Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Love Most Worthy by Sandra Ardoin

I am impressed with this Christian romantic novella. I usually don't read novellas as I generally find them unrealistic or rushed. This one was great. The pacing of the story was very good. The characters were developed well and the plot was good.

The story is of the mail order bride variety. The location is Nome, Alaska at the end of the nineteenth century, during the gold rush. Rance needs a woman to care for his nephews after their parents died. Hallie arrives from Seattle to marry a man she does not know. It is to be a marriage in name only, she finds, isolated in her own bedroom. The boys need a woman to care for them and Rance is determined to shutter his heart against potential love. We wonder if Hallie will ever win him over.

I liked the setting and learned quite a bit about the gold rush. Ardoin does well in description. I almost felt the wind and pelting rain during a devastating storm. I liked the supporting characters too, especially the craggy but kind older miners. There is a little bit of humor in the story and a smattering of suspense.

I recommend this novella to readers who would enjoy a good story that can be read of an evening.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Sandra Ardoin is the author of the novella, The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Her short stories have been published in several publications and her light verse has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. You can find out more at

Amazon Digital Services LLC, about 105 pages.

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

Crucible by James Rollins

I came upon Rollins' novels by accident and I am glad I did. I find his novels to be a good combination of cutting edge scientific research and intense suspense. This novel fits that description well. The cutting edge science is artificial intelligence. The suspense is nearly continuous as the world as we know it might be destroyed.

Another aspect of Rollins' novels I like is that it includes Christian overtones. The AI being created is named Eve. There is the theme of a created being being introduced to evil and mortality. There are secret religious societies and priests battling each other. There is the concept of witches and those wrongly identified as such.

I like that Rollins includes information at the end of the book that helps us identify where he has included actual scientific discoveries and where he has embellished or imagined a near future using that science. I was amazed at the brain treatment and the note that what appears in the novel is backed by real medical science. Rollins even names articles we can read on it.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy novels of international suspense with advanced scientific applications featured prominently. The only aspect of the book I did not like was that I felt it was too long. I did get a little weary of the suspenseful plot at times.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

James Rollins is the author of the bestselling Sigma Force series as well as other series and the novelization of an Indiana Jones movie. Crucible is the fourteenth Sigma Force Adventure. You can find out more at

William Morrow, 480 pages.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Wright has crafted an emotion packed character driven mystery that combines a contemporary story with one over a century ago.

In the contemporary story, Heidi visits her older sister and institutionalized mother in Pleasant Valley after receiving a letter from her mother. She is shocked to see an old photo of a woman who looks just like her. Relationships are strained as Heidi tries to find out who that woman was and why there is an uncanny resemblance.

In the historical story, Thea visits Pleasant Valley to find information about her unknown parents. Left at an orphanage as a child, she has a few clues that lead her to an insane asylum and the unraveling of mysteries.

I like how Wright develops the stories in parallel, uncovering mysteries as both stories progress. There are secrets from their pasts that endanger both women.

There are several issues Wright touches upon in this novel. Heidi, with an anxiety disorder, had been misdiagnosed as a child. Her parents would not accept her behavior and did not seek professional help for her. She had coped as well as she knew how but alienated people in the process.

Another issue is how mental patients were treated in the past. Yet another issue deals with ancestors. What impact do the character and actions of ancestors have on people?

Wright has a way of writing that drew me into the action. When Thea went into a cold room, the way the scene was written, I shivered. And there are eerie happenings going on in both stories. Christians don't believe in ghosts or haunting, but something very odd is going on and Wright's great writing style made it very intense.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a well crafted one narrating two stories with similar threads running through them. Many scenes are full of intense emotion and mystery. There is a group discussion guide included and I could imagine a great discussion over this book at a reading group.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jaime Jo Wright is the Christy Award-Winning author of The House on Foster Hill. She is also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. She works as a human resources director in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publisher, 380 pages.

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

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Lost Art of Relationship by Dan Chrystal Blog Tour

About the Book

Title: The Lost Art of Relationship  
Author: Dan Chrystal  
Genre: Christian non-fiction, Christian living  
Release date: October 15, 2018

Relationship is a journey of discovery—a lost art. In this generation, it has become challenging to deepen and grow personal relationships with each other. Our technology-flooded environment has left many with limited relational experience and a fear of face-to-face connection and meeting new people. The church has done a decent job of helping people understand the need and importance of a relationship with God, but what about with each other? At the heart of every man, woman, and child is the need for connection—for relationships with people who love them for who they are. In The Lost Art of Relationship, Dan Chrystal tackles the heart of relationship based on the time-honored instruction to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But what does that mean? How do we live out this odd instruction? Who is my neighbor, anyway? What makes relationships healthy, and what makes them fail? Through Dan’s personal stories and difficult life lessons, readers will come away encouraged, inspired, and motivated to love the people in their life more fully. If you desire deep and meaningful connections, now is the time to discover the lost art of relationship.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

I like how Chrystal reminds us that relationships are part of that abundant life God promised. God designed us for relationship. He put us here to influence and impact others. But we must be intentional about relationships as they will not just happen without effort.

I like how he has arranged the book. He informs us of what make the foundation for stable relationships of all kinds. He identifies obstacles, those things holding us back, and helps us overcome them. He also gives the building blocks of establishing good relationships, like trust, honest, humility and more.

Chrystal is very open and shares many of his own experiences. He frequently illustrations principles with a good story from his own life. He is also very practical and gives suggested questions to ask when starting a relationship, for example.

I recommend this book to any reader who is interested in what makes up good relationships and how to form them. This would also be a good book for parents to read along with their teens as it contains great information necessary for relationships in a world dominated by social media.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Dan Chrystal has over twenty-three years of ministry and relationship experience. He serves as a pastor for Bayside Church Granite Bay, under the dynamic leadership of founding pastor, Ray Johnston. Dan is a vibrant speaker and a dedicated life, career, and couple’s coach. He holds an MBA in executive leadership from Kaplan University (now Purdue Global University) and is currently studying law at Concord Law School. His extensive ministry background has taken him all over the country, from the east coast to the west, where he has served in varying capacities, including Lead Pastor, Administrative Pastor, Associate Pastor, Worship Leader, and Youth Pastor. An avid student of relationship, Dan is passionate about helping others to love their neighbors as themselves.
“Choose a good reputation over great riches.” (Proverbs 22:1)

Guest post from Dan

For two years, I experienced what many would call a “wilderness experience.” I truly felt forgotten. I had spent twenty years in various aspects of church work having met and coached hundreds of people, and I still felt like I didn’t truly understand why I was put on this earth. I have moved nine times in my adult life. Everywhere I’ve lived, I had to start over—at work, home, schools for kids, and especially in relationship with others. The last move was different. This time I was no longer looking to connect simply for the sake of connecting. There was a purpose for connection that was brewing inside me. That purpose became the driving force of my life and remains that way today. In fact, it consumes my thought life, relationships, ministry, and every aspect of what I do, think, and say. Connecting with others has been a part of my life wherever I have gone. This came from watching my mom over many years meet, talk to, and befriend hundreds of people. At her funeral, I had just about that many tell me “thank you” for allowing my mom to be a part of their lives—how she encouraged them and truly got to know them for who they are. During my two-year “wilderness” period, there was a realization that over all the moves, restarts, connections, coffee appointments, coaching, lunches, and dinners with people, I was learning the essence of what I believe we are called, or actually commanded, to do by Jesus. Such a simple sentence, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” However, it is one of the most difficult things to live out every day. Let’s face it; relationships are messy. They can be downright frustrating at times, but they are a necessary part of life, and the second most important thing to God. I am by no means an “expert” in relationship. I am and always will be a student of it. I have watched relationships thrive, survive, and some fall away. There are so many divisions that come between us, and during those two years of struggling with my purpose, it became clear—God has designed, purposed, and prepared me to help others discover what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. I am not perfect at this. As a matter of fact, I struggle—sometimes daily. That is what sparked the writing of this book. I have found there is an art to relationship. For most, it is a lost art, one that can be rediscovered. I would love it if you would join me in discovering The Lost Art of Relationship.

Blog Stops

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Secrets at Cedar Cabin by Colleen Coble

This is the third full length novel in The Lavender Tides series but reads well on its own. I enjoyed it. Coble has done a great job of combining mystery, romance, and suspense. And what could be better than the location, the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

Readers of the series will be familiar with some of the major characters from previous Lavender Tides novels but the main character is a transplant from the Midwest. How Bailey ends up in the town is a bit convoluted, involving the murder of her mother and the bigamist she thought was her husband giving her the deed to a cabin in Washington. When there is an attempt on her life, she escapes to the only place she thinks might be safe. There is plenty of action in the novel as Coble peels away lies and deceit layer by layer. In the end, Bailey ending up in Lavender Tides does not seem as unreasonable as it did initially.

A major aspect of the novel is sex trafficking. That is hard to read about although Coble does well with it. Lance, the FBI agent looking into the trafficking, meets Bailey and after a rough start, romance blossoms. He has a personal interest in his investigation as his sister has been missing and is presumed to be held captive.

There is a good amount of suspense in the novel, especially near the end. The characters are crafted well. Bailey is a brave character and is at times more innovative than the FBI agents.

One area Coble does not deal with is the psychological issues women face after having been forced into sex trafficking. I wish she would have highlighted the work such women might have to go through to be emotionally and spiritually healthy again. She does include a serious warning to teens through the experience of a character tempted by a predator on social media.

I do wish Coble had added more description of the area with the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and the majestic Olympic Mountains to the south. But then I'm a Washingtonian who can see the location of the novel with just a short drive from my house (view shown here).

I do recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a somewhat complicated plot with lies that are slowly revealed and including plenty of suspense. A good discussion guide is included.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: The View From Rainshadow Bay and The House at Saltwater Point.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Colleen Coble is a best-selling author of several novels. Her works have won or finaled in several awards, including ACFW Carol Award, RWA's RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and more. She has over two million books in print. She and her husband live in Indiana and enjoy time with their grandchildren. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 352 pages.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Atoning for Ashes by Kaitlin Covel

I generally enjoyed this historical Christian romance. I am not a fan of romance novels but this one had enough interesting aspects to it that it kept my interest. It was an era in England when young women could dream of marrying for love. Sometimes they were required by parents to marry for financial security or to ensure a family lineage. That's what happened to Josie. Her father had arranged a marriage to help alleviate his debts. When her older sister refused the arranged marriage, Josie agreed to do it. But Charles, the wealthy man she has agreed to marry, is a deeply wounded man. We wonder if Josie will be able to break through the wall Charles has created and find the lovable man within.

Covel has crafted a pretty good novel for a debut effort. She has included important themes, such as honesty, forgiveness and trust. On the other side are deceit, treachery and vengeance. There are a few violent scenes making this novel not appropriate for youth readers. My favorite aspect of the novel is how the characters grow in their faith, especially Charles. The presence of Christianity is very strong in the novel but is also very natural to the characters and their experiences. That was refreshing to experience.

A typical romance plot line is boy meets girl, there is are obstacles to their romance, obstacles are overcome and they live happily every after. There are several obstacles in this plot. The main one seemed to be Charles' character. He is sometimes an angry man, often drinking to excess. The relationship between Josie and Charles was turbulent. It seemed to me, however, that this obstacle then overcoming the obstacle aspect of the plot was repetitive. There would be a confrontation and Charles would then appear somewhat loving. But a scene soon after had him back to being angry hurting man again. He would become somewhat loving but then repeat the pattern. I would have appreciated the novel more if some of those similar scenes had been cut.

I do recommend this novel to readers who like historical Christian romance. There is a good bit of suspense included. There are lessons on forgiveness and trust and faithfulness. The Christian message is clear and woven well into the plot.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kaitlin Covel is a certified Nutritional Therapy Technician. Her passion is writing, both fiction and nonfiction. She had written her first novella at age 12 and completed a novel at age 16, stashing it in a drawer. Atoning for Ashes is her first published novel. She lives with her family in Maine. You can find out more at

Deep River Books, 320 pages.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher Blog Tour

About the Book:
For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

Click here to read an excerpt.

You can purchase the book here.

My Review:

I enjoyed this Christian romance that combined a contemporary story with one from the Great Depression. Heritage and a Bible tie the two stories together. I like how Hatcher has woven the theme of forgiveness into both stories. Jessica and her great-grandfather had the opportunity to forgive unfaithfulness in marriage. Ridley faced forgiving the one who had ruined his career. The Christian message of forgiveness is strong and well presented in the novel.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a good character driven Christian romance containing a clear message of forgiveness and trust. It is a gentle read with no suspense and no surprises.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:                

Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Read With Audra. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Flourish by Lydia Brownback

It has been a while since a book has impacted me as much as this one has. Brownback takes much of the self centered nature of what is popular in Christian culture today and sets us straight. In a time when self (self care, self improvement, self indulgence) is the focus, Brownback takes us back to the gospel.

Her teaching penetrates to the very heart of why we Christians do what we do. Are we pursuing personal change to enrich our walk with Christ or are we just dissatisfied with ourselves? (266/1142) Are we living for our own pleasures or for the pleasure of God's presence? (464/1142) Are we focusing on what makes us happy or what glorifies God? We cannot live for earthbound appetites and live for Christ. (536/1142)

Brownback calls us to leave behind the self improvement trap (the old self is dead, after all) and move to Christ centered goals and priorities. She reminds us of Col. 3:1-4 and encourages us to first seek things above, making God's priorities our priorities, and set our minds on Christ and life in God's kingdom.

This book has really made an impression on me. I was struck by her calling us away from a self centered culture – even within Christianity. We are not here to maximize our personal potential but to become more Christlike and kingdom focused. (576/1142)

I highly recommend this book. Brownback has included a six week study guide with daily questions for reflection. This would be a great book for a women's study but would work very well for individual use too.

If you read this book, I think you will be challenged to rethink your life and your focus. I was.

Food for thought: “...happiness comes not from being thought well of but by thinking less of ourselves altogether.” (133/1142)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Lydia Brownback (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the author of several books and is a speaker at women's conferences around the world.

Crossway, 144 pages. This book releases January 31.

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

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Meeting God Face to Face by Bill Johnson

I had hoped this would be a devotional to help me seek and be in God's presence this year. Johnson says in his introduction that he wrote this devotional to stir up our desire to be close to God. (vii)

He starts out well. He reminds readers of the cost of seeking God's face – everything. The supernatural reality of God's presence may mean we lose our dignity or respectability. I was encouraged when I read, “Ministry to God is the most important responsibility of all, and it is available to every believer.” (10)

Johnson did not stay long on the subject of seeking God's presence or ministering to Him, however. He moved quickly from being in God's presence to doing something as a result of it. By day 65, “God's favor rests upon us when we are being and doing that which He created us in His wisdom to be and do.” (65) Being in God's presence is not an end in itself but a means to use God's power in ministry, in areas of influence and for completing God's assignments. He does return from time to time to choosing the main thing, knowing and loving God. (71) But he seems to quickly return to “what we've been given to do in life...” (73) Even God's grace, favor, “always goes with an assignment.” (90) I was disappointed that Johnson described the face of God as “the ultimate place of favor and responsibility.” (176) What happened to intimate relationship and deep communion?

I was disappointed that there was not much instruction on how to actually enter into God's presence and develop the habit of meeting Him face to face. Johnson writes on Day 136, “What will it take for you to truly count the cost, step out of your comfort zone, and boldly enter God's presence?” (136) But the succeeding days return to more about our assignment rather than how to enter into God's presence. (141) Even the baptism in the Spirit is not something to deepen our relationship with God but to be filled with His power to demonstrate the life of Jesus to the world and affect the course of world history. (147,148)

If you are looking for a devotional to help you experience God's presence, perhaps by prayer or meditating on His word, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a book that is more about walking out that relationship, such as the choices we make and the assignments we are given, this is a good one. (78)

My rating: 3/5 stars, mainly because the title does not reflect the content of the book.

Bill Johnson and his wife are Senior Leaders at Bethel Church in Redding, California. He is a well known international speaker and is the author of several books. You can find out more at

Charisma House, 384 pages.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive by Jonathan Walton

This was a hard book for me to read. Not because of the author's writing style, that was fine. It was because of the subject matter. I am a white female evangelical Christian. I was shocked by the honesty of Walton's thoughts and feelings about the United States and its previous and current political leaders. Reading this book may be the closest I'll ever get to understanding the experiences of an Ivy League educated black Christian in America.

One of the lies Walton identifies is saying the United State is a Christian nation. He does a great job of showing that many actions taken by national leaders in the past and now are not “Christian” by any means. He also points out that calling the United States a Christian nation neutralizes the only people actually capable of critiquing the nation – followers of Jesus. (Loc. 451/2867) Christians have exchanged the mantle of truth and justice for the mantle of political power and have compromised their integrity.

And that is only the first lie. Another is identifying the slaves brought here against their will as “immigrants.” (Ben Carson's first address to federal workers, March 6, 2017.) (Loc 471/2867) Other lies he identifies include that we are a great democracy, that we are the land of the free and the brave, that America is the greatest nation on earth, and more.

Walton is not afraid to name irresponsible Christian leaders who have bowed to political power at the expense of their faithfulness to the gospel. He is not afraid to point out where the church has denied the Savior for the gain of worldly power and influence. He calls Christians to task for promoting what he calls white American folk religion, a far cry from true Christianity.

I highly recommend this hard hitting book. I must say I did not understand all of it. Walton's experiences and thoughts are so very different from mine. I did not agree with everything he said. However, I did see the United States through another person's eyes, a valuable experience indeed.

It would be a great book for a group study. Walton has included questions for discussion or personal reflection at the end of each chapter. He also includes a number of exercises for further reflection and action in Appendixes. You must be willing to have your eyes opened to the truth of what has happened and is happening in the United States, seen through the eyes of a black Christian.

You can find out more about the book and watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Jonathan Walton is an area ministry director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's New York/New Jersey region. He previously served for ten years as director of the New York City Urban Project. He has been named one of Christianity Today's 33 Under 33, won a Young Christian Leaders World Changer Award, and was honored as one of New York's New Abolitionists. He lives with his wife and their daughter in New York City.

InterVarsity Press, 224 pages.

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