Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mother & Son by Emerson Eggerichs

Do you want to be a better mom to your son? Eggerichs says the key is realizing that your son desires respect. And it's not just when the boys are young. They never outgrow their need for respect.

He explains the masculine soul, how to use “Respect-Talk,” and how to avoid the “look.” Mothers default to love so they need to be intentional about respect. He gives a road map of ideas by Giving the physical, Understanding the emotional, Instructing the mental, Disciplining the volitional, Encouraging the social, and Supplicating the spiritual (GUIDES). He then explains the six desires in a boy: Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship, and Sexuality (CHAIRS). He applies the GUIDES to each of the desires, including age specific suggestions and identification of the challenges boys will face.

Having been raised in a household with only sisters, I appreciate how Eggerichs demystifies the male behavior. He clearly explains the differences between men and women. It also helped to understand how a boy's self-esteem is developed.

The author makes it clear that respect differs from love. Just because I love someone does not mean I automatically respect them. For women, giving respect is not automatic. That's why it is commanded of wives in Ephesians 5:33, as is love of husbands.

However, unconditional respect from a mother does not mean that a son gets to do whatever he wants. “Respect entails boundaries,” and “Respectfulness demands truthfulness,” Eggerichs writes. (203)

He has included lots of examples and testimonies to illustrate his principles. This is a great book for moms, helping them to understand their sons (and husbands). There are many suggested conversations and examples to help readers.

Food for thought: “We are never hypocrites for doing the right thing though we do not feel like doing it. That's called maturity.” (201)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Emerson Eggerichs is an internationally known expert in male-female relationships. He has a PhD in child and family ecology from Michigan State University. He was senior pastor of Trinity Church in Lansing for almost twenty years. He and his wife have three adult children.

Thomas Nelson, 304 pages.

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Dog That Whispered by Jim Kraus

Do you talk to your dog? Does your dog talk to you?

Kraus has created another delightful novel about an insightful dog who talks. Well, Thurman sort of growls but some people can understand exactly what he is saying. That would include Wilson Steele. He's an English professor with a past that includes horrors from Viet Nam. He'd made such a mess of his life back then that he is convinced God would never forgive him. He is certain too that he must live in solitude, not deserving a family.

But his mother has other ideas. She impulsively adopts a rescue dog. When the retirement home will not let her keep it, she makes Wilson take him. She knows he could use the companionship. That is the beginning of a relationship that changes Wilson's life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is an entertaining novel about character transformation and healing. Kraus has woven together the lives of several people who need a touch of love and a gentle push in the right direction. Thurman is the dog for the job. He knows exactly the right phrase to growl (or say) to move people toward the place where God can heal them.

This is a great book for dog lovers. It's great for people who like to read novels showing how God works events to bring people the healing they need and the relationships that enrich them. That God uses a dog is a fun and rewarding aspect of the novel.

My rating: 5/5 stars

Jim Kraus has authored or co-authored more than twenty books. He and his wife live in the Chicago area. You can find out more at

FaithWords, 323 pages.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Love is Something You Do by Sherry & Bobby Burnette

The Burnettes share their journey and how God has brought them to the place of having an orphanage, medical center, school, and housing in one of the poorest areas of Haiti. Their story is amazing and inspiring one.

Bobby's childhood was a troubled one. His mother was 36 when he was born, his father 71. Two weeks after his birth, his mother had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. He was sent to live with an “aunt.” He heard God tell him at a young age that he would preach the gospel – but he had severe speech problems. He was later miraculously healed. He was kicked out of his “aunt's” house when a teen and disinherited.

He married and did street preaching. He and Sherry went on mission trips. While they visited many countries, Haiti touched their hearts in an unusual way. They established an organization, Love a Child, to focus on reducing poverty in Haiti's poorest areas. They moved to Haiti in July of 1991. There was a coup in September.

They took in a couple of orphans, then a few more, then more, and an orphanage was born. A healing center, Christian school, and radio station were added. They share how God moved people to provide land, funding, work parties, and supplies. During the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, their property became the largest field hospital in the country.

They also share about the spiritual battle with evil, witch doctors and voodoo. They also write about their encounters with zombies, people victimized by witch doctors. They tell great stories of spiritual victories. They also tell of the cost of being missionaries, such as missing celebrating the birthdays of their grandchildren.

Their story is inspiring. They are a couple truly putting their faith and compassion in action. It is so encouraging to read how God provided resources right when they were needed. I highly recommend the book.

You can find out more at

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Bobby and Sherry Burnette are the founders and directors of Love a Child, a Christian nonprofit humanitarian organization serving the needs of children in Haiti. They made their first missionary trip to Haiti in 1971, founded Love a Child in 1985, and moved to Haiti in 1991. The Love a Child Orphanage is in Fond Parisien, Haiti. Their organization educates and feeds over a thousand children each day. After the 2010 earthquake, they added housing and marketplace training. Their goal is for Haitians to become self-sustaining.

Whitaker House, 255 pages.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Almost Like Being in Love by Beth K. Vogt

This is a delightful romance on so many levels. The locations are fun (I want to visit Colorado). The characters are well developed (the problems of trying to please your father). The romance is wonderful (God does give second chances).

Caron had played basketball in high school, seeking her father's approval. She became a real estate agent and worked in her father's Florida firm, again seeking his approval. She had turned her back on the man she loved because she knew that's what her father wanted. She was in a long relationship of dating Alex because she knew her father approved.

Then Caron faces a number of circumstances that tosses her life upside down. Her father takes on a partner in the real estate firm. She is shocked, thinking she would eventually have that place beside her father. She is so shocked, she quits her job. Caron is at loose ends and when her good friend suggests she come to Colorado for a while, she goes. Little did she know that her good friend, who was planning her wedding, had a real estate agent she knew. The very man she had loved and lost.

I like Vogt's novels because she includes so much besides the romance. The prominent issue in this novel is Caron trying to please her father. She longed for his approval greatly, enough to make choices that were not to her own best interest. Another issue is how God works circumstances in this story. Caron is dating Alex, the family friend, and they've talked about marriage. I kept thinking, if she is going to somehow reconnect with the man she truly loves, how will God work that out? Another issue centers on a disabled veteran. We can a good dose of reality on how a man who has lost his legs finds the will to go on living.

I always like to learn something when I read fiction. In this case it was about staging a home for a sale. I've seen those model homes, even been in them, but never realized how important the furniture, accents, etc. were. A builder with several homes to sell certainly wants his model home presented in the best light.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It's a romance but there was enough character development and interesting information that it kept me interested to the very end. And speaking of the end, have your tissue ready. There is a good discussion guide and even a couple of questions for deeper thinking so this would be a good choice for reading groups.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Beth K. Vogt, an established magazine writer and editor, now writes inspirational contemporary romance. She and her husband live in Colorado. You can find out more at

Howard Books, 384 pages.

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Angels by Jack Graham

This is a book about angels unlike any I've read before. Rather than merely facts about angels, although there are some, Graham has provided readers with spiritual concepts and practical lessons for life from biblical stories about angels.

From Isaiah's account of angels giving God glory, crying, “Holy, holy, holy,” we learn the importance of holiness and what it means to us. He includes an acronym for holy with four points to help us on our own journey of holiness. From the story of Jacob and the stairway to heaven we find that angels constantly live in the presence of God. “...[Angels] have determined that the only way to live out their true purpose is to obey God and accomplish his purposes. They have made it their sole aim in life to connect the glory of heaven with the realities of planet earth.” Graham includes practical ways for us to know the will of God and do it too. Other lessons include the coming judgment, angels as an example of spiritual fervor, how to combat temptation, that we are never alone, that God equips us for what He asks us to do, and a few more.

I appreciate that, in general, Graham does not speculate. He sticks to Scripture in describing what angels can and cannot do. He does tell some great stories about himself and contemporary people and their encounters with angels.

My only hesitancy with the book is Graham's use of Psalm 91 when writing about our guardian angels and our protection. While he tells some wonderful stories of angels protecting believers from harm, I couldn't help but think of cases where believers have been tortured and martyred. I still have plenty of questions about the promises in Psalm 91 and the reality of Christians being persecuted today.

I found the exploration of angels and their choices very interesting. Angels have (had) free will. We know this because some rebelled. The ones remaining in God's presence remain perfectly obedient to His will, Graham writes. “The evidence of angelic free will we find in God's Word shows up at their creation, but never again after that.” This is the first I've read about this “one time” free will for angels and I am still trying to think it through.

This book would be a good resource for a pastor or teacher preparing for a series on angels. It's good for all Christians as Graham is very personable in his writing. It is an encouragement to be made aware of all that angels do in our lives and what that means for our own spiritual walk.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jack Graham is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, a thriving church with more than 31,000 members. He has served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and is the author of numerous books. He was ordained to the ministry in 1970, having a master of divinity degree and a doctor of ministry degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Strange History

What an interesting book. It is described as the “strangest book” you'll ever read. It is certainly full of strange facts and stories. It's a great resource for making use of those boring moments one might spend in the bathroom.

There is a story about the miniature cannon used to shoot fleas and another about modern trepanning. There are ghost stories, animal stories, strange sports facts, military blunders, odd people, movie trivia, UFO stories, strange historical facts, and more.

But there are some informational stories too, like the origin of the phrase “in a nutshell” and the name Dracula. You'll find out that the origin of “tomcat” dates way back to 1760 and “car” comes from the Latin carrum, a two wheeled Celtic war chariot. You'll learn Charles de Gaulle had 31 attempts made on his life.

One might even increase certain skills, like digging for artifacts below abandoned outhouses, or speaking hobo. A number of myths and the truth behind them are included too.

This is a fun collection of odd stories and facts you won't find in many history books. If you like to read about the quirky parts of history, you'll enjoy this book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Portable Press, 416 pages.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

There Will be Stars by Billy Coffey

I found this book tough going. I have read other books by Coffey, having come to expect a type of fiction that almost defies being placed in a particular genre. Unlike the others I've read, this one left me wondering what the point was.

The setting is Mattingly, the town we've come to know from other Coffey novels. The time is what is so different. The main characters are people who have (apparently) died. They are in a situation where the last day of their life is every day they live. The main character, for example, is Bobby, a drunk car mechanic. No matter what he does during the day, in the evening he drives up into the hills where he dies in a car crash.

There may be several themes that run through the novel. A group of these (dead/undead) people have come together to form a sort of family. Most of them seem terribly dysfunctional to me, as are the relationships between them. The woman who controls the family, Mamma, convinces them they are in heaven. Bobby doubts it as one of the women was beaten and then killed by her husband and relives that every day. Would that be heaven?

Another theme might be time. One character suggests time is like a river and they are in an eddy. That sounds like an eastern philosophy to me. While time seems to be repeating, people can do different activities each day and seem to remember their previous actions. We learn what brought each of these people to their death and those stories may contain some lessons. There is also some thought that we might have the ability create our own future, or that we do create our own present reality.

For me, this book just did not “work.” When I reached the end, I wondered what the point of it all was. I could not really identify the moral of the story. I was not really entertained. I was not struck by well crafted sentences or amazing characters. I found the dialog, particularly the uneducated southern language, irritating. I also think the book is about a hundred pages longer than it needs to be.

I wouldn't call this a “Christian” book. There is talk of heaven and hell but there is nothing about saving faith. I am not even sure there is anything redeeming about the book. It there is, I missed it. Some may like this style of fiction but I don't.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Billy Coffey is a regular contributor to a number of publications. He and his wife have two children and live in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 416 pages.

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

ABCs of Christianity by Terdema Ussery

This book is a layman's systematic theology. It systematically goes through the major beliefs of Christianity in a very readable way.

Ussery begins with God, His attributes, personality, and nature, then His grace and the nature of the Trinity. Scripture references are provided for each of the statements he makes about God. He then goes on to cover Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Satan, sin, the church, baptism and communion, death and judgment, salvation and rewards, prayer, faith, the abundant life, being born again and salvation. A Glossary of over twenty pages is included at the end, giving definitions for words that may be puzzling to new Christians.

I appreciate that Ussery presents a variety of interpretations on a belief when appropriate. An example would be on the end times. Writing about the return of Christ, he outlines the three primary beliefs: postmillennialist, premillennialist, and amillennialist. He does not promote one view and only gives the beliefs about the end times that are clearly presented in Scripture.

One odd aspect in the book was in the chapter on prayer. Ussery cites The Lord's Prayer as a model for praying and says knowing the different elements is important. (97) He then goes through the first half of the prayer, phrase by phrase, and stops. I just found it odd he did not go through the prayer in its entirety. Asking for daily bread, forgiveness, and not being led into temptation, as well as the final doxology are left out.

This is a good reference book for new Christians. It is a very readable overview of Christian belief. It is well supported by Scripture references in the text. It is not a “scholarly” work in that there are no footnotes. For example, Ussery writes, “That Jesus lived has been proven by historians...” but gives no footnote. Those desiring to study topics further are on their own as there is no bibliography nor suggestions for further reading included.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Terdema Ussery is a native of Gurdon, Arkansas. He has a J.D. From South Bay College of Law and a master's in theology from Southern California School of Ministry. He has worked in real estate, education, as well as pastoring various churches. He and his wife have three children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

FaithWords, 176 pages.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dwelling Places by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

McDowell has written inspiring explorations of 130 words. She has compiled the writings into seasons, paralleling the rhythm of life. Her writing was shaped by her experience of living with Elizabeth Elliot when McDowell was a young seminarian. Helping with the housekeeping, driving, typing manuscripts for Elizabeth, McDowell was encouraged to follow God's call to write. I'm glad she did.

Each of the devotions is a good lesson on an aspect of the Christian life. McDowell includes Scripture quotes, examples from her own life and the lives of others. She sometimes includes thought provoking questions and other times has practical suggestions with particular steps to take. Each devotion takes just a few minutes to read and provides insight into spiritual growth.

I think my favorite devotion was the one on “still.” I like it because it spoke to me the “loudest.” Being still is hard in this society that includes so many distractions. I was reminded I needed “training in how to discern the movement of God's Spirit in ordinary and everyday circumstances.” I need a designated time for stillness and listening. McDowell encouraged me to find a time and place to make stillness a regular habit.

I liked the variety McDowell offers. I mean, have you ever read a devotional that gave a spiritual lesson on kudzu? That writing gave me a new understanding of what it means that Jesus is the vine.

I highly recommend this devotional. It need not be read from cover to cover or daily, as a book with 365 devotions might be. One can choose a word for the day that might best address current circumstances. Some of the devotions are about seasons in the liturgical year and could be read during Lent or Advent. It is a nice resource to keep handy for spiritual encouragement and insight.

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

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lucinda Secrest McDowell is the author of eleven books. She has contributed to an additional 25 books and has been published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she speaks internationally at conferences and retreats. She writes in her cottage in Connecticut.

Abingdon Press, 256 pages.

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Close to Home by Deborah Raney

The drama of the Whitman family and the Chicory Inn continues in this fourth book in the series. The story centers on Bree, widow of Tim Whitman. While it has been years since he was killed in Afghanistan, Bree is still very much a part of the Whitman family.

A problem begins when a co-worker wants to date her. Aaron is a good guy but Bree struggles with the concept of dating again. Most of the novel centers on the struggle Bree experiences. Aaron is a Christian but he is a bit pushy. He just can't understand why Bree still wants to be a part of the family of her dead husband.

This novel is a character study. It deals with issues like how long one should wait after the death of a spouse before dating again. It also explores Bree's relationships with the Whitmans, who feel like family, and her own parents, with whom she is somewhat alienated. Another issue is breaking up a dating relationship and how that is done well.

I love the way Raney develops the characters. Even though Aaron was a nice guy, he came across as controlling and jealous. I was hoping Bree would see him that way and break up with him. On the other hand, well, I won't spoil the story other than to say Bree certainly had a better option.

This is a good novel about family relationships, how they are formed and sustained. The Whitman family is a special one, with genuine love for each other, even the “in-law” Bree. I recommend it to those who enjoy a character driven novel. Since the characters have their stories told in the earlier books in the series, they should be read before this fourth one.

There is a good discussion guide included.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Deborah Raney is an award winning author of several novels. She enjoys speaking and teaching at writing conferences across the country. She and her husband live in their native Kansas. They have four grown children and a brood of grandchildren. You can find out more at

Abingdon Press, 304 pages.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lessons from the East by Bob Roberts Jr.

The statistics for U.S. church growth is depressing. Outside of the U.S, it's a different story. For a long time U.S. church leaders thought they were experts in doing church. Is there something they need to learn from the global church?

Roberts is convinced he has identified a major flaw in the way American pastors think. An attractive worship experience is not how to reach the community. “The primary benefit we offer our communities...,” he writes, “is creative, selfless, tenacious service.” (14) Service will have a much greater impact than self-promotion.

Roberts tells stories from his oversees journeys of people making huge impacts in their communities, in every domain. Who they are and how they are serving is making a difference. They are actually living the gospel. Roberts writes about cell churches, discipleship, people who model the kingdom, the four shifts required, and much more. He suggests the global church can be our tutor to wake us up and show us what can happen when we are kingdom focused.

The lessons the global church has for us may be uncomfortable. In the West, we preach a balanced Christian life. In the East, they preach full abandonment to Jesus Christ. Here we preach wealth and a comfortable life. There they preach sharing in the sufferings of Christ. “We have a lot to learn from our friends in the East.” (175)

Some will no doubt find fault with Roberts because he has befriended imams. He also recognizes the valuable ministry of women pastors. If God has called a woman to minister, he is all for letting it happen. He has seen the fruit of their labors. He's not afraid of the Holy Spirit either.

I recommend this book to pastors. You don't have to be a megachurch pastor. Pastors of small churches can make a huge difference by equipping people to serve in their domains of society, where they live and work. This book will help you go from being church focused pastor to being a kingdom focused pastor. There are “Consider This” questions at the end of each chapter so this book could be used for a study involving church ministry leaders or a city pastor association.

If, as a pastor, what you are doing in your church is not working to influence your community and further the kingdom of God, you need to read this book.

Food for thought: “The task of the church is to make disciples who engage the broad context of society for the kingdom of God to be increasingly realized on earth.” (35)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Bob Roberts Jr. is the founding pastor of NorthWood Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has been involved in helping plant over two hundred churches. He is a graduate of Fuller Seminary. He and his wife have two children.

David C Cook, 255 pages.

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

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Shattered Trust by J. Chris Richards

This debut novel is a good character study of a police officer trying to get his life straightened out. Officer Logan Taul is a flawed character. He'd left his wife and children and had become a belligerent law enforcer.

One night, after roughing up a teen for no reason other than trying to meet their self established quota of arrests, Logan sees himself as he really is. He goes to the police chief and bares all. Other policeman are incriminated too. Logan really wants to get his life back together but there are some on the force who want to see him fail miserably. It soon becomes apparent someone is framing him, ruining his reputation with the police force and alienating him from his family.

There is lots of action in this novel as Logan tries to defend his character and actions. In his attempt to get his life turned around, he tutors teens. The young people and others rally around Logan to help him when the future seems hopeless.

Logan is a flawed character, a little too flawed for me. He seemed a little dense for being a police officer, often missing important indications of what was going on. He was not a strong character in that he was not the persevering type. He seemed to stumble his way along.

My favorite character was the older woman in the records department. She made people think she did everything by hand when she was really a computer whiz. That might be a little unrealistic in modern police departments but it was a fun aspect of the novel.

As the novel opens, Logan is years behind in his child support. That seemed unrealistic to me. I am sure the police department would have done an extensive background check before he would have been hired. I think child services would have been able to track him down too.

I feel this is a good debut effort. It was a bit long. I would have preferred it being trimmed to the more standard length of around 320 pages. I was disappointed that, while Logan attended church, his faith did not have a very strong influence in his actions and did not sustain him when he needed it. Nonetheless, this is a good novel about a deeply flawed man trying to get his life together.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

J. Chris Richards has been writing as long as she can remember. This is her debut novel. She is the Young Adult Managing Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She has been a speaker at various writers' conferences and is the co-founder of WAY – Words and Youth Conferences, writing conferences for teenagers. Find out more at

Prism Book Group, 374 pages.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Resolved by Lina AbuJamra

We are facing an epidemic in the church today,” AbuJamra writes. “There is a deep disconnect between what Christians say we believe and how we live, and it's threatening to destroy us.” (12-13) What we need, she says, is resolve, biblical resolve that's “motivated by a changed life and transformed heart that longs to please and glorify God.” (15)

There are ten resolutions every believer must make, she says, to stand strong today. They are areas where we must decide whether we will live by the truth or not. She uses stories of Bible characters and from her own life to illustrate her principles.

Subjects about which readers are asked to resolve include belief about God and His goodness, receiving and giving God's love, obeying God even when it is not convenient, yielding rights to Jesus, speaking up for the gospel, giving cheerfully and not holding back, choosing to be in authentic community, practicing gratitude, living in hope knowing God is in control, and allowing the peace of Christ to rule the heart.

Abujamra writes, “If you're serious about changing your world for Christ, and if you're serious about living what you say you believe, then it's time to resolve to yield to God in every detail of your life – in the big things and the small.” (87) That goes for eating choices and television watching as much as a choice of career or spouse.

I think the important words in the above quote are “if you're serious.” If you are serious about your Christian life, this book will give you good teaching and encouragement to make these ten commitments and work at living them out. It involves radical choices. Unless you're ready to really carry through on them, this will just be another book you will put on your shelf. Unfortunately, there were no discussion questions included in the book as this would be a good book for a group study. After you buy the book, you can get a free DVD series and study guide at

You can find out more about the book, watch a book trailer, and follow her blog at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lina AbuJamra is a pediatric ER doctor and the founder of Living with Power Ministries. She has a popular blog, a podcast, hosts a program on Moody Radio, and has a speaking ministry that has taken her all over the world.

Baker Books, 224 pages.

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

I am not a fan of historical fiction but I have come to deeply respect Camden and the novels she writes. I was not disappointed in this novel, a well crafted one woven around actual historical events.

Romulus White is the editor and publisher of Scientific World, the most prestigious science magazine in the country. He has been following the work of Stella West, and excellent artist and illustrator. He planned to combine her ability and the latest developments in lithography to create a premiere magazine with full-color illustrations.

Stella has come to Boston to find out who killed her sister. Her sister had identified graft through her job at the Boston Transit Commission. Stella was sure the supposed accidental drowning was, in fact, a murder to prevent the truth from being made public. As Romulus tries to entice Stella to work for him, she plows forward in her investigation. She finally irritates the wrong people and her life is in danger.

I love learning from historical novels and this time it is about creating the subway for Boston. While a few European cities had subways, they were steam powered. The Boston subway would be the first electrical one. Camden tells us in her Note that there really was an explosion during the construction (as in the novel). While the project was delayed, it opened in 1897, seven years before the subway in New York City.

I also learned about stenography, the training and how the stenographic machines worked. I learned about different fonts used in printing and about the relatively new use of photography in police work. I also learned about the world of science magazine publishing in the late nineteenth century. Magazines about scientific discoveries are common now but were on the cutting edge then. The articles had to be approved by scientific experts to make sure they were accurate.

Camden has done an amazing amount of research to provide readers an entertaining novel woven through with historical knowledge. There is suspense and a hint of romance too. This book contains everything I demand in a rewarding historical novel.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Elizabeth Camden is the author of eight historical novels and two historical novellas. She has been honored with both the RITA and Christy Awards. With master's degrees in history and library science, she is a research librarian by day and writer by night. She and her husband live in Florida. You can find out more at

Bethany House, 352 pages.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Scatter by Andrew Scott

The historical model of missions is not working. The amount of money the church gives for missions is pathetic. “Americans spend more on Halloween costumes – for our pets – than we give to reaching the unreached in our world.” (11) Scott provides some snapshots of the unreached today that are heartbreaking.

We need to get a new picture, Scott argues. That division between “full-time” Christian workers and the rest of us needs to be retired. Every believer gets to be a “full-time” follower of Christ, bringing glory to God through our professions and other aspects of our life. Just like the early Christians were scattered, we are to scatter to permeate our society and the world.

What an encouraging book! We are encouraged to live our passion, to be who God created us to be. We might be a business owner. We might be an artist, a plumber, or a teacher. Whatever we do, whether it is out in society or in our home, we are to live for God's kingdom, not our own accumulation of wealth. Our life is centered on the purposes of God, pointing others to God's glory.

Scott asks, “What if an entire generation redirected their purpose away from the elusive and godless American dream?” (72) He includes inspiring stories of people who have done so. He encourages us by reminding us we were made in God's image and of our position in Christ, accepted and loved. He uses biblical examples and tells some great parables to illustrate his principles.

I highly recommend this book to those in church leadership. Scott has included a note to pastors and mission leaders. They are encouraged to accept a new paradigm and empower a generation to share the gospel with their coworkers and neighbors. Those of us sitting in the pews need encouragement from our leaders to do that.

There are a couple of thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter so this book could be used for a group or personal study.

You can find out more at

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Andrew Scott is the president and CEO of OM USA, part of a global mission movement working in 118 nations. He grew up in Northern Ireland. He and his family live in Tyrone, Georgia.

Moody Publishers, 224 pages.

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Between Pain and Grace by Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer

The authors have provided a biblical theology of suffering for pastors, ministry leaders, counselors, and others in church leadership. It is aimed at understanding our suffering based on biblical texts. It centers on what the Bible says about suffering well and helping others in their suffering.

There are some thought provoking issues in this book. The one that struck me with the most force is our lack of lament. There is no place for lament in our church services, even though a good percentage of those in the pews are suffering. The authors draw attention to "our dis-ease with engaging suffering in corporate worship." Expressions of pain and suffering are not welcome in church. We wear facades instead. This section of the book made me wonder how the church can engage misery and give voice to those suffering.

Another issue is the suffering of God. The authors investigate that concept and how an understanding of the suffering of God helps those who have known pain. I found their discussion of fear was interesting too, especially whether it is always a sin. We are reminded of Jesus' experience of fear in the garden. There is also a discussion of the role of anger and how it can be redemptive. An exploration of forgiveness is included too.

An insightful topic for me was the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is external and objective. It is a thing. Suffering is internal and subjective. It is an experience. Their discussion about the relationship of suffering to desires, goals, and sin was very enlightening.

This is a good book for pastors, counselors, and others who want to help people live through suffering with grace, maturity, patience, insight, and proper action. The authors have included great chapters on the dysfunctional family, sexual abuse and mental illness. It is rather academic in style (for example, writing about the “relational ecosystem” in Genesis). Lay people may find it a bit too academic. There are questions included at the end of each chapter so the book could be used as a study by a church or counseling staff.

I was raised in a denomination that was rather stoic. This book really helped me understand the necessity of giving voice to suffering. Silencing the voice only intensifies the suffering. I recommend this book to leaders, hoping others will also gain a glimpse of the importance of giving voice to the suffering. It is not a book to give to those in the midst of suffering, however.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gerald W. Peterman is a Bible professor at Moody Bible Institute and the director of the Biblical and Theological Studies program at Moody Theological Seminary. He and his wife have two adult daughters.
Andrew J. Schmutzer is Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute.

Moody Press, 352 pages.

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon

This is a delightful novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening intersection of two lives going in different directions. How they responded and how their lives changed forever, well, that's the fascinating plot of the novel.

Eric was back in Hope Harbor, his home town. He was there to lick his wounds and regroup. His drive to become a partner in a Portland law firm had come to a screeching halt because of “downsizing.” He had planned to take a few weeks to process this change and prepare to move on.

But his distracted driving caused him to crash into an older pickup, literally. The truck's owner, a female building contractor, was not happy. BJ bristled at Eric's apology. Eric registered the tension coming from her but he couldn't ignore the spark he felt inside. He was later surprised to run into BJ again, this time because she was the contractor on his dad's remodel.

It was fun to see how the lives of Eric and BJ intersected. Eric had to face the possibility of altering his life course. It was the course he had chosen fourteen years ago when he entered law school. BJ had serious hurts from her past she had to overcome to accept the possibility of love again.

Eric and BJ are not the only ones who steal the show. I loved Eleanor, an eighty-eight year old woman who has a giving heart. I loved Charley, the taco vendor who just may be an angel. His insight and advice match the supernatural events that seem to swirl around him. And I really liked Eric's dad. Long a widower, he was having the family home made into a B&B, finally fulfilling a youthful dream in his retirement years.

Although I did not see a discussion guide in the galley I read, there would be much to discuss. A serious issue is the relationship of career and quality of life. Is a high paying job better or is life in a small and serene coastal town? How does one know when altering one's life course is a good decision? When is a relationship more valuable than one's career?

I highly recommend this rewarding Christian romance. It is a great example of people finding meaning in life through what really matters. It is also an example of how God might use the loss of a job to redirect a person toward the life they had really wanted.

This is the second novel about Hope Harbor. You can read my review of the first one here. This novel reads well on its own but why miss the pleasure of reading the first one?

Food for thought: “ get the things we want most, we sometimes have to let go of things that aren't as important.”

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. She has a BA in psychology and an MA in journalism. She juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position to write full time. She and her husband live in Missouri. You can find out more at

Revell, 368 pages.

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