Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Glorious Dark by A. J. Swoboda

Swoboda has organized his thoughts around the Easter weekend of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He says we must enter into all three, embracing the pain of Friday, the silence of Saturday, and the hope of Sunday.

He has included a number of stories, observations, and thoughts. I liked his thoughts on why God doesn't always answer our questions. Discerning God's will is like a Lewis and Clark exploration, he writes. They were able to draw the map of where they had been only after they got home. He also has a good discussion on emotions, entertainment and church.

I am not sure what I think of this book. There are times when the author shows great insight. “God is best understood by those who've experienced the death of their greatest desire.” (85-6) “Faith is working one's heart out yet leaning on grace the whole time for a miracle.” (87) There are other times when I just cannot resonate with his writing. “Everyone is addicted to something. Even God.” (54) “Jesus is pathologically loving.” (54) Speaking of Jesus, “He's got a tough gig.” (64) “In the first century, a little-known Jewish carpenter was executed for building something bigger than a shelving unit.” (121)

Swoboda frequently takes an example from current events or culture and likens God to it. For example, he tells the story of Smailovic, a Serbian cellist who played in the bombed streets of Sarajevo in 1992. “Jesus is like that...” (92) He likens God to Forest Gump in that he never stops chasing. Saying that the fictional character Roquentin reveals a great deal about the author Sartre, he writes, “Similar to Sartre is the God of the Bible...” (176) Later, “Our lives are like Melville characters.” (178)

There were illustrations he used that I just did not understand. “Faith should be an old-timey Polaroid – it should be clearer the more shaken it becomes.” (72) (I've talked with some old time Polaroid camera owners and they don't understand his illustration either.) And, “The Trinity is the world's Chewbacca.” (75)

I am not used to his writing style. Rather than a sustained exploration of a subject, the writing style seems more like stream of consciousness. His jumping from one idea to another was frequently hard for me to follow. That, and his use of more illustrations from modern culture than the Bible, makes me think this book is written for a young generation with a short attention span and a general lack of biblical knowledge. As an older person, I prefer working from the truth of the Bible out to modern culture rather than the other way around.

I recommend this book for young people who don't really have much knowledge of the Bible. Mature (older) Christians may be a bit frustrated as I was. But I give Swoboda the benefit of the doubt. I think younger Christians will like his writing style and content.

A. J. Swoboda teaches theology, biblical studies, and Christian history at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He started and serves as pastor of Theophilus Church in urban Portland. Find out more a

Baker Books, 230 pages.

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Unbound by J. B. Simmons

I am generally not a fan of end times fiction but I really liked this novel. There are enough unique plot lines, characters and action that it kept me reading to the end, and looking forward to the next in the series.

The year is 2066. The story centers on eighteen year old Elijah Goldsmith. As the novel opens, he is part of a group of those being introduced to the highly selective International Security Agency. He is attracted to another of the inductees. He finds out Naomi is a member of a sect of Christianity, one that has strange beliefs about Jesus and the future. Elijah has been having nightmares of earthquakes and destruction, including a horrifying dragon. When he tells Naomi about his dreams, she asks him to meet with people from her group. They just may have insight into what his dreams mean.

Simmons has done a great job in crafting our world fifty years in the future. The change in world governments is realistic. I liked the technological enhancements to thinking and moving. The haunting ability to inhabit a dead body is certainly a precursor to fulfilled prophecy.

Unlike other end times novels I have read, this one seems very plausible. It does not concentrate so much on the precise fulfillment of end times prophecy as some interpret Revelation. It combines technology, espionage and a budding romantic relationship in a way that makes the novel a compelling read. It includes much about friendship and loyalty so there is the emotional aspect of the story too.

The concept of the events of 1066 initiating a millennium time table was new to me. I liked that different approach. Elijah is a reluctant participant so we encounter many conversations revealing what true Christians of the day believe about possible future events. That was a great way to inform readers about prophecy, especially those not steeped in the book of Revelation.

I would have liked to have seen a little more in the way of character development. I feel like I have not really come to know Elijah and Naomi. Perhaps that will happen in future novels.

I don't often recommend end times fiction as I am very critical of it. This novel, however, has gained my approval. I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series.

J. B. Simmons writes thrillers with an apocalyptic twist. His first series, the Gloaming books, he created an underground city with an exiled prince. The characters in the series champion the philosophies of history's great thinkers and bring them to battle. Simmons lives outside Washington, DC, with his wife and children. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia. You can find out more at

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 312 pages.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Betting on Hope by Debra Clopton

Are you ready for some romance between a cowboy champion and a spitfire columnist with a little humor thrown in?

Maggie Hope got the job of interviewing Tru Monahan by default, since her good friend Amanda was sick. But Maggie was a newspaper advice column writer, not a television personality. In her flustered state of speaking to the most handsome cowboy around, Maggie off handedly says she bets Tru could never teach her to ride a horse and compete. But her newspaper and Tru's corporate sponsors have other ideas. Before she can protest, her column is on the line. She goes through with training from Tru and then competing in an amateur contest, or her column is a thing of the past.

This novel is great fun. Tru is a sweet guy who has become famous for his horsemanship. He's one of three brothers trying to keep the ranch their father ran into the ground. His part was to go on the competition circuit. He's been a great success. He was even in the tabloids when he dated a media star. Burned by the notoriety, he has sworn off women...until Maggie comes to the ranch. Sparks fly as he teaches her to ride the very animal that scares her. Both Tru and Maggie have secrets that might just sabotage the budding romance. Both struggle with their mixed up feelings.

Also in the novel's plot is a pregnant teen. The young woman has run from an abusive family situation and is planning to give up her baby for adoption. Maggie befriends her and the relationship brings to the forefront Maggie's troubled past. And when that past catches up with her, Maggie just may not have much a future.

Another issue in the novel is the pain of a loved one with dementia. Tru's grandfather, Pops, has good days and bad days. Tru and his brothers are devoted to him and the strength of a close family comes through clearly.

This fun novel takes place in a small town (no stoplights) that is full of quirky characters. I loved the ladies who owned the beauty parlor. What a kick. There is the old editor of the local newspaper. A sometimes drunk, he is trying to woo now the woman he fell in love with as a teen but lost because of his own stupidity.

If you like a good romance that is full of relationship turmoil, you'll really like this one. You'll see the pain Tru endures when he thinks the best thing for Maggie is a life with him not in it. Your heart will go out to Jenna, the pregnant teen. You'll cheer for Maggie as she gets in the saddle. Besides a great romance, you'll learn some about ranching and horse riding and cutting competition too. An all around good Christian romance novel. I'll be looking for the next in the series.

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

Debra Clopton is an award-winning author with more than 22 novels. She and her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church. You can find out more about her and her books at

Thomas Nelson, 320 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Judas the Apostle by Van R. Mayhall Jr.

I really liked this novel. It is full of action and is loaded with information.

The plot centers around an ancient jar Thib Lejeune uncovered during WW II in northern Africa. In the present day, Thib is murdered by someone trying to steal the jar he has kept on his mantel for years. When ancient language expert Dr. Cloe Lejeune receives word of her estranged father's death, she and her son travel back to Louisiana. There they find out the jar is inscribed with words indicating Judas Iscariot. Cleo is joined by a mysterious monsignor from the Vatican as the jar is brought to LSU where specialists open it.

Before the contents can be evaluated, someone attempts to kill Cloe and her son. The action heightens as it appears someone wants the jar and its contents at all costs.

I was a little worried about the book at first as I don't like books that undermine the Bible. As the author notes in an Afterward, there is an actual Coptic version of The Gospel of Judas. The author surmised an earlier version and created this novel. But I was happily surprised to find out when I finished the book that the orthodoxy of the gospels we have in the Bible need not be questioned.

I liked the vast amount of information in this book about manuscripts and how they are investigated. I also appreciated the conversations about the orthodox gospels and how they differ in some places. There is also discussion about what the Judas Gospel might contain. I didn't realize that Judas was the only disciple not from Galilee. It was interesting to speculate, along with the novel's characters, what the relationship might have been between Jesus and Judas. We learn quite a bit about the Gnostics too.

The writing was pretty good and the characters developed pretty well.

We are left not knowing what the manuscript in the jar actually says. That will be in the sequel, I am sure. I look forward to reading it.

Van R. Mayhall Jr. is the senior partner in a Baton Rouge law firm. He and his wife have three grown children and enjoy boating on Lake Pontchartrain.

iUniverse, 330 pages.

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Prayer by Timothy Keller

This is the best book on prayer I have read in ages. It answered my questions, provided encouragement, and gave me several models to follow. He explains his own research and experience when he wanted to deepen his prayer life.

Keller starts with the purpose of prayer. Is it communion centered, to experience the presence of God, peacefully reflect on Him and experience personal communication with Him? Or is it kingdom centered, fervently petitioning Him to bring His will to pass? Both, Keller says.

He reminds us that nothing great is easy. “Prayer must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world.” (24) The foundation of our prayers is important. “The more we clearly grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.” (62)

Keller explores learning to pray from the works of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. He also takes us through the model prayer, The Lord's Prayer. He writes of meditating on the Word and then the kinds of prayer (upward, inward, outward).

I was particularly struck by Keller's discussion of a heart experience, that is, making an effort to experience God in prayer. Personally, raised as one of the “frozen chosen,” experience was frowned upon. Reviewing Owen on prayer, Keller writes, “If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will lead eventually to nominal Christianity – that is, in name only – and eventually to nonbelief.” (180)

I greatly appreciated his teaching on petitioning in prayer. “We should discipline ourselves to connect each petition to what we know about God...” such as what delights Him and what grieves Him (229). Keller explores the “two purposes of petitionary prayer – to put the world right ('thy kingdom come') and to align our hearts with God ('thy will be done').” (230)

There is much every Christian can gain from reading this book. Keller draws from a number of resources, both ancient and contemporary. There are nearly fifty pages of footnotes. For those who would like to study further, a Selected Annotated Bibliography on Prayer is included.

I took copious notes and here are a few of the passages that captured my interest and gave me food for thought:
Prayer is the only entry way into genuine self-knowledge.” (18) “Nothing but prayer will ever reveal you to yourself, because only before God can you see and become your true self.” (30)
To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule – it is a failure to treat God as God.” (26)
...[P]rayer is faith become audible.” (70)
Prayer turns theology into experience.” (80)

Timothy Keller first pastored in Hopewell, Virginia. He started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1989. Today Redeemer has more than five thousand regular Sunday attendees and has helped to start more than two hundred and fifty new churches around the world. He is the author of several books. He lives with his family in New York City. Find out more at and

Dutton, 330 pages.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Yawning at Tigers by Drew Dyck

Are your church services orderly, sedate and comfortable? You may not be engaging God in His dangerous presence, Dyck suggests.

This book is an invitation to encounter God's blazing holiness. Dyck reminds us how important it is that we have a vision of that holiness. “A proper knowledge of God's holiness is essential for knowing him as he really is, and who we really are.” (53)

The first half of the book is about out tendency to shrink God down to our size. We try to tame Him by ignoring His holiness. The second half of the book is about how we try to tame His love, putting limits on it. We project our own faltering love on Him.

"I'm convinced," he writes, "that there's really one big question at the heart of life and that our answer to this question will ripple throughout our time on earth and into eternity. The question is simply this: are you going to believe that God loves you?" (143)

If you are sensing a spiritual dissatisfaction, if you feel that God has become ordinary and commonplace, this book is for you. Real life with God is dangerous, Dyck says. If you are ready to risk it, this book is for you.

This book would best be used in a discussion group, I think. A twenty page Discussion Guide is provided, making it a good choice for a small group or class.

Food for thought:
We're bored to death of living but scared to death to really live.” (21)

Drew Dyck is managing editor of Leadership Journal, a publication of Christianity Today. He is a frequent conference speaker. You can find out more at

Nelson Books, 209 pages.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Good Health, Good Life by Joyce Meyer

Meyer has created a very practical and easy to use small book on getting healthy. She believes God has a great life in store for each of us. He wants us to enjoy every single day of it and serve Him to the best of our ability. That means being healthy physically, mentally and spiritually every day. To that end, Meyer shares the lessons she has learned on her way to good health habits.

She gives twelve keys, each an important element to a healthy lifestyle and a sound body, soul, and spirit. She gives the important principles of each key, why it is important, and suggestions to incorporate that key into life.

I was struck by her suggestions to make food sacred, eating to God's glory. I learned about my own habits from her section on mindful eating. Every piece of food put in the mouth is to be a conscious decision. She also writes about the importance of drinking water, the relationship of physical hunger and spiritual hunger, dealing with stress, and how to develop a vision for where you want to go.

Her teaching on stress is great. Now I know why stressed people look older than their years. “You cannot lead a full and righteous life if stress is breaking your emotions and your spirit.” (94)

The best part of this book is that Meyer suggests five ways to incorporate each key into life. She suggests we choose at least one to work on. She has even placed a few lines at the end of the chapter for us to write down our choice and commitment. Dealing with the key elements in this way makes them doable. We can create a plan to eventually incorporate more of her suggestions over time.

In the end she reminds us that it will be a journey. Take it easy, she advises. Take your time. Changing lifestyles will not happen over night. She adds some tips to keep us moving in the right direction.

Food for thought:
God Himself lives in us by His Spirit and makes His home in us. That is the best reason I know for us to take care of ourselves.” (viii)
Only God is strong enough to accomplish what needs to be done in your life.” (6)

(Note: this material was previously published in her book, Look Great, Feel Great.)

Joyce Meyer is the author of more than 100 books and a practical Bible teacher with popular television and radio ministries. She travels extensively, holding conferences throughout the world.

FaithWords, 160 pages.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

This novel is another great Christian romance from Hunter. I am always interested in how a plot could be developed that hasn't been used before, and Hunter has done just that.

A wealthy Chapel Springs resident is leaving the town to live by her children and grandchildren. Rather than sell her large home, she has decided to give it to the person who can propose the best use for it. Two people compete. PJ McKinley has had as her dream opening her own restaurant. The large home has a second level so she could even make it into a B&B. Cole Evans had seen the offer and comes into town to propose a home for older foster teens, teens in transition. Having been in the foster system himself, he knows how hard it is for teens to find their way when they turn eighteen and are taken out of the system but are yet not ready for college.

This is a great story line. PJ's dream is a worthy one. Her combined restaurant and B&B would be a great addition to the town and would provide employment. But Cole's plan is great too. Unable to decide between the two, the elderly woman mandates that the two must each work on their dream for a year. PJ can open her restaurant on the first floor while Cole houses his teens on the second floor.

As you can imagine, that arrangement makes for a great story. PJ and Cole bicker yet there is an attraction that develops between the two. Cole has some serious issues from the past that he needs to work out before he is ready for a romantic relationship. PJ also must deal with her own sense of inadequacy and poor judgment. Add to the mix an old boyfriend of PJ's who barges in on the scene and you have the makings of a good romance.

The gospel is clearly presented in the novel. Both PJ and Cole need the redemption Christ offers so that they can move into the future. A rewarding novel to read and I recommend it.

Denise Hunter is the bestselling author of many novels. She lives in Indiana with her husband and sons. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 322 pages.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Twisted Innocence by Terri Blackstock

This conclusion to the Moonlighter's trilogy centers on Holly Cramer. The novel is much more about relationships than it is suspense.

Holly has made some bad choices in the past and they have finally caught up to her. She'd been a party girl but has settled down, giving her newborn daughter a more stable life. But when the police come to her and want information about Creed Kershaw, the father of her daughter, she realizes her life has just gotten a whole lot more complicated. Holly's plan to find him and talk to him backfires and she and her daughter's lives are in danger. The rest of the family gets involved when it becomes known that Kershaw has been associated with the murderer of Joe.

While this novel can be read as a stand alone, one would appreciate it much more if the previous books in the series have been read. Much of the emotional content of the book makes sense only when the earlier books have been read. Also, Michael is still in jail, again, only understood from prior books. Finally, the murderer of Joe comes into this novel, the full force of which would be understood only by reading the prior novels.

This is the least suspenseful novel in the series. The plot deals much more with the concept of redemption. Holly and Creed are two people who have made unwise choices in the past. Both are in need of a new life, including forgiveness and redemption. The gospel is clearly presented to Creed as he and Holly consider their past and future.

There is some suspense in the novel but not very much. This is the least suspenseful book of the series. I would have liked more suspense for this final book, but the relationship aspects of the characters do provide a fitting end to the series. I would recommend this book to those who value redemption of relationships over suspense in a novel.

While the egalley I read did not have discussion questions, it appears some will be provided.

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

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times bestselling author with over six million in book sales. You can find out more at

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

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dashing Dish by Katie Farrell

We know we are supposed to be healthy eaters. But, what about the taste? Where is the flavor? And why does eating healthy seem so hard?

I am impressed with Farrell. She wanted to show that we can have the flavor, still be healthy, and have simple recipes. She first set up a website, Now she has produced this book.

Farrell explains clean eating. It's a lifestyle approach to eating that incorporates whole foods that have not been altered or processed, and that have no chemicals or harmful preservatives added. She has tried to keep the recipes in this book simple, quick, and containing a few basic ingredients.

Everything I have made from this book has been delicious. I really like her use of old-fashioned oats, non-fat Greek yogurt, almond milk and quinoa. Those are items I always have in the house, so I was ready to make many of her recipes without buying unusual foods. I was a little hesitant about her use of artificial sweeteners, but she recommends Stevia and some natural ones.

There is only one change I have made to her recipes. I have a diabetic in the house and I've become used to “sweets” being not as sweet. So I started out adding only half of the recommended amount of sweetener. I do that for all recipes, in general, and it worked with these too. The sweetness is still there but it does not mask the flavors of the other ingredients. The Cookie Dough Overnight Oatmeal is my favorite so far and was a hit. The Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken is wonderful. I'm waiting for a special occasion to make the Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies.

You can get an idea of the kind of recipes in this book at You can get an idea of my favorite breakfast recipe here. Yummy! 

I appreciate that Farrell has included the nutrition information for each recipe. She has also included a pantry list so we'll have the necessary ingredients on hand. And there are tips and tricks for baking and cooking that will save time and money.

If you have been wanting to make the transition to clean eating, a healthier approach to cooking and baking, this is a great book to get you started. Farrell gives some great suggestions for substitution clean ingredients for popular yet unhealthy foods. She also has peanut and dairy free recipes for those with allergies.

Get this book and get going on a healthy approach to cooking and baking.

Katie Farrell is a registered nurse with a passion to help women find their true beauty and identity in God. She and her husband of five years live in Brighton, Michigan.

Thomas Nelson, 266 pages.

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Babylon Contingency by Clifford Longley

This novel is a combination of a murder mystery and an archaeological mystery. The novel had great potential but I have to admit I was disappointed in it.

The premise was intriguing. DCI Peele investigates a break in (and later murder) at an English manor house. In the course of his investigation he confronts armed burglars and discovers a hidden collection of ancient disks containing an unknown language. Further investigation shows these disks are related to the famous Phaestos Disk. Peele and those he gathers to solve the murder mystery travel to Crete and other places to understand the origin of the disks and thereby understand who wants them enough to kill for them.

The novel is complex. There are many locations visited by Peele and his group. There are many characters involved at each location. Some of the characters are double, or maybe even triple, agents so the action is very complex as well.

I found out there is a real Phaistos Disk, discovered in 1908 on the Greek island of Crete. Scholars think it dates back to around 1700 B.C. and the height of the Minoan civilization. The premise of this novel is that the recently discovered disks may undermine the origin of the Old Testament. The disks predate Moses and the Exodus. Maybe these disks show that Moses, or later editors, really stole their material from an older civilization and just adapted it to Israel and their Jehovah. If that is the case, then the promise of Palestine to the Israelites would be bogus.

Peele and many others in the novel are atheist (or at best agnostic) and are very critical of Christianity. Several dialogs in the novel dismiss the possibility of any actual historicity to the Old Testament account. In this respect, the novel seems to follow in the foot steps of The Davinci Code. There is a great deal of conjecture and surmising by characters in the novel. Seeds of doubt about the authenticity of the Bible are liberally sown.

There is no author note indicating which items and events in the novel have their roots in history. This is a serious oversight by the publisher, I think. I did my own research to find out the the Phaestos (Phaistos) Disk is real. I would have liked to know if the story about the Greek village and its Jewish/Muslim history had any basis in fact.

The denouement is long, indicating to me that the plotting was not done sufficiently so that the average readers could figure out some of what was going on while reading.

The novel is from Lion Hudson of England and is distributed in the U.S. by Kregel, a Christian publishing house. I do not expect all Lion Hudson books to be overtly Christian. I was disappointed in the conjecture and surmising that undermined the historicity of the Bible. There is also the inadequate writing style and a lack of understanding what Christians and Jews actually do believe. All of that to say I wouldn't recommend this book.

Clifford Longley is a broadcaster and journalist specializing in British and international affairs. He contributes to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 and appears regularly on The Moral Maze.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 329 pages.

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jesus Culture by Banning Liebscher

Liebscher believes each of us is alive right now for a reason. We are in a critical time, the beginning stages of what God proposes to do. God has given him the role of calling out and raising up a breed of revivalists, he writes.

This is an encouraging book about becoming a people whose hearts are burning for revival. Liebscher tells his own story of interning under Bill Johnson. “I was born,” he soon realized, “to see His manifest presence coming to cities, with millions being swept into the Kingdom of Heaven, entire cities and nations being transformed by the power of God.” (32)

He gives amazing stories about this new breed of revivalists who pursue seeing God's glory cover the earth and the Kingdom of God manifest. They are from all walks of life. He also shares his own dreams, revelations, prayer life, and writes about having a sustained passion.

I was happy to see that Liebscher does not discount the older generation. While some say the older generation must get out of the way and let the young move forward, he says all are to be involved, the old training the young. He says the younger generation desperately needs the older generation. He recounts the inheritance he himself has received from the “fathers” and “mothers” in his life.

Imagine “an entire generation who have made Jesus the most important Person in their lives, whose self-esteem is based on what He thinks about them, and who willingly rise up to shine with His glory in the midst of the darkness around them.” (138) If you are ready to be a part of this emerging generation of revivalists, read this book. If you are ready to not just talk about revival but actually demonstrate it, read this book.

The new breed of revivalists that the Lord is releasing across the earth walks in supernatural confidence and boldness, because they have been with Jesus and abide with Him.” (209)

This book really challenges Christians to be the light God has called them to be. Discussion questions are included so this book would be a good one to use in a small group. I recommend it.

You can find out more at

Banning Liebscher and his wife are the founders and directors of Jesus Culture, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing a generation of revivalists and reformers. They are also the Senior Leaders of the church, Jesus Culture Sacramento.

Destiny Image, 224 pages.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The North Cascades by William Dietrich

I've always felt there is something special about the North Cascades and this book affirmed that feeling.

With 2.7 million acres of protected areas in the U.S. and Canada, the territory is a half a million acres bigger than Yellowstone National Park. They have been called the “American Alps.” They are not the tallest mountains in the U.S. but they have sharp inclines and a thousand alpine lakes. Mountain climbers love them for developing their climbing skills.

Some interesting facts include that Jack Kerouac spent a summer at the Desolation Peak fire lookout in 1956. It contains the longest railroad tunnel in the U.S. The rainfall on the west side of the mountains can be as high as 160 inches a year while on the east side it is only ten inches. The first white man known to cross the range was a fur trader and explorer, Alexander Ross, in 1814. It is the most glaciated region in the lower 48, containing 750 glaciers. The one degree Celsius increase in temperature over the last century has melted half of the glacial area in the North Cascades. Mt. Baker holds the record for the most snowfall recorded in a single season – 1,140 inches at the ski area in 1998-99. Mt. Shuksan is frequently said to be the most photographed mountain in the world.

The latter part of the book contains vignettes of people who have played an important role in the North Cascades region. One of them is John Scurlock, a Concrete resident who flies and photographs the Cascades. You can see some of his photos at and you can watch a ten minute video at

I really enjoyed this book about the mountains I see every sunny day and enjoy so much.

Braided River (Mountaineer Books), 192 pages.

Friday, February 13, 2015

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

Those who have struggled with weight will resonate with this book. I did. There were so many times, as Mitchell told her story, I'd say, “That's exactly how I feel!”

She grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and a mother who was absent, working three jobs or more to pay the bills. Food became her baby sitter, her best friend. Her mother would reward her with food. She used food to soothe her boredom, anxiety, and even anger. She was called names by her class mates. She tried to lose weight. She bought plus size clothes to hide her rolls of fat.

Then, one summer during her college years, at twenty years old, she stepped on the scales to find the number was 268. She knew she had to do something. She did Weight Watchers. She journaled her food. She began to learn about herself. She hit plateaus. She had setbacks. She binged. She realized it would be a long, long journey.

She made the gradual but deliberate transition from one who ate to capacity to distract her mind to one who purposely savored every morsel. She eventually met her goal, losing 133 pounds. But then came the troubling thoughts, wondering if others found her attractive because of her body, wondering if she could maintain the weight.

Mitchell continued working through her relationship with food. She went to a therapist, then a psychiatrist. She realized she had used food as love and comfort for twenty years. Losing weight meant she had turned away from her best friend.

She became passionate about healthy eating. She started a blog (see below) and now she has written a book. She still struggles with weight from time to time, as her blog entries reveal.

I devoured this book. It was so reassuring to read about someone who had the same struggles with food that I do. It is so encouraging to read about someone who came to an understanding of the proper role of food in life. Mitchell does not provide any guaranteed wight loss techniques or make any promises. She just shares her own story. It is well written and captivating.

If you have struggled with your relationship with food, this book might just give you some insights. If you want to understand more about how food comes to have an inappropriate role in your life, this is a good book to read.

You might want to check out her blog, Can You Stay for Dinner. She posts periodically, including lessons learned about weight loss, and has lots of recipes.

You can watch a TED Talk she gave here.

Andie Mitchell is a 29 year old passionate writer and recipe developer. She is working on a recipe book that will be coming out in the fall of 2016. She lives in New York City, where she is the social media director for

Clarkson Potter (a division of Random House), 240 pages.

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

This is the fifth and final book in this series set in Alaska. This one centers on Reef McKenna. He has finally returned home and with his siblings, works on the Iditarod race.

This is another good novel centering on the McKenna family and a fitting conclusion. Reef had been the trouble maker in the family but now knows Christian faith and has turned his life around. He and his siblings are working with search and rescue for the Iditarod.

As with the others in the series, there is Alaska adventure combined with romance. Kirra Jacobs has known Reef since childhood. When Kirra's uncle goes missing from the race, and it looks like his daughter has been kidnapped, Reef and Kirra work together to find them. Romance soon blossoms.

The romance moves quickly. That is somewhat possible as the two have known each other for ages. But Kirra had a traumatic experience in college. While the past experience is a fitting obstacle to establishing a relationship with Reef, it did seem like she got over it way too easily.

The adventure is good. It was interesting to learn some about the Iditarod and some of the stops along the route. We also find out some about eco-terrorism. There is a suitable red herring and an exciting and somewhat suspenseful end. It seemed to me that people traveled by plane or snow mobile rather easily, even when there were storms raging. I would have liked more description of the locale, jagged mountains, etc.

It was good to see how the McKenna family all worked together, supporting each other. I have enjoyed the series but do feel the earlier books were better.

Dani Pettrey is the winner of the 2013 Holt Medallion for First Novel and the Colorado Romance Writers 2013 Award of Excellence. She and her husband live in Maryland where she home-schools their two teenage daughters. Find out more at

Bethany House, 336 pages.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Quest for Marriage by Dan Farnow

This is a great book for men, especially ones dating and eventually looking toward marriage. It is a guy friendly book on how to establish a relationship with the opposite sex. It is short and to the point. When Farnow needed a book on the subject he couldn't find one, so he wrote his own.

Farnow tells his own story of dating, courting, engagement and marriage and weaves into it lessons and advice. He admits he is not expert. He is just one fellow sharing his experience with another.

He was brought up in a conservative Christian environment. He ultimately learned it is better to explain the right way to do something rather than just being told what not to do, and that's how he had written this book.

He writes about dating and learning to serve. He gives tips for the first date – what to do and not to do. He relates how his dating made him realize that if he was going to be marriage material, he needed to make some changes. He suggests questions to ask, gives advice on meeting the family and gives insights on women bonding. He relates his engagement experience and the necessity of abstaining from sex until marriage. He advises pre-marital counseling.

He's been married for four years so he also relates what it is like to live with someone day in and day out. He shares his experiences with putting others first, dealing with money, communication, prayer and worship, and in-laws.

Farnow has a great sense of humor and this was a fun book to read. He has excellent suggestions for making your romance and marriage experience better. He also suggests some good books to read if men want to explore a particular topic further.

This is a a great book for young men to read. It will give them a realistic view of dating and marriage while encouraging them to be godly men. I highly recommend it.

Food for thought: “Men, learn to accept that women have been given a gift from God to persuade and keep us in check.”
And this advice to men: “Simply put: You can have your way, or you can be happy.”

Dan Farnow accepted Christ in college and has since served in leadership of two ministries. He has a passion to equip others to overcome obstacles and hurt. He currently does this through ministry at The City Church. He and his wife live in San Diego.

Westbow Press, 186 pages. You can buy the book here.

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Where Rivers Part by Kellie Coates Gilbert

It is hard to describe this good novel. It is part mystery, part intrigue, and part romance. After getting off to a bit of a slow start, I was captivated by it.

The plot centers on a bottled water company and their Quality Assurance Director, Dr. Juliet Ryan. Recently out of university, she is excited to have such a great job. What good fortune, she thought, to have met another director of the company at a golf club and to have been recommended for the position by him. It wasn't long before the two became lovers.

But then everything begins to go wrong. There is an outbreak of E. coli and the CDC traces the source back to the company Juliet works for. Then she finds out her boyfriend is not exactly who she thinks he is. Her world totally crashes when it looks like Juliet will be blamed for the outbreak and the deaths of two children.

This is a complex novel with several issues woven through the plot. One is Juliet's relationship to her father. He is also in the food safety area but as an academic. He has nothing good to say about food companies who skimp on safety procedures. He feels Juliet has become a traitor by working for a corporation and their relationship is strained.

Another issue is the more obvious one of food safety. I learned a great deal about how bottled water is sourced and tested for contaminants. Right along with this issue is that of corporate greed. I was again reminded of what some will do for money.

Yet another issue is the litigation that came from the contaminated water. The author was a paralegal involved in a national food contaminant case and her knowledge shows. It was very interesting to read about the process and how the corporation tried to limit their losses.

Finally, there is a little romance. It is not the main theme of the novel but does provided some added interest near the end.

The Christianity in the novel is perhaps more subtle than it might have been. Juliet does come to the point where she realizes that her mother's faith is what she really needs to survive.

Food for thought: "We are never more like God than when we forgive."

You can watch a book trailer here.

Kellie Coates Gilbert was a paralegal for nearly twenty-five years. She was one of the lead paralegals in the Jack-in-the-Box litigation. She and her husband live in Texas. You can 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.