Friday, October 31, 2014

Breathing Room by Leeana Tankersley

No matter what you look like on the outside, Tankersley writes, if you are hurting on the inside, this book is for you. If you are holding your breath, holding it all together, this book gives you the encouragement to exhale.

Tankersley shares her own experience of coming apart on the inside. She had concentrated so much on the needs of her young twins she had forgotten about herself. She writes about the toxic voice that says you'll never be good enough. She rejected parts of herself, she tried to pray yet there were no words. She experienced depression and panic. She is honest about the ways she tried to satisfy the ache in her soul, tried to fix what she felt was broken.

She shares the lessons she has learned: sharing life with friends, making amends, stealing time for herself, reaching out for help, learning to mourn, and learning to pay attention to the moments of insanity. She arrived at a place where she gave herself permission to choose herself, to be a friend to herself, to laugh, to recognize the fullness. She discovered she could go to a space called her own to meet with God.

This book is an encouragement to mothers of young children. Tankersley went with her navy SEAL husband to Bahrain for his tour. She took her toddler twins and then gave birth to a daughter while there. There were times she felt like she was living at the corner of “Lost” and “Overwhelmed.” She adds some humor too, like the time she and her family were out to eat. Her brain was so completely tangled, when it was time to pay, she pulled a pack of wipes from her purse, opened the plastic lid and handed one to the cashier. Receiving a strange look, Tankersley realized what she had done.

Tankersley is a Christian and writes from that perspective. This book is not full of Bible verses or theological instruction. It is full of suggestions and encouragement born from experience. If you feel like you are sinking and need a lifeline, this is a good book to read. It would be a good book to give to a young mother who is overwhelmed with all that life and children can throw at her.

Leeana Tankersley holds English degrees from Liberty University and West Virginia University. Her navy SEAL husband is currently stationed in San Diego, where they livewith their three children. She writes about living on her blog,

Revell, 221 pages.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey

What a delightful romance taking place in North Carolina. Taryn and Justin were best friends and sweethearts in high school. When he decided to go into the army, she did the unthinkable to get him to stay. Then a senseless argument caused a division between the two and Justin left. Finding herself pregnant, she went off to college and to a place where she would give up her newborn.

Twelve years later Taryn is teaching high school in her home town and Justin has just returned to care for his ailing father. There's been no communication between the two but then he comes to Taryn's grandmother's house to work on putting Christmas lights on the roof. An awkward meeting is interrupted by her grandmother's fall. Her grandmother is hospitalized and Taryn is distraught. Her grandmother's love is the only family love she's known since her mother died and her father alienated her. Her grandmother asks Taryn to finish a quilt needed by Christmas. It is a project that just might bring Taryn and Justin back together.

This is a great addition to the Quilts of Love series. The story is believable and the characters are well crafted. Their tentative reunion, filled with hesitations and misgivings, is very realistic. Taryn had become convinced through her emotionally absent father that she was unlovable. To watch her heal and transform during the novel was rewarding. Both Taryn and Justin have to experience and give deep felt forgiveness, a major theme in the novel. They have to rely on their Christian faith to do that. I really enjoyed the novel as a quick and entertaining read. I recommend it as a nice novel for Christmas reading.

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

You can learn more about the Quilts of Love series here.

Jodie Bailey is Tarheel born and bred. After 15 years as a military spouse, she settled with her family back in North Carolina. She is the author of the military suspense novel Freefall and is a contributor to Edie Melson's devotional for military families, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home. She teaches middle schoolers, loves to bake, ride the Harley with her husband, and fish the Outer Banks with their daughter. Find out more at

Abingdon Press, 240 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to buy this book.

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance

This novel is a very complex one. There are many layers of stories going on at once and at times I was little confused.

The setting is after the Civil War in a small town in Ohio. Our main character is Bianca. She is twenty-five and waiting for her true love, encouraged by her father. He's a bit of a romantic and because of him, Bianca is well read and intelligent. He sees an advertisement for a contest. The winner would travel to London and then journey to the Holy Land. She enters and is one of four winners.

The other characters are the man who originated the contest and the other travelers. Shortly after Bianca arrives in London, we find out that there is much more to the fellow travelers and the host than originally meets the eye. Throughout the journey on the boat and the time in the Holy Land, we gather information about the travelers and their relationships (hidden or overt) to the other travelers. Danger is woven into the narrative, as is romance.

I had a little trouble with Bianca. She is supposed to be so well read yet she is entirely naïve in some areas. She seemed poised one moment yet entirely falling apart the next. She just did not seem to have a consistent personality to me.

I did not like any of the other characters. Each was someone very different from whom he or she appeared to be on the surface. For me, that was a bit much. Trying to understand all the previous entanglements of the characters made reading the book more difficult.

One strong aspect of the book is the presentation of the gospel. It is presented strongly and several times. I felt at times it was a bit much and forced. Completing the novel, one would certainly have a clear understanding of the gospel.

I look forward to the next novel from this author. She says this story was fourteen years in the making. Perhaps that is why there are so many layers and complex characters in the book. I'd like to see one written in a year or two, with a more focused plot, consistent character structure and about fifty fewer pages.

Brandy Vallance lives in Colorado with her missionary husband. They have two children. You can find out more at

Worthy Publishing, 400 pages.

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Lost Book of Mormon by Avi Steinberg

This is a hard book to describe. It is mostly a personal journey. It is partly a travelogue. It is partly an investigation into The Book of Mormon.

Steinberg was fascinated by the topic and decided to enter into the book by traveling the path followed by the characters in the book. He notes that the heart of his quest was an effort to understand the difference between prophecy and fabrication.

Most of the book is about Steinberg. He tells lots of stories about his adventures, many of which have nothing to do about The Book of Mormon. I mean, did I really need to know about the pair of pants he found hanging in his hotel room closet?

Surprisingly, he also uncovers some information about the book and Smith that I had never heard before, such as the relationship of Melville to the book. He does a pretty good job of weaving the many theories about the book into his travelogue.

Steinberg is a clever writer. Even though he used some language I didn't appreciate, I found his writing captivating in a coming of age sort of way. I did enjoy reading the book, it just was not what I thought it was going to be.

Steinberg thinks The Book of Mormon is a book one should take seriously – as a work of American imagination, as a modern American novel.

I really don't know to whom I would recommend this book. Perhaps to one who appreciates the writing more than the topic about which the book is written.

Avi Steinberg is the author of Running the Books: the Adventures of An Accidental Prison Librarian, which was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog. His essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Salon, Paris Review Daily, and n+1. Find out more at

Nan A. Talese, 290 pages.

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

Relaxing With God by Andrew Farley

Are you haunted by performance demands from God? Do you feel you must show God how much you love Him by your actions? Do you worry about what you are supposed to be doing for God? Are you experiencing spiritual anxiety because of recent books encouraging fanatical service?

Farley felt that way, that he needed to do just a little more each day to meet God's demands. Now he understands the principle of spiritual rest. In fact, we are to make every effort to enter that rest! (Heb. 4:11) The true gospel, Farley says, is both simple and restful.

Rather than God needing us to work for Him, Farley shows how living from God is to be our daily spiritual reality. He reminds us our sins are forgiven, once and for all. We are to live in that reality daily. We are always in fellowship with God, too. “The truth is that our fellowship is unshakable and unbreakable because of what Jesus did, not because of what we are doing.” (64) We don't have to “die.” We already died in Christ. He helps us understand what “flesh” is. He argues against the possibility of “losing” your salvation.

I really liked this book. I heartily agree with almost all of it and the rest I am seriously thinking on. Farley points out many non-biblical teachings about who we are in Christ. They may sound good but they do not line up with Scripture. He has some very thought provoking comments about predestination for Calvinists. I really appreciate his discussion on covenants, that the dividing line is the cross, not the manger.

This is not a book on meditation or anything like that. It is a book about resting in who we are in Christ. Farley has done an excellent job in clarifying our position in Christ and what that means to us in our daily life.

Food for thought: “So wake up every day, be reminded of who you really are in Christ, and then just be yourself! In so doing, you are both living in and walking by the Spirit.” (98)

Go here to watch Farley preach on this subject.

Andrew Farely is the lead pastor of Church Without Religion ( and the bestselling author of several books. His live call-in radio program airs nationwide each Sunday on Sirius XM. Find out more at

Baker Books, 176 pages.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley

This is the second in a series but even if you haven't read the first one, if you like suspenseful romance, you'll like this novel.

Dr. Leigh Somerall has returned to Logan Point. She didn't want to but it was the only place open for her to do her hospital work to pay back her loans. She didn't want to be there because Sheriff Ben Logan was there. Ben, the young man she loved in high school. Ben, the father of her nine year old son, TJ.

Tony, Leigh's brother had asked to meet Ben in another town. When Ben arrived, he found Tony near death. With his last strength, he asked Ben to protect Leigh. It soon becomes apparent Leigh's life is in serious danger. Ben's relationship with Leigh is strained. She never explained to him why she suddenly left and hurt him so badly. Leigh didn't dare tell Ben then what his father had said. She couldn't tell him now, even if he was TJ's father.

I really liked this novel. I liked the troubled character of Ben. He is riddled with guilt because a boy drowned at a camp during his watch. He knows he is to accept God's forgiveness but he keeps wondering, if he had just jumped in the water earlier, the result might have been different. I liked Leigh's character too. She knows she should tell Ben TJ is his son but she is sure Ben's father still hates her. Ben and Leigh are thrust together and one can only hope they both overcome their difficulties to experience second love. And TJ, what a great kid! What a champ for trying to help Ben's stroke damaged father to learn to communicate by using an iPad. All the time I kept hoping he'd find out he was really helping his Grandpa.

The novel is full of action too, from the murder at the beginning to the suspenseful end. Someone thinks Leigh now has the information for which her brother was killed. The murderer is not above hurting her son to get what he wants.

Building suspense and frustrated romance make this a great novel. Bradley has done a good job crafting the plot and characters. She had me fooled as to the bad guy. Good for her.

Patricia Bradley is a published short story writer and author of Shadows of the Past, the first in the Logan Point series. That manuscript was a finalist for the 2012 Genesis Award, winner of a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award, and a winner of the 2012 Touched by Love Award. She makes her home in Corinth, Mississippi. Find out more at

Revell, 336 pages.

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Skeletons in God's Closet by Joshua Ryan Butler

God gets a lot of criticism. Many think that Hell, Judgment, and Holy War are dark doctrines rather kept in a closet.

Butler decided to get these skeletons out of God's closet. He is convinced those issues have been misrepresented today and are often not what the Bible teaches or what Christian theology has historically proclaimed. He centers his work around the biblical story of God's reconciliation, healing, and protection of the weak.

The first skeleton is hell. According to Butler, hell is a force for evil, not a place of punishment. “Hell gains entrance into God's good world through us.” (24) “We've unleashed the destructive power of hell in the beautiful place God once called 'very good.'” (28)

Hell is the destructive power of sin that is cast outside the city. “Hell is not a place God creates to torture sinners, but a power God exudes to protect the robust vitality of his kingdom.” (62) Hell, “ a space created by God for a people who prefer to live without him, who desire freedom from him.” (90) In the Appendix, he does clarify that hell is a place and involves punishment. “God's containment is the punishment.” (319) He does make it clear, however, “that it is not torture.” (320)

Butler never mentions the devil in his discussion of hell. He writes, “Where then, does evil come from? As we have seen, we are the ones, not God, who unleash its destructive power in the world. We are the architects of autonomy, the engineers of evil...” (62) He does not mention spiritual warfare, temptation, resisting the devil, etc. “The power of hell resides in our hearts and makes its way into the world through us.” (78) He does refer to Satan in the Appendix.

The next skeleton is judgment. “God's judgment is good news,” Butler writes, “because the injustices are not forgotten.” (116) God judges the world “to heal creation,” “to release the land from captivity.” (117) There will be a healing of the nations, a reuniting of the nations. (130)

Butler emphasizes that judgment begins in the house of the Lord. He does not write about forgiveness, however. If a priest rapes a boy, he will be judged (no mention of the possibility of repentance and God's forgiveness). He also seems to indicate that an abandoned wife in a third world country who worked hard to support her children, “might find herself surprised to encounter Jesus and hear his voice call her his beloved...” (153-4) There is no mention of what Christians would generally call “saving faith.” Butler says Jesus knowing us is where our salvation is found. That is not the same thing as claiming to know Jesus. (154) He writes, “And it is also important to note: Jesus appears to know many who didn't know him.” (156)

About other religions, Butler writes, “Jesus calls us to humble ourselves before followers of other religions as those created in the image of God.” (165) Butler reminds us that “God's kingdom is for them and that Jesus' judgment will be a surprise...” (166) "God is all about reconciliation.” (171) Butler gives the impression the only thing that will keep a Buddhist or Hindu out of the kingdom is their hanging on to a teaching or practice that is not compatible with the kingdom. (173-4) We must not think “that God's grace is not big enough to encompass the Muslim in the midst of a reduced perception of Jesus (the Christian must declare that God's grace has encompassed us as well in our reduced perceptions of Jesus).” (178)

Butler's third skeleton is Holy War. He argues that Israel's conquest of Canaan is a David and Goliath kind of story showing that God is for the weak. He also argues that the Old Testament makes clear it was using ancient trash talk, an exaggerated way of speaking. (228) Hyperbole is used to emphasize military victories. Joshua's armies were “clearly not fighting against civilians” but were “fighting against soldiers in their fortified military outposts in the battlefield.” (231) He also argues that the Canaanites were “driven off” not”killed off.” (232) He explores the characteristics of Babylon and compares them to those of our civilization. He notes that Gods coming Holy War will be a confrontation, not vindication, of our civilization.

I am always amazed when someone develops an understanding of Scripture that is different than what is generally understood today. Butler argues that his understanding is historical, citing Augustine and C. S. Lewis (actually, Lewis' fiction). Butler develops much of is theology from the parables of Jesus. He generally ignores the rest of the New Testament. The impetus for developing his theology seems to be the injustice he has seen in the world. God's justice, then, becomes oriented toward the welfare of humans, not God's own holiness.

On the positive side, Butler's book is a good reminder of the skeletons in our own closet. Have we hidden evil behavior in the closet? How about judging others? What about ignoring the plight of the weak and poor? Reading this book did encourage me to think about the skeletons I might be hiding.

In the end, Butler's book left me dissatisfied. There were times when his unusual interpretations of Scripture really made me think. There were other times when I was sure he was skirting heresy, or perhaps actually treading on it. I would advise discernment when reading this book.

Go to Butler's website,, to read a sample chapter, read interviews, watch a book trailer, and much more.

Joshua Ryan Butler serves as pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community, a church in the heart of Portland, Oregon. He oversees the church's city ministries in areas like foster care, human trafficking, and homelessness; and develops international partnerships in areas like clean water, HIV-support, and church planting. He is also a worship leader who enjoys writing music for the life of the church.

Thomas Nelson, 384 pages.

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Too Loved to be Lost by Debora M. Coty

Do you need some encouragement? Do you need a new "herspective" on life?

Through personal stories and anecdotes, Coty permeates this book with encouragement. Whether you need to know you are cherished by God, need to overcome depression, or have hidden hurts that need healing, you'll find encouragement in this book.

Sometimes her stories are laugh out loud funny. Sometimes they are so serious you'll want to weep. But each one has an encouraging lesson that comes through loud and clear. She shows how God is the lifter of your head, how to get Scripture to reside in your brain, how to recognize everyday mini-miracles, and how to BARF when things go bad (you've got to read the book). She deals with brokenness, discernment, burnout, control, getting refreshed, and much more. She adds questions at the end of each chapter that are great for reflection or discussion within a trusted group.

Coty has a way with words. I mean, have you ever measured yourself on the grumplitude barometer? And, “Forgiveness is like losing weight.” (You've got to read the book.) She is great at wrapping nuggets of truth in the gift-wrap of humor.

If you need to insert some joy into your life, this book is for you. If you need to be reminded of the relentless love of God toward you, this book is for you. If you feel lost in the mess of your life, this book is for you.

You can go to to watch some videos and read her blog, “Living Life in the Crazy Lane.”
I am taking part in a blog tour and you can read other reviews here.

Debora M. Coty is a popular speaker, award winning author, and long time Bible student. She serves in the children's ministry in her church, is an orthopedic occupational therapist, and writing workshop instructor. She and her husband are the parents of two married children and one adorable grandchild and live in central Florida. Find out more at

Barbour Publishing, 224 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lights Out by Travis Freeman with Rebeca Seitz

A blind football player?

Freeman tells his story of a pretty regular childhood until, as a twelve year old, he began experiencing headaches. Doctors said it wasn't serious. Then the raging infection in an eye and a temperature inching up to 106. Finally tests revealed Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis. Few battled this disease with their minds intact. About 70% died. Treatment was ineffective so surgery was pursued. Cleaning out as much of the infection as could be done, Freeman would live – but blind.

Rather than going to a blind school, he went back to his own school. How he succeeded there and played football as a center, even through high school, is quite a story. (He even went to an opponents' huddle by mistake one time.) It continues on with college, seminary, a PhD, and then preaching.

Freeman reminds us that in some sense, each of us walks in the dark. He draws spiritual lessons from the tools and actions blind people use. He also give us great ideas on how to interact with the blind, giving them respect. “Disability does not equal inability,” Freeman reminds us. His humorous stories are a good indication of his positive attitude.

What an inspiring book. It is an encouragement to anyone facing obstacles. He relates how mobility experts helped him map out his way in a new setting. Similarly, we have friends, our relationship with the Lord, the support of the church, etc., for our support.

Freeman reminds us that a dark world is not an impossible one. It presents great challenges, yes, but they can be overcome. Everyone has challenges that need to be overcome. Freeman's life is a great example of living an overcoming life.

Watch the inspiring Dateline special here.
Go here to find out about the movie, 23 Blast, and watch the movie trailer.

Travis Freeman received his Bachelor degree in Business Administration from the University of Kentucky, and his MDiv and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as adjunct professor at the University of the Cumberlands, and as the President of The Freeman Foundation, dedicated to furthering the truth that disability does not equal inability. Learn more at

Freeman Foundation, 200 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Glass Road Media for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Out of the Storm by Jody Hedlund

Having grown up in a lighthouse, loneliness is all Isabelle Thornton has ever known--and all, she assumes, she ever will know. But when her lightkeeper father rescues a young man from the lake, her sheltered world is turned upside down.

This short story takes place in 1854 at the Presque Isle Lighthouse on Lake Huron, as does the first full length novel in the series, Love Unexpected, releasing later this year.

This is a pretty good novella. The romance is a bit quick for me, but then, it has to be for a novella. I had trouble liking Henry. I wish his character could have been developed a little more so we could understand him better. I was amazed that Isabelle would fall for him as he didn't seem trustworthy, nor did he have a pleasant personality.

Isabelle's love seemed a little unrealistic to me. She had grown up at the lighthouse so had limited interaction with men. It seemed her attraction to Henry was more because she was getting a man's attention for the first time in her life more than it was real love.

The historical aspect of the novel was good. It gave me a new appreciation of what lighthouse keepers had to endure in the 1800s. It was a rough and lonely occupation.

This is a quick read and sets us up for the series to come.

This is a free ebook novella and part of a new series from Hedlund called Beacons of Hope, set around the Great Lakes lighthouses of Michigan. You can download the novella at Amazon or in EPUB form from the publisher, via email, at their promotional website.

Jody Hedlund has been writing novels for the last twenty years. A number of them have been award-winning and best-sellers. She and her husband have five children You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 141 pages. The novella is 90 pages long with the rest of the download being an excerpt from the coming novel.

I was invited by the publisher to download this free novella for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Promise by Beth Wiseman Kindle HDX Giveaway

Mallory had a goal, to save a life. She had been thwarted by her parents when, as a teen, she had wanted to give a kidney to her dying cousin. Now she was determined. Then a Muslim co-worker and friend told her about his cousin, Abdul, who had a daughter dying of leukemia in Pakistan. She needed treatment in the US. The only way that could happen was if Abdul could marry a US citizen. Then he could apply for a visa and get his daughter the help she needed. Mallory saw the opportunity as the chance to fulfill her goal. She would marry Abdul – on paper only. Then she would be back. Before her boyfriend or family could stop her, she was on her way. Mallory would soon find out her trip was based on lies and her life was in danger.

This is a well written and thought provoking novel. Mallory's character is well crafted as a naive American who thinks going to Pakistan will be fine. She really has no idea of the conditions in the village there nor what the people will be like. Abdul comes across as a man willing to lie and deceive to get his way. It is not until Mallory is actually in his home that his true character comes to light. There is plenty of action in the novel too, once the first third of the book sets up the story. The events are described well, and create suspense near the end.

Wiseman, in A Letter From The Author, says this novel is based on a a friend's actual life story. She had been seduced to go to Pakistan and had experiences similar to those in the novel. As a sister to two Middle East missionaries, I know this kind of story happens all too often.

Wiseman says she writes books to make a difference. She wants to educate women to the reality of this kind of situation. She also wrote this novel wanting to show that there are good and bad people in every religion.

It is important for potential readers to know that Wiseman does not comment on actual Muslim beliefs. She does not give the readers the background on why some Muslims in the novel freely lie and use deceit. In fact, I was a little uncomfortable with the “we pray to the same God” kind of comments made by characters in the book.

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

You can read a sample chapter at Wiseman's website:

Beth Wiseman has won the Carol Award, Inspirational Readers Choice, INSPY and is the best-selling author of several series. She grew up in Houston, Texas and now she and her husband live in a small town nearby. They have two grown sons. Find out more about her at

Thomas Nelson, 294 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Another Jesus" Calling by Warren B. Smith

Smith is concerned about the book Jesus Calling. He read the book and it disturbed him.”It was troubling for me to see a number of New Age practices and concepts being presented as completely normal for Christians.” (12) He warns of the deception of false Christs and the necessity of Christians to be spiritually discerning. He shares his specific concerns about Jesus Calling and God Calling.

Smith reminds Christians “that the deceptive spirit world is thoroughly capable of weaving Christian terminology and verses from the Bible in and around metaphysical occult terms and teaching.” (28) He makes readers aware of many New Age practices – ones readers may not know about.

Smith has presented a pretty good case. While a few of his concerns may seem unfounded, most of them are serious. He has certainly given readers much to think about. His book again points out that we Christians need to be discerning readers.

Warren. B. Smith (B.A. University of Pennsylvania; M.S.W. Tulane University) is a former social worker. Because of his former involvement in the New Age Movement, he has written extensively on the subject of spiritual deception. Find out more at

Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 174 pages.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Color of Justice by Ace Collins

This is another great novel from one of my favorite authors.

The action takes place in Justice, Mississippi, and consists of two murder trials fifty years apart. In 1964 a college aged black man is accused or murdering a high school aged white girl. The conviction seems a done deal in the racially charged town.

Cooper Lindsay, son of the pastor of Justice Methodist Church and recently returned to the town as a lawyer, is approached by the boy's mother. Convinced he is innocent, she asks Coop to represent him. Coop struggles with the decision, knowing it would put himself and his wife and children in danger and would effectively end his career in his hometown. Remembering his deceased father's sermons on the Good Samaritan, he takes the case.

The situation does turn deadly as tempers flare and old hurts are resurrected. We readers are not privy to all the results of the violence until another trial takes place in Justice, fifty years later.

I really liked this novel. Collins has really laid bare the racial tension in the town. I really liked Coop as a character. He is a man who struggles with doing the right thing, knowing it might bring harm to his family. Yet his father's sermons ring in his ears, inspiring him to see that justice is done.

I have never lived in the south and this book is an eye opener to the prejudice that can still reside in the hearts of people. As we find out in the book, that prejudice can originate in a lie and needlessly hurt many people.

Collins has given us a well thought out plot that spans half a century and reveals the darker side of mankind, yet encourages us with those determined to right the wrong that dark side causes. I recommend it.

Ace Collins has authored more than twenty five books having sold more than two million copies. He lives in Arkansas. You can find out more at

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sara and Andy by Ronald Glanz

Sara and Andy met at a funeral home. Both had long been caregivers to a remaining parent. The care giving had prevented either of them from being very social. They were immediately attracted to each other and were soon married. In a fairy tale, rags to riches story, they quickly become extremely wealthy. Their wealth allowed them to form a plan to avenge for a wrong done a long time ago.

The plot of this novel is pretty good. Who doesn't want to see the bad guy finally pay for an evil deed done years ago?

I was distracted by the quality of the writing, however. The author switches viewpoint indiscriminately. In one sentence she was thinking while the next paragraph starts with what he was thinking. There is also a mixture of verb usage, with awkward combinations of past tense and present tense in the same sentence. Also, an odd mixture of pronouns, such as, “They all took a sip of their wine as the salad was being served with your choice of over fifty different types of dressing on the salad cart.” (67) (I wonder how big that salad cart was with fifty different salad dressings on it!) And then there is the odd habit of each character addressing the other by name each time during a conversation. (People just do not talk that way.) There is also the use of precise times and distances, such as, “forty-three minutes later...”

I was disappointed the way the author presented Christian ministers. Sara's mother died when she was thirteen. Her father, a minister, made advances to her when she turned eighteen. She was stronger and able to push him away so he went to his girlfriend's to satisfy himself. The replacement minister turns out to be a gambler and a thief, skimming off the offerings. Not a very good showing for Christians.

The novel glorifies gambling and Andy routinely lies. The novel gave me the impression these actions were fine if the end resulted in justice. There are many mentions of “luck” as Sara and Andy pursue their cause. There is never any mention of trusting God or anything like that.

A pretty good plot line but the unfavorable depiction of Christianity and the writing style were just too distracting for me to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Ronald Glanz received his B.S. In Mechanical Engineering from Rose Polytechnic Institute in 1967. He and his wife live in Mineral, Virginia.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 284 pages.

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

The Significant Life by George M. Weaver

Are you concerned that when you die you will soon be forgotten? Do you long to be noticed and remembered?

Humans long for a life of significance, Weaver writes. People want to be known, appreciated, influential, and remembered. He relates the attempts of many people to gain a life of significance. Some sought fame, others accomplishments, politics, philanthropy, even crime. All these efforts have negative side effects and actually fail, Weaver writes.

The key to significance for each human is Christianity. True significance for an individual comes from God. Weaver reminds us that man was created in God's image, each human is fully known by God, and God actually interacts with humans.

Weaver then looks at what this means, that we have our significance from God. He suggests that it allows us to be humble, to treat others the way God wants us to, and that we are able to follow our God-given purpose.

This is a great book. I look at our culture today and I see so many people trying to be somebody. This book explains why. Weaver's message is also a good reminder of who we are in Christ and what that means in how we relate to one another. A thought provoking book, I recommend it.

Food for thought: “Our identity rests in God, not in the impressions we forge in the finite minds of others...” (151)
Nothing you can do to me can threaten my significance.” (197)

George Weaver is an attorney practicing law in Atlanta, Georgia.

Crosslink Publishing, 283 pages.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels

There is a new author on the Christian mystery scene and I really like his debut novel.

The characters in the novel are great. There's Parker Saint (a name he took on for his TV celebrity persona). He's a popular TV preacher who speaks about creating your destiny – forget the real gospel. He'd been caught on video, forcefully acting out his displeasure to an airline employee. He's sort of blackmailed into helping the police solve what looks like an occult serial killer. If he does that, his image wrecking tirade will never see the light of day.

And there are the three priests from the Vatican – secret operatives. They are great. What an unusual trio of men, at least one of whom is gun toting. They are trying to find a centuries old relic and end up getting involved in the murder case.

This novel has all the elements I like in a mystery. There has to be murders. Here we have several with mysterious images painted on the victims (with their own blood). There has to be well developed and believable characters involved. There has to be something I learn about in the course of the novel (Catholic artifacts in this case). There has to be a suspenseful end (and this one had me whipping pages as fast as I could read the words).

I like it when the main character grows or matures during the novel. Parker Saint comes to the point where he knows he is way over his head. His positive attitude, “create your destiny” preaching doesn't cut it when he is confronted with vicious demonic evil. He has to face the crisis of what he believes, what he has been preaching, and what the Bible says.

The interaction between Saint and the Vatican operatives is great. The priests know their stuff. They understand the gospel and the reality of evil much better than Protestant (their name for Saint). The conversations between them are enlightening, especially about occult symbols both recent and ancient.

Since this is a “Christian” mystery, there needs to be a spiritual aspect to the novel and there was. The difference between a positive self-help message and a sermon is clearly pointed out. Saint is told to ask the question: “Could this sermon make sense without a crucified and risen Savior? If the answers is yes, throw it out, because it's not a Christian sermon. It's advice, life coaching, pep talks, whatever you call it, but it's not a Christian sermon.” (232) Wow, chew on that one for a while.

As I said, I really liked this novel. It is great fiction yet it also contains some very important spiritual lessons. Christian fiction rarely gets any better than this novel. And since there is a reading group guide included, this would make a terrific book for reading groups.

Zachary Bartels is an award-winning preacher and Bible teacher and serves as senior pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan. He has a B.A. in world religions from Cornerstone University and M.Div. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He lives in Lansing, Michigan with his wife and their son. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 344 pages.

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Woman Code by Sophia A. Nelson

This book came out of Nelson's own deep self-discovery after enduring an even deeper pain. This is a book about self-worth, about how we treat ourselves and how we teach others to treat us. It is about making peace with our past, about finding our value, about finding our voice.

Each of us live by a code and Nelson gives us hers. We must first know our value, our worth. We must put ourselves at the top of the list. We must be informed by our past but not let it define us. We are to be authentic. We are to be accountable for our life. We are to protect our heart.

She goes on to write about resilience, aging, gossip, apology, the power of thoughts and words, and untying rather than cutting relationships. In the workplace she advocates leading from the heart and advises bravery. About relationships she addresses the inner circle of friends, love, laughter, loyalty, and having courageous conversations.

She writes about these key areas and includes suggestions to live out the principles, including practical steps. There is also a study guide at the end of the book.

Nelson is writing to women who have been beaten down, who have been deeply hurt. The attitude needed is, “Enough. I am going to live my life for me before it is over.” And, “We do not put husbands and kids so far above self that we forget we have dreams, needs, wants, and desires too.” And, “Here's the thing: the only way we grow into better human beings is by facing ourselves and facing our problems so we can fix them.”

It is important for potential Christian readers to know that there is never mention of the work of the Holy Spirit, or allowing God to transform us, etc. Nelson does identify herself as a Christian and she does say women should have a strong spiritual life. She never says it needs to be a Christian spiritual life, however.

The focus of this book is definitely “self” oriented. She writes, “You see, everyone we meet, for better or worse, comes to teach us something about ourselves. It is never about them. It is always about what we can learn about us: to grow us, to better us, to refine us, and to restore us.” She also writes, “The goal of your life should be the search for your life.” That seems to go against Jesus' teaching about finding life and losing it (Matt. 10:39) That also seems to go against Paul's admonition to value others more highly than ourselves. (Phil. 2:3)

The thrust of the book is to help women reach their potential. In the general self-help genre, it would be a fine book. In the Christian genre (with which this publisher has been identified for decades), it comes up lacking.

Learn more about the book and watch the book trailer at

Sophia Nelson is an award-winning author, award-winning journalist, and former White House correspondent for JET magazine. She is a noted television personality, appearing regularly on MSNBC as well as having appeared on many other networks. She writes for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. She is a motivational speaker and leadership trainer in the Fortune 500 industry and universities.

Revell, 256 pages.

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