Saturday, May 30, 2015

Restoring All Things by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet

We Christians might view the world as only evil and harmful. Safety from the world might be our goal. Separating from the world is seen as good Christian faithfulness.

The authors want to see that focus change. They argue that we are to see the world as loved by God. Though broken, God invites us to live in it redemptively, to be ambassadors of reconciliation. We are to be a part of the work of God to restore all things. That's what this book is about.

Christians are encouraged to influence their communities by providing real services and engaging people. The strategy the authors employ is to identify what is good in the world that we can celebrate, what is missing in the culture that we can contribute, what is evil in the world that we can stop, and what is broken that we can restore.

The authors give many stories of grassroots efforts that confronted local needs and made a significant difference. They also investigate the biblical mandates. The topics they cover include poverty, capitalism, abortion, exploited women, education, the criminal system, race, higher education, sexual identity, suffering, marriage, adoption, and art.

The authors hope that the stories will inspire us to join in God's work so that the world will again become familiar with the redemptive work of Christ and be drawn to Him. At the end of every chapter, they include suggested actions to become part of God's restorative work.

The stories the authors include are very inspiring. They range from large corporate influence to work individual Christians and small groups accomplish. The authors encourage us to look at our gifts, abilities and passions and then identify the cultural area of brokenness that needs what we have. However we might think to serve our community, there is a story that inspires us to get at it and be faithful to God's work.

This book would be a great choice for an “all church reads” kind of event. At the least, this book should be read by church leaders, administrators, small group leaders, pastors, well, just about anyone who cares about the cultural influence of Christians today. The book is very encouraging in pointing out that there are Christians doing a wonderful job of serving the needs in their community, introducing people to the redemptive work of Jesus. It is also an inspiration, identifying areas of cultural brokenness and then giving reasonable suggestions as to how we can become ambassadors of God's redemptive work.

Warren Cole Smith is the vice president of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD magazine, and producer of the nationally syndicated radio programs The World and Everything in It and Listening In. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
John Stonestreet is a speaker and fellow with the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the voice of two nationally syndicated radio commentaries: BreakPoint (with Eric Metaxas) and The Point. He and his wife have three daughters and live in Colorado Springs.

Baker Books, 240 pages.

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Now and Forever by Mary Connealy

I like series from Connealy. The characters are quirky and fun. The poetic mountain men, who waxed so eloquent, were a riot. There were times I laughed out loud. Yet there is some depth to this novel too.

This is a sequel to Tried and True but it reads very well on its own. (You can read my review of that book here.) The three Wilde sisters came out west in that book, dressed as men, to get and maintain homesteads, pushed by their father. Now, in this novel, Kylie is married, Bailey is a rancher and Shannon has a ranch too, with sheep.

As this novel opens, Shannon happens to be walking up in the hills when Matthew Tucker comes crashing down the hill – an angry bear coming down right after him. Seeing the bear, Shannon grabs Tucker, who is bruised and bleeding, and jumps off the cliff, into the most dangerous river around. They manage to survive the treacherous water by catching a snag and crawling into a coal tunnel. They ultimately find their way out days later and get rescued. But all is not well. Shannon's reputation has been compromised, being with a man all those nights. The parson insists they wed. But they've only known each other five days (and innocent nights). Oh, there is trouble ahead. That's the fun part.

The serious part has two aspects. One is Gage, a land owner who wants Shannon's land and the water on it. He'd not anticipated homesteaders coming to all the land he had taken for himself years ago. Shannon and her hold on the water was preventing him from making the most of his range land. The tension in this novel has its roots in the previous one.

There is another very series issue – someone is burning out homesteaders. It seems only a matter of time before Shannon and Tucker will be targeted. Will Tucker be able to protect the woman he loves?

We learn a bit about homesteading too, especially land use in general. Gage is concerned because many of the homesteaders are not properly using the land and it will be useless by the time they give up and leave.

The only thing that makes this novel less than perfect is the ending. It just went way too fast and did not seem in the same rhythm as the rest of the novel. Also, Shannon's actions at the end did not seem consistent with her character through the rest of the novel.

And there is a misquoting of Genesis 2:24 (Eph. 5:31) at the end of the novel that bothers me. That verse is used to convince another of “biblical” action. If that verse had been quoted correctly, the novel would have had to end differently in order to be “biblical.”

This is a pretty good novel but I feel it does have its problems. Most of the novel was very enjoyable. It was just the last chapter that had the problems.

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedies about cowboys. She has been nominated for a Christy Award, was a finalist for a RITA Award, and is a two time winner of the Carol Award. She and her husband live in eastern Nebraska. They have four grown daughters. You can find out more at,,, and

Bethany House, 336 pages.

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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Prevail by Cindy Trimm

Wouldn't it be nice to be problem free? But challenges come into our lives to make us strong. Trimm provides a very practical strategy to prevail in this very readable and encouraging book.

Obstacles serve a purpose in God's economy. They reveal our need to rely on God and reveal our true potential. They are tools God uses to transform us. We know it's not easy. Like a diamond, we need to go through pressure, we need to be shaped, cut, and polished. Trimm uses the idea of a diamond as a framework for her strategy to prevail.

First is clarity. This springs from knowledge and understanding. We identify the impediments and distractions in our Christian walk. Problems help us determine what is ultimately important in life. They expand our abilities, shape us and force us to grow.

Color represents how problems give us clearer vision. Trimm reminds us we can choose our attitude and how we will respond. We can build our inner power. Perhaps God has put this on us to reveal our personal greatness or to give us a new vision. “A problem can be a path that will lead you to the discovery of a power and potential you never knew you possessed.” (84)

Trimm uses carat to represent our value, our being loved by God, that we are precious to Him, that we are unique and have a purpose. With the right understanding and courage from God, we can push past rejection and face our fears. We can live authentically.

The cut represents how we can shine as we prevail. We can live out our changed perceptions and aim for success. We can finish well.

If you are ready to be inspired and encouraged in the midst of your hard times, this is a great book. If you are ready to turn your problems into opportunities, this book is for you. I really like the way Trimm writes. She is such an encouragement. She is practical yet full of enthusiasm. This is a great book to help each of us become who God intends us to be. She had added affirmations and confessions in an Appendix so we can remind ourselves of the prevailing path we are on.

Food for thought:
Every problem is a learning opportunity.” (47)

Cindy Trimm is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, empowerment specialist, thought leader, and former senator from Bermuda. She has a background in government, education, theology, and human development. You can find out more about her and her ministry at

Destiny Image, 224 pages. (This book releases July 1, 2015.)

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Hawk and the Dove series Book 3 by Penelope Wilcock

The author changed the format a bit for this third book in the series. Gone is the contemporary framework. This book contains one longer story from the medieval monastery, following the events in the first two books.

As the story opens, Abbot Peregrine is greatly overworked. Despite Brother Tom's pleadings, the abbot will not slow down and soon experiences a seizure, something that looks very much like a stroke. Brother Tom is devastated. Peregrine is abed and unable to talk. No longer needed as his assistant, Brother Tom is sent to work in the fields and help with the animals.

One of the issues in this book is choosing how to relate to those who, on the surface, appear unable to respond. Brother Tom has great difficulty in visiting Peregrine because he is no longer the man he once served. It hurts so much to see Peregrine so damaged. Brother Michael encourages him to visit anyway. It would be a sign of hope to Peregrine. “There is no healing without hope. Despair is life's direst enemy.” (59) That interchange made me think of how and why we visit those in the hospital. Are we seeing it only from our point of view, as did Tom? Can we see it from the perspective of the patient? (77) Can we at all imagine how they must feel?

There are some other deep concepts to think about in this novel. Assisted suicide is one. Another is how we expect God to minister to us, supernaturally, or through a person? Is God's reality found in humanity? (135) Is our humanity the breath of God? (136) Can we really help someone else when they are going through that dark night of the soul? Can we help someone else through their pain of grief? And that's just a few.

This novel is different in structure from the previous two. This is definitely just one story, not a collection of short stories. We learn about the farming in the monastery as well as the infirmary. We find out what kind of a man Brother Tom has come to be. It is a touching story of love, service and going outside of our comfort zone to help another. I recommend it.

Penelope Wilcock is a full-time writer and former Methodist minister, prison and hospice chaplain. She lives in Hastings on England's south coast with her family. You can follow her popular blog, Kindred of the Quiet Wayhere.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U. S. by Kregel), 224 pages.

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

The Hawk and the Dove series Book 2 by Penelope Wilcock

The second book in this series continues with the same framework – a contemporary setting prompting the telling of a story from medieval times.

The stories again have moral messages for contemporary readers. One tells of a debate called by an Augustinian Prior to determine whether God's justice or love is the greater attribute. We learn of an ulterior motive to the whole event. Another is about friendship. “A friend is someone who helps you persevere.” (48)

There are little lessons embedded in both the contemporary and medieval stories. For example, one of the daughters in the contemporary family must visit a doctor. In the waiting room, they see a doctor misunderstand a young girl. Our narrator catches the misunderstanding and gives her daughter a lesson. Understanding is something very different from knowledge. One must listen to the wisdom of life to gain that understanding. “They can't teach you that at university, or medical school...” (82)

This is another interesting book in the series. I found the stories from the monastery entertaining as well as instructive, each one yielding a lesson in life. One learns more about life in a medieval monastery too.

Penelope Wilcock is a full-time writer and former Methodist minister, prison and hospice chaplain. She lives in Hastings on England's south coast with her family. You can follow her popular blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, here.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U. S. by Kregel), 187 pages.

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

The Hawk and the Dove series Book 1 by Penelope Wilcock

The construction of this novel is fascinating. The framework is a modern family in England. The daughters in the family have various thoughts or experiences and the mother tells a story that illustrates a godly principle very applicable to the situation. The stories have been handed down through generations and originate in a medieval monastery.

In this first novel of the series, Father Peregrine is appointed Abbot. His name in the order is Columba. He is an impatient, arrogant man, a hawk trying to be a dove. One of the stories in this collection is how Peregrine came to be a kind and wise man, yet scarred and disfigured.

Here is an example of the story structure: in the contemporary setting, a daughter accidentally breaks a jug as she tripped on the stairs. That evening the mother tells the story of Brother Theodore, a young monk who arrives late to meetings, drops and knocks over things. He did have difficulty being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. The abbot kindly gives him encouraging words. There are stories of forgiveness, healing, new beginnings, pride, and more. Each contains a good lesson in Christian living. We also learn quite a bit about monastery life too.

Wilcock wrote this book twenty five years ago and it is now being reissued. She constructed the stories as a tribute to medieval writings, such as the Canterbury Tales. She wanted to balance two worlds, the medieval and modern. The stories are relatively short and can be read at a sitting, perhaps over a lunch break.

I like this book, using medieval stories to give contemporary lessons in living. I learned a great deal about life in a medieval monastery too. It was an enjoyable novel to read.

Penelope Wilcock is a full-time writer and former Methodist minister, prison and hospice chaplain. She lives in Hastings on England's south coast with her family. You can follow her popular blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, here.

Lion Fiction (distributed in the U.S. by Kregel), 176 pages.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saving Mossy Point by Donna Winters

This novel is an enjoyable blend of reality and fairy tale. The time is the near future, Politics and finances have been instrumental in splitting the state of Michigan. Upper Michigan is now the fifty first state – the State of Superior. The new state is in dire financial need and selling off the financially draining Mossy Point State Park seems to be in the works for the immediate future.

For retired school teacher and widow Betty Hanson,that is unacceptable. Losing the park would mean the town of Mossy Point would fade to nothing. When Betty tries to convince the head of the General Land Office that the park needs to remain open, he reminds her that the park would need to make money. That has about the same chance as a turtle has of flying, he says.

But Betty comes up with a plan. She gathers her friends and together they begin cleaning up one of the old park buildings, a great place for a folk school. But a potentially devastating problem soon arises. Grumpy old Mr. Schram had shown up at the work sight, uninvited, and proceeded to break his hip. Just as the folk school gets going, that “cantankerous old coot” and his fancy daughter threaten to sue.

That's the reality. How it all works out is a bit of a fairy tale, yet an enjoyable one. Betty is a committed Christian who prays and reads her Bible regularly throughout the book. That was really refreshing. There are some quirky characters in this novel, though. Some of them are pretty unrefined, a little rough around the edges. They rather reflected a real community of people. Even the ones with abrasive personalities worked for the good of the community in the end. I liked that.

This is a great novel for senior citizens as many of the characters are retired. I really liked the composition of the novel. Take a little reality, add a bit of a mystery, mix it around with elements of a fairy tale and cover it all with a light romance and you have a fun novel to read. I recommend it.

You can watch the book trailer and read the first chapter here.

Donna Winters adopted Michigan as her home state in 1971 when she moved from a small town outside Rochester, New York. She began writing novels in 1982. Her husband, Fred, a former American History teacher, shares her enthusiasm for the Great Lakes. Together, they visit historical sites, restored villages, museums, state parks, and lake ports purchasing books and reference materials, and taking photos for use in Donna's research. Her familiarity and fascination with these remarkable inland waters and decades of living in the heart of Great Lakes Country have given her the perfect background for developing her stories. You can find out more at

Bridgewater Publishing, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Upon the Rock Publicist for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Take My Hand Again by Nancy Parker Brummett

We're seldom ready when our parents need us to intervene in their care. Brummett wants us to be prepared and has written this book to be a companion in the process.

She addresses many issues, some I expected, others I did not. She starts by exploring the feelings we might have as we lose a parent as we have always known them. She explains how to watch for telltale signs and then the topics about which we will need to talk to our parents. She includes a good section on how the brain ages, including dementia and depression. She covers choosing living conditions and that tough one, when it comes time for them to stop driving.

She writes about the aging physical body, including medications, exercise and nutrition. She helps us think about the quality of life for our parents, such as whether they should continue to work and the making of new friends. She shows how we can help our parents be life long learners and take advantage of the digital age. She even writes about romance, noting that dementia can break down social mores and cause inappropriate behavior. She reminds us of the spiritual needs of our parents, including Bible studies and worship services. (If there is not a Bible study at the care facility our parent is in, Brummett suggests we volunteer to teach one.) Another area is helping our parents walk through grief. As they age, they lose their friends. Coming beside them with comfort is an important part of elder care. And then there is also the finances, power of attorney, etc. Finally, he process of dying and decisions that need to be made.

There are areas Brummett covered that I found especially meaningful. Growing older is a spiritual journey as much as it is a physical or emotional one. She suggested asking older people about their spiritual life, such as circumstances that made them trust the Lord more or maybe question His direction. The elderly are a wealth of spiritual wisdom from which younger people, like grandchildren, can draw.

A difficult subject but a very important one is caring for an aging parent within one's home. Brummett looks at the responsibilities, the role of siblings and the stress it can place on a marriage. She also looks at the very real situation of caregiver burnout.

One suggestion Brummett makes is very important – leaving a legacy. She has great ideas for tapping into the knowledge of aging parents. Her ideas range from family history to faith. She reminds us how important it is to preserve our parent's story.

In our mobile society, aging parents are often a distance from their children. Brummett helps us know how to assess and care from a distance. She encourages the use of aides like Skype, knowing that not all aging parents will want to use such technology. It is worth a try, she writes. She includes great advice for making visits in person as valuable and effective as possible.

This book is a good combination of information and stories. Brummett illustrates her suggestions with her own experiences and those of many others. That makes the book very readable rather than a dry account of what we should be doing to care for our aging parents. Yet within the book is a wealth of resources. Some of them are given in the text but there is also a list at the end of the book.

This is not an exhaustive encyclopedia of elder care but it is a good place to start. The conversational style of Brummett's writing is encouraging as we contemplate the actions and decisions to come.

Nancy Parker Brummett is an author and freelance writer. She experienced her mother and mother-in-law aging and that, along with her academic interest in aging led her to receive the Professional Advancement Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Colorado. She now focuses her writing and speaking on older adults and those who care for them. She and her husband live in Colorado Springs. You can find out more about her and subscribe to her blog on aging issues at

Kregel Publications, 224 pages.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti

This is a novel that drew me in at the very beginning and didn't let go until I turned the last page.

The novel begins with Emmalyn Ross trying to understand how to keep her hopes alive. Her husband is behind prison walls and has cut off communication. When her catering business declined, she had to sell the house – it was going to be taken from them anyway. All she has left is a cottage on Madeline Island she and Ross had bought years ago, before their lives became so difficult and then changed forever.

But surprises await Emmalyn on the remote island. She meets the exuberant owner of the Wild Iris Inn and Cafe where she stays while fixing up the cottage. “Boozie” and her circle of misfit friends help Emmalyn on her way to being able to love again. A cute dog and a precocious young teen stretch Emmalyn's heart to encompass more then she had ever thought possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. Ruchti did an excellent job of drawing me into the story and then revealing the back story bit by bit. I loved the way Emmalyn's character is developed. And the quirky people associated with the Wild Iris Inn are amazing.

In addition to a heart tugging plot and terrific characters is great word crafting. There were frequent sentences that made me stop and savor them. For example, “The breeze that blew in carried away bits of debris clinging to her soul.” As Emmalyn was calmed, looking at the lake, she thinks of it as a liquid version of what she'd found in the Bible in her teens.

ruchti2There are many issues dealt with in this book. One is the inability to have children, whether by infertility or miscarriage. Another is trying to maintain a marriage while the spouse is away. The Christian witness in the novel is well done and moving. We should all be, in some way, like “Boozie.” Openly offering grace and healing to the broken is something we can all do.

The novel is an inspiration on many levels. Even the title, based on Job 11:16, is an encouragement. I found the ending a bit abrupt and odd but that did not stop me from enjoying the novel immensely. There is a reading group discussion guide included. That's a good thing because there is much to discuss in this novel. I highly recommend it.

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

Cynthia Ruchti is an award winning author who has been writing novels, novellas and speaking about hope for 33 years. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their children and grandchildren. You can find out more at

Abingdon Press, 304 pages.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who's the New Kid? by Heidi Bond with Jenna Glatzer

This is an amazing story, and so inspiring. With child obesity on the rise, this is a very import and timely book.

At nine years old, Breanna weighed 186 pounds. Her mom cooked good tasting meals without thinking about health. Her daughter was a good eater and her doctor had said Breanna would grow into her weight. But she hadn't. Her weight had grown right along with Breanna.

The book is written from the mother's viewpoint. She did not have weight struggles and didn't know about eating healthy foods. There were chips in the pantry and ice cream in the freezer.

Heidi began to realize that something needed to be done. She was seeing signs of depression in her daughter. She read about childhood obesity and knew the future was not promising for Breanna. She and her husband tried locking the cupboards and used other strategies – to no avail.

bond2Then came the day that changed everything. Heidi had been invited by a neighbor to go for a walk. It changed her life and eventually the life of her family. Heidi developed a new routine for exercise and healthy eating habits. She had a zero tolerance policy.

Life began to change but the going was not easy. It was not smooth sailing. She found that relying on the Lord was essential. 

Heidi notes that child obesity is different than adult obesity. Getting the child to make the right choices, to have that intrinsic motivation to choose healthy food, is a difficult path. But she learned the lesson of just starting where you are, even if you don't have all the answers or the way planned out. Heidi has added suggestions and tips at the end of each chapter that include valuable information and great resources.

Breanna dropped 40 percent of her body weight, going from a morbidly obese child to a healthy and energetic girl. What an inspiration! I highly recommend this book for parents of children struggling with weight issues.

There are several Appendixes, including a forty day exercise plan, a forty day food plan, recipes, a shopping list, food journal, and an inspiring forty day devotional from Scripture.

You can watch the Good Morning America segment on Breanna's weight loss here.

You can read the CNN article and see photos here.

You can check out Breanna's website at

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

Heidi Bond and her daughter, Breanna, have appeared on several television programs, and together have helped countless families beat childhood obesity. The family lives in Clovis, California.
Jenna Glatzer is the author of 23 books. She has written hundreds of articles for magazines. She lives in Stony Brook, New York.

Tyndale House, 320 pages.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rain by Cynthia Barnett

I really liked this book. I live in western Washington, north of Seattle, the “rain city.” So when I had the opportunity to review this book, I was happy to do so. I was not disappointed.

This book contains everything you might want (and not want) to know about rain. She covers the role of rain in history, rain and religion, the development of weather forecasting, how clouds got their names (and the origin of being on Cloud Nine), the development of the weather report on television, rain gear, rain and the colonists, architecture and rain, flooding rivers and breaking levees, attempts to cause rain, music and poetry and novels and movies about rain, the scent of rain, strange rain, how rain is a part a global system, and the future of rain.

The author has interspersed her facts about rain with stories about her own adventures relating to rain. They helped break up reading information about rain and were generally interesting. I have to admit that I often skipped paragraphs of these accounts, anxious to get back to the facts.

There were a couple aspects of the book that I particularly enjoyed. One was about rain and cities. She writes about Los Angeles, the paved over land and how rain is channeled via concrete into the ocean. People don't want to be in the ocean after a rainstorm because of the plastic bottles, oil from cars, and other junk in the water. She also writes about innovative ways some cities are trying to keep as much rain as possible in the natural hydrological cycle. Many urbanites are learning to live in harmony with rain, especially in places like Seattle.

And that brings me to my other favorite part of the book. I am glad she set the record straight about supposedly “rainy” Seattle, which receives just a little more rain than the national average. She writes about the Hoh Rain Forest on the west side of the Olympic Mountains that does get nearly two hundred inches of rain. But there is also the Olympic rain shadow, where I live, receiving under twenty one inches a year.

I really enjoyed this book. I found out how necessary rain is and how its distribution is certainly changing. I've always loved the soothing nature of the sound of rain and this book helped me understand that affection. I recommend it to anyone enamored with rain and wanting to understand it more.

Cynthia Barnett is an award-winning environmental journalist who has reported on fresh water from the Suwannee River to Singapore. She has two previous books. She and her husband,with their two children, live in Gainesville, Florida, where she teaches environmental journalism at UF. Find out more at

Crown Publishing, 368 pages.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Case of the Sin City Sister by Lynne Hinton

I really like this series of detective stories. The novels are not about clever detecting, although there is some. It is more about relationships. That may sound odd for a detective series, but it works. You can read my review of the first novel in the series, Sister Eve Private Eye, here.

Eve Devine is a nun but she takes time away from her religious order to help her dad in his private detective agency. He had been a police detective but received a medical retirement. In this novel, Eve's sister is missing and foul play is suspected. Eve and Daniel, her dad's partner while with the police, head to Las Vegas in search of Eve's sister.

In addition to be a good detective novel, the author has given us much to think about. I like the way the thoughtful issues come through in the dialog. When in Vegas, Eve is contemplating why people come to a place like that. Daniel suggests they do so to get away from reality. He wonders if nuns do the same kind of thing, entering an order to get away from the real world. You'll have to read the book to find out how Eve handles that one.

Eve and her dad actually have a paid client too, a fellow from the east coast who is trying to find out about his great-grandfather who had come to work in the mines in the New Mexico territory in 1889. He had left behind a pregnant wife, promising to send for her. Several letters were sent but then his wife heard no more. Eve and her dad set about the nearly impossible task of finding out what happened to him.

That little mystery begins and ends the novel, with the hunt for Eve's sister taking up most of the book. I found it interesting that near the end of the novel, Eve's dad says, “There are some mysteries we will never solve, but there are others we could find an answer to, we just sometimes don't want to search deep enough.” Thought provoking words.

I really like Eve as a character. She loves to ride a motorcycle fast yet feels called to her religious order. What an interesting woman she is. I recommend this novel to those who enjoy a character driven novel with a little suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lynne Hinton is a New York Times bestselling author. She holds an MDiv from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. She has served as a hospice chaplain, church pastor, and retreat leader. She is a regular columnist with The Charlotte Observer. A native of North Carolina, she lives with her husband and dog in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 336 pages.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible by Keith Ferrin

The title of this book intrigued me. I know I am supposed to, and do, read my Bible regularly. But enjoy it? Even those troublesome passages in the Old Testament? That was something I just had to read about.

Ferrin says he has been enjoying his Bible reading for some twenty years. He tells us what inspired him and seeks for us to experience that same inspiration. He wants us to fall in love with God's Word and gives us ten tips to that end.

He emphasizes that God's Word is relational instead of informational. He notes the importance of our expectations and provides a strategy to overcome the enemy's tactics. He tells us the importance of context, reading the entire story. He suggests rereading, reading out loud, having a Bible buddy, and more.

He gives precise suggestions for a sixty day immersion in Philippians and another for 2 Timothy. He suggests we keep a journal when we read, both for our benefit and for when we discuss the passage. He also emphasizes the necessity of community, having others with which we discuss our experiences.

He includes an Appendix giving an outline for studying the book of Ephesians in a small group. He provides a plan to read the Bible chronologically in four months in a second Appendix. He also has additional resources for this book at his website.

There are two areas I wish Ferrin had covered. The first is reading other people's mail. He writes about reading Philippians, especially Phil. 1:3-8, and then asks if we feel loved. To me, that's like me reading a letter I find from neighbor A expressing love to neighbor B and then expecting me to feel loved. Paul was expressing his love to the Philippians. Am I to feel loved by Paul? Ferrin must mean I am to feel loved by God, but then am I also to feel the wrath of God as I read some Old Testament passages?

And that leads to the second issue. Ferrin doesn't address some of the hard passages of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, and how we are to “enjoy” them. An additional chapter or Appendix could have helped us grapple with some of those passages expressing God's anger and wrath and judgment.

I think Ferrin's book is good as far as it goes. Enjoying the reading of the entire Bible, including the troublesome or puzzling passages, may require some additional work.

You can watch a YouTube interview with Ferrin as he talks about his book here.

Keith Ferrin is a speaker, storyteller, life coach, and author. He founded That You May Know Ministries in 1996 to help people fall in love with God's Word and its Author. He presents one man, dramatic, word-for-word presentations of whole books of the Bible. He and his family live in Kirkland, Washington. You can find out more and read his blog at

Bethany House, 160 pages.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Detained by Don Brown

Not only is this a very well written suspense novel, it also contains a powerful message about the government and our constitutional rights.

Brown explores the issues by presenting two stories that come together in the end. One story involves two Lebanese nationals, Hasan Makari and his son. When Hasan comes to America to visit his son whose is serving in the U.S. Navy, he is immediately arrested and charged with terrorism. He is taken to Guantanamo and his son soon follows. All of this on false charges. Their only hope for freedom is Navy JAG Officer Matt Davis. The Makaris are Lebanese Christians and it was great to see how their faith carried them through.

The other story follows Emily Gardner, a top TSA lawyer. When she is invited by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to become their top legal counsel, she discovers a scheme so dangerous, she knows she has to do something about it. But what can she do, especially since others who have opposed the scheme have been murdered?

This novel confronts issues on these two fronts – the conditions and operations at Guantanamo and the violation of constitutional rights by a rogue leader in the government. Reading about the conditions and torture the Makaris experienced was heartbreaking. I do hope the kind of treatment they received there was fiction, but I think not.

Brown deftly shows what can happen when someone in power wants to grab even more, all in the name of national security. He has taken recent governmental actions and magnified them, showing how they could be used to control citizens.

There is much for readers to think about in this novel. When do we trash the U.S. Constitution to protect people from harm? When is it right to kill some Americans to save others? Is it ever right to not allow due process of law? Great discussion questions at the end will help generate a lively book group discussion.

Two aspects of the novel make it less than perfect. One was the lack of Russian response. All that buildup and tension and then … nothing from the Russians? The other aspect was the quick resolution. The presidential action was totally unrealistic. He calls for so much that depends upon congressional approval, it would just never happen. And, by the way, they all watch FOX News? I don't think so.

Nonetheless, this is a very good novel of governmental intrigue. It is very thought provoking in addition to a great suspense novel. I highly recommend it.

Don Brown is the author of several novels of military suspense. He served five years in the U. S. Navy as an officer in the JAG Corps. He left active duty in 1992 to pursue private practice. He and his family live in North Carolina. You can find out more at

Zondervan, 416 pages.

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Kelly Tough by Erin Kelly and Jill Kelly

Kelly Tough” became the phrase that identified the toughest quarterback in the NFL, Jim Kelly. Erin now uses it to describe their journey through her dad's cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Her dad taught Erin to be Kelly Tough. Erin evidences a spiritual maturity beyond what I would have expected at her age. She admits she doesn't have all the answers as she hasn't lived long enough yet, hasn't had enough life experiences. Yet she shows wisdom and faith that is an encouragement to any young person.

She tells how her younger brother died in 2005, at the age of eight and a half, of a rare genetic disease. She writes of her father's cancer and then its recurrence and all she has learned when under fire.

She went through a time of questioning God yet came through the ordeal knowing the reason for her hope. She draws a wonderful parallel of the love between her and her father and the love we share with our Father. She has learned that God is so gracious that He redeems mistakes.

In the end, she has learned to rejoice in whatever God brings along the path. Here is a little of her wisdom: “And sometimes the victory isn't in the winning or losing, but in the willingness to join the fight, regardless of the odds, or the fear – because it's the right thing to do.” (27) Here is another: “Being Kelly Tough means you always do more than what's expected of you.” (36)

This is a great book for young people, especially if they are going through a tough time. Erin provides great encouragement by example for persevering through the grace of God and by His strength. She helps us know that we too can make it through the ups and downs of life's greatest struggles. It is encouraging to see such wisdom and maturity in a young person.

You can find out more about the book and read testimonials at

You can find out more about Hunter's Hope, founded in 1997 by Jim and Jill Kelly after their son was diagnosed with Krabbe leukodystrophy, at

Erin Kelly is the oldest daughter of Jim and Jill Kelly. She has always had a passion for writing, journaling, and sharing her faith. A sought-after speaker to young women, she has coauthored five books with her sister, Camryn. She attends Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Jill Kelly is the wife of retired Buffalo Bills quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. She is a speaker and the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller, Without a Word. She and her husband live in Buffalo with their daughters.

BroadStreet Publishing, 208 pages.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Trip Around the Sun by Mark Batterson, Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon

This book isn't at all what I thought it was going to be. In reading the promotion pieces, I know that Batterson and his mentor, Foth, want readers to rise to the challenge of adventure living. Our lives will be richer and our souls fuller, they write. I thought we were being called to adventure for Jesus, so to speak. Perhaps mission trips or inner city work. But that was not the emphasis of the book at all.

Foth and Batterson share their own adventures and draw spiritual lessons from them. The adventures didn't have much to do with Jesus. Batterson, for example, tells of flying cross country with his son a few years ago to do the Sharkfest Swim (1.5 miles from Alcatraz to a San Francisco beach). Another was taking his son to Super Bowl XLV. Then there was kissing his wife at the top of the Eiffel Tower and visiting the Galapagos Islands with his son. Foth shares adventures like visiting the Normandy coast, lunching in the United State Senate dining room and being on an aircraft carrier.

The authors want us to grab life and squeeze every ounce of adventure out of it. It seems that going to a Super Bowl game or lunching in the Senate dining room are the kinds of adventures the authors want to see Christians rise to experience. That was confusing because the authors also say that the kinds of adventures Jesus calls us to is rubbing elbows with the lost, being in the middle of the marketplace. Elsewhere they say the adventures are going places with Jesus and friends. I finished the book being unsure of the kind of adventures the authors want us to have. I was glad to see that they do tell a few stories of other people whose adventures were truly sacrificial, showing love to others.

All of that being said, there were some aspects of the book I appreciated. Batterson writes, “Most people are bored with their faith because they are selfish.” (120) That suggests unselfish adventures would be the answer. The authors encourage us to be life long learners, reading many books. They suggest we live each day in light of eternity and that we provide experiences for our children for their emotional and spiritual growth. And I loved this from Batterson, “I want to go after dreams that are destined to fail without divine intervention.” (72)

Batterson says near the end of the book, “My primary goal in writing this book was to capture Dick's stories for posterity...” (201) That helped me understand that the purpose of the book was not what I had thought it was, to encourage readers to adventure for Jesus. Batterson has succeeded well in his primary goal.

I have mixed feelings about the book. If you like to read adventure stories, you may like the book. If you are looking for an intense encouragement to get out of your comfort zone and adventure for Jesus, you may need to look elsewhere.

Food for thought: “Another day, another adventure.” (197)
Complete the statement: “This trip around the sun I will choose adventure by...”

Mark Batterson is a New York Times bestselling author and lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC. He has a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife and their three children.
Richard Foth is the father of four and grandfather of eleven. He has been a college president and conference speaker. He is best known as a story teller who believes that God's story and our stories touch the world. He has a doctor of ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife live in Colorado.
Susanna Foth Aughtmon is a pastor's wife and mother of three with two previously published books. She assists her husband in various ministries at the church they planted in California.

Baker Books, 208 pages.

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