Monday, March 31, 2014

A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley

This is a good novel but it is a little different in style. Most of the novel is character driven. The major character is Laura who has come back home during her summer break from teaching to take care of the possessions of her mother, who has recently died. Through her interaction with the people of the town, especially her high school boyfriend Sean, we learn about her past. She and Sean were close as teens but upon graduation, she ended their relationship and went far away to college. Twelve years ago her father apparently drowned while on a fishing trip although his body was never found.

Throughout the novel we get a sense that there is something going on that will ultimately generate a time of suspense. Laura finds out that there are rumors floating around town claiming her father has been seen – that he is still alive. Strange things happen around her mother's house too. Sean remembers something from his childhood involving Laura's father that adds intrigue. And Sean's own father, a nasty drunk of a man, is determined to cause trouble.

While most of the novel is character driven, there is always a hint that something suspenseful is about to happen. Hang on until the end because the suspense does come, and then the book ends rather quickly.

There are themes of forgiveness and sacrifice in the novel. There are also enough twists and turns and family secrets that the plot keeps moving. I was a little impatient with the build up for the suspense, wondering if it would ever come. The plot itself was a little far fetched, I think, but the book is written well enough that it is worth reading.

Go here to read an except from the book.

Meg Mosely and her husband live near the foothills of the Southern Appalachians. Find out more about her and her books at

Multnomah Books, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Hands of Darkness by Heather James

If you like suspense you'll love this book.

We met Evelyn in Unholy Hunger – but you don't have to read it to thoroughly enjoy this book. It has been long enough since Evelyn's daughter was kidnapped and murdered. She found the killer but in the aftermath was disbarred. Now she consults for jury selection (she was good at reading people), until Thatcher, the detective in her daughter's case, asks her to consult with him.

Thatcher is after a serial rapist/killer in San Diego and Evelyn agrees to help him. She and Eddie and baby Owen are happy to move there, to get away from the city of the horrible memories. It allows Evelyn to reconnect with her law school roommate, Jen. The situation becomes personal for Evelyn when Jen is attacked and raped – but manages to escape death. Evelyn is determined to find the evil man, putting herself right in the path of danger.

James has crafted an excellent suspense novel. I love Evelyn. She is an outspoken and forceful woman. She irritates Thatcher with her continuous plunging through police protocols, but he also knows she gets the job done. She has an insatiable drive to find evil and eradicate it, even to the point of putting her own life in danger.

We get into the mind of the killer as James has interspersed short chapters of his thoughts throughout the novel. It is uncanny. I have always had difficulty understanding the motivation of a serial murderer. James has provided a realistic thought pattern that makes raping and killing women a necessary and frequent act for the man.

Just a word of caution. This is not a “cozy” mystery. James has included some pretty suspenseful events with intense description and feeling. I really got a sense of the evil nature of the rapist. There are no unnecessary, overly graphic details, but I was certainly drawn into the evil nature of the killer.

This is not an overtly “Christian” novel. Evelyn doesn't pray when faced with danger. The novel is a gripping account of the battle between good and evil, however. I highly recommend it.

Heather James is a practicing attorney and newspaper columnist who writes on marriage, family, and parenting matters.

Kregel Publications, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Simply Rich by Rich DeVos

DeVos writes that this book is not a complete autobiography. He concentrates on the experiences that have most shaped him, been the most memorable, and taught him valuable life lessons. The principle in his life that rises above all others, he writes, is “People who achieve the highest levels of success … are those who place their focus on other people rather than themselves.” (xii)

He gives credit to his Dutch heritage for many of his positive traits. He tells of his friendship with Jay Van Andel, their starting Wolverine Air Service, a restaurant, selling the air service and buying a sailboat (it sank), traveling in South America, forming a wooden toy company, and getting involved in Nutrilite. When issues developed with Nutrilite they decided to start their own multilevel marketing company, the American Way Association. They added an all purpose cleaner, then more home care products. Needing to control quality they became manufacturers as well. Amway had been born and flourished.

Multilevel marketing was still a new concept. Devos and Van Andel developed a commission system that would go down the line to as many people as were sponsored. That Sales Plan became a model for legitimate direct-selling businesses. The concept was not always well understood and DeVos writes of problems with the FTC and Revenue Canada.

DeVos began speaking about the “why,” why building business was important to America. He used the Carnegie method and developed his “Selling America”speech. He writes of buying the Orlando Magic in 1991, working to revitalize downtown Grand Rapids, having a heart transplant at age seventy-one (seventeen years ago), then fulfilling his dream of owning a large sailboat and sailing the world.

DeVos is very open and clear about his Christianity and trusting in Jesus for his salvation. He is also open about his patriotism and involvement in politics. His focus has always been helping other people to have better and richer lives, including always setting aside 10% of their income to give away

This is a well written and open account of DeVos' life, business, family and faith. It is an encouragement to anyone wanting to better themselves, being reminded that concentrating on helping others is the key to success.

Rich DeVos is an American businessman, co-founder of Amway, and owner of the NBA's Orlando Magic. DeVos served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. He and his wife of over sixty years have four children, sixteen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. They spend their time between Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Vero Beach, Florida.

Howard Books, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Water Walker by Ted Dekker

This novel is another great one from Dekker. It has layers of action and spiritual insight that make it interesting to read on several levels.

Eden is one of the orphans from the Project Showdown. She is now a thirteen year old in the foster care system. As the novel opens, she is kidnapped by the man married to her birth mother. The FBI is left far behind as Eden is taken to a cult setting in the swamps of Louisiana. Her mother is under the power of the group's leader, a harsh man who mixes hints of Christianity with suffocating authority. Her mother is obsessed with being cleansed and Eden is an essential part of the process.

I have at times had trouble understanding the Christian nature of some of Dekker's novels but in this one it is very clear. The spiritual lessons deal with being imprisoned and harmed by our own thoughts. Outlaw helps Eden understand what it truly means to be an overcomer, to truly forgive and live in the freedom that brings. Hurt can result in anger and a desire for revenge that really imprisons a person. But through Jesus, those spiritual bonds can be released, even if the outer situation stays the same.

I was put off at first by the strange cult in which Eden's family is involved but then realized it was not all that different from ones I'd read about over the last few decades. It was another case of spiritual authority gone bad.

We met Eden (who starts out in this novel as Alice) in Eyes Wide Open. This novel reads well on its own so you don't have to read that one first. Outlaw makes a couple of appearances in this story but you don't have to read earlier books about him to get a good understanding of his role here.

A novel with lots of action and spiritual insight, this is a good one to read. The ending is a bit abrupt but is a minor glitch in an otherwise fine novel.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels. He was born in Indonesia, son of missionaries. He and his family live in Austin, Texas. Find out more about him and his novels at or follow him on Facebook.

Worthy Publishing, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Issachar's Heirs by Brian Chilton

This novel portrays a future I hope never comes true. It is a frightening book yet one that encourages believers to trust God.

It is just a couple of years from now but the religious climate of the United States has changed dramatically. Christians are being marginalized, similar to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany.

There is a powerful group reaching all the way to the White House that is taking action. They believe “that our nation could never be the kind of humane, enlightened nation we need unless intolerant fundamentalist Christians were neutralized.” (245) They orchestrate events and influence the media with the end of Christianity in mind. It is a propaganda war, a prelude to a deadly nightmare.

This is an eye opening book. Though it is well written, it is not an easy novel to read. It is just too realistic, too true to what is happening in the U. S., too chilling in it's view of the immediate future.

It was disgusting to see how the media was manipulated by a few well placed “reports.” Facts were twisted, interpretations slanted, and lies repeated. Since the lies were what the media wanted to hear, they were broadcast with fervor. Christians are labeled as a hate group. Laws are passed to protect immoral people from being slandered by evangelical pastors. Bible publishers are forced to make clarifying comments on passages identifying certain behavior as sin.

There is a small and dedicated group of Christians that is the only hope for Christianity in America. Without God's help, they are totally out of their league, so to speak. But trust in God is what they do.

There is a great deal of information in the book. The author uses dialog and the thoughts of his characters to review recent court decisions and government actions that have affected evangelical Christians. I wasn't aware of many of the events but, as characters comment, they were not reported in the media.

This well written book may be frightening, as it is so close to the truth, but it is an encouraging book too as it confirms that God is greater than anything the Enemy has to offer. Christians would do well to read this book. It will open your eyes, strengthen your faith, and make you pray all the more for our country.

Brian Chilton is a graduate of University of Virginia Law School. He represented the mother and daughter in the 2004 Supreme Court case, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, resulting in the words “under God” being retained in the Pledge of Allegiance. This is his first novel and he is working on the sequel. His nonfiction writing has appeared in many journals and magazines. The son of an unwed teenager, he was born before Roe v. Wade and was adopted into a Christian home. He and his wife have been married twenty seven years and live with their children in Virginia. Follow on Twitter,

White Feather Press, 374 pages. You can buy a copy here.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beneath a Navajo Moon by Lisa Certer

This is a very good contemporary novel with historical insights and a dose of romance.

Erin had received a grant to study tribal customs for her doctoral dissertation. She's spending the summer at the Information Center at the Reservation of the Navajo Nation. While she will be working with inventorying artifacts, her real passion is solving the mystery around a cousin of her adoptive parents. An old journal tells the story of Olivia, a teacher in a Christian school for Navajo children, being taken by the Navajo in the early twentieth century. She was ultimately rescued and returned to the east coast but it seems she might have gone back to the Navajo she loved. Erin is fascinated by Olivia's story and is determined to find evidence for it's possible end.

Adam is with the tribal police. The first time he sees Erin he is attracted to her. But a relationship with her would be a problem. Adam is involved in an undercover drug operation involving Erin's “boss” at the Center. A beautiful and aggressive woman, Debra is suspected of being part of the drug ring supplying drugs to the Navajo youth.

I always like to learn something when I read a novel and this one contains a wealth of information about the Navajo Nation. Most of the story is in the present time, centering on their traditions and what their life is like now on the reservation. Interwoven into the contemporary setting is the abduction of Olivia in 1906. We read about how the Navajo were treated at that time, the children separated from their parents and forced to attend a Christian school. I found this part of the novel very interesting.

That information is deftly included within a good plot. There is lots of action, especially at the end, as the tribal police work to shut down the drug ring. There is certainly romance and I really liked how Erin and Adam's relationship kind of paralleled the relationship Olivia had with her Navajo husband. Both couples had to overcome cultural differences and prejudices. Many of the Navajo in this novel are Christian and we witness a spiritual struggle with others of the Nation who hate Christianity.

All around, this is the kind of romance I like to read. I recommend it.

Lisa Carter is a writer and teacher whose articles have appeared in several magazine. She is a frequent speaker and vocalist at women's ministry events. She is the author of Carolina Reckoning and Aloha Rose. She and her family live in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can find out more about her and her work at

Abingdon Press, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Like Giving by Brad Formsma

Formsma's book is full of stories that inspire us to live a life that looks for opportunities to serve and give, yet doesn't put us on a guilt trip when we fail. 

Check out the author's website,, to watch more videos and read stories about people and their joy in giving.

You can read the first chapter of the book here.

Go here to read about the impact this book had on one individual.

You can also follow the ministry on Facebook.

You can find out more about the book and the author by going to the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group product page.

Brad Formsma and his wife have three children and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hidden Falls: Episode 9 by Olivia Newport

It's Saturday, the day of the first community health fair in Hidden Falls. Sylvia's thoughts go to Quinn and what his story will be, explaining why he'd left the country when he hadn't done so in thirty years. She needs to tell Lauren what she found in the box Quinn stored in her attic. And Jack needs to tell Ethan what he found in the old files that might refer to him. But the day progresses as interruptions prevent them from doing so.

Sylvia calls an impromptu meeting during the fair to share information. She wants everyone to reveal what they've found about Quinn's disappearance. They all have information but the pieces don't seem to fit together as they meet under an eerie and darkening darkening sky.

Then there is a tornado warning and as people hustle inside they find that a young boy is missing.

There is lots of action in this episode and one more clue to Quinn's disappearance. I am glad Mayor Sylvia finally got people to share their information. Each episode slowly but surely reveals a little more. This episode offers more promise than some of the earlier ones.

Olivia Newport has lived in several small Illinois town and now enjoys life in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies.

Barbour Publishing, 63 pages.

I requested and received a complimentary egalley of this episode for the purpose of this independent and honest review.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heaven Has a Secret For You by Deniese Kohles

This is a beautiful story about a seed being planted, the wind whispering, “Heaven has a secret for you.” The seed grew, becoming a plant bent by a grasshopper and torn by the wind, again being reminded of the secret waiting. Then came the harvest and the plant joined others in a very special place.

This is a delightful story reminding us that events in our lives we think painful end up serving a purpose in God's plan. What we thought harmed us was actually instilling in us character traits in preparation for a great task.

The illustrations by the author are wonderful. They really accentuate the text. I've included just a couple here so you can see their quality.

A plus to this book is that it includes a code for a free download of the audio version. That feature makes this beautiful book a meaningful one for preschoolers as well as children old enough to read.

Deniese Kohles is a wife of 37 years, mother,
grandmother, interior designer, retired art teacher and youth minister, who resides in Grand Junction, Colorado. She was creatively inspired by a reoccurring vivid dream, to write this story; “Heaven Has a Secret for You!” as a gift for her grandchildren. “Heaven Has a Secret for You!” is now creating a series! The second book of the series is titled; “Do Flowers Go To Heaven?” is coming out soon! It was her children who compelled her to share her stories, with the world, so that everyone would know that Heaven has a secret for them too.

Tate Publishing, 24 pages. You can buy the book here.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

This novel is a kick.

Ellis Eton is a scatterbrained heroine. It's the 1920s and she is getting the boot from Radcliffe because she just keeps on getting sidetracked and forgets to study. A bit distracted, she agrees to work a couple of weeks for Janie, daughter of the Eton's previous cook. Finding out she'll be a telephone operator, it can't be that hard, Ellis thinks. She bumbles through her first days, connecting callers, and accidentally overhears what sounds like a murder plot – one that is aimed at her friend Griffin. Griffin who has a summer job working for the city of Boston in their financial office. Griffin who is finding irregularities in the mayor's expense accounts. How can she protect him?

Mitchell has created a novel that has periods of laugh out loud humor yet deals with serious issues. Her character development of Ellis is great. She is a young woman with ADHD long before something like it was known to exist. She is a character you fall in love with yet drives you crazy.

The historical nature of the novel is exceptional. In the historical note at the end, I was amazed to find out how much of the action in the novel is based on the actual history of Boston during that era.

There were a few times when the story lagged but in general, the novel is fast paced and kept my interest throughout. I did feel the serious aspect of prohibition and the death of a person because of alcohol did not go well with the humorous nature of the rest of the novel.

There were many interesting issues dealt with in the book. A major one is being who you are. Ellis can tell her sister to do that yet has difficulty doing so herself. Another theme is standing up for what is right, even when the wrong is not affecting you. Another one is making promises you don't keep. There is a discussion guide included but there would be much to talk about even without it.

This is an enjoyable historical novel. A little romance, a lot of humor, a bit of mystery and suspense, and a very serious social issue confronted.

Siri Mitchell has written nearly a dozen novels, three of which have been named Christy Award finalists. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and has worked on three continents. She and her family live in the D. C. area. You can find out more about her at

Bethany House Publisher, 368 pages.

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

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward by Anthony Summers & Stephen Dorril

Beginning in early 1961, British Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, aged forty-six, had an affair with a nineteen year old named Christine Keeler. She was also seeing thirty-seven year old Captain Yergeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache in London but also an officer in the Soviet military intelligence.

Dr. Stephen Ward had introduced Keeler, a showgirl in a London nightclub, to Profumo in July. It was also through Ward that she became acquainted with the Soviet agent. Keller's relationship came to light in early 1963 and in June of that year Profumo resigned. Ward's role was investigated and in mid-July went on trial, charged with living on immoral earning (acting as a pimp). By the time the guilty verdict came down, Ward was in the hospital from an overdose of barbiturates and would subsequently die.

There was speculation at the time that many others were involved and Ward was a scapegoat and his trial a diversion. The authors of this book have done extensive research in an attempt to answer as many questions as possible surrounding the Profumo Affair. They found that facts were obscured at the time and the public deliberately misled. Documents are missing, have been destroyed or remain closed.

This is an exhaustive exploration of the events and the people involved. They range from Lord Astor to the then president elect John F. Kennedy. I was appalled at the sex orgies of the upper class people that were a part of that era. There was the involvement of M15 that has been verified. And it was not just a problem for the British. Some U.S. airmen were involved with Keeler. Another of Ward's women claimed to have sex with Kennedy. There is the possible involvement of Robert Kennedy as he ruthlessly guarded his brother's reputation. And material added in this later edition of the book brings into question the “suicide” of Ward.

I remember the early 1960s. It was at time of fear of the Soviets and the Bomb. People were building bomb shelters. It was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the construction of the Berlin Wall and secret agents. That a woman would be seeing a Soviet agent and the Secretary of State for War was very serious. That the circle of women involved reached to president elect Kennedy is amazing.

The authors have done an excellent job of unveiling much of the mystery surrounding The Profumo Affair. I highly recommend this book to those interested in the era.

Anthony Summers is the bestselling author of eight nonfiction books including Not in Your Lifetime, the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His book on the 9/11 attacks, The Eleventh Day, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for History.
Stephen Dorril is the author of several books on intelligence.

Open Road Integrated Media, 349 pages.

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

Lip Reading by Harry Kraus, MD

The novel starts out with action – Dr. Rebecca Jackson in Africa to promote her recent autobiography, is kidnapped. But rather than a ransom, all the kidnapper wants Rebecca to see are the tragic results of the drug her company has been promoting in the area.

When Rebecca returns to the U.S. she is approached by an old flame, Noah, a researcher like her, but for a competing pharmaceutical company. His boss wants him to convince Rebecca to leave her company and join theirs.

We find out that Noah and Rebecca have a troubled history. He took the blame for an automobile accident Rebecca caused their senior year. The boy hit by the car ultimately died from an HIV tainted blood transfusion. That has inspired both Rebecca and Noah to work on a synthetic blood, something that would preclude expensive and lengthy blood typing and testing.

Rebecca has been able to make great strides in her research, often having amazing insights. The insights would come just before the migraines. Then she finds out she has a tumor in her brain. The greater blood flow around the tumor had been the reason for her insightful breakthroughs. But the tumor will also mean her death. She has to choose: risk death and continue her research or get treatment and risk never finding the breakthrough needed to save so many lives.

Kraus has crafted a good medical thriller with great characters. Rebecca is puzzling. She is a woman of great drive and a sometimes ruthless streak. Yet she has moments of compassion. Noah is just a sweet guy who was willing to go to prison for the girl he loved.

There is a bit of mystery involved in the plot. Rebecca is being blackmailed by someone who knows what really happened in that automobile accident twenty years ago.

I think the best part of medical novels is learning about the world of medicine. I was appalled at the procedure Rebecca's pharmaceutical company used in Africa to test their drug. It caused many deaths but the company really didn't care. The potential profit was all that mattered. Pharmaceutical companies are not painted in a good light in this novel.

Something else I learned about was the idea of synthetic blood. It could save thousands of lives as typing would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, in the galley I read, there was no section indicating how much of the novel was based on actual medical research and how much was just conjecture.

This is a pretty good novel with suspense, romance, a bit of mystery, and a reluctant believer in Christ.

Harry Kraus, MD, is a board-certified general surgeon. He has divided his professional experience between the U.S. and Africa. He is the author of over fifteen books, both fiction and nonfiction. He and his family live in Virginia. You can find out more about him and his books at You can follow his blog at

David C. Cook, 432 pages.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Raised? by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson

Belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has always been an essential part of the gospel. Believing that Jesus died is one thing – believing that He rose again is quite another.

If you doubt the resurrection, that's good, the authors write. “Anything worth believing is worth questioning.” They want you to make sure you have good reasons for believing or not believing in the resurrection.

The authors explore the biblical characters who doubted, the vast number of Christians who do believe it today, and the consideration that it just might possibly be true. They review the Greek and Jewish thought at the time of Jesus and how hard it would have been for them to believe in a resurrection. They explore the role the resurrection has had in human history and what it means to individuals. The belief structure around the resurrection is reviewed (such as faith and sin). The benefits of believing in the resurrection and living that truth are also explained.

If you have thought about Jesus' resurrection but have doubts, this would be a good book for you to read. The authors show that Jesus' resurrection is intellectually plausible. They show how life is changed when you believe in the resurrection and what it means to you if you do not embrace the resurrection. It is not a technical book nor is it filled with carefully crafted arguments. It reads as if you were across from the authors sharing a time of coffee. 

As they write at the end of their book, Jesus is the one we were made for. Reading this book will help you understand why.

Jonathan K. Dodson is the founding pastor of City Life Church in Austin, TX. He holds a B.A in Cultural Anthropology and two theology degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Brad Watson serves as a pastor of Bread & Wine Communities in Portland, Oregon. He lives in the inner city with his wife and daughter.

Zondervan, 112 pages.

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

The God-First Life by Stovall Weems

Is your life the pits? Weems wants you to know there is a better way to live life – God's way.

Life does not have to be complex, Weems writes. It's simple. Put God first. Living a God-first life releases the freedom and joy you are to have in Christ. It is the only way your deepest needs will be met.

It is an easy thing to say, but how do you do it? How do you live it out? That is what this book is about.

It begins with a decision to follow the right order of putting God first, Weems writes. Once the decision is made, it must be sacred and irrevocable. He explains the life following that decision, covering our position in God's family and how we become a functional member of it. Next is being part of community and doing life together. He explores worship (engaging God with our bodies, encountering God in our minds, experiencing God in our souls). Next comes personal devotions (prayer, being in the Word, daily quiet time), serving (having a servant heart, ways to reach out), and tithing. He then looks at how the freedom we have in Christ works its way out in our lives (freedom from the past, freedom in the present, freedom for the future).

This is a good book for new Christians. It will really give one a sense of the importance of making quality decisions putting God first and then following through in living the God-first life. Seasoned Christians may be familiar with much of the information in this book.

If you are unhappy with your life and want to understand what it means to live life God's way, this is the book for you. You'll be introduced to the best possible life you can live.

Stovall Weems is the founder and lead pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He and his wife have three children. You can find out more about him and his ministry at and

Zondervan, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Icon media for the purpose of this independent and honest review.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hidden Falls: Episode 8 by Olivia Newport

It's Friday in Hidden Falls.

The health fair is Saturday and Lauren is putting together the final arrangements, including talking to Cooper. She thinks she knows who is making those mysterious calls but when she confronts him, she realizes she is wrong.

Jack continues to look through old files, trying to uncover the secret from at least a generation ago. Nicole finds out there will be no surgery on her ankle and begins her search through county records.

Dani helps with the final repairs at Sylvia's store so it can reopen Saturday. When she goes for a well deserved walk she is followed.

And we are again left with a cliff hanger as Sylvia finally opens that mysterious box Quinn left in her attic.

I continue to like this series as the mystery intensifies.

Go to to enter a contest and download the first episode free. Keep in touch by liking the series on Facebook:

Olivia Newport has lived in several small Illinois towns and now enjoys life in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies.

Barbour Publishing, 63 pages.

I requested and received an egalley of this episode from the publisher for the purpose of this independent and honest review.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible from B&H Kids

Another Bible for children? The publishers have designed it so that it could be your child's first Bible. It is self described as an “interactive” Bible. It is a little interactive, but not nearly as much as it claims to be. But more of that near the end of this review.

You may wonder what makes this Bible one you would be interested in so here are some of its positive characteristics.

The translation is the Holman Christian Standard which has a reading level of middle school age. While you can rely on the accuracy of the translation, it does mean that you may have to read the Bible with your younger child.

There are a number of colorful text boxes throughout the Bible. Some of them are verses to memorize. Others are important words, defined when they appear for the first time in the Bible. Some boxes help the child see the big picture, how a particular story relates to the entire Bible. There are boxes containing questions and answers, ones that children would probably ask. And there are Christ connections, showing how Jesus relates to the passage (especially in the Old Testament). There are also Parent Connection icons, informing parents of related B&H materials, such as LifeWay's Gospel Project curriculum. (Go here to see about this curriculum.)

There are 146 full color illustrations. Many illustrations include icons that can be scanned with an Android or iOS devise making the illustration “enhanced”. I was expecting more, like an animated action short but it is really just the illustration with the figures sort of coming off the page, like a pop-up book. The narration is not that exciting either. You can go here to watch a video showing how this works.

Like other children's Bibles, there are introductions to the books of the Bible, a little topical concordance, colorful maps, helps to find well known Bible stories, and an index to the bullet notes.

The prayer of the creators of this Bible is that it would help parents, through the work of the Holy Spirit, introduce their children to Jesus. The material in the Bible is aimed at helping children see how stories point to Christ and His work.

Here are my thoughts:

This is a very colorful Bible. Many pages have an interesting box or two or more with additional information. Unfortunately, in books like 1 and 2 Chronicles, there are pages and pages of text with no colorful additions. So the interesting parts of the Bible are made more interesting while the difficult parts of the Bible, parts kids might find boring, remain rather drab.

I have one great disappointment in the Bible. The feature I anticipated the most was the interactive aspect. In the “About The Big Picture Interactive Bible” section is this statement: “Plus, QR codes throughout connect to videos featuring key Bible stories.” (xiii) I went through the entire Bible, page by page, and could not find one QR code. I know the technology is available and I was sorely disappointed that, even though it claimed to be included, it was not. For children who watch YouTube videos with ease, this Bible might be a big disappointment. (Note: in the promotion material I read, this feature was never highlighted. But, it is mentioned within the Bible introduction.)

You can go here to watch a trailer about the Bible.

B&H Kids, 1350 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this Bible through a publicity firm for the purpose of this independent and honest review.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful by Laurie Wallin

If you're like me, you've got some quirky personality traits. You probably think you should try to get rid of them, at least hide them. But Wallin asks, “What if the weirdest, most annoying things about you exist on purpose – for a purpose – to bring life, joy, strength, and healing to this world?”

You mean God designed me with these quirks to reveal Him to the world in a way only I can? You mean God will actually use my quirks and show His strength through them?

The answer is yes! Wallin helps us discover our strengths and see the worth of those quirky parts of us. She also helps us love those weirdos around us. She addresses the traits we may have taken on, perhaps as a result of pain. Those are false quirks and she helps us break through them. She looks at Jesus' quirks and people from history who put their quirks to good use. She helps us make use of criticism. She identifies the difference between quirks and weaknesses and much, much more.

This is a very personal book. Wallin tells lots of stories on herself. That helped me understand that even a life coach like her needs to identify her quirks and then work through the process of understanding how God will show His strength in them. She has also included lots of questions, providing a means for us to discover our quirks. Then she gives us the tools to begin to live those strengths in confidence.

I like this book. It really helped me understand why I have the quirky traits I do and how to use them for God's glory. This book has also helped me appreciate the quirks in others. I am learning that, rather than be irritated, I want to embrace their weirdness and watch how God is using it. If you want to understand your weirdness and be more loving toward your weird friends, read this book.

Laurie Wallin is a certified life coach, a former science researcher and teacher, a wife and mother of four (two with special needs). She writes weekly at and monthly at Not Alone ( You can find her on Facebook at LivingPowerLifeCoaching and you can subscribe to her newsletter at She and her family live in southern California.

Abingdon Press, 208 pages.

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

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The Devil Walks in Mattingly Billy Coffey
This is a haunting book. Coffey has the uncanny ability of bringing the spiritual to bear on the physical lives of the characters he creates.

I first became aware of “thin places” reading about the Irish. Such places are those where the curtain between the spiritual and the physical is thin.

In one sense this entire book is a thin place. The curtain is thin as Coffey has woven a story showing how the personal deeds done in the past impact lives in the present. Yet there is also an actual thin place in Happy Hollow, where Taylor lives. Taylor who feels called to bring people “Awake.” A deadly calling.

Jake is the sheriff of Mattingly. It is his job to solve the murder at the BP. But he himself is plagued by dreams of a youthful experience and a young man's death. And his wife Kate - she “helps” people, giving toys, clothes, or groceries. Her burden, she calls it. She writes down their names in a note book. Hundreds of pages of names. Perhaps all those names will one day outweigh the name of that one boy she killed all those years ago.

A major theme through this novel is how we deal with a painful event of the past. Do we suppress it? Do we try to atone for it? Do we create a twisted rationalization of it?

Taylor chose rationalization and becomes twisted by his own version of reality. Jake tries to bury it but is tormented by the horrible dreams, reliving that day.

Kate chose penance. Can we ever do enough good to pay for what we've done in the past? Even though Jake and Kate attend church regularly, they both feel they have to somehow pay for their sins. But you can't undo what's been done. Even though Kate at one point says she begged for and received God's forgiveness, she did not feel the scales were even. Some ghosts never seem to go away.

As an aside to the actual story, I liked the interplay of dreaming and being awake. The hermit Taylor is convinced others in the world are living in a dream. Only he is awake and is called to awaken others. Sheriff Jake lives in the present world in which he has hidden his past but through his dreams relives that past. Kate wonders if anyone can talk themselves out of a dream (if so, she believed Jake would have done it years ago). Who is living in reality and who is living the dream?

Not only is this a captivating novel but it also gives the reader much to think about. I know this is a novel I'll be thinking about for some time. There is a discussion guide included that has some penetrating questions. This book would be an excellent choice for a reading group.

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

Billy Coffey is an author who combines Southern culture with a vision far beyond the ordinary. He and his family live in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 389 pages. You can purchase a copy of the book here.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of this independent and honest review.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Real Women Leading by Lisa Troyer and Dawn Yoder

Proverbs 31 is really a description of every woman...,” the authors write. She is an incredible multitasker and she exhibits principle and character. The authors believes God has given each of us women a purpose. We can be a woman of influence, “based on living a life built on wisdom and principled thinking and application.”

The authors help us explore ten vital principles. We see how Jesus spent time in understanding people from His interaction with the woman at the well. We find key elements include listening intently, collecting and processing facts, reading body language, and developing empathy. We look at Sapphira and see the importance of honesty. We learn being honest with others involves risk and that it is necessary for continued spiritual growth.

We learn about responsibility from Martha, a take charge woman. We learn about attitude from Ruth and how it influences our performance in every area of our life. We explore solving conflict in a healthy way from Eudia and Syntyche. We learn influence from Esther, generosity from the widow and Mary of Bethany, forgiveness from the woman caught in adultery, planning from Lydia, and restraint from Nabal's wife Abigail.

The authors have included many stories of people emulating the principle being taught in the chapter. They even include some of their own experiences. They include really practical teaching. I was particularly impressed with their section on unforgiveness.

Each chapter concludes with “The IT Factor,” designed to stimulate thought, conversation, and action. This study can be used by an individual or in a group setting.

This is a really good study for any woman who feels called to lead. The authors believe these ten values are essential to igniting transformation. If you are ready to be an influence for transformation in others' lives, this is a book you should study.

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

Lisa Troyer is sometimes referred to by friends as the “singing executive,” wife, mom, radio personality, recording artist, speaker, and author. She and her family live in Ohio. You can find out more about her at
Dawn Yoder is a member of the John Maxwell coaching team, CEO of a 500-plus employee company, a contributing writer, a songwriter, and a frequent worship leader. She and her husband have four children. Find out more at

New Hope Publishers, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of this independent and honest review.