Thursday, July 31, 2014

Heaven Sent Rain by Lauraine snelling

Heaven Sent Rain is compelling reading. I was caught up in the life of the main character, Dinah, and the disruptive changes happening in her life. She is the CEO of a company she founded, specializing in herbal supplements. She has a disciplined and organized life.

All of that falls apart when she meets seven year old Jonah and his dog, Downmutt. Dinah befriends the young boy she notices sitting outside the burger place where she grabs breakfast. She is soon buying him breakfast and later meets his dying mom. An emergency phone call at night from Jonah and Dinah is gathering up him and a bleeding Downmutt, taking them first to her pristine condo and then to an emergency care veterinarian.

Dinah's life is turned upside down. Jonah's mother had made arrangements for Dinah to be Jonah's guardian. Dinah's latest supplement, an herbal aid for diabetics, is running into trouble thanks to drug companies fearful of losing money. And that veterinarian, Dr. G. What is it about him that unsettles her? Dinah's life crashes when she gets a call from the elementary school. Jonah is in serious trouble.

I really liked the character development in this novel. Dinah reluctantly allows a boy and his dirty dog into her all white decor. That is symbolic of her letting them into her white, clean, and well organized life. Taking in Jonah is a drastic change to her disciplined life and controlled being. Jonah is a Christian and that is hard for Dinah who is very mad at God.

Through dialog with the veterinarian, we learn why she made her life this way and why she has gone into working with herbal supplements. Jonah is a dear boy. I just wanted to hug him.

There are just a couple of issues that made this novel less than perfect. I felt a certain disconnect from time to time. The point of view changes frequently from Dinah to Dr. G. and there were times I felt I was almost reading a different novel, like foreign matter had been inserted into the story line. It all comes together at the end but it was a disconcerting experience.

Also, the end is so abrupt. The novel builds and builds with all the issues Dinah is experiencing. The latest supplement is facing FDA intervention, delaying its release by months. And Jonah is seriously acting out. Then, poof, the epilogue. It is a fairy tale ending rather than one where we know all of these issues were successfully worked through. I felt I was cheated out of the healing process when I had become so familiar with the problems throughout the novel.

Nonetheless, even with the abrupt ending, this novel is a rewarding one. The character study of Dinah is superb. It is so well done I wish there would have been a sequel, rather than an abrupt epilogue.

You can read an excerpt here.

Lauraine Snelling has been writing since 1980 and has more than two million copies of her books in print. She and her husband live in California. You can find out more about her and her books at

FaithWords, 384 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols

I always knew there was something special about living on an island, surrounded by the calming sounds of lapping waves. This book explains it.

Nichols writes that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water. He combines water science and neuroscience to show exactly that. He defines the “blue mind” as a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life. It is inspired by water and the sensations associated with it. “...[W]ater provides the most profound shortcut to happiness out there.”

He explores our emotional ties to water, explains the technology of brain study, contemplates what happiness is and how it is evaluated, looks at the affect of the color blue and the other sensations of water. He explores the recreational use of water and the health benefits of water, including its therapeutic use for PTSD, drug addiction and autism. He explains the Red Mind and the Gray Mind – enlightening.

Blue Mind is not a dry science book. Nichols includes lots of stories as examples of his thesis. Some of the findings are subjective and anecdotal and the stories help illustrate them.

The application of Nichols' book is broad, all the way from health benefits to urban planning. He is also concerned about the future of water and ends his book with a reminder of our emotional attachment to it and the need to make sure it is there for the future.

Now I know why there are aquariums in waiting rooms and why you should put a small one on your work desk. I know what it means if someone gives me a blue marble. I also now know the science behind why I love the water so much, especially the beaches of my island home.

Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., is a research associate at the California Academy of
Sciences and cofounder-codirector of Ocean Revolution, SEE the WILD, and LIVEBLUE. He lives in California with his partner, Dana, and two daughters. Find our more about the author and his work at

Little, Brown, and Company, 352 pages.

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Love Well by Jamie George

George knows that many Christians are not living the abundant life Jesus promised. They experience shame, fear and hopelessness that is often paralyzing. He uses his own story as a backdrop for encouragement to start moving forward.

He encourages us to know and be known, to experience love deeply and give that love away. He suggests we open our eyes and do something new. We are to speak out our shame, set boundaries, recognize the value of suffering, listen to others' stories and be vulnerable with our own. We are to forgive and stay open to connection.

I have mixed feelings about this book. George tells readers what to do but there is very little on how to do it. He gives us twelve actions to take to get unstuck. “Speak out shame,” “feel through your pain,” and “be vulnerable with your story,” are just a few. But we are left to our own devices as to how we are to do that. George shares many stories from his own life, especially that of his troubled marriage. He and his wife went to counseling and he relates many of the lessons he learned and how he grew through the experiences. He then encourages us to do the same. For me, there were just not enough practical suggestions as to how we could have the same kinds of healing experiences he had, yet without the intervention of a counselor. Some of the actions he asks us to do have been the subjects of entire books themselves, such as “set boundaries.”

This is a very personal book in that George reveals much about his own struggles and those of his wife, especially in their marriage. At times I felt a little uncomfortable with his revelation of a marital problem. I almost felt like I was voyeur, seeing something too personal to be made public.

George tells lots of stories. Many are about himself but some are Bible stories. His retelling of the story of Joseph is some twenty seven pages long. As a Christian who has read the story many times, I have to admit, I did skim over some of it. New Christians may appreciate the lengthy retelling of a biblical story but seasoned Christians may not.

The design of the text is interesting. In the advanced reading copy I received, there is much empty space. The print size is larger than normal and there is extra space between the lines. There are also double spaces between the paragraphs and the way the text is written, there can be up to thirteen paragraphs on a page. (Page 220 has 110 words. Another book I'm reading, with regular type and line spacing, has around 330 words per page.) Perhaps I'm being picky, but with regular type and spacing this book would have been 50 to 70 pages smaller.

Jamie George founded The Journey Church in Franklin, Tennessee, in 2006 as a safe haven for the “religiously wounded.” George is co-authoring a curriculum with novelist Karen Kingsbury. He lives with his wife and four children in Franklin, Tennessee. You can find out more at

David C Cook, 288 pages.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through the Icon media Group for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Radically Normal by Josh Kelley

Kelley wants his readers to honor God in their everyday lives. He also wants to correct some longstanding ideas and practices, such as Christians' obsession to look super spiritual on one hand or practice complacency on the other. Kelley wants Christians to be radically normal. “It's the biblical art of fully engaging this life while focusing on the next.” (14)

Kelley reports that you don't have to sell all and go overseas to honor God. But we are not to settle for mediocrity either. He wants to see believers pursuing greatness in their unique place in the body of Christ, exercising their specific gifting.

He helps readers understand what obsessive behavior is – actions based on guilt, obligation or legalism. Doing something because it is your joy to obey God – that is being radically normal. “Learning to consistently live between legalism and worldliness,” he writes, “is much harder, but it's also much more fun.” (136)

Kelley's book reminds me of John Piper's writing on being a Christian hedonist. Obeying God's commands because we want to, not because we feel obligated to, will ultimately bring us much more happiness and enjoyment of His creation. Getting there is not always easy, however. Legalism is often the easy way out.

I thought he had a very good explanation of how legalism gets started, from building protective fences. That helped me understand how to avoid it. He also has a well thought out section on avoiding friendship with the world (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). Just because something is “earthly” does not mean it is “worldly.” He even has wisdom on how to make the best use of suffering because it will come to all of us. I like his suggestions about art too.

Questions for group discussion or personal reflection are included so it would be a great book for a small group or to read by oneself.

Kelley has tackled a difficult subject of living godly lives in a fallen world. I think he has done well. He helps readers understand what it really means to give God glory in our daily lives. His suggestions are realistic, encouraging, and doable.

You can find out more about the book and read a sample chapter at

Josh Kelley has been a pastor for fifteen years. He has a BA in Biblical Studies from Pacific Life College. He served as assistant pastor at His Place Community Church and from 2007 to the church's closing in 2014, as pastor of The Gathering Christian Church. He and his family live in northwest Washington and he is back working at Starbucks.

Harvest House Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke

Women want to be loved. They want to know that someone out there wants them.

What if you could know, the authors ask, that there is One who seeks you, intensely loves you, and desire you be His bride-to-be? What if there is an epic love story unfolding in your life right now?

The authors help you see your relationship with God in a new way, recognizing He is your Relentless Lover. God wants you. He loves you and is continually pursuing you. He has called you and you are of great value to Him. You are His Peculiar Treasure. He has set you free. You are covered and you are promised to Him.

Robin and Alyssa share their own stories of (human) love and rejection and how they have come to understand God's love for them. Robin shares her wisdom and life experience while Alyssa reveals her emotional experiences of dating and romance.

Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter. It might make a good choice for a high school girl's discussion group

The authors hope that this book will encourage readers to respond to the invitation from the true Bridegroom.

This is a young woman's book. It offers encouragement to young women who are looking for love and are, perhaps, desperate for romance. Both Robin and Alyssa are very open about their experiences in love, being rejected, experiencing depression and an eating disorder.

My caution for this book is that at the very end there is quite a romantic section on how Jeff proposed to Alyssa. I felt it took the emphasis away from looking to the true Bridegroom and put it squarely back on the human romance level. A young woman might read the last section and be swept back into her intense desire for human romance, forgetting much in the previous sections of the book.

Robin Jones Gunn is the best-selling author of the Christy Miller series with more than 4.5 million copies of her books sold worldwide. She and her husband live in Hawaii. You can find out more at
Alyssa Joy Bethke is twenty-six, a popular blogger and a newlywed. She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest. You can find out more at

Multnomah Books, 192 pages.

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Discovering Joye by Jim Stovall

Stovall never met Joye Kanelakos. He only knew her as the mother of one of his colleagues and coworkers, Dorothy. When Joye was near death, she told her daughter about a special box. After her death, her children went through the box and found a treasure. The box was filled with Joye's poetry. Dorothy read one of them to Stovall and the scene came alive in his mind.

Stovall realized there are discoveries like Joye's poetry to make every day. He shares some of the discoveries he has made through his relationships with others. It may be a discovery he made while on a speaking engagement or something one of his wise friends said. He relates the story and adds one or more of Joye's poems.

Here are some of his discoveries:
We must savor each moment with the special people in our lives as we never know which moment with them will be our last.” (27)
Every season is a gift, every day is an opportunity, and every moment is a treasure. Spend them all wisely.” (46)
Being grateful today makes you appreciate yesterday and anticipate tomorrow.” (130)

The poems from Joye are moving. Here is one of my favorites:
Our Legacies
Every footprint that we take
Makes a change where we have passed.
Small things there beneath our heel
Are changing where the print was cast.
What then could any difference make
When ruthless paths our courses take?
Beneath our heel some things will bend
Without the strength to rise again.

The nineteen stories that Stovall tells are encouraging and full of insight. There is one on money and another on friends. He encourages learning, celebrating family, giving joyfully, practicing gratitude, choosing happiness, and includes many other topics on living life.

Stovall does an amazing job of revealing the insights found in Joye's poetry. The combination of poetry and prose makes for pleasant reading. This book would be a wonderful gift. Its small size and short chapters of wisdom would be appreciated by anyone loving poetry. Stovall's book is a good reminder that we all leave a legacy. What kind of a legacy it will be is up to us.

Find out more about the book and read a couple of paragraphs at

Jim Stovall began going blind at seventeen and was fully blind at 29. He is the president of the Emmy award-winning Narrative Television Network. He is the author of twenty books, including the bestselling The Ultimate Gift. Find out more at and,

Destiny Image, 172 pages.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Operation Zulu Redemption: Out of Nowhere by Ronie Kendig

This episode is another one full of action as we follow the surviving women of Zulu Team, the all female special ops group.

At the end of the last episode, Teya had walked into an ambush. She is determined to find the guy who left her with a broken nose and black eyes. Trace takes the women back to the secret bunker for additional training. He is seeing to it that they are trained better than they could have ever imagined – their lives depend on it.

When the women find out they are still in the army and have been on inactive status these last five years, tempers flare. Trace can still order them into dangerous situations, and he does.

Trace gets a lead and arranges a meeting in Paris with one of the civilians present during the Misrata disaster. The meeting turns deadly and Teya, at the wrong place at the wrong time, is seriously attacked and is now on the hit list of the most feared assassin in Europe.

Another lead and Zulu goes to Greece. This time Trace and Boone are helpless as the safety of the team is compromised and we are left with the women in danger – again.

This is another action packed episode but I am getting frustrated with Trace's inability to keep his team safe. The women continue to escape, but in the process, make Trace look inept. I, like the women, thought they had been dismissed from the army. I thought Trace was running a rogue operation, trying to find the cause of the Misrata disaster. Finding out they are still in the army, though inactive, makes me wonder why Trace doesn't do a better job of protecting them by calling in more help. It makes for great suspense as the women are attacked again and again but I am getting tired of Trace's ineptness and the army's inability to protect some of their own.

A possible reason for Trace's limited action is that an army official of high rank was involved in causing the Misrata disaster. There is a hint of that possibility in this episode. Trace might be operating under the radar, so to speak, to keep that army professional from knowing his actions.

See my review of earlier episodes: Overkill - the Beginning and Collateral Damage.

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning author known for her action fiction. The combination of her degree in psychology and her knowledge of military life combines for intense scenes of compelling fiction. Find out more about her and her work at

Shiloh Run Studios, about 185 pages.

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jesus Now by Frank Viola

The gospels give us a good idea of what Jesus did while on earth, but what is He doing now? Viola gives us the answer to that question as he looks at the present ministry of Jesus.

He looks at the various roles Jesus has today and how they affect our Christian walk. Jesus is our High Priest. “He is the one who rolls up His sleeves and joins us in the broken places of our lives.” (23) He is also our Advocate, Mediator, Intercessor, Great Shepherd, Heavenly Bridegroom, Author and Finisher of our faith, Builder of the church, Head of the church, and Lord of the World.

Jesus is still carrying out the work of God today. “He carries it out in His enthroned state, withdrawn from visible sight but active in Spirit in and through His followers.” (195) To help us understand that work, Viola does spend quite a bit of time on the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit.

This book is not a scholarly study of the ministry of Jesus today. It is more of a conversation on what Jesus is doing now and what it means to our every day lives. It would make good devotional reading. Anyone who would like reassurance that God is working today, through Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Christians, would benefit from reading this book. His work may be hidden from our sight but we do know He is on the throne and He has promised to be present with us until the end of the age. That is good news.

Frank Viola has written many books on the church and the relationship of Christians with Jesus. You can find out more and follow his blog at

David C. Cook, 207 pages.

Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

This novel is light Christian romance all the way.

Autumn is the owner of an old inn along the shore of Lake Michigan, having acquired it after her father died and her mother wanted nothing to do with it. But tourism is down and continual repairs has left Autumn in financial difficulty.

Blake has just returned to his home town after being gone for years. He is still trying to deal with his past and his part in the death of his brother. His reception is mixed as some still hold him responsible for the tragedy.

Autumn and Blake are unlikely friends as Blake's father owns a hotel, direct competition to Autumn's inn. The town is in need of promotional help, however, and Blake agrees to organize the last festival of the season – if Autumn will help. It will be a struggle as the hostility between the families goes back a long time.

The two work together and romance blossoms. Just when it looks like the two might get together, Autumn looses the inn and decided to take a job in Europe.

This is a fun romance. It is the second in a series. I read it without having read the first one, Made to Last, and enjoyed it but felt I had missed much of the earlier character development. To obtain full enjoyment of this novel you should read the earlier one.

The characters are well crafted. The plot is good. I did feel like the reconciliation of Blake with the people in the town was a bit fast and unrealistic, as was Autumn's change of heart near the end of the novel. This is romance, however, and romance often breaks the borders of sensible reality.

Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and current nonprofit grant writer. She is the author of Made to Last and blogs regularly at

Bethany House Publishers, 365 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris

While this is the second in the Southern Crimes series, it reads well on its own. (See my review of Dangerous Passage here.)

This novel centers on Emily Hunt, a high school school teacher in a family of police professionals. Her world is turned upside down when one of the students she has worked so hard to help comes into her classroom with a gun. The policeman who tries to negotiate an end to the hostage situation is Mason Taylor, the man Emily's sister Avery is sure caused the death of their brother. Involved in a deadly situation, Emily has to trust Mason with her life. Is he the mole in the police department or should she fear someone else?

I like a good police detective novel and this is another good one from Harris. I really admired Emily. Though she is not in the police department, she gets right in the situation with determination and acts with intensity when the circumstances go deadly. And Mason is a good support for the brave Emily. He has the hard task of trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

There is action throughout this novel. Just when I thought a deadly situation was cleared up, another would arise. The action was not forced, however. It was just the progression of evil running its deadly course.

With believable and well developed characters, suspense galore, this is a great novel. There is even a hint of romance included. It's not perfect. (I mean really, would a bad guy cop shoot the good guy cop in the chest when he knew a bullet proof vest was worn?) Nonetheless, I highly recommend it.

Lisa Harris is a Christy Award finalist and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She is the author of more than twenty books and has spent over ten years living with her family as missionaries in Africa. Learn more at

Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 304 pages.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean

There seems to be a growing unease with the organized church. Studies show that Christians are leaving the church. The encouraging news is that they are not leaving their faith.

The author is one of them. She served in church for more than two decades and knows the importance of the visible church. “Now, as a non-goer and cultivator in an ever-evolving Christian community,” she writes, “I also believe there are healthy, visible, doable alternatives to the traditional church.” Becoming a non-goer can lead to life-giving, world-changing, growth-inducing, community building life.

She shares her own experience, explores what “church” means, and why people are leaving the church. She shares many stories of people who have created meaningful post-church experiences. She looks at possibilities of forming community and passing on the faith without the structure of the church. She gives practical suggestions for mentoring and connecting with others. Most have had to venture out of their comfort zones.

She suggests that non-goers may be part of something new happening in Christianity. It is an expression of Christianity that is integrating belief into life, evidencing real spiritual formation from real life experiences, and forming authentic relationships through community building. It is an exploration of the meaning of belief apart from church activity.

Bean's book is a good look at how Christians are committing themselves to be the church in new (and sometimes old) ways. It is an encouragement for those frustrated with their organized church experience. It is also a wake-up call to pastors and denominational officials. It reminds them people are leaving their churches, not because they are leaving the faith, but because they are leaving what they consider to be an irrelevant organization.

Bean's book includes numerous examples of Christians committed to exercising their faith outside of church activities. I found it very encouraging. The statistics of church attendance in decline can be depressing but this book gives one hope that Christianity is alive and well and being exercised on the street corners and in the living rooms of our communities.

This is a good book for non-goers. Bean has given many practical ideas for creating intentional communities and instigating action to share the good news of the gospel. It is also a good book for those thinking of leaving the organized church as it encourages movement toward alternative faith expression.

Kelly Bean served at Cultivator of third Saturday organic community which gathered in her living room for 24 years. She is co-planter of Urban Abbey, an egalitarian inter-generational intentional community in North Portland. She is co-founder and Executive Director of African Road, an International NGO working in collaboration with African leaders who are creating community collectives. Find out more at

Baker Books, 241 pages.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

If you grew up on Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers you'll like this series. If you like historical English mysteries you'll like this one.

In this third novel of the series, Drew and Madeline are preparing for their wedding mere weeks away when a flame from Drew's past rears her beautiful head. Drew had been captured by Fleur's beauty during his Oxford days. Now she asks for his help in a murder, one she fears she'll be accused of doing. Drew loves a mystery but his potential sleuthing is a problem for Madeline. Seeing Fleur's beauty and sensing her deceptive feminine ways, Madeline becomes insecure and demands Drew make a choice – the mystery or the marriage.

This is a great period mystery. I love the way the 1930s England comes alive through Deering's writing. The dialog and action are well crafted. The mystery is well done. We are introduced to the world of a theater group in that era. There is much deception afoot and only Drew and Madeline, combining their efforts, have a chance of uncovering the murderer.

The best part of this novel for me was the interaction between Madeline and Drew. Drew is such a nice English gentlemen and when Madeline becomes jealous of his old and forgotten flame, it really throws him for a loop. He is torn. He loves Madeline so much but solving the murder is so tempting, especially when it seems he will be able to learn something of his unknown birth mother.

Great characters, great mystery, great dialog, great setting – it all makes for a great novel in a favorite series of mine.

Julianna Deering is the pen name of the multi-published novelist DeAnna Julie Dodson. She lives north of Dallas, Texas. You can find out more about her and her books at

Bethany House Publishers, 336 pages.

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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fatal Addiction by Ace Collins (In The President's Service: Episode 4)

At the end of episode three, Helen Meeker had impulsively hopped onto a DC-2 bound for Nazi Germany. Her motive might have been to save her friend Henry but the rest of her FBI team was sure her decision was deadly.

This is another great episode in the series. Meeker is a smart and savvy woman and with the help of Reggie Fistar, Alistar's twin brother, manages to foil Fistar's traitorous plans.

This episode includes insights to the actions of Hitler and his operators, including his interest in the occult and his desire to obtain power from ancient artifacts. There is also reference to the leader's experiments on humans, in this case the attempt to create a super-human using injections into the bloodstream. The episode has plenty of action too, such as a Nazi sub off the coast of Mexico and a kidnapped nun.

I really like the historical details the author has incorporated into the series. Collins likes vintage cars and in this episode we find an old Pierce-Arrow sedan, with lobster eye headlights, made into a flat bed truck.

Perhaps the most fun is the inclusion of the author himself into the action as there is reference to a certain “agent Collins” who had interviewed a suspect.

This series has all the elements of a great WW II espionage novel. I love Helen Meeker as a strong female heroine. The writing is crisp, the characters well developed and believable, and the action nonstop. I eagerly await the next episode.

You can read my review of A Date With Death, Episode 1, here.
My review of Dark Pool, Episode 2, can be found here.
You'll find my review of Blood Brother, Episode 3, here.

Ace Collins is the author of several novels, covering everything from value-driven plots to adventures, mysteries, historical stories, sentimental tales and comedy. He has also written several nonfiction books. His work has been made into two network television specials and a CBS movie. Find out more at

Elk Lake Publishing, about 62 pages.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Operation Zulu Redemption Collateral Damage by Ronie Kendig

In this installment, the three remaining (healthy) women of Zulu Team get their mojo going. They refuse to merely sit in the underground safe house. They're climbing the walls. They want to be part of the action, part of uncovering who is behind the terrible incident five years ago.

We find out a little more about that incident too, as one of the women has a nightmare that visualizes what happened when all those children were killed. We are introduced to more characters, including the ultimate bad guy (but he remains anonymous). There's at least one new and suspicious character who is hiding something relating to the deadly past.

There is lots of action in this episode as well as a more insight into the minds of the characters. Kendig varies the point of view of the scenes so we get to experience action through the eyes of several characters. This episode has more emphasis on the romances the women have experienced in their lives since the deadly incident. For Teya, it gets her into trouble.

And we are left with another cliffhanger! Kendig knows how to leave us wanting more.

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning author known for her action fiction. The combination of her degree in psychology and her knowledge of military life combines for intense scenes of compelling fiction. Find out more about her and her work at

Shiloh Run Studios, about 170 pages.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

In this contemporary rendition of the classic Jane Austen's Emma, Caroline is back hone in Thorny Hollow to take care of her fragile mother. Caroline had been a successful journalist but her father's death made her return home essential.

Her long time friend is Brooks, a professor of journalism at a nearby college. He is a bright spot in Caroline's life, a voice of sanity in a world of lemonade and bridge parties.

The settled world of Caroline and Brooks is rocked when a handsome fellow comes to town and asks Caroline to write copy for manga books at his up and coming digital publishing company. Brooks doesn't trust this fellow – or is he just jealous?

This novel is good southern romance. There are garden parties and southern belles to match. There are Civil War reenactments and homes full of antiques. There are good guys and bad guys and a few quirky ones too.

The characters were well presented. Brooks is a real southern gentlemen. He'll even buy a cake when he knows Caroline has messed up the one she baked for her mother's bridge club. He is so gentle he has trouble expressing his deep feelings for Caroline. And Caroline seems to be that typical southern woman who wants to fix others' lives. She does grow in the novel as she realizes her fix isn't always what is best for the other person.

This is the second in the series yet it can easily be read alone. I didn't find as much humor in this one as I did in the first novel. I did enjoy reading about the Civil War aficionados. Those guys (and gals) really get into character. This is a nice southern romance and will give additional pleasure to those who enjoy Austen's novels. The author has even included a couple of recipes at the end of the book.

Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an award-nominated author. She is the homeschooling mother of six young children. She holds degrees in religious studies and theoretical linguistics. She and her family live in Oregon.

Howard Books, 336 pages.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's Best Next by Matt Perman

Since pursuing excellence is a worthy goal, books on productivity are a reading necessity. Perman takes the concept a step deeper. He wants each of us to be effective to the glory of Christ, to have time management that is Christ centered. This is a book about getting things done from a biblical perspective.

He aims to reshape our thinking on productivity. “I want to help you live the life that God has called you to live, and to live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning.” (20) He argues that productivity is about effectiveness, not efficiency. Getting more things done is meaningless if they are the wrong things. It is essential that our activity stems from our love of God, recognizing His purposes for us.

He has divided the book into sections that show why it is so hard to get the rights things done, what happens when we look at productivity in light of God and the gospel, an exploration of the processes behinds gospel-driven productivity, and how our understanding of productivity can be expanded to the workplace, our communities, and the world.

I really liked this book. This may be the first time I have seen planning and time management principles centered on the gospel. I understood the need for personal effectiveness but this book gave me a framework for understanding the purposes behind it as well. He also gives the tools to put gospel-driven productivity into practice. The book is centered on what the Bible says but Perman also includes insights from the best writers on productivity.

If you want to get biblical instruction on how to get things done and understand how getting things done relates to your Christian faith, this is the book for you. By increasing your productivity you increase your ability to do good to others and fulfill the purpose of God for your life. That's good news.

Food for thought:
The only way to find fulfillment and be productive in the ultimate sense is to center our entire lives – and therefore our productivity – on God." (54)
Productivity cannot be accomplished apart from Christ.” (56)
...[A] life well lived doesn't just happen; it requires intentionality.” (150)

Matt Perman formerly served as the senior director of strategy at Desiring God Ministries in Minneapolis, MN. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of leadership and productivity from a God-centered perspective. He regularly blogs at and contributes to a number of online publications as well.

Zondervan, 352 pages.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rope of Sand by C. F. Dunn

This is the third in The Secret of the Journal series. The author has conveniently given a synopsis of the story so far at the beginning of this book. While that was a good review, I think it does not have enough information contained to be able to read this book on its own. The basis for Matthew's condition has its roots in the seventeenth century, covered in previous novels. If you have not read the previous books you may be at a loss regarding some of the action and discussions in this one.

In this novel Emma is back in Maine and spends Christmas with Matthew's family. She knows the truth about his longevity and is now ready to meet his family. It is a complicated situation. Because of Matthew's “condition,” he has a son who appears much older than Matthew. When in public, there has to be some deception to cover the discrepancy in apparent ages.

Emma encounters a mixed reception. Some in the family welcome her while others are intensely hostile. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that someone has evil thoughts toward Emma and her future.

The first part of the novel went slowly. There is much dialog between Matthew and Emma and much thinking on Emma's part. It took a while for me to be captured, but it did happen in the second half of the book. There is compelling suspense near the end of the novel. I had to remind myself that this is a British author and the narrative does not always move as quickly as we Americans sometimes like.

I really like the intervention of the spiritual into the physical realm. It peaks near the end of the novel when good battles evil. I really like this series and do recommend it. Those who enjoy intense character development and interaction will appreciate these novels.

C. F. Dunn runs a specialist dyslexia and autism school in South-East England and writes in the South-West. You can find out more at

Lion Fiction, 464 pages.

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wish by Jake Smith

This is a very touching novel. Make sure you have your tissue ready.

Aaron is a seven year old whose leukemia has been in remission. But now it's back. When he gets to meet a baseball player from the Detroit Tigers, Aaron has one wish – that his dad would get to play for the Tigers.

Jim thought he might play professional baseball at one time. In college he met Emily and suddenly baseball wasn't so important. The dream lingered, however, and he now coached and played city leagues. When the Tiger organization offered to make it happen, James was torn. It would take weeks. He'd have to work his way up through the farm teams. Did he still have what it would take? Could he be away from his son for that long?

This is a well crafted and moving novel. The characters are great. I loved that little Aaron. What a sweet and courageous boy. This is a wonderful novel of a father's love, a family's perseverance, and the miracles that can happen when you believe in the impossible.

It is also a novel that emphasizes the work of finding donor matches for marrow transplants. You can go to to find out more about being tested for being a matching donor.

Jake Smith is an author and editor of three national, award-winning bimonthly magazines.. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan with his wife and children. A former assistant high school baseball coach and All-State shortstop, he now spends his time on the field helping coach his kids' youth baseball teams. Wish is his debut novel. You can find out more at

Tyndale House Publishers, 312 pages.

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