Monday, December 31, 2018

Code of Valor by Lynette Eason

I have mixed feelings about this novel. The plot is very complex. Emily is a crimes investigator with a bank. She suspects nefarious acts and tells her friend, a newspaper reporter. The reporter goes missing and Emily survives a kidnapping and murder attempt, thanks to Brady St. John. The complex plot is off and running.

Emily supposedly has some information the bad guys want. She doesn't know what it is and when she does become aware of it she does not know its significance. Readers are kept in the dark about the villain, his identity deliberately obscured so we wonder if we would know who he is if his name was used. Then the plot gets even more complex when someone trying to kill Emily is himself killed. So there are two groups of people after her, one wanting her dead while the other wants her alive?

One aspect of a novel I cannot tolerate is suspense caused by the stupidity of a main character. It happens here. Emily leaves secured protection, even after there had been several attempts on her life, even when she promised Brady she would stay there. It was no surprise to me that she was soon in danger. I like it when an author figures out a clever way to build suspense, not at the expense of the stupidity of the main character. Emily had seemed resilient to me and that she would make such a stupid move, especially after being rescued from near death several times, just irritated me.

I was also disappointed that Brady became very open and expressive about his growing affection for Emily. Granted, he is technically on vacation, but he has been protecting her in an official capacity. That he would be so emotionally involved with a woman he is protecting did not seem very professional at all.

Readers who like a romantic suspense novel with a very complex plot and don't mind the issues I mentioned above will like this novel.

You can download an excerpt here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunion series, and the Hidden Identity series and the Elite Guardian series. She is the winner of two ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and lives in South Carolina. You can find out more at Photo © Mary Denman

Revell, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano

I am not a fan of historical fiction but I never miss a chance to read a novel from Turano. I love the wit and humor and the snappy dialogue. I think I have read most of her novels and this may be the best one yet.

What might happen when Isadora, a young heiress to her family's wealth, flees New York society to escape the the advances of a truly lecherous duke from England? Helped by a butler, she manages to travel to rural Pennsylvania to secure a job as a … housekeeper.

Turano has the amazing ability to include wit, humor, and snappy dialogue in a great plot. I laughed out loud. But this is also a sort of coming of age novel. Isadora had been raised with wealth and now is faced with seeing how some people must live without such privilege. She also experiences the warmth and friendship in a small community foreign to her life in high society.

I like that Turano has included some other issues of the time, such as the conditions mill workers endured. It was a time of wealth building for some at the expense of many others.

I highly recommend this novel. You'll get a bit of romance, a good dose of humor, and a thoughtful exploration of one young privileged woman finding out what is really important in life.

You can download an except here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jen Turano is the USA Today bestselling author of eleven books and two novellas. She has a degree in clothing and textiles from the University of Akron. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. You can find out more at www.jenturano.comSara Karam Photography

Bethany House, 368 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

True You by Michelle DuRusha

We know that God has created each one of us to be a unique individual. Sometimes, however, the pressure to conform or be who someone else wants us to be is great. Perhaps there are parts of us we don't like so we stay so crazy busy we don't have time to think about our true self.

DeRusha takes readers on a very personal journey of peeling away the layers, revealing the true person God created her to be. While sharing her own experiences, she helps us understand the process she went through, giving us specific steps.

She likens the entire process to that of tree pruning. First comes observation. As one must first spend some time observing the nature of the tree, so we must observe and reflect. She suggests directed rest, a time of resting in a self-reflective state. She gives specific training in the technique in an Appendix. Next comes the intensive task of identifying our false identity. We must acknowledge that we're broken and develop a true desire to get well. Through personal example, biblical truth and helpful suggestions, DeRusha continues describing the process of pruning for shaping, allowing for new growth in the best direction. The process will not be entirely pleasant as she shows from her own “dark night of the soul” experience.

I really like this book. DeRusha is very honest and open in her experiences – a good thing since her book is about personal truth and authenticity. I like that she gives several questions at the end of each chapter for reflection. Keeping a journal handy while reading the book would be a good idea. The book is easy to follow and is full of good teaching.

I recommend this book to Christians who would like to peel away the layers and discover the unique person within. DeRusha's experience is good encouragement along the journey, as is her teaching.

Food for thought: “We cannot begin to know ourselves until we allow silence and solitude into our lives.” (Loc. 375/2776)

You can download an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Michelle DeRusha is the author of several books including Katherine and Martin Luther, a finalist in the Memoir/Biography category for the 2018 Christian Book Awards. She publishes a monthly column on religion and spirituality for the Lincoln Journal Star and writes about faith every day on her blog, She lives with her husband and their two boys in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Baker Books, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Morning and Evening Prayerbook ed. by Jeanie and David Gushee

We Christians know prayer is important. Our lives are to be marked by prayer. Yet is is often the most difficult spiritual discipline some of us experience. Knowing how believers in different Christian traditions have prayed over the centuries is a good way to help us know how to shape our prayers.

I really appreciate this collection of prayers. I understand they are not to replace my prayers but rather to be a springboard, inspiring me to pray as Christians have done for centuries. I like that the prayers are grouped around the liturgical year.

Some readers may be put off by the archaic language in older prayers. I found the use of “Thee” and “Thou” was a good way of reminding me how reverence for God was expressed in times past.

Perhaps my favorite prayer is on February 15 from The Exeter Book dated around 950.

Give me, O Lord,
patience and a sense of purpose in each
of the things which You send to beset me... (p. 49)

The prayer goes on to ask for protection but I love that it reminds me to first seek God's purpose in what is happening in my life, even the events that beset me. The prayer also reminds me to fix my hope on God and to lift my thoughts to Him.

That's an example of why I like this prayer book. It takes me out of the frequent shallowness of contemporary Christian spirituality and firmly places me in the deeper prayers of earlier believers.

I highly recommend this prayer book to those who would like to be exposed to the thoughtful prayers of Christians from around the world, from different Christian traditions and from believers of earlier times.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jeanie Gushee is a published poet with a BA in English literature from the College of William and Mary.
David Gushee, PhD, is a Christian ethicist who serves as distinguished university professor of Christian ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. He and his wife live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Thomas Nelson, 400 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Sola by James K Allen, et al

The five solas are an essential aspect of the Protestant church. They are a foundation for the church, the authors say, and life giving for believers. This book covers all five and is a good introduction to them. The historical setting of each sola is given and then what they mean for the Christian life.

Each sola is written about by a different author. As is often the case with multiple authors, the writing style and emphasis differs among them. Jason Allen covered Scripture alone. He used 2 Tim. 3:15-17 to show the inspired nature of Scripture and that it is authoritative. I felt he failed to prove that it is our only source of authoritative truth.

Jared Wilson wrote about grace alone. He spent quite a bit of time on Scripture alone and faith alone, almost as much as he did on grace alone. I have found Wilson at times hard to follow. He wrote, “Salvation is all of grace. It's not turtles all the way down, it's grace!” (Loc. 363/1201) What? Turtles? I even read the previous paragraphs to understand the turtle reference. Nothing. (I guess I should have read Green's novel to understand Wilson's theology.)

Jason Duesing wrote about faith alone. He spent quite a bit of time relating Luther's story, how he became a monk and had a conversion experience. Mathew Barrett wrote on Christ alone. He went into the Roman Catholic view in detail. Owen Strachen wrote on God's glory alone. I found his writing to be the most encouraging and full of application, including a good section on suffering.

I recommend this book to Christians who want to know a bit about the solas. The work is not very theologically deep nor very rigorous.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Jason Allen is the president of Midwestern Baptist Seminary. He has served as pastor and interim pastor of Southern Baptist churches over the past fifteen years. You can find out more at Jared Wilson is the Director of Content for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Managing Editor of For The Church, and Director if The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City. You can find out more at Jason Duesing is the academic Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He had previously been at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matthew Barrett is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine and is host of the Credo podcast. He is the author of numerous books. Owen Strachan is Associate Professor of Christian Theology as Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Director of The Center for Public Theology, and Director of the residency PhD program. He is the author of several book and numerous articles.

Moody Publishers, 144 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Reluctant Disciple by Jim O'Shea

I liked this end times novel. O'Shea has given readers a different take on a familiar subject. Prophecy suggests there might be increased supernatural activity in the end times. Woven into this narrative are UFOs, aliens, and demons. They all come together to set the stage for an evil world leader and peacemaker.

O'Shea did a good job of revealing the role of humans in the end time activities. An unusual concept in the novel is people disappearing one at a time over months rather than a mass exit of people in a secret rapture. As one of the characters says, there is nothing in Scripture saying all those gathered up are done so at one time. It was also interesting to see how media people might be involved in spreading the news as the time nears for the Antichrist to be revealed.

Christians know how odd end times prophecies sound to others and that is well portrayed here. Very few people have insight into what is really happening in the spiritual realm. Even many spiritual leaders are deceived. Trying to enlighten others as to what is really happening is a nearly impossible task.

I recommend this novel to readers who would appreciate some new ideals on how the end time prophecies might come to pass. O'Shea has been clever in identifying the ten horns in Revelation, for example. That is just one new and interesting idea in this good end times novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jim O'Shea is a graduate of the University of Missouri and traveled the world for twenty-five years in the computer software industry. He now writes novels that tackle the complex relationship between science and faith. He lives in Wildwood, Missouri. You can find out more at

Ambassador International, 308 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through BookCrash. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Your Future Self Will Thank You by Drew Dyck

I knew self-control was important. I knew I needed more of it. Reading this book helped me understand why it is so important and also gave me the information I needed to strengthen that discipline in my own life.

I also knew self-control was one of the fruit of the Spirit. Here I found out Thomas Aquinas identified it as the foundational virtue. None of the other virtues could be developed without it. (Loc. 95/2515) I realized self-control is more important that I ever thought.

Dyck helped me understand how to develop self-control. I hadn't really thought of it as surrender. He defines self-control as “the ability to do the right thing, even when you don't feel like it.” (Loc. 299/2515) God knows what is right for us so surrender to His guidance and empowerment is essential. I now know self-control cannot be truly developed apart from God. I also found out why having the knowledge is not enough to produce action. I also learned about the importance of habits.

Dyck helped me understand why I have more willpower at certain times of the day (morning). He helped me recognize those situations that deplete willpower and what I can do to build up and replenish it. I also found out that purpose is very important in motivation and what better purpose could there be than loving God and loving others? And self-control gives us thee freedom to do that.

As you are liberated from the tyranny of self, you're able to experience God's best for your life.” (Loc. 307/2515)

I highly recommend this book if you want to understand the importance of self-control and how to develop it. Dyck has done an excellent job of combining insights from the Bible, brain science and his own experiences.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Drew Dyck (M.A. Theology) is an editor at Moody Publishers and the former managing editor of Leadership Journal. His work has been featured in several publications and he is the author of two previous books. He and his wife and their three children live near Portland, Oregon. You can find out more at

Moody Publishers, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

What a Great Word by Karen Moore

Being in the Word every day is a good thing but we sometimes need a little help. A good devotional is often the help we need. And this is a good one. I really like it.

The format of the devotional is traditional in that it has a Scripture, a devotion, and a prayer. The devotions are more specific than I have seen in other books. Moore will take one word in the passage and develop a good teaching on it. The devotions are not little feel good comments but are rather like short sermons. They encourage readers to be serious about their walk with the Lord, often making a practical suggestion for action that day.

The Scripture passages Moore has chosen are not the typical promises devotional writers love to use. The verse might be a warning like July 10 where Romans 16:16-17 tells us to look out for people who stir up discontent and intentionally provoke people to chose sides. (192) The passage might be a command like the one for March 13, Philippians 4:8 admonishing what we are to think about. (73)

An added feature of this devotional is an index of topics included. If a reader had a particular need in mind, an appropriate topic could be easily found and read.

I highly recommend this devotional. Even if you have read many devotionals you will find this one uses unusual Scripture passages and includes clear and encouraging teaching.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Karen Moore is the bestselling author of more than 100 books. She teaches at writing conferences and is a keynote speaker for conference events and women's groups. She has also worked in the greeting card industry, as a product development specialist, and as a book publisher. She is currently working on screenplays for television and movies. She is married and lives in Richmond Hill, Georgia. (Photo: Lori Hall)

FaithWords, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Real Change by Andrew Nicholls and Helen Thorne

This is a six week study based on a model of change developed by David Powlison for a CCEF course. We have pressures and we can respond to them in two ways. One is a self-focused God dishonoring way reaping negative consequences. The other is a God honoring way. The course aims to help us allow the Spirit to bring us to repentance and change our hearts so that our response to the pressures of life are God honoring, producing good fruit and reaping positive consequences.

There is a Three Trees diagram describing the model and each lesson deals with one of the parts of the diagram. The lessons rely heavily on the diagram and the model. This is not a study of spiritual growth or change in general. It is specifically dealing with the model and the diagram.

The format of the lessons includes lots of reading, discussing, and writing. The amount of text to read is more than I have generally seen in a study like this. Participants are encouraged to discuss the material and answers to questions with one person, rather than in a group. The authors note that self reflection is an important part of the process of change. (Loc. 62/1452) They encourage participants to journal and there is a great for participants to write about. This study would be appreciated by people who like to read lots and write lots.

The first half of the book is the study while the second half is a leader's guide. It is very detailed, suggesting five minutes of discussion here, ten minutes on this topic there. The information in the leader's guide is quite informative, making me think this study would be most effective in a group setting with a leader and not by someone trying to do it on their own. Also, the leader's guide is so detailed that someone new to leading a group would find it very useful.

This study might be most useful for relatively new Christians. It is also quite focused on decisions we make and how they relate to our growth. 

You can read a sample here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Andrew Nicholls, MA, MB, BChir, is a former doctor and pastor who is now Director of Pastoral Care at Oak Hill Theological College, London.
Helen Thorne, Bsc(Hons), MA is the Director of Training and Mentoring at London City Mission. She is a trustee of Biblical Counselling UK and involved in pastoral ministry within her local church.
David Powlison, MDiv, PhD, serves as CCEF's executive director, as a faculty member, and as senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling.

New Growth Press, 32 pages of study and about the same for the leader's guide.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Lonesome Wolf by Lanna Webb

I liked this historical Christian romance. It is set in Texas shortly after the Civil War. It was a time when feelings toward Indians were mixed. A wandering Cherokee saves a young widow and her baby from an Apache attack. Both experience the beginnings of romantic attraction. He decides to stay for a while and help on her ranch. There is the potential for serious romance but the obstacles are many.

Webb has done a good job of taking readers into the setting. It was a tough time for women in the frontier, especially one who had lost her husband. And it was a hard time for an Indian who had lost his family, found Christ as savior, but had not yet found a place to call home.

I like that Webb adds to the romance aspect by giving readers a taste of the culture of the time. Women were pushed into marriages for protection or other reasons, not for love. Male family members thought they needed to control the future of women. It was also a time of prejudice toward Indians, even Christians.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a good historical Christian romance. You'll get a good romance with a taste of frontier Texas. You'll be confronted with a taste of prejudice too.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lanna Webb has a Master's in Educational Leadership from LeTourneau and teaches English to high school students. She lives in Texas with her husband and two children. You can find out more at

Dabar Publishing, 339 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

There are many risks a new U.S. presidential administration faces. Perhaps the most important one is the fifth one mentioned to Lewis by a previous government employee: “Project management.” (69) Not being organized and prepared for the risks may be the greatest risk of all.

Lewis explores the important work of a few government agencies and how it has been bungled under the current administration. He identifies appointees with a lack of any experience, such as science, for the position they are filling. A good example is a man with a degree in public relations tapped to be the USDA chief scientist. (112)

Lewis writes about the lack of preparation for the transition. Department personnel ready to brief new appointees waited days and weeks but no one showed up. Departments were left without capable leadership. There was willful ignorance of science. There were actions motivated by politics and no concern for the welfare of American citizens. Public data about weather and climate were suppressed so a private company could profit.

I recommend this book to any who want to know what is going on in the current administration. Rather, what should be going on and isn't.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Michael Lewis is the bestselling author of several books. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.

W. W. Norton & Company, 256 pages.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz

This is the third novel I have read featuring Orphan X, Evan. He is quite the super hero with amazing combat skills. He, along several others, had been taken out orphanages as children and trained as assassins for a dark US government organization. But now something has gone terribly wrong. The orphans are being killed. Even Evan's beloved mentor is taken out. Will Orphan X survive the purge?

Evan's mentor had once said that the hard part was not being a killer but was remaining human. This novel explores the humanity of Orphan X. He had been a killing machine, doing the government's dirty work. His mentor's dying wish was to protect a recent recruit, a sixteen year old girl, Joey.

It was interesting to see the struggle Evan faced trying to be somewhat human toward the girl with comfort and assurance, yet remaining the top notch operative he is. She is a very interesting character, an amazing computer hacker with a huge chip on her shoulder.

There is a secondary plot to keep readers interested in all that is going on in Evan's life. When he left the orphan program and went underground, he decided to help people who were beyond help from normal resources. This time he helps a desperate father try to get his son out of a horrible gang.

I recommend this book to readers who love a larger than life hero who manages to get himself out of seemingly impossible situations. There is lots of computer talk, special weapons and moves I didn't even know the body could make. A warning to queasy readers, there is description of some pretty terrible torture.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of more than fifteen novels. He is a successful comic book writer, has written screenplays and written and produced television programs. He lives in Los Angeles.

Minotaur Books, 412 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

I have read most of the novels from Kellerman featuring Peter Decker. The upstate New York setting for Decker's police adventures is certainly a change from the bustle of Los Angeles. A current murder draws Decker to investigate murders from twenty years ago.

The plot is quite complex as there are many characters involved and a number of crimes. The plot is so complex that it takes quite a bit of explaining at the end. I am not so sure it all works out. The end leaves some loose threads, not in anticipation of a sequel but just because there were still so many unanswered questions.

It is interesting to see Decker in a more rural setting, trying to maneuver his way through the adjacent small town police force. He is saddled with the daughter of the nearby sheriff. I liked her as a character but her heroic actions were a bit over the top. I had hoped she might be featured in future novels but it looks like it is not to be.

I have appreciated the Decker novels but just do not feel this one was up to Kellerman's usual quality.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Faye Kellerman is the author of over twenty-five novels. She lives in Los Angeles and SanteFe. (Photo: Michael Frost Photography)

William Morrow, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Goldin has given readers a novel of slow building suspense around the inner workings of a high power investment banking firm. The narrative points of view alternate between first person Sara, a new hire at the firm, and a universal view of others already working there. We know from a prologue that there is some suspense in the end. The narratives, however, go back in time. Sara's narrative goes back to when she was hired and progresses a few years from there. The universal narrative goes back only a few days to when four of those who had worked longer in the company were told to participate in an elevator escape room exercise. That exercise goes terribly wrong.

The double narratives with different time periods may sound confusing but it does work out pretty well. We know from those experiencing the escape room that by their time Sara was “gone” but not forgotten. In reading Sara's narrative then, we anticipate some kind of trouble. In reading the escape room narrative, we know from the prologue it ends in disaster. The suspense in the novel is mostly psychological as we find out how the prologue comes to pass.

This novel is a good character driven story revealing the pressure and danger of working for a cut throat firm. Designing acquisitions, takeovers, and selloffs can be brutal, exhausting and dangerous. Decisions are made with only profit in mind and not what happens to workers who may lose their jobs. There is stiff competition within the firm as people work toward advancement. Murder is not out of the question.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a character driven novel revolving around individual greed in high finance corporations.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Megan Goldin reported from the Middle East for the Associated Press, Reuters, and the ABC. During nearly two decades as a journalist, she wrote about war, peace, and international terrorism. After traveling and living all over the world, she resides in Australia with her husband and three sons. (Photo author's private collection)

St. Martin's Press, 352 pages. This novel releases August 2019.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.