Friday, May 31, 2013

The Point by William E. Jefferson

Hollie and Goodwin Macbreeze travel to the Isle of Estillyen for inspiration and refreshment. Hollie has recently found out she has polycystic kidney disease and wants to think about it and life. Creative monks on the island stage dramatic readings based on biblical stories. Hollie looks forward to the time of reflection, thinking deeply about the biblical events.

Goodwin has another goal. As a child he had sketched a cottage on Estillyn his grandfather used to visit. Now that his grandfather has passed away, Goodwin wants to find the cottage and understand his attraction to it.

What they find on Estillyen is more than they could have ever imagined. Goodwin meets the owner of the cottage, a recluse. Oban Ironbout is a man deeply hurt. As Hollie describes her experience with Oban, “He didn't just speak sorrowful words, he became the words. He was Burden, the character true to form. The characters Misery, Bitterness, Defiance...” (116-7)

But God has plans for Oban Ironbout and those plans include Goodwin and Hollie.

This is a very interesting novel. It is hard to describe. It is a novel about words, about their meaning and influence. The monks on the island are very creative in their story telling, emphasizing the importance of words. The characters say lots of words. And Jefferson himself masterfully used words in the creation of this novel.

There are several stories going on at the same time in this novel. Hollie and Goodwin are trying to come to grips with their future. Oban has a past that has captured him and held him prisoner. And the monks, the monks want to bring people into a place where they can contemplate their faith in a community discussion setting.

This is the kind of book that you'll want to read over again, savoring the stories and the words that are used to create them. This is the kind of book you will want to read and then discuss with others, especially the stories the monks tell.

The only aspect of this book that makes it less than perfect, I think, is that it is very wordy. I know, it is a book about words, but there are times when a conversation just goes on and on. With the plot of the book as it is, I think a more concise book would have worked better.

William Jefferson helped to structure and implement global initiatives and programs for prominent organizations such as the American Bible Society, United Bible Societies, the International Bible Society (Biblica), and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He holds a master of theology degree in Theology and Media from the University of Edinburgh, and a master of arts degree in Communications from Wheaton Graduate School.

Go to to find out more about the book and the author.

Port Estillyen Productions, 296 pages.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

By Grace Alone by Derek Prince

I believe legalism is the greatest problem of the Christian church. Legalism is, first of all, the attempt to achieve righteousness with God by keeping a set of rules.” (157) In this book, compiled from a series of spoken messages, the purpose is to discover what does and does not matter in our Christian walk. The problem of legalism is identified and we are helped to eliminate it from our life, yielding a new understanding of grace.

Prince was convinced that we Christians fail to live the kinds of lives God wants us to live because we are unclear about the relationship between law and grace. He gives basic definitions of both and argues that they do not mix.

He explains the law of Moses, how Christ fulfilled it, that Christians are no longer under it, the reason for its being given, and its effects on those who try to keep it.

He then looks at what God does require of Christians living under grace, what obedience means, how God enables us by grace, the distinctions in the Old and New Covenants, how their operations differ, the contrast between grace and works, receiving grace, how to recognize it in our life, and how to freely give it.

Prince uses lots of Scripture to argue that we must stop trying to earn God's approval by keeping a set of rules. “...[W]hen Christ died on the cross, He once for all time, ended the Law as an acceptable means for achieving righteousness with God. We have, therefore, no other alternative – it is grace or nothing.” (162)

Prince points out that learning to rely on God's grace is a lifelong process. He has given us the tools to begin that process in this book. I highly recommend it. Get started living by God's grace today.

Derek Prince (1915-2003) was born in India of British parents. Educated as a scholar of Greek and Latin at Eton College and Cambridge University, he held a Fellowship in Ancient and Modern Philosophy at King's College. While serving with the British army in World War II, he began to study the Bible and experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. It altered the course of his life, which he then devoted to studying and teaching the Bible. He is the author of more than 50 books. Derek Prince Ministries continues his work. You can find out more at

Chosen Books, 240 pages. Visit the publisher's product page.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Ryan and Josh were like so many young people in church today. They looked like such nice young Christians, but underneath that outer appearance, they had a huge inner hunger gnawing at them. They decided to give up on church. That life was even worse.

Their experience is common for kids who grow up in church. Most young people between sixteen and twenty-six experience a faith crisis.

Ryan and Josh discovered that what they thought was their faith wasn't. It was their parents' faith, their youth pastor's. It was something they had inherited. It was secondhand faith.

What is described in this book is how to experience firsthand faith – faith that is centered deep in your mind and heart. Ryan and Josh lay out the truths that helped them as they pursued their firsthand faith. They tackle the problems people experience on their journey. They use their own experience as the basis for this book, but they also share the experiences of others.

Subjects they write about include God getting our attention, being honest, real change, forgetting the checklist, questioning and doubting, and getting into community. They end each chapter with a Think About It section of questions and then, Might Try This, one or more suggestions.

There is more to Christianity than living by someone else's faith. Ryan and Josh invite you along on their journey to a life of real and personal relationship with God. It will take time and effort but the fruit will be the kind of life you were created for. If you a cynical about the church, are new to Christianity, or just want to strengthen your faith, this book will be an encouragement.

Go to to watch a short video, read the first chapter, and join in the discussion.

A note on the size of the book. The print is large and the lines per page are few (just 26 while most books have 35 to 40). So the actual word content of the book is equivalent to 130 to 150 pages.

Ryan Shook is a filmmaker and blogger. A graduate of Baylor University, he and his wife live in Los Angeles, California.
Josh Shook is a musician, song writer and graduate of Belmont University. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

WaterBrook Press, 208 pages.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Merlin's Blade by Robert Treskillard

The story of King Arthur is buried somewhere in legend and Treskillard has begun to uncover it in this historical fantasy.

Merlin is an important character in the Arthur legends and this novel gives us a plausible way he came into King Arthur's service.

The novel centers on the pagan druidow trying to overturn the Christian influence in Britain. Their leader has found a stone, a meteorite, that has amazing power, evil power. This stone epitomizes the devil and his hatred for Christ. The druidow use this stone on the people in Merlin's village, to entice them back to belief in the ancient gods.

Merlin is a young man nearly blind from an attack by wolves. The son of a smithy, he did not want to get involved in the spiritual battle. But he had to. “Merlin could feel it. Change. Change that would sweep across Britain, erase the name of Christ from the people's memory, and bring suffering and bondage in its wake.” (204)

I am not an avid reader of Arthurian tales but I really liked this novel. It brought to the forefront the spiritual battle between Christians and the druids in the fifth-century. The spiritual future of Britain is at stake. And Merlin is such a little guy, so to speak. He's nearly blind (but that turns out to be an advantage). He's not a burly swordsman. But he has the courage to fight for what he knows is right for Britain. I really like him as a hero.

I also like learning about what Christianity was like in Britain during that time. We sometimes think Christianity has always been like we experience it today. This novel is a good reminder that many have had to fight so that Christianity would survive the attacks of evil.

And fight Merlin did. There is tons of action in this novel, and just a bit of romance. But this is just the beginning of the story. I look forward to the successive books in this series.

Go to Treskillard's website to find out more about the book, enter a contest, get free wallpaper, and discussion questions. Read his blog here.

Watch the book trailer here.

Robert Treskillard is a Celtic enthusiast who holds a B.A. In Biblical & theological Studies from Bethel University. He is a software developer, graphic artist, sometimes bladesmith, and has been crafting stories since his childhood. He and his wife have three children and live near St. Louis, Missouri.

Zondervan, 432 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

I am taking part in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour for this book. You can read other reviews at the bloggers below.

Noah Arsenault Beckie Burnham Keanan Brand Jeff Chapman Laure Covert Pauline Creeden Emma or Audrey Engel April Erwin Victor Gentile Ryan Heart Timothy Hicks Jason Joyner Carol Keen Krystine Kercher Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Kathleen Smith Jojo Sutis Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Shane Werlinger Nicole White

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher, in cooperation with the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, for the purpose of this review.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Face of the Earth by Deborah Raney

Mitch Brannan's life changes forever when he comes home from work one evening to find that his wife, Jill, is not there. Her phone message had cheerfully announced she was leaving the conference she had attended and would be home by dinner. Hours go by but she never arrives home. Mitch contacts the police but they have no leads. Then a day goes by. Then two.

Frustrated by the lack of progress the police are showing, Mitch tries to find out himself what happened to his wife. He even gets Jill's best friend, their next door neighbor Shelley, to help.

Weeks turn into months with no clues to Jill's disappearance. And Shelley is such a help to Mitch and his two college age kids. Then Mitch realizes his feelings toward Shelley are not exactly those of mere friendship. And she
seems to be reciprocating.

Raney has penned a good study in character. What is a Christian man to do when his wife has been missing for nearly a year and he is having serious feelings for the woman who is his wife's best friend? I always find it interesting when an author writes a novel with the main character of the opposite sex. I think Raney did a pretty good job, however, on portraying the male lead character. But then, I'm a woman.

And the plot is not all that unrealistic. Thousands of people go missing each year with hundreds of the cases remaining open, never having been solved. I did feel like the novel was a bit long for the plot line though. But I can see that if a Christian man is going to have romantic feelings for a woman, it had better be months and months after his wife has gone missing.

I did feel like the way the mystery was solved was a bit out of left field. That was probably the most unrealistic aspect of the novel for me. Then, poof, the novel is over, after such an agonizingly long wait. That didn't work for me.

This is a pretty good novel but not the best I have read from Raney.

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

Howard Books, 368 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

Deborah Raney is the award winning author of several novels. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was the inspiration for World Wide Pictures' film of the same title. She has also written nonfiction books and articles and often speaks at women's retreats and writer's conferences. She and her husband have four children and live in Kansas. Find out more about her at

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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Not by Sight by Kathy Herman

This is the first is a new series from Herman, the Ozark Mountain Trilogy.

It's been five years since Micah and little Riley Jo went fishing and never came back. The novel centers on how the family members deal with the tragedy. Teen-aged Abby never loses faith in God. Her older brother Hawk is bitter. Her mother Kate has given up her faith in God.

The title of this novel comes from 2 Corinthians 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight.” That theme was certainly evident in this novel.

Herman has done a good job in exploring how people deal with their faith in God when life is not they way they had anticipated. Abbey's faith and her mom's lack of it form the tension in the story line. This is seen in the following exchange.
Abby: “You have to have faith.”
Kate: “I had faith, Abby. It didn't change anything.”
Abby: “You gave up. That's not faith.” (103)

I live in the Pacific Northwest and it was very interesting to read about the strange mountain people in the Ozarks.

The ending is emotional so be sure to have your tissues handy.

The only detraction in this fine novel was that it was too long. Novels in this genre are usually around 300 pages. The novel could have been that length. I felt the extra suspense in the last hundred pages was unnecessary. Nonetheless, this is a good novel. I do like the way Herman writes and will be looking forward to the next in the series.

Kathy Herman is a best-selling author who has written nineteen novels since retiring from her family's Christian bookstore business. She and her husband have three grown children and live in Tyler, Texas. See more about Kathy Herman at or

David C. Cook, 400 pages.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How Then Shall We Worship? by R. C. Sproul

Sproul notes it is the nature of man to worship God. But since the Fall, this nature has been damaged. We tend to idolatry. We cannot just follow our desires for worship. We must direct ourselves, he argues, to worship following the instructions in Scripture.

With that introduction, Sproul sets out to give the basic principles of worship found in Scripture as well as the models displayed there. Our overriding concern needs to be what is pleasing to God. We cannot neglect the Old Testament. There we can discern patterns of worship God has revealed. Worship for Israel was understood basically as praise, prayer, and sacrifice. Sproul explores the attitude of the worshiper as well as the meaning of spiritual worship.

He then examines the sacraments of the New Testament church, baptism and the Lord's Supper. After beginning with why God gave sacraments, he explores the meaning of baptism and defends infant baptism as the biblical view (by inference). He explains the various views of Christ's presence, or lack of it, in the Lord's Supper.

Sproul speaks of the desire to sense the presence of God in worship. He shows how Israel's worship involved all the senses. He then gives examples of how worship today can also involve all the senses.

There is an extensive study guide at the end of the book is nearly eighty pages long. It could be used by a person with the aim of teaching a class on worship or used by a group for discussion. This book would a good choice for Sunday School class or a church board discussion.

I encourage Christians to read this book. Even if you do not agree with all Sproul teaches, such as infant baptism, there is much important material in this book. If you truly want to understand how to please God in your worship, this is a good place to begin.

Note: this is a reprint of the book that came out in 2006, A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity.

Dr. R. C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier ministries. He also serves as co-pastor at Saint Andrew's, a Reformed congregation in Sanford, Florida, and as the president of Reformed Bible College. He is the author of more than eighty books. He and his wife live in Longwood, Florida.

David C. Cook, 256 pages.

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

Friday, May 24, 2013

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an by James R. White

White analyzes the Qur'an and its teachings on issues of most interest to Christians in their dialog with Muslims. This includes What the Qur'an says about who God and Jesus are, what God's purposes are, and how we are to know God.

White does not try to refute the Qur'an. He does point out the main areas of conflict and gives reasons for not believing it is a revelation from God.

He explores the origin of the Qur'an and the history of Muhammad, including controversial traditions. He covers the importance of monotheism to Muslims, frequently pointing out where the Qur'an gives a misunderstanding of Christianity. “The Qur'an is in error in its view of Christian belief.” (98) He notes the troubling teaching that Muslims are to fight against those who do not believe in Allah, who do not adopt the Muslim religion.

After questioning the accuracy of the Qur'an, White explores the reliability of the New Testament accounts. He notes that “the Qur'an stands firmly and inalterably against the mass of historical evidence” when it comes to the cross. (137) He also explores what Islam teaches about salvation, sin, and forgiveness and how that compares with the Bible. He refutes the Muslim claim that Christians corrupted the gospel. (White says this topic is the most important one he addresses in this book and every Christian should be prepared to discuss it.)

Other topics include the fact that Muhammad was not prophesied about in the Bible, the Qur'an falls short of perfection when scrutinized the same way Muslims do the Bible, that the author of the Qur'an had no direct knowledge of or access to the New Testament, and the problems with the controlled transmission of the Qur'an text.

One of his conclusions: “If the Qur'an means what it says, then we must judge by the standard it commands us to use. When we do, Muhammad fails the test of a prophet... Every Muslim must give serious consideration to this dilemma, one that is brought upon him or her by the very text of the Islamic holy book.” (187) White later notes that the Qur'an also fails the test commanded in Surah 5:47. (286)

White investigates and quotes the Qur'an and the hadith texts at length so that Muslims will know it has been fairly and honestly examined. He includes a call for Muslims to consider Jesus in his conclusion.

This is not a fluffy book. White has gone to great lengths to make the teachings of the Qur'an, often a mysterious and confusing book, accessible to Christians. If you anticipate dialogging with a Muslim, you need to have this book as a resource.

James R. White is the author of several books. He is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and blogs at the ministry site, He is a respected debater and an elder at the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. He and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bethany House Publishers, 320 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Offering by Angela Hunt

We live in an era when medical procedures present previously unexperienced ethical issues. In this novel, Hunt tackles the practice of surrogacy.

Amanda is the wife of Gideon, a soldier in military special ops, and the mother of their young daughter. Gideon had dreamed of opening up a music store when his time of service was over but money is an issue. Mandy hears of a possible way to earn more money in nine months than Gideon would make in a whole year. She would act as a gestational carrier for a childless couple.

Amanda is shocked when, two years after the birth of the boy, she sees a photograph of the child she carried. Could it be? He looks like he belongs in her family, not theirs.

Amanda faces a dilemma that was unknown before our time of “miracle” medical procedures. And the thrust of Hunt's book is all about facing these terrible dilemmas.

Be warned: This is a heart wrenching book. It is not a fluffy, feel good novel. The issues Amanda faces are serious and painful. And the choice she makes is certainly controversial. I thought she made the right choice but I know that others would violently disagree. Because of that, I think this would make an excellent novel for a reading group. I know there will be strong feelings all around. There are questions at the back of the book for discussion, but I think there would be lively discussion even without them.

In “A Conversation with Angela Hunt” at the back of the book, she says she has “no problem with IVF or surrogacy as long as everyone involved fully understands the bioethical issues and resolves to preserve all human life.” I think she has done an excellent job in this novel of bringing all of those issues to the forefront. I know there were several aspects of the process that I did not know about – ones that are certainly troubling for Christians.

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

Angela Hunt is the best selling author of over a hundred books. Her novels have won or been nominated for numerous awards, including the RITA, the Christy Award, the ECPA Christian Book Award, and the Holt Medallion. She is a frequent workshop teacher and speaker at writers' conferences. She and her husband live in Florida. You can find out more at

Howard Books, 320 pages.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Wings by Donna Stanley

Donna has a teenage daughter who loves to read about the supernatural. When she couldn't find a suitable book for her daughter that wasn't about vampires and witches, she decided to write one herself.

This is a great book for teens. It reminded me of the Peretti books because we readers get to see the angels and demons at work. Seventeen year old Olivia is the heroine (named after Donna's daughter). She can see her guardian angel, Mike. He protects her several times and encourages her in her prayer life. Olivia finds that there are other people, although few, who can see into the spirit realm as she can.

Donna tackles some important issues for teens in this novel. Be prepared. The novel covers some serious topics, like cutting , date rape, bullying, and other issues confronting teens today. Some of the scenes are descriptive (although nothing I found offensive). Because of the serious nature of the topics in this novel, I would recommend it to older teens, juniors and seniors in high school. I think it might be a bit much for younger teens.

The lessons Olivia learns in this novel are many. Perhaps the most prominent is the importance of prayer. Olivia and her friends pray, responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and release the angels to do their work. What an encouragement to teens to pray, knowing that they are taking part in the spiritual warfare going on around them.

Whenever there is fiction about the supernatural, I pay particular attention. I am very happy with Donna's novel. Theologically, I think it is right on.

I really enjoyed this novel. If you would like a novel for your teen to read that is a page turner as well as instructive and encouraging, this is the novel.

Donna Stanley lives in the beautiful Endless Mountains of northeastern
Pennsylvania with her husband and their teenage daughter. She attended Philadelphia Biblical University, Moody Bible Institute, and Mansfield University, where she studied angelology, demonology, and the anthropology of religion. She was a youth leader for ten years and a pastor's wife for sixteen years. She now serves as a young adult mentor and leader in her local church. Find out more at

Creation House, 240 pages.

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Magnificent Malevolence by Derek Wilson

It has been fifty years since the death of C. S. Lewis and over seventy years since he introduced us to The Screwtape Letters. Wilson felt the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis' death was an appropriate occasion for a “Hell update.” It is the same war but the weapons and the tactics are different.

The style is a bit different from The Screwtape Letters, which were, well, letters. This novel is mostly descriptive narrative. Another difference between the two books is that this one covers the work of the devils over the seventy years since Screwtape and the church as a whole whereas The Screwtape Letters concentrated on a rather short period of time and one person being tempted.

So, this book is different in style, different in content, and different in emphasis from the one it says it is “in the tradition of.” I would not describe it that way. It is a valiant attempt but the style and content are so different from the original, I would not say it is in the same tradition. Same subject, perhaps, but not same tradition.

So the book covers the nearly seven decades from 1942 to 2007 (where the account breaks off). Crumblewit, the main character, says their aim is to undermine the attempt of Christians to bring love, peace, and justice to bear on world events and to carry out the mission entrusted to them by Jesus. One of their most successful ploys has been to distort Christian truths. They also discourage Christians from thinking, encourage getting ineffective people in places of power in churches, increase suspicion and hostility between denominations, prevent church members from actually doing anything, divert the energy of Christians to the political arena, get Christians to accumulate wealth, use Christian music to cause discord, get them distracted with dates of Christ's return, and generally keep Christians obsessed with their short stay in the material world.

This book is very informative as to how the devil has worked in the last several decades. For seniors, it brings back many memories. For younger Christians, it is a good introduction as to how the church has bounced around, succumbing to distracting movements and beliefs.

The Screwtape Letters is a hard act to follow. A Christian learns much about how the devil tempts Christians individually in it. This novel is more about movements and beliefs, in general, and not about personal or individual temptations (although Crumblewit does give some personal examples). This is not the best I've read “in the Screwtape tradition.”

Derek Wilson is a popular historian and the author of over 50 books. He has written and presented numerous television programs. He lives and writes in Devon, UK.

Lion Fiction (distributed in the U. S. by Kregel Books), 240 pages.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart

This is a haunting novel.

When the rural sheriff and local doctor respond to the suicide of a fellow known to be a recluse and somewhat strange, they accidentally find another body – buried in the floor of the barn.

From this opening, Baart weaves two stories. The reader follows them in alternating chapters. The one story is in the present and follows the doctor and his attempt to find the identity of the young girl found buried. The other story is from the past and follows a girl as she grows up through high school.

The novel is haunting because you think you know that the two stories must intersect. You just don't know how.

Although the novel is generally well written, I did have a couple issues with it. I thought the epilogue unreasonable. The family apparently waited at least two months to have the graveside service for the recovered body. I don't think they would wait that long. The other unreasonable aspect of the epilogue was the drastic change in the relationship between the doctor and his wife. While readers are given many, details about the troubled marriage earlier in the novel, poof, at the end, all is changed – in about two months.

My biggest disappointment is the lack of Christian influence in the book. A couple of the characters “used to go to church” or something, but that was about it. There was so much potential in the novel for readers to be confronted with the power and comfort of the gospel. But it was not there. (I expected Christianity because the novel is published under the Christian imprint of Simon & Schuster, Howard Books.)

Yes, it is a haunting novel. It also left me dissatisfied.

Nicole Baart was born and raised in a small town in Iowa. She and her husband have three young sons. After the adoption of their infant son, Nicole discovered a deep passion for global issues and co-founded a nonprofit organization, One Body One Hope, that works alongside a church and orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia.

Howard Books (the Christian imprint of Simon & Schuster), 368 pages.

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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Francis: Man of Prayer by Mario Escobar

Many people were surprised when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Latin American man virtually unknown among the majority of Catholics, became Pope Francis. To help us know what this might mean for the Catholic Church, Escobar explores the life and thoughts of one of the most powerful men in the world.

Bergoglio was born in 1936 into a family that had immigrated to Buenos Aires from Piedmont, Italy in 1929. As a teen, his heart was torn between a girlfriend and the priesthood. But when he was sixteen, he experienced a spiritual calling during confession. He broke up with his girlfriend and four years later entered seminary, choosing the Order of Jesuits. Escobar reviews his academic life and his experiences in Argentina during dictatorship.

He became a bishop at age 55 and archbishop in 1997 (he declined to live in the luxurious archbishop's palace and still took public transportation). He was ordained as cardinal in 2001. He quickly became well known and respected in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Escobar reviews the founding of the Society of Jesus in the sixteenth century, its history and theology. I didn't realize that, according to the rules of the Society of Jesus, any member who is named bishop ceases to be under the order's jurisdiction, or as Arregi said, ceases to be a Jesuit.

Other insights Escobar offers include how the papal electoral system evolved and currently works, a review of recent conclaves, Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, the choice of Francis for his name, the issues confronting the Pope, the possible impact of being the first Pope from the Americas and of being the first from the Jesuits, and more.

He ends his book with a number of quotes from Pope Francis and a chronology.

For a Protestant like me, this is a great introduction to Pope Francis and what his time at leading the Catholic Church may bring. I appreciated the historical information in the book too. The book is concise and would be of benefit to anyone wanting to know more about the current Pope and the future of the Catholic Church.

Mario Escobar has written about the Inquisition, the Reformation, and religious sects. He contributes to various publications. For more information see

Thomas Nelson, 224 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Cat That God Sent by Jim Kraus

As someone who lives in a multi-cat household, does God really use a cat to help people? Oh, that's right. This is fiction!

Seriously, this is a fun book to read, whether you are a cat lover or not. Jake Wilkerson was let go from his previous associate pastor position because he expressed doubts about his belief in God. He landed a new pastoral position in a small Pennsylvania town by keeping his doubts a secret.

The day he arrives at the rural church, the one with the crooked steeple, a cat shows up too. Jake doesn't know it, but that cat is on a mission from God. Jake decides to let the cat stay and that changes him and the entire community.

This is a cleverly written novel. The cat, Petey, knows people don't learn from words. They learn by experience. So Petey helps humans find the truth, then they can feel they found it all on their own.

I loved the quirky characters in this rural town! Some of those back woods people...well, you'll just have to read the novel. I was fascinated to see how some of those hardened characters were softened by a cat.

There are several themes Kraus weaves through the book. Keeping secrets is a big one. Another is the difficulty of having a good image of God as Father when you don't have a good image of your own (earthly) father. And the last one is about abortion.

One aspect of the novel was less than perfect. Characters in the novel kept talking about belief in God (including Jake, the pastor). There is never a firm statement about belief in Jesus as Savior. That makes this book acceptable to lots of God-believers but does nothing to inform the reader about the need for salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Cat That God Sent was nominated for the 2013 ECPA book of the year.

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

Jim Kraus grew up in Western Pennsylvania and has spent the last twenty years as vice president of a major Christian publishing house. He has written more than twenty books, including the best-selling The Dog That Talked to God. He and his family live outside of Chicago with a miniature Schnauzer and an ill-tempered Siberian cat named (of course) Petey. Learn more about Jim at

Abingdon Press, 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.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Crushed by J. Shan Young, MD

I have never read a book like this before – an enhanced ebook. I think what I just experienced is the future of book publishing.

First, the format of the book. I read this book on my iPad, as it was an iTunes book. There are videos embedded in the text. Tap the arrow and a short video by Dr. Young runs. There are also highlighted words, words in color. Tap on one of them and I was immediately taken to an article or some other resource on that topic. You would have to be reading the book in a wi-fi environment for those links to work.
This format was amazing. If I didn't know a technical word, tap, and there was a Wikipedia article.

Second, the content of the book. The full title of this book is Crushed: A Physician Analyzes the Agony of Jesus. I have never read such a complete study on the Passion of Jesus. First he lays the historical and biblical background. He relates a great deal of the Old Testament to the Passion. He includes the stories and ceremonies, not just the prophecies.

Then he investigates the actual Passion of Christ. The amount of information in this book is incredible. I have never read anything so detailed as to the physical experiences of Jesus during His Passion. He suggests Jesus' torture was much worse than those crucified with Him as they could carry their crosses while Jesus could not.
I had never read about the lictors before nor the game the Roman soldiers played called Basalinda. Young included insight into the shape of the crown of thorns and has a very moving section on Jesus' experience of hematidrosis, sweating blood. This condition made His skin hyper-sensitized so that the beating He experienced was all the more excruciating.

Young began studying the Passion of Jesus as a teenager. For the next three decades, he read hundreds of articles and books written from almost every possible perspective about the crucifixion of Christ and fulfillment of messianic prophecies. His research shows as there are some 40 pages of bibliography.

There was only one tiny aspect of the book I did not like and that was the inclusion of some fictional accounts at the beginning of a new section of the book. For example, he supposes the scene when Abraham is holding the knife over Isaac: “Sweat poured from his body... His hands trembled... His stomach churned...” That is conjecture as it is not in the biblical account. He also explored Aesop's fable of The Hare and the Tortoise. Although short, that section seemed irrelevant to me.

However, those accounts were a minor distraction for me. This enhanced ebook is so valuable for the information it contains, I highly recommend it. It would be a great book to get now so you can read it during Lent next year.

Dr. J. Shan Young holds a BA in History and an MD degree from Emory University, where he then served as Chief Administrative Resident. He's been named as a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and has been in private practice for over 20 years. He is a popular speaker at churches and conferences. Dr. Young and his wife have six children and three grandchildren. Find out more about him at

Glass Road Media, 384 pages. It is available at the iBooks Store, Amazon, and

I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from GlassRoad for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt

Life doesn't always go according to plans. Dr. Kendall Haynes, at 36, had so many dreams. Her dream of being a doctor came true. She helps kids with severe allergies and asthma – something she knows well from her own childhood experiences. But her dream of marriage and a family? A dream that hasn't come true.

Lieutenant Colonel Griffin Walker had a dream too. But his dream of flying has been shattered. The Air Force grounded him because of bouts of vertigo. His parents' sudden death has complicated Griffin's life, making him the guardian of his sixteen year old brother Ian, a brother he hardly knows.

The worlds of Kendall and Griffin intersect with a crash when Ian and Griffin are out for a Mexican dinner and Ian starts gasping for breath. Kendall, who is having dinner with her (married or engaged) fellow doctor girlfriends, recognizes the dangerous signs of a severe food allergy. She comes to the rescue, much to Griffin's dismay. How was he supposed to know Ian was allergic to avocados!

That is the beginning of a very enjoyable Christian romance – yes, romance for people in their late thirties! But it is not an easy path for Griffin and Kendall. At that age, they are pretty set in their ways and each has lots of baggage. It was enjoyable to read how Vogt ultimately brought out the best in the two stubborn characters.

The prominent themes in this novel include singleness (particularly at an older age), adoption, loss of parents, loss of dreams and accepting God's plan for your life. I learned about some of the difficulties of adoption as Ian was adopted and Kendall has a staff person in the process of adopting. I also learned about the serious nature of some allergies. And, interestingly enough, I learned about “Jeep people,” people who love their their Jeep no matter what!

What a fun book. It is a great Christian romance, especially for people who have been waiting for years to see if God's plan for their life includes marriage and a family. There is a Reading Group Discussion Guide at the end of the book.

I am taking part in a blog tour and you can see other reviews here.

Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an air force physician who said she'd never marry a doctor or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four who said she'd never have kids. She and her husband have three adult children and one ten year old. This is her second novel. Learn more about her at

Howard Books, 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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Her Restless Heart Bible Study by Barbara Cameron

Are you discontent or restless? Do you long for something more but cannot identify what it is?

Cameron has written this study to help women explore their hearts and their desire for real and lasting love and acceptance. The aim of the study is to allow God to satisfy that desire and satisfy their restlessness.

This is not a typical “Bible study” in that Cameron uses her own Christian fiction as a backdrop to explore biblical themes. Narratives from her novel Her Restless Heart are provided in the text so there is no need to buy the novel upon which the studies are based.

The study is spread out over six weeks. Each study begins with a Scripture for the week and an excerpt from the novel. Readings for five days follow. Each day's reading includes additional excerpts from the novel, commentary on selected Scripture and personal application. Questions for reflection are provided throughout each day's reading. Cameron concludes each day's study with an “As You Go” suggestion.

When I first saw the study, I was a bit hesitant as to it's value. A study based on a novel? But as I read through the study, I was impressed. The fiction excerpt is a good jumping point for the subsequent Scripture investigation. Rather than dealing with biblical facts, this study deals with the desires, hurts, and insecurities women experience. I can imagine the lively discussions participants would have when they gather once a week to watch a short video by Cameron. There are also some recipes included from the fiction series, so there could be a tasty potluck at the study conclusion.

The workbook I read is only one part of the complete curriculum. Go here to see the full line of materials including the leader's guide, the DVD, and a video trailer.

Barbara Cameron is the author of more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies (HBO-Cinemax), and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. She lives in Edgewater, Florida.

Abingdon Press, 187 pages.

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