Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Beginnings by Steve Wiens

"This book is about finding hidden beginnings and pursuing the endless adventures of becoming,” Wiens writes.

He uses the creation story to help us understand how our lives are unfolding. We learn God is in the beginning chaos. We see new life come forth from seeds God has placed in us. We learn to give away what is really true of us. We learn there are seasons we go through and how we can celebrate them. We experience opposition we must overcome. We look at where we've come from and that helps us know where we are going. We find that there are rhythms and a time to stop.

This is a book about stories, stories from the Bible, from Wiens' life and from the lives of others. Wiens hopes we will find our place in the bigger story.

For some reason, this book just did not grab me. It really epitomizes the current idea of the importance of story, of one's own story, and of finding one's place in a bigger story. In the spirit of the emphasis on story, Wiens tells many of his own. He gives an extensive description of his Grand Canyon rim to rim run, a story I thought was unnecessary. And did I really need to know he was conceived on a white, hide-a-bed couch?

Nonetheless, I found some really good ideas in Wiens' teaching. I liked the message that we don't have to have our life together before God will come in. I liked the idea that there are seasons we go through, that there will be new beginnings, and that there is also a time to stop.

Wiens says this book is like a midwife, providing a process for becoming. I think that will happen mostly through the spiritual practices and questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter. This book would work best in a lively discussion group where people can share their own stories and discuss the suggested practices and questions.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Steve Wiens is the founding pastor of Genesis Covenant Church. He and his wife and their three young boys live in Maple Grove, Minnesota. You can find out more at

NavPress, 240 pages.

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley

This is the third in the Undercover Ladies series and while I have enjoyed them all, I think this may be the best one yet. The combination of mystery, humor, and romance makes for a very enjoyable reading experience.

As with the others, our main character is an undercover Pinkerton detective. Katie has the assignment of solving the murder of two women in Calico, Kansas. She takes a job as a Harvey girl in the town's Harvey House. It's one of Harvey restaurants that serves quick meals to train passengers during the short stop the train makes there. The murder victims were Harvey girls and Pinkerton figures the best way to solve the crime is for Katie to be on the inside.

Brownley adds to that mystery by including a town sheriff who hates Pinkerton operatives. But Branch, a handsome widower, grudgingly realizes he'll have to work with Katie if he wants to identify the murderer. Before too long he finds he is counting her freckles and admiring her auburn hair.

Brownley has added plenty of additional elements to this mystery and romance to make the novel very interesting reading. I enjoyed finding out about the Harvey House idea, restaurants providing meals for those traveling through on the railroad. It was hard, but interesting, to read about tornadoes that rolled through the area. One newborn had been preserved in the deadly tornado eight years before by having been put in the oven of a cast iron stove. There is also the whole idea of investigating murders in the late 1800s, without the use of modern techniques.

The characters in the novel are well done. Brownley has added many secondary characters with stories of their own that add to the enjoyment of the novel. One of the Harvey girls has run away from her abusive husband. The matron of the girls is a stern woman whose fiance was killed in the Civil War. One of the kitchen girls is a young black woman who knows she'll never be allowed to work with the public. It was fascinating to read how these women grew during the course of the story.

There are important issues in the novel too. Besides those of the women I mentioned, Branch has a huge decision to make. He must face the choice of placing the child he loves into the hands of God, knowing he may lose him. It is a choice like Abraham's and it greatly tests Branch's faith.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy a good historical mystery interwoven with romance and sprinkled with humor. I really enjoyed it. There are discussion questions provided so it would make a good choice for a reading group.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Margaret Brownley is a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels and was a RITA finalist and INSPY nominee. You can find out more about her and her novels at

Shiloh Run Press, 320 pages.

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

The setting for this novel is 1911 Long Island and the O'Leary family. The O'Learys have a horse farm centered on breeding and boarding racing horses. James O'Leary is a stubborn and overbearing father who insists on arranging the future for his daughters as they come to the age of marrying. He insists they marry well, whether love is involved or not.

This is a romance set in a time when women were beginning to explore their independence. Brianna is a young woman with a sharp mind who has aspirations of college. But her father insists she marry a young man who can provide well for her. Brianna's older sister Colleen is a bit of a wild one, generating a reputation among the men. Again, the father is directing who she will marry and it is not going well.

Two men are added to the mix. One is, Rylan Montgomery, a distant cousin from Ireland who has come to America to study for the priesthood. The other is Gilbert Whelan. Gil's mother had worked for the O'Learys and when Gil's father died, Mr. O'Leary took him under his wing. Now Gil has returned with a business degree and is ready to make a name for himself. When the O'Leary farm faces financial difficulty, Mr. O'Leary insists Gil court the banker's daughter.

Affections do not follow Mr. O'Leary's plans and before too long there are broken hearts and broken people. But that is exactly what God needs to put it all together the way He wants.

The characters are well developed in this novel. There is good character transformation too. Several of the characters change in the course of the novel, having seen that their decisions and actions were not for the best.

It was nearly torture to read of the daughters' inability to convince their father to let them marry for love. He was a very stubborn man and thought he was doing what was best for the family. I really didn't like the way he treated his daughters nor the way he had treated his sister decades ago. Mr. O'Leary's attitude was a good reminder of what women had to endure at that time.

Mason describes her novels as “romance sprinkled with faith.” She loves writing about forgiveness and redemption and we certainly see that in this novel.

I did feel the novel was a bit long for the plot. Some of the misunderstandings between the couples seemed repeated a few too many times. For some reason, the writing did not grab me and I did not find this a compelling read. I felt the novel was sufficient but nothing toward excellence.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Susan Anne Mason lives outside of Toronto, Ontario. This is her first historical novel. It won the Fiction from the Heartland contest sponsored by the Mid-American Romance Authors chapter of RWA. Mason is married with two children. You can find out more at

Bethany House, 384 pages.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Surrender Your Junior God Badge by Jackie Kendall

Kendall says we women have it in our DNA to be controlling. We want to take over God's job. She'd rather we surrender to God our attempts to run the universe, or at least our part of it. She encourages us to rest from our vain aspirations.

This book hit hard. She covers so many areas we women need to work on. Kendall helps us understand where the desire to be a junior God comes from. She reveals our self-deceptions. She helps us identify it's fuel. She helps us with the temptation to be a “yes” person, trying to do it all. She shows how we want to be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. She shows how the push for excellence in all we do can be a problem, as is trying to be the quintessential peacemaker. She identifies the characteristics of wanting to be God's personal assistant. She helps us build confidence in God's sovereignty. She identifies the fatigue of a lifetime of trying to be in control. She gives steps a recovering control freak can take.

This is a great book. Kendall nails the issue. I am impressed with all of the aspects of being controlling she has covered, from walking on egg shells to being a nag. There were some surprises in the book too. She explains how working to avoid pain by trying to control the universe actually has a great cost emotionally and spiritually and reveals a lack of faith in a sovereign God. And this on worrying about the future, “Grace is not available for the things that might happen.” (59) I also learned about Christian blackmail and being a spiritual paramedic.

Kendall herself is a recovering control freak. She has great stories from her own experience to illustrate her principles. She includes good teaching from the Bible too.

If you have an exalted sense of responsibility, read this book. If you think you could do a better job of running the universe than God, read this book. If you have delusions of personal sovereignty, read this book. If you think you have your life so together you don't need to read this book, read this book. There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter so it would be a good book for a group study.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jackie Kendall is President of Power to Grow Ministries. She is a popular conference speaker and the author of several bestsellers. She and her husband have two married children and three grandchildren. You can find out more at

Destiny Image, 300 pages.

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

Friday, December 25, 2015

Searching for Jesus by Robert J. Hutchinson

We've seen the television specials that claim Jesus is a mythical figure and what Christians believe about Him is not true. But what if everything the Bible says about Him is, in fact, true?

This book is about new discoveries and recent developments on the reality of Jesus. They are showing that Jesus as He is portrayed in the Bible is much more plausible than reconstructions made by skeptics.

Hutchinson looks at recent manuscript discoveries, new research results and new conclusions from scholars. Some of the topics covered: writers of the gospels and eyewitness accounts, dates of the gospels, alternative portraits of Jesus and models from Christian scholars, manuscript evidence and reliability, recent archaeological discoveries, whether the “suffering” Messiah image was created by the church, whether Jesus was orthodox or a zealot, whether there are lost sayings of Jesus or secret information in the Gnostic gospels, whether Jesus' crucifixion was rigged or faked, if there is any proof for the resurrection.

There is a great deal of background information in this book. Hutchinson gives good reviews of popular skeptical books written in the last decades. He also gives good evidence in response to the ones critical of the biblical Jesus. This is a good introductory book for those new to the issue and good update for those who have read popular books published in the last several years.

This is an excellent book for Christians who want to reaffirm their belief in the biblical Jesus. It is very readable and very informative. Hutchinson explains well how scholars come to conclusions. He gives plenty of evidence, some from non-Christians scholars, that what the Bible says is worth accepting. He also corrects much of the hype recent television programs have generated. 

This would also be a good book for skeptics who are willing to revisit their view of Jesus. It would also help them understand why we Christians value our beliefs so much. For those desiring further study, Hutchinson provides a list of books at the end of each chapter as well as a bibliography at the end.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Robert J. Hutchinson was raised in the Pacific Northwest, attended a Jesuit high school and university, and earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy. He moved to Israel to learn Hebrew and earned an MA in New Testament and theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the former managing editor of Hawaii Magazine. He has worked as a full-time professional writer for the past 30 years. He and his wife and their five children live on the ocean. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 352 pages.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Secrets of the Castle by Aaron M. Zook Jr.

The year is 1989 and the Zanadu family is in Germany where the father is a major in the U.S. Army. Fourteen-year-old Alexander and twelve-year-old Gabriel are on a road trip with their parents to see castles when a tire blowout starts an adventure that becomes dangerous.

This novel is told from Gabriel's viewpoint. When he finds out that the tire had been tampered with, he wonders if it has to do with his father's job in military intelligence. The family ends up at the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. Alexander and Gabe have many adventures, finding secret passage ways and avoiding bad guys until they are kidnapped.

Middle school readers would like this adventure, especially ones interested in Germany. Zook has given us a great deal of description and history about the area so young readers will learn while they are being entertained. Alexander and Gabe have terrific dogs that understand lots of commands and help the boys in their investigations.

The first half of the book was a little slow, I thought, so continue to the second half where the action really ramps up. I was a little unhappy with the relationship between Alexander and Gabe. They fought a great deal. It was good to see that they did come to the point of working together when the danger hit. They know all kinds of great skills, like rock climbing and lock picking.

This is the first is the Thunder and Lightning series (the dog names). The second has released and there is an anticipated twelve in the series.

You can read a free sample here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Aaron M. Zook, Jr. is a retired U.S. Army Colonel. He is a full-time writer, is the praise and worship leader at Chapel Next on Ft. Hood, and serves as a volunteer for Officer's Christian Fellowship. He and his wife live in Belton, Tx. They have two married sons and three grandchildren. You can find out more at

Bold Vision Books, 198 pages.

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I Am Strong by John S Dickerson

We need encouragement and hope when we are hurting. Dickerson reminds us that the only hope that is real and meaningful is from God. “God's strength best invades our lives through our weaknesses and pain.”

We have all kinds of questions when we suffer. Why am I suffering? Why haven't I been healed? Is God mad at me? Dickerson answers these kinds of questions as he helps us put suffering into an eternal perspective.

Dickerson writes from his own experience. He has hemiplegic migraines. They have debilitating stroke like symptoms. A few times a year he looses his ability to form words and to even think. It's his thorn in the flesh.

He shares how he is daily discovering the comfort of God's presence. He is convinced God is repurposing our temporary pains for our eternal good. We must push ourselves to trust God. There is an inner rest and strength that comes from that relationship with God. “The secret of finding joy, peace, and contentment has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with Christ's strength.”

Dickerson has done an excellent job of helping us understand why there is suffering in the world. He shows that we can have peace and contentment that rise above our circumstances. He has great illustrations, stories of people and from the Bible, to support his teaching.

The message came through clearly that peace and contentment in our circumstances is not something instant. It requires our spiritual growth and is a skill we must learn. Here is how Dickerson describes ultimate spiritual adulthood: “When we really trust God the Father so much more than we trust ourselves. … When we really want His desires more than our desires.”

This is the most honest and realistic book I have read on suffering in a long time. He doesn't promise relief from suffering. He still suffers. But he has learned that God wants to give power and strength through that suffering. That's the truth he has for us too.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is hurting. You'll read of people who have risen above their pain through Christ's strength. You'll begin to understand what God is doing in your pain and what it means to surrender to His plan. You'll be encouraged by the example of Jesus and His suffering.

It would be a good book to give to someone who is hurting. Perhaps you don't know what to say or how to encourage. This book would be a great help.

Food for thought:
Your greatest contribution in life may result from your greatest pain or weakness, surrendered.”

Find out more at, where you can download a free chapter.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

John S. Dickerson has written for The New York Times, USA Today, CNN and others. His previous book, The Great Evangelical Recession, assessed the health of the church in the United States. He has earned dozens of honors for his writing. He serves as the Teaching Pastor in Residence at Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California. He lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and children. You can find out more at

Zondervan, 224 pages.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

This is an amazing debut novel. The combination of story line and the way the plot unfolded made for a compelling novel. It is a psychological thriller I thoroughly enjoyed.

About the book:
Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It's an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry – until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel's newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public's attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent's nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...

My review:
I am really impressed with this debut offering. The novel is exceptionally well crafted. I enjoyed the way the novel developed, alternating the point of view between Rachel, the mother, and Jim, the lead detective in the case. I often do not like this technique of jumping from person to person but in this book it worked perfectly.

There is a continual feeling of suspense in the novel. It is not because of physical danger to Rachel, but because she must somehow prove herself innocent before she is convicted in the court of public opinion. I really felt like I was inside her head, feeling her frustration with the methodical and slow investigation. When Rachel discovers startling facts about those close to her, I felt the same alienation and abandonment she did. The author did an excellent job of drawing me into the character.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way the information was revealed, bit by bit. That technique had me turning pages with intensity.

The topic of this novel is a hard one. “A stolen child is every parent's worst nightmare...” This intense and suspenseful novel, due to the author's gifted ability to create the reality of the child abduction, is not for everyone. I do highly recommend it for those who enjoy an intense novel full of well crafted suspense.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

You can read a sample here.

I am taking part in a Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour and you can read other reviews at these links: Books Chatter, Deal Sharing Aunt, Keenly Kristen, The Book Divas Reads, Books Direct, The Phantom Paragrapher, Rockin' Book Reviews, Building Bookshelves, 3 Partners in Shopping, Bookalicious Travel Addict, Writers and Authors, Let's Talk About Books, Kritters Ramblings, Celticlady's Reviews, Book Babble, Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Booked on a Feeling, Beth's Book Reviews, Brooke Blogs, Fictionzeal, Mallory Heart Reviews.

Gilly Macmillan grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and also lived in Northern California in her late teens. She studied History of Art at Bristol University and then at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in A Level Photography and a full-time mum. She and her husband live is Bristol with their three children. You can find out more at

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Number of Pages: 467
ISBN: 9780062413864
UK Title: Burnt Paper Sky
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Proposal by Becky Wade

This is a short yet delightful read. It appears to be part of a full length story but is rewarding in itself.

Amber's experience is a romantic dream. But it doesn't start out that way. The guy she's been dating for a while, a hunk of a fireman and single parent like she was, had left his cell phone at her house. Her mission to deliver it to him turns into an unwelcome situation as she has a tire blowout. She decides to walk the mile to the fire station even though it is a dark, cold, and wet evening. Amber braves potential kidnapping and other dire happenings. When she finally arrives at the station, cold and wet, she has the surprise of her life.

Are there men really as romantically inclined as Amber's boyfriend? I certainly hope so.

Wade has done a good job filling in the story line through the thoughts of Amber as she trudges along in the dark and wet. We finish the story with a good feeling of reconciliation, forgiveness, and new beginnings because of God's grace and mercy.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Becky Wade has authored several novels, and is a Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award winner. She and her husband live in Texas. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, about 30 pages.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Elf by Renae Brumbaugh

If you're a kid and want to know the truth about elves at the North Pole, you need to read this book. You'll read through Kirby's revealing diary. He is an elf who is ready to enlighten you.

You'll read about Kirby and his job of taking care of the smelly reindeer. You'll read about Bert and Elrod, a couple of elves who are full of mischief and like to play pranks on Kirby. Those elves find out what it's like to have pranks played on them when Santa gives an assignment to the leprechauns.

This is a fun little story. Who would have thought that reindeer like Rice Krispy treats and chocolate or strawberry milk in their troughs? The illustrations are cute and there is a good moral to the story too. Bert and Elrod learn a good lesson about kindness to others.

I'm not sure about the age of readers this book is designed for. Kirby has a girlfriend and there is talk of “going steady.” Other than that, this is a cute book for kids. The elves go to church so there is that positive influence too. I enjoyed it.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Renae Brumbaugh is the author of several books and has been on the ECPA Bestseller list twice. She has written hundreds of articles and won awards for her humor. You can find out more at
Illustrations by Teri Firtos.

Amonia Publishing, 70 pages.

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Power of God-Given Imagination by Ray McCollum

We have been created with a basic instinct to imagine, McCollum writes. We envision a better world. While not everyone can change a nation, we can change the world around us he says. This book is about discovering the power within to dream, to imagine, and to change the world around us.

McCollum helps readers discover what that power is. Based on Gen. 11:6 he writes, “God Himself says that there is enough power in our human imagination to make all things possible.” (33) We create the reality in our mind first (first creation), then in the physical world (second creation). He notes that there will be real problems during the process and that we must maintain hope.

He ends his book with seven practical disciplines to activate God-given imagination. They include taking an honest look at your life, learning to practice the presence of God, get in touch with your true identity in Christ, and four more. These are disciplines that will definitely take some time to cultivate.

I felt that there were some mixed messages in this book. “The circumstances that you see around you have been created by the images within yourself,” he writes. (38) But then he has “the presupposition that life is difficult because we are living in a sinful world.” (56) So do we create our external circumstances or are they part of living in a sinful world?

I felt another mixed message was one about prayer. If we have ever had an answer to prayer, receiving what we prayed for, “Your prayer created the future,” he says. (79) But then he goes on to write about prayer “requests.” So, did my prayer create the imagined answer or did God in His sovereignty do so?

McCollum writes, “When we create things, we fulfill God's will for our lives.” (50) If it were only that simple. I Thess. 4:3ff reminds us that God's will for us is much more than just creating. It involves sanctification, sexual purity, bodily discipline, and not taking advantage of another Christian.

Sometimes McCollum makes grand statements. For example, when writing about inner transformation, he says, “Transformation is no more difficult than simply looking at yourself in a mirror. But it has to be the right mirror,” he adds, noting that it must be the mirror of God's Word. Ah, if it were only that easy. His statement is based on 2 Cor. 3:18 but I have read books entirely devoted to that verse and the necessity of renewing one's mind, surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit, etc.

McCollum tells us that we can change the world around us. But he also writes, “The truth is that there certainly are things coming our way that are out of our control.” (76) He writes, “Yet God invites us to be 'co-creators' of the future through prayer.” (79) So do we create the future or is it under God's sovereign control?

There is some good teaching in this book. I really appreciated his writing on our self-image and how that determines our outer behavior. I also appreciated his reminding us that our motives need to be right when using our God-given imagination to create. I appreciated him reminding us that we need to pray according to God's will.

That last issue, reminding us to pray according to God's will, recognizes God's sovereign role in our “creating.” I do wish there had been more emphasis on God's plan for our future and less on our own.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Ray McCollum has been a pastor, businessman, Bible teacher, speaker, church planter, and founder of Bethel World Outreach Center in Brentwood, Tennessee. In 2009, he and his son planted Celebration Church in the Nashville area.

Whitaker House, 190 pages.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

Unmasking the Devil by John Ramirez

Ramirez wants us to understand the role of Satan in the world. He knows whereof he writes as he was the third highest ranked priest in a Satanic cult in New York City before he had a miraculous encounter with Jesus. He told his story in Out of the Devil's Cauldron.

He's been in the enemy's camp. He knows how to combat the enemy's tactics. He writes about the ways the devil tries to invade our lives, the reality of spiritual warfare, and what it means to really be a soldier of the cross.

The primary avenue of attack is the mind. The devil knows that if he can capture that he has a stronghold. He will then go after the will and emotions. Ramirez reveals the devil's strategies and doorways we are to stay away from. Temptation and deception are the devil's favorite tools. We need to know who we are in Christ and be firm in that identity, not allowing Satan to steal it.

I was surprised at this insight: The number one tactic the devil uses to create strongholds is to convince one that their sin is under control – they could quit any time.

Ramirez writes that it is important to be able to distinguish the voice of God and the voice of the devil and he helps us do that. He also identifies spirits that are deployed to bring down ministries.

He encourages us to engage in spiritual warfare but also urges caution. “For we believers to win the war, we must discern the battle before we engage.” (59) “It is important for us to pray and hear from God before we make any moves, anywhere.” (28)

Ramirez has included practical suggestions and techniques for spiritual warfare. He has many prayers that readers can use in the warfare, including those for obtaining one's own spiritual freedom.

Spiritual warfare is something I have not heard a sermon on in years. It's time for the church to wake up, Ramirez writes. This is a great book, based on personal experience and Scripture, to help Christians understand the war and engage the enemy. It is practical yet cautions against hasty engagement.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John Ramirez is an international evangelist, author, and international speaker. You can find out more at

Destiny Image, 176 pages.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jesus and the Jihadis by Craig A. Evans and Jeremiah J. Johnston

We've seen the videos (or at least heard of them). What makes ISIS behave the way they do? Evans and Johnston say the West has an inadequate understanding of the world's second most populous religion. They have written this book to help us know what we need to know.

The book starts out with some disturbing information. ISIS is the richest terrorist group in the world, taking in some $3 million a day from the oil fields they control. It is financially self-sustaining.

The authors also enlighten readers about the subjugation of the Kafir (non-Muslim, infidel, unbeliever). According to the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira, the Kafir has no human rights. So any non-Muslim can be raped, killed, etc. The authors argue that one cannot understand the behavior of ISIS without understanding the theology of Islam.

The authors want readers to notice the difference between Christianity and Islam. They give biblical background on Israel, the reality of Jesus, and the birth of the church. They show the differences in the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad. They review the attitude of ISIS toward history and antiquities, the use of social media to enlist western youth, and their frightening eschatology.

Ignoring ISIS is not longer an option, Evans and Johnston write. Radical Islam will not go away anytime soon.

I recommend this book for those desiring to understand the theology and behavior of radical Muslims. Potential readers should be aware that this is not a definitive work. It is written by two Christians and aims to show the stark difference between the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad.

Food for thought: “Islamic aggression is a threat not only to Christendom, but also against Western civilization itself.” (145)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Craig A. Evans received his PhD in New Testament from Claremont Graduate University. He and his wife live in Kentville, Nova Scotia. They have two grown daughters and a grandson.
Jeremiah J. Johnston received his PhD from Middlesex University (UK). He currently serves as the founder and president of Christian Thinkers Society, a resident institute at Houston Baptist University where he also serves as an associate professor in the School of Christian Thought. You can find out more at

Destiny Image, 176 pages.

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mississippi Nights by D. M. Webb

This novel about family, alcoholism, and forgiveness riled my emotions. Sometimes I wanted tough love and at other times I was amazed at the unconditional love shown.

The novel centers on two brothers. A few years ago, Jeremy, a policeman, was unable to save the fiance of his younger brother, David, as she perished in a serious automobile accident. There has been a rift between the two ever since. Now David has returned to their small town after having been three years in the big city. A fireman, he gets a position on the town's department but in a lower position. He's keeping quiet about the problem he brings back with him. When he falls for Maggie, his present life collides with his past and the demons that haunt him now.

As I was reading this novel, there were times when I wanted to warn Maggie. Is David worth it? But she loved him unconditionally and that proved the right thing to do in the end. There were times when I yelled at the brothers to just get along, but their hurts went very deep.

This is a great novel about sibling love and the perseverance of one to see the other healed. It is a story that involves the entire family in intervention and prayer. I did miss a more professional approach to alcoholism. I'm not so sure that a pastor really knows how to help someone with the condition. It was certainly a battle and the author really takes us into the mind of the alcoholic.

There is lots of action in the novel and I think men would like it. Jeremy and David fight many times, literally taking fists to each other. Also, David has some serious fires to fight, including people trapped in a building. And just when I thought the action was winding down, there is one more exciting event near the end.

I do recommend this book as a good one showing the perseverance of love in helping another heal. The novel portrays well the difference between token Christianity and really relying on God.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

D. M. Webb is the pseudonym of Daphne Self, the author of several books. She and her sons live in Mississippi.

Ambassador International, 384 pages.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Faithing It by Cora Jakes Coleman

This is an encouraging book! Coleman is on fire with faith and wants us to be too. She wants us to learn how to develop our faith and go after obstacles by “faithing it.”

She knows what she is writing about. She was molested as a young girl. She realized then that life would never be easy. She was diagnosed with infertility when all her life she told God all she wanted was to be a mommy. (She did marry and adopt.)

She reminds us that God is developing His purpose through our trials. We have been designed by God to persevere. We have been designed for trials because we need them to get to the promise. We must be willing to go through the process to receive what God has for us.

Coleman uses biblical stories and her own experiences to support her teaching. She's tough. She says we cannot wait for others to support us. The only One we can count on for support is God. She calls us to stop complaining and say what God says is true. She tells us that we will have to be willing to work hard. We must submit to God – sometimes He may say no for various reasons.

This is a great book for people facing challenges they think they may not survive. It contains great encouragement for making it through the storm. She believes God has greatness in store for each one of us and He will not forget us. Even though Coleman encourages us to confess certain truths, this is not a name-it-and-claim-it kind of work. She is very realistic in her teaching. In fact, one of her challenges for her readers is to not be arrogant. She includes great prayers at the end of each chapter.

There is a section at the end for group leaders so this book could be used in a classroom or small group setting.

Food for thought: “We must believe that God is better at living our lives and controlling our lives than we are.” (117)
Don't ask God for something big and think you will have little storms.” (202)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Cora Jakes Coleman is the daughter of T. D. Jakes and his wife. She is the Executive Director of Destiny World Children's Ministry at The Potter's House of Dallas. This is her first book. You can find out more at

Destiny Image, 208 pages.

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

God's Unwelcome Recovery by Sean Oliver-Dee

Oliver-Dee has written this book with two aims in mind. He wants to correct the mistaken impression of church decline in the UK and reveal the underlying agenda that drives the negativity towards the church.

He argues that some want religion to die a quiet death so they present a depressing picture of the church. We should be too enlightened, they say, to hold on to religion.

Oliver-Dee looks at the numbers in the first part of the book. I found this part of the book the least interesting but there were a few surprises. There have been far more Christians immigrating to the UK than Muslims. (37) There are more joining the Church of England than leaving. (43) I was surprised at the limited scope of some of the studies that identified spiritual decline.

He next investigates the motivations behind the presentation of religious decline. He looks at the history of the conflict between the regents and the church and the concerns about women. He corrects misconceptions and myths, such as that religion is a major source of violence.

He lastly calls for a more informed view of Christianity in Britain. It is sensible, he writes, “to allow the church to re-engage in those areas of public service where it used to have a traditional role: welfare, education, and health.” (143) He argues for a greater religious literacy so people will move away from treating all religions the same.

While the book is mostly about Christianity in the UK, there is a small section on the U.S. He notes that in the U.S. the polls are mixed but people do seem to be choosing faith, just not a denomination.

The book contains good information for a defense of Christianity against the accusations of secularists. The situation is not as dire as they would have us believe. Oliver-Dee argues that leaders and legislators need to correct their misconceptions so they can plan accordingly for the future.

The church is far from dying out and is even showing signs of growth. (171) This is a good book that clarifies that truth and dismantles the depressing misconceptions.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sean Oliver-Dee, PhD, is a religious affairs consultant to a number of government departments, NGOs, and think tanks. He also works for his local Anglican diocese as the Interreligious Advisor.

Monarch Books (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 192 pages.

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