Monday, June 30, 2014

Four Weddings and a Kiss by Brownley, Clopton, Hatcher and Connealy

Four Weddings and a Kiss Margaret Brownly Robin Lee Hatcher Mary Connealy Debra Clopton
As this collection of novellas opens, a bunch of cowboy pastors are sitting around a campfire relaxing after revival meetings. A young one voices his concern. He loves a woman, and she loves him, but they are just so unsuited for each other! The other pastors laugh. They'd seen some greatly mismatched couples who had hitched and lived happily ever after. To encourage the young pastor, four of the others tell stories of some of the most unlikely romances one could imagine.

Mary Connealy creates the story of Maizy, a rough and tumble woman who doesn't like dresses or fixing up her hair. Britches are just fine as she helps her pa with ranching. That is until the handsome Rylan buys the ranch next to theirs. When Maizy is at the wrong place at the wrong time, she puts Rylan's life in danger. While Rylan heals from his injuries, Maizy's pa thinks it is a good idea for her to care for the invalid – dressed like a woman is supposed to.

Robin Lee Hatcher gives us the story of Molly, columnist for her father's newspaper in the Wyoming Territory. Her father hires a new editor for the job Molly thought she'd get. When the handsome Jack arrives, sparks fly. She knows that right now it is a man's world, but it won't always be that way. She's bound and determined to show Jack what a woman can do.

Debra Clopton invites us to the world Katie Pearl, a tough Texas rancher who recently lost her pa and their house when a twister went through. Some think she's not quite right in the head after being buried by debris for several days. She's determined to rebuild, all the while fending off the suitors who want her property – at gun point. When a stranger hits town, he promises her he's not the marrying kind so she hires him on the spot. Treb finds out he has quite a challenge before him.

Margaret Brownley takes us to Colorado where Brock, a fancy lawyer from Philadelphia, agrees to defend a woman accused of killing her third husband. (Her first two died under suspicious circumstances too.) Before the end of the first day of trial, Brock realizes he is no match for the kind of law practiced in the wild west. Nor is he a match for the woman who has captured his heart.

You'll enjoy these stories just like that young pastor did. You'll find that God sometimes puts the most unlikely people together – just the way He wants to. The stories are short so the romances go fast but they sure are fun. The authors have done a good job of developing characters, even in these short works. The stories are encouragement to those who find they march to a different drummer. I really enjoyed the collection.

I am participating in a blog tour of this book and you can find other reviews here.

Margaret Brownley has written over thirty novels. Her books have won numerous awards. Happily married, she and her husband have three grown
children and live in Southern California. Find out more at
Debra Clopton is an award-winning writer of over twenty two novels. She helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church. Find out more at
Robin Lee Hatcher is an award winning author known for her stories of faith. She has authored more than seventy novels. Find out more at
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She has won many awards, is married to a Nebraska rancher and has four grown daughters and two grandchildren. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 400 pages.

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

Rival Hearts by Tara Randel

Molly and Ben are magazine editors for the same publishing group. Molly conceived of and now heads a successful quilting magazine. Ben's the relatively new editor of the company's outdoor magazine. When the publisher needs an editor for a new magazine, he conceives of a competition between Molly and Ben. Molly will have to kayak and Ben will have to quilt. Each will write an article about their experiences and the winner will be named the new editor.

This novel was fun. Molly, sheltered from outdoor activities when young because of severe allergies, enlists the help of her macho brother. Ben feels out of his element holding needle and thread when all he's ever done is write about sports.

The competition goes along pretty well until Molly and Ben each begin to have feelings for the other. But just when it looks like romance is on the way, it appears Ben has sabotaged Molly's chances for success. The sparks fly and and it looks like both will lose, no matter who wins.

I really liked the characters in the novel. Molly is a gutsy woman and doesn't hesitate to show what she is made of. Ben turns out to be a deeper man than he would have others believe. Both characters grow through the competition experience to reveal hidden qualities.

In addition to a good romance, the author had added other issues to the novel, such as women working together to help each other, supporting women in need of a safe place, and restoration of family relationships. These all work together to make for a rewarding novel. I really enjoyed it.

You can find out about other books in the series at

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

Tara Randel is the author of five romance novels and a member of ACFW. She is the lead author of the new Annie's Mysteries series. She lives in Port Richey, Florida.

Abingdon Press, 176 pages.

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Book of Not So Common Prayer by Linda McCullough Moore

I was really impressed with this book. Moore's book is not a “how to pray" book so much as it is a challenge for us to pray regularly – four times a day. She arrived at the four times after hearing about Brother Lawrence praying eight times a day. She thought half of what he did would be a good start.

She is very honest in her growing the the practice of praying this way. She developed her habit in fits and starts, sometimes quitting altogether. She started with fifteen minutes of prayer four times a day. She thought it might be really difficult but “prayer is what we are made for.”

Moore explains her various methods of prayer. Sometimes she prayed prayers from saints through the ages. Sometimes she prayed Scripture. Sometimes she would sing hymns. She used various body postures and different locations. She explains how taking tiny steps in self-discipline served her well. She gives several suggestions for ways to pray and helps us understand how to hear from God and distinguish His ideas from our own.

I found her section on memorizing Scripture to be especially enlightening. I also liked her reasons for writing out our prayers. I was challenged by her writing about functional theology.

You will be convinced of the importance of prayer and challenged to make it a priority. You will see that we are meant to be abiding, working, and resting in our Savior, with every thought and impulse trained on Him.

This book is a challenge and I highly recommend it.

Food for thought: “Prayer is, most simply put, being consciously in the presence of God.” 
“For saints, prayer comes first. It just does.” 
“We must make God our habit, till he becomes our dwelling place. God is not someone we visit.”

Linda McCullough Moore is a prolific author of fiction, essays, poetry, memoir and short stories. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she teaches weekly creative writing workshops and mentors aspiring writers. Find out more about her and her work at

Abingdon Press, 176 pages.

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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Six Days by Ken Ham

Ham believes it is essential Christians believe in and defend a six day creation. To help us to that end, he clarifies what science really is and how it differs from historical science. He defends the 24 hour understanding of yom. He helps us distinguish eisegesis (reading into the text one's own ideas) and exegesis. He critiques theories that attempt to reconcile an earth billions of years old with the biblical account of the earth, including evolutionary ideas. He reveals the problems with rejecting a global flood and identifies the necessity of believing in a historical Adam.

Ham writes, “This book is about the decline of the Church's view of Genesis 1-11, which has led to a catastrophic decline in believing in the absolute authority of the Word of God in the Church.” (121) He is clear that a person's view of origins is not a salvation issue. But it is an authority issue and a gospel issue, he adds. (122)

He argues that this issue is not one where Christians can hold differing views, such as eschatology. It matter, he writes, “because it matters what God's Word clearly teaches.” (124) Ham is adamant: “The authority of Scripture is what's at stake here.” (131)

The strength of this book is emphasizing the ramifications of not believing Genesis 1-11 as presented in the Bible. It is a philosophical or theological work, not a scientific one. When he critiques the scientific view of the age of the earth, for example, he merely refers to man's fallible dating methods based on unproven assumptions.

This book will make you think about the literal days of creation, a global flood, and a historical Adam. It will also make you think about how the authority of science has been accepted over the authority of the Word. You will be challenged by Ham's call to return to the authority of God's Word – all of it.

Ken Ham is an international speaker, author and CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. You can find out more at

Master Books, 256 pages.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sky Zone by Creston Mapes

This novel is a continuation of the Jack Crittendon series but if you have not read the previous two, this one reads well on its own.

Jack lost his job as a reporter (in a previous novel). Desperate to support his family, including his pregnant wife, he takes a job with an event company. Jack is participating in the coordinating of a rally for a presidential candidate. An independent, Martin Sterling is running a campaign centering around America's lack of preparation for a terrorist attack. Shortly before the rally is to start, the event center receives word from Homeland Security terrorists are threatening an attack on Sterling that evening. Preparations to protect the candidate go wrong. He and a popular Christian singer are kidnapped.

This novel is a great continuation in Jack's story. I really like him as a character. He is faithful to his family even as he is a reluctant hero. When his wife goes into labor during the hostage situation at the event center, he is willing to sacrifice his own welfare for her. We get to know another interesting character, Brian, who is a survivalist. He is ready for the terrorist attack on America he is sure will come. His obsession with survival strategies puts his marriage in jeopardy, however.

In addition to intense suspense, there are themes presented in the novel for us to think about. The major one deals with is the fear of a terrorist attack. The presidential candidate uses it and Brian is obsessed by it. We readers are challenged to think deeply about such fear, weighing that against trusting in God. Another theme is restoration of marriage, particularly with God at the center. Mapes adds other issues to the novel, including dementia, spousal abuse, and the possibility of a child born with disabilities. These are all combined in a way that makes this novel a page turner.

The only aspect of the novel that makes it less than perfect was the twist near the end. I had strongly suspected that outcome early on and was not surprised. Nonetheless, a great novel.

Creston Mapes studied magazine journalism at Bowling Green State University, then began his writing career. He has worked as a reporter, corporate copywriter, creative director, freelance writer, editor and author. Find out more about him and his books at

David C. Cook, 448 pages.

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hacker by Ted Dekker

This is another in The Outlaw Chronicles. If you have not read some of them you may miss the full impact of the novel but the story does read well and can be enjoyed on its own.

This novel centers on a seventeen year old genius who has already completed college. Nyah is a computer whiz and can hack her way into almost anything. Having lost her father and brother in an auto accident, she desperately wants to keep her severely brain damaged mother alive. She needs money, more money than she's been getting with her jobs, so she takes a daring move and decides to hack into a large and secret corporation. When it all goes wrong she turns to a friend for help.

Austin is deep in a project exploring the brain. He has a brain tumor and is investigating the possibility of healing. He and Nyah travel into the mysteries of the spirit world, communicating with God and coming to a greater understanding of how He works in the world and in their lives.

Purely on the level of enjoying a well crafted novel, this one has it all. The character of Nyah pulled me in right away. She is so brilliant yet so desperate to keep her mother alive. I just wanted to hug her. The bad guys are really bad and Dekker does a great job of having us experience their evil. The novel also has lots of suspenseful action and sci-fi type experiences.

Christians will find great analogies to the Christian life in the book. The primary one is complete surrender to God. Another is trusting in the sovereignty of God. A third is the certainty of life after death - but this one is a little too vague for my liking. Dekker does not give any idea as to the difference between eternal life for believers and others. I would have rather Dekker had included a little something about judgment or another way of indicating that our beliefs in this life do matter.

I recommend this book as another good one from Dekker. There is much for Christians to appreciate in it. If shared with your non-Christian friend, it would give you an opportunity to clarify the reality of life after death and how our beliefs in this lifetime are crucial.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of over thirty novels. He was born of missionaries and grew up in Indonesia. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and children. You can find out more about him and his books at

Worthy Publishing, 304 pages.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Weep Not for the Dead by Gina Burgess

It has been a while since I've read a good old swashbuckling science fiction novel like this one.

The year is 2051 and Captain Clinton Kincaid is on his way to Mars. He is suddenly transported 100 years into the future. He has been in the care of the Croth, a people who are now trying to preserve life on earth. They want to train Kincaid to make a mission back to Earth, to help humans restore extinct animals.

Time is of the essence, however, as there is another group racing to Earth. The Draumans want to enslave humans and repopulate the planet with their own people. Can Kincaid get there in time and convince the humans of his benevolent mission?

There is much to like about this novel. There is future technology including accelerated space travel, space stations, and ecto-brains. There are exciting space battles with narrow escapes and clever maneuvering of space craft. Overall, the action is great.

There is much to think about in the novel too. The Draumans' planet is dying so they must find another planet for their people. The inhabitants of Earth have not been good stewards of their planet either. It was good to see, however, that humans had finally learned some lessons about taking care of their habitation.

I was fascinated with the spiritual aspect of the novel. There is at least one territory that has outlawed Christianity. Believers had established a Christian community at an outpost, hidden from most means of detection. Even though they exist in temporary safety, the Christians are always in danger.

Add a good dose of humorous dialog and a little romance and you have a great science fiction novel in the style of the original Star Trek television programs. I loved it.

Gina Burgess grew up in Monroe, Louisiana. After raising her family she went back to school and ultimately earned a Master's in Communication at Spring Arbor University. For more than thirty-five years she has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training. She has been an editor for several publications and writes weekly for and Check out her blog,, and her book reviews at

Christian Publishing House, 360 pages. You can buy a copy here.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Praying Through Hard Times by Linda Evans Shepherd

Difficulties will come in life. You will have pain and heartache. You may ask, “Where is God?” Shepherd helps you keep in communication with God during those hard times.

She knows what she is writing about. She shares her own story – an automobile accident where her baby, still in the car seat, was hurled onto the freeway. Her daughter was in a year long coma and has severe disabilities.

Shepherd writes about abiding in God, keys to surviving difficult times, actively trusting God with your troubles, standing against the enemy, praying against the spirit of strife, wanting and praying for a breakthrough, praying with trust, praying for grace and mercy, praying for others and for peace, and exercises in hearing God's voice.

This is a very encouraging book. It deals with much more than just praying during a difficult time. Shepherd writes from experience, sharing her own struggles with trusting God. What she has learned in her Christian walk is helpful and full of hope. Potential readers should know that Shepherd has had visions and has seen the reality of demon activity.

She ends each chapter with a written prayer and discussion questions are provided at the back of the book. There are also videos that go along with the book at This book would be a good choice for a study group.

Food for thought: “Many of our trials serve as invitations to cling to God.” (21)

Linda Evans Shepherd is an award-winning author of more than thirty books, a successful speaker, and a radio personality. She is the president of Right to the Heart Ministries and lives with her family in Colorado. You can find out more at or

Revell, 190 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blood Moons by Mark Biltz

I have read two other books on the blood moons (Hagee and Hitchcock) but I wanted to read the book by the man who first identified the phenomenon in 2008.

Biltz begins his book by giving a synopsis of his life story. Then he writes about God's use of signs and signals in the Hebrew language as well as with heavenly bodies. “When God is about to be up to something big, He will send us signals via the sun and moon on His feast days.” (49)

Biltz believes the feasts of the Lord are an important element of Christian faith today and spends quite a bit of his book on them. He sees the feasts as prophetic: “The spring feasts were fulfilled in order: Jesus died on Passover, was buried during Unleavened Bread, was resurrected during Firstfruits, and the Spirit was poured out on Shavuot/Pentecost, bringing in the great harvest. So the fall feasts have to be fulfilled to the very days and in order!” (62) “I believe,” he writes,” the time of trouble, or the Tribulation, will start in some year on the Feast of Trumpets!”(71) He notes that this feast will also mark the resurrection of the dead, although not necessarily in that same year. (75) The Day of Atonement will mark judgment and “is the day of vengeance on God's adversaries, and God Himself is the blood avenger.” (100) During the Feast of Tabernacles, all nations will come to Jerusalem and God will tabernacle among His people.

Biltz sees Israel's formation as a nation in 1948 as fulfillment of prophecy, as was Israel reclaiming Jerusalem in 1967. Referencing Ps. 102:16, of the latter event he says, “The Scriptures say that when this event happens, the Lord shall appear in His glory!” (45) “We have seen Zion built up,” he writes. (46) He believes we are the terminal generation. He later writes of “the generation from 1354 to 1408” and “the generational time period, from 1894 to 1948.” (154) Both of those are 54 years. So, 54 years from 1967 is around 2021.

Biltz believes Christians are “partially blinded … concerning the relevance of the Torah.” (103) He advocates Christians celebrating the Feasts of Israel today. He also says we should pay attention to the Hebrew calendar. “If you come in agreement with the calendar God uses,” he writes, “you will become exceedingly close to the Lord in your walk.” (141)

Biltz argues that Christians are grafted “into Israel, to whom all the promises of God belong.” (103) (I find this interesting since Paul, in Galatians 3:16-22 argued that what was promised to Abraham and his seed was actually promised to Christ – verse 16. Paul ends his argument in verse 22 saying what was promised, through faith, is actually given to those who believe, whether Jew or Gentile.)

Biltz practices some exaggeration and tweaking of Scripture. He writes, “Did you know the early church kicked the apostle John and all the Jews out of the church?” (126) “Even during John's time, the Gentiles were taking over the synagogues and kicking all the Jews out.” (127)

Wow! Doesn't that just sound terrible! Well, maybe the actual event was not quite what Biltz would have us believe. His “proof” is 3 John 9-10 where one person, Diotrephes, would not welcome John nor the “brethren,” and, in fact, kicked out anyone who did welcome them. Biltz says those “brethren” were Jews. Actually, reading the whole letter, it is more consistent to understand the “brethren” were other believers in Christ. So, instead of the Gentiles taking over and kicking out all the Jews, we actually have one man who wanted to be the boss in his church and refused any outside teachers or believers.

Around 140 pages of this book is about Biltz's life, Jewish feasts, and the Jewish calendar. The last 30 pages are actually on the blood moons. He makes much of the last lunar eclipse, September 28, 2015, noting that it will also be a super moon (when the moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit and is full).

Biltz does not insist the blood moons of 2014 – 2015 indicate something significant will happen. “”If nothing noteworthy happens in 2014 or 2015, it just means these are signs of things to come.” (159)

Of the books I've read on the subject, this one has the least hype about it. If you want to read a great deal about the importance of the Jewish feasts being celebrated and the Jewish calendar being followed by Christians today, you'll enjoy this book.

Mark Biltz is the founder of El Shaddai Ministries. He is the first to discover the significance of the blood moons. He lives in Bonney Lake, Washington.

WND Books, 188 pages.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Deadly Business by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

This novel starts out with intense action. Mia Quinn, a prosecutor with King County, is in the courtroom for a sentencing when the killer manages to attack her and nearly slice her throat with a razor.

While she manages to survive the attack, her trouble is just beginning. Charlie Carlson, a detective with the Seattle PD, is convinced Mia's husband did not die accidentally several months ago. When Mia and Charlie look into her husband's auto accident, they begin to uncover actions that puzzle Mia. Her husband had been involved in illegal activities. The suspense increases when Mia's life is in danger.

This is another great suspense novel from this writing duo. We are treated to the difficult life of a prosecutor as Mia is assigned to prosecute young teens for their nearly deadly actions. We get to see some of the action behind the scenes concerning the strategy in bringing them to trial. Mia is also a mom and a woman saddled with debt from her husband's dishonest accounting work. Mia is an adjunct professor at the U of W so we learn some about courtroom strategy too.

I really liked the novel. The action is continuous and suspenseful. There is a twist at the end that surprised me. Mia is a well crafted character – a combination of mom and prosecutor. Those who like courtroom suspense will enjoy it. While this is the second in the Mia Quinn Mysteries, it reads very well on its own.

Lis Wiehl is a best-selling author, Harvard Law School graduate, former federal prosecutor, and a popular commentator and legal analyst for the Fox News Channel.
April Henry is the best-selling author of mysteries and thrillers. Her books have been short listed for several awards. She and her family live in Portland, Oregon.

Thomas Nelson, 320 pages.

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

Heart Wide Open by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Tomlinson grew up in church and continued going as a married woman. But when her kids came along and she wanted to instill in them the faith she had, she realized her lack. She knew there had always been a certain disconnect – a spiritual experience at church that did not permeate the rest of her life. She was a hypocrite. The faith she was experiencing did not satisfy her deepest longings. She couldn't pass on to her children what she didn't have.

Tomlinson admitted to God that she was lukewarm and cried out for help. “I don't love You, but I want to love You. Help me!”

She writes about the decisions made to choose God, to treasure Him, and admitting you don't love Him but want to. She helps you deal with intimidation, encourages you to be addicted to reading God's Word and hearing Him talk, to keep in touch with Him throughout the day, to continually submit to His will, to keep from legalism, and keep from being disgruntled by other Christians.

There is a great Bible Study and Discussion Guide included, good for an eight week study.

I was inspired by this book. Tomlinson has a way of writing that is so encouraging. Her stories are ones I can understand and relate to. She is very honest with the reality of challenges to growing in an intimate relationship with Jesus. I appreciate that attitude.

If you have a dullness in your faith, read this book. If you have little or no sense of intimacy with God, read this book. Even if you don't want a closer relationship with Jesus but wish you did, read this book. Don't settle for just going through the motions. Tomlinson wants your life to go from “just enough” to “I can't get enough.”

Food for thought: “If going to church is enough, if being around others who are passionate about Him is enough, if anything short of realizing His intimate presence for ourselves is enough, that's all we'll ever experience.”

Watch the book trailer here.

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is the author of award-winning nonfiction humor titles, a popular speaker and blogger, and the host of the radio program All Things Southern LIVE. She and hr husband live and farm in Louisiana and have two grown sons.

WaterBrook Press, 208 pages.

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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner

Ivy and Nick are existing in a marriage that is strained, at best. Both have hurts that are driving a wedge between them. One of the biggest is Ivy's inability to have children.

Their lives change, however, when the house next door gets new renters. Finding the house locked, Ivy leaves her welcome gift at the door, only to see it soon snatched inside. A few days later is becomes clear. Three children have been abandoned by their mother. And they never did know a father.

Needing food and baths, Ivy takes them in. Child Protective Services allows Nick and Ivy to sign up for foster care instruction and keep caring for the children.

Add to the mix all the in-laws and you have the setting of a good story. Nick's family feels Ivy just doesn't belong in their family. And taking in African American children? The tension is excruciating. Ivy's family, while warm and accepting, has issues too.

The first half of the book went a little slow for me. But the second half, well, you had better have a tissue ready.

The main story deals with a stale and maybe dying marriage. The introduction of the three foster kids changes the dynamics of the relationship – some for good and some for added stress.

I really liked the characters and their growth as the story progressed. Both Ivy and Nick face their hurts and the coldness they have developed in their marriage. Nick's family? They can just wallow in their superiority! And Ivy's family is a story to be continued, I hope, in a sequel.

This novel is a moving story of restored relationships, forgiveness, love, and acceptance.

Carre Armstrong Gardner is a nurse by profession,pursuing music and writing in her spare time. She, her husband, and their three teenagers live in Portland, Maine.

Tyndale House Publishers, 400 pages.

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

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble

Organ transplants are frequent now but there may still be some unknowns about them. What about “cell memory,” where some memories of the donor seem to be transferred to the recipient?

Elin was fortunate to receive a new heart, a perfect match. Before long, however, she begins to have nightmares, flashbacks of the donor's murder.
The terror for Elin is just beginning. Her experience receives media coverage and soon she has a stalker and begins receiving death threats Someone wants her dead. Is it the killer?

Marc is an FBI agent investigating the donor's murder. He is convinced his partner was killed because he was pursuing the same case. Marc is forced to take leave because of the emotional involvement he has in the investigation. He continues the case on his own time and decides to talk to Elin. He is hesitant to talk to her after that night so many years ago. When he does see Elin again, he experiences a shock.

After a home invasion and more threats, Elin reluctantly lets Marc stay around to protect her. Their lives become more complicated as they begin to have feelings for each other. The danger increases when Marc receives death threats too. Will the killer strike before Elin can remember his face?

What an interesting plot for a novel. Having done a little research on “cell memory,” I found that attitudes are mixed. It doesn't seem possible cells in the heart could retain memories of the individual. Others claim it is a very real phenomenon.

Coble has crafted a novel that is a great reading experience on several levels. There is the suspense of being stalked by a killer. There is the whole concept of cell memory and the fear of literally becoming a different person. Elin experiences change in clothing and food preferences after her heart transplant. She is haunted by thoughts of no longer being her true self. A book group might have a great discussion of what really gives a person identity and how it changes over one's lifetime. There is also a reading group guide included in the book.

Romance comes to play in the novel too. Marc and Elin have a “past” and there is hurt on both sides. Much forgiveness needs to be given before romance has a chance.

I enjoyed the location of the book too, a remote island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina accessible only by boat or ferry. While a fictional island, it is based on a real one, Ocracoke.

This is the third book in the series but it can be read on its own. (Previous books are Tidewater Inn and Rosemary Cottage.)

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

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

Colleen Coble is the USA Today best-selling author of several novels. You can find out more about her and her books at

Thomas Nelson, 336 pages. You can purchase a copy here
Release date: July 1.

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Know the Heretics by Justin S. Holcomb

Today we hear lots of Christian teaching. How do we know if what we hear is truly biblical?

Heresy is nothing new. It has come up at various times through Christian history. To help us understand the development of heresy and orthodoxy, Holcomb has chosen twelve major events in which the church preserved the biblical message.

For each of the heresies, Holcomb presents the historical background, the heretical teaching, the orthodox response, and the contemporary relevance. Discussion questions are added at the end of each chapter.

People and beliefs covered:
  • Judaizers: Gentiles must be circumcised like the Jews or they cannot be saved.
  • Gnostics: the enlightened have special knowledge hidden from most people.
  • Marcion: the Old Testament God is wrathful, Christ was sent by the real God of love and peace.
  • Docetists: Jesus was totally divine and His humanity was merely an appearance (flesh is evil).
  • Mani: crafting a global religion combining Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity.
  • Sabellius: “persons” of the trinity are merely three different ways God wants people to think of Him (modalism).
  • Arius: the Son is not co-eternal with the Father but was the supreme creation.
  • Apollinarius: Jesus Christ took on humanity only to the extent of assuming a human body and a sensitive soul.
  • Pelagius: man has the inate ability to live as God commanded (no original sin).
  • Eutyches: Christ had a hybrid nature of divine and human, not two natures.
  • Nestorius: the divine and human natures of Jesus are totally separate.
  • Socinus: only the Father is truly divine, Jesus is only human.

Holcomb concludes that the pursuit of theological truth can be messy but we need to leave room for the mysterious.

This is a very good introduction to the topics of heresy and orthodoxy. It is not comprehensive but does cover enough so readers can have a good idea of what both are. Holcomb also shows how the church's understanding of what they are has developed over time. A feature I appreciated in the book was the “contemporary relevance” section. He frequently mentions recent authors and teachings, making the book current and relevant. The twelve studies and discussion questions would make this book a good choice for a Sunday School class or a small group.

Justin S. Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and a professor of theology and Christian thought at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He has authored, co-authored, or edited several books. He lives with his wife and daughters in Orlando, Florida.

Zondervan, 176 pages. Find out more at the publisher's product page.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dixie Belle by Debby Mayne

This novel is pure Christian romance. You'll not find any unexpected twists or turns. You'll not learn something new about a place, event or career (something I appreciate in novels). Nor will you see intense character development.

When Cissy testifies against her abusive boyfriend, the people in her small Alabama town shun her. After all, he was their high school football star and the best mechanic in town. Her parents decide Cissy should go to New York, to live with and work in her uncle's sewing notions company. Soon after she arrives in the big city, she meets Tom, the owner of her uncle's competition. The rest of the story is the makings of a typical romance novel.

Cissy is sort of the typical southern belle. She is not a strong, “I can do it” kind of fictional character. She is a nervous talker and frequently says more than is appropriate for the situation. And, though she does have a college degree in the business area, she seems out of her element working for her uncle. She does befriend another southerner who helps her navigate unfamiliar northern ways, giving her some independence.

There is a great Christian element to this romance. Both Cissy and Tom are strong Christians. The one area of character development included in the story is that of Tom, finding that he has failed to cause his deep Christian faith to permeate his business practices.

If you like a simple Christian romance, this is the novel for you. If you like a more complex novel with intense character development, one that informs you on a new topic, or one that includes lots of twists and turns, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Debby Mayne is the author of more than thirty books and novellas. She and her husband live near Charleston, South Carolina. You can find out more about her her books at

Realms, 282 pages.

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart

I've never been one to follow fashion so I never gave much thought to the design of clothing. This novel centers around Nell, a hat designer in the 1920s for a New York milliner. She has a unique ability to create hats that accentuate the woman's character and beauty. Her creations dazzle a well known woman who spreads the word. Soon Nell is being asked by a famous dress designer to partner with him for his 1922 line.

The owner of the millinery is not one to share credit and he tries to keep Nell under his thumb. Part of the novel's attraction for me was seeing Nell work hard to come into the reality of her dream, despite the milliner. He was really quite a despicable man.

Nell is a wonderful character. She doesn't have an ounce of greed or pride in her. Unlike the milliner, Nell just wants to make women look beautiful and loves creating unique hats to that effect. Her use of fashion is to accent the inner beauty of of women. Nell's glaring problem is that she stammers (or stutters). It was very interesting to read about the cutting edge (at that time) work to understand the cause of the behavior and correct it.

And there is a little bit of romance but it is not the focus of the novel. The theme of the novel is more about working hard and having courage to follow your dream, particularly when that dream centers around helping others look and feel better. Part of that involves Nell understanding how she's come to be the person she is. In a sense, the novel is almost an adult coming of age novel, particularly in an era when women were coming into their own careers.

I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical settings of a different time and place. The Roaring Twenties were quite a time and Stewart does a good job in bringing it to life for us. It will be particular interest to those wanting insight into the fashion industry of that era. I would also recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading a story that concentrates on giving to others.

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

Carla Stewart has had articles appear in several publications and has written four novels. Her debut novel, Chasing Lilacs, was an Oklahoma Book Award Finalist, the trophy winner for the 2011 Nest Fiction for Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and received second place honors in RWA's Inspirational Readers Choice Award for 2011. She and her husband live in the Tulsa area, have four adult sons and six grandchildren. You can find out more at

FaithWords, 320 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary egalley through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway

What a kick! How have I missed this author that this is the first book I've read by her? It will certainly not be the last.

The scene is a Mississippi college where two civil war historians butt heads. Shelby is a somewhat scatterbrained professor working her way to tenure. (She does keep losing her keys.) Ransom is a big name professor from Yale taking a year away from the pressure of the northern school. The only problem is that Ransom had given a scathing review of Shelby's recently published book. The review had been just downright mean. And now he would be spending a year at her college. How could she possibly be civil to him?

I really liked this novel, and I am not even a Jane Austen fan. The characters are great. Shelby is feisty and just refuses to be the southern nice girl so many expect her to be. Not being from the south myself, I rooted her on as she broke through that sweet (yet vindictive) southern charm. Ransom is a good man but is still trying to recover from the sudden death of his wife and their unborn child. He's mad at God, too, for letting it happen. It seems impossible that these two would ever find enough common ground to be friends, let alone enter into a romantic relationship.

I loved the wit and humor in the novel. There were times when I laughed out loud! There were other times when I just wanted to give Shelby a hug, she needed it so badly. And the romance is great. Those two hard headed people were at odds so many time … well, you'll just have to read the book. Whether you are an Austen fan or not, I think you'll enjoy this novel. If you find the first half a little slow, hang on. The second half is great.

Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an award-nominated writer who home schools her six young children. She has degrees in Religious Studies and Theoretical Linguistics. You can find out more about her at her blog (another pen name).

Howard Books, 352 pages.

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