Sunday, June 30, 2013

When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

It is hard to describe this novel. It is part parable, part fantasy, yet all drama.

Tom, a psychologist in the city, moves his family to a small town in the country. His daughter, Leah, is very shy and stutters and is alienated from others her age. She has an imaginary acquaintance, the Rainbow Man. He sings and reveals to her pictures she is to paint and people she is to see. When her first painting contains winning lottery numbers, the town adores her. But then succeeding paintings are not so uplifting and the town turns on her and her parents.

This novel has much in it to think about and discuss. There are the characters, like Reggie, the pastor who has devoted his life to his faith and ministry. He is angry that one would even think God might speak through an agnostic little girl. There is Barney who testifies God loves him when he wins the lottery but when his wife dies a few days later, testifies that God is cruel. There is Tom, Leah's father. He is a troubled man, unable to cure his own ills even as he helps others.

There are many questions originating within the storyline. When we say “God loves us,” what do we really mean? Does he love us when He has us win the lottery as our business is dying and medical bills are mounting? Does He love us when He allows your wife to die? Does God love us when we put in our coins of good works and out comes our reward? Does He love us when we put in the correct change but the machine doesn't deliver?

There is nothing like adversity to reveal the true character of people. And this hick town of Mattingly has it's share. A disgruntled Barney thinks about the “rottenness that lurked just beneath the goodness of his town.” (266) And during a town confrontation with Leah, “In that moment the townspeople's brittle facade of community and kinship was peeled back to expose the beasts that lurked beneath it.” (297)

There would be much to discuss about this novel. What does it mean to believe? Would God speak through an agnostic child? Are events planned by God and are they inevitable? What do we do when God acts in a way we were certain He would never do? What do we do with the mysteries of God that we do not understand? As Christians, should we deny or accept a move of God when it is foreign to our expectations? When we call something magic, what does that mean?

Coffey is a fine writer. This is a novel with a good story on the surface and many underlying truths and questions below. Not all of the Christians we experience are wonderful people. They are real, with faults and problems. And as is often the case with God, not everything is as it seems. As for Tom and so many others, I guess that is why they call it faith.

There are discussion question so this would make a very interesting book for a reading group.

Billy Coffey writes books that combine Southern charm with a vision beyond the ordinary. Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 330 pages. Check out the publisher's product page and watch a book trailer.

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

An Open Heart by Harry Kraus, MD

Noted heart surgeon Jace Rawlings is back in Kenya, his childhood home. Son of missionaries, he has forsaken their faith and made a success of himself in the U. S. But is he back in Africa because of his desire to bring healing to those who would otherwise receive it, or is he running?

Through emergency surgery, Jace had saved the Virginia governor's life, but in the process had become too close to the governor's beautiful wife. And then Jace was in an automobile accident. The governor's wife had been with him and had subsequently been killed. Jace remembers nothing of that night. Does he have true amnesia or is he just protecting himself?

When an autopsy reveals that she had been drugged and had recently had sex, all suspicions turn to Jace. Heather, Jace's wife, receives a copy of the autopsy sent anonymously. Still back in Virginia, she had refused to go to Africa with Jace. She didn't know if she could trust him – the late nights, the lipstick on his shirt collar.

Jace experiences many cultural differences that jeopardizes his heart surgery plans. When he does perform some surgeries, his patients have messages for him. Messages from beyond this world. And then it becomes clear that someone is out to murder Jace.

This novel is different from the others I've read by Kraus. Rather than a medical thriller, this novel is more of a novel about the cultural experiences of a doctor in Kenya and the loyalty between wife and husband. The action in the novel is interspersed with back flashes, from both recent history (with the governor) and from childhood. The history behind Jace's current actions are very slowly revealed. I was expecting the same kind of action I found in Kraus' previous medical thrillers but this one is much, much slower and longer.

Kraus notes in the discussion questions that he himself was currently working at Kijabe Hospital so much of what he has included in this book comes from his current experience. It also appears (Question 8) that he was born in Kenya so Jace's childhood experiences may have come from the author's as well.

Harry Kraus, M.D. is a board-certified surgeon, medical missionary to East Africa, and accomplished writer of both non-fiction and fiction. Harry resides in Kenya with his wife Kris and the youngest of their three sons. Find out more at

David C. Cook, 448 pages.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd

Zahnd is concerned that Christianity is in danger of fading into a kind of cherished relic. If Christianity is to be relevant in the twenty-first century, it needs a fresh message. Not something new or novel, he argues, but a return to Christianity's roots.

If Christianity is about anything,” he writes, “it is about forgiveness.” (xix)

As Zahnd explores forgiveness, he notes how difficult it can be, how much and how often we are to do it, that it is living in imitation of Christ, its relationship to forgetting, how it affects our happiness in the future, how it goes against many cultures (of revenge), it requires leaving justice in the hands of God, it is the way of the cross, and it means replacing condemnation with mercy.

He writes about the importance of forgiveness to our own welfare as we overcome evil with good. Our story takes a turn when we choose to forgive. Evil is no longer the final word.

His section on justice is thought provoking, arguing that “God interprets justice in terms of relationship and reconciliation, not necessarily in terms of what we might consider fair.” (121) Zahnd reminds us, “The cross is where we do not get what we deserve.” (126)

Zahnd has included many inspiring stories of people who were obedient and forgave. Many of the experiences were so painful, yet the people forgave.

Zahnd writes that perhaps his main motive in writing this book is “to help recover the true beauty of Christianity as found in forgiveness.” (xxi) He has done that well. This is an inspiring book, reminding us to live out the essence of Christianity.

This book is primarily for Christians. But non-Christians will find here the essential core of Christianity, the reality of God's forgiveness as the basis for Christians forgiving one another.

(Note: this book was originally published as Unconditional? By Charisma House in 2010.)

Brian Zahnd is the author of two previous books. He and his wife live in St. Joseph, Missouri, where they pastor Word of Life Church.

Passio, 226 pages.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I've Got Your Back by James C. Galvin

The essence of leadership is helping others follow well,” Galvin writes (110) Learning to follow well is essential to leading well so that is what Galvin concentrates on.

He begins with story, a parable. Stories are powerful and, besides, Jesus used them. Jack is a retired army and ex-missionary who coaches four young professionals who are stuck. Randall is a college graduate working in the produce section of a market. Valerie has a marketing degree but is in a job with no possible advancement. Brad is in youth ministry and does not want to move up to director like the board is requesting. Lynn is in medical billing but her boss is not at all helpful.

We follow the four as they try to put into practice the teaching Jack gives them weekly. He asks them to become good followers, even if dealing with bad bosses and bad leaders. He helps them learn how to work with flawed people, how to help them lead better. They learn how their past experiences formed their mental model of leadership. “'We tend to lead the way we have been led unless we reflect deeply on our experience, become aware of our actions, and develop our unique potential,' said Jack.” (52-53) They learn about character and competence, REAL followership (Responsible, Ethical, Authentic, Loving), the three types of followership (God, parents/government, other humans), and how to slay the fear dragon.

Galvin follows with a theology of leadership section, explaining the principles revealed in the story. He reminds us that leadership is God's idea but it has been corrupted by the Fall. We are imperfect people leading imperfect followers. He explores leadership as the interaction between leaders and followers, giving biblical insights on both.

This book is for everyone, not just leaders. We are all leaders and followers in some way. I was amazed at the amount of insight in this book. Reading about the three types of followership answered so many of my questions! It addresses issues about submitting to those who have (or claim to have) spiritual authority over you. Galvin also clarified what true servant leadership is and he addresses leadership abuse.

(One area Galvin did not cover in this book is leading and following in the home, the husband/wife relationship. He did not clarify which type of followership, I, II, or III, that relationship would fall under.)

I highly recommend this book! Having been a ministry leader as well as serving on church and private school boards, I have read many books on leadership. I have never read one like this. I have never understood so much about the relationship between leading and following. I have never had so many of my own leading and following experiences explained.

Galvin has included discussion questions divided into eight sessions. This would be a great book for church or other nonprofit boards to read and discuss. And it would be a great book for you to read, just because you lead or follow someone.

I can see that there might be two issues that would make pastors a little uncomfortable with this book. Galvin places pastoral leadership under Type III, where followership is optional. (He does distinguish between preaching God's Word, which is under following God, and ministry leadership, which is under following humans.) Another issue is the suggestion (by a fictional character) that career ministry people give as many hours of volunteer work as they ask of their laypeople. (After evening church board meetings, we laypeople would all have to go to work the next morning, but the pastor would not come into his office until noon – because he'd had a meeting the night before.)

James C. Galvin is an organizational consultant specializing in strategic facilitation for a wide variety of organizations. He has completed successful
projects for a number of Christian organizations and publishers. He is an award-winning author and has written products published by several major Christian publishers. He was co-creator of the acclaimed Life Application Study Bible. He has a doctorate from Northern Illinois University and degrees from Wheaton College. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Elgin, Illinois.

TenthPowerPublishing, 204 pages. Publisher product page.
You can buy the book here.

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Storm by Evan Angler

This is the third in the Swipe series. If you have not read the first two, you will probably be lost in this one.

The first book in the series (see my review of Swipe here) sets the stage for the adventure. It is decades in the future, there have been wars, and there is now the American Union, including the former Canada and Mexico. DOME, the government, is all about unity and people show their allegiance by getting the Mark. Logan will shortly turn thirteen and he will get his Mark on his birthday. But he is worried. His older sister disappeared when she went to get her Mark. 

In the second book (see my review of Sneak here), Logan has escaped getting the Mark and needs to get to Beacon where his sister is in prison. He manages to connect with some of his Markless friends from Swipe but one of them is a traitor. Amidst treachery and betrayal, he makes his way to Beacon. On the way he is introduced to a book with whisper thin pages. 

So now we come to Storm. Logan and his loyal friends manage to get to Beacon. They have heard tales of the terrible prison DOME maintains there. Logan must get inside and rescue his sister. But when Logan finally manages to get to his sister, it is not as he thought. She is not a prisoner and it appears she has become a loyal soldier in the DOME forces. Logan is not sure if she has been taken in by DOME or if she is feigning loyalty. Logan and most of his friends escape Beacon and head west. But his Marked friend, Erin, is getting deathly ill. It seems that a plague had been designed to take out the Markless but something has gone wrong. Soon more and more of the Marked are dying. Will Logan be able to keep Erin from death?

This series just keeps getting better and better. The future technology is great. Buildings hundreds of stories tall with layers of sidewalks. Huge screens on the sides of the buildings. Rain assured by a weather machine (until that machine is sabotaged and the country suffers from severe drought). There are small spheres that transport people. It is great future fiction.

The Christianity of a couple of characters becomes crystal clear in this book. I was a bit concerned about previous volumes in this series, but it is all coming together. The plagues, the droughts, the unified leader, the is the book of Revelation coming alive for young readers.

And there is a nifty surprise in this book. The characters come across a book called Swipe and read it. They agree the author got it pretty much right. And Angler even makes a cameo appearance. What fun. At the end we are left in suspense, waiting for the next installment.

This is a great series for middle school and teen readers. Logan is a great hero. There is lots of action and much to talk about. I highly recommend this series.

You can watch the book trailer here.
Visit the author's website: 
Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

I am participating in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. Go to these links to see other reviews of this book:
Julie Bihn Beckie Burnham Keanan Brand Pauline Creeden Emma or Audrey Engel Sarah Faulkner Victor Gentile Ryan Heart Jason Joyner Carol Keen Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Writer Rani Chawna Schroeder Jacque Stengl Jojo Sutis Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Rachel Wyant

Thomas Nelson, 266 pages.

I conjunction with the CSFF blog tour, I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

Landon Reed was an all-star quarterback for Southeastern University. Caught in a financial bind, he agreed to shave a few points off of games he knew his team would win anyway. But he got caught and as the novel opens, he is just being released after completing his prison sentence.

Waiting for him is Kerri, his loyal girlfriend, and Maddie, their daughter. Landon is a changed man. In prison he came to faith in Jesus and the first thing he wants to do is marry Kerri.

The story quickly moves to Landon's review before Virginia Board of Bar Examiners. Landon has earned his law degree and wants to practice. It is a hard sell, because of his prison time but he convinces the examiners that he is a new man and he passes.

One of the examiners is Harry McNaughten, an old criminal defense lawyer. After months of not being able to land a position with a law firm, he runs into Harry again. Landon has been in a fight in a bar. Though he did not start it, he may lose his privilege to practice law. He is saved from that when Harry comes to his rescue. Harry offers Landon a job with his law firm, much to the dismay of his partners.

Landon works with Harry on a high profile murder case. He is a bit disturbed by Harry's unusual techniques and then his world is turned on end. Harry is murdered. Then two more from the firm are killed. Suddenly, working for this law firm can be deadly.

Singer has crafted a great legal thriller. He weaves several stories together to create the drama. There is a retired CIA undercover operative, now the owner of a large private special forces company, who is out to kill those in government who let his foreign girlfriend be tortured to death. There is the successful district prosecutor now accused of embezzlement and murder. And there is Kerri, successful investigative reporter for a local television station.

Readers who like Grisham will like this novel. The characters are well developed and the action is tight. Landon and Kerri are Christians and their faith is essential as they face danger. You learn a little about football and lots about the legal system. I enjoyed it from cover to cover. The twist at the end was great too.

You can read the first chapter here.
Watch the author video here.
Watch the book trailer here.

Randy Singer is an award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. He was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy and his wife have two grown children and live in Virginia Beach. You can visit Randy Singer's website at
You can read an interview with Randy Singer and find out what inspired him to write this book, what lessons he wanted readers to find, and what he is writing now here.

Tyndale House Publishers, 448 pages.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fear Has a Name by Creston Mapes

This first novel in a new series by Mapes is a character study of three men, interwoven with action and suspense. Jack is an investigative reporter for a newspaper in a relatively small town in Ohio. He is assigned the story of Evan, a pastor who has disappeared, having left what appears to be a suicide note. But Jack's life is interrupted by a break-in at his home. His wife, Pam, and two young daughters manage to escape to neighbors. But the break-in is not a one time event. The man stalks Pam and the suspense heightens. It comes to light that the stalker is someone Pam knew in high school, a maladjusted student named Granger.

As the novel progresses, we follow the lives of Jack, Evan, and Granger. Of particular importance is the spiritual lives of these men. Jack is a good Christian but struggles with his belief in God when Pam is kidnapped. Evan is a pastor who struggles with depression. He is overwhelmed with the problems at his church and is devastated that he has experienced romantic feelings for a widow he was counseling. Granger had a horrible childhood, being mistreated by his overly strict and narrow minded Christian parents. He remembers Pam as the only person who was nice to him so now, years later, he seeks her out. The lives of these three men and their actions intersect several times as the novel nears its end.

Mapes has created realistic and seriously flawed characters. Jack practically goes crazy when Pam is kidnapped. His faith in God is severely tested and he finds no comfort or peace from that faith. Evan has recently taken himself off his depression medication and is making irrational decisions.

Granger is probably the most troubling character to me. He was raised in a Christian home but by parents who must have hated him. His father was a deacon in the church but a mean man. Granger was terribly scarred by his “Christian” parents. I was troubled that church going, Bible believing Christians would be portrayed as so mean and horrible.

The character that I liked the least was Pam, Jack's wife. I find that an author writing a character of the opposite sex sometimes gets it wrong and I think Mapes did that with Pam. She is generally a smart and competent woman but there were times when she made the most stupid decisions. As a woman myself, I would never drive by the childhood home of the person stalking me, especially knowing that he was on the run and might, in fact, go back to that home.

And that brings up another issue that bothered me. There is a great deal of suspense in this novel. The suspense at the end was great. However, much of that suspense, especially with Pam, was because of stupid choices. I love it when the “innocent” character is in dire straits through no fault of her own and the suspense builds as rescue seems impossible. But when the person has made a stupid decision, putting herself into the dire straits, well, somehow the suspense looses its impact.

While the ending seemed contrived, there was the undercurrent of God orchestrating the whole thing so it was acceptable.

People who like suspense will like this novel. Be prepared, however, for pages of the characters thinking at length about their situation. Also, be prepared to see many Christians not at their best.

Creston Mapes is a best-selling author of three previous novels. He works from home as copywriter and editor for some of the nation's top media companies, Christian ministries, and large corporations. He has also ghostwritten and edited seven non-fiction titles. See more at

David C. Cook, 448 pages.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fully Alive by Larry Crabb

Crabb asks what it means for a man or a woman to be fully alive, to be the person God truly created them to be. He suggests that is found out when one discovers how men and women are to relate the way God intended.

Crabb begins his study by exploring gender, the root of who we are. “Our soul's center is alive with either masculinity or femininity.” In our sexually confused culture, Crabb says, Christians need a biblical basis. Is it men lead and women submit? (Complementarians) Is it equality of women with men? (Egalitarians) He looks at the Bible to see what thoughts God has on the issue.

For Crabb, it is all about relating. He believes the Bible indicates “that femininity and masculinity consist of unique and deeply embedded ways of relating.” They relate in a way that reveals something unique about God's relational character. It is our fear, the core terror in our souls, that prevents us from relating to others as God desires. “Invisibility is a woman's core terror – displaying what nobody sees, offering what nobody wants.” I think Crabb is a little vague on man's core terror. It seems to be related to doing and not being introspective, being afraid of failure. (Crabb does write, “The core terror is difficult for men to identify...”) He shares his own experiences revealing the “terror of weightlessness,” that he has no power to accomplish anything of more than passing significance. He writes, “Recognized terror opens the door to relational masculinity.”

Crabb then has a section on identifying our relational sin. He explores how unfeminine women and unmasculine men relate. He explores spiritual formation and theiosis. He writes of finding one's center and living from it, evaluating the church's role. He reminds us of the dying to self before living to God. He suggests “wisdom from the womb,” a passion for self. He then relates God's solution to the problem.

Crabb writes, “I am writing this book to answer one question: What did God have in mind when He made us male and female?” We are made for His glory and we glorify God in the way we relate, revealing something about the way God relates.

Egalitarians will not be satisfied with this book. Women invite and receive. Men have substance and deserve appreciation. Women reveal God's openness “through life-inviting relational femininity” and men reveal God's movement “through life-giving relational masculinity.” And when he writes about “mutual submission,” he says, “For men, submission centers on loving authority.” And, “For women, submission means loving obedience.”

One of my reactions to Crabb's book is that he is wordy. He tells stories and writes lots about his own life. He repeats himself. He uses lots of psychological jargon like “angst.” And he writes much about women's “beauty.” Even though he may not have meant physical beauty, it still bothered me.

Another reaction was that it was too theoretical and not practical enough. But the more I think about it, the more I think he might have uncovered a deep issue. He argues that the truth probably more often and most easily compromised in the life of Christians is this: “to be formed like Jesus means to become radically other-centered, no longer looking out for ourselves but living entirely for God and for His purposes in others.” Thought provoking!

Has Crabb revealed what God had in mind when he created male and female? I am not sure. He is heavy on theory. But when it comes to practicality, I find it lacking. For example, he says a woman asked him if she should submit to her husband when he asked her to have sex with another man. “I replied, 'Of course. Submit in everything. Tell him no, gently and quietly.'” If that example from Crabb makes sense to you, then you will love this book. If, like me, you were looking for a more practical understanding of what it means to be a man or woman before God, you may need to look elsewhere.

There is a DVD teaching series on this book and I think that would be beneficial. I do think this book would need to be experienced in a dialog kind of setting. There needs to be discussion around this book.

Larry Crabb is a well-known psychologist, conference and seminar speaker, Bible teacher, popular author, and founder/director of NewWay Ministries. He also offers several weekend conferences and a week long School of Spiritual Direction. He is currently Scholar in Residence at Colorado Christian University and Visiting Professor for Richmont Graduate University in Georgia. Dr. Crabb and his wife live in the Denver area. You can find out more about him and his ministry at

Baker Books, 224 pages.

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

This is a pretty good romance for summer reading.

Madison is a twenty-six year old veterinarian who still grieves the death of her twin brother a decade ago. She is plagued by nightmares and thinks she can get rid of them by fulfilling his vow to win the local sailing regatta by age twenty-seven. She stretches her finances to make the winning bid at a fund raising auction. Her reward – sailing lessons.

But a hitch in her plans arises when the fellow to give her the lessons must
find a substitute. He chooses Beckett, an engine repairman for the local marina as well as a designer and builder of sailing boats. That Beckett. The Becket who kissed Madison in high school. The kiss neither of them have forgotten.

Madison doesn't know if she can go through with this. She's angry with Beckett because of what he did to her younger sister, chasing her off. And Beckett doesn't know if he can go through this either. He is convinced he is the cause of Madison's brother's death. Besides that, he is the son of the town drunk – not boyfriend material for Madison and the fine Christian family she comes from.

The novel takes place along a Midwest river and we learn a bit about river sailing. The Christianity of the characters is well presented. I love the Kneeling Nanas! They added some humorous relief to the intense story line. An interesting theme in the novel is the pain that is caused by keeping secrets.

Hunter creates what seems like an impossible situation for the romance between Madison and Beckett to blossom. I was anxious to see how this impossible situation would be overcome. I did feel the resolution was a bit contrived. The vagueness of the ailment made it seem contrived. An actual name to the condition would have added to its credibility.

A delightful Christian romance with just a slight imperfection at the end.

Denise Hunter began writing in 1996, while her children napped. She has been writing ever since and is the author of several novels. She and her family live in Indiana. You can find out more about her at

Thomas Nelson, 336 pages.

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Red Dawn Rising by Sue Duffy

There is an underground move within Russia to see that once dominating nation return to its former glory. Powerful men in Russia are making terrorist plans for the U.S. There are sleeper agents in America who are ready to cause at a moment's notice the damage they have been instructed to create. And one of them is in the White House, Russia's own mole.

Up against these Russian agents is Cass Rodino, a set designer on Broadway. She inadvertently comes across the Russian espionage when she follows her step-father's late night adventures. Cass' mother is sure her husband has a mistress but what Cass finds is his link to terrorism. At her side is Jordan Winslow, her neighbor, friend and shoe store owner.

The heroine of the first novel in this series, professional pianist Liesl Bower, is still in danger. Hovering near her is the Russian agent who had been tasked with killing her. Now he is willing to protect her because he has a greater enemy - the Architect, the man who would cause terror in America.

This is a great follow up to The Sound of Red Returning. If you have not read that book, you should before starting this one. You can see my review of that book here. While this book could possibly be read alone, much of the background of Liesl and her bravery would be missed.

There is a great interplay between the amateur spy sleuths Cass and Jordan and the professionals from the CIA and FBI. It was fun to read of the CIA reluctantly allowing the young people's involvement.

Liesl is a Christian and her trust in God is well presented in the story line. There are also themes of redemption and forgiveness as the characters interact.

Readers who like Russian espionage with twists and turns will like this book.

Sue Duffy is an award-winning writers whose work has appeared in several Christian magazines. She has also served as editor of two magazines. This is her fourth novel. She is an avid pianist and lives with her family in Columbia, South Carolina. Find out more at

Kregel Publications, 288 pages.

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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sneak by Evan Angler

This is the second in The Swipe Series. Logan has escaped getting the Mark and needs to get to Beacon, the place where his sister is in prison. He manages to hook up with the Dust, his Markless friends from Swipe. But not all of the Markless like Logan. His escape has caused DOME to increase their efforts to rid the land of the rebellious unmarked teens. And there is a price on his head.

Through treachery and betrayal, Logan makes his way to Beacon and his beloved sister. And on this journey he is introduced to a book with whisper-thin pages. It is in this book that Logan finds the answers to so many of his questions.

There is great action in the continued story. We read of an underground railroad that helps Logan travel across the country. But even some of these helpers can be traitors.
There are reports of a third of the fish dying in the oceans. We find out more about what the Bible says about the time and it becomes clear that the Markless teens are holding out against the man who would be ruler of the whole world.

This is a great series for teens showing a very possible future. It is also an inspiration to see teens stand up for what they know is right. Even though the Bible is a banned book, many teens know what it says and believe its truth, even if it means death.

Read my review of Swipe, the first in the series, here.

Find out more about the series, watch book trailers and get the latest information at

Thomas Nelson, 275 pages.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Afloat by Erin Healy

The plot is a familiar one. A disaster happens and a group of people is cut off from the rest of society. Their true character is revealed, often including revelations of personal history.

In an attempt to make this well used plot work, Healy adds a complex setting. Housing units are being built over water in the cove of a river. The project had been abandoned when our hero, Vance, saw them and planned their use as housing for the homeless. Unable to find funding, he turned to a somewhat sleazy investor and now the units will be luxury apartments. As the novel opens, one of the twelve proposed structures is completed and occupied.

A planted bomb causes construction mayhem and a natural disaster, which just happens to occur at the same time, cuts the construction project off from the rest of the world.

There are a number of problems with this novel. The setting is very complex with unusual construction and housing . I just could not visualize the scene. The construction seemed so complicated and costly, that Vance would contemplate its use for homeless people seemed unrealistic. And then there is the natural disaster that happens at the same time as the construction disaster. I felt that was too contrived. Healy added a supernatural element to the story but it seemed an odd part of the story, not flowing with the gist of the plot. She added the back story of Vance and his brother which only served to provide an improbable rescue at the end. I did not feel attached to any of the characters. None of them were people I felt I could really admire. Vance came the closest, as a Christian genuinely trying to live his faith. But the budding romance between Vance and Danielle, yet with an existing relationship between Danielle and Tony, well, for me that just did not work. Rather than merely trying to save Danielle and her son, with those romantic inclinations Vance made me almost not like him.

I have read a number of Healy's books. I really liked The Baker's Wife. Unfortunately, this novel is not one of her best. If you have never read Healy before, don't start with this one.

Watch the book trailer here.

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

Erin Healy is the best-selling co-author with Ted Dekker and an award-winning
editor for numerous best-selling authors. She is the author of several previous novels. She and her family live in Colorado. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 368 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jennifer by Dee Henderson

This novella is a prequel to the O'Malley series. If you have not read them, this is a good place to start. If you have read them, this book may well be a disappointment for you.

Jennifer is the youngest of the O'Malley's. She is a doctor working with children who have serious, life threatening diseases. She meets Tom, a surgeon in the same hospital. For about 85% of the book (I read a digital edition), their story is a rather boring one of getting to know each other. Jennifer's life changing event comes almost at the end of the novella, and then it is over. The afterward informs you the story is continued in The Negotiator, the first in the O'Malley series.

I have read several of Henderson's novels and really liked them. This one left me dissatisfied. I have certainly read prequels before, generally written after a series has become popular. Generally a prequel adds to the series sufficiently so that you are happy you read it. There is nothing in this book that one would not know from reading the series. It left me feeling that reading it was a waste of my time.

If you like a slow moving and somewhat boring romance, then you will like this novella.

Dee Henderson is the author of seventeen novels including the O'Malley series and the Uncommon Heroes series. Her books have won or been nominated for several industry awards. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois. Find out more at

Bethany House, 156 pages.

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

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fearless by Mike Dellosso

Do you like suspense? If so, this is the book for you.

Jake wakes up to his house on fire. He's being overcome with smoke. He knows he won't make it out. But then he feels a presence - a young girl. She encourages him. He can't die yet. His son needs him. He and the girl make it out a live.

Her name is Louisa. She doesn't remember anything else - how she got in the burning house or even anything about her family or where she is from. The sheriff asks the Spencers to take her in for a while. Amy Spencer is still dealing with the miscarriage she had a couple of months ago. Louisa frightens her. She sees things like the hurt people carry inside. And she believes. When she prays God moves.

There is an evil that has invaded the community. A serial murderer is at work. All too soon he sets his sights on the Spencers and Louisa.

This is an exciting novel of suspense. The supernatural invades the community, the good from Louisa and the evil from the murderer. This is not a cozy murder mystery. Throats are slashed and the last fifty pages or so are nail bitingly intense.

Besides the great suspense, there is also the issue of continuing to trust God when circumstances do not go the way we'd want or when we are terribly hurt.

This novel kept me reading from beginning to end. For suspense that involves the spiritual realm, this one is a winner.

Mike Dellosso is the author of several novels of suspense. He is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster bible College and a frequent contributor to Christian websites and newsletters. He earned his BA degree from Messiah College and his MBS from Master's International School of Divinity. He and his family lives in Hanover, PA. Find out more at

Realms, 386 pages.

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

Friday, June 7, 2013

Gone South by Meg Moseley

Tish, a Michigan woman, decides to buy a house in Alabama, the one her great-great-great-grandparents owned. She is ready for a change. Her fiance had been tragically killed just a few weeks before what was to be their wedding day. Her life has been going nowhere since.

But when she gets moved into her new house, she is shocked to find out that the people in the town, once they know her name, give her a cold shoulder. It seems her great-great-great-grandfather was a “carpet bagger,” taking advantage of the southern people after the Civil War. And no one in the town has forgotten it.

Add Mel to the story. She is a twenty year old runaway who has come back to her hometown, penniless and pretty much disowned by her family and Tish takes her in. And then there's George. He owns an antique store and has eyes for Tish.

And there you have it. The book is longer than the plot deserves. It might have made a good short story. As a full length novel, the story drags. The issues with Mel, being good, then bad, then good, then bad, well, it is just repetitive. And the “romance” between Tish and George is stilted and drags on. Then the end is very quick. Suddenly, every one lives happily ever after.

Some of the characters are Christians, like Meg, who keeps meaning to find a church, as soon as she gets settled. Mel desperately prays to God to help her (even when she is doing something not exactly legal). That's pretty much it.

Meg Moseley lives with her husband in Atlanta, near the foothills of the southern Appalachians. This is her second novel.

WaterbrookMultnomah, 344 pages.

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Swipe by Evan Angler

It is decades in the future. The climate disasters, the wars – all of it was so devastating that now there is the A. U., the American Union. It includes what used to be Canada and Mexico. The political system emphasizes unity. People take the Pledge and get the Mark.

Logan will be thirteen in a few months. He'll take the Pledge and get the Mark on his birthday. Then he will be free, free to shop, go to concerts, get a job, and use public transportation. But Logan is worried. When his older sister went to get her Mark, she never came back. His parents were told she had died. It happens. Some young people just don't take the procedure well. Will Logan be one of those who never returns?

Another reason Logan is worried is that he is sure someone is spying on him. He sees shadows and hears noises. Who are they and what do they want?

This is the first in a new youth fiction series. I'll be blogging a review of the third novel in a few weeks and wanted to get current with the story. This novel is a great start. There is a union between the A. U. and its European counterpart in the works. The Mark is required to function freely in society. But there are also some people in the shadows, the Markless. They have to scrounge for their existence. There is no mention of religion nor churches. Yet there are people who wear a charm, hidden under their clothing. That charm reminds them of an earlier day.

Youth will like this series, I think. There is great technology – tablets that do everything. There is a young hero who wants to stand up for what is right and true. But it is all overshadowed by DOME, the enforcing agency of this future system.

Find out more about the series, watch book trailers and get the latest information at

Thomas Nelson, 288 pages.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The World of Jesus by Dr. William H. Marty

Marty believes that knowing what happened between the Old and New Testaments is crucial to understanding the earthly life of Jesus and the New Testament setting and events. He has written this book for the layman, in a reader friendly edition of his more technical and detailed material.

He covers the time period by dividing it into four sections:
Persian (539-331 BC)
Greek (331-143 BC)
Jewish – Maccabean/Hasmonean (143-63 BC)
Roman (63 BC – AD 70)

He has included sidebars on particular topics, such as the Sanhedrin. When he recounts the events of the time period, he also show how that impacted New Testament events. Discussion questions are also included at the end of each chapter. A Glossary of important terms is also added at the end of the book.

We read about the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Herodians in the New Testament but they are not mentioned in the Old Testament. When did they originate and why were they so corrupt that Jesus would pronounce scathing denunciations of them? Marty tells us of their origin during the Hasmonean Period of Israel's history, a time of political intrigue and religious corruption. That really helps understand their place in New Testament events.

We might wonder how Herod, an Idumean, became “king” of the area. Marty tells how Herod (the Great) went to Rome after the Parthians invaded Judea and was named “king,” even though his kingdom was occupied. After Herod's failed attempt to gain control of Jerusalem, Mark Anthony sent Roman soldiers. Jerusalem was taken after forty days, and the temple after fifteen more. (The temple had been under the control of the last in the Hasmonean dynasty.) Furious it had taken so long to capture Jerusalem, the Romans went on a killing spree.

Background information like that really helps us understand why the Jews felt the way they did toward the Romans. Reading about Herod's other activities also gives additional insight into Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who was ruling as tetrarch in Galilee during Jesus' earthly life and who had John the Baptist killed.

As Marty notes, though sometimes called “The Four Hundred Silent Years,” the period between the Testaments was not silent. God was certainly at work, preparing the world for the coming of His Son.

Marty has done an good job of telling the story of the Israelites during that time period. Even though I have read several books on the subject, I learned some new insights from this book. I really like the way he has included vignettes of how an event in the four hundred years impacted what we read in the New Testament. That is added information I've not seen in other history books. I do recommend this book to laypeople for a greater understanding of the New Testament. This is not a scholarly account but rather one aimed at the layman who is unfamiliar with the time period.

Dr. William H. Marty (ThD, Dallas theological Seminary) is Professor of Bible at the Moody Bible Institute and has published two textbooks. He and his wife live in Chicago.

Bethany House Publishers, 192 pages.

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