier. It is too bad the book is not identified as such on the cover. While it was not necessary to read the first one to enjoy this novel, there are several allusions to events in the first novel.
I learned a great deal about occupied Paris and the resistance movement. I became aware of the factions within the resistance, especially the communist branch.
I also learned much about the history of the Mona Lisa, its theft in 1911, and its preservation during World War II.
I do wish, however, that the authors of this historical novel would have informed their readers as to which aspects of the novel are actually based on history and which parts are fiction. Did Goring really have nearly 2,000 pieces of art? Did OSS agents from Switzerland really help the resistance? Was the Mona Lisa really hidden in a chateau during the war?
Nonetheless, this is a pleasing novel to read of World War II Paris and the care of its art.

Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-eight books. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and four children. Visit her website at
Mike Yorkey is the author or co-author of more than seventy-five books. He lives in Encinitas, CA, along with his wife. They have two adult children. They spend part of the year in her native Switzerland. Visit his website at

Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 325 pages.

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

The Shadow of Your Smile by Susan May Warren

What if you woke up in a hospital room. The last you remember, you were leaving college for the day. But the grizzly man across the room claims to be your husband. He says you have two boys, the youngest getting ready to graduate high school. And then the nurse makes you look in the mirror.
Such was the world of Noelle Hueston, the result of a convenience store hold-up, where the robber had murdered the clerk. Noelle had managed to escape that deadly situation, but had slipped on ice, and hit her head. Now she had lost twenty-five years of her life.
Noelle ultimately decides to let her “husband”, Eli, take her home. She slowly begins to piece together the missing years of her life. She had been an art student in college. Did she still paint? Her two sons, strangers. Could she learn to love them? Why was there an empty bedroom in their house? What had she been doing, returning from a city hours away during a snow storm? And why had Eli known nothing about her trip that day?
And what about Eli? He is patient with her but she senses their lives had drifted apart.
Eli finally decides to tell her about their daughter, Kelsey, murdered by by a young man in a robbery. Noelle, of course, has no emotional tie to the daughter but Eli is wracked with guilt. Eli had been the sheriff at the time. The killer was a man he had stopped but had let go on because he knew the kid, and trusted him. If Eli had checked in with the department, he would have found out that the kid was wanted.
Noelle and Eli had dealt with their pain within themselves, in their own ways, and they had drifted apart. Noelle, unknown to Eli, had rented an artist studio. Eli had frequently secluded himself in his ice house, fishing.
Noelle is now determined to make a new commitment to this man, to make this marriage work. Then the revelation that Eli has been spending way too much time at a widow's house hits her like a brick and she flees. She can't make this marriage work! She'll make a new life of her own, as an artist.
Eli and deputy son Kyle realize that Noelle saw the murdering robber and he could be after her. They've got to find her before he does.

Warren says in an afterward note that she had had dreams … and then married, had four children, then began writing books. What if you could reset your life? What if you could keep parts of your life and cut out others? What would you do?
Having read an article about a man who had fallen and lost memory of twenty-five years of his life, she began to explore the idea of starting over. Can broken relationships be healed over? Could a painful past now be worked through? Can love win out? Read more of the story behind the story here:

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is very thought provoking. The plot has a great combination of attempts at restoring romance and relationship, and a little suspense. The reader shares in the struggles of several people trying to deal with Kelsey's murder (including her friend who had actually been the one scheduled to work that day).

There is a discussion guide which would make this a great choice for reading groups.

Susan May Warren is the RITA Award-winning author of more than thirty novels. She served with her husband and four children as missionaries in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time while her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She is the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Find out more about her at

Tyndale House, 384 pages.  Publisher product information.

Buy this book from or Amazon.

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Unhallowed Ground by Mel Starr

This is the fourth in the Hugh de Singleton chronicles. Master Hugh is bailiff to Lord Gilbert as well as a surgeon in 14th century England.
Hugh is now married to Kate, the woman he courted in A Trail of Ink. A much disliked fellow of Bampton village, Thomas atte Bridge, is found hanged at Cow-Leys Corner. The Corner is where suicides were buried, being forbidden burial in consecrated church ground.
The coroner declares it a suicide but Hugh is not so sure. He spots evidence that seems to indicate Thomas was dragged to the spot. High also spies a reddened patch on one of Thomas' wrists.
No one is sorry that Thomas is dead as he was a mean and argumentative man. As Hugh goes about his daily tasks, he finds an increasing number of people with reason to see Thomas dead. It is with dread he realizes that the murderer may be one of his friends. One by one he eliminates the suspects.
Hugh is just about ready to give up on the case when there is an attack on his home. When there is a second attack, Hugh is himself stabbed in the arm. Kate plays the role of surgeon, sewing up the gash.
With renewed efforts, Hugh continues his pursuit until he can identify the murderer.

I like this style of historical mystery. I like Starr's writing. It is of the period as contractions are not used. Hugh is a methodical man, plodding along to the final revelation of the murderer.  I like the addition of Kate.  I hope I see more of her observations and insights in novels to come.
Reading the book is informative as well. You learn lots about the daily life in that era. I was astounded to read as Hugh performed cataract surgery on an elderly priest. While not like the surgery of today, moving the cataract away from the pupil was accomplished and better sight was restored. I had no idea something like that would have been done in that era.
And thank you for putting the Glossary right in the front, where it belongs. It made reading about a different place in a different time quite a joy.
Although this is the fourth in the series, the novel is contained enough that one could enjoy it without having read the earlier three.

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After graduating with an MA in history from Western Michigan University, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years. He retired in 2003 as the chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Monarch Books, distributed by Kregel Publications, 224 pages.

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

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Exceptional Life by Stephen Arterburn

Arterburn has spent years listening to people share their suffering. He began to discern patterns in why and how people tend to become, to some degree, dysfunctional. He found that the root of their issue was almost always that they were hanging on to something they needed to let go of.
He boiled it down to eight things that we must release to move to the good things. He writes a chapter on each one. Within the chapter, he makes sure we are clear on the nature of the negative quality. Then he looks at the negative impacts of the quality. He add practical, spiritual, Bible-based advice on how, once and for all, to give it up. He moves on to the God-given positivity we will gain. He ends each chapter with what this new-found godliness will do for us. He adds several questions to stimulate group discussion on the chapter's content.
The eight qualities:
Any person can give up guilt and shame, in order to get back hope.
Any person can give up resentment, in order to get back love
Any person can give up fear, in order to get back trust.
Any person can give up anger, in order to get back forgiveness.
Any person can give up instant gratification, in order to get back patience.
Any person can give up learned helplessness, in order to get back power.
Any person can give up isolation, in order to get back connection and community.
Any person can give up addiction, in order to get back freedom.
Arterburn gives examples from his own life and those he has counseled to show how these qualities function and the results they cause. He also gives illustrations of people who have overcome their issues. Some humor is added along the way to help make taking the medicine (so to speak) easier.

Here are some notes from the chapter on learned helplessness. It is terrible when you feel there is nothing you can do. You just feel, “I can't!” Granted, there are some things you can't do (like fly to the moon), but this is about what you could do, but think you can't. You feel like you're locked into your current state.
Arterburn gives an example of a woman who was poor, really poor, but is now a successful business owner.
He notes that leaned helpless ruins your chance of personal growth. It ruins your chances of professional advancement. There is a feeling of being overwhelmed, of being helpless. You always feel like someone else is driving your car.
Arterburn advises simple and clearheaded observation as a tool to understand what is going on inside yourself. Note the particular situations around the feelings. Later review. Where you really helpless? Be realistic. Who trained you to have this behavior? Know you don't have to behave that way.
To gain back your power, remember that God made you. God loves you. Remember that God empowers the powerless. Pray and watch as God empowers you. Remember, Jesus Christ died so you can live.
You will begin to see the potential in every situation. “With God on the inside, you'll be stunned at all you can do – how far you can go – in the world.” (157)

Arterburn hopes this book will inspire you “to give your life a long look and … discover things you know you need to change.” (209) That it does.
He wants you to live exceptionally. This book is a great to with which to begin that journey.
Arterburn lives to empower others. (85) He's done a good job doing exactly that in this book.

Stephen Arterburn is founder and chairman of new Life Ministries and host of the Christian counseling talk show, New Life Live! He has been featured on many national TV shows and other media outlets. Steve founded the Women of Faith conferences and is the author of more than eighty books. Steve and his family live in Fishers, Indiana.

Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 211 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of this review.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

Truman is the kind of hero you love to hate. As the novel opens, he has abandoned his family. He had been a star reporter, traveling the world, but when the media company had to downsize, he was let go. Lost, he runs from his responsibilities. He buys a cottage on the Florida coast and lives there with his cat.
Addicted to gambling, Truman has amassed huge debts, some to a loan shark bent on getting his money back or make Truman pay with his life. When the typical car with darkened windows and thugs inside shows up,Truman abandons the small house and flees (he's behind on the mortgage anyway).
As he returns to his family, we find that their son needs a heart transplant and has been deathly ill for some time. Our “hero” has let his wife deal with their ailing son, for months. He can't even get up the nerve to go to the hospital room – it's just too much for him. His daughter has had to quit college as Truman has lost the potential finances – at a casino.
While Truman's wife is a Christian, Truman believes, “Religion has always seemed an opiate to me, something to numb a person to reality.”
The plot of the novel ramps up as we find out that there may be a heart for Truman's son. It is the heart of a convicted murderer. But there are some who think the convict may be innocent. The convict's wife hires Truman to write his story and Truman thinks he might be able to find the real murderer in the process.

I had difficulty reading this novel. If I hadn't agreed to blog a review, I would have probably quit around half way through. Truman is truly a “hero” I loved to hate. Fabry really played up his sorry personality, addicted to gambling, abandoning his family in the time of need, extremely critical of Christianity, weak, indecisive, on and on. I knew there had to be some redeeming factor and was glad to see it about ten pages from the end. By then, I felt like I had been in church, having heard one of those disturbing testimonies. You know, a testimony where someone talks for ten minutes about their sinful life and then, at the end, says he got saved.
For me, this was a depressing novel. So much of it was Truman's negative thoughts, his pitiful inadequacies. I just got tired of it.
And I got tired of Truman. For a man who had gotten many awards for his heroic investigative reporting, he is a pathetic man. He acts without thinking. He is weak and lacks self-control. He treats his family horribly. I would have preferred Truman to be a man of character, even if he was not a Christian. In the end, Truman does show some nerve but it was too little too late to make up for the 400 pages of depressing reading.
This is definitely a novel for men. Perhaps they can identify with Truman's sorry character. As a woman, I just found it too frustrating.
Fabry has dedicated this book, “For the addicted and those who love them.” For the addicted, Fabry's book portrays no hope. Truman is still a gambling addict at the end of the book. He has not managed to conquer it. There may be a little encouragement for for those who love addicts, but it is just a glimmer.
For me, there were also some problems with the book's plot. With Truman not working for months and using up nearly all their money, what are his wife and son living on? She hasn't been working as she is caring for the hospitalized son.
And Truman's family must be left with huge debts, including the hospital bills. While the Epilogue is upbeat, the family certainly cannot live “happily ever after.”
All in all, I was disappointed in this novel.

Chris Fabry is a 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University. He is heard on Moody Radio. He and his wife, Andrea, have nine children. Chris has published more than seventy books for adults and children. He won the Christy Award in 2009 and the Christy Award and the ECPA award for fiction in 2011. See more about him at

Tyndale House Publishers, 432 pages.  Publisher product information.

I received an egalley from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman

Reitman had written an article on Scientology for Rolling Stone magazine and has expanded her work in this book. If you are like me, you have probably forgotten much of the news about Scientology over the years. I was amazed at the lawsuits, the scandals.
She recounts the history of the movement, its ups and downs, then the goal to get big name people involved – celebrities.
Reitman has interviewed many who have left Scientology to reveal much of the inner workings of the group. Hers is by no means the definitive book on the subject. She spends quite some time on a few very controversial events, such as the death of a young woman while under the care of Scientology.
Nonetheless, this is a great book about a very secretive “religion.” I highly recommend it. 

TEN by Terry Smith

Smith believes God wants to cheer you on to your future. “He wants your God-inspired dreams to come true.” (xxii) The dream He has for you is the “more and better life than you ever dreamed of.” (1) That life, on a scale of one to ten, is TEN (as in John 10:10).
You must want this future. It requires your will. Smith has written to encourage you to go after the more and better God wants for you. (5) “The future is in you now.” (11)
AWAKE You can become fully awake to this God-inspired future. You must really want to create that better future. Take others along with you. “God specifically wired us to transcend and affect present realities and to create realities that do not yet exist.” (27) “You have the potential to will and act to male something beautiful that reflects God's grandeur instead of humanity's mess.” (39)
DISCOVER “We partner with God in destiny fulfillment.” (45) Discover the destiny God has for you and choose to fulfill it. The Holy Spirit will reveal it to you. (1 Cor. 2:10) “In His sovereignty, God has decided, to a great extent, to limit His involvement in this world to the willingness of human beings.” (61) You must decide how much you will work to see God's mission in this world successfully achieved.
IMAGINE Have an audacious imagination. See the future before it can be seen. Smith suggests you intentionalize imaging - “deliberately and prayerfully imaging the specific things [you] believe God has said is possible for [you].” (73)
GROW God is a Theory Y God. (Theory Y being a management style that assumes people want to self-directed and achieving, given the motivation. Smith likes to talk about “becoming God-actualized, where who we are in every way is fully matured so we can actually live out our God-given potential.” (106) He reviews several aspects of personal growth.
With encouraging thoughts and inspiring stories, Smith covers the remaining aspects of TEN: ACT, LEAD, LET'S GO THERE (stuff happens on your way). I could have included ideas from these points, but then, I want you to read the book for yourself.

Smith wants you to live deep. He has provided encouraging stories and practical suggestions to inspire you on your way to a richer and fulfilling life – a TEN. But he doesn't stop at moving your own life to its God-given potential. A major theme in this book is you helping others see their potential as well.

He has provided reflection questions at the end of each of the major sections. These would be great for individual or group use. This book would be especially useful to a church council or similar group looking to determine God's plan for their future.

Terry Smith is the pastor of The Life Christian Church in West Orange, NJ. He arrived at the church in 1991 and the multi-cultural, non-denominational church has seen significant growth and impact in the community.

See more at

Higher Life Development Services, 238 pages.  Publisher product information

Buy this book from CBD or  Amazon.

I received an egalley of this book from The B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski, illustrated by A E. Macha

How important is God and His story in the midst of your family's busy schedule? Marty Machowski wants you to take time out from the daily grind to spend it with your family delving into Bible stories.
Beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation, Marty uses 158 stories to present God's plan of salvation. The easy-to-read storybook was written for preschool children right through teen-aged youth. It is a storybook for the preschooler, a devotional for the grade school student, and a refresher for older readers.
Machowski has purposely connected each story with the larger gospel narrative of God redeeming His people by sending His Son Jesus. The intent is for parents and children to see the whole Bible as one story, with one hero, Jesus Christ.
Machowski admits that some of the “good” parts of a Bible had to be skipped over to get to the “best” parts. Reading the Bible with your children is still important. Perhaps reading the story from this book first will help your child understand the biblical story more easily. The Bible references for each story are included so you can later read the entire biblical account to your child. The text is based on the ESV so you may want to continue with that translation.
Included with each story are “Let's Talk About It!” questions. They are a great way to review the story with your child and begin a dialogue on its major points.

The illustrations by A. E. Macha are amazing. Each is a captivating combination of simplicity and detail. You would just have to see them to appreciate their attractiveness. The people are deliberately left without color so the child can imagine himself in the scene.
 You can see some of the work at . Specific illustrations you can see online include Grieving Eve and Samson &Delilah.

The Gospel Story Bible focuses on the same Scriptures used in the forthcoming Gospel Story children's ministry curriculum, also from New Growth Press.

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Glen Mills, PA. He has served on the pastoral staff there for twenty-three years. He, his wife, and their six children live in West Chester, PA.

A. E. Macha, BFA (Illustration, Arcadia University) is married with two children and lives in Philadelphia.  Anne teaches art at a local Christian school and has developed her illustration style through exploring art and design in diverse cultures.

See the publisher's product information here.

New Growth Press,313 pages, hardcover, $29.99  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Frequency by Eric Parks and Casey Bankord

Parks says God created you for a unique relationship with Him. No one else was designed to have the relationship with God you do. Yours is a unique part in a cosmic symphony.
He likens your unique self to your frequency. “Living on your frequency is God's idea for ongoing connection with you.” (8-9) He helps the reader identify that frequency. “When you hit your frequency, you feel an overwhelming sense of fulfillment that almost seems 'otherly.'” (12) Living in your frequency is God's design for you. It requires effort, but not the effort of trying to be someone you're not.
The method for spiritual growth is unique for your frequency. There is no generic method for spiritual growth. You'll need to develop your own routine of spiritual disciplines.
Parks suggests exploring “spiritual pathways.” the different environments of spiritual growth identified by various authors, including John Ortberg (who wrote the Forward to this book).
Parks suggests you find your frequency by taking the personal assessment at and there is to be a code included in the book to allow you to do that for free.

The second part of the book consists of nine chapters, each organized around the nine major personality categories that Monvee measures. Each is centered on a biblical character: Joseph, Abraham, Jacob, David, Luke, Timothy, Solomon, Samson, and Jonathan. Eric interviews a person for each personality. Most of the people are professional Christians (pastors, authors) and I found their life stories to not be very applicable to laypeople like me.

What I read was an uncorrected proof and chunks of the manuscript were missing, including one interview, and the section called “For Church Leaders.”

Eric Parks is the cofounder of Monvee. The Monvee program came out of Heartland Community Church, in Rockford, IL where Mark Bankord (I assume the father of co-author Casey Bankford) is directional leader.

The first third of this book I found very rewarding. That each of us is unique, that there is not one spiritual growth method that fits all...that is good news.
The rest of the book is pretty much just a suggestion to use Monvee. I was not surprised to find out that Parks was a cofounder of Monvee. I am glad the book will provide the code for a free assessment at that web site. Nonetheless, I have a feeling that this book is a not so subtle promotion of Parks' Monvee assessment ministry.

A minor point of criticism regarding the diagram on page 16. A better representation of the concept would have been two wave functions, interacting. Where they coincided (one is living his frequency) the wave is amplified. Where the two interfere (one is not living his frequency) the wave is dampened. After all, this is frequency and showing waves of two different frequencies would have been more appropriate.

Watch a video.

Worthy Publishing, 256 pages. This book releases February 7, 2012.

I received an uncorrected manuscript in egalley form from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter

Shay Brandenberger has been disappointed in love, twice. Fourteen years ago she was left on the courthouse steps. The boy she had played with as a child, fallen in love with as a teen, and planned to marry right out of high school, Travis McCoy, had run out on her right before the wedding.
Years later she married someone else. They had a wonderful child, Olivia. But then he had left her and a few years later, had died.
Aged 32, Shay was a native of Moose Creek, Montana, and was trying to keep her family farm going. But she was behind on the mortgage payments and the power company had threatened to turn off her electricity.
Then Travis walks back into her life. He's back in Moose Creek after being on the rodeo circuit. He's made enough money to last him a lifetime. He's back to care for his parent's farm while they are on a mission trip. He has never lost his love for Shay. He knew it was wrong to leave her, even as he ran away from the wedding. But he was so young and the rodeo was calling.
Shay knows deep down she still loves Travis. He was her first love and she has never been able to let that go. But the hurt from his abandonment runs just as deep.
Then life for the both of them gets even more complicated as the Founder's Day celebration occurs. They separately agree to play the bride and groom at a reenactment. Then Travis gets the news that the “fake” wedding certificate he and Shay signed was, in fact, the real certificate from fourteen years ago.
The sparks fly as Travis wants to make the wedding work while Shay is just as determined to make him leave.

This is a unique plot. I've never seen anything like it. A bride left at the altar, so to speak. And then the marriage planned fourteen years ago happens, without the knowledge of those involved.

This was a pretty good read but I did have a few problems with the story line. Hunter does admit in the afterward that marriage licenses are not valid for fourteen years, as she has in her book. So she stretched the believability of the plot there.
Also, Shay's farm has a mortgage even though it has been in her family for three generations. The farm should have been paid off by now. But being behind on the mortgage is essential to the plot.
Also, Shay has the same problem over and over again. I got a bit bored with the repetition.  There doesn't seem to be any growth in that area.
Also, Hunter writes of passion and some of the scene have a bit more passion than usual for a Christian romance. On occasion I felt a little uncomfortable with what I was reading.
The Christianity of the characters is well portrayed – a much appreciated aspect of the novel.

This is certainly not the best Christian romance I've read lately.

You can find out more about Hunter and her books at

Denise Hunter is the award-winning author of eighteen romance novels. She began writing as a young stay-at-home mom, while her children napped. She has earned many awards and has been a RITA finalist. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three teenaged sons. Along with writing and spending time with her family, she enjoys reading, traveling and playing drums for her church's worship team.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 304 pages.  Publisher product information.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No, We Can't by Robert Stearns

Nobody wants to be negative but Stearns knew he had to be honest. Understanding the situation today requires taking the time to view the world and what is happening in it.
Stearns examines the three value systems prominent in the world today: radicalized Islam; an aggressive humanism; and the Judeo-Christian faith. He evaluates the three worldviews and how they deal with culture and the basic questions of mankind (existence, purpose, etc.).
Stearns' “hypothesis is that these three prevailing worldviews are all, in different yet equally serious ways, seeking the hearts, souls, minds and bodies of mankind. The end game is to emerge as the dominant player, allowing them to influence and even redefine the future of human existence.” (62) He argues that coexistence is a myth, giving several reasons why. “...[I]t becomes more obvious that multiculturalism is no longer an option for those who wish to continue to live in freedom.” (183)
He has written this book “ that we can plainly see that the Judeo-Christian worldview is the best possible means of providing a platform of liberty for the human race,” (165) But the Judeo-Christian worldview is being attacked. Christians are in a battle, he writes. “It is a spiritual battle we are called to win.” (29) Stearns foresees the Islamization of the U. S. (as it is happening in Europe) unless Americans are willing to pay the price. “Stay awake and remain active to ensure that the torch of liberty is not extinguished...” (182)
Christians are faced with a decision, he writes. The choice the American church makes will determine whether America as we know it survives or not.

For someone isolated from current events, Stearns' book is a good look at the major belief systems of our day. For those thoughtfully paying attention to the world today, this book will be a fine review but does not really offer any new information.
Stearns definitely writes from a Christian viewpoint, seeing the Christian faith and culture as the only viable one for mankind. I wholeheartedly agree.

Unfortunately, in his enthusiasm for Christianity, I think Stearns makes some statements which can be criticized by those from other faiths. For example, “...God values men and women equally, people of all races equally and the young and old equally.” (137)
He opens himself to criticism when Old Testament laws are considered. Leviticus 12:1-5 says when a male is born, the mother is unclean a week, and when a daughter is born, the mother is unclean for two weeks. The purifying time is doubled too.
Another telling passage is Leviticus 27:1-8. The passage is about “a special vow to the Lord involving the valuation of persons...: The valuation is as follows:
male, aged 20 to 60, 50 shekels of silver
female, 30 shekels
male, aged 5 to 20, 20 shekels
female, 10 shekels
male, aged 1 month to 5 years, 5 shekels
female, 3 shekels
male, over 60 years old, 15 shekels
female, 10 shekels
And then there is Numbers 27 where the daughters of Zelophehad had to plead their case to inherit some of their father's possessions as only sons inherited under the law and Zelophehad had no sons.

He also opens himself to criticism with this statement: “When the Law was given, it was only the lawbreakers who were appointed for destruction.” (137)
But we must remember Exodus 20:5 which says that God is a jealous God, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me...”

When a Christian writes a book about other belief systems, it is crucial that the author be accurate regarding the facts of his own faith. While much of Stearns' book is worth reading, it is a shame he makes a couple of statements that might cause his work to be discredited.

Chosen (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 222 pages.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sometimes He Whispers Sometimes He Roars by Marilynn Chadwick

Chadwick's response to 9/11 was to pray. More than that, she writes, “He was calling me to become an active prayer warrior for a hurting and broken world that He deeply loves.” (4) As her prayers expanded, she tried to be faithful and listen to God.
She saw a pattern develop and soon began teaching others the six steps to developing a deeper and more effective prayer life. The steps are interrelated – they depend on each other. The steps that she has laid out in this book have revolutionized her prayer life.
Be Alert to God and to the needs around you. You must be intentional at this, she says. She tells of the life changes she made to help her hear the quiet voice of God.
Be Specific, specific enough to recognize the answers as they come. She makes lists of her prayer requests and gives space in the book for readers to do likewise.
Pray With Authority, praying God's Word into situations. She provides a 21 day experiment to discover how God's Word can add power to your prayers. She shows how the prayer Jesus taught His disciples provides a well-balanced prayer diet.
Agree With Others in Prayer. Learn the power of agreement. It seems to ignite prayer with extra power.
Arm Yourself with Spiritual Strength for spiritual as well as earthly battles. Chadwick has learned that her prayer life works best when she is alert and self-controlled. She takes steps to connect with Jesus throughout the day.
Answer God's Call to go into the world with the good news of Jesus Christ and share His love. You will see the hurting people and the needs in the world. You will share in the sufferings of Christ.

Chadwick shares many stories of her own experiences and those of others. They are incredible and really encouraging. Chadwick shares what she has learned, the footprints she has left in her journey with God.

There are several added “bonuses” at the end of the book: personal reflection questions (useful for group study too), a leader's guide for discussion groups (great for novice leaders), a quick start guide to using her card system, and a list of additional resources chadwick has found beneficial.

This is a great book for any Christian who wants to see their prayer life rise to a more effective level.

Marilynn Chadwick is the cofounder and principal speaker of Women Under Construction, an outreach of Forest Hill Church, where her husband, David, is senior pastor.  She has a BA in journalism and a master's degree in counseling.  She also founded Seeds of Hope, a nonprofit providing education for kids with limited resources.  Marilynn and her husband have three children and one grandchild.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), 241 pages.

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