Sunday, March 31, 2013

Discovering the City of Sodom by Dr. Steven Collins and Latayne Scott

We wonder: Are those Bible stories in the Old Testament really true?
Especially the one about Sodom and Gomorrah?
Dr. Collins struggled with thoughts like those. Then, in 1996, he had a crisis of faith. The biblical account of Abraham and Lot was not matching the maps he held in his hand. He reread the biblical account and paid attention to the geographical clues. It suggested Abraham looked out over the Kikkar of Jordan. That would mean Sodom and Gomorrah were north and east of the Dead Sea.

Dr. Collins went on a quest for Sodom. He searched the area, narrowing the possibilities. Tall el-Hammam is one of the largest Bronze Age sites in the Middle East. It is the site of great destruction with a meter thick layer of ash.

The authors provide us with lots of back story before continuing with the account of the excavation. They look at the biblical story and a fictional tour of the area. They also cover the theories of Sodom's location.

There have been seven seasons of excavation. The site has massive walls, twelve feet thick and higher than three stories. The occupation was continuous for 7,000 years, until the abrupt stop. The destruction layer dates to the second half of the Middle Bronze Age. It is evidence of a violent end and then no habitation for 700 years.
A pottery fragment with a glass glaze was found. Testing showed it was formed by a burst of heat of 2,000 degrees.

Is the site Sodom? “If, as the Bible clearly indicates, Sodom was the largest city in the land of the Kikkar during the Bronze Age, then Tall el-Hammam is it, hands down.” (166) Reviewing aspects of the site, they write, “Each of the previous points links precisely with biblical descriptions about Sodom's size, wealth, prestige, fortifications, architecture, and complexity, it's a match in every possible way.” (173)

Nonetheless, there are some who do not agree with the site being identified as Sodom and the authors address the reasons that are offered.

The authors share the importance of this book. “If, in the cold reality of the twenty-first century, something long regarded as 'mythical' can be proven to be historically present in the very dirt of a massive mound in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, then would not intellectual honesty require that the Bible itself be given a fresh, new look as a true narrative representation on its own terms?” (243) Exactly.

Christians would benefit from reading this book and following the continuing excavation. See the website:

Dr. Steven Collins is Executive Curator of the Museum of Archaeology and biblical History, Dean of the College of Archaeology and Biblical History at Trinity Southwest University, and Visiting Professor of Archaeology at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.

Latayne Scott is the author of 16 books including The Mormon Mirage. Find out more at

Howard Books, 326 pages.

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

10 Prayers You Can't Live Without by Rick Hamlin

Rick encourages us by reminding us we can't fail at prayer. Trying is doing.
Rick is executive editor at Guideposts. He's talked to lots of people about prayer and shares many of their stories (and his own) here.

He has attempted to break down prayer into categories he has found most helpful. He doesn't expect us to pray the way he does. He does hope to expand out thinking about prayer.

Here are a few concepts about prayer I learned from this book. Prayer can be a way of processing history or processing news, putting it back into the hands of God. It is important for children to hear their parents pray. Include interruptions right into your prayers. Prayer is a conversation you can have all day. Concentrate on expressing gratitude for what you already have, not what you are fervently wishing for.

Here are a few quotes to give you an idea of Rick's thoughts. “If I could only pass on one piece of advice about prayer, this would be it: Pick a time and place for prayer and try to do it every day.” (26) “When you're not sure what to pray or how to pray say a prayer for someone else.” (48) A lesson from The Lord's Prayer: “It's as though Jesus is urging his disciples, here's what you should do when you pray: Be direct. Make it simple. Don't be long-winded. Cover all the bases. Forgive. Relinquish. Pray for others as you pray for yourself.” (72)

Rick affirms that there are certainly more than ten kinds of prayers. “I believe there are as many prayers as there are people in the world,” he writes. (237) Pray, he advises, and don't say you don't know how. “You were made to pray.” (238)

If you like the kinds of encouraging stories that appear in Guideposts, you'll like the stories Rick tells in this book.

Questions for Reflection have been added at the end of the book so this would a good book for a prayer group discussion.

For some touching prayer requests and people's answer to prayer, visit

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine where he has worked for more than twenty-five years. He has published a memoir and three novels. He is a contributor to the best-selling devotional Daily Guideposts and blogs about prayer at Rick and his wife life in New York City.

Guideposts, 246 pages.

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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

This novel marks the beginning of a new series by Blackstock, Moonlighters
The story starts out in such a way that I was sure I had missed a previous novel in the series.
At the opening, a woman is murdered. Her estranged husband, Jay, is a suspect as he discovered her body after he had received an email that she wanted to talk to him. Jay has three sisters, Cathy, Holly, and Juliet. Cathy was engaged to Joe, a policeman, when he was killed. This has happened sometime in the not too distant past. Joe's brother, Michael, is now a sort of private investigator. He can't carry a gun as he is not allowed a permit to do so. He was an up and coming police officer, just like his father, grandfather, and two brothers, when something happened. We read about his sense of failure, how his family must be disappointed in him, and so on. In fact, Joe's murderer is free on the streets because of what Michael did.
Jay is arrested for the murder of his wife and his sisters and Michael work hard to find the real murder. The action intensifies as it looks like Cathy's life is in danger too.
The novel goes on with periodic references to this terrible deed Michael did that got him booted off the police force and disgraced his family. There are also many references to Joe's death. I kept on thinking that I must have missed a novel that came before this one. I even went on line to make sure this was the first in the series.

Finally, on page 168, I read what Michael did as he reminisced about his actions. It made sense. Finally. The rest of the novel was a pleasure to read.
What I didn't like was wondering what Michael's back story was all about for over half the book. I would have much rather had that information near the beginning. It would have made the interactions between Michael and the other characters in the book more understandable and of greater impact.

That being said, this was a pretty good novel. It is not Blackstock's best, but it is a good mystery. There is lots of action and the suspense intensifies as we get near the end. Sometimes I felt the plot was a little convoluted but it was believable.
Also, the characters in the novel certainly have more of their story to tell. Now that I know Michael's back story, I look forward to the next in the series.

Terri Blackstock has sold over six million books and is a New York Times best-selling author. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty five. You can find out more about her at You can watch a video about her here.

Zondervan, 305 pages.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Damascus Countdown by Joel Rosenberg

David is the CIA's most valuable undercover operative. He is in Iran when Israel successfully launches a surprise attack, taking out all of Iran's nuclear sites. Iran's nuclear warheads were destroyed – except two. The Ayatollah and the Twelfth Imam have them. The CIA has no idea where the warheads are. David's assignment is to find them before it is too late.

One learns much about Muslim eschatology in this novel. Muslims believe the Twelfth Imam is their Messiah. He comes to save them, redeem them, and rule over the whole earth. Jesus would be coming too – to be the Mahdi's lieutenant.
In this novel, the Imam al-Mahdi came to establish the Caliphate, a collection of Muslim nations. He claims he will establish peace in the Middle East. He warned that if the Caliphate was attacked, the War of Annihilation would begin and Israel would be destroyed.

One also learns about Muslims who become Christians and the danger they endure.

This novel is unabashedly Christian. The gospel is presented in glaring clarity. Christian eschatology is also presented. It is discussed in a dialog and that seemed a little contrived to me.
While I may not totally agree with how Rosenberg interprets prophetic passages in the Bible, his writing is excellent and certainly presents one possible account of the near future.

There is lots of action in this novel. It can be read alone but I think it would be best if read after The Twelfth Imam and The Tehran Initiative.

Joel Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author with more than 2.5 million copies sold among his seven novels. A communications strategist based in Washington, D. C., he has worked with some of the world's most provocative leaders. Once a political columnist for World magazine, he now writes commentaries for National Review. He also writes a weekly update known as "Flash Traffic" for business and political leaders. You can find out more about him at

Tyndale House Publishers, 487 pages.

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bible Gender Sexuality by James V. Brownson

Brownson sets out to find the moral logic behind the same-sex statements in the Bible. Interpretation is the issue. “We do not interpret rightly any single
passage of Scripture until we locate the text within this larger fabric of meaning in Scripture as a whole.” (9) Underlying values and core principles must be sought.
...When interpreting scriptural commands or prohibitions, we must ask not only what is commanded or prohibited but why. The reason for asking why emerges when we attempt to apply the commands and prohibitions of Scripture in new and diverse contexts.” (259)

Christians disagree as to the why of same sex prohibition.

Traditionalists refer to divinely intended gender complemenarity, discerned in the anatomical and personality differences between male and female. Brownson argues, “The biological differences between the sexes seem a rather slender basis on which to build an entire marriage ethic.” (22)
Traditionalists say the “one flesh” union in Gen. 2:24 is the joining of male and female. Brownson argues that “one flesh” actually refers to kinship and therefore does not preclude committed, loving same-sex relationships.
Brownson also argues that what Paul prohibits in Romans 1 is not loving, committed same-sex relationships but those of excessive and self-centered desire – lustful ones.

When Paul writes about what is “natural” in Romans 1, Brownson says, “ is clear that Paul is not operating with the modern sense of sexual orientation here.” (229) Paul speaks of “leaving behind” their own true nature for same sex relationships. If same sex attraction is a person's true nature, Paul is not talking about them in Romans.

We must reckon with the fact that what we are confronting here is a dimension of human experience that is unaddressed and unanticipated by the biblical writers – Jews or Christians – in the ancient world...” (232) “Over the course of human history we have encountered questions that take us beyond the assumptions and problems envisioned by the biblical writers themselves, and these new questions and problems have forced us to reread the text and to probe more deeply for answers.” (104,5)
Brownson says the central problem that he has confronted in his book is “the fact that the New Testament does not envision the kind of committed, mutual, lifelong, loving, moderated gay and lesbian unions that are emerging today.” (251) “Writers in the first century, including Paul, did not look at same-sex eroticism with the understanding of sexual orientation that is commonplace today.” (166)

Brownson comments on the other vice lists in the Bible, “...they single out stereotypically abhorrent behavior that is widely regarded in the community with condemnation, ridicule, or rejection. Hence they are of limited use in the morally more nuanced conversation taking place in the church today about long-term committed same-sex relationships.” (275) Of these passages Brownson concludes, “The evidence suggests that there are no forms of moral logic underpinning these passages that clearly and unequivocally forbid all contemporary forms of committed same-sex intimate relationships.” (277)

But Brownson adds, “Elements of personal experience factor largely into this discussion as well...” (263) He is quick to point out that he began to rethink his position on homosexuality five years ago when his eighteen-year-old son revealed he thought he was gay. Prior to his “rethinking,” Brownson had taken a moderate, traditionalist position on the issue, that, while homosexual orientation was not sinful, homosexual behavior was. (11)

Brownson notes that there are issues he has not addressed in this book, for example ordination of gay and lesbians and their acceptance as Christian leaders.

Brownson envisions “that gay and lesbian committed unions might actually find affirmation and support within the life of a church that seeks to be faithful to the gospel.” (253) He writes, “I am convinced that the church needs to move away from an interpretation of Scripture that assumes that the Bible teaches a normative form of biological or anatomical gender complementarity.” (278)

Brownson's book is long and, although logically written out, is complex and will probably not be read by the majority of laypeople in the RCA. I have provided a review for those who are looking for something like a layperson's synopsis of the book.
I must also point out that I do not agree with Brownson's vision for the future of the church. However, I do not have the theological expertise to critique his argument. I must leave that to other theologians within the RCA.

James V. Brownson is the James and Jean Cook Professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, a seminary of the Reformed Church in America. For eight years he has served as dean of that institution. He is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. You can follow his blog at

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 300 pages.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Gospel Centered Woman by Wendy Alsup

Wendy realized while attending a women's retreat at her church that, even though the women looked together on the outside, the majority of them had been or were dealing with serious trials and struggles. She has written this
book so that women will see how the gospel meets wounded women in their brokenness.

She looks at what God created women to be, identifying what Scripture says to women through the lens of the gospel. She writes for women who are single when God says it is not good for man to be alone. She writes for those with no children when God says children are a blessing from Him.

She explores how the Fall affected women, how sin has marred the image of God He created women to be. “Until we grasp our root problem, we will not fully understand how the gospel equips us to reclaim God's image in us as His daughters.” (25)
She helps us understand what Christ has done to equip us to live in that tension between what God created us to be and the reality of our lives in a fallen world. It is in the gospel we find confidence, we have spiritual resources, and we are equipped to redeem what was lost in the Fall. God is our strength. God is our satisfaction and our inheritance. She then tackles what it means to find our identity in Christ.
In the next section Wendy looks at the law, Old and New Testament instructions, and Christ's fulfillment of the law. She distinguishes wisdom, law and the good news to determine how to navigate Scripture and learn from its instructions.
She lays the background for understanding what Scripture does and does not say to women today. Particular attention is brought to Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3.
She ends her book by exploring how the gospel equips women at all stages of life to live as images bearers of God.

Discussion questions have been added at the end of the book so this would be a good eleven week study for women.

Wendy Alsup is a wife, mom, and math teacher. She is the author of Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives and By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Identity. Learn more at

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

Link to buy the book:

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

Swept Away by Mary Connealy

The time of this novel is shortly after the Civil War. Law and order had not yet come to north Texas.
Ruthy MacNeil is literally swept into this hostile environment. She had been orphaned young and taken in by the neighbors. But it appears the neighbors only wanted her land. They treated her like a servant.
The novel opens as Ruthy and her adopted family are heading west in a small wagon train. Trying to cross a swollen river, the wagons overturn. Ruthy has survived, her arm caught in a knot in wood from the wagon. It appears the others are lost.
Luke is a Civil War veteran heading back to Texas to rescue his farm from an interloper. He had been so disturbed by his war experience that shortly after returning to his father and their farm, he had left again. He needed time to heal. But then word got to Luke that a man who had run west rather than serve in the war had killed his father and taken over the farm.
As Luke comes to the river he finds a woman, barely alive. He helps the muddy redhead and takes her back to Broken Wheel, the small town near his farm.
Ruthy demands to be part of the action as Luke and a group of friends from their time in Andersonville prison work together to get Luke's farm back.

What a fun novel. Even if you are not a fan of westerns, there's lots to like in this story. Ruthy is a pistol. She won't take guff from any of the cowboys. Luke is such a nice guy. He fights his growing feelings for Ruthy and it is fun to see the two interact.
While some of the bad guys get shot, I was happy to see it was only when it was unavoidable.
I also appreciated the side story on spousal abuse. That was well done, as was the Christianity of the characters.

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

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a Rita and Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist. She is the author of the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series. She has also written a romantic thriller and cozy mysteries under the name Mary Nealy. She is married to a Nebraska rancher and they have four grown daughters and two grandchildren. Find out more about her and her books at

Bethany House Publishers, 320 pages. You can go to the publisher's product page to read an excerpt from the book.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

This novel is so well written and the story is so touching, I did not want it to end.

The year is 1961 and Frank Drum is a thirteen year old son of a Methodist minister in New Bremen, Minnesota. It should have been a summer of innocence, like the era. But there were four deaths in the small town that summer. And that changed everything for Frank.

The story is narrated by Frank now forty years older. He looks back and remembers the fateful summer that was full of lies and secrets. Frank's father has a secret – something that happened in the war that made him responsible for the deaths of many. Frank's artistic mother didn't marry to be a pastor's wife and has difficulty living the role. Frank's little brother, though wise beyond his years, stutters. And Frank's older sister is an accomplished pianist, organist, and composer.

Frank tries to make sense of the events as they happen over the summer. There is the death of a young boy on the railroad tracks. Later Frank and his brother stumble upon a homeless man, dead under the train trestle.
And then his sister is missing. Frank knows she had been sneaking out at night but never told their dad. As the days go by, secrets come to the light and Frank has much to think about and understand.

This is much more than just a coming of age story. It is a look into the lives of those struggling to understand what is happening to them. It is a story about the awful grace of God and the ordinary grace of God. When his sister's body is found, the story becomes a mystery as Frank tries to unravel the relationships that would cause one to take the life of another.

The author has given readers much to think about in this novel. How would we face the tragic loss of a loved one at the hands of another? Could we exercise forgiveness? Would we seek revenge?

Experiencing the events of the summer through the eyes of Frank is amazing. I felt his innocence, puzzlement, anger, regret and a host of other emotions. Kruger has done such a good job of creating the scenes through the eyes of Frank I felt like I was right there. And the other characters are well developed too. I love Frank's little brother – so wise, so loving, so thought provoking.

This is a well written novel I'll be thinking about for some time.

William Kent Krueger is the author of the award-winning Cork O'Connor mystery series. He lives in Twin Cities with his family. You can find out more at

Atria Books, 320 pages.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

God's Not Dead by Rice Broocks

Rice's hope “is that every believer will be able to grasp the reasons to believe in God and be able to communicate them with the world around them.” (x) In this era of aggressive atheism, Christians cannot afford to be passive and disengaged, Rice argues. Christians must speak the truth boldly. He wants people to have a faith that is intellectually satisfying and spiritually fulfilling.

His book is an overview of the evidence for God.
Rice begins by looking at atheism and the nature of evidence and faith. Reason demands we examine the evidence for faith, as we do science. He argues that good and evil are real and that, if there is no God, there is no evil. He then explores the kind of world God created.
Science indicates the universe had a beginning and Rice explores the inadequate attempts by naturalists to explain it. He follows by arguing that life is no accident, especially because of the complexity of DNA.
He addresses how life can have meaning and the despair of atheism. He explores the uniqueness of humans.
Additional topics he covers includes proof for the historical Jesus, His death and resurrection, the validity of Scripture as reliable, a defense of Christianity and grace in general (including the positive effects of Christianity on society), the growth of Christianity as proof of its authenticity, and personal stories of atheism to faith.
Rice ends with a chapter for those seeking God

This is not an academic work. It will not answer the sophisticated arguments skeptics use. It's content is aimed at the every day conversational level.
Rice has included many anecdotes and that makes this book very readable. It is also a very basic book on apologetics. It is for the unbeliever, a new believer, or a novice in the subject of apologetics. This is sort of a “conversational” book in that Rice writes like he is having a conversation with you, rather than lecturing you. This is the kind of book you might give your atheist neighbor or an atheist friend with whom you share coffee. It is the kind of book around which you can start a dialog with your atheist friend, after you've read it yourself, of course.

Rice Brooks is the co-founder of the Every Nation family of churches, which currently has more than one thousand churches and hundreds of campus ministries in more than sixty nations. He is also the senior minister of Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a multi-ethnic, multi-site church, currently meeting in locations in Middle Tennessee, Texas, and Arizona. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University and has a master's degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and a doctorate in missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author of several books. He lives in Franklin, Tennessee with his wife and five children.

Thomas Nelson, 304 pages.

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

This is the first in what I hope will be a new series based on the experiences of Wiehl. The novel takes place in Seattle, where Wiehl lived and worked. The plot is loosely based on the real life murder of a federal prosecutor that remains unsolved today. The main character is Mia Quinn, a full-time legal professional and single mom, just like Lisa.

The novel begins as Mia is talking on the phone to her friend and colleague when she hears a shot. Her friend has been murdered. The DA asks her to head up the investigation.
Mia is hesitant. She lost her husband in a one car accident a few months ago. She has a teenage son who seems to be heading for trouble and a four year old daughter who has issues as well. Mia is torn, wanting to spend more time with her children but knowing she cannot risk her job. She has a pile of debt and needs the income.
Mia agrees to take on the investigation with the condition that she is allowed to continue her work on another case – the suicide of a teen suspected of being the victim of cyber-bullying. She will be working beside Seattle homicide detective Charlie Carlson. The two get off to a rocky start in the investigation and will have to learn to trust each other.

I really liked this mystery. The characters are developed well and the plot has enough twists and turns that it kept my interest to the very end. I found out about the legal aspects of cyber-bullying and learned about night terrors.
Two aspects of the novel were less than perfect, however. The ending was unsatisfactory in that the perfectly timed rescue was unrealistic. It was like reading one of those old westerns where the good guy is surrounded and the cavalry comes over the hill just in the nick of time.
The other disappointment was that this novel could have taken place in almost any city. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I love to read novels set in the area. I wish Wiehl and Henry had added more characteristics of the unique aspects of Seattle in their scene descriptions.
Nonetheless, a good mystery and I hope there are several more.

Lisa Wiehl is a prominent trial lawyer. She is currently legal analyst and reporter on the Fox news Channel and Bill O'Reilly's sparring partner in the weekly “Is it Legal?” segment on The O'Reilly Factor. She is also a Professor of Law at New York Law School. Her column “Lis on Law” appears weekly on Earlier in her career, Wiehl served as a Federal Prosecutor in the United States Attorney's Office. Her career in Seattle included being an associate professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law and legal analyst for KIRO-TV. She earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland. She lives in New York. You can find out more about her and her books at

April Henry is the New York Times best-selling author of mysteries and thrillers. Her books have been short-listed for the Agatha Award, the Anthony Award, and the Oregon Book Award. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter. You can find out more about her at

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 320 pages.

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Noah's Ark by Henri Nissen

Nissen wrote a book in 2005 critical of attempts to find Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat. Now he believes the ark may be found and that recent eyewitness accounts might be true.
He has divided this book into three sections.

The first part is historical. He reviews the story of Noah, the Flood, and Mt. Ararat. He covers all the recorded attempts to discover the ark.

The next part of the book looks at the recent Kurdish-Chinese discovery. Noah's Ark Ministries International is from Hong Kong. They seek the truth about the ark from a faith-based yet objective, scientific perspective. They made a preliminary trip to Mt. Ararat in 2003. Their first expedition was in 2004 and they returned each year after that.
The team received a message from their Kurdish guide in June of 2008 that indicated he had new information. In October of 2008 the team found an opening to a cave in the snow at 4,200 meters. They returned in October of 2009 and entered. Wood and rooms were found. In May of 2010 they announced their discovery and controversy has followed.
Nissen covers the claims of Dr. Randall Price and Dr. Don Patton who say the discovery is a fraud. The Chinese have been quiet and the controversy continues. Nissen adds the verifying work of Dr. Joel Klenck (Harvard) who visited the site. He says it is no hoax but others attack him as well.
Nissen writes that one cannot come to a conclusion one way or the other. We will have to wait for further discoveries and reports.

In the third part of the book, Nissen investigates a variety of topics related to the ark. He reviews other flood accounts and archaeological dating. Other topics include boat design and stability, possibles causes of the flood, the contribution of Velikofsky, where the water might have comes from, a possible model, why people lived so long in pre-flood days, dating the flood, the book of Jasher, and Gilgamesh.

Nissen has drawn on a wealth of resources in writing this book. He has included a great deal of background on the area, its history, and geography. This book could be titled something like, Everything You Wanted to know about Noah's Ark and the Efforts to find It. There are wonderful photographs in the book, including ones from the Chinese discovery.

Nissen has presented both sides of the Chinese discovery, the evidence that they found the ark and the critiques of those who claim it is a fraud. We are left to decide for ourselves.

Henri Nissen is a journalist and has written thousands of articles, produced radio broadcasts and television programs, and written 11 books. He is now an independent media consultant. He is married to the artist Birthe Engedal and has a daughter and two sons. The search for Noah's Ark has been his passion for the last ten years, and he has visited the Ararat Mountains several times.

Scandinavia Publishing House, 336 pages. 
You can buy the book from Amazon here.

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Foodopoly by Wenonah Hauter

Our food system is broken, Hauter writes. Agriculture is big business and there is a disturbing corporate control of food, from the field to the market shelves. The corporations exert great economic and political power.

She tells of arsenic feed additives. A 2006 study of arsenic levels in the chicken meat sold at grocery stores and fast-food outlets found measurable arsenic in over half the retail packages (¾ of the non-premium brands) and in all of the fast-food chicken tested. (147) Today, it is estimated that nine out of ten chickens consumed had been fed arsenic.

She recounts of the pressure to deregulate meat inspection. “Consumers would no doubt be shocked to know that, as a result, today they are eating chicken with external blemishes, tumors, cancers, and gaping wounds oozing pus.” (127)

She writes about the meat and dairy industry, the mega factory farms, sharing similarly disturbing information.

And then there is the genetically engineered food. “The FDA allows companies to self-regulate when it comes to the safety of genetically engineered foods.” (255) I was shocked. Hauter writes, “Creating genes that don't exist in nature is a dangerous business and there is no way to predict how they will behave in living systems.” (267)

Breaking the foodopoly and fixing the dysfunctional food system require far reaching legislative and regulatory changes...” (287) In the past the government has not stood up to the huge companies with their tremendous resources and political power.

What can we do? Hauter ends her book with a few chapters on what some have done and possibilities for further action, especially on a local level. Personally, avoid processed foods, she recommends. Get to know your local farms and shop locally.

This is a disturbing book. You need to read it to find out how that package of food you are reaching for got to that grocery shelf. I am sure you will find altering your shopping list and your eating habits are good ideas.

Find out more and watch an introductory video at

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch, a D.C. based watchdog organization focused on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, energy, and environmental issues at the national, state, and local levels. She owns a working farm in The Plains, Virginia.

The New Press, 356 pages.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The One Success Habit by Dr. Fred Lybrand

Fred's passion is to simply:
Help you think better, to
Help you choose better actions, to
Help you get better results.

Lots of time management and productivity fads have come and gone. Rather than a fad, Fred present a life changing habit.
He helps us understand what success is and how to develop our own definition.
He suggests action is the thing. This book “is all about action and exactly what must change for you to begin acting.” (24)
He helps us understand how to take the next step, a single action. He writes about the value of motivation and how it is generated.
He explores how to think about habits, how they are created and how they serve us.
He next tackles systems thinking – cause and effect. “The system is the solution,” Fred writes. (56) If we want a different result, create a different system. We are shown how to establish the procedure: objective, guidelines, steps.
He helps us understand the enemy – work its weakness and explore our resources. He helps us be honest with ourselves and learn the importance of yes, maybe, no.

This is a great book for people who have not done well with the traditional way of getting things done – writing a “to do” list. Fred's process requires some serious thought about how well we know ourselves and what we will accomplish. We have to know that and not be dishonest, placing tasks on our list when we know we will not do them.

Fred has also provided an excellent workbook that is available on his website when you have purchased the book. The workbook definitely helps to work through all that Fred presents.

This is not a quick fix to your productivity problem. Fred lays lots of groundwork so that when you get to the actual habit, you understand its importance.

I have been a successful list maker all my life (like his mother). There were some parts with which I could not identify. But if you are searching for a life changing way to look at how to make sure you accomplish your tasks, I would suggest you try this book.

Go to to find our more about the book and watch videos from Dr. Lybrand.

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand has the diverse combination of formally studying law, communication, systems thinking, linguistics, writing, theology, marketing, structural dynamics, leadership, management, and human personality. He is the author of six books. This is his newest contribution to help individuals and organizations become more productive. Find out more about Fred at

Kauffman Burgess Press, 132 pages.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

Deeply Loved by Keri Wyatt Kent

Spiritual disciplines have been used by Christians over the centuries to grow closer to God and experience Jesus' presence. The idea of spiritual disciplines may be overwhelming for some. Where does one begin?
Keri has provided practical instruction on how to practice a number of the disciplines on a daily basis. The spiritual practices she has included are those that “can connect us with our identity as deeply loved children of God.” (162)
She encourages us to eliminate hurry first. “What...things might I have to prune from my schedule in order to have time to engage in these life-giving disciplines?” (13) She helps us understand the discipline of “the examen” (the review of the day). She goes on with encouragement to practice Jesus' presence upon awakening, practice fixed hours of prayers, deeper friendship, solitude, quiet, seeing creation, trusting God for direction, intercession, simplicity, confession, gratitude, listening, Sabbath, memorizing Scripture, service, and many more.
Keri has added a Presence Practice at the end of each day's devotional. These are practical strategies for moving forward in spiritual growth emphasizing that day's discipline.

Here is a quote from Keri on trust: “I'm challenged to heed my own advice: … Fix what you can; let go of what you can't. Pray like crazy to try to figure out which is which.” (141)

Keri is very honest with her own experiences, sharing her own battle with “the blues.” Psalm 42 was a key for her. Besides drawing on her own experiences, Keri adds what she has gleaned from reading many books on the disciplines.

She identifies the goal of her book: “to help you experience the deep love of Jesus.” (186) A by-product of the book is spiritual growth – an awareness of God's love, extending that love to others, and living a fruitful life.

If you have wanted to know more about the spiritual disciplines Christians have been practicing for centuries but have been overwhelmed with the literature and possibilities, this book would be a great place to start. Keri has given us forty devotionals to get us going in the disciplines by both example and instruction. Perhaps you know the disciplines but do not know how to begin to incorporate the disciplines into your daily life. Again, this is a great book to do exactly that.

I heartily recommend this book. It's forty day structure makes it a good selection for a lent or advent devotional. Better yet, read it now.

Keri Wyatt Kent is the author of nine books and the coauthor of several others. She frequently travels around the country to speak and lead retreats, and she is a regular contributor to several magazines, websites, and blogs. Keri is a member of the Willow Creek Community Church, where she has taught, led groups, and volunteered in a variety of ministries for more than two decades. She and her husband and their teenage children live in Illinois.

Abingdon Press, 200 pages.

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

Firefly Island by Lisa Wingate

This romance is a bit different. Girl gets guy at the very beginning and what happens after that is the story.

Mallory is on staff with a congressman and is a busy woman. When she spills her papers she is struck by the handsome man who helps her gather them up. She falls hopelessly in love with him and his three year old son, Nick. Marriage is certain.
But Daniel is in a dead end job with the USDA. When he receives a job offer from a mysterious business man in Texas, Daniel is ready to go.
Mallory, a city girl, going to a ranch by Moses Lake in Texas? She takes a leap of love. She, Daniel, Nick begin to make a life together in a strange and hostile land.

Daniel's boss is a mystery man. He is a recluse. He needs Daniel to work his biochemistry magic and develop better crops for the dry Texan soil. But there is something else going on. There is a small island, Firefly Island, in Moses Lake that is off limits. Yet, there are lights on the island sometimes. What is Jack trying to hide? Rumors surface about Jack's wife and child who went missing years ago. What happened to them? Why were they never found? Are they hidden on the island?

And who is the crazy neighbor, the odd woman who is sometimes so helpful but others times so harsh? She knows something about Jack and why is she hiding it? And who are all the other strange people in this alien area? Who can she trust?

This is a different romance since the romance and marriage happens in the first few pages. The plot of the novel centers around Mallory trying to make the serious adjustment from being a city gal to one who must milk a cow! She is confronted with all kinds of people she would never have even touched back in DC! Now she must rely on those very people for her continuing welfare. She learns a great deal about herself and other people in the process.

One criticism of this novel is that I felt there was a great deal of hype about the mystery surrounding Jack West. In the end, the hype was more than what resulted. I was a bit disappointed, feeling I had been set up.
Another is that Mallory starts a blog and it takes off, something not very realistic. Also, I just felt like the book got bogged down in a few places.

Wingate is a good author, however, so the novel is worth reading. I just don't think it is her best.

Lisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author. Larkspur Cove won the 2011 Carol Award for Women's Fiction. Lisa and her family live in central Texas. You can find out more about her at

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

Bethany House Publishers, 384 pages. Please visit your favorite Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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