Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider

I live in a household with five cats so when the opportunity to review this book was presented, I jumped on it. And now that I have finished the book, I am very, very impressed.
Most of us would read a book like this because a cat has undesirable behavior that we have been unable to change. Mieshelle writes, “Many unwanted behaviors can be remedied by mimicking aspects of a cat's natural environment.” (96)

She addresses all kinds of cat behavior in this book: aggressive behavior (play, human caused, predatory, redirected, territorial), unwanted spraying, unwanted scratching, out of the box eliminating, and much more. For each behavior, she has a C. A. T. plan. Cease the undesirable behavior, Attract to new behavior, and Transform the Territory.

One of our cats had been over grooming, literally pulling her hair out. We added three more feeding stations, in various parts of the house and, I am happy to say, the over grooming has ceased!

Some parts of the book were disturbing, such as what declawing really means and why it is unnecessary because unwanted scratching is an easy problem to solve.

And cats are trainable! She trained her cats to “high-five.” In an appendix, she explains how you can do it too.

The secret to being a 'cat whisperer,' as it were, is to be a cat listener – to learn to listen to what they are telling you about their needs and desires, and to see the world through their eyes.” (237) Cats aren't like dogs. Cats are out to please themselves. Nonetheless, reading this book will help you understand how you can have a relationship with your cat that is very rewarding.

Mieshelle Nagelschneider is one of the nation's most renowned and sought after cat behaviorists. She opened The Cat Behavior Clinic in 1999 and serves clients all over the world. She has been featured in many publications and television programs. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her son, six cats, two dogs and a monitor lizard. Find out more at

Bantam, 336 pages.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Strand of Deception by Robin Caroll

This is the last in The Justice Seekers Novels, but can certainly be read alone.
In this novel, we follow Maddie Baxter, sister to Riley, who we met in To Write a Wrong. Maddie is a forensic expert with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. When the daughter of a prominent senator is found murdered, Maddie analyzes the evidence.
Her job is complicated by the FBI agent assigned to the case, Nick Hagar. Maddie is attracted to Nick, and he to her. Their romance blossoms as the investigation proceeds.
At the center of this novel is DNA testing. On the one hand, Maddie finds that recently found DNA material frees a man wrongly accused of a crime years ago. Maddie knows the man is evil and struggles with her work setting him free.
Yet it is cutting edge DNA testing that ultimately points the way to the murderer of the senator's daughter. But Maddie is troubled when the familial DNA results indicate a man she used to date.

This is another good novel from Caroll. There are several subplots that run through the novel, such as Maddie's life being threatened because her work set an evil man free from prison. Another subplot is the question of why God allows terrible things to happen.

The Christianity of the characters is clearly presented in the novel, as is the gospel. Non-Christian readers may find it a bit “preachy.”

The only aspect of the novel less than perfect, I thought, was that Maddie and Nick, in their developing romance, were a bit childish as one is hurt by the other. At their ages, they should have been more mature and understanding.

All in all, a good novel. And I learned about familial DNA testing, something that is new and not being done everywhere yet.

Robin Caroll was born and raised in Louisiana. She has 16 published novels and has finaled or placed in several contests. Robin is conference director for ACFW. She and her husband have two daughters and two grandsons and live in the south. You can find out more about her and her work at

B&H Books, 352 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Revelation, A Discover Together Bible Study by Sue Edwards

 There are lots of Bible studies out there, so why would you consider doing this one?

We don't all have the same amount of time to do a Bible study and Sue has provided levels of study questions so people can spend as much time in study as they are able. The basic questions in each lesson take about an hour and a half and provide a basic overview. The digging deeper section is for those who want to probe the text deeply. Outside resources, such as Greek aids or an atlas, may be needed for these questions. Theological issues and differing views are discussed in this section.

Edwards has also included sidebars with enrichment information, such as quotes from other authors. There are also short videos to watch for each lesson. QR codes are included in the text that can be scanned with a smart phone. The videos can also be seen here.

This is an inductive Bible study and it works best if the individuals do their homework on their own, then come together to share.

Why study John's Revelation? Last Days predictions seem to be everywhere lately. There was the Mayan calendar and Harold Camping's predictions. Those doomsday predictions were bogus. Where can you go to find out what God said about the Last Days? Revelation.

Edwards' book will not give you a date for Christ's return but will help you understand what God has said about preparing for that event. A thorough immersion in Revelation will infuse you with courage, hope, and excitement.

This study focuses on five chapters in Revelation, the first three and the last two. Edwards believes these chapters are the most beneficial when considering how God wants us to prepare for Christ's return.

Note: the author is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a pretribulation, premillennial view of the end times. While this book is written from that view, specifically that Christians will not experience the Tribulation, I think even those with differing views (as I have) will be able to benefit from this study.

Sue Edwards is associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has years of experience as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She has worked with women as minister to women at Irving Bible Church and director of women's ministries at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. She has a doctor of ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She and her husband of forty years have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

You can find out more about this study and others in the series, watch the associated videos, and download a leader's guide at

Kregel Publications, 125 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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

Unbreakable by Nancy Mehl

Kingdom is a Mennonite community that has seen much recent change. Some have electricity and telephones. Others have vehicles in which they gather supplies from large, nearby towns.
But the biggest change of all is threatening the small Mennonite town. Violence.

Someone has it in for the Christians in Kansas. A church was recently burned and another vandalized. Then trouble comes to the citizens of Kingdom. The driver of a powerful red pickup tries to run Hope and her buggy off the dirt road. She is not badly hurt but a few days later, an older man in the Mennonite community dies when his buggy is forced off the road.

There is division in the town as some advocate patrols on the nearby roads – patrols by men with guns. Others are appalled that Mennonites would forsake their strongly held belief of nonviolence. God will protect us, they argue. It is in overcoming adverse times like this that will make Kingdom residents stronger.

Such is the theme of this novel. Does one believe God for protection or reach for a hunting rifle? When Hope and her friend Lizzy see the red pickup slowly rolling through Kingdom late in the evening, Lizzy thinks of reaching for her rifle. “There is was again, the dichotomy of faith. Believe in God but have another plan in case He fails you.”

I usually don't like novels of the Amish/Mennonite genre but this is the second I've read of Mehl's and enjoyed it as much as the first in this series. (See my review of Inescapable here.) The novel gave me much to think about. When do you trust God and when do you just get to work yourself? What does it really mean to “turn the other cheek”? If my household was threatened, what would I do, how would I react?

There is a bit of romance in this novel too. Hope is engaged to a traditional Mennonite man but has feelings for a more progressive man. Hope having to make a decision between the two parallels the theme of tradition verses a move toward more modern actions.

There is a reading group guide included in this novel. I would anticipate a very interesting group discussion resulting from reading this novel. The book will give you much to think about too.

Nancy Mehl is the author of 14 books and received an ACFW Carol Award in 2009. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Wichita, Kansas, where she lives with her husband and their puggle. Find out more at

I am taking part in a blog tour of this title. You can see other reviews of this book here.

Bethany House Publishers, 336 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Devotion for Lent by Keri Wyatt Kent

Excerpt from
Deeply Loved
40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus
By Keri Wyatt Kent
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 NIV

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.”

Silence makes us squirm because we want to control things; it’s hard for us to trust. When we’re willing to stay quiet, we push through that uncomfortable moment—and find Jesus waiting for us on the other side.

When we get quiet, the things we’ve held down with noise and busyness—fear, anger, doubt—can float to the surface. But the good news is, the quiet space allows us to face them, to realize that we don’t have to do so alone—he’s with us, not because he has to be, but because he wants to be. By taking some time, even in the midst of our busy day, to be quiet, we can hear the whisper of his still, small voice of love.

To read more from Deeply Loved, find the book at your favorite retailer or download the ebook for half price for a limited time only from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book Distributors!

About the Author:

Keri Wyatt Kent is the author of ten books, a freelance writer and speaker. She writes and speaking about slowing down, simplifying and listening to God. To learn more, join Keri on a 40 day Lent study of her book on Facebook or by following her on Twitter (@KeriWyattKent #DeeplyLoved).

Excerpt from Deeply Loved: 40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus by Keri Wyatt Kent. © by Abingdon Press. Used by Permission.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Heavenly Signs by Mel Gable

Mel Gable draws our attention to the sun, moon, planets, and stars as heavenly signs. That was one of the purposes for which God created them.

Mel gives the heavenly sign for the first judgment: “It is an eclipse with the planet Saturn and the moon with the sun which turns the earth into darkness during the daytime.” (12) The date is indicated with the accompanying illustration, October 2393. A problem with this is that when I researched eclipses at, I found no eclipse of the sun in October. There will be one in November, 2393 but it is only a partial one.

Here are some other dates Mel predicts:
May 2354, the birth of the Antichrist.
June 2393, the Antichrist is revealed.
November 2393 marks the battle between mankind and the Antichrist controlled by Satan.” (18)
June 2394, Second Trumpet Judgment
October 2394, a comet, Third Judgment
June 2398, Antichrist and False Prophet thrown into the lake of fire.

Mel makes many statements without giving his source. For example, he says Mercury is a sign of the Antichrist and identifies the “horns” on Mercury's symbol as representing Satan empowered. (113) He does not list a source for this insight. He also has a chart on page 66 giving symbols for good and evil spirits, then draws some conclusions from it. He fails to give the source for that chart.

I do have some other issues with Mel's book. He says he does not use Scripture out of context but here is an example of him doing just that. He quotes Matt. 24:35-36 (of that day and hour no one knows, not even the Son) and 2 Peter 3:7 (the present heavens and earth being reserved for fire). He writes, “Only God the Father knows when this earth will pass away. It doesn't say Christ will not know when He will return.” (8) However, Mel fails to add Matt. 24:37. This verse clearly indicates the topic of the previous two verses is the coming of the Son of Man, not the earth passing away with fire.
Mel has also used pagan sources for the meanings of some of the celestial objects. For example, he uses an astrology book to determine the characteristics of Saturn (12). He also uses pagan religions and myths to the same end. (One example is on p. 105.) His use of these sources, some unidentified, makes me very uncomfortable with his work.
Sometimes his statements don't make sense to me. For example, on page 77, there is an illustration with the following caption: “June 2397 end of month, the sun eclipsed by planet Neptune”. I don't understand that. Neptune is outside of the earth's orbit so would never “eclipse” the sun as seen from the earth.

You can see the software Mel used to generate the images in his book at I have gone to that site, as well as used the edition of the software I have (which is older, and a free education edition), and have not been able to duplicate his illustrations. The “light tunnel” (83 and on the cover of the book) that is used to return Christ's armies to earth, is an illustration of light that just does not make sense to me (and I have a degree in physics). Also, he speaks of radiant light reflecting off one-third of the planets (Saturn and Uranus are shown) and the moon creating an amber glow to the sky. (52) That reflected sunlight from such distant planets would even affect our sky is just not believable.

Mel has gone to a great deal of work on this book. That his predictions are nearly four hundred years in the future mean that none of us will be alive to see if he is right or not.

Find out more at

Mel Gable has been a Christian for more than fifty years. His career includes corporate management of high-tech silicon IC design companies, as well as engineering management positions with several large companies. He received his BSEE degree from the University of Michigan. He is retired and lives in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Westbow Press, 128 pages.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Full Armor of God by Larry Richards

We Christians forget there is an invisible war between God and Satan going on around us. Richards says it is vital we understand the message of Ephesians as in it Paul reveals the strategies of Satan and the armor God has provided. “Ephesians is Paul's 'freedom workshop,' instructing how to break free, and remain free, from the influence of evil spirits that are eager to infiltrate believers' lives.” (22)
The first part of the book is dedicated to understanding spiritual forces. Richards compares the first century view of the spirit world with that of today. Paul would find that most Americans have no idea the impact the spirit world has on their lives – good and bad. Few now take demons seriously.
In the next part of the book, Richards examines each piece of armor in the sequence Paul presented them. He explains the applicable schemes of Satan, examines the relevant piece of armor, then show how this truth in Ephesians is put into practice.
Richards includes a section for Christian counselors at the end of his book. He examines the role of Christian counseling in dealing with demonization and healing the hurt from evil.

This book contains much of what Richards teaches in his Freedom Workshops. He includes exercises at the end of each section to help the reader personally apply the information. For example, at the end of the study on the breastplate, the reader is given an exercise in self examination. Detailed suggestions follow explaining what to do with what God has revealed.
Richards has also included “Live Free Support Group” lesson plans so several can study this book together. Additional lesson plans are available on his blog.

I was impressed with this study. I've never seen the schemes of Satan directly correlated with the pieces of armor. That was very enlightening. Richards is a scholar and uses his knowledge of Greek to fully explain the armor, as well as clear up a misconception or two.

Every Christian should be aware of the efforts of Satan to make our life empty and unfulfilled. We need to understand the role of demons too. Richards is convinced that using the armor in Ephesians will lead to more freedom and joy than we have ever experienced before.
Richards should know. He writes, “I am now eighty years old, and I can say that God has been faithful every step of the way.” (62)

This is an excellent work. I highly recommend it for laypeople, clergy, and especially those doing Christian counseling.

It's time we put on our armor and took a stand against the devil.

Larry Richards is a retired graduate school professor who has written some 250 books. He currently lives in North Carolina and his wife, Sue. Larry also conducts Freedom Workshops, teaching on the concepts in this book, and writes the blog

Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 192 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from Chosen Books for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern

Goliath entered the room when Bo and her husband were at the doctor's office – with her husband's eventual diagnosis of ALS. Bo knew the battle had started. “This has been, without any close second, the most intense and excruciating battle we have ever faced.” (18) She is also certain of this truth: “Some beautiful things can only be found in the hardest times.” (18) There is treasure in the battlefield that can be found nowhere else.
Bo knew theoretically about God being for us in time of suffering. But now she was forced to identify what she truly believed about suffering. She shares what she has learned from her own suffering – from her study and from her experience. She knows God uses every struggle we face as a delivery agent for His gifts.
Part One of the book looks at the beautiful treasure in the battlefield. Part Two gives us a strategy, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to grow stronger in the fight. At the end of each chapter are a few questions or suggestions, some Worth Pondering and some Worth Doing.
She understands that not everything will work out as we had hoped. She also knows that God will work everything together to make us stronger, better, and more beautiful.
Bo writes, “When I first walked into the battlefield of ALS, I couldn't imagine joyful moments in our future, and I couldn't even fully enjoy the good memories from the past. My heart was trapped beneath the weight of grief, and I thought I would never take a full, deep breath of joy again. I was wrong.” (78)
Bo and her husband are still in the battle, so there is no neatly wrapped up end to this book. While Bo is still on the battlefield, she knows God is for her and that there is still more treasure to found. Her book will help you find treasure in your battlefield too.

Bo Stern is a teaching pastor at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. She is a sought-after speaker and writer. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Steve, for twenty-seven years. They serve together on the international board of directors for Kings Kids Village, a home for AIDS affected orphans in Nairobi, Kenya. Bo is heavily involved in raising awareness and funding for ALS research. You can find out more about Bo at

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book. You can read other reviews here.

NavPress, 192 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the LitFuse Publicity Group for the purpose of this review.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolate by Debora M. Coty

Are you a weary worrywart?
Fear is an unwelcome guest. Coty says it is time to exchange it for power, love, and self-discipline. God gave us fear for a reason. It serves a useful purpose – to motivate us. It is when fear becomes controlling that it debilitates.
She polled 500 women from 18 to 80 to pinpoint the fears women struggle with daily. She addresses these fears (and others).
She identifies the kind of fears we experience: spurting fear (gut level, naked emotion), savory fear (intentional, like a roller coaster ride), saturating fear (invasive, often from childhood), simmering fear (fear of the unknown based on other's experiences), sovereign fear (willingly placing ourselves under authority, respect).
Coty shares a number of lessons she has learned about fear, such as, it is okay to be imperfect. She intersperses humor with her lessons.
In the second part of the book she takes a modern day slant on the armor of God described in Eph. 6:13-18. She then addresses faceless fears in the third part of her book.

Her humor is contagious. When fear jumps its creek, build a DAM, she suggests (Damage control, Attach a bit, Devote yourself to caring for others). Or, maybe you need to BARF (Back off, Admit, Redirect, Forgive).

This is a great inspirational book. Coty has included lots of encouragement from Scripture, lots of examples from people's lives, and has sprinkled it all with humor.

Debora Coty began writing to fill the void when her youngest left for college. She is the author of ten books and has contributed to a number of devotionals. She also writes a monthly newspaper column. Coty is an orthopedic occupational therapist. Learn more about her at

Barbour Books, 224 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book. You can read the reviews of other participants here.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell

I read and review lots of books (287 reviews blogged in 2012). More self published books are being offered for review each year. While some self published books are surprisingly well written, the majority are not. I wanted to understand why.
James Bell has given me the answers. He writes, “...99.9 percent of self-published authors need to learn how to self-edit better.” (11) I agree!
Writing good fiction is hard work. Bell's book is a wealth of information on writing a novel and then revising and self-editing it. He takes us through developing compelling characters, creating scenes that move the story, establishing the plot and structure, point of view, improving fiction through dialogue, and much more. He emphasizes rewriting. “If you want your book to be the best it can be, it's going to take work. And you won't get it right the first time.” (198)
I especially liked his idea of the spreadsheet for scene development. That idea alone made the book worthwhile for me. And I agree wholeheartedly with his advice against flashbacks. If used, they must be with great care.
Bell has included several exercises at the end of each chapter, making this a great choice for fiction writing groups. He also includes The Ultimate Revision Checklist, a systematic approach to revising your work.

My advice to all you self publishing writers of fiction – get this book. Perhaps you have a great idea, a potential plot that sizzles, and a possibility of compelling characters. Now, take that draft to the next level. By using the material in Bell's book, you can make that mediocre work one that will receive five stars from reviewers like me.
But remember,I've read Bell's book. I know what dialogue is supposed to do. I know how scenes are supposed to be created. I know what makes a compelling character. Do you?

James Scott Bell is a best-selling novelist. He lives and writes in Los Angeles. You can find out more about him at

Writer's Digest Books, 281 pages.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

AfterLife by Hank Hanegraaff

All of us will spend eternity somewhere. It stands to reason, therefore, that we know precisely what that entails.” (9) But how do we know? There has been much written by people who died and returned to tell about it. Hank argues that we must get our information from the bible.
He writes about the three phases of life: life now, the transitional state (immaterial soul), and heaven and hell (when the soul and body are reunited).
He spends quite some time on the transitional state, something new to me. It is important to note, I think, that Hank takes the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16) as an actual description of this transitional state.
Hank has an excellent section on the “near death experiences” and their divergent accounts. He also has a good section on the reality of hell.

Other issues Hank addresses include animals in heaven, ghosts, soul sleep, reincarnation, cremation, people who commit suicide, proof of the resurrection, the secret rapture (not biblical), the millennium (none), salvation, spiritual growth, sacraments, and much more.

There are a couple of areas where I think Hank does not do a good job in answering the question. One is the meaning of 1 Peter 3:19, Jesus speaking to the “spirits in prison.” The other is Matt. 24:30,34 where Jesus says “this generation” will see the “Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.”

It was interesting to me to read that Hank appealed to the “plain and literal sense” of a passage (176) but then disagreed with an author for taking a “woodenly literalistic interpretation” of a passage (171). We like a literal interpretation when it serves us.

And something else to be aware of when reading this book. Hank uses phrases like, “The New Testament unambiguously communicates” (80), and “as is obvious from the account of Stephen” (81), and of Matt. 24:30, Jesus “was obviously not speaking of his second coming” (173), and “It seems obvious that” (173). Just be aware that some authors use phrases like those to intimidate the reader. If an interpretation is “obvious” and I don't agree with it, what does that say about me? In each of the above cases, Hank's interpretations were anything but “obvious” since the issues have been debated by people for years.

Hanks steps on lots of toes. He is certainly not a fan of those who write about their trips to heaven while dead, Christians included. And he is not a fan of the pretribulation rapture and all that dispensational teaching entails.

A glossary is included at the end of the book as well as suggested reading for further study.

Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the Christian Research Institute. He is also the host of the nationally syndicated Bible Answer Man radio broadcast. He is the author of more than twenty books and has won several book awards. He is a regular contributor to the award-winning Christian Research Journal and is a widely sought after speaker. Find out more about Hank and his ministry at

Worthy Publishing, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero

Geri spent 17 years trying to be the perfect pastor's wife then decided to quit. “When we quit those things that are damaging to our souls or to the souls of others, we are freed up to choose other ways of being and relating that are rooted in love and lead to life.” (16)
She wants you to have the courage to quit too. Quit being afraid of what others think. Quit lying, even “good” Christian lying (no more facade). Quit dying to the wrong things, depriving yourself of God-given gifts. Quit blaming (and take responsibility for your life). You need to quit everything that does not belong to Jesus' kingdom or fall under his rule.
Geri is convinced you'll need to quit to grow into a spiritually and emotionally mature adult. It might not be popular but there comes a time when you know you will die spiritually or emotionally unless you quit and choose something else.”Biblical quitting is God's path for new things to come forth in our lives, for resurrection.” (21)
Geri wraps up her suggestions with the last chapter, “Quit Living Someone Else's Life.” She shares her discovery: discover your inner integrity, listen to your inner rhythm, set boundaries and let go of others. “As you apply these practices, you will join an adventure with God around the joy of fulfilling your special purpose on earth.” (197)

Geri is very practical in her writing. For example, she writes, “many of us feel guilty saying no.” (127) We might imagine that saying no is less than Christlike. She reminds us that Jesus said no many times. She adds, “We must be able to say no if we are to say a healthy yes.” (128)

I was especially struck by her chapter, Quit Overfunctioning. “We overfunction when we do for others what they can and should do for themselves.” (141) Ouch. And, “I know I am overfunctioning when I think I don't have time to stop and be with God.” (155) Ouch again.

Not every woman will like this book. Geri at one point got a part time job at the local YMCA. It renewed her joy in athletic activity. It also required her pastor husband to pick up the kids from school and be responsible for making dinner a few days a week. Women who feel the wife's place is in the home would not be happy with some of Geri's suggestions.

Geri Scazzero is a popular conference speaker, trainer, and coach for church leaders, women's groups, and married couples. She has served on staff of New Life Fellowship Church in New York City for the last 25 years and is the co-founder, along with her husband, of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. See more at

Zondervan, 224 pages. (Note, this book was previously released in 2010 as I Quit!)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from a publicity group for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One Sunday by Carrie Gerlach Cecil

Alice Fergusom had a very rough youth. She has had a promiscuous life. And she has finally made a success of herself, establishing an online Hollywood insider tabloid. She has a one night stand with a sports doctor from Nashville and gets pregnant. She decides not to abort the baby (for reasons revealed in the novel) but her health deteriorates. Burton, the sports doctor father of the child, offers to have her come live with him. So she takes a leave from her high-pressure world to live with a man she barely knows. She gets to know the African-American pastor next door and loves the cooking of his wife. After months of enjoying their friendship, she finally agrees to attend a church service.

This is somewhat a typical story line – promiscuous girl is given the opportunity to meet Jesus. An interesting aspect of the novel is sports. Burton is the doctor for the Titans and the next door pastor played in the NFL. We also learn a bit about the tabloid world and the lengths some go to get dirt.

I found that a few aspects of the novel were troublesome. The back story is told through flashbacks. Having read books on novel construction, I know that flashbacks are difficult to do correctly and are somewhat to be avoided if possible. Cecil's book is full of flashbacks. When Alice is sitting on the back pew in church, we spend pages and pages going back. Sometimes it is years and sometimes it is only a few months. I think it detracts from the novel.

The other aspect I found troublesome is the openness of Alice's promiscuous life. While there were no graphic descriptions of her sexual escapades, there was a scene that I think was too much. Alice and her partner, Amos, are celebrating the dirt they have exposed on various Hollywood stars. It was just an ugly scene I think was unnecessary.

Also, Burton is a Christian, I think, when he has that one night stand while at the conference in Los Angeles. As I recall, there was no remorse on his part for that action noted in the novel. While he is a good figure in wanting to marry Alice and raise their child, it still troubles me some that the issue was not dealt with.

There are several good things about the novel. It is a graphic picture of how Jesus can save a life. It deals well with race relations and how God worked through the lives of the pastor and his wife to draw Alice to Jesus. And Burton is another hero, loving this woman he met so briefly, yet fell in love with.

So, there are good things and troublesome things within this novel. There is an extended discussion guide at the end of the novel as well as suggestions for reading groups to enhance their experience with this novel.

Carrie Gerlach Cecil creates literary, television, film and online content to transform people's hearts and minds. She has written a previous novel, Emily's Reasons Why Not, and a children's book with her daughter as co-author. She is also the founder and president of a media strategy firm. She is an in demand speech writer, executive and corporate image coach. Carrie and her husband, former Pro Bowl Safety, former Tennessee Titans Defensive Coordinator and current St. Louis Rams Defensive Back's coach, were college sweethearts and spend much of their time working with several charities. They split their time between California, St, Louis and Tennessee. They have an eight year old daughter. Find out more at

Howard Books, 288 pages. Visit the publisher's product page to read the first chapter.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Art of Falling in Love by Joe Beam

Joe Beam helps people fall in love. He has learned how to do this through personal experience, by studying social and medical science, and from the tens of thousands of couples he has guided through the love process. He calls that process the Love Path. “On this path, anyone can find and experience love, relationships can be built to last, and relationships can be rescued if they fail.” (9) This includes physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects.
Joe gives us the tools to understand the path we have already walked. This includes great insights about projecting an image, causing doting couples to not be who they really are individually. Understanding limerence and how it differs from love is essential. He also shows how temperaments affect relationships.
He also helps us learn how to get what we want and need from love. This requires not only a relationship with another person but also a deeper understanding and appreciation for life itself.
He gives us tools to learn how to overcome the past. He says and marriage can be saved. Each must quit doing what is destroying the marriage. They they must do again the things that lead in the right direction on the Love Path. He admits that it is not easy and both must be willing to give and take.
He also helps us to fall in love the “right” way. He helps us understand how love works and how it can be built to last. He covers the bonds of respect, fulfillment, spirituality and passion. He also addresses topics like control, cooperation, dreams, and compromise.

Joe wrote this book from his own heart and personal experience. He ought to know. After fifteen years of marriage, Joe and his wife divorced. Three years later they married again. It wasn't easy, he says. It took personal growth, understanding, perseverance – and a few swift kicks to his backside.

I was impressed with this book. Joe delivers. His insights into why marriages go the wrong way are excellent. A pastor or other individual who counsels would certainly benefit from this book. But the book is really aimed at anyone interested in establishing a loving and lasting marriage. Joe includes great summaries at the end of each chapter. He has also provided an extensive Group Discussion Guide at the end of the book so this would be a good choice for a small group or Sunday School class.

You can find out more about Joe's word at

Joe Beam is an internationally known speaker and author. He founded Family Dynamics Institute in 1994 and led it for fourteen years. In 2008, he founded LovePath International because he wanted to help singles and married couples live and love so that their relationships will be all they can be. He and his wife live in Nashville, Tennessee. They have three grown daughters.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), 230 pages. Go to the publisher's product page where you can browse inside the book.
(Note: this book was previously published as Your Love Path, 2009.)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wake Up, Generation by Paige Omartian

Paige knows the value of life. She was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma when she was ten. The mass in her leg that had made it sore was cancer. She spent time in a cancer ward. At one point, angry and confused by the death of one of her young friends in the ward, she scribbled in her journal. A verse. Then a chorus. She had written her first song and it was a defining moment for her.
Through the Make-A-Wish foundation, she recorded two Twila Paris songs. Word got around. She was not yet fourteen, was cancer free, and was singing at corporate events and fundraisers. She was on the Bath & Body Works Christmas CD (to benefit Make-A-Wish) and was sent on a media tour.
Paige uses her own story to introduce her readers to the truths she has learned. She reminds us it is a big lie that we are of no value. Each of us is a perfect candidate to be used by God. “No matter how filthy, bruised, or beaten down you may be, God wants to rebuild you.” (71)
She helps us find out what our gift is, how to renew that fire of our dream. She gives several examples to show that young people can change the world. She encourages us to form our own mission statement, showing us how to identify our passions. She gives great examples of teens who have made the world a better place, both as individuals and as working with established groups.
Paige is hard hitting: “When Christians don't represent Christ with their lives, the world is left wondering if Jesus is really in the business of changing lives at all.” (163)
Paige concludes by reminding us that each life is too valuable to be wasted. “So,” she asks, “what will your story be?” (205)

This is a wonderful book for teens and those who work with them. At the end of each chapter Paige includes an Action Challenge. The questions help in discussing the chapter and give suggestions for action. Paige is certain every person has a God-given mission for life. She has written this book to help people find theirs. This book has the potential for a great impact in the lives of teens. Just make sure your teen and your youth worker at church get their copies.

Paige Omartian is a 21-year-old cancer survivor, recording artist, author and speaker. She has traveled the country sharing her music and story. She is married to music producer and song-writer Chris Omartian. They make their home in Nashville. You can find out more about her and her tour schedule at

Harvest House Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Beth's life is turned upside-down. Her husband, Rick, is a pastor at a large church in Lutherville - well, he's the men's pastor. When old friends who have moved to the big city come to visit, it is with a job offer for Rick. He can be head pastor of a big church in the city. The friends will see to it. And Rick will have a voice, a megaphone in the Christian community.
Rick feels he needs to seek God on the issue and determines to spend a month in solitude in the backyard shed. Beth feels abandoned. Her life is upside-down.
Beth's brother suggests this time might be for her as much as it is for her husband. Beth, wife of a husband retreating in a backyard shed and mother of two teenage sons, tries to find out what all of this means. She meets unusual people, takes part in a demonstration, and has other adventures. Then one day, she sees the sky through a whole in the roof of a beach hut and she knows.

What an interesting novel. It took me a while to get into it. The first half was a little slow and tedious for me. But then the novel took off. It was great to journey with Beth as she gets into various situations, finding what God is doing, who He wants her to be. This is almost a coming of age story except that Beth is middle aged. Nonetheless, she comes into her own as she realizes what God is doing and how Rick and the boys are all a part of it.
When you get to the very end, get your tissue ready.

The is a very rewarding novel. There is a discussion guide at the end so it would be a great choice for a reading group. There is tons to discuss – everything from expectations placed on wives to kids taking drugs to being a part of a political demonstration.

Lisa Samson is the Christy Award-winning author of Christianity Today's Novel of the Year Quaker Summer. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and three kids.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 320 pages.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Lazarus File by Donn Taylor

This espionage novel is set in South American countries and takes place a few decades ago. The U.S. government has placed Mark Daniel deep into the drug running culture. Mark was supposedly killed in Viet Nam but has been “resurrected” for this task and given the code name Lazarus. We are taken into the powerful drug cartels as Mark pilots deliveries for powerful men. He becomes suspicious when his cargo is more than drugs. There is a move by a ruthless terrorist group to overthrow the Columbia government. Mark may be the only one who can prevent the planned coup.
The suspense increases as it becomes apparent there is a mole high in the ranks of the CIA. If word gets out of Mark's undercover work, he will truly be a dead man. But how can his handler find out who is sharing the secrets?
The situation gets even more complicated when the wife of a powerful businessman is kidnapped. How can Mark rescue her from the remote location?

This is a pretty good novel of espionage and suspense. I am not familiar with all the places at which action takes place so must trust that the author has done his homework. There is plenty of action and suspense and the tight writing kept me interested to the very end. This novel is a good choice for someone who likes international intrigue and wants the hero to be a fellow with high moral standards.

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 304 pages. Publisher's product page.

Donn Taylor served in Viet Nam, Korea, and worked with air reconnaissance and intelligence collection in Europe and Asia. He then taught English literature in two liberal arts colleges in the U.S. He and his wife life near Houston, Texas.