Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Power That Changes the World by Bill Johnson

Christians sometimes concentrate on heaven but Johnson reminds us that we are instructed to pray that God's will be done here, now. He encourages us to be a transforming influence on our community.

Some Christians think that influence has to be through politics or business. Johnson believes we should bring the Kingdom influence to every reach of society. Each of us has daily opportunities for transforming influence. That influence comes from intentional living.

He shares how the church he pastors has been instrumental in transforming the attitude and value system of their city. “Success in God's eyes is seen in the impact the message of the Kingdom has on how people think and live in my city, region and nation.” They found that the more they served their city with no agenda other than that the Lord be glorified, the more the city opened up to the message they carried.

This is an encouraging and convicting book. I realize that many Christians have not learned about God and His Kingdom well enough to influence themselves and the community in which they live. Johnson has very good suggestions about basic attitudes we are to have towards those in the community. One that struck me was valuing people before they are converted. Every individual has been made in the image of God and has been given gifts by Him. That attitude of honoring others is an important first step to influence.

This book is a great challenge for us to impact our community. We can carry the blessing of God to others. We can share the gifts God has given us with others. We can reveal the nature of God to others. If that is what you would like to do, this book will encourage you.

Food for thought: “My assignment is to bring heaven to earth through my prayers and acts of radical obedience.”

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Bill Johnson and his wife are the senior leaders of Bethel Church in Redding, California. They have three grown children and nine grandchildren.

Chosen Books, 224 pages.

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

Chosen? by Walter Brueggemann

This book is by no means a scholarly look at the subject. It is more Brueggemann's feelings on the situation with some Scripture investigation and then a study guide as a springboard for discussion.

He notes that he championed the idea that Israel needed to be a nation but is now having second thoughts about their national behavior. There has been indifference toward the human rights of Palestinians. The way Israel is behaving, Brueggemann writes, they are not making a good impression as “God's chosen people.”

An unconditional one-sided support of Israel is not the way to move forward in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One must realistically look at the political situation if there is ever to be a solution.

He explores how one reads the Bible and the meaning of Israel as “chosen.” Sometimes it looks unconditional while other times conditional (as in Exod. 19:5). With respect to the land, “...we may conclude that the land is given to Israel unconditionally, but is held by Israel conditionally.” Looking at the various verses in Joshua, he concludes, “Thus, the land is given, the land is taken, and the land is losable.” This is evidenced in the exile, the return, then losing the land again.

He also questions whether today's Israel is the biblical Israel. He gives reason to conclude, “It is simply not credible to make any direct appeal for the ancient promise of land to the state of Israel.”

The strength of this little book is the study guide, set up for four sessions. I have seen many Christians unconditionally support the state of Israel without really thinking through the issue and the human rights actions of the Israelis toward Palestinians within the state. Reading this book and discussing the issues may be a good way to bring some reality thinking to the situation.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. You can find out more at

Westminster John Knox Press, 114 pages.

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lime Green by Dr. Jackie Roese

Dr. Jackie Roese was the first woman preacher in the history of Irving Bible Church, preaching her first sermon from the pulpit in 2008 to a packed house of 2250 people. That event caused ripples throughout the conservative evangelical church. In this book, Roese shares her personal journey.

This is not a theological defense of women in the pulpit. Roese does not look at the various verses on the topic and give her interpretation. What she does do is share her own story.

She gives us the background to her call to ministry, her childhood and her marriage. Her husband felt called to attend seminary. She felt called too and started taking one evening class at a time, also raising a family. This was at Dallas Theological Seminary where women were not allowed to take classes in preaching. After speaking at a women's retreat, she knew she was called to teach. She came on staff at a church, leading women's ministries. She expressed herself at meetings, trying to break through that invisible attitude that women were “less than” when it came to Scripture, doctrine, and theology.

Roese explores a few topics in her book while telling her story. One was the concept of being a “received knower.” I loved her discussion. “Received knowers do not construct their own knowledge, they receive it. They depend on authorities to tell them what is right and wrong.” (18) They don't read any books the authorities don't recommend. They don't think for themselves nor do they look at opposing arguments.

Another topic I really appreciated Roese writing about was how women and men see Scripture differently. Men tend to see it from an independent, analytical mindset. Women tend to see it with a relational, interdependent, or communal lens. That means a woman preacher will have a different sermon emphasis on a passage, something a man might never see.

The turning point in her church came when the elders looked around and realized they were discussing an issue about women without any input from them. They invited women to a dialog and began to see things differently than merely from their privileged (male) position.

Roese advocates for a new narrative, one “that more accurately depicts God's original plan and purpose for male and female.” (61) She suggests women get started in ministry by saying “yes.” Whether it is a kid's ministry or youth, “I tell them to take the opportunities in front of them and invest in their skills.” (22)

This is a great book for those who want to understand what a woman experiences and feels when she is called to ministry. It is a very good personal account of experiencing that calling in a male dominated setting.

Why lime green? Roese realized many women in church are pink. But she was not that way. She was lime green, warm, yet bold. Wooing, yet a bit dangerous. Passionate. (xvii)

Roese founded The Marcella Project in 2012. More than a ministry, it is a movement to ennoble women. You can find out more about it at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dr. Jackie Roese is the Founder and President of The Marcella Project, a ministry committed to ennobling women through Scripture-focused teaching, training and dialog. She has a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary and a DMin in Preaching from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. She has written more than fifteen Bible studies, taught at women's conferences and was on the Sunday morning preaching team.

HIS Publishing Group, 130 pages.

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

More Things in Heaven and Earth by Jeff High

This was a delightful book to read. What a treat. And it is only the first in a series. Good, because I do not want to be finished with Watervalley.

Watervalley is a small town in Tennessee. That's where Luke Bradford, fresh with his MD, decides to practice. He'd rather do research but his loans have to be paid and the town needed a doctor.

This is a great novel of a newcomer in a small southern town. He doesn't get off to such a good start when he enters the town. He has an unexpected escort from the sheriff. Luke is so startled he drops the beer bottle he was holding, beer splashing all over him. He thinks he can grab his bag in the back and change his pants. But when the sheriff opens his door, well, there is Luke, in his boxer shorts.

With that the novel is off to a great start and continues to be entertaining. Luke is a good main character but its the citizens of the town that make the novel great. They are like all people in a small town. They each have their quirks and Luke ends up having to deal with them. Luke wonders if one particular woman was weaned on pickle juice.

High has a way with words. He is a master at crafting sentences that draw the reader right into the scene. The novel was a delight to read.

For my regular blog readers, I would not classify this as a “Christian” book, although there are church scenes and some godly people in the book. There is a little mild swearing and some intense alcohol drinking. I found nothing offensive as it all seemed to fit the characters in the story.

You can go to to find out more about the books, what the doctor is up to, and get some great recipes.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jeff High grew up in rural Tennessee. He has degrees in literature and nursing and is a three time published winner, in poetry and fiction. He now lives in his hometown, near where he works as an operating room RN in cardiac surgery.

Penguin Books, 368 pages.

Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

Are you keeping track of life or is it whizzing by too fast for you to even notice? Are you living life or managing it?

Stafford came to the point of committing to keeping track of life. She made a conscious decision to focus on what really matters, even when the insignificant or the distracting tried to derail her. She realized she wanted to be at peace with who she was and how she was living. She wanted to know she was on her path to true fulfillment.

She wants each of us to experience that same kind of fulfilling life. She has marked out nine intentional actions to help us grasp what really matters in life. Here are a few of them.

One action she suggests in her Creating Lasting Connections section is “filling the spaces.” She suggests looking for opportunities to focus undivided attention on what really matters, such as watching your children while they eat breakfast. There are scores of opportunities each day to focus, even if for a few seconds, on what is important. In the Living For Today section, she suggests “seeing what is good.” Look for the good in the situation, in the people, in the events happening. This is a change of focus from being critical to really seeking out the blessings before you. In Protecting What Matters, she suggests “leave a legacy.” Be an example of a life well lived to your kids and those around you.

That's just three of the nine intentional actions she has mapped out for a hands free life. She has filled the book with touching stories illustrating the principles and giving us great examples of how they work. She includes affirmations to encourage and help establish new thought processes and then an inspiring meditation.

She admits she doesn't always get it right. Readers won't feel like they are trying to follow a perfect example. We are all a work in process.

Stafford found “that the most important things in life are not measured but are felt through the hands, heart, and soul of each life we touch.” I recommend this book to all who want to live freely and love fully. You will be inspired.

Food for thought: Make it a practice to seek out at least one simple joy in an ordinary day.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Rachel Macy Stafford, with a Master's Degree in education, was a teacher to special education students before she was a mom. She and her husband and their two children live in the South. 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.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My God and My All by Elizabeth Goudge

Francis of Assisi is one of those people in the history of the church that I've heard of but, like many, really did not know much about him. Goudge wrote that he was a humble and poor man who set out to walk as closely as he could in the footsteps of Christ. “Looking at him,” she writes, “we see what it means to be a Christian, and what it costs.” (2)

This reprint of a classic that was first published over fifty years ago is a very readable and inspiring account of Francis' life. We read of his birth in Assisi in 1182. He experienced his first severe illness at twenty-two. He was touched when he was confronted with the reality of poverty. He gave to the disadvantaged. He came to believe that no man could truly love Christ without living in some degree of poverty. He would go to the nearby caves to pray, a mystic. He made a pilgrimage to Rome at age twenty-four. Upon his return he saw a leper and was moved to embrace him. He sold some of his father's cloth inventory and gave the money away. His father was not happy and had him temporarily bound.

Such was the beginning of Francis' life. I was amazed at his odd behavior, such as throwing down his colorful clothes when his father sued for the money given away. God called him to rebuild a church so he begged for stones to use. He was misunderstood, mocked, and persecuted.

Nonetheless, others joined his way of life, taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They had to sell what they had, living with no property and in shabby clothes. He appealed to the pope for a new order, which was eventually granted. He went on mission trips, went on a crusade and visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem, upon his return finding that some of the brothers had betrayed him. He was able to restore the rules, but his health was in decline. He experienced the wounds of Christ in his hands and feet at one of his times alone.

Not being a Catholic, I found it interesting how the Orders were established. Sister Clare established the Second Order. I was fascinated by the Third Order, allowing people to live in deeper devotion to Christ while remaining in their secular calling. Called the Order of Penitence, members had to give surplus money away, dress austerely, eat sparingly, and reject luxury.

There were so many parts of Francis' life that were amazing. While on the crusade, he went to the sultan, Melek-El-Kamil, and witnessed to him. Francis talked to a hungry wolf, convincing the animal to live in harmony with the village he was going to attack. And those are just a couple of many interesting aspects of his life.

I recommend this book to those who want to know of the sacrificial life of Francis. It is an inspiring story of a man committed to self-sacrifice, loving God and loving mankind.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Elizabeth Goudge (1900-1984) was one of the most popular British novelists of the twentieth century.

Plough Publishing House, 310 pages.

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Miracle Drug by Richard L. Mabry MD

This novel is a good medical mystery. Some of the suspense deals with the issues of FDA drug approval and is relevant to medical research and drug success.

The plot deals with a past U. S. President who, upon his return from South America, comes down with diphtheria. When he does not respond to the appropriate drugs, Josh, his newly appointed doctor, is puzzled. But then a lab tech tests the ex-president's fluids, he finds evidence of a very deadly disease. Someone infected the ex-president when he was on his trip. The race is on for an antidote.

There is a little romance and a personal suspense thrown in. Josh has been dating a nurse that went along on the trip and she also shows signs of the deadly disease. So there is additional pressure on Josh to secure the antidote. We learn a little about the FDA and it's drug approval system and how that impacts drug companies and their research.

The only aspect of this novel that was less than excellent was the motive behind the ex-president's illness. The reason, revealed at the end, comes out of left field. I did not feel it was hinted at in the novel so think it is inadequate.

The novel is still a good medical thriller with a good Christian message included. I do appreciate that the author has included a note at the beginning of the book identifying which parts of the book are based on fact. There is also a good reading guide included.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Richard L. Mabry is a retired medical doctor. He has a BA from the University of North Texas and his MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He served in the Air Force and spent a total of 36 years in medicine. He now lives in Texas. You can find out more at and

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Pinch of Promise by Elizabeth Maddrey

This is a good Christian romance for older teens or young career age.

Ten years ago Ben and Mari had one of those special summers. Love had blossomed at a summer camp. Even though Ben had written, Marie had never answered. Life went on but his love for her never dimmed. Rebecca Fisher is the physical therapist Ben goes to when he wrenches his knee. She looks very familiar and Ben begins to wonder if she is the “Marie” he fell in love with.

Becky has made herself into a new person. She's legally changed her name, moving on from the stigma of her past. When Ben comes into her office she wonders if he is the same Ben she fell for that summer, the Ben she has never stopped loving. Even if he is, there is no way she can allow him to get close to her. It is just not possible.

The plot is the typical romance style: boy and girl love each other but there is an insurmountable obstacle preventing that love from being fulfilled. In this case, it is Becky's father. He is a well known Christian author who allowed people to believe that the examples of a terrible daughter he talked and wrote about was, in fact, his own daughter, Becky. Riding the wave of fame, her father never corrected the misapprehension. Her reputation ruined, she built herself a new life with a new name.

This is a pretty good romance. The characters of Becky and Ben are well developed and realistic. Becky believes that love and marriage are not really possible for her. Ben wants to break through the wall Becky has built to keep him at a distance. Trust is necessary and Becky is just not there yet.

I felt there was something a little “off” in the novel. Becky's parents know about the name change and are in frequent contact – her mother at least. It's her father's character and his relationship with his wife that seems off. I suppose a Christian author could allow his daughter to suffer so he could write best-selling books. I suppose a mother could allow her husband to devastate their daughter for fame. But something in those characters, the father and mother, just did not seem to go well in the plot.

I always like to learn a little about a topic when I read a novel and in this one it was about the hungry in Washington, D.C. Becky helps at a nonprofit serving the disadvantaged, many of whom do not have enough food for themselves and their families.

Older teens and young career readers would like this novel. The issue of trust and openness is a major theme. Forgiving family members is an important concept in the book too.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing as soon as she could form letters. While she pursued studies in computer science in college and graduate school, she was always writing. She lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with her husband and their two sons. You can find out more about her and her books at

Janotima Books, 242 pages.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal

I had no idea how essential imagination is to our lives. Reading this book, even though it is an investigation of Lewis' use of imagination, made me aware of how we all use imagination.

This book could be considered an introduction to C. S. Lewis through exploring his use of imagination. The authors identify many different styles and uses of imagination. There is realizing imagination, shared imagination, penetrating imagination, material imagination, primary imagination, generous imagination, just imagination, transforming imagination, and many more. The use or function of each kind of imagination is identified and then how it has been used in Lewis' writings.

I was surprised by several aspects of this investigation into imagination. Spiritual growth requires imagination as we must imagine the stages beyond where we are. Imagination helps us understand the complex world we live in, a world more complex than our capacity to understand. Imagination allows us to view an issue from many viewpoints, like looking at something from a variety of angles, helping us understand it better. Imagination helps us sort out sensory data, making sense of experience. We can use imagination in an attempt to shape reality, seeing the world as it should be. And those are just a few aspects of the exploration of investigation.

I was amazed at the importance and power of imagination in Lewis' writings. He was a master at helping us develop a deeper grasp of something through imagination. That imagination can give us fresh insight toward understanding a complex or illusive idea. Imagination can be used for evil just as powerfully as for good, as he clearly showed.

I was impressed with this book for two reasons. The first reason is the fresh understanding I received about the importance of imagination. I use my imagination when I plan my garden for next year or plan a dinner for this weekend. Imagination helps me make sense of change, having a fresh application of old ideas to new challenges. My church board uses imagination when they contemplate a new ministry and how it will meet the needs of the church members or the surrounding community. I've come to the conclusion that we use imagine much more than I had ever thought.

The second reason I like this book is because if gave me a new appreciation for Lewis and his writing. He was very effective in his use of imagination to communicate a concept. There are scenes from The Great Divorce that have stuck with me since I read the book decades ago.

This is a good introduction to the writings of Lewis. People who want to understand why Lewis wrote the fiction and nonfiction he did would do well to read this book. The book would also be of good use in a literature class as it helps us understand the use of imagination in fiction and nonfiction too. The authors have included an extensive bibliography for those who would like to study further.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jerry Root is associate professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. He also teaches in the Christian Formation and Ministry department and is the director of the Wheaton Evangelism Initiative, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

Mark Neal is the vice president of digital marketing at a Chicago-based marketing firm. He is an independent C. S. Lewis scholar, writing and publishing on Lewis and other topics. You can find out more about him at

Abingdon Press, 280 pages.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Life on the Edge by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili

We've known quantum mechanics as an essential aspect of physics but now it seems it has a crucial role in biological science as well. Quantum biology is a small but growing field of scientists investigating the weird quantum properties at the edge between the quantum and classical worlds.

The authors have done a good job of giving background information on the basics of quantum behavior, including a history of discoveries and theories, to help us understand it. They then introduce us to the various studies in quantum biology. We read about particles being able to tunnel in enzymatic reactions. While much needs to be resolved in this area, “There is no doubt that quantum tunneling plays a role in the way they work.” (97)

We also read about molecules doing a “quantum walk,” traveling all possible routes simultaneously. Then we learn about spin and entanglement. Some areas may involve quantum mechanics, like genetic mutations, but much more investigation is needed before that is confirmed.

The science of quantum biology is such a quickly moving field that the authors suggest that the book would be a little out of date by the time it was published. Nonetheless, this is a great introduction of the subject for the layperson. Yes, any topic related to quantum mechanics is going to be hard to understand. The concepts are not intuitive and generally go against our everyday experience.

The authors do a good job of using illustrations and comparisons to make the concepts easier to comprehend. My favorite illustration was of a robber, known to be in a certain neighborhood. Police, studying the robber's method and the items stolen, can predict the probability the robber will be in certain areas. That illustration really helped me grasp the concept of the probability of a particle's location as opposed to it having a pin pointed location.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy reading about cutting edge scientific investigations and discovery. Don't let the quantum mechanics aspect of the book deter you. These authors have done a superb job of making the concepts understandable to non-scientists.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Johnjoe McFadden is a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey and is the editor of leading textbooks on both molecular biology and systems biology of tuberculosis.
Jim Al-Khalili, OBE, is an academic, author and broadcaster. He is the leading theoretical physicist based at the University of Surrey, where he teaches and carries out research in quantum mechanics.

Crown Publishers, 368 pages.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The First Principle by Marissa Shrock CSFF Blog Tour

I really liked this dystopian novel for older teens taking place in the not to distance future. The U.S. has experienced the Great Collapse and the Second Civil War. The Council of World Peacekeepers had divided North America into seven regions, with territorial governors and a president over all.

But the government structure is not all that has changed. The government, convinced the troubles were caused by too many poor and starving people, has implemented the Posterity Protection and Self-Determination Act. The idea was to control population growth. Underage girls and people with too many kids must terminate pregnancies.

Vivica, daughter of the governor of the Great Lakes Regions, begins a dangerous adventure when she finds out she is pregnant. Her boyfriend, Ben, is distraught. He is a Christian and is totally repentant for his mistake.

Ben has had to hide his faith. Years ago the Peace and Unity Act had “freed” the people from the narrow mindedness of Christianity. The old Judeo-Christian values were seen as bigoted and restrictive. Even the Bible had been cleansed with the Revised Freedom Version being the only authorized Bible allowed. It had been stripped of all restrictive and offensive ideologies.

Ben is also part of an underground rebel group. He asks Vivica to save their unborn child and not succumb to the mandatory termination procedure. But when Vivica's mother finds out about the pregnancy, she will not have it. She is the most likely candidate for the next presidency and will allow nothing to impede her political future. She takes any choice away from Vivica by ordering her bodyguard to take her pregnant daughter to the termination center. Handcuffed, Vivica's future appears certain.

I really liked this novel. Even though it was written for youth, I found it well crafted and full of action. Schrock has created a future that seems very possible given current political trends. Readers will find much to think about in this novel concerning government control and personal freedom.

There is realistic technology for this future era too. Vivica is an accomplished hacker and we experience some of the communication devices and tools used.

I appreciated the way Vivica is portrayed. She is not a mindless teen but intelligently thinks about the political and moral issues at hand. I liked the way she faced the options for her future. Shrock has Vivica develop as a character in a way that is realistic and consistent. Vivica has been raised in a totally secular society. When Ben shares the reality of Christ and gives her an underground copy of the real Bible, she hesitantly thinks about it.

This novel deals with some serious teen issues, like the termination of teen pregnancies and rebellion against government authority. Parents may want to read this novel first or at least be available to discuss it with their teen. The publisher has provided a discussion guide that can be downloaded. You can download an excerpt here.

Marissa Shrock is a middle school language arts teacher and works with her audience every day. She's a graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild courses, and is a member of the ACFW. Her articles for teens have been published in Evangel and Encounter. Visit her at

Kregel Publications, 237 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Only With Blood by Therese Down

This novel takes us to another place and another time, Ireland during WW II. It is a dark time of hatred and anger, yet with surprising moments of love.

Caitlin is an intelligent young woman nearing the end her her studies in the village. She longs to go to university. Her father is a wily man and sees the opportunity to make some money when old farmer Jack needs a wife. As is said about Caitlin, she is “being forced to swallow someone else's reality.” (103) Certainly not fluffy reading. Added to that part of the depressing story is that of IRA activists, ready to kill traitors colluding with the British.

This is not a light and fluffy novel. It deals with some serious issues. Caitlin was essentially sold into marriage by her greedy father. That was hard to read. Also hard to read about was the angry men. Many of the fathers were angry and abusive Irish men. Those with a childhood having an angry father may have difficulty reading the book, as I did.

I didn't like the structure of the novel. It includes many flashbacks as we learn about the background of the characters. These flashbacks are not in chronological order and I found that hindered my enjoyment of the novel. Regarding Jack's childhood, we have a flashback that tells the circumstances of his mother leaving. Then a few pages later we have another flashback of an incident when his mother was still there. The same kind of nonchronological story telling happened in the novel itself. In one scene, a friend of Caitlin's tells her about the new handsome maths teacher, Donal. (208) The book had been following his story off and on and this development was a surprise to me. But then five pages later we read of Donal being told the maths position is open, after which he apparently successfully applies for the job. (213) This kind of writing style was not conducive to smooth character development. It felt more like character ping pong to me.

I would recommend this novel to those interested in the social setting of Ireland during WW II. If one is not bothered by the seemingly hap hazard way flashbacks are given, it is an informative novel. And there is a wonderful surprise at the end I was not expecting. I would not describe this as a particularly "Christian" book, but it does give insight into the spirituality of the Catholics in Ireland at the time.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Therese Down has taught English language and literature for over twenty years. She lives in Worcestershire.

Lion Hudson (distributed in the U.S. By Kregel), 320 pages.

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Surrender to Love by MaryAnn Diorio

This is a nice novella about getting beyond past hurt and allowing the future to unfold.

Teresa lost her husband five years ago in a tragic New York accident. She has still not successfully dealt with her grief. Her world changes when the good childhood friend of her mother asks Teresa to Puerto Rico to coach her granddaughter. Young Pilar is struggling with depression. Marco, as a single dad, has his hands full and welcomes the help. Teresa reluctantly agrees, not realizing that her life is about to change.

I found the plot was a bit ironic. Teresa is a life coach and will be helping a girl who is holding on to a grief from years go. Teresa is emotionally paralyzed herself. I don't quite understand how a person who cannot deal with her own problem expects to be able to help someone else deal with theirs. I often wondered what life coaches actually did but there was not enough information in this novel about the profession to really help me understand it.

This is a good romance. Both Teresa and Marco have lost a spouse. Both find some attraction between them. Marco is ready to move forward but Teresa hangs on to her commitment to her dead husband. (And this from a life coach!)

I always like learning a little something when I read a novel and this time it was some of the history of San Juan.

There is a strong Christian message in the novel. Marcos is a prayerful and godly man. Teresa must learn to rely on God and not herself, surrendering to His will for her life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

MaryAnn Diorio is an award winning author, writing fiction about transformed lives. She holds a PhD and MPhil in French and Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas, a MA in Italian Language and Literature from Middlebury College, and a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She writes a popular blog titled “Matters of the Heart” dealing with the deep issues of the human heart. She and her husband life in New Jersey. You can find out more about her and her blog at

Top Notch Press, 126 pages.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Testament Breakthrough Version

Another New Testament translation? This one makes some pretty big claims. More accuracy, easier to understand, replacing misunderstood words with new ones, and correcting problems with other versions.

The Breakthrough Version of the New Testament is definitely a contemporary literal translation. Geide argues that many translations use words that mean something different to contemporary readers than they did to readers hundreds of years ago. He uses words contemporary readers can understand. For example, “repentance” becomes “saddened into changing your ways.” “Grace” becomes “generosity,” “salvation” becomes “rescue” and “mercy” becomes “forgiving kindness.

Here is how Geide explains 2 Tim. 2:15. (See the chart below.) He was teaching about studying the Bible in Russia when his interpreter told him their Bible did not say “study.” Checking that out in his Greek New Testament when he got home confirmed it. He realized that hundreds of years ago, “study” meant to make every effort, so that is how he translated the verse. He spent over thirty years studying word usage, Greek, etc., to come up what he feels is an easy and accurate rendering of the New Testament message.

In reading passages from this version, as a long time Christian, I had a feeling of losing the sacred words. “Grace” means something special to me that “generosity” does not come close to conveying. However, for the unchurched today, “grace” probably has no meaning whatsoever so “generosity” is a much better word to use.

A couple of features I really like in a translation include the use of italics to denote words not in the original but have been added for clarity or sentence structure. I also like that the words Jesus spoke while on earth are not in red.

This is definitely a translation worth checking out. It would be an especially good translation to give to people not familiar with the Bible. But it's good for long time Christians too. I do like reading a new translation because I often receive insight from the fresh rendering of a verse.

You can go to to watch a video, check out comparison charts, and read a free sample of the text. You can follow @NewBibleVersion on Twitter and receive one Bible verse in the morning and another in the evening. You can read his blog, including articles about translation at

Ray Geide is president of Mission Churches International Inc. (, a ministry to Russia. He has a Master's Degree from Temple Baptist Seminary and is a life long Bible student.

Breakthrough Version Publishing, 337 pages. You can buy it here.

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

Friday, September 18, 2015

Angel with Steel Wings by Anne Greene

I live near a naval air station and the recent news is about women fighter pilots. But it was not always that way. This well written novel takes us back to a time when the military wasn't so sure women should be in the cockpit of anything that flew.

Mandy McCabe has escaped her Appalachian roots by becoming part of the World War II Women Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) group. She is one of several women test flying repaired airplanes. Women doing this dangerous work freed up more male pilots for combat. She is a feisty gal and when she comes head to head with Major Harvey Applegate, sparks fly.

This is a great historical romance. It is very well written and the characters well crafted. I learned so much about the role women played in this aspect of the war. Their flights were dangerous as frequently the repaired aircraft had parts that still didn't work right. Mandy also aids the defense training program by towing targets along the coast by Camp Davis.

There is lots of historical information in the book. I learned about planes of the period, V-mail, alpacas, and food. I finally found out what bubble and squeak is. I also learned about the role of women in the war effort in England such as being on timber crews.

This is a great historical romance dealing with the tension of women in the war effort in the early 1940s. I recommend it to readers who love a gutsy heroine and a strong Christian message.

Mt rating: 5/5 stars.

Anne Greene delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines, both historical and suspense novels. She has a degree in Literary Studies from the University of Texas, and is married to a recently retired Army Special Forces Colonel. You can find out more about her, including her travels, at

Elk Lake Publishing, 308 pages.

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