Sunday, August 31, 2014

Evergreen by Susan May Warren

This Christmas novella about the Christiansen family carries an emotional punch for which I was not prepared.

We've followed the lives of the Christiansen siblings in the previous novels about the family. They have all left home and now their mother, Ingrid, is not looking forward to a Christmas without them. John senses something in his wife that needs fixing. He's got just the thing to renew the romantic fire between the two of them that has cooled. He's planned a surprise Christmas trip to Europe and a renewal of their vows in Paris.

But life interferes when Ingrid agrees to take in her teen nephew while her sister is in treatment. And then their beloved family dog, Ingrid's last emotional link to her children's happy childhood, needs an expensive operation. And to top it off, Ingrid had long ago agreed to organize their church's living nativity.

This is definitely a different focus on the Christiansen family, on the parents. I had trouble liking John, the father and husband who thinks he can fix whatever needs fixing. When he can't fix it, he comes across as harsh. That was a bit surprising for me and I didn't like it. In the end, he had to learn that sometimes it is only God who can fix it. Often His fix doesn't look at all like what we had planned.

I sympathized with Romeo, the sweet nephew so misunderstood by John. It irritated me that John could hurt Romeo so deeply, doing what he thought was the right thing. What an arrogant man, thinking he knew how to run other people's lives.

I sympathized with Ingrid, trying so hard to be the wife and mother she knows she should be when her heart is grieving. Her daughter-in-law's troubled pregnancy brought back the emotions of Ingrid's own loss and the hurt deepened. I was amazed at the love she showed John, even when he did not deserve it.

Evergreen ended up being a very rewarding novella. It showed so dramatically that God works out all things for good, even though the path to that end can be very troubled. I recommend it.

Susan May Warren is a bestselling Christy, Carol and RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels. She served with her husband and their children as missionaries in Russia for eight years. She now writes full time as her husband runs a resort on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. You can find out more about her and her books at

Tyndale House Publishers, 208 pages.

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Beautiful Defeat by Kevin Malarkey

Total surrender to God. We know we are to be surrendered, but saying it is much easier than doing it.

Malarkey shares his thoughts on surrender. He suggests the starting point on the journey is honesty, with God and with others. He looks at the nature of sin. He says we need to know our enemies so he explores Satan, the world, and our flesh. He reminds us that God graciously provides a way forward in our mess, if we are willing, and that the central teaching of Christianity is that we must die. He has suggestions for finding our mission from God and preparing for it. He encourages us to let others help us in our struggles, even though it will be messy. We are to become addicted to our need for Go, he says. We are to look at what might be difficult for us and have a battle plan, remembering that we can learn from others.

Malarkey had serious problems with anger and he shares several of his experiences. His story is good evidence of God's grace, that He always provides a way forward in the mess if we allow Him to do so.

This book is a good reminder of the journey to a surrendered life. That journey is going to be messy but God will be there with us.

If you have not read much on the surrendered life, this would be a very readable and honest look at it. If you have read other books on the topic, you may nit find anything new in this one.

Food for thought:
Struggle is a team sport.” (104)
The surrendered life is the life of obedience to the clear, obvious, everyday things he asks of you and me.” (117)

Note: The author and his wife have apparently divorced. She has repeatedly stated that Malarkey's previous book about their son and his experience in heaven includes falsehoods. I have serious reservations about this author and this book.

Kevin Malarkey is a New York Times best-selling author and popular speaker. He owned a Christian psychotherapy business for many years and has an undergraduate degree in sociology and religion and a graduate degree in clinical counseling.

Thomas Nelson, 192 pages.

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney

Audrey's dream if finally coming true. Now that their five kids are grown, she and her husband Grant are turning their family home into a bed and breakfast near Langhorne, Missouri. The opening weekend celebration is interrupted by the arrival of their youngest, Landyn. She has just driven from New York with a U-Haul. Chase, her husband of six months and an artist struggling to make a name for himself, had taken on a new living arrangement without even informing Landyn. It was far away from her work and very small. She has come back home to think things through. Audrey and Grant try to make their dream come true even as they help their daughter and son-in-law work through shattered dreams. The situation gets even more complicated when Landyn reveals that she is pregnant.

My review:
I really enjoyed this novel. Raney has given us much to think about. Landyn and Chase's marriage has hit a rough spot. Chase made a huge decision in signing the lease on a studio apartment without consulting Landyn. Even though it would be a better location for his art work, it would mean long hours in commute for Landyn, whose job was currently supporting them. She is upset. He thinks he did what God was telling him to do. There is much to think about in this situation. The wife is supposed to obey her husband but the husband is supposed to love his wife and sacrifice for her as Christ did for the church. And what about Chase's career? Should he get a job so he could support them while his art career is getting off the ground? Isn't he supposed to be the breadwinner?

Another thought provoking issue is knowing the will of God. Chase is sure he heard God when he signed for that studio apartment. Was it really God or his own desire speaking to him? How does one know when he has really heard from God?

In the background to these issues is the relationship between Audrey and Grant. Their marriage has stood the test of time and is weathering a rough beginning to the bed and breakfast business. Both of them try to be supportive of Landyn and Chase without interfering too much. It is a delicate endeavor and much prayer helps them pursue a firm yet loving attitude.

This is a great novel about second chances, about imperfect people trying to follow a perfect God. It is encouraging to see what God can do with the messes we make of our lives.

Discussion questions are provided so this would make an excellent choice for a reading group.

Food for thought in words from Landyn's grandmother to Chase:
Quit beating yourself up over this. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that God rarely works in ways that make sense to us while they're happening. All too often, it's only after we look back, sometimes many years later – often, truth be told, peering over heaven's balcony – that we can make sense of the way He was working.”

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

Deborah Raney has won many awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and has twice been a Christy Award finalist. She and her husband live in Wichita. You can find out more about her and her books at

Abingdon Press, 272 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Safe Haven by Anna Schmidt

I really like this series by Schmidt. I have learned so much about WW II, while at the same time enjoying well written novels.

In this, the third in the series, FDR has arranged for nearly one thousand WW II refugees to come to America. Included in the group are some of those from previous novels. The main characters in this one are Suzanne, a journalist who needs to redeem her career, and Theo, a Quaker dairy farmer from Wisconsin and relative to one of the refugees.

This is a great continuation of the story. The refugees, many of them Jews who have escaped from concentration camps, were placed in a “camp” near Oswego, NY. Many locals were sympathetic to the needs of the refugees while some were suspicious and exhibited anti-Semitic feelings. The director of the camp wanted to see to the immediate needs of the refugees but also help them to prepare psychologically for life after the war. The refugees had signed an agreement to return to Europe when the war was over but that became a political issue as many wanted to stay.

I love it when I learn some history as I read a historical novel. And that is the case here. The Fort Ontario Refugee Shelter, also known as Safe Haven, was the only refugee center established in the U. S. during WW II. Schmidt has crafted an excellent novel based on these historical facts. We readers get to experience the anxiety of the refugees, their hesitation at being in a foreign country, and their celebration when the war was over.

To add interest and a framework for the historical narrative, Schmidt has added an investigative reporter, a bossy congressman, a wonderful Quaker farmer, and other well developed characters. This is a very good WW II novel and is part of a very good WW II series. I highly recommend it.

Anna Schmidt has three times been a finalist for the coveted RITA award for romance fiction and has twice been recognized by Romantic Times magazine with their Reviewer's Choice Award. She has written twenty five novels. Find out more about her and her books at

Barbour Publishing, 320 pages.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dancing on the Head of a Pen by Robert Benson

Benson was asked, when you think you have a story to tell, how do you go about it? Hence this book. He shares how he writes a book. It works for him and maybe it will help you. He offers no guarantees, however.

Some of the ideas in the book include deciding what to write, making the barest of plans, getting through to the discipline of writing a certain number of words a day, determining specifically to whom you are writing, writing slowly and rewriting, wearing the various hats of a writer, being influenced by other authors, journaling and practice cages, strolling, sharing your work (when and to whom), and knowing when a book is finished.

This is not a how-to book. Benson gives us musings on the craft, not specific steps nor practical techniques. He often rambles, telling stories of personal experiences, ultimately illustrating a principle about the writing life.

Benson is a writer. It is who he is, not merely what he does. He shares his writing journey and, although his path may not be the same as yours, I think you'll enjoy the views he describes.

Food for thought: “I know I am finished with a book when I never want to see it again.” (159)

Robert Benson is the author of numerous books and a retreat leader, writing and speaking often on prayer, contemplation, faith, spirituality, and writing. He is a graduate of and an adjunct faculty member for the Academy of Spiritual Formation. He and his wife live in Nashville, Tennessee. Find out more at (Note: this site is about a year out of date.)

Waterbrook Press, 192 pages.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Merlin's Nightmare by Robert Treskillard

Sixteen years have passed. Arthur is now eighteen. Merlin is older, married and has children. He is tired of fighting enemies and wants to spend his days with his family, training Arthur for his role as king. But Britain is facing war on three fronts. When Arthur heads south to aid Vortigern, thinking he is following the right path, Merlin is desperate to find the reckless young man and keep him safe from the man who killed his father. Merlin and Arthur must ultimately rally Britain's warriors against three overwhelming enemies: Saxenow (Saxon) hordes in the south, Picti (Painted Ones) raiders in the north, and a new enemy. Morgana, Merlin's sister, has set an army of werewolves loose to destroy Britain. While Merlin and Arthur are away, disaster happens at home as the Picti attack. Arthur must finally take his rightful place as High King. Yet Britain appears to be headed toward destruction.

My review:
While this is the third in a series, it can be read on its own. The author has included enough information at the beginning of the book that the reader is caught up to the present action. There is also a Glossary in the back, very helpful for all the unusual names and terms. That the Glossary is fourteen pages long tells you how many names and places you need to know. There are maps and village layouts at the beginning, again essential for following the action.

The characters have changed since the last book as sixteen years have passed. That caused a little disconnect for me. Merlin is married with children and is fearful and unsure of himself. Arthur is an adult, is brash and ready to move forward. We have missed the growing up years of Arthur and the influence Merlin had on him.

Soon I was right back following the action, however, and there is plenty of it. There are battles galore. There is the stone with the embedded sword. There are druids and hideous sacrifices Arthur and the Britons detest. There is a powerful fang and a magic orb. There are murderous man/wolves and werewolves and a dragon.

I was surprised that the end of this book does not wrap up, at least in some sense, the story. In fact, I felt like this book could have been the first in a series, not the last. We have experienced the background to Arthur becoming High King, now the next adventure begins. It seems it will in the series the author is working on, the Pendragon Spiral.

I found the spiritual aspect of the novel very interesting. Merlin, Arthur, and others are believers in Jesu Christus and call upon Him for help. In opposition are prominent pagan religions. It really gives the reader a sense of the spiritual struggle to control Britain.

Lovers of King Arthur fantasy will like this book. This entire series provides a new take on the background to King Arthur's life and the role Merlin played in it. Teen fantasy readers will enjoy it.

I wish the author had included an historical note informing readers of the aspects of the novel based on historical fact (at least as much as we know). He suggests researching names in the Glossary with asterisks for “a wealth if information.” So I did a Google search for Saxenow (a term with an asterisk) and found only references to Treskillard's books and a person's surname. I did not pursue that idea. Further general searching found one history site saying Vortigern died around 457, with Hengest being defeated (for the first time) then. That is quite different from the dates in this book. Granted, the chronology of the era is an educated guess but a short historical note with a timeline would have helped me understand Treskillard's dates. A page on his website on the history behind the series would be another way to help us put this series in historical context. I read books like this one to learn a little history, not just for escape. I appreciate when the author provides the information for me as a reader.

You can read a sample chapter here.

You can read my review of Merlin's Blade here and Merlin's Shadow here.

I am taking part in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour of this book. You can read the reviews of others listed below:

Robert Treskillard has been crafting stories from his early youth, and is a software developer, graphic artist, and sometime bladesmith. He and his wife have three children and are still homeschooling their youngest. They live in the country near St. Louis, Missouri. Visit the author's website here.

Blink (a division of Zondervan), 432 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book or get it here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through the CSFF blog tour, for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

This is a challenging book. It is one every church congregation should read.

Keller suggests there is a current disconnect between the desire to do justice and how we actually live it out. The church has concentrated on the soul and salvation, forgetting the body. He shows us that God wants us to exercise justice. He then explains how it can be done.

He begins with passages from the Old Testament and how God saw to it that the vulnerable had rights. He explores business, government, care for the poor within the church, the difference between relief and development, defining justice and our own attitude toward helping the poor.

Here are just a few of the challenging concepts Keller writes about:
  • Jesus “is saying that we should spend far more of our money and wealth on the poor than we do on our own entertainment, or on vacations, or on eating out and socializing with important peers.” (47-48)
  • Our attitude towards the poor reveals our attitude toward Christ.
  • Anyone who has truly been touched by the grace of God will be vigorous in helping the poor.” (54)
  • If you insult the poor you insult God.” (185)

This is a spiritual issue, Keller says. If you are willing to be challenged about your attitude towards the needy, read this book. You'll find there are no excuses. We have experienced God's generosity and grace. We are now called to exercise a generous and gracious justice to others.

Timothy Keller started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989. Now they have five thousand regular attendees as well as the members of hundreds of new churches around the world. He is the author of several books and lives in New York with his wife and family.

Dutton, 231 pages.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Finding Faith in the Dark by Laurie short

We would like to have our life go as we planned – but it doesn't always happen that way. When life takes a turn we hadn't planned or when God doesn't answer our prayers the way we'd like, we wonder where God is in all of it.

Short encourages us not to give up on the story God is writing until He is finished with it. Even in the darkest part of our story, we find that God is right there. To illustrate that, she tells lots of stories. They could be depressing but the way they were lived out makes them encouraging stories of faith.

She also gives us many examples of biblical characters who have been in dark places, either through their own choices (Abraham, David) or because of what God was doing (Job, Moses, Elijah, Joseph, Jeremiah). They are reminders that God does not abandon us in dark times, even when the time is long and others mistreat us during it.

We are reminded to leave room for a call of God we may not have considered. God has a purpose and she helps us discover clues to finding out there is much more to what God is doing than what we can see.

It is important for readers to know that Short finally received her desire, through a long awaited gift of grace from God. That might be hard to take for those still in darkness. Nonetheless, it is a great example of God's continuing love.

Short writes, “If you've ever been somewhere in life you don't want to be, this book is for you.” I agree. This book will help you find what God has for you in that place. Reading the book may not change your circumstances but it will change you.

Watch the author explain the premise of her book in this video.

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Laurie Short is a speaker, author, and associate pastor of Ocean Hills Covenant Church. She is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, and the author of several youth ministry books. You can find out more about her and follow her blog at her web site.

Zondervan, 176 pages.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Sign Painter by Davis Bunn

This is a novel with a message of hope. Amy is a single mom living in her husband's old camper on his old pickup. He'd died of cancer two years before. By the time he'd died she'd lost her job, their insurance, and their house. All she had left was her five year old daughter and the rusty old truck.

Amy has finally gotten a job creating a painting on a car dealership windows. Just in town she meets Lucy, director of the Methodist Church's daycare and ministry to the homeless. That meeting would change Amy's life.

The chance for Amy to have a new life looks like it might be derailed when a drug house in the neighborhood causes problems. Amy's life is in danger when she sees drug dealers laundering money through one of the car salesmen in the dealership.

In the short time the novel covers, we see Amy revealed as a capable and compassionate woman. Being given a chance at a new life inspires the courage to do what is right in a difficult situation. Several in the church stand by her with support and protection.

Most of the novel is a character study on Amy and how the ministry of the church has allowed her to get out of the hole into which she has fallen. There is a little romance in the novel but I was totally surprised at that outcome. There is a little action too as an ex-FBI agent and a retired policeman help the church oppose the drug culture encroaching into their territory.

This is not a novel for readers who like an action packed novel. This is more a study of what the work of a church can do to help change the lives of others. It is based on a true story and that is encouraging. The characters are well developed and grow as the story unfolds. Reading the novel will give you new perspective when you see the homeless. It will also give you pause to think what you and your church are doing to help the needy.

Davis Bunn is the author of many national bestsellers. He has won three Christy Awards for excellence in fiction. He is currently affiliated with Oxford where he serves as writer in residence at Regen's Park College.

Howard Books, 256 pages.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

PUSH by Cindy Trimm

Do you need some encouragement to persevere? Do you have a dream from God but need to know how to make that dream a reality?

Trimm inspires you to be who God wants you to be. She wants you to push past barriers, to overcome struggles, and to persevere in prayer – praying until the solution materializes. She likens the process to birth, identifying herself as a literary midwife. She helps you bring forth what God wants to birth through you.

God will strategically place you in the optimum place to accomplish His will. “He carefully provides challenges and problems that will cause you to press down and tap into your greatest potential.” (32)

Trimm helps you realize that great achievers had to overcome challenges that threatened to derail them. She has included some great examples and stories of people who have pushed through adversity to the dream God gave them. She includes encouragement on right thinking, visualizing, attitude, perceptions, habits, decisions, work, relationships, time, and much more.

Trimm writes, “The power of our thoughts, intentions, and words can manifest new realities, create something from nothing, and they can even alter the physical universe.” (111-112) She refers to people like Dr. William Tiller, Deepak Chopra, Nikola Tesla, and Marianne Williamson for evidence proving the power of thought. That Trimm refers to these people on the fringes of science or who promote eastern thinking bothers me. I would rather have seen references to the Bible than these people.

Trimm believes that God has planted a seed in you and that you have been placed in this time and place for a purpose. Reading this book is an encouragement to persevere in giving birth to your dreams. Just pay attention to the biblical encouragement and skip the nonbiblical stuff.

Dr. Cindy Trimm is a best-selling author, high impact teacher, and former senator. She is an empowerment specialist, revolutionary thinker, and transformational leader. She is a frequent guest on Christian broadcasting's most popular TV and radio programs.

Destiny Image, 233 pages.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Grand Design by Amber Stockton

This novel is a simple romance. There is no intricate plot nor are there multi-layered characters. There is not much conflict nor suspenseful tension. It is just a sweet and uncomplicated story. It might be a suitable romance novel for young career aged women.

Alyssa returns to Mackinac Island, having won the trip in a contest. She and her family used to go every summer to visit her grandparents. Something happened one summer and when her father died, Alyssa never went back.

Alyssa is attracted to Scott, one of the men who ferried her and her friend Libbey to the island. Scott is attracted to her as well. Some healing of past pain must take place before a romance can blossom, however.

Alyssa is a young woman who has created walls around her because of a hurt she experienced in her teens. Scott is a patient young man who is willing to help Alyssa open herself up to a man again. Each of them have a strong faith, making the healing possible.

Stockton fell in love with Mackinac Island as a little girl after watching the film, Somewhere in Time (starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve). While she has yet to actually visit the island, she gives readers a good sense of its history and the fascination people have with it. Her desire in writing novels is that people would finish a novel and have their faith strengthened, in this case, that all things do work together for good when you trust God and invite Him into all areas of your life.

This novel is one of The Quilts of Love series. Alyssa's grandmother is creating one and we do get to meet some of the interesting people of the island as Alyssa picks up squares for the quilt's composition. Interestingly enough, we know nothing of the type of quilt design nor what was on the individual squares.

This is a light novel of romance, the relationship budding to something serious in less than two weeks. Scott and Alyssa did not have long nor intense discussions and I got the impression they did not know each other well by the end of the novel. Scott's past was hinted at a couple of times but we never find out what that was all about.

I really felt there should have been more to this novel, more character development, a more involved plot, a greater explanation of the quilt and what the grandmother was trying to accomplish through creating it. Those who like simple escape romance might like this one.

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

You can read about the Quilts of Love series here.

Amber Stockton is an award-winning author and national speaker. She lives with her author husband and their two children in Colorado. You can find out more at

Abingdon Press, 208 pages.

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Making Sense of the Bible by David Whitehead

This is a good book for new Christians or older Christians unfamiliar with the Bible. Whitehead wants to help us become more familiar with the Bible.

He explains why there are so many translations and how to choose the right one for our own use. He reminds us of the heart attitude we should have, focused on God, and how to know if it is ours. He helps us understand the various writing styles found in the Bible.

He explains that the Bible is an epic story of God and how He interacts with His creation. To help us see that he looks at Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. He explains the gospels and their various viewpoints, as well as the epistles (letters), giving a short synopsis of each.

He helps us understand the narrative of the Old Testament and the various perspectives offered, giving a synopsis of each of the historical books. He explains the role of poetry and its literary features, and that of Revelation. The majority of the books in the Bible are prophetic books so he shows their significance, again giving a short synopsis of each.

This is a very readable introduction to the Bible. Whitehead has included a checklist for reading through the Bible chronologically as well as suggestions for reading more on each topic.

The author says in his introduction that this is a book about learning how to read the Bible. (15) “The goal in reading the Bible,” he writes, “ is to get to know and interact with the God of the Bible.” (11) This book will help you understand more of what you are reading in the Bible. Knowing God better and interacting with Him more is beyond the scope of this book.

David Whitehead began writing www.thedailybibleverse.ord in 2009. He is the lead pastor of Grace in Manhattan and a church-planting coach for Redeemer Presbyterian Church's City to City. He and his wife and two daughters live in Manhattan.

Bethany House, 175 pages.

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Christian Survival Guide by Ed Cyzewski

It happens all too often. A relatively new Christian comes upon a troublesome issue. Perhaps it is creation verses evolution. Maybe it is the issue of a good God and so much evil in the world. Faced with a tough situation and not prepared for survival, their faith suffers.

Survival requires planning. That goes for a hike in the wilderness and it goes for our spiritual walk. “Christian survival just doesn't happen.” Cyzewski writes. “It requires discipline, planning, and action.” (13).

He has written this book to help us survive the tough challenges of being a follower of Jesus. He draws from his own experience of being a life long Christian yet having hit rough patches that threatened his faith. He covers a number of topics identified as essential to survival. These are within the broad subjects of right beliefs, understanding God's story from the Bible, living in step with the Spirit, and being in community with other Christians.

He has some great insights into the challenges that often trip us up. He helps us see possibilities and various viewpoints. He brings a good balance, reviewing a variety of opinions on subjects like prayer, the Bible, God in the Old Testament, the problem of evil and pain, hell, the Bible and culture, rescuing Revelation, bad church experiences, and much more.

He has presented thoughtful investigations into these troublesome topics. I may not agree with all of the options he presents, but he looks for common ground among the various perspectives. I certainly appreciate that. He even adds some humor along the way, such as his Church Visitor's Checklist and A Coffee Lover's Survival Guide to Churches.

His discussion on hell made me a little nervous at first. By the end of the chapter, I could understand his conclusion. “I believe,” he writes, “there is room in the Christian family for a broad range of perspectives on hell because the evidence isn't cut-and-dried.” (78)

My favorite section was on Revelation. He does a great job critiquing the secret rapture. He gives valid alternatives to the date setting concept of interpreting Revelation. “Revelation tells us a whole lot more about how to live each day than about what the future holds.” (134)

He has kept the chapters short so he could cover many topics. He provides additional reading suggestions for those who would like to study the subjects in greater detail.

I really like this book. Cyzewski has done a very good job of presenting various biblical perspectives on topics that trip up Christians. If you are being challenged in an area of Christian belief, take a look at this book. There just may be a biblical perspective you have not considered that will help you survive with your faith intact. Above all, rely on the Holy Spirit to sustain you and keep you focused on Jesus.

You can find out more about the book, read endorsements, etc., at the author's website:

Ed Cyzewski is a freelance writer and the author of several books. He regularly writes about Christian living for The High Calling, Red Letter Christians, and A Deeper Family. He also provides professional blogging and book editing for small business and individuals. You can follow his blog at and find out more about his work at He lives with his family in Columbus, Ohio.

Kregel Publications, 208 pages.

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Never-Ending Night by Tanya Stowe

What at unusual but rewarding plot. During a reenactment of a Civil War battle, one of the actual soldiers in that battle steps out of the smoke. T. R. Sheridan has been transported from the Civil War era to our present time. He is first observed by Stacy Sutton, a freelance photographer filming the reenactment.

The story follows T. R. and Stacy as he tries to adjust to being in a different time. An evil psychiatrist wants him committed, not because T. R. is dangerous, but because the doctor sees a great opportunity for studying an unusual man and advancing his career in the process. Stacy takes T. R. into her care. She thinks it might atone for the death of her journalist friend while the two of them were reporting on a war overseas.

This book is an interesting study in adapting to a totally different era and culture, mixing in romance. Paralleling T. R.'s traumatic experience is Stacy's, coming to grips with the death she has seen. Healing the past is difficult and can only be done with supernatural help.

I was not at all prepared for the suspenseful and surprising ending. While the novel is not perfect (there is at least one aspect of T. R.'s appearance at the reenactment that is not reconciled at the end), it is pretty good.

You can watch a trailer for the book here.
Tanya Stowe has had an eclectic career. She has written for television, publicity firms, and national publications. She and her husband of thirty-seven years live overseas. She has written several novels and has more coming.

White Rose Publishing, 157 pages.

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

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

This is a compelling novel. No, there is no suspenseful action that makes you turn pages. Nor is there intense emotion that propels you to the next page. It is just one of those novels that, when you finish, you sigh and say, “That was a good novel.”

The novel centers on Perla, who has come to the town of Wise unwed and with a five year old daughter. The other main character is Casewell, a young man who befriends her. Shortly after Perla arrives, a terrible drought plagues the town. The blame is set squarely on Perla by the local preacher and the town's gossiping citizens.

There is so much to think about in this novel, where do I start?

Perla has a gift from God but others don't understand and call it witchcraft. Perla feels the burden of a misunderstood gift from God. She struggles with being faithful to her gifting, rejecting the harsh words of others. And I am reminded of the times I may have misunderstood God's gifts, especially when they are so different from my own.

Perla is not accepted into the close knit community. She is different and obviously a sinner. I am reminded of the times I may not have accepted someone else because they were “different.”

In the novel the town drunk gives forgiveness easily while the righteous hold on tight. The righteous are quick to judge Perla, too. Her sin is so obvious in the person of her sweet five year old daughter. Judging someone else's obvious sin is so much easier than admitting the well hidden ones we have within.

Yes, there is much to think about in this novel. A good discussion guide is included so this would make a fine choice for reading groups.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. In reading this novel you will be reminded of some of them. And the “miracle in a dry season"? Well, there were so many, I'm not sure which one the author meant.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fund-raiser for Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth and Families. She has had free lance articles and poetry published in several magazines. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband live in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more at

Bethany House Publishers, 304 pages.

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Believing Out Loud by Kimberly Wright

Wright battled serious fears but now God is continuing to take her fears and exchange them for courage. She now experiences victory and abundance. She now knows her value and self-worth from God. God has taken her messy life and it using it to encourage others.

She has written this book so we can know that God wants to do the same for us. She shares her own story, how she came to experience fear and panic attacks. She relates how she learned she had value in God's eyes, the need to avoid compromising situations (not being strong enough to make right choices), the importance of a mind focused on God (realizing it is a cognitive choice and takes practice), prayer, using God given courage, and serving in your gift area.

The strength of this book, I think, is in the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. On its own, this book is not a blueprint for change. Wright shares her transformation but there is no real plan presented in the book for readers to follow. This book would best be discussed among a small and close group. The support of the group would be essential in seeing the possible changes described in this book actually take place in a person.

For example: “We cannot dwell on the past,” she writes, “but instead change our focus to the new things Christ wants to do in our lives.” (123) I agree, but how is that done? Discussing the concept with a friend, one who is willing to walk you through the process and hold you accountable, might be the key to the transformation.

Food for thought: Our ultimate goal, Wright says, should be “to live our life in a way that inspires others to have an adventure with God.” (148)

Kimberly Wright was named the 2009 National Young Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc. She is the author of Bedtime Thoughts for the Christian Mom. She earned a BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and blogs weekly at She travels across the U.S. speaking at women's church retreats and conferences. She and her husband have four children and life in Overland Park, Kansas.

Leafwood Publishers, 160 pages.

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