Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard

I haven't read a cozy mystery this good in ages. There is action on nearly every page. And there are so many suspects, people with motive and means and opportunity, well over half way through the book I still had no idea who the killer might be. And Sandra does a great job of shifting the suspicion from one character to another as the story progresses.

Kate is a research scientist studying herbal cures. When her mentoring colleague and good friend Daisy dies, Kate is heartbroken. When the police rule the death suicide, either deliberate or accidental, Kate is angry. She knows Daisy would never deliberately take her own life nor would she, an expert in herbs, mistakenly drink a toxic mixture of herbal tea.

While the local police department turns a deaf ear to Kate's demands for an investigation, one detective takes an interest in Kate. Tom is an ex-FBI agent, back in Canada. He watches over Kate as she tries to find out who killed her friend. Tom finds out his interest in Kate is serious when it looks like the killer is now after her.

This is a great mystery where people are rarely what they seem. And it is a good romance too. Kate and Tom struggle with their relationship as Tom tries to remain loyal to his police role while protecting Kate too.

The Christianity of the characters is well presented. Daisy mentored Kate in her faith so Daisy's death was a spiritual shock as well as an emotional one. Kate relies on her growing faith, however, as she pursues the truth.

Several of the characters either research or grow herbs, so we learn a great deal about them, especially in their use for teas. A great mystery and romance and you learn about herbs too.

The end left me a little frustrated but a sequel is in the works. I'll be looking for it.

Sandra Orchard is an award-winning Canadian author of inspirational romance suspense novels. She enjoys doing research for her books. She lives with her husband in Niagara, Ontario, where their favorite pastime is playing with their first grandchild. You can find out more about her and her books at

Revell, 385 pages.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What About Women? by Deborah P. Brunt

Deborah has written a liberating and powerful book for women who have been called by God to minister in the church.

We might think we know God's mind on the issue but Deborah shows, through Peter's rooftop vision, that God sometimes shocks us, changing what we thought we knew to be His truth. She reveals the influence from Greek culture and the early church fathers on the attitude toward women. She also reveals the historical translation bias against the inclusion of women in many Bible passages. She advocates newer biblical translations, such as those translating anthropos as “human” rather than “man.” She also covers Paul's references to women and their ministries.

Deborah is bold in inviting us to take away the leadership grid we have placed over the New Testament. She says they are beliefs that are religious but not true. We cannot let a few verses blind us to the teaching of the entire New Testament.

Deborah pays particular attention to verses like to 1 Timothy 2:12, investigating the original Greek. Her insights are refreshing and liberating for women. And I wasn't aware of Paul's “snorting” in 1 Corinthians 14. (You have got to read the book to find out about this Greek word appearing in the text but not translated into English.)
Deborah writes, “If you're a woman, God does not think you are less able than men to follow him, to lead others or speak in his name.” She wants women to be encouraged. Being a woman does not disqualify you in God's eyes.

This is a powerful book. Her investigation into the Greek text of the biblical passages used to silence women is great. This book challenges the often held view of women in ministry. But anyone interested in what the Bible actually says about the topic will do well to read this book.

Deborah Brunt is from the Deep South and is a product of the conservative culture there. She and her husband currently live in the Memphis area. You can find out more about her at and follow her blog at

Key Truths, 185 pages. You can take a look inside the book and find out where you can buy it here.

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Honddu Vale by LeAnne Hardy

Set in sixteenth century Wales, this novel is the sequel to Glastonbury Tor, a finalist for the Christy Award for inspirational fiction. (See a synopsis of that book below and check out my review of it here.)

In Honddu Vale, Colin returns home to make amends and ask the forgiveness of his father, whom he tried to kill, blaming him for his mother's death. His arrival home is difficult. His father is heavily into drink, has a woman who has bewitched him, and is in debt to a new and wealthy landowner in the area.

His father adds insult to injury by wanting to pledge Colin in marriage to the wealthy landowner's daughter. But Colin has promised his future to his love back in Glastonbury.

And this woman, Belle, who has made her way into Sir Stephen's home – there is something about her. When Colin's treasure from Glastonbury, the olive wood cup, has gone missing he is sure she has taken it.

Colin tries to rescue his father from her influence and set the household back in order. But he is about dangerous work. He finds his life threatened too many times. Should he leave? But he is supported by his childhood friend, the friend who has eyes for the wealthy man's daughter. Animosity between the locals and the new landowner turns deadly and Colin is right in the middle of it.

Hardy has crafted another great historical novel. We really get a sense of life in sixteenth century Wales and the spiritual tumult in the era of Henry VIII. We see the mixture of legend, vision, and church that made up Christianity at the time. We see Colin struggling with his faith, knowing he should forgive his father for his mother's death, yet being so disgusted with his father's behavior it proves very difficult.

Hardy has included twists, turns, and revelations that keep you reading to the rewarding end. This is a wonderful novel of forgiveness and redemption.

LeAnne Hardy has been a missionary in a number of countries and currently lives in Wisconsin. You can find out more about her here. Check out her website and follow her blog:

You can buy the paperback here and the Kindle edition here.

Birch Island Books, 202 pages

In Glastonbury Tor Colin searches to resolve his bitterness against his father by fleeing to Glastonbury Abbey, one of the oldest monasteries in all of Britain. There in the turmoil of King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the medieval monastic system, he finds an old wooden cup. The cup is disregarded by King Henry’s men when they search the abbey for treasure, but it just might be the most coveted object in all of Britain.

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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hero's Lot by Patrick W. Carr

In this sequel to Cast of Stones (see my review here), the kingdom is still in danger. Errol is accused of being part of a conspiracy to usurp the throne. Too keep them from being executed, friends in the church hierarchy manage to get Errol convicted of consorting with spirits. As his punishment, he is put under compulsion to find Sarin Valon, the one who would overthrow the kingdom. Knowing he must travel to the enemy kingdom of Merakh, he convinces a few of his trusted friends (and one possible enemy) to go with him. Others of Errol's allies are sent to his hometown in an attempt to find out why Errol is so important to the kingdom. As the novel progresses, Carr alternates the stories so we follow both sets of characters in their adventures.

The epic adventure for Errol Stone continues in this sequel. If you have not read the first in the series, you will need to do so. So much of the story line follows what was introduced in the first book you'll be lost otherwise.

This book has all the elements of good fantasy. There is a three person God in whom many believe and try to understand. There are those who hear from Deas (God) and can direct the saving tasks of others. There are evil men within the church who would ruin the kingdom. There are great warriors who will protect Errol and the kingdom with their lives. There are monsters who would attack those traveling in the shadowlands at night.

We see Errol develop into a young man, with the help of his many friends. He adds to his fighting skills using the sword. He begins to learn the way of leadership. And he is in head over heels with the princess who manages to finagle her way onto the journey with Errol and his companions. Now, if Errol can just keep his wits about him as the adventure, and danger, intensifies.

And the end of this novel? My goodness, Carr absolutely leaves us impatiently waiting for the next book!

Patrick W. Carr teaches high school math and lives with his wife and four sons in Nashville, Tennessee. Find out more at

Bethany House, 446 pages.

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

12 Ways to Make Your Words Count by Arlene Knickerbocker

In this powerful book, I was reminded of how words impact our lives. We have been pained by words and we have used them to hurt others.

Arlene reminds us that it doesn't have to be that way. By God's power and example, we can use words the way He desires. He has blessed us and He wants us to bless others.

Arlene helps us understand God's purpose for our words. We are to use our words to enrich others and express godly character. She explores the trustworthiness of God's Word, an incentive for trustworthiness in our words. She reminds us the value our words should have, the relationship between thoughts and words, our response to verbal abuse, the influence of words and the impact of foul words. She writes about cognitive dissonance, when there is a discrepancy between what we believe and what we say and do.

I was challenged by this book. I was reminded what the Bible says about our words. I was convicted when she pointed out how our words reflect our core beliefs. Changing our words is not enough. The necessary change must be at the core belief level.

This is much more than just a book about words. It is about belief, faith, and behavior. To help cement her insights into our being, she has added prayers and thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter.

As God's children,” Arlene writes, “created in His image, our words will not come back empty-handed. They can accomplish great things – or not. God gave us the gift of speech to honor Him and encourage faith in others.” (202)

Each of us speaks about 30,000 words a day. Are you using them to leave scars or to bless others? If you are ready to have your words conform to the purpose God desires, this is a good place to start.

Arlene Knickerbocker has worked in business most of her adult life. Much of her experience has been in management and marketing. She has also taught
Bible studies for all ages. Now she uses her skills to write, edit, speak, and teach. She has had more than 700 of her articles published in various venues. She has written two books and was a co-author for another. She teaches writing through her website and locally. She and her husband have three adult children and ten grandchildren. Find out more about her at

The Write Spot, 215 pages.

Buy the book here.

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

BROKEN 7 "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Jonathan Fisk

One of the darkest secrets of Christianity in America is that we are losing our kids.” (12) We're losing college age and senior citizens too. “The church in America is in a total crisis.” (207) Fisk says the reason is that we are laying foundations on something other than God's Word. The kind of Christianity the church is preaching is broken.

Fisk's goal is to reveal the ploys of the devil to get us to believe in ourselves rather than God. He explores seven counterfeit patterns of thinking the devil would have us believe is real Christianity.

Mysticism: finding something godlike in yourself
Moralism: believing you can access God through your own efforts
Rationalism: believing you can find God with your mind
Prosperity: believing how God feels about you is measured by your life right now
Churchology: believing you can find God in your efforts to be the church
Freedom: believing you can better relate to God by getting rid of all the rules
Ever-Lie: believing that you can find God yourself – that it is up to you

There have been all kinds of attempts at advancing the church. But they are not working. Fisk says it is time to quit thinking about changing the church to reach people. “Instead, we should worry a little more about the authentic content of what Jesus told us to teach them.” (271)

This is a quirky but powerful book. It is quirky because it has odd illustrations, different text formating, and otherwise unusual design. It is powerful because he hits the problem square on the head, I think.

This book is well worth reading. He attacks just about everything that is wrong with the church. There will be lots of people who will be offended, I am sure, because of his direct way of pointing out error. Even I, as a Calvinist, was offended when Fisk described Calvin's teaching “that Jesus Christ is not present bodily in the Lord's Supper” as false teaching. (126) But Fisk is a Lutheran and I'll let that go.

If you are tired of all the gimmicks, the latest DVD series on church growth or worship or whatever, read this book. It will give you much to think and pray about.

You can find a downloadable discussion guide here.

Jonathan Fisk is pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL.

Concordia Publishing house, 280 pages.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Aslan found Jesus as a teen at an evangelical camp. But by college he was convinced that the “Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions...” (12) He discarded his faith but continued his work in religious studies. He now provides his own investigation into the life of Jesus.

Aslan says the gospels are not historical documentations of the life of Jesus. He does not believe they were written by eyewitnesses of the events. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70, Christians worked at transforming Jesus into a peaceful spiritual leader rather than a revolutionary Jewish nationalist. They created a Jesus that the Romans could accept, Aslan says.

In this book, Aslan tries to reclaim the Jesus before that transformation. “The task is somewhat akin to putting together a massive puzzle with only a few of the pieces in hand; one has no choice but to fill in the rest of the puzzle based on the best, most educated guess of what the complete image should look like.” (22)

Aslan certainly does not take what the gospel writers have written at face value. For example, he writes, “Whatever languages Jesus may have spoken, there is no reason to think he could read or write in any of them, not even Aramaic.” (56) He claims that Jesus debating with the rabbis and scribes, and Jesus reading from the scroll, “...are both fabulous concoctions of the evangelist's [Luke's] own devising.” (57) He also writes that predictions Jesus made, such as the coming destruction of the Temple, were “put into his mouth by the evangelists after the fact.” (90) Regarding the account of John the Baptist's death, “the gospel account is not to be believed.” (95) Luke invented the infancy narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus. (101)

He certainly does not believe Jesus was divine. “...Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and nothing more.” (129) The fate of Israel and the Jews was all that mattered to Jesus. (129) Also, “...the fact remains that the resurrection is not a historical event.” (173)

So Aslan has invented a life of Jesus not based on the biblical accounts but based instead on his study of the social and political scene at the time. His is merely an educated guess as to what Jesus said and did.

Aslan claims the gospel writers have invented most of the life of Jesus they record. And I would say the same of Aslan. He has invented a life of Jesus based on his educated guesses and speculations. It is ironic he thinks we should take his invented account over the “invented” account of the gospel writers. I'll take the gospel writers.

The positive aspect of this book is the vast amount of historical information. For biblical fiction writers, there would be lots of usable information available for creating characters and the actions they would do, since that is basically what Aslan has done with Jesus.

Evangelical Christians like me will find this book very frustrating. I was disappointed in the book. I don't recommend it.

You can find out more about Reza Aslan at his website:

Random House, 336 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris

Wow. This little book packs a punch. Who of us hasn't experienced that person who just knows his doctrine is right and hits us over the head with it?

Harris argues for a strong commitment to orthodoxy and a strong commitment to be gracious in our words and interactions. Humble orthodoxy.

We must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility.” (5)

I wholeheartedly agree when Harris admits it is hard. He helps us see the difference between contending for the faith and being contentious. He identifies what should be the basis for our passionate pursuit of biblical orthodoxy. (And it is not proving ourselves right!) He also shows the relationship between truth and humility.

This is a hard hitting little book. Have we learned to rebuke like Jesus but failed to learn to love like Jesus? Do you hold to the truth and show love to others?

The text is just 60 pages, followed by a 16 page study guide divided into four studies. This would make a powerful study for a small group.

We are in a time when standing firm for biblical truth is a difficult task. Reading this book will help you do it in a way that will glorify God and impact your neighbor.

You can read the first chapter here.

Joshua Harris is the lead pastor at Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is also a council member of the Gospel Coalition. This is his sixth book. He and his wife have three children. You can find our more about him and his ministry at You can follow him on Facebook here.

Multnomah Books, 96 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Brotherhood Conspiracy by Terry Brennan

This is the second in Brennan's exciting end times series. You would not have to read The Sacred Cipher first (read my review here) as enough of that story is provided in this one. But then you'd miss all the intense action leading up to this drama.

The Temple Mount was nearly destroyed by the earthquake and the Israelis and Muslim factions are fighting over control of the area. The Israelis are determined to get unquestioned sovereignty over it. But a faction of radical Islam has the goal of restoring the Caliphate. A powerful Muslim leader is moving to break the Israeli strength and institute the world domination of Islam.

The Israeli's plan is to erect another sacred structure on the Temple Mount. Caught in the middle of this is the U. S. President. He is a Christian and he is torn. Are the last days unfolding? Is this God's plan? He recruits Tom and his group to go to Israel and find the sacred structure and prevent the start of another world war. Unknown to Tom, there are deadly assassins out to keep him from completing his task.

This is another action packed novel from Brennan. Interwoven into the intrigue are historical facts and information on the current political situation in the Middle East. The author has included a note at the end of the book giving the historical background. You might want to read that first to really appreciate the novel.

If you like novels that take the current world political condition and relate it to possible biblical fulfillment, you'll like this book. You will learn a great deal and have an exciting read in the process. And the end of this novel is not the end of the story so I will be eagerly awaiting the next in this series.

Terry Brennan had an extensive career in journalism, winning several awards. He served eleven years as the vice president of operations for the Bowery Mission in New York City and is currently chief administrative officer for Care for the Homeless.

Kregel Publication, 368 pages.

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan

In this end times novel, an ancient scroll is found in a secret room under the New York Bowery Mission. Tom, executive director of the mission, assembles a group of historians and scientists to decode the mysterious writing. When the message is revealed, the team heads to Jerusalem to find the hidden but very real third temple.

I found the novel a combination of interesting and informative history and contemporary Middle East politics. The Author's Note at the end indicates much of the novel is based on documented history and relatively current events. You may want to read the Author's Note first so you have an idea of the historical basis as you read the novel.

Those who enjoy reading speculative end times novels will enjoy this one. The events set up the possibility of the Lord's near return. I did find the premise of the third temple to be a little far fetched and a bit too unrealistic for me. I do prefer a book with intense action and I found in this novel the action was often prolonged - the writing could have been tighter. I found the dialog, addressing an individual by name every time, was tiresome.

I did take away from this novel a renewed sense of the tension in the Middle East, especially over the control of the Temple Mount, and the history behind it.

Terry Brennan had an extensive career in journalism, winning several awards. He served eleven years as the vice president of operations for the Bowery Mission in New York City and is currently chief administrative officer for Care for the Homeless.

Kregel Publications, 352 pages.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The New Bible Cure for High Blood Pressure by Don Colbert, MD

God wants to stop high blood pressure from damaging your health, Colbert writes. If you have high blood pressure, Colbert has good news for you. “You don't have to face it alone. God promises to walk with you until you defeat it.” (ix)

Colbert says high blood pressure can usually be reversed through good nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices, exercise, vitamins and supplements, weight loss, and dynamic faith. (x)

He helps you understand what high blood pressure is and what causes it. He outlines a healthy diet aiming at lowering blood pressure and stopping inflammation. He explains the importance of regular exercise, describing several styles and routines. He suggests supplements and discusses medications. He reminds you of the consequences of stress and gives suggestions to combat it.

He adds Scripture to strengthen and encourage you and ends each chapter with a prayer and suggested action to take.

We are so programed to run to medications it is really refreshing to read a book describing natural ways to tackle this common ailment. It is such an encouragement to know that living life the way God designed will produce a much healthier body. A few things surprised me, like the benefits of celery and the chiropractic adjustment of a particular vertebra in lowering blood pressure.

This book is not a magic cure for high blood pressure. A change in diet, exercise, and lifestyle are probably required. But if you are willing to work at restoring your health, this book is a great place to start.

This is an updated edition of the 2001 book with the latest medical research.

Don Colbert, MD, is board-certified in family practice and practices anti-aging and integrative medicine. He has written numerous books including New York Times best-sellers. You can find out more about him at

Siloam, Charisma House Book Group, 116 pages.

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Anomaly by Krista McGee

In this novel of the future, nuclear war has occurred. The land, the water, and the air are all contaminated. People live underground in a society directed by The Scientists. They develop genetically engineered young people who are raised in a communal setting. Some are designed to be logical thinkers. Some become scientists. Others are workers. And when a person is no longer needed, he is annihilated.

Thalli was designed to be a musician. Her purpose is to stimulate the others in her pod so they will do their jobs better. But at seventeen, Thalli knew she was different from the others. She questioned while the others merely accepted. She felt when others showed no feelings. She was an anomaly. And that was why she was going to be annihilated.

I really liked this novel for young people. It had everything a futuristic novel should have. There is the post nuclear war future with a living environment controlled by scientists – one of whom gets inside people's brains. There is lots of futuristic equipment. There is the desire for a meaningful and emotion filled life. There is word of a Designer when all belief in God has been erased. There is the possibility of love as Thalli's friend, now scientist in training, Berk tries to help her live.

I especially liked the twisting of perception, going from reality to a simulated reality without the subject knowing. Like Thalli, I began wondering if the current scene was real or a created reality. And the twist at the end, speaking of created reality, was great.

This is a great novel for teens. There is a great presentation of the gospel and faith in Jesus. Teens who would like a thoughtful futuristic novel will like this one.

When Krista McGee isn’t living in fictional worlds of her own creation, she lives in Tampa and spends her days as a wife, mom, teacher, and coffee snob. She is also the author of “Anomaly,” “First Date,” “Starring Me,” and “Right Where I Belong.” Find out more about Krista at

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

Thomas Nelson, 316 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, July 19, 2013

Runaway Emotions by Jeff Schreve

Emotions serve a purpose in our lives, Schreve says. Uncomfortable and undesirable feelings serve as warning bells, telling us something is wrong. They reveal deep, unhealthy thinking.

Schreve explores the emotions many of us deal with. Embarrassment and insecurity relate to our desire for self worth. He helps us deal with feelings of inferiority by advising we incorporate into our lives the infinite worth we have because we have been born into the family of God and because of the price Jesus paid for us.

Loneliness deals with our God given desire for companionship and authentic relationships. We are to give ourselves to the Lord, he suggests and give ourselves to others. When we understand God's law of giving, we'll receive.

He identifies frustration as a blend of anger and discouragement. We are to remember that God knows all about us, that He has a special plan for us and that He will equip us.

He also writes about worry – a faith issue. We are to trust God, give Him ownership, and seek Him first. Anger is a control issue and we are to recognize God is in control and choose His grace. He discusses guilt and the wrong and right ways to deal with it. For discontentment, our recognizing why we experience difficult things is the beginning of the cure. And depression: “Depressed people are fixated on the wrong things.” (203)

Schreve ends his book by reminding us that God does not want us to get stuck in one of these negative feelings. The choice is ours.

He has given very good suggestions for understanding the why of the negative emotions and for moving beyond them. As with many books like this one, the choice lies with the reader. And his suggestions are not always easy, such as forgiving those who have hurt you, or, disciplining your mind to think correctly. For you to benefit from this book you would really need to work on his suggestions. He shares examples from his life and the lives of others to encourage you to do that.

The strong point of the book for me was finding out what the negative emotions indicate. We sometimes get so caught up in the emotion we fail to think of what God is communicating to us. Schreve has done an excellent job in identifying the underlying faith or thinking issues that are revealed by the negative emotion.

If you genuinely want to understand your negative emotions and desire godly suggestions that will lead you to having God's peace in your heart, this book is for you.

Jeff Schreve has served as Pastor of First Baptist Texarkana, Texas since
2003. In 2005, he founded From His Heart Ministries, a radio and television ministry. He has a degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is working to finish his doctorate there. Jeff and his wife have three daughters, one son-in-law, and one granddaughter.

Thomas Nelson, 224 pages.

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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The End of Apologetics by Myron Bradley Penner

In this postmodern era, is a classic approach to apologetics appropriate? Penner argues that there needs to be a new approach to apologetics. Belief in God is not intuitive in our secular era. God's existence is no longer “self-evident” or “reasonable.” Using reason is no longer an effective way of arriving at truth, as truth is no longer seen as objective or universal in time and place.

Penner is “against the notion that our task as Christians is to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of Christian belief – as if we are Christians by dint of our genius.” (72) To come to this point he uses Kierkegaard's views on genius/apostle, faith, truth, reason, and modern apologetics as a guide.

If Penner's critique of modern apologetics is valid, there needs to be a new way of doing apologetics. He suggests an approach using metaphors of conversation and dialogue rather than the model of trial and debate. Rather than asking, “Is it true and can we prove it?”, he suggests, “Is it intelligible and meaningful?” (68) There needs to be a shift to a hermeneutics focusing on understanding the life of faith, apologetics in terms of faithful witness. We should no longer treat Christianity as a “thing” to be known and proven, but rather as a way of being, thinking, understanding and living. There is a concern for others, not as things, but as persons needing edification.

I'm a Christian steeped in classical apologetics. Postmodernism defies my logically trained mind. Yet I greatly appreciate Penner's timely argument, even if it was hard to accept at first. Do we really come to faith as a result of rational persuasion (modern apologetics)? Or do we come to faith in the context of living life? Do we witness because we hold rationally proven beliefs or because we have heard God speak?

Penner argues that apologetics is not to be left to the brilliant thinkers who have the skills to out argue atheists. Each of us is an apologist because each of us has a proclamation from God – the gospel. We ask others to accept our message because it comes from God, not because of some clever argument. We ask them to accept the message because we have been with them, interacted and listened to them.

Academics involved in apologetics need to read his book. Penner covers a great deal in this book designed for their community and scholars will have much to consider, such as what truth is and how truth is conveyed, confession and witness, and the ethics of witness.

Yet for the layman, Penner's message is thought provoking. What people need today is not a theoretical answer to an intellectual challenge. People need personal responses to their spiritual problems. Our task as Christians “is not to know the truth intellectually but to become the truth.” (127) Also, we need to be concerned not only with what we witness as Christians but how we do so.

This book will certainly stimulate thinking on apologetics.

Myron Bradley Penner (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Edmonton, Alberta. He previously taught at Prairie College and Graduate School and served as a human development worker.

Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 180 pages.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble

Amy is not convinced her brother, Ben, died in a winter surfing accident near their family's Outer Banks summer home. She decides to move into Rosemary Cottage to see what she can find out. She might even stay and set up her midwifery practice on the island. With no land bridge, pregnant women must go to the mainland for a time to await the birth near a hospital.

Coast Guard officer Curtis recognizes Amy immediately. He wants to get to know her better, much better. He too is mourning the loss of a sibling. His sister, Gina, had been killed by a speeding boat as she was out in the water too far from shore for anyone to prevent the horrible accident. Curtis is now raising his sister's infant daughter, having been designated guardian by Gina's action just a couple of weeks before she was killed.

Amy's presence on the island is troubling, though, because Gina claimed Ben was the father of her daughter. Curtis has kept that information from Amy's wealthy family. He knows they will try to take the child away from him.

As Amy and Curtis get to know each other better, the mystery surrounding their siblings' deaths increases. It soon becomes clear that their lives are in danger too.

This is a pretty good mystery and romance. As the mystery around the deaths is slowly unraveled, Coble added enough twists, turns, and characters to keep me interested to the very end. I have to admit, I thought I had identified the murder but was surprised at the final revelation.

There are a couple of prominent themes in the novel. One is how well we really know other people, even a sibling. Amy finds out that Ben was not who she thought he was. Another theme is that of forgiveness. Amy exemplifies a Christlike attitude when she forgives a teen for her part in the intrigue.

I always like it when I learn something in a romance novel. In this one I was introduced to winter surfing, Amy touting the benefits of cold water immersion. Amy is a midwife and we learn quite a bit about that profession too. She is also a proponent of natural remedies and I learned about several of those as well.

Although it is the second in a series, it can certainly be read as a stand alone novel. There are discussion questions included so this would make a fine choice for a reading group. The Christianity of the characters is presented well.

Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the
Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Find out more about Colleen at

Thomas Nelson, 338 pages.
Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When a Secret Kills by Lynette Eason

This novel wraps up The Deadly Reunion series. Jillian has been gone for ten years. She saw a murder the night of the high school graduation party – and the murderer saw her. She knew her life was in danger. It would be the word of a teen against that of a powerful man. She immediately left town. Over time she had made a life for herself, becoming an investigative reporter. But when a colleague is killed by a bomb on the car she was to be driving, she knew she had been found out. It was time for her to return and find a way to put the murderer behind bars.

Jillian's return is a shock to many, including her high school boyfriend now detective Colton. The still love struck Colton is reluctant to believe her story as he is the nephew of the accused killer. But when it becomes clear that someone is out to silence Jillian, Colton moves to protect her and find the truth behind the accusations.

Eason has crafted a good mystery. There is lots of action as there are powerful people who have much to loose if the decade old secret comes to light. The final revelation of the murderer is plausible.

My only criticism is that Jillian sometimes put herself in danger, knowing better. I don't like it when some of the action in a suspense novel occurs because a character did a stupid thing. Jillian is a savvy investigative reporter and sometimes acted out of character.

The Christianity of the characters is well done. Jillian and Colton were love struck teens and made a mistake but as adult Christians, make the right decisions for their lives. And what a character that Megan is! I loved her wit.

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the women of Justice series and the Deadly Reunion series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She has a master;s degree in education from Converse College and she lives in South Carolina. Find out more at

Revell, 352 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Renewed by Lucille Zimmerman

Sometimes we are so busy taking care of others we forget to take care of ourselves. Maybe it is that we are trying so hard to grow in Christ and correct our faults we become overwhelmed.

That is time for self-care. We need to tend to ourselves in the midst of our stressful life. Zimmerman wants us to learn positive responses in coping with stress and to give us permission to care for ourselves. As Christians, we might think self-care is selfish and ungodly. But taking care of ourselves means we will have our best to offer others.

Zimmerman provides the steps to get started in our self-care. We begin with small steps. Following Merton, she offers ways to incorporate balance, order, rhythm, and harmony into our lives.

Topics she covers include mindset (what we tell ourselves), positive affirmations, what it means to have a healthy sense of self, boundaries, spiritual self-care, solitude, talking through our secrets, being open to the beauty around us, the benefits of play, the renewing effects of exercise, the health of forgiveness, creating a place for grief, the role and importance of counseling, the benefits of connecting with others and of being generous and having gratitude.

This is a very practical book. Zimmerman gives bulleted lists of practical ways to start the renewal process in each of the areas covered in the book.

I was really impressed with this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who feels overwhelmed or pulled in too many directions at once. You will find permission to care for yourself and will find sensible and practical way to begin doing so.

On another note, Zimmerman hooked me on page seven: “There's a Dutch word that captures what I want to convey in this book. The term is gezellig (heh-SELL-ick). Dutch people will tell you that the word cannot be translated – its meaning is a combination of cozy, quaint, nice, friendly, comfortable, relaxing, enjoyable, and gregarious. I pray,” she writes, “that as a result of reading this book you will fill your life with gezellig moments.” (7)

Being of Dutch descent, I know Zimmerman is spot on about gezellig. It was a favorite word in our home.

And Zimmerman is spot on with this book. Read it and have more gezellig moments in your life.

Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has counseled hurting families and individuals through the Columbine High School shooting and the events of 9/11. An affiliate faculty member of Colorado Christian University, Lucille lives in Littleton with her husband and two adult children. Find out more about her workshops, resources, and more at

Abingdon Press, 198 pages. Publisher's product page.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West

Kristen was twelve when her journalist father was killed in Vietnam in 1954. He had been covering the war between the French and Vietnamese. Thirteen years later Kristen landed in Saigon. She was determined to finish what her father had started.

And that involved Luke, a photographer for Time. Kristen and Luke are thrown together and she begins to think Luke is more than just a photographer. She suspects he is CIA. And that is exactly the story her father had been working on.

The relationship between Kristen and Luke started out on a rocky path but they soon develop serious feelings for each other. Will Kristen betray the one she has come to love for the story she so desperately wants to see completed?

Catherine has developed a touching story set in the background of the war torn country of Vietnam. She delves into the horrible and uncertain conditions of those fighting the war and reporting on it. She also investigates those held captive for years and listed as MIA. How long does one wait for a man when it is not know if he is alive or dead?

Kristen and Luke are struggling with their faith early in the book and they make some mistakes. There are faithful Christians around them, however, and God's work is ultimately recognized. Kristen's brother Teddy expressed how soldiers lived each day. “We're living in uncertain times... We're lucky to have had yesterday, and only God knows if we're getting tomorrow. The only day that really matters is today. It's yesterday's tomorrow.” (122)

This is a fine novel that will bring back memories of those times for older readers like me. The story kept my interest and the ending is a real cliffhanger.

I would have liked to have had more description of the locations the characters found themselves in. I almost feel like this novel could have taken place in any war torn country.

Go here to watch a book trailer.
Go here to read an excerpt from the book.
I am taking part in a blog tour and you can read more reviews of this book here.

Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

Catherine West has a BA from the University of Toronto. Yesterday's Tomorrow was her first novel, released in 2011. It won the INSPY for Romance, a Silver Medal in the Reader's Favorite Awards, and was a finalist in the Grace Awards. She writes for the International Christian Fiction Writers' blog: She is a member fo American Christian Fiction Writers, where she is currently serving as Zone Director for the Beyond the Borders zone. She also belongs to the Faith Hope and Love Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. She and her family live on the island of Bermuda. Find out more at

Oak Tara, 279 pages.

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