Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poison by Jordyn Redwood

This is the second in the Bloodline Trilogy. If you haven't read Proof, you should do so before reading this novel as most of the plot line results from events in Proof.
It is five years after the horrible murder scene where SWAT team member Lee Watson rescued Keelyn Samuels and her sister Raven. Their father had murdered all the other members of the family, claiming to be influenced by Lucent.
Lee and Keelyn had bumped into each other two years later and developed a relationship. Keelyn and her sister are now estranged.
Keelyn is at a diner waiting for Lee when a man sits down next to her. He claims to be Lucent. But that can't be. The FBI had concluded Lucent was just a hallucination, not an actual human being. He has a message for Keelyn. Raven's child is in danger and needs Keelyn. Keelyn is shocked. She didn't even know Raven had a child.
And then, one by one, the officials involved in that rescue five years ago start dying.

This is another great novel in this series. Again, you'll want to have read the first in the series as so much of the action, the relationships, and the suspense arises out of events in the first book.
I learned about a new type of social science. Keelyn's expertise is in interpreting body language, a relatively new art although scientifically based. Often companies hired her to sit in contract negotiations. She would view interrogations, detecting telltale signs of the individual's truthfulness. It was great to read about how she interprets bodily actions. (Now I know why I like to keep my feet under the table when in a group setting.)

There is plenty of action in this novel, including a suspenseful ending. The plot is quite involved. Desires for revenge can be long lasting and intense. We see that in this plot. An event from decades ago is the origin of this novel's murderous content.
One aspect of police procedure I like is when the authorities are smarter than I am. In this novel, I knew who the bad person was going to be early on. I was disappointed that the police and FBI didn't get on the character's case earlier.

Nonetheless, this is a good novel. The ending seems to wrap up the story so it will be interesting to see what will come in the third book of the series.

Watch the trailer here.

Jordyn Redwood has specialized in critical care and emergency nursing for seventeen years. A member of both the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Christian Fiction Writers association, Jordyn lives in Colorado.

Kregel Publications, 312 pages.

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Rapid Waist Reduction Diet by Don Colbert, MD

“God's desire is for you to feel better and to live longer – and He will help you
reach that goal!” Colbert has written this book to help us get rid of toxic belly fat, a major step to that goal. He presents natural ways to shrink waist size and lose belly fat through diet, supplements, and exercise. He explains the two key culprits: inflammation and wheat (explaining carbohydrates in general).
Our waistline is out lifeline, Colbert writes. Our waist measurement is more important than our weight. He identifies the greatest obstacle to our weight loss: our thinking. He advocates visualizing ourselves at our desired weight.
He outlines the medical conditions that would preclude us from his program as well as a section on understanding the risks involved.
He covers snacks, how to eat at restaurants tips for grocery shopping, a review of supplements, and the importance of activity.

Colbert proscribes a particular ratio of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, soluble fiber, and supplements. (This is based on a modification of the Simeons Protocol.)
Note: Colbert does recommend the use of the hormone hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin. In fact, he advises not to do the diet without it. (99) Also, the list of accepted foods is quite precise. Even though the calorie content of other foods might be the same, they may interfere with the hGC program. (In fact, he has a consent form in an appendix that is to be signed and witnessed.)

Colbert's goal is to get us committed to a healthy lifestyle that gives us he best quality of life possible. He believes the diet he advises in this book will be the last one we ever need.

There is much good material in this book on healthy eating. If you have not read a ton of dieting books, this one will have good material for you. I was disappointed that the use of a hormone is required and that the list of accepted food is quite specific. I would have rather had a diet I could tailor to my own tastes.

Don Colbert, MD, is board-certified in family practice and practices anti-aging and integrative medicine. He is the author of numerous books. He practices in central Florida. Find out more at www.drcolbert.com and http://www.divinehealthwellness.com/.

Siloam (Charisma House Book Group), 232 pages.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality by David H. Jensen

“Sex is an expression of Christian faith... Christian disciples are those who
constrain and channel desire so that they might love God more fully and follow Christ more nearly.”

Off to a good start, Jensen goes downhill from here. His aim is to offer an interpretation of sexual desire grounded in the revelation of the incarnation. The Word became flesh and this flesh includes the blessing of sexual life.

Jensen pays much more attention to various authors than he does to the Bible. He more quickly quotes early Christian mystics or pseudo-Christian authors than he does Scripture. He ignores the Fall of man and evil. And the language he uses is graphic and, I felt, totally offensive and unnecessary.

Chapter 1 is about Scripture and sex. He surveys the approaches, such as it being a guidebook for sexual behavior, or the view that the rules no longer apply, or reading Scripture as a narrative of desire.

Chapter 2 explores triune covenantal God and the connection to human sexuality. He explores the mystics (Christian and non-Christian) with two of his conclusions being that the home of all desire is found in God, and our desire is grounded in God's desire. He ignores the reality of evil and that Satan might generate desire in humans.

Chapter 3 is on how the incarnation affirms the beauty of flesh and counters the violence portrayed in contemporary sex. He explores sex in the resurrection. (He has an odd section here about the man who runs off naked in Mark 14:51-52 as being the same individual appearing at the tomb dressed in white robes, Mark 16:5.)

Chapter 4 focuses on eschatology, particularly as it relates to sexual identity. He reviews various denominational positions. “Our task,” he writes, “in living holy sexual lives is to determine whether we are gay or straight and to live in faithfulness to that calling as we find another to love.” (38%)

Chapter 5 explores the ramifications of the Lord's Supper for human sexuality.

Chapter 6 investigates vocation and sex. He writes of marriage and celibacy, long recognized by the church as Christian vocations. “To these two vocations,” he writes, “I add a third: singleness that does not entail sexual abstinence. Each one of these vocations builds up the body of Christ, each one is holy, each one is a response to a gift of the Spirit...” (65%) “Single Christians date; single Christians have sex... Dating is a reality of single life and it ought to be seen as a component of Christian life. … Thus dating may involve sex, but it does not require it.” (76%)

He integrates prayer and sex and argues, “This is why the case for gay marriage ought to be particularly strong in the Christian church...” (66%) “The Reformed churches, in particular, ought to celebrate gay marriages...” (70%) “...[G]ay marriages anticipate the communion and reconciliation God brings to the world in Jesus Christ.” (71%)

Chapter 7 is about sexual ethics. The traditional approach is that sex is reserved for marriage. Jensen notes that there is no prohibition of premarital sex in the Bible. “Instead of policing premarital sex, the church ought to recognize how and in what ways it may be a good...” (84%) He identifies five markers that identify the sexual part of the abundant life given us in Christ: consent, mutuality, covenant/trust, community, and joy.

He concludes, “...the saints of the church are married and single persons, young and old, gay and straight, celibate and noncelibates.” (89%)

I cannot recommend this book at all. An author who regards more highly what is found in a variety of publications by a variety of writers over that which is found in the Word of God is not an author I respect nor value. Jensen's book is just a rehashing of current liberal thought. (Note: the percentages refer to locations in the digital copy of the book I read.)

David H. Jensen is Professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Chair of Reformed Theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Westminster John Knox Press, 144 pages.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sweet Sanctuary by Kim Vogel Sawyer

What a delightful historical romance.

The time is toward the end of World War II. Lydia Eldredge had served as a nurse at Schofield AFB. She was now back in Boston with her family, taking care of four year old Nicky, the son of her best friend who had died in childbirth. But Nicky's father wants him – to sell him to a childless family. He has become addicted to morphine and needs the money to feed his habit.

Dr. Micah Hatcher, who also served at Schofield, is now in New York City, helping the immigrants in Queens. He receives a letter from Lydia's father,
demanding Micah do the right thing and come support his son Nicky. Micah is dumbfounded. He knows Lydia from their working together five years ago at the air force base but they never, well, the boy just cannot be his son. Micah decides to visit the Eldredge family and put an end to the accusations. He has no idea what his trip will do to set in motion a future he never imagined.

That is the beginning to a heart warming historical romance. Some of the topics readers learn about include smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi territory, morphine addiction, and trusting God for your future. I really appreciated the character development. That Nicky is a great kid! Both Micah and Lydia were so willing to give of their time and energy to help others, even helping the very man who might take Nicky away.

There were certainly enough twists and turns in the plot that the story kept my interest to the very end. And what a rewarding experience to read about lives being changed by the gospel. It was refreshing and inspiring. I love it when authors are not afraid to make faith in Christ an essential part of the novel. It certainly was in this one.

This is a very good novel. Well done!

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

Kim Vogel Sawyer is a bestselling, award-winning author of twenty one novels with more than a millions copies of her books in print. She and her husband live in central Kansas where they run a bed and breakfast, enjoy spending time with their three daughters and nine grandchildren. You can find out more at www.kimvogelsawyer.com and www.TheKinsInnBnB.com.

Bethany House, 352 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.

Get Back Up by Sheryl Giesbrecht

Life is not always easy or fair for Christians. Giesbrecht learned this truth firsthand but also discovered that from the depths of pain, it is possible to be raised up. It is possible to exchange hurt for hope. God is capable of taking our losses and mistakes and turning them into something beautiful – if we just let Him.
This book is born out of brokenness. “There may be a swamp in your path of uncertain destination. This book will help you navigate your way through.” (xvi) Sheryl tells her own story, her hard falls: arrested at sixteen, drug addict, alcoholic. While working at a Christian camp, she realized God loved her and accepted His invitation.
She came to understand that God offers an abundant life, that she was radically loved by God.
But life will knock us flat. Sheryl gives the lessons she has learned from
surviving free-fall so we can be prepared when that happens to us. Essential is believing God's will for us is best. We must choose to believe what God says about us. She writes about the importance of forgiveness, gives practical steps to letting go, advises on prayer, and asking for help.
Sheryl survived stage-four cancer and experienced the sudden death of her husband. She knows dealing with pain and fear. She knows that “...understanding our identities in Christ is absolutely essential to our success at living the victorious Christian life...” (81) She includes a list, “In Christ I Am...”

Sheryl interweaves her own story, those of others, stories from the Bible, with biblical encouragement and the truths of our identity in Christ. She has added great personal reflection and discussion questions at the end of each chapter. This would make a good ten week study for Christian women wanting to know how to successfully deal with the pain in their lives.

Sheryl Giesbrecht is a radio personality, author, and speaker. She was a pastor's wife for over twenty-eight years, is the mother of two adult children, stage-four cancer survivor, and widow. She is passionate about sharing how God takes the ashes of our losses, bitterness, and mistakes, and turns them into something beautiful. Once a rebellious teenager, alcoholic, and drug addict, Sheryl knows what it is to overcome physical addictions. Her radio show, “Kindred Moments,” can be heard each weekday evening and Sunday afternoons on KAXL (www.KAXL.com), and her nationally syndicated radio show, “Turn up the Music with Sheryl Giesbrecht,” at www.KERN.com. Sheryl is the Executive Director of International Christian Ministries (www.ICMUSA.org). Find out more at www.FromAshesToBeauty.com.

Wheatmark, 147 pages. You can purchase a copy of the book here: http://ow.ly/jURSs

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

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore

This is the second in this series (see my review of Angel Eyes here). Dittemore has not provided any back story in this book, so if you have not read the first one, you will be lost in this one. I read the first one about a year ago and had forgotten so much of that book, this one was often confusing for me.

The story of Brielle, who can see the spirit realm, and Jake, who has healing hands, continues. Taking part in the action are Shields, angels who take on human form and watch over the humans to whom they are assigned. We are introduced to Sabres, angels with metallic wings, blades instead of feathers. They were the twelve who originally reported to Lucifer himself, when he was Chief Worshiper. They are responsible for leading all of heaven in worship of the Creator. Their presence, through their worship, thins the veil between the Celestial and the Terrestrial.

There is a new influence in Stratus, a woman who has eyes on Brielle's father. And he has started drinking again. Then Brielle finds a serious irregularity with her mother's grave. As the action in the story progresses, the good and evil spiritual beings come into conflict. Birelle is right in the middle of it.

I was not as satisfied with this novel as I was the first in the series. The action in this one just does not seem to move the story along very much. There are too many loose ends at the conclusion of this book. Olivia, the woman who is after Brielle's father seems originally to be a serious aspect of the novel. But in the latter part of the book, she is no longer involved in the story. And then the part about Brielle's mother, her activities before she is “taken,” well, I just did not like that. That was not believable to me.

Shannon Dittemore has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. The daughter of one preacher and the wife of another, she spends her days imagining things unseen and chasing her two children around their home in Northern California. Find out more at http://shannondittemore.com/.

I am taking part in a CSFF blog tour of this book. Here is a list of other bloggers on the tour. Be sure to check out their reviews.
Gillian Adams Julie Bihn Jennifer Bogart Beckie Burnham Pauline Creeden Janey DeMeo Theresa Dunlap Emma or Audrey Engel Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Becky Jesse Jason Joyner Karielle @ Books à la Mode Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Megan @ Hardcover Feedback Rebecca LuElla Miller Nathan Reimer James Somers Kathleen Smith Jojo Sutis Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Shane Werlinger

Thomas Nelson, 320 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. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Seaside Harmony by Evangeline Kelley

Sam had the idea to bring her sisters together at Nantucket, just like their family had done every summer all those decades ago. While their dad had been gone for some time, they'd lost their mother just six months ago. Sam knew the sisters needed to be together.
Caroline, Sam's oldest sister was sixty one, a travel writer living in England. She'd never married. Caroline traveled a great deal and rarely made it back to the states to see her sisters. Gracie, the middle sister, had wanted to be an architect but when she married, had put her energies into her home and family. Living in Portland, Maine, Gracie missed her husband of forty years but kept busy with her grandchildren. Sam was the youngest at fifty two. She had
been an elementary school teacher and was somewhat enjoying her retirement, transferring her energies to cooking.
Caroline and Gracie had fought like cats and dogs when they were kids. Sam had always been the peacemaker. And she was doing it again. She hoped getting her sisters together for two weeks at their childhood vacation place would encourage them to come to terms with their differences and find a way to get along.

The sisters caught up, reminisced, and were having a pretty good time. One day they walked the beach and came across the old inn where their mother had taken them for tea. As they came closer, they realized something was wrong with the landmark. The colonial style building was abandoned. The windows were shuttered. The plants were overgrown. And hiding in the brush was a weather worn “For Sale” sign.

Caroline was taken with the past memories and the future possibilities of the Misty Harbor Inn. When she suggested the three sisters use the money they inherited from their mother to go together and buy the decrepit inn, sparks begin to fly.

This was a fun novel to read. Coming from a family of four sisters, I loved reading about the interaction of Caroline, Gracie and Sam. Each sister has a unique personality. Each one has hurts they need to deal with, misunderstandings they need to conquer. But sister blood is thick and it was a delight to read how the sisters worked it all out. There is just a hint of romance and mystery to liven up the action too.

Evangeline Kelley is the pen name for the writing team of Patti Berg, Pam Andrews & Barbara Hanson, and Camy Tang. Each of them has published novels individually, but this is their first series together. Patti and her husband live in southwestern Idaho and you can find out more about her at http://pattiberg.com/ Pam & Barbara are a mother-daughter writing team, having written nearly thirty books together. Pam taught at the university level for fifteen years. She and her college professor husband have two sons. Follow her blog at http://pamshanson.blogspot.com. Barbara had already written twenty-one novels before she began writing with her daughter. She is the mother of four anf grandmother of eight. She lives with Pam and her family in Nebraska. Camy graduated from Stanford University and worked as a biologist researcher for nine years before turning to writing full time. She and her engineer husband live in San Jose, California. Find out more at http://camytang.com/.

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

Guidepost Books, 336 pages.
Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

When Jesus Wept by Bodie & Brock Thoene

This is the first novel in a new series by the Thoenes called the Jerusalem Chronicles. This is a novel about Lazarus, the owner of a vineyard in Bethany. Living there with him is his sister Martha. We learn that his half sister Mary is living a distance away. She is an embarrassment to the family, having taken up with a Roman soldier after her older husband from an arranged marriage died.

We follow Lazarus as he first learns of John the Baptist and then goes with a friend to hear him. Lazarus is present when Jesus arrives and is baptized. Lazarus is at his cousin's wedding in Cana when Jesus changes the water to wine. While Lazarus is noted for his fine wine, he is amazed when he tastes that which Jesus has produced.

The friendship between Lazarus and Jesus deepens as their lives intersect. Mary's life is changed by Jesus after she is caught in the act of adultery. And Lazarus must face his bitterness toward a man who was a traitor to Lazarus' father years ago.

The novel is rich with insight into the political situation of the time. We also learn a great deal about vineyards and vine dressing. We also read about the devastation of locusts and a plague that comes upon Jerusalem. Lazarus is quick to help the victims but then becomes one himself.

This is another in the line of great historical novels from the Thoenes. I am always concerned with novels of the time of Jesus for putting words in His mouth not recorded in the gospels makes me very nervous. I think the Thoenes did a fine job with respect to that in this novel.

One aspect of the novel that did make me uneasy was Lazarus' experiences while dead. It was presumptuous, I think, to write of his experience in heaven. I found his encounter with Joseph to be rather odd. I think it would have been better to have left that whole part out, since it is all speculation.

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

Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) are bestselling authors of over sixty-five works of historical fiction, selling more than 35 million copies. They have won eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards. The Thoenes have four grown children and eight grandchildren. They divide their time between Hawaii, London, and Nevada. Find out more about them at http://www.thoenebooks.com/.

Zondervan, 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.

Rescuing Hope by Susan Norris

This is not an easy novel to read. Who wants to read about the sexual exploitation of children? But it is the fastest growing crime in the world today. The average age of a girl entering the sex trade today is between twelve and fourteen years old. Then, the average life expectancy of that girl is only seven more years.
It is estimated that two to three hundred thousand children are at risk of being trafficked every year – in the U. S. Yes, three hundred thousand in the U. S. Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, evil strips innocence from a child and sells her into slavery for sex.

In this novel we follow Hope Ellis. Her parents are divorced and she and her mom have to move away from her best friend. Hope, only fourteen, is befriended by an older man on the public transportation. Slowly but surely, he draws her in until he has convinced her to spend an afternoon with him.
Then he's got her, locked away. He threatens her by claiming he'll kill her mother of she ever disobeys him. Is she lost forever or will she be one of the few rescued?

Although a novel, Susan writes that the events in the book are based on interviews with survivors of human sex trafficking, their families, detectives and people in rescue organizations.

Susan has written this book as a catalyst for conversation between mothers and daughters, among youth groups, book clubs and friends. She has added questions as discussion starters at the end of her book. Also at the end of the book is a list of ministries for your involvement.

This is not an easy novel to read, but it is certainly eye-opening.

Susan Norris is an international speaker helping teens and women find freedom in the areas of purity and sexual identity. A former teacher with a master's of education from UNC-Greensboro, Susan now networks for organizations like Resolution Hope and Not For Sale and raises her voice for victims of sex trafficking across the nation. You can find out more about Susan and how you can get involved at www.susannorris.org.

iUniverse, 195 pages. Buy a copy here.

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

Friday, April 19, 2013

Darkness Before Dawn by Ace Collins

Meg is a twenty-eight year old nurse who finds out her husband has been killed by a drunk teen driver – the same day she finds out she is pregnant. She soon comes to the point of being convinced someone needs to pay for her husband's death. The authorities rebuff her but she manages to find out who the driver was, the son of a wealthy and prominent judge. When it looks like his father's influence will once again let the popular high school athletic star escape responsibility for his actions, Meg is motivated for revenge. She thinks her husband's murder has changed her forever. She is no longer the woman she was.

Some 12,000 people are killed by drunk drivers each year (characters in the book remind us – more than once). And many never end up serving prison time. Hence, the plot for this novel.

Evil is a prominent theme in the book. Evil is destroying Meg's heart. And there is a parallel to the evil of cancer destroying a patient in the hospital, Nancy, whom Meg comes to like. Nancy refuses pain pills because she wants to experience all of life. Meg doesn't want to feel anything.

Nancy contributes an interesting argument about, if God is good, why is there evil in the world? God has not caused the cancer from which she is dying, Nancy says. God gave man control over the earth because he demanded it. Man invited evil to the earth and we have been suffering ever since.

This is a dark novel. Meg is bent on revenge for 87% of the book (ah, the joys of reading a digital edition). Granted, there is a redeeming end to the book. It was a transforming experience, as God's work is, but the rest of the book was hard for me to read. It was just dark. I wanted to quit, but had promised to read the book for this review.

And frankly, I did not think this novel was well written. There were sentences or descriptions that were unnecessary. For example, Meg is buying a yellow rose and the clerk says, “This one will only cost you $2.75 plus tax. Let me see, the total is $2.93.” That does not add to the plot or even the scene, at all. Here's another, “Meg walked the four feet to where Jan stood.” Four feet? That added nothing to the scene. I could give many more examples of odd additions to the text that seemed to be added only for word count, not to really move the novel along.
This is certainly not Ace's best work. I have read others works by him and am a bit puzzled about this one. This book could have benefited from additional editing.
And I am always intrigued when a male author writes a female lead character (or vice versa). That one presumes to know the opposite sex so well as to write their thoughts, well, that's quite a presumption. I don't think Ace got it right in this novel. I don't think we women would become the revengeful Meg. A man, maybe, but not a woman.

If you like to read a novel that is mostly about all the bad things a person bent on revenge wants to do, a novel where the person is transformed near the end, then this novel is for you.

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

Ace Collins is a bestselling author who has written more than 60 books with sales over 1.5 million. His books have become movies and network television specials. He makes his home in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Find out more about him at http://AceCollins.com.

Abingdon Press, 352 pages.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Working Women of the Bible by Susan DiMickele

Susan is a Christian, wife, mother, and lawyer who has been working outside the home since her twelve-year-old son was born. She looks at the working women of the Bible as mentors. She has concentrated on women who worked outside the home or had positions of spiritual or political influence.

Eve made a mess of the work for which God created her. We'll learn lessons about work the hard way too, but we don't give up on God.
Rahab had the occupation no woman wants. She probably used sex to gain advantage in the business world (she owned an inn). Yet God provided a way out her her terrible situation – and she was ready.
Deborah was a woman who new responsibility but was not power hungry. She was a work-at-home mom and God found her faithful. We learn from Deborah, “Start small. Be faithful. Be willing to go big or go home.” (53)

With incredible insight, Deborah investigates the biblical accounts of thirteen women. From Jezebel we find that evil does not discriminate and that a life of evil will not have a happy ending. Huldah reminds us that God often uses unknown women for greatness. From the widow in debt we learn we must ask for help. Esther gives us advise on how to approach our temperamental boss. From the Proverbs 31 woman comes the lesson on integrating work and family – blending rather than juggling. Martha evidences the folly of thinking our performance earns favor with God. Lydia helps us find our own bold style. (Susan is convinced Lydia liked to shop.) Priscilla reminds us that men and women can work well together.

Susan wraps up her book with a chapter on Jesus modeling, valuing, and transforming work.

This book would best be used by relatively new Christians for a thirteen week study (good discussion questions are found at the end of each chapter). Susan retells each of the women's stories and that might be redundant for seasoned Christians. The study will appeal to working women at all levels of jobs or careers.

Susan DiMickele has been a mother for 12 years and a trial lawyer for nearly 18 years, serving as a partner in a large law firm. She has won numerous professional honors. She is the author of Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom's Adventures in Life and Faith (D. C. Cook, 2010). She has authored articles in both faith-based and secular publications. Follow her blog: http://www.susandimickele.com/. Susan and her husband have three children and live in the Columbus, Ohio area.

Leafwood Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When God Makes Lemonade by Don Jacobson

Life is tough. We could all use a little encouragement.

That is exactly what Don offers in this collection of personal stories. He knows that life happens. Jobs are lost, relationships are broken, disaster strikes. In the midst of all the bad that happens in life, all the lemons, lemonade happens too.

Don starts this collection with his own story of being shot accidentally years ago. He found telling his story was an encouragement to others. It also encouraged others to tell their stories. He collects those stories and compiles them into collections like this one.

As is often the case with collections like this one, the stories vary in impact. Some of them are deep and life changing while others are as shallow as an RV breaking down and being repaired by a nice guy. Some of the stories indicate that God intervened. Other stories seem to be just the natural course of events. Some of the stories give God glory while others hardly mention God at all.

These are the kinds of stories that would help a reader who questions what good could possibly come from the situation they are in. Even though the future looks dark, these accounts will encourage the reader to hope for light in the future. They will inspire one to keep trying, to not give up, to realize that character is born from hardship.

Don says his dream for the God Makes Lemonade project “is to be able to publish true stories that will encourage those going through sour experiences [to know] that God is at work making sweet lemonade.”

This is the kind of book that would be wonderful to have in the waiting room of a doctor's office. The stories are short and one could read through a couple in a few minutes. It is also the kind of book to have on your bedside table so you could read one or two each evening. Don't try to read the book from cover to cover, as I did. The nearly 70 stories need to be spread out to be appreciated.

Find out more at www.WhenGodMakesLemonade.com. Visit the website to find out how you might participate in the project of encouragement and hope.

Don Jacobson is himself a lemonade story, being severely injured in a hunting accident when he was 24. The shotgun blast from a defective gun changed his life. “It took a while for God to change lemons into lemonade," Jacobson now admits, “but in the end it was wonderfully sweet.” Don spent 28 years in the Christian publishing industry, as president and owner of Multnomah Publishers where he oversaw the production of over a thousand titles. Multnomah was sold to Random House in 2006. He later founded D.C. Jacobson & Associates, an author management company. Don and his wife of 35 years live in Portland, Oregon. They have four adult children.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 350 pages.

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The House that Love Built by Beth Wiseman

Brooke is a single mom . Her husband had died in an auto accident two years before, a drunk driver ripping him away from her life. Now she's making a life for herself and her two kids, owning the hardware store in their small community.

But Brooke has trouble. Her mother has moved into a retirement home, against Brooke's wishes. And her mother has taken up with a man. Brooke makes an unannounced visit to her mom and finds her with the man – her estranged father! Brooke is beside herself. He had abandoned his family for another woman when Brooke was twelve. The long term bitterness against her father is flamed anew.

To add to Brooke's trouble is Owen Saunders. He bought the old house that had been empty for years – to spite his ex-wife. He had caught his wife and his business partner together, finding out they'd been together for a year. He sold his half of the business to his partner, had a nasty divorce, is still bitter, and wants nothing to do with women right now. Betrayal was a tough thing to get past.
Brooke is certainly not ready to date. But Owen is a nice fellow, and he does need lots of help in restoring the old home. And Brooke is lonely. Maybe they can just be friends.

An added plot twist is Hunter, a young teen living with his grandmother as his parents are in drug rehab. He's a thief, getting money to supplement his grandmother's inadequate income. He and Owen cross paths late at night, Hunter on the run. Owen feels compelled to help him.

This is a romance novel with a few twists. Girl meets boy and it looks like they are made for each other. Both girl and boy have lots of issues to work through. Will healing occur and love win out?
The theme of forgiveness is major in this novel. Brooke can't forgive her father and Owen can't forgive his ex-wife. The theme of second changes is also major. Another theme is love and this one has two love experiences juxtaposed. On the one hand is a life long love despite betrayal. On the other hand one reads of the (lack of) love a parent has for a child.
The characters are pretty well developed. I loved Brooke's children. They are a delight. The Christianity of the characters is well presented and an essential part of their lives.

I thought the romance went a little fast, considering how adamant Brooke and Owen were presented at the beginning. And with Owen, it has not been long since his divorce – much less than a year, we find out. I am not so sure that is appropriate and that he has had sufficient time to heal. Other then that, a fine Christian romance novel.

I am participating in a blog tour of this novel. You can read other reviews here.

Beth Wiseman is a Carol-award winner and author of numerous bestsellers including the Daughters of the Promise and the Land of Canaan series. She and her family live in Texas. You can find out more at http://bethwiseman.com/ Facebook (Fans-of-Beth-Wiseman) or Twitter (@bethwiseman).

Thomas Nelson, 352 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.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah's life was in freefall.
Cade, her first son, had been born with Down Syndrome. Her husband, Gabe, had the opportunity to go to New York for ministry. Leaving Atlanta and her friends was difficult for Rebekah. The disruption in her life was overwhelming. Her life was in rapid descent.
She wanted to run but God told her to stay in freefall.
She found community, the real intimate kind, in a group of moms. Then came the downward spiral of panic attacks. Something inside her was dying and the descent accelerated.
Rebekah interweaves remembrances with her current experiences, such as reminiscing about her father's nervous breakdown.
Then came depression (she had already experienced seasonal depression in Atlanta).
A vacation on a Greek isle was encouraging and she realized hope was being reborn. She understood that for most of her adult life she had been searching for the wrong treasure. She'd lost touch with who she was designed to be.
She was ready to soar but would go through the nosedive of panic attacks returning, then a miraculous recovery. She was able to uncover her life mission while attending a seminar.

Rebekah feels she has been called to share her struggles openly, honestly, embarrassingly. She wants others to be able to face their pain and emptiness head on. “Women shouldn't have to feel they are alone.” (158)
Rebekah has journaled through her experiences and has written this book as a result. 

This book would be an encouragement for women experiencing panic attacks or depression. They would benefit from reading of another's experience. Rebekah is certainly honest in sharing her experiences and ultimately finding meaning and purpose.
She writes, “Each of us must find out own path to totter down as we seek to live out our purpose. We must find those God-gifts that make us uniquely us, and then pair them with a burden that those gifts fit like a key. When we do, rescue will flood into our lives. And in the deluge, we'll begin to discover meaning.” (161)

You can read an excerpt and watch a video here.

Rebekah Lyons serves alongside her husband, Gabe, as cofounder of Q Ideas, an organization that helps leaders winsomely engage culture. You can find out more at www.rebekahlyons.com.

Tyndale House Publishers, 200 pages.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Are you being called to go cash?

Bring Your Money Into the Light
Article written by Christy Fitzwater, author of the e-book: Going Cash

For the first two decades of our married life, I handled all the finances and did it poorly. Of course, I didn't know I was doing it poorly, but now I do.

I thought it was great that I was taking care of the money, so my husband didn't have to worry about it. It seemed like a good wifely thing to do, taking that burden off his already heavy plate. But now I see that what happened was me and the money went into a dark room, and bad things happen in the dark.

Matt's really frugal, and he didn't need money for stuff most of the time. But then every once in a while he would say, Hey, can we buy... I would go ballistic. Are you crazy? Do you know what our finances look like? No we don't have money for that!

Of course he didn't know what our finances looked like. 

The money was in the dark.

A few years ago my monthly spending got really bad. We were starting to spend money we didn't have, encroaching into the next month's paycheck ---a dangerous place to be. I realized one day that I was swiping the debit card without evening looking at the amount I was spending. I would leave the grocery store having no clue what I had just done to our monthly budget. 

Until the bank statement came, and I would be appalled at what I had spent. But that's what happens when the money is in the dark.

So in frustration three years ago, I decided to follow my friend's lead and go to using all cash. 

Best decision EVER.

You know what happened? I went to the bank and saw the money in the envelope. I

put money for Matt in separate envelopes for his spending ---right out there where he could see how much he had. I placed real money in see-through plastic sleeves in a purse-sized money organizer. Now even the kids can see how much clothing and allowance money they have.

Jesus says, "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:21 NIV)

I used to be horrified to talk to Matt about the state of our finances. It didn't seem nearly so bad when it was just me and the money in the dark, but when I pulled out the truth for him to see I would realize how bad it was. Now that we have gone to using all
cash, I have no shame. We all can see how much money there is. Our spending is well under control. (Thank God!) It has brought a peace into our marriage that I didn't know was missing until I experienced it.

So let me ask you---is your money in the dark where things go bad, or have you brought your finances into the light?

To read more from Christy Fitzwater or download Going Cash, visit her blog at www.christyfitzwater.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@Christy_Fitz). 

Permission to reprint from Litfuse Publicity Group.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson

Shannon's life fell apart in 2005. First, she and her long time boyfriend, the man with whom she was smitten, broke up. A few days later, she received the phone call. Rafting the Hulahula River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he dad and step-mom were attacked and killed by a grizzly. (Before and since their death, there has been no known humans killed by bears in the Refuge.)
A year later, Shannon was on that same river, taking the same trip, with her adopted brother and woman who was his work colleague.

The trip would be a sacred journey, a pilgrimage. She would come to realize that the reason for the trip was to face the beast of grief within herself. She was also waiting to hear from God, not sure of what he would say or how He would say it.

She interweaves her family story and her experience with singing into her account of the rafting trip. Her father had been drafted for the Vietnam war but his law degree allowed him to be posted to Alaska. After his military commitment was completed, he stayed in Alaska, practicing law in Anchorage. Shannon grew up in Alaska but ended up working in Seattle after her college experience.

As Shannon flies to the drop off point, she thinks, “It would be easier not to believe in God. It would be easier not to have to make sense of this. Maybe this place was too far north for prayer, too far north for hope.” (61)

There are two aspects of this book that will appeal to readers. First is Shannon's journey through grief. She writes with candor as she comes to grips with the untimely and tragic death of her father and step-mother.
The second aspect is the adventure of Alaska. Readers will learn about migrating birds and animals like the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Shannon also includes in her narrative other journeys she has made into the Alaska wilderness, such as hiking Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains.

This is a moving narrative of grief, searching for meaning in the midst of tragedy, and finding the comforting presence of God.

View the book trailer here.

Shannon Huffman Polson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated with a BA from Duke University in English Literature, an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth, and an MFA from Seattle Pacific University. She served eight years as an attack helicopter pilot in the Army and worked five years in corporate marketing and management roles before turning to writing full time. She is an avid outdoors person, enjoying backpacking, skiing, climbing, diving, etc. In 2009, she received the Trailblazer Woman of Valor award from Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell. Find out more at http://aborderlife.com/

Zondervan, 256 pages. Publisher's product page.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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