Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Edge by Dave and Joanne Beckwith

I am very impressed with this six week study. It is packed full of insights and biblical wisdom on life transformation. We have lots of weaknesses but God is in the business of changing us into the people He wants us to be. This study reveals how that happens.

Beckwith shares his own story of coming to the end of his “hope rope.” He was at the point where his own strength was no match for the avalanche of life problems. He combines such stories from his own life with teaching from the Bible to bring us to a point of surrender to God, allowing Him to be our strength. His strategy is to find our weaknesses and explore their place in God's plan. He also looks at our strengths, both our natural abilities and the gifts God has given us.

I am impressed with Beckwith's insights in dealing with our weaknesses, allowing God to work through them. He includes great information on how our minds work and a great plan for transforming our minds.

I like how Beckwith identifies a potential strength for each of our weaknesses. He helps us understand our potential under God's grace and mercy. I really like his comments about television and his very revealing checklist. No wonder I've quit watching television! He has great teaching on relationships too.

This would be a very good book for personal or group use. There are five readings for the week and then a group study covering them. Thought provoking questions are included after each daily reading, as are verses for meditation, and other suggestions. The weekly discussion questions, points of application, and suggestions for prayer and share are wonderful. In case one is hesitant about leading a small group, instructions for doing so are included in an Appendix.

I highly recommend this book. It contains great insight and wisdom for Christians struggling with weaknesses. You'll discover a personal growth journey concentrating on finding God's power for those weaknesses.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Dave and Joanne Beckwith began their pastoral ministry a week after their marriage in 1969. Dave's ministry has included camp and youth ministry, church administration and serving as senior pastor. Joanne has served in women's ministries, mentoring, and teaching small groups. Both are graduates of Biola University. Dave completed his seminary work at Talbot Theological Seminary . He ultimately received a PhD in Church and Family Ministry. They have two married daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. You can find out more at and

Elk Lake Publishing, 280 pages.

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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Horse for Kate by Miralee Ferrell

The first in this series about horses and friends for young readers finds twelve year old Kate on her way to Oregon. Her dad had lost his job in Spokane and the family was moving to the farm Kate's mom had inherited. Kate hated leaving all her friends but her dad had found a job there too so she would make the best of it.

As the family arrives at the farm, Kate spies the barn. She wants a horse so bad but she knows money is tight. And then there is the money needed for the special teacher for her autistic brother, Peter.

Kate experiences the pressure of being a new kid at school. There are many Hispanic students and Kate feels a little out of place. One of the Hispanic girls tentatively approaches Kate and that is the beginning of a good friendship.

There is much to entertain young readers in this novel. Kate learns about the cost of loyalty in friendship. She also faces the possible cost to her dream by being honest and not lying. Her friend, Tori, learns about pushing beyond fear to do the right thing. The characters are well crafted and the story held my interest. I recommend this novel for girls, aged 8 – 12, who like horses.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Miralee Ferrell is an award-winning author of sixteen novels. She is a speaker and licensed minister counseling hurting women. She and her husband live along the Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington State. You can find out more at

David C Cook, 208 pages.

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

Growing God's Church by Gary L. McIntosh

McIntosh has noted that, while churches are becoming more missional, they are also becoming less evangelistic in their practice. He's concerned.

He's written this book to help leaders understand how people are coming to faith today. Decades ago people were getting saved at revivals. That's no longer happening. The statistics from that era just do not apply any more. McIntosh did his own research to get current data. He has evaluated the data in light of the concepts of missional and coming to Christ.

He has found that friends and relatives are the major avenue of people coming to Christ. The influence of family members is huge. He also looked at why people attend a particular church and what keeps them there. The quality and relevance of the pastor's preaching plays a huge role in those areas. With so many churches changing their names, taking away denominational references, I was surprised to find out that the name of the church is not a major factor in people considering a church.

This would be a great book for church leaders as they contemplate the concept of mission and how it directs, or at least affects, their church. They will also find great insights into ways to be evangelistic in their community. The last section of the book contains many practical ideas for reaching out and inviting those in the community to meet Jesus. McIntosh has also included probing questions at the end of some chapters, and down-to-earth ideas at the end of other chapters, so this would be a good book to study and discuss around the church board.

I like McIntosh's use of Matthew's dinner, with invited friends, as a metaphor for engaging family, friends, and associates with the gospel of salvation. Rather than the revival preacher, it is now the friend or relative across the table who is the one influencing people for Christ.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gary L. McIntosh (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is president of the Church Growth Network and professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology. He is an internationally known speaker and church consultant who has written twenty-four books.

Baker Books, 190 pages.

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shadows in the Moonlight, Episode 8 In The President's Service by Ace Collins

This is the eighth episode if In The President's Service. Stickland tries to find out why Hitler is so interested in Nigel Armstrong. He is a man of mystery and when a German bomb goes off near where he is being held, Armstrong disappears.

Helen Meeker is lamenting the death of many of her teammates when her sister arrives with a new assignment. Four people have been kidnapped. Each of them had polio and had spent time at Warm Springs getting treatment. Was this some how connected to the president and his time spent there for his polio treatment?

I continue to enjoy this series. Collins is great at getting the dialog, clothing description, etc., perfect for the time period. I also like there were a couple of interesting side issues in this episode. They included a discussion of whether some illness or tragedy might be a result of a judgment on a person's sin, and whether it was morally right to save lives by committing a sin. This was a question many faced during the war. “Is it mortally right to break a commandment or two to bring down a monster?” (127)

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ace Collins has written more than sixty books, including several best sellers. He lives in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Elk Lake Publishing, 140 pages.

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

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

This was a very hard book for me to read. It got off to a very slow start and the subject matter is very difficult. The story line contains a child abduction, spousal abuse, and other family tragedies. For me, it was really tough going, and I don't even have any children.

This kind of fiction might be called “reality” fiction. It is not light and fun and people don't always live happily ever after. It is also a novel that weighs heavy on the thinking of people and their growth. While there is some action, I though it was actually played down. Very meaningful action near the end of the book happens “off screen,” so to speak. We only hear of it second hand when I would have thought we'd be right in the center of the event. It was not the kind of book that kept me on the edge of my seat, nor one that compelled me to turn pages.

There were two aspects of the character development that bothered me. One was Sarah, the twelve year old girl who is abducted. We get to read some of what she writes while she is being held and used as a sex slave. What she wrote, indicating her mental attitude, just seemed unrealistic for a girl her age. The impression I got was that she was basically psychologically healthy during (and after) her abduction. That did not seem right to me. I would have been very traumatized in her situation and I think she should have been too.

The other character that troubled me was Amanda. She's the mother chaperon who wasn't hoovering over her own daughter and Sarah when Sarah was tricked into being abducted. She's a counselor helping women identify and survive spousal abuse. Yet she refuses to accept that her own husband is abusing her. She exhibits all the characteristic excuses she must have heard from others hundreds of times and tried to correct. It just seemed very ironic to me.

I did appreciate the support that was seen by church and friends when tragedy struck. I appreciated the strength that faith ultimately provided. And I liked the idea of the feather. Corsets used to be made of whale bone and wouldn't bend. Women suffered. Then a fellow had the idea of using feather bone. It bends and so could the women. That has great significance in the survival theme of the novel.

If you like a novel with lots of description and ruminating by the main character, you'll like this one. If you like novels where the heroine suffers tragedy one hopes to never encounter and ultimately manages to rise out of it, you'll like this novel. If you like a book that will draw out emotions of guilt and grief, you'll like this novel.

If you've lost a child in a tragic way, I'd skip this novel. I think it would be too hard to read without reliving all the pain and heartache again. Cantrell does say in a Note From the Author that she wrote this book for every person who has ever felt alone, unloved, unsafe, or unvalued. “It is written to remind us all that we are loved, we have worth, and we are never alone.” I didn't find that message loud and clear but others might.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Julie Cantrell is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her Into the Free won the 2013 Christy Award Book of the Year. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 384 pages.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Your Story Matters by Emra Smith

Do you think your story is important? Smith says it is. Your story matters because you matter to God. She encourages you to write your story and has great suggestions as how to do it. She also includes advice as to when.

Smith shares her own story, giving a great example of how one's story can be told. Her mother had left when she was a toddler and then returned three years later to snatch her away. She was converted at seventeen then later left college to marry. She supported her husband at the expense of her own dreams. They had two children, one of whom has a genetic disorder.

She had her own internal pain she never dealt with and ended up looking to another man, finding solace in an affair. That was followed by a divorce, depression, leaving her church, and remarriage. She finally began to heal. Today God fills her soul and she is no longer trying to fill a void.

She gradually came to realize her mission: “Share with everyone the incredibly, extravagant generosity of God.” (17) She expresses her purpose as facilitating women telling their stories. She offers services, like coaching, to that end.

This is an encouraging book. Each of us has big stories and little stories to tell. Smith wants us to be aware of the ordinary moments in our lives and what we learn from them. She shares several lessons she has learned to show us how we communicate them.

I recommend this short book to those who have thought about writing their own story but are still unsure about doing so. This book will give you the encouragement you need and some good ideas on how to accomplish the task.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Emra Smith is a Certified Life Coach and New Life Story Wellness Coach. She owns her own training, speaking, and coaching business. You can find out more at

Our Written Lives of Hope, 76 pages.

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

Bronner by Sherri Burgess

Bronner went to heaven on January 19, 2008. He was two and a half. Burgess shares her own journey of wrestling with God and coming to a place of faith and comfort.

What an inspiring book. I can't begin to imagine the struggle that Burgess experienced. The lessons she has learned and the spiritual maturity she now evidences is amazing. She now realizes that God's plans for her children are not the same as her plans. Her children did not belong to her. They had been created for God's purposes. She and her husband came to see how God had prepared them for this experience. She writes that God took her by the hand and did not let go for one second.

Burgess shares her confusion in trying to understand what God was doing. She came to understand that God was doing a work in Bronner's dying that could be done no other way. She tells of the amazing ministry that happened in the ensuing years.

I am really impressed with this personal yet very biblically oriented story of her coming to understand the meaning of pain and suffering. “[God] loves us,” she writes. “He loves us enough to rip our hearts right out of this world and place them in heaven, where He is...” She now understands, “Everything in this life is preparing us for eternal life...”

I recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with loss and trying to understand the plan of God. Burgess is very honest in her own struggles and those of her family. It was not an easy journey. She started this book the year after Bronner died. She had to put it away until just recently. There was much she had to live through and understand before she could finish the book.

My rating: 5/5.

Sherri Burgess is the wife of Rick Burgess of The Rick and Bubba Show, a nationally syndicated talk radio show. A seasoned Bible teacher, writer and blogger, she has recently answered God's call as a women's ministry speaker. She and her family live in Birmingham, Alabama. You can follow her blog at You can find out more about Sherri and Rick and their ministry at You can find out more about The Rick and Bubba Show at

New Hope Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Be The Miracle by Delores Liesner

This little book is full of encouragement. Liesner assures us that God is still doing miracles today. She's got lots of stories to prove it.

These stories are great. They show the importance of faith and listening to God's nudging. Some of them are when Liesner is herself the one who blessed someone else. Other stories are when someone blessed her. My favorite story was the one where her daughter said she needed cupcakes for her class today – as she is walking off to school. Liesner got ready to bake the cupcakes but there were no eggs. There was no money to buy eggs so she prayed and acted in faith. She mixed the ingredients (minus the eggs), turned on the oven, and readied the pans. Just then there was a noise on her porch. When she went to the door, there were two dozen eggs and not a person in sight. (She found out later that day who left the eggs and why.)

All of her stories are great. Some of her experiences were even life saving in nature. They are excellent examples of the importance of listening to God's prompts. She shares the lessons she has learned from her experiences too. She knows God is aware of our needs before we even present them, already preparing the answer. To help us readers have the same kind of learning experiences, Liesner has added a Life-Changing Lesson, a Life-Changing Verse, and a Life-Changing Challenge at the end of each story.

God is looking for people to be His hands and feet today, Liesner writes, to submit totally to His will. She suggests we pay attention to own lives, journaling our experiences, seeing God at work. She has a good last chapter that identifies what stops us from sharing in the miracle experiences.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a lifestyle of trusting obedience. You'll be encouraged by this book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Delores Liesner lives passionately and humorously as God's delivery girl. She has published hundreds of stories, devotionals, and articles. She writes from Racine, WI. You can find out more at

Elk Lake Publishing, 170 pages.

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

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

We love to be busy. It is intoxicating, making us feel we are important. But what if we are so busy we are missing God's best for us?

Worthington writes about her own experience when she and her husband realized they were too busy. They were doing good things, things people needed help with. She also realized they had exceeded their capacity limit.

She helps us identify the signs of being crazy busy, such as out-of-control emotions and lack of self-care. She helps us understand and embrace our limits and what life looks like when we are where God designed us to be. She shares the importance of a relationship with God and how to cultivate it. She helps us develop a life centered on our passions and gifts.

Worthington has great insights into how God directs our lives. She gives good strategies for dealing with breaking that being busy habit, such as overcoming negative thoughts. She includes great ideas for setting boundaries on our time and for making good decisions. I was surprised but pleased that she gives us permission to disappoint people. She also explores good, clear, and honest communication and has lots of good ideas to develop it. The teaching I appreciated most was how to deal with low self-esteem or worth when those are based on our being busy.

I really appreciate Worthington's book. Hers is not a wonderful success story of having it all together. She shares her struggles with anxiety and wrong thinking. She shares lessons learned, like being busy or trying to keep up with the Jones will never bring us the peace we can only find in our relationship with God. (45)

No matter where you are on the road of breaking busy, this is a good book to read. You'll be confronted with the signs of being too busy and you'll have suggestions as to how to deal with it. She gives you the good news that you do not have to live in the world of crazy busy. There is hope and reading this book will get you on the way to that sweet spot of living the life God designed.

Food for thought: “Staying connected to God is what keeps me operating within my capacity and what helps me understand that God made me with limitations on purpose.” (32)

You can read an excerpt here.
You can go here to find out more about the book and follow Worthington's blog.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Alli Worthington is an author, speaker, blogger, and Executive Director of Propel Women, an organization that empowers female leaders. She co-founded BlossDom Events and has helped individuals, small business owners, and Fortune 500 companies to be more successful. She has appeared on TODAY and Good Morning America. She and her husband have five sons and live outside of Nashville. Find out more at

Zondervan, 220 pages.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dark Money by Larry D. Thompson

This novel got my attention. Not only is it a well written legal thriller but it is on a subject matter about which every American should have concern.

This novel uncovers so many dark areas, it is hard to know where to start. The main issue is how politicians can accumulate great amounts of “dark money.” Since the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Citizens United, large donations can be made to a special fund set up under Section 501 (c)(4) of the Revenue Code. The donations are confidential. At least 51% of the donations are supposed to go to social action issues, but those can be tv adds targeting certain politicians about their votes or some other issue. Politicians get millions and even billions of dollars through this means.

To inform us about this concern, Thompson has crafted an excellent novel featuring Jack Bryant. Having made his fortune as a trial lawyer he now does pro bono work out of an RV. His friend and former war buddy, Walt, asks for Jack's help. Walt is with the Texas Department of Public Safety and his detail must protect the governor at a costumed fund raiser where open carry guns are encouraged. A wealthy contributor is killed during the event and Jack is later called in to help protect the DPS from a lawsuit. The only way he can do that is to find out who financed the assassin.

In the course of that investigation, we readers are involved in some additional dark issues. One is PTSD. Walt has it from his army days and it was interesting reading about that. Another issue was an anti-government militia group in West Texas. I knew such groups existed and I found Thompson's writing about it very interesting and informative.

The subject of the plot is great. I found the writing and plot construction superb. The characters were well crafted. Not only is this a very entertaining book but it is very informative on an issue that is timely. I highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed.

My rating: 5/5 stars. 

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can find the links to other participants on the tour and read an excerpt from the book here.

Larry D Thompson is a veteran trial lawyer and has drawn upon decades of experience in the courtroom to produce riveting legal thrillers. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Thompson founded the Houston trial firm where he still serves as managing partner. The proud father of three grown children, he lives and works in Texas but spends his summers in Colorado, where he crafts his novels and hikes the mountains surrounding Vail. His greatest inspiration came from Thomas Thompson, his brother, who wrote many best-selling true crime books and novels.

Story Merchant Books, 430 pages.

Dark Money Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller Published by: Story Merchant Books Publication Date: December 8th 2015 Number of Pages: 430 ISBN: 0996990801 (ISBN13: 9780996990806) Series: A Jackson Bryant Legal Thriller, 2 Purchase Links: Amazon Goodreads
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Peacock Throne by Lisa Karon Richardson

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is a great mystery, has lots of adventure and a suspenseful end.

The novel begins with murders in England. The first is Lydia Garrett's uncle and guardian. Then we find out the Earl of Danbury was murdered on the same night. The paths of Lydia and Anthony Douglas, the new Lord Danbury, cross. Perusing old documents long hidden, they find out the murdered men had been on the same ship, one commanded by the former earl. In 1758, the earl had been asked by the Indian royal family to take the magnificent Peacock Throne away from India and hide it. Danbury is convinced that going after the hidden throne will flush out the murderer.

Added to that major stream of the plot is a British intelligence operative, Marcus Harting. He is working for the former prime minister, William Pitt. It is suspected that there is a French operative working in London and Harting is to find him. Lord Danbury is at the top of his list.

The novel starts with a mystery. Who has murdered the two men, one from a shabby part of London and the other an earl? Then the novel turns to adventure as Danbury sets out to find the throne. Lydia and Harting manage to convince Danbury to take them along on the voyage. Then the novel barrels into suspense as all does not go well in the adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, even though I am not a fan of historical fiction. I really liked Lydia. She is not a wimpy woman. She is a woman of strong character who is very resourceful.

I appreciated that this novel is based on actual historical events. There really was a bejeweled Peacock Throne that disappeared from India in the 1700s. While some suppose it was captured in 1737 by Nadir Shah of Persia, Richardson disagrees. Her research showed that the throne spirited away from India did not match the description of the Peacock Throne in Delhi. That it might have been taken away on an English boat is not a new idea. It had one time been proposed that the throne had been on the Grosvenor, and English ship that crashed into southeastern Africa in 1792. (Caliban's Shore, p. 257)

I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy a well crafted story woven around a very possible historical event. The characters are well developed and the action is plentiful.

This was the first full novel Richardson wrote but remained unpublished. Now, as an award-winning author, she revisited her first story and introduced it to us. We are left waiting at the end for the sequel. I'll be watching for it.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Lisa Karon Richardson is the author of several novels. She and her family live in Ohio. You can find out more at

Lion Fiction (Distributed in the U. S. by Kregel), 352 pages.

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chappy's Weight Loss Solution by Chaplain Richard Phelps

Chappy, as he is called, had a detailed vision in 2012. He pursued the ideas he was given regarding helping firefighters lose weight. This booklet is one of the results. He also developed a website, a nonprofit organization, a Facebook page, and training.

He shares his own story of struggling with weight. He had success with Weight Watchers for a time, regained weight, then sought professional help. He began to understand the role emotions had in his eating, finding out he was a food addict.

He shares many lessons he learned, such as about his own self-will, shame, food strategies that worked (and ones that didn't), the spiritual component, and the reality of food addictions.

I appreciated his struggle over his relationship with God and overeating. He found that Christian faith does not automatically lead to overcoming addictive behavior. He gives some suggestions and advocates the strategy of The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Overeaters Anonymous.

The focus of this booklet is helping firefighters and directing them to the website Phelps developed. There is good material in the booklet for any person struggling with weight issues.

Appendixes include resources and previous articles written by Phelps. You can find out more at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Richard Phelps served in the army, then returned to Rhode Island and was involved in business and politics. He had a spiritual experience in 1973 and dedicated his life to helping others. He was called to pastoral counseling in 1987 and began Pastoral Counseling in Melbourne, Florida, in 1989. He was ordained in 1994 and founded a Christian counseling center in Palm Bay, Florida. He became interested in Workplace Chaplaincy and investigated fire departments. He became a volunteer firefighter and Chaplain at Indialantic Fire Rescue at Indialantic, Florida, in 2005. He and his wife have five adult children and sixteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Elk Lake Publishing, 116 pages.

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

Count It All Joy by David Jeremiah

Jeremiah has given us an excellent study of Philippians. While this book is a reprint of a 2006 release, it is as relevant as ever.

We are given the background to this letter from Paul. Jeremiah suggests that the theme of Philippians is joy and “The secret of [Paul's] joy was his relationship with Jesus Christ.” Paul's experience in prison, says, Jeremiah, was the crucible that tested his joy. If Paul's relationship to Jesus could bring joy in his situation, certainly we can learn to rejoice in difficult circumstances.

Jeremiah highlights the personal nature of the letter and the lessons learned through adversity. He explores the purpose and function of suffering and the importance of developing Christ likeness. He emphasizes the necessity of right thinking and provides great guidelines toward having the right attitude.

Even though I've read a number of commentaries on Philippians, I still earned something new in reading this one. I really liked Jeremiah's explanation of “work out your own salvation,” making reference to that expression being used in mining. I had forgotten or perhaps never realized that the Philippian church had been started by women! Other topics I really appreciated included his discussion on what it meant that Jesus “emptied Himself,” the dangers of legalism, and the essential elements of continuing to grow in faith. Jeremiah highlights relevant Greek words from time to time but in a way that a layman can easily understand.

An excellent Reader's Guide has been included with suggestions for personal and group use. It includes ice breakers, discovery questions, personal application questions, prayer focus, optional activities, and homework in preparation for the next session. It would make a great twelve week study and I highly recommend it.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. He is a bestselling author of many books and a frequent conference speaker. He and his wife have four children and twelve grandchildren. You can find out more at

David C Cook, 320 pages.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2016

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

I love a novel that's a good mystery with great suspense. Blackstock has given us a winner.

The novel opens with Casey Cox discovering her boyfriend – murdered. She knows she has to run, even though her DNA is all over the scene. She doesn't trust the local police, not since her father supposedly committed suicide a decade ago, when Casey was twelve.

Contracted to find Casey is Dylan Roberts, a veteran army criminal investigator with PTSD. He needs to prove to himself and the police that he can still do the job. But the more he pursues her and investigates the case, the more he finds that the clues do not add up.

Blackstock has done an excellent job of crafting this novel in such a way that we are placed in the midst of a suspenseful story from the beginning. The suspense builds as Casey tries to make a new life for herself. Casey is a smart gal and she knows she has to stay one step ahead of the police so she can prove her innocence. Just when she thinks she's found a safe place...

I liked Casey as a character, struggling to not believe in God when she needs him so desperately. I liked Dylan as a character too. He is a good guy but has had emotional trauma that sometimes clouds his judgment. There are great secondary characters too, and a subplot that fits right in and intensifies the suspense.

Great characters, a great story line, and lots of suspense make this a novel that impressed me. Blackstock is in top form. The worst part of the book? We're left hanging, so get me the sequel soon.

You can read the first chapter here.

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

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times bestselling author who has sold more than six million books worldwide. 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.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Ladybug Buddies Incredible Skydiving Adventure by Jason Graham illustrated by Brian Beausoleil

This is a delightful story about two ladybugs who learn what it means to be buddies. They hang out at Buddy's Pop Shop. They love the root beer made right there in the shop. They learn from some customers that buddies do cool things together. They hitch a ride on a couple of fellows who are going skydiving. They have quite an adventure! When they are finally back to Buddy's Pop Shop enjoying some cold root beer, Buddy Two hopes their adventures are over. Then he notices Buddy One staring at the motorcycles outside.

What a fun story with great illustrations. I liked how the ladybugs learned lessons on their adventure, like overcoming fear, never giving up, and what it means to stick with your buddy. It's a cute story for children. I recommend it. 

(Illustration copyright Brian Beausoleil.)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jason Graham had a career in the Coast Guard and knows about buddies. These adventures began as stories he told his five children. He is also a Wilderness Expert at the Wilderness School Institute, and a contributor to their popular Backpack Survival Guides. You can learn more at
Brian Beausoleil has a master's level in fine art and illustration and studied under a former Disney animator.He has been painting professionally for over thirty years. You can find out more at

Summers Island Press, 44 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, January 21, 2016

God's Daily Word by Jerry Stratton

Stratton has created a devotional for the first quarter of the year. The devotionals are good, general encouragement to life the Christian life. He writes about what it means to be a saint, being adopted into God's family, going the extra mile for others, having internal quietness, expressing the fruit of the Spirit and other positive character traits, as well as many other topics of spiritual growth. His devotions are good as he helps us understand the necessity of admitting our sins, how to have good relationships, and even appreciate the role of doubt.

While the devotions are good, I was disappointed in the “chuckles” that begin each day's reading. Many are not very funny at all. Some are just inappropriate. Some may elicit humor but at the expense of godly relationships, such as the chuckle about the woman who used her husband's toothbrush to clean the toilet bowl. For example, the chuckle for February 6: “When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried!” (79) Not only is that ungodly, Stratton has a devotional on April 21 informing us that worrying is wrong. The chuckle for February 5: “Adam said to his wife, 'Eve, I wear the plants in this family!'” (77) That's not very funny when I consider the immense impact of the Fall and why Adam was wearing the leaves. And then, a minor point, but the same chuckle appears on February 28 and April 14. Stratton says in one of his devotionals, “'Fun' to a Christian describes those wholesome actions that please God and bring us joy and pleasure.” (222) I thought many of his chuckles did not fall into that good definition and were not fun at all.

The devotionals are good. They reflect the wisdom and insight that comes from a lifetime of Christian living. Statements such as, “Storms provide the true test of our relationship with God,” are a result of trusting God for decades. (77) So I recommend the devotional. If you're like me, you may just want to skip the chuckles.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jerry Stratton grew up in the beautiful mountains of Northwest Arkansas. He is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and Baylor University. He served in the U. S. Army for 30 years and retired in 1984. He sensed God's call and in the 28 years of ministry has served as minister of education and administration, director of missions, pastor, and interim pastor. He and his wife have been married for 61 years, have two adult children and six grandchildren.

Armonia Publishing, 249 pages.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

In an era when society tells us to accumulate more, whether its possessions, self-confidence, or clout, Chole wants us to practice the spiritual discipline of decrease. This is a Lenten devotional unlike any I've read before.

Through an experience of surgery and loss of strength, Chole realized clutter had been collecting around her faith. She identified “sins of addition” in her life. She knew that Jesus lived an uncluttered life and she longed to follow His example.

There are so many aspects of this book I really like. One is the format. The forty devotions follow along the life of Jesus, each one based on a scene or saying. She adds guidance for reflection, then a suggested fast, a quote for meditation, information on Lent, a suggested Scripture reading, and space to journal.

I like the suggested fast for the day. There were some I expected to see in a Lenten devotional, like fasting a meal. But most of them were surprising. Her emphasis is less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrendering of our souls. Her suggestions included fasting collecting praise for a day, and fasting stinginess for a day, halos (false definitions of holiness), apathy (in the face of justice), intimidation, willful sin, and criticism. These suggested fasts go to the core of our spiritual character. Each day's suggestion really made me think about my spiritual journey in a way I've not had a devotional do before.

I like her extra sections on Lent. Many Protestants do not understand the origin, history, or early practice of Lent. The information Chole includes is very enlightening in conveying the roots of this practice of voluntary discomfort to remind us of the discomfort of the cross.

Chole reminds us of the example of John the Baptist, saying that he must decrease while Jesus must increase. She has done an excellent job of encouraging us to have that same attitude. She reminds us that some of these fasts representing character traits and spiritual practices are really a lifetime commitment. Reading these devotions will help us take one step of that journey right now.

I highly recommend this book to those who have practiced Lent in the past. Chole will encourage you to have a fresh experience. I highly recommend this book to those for whom a Lenten experience is foreign. You'll learn about the origin and meaning of the practice and be encouraged to engage in it on a spiritually transforming level.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Alicia Britt Chole has a doctor of ministry in leadership and spiritual formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary and serves as the founding director of Leadership Investment Intensives (, a nonprofit devoted to spiritually investing in the lives of leaders in the marketplace and the church. She and her husband have three children. You can find out more at and @aliciachole.

Thomas Nelson, 272 pages.

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