Thursday, February 28, 2019

Freedom! by Jennifer Renee Watson

Watson has given readers a wonderfully encouraging book. We women are to be a light showing the way in the wilderness, a stream that refreshes those around us. (170) Often life seems just the opposite, however. We feel stuck. We fight obstacles. We are broken.

Watson encourages women to be gutsy in our pursuit of freedom. We ask God what lies we are believing. We fight against the mindset of being stuck. We intentionally let go of things in our past, refusing to bask in our brokenness. We commit to moving forward because of the finished work of Christ. We seek to have a supportive group of women with us.

We have to fight for our freedom and Watson has provided tools to do so. She includes practical ideas, such as ones for battling the negative talk within. She helps us embrace a moving-on mindset. She encourages us to realize our issues were never meant to be limitations but launching pads to growth. I love her personal take on 1 Corinthians 13, applying it to ourselves.

This is an excellent book for women who want to move beyond their place of feeling stuck. Watson provides good examples as well as effective and encouraging teaching. This would be a good book for personal journaling or a group study as there are reflective questions at the end of each chapter.

Food for thought: “He will use each heartache for His glory if you let Him.” (17)

My rating: 4/5 stars

Jennifer Renee Watson is a blogger, speaker, youth minister, pastor's wife and mom. She has been featured on (in)courage, Guideposts, The Mighty, She Believes, For Every Mom, and more. She co-founded Broken Girl Ministries in 2011 to help women find the same healing she found in Jesus Christ. She lives with her family in Northwest Arkansas. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 208 pages.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel Blog Tour

About the Book:

Title: The Secrets of Paper and Ink
Author: Lindsay Harrel
Genre: Women's Fiction
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Tyndale

Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the courage to write your own story.

A year after the death of her abusive fiancĂ©, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England—a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author—and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.
Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.
More than 150 years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.
The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review:

I enjoyed this novel. It combined a bit of adventure with healing of past hurts with an historical mystery and some romance. I liked how Sophia and Ginny had similar issues. Both needed to heal from trauma and re-evaluate their lives and dreams. Both had issues with parents. The historical aspect of the plot added another layer to the novel. The Christianity in the novel is subtle. God was mentioned a few times, as was a Bible verse, but not much more.

Readers who enjoy a well presented novel with characters that grab your attention will enjoy this one. The outcome might be predictable but then, we do like our romance novels to end that way.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at

Guest Post From Lindsay:

With every book I write, it seems God has something new to teach me. That certainly was true of The Secrets of Paper and Ink.

Lately, I am learning more and more about the power of our words. I’ve become more conscious of the words I speak over myself as well as what I say to other people. It’s more than “positive thinking”—the words we say ultimately contribute to the stories we weave, and I want my story to be as positive and hope-filled as possible, regardless of my circumstances.

I’ve also become much more aware of the lies that I tell myself—“you are not worthy, you are not enough, you will never achieve what you want to achieve”—and the need to replace those lies with the truths that God says about me. I have listened to Lauren Daigle’s song You Say on repeat lately, and it has become a theme not just of The Secrets of Paper and Ink, but one in the story of my very life.

So while I may not have experienced everything my characters have—I’ve never suffered emotional abuse, or been ostracized by my family, or been orphaned and alone in a world that seems against me at every turn—I have learned alongside them. I set out to write a book that would draw readers closer to the true healer and hope giver, and I ended up being drawn closer myself.

And that, to me, is the true power of story.

Blog Stops:

The Avid Reader, February 26
The Power of Words, February 26
Carla Loves To Read, February 26
Blogging With Carol, February 27
Carpe Diem, February 28
Andy Carmichael, March 1
The Becca Files, March 2
Emily Yager, March 3
Genesis 5020, March 4
Stories By Gina, March 4
Simple Harvest Reads, March 5 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Mary Hake, March 5
Remembrancy, March 6
Pause for Tales, March 7
Book by Book, March 7
The Lit Addict, March 9
Bigreadersite, March 10
Henry Happens, March 11
amandainpa , March 11

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Next to Die by Sophia Hannah

It took me a while to enjoy reading this novel. The structure is a complex combination of first person narratives, emails and newspaper columns. I was a little confused for the first part of the book. Reading and understanding the novel did become easier as I went along. At the end, all is made clear and the mystery of the murders is solved.

Much of the novel is character driven. We learn quite a bit about Kim, the stand up comedian who may be the next target of the serial killer. We are also privy to some conversations between police detectives. There are some strange characters on the police force and it seemed these interludes detracted from the development of the plot.

Mystery readers who like a complex plot and a complex structure to a novel would enjoy this one. The pace is slow, as is often the case with mysteries set in England. I didn't like the foul language. The motive for the murders is unique and perhaps a little unbelievable. All in all, a decent mystery novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sophie Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, which have been published in twenty-seven countries and adapted for television. She has also written two Hercule Poirot novels, the only novels authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie. She lives in Cambridge, UK. 
Photo by Onur Pinar

William Morrow, 416 pages.

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

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Women, Rise Up! by Cindy Jacobs

Jacobs believes God wants to pour out His Spirit on men and women to be a prophetic voice for this generation. Yes, women! “God is speaking to the prophets all around the world that an army of women is coming who will be evangelists to their cities and who will perform mighty signs and wonders.” (263)

She has written this book to encourage women feeling such a call. She wants women to reach their highest potential in church and ministry. She gives many examples of women in powerful ministry. She identifies the obstacles women face and the potential controversies. She shares much from her own experiences too.

About midway through the book, Jacobs tackles those pesky questions about what the Bible says regarding women in ministry and leadership. She does a good job of reviewing Scripture passages and biblical examples of women used by God. It is clear there were women deacons and elders in the early church. She clarifies many troublesome passages, thoroughly investigating the original Greek and the bias male translators often show. Jacobs even includes in an Appendix an article from 1894 advocating women in ministry indicating that women in ministry is not some new idea. There were many women in ministry over a century ago and it was not nearly as controversial an issue as it is now.

This is an excellent book for women who feel called to ministry yet are hesitant because of their gender. Jacobs addresses all those issues of “authority” and “keep silent” and much more. You will be encouraged to rise up and take your place in the advancement of God's kingdom.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Cindy Jacobs and her husband are the founders of Generals International, a worldwide ministry that works to achieve social transformation through intercession and prophetic ministry. She is the author of several bestselling books and has a television program seen around the world. She and her husband have two grown children and six grandchildren. They live in Dallas, Texas. You can find out more at

Chosen, 320 pages.

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Way of the Warrior by Erwin Raphael McManus

I like the way the book started out. There is something wrong with the world. We long for world peace but the only way that will happen is when there is peace within. That peace will not come without a struggle. McManus says his book is about that journey.

He writes about being a warrior in that struggle and then goes on at length about the way of the warrior. Warriors can be competitive yet still have humility and be selfless. A warrior can be both great and a servant. The warrior owns his defeat. The warrior knows what feeds his soul.

I felt McManus lost the focus of inner peace. Don't believers have the peace of God that passes all understanding? (Phil. 4:7) Why didn't McManus write anything about the peace that comes from God? “Peace can come only when it is fought for,” McManus writes. (3) Yet Paul promised in Phil. 4:6-7 if we let our requests be made known to God by prayer with supplication and thanksgiving, the peace of God would guard our hearts. Paul also said in Rom. 5:1 if we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God. Paul also said in Rom. 8:6 to set the mind on the Spirit is peace. Why would we have to fight for peace when the Bible is clear on how to have it?

McManus certainly has a way with words. “The warrior knows their strength only when standing in their weakness.” (129) His writing is entertaining and captivating. He tells good stories. He makes grand statements: “The warrior trains their mind to know the good and beautiful and true.” (92) But he never gives us the nuts and bolts of how to do the grand things he writes about. There is no practical strategy given nor specific actions to take. How do we war for that inner peace?

There is also a bit of concern about the theology included in the book. McManus writes, “The future is not determined; it is created.” (93) There are many problems with a statement like that, the primary of which is God and prophecy. If the future is not determined, then what in the world is prophecy? It is God who “works all things” to the desired end, not we who create the future. He also writes, “The warrior becomes one with all things.” (157) “The warrior is one with all things.” (195) Connected to God, others, and things? Yes. But one with all things? No. I think those of an eastern religion would be more comfortable with McManus' statements.

A glaring theological omission by McManus shows up when he writes about some people thinking the universe is against them. (161) He says “the universe is for you … because God is for you.” (162) The novelist Paulo Coelho “is not wrong,” McManus writes, in describing the entire universe as conspiring “on our behalf.” (171) McManus never mentions Satan, demons, evil, spiritual warfare, etc.

Men might like this book. It would allow them to think of themselves as warriors with the single intention of winning the battle raging within. (197) But there are no specific nor practical actions suggested in the book so they would not have to face the reality of actually doing anything to win the battle. They would not have to think about accepting Jesus as Savior nor participating in spiritual warfare nor allowing the Holy Spirit to actually transform their character. (McManus does write of “becoming one with Christ” but does not mention sin, forgiveness, salvation, etc. (184))

My rating: 2/5 stars.

Erwin Raphael McManus is the founder of MOSAIC, a church movement started in the heart of Hollywood with campuses across Los Angeles, Orange County, and Mexico City, and a global community that spans around the world. He is the author of several previous books. He and his wife live in Los Angeles.

Waterbrook, 256 pages. This book releases February 26.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Leaving Darkness by Greg Schaffer Blog Tour

About the Book

Title: Leaving Darkness  
Author: Greg Schaffer  
Genre: Christian Fiction  
Release date: October 31, 2018
Long-haul truck driver Lowell Ferguson is on the brink of suicide. He is haunted by the guilt of a horrible secret from his senior year of high school. Therapy and antidepressants aren’t able to lift him out of depression. At twenty-eight years old, he believes his life has dissolved into a meaningless annoyance. Only the strong bond with his lone friend—a Chihuahua named Rufus—keeps him from choosing death. But when Lowell learns Rufus may have cancer, he fears there will be no reason left to live if his beloved dog dies.
While awaiting the diagnosis, he comes across a flier for a Christian support group promising hope and freedom. A skeptic and an apatheist, he nonetheless reluctantly decides to join the group. Through this joining, he finds what he has been yearning for—a path toward leaving the darkness of depression. This first step provides Lowell the courage to do what he must to escape his guilt and finally confront his past.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review

This is a good story about the healing that can come about through small group ministries expressing the love of Jesus.

Schaffer has included some interesting issues in this novel. One is asking forgiveness for an incident when the offended person has long moved past the event. Lowell wanted to set right the past offense with which he struggled so much. His sister asks him if what Lowell wants to do is just for his own purposes, a selfish act that might bring back hurt for the other person. Something for each of us to think about.

Another issue concerns the choices we make in life. Lowell had anticipated a college football scholarship and a professional career but an injury prevented it. While Lowell struggled with depression and isolation, he ultimately began making healing choices. His close friend from high school set the accumulation of money and prestige as his goal in life. He made choices to that end and we see the ultimate fruit of his life too.

Schaffer's writing style is not sophisticated. The characters are regular people working through the daily struggles in their lives. There is just a hint of suspense and a touch of romance and the ending seemed a little to convenient to me. Nonetheless, the novel is a good one about healing that can happen when Jesus comes into a person's life and a group of people care for each other.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

About the Author

Greg Schaffer participated in a small Christian-based group ministry in 2011 and became a facilitator with the ministry to help others find their direction toward a purposeful life. His firsthand experiences of lives transformed through such healing groups led him to write Leaving Darkness, hoping the tale of transformation through God’s grace may encourage those lost in their own darkness to reach out for help. The author of two previous novels, Greg lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife and three rescue dogs.

Guest Post from Greg

As first a group participant and then a volunteer for Restore Small Groups for many years, I’ve seen firsthand the healing power of small group ministries. Many want to change but don’t know how. Leaving Darkness tells the fictional story of one lost in depression to the point of contemplating suicide who happens upon such a Christian-based ministry. Although he is reluctant at first, he gives the process a chance, and through it leaves his darkness, finds his faith, and becomes the person God meant for him to be. I was called to write this story in hope that someone with similar struggles may read Leaving Darkness and realize that there is a way out of the darkness when everything else has failed.

Blog Stops

Godly Book Reviews, February 16
Bukwurmzzz, February 18
Power of Words, February 19 (Spotlight)
Maureen’s Musings, February 21
Bibliophile Reviews, February 23
Janices book reviews, February 24
Carpe Diem, February 25
Texas Book-aholic, February 26
Just the Write Escape, February 28
Bigreadersite, March 1
Artistic Nobody, March 1 (Spotlight)

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Justice Mercy Humility by Rusty George

It is difficult to describe this book. I thought it was going to be a study on Micah 6:8. George does begin his book with that verse as the foundation. After that, however, it seems as if he kind of goes into free thought on the three topics. He tells many long stories from his own life, using them as illustrations. He quotes from many other authors, often at length.
George begins his book by saying many Christians feel they need to strive to get God's attention or feel that if they don't do enough God will not bless them. He assures us that everything God has told us to do can be summed up in Micah 6:8. I do find it ironic that at the end of each chapter, George includes a “To-Do List” of actions we should do. Just when I thought George was encouraging me to be free of to-do lists with respect to God, he provides me with several.

This book would best be read in a group. There are questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. The readers who would appreciate this book the most are those who like to be instructed through many stories rather than direct teaching. George's writing style is not one I like. I found myself often skimming through some of the lengthy stories, ready to get to the point. Others may like the rambling nature of George's writing style.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Rusty George is the lead pastor of Real Life Church in Valencia, California. Over his fifteen years at the church, it has grown to more than 7,000 people and two campuses. George speaks regularly at conferences across the country. He lives with his family in Santa Clarita, California. You can find out more at

Bethany House Publishers, 208 pages.

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