Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Pandora Box by Lilly Maytree

What a delightful novel. It has everything I like in a novel – a strong female heroine, a handsome but mysterious male counterpart, a mystery, espionage, an adventure, lots of action, a frustrated romance, humor, a good plot, surprises at the end, and a set up for a sequel.

Dee Parker is a gutsy investigative journalist with a Portland, Oregon newspaper. While investigating a state mental hospital she befriends an elderly man who claims he is being wrongly held. He manages to sneak information to Dee, information revealing the hidden location of millions of dollars worth of diamonds stolen during World War II. When Dee is told that the old man has died she decides to pursue the lead to the diamonds. She convinces her older friend Marion to come with her. One safety deposit box later the two women descend upon a seaside town and the old man's sailboat. Dee finds the sailboat occupied by a handsome but gruff fellow who claims the boat is his. Hawk and his friend Starr manage to come to terms with the two women (it's not easy). Even though Dee has a run in with the FBI, the foursome set sail for Russia and the diamonds.

That is when the action gets intense. They find out there is more to all of this than they've been told. There are others out to find the diamonds – others with deadly intentions who will stop at nothing to get them first.

This is a well written novel. Dee is a great heroine. She is the daughter of a preacher and a survivor of four brothers. She will not be deterred. Marion is a wonderful sidekick with a sense of humor that is fun to read. Hawk and Starr are conflicted men. They are honorable men, but the women drive them crazy. That's not a good combination for a peaceful voyage.

But it sure is a good combination for a great novel. I really liked it. The plot twists at the end are great. I look forward to more from this talented author.

Lilly Maytree has written several books and is herself, with her Captain, an avid sailor. You can follow her adventures on the Glory B, read about her other books and watch a trailer for this one at her blog, , and find out other information at

Harbourlight Books, 338 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through the Book Group Network for the purpose of this review.

A Search for Purple Cows by Susan Call

It is every woman's nightmare. You marry an attentive giver of lavish gifts only to find he is a controlling, possessive and threatening man.

Susan shares the romance, the wedding, and the marriage with Joe. While he had been a gentlemen in courting her, he became a possessively jealous man, threatening her life if she could not account for every minute of her day. He began to drink heavily. Susan persevered in the marriage and two children became part of the family. Then she learned of his infidelity with their recent au pair.

Susan was conflicted. She wanted the marriage to last but when her daughter began having nightmares of daddy hurting mommy, she knew it was time to act. She planned every detail of her escape. With the help of others, she and her children moved to a safe place. Then the legal battle for custody ensued. Though the journey was rough, Susan and her children made it safely to a new life.

Susan became a Christian during her marriage. She is quick to point out her dependence on God for her strength and preservation. She is so grateful to those who helped her in her drastic time of need. She certainly gives God the credit for her ability to forgive. Her tone in the book is not one of bitterness or anger – just honesty.

Susan notes at the end of her book that, though this has been “her” journey, she believes “in reality it is His story; it is a reminder that God still performs miracles, he still answers prayers, and He still very much cares about each one of us.” (224)

This is a hard book to read. It is hard to read about the terror a controlling and threatening man can instill in his wife,. Yet it is also an encouraging book. It is a book about possibilities, about no longer being trapped by our past, by pain, by guilt, or by shame. (226) Those facing circumstances similar to Susan's will find hope in its pages.

Susan Call is an author and speaker. She holds a master's degree in marriage and family therapy from Eastern Nazarene College. She lives in New Hampshire with her family. You can find out more about her at

Guideposts, 232 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Devil Has No Mother by Nicky Cruz

Nicky Cruz turned his back on the devil in the 1960s when he was converted from his life as a New York gang leader. Even though he is now free from the devil's control, Nicky knows the devil is still at work deceiving others.

Nicky has noticed a disturbing trend within the church in recent years. 
“...Christians are becoming more and more ignorant about – and apathetic toward – the threat posed by the devil.” (124) We have forgotten we have an enemy. We are unaware of his schemes. We are no longer a threat to the devil and his wicked plans.

Nicky wants to change that and this book is his wake up call to Christians. The devil is real and active, Nicky reminds us. “Satan must be unmasked,” he writes. “He is not a harmless caricature or a myth left over from humanity's primitive past...He's a real being – and the most awful one we could imagine.” (17)

Nicky shares what he has seen and experienced in his fifty years battling the works of the devil. He shares his own fights with demons and how we might be attacked, the devil's disguises, and demon oppression. We will never escape the attacks of the devil, not until heaven. But knowing his tactics will help us be better prepared to fight, to understand the limits of his influence and our authority, and to have confidence in the Lord's ability to defeat evil.

The Lord is great and powerful and active on our behalf. We must remember that the devil is already defeated. Nicky shares many encouraging stories of victory over the devil. God is still very much at work doing miracles.

This is a book that Christians need to read. We have gotten complacent in our spiritual warfare and Nicky brings us back to the reality of our enemy. But he doesn't leave us helpless. He helps us understand spiritual warfare and the resources God has given us for the battle.

Nicky Cruz told his conversion story in Run Baby Run. Since his conversion he has traveled the world in evangelistic outreach. He is the founder of Nicky Cruz Outreach.

Worthy Publishing, 256 pages.

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

Discover Together Ephesians: Walk in the Spirit, Eph. 5:1-20

Joy is something we all want – that underlying feeling of well-being and blessedness despite circumstances. Some try to get that feeling through intoxication (just watch the ads during professional football games). Paul tells us there is an intoxicating joy but it is not obtained through alcohol. It is obtained by being under the control of the Holy Spirit.

The world wants us to conform to its mold. Paul describes many of the world's activities in the first few verses of Ephesians 5. That kind of behavior is not for us. We might have been like that at one time but now we are children of light. We are to be figuring out the kind of life to lead that is pleasing to God!

That brings us back to the Holy Spirit. When we are “filled” with the Spirit, we will be wise on how we conduct our lives. We'll understand what the will of God is. And it will show in our behavior. Giving thanks for everything? Submitting to others? Those are tall marching orders. But when the Holy Spirit is running our lives, that will be the kind of behavior we will most want to do.

I am not going to get in a discussion about what “Spirit-filled” means. As one fellow said, it has less to do with exuberance or impulsive speech, and more to do with a life marked by the ordinary and God honoring behavior identified as the fruit of the Spirit.

How will you submit to the Holy Spirit and His guidance today?

Watch the Lesson 7 video by Sue Edwards here.

You find out more about the study series at and see the video clips at You can follow the discussion on Facebook at

You can also read my bog on the Introduction, Lesson One, Lesson Two, Lesson Three, Lesson Four, Lesson Five, and Lesson Six.

Sue Edwards is an associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She brings over thirty years of experience to the classroom as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She is the author or co-author of several books. She has a D.Min. From Gordon-Conwell theological Seminary and a master's in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband have been married for forty years, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Kregel Publications, 127 pages. See the publisher's product page for more information about the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Open Book Promotion for the purpose of blogging this study.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just One More Thing by David Gudgel with Bernice Gudgel

Dave and Bernice wanted to send their teens off with the best preparation possible. They made a list of all the really big things and worked it into a binder. Dave and his oldest son talked over one of the topics in the binder every couple of weeks. He did the same with their other teens their senior years. Each one left home better prepared for what lay ahead.

Dave and Bernice have written this book to help parents open up the conversation with their teens those last years they are home. Students could read this book on their own but it would be much better to discuss it with an adult.

Some of the topics included are making your own choices, having convictions, roommate relationships, love, finances, debt, contentment, priorities, dreams and plans, seeking God's guidance, moral issues (like drinking alcohol and gambling), sexual issues (including pornography and abstinence), and various other topics like fear and grief. They end with a section on spiritual issues, including church and making an eternal difference. There are twenty seven topics in all.

Last are some really practical tips, such as keeping your room/house clean, doing laundry, cooking, car maintenance, and living safely.

This is a great book for parents to use in initiating discussions on important topics with their teens. The format is well thought out. Dave and Bernice provide lots of stories illustrating the topics. Some are from Dave's life while others are from the Bible or people they know. They include a “Think it Through” section at the end of each chapter that asks thoughtful questions and provides Scripture for review. This section provides a very good springboard for discussion between parent and teen. And if parents feel uncomfortable entering into this process, Dave and Bernice have provided a “Note to Parents” on how to use the book.

You can find out more about the book, watch a trailer and buy the book here.
I am taking part of a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Dave and Bernice Gudgel met in high school and married in their early twenties. Bernice finished her degree in psychology and later Dave received
his Masters at Talbot Theological Seminary, then a Doctorate from Western Seminary in Portland. Dave has been lead pastor at Agoura Bible Fellowship, then lead at Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix. Today they live in the Bay Area where Dave is lead pastor at Bridges Community Church, Los Altos. Dave has written three previous books. You can find out more about Dave and Bernice at

CreateSpace, 252 pages.

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Letters from Ruby by Adam Thomas

Move over, Father Tim. The town of Victory, West Virginia has a new priest, “a green kid that the bishop sent because there was no one else to come.”

Newly ordained Episcopal priest Rev. Calvin Harper has arrived in the small community to be the pastor of their ailing parish. He has no idea how much he has yet to learn about caring for a church and a community. Ruby Redding, one of the elderly Morning Prayer regulars, takes him under her wing.

What an enjoyable book. Unlike Jan Karon's Father Tim, Calvin is a novice. Victory is his first parish and the learning curve is steep. He starts out on the wrong foot when he is arrested for breaking into his own church – all because he couldn't find an unlocked door. God's mentoring grace comes in the form of an elderly woman, Ruby. She has all the wisdom of a long devoted life and shares it with Calvin as he needs it. And need it he does – especially when Esther Rose, another of the Morning Prayer regulars, gives him a list of what he did wrong after every meeting.

The story is revealed to us in parallel tracks. We follow Calvin as learns all the lessons he was never taught in seminary, and we also read letters Ruby has written to Calvin after he has moved on to another parish. As the novel progresses, we learn more about Ruby, her youth, and her marriage to Whit. We are treated to two stories – one about a novice priest learning about life, love, and grief, and another about a woman full of wisdom from her eighty years of living.

This is a tender coming of age story as Calvin lives into his calling to the priesthood. I really like him. He has a sense of humor, is humble enough to learn from others yet firm enough to take control at a funeral squabble. He's the kind of priest you'd like to have at your parish.

A delightful novel that will have you wanting a sequel.

Adam Thomas is one of the youngest men to be ordained to the Episcopal priesthood. He writes a blog at This is his first novel. He lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What's So Funny? by Tim Conway with Jane Scovell

Funny. This book is funny.

You've seen him on The Carol Burnett Show and in McHale's Navy. You know he's funny on TV but what is he like at home?

Conway shares his life with us. He had an Irish dad and a Romanian mother and grew up in a small town in Ohio. Being a friend of his dad's was dangerous (let's see, a broom handle in the eye, a hand shut in a car door, and more). Conway's stories about his parents will have you laughing out loud.

And then he went to school. Being the smallest in the class, he used humor in defense. He wanted to be a jockey. An English teacher who gave him the courage to express himself. College at Bowling Green where he started doing comedy sketches. A two year hitch in the Army after graduation (using a fluorescent bulb for a rifle – you have to read the book). During this time he decided to become a professional comedian. He and a friend debuted in a Seattle club and lasted two shows before getting the boot. Back home he got a job writing comedy for a radio show in Cleveland. He began doing his life's work – making people laugh. Then came local TV, seen by Rose Marie (in Cleveland for an interview). She took reels back to Hollywood … and in September of 1960, Toma Conway was on his way to Hollywood and Steve Allen. Then Carol Burnett. 

There were some surprises too, like Conway being in “legitimate” summer stock theater and writing some plays himself. He's also quite a family man, enjoying his kids and grand-kids too.

In reminiscing about early television, Conway writes, “I miss watching those worry-free television programs, the kind you could view with the whole family without hearing foul language or seeing too much violence or too much skin.” (230) Me too. Thanks, Tim, for being a part of TV's golden years.

Conway never stops being Conway. Some of the pranks he's pulled, well, you've just got to read the book. Thanks for making us laugh, Tim – back then on TV and today in your book.

Tim Conway, well, by his own admission, he doesn't have a serious thought in his head.
Jane Scovell has coauthored several books and has contributed to many articles for many publications. She lives in New York City.

Howard Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster), 247 pages. You can read an excerpt from the book at the publisher's product page.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

God's Not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

We so often feel God is disappointed and angry with us because we are less than He wants and expects us to be. Joyce reminds us that God loves us because he wants to, not because we deserve it. And He never stops loving us. He refuses to leave us alone. “He meets us where we are and helps us get to where we need to be.” (viii)

God is determined to have intimate relationship with each of us, and the only way he can do that is if He extends grace, mercy and forgiveness to us continually.” (x)

Joyce writes about at all the issues that keep us from accepting God's unconditional love toward us. She looks at perfectionism and its ramifications (verses doing our best because we love Jesus), father issues, rejection, wrong perceptions that muddy our vision, guilt and shame (and phantom leg pain), religion and a religious attitude, trying to be someone we're not, not accepting God's forgiveness, failing to receive God's word, being overwhelmed by sin, having difficulty trusting God, and more.

The single most important goal of this book,” Joyce writes, “is to unburden you of the baggage you have carried into your relationship with the Lord – hurt, bad teachings, flawed views of a father, a works-based faith, wrong fear of God and other things that are all heavy items of baggage that steel our joy.” (116) Take the focus off ourselves, she advises. Place it on God and His mercy.

This is a very practical book. Joyce tells lots of stories to illustrate her teaching points. If you have difficulty accepting God's love for you and being comfortable in His presence, read this book. “The understanding of grace, forgiveness, mercy, the unconditional love of God and the doctrine of righteousness through Christ is the foundation for everything else in our relationship with and service for God.” (224) Joyce helps us build a good foundation.

Food for thought: “Sad Christians are people who simply don't know what they have in Christ.” (118)
More food for thought: “We are called to be excellent but God leaves flaws in even His choicest saints to that they will always need Him.” (23)

Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. She has written nearly 100 inspirational books. Her TV and radio broadcasts air worldwide.

FaithWords (a division of Hachette Book Group), 240 pages.

Not in Your Lifetime by Anthony Summers

I remember exactly where I was that day when the announcement came over the high school intercom. The President had been shot. As the events unfolded and investigation ensued, it all seemed too simple, even to my teen-aged mind. Over the years I've read many books on the assassination, feeding my suspicion that there was much more to the event and its aftermath than the government wanted us to know. Summers provides us with the latest information on a possible conspiracy in this updated edition of his book.

Summers documents the sloppy police procedure following Kennedy's assassination, the destruction of evidence, and a botched autopsy. He reminds us of the conflicting eyewitness reports as to the origin of the shots. He reviews the photographic evidence. He writes of the evidence ignored and/or suppressed by the Warren Commission. There was gross deception by the CIA, refusal by agencies to release documents, the FBI changing its story, erased tapes, missing documents, and more.

The Warren Commission did such a poor job the House overwhelmingly voted to open an investigation into the assassination in 1976. The House Assassinations Committee report of 1979 replaced the Warren Commission's certainty of a sole assassin with a web of suspicion. It found that the assassination evidence pointed to a conspiracy. It added suspicion to the role of Jack Ruby. “Ruby's apparent connections [with organized crime and Cuba] led to the core of the most enduring suspicions as to who really killed Kennedy.” (309) The Assassinations Committee concluded that the CIA-Mafia Cuba plots “had all the elements necessary for a successful assassination conspiracy...” (339)

So who killed Kennedy? We may never know. Summers explores the Mafia connections, the CIA secret activities, and the Cuban possibilities. At the end of each chapter I knew there was certainly enough evidence about that group that they could have organized the death. Like Summers, I kept asking, were these all coincidences or evidence of a conspiracy?

As a judge said about the possibility of making some documents available to public scrutiny, “Not in your lifetime.” (This despite the JFK Records Act of 1992.) And the individuals who may have had personal knowledge of the assassination are all dead. So there is no place to look for more revealing evidence. We do know there are just too many strange circumstances associated with the assassination and subsequent investigations to make it the simple act of an individual. Was is the Mob? Castro? A government agency? We'll never know.

It has been fifty years since the assassination so why is it important to read about it now? Summers suggests that this era in U.S. history was a turning point. It was at this point that citizens began to disbelieve in the credibility of government institutions. Reading this book will give you a good idea why that is so.

Don't be put off by the page count of this book. The actual text is about half the book (340 pages) while the rest includes photos, notes, bibliography, etc.

Anthony Summers is the author of eight books. His book on the 9/11 attacks, The Eleventh Day, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for History and won the Golden Dagger award for the best crime nonfiction of the year. The first edition of this book was also awarded the Golden Dagger.

Open Road Media, 620 pages.

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Cutting Edge by Ace Collins

This is a novel with a powerful message.

Leslie is a New York model at the top of her career. When her agent suggests the next big step in her career is an advertisement that requires nudity, Leslie knows she needs to go home and talk to her parents. Her conservative upbringing makes faint warning bells sound. The flight puts her in her hometown airport late at night. While she waits for a taxi she is abducted. When she refuses their advances, one of the men takes a broken scotch bottle and attacks her face. She nearly bleeds to death before she is found.

For Leslie, the struggles have just begun. Her perfect face was who she was. How can she live with her identity torn and deeply scarred?

This is a powerful study in what makes a human beautiful. Others try to convince Leslie that beauty is within and that who she really is still resides within her. We follow Leslie as she is angry at God, as she wants to die, as she begins to come to understand who she really is on the inside. We endure her mother who groomed Leslie from birth to be the physically beautiful woman she could never be herself. We root for Hunter who loved Leslie in high school and loves her still. We observe with awe as Leslie meets a six year old girl who is so scarred on the inside Leslie can only weep. And we hold our breath as the slasher comes back to finish the job.

This is a character driven novel as Leslie confronts so many issues when her life so dramatically changes. Reading groups would have a great deal to discuss. Is it healthy to place one's self value on something like appearance, or a job, or a husband? What do you do when that one thing is destroyed? How do you keep living and find new meaning to your life? How do you establish your own identity when a parent wants to force one on you?

The writing is not eloquent. There are no memorable sentences. But the character issues carry the story along so well that you want to read to the end. And you are rewarded with hope for Leslie and others scarred so deeply.

Ace Collins is a best-selling and award-winning author of more than 60 titles. He frequently speaks across the country and appears on radio and television shows. When not writing he is a magazine editor and graphic designer. He and his wife live in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Abingdon Press, 336 pages. Find out more from the publisher's product page.

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf

I am impressed with this book. I have never read anything that so effectively explains the correlation between brain science and Scripture. It has brought new understanding of passages like Romans 12:2 on renewing the mind, and Proverbs 23:7 on our thinking making us who we are. And I am amazed at the amount of scientific evidence Dr. Leaf provides supporting those biblical principles.

As an individual, you are capable of making mental and emotional changes in your life. Through your thinking, you can actively re-create thoughts and, therefore, knowledge in your mind.” (141) This requires deep, focused, intellectual attention.

Current neuroscientific and quantum physics research confirms that our thoughts change our brains daily.” (130) The term “self directed neuroplasticity” generally describes the principle that deep thinking changes brain structure and function. (130) The change can be positive or negative. It takes about 21 days to create long term integrated memory, hence her 21-Day Brain Detox Plan. Like riding a bicycle, the new patterns become automatized and become part of our internal perception.

She outlines her 5-Step Switch on Your Brain Learning Process that has at its heart focused, organized, and deep intellectual thinking. The aim is to change the brain in a positive direction. She developed this plan from her own research and clinical experience. That process forms the detox plan. Doing the five steps takes a minimum of seven to ten minutes daily. You work on one thought network in each cycle of 21 days. To keep the new mindset active, you practice it as much as possible until it becomes an automatic part of you.

Her process is a deliberate, disciplined, and rigorous renewing of the mind. “My research,” she writes, “shows that controlled focused thinking leads to impressive improvement in cognitive functioning and emotional balance.” (72)

Your mind, intellect, will, and emotions are always changing your brain in some way.” (91) Dr. Leaf provides the tools to make sure those changes follow God's design for renewing your mind. Around ten minutes a day might be all it takes. If you want to replace toxic thoughts with biblical ones, this book is a good one to get you on the right path.

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist, has worked in the area of cognitive neuroscience since 1985. She has specialized in traumatic brain injury and learning disabilities, focusing on the science of thought as it pertains to thinking and learning. A large part of her research in recent years has been to link scientific principles with Scripture. She applied the findings of her research in clinical practice for nearly twenty years and now lectures and preaches around the world on these topics. Caroline and her husband, Mac, live in Dallas, Texas, with their four children. For more information, visit her website:

Baker Books, 240 pages.

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Discover Together Ephesians: Talk Your Walk, Eph. 4:17-32

We women like to talk, don't we? There are jokes about how many thousands more words we speak a day than men. But talking much has its dangers. Proverbs 10:19 seems to indicate that the more we talk, the more likely we are to sin!

Does it matter, what we say? Paul thought it was important (Eph. 4:25). He admonished us to be truthful, especially to fellow Christians. What's a little gossip, we might think? But it can be so destructive.

And that's not all. We are not to even let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouth! Now, that is a tall order. What? No making fun of other people? No sarcasm? No making someone else look a little worse so we can look a little better?

And there is more! What does come out of our mouth is to be helpful in building up others according to their needs. Wow. That means we must be thinking about the other person and their needs - not our own. Our words are to benefit those who hear us.

It would seem that the key, Paul says, is in our thinking. Ephesians 4:17 tells us we are to no longer think like pagans. We are to no longer think like those who have no relationship with the Father. If we concentrate on how much God loves the person we are talking to, and the people we are talking about, that brings love to our speech. We are to put on a new self (v. 24), a self who is like God in righteousness and holiness. That new self will not want to put anyone down with hurtful words.

Is it possible? Can we control our speech? James tells us it is impossible to tame our tongue (3:8). We'll never be perfect in this life either, but that does not mean we quit trying. Paul seems to indicate that anger, bitterness, and attitudes like those have much to do with our hurtful speech (4:31). If we concentrate on being kind, compassionate, and forgiving, our speech will be much more uplifting.

Proverbs 10:19b tells us the prudent hold their tongues. What can you do today to be prudent, to hold your tongue?

Words matter! Use your tongue for good, not harm.

Watch the Lesson Six video by Sue Edwards here.

You find out more about the study series at and see the video clips at You can follow the discussion on Facebook at

You can  also read by blog on the Introduction, Lesson One, Lesson Two, Lesson Three, Lesson Four, and Lesson Five.

Sue Edwards is an associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She brings over thirty years of experience to the classroom as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She is the author or co-author of several books. She has a D.Min. From Gordon-Conwell theological Seminary and a master's in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband have been married for forty years, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Kregel Publications, 127 pages. See the publisher's product page for more information about the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Open Book Promotion for the purpose of blogging this study.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unspoken by Dee Henderson

I had trouble “getting into” this novel. I have read most of Henderson's novels and loved them. This one was a bit different.

I really like Henderson's other novels because of the suspense. There was none in this novel (not even at the end). I kept on expecting something to happen but the next scene would just be another conversation or slow moving scene.

I can usually identify with one or more of the characters in the novel and the general circumstances in which they find themselves. The main male character in this novel is a high end rare coins dealer who makes purchases in the millions of dollars. I had a penny collection when I was a kid but that is about all the interest I have ever had in coin collecting, let alone ones worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The main female character turns out to be worth billions of dollars (yes, billions). Again, someone I could not identify with at all. She had also been kidnapped as a teen and held for four years. She has refused to talk about it for nineteen years. So that doesn't really move the plot along.

And that brings up the plot which is, I guess, rare coins dealer meets wealthy girl who wants to sell millions of dollars worth of coins. The two develop a friendship which morphs into him helping her give away millions to charity which morphs into the situation of her needing to be married in order for her to inherit the rest of the estate, the billions of dollars.

The redeeming aspect of the novel is the sweetness of the coin dealer in gently coming alongside the wealthy woman, helping her, ever so slowly, to heal. For me, that just was not enough to carry the novel through over 400 pages.

You can find out more about the novel, watch a trailer, and join others in discussing the book at

Dee Henderson is the author of eighteen novels, including the O'Malley series. She has been nominated for or won the RITA Award, Christy Award, and the ECPA Gold Medallion. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 448 pages.

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran

I love well written science fiction and this novel is a good one.

It is some years in the future and NASA has a new vehicle to transport astronauts to the ISS. Invited to go on the maiden voyage is “Hildi” Hildebrandt, a well known vaccinologist with the CDC. She jumps at the opportunity to conduct experiments on the ISS. That just might be what it would take to get the Nobel Prize before her estranged brother Chet, also with the CDC. But the voyage goes terribly wrong when thrusters malfunction and the docking rings on the ISS are damaged. They can't dock and they can't go back. Will they die in space before they can be rescued?

Chet Hildebrandt is a bitter man. He is angry because his “holy” father, a pastor, was a hypocritical adulterer and his mother forgave him and took him back. He's angry because his parents now teach marriage seminars. He's angry because the CDC doesn't recognize his superior work and think he's hard to work with. He's angry with his sister getting the chance he should have had. When the head of the CDC asks Chet to take some time off, he decides he'll get even with them all. He manages to swipe a vial of a flu virus from the CDC, with plans to spread it around at his father's next marriage seminar. It won't hurt anybody, Chet thinks, but it sure will make his parents uncomfortable. Only there is a problem Chet did not foresee. The vial he swiped does not contain a mild flu virus.

This is a great science fiction novel within the Christian genre. There is the space station aspect running parallel to the deadly virus Chet has unleashed. Both situations are a race against time to preserve life. Add to that the story of the Hildebrandt parents and their efforts to help troubled marriages move to restoration and you have a novel with continuous action. The characters of Hildi and Chet are crafted well. And there is a hint of romance too. A fine science fiction novel about the choices we make – for good or evil.

View the book trailer here.

Bonnie Doran has always loved science fiction. She has written many devotionals but Dark Biology is her first novel. She volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She has been married to her Mad Scientist electrical engineer husband for 29 years. You can find out more about her and her book at

Harbourlight Books, 342 pages.

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

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Women Live Better by Valorie Burton

If you are a woman, you are probably not as happy as women were in the 1970s. That is what research shows. Since the early 1970s, while men are getting happier, women are becoming less happy.

Women are in crisis, Valorie writes. We have more now than women at any time in the history of the world but we are enjoying it less. She has written this book with two goals in mind: get women talking about their happiness, provide tools for being happier.

She starts out by recognizing the problem. That's the first step. She has studied the research in the field of positive psychology (the study of what makes us happy) and has identified thirteen happiness triggers. She explores them, showing us how we can activate them in our everyday lives. These triggers are really life skills. “Happiness is a skill,” she writes. (12)

Studies show that about half of our happiness is genetic. About ten percent is based on our circumstances. That means about forty percent of our happiness is from our thoughts and actions. “What makes you happy is your attitude about your life.” (14)

Some of her triggers I expected, like service, play and gratitude. Some of her triggers surprised me. Anticipation, for example. Every day we are to have something to look forward to. Valorie helps us notice what is there or create something. Another was her list of foods that boost our mood, like asparagus. And I expected something about finances, but not aiming to live on less than 75 percent of our income. She reminds us that a key to happiness is not money itself but what you do with it. Some of the triggers were new to me, like flow (or being in the zone) and savoring. Some were good reminders, like using winning words, not whining ones, and that exercise is a happiness booster.

Valorie includes a “Conversation starter” at the end of each chapter. She gives points to ponder and then asks questions for conversation. These make the book great for personal journaling or for use in a study group.

Valorie's is a very practical book. She has provided realistic suggestions on how to implement each trigger for happiness. It would be great for personal use and the discussion section makes it a good choice for group use too. I think using this book in an accountability group would be a great idea.

Valorie Burton is a bestselling author and Certified Personal and Executive Coach. She has written nine books on personal development and is the founder of the CaPP Institute. She has appeared on several television programs. Find out more about her and sign up for her blog at, and find out more about her company at

Harvest House Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Praying the Attributes of God by Ann Spangler

Spangler wants us to discard distortions of God and find “a true and deeper vision of who he is as the almighty, everlasting God, who is holy and yet merciful, jealous and yet loving, righteous yet forgiving.” (xi)

She helps us do that by providing studies on the attributes of God in daily readings. She has arranged them as follows:
  Monday: key Scripture passages revealing the attribute, background information and a brief Bible study.
  Tuesday – Thursday: devotions to help us pray Scripture passages that relate to the attribute.
  Friday: relating the attribute to God's promises, key passages are listed for reflection or memorization with additional ones for weekend contemplation.

Spangler covers an attribute a week for seventeen weeks. God is loving, good, infinite, immutable, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, patient, wise, self-sufficient, jealous, righteous, merciful, faithful, holy, creative, and transcendent.

I was impressed with the depth of Spangler's information on each attribute. She reviews Hebrew and Greek terms too. This is a great book to use in a discipleship group or to read privately to stimulate journaling as Spangler asks thoughtful questions. I really like the format too. The theological information is given in daily chunks so we are not overwhelmed.

This is a great book, a very readable introduction to the attributes of God. Every Christian should, in the course of growing in the faith, study the attributes of God. This is a very good book to get you started.

Ann Spangler is an award-winning author, publishing her first book and bestseller in 1994. Her books have sold millions of copies. She and her daughters live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tyndale house Publishers, 307 pages.

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fields of Grace by Hannah Luce with Robin Gaby Fisher

On May 11, 2012, twenty two year old Hannah Luce, daughter of youth evangelist Ron Luce, was the only survivor of a small plane crash. This is her story.

Hannah shares what it was like growing up evangelical, in the family whose father was the CEO of Teen Mania. See tells of seeing great miracles yet having times of questioning her faith. She got to the point of faking being an good evangelical girl, even faking speaking in tongues. She was frustrated with the Christian concept of “us” and “them.”

She shares her friendships with Austin and Garrett, guy friends so important to her. And then that fateful day in 2012 when she, Austin, Garrett and two others were flying to a Teen Mania youth rally. Her memories of the crash are vivid. Her struggles after her survival were serious. She faced the reality of the absence of her friends, the guilt of surviving, enduring flashbacks, and learning to live with her scarred skin. She felt disconnected from God. She questioned her parents' very specific religious beliefs.

In November of 2012, Hannah went back to the crash sight. There she began to experience the healing of her soul and spirit.

This is a powerful book. Hannah is honest about her youth, troubled by the confines of her parents' faith. She reveals the questioning of her religious convictions. She shares the spiritual lessons she has learned in the aftermath of the crash. “Despite what I have been through,” she writes, “mine is a story of hope. And faith.” (285)

This is a good book for college or career aged people. Many of those questioning their own Christian beliefs will identify with Hannah. They will also see God's faithfulness to Hannah and the entire Luce family. An inspirational book.

All of Hannah's proceeds from this book will go to Mirror Tree, a nonprofit she is forming to help female refugees of the world.

Hannah Luce is the daughter of Ron Luce, the youth evangelist and cofounder, with his wife Katie, of Teen mania Ministries. At twenty three, she is also the founder of Mirror Tree, a nonprofit devoted to reintegrating women refugees from the horrors of rape, genocide, civil wars, and other means of trauma by funding educational research to improve their lives. She lives in Chicago.
Robin Gaby Fisher is the author of the New York Times bestseller After the Fire. She is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing and a member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. She teaches narrative journalism at Rutgers University.

Howard Books, Atria Books (divisions of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), 290 pages.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Island Just for Us by Barbara Hattemer

Elena is with her family as they summer at their cabin on an island in Maine's Penobscot Bay. She is anticipating her senior year in college and is weary of her shallow dating life. She longs for a relationship like her parents have – loving and committed.

Todd has come to the same island with his grandmother, remembering her summers there as a child. He'd recently given up a good job to help her, the only family support he had. But Todd's life was anything but settled. His father would be getting out of jail soon and Todd knew he wanted to help his dad – somehow. And his mother? No one knew where she was. Todd hoped the time he and his grandmother spent on the island would help him clear his mind and and prepare him for the future.

When Elena and Todd meet, a romance blossoms and it looks like this will be a summer they have both been looking for. But then Elena finds out her younger brother is getting caught up in pornography. Her family struggles to help her brother. They rely heavily on their Christian faith throughout the whole experience. Todd is affected too as his past comes to light. Will the relationship Elena and Todd survive the turmoil?

This is a good novel on a tough subject. I thought it was going to be a general and light hearted romance until Elena's brother and his friends get into pornography. Suddenly the novel took on a whole new level of meaning. I was struck by how quickly the boys got hooked on the material. I was also reminded how pervasive pornography is, even within the Christian community. Hattemer has done a good job explaining the seriousness of the issue within the context of a fine novel. She doesn't preach. She just tells it like it is.

Also, I liked the setting. Being from the Pacific Northwest, it was fun reading about the family summer activities. Hattemer has summered all her life in Maine's Penobscot Bay so her descriptions of places and activities are authentic.

This is a fine novel centering around a very serious subject. I recommend it. Just be aware that it is not one of those light and fluffy Christian romance novels. This is how life really is – not so neat and tidy. Even in the untidiness, however, God is always near.

Barbara Hattemer worked for a management consulting firm before marrying and raising four children. She has been active in the fight against pornography for eighteen years, debating, giving interviews, writing articles, and working with authorities and organizations. She has recently turned to writing inspirational women's fiction. Her first novel, Field of Daisies, dealt with Alzheimer's disease. You can find out more about her at

Oak Tara, 246 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through the Book Group Network for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Discover Together Ephesians: Sit Down to Walk, Eph. 4:1-16

Beginning with chapter four, Paul talks about our “walk,” the way we are to live. Paul encourages us to pursue godly character with energy and intentionality. He highlights four characteristics: humbleness, gentleness, patience, and love. No matter our temperament, we are called to live those character qualities. Living those qualities is important for peace and unity in the body.

This doesn't mean we are all supposed to be the same. Paul says we have different gifts - a different grace that Jesus has given each of us. Paul lists gifts in 4:11 but there are also more gifts listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. We might think finding our gift is the hard part. But Sue encourages us to do what we love to do and pursue it with love and passion.

I can speak from experience that you will feel a spiritual “high” when you are doing what God has gifted you to do. That's how I knew what my gift was. But don't try to push your way into ministry. Volunteer in an area of ministry that interests you and let God promote you. Others will recognize your gifting and, in God's timing, you'll be serving the body exactly where God has designed you to be.

When each of us exercises the spiritual gift God has given us, we see growth and maturity in ourselves and others. When each of us does our part of the work, we see the body built up into a mature organism with Christ as the head.

How did you find your spiritual gift? How are you using it to build up the body?

Watch the Lesson Five video by Sue Edwards here.

You find out more about the study series at and see the video clips at You can follow the discussion on Facebook at

See my comments on the Introduction, Lesson One, Lesson Two, Lesson Three, and Lesson Four.

Sue Edwards is an associate professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary. She brings over thirty years of experience to the classroom as a Bible teacher, curriculum writer, and overseer of several women's ministries. She is the author or co-author of several books. She has a D.Min. From Gordon-Conwell theological Seminary and a master's in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband have been married for forty years, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Kregel Publications, 127 pages. See the publisher's product page for more information about the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Open Book Promotion for the purpose of blogging this study.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Christmas Gift for Rose by Tricia Goyer

This is a great little novel for the Christmas season. I usually stay away from the saturated genre of Amish fiction but I'm glad I read this one.

The time period is just after World War II. Since the Amish are pacifist, most of the men drafted ended up spending their time incarcerated. In this novel,
two from the community went to actively serve and have returned. We read of the ramifications of them being outside the peaceful Amish community.

Another aspect of the novel is the importance of being born into the community. I had no idea it was next to impossible, at least at this time, to come into the community from the outside and “become” Amish. This comes to the forefront when a teen finds out she was not born into her Amish family but was, in fact, taken in when her Englisch family abandoned her and moved away. She struggles with who she is. “The Amish heritage was one you were born into. That was that.”

This is a fine novella about finding one's own identity within the Amish community. It is also a novel about trust when circumstances are not what they had appeared. It is also a good exploration of the Amish community and the concept of war. One of the men returning from war had enlisted – had not been drafted. Even though he had been a medic and not fired any shots at the enemy, the Amish community frowned on his actions. On the other side of the issue were the Englisch and their resentment toward the Amish. The Englisch sons were dying at war while the Amish sons were safe.

This novel was inspired by a real story of sacrificial love and is a perfect one to read for the Christmas holiday season.

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

Tricia Goyer is the author of over thirty five books. She has written over 500 articles for national publications and blogs. She is the host of Living Inspired, a weekly radio show. She and her husband live in Little Rock, Arkansas and have six children. You can find out more at

Zondervan, 192 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.